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Life's Little Lessons

"If you ask me what I came into this life to do, I will tell you: I came to live out loud." – Emile Zola

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The Pursuit of Happiness

The other night I was standing in the yard when my youngest wrapped her arms around my waist and whispered, “Mom, I want you to be happy.” I breathed in deeply and closed my eyes realizing she had intentionally sought me out. The longing in her own heart broke mine and I could do nothing to mend it but exhale.

Happiness. I don’t long for it.

It seems that many of us have been pursuing the Wall Street version of happiness with a vengeance, like the 2006 blockbuster “Pursuit of Happyness,” in which Will Smith and his real-life son become best buddies in an epic journey from rags to riches. It’s no wonder that, in the minds of many of us today, the “pursuit of happiness” is unconsciously equated with the pursuit of wealth and security.

Conventional history and popular wisdom attribute the phrase to the genius of Thomas Jefferson when in an imaginative leap, he replaced the third term of John Locke’s trinity “Life, Liberty and Property” to “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness in the Declaration of Independence. However in 1776, the definition of happiness evoked a different meaning than it does today. The term happiness comes from the Old Norse term happ meaning “luck” or “chance.” Given the culture the term was penned in, it made sense to say “the pursuit of” because earning a living and gathering property in one’s own self interest was not a freedom given to all men at that time. Times were changing.

And in today’s world, we have taken the term quite literally and have run with it. We believe the notion that the “pursuit of” and eventually the “having” will make us happy without realizing that often the pursuit of happiness leads us to crossroads where we get to make hard choices, many that bring unfortunate compromises. The “pursuit of” is a complicated and often convoluted path where we start putting our own *and often selfish* interest first. The very things and people we say are most important to us, often get pushed aside for the sake of obtaining something we think will make us happy. We make harmful and often dangerous choices in the name of being happy and temporarily swooned however, I find when you step outside of yourself to go after the things you think will make you happy, the anti gets upped and the happiness you once sought after ends up never being enough and on and on you go.

Don’t get me wrong, being happy is important, but happy times pass because time passes. The pursuit of happiness is elusive; it is life-long and it is not goal-centered. I believe deeply we all long to pursue a meaningful life but often take short-cuts that are not healthy and sadly, in the long run, our choices only harm those we love and wreck our future hopes of a “meaningful” life.

Happiness indeed is an inside job.

Healthiness on the other hand brings happiness, in my good opinion. It is definitely the slower, less scenic and more crooked path. In Scripture, Jesus went from town to town healing unhealthy people. Chronic illness, demon-possession…Jesus was in the healing business. Not once have I read of Jesus laying his hands on someone and making them “happy” but He did heal their sight by reminding them of WHO they were and WHO He was. It was in their healing that Life, Liberty, but most importantly, Love was found because they had encountered Jesus first hand.

If you are in pursuit of happiness, I encourage you to take a step back and shift your focus and pursue healthiness instead. Avoid short cuts, distractions and the momentarily feel goods. Remember WHO you are and walk with integrity and honor because it’s in your DNA. Guard your heart and your thoughts and be mindful and intentional about what you allow into both. If you don’t, you may be pursuing happiness when it is healthiness you are seeking most.

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The Crooked Road

Be careful listening to anyone trying to “sell” you something that will “make” you something.

Happier.

Skinner.

More energized.

Whatever.

Doctors will prescribe pills. Friends will try to sell you their coffee or their wraps. Your pastor will point you to Jesus *and I’ll join Him to an extent*

But in the end…

It all comes down to YOU. Nothing is going to “fix” you or “make” you turn into the person you want to be except YOU.

Hard truth.

Pills can help *temporarily* but they are not a fix. Talking it through, looking at hard things, taking responsibility, establishing boundaries and extending continual forgiveness are pretty good helpers.

Coffee and wraps? Heck I don’t actually know anything about these things but I do know that eating real food, being consistent with exercising and getting good sleep are great helpers.

And Jesus? He is not your Genie and He does carry a magic wand. Rarely have I heard a prayer come to be that was not attached to someone’s intentional action post prayer; their willingness to be changed along with their fortitude and humility. He promises to walk with you but you’ve got to show up and do the work and the work is hard, especially when it comes to your heart. The good news is, the Spirit of Jesus is the most excellent Helper. He has my vote.

So if you are looking for a “fix”, you will most likely keep looking for a slew of them your whole life and may fall for whatever is out there that seems quick and easy. Take it from me, there is no quick and easy anything to change the “you” you want to be.

You can read all the self-help books you want but if you don’t consistently apply the authors principles to your life, all you’ve done is read a really good book that someone else wrote. Someone who actually took the crooked road to grace because change, especially lasting change, is hard and it’s ugly…

But it can be done.

Gather your troops and find your tribe.

Change rarely happens on your own.

The Price of Peace

I remember sitting at a conference once and the speaker said something profoundly simple. They said, “You are a human being NOT a human doing.” This came on the heels of year’s worth of people prophetically speaking “rest” over me.

And they were not talking about a nap.

What I’ve realized about myself is two-fold. I’m an incredibly high achiever 1). because I have a large amount of can-do in me and I think walking in excellence is huge part of who I am. 2). I’ve taken a large part of my identity as an achiever out of my insecurity of not feeling like being myself was enough.

BAM!

It’s often easy to confuse what is YOU with the things you add TO you for pomp and circumstance. I personally wanted to be THE person other people could count on to show up and…

Being THAT person has overshadowed my ability to truly show up and BE me.

So, I’ve been learning to say NO and let some of my “doings” go. It’s felt like I’ve been thrown into a roaring fire, I will not lie, but I’ve needed to know what has needed burned off to see what’s remained. What has been ME all along.

For example, I’ve said NO to three really big and wonderful things within the last week. One was time with a dear friend, one was work related and the other was involvement in a community organization.

Because I know my NO was right for me, whatever the reason at the time was. When life feels large and my are days crammed full and tight, my cup becomes empty and drained dry and THAT eats at my joy and steals my peace.

In fact, it’s not largeness that makes me overwhelmed because I often pause and reevaluate my what and my who. It’s my lack of reevaluating that often ties my hands and feet with a corse rope as I’m dropped to the bottom of the sea.

So if you are like me and tend to feel pulled here and there with expectations, real or imaginary, that you cannot fulfill…I encourage you to take a step back and reevaluate what you are saying yes to and why.

Because you cannot do it all. NO is a completely good and needed sentence. What you DO does not determine your value, your worth and most importantly of all, your identity. You have nothing to prove or compensate for. Being is enough and in that, choose wisely where you allocate your time and your energy.

It is a holy and precious act to do so.

 

Hidden

2018 marked the beginning of the worst year of my life. Could it have been worse? Indeed. That perspective and that perspective alone was a rope tethered to a deeply rooted tree that kept me from jumping off the edge when things looked bleak.

Month by month, looking back now, I watched an entire year of my existence become completely overshadowed by a grief so heavy and so dark that sometimes it felt completely impossible to bear its weight. But I did and I am here, emerging from the other side grateful, not for the experience but for the life lessons I learned from the experience.

And the experience itself is not what I want to share with you. In actuality, the experience serves no purpose and to revisit the events that led to me the very end of myself is mute. They only drudge up feelings in me that I have recently rendered unnecessary. They do not help me move forward or stay focused on where I am going. Note: I am not ignoring them, because believe me when I say they are still fully present, but I will not give them the power I did for thirteen longs months of my life.

As a writer, I kept writing through it. If you’d revisit some of my older blog postings from a year ago, I was more honest than some would have liked. I got the message loud and clear, though not said in these exact words, that if it’s not pretty, than it should not be public. So I created a secret blog and bore my heart there. It was in that secret, safe place, void of opinions that I wrote only for me and allowed myself to be raw and real, tattered and torn. But here, on Life’s Little Lessons…not so much.

And here is what I learned from it: When somebody hurts you, they do not have a say in how you walk it out.

My last post was July 7, 2018.

I checked myself into the hospital seven days later.

Afterwards, I danced around things that I wrote on Facebook to stay safe but those who could read between the lines did. I just stopped being direct and blatantly obvious by calling the kettle black because that’s what you do when you’ve been hurt. You cover up your bleeding wounds but here’s the thing, wounds still seep and ooze. They always find a way to escape the body because wounds don’t want to be concealed but healed. I realize now I was trying to find all these different angles to heal and process my pain instead of just being honest and allowing myself to be exactly where I was.

People pleasing…that’s another blog post I’ll save for later.

I was like a corpse trying to drag itself continually out of its grave instead of simply letting dead things lie so new things could be born.

So I could be.

I stayed in that grave for the entirety of 2018. Yep. Twelve long months, thirteen to be exact. I hid there because it was safe. It was miserable and lonely but I was growing attached to my pain, it was becoming familiar and known in a season filled and overflowing with confusion and change. I no longer wanted to place my feet on the path of uncertainty.

So I didn’t.

I didn’t want to talk about it anymore let alone write about. I only showed up when life mandated it and basically withdrew from my friends and family. The fact I have any left proves that God is Divine. I grew tired of questions like, “Hey. How are you doing?” because all I wanted to say was, “How the hell do you think I am doing?” 

But I had to put my game face on and run a business and feed people dinner so that answer never seemed appropriate because amidst my grief, the very death of what was and what could be, I needed to be appropriate. Always.

All around me, everyone’s lives kept on going. I envied their every-day-normalness and I hated my envy. So I stopped. I stopped engaging. I withdrew and hid because if I could not be found, I did not feel tempted to place the rotting corpse of my old life up against theirs and compare the two.

Looking back now, this is what I learned:

Grief is a bitch. It doesn’t care who you are or what you’ve lost. It is non-discriminatory and unsympathetic. There is no way around it. You must go through it.

There are days that I still hide. Fact. There are days that are hard even though I am growing comfortable with hard days. They are what they are, mere moments in time that no longer stay but there are days I cannot talk my mind into believing that. 

I looked death in the face this past year. Literally. From it, I learned to say “Have at it” because if my circumstances were not going to change, then I would. I would be reborn. At times that choice didn’t seem fair, but then I realized choosing not to learn and grow was also a choice. I have more to go but with awareness and increasing fortitude, I’m emerging from the pit. It was never a place to loathe but to embrace.

Because truth is, there were things in me that needed to die and for years I wondered what it would take for their death to become reality. Now I know.

Loss.

And with loss comes letting go.

I got what I secretly been wondering for.

So even though remnants remain, my slate is clean. I actually had a thought the other day that randomly popped into my head, a thought that went like this, “I love my life.”  It made me smile the moment I recognized that I had thought it. Love my life? Like this? Yes. I choose to keep evolving and learning better so I can do better. There are days that are messy because old mindsets reemerge because the scars are still tender but I’m able to identify them for what they are, call them by name, and tell them where to go, more so than I was ever able to before.

I’m learning to own my shit. To be accountable and say I am sorry for what I am responsible for. It keeps me out in the open, my heart beating, so I don’t retreat and hide under mounds of guilt or shame for long periods of time.

So long story short, hiding is needed friends. Do not be ashamed or afraid of it. It is a place that you cannot help but visit. There is no detour. Your wounds are painful, like a bad burn that leaves sores which are raw to the touch. They leave you gun-shy as you grapple with trust and faith but I can assure, if you make the time to heal, you do. And no one but you knows the timing of that process. You need to heal from the inside out and only you know what that is to look like.

What I do know is that the Spirit of God is good. He can handle your questions. He can take on your anger and pursues your apathetic and wounded heart. He walks towards you when you walk away and at night when you cry yourself to sleep, He is kind, gentle and embraces you with tender care. In the morning, He whispers “Arise. Come out come out because I know where you are,” and His faithfulness will overwhelm you because He is patient on the days where you think you want to try but just aren’t quite ready to.

He knows that tomorrow is another day to try again.

Hiding was never meant to be a place that you call Home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love Does

I woke up this morning replaying a hurt in my head like the old record player I saw the other day at the antique store. Around and around. Skip. Around and around. Skip.

I couldn’t stop it. I did the dishes and it was still playing softly in the background like a good tune, attempting to take me nostalgically back in time.

And it angered me. It made me sad. It made me think and feel a lot of things and part of me realizes that an essential part of healing means you give yourself permission to be in the moment, as you are, instead of bi-passing it or hurrying yourself along so you can be further down the path than where you are.

So I kept doing the dishes.

I’ve both bi-passed and hurried and have found it may temporarily seem better in the moment but more times than not, things have a way of resurfacing and claiming more territory in your house then before.

So dishes done, the music from the record player in my head is at a low hum. Around and around. Skip.

I can’t stop it so it suddenly dawns on me…”But God.”

I don’t know why He is often an afterthought but if I’m honest, He often is.

A verse pops into my head during one of the skips…

Love Does…

It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. – 1 Corinthians 13:5

I’ve realized I’ve had a pretty skewed idea of what love is and absolutely what love does. If I am operating IN love, if I am LOVING, what does that look like?

WHO does it look like, because it often hurts more so than it heals…

And that is not Jesus. At least not the Jesus I know.

I’ve been reading Stephen and Alex Kendrick’s book, “The Love Dare” because. You may recognize it because of the movie that came out years ago with 80’s heart-throb Kirk Cameron, but the book spans further than just focusing on restoring a marriage. Its been walking me though what Love is and what Love isn’t. Better yet, WHO Love is and WHO Love isn’t. And I truly believe that WE; how we Love God, ourselves and one another is how the world around us encounters Jesus.

So of course I want to get my love in order because I just may be the ONLY Bible people read.

Right?

So the record player stops.

Love keeps no record of wrongs.

Around and around.

Skip.

Love keeps no records of wrongs.

Around and around.

Skip.

Love allows me to feel what I need to feel and then asks for my hand so I can transfer and exchange my pain for His grace.

Around and around.

Skip.

Love Does play another tune in the old record player inside your head. It is your choice, as it is mine, to allow Him to.

Forward to another tune.

The Cost of Vulnerability

I recently bought a book at an airport bookstore and read half of it on a plane from San Francisco to Detroit. It was about relationships as well as other fun, real-life topics and in the first chapter, the author used lobsters to set the stage for the his message.

It was a good point but I heard an entirely different message.

I’m sure what he wrote was great and good but what I got out of it was this: Female lobsters will shed their shell when it’s time to mate, exposing herself to not only other predators but jealous and often aggressive female competitors in the process.

Not very many of them make it home thanks to this vulnerable practice but this tid-but of knowledge showed me how important it is, when it comes to relationships, that we let down our guard and take off our hard exteriors that often keep us safe.

Because if we don’t, we can’t create new life. I mean, we can stay safe but that’s about it.

Right?

Yes I just went there.

So of course I read the naked lobster analogy and instantly applied it to my own life.

Because that’s what I do.

So life’s little lesson in the airplane gave me the balls to go home and practice vulnerability.

It didn’t really go the greatest.

What I learned from the rejection was that vulnerability can be humiliating. I felt naked and exposed, my guard was down and everything in me hurt.

I was indeed a female lobster laying her shell down and I got eaten by a predator.

But.

Because there is always a but…

But, I am glad I did it. I realize that vulnerability is not about getting an idealized outcome to take place. Vulnerability is about being your truest self, even if you feel all open and exposed and raw and of you have any open wound…good luck. IT WILL HURT.

However the pain reveals to you what you are willing to settle for and what you are willing to go after…

WHO YOU ARE.

So dearest friend, if you are looking for new life in a relationship, in YOU…shed your shell and get naked like a lobster.

Forward

It’s 1997 and two months before my wedding day. I’m riding a three-wheeler through the mountains with my finance and my two-year old daughter and it’s a beautiful day, sunny and bright, probably July or early August. I should have known what was to come based off of my experiences growing up riding bikes, but I’m young and overly confident, out to impress my future husband. I manage to convince myself I can manage quite well the first time behind a motorized wheel.

I was wrong.

I wreck, brake my left wrist and later find myself two weeks before my wedding, cutting the cast off at work because who wants to see a bride walk down the aisle wearing a cast?

My wrist heals nicely so taking the cast off two weeks early wasn’t really a big deal however, whenever I find myself years later teaching my kids how to do cart-wheel , I noticed the pain of the injury is still there.

Muscle memory is real, pain memory…more so.

I think a lot about that injury these days as I head into month six of healing a fractured humorous thanks to running an extremely exuberant dog through the snow. Healing isn’t going as fast as it did when I had a broken wrist in 1997 nor is it going as fast as when I broke my arm when the kids in the neighborhood decided to grab my legs and arms and swing me around the air when I was six.

But it IS healing.

I’ve been wanting to write my story for years but honestly haven’t had the guts to. Much of what I mostly likely will share has been kept locked tight in some attic chest that no one wanted me to dig through. Most of it is shameful and embarrassing and regret-filled but I’m discovering, I NEED to unpack and begin to sort to find the whole of me that’s been shut inside.

Healing happens when we take what’s been in the dark and bring it into the light and I for one, need the healing more than I need to care what anyone thinks. It’s my life and I’m tired of being ashamed or scared of it.

So here I sit and I promise to write to none other than to myself. There’s a little girl in me that needs to heal. A teenager that needs to heal. A young adult, a new mom, a friend, a fourth-year old wife in a marriage that is falling a part that has questions. A woman trying desperately to sort and make sense. A woman trying to find direction and peace.

A woman who most of all wants to make friends with her enemies.

I started this blog, and one previously like it, to write my thoughts because that is what’ve I’ve done since I was a child in the form of diaries and poems but I find myself skirting around me what I know deep down in me is to write, often touching the edges of my personal life here and there. I ultimately stay away from where I want and know I need to go because my story, like most, is interwoven around others’, and it’s complicated and all out of sorts.

I’ve been.

But that is just a lie I’ve believed, much like when I do those cart-wheels with my kids and the pain from that broken wrist from all those years ago resurfaces trying to tell me the injury is still there, that I am still broken.

I am not.

So it’s time for me to sit and scavenge through the boxes in the attic and bring to light what’s been hidden in the dark.

It’s time to find the whole of me.

Trust

A couple of months ago, I pulled into my driveway and made a conscious decision to step out of the spin cycle. I call it the spin cycle because that’s exactly what it felt and probably looked like. Life was spinning largely out of control, but I quickly found out that was just an illusion.

I had a say.

Sometimes we do not have a say with what happens in our life. Life just has a way of throwing us a curve ball every now and then because for the most part we are riding the waves of each others choices. You do A and it impacts me in the form of B, not to mention how I respond in the form of C. And so on and so forth.

I do it back.

Vicious.

And that was where I was at, spinning around and around and around…

Mostly it was feelings. Lots of thoughts which turned into talk added up to be a whole bunch of continuous negatives…

Waves.

And they were drowning me.

So one afternoon I pulled into my driveway and I thought to myself, “I have a say and a part. I cannot feed this anymore.”

No more feelings or thoughts. I needed a break so I could breath and make sense out of life again.

And I did that just. I didn’t think about it and if I did, I certainly did not talk about it. I asked my friends not to ask about it. Some were understanding and some, not so much, and that was ok. I needed all the voices to settle IN and AROUND me so ultimately I could hear HIS voice.

Not everyone understands this concept.

To some of my friends I was either building walls or not open-hearted enough which was so far from the truth but again, their disapproval was just a distraction trying to keep me tethered to the bottom of the unpredictable sea.

Jesus shows me that is exactly what He does. He often removes Himself from the crowd and intentionally wanders to the wilderness (lonely places) to be with and hear from the Father. And if He does it, so can I.

And it worked. My emotions settled. My thoughts became clearer and less jumbled and I began to rest again. I gained weight and began sleeping through the night, both which were a concern.

But I had to carefully guard my heart. Certain topics or thoughts were off-limits when it came to my entertainment. My life got turned upside down back in December and for months, it was such a huge topic of conversation, for everyone. I needed a time out and I was the only one who could make that happen.

So friends, take it from me, some curve balls are a little rough and a little too unpredictable. I don’t know how anyone navigates the aftermath that they bring with calm and ease. Most flounder around a bit till they get their bearings again.

At least I did. I still am.

Every now and then, I feel myself slipping, spinning. I want to feed the frenzy. I want to dwell and get a good mad on which brings on all sorts of not great feelings and thoughts. I have to remember to guard, diligently guard, like VICIOUSLY guard, and place my focus on what my part is and what is good.

So I ask God daily to show me His perspective and He takes me far above the things in life that are spinning out of control. He takes me to my children. He takes me to my farmer’s field, to my writing, to my friends and to puppies.

And when I feel like life is too big and too weighty and continuously spinning, I envision myself in His hands, on the potter’s wheel.

He knows what He is doing with my life and when I am afraid, I trust Him.

push

An early morning conversation with a friend led to talk of exercise and I realized how out of shape I truly am. Out of shape. Out of breath. Out of everything. I am exhausted. I’ve been on thyroid medicine since I was nine and the thought has been going through my head that maybe I should actually use the lab paperwork my doctor gave me months ago and get my TSH levels checked because I’m tired, have brain fog along with morning headaches but life has also not been the kindest lately so then there’s that.

For the last few weeks, I will myself every day to wake up. My alarm disturbingly goes off and I begrudgingly hit the snooze, something I have never done.

And I am learning never to say never.

So I get up and get dressed. Make-up, hair, the works.

I drive, I run here and there and have been keeping myself so busy, I haven’t even had time to relax…as in lounge in my ugly sweatpants and favorite sweatshirt which is something I am finding recharges me.

Because I push. I hate staying stuck, I loathe being tired and caught in the middle part of life. I love the start and the finish but the middle? Um, no thanks. Not when your life begins to replicate a favorite movie, Groundhog Day.

So I get up and pretty up and put a huge smile on and trudge along. I canceled some of my week which helps but when my alarm went off this morning, I just couldn’t. I even went to be at 8:30 PM and still, my body groaned.

Snooze.

An hour later, I get up and grabbed my ugly sweatpants and my favorite sweatshirt and headed out the door to drive. “I’ll shower when I get home.” And when I say shower, I mean I’ll put some cute outfit on and fix my hair and blah blah blah.

But as I drove, the exercise conversation was forefront on my mind. When will I begin again?

Push.

When will I clean out my old office?

Push.

 When will I snap out of this funk?

Push.

Push harder.

Truth is, I came home and worked in the office for an hour and then took a shower, because cleanliness is next to Godliness, and I put my ugly sweatpants and favorite sweatshirt BACK on. I walked out my front door with a wet head and a fresh face and took the puppy to the vet. Then I went to the grocery store because we are out of bread and butter. I came home and drove. Tonight I’ll take my daughter to soccer practice and then meet up with a friend at the movies.

And I will not push through.

I will be my fresh-faced self who is a little tired and maybe a little sad these days.

It just might be one of the most honest things I’ve ever done.

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