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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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live

Stay Present

I think it’s good to look forward to things, to have something on the horizon that is kind of out there but within our sight and reach. I think sometimes that’s why we plan vacations, not to necessarily escape our regular-every-day- lives but to fully live them.

Not only is it wise to do so, it is needed.

I realize now, all the big trips I’ve ever been on have been planned by someone otheer than myself. When I was in direct sales, I received the itinerary months prior to the departure date for the free trip I earned and just showed up wide-eyed and ready to adventure. As a family, we headed to Rehoboth Beach each summer with extended family, which was booked by my mother and basically was like winning the lottery because Grandma’s afford tired mothers the ability to sleep past the butt crack of dawn.

I truly have been a kept woman when it comes to vacation planning.

But as life does, life changed.

So a couple of weeks ago, after months of talking about it, I woke up and called my mother’s travel agent. “Hi Joyce. This is August. Cindy’s daughter. I want to book a cruise for myself and three kids. I want to go in July and I want to leave from Baltimore. What do you have?”

Within five-minutes I was booked and in July, the kids and I will make a five-night jaunt to Bermuda a reality. The experience of booking and subsequently paying (a sobering experience) has been incredibly empowering. I saw my horizon and I knew what I wanted and since I am not fond of details, I’m grateful that other people are and know how to get me where I want to go.

I feel like such an adult.

Besides learning how to be my age, I especially love to travel. I love to explore and make new discoveries. I enjoy meeting interesting people and having new experiences and through it, am able to see, hear and taste different cultures and ways of living. It broadens my horizon and my persepctive…which is an adult thing to do.

But every time I get away, no matter how far I go or how much fun I have, it’s always good to go Home.

I use the example of physically going to a destination as a metaphor of what many of us do in everyday life, but instead of traveling TO somewhere physically, we use our thought-life as the vehicle that whisks us away. We dream about that perfect destination and what life would be like if we could just get there…

We day-dream and jaunt in and out of our present day reality to places in our future. We do it with relationships, the jobs that we have, the houses we live in, the cars that we drive and the clothes that we wear. We attempt to escape our present day sufferings by longing to trade in our current life for another. We romanticize how if we could just inch towards…

Our life would be better. More complete. Somehow different. But often times, that little visit riddle’s us with anxiety, stress, worry and fear. “How in the hell am I going to get there?” That thought steals our current moment, propelling us to figure the future out. We get ahead of ourselves, trying to fix and manipulate situations that haven’t yet, or may ever happen.

We also have the propensity to travel backwards in time to our past, replaying certain experiences in our heads like we have front row seats to an old Shakespearean tragedy which never really gets us where we ultimately want to go. Often times, hanging out too long in those VIP seats makes us susceptible to bouts of depression, resentment, shame and emotions that are hurrid and spastic. We become unsteady and those thoughts and feelings fill us with dread. They make it difficult to roll out of bed, have an attitude of gratitude and take the necessary steps to live in the here and the now. It’s a vicious cycle of expectation, disappointment, reaction and guilt. Wounding and offense envelope us.

How can I speak of such things?

I’ve lived such things.

Our thought travel navigate our life choices. Our behavior is dictated by what we think on and where we dwell. If we want to keep rehashing our past, we will live there, most likely sounding like a broken and boring record to any unlucky soul within ear shot. Similarly, if we want to keep dreaming about all these great and wonderful things we will someday have or do, but never take steps in the here and the now…we diminsh our credibility as well as our voice.

Here’s a little life lesson I gleaned from 2018:

The counselor I’ve been seeing is just as important as the travel agent I booked my cruise through. Both are helping me go where I could not go on my own. Joyce is helping me get away with my kids so we can snorkel together, which is a dream of mine and my counselor is helping me to heal from the inside out by carefully looking at my life. She’s like my own personal organizing consultant Marie Condo who wrote the book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.” I sit with her for an hour every few weeks and pick something up in my hands (be it an old memory or a present day happening), and she helps me decide if there is purpose for it to remain in my current life. Does focusing on that memory help me move forward and upward or is it holding me back and stunting my growth? Does dwelling on that thought bring help or harm to myself and others in the here and now?

Those questions ultimately lead me to remember my purpose in the life.

It is not necessarily to DO things. I’ve chased after titles, accolades and attention. I have a shelf full of dusty trophies and article clippings but at the end of the day, they are just that, clutter. I have to continuously remind myself that I am not a human doing but a human being. Being is most important.

Being love.

Being kind.

Being forgiving.

Being brave.

Being all of this and more, but most importantly…

Being present.

I cannot be loving or kind to the person in front of me if I am stuck too far back in life or dreaming of a vacation that’s somewhere too far ahead. I cannot be forgiving . I cannot be brave. I cannot be myself if I am continuously chasing that “someday maybe” who is tethered to what she will do…I have to be present in this very moment and not get too far ahead of myself.

Likewise, regret serves little purpose. Yes it can be a great teacher if listened to in the moment but dwelling on the things I wish I could do over only brings angst and sorrow. Want a do over? I’ve got it. It’s called today. This very moment that I am in.

When I allow my mind to quiet itself, I imagine myself standing on the shore, a vast and beautiful ocean before me. The water is lapping at my feet, the foam tingling my toes, and then it’s gone and the weight of my body presses my being deeper into the sand. The water laps again. My toes tingle once more.

Through this image, I hear the Spirit of God whisper, “Let life come like waves to the shore.”

In and out. In and out.

YOU are the shore.”

I am Home with my feet buried deep in the sand that it is almost impossible to move. It dries quickly like cement and then fills in the gaps, again and again.

The water comes in and it goes back out. The moments come and they go, I don’t have to try to have another one because another one is already afforded to me. It is here. Standing before my eyes.

What’s most important in life is standing, with our feet buried deep, in the present moment. The mundane and regular where it appears that not much is happening or is all that exciting. It’s the laundry and the cooking, the endless routines and piles of work and conversations that never go quite like we planned. It’s the heartache and loss and learning continuously to let go and the joy of knowing what to keep. It’s letting our future rest unknown in the hands of a known God who continuously graces us with a revolving door of people whom we can somehow touch and opportunities to fulfill our purpose.

We miss them if we aren’t paying close enough attention. Our eyes glaze over the people and possibilities placed in our path if we are not careful.

The past and the future both teach us to love in the present. What other purpose would they have? They encourage us to look at life though a different lens, one clearer and not as smudged as our orginal experiences have taught us, to be kinder and somehow gentler than we ourselves have been handled. They teach us to look forward and upward, to have hope and to be full of anticipation and excitement for life. They encourage us to be courageous, even when we are unsure and scared so we can take steps toward something bigger and better than what we currently see…

The fullest life possible.

At the end of our days, if we loved well, we lived well.

Stay present.

 

 

 

 

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Line in the Sand

I’m all for the gray areas of life because I believe that they exist. I also like to color outside the lines. I’m all for accommodations, adjustments, alterations and such but I’m not for compromising my heart and settling for less than I know I deserve. Less than what I know that I can give.

And I have.

Over.

And over.

And over again.

Because, what if I don’t and someone gets pissed and then doesn’t want anything to do with me at all? The loss of their approval, even their disapproval of the me they thought they knew, the me I thought they wanted me to give…would be heart breaking.

These are real thoughts.

But guess what?

I want something to do with me.

I want something to do with me a whole bunch. I actually DO believe I am worthy of simple things like:

Faithfulness.

Having someone’s whole heart.

And the problem has been I haven’t seen myself accordingly. I’ve been misaligned, like looking at myself in a mirror that has been distorted and cracked. I’ve compromised but not in a way where I’ve sat down and negotiated my value. I just kind of took what I got.

Even if it was crap.

I asked for more. And I’ve been told I’m unreasonable.

Demanding.

Like communication and having the ability to work all the way through to the other side is some sort of abnormality reserved for super humans.

The further side was a luxury I could not afford.

And now here we are and I wonder how we got here, how I did. The writing on the wall is as clear as the line that I’m finally drawing and I know.

I will no longer negotiate my identity.

I will no longer settle for anything other than faithfulness. Wholehearted and true.

I won’t take the back seat in someone’s heart when I know I belong in the front row.

I. Just. Won’t.

 

 

The Purpose of Pain

Our youngest daughter is into a lot of things right now: Baking. Cooking. Crafting. She writes notes. Builds note boxes. Wants to do her laundry and walk the dog. She is craving responsibility and longs for opportunities to show up and be seen. To try and to succeed. To fail and to learn.

So last night, we baked. WITH A HOT OVEN.

Someday I will learn that oven mitts are my friend.

Today my right forefinger sports a raised bubble and I’m sure by evening, it will crack open and ooze and I’m not sorry for the visual because I want you to experience my pain with me. I’m that type of friend. You’re welcome.

It’s been making me think a lot about the purpose of pain. It seems like everyone is trying to avoid it, myself included, and we’ve made it out to be this bad, scary thing. Is it? Is there a purpose?

Yes.

Absolutely yes.

If you have been anywhere in your kitchen and have actually used your own stove, you most likely have experienced a burn at some point in your life. The more you are around one, the greater your chances…

It’s simple math.

And hopefully, unlike me, your brain has made it quite clear that touching the hot oven racks is not wise so when your naked hands instinctively go to “grab” without an oven mitt, your brain jumps in front of the moving car frantically waving its arms, reminding you that touching indeed is not wise.

As in, DON’T BE STUPID. DO NOT TOUCH THE HOT OVEN RACKS. YOU WILL BURN YOUR HANDS. 

And hopefully, you change course and go in another direction. Hopefully your brain convinces your hands to take precautions, to take cover because you know…last time was kind of painful.

If you have ever experienced pain, you will understand where I am going. Pain is not always physical, like the raised little bubble of fluid on my right forefinger. You can experience emotional or spiritual pain which can all lead to a mixed bag of symptoms that aren’t so easily diagnosed and treated.

Medications can help but don’t always fix and Jesus is not a magic wand that you wave in order to live a perfectly happy life. 

Both acute (short-term) and chronic (ongoing) pain can lead to emotional suffering. Emotional and spiritual pain may include sleep problems, sadness, anger, frustration, anxiety, and depression. How do I know this?

Takes one to know one.

It makes me wonder: Does it HAVE TO HURT in order to learn a life lesson? Not always. Not every situation or person that I learn from is tethered to a raw ache but I know from personal experience, it IS when I pay attention the MOST. I liken the times when I feel pain to feeling like I’m on fire, like I am sitting smack dab in the center of an eternal flame. One thing I’ve noticed through that heartache is my intentions are purified and I grow in honesty about my actual motives because most often, I do not pay attention to “what’s going on inside of me” till my outsides have experienced some sort of fall or failure…A FIRE. 

And I have yet to fathom why this pattern is consistently true.

Perhaps it’s because I am a creature of habit and my regular, every-day-comfort is falsely reassuring. So reassuring in fact that I would make my permanent home IN my comfort if I could. Stepping forward into the unknown is unfamiliar and untested…perhaps pain is an opportunity to be “pushed” – or I would never go.

I have no solid answers, only thoughts rolling around in the big, wide open space within my head like this one: 

I have grown spiritually much more by doing it wrong than by doing it right.

Sorry Church. I have. 

I know when I get sick and tired of being sick and tired, I find myself hanging on the fraying tassel of some rope. I try to hang on. Dear God I do everything in my power to stay attached. Every desperate measure I can muster, I do, but on occasion I have found myself not only at the end of the rope but at the end of myself. I let go of my pride thereby, I let go of that tassled rope and I fall. 

I fall hard.

It is usually the pain from that fall that inspires the most change.

I hate falling so you can imagine, I do EVERYTHING possible not to. Falling is way worse than burning myself on a hot oven rack and it is way worse than feeling momentarily sad or missing my kids. Falling equates to failure. Falling leaves me feeling like my insides are broken into and splattered across a concrete floor. It is the greatest place of vulnerability and incredibly humbling to have your insides on the outsides. It can be embarrassing and shameful. Very. In the last few weeks, I have become increasingly aware of my own grotesque fallibility, which brings to the surface every potential lie possible, enticing me to believe. But the good news is, because I believe there is always good news…as hard and as painful as it’s been to fall down, the presence of pain indicates that I CAN learn better….if I can fall DOWN, I can also fall UP.

“Maybe you have to know the darkness before you can appreciate the light.” – Madeleine L’Engle 

So long story short, I think pain is the body’s way of “encouraging” action and the pain of facing the truth about yourself is often necessary to change for the better. Just like touching the hot oven racks is teaching me to avoid hot metal, accepting why a relationship has been falling apart will help me better understand what to do differently in the future with it.

Instead of running from or coddling pain, because pain can become an idol, I will choose to allow a healthy dose OF pain to inspire change.

IN me.

What will you allow pain to do in YOU?

 

the beginning, middle and end

I tend to over complicate things. Like W-A-Y over complicate and maybe it’s not so much over complicate as it is…over think. <<<<<——- See, I just did it right there. I have a disease.

Either way, over thinking leads to over complication. Agree?

It comes down to thinking I need to be somewhere other than where I am at.

I have recently been going back and have been rereading some old post/journals/blogs. Each entry is a door into my head and into my heart at THAT moment and each one has been NEEDED. I could not be HERE, in this right now moment experiencing these right now things, if I had not been THERE

I realize I have a propensity to gravitate towards RIGHT and WRONG and for this incredibly gray, in-the-middle woman…it baffles my mind that I weigh in so heavy on one side or the other, but I do. **WITH ME**

When I was little, I don’t think there was a lot of room for conversations, as in “What do you think?” It was “This is how it is. End of discussion.” So to think outside of “This is how it is”  has made me feel small, as in stepped on, as in END. OF. DISCUSSION. 

No perspectives.

No opinions.

No conversations.

And sadly and ultimately…No relationship.

I haven’t quite learned how to master the art of resting in WHO I am and yes, the people pleaser in me is still alive and kickin’ for I continuously resurect her from the dead and invite her to sit at the head of my table, but I am learning.

I do not have to TRY to convince…

So now here I am, an adult who thinks A LOT and who goes back and rereads and begins to gauge her own thoughts against her new ones and places them on a scale. Was I right then or was I wrong?

HA. I was both.

It is no longer a matter if I was right or if I was a wrong in what I thought about what I was walking through at that time…it’s just another layer of me, a ginormously large onion, right where I am at.

**GOOD ** BETTER ** BEST**

These my friends, are words to live by. Not necessarily wrong or right or some hazy shade of gray but…

IN THE MOMENT.

RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE AT.

DOING THE BEST THAT YOU CAN.

Which some days is good. Some days is better. Some days is best.

My friend Amanda taught me those words. I sat in a chair in her kitchen with a black binder in my hands that I often still use. I was new to health and overall nutrition and she was about to teach her first class and she said these three little words. It’s as if the heavens opened up above me and trumpets began to play, they impacted me that much. They’ve allowed me to take myself OFF THE HOOK and extend grace, mercy and kindness to myself.

Where you are at is GOOD.

If you step over here, it’s BETTER.

And if you push ahead, it’s BEST. 

Whatever it may be, it keeps you in the game instead of standing on the sidelines having been picked last at recess for the daily kickball game. It rules out NOTHING, it negates NO ONE.

Live in the moment. Live right in THIS moment, just as you are. Do not cross yourself off or rule yourself out. You aren’t getting it all right nor are you getting it all wrong…you are somewhere continuously between the beginning, middle and end.

Enjoy the journey.

Much Love- 

August

 

 

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