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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 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.

 

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The Pick-Up Artist

For years I hid and stuffed a large part of myself down deep. It wasn’t easy or ideal and it was exhausting but I didn’t know any different. It was what I grew up doing; not wanting to think or feel as some sort of self-protection mechanism. There was the me that I presented to the world; I was put together, talked and walked with poise and ease *in public* and then there was the me that hid and covered myself up *in private* because inwardly I was a gigantic mess. I was a consummate circus juggler and had too many balls in the air and was *worn thin* from trying to keep them afloat. 

Then I attended a life-changing conference in Nashville Tennessee. At the time, I was leading a local Mom’s group at my Church called MOPS (Mother’s Of Preschooler’s). Looking back now, I shouldn’t have been leading much of anything but I had a slew of preschoolers myself and was actually trying my best to be a good mother to them. Besides, God often goes hard after the lost and lonely and has been known to put those who don’t have it together in positions of leadership.

And I swear to God, the conference had me specially in mind from beginning to end when they picked the topic.

Masks: Why we put them on and how we take them off. 

It was a simple message with a profound punch. It didn’t make me feel like shit like it could have but instead, empowered me to emerge from the suffocating squalor I had been hiding in. When I returned home from Tennessee, I stood in front of my MOPS groups, in front of women whom I was convinced had it all together and whom I worked hard at convincing that I did and bared my soul. It was like I was auditioning for the movie “Bad Moms” where one of the moms stand in front of the PTA and admits to smoking the weed she finds in her sons bedroom. 

I share this moment in life with you because it was the first of many where I mustered the courage to be me *as is* I became increasingly brave and awake, even though I still morphed into some sorry rendition of who I thought I needed to be. I didn’t gravitate quickly *nor easily* to a mask. I walked the Earth uncovered and through it, the whole of my insides was unearthed. 

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.

When you allow yourself to stand naked before the crowd, it invites others to do the same. Nakedness brings up all those things that you’ve tried to keep hidden. All your insecurities rise to the surface. Things like jealousy, anxiety, depression, bitterness…just to do some brain storming. They bring with them thoughts and feelings that are all out of sorts. And when they hit like tsunami waves, they make you believe that staying hidden and numb would have been best.

But it’s not. 

Thoughts and feelings are not bad things, in fact, they can be used for a lot of good when kept in check. It wasn’t long till I became aware that I had a deep understanding of what other people were going through…kind of like a sixth sense so to speak. I could “feel” what others were feeling, at least enough to bring me to the realization that I’m a highly empathic person. An empath.

The trademark of an empath is that we feel and absorb other people’s emotions and/or physical symptoms because of our high sensitivities. We filter the world through our intuition and have a difficult time intellectualizing our feelings. When overwhelmed with the impact of stressful emotions, empaths can have panic attacks, depression, chronic fatigue, food, sex and drug binges, and many physical symptoms that defy traditional medical diagnosis.

Here’s some nuggets of gold I’ve learned this past year:

1. Empaths are highly sensitive
Empaths are naturally giving, spiritually open, and good listeners. If you want heart, empaths have got it. Through thick and thin, we’re there for you, and are world-class nurturers. But we can easily have our feelings hurt. We are often told that we are “too sensitive” and need to toughen up.

2. Empaths absorb other people’s emotions
Empaths are highly attuned to other people’s moods, good and bad. We feel everything, sometimes to an extreme. We take on others people’s negativity such as anger or anxiety and make it our own, which is confusing and exhausting. If we are around peace and love, our bodies take these on and flourish.

3. Many empaths are introverted
Empaths become overwhelmed in crowds, which can amplify their empathy. We tend to be introverted and prefer one to one contact or small groups. Even if an empath is more extroverted they prefer limiting how much time they can be in a crowd or at a party. This was one of the most important discoveries of myself this year.

4. Empaths are highly intuitive
Empaths experience the world through our intuition. It is important for us to develop our intuition and listen to our gut feelings about people. This will help empaths find positive relationships and avoid energy vampires *which is a thing* but we have to be careful. I find that if I don’t personally partner with the Spirit of God, I get pulled to make assumptions and judgements about people instead of initially thinking the very best of them.

5. Empaths need alone time
As super-responders, being around people can drain an empath so we periodically need alone time to recharge our batteries. Even a brief escape prevents emotional overload and is a great form of self-care.

6. Empaths can become overwhelmed in intimate relationships
Too much togetherness can be difficult for an empath so we may avoid intimate relationships. Deep down we are afraid of being engulfed and losing our identity. I’m still processing this one but I do realize I often go wide but not deep, even though I believe I walk the face of the Earth masks free. It’s easier for me to intimate with large groups of people rather than not…again, it’s something I’m looking at.

7. Empaths are targets for energy vampires
An empath’s sensitivity makes us particularly easy marks for energy vampires, whose fear or rage can sap our energy and peace of mind. Vampires do more than drain an empath’s physical energy. The especially dangerous ones such as narcissists (they lack empathy and are only concerned with themselves) can make us believe we are unworthy and unlovable. Other vampires include the chronic talker, the incessant complainer and the drama queen…just to name a few.

8. Empaths become replenished in nature
The busyness of ever day life can be too much for an empath. The natural world nourishes and restores us. It helps us release our burdens and we take refuge in every-day-ordinary places like mountains, oceans and my personal favorite…on a boat at my favorite lake. 

9. Empaths have highly tuned senses
An empath’s nerves can get frayed by too much excess

Too much details. Too much talking. Too much activity in general.

10. Empaths have huge hearts but sometimes give too much
Empaths are big-hearted people and try to relieve the pain of others *which often leads us to “fix” or “save”* A homeless person holding a cardboard sign, “I’m hungry” at a busy intersection; a hurt animal; a distraught friend. It’s natural to want to reach out to them and ease their pain but empaths don’t stop there. Instead, we take it on. Suddenly we are the one feeling drained or upset whereas we felt fine before and often leads us to feeling take advantage of.

One of lessons I’ve learned this past year is that it is essiential to have an aresenal of tools to protect my sensitivities such as praying, fierce time management, setting limits and boundaries *NO is a complete sentence* and staying in my lane by and being mindful of the traffic in MY own thought and feeling life. Being an empath is a gift, especially when I partner with the Spirit of God, but I’m learning to take care of myself.

Self-care is NOT selfish. 

And I’m learning to not take things personally. The thought life or emotional roller coaster ride that others are on is not because of ME. I am not the axle in which the world rotates itself around.

Friends, we don’t always have to DO something with what is before us. We can actually choose what we pickup and what we put down and when things are dumped on us, we can rise up out of the heap, dust ourselves off and walk out of the crazy.

Sometimes it is one of the kindest things we can do. 

Chasing Slow

The perfect ending to my day is a walk with the dog down a hidden path in a farmer’s field not far from my home. It is quiet and serene and leads to an open field by a brook and is as picturesque as they come and if you time it just right, you can watch the sun set behind the Allegheny Mountains.

The problem is, I don’t take that walk all that often and tonight when my feet hit the path, I wish they did.

The list of excuses is extensive; too busy, not enough time and sometimes simply lack of motivation but all in all, I find when I head towards that hidden path, something inside of me breathes easier and the space within me becomes wider which makes room for what and who is important.

And you want to know how I got to go on that walk tonight? I had to say no to something. Actually to someone. I was to have dinner with friends but the day didn’t shape up the way I had planned and consequently, my evening was freed.

But I hated to say no. I kept telling myself for hours I could make it work but honestly, in the long run, I couldn’t. Too full of a day isn’t always best and sometimes you have to be the one that makes the hard decisions for the greater good and tonight the greater good was my family.

I am finding in my fast paced world, I need a lot of slow. A lot. And the only way to slow things down to a pace that is not only manageable but enjoyable is to say no.

Friends that is hard. I hate to disappoint and let people down. I don’t like conveying, “This is not important to me. You’re not.” But people pleasing is often my demise. When you’ve battled fear of rejection most of your life, you long to be accepted and you  become a person who says “yes” like it’s an insurance policy with an affordable deductible. The payment is somewhat doable…at first. But the thing with saying yes all the time is that it has a snow ball effect…one yes turns into another and before you know it, you are giving your time and your energy to things and people you shouldn’t and you can become easily burned out.

Saying yes is like a drug, a way to stay busy and numb out and sometimes the only way to discover why you are on the hamster wheel is to detox your system and your schedule so you can understand why you have a need to be constantly on the go. What are you trying to avoid by remaining preoccupied? It’s a question I have been asking myself. For one, resting and chasing slow makes me feel unproductive and since much of our culture associates productivity next to godliness…I feel as if I “should” be involved in all things, showing up and presenting my smile and doing my part.

Truth is, the core of who I am craves slow and part of me wants to say that’s because I have secretly been an introvert made to think she was an extrovert but I don’t think that’s what it is. I think I began avoiding life and used people and staying busy much like a drug….so I wouldn’t be confronted with being alone with myself and my thoughts.

Now after going through one of the hardest seasons of my life plagued by depression and faced with the harsh reality that I literally am not responsible for anything or anyone but myself, I have been forced to hit the rest button and look at my life and what is my part all over again. Looking back, it’s been a good and needed process though the realities of it all have not seemed so beneficial at the time.

Chasing a slower pace of life has challenged me to look at my time and what I can realistically handle in any one given day. I always believed that I could handle a lot of pressure and stress because I was always forced to but then I looked long and hard at my coping mechanisms and realized that I wasn’t really handling the heaviness all that well. So I am learning to say “no, not now or I have to reschedule.” I am finding that the sky does not fall on my head and that ultimately, I’m the one who has to sleep with myself at night and the saying goes, “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t no body happy.”

It’s true.

“If Mama ain’t happy with being with herself, she ain’t happy with being with anybody else.”

Is truer yet.

Friends, please make time for the walk. Your body will thank you but your soul and your spirit will thank you even more.

Rest

All my big work to-do’s are done and another crazy and hectic school year is coming to an end. One more Friday.

All school year I said I wanted to take one day and not work in between bus runs. No sitting in the office going through mounds of paperwork, no cleaning the house for the five hundredth time, no laundry, no book club reading, no running errands. To me that time looked like sitting on the couch catching up on Season 2 of Game of Thrones and this morning I did just that.

I physically rested both my body and my mind and my heart breathed a huge sigh of relief.

“Thanks.”

I understand now why God calls for a day of rest. It wasn’t just so we could show up to Church (because sometimes that feels just as much like work as work does). It was so we could reset ourselves to our very core, to Him. To ourselves. To one another.

I got two episodes in and understand now why my oldest daughter told me not to get attached to characters. I then leisurely made my way across town for a lunch date with a friend and was so excited for my time with her because I didn’t feel rushed to get to the next thing. Guess what she talked about?

Rest.

Now her rest may look different from my rest but the premise is till the same. She is hitting the reset button just the same as I am. We are all trying to figure out how to balance this thing called life. Juggling schedules and wearing numerous hats in a 24 hour time period leaves many of us exhausted, even if it’s jammed packed full of good things and people. I have discovered this year that I love being around people and most would classify me as an extrovert but the core of who I am is very introverted, requiring a lot of alone time and quiet. When I get up each day and jump into the next thing or don’t  establish healthy boundaries or don’t make time to give my head and heart a break, I stop breathing and find myself holding my breath hurrying from one thing to the next.

That is not living.

That is just getting shit done.

I am beyond saying that’s life and calling it a day.

The whole basis of rest goes back to this:

Guard your heart above ALL else for everything in life flows from it. (Proverbs 4:23)

This pretty much embodies listening to an Audience of One and an Audience of One alone. If you people please much, you will have a hard time guarding your time, your schedule, your boundaries, your everything. Seriously, if your gut says no…maybe it’s a no (and no one has ever died from saying no that I am aware of). Most importantly, a lot of things sound good, especially if you’ve got a lot of well-meaning people offering advice to you on what you should and shouldn’t do. I personally am finding, the smaller the circle of influence you allow into your life, the better. Fewer voices = less noise. Walk with people and have people walk with you whom you confide in and trust but keep that number small. I think you’ll find you are able to hear God’s voice more clearly when you do so because ultimately it is He that helps you guard your heart.

So long story short is this…make time to rest friends. One day a week pretty much needs to be allotted to nothingness which in the long run, adds up to a whole lot of happiness, wholeness and peace in your life. Give your day away to go, go, go and watch your frustration, anxiety and weariness grow.

Make the time for the people and the things you say are important to you…make time for YOU. If Game of Thrones is your way to chillax, then please. Permission granted. You won’t do anyone or anything good when you and burned out from top to bottom. I mean, you’ll look pretty and amazingly hot, but ouch.

Take it from me…rest is a healer and doing nothing is more than ok.

 

Say No to Say Yes

I’m kind of sensing a theme in my life lately. Maybe it’s the fact that last weekend I was on crutches and had to wipe my calendar clean to rest or that Friday night our son ran over his little sister with the four-wheeler (she is A-OK) and we had to call it a night and cancel plans. I am not positive, but there has been a definite knocking taking place on the door of my brain that’s saying, “Hey McFly?!?!”

Slow the hell down.”

Recently I bought a PAPER PLANNER for many reasons, one being that I actually LOVE crossing things off my list (don’t judge me, it actually boost my productivity). Yesterday I took it out and opened it to March and actually X’d out most of my weekends with a highlighter. I am finding that my weeks are often busy with work and other events that when the weekend comes and I don’t have at least ONE day that is S-L-O-W, as in H-O-M-E, I easily lose my shit.

So think this through with me people. If one knows that they cannot do ALL things and that they are wired for reprieve, as in a BREAK, you would suspect that they would be proactive in making time for that to happen, right? Right, but wrong. I HAVEN’T been proactive. I just thought it would HAPPEN, as in osmosis. Like buying and carrying a planner would help me become more productive and organized, right? Bawawawa…

I was given a white, silk ribbon years a go at a woman’s conference. It had these words written on it, “Proverbs 4:23” I looked up the verse and this is what it said, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do in life flows from it.”

Now I have a tendency to be sort of gray, not so much black and white, so I try to keep in context content, but the long and short of this is THIS verse pretty much is black and white. If you can give me another perspective, I am all ears, but to me it literally means, “This is incredibly important, so pay attention. Before you do anything, do this FIRST. Rank this as your highest priority. Your heart is your prize. It is the core of WHO you are. Watch carefully everything that goes INTO it and watch carefully everything that comes OUT of it, every thought, every emotion… because everything, AS IN ALL, will filter through your heart. You will not be able to compartmentalize. It will ALL be attached. Attach it well.”

That’s my synopsis, my cliff-notes of Proverbs 4:23. Perhaps someday I will add another tattoo and THIS will be the verse. I say it out loud multiple times a day, no lie. It feeds and nourishes my soul and reminds my spirit the importance of walking in my identity.

Guard. Be intentional and diligent. Be mindful. Make your word count; your yes be yes and your no be no. Ask yourself the hard questions and then have the guts to honestly answer and assess so you KNOW how to say NO so you can say YES.

Part of guarding for me is being mindful of my time. Why have a home and a family if you don’t actually take the time to enjoy them? Appreciation leads to gratitude and it’s hard to be offended, jealous or defeated when your heart is full of gratitude. If you need practical, THIS  is it. You can actually put feet to this little nugget. Say no more. You may have to give up good things, but my friend Roni reminded me that there are a lot of good things, but we all have our quota for the day or for the week.

Know yours.

Much Love-

August

 

The Day I Cancelled My Week and Saved My Life

I could feel it coming on, the urge to cancel. To hole up and escape. Every now and then, I find myself longing for slow, for home. I actually find this quite crazy since our home is a complete hub of continuous activity. We have children, five of them, but they aren’t toddlers. They are KIDS, as in TEENS who eat more than my husband and I combined. Kids who are active and stay up later than I do at night. Kids, whom for the love of God, talk ALL. THE. TIME and have their own opinions and schedules. Plus, we own our own business, a couple cows and a pig and home is where it’s ALL at, like literally.

And home is where I most like to be.

So when I get out of sorts and only get to spend snippets of time here, I pray for God to encapsulate our county with a snow storm so we are all forced, as in mandated by law, to stay put. When a snow storm doesn’t hit, I day dream of a real life zombie apocalypse without the zombie’s so I can hunker down for long periods of time and regroup in order to survive. Both thoughts secretly bring a smile to my face and also strike me as somewhat concerning. Is this thinking the onset of my becoming a flesh eating hermit? I call my therapist and schedule a visit and then I check the weather, just to see. Snow is in the forecast but not good snow, just nuisance snow that won’t bury us deep and that doesn’t count. Besides the whooping cough that recently hit our county, everyone seems to be in relatively good health and for this, I give thanks.

But damn. I recently bought milk, bread and eggs. Please don’t let it be for nothing.

I open my calendar and I begin. I cancel everything possible to negate, even the therapy appointment I JUST scheduled. Lunch with a friend. Errands. Doctors appointments. GETTING MY TEETH CLEANED. You name it, if it did not involve my work or the health of my children (like feeding them), it was wiped off the face of this weeks planet. Then the voice of reason rises within me and says, “Was that all really necessary?”

Um. Well yeah. Maybe no.

Years ago I did a personality test that clearly labeled me as an EXTROVERT. It made perfect sense and actually FED my need to GO GO GO. The striver in me LOVED being an EXTROVERT. It was like some little badge I wore, all shiny and freshly pinned. I loved being known as outgoing and involved. It was as if I was an octopus with my right hand in it all but it soon became a crutch and an excuse. Overtime I found myself living in a vast vacuum of contradiction. GO GO GO is not at all WHO I am and I KNEW it. After years of struggle, I realized that SLOW or FAST has nothing to DO with my external environment but my internal one. I realized that guarding is necessary because my internal environment is vitally important and influences my outer environment, just as my outer influences my inner if I’m not careful.

Such a tricky, sticky balance.

Maybe it’s because I’m starting to grow up after all these years. Maybe it’s because I’m settling into my skin and getting comfortable with being ME. Perhaps I’ll be THAT older person; contrary and odd, but I love the quiet to think and just BE as I pine for a slower pace. I crave making time to REST and RECENTER and REGROUP and when I don’t make time to RESET my internal alarm, I get all discombobulated and begin praying for snowstorms and apocalypse’s.

That’s when I hear His voice chide.

YOU did this sister. YOU.”

Because you know, I have a tendency to blame…

And He is right. I forget sometimes that “no” is a word and not just a word in some sentence but a COMPLETE sentence. A COMPLETE paragraph. A COMPLETE book.

No. I cannot be concerned with what someone else thinks when those words cross over my lips. I cannot be bothered with guilt or riddled with shame. The only person who has to live my life at the end of the day is ME and if that truly is the case, then I am the one who will have to live with the choices that I make. Heaven on Earth or hell as a reality…the choice is mine.

Learning to say no when no is needed has actually led me to my YES when my yes is needed. BUT…if I’m tired and have expended all that’s inside of me, I have little to give to my YES and those are very sad moments in my day that take my feet out from under me like quicksand…

My biggest YES are these fine people living in this house I long to be in.

I know now why the Lord created Sabbath (Genesis 2:2). THIS is why He rested. He wanted to enjoy WHAT He had and WHO He had created. He wanted to appreciate them and be filled with gratitude and proper perspective. He RESTED, RECENTERED and REGROUPED. He modeled how to take a day, ANY DAY, and just BE. Jesus often gave up being the center of attention to purposefully retreat to “lonely places” to be with the Father and pray (Luke 5:16). He knew. We need to say NO in order to say YES.

We ALL have a YES and our YES overflows from WHO we are.

Our RESET button continually changes over time and looks different from one another. What brings me REST might not to you and vice versa. Let’s just be ok with that. For me, it is being home. Being HERE, in my crazy house, cooking dinner for my hungry kids. Living in my car as a I zoom kids around. Taking a bath at night and slipping sleepily into bed by 9:00…

We NEED that one day, I most certainly DO. I just totally canceled my whole entire week and all I needed was ONE day to reboot and recharge so guess what? Tomorrow’s back on, I won’t cancel it. I’ll show up confident that I can do whatever is in it without incident. I LIVE in a better place when I make time for a slower pace (ok that was just weird rhyming that I did NOT intend, but I’ll leave it). You get my point?

Guard your heart. Seriously, those are LIFE words. In the end, it is how you will save it. (Proverbs 4:23).

Much Love-

August

Round Table Discussion:

*Do you intentionally set time a side each week to REST, RECENTER and REGROUP? Why or why not?

*What is a RESET button for you?

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