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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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Stay In Your Lane

A couple of months ago this commercial popped up on my television screen and I instantly fell in love.

Maybe I fell in love because I wanted to exude the attitude of the burly tattoo guy because I was tired of people pleasing. Maybe it was because I have tattoos and could empathize with the cautious and questioning young man in the seat getting one, is just “OK” was just that. Either way, these four little words have been in my head ever since and I’ve been trying to figure out what they mean because I know they are significant.

Sometimes what I think words are aren’t, especially when I try to manufacture their meaning. Especially when I give them a definition instead of allowing them to organically and naturally produce substance in my life.

I” was giving them definition.

I” was using them as a means to let myself off the hook from caring too much (so I wouldn’t get hurt) or from focusing on situations (and people) I could not control.

“Just stay in YOUR lane August. What they do is none of your business. What you do is none of theirs.”

Easy Peasy.

It sounded easy but every time I said those words inside my head and held on tight to that tattoo guy type-of-attitude, I found I was lonely and increasingly isolated from the rest of humanity thanks to the huge sound barriers I erected on my highway.

Perhaps the meaning I was giving my new mantra wasn’t the best. I turned words into worship, a religion of sorts like my forefathers before me and they carried strict  black and white standards to adhere to.

“Stay in YOUR lane” translated into “Mind your own *damn* business.”

And somewhere deep inside my heart, the meaning I was giving those four little words hurt my heart. What I needed was the Spirit of God to give them personal significance.

Because Jesus is simple and when He speaks, there really isn’t much to sort through because my heart agrees automatically by hearing the sound of His voice.

So one day, weeks after I left my figuring behind, Jesus interrupted my day while I was doing something incredibly random. He asked, “August, how’s your life going?”

I hesitated because quite honestly I was fixated somewhere else. Like on the dishes. My head was not on all things good or Holy and they certainly weren’t on talking with Jesus in the midst of cleaning out a sink full of dirty dishes that other people in my household could have helped with but didn’t. But that is how He works…

Jesus is *incredibly* random.

How’s my life going? Is this a trick question? My mind hurried to make sense.

Leaving no room for pause, He reworded the question, “August are you trying your best?”

I didn’t hesitate because I already knew the answer. “Yes. I believe I am trying my best.”

I wanted to follow that up with, “I could try harder and do better,” but that wasn’t necessary because I know enough to know He isn’t interested in my strides towards perfection. I knew trying my best was and always will be enough.

“So if YOU are trying your best, in the moment, in your lane, right where you are at…don’t you think that THEY are trying their best?”

“No. I don’t think they are trying their best. In fact, I don’t think they are trying at all.”

Because if they were actually trying, the results would look different.

It was an honest response because I no longer feel Jesus desires my pleasantries. My words and my heavy heart just hung in the air while I stood at the sink surrounded by a thick fog that had no where else to go but around me like some noose around my neck. Silence lodged itself in my throat and I swallowed hard.

The list where I kept track of others shortcomings lengthened and with my honesty, I made things personal. I swerved from my lane into theirs and sat in their seat.

I assumed I was God and made the assumption that I knew BETTER than Him.

I’ve realized over the last year that I have an *intense* need for control and the many ways in which I subtly disguised it revealed themselves. As much I’ve hated the path that I’ve been walking on, it’s brought me to the humbling realization that out of fear, my hands have often been on more steering wheels than what they should’ve been and because of my overactive imagination and assumption making, I’ve manufactured make-believe scenarios and brought them to life.

I think I have a propensity to do this because I’ve often felt backed into a corner, trying to make sense out of something senseless…trying to fix and ultimately, trying to save.

Though I would not necessarily classify myself as a micro-manager, I certainly haven’t been laissez fair when it comes to the affairs of others, especially with those closest to me. I’ve walked in expectation, held high standards with even the most realistic of ones and made assumptions that sadly painted other people poorly. Essentially, I’ve always given the actions or inactions of others meaning, I gave them definition, MINE. I presumed to know what they were thinking, how they were feeling and why they were doing *or not doing* what they were.

I tend to walk in the spirit of control when I ultimately feel that I don’t have any, don’t have a say, have little influence, and ultimately…don’t have the power to choose because I feel stuck between a rock and hard place.

Not true.

One of the best gifts we have been given is the power to choose because a choice is always present. Wether it be what we think about something or someone, how we respond to them…we have a say. Always.

My lane is my heart. It is a conduit, a freeway of sorts, where I process my thought life, how I’m feeling and the choices I make. I can’t possibly begin to manipulate or control someone else’s heart (even though I continuously try)…even when the choices they make steer their way haphazardly into my as if they were texting and driving.

I can only make choices on how my heart responds to their behaviorI can NOT presume to know their thoughts or how they feel. That is not my lane.

Truth is, I have my own thoughts and emotions and often times, even when I wrestle them to the ground, I don’t win. Like Paul said in the book of Romans, “For what I hate, I do.” Even on the days where I show up to the race and plant my feet squarely up against the starting line resolving to do my best…my best in someone else’s eyes might not be. Maybe they even say about me, “No. I don’t think they are trying their best. In fact, I don’t think they are trying at all.”

But they are not me. They have no idea what I’ve gone through or how I process life in my heart and head and in return, as empathetic as I can be, the same applies to me. I am not them.

Their heart is their own and they have their own lane of traffic to navigate.

So with that being said, I will keep my mantra and will stay in my own lane but it means a little bit nowadays. It is not all sharp and edgy nor does it cut people out from traveling along side me. I don’t want to be on the highway of life on my own because after a very long season of doing just that, I’m reminded I not only need others but want them. Because I have blind spots. I can’t possibly see every facade of my life on my own. Sometimes I am unaware how my words or my actions come across or make people feel and if I choose to keep unintentionally wounding people, I believe I’ll be accountable for my neglect. My relationship choices will either create a living Heaven or Hell here on Earth. Sadly I know where I am living from when I don’t believe the very best about others and presume to know what is going on inside of them.

Conversely, I don’t want to sit in someone else’s chair in some tattoo parlor just waiting to see what happens. Maybe OK is good for them but not OK with me. We are all going after different things. And there is nothing wrong with that.

We all need love, grace and understanding as we figure things out. Hopefully we are trying our best as we do so, but in the end, it is not up to others to make that determination.

The only lane we have to mind is our own.

“There’s great freedom in not compulsively interpreting other people, situations, and so on – not imposing all these judgements. ” Eckhart Tolle

 

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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.

Love Is

Love can be tricky and isn’t always easy. Love everyone? Yeah, no thanks. Lots of times, I just don’t FEEL it. It is work, doesn’t come quick and is often incredibly complicated…entangled in knots vs. the nice, soft ball of good-feels I prefer.

And I can always tell when I struggling with it. I become short-tempered, quick with my words, easily offended and snarky.

Yes snarky.

Like today I got into a a childish game of “who could have the last word”…feeling undermined, I needed to have the last say to feel right.

Struggling indeed.

When I’m here, I often find myself trying to make my way back to myself, my nice self. My loving self.

To no avail, I always come up slightly short and my love tank is never quite full enough. It’s exhausting carrying bucket loads of water to the tank on your own so eventually I tire and decide to tap into whose tank I know is full and overflowing.

And I always end up here:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Because if love is not just some feeling or a good and noble deed, but rather the very person of Jesus, then Love is who I am to be.

I often forget that I don’t have to try to find my way BACK to myself, I’m where I want to be the moment I about-face and go in the opposite direction of being short-tempered, quick with my words, easily offended and snarky.

I am patient.

I am kind.

I am not envious, boastful, or proud.

I do not dishonor others.

I am not self-seeking, easily angered, and I keeps no record of wrongs.

I do not not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

I always protect, always trust, always hope, and always persevere.

If I just rest here, in becoming these very words and willing them to life IN me…I find my way back to being loving when I find my way back to Jesus.

He is my compass and my light.

He IS Love.

Deep Waters

I love snow days. I love the quiet-calm that they bring. I love the reset and regrouping that takes place within me when I can’t leave my home but the last few snow days we’ve had have been a blur so today I made the decision that I was going to be intentional with enjoying it. To the fullest.

I made homemade chicken corn soup.

Baked chocolate chip cookies and consequently, ate most **read ALL** of them.

Built a snowman with my kids.

Made them breakfast, lunch AND dinner.

Loaded my dishwasher. Twice.

Taught my sons fiancé how to bake homemade bread.

And since I’m the only person on the planet that has not watched Game of Thrones, I decided to catch up on some episodes.

I did these things among many others…but one thing I found out about my television watching abilities (though they are few) is that my idea of watching TV means I have the show on while I DO other things.

While I cook.

While I bake.

While I read, write, work, clean.

And it hit me, “Is this really watching at all?”

Because as long as I get the GIST of the show, I can say I watched it.

And then it hit me further, and it wasn’t just me trying to be overly introspective…

“What else in life have I been comfortable with just getting the gist of?”

I’m afraid to answer.

Jesus?

My family and friends?

Me?

I obviously have some thinking to do but I also don’t want to OVER think it so I’ll just leave it at this…

BE PRESENT. 

Don’t just settle for scraping the surface or standing in shallow waters. Go for the deep waters and you can’t always get there my multi-tasking your life away. Sometimes, ALL TIMES, when people are involved, it is best to focus and go beyond the gist. To go to their deeper blue seas. People are not TV. They are real and present and desire to be seen, heard and long for connection. Let’s bring this to real life: Put the cell phone down. Make eye contact when being talked to. Stop loading the dishwasher when your daughter walks in the room yelling, “Hey Mom!!!!”

Life’s Little Lesson of the day…

When life throws you a snow day, not only on the FIRST but SECOND day of Spring, you reset and regroup within yourself, WITH YOURSELF and those you love.  

You swim out to deep blue waters. 

the invitation 

I sat down at the table a little nervous. I never really had a conversation with her past surface things and quick helios in passing and here I was, guaranteed a whole hour with my new friend.

And I just knew we would be friends.

She asked me how I was and I knew what the “right” answer should be. I’m “great” was on the verge of jumping off my tongue and out of my mouth but instead I said, “I’m ok. I know I should say I’m better and I am but…”

And my heart opened up from there and off we went.

At the end of our hour lunch, I felt like I had known her way longer than our sixty minute chat. I think that’s what being vulnerable does. Once you get past the point of feeling all naked and afraid, you reveal your raw and edgy heart and can actually begin relating to another human being that goes far beyond experiential.

Heart connections are real and they happen instantaneously. They don’t need worked for or kept up with. You just show up and fully engage the person before you, whatever…however.

Sometimes we go thorough life like we dodging bullets or gallopping through some obstacle course that we maneuver poorly. It’s during those times, and we all go through them, that it is somewhat comforting not being alone. Like fully. Wether they relate or not or been there done that…it is a breath of fresh air that sweeps through a white padded room to have a friend accompany you on your journey.

If you ever say yes to the coffee or the lunch, to the play date or the run, show up for more than what you are invited to. It’s more than a coffee or lunch date. It’s an opportunity to be your realest self. It’s an opportunity for you to make space for someone else to exhale and breathe in some fresh air their lungs desperately crave.

I learned a lot over a plate of food and I am so thankful I took a risk and showed up me. I didn’t show up messy or all broken nor did I show up all perfectly put together and slightly untouchable. I showed up right where I am and I am grateful that I did. I made a new friend and we moved beyond being mere acquaintances with a similar circle of friends.

Life’s Little Lesson: Show up. Be authentic, honest and real.

Do all the above afraid if need be.

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 Blind Spot 

I woke up this morning and I could not stop thinking about it.

“I bet that is one of the contributors. That can’t be helping. It is only hurting.”

By the time I rolled out of bed and meandered to the coffee pot, I already knew what I was going to say. I was going to come to the table, out of concern, and state the obvious.

Yes.

“THIS…is clearly not helping.”

Essentially…

“What you are doing is WRONG.”

Y-O-U.

The other day I was reading in Matthew and was really needing something. I was desperate. Ever have one of those moments? You need Truth ASAP. You need Hope. You ultimately need Jesus.

That was me.

“Please show me what I need to hear. How to live. What I need to change IN me?”

I have a lot of needs.

Well my eyes went to Matthew 7.

Do Not Judge. 

Gulp.

7:1-5 “Refuse to be a critic full of bias toward others, and judgement will not be passed onto to you. For you will be judged by the same standard that you’ve used to judge others. The measurement you use on them will be used on you. Why would you focus on the flaw in someone else’s life and yet fail to notice the glaring flaws of your own? How could you say to your friend, ‘Let me show you where you’re wrong,’ when you’re guilty of even more? You are being hypocritical and a hypocrite! First acknowledge your own ‘blind spots’ and deal with them, and then you’ll be capable of dealing with the ‘blind spot’ of your friend.”

Verse 5 is bold because my Bible it is now highlighted.

First” literally means, “BEFORE YOU DO ANYTHING ELSE” and “Acknowledge” means that you accept or admit the existence or truth of and from experience I can tell you, you won’t address what you cannot see or what you do not know exists. If your heart is not convicted to repent, that what you are doing is not the best or is hurting rather than helping, you most likely won’t take the steps to CHANGE.

Repentance means you acknowledge your own stuff, your sin, and you change your mind and go in another direction. You begin to make changes in the way you think. Your mind is pretty powerful and on your own, you can redirect your thoughts but your heart is another story. Repentance means you open your heart to being searched by Jesus and overtime and as each searching takes place, a conversation happens. I believe with your can-do and your time spent with Jesus honestly accessing your own heart and answering the hard questions, like “What is going on inside of me?” you transform.

You leave your old wineskin behind and take on new. (Mark 2:22).

Do you know the process of creating a new wineskin? I did us all the favor and looked it up. It’s quite the process.

The hide is cut from a dead animal, most likely a goat.

Then it’s dried, tanned and eventually cut into the right pattern and sealed.

It’s then stitched by hand and tacked.

It’s turned inside out.

It is heated to high temperatures.

And then sealed. Again.

Dealing with our stuff is much like this. A process. A gruesome and bloody process and lately most days, I personally feel much like a goat hide.

Cut off, left to dry…left to die.

It is how it feels.

But I have to choose to believe, regardless of how it feels, that this process will be worth it. That I am a beautiful new wineskin in the making.

Because I am realizing that my old skin cannot hold new wine.

And I want new wine.

So where does this fit in with Do Not Judge?

“…and deal with them THEN you’ll be capable of dealing with the ‘blind spot’ of your friend.”

A season of life, such as this, requires a great deal of patience, understanding, grace and love.

It requires one to go easy, be kindgentle and compassionate towards themselves.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’  The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:30-31

Love your neighbor as yourself.

Perhaps only after we have walked through the process of dealing with our own sin will we know how to deal with others in the same way. Perhaps only then will we realize it’s not as easy as sitting across from the table, coffee in hand, saying “What you are doing is wrong.”

Until I can deal with me, I don’t think I am capable of dealing with you.

And it’s not a mater of want to. Believe me I want to. I often feel under obligation…

I just don’t think I quite know HOW to…

At least not in a way that’s Jesus.

And if it’s not Jesus…

Well.

Maybe

“Is there anything you want to talk about?” 

“No.”

And with that I go to bed.

OK.”

My daily communication attempts trying to delve past talk of kids and business fail. It is glaringly obvious, it is our only common ground. I long for deep and healing here in this place, this vast ocean that looks consuming and my continued asking feels like nagging and drudgery.

Maybe he is right. Maybe there is nothing more to talk about. Maybe this is as good as it gets. And with that, I walk up the stairs and step into the bath, delving below the surface of my life.

The water has become a drug to me. The heat is calming and soothing and numbs out my raw and achy parts.

I’m basing the whole of who I am and my happiness on this marriage. I forgave quickly. I thought I’d never mention our latest snag again. I immediately became a busy little bee who opened up her heart wide. I thought I’d work and he’d work and we would meet somewhere in the middle and this could potentially be THAT happy ending. The ending we all hope for and dream is possible and maybe for some it is, but it takes more than one to dream, maybe more than that to hope.

A mustard seed…and I had it.

But there needs to be communication and not just for a day. Not just for two. We need to cultivate intimacy and by default, I’ve been crowned conversation initiator and my initiator is tired and worn out.

I no longer volunteer as tribute.

My brain tells me all sorts of good and needed truths and I know I am full and overflowing with knowledge of WHO I am but my heart tells me another story. My heart tells me I don’t feel valued or loved, that I’m sitting around waiting for scraps and someone else’s left overs. My heart tells me if I was more important things would change and go another direction. My heart tells me a lot of things…

And if I stay here, stuck in a place that continually perpetuates these lies, that is exactly where I’ll stay.

An orphan.

Actions or lack thereof speak pretty loudly.

I’ve got to get myself healthy, for indeed I am sick. I hear the voice of my counselor in my head, “Your heart is broken. You need to heal,” and I know he is right. It is broken and I need to give it time and trying to help someone else mend who perhaps isn’t quite ready is not helping…me. I am pouring way more into this then he is and I’m beginning to feel the strain of my expenditures. I just don’t have it in me to ask one more time, “Is there anything you want to talk about?”

Because essentially my tired refusal comes from a deep and hidden heart cry, “Would someone please pour into me first. I am empty. I no longer want to fix.”

And under the covering of the hot water that fills the tub, it becomes obvious.

The last time I turned someone over to the Lord with such resolve, my oldest son was six years old and was about to be airlifted to Hershey Medical Center for a skid loader accident. I remember standing over him as he was screaming, a mother whose heart was torn between what she could and couldn’t do, realizing, “There is nothing here I can. My very best works won’t help. But Jesus, if you exist, if you are alive and real, I believe you can help. He is yours.”

So I say it again, just the same.

“He is yours.”

I refuse to settle for anything less than what I know is possible.

The Question We Don’t Ask

It’s one word seldom asked. It is a sentence all in itself but rarely spoken.

WHY?

Good question.

Why have we stopped asking the good and needed question?

Singular.

I think if you find yourself asking this one questions, you may not need to ask another.

Here’s why…

Opinions are much like assholes, everyone indeed has one. Now before you (the reader) potentially take offense to my language, ask yourself if that phrase is true. I bet all the money that I don’t have you say it is.

You may have thoughts on my language choice. You may even have thoughts all together on me if you are lucky enough to know me beyond anything I ever write or share publicly or personally with you. And it may sound like a great thing to sit me down and say, “Hey. This is what I think about what you are doing or how you are living or thi is how I think you are feeling.”

It’s not.

If you start there…before you start here with my heart…you will miss out and most likely, if I am not in the best of places…

Shut me down.

I know I am not the only one.

WHY? 

Because I have done this TO others. I have interjected my thoughts and opinions FIRST and the ramifications have been deadly.

And there is no influence when the doors are closed.

Here is what I am discovering from experience and much introspection:

When this happens, my heart often feels judged before I have even had a chance to share it WITH you. And I do not know about you, but if you want me to share my heart with you AFTER THE FACT…

Godspeed.

WHY am I sharing any of this?

Because it just may be one of the very most important things I have ever realized about hearts and communication, therefore relationship building.

Asking questions is a great conversation starter. It shows you are trying to understand and your digging shows me you are actually interested IN me instead of just giving your opinion or asserting your potential need to be right. It also may even help me dig myself. Maybe your question is one I have not even thought to ask. WHO KNEW!

I say this to you.

I say this to me.

WHY?

Because relationships are pretty damn important. So are our hearts. There is nothing an open heart cannot do. It can accomplish anything it sets its mind to. So rather than pelting each other with our opinions or worse, our assumptions and judgements, of one another, how about if we start with a question.

WHY?

If we say we care and if we mean well deep down in our hearts, it’s as good a place an any to begin.

And end.

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