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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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perspective

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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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. 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Church is for Hurting People

It was a sign I never saw but was the topic of conversation around a dinner table years ago. My friend drove by a local Church and saw the sign along the road and it read, “The Church is for Hurting People.” We wondered if they knew what they said.

Maybe they did. Maybe it was their invite to come. “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28

Either way you look at it, it is true.

The Church should be a haven, a safe place for hurting people, people down on their luck and exhausted from the rat-race of life however if you have ever been IN the Church, especially in leadership, you’d know, just like I came to find out, the Church hurts people as well.

OH. DOES. IT. 

So I left it. Partially.

I stopped showing up and withdrew my all-in heart and played it safe on the sidelines. Through it, I came to know Jesus more intimately, personally. I discovered “Church” was not just in a building but a group of sister-friends, within my family, on the lake, at home on a day where physical and mental rest was needed.

Church was IN me, whereever I went. Why would I ever need to subject myself to the drama that “Church” brought? Because to be honest, I fell short in Church. Someone was always following Jesus closer and running faster and speaking louder and more freely. Someone else was sitting in the front row instead of corralling in the back and they were NOT holding their heart back or walking in with the baggage I carried. After a while worship seemed to exist for the approval of man and it all seemed like a ridiculous parade of paupers pleading for the attention and approval of a few.

And I don’t do cliques and as a recovery people-pleaser, I felt like it was a weekly trap that made old wounds surface and sting.

The lake or the early Sunday morning run never made my heart ache the way that building did and Jesus spoke clearly and I grew.

Or did I?

Fast forward to Thursday night. Book club and nine of the best ladies I know are gathered around my table and a fellow leader speaks up and bares her heart raw. She is hurt. By Church.

And I think of the marquis sign outside of the Church I never saw.

“The Church is for Hurting People.”

Our book this month was “Braving the Wilderness” by Brene Brown. One of her quotes that stood out to me as my young friend talked was this:

“Courage is forged in pain, but not in all pain. Pain that is denied or ignored becomes fear or hate. Anger that is never transformed becomes resentment and bitterness.”

Often times when we are hurt or we interpret someone else’s actions or comments negatively, especially in regards to WHO WE ARE, we withdraw. “I don’t like how they make me feel. I don’t like how this place makes me feel,” is common, especially in the context of Church and instead of asking ourselves the hard questions, like “Am I being convicted?” or better yet, “What is going on inside of me?” we quickly label it as judgement and walk away.

Door Closed. Heart Closed.

My issue, NOT theirs.

If we do not ask ourselves these hard questions and give ourselves time and space to answer them HONESTLY, we are confined in our hurt which then turns into anger, bitterness and potential hatred.

BUT.

But if we are able to honestly answer and do not take things personally, we can turn our hurt into compassion and learn how to connect with an open heart to make our environment, our Church, better.

Because here is the thing, we need one another and if we want to talk Church, we ARE it.

You + Me = We

And if you don’t show up.

If I don’t.

Then WE all miss out.

Full circle: I got my grown-ass-self into the shower yesterday and went…TO THE BUILDING.

And I can still easily interpret with my cynical eye the show, the parade that is often tainted by my own insecurities, but I had to walk in intentionally posturing my heart to SEE, to HEAR. And I am so glad I did.

I desperately needed and have been longing for something specific. A word from God. I am finding myself at an intersection, a cross roads in life and I need clarity as a I sit in the ashes of my pain. So I sat and I listened and received not just a word but The Word Himself…THROUGH SEVERAL OTHER PEOPLE.

I would have missed out if I did not show up to that building some call Church.

Friends, I get it. I no longer want to be caught in the trappings of religion. I don’t want to show up just in order to say I love Jesus. He is not a pin or some badge that I wear nor is He something I cross off my list. I do not go because I SHOULD. Rituals such as regular attendance…no thanks. I whole heartedly believe there are seasons and sometimes in order to gain perspective, we need to step back in order to step up and see with clarity.

But I am finding those seasons are short. They are not your typical Spring, Summer, Winter or Fall.

WHY?

We NEED one another. We do. The lake can give me a place to breathe and appreciate the glory and splendor of God and I can soak in the sun with a smile and receive some IG worthy revelation that I could share with my picture-perfect cloud that I post but we are made to crave FLESH and BLOOD. 

Life’s Little Lesson is this:

Re-engage. Show up. Wherever you are at, WERE at, there are good people there. Good and needed people who you just don’t need but whom need what in on the inside of Y-O-U. 

Please, for the love. Church is a beautiful thing. It is a beautiful people.

just as you are 

She boarded the bus like she has the other 20 times I drove it; eyes down, frumpy clothes too big for her body and an awkwardness that made me want to look longer than normal. I was trying to figure out if she was indeed a girl but my gut told me she was and to leave the wondering alone. It didn’t matter. She was lonely and trying to hide under some ugly flannel shirt and most likely she was a girl who knew life’s bitter stings. I thought to myself as I pulled away from her house, “Dear bus full of kids, be kind.”

As she rang up my order, I called her by name. “Hey Fran. Do you know anything about these ear buds?” No. “Fran” didn’t know anything about the item I held in my hand but she quickly called someone and that someone called someone else. We laughed and she cracked a joke and I just about died and for a moment or two I forgot I was the customer in some store and she, the cashier. For a brief lapse in time, we were both just two people having a conversation and I thought if times were different, Fran and I could be friends.

He was probably one of the most flamboyantly gay sales representatives I’ve seen and my small, bearded clerk was trying to get me the right size shoe but since my feet are an abominably, he had not luck. “Do you think you could do a size 9?  I have several size 9’s.” No. Sadly I’d have to cut my feet off to make that work but thanks. Then he brings be another pair and then another of his selections and sooner or later he outfits my feet in an amazingly pair of black dress booties. I thanked him profusely like I just won an Academy Award and “Brad” gave me a hug, turned and disappeared. His touch lingered on my shoulders as did his cologne and I smiled. I did not hug him. He hugged me.

It’s the afternoon bus run and she boards to go home. I smile and say “Hello” and she cracks a thin line but it was still a forward moving gesture. I’m asked to play the radio, something their regular driver must not do, and decide to play the hand my mother does when she has my children. I give in and turn the music up loud. Obnoxiously so. The kids have fun and soon all of them are singing and being kids who are tired of a very long week. I up look in my mirror and catch her singing. She’s looks out the window and she cracks a wide smile.

One thing I’ve discovered along the way is that Jesus doesn’t want my belief. He wants my intentionality. My partnership. To BE his hands and feet. He wants me to show up in this life and live it. He doesn’t care that I feel broken in different parts or that I’m actively engaged in counseling like clock work everything two weeks. It doesn’t matter…any of these things. He wants me to practice what I preach.

That’s more important than my belief.

And for a small stint in time during my most recent life, that is just want I did. I believed with my head all while my heart disengaged. I stopped talking to my cashier. I stopped interacting with the flamboyantly gay sales clerk and I stopped seeing the kids that boarded the buses I sat on.

But through a series of unfortunate occurrences, I came to the end of myself and let go.

And the fall…well.It hurt. It hurts still, but.

I’m awake and I’m slowly coming back to life. I feel the raw ache inside my soul for more. To re-engage and love right where I am. He’s not waiting for me to have it all together, perfectly pieced. He says, “Come August. Follow me.” 

Just. As. You. Are.

Non-Negotiable 

There have been times throughout my life where I’ve stood before a Giant shaking in my boots so afraid that I’ve turned and ran in the other direction and times where I have compromised my integrity, my beliefs and my heart because what was before me was so big. But mostly I’ve trembled beneath my own skin and morphed into who I thought the situation needed me to be or who I thought the Giant would accept. I’ve thought long and hard about who I could become that would cause the least amount of waves or which part of me would create the least amount of damage…

Because I have always associated myself with damage.

So over time, I’ve learned to play safe and be small. I know some would not think that because I can talk a good talk (because I long to walk a good walk) but deep inside, I’ve felt it even if I didn’t always show it and feeling it has been enough to keep me in the ring. In the fight.

It’s not necessary to go into the details of how I’ve gotten to where I’m at because back-stories often draw a crowd and a lot sympathy but they often create more of a mess than what they are worth so I’ll forgo the drama and just say I’ve come to the end of my rope.

It will suffice.

I found myself desperately begging the other day. It was a horribly hard and pathetic moment in my life but there I was, pleading. I was desperate. Looking back now, it really doesn’t matter what I was pleading for but the act itself brought me to my knees on my bathroom floor and after a long, hard cry I heard these words.

Stop compromising.”

If Jesus was ever to bring Truth to my heart, it was in that moment.

When I compromise my identity, I find myself much like a beggar along some street corner, pleading for something. Anything.

Love.

Acceptance.

Value.

And so the Father asked me as I sat paper-thin and crossed legged on the cold tile, “WHAT have you been compromising?” I know He knew but I know He needed me to think this through.

Everything was my reply.

“What are your non-negotiable’s?”

And three words came to mind. He then asked if I was willing to compromise myself to get them?

“Even if going after them gets hard and cost you everything, would you stand strong before your Giant or would you accept less than you know you worth?” 

Worth? Haven’t most of the church settings I’ve been in taught that I’m really nothing without Jesus and if that’s the case, shouldn’t I just be happy with what I get instead of trying to rock the boat? Because you know, everyone has their “thing” they waiver in so at some point, isn’t settling just something we do?

I knew my answer to His question. I know going forward what my non-negotiable’s are and that they are not self-seeking so I can be comfortable and content. If anything, I know that standing for them would fully embody and express the Father. I know the questions I was asked were from Him because I feel empowered to stay in the ring. I am free. Not free to be mean, as in “If I don’t get my way, too bad for you”, but free to be me. I know that’s WHO He wants us all to be, even if we create ripples or waves and even if it cost us more than the boat we stand in.

My identity is non-negotiable. It cannot be bartered and it’s not up for bid on an auctioneer’s block. My value is not determined by what someone is willing to pay….set by how far they are willing to reach into to me or if they do or do not change.

I have to keep reminding myself of these Truths because they are His.

Self-acceptance indeed is a small and quiet room. One that’s often padded at the end of long and lonely hall.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. – Marianne Williamson

 

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.

 

 

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.

Make Room 

The perfect morning to me is a cup of coffee, the couch and a book and time void of hustle and rush. Slow. Slow makes it truly, truly perfect and as Chief Hopper says in the very first episode of Stranger Things

“MORNINGS ARE FOR COFFEE AND CONTEMPLATION.”

And this morning I found myself having it all. The coffee, the couch and book…with plenty of time to get lost in some thought or some conversation and they walk right past, stuck in their morning routine, just the same.

“Come sit with me for a bit,” I say and I make room on the couch. I want more than just the normal Sunday Morning. I want their presence.

I’ve been thinking a lot this week about PEOPLE. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do? Isn’t that Christmas? I think of people in particular…their role in my life, my role in theirs and our influence on one another. I’ve been asking a lot of questions, gleaning a few answers and in between doing a lot of soul-searching.

There is more to life then living from here to there. There is a place in between.

In the past few days I’ve sat with people when it wasn’t convenient or easy and through it, I’ve realized once more how important it is to give each other our presence. We all want to be seen and heard and sometimes, most times, I liken all of humanity to the old stainless steel tea-pot that sits on my gas stove: We take time to warm up. We don’t want hurried along like we are an appointment on someone’s calendar or an errand they are running that can eventually be crossed off their list.

But sadly, most times, that is what we get.  Remnants of someone’s leftovers, their seconds, their hurry, their less than best.

Looking back now, I can see where that rush has caused more than a problem or two. Lack of presence places Constance where intact should be forged and before you know it, it’s easy to feel like distrusting strangers.

I think it’s the people in my every day crazy, when things aren’t calm and slow, that I’ve needed to pay closest attention to. The ones I’m most likely to whiz right by or take for granted have needed my solid and sturdy legs to remain strong yet bendy so I could ask simple and basic questions.

**Like**

“How are you?”

How many times do we dig our heels in and wade through the awkward silence for their answer? Their REAL answer.

Not many enough.

Conversely, last night as I was putting on my shoes, a random thought popped into my head. I thought of one person in particular, one I’ve been giving too much time and attention to though they havn’t been anywhere in my travels, no where in my circles but they indeed have been taking up space in the thoughts inside my head. As I laced up my last shoe, I didn’t think but more RESOLVED that they were a common denominator in too many of my here-and-now-life-problems. Too much of what I have rolling on the inside of me has their name attached and just like that… I made the decision to take them out of my equation.

And I realized I can do that.

Just. Like. That.

I’ve been giving them too much space through no fault of their own and in the big picture, it’s been frustrating. I’ve allowed their influence to tip some scale inside my life in a less than life-giving way and I refuse to carry them with me into the New Year.

I choose to no longer give them a seat on the couch that is housed in a room within my head. I stood tall after tying my shoes and within moments, showed them to the door. I don’t need to think about them or talk about them because to do so, places an unhealthy, unbalanced importance where it shouldn’t and afterwards, I’ve wondered WHY I’ve ever given away such a powerful choice.

And the sad but wonderful thing about this moment, in the midst of shoes and laces is this…

My resolve has nothing to do with an actual person as first assumed. Sure there’s a name but in the grand scheme of things, it could be a hundred names. They were merely just a representation of a festering wound and I think I needed someone, essentially anyone, to blame.

And since blaming does no good.

Here’s the door.

Be free.

What they represented to me has to go. I need to make room in my heart for vision and hope and joy and laughter and I don’t want to make time for the incessant chatter things past try to hold me to.

We need to free up space friends for real people. Not for the stupid things people do or our assumptions about them. Not for past hurts that keep replaying like a broken record. Not for our offenses or the sordid scenarios that we play and then rewind again and again in our head. Sometimes it IS as simple as refusing to give those thoughts an audience and if it means for a while that the name that’s attached goes unmentioned so you can quit your bad habit, then let it be so. Go cold turkey. Do whatever you can to think favorably again.

It’s not about cutting our losses. We need to look at the rooms within our homes and examine what is filling them. Sometimes it gets a little crowded with stuff and I don’t know about you, but if I’m going to have a full house, I’d rather have it packed with presence. People presence. Not poor thinking OF people presence because at the end of the day, negative attention is STILL attention and takes up space. An awful lot of it.

Friends I’m short on time and like you, I want to make my time count. I want my presence count. If I have any resolutions this year it is this:

want the person standing in front of me to walk away knowing they were heard and seen **THAT THEY WERE LOVED** and I want my thoughts to count.

I don’t have people to waste. I don’t have thoughts OF people to waste.

Neither do you.

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