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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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You Will Not Have My Hatred

I am not sure where I read about Antoine Leiris but his words “You will not have my hatred,” found a way into my heart and buried themselves deep.

“You will not have my hatred,” says Antoine Leiris in a FB post that addressed Islamic State terrorists behind the deadly strike in which 129 people were killed. On Friday November 13, 2015, Islamic State terrorists struck at multiple targets in Paris including the Bataclan theatre, the Stade de France football stadium and a pizzeria, gunning down people. Over 89 concert-goers were killed at the Bataclan theatre in the worst of the attacks. Mr Leiris’ wife was among them.

“Friday night you stole the life of an exceptional person, the love of my life, the mother of my son, but you won’t have my hatred. I don’t know who you are and I don’t want to know, you’re dead souls.

No I won’t make you this gift of hating you. You have it coming, but to respond to hatred with anger would be giving in to the same ignorance that made you what you are. You want me to be afraid, to look at my fellow citizens suspiciously, to sacrifice my freedom for security. You lose. The player still plays.

I saw her this morning. At last, after nights and days of waiting. She was as beautiful as when she left on Friday evening, as beautiful as when I fell head over heels in love with her more than 12 years ago. Of course I’m devastated with grief, I grant you this small victory, but it will be short-lived. I know she will be with us every day and that we will find each other in heaven with free souls which you will never have.

My son and I, we will be stronger than all the armies in the world. I cannot waste any more time on you as I must go back (to my son) who has woken from his sleep. He is 17 months old, he’ll eat his snack like any other day, then we will play like every other day and all his life this little boy will dare to be happy and free. Because No, you won’t have his hatred either.”

Let’s be honest, most of human kind will not experience an attack like this. You and I, in our regular lives will not find ourselves being the unlucky recipient of such terroristic acts against humanity. We most likely won’t find ourselves in theatre’s, football stadium’s or pizzerias. We most likely won’t find ourselves in high-rise buildings or airplanes. We may not even find ourselves in schools, churches or outdoor concert venues where mass shootings occur. Whatever our life, Whoever we are; White, Black, Christian, Muslim, Straight, Gay, Upper Class, Lower Class, Democrat or Republican…we may never be placed in a situation where we later write, “You will not have my hatred.”

Or will we?

Let’s take this down to our level, in fact, let me bring this down to mine.

I am a White, Middle-Class Soccer Mom.

I’m straight.

I’m a Christian.

I have no clue which political party I identify with.

I have a college degree. A full-time job. Married with kids.

I vacation every summer. Eat out when I want to. Attend Church when I can.

I have never been denied a job based off the fact that I am a White Female though I have been the recipient of the occasional cat call or random solicitation for “friendships” on FB from male strangers who think I am nothing but “pretty.”

I have never been laughed at our made fun of and have absolutely never been a target of  a hate crime based off the fact that I am any and all of the above.

I know no real persecution, except that which lies within me, and for the most part, have a cushy life.

And yet I sit at times and fester.

I give them my hatred.

Things have been stolen from me.

I have been suspicious and have sought refuge in feeling safe.

I have grieved.

I have done all these things and more and day after day, my hatred seethes and disguises itself…even from myself.

Because I know that hatred starts small. It starts with one moment and then builds to two and then five…five hundred small and inconspicuous moments where fear takes a hold and plants a root.

Hurt can become an offense.

Enough offenses and you give way for hatred, even towards ones self, to reign and rule.

Can we take gut-wrenching events, like the one that happened on November 13, 2015, and make something large-scale small?

Yes.

We have to.

I want to.

I cannot afford to allow my wounds to fester because loving large-scale means I need to love small-scale FIRST. With me. With you. If I miss it here, with the person staring back at me in the mirror or the one standing before me, I’ll miss it there.

And I simply do not want to miss a oppotunity to forgive, an opportunity to love where I know it can have the greatest impact.

You will not have my hatred.” 

These are the words of Antoine Leiris. They are mine.

Will they be yours?

 

 

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.

the places I cannot afford to visit 

In my prior life, I was a sales representative  for a company that awarded its performance team with luxurious trips. I could sit here and name all the different countries I’ve traveled to and all the five-star resorts I’ve stayed at but I won’t. I will say this, they all have something in common:

On my own, they are not places I could afford to visit.

Fast forward to this life, not a lot has changed. I still travel but lately it’s been to military bases to see my kids and I rarely frequent airports and seldom hail cabs but one thing transfers from one life to the next and remains consistent and true: I still can’t afford to visit certain places.

Location is just about everything, ask any realtor. Location location location. Is it high traffic, high population…what is it’s draw that determines its value and worth? To each person, that answer may be different. What I am looking for may be different from what grabs your attention, that’s why it’s so important to ask yourself what’s important to you. If you don’t, you’ll end up somewhere that’s important to someone else and you’ll find yourself in a location that is miserable at best.

Ever been to the beach with someone who hates the sun and the sand? Miserable.

Our daughter called today from the Navy’s boot camp and it’s been over a month since I’ve seen her. As we all stood in the kitchen, gathered around my phone, I felt sadness taking up space within the room. I not only felt it within me, but I heard it in her voice. It’s Christmas. Her brother, who is a Marine, is Home for a short leave, and it’s her first Holiday Season away from us. The phone call was a happy one despite the underlying sadness but when the call was over, I turned to my husband and cried.

I felt sad for several hours afterwards and I realized my location wasn’t really the best. I was slipping, and my mood was beginning to match the weather…cold and dreary.

As a feeler, I often hole myself up in some shack, dodging bullets and trying to stay out of the enemy’s line of fire in the worst parts of town. I truly pick some of the worst locations to camp out in, within myself. These shacks have given me the illusion of safety even though the foundation was crumbly and I knew it. If safety’s my goal, I most certainly have found myself hiding out in some of the most unsafe locations.

My mind or my feelings left unchecked tend to wander and create scenarios that aren’t even accurate and I end up assuming the worst. I do not recommend this. AT ALL. It’s really not fair to you because it creates such heartache and agony and it most certainly is not fair to the other person. Want to talk judgement? Assume something, anything, about another and there you have it.

I’m recognizing the feeling I have are normal…it is more than ok to be sad. I AM allowed to miss my daughter. I AM allowed to be angry over situations. I AM allowed to not agree.

It’s when I choose to stay sad and angry. It’s when I choose to care more about being right than being in relationship that gets me into trouble.

Can I really afford to visit these locations?

No. The answer is vehemently no. I cannot afford to. Visiting leads to wanting to stay. There is comfort in old friends and sometimes, hanging around old friends leads to holding onto old habits…I have to choose the higher thought.

So yesterday, as much as I missed our daughter and as much as I FELT sad because she is not home, I chose to think of how proud I am of her. She recently passed all her physical fitness tests. She is strong in both mind and body. I focused on all the friends she’s making and how lucky they are becuase she is packed full of maturity and wisdom and loves havng new expereinces through people. I chose to think of any other thought except the sad ones and slowly but surely, my mood shifted.

I’ve been practicing this in every area of my life, not just with my children. I’ve been packing up my bags and (sometimes begrudgingly) putting my feet on another path even though my thoughts and feelings tell me it’s ok to stay in my shack because it’s justified. I recognize there are places within myself I want to go, but they are places…memories or thoughts, that elicit negative feelings and pretty much put me in a bad mood. I want to bring healing there. Why? Because I know Jesus does.

I absolutely believe He chooses the higher…

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-9

I’ve often said that perspective is a superpower and it is. One of the greatest revelations of my life is: I can choose my thoughts and think things on purpose. What the hell? Did you know you are THAT powerful? In other words, I don’t have to just think about whatever falls into my mind. Just because I think it doesn’t mean it is true. This was a life-changing revelation for me because as Proverbs 23:7 says, As he [a man] thinks in his heart, so is he. SeriouslyWhere the mind goes, the man follows.

Friends, there ARE places you and I both cannot afford to visit. Quick jaunts here and there can be exciting and they can feel good and right but be careful about dwelling there too long, especially without proper perspective.

Merry Christmas! Choose to think the very best this Holiday Season of the people in your life. Choose to forgive and forget.

Choose to love…

You may not always want to but I think you’ll find if you don’t, you’ll find yourself in a place you ideally don’t want to be.

Set your minds and keep them set on what is above (the higher things… (Colossians 3:2 AMP).

 

what to let go of and what to hold onto

I, like many of you, are using the days after Thanksgiving to get ready for Christmas. I no longer go Black Friday shopping so I use that time to put my Fall decorations away and bring down my Christmas decorations from the attic.

And according to the amount of decorations that I have, I must really like Christmas.

Growing up, my mother decorated for each season, LIKE THE WHOLE HOUSE, and as her oldest daughter, I have obviously felt the need to continue her legacy. On Friday I brought my bins of snowmen and trees and wreaths all down from the attic and one by one, I got them out and some I just wasn’t so into, but I put them out anyway. Then I took them down. Then I took down some more. 

It’s possible to NOT FEEL a Christmas decoration.

The beginning of October I cleaned out our bedroom. I took everything out in preparation of painting. EVERYTHING as in ALL. I painted our walls, shampooed our carpets and cleaned our windows. Once our bedroom furniture was in, I was left with bins of STUFF and left with the decision of what to let go of and what to hold onto.

Some of these belongings just wouldn’t fit. The walls and the bedding were a different color, the dressers were not the same. Some of the stuff I had really never wanted but was gifted therefore displayed and most of the items were from like twenty years ago; old watches, my children’s first teeth, old notes, socks and belts…pants that would never again see the light of day. Over the years, I had gone through and cleaned out but there is nothing quite like taking it ALL out and then deciding what gets put back in…becuase it all doesn’t have to.

Taking those snowman down that I didn’t want really got me thinking about how important it is not to hold onto to things that don’t carry value or are no longer us. Maybe years ago, cute little ceramic decorations were me, maybe they brought me great joy or maybe they were just THERE and then somehow HERE in my home, but I am no longer at a place in life were I’m looking for fillers. I know what I want and am not going to settle for anything less than. I’m all about compromise but I’m no longer about settling. There’s a difference.

The entirety of my life I have kept things, even relationships with people, because I though I HAD to. I remember my mother gave me my deceased grandmothers ceramic white cat when she passed away because I apparently liked it when I was a child. I brought that thing home and could not, for the love, understand WHAT it is was doing in my house. For a few weeks it sat there all out of place and stared at me and I loathed it each day more and more till eventually I got the guts up to remove it all together. BUT IT’S YOUR GRANDMOTHERS….I could hear the voices in my head trying to make me feel bad. Not having it. All the sentiments in the world could not make me love that cat enough to keep it.

Friends, stuff is easy to get rid of. You just get your brutality on and decide what’s important and what’s not, you grab some bags and open up the back of your vehicle and TA-DAH. You drive that stuff far, far away. People on the other hand, not so easy. You cannot pick up your relatives or your friends and stuff them in grocery bags and throw them in the back of your Jeep …though it’s tempting at times. You cannot go by your feelings, absolutely not. Try your very best to keep yourself open to everyone you encounter and hold each of them in your hands, one-hearted. Some will stay with you over the course of time, some will ebb and flow in and out and there WILL be seasons when some just can’t stay. I’m learning to ask Holy Spirit, the voice inside of me that whispers to my heart, WHO is to be in my life in THIS season. SHOW ME. 

And He always does.

Somewhere along the way I have believed the lie that I have to. I have to keep everything…I have to do everything…I have to be for everyone. In reality, the only thing I have to is be true to myself and the only way I know what is true FOR ME, is to spend time with Jesus and continually ask Him…

What stay and what goes?

Who.

Keep vigilant watch over your heart; that’s where life starts. Don’t talk out of both sides of your mouth; avoid careless banter, white lies, and gossip. Keep your eyes straight ahead; ignore all sideshow distractions. Watch your step, and the road will stretch out smooth before you. Look neither right nor left; leave evil in the dust.” – Proverbs 4:23 The Message

 

When Corners are Crooked

As you may know, I’ve spent the last fourteen, now fifteen days of my life immersed in painting projects in my home. Our son is a Marine Recruit in Parris Island SC and will soon be graduating and home for a brief stay. One thing I wanted to do before he came home was paint his room and give it a more mature/adult feel. Well here we are, day fifteen and I’m quickly finding that one painting project leads to two which ultimately leads to six.

I’ve painted his ceiling, cut in the walls, rolled the walls, painted his trim and the door; painted our daughters door because it’s beside his door and well…the difference is noticeable. I painted our front door red becuase we’ve lived here almost sixteen years, and as penitence for my neglect, painted it not three but FIVE coats. Plus there is white trim around the door, touched up red door after splattering with white paint; decided to paint the “other” front door (that we no longer use) so we would be unified and then began painting the outdoor bench with the leftover red paint in pan because I was tired and needed to go to bed and then the white pillars with the leftover white paint in the pan becuase I was bored and still have to touch up white door trim on the THIRD side door (because I loathe my existence) and finish bench, chairs and pillars that are now started but half-assed….plus touch up my son’s ceiling in his bedroom.

Did you follow me? Because I feel confused.

The whole entire point is…do you know how many times I have had to touch things up? A drip here, a drop there? I promise you I do not like to paint and I am no expert…clearly, but once you start, you are compelled to continue or LIFE IS JUST NOT RIGHT. I am not trying to be a perfectionist but when you use RED paint and the corners are crooked, imperfections are noticeable.

And none of us like our imperfections to be noticeable. 

Life is much like my painting projects. One event flows into the next with no definite begin or end and are full of spills and slops (you should see the concrete on my front porch). All I can say at this moment is this: Seldom do things go as planned and rarely do corners match. Mine personally are a little crooked (plus I have a unique one-hundred + year old house) so instead of getting all out of sorts, ALL THE TIME, I do the best I can in making lines meet. My ultimate desire is to merge (rather than collide) colors and in doing so, if I need to take a few extra days (or weeks) and take the painstaking time to touch things up, so be it.

I am tired feeling BAD for needing to touch things up. It happens. Life does.

So for the love of God sweet friends, go easy. Can you tell this is getting worked of me? It’s like showing up for work. I AM punching my time card EVERY DAY. I am in a very grueling yet freeing season of learning to be kind to myself and others by letting go of expectations while maintaining my hopes, dreams and desires and most importantly, not compromising WHO I am.

And when I give myself permission to be me, ALL THE WAY THROUGH, I no longer feel badly for making a few spills a long the way that need touched up as I go. And if I can learn to do this for me…just think of the possibilities. 

YOU would be included.

A win for all.

Progress

Advancement. Growth. Unfolding. Working. Process. Movement. Practice. Stepping.

These are all words I’ve used to describe life and though there are moments when I would use other words, I’d say I consistently choose these ones because they are all relatively positive and enough relatively positive moments mean something GOOD is taking place.

Life is.

But let’s not hung up on my word choices because I’ve seen word choices hang people up ** as in SHUT PEOPLE UP ** So let’s do this…before we go any further, posture yourself to hear my heart more than you hear my words because the last thing I’d want is to trip you up with mine. 

Ultimately, my words convey that I’m somewhere fluid and not just sitting stagnate, decaying in some corner sucking my thumb. I’m developing. I am a work in progress, like film taken from a camera that finds herself in a dark room for a short periods of time behind some closed door. But here’s the thing…the very best moments happen in the dark, like the development of life’s precious ones. 

For the last TWO WEEKS, I’ve been painting. To hear myself say those words, one would think I’ve painted my whole house, but that’s not the case. Not in the least. I have in fact painted my sons bedroom from top to bottom, some doors, a rocking chair and the start of a bench. I wanted to be done three days ago but I’ve found myself standing on my front porch at 7:45 PM more days than not and am tired of wearing crappy clothes and being adorned with grey, red and white hands. I’m slightly exhausted and ready to move on with regular living, but here I am, still painting. 

Why in the hell is this taking so long? 

Good question. 

For a bit yesterday, I began to feel bad, like l-o-s-e-r bad. Like I SHOULD have been done, I should have been THERE, but I’m not. I am HERE, still. And since thinking like that was getting me NO WHERE fast, I decided to think about Jesus who says, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” – Matthew 5:44 Sometimes, I am my own worst enemy. This is truth. Sometimes I don’t need your opinions of me, I have enough of my own. During times like this, when I start to feel the weight of my own expectations and that I should be further along than I am, I have to choose to step back and remember I AM making headway. I AM advancing, growing, unfolding, working…

I AM IN PROGRESS. 

Matthew 5:44 helps me remember to go easy, to let my enemy off the hook and remove the chains, even when I’m the continued culprit that places them there. It helps me remember to be kinder to myself because in the end, I am commanded to love my neighbor as myself and if I am being a little too hard HERE…won’t I also be little too hard THERE…with you?

YES. 

So I keep at it. Because really that’s all I have to do in this great life **I just need to keep at it** It’s the place between the starting line and the finish. It’s the place between where film is placed IN the camera and the picture is placed ON the wall. Ultimately it is one brutiful and ongoing conversation with Truth Himself…asking Him what is mine. 

You don’t need to be any place other than where you are at. – Jesus

Keep painting today my friends. At least keep takling what’s on your plate, on your mind and in your heart. I’m going to keep takling mine. If that’s all we get done today, it will be enough. 

 

the sign 

I had forgotten how much I take for granted thanks to modern at-your-fingertips technology until yesterday when I couldn’t use my GPS for directions because the location that I was traveling to was in the middle of Timbuktu. I literally had to rely on…SPOKEN (or in this case, TEXTED) directions. Do you know what that means? It means I had to PAY ACTUAL ATTENTION. I mean, WHO does that?

Apparently I haven’t for a long time.

So…I’m driving along. I go over the WHOLE mountain. I look for the “first road on the left after you go over the whole mountain.” I start to get nervous because there’s what looks like real roads but maybe they’re driveways? I can’t tell and I begin to think I missed the turn and my throat becomes scratchy and I feel like I need to reapply deodorant **BUT** I see a small sign along the road that said “wedding” with an arrow pointing straight ahead and I sigh. OUT. LOUD. **glee** It was perfect. I was encouraged as my sweaty self sat in the driver’s seat feeling all out of sorts because I was in the middle of actual NO WHERE (a real place. i have proof) with NO CELL SERVICE. I mean, really. How do we as a people know anything about any thing without service?

We don’t.

And then, another sign. I was almost there. SO close. The heat under my arms was letting up and I was encouraged all the more.

Those two small signs were just what I needed to assure me I was traveling on the right road and that I indeed made the RIGHT left turn because for a few minutes, I was getting kind of doubty. Those signs made me remember how important it is to pay attention to what’s going on around me and to pay attention to the details. It also made me grateful. SO grateful. I know those signs there for everyone and I know actual people put them there to help wedding guest meander their way through actual nowhere but that first sign was from God Himself. It gave me HOPE. It was ENCOURAGING.

I love it when He reveals Himself in my every day life using random people and things like wooden signs. Sometimes, it’s been a little red bird, a text from a friend or a word from someone who knows nothing about my current situation and they flutter through my day and say just the right word and it gives me that assurance again…not necessarily that I am DOING all the “right” things and that I am on the “right” path, but that He… God Himself, is WITH me.

$$THAT right there is money$$

We can’t always have cell service or GPS. We won’t always feel confident and assured. Sometimes we get a little shaky and doubt DOES try to press in. If you don’t, even just a little, I have five words for you “Get away from me Satan.” Be human. Presence in the middle of Timbuktu is vital, especially when you are feeling kind of alone and doubty, even if it’s JUST a feeling…so if you find yourself there, whatever the form, breathe. Take the heat and keep your eyes and your ears open. Anticipate His withness…however.

WHOever.

Longing

Thanksgiving hits every year and I begin. I purge. I think it started years ago when the reality of Christmas continually hit me. One child, two child, three child, five. Christmas and all its stuff overwhelmed me so every year, every Thanksgiving Day weekend, I begin.

The back of my Jeep has been full of boxes and bags and I have a room in my home that continually collects the stuff I’d rather not have but just haven’t figured out what to do with, stuff that is easily discarded because I JUST WANT IT OUT. So this year I asked myself WHY?

WHY can I so easily toss out those shirts and shoes, those plates and cups?

WHY can my kids so easily discard what was once a favorite toy?

For me it comes down to one thing and one thing alone.

I NEVER really wanted it.

It is easy to discard what never really held any value. Maybe a thought pops in my head of the money that I spent but at the end of the day, meh. I really can do without it because it never really added anything TO me. In fact, I am learning the more stuff I have in my life that I never really wanted, the more the well within me deepens to collect even more. It’s like some ravenous pit, never fulfilling or fully satisfying.

I wish when I was younger someone would have sat me down and asked, “What is it that you really want?” Perhaps they did and I was rebellious and stubborn and their questioning made me more determined to go after what I thought I SHOULD instead of honing in on what I wanted. Perhaps I never even knew that was a question that could be asked. “What do you mean, “What is it that you really want? I want the same things as you. To be happy, healthy. To have a great job maybe some kids, find true love…blah blah blah.””

I had no idea HOW to dig deeper to find out what I wanted in life. I did not know how to sit with myself and discover what was really IN me and because I never took the time. I was like some butterfly fluttering along, filling my life with things (and at times people) that I could easily discard. Instead of waiting for what and who I REALLY wanted, I took what was available. What was quick. What was easy.

AND I KNEW IT.

Frustration is a friend when you know you are settling. Anger, bitter resentment… constant companions. When you know that you hold in your hands something you’d really rather not have or you’re stepping into doing something that you know is really not for you, it strips a part of YOU away. It dulls your senses a bit each time you say YES when you should have said NO or NOT NOW because you know it’s not where you are to BE and if you’re not careful, you can go from one thing to the next searching.

One job to the next. One church to the next. One relationship to the next…

Tired and worn.

As a mother of five, I have encouraged my children to WAIT. WAIT for the ONE because the last thing I want for them is to give away their time, their feelings or their bodies to someone who does not see their value and identity and will not commit to them relationaly. I don’t want them giving pieces of themselves away flippantly to anyone and everyone. WHY? Because I know. I know the cost attached to doing so and it is steep. I want my children to VALUE WHO THEY ARE, so I encourage waiting.

As an adult, I am NO different.

I am finding that whenever there is a lack within myself, I quickly try to fix it by adding something or someone to my life. I bring in another outfit. I volunteer with another organization. I find another friendship. None of these things are wrong or bad. Clothes are needed as naked people have little to no influence in society…I am sure you get my point.

Things, doings and relationships can be used to fulfill deeper longings within us if we are not careful. Places where God Himself wants to reside. Places where He wants to takes us deeper. Places where HE want to fulfill.

In order to know what it is that we WANT, we first have to know WHO we are.

If there is anything I have discovered over the last two-years, it is this: Take the time, MAKE the time, to discover WHO you are. What is on the inside of YOU? What are you passionate about and WHY? Why do you do the things that you do? Why do you respond the way that you do? I could go on and on…the point is, ask yourself questions that go far beyond the “What you want to do when you grow up?” Try instead, “WHO do you want to be?” When you take time to ask yourself questions that you never knew to ask yourself because you were just too busy living everyone else’s version of you, you will begin to HONE IN and embody YOUR identity. You will gravitate towards HAVING things DOING things that support and encourage your real identity to shine bright. You will be drawn to the right people…YOUR people.

So friends, take the time. Ask yourself the hard questions. Don’t sell yourself short and fill your life with things that really never had value TO YOU and don’t VALUE YOU. Emptiness will overwhelm you, it is a mere distraction. Stay focused and intentional on what is on the inside of you; your goals and your dreams. What is on your heart? Steps are necessary but those steps should always line up with what is already on the inside of you. Don’t waste any more time going after what it is not…

Discover what it is you are truly longing for. It will tak you back to WHO you are.

Much Love-

August

 

Round Table Discussion:

Look at the stuff in your house, your weekly calendar and where/who you spend your time with.

Now ask yourself the hard questions. You’ll know the ones…

 

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