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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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relationships

The Price of Peace

I remember sitting at a conference once and the speaker said something profoundly simple. They said, “You are a human being NOT a human doing.” This came on the heels of year’s worth of people prophetically speaking “rest” over me.

And they were not talking about a nap.

What I’ve realized about myself is two-fold. I’m an incredibly high achiever 1). because I have a large amount of can-do in me and I think walking in excellence is huge part of who I am. 2). I’ve taken a large part of my identity as an achiever out of my insecurity of not feeling like being myself was enough.

BAM!

It’s often easy to confuse what is YOU with the things you add TO you for pomp and circumstance. I personally wanted to be THE person other people could count on to show up and…

Being THAT person has overshadowed my ability to truly show up and BE me.

So, I’ve been learning to say NO and let some of my “doings” go. It’s felt like I’ve been thrown into a roaring fire, I will not lie, but I’ve needed to know what has needed burned off to see what’s remained. What has been ME all along.

For example, I’ve said NO to three really big and wonderful things within the last week. One was time with a dear friend, one was work related and the other was involvement in a community organization.

Because I know my NO was right for me, whatever the reason at the time was. When life feels large and my are days crammed full and tight, my cup becomes empty and drained dry and THAT eats at my joy and steals my peace.

In fact, it’s not largeness that makes me overwhelmed because I often pause and reevaluate my what and my who. It’s my lack of reevaluating that often ties my hands and feet with a corse rope as I’m dropped to the bottom of the sea.

So if you are like me and tend to feel pulled here and there with expectations, real or imaginary, that you cannot fulfill…I encourage you to take a step back and reevaluate what you are saying yes to and why.

Because you cannot do it all. NO is a completely good and needed sentence. What you DO does not determine your value, your worth and most importantly of all, your identity. You have nothing to prove or compensate for. Being is enough and in that, choose wisely where you allocate your time and your energy.

It is a holy and precious act to do so.

 

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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

 

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. 

Stay Present

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

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

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

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

But as life does, life changed.

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

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

I feel like such an adult.

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

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

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

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

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

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

How can I speak of such things?

I’ve lived such things.

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

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

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

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

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

Being love.

Being kind.

Being forgiving.

Being brave.

Being all of this and more, but most importantly…

Being present.

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

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

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

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

In and out. In and out.

YOU are the shore.”

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

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

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

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

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

The fullest life possible.

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

Stay present.

 

 

 

 

Wish Them Well

At some point in our lives, we’ve all been hurt. Taken advantage of. Lied to. Disrespected. Not appreciated or treated with dignity, respect or any kind of love when things unravel at the end.

The thing is, none of us are ever immune from being on both sides of the equation. That’s just how life works. We unintentionally hurt people and we have been unintentionally hurt.

I genuinely believe people are doing the best they can in the moment, even when their best, quite frankly, sucks. That genuine belief can often make it challenging to reach deep inside ourselves when someone has hurt us to find an ounce of compassion or a genuine desire to wish them well as they move on in life.

My own struggle with this has been an ongoing, and by no means, linear path. I have always desired to wish those people who have hurt me well—to genuinely (and I mean genuinely) want them to be happy and at peace.

Why?

Because we ALL deserve this, no matter what mistakes and missteps we’ve made in the past. It’s the Golden Rule.

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.” – Matthew 7:12

But oftentimes we may find that we have a different inner dialogue going on inside our heads. We may want to do the right thing and wish them well, but instead we find ourselves thinking:

“You don’t deserve to be happy after the way you treated me. I hope someone treats you like you’ve treated me *or worse* so you know how it feels.”

 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. – Romans 15-20

Ever? Please for the love of God tell me that Paul and I are not alone.

If we are, so be it, but if not…cut yourself some slack. The struggle is real. You’re human.

When people hurt us, we want them to hurt back. Sometimes we want worse for them *like for them to die quietly in their sleep* It’s the inner child in us rearing its ugly little head.

Unfortunately, thinking that way is never going to get us what we actually want, which is real contentment and peace in our own lives. We can’t move forward from a relationship if we’re still looking backward, casting stones at the person or people who have hurt us.

Trust me on this one.

How can we expect ourselves to be truly happy *and I mean the no-bullshit-I’m-not-still-holding-grudges kind of happy* when we’re still exerting energy wishing someone from our past ill will?

Truth is, we can’t. We’re still giving the pain power over our life. By not choosing to forgive and letting go, hoping that they’re miserable, we’re allowing the pain to continue to cause us even more harm. And trust me, they don’t know or care that we’re still obsessing over them and losing sleep thinking of all the ways we’d like to see their life blow up in their face.

They’ve moved on—remember?

But us? We’re continuing staying stuck energetically and emotionally in an experience that already caused us enough pain. We become the poster child of what insanity looks like.

This is one of the most important and hardest (to practice) life lessons I’ve learned in 2018:

When somebody doesn’t want us to be in their life, they’ve done us a monumental favor by letting us go.

Even though we may secretly obsess over the details, it doesn’t matter HOW they hurt us and let us go. They may have done it in the most cowardly, selfish, manipulative and hurtful way…they did us a favor.

Point being, people either want to be in a relationship with you or they don’t. If they’ve hurt you, they will own their part, ask for forgiveness and make the changes needed on their end or they won’t.

Period. End of story.

We can’t convince other people who have hurt us that they have and we certainly can’t control how they handle things and process through. We can’t change the past and how things took place. We are powerful but not that powerful. What we can control is what we think about and how we treat people. We can shift our focus in wishing those people the highest, most genuine healing and happiness and love the universe can bring them, because those people *the ones who have little awareness or consciousness of the pain they’ve caused others* they need it the most.

Because the overused cliché is true: Hurt people hurt people.

We spend so much of our lives telling other people what they should feel and how they should do things, from loving us to letting us go. I’ve learned that the best way we can teach people to be better in these situations is to model what being better looks like with our actions and not our words.

It means modeling kindness and forgiveness and understanding, even when we feel they don’t deserve it and life is not fair. It means modeling taking the high road when every fiber of our being wants to take the lowest road possible.

It means having enough love for ourself that we want to be free of the past so that we can have a better future—one that doesn’t involve lugging around that old story of the person who brought us so much pain like a backpack full of jagged rocks.

So on your heavy days, envision yourself toting that jagged backpack around and ask yourself if it’s worth it. Trust me, it’s not. It will wear you thin like paper and you will topple down the mountain you are trying to scale.

Just put it down and let it go. Cycle. Repeat. A zillion times as needed because this type of thought process is like upside down thinking. Wish them love. Wish them happiness. Wish them a future filled with all of their own dreams coming true. Thank them for setting you free.

I promise, in the end, you’re the one who will feel a whole hell of a lot lighter.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love Does

I woke up this morning replaying a hurt in my head like the old record player I saw the other day at the antique store. Around and around. Skip. Around and around. Skip.

I couldn’t stop it. I did the dishes and it was still playing softly in the background like a good tune, attempting to take me nostalgically back in time.

And it angered me. It made me sad. It made me think and feel a lot of things and part of me realizes that an essential part of healing means you give yourself permission to be in the moment, as you are, instead of bi-passing it or hurrying yourself along so you can be further down the path than where you are.

So I kept doing the dishes.

I’ve both bi-passed and hurried and have found it may temporarily seem better in the moment but more times than not, things have a way of resurfacing and claiming more territory in your house then before.

So dishes done, the music from the record player in my head is at a low hum. Around and around. Skip.

I can’t stop it so it suddenly dawns on me…”But God.”

I don’t know why He is often an afterthought but if I’m honest, He often is.

A verse pops into my head during one of the skips…

Love Does…

It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. – 1 Corinthians 13:5

I’ve realized I’ve had a pretty skewed idea of what love is and absolutely what love does. If I am operating IN love, if I am LOVING, what does that look like?

WHO does it look like, because it often hurts more so than it heals…

And that is not Jesus. At least not the Jesus I know.

I’ve been reading Stephen and Alex Kendrick’s book, “The Love Dare” because. You may recognize it because of the movie that came out years ago with 80’s heart-throb Kirk Cameron, but the book spans further than just focusing on restoring a marriage. Its been walking me though what Love is and what Love isn’t. Better yet, WHO Love is and WHO Love isn’t. And I truly believe that WE; how we Love God, ourselves and one another is how the world around us encounters Jesus.

So of course I want to get my love in order because I just may be the ONLY Bible people read.

Right?

So the record player stops.

Love keeps no record of wrongs.

Around and around.

Skip.

Love keeps no records of wrongs.

Around and around.

Skip.

Love allows me to feel what I need to feel and then asks for my hand so I can transfer and exchange my pain for His grace.

Around and around.

Skip.

Love Does play another tune in the old record player inside your head. It is your choice, as it is mine, to allow Him to.

Forward to another tune.

The Cost of Vulnerability

I recently bought a book at an airport bookstore and read half of it on a plane from San Francisco to Detroit. It was about relationships as well as other fun, real-life topics and in the first chapter, the author used lobsters to set the stage for the his message.

It was a good point but I heard an entirely different message.

I’m sure what he wrote was great and good but what I got out of it was this: Female lobsters will shed their shell when it’s time to mate, exposing herself to not only other predators but jealous and often aggressive female competitors in the process.

Not very many of them make it home thanks to this vulnerable practice but this tid-but of knowledge showed me how important it is, when it comes to relationships, that we let down our guard and take off our hard exteriors that often keep us safe.

Because if we don’t, we can’t create new life. I mean, we can stay safe but that’s about it.

Right?

Yes I just went there.

So of course I read the naked lobster analogy and instantly applied it to my own life.

Because that’s what I do.

So life’s little lesson in the airplane gave me the balls to go home and practice vulnerability.

It didn’t really go the greatest.

What I learned from the rejection was that vulnerability can be humiliating. I felt naked and exposed, my guard was down and everything in me hurt.

I was indeed a female lobster laying her shell down and I got eaten by a predator.

But.

Because there is always a but…

But, I am glad I did it. I realize that vulnerability is not about getting an idealized outcome to take place. Vulnerability is about being your truest self, even if you feel all open and exposed and raw and of you have any open wound…good luck. IT WILL HURT.

However the pain reveals to you what you are willing to settle for and what you are willing to go after…

WHO YOU ARE.

So dearest friend, if you are looking for new life in a relationship, in YOU…shed your shell and get naked like a lobster.

Trust

A couple of months ago, I pulled into my driveway and made a conscious decision to step out of the spin cycle. I call it the spin cycle because that’s exactly what it felt and probably looked like. Life was spinning largely out of control, but I quickly found out that was just an illusion.

I had a say.

Sometimes we do not have a say with what happens in our life. Life just has a way of throwing us a curve ball every now and then because for the most part we are riding the waves of each others choices. You do A and it impacts me in the form of B, not to mention how I respond in the form of C. And so on and so forth.

I do it back.

Vicious.

And that was where I was at, spinning around and around and around…

Mostly it was feelings. Lots of thoughts which turned into talk added up to be a whole bunch of continuous negatives…

Waves.

And they were drowning me.

So one afternoon I pulled into my driveway and I thought to myself, “I have a say and a part. I cannot feed this anymore.”

No more feelings or thoughts. I needed a break so I could breath and make sense out of life again.

And I did that just. I didn’t think about it and if I did, I certainly did not talk about it. I asked my friends not to ask about it. Some were understanding and some, not so much, and that was ok. I needed all the voices to settle IN and AROUND me so ultimately I could hear HIS voice.

Not everyone understands this concept.

To some of my friends I was either building walls or not open-hearted enough which was so far from the truth but again, their disapproval was just a distraction trying to keep me tethered to the bottom of the unpredictable sea.

Jesus shows me that is exactly what He does. He often removes Himself from the crowd and intentionally wanders to the wilderness (lonely places) to be with and hear from the Father. And if He does it, so can I.

And it worked. My emotions settled. My thoughts became clearer and less jumbled and I began to rest again. I gained weight and began sleeping through the night, both which were a concern.

But I had to carefully guard my heart. Certain topics or thoughts were off-limits when it came to my entertainment. My life got turned upside down back in December and for months, it was such a huge topic of conversation, for everyone. I needed a time out and I was the only one who could make that happen.

So friends, take it from me, some curve balls are a little rough and a little too unpredictable. I don’t know how anyone navigates the aftermath that they bring with calm and ease. Most flounder around a bit till they get their bearings again.

At least I did. I still am.

Every now and then, I feel myself slipping, spinning. I want to feed the frenzy. I want to dwell and get a good mad on which brings on all sorts of not great feelings and thoughts. I have to remember to guard, diligently guard, like VICIOUSLY guard, and place my focus on what my part is and what is good.

So I ask God daily to show me His perspective and He takes me far above the things in life that are spinning out of control. He takes me to my children. He takes me to my farmer’s field, to my writing, to my friends and to puppies.

And when I feel like life is too big and too weighty and continuously spinning, I envision myself in His hands, on the potter’s wheel.

He knows what He is doing with my life and when I am afraid, I trust Him.

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