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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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selfdiscovery

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.

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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.

Forward

It’s 1997 and two months before my wedding day. I’m riding a three-wheeler through the mountains with my finance and my two-year old daughter and it’s a beautiful day, sunny and bright, probably July or early August. I should have known what was to come based off of my experiences growing up riding bikes, but I’m young and overly confident, out to impress my future husband. I manage to convince myself I can manage quite well the first time behind a motorized wheel.

I was wrong.

I wreck, brake my left wrist and later find myself two weeks before my wedding, cutting the cast off at work because who wants to see a bride walk down the aisle wearing a cast?

My wrist heals nicely so taking the cast off two weeks early wasn’t really a big deal however, whenever I find myself years later teaching my kids how to do cart-wheel , I noticed the pain of the injury is still there.

Muscle memory is real, pain memory…more so.

I think a lot about that injury these days as I head into month six of healing a fractured humorous thanks to running an extremely exuberant dog through the snow. Healing isn’t going as fast as it did when I had a broken wrist in 1997 nor is it going as fast as when I broke my arm when the kids in the neighborhood decided to grab my legs and arms and swing me around the air when I was six.

But it IS healing.

I’ve been wanting to write my story for years but honestly haven’t had the guts to. Much of what I mostly likely will share has been kept locked tight in some attic chest that no one wanted me to dig through. Most of it is shameful and embarrassing and regret-filled but I’m discovering, I NEED to unpack and begin to sort to find the whole of me that’s been shut inside.

Healing happens when we take what’s been in the dark and bring it into the light and I for one, need the healing more than I need to care what anyone thinks. It’s my life and I’m tired of being ashamed or scared of it.

So here I sit and I promise to write to none other than to myself. There’s a little girl in me that needs to heal. A teenager that needs to heal. A young adult, a new mom, a friend, a fourth-year old wife in a marriage that is falling a part that has questions. A woman trying desperately to sort and make sense. A woman trying to find direction and peace.

A woman who most of all wants to make friends with her enemies.

I started this blog, and one previously like it, to write my thoughts because that is what’ve I’ve done since I was a child in the form of diaries and poems but I find myself skirting around me what I know deep down in me is to write, often touching the edges of my personal life here and there. I ultimately stay away from where I want and know I need to go because my story, like most, is interwoven around others’, and it’s complicated and all out of sorts.

I’ve been.

But that is just a lie I’ve believed, much like when I do those cart-wheels with my kids and the pain from that broken wrist from all those years ago resurfaces trying to tell me the injury is still there, that I am still broken.

I am not.

So it’s time for me to sit and scavenge through the boxes in the attic and bring to light what’s been hidden in the dark.

It’s time to find the whole of me.

Chasing Slow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s true.

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

Is truer yet.

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

Deep Waters

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

I made homemade chicken corn soup.

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

Built a snowman with my kids.

Made them breakfast, lunch AND dinner.

Loaded my dishwasher. Twice.

Taught my sons fiancé how to bake homemade bread.

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

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

While I cook.

While I bake.

While I read, write, work, clean.

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

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

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

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

I’m afraid to answer.

Jesus?

My family and friends?

Me?

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

BE PRESENT. 

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

Life’s Little Lesson of the day…

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

You swim out to deep blue waters. 

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.

Choices 

I think back, even back recently, to the times where I’ve stepped outside myself and walked in my emotions and said things and did things that quite frankly were all out of whack and sync with who I am, with even who God is. It felt right at the time, a zillion times justified and now only looking back, I wish Jesus would have just slapped me around a bit in love but nope. He just left me make my choices and reap my consequences.

Regret is a consequence.

Self-control is something I have wained in for almost ever. Not entirely true but as an highly emotional person, I often allow my emotions to lead and before I know it, my soul is running the show and my true self, you know, the real one, takes a back seat and rides it out…

Willingly.

You know that story in scripture about Pharaoh and God hardening Pharaohs heart? That one. It has always baffled me as to why God would do that. Why He would harden someone’s heart. So if He can harden it, He can also soften it too. Right?

Kind of.

He can. He has choices, just like me. But God, in His infinite love and wisdom, wants to empower us and gives the gift of free will. He allows us to choose.

Will YOU open your heart?

Because having an open heart is a choice just as much as having a closed heart is an option.

Walking in WHO I was created to be and allowing my spirit to lead me is just as much a choice as allowing my emotions to lead and saying crap I later regret.

Choices.

Now that’s love.

Love that says, “Choose me. Choose my heart. Choose to know what’s on it.”

And if we know what’s on God’s heart and we say, “Yeah that nice but another day. Right now I am justified and don’t care. It sounds right, feels good. Tomorrow I’ll try again, but for now…”

Ugh.

Sometimes the very best things you can do or say is this:

Nothing. 

Absolutely positively nothing.

For as long as you need to until you regain proper perspective, HIS. Until the emotions fade and the raging thoughts are lulled back to a sound, perhaps dead sleep.

Nothing. 

It is a choice.

A most powerful one.

Forgive and Forget 

If you are like me, you’ve done your fair share of screwing up. Live and learn, its’s life and I don’t say that flippantly. No excuses, real times, hard stuff and a point in life I’d rather not go back to or dwell on, but I’m forgiven and can walk with my head high. I know who I am and who I’m not from going through it.

 
BUT not everyone shares my excitement for do-overs. Not everyone is quite as enthusiastic about grace as I am. Especially if my choices hurt them.

 
A spirit of guilt and condemnation continually tries to tether us all to the whipping post centrally located in the middle of town. It tries to humiliate us by drawing a crowd…the larger the crowd, the louder the jeers.

 
I get it. And boy do I wish I didn’t.

 
Friends…it’s really nice when we can stand together arms interlocked but there comes a time when we need to stand alone on God’s promise that our sins are as far from the east as to the west. God forgives AND forgets. He chooses to. So even when those around us  hold a pretty detailed account of our wrongs, we can stand firm, knowing our knees won’t buckle underneath the pressure to prove ourselves worthy. Because we are.
It doesn’t necessarily matter what we’ve done. Those details can be like unnecessary chatter in conversations held behind closed doors or backs. What matters most is that we learn from what we’ve done and how those little life lessons impact our current day choices.

 

Here’s the thing…even when we act like an orphan that has no home or a prodigal afraid to come back to one, we are still loved. The Father does not HAVE to love us (You know how families can be…you can’t pick them). He loves because He chooses us. He chooses YOU. 

 
So don’t let yourself be tethered back to the whipping post.

 
Forgive and forget. 70 x 7. 

 
Including yourself. Most importantly yourself.

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