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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

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.

Non-Negotiable 

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

Because I have always associated myself with damage.

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

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

It will suffice.

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

Stop compromising.”

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

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

Love.

Acceptance.

Value.

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

Everything was my reply.

“What are your non-negotiable’s?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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