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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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whole

Line in the Sand

I’m all for the gray areas of life because I believe that they exist. I also like to color outside the lines. I’m all for accommodations, adjustments, alterations and such but I’m not for compromising my heart and settling for less than I know I deserve. Less than what I know that I can give.

And I have.

Over.

And over.

And over again.

Because, what if I don’t and someone gets pissed and then doesn’t want anything to do with me at all? The loss of their approval, even their disapproval of the me they thought they knew, the me I thought they wanted me to give…would be heart breaking.

These are real thoughts.

But guess what?

I want something to do with me.

I want something to do with me a whole bunch. I actually DO believe I am worthy of simple things like:

Faithfulness.

Having someone’s whole heart.

And the problem has been I haven’t seen myself accordingly. I’ve been misaligned, like looking at myself in a mirror that has been distorted and cracked. I’ve compromised but not in a way where I’ve sat down and negotiated my value. I just kind of took what I got.

Even if it was crap.

I asked for more. And I’ve been told I’m unreasonable.

Demanding.

Like communication and having the ability to work all the way through to the other side is some sort of abnormality reserved for super humans.

The further side was a luxury I could not afford.

And now here we are and I wonder how we got here, how I did. The writing on the wall is as clear as the line that I’m finally drawing and I know.

I will no longer negotiate my identity.

I will no longer settle for anything other than faithfulness. Wholehearted and true.

I won’t take the back seat in someone’s heart when I know I belong in the front row.

I. Just. Won’t.

 

 

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The Purpose of Pain

Our youngest daughter is into a lot of things right now: Baking. Cooking. Crafting. She writes notes. Builds note boxes. Wants to do her laundry and walk the dog. She is craving responsibility and longs for opportunities to show up and be seen. To try and to succeed. To fail and to learn.

So last night, we baked. WITH A HOT OVEN.

Someday I will learn that oven mitts are my friend.

Today my right forefinger sports a raised bubble and I’m sure by evening, it will crack open and ooze and I’m not sorry for the visual because I want you to experience my pain with me. I’m that type of friend. You’re welcome.

It’s been making me think a lot about the purpose of pain. It seems like everyone is trying to avoid it, myself included, and we’ve made it out to be this bad, scary thing. Is it? Is there a purpose?

Yes.

Absolutely yes.

If you have been anywhere in your kitchen and have actually used your own stove, you most likely have experienced a burn at some point in your life. The more you are around one, the greater your chances…

It’s simple math.

And hopefully, unlike me, your brain has made it quite clear that touching the hot oven racks is not wise so when your naked hands instinctively go to “grab” without an oven mitt, your brain jumps in front of the moving car frantically waving its arms, reminding you that touching indeed is not wise.

As in, DON’T BE STUPID. DO NOT TOUCH THE HOT OVEN RACKS. YOU WILL BURN YOUR HANDS. 

And hopefully, you change course and go in another direction. Hopefully your brain convinces your hands to take precautions, to take cover because you know…last time was kind of painful.

If you have ever experienced pain, you will understand where I am going. Pain is not always physical, like the raised little bubble of fluid on my right forefinger. You can experience emotional or spiritual pain which can all lead to a mixed bag of symptoms that aren’t so easily diagnosed and treated.

Medications can help but don’t always fix and Jesus is not a magic wand that you wave in order to live a perfectly happy life. 

Both acute (short-term) and chronic (ongoing) pain can lead to emotional suffering. Emotional and spiritual pain may include sleep problems, sadness, anger, frustration, anxiety, and depression. How do I know this?

Takes one to know one.

It makes me wonder: Does it HAVE TO HURT in order to learn a life lesson? Not always. Not every situation or person that I learn from is tethered to a raw ache but I know from personal experience, it IS when I pay attention the MOST. I liken the times when I feel pain to feeling like I’m on fire, like I am sitting smack dab in the center of an eternal flame. One thing I’ve noticed through that heartache is my intentions are purified and I grow in honesty about my actual motives because most often, I do not pay attention to “what’s going on inside of me” till my outsides have experienced some sort of fall or failure…A FIRE. 

And I have yet to fathom why this pattern is consistently true.

Perhaps it’s because I am a creature of habit and my regular, every-day-comfort is falsely reassuring. So reassuring in fact that I would make my permanent home IN my comfort if I could. Stepping forward into the unknown is unfamiliar and untested…perhaps pain is an opportunity to be “pushed” – or I would never go.

I have no solid answers, only thoughts rolling around in the big, wide open space within my head like this one: 

I have grown spiritually much more by doing it wrong than by doing it right.

Sorry Church. I have. 

I know when I get sick and tired of being sick and tired, I find myself hanging on the fraying tassel of some rope. I try to hang on. Dear God I do everything in my power to stay attached. Every desperate measure I can muster, I do, but on occasion I have found myself not only at the end of the rope but at the end of myself. I let go of my pride thereby, I let go of that tassled rope and I fall. 

I fall hard.

It is usually the pain from that fall that inspires the most change.

I hate falling so you can imagine, I do EVERYTHING possible not to. Falling is way worse than burning myself on a hot oven rack and it is way worse than feeling momentarily sad or missing my kids. Falling equates to failure. Falling leaves me feeling like my insides are broken into and splattered across a concrete floor. It is the greatest place of vulnerability and incredibly humbling to have your insides on the outsides. It can be embarrassing and shameful. Very. In the last few weeks, I have become increasingly aware of my own grotesque fallibility, which brings to the surface every potential lie possible, enticing me to believe. But the good news is, because I believe there is always good news…as hard and as painful as it’s been to fall down, the presence of pain indicates that I CAN learn better….if I can fall DOWN, I can also fall UP.

“Maybe you have to know the darkness before you can appreciate the light.” – Madeleine L’Engle 

So long story short, I think pain is the body’s way of “encouraging” action and the pain of facing the truth about yourself is often necessary to change for the better. Just like touching the hot oven racks is teaching me to avoid hot metal, accepting why a relationship has been falling apart will help me better understand what to do differently in the future with it.

Instead of running from or coddling pain, because pain can become an idol, I will choose to allow a healthy dose OF pain to inspire change.

IN me.

What will you allow pain to do in YOU?

 

A Thousand Little Pieces 

I was unloading the dishwasher the other week and being productive, grabbed two mugs at the same time instead of one. In my hurry, I inevitably dropped the heavier, black mug on floor and heard the clamor of ceramic and tile colliding. When I picked it up, it was in what seemed like a thousand little pieces. The one side of the mug was missing a very large piece so when I saw it, I sighed. I thought it would be an easy repair. One piece. However to my dismay, there were multitudes of small and fragile remnants spread all over the floor surrounded by potters dust and my heart immediately sank.

It was unrepairable.

It looked like all the other cheap ceramic mugs I’ve bought over the years. They all end up the same. Chipped, cracked and eventually discarded.

Except that this wasn’t just any mug. It was a mug we got from Paramount Pictures where our oldest daughter interned two summers ago. It was the mug we bought when we visited her in California. It often held my coffee and with it, my sentiments.

But sentiments aside, I cleaned up the pieces and salvaged what I could. I got out the super glue and started first with the biggest piece and thought I had a win, but the remnants were too small and not one seemed to fit just right and I started to get frustrated over a mug that would never be the same.

The trash can looked like my only option.

Days later, I’m driving to Baltimore with my husband. My mind flittered between songs and landscapes and my marriage was forefront. Here we were on another trip, in another year, logging another mile while stubbornly refusing to give up. My mind raced to lots of things, to people and with people…problems. I have friends who are encountering their own sort of hard, and as I sat in the passenger seat on my to our destination, I heard myself whisper, “Don’t discard the pieces.”

Perhaps I was whispering once more to myself.

Relationships are much like my mug. Over time and with use, little dings and chips create cracks if you hurry too fast and aren’t mindful of their care. Every now and then, trust gets broken and a large piece shatters on the floor of someone’s home and before you know it, your heart is broken into a thousand little pieces creating remnants that feel too small to pick up and piece back together.

But much like my mug, piece by piece, chunk by chunk, things CAN be put back together. It most likely will never look the same because cracks leave scars making things look raw and edgy and the healing comes through a process that is frustratingly ongoing and one day you wake up and realize how tired and worn you are from trying to piece it all back together yourself so you call a silent truce and eventually resolve to STOP fixing and mending alone because no one is fully ever broken…not even YOU and you embrace your cracks and your raw and rough edging. We ALL have our things and those things are better placed in the Fathers hands and when we give Him our broken pieces, He works tenderly and diligently…

Making broken things beautiful…

Most people would like the damage done to what is broken to be concealed and hidden by repair so that things could look like new, the way I want my favorite mug to look and my marriage to be, but that really isn’t reality.

That is actually a pretty weighty expectation and an unrealistic picture.

Someone shared years ago of how the Japanese art of Kintsugi follows a different philosophy in mending broken items. Rather than disguising the breakage, kintsugi restores the broken item incorporating the damage into the aesthetic of the restored item, making it part of the object’s history. Kintsugi uses lacquer resin mixed with powdered gold, silver, platinum, copper or bronze, resulting into something more beautiful than the original. The item becomes unique and set apart, for no two breaks are the same.

That visual has helped me more times than I can count when I have felt hopeless and broken and that the trash was my only viable option. When my dreams dissipate and my relationships verge potential ruin; in those moments when I feel small and in my ambiguity, helpless…I must choose to remember His goodness. He doesn’t create junk and if it is important to me, it is important to Him. THEY ARE. YOU ARE. I have a Father who doesn’t enjoying watching me feel out of sorts and out of luck. He is good and tender and piece by piece, partners with me to create a mosaic masterpiece.

But the first step in this creation is the resolve that what I hold in my hands has WORTH and VALUE. When I make the decision that yes, I am committed to working on it, I won’t easily discard it…even if the pieces are too small for my finger to pick them up.

Even if I don’t feel, even if I don’t see, even if I don’t hear…

Friends, I do not know how He does it, but I do know it is an exchange of sorts and I am part of the process. It would be easy to say I just put what is broken into the Father’s hands and He gets to work and I just wash my hands and walk away. That one day, He and I just meet up again over lunch when He is all finished mending and He hands me back a perfectly pieced masterpiece, but no.

It doesn’t work that way.

Each day I have the choice to wake up and make the commitment, ONCE MORE, to partner WITH HIM. He says, “OK, todays let’s look at THIS piece. What is this one about? Why is it special to you? How did it become misplaced and broken? What was your part?” and we go from there. Every piece is different and every conversation reveals both a truth and a lie; a lie that helped create the crack and a truth that helps restores the piece. If you do this enough days, trust can be rebuilt with the hope of restoration rather than having to trash what once you said had value and worth to you.

Whatever has fallen apart CAN be made whole, it just won’t always look like what you expected and don’t be suprised if YOU are the focus of the mending. You want the attention to detail to be elsewhere and on anyone else but you because you are not part of the problem nor did you cause the break, but I assure you…you have a part.

Be the place to start. 

The Father wants to give you His attention. Let it happen.

 

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