Thursday, August 28, 2014

on life and death


I think we should be talking about a topic that, generally speaking, a lot of us tend to avoid.

We let the moments of our days burlap-cover and tuck underneath what fear says we can somehow protect. We force-feed ourselves with various remedies that we think will manipulate a kind of growth to make our heart superhero-strong from pain.

Just below the undergrowth that we use to camouflage the tender shoots of our heart is a unique, one-of-a-kind treasure that was specifically designed for this crazy, mixed up, wild-like world. Yet, we don't believe it.

Acknowledging death in the periphery of our vision, we shirk off any consideration that our hearts matter and we try to better ourselves with busyness, expecting it will actually give us life.

Fear partitions us from our senses, keeping us focused on protecting ourselves at all costs.

We sacrifice the gift we can unwrap in tasting flavors mixed together because we're so famished for attention and we have this idea that we need to look a certain way to have what we crave.

Engaging with our children or even noticing them as they play feels like a waste of precious time and we want to do things that really matter, so we sacrifice the gift of seeing and feeling all that play and the perspective of a child can give us.

. . . and the list goes on.

People have shared their experience with me of how quickly time goes and they have encouraged me to hold onto it and to treasure the moments before their gone. Though they've been well-intentioned in their advice, I've always felt like their comments were itchy, like a wool sweater. I want to appreciate it for its warmth and comfort, yet this heaviness I experience with this kind of advice is sometimes too much for me.

I'm discovering that time is not something we can control. The vulnerability of not being as strong as we would like to be is what scares us the most I think. We fear the imperfect of our humanity, that we will miss something about a moment, or that our choices in how we allocate our time will somehow be wrong.

I believe that we were created by God who fully knew that we'd make mistakes. To go a step further, I believe He purposely created us this way.

We would be wise to face the hard fact: we will always miss some. thing.

We were purposely created as imperfect beings. This may be simple truth to some people, yet for me I somehow managed to misplace my focus for so many years. I spent my living days aware of my imperfections and thinking that my purpose each day was to fix me, or at least make strides toward fixing . . . toward perfecting what isn't. I thought God tasked me with the responsibility of fixing His mistakes or what He left undone.

My fear of complacency has been like a worm that wreaks havoc on a body, including the neurological system. I was afraid that if I accepted my imperfections then I was resigning myself, giving up on what I could be, and that I won't have what I hope for if I don't put in the effort to get there.

Did I think that my hope was used as some sort of carrot to be someone better?

Did I think life was a cruel test of will? 


Perhaps it's the American way, or maybe it's just me, but somehow I thought success was a constant highway of always improving, always growing, always striving; while, maybe, someday, arriving . . . at least mostly.

In the Spring I was faced with a question that rocked my world:

     How have I spent my life so far?


Truthfully, my own answer made me cry. Because, for so long I wanted to be someone who I'm not -- at least not yet. I've held such hope in my heart that I'll be someone different or better and so I've focused on being her, instead of simply me.

I didn't consider Who gave me my hope . . . Who will lead me to see it fulfilled . . . Who wrote a part for me in the plan for this world.

When I stood at the altar nearly 14 years ago and committed my life to my groom, words stirred in me that have stuck with me. They were words that made me consider how limited my time with him will be and that is what I focused on more so than the other part -- the part that said, "I love you so much I am giving this man to you as an example of my love for you."

There weren't expectations that I be someone who I wasn't, just that I know I am loved. That I receive the gift.

Back then I was ten pounds heavier than I am now. I didn't think then that I had any weight that I needed to lose. Now, if on any given day I'm a bit squishier or pudgier than the previous day, I somehow think I need to hide from the man who said he'd love me until death and who shows it to me everyday with his steadfast stickwithitness. Because, I've learned to eat even more healthy and to take care of my body even better than I did before. Knowledge has side-swiped me from living free to living focused.

I've focused so much on the end -- on when our end will be and how it could be any time, or on what is good for me and will help avoid this or that disease.

I've focused on so much that I thought would protect me that I limited myself from simply falling into the moments and receiving them. 

Living free is vulnerable and scary. I've seen people have the proverbial rug pulled out from underneath them, gutted by utter surprise at death or disease and I've not wanted to be left in a lurch like that, so I've done everything I could do to prepare myself and protect myself.

: : : 


This summer has felt a bit more like winter to me in that it's been a time of restful sitting on the couch with a cleared agenda and calendar. That my family and I haven't had plans has actually felt refreshing, like the comfort and warmth of a blanket.

I've discovered that I actually want to be home, even though it's not exactly the way I want it to be. Traveling and hustling with plans to do this and that really is just one big headache and my typical attempt to avoid the discomfort of imperfection.

I've discovered that I'm loved, even though I'm a wreck a lot of the time and as much of a yo-yo emotionally as the weight of my body. I've felt like new life is hidden just underneath the burlap and that an unfurling will happen, even though it's not quite happening when I think it should.

In the midst of feeling like each moment I live is one step away from falling on an icy patch and feeling tempted to be timid even to breathe, much less walk, I've realized that like my legs, my heart actually feels better when I exercise it instead of focusing so much on keeping myself safe and secure.

I found that by accepting the conditions of each moment, I am able to really live. And by that I mean, to embrace joy in the midst of the jaw-gripping, fault lines of life.

There's a young man who died recently, sparking so many conversations about people's perceptions of other people, particularly of biases as it relates to race. So much of the world noticed because the killing seemed unfair, judgmental, and irresponsible. People have been angry and rightfully so, yet I wonder if they expected some sort of perfect that hasn't transformed humans in spite of the strides that have been taken around human rights.

There's another young man who died recently, sparking another kind of conversation about how experience and success should somehow making him exempt from incurring pain or harming another person.

And then there's a third young man who died recently, sparking attention from a smallish-size group. Though not a nation-wide news story, people stood in lines for hours upon hours yesterday to pay their respects to a roughly 40-year old young man's family -- a village bartender -- who suddenly died of a heart attack.

I feel badly for the families of these men. I feel badly for their having the weight of sadness and for how these deaths have affected so many other people connected with them. I even feel badly for seeing goodness in all of these stories, because declaring any smidge of beauty in the brokenness feels so trite and dismissive of the pain people are experiencing.

Yet . . . I believe there really is more beauty than there is brokenness in this world . . . and most especially, that brokenness always gives way to beauty -- that it's purposed, even though we sometimes can't fathom how or even begin to pretend that we agree.

In the winter-like summer that I have experienced this year, I have hibernated and learned to rest. While doing so, I have contemplated the fragility of life and the risk of love and life.

I decided that I want to live, even if it means I'll experience brokenness.

I decided that holding my heart hostage from joy is more torture than any loss could ever be.

Death will happen. I will likely come when I least expect it. And though I am sometimes tempted to consider which way is a better way or which is a crueler way, I want to stop doing that as often and instead just breathe -- while I can -- sipping, savoring, and sometimes even slurping down the moments.

I'll sometimes evoke all my senses and might even taste life as I drink it in, yet there will be times when I'll gulp it right down with the mindlessness of a 1,000-thoughts-at-once frantic human being.

Maybe talking about death more would help us to be more comfortable with the imperfect nature of how it comes upon us. Maybe it would help us not to be so consumed with the idea that we can somehow perfect our handling of it.

Like parents do with children, we will mess up life.

We will forget to watch our tone and we'll even forget to wash our hands. We will forget that we really don't want the cookie and we'll reach for vices that have become our habits.

Life isn't something we can perfect or get through without pain. Though we want to be better, the truth is that we will die and we will die imperfect.

I don't want to spend all my energy trying to perfect me (or others) when I'll never finish the job anyway. 

I've decided that if Someone decided this world was worth having me a part it, then I can trust that Someone knows better than me.

That Someone wants me to embrace what is, as it is -- even what isn't exactly right or how I'd like it, including myself and other people.

Who am I to question Someone's Art?

Linking with Jennifer and Bonnie.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

on living sheltered and small


I was raised in a very vanilla town within Central New York, sheltered from a greater reality that is something far beyond my own.

My world was small and with age I started to feel badly about that. I was quietly sad and ashamed for my perspective and shallow thinking, yet it was all I knew. For nine months of my adult life my groom and I lived in a house with nine Boy-Men -- one of our own and eight others who challenged me to consider that we really aren't all the same deep inside.

I remember writing notes to each of the teenage Boy-Men to encourage them or tell them how special they are, yet I don't remember ever sitting down and asking about their experiences -- back in their hometown or as part of mine. I said that I cared about these young men whose voices were changing each week and who spent countless hours on the computer or staying up late playing video games, though the truth is that I wanted to care but a part of me felt shame.

I couldn't help to think that this vanilla community wanted to extend a hand just so that we could say that we're more inclusive than we are, or to feel good about ourselves. We welcome eight teenage boys to our public high school each year and offer them a better chance academically, while expecting these people from different life experiences to conform to our little hockey-town-USA.

I didn't have a clue what life was like for these kids beyond what little I'd read in books, or heard people talk about, or from what I'd seen on tv. The truth is, my world and everything about it was one kind of experience based on one kind of color.

As I was running in the village the other day, I thought about a friend of mine who teaches her children how to represent themselves whenever they interact with police officers. She's black and I'm white; our lives couldn't be more opposite: for my son, these armed guards are helpful heroes; for hers, they are something entirely different. When I told this friend how my groom and I had been houseparents for eight teenage boys from the inner city, I think she began to think of me in a way she hadn't before.

Earlier today my family and I walked to the village in our town for an Arts & Music Festival and afterward I popped on line for a bit to see what's happening on Facebook. This friend had a few posts and so did a few others whose lives are so wildly different from mine. Most of the time I scroll for our commonalities in how we express our heart and faith, and what I don't see is the real differences that are so much harder to communicate and to understand.

I hadn't considered how different our experience walking in our village today could've been if we lived somewhere else, because it's hard to think of what could be but isn't. First-year students are moving into our town's college today and I noticed a slight influx of luxury vehicles and out of state license plates, but I didn't see anything particularly different than usual. Our town is still vanilla. It's still safe and small.

The Adirondack Mountains are virtually in our backyard. Birds chitter-chatter. Kids ride their bicycles. Mr. Ding-a-ling sells Ice Cream. Here, the biggest controversies are around the school taxes, kids riding their bicycles without helmets (and, Where are the parents?!) 

I don't mean to minimize some of the issues our town has experienced, but lets face it: we're sheltered.

Here, we're talking about whether a NASCAR superstar is to blame for the tragic death of a young stock car driver, and we're posting pictures of ice bucket challenges. We're trying to stay current and relevant and helpful, though I'm not hearing people talk about things like what's been happening in Ferguson, Missouri or if we even care that our town is so vanilla.

A few years ago I started reading Michelle Alexander's book, "The New Jim Crow Law," though I had to put it down because everyone in my small world who I tried to talk with about it just didn't understand what I was talking about; our small perspectives just couldn't rationalize the idea of conspiracies around drug arrests and racial profiling. I saw the book on my bookshelf this morning and thought about how maybe I should pick it up again. Maybe it's time to consider experiences that aren't my own.

Personally, I somehow missed the news for two or three whole days and didn't have a clue what people were even talking about when I read "Praying for #Ferguson" on my Facebook feed. And then, there was so much to read and I didn't know where to begin or what to make of it all. I don't know what to say, except I know in my heart that I shouldn't feel badly for what I don't know. It isn't my fault that novels are about the only opportunity I have for considering stories that aren't my own.

A non-white family moved into our neighborhood last year; we've exchanged smiles and waves, though that's the extent of it. I'm afraid I couldn't even pronounce their names if I tried. I don't know if the family is Burmese or Indian or what their nationality is, I just know they are different from me. The other day I was thinking about how I want to know them and learn about their experiences, but I'm not sure how. I might bring them over a tray of cookies or something, though that's about the extent of how far I'll probably go in connecting with them because . . . how?

The family next to us brought over some sort of homemade Korean dish when we moved into the neighborhood a handful of years ago and I'll never forget the kindness of their gesture. We say they're "nice" people because they deliberately smile and wave every single time they drive by us, though we don't know much about them except that they speak with broken English.

I don't know what to say about Ferguson or how to connect with my own neighbors and that saddens me. What saddens me most is that I really do know what it takes and that comfort and familiarity is what I so often choose.

We talk about the cost of education and how one school isn't going to be the first to start reducing the price or even keeping it the same, yet a full half of the students attending the college in our town come from families who are willing to pay the ticket price. There's still a market for the high cost, and meanwhile there's still kids who even if they could attend would choose not to because the cost for them is more than financial, it's about fitting in.

How do we welcome people when we're so used to the comfort of small and sheltered? 

How do we inform ourselves? 
     And do we even care to be informed or inclusive? 

I'm not sure what to do, except to speak to those who live in small world like me and say:

If you're uncomfortable with your naivete like I am with mine, let's do something . . .

Let's learn . . .
Let's open our eyes . . .
Let's consider experiences different than ours . . .
Let's ask questions . . .
Let's listen . . .

Monday, August 18, 2014

on holding onto hope


The Boy-Man is identifying with his father more and more these days.

It hurts me to watch this process of his growing up. Boys are supposed to need their momma's. (And does he think I don't notice that he's been trying out calling me simply, Mom?)

Deep in my heart I know this growing up and apart is good, so very good. It's a moving from being dependent to inter-- and in--dependent. 

For this child, I see inter-dependence in action as he is attentive about the needs of other people within our family and the world around him, versus being exclusively focused on his own gain. He's learning valuable executive function skills, while also being incredibly connected to others.

The Boy has a different view than a lot of his peers about most everything, which might be why he sometimes doesn't seem to fit well. I'm okay with this more than I used to be as I've been deliberately trying to fixate on more of his heart and less of his habits.

I've worried that The Boy-Man won't be able to survive on his own as I've cleaned up his crumbs and reminded him time after time to use a napkin, yet that fear is ever more loosed as I watch him increasingly resist my accolades and instruct me on exactly how to grocery shop since his dad and he usually are the ones to do the job. The Boy tends to care more about speech intonations than whether he can replace the sheets on his bed. Yet, I can count on him to give me the lo-down on the morning news, reminding me to pause and consider the world beyond my own.

My groom is a good model to learn from when it comes to both inter-- and in--dependence. He puts my needs and our son's needs ahead of his own, while also doing whatever he needs to do for himself. He's certainly not one of those men who don't know how to make up a grocery list or cook a meal. He makes connections between my quick kiss, hurried state of being and changing of my outfit, identifying nine times out of ten that I'm disappointed with my body or recent choices that I've made and therefore distance myself from him out of shame.

I watch and listen to the environment and tone in our home. The emphasis is more on others versus personal fulfillment and achievement, and being all lookatmeish as I can tend to be, I give credit to The Man (and ultimately, of course, to God).

Recently, I found myself expressing relief to my groom that I wasn't pregnant, even though we've been "trying" (in a loose whatever, yet hopeful kind of way). With some careful and gentle excavating of my heart, my groom was able to help me uncover that fear wants to hold back my hope . . . because it's just so overwhelmingly painful and risky to love.

Experiencing our son's maturing, now nearly a decade into life, I've wrestled with wondering what my place is within our family and most of all The Boy's life. I've wondered what my ultimate purpose is, forgetting that it changes with time.

I nursed our son and deliberately kept to a thoughtfully orchestrated schedule. I held him and sang to him. I read to him and wrote notes to him. I've whispered affirmation to him as he's laid his head on his pillow each night, praying over and with him. I've done so much more than this measly list, and yet I wonder what my role is now and what it will be as time presses on and he distances himself even more.

The memories I have of my relationships with my parents are thicker now that The Boy is older. Fear gets tangled up in my moments with him. I thought I was over all the hurt that I had growing up and it seems as though it's resurfacing all over again. A part of me wonders if it's just a matter of facing and accepting my story now that I'm at the age I'm at, but fear snarls at me and tempts me to jump ship so that I don't make the same mistakes . . . yet, how would leaving be any better?! I know I sound crazy and might even be half (or mostly) crazy, so I settle on one big jumbled thought:

     There-Is-No-Way-I-Can-Possibly-Do-This-Again-And-Someone-Please-Hold-Me!

My groom will likely have The Conversation with our son about what it means to be "A Man" in the pubescent sort of ways. He's the one who coaches him with his sports. And he's the one who teaches him about everything else, including all his academics. My groom will teach The Boy how to balance a checkbook and pay the bills. And he'll be the one to teach him to drive. I often pray, Please Lord don't let him die young! because I'm just so afraid of messing it up.

My groom is the teacher and I'm the nurturer. Though we both flip-flop our roles on occasion, and mostly it's like a dance, I try to remember not to be my groom and instead, to simply be me.

I am learning to make myself available to listen to the Boy-Man's stories. Even if I've heard them before or know what he's about to say, I am learning to be interested in what he has to say. I'm learning to be a sounding board for him and to give him an opportunity to practice knowing something and presenting his ideas and thoughts.

The Boy is slipping away from me little-by-little. He stands like a limp noodle when I give him a hug and wraps his arms around my neck with affection much less often, unless he thinks he can take me down in some aggressive and stealth, ninja-like way. He scolds me and keeps me accountable to doing things the right way. Yet, when we're in a store I notice that The Boy reaches for my hand and pats my bottom like his father does, gently wrapping his arm around me. He'll sit closer to me sometimes at night when we're watching a television show together and he sometimes pats my knee just as affectionately as his father.

It's a clunky time for me to know my role and I'm sure it's becoming increasingly wonky for The Boy. He notices things about me that he never noticed before and the whole idea of what he might be thinking scares me because he can be so quiet, yet so talkative at the same time.

There are books upon books that have tried to explain all that I see happening right in front of me, and there are millions upon millions of women who've gone before me and experienced the gradual growing-apart of a Boy-Man. Probably every single woman has questioned her place and role as her son has grown, so I can trust I'm not alone. When I dig deep, truth tells me that I will continue to have a meaningful role in The Boy-Man's life. Yet, I also know that growing always hurts. The truth isn't always enough to set a person free.

I still hold tight to a dream that we'll have another of our own someday, though all that I'm experiencing now sometimes makes me think that hope is too risky. In telling my groom that I was relieved to not be pregnant, what I really meant is that I'm relieved that I don't have to face the push-pull of relationship and the vulnerability of hope.

I forget that even though the moments won't last forever, it all matters.

I forget that my commitment to centering us around the table together for most every meal encourages conversation, enveloping The Boy into more than just a part of my day.

I forget that sharing my heart with him makes him actively involved in the moments of my life, teaching him about the grittiness of grace.

I forget that I also help to condition the environment in our home and that my expression of joy helps him to see moments as gifts.

I forget that the way I respond to my groom's affection is teaching The Boy how to be brave and to boldly love.

I forget that how I receive love teaches him about the sensitive nature of a woman's heart, preparing him to consider perspectives different from his and to slow himself enough to bolster a woman to be, as she is.

I forget that one prayer can make a profound impact, even long after it's spoken and remembered, and that it isn't my job to measure the worth of anything that has breath.

Truthfully, I really am relieved not to be pregnant with a second child right now. Sometimes even the risks in life are incredibly overwhelming to consider. My heart just doesn't have the space for more than what's right in front of me.

I still hope, but even that seems like too much. Nowadays I hope differently than I used to. The hope I have today is that I'm actively being prepared, each moment-by-moment, for the dreams my heart struggles to hold. My heart is constantly reshaping and growing into each new moment as it comes and I have to trust that God knows what's best for me and the world I'm a part of.

For now, I'm choosing to rest . . . and accept this life, as it is.

I'm choosing to live. Because, this really is enough. And for this, so am I . . . as I am.





Friday, August 15, 2014

on learning to accept fear (Part 2: responding to a mother's worry)


My mother texted me the other day to express how "sad" it is about Robin Williams. I agreed and commented how mental illness is definitely very real.

She then said: "Promise me never to do that."

And I couldn't reply.

Sometimes the truth is too scary to face, so I hide.

I was afraid of my mother's fear so I chose not to respond to her request that I make such a big promise to her. Mostly I was afraid for her because sometimes the truth can feel like too much. I wanted to protect my mom from worry.

I've been paying more attention to fear these days.

I've been noticing that like children, fear just wants to be noticed. Even though fears can't just get what they want and don't have the right to push me around, I'm letting them be heard. I'm asking questions and trying to learn from them, even though rationalizing with or talking down fear doesn't always work.

Like the white hair, and wrinkles, and aches and pains that have been slowly making me notice that in spite of my feelings, I'm not 25 anymore . . . fear reminds me that I'm human.

I'm learning that I can rest when I simply accept fear as a part of life, kind of like germs that I can't just perfectly cleanse away. I make a choice to accept the risk that I might get sick and live.

No matter what we do, fear isn't something that we can make go away.

Fear isn't something to feel shame about -- neither that we have fear, or that we struggle to control it.

I hope that in time I'll become better at thoughtfully responding to fear instead of impulsively reacting to it and that my body will be strong enough for it the next time it invades me. For now, I'm learning to be honest that this conditioning takes a lot out of me.

I feel like a person who is just beginning a new fitness routine and is tempted to give up from feeling more exhausted because of the workouts. I'm learning to be gentle and patient and kind with myself as I develop the strength to stand strong in the midst of fear that is a part of life. Like wind, I can't control fear from happening, but I can do what I can to be prepared for it. Yoga reminds me of this as I contract my core muscles and stand strong like a tree, imagining that I can't be pushed or blown over.

I'm starting to accept fear and it's wonky ways. I'm also starting to accept it as a part of others, too, and how it spills over and makes a mess sometimes.

Though I couldn't promise my mom I won't one day take my life and I was afraid of how she might feel and what she might think if I spoke the truth, I decided not to let my silence be so deafening.

In my response to my mother's worry for me, I addressed it by saying:
I saw your text before I went to bed and didn't know how to respond, so I let it sit.

The truth is, I can't promise something like that to you. I can't promise that to anyone. Not even myself.

Does it mean you should be worried about my mental health? Not necessarily.
None of us are immune from random and seemingly sudden moments of onset anxiety and depression; however, I'd venture that the "sudden-seeming" nature is really a surfacing of the truth that's hidden below.

I've struggled in my own silent and scary ways for a lot of my life, and it's likely why I created "rules" that were my way of trying to fix myself.

I'm aware that my son and my husband and I could choose not to be brave in this life; we could choose to give up.
That I haven't . . . that any of us haven't . . . is truly a miracle. 

I share this piece of my response to my mom because truth alone isn't enough to set us free

     . . . neither is love from our family, and
     . . . neither is time.

It isn't because we aren't good enough that explains why we continue to struggle in life, it's simply because we haven't arrived in a place where anything is perfect.

When we accept that we were made human, we just might begin to accept our brokenness . . . and even ourselves. 

Maybe, just maybe, we'll begin to simply be, as we are, instead of work to become someone we aren't (even yet).

Maybe we'll begin to see our beauty as the kind that in its rawness is sometimes hard to look at, yet reminds others that they aren't alone.

Maybe we'll begin to see our imperfect bravery of accepting ourselves as the most perfect beauty of all.

Maybe we'll begin to accept grace.

Maybe we'll begin to rest.

Maybe we'll begin to live.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

responding to a mother's worry


My mother wrote to me last night with what she called, unfounded worry. She asked me to forgive her if she steps out of line and said:

"I don't want interfere and I don't want to make things my business that don't belong to me. 
I worry about you because I am your mother and I love you. I cannot pinpoint why I worry. I have no definitive reason that brings me to this worry.  
It is not person or situation specific. It is just an uneasy feeling I have. 
. . . I just want you to know how important you are, how much you are needed and how much you are loved . . . " 
: : : 

Even though fear was rummaging around the walls of my heart, and . . . 

     I wasn't completely comfortable with what I had to say, and . . .
     I wondered what I could have possibly done to make her be worried, and . . .
     I wanted to run and hide, and scream and shout in defense of myself, and . . .
     I sometimes forget to count the gifts . . .

I scripted a response and sent it . . . in the midst of the fear . . . because:

I'm learning to honor myself, as I am
     . . . and I'm learning to honor others, too, as they are.


: : : 

My response to my mother's worry went something like this: 

Mom, 
I know you love me and that's a great gift -- to know 
I truly appreciate you and how you care. 
Let me assure you that there's no need to worry. Though, mother's have this sense and that's not to be ignored, so for whatever reason that brings you to "worry" I'll just trust that you'll choose peace. I've been on a journey of rest and it's been deep and profound. Perhaps I've been distant. 
Why do people feel compelled to walk a certain line or stay outside of certain bounds? That kind of thinking isn't free to just love and care and express genuine concern and is what inhibits many of us from peace and what causes us continued restlessness, wondering what should we do? how should we act? what should we say? I've been deliberately choosing not to live that way and to be more open with my heart, though it's hard. I'm tired of the rules that imprison me; rules that I create and have based my life around that has ultimately inhibited me from living in joy and peace.
I want you to know that life is good, Mom. Truly, it's good. 
Now, in my mid-30s, I'm navigating who I am, as I am, versus who I think I ought to be. This may seem like a time to reply: "well, that's how you should have been living, silly girl" Yet, it's not how I've lived and that's just how it is. I think a lot of people my age get to this point in their lives and start to realize that we haven't been true to ourselves, and those who don't get it probably just haven't realized this about themselves. This is my story right now: learning to live freely as me and not focus so much on the imperfections.
I'm deep and often times too much for most people including myself, yet I am learning to trust God for my imperfections and trust my husband for his love. These two are profound lessons I'm in the midst of learning and it takes a lot of energy and strength and much of my heart just to live in this space. Perhaps that's a lot of the reason why I might come across as distant; there's just not a lot of words I can muster and not a lot of room in my heart right now. I'm okay with this and I trust I'm good enough in this moment, as I am. 
I hope you'll be overwhelmed with a peace that assures you that I'm in a good place. 
love,
a






Wednesday, July 16, 2014

on holding dreams (and my self) loosely


I'm developing a different kind of muscle memory these days; the kind that rests more than it clenches. My whole being is learning to loosen the grip I long held on everything that nearly strangled life right out of me.

A lot of my days were spent so focused on growing that I overlooked who I was. Laughing at my mistakes was something I couldn't imagine doing. I intensely and perfectly tried to be someone I wasn't and missed out on simply appreciating and enjoying me. Rules became my Ruler; my rigid and legalistic ways become my god.

God is so much bigger than me and any of my rules. He allowed me to reach a point of exhaustion where I fell in a heap and said:

     "If there's work to be done in me, You do it.
       I'm too tired to try anymore to fix me! 

       I'm choosing to just be me, as I am
       I'm trusting this is enough." 

In the midst of my giving up with trying to be better or different than I was, my hope was restored and I was given a fresh anointing of peace. And I was able to see that rest is the kind of offering that honors Him best.

To simply live, as I am . . . this is the heart of worship.

It took a long time for me to realize that no one and no thing could fulfill my dreams and give me the kind of life I longed to have. I was angry and agitated for so long, disappointed by all that I thought would give me happiness and peace.

It took brokenness for me to discover that I am loved far more than I ever considered.
It took a depleted heart for me to trust God and rest . . . to live. 

Each new day -- moment-by-moment -- has become an opportunity for me to unwrap God's grace, His true gifts . . . such rich evidence of His love for me.  

Even in the midst of uncertainties and questions that tempt to evade our very peace, we can trust that God loves us and He's got us, and everyone else, too. He knows just how far to let us go and just how far to take us in the valley; we can take a hands-off approach to fixing us (and fixing others).

We can rest.

Though it looks like God is cruel in allowing detours, delays, and disappointment, we can trust there's something He has for us to learn in the process that we've called waiting and simply call it: living.

: : : 

Join me at God-Sized Dreams for more on how I'm learning to hold even my dreams loosely. 

Also linking with Jennifer


Thursday, July 10, 2014

an open apology, and an invitation to simply be . . . as . you . are .


I'm not sure how to address this . . .

To the ones I've embarrassed . . . 
To the ones I've judged . . . 
To the ones I've turned off . . . 
To the ones I've hurt . . . 

To all-y'all . . . 

I confess that I've been too much and not enough at the same time. 

I worried about this, knowing innately that something wasn't quite right, though not knowing exactly what or how to fix me.

The way I lived for so long (and might still have a tendency to sway toward) has been as an extremist. The kind who people look away from and talk about to other people. I've labeled my actions as passionate when really, I've been more than a tad over the top most of the time.

A heart can only take so much of this kind of living. Whether it's extreme happiness or extreme anger, living with such a level of intensity is too much for a soul to rest in peace.

Constantly flittering from one emotion to the next, I lived restless. To "abide" always seemed to me like "complacency" and that just didn't seem like the right thing that I or anyone should be. So I searched harder for what I thought I should be. I tried harder and harder to be who I thought I needed to be.

When I admit that I've lived like this, constantly wondering how I ought to live and to what, and where, and who my attention should be given, I realize that I sound crazy. Quite literally, I've felt it a lot of the time.

I tried all sorts of things to live differently and eventually realized that what I've missed is the "live" part. 

A lot of the time I just wanted to die and I spent my life waiting and even hoping that I would. Just being me, as I am, has always felt so weak when I thought there's more I could be doing. And sure, I could, but there's always a cost.

I thought that if I could just be certain that the reason why I don't have the desires of my heart isn't because something is wrong with me . . . that it isn't my fault why certain things are the way they are . . . that I can fix me and everything else, even if it's true that I've done something, then . . . maybe then I can live . . . but what then? 

Do I really think I'll have this peace-filled, joyous life more than I can have now? 

It's exhausting to try to be someone who I'm not.
It's equally exhausting to try to make someone else be who they are not.

To let things be goes beyond waiting. It ignores for a moment what might be or could be, and just let's what is to simply be. When I just sit back and let things be, there's a great sigh of relief from the intense pressure to perfect me, and you, and everyone.

There's joy to be found right here . . . 
   
     where we're mindful of all that is . . .
     where we simply unwrap it . . .

               and receive it . . .
               and marvel in it . . .
             
               as. it. is.


Personally, I believe that God allows all things for purpose and even when something or someone appears so ugly that there doesn't seem like there's any hope at all. I believe there are immense possibilities for the beauty that will be made out of everything. I think of these fuzzy little stuffed animals that existed when I was young that we could turn inside out and they'd become a different creature.

I see life this way:

     Transformable (also sometimes referred to as Redeemable)
     Brimming with beauty (in spite of any apparent brokenness)
     Hope-filled (even though . . . )

I've been so excited about so much in my life that I've wanted to share it with everyone.

That said, I confess that I have hardly considered what words I use that might trigger something in someone else and I have rarely exercised sound judgment. I've been reckless and abused my influence. I've spoken loudly and often, as if I'm on stage all lookatmeish.

I've assumed that I have a responsibility to preach people to conformity after I have been changed, myself . . . to take what I learn and turn it inside out for all the world to see.

I'm learning that I can let people be, as. they. are . . . even if (I think) they're blind.

Eyeglasses aren't meant to be shared.
The script that I have is unique to me.

I can't just toss my glasses to the next person and say:
     Here, take these . . . look through these and you'll see!


It hurts my groom when I share details about him and our life with people. I used to be flummoxed about this, and nowadays I really appreciate the intimacy that we share when we keep others out.

I'm learning that I don't need to share every single thing with every single person, including my relationship with God. My experience as His daughter is unique.

To blabber about what my Father says about me and my life is a lot of the time boasting and bragging doesn't do a bit of good for anyone. I wouldn't do this with my siblings and I wouldn't want my children doing it among each other, either.

My relationship with God is personal and private; not secretive, per say, just not necessarily appropriate for public display. I'm living by faith and less by fear. I'm resting as I trust that what I know is enough.

There's a loosing happening in me. 

     I'm learning to be quieter. 

     I'm learning what it means to live a life of rest. 

My heart is saddened as I'm aware of how I've turned people off and quite possibly hurt them without knowing it; maybe even knowing it and not caring.

For many unique reasons, some people have a problem with me and have chosen to distance themselves from me.

     Some might have blocked me on their Facebook feeds.
     Some might see me and look the other way.
     Some might cringe when I come.
     Some might wish I didn't exist.
     Some avoid my call or text.
     Some lie to me altogether.

I'm incredibly sad at this, heavy-hearted, and quite a bit embarrassed. But what keeps me from running away and hiding my face now is realizing that they knew things about me before I knew them about myself. What difference does it make to run away now? They have already done what they've needed to do since I couldn't see what needed to be done in me.

The people who have remained in my life are examples of how I am loved. They aren't any better than the people who have chosen a life with distance between us. Some might have better off if they did chose another way, though I am selfishly grateful for their choice to stay and maybe even suffer right along with me in their own unique way.

I don't want to imply that I have that much clout in people's lives, because I don't. 

     However . . . I know the influence people can make
          and the ways that we sometimes toy with each others hearts,
          as if we can just pull and tug however we want. 


I've toyed with people and nearly destroyed so much, but thankfully God is so much bigger than me, and her, and him, and you, and all of us. I'm so grateful for this, even though I've resented that I wasn't chosen to be more than who I am.

Pride is a part of being a person. It's ugly and wretched. Yet, it's okay that we are because it reminds us who is God and plays a big role in keeping us all praying in our own way. God can handle our horridness; He really can.

So, to the people I've hurt, I'm sorry for who I was. I'm sorry for who I am a lot of the time. Yet, I can't help it, and I trust that you'll see that, too. I trust that you've found, or are on your way of finding your own peace.

I pray that we'll rest, all of us . . . that we'll live . . . in joy

     . . . even though there's brokenness, and berating, and blaming,
             and behavior that makes us feel like we'll never be enough.

Nothing we've done has gotten us to where we are at this very moment. It's a gift we've been given because we are loved by Someone far better than any of us will ever be.

     You are enough.
          As you are.

     We all are enough.
          As we are.


Our lives were weaved together for purpose that our being imperfect won't ever mess up. 

I'll just keep on breathing, because breathing is something I really can't not to do.
I'll just keep on living, too, because it is also something that I can't not do.

Whether together or apart . . . let's live, let's learn, let's love . . . as. we. are.

     This is our worship.


Linking with Bonnie