Thursday, January 29, 2015

on contentment (and how to be a Warrior)




Once upon a time my mother would occasionally ask me if I was happy, and I would cringe whenever she did.

I would defend my life choices and try to convince her (and even myself) that I was indeed, happy, even though I wasn't really. I lived discontent and frustrated. Mother's just know these things about their children, and try as I might to fake her out, I couldn't.

My mother wanted her daughter to be happy and she was poised to give me whatever advice she could to help me get out of a situation that made me unhappy. Still, I cringed because I wanted her concern to be greater than circumstantial-happiness.

I knew that it is awfully selfish of me to pursue happiness over what's right for my story and quitting a challenging marriage, for example, wasn't something that I thought was right for me.

I craved inner peace, even though I didn't know it back then. 

When other people start questioning our lives or even making suggestions, we can tend to get all tripped up and find ourselves defensive, or think the easier way is to go it alone and to shut everyone out. So I tried.

I lived so restless and dissatisfied and pined for control -- for. so. long.

I thought I needed to be better and different. I couldn't accept myself and that bled into not being able to accept others, either. I lived for so many years with a scowl and nasty look plastered to my face. I was angry at the world for doing all the wrong things when I was trying so hard to do the right things.

Anger made me resent living. I tried to do everything and have the attitude I was supposed to have or should have. I was too ashamed for not being where I thought I should be.

     I didn't honor or even pursue my heart. 
     I didn't even try to get to know me. 
     I was so mean to me.

Whenever people asked me my "favorite" anything, I'd stumble and fumble for a decision, claiming that I didn't have one, because really, I just didn't know. I was more focused on what I should like that I didn't even consider what I liked or wanted in life.

I'd complain about what I saw and judge everyone, yet I wouldn't be able to articulate what I would want, even if I could have anything I wanted.

I didn't accept my story and instead wanted to run away from it. I envied people who went on trips to far away places, yet I didn't stop to think about all that a trip like that would require and whether I would even think it's worth it if I were given the opportunity.

Nowadays I reflect something far different than I did all those years ago. Sure, happiness alludes me a lot of the time, but it's more than that -- it's contentment.

     I am content with my life, as it is, and with myself, as I am. 
          And truly I tell you, this is no small thing. 

No matter what happens, I know that I can trust God, even when life looks ugly and feels brutal and the storm clouds begin to whirl and twirl in front of me. I can trust Him because I've seen beauty come out of what seems broken and impossible.

It took a long time for me to realize that we weren't made to go it alone. We weren't made to keep a closed heart. We were made for so much more.

My heart is full of joy because I am so overwhelmed with gratitude for every single bit of this, as Glennon says, "brutiful" life I've been given.

I've discovered that there is purpose in all of life and that it isn't up to me to decide what should happen just based on my own feelings or want or comfort. 

There are lives affected and influenced by how my own story unfolds and though sometimes I'd rather be the writer and producer of my own story thankyouverymuch, I know deep inside that so many would miss out on what their own story will become because our lives were interwoven. The same goes with my own life and the importance of the story of others' who I get to know, if even for a moment.

Every single person I meet has happened on and for purpose.

Once I discovered that we are all on-purpose people, I began to truly rest. I began to find contentment with my life without trying to change it or wait for it to be different until I finally decide to embrace it.

Perhaps the most amazing thing that has ever happened in my life so far is this contentment. 

God loosed my white-knuckled hands that nearly suffocated everything and everyone. He gently steered my attention to see the perfect ways He created me and my story, and he helped me to simply live instead of stroking-out from such an intensely focused try-hard life, or flat-lining from giving up entirely.

I learned that I am happiest when I am doing what I like. My heart beats louder and stronger when I'm doing what I enjoy. It requires that I sometimes ignore the Facebook feed and ignore all that everyone else is doing; that I sometimes live with blinders on, at least for a little while I'm gaining strength to run my own course.

When I live my life and let my heart pursue it's desires, I live the Me that God created. 

I learned that I honor Him by noticing His creation -- the part in the clouds that give way to light, the giggle of a baby, the wag of a dog's tail, the touch of my groom's hand, the smile and nod by a friend that communicates I am understood . . . the flavors and colors and experiences and hobbies that feed my heart.

I learned that it takes courage to trust that when we let others in, we won't lose ourselves. That, no matter what someone says about us, suggests to us, or smirks about in front of us, we can still be our real selves. 

God did some profound things to get my attention. 

I don't bother so much with theological discussions these days. Or Bible memorization. Or even church attendance. I don't call myself "religious" and actually can't stand to be referred to as that.

I don't concern myself about what people might think of me anymore. Or get all wrecked inside when I get a nasty look or tone from someone. I am letting people be messy, mistake-prone humans. I've chosen to live by faith and not by the attention from others.

     I am leaning into grace for me and for all of them.

I am passionate about teaching my son that he matters and that everyone around him does, too. And I can't help but to encourage others to see the beauty in their story, as it is.

I simply and fully choose to trust the very personal God who made me and live a simple and restful life.

When I look past how the world or people think I should be, and instead remember that someone will always disapprove of me and I will always come short in some way, I give myself permission to consider that the messiness doesn't mean I don't matter.

When I give myself permission to simply and fully be, I live as the Warrior who He called me to be.

Monday, January 19, 2015

on being "fit"


Last week I listened to the co-creator of a successful adult "game" speak about the initiative he created to help people make a positive change in their life.

Prior to hearing this man speak, I had nearly made up my mind that this challenge that takes the form of a competition is not sustainable. I remembered that I've been known to be wrong about a few lot of things, and so I decided that I'd hear him out and then decide for myself whether joining this challenge would be right for me.

I was careful not to judge and most especially, I was really sensitive to not coming across as better than those who are looking for help. Ultimately, I walked away with a decision that though this isn't for me, it could be right for someone else.

The essence of the challenge is about accountability and having to daily report ones measure of success at following the "rules" associated with challenge.

I like the idea that over a set period of time a person might like any changes they've made in their life as a result of following the rules. Maybe a person will end up noticing that she doesn't need to make a change after all; perhaps she didn't follow any of the rules and felt good about her decisions.

What I'm most concerned about is the quick-fix sought after through physical or dietary challenges, followed by the realization that sustaining the behavior is impossible in real life. The glare people give themselves in the mirror and the words they tell themselves are critical of not measuring up to their own unrealistic expectations.

Ripped abs and a sugar-free diet aren't all that. Sure, on the surface they are evidence of will-power and perhaps even an applaud-worthy kind of discipline. But, life happens and not all things stay the same forever . . . unless coerced or forced.

There are people who can get themselves through all four seasons and still have the same shape to their bodies all throughout. Most people, though, rise and swell with the tide. Reality for humans is that we can't usually hunker down and stay focused on a rigid kind of disciplined life for long.

I've prided myself for getting through seasons and years with the same weight and shape. The reality is that kind of rigidity wasn't something that I continue to be proud of, in spite of the praise I have often received from numerous kinds of people in my life.

A few years ago I learned that I had the power of turning people off -- that they looked away and down when they saw me. I made some people feel as though they could never measure up. Knowing this made me feel sick with embarrassment. It's not that I had the kind of body that we see on most magazines, by any means; however, I was living life and still able to keep up a regimented discipline and for some people, this "discipline" was admirable.

For me, this "discipline" simply became my way of life. I was proud of that kind of life until I realized how incredibly exhausting it was -- how it had actually robbed me of life.

Truthfully, I was only happy when I was exactly the shape and size that I preferred to be; otherwise I was mad at myself for being so weak. Taking a hard-core evaluation of my contentment, I realized that most of my life was in a state of work versus a state of rest. Simply eating and moving had became a full-time job. I needed to discover what I actually like to taste and do, versus just telling myself something is good for me.

One day out of the proverbial "blue", I decided that I'd consider a different kind of discipline; the kind that says "this is enough".

At first it was difficult to tolerate a reduced running distance or even a simple walk around the neighborhood. Like a baby being spoon-fed, I needed to repeat the words: "this is enough," over and over again to myself.

Eventually, simply breathing and stretching really was enough. I could feel the tension in my body ease and I could actually feel the benefits of nurturing my body versus torturing my body in a quick, rigid way. I discovered that strong is actually so much different than I had ever defined it to be.

I have a general feeling of how much exercise I need to put in each week for my body to feel good -- not just to burn x amount of calories, but to actually feel good. Having this kind of awareness is so different than calculating what I ate and how many miles I need to run to make it so that my body doesn't reflect my not-so-perfectly-healthy choices.

I reached the point where I decided that I'm okay eating a sweet treat most days, or maybe even not exercising on a given day (or two, or more). When I've gotten off course from what feels good to me, I make adjustments. And I make them because I feel better when I do, not because I have to.

Berating myself or placing restrictions and rules on myself does nothing for me except to make me feel angry that I can't have what she's having. I've learned to pay attention to how I feel when I reach for a spoonful of peanut butter and that when I neglect to do that, I might pay better attention next time.

Being "fit" is about so much more than what a gym membership or a several week challenge can ever do.

Being fit is recovering when we've sabotaged ourselves -- by breathing in our humanness . . . acknowledging our distraction by the rules we thought would save us . . . and being at least a little more conscious in this moment than the last.

Freedom doesn't lie in our will power or in books or diets.

Freedom comes when we acknowledge that we are loved -- as we are -- and when we decide that having peace and joy matters more than having a certain type of body or certain type of lifestyle.

So let's begin there. Let's begin with love.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Chase


There was a time when I thought I knew what it means to be "fit" and nowadays I'm embarrassed to even say how I defined it to be:

Ripped abs.
Eight-mile runs.
Sugar-free eating habits.

Those were the days when I was convinced that I was broken and need to be fixed. Everyday involved taking a fine-tooth comb to my very existence and identifying everything that needed to become better about me.

I wasn't enough.

All the ideas I had of who I should be seemed so attainable, yet just far enough out of reach to keep me occupied all the livelong day with trying and trying and trying harder to become who I wasn't.

Restlessness had its way with me. Anger, too. And eventually, exhaustion.

Because, something's gotta give. Always.

It could've been my marriage. And it almost was. The number of times I nearly destroyed it all and threatened to leave are too many to count.

The number of times I quit trying and resorted to saying things that just reflected a cold, bitter, exhausted, lonely, and sad heart are quite possibly equivalent to as many steps as it'd take to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.

: : : 

One day last year my groom said something to me along the lines of how much happier I'd be if I would just stop trying so hard. He encouraged me to be content with me, as I am -- now.

While in a store he even pointed out a small sign that read: "happy girls are the prettiest girls."

Those words, combined with the ones I had heard him say just days before, nearly made me explode in a million different pieces right there in front of him.

Just how is a person supposed to stop trying and start being when all she's known is a pursuit of working harder to be better? 

I felt naked and helpless. And truthfully, quite embarrassed.

My groom had called my bluff. He had known all along how completely miserable I was in my life and he made it known that I hadn't succeeded at hiding my true discontent from him.

Happiness was never something I pursued; I knew it was fleeting. I resigned myself to a lifestyle that gripped everything tightly and assumed that muscles get strong when they're flexed and so therefore, I was "fit".

It turns out that muscles actually get weaker when they're constantly constricted. They forget how to even work. Chronically tightened muscles signal to our body that we're in danger and keeps us in a constant state of defense, eventually exhausting and depleting our whole selves.

This isn't fitness. This isn't even wellness.

I tried to find out "how" I was supposed to fix what was indeed broken about me, only to discover that trying to further control myself was not the way.

I needed to learn flexibility and discover that being vulnerable -- raw and real -- is actually what is means to be strong.

I needed to learn to be patient with myself, and ultimately to be kind to myself.

I needed to actually face the real truth about who I am and not be shocked by my humanity.

I needed to become more aware of the beauty of my life, as it is.

: : : 

Once I reeled back from the realization that my groom knew the deepest truth about me all these years, I realized the most powerful part of the story: he stayed.

My groom was deliberate in his intention to fulfill his commitment to love me, and the best part is that he chose to love me as I am. I didn't need to change in order for him to love me. I didn't need to become someone different.

I still don't.

My groom didn't choose to love me because of a vision I had for myself.

The most powerful thing I realized is that I am loved for being me -- a sometimes messy, hypocritical, talkative, deceiving, angry, conniving, cajoling, questionable . . . and other times gentle, graceful, kind, sensitive, generous, encouraging, creative person.

For so many years I tried to be the best me I could possibly be. Perfection has lots of colors and though I never considered myself a "perfectionist," it eventually became obvious to me that my tendencies clearly fit the definition.

My Creator deliberately crafted me with imperfections and I have come to believe that He uses those rough and jagged edges of me for purpose; most especially, for me to realize that I am enough. My strength and abilities can't accomplish all I want or envision that they might someday; still, I am enough.

It took a long time for me to consider that I am perfect, as I am.

Where I don't measure up, God fills the gap. And what He wants to shape differently about me, He will reveal in due time and work with me to accomplish.

I can trust that God doesn't make mistakes and that He will guide this deliberately-crafted-imperfect-human-being on the journey that He has designed uniquely for me.

: : : 

I've been chased: hunted down and deliberately pursued.

God knew how far He needed to go for me to see His love for me. As I've seen His love, I've learned to chase hope with that same deliberate intention.

I've learned that the thing that I envision might not be the thing at all, yet I can still deliberately pursue that which niggles at me day and night, while actively living in a state of rest.

Now is enough, as it is . . .
     and I am enough, as I am.

For years I connived and cajoled to have a second child. I thought that not conceiving another meant that I wasn't good enough.

I learned the hard and painful way what real surrender is all about.

Eventually, I humbly discovered that what I wanted most was peace -- a life of rest.

I learned to hope when nothing makes sense.

And now, after seven years of begging . . . one year of pretending to surrender . . . and one year of real surrender . . . I've been given a most remarkable gift of grace: the news of a second son to be arriving in the middle of this year.

This gift didn't come because I surrendered and "stopped trying". God did this.

His timing, purpose, and providence is His alone.

The waiting and wrestling was never about a baby . . .
     it's clear to me now that it was about things so much bigger and better.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

the hard work of Now



We sometimes try to prepare ourselves for what we think might happen.

We say we're just bracing ourselves for what might be when really we could be just wasting our time. It could be that our suspicions are really just our fears in disguise, pretending to be someone they aren't.

What we think might be or could be, really might not ever or someday be.



We want to avoid hurt when the hard truth is that there will be pain in this life. Something will happen someday that we didn't expect and our current reality will be forever changed. We will feel like our joy was derailed.

There is no way to know for certain what will come around the corner next in our life, and there is no way to prepare for it.

Some have tried all sorts of magical fortune-telling escapades to prepare themselves and though I suppose it's possible, I suspect that knowing the future would dissolve any joy for now. Attention would be so focused on what will be, that what joy there is now would be hard to even notice.

I imagine all sorts of scenarios for my life. As a dreamer, it's hard to turn off the mind and just focus on now. "Be prepared" has been my unspoken motto. I get all antsy when I stay in the now, worried that I'm not considering what might be.

Crafting an imagined scene of my future takes me away from what is. I start to confuse what is really reality and start believing things that aren't certain, and that are therefore lies. It gets frustrating to sort out truth from possibility and inevitably I find myself all mixed up, anxious and angry.

Staying focused on the Now is grueling work. 
It takes strength not to focus on what might be. 

In my own life, as it is, I'm struggling to receive the precious miracle of life that is a baby growing inside of me. I imagine this life ending and it pains me to talk or even think with any expectation that we will one day hold this child alive.

I know that nothing is for certain and I know that life is fragile. It could be that I am being prepared for the inevitable by holding onto this gift loosely. And it could also be that I am trying to protect myself from potential pain that won't ever even be, causing me to miss out on fully receiving the gift that is Now.

It's a push/pull between our minds and our hearts to do the hard work of focusing on Now. Yet, I am committed to not missing out on what is. I don't want to waste today's gift of life, no matter what might or might not be tomorrow.

Let us commit to the hard fight of Now.
Let us live with our hearts splayed open wide, no matter what may be.

Let us refuse to imagine or expect anything beyond what is Now.
Let us accept life, as it is.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The power of one teeny, tiny word



On this Christmas Eve I am reflecting on the life I have and how I almost missed it and quite nearly lost it.

For so long I focused on being better than I was. "Grow" was on my daily task list, though it needn't actually have been written. It was a priority for me to improve myself, assuming that staying as I was would be irresponsible and a waste of time.

When I wasn't fixated on me, I was trying so hard to help others become better versions of themselves. I could see the cracks and holes in everyone around me. Like a mason, I assumed that I would not be fulfilling my obligation if I didn't do what I could to patch everyone up.

Contentment was something I'd never allowed because I didn't believe we should ever accept the imperfect.

Stress was a constant feeling that I experienced. There was always work to be done, either in me or in others. Rest was something I assumed to be reckless and wrong.

Innately, I believed strong was the mighty warrior who never gave up; the one who stayed in the ring and fought to the very end. Strong was getting better at holding up the weight, and seeing the ripples of muscles was evidence I would be ready for a storm. I feared my grit and guts would be overlooked during the quieter moments of life so I perched and flexed myself to be noticed, poised for battle.

I couldn't relax.
I couldn't even smile.

"Be ready", and "Trust no one" were the two mantras I lived by deep inside. I needed to be ready because I knew life is imperfect and each day is a battle.

Anger became my constant way of being.

I was mad at myself when I couldn't do what I knew needed to be done.
I was mad at everyone else when they didn't do what I was certain they should do.
I was mad at things and situations when they failed to meet my expectations.

Blowing up, lashing out, and distancing myself were my go-to tendencies when I didn't know what else to do. I wasn't ever "good enough" to make things become the way I believed they should be, whether it was people or possessions or even what I sensed was unseen and hidden potential.

I was disengaged with the beauty of life, devouring every moment as a battle for love. The possibilities of what I could become was what I thought was lovable about me -- not who I simply was, but who should be. I thought people had a far-off view of who I was supposed to be, yet never knowing for certain what they saw.

Exhaustion eventually had its way with me. I couldn't keep up with even my own expectations and exclamations. I began to consider the life I had around me in spite of all the attempts I made at giving it all up because I just couldn't get myself to be good enough. The hardness that had become of my heart began to crack as I noticed beauty in places where I thought there were only broken pieces.

Practically a dead girl walking, I was barely able to feel anything, much less even see love that surrounded me. I made myself the victim and whined at how "he", and "she", and "that moment", were the reasons for my distress. I neglected to consider the beauty that I could behold from the weaving of all moments without trying to better situations or become someone different.

Seeing the unraveling of beauty out of broken situations was an amazing sight. It became addictive to uncover it hidden deep within the darkest places. Gratitude for gritty, gunky moments welled up within me and though I felt silly and a bit crazy, I discovered joy and peace in a way that a "try hard life" never gave me.

Deep inside, though, I was scared to accept these gifts that came of all that was loosed within me when I knew that nothing lasts forever. I wanted to be prepared for the inevitable and the proverbial bottom falling out. I tried to guard and protect my heart from hurt, bracing myself with a strength that I thought was necessary and that would negate the power of any blow. Flat-lined was how I started to become, until I discovered that even that isn't living.

I considered that I could be wrong about what I imagined myself, and others, and life might someday become. In one seemingly random moment I decided that what I wanted most was to jump right off the train that I had let get out of control and simply sit on a bench, spending the time I've been given scouting for beauty and letting myself feel deep, abiding joy. Even in the midst of all that I sensed was wrong and broken, I discovered that I was strong for accepting what is, not for trying to make what isn't.

I considered the condition of things, as they were.

As. This teeny, tiny word tickled my heart and whispered into my soul. And soon, perfection started to loose in me; it wasn't my attempts that did it, and I haven't arrived at a place where I don't try for it. Still, in place of my daily grind for perfect, I discovered a contentment for me, for others, for life -- as. it. is.

God has done in me what I could not. In seeing all that He's done, I have decided that I can trust that He will do whatever else in me that He sees as necessary. I can trust that I am loved in such a way that I can rest.

I am now convinced that there is no greater way I can worship my Creator than simply by being -- as. I. am.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Giving thanks


Sitting in the quiet of the new day's dawn, I marvel at the fresh blanket of new snow.
I hold the moment as a gift and consider whether I'll walk, run, or blaze a trail on skis today.

Thick white powder adorns the trees making them look so sugary sweet. 
It's hard to imagine that just two days ago the temperatures were summer-like.

Lights glow from our neighbor's kitchen window and I suspect she is preparing a tasty feast.
In just a handful of hours the aroma of Thanksgiving will emanate from houses near and far.

Families will soon gather, smiles will be shared and dishes will be passed.
As hunger satisfies, chatter will quiet as slumber has its way again.   

There are some who won't share what my family will today.
I think of them as I recall the distress and unrest that was once a part of us. 

We celebrate the change that comes after a seemingly eternal wait is finally over.
What happens overnight or in a blink of an eye sometimes feels less miracle-like. 

Much of the world still sleeps as I think of all that has happened within me.
It is too early to see many of the tangible signs, yet life is whirling and twirling within me.

More than blood courses through my veins.
Joy and happiness, contentment and peace.

My body holds my own heart and now a small one of another.
Many days my reality still feels like a dream.

I sometimes dismiss the significance of this time since there isn't evidence in my shape. 
Still, cells are being multiplied at a rapid rate as limbs and organs are being formed. 

The wait was long, yet it was purposed for so much more than I'll ever even know.
Though doubt often niggled at me, trust was perfectly honed within me. 

The length of the wait doesn't make today any more or less of a miracle than it is. 
We are simply at the mercy of God for how our story will unfold and how we will grow. 

The seasons sometimes seemed so mixed up. 
There were summer daisies blooming when there should have been fall mums. 

Still, contentment came before this little one was ever conceived.
For this I'm most grateful because it truly isn't circumstantial for me. 

Forgiveness, peace and joy finally fill my heart and my home. 
Today and this moment, as well as the wait and the wonder, was all a deliberately given gift. 

Everything ties together for me as I look out at the perfectly white snow-covered trees. 
The shards of grief gave way to all that has grown within me. 

Life feels a lot like death a lot of the time and we wrestle at His ways. 
Still, peace eventually unfurls within us and for this I give thanks. 

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.