Monday, April 27, 2015

You are noticed


I'm off from work this week and this morning I noticed life hustle and bustle all around me.

It's not even Noon yet and already it's been a remarkably beautiful unfolding to the day.
In the midst of fears and doubt, chaos and confusion, excitement and even delusion . . .
Today is already majestic.

I'm convinced that nothing about what I've seen already today is ordinary.
Glory has unfurled.

What I've seen gives me rich evidence of grace.

: : : 

Neighbor who put forth effort to smile and wish me a good morning . . .

Momma holding walking down your driveway, holding your daughter's hand . . .

Friendly lady who waved and smiled when you noticed that it was me crossing the street . . .

Woman rushing your son to school and being patient with me as I crossed the sidewalk . . .

Two chatting friends walking together . . .

High school teenage girl carrying your lacrosse stick and waiting for the bus . . . .

Crossing guard waiting for the children . . .

Lady in the window at Subway who smiled big at me . . .

Village worker holding the sign to drive carefully . . .

Neighbor rushing out to scold your dog from running at me and into the road . . .

Children waiting for the school bus . . .

Village and Town workers trimming trees and cleaning up . . .

Friendly men at the local Agway who told me to have a nice day . . .

Workers cleaning shelves in the grocery store . . .

Delivery truck drivers en route to stock the empty shelves . . .

Girl who rang me up at the grocery store and smiled as you saw my round belly . . .

Kind woman who bagged my groceries . . .

Mail carrier who stepped over my freshly laden mulch . . . 

Father instructing your son -- our son -- on how best to help . . .


: : : 

I noticed you today.

You were busily doing your thing.

Working.
Committed.
Living.

Yet, still, I noticed you.

The work that you do.
The effort you put in.
The life you live.

You matter.

Even when you aren't noticed by me, Someone greater notices you.
He is pleased with your very life.
Not because of what you do, but because of who you are.

So, carry on, dear people. Carry on.

You are noticed and loved more than you'll ever know.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

learning to receive


It feels easier to keep all the feelings to myself.

Stuffing my thoughts in my journal or reserving them for the book that I might never actually finish or publish seems like the more comfortable thing to do. It's less risky of being perceived as prideful or lookatmeish. Posting on Facebook or on my blog is so forward and I imagine a big red arrow flashing: Look at Me!

Yet, I think there's something that needs to be said.

I know I'm a hot mess and that I can be overly dramatic, overly sensitive, and overly self-conscious. I can tend to make much ado about nothing and worry over imagined things versus real things. In my attempt to not make messes, I create bigger ones. Still, I know that I am not alone.

Here we are, nearly 11 years since our first son was born, and we're expecting another. The guy at the furniture store yesterday asked us point blank why we would do such a thing. "Why start all over again?" I joke with people about it and eye roll, claiming that this came as a surprise when it's something that we actually hoped for. We actually chose not to have our children close in age.

I've waited for so many years to see this dream come true of having two children. Around the time our son was two years old I began asking when we could try for another and for seven years I continued to ask that question, begging and cajoling and trying to be good-enough.

Eventually, I learned what surrender is about and made the hard choice to let it go. I stopped asking and started considering that maybe having two children wouldn't be a part of our story. I started to be okay with our life as it is.

Without realizing it, even though I was experiencing contentment, a twinge of bitterness took root in my heart. I so much imagined our family as being just the three of us that I actually closed off my heart to having another, so bitter about the waiting and the faith-living.

I wish that I could say that I was willing for anything since I said those words so many times, yet the truth is that I really hadn't arrived at that place of willingness. Sure, there were moments when I was more willing and it felt as though I was genuinely open to whatever plan God had for us. And sure, there was a lot of progress that was made in my walled-up heart that allowed me to consider that perhaps my dreams weren't His dreams. Still, I didn't arrive in the ways I wish I did.

When we found out that we were expecting my dream of a second child, I reeled back as if the thought were a hot stove that I couldn't touch or I would get burned. It took me several months of living anxious to realize that I had been living as if I was swimming in a pool and suddenly gasped for air, panic-stricken.

I was so aware of my fear that we would lose this baby, or that maybe it wasn't about the baby and there was something that I needed to learn in the process and losing the baby would be a necessary part of my story. I momentarily forgot about the vision I had two years prior that our kids would be exactly 10 years apart and how I was actually excited to be an older mother with the experience of having a different kind of story.

There were so many people who I shared our news with so early and I wanted to limit their happiness for us. I didn't want to face them if we lost this joy. I feared pity and misunderstanding because no one fully knew the journey I had lived and even those who stood on the periphery of our story had limitations to their connection with me.

I did a pretty good job at erecting boundaries that were more reflective of brick walls designed to keep me safe. I have kept people at an arms distance away to reduce any risk of hurt or disappointment. I imagine that maybe people don't really care that much and they're just being nice. I hear people say they're so busy all the time and I feel like I'm a nuisance or an inconvenience when I try to get together with them. At the same time, I don't make accommodations for people a lot of the time and let "busy" be my excuse to dodge relationships.

I want people to know that I am happy to see them and be around them, though I don't really want them to get too close. I'm not sure what my actions actually communicate and a part of me is really too afraid to know the truth. I wish I wasn't this way, yet it scares the bejeebers out of me to even think of being any different. It's just so much easier in a lot of ways to keep up this charade, though I know that it really isn't.

When friends ask if anyone is throwing us a shower for this new baby a part of me is delighted at their kindness, while the other part of me wants to shirk into my shell and say that I don't need that, I can do it on my own thankyouverymuch . . . besides, who has baby showers for the second child ( . . . even if it is 11 years later . . . )?

I hear myself mumble to myself, "I'm an adult now and capable of buying my own baby gear." I hear my own self defending my life, prideful that I am doing things "right" now and that I don't need anyone.

I hear these words and I remember how I want this time to be different. I want to enjoy and notice and soak up the moments. I want to receive any help and any happiness anyone might have to offer. It won't be perfect and I am careful not to romanticize this experience, but I so much want to receive all of it -- as it is -- instead of trying to do everything right all the time.

When our first son was born I didn't make any accommodations for how my life would change. I didn't make adjustments at work to peel back even a little bit. I focused on work and how-to-be-a-good-mother with such an intense laser focus. I don't remember actually feeling anything, I was so head-down driven to do and be all things. I had a lot of growing up to do, for sure.

Now, there is a different way of living that my journey has led me to receive. I am more willing to accept my weaknesses and my strengths as they are. I am less prone to try-hard to be all things and more apt to enjoy the moments. Even though I still have so much more to go in my learning to live a life that is reflective of rest, I enjoy so much more about life than I ever have before.

The wife of a very good friend of ours has offered to throw me a shower for this baby and I responded to her with, "Who would even come? . . . They're all so busy . . . " I think about how I've shut them all out anyway, and wonder who would even want to come. I feel silly and awkward and embarrassed.

My heart knows that the years in between my first son and this pregnancy isn't about the baby, just as I know that a baby shower isn't about the gifts or even the people. I'm learning to live open, to loose my wants and dreams and all my comfort-strappings. I'm learning that though I don't "need" the people, maybe there is a gift in being with them and even for them in being with me.

I recently realized that I am not as introverted as I once classified myself as being. I discovered that being around people actually gives me energy. Even watching people interact with each other is enough for me. I need people. It is fear of doing life wrong, or of being perceived as too much that has kept me back and alone.

Why don't I slide open my glass door and sit among the people who I really want to be with? Why don't I invite them in? Why do I continue to make it appear that I am too busy for them when really all I do is sit on my couch and think about how I need people?

It feels easier to just watch the world from inside behind the comfort of my own windows. It seems easier than risking any rejection or worrying how they might really feel or what they might really think. But the truth is that it isn't. And I finally know it.

I can hardly even remember all the people I'm "friends" with who live near me. I don't even know who my people are because it's the local, in real life people who I've been most ashamed to be me around and who I dodge and duck and cover to hide from. A part of me wants to post on Facebook, "Who would come?" Names start raveling into my thoughts: Jen, Erin, Lauren, Molly, Joan, Trish, Erica, Mari, Debbie, Kristen, Theresa . . . Would they come? And then I think about the people I work with and how I too often categorize them as only my 8:30-4:30 people . . .

Boy-Man tells me to say "Yes!" if anyone wants to throw us a party. As scary as it is, I think maybe his bold confident acceptance of kindness is what it means to be strong. Maybe it's time to open the sashes and doors and to step out in big, brave courage without smiling and waving in genuine happiness only to quickly put my head down in fear. It's time to celebrate relationships and to risk what is real.

Who is with me? Who can remind me that I am not alone while reaching for my hand and receive the gift of relationship?

Friday, February 20, 2015

the heart of humans


Last week many people across America experienced the coldest night of the year. So many of us are all still recovering from being inundated with snow and we're grumbling about February's brutal wind and downright frigid temperatures. I'm one of them.

This is a year unlike most when I am finding myself like so many others, anxious and feeling like I can hardly wait for Spring to arrive.

My seasons have felt all mixed up this past year, at least it felt that way in my heart. Last Summer felt a lot like Winter -- dark and cold-seeming -- and then for a brief moment Fall felt like Spring -- hope blooming and unfurling.

Life has been revived in my heart and through my soul.
Life has been reproduced in my body and through my marriage.

Life is growing inside of me.

My family and I are anxiously await the arrival of with a precious long-awaited and hoped-for miracle of a baby boy. This third somebody in our family is something I was certain would be a part of our story. For years I ached and longed to see that which I believed would be true really come true. Though weariness found its way with me and so when it really was finally upon us, I felt a resistance and a fear that perhaps it was too good to be true.

Before this baby wiggled and tumbled inside of me, I was anxious at the thought of potential unrealized death lurking below the surface. I could barely imagine it swelling and thriving sight unseen. Much is how this literal season of winter feels and so evidence of life is something I've been aching to see. Trees are stripped bare and all evidence of life seems to have its head buried underground or hibernating in a warm place.

My hormones are on overdrive these days and every sense within me feels heightened to the nth degree. As I read in our village newspaper of last week's storm and how our local school district was one of the few area districts not on the scroll of weather alerts, closing and delays, I found myself welling up with tears. My throat had a lump-ish feeling in it and my heart felt like it had doubled in size with awe. I can't blame all my awareness on these crazy hormones, though, for surely something more has caused this.

A relatively new Superintendent for our local district was interviewed and talked about the "careful consideration and planning" involved in making the decision to keep the school open this week when so many of the others were on the list of closings and delays. This new Superintendent talked about how the safety of kids was their top priority and though one could easily make a brash accusation that perhaps the District Office didn't consider this, reading the article opened my eyes to the behind-the-scenes consideration and perspective of these school administrators.

"The School adapted bus routes and made arrangements so that any and all kids that wanted a ride got one," read The Clinton Courier.

Walkers were considered, after all!

The article went on to say, "Messages went out to parents [the previous night], letting families know that bus drivers were instructed to make 'courtesy stops' at houses, so that students could stay indoors until their bus arrived."

And then there was this: "In one case where a student had to go down a long driveway, we drove a smaller bus up and picked him up at his house," said the new (caring!) Superintendent.

Our town is used to snow and cold. Winter has its way with us every year and so it wasn't a surprise that activity was abuzz in town that day in spite of the bitter temperatures. People did what people do, stopping for coffee and just bearing with it.

I ran one of those morning's last week when the weather blew in snow the night before and temperatures were cold, though not the coldest. The Village Department of Public Works crew was busy loading trucks with snow and relocating it. Sidewalks were plowed, street corners were made visible again, and pedestrians were more easily noticed with the snow cleared of buildup.

I pass those workers several times a week throughout the year, whether it be during winter's storm cleanup, or summer's street sweeping and rubbish removal. I wave to them each time I run by and they wave to me. I appreciate the work they do and mostly, I appreciate the camaraderie we share in caring for our Village. Last week when I waved, one of the men in a bulldozer honked at me. I was noticed and felt such love and gratitude well inside my heart.

There are other people I see while I'm out in the early morning, neighbors and faces familiar to me. Though I don't know most of their names, these are my people and I feel safe among them. Our morning routine of smiling, nodding, and waving at each other is a communion of sorts. Our breaking of the dawn together is like the breaking of bread. If I should fall or need an extra hand, I know these Villagers would help me and I would help them if they ever needed help.

This place where I live represents a messy collage of human hearts. The Village of Clinton, New York isn't unlike many other places in this world. We have our small-town issues, sure. But, reading about and seeing in person, how people consider and care for others reminds me that though we can tend to be complicated, competitive, conniving creatures, we are also bold, beautiful, beloved beings.

I didn't used to feel a warm, tenderness for the place I live. I felt wonky and out of place and wanted nothing more than wide open spaces.

Reading in our newspaper of the thoughtfulness and consideration people have for one another and being reminded that though this world can be so cruel, I know that this world can also be genuinely caring, reminds me that there really is something more that has caused this.

Even though it sometimes appears to be dark, still, and quiet, life will eventually unfurl and spring forth with evidence of its existence.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

on beauty and success

Happy girls
are the prettiest.

            ~ Audrey  Hepburn

He shows me the quote while we're browsing in a store and I nearly well up with tears. 

I get it now. Pretty isn't what I used to make it. 

Something profound has happened in my heart and I can feel it.
     What was once closed up tight is now broken wide open.

When my groom showed me that quote in the store and smiled at me, I smiled back and thought about how I really do get it now. 

I've always been younger than most of my peers. I couldn't wait for grey hair and fine lines to make me look older; surely then people would think I'm credible and good enough. When I landed a biggish-feeling job early on in my career, I held my breath hoping people wouldn't find out my age. I imagined people dismissing my capability just as soon as they found out that I was so young.

I wanted attention in all the wrong places.

Because of my determined and intensely focused way of being, I thought I could get whatever opportunities and experiences that I thought I deserved. I was under the impression that we ought to do whatever we can to make our dreams happen.

In my world, dreams were fulfilled through hard work and discipline. I believed we can accomplish anything we put our mind to. I considered dreams to be like cookies that I could decide to reach in and take for myself, or decline and miss out on altogether. Now I realize it's true that hard work pays off, but not always in the ways we imagine or the ways we want.

Even if we do what we can and find our dreams unfolding before our eyes, every choice comes at a cost. Sometimes we underestimate the extent to which our choices have on others and the very life within us.

My approach to life was to do whatever I could to protect myself from the threat of pain, even if it meant missing out on certain experiences. I thought there were insignificant parts of life that should be dismissed and my attention should only be on what matters most, like working hard at making everything right. 

Success was, to me, all about being better and fixing what is wrong. 

I knew that nothing is perfect and so I looked for brokenness in everything. I spent my days hammering the stakes in ever deeper to keep my tent from flying loose to keep the bad guys out.

I was so aware that each day is fragile and not for certain that I focused so much on the possibility that I might get sick and die young, or that the people I treasure might suddenly be taken from my life. Fear encapsulated my heart. I focused so much on the seemingly big stuff that I distanced myself from moment-by-moment experiences and denied myself happiness.  

Rules and expectations were my guide, making me rigid. Twig-like.

The threat was always high that I'd burst into a wildfire at any time. I was so thirsty for joy, yet nearly every drop of happiness evaporated on the surface before it got much of a chance to soak in deep to provide life-giving moisture to my dry and brittle soul.

I walked around a cold person who was nearly dead inside. 

Things happened in life that hurt and I was disappointed that I couldn't control the bad guys or keep the bad things out.

I had been under the impression that I was a superhero of sort and angry that I was made a fallable-human. I patched up my insides as best I could with such thick armor, making it so that I couldn't feel anything. 

Since I couldn't control things and people, I tried to control myself. I chose foods specifically because I read or heard they were good for me and made conscious choices to eat things that tasted like dirt and cardboard, only merely tolerating the taste. I made an idol out of certain drinks and foods touted as cancer-fighters. I didn't even consider if I actually enjoyed something.

Every decision I made was based on rules I created, all in an attempt to control fear's grip over my life. The cost of perfection nearly cost me life itself. 

Joy was something I didn't allow myself to seek or experience until it remarkably found me in a regular, everyday moment that I realized right then was anything but regular and every bit significant.

Something as simple as watching my son eat plain vanilla ice cream with colorful sprinkles made such a profound impact on me. Vanilla had always seemed so boring and not worth it, yet when I considered the flavor of the bean's tiny seeds, I began to understand the treasure in the taste, and though they add no nutritional value and cost extra, sprinkles are simply fun. Joy-full, actually.

Like the flick of a light switch, I knew something needed to be loosened in me. 

I realized that no matter how trivial or inconsequential-seeming something might be, if a part of life makes me smile it really does have value.

Suddenly, I remembered the time when I had eaten a tiny sliver of lemon cake that a colleague brought into the office one day several years ago. I remember that teeny-tiny bite being quite possibly the most delicious flavor I had ever tasted. That memory heightened my senses to life and I wanted more of that.

Turns out, it takes time to loosen the grip on a tightly sealed lid. Though I craved fun and freedom, my muscle memory was to clench tight in fear. I was willing to choose joy instead of chase perfection, I just didn't know how. I feared whether willingness would be enough.

I feared the cost of loosening my grip. 

I had been treading water for so long and felt like I was gasping for air. I knew that I needed to swim with the current and trust that I would survive without all the armor that was merely weighing me down. But, surely, that would feel uncomfortable!, I thought.

Living the way I had been wasn't doing me or anyone else any favors. That my family was still a part of my everyday was nothing short of a miracle. Rules and the try-hard life weren't making me advance any faster to my dreams, and especially not because I was good. Living that way simply made me exhausted and depleted.

Slowly, I let myself experience more the gift of grace has to offer. 
     I began to open myself to the love of the people who are a part of it all. 

I became more mindful of my reactions through my senses and became overwhelmed with gratefulness and contentment. I considered that life really might be enough, as it is . . . even though it it might not be how I would have it. And I considered that I really might be enough, too, as I am.

I considered that maybe my imperfections and the imperfections of life are actually perfectly designed and that I can trust God knows what He's doing. Maybe I could rest.

It felt a bit wonky interacting with people and life felt sort of clunky as I learned to navigate what it means to be me and not someone I think I should be.

For so many years I wanted to hover and hide. I allowed myself to die a bit on the insides as I waited for the eventual to seize me. And then one day, as I lay in a heap on my living room floor crying a hot mess, I heard myself say: "I just want to LIVE!"

Life bloomed.
Beauty unfurled.
Success was completely redefined.

Not because of anything I did, but because of the gentle love of God . . . for me. 

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.