Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Use Your Words...Wisely Please

So here we are. We have encouraged our children to speak up and “use their words.” Well kudos my friends, that is exactly what they are doing and unfortunately, they are not pretty. But today, I have no words. Well, actually I do, but putting them down on paper has proven quite a massive undertaking. I’m not sure why, but this week has been nothing short of mentally debilitating and my parental load-bearing beams have been all but  demolished. The train pulled into the rumination station for the nine thousand twenty-seventh day in a row at approximately 2:36am. Enter the deluge of deep thoughts and crippling fear. How in the hell am I supposed to teach my littles how to navigate a world spinning out of control and emerge healthy individuals on the other side? Did students (and parents...ugh) at my local high school really spew hateful racist comments at an opposing team, was the story embellished to garner attention, or were both sides guilty of misconduct? I’ve read hundreds, if not thousands of heated comments from passionate individuals claiming, “The truth will come out.” And the only retort running circles in my mind like a dog chasing it’s tail is this...does it really matter? I would like to believe the issue will be thoroughly investigated and addressed appropriately, but here’s the thing - maybe it will and maybe it won’t. At the end of the day, the only purpose that will serve is to vindicate one side. In my humble opinion, validation of position should never be the end goal. If it’s validation you seek, you will find it one way or another and likely stop at nothing to do so. May I be so bold as to claim the facts of the case are actually somewhat irrelevant, or better stated, less significant than other factors at play? And please do not assume I am mitigating culpability and ramifications for those involved. There must be a fitting punishment and acknowledgement of wrong-doing. But what if, instead of playing the blame game we simply shifted our focus inward? What an amazing opportunity we start a conversation, to practice the art of forgiveness and empathy, to address the value of not just listening, but hearing. What a blessing to be presented with the possibility of truly affecting change - on even the tiniest scale - within this little town we call home. My town has been and will be better than this. It starts at home and we are talking for sure.

I am heart-sick and emotionally burdened by the actions and words of our youth and not simply this week alone. I wish I could say I am surprised by the events that unfolded, but I’m not a fan of duplicity. It is no wonder they are confused and misguided, blind sheep led astray by the slightest enticement. We are raising them in a world of conflicting ideas, blinding contradictions and blatant hypocrisies. How are they to make sense of messages that war amongst themselves? We tell them, “Silence is golden,” but also, “If you see something, say something.” We clutter the airwaves and elevate rappers who use racial slurs and epitaphs as if they were conjunctions but are dismayed when they parrot the very same phrases and terms to each other. We tell them to have hope and try to make the world a better place but with the same breath tell them all is lost and the world is in dire straits because we elected a president we don’t like. We emphasize gun control and that violence is never the answer and then the media sensationalizes the taking of innocent lives and floods them with images of violence in video games during Monday Night Football. As a society, we have done little to solidify in them a firm foundation. We have not fostered a safe and secure environment in which to thrive, but rather, have hurled them out into the great unknown with an empty tool box and a pat on the back.

We live in a society that has decided it is more important to gently redirect our children and give them alternatives to their pursuits rather than overtly tell them “no.” There is, however, on occasion, an absolute right or wrong way to act and behave and yet we fail to recognize it. Unfortunately, as they grow and struggle to become fully functioning adults, they will hear “no” quite often and while I strongly support not giving up on your dreams, the reality is that sometimes the answer truly is no and they must learn to accept it and move forward. We have regrettably bred in them an inability to function in these instances. We have failed to convey to them the value of the bigger picture, that there are moments when even teachers become students and sometimes having the last word will only widen, rather than bridge the gap between compassion and contempt, kindness and cruelty, consciousness and ignorance, humility and pride.

My husband and I have always believed our primary focus should be on building self-esteem in our children. The shoulds and should nots, behavioral and societal issues we address with them are secondary. When they make an unwise decision, we certainly rebuke them, but the focus is on building in them a framework from which to make their own well-informed decisions. We strive to empower them to test the narratives being fed to them, critically think for themselves, and rest on what they know and believe to be true. I think the same general principles apply here. The missing piece is discernment. We have failed to teach them the art of discernment so they can correctly apply the so-called wisdom we impart. Without discernment, wisdom is a violin with no strings. What beautiful music we might make, yet we continually fall one note short of a symphony! It is only in knowing your audience and being able to clearly determine the climate of a situation that you can correctly discern the wisdom to apply.

I've heard it said that when someone else is speaking we spend the first 17 seconds formulating our response rather than actually listening. We see it in Facebook posts. A post is made and within two seconds there are 20 comments being drawn up in response. Where is the listening or more accurately, hearing taking place? We immediately seek to defend, challenge or be heard when perhaps we haven’t actually received the message at all. We don’t give ourselves enough time to “hear” each other and consequently, misunderstanding and ultimately, polarization follows. It is not enough to simply shut your mouth and claim to listen. Real change occurs when we hear and further, validate each other. The sad reality is that we have been conditioned to prove our point. What we lose in so doing is the ability to see beyond the words to the intended meaning or at the very least, the worldview from which it comes - its inception, the filter and experiences that shaped it. The new mantra is, “Hurt people hurt people.” I hear it often. I see it reposted almost daily. We say it, yet we don’t actually believe it, because we continue to talk over each other in an effort to be right, to be justified. We are failing miserably, but I cannot simply sit back and accept defeat. The future of my children hinges on it. In fact, demands it.

Alas, what the world needs now is love. True, but I think what it needs more urgently is understanding. Because in this day and age, it goes something like this, “I love you and you love me, but I disagree with you and let me tell you why you’re wrong.”

Me being the self-loather that I am, when someone takes issue with me, I immediately assume it is my fault. It is definitely a weakness, but I also see it as a strength, because at the end of the day, I would do anything to make it right - not to be right, but to find a resolution and some understanding as to how I hurt the other person so that it does not continue to happen. It forces me to look inward and question the validity of the accusation, to consider my actions and how they affect others. It may or may not hold water but at the very least, it warrants and begins a discussion wherein I have the unique privilege of delving into the mind of another, what makes him/her tick and this is what I love most about life - introspection. It defines who I am, affirms my character, and directs every step I take. I believe so many of us get hung up in the acknowledgement of our shortcomings. Simply engaging in a conversation that addresses your actions and encourages you to reflect upon how they affect others does not mean you are conceding defeat (although I don’t love that word here). It simply means you are open to understanding the position of another in a way that could positively affect change. Although I think our human nature would disagree, if I engage in a healthy debate, I’m not necessarily trying to convince the other person that my way is better, because maybe it’s not. When I’m wrong, I say I’m wrong (yep, veiled Dirty Dancing reference). The point is, if both people approach the conversation from the same angle - understanding - everybody wins. Ultimately, you will both address the problem sincerely in an effort to make it better. At the very least, you are privy to a different perspective and will likely be a better person for it. Growth does not come in stagnancy. We are ever-changing, ever-evolving human beings, with boundless potential to do extraordinary things. In my mind, the purpose and meaning of life is relationship - with each other, with ourselves, and with a higher power, whatever name you choose to give it. I like to call mine Jesus, Lover of My Soul and Healer of My Heart. 

I’m not quite sure how to end this post, so I’ll just say this...use your words is not a bad starting point, but how you use them will take you from conception to fruition and somewhere in the middle maturity, growth, understanding, (insert literally any positive word here) will rear its beautiful head. Maybe it’s time we give our littles a break and take a turn on the buddy bench ourselves. Pride comes before the fall. Perhaps it is time to do a safety check, skip the tightrope for a day and instead, make sure our feet are firmly planted. Maybe it is time to steady our resolve, polish our listening skills, practice understanding, and allow for the possibility that perchance we do not know it all.

This is neither here nor there, but it suddenly occurred to me after I commented on a post on a certain page that I had opened myself up to scrutiny. While I was proud that I didn’t get attacked as many on said page do, I realized that should someone choose to “investigate” my beliefs further, it would serve me well to revisit my own page and ensure all my ducks line up. Silly, but self-reflection is in order. Are my posts consistent? Do they all reflect the same ideology? Do they align with my initial comment or are they a myriad of contradictions? Do I change and waiver in my approach to fit a narrative? To gain a friend? To be liked or accepted? Or simply to avoid upsetting others? Just a thought. I digress, just shut up already and let someone else have the floor for a minute!

Sunday, July 01, 2018

A Package, A Puppy and A Purse

I believe I experienced my first runner's high today. It had absolutely nothing to do with the wind or the terrain or the distance to which I had traveled. It also had little to do with the fact that my asthma felt quite non-existent and my lungs had somehow taken a trip back to the days of my youth. I ran further and faster than I ever have and as I did, noticed a pattern beginning to emerge.

I fancy myself a writer. Writing has always been my outlet, my therapy and will always hold a very special place in my heart. But these days, I am beginning to fancy myself a runner as well and for entirely different purposes. I am a better person when I run and not merely because it brings me indescribable peace and contentment, although it does indeed. Running has literally made me a better person, if for no other reason than it has afforded me opportunities to be precisely that.

Since I took up running as an outlet for my anxiety and boredom less than a year ago, I have had three opportunities to prove that altruism is indeed alive and well. The first took a great deal of courage on my part, at least from my perspective. Passing through an industrial complex, I spotted a large box in the middle of the street. Considering the times we live in, I jumped straight to fear and apprehension and felt certain it was an explosive device not to be disturbed. Curiosity put my pessimistic self to bed almost immediately and tucked her in tight. I held my breath and gently nudged the box with my foot. Several tense seconds later and much to my astonishment, I found myself still standing, still breathing, all limbs intact. Upon further examination, I discovered that the box was merely a package from Urban Outfitters that had fallen off a delivery truck. I exhaled. Although I fancy myself a runner, I do not at all fancy myself an iron woman and therefore did not think it possible to haul the box the remaining four miles to my house. I promptly entered one of the nearby offices and requested the front desk staff hold it until I returned to retrieve and deliver it to its rightful owner. On I ran.

The second opportunity that arose to prove myself a do-gooder was the discovery of a wallet, or the contents therein alongside the road. It was a gorgeous day and though I am ordinarily lost in the lyrics and rhythm of my favorite songs and laser focused on my own thoughts, for some odd reason - perhaps not by chance - I was scanning the hillside as I passed. Something shiny caught my eye. Scattered amongst the bushes were several forms of identification, a gas card, frequent flyer card and yes, there was even a credit card among the debris. This quandary was much easier to navigate. There would be no shopping spree in my immediate future. Honesty and integrity prevailed and to say that I would be intrigued by my own actions would be the understatement of the year. I tucked the items into my pocket and on I ran. To my surprise, locating the owner online proved quite effortless and she was altogether pleased to be reunited with her belongings. 

The third opportunity I have had the privilege of stumbling upon transpired this morning as I passed a fellow runner. Trudging along behind her was an excited and highly spirited dog. I commented on how darling he was, but a brief conversation revealed that she was not his owner and seemed perplexed as to how to proceed. We both attempted to corral the little ball of energy but he proved quite elusive. She eventually went on her way and I cannot at all fault her, as the situation appeared quite challenging. Witnessing  him dart in and out of passing cars gave me pause and something inside simply would not allow me to abandon him. I waited for him to tire and when he found a shady spot, latched onto his collar and phoned the number on his tag. There was no answer but as luck would have it, a couple passing by recognized my new friend and gave us a proper introduction. They were unable to return Tsuki to his rightful owner, as they had several dogs of their own. I happily carried the pup and followed the couple back to Tsuki’s home where I secured him beyond the front gate. On I ran.

We are all capable of great things. Opportunities present themselves every day. It is how we approach and respond to these opportunities that defines our character. There were no accolades for the “good deeds” I have been blessed to bestow upon others during my runs. No one inquired as to my name and no rewards were offered, but altruism is its own reward if you allow it to be. I was simply given a chance to step outside myself and exercise a bit of kindness if only for a moment. Running has made me a better person. I can see it on the faces of the drivers passing by. There is a certain light that shines within you when you are given a choice to take the path less traveled - the one that is oftentimes, contrary to our human nature - and you heed the call. There is a certain beauty that transforms you from the inside out, a peace that captures your soul and cannot be likened or attributed to a physical act, but rather an inward change that occurs when you choose to do the “right” thing as opposed to the easy thing.

I fancy myself a runner these days, not one of elite stature but rather, one who has simply been changed by the road. These days it seems I cannot run home to the pen fast enough to share the journey, its many blessings and hopefully, restore or plant a new seed of faith in humanity. “A man with integrity walks safely, but those who follow crooked paths will slip and fall.” ~Proverbs 10:9

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Therapy Couches and Rose Colored Glasses (If it's broke, don't try to fix it)

I was told recently by a somewhat new acquaintance that I’m too old to have young children. In disbelief, I asked for clarification and said, “Are you seriously calling me old?” Now mind you, he was several drinks in and perhaps in a slightly altered state, but nonetheless aggressively confirmed that was indeed, the intended meaning for which he would make no apologies. I was stunned for a moment, as I had spent a fair amount of time earlier in the evening engaged in what I deemed to be friendly conversation wherein we were getting to know each other a bit better and thus, felt a bit blindsided by what I took to be a blatant insult. Another friend who had been listening in saw my frustration and hurt and tried to reassure me that this “gentleman” would most certainly regret the statement in the morning and quite possibly in an hour or so. Perhaps he would. Perhaps he already did. But most conceivably, there would be no regret to come. I’d like to say I immediately dismissed the flippant comment as ignorant, insignificant and maybe even a misunderstanding of the inebriated kind, but such was not the case. I am a woman after all, and a professed self-loather - the deadliest of combinations and so, I let the comment marinate for a solid day or two and allowed it to pierce my soul on a level much deeper than I care to admit. The truth is that I barely know this man and his words should have carried no weight, yet still I allowed the insecurity to creep in and the pain to gain a foothold, if only for a moment. And then I went for a walk and the truth of our humanity steered me back in the right direction. Maybe he’s a sad, lonely soul like so many of us. Maybe he’s a bitter, angry soul hell bent on making sure others feel his pain. Or maybe he is simply one of those people who have chosen not to invest in me on anything other than surface level. Yep, I’m gonna go with that. Because at the end of the day, most people will not choose you over themselves - over their own insecurities and hurts - but those who do are the ones who deserve your time, affinity, presence and energy. "There comes a time when you have to stop crossing oceans for people who wouldn't even jump puddles for you." ~Author unknown

I decided on that particular walk, with a clearer mind and in the absence of the insecurities and demons that grip me daily to make a promise to myself. I promised from that day forward to surround myself with people who uplift me, people who invest in me and genuinely care for me: not simply people who tolerate me. I promised to choose people who choose me. I believe the true meaning of life is, simply stated, to be in constant relationship - not solely with our inner selves - but with each other and whoever or whatever calls us to a higher power. For me it’s always been a Heavenly Father, thee Heavenly Father to be exact and I’d be doing He and myself a disservice if I did not acknowledge the current state of that relationship. Those who know me well and have read my musings as of late know that I’ve been on a journey, a soul-searching of sorts. I’ve affectionately named it a mid-life crisis, but that is neither here nor there. I believe it is, at its core, an authentic, honest, struggle with my demons and I have no delusions that I have chosen not to include my Heavenly Father in the crusade thus far. Sufficed to say, I am keenly aware that He has been along for the ride every step of the way and has chosen not to leave me - not for one fleeting moment, not for one second. I am His and He will not and has not quit on me. It is perhaps, the messiest, most exasperating, misunderstood relationship in my life (on my end anyway - to Him it makes perfect sense), but also the one I hold closest and dearest to my heart. Therefore, I am confident it will be brought to fruition in due time. I am grateful He has chosen not to forsake me and I am daily drawing closer to Him. So breathe my concerned friends and family. I am still here, in His loving arms and headed home, slowly albeit, but eager and optimistic. I digress. The meaning of life as I understand it...

I have learned considerable lessons on this journey and am confident there is much more to come, but what is permeating deep at the moment is how I interact with those around me and how I engage in relationships with those I care deeply for (and perhaps even those I don't). What I’m only just beginning to understand is that they aren’t actually meant to be perfect relationships and therein lies the virtue. I’ve formerly addressed them on therapy couches, believing myself to be a “fixer," wielding psychological duct tape and interpersonal super glue as if they were the holy grail! I’ve told myself lies such as, “If I can mend this bruised relationship, I’ll find peace and contentment and all will be right with the world once again - or at the very least, with my family and within my friendships.” I’ve approached them from the pulpit with a wild tenacity, believing myself to be righteous and finding no fault on my end. It’s always the other half of the equation who is to blame. The pain they have caused me takes precedence over any wrongs I may have done to them. And I've even viewed them through rose-colored glasses, deeming them fully functional in all facets, otherwise known as denial. Introspection aside, when all is said and done, it really does not matter, because it always seems when one struggle is resolved, another takes root. There will always be one more miscommunication, one more injustice, one more unintentional slight - or God forbid - an intentional one. At the end of the day, there will always be conflict and struggle, because I - and those I choose to engage with - will always be human and finite, flawed and imperfect, broken and bruised. And though it sounds hopeless, it isn’t at all if I can shift my perception a bit to the right - or more fittingly - heavenward. I tend to relish the struggles and to find beauty in the darkness, in the broken. It is, after all, through the cracks that the light shines in.

The truth is that I am not meant to have flawless, elementary relationships with the people I love and care for, although that would seem ideal in this present darkness. The sooner I learn to accept and even thrive within that reality, the more joy will find its rightful place in my soul (insert serenity prayer here). Make no mistake, I am in no way saying that I have chosen to opt out of my relationships and throw in the towel. They do indeed serve a purpose, as challenging as they may seem. I believe I am meant to use my relationships as a gauge of sorts, with the sole intention of bettering myself (and hopefully those around me) until I am one day fully transformed (or self-actualized, as some would say). The fractured, dysfunctional, cracked relationships I struggle with every day point me directly to the one perfect example of relationship, which is the one I share with my creator. I believe that is the only perfect, pure and authentic relationship I have the privilege of engaging in. And not because I am perfect; because He is perfect and all He desires is all I have to offer. These days it’s not much, but for Him, it’s more than enough. Oh that I could approach each of my relationships with the same love, grace, intimacy and enthusiasm he brings to ours! 

Back to the promise I made to myself, back to the clarity I am blessed to receive during my daily walk (with thee). I am confident I will still feel slighted at times, still struggle with my insecurities and still fail to effectively communicate my love for my friends and family on more than one occasion. I am confident I will mince my words and proper articulation will elude me on more than a thousand occasions. I am confident damage control will always claim a bullet on my resume. But I am also confident of this. I will never stop trying. I will never stop investing in those who invest in me. I will recognize the failures and shortcomings of others and myself as opportunities to grow and learn. I will choose people who choose me and try my best to not concern myself with those who do not. And I will not run from the deficiencies and discord in my relationships, but will do my best to delight in them. And if I pass you on one of my walks, not only will I NOT do my best to avoid eye contact with you as most people I encounter do, but I will cross to your side of the street to look you square in the face as I say, “Good morning” to you. 

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Light A New Fire and Give Me Desire

I’m a terrible mother. No really, I am. I’m also a terrible wife. And a terrible friend for that matter. I try not to discriminate.  I’m pretty much failing miserably across the board. All I can really hope for these days is that I don’t ruin my children for all eternity, that somehow they will survive my shortcomings and failures and manage to become well-rounded, kind, and fully functional adults...or at the very least, decent human beings. And maybe, if I’m just lucky enough, my marriage will not only survive this phase I find myself stuck in but will actually emerge stronger and more fruitful at its cessation. Perhaps I’ll even get lucky enough to have a few of you still standing by my side when I finally grow up and get my head screwed on straight and my life back on track (God willing). I’m going to pause now to wait for all of you who are silly enough to call me your friend to reassure me that I am not at all any of the afore-mentioned things, that I am indeed, a good mother, wife and friend. Go ahead, chime right in. No? I thought not. Then I will indulge my sorrows a bit further and invite a few more guests to my pity party. Here comes the brutal honesty. Fasten your seatbelts. This one might not sit well with some of you.

I am the chief of sinners. As Timothy so eloquently penned, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - of whom I am the worst.” And I do so often feel that I am and must indeed be, the worst of all sinners (insert a multitude of sins here, beginning with pride, ending with selfishness and basically everything in between). But I have decided it is futile to ask God to help me stop sinning or even to forgive me for my sins, although I do know I need copious amounts of forgiveness on a minute-to-minute basis. Make no mistake, I am aware that He desires us to seek forgiveness and I have many, many times in the past and will do so many, many times in the future, but what I genuinely crave and need above all else presently is simply, desire. I need a desire to turn away from my sinful desires, to choose the path less traveled, and to fulfill the roles God has called me to play in my life. I need a yearning to be a better version of myself - a better wife, mother and friend.  I need a longing to choose virtue over sin. You see, the desire to walk the straight and narrow has been replaced as of late with an insatiable impulse to run, to escape, to be anywhere other than where I am at this moment. Call it a mid-life crisis (that’s what I’ve been calling it). Call it restlessness, this uneasiness that consumes me, this feeling I can only describe as crawling out of my skin. Call it boredom. Call it whatever you’d like, but to deny its existence would be catastrophic at best, because these things do not just fade away. These feelings do not resolve themselves. I look at most of my friends and neighbors, the moms at the school, on the baseball field and at the Girl Scout meetings and think, why do they not feel the need to flee? Why are they perfectly content to volunteer, engage, encourage, cuddle and step up where it matters most? Why are they so firmly planted and engaged in their children's lives and in their marriages, to their friendships and families? Why do I always feel so distant and disconnected? Why does wanderlust consume me? Why am I constantly listening for the sound of a passing freight train to carry me far, far away? Why have I not settled into motherhood after all these years? Why, oh why, do I always seem to be the only one fighting vehemently to contain my tears on the sidelines of the soccer field, unable to fulfill my halftime duties of sliced oranges and water distribution?

I have many things at my disposal on a daily basis. I have plenty of guilt, shame and regret. I have exhaustion to boot. I have uncertainty at every turn, medication to stabilize my mood swings and counter the depression, and enough personalities to fill a large stadium. I have loads of heartache and suffering and an impressive accumulation of self-loathing that has been years in the making. I have disappointment and insurmountable feelings of inadequacy that tear through me like a hurricane. I have bitterness, insecurity and frustration. I have abandonment issues from childhood right up until today in my faith, or lack thereof.  And I have so much accumulated rage and bitterness that it frightens me to the core. My life is abundant with all things stifling and oppressive. What I don’t have enough of is the desire to shake the stagnancy and move beyond the pain. I need desire.

And so I am making myself a promise. I am vowing from this day forward, with the tiniest seeds of strength and hope that remain within me, to ask daily now for desire alone. And though I don’t fancy myself anything remotely close to a prayer warrior these days (in fact it takes everything within me to even acknowledge the existence of my faith sometimes), my soul will cry out for nothing more and nothing less than a shred of longing to start anew. I will seek a hunger to feel warmth and affection toward my children when my very core wars against it and I find myself kicking against the goads with every breath. Pause for effect here. Inhale, exhale, don’t freak out. I love my children with every fiber of my being. I would take the same bullet for them that any mother would. They have my heart and soul forever. And I know how painful it sounds to say that being their mom is not always enough and the feelings of affection don't always come naturally, but if I am nothing else, I am a truth teller who values authenticity above all else and I will be the first to admit that the struggle is real. I need the desire to put their needs above my own, the desire to sacrifice on their behalf. I need the desire to work as hard as it takes to survive this phase of life and come out clean on the other side. I need the desire to make my marriage work despite the fact that the flame might have waned a bit and we are indeed two ships passing in the night. It’s not personal. The love is there. We have a good marriage and a solid foundation. We are good friends, committed to forever. We are, simply put, over-committed, weary and missing the mark on far too many occasions. I need the desire to start fresh and move forward, to cling to the thread I am hanging by and stay the course, however obscure it may seem. I need my thirst for adventure to be replaced by a thirst for contentment. I need my instinct to run to be overshadowed by a love of the present and an appreciation of the power of mindfulness and intentionality. I need so many things, but I can gather them all under the blanket of desire. And so it begins.

I am confident of one thing alone. This storm will pass, as they always do. This hurricane will undoubtedly leave a wake, but will no doubt, flame out in due time. And when that time comes, I will welcome the next phase with open arms. When the apology tour has concluded, the tears have been bottled, and the seas have been calmed, I will lift my eyes heavenward and behold the beauty of a God who refuses to forsake me, a God who, in all things, works for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). I will say a silent prayer of gratitude to my savior for allowing me to feel what I need to feel when I need to feel it despite the grumblings and fear of those around me (I love you all dearly, but I do not need to be saved. That work was finished long ago as far as I know). I will weep tears of joy and relief that my God never allows me to fall too far from His grasp, too far from His loving arms, too far out of reach. Because just when I am certain I am beyond redemption and grace - at the very moment I am confident He cannot possibly continue to love me -  it is then that He carries me and calls me home. It is then that He rescues me and reveals Himself to me. It is then that He reclaims my heart and breathes grace back into my life. And it is then that my soul sings, "How great thou art."

Monday, August 14, 2017

Not for the Faint of Heart

Some people are afraid to be alone with their thoughts, afraid of what they might find in the dark places.  They’re afraid to face the pain and demons of their past, to hold the mirror and confront what lies behind and what lies ahead.  I’ve always celebrated the quiet times.  I thrive.  It’s been close to a year since I’ve put the pen to the paper (metaphorically) and alas, the time has come.

Fear not, dear friends, this is not a cry for help, just the honest musings of a girl unhinged. It’s time to tear down the walls and practice a bit of authenticity.  Some people are simply drawn to the beauty in the dark places and I have always fancied myself one of them.  I don’t long to dwell there, but appreciate the opportunity for growth that lies within.  I’m not the girl with a thousand Facebook friends, but the few friends I do have are there because we share a desire to scratch more than the surface, an understanding that we all fall short.  We have the intrinsic ability to extend a level of grace to each other not commonly found in this day and age.

Three people in the last week alluded to the fact that I have chosen to no longer walk the career path.  I took that as a sign.  Perhaps it’s time to explore what feeds my soul, the trappings that have greased the wheels thus far and where the path now finds me.  I’ve been fortunate and blessed enough to be home with the littles for 10 years now.  Oh that I could joyfully admit that I am a wife and mother fulfilled to the core!  Call it a midlife crisis or mere restlessness.  It almost pains me to admit that there is still a yearning, still a seed unplanted and in need of watering.  Please don’t judge me.  Being a mom is my greatest accomplishment to date and I would gladly trade all my wants, needs and desires for the sake of their happiness (insert literally any scene from Bad Moms here).  Yet it somehow seems not enough to still this wandering heart.  My greatest accomplishment falls painfully short and it literally destroys me to say that out loud.  My soul aches.  My spirit cries out for more.  

Let’s get the elephant out of the room straight away.  To say that I am distant in my faith would be the overstatement of the century.  Truth be told, forsaken is the only word that comes to mind.  No need to panic all my sweet Christian friends and family members - and definitely no need to try to fix me.  If you believe it as you say you do, God will make a way and will go after the one.  The Prodigal’s daughter will return in His timing.  But the journey finds me here and I’ve never been one to feign contentment.  Anyone who knows me well knows that I value honesty above all when it comes to my Abba Father.  Pure exhaustion has set in and this girl has finally reached her breaking point.  No longer do I have the desire to “cling to the truth,” to “walk the road less traveled,” or “store up my rewards in heaven.”  Truth be told, I’m spent and threw in the towel quite some time ago.  Again I say, don’t judge me.  I’m fairly certain my God can handle yet another rebellious tantrum with the grace and patience that I wish I could extend to myself.  Maybe I should start there.  

Why is it so difficult for some of us to love ourselves?  I am certain on levels beyond comprehension that it is my picture that appears beside the definition of self-loathing in the dictionary.  Why do I continue to tread water until I’m literally gasping for breath when I’m standing in the shallows and need only to touch the bottom?  How can others see the beauty in me when I can only see the deficiencies, limitations, shame and regret?  Why is it so easy to forgive the ones who paved the road I attempt to navigate and yet I cannot forgive myself or deem myself worthy of such grace?  Self-loathing can be a funny thing - a scary thing - and also a highly destructive thing.  I assigned myself an identity when I was a very young child in the throws of an alcoholic family.  I decided who I was to become and the storyline I would write for myself.  And I penned every moment as it unfolded - from looking for love in all the wrong places to repeating patterns I swore I would not.  I chose my truth and made the conscious decision to fit every event, moment, interaction and thought into that truth.  My truth?  That I am utterly and irrevocably unlovable, unworthy and beyond redemption.  

Sometimes I feel as if I’m watching myself flail around trying to surmount insurmountable obstacles.  I’m angry that I’m not one of those people who can use my adversity, rise above and emerge with a great story of redemption and glory - at least not yet.  I’m angry that I have been so “blessed” with the ability to see the imperfections, destructive cycles and dysfunction in my life, but cannot seem to break free.  I’m angry that the desire to be better, stronger and healthier is there, but the carrot is always dangling just out of reach.  I have become comfortably numb.

So I spent the day binge watching my top three faves.  Not much to be said about Reservoir Dogs other than it’s beyond amazing!!!  But there is no better flick to tap into the part of your soul that cries out for understanding than Almost Famous.  Maybe it’s just me, but music speaks louder in my time of need than any friend, lover or family member can.  Give me Zeppelin.  Give me Floyd.  Give me Free Bird when I’m running full speed ahead downhill trying to escape.  So I replaced half the songs on my iPod and went back to my roots. Call it a rebirth. There is something profoundly cathartic about rediscovering a song that carried you through a difficult time in your life, something that has the power to awaken a sleeping soul and brings with it the promise of better days ahead.  Almost Famous is pure gold.

But the movie that spoke loudest in the silence of this night was Into the Wild.  If you have not seen it, I highly recommend it.  Based on a true story, it chronicles the life of Christopher McCandless, son of a wealthy couple who trades all the niceties of his well-constructed life to follow the longing for something more, something truthful, something real, something born into the very core of his being and never fully satisfied by the successes and accolades accumulated in his short life.  He runs, escapes.  He leaves the comforts of home and takes to the open road to find his truth.  He meets people with stories, people with pasts and demons, people in need of truth.  He sheds the knowledge instilled in him, the traditions bestowed, the ideals handed down as indisputable gospel.  He trades it all to follow the yearning within.  And in his many encounters he meets a hippie wanderer, a mother separated from her son for one reason or another and offers his insights into her agony.  “Some people feel like they don’t deserve love.  They walk away quietly into empty spaces trying to close the gaps of the past.” I fancy myself a loner.  I am always walking away quietly into empty spaces.  Oddly, I can be the life of the party in any given moment and in the next feel a burning desire to run like hell and escape everyone and everything in my life.  In fact, the desire to get in my car and drive thousands of miles away on a minute-by-minute basis is so strong sometimes it’s all I can do to continue to inhale. I am the introverted extrovert, the dichotomy.  I am wild and tame all at once, brave and fearful, truthful to a fault yet unknown.  To say that I struggle with my demons would be a gross understatement.  I can name them, recognize them, see them coming long before they catch up with me and yet somehow cannot flee from them, defeat them, or overcome them.  Hence the current frustration and not-so-tame ambivalence.  

Time to stop circling and bring this baby in a for a landing!  How does one reconcile the wandering spirit within and the demands of family, faith and friendship?  Oh that I could hit the road and follow the voice inside that cries out for freedom and space, the voice that whispers, “Just go.  Leave it all behind and go.”  But we all know you cannot escape your own demons.  Wherever you go, there you are...right?  And so the adventure begins, right here at home, right here in the quiet of this dark night.  I’ve been asked why I don’t write every day and truth be told, I can only write when inspiration comes and so there’s that.  Tonight I have no burning words of wisdom, no hopeful diatribe and frankly no humor to lavish on all you night owls.  Tonight I write for me and hope you will indulge my selfishness.  We’re all on a journey, right?  Tonight mine begins.  In the words of Henry David Thoreau, “Rather than love, than money, than faith, than fame, than fairness...give me truth.”  

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Who Are You to Me?

The question was once posed to me, by a boyfriend I deemed “the love of my life” at the very tender age of 17, “Who are you to me?”

It came on the heels of him breaking up with me and me responding with a downpour of tears and anguish and a not-so-silent plea of, “How can you do this to me?”  I didn’t understand how someone I cared so deeply for could care so little for me.  It scarred me more than any physical or mental abuse I’ve suffered in my lifetime.  It stung so deeply that I’d venture to guess it has since colored every relationship I’ve engaged in.  It wounded me so completely that the gaping hole it blew in my heart has only grown wider and more painful and the patterns I’ve developed as a direct result have only grown more frequent and more disastrous.  I’ve repeated his inquiry to myself at every crossroad and let it permeate my soul with every new loss that has come my way.  And yet, I believe at the very tender age of 42, I am finally ready to part with the indictment once and for all.

I decided today to pose the question to myself one last time, but this time as if it were coming from a very different source and not the seventeen year old child who held my fragile teenage psyche in his unknowing hands.  How would I respond if it were God himself asking the very same question, “Who are you to me?”

And though it’s difficult for me to confidently assert the answer I’ve heard time and again in various sermons and throughout the Bible, I would hope my response would be the resounding, “I am the one You love,” that He seeks.  I AM the one God loves even when I am most rebellious and most unlovable.  What a life-changing mantra that would be if I learned to accept, believe, and moreover, live as if it were true.  I repeated it to myself about a hundred times in the mirror today hoping that somewhere along the way it would sink it.  Oh to live in light of God’s truth and view of me as His creation!  And so I will start here, with a different answer to the same accusatory question.  I will whisper it to myself as long as I have breath to do so and I will slowly let it sink in until it thoroughly changes my perception of myself.  I will one day believe it wholly and unabashedly and I will celebrate on that day a love that no earthly being can offer.  I will rejoice in the love of a Father who is not satisfied with 99, but will always go after the 1!  I am the 1 Jesus loves.

The Parable of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15)
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus.  But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

They are watching

To say that I am sad today would be an enormous understatement.  My heart is so, so heavy I can barely focus.  I’ve cried more than a handful of times and truly, a gut-wrenching, soul-spearing mournful cry.  I’m going to try to remain neutral as I share the contents of my heart on this historic and quite frankly, mind-blowing day.  I left the house for all of twenty minutes this morning and met anxiety, bitterness and hostile words at every turn.  I’m not ignorant of the severity and enormity of the situation.  I’m not immune to the implications.  I feel the desperation.  I see the disbelief on the faces around me.  I feel the anxiety more so than usual.  Quite honestly, I feel it more than most and I am so sad.  My soul aches for those who are hurting, those who expected a different outcome.  I’ve heard it said many times that there was no good option.  I’m not sure I disagree, but the frustration in that belief is that it leaves us where?  Devoid of elation, excitement and confidence?  Left alone with our collective conscience, our fleeting hopes and our best guesses?  Isn’t that what life is for the most part anyway?  Is there any certainty other than death?  If there were, there would be no reason to debate, no difference of opinion, no diversity, no chance to learn and grow and better ourselves.  Having said that, what happened this week happened and I will not be the first or the last to say, “it’s time to move on.”  Enter my bleeding heart.  Millions of Americans have a grim reality to deal with today, a letdown of epic proportions and a hurt that feels insurmountable and hangs in the air like a dark and foreboding cloud.  This.Takes.Time.  There may be a lengthy healing process and a period of mourning that hopefully will find its way to acceptance and hope and THAT is why I chose to enter into terrifying territory and write this post.  I’m not excited about it.  I don’t feel the need to disclose my preference for President of the United States.  Frankly, I don’t care anymore about how it all played out.  What led me to write today was an overwhelming urge to remind myself and hopefully others, that our littles are watching and we, as a nation are under a microscope.  What a remarkable and magnificent opportunity we have!

Ours was a house divided.  Some of us were on the fence.  Some of us were not confident even when we finally chose.  And some of us did not waiver in their convictions from beginning to end.  Let me first clear the elephant out of the room.  I recognize that my littles are seven and nine and I am extremely careful not to weigh them down with things they cannot possibly comprehend.  I temper my answers with age-appropriate phrases and less-is-more notions.  Having said that, they are curious and ask a lot of loaded questions.  I have done my best to indulge their curiosity without forcing my values on them.  I have always shared my beliefs with them openly and honestly and always close the conversation with something along the lines of, “Please remember these are my beliefs.  You will meet many people who value very different things and that is why it is most important to me that you treat them with kindness and grace.  Be open minded and learn as much as you can about as many things as possible.  And then make up your own mind.”  The littles were split and when they “voted” at school their votes fell along different party lines (indulge me for a moment).  That means, one or more of us did not emerge victorious.  They have watched us over the last few years try to weed through the lies and the insults, try to rationalize our fears and justify our stance.  They have seen us grapple with our own limitations and struggle to make sense of a seemingly senseless and broken system.  They have traveled with us to an extent on an exhausting journey and they saw it end last night.  So how do I compartmentalize the ultimate end to this journey?  I wish I knew what the future held so I could assure them we are in good hands.  I wish I could instill in them a confidence that defies explanation.  I cannot.  Truth is I am and will continue to pray fervently for this country that I love and for its leaders and for its youth.  What I can do, however, at this very moment in time is to be an example and try to navigate these times with hope and optimism.

We had a conversation before I dropped them off this morning.  I told them that they would likely encounter angry, hurt and frustrated friends today (most of whom do not realize the words they are espousing were fed to them and actually make very little sense to their ever-evolving minds).  What matters on a day like today is not who won the election.  What matters is how we handle the victory and the defeat.  I implored them quite honestly, to avoid the conversation at all costs, but if they were confronted, to be sensitive and patient, kind and compassionate, humble and gracious.  What I hope to impart to my children is a lesson in humanity.  I am seeking to raise my children with an absence of entitlement and an existence of dignity.  I am hoping their foundation will be built on hard work, diligence, staying the course and a belief that nothing comes without cost and great responsibility.  I hope they recognize that sacrifices are an unfortunate necessity and that there is a great and rewarding satisfaction when success is earned rather than inherited.  I hope they are keenly and infinitely aware and thankful for both their blessings and their struggles.  I pray they recognize that they are but one link on an endless chain and it is their duty and privilege to ensure that chain remain intact and not be broken. I’ve seen a hundred or so posts today about what to tell the children who are in tears, fearful of the next four years.  My children did not wake up this morning weeping and fearful and if they had, I would fear that I had done them a great disservice.  My job as a parent is to ensure a safe and secure environment for my children despite the circumstances around them.  I am not delusional.  They will learn in due time that the world is not a safe place.  They will learn that life is not always fair and just and predictable.  They learned the latter this morning.  They will have many opportunities to confront fear, anxiety and uncertainty in their short lives, but home, MY home will be a haven.  I will teach my children that hope is second to none, that compassion and grace are to be valued above all.  That kindness is not a trait we exhibit intermittently and put into practice during anti-bullying week.  Kindness counts every minute of every hour of every day.

I have always fancied myself a realist and I love to talk ad nauseum.  My poor babies!  I don’t shy away from the tough talks.  I am constantly questioning when it is acceptable to share my life experiences with them.  I want them to have a firm grasp of what they are up against.  I want to be the first to educate them on the realities of life.  I never talked to my children in baby talk.  I probably should have done more of that.  Point being, I have never been one to sugar coat and I am not about to start now.  I am fatally flawed, as we all are and as hard as I try, I fall short at every turn, but I will not give up.  I owe my children that much.  And I owe it to them to be as honest as I can when it comes to challenging matters such as the present state of our nation.  I refuse to shy away from opportunities to teach them valuable lessons.  So what is the takeaway this time?  My children woke up this morning with an understanding that life goes on, that the hope and optimism they feel about their future is still there, and that we love them no less and no more than the day before.  I’m not saying I’ve got it all figured out or that I’m doing any of this right.  I’m doing the best I can and am a work in progress.  I have tried diligently to focus more on the process and less on the people and I’ve actually learned along with them on this one.  I want them to understand why it is critical to let your voice be heard (even in California where so many people feel their vote doesn’t count).  I want them to believe they can affect change regardless of the obstacles.  I am teaching them that there is no gloating and no bragging AND ALSO, no pouting and no shouting.  

The reality of life is that it is not fair.  Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.  You will face adversity.  You will be overlooked on occasion.  You will have to work with people you don’t see eye-to-eye with and you will have to rise to the occasion on occasion.  You will have minor and major differences with others.  No matter how much unity we strive for, there will always be a divide because of two little things called free will and free thinking.  That’s the beauty of America...we are free to believe whatever we choose.  There will always be differences among us and if we can acknowledge those in a respectful and patient way, I believe we can find some form of common ground and put forth an effective, mutually beneficial society wherein no one feels they are being left behind. It is our interaction with each other, especially those we don’t agree with, that defines our character as individuals and as a nation.  So how do we navigate this rise and fall roller coaster that is democracy?  When others are hurting, you feel their pain and you seek to alleviate it.  When others are gloating, you rise above it.   You keep your head high and you press on.  And when you find yourself on the short end of the stick, you do not pout, stomp your feet, take your ball and go home.  You steady your resolve and cling to your beliefs.  You hold your head high, stand firm in your convictions, and exude graciousness and humility.  And if you find yourself at the head of the class, you do the same, because that is what my savior did.  He humbled himself and did not consider himself greater than others.  Philippians 2:7-8 “...rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!”

I refuse to immerse myself in a sea of fear and anxiety, because I believe that perfect love cast out fear.  And perfect love comes from one place only, one person, one great and loving Father.  And when my children are fearful and disheartened - and they will be - they need only to look Heavenward, to put their trust in a great and powerful God.  A God who can triumph over any adversity, any uncertainty.  A god who transcends our understanding and defies our logic.  A God who remains in control despite our best efforts to convince ourselves otherwise.  A God who loves every one of us...Republican or Democrat, black or white, legal or illegal, man or woman.  My God loves us all equally and unabashedly.  To me, there really is no choice.  He gets my vote every time.  Let the healing begin!

Heavenly Father, hear our cries and heal our nation.  Tend to our wounds, bottle our tears and bridge the gap.  Remind us that you are in control and cast out our fear.  Give us the strength, resolve and desire to put our faith and trust in you.  Lead us not down a road of bitterness and hatred, but direct our paths toward your grace and mercy.  We are your people and seek your counsel.  We are one nation, under God and we thank you for your providence and sovereignty.  And we hope in a bright and beautiful future.  Amen.