Category Archives: Strong

A Sheer Gift

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I sat feeling slightly defeated this morning as I stared at the Thankful Turkey my favorite and I made two Thanksgivings ago. My how (I thought) things were different back then…

Thanksgiving 2015: I was getting ready to celebrate married year number 9; 13 years total together with the one who had my heart. Oh how I loved him so – the good, the bad, the ugly. I was thankful for the life we had. I counted my blessings constantly and felt such peace. It certainly wasn’t always sunny in our lives, but I had learned to even treasure the rain. There wasn’t anything I wouldn’t do for my sweet little family of three (and all of our beloved hounds and those ladies of the roost) ❤ Little did I know the next Thanksgiving would feel gravely different.

I’ve had some anxiety recently and I cannot figure out what has triggered it. My heart just pounds. And pounds. And pounds. Much like it did at the beginning of this dark journey. Over time, my heart pounding has normalized, but something has it going again. Perhaps it is the time of year. More than likely it is the unfinished business. Or just maybe it is simply uncertainty when it comes to life. Truthfully, I am not really sure. It is probably all of it.

Back to this morning. In my Choose Joy devotional that my partner in crime gave to me after my life altered, I read ‘Our True Colors’ devotion. The passage associated with it is James 1:2 “Consider it a sheer gift, friend, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides.” Verses 3 and 4 go on to say, “You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” Hmm…my life is beyond crazy gifted then, friends. I’m not sure I’d like anymore ‘gifts’ from life.

After my devotion, I stared defeatedly at this Thankful Turkey for quite some time while I sipped my morning tea. Uncertain. And then I remembered.

I have learned something, I believe to be detrimental in this life that I will share with you. And as I read the whole first chapter of James (recommend), verse 19 summed ‘er up nicely, “You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” If there is anything I learned from what I perceived as my time of peace it is ‘slow and steady’. Rushing or reacting do not tend to work in our favor. I learned to sit and mull over. Over time, it develops an inner understanding that will become an outward flow. It takes stopping and feeling and giving yourself time to understand. If there is anything my perceived time of peace afforded me, it was this understanding: decisions shouldn’t be rushed, emotions shouldn’t always dictate our words, and never feel forced into anything. Taking time is okay.

I take this knowledge as a gift today. It keeps me grounded when my everyday life seems to change with the wind. I have no idea why my life has taken the altering twists and turns it has, but I am in awe of what I have learned. If there is one thing I am certain of, I am learning more. Everyday. I am becoming stronger. Everyday. I am becoming wiser. Everyday. I have more grace. Everyday. That is what is happening. I am learning such intricate details about what God, love and life is really all about. There is no other way to learn these things than through joys and sorrows. For it is in the joys and sorrows where the deep-rooted life appreciation grows.

It is amazing what can happen with the God perspective…I had such a creative day today. I think I enjoyed my solitude today more than I have in a very long time ❤ Trials are a gift. God will use them for good. I choose to live in my defiant joy ❤

 

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Derailed

How does it happen to you? You wake up and you’re just drifting, trying to stay afloat. It’s September 2017. I am a few months shy of being separated for a year and a half from the one who had my heart. I signed up for an online study reading, She’s Still There, by Chrystal Evans Hurst. It couldn’t have come at a better time.

I just finished reading chapters 4 and 5. The discussion is about drifting. Drifting off course. Drifting through life. I found myself writing in the margins of the book “WOW” beside many paragraphs in these two chapters. To say my life has drifted is an understatement. My life derailed. And in SO many ways. From feeling sucker punched in 2016 to people I called family and friends for many years shocking me with their actions. Words sounded nice, but behavior spoke differently. I didn’t make snap decisions based on emotions. Decisions to unfriend, leave and move on were made over time when I realized behaviors weren’t going to change no matter what they ‘said’. These losses come with the territory no matter how differently or evolved we want a situation to be…right?? It still hurts. Like I said – DERAILED.

Chapters 4 and 5 of the book got me thinking…is this how marriages wind up with legal fees and divorce attorneys? All because of drifting? There are so many powerful statements in these chapters regarding drifting: “blinded by the excitement of something different and new”, “drifts happen when we get distracted”, “preoccupied by something that isn’t good for us”, “distractions seem more exciting than the rhythm of the everyday, the boredom of the expected, the ongoing discipline to accomplish something worthwhile”, “distractions will attempt to avert your eyes”, “deception occurs when we’ve grown accustomed to the distraction”. I mean WOW. Lots of thought provoking words here. And all they make me think is – weak.

My favorite line between these two chapters and all of those scary words is, “The antidote for distraction is focus – the choice to pay attention and live aware.” Now this feels strong. Living with intention. Loving with intention. Living well and loving hard is a daily choice. It is not easy to love (and live with) one person, by choice, for all the days you’ve promised them. Life isn’t easy. Listen to me, no really, do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth?! Easy Street does NOT exist. Life. Takes. Work.

Each chapter in the book has verses listed at the end. It’s been nice spending time with each verse and marinating in what its meaning is saying to me. One from chapter 5 that caught my attention was in 1 Peter chapter 3 when verse 11 ends with, “Search for peace, and work to maintain it.” I already know Peaceful Way is a place I want to reside for all eternity. I’ve felt peace flit around in my life and I’d like for it to come and stay. It’s a feeling like no other. So how do you make that happen when your life has derailed?

There are questions for each chapter too. When asked about drifting, I could check them all off. I’m definitely in a current ‘drift’. Caught in the minutiae. A feeling of mundane. And I’m so ready for it to end. I’m ready to move on. But this drift is starting to feel like a whirl pool. If it’s not divorce, it’s health. If it’s not health, it’s finances. I mean, hello peace? I’m available!

There have been a lot of encouraging verses all throughout the first part of this book. Right now, all I can do is take a step. Focus on right now. I don’t have all of the answers, but I am aware of my drift. Even just doing this study has felt good for the soul. It’s a step in the right direction. My soul needed it.

As Pinterest says, “At some point you have to let go of what you thought should happen and live in what is happening.” “I stopped waiting for the light at the end of the tunnel and lit it up myself.” although there was a cursive word after lit and in place of it – that rhymes with witch (in case you were wondering). 😉 This definitely is not the life I thought I would be living at 34 years old, but good grief it will become a life I love again – somehow. “Honey I rose up from the dead, I do it all the time.” Thanks, Tay Tay. 😉

 

Secondary Grace

As I wrap up this season of giving & receiving, I find myself contemplating my favorite little ‘P’ word, Perspective. It wasn’t but a couple of years ago that word never passed my lips without my infamous eye roll (I was told quite recently ago, I’d perfected the eye roll. I snidely responded it was good to know your strengths, finishing with a smirk and my roll; I’m sure leaving a lasting impression). Perspective…’a particular attitude’…I remember in college learning that perception is reality, though reality is rarely perception. That’s a scary thought. Does anyone have a grasp on what’s real then?

I know what’s real to me and you know what’s real to you. How can two people experience the exact same thing having two completely different perspectives. Therefore creating two different realities. What, in all of that, is actually real? I’ve experienced this firsthand: living same life experiences with someone and having two completely different realities. Our perspectives were devastatingly opposite. Not an easy feat, and we lost.

I thought Christmas might be hard this year, considering the loss. Surprisingly, I’ve had a good season. Quite the opposite of hard actually, I’ve been told (a couple of times) I have a glow about me. I was also asked “How did you get so strong?” the other day. Crazy, it’s all a matter of perspective. Truth is, my life is an utter mess right now. And don’t you dare ask about my future plans. You’re likely to get an eye roll (I have no damn idea). Future = murky, so don’t ask. But in all this ugly mess, I realized the other day what it is I feel, joy. Yes, in all that chaos you just read, while living the epitome of ‘I don’t have a damn clue what’s happening in my life’ and in the midst of experiencing a huge life disappointment, I feel joy.

In all of this, there is gratefulness in my heart. Each day I notice things, usually little things. It’s those little things that make me smile. They keep me grateful. And I’ve found as long as I keep grateful in my heart, it’s hard not to feel joy. Even in dark, difficult, nasty moments (and I have plenty of those too) because I keep grateful & joy close by, dark, difficult & nasty find it hard to stay around for very long. Perspective. It’s the light switch in life. There are really only two choices with perspective. On or off.

One of my favorite gifts this year is a mantra bracelet given to me by the one who is the right to my left. This woman brings sincerity and sarcasm to my tribe. And I adore every ounce of her compassionate soul. After all life has decided to throw my way over the last 6 years, she nailed it. My perspective: She believed she could, so she did1225161835_hdr222

And I do. Everyday. It’s a choice. And Dark still visits. I welcome him. Invite him in for a spell, sit with him, embrace him, but then I tell him when he’s overstayed his welcome. There is no easy in any of this. It’s all very, very tough.

After finishing Christmas with my most favorite human to ever exist, I went and saw Collateral Beauty. Let me tell you now, if you haven’t seen it yet (believe it only opened a week ago so not sure why you haven’t seen it yet), but you absolutely MUST see it as soon as you can get your rear end in a movie theater seat. There are so many layers to the story. And without ruining much, three of the most important characters play roles in our everyday lives: Love, Time & Death. Life is the most exquisite tragedy of all time. We will all experience joys and sorrows along the way. The ultimate definition of bittersweet. And how you feel it, experience it, and live it is all a matter of your perspective.

So…are you on or are you off? It usually doesn’t happen in a grand, defining moment. It’s after-the-fact, like a slow awakening. It’s in the little things. The collateral beauty, many times the less obvious, a secondary grace. The things that are undoubtedly harder to see in the tragic moments, but they’re also undeniably difficult to un-see once you begin to realize them…

Grace was given for us and to us. Secondary grace is what we choose to give ourselves. And you’re worth it. Know it. Believe it. Do it. And ‘Keep Pounding’ doesn’t hurt either 😉

A Snowy Job

I happened across chapter 6 in the book of Job today. From the beginning, I relate to the words. From misery outweighing all the sands of the sea to not having the strength to endure – believe I’ve said I need a strength that is not my own a time or two recently – to feeling deceived by those closest to you. “…when it is swollen with ice and melting snow.” I stop dead in my tracks or snow tracks, perhaps.

I feel the need to sit and gather my thoughts. I pop open my computer and as I begin to let my thoughts trickle out, the lyric of a song playing in the background catches my ear, “to hear sleigh bells in the snow”. My skin prickles. I go back to finish Job chapter 6. He continues to speak to me: “But when the hot weather arrives, the water disappears.” and the travelers become disappointed and their hopes are ‘dashed’ because they were counting on the water. Job talks about his ‘friends’ criticisms being more than just hard to hear honest words. Does that make them ‘right’ and him ‘wrong’?  He’s not sinless, but he has the right values and actions – he turns to God.

“Kindness is like snow, beautifying everything it covers.” One of my favorite verses my 6 year old and I quote is Ephesians 4:32 “Be kind and loving to each other…”. It’s typically the daily reminder he receives as he hops out of the car for school each morning. Compassion and empathy towards others and especially those hurting does so much for the human soul – both the giver and receiver.

I’ve talked about my tribe so much recently. I absolutely adore them. They have kind hearts, fierce minds and brave spirits. They, well, this:tribe

All. Day. ❤

So today marks 6 years. Six years since the best man I’ve ever known left this earth early. I got up this morning, surprisingly in good spirits. I selected my outfit and was off to start my day. It was during my car ride I did some reflecting. My dad had a larger than life personality so when that is gone suddenly from your life one day, never to return again – well it makes for a tough life adjustment.

As I was recalling his life and his death, I understand I may not fully get the ‘whys’ of him leaving so early, but the life lessons he’s taught me even in death have been priceless. It was then I realized what I was wearing…collagemaker_20161128_133101_resized

Another snowy moment. Another snowy message. Another snowy lesson. “When snow falls, nature listens.” And I do too. It’s hard to stop imagining life the way we think it should be and let God do work. Job goes through trials and comes out triumphant. Much to learn about faith and perseverance from ole Job – hear those sleigh bells in the snow, if you will.

“So comes snow after fire, and even dragons have their endings.” Time to slay – or ‘sleigh’ 😉

Glowing Great+Full

As I opened my blinds this Thanksgiving morning, the freshly-wet-from-rain, brown-orange-golden view made me pause. Millions of leaves lay disarray covering the ground in their final resting place. A few still clung to their branches, the trees almost appeared to be aching for them to finally let go. Each piece prepping for dark and stillness. Until next year…

The scape was simply stunning. The leaves going out with a bang. The scene made me recall a quote I had come across recently: “What are you going to do with all that dark?” “Find a way to glow in it.”

This year has been a life altering year. Having been put in situations I would have never dreamed of, there have been some dark moments. It’s been a time of crumbling, a time of changing, a time of letting go of a tree I was so deeply rooted in. Much of this year I have felt like a withered fall leaf floating, bouncing around controlled by a strong wind, trying desperately to find the ground – someplace firm to land – to finally rest.

Sipping my morning tea while trying to enjoy my favorite coffee cake and the view, I feel a sigh escape my body. In no way do things remotely resemble how I imagined them to be. It saddens my heart. I feel full. Full as in ‘that’s enough, please no more’. I need a breather. Can someone else tag in for a bit?

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As those feelings are toying with me, I glance down. My wrist reminder pulls me back. ‘Athas’ the Irish word for ‘Joy’. A token from a trip I took this year. A reminder. A saving grace. A word I fell in love with years ago. That word makes me crack a smile. I love when I see it pop up in life. It always makes me pause and take another look.

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So I look again and when I look this time, instead of full I see great. My beautiful view. My little boy. My favorite coffee cake. A beautiful fall. The smell of a turkey smoking. My family. Pictures I adore that make my heart smile. A sweet four-legged little girl. The amazing ladies I work with. Trips with fun and fabulous people. Laughing. On point memes. The sun shining. My favorite tea in a mug that warms my heart. The massive amounts of texts of love and support I receive daily. My tribe. My fierce tribe. I am greatly full.

The year has been a harder one. Autumn is not an easy season as it is for my family. And where I am ‘full’ things are still ‘great’. My current state may be floating aimlessly through the dark in an uncontrollable wind, but there is still spark and color. I see it. I feel it. And I will find a way to glow in it. So many ‘great+full’ moments still ❤

Tantrum

I laugh now (which I love that I can still find humor in spite of…), but a couple of nights ago I pitched a tantrum. A legit ten year old girl but with adult words (or sentence enhancers as I’ve grown to adore calling them) tantrum. Pretty certain I was even on the floor kicking and screaming at one point (that may be more along the age of three). Technology got the better of me and it broke me down. C-O-M-P-L-E-T-E-L-Y down. It went on for two hours. I was utterly hysterical convinced the world was out to get me. I couldn’t get even the simplest of things to go right. I was on stage in my own one woman drama delivering the performance of a lifetime. Of course I realize my wounds are deep. My tantrum had little to do with technology and everything to do with where I am in my oh so fabulous journey of life.

My life looks so vastly different than it did a year ago, even six-seven months ago. In fact, if you had told me I’d be in the situation I was in now, I would have said no way without a single doubt in any corner of my mind – I’d stand up and punch them out (Who Knew). Never say never…

There is nothing, hear me when I say nothing, absolutely nothing on this side of heaven guaranteed – except death. We are all promised an end. There will be a last breath. But the details of that last inhale/exhale remain a mystery until the precise moment arrives. I wholeheartedly believe in living to the fullest every single minute you’re given. Everything could change faster than the blink of an eye.

When my current ‘dark place’ began I didn’t know whether to look up, down, left or right. All I knew was I had a little one to look after. That meant putting on a brave face when on the inside I was in a thousand tiny little pieces and had no clue where to begin picking them up to put them back together. So, I simply proceed with one foot in front of the other. One inhale after an exhale. One second in time to the next. Looking too far in advance is murky. Perhaps some of the fog has lifted, but I cannot even glance into the future for I have no earthly idea what it could possibly look like.

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More days, more moments than not, this picture depicts me internally. It’s hard to have a chronic illness that people don’t see on the outside. Many times it’s hard to understand when I don’t feel good. That coupled with my current ‘dark place’ most minutes of the day I feel like I’m drowning, constantly gasping for breath. Help always just out of reach.

Therefore, enter my ten year old tantrum the other night stage right. It really was quite comical, made for Broadway. I’ll take my Tony now, thank you. As the tears turned into laughter, I thanked Truvy Jones for reminding me that laughter through tears is my favorite emotion too. Glennon Doyle Melton said something that has struck me in all of my mess, “I cry so often for the same reason I laugh so often. Because I’m paying attention.” I do pay close attention too. I see how hard and cold the world can feel. I see how it has made me feel. I also see humor in more situations than not. Even if it starts with irony. And I am constantly reminded and redeemed by those in my tribe how important love is. So I still choose to love. In spite of it all, I choose love.

I told you, my tribe is fierce. Their love is what helps me remember that this ‘dark place’ too shall pass. There will be something more for me after this. They give me strength and support while I’m piecing my thousands of tiny pieces back together.

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Cue friend’s message. In the midst of my tantrum, the timing was perfect and with the perfect quote. I needed to remember I’m just down, but not out. I am a warrior – fierce and tender all rolled into one. I may be in a ‘dark place’, but while I’m here I may as well roll over and look at the stars. There is something to be seen here too…

Too Much

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I’ve always been told I have high expectations. I’m too honest. Too loyal. Too strong-willed. My mama always told me to treat other people the way I want to be treated. So I love fiercely, I defend loyally, and I protect with everything that I am. In return, I expect: honesty, loyalty, compassion, empathy, kindness, love. I’m tired of feeling less than and not good enough because of what I expect. How are any of those expectations wrong?

Perhaps that’s the problem with the world. Not enough people expect those things – especially women. We walk around constantly lowering the bar for others. Silly cliches exist because of those low bars, “You’re not the only one.” “It happens all the time.” When will we live in a world where integrity, morals and character matter?

God forbid we be good to each other. Amazing how a simple concept appears to be an impossible task. I am not perfect – I am human which naturally makes me flawed. I fall short every day of the person I really want to be. I make mistakes, but I have a conscience that won’t let me move on without learning from them.

It’s amazing what people will let you think about yourself – especially as a woman. People who say they’re there for you and understand you. Yet when it comes to standing up and making a morally conscious decision, they flake or disappear altogether. What is good is not always right and what is right is not always easy. All of a sudden you’re made to feel worthless and less than, rejected and unloveable.

Well guess what? I’m NONE of those things. I’ve compromised and removed pieces of me for others. THAT is where I went wrong. I choose to take a stand now. Casting shame aside, I choose to make a difference. I have a little boy who WILL see the better way. He may see me fall, but he will see me rise. He will hear me say I’m sorry and take accountability when I’m wrong. He will see me do right by others when I mess up. He will see me love all kinds of people and show compassion when they’re hurting.

We’re here to love. That’s the sole purpose. There’s no big mysterious meaning to this life. It’s all about love. It’s time we get our heads out of our ass and really show up for each other. I may be too much for some, but that just means those in my tribe are fierce as hell. We don’t hide behind false pretenses. We’re real and ugly and silly and beautiful all wrapped in one and we accept that. And if that’s just too much for some to take in, I’m okay with that. I’ll take my ‘too much’ any day over ‘not enough’.