grateful amazement

finding wonder…everywhere.

My Word of the Year: A Prefix

I’ve always believed that words matter.

Words have been significant and important to me since I was a young girl, carefully cutting them out of magazines and meticulously gluing them onto colorful construction paper in order to make cards and journal entries that spoke my heart. Recording them in my dime-store journal. Boldly printing them in the fabric-covered scrapbook I designated as my Poem Book. I’ve been in love with words for as long as I can remember.

I think I knew that I knew that I knew that words were powerful tools – and not just merely collections of random letters – when, amidst the chaos in which I grew up, the people who tossed them around in such a lackadaisical manner were shocked that the tossing garnered any kind of response…positive or negative. I just couldn’t believe that they didn’t know.

I feel like I lived out the proof that the old saying ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me’ just wasn’t true. The words I caught – even when I was trying to dodge them – impacted me in ways that rudimentary weapons didn’t have the power to.

I held the words – good and bad – so carelessly thrown in my direction. Held them close. Held them long. Held them true.

In all honesty, I continue to tend toward that holding even now…in what some would call the Second Chapter of my life. Even when I know better. Even when the source is not trustworthy. Even when it hurts.

So, when Dayspring and incourage offered me a chance to write a #wordsmatter post in conjunction with the release of their awesome new Letterpress Blocks, I jumped at the chance.

incourage-LetterpressBlocks-main1

2014 is the second year that I have officially chosen a Word of the Year. Last year, I spent each day with Trust. As you might be able to guess, some of those days were more peaceful than others. After all, Trust is…well, it can be gritty…and hard. In my life, anyway, Trust hasn’t been all hearts and flowers and peace and love. But, having it as the word that flavored each day of 2013 turned out to be a rich gift.

incourage_LetterpressBlocks_img24

In January this year, as I sat with the list of words I thought I’d choose from, I found it wasn’t technically a word that kept coming up.

It was a prefix.

Crazy, right?!

I thought, ‘Does a prefix even qualify as a Word of the Year?’

‘Wouldn’t I be doing it wrong if I didn’t choose an actual word?’

I even spent quite a while researching it online…

Turns out, it didn’t really matter what all the fabulous websites and blog posts detailing the practice of choosing a Word of the Year had to say on the subject.

That prefix would not let me go.

And I’m glad it didn’t.

The prefix – my Word of the Year – is RE:

And I feel like I’m just now, in the tenth month of 2014, getting a handle on the depth of it.

Check out these awesome words…these power-full, meaning-full words that those two little letters can form…

rebuild2#wordsmatter

reclaim2#wordsmatter

redefine3#wordsmatter

restore3#wordsmatter

Aren’t they awesome?

There are so many, many more RE: words that have been speaking to my heart and soul.
Exploring them may take me well into next year.
Having RE: as my Word of the Year two years in a row would only make sense, right? *wink

And, those Letterpress Blocks…

Can’t you just imagine the word that has been guiding you this year spelled out with them on your own sweet wall?

There is a super-cool interface for you to build your word – or words…I hope you’ll take the time to click through and create your word your way…

incourage-LetterpressBlocks-wordsmatter

…because words matter.

2 Comments »

Four Years Ago Today

Four years ago today, July 23rd took on a whole new significance in my life.

Four years ago today, July 23rd became a Line of Demarcation on my timeline.

Four years ago today, July 23rd changed everything…forever.

You see, four years ago today, I had a routine mammogram.

Only it wasn’t so routine.

That mammogram discovered aggressive Stage 3 breast cancer.

That mammogram started a ball rolling that, like snowballs from mountaintops in cartoons, consumed so much in its crazy, high-speed, bouncy path…arms and legs and other body parts (and hearts and relationships and Life As I Knew It Things) sticking out all wacky and nonsensical.

That mammogram saved my life.

Four years ago today, July 23rd unleashed a torrent of trials and triumphs, loss and love, hell and health that I am still wading through…some days waist-deep…some days thigh-deep…some days ankle-deep…but every day dripping wet.

Four years ago today, July 23rd began the revealing of so much True and so much False.

Four years ago today, July 23rd God whispered ‘You’re going to be okay.’

Four years ago today, July 23rd I chose to believe Him.

And, every day since that day, four years ago, I am grateful.

For it all.

{Decided to go ahead and link up with Holley Gerth and Jennifer Dukes Lee today – sharing Joy and Happy is as much Coffee for Your Heart and Tell(ing)HisStory as anything I can think of! ~Thank you ladies for letting me share!~ Please click through for more real life Joy and Happy…and everything in between. *smile}

14 Comments »

The View From Here + A Blog Hop

Grateful today to have been invited to take some time to answer questions that I think every one of us can benefit from asking…no matter if we define ourselves as Creatives or Writers or Artists or Warriors or Peacemakers or {your word-of-choice}. It’s in asking – and answering – questions like, but not limited to, these that we can mine and refine our purposes, our callings with a beautiful, thoughtful intentionality. And, as a sweet bonus, I get to share links to the spaces of a sampling of brilliant peeps that make my life richer…I know you’ll find them super-cool, too!

On to the questions…

What am I working on?

Currently, I am finding myself knee-deep in exploration. As unbelievable as it is to me, the curtain on my Second Act is rising – you know, that place in life where examination and redefinition is inevitable and, if the living is going to be full and purpose-filled, imperative. (It has a tiny bit to do with chronological age, but I think – and hope – we are not limited to just two acts in the theater of our lives…so I’m not of the school of thought that there is some Magic Birthday that precipitates the Raising of the Curtain on said Second Act.)

For me, the exploration, examination, and redefinition looks like committing myself to blogging regularly by taking part in a couple weekly link ups (thank you, Holley Gerth and Jennifer Dukes Lee!), volunteering to be part of local blogging team, taking some soul-deep online classes, signing up to be part of the launch of a life-changing, life-giving book, and getting gut-wrenchingly honest in facing the truth of where I’m at and how I got here.

As I went through cancer diagnosis and treatment almost four years ago (Happy Cancerversary to me on July 23! *smile), I kept friends and family up-to-date via a CaringBridge site. Aside from well wishes and prayers, the most frequent feedback I got was ‘You really need to write a book.’ And while I haven’t started the process of literally writing a book, ideas are – and have been – percolating…it’s only a matter of time, truly. Well, that and the quieting of the worry that I’ll look like one of those American Idol auditioners who is frighteningly tone deaf but insists that her friends tell her she’s the best ever…or, at the very least, so good that she should try out…or, in my case, write that book.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Honestly, this is the one question of the four that almost caused me to pass on the chance to be part of this blog hop…and, as I sit here at the keyboard, I wonder if that’s because I still balk a little at calling myself a Writer. It would stand to reason that if I struggle with that, I’d struggle a bit with a question about genre, too, right? And then I think…isn’t this what some of us (a lot of us? most of us?) tend to do? Step away from standing in our true place? Shrink away from standing at our true height? Shy away from standing in our full light? When we do this, not only do we rob ourselves of living soul-fully and truth-fully, but we steal from others the opportunity to share in that soul-full, truth-full life alongside us. I’m certain lots of other people have said it more eloquently than this (in fact, several of my favorite quotes pertain to this very thing), but, in my view, there is nothing more heartbreaking than a life half-lived because of self-imposed shackles and the belief in faulty messages about who we are and who we can be.

So I suppose, what makes my work different is the digging deep in sometimes ridiculously honest fashion to get to the heart of the matter…regardless of the old tapes whose volume tries to drown out the truth that can always – and I mean ALWAYS – be found in the center of the heart of the matter…whatever the matter is.

Why do I write what I do?

Most of the time, I write because if I don’t, it feels like my heart is going to beat out of my chest, race out the door, climb onto the nearest roof, and shout mega-phone loud whatever it is that’s pounding to be heard.

That said, the writing isn’t always easy for me. Writing makes it Real…whatever It is…and some things are not what I want to be Real. Also, I am forever grateful for the backspace button.

And, like the actor who can’t watch herself on film because it triggers the desire to do it again, only better; I struggle with reading my writing once it’s been posted. A lot of the time, I suffer from a serious case of Delayed Intelligence that frequently sounds like a variation on the theme of I Sure Could Have Written That Much Better.

Words are life to me. That would be my short answer. *smile

How does my process work?

Boy, do I wish I had some artsy, passionate, ethereal answer to this one…deep inside me, buried under a lot of Shoulds and Shouldn’ts and Oughts and Can’ts is a tattooed, tousle-haired, sundress-wearing, paint-throwing, full-throated-humming free spirit whose veins thump and throb with the kind of creative juices that cause spectacles and raise rumpuses (rumpii?), I’m sure of it. {In fact, just writing her chokes me up and terrifies and excites me simultaneously. And, I’m grateful that all the heavy lifting I’ve done in my life has prepared and strengthened my hands to pull the rubble, piece by heavy piece, off of that remarkable, breath-taking beauty in the hopes that someday soon she will dance free and scatter her unique kind of joy like so much glitter and fairy dust.}

But, for now, here’s the truth of it…sometimes I open my computer, play Solitaire till I win a hand (no matter how long it takes), open a clean, fresh Google Doc, and then start typing. Sometimes, I have my very unorganized, scattered notebook and a mechanical pencil in hand and the words spill out like free-flowing water. Sometimes, I find anything else to do but sit down to write, wearing the Queen of Procrastination Crown Jewels like nobody’s business.

Each mode and method works for me, in its way and in its time. And I’m sure my process will evolve as I do…as my heart does…as life itself does.

~~~

So there you have it…the view from here…today.

I hope you’ll take some time to ask yourself these questions – or ones similar to them – in your own adventure toward a beautiful, thoughtful, intentional life.

And, be sure to visit the sites of these special, crazy-talented friends.
You’ll be so glad you did!

Becky Cavender

Becky Cavender is a writer and relationship coach living in the Pacific Northwest. She has several articles published on Huffington Post and she has lived in five countries on four continents — including Myanmar, where she published a guidebook for expats moving there. When she’s not writing or coaching clients, you can find her devouring books on sensuality at any of the best local coffee joints sucking up caffeine.
You can read more of her work and learn about her coaching services on her website: www.beckycavender.com

Shari Daniels

Shari Daniels is a teacher at heart and has been working with children in elementary schools for over 25 years. Currently, she’s a literacy coach in a K-5 school.
Shari’s work as a literacy coach led her to writing. She’s always been a writer, but never before called herself a writer. She is calling herself a writer now. And, an artist, and a healer, and a way-shower.
She has 4 children, ages 19-25, has been married to her high school sweetheart for 25 years, and adores her yellow lab, Sandy.
Shari’s Blog: www.islandsofmysoul.com

Jill Emmelhainz

Jill Emmelhainz a mom of a nest that is emptying, a woman who is moving into the second half of life, and a wife who is working hard to reconnect. God is bringing healing as she moves past grieving journeys into new places of freedom. Jill would love to have you join her in living loud, living colorfully, and living with heART!
Jill’s Blog: www.journey2wonder.wordpress.com
Jill’s Art Blog: www.journey2wonderful.wordpress.com

Patty Scott

Patty Scott is married to her beloved surfer husband. She educates her two precocious boys, who are the joys of her life, at home. Patty is inspired by Charlotte Mason, her mentor, Kathy, Dallas Willard, A.W. Tozer, C.S. Lewis and Francois Fenelon. She’s devoted to Jesus. Patty writes to inspire and bless by sharing the real, the beautiful and the reaching of her own heart.
Patty’s Blog: www.heartshomeward.blogspot.com

2 Comments »

Living IN Hope

Lately, lots of things in my life have begun coming apart at the seams.

Some days, it’s seemed that there have been attacks on all fronts
…and I even texted these words to the Mister the other day: ‘I can’t even think about about hope. I have none…and I don’t have any fight left.’

And then I was gently reminded by a new friend that sometimes our most powerful testimony is when we bravely let it be known that we don’t have it All Figured Out.
That it’s okay to be honest about our struggles.
‘Because,’ she wisely said, ‘don’t we all struggle?’
When we are willing to dialogue about it, to show how we’re simply clinging to God’s promises in spite of our doubts, maybe we give others permission to speak, to admit, to do the same.

We can bravely practice living IN hope.

For me, living IN hope is a very different thing than living WITH hope.
Not that I think one is better than the other…or that one is right and one is wrong…I think there is a place for both IN and WITH.
I just think they are very different words.

Jesus’ words recorded in The Message version of John 15:4 say ‘Live IN me. Make your home IN me just as I do IN you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.’ [emphasis mine]

IN, to me, is different than WITH because IN is more INtimate.
It’s the difference between living IN relationship with someone versus living WITH them.
The difference between living as a family and living as roommates.

When I say I want to learn to live IN hope, I mean that I want to be intimate with it.
To be in close relationship with it.
To spend time getting to know it.
To live like someone who INhabits it.

And, IN all of that, there has to be a realistic approach to it.
Because, when we are IN relationship with someone – or someTHING like Hope – things are not always going to go smoothly.
Things about it may be hard to understand or grasp at times.
Things might not always feel so hope-full.

But that doesn’t mean we’re not living IN hope.
It might actually mean the opposite…because when we are living IN hope, we are grappling with Big Stuff.
I believe God uses that grappling, that wrestling, that stretching to produce in us strength to live IN the hope to which He’s called us.

In our grappling, we often wonder, ‘Where is there room for my grief? What do I do with my raging fears? How do I face what is unknown?’

We’ve likely all entertained these important questions…whether or not we’ve felt ‘allowed’ to acknowledge or express them.
They demand answers on some level.
It seems to me that when we allow ourselves to release the responsibility of being uber-positive and grant ourselves permission to feel ALL of our feelings – even the ones that don’t look or feel particularly hope-like – we are honoring the process God is using to refine and strengthen our faith, which in turn leads to living IN hope.

The purposes of the sufferings we each have faced are alluded to in Romans 5:3-5 when Paul assures us with these words: ‘Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.’

I said to the Mister recently that I think hope can still be hope even if it has tears in its eyes.

John Piper exhorts, in his 2013 message Do Not Lose Heart, to ‘… take these truths and day by day focus on them. Preach them to yourself every morning. Get alone with God and preach his word into your mind until your heart sings with confidence that you are new and cared for.’’ That speaks so strongly to me of what it means, what it looks like, to live IN hope. Actually, in all that he says in this message, I never once hear him say that we should slap a smiley face on ANY of the hard things we find ourselves facing – whether that’s cancer or slander or death or some other thing that qualifies as an affliction – but that we ought to face them and sift them through the Truth found in God’s word…for it is then that we find them meaningFUL instead of meaningLESS.

Living IN hope looks like preaching to ourselves what we know is true even when our heart doesn’t always seem to get the memo right away.
Our hope will sometimes have tears in its eyes.
And, that’s okay.
As long as we’re committed to living IN hope, the One who collects our tears and records each one in His book knows how hard holding hope can be sometimes.

Being honest with ourselves and with our God and with those who love us is one of the most hope-full things we can do.
And, sometimes, that means giving voice – giving room – to the darker emotions we have.

I have found that a side benefit of being honest about my feelings is that it gives others permission to express their own pain, fear, worry, grieving, and even anger in a way that’s vulnerable and transparent and, ultimately, helpful.

CS Lewis’ quote has come to mean so much to me in my journey – and it speaks to this sharing of ALL of our feelings: ‘Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .”’

When we live IN hope, there is a freedom that comes with it.
A freedom that makes the risk of sharing openly feel less fraught with danger.
We find ourselves saying, ‘What! You too?’
And what a gift. What a beautiful gift that is.

Living IN hope also looks like recognizing that God makes all things beautiful.
According to His definition, His timing, His plan.

When we live IN hope, we can help ourselves, and each other, to reframe our circumstances – no matter how confusing or painful or shattering they may be – and ask God for the eyes to see them as raw material for Him to take them and make something beautiful. This song really helps me get this message past my head and into my heart on days when all I feel like is a pile of dust that will surely be scattered by the next breeze that happens to blow:

Looking for, or even creating, beauty is a way for us to live IN hope.
And there are so many, many places and ways we can find it.
It’s like God knew that we’d need these reminders…reminders of His promises to redeem the lost, the broken, the taken, the busted, the battered, the bruised, the damaged, the diseased.
It is, however, our job to look for them.
It is even our job to help each other find them.
And what is beautiful to each of us may look different…in fact, I’m sure what speaks hope to each of is as unique as we are.
You know what? There is even beauty in that…in our differences.
Personally, I’m so grateful for things like music, books, nature, friends, prayer, celebrations, tears, art, even good food, movies, and good theater popcorn.
The beauty – and delight – in all of those things helps me to remember to practice living IN hope.

And, friends, it is a practice.
We’re not going to get it right every day in every situation.
I love what author Lysa TerKeurst says about a grace-filled way to view our sometimes stumbling way forward…she calls it imperfect progress.
Isn’t that freeing?
To view our bumbling, sometimes two-steps-forward-one-step-back limping along as progress? As imperfect as it is?

Living IN hope.
There is grace there.
There is honesty there.
There is peace there.
Because when we’re living IN hope, we’re really living IN Christ.
And, in Him, there is no fear, no lack, no condemnation.

{Linking up with Holley Gerth and Jennifer Dukes Lee today, IN hope that you’ll click through and find the beauty and grace you need today.}

6 Comments »

When Your Face Goes Numb

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been anxious.
I’ve lived most of my life in a state of fight-or-flight.

I learned not long ago, in a counseling session, that in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder lingo, this state of being, of interacting with the world, has a name: Hypervigilance.

I am a seasoned Hypervigilante.
(Yes, I just made up that word…*smile)

For a long, long time, I managed to be a fairly high-functioning Hypervigilante…

  • I stepped into a leadership role in our local Mothers of Preschoolers group when my four girls were 6, 4, 2, and 5 months.
  • I was an uber-volunteer at their school when the oldest hit elementary age.
  • I coached their volleyball and basketball teams through the middle school years.
  • I owned and operated a small, home-based business.

During those years, I also battled a host of health challenges and fought to keep my head, and heart, above water while the Riptide of Crazy that came with being married to an abusive addict** threatened daily to pull me under.

I sincerely believed it was my job to do everything in my power to make sure all of it looked bright, shiny, and normal…to everyone on the outside, at least.

And, I did that job well.

Until I couldn’t anymore.

I can’t tell you when I hit that wall…when I stopped being so successful at playing the High-Functioning Hypervigilante…when all the tightly-bottled-up anxiety refused to be contained a minute longer.

I just know it happened.
I found myself forced to admit that all my attempts at keeping the panic at bay were ultimately failures.

The most recent evidence of this vain attempt has been numbness.
Specifically, numbness that started in my lips and tongue and has since spread to my whole face.
It comes and goes as the levels of anxiety and panic ebb and flow.

The first time I experienced it, the numbness scared me a little. I wondered, ‘What new health challenge is presenting itself now?’

In fact, I was so worried about what I might find, I asked the Mister to look it up for me…and made him promise not to tell me if it was Something Really Bad. I just couldn’t take the thought of facing another Something Really Bad.

So, he looked it up and let me know that it, the numbness, was likely linked to anxiety.
My anxiety.

I was relieved and frustrated at the same time.
Relieved that it wasn’t Something Really Bad.
Frustrated that it was something I hadn’t been able to master…my tendency toward anxiety…my Hypervigilantism…my horrible record when it came to managing stress.

And, I know I would’ve felt totally hopeless…helpless…if I hadn’t found a kindred soul who’s actually written a book about anxiety, panic, PTSD…a book about finding spiritual whitespace…soul rest.

Bonnie Gray and her brand new book, Finding Spiritual Whitespace, arrived on scene just before the first Numb Lip Incident.

Divinely timed.

There are no words to convey how very grateful I am for her bravery, her words, her invitation.

Because when your face goes numb, you need some solid ground to stand on.
Because when your face goes numb, you need some compassion and empathy and encouragement.
Because when your face goes numb, you need some dear soul to point the way to Rest.

Reading Bonnie’s book does all of that and more.

Even as I’m tapping these keys to form these words, my face is numb.
But it doesn’t scare me anymore.
It simply brings home to me that being a Hypervigilante can no longer be my gig.

Breathing deep.
Finding rest.
Creating whitespace.
Living as the Beloved.

Those are all part of my new gig.
And I believe that as I lean into each of those inviting but unfamiliar things, the numbness will wear off…like it does after a novacaine-filled dentist appointment.
Gradually.
With some odd tingling.
I’m okay with that.

**The Mister and I will celebrate our 25th anniversary this winter. He is in recovery and is actively pursuing tools and strategies that can enable him to be more healthfully engaged while taking responsibility and making amends for the damage his addiction and abuse caused.

21 Days of Rest: Finding Spiritual Whitespace
8 Comments »

More On Mirrors

So I went to the salon for a trim today.
I decided not long ago, after seeing the cutest hairstyle in the Chico’s catalog, that I wanted to give growing out my hair long another try.

But I needed a trim.
The ends of my hair were a little crispy and my style was a little out of shape.

Growing my hair out to the length of the style I found in the Chico’s catalog signifies something to me.
Actually…honestly…it’s a few things…

#1 - when I lost all my hair to chemo almost four years ago, I cried like a baby. Slobber-crying crocodile, projectile tears. And I couldn’t even have guessed that losing it would hit me so hard. So I think growing it back and growing it long feels to me like a symbol of health…of wellness…of a sense of I’m Okay Now.

#2 - for a long time, due to things like being taller than the average woman (I’m almost 6 feet tall) and having lost almost all of my female body parts to surgery or disease, coupled with having been sexually abused, I haven’t felt much like a girl…also, feeling girlish has never felt safe…so, in an attempt at self-preservation, I’ve felt more like some sort of asexual thing…and long hair would signify, to me, my inherent girliness…my embracing of the female part of me.

#3 - I want to believe, to embrace, that God made me a girl…a full-on woman. But, to be honest, that scares me a little. Somehow, growing my hair longer than it’s ever been and pushing through the awkward, difficult phases that come with the growing-out could wind up signifying the awkward, difficult phases I’ll need to go through to heal areas that have been damaged by others using my body for their own purposes and by my allowing it. The question is, do I really want to face that? Do I really want to stare those things down? Do I really believe I can move past the objectifying that dominated so much of my life?

These are all subconscious realities that play like soundtrack music as I sit in my stylist’s chair.

Then, we bring up the Mirror Work she assigned me at one of my last appointments. (Yes, you know it, and I know it…stylists are lower-paid therapists who give you great hair.)

All those weeks ago, she and I were talking about self-perception and I let it slip that I don’t do so well with the mirror…that I’ve always believed I was ugly. And severely lacking.

To say she was shocked – horrified, even – at the depth of belief I had in my own fundamental ugliness would be an understatement, to say the least.

So she sent me home with an assignment. (Can you imagine? Getting an assignment from your stylist? Yes, she is that good. *smile)

She assigned me Mirror Work.
I was to get face-to-face with my self in the mirror, look myself directly in the eyes, and tell myself how lovely and lovable and beautiful I am – just as I am.
Daily.

Honestly, I almost threw up at the thought of it.
And I think I would have, if I hadn’t been nervously giggling so hard.

But I left her salon that day, determined to follow through…and to practice that Mirror Work.
Despite the anxiety even the thought of it caused me.

I’m proud to say that I did manage about 80% compliance for the first couple weeks.
Then, I lost momentum.

At least in the telling my face those things.

Today, though, when she and I were revisiting the subject, I realized something…
I have been seeing gains in telling my body those things.
And I told my precious stylist that…
That being kind to the rest of my body has come easier for me.

{I think back to when I was 17.
The age my youngest daughter is now.
And I remember that, at a bit over 5’11’’ and 155 pounds, my father called me Thunder Thighs…told me I could never sneak up on someone because the slapping of my thighs would give me away every time…told me I was large…unacceptable.
Thinking of that today just shocks me.
Especially when I look at my precious Baby.
I cannot imagine anyone saying those things to her…marring her delicate soul with words that weigh as much as leaden wings.}

Today, at age 47, I’m still a bit over 5’11’’ and weigh quite a bit more than 155 pounds.
I no longer have the breasts God gave me due to the separate single mastectomies I underwent in a battle with breast cancer about four years ago.
Today, my breasts are made of silicone, they’re marked with scars, and they look more like a Barbie doll that was left too close to a candle’s flame than typical breasts.

And I find myself loving them.
Being thankful for them.
Proudly realizing that I chose these.
Gratefully acknowledging that my scars are actually souvenirs I picked up in the Cancer Battle Gift Shop.

So, when my beautiful stylist and I talked again today about the need for me to do the Face Mirror Work, I bravely acknowledged growth in the Body Mirror Work arena.

She said, so sweetly and so sincerely, ‘I wish you could see you the way we all see you.’

I almost cried.

Because I want that, too.

So, I’m going back to the original assignment.

The Face Mirror Work.

And, even though there are so many voices, so many reasons I can come up with about why I shouldn’t even try, when I think of my four beautiful girls, I feel a call to my heart…

Model for them a healthy appreciation for the face, the hair, the body God created uniquely theirs.
Let them see what it actually looks like to have a grateful heart for God’s handiwork.

And, who knows…in all of this, I may just be able drown out the voices that try to convince me that the mirror shows only lack…ugliness…freak-show looks.
I may just be able to thank the One who created my eyes just so, my nose the proportion it is, my lips and chin in a way that is only mine.

I’d like that.
Well, that and longer hair.

{Gratefully linking up – even if it’s a bit later than usual – with Jennifer Dukes Lee at #TellHisStory. So much good there, friend. She’s the author of Love Idol, after all!}

6 Comments »

Don’t Hold Your Breath

Sweet friend,

You with the tight shoulders…
You with the clenched jaw…
You with the fitful, too-short sleep…
You with the pit in your stomach…
You with the shallow breathing…

I can see your stress.
I can feel your worry.
I can understand your fear.
I can relate to your feeling hopeless.
I can imagine your overwhelm.

But…

…please relax.
…please release.
…please rest.
…please reframe.
…please respire.

Please don’t hold your breath.

I want to help you reclaim that phrase.
For too long it has meant the same as ‘Don’t get your hopes up.’

I want you to hear it instead as permission to fully live in the moment
…whatever the moment looks like.
I want you to hear it instead as permission to have hope, to dream, to embrace it all
…whatever all looks like.

Breath, my friend, is life.
So, breathing…fully, deeply breathing…is living.

And I want you to live.

God, the Master, told the dry bones, “Watch this: I’m bringing the breath of life to you and you’ll come to life. I’ll attach sinews to you, put meat on your bones, cover you with skin, and breathe life into you. You’ll come alive and you’ll realize that I am God!” ~Ezekiel 37:5,6 (The Message)

{Breathing deep with gratitude to be linking up with Holley Gerth today. Head on over to her site for more sweet encouragement.}

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A Letter to Six-Year-Old Me…

Two-Year-Old Me

Two-Year-Old Me

Sweet six-year-old Laura ~

I want you to know, as you sit crying on that hard, cold piano bench, that you are going to be okay. It doesn’t feel like it right now, but you are much stronger and more resilient than you could ever imagine. I promise you.

When your daddy took that picture of your sorrow and forced you to look at it, while telling you how Ugly you are when you cry, you had no idea those words would become lodged in your heart for most of your life. Jammed deep. Buried under other wounds inflicted by words. Under some wounds delivered wordless.

Yes, you took those words and swallowed them whole. Gulped them down, along with the tears you believed made you Ugly.

You made a deal with yourself, in a place so hidden you didn’t even know it was there, that you would do everything in your power to never be Ugly like that again. You would never mar what was apparently so tenuous and false (your beauty) that wet, salt-water drops falling from your big blue innocent eyes could reveal an Ugly so revolting that even your daddy couldn’t contain his loathing.

But, that deal you made, dear Laura…that deal was made with currency more false than Monopoly money.
That sealed-with-dry-eyes deal, sweet girl, is invalid.
Null.
Void.
Nonbinding.

The walls you erected – the fortress you built to contain The Ugly…I want you to know they’re not necessary any more.

I know there was a l-o-n-g time when you spent your days with your heart barricaded behind those walls, trying to ensure no Ugly would accidentally escape. (And, if I’m honest, there are still many days your energy is spent shoring up areas of the fortress where a brick or two has slipped out of place – just to make sure the integrity of those walls is intact.)

There have been years when you told yourself – and your fragile heart – that behind those walls, you were safe.
Dry-eyed-brave safe.

But, sweet child, I’m here to tell you that while those walls – that holding-in-the-Ugly fortress – served their purpose of protection at times when you didn’t have access to the strength, the stamina, the truth necessary to allow them to be dismantled, to come out from behind them…
It. Is. Safe. Now.

You are safe.
You are seen.
Your tears matter.
Your cries are heard.
Your beauty is intact.
(…because it’s not just a meaningless cliche that beauty comes from within…because that’s where your beauty originates…from within your remarkable heart…)

And there is One who catches each of those diamond-value tears of yours and saves them in a bottle, records them in His ledger.
Not one tear falls unnoticed or disregarded or scorned or misunderstood.
Not one.

The Tear Catcher loves you, Little Girl.

And even though you haven’t always sensed His presence,
He has always been near.
Nearer than your muffled-behind-the-walls heart cry.

And even though you haven’t always trusted that His Love, His Truth, His Rescue, His Grace, His Favor, His Mercy have been for you – believing that they were only for everyone else – the True Truth is that ALL of those things of His are YOURS.

YOURS to inhabit.
YOURS to drink in.
YOURS to lean on.
YOURS to rest under.

He calls you Beautiful, love.
For you are His beloved child.
He is nothing at all like the broken, untrustworthy, shattered man who took that crying picture of you, waving it in your face, trying to get you to share the load of his own shame.
He is everything that man – any man – cannot be.
True.
Faithful.
Grace-filled.
Merciful.
Tireless.
He is Love.

Even as I write this to you, today, from the place where I stand 40 years down your road, I know the trepidation that thumps in your chest – the pterodactyl-sized butterflies that start dive-bombing your gut – when you try to accept that it truly is okay to cry.
That, sometimes, it’s necessary to cry.
That, often, it’s a healthful thing to cry.
And that it’s never Ugly to cry.

Do your best to ignore the thumping in your chest, the humongous butterflies rattling your insides, and make a different deal with yourself.
For today.
And for as many days as you need to.
Make a deal with your priceless heart to do the work you need to do to accept the truth that tears do not equal Ugly.
Reach out. Ask for help.

Because, dear little one, you don’t have to worry about trying to cage The Ugly anymore.

Ugly wasn’t the truth then.
Ugly isn’t the truth now.

Love is.

Working with you to believe in the Beauty,
Your older self

You’ve kept track of my every toss and turn
through the sleepless nights,
Each tear entered in your ledger,
each ache written in your book. ~Psalm 56:8

{this post is a result of Bonnie Gray‘s life-changing book – and her 21 Days of Rest…click on through, grab yourself a copy of her book here, and find the soul-rest, the #spiritualwhitespace your weary spirit craves.}

21 Days of Rest: Finding Spiritual Whitespace
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Life Without a DVR

Flashback to about three and a half years ago:
We’d just moved into our newly-built home (after my oncologist told us we ought to move away from the high-voltage power lines that inhabited the backyard of our previous house) and we’d decided we would try Life Without Cable TV. We attempted a variety of antenna set-ups to capture the signal of our five local television stations; but, alas, it was not to be. No reliable reception. So we bit the bullet and bundled the most basic cable tv package with our high-speed internet service (oddly saving $8/month in the process, because cable companies and the plans they offer are the most ‘logical’, ‘easy-to-comprehend’…right next to those of insurance companies – am I right?). Said cable package did not come with a DVR option, and we’d been without one for several months so we’d already survived our withdrawal symptoms. Honestly, we rarely ever scream ‘Wait! Replay that!’ anymore. We’re {mostly} used to having to remember to watch the few shows we really enjoy ON THE NIGHTS THEY ARE ORIGINALLY AIRED (gasp!), and the times we wish we had the opportunity to fast-forward through commercials are quickly satisfied with some binge-watching on Netflix. *wink

Flashforward to Sunday night’s Tony Awards:
The Mister said, ‘Hey, look at Harvey Fierstein’s shoes!’ I glanced up from my over-the-shoulder-reading of Baby’s texting conversation (because that’s the kind of Mom I am…and I’m not too proud to admit it)…and I missed the shoes! My first thought was, ‘Okay, let’s just rewind it.’ Then I remembered that WE DON’T HAVE A DVR. (Nevermind that we haven’t had one for years…I was really sad in that moment and felt a mild pang of that DVR Withdrawal.)

This Missing of the Fierstein Shoes got me thinking…when one doesn’t have a DVR, it is really important, when you’re watching something on television, that you stay engaged, aware, attentive, and in the present moment. Or you miss stuff. Fun stuff. Sad stuff. Important stuff. (Okay, sometimes, it’s just important-to-the-story stuff, but…) Sometimes even stuff that can make a difference in your life and the lives of those around you.

As I thought more about that, I realized the parallels to life itself. When one doesn’t have an Everyday DVR, it is really important, when you’re living your life, that you stay engaged, aware, attentive, and in the present moment. Or you miss stuff. Fun stuff. Sad stuff. (Because, believe it or not, there are priceless nuggets even in The Sad). Important stuff. (And, sometimes, we don’t even know it’s Important Stuff till later.) There is most definitely stuff that can make a difference in your life and the lives of those around you that you don’t want to risk missing.

Here’s another thing about living without an Everyday DVR…the replaying of events that ought to stay in the past (once you’ve grieved, processed, and let go of them…because those are all very important things to do) and the grooves that get worn into your heart and mind when you relive painful stuff over and over again don’t happen. Without the re-wounding that inevitably happens when we dwell in The Land of Sad, Hard, Painful Stuff, I believe God can help us to keep pressing on. He can work with our grieving, processing, and letting go in ways that will bring us closer to Him…and closer to who He designed us to be…when we we’re not constantly rewinding an Everyday DVR.

So, I’m glad for the reminder that missing Harvey’s shoes brought me.

I’m {mostly} good without having a DVR.

I’m going to do my best to disconnect the Everyday DVR that I sometimes try to bundle into the package that is my life.

And, as I grieve, process, and let go in real time, I’m going to work on staying engaged, aware, attentive, and present…so I won’t miss stuff.

Any of it.

Join me?

Philippians 3:13-14
No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

{Wednesday again already, dear ones. There’s a lot of clicking to do when you sit with the remote for your television. And some of it leaves you feeling kind of empty. But clicking through here to Holley Gerth’s and Jennifer Dukes Lee’s will leave you anything but empty. Go on. Click on. You’ll be so glad you did!}

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To Not Be Wooden Fruit

Driving east on Main Street earlier this spring, I spotted a gorgeous bowl of wooden fruit in the grimy window of a thrift store.

I was rushing to make it to an appointment on time, so I wasn’t able to swing into the one open parking spot and bop in to take a closer look. But I made a deal with my thrift-store-lovin’ heart – if that bowl of fruit was still perched in the window the next time I passed, it’d be a sign…like the fruit itself was saying, ‘I’m supposed to be yours. Come and get me.’

In the bustle of the next few days, thoughts of running back downtown to see if ‘my’ fruit was waiting for me were all but forgotten. And, quite honestly, I don’t remember what made me think of that I had made that deal with myself…I just know that, when I found myself on the inside of that thrift store about a week later, looking out the dingy windows, it was with wooden fruit (and it’s matching bowl) in hand.

It was still there.
So it was meant to be, that fruit and me.

It lives now in the center of my bar-height dining room table, resting there in it’s softly burnished, time-worn glory.

There is a bunch of grapes, a banana, a small-ish pineapple, a pear, three apples, and something that looks a bit like a pomegranate. It looks beautiful, artfully nestled in its apostrophe-shaped bowl.

Beautiful…
…and completely lacking in nutritive value.

When that thought first came to me, it stopped me short.

I pray that no one will ever say that when they look at my life.

Even though that wooden fruit can’t be bruised…and I so easily can.
Even though that wooden fruit always looks good…and I so frequently don’t.
Even though that wooden fruit has its own special place…and I so often feel scattered.

My heart’s cry is that the things I choose to say, the words I plunk out on this keyboard, the art I attempt to make, the way I strive to love, the grace I so deeply try to walk in, the friendship I venture to offer feel soul-nourishing to all whose lives intersect with mine at any given time.

I pray that those I engage – in whatever way – will see that I am nestled into Someone everlasting.
That I do my best to abide in the One who handcrafted me for Right Here, Right Now.

I have a feeling that’s your prayer, too, friend.
To nestle in.
To abide.
To offer something real.
To not be wooden fruit.

Heavenly Father,
We praise You and thank You for the invitation to abide in you. We are so humbled to realize that You have uniquely handcrafted each one of us and that Your plans for us are good. Please, Lord, let everyone we meet today be able to see You in what we say and do. We ask that You keep us from being wooden fruit. Help us to be brave even when we might be bruised, look a mess, or feel completely scattered. Help us to offer to others the something real You so graciously offer each of us. It is in Jesus’ name we pray…Amen.

{Wednesdays are such sweet days here! It’s the day of the week I get to link up with Holley Gerth and Jennifer Dukes Lee. It’s also the day you get to read more juicy, hope-filled, encouragement-rich words offered up by the other precious bloggers you’ll find when you click through! Enjoy!}

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