grateful amazement

finding wonder…everywhere.

A Birthday Letter to My Body (Reclaiming Me :: Mind/Body)

dear bodyHey Body –

Can we have a little chat?

It’s your birthday today. Your forty-eighth birthday. (It feels much more gentle to spell it rather than use the numbers.) If I’m honest, this Birthday Thing has been hard for me since somewhere around the thirtieth one. I’m hoping maybe you and I starting this dialogue can make it easier to add candles to the cake from now on.

I’ve been pretty scared to talk to you these last several decades.
You’ve always seemed pretty on edge.
Pretty fickle and unpredictable.
Pretty rebellious and untrustworthy.
And acknowledging you never appeared to end well for me.

For years and years, I thought you were the enemy.
I’ve felt more-than-betrayed by you more times than I can count.
On so many levels.
In the interest of full disclosure, let’s list the parts of you that have ceased to work, exist, or just cause problems…

Knees. Appendix. Thyroid. Esophagus. Uterus. Ovaries. Breasts. Hair. Fat cells.

The fact that I need to use the back of the page to list the 15+ surgeries you’ve undergone when I fill out standard forms at the doctor’s office staggers me. It’s given me the ammo I’ve felt I needed to keep firing at you. So that I could imagine some sense of control when you chose to act so out-of-control.

Imperfections. Infections. Autoimmunity. Cancer. Loss. Scars.

I always thought it was you who couldn’t be trusted.
Turns out that wasn’t true.
It was the messages I listened to about you that weren’t trustworthy.
And that led to believing lies about you.

So, I’ve decided that I want to find a way that we can beautifully and peacefully coexist.
I want to honor you for all you’ve done.
All you’ve been through.

It’s occurred to me that if you and I can get on the same page, play on the same team, we can affect some positive changes. Not just for us, but as a witness to wholeness. A testimony to what can happen when gentleness and gratitude take the place of contempt and condemnation.

Those four girls you gave birth to could really use a roadmap to Body Love.
To Radical Self-Acceptance.
And who’s to say how much farther than their precious hearts the ripples can extend.

Speaking of those babies-turned-beautiful-young-women, they’re evidence of all the good you’ve done.
All the things I am thankful for about you.

Athleticism. Successful pregnancies. Breastfeeding. Resilience after surgery. Surviving a year of chemo.
I have deep gratitude for all of it.

In living out that gratitude, I’ve sketched out a bit of a preliminary game plan…
I’m going to continue feeding you clean, healthy, delicious whole food, trusting that you’ll take what you need from it.
I’m going to nurture you with regular sleep, believing that you’ll regain the energy necessary to heal.
I’m going to be mindful of the way I speak – and think – about you, knowing that you’ll respond positively to kindness.
I’m going to fill your ears with music and your eyes with beauty, hoping that you’ll find deep rest in God’s endless creativity.
I’m going to put away the scale and all the other measuring sticks, having faith that you’ll intrinsically find your set point.
I’m going to actively honor the gifts and talents God’s seeded in you, realizing that you’ll blossom as He intended when I give you the freedom to shine.
I’m going to practice renewing my mind and erasing all the Not Enoughs I’ve lived under by focusing on Whose I am, understanding that we’re divinely connected, you and I.

I think we can do this.
Even though it feels like I’m a bit out on a limb in putting all this out there.
After all, you could keep rebelling.
Betraying.

But I’m hoping maybe you’ll settle in.
And find rest.

In that hope, Happy Birthday.
Let’s make Forty Eight the Best. Year. Ever.

 

 

6 Comments »

Reclaiming Me :: Mind/Body

{Throughout 2015, one of the ways I’m going to overcome my Writing Laryngitis is to post about ways I’m Reclaiming Me :: Body, Mind, and Soul. Here’s a bit more of that Reclamation.}
maam
<< Livestrong @ the Y // Week Five >>

Um.
Someone called me ma’am today.

At the gym.
AFTER I’d kicked butt on the elliptical and unleashed my inner Amazon Queen on four Leg Day stations.
Ma’am?
Seriously??

After how hard I worked the previous hour, it was a little disorienting.

I was feeling like I’d just rocked it with my inner athlete.
The one who is frozen in time in my mind.
At around age 20.

So being called ma’am knocked me out of my self-congratulatory reverie.
Hard.

Do I look so old that the default is ‘ma’am’?

I drove home in a bit of a stupor.
Deflated.
Dazed.
Discombobulated.

Ma’am?
That hurt.
More than I’d like to admit.

I thought about it all morning.
Trying to pull apart why I felt so dejected.
Attempting to find a way to healthfully frame it.

And then I recognized that something else entirely was impacting the processing of that exchange.
Another layer to my reaction?
My birthday is coming up really quickly.
And I haven’t yet arrived at the place where each additional year is embraced with glee and gratitude.
(Is that a real place even? I’ll let you know…if and when I ever arrive there. *wink)

I mean, I love my birthday.
And thriving through a battle with cancer does afford one a deeper level of tender thanks with each passing year.
But c’mon, man…Ma’am??

The way I see it, I’m facing a tough, but clear, choice.
I can rage against the dying of the light.
Let that four letter word (ma’am) penetrate my heart and mind and lodge deep in a way that could potentially make everything – not just gym workouts – harder and more of a challenge.
Or I could smile at the passing of time and do my best to make friends with it.
Maybe acquaintance-level friends at first, but friends nonetheless.

Don’t we all have that choice?
Whether we’re excitedly grabbing hold of the fresh, new beginning stages of adulthood…
or realizing that we’ve reached the top of the proverbial hill and are falling…oops! I mean heading over it…
or gratefully acknowledging a long, fruitful life while desiring to live each moment to its fullest…

Do we rage or make friends?
Do we fight and fear or embrace and esteem?
(And does it cause anyone besides me a bit of a stomach ache to admit that the better choice – the one that holds the most potential peace and joy – is the hardest? It’s just you and me here — you can be honest.)

Because in theory, it doesn’t seem like much of a contest…rage and fight or make friends?
Who in their right mind would choose rage? fight? fear?
No one I know.
At least not in theory.

But I propose that we choose those darker views by default when we get tripped up by being called ma’am or…wait…what even IS the male equivalent of ‘ma’am’? Sir? I don’t know. But you get the point, right?

And I, for one, don’t want to live by default.
Let’s choose well and embrace the days.

Even if someone calls you ma’am.

4 Comments »

Reclaiming Me :: Body

{Throughout 2015, one of the ways I’m going to overcome my Writing Laryngitis is to post about ways I’m Reclaiming Me :: Body, Mind, and Soul. Here’s a bit more of that Reclamation.}

grateful for the pain

<< Livestrong @ the Y // Week Three >>

Today, I hurt.

Like all over.
Like. My. Whole. Body.

It’s kind of hurt that actually has a sound.
If you’re really quiet, you can hear it pretty clearly…

Shhh…
Hear that?
It’s the sound of muscles screaming.

One of the trainers this week said he prefers the term ‘singing’ when referring to the sound muscles make WHEN THEY’RE BEING TORN TO LITTLE SHREDS during the workout process. Singing?

Hmmm…today, I think I’ll stick with ‘screaming.’
With each breath, every inch of me is being reminded that I did things this week that I haven’t done in years…and some things I’ve never done at all.
Things like spinning, zumba-ing, weight lifting, battle roping, ripcording, weighted-ball-twisting lunge-walking, step-upping. (I’m sure the words I’m making up have Fitness Experts everywhere shuddering…oh well, shuddering probably burns more calories so, Fitness Experts, you’re welcome!)

So, yeah…I hurt.
And, as I lay in bed this morning, breathing slow and deep in an attempt to motivate this sore, aching body to get up and out of bed, I realized that I’m grateful for the pain.

Grateful because it signals to my heart and mind that I am alive.
Grateful because it reminds me that the slumbering Amazon Queen inside of me is starting to regain her footing.
Grateful because it means I did something that’s going to make a difference (as long as I keep doing it *smirk).
Grateful because it calls to mind just how much this stitched-together, stretched, scarred body can still do.
Grateful because it helps me grab onto the miracle that I’m becoming a Thriver after spending most of my life simply surviving.
Grateful because it tells me that I managed to show up for myself this week.

You want to know a magical thing that comes to me as I sit with that last one?
That Showing Up Thing?
I realize that when I show up for myself at the gym, I tend to show up in other important areas of my life, too.
Without breaking too much of a mental sweat.
Without getting into a long argument with myself about it.
Without letting old tapes and messages play louder than the truth.
Showing up for myself at the gym is strengthening a lot more than just my body, it seems.

Maybe, just like my muscles that are being TORN TO LITTLE SHREDS (also referred to as ‘good trauma’ *maybe something for a future post?) in the strengthening process, the reasons I’ve historically been afraid to show up are being TORN TO SHREDS, too.
Ripped up.
Frayed and rent and mangled.
All so that my Showing Up Muscles can be rebuilt into the confident, strong, agile muscles they’re meant to be.

So I’m grateful.
Grateful the shredding.
The ripping.
The fraying.
Grateful for the pain.

It means I’m getting stronger.
In more ways than one.

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Reclaiming Me :: Body

{Throughout 2015, one of the ways I’m going to overcome my Writing Laryngitis is to post about ways I’m Reclaiming Me :: Body, Mind, and Soul. Here’s another bit of that Reclamation.}

The Struggle

<< Livestrong @ the Y // Week Two >>

** This past week was my second week at Livestrong @ the Y instead of my third because I got to spend last week out of town wishing my new son in-law well on his year-long deployment to South Korea and supporting my oldest girl as she started finding her footing at home without him.

You know that thing when you naively, even excitedly, commit to something that sounds so very good on the face of it, only to grind your teeth in frustration each time you force yourself to follow through, show up, and honor that commitment?

That thing when your alarm goes off AND IT’S STILL DARK OUTSIDE and you say, out loud, ‘Whose flipping idea was this?!’

That thing when the struggle to make like it’s easy…like it’s a piece of cake…overwhelms and turns you into a cranky toddler?

Well, I’m here to tell you THE STRUGGLE IS REAL.

And what I know for sure is THE STRUGGLE IS WORTH IT.
{At least that’s what I know for sure so far…}

IT’S WORTH IT because when you get to the gym so crabby you’re afraid you may do something that lands you on the wrong side of the law but the endorphins produced in conjunction with all. the. sweat. help balance your mood, you grab onto the hope that exercising your One Precious Body could really be the key to overcoming The Gray that tends to nip at your heels.

IT’S WORTH IT because when you can increase your time on the elliptical without keeling over, you realize that those legs you’ve always thought of as Too Big are actually getting stronger every day

IT’S WORTH IT because when you sweat a half a bucket less (which is still A LOT) during thirty minutes of cardio than you did two weeks ago, you begin to believe that your respiration and perspiration may just be evening out and will eventually match each other in ways that prove increased stamina.

IT’S WORTH IT because when you hear one of the trainers say, ‘Look at you. You’re a natural.’, you are able to remember – and embrace – the fact that living inside of you all this time has been an athletic, powerful Amazon Queen patiently waiting to be rediscovered and invited back out to play.

When I was driving home on Thursday morning as, for the record, the sun was just starting to rise, it occurred to me how different things will be when the end of this twelve-week Livestrong session arrives the middle of April…

It will be light outside when that alarm goes off.
It won’t be such a struggle to get myself out the door (I’m projecting Hope and Faith into that future space here and now *grin)
My legs and heart and lungs and inner Amazon Queen will all be stronger
My moods will be brighter, lighter, and right-er.

And, I can see it from here — The Struggle will still be real.
And OH-SO-WORTH-IT.

4 Comments »

Reclaiming Me :: Mind

{Throughout 2015, one of the ways I’m going to overcome my Writing Laryngitis is to post about ways I’m Reclaiming Me :: Body, Mind, and Soul. Here’s another bit of that Reclamation.}

just do it

<< Just Do It >>

Overcoming Writing Laryngitis is proving to be just a tad more challenging than I’d imagined it would be.

After all, shouldn’t I just be able to sit down and pound out a few posts, coherently elucidating the huge number of ideas and thoughts and feelings that have been banging around in my head and heart like so many tantrumming preteens protesting being sent to their rooms these last several months?

I mean, I can write so clearly and succinctly in my imagination.
Ya feel?

Notions and sentiments flowing and fluttering and floating from my fingertips with no real effort, no impediment, no barrier.

Doesn’t just the thought of that conjure up beautiful, peaceful, writerly images?

Let’s just sit with the peace it evokes for a minute, okay?

Ah. Who am I kidding?
I can barely type without looking at my fingers.
Even on my best day, the messages have to work to hold their shape and maintain their flow as my I-cheated-in-middle-school-typing-class fumbling threatens to squelch and erase them before they even see the light of day.

But I’ve let the pressure to produce, to write it all AND NOW keep me from writing anything at all.
I’ve let the belief that I have to have it all together AND NOW keep me from freeing those feelings from their Me-Imposed Time Out.
I’ve let the whispers that I have to say it all right AND NOW keep me from allowing my words to tumble and land where they may, welcomed and accepted in all their vulnerable messiness.

I’m done with that today.
Today, it’s like a Nike commercial up in here.
You know the commercials I’m talking about.
The ones filled with sweating, intense, focused, Just Do It-ness.
The ones that make even arthritic-kneed, middle-aged, round-edged mamas like me feel like anything is possible.
Anything.

{And, for the record, there is sweating, intense, focused, Just Do It-ness happening right now…heavy on the sweating, light on the focus, if I’m being honest.}

As I argue with the Discouraged Perfectionist who knows she’s about to be evicted from her Bossy Throne in my head by all this Just Do It-ness, I can feel my heart beat faster, my knees shake a bit, and my courage flash its tiny, baby muscles.

Isn’t that how it seems to work?
You make up your mind to Just Do It which in turn unleashes all the Characters of the Status Quo who get their dander up and attempt mutiny on the itty-bitty brave new Decision to Do Things Differently.

But don’t let them win.
Tell them to quiet down.
Remind yourself, when the disloyal crowd of Characters gets loud and obnoxious and unruly, that Nike – before it was a shoe company with awesome, inspiring commercials – was the name of the Greek goddess of strength, speed, and, wait for it…victory.
Yes.
Victory.

So…you’ve got this.
Just Do It.

Thanks be to God, who gives us this victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! ~1 Corinthians 15:57(CEB)

2 Comments »

Reclaiming Me :: Body

{Throughout 2015, one of the ways I’m going to overcome my Writing Laryngitis is to post about ways I’m Reclaiming Me :: Body, Mind, and Soul. This is the first in a series of posts that will record that Reclamation.}

midlifereclaim

<< Livestrong @ the Y // Week One >>

Lately, I’ve been thinking that maybe I lost touch with my body when it decided to play host to breast cancer almost five years ago.

Then I thought that being pregnant FOUR TIMES (most of the decade of the ‘90s) may have been the genesis of it.

My breath caught as I recently realized that there has never been a time in my life when I have felt in full, sole-possession of my own body.

Uninvited, inappropriate comments from those whose job it was to protect.
Unwanted, improper advances from neighbors.
Unfathomable, indecent impositions by boyfriends.
Unbelievable, immodest interactions with too many nameless, faceless boys.
Unimaginable, impure marriage relations with a sex-addict husband.
Unthinkable, inordinate numbers of health issues.

Now, after all this time, on the precipice of Midlife (okay, so maybe just on the other side of that precipice?), I’ve decided to reclaim my body.
Make it my own.
Own it in all it’s glorious, lumpy, pieces-missing, scar-marked glory.
To step into full and complete ownership of this miraculous creation.
Embrace it as the amazing, resilient, succulent fantastic-ness that it truly is.
Thank it for all it’s done for me .
Live in a state of gratitude for it’s bounce-back-ability and strength.
And honor it by treating it with kindness, grace, really healthy food and movement.

One way I’ve decided to reclaim me, to make my body my own is to enroll in my local Livestrong @ the Y program. It started this week. Early on Tuesday and Thursday morning. ‘Early’ as in the sun was STILL NOT UP when class was done. I’m good with that. Really, I am. What I’m not so good with is the mild case of social anxiety that accompanies me every time I step out of the sanctuary that is my home.

You see, Tuesday morning’s session was of an informational nature and there. were. icebreakers. *gasp*

It’s not enough that people scare me.
And new people downright terrify me.
Ice breakers had to be thrown in for good measure.

It was that always-a-blast classic ‘Two Truths & a Lie’.
And when it was my turn, I could not think of a lie!
It was not super-smooth or ‘hardly noticeable’...it was a train wreck.
To top it off, in trying to make everyone laugh about my not being able to lie, I said TWO SWEAR WORDS.
Not the ones that garner movies their R ratings, but is that really what’s important here?
I was doing my socially-angsty, sweaty-because-I’m-scared-of-you best to make a decent first impression.
And. I. Swore.
I was so mortified that my glasses actually steamed up from the increase in body temperature brought on by Flop Sweat.

But I stuck it out and did my best to talk myself down on the way home.
You know, that thing where you have to repeatedly tell yourself, ‘Let it go. It’s not as bad as you think it was. No one thought anything of it. Etcetera. Etcetera. Etcetera.’

I thought I was doing pretty well in relation to this reclaiming/honoring my body deal.

Then I had a meltdown on Wednesday night because I had *nothing to wear* to Thursday’s class.
And that meltdown carried over into the very early hours of the morning when I realized that the pants I was planning to wear wouldn’t accommodate the knee brace I’m forced to wear after bilateral knee surgery several years ago.

Yelling, pouting, passive-agressiving ensued, and some tears even fell..
It was not pretty.

But, I was on time.
And rest assured, I didn’t go naked.
I put together something that was okay to look at and accommodated that darn knee brace.

Then, my body – that thing I haven’t trusted for…well, forever…decided it was going to show up.
And impress.

I aced the flexibility test.
(The trainer said my result was the ‘best [she’d] seen.’)
I cleaned up in the 6-minute walk test.
(Another trainer said she could tell I was ‘an athlete’ and that I am ‘going to be fun to work with.’)
I leg-pressed more weight than I thought I would.
(210 pounds.)
And I chest-pressed enough to impress myself.
(90 pounds.)

So, my body – that thing I’ve been bemoaning and ashamed of and not trusting – made me proud.

That’s how I plan to keep Reclaiming Me in regards to my body.
I’m going to give it permission to show up.
Maybe not dressed to the nines.
Maybe not as one of those cutie patootie, looking-younger-than-is-natural chicas. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that…)
Maybe not all put-together and set-the-world-on-fire confident.

But I’m going to show up.
And let myself be strong.
Even if I swear a time or two.

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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.

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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}

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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 »

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