grateful amazement

finding wonder…everywhere.

Surviving’s Easy – Rest Comes Hard

#spiritualwhitespaceI’m good at surviving.

After all, I’ve survived a chaotic, broken childhood that fueled destructive choices during my teens and early twenties, many serious health challenges (including a rare esophageal disease, more than a dozen surgeries, autoimmune thyroid disease, a very aggressive form of breast cancer and the reconstruction that came along with with it), an abusive addict husband (who is currently in recovery and with whom I will be celebrating 25 years of marriage this year), raising four spirited daughters, difficult and broken family relationships, and the sudden, confusing loss of friendships I held dear for a decade.

Survival. Resilience.
I’ve got that part down.
Looking at that list, it’s obvious I’ve had lots of practice.
(And the help of some amazing mental health professionals over the years. *smile)

What I’m NOT good at is rest.
Historically, rest has not felt safe.
Rest has left me vulnerable.

Enter the breathtakingly amazing timing of an opportunity to be part of the launch team for Bonnie Gray’s new book, Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul To Rest.

And this line from the book: ‘I am very good at surviving. I am an expert at figuring out how to do things right and do them well. I am not afraid of working hard, swallowing whatever might get me down, and pushing through.’

{I actually put a box around that whole passage instead of just underlining it because it resonated so deeply in my soul as I read it. For the record, though, I have underlined, double-underlined, starred, asterisked, and exclamation-pointed close to 90% of what I’ve read so far. It’s. That. Good.}

To be honest, though, rest – even the thought of it – causes panic to well up inside of me…squeezes my chest with anxiety…blasts at full volume the voices that try to convince me that rest is not for me. That rest is not a thing I am worthy of. That rest is a sign of weakness. (Huh – maybe the contradiction woven in those voices should be the first clue that they’re lying?)

It’s no accident that the concept of Spiritual Whitespace has entered my life during this season…

I have one baby left at home (and at 17, she’s not much of a baby anymore).
I’m near the anniversary of the fourth year since that cancer was found.
As Baby’s boyfriend informed me a few weeks ago, I’m only three years away from turning 50.
And, as I work to discover what God has for me to do in my Second Act, I know He’s calling me to rest. In Him.

As Bonnie so beautifully, invitingly puts it, ‘Finding whitespace is daring to discover the places in your heart that are virgin, tender, soft, untraveled, wounded, or broken – so Jesus can make those places yours and his.’

I’m going to be looking for whitespace over the next few weeks and will share what I find with you here, friend.

And I hope someday soon to be able to say ‘I’m good at resting.’

Whitespace Community Linkup @ faithbarista.com
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Be Gentle

In the last seven days, my calendar was filled with things that would feel heavy and hard, when faced one at a time, edges laced with potential discord and disappointment, crumpled with unrecognized fear and worry, seared with the heat of strain and pain.

I don’t know how (or why) they were all dumped into what felt like one long stretch of One-Thing-After-Anothers.

I know I sure wouldn’t have chosen it to be the way it was.
But I don’t remember being consulted about the timing.

I could go into intricate, colorful detail of each item I tried to casually check off with the pencil that lives next to the planner on my desk as the days bled together, but the particulars are not the point. The fact is, it’s likely that your calendar has looked the same. Maybe not last week, but the week before. Or sometime last month. Or maybe it was last year.

And, after you survived it – that onslaught of difficult appointments to keep, difficult relationships to balance, difficult situations to navigate – you came up dazed and worn and more than a little weary, didn’t you?

You realized you were holding your breath only when your head started feeling light.
You became aware you were clenching your jaw only when your teeth started to hurt.
You knew you were tensing your neck and shoulders only when your muscles started cramping.

I know.
Because that was me.
All day today.

At first, I was confused…
Why the heck was I feeling so raw? So spent?
After all, I had made it through those perilous days.
Shouldn’t I be swept up in a sweet flood of relief and gratitude?
What was my problem?!

Before I got so far down the Road Of Self-Loathing that there was no turning back, I heard sweet comfort in the words of a friend.
Sweet comfort that turned me around and pointed me in the direction my spent soul and hurting heart needed to go.
Words that acted like a precious healing balm and turned me toward Hope.

‘Be gentle with yourself.’

Friend, when you find yourself dazed and confused after surviving something – or some things – difficult, remember those words given to me that I now give to you…

‘Be gentle with yourself.’

{One way you could be gentle with yourself today is to click through to Holley Gerth’s and Jennifer Dukes Lee’s places…reading their words, and the words of the brilliant writers who link up, will bless your weary heart. I’m sure of it.}

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SuperYOU

‘But when women are moved and lend help,
when women, who are by nature calm and controlled, give ENCOURAGEMENT and applause,
when virtuous and knowledgeable women grace the endeavor with their sweet love,
then it is invincible.’ ~
Jose Marti

Before we go any further, reread that quote.
Go ahead.
I’ll wait here.

Did you read it?
REALLY read it?
Let those words so beautifully strung together sink in?
REALLY sink in?

When I found this amazing collection of letters woven into such sweet but powerful truth, I got chills.
I read it again.
I sat with it for a little.
Then I reread it.

If you want to go back up there and give it another read, please do.
If you want to sit with the remarkable, poignant images it paints, take your time.
The rest of this post can wait.

What’s your favorite part of the quote?
Is there a part that quickens some desire deep inside your soul?
For me, it’s the mystery that rests in the genteel, almost delicate description of female help combined with that ridiculously awesome word INVINCIBLE.

I mean, is that a word, or what?
INVINCIBLE.
Words that mean the same thing?
BULLETPROOF.
INVULNERABLE.
UNASSAILABLE.
Powerful stuff, right?

The way I read it, when we, as women, are moved to help, and when we encourage and love, the things we do cannot be shot to smithereens, cannot be damaged, cannot be attacked, questioned, or defeated.

I don’t know about you, but that sends shivers down my spine and makes me want to slip on a superhero cape and rush to save the world.

God has equipped us…each of us…to be superheros, my friends.
Maybe not in an epic, big-screen, Iron Man way, but in all kinds of little ways that make all the difference in the lives of those around us.

Here’s what it takes:
(go ahead and cue The Avengers theme, if that helps you grab on to who you can be…who you ARE…)

#1 – Allow yourself to be moved. Do your best to let yourself come out from behind whatever walls you may have needed till now to feel safe. Listen for what makes your heart beat and then find it. It may not be as far away as you think.

#2 – Lend help. To whomever God puts on the path next to you. Ask Him for the clarity to see needs that others’ eyes may be missing. Don’t listen to the voices that tell you it is ‘someone else’s’ problem, whatever it is.

#3 – Live out your female nature. Be honest – that ‘calm and controlled’ part made you look twice, right? It’s easy to buy into the ‘hormone-crazed, PMS-ing woman’ images that bombard us and make us question our sanity some days, but we CAN live calm and controlled…and WE NEED TO so that our uplifting advice can have its full effect.

#4 – Be a cheerleader. Maybe you never made the squad in junior high or high school, but that is NOT an indicator of your natural ability to lift others with your words and applaud them with your strong, gentle hands. You can add pom poms and a kick or two if you want, just for good measure…just remember that what’s important here is the encouragement. Apply it genuinely and liberally.

#5 – Let honesty and grace rule your actions. When the two are paired (honesty + grace), your words and deeds will match up and the world – your world – will see you as supremely trustworthy and seek you out for your gentle and truthful input. To be trusted is no small thing.

#6 – Learn stuff. Once you learn stuff, you’ll begin to understand there’s always so much more to learn. Keep learning. Maintain a teachable heart through all you face in life. It will ensure the lessons and seeds of truth typically hidden in the hard times will make their way into that place inside you where experiences are magically mixed with awareness and understanding, enabling you to use what you’ve learned. That’s all knowledge is, you know…using, not just talking about, the things you’ve learned.

#7 – Love. Simple. Yet complex. Easy. Yet arduous. Try to remember Love in all things. Also remember that Love doesn’t always look like hearts and flowers and frilly things…sometimes it can look an awful lot like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates – a half-eaten mess because you never know what you’re going to get. No matter, though. Love anyway. Love all ways.

Oh, friend!
How this list excites my heart!
For you…and for me…and for them!

So grab a cape.
Be a superhero.
Be INVINCIBLE.
Go on.
You can do it!
You were MADE to do it!

(in)couragement: a superpower

 

{It’s a link-up over at (in)courage today! Click thru to find so much more encouragement!}

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Look Kindly

I go to yoga class Monday and Wednesday mornings.
I go to improve my overall well-being, beginning with my deep need for some kind of effective stress management.
I go, fully aware that I’ll never be pretzel-y enough to master some of the poses.
And, if I’m honest, sometimes I go even when it’s the last thing I want to do.

It’s always a pretty full class and the instructor is a big draw for each of us in attendance.
Her voice is kind, patient, gentle, and encouraging.
The lights are soft.
The music is soothing.
There are mats of various thickness to accommodate various needs and preferences.
There are bands and blocks and balls and straps for the sessions when those props are necessary.
And, there are…
Mirrors.
Lots and lots of mirrors.
Walls of them, actually.

I’m going to be frank.
Mirrors and I have not historically been friends.
I’m one of Those Girls who does her hair and makeup in the morning and then does her best to avoid any and all mirrors the rest of the day.

You can probably imagine, then, how I feel about ‘my spot’ at yoga ending up being the one closest to the wall of mirrors.
(Yes, in case you are wondering, it turns out there are ‘spots’ at yoga class just like there are ‘spots’ at church, school, workplace lunch areas, etc…occupy in a ‘spot’ that’s not ‘yours’ and you upset the Whole Order of the Universe. Laugh if you will, but, admit it, you know exactly what I’m talking about it.)

Being face-to-face with myself while holding poses that look so strong – and easy – in yoga magazines, dvds, and posters has proven harder for me than some of the actual poses themselves.

On good days, when I look at yours truly doing my best to balance in Tree, I see my strong legs, my square shoulders, my natural-hair-color hair, my bright eyes, my full lips and I think, ‘There you are, you Capable, Brave Girl. I see you. And I’m proud of you.’

On fair-to-middlin’ days, as my reflection and I are head-on in Airplane, I see my not-so-dainty-height and I think, ‘Huh. Okay. So you are REALLY TALL. Look how much taller you are than everyone else. But, remember, you’ve always said you like being tall.’

On rough days, though, when I look over my extended right arm while holding Warrior Two, I see my larger-than-I-want-it-to-be rear end and notice I look much thicker from the side than I thought, and I think, ‘Holy cow. Literally. You look like a cow. A very large one. How can the people who say they love you let you leave the house when you look like THIS?’

Harsh, right?
And maybe not totally uncommon?
To have tapes like that playing in one’s head?
Do you hear similar things bouncing around your head sometimes when faced the full-length version of yourself, too?

Take heart, friend.
I’m here to tell you that, as the number of times I’ve rolled out the mat in my spot at yoga has increased, the number of rough days has almost magically decreased.

I do not pretend to know how it happened.
I cannot pinpoint when the tide – and tone of the tapes in my head – turned.
I can only report that, after some time and some exposure to those mirrored walls, I have begun to look kindly.

To see myself with softer eyes.
To notice that offering myself truth and grace brings a gentleness to the set of my jaw that is…dare I say it?…actually attractive.
To whisper more Atta Girls than You Look Horribles to my heart.

This is all no small thing for one who was raised to believe that your appearance is the full measure of your worth…and that, no matter how hard you try, how thin you get, how well you wear your clothes and put on your makeup, it’ll never be Good Enough…you’ll never be Good Enough.

So, beloved, if you have tapes that play whenever you catch a glimpse of your beautiful reflection that try to convince you you’re anything less than a stunning, breath-taking miracle…practice looking kindly.

See yourself with softer eyes.
Offer yourself truth and grace.
Whisper lots and lots of Atta Girls to that tender heart of yours.

And be patient.
Because you’ll have to look OFTEN.
You may not be used to that.
You may be stomach-ache-uncomfortable at the very thought of it.

I’ve come to understand that learning to look kindly at yourself takes time.
I can say without question that it’s time well-spent.
And you’re worth it.

{I say it every week, and that’s because it’s true – I am SO blessed to be able to link up with Holley Gerth and Jennifer Dukes Lee. If you haven’t taken the time to click thru these links, do it today. You’ll be so happy you did!}

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How To Be A Groupie

Community.

It’s what we were created for, you and I.

It’s what our hearts yearn for, even when something has happened to you in community that colors that yearning gray – or even black – with fear.

Community.

Does the word itself awaken a song in your heart?
A song of hope, a song of joy, a song of wonder?

Can you hear it?
You may have to get quiet in order to hear the melody, to pick out the words.
It may be playing soft.
And that part inside your heart that wants to ‘protect’ you may be trying to drown it out.

But, sister, today, do whatever you have to turn up the volume on that song.
Slap in some earbuds so you can catch the lyrics.

Because TODAY is the day that Community – the very thing God wants to use to nurture us, feed us, grow us, mature us, make us more like His Son – is yours for the making.

From right there.
From right where you are sitting, reading these words.

TODAY is the day the fabulous team at (in)courage.me opens Registration to their amazing (in)courager Community Groups!

And while there are many, many different groups you can choose to be a part of ~ over 70, to be exact! ~ , the universal focus of each is Community!

{If the very thought of that feels risky…makes your knees shake with the weight of ‘I want to belong, but what if I don’t Do It Right?’…makes you want to hit Enter on the Registration form before the fear of reaching out chases you from the room…please, dear one, take a big, deep breath, steady those shaky knees and go for it. Hit Enter. You can do it! And, I promise you, you’ll be so glad you did.}

Here are some sparkly words from just-like-you beauties who took the risk, filled out the Registration form, and hit Enter during previous (in)courager Community Group sessions:

**In the Fall of 2013, I was embarking on the next season of my life: marriage. I was nervous, excited, and not sure of what to expect. Thankfully my (in)courage community group was full of prayers, words of wisdom, and a place to express myself during the adjustment. God brought lots of ladies in my life who had been there, done that when it came to being a newlywed, and I was (in)couraged.** ~Alicia Turner Beard, herethereandyonder.wordpress.com

**Since I’m in a new town and slowly making friends, my (in)courage community group has helped me stay connected with people who care about me and what’s going on in my life. These online friends have become real-life friends!** ~Holly Solomon Barrett, hollybarrett.org

**For the past two semesters I was blessed to be a part of the Work at Home Moms group. It was a breath of fresh air. A place to go for encouragement and prayer. A place to connect and belong. We walked alongside each other, brainstormed together, and created community. It was a place of beauty in the mess of life.** ~Whitney Cornelison, beautyinthemess.com

This session, I have the high privilege and incredibly humbling honor to be co-leading a Community Group called (in)Bracing God’s Light: Comfort in the Midst of Cancer with my dear new friend, Lynn Severance. We are both so looking forward to our time together, blessing and learning from each precious gal that comes to our little community!

Our group is one of many (over 70, remember?!) – I just know there is one that can be a perfect fit for YOU and exactly where you are RIGHT NOW…Empty Nester? New Mom? Mom of Teens? Working Mom? At-Home Mom? Writer? Blogger? Honestly, the types of groups available this session run the gamut!

The deets about all the phenomenal groups, and what you can expect when you become part of one of them, can be found at incourage.me/community

Let this Spring be one of reaching out, opening up, connecting, and belonging by registering, friend.

Because it’s what you were made for.
It’s what your heart needs.

Community.

 

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Dropping Shoes

 

Dropping Shoes

In my house, even with only one teenage girl still living at home, the act of someone dropping shoes wherever they land is a Very Real Thing. There are haphazard piles of shoes near the front door, the back door, as well as hastily-removed pairs near the kitchen island, dining room table, and on the bottom landing of the stairs. I think there’s even a pair in the backseat of my vehicle. I wonder if she even has any shoes that have actually made it into her room where they belong…?

Imagine, if you will, the Random Shoe Display that our home was when all four girls were living here! I have often ‘joked’ – with those Imma-Lose-My-Mind crazy eyes and that Pick-Those-Things-Up-Or-Someone’s-Gonna-Get-Hurt tone in my voice – that for years and years and years, our humble abode looked like a toy store that blew up next to a laundromat that blew up next to a library that blew up next to a shoe factory.

But, I digress…

All of these shoes spread over all these places has me thinking today.

My girls were (and still are) able to drop their shoes without fear or concern because they knew they would still be okay, they would still be loved…and they would still have a pair super-handy for whatever came up.

So, dropping shoes – wherever they landed – was not a big deal to them.*

One of the coping mechanisms that I took up early in life (and that I have carried with me all these years) was the thought that I could somehow ‘protect’ myself by adopting the stance of someone who was always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Always mentally preparing myself for the worst case scenario. You know about that stance, don’t you? When things were going well, no chaos was running rampant, no storm clouds of turmoil were churning on the horizon, I found myself holding my breath…waiting for the other shoe to drop. For the bad thing to happen. For the worry to be fulfilled.

Sometimes, I’ve turned quite blue in the face, not breathing, waiting for the *thud*…all the while, trying to convince myself that I was being pragmatic, realistic, responsible even. Being prepared, and all, to paraphrase the scouting motto.

Well, today, I heard the *click* of a truth fall into place instead of the dropped-shoe *thud* my heart has learned to expect as I realized that what I was calling ‘pragmatic’ was really living in fear of hoping. (If only I had a dime – okay, maybe a quarter – for every time I’ve heard, and even said, ‘Don’t get your hopes up.’)

Today, friend, if you’ve found your own sweet self doing that breath-holding and head-tilting, leaning-in thing in order to hear the *thud* better, sooner, more clearly, I want you to think about this…

Maybe the other shoe will drop.
And, if it does, maybe all that means is it’s okay to go barefoot for a while.

*Note for Clarification: In all of this reframing of dropping shoes, I do want to state for the record that my desire for uncluttered entryways and stairwells remains intact. (Just in case any of my precious girls happen to read this someday. *smile)

{Getting the chance to link up with Holley Gerth and Jennifer Dukes Lee again today. I feel so blessed by both of those ladies and by all the sweet blogs I’ve gotten to visit via their link-ups. Go ahead and click through so you can see for yourself what I mean.}

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When The Week Gets Away From You

Peace...one step at a time.Since January, I have been disciplined and faithful in my participation in Holley Gerth’s Coffee for Your Heart link-up on Wednesdays – and a while back, I mustered up even more courage and began participating in Jennifer Dukes Lee’s #TellHisStory on Wednesdays, too.

Well, this week got away from me.

I’m not exactly sure how – and I’m not exactly sure the How is even relevant right now…though it may warrant some investigation later to make sure I’ve not allowed The Urgent to crowd out The Important. (Honestly, it probably won’t take much investigation. I have a feeling I already know the answer…but that’s an exploration for another day.)

As the days of this week have slipped by, a little too full and a little too quickly, I decided to give myself permission to be late in posting my weekly Wednesday post — making it more of a Friday post this time, I guess. Right? *wink

Along with giving myself that permission, there are two other things that have helped me let go of the pressure (and potential shame/self-loathing) of being late this week. Things I believe each of us can benefit from when Life Gets Crazy. When the week threatens to get away from us.

#1 – When Overwhelm overwhelms, take a big deep breath, find a calming thought, and remind yourself that, no matter how many things are on your To Do List, there is wisdom and gentleness in doing one thing at a time. Just do the next thing. When we take that gigantic List and break it into One Thing At A Time, we’re eating that proverbial elephant the only way possible, without making ourselves sick. One bite, one thing, at a time. There is a sense of peace that can come from that.

#2 – Even when the frantic pace of being behind is trying to suck the breath out of your lungs, making room for people can help you keep things in perspective and maybe in some semblance of balance. Whether that means an impromptu lunch (or coffee) with a friend, or an extended talk with your normally close-lipped teen, or even making time to be there for someone who’s in the middle of a big project of their own…whatever making room for people looks like for you, it’s a remarkable way to catch your breath. Even though it may feel counterintuitive to step away from all the frenetic activity that surrounds trying to get caught up on your Action Items, connecting, fellowshipping, being there with – and for – the people in your life are mysterious, miraculous, magical ways to keep your own Busy in a beautiful new context.

So, that’s how I’ve rolled this week – giving myself permission to be late, doing one thing at a time, and choosing to make room for people.

And you know what?

It worked.
There was a peace I felt that I’m not sure made a lick of sense to my List-Driven, Task-Oriented Brain.

But it sure made sense to my heart.

{Even though I’m late, I’m still giddy to be linking up with both Holley and Jennifer again. Pop on over sometime this weekend – no matter how behind you might feel on your own To Do List – it’ll be more-than-worth your time. I’m sure of it.}

Coffee for Your Heart 
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