Saturday, 17 January 2015

The Gift of the Unexpected Mile Markers

I sat in a job interview this week...and I was prepared, and there was flow, and it was good.
There's no answer yet, I don't know if this is the next fork in the road or not.

Waiting.

I slept well the night before the interview, but the night after my veins were charged with adrenaline and I spent many of the nighttime hours processing all...and anything...and everything.

And my mind flashed back to the last time I sat in an interview that held a lot of weight for me, and the flashes were vivid and tangible.

3 1/2 years ago.
Broken and reeling.
Hoping to get a part time shift, here or there, when I didn't even rightly know what day it might be or how I was going to make a life with my children on my own....
The questions weaved in and out of job-related, to personal attributes, until..."tell us about yourself", crashed like a bomb into that office. It seemed to echo and shake the walls from where I sat and I stared at the two women across from me, perched and ready for my response...and all that came to mind was: my reality, and the parting words from my marriage that would prove to be the hauntings of my loneliest moments for several years moving forward.

"Tell us about yourself" ~ My marriage is broken and my husband is gone.
"Tell us about yourself" ~ Nothing I could ever offer would be anything anyone will ever want."
"Tell us about yourself" ~ I live in my sister's basement.

Silence.

Although the torture of that moment will always be stamped on my recall, and it seemed to be countless ages of dead air where I inwardly crumbled at a simple question....The reality is, it was a split second pause, I weakly answered the question and shockingly got the job.
Grace.

It occurred to me, in the looking back, that the meeting this week was dramatically incomparable to the last one...those 3+ years ago...and not because the questions, or the scene were all that different...but I was.

Life's mile marker can pop up at very unexpected times.
And even though I don't know the outcome of the interview this week - I know, and celebrate, the proofs of growth, and healing and grace in my life.
God is at work.
Always.

I cannot count the ways my life being completely decimated has changed me ~ for the better.
But in all honesty, the moment you realize you've been slotted for growth it doesn't usually feel sweet.
It feels like pain and confusion.
It feels like darkness and the unknown.
It feels raw, and open, and wounded.

One of the sweetest and hardest whispers you will ever hear is: I love you too much to leave you like this.

This is where He works.
The hard comes first.
The sweet comes next.
It doesn't mean that we suffer at the hands of God.
It means that He can take ashes and spin beauty... if we let Him.

If you're deep in the choppy waters of His work....
And if it feels far more like swimming to exhaustion, and near-drowning, instead of a Divine intervention....
Force your tired soul to hear the whisper....
"I love you too much to leave you like this...."

Be mad at it first.
That's real and necessary.
But know this:
That whisper is drenched in grace and is weighted heavy with extravagant, overflowing care.

When He begins His work - He is faithful to complete it.
And maybe not now, and maybe not tomorrow...maybe 3 years from today...light will crash into your thoughts and you will catch a glimpse of the miracle, and you will know this is your story, and it's unfolding just as it should.

No devastation is out of beauty's reach.
Not mine.
Not yours.
Not ever.


Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Making Peace With New Year's Resolutions

What if it was time to come to peace?

What if it was time to lay down the weapons that wound....
Cease the hateful words....
Call a truce with the finger pointing....

And what if the person it was time to end the war on....was you?

The ticking of the clock, counting down the hours and minutes towards the midnight strike of December 31 can make my head spin.
Thoughts and ponderings of how I should've done better...
How I could've tried harder....
How I didn't quite make the mark here - and how I didn't even come close over there.

Focus on the lack comes so easily.

Then comes the admonishment ...'You're going to be so much different, and so much more, in the coming year.'

You too?
Yes, that's what I thought.

How about - not this year friends?

Here's what I've been waking up to this past year:

I am drawn to people who wear the essence of who they are like a well-loved sweater.
I am disarmed by those who bring every inch of themselves to the table, and say - without apology - This is me!
I am captivated by the rare one who celebrates their uniqueness - flaws and all - unabashedly, and with abandon....
Aren't you?

In knowing friends and peers and mentors and coworkers, young and old, who don't dull their light because they know its worth...I am given permission to shine mine also.

It takes courage.
And we might have to summon some bravery when we're unsure...and offer ourselves some extravagant grace in those really tough spots. But, as with anything, practice makes progress.

I'm just tired of second guessing.
I'm weary of self-induced battle.
I'm ready to come alongside myself and say...
No more...
It's over...
I have value...
Scars and all...I am enough.
And you are too.
xox



Saturday, 22 November 2014

When Anger Isn't a Feeling ~ But a Season

I came to anger...and I could not deny it any longer.
This is the rite of passage.
It had become damaging...and stalled-out...to deny my own path.
It is a depth I needed to go to.

And yet...in that knowing...I wrestled and struggled with stepping into this space - walking into anger. It sat ill with me, a wrong fit, although I couldn't take it off.

Am I an authentic, transparent, growing person if I don't allow the journey to unfold as it will?
If I reject my story?
If I deny my truth?

Wrestling....

I felt a nudge in my spirit....What is your question? What do you fear?
I answered...truthful and uncomfortable...I've come to anger. And it's real and raw and necessary. But I am afraid....afraid because I can't side-step it any longer, but afraid that if I step into it - You won't be able to find me.

And the response was grace, and it was the One I know....
How could I lose you when I'm going there with you? I will walk with you, just don't let go of my hand.

And when I think I can't know His character, or His good ways any deeper than I already do...when I feel as if I am good, and clear, and strong on who I walk with...He comes into my darkness and blasts light even into this.

Because to be caught in the rhythms of grace means that He flows and moves with us. And where can we go that He is not there?

I forget that grace means favour unmerited, unearned. I forget that He doesn't just offer love, but He IS love.

My human walk is not predictable, tidy or easy. I run the entire gamut of emotions, and feelings, and I still want to edit the ugly, scary and uncomfortable ones out. But I can only run so long, deny so long, put up a front so long...and then I am soul weary, spent, and empty...and I am anxious to admit that the real me is anything but perfect.

And so many would, could, and do...turn away, check out and sprint in the opposite direction when the 'not perfect' comes out. Things get tough, messy, hard...and the buzzer rings: GAME OVER.

But I'm caught in the rhythms of grace - favour unearned.
And these rhythms play out through the entire song of my life - and it's not a one-dimensional, elementary plunking out of Chopsticks. It's a multi-layered, complicated masterpiece, and the rhythms of grace flow in and through the complex, the tricky, the complicated.
And the Composer - the giver of grace - He performs masterfully - ALWAYS.

I'm never too complicated of a piece for Him. My layers are not too tricky. He does not tire of the work it takes to love me and walk with me.

So I came to anger.
And I faced it, and stepped into it.
And it's hard.
And I'm not alone, or lost, or forgotten.



Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Don't Skip the Dark

I don't know much about a lot of things lately.

Really...it's a tough season.

And writing tough season, means something to me, but maybe it's a nice and neat packaged statement to the reader. Truth be told though, my life is anything but nice, and neat, and packaged right now.
It's not pretty at all.

The bottom falls out at many different intervals in life, in many different ways it seems. It's not at the same time of year, it's likely not the same problem as last time, and it's not always expected...sometimes it's entirely shocking.

I didn't see this go-round coming.
I thought I was doing okay.

I've been making good choices, and I've been practicing gratitude. I've been turning away from negativity and I've been taking chances and risks to move closer to the life I want for myself. It would appear that, on paper, I've been doing...all of the right things.
And if there's anything I'm a sucker for, it's a do-gooder checklist.
A checklist is right up there with Disneyworld and a girls spa day for my perfectionist personality.
Go ahead and tell me there are 10 choices/tasks/responsibilities to fulfill and I can expect a predetermined outcome....and I'm ALL IN.

I'm a rule follower, a list maker, a measurable outcomes gal.
I want to know what I have to do to feel secure in expecting a good life.
The tricky part about being wired this way is that life, in all of its plot twists, pivots and cliffhanger question marks is anything but predictable.

I'm struggling with it.
That's the honest truth.

I am weary and a little ravaged from the last big bungee jump that life kind of pushed me into.
I sort of feel like I had only merely begun the new ascent from that free fall...and yet...the rearrangement has started again.

And I've cried about it.
And I've been really angry about it.
And I've toyed with bitterness, wondering if maybe I skipped that last time and maybe it wasn't to be skipped.
Lots of sleepless hours in the dark nights, lots of physical, emotional and spiritual unrest...

And even in the real and authentic place of hurt, and question, and inescapable why - I am searching for the 5 steps that I can take to GET OUT of this uncomfortable, and bleak, and dark stop on the journey to wherever I'm headed.
I don't want THIS to be part of it.
I want to wrap it up and seal it shut and dispose of it.
Because I see it as inconvenient and an interruption...and I don't want to be weighed down with... being human.
Let me skip it....let me deny it.

Because we don't talk very often about how it's brave to admit the valley's. 
We don't shout about the courage it takes to face the night. 
We don't celebrate stopping. 
We don't cheer on the weary traveler who chooses to...rest.

The problem with rushing through the darkest days is that you also rush through any growth or healing or strength that can be gained from staying in them.
Just as night falls so we can regenerate and rest and be still. And just like any expert will tell you that forgoing sleep in the dark hours is detrimental to our health and well being...
So the dark comes in our lives....urging us to rest and be still. And the Expert urges us to stay there awhile, notice the landscape and the stars...for this place is valid and has worth also.
And skipping it leaves us less, empty, jittery...not quite ready for what's next.

This time I'm going to listen.
I'm not going to shrug it off and push it down.
I'm not going to fool myself into believing that only the sun-filled seasons have value.
I'm going to stop and listen and learn.
I know the sun will rise again...but I'm not going to be so bold to assume that I can rush it to bend to my watch. I'm going to respect it and be thankful for rest, and look at some stars, and be restored...
And then I can be truly thankful when the dawn cracks through the night once again, and I can carry on.


Friday, 29 August 2014

Always Choose Kindness

In the great many things you look forward to as a mother, hearing the words..."she's my new step-mom"...is not one of those things.

I do not believe that anyone sets out in a marriage expecting, truly, that one day it will end. I also cannot believe that any mother assumes that one day her young children will split their time between two households, two lives...and have many experiences, adventures and memories as they grow, with their other family.

Even when you've come to acceptance with what is.
Even when you've found peace and healing from within the collection of things that got broken.
And you like your life...
There are certain terms, certain new milestones and certain recurring scenarios that are capable of delivering a shock to your system.
Still.
Even now.
There's a lot of new territory to cover.

MY choices in life, the pursuits of my heart, largely focus on running well - this race that has been set before me. What is before me in this season?
My children.
They are glorious in their yet, still, newness to this Earth. Imagine...only having been around for 5, or 7 1/2 years? Still so many discoveries happening, still a conveyor belt of new sights, and words, and sounds. Still so much innocence and purity and joy.
These things I work to protect. And conserve. And nurture.
These little souls - they're people. Their life, right now...what they see, hear and feel...it's all part of the framework of who they're becoming.
It all...counts.

Hear me when I say - I love you my friends for loving ME. I love you for being protective and watchful of ME. These gifts of friendship and advocacy...the showing up in the dark and never leaving...ever. These are all parts of MY STORY and why I'm really, really okay today, right now.

Now....hear me when I say - my kids love their dad, and they love the family he has chosen. And part of preserving their childhood and protecting their beautiful little hearts...is to LET THEM love their dad and his new family. I am thankful that they speak these feelings, these words of affection, openly and without strained pause in my home. I am thankful that they have no idea at 5 and 7 what my journey has been, and that they are unabashedly loving who they want to love - wild and free. As children should.
My load is not theirs to carry.

This life that has been set before me is not what I ever imagined. EVER.
And there is a great deal of work, and prayer, and then some more work that is required to get to 'okay'.

BUT...back there...in the depths of brokenness...the wise words of a woman, I'd met just months prior, kept fighting, repeatedly, through all the noise, PUSHING to the forefront:

"Always choose kindness, always choose forgiveness.
Don't choose to hold onto anger.
Kindness disarms.
Anger pushes away.
Choose kindness."

When my children open their hearts and their mouths and share their joys and their happenings and...their life with me.
I want them to see kindness...
Not the painted on variety to try to sell something, through gritted teeth, that I don't believe in.
The kindness that comes from a deep peace in my soul and knowing the love that always wins. And that soul is mine and that soul has experienced forgiveness far too many times to ever be able to deny it to someone else.

There is strength for today.
There is bright hope for tomorrow.
These blessings...they're all mine, with ten thousand beside.


Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Choosing the Hard.

Three years come and gone and this is what I want to share.
Share the journey, share the path, share a shred of the story.
And it’s not for the feedback and it’s not for the wallowing...it’s for the hope, and the glimpse of the ‘other side’, and giving glory where glory is due.

We run from the hard and we cling to the easy. We avoid mess and we strive for perfection.
We have an unrealistic idea that if things are ‘right’ then they’re easy.
When things get hard..we want an escape route.
A sideways whisper in my direction, more than once...a wondering from a disillusioned voice…
”How hard is it to be on your own?”...
“Tell me the truth...how hard is going through a divorce?”

Well...on my own?... The hard could never be wrapped up neatly in a packaged paragraph.
The truth?...About separating two lives? About walking the path of divorce?
How hard is it to take an 8 ½ x 11 sheet of paper, one whole... and split and divide those bonded fibres into two separate entities, functional and unmarred?
It’s hard.

And hard can mean many different things…and it doesn't have to mean the end of the story.
I guess the question for any, and all of us is...how hard is it, and what am I going to do with it?

How hard is staying and pounding out the flaws in a marriage, because you chose love a long time ago?
How hard is traversing infertility or the long road of adoption?
How hard is being single when you desperately want a companion to walk with?
How hard is losing a loved one?
How hard is watching a family member fight addiction?
How hard is putting your parent into long term care?
How hard is ….hard?

Here’s what I know:
If you’re really living, if you’re really ‘in’ life - it’s hard. 
Doing life and sticking it out with other flawed people, and situations, is hard. And not always the trudging, clawing, can’t see the light, hard, although there are those seasons…
Sometimes it’s the worthy, exhilarating, and purposeful hard. Like running a marathon.
That’s hard and people choose it!
It’s punishing and takes discipline and determination. It takes work and commitment. 
But it’s WORTH it, and it’s REWARDING.

We fight and laugh and cry through the hard in life everyday... and when we triumph through the worthy-hard and we reach the mountain peak moments or the smooth sailing moments we can breathe deep, and know true satisfaction, and we understand better the GUTS OF LIFE.

I know the strong squeeze of a 7 year-old bear hug, and the lilting whisper of ‘I love you momma’ from a 5 year-old while saying good nights…
I also remember the grasp of a hand that used to hold mine when we shared a life together...and it’s not a flashing picture, it’s a knowing... like you know something that’s a part of you - the strength of the grip and the warmth of the skin...and now it’s in the past, yet present with me, and perhaps that is mine to carry.

There is no insurance plan that can be bought that will guarantee easy street. If you haven’t come upon the grit of hard yet...you will.

I stared at shoots and sprouts in egg carton cups this afternoon, reaching like a BIG STRETCH towards the sun...and it was very clear to me that each green life just fought a battle, each one had to break out of a shell that was too small to contain its potential, and then push through darkness and dirt and weight...towards the surface...the light...to find the breath, the purpose, the glory of becoming.

This I know - we are all meant to break out of a safe and comfortable shell. We are all required to push through dark, bleak and heavy times. We all have the potential to grow towards our big purpose in life, unabashedly running towards our light, our life source, our Creator, who has plans to see us flourish, and spread our branches wide and full.
It’s all part of the plan to get us to who we are supposed to be.
Hard is in the plan.
And the hard we live out is our choice

So I choose my hard.
I choose radical faith in a God that created me and knows my every breath, even though I may not even know the next step.
I choose to show up everyday in the life, and the mess, and the beauty that surrounds - and to SEE it and FEEL it and BREATHE it, as if it was put there just for me..because it was.
I choose not to edit my authentic and vulnerable responses to those present in my life because of past hurts.
I choose to run away from bitterness that’s like cancer...surrender anger that can consume an entire life ...and wish the past farewell with love in my heart..
And sometimes it’s hard.
But it’s the worthy-hard.

And because I know my purpose and the One who authored it -  I can do hard things.


Saturday, 15 March 2014

Confessions from a Heart Learning About Generosity...

In the middle of the never-ending winter I suited up beds with fresh, clean sheets. The sun poured in the windows, even though the blinds were drawn and I thought about the simple beauty in a day and in a life...and on second glance...wait - what was that?
A fly?
A big fat fly wandering from behind that closed blind out onto my window sill?
I stared at it, confused.
This is winter!
How long have you been there in the shadows...without me noticing? How have you stayed alive?
My thoughts quickly went from confusion, to questions and then to...anger.
I was annoyed at this stupid bug. I'm not a fan of winged creatures crawling on the inside walls of my safe, reserved-for-humans-only house. I was irritated by its presence and moreover I was indignant that in the midst of winter - which, to me, is just a long, lovely break from all things buzzy and wingy - there it was. Right there. Where it didn't belong and where I didn't want to think about it.

Does my reaction seem over the top?
Would you feel the same way?

When I broke it down and thought about it...my reaction did seem pretty intense for a housefly. But, unedited, and in the moment - those were my gut reactions. And, my mind couldn't help but start to draw a parallel from the most unexpected circumstances...and even if you can't relate to the fly invasion reaction, consider how you feel about what the next level is. I think it will be recognizable to many of us...

He calls out for spare change in the middle of the theatre district, and in your dressy clothes and sweet smelling perfume, you avert your eyes and grab the arm of your companion, stepping around him and whispering under your breath - "Seriously, you can't even go out anymore without them being there. Why is he here? Go get a job."

You flop on the couch and flick on the TV to relax after a long day and the first image across the screen is a newscaster reporting about the human trafficking epidemic that is 'closer to home than you think'. You shake your head and think - way to ruin my downtime..why do I want to think about that right now...or ever?!? It's too sad and horrible. What can I possibly do about that?

The malls are packed with holiday shoppers, Christmas tunes lilt through the halls and stores. You're feeling elated as you have just one last thing to shop for and then your list will be done...you can officially enjoy Christmas. Then - dead ahead - there it is - right in the middle of the mall - the sponsor child display. The workers are actually going INTO the crowd and approaching people with packets affixed with pictures of children! Why do they DO THAT?!? Why do they use the holidays to try to guilt me into caring about people I don't even know? And where does that money go anyway?

Sound or feel familiar?
It came to me clearly, because it's familiar to me.
In a season of raising my own kids and dealing with my own life-stuff, there have been times where the poor, the maginalized and the desperate feel like an interruption.
You?

The images we're bomabarded with can leave us feeling not empowered to help, but rather, helpless to affect any real change.
Sometimes it truly is a heart attitude about who matters - and we have decided that the people that matter are our families and ourselves. And if that's the case then we really do need to consider change.
And sometimes, it's the magnitude of the problems that leave us feeling as if - what does my time, my money, or my compassion even do?

Here's what I'm learning.

There is always more room to give. Always.
Generosity is rarely - if ever - repaid with lack.
The opening of a heart almost always results in a heart that strangely - now - has even more room to grow.
Overwhelmed? Choosing those little moments that present themselves on a weekly or daily basis. Try one of those out.
The $40/month sponsor child may be a 'no' for you, but taking a senior citizen's grocery cart back to the store for them, or a weekly purchase of Kraft Dinner tacked on to your groceries for the food bank may be a 'yes'.

It seems we defer to our brains when we feel we may lose something and we defer to our hearts when we want something. Next time an opportunity to 'see' someone in need presents itself and you feel your protective brain kicking in - defer to your heart
Try it out. See what it feels like.

I'm learning when it comes to true generosity, and compassion, and benevolence...the heart usually can be trusted.

The truth is - at the end of my days, I don't want to look back and say, "I was really good at protecting what was mine."
I want to say, "I was blessed with much and I gave all that I could, whenever I could, and I have no regrets."