Choosing to Really See (An Empower Up Project Story)

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I was blessed to write a piece for The Empower Up Project yesterday. For those of you who don’t know, this amazing community/website “was created to provide ALL women with a platform where we can help each other grow, succeed and collaborate.” It was founded by the awesome Kim Albano, a leadership and development consultant doing the work of lifting women up and helping them go after their dreams. I am honored to play a little part in her vision of empowerment with a grace story that I wrote in view of my sister’s joy-filled perspective on life despite her daily struggle with the effects of breast cancer.

For those of you who are new to Grace for the Wasted Space and don’t know my sister’s story, check it out here. For those of you who need some light shed on your dark path right now, come on over to The Empower Up Project and see what I learned while watching my sister go through the greatest battle of her short life. Maybe you know someone that needs a little hope in this season. Maybe you need some?

I’ll leave you with this heartfelt quote from my piece and hope it resonates with you:

“We don’t have to say much to understand each other’s hearts. The seagulls squawking over a child’s sandy snack in the distance say what we’re both thinking: There’s just not enough to go around, is there? Or so it would seem. There are too many unfulfilled needs to be met. Too many broken hearts to be mended. Too many desperately lost to be saved. “

An Unexpected Lesson While on Vacation

I’m on vacation this week so my blog posts are going to be few and far between. That being said, I did want to share something that I have learned while enjoying this extra time with my family. Ready for it?

laughter really does make everything better.

It’s a simple principle but one that we overlook during the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives. I’ve been desperately needing a time out from my responsibilities so that I could take some time to really enjoy the moment. I don’t know about you but, for me,  this is not an easy thing to do.

I know we can’t take a vacation every single month but we CAN make a point to set aside time just to be present.

Some easy ways to laugh this week are:

Really pay attention to your kids when they ask you to watch them while playing on the playground. (Cue “Look at me, Mommy!)

Turn off the television, get outside, and go for a walk around the neighborhood with your hubby. (He might make ya smile like he did in the olden days! ) 🙂

Take the day off and go do something you haven’t done since you were a kid. (Like roller skating!)

Read a funny book just for the sake of entertainment. (I love the Gemma Halliday High Heels Mystery books!)

What I am saying is:

position yourself for happinessHappy people aren’t happy on accident. They go out looking for it. It’s not going to just come and knock on your door while you’re laying on the couch watching a Netflix marathon. You have to pursue it.

And if all else fails, DANCE!

A Time to Heal

hold on to the promise of freedom that tomorrow morning brings.

It’s spring. I can’t tell you how happy I am to see the daffodils and daisies awakening to the morning sun. Colorful lilies are frequenting the open fields and tulips are adorning the neighborhood gardens. What a wonderful display these lovely flowers put on for our enjoyment!

It’s easier for me to smile when I have glittering yellows and blues in my line of sight. My day is inevitably brighter when the warmth of the sun melts the frost from my wintry pale soul. Longer days make me jump with glee because it just means I get more time to spend outside in the healing rays. That’s what the sunshine is by the way. Healing. Oh, how I need some of that these days. My winter was harsher than years past due to a family tragedy and my heart hasn’t had the chance to really recover just yet.

Recovery. That goes right along with healing, doesn’t it? Maybe the welcoming smile of the cumulus clouds above are inviting me into a new space. A sunny place. One where I can run and play as I did when I was young. How I miss the ease of childhood, the naivety that youth brings, the fresh discovery that lingered in the air of my early years.

I want to be there again. Before life became wrought with trauma and pain. But I can’t go back. None of us can ever go back. We have to live with that truth. The funny thing about truth, though, is that in a strange and unguarded way,  it sets you free. Even when we don’t realize it, acceptance of the simple things that have always been and will always be, liberates the hurt right out of us.

Take the earth beneath our feet. It may be wet with dew or dry with cracks, but it’s still there for us to walk on. And it always will be. Those bulbs of spring that are awakening to new life after a long slumber in the dark can be counted on to make an appearance every year. Sure, a late frost might threaten their blooms but even so, they can be replanted, reborn.

Reborn. Another one of those words that brings comfort to my nostalgic heart. The pure simplicity of starting over in a world that is constantly on the edge of disaster makes me hopeful for the new.

Sing loud and strong, springtime song.

I have been in the frigid dark for way too long.

So I open my eyes and squint at the sun. I let the truth whisper through the wind that my time for renewal has arrived. And I hold on to the promise of freedom that tomorrow morning brings.

My New Mantra

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We all need something to hold onto when the storm clouds roll in. Let’s be real: Life can be tough. But it doesn’t have to be unbearable. Too many of us are walking around dripping wet in yesterday’s rain.

In an effort to maintain a positive outlook on life, I’ve come up with a new take on an old saying. It’s becoming my mantra because it helps me regain focus during the storms that threaten my sunny days. Here it is:

When it rains, it pours….so I’ll just open my umbrella.

Sure, I could nix the umbrella and dance in the rain like many naïve well-wishers have advised. I’ve actually tried that but I’m always left with a wet head and freezing toes. A girl could catch a cold!

And I don’t want any evidence of the rain on me. Dancing wild under the torrents only leaves me with clothes that stick to my skin and weigh me down. Then, after painstakingly removing the wet layers, I have to wash and dry them so they don’t stink like mildew. That just seems like unnecessary work to me.

Shoot, I’d probably never even wear that outfit ever again. It would just remind me of the day I was miserably caught out in the rain. And who wants to be reminded of the downpour?

The thing about an umbrella is, you can be out in the elements without getting completely drenched. It gives you a firm grip on the soggy situation. It provides you with a covering yet still grants you the freedom you long for as you navigate how to get from Point A to Point B in the inclement weather. The key is simple: You just gotta keep holding on to that umbrella.

I love what the Bible has to say on the subject of unexpected rainstorms:

“…his glorious presence, his immense, protective presence” is a “…shelter from the driving rain.” – Isaiah 4:6 (msg)

 The presence of God is what we need. The days when we can’t see beyond the tip of our nose because of the driving rain in front of our face are the days when we must cling to the protection that He offers us in His presence.

Having an umbrella when the sky drops out is the only thing that will keep us from being washed away in the flood that uncertainty, bad news, fearful situations, and unwanted interruptions inevitably bring. It is true that sometimes the rain seems like it will never stop. One storm after another can threaten anyone’s idea of happiness. But I’m not going to settle for conditional happiness. I want the lasting joy that comes from spending time in God’s presence. Without this joy, we are stuck out in the hazardous conditions just waiting for lightning to strike.

We don’t have to live that way. I won’t live that way. I am not going to stand by and wait for the grey skies to appear over my head. I will hang onto every single promise that God has given me and spend as much time with Him as I can. I’m going to smile as I remember how He’s covered me in the past.

I’m going to open my umbrella.

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Mosaic of Grace

Wait and hope for and expect the Lord; be brave and of good courage and let your heart be stout and enduring. Yes, wait for and hope for and expect the Lord.

Brokenness is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s the only way to true intimacy with God. And intimacy with God is the only thing that brings everlasting joy despite the brokenness. So one is dependent on the other it would seem.

Being broken before the Lord simply means that you are honest about your sin and shame. Unabashedly honest. Not out of fear that God is mad at you (cause He’s not). Not to check it off your list that you said, “I’m sorry” (cause that’s not really an apology). Not to get Him to pat you on the back (cause He won’t).

Admitting your humanity to our perfect God is simply the way to keep yourself humble. God isn’t looking for your perfection.He just wants you to willingly admit when you mess up out of an overwhelming desire to please your loving Father.

Because He is love, after all. He is the only One that can meet all your needs and satisfy your deepest longings. But to really know Him, to really see Him in His goodness, means you have to let go of your expectations. Because He isn’t confined to what you can think up. In fact, anything you and I could think up wouldn’t even come near to what He can do.

I want to live in a state of brokenness. In a place of perpetual laying-down-of-my-will so that God, in all His amazing glory, can have His way in me. So that I can never know what it feels like to be on my own. The thought of living in this world without Him is terrifying.

Imagine hurting your best friend and then never saying I’m sorry. Instead, you just pretend like things are normal and you never bring it up. Water under the bridge. But is it really? Or will the pain that you caused your friend haunt you until you own up to it and ask for forgiveness? It’s not that your friend won’t love you anymore if you choose not to fess up. He just wants to know that you love him enough to make things right. That’s all God asks of us. That, my friends, is brokenness.

So as we end this year, I am taking my broken pieces of pain, regret, discouragement, un-forgiveness, and anger to the only One that can put me back together. And I can’t wait to see the mosaic masterpiece that His love creates from my shattered mess.

 

 

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/33859208@N00/2354408182">Snowy Post</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/">(license)</a>

Christmas is a time of joy and hope. It’s an occasion when everyone is willing to go the extra mile to help others. Most of the world is incessantly smiling and overwhelming excitement fills the air.

However, a sense of anxiety and pain comes with this season as well. There’s a knowing that I can’t stop the radio station from playing 24 hours of holiday music. To them, it’s ratings. To me, it’s reminders of good times that are gone forever. I feel like they are just trying to force the Christmas spirit into me!

I’m just trying to find a balance. How can the two worlds coincide with one another? Can joy and hope really be found in the middle of anxiety and pain? Can I remember the old times with fondness while enduring the agony of present hardships yet looking to the future with expectancy?

I don’t know. It’s hard. Does anyone ever really get to a place where they are truly ok with whatever life throws at them? Truly at peace with the forgotten yesterdays, here-then-gone todays, and quickly approaching tomorrows?

I’m not sure I know how to do that. But what I am trying to do is keep an eternal perspective through it all.  If we could really know how long we have on this earth, would we even want to know? Eventually, hopelessness would set in and the sense of urgency that beckons us to live each day like it matters would be gone because of our known expiration date. Knowledge isn’t always power.

Actually, I’m realizing more and more that the less I know, the happier I am. Oh, being aware is vital to living a responsible life, don’t get me wrong. But when it comes to enjoying my life, there’s only so much I really want to know.

Trust is a battle. And I’m in the thick of it at this moment. To really trust in the One who is good despite the whirlwind of despair that surrounds my life right now is difficult. To really trust that He sees it all and hasn’t overlooked me or forgotten about me despite what my eyes are telling me is just plain excruciating.

Yep, I’m in a battle alright. A battle that won’t end this side of heaven. And every single day I have to choose to look up instead of right in front of me at the wreckage. Did you know that none of us make it out alive anyways? The thing is, that doesn’t depress me. It’s the living in this fallen world that is so darn depressing.

So I guess I’m being real and giving you permission to feel whatever it is you need to feel to make it through this Christmas. The truth is still the truth no matter what we feel, isn’t it? God is still on the throne. Jesus is still the Savior of the world. Heaven is still our forever home.

So feel it. Then put on your gloves and fight for your right to live a joyful, hope-filled life. Don’t lay down and take it. You are armed and dangerous through the power of the Holy Spirit. This life is worth living because of the One who lives in you. And it ain’t over ’til He says it’s over.

I think I’m going to put on some Jingle Bell Rock…