Still

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The older I get (and always this time of year), I realize more and more that I need to drop everything once in awhile, and just go stand in my backyard.
It’s breathtakingly gorgeous with its canopy of red and yellow and orange.
The maples are dripping in a golden hue, as the oaks linger in green awhile.
I have a nagging sense of unrest often, and seek comfort beyond these boundaries when really, if I’m quiet and still I can find what I’m looking for, right here.
Stillness.
Sabbath.
Rest.
Here.
Now.

My goodness, I rush around too much.
I live sometimes, like hurry is the only answer to the best life and people who do just one thing at a time are either lazy or in want of a dream. I talk big about walks in the woods, and quiet mornings with my chilly hands wrapped around a mug of hot peppermint tea, but of late, (and more often than not), I’m on the phone talking to one person, and texting three others, while curling my hair, doing a wall sit, and quick cramming in a load of laundry… and then wondering why I feel forgetful, distant, disconnected, discontent.

I have good intentions.
I start out the week doing what I say, and then things unravel quickly, at break neck speeds. Creative obsessions takeover.
I’m upside down with the hours and minutes, trying to milk each one for every drop, yet standing knock kneed; paralyzed, getting nothing done, showcasing epic fails.
I truly do live in excellent rhythms most of the time,
but it’s easy for me to slip into a con game.
I talk big and don’t deliver.
To and for others, I do alright.
But to myself and the pretty little goal lists I make, I trim the edges, skip over what matters, blow off commitments.
Who’s gonna know? Only me.
I coach people with successful tips for the “life worth having” and then forget to do the very practices I “live by” and swear to others will change their lives.
I heard a preacher say once, “If you want to become an expert on a subject, commit to teaching it,” Oh, how true that is.

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So, I learn and share and post and pray with all the wonderful people who come to me for tips and support, yet sorely miss the mark for myself.
I’m learning as I teach you, it’s helping me teach me.
Even the whole blog writing thing… It’s been forever since I sat still long enough to do the very thing that makes my soul soar, but I portray sometimes like “I’m a writer” and then resist the actual stroke of the pen.
I’m a phony one moment and a girl scout the next.

So today, I literally just looked out my window in a rare and unscheduled moment, dropped everything, saw the autumn sun peeking through the trees, and rushed out there to stand in the stillness… the unadulterated and pure silence of the woods that is my very backyard.
Right between the eyes, I was struck deep with the profound idea that everything I need is right here, at least for now.
So glad I didn’t miss it.
At least not this time.




He is Risen Indeed!

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How in the world I am sitting here snuggled in my jammies on a giant king bed, far away from home in this North Carolina ocean shore town enjoying way beyond the comforts of home to reflect and finally share these words with you, I truly do not know. 
I'm not kidding you, I dreamed it up, made a couple phone calls, scrounged around in the basement for my wragged cut-offs and t-shirts from 10 summer's ago in hopes to maybe, possibly pull together a spring break for my kid and her friends, and here we are.
It fell into place like dropping a wet towel in the laundry.
I work for months to plan much simpler endeavors, yet this epic vacation took a notion and a thrown together hour or two.  Funny how that is.
I'm all for planning and such, but sometimes we just need to act on a whim.
Were I to tell you how it all came to be, you wouldn't believe it.  
Anyway, this blog isn't supposed to be about that but it bears telling as a backdrop for what I want you to know.

Last week, my 40 day Lenten journey culminated with an obsession to be in church.
Not just any church.
I wanted as Catholic as Catholic could get.  
You know, vestments on Cardinals and altar boys processing in with wooden crucifixes, and sweet incenses and candles surrounding the Holy Bible, covered in ornate gold.
Why? 
For me as a protestant, it's not that I need all that to believe, I just wanted to make a silent departure from my faith tradition in hopes to find more quiet, more focus, more stillness.
I find when I stay in known places and traditions, I get on auto-pilot and miss what's important.  
Out of my head, my analysis, my familiarity (that so often accompany me in the sacred spaces I frequent)... I simply longed for emptiness of the modern distractions that constantly distort and threaten to steal my gratitude.
And not that the Jesus I know exists in stained-glass windows and shiny statues, I just wanted high ceilings and marble floors and the company of strangers... the ones who teach me stuff without knowing it, the ones who let me freely experience individual worship so I can concentrate on what God might be trying to say to me.
I wanted mystery and a bit of stretching; even the kind that makes me a little uncomfortable. In that fidgeting and nail biting question and ache phase, I'm going deeper still.  
That's where it all gets good.
Really good.

In all the years I've been loving Jesus, these last 40 days tenderized me in ways I never thought possible.  How can I be more raw, more dialed-in, than I already am?
I find myself often crying, extremely tender-hearted about something extraordinary God's doing in the world, and in me. 
Isn't that enough? 
How much more can I take?
I literally feel my heart beat differently with each passing trip around the sun.
Have I not felt and seen and tasted enough of the unfathomable goodness of God?
Nevertheless, I still wanted to be with the people of the "earliest" church, watching them, being near to their practices, their hearts.
The story we both believe is one I simply wanted to share in their presence.  
I wanted the Stations of the Cross, the creeds, the cantor, the reciting of scriptures, the liturgies I've heard but certainly can't recite like they can, and even all the confusion of when to stand and sit and kneel and bow, and how funny I might look if I do it "wrong".

So, I researched "Catholic Churches in my city" on a bunch of websites, zeroing in on one and decided to experience the depths of the Paschal Triduum (the three high holy days leading up to Resurrection Sunday) as a simple protestant girl longing for yet another layer of knowing God and "acquainting myself with His suffering." 
I watched the priest wash feet on Holy Thursday, walk us through the Passion on Good Friday, and lead us into Resurrection on Easter Vigil Saturday.

And then... something happened.  Something unexpected, unplanned, unbridled.

I found more love. 
My heart got bigger still. 
My mind stretched. 
My tired patterns, interrupted.  
I saw His face.
I heard His cry.
I felt His pain.

For each of you, I simply longed for you to know what I know... to see what I see.
That his beaten, mocked, and crucified body was laid bare for you.
You were on on His mind.
You were the reason.
His eyes met mine on each waking moment of these hours leading up to the glorious sunrise of Easter, reminding me that His grace really is that amazing, His forgiveness; that abounding, and His love, that enduring.  And whether or not you believe it, or Him, or me... it's true.
I wanted you to know.

I was very specific this Lent in my prayer life, my practice, my love.
I wanted more of Him, more knowing, more assurance because I want to be there for you when your hope runs out, when your last dream shatters, when your plan fails.
I can't be there for you on my own. 
I have nothing to give unless I am in a perpetual state of seeking
more,
deeper,
stiller,
quieter.. all in a humble hope that I might tap into the resource that God can be only in those places, filling my well to fill yours.

And beloved friend, in my seeking I found.
In my restrictions of food and speech and small worldly pleasures for a mere 40 days, I tasted a new God, a new reservoir of provision, an abundance of unlimited resources.
Just like I had hoped for, a new peace, a sense of greater understanding showed up.
A fog lifted.
This peace might have been there all along, but my eyes were newly opened to see wider, to expand greater, to taste sweeter.
The miraculous Spirit of God is moving, speaking, inviting.  
I can feel it.
I want you to as well.

How did I get to this seaside retreat, relishing in the respite of ocean breezes and sun-kissed noses on giggling teenagers?  Not sure really, but perhaps because I got super serious about shutting off noises and limiting a few conveniences for a few weeks, so I could actually see and hear what's been in front of me all along. 

Opportunities arise.
Gifts present themselves. 
We don't notice sometimes.
We're too busy listing what's missing.
My 40 day withdrawal gave me new legs to stand on, new mindspace for exploration, fresh feelings for the God whose been holding me tight, even as I've wandered.
A few births and lifes and deaths and resurrections had to cycle around for me to calm the hell down and notice what's already mine so I could tell you what's already yours.

Grace.
Peace.
Provision.
Hope.
Forgiveness.
Promise.

It came for you in the washing of feet, the serving of the bread and wine, the scorging and crucifying of the body, the three days in the tomb, and then the rising.
Christ the Lord is risen today!
He is absolutely and completely risen right now, right here, for you.
Forever.
For always.

Happy Easter. 
Happy Resurrection.
Happy New Life.


 

40 Days

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I awake today with fresh hope.
The shining sun helps for sure.
It's Valentines Day. 
The Love in the air that I feel all the time, feels more "felt" right now.
I slip on my one and only red blouse, apply a glittery pink lip gloss around my decisive smile and with bold approach, head into this day looking for the good; the lovely.
I'm focusing my attention on what I love, whom I love, where I am, and where I want to be.
That's a lot all at once, but my intentional slower pace allows for savoring each thought.
I even take a 7 minute moment of silence to reflect on these things in full confidence that I'll be renewed and will for certain, find what I'm looking for.
 
My head just spins too much.
I'm rushing even when I'm sitting still.
I have these nagging notions to fret about the future and dwell in the past, missing what's right in front of me.  
And by "future", I'm only talking like 10 minutes from now, and by "past", I'm just thinking about last night's supper.  It's not wrong and particularly paralyzing, but it sure borders on such.
When I'm slicing a lemon, I should be loading the dishwasher.
When I'm putting lotion on my left leg, I should be  smoothing it in on my right.
I'll get the mail out to work on bills, see a sock on the floor, and rush it to the dirty clothes bin.  On the way to the laundry room, see the driveway needs shoveling.  I stop everything to do that and remember the shovel is broken.  I go to my bank account to see if I have anything left to run buy a shovel, and notice two emails I forgot to answer, and feel a need to quick check my recent Facebook post to see if anyone has "liked" it. 
I finally get out the door to buy the shovel.   
I come home to start shoveling, bound and determined to pay attention to NOTHING else til I get that done and of course, I remember something I was supposed to drop off at my daughter's school, and that I have only 1 hour to do it before the deadline hits and we're charged a $20 late registration fee.  So I go do that.
On the drive to her school, I'm crying.
I've shamed myself obsessively for all 10 miles trying to get to her school on time, because I never got the bills done, didn't shovel the driveway, forgot to actually press "send" on the emails I finally wrote, and see that no one has "liked" my post. 
I miss the deadline, get charged the $20 and come home to the pile of bills, still sitting there in unopened envelopes... uncared for, unrecorded, unpaid. 
That was the ONE THING I was going to do today and I didn't do it.
It was the most important thing. 
I laid my head on my pillow the night before, reciting silently over and over, "if I get nothing else done tomorrow, I'm going to work on the bills."
And, now it's 3pm.
What I swore to do and carefully planned out didn't happen.  
I'm officially defeated and I have a headache.
"I got nothing done", I say to myself.  
Oh wait, I put the dirty sock in the washer.
There, I got something done.

And life goes like this.
At least for me.
Please tell me it does for you, at least once in awhile.
You've been reading about, and purposing to slow down, haven't you?
You know you need to.
The stupid pace of running through the house shifting papers from one pile to the next, chasing dirty socks from room to room, and slapping our own hands because of what we didn't get done isn't sustainable.
You just noticed a "slow down" magazine cover in the check-out aisle and this time, you gotta take it seriously.  This is a sign.

So yeah, that was me.  
One too many articles and posts and headlines attempting to get my attention, warning me that a train wreck is ahead if I don't do something, so I am. 

I'm taking these 40 days to zoom in on mindfulness like I never have before.
I'm starting with my morning pace as soon as I hear the alarm.
I'm going to grab my slippers, pour myself a tall glass of water, go into the living room, sit on the sofa, look out over the field and trees behind my house and sit there in the silence for at least a minute or two or ten.
Then, I'm going to count my blessings and name each one.
From there, I'll take out the blender, pour in the almond milk and the blueberries and the spinach and sit still while I drink that.  I'm not going to drink it while I blow-dry my hair and watch You Tube videos.  I'm just going to drink my smoothie.

And I'm going to keep doing this with mindfulness for 40 days.
During this time, I'm inviting you to join me.
I'll provide helpful tips and share honest stories about my experience.
I'm planning to succeed, just like you do when you make a goal, but I'll slip, just like you do.
And it'll all be fine.  I'm going to keep going because life change happens in small steps and until I take one at a time, I can't see any change.
It's pretty simple really.  
The process is the transformation.  

Jesus took 40 days.
I'm taking His cue.
Will you join me in setting aside some precious time and make deliberate plans to be still.
Let's practice quieting our bodies and minds and digestive tracks and mouths and see if we don't see God show up anew. 
He will. 
I'm believing to that end.
 

You are my only friend.

We've been planning this day for awhile.
Well, actually ten years.
But now it's here, rushing in without warning.
With no idea how hard it would hit, (like most of life's meaningful experiences) I crumble into the fetal position, spooned around her as we lay bare of walls and apologies.
It's like this... These are her last few moments of breath and I am helping her die.
That's how deep, how real, how intense, this hour is.
Sacred and holy, both of us clinging to each other, we cuddle on her bed in silence.
The ticking of her clock, the hum of the fan, and swirling thoughts of pain and confusion haunt us both.  This is new territory... as in, not like anything else at all, thus far.
Ever.
Not for us.

High School.
A gigantic high school where she knows absolutely no one.
Not one face even slightly familiar.  Gorgeous groups of blonde, tall girls giggling in their tight circles of 5 - all sharing snapchats and sneakers and dressed exactly alike.
Cute boys in matching ball caps, tilted backwards and preppy shorts, orange and royal blue, topped off with wrinkly, collard button downs, just off their summer boat trips, posing for anyone's notice.
A few stragglers here and there, a healthy mix of culture, and all of it, just overwhelming, by anyone's standard.  
And yeah, we're doing this to her on purpose.
Might be the cruelest thing I've done thus far.  
Throwing her to the lions, pushing her off the diving board, sending her to bed without supper, and making her wear her retainer every night, all combined into one, pale in comparison.
This is what it feels like right now.  
I'm doing something TO her.
I'm giving her no options.  I'm not letting her come up for air.
I'm just laying down the law, making her face this Navy Seals training (of sorts), and not offering an ounce of mercy, no matter how much she begs for it.  

I lay here holding her, my hand on her heart, feeling her chest go up, go down.
Being still to notice how this feels.
This primal desire to care for, to protect, to defend her.  
And I too, wanting a way out.
Thinking about Jesus, under that tree, in the garden, begging God, "If it be possible, let this cup pass from me.  Not my will, but Thine be done." I want to pray that, to be that, to surrender to that.
But how?
I know what's best for the greater good and that isn't a way out, or around, or instead of, but through.  Walking one tiny step after another, focused on what's coming, while present to what is and believing this movement is leading somewhere, I allow the silence and our breath to be enough.  

Knowing this is life for her now.
This step, this rite of passage, this portal to growing up.  
And with words failing me, I scramble to think of something, asking God to show up immediately and fill my lips with the wisdom she needs.
She's looking at me for a lifeline but I'm falling apart, searching my heart and rattling my brain for even just a nugget of hope; something kind and caring, but real and raw.  
I can't help.
I can't make it go away.
It's a part of transition and it has to happen.  
I receive more silence.  Taking it in as an unwelcome guest.
Finally, these words come, and I fumble to speak,
"My darling girl, I'm right here.  Struggling with some of the same things.
Loneliness.  
Transitions.  
The loss of friends.  
Fear of being unneeded, unwanted, wondering if I matter to anyone, even you sometimes."  
Attempting to level the ground, I tell bits of my story, hoping to take away some of her isolation.
We're in this together.  
All of us are.  I want her to know that, if she knows nothing else.
Change.
Goodbyes.
Hellos.
New and unfamiliar days.

She turns from her distant, blank stare, looking up at me with glassy eyes and a helplessness, fit for anyone's final day, and all I can offer finally is this:
"The only way out is through and I'm here." 

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I can see in her despair and crippling fear, she's trying to bring me comfort, to be grown-up and helpful and yet clinging to childhood and the arms of the one who's supposed to be her rock.  And somewhere between her kindergarten self and her teenage autonomy, she nods in peaceful assurance.  
She gets it.  
I get it.  
And we just wait.
I play a song and sing her to sleep.
My pain is lightened some, but mostly the mutual ache persists.  

I remember my sophomore year and can hardly replay the events without sobbing.
As she finds temporary comfort in my warm and sweaty embrace, I play back the time I was a young girl and had to make a difficult decision, and how the unpopularity of it cost me dearly in the social acceptance quest... Would I do it differently had I another chance?  How might life have played out, had I not risked what I did?  Could I have avoided the pain that so shapes me now?  I anguished for another way then, but my Daddy encouraged the same sentiment I share with Ava now, "It's 'through' not 'instead of' that the greatest redemption happens.  You can do this and I am with you."
And I see with new eyes as if I'm being held now in my father's arms.
I made it through.
And so will she.
And I'm here for her, like he was there for me.

As I carefully slide my arms out from under the crevice of her neck, mindful not to startle and awake her, I prepare to go, certain she is deep in sleep.
But to my surprise and a combination of delight and more pain, she slowly looks up at me and says, "Mama, you are my only friend in the world.  Thank you."

We see through the mirror dimly.
We cannot comprehend in our trial that ease will ever come, but it does.
There's no way of knowing when or how, but it does.
She can't imagine she'll ever feel welcome into the tight circles or at the lunch table, and right now there's no view of relief in sight, but like you and me have made it through, over and over, difficulty after impossibility, so will she.
And so will your little ones, and big ones, and anyone who's walking on new ground as the seasons change.  

If you're feeling alone, and certain there's no way out but through, stand up and walk.
There's brighter terrain ahead.
And, I'm here.

Day #1

So, here's what I'm working on...
Believing that I'm as good, as talented, as capable, as valuable as all my amazing friends.
I didn't realize how much I struggle with this... finding myself an equal.
That whole, "I'm not enough" thing hasn't really been one of my problems,
but it's starting to be.
I hate that.
My dear friend - 20 years my junior - is constantly reminding me, "Nadyne, they're no better than you.  I know their long list of achievements, but still... You're amazing.  As you are."
She watches me exalt people obsessively as I stand in their shadows feeling tiny.

I'm a paradox.
I have an earthy, gut-level confidence that has convinced the greatest skeptics, while also holding an inner place, even deeper in my belly, believing this lie that if I was talented and beautiful, I'd be a success by now (whatever that means).  
I wouldn't be this scared.  
I'd be able to sleep.  
I'd walk past a mirror with a tinge less critical analysis.    
People see me in a crowd and have no idea how battered and afraid I really am.

It's scary to admit this... how small and stupid and dumb I feel so much of the time.
I'm embarrassed that I'm even typing these words.
But I must.  I need to know I'm not alone.
You'll misinterpret me.  You'll roll your eyes.  You'll take me off your list to call for a dinner date.
You know, if you know this about me.
This level of my own sense of deep inadequacy.  
I use this term, "life coach" because I've had years of experience guiding, teaching, directing.
Seasons come where people rely on my advice, my perspective, my words.
So, that means I'm successful, right... because people need me.  
And then moments hit where I can't spell, think, walk, talk, or brush my teeth.
What in the hell could I offer anyone else?

In the last months, I have felt a sinking sense that time is going to run out before I ever become great.  You'll find out I'm a fraud.
I was supposed to do something extraordinary with myself.  I was going to speak to the masses, entertain the crowd, inspire the weary.  I was going to have a signed-copy of a book in your hands, launch my health movement, cook gourmet dinners for my family.  I was going to pay off my debt, tend a flourishing garden in my backyard, host a television talk show.  
What I've done instead?  Collect boxes of broken dreams in my basement.
I have file folders of failed attempts, products I couldn't sell, people I couldn't convince, tickets I never paid, party invitations I didn't send,
long lists of people to whom I owe my whole life.  
I stand by rows of shelves in my closet, sorting magazines I was going to submit writings to, agents I was going to send pictures to, conference booklets I wrote in and promised I'd finally make something real happen for, and usually, I just stand there completely overwhelmed and sob.  Literally, I fall on the floor and weep.

I find myself crying in the car as I ride long miles in the snow, dragging my way home from work, working a job I never wanted.
I stay up late after everyone is in bed, analyzing my life, comparing it against all of you and yours.  While you're tucked in bed, nodding off to sleep at normal hours, holding the hands of your hot husbands, I'm wiping kitchen counters, making more lists, freaking out over how little time I have left.  
I have failed.
You haven't.
And I'm not kidding.  I know so many highly sought-after, pursued, successful, rich people.
They started out like me and then the roads diverged and stuff went their way, and not mine.
At least that's what I think in these long car rides across town. 
You're a better wife, a more successful business woman, a truer friend, a present mother. 
You've not charged up your credit card paying utilities.  You have enough.  
You've controlled yourself at a buffet, monitored your words in a tense conversation, resisted obnoxious hours scrolling Facebook.
You have it together.
I do not.
I've not grown-up, gotten real, delivered on my word.  I've been clumsy, needy, annoying.
I've lost hope, not followed up, crammed my calendar, broken commitments.  
You don't do these things.
Only, I do.

This is the lie a significant part of me believes.

And yet, even so, I walk around hopeful and happy.
I have an endurance to dream big, when all evidence of my life would steer me elsewhere.
Maybe this is success... this choice to find the good, the getting back up after knock-out, the reorganizing my thoughts to dream a new way.  
Maybe the fact that so little actually goes as I plan, is nothing but a challenge to keep being creative, faithful, and still.  When life feels raw, and resources slim, there's this love affair I have with God, I might never have if I could run to the store for a new pair of cowboy boots every time I felt the notion.  I get alone and try to see it all as a gift.  Doesn't work much of the time, but that's the goal.  I get quiet and grateful and hope that heals.

In these 40 days, these hours of waiting, preparing, remembering, feeling... 
maybe the uncertainties of this success I seek are actually tools to teach me about success I already have.  Most certainly, the Jesus I cling to knows my heart, sees my longing, and is working it all out.  That's what I tell everyone else He is doing for them.
That's the Life Coach speaking, feeling absolutely certain He'll deliver for you.  
Now, if I could just hear myself.
 

Valentine Love

Today can be hard.
This date sticks out.  
You think you're fine when you know it's approaching, then it comes at you like a lurking storm sometimes, out of nowhere.
Expectations are high.
Rarely ever met.
Pessimism steals.
Don't let it.
But how?

I'm still this morning as I think about you, and love you.
Some of you have endured unspeakable tragedies since this time, last.
I'm feeling your losses, and attempts to look for joy in them.
It can't even be possible, it feels.
You tried to stay, but he hurt you too much.  For the last time.
You had something... really something, but it came to a dead-end.
You didn't see it coming at all.
Your nephew ended his life, your parents split, your beloved Golden Retriever finally gave in.
Each time you loved hard, and you lost.  How do you love again?
So you had to make a different choice if you were going to survive.
The intense work it takes to not give way to cynicism is all you can do mostly.
Perhaps take a quiet moment, place your hand gently on your heart and be still for a minute or so, just to feel the heartbeat.  
The breath.  
The flow.
Be glad.  
Enjoy the miracle that your heart sustains you, feeds you, meets you.  
Some people don't feel at all.  It takes too much courage.
But you feel.  And it's good.
Treasure that even when your heart breaks, it heals and restoration comes.  
Feel the heat in your chest.  
The pounding.  The opening.  
The risk.  The unknown.  
Valentine's lost, hurt.
They pull and rob us of belief that love exists or lasts, but it does.
I promise.
It's okay to grieve, to remember, to cry.  Stay close to that.  Be present to it.
You're coming alive.  

And there's your wins.
Your "love" wins.
I celebrate those with you.
Perhaps, you're as in love as you've ever been.  
He finally asked and you said yes.
She conceived after all this waiting.
He kept a promise.
She looked you in the eyes and let you in for the first time.  She is starting to trust.  

I'm watching and I'm clapping loud claps.

You deserve it.  You found something extraordinary, and your life just got amazing in ways you hadn't dreamed up yet and you don't want it to ever end.  And you want to tell us all about it.
I'm listening.  Watching.  Cheering from the stands.
You want to share your pictures and tweet your love notes.
You want us to feel what you're feeling, to relish in the hope you have, to smile at the hand you finally get to hold.  
I do.  
I am.

I so hope this is your Valentines Day; this latter one.  The one where you're winning.
The one where love is within reach, speaking the language you can hear at last.

I'm somewhere in the middle.
Not where I dreamed, but not where I was.
Movement is good.  Slow and forward.  Hard but healthy.
I am spending today alone in a most beautiful sense... on purpose and grateful.
In between sentences as I write, I take Facebook scrolling breaks and see your pictures pouring in with roses on kitchen tables, candles and chocolates, romantic dinners and handwritten sentiments.  Your wedding pics, his kisses, the moment you held your baby for the first time.
And because of this, your loves, I'm enjoying mine.  
My love.  My day.  My Valentines Day.
Your love fills mine.

I'm learning that loving people in love is one way I can give back, to make the space between us open and wide, to hold my own heart close as one that feels with you, which I am seeing more and more is not only a gift to you, but a gift to me.  
I'm appreciating my tenderness; my messy and risky drive to love and be loved, willing to take on whatever comes from soul connection this deep.
The vulnerability makes me shake sometimes but in the end, I wouldn't trade it.  
Not ever.
I'm staying awake to love, no matter where and how and why my heart hurts because only there is possibility ever born.  When my eyes and hands are open, there's room for a fresh wind to take me up in surprise, to show me yet again another facet to all that love is.

So my dearest friends, love well today.
From one end to the other, the losses and wins, or some where scattered in the middle, what you're able to give in love, from your heart of love, could be just the healing Valentine someone right next to you has been aching to hold.  

Happy Valentine's Day.
I love you.



 

 

 

Enough

There are mere hours left to the fading summer.  We are sipping in every moment, savoring and stretching time... sad a bit to say goodbye to a lazier schedule, but ready for the promise of a new school year.  Like so many other life experiences, it's an emotional tug of extremes.  
It'll still be warm though she's back in class.  
The maples and oaks still swaying green leaves.  Oranges and Reds are a ways off.
Iced tea still chills in the fridge as fresh August tomatoes and cucumbers line the crisper drawer.
Pink petunias surround the patio, lingering mosquitoes come for supper as the sun still lights the evening sky, but this annual shift in time brings change... a change we feel both ways about.
We want it.  
We hate it.
It's coming.  
We receive it.

My little girl is 13.  She's entering 8th grade.  I am trying not to say it, not to feel it but it's racing, this "being a mom" thing.
I have this one chance, with this one child.  
Stakes are so high, it makes me shake sometimes.
I shape my schedule and sense of self-accomplishment around her journey, obsessing with the passage of time, acting like it's going faster than it actually is.  I need to be careful with that, but it's a natural flow it seems... to worry, to fret, to imagine I'm already dropping her off at college as her 13 year old-self with baby blanket in tow.
I'll handle that when it comes, but please not now.
This urgency keeps me intentional about my words and actions and relationships and work, so it's good.  Right?

We hit the mall for some "back-to-school" fashion.
She's been read the rules before we get in the car.
"Honey, there's a specific amount of cash in my purse.  We can't spend it all, let alone spend beyond it.  We will go into two stores and focus on the exact items from our list.  Your savings account is very special to you.  We finally have some dollars in there you've been proud to earn. Preserving that exact feeling is what we want to capture.  Trust me, you'll thank me later.  Remember our celebration the other day when you made the deposit?  Let's hold on to that when we browse the aisles with all those impulse purchases begging to be snatched off the shelves.  As cute as the tank tops on the clearance rack are, they won't be cute for long and within weeks you may wish you wouldn't have chosen them.  Keep your mind very focused on our goals.  You have big dreams and they cost.  Those bigger plans will last longer than a tank top.  Let's dream together and blow past what distracts us.  Cool?"

We get to the parking lot.
I notice her patient demeanor already.
She's happy... laughing, phone tucked away, waiting for me to retrieve my purse and lock the doors.  She's present and joyful.  
This is euphoric.  
She's in middle school and we're getting along.
I am in Mom heaven.
She's chatting away about school and how she can't wait to get there, and how much she loves math and her new teachers, instead of complaining about what she can't have.  
I notice this intently, dramatically, profoundly.
She's growing up in the most beautiful ways.  I want to cry, but geesh, this is just a trip to the mall.  I compose myself.  :o)
"We're going to those two stores, right?"  I say.
"Yep," she quips with a darling grin.
We get to the racks of her dream wardrobe.  I say nothing except, "So, where shall we start?"
She goes to the salesclerk, asks for her size, smiles over her shoulder at me, prances off to the fitting room, draws the curtain, and I wait.  While she does her business shuffling through more items than she needs, I stand with other patient and not-so-patient moms.  
I'm feeling proud.
This yearly routine isn't awful.
I thought it would be.
She whips open the curtain, smiling.
She's found the perfect thing, for the perfect price, with money to spare.
She's not negotiating, bargaining, sneaking.
She's happy with what she found, not limited by my earlier speech at all. 
We proceed to the check-out.
There are glass bowls and shelves spilling over with lipsticks and lotions and doodads suited for every teenagers wish.
It's annoying, really.
I cannot believe this, but we're standing in the long line right next to all that stuff and she's not asking, or begging for any of it.
She waits patiently for her items to be wrapped in pretty pink tissues, and neatly placed in the striped bag and then with the most exquisite mix of little girl innocent charm and young lady wisdom, she quips, "Thank you so much," to the salesclerk, then to me, "This is exactly what I wanted.  Thank you so, so much."
A Tsunami of gratitude, nearly knocks me over.  

Maybe this season where we have so little will be the poignant moment she looks back on as the one that shaped her the most.  What we set out for that day was exactly what we got.  She was absolutely, completely just fine with walking through that long corridor of the mall, past so many stores enswathed with multitudes of things she really needs, and not only not buying them, but realizing she's just fine without them.  
They can wait.  
She can wait.  
She's actually telling me how "just fine" it is if we wait to get her jeans and new shoes til "we pay the light and gas bill first."  
This is my kid.
By goodness, I'm not sure if I've been prouder.

I ponder this... how many times do I get all caught-up thinking I "just have to have" what I actually do not need?  Not at all.
What about that shiny oversized spoon that shines on the kitchen gadget store shelf making me think I'll use it to bake Macadamia Nut Cookies, I don't really feel good after I eat anyway?
I have perfectly usable spoons, for goodness sake.
What about the 8 pack of hot dog buns, we'll only use 4 of, the "buy one, get one half-off" summer sandals I won't wear because boot season is weeks away, and the dishcloths?  Mine are ugly and torn and Target is running a 10% off sale on linens?
Wait, they're not that torn.
It goes on and on, doesn't it?

This is how our lives get out of control.  This is why closets are jammed, drawers won't close, and our cholesterol rises sky high.  We buy to cure what has broken us, but soon discover new towels don't mend - even if they are on sale.
It starts with those simple purchases, the ones under $10.00, that turn into 29.99, then two for $100.00, etc.  We get sucked-in.  
We can use what we buy most of the time, but need?  That's another story.
Almost inevitably, we sit in our own space with what we currently have and if we're still for a moment, and we actually put that old dish rag in our hand, we'll wipe a counter with it and find it works perfectly, and we'll be all the better for holding on to that 20.00 in our wallet for something more important anyway.

Breathe deep.
Imagine that the peace you're looking for is actually in getting rid of and giving away, rather than buying more.  
Maybe you can walk into a store and stick to your list and that will be enough.
More than enough.  



 

It's Time.

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So, it's really just that time.
I have to stop making excuses about why I can't face the blank page.. why what I have to say is worth saying, whether or not others have said it already, or similarly.
I have talked to 5 friends this week alone, about how much I need to discipline myself to the pen and paper because of writing deadlines I have set for myself.  
Yet, I open my notebook to jot down general ideas, and break out my laptop with a carved-out two hours to spill my thoughts, and then I find a million reasons to avoid the very thing I need and want to do.  
I think I'm scared.
Just a big chicken.

I obsessively wipe counters.
I ramble on the phone, run the vacuum, make to-do lists, and find a dumb reason to run to Target, even when there isn't a penny left to spend on anything there.  
I surf the latest Pinterest pages on how to make clean peanut butter cookies.
I scroll through Instagram and wonder what the heck it takes to get followers, and why I'm wasting so much time trying, and better yet, I look for another drawer to purge.
"That's actually needed,"  I say to myself. "I had that on my list to do anyway"
And forever it continues.
And I get nowhere.  Really fast.
And the second half of the year arrives, and I gain speed on that New Years Eve party I promised I wouldn't attend again without a complete manuscript ready to turn in to a publisher.  And then, I am enormously overwhelmed that yet again, I am missing the mark of the greatness I had set out for.  

Just yesterday, I started crying about this...
"What if I never become something?  What if that massive goal I set is never achieved and then the person I said I would be (and am perfectly capable of being), I never become?
What then?"
I read and listen and observe, and from that I aim to teach and inspire and lead but on most days, I sit paralyzed.  "I'm a natural writer" they say, "so good at telling stories that make me think," but I don't do it.  
I have urgent matters.  
How dare I sit in a cozy, glass-enclosed room at the library overlooking a peaceful lake with movie soundtracks playing in the background while all I do is emote at the keyboard?  
That is as selfish as it gets.
That won't earn cash, won't help my family, won't produce "meaningful" anything.  

I want to be a writer.
I want to walk up to podiums and do mic checks - prepping for crowds of women to walk in and take out journals and write down what I say, or sit on tall, shiny bar stools in television talk shows and answer questions about the life unimagined, the marriage journey that's tough and worth it, the health and wellness quest every woman is trying to tackle.  I think I have things to say, but my tongue is tied.  My fingers cramp, my brain stops, my heart breaks.  
I see what I want dangling there, aching to grasp it, but am so busy telling myself I don't deserve it, that I literally look for ways to keep it out of reach.
Do you ever do that?

And so this is why today I am saying, "It's time."
And even if just one of you reads this, it's worth writing.
It's time to let you in.  
All the way.  
It's time to give myself permission to have what I've been wanting... words on pages in a book, that you'll buy and read, and share, and maybe even be changed by.  It's time to get this blog off the ground... link it, post it, tell people about it.  It's time to dust off my four outlines and half-written essays and form at least one of them into a book.  It's time to proceed - broken and scared - with the story I have to tell, and trust that even if commas and quotations are misplaced and modifiers are dangling, that the message I have for the world, that burns in my gut, must be told.
NOW!

I know the word brave gets tossed around a lot these days.  I hesitate to use it, for fear I'll be cliche (which again is another one of my famous excuses for not sitting down, being still and WRITING), but friends, brave is what it takes.
I have to dare to believe I have something to say.
I have to stop practicing my speech, and scripting all my words, and sifting through piles of books on my shelves and hiding in those authors' uses of metaphors and well-timed phrases, and physically sit, at an appointed time each day, and write.

"She's smarter.  His is a story others can relate to.  Her experience will really inspire.  He really accomplished the impossible."  
I can't keep saying this stuff.  I run these ideas through my spinning head and find one more excuse to empty the dishwasher, change the sheets, RSVP to a party invitation, or pull the weeds in the front flower bed.
Lovely as those necessary tasks are, they don't get a book written.

So, tomorrow I start.
Will you start something tomorrow that you're scared of... and then tell me about it?
And then, let's just do what we're scared to do... together.

It's time.
Period.
 

Clean

Spring in West Michigan is an extraordinary, technicolor showcase of life bursting forth in grand display.
Green is so green.
Cool breezes are fresh with hints of soothing moisture.  
Smells are rich with sweet nectars, reminding the world to wake-up after winter's long nap.
Pinks, purples, yellows greet around every corner lining roads and sidewalks with hopeful cheer.  It's the season of promise.  Resurrection shows itself everywhere.
Awake.
We're invited.

And so, we all get in the mood.
Wipe it down, throw it out, sweep it up.
Package it, mail it, toss it, file it, scrapbook it.
Get rid of the old, buy the new, tear down, and rebuild.
Till, plant, water, wait.
Saying goodbyes, starting over, ready for something new.

We want change.
We've stored and hoarded and napped long enough.
Time to train for the race, prep for the parties, hang white lights for the cook-outs.
We break open new books, wrap presents for grads, hurry to lose the weight, pack for the beach.  We think of moonlit nights by campfires, laughing with best friends, extended days and alluring sunsets, look forward to kids coming home.
We say goodbye to school.  We send eager kids off to summer camps and sleepovers.
Life is moving.
We feel it this time of year.
We want to make the very most of longer days, warmer sunshine, slower schedules.
We think we get to finally relax but alas, we're still rushing around.
Our minds are full and no matter the trying, we can't quiet them.  

 



We're stuck.
We're surrounded in bulging cabinets stuffed with worn-out clothes, ugly shoes, and childhood games we'll never touch again, nor will our kids, as much as we wish they would.
We have piles for Goodwill, drawers to sort, and a garage full of pails, and cords, and rakes, and broken flower pots, and that game of jarts we're going to take out and use one day.
It never ends.
We purpose to take a moment to sit on the back patio and look over the yard and breathe in the first few breaths of summer.  We take out the pink plastic plates, open the shade umbrella, make a tuna fish sandwich, pour ourselves a tall glass of cool lemonade, and recline in the wicker chair next to the fresh petunias, blooming full already.  
We dream about all we're going to do, and be, and take care of.  
But summer is making its typical early entrance, reminding us how swift this season is and how fast the time will go.  A paradox for sure.  
We can't waste a minute.
This is the summer we're going to get organized.  We're going to block out other invitations so we can finally focus on the garage, the family photo albums, the college files.
We're going to purge and purge and purge again... because we know we'll feel better once it's finally done.  We'll have July and August - which we pretend are each 8 weeks at least - to play if we can discipline ourselves in June.
But, the more we live, the more we collect, and the more we collect, the more we spin and toil and try to find an empty crevice to put it in.
Relaxing evades us.
There's too much to do.

So, here's what I suggest...
Stop.
Get really quiet in your space and be very still.  Maybe right there on that wicker chair.
Finish your lemonade and then close your eyes.
Be alone.
Set your phone and laptop in another room.
Breathe in and out.
Feel the feelings in full.  Celebrate the swaying oaks and the shade they provide.
Look around you.
Smell the flowers, look at the colors, and the yard you'll need to mow this Thursday, and be thankful.

Then, head into your space refreshed - even for just awhile.
And begin.
Open one drawer.
And take very careful time to remember.
Pick up that old birthday card and article your best friend sent, the one you tucked away a year ago and never read.
Read the article, think about your friend.  Relive the time she knew you best.
Laugh if you need to.
Cry if you must.

And then, start your piles... one birthday card, one old sock, one high school basketball championship medal at a time.  
Because the very first step to a brand-new clean life, is to decide clearly that you're all done with the confusing, messy, dirty life you've been wrapped up tight in.
You're not only going to reach for something completely different than a million things you've tried, you're going to find it.  You're going to live in it.  
The piles become mental filing systems, designed to help start eliminating what doesn't serve you.  You're going to feel so much better, so soon.
I promise.

So make the "keep" pile first. 
This one is the most fun to make.
Stick the card in this pile because you just read it and laughed, and laughing like that is worth holding onto.  You'll need this again one day, maybe soon.
Don't look at the bookshelf, or under your bed, or in the bathroom under the sink.
You'll get overwhelmed in a hot second.
Right now, you're looking in one drawer.  
Just one drawer.
The one next to your bed, where you keep handy stuff, fun stuff, stupid stuff, and maybe a couple secrets.  And... the cards you get once in awhile.
So touch and feel that card you love, and smile about that friend who sent it, and take a picture of her special handwriting, and tape it up inside the walls of your heart and then keep going.  If there's lots of "keep" in this drawer, then it's okay, keep "keeping".
But go slowly.  Stay very aware.
Look, there's an old prescription you never had filled, and a couple dead pens, and way too many paper clips.  There's a church bulletin, a stack of old to-do lists, and a really dumb idea you were done with long ago.
Now you're looking at a "toss" pile.  Start one.
You find you're not really that attached to the Redbook article about Hugh Jackman anymore so "bye-bye".  And before long, you've spent an hour and your drawer is a quarter full, instead of crammed to overflowing and your "keep" pile is smaller, and your "toss" pile is huge and you feel amazing.
And you're on your way.

So, you catch a small glimpse of what Clean could really feel like.
You're not so overwhelmed.
You did it.
You didn't spend money.  You didn't overeat.  You didn't hurt anyone.  You didn't give in to a needless temptation.  
The absolute only thing that happened is that you made a way for yourself.
You slowed down long enough to see that you in fact, can do what you set out for.
You decided to start.
And that huge project of organizing your house, just became simple and accessible.
And so you keep going.

For some, it's a paradigm shift.  This is new.  Feels uncertain.
For others, you do this yearly routine all the time.
Yet for others, you obsess about anything that isn't in a labeled bin.
We're all somewhere different on the journey.
The good news is simply this, the thoughts you had about what was impossible are no longer true.  You have a new baseline for what could be.
And this doesn't just count for your closet, and pantry, and desk, and Christmas decorations, it spreads all over your life.  

Take a moment now to think about the word, "clean".
What images come to mind?
I know...
Water, fresh white bed linens, your hair bouncing as you walk out of the salon, your teeth after a good cleaning, your gut after a detox.
Imagine now that this can be you.  This can be your life.
Don't plan on arriving anywhere in particular.
Do plan on a fresh take to what you ever dreamed for your life.

Now, go back to the wicker chair.
Maybe pour a glass of wine this time.
And celebrate.  You are on your way.
I'd love to join you.

Give me a ring.