December 30, 2011
I thought of this exchange as I ran this morning. I felt like Jim Carrey in the Truman Show when every single person I passed smiled and greeted me "Good Morning." It was a beautiful morning full of people walking, riding bikes, children laughing in their yards. The picture perfect small town.
I thought about home.
Daily working with homeless people... people literally without a home; it struck me how many people wander around "homeless" every day. Home being more than a building that provides a place to sleep.
There are many who do not have a safe haven to return to, a sanctuary of peace and love and acceptance. I am far more knowledgeable about this type of displacement that I really care to admit. It is saddening.
For a long time I aimed to have the perfect home when people would come to visit. I wanted my house to be perfectly clean and welcoming. I found it hard to be at home without jumping up to clean or fix something. It was hard to just relax. I wanted me to be perfect too.
Many of us work so hard in life to perform what is expected of us... at work, in families, in relationships; ending up confused as to who we have become. We end up creating home void of the holiness of a sanctuary.
It has taken me awhile to accept that when friends are coming to my home, they are not looking at my house. My home is me.
And now I am learning that even though I am covered with dusty scars of imperfections, they love me anyway. Even though I make mistakes daily, they love me anyway. Even when I disagree with them, they love me anyway.
So last night at dinner with Mike and Dee...while receiving texts of love from Cheryl, Maddie, and Judy...I knew I had found my sanctuary. Indeed I was home.
December 1, 2011
I have come to appreciate that my life has been…full. I have been the helper of three wonderful miracles, I have been the “mother” of Korean sons and daughters, a Japanese son, a Chinese son, and a Mexican daughter; I have been a mother of 7 children through the gift of foster parenting; I have bought a house, added onto a house, sold a house, and bought another house; I learned more nursing skills than I ever wanted when Ben ruptured his Achilles and was on bed rest; I have been blessed to work continuously since I was 14; and I have transitioned to a house full of girls.
I have come to be extremely mindful of my compulsive behavior to be the energizer bunny. A few years back I had to talk myself through the need to not say “yes” to everything. I am better at resting now, although I still tend to waver towards the go-go-go side. I am able to put myself first occasionally and not feel guilty. I am embracing the joy of discovering things I want to try and have an endless bucket list.
My life is quite easy in comparison too many, yet I struggle to always see that clearly. It is easy to feel overwhelmed, under grateful, and alone. I believe my future holds great things and I want to rush to get there, yet the true adventure is the journey of each day. With the tendency to want to plan it is hard to wait for soon. I suppose that is also my own selfish behavior of just wanting it all now and the fear of just how uncertain the future can be.
Lately I have felt like I am living in four different worlds…being who I am always…but with differences in each. This has been exhausting. So it is time to start melding them all together. I am very aware that in doing so it may surprise some or offend others, but it really is not about what others think. I know there are times that God is shaking his head at me laughing, and I also know there are times that he is extending his arms of grace over and over and over again to me. I treasure the truth of knowing just how much the gift of unconditional love means.
The past several months of transitioning have been some of the most joyous and hardest times for me. I am not sure if processing through transitions ever has a definite ending. I fail to think you just wake up one day knowing you are done and I believe life is too short to sit waiting for the ending only then to be able to start what’s next. In my reflection I have asked for forgiveness, forgave myself, and have some scars that perhaps time will heal. I refuse though to sit waiting to be completely perfect in the eyes of the world to begin what’s next.
Today it all starts with publicly sharing that for awhile now I have been a single mother of three beautiful blessings. The details surrounding this is only for a few to know and I have kept this hidden out of fear of what others would think. Yet, I cannot begin melding “my worlds” without sharing this first.
I am grateful for those who unknowingly supported and loved me over…well for a long time. I am extremely thankful for my “extended family” who have encouraged me non-stop from a distance—you are so very special to me Aaron, Amanda, and Amy. I also thank God ever day for these people who have created a local family for me--so thank you Dee, Cheryl, Johnny, Judy, Sam, Jodee, and Rocky. For lunches, dinners, talks, laughter, tears, hugs, kisses, for creating memories that I wake up thinking can't be true, for music, and for embracing me and the girls. And for the one who keeps me supplied with the brand of toilet paper I prefer and the lunchables the girls eats....well you know.
Awhile back I am not sure I could have said this in full sincerity, but tonight I can truly say I echo Tiny Tim when he exclaims... "God Bless us, everyone!"
November 25, 2011
So this morning after a wonderful wake-up and lingering in bed, the beautiful 70 degrees invited me outside to run.
The first half mile was hard as I tried to find my breathing rhythm, but once I did I was ready. Eventually, I veered off the road to run the beach only to be greeted by a group of four unloading kayaks from their car. They were talking and laughing and the bright yellows and reds and blues from their kayaks seemed to mirror the mood of their time. It made me smile.
The sand dune up the beach was deep and soft and I felt sand spray up my legs with each step I ran. It reminded me of running in the snow for soccer practice back in high school. Although there is much more delight in the sand kissing my legs instead of snow slush.
As I got closer to the top of the sand dune I could spy the vast ocean and marveled at how calm it was. The water seemed near motionless with expanses of sand inviting you far out into the ocean floor. While footprints of earlier runners or walkers left a path inviting you to "come on in."
It was serene.
Looking into the distance I spotted a couple, weathered by time, sitting on the rock jetty. As I got closer I noticed how her head rested on his shoulder. The red hood from her coat flapped in the wind behind them creating the illusion of a kite. He smiled down at her, stopping to brush the wind blown hair from her eyes and she tilted her head up in response. This pure moment of delicate love brought tears to my eyes.
I continued down the beach admiring two little girls as they stood with the jeans rolled up letting the tide kiss their toes. The water would touch their toes and they would look at one another and just giggle. And they would do it over and over. I smiled at their jubilant delight over such a simple thing.
Admiring all that was around I got lost in thought when suddenly out of the corner of my eye I spotted a dolphin fin. I slowed my pace to see it again and when he reappeared I laughed realizing that I was "running with the dolphins." We remained partners for about a half a mile until I realized I had run father down the beach than I intended. Yet, I felt like I could run forever. There was something amazing and beautiful about this moment.
Finishing my run I marveled at how much joy running brings me. Not just for the exercise but for the time it allows me to take in the wonder of the world around me. There was so much I wanted to share so I returned home. Filled with such peace and joy and glee just knowing that it truly is a wonderful world.
November 22, 2011
Sometimes there is nothing else to do but let out a big "ARGH," let it go and just take whatever the rest of the day holds as a gift.
The letting of when things don't go as you hoped...well... I struggle with that.
So I am having Thanksgiving today and continue to prepare the food for those who I am to share this with. My heart is not in it and I just go through the motions.
I am peeling potatoes...thinking of the meal I am preparing for those I love... and thoughts from Ann Voskamp's "One Thousand Gifts" pop into my mind. In the small, menial things, tasks throughout the day.. .give thanks for something. So I start thinking of my girls and the gifts they are....and the others who are coming for dinner and the gifts they are. This brings tears to my eyes and I stop and stare at nothing.
Cass takes me from where I am when she appears by my side holding a blue plastic plate and a play doh birthday cake. "You were feeling sad so I made something for you." I hug her so very tightly.
And so I should be cooking Thanksgiving dinner not out of obligation, but love. So I cook the rest of the meal offering specific thanks for things about those who will share the meal with me tonight. I do love them so.
I am mindful of my dear friend who will have Thanksgiving later this week at a different place while her heart lingers somewhere else. She is a beautiful person who brings such joy to others and yet I do not think she knows just how precious she is. She is discovering it though and I can't wait until she really sees herself as we see her.
I am also mindful of this is a new first for another person and as much as I wanted to give and make it special, I feel I failed. It did not come close to being what I wanted it to be. I settled in a funk for this morning and could not get past the barriers I created. So I cry because the night ended not as it should have and I sit here alone.
"ARGH"Downstairs I hear the laughter of my three blessings and know that whatever I am feeling, they deserve better. So I pray for inner peace, for a better day tomorrow, for my dear friend and her week, and for one to forgive my failed first.
As another dear friend reminded me earlier today, "The sun will come out tomorrow..." I can't change today, and there were some good and wonderful moments...but I am ready for tomorrow.
November 21, 2011
The sad truth is that even while I have not shared my journey, these things have still happened. Regardless, of sharing the truth of my heart, hoping that it may help someone else, I found myself still criticized for things. This only caused a downward spiral into self blame and so I chose to pull myself even tighter (because I was a pretty private person already) and surrounded and protected myself fiercely.
There was one person though, who refused to let me stand alone. Through consistent encouragement and persistent love, I was shown that even though sometimes I could not find words, and the tears would not stop, and my list of faults was endless....that I was valued. In the worst of the worst... I was still valued.
This grew to including a collection of friends---some new, some old---who sat listening, who made me laugh, who encouraged me, who opened their arms and embraced me, who invited me to their homes, who fed me... who filled my heart with hope.
William Bridges in his book "Transitions" writes that, "We have to let go of the old thing before we can pick up the new- not just outwardly, but inwardly, where we keep our connections to the people and places that act as definitions of who we are."
Great comfort is easily found in resting in what we have always known. And as much as I would like a life of great comfort, I cannot grow and become all that I made to be while resting in the familiar. So I have slowly found myself, after a brief period of just managing through each day, letting go so that I am ready.
There are still things I am working through, but I am thankful for those who have loved me unconditionally as I continue to embrace my journey. I thank God every single day for the special collection of friends that I am blessed with and love. Especially the one who despite what I said, knew what was in my heart. Thank you.
It seems so inadequate, but thank you.
October 19, 2011
Many, many years ago one of my dearest friends asked me a question I could not answer. He and I never dated as we were always involved with other people. Then he moved away and we wrote each other frequently. I remember opening up the mailbox each day holding my breath in great anticipation for a letter and almost always there was one. Our friendship grew and grew and we knew we could be great together.
Finally, the time came when he would be home and for the first time neither of us was dating anyone else. We went out for dinner and then ended up at another friend’s house for a movie. I remember sitting next to him on the couch with my heart pounding. At one point in the movie, he said “Sarah” and I turned to him and he kissed me for the first time. Years of wishing for this moment vanished.
When it was time to leave we walked in silence to the front door of the house and I grabbed the door handle. He pushed the door shut and sat down on a bench in the entryway. He took my hands and pulled me over to him. Resting his head on my belly, we just breathed in unison, the pounding of our heartbeats vibrating through the emptiness of the room. Eventually he looked up at me, our eyes locked, and he asked, “What do you want?”
I stood there paralyzed. A thousand thoughts running through my head, my heart telling me what to say, but as hard as I wanted to I could not find any words.
All I could do was shrug my shoulders. That was the end of what might have been.
I believe that everything in life happens for a reason. We may not understand the here and now of why, but it does. And in the end it all works out as it should.
My life has taken turns I never expected. I have been able to move past a lot of regret and hurt and look forward to whatever may come. I have gotten to know myself and my areas where I am weak. I have made a list of promises to myself that I will keep.
So, in a conversation recently someone asked me “What do you want?”
At first, this immediately took me back 15 years and the fear of verbalizing my answer started to overtake me.
But I fought through it, because we are only given this one life to live. I have dreams....hopes....wishes…desires….that I held back for one reason or another; often the root being fear; and I refuse now to succumb to fear and so “I replaced the fear of unknown with curiosity.”
And this time I was able to find my voice to put into words what I want. I embraced the moment with more certainty than I have had in a long, long time and felt the purest peace. This release of truth turning into one of the holiest of moments.
I know I am right where I should be. Past moments of what could have been or should have been or why didn’t it work are erased by what will be. Because I know with all that I am that “now my future is here.”
October 3, 2011
Now, I must first admit that my priorities were wrong in a lot of areas, but I was good at leaving work at work.
Presently I am understaffed, need more grant money, have endless weeks of meetings, and have more and more clients that need services. I could work non-stop doing good work to help a majority of people... but.... well I choose not to. It would be at the expense of something greater.
Because when it comes down to it....
There will always be someone who needs something else.
More work to be done.
More money to be earned.
And there are some people who will take all that you are willing to give.
Sure I need to work to pay bills and put food on the table; and I am blessed with a job that I enjoy.
Yet I have seen that having the right priorities, somehow reaps benefits in those other areas that I choose not to give myself away in. Not always to the extent that I would like, but enough to make a difference.
Our world is full of people on the fast track to the next best thing. Be it money, or cars, or vacations, or another house. Sure, honestly I want it all too.......but it would cost more than I am willing to give.
The real truth is though, that I have already been blessed with more than I deserve. And at the end of the day what matters most to me.....are the three little blessings that remind me the truth of what.....
and Grace is.....
and Love is.
September 20, 2011
"Cass, what's in your mouth?" I ask. She opens up her lips and pulls out a shiny penny.
"Oh, Cass. You know you shouldn't put things like that in your mouth. You could end up swallowing it and choking."
We have dinner and Cass darts off to something. I call her back to remind her to take her plate to the kitchen and she slowly comes around the corner. Tears streaming down her very red cheeks.
"I....." she gasps....."swallow....." another gasp....."ed....." gasp....."the....." gasp....."penny."
My eyes fall out of my head in disbelief and I utter, "Really?" Knowing it was obvious she had and using this more as a moment to collect my disbelief and gain composure.
I notice from the corner of my eye that Laurel and Maddie are standing scared and worried.
"Maddie and Laurel keep talking to Cass and Cass keep talking to your sisters," I say as I grab the phone to call 911. I needed to hear her voice to know she was breathing.
I made my first phone call ever to 911.
I called Ben.
I called Mike and Dee.
I got strapped in the gurney with Cass on my lap in the back of the ambulance. My first time ever riding in the back of ambulance.
Cass started breathing more normal during the ride and I started breathing in sync to her breaths. Holding my baby while praying and praying.
We got to the ER and eventually through the intake process. I knew Cass was feeling much better when the nurse was going through the intake questions and looked at Cass and said, "You don't smoke, do you?" And in typically spitfired Cass fashion she replies, "No, but I pretend I do."
And when she told the doctor she wouldn't swallow any more money "because her mom doesn't have any money."
And when she asked the x-ray tech if he saw tuna fish in her belly along with the penny.
I can laugh at this now.
Last night I was focused on what needed to be done. Holding back my emotions so that I remained calm and clear headed through it all.
This morning when I awoke I kissed and hugged Maddie and Laurel, who had climbed in bed with me in the middle of the night and squished me between them. They were terrific in the midst of the emergency. I thanked God for them.
I went to Cassidy's room and stared at this little girl, lying with her feet on the wall as she slept, and I cried tears of relief that she is okay. I thanked God for her.
Checking my phone I had numerous messages from friends asking how Cass was and asking how I was. I thought of my two dear friends who dropped their evening plans and came as soon as I called and asked, "How quick can you get here?" The paramedics, the nurses, the doctors.
So this morning, I paused...humbled...knowing that last night...well.. I believe in angels.
And I thanked God for each and every one of them.
September 14, 2011
I am blessed with a wonderful memory. I am cursed with a wonderful memory. My ability to remember things is wonderful when they are pleasant and dreadful when they are not. The sad truth is that often I had not forgiven those things in the past so that I could move on.
Lately, I have spent a lot of time in thought--- praying, forgiving, letting go, accepting. I have come to realize that often our journey to get to where we are meant to be is rarely how we imagine. Our plans…. well that elicits enough laughter alone…planning… orchestrating… often leads to scheming to get to what we want; but not always to what we need or where we should be. We arrive only to realize we are still in search of something more.
Yet what I have started to realize is that when I embrace the here and now…starting each day as a tabula rasa…I am filled beyond the heart happiness that I can hold.
I cannot change the past, nor would I want to. It shapes part of who I am. I have said things I wish I had not said or hurt others when I wish I hadn’t, but good or bad, right or wrong, I have come to a point in my life when I have accepted my past for getting me to here. Seeking forgiveness where it was needed and taking the time to heal.
Now at the end of most days I marvel in the delights of my days. Thanking God for the holiness that comes from realizing His plans are far greater than my own; finding not only my needs, but my wants are abundantly overfilled. I no longer look at my journey as getting from point A to point B, but my journey is an extraordinary adventure of finding me.
So, this morning when I awoke I embraced the peace and joy that comes from knowing, feeling, seeing that his love for me is even greater than I can comprehend. I cannot say that I am able to start every day like this, but I have complete faith that one day I will. And I believe that that day is soon.
September 5, 2011
I watched a little bird land in the water; his beak dipping in for sips of refreshment. A small wave of water rushed towards his little feet and I watched as it surprised him to flight. He landed on the sand and proceeded to walk away. Eventually taking off in flight for another place.
This reminded me of the collection of fabulous friends I have; many going through change.
Some are still stuck in the crashing of the waves, while others have managed to work their way to the pool of water....away from the crashing waves, yet still feeling the ebb and flow of their impact.
Change is hard. Yet life is full of it- sometimes good; sometimes not so good. We cannot control it. What we can do is offer a safe place to those we love for them to be.. to simply be. To laugh, to cry, to sing, to dance, to scream, to rest... until one day....
Until one day--we realize that they are ready... that we are ready--and have been surprised to flight.
I cannot look at birds without marveling at their ability to fly. The grace and ease at which they seem suspended in air is breathtaking.
So it is as equally as beautiful to watch others embrace change. Delighting as they realize their hopes are within reach and their dreams are becoming reality. They absolutely soar.
And it is beyond words when you realize you are the one that is taking flight.
August 17, 2011
"I just can't seem to understand it all," he replied in his monotone voice. "I keep reading and it just makes less and less sense. I am just stupid. I can't do it."
The instructor asked probing questions to find out what was behind this statement.
Sitting with my office door ajar I overheard all of this conversation and my heart sank when he said, "My dad, he always told me I was stupid. I just know I will never do it."
He wears this statement day after day. His head hangs down, he rarely looks you in the eye, and his voice is monotone. He looks like a personified Eeyore.
Despite the fact that he has improved four math levels and that his comprehension scores have increased, he feels stupid. No matter what we say to him, his belief about himself is forever bruised by his childhood.
"Well, I guess I will come back tomorrow," he said as he left, with his head hanging low.
I sat for awhile thinking of him. Sad that his view of himself is so tainted, most likely damaged, and he continues to self inflict more sorrow.
My day was filled with depressing moments- a conversation with an employee in which I lacked optimism, a miscommunication with someone else that resulted in becoming guarded, sharing in the death of another employee's family member, budget cuts, and an endless list of needs.
I was glad when the day was over.
And like my client, I will come back tomorrow. Clinging to the hope of a better day--For me, for him, for my staff, for all those that we serve.
August 10, 2011
In reality much of life is like this. Many times to get where we are suppose to be we must go through so pretty sore moments before emerging.
Change is hard. There is not a ten-step plan that we can check off as we progress. And we fight it. Rationalize it. Resist it. Ignore it. Try to flee.
Until one day we end up broken.
I know of a lady who, in her despair, took her beautiful new Pottery Barn porcelain pitcher and smashed it on the floor. Sounds crazy right? Angry and crying she then proceeded to glue it back together, piece by piece. Cutting her fingers on the broken pieces, getting her fingers stuck in the glue. She kept going until the pieces resembled a pitcher again.
Letting go of pain, forgiving others, forgiving herself, clinging to the grace of our Creator.
We can be broken. Shattered. Scattered. Yet, piece by piece, we are often picked up by others and held back together again. Slowly they help us regain the strength we need until what we are left with are hairline scars of what used to be.
The blisters heal, you regain control, the skin grows back, and the soreness subsides. And you realize that you can't remember the last time you ever felt so good.
August 3, 2011
So begins my favorite hymn.
I love to sing and will often sing along to whatever is on the radio. Yet several years ago I started to become really conflicted in worship while singing. So much that I would often not be able to sing certain songs without crying or even to the point where I could not sing the words. How can I stand there and sing "It is well with my soul," when it was not.
Sometimes singing turned into prayers--"Please, make it well with my soul."
Of course I was embarrassed to share this, so I often tried to hide it. Accepting the inner prompting of "what would others think?" as a negative. Hiding me.
What I have come to realize though is that often this is not exclusive to worship. Settling for accepting "what would others think," often leads to false happiness and dead dreams. Accepting the world we live in defined by self imposed boundaries often at the expense of ourselves.
God has designed each of us so intricately unique, so why should we become a cookie cutter image of someone else?
"One of the greatest joys in life is finding out who God made you to be, with all your personality quirks and loving it. Often when we arrive at adulthood, get married or settle into a career, we abandon parts of who we are. You might be a high-heeled girl or a flip-flop woman. Too often as we grow, we conform too much. Part of conformity is necessary to meet job requirements. Where we lose the wonder of who we are, though, is when we conform to be just like others because we are afraid to be different." (Shelia Walsh)
It is not about be bold or daring, self absorbed or vain, but finding true peace in seeing yourself as you are. Loving yourself so that you can in turn love others. Letting go of what you think the world needs and embracing your God given passions and desires and becoming alive.
It is a journey and I am choosing to grab on for the ride of my life. Moving closer and closer to the me that God made me to be. Accepting the bumps along the way, seeking forgiveness, crying out in despair, letting go, loving, discovering truth. Constantly resting in the peace that comes from understanding whatever my lot, it is undoubtedly well with my soul.
August 2, 2011
“Norm!” everyone at the bar would exclaim, when he walked into Cheers. I remember watching this show as a kid thinking how cool it was that everyone always greeted Norm. Announcing his arrival; validating his existence.
I have searched for this similar belonging, wanting to “go where everybody knows my name,” only to but up my own boundaries when others got too close.
I have adapted myself to meet the expectations of others, or my own perceived expectations they had, only to realize that I still could not measure up.
I have thrown myself into countless good deeds, because it was the right thing to do.
I have given what I thought was needed; realizing I never truly listened to the need.
I have loved conditionally.
I have…. And my list could go on and on.
The truth is I have done some great things, but not always with the right heart motive. Only until I started to love myself as God does, albeit a fraction of how He does, was I able to truly grasp the belonging. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Designed in His image. My quirks, my imperfections, often magnified as faults, were merely how I chose to view myself and my response to those often belittled who I was.
Embracing the journey of becoming me has resulted in recognizing the simple joy moments of each day. Finding that blessings abound and open to receiving the love that comes from seeing that there really are others who are truly “always glad you came.”