January 30, 2013

Do You Believe in Fairytales?

I have friends that could tell countless tales about their family history. I marvel at the stories and it is a treasure to see the photographs that often depict their tales. I however, have heard bits and pieces growing up of my own family history, but often would scratch my head and wonder.

A gypsy blooded girl with one illegal immigrant great-grandfather from Saudi Arabia, who after being denied access into the US at Ellis Island decided to jump ship and swim ashore, and a grandmother arrested for selling antiques that were not hers, and several shiny suited mafia looking "great uncles"... make my tales a little less normal than others.

Last May 10, on my 35th birthday, I attended my grandfather's funeral. He was the last grandparent I had alive. At his funeral my cousins shared Poppop's background that I was aware of,  but never knew all of. Recently I received a copy of this and photos that I treasure.

Poppop was the son of said illegal immigrant great-grandfather from Saudi Arabia and grew up athletic and adventurous. His senior yearbook said of him, "His nickname may well be called Flash. He is our basketball and baseball player. Fred is our tall, dark and handsome Romeo." The yearbook went on to predict my Poppop as becoming a professional athlete probably playing football.

Because his father wanted him to pursue a different major than he wanted, he didn't go to college. Even when he took his friend to fill out college paperwork and ended up in a pick-up basketball game where the coach, on the spot, offered him a scholarship, he still said no.

On Oct 6, 1945 he married my grandmother. She was diagnosed in 1981 with colon cancer and was not expected to live long. He decided to take early retirement from his management position so he could spend their last few years together caring for her.

Twenty-seven years later in 2008, on my mother's 55th birthday, my grandmother passed away.

Of all that he could have done during those years, I never heard him once lament what he had given up. What I did see was he repeated love and care for the woman he loved.

When my grandfather died I wrote about how I believe Emma, my grandmother, was waiting for him calling him home- http://www.sarahelink.blogspot.com/2012_05_01_archive.html.

History is filled with tales of love, honor and sacrifice. With battles exaggerated to make the hero's victory just a little bit sweeter.

While I don't believe in the damsel in distress come show me your undying love by rescuing me stuff, I do believe that there are some beautiful tales of love. Poppop's adoration for his bride is one that makes me believe that "happily ever afters" do exist.

January 23, 2013

Contrary Answer to my Prayer

Javan wrote, "I often wondered and racked my brain, but I guess I'll never know, why one person looks and sees the rain, while another is seeing a rainbow."

No matter how optimistic I approach life, the truth is that sometimes parts of it are scary and hard.

Last week I burnt my grievances (http://www.sarahelink.blogspot.com/2013/01/your-glimpse-into-burning-of-my.html), but they still creep into my head. I make a daily choice to remember I let things go. I literally stop my thought train and reroute it to the now. I am learning to work my own thoughts into the joy of now.

I have been gifted with the ability to break challenges down into smaller steps and accomplish them successfully. This has also sometimes cursed me when a long time ago, on multiple occasions, I failed to show grace to others because this was not easy for them.

There are three particular things on my heart right now that I wish I could just fix for others. Last night I laid awake thinking about a lot of things, ending up conversing with God about one in particular.

 "Please God, make it easy for him," I prayed over and over again. "Keep him safe, please."

A watchful heart and mind would not let me drift into deep slumber, but I rested.

This morning I woke up and during my newly established quiet time I read a daily devotional of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. After reading James 1:2-4, I read the following for today: Nothing can fill the gap when we are away from those we love....It is nonsense to say that God fills the gap: he does not fill it, but keeps it empty so that our communion with another may be kept alive, even at the cost of pain.

The reading goes on to say..."The unresolved issues in our lives become the opportunity for us to pray, persevere, adjust, and grow to become more open, caring, patient, and giving. And when there is no resolution, the delicate plant of hope can grow."

Not exactly what I wanted to hear this morning. And it got worse...the prayer I read at the conclusion...Lord, in the times of loneliness and difficulty, help me NOT to press you for easy solutions which provide relief but no growth and no long-term resolution. Amen.

I shut the book in frustration. "How could you show me something so contrary to what my heart was asking?" I thought.

Immediately another quote came to mind, "Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart."

I watched the darkness of the morning starting to turn as the sun rose welcoming a new day.


I opened the book again and read the prayer slowly committing each word as a honest expression of where I need to be...."help me not to press you for easy solutions which provide relief but no growth and no long-term resolutions. Amen."

January 16, 2013

Your glimpse into the burning of my grievances

A quietness hangs in the house that usually I enjoy. I find myself restless in the air of nothingness as I write out my grievances onto torn pieces of paper.

The words I write are few but the emotions behind them are so deep; some still too raw. It takes a long time to purge my heart.

Each slip of paper contains a negative that I have harbored too long. Some I inflicted upon myself, some others gave to me. And instead of letting them go, I carried them with me far too long.

I light a single candle and place it above the torn paper.

One-by-one I pick up each piece of paper and read it out loud. Almost each time after I have verbally spoken the words, I find myself closing my eyes and breathing deep.

I hold the piece of paper in the flame and watch the words burn to ashes. Physically trying to release each one as the flames consume the paper and smoke fills the air. I repeat this process until a pile of ashes sit where the torn pieces of paper once were.

Smoke dances off the pile of ashes in a whimsical way reminding me that through the dark, dirty, broken, pieces of life, joy can come back.

I have not started a new book in my journey. I have only closed a chapter that makes me part of who I am, but no longer holds me back to what I once was.

Each day I am gifted the opportunity to write another page in the now chapter. I choose to be the greatest character in my own tale. Not a cookie cutter of what others want, or a victim, or a damsel in distress, or a forgiveless vengeful person.

Long after the ashes have been discarded the smell of smoke still lingers on my hands. I wash it away, dry them off and begin a new now.

January 6, 2013

Clearing out the Crap

It is time to clear out the crap hindering my 2013 joie de vivre. (www.sarahelink.blogspot.com/2013/01/introducing-my-2013.html)

While we can never truly start over we can release that which holds us back. Or so I hope.

I participated in an online course in which we were encouraged to let go and leave behind those things that are harmful habits or that cause us to think negative, especially about ourselves.

A sheet of paper holds the list of things I have started to try to purge. Many are blemishes where I have failed to give forgiveness. I am a master at pulling out the past to use as ammunition in the now. This is perhaps the biggest area of struggle for me.

It is more than difficult to take the hurt of deep wounds and find the grace to wipe the slate clean. Yet I know God does this over and over and over again with me.

To really be in the now and honor myself in my journey, I need to take the time to commit the things I need to let go onto paper. My plan is to burn the slips of paper in a "burning of the grievances ceremony."  I am somewhat skeptical that I will actually have the strength that though this exercise I will actually be able to release these things, but it is worth a try.

The pitter-patter of the rain surrounds me as it hits the windows from the outside. The barrier of glass protecting me from the wet cold uncomfortable of what could be. I think of how emotionally purging myself could invite the uncomfortable in. There are just some places I do not want to visit again. Yet I know I must purge that which is contrary to the now without judgement of myself.

I pick up my pen and re-read the list which I have started. Across it I have written, "Nothing here holds me back permanently or defines me now. I have the choice to move forward, forgive and release."

I share this part of my journey publicly so that I am held accountable. I have not yet decided how much of my "grievances list" I want to share, but I will let you know in my next post.

If you have things that you need to release from 2012, I encourage you to write them out. Maybe even perhaps we can have a simultaneous burning of the grievances ceremony. I am willing to attempt this physical act of releasing so that my 2013 can be the best year yet for myself. Are you?

January 2, 2013

Introducing my 2013

I have never been one to set new year's resolutions in a thought out manner. Sure, I would throw the "I would like to lose 10lbs" out there every once in awhile, but I never sat down and thoughtfully wrote them out.

I guess I did not want to set myself up for failure. I am wired so that when I write something down I am going to do it. It is like the simple act of committing it onto paper...taking a thought and transforming it into written words... make it a commitment for me.

I truly can be my worst enemy.
For instance when I run, I compete with myself. I like to run the same races or the same course so that I can compete against my previous time. Even in training runs I will set my mind with a time that I would like to complete my run in and on the rare occasion I don't make it I will fret, a lot, about being two seconds slower than I wanted. True example.

But in 2012 I gave myself a year off to recharge, repair, and refocus.

I learned to sit in quiet without my mind shooting a thousand thoughts around. I ran without wearing a watch to calculate my time or distance, instead ran a pace and distance on how my body felt. I did not work and struggled through the loss of the sense of pride and accomplishment I got out of getting dressed up and giving my best to serve others. I slept, a lot. I saw God in the most unexpected and surprising ways. I let go, although I didn't want to, of control. I married the most crazily, wonderful, beautiful man. And after I let go of (most of my) fears, I lived a life that I had always wanted to but never thought possible.

I stepped out of the shadow of what others thought I should be and do and declared to the world....well, okay maybe only myself but it was very freeing, that I am unapologetically me.

The freedom of feeling like a wanderer in my own life was both frightening and fun. There is much that I want to carry forward in 2013 and I have decided my theme for this year is joie de vivre, which means to express a cheerful enjoyment of life; an exultation of spirit.

I am not looking at setting a list of resolutions for myself, but rather hopes. Things I would like to do...but not just to meet a particular definable goal....but to grow as a person. I am looking at the big areas in which I would like to grow and finding tangible ways to do so.

I find that when I write and share what I write the feedback I get from others offers great comfort that I am not alone in thoughts, fears or wacky moments. Connecting, albeit virtually, makes the great big world not so abstract. After all, we are all on our own unique journeys and I love watching and encouraging others as they write their own fascinating stories.

One area I am working on is expressing emotions more openly with others. I can and do share, but often it comes through a filtered lens of not offending people or wondering if others will think I am nuts, instead of the raw emotion of what is.

So I set out to commit to writing more and sharing it publicly. Not for anything other than besides telling my own story. Whether it makes you laugh or cry or scratch your head in wonder or not like me or challenge you...well you are getting (unapologetically) me.

This is just the first page in my 2013 joie de vivre. Welcome....