Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Moment of Decision: It's Like Lemon and Honey

There is a moment in which we will either keep going or turn around. That moment is the one that precedes the rest, or the best of your life. 
... It’s the moment, in which we allow ourselves to realize we don’t know anything other than what we once knew, or maybe we know our next step (literally, one foot forward), but we’re not dared (or we’re too scared) to move. It’s not to say all knowledge and awareness falls by the wayside, but at the crossroads (or the “stop” sign, or the “slow lane,” or the “construction zone”) of life we hover between everything we already knew and that which we don’t. 
It’s no wonder that the imagery of taking a leap of faith involves a person staring straight ahead into a foggy road, a foggy forest, or some other vast space with a potentially deep fall. 
It’s a bittersweet moment, because you’re leaving that which you know (should you choose to) and trusting that which you don’t will nourish your soul (or love you, or will encourage you, or will help you grow, or fill in the blank) just like that which you already knew (or maybe, know you need). Who knew that making one decision would be so intricately woven with our belief system, our soul, and our spirit? 
It’s bittersweet because that moment is perhaps the biggest turning point of our lives each moment it happens. If we weren’t feeling fear, I would be concerned. It’s like lemon and honey: without the balance of the other, it would be too bitter, too sweet. Perhaps that’s why our growing up is ultimately refreshing. It’s not really bittersweet, because it’s faith and love acting as one.
Soon, that foggy landscape, or vast deep space, in the moment before we step forward becomes the stillness of a lake. We can see our next step, and now we just have to get there. The fear is relieved, and we stand in knowing awe of the faith and love about to carry us across the water. The rush of emotion will be familiar. After all, you’ve been in that doorway of great trust before. 
Imagine yourself as a child on your big girl (or big boy) bicycle and the training wheels have just come off. How bittersweet it is for your father (or mother) to subtly let go and watch you ride off. And you, as a child, refreshed with the wind against your face. He’s set you off with faith and love, but he never really lets go. 
So, when you’re standing at the point of decision as an adult, lean on that faith and love. It may be bittersweet, in that instant, but the refreshing wind as you lean into it is worth that moment.
It’s like lemon and honey.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Between This and That, It Takes Time

I’m not a fan of silence, but I like the quiet. 
I’m restless, and perhaps even clumsy, with the wondering and wandering mind that comes with the space-between this and that
Even still, somehow I managed to hunker down and not write on this website in one day shy of three full months (notice it's been longer than three months, but I almost published a post three months ago and that's what this about). The magnitude and pure sum of the what has occurred in that time is quite ordinary in the span of a life, of any life, but I look at it and it’s more than an Oprah aha moment. 
On July 14, 2013 I sat down to reflect upon a collision of events set forth life into motion for nearly everyone I know. Some of them experienced big moments, milestone life-changing moments, and some of them just affected, impacted, or inspired by those moments. I’m talking about loss, excitement of a baby coming into the world (and she’s coming soon!), and the possibility of a new job. I never finished writing. 
Tonight, I sat down to write again and seek connection with whoever is reading and  found my words from that day in July. Here they were, just left for me to read. Perhaps they didn’t need an introduction, but I never enjoyed walking into a room mid-conversation, and probably wonder too much about unexpected silences.
So, here are my words, by the grace of God they’re still here... and considering what I wrote it’s fitting that it took time to get it out there: 
If you ask my parents what the most annoying phrase I said growing up they would tell you it was, “I know.” But, before that phase, it was, “Are we there yet?”   
I think, as people, we’re always in a hurry to see the next step. If you’re a little bit like me, you like plans, and want to know how something is going to go before it’s going.  In some ways, some of us sit in the car without having ever been handed the keys!   
This past week taught me a little bit about plans and hope. It taught me a little bit about letting go and embracing joy. Somehow, in one 24-hour period my heart broke and cried and my heart smiled and cried with joy. The glue holding it together is life. The magical, miraculous, Heaven-sent creation of a life.” 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Fridge Family: A New Kind of Bulletin Board

I’m one of those people who had a bulletin board full of the important things in my life when I was 13. No, it wasn’t some picture of Jason Priestly torn out of Teen Beat magazine. (I will admit I did have his picture on my closet along with Candice Bergen on the cover of TIME magazine, because I wanted to be Murphy Brown.) Instead, it was full of pictures of people that mattered, awards that meant something, and the goals and dreams I held for myself. Let’s be honest though, I didn’t reach all those goals and some of those people I don’t keep in touch with anymore. 
The older I get the more I see pictures of people, different people and important to me in a different way now, taking up space in picture frames on my desk at work, around my house and on my refrigerator at home. They’re responsible for vacation days, compassion, heartache, and belly hurting laughter. 
It’s a new kind of bulletin board. 
The people on the face of my refrigerator I make an effort to communicate with often and see in person whenever I can. Whenever they can. 
They matter. 
There are people on my fridge, so they matter when I make coffee or tea in the morning, or if I’m reaching in for a glass of water, or when I’m looking for a midday snack. They matter and the older I get they matter more to me than those goals and dreams I held for myself. As they reach milestones, or their young families grow, they matter even more and take up more space on my fridge and in my heart. I cheer them on as I stand in my kitchen, so it takes a bit longer to make coffee in the morning.
“You know, this moment we’re having right now, it will never happen again,” a good friend said to me in October as we had a conversation we’d probably never have again. Perhaps not quite word for word, but you get the drift. It tugged at the heartstrings, and I realized... 
Moments matter. 
Moments matter and they remind you that all the time you spend chasing after a dream or something to become doesn’t matter as much. I don’t know about you, but “chased a career” doesn’t seem like a good title for an obituary or a tombstone. I’m not dying, but I will someday and am gradually learning that what I do for a living isn’t as important as who I am and the relationships I keep. 
One day, should grace allow it, I’ll have my own growing family and their faces will be on my fridge too.
So, I found myself kind of “chasing” moments. Imagine a young child running around in circles with one of those dandelion flowers you blow to spread wishes, and that child is running around and laughing because it’s just whimsical. What’s the point of just looking at the dandelion? Pick it up, squint and wish your little heart out, and blow. Then, turn your face up to the sun and experience the moment. Bask in the meaningfulness of it all for a second, and let your heart smile. These moments may be the best part of what wasn’t on that 13-year-old’s bulletin board. 
Now, I look at the faces on the fridge, my fridge family, and say, “Home is wherever I am with you.”

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Lessons in Perspective from a Visit with the Eye Doc

I bet you didn’t think you could learn how to see things differently, or change your perspective, just by taking a trip to the eye doctor. Well, you can. Here’s my story, and below it, I’ll tell you how: 
“Z, P, no F, maybe a P, O, N, or an H.”
That’s what sputters out of my mouth when I go to the optometrist and they ask me to read aloud the smallest line I can see. The second I think a “P” might be an “F” and an “N” could be an “H” I know I’m in for a new prescription. 
“A, R or P, T, definitely, Z, and maybe E.”

I never sound so uncertain and convincing in one statement than I do when trying to read that very last line. No one likes fail a test, and these eye exams are crucially important. 
Then, they ask me to take my glasses off. Staring straight ahead, I just blink. I blink twice. All I see is this bright light of a box shape on the wall. 
“Don’t ask me to say what I see, because I don’t see anything,” I say, kind of defeated, whimpering almost, with disappointment that I can’t see what’s in front of me. 
Half an hour later, they’ve put eye drops in my eyes to dilate them so the doctor can see if I’m at risk for diabetes or macular degeneration. (Turns out, retinal detachment might be in my future.)
Less than an hour after that, I am home and trying to send a text message when suddenly I can’t see the words in front of me. I’m holding out the phone as far away from my eyes as I can, but it’s hardly working! I’m just guessing. The dilation is lopsided! My left eye is trying to get back to normal, but my right eye is all pupil. 
I suck it up, and wear my sunglasses to work, inside, all day, while tilting my head sideways, squinting, blinking, closing one eye and then another, battling a headache and nausea, when finally, nine hours later, I can see again.
It dawned on me, it’s just like faith. I spent the whole day unable to really see what was in front of me, working, communicating, writing, and living without a clear picture of the result of my efforts. 
If faith is believing in what we can’t see, then worrying is praying for what we don’t want to happen. 
How to Change Your Perspective Without Really Trying
STAND BACK: When we’re too close to something, we can’t see the whole picture. What we’re focusing on becomes blurry, because our mind and heart need other stimuli to understand something completely. This is especially true if there’s a decision to make or someone else’s concerns in our care. Remember, standing back doesn’t mean walking away, it just means seeing more.
LOOK CLOSER: If we’ve become removed from a situation, circumstance, or person, we may be missing something important and real. Often, removing ourselves can make what (or who) we’re considering seem removed. Looking a little more carefully at the situation, person, or circumstance might clear up the importance and meaning of the consideration.  
BLINK: Always, it’s important to blink. Take a breather. Treat yourself to a 30 minute walk when the circumstances, decisions, and people you’re thinking about won’t withdraw from you. Thirty-seconds is enough. Close your eyes, breathe in and out, and consider your perspective one more time. 
Clarity often comes in the blink of an eye. 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Not Another One Hit Wonder

Is there really anything so mistaken with being a “One Hit Wonder”? Or, is it actually crucially important to constantly churn out “Number Ones” and remain at the top of the charts? 
There are the artists who have become household names, who have songbooks that are in competition with the amount of cookbooks and regular books I have on my shelf. I can’t think of just one song with these names, I think of five, ten, or fifteen. I can’t think of just one song to play, because if I play one, I’ll play two, or three, or four until someone tells me to turn it off. 
A few weeks ago, I thought about the song “Alone” by Heart. I thought about how each time I hear it, regardless of who is singing it, it always, no pun intended, “chills me to the bone.” It’s memorable, it’s meaningful, and it conjures up the same emotion every single time. Then, who can forget “What About Love?” and “These Dreams”, also number ones, off one album?
I can’t tell you what you’re feeling inside
I can’t sell you what you don’t want to buy
Something’s missing and you’ve got to 
look back on your life
Heart isn’t even a band I listen to all that often, and you’ll find an entirely different collection of songs and artists (like Madonna, Carrie Underwood, some Christian artists, country music, and more) on my iPod other than Heart. It’s just that Heart, here, proves a point. 
On the flip side, there are also the artists we can barely remember and their one song we’ll never forget.  Thank you very much: “She’s Like the Wind” by Patrick Swayze. 
When it comes to the people in our lives, I find these phrases “One Hit Wonder” and “Number Ones” hold quite true. 
If someone is a One Hit Wonder, they’ve made a significant imprint on our hearts, or in our lives, but that’s it. There’s not a lack of appreciation for them, but their significance isn’t lasting. We might remember them in one moment, or from time to time,  and fondly (or not so fondly, depending on the impact), but - to borrow the analogy - other than that one dance at the High School prom, you might not hear “She’s Like the Wind” for awhile. 
If someone is a Number One, they’re still making an impact on your life. They’re encouraging you to change and grow (for the better), while also supporting who you already are. You find yourself, much like that artist with all those Number Ones, where you can’t play just one song, unable to forget them or let their playlist remain unplayed. In reality, you’ll find yourself coming up with not one, but two, or three, or four different moments in which they influenced you, occasions to bring them up in conversation, and reasons to communicate with them. The next thing you know, you’re reciprocating, without even trying, and you’re encouraging them, supporting them, and won’t let yourself be forgotten. 
What’s that song lyric from “Alone”?
‘Til now, I always got by on my own.
I never really cared until I met you. 
The thing is, we can still get by on our own, we just don’t want to. Imagine your iPod without that playlist. Imagine if it were your life without that person.
It’s easy to be a One Hit Wonder, but those artists who have the Number Ones, they work hard, make mistakes, come back, and do it again. 
Look for the Number Ones in your life, and then, do the work, show up, be faithful and encouraging, use God as your guide, and maybe you’ll be someone’s Number One, too. 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Coming Up for Air

I’m coming up for air. I’ve been quiet and probably overly thoughtful about a few things in recent weeks. 
The other night I stopped and realized, this might be the most thought provoking and meaningful year since I was an almost philosophy major in college. It left me in awe, and awe is pretty much the state of my existence. Of course, there are moments of sudden jolts within my reality, but mostly I’m in awe.
I thought about ways to articulate the swirling in my head, but I am not even sure storyboards or mapping would convey it properly. One thing I’ve learned is my intuition is nearly always right, even when I am handed conflicting confirmation. The gut knows. So, you see, I have to come up for air: 
"It never ceases to amaze me how the seemingly mundane, ordinary, and even happenstance parts of life become so critically important. The gradual passage from good to great, from the hard thing that becomes the right thing, to the unexpected and undeniable joys. It is in the thick of intuition and expecting something wonderful that all things are just good. Even on my darkest days, I know all these things are wonderful."

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Let's Get Unstuck and Accept the Outstretched Hand

Sometimes, we just get this nudge that says, “Go!” If we don’t have anywhere to go, it can leave us in a state of being stuck. 
Then, just like being a small child struggling to go to sleep at night, with a fear there are monsters under the bed, we become afraid to move. We know, beyond those monsters under the bed is a quick dash to the door that goes out into the hall to the security of our parents’ room. 
If we could just put our foot on the ground and believe our ankles would remain free to dash...we would. Instead, though, we often find ourselves cowering in our beds, under the covers (maybe with a flashlight) waiting for morning to come. If only someone had left the light on...
A lesson was shared with me recently and I’ll share it with you:
When we can’t figure out how to get unstuck from the “stuff” of our lives, the circumstances and situations we know need to change, there’s probably somebody who can.
We all have someone in our life with the ability to leverage our situation for us and get things done. Maybe it’s a bad financial situation and someone you know has a great budgeting system, but you just haven’t asked around. Maybe it’s a bad relationship or maybe it’s a job situation. Perhaps, someone you know may have the connection to the job you need right now. There could be a person in your life that has the perfect person in mind for you to date and they believe it could be “The One,” and they’re on to something! 
We all get stuck (in a moment or in a situation). 
I’ve come to realize, if we lean on our support system and loved ones, and release the pressure on ourselves to go it alone, to do everything alone, and figure things out alone we’ll be better versions of ourselves. When we accept help and allow someone else to be our Tour Guide, we mature. It’s humbling surrender to accept we simply can’t do it alone. 
Chances are, there’s someone in your life that has the authority to help you get done what you need to get done. 
On this Easter Sunday, I remember the One who said, “It is finished.” All of our past and future debts, transgressions, and sins paid for. 
We couldn’t do it alone and still we can’t. 
I am abundantly thankful for that awareness and the unstoppable hope, unexplainable grace, and unfathomable love and always being able to ask for help.
Thankful too for the great parallel of asking others for help and leaning on loved ones who have the leverage to connect the dots, or lead the way, or offer an opportunity.
All we have to do is accept the outstretched hand. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The First Step: You Know You Were Made For More

            Most of us cannot remember our first step. In fact, most of us probably don’t have photographic or video evidence of the moment. I’m not sure I’ve even heard my parents talk about it (that was probably 31 years ago!)
            It’s different for our grandchildren and our friends’ children and our nieces and nephews. In a world of tweeted moments, they’ll have all their milestones put on a Facebook timeline. But, for us, we are lucky if we remember even our first day of kindergarten, let alone our first step.
            When we watch young children take theirs, we do so with a mixture of awe and a little bit of caution, lest they hurt themselves. We’ve been with them nearly every single moment, holding their little fingers to help them stand. It’s a moment of surrender for us to let them go and take that first step.
            That young child, however, takes that step with great excitement and joy -- with an unawareness of the insecurity we have for them -- and so when they do, their face shifts to awe in what they have just done. That child will look to their mother, or father, or whomever is in front of them in that moment for praise. 
            “Look at me!” that gleeful expression says. “I have no idea what I just did, but I did it!”
            I’m not quite sure what happens between that first step and all the other first steps we take in life. At some point, somewhere, we’re given a lot of “no’s” and we hit roadblocks and sometimes we settle and dare not move from where we are. Or, in other cases, we become so content with the plateau of current achievement or success we’ve pulled the blinds on other opportunities. 
            If we’re lucky, we’re given the awareness of another chance. If we’re blessed, someone (and leave it to the one who knows us best) has heard us when we’ve shared our dreams and goals. They don’t hold back when they feel called to remind us of them. 
            “You know you were made for more, so don’t be afraid to move.”
            If we’re listening, we’ll accept the grace of that awareness and embrace that person, or people, with gratitude. In that moment of surrender, we’ll look at them with a much different expression than we looked at our parents all those years ago. 
            We look at them to say, “Will you be with me when I take that first step?” Our insecurities bubble up and our trepidation of the unknown keeps us with one foot on the trail ahead and the other on the inside of our closed (but glass) house. 
            As a woman of faith, I’ve come to believe that God pursues us to take necessary steps in our life. When we’re not listening, He’ll get our attention elsewhere or through someone else. He was with us inside our glasshouse and He’ll be the one to shatter the walls (again and again). So, just like that person who dares you to move (and this time you know you should), He’ll be there.
            Will you be with me when I take that first step?
            Of course they will.
            They’re the ones who said, “You don’t have to be afraid! What are you waiting for? What do you have to lose?”
            ... They’ll be there when we look at them in awe of what we’ve just done, and they’ll give us praise just like our parents did when we took our first step. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Unknowing Surrender: One Choice, One Chance

            Anticipation builds up excitement. It gets your adrenaline pumping and your nervous system ready to defend anything that gets in your way or in the way of whatever it is.

            Completely different, though, is what I like to call “unknowing surrender.” This, I find, happens in the moments when there’s nothing you know is coming, or about to happen, or be said. There’s not even a chance to be excited, nervous, or defend, because you have just one chance and one choice (and maybe just one second) to respond.

            “Are we there yet?”

            My Grandma lived in another state when I was growing up. We lived in a small town in Washington State, and she lived in a small town in California. I don’t remember how often we drove to visit, or if we flew, because either way it was a long drive into her neighborhood.

            “Are we there yet?” I would ask from the back seat. Two minutes later, I would ask it again. Even at 5, 6, and 7 years old the anticipation of being able to see my Grandma couldn’t keep me patient. It excited me, and I didn’t want to wait.

            I remember this anticipation, again, when I was also about 5 years old, learning some friends would be coming over to visit. We weren’t home, that I remember. I cannot articulate the anticipation and excitement of that other than to compare it to waking up on Christmas morning and having to wait until after breakfast to open presents! (It’s really hard to convince a child to wait to do that.)

            When we pulled into the driveway, made-up memory now, or real, I want to say my two friends were right there, waiting, on the doorstep. I don’t remember anything else. I was so excited and had built-up in my head seeing them and that one moment is now all I remember! I don’t remember any of the time we may have spent together that day.

            One chance, one choice.

            “You can’t expect [fill in the blank] to show up on your doorstep.”

            It’s funny how one memory of childlike wonder and excitement can become the exact metaphor for how not to go about life.

            You know, I still open the front door every now and again to see if something or someone is there. There’s still a romantic notion in my mind that one day I’ll return home from work and... Surprise!

            Surprise! I bet you didn’t see that coming? That's unknowing surrender.

            I’ve written about this in different ways in the last nine months. I’ve talked about it from the standpoint of gut instinct, to the tug at the heart, to divine intervention, and even humble surrender. Early this morning, I stumbled across some thread that asked a question specifically about friendship beginning with, “When did you know?”

            I didn’t even have to think too much about the question, and so I answered it and honestly with words just oozing out of me.

            One answer, one choice, and one chance.

            Hours later, I was sitting in a cafe at my Church going over my notes from a service about love. My Pastor, Jud Wilhite, wrote a book called “Pursued.” I wrote down a lot of notes about “Loyal Love,” and the challenge of pursuing our relationships the way God pursues us: real, deep, and radical.

            I was deep into it when a young man sat down next to me and asked (after first asking what I was doing) of my faith, “How did you get to where you are?”

            One answer, one chance.

            I had no idea that question was coming, and no chance for an adrenaline rush, but oddly enough what I had written about hours earlier directly paralleled and was a part of my answer. I didn’t hold back. In surrendering to the moment and answering his question, I realized I had no idea -- it was unknown to me -- the emotional depth of my thoughts on the previous topic would become a part of my testimony.

            This man and I chatted for well over an hour as he asked questions and listened as I tried to answer.

            When I was done giving him the answers he was seeking he said, “That’s real. That’s deep.”

            I said, “I think it sounds crazy when I say it aloud, but it makes perfect sense to me.” I think I was smiling, beaming even.

            He had a big smile on his face too and said to me, “It’s just real and it shows.”

            Hours earlier, I had written these words:

Sometimes, we cannot fully move forward in our lives until we allow ourselves to look back and see how we started to move on to begin with. Maybe, just maybe, as I discovered with my teary-eyed clarity, that friend you pursued was actually pursuing you.

“When we see the word ‘love’ a couple of times in
the first few verses of Hosea 3, it literally means “loyal love” as
it refers to God’s regard for us. 

It points to His covenant love 
for us that is based more in His faithfulness 
to Himself than to us.

This kind of love is the kind 
used to describe a friend that
comes up beside us and 
walks alongside us, shoulder to shoulder.
It’s a long-term kind of committed love,
a bond that connects you for a lifetime.”

Sunday, February 24, 2013

"It's Not In How You Fall..."

It’s rare to remember the most meaningful and thoughtful words of wisdom we’ve ever received. I’m not talking about career advice, but life-affirming words of action. 

If you asked me earlier today, I might not be able to give you an answer as to what it would be for me.

It was only in hearing it again, in nearly the same words, through someone else’s pain, journey, and subsequent triumph that it sunk in. Thank you Ben Affleck. 

Why do we give advice? In sincerity, it has nothing to do with wielding your opinion over someone who is too hurt to have their own. 

My hope when it comes to advice is to allow someone feel something they otherwise might not. 

The hope is to figuratively reach into someone’s soul and gradually peel back the layers, one by one, until they’re not afraid of the emotion that’s keeping them from moving forward. 

The hope is to offer an honest and earnest suggestion that will lay the path, however gradual, to peace and ultimately joy. 

I started this Grace Redefined journey on the heels of one such piece of advice: 

“It’s not in how you fall down, it’s how you get up,” she said to me in a text message. 

I stared at it and recalled similar words from my Grandma left behind in a handwritten and undated notecard. She wrote, “Life lessons are hard - changes! bumps in the road! discussions.” 

Then, armed with this new information I wrote my first blog post and arrived at my own version

“It’s not in how we fall, or if we fall, or how many times we fall, it’s that we do get back up.”

Next to knowing that is knowing there are people, probably few, but there are people in our lives who will pursue us and our need to meet joy even when we are in the midst of our own junk. God does that, so why can’t we? 
Blessed are we who have at least one or two people who will meet us right where we are. Blessed are we who has someone who is there to let us know they’ll still be there when we finally do get on our own feet. 

Rising up isn’t about walking away from those who carried us, it’s about walking alongside them so we can prop them up when their knees become weak. 

If you’ve fallen down and you’re walking ahead, you’ll know who those people are because they’re right there with you and if you have to... you catch each other and struggle up.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Perhaps I Didn't Lose Anything After All

I lost a diamond today. 

Well, I’m not sure if I lost it today or yesterday. 

I was getting ready for an afternoon run in warm and sunny conditions, and as I was grabbing my iPod, iPhone and car keys I looked down at my hand and noticed it was missing.

Oh, this is lovely, I thought. 

The “old me” would have been so frustrated by this loss, that I would’ve never made it down the stairs and into my car to drive to the park to go on the run I intended to take. It mattered to me, but it didn’t matter enough for me to stop everything I was doing. It’s just a diamond. 

I arrived at the park, and I thought for just a second I could search my car to see if this tiny between 1/8th and 1/4th of a carat diamond was somehow in the car. Within a few seconds, I found an old pair of sunglasses that had mysteriously disappeared months earlier. Relieved, I put them on and hit the pavement. 

It was just a diamond, I thought again. I vented about it though, and got helpful feedback on how to replace it. I didn’t, however, let that loss dictate the rest of my day. 

What’s in a diamond anyway? It represents so many things and different things to people. The “loss” of the diamond seemed quite appropriate for the journey that it took to exist to begin with. Diamonds aren’t pretty at first glance, and they become beautiful often under pretty volatile circumstances. To me, it seems like a fitting parallel for the person wearing this now-missing diamond. 

I bought the ring in which that diamond was set while on vacation in Hawaii just more than two years ago. It was a symbolic and thoughtful purchase I made after a series of difficult days and weeks. At the time I called it my “Freedom Ring.” I knew, if I wore that ring and looked down at my hand and saw the slight glimmer from that diamond, I was doing all the right things and I was going to be fine. 

Perhaps it is fitting that just a little over two months after I had this I am happy realization, this reminder that “I am okay” disappears. 

Just maybe someone who needs a little nudge and encouragement may find their own “freedom ring” and they, too, will no longer need it when they’re happy on their own. 

Then, they, like me, can choose to replace that missing sparkling reminder and carry with them the bookend of the journey: from one “volatile” and disruptive passage to the slow-goings of moving on and grace in the process to accepting circumstances and situations and loving it all and being happy anyway.

Perhaps I didn’t lose anything after all. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Accepting Recognition and Other Conversations

I’ve always shied away from recognition. There’s been something a little uncomfortable about accepting praise and being proud. There’s something conflicting and contradictory about being told you’ve done a good job, knowing it, and then believing it. 

I write this, but I have two Emmy awards sitting on a bookshelf in my living room. They used to be actually in the bookshelf behind some books. I moved them when I rearranged for Christmas decorations a few months ago. A friend came into town to visit a weeks later, and when I noted the changed location of the statues she said, “As they should be.” The statement implied they should be out in the open for all to see. 

In the past, I’d have denied the truth and crouched away from it, but they still sit on top of the bookshelf and the Christmas decorations have been put away. Something about that conversation was enough for me to believe it was alright to be proud of myself. 

If you’re reading this, you’d think now is a time I’d start telling you that it’s alright to be proud of yourself while remembering the help you’ve had along the way. Or, you might imagine I’d use this as an opportunity to talk about “the moment when” I knew I could be proud of myself. That’s not quite what’s happening here. 
That conversation, brief mention, with that friend serves as the perfect transition into something different here at Grace Redefined. Recently, I had the opportunity to “Guest Blog” for a former colleague on her site. It was just published on Saturday, February 9, and the very conversation I just mentioned took place on the day in which I write about in that blog.

I was asked to write about my best day in Las Vegas and why.

So, if you’re interested, you’ll find that here: “My Best Day in Las Vegas.” 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Inside My Own Dreams

I dream in color. 

Sometimes, my dreams look like old filmstrip fluttering before my eyes and I am lucky if I can catch every other frame.

In the past few months, I’ve had very vivid dreams about reading emails or receiving text messages, so vivid that I roll over first thing in the morning to see if it was real. When it’s not, I find myself puzzled and wondering why I would dream such a thing. (And wondering, is there something I’m supposed to know that I don’t yet?)

On occasion, I have dreams that are so specific that my inquisitive nature and curiosity of the field of psychology prompts me to try to dig deeper for a meaning.

Well, after several recent “episodes” of being a surrogate and having someone else’s baby, a recurring dream about a Transformer that comes to my house and takes me (as a 5 year old) away, an awful dentist’s visit, and dreaming that actor Michael Keaton is my parent, I realized analyzing my dreams might not get me too far. They might just be dreams.

The analogy here is sometimes we try too hard to understand what’s happening in our lives, when we don’t have to do that work. As believers we have full measure of authority above us. He knows exactly what we need and when we need it. 

When we have a flat tire on our way to work, or meet someone we knew before in some unpredicted new setting, or a relationship falls apart, or a new one starts - we will drive ourselves crazy trying to figure out why. You know what? I think, if we knew why, it wouldn’t have happened in the first place! 

So, surrender it all... even the nightmares where you can’t find your dorm room on the first day of college. 

Matthew 16:23 (NIV)
“Jesus turned and said to Peter, 
‘Get behind me, Satan! 
You are a stumbling block to me;
you do not have in mind the things of God, 
but the things of men!’” 
Proverbs 3:5 (NIV)
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart 
and lean not on your own understanding.”

2 Corinthians 4:16 (NIV)
“Therefore we do not lose heart. 
Thought outwardly we are wasting away, 
yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Learning to Slow Down

I sprinted in high school. 

It wasn’t that I wanted to hurry through those years, I actually sprinted. 

I ran the 100 meter, the 400 meter, and the relays. Admittedly, I wasn’t as fast as everyone else, but I couldn’t last long enough to run cross country, so track it was, and the track I ran. 

Then, I went to college. I more than sprinted and I didn’t participate in any athletics. I finished a semester early. To be on pace was to average 12 units a semester. I took 21 units in my last. The end of college could not come fast enough. Do I regret it? No. I don’t regret starting my career early and having and edge and learning early what I didn’t want to do. Although, I do wish I spent a little more time getting to know me without a career first.

I stumbled a little bit. I hurried.

The same goes for life. 

I believe in the 10 steps forward of life, and the 4 steps back. 

Whether we realize it or not, we’re always hurrying something! If it can’t happen on our time, we’re mad, we’re frustrated, and we won’t back down. It’s at that moment, though, that we fall the hardest. We scrape our knees, our palms, and we scrunch up our foreheads, and we cry out in anger.

The truth is, we can’t hurry anything up! We have to do the work, but we can’t work harder than we’re made to, and we can’t make anything happen or anyone do anything any more quickly than the situation calls for or they are equipped to do so. 

Not only that, but some things just aren’t meant to be (maybe not now, and in some cases, not ever). I believe God is working in our lives to provide us the people who help us serve His purpose and weeds away the ones who don’t - regardless of what we think.  

Slow down. Pay attention to the view, because there are some awesome things happening around you and to you if you just pause for a moment. 

After we fall down, and we realize we’re fools for jumping ahead, the path clears just a little bit for us to see those four steps we fell back on. 

Slow down, but don’t wait. You’ll miss it if you don’t get back on your feet quick enough.

Pslam 139:16 (NIV)
“...All the days ordained for me
were written in your book 
before one of them came to be.”

Romans 12:12 (NIV)
“Be joyful in hope,
patient in affliction,
faithful in prayer.”

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Offering a Figurative Flashlight

If you’ve ever tried to drive somewhere you’ve never been without looking at directions first, you know what it’s like to be lost.

If you’ve been lost, then you probably know what it’s like to be scared, angry, and confused.

The impulse to get in the car and just drive sounds, at first, freeing, exhilarating, even. 

Yet, without a guide to help us along the way, that drive may quickly become chaotic and our mood might sour.

In the most simplest form, because we are people we have a world full of other people we can ask for direction! Whether you’re a person of faith now, not yet, or don’t believe at all, we all ask one another for counsel. 

It seems fitting then, when we see or recognize someone in the wilderness, that we offer up a figurative flashlight to help them out. If you’re a Christian, now’s the time to find support in the Word! The Bible is the best “map” we have for our emotional and spiritual dark moments. 

The last few months, and mostly in recent weeks, I’ve praying that I’d be aware of the opportunities to help anyone who needed it.

It happened this past weekend, with no real thought, but just an honest urge I found myself offering up help and encouragement. It’s as simple as that. It doesn’t mean you have to be perfect, in fact, it’s the best time to remember how you’ve hurt and how you’ve grown. 

Then, of course, there are my loved ones and close friends for whom I will always offer up encouragement, provide a listening ear, and laugh with them as needed and I’ll never stop.

On a day-to-day basis, the key is in recognizing the grace in the moment you have to offer encouragement. It is no mistake that you’re the one who will be tugged to do so. You may be the only person that someone else will listen to, or you might be the only person who knows exactly what they’re feeling and you just don’t know it yet.

Our opportunities to serve don’t last long. If we blink, we may miss the moment.

Proverbs 3:28 (NIV)
"Do not say to your neighbor,
‘Come back later, I’ll give it to you tomorrow’ - 
when you now have it with you."

Matthew 7:7 (NIV)
"Ask and it will be given to you;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you."

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Growth Between the Years

Imagine the breath of new life between the years. It’s just one split second, a deep breath inhaled, and then relief with the exhilarating exhale.

When I pause for a second to think about the radical grace that we all have available to us, to live a second life, or a third life, or a fourth life, that’s how I feel. It’s exhilarating.

I’m between the years, I can almost imagine Jesus saying to us. 

How humbling it is to surrender the hurts and dark days of the past and let them fall on His shoulders, while we bask in the sunlight of His redeeming grace.

Growth is painful, and it can be scary, and when we try to hurry through it, we can trip up. It is true, that if we blink we might miss an opportunity. It is also true, we can only give God or anyone else as much of ourselves as we understand we can at that moment. Growth, then, can also be filled with a joy unlike any we’ve experienced before and peaceful. 

At the dawn of a new year, I tread lightly at the thought of using the word “resolutions” or “resolve,” but there are a few things I’d like to highlight as important in the coming days and months. At least, they’re important to me. 

They’re the same reminders I have on my refrigerator and I look at them each day. It’s a start! I first put it up about six months ago and now, I’ll add to it the following, and still expect the list to grow:

Encourage someone else
Find a reason to say ‘Thank You’
Remember the ‘I Love You’s’
Say, Do, Give, Love Anyway

Romans 8:28-29 (NIV)
“And we know that in all things God works
for the good of those who love him, who
have been called according to his purpose.
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed
to the likeness of his Son.”

2 Corinthians 3:18 (NIV)
“And we, with unveiled faces all reflect
the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his
likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes
from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”