tis the season

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Five Minute Friday - Grasp

Grasp hold and don't let go. 

Those truths that your heart whispers - 

You have what it takes.

Formed by His hands. 

Dreamed up in His heart.

Put on this earth with a purpose.

Something that is good and right and true.

Grasp His hands that are reaching out to you and don't let go.

Go where He leads you.

Walk through the doors He opens.

When the days are long and the clouds settle in,

Grasp His promises and find shelter.

The most precious blessing about the rain is the time you'll spend under His umbrella

And the closeness that you otherwise would not have felt.

It's that time again - Five Minute Friday!
Take five minutes and give voice to your heart. No edits, no need to spell check.
Write with reckless abandon.
Upload your post at Lisa Jo's site.
The only rule - you must comment & encourage the person who posted before you.
That is, like, THE rule!
Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Coming Together

Bringing people together.... like most things in life, it's easier said than done.

In theory, it shouldn't be difficult to do, right? Coming together with a goal, a passion, a heart for the same purpose. It's a win-win for everyone. So why does it go so wrong so many times?

From the office to the fellowship hall, bringing women together always comes with some.... well, issues. Our personalities and characteristics play a role. Our fear and insecurities play an even bigger role.

I'm experiencing a coming together of people in my professional life and my personal life. And one is teaching me a lot about how to handle the other.

I've seen more than 60 women who have never met, come together to work on a common project. I've seen them express ideas & opinions, ask questions, and share their work with one another. What I haven't seen is competition, pride, or judgement.

The key to bringing people together, creating community, is your heart and how willing you are to be open and genuine. That's what people connect with. That's what we are drawn to and trust in.

Fear holds you back. Insecurities whisper lies. They won't like me. I won't be accepted. Everyone is talking about me. They don't think I can do this.

Listening to those lies keeps you from hearing what others are saying. And you can't connect, find common ground or relate to another without listening. All learning starts with listening.

Here's my challenge to you (and to myself)... "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." If you want acceptance, be accepting of others. If you want to be heard, listen. If you want to be valued, show appreciation for others.

Just be the wonderfully, imperfect you that God created you to be.

The rest will fall into place.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Five Minute Friday - Wide

Wide is this distance between us. You are there and I am here, but in so many ways we are in the same place.

Wide is the storm's path. He blows through several times a year, leaving destruction and hurt in the wake. Next time I will recognize the warning signs and know when to board up and evacuate. I'm still in the aftermath and taking inventory.

Wide is the road ahead. So much room to sway to one side or another. So many choices to make. So many opportunities.

Wide are the rivers and valleys and oceans and plains that I would travel. There is no distance, literal or metaphorical, that I wouldn't go to be by your side when you need me.

Wide is the depth of my love for my precious little ones. It has no bottom, no end. It is always stretching into places I didn't know existed.

Wide is my Father's love for me. Wide is stretch of His arms around me.

It's Five Minute Friday - my favorite time of the week! Where writers and readers and other regular folks come together and share our hearts. We have one word to focus on and five minutes to write with reckless abandon. No edits, no search for perfection - just giving voice to our hearts. If you're not in on the fun, you really should be! Come on over!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Uncomfortable Zone

This post comes with an interesting story. It's a long one, so I'm going to do my best to give you the short version....

I have a beautiful daughter whose father is a lost soul. Mental illness, addiction, a painful past and a wounded spirit are among the struggles that plaque him. His family and I are attempting to come together for my daughter's sake and, as you might know, that is a sticky situation at best.

We sat down together and had a meeting that really didn't go the way I had hoped. A lot of anger. A lot of stones thrown. A lot of misunderstanding. A lot of hurt. That night I went home, prayed, wrote the following post and scheduled it to publish the next day.

When I got to work and read the (in)courage post by Deidra, I was floored. Her words and mine were eerily similar. And I knew that what I had written, what she had written, was a message that others needed to hear. I certainly needed it! Hope that it touches you too.... 

Today was messy. Messy. Messy. Messy. And speaking of messy, I am a mess in the aftermath - an ugly-cry, humidity-hair, walked-around-with-one-earring mess.

There are some situations in life that are hard to navigate. Let's just be honest, being hurt... well, it hurts. "Shake it off. Press on. Let it go." All the phrases we know so well play over in my mind and I have even said them out loud a few times to myself tonight. But, it isn't that easy, is it?

Having my pain dismissed and my mistakes replayed is an agonizing torture. Don't you know, I replay those mistakes and ugly moments in more vivid detail than your best attempt ever could. Nemo 3D can't compare to the vibrant colors of shame and regret in my memory.

I can relive my bad choices and be hurt behind my walls, thank you very much. I don't need you to do that. Curled up in my snuggie, alone with my pain, behind the walls with you at arms length away is where I am comfortable.

But, that's the challenge isn't it? To stay in the mess and not retreat. To feel the hurt so that you can leave it behind. Yes, the hard part is staying put. Remaining engaged. Continuing to offer your most genuine self. Forgiving you so that I can get on with living.

The truth is that people will hurt you. They will disappoint. Even at our best, we are fallible and flawed. And there aren't many hurts that can compare to the ones we women can inflict on one another. It's the mean girls dressed up in their Sunday best. It's a bite that stings like no other.

At the end of the day, we are just women trying to stay within the lines of life and sometimes we venture into one another's lanes causing bumps and fender benders. The greatest gift we can offer one another is to stay engaged and do the hard work of healing.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Dear Me

Jessica -

Hey Girl! How are you? How are you really? I know you've had a rough week...

I came across some old photographs of you this week. You were so beautiful and looked so happy. I just had to laugh because it seems like worlds away from where we are today.

I remember those times. I know that you weren't truly happy. But you put on a good face. You were going through the motions and giving it a good try. It makes me sad to look at you back then and know that you could never see just how wonderful and valuable you were, and still are.

The main reason I'm writing this letter is because I owe you an apology. I haven't taken care of you in a long, long time. I have expected you to take blow after blow... take a licking and keep on ticking so to speak.

That isn't fair and it isn't right. You deserve to be loved and cared for. By not doing that, I've only validated what you've felt from so many other relationships - that you aren't good enough or valuable. And that just simply isn't true.

I haven't held on to you. I've used your mistakes against you over and over again. So many times you've wanted to run away - not walk away - but a sprinting run away from the struggle, but you haven't. Instead of recognizing your courage to break the pattern, I've criticized you for your thoughts of leaving in the first place. I have made this relationship of ours an unsafe place by using those thoughts and impulses against you and I'm so sorry for that.

Tomorrow is a new day. A time to start again and begin to fulfill my responsibilities to you. Tomorrow will be better than today. Putting one foot in front of the other, one step at a time. We'll get there together.

All My Love,

Friday, September 14, 2012

Coming Out of Hiding

Just be yourself. It sounds simple...

But what if you aren't sure that who you are is really okay? What if you've censored and adapted, become accustomed to guilt and regret, accepted that feeling less than as part of the norm?

That was 100% of who I was. When I gave myself permission to take the risk and put my writing out there for the world to see, everything changed.

What I expected was a sense of release. What I have found is that and so much more. Acceptance. Reassurance. Friendship. Thanks.

This online space brought me into a community that I would have otherwise not known. A place where God has shown me this common thread that runs through our lives as women. I hear my story and see myself reflected over and over again. These women are amazing. And through them, I can accept that He is showing me I am amazing too.

I can encourage others with my words easily. I listen and have sound advice to give. Why can I not apply those things to my life? Why can I so clearly see the worth and value of those around me, but struggle to see my own?

It all comes back to fear. I hesitated to start blogging because I was afraid of what people would think about me once it was all on display. I am afraid of failing. I am afraid of not being good enough.

But here's the thing, it really isn't about me. It's about God in me. It's about His blessings and His glory. Not my own. His mercies are new every day because I need them every day. And that's ok.

So, I'm stepping out into community and just being myself.... and the me today is better than the me I was yesterday.

"The thing I find most amazing about amazing grace is the chance to give it out. 
Isn't that what love is all about?"

Friday, September 7, 2012

Five Minute Friday - Graceful

I hear the word "graceful" and I immediately think of Grace Kelly, ballroom & ballet dancers, and Michelle Obama. Huh?

Maybe I caught you off guard with the last one. But it's true - at least in my eyes it is. Set politics and election year propaganda aside and just think about it (I hope you'll at least try)...

First and foremost, she is a woman. A mother. A wife. She has all of the emotions and instincts that you and I have.

She faces criticism and opinions about everything imaginable in her life on a scale that we can't possibly imagine. The whispers and conversations that stop when you walk in a room are nothing compared to what she endures. The father of her children, the man she loves, is publicly dissected, often lied about and openly hated every single day. Can we even comprehend what that must feel like or how to even begin to deal with it?

Trying to balance being a mother and raising daughters, which many of us know is challenging in normal circumstances, and living a public life in the political arena. I can't even wrap my mind around the massive toolbox of coping skills that she must have.

I know, I know - she has an arsenal of stylists, speech writers, nannies, and assistants. But having others at your disposal can only do so much. A nanny's attention can't replace a mother's love and affection. Those speech writers can lace words together beautifully, but they can't deliver them with a genuine spirit for you. As I watched and listened to her this week, on display for the entire world to see (literally), I was amazed. I have to be honest, I didn't hear most of what she was saying because I was taken with her poise and presence.

We have seen many other women stand in that place before her - all of them wives and mothers. But very few have navigated those waters with the class and grace that she has. She does not stay in the background or shy away from the critics. She faces them and meets their attacks with confidence and great tact. She is, without a doubt, a strong woman, and yet there is something soft and graceful about her. Those are not skills that can be taught - they inherently speak to who you are.

I have strong political opinions and convictions about our rights and responsibilities as American citizens. I won't speak to that here because that isn't what this is about - and watching Michelle helped me to realize that. In the way He always does, God used that moment to open my eyes. As I watch and listen to the candidates and the buzz this election year, I see and hear something different.

I don't see red or blue. Democrat or Republican. Left wing or right wing. Right or wrong. I see a woman. A mother. A wife. And I know that God is giving me eyes to see, just as I have prayed that He would.

Come on over to Lisa-Jo's for Five Minutes of the most Friday fun on the internet block!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Life Is a Game

I'm a Southern girl. And if you're familiar with the South, you know that football is more than a sport or pastime. Just like living with humidity and drinking sweet tea, it's a part of the southern lifestyle.

The University of Alabama has kicked off their first game of the season (Roll Tide!) and the nostalgia that accompanies the fall football season has officially returned!

Watching the Tide play tonight has me thinking.... there is a lot that can be taken from the football field and applied to life.

1. Never quit. Football is tough. The practices are long. The game itself is brutal. But play after play, hit after hit, the team returns to the field. It doesn't matter what the scoreboard says, they get back on the field for another play, another hit. Just like football, life is tough. When everything seems be crumbling around you and you've taken hit after hit and you want to give up, don't. Take a time out. And get back up for the next play.

2. The play is over when the whistle blows. These guys that are conditioned to oppose one another know when to stop. And they are penalized when they carry things too far. We need to learn to let things go. When the whistle has been blown on a situation or a relationship or a chapter in your life, get up and walk away.

3. There are 11 players on the field - a team. The quarterback, the linemen, the receivers, the ends, and the backs all have a role on the team. No single person wins the game - the team wins or loses. They rely on one another. They need each other. When one teammate is weak, the others must work harder to compensate and get the win. The same can be said of our communities, our families, our  relationships, our government. Every person in every position has a purpose. When we don't fulfill that responsibility, someone else has to pick up our slack.

4. Watch the films. Players and coaches spend hours and hours reviewing practice and game films. This is not only a great way to prepare for upcoming games, but it also promotes growth and accountability. We should all take a look at our choices, our actions, our words with an analyzing eye. Then we can better know why things played out the way they did and what we can do next time to better improve ourselves. When you do what you've always done, you get what you've always gotten. It's that simple.

5. Focus on the short term goals to ultimately achieve the victory. Achieving a win is the overall goal, but every win is made by setting and reaching smaller goals. Every possession should end with points on the board. This is a great analogy for parents. What we want in the end is for our children to grow up to become happy, productive, well-rounded adults that contribute to society. As parents, we nurture and teach them, setting and reaching many smaller goals along the way.... walking, talking, potty training, getting themselves dressed, etc.

6. The coach calls the shots. He knows the big picture that we can't see from the huddle. He calls the plays. He knows how to use each player to make the team stronger. God is our coach. He has given us the playbook to study and equip ourselves. If we'll follow His direction - run when He says, throw the ball to another player when He says - we will surely achieve the ultimate win!

And you know I just couldn't talk about football and end a blog post without saying 
"Roll Tide!" just one more time! :-)