There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. ~Anaïs Nin

Saturday, April 30, 2011

And the Walls Came Crumbling Down

There’s a person in my life whom I call a friend.  He thinks I’m fabulous, beautiful and fun to be around.  You can see why we are friends.  But as we have become closer he has started to challenge me.  He has begun to see through my carefully crafted exterior.  The “me” I show to the world.  Not my blog me who reveals my questions, my doubts, my struggles. But the “me” I bring to Starbucks...smiling, positive, happy, outgoing, confident.

But this friend sees through my veneer and asks questions.  The kinds of questions I have been carefully avoiding for years. The ones I haven’t even shared here. The ones I have scripted answers to that I convince myself are true, but that have real answers that I keep locked away in a box somewhere deep inside of me.

He knows this about me.  Not because I told him, but because he’s basically a pain in the a** who won’t take no for an answer.  Who isn’t satisified with my carefully crafted answers. 

He’s a friend who doesn’t allow me to settle.  Who challenges me, makes me think and forces me to open the locked box and consider the truth.  But I don’t always want to face the truth.  I like my excuses and my justifications better. Then I don’t have to grow, change, improve.  I can stay where I am…content and comfortable.

The only problem is, I am not content and comfortable because avoidance doesn’t bring peace, it brings anxst.  Anxst that expresses itself in questions, doubts, struggles, like I share here.  Causing me to question if I’m really Just Livin’ Life or if I’m trying to convince myself that I am.

Friday, April 29, 2011

If Only For A Moment

I woke up at 5:00 this morning to watch the Royal Wedding.  Not because I have any affinity toward the lives of Prince William and his new bride, but because my friend had a party at her house and I thought that was too good to pass up.

She served us breakfast, tea and coffee, fancy cupcakes, and gave us each our own tiara to wear for the event.  And as I turned my focus to the TV and saw the pageantry, the gown, the trees in the church, in typical fashion for me, I started to over-think the situation.

I thought of the cost involved  with this wedding, the excess, and my thoughts started to suck the joy out of the moment.  Because I was torn between thinking  that this was either a beautiful fairy tale wedding or an offensive display of wealth and materialism.

Am I allowed to enjoy the moment?  Is it ok to be a part of something so beautiful, if only for a moment, when there is so much pain and suffering in the world.  Is it ok for me to forget my troubles for a couple of hours, or is that too much of a luxury.

A few days ago, many people lost their homes, their lives in a massive tornado.  Even as I watched the wedding this morning, the ticker tape at the bottom of the TV  flashed the bad news of the day keeping my reality in check.  How could  I possibly get caught up in silly fairy tales?

So as I struggled all day with this, I realized that ultimately I know there is very little I can do to alleviate all the suffering in the world.  I have only my own little corner of it to hopefully do some good and I need the fairy tales to lift me up and give me the strength to do it.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Blowing Off Some Steam

When we think of weight issues, generally what comes to mind is overweight issues.  Unfortunately in our body image obsessed culture, anything that is not Goldilocks-style “just right” is an issue.  Thus, being too skinny can also be an issue.

My oldest son has had “weight issues” for most of his life, but on the too skinny side of the scale.  He became more and more self conscious of his skinny-ness as his friends went through puberty and developed muscles.  Unfortunately, Zack was also a late bloomer, causing him further distress. 

 As a guy and a late bloomer, it was hard to keep up, especially in sports.  And it didn’t’ help that his peers loved to make fun of the fact that he was so skinny.  As we know, kids can be cruel and Zack’s self esteem suffered.

Recently, in his junior year in college, Zack discovered the benefits of supplements as part of his weight training program.  To which he has seen amazing results.  He is excited about the changes he sees in his muscles, his body, his weight, and his confidence about how he looks and feels is improving.

Where he used to spend all his free time behind the controller of the lastest video game, he now spends his free time in the gym, or online, researching the programs of trainers and bodybuilders. 

I was feeling proud of Zack until I started getting far too many comments from well meaning friends about why I am letting Zack use supplements to enhance his workouts. “Don’t I know how dangerous they can be? “ And “you need to tell him to give that up, diet and exercise alone is enough.”

Really?  Tell him to give up the thing that has allowed him to change the body image that he hates?  Tell him to give up the thing that makes him feel good about how he looks and feels?  Tell him to give up the thing that is finally allowing him to grow in confidence?

Sorry, I can’t and I won’t.  Because I know that as much as I preach to my kids about liking people for who they are and not what they look like, that is not what society says, its not the messages they get from peers.  In fact, it’s not the message he has gotten from me.

My son, who I have tried to convince that body image doesn’t matter, even as I try every fad diet, and workout like crazy, and primp and preen and fuss about my own appearance.  To whom I preach that what matters most is who you are as a person, even as I schedule another appointment to cover my dark roots and my even more rapidly multiplying gray hairs.

My son is approaching 21, certainly capable of making his own decisions.  He has done his research,  shared with me his program and I have looked into it as well, and you know what Zack?  I think I’ll join you…can you pass me a scoop of Jack3d?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

You Say That Like It's A Bad Thing

I love the fact that I am a laid back, easy-going person. It’s one of my favorite things about myself. So I get a bit defensive when someone calls me high maintenance.

I mean sure, I have lengthy conversations with the wait staff at restaurants, but I have some food intolerances, and I hate when people sit directly behind me in an empty movie theatre. (Don’t they know about personal space?)

And I am very particular about which songs go on my iPod, but who wants to listen to mediocre music?  For that matter, I don’t want to watch mediocre TV either, so I will usually be the one to decide what we watch.

I shop at one grocery store, one coffee shop, one gas station and one deli, but only because I am a loyal customer, certainly not from any irrational fears of venturing outside of my comfort zone.

And I’m outgoing and friendly, which goes along with my easy-going, laid back personality.  Unless, of course, I’m feeling angry, bored, frustrated or generally pissed off.  Then its best to stay clear until it passes.

No, I am definitely not high maintenance…

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Seriously Thinking About Lightening Up

Last night I watched American Idol.  It was actually last week’s episode, but I found that if I record Idol, I can watch the competition and the results show in about an hour by skipping all the commercials and other nonsense that now seems to be a part of it.

And as I was watching Katy Perry sing a song that I generally enjoy when I hear it on the radio, all I could focus on was her outrageous electrified costume and how much it cost. I have always been an AI fan, even in the early seasons when it really was just a singing competition.  So I continued to watch last night all the while analyzing why the producers felt the need to go to such lengths with the theatrics to keep me, the viewer, coming back.

And then I thought about the comment my husband made about yesterday’s blog post.  I wrote about an issue that I do take quite seriously but I personally thought my comment about Hannibal Lecter was rather funny.  My husband thought I sounded deeply disturbed.  So I analyzed that for about five hours and came to the conclusion that perhaps I have completely lost my sense of humor. Perhaps I have forgotten how to have fun.

By nature, I tend to be a deep thinker which, I suppose, is why I continuously wrestle with my thoughts about God, and life in general.  But am I taking myself too seriously?  Is it possible to enjoy my life for what it is even while I know there is suffering in the world? 

I imagine there is a proper balance and I’m sure if I spend some time analyzing this I will draw some deeply profound conclusions, but in the meantime, I’m going to go set my DVR for this week’s American Idol because even though I don’t know who’s performing, I’m sure it will be a great show.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Spirit is Willing

And sometimes God is silent, choosing to let us work things out for ourselves.

I drove my son back to college this morning.  We got an early start so I didn’t eat breakfast.  After dropping him off, I headed back toward the main drag where there were plenty of choices to get some food.  I happened to pick Whole Foods, feeling like I should choose wisely after binging on chocolate the day before.

As I pulled out of the parking lot, I was confronted with the same homeless man that I saw last week, which I wrote about in The Ugly Truth.   And the same questions came to mind as to whether I should get involved.  Only this time, I had the added pressure of feeling like God was testing me by offering me another chance to do the right thing.

As I looked at the man I thought that he seemed harmless.  Looking rather like a lost puppy standing in the street with his cardboard sign.  I didn’t feel like he was a threat, but just then I thought back to when I was 17.  I was on my way to work and my car broke down.  Standing helplessly on the side of the road, a nice man pulled over to offer his assistance.  He was very kind, probably about 10 years older than me, and offered me a ride to work.  I gratefully hopped into his car, and made it to my job on time.

Feeling rather pleased with myself that I still managed to get to work, I called my parents to inform them about the car, still sitting on the side of the road.  When they asked me how I got to work,  well, let’s just say I had to pull the phone far away from my ear.  I don’t remember the conversation word for word, but I do remember something about having no brain in my head, what was I thinking, and where was my common sense.  Oops.  Not that I blame them, though. If my own daughter got into a car with a strange man, she would hear that and then some.

So keeping in mind that perhaps common sense isn’t my strong suit, I still considered that doing something was better than nothing.  And if I offered him some money, what could happen?  I followed that thought to two possible outcomes, visualizing the headlines in the morning paper as this: 

Random Act of Kindness Inspires Homeless Man to Change His Life or
Serial Killer Posing as Homeless Man Claims Next Victim.

Suddenly the man looked less like a puppy and more like Hannibal Lecter.  So once again, I drove past with my window tightly shut and decided to pray instead.  First for the homeless man, and second for me.  I asked God to please make it clear to me if this was a lesson in kindness and generosity or a lesson in common sense.

I’m still waiting for an answer…

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Permission to be Fabulous

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
      Marianne Williamson

Every year on Easter Sunday I celebrate the holiday with my family.  My parents, my sisters and their families, girlfriends, friends and anyone else who wants to tag along.  It’s always a great party.  Lots of great food, desserts and plenty of beer and wine. 

As Lent has come to a close and I feel very good about where I am at with God, I have toyed with the idea of having a cocktail once in awhile, particularly on a day of celebration.   In January, my intent was to abstain for one full year, to see if and how God would work in my life.  And since that time, my relationship with God has changed.  I feel Him working in my life and on my heart, changing it for the better with each passing day.

I have been quite pleased with the direction my life has taken, thinking that perhaps I have done a good enough job with the non-drinking and its time to relax the rules a bit.  But as I  considered this, the above quote by Marianne Williamson came to me.  And it occurred to me that maybe good enough is not good enough.

God has a plan for me, I am sure of that.  He has been faithfully helping me work out my questions, my fears, my doubts, my struggles, and even though I am happy with where I am at, maybe God still has greater things in store for me. 

So on this Easter Sunday, as I celebrate the risen Christ, I renew my commitment to give God this entire year.  Because I want more than good enough…I want to shine.  I want to make manifest the glory of God that is within me.  I want nothing short of fabulous.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Don't Call Me Good

“I’m selfish, impatient, and a little insecure.  I make mistakes, I’m hard to handle and a little out of control. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.” – Marilyn Monroe

I was the “good” one growing up.  The one who never gave my parents any trouble.  I always, according to them, knew when to stop.  Unlike my sister, who loved to push my parents buttons.  All the way to their breaking point.  But the funny thing is, I didn’t feel “good”. 

I wanted to try things growing up.  Cigarettes, alcohol, speeding.  But why? I mean, if I was the good one, shouldn’t I want to be good?  I tried to live up to the expectations I felt, but failed…miserably.  So in the end, I didn’t become good, instead I learned how to lie.

I lied to my parents about where I was going, what I was doing and who I was with.  And when I got caught doing something wrong, I learned how to lie a little better. But I hated living in lies.  I wanted to tell my parents that they got it wrong.  I’m not the “good” one.  In my heart, I knew I could be selfish, I knew I had a short temper, and I was impatient.  And good people are not selfish and impatient or angry. 

So I continued to lie, and I continued to hide that side of me.  But I didn’t just hide it from my parents, I also hid it from God.  Because if I couldn’t live up to my parents expectations, I sure as hell couldn’t live up to His. 

But then I met Jesus.  The real Jesus.  The Jesus who loved the adulteress. The Jesus who loved the woman at the well.  The Jesus who loved the sinners. The Jesus who died for me on the cross, because He knew that I wasn’t “good”.  He knew I was human. That I would make mistakes, that I would want to do the wrong thing sometimes.  But he didn’t wait for me to get my act together,  He died for me while I was not “good.” 

He loved me at my worst.  So every day I give Him my best, even when my best is my worst.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Before The Rooster Crows...

Maundy  Thursday…a time to recapture Jesus’ last night with his disciples.  The evening when he broke bread with them and humbly washed their feet.  Showing them the Way.  The Way of humble service. The Way of acceptance.  The Way of Love.

He was the Light of the World.

And yet, each of the disciples in their own way extinquished that Light.  By doubting, denying, debating, running, and betraying.  And Jesus was taken away to be crucified. 

And how have I contributed to extinquishing the Light?

When I am stubborn, prideful, arrogant….I extinquish the Light.
When I am angry, short-tempered, critical…I extinquish the Light.
When I am afraid, worried, anxious…I extinquish the Light.
When I see someone in need and look the other way…I extinquish the Light.
When I am envious, ungrateful, focused on what I lack…I extinquish the Light.
When I am impatient, agitated, annoyed…I extinquish the Light.
When I refuse to forgive…I extinquish the Light.
When I choose hate over love…I extinquish the Light.

Jesus Christ died on the cross today. For me, but also because of me.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Meryl Streep's Got Nothin' On Me

After writing yesterday’s blog entry about the man on the street with the cardboard sign, I continued to struggle with my feelings about that situation.  So I found it interesting when I read today’s entry in one of the blogs I follow written by Donald Miller.  He suggested in his blog that we should never be motivated by guilt or obligation to do anything.  Our motivation should come from love.

Upon reading this, I had to question my motives yesterday.  Had I given some money to that man, was I doing it out of love?  Or was I just trying to assuage my own guilt.  Unfortunately it would have been the latter.  But in his blog Donald went on to say that there are people in his life where he cheerfully gives and that is so much better for the giver and the receiver.

I don’t have a “cause”.  And by that, I mean there is not a specific area where I focus my charitable efforts.  There are certain areas I feel an affinity toward so I donate money to specific organizations that have had an impact on my life, but I haven’t focused my energies on one specific area.  I guess I’m still unsure about my calling and my gifts.

Until now…

Just this very moment I received a beautiful award from one of my followers, Annabelle.  The You are an INSPIRATION Award. (I am so grateful to her that it makes me wonder if this is what it feels like to win the Oscar!)   And it made me think of all the wonderful comments I have received from Colleen, Lori, Dana, Betty, The Favorite Things Guy, Beth, Debbie, Esther, Dinah, Helene, Corinne, Lisa, Kathi, as well as my other followers who send me texts and emails, and those who choose to follow silently. 

When I started blogging I wrote for me, but over the months I think of all of my followers as I write.  I wonder if something I say might help someone along in their journey, and it inspires me to write more, to share more. To be as open and honest as I can because I love to connect with people.  I learn and I am inspired by so many people in my life, I am humbled to think that perhaps someone is learning  from and inspired by me and my words.

So I continue to write.  Not out of obligation or guilt, but simply out of love and I wonder…is this my calling?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Ugly Truth

“Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?” “I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”  -  Matthew 25:44-45

For 40 days I have written about my questions about my faith, about God, about what I believe.  Coming to some conclusions about myself that have left me feeling like I have it all figured out.  Until God decided to challenge me even more…

Yesterday, while driving home from my son’s game, I passed a man standing in the middle of the road in the median at a traffic light.  He held up a cardboard sign.  I passed him twice yesterday, once on the other side of the road, and a second time on my side. 

The first time he was “over there” so I didn’t give him much thought, other than to feel sorry for him as he was most likely homeless.  The second time I felt more uncomfortable.  Now I had a decision to make.  Do I roll down my window and give him some money?  Or do what all the other cars around me did and pass right by.

This is where the struggle with my faith lies.

The closer my car inched toward this man, the more nervous I got.  I wanted to do the “Christian” thing.  I wanted to do what Jesus taught when he preached about “the least of these.”  But I was scared.  I didn’t know this man, or his intentions.  What if I held some money out and he grabbed my arm?  What if he had a gun under that large overcoat he was wearing?

Surely Jesus didn’t mean that I should put my own life at risk, did he? After all, there were no such things as carjackings in Jesus’ day.   And I have a family to take care of. If something happened to me, who would care for them?  (perhaps I am overdramatizing, but these thoughts do go through my head when faced with the idea of approaching a stranger.)

The bottom line is I can go to church every Sunday, and attend my Bible studies, write my check for the offering, pray for others, talk about my walk with God and how he’s working in my life and how he has blessed me, guided me, watched over me, but at the end of the day, I kept my window rolled up.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Take Me Out To The Ballgame

My oldest son Zack is a baseball player in college.  He is a relief pitcher, which means he is not in the rotation to start, making it very difficult to know when he will actually play.  For that reason and because his school is a few hours away from where I live, I am afraid to say that I have not yet seen him play ball at the college  level.

So when I learned from Zack that he would definitely be playing in his game on Monday, I was excited to finally see him pitch.  Until I learned that this game was being played at a school four hours away from my house. I spent much of the weekend debating whether I should make the trek or not.  I wanted to go, but I was uneasy about traveling 8 hours in total by myself for what could amount to 1 or 2 innings of play time for my son.

So this morning, I felt like it was too much.  I was worried about everything. From the length of the trip, to getting lost, to figuring out where I would stop for gas, or to eat lunch.  Not to mention I was leaving my daughter with a friend and she might not want to stay that long.  Nothing significant, but enough little concerns to cause me to decide to stay home. 

When I emailed my husband to let him know, I figured his response would be something about coming to my senses, and that I was crazy to even have considered driving so far, alone.  So I was surprised when I received this response instead:

God wants us to feel apprehensive and uncomfortable at times so we understand that we need to rely on him for comfort . This is just another exercise he has planned to help you exercise your faith muscles! Ride in peace.

This was just the motivation I needed. So I grabbed my camera and my keys and headed out the door. 

As luck would have it, my travels would take me past my other son’s college, and since he didn’t have classes today, he agreed to keep me company on the trip.  And the drive was smooth sailing.  All the traffic and road construction sites were on the other side of the highway.  The weather was picture perfect and we got to the school in record time.

Then as the game began, the starting pitcher was just not having a good day, so Zack came in to relieve him in the first inning.  Which allowed me to watch Zack pitch for 6  innings before the coach brought in the closer.  

All in all, it was a perfect day.  One that I almost missed out on because of my old ways of thinking.  How easy it was for me to forget all I have learned about leaning on God, but how grateful I was that God will use anything, even email to bring me back to my senses. 

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Lent Day 40 - Close Enough

I was all set to wrap up my Lent series thinking that Lent ends on Day 40.  However, there is still another week until Easter so I’m not sure if Lent is over or not.  As always, whenever I have questions I go to right to Google.  A quick  search led me to many articles about the 40 day Lenten season.

Some articles explained that 40 days is just symbolic.  Other articles suggested that Lent is about “fasting” days only, which doesn’t include Sundays.  One article said Lent ends on Holy Saturday, and another article explained that Lent ends after services on Maundy Thursday.

I’m confused…

This period of Lent, for me, was about focusing on God.  About giving up anything that I was putting before Him.  If I would typically reach for a box of Girl Scout cookies because I was bored, I would instead go to God first.  If I left my house to hang out at Starbucks because I was feeling lonely, I went to God instead.

But now that 40 days has passed, I have no intention of reversing that choice.  I have learned that putting God first needs to be a way of life, not a timed trial.  So it doesn’t really matter if Lent ends today, Thursday, Friday or Saturday, my personal Lent series is officially coming to an end but my walk with God continues on…

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Lent Day Thirty Nine - So That They May Have Life

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under Heaven:
A time to be born and a time to die,
A time to plant and a time to uproot,
A time to kill and a time to heal,
A time to tear down and a time to build,
A time to weep and a time to laugh,
A time to mourn and a time to dance,
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
A time to embrace and a time to refrain,
A time to search and a time to give up,
A time to keep and a time to throw away,
A time to be silent and a time to speak,
A time to love and a time to hate
A time for war and a time for peace.
-Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

I have had this idea in my head that there is this perfect version of me, and if I could just become that woman my life would be perfect.  I can see her in my mind.  She is always calm, she never loses her temper, she never makes mistakes, she always pays her bills on time, she keeps her house spotless…in other words…a Stepford Wife.

Over the last few months I thought I had been doing all this changing, getting closer and closer to the woman in my head, but it isn’t me that’s changed its her. Because life is not perfect. And neither am I.  And who wants to be a Stepford wife anyway.  I saw the movie…they’re creepy!

I’m no longer afraid to be myself.  To feel my feelings and express my opinions. So I’m letting my guard down and when I feel sad, I going to let myself feel that. And when I feel happy I’m going to let myself feel that.  Sometimes I will want to celebrate and sometimes I may want to wallow in self pity.

God has helped me to realize that I don’t need to live my life full of “shoulds”.   By His grace, I no longer feel as though my life is supposed to look different than it does. And because of that I no longer feel as if I’m in a crisis.  God has changed my heart.  And just has he opened the eyes of Saul, and renamed him to Paul, so it is time to rename my life. 

Because life isn’t perfect and neither am I.  Life is happy, sad, hard, challenging, fun, exciting, boring, frustrating and unfair…and I’m just livin’ it.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Lent Day Thirty Eight - Peace in Sudsy Water

I enjoy reading memoirs.  Books written by regular people who share their lives.  I generally take something away from every book I read.  So when I read the book Eat, Pray, Love I was hopeful that I would learn something about myself and my own journey.  Instead I was left frustrated.  I thought, well of course this author found some peace.  If I had the time and money to travel the world by myself I imagine I would find what I was looking for as well.

But I have a husband, kids and a house that need tending to…how could I possibly travel to Italy, India and Indonesia?  I found it difficult to set aside one day, never mind one year to focus on my spiritual journey.  So I gave up on the idea that I could ever find a sense of inner peace.

Fortunately for me, God did not give up.  He continued to work on me, eventually bringing me to a place where I knew the right thing to do was to give up drinking for awhile.   And from there I went even further by choosing to give up for Lent anything that I was using to replace God.  And now, I am in a different place.

So I was wrong.  I didn’t have to go anywhere, or change my lifestyle.  I didn’t have to leave my family and my responsibilities behind.  I didn’t even have to set aside time for meditation.  At least not in any formal sense. 

What I did do, however, was turn off my radio while I was in the car.  And God spoke to me there.  And I turned off my TV while I folded laundry, and God spoke to me there.  And I turned off my iPod while I washed dishes and God spoke to me there.

And I learned something…

God is not just in ashrams or churches.   He’s not halfway around the world from here.  He’s anywhere I choose to look for Him.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Lent Day Thirty Seven - My Future Awaits

Thirty seven days ago I made the decision that for Lent I would put God first.  That whenever I was feeling lonely, bored, frustrated or otherwise discontent I would go to God, rather than my usual coping mechanisms. 

I had the idea in my head that by the end of the forty days I would be a new person.  A new creation.  Someone different.  Someone I could look at in the mirror and like.  In other words, the perfect version of myself.

Now with only three days left, I can tell you most assuredly that I am far from being the perfect version of myself.  But my imperfections are growing on me, and with them so is my compassion.  Because just as I love and accept others even with their imperfections, so I have learned to love and accept myself.

I placed my faith and trust in God and He has changed me, although not in the ways I would have changed myself.  If it were up to me, I would have removed my sugar cravings, improved my organizational skills and eliminated my obsessive compulsive tendencies.  But God chose to work on my heart instead. 

So while I still eat far too much chocolate,  I worry less, and while my kids still have to sift through piles of unfolded clothes each morning, I am grateful to have clothes to wash, and while I still check my burners and locks several times, I know that God is in control and I am not.

And even though Lent will come to an end, my life with God is only beginning and I am excited to see where He will lead me. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Lent Day Thirty Six - Embracing the Journey

I know what I want, God knows what I need…

Throughout my life, I have always had a goal.  I was always striving for the next brass ring.  Each accomplishment brought only fleeting satisfaction as I already had my sites set on what was next.  There was always a purpose to what I did.

So I was taken aback when I was recently asked what I do for fun.  The conversation went something like this…

“Fun? I’m not sure what you mean.”
“You know, what do you like to do in your spare time?”
“Oh, I read self-help books”
“That’s not really what I mean…”
“I don’t understand the question”
“What do you do, you know…just because?”

I had no answer for that.  Why would I do anything just because?  I couldn’t imagine doing anything that didn’t result in an award, recognition, a grade, a paycheck, or some sort of betterment of myself or my family. 

My life has always been about the destination, never about the journey.  I wanted to be 16 so I could drive and work.  I wanted to be 18 so I could vote (and drink).  I wanted to be in college so I could get a good job.  I wanted to be married, have a baby, then another baby, and two more after that.  I wanted a dog, then two dogs, a house, a bigger house. 

I have always had a goal, in fact, my most difficult times were when I had nothing to strive for, no brass ring taunting me from the distance.  So I looked for things, new goals, I’ll drive a fire truck, check.  I’ll play soccer, check.  I’ll lose weight, check.  I’ll get my kids into college, check, check, check.

But then I started this dance class.  Each class we learn another step, another twirl  and I love it.   There is no purpose to it. There are no goals, no awards, no competitions.  And yet, I keep going back for more, in fact, I’m sad when each class comes to an end.  But why?

Could it be that this is what it means to do something just for fun? 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Lent Day Thirty Five - a Mustard Seed

“I tell you the truth. If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” – Matthew 17:20

Throughout this Lenten season I have learned a great deal about myself, which I shared yesterday in Me…In a Nutshell.  But I have also learned more about God, or at least what I believe about God which I feel in my heart to be true.

I believe that there is a universal life force.  An energy that sustains and connects us all.  I happen to call that energy God. 

I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.  That God sent Him to us to show us the Way, the Truth and the Life.  That through Him we would see the full expression of God’s love and compassion.  I believe that anyone who expresses this love is connected to God, whether someone does it in the name of Jesus or not.

I believe the Holy Bible is the inspired word of God, but I also believe He is too great to be limited to one book.  He speaks to and through His creation in more ways than I can imagine in my limited understanding of Him.

I believe I do have a choice to make.  Do I choose God or myself?  But I don’t believe that God limits my time in making this decision to this blink-of–an-eye earthly existence.  I believe God would pursue me even after death.

I believe  Jesus meant what he said when He instructed us that the kingdom of Heaven is within.  And no matter how hard I try, I will not find eternal peace from any worldly thing.  That peace only comes from journeying inward to the depths of my own soul.   And because this journey exists within,  God alone can judge the heart.  He alone knows where any of us are in our journey no matter what it looks like from the outside.

I believe that God will ultimately redeem His whole creation because while I do have the God given free will to reject Him,  He also has the free will to reject my rejection and work on me until I get it.  And because we are all part of His creation, we all have love within us.  Even if that love is no bigger than a mustard seed.  And even if we have to go through Hell to realize it's there.

I believe that with God all things are possible.  And while I don’t understand all the ways of God, what I have learned by seeking Him with passion is that God talks to me, He guides me, supports me, is patient with me, has hopes for me, but most of all He loves me.  Because God is nothing if He is not love.

And love will win, every time.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Lent Day Thirty Four - Me...In a Nutshell

There’s a difference between being different things to different people and being all things to all people.  Unfortunately by trying to be all things to all people I landed myself smack in the middle of a midlife crisis, looking at myself in the mirror and not recognizing the reflection. 

Throughout this journey I have learned a lot about who I am and I would like to take this opportunity to introduce myself…

First and foremost I am a wife and a mother.  I am a daughter, a daughter-in-law, a sister, aunt, great-aunt and a friend.  My home is more like a community center than anything else, where kids come and go as they please, help themselves to my fridge, and get reprimanded for ringing the doorbell when they should just walk right in.  Any child that comes to my house is “my” kid and I will treat them as such.  And in return, they include me in their conversations and in their lives.

I love to read. Everything I can get my hands on. Especially books that create controversy. I love to be challenged with new ideas, new concepts. I love to think. I get lost in my thoughts. So much so that I have been known to drive right past my exit while on the highway. 

I drive a pickup truck.  I love trucks.  The bigger the better.  If I lived near a quarry that is where I would work.  I was a volunteer firefighter for a couple of years, where I had the opportunity to drive a fire truck.  That was one of the highlights of my life.

I check my burners every time I leave the house. I cannot balance my checkbook. I always back into my parking spaces and I park far away from buildings, much to the chagrin of my passengers, who then have to walk a little further.  I love to watch the same movies over and over again.  I no longer go ga-ga over movie stars. To me they are just people, with the possible exception of Bradley Cooper.

I hate laundry.  I hate laundry. And did I mention I hate laundry?

I have friends from all walks of life.  I can sip tea with the ladies in my Christian book club, eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with my kids and their friends, and then chug back some beers with the fireguys.  I like guys who ride motorcycles, wear a uniform, and still know how to treat a lady…because chivalry is not dead in my book. You can hold the door for me anytime.

I love my husband, who actually doesn’t ride a motorcycle or wear a uniform, but he does sport a mean business suit.  He remembers every special occasion, he puts up with me and my shenanigans, he’s a great dad, and he let’s me have the remote…sometimes.  I also love the cigars he smokes (I’ve been known to take a puff or two) and I love that he occasionally gives up his golf game to accompany me to church.

And I love my kids.  My average, run of the mill kids.  Who were never valedictorian of their class, who did not get into every college they applied to, who sometimes brought home A’s and sometimes, well not A’s.  My kids, who prefer World of Warcraft to community service, prefer take-out to my home cooking, and swear as part of their normal conversation, even when talking to me.

But they also friended me on Facebook for Mother’s Day, share their good news with me, and ask for my advice… like “mom, how many beers can I have before I will get sick?” 

No, my family is not perfect, my life is not perfect, and I am not perfect, but together we are perfectly imperfect.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Lent Day Thirty Three - Amazing Grace

When I started my blog in January and named it Deb’s Midlife Crisis, it truly was because I felt like I was in a crisis.  I was in a state of despair.  I took stock of my life and decided I did not have what I wanted.  I questioned everything, including my marriage.  So I went in search of answers. 

I started my search by giving up drinking, knowing that if I was going to make any major life decisions I needed a clear head to do it.  Then, I intensified my search for God.  Dissatisfied with my home church I went looking for a church that would meet my needs.  I enjoyed being the new kid on the block.  Everything looked perfect from that perspective.  There were no issues, just praise and worship.  From my position as a newcomer in the pew I didn’t have to worry about the behind the scenes drama.

Then I considered other areas of my life. When I was home and I looked around at the laundry and the messy kitchen, I secretly dreamed about moving away.  Starting over, as if in some new house in some new town, there would be no laundry or mess.  And when I watched my favorite movies, love stories like Sleepless in Seattle or Pretty Woman,  I compared them to my own 23 year marriage and secretly dreamed of feeling that “first crush”  feeling again.

But life is not a movie, and it's definitely not free from mess and drama.  I can’t run away and hide.  I will not find freedom from life’s troubles in a new marriage, a new town, a bottle of vodka, a box of Girl Scout cookies or even a new church.  So I sit here today, just a few days away from the end of Lent, and realize nothing in my life  has changed.

I live in the same house, and I still can’t keep up with the laundry,  I attend the same church, even though reading off the bulletin is a little tedious, and I’m still in the same marriage, grateful that my husband was patient enough to stand by me during my period of discontent.

But I am no longer searching, and I realize it’s because I have changed. Through the grace of God, I have changed.  Where once I was blind, now I see.  And what I see is that it is not about having what I want, but wanting what I have, even with all of the imperfections, and that has brought me peace.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Lent Day Thirty Two - The Choice is Mine

My daughter once asked me if there was a hell and I replied “yes dear, it’s called middle school.”  

I remember looking forward to middle school until I actually got there and learned about this thing called “the popular group.”  How did this happen?  Who got to decide who was in and who was out? And how did “they” come to the conclusion that I was out?

Now that my daughter is in middle school, I am looking on from a new perspective.  I try to keep up with the drama, the hormones and the friendships, constantly making the mistake of assuming she’s still friends with this one or that one.  Only to find out a week later that she is once again friends with this one or that one. 

I am learning that I cannot go through this for her.  She must navigate this hostile terrain for herself. I cannot tell her what to do or who to be.  This is her rite of passage.  She will make her choices, she will make some mistakes, but I will be there for her no matter what.

I imagine God feels much the same way as He looks down on us, His children.  All of us are going through His middle school.  He watches while we navigate the hostile terrain of life, knowing that we, too, will have to learn for ourselves, through our own choices, and sometimes through our mistakes. 

As I wait patiently, watching my daughter grow into a beautiful swan, I think how much more infinitely patient is God.  Offering His love, support and guidance along the way.

And perhaps God has His cosmic version of the popular group, but the difference is His group is available to everyone.  “They” don’t get to decide my fate.  I get to make that choice for myself.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Lent Day Thirty One - I'll Be the Judge of That

I was incredibly shocked last night when Ryan Seacrest announced on American Idol that Pia was going home.  I thought she was a shoe-in to win.  The next Carrie Underwood.  I agreed with the judges that America got it wrong.

This morning, I decided to read the AI message boards to see what America was actually saying, assuming there would be page after page agreeing with me that yes, America was wrong.  But I was surprised to learn that not everyone shared my opinion.  In fact, some were glad to see her go, thinking that while she certainly is beautiful and talented she was a little boring. 

Some preferred the more unique styles of Paul and Casey to the typical ballads that Pia brought to the table.  And as I read more and more of the comments I realized America wasn’t wrong, America was just different.

Thankfully God already knows this.  As I have focused on reading my Bible and growing in my relationship with God, I have learned how Jesus speaks so differently to each of the people He encounters.   He shared a cup of water with the woman at the well, He ate and drank wine with His friends, He cried along with Mary and Martha when Lazarus died and He rebuked the religious leaders.

Jesus knows each of our hearts.  He knows what each of us needs to grow in our relationship with Him.  To Him we are unique individuals, each one of us a beloved child of God.  So whether what we need is a kind word, or a little fun, admonishment, or just to feel His presence…He alone can judge.

So I accepted the fact that America was not actually wrong, I recanted my vow to never watch the show again, (reminding myself that this is just American Idol after all),  and opened my mind to the talents and gifts of the other artists who also bring beautiful, and different, music to the table.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Lent Day Thirty - Loving My Neighbor

This is my blog.   My own little corner of the world to share my thoughts, ideas, hopes, dreams, bad days, good days.  I do this because I carry so much around inside of me and I have found this to be cathartic.  Some sort of release.  I do this for me.

But today I write for my friend Lori, who I hope reads this post…

Lori, I know you are struggling.  So much so that you haven’t blogged in over a month.  I know from your last post that you hesitate to write because you don’t want to “spew negativity”.

I remember reading in one of my many self help books about a way to release negativity through imagery.  The author suggested that to get rid of negative thoughts we should imagine blowing up a balloon, then putting that thought inside the balloon and releasing it.  Just letting it go…such a beautiful idea, all these balloons of negativity drifting off into space, never to be seen or heard from again.

I’m pretty sure I threw that book away.

But over the last few months as I have shared all of my many thoughts I have found that I have let go of so much that has weighed me down.  With each blog I have felt lighter, as if I didn’t have to dwell on that particular question or concern anymore because it was no longer trapped in my mind, but out there somewhere.

I would encourage you, Lori, to write again.  Write for you.  Or write for me.  I’m willing to listen…  

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Lent Day Twenty Nine - Complicating What Doesn't Need to be Complicated

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” -  Matthew 22:36-40

Seems easy enough, right?  Except Jesus makes a very large assumption.  He assumes I already love myself.  Unfortunately, that part has not always been so easy.  I have typically been my own worst critic.  Judging myself and my actions much more harshly than I would ever judge another. 

“How could I be so stupid?”
“If only I were thinner, younger, more patient, better educated….”
“I should keep my house cleaner, recycle more often, give more, do more, be more…”

And yet, Jesus is perfect.  He always knew exactly what He meant when He was talking.  So He couldn’t have made an incorrect assumption... could He?  Why would He assume I already loved myself enough to know how to love Him and love others.

I have often in the past heard preachers say during their sermons,  “God loves you just the way you are but He loves you too much to let you stay that way”.  Unfortunately what I heard was “you are still not good enough.”  But throughout this Lenten season, as I have drawn closer to God, and come to understand His perfect  and unconditional love, I realize that God would actually say “I love you just the way you are. Period.”

And only by coming to that realization have I found the courage to reject the messages I used to believe were true and focus on the only message that matters…Love God and love my neighbor as myself. Period.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Lent Day Twenty Eight - A Time to Dance

For those of you who read my recent post Not Your Average Cardio, I wanted to update you on my pole dancing experience.

Let me first say that there were 15 other women in the room.   This in and of itself surprised me.  I didn’t realize so many women would be trying out this new form of cardio. And initially I was feeling rather silly about the whole thing.  But as I watched the instructor and listened to the music I started to loosen up and enjoy myself.

We actually spent quite a lot of time stretching.  As I have grown older, I have become much less limber.  Stretching is not part of my normal routine and I have never been a fan of yoga ,  so I was glad to see that this was an important component during the hour.

Then we went to the poles…I remember as a little girl swirling around random poles on the playground, and sometimes the poles supporting the streetsigns, literally just holding on with one hand swirling around them for fun.  But suddenly swirling for a purpose made me feel tense and self-conscious.  I had a hard time letting go and having fun with it.

I realize God had a different purpose for instructing us to become like little children again, but perhaps He saw this as a good place for me to start.  Understanding that letting go has been a struggle for me.

At the end of the evening, the instructor gave a full demonstration and I found it to be quite a beautiful art form.   It’s simply another form of dance that allows women to explore their own sensuality in a safe, male-free environment.

By the time I got home, I was packed in ice, sore from the bruises on my legs, but ever the glutton for punishment and determined to learn to let go, I signed up for five more classes.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Lent Day Twenty Seven - Books and their Covers

What does a Christian woman look like?

One day,  a couple of years ago, when my kids first started attending their new Christian high school, we were having a conversation about Christians.  One of my kids told me I was not a Christian and when I asked him why he thought that he said “because you don’t wear sweaters and khaki pants, and you listen to rap music.”

Hmmm….all this time I thought being a Christian had something to do with Jesus.

It is true that in my car, my Mark Driscoll bible study CD’s are sandwiched between Eminen and Jay-Z and I prefer Express to Land’s End for my wardrobe, but does that mean I don’t know God?

As I have come to truly appreciate God’s loving nature over the last few weeks, I have also learned to be a little kinder and gentler to myself.  In the past, I have felt uncomfortable in Christian circles, feeling somewhat of an outsider because I know my lifestyle, my choice of activities doesn’t necessarily reflect what I see in their lives.

But God has created us as individuals.  I would imagine He would be quite bored looking down at the billions of His children only to see the same thing over and over again.  My friend Lori has taught me to embrace myself and doing that requires a level of self acceptance.   And feeling confident enough to know that God created me with certain gifts, certain qualities and traits that may be different. 

I’m learning that He wants me to celebrate those differences.  So while some keep their brains sharp by doing crossword puzzles or Sudoku, I will stick to my preference of memorizing the lyrics to as many Eminem songs as I can.  But out of respect for others and their differences, I will lower the volume as I enter the church parking lot. 

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Lent Day Twenty Six - Not Your Average Cardio

I recently watched a news broadcast about a studio that was offering Pole Dancing for Fitness classes.  The reason it was on the news was because it was Christian based.  In other words, the girls were pole dancing to Christian music.  Apparently this caused quite a stir.

Not one to pass judgment on anything without finding out for myself, I googled Pole Dancing for Fitness in my area and sure enough there is a studio nearby that offers these classes as well as hula-hooping and zumba.  This is not a Christian based studio, but my curiosity has gotten the better of me. 

Now mind you, I’m 46 years old, and while I do keep myself pretty fit, I’m not exactly limber.   And as an ex-volunteer firefighter, my idea of what to do with a pole is just a bit different, but this is just too good to pass up.  

So I’ve added Pole Dancing for Fitness to my bucket list and signed up for an intro class,  all while doing my best to forget about what curiosity did to the cat.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Lent Day Twenty Five - The Sky's the Limit

When I first started to fly, I didn’t think of it as anything more than a mode of transportation.  Until I flew to Texas on April 19, 1995.  The morning of the Oklahoma City bombing.  We were already en route by the time this occurred so I was oblivious to what was happening on the ground.  As we approached Dallas-Fort Worth airport and prepared for our descent, I was ready to land.  I was travelling with my mother and my three boys.  The youngest of whom was on my lap because the plane was so crowded.

We were tired, the boys were cranky and we were so grateful when the plane was just about to touch down.  It was at that moment that we suddenly took off again.  We were confused and scared because we didn’t know what was going on.  Then we heard sketchy reports about a bomb.  Many of the passengers,  along with myself, concluded that the bomb was on our plane and we were diverted from landing so we could explode in the sky and not on the ground.

With the exception of the return flight home, that was the last time I ever stepped foot inside an airplane.

Last Thursday, during Bible study, two women, about 20 years older than me, were engaged in conversation about meeting Jesus.  Stating that they were much closer than the rest in the room, but they were ready.  And I thought to myself, we are all close. 

Whether I live 20, 40 or 80 years, my time on earth is no more than a blip on the screen.  And unfortunately I have been to too many funerals recently for people my age and younger.  I have no guarantee that I will live to a ripe old age.  But I do know this.  God’s love is great. He has made that abundantly clear.  And while that still doesn’t give me any guarantees about my future, I trust that He wants me to get on with the business of living.

I am no longer willing to let this phobia keep me grounded.  I have dreams of seeing the world.   And as soon as I finalize my itinerary, I am giving my fears to God in exchange for an airline ticket. 

Friday, April 1, 2011

Lent Day Twenty Four - A Sad Farewell

As I think back over the last three months and this incredible journey I have been on since my initial decision on January 1st to give up alcohol for one year, and then blog about it, I am amazed at where I am at today.

Over the last three months, I have pursued new interests, like soccer and music.  I have moved away from self-help books, towards the Classics, like Shakespeare and during this Lenten season, I have renewed my faith in God.

I have enjoyed sharing my journey, but I believe that it’s time to move away from the blogosphere and continue on alone, with just God by my side.  I am excited to see where He will lead me. 

To my faithful followers I have just two things to say…first, I will miss you all terribly, I have enjoyed getting to know you through your blogs and comments.  And second, April Fools!

(I hope you know me well enough by now to know that I love my personal little soapbox way too much to give it up! ) I will be back tomorrow…I hope you will continue along on my journey with me.