When the Birds Sing

“We share the same river, and where it enters, we lose our stubbornness the way fists wear open when held under in the stream of love.” Mark Nepo

I’m sitting here this morning taking a pause. I hear birds chirping outside my window and I swear it’s filling my heart with peace. Peace, because their song tells me that the arduous Minnesota winter has indeed come to a close. There’s still snow in mounds on the ground here and there that’s melting all too slowly. But, it had its day and Spring has bid it adieu.

Life is like that.

This winter was a brutal one. Technically, they all are with me being born and raised in Florida (which is God’s favorite state, but you already knew that). The winter grind in life hollows us out, sends a chill through our bones, and makes us seek warmth. The tough stuff of life does the same work. When difficulty waltzes into our story we often feel a cold river rush through our soul. We sometimes stand a little frozen and don’t want to move much. And the work to simply go outside, having to put on seven layers and all, is exhausting. We slow down, hunker down and wait… We wait for the birds to come. We wait to hear their song that tells us that the sun is on our side and everything is gonna get better from here on out.

We go through seasons and some are so much harder than others. Some things in life cause our fists to clench and we can feel like fighting our way through. Not the good kind of fight, the ugly, scrappy, irritated kind of fight. There are struggles present in my life that I often just feel mad at. I want to raise my fists and knock them into next week. But, as I sit here this morning, serenaded by the birds, I feel a river of peace wash over me. I realize I want to dip my clenched fists into that river and emerge with open palms so I can receive what’s on the other side of my winter. I want to calm down, embrace my story gently, and take in the lesson of it all. I want the frozen mounds to melt in me and to give way to the Earth beneath. The sun will come for us. It always comes for us at just the right time.

There is ALWAYS a Spring on the other side of your winter. Do not be disheartened today. The birds have come. They are singing for you to remind you that you’re gonna make it. Dip your fists into that river of love and open your palms to receive the lesson. The winter is hard. It’s always hard. But, let peace have its way in you today and let those birds remind you of how strong and beautiful you truly are.

I believe in us.

Be Still and Know

“If we still ourselves long enough within the web of all there is, we will eventually come to know lightness and transformation.” Mark Nepo

We get so caught up in where we are headed that we often miss where we are. We need to take a nod from the caterpillar. We need to still ourselves inside our own reality of what is and let transformation take its course. We cannot rush it. We can not speed up the process. If we do, we emerge weak. The cocoon of our circumstances is where the change happens. It can feel constricting and even lonely, but please, sit inside your story for as long as you need to. Feel the walls of your reality. Acknowledge where you ARE, not just where you want to be. Don’t pretend to be a butterfly when you’re still a caterpillar.

I’ve been on a journey of recovery from a life long battle with an eating disorder. The path to recovery, from anything really, is not for the faint of heart. To overcome something means a ton of surrender is at play. To let go of something in order to take hold of something else is really challenging when that something has served a purpose in your life. There’s fear involved as you face the question, “what will happen when I let this go?” More specifically, “what will I feel when I lay this down?” I don’t think we hold on to habits for far too long because we are stubborn or stupid. I think we hold onto them because we’ve adapted to how we feel with them. We fear what we will feel like without them. We fear what we will face in ourselves when we stand empty handed with our vices at our feet. Surrender feels hollow and empty sometimes. It’s vulnerability at its finest. If I could snap my fingers and wash this thing away I’d do it in a heartbeat. But, that’s not how this battle is going down. It’s a slow and steady grind to unwind the cords that have entangled me.

The caterpillar doesn’t know how or when it will emerge beautifully with wings of color and wonder. It just knows that it needs to spin its web, and wait. Interestingly, the only thing truly required of the caterpillar is an acknowledgement that it’s time to go inside and….. be patient. Change is coming. He just has to do his part and be still inside his cocoon, his reality, his walls. He sits and waits inside his limitations and emerges when the time is just right. Not a moment too soon. He waits until the transformation has taken its course and then he does his part to muster the strength to emerge. The timing of transformation is often a mystery.

Do not rush a healing. Do not emerge from your story because you’re eager to “get over it”. Feel it all the way through. Let the courage emerge to be patient inside your walls. Change is hard. Change is slow. But, be still and know that change will come.

I believe in us.

 

Dear Homework

Dear Homework-

I hate you. Is that too harsh? I’m sorry, not sorry.

If I remember correctly I graduated High School. And college for that matter. I have done my time, man. I put in my hours and made it through and I did right by you. I mastered my 3×5 cards and studied like a boss. You have a lot of audacity to show back up in my home like every stinking night with a vengeance. We soothed ourselves by saying, “I’ll never have to use this again.” Turns out that was a big fat lie.

Math. Seriously- bite me. My dad is a math teacher. I disgrace his legacy daily around here. Who in the Frick wants to add, multiply, and subtract fractions at 40 years old? No one. And by no one, I mean no one. You are not welcome here pre-algebra. Take your x’s and y’s and go. Far away. I don’t want to figure out what number you are. Just tell us already so we can all move right along. I have meals to cook, laundry to fold, and fights to break up. You are cramping my flow. There are tears and complaining around here and I’m soothing my kids with, “you’ll never have to use this again”….. until you have children of your own, that is, and you have to PULL them through their homework.

Spelling. Dear baby Jesus. I have managed to get through life pretty squarely and I thought intelligently. But, as it turns out I apparently don’t know how to spell words. Thankfully, I am the one quizzing my kids. And thank you so much for reminding me that I have relied heavily on spell check to the point that I’m a little dumb and dumber. Why is my fourth grader smarter than me?

History. I can’t even. There are just too many details. Too much has happened around here. I really just want to watch documentaries on Netflix, okay? I don’t remember what I ate for lunch yesterday much less the leader of some (albeit super important) war that occurred approximately a billion years ago. All I really know is Eve ate the apple, she blamed Adam and now we have to do homework. The end.

Geography. Where in the world is Carmen SanDiego? Where in the world is anything? Did I even take geography as a kid? I’m thinking no because these countries you’re needing me to show my kids where they are …. literally the first time I’ve even heard of them. My world view is the size of a penny I guess. I get it. Got it. Thanks for the confidence boost geography.

To all the parents out there doing homework with your children I see you. I feel you. I pray for us. If we can get through this I swear we can get through anything. Amen and amen.

 

Let The Light In

“I am humbled to admit that the only difference I see on Earth between being strong and weak is the honesty with which we face ourselves, accept ourselves, share ourselves blemishes and all.” – Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

It takes internal courage of heart to not act like we have it all together all the time. Some things in life are easy and happen on autopilot. Loading a dishwasher, the laundry, microwaving something, writing a check. But, there are other things in this life that are just incredibly tough to get through. Facing our baggage, untangling lies, feeling the pain of our circumstances, disappointments, regrets…  It’s beyond okay to admit from time-to-time that life is hard. It hurts. And your heart weighs heavy and there are pieces of you that are scattered about at the moment.

There’s a constant ebb and flow to this life. There’s a journey, a path for each of us to take. No two stories look the same. Ever. Just because the guy next to you waltzed through his trauma seemingly quick doesn’t mean you have to hurry up and get yourself “better”.

I think we are a little afraid to be broken. I think we want to show up strong and whole and to be admired. But, I am learning in a major way these days that you don’t have to be finished in order to be whole. In other words “whole” truly is a combination of strengths and weakness’, not simply one or the other. You don’t have to have all the things sorted out in order to be considered whole and thriving. You just don’t.

I cannot say it enough – do not rush a healing. There is space for you to mend. There is time for you to heal. There is room in this world for broken people. There is a seat at the table for the imperfect ones. There is hope for the struggling ones. Do not be okay… if you’re not okay. We will love you as you are. Let that light in today.

I believe in us.

Go On. You Can Do It.

Cherish yourself. See yourself. Give to yourself. Compliment yourself. Take care of yourself. Hold HOPE for yourself. Be tender to yourself. Believe in yourself. Embrace yourself. Laugh at yourself. Be merciful with yourself. Be gentle with your shortcomings. Be kind to yourself. Do NOT under any circumstances whatsoever give up on yourself.

You are everything and more. You are wise. You are funny. You are important. You are capable. You are strong. You are infinitely unique. You are beautiful. You are loving. You light up a room. You are smart. You are witty. You are brave. You are an overcomer. You are creative. You are good at so many things. You are what this world needs. You are so very worthy.

The sun rose high and proud today – just for you.

Wrap your arms tenderly around who you are RIGHT now. Flaws and ALL. Love the entire you.

Go on, you CAN do it.

I BELIEVE in us!

 

The Mystery of Pain

We will do just about anything to avoid pain. But, pain is a component of life that is simply unavoidable. No mystery there. The mystery lies in the travel time through it all and the resilience its journey produces.

I think of the book I’ve read to my children a thousand times or more “We’re Going On A Bear Hunt”. There’s a line that reads in repetition every time they come to an impasse: “We can’t go over it, we can’t go under it, we’ve got to go through it…” We never truly know when we’ll find ourselves on the other side of pain. It’s a thing we must travel all the way through. Unfortunately there are no shortcuts.

To this day, I have not wrapped my head around why God allows so many painful experiences in people’s lives. I’m literally dumbfounded by what certain people have encountered and come out the other side of still standing upright in their spirit. The human resilience is staggering.

But, why? Why does God allow such torrential downpours in our lives? Like my six-year-old says, “Can’t we all just live in candy world”? I don’t have even the slightest answer for “Why”, but I do know this….

The pain I’ve experienced in my life has produced in me a river of empathy and compassion for others. It has wrought in me a hushed, quieted, slowed down surrender to the busy bee cadence of my life. It has provided me with eyes to see more clearly, ears to hear more acutely, and hands that give more readily. It has helped me to feel joy more fully on a deeper level than I knew was available. It has mysteriously let me learn that, in hindsight, we are strong, and able, and capable to weather any storm. It has taught me that I’m NOT better off alone – we need others. And when others show up for us, and lift us, and hold us, and care for us… there is beauty in the exchange. The kind of beauty that defies logic and lasts forever in our memories.

Pain is teacher, a mentor, a wise guide into the finer things of life. It hurts like Hell sometimes, but as Mark Nepo writes, “We must accept we are there and settle enough so we can be carried by the deep. Again and again, the onset of pain makes us clutch and sink. But, life has taught me that how we first open after doubling over is crucial to whether we will heal at all.”

Pain is a mystery. It’s an entirely un-welcomed teacher that crushes us, but strangely does not leave us in pieces. It always, always, always partners with healing and time and those two somehow, some way co-mingle with one another and produces a mending.

One of my favorite scriptures from Psalm 107 reads, “He stilled the storm to a whisper, the waves of the sea were hushed and He carried me to my desired haven.”

Wherever you are today – be carried by the deep. Be lifted by those around you. Be hushed by the knowing that time and healing will mend you.

God will not abandon you. He just won’t. Ever. He will carry you – today – and all the way through to your desired haven.

I believe in us.

 

Bridge Over Troubled Waters

Oh man. Sometimes we just feel the torrential rush of the troubled waters. We feel the cadence of our failures rush against our ankles. We see ripples of many moments missed and botched by our weakness’ to our left and right and we feel super heavy. Like an anvil tied around our neck and we are almost drowning beneath the weight of it all.

Thank God for God. He takes the MOST broken places and He comes for us. Piece by piece. Mending by mending. Morning by morning. He will not leave you stranded. He will not abandon a broken heart. He will not allow a flower to wither in the desert. He brings the sustaining rain in its due time. He provides the bridge over the troubled waters and He obliterates the troll guarding it all.

Broken places are no joke. They call to us and suggest we are a hot, hot mess. But, child – you are never beyond repair. Never. The crap you’ve pulled over the years is hushed by the weight of the grace of God. It’s literally quieted under the mystery of His redeeming kindness toward us. He will show up for you. He will come for you. He will lift your heavy heart out of a tub of piranhas and set your feet on solid ground.

He redeems EVERYTHING.

It’s all gonna be okay. All of it.

I believe in us.

Under Pressure

Pressure. It mounts on every side from time to time.  Pressure to be something. Pressure to change something. Pressure to grow something. Pressure to nurture something. Pressure to be whole. Pressure to embrace our brokenness. Pressure to dream. Pressure to live out our dreams. Pressure to produce. Pressure to be perfect. Pressure to accept our imperfections. Pressure to spin the plates. Pressure to keep the plates spinning. Pressure to effect change in the world. And on and on and on….

Sometimes I just feel pressure on every side and I genuinely want to scream.

Raise your hand if you’ve bought into the pressure cooker phenomenon of the Instant Pot?! I was raised with a mom and grandma that used the pressure cooker of the olden days. The kind that had a little bobber on the top that would wobble back and forth in a furry and make this loud hissing noise. You’d have to seriously know how to use the thing because there was no “indicator light” to tell you when to open it. You had to trust your instinct, memorize how long things needed to cook, and literally learn the sounds it made to know just when to open it up. Otherwise, you’d have a mess on your hands and green beans might explode all over your kitchen. Thanks to modern advancements the pressure cooker of our day, Instant Pot, comes with an electrical panel, a little red pressure valve, and a subtle beeping noise that tells us exactly when to open her up. It’s almost fail proof and it cooks your goods in a third of the time that my grandma’s pressure cooker did. There’s so little thinking involved and you can completely walk away from this machine without a watchful eye because it’s programmed for you. And, if that’s not enough, it’ll simmer itself down and keep a timer for you letting you know how long it’s been waiting for you. It handles the pressure for you and all but tells you “I’m done, your food is good to go, but don’t be rushed, I’m just here waiting for you until you’re ready.” There’s almost no human instinct required in the use of this machine.

Why am I talking ad nauseam about an Instant Pot? I would just like to say that while we have great advancements in kitchen products that handle pressure in a programmable, fail proof, patiently waiting kind of way… Life is more like the pressure cooker of the olden days. Things can heat up with a fury and ripple through us and the only thing that tells us we’ve made our way through a pressured situation is that internal knowing. That familiarity with the sound of our breathing. Life situations just cannot be hurried. The things we need to get through cannot be cut by a third of the time no matter how bad we want them to. If you hurry a healing you may just explode on someone, somewhere, at some time.

We live in a microwave, Instant Pot world. But, life experiences do not follow that trajectory. No matter how advanced we’ve become, sometimes things just need the ways of the days of old. They need time. They need a watchful eye. They need our attention divided as it may be. They need us to know ourselves so well that we are our own indicator that we’ve made it through to the other side.

This is me, right here, right now just offering permission today to not be okay for a while. Some things just take a while to get through. Again, we cannot rush a healing. We cannot spin everything all the time. We cannot walk away from the pressure and expect things to just magically turn themselves out for us. Sometimes we have to sit in our situation longer than we’d like to and …. wait. Wait for the revelation, the inspiration, the change to come. It’s okay to go at it slow and to feel the pressure for what feels like “too long”.

Bottom Line: You are not an Instant Pot. You are a human being that is absorbing life on every side. And oftentimes we need what feels like a really long time to make it through to the other side. And that is seriously okay. Do not rush a breakthrough.

I believe in us.

 

Stones and Flowers

“We are all just small stones and little flowers searching for our sun.” -The Book of Awakening

Sometimes we feel as cold and heavy as a stone. Sometimes we feel as tender and full of life like a flower. Sometimes we bounce back and forth between the two. Our lives hold so many experiences along its twisting, winding story line.

The Reality is – the sun rises and sets pouring out its warmth and light over the flowers as much as the stones. It would appear then that both the stones and the flowers matter as the sun gives way, without prejudice, to shine over each of them. I’m just suggesting here that your entire story, the good the bad, and the ugly – matters. The experiences we face are sometimes really stinking hard. We can feel like we’re rolling a boulder up hill. It’s frustrating. Tiring. And we often stop and wonder if we’ll make it up the hill at all. We often wonder if we have what it takes to make it through to the other side… wherever that is, whenever that will be.

Boulders and stones are easy to see, to feel, to acknowledge. Their presence is more often undeniable. It’s difficult, at times, to remember that while you’re pushing stones around there’s bound to be a flower or two in its path. God is pretty kind like that. He softens the blow of our heavy circumstances by peppering in a little beauty along the way. Sometimes the boulders crush the crap out of those flowers 😉 But, at other times, they are stationed to your left and right so the way forward doesn’t feel so barren and empty. Flowers are friends, smiles from a stranger, a song that grips you, a knowing nod from someone hearing your story, something that makes you laugh, hot coffee…. They are most often the more subtle things in life.

Whatever heaviness your life holds right now matters. It truly, truly matters. Do not be swallowed whole by the weight of your circumstance so much so that you cannot feel the tender beauty that surrounds you and cushions you. It’s there. It’s always there.

I believe in us.

The Woman at the Well

There’s a story in the Bible in John chapter 4 that has long been my favorite. I am NO biblical scholar and for me to describe its significance is like a kindergartener reciting the alphabet. But here goes….

Basically it was the middle of the day. As in the hottest part of the day. The time of day that ordinary women did not go to the well to draw water because it was so stinking hot out. Nevertheless, this far from ordinary woman hauled her vessel to the well at the hottest part of the day likely to avoid interactions with other women because she had some serious baggage. She was probably the talk of the town somehow and ridiculed or judged because her life story was less than pretty. She had serious relationship struggles and had made her way through not one, but five divorces and the man she was with now wasn’t her husband. In this day and time that rap sheet made her “damaged goods”. She was considered an epic failure. Or maybe she was just a woman looking for love in all the wrong places… or just looking for love in general. Nevertheless, she went out of her way at the hardest, hottest point of the day simply to avoid being around other women that would exacerbate the shame she already felt in what her life held.

Here she was doing her thing in what she hoped would be isolation. But, she ran into a man sitting on the edge of the well she came to draw from. This was a bit of an inconvenience especially because when she arrived He spoke to her and asked her for a drink of water. This too was an atrocity in that day. No man asked a Samaritan woman for a drink of water, much less a woman who was considered “dirty”, but this guy had the audacity to break the code of silence between them. He had the audacity to ask her for a drink of water suggesting she was capable. It’s an awkward situation really, but even right there at the beginning of their interaction, I believe Jesus was calling out the honor He saw in her and was declaring her worthy. Something she likely didn’t feel on the daily. He blew up the status quo with his request of her. She contested his request based on her status and He began to tell her all that he already knew about her and her story. Talk about a vulnerable moment. But, talk about a magical one as well. Here is a woman clearly having hauled herself to the well in some form of living shame and there’s a guy, of all people, telling her that she was worth interacting with and strong enough and whole enough to give him a drink of water despite her rap sheet. They talked back and forth for a bit even when His fellow disciples showed up and found Him deep in interaction with her. They showed up and were shocked that Jesus was speaking with the town’s dirt bag of a woman. He didn’t shy away. He continued to tell her that despite her story she was more than worth His time. Despite her failed marriages and the relationship she was currently in that she was still of value and that she too could have the freedom and healing and eternal water that quenched all the thirst in her spirit. She was being offered an opportunity to know that she didn’t have to feel empty and hollow and ashamed anymore. She didn’t have to feel like crap about who she was and where her story had taken her.

In this text it states that Jesus “had” to go through Samaria….. He was on his way to Galilee. He could’ve gotten there another way. But, in some sort of mystery He chose to go this way, through Samaria, on that day, when He had to know that this woman would be there. Basically, He went out of His way to speak life and truth and hope into the heart of a woman who felt broken and damaged and ashamed.

If He could show up for her…. then we can strongly deduce that He would do the same for us. No matter what your story holds. No matter where you’ve been or where you are now, you are strong and worthy and deserve to feel free just like everyone else. There’s no rut too deep, no story too heinous, no one thing or a hundred things that can disqualify you from the honor that He was bestowing on this woman.

I just want to say this: no matter where you’ve been – you are of infinite worth and value. No matter where you are going and what’s ahead for you – you are of infinite worth and value. No matter what you need to change, or work on, or make right in your life – you are of infinite worth and value.

And that truth, my friends, is liberating to say the least.

I believe in us.