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.

Spinning Plates, Wheels and Heads

Sometimes there isn’t enough coffee in the day to handle all that’s spinning. We have so many demands over us that it feels like we are the circus act that lines up our poles and starts spinning our plates. We hold our breath and hope we have the stamina and quick acumen to keep everything going. Sometimes the spinning plates of the day are just about enough to take you under, or at a minimum stress you out, but at worse make you forget who you are at the core of it all.

On Saturday, I had four basketball games at four different venues plus team pictures all followed by an evening party. Life has a way of making you feel like while you may keep spinning all the plates just fine, you are really just spinning your wheels below and not getting very far in the things that matter deeply to you.

How is life as complicated as it feels at times? We wonder why random coping mechanisms pop up left and right. They are our release valve to keep our heads from spinning while the plates are going and the wheels are taking us to what feels like Nowhere’s-ville. No matter what we have going on we are on a daily quest with an underlying theme: A search for worth and value amidst it all.

From one mother to another, one parent to another, one human being to another I’d like to take this opportunity to remind you that you matter. Your dreams matter. Your hopes matter. Your exhaustion is real. The struggle is also real. And your value in the middle of it all is immeasurable. “Sometimes life just slips in through the back door and carves out a person..” to quote Sara Bareilles (‘She Used To Be Mine’). To quote her further: Sometimes we have to fight just a little to bring back the fire in our eyes. No matter what hangs in the balance, hangs over your head, makes the to-do list – you matter beyond words. We don’t often stop and think about how far we’ve come, how strong we are and the pure bravery we’ve summoned to face life head on. Your resilience is astounding. Your precious resilience to be who you are despite all that life requires of you is remarkable.

Your dreams for your life and your hopes for who you would become are not lost in the shuffle they are fighting every day to be front and center of all that’s required of you. Sometimes we go on autopilot to get through the days. I just want to remind you that your dreams for what life would look like for you are not silly and are not lost no matter what is tugging at your sleeve to be done. No matter how old you are. And no matter how capable you feel. You may be waiting for a breakthrough in an area of your life…. that matters. You may be holding on for something to open wide and to come through for you…. that matters. You may be holding on with all your might to not crumble beneath all that weighs on your chest…. that matters. Remember the sun today. It rises for you. It opens its fiery arms and blazes over you today because: you matter. Do not forget who you are and how far you’ve come amidst the spinning plates. Do not forget who you are as you feel the wheels turn beneath you. Do not forget who you are at your core as your head is whipped in circles thanks to the demands of the day.

You are doing a really good job. You are making it. You are evolving. You are rising. You are shining brightly in the reflection of the sun that rose over you today. You’re not just another human, you are the only YOU. There is literally no one that can take your place and do it all better. You are killing it. All of it. No matter what anyone has spoken over you – you are showing up to what is a busy, demanding, spinning planet that has enough force to knock you off your axis…. but look at you. You’re still standing. It bears repeating: You are doing a really, really good job. You are so very worthy and you matter in every way. Take a deep breath, theoretically wrap your arms around yourself and take in your worth and value amidst it all.

I believe in us.

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What I Would Tell My 10 Year Old Self

I was 10 years old. I sat outside my dance studio on a much needed break from the four hours of classes I had back to back. I remember the sun beaming on my face. I sat with a friend on the curb. We started talking about our bodies and how I wished I was thinner (Reminder: I was 10). I was already inundated with a sense of body consciousness due, in part, to the fact that I basically lived in a leotard and tights approximately twenty-five hours a week. My friend, who was a few years older than me, looked at me and said, “You are perfect just the way that you are. God gave you the body that you have and you’re capable of anything. Be super grateful for that. Gratefulness for what you have is key to being content with who you are. There is no one else like you and there is no need to compare yourself to anyone. We don’t need to strive to be thin…. we really just need to be healthy and think well of ourselves….Treat ourselves like we matter. We all get to be different. And that is a good thing. Healthy comes from the inside out and this world would be a really boring place if we all looked the same….”

That’s actually not what she said at all. That’s what I wish she had said and that is what, today, I tell my children as often as I can. Instead, born out of her own struggle, she volunteered the information: “You can look as thin as you want as long as you puke everything you eat. It’s easy. You should try it.” And so the seed was planted… at 10 years old.

Thus my lifelong battle with bulimia began. This often morphed into a bouncing game between bulimia and restriction. Whatever the mood called for. All I remember thinking was, “this is how to get thin.” Thin was the goal. Thin made me fit in and thin meant I may not be the girl with the largest costume after all come performance time…. as if that mattered. I was obsessed with my body image at such a young age. I had a misplaced sense of self-worth. Clearly stating the obvious right there. I wish someone had stepped in to show me that I was perfect just the way that I was, that I was beautiful in the skin that I was in. I wish someone had drawn my attention to how much stamina I had athletically speaking. I could dance for hours on end and dance well. I was good at it. I loved it, but I hated my body compared to the girl next to me.

I’d give anything to go back to that 10-year-old girl sitting on the curb. I would put my arm around her, tell her that I understand what it’s like to compare herself to others. I would tell her how beautiful she was…. just as she was. I would tell her that life would be challenging along the way, but that the entire me is what the world needed…. not just a thin girl. I would remind her that her value was truly from the inside out and not at all simply what she looked like. I would tell her that being healthy was in no way simply a reflection of the outside image she presented the world. I would remind her that healthy is a mindset as much as a body disposition. I would tell her she’s gonna be amazing and that the she lit up the room with her humor and would affect change in the world in big and small ways. I would tell her that someday she’d be a badass mom that worked hard to provide and love well. I would tell her not to be afraid of failure or not being the best at all the things. I would tell her that kind humans trumped thin ones any day of the week. So, strive to be unendingly kind. I would comfort her that she would be the best at some things, but absolutely not at others and that it would all be okay as long as she showed up with who she was at her core. I would tell her she was creative and strong and friendly. I would tell her that those attributes were the seeds worth watering. I would tell her that people remember people who show up for others and care and give and share and empathize and laugh and hold hands with the hurting…. far more than they remember how thin they were. I would tell her that someday she would raise some great kids that would need to know all of the above as well. I would button up this pep talk by reminding her of what her mom always said, “Beauty comes from the inside out”.

I believe in us, you guys. I believe in our ability to value who we truly are at our core, not just what we look like on the outside to others. I believe in our ability to be kind, to care, to give, and to take notice of others…. because that’s what people remember most about us. Not the size of our jeans.

Resolution versus Resolve

Resolution Defined: A firm decision to do or not to do something.

Restriction Defined: the limitation or control of something or someone, the state of being limited or restricted

I’ve never been real good with resolutions. I see the word resolution and somehow my mind morphs it into the word restriction. As in, I fall in the camp of people that makes a bunch of declarations about what I’m NOT going to do in the coming year. This has not served me well. In fact, I can’t remember anymore what it was that I decided in 2017 that I was NOT going to do in 2018. But, chances are I did those very things I set out not to do. In my opinion and according to my own history, we are all like moths to a flame. The thing we make a big deal about is the very thing we think about, possibly attempt to avoid, but wind up gravitating TOWARDS instead of away from. With resolutions we actually set ourself up for potential failure, or at the very least, a strong mental battle. Our minds are just funny like that. For example, I have set an intention, for several years I’m sure, to not eat sugar. In my case all I think about then at the end of the night is the sugar I want but can’t have. All I think about at a birthday party is the delicious piece of fluffy white cake that I want but won’t have because… I’m not eating sugar.

I’ve battled a thirty year eating disorder that I’m sure started out with a few seemingly harmless resolutions. My disorder started out with resolutions to be thin and look healthy, but soon turned into restrictions over my eating habits left and right and a dictation over my actions, habits and more. Much like an anaconda in a jungle trapping its prey, those resolutions that read to me as restrictions, soon became full-blown constrictions in my freedom.

So, what I’m suggesting is this…. why don’t we bag the resolutions? Why don’t we all just set intentions for what we are going to do. Declare a resolve (defined:decide firmly on a course of action) over what will be ALLOWED in the coming year. If I personally fell into that camp it would look a little more like this:

2019 Resolve:

I resolve to laugh more.

I resolve to wear looser fitting pants that feel comfortable and don’t speak rude comments to me.

I resolve to forgive quicker.

I resolve to write more often.

I resolve to eat birthday cake every single time someone is being celebrated for being alive.

I resolve to speak kindly, tenderly and gently to myself.

I resolve to learn the lesson at hand from my mistakes.

I resolve to affirm and appreciate others more.

I resolve to hug my children more and tell them they are beautiful just the way they are.

I resolve to affirm and appreciate myself more.

I resolve to build on meaningful friendships.

I resolve to eat well. To enjoy what I enjoy. Period.

I resolve to choose that I am beautiful just the way I am.

A list like that reeks of good intention! If I was a moth to a flame I’d like to follow the above light. I’d be happy to get caught in the snare of any one of those things listed above. As you set out today to make any internal decision on what you want out of 2019, I implore you to make a list of RESOLVE versus resolutions that often lead to restrictions. What do you WANT to take action on in the coming year? What do you want to see yourself doing more of? Set yourself up for success. Set yourself up to fail forward. Let’s actually make it a Happy New Year. It’s about time we did that for ourselves.

I believe in us and the ability to set a positive direction for our future.

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Beauty And The Beach

I sit on the Beach in the warm Florida sun with the breeze on my face, salt in the air, and the sound of waves crashing just 20 feet away from me. I can taste the salt in the air and smell the suntan lotion and my senses tell me I am home. This is Heaven for me. I am a Cocoa Beach native and no matter where I live in the world this will always be my true home. This is where my heart feels most content. A surge of peace takes over me at the beach. A gentleness takes over my pulse.

I can hear the laughter of my children. I can hear them hollering to one another make-believe scenarios like “getting away from robbers” and mermaids coming ashore as they body surf the cresting waves and I smile. I know I am gifting them with the same experience that made up nearly every day of my childhood. My heart fills with deep contentment. I could sit there all day. I could sit there all day as we chase the sun down out of the sky.

I sit there glued to my chair. I’m glued for many reasons. I sit locked in because I relish in the feelings of peacefulness and the symphony of pleasant sounds that surround me. Not a wandering crab or a flock of birds is lost on me. This beach is to me the most beautiful haven on the planet.  I also sit locked to my chair because of deep-rooted insecurity. If I get up and stroll to the shore “what will others think when they see my body and this swimsuit” I wonder. How can a place that is dripping with a sense of home also be welcome to my entrenched body image issues and shame over my appearance? How can a negative internal narrative show up for a forty year old mother of four? Aren’t we over this stupidity by now? It’s a mystery to me how I can feel such a sense of peace, but simultaneously be glued to a beach chair so no one sees my body. How can I feel such joy and yet choose to be locked down to a stupid striped chair so that I don’t feel the rejection I’m projecting from my neighboring beach go-er … whom I don’t even know. I skip out on the fun with my children because I’d rather stay tied to my chair then give a passer by the opportunity to think I look “fat”. I full-blown lie and tell my kids “mom just loves to get a suntan” when I refuse their request to come play. The truth is mom is deeply insecure in her own skin and simply cannot get up. Won’t get up. I decline their request to show up at the water’s edge because it’s too cold I tell them. The truth is my negative internal dialogue is robbing me of the ability to show up for them with any level of participation.

I hate this scenario. I hate how my self-doubt sits on my chest like a beached whale. I hate that I am choosing to skip out on writing notes in the sand and building castles with motes and drawbridges. I hate that I opt out of a stroll to collect shells because I fear the opinion of people watchers that are all foreign to me and nowhere near my inner circle of friends. I hate that I let shame and insecurity rob me of memories to be made. I hate that I let my insecurity be bigger than my strength and resolve to show up for them. The barrier to my full, true joy is that I give a sh*$ what other people think of me instead of being a badass mom with four children having a little fun while centering myself in presence.

This has to change. Insecurity, humiliation and a negative internal dialogue are not things that we deliberately pack in the bag of sand toys. Yet they show up in full force.

I love watching the tide. It comes and goes at a rhythmic pace. As does our positive and negative narrative running through us. Unlike the tide however we have control over our thoughts and the freedom they allow us. We have to deliberately attack our negativity with life-giving thoughts that unlock confidence and resolve to get up out of a chair and care not what the world sees apart from a mom engaging wholeheartedly with her children. You might be thinking that I’m really glued to the chair because of simple vanity. I assure you that’s not the case. We live in a culture that values thinness and rewards it with compliments and we brutally judge one another on the daily. We live in a body centric environment and have raised one another to think that thin is beautiful and anything outside of that needs to be reigned in. In order to be counter-culturalists we have to choose to value who we are on the inside over what we show or see on the outside. This takes effort as we go against the tide of our society. But it’s a fight to the death of the joy-robbing, presence stealing moments like these.

I believe in us and the power to go against the tide, to get up out of our chairs, to inhale freedom and to exhale presence. Now, I have a mermaid to rescue…..

The Comeback Kid

My 6 year old hollered confidently to his soccer team “Don’t worry guys we’re gonna make a comeback”. They were down by more than a few points. I sat listening to him say it repeatedly. He continued as he grabbed his coach and said, “My team needs me to get in there and score”. I laughed wildly with pride.

Why am I posting such vulnerable things lately and showing you what’s behind my curtain? Because of the same sentiment that my son carried at his soccer game….

Sometimes we need someone who believes in us. We need someone who is willing to admit the status of where they’re at and maybe…. just maybe convince someone that they can win at this life thing too. Not everyone lives out loud or certainly heals out loud. I tell you this though- WHATEVER your struggle is, whatever is behind your closed curtain- can stay there. I’m just saying, these days, from one teammate to another, “don’t worry guys, we’re gonna make a comeback!” We are going to get through whatever the thing is. You have it in you. I have it in me. It’s gonna take some work. Seriously flipping hard work. I’m healing out loud. You heal at whatever decibel you want. But, there’s one girl right here that believes in you today. I’m serious. You can conquer that thing because you are AMAZING and capable and strong and beautiful and worthy of the change you so desperately desire. We will build and mend and grow and alter the climate of our society. We will throw out the pervasive negative background chatter that runs through our minds. We will insert a life giving narrative that supports the core values of who we are.

My son won his soccer game that day. He scored three goals. They made a comeback. And so will we. I believe in us.