One man’s trash….

…. Is another man’s treasure.

I’m convinced that there is nothing… literally nothing of waste in this life in terms of experiences we face.

I’m sitting in my favorite spot in my house as I write this morning. The sun rises around me. I stare out the wrap around porch windows to the lush green surround that makes me feel completely hidden despite the hustle of traffic I hear in the distance. My fiddle leaf fig, which is my favorite tree in my favorite room, stands tall and yet drooping in the corner surely from over watering in my eagerness to establish its roots. My coffee sits piping on my favorite piece of furniture in my favorite room just across from my favorite droopy tree. A collection of seashells, where no one is like the other, hangs on the wall reminding of my first love. If a hundred hanging seashells don’t initiate an image for you there’s a picture of an ocean’s pier just opposite that mimics the pier of my home town and my favorite landing spot on the planet: Cocoa Beach. My favorite room, my favorite tree, my favorite piece of furniture (that holds my favorite beverage), surrounded by images of my favorite place on this Earth. What is not to love? Believe me, I love this room so very much as it sits perched off the far back side of the house to the degree that my four children seem to forget it’s here and therefore…. miraculously forget to bug me while I’m in it.

As surrounded as I am this morning with peace, quiet and my favorite things a la Oprah Winfrey style, one item of interest catches my eye above all the rest. In the corner below the hanging seashells sits a doorstop. A DOORSTOP. At least- that’s what it was used for when I crossed paths with it. It sat outside tossed to the right of the front door of a home I was staging for resale. The homeowner had emptied the place, but left behind the convenient doorstop for whomever needed it. How thoughtful of him. Everyone needs a good old doorstop. When I laid eyes on this doorstop it was love at first sight and I was baffled how anyone could leave it behind…. IMG_8859

Don’t even play! You too have shock and awe that this beauty was used as a doorstop. When I saw it – it stopped me in my tracks. It reminded me of driftwood, which reminds me of the ocean, which reminds me of my favorite place. I had the rare, but desperate boldness to ask the realtor to ask the homeowner if he minded that I took the “doorstop”. And so it goes: One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

What’s the friggin point? Just pause for a minute today and hear me. HEAR ME. There are things in your life that look like absolute crap… to you. There are places you have been and moments you’ve experienced that may seem entirely meaningless…. to you. There are pains you’ve encountered that have left you wondering what the point of it all was for. I have seen it time and time and time again so far in this little life of mine and I’m convinced that NOTHING is wasted. What has looked like and felt like complete trash to you has, in reality, served you with a treasure trove of depth and understanding. Your pain has NOT been in vain. It can be the treasure of your life to another man that needs a hearing ear and a listening heart some day. The experiences in your life that seem little more significant than a doorstop can be the very moments that generated a knowing in you. That knowing, in turn, can stir and heal and mend the heart of another gracing them with beauty of feeling seen and known and ultimately ….. not alone.

I know it’s hard. But, just for a moment imagine that your life and its myriad of experiences that carved you out hollow are like a glistening, blindingly bright treasure to those who encounter you.

I believe in us and that nothing we’ve experienced has been of waste.

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*Favorite table credit: Timber & Tulip

Somewhere Over The Rainbow

“When confusion or pain seems to tighten what is possible, when sadness or frustration seems to shrink your well-being, when worry or fear agitates the peace right out of you, try lending your attention to the nearest thing.” Mark Nepo

Life is a mixed bag. Some days our greatest struggles include, “how do I get my laundry done, floors mopped, get to Costco, the gas station and back in time to pick up the kids from school?” Other days our greatest struggles include, “How do I make it through this day without absolutely breaking down under the weight of what sits in my heart?” And other days our struggles lie somewhere in-between.

To live a full life means to be fully alive to both the mundane and the storms of pain and emotion that come our way.

Hope. Defined: to cherish a desire with anticipation; to expect with confidence. The Hope is that we stay awake and receptive to both the mundane and the storms without shutting down, closing off, or worse stuffing it all away. Facing our story can be brutal at times…. like a storm or a mid April snow shower that dumps eight inches on the ground that had finally thawed and was showing signs of life again (Thanks so much Minnesota). Things creep up on us from time to time as we move through our narrative chapter by chapter. Unwelcome things. Unexpected things. Painful things. Things we didn’t anticipate.

Somewhere over the rainbow skies are blue. That lyric is a bit genius and not merely for child’s play. Rainbows show up in the sky after it has just rained and the light shines through the water droplets like a prism. After it has just rained…. indicating there was a storm either great or small. And the nearest thing that reminds us that our peace will come is that bright, beautiful cascade of colors painting the sky.

When trouble comes your way – face it. Embrace it. Feel it. Move through it. Let it have its way. And then…. Lend your attention to the rainbow and the hope that just above its prism of colors from light permeating the water droplet filled skies that the skies above ARE blue. Your release will come. Your healing will come. Your peace will come. You’ll get to Costco and back in time and you’ll get through the heaviness of your story. But, stay awake to both. Stay fully alive to your story. Lend your attention to hope and the anticipation that your peace will come, your page will turn, and your story is as beautiful as a rainbow high in the sky.

I believe in us. Stay awake. Live fully alive. You matter.

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.

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.

Hope

Sometimes we have to stare HOPE right in the face.

Sometimes we are holding on by a thread.

Sometimes it’s a fight to keep it together.

Sometimes we feel too far gone.

Sometimes we feel like hope for change is lost in some unobtainable cloud.

Sometimes we feel frustrated and defeated and even a little bit lost.

Sometimes we live our days on autopilot meanwhile our “issues” burrow a hole in our heart.

Sometimes it feels like it’s been just too long to see any actual change meet any horizon.

Sometimes we feel lonely in our struggles.

Sometimes we don’t feel like fighting for a darn thing. We just want to feel okay, whole, mended, complete, strong, full, healthy, wise, grown….

Sometimes life takes its time to make a turn for the better.

Sometimes that thing called time zaps our will to hope in more.

Hold on. Don’t let go.

“I know your heart is heavy from the fight. You never know just what tomorrow holds and you are stronger than you know. Just take one step closer. One foot in front of the other. You’ll get through this. Just follow the light in the darkness. You’re gonna be okay. When the night is closing in don’t give up, don’t give in. This won’t last it’s not the end ” Jenn Johnson

I believe in us.

Believe in you.

 

Showing Up

Showing up for your own inherent worth matters more than anything.

Diving right in, in full transparency, it has taken me about sixteen years to figure out that my husband is not my source of contentment. I know, I’m a little slow. No matter how many times he tells me, “you look nice today” it just doesn’t quench my thirst to feel beautiful. No matter how many times my children say, “I love you too mom” it just doesn’t satisfy my desire to feel like a “good” mom. Not to suggest I’m some abyss of need, I’m just admitting that no matter how much they pour into me – it’s never enough unless I believe things to be true of myself from the inside out. When they would “fail” me in building me up I would turn to my bag of tricks to feel good rather than my own voice…. because I didn’t believe in myself.

I’ve struggled with self-esteem for most of my life. It has been a struggle indeed. I bought into some thought process that once I got married and had children of my own I would somehow feel good about myself from there on out. Insert massive learning curve here. I thought I’d have a partner and a brood of little humans, much like a parrot on my shoulder, that would shower me with compliments about how I do life. I thought those compliments would provide a steady stream of esteem in who I was as a person. I was depending on my husband and my children to provide a sense of worth and value from the outside in. I wanted them to help make me feel good about myself. I do think it’s entirely okay to want and even need validation here and there, but to be dependent on their accolades in order to feel good about who I am…. major letdown. Don’t get me wrong – my husband is a kind man and notices my efforts. Likewise, my children are loving and kind (and absolute freak shows at times). But, I find it fascinating that no matter how much they give to me in word or deed it is never enough unless I genuinely believe in myself.

Showing up for ourselves, in terms of knowing our worth, is far from selfish and self-centered. We have to be able to look in the mirror and believe HARD in our value as we stand there alone with no one to tell us a thing or two. We have to know deep in our core that we make the world a better place to be in simply because we walk in the room. No – that’s not arrogance talking, that’s confidence in our contribution to this life and the lives of others. We have to be boldly confident in who we are and what we offer this world. I’ve learned over time that confidence in our worth and value is often simply a choice. It’s a choice to believe in who we are and the value that we bring to this world. There are so many things I don’t know, but what I do know mixed with my God-given perception is of serious significance to the people in my life.

So, what’s my point? Choose. Choose to believe in your inherent value. Today. Tomorrow. And the next day. Please know that who you are, your personality, the way you process life, and what you bring to the room is of infinite worth. There’s no substitute for you. There’s no one who can do your life better than you can. We need you. All of you. In this day and in this hour. Stand tall. You matter and you are beautiful every time you bring the whole you to the table. Your needs matter. Your scars matter. Your experiences matter. Your perception is valuable. Your pain matters. Your efforts matter. What you’ve learned through life matters. Your smile breaks open the troubles of the day. Your laugh is medicine to the weary.

Show up for yourself and believe in who you are from the inside out. Speak into your soul exactly what you need to hear. I promise you it’s not pride. It’s an act of honoring the true worth and value that makes up who you are.

I believe in us and the power to choose that we are amazing.