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.

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.

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.

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.

 

Things That Cut Deep

“Often we find it easier to think our way around things rather than to feel our way through them” – Mark Nepo, The Book Of Awakening

A great set of knives is a girls best friend in the kitchen. Unless that knife becomes your assailant. Recently I cut my finger. I was chopping vegetables while chatting and laughing with a friend and got myself caught off guard. I cut it bad. Bad enough to need stitches. To my surprise the seething pain of the initial cut hurt LESS than the anesthetic the fine doctor injected in order to sew my finger back together. It was not pleasant. But, it was an interesting learning experience….

Sometimes life is a little like that. We apply a numbing mechanism to our deep cuts. We note the injury, but get about the business of anesthetizing the pain with all sorts of things. Enter: Coping mechanisms. In reality, all the while, the numbing is actually a greater pain inflicted than the cut itself and the overall process to heal.

I’ve had some deep cuts in my life. Far greater than the cut on my finger while making a salad. Cuts that have run deep into my soul. Cuts that have hit me at my core and were hard to put a finger on much less wrap a set of tender loving arms around. I know now, as an adult, that I dealt with some of those cuts in a way that only served me greater pain down the road. I’ve battled an eating disorder for almost thirty years now. It hasn’t been easy, or pretty, or uplifting or mending to say the least. I wouldn’t say that the presence of my eating disorder is solely tied to the avoidance of my wounds, but it has definitely been a coping mechanism that made me feel in control of … something. Chiefly the way I felt about myself. I thought that if I could control what others saw then I would somehow feel good about who I was. The work of feeling good about who I was always had more to do with what was happening on the inside than the reflection I projected on the outside. I know that now.

We’ve all had moments where life cut us deeply. Deep enough to need a mending. But, often we avoid the injury and dance around it a bit rather than just making our way through the pain and the process required that leads to the healing. Some of us have significant wounds. Some of us have tucked those away in a corridor of our mind that requires minimal occupancy. Dare I suggest that we visit some of those areas and take the chance to “feel our way through” to a healing? I think that fear rises up in us when we contemplate the necessary steps toward healing. We fear the emotional undertow. We fear that sense of brokenness. We fear needing time. Time we’re not sure is available to us. We fear the unknown. We fear that something is inherently wrong with us when things that occurred decades ago still have pain associated with them.

Pain is a funny thing. It can be like a slow babbling brook or like Niagara Falls depending on the injury. But, it makes no sense to take either flow of water and dam it up. Let it be what it is. Pain is just pain and it indicates that you are human and alive and breathing. Let your mending come. Let the healing have its way. Ask yourself what you need in order to visit that corridor of pain. The anesthesia will always be worse than the cut itself and the mending that awaits you.

I believe in us and the power to heal.

Public Service Announcement

NO ONE HAS IT ALL TOGETHER.

NO ONE.

You are not alone in your striving. You are not alone in your grieving. You are not alone in your pain. You are not alone in your joy. You are not alone in wishing you had at arrived at the age you are without your bag of tricks for coping. You are not alone as you wonder if you’re a good parent. You are not alone as you sometimes hate going to your kids games, but you love showing up for them. You are not alone in your loneliness despite being surrounded by loving friends. You are not alone as you grapple with contentment over your body, your image, your worth. You are not alone in wishing you had followed “that one dream” you had for yourself. You are not alone in your regrets. You are not alone in your victories. You are not alone in your defeats. You are not alone in your failures. You are not alone in your success’. You are not alone in wishing you could change faster, grow stronger, become more. You are not alone as you struggle to surface with true gratitude each day. You are NOT alone as you feel that twinge of depression from time to time. You are not alone as you wonder what you’re actually good at. You are not alone in despising going to the grocery store with a bunch of kids. You are not alone in thinking two hours alone in Target is a mini vacation. You are not alone as you wonder if your kids are “normal” or are they living in emotional crazy town with a home address that’s yours. You are not alone as you make another meal that almost no one eats despite starving children across the globe. You are not alone in absolutely abhorring your children’s math homework. You are not alone in hating the winter’s bitter cold. You are not alone in craving a better, more connected marriage. You are not alone in trying to recover that loving feeling. You are not alone in trying to overcome issues that have plagued you since childhood that “should” be long gone by now. You are not alone in loving your children, but loving their bedtime just as much. You are not alone in trying hard to be MORE than you were yesterday….

You are not alone in any corner. Not one.

We are NOT all in this life together, and yet, we are ALL in this life together. And you, my friend, are not alone.

I believe in us and the power to embrace this life knowing we are all…. ALL just genuinely trying our best to make the most of it. Be comforted today. We see you and what we see from one human to another is an amazing person surrendering to what life brings.

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Dear School Cancellation,

Dear School Cancellation Days,

I am truly lucky to have four children. Two boys and two girls. I have known so many people in my life that have struggled to have children of their own so this gift is not lost on me at all. I swear. But, I love school. I love it with every fiber of my being. I love the influence of the teachers in the myriad of ways that they speak into my children’s lives. I love the sense of responsibility that’s fostered in them through things like homework and book reports and making their OWN lunches each day (since I apparently don’t know how to put anything “good” in there). I love that they get to expand their mind through art and music and science. I love watching their interpersonal relationships grow through recess and lunch, albeit twenty minutes short. I love school from drop off to pick up…..

Can I just say to you, school cancellation day, that you are cramping my style man. The very week I decided to paint my entire main level floors white you go and give my kids not one but three days home from school. I get it – there’s a negative fifty degree windchill in Minnesota this week, but seriously. Can’t we all just bundle the little love bugs up and send them your way? We have gloves and stuff. And for those that don’t I will personally nominate myself to hand extras out at the door. I am being eaten out of house and home. The snacks are gone. The television is literally fried from over use and is heating our home faster than my furnace can keep up. My voice is hoarse from yelling at them to stay off the floors I’m painting. I mean, come on school, take one for the team here. These kids have things to learn. I have a blog to write and floors to paint. And I’m out of food. Our games are “boooooooooring”. I will say, however, that laundry has been a dream this week since no one seems to think they need to change clothes. There’s been ample hot water since the opportunity to bathe occurs to zero children. But, their teeth are literally falling out for lack of brushing. And apparently reading a book is akin to water boarding.

School, you are a portal to happiness for all of us. You are every mother’s break. You give us time to think and sit and do and grocery shop. Four children home from school for three days means we have digressed to WWA wrestling tryouts and my entire basement has become an obstacle course. Not that I mind and all it’s just that if I have to put out one more fight I’m gonna go cra-cra or body slam them myself.

These floors are getting painted come Hell or high water, but they are in the direct path to the kitchen. At least by now there’s no more food so the traffic has slowed dramatically. I would like to request that the powers that be consult the mother’s far and wide before you go swiping right on whether or not those educational doors open.

Sincerely,

Mother of The Year (with beautiful white-painted floors and no more food)

Comfort Food

The greatest treasure that this Earth ever held was my grandma, Mimi. She was Southern to her core as an Alabama native complete with an endearing drawl and all the “Bless your heart’s” one could insert into a conversation. She was the warm and caring grandma that you read only of in story books. She set her hair at the parlor and diligently pinned her curls at night. Somehow, she was the only one who could brush my long brown hair without hurting my head as she wrestled the tangles of the day. To me the sun rose and set in the light of her beauty and tenderness. My nails were always painted under her care and I never went to sleep without a story read to me in the big bed with the silky pink sheets. A bath was never a bath without bubbles and Loretta Lynn serenaded us on the daily and made her way into our favorites.

I will fight to the death defending her acumen in the kitchen as well. A biscuit is just not a biscuit if it wasn’t baked at the hands of my Mimi. They were perfect every time-piping hot and flaking apart after having been kneaded for long enough, but not too long that you kill the butter. If I could go back in time I would climb up to her counter on my little red stool with my present day iPhone and track her every move. To this day I can hear the sizzle of the gently peppered chicken frying in her cast iron skillet. The aroma was akin to Heaven itself. I can still taste that first crunchy bite that rivaled Colonel Sanders any day of the week. I can hear the sound of the pressure cooker bobbing back and forth as it gives way to the best green beans, cooked always with bacon, that you ever did eat. I remember loving green beans. I suppose it was the fact that my job was to snap the ends and pop them in half and somehow I surmised that I’m actually the one that made them.

I am now a mother of four children. I could no sooner get my children to enjoy a bite of green beans, black-eyed peas or okra than I could pull a rainbow out of my mouth. But, Mimi, she was magical. There wasn’t a morsel of food that we weren’t willing to try so long as it came from her stove. What I wouldn’t give to have her for a day so that my children might possibly consume a vegetable, or at a minimum, something other than beige food. I don’t think this fine woman owned a microwave. If a child requested mac and cheese there was a cheese grater and a roux involved. There was no such thing as ripping open a package, God forbidden powdered cheese and seven minutes later ta-da. When it came to breakfast there was rarely a cereal in sight unless they were in the fun single sized boxes. There were egg bakes and bear claws and biscuits with butter & jam. For lunch you enjoyed a skillet fried Reuben complete with sauerkraut and pickles. Unlike my children We did not snack all day like our livelihood depended on it because Mimi filled you to the brim with all things Heaven sent.

As if her cooking wasn’t stellar enough, every single night of her married life she baked a pie just the way my grandpa liked it. A small scoop of ice cream and a perfectly set cherry pie or pecan pie or carrot cake, the list was endless. This was a close to an already perfect meal.

There was no such thing as Weight Watchers, My Fitness Pal, Whole 30 or Paleo within a 100-mile radiance of Mimi’s kitchen. There was only food. The best food. Food made with love, from scratch, and most often a little bacon rendering. This was food that filled your soul to overflowing. There was no tracking macro’s or counting or restricting. Gluten was far from a forbidden accompaniment and organic was her way about her.

I no longer have my Mimi, but I can proudly say that I have personally eaten the best fried chicken this planet will ever know. The only thing greater than her cooking was her heart.