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

The Body

A kindergarten teacher once asked her students what the purpose of their body was. The classroom’s consensus and precious reply was this: “It’s used to hold our head up.”

Oh, the irony of that perspective. The profound simplicity.

When I was in nursing school (far too long ago) I had to take anatomy and physiology. I straight up consumed every lecture like it was as good as air. I loved it so much I swear I’d go back right now and take it again. I was fascinated by the genius of the machine that our bodies are on a cellular level. (I mean, can I please get a quick shout out for the Krebs Cycle or what?!) Like many of my fellow colleagues, I held several different positions as an RN. In my former glory years, I worked in Pediatrics, Obstetrics, Surgical Intensive Care and Trauma Nursing. I had the fortune to see the body function, heal and sustain mind blowing injuries. I saw countless babies inhale their first breath. In my Trauma days, I saw a man live to tell about the horror of falling thirty feet from a building onto a bar of rebar that impaled itself straight through his skull. I saw the inside of a chest cavity more times than I can count. I can do CPR in my sleep like a BOSS. I’ve seen patients return to an alert state of mind after being comatose for two whole months or more. Our bodies are incredible and they’re forever seeking a state of whole homeostasis (stable equilibrium).

If we stopped for a quick ponder, no doubt, we would all agree that our bodies are intelligent and globally mesmerizing. In the light of my knowledge, experience and education why then did I allow my mind to reduce the sole purpose of my body to: appear “thin”? Why did I lose the respect and wonder of its actual functions and endless abilities? At what turn did I begin to believe the shallow societal notion that our size and shape are our vehicle for securing other people’s opinion of us? That’s such a slap in the face to the wonderment of the body’s near indescribable capabilities.

I’ve lived with a (self-limiting) narrative that I’m as good, desirable, acceptable and respectable as I am thin. As if “thinness” is the showcase for my worth; the strength of my internal locus of control; or the reflection of my self discipline. As if “thinness” equals beauty somehow and suggests that my body is all that and then some. As if “thinness” somehow secures my seat at the table of life one row ahead of where I’d be otherwise. I can hardly get over how shallow that sounds. I can barely stomach how narrow that perspective is and the realization that it ruled my life for decades.

We have to fight a little bit. We have to wrestle a lot a bit. We have to subscribe again and again and AGAIN to the truth that we are so much more valuable than our size or shape. I have two daughters and two sons. When I think of how beautiful and priceless they are I want to protect them and filter any influence over their belief system in their worth like a raging caged animal. I want to stand at the gates of their thoughts and arrest anything that will mess with their sense of how precious they are. I would fight to the death to protect them. I would need massive restraint as I’d nearly rip the throat out of anything that spoke crap over them. FACT: I am worth that same level of intensity. How can I convince my children of something I don’t believe for my own self? I have learned repeatedly that kids can smell a fake from a mile away.

People- please hear me. There’s nothing easy about going against the grain of society. I think we all know that full well. I let my mind be water boarded by shallow lies for sooooo damn long. There is no time like the present to stand up for myself and to get vigilant about protecting what thoughts I believe to be true about my value. I have children to model authentic self confidence for. I have WHOLE people to care for. My body, in full view, is a total machine y’all. It is working around the clock for me. In the same way that our bodies are infinitely more complex than simply holding our heads up, our worth is tied to so much more than our size and appearance. There genuinely is NO room to believe otherwise.

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.

 

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!

 

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.

The Magic of Healing

Sometimes pain lives like a virus in your system. You cannot rush a healing any more than you can rush the run of a virus. It just has to take its course and partner with time to find its resolve.

There are certain things in this life that effect us at different levels. They hold on to our memory banks like an encoded java script that takes some serious technological advance to decipher. I just want to give you permission today from one human to another to still hurt. Just because we are grown adults doesn’t mean that we’ve worked our way through it all by now.

I watch America’s Got Talent with my kids. It’s a thing. Our thing. I used to hate the show because I couldn’t stand to watch half the acts like knives being inserted apparently as deep as a hip socket or someone falling to their death only stopping inches from plunder. It’d ridiculous to me how people even discover talents like these. I mean – who thinks of sticking a knife down their throat and getting shot at with a flaming arrow narrowly missing all vital organs as it hits some teeny tiny baby target? It’s short of crazy.

Where’s my correlation? America has certainly got talent. Act after act people stuff amazing, harrowing events into a three-minute span that’s riddled with magic and illusion as they bear the brunt of what appears to be deeply painful tricks to the naked eye. Pain, healing and overcoming in real life is the exact opposite of what we see on the screen. There is no way to take magic and illusion and cover the events that our life has held. Furthermore, there is rarely a round of applause as we come up standing on the other side. I think humans are incredibly resilient. This show certainly proves that. However, when it comes to real life pain sometimes it runs as deep as our hips and it needs far more than three minutes to recover and find equilibrium.

I sat in therapy yesterday divulging intricate details about the origin and the presence an eating disorder has held in my life. I was left with shock and awe as some of the events of my life bubbled up with tears and a heaviness and straight up pain attached. There were things that I thought I’d dealt with only to find them surface with a fever, evidence of a virus still working its way through my system. I came home last night and cried a hundred more tears because I want to be “over it all” by now, but my heart was telling me otherwise. There is still work to be done. There is still time needed for the virus to run its course and find its healing. Just because I’m the ripe age of forty now doesn’t mean I’ve arrived at a place of wholeness and healing.

All that said, sometimes we have to take inventory of where our heart is at in all reality. Sometimes we have to honor our pain, acknowledge it, let it bubble up with tears and emotions and give it space to work its way out. Just because the things of the past still hurt doesn’t mean you are broken. It means you are alive. Just because you still have tears and anguish doesn’t mean you aren’t every bit amazing from head to toe. It means you are REAL.

I do believe in magic. But I also believe in reality. Where is your heart today? Be gentle with yourself. Your reality is worth honoring and taking a concentrated look at. I also believe that we do deserve a standing ovation as we come up, out, over and through our stories with resilience. I am cheering for you today. Truly. 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.