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.

 

 

 

The Truth Hurts… or does it?

We put in a pool last fall in preparation for some serious fun this summer. To say that taking care of a pool is a steep learning curve is a total understatement. Growing up in Florida I had the pleasure of enjoying a pool as they came with a house almost expectedly. I remember swimming for hours on end without a care in the world. We lived in a one story home with a flat roof. My older brother and I would climb onto the roof and run to our potential death to cannon ball into the pool. Every time we jumped we would inadvertently drag in a trillion shingle pebbles. One day my mom, perplexed, asked why there were always so many little rocks in the pool clogging up the cleaner. Neither of us confessed as we played dumb to the weird phenomenon. As an adult now with four kids of my own and a pool to keep balanced I can see how annoying that must have been for my mom. We had a blast though.

A pool isn’t a pool without the water, right. The water has to remain at a strict, tight balance of chlorine to water at a million parts per million per square foot. You’re welcome for that chemistry fact. If the pool water gets out of balance at even a million and eight parts per million she goes cloudy. Just like that. She’s a foggy mess. You then have to balance it back out by shocking the system for a day and nurse it back to clear blue inviting water for cannon balls and marco polo.

The truth is like that. Honesty with ourselves is the clear blue water. It’s the playground for freedom and abandon. Hiding our reality at even a fraction is the cloudy, foggy water that needs attention. Being brutally honest with ourselves in how we handle and process life and its myriad of situations is crucial to our health and balance.

I’ve had a trying year. I remember my 40th birthday like it was yesterday. Not just because that’s a milestone birthday, but because I sat weeping as I honestly admitted to myself that I had a raging eating disorder. The truth hurt. Or did it? Once I named and embraced that reality I could either wallow there or get to work to clear the water. I had to take a look in the mirror and acknowledge honestly the way that I was handling life. I was doing all the things quite functionally. But, I was nothing more than a pool of murky, cloudy water that needed a shock to its system. God put an awareness and drive in me to get whole like I’d never experienced before. He surrounded me with empathetic and supportive friends that reached out to me. I am eternally grateful for that. I surrendered. I bent my feeble knees to the truth. In that place of weakness honesty was the only key to the door of my healing. There was literally no other way out.

As I write I am just post my 41st birthday. The truth hurt last year, but the way I was handling life hurt worse. The truth was, in turn, the salve to my system and the only way forward into actually living as opposed to slowly dying. I have experienced more healing through the truth and its momentary, fleeting jab to the heart than I can describe.

Shocking a pool back to clear water takes 24-48 hours. I wish our healing took about the same. It absolutely doesn’t. But, the sooner we admit to ourselves in brazen honesty the way we are handling life the sooner we can find freedom and peace and hope and so so much more.

For the love, ask yourself where you need to surrender to the truth of how you are handling life. It is an intensely uncomfortable question. But, I promise you that what awaits you on the other side is nothing short of beautiful.

I genuinely believe in us.

 

A Letter To My Recovering Self

Dear Me-

I see you. I see you working so hard right now. You are climbing your mountain and I know you are a bit tired. I see your intense will to keep climbing despite the exhaustion. I know, you’re forty years old and you feel like this mountain is all too familiar. You feel like you’ve been on this climb before and you’re a little frustrated that you’re back at it. But, please take note right now that you’ve never actually made it this far. You’re seeing things that you’ve never seen before. You’re digging deeper than you have before. You are beginning to smell freedom in the air.

Take a rest for just a minute and then take in a super deep breath. Freedom smells sweet like the flowers springing up on the side of this mountain. It fills your lungs with a scent that comforts you and the great news is there’s more where that came from. There’s a grove of beauty that goes on for miles and miles just on the other side of this climb. I can’t wait for you to see it, to step foot through it, and to know intimately that you belong there. You’re gonna make it. I promise. Believe in your strength and resolve right now. You are a courageous woman and you are doing an amazing job.

As you sit and rest for a second I want you to repeat after me: I forgive myself. Take a minute, hear it in your head, and then say it out loud. I know it sounds a little silly to you, but this step is pretty important. Abbie, you have beaten yourself up for long enough. The reality is there were things in your life that converged into a tangled mess and you didn’t know how to deal with the weight of it all. Don’t get me wrong, you weren’t ignorant. You just didn’t have all the tools yet. You have a really sensitive heart. This is one of my favorite things about you. At times, you felt a mounting pressure to do right, to be good, to not fail, to consistently show up for others… and so much more. Because of this you have felt heavy and full at times. Full to the brim of expectations that you’ve held over yourself. You are a beautiful listener. You always have been. That, combined with your sensitive heart has meant you’ve also carried the weight of others in addition to the pressure you put on yourself. You found a way to cope with all that emotion through your eating disorder. It availed itself to you as a way to get rid of things and to feel empty. It was a compelling offer. It was an outlet that presented itself to you to offload the weight you were carrying. As damaging as that mechanism was and is you needed a way out of all the heaviness. I don’t blame you. There’s just a better way now.

So, when you’re ready – stand tall. Stand proud. Stand strong. When you know better, you do better. And you’re seeing that now. I’m really proud of you. Some people don’t even bother to take a long hard look in the mirror of reality. They push things away, stuff them down and carry on meanwhile decaying inside. You are choosing the opposite and I see life springing up inside of you. It’s healing you. It’s freeing you. It’s giving you stamina for the rest of this arduous climb to lasting freedom. Stay the course. Be kind to your heart. See how far you’ve come. You are more than enough. Now carry on, keep climbing, and know that I am here for you.

I believe in you.

 

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.

Go On. You Can Do It.

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

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

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

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

Go on, you CAN do it.

I BELIEVE in us!

 

The Mystery of Pain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I believe in us.

 

Bridge Over Troubled Waters

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

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

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

He redeems EVERYTHING.

It’s all gonna be okay. All of it.

I believe in us.

Under Pressure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I believe in us.