Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The truth you are





 “I can't go back to yesterday because I was a different person then.” 
                                                                   Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

I never meant for it to happen. I lived my life as I was taught; the importance of achievement, the honor of degrees. I became a slave to standards of perfection that I was not able to garner. After years of doing what I was 'supposed to' do, I rebelled with fervor and systematically destroyed my life. I owned the homes, drove the cars and filled my closets with stuff in the hopes that things would make me happy; things would make people like me, things would sustain me. Being raised in a southern baptist family as the daughter of a preacher and a teacher, I was given a definite code of ethics to follow. I was given the blueprint for how my life should go, and when I started going off-course I looked at myself as a failure. I became captive, frozen in time to my failure. I was defeated.

It took years of poor thinking to get me where I landed. I was negative, fearful and suspicious. It seemed I was suspended in time as the eleven year old who lost her young father to a quickly devouring cancer; never to return. I lived in constant fear that everyone was going to leave me like he did, and that I could not trust in their existence. The more fiercely I held to this belief, the more it happened. This kind of retaliatory thinking leads one to actively push away people who attempt intimacy. I vowed one night soon after my father's passing to "never let anyone get close to me again." And, that's just what I did.

If you spend your life running from love, sooner or later you will stop, look around and see you are all alone. I picture a completely bright, white room with no edges; just a vast smooth, egg-like place where you find yourself, alone. Enclosed. A vacuum. There is a reason why a vacuum is nothingness. You must exhaust the gas in order to make room for something else. Just as we have to fall down before we can get up, those fortunate enough to have found their bottom- their vacuum- are blessed to have reached that white room and accept it, thus allowing space for more. More love. More life. More lessons. Oh, there's pain abound in this dark illusion of light where shadow cannot pass. The brightness around you blinds you to your shortcomings, your habits, your thoughts until one day you find shelter. The refuge of god. A higher power who will guide you through this process and, most importantly, never leave. Being able to address the truths about you that no one else knows and move through them is how you get to that space where you can finally, truly love. To be a giver, not a taker. The opposite of a vacuum is compression. Compression pushes out on whatever is surrounding it. Pushing out is giving. Arriving at that place in life where you are overflowing, leaking light on whatever is surrounding you is beauty in action.

It's all a big circle, life is. A cycle of wounded, broken souls spend time on their vision quest emerging transformed. As teachers of  the soul who know they can never go back to the person they were, they are obligated to reach out, see who grabs their hand. Come on, they say, let's find the truth you are.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Freedom


The whole war of control between humans is about making assumptions 
and taking things personally. Our whole dream of hell is based on that.
 ~taken from The Four Agreements~


Assumptions are like expectations. Assuming is accepting that something is true without proof, and taking it for granted that you could be wrong. It is believing that something is or did happen; you have already formed an opinion. Expectation is more of an action. It inspires hopeful anticipation based on the probability something will occur. There is expectation in assuming. Expectation can be assured confidence or fearful apprehension that lives in the present with its eye on the future. Assumption operates from the past being  more of an event that provokes judgement. Both can, however, cause us pain.

I discovered last year that I was selfish. I was absorbed in only how things affected me. I was not looking outside myself for how I could positively affect my environment. I was only dwelling on how it affected me. This is such a prison within itself that so many of us unknowingly remain. We think that we are not being focused on ourselves because we tell ourselves we are thinking of others. Yet, the way in which we think of those around us qualifies as absorption because we are thinking about how they affect us, not the other way around. And there you have it.

Seeing our character flaws is a brilliant thing, and changing them is a miracle. What we do not realize is that it can be done. It takes hard work, courage and a good support system; people around you who are not afraid to tell you what they see, and you being open enough to receive it. The recipe for success in this is put together by having something greater than yourself in your life, and being humble to that source. Learning that perspectives are filtered by thought-life gives you a head start in that the more positive your thoughts, the more adaptable your behavior.

I encourage others to really study this in themselves. I am not perfect by any means, but when I finally figured this out- I felt peace. I no longer took things for granted, or took them personally. Taking things personally is having personal importance over others where we make the assumption that everything is about us. Discovering that life is not all about you means that it is about others. What others do is not about you, it's about them. It's about their world, not yours. Taking things personally is making the assumption that they know what is in our world. Recognizing this will open up your heart, and free your soul. Try it. You might like it...


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Brave

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” 
~ Anais Nin ~

I did something yesterday that I had never done before. I saw the red flags about something and stopped my involvement. Usually, I would ignore the strong intuitions I had about the situation, keep moving along and eventually get hurt all the while knowing that "I should have known better." What was it that finally made me do the right thing?

A smart man I knew once said that you have to be afraid of something to be brave. He was right. You do not have to gather courage about something that does not scare you. No one wants to be alone. Really. Many times we will settle for less out of the sheer thought of being by ourselves in a terminal way. Whether it is a job, a significant other or a place of residence if we do not let go of what we think is all we can get (therefore holding on for dear life) then we cannot open our arms to the wealth of existence that life in harmony can bring. This does not apply only to tangible things, but to ways of thinking, feeling and acting. So many times, we get stuck in believing things that do not serve us anymore or acting in ways that are self-destructive. At one time in my life, I was so fixed on negative ways of thought that positive thoughts repulsed me. I realized, however, that it was fear that fastened me to misery. Somehow I knew I was wrong, and in changing I would be admitting this. I would have to accept that I was wrong; alter how I viewed the world. As I adapted to this new reality my life became easier- I found joy!

When we get healthy emotionally, we realize that being alone is better than settling for things not good for us, or even just things not of our preference. We are willing to be brave; courageous in the land of the unknown. This realization is so freeing. It grounds us in a way nothing else could. It seals our fate in a way that will bring what we do want into our lives. Now, I'm just waiting....


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Light


“At the temple there is a poem called "Loss" carved into the stone. 
It has three words, but the poet has scratched them out. 
You cannot read loss, only feel it.” 
                                                                  Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha

We are all a little broken. Some of us more than others. You may be fragmented in a polished marble kind of way; all shiny with nothing but surface, or you may be torn like tissue paper wadded up and discarded at Christmas; someone enthusiastically pulled you out, but forgot to put you back together.

Seeds do not grow in light. Seeds need darkness; the darkness to push out all their attributes. The space that the darkness creates is needed for the seed to become its destiny. We become taller by being pushed down. We gain sight from being blinded. We are able to run because we once limped. Just as the seed only grows once it is planted deep into the ground, do we become stable only from having been in flight.

A light in hand will not always assure you safety from treacherous rocks, but the light does let you know that you are not alone. Every heartbreak. Every loss. Every hurt. Every regret are all accompanied by wisdom when we are finally able to climb out of the prisons we create for ourselves. For without us, our problems would have no fuel. Our fights would have no fury. Our losses would have no sting. It takes us to give our struggles meaning. As a painting needs its creator to find substance, shape and form as our tears cannot be seen without a mirror, only felt. If we choose to sit and wallow in it, then that is where we will stay. We choose how we want to reflect ourselves. It is our job to take what tragedy has wrought and pass it on to others. The point of this is not to take their pain away, but to guide them through it. Be their comfort, as the light was once yours. You can be someone else's light.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Navigate



But in order to make you understand,
to give you my life, I must tell you a story.
                                                                                         Virginia Woolf


We all have a story. Some are sad. Some are happy. Most are bittersweet. With this, we all possess the very human need to tell them. Like a balloon, the pressure is alleviated when released. Story is heart and nourishment. Before television and cell phones, man sat around fires telling stories. And, stories spread.
Quickly.

Stories are how humans kept navigation by the stars alive; they became a part of the BIG answer when we lost our way. We have the need to feel a part of something, and when we don't we feel afraid. When we cannot figure out where we fit in, we scramble, we kick, we scream. We all crave the hero, long to be courageous and need to know our role in relation to the world. Our story is how we experience the present; it makes or breaks us.

Macbeth ponders whether life is a tale "told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." And, we all have those moments of  fury. What am I doing here? Who am I? Why is this happening? What do I do? Where do I go? How do I do this? Followed by the sound of either our own hearts breaking, or more disturbingly... nothing at all. That silence, that still click in the air when everything seems to hover above the ground before it falls. Then, we run. We think getting away from the darkness that keeps us in bondage is the answer when it only makes it worse. When we are not brave and unable to walk into our (many times) self-made fires, we give them fuel as they continue to pursue us. The goal is to devour; to hide every essence of the divine within us. This is when we look up. 

Even people without a declared faith tilt their heads up when facing trouble. We reach our hands out wanting someone to sweep down and rescue our heavy, prickly hearts. I think what I forget so often is that god is always within us to give us the resolved determination we need to make it through; our own inner GPS. Darkness wants us to forget about our light, without which we feel helpless. In that fear we just want to lay down and sleep; quit. Stillness. One less warrior.

When it all comes down to it, everyone becomes known by their true name. Your sin will always find you, always come back to you. It may take time, but that boomerang comes back. Every. Single. Time. Now, don't let this scare you. Let it develop you steadfast. Make your stance. Do not falter to tell your story for if it sets a wildfire, it will spread. Do not fall down at the mere thought of defeat. Show defeat what you are made of. You are made of God.






Thursday, July 19, 2012

Shipping and Handling

                       “Learning to let go should be learned before learning to get. Life should be
                        touched, not strangled. You've got to relax, let it happen at times, and at
                        others move forward with it. It's like boats. You keep your motor on so
                        you can steer with the current. And when you hear the sound of the
                        waterfall coming nearer and nearer, tidy up the boat, put on your best tie
                        and hat, and smoke a cigar right up till the moment you go over.
                        That's a triumph.”
                                                                                       
                                                                                         Ray Bradbury, Farewell Summer


I have a pair of shoes I need to send back to a company right now. They're sitting in my closet. I have them carefully wrapped and don't know my next step because I've never done it with this company before. It got me thinking... do I have something ready to give to God, but can't because I don't know how? Maybe I've done it before with something else, another company, but not with other things. So, I'm paralyzed by my lack of information. As far as the shoes go, all I have to do is make a phone call and follow the instructions. Is that all I need to do with God?

This brought me to the thought that letting go of things is ever-changing. Each and every different thing we need to let go of in order to live a full life is separately and uniquely different, requires different things and different things from each one us. What it may take of you to let go of something may not be what it will take of me. How do we navigate this then when the rules are never the same and vary from person to person? I can make that phone call to one company who will tell me one thing, and to another who will give me a completely different set of directions. No wonder many of us walk around dumbfounded. No wonder it's part of the human condition to be stuck in situations that are long past their due.

We all have those moments. Moments seared into our minds we knew had changed us. Times where, as they were happening, we sensed an almost surreal significance. We sensed growth as time almost folded in on itself. Resonant, reverberant; a steadfast call of attention. The death of my father. The day I got married, then the day I signed the divorce papers. And then there's the first time I chose to stay sober on my own. These events have formed me into who I am now. They were all full of emotion. They all had that quality of stillness you get from being alone in the woods looking up at the night sky or seeing someone familiar do something unfamiliar, and seeing them for the very first time. How we choose to view it is what makes or breaks us. It's like the purpose of these moments is to clue you in that the choice you are about to make is life-altering; that it's not just like buying a lamp or writing on a chalkboard. It's God's right to expand your territory; his manifest destiny.

I'm going to call the shoe company and write down the instructions. I am going to follow-through and send them back. I am letting them go, moving on to a better shoe. The first step is always the hardest. Momentum is a very powerful key. What I have to remember is that there is not just this one pair of shoes in the world. I will never know what better fit is out there for me if I don't have the courage to give up one idea, prepare for the next new one and hold my breathe as my boat plummets into the water below. It is scary, yes, but you've got a life preserver...

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Giants

The messages we carry with us are so important. Those things we were told as a child make such a lasting impact on our lives. People do not realize how even the thoughts we have about ourselves play a vital role in how we interact with others and how we view the world around us. Our thought-life determines our behavior. Our thought-life is not something out of our control; what we think depends on us.

When we are faced with adversity, our gut reaction is to tighten up; to resist. Like at the dentist when you receive your first novocaine shot, you tense up, but if you relax it will be much less painful. Likewise, when difficulty pops up and we are able to let it flow on through while embracing what lessons can be learned then MOVE ON, we are happier people. Maybe not while you're IN it, but it ensures that once you do go through it, it is done, and lingering there is not an option. Staying in a space that has made its peace and exhausted itself creates problem after problem, inevitably compounding itself.

Talking ourselves through it is very productive, and enables us to see things more objectively than just feeling our way. Yes, we need to feel the feelings, but not stay in them. We need to wrap our arms around whatever uncomfortable emotions arise, but release our grasp at the end. And, we need to be our own coach as we go. In the movie 'Facing the Giants,' there is a very powerful scene.

During a drill exercise called 'The Deathcrawl," a student who is unknowingly the leader of the team, but an underachiever, is asked to perform this drill. Now, this is an exercise where they carry a teammate on their back while on all fours as they move down the field. Coach blindfolds the boy and tells him to get to the fifty yard line. As the boy approaches the fifty, what he does not know is coach is testing him; pressing, wanting him to feel his full potential. Throughout this whole exercise, Coach is there right down at his ear, at times screaming, encouragement. Finished, collapsing to the ground, the boy cries, "Fifty! It's gotta be fifty! I don't have anymore!" Coach tells him he is in the end zone.

YOU REALLY MUST WATCH THIS FOR THE FULL EFFECT!!!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iUn36mTEbfU          (copy and paste if no link)

I see God as Coach. As we travel through life, there are many times when we want to give up; it's too heavy, our heart burns with pain, our minds want to quit. God is there with us the entire time, even when we cannot see him. Sometimes he gives us a task that we would say is impossible if we were to see the big picture, so we must trust him and carry through on faith. We must listen to God as he whispers in our ear that we can do this and not to give up. Brock chose to listen to Coach as he internalized the encouragement and told himself to keep going. Sometimes God has to "scream" to get our attention; maybe through a divorce, an addiction or a death. If we listen, we will be better off for it. Brock chose to listen letting go of his fear, self-doubt and inadequacy. Instead of giving in, he let Coach believe for him. He finished a different man than when he started. When we complete what we've been entrusted to do, we can take our blindfolds off and see that we did far more than we thought we could. We must listen to that positive voice; not the negative, condemning one. Whichever voice we feed will grow stronger, so if we feed the one that says, "I can do this!," defeating the next giant will be easier. We will be glad we did not quit!


Friday, July 6, 2012

Beauty in Action

I want to be myself. I want to be free. I no longer want to apologize for who I am. Yes, there are things that my god has had to whittle away, prune, fine tune...and I welcome each and every opportunity... but, I need room to breathe!

God is love. God is grace. God is sanctuary.

God made each and every one of us as a unique being full of strengths and weaknesses, similarities and differences, individualized gifts and bonding commonalities. Our job is to share all these things; reach out, help. I have been through something that you have not, where I learned things you may need to know someday. You may know something that will help me in the future when I am struggling. This dance is the beauty in action that is God.

I'm a preacher's daughter. Dad died when I was eleven, tore the family apart and we lost faith. I spent my life trying to fill the hole; the one that gapes, the one you can never fill. I was the honor student, liberal-neo hippie-Ashevillian-new ager (and LOVED it!!!!) and later the elementary school teacher. What that time period in my life did for me was open my mind and realize that perception is everything, and there is not just one way to look at this beautiful life; that we must embrace the good and the bad. The pressure to perform, to be perfect, to please and be praised finally took its toll while taking my marriage and all my material possessions with it. The monster was called addiction, and it changed my life, after it almost ended it. This cherished little classical piano player, this eager learner of Latin and empathic extrovert ended up in strange places I did not even know existed, and scary places that I knew did. My god, however, was with me the whole time. He was waiting patiently, whispering softly in my ear sometimes telling me things I did not want to hear, and entrusting me with very painful lessons.

I am still recovering from the wreckage of my life. Over a year clean, I am picking up the pieces one by one, examining them with a ferocity. I want to tell my story of how god rescued me and showed me how to fly! I firmly believe something BIG is just around the corner. I am here to make a difference. The "peculiar-ness" or "unique-ness" I have felt since birth is ready to blossom into 'amazing.' I can't wait. It's not that I think I am better than you, or that I have a greater calling. It's just that I have a story, and I need to tell it.

I will always remember where I came from; it gets us to where we're going. I will always be open to new ideas; not afraid of the unknown. If something unfamiliar makes me uncomfortable, I will explore and ponder how I fit into it, or how I do not. I will strive to be compassionate, generous and tolerant. I will never forget what god has done for me. And in my quest for all this, I will not alienate or ostracize the people I want to help set free.

I will not let minds that are closed operate on my system. I will not bow down to minds who judge, or be a slave to a fraudulent captive mess. I will reach for god with hands out-stretched, heart open wide and all systems on GO!

Yours in grateful awe and wonder...


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Friday, June 29, 2012

The Sentry (waiting on God)

Hushed breath,
stillness.
I wait.

Wrap myself around you
as you fill my heart,
find my soul,
give me purpose.

With a surity
I sit at the gate,
in absolute expectation
for my deliverer.

My posture tall,
my eyes wide,
my yearning deep.

As I scan the horizon
I see brilliant light.
You beckon,
You call,
You release.

So close to you;
hear your whisper.
Bind me to you;
guide my life.

Hushed breath,
stillness.
I wait.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Sometimes

Sometimes we want what we want. Some things are so ingrained in our brains, we go on automatic pilot to get them. It's like giving over control of the plane to a blind man just because he was able to crash-land it once. Our faith is in the wrong thing.

I was at the park recently. A little girl around five or six came tumbling towards me. She stopped short of my picnic bench and proceeded to cross her arms over her chest, glaring back at her family as they unknowingly continued their game. She would stomp her feet and hang her head, dramamtically looking over to see if anyone saw her. The gawky, pig-tailed girl repeated this numerous times. "I wanna go bounce the ball. Now!" was what she said over and over again. Mom realized what was going on and came over. Everyone stopped their game to look on in curiosity. This became a chase as the little girl turned and ran. Anger transformed into laughter as mom finally swooped her flailing daughter into her arms.

It made me think. Do we really ever outgrow this? I wanted what I wanted, no matter what. No matter whose feelings I wasn't thinking of. No matter what the consequence. No matter the collateral damage. I was not thinking of someone else's hurts, their hang-ups, their needs. Mine came first. What is my truth in this? I was selfish. I was needy. I was not able to put another person's well-being in front of my own. Everything in my life is radically, sublimely changing...except for this area. I forgot about it. It had been a long time. What I realized was that I need to turn my ashes into beauty here too.

It's said that the combination of a positive attitude and energetic effort is part of the mystery of our cooperation with God. Cooperation. Sounds like this relationship involves some action on my part. And not just any action, a positive one. Instead of me pushing away using some sort of twisted wrestling move (that ends up pinning me to the mat,) I must push through my coal to make diamonds. I can only hope that out of this situation will come fresh perspective, renewed thought and altered behavior. I know if I give in to the truth that what I thought worked for me didn't really work at all, that my god will reach down and secure me. Transform me. I miss my friend. He made me smile.

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Friday, June 15, 2012

Red Boots

Why do we give people the power to hurt us? What in us is so damaged and unsure of its worth that we get so entangled? The old adage that you teach people how to treat you is all too real. And, if we're not careful, we will ask for it over and over again. Repeating the same mistakes.

Finding your worth seems to get harder. As a child, you dream of princes and white horses, but are strangely awakened later in life by the cold, hard facts. Many times we get those enchanted palaces, only to intentionally destroy them. Nobody tells us this. They really should.

When I was about five years old, I left my favorite pair of red velvet boots out overnight. Morning found me in tears standing over the spot where the boots were while holding a note....from my boots.

Dear Beth,
This is your boots. I have run away since you are not taking care of me.
Love,
Boots

This note is ingrained in my mind for some reason. When I thought more about it, it made sense. Those shoes had to take a stand. They had to fight. If they had chosen to stay, I might have continued not to take care of them; to take them for granted. It was the first time that I realized the cause and effect relation I had on other objects, that would eventually translate into other people.

We have little boxes we carry around in life; some red for love, others black for pain. They help us compartmentalize and make sense of the world around us. What we choose to keep in these boxes is up to us. And, how we do this, is by the way we think. What we tell ourselves is so much more than words. Thoughts do become actions, and those actions, define us.

My boots were teaching me how to treat them. They were bold, they were confident, they sent a powerful message. They were kindly redirecting my behavior. Those shoes were being real. And you better bet I never left them out again.

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Bolting

Why can't we take our own advise? One minute we are minding our life with intentional positivity and big faith, and the next we are curled into the fetal position in some way too familiar place. How does this happen?!

In the movie, Bolt, a superhero dog runs around saving 'his person', Penny, from evil masterminds. Equipped with supersonic bark and a laserbeam gaze, Bolt saves the day over and over again. What he does not know is that he is really part of a television series. They keep him in the dark. The director feels that if Bolt knew what he really was, he would lose his authenticity. So, Bolt escapes accidentally one night only to find himself searching for Penny in a world where his powers won't "work."  He is in a familiar place without his net. He looses ground, he doubts, he is confused. When he finally finds Penny, he sees that she has replaced him, and he looses faith turning tail and running. Again, there is something he doesn't know. What he witnessed was a scene from the show, not the truth of the situation. Before he can get out of town, a friend arrives to tell him, "It's not what it seems. Trust me. Have faith." Bolt turns back around and, once again, saves his Penny.

Clear your mind from those old voices that tell you you're not good enough. Realize that who you really
are is what MAKES you authentic.Turn back around. Be brave, for all is not what it seems. Most of all... that friend who arrives in just the nick of time? Well, you've got one too....his name is God....you don't have to be in the dark.

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Thursday, June 14, 2012

What we finally realize

Most of us go through our whole lives feeling incomplete. We search, analyze, cling, clutch and cleave to whatever we can find thinking it will make the emptiness go away. It won't.  If we are fortunate enough, God will allow us an experience to set us free. Our job is to embrace it. If we don't accept where we are then we cannot move through it to make it different. I think sometimes we believe running from the situations and ignoring them will do, but that is only a delay; a painful prolonging of the inevitable.

Many of us search for love, putting debilitating pressure on another person to fulfill every need. This is not love. Love is breathe. Love is space. Love is a big, blue sky. Loving another is giving of yourself with no expectation, no pressure, no ultimatums. Be brave. Be immune from disappointment by taking someone on their own terms. Indulge yourself with full trust that no matter what happens next, you are safe. When you do this, the world opens up to you. You create a space of fluidity from which all opportunity flows. Like a flower, you will feel your soul open up. And you will fly.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Wreckage

We all have those places in which we hide. Some are soothing, cool blue and warm while others are dark and cavernous. For some reason, the ones that swallow us up are the ones where we find the most comfort. I think about my former marriage. There are so many things I did not realize I had done. I was a freight train. He, a china shop. Selfish. Sinful. Exploding. Tornado. Realizing what I had done, I did not want to feel. And, in that cavern, it was not required of me so I ran, ran, ran taking reprieve in the immobilization of my self-created pain. What is ironic about this type of behavior is that the intentions are so far from the actual results. We are trying to provide relief from the situation, but end up compounding it. Something that could serve as a temporary learning experience turns itself into a big self-propelled mess. Wreckage so fierce that one person cannot possibly pick-up the pieces alone, or at once. Leaving such sadness in its wake.

The Greek word for Gethsemane means "oil press." In the bible, Christ spends his last hours before his last dawn in isolated, anguished contemplation. The people he loves, his family, fell asleep despite his pleas for companionship during this final vigil. They do not understand the magnitude of the situation. Like Christ's twelve, when we are in it we do not see it for what it really is. Only many times when it is too late and we are picking ourselves up off the floor, do we see the ugly truth. How we handle this truth is what makes us or breaks us. If we retreat into the dark, we will become accustomed to its hands around our neck. If we move forward through it, we find freedom. This action of bravely pressing through the fear is what defines us as children of god. When you are ready to loose that cold grasp from around your neck and step out of the cave that holds you captive, close your eyes, breathe and clasp the hand next to yours. That hand...is god's.

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Friday, March 9, 2012

Race

It is cold. There is a faded blanket of thick clouds. I am eleven. My brother is seven. My mother is somewhere we can't even find as she clenches our hands. It is just the three of us now as we one-by-one place roses over the deep mahogany. I can almost see our reflections in its smooth wooden surface as I wonder how shiny can hurt so bad. I hear voices that sound are speaking to me, but cannot open my mouth. The dam that is the ache of my jaw will not allow it. I cannot breath. Everything towers over me so I am able to slip unseen and peek into the hole in the earth that is now my father's home. The sound of dirt slowly enclosing my daddy feels like knives piercing my heart.

I never forgot that sound. The smell of flower bouquets still turns my stomach. Embedded in my memory is an itchy dress and black patent-leather shoes that carry me over to the coffin as the adults part like the Red Sea. They stare at me with pinched, solemn expressions that reveal their confusion over whether or not to intervene. The platform makes it so it is just the right height. I am so close to his face I can see every detail; his waxen skin with sweetly shut eyes. I see his lips sewn together like a rag doll and bravely take in as much as I can. I do not want to forget him. I do not want him to go. I am not confused. I know what death means, but what I don't know is how much this event will shape the rest of my life.

My adolescent years were tumultuous at best. Our little family tip-toed around my father's absence as my shell-shocked mother gripped tightly to her grief. Life was a live bomb field for me and my brother as we blindly traversed our new life as emotional orphans. We were given everything we needed and more, but were afraid to love each other. Love for us was like a raging bonfire and we stood back, each in our own way, for fear of getting scorched. The habit of that desperation does not leave without making its mark.

So, I've been through what I've been through. We all have. We all have that dark hole inside of us filled with either junk or light. It may be a divorce, or a death, or just something horrible someone said to you years ago. It does not matter. What matters is how we handle it. Do we choose to burst through the finish line, or do we choose to hide amongst the wreckage? Hold your hands up. Flash through that tape at the end of the race. Let something bigger than yourself take those deep holes, turn them upside down and make them majestic mountains of grace, mercy and redemption. I don't even think you need shoes.

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We are what we think

My program starts. I can almost taste the clean smell of the ice. It's just me out there in my red sequined dress. The blades of my skates cut through crisply as I push off to start my routine for this competition. I've been ice-skating now for four years. I'm good, but not great. I work very hard, and get up at the crack of dawn to do so. I prepare for my first jump, glide into it and lift-off with my toe-pick. I spin, land...and fall. It's like I just decided to sit down and have some tea. Humiliated I pick myself up, swipe the ice from my rear and continue. From what I remember, I did this a lot.

I think about this now. How I prepared, attempted, completed, then seemingly just gave up. I think about the defeatist mind-set I must've had at the time to not be able to stand up and move on to the next thing. Maybe I had a bad morning, maybe my laces were loose, maybe I got dizzy. No, I was too overwhelmed. I just didn't believe I could do it. So, I didn't.

It's unfortunate that many adults walk around with this ingrained believe. And, for most of us, we are not even aware that we do it. We never finish that grad school application. We make excuses and put off singing at church. We never take that first step to write the great American novel. I'll do it tomorrow. I don't have time. What difference will it make? These are the things we tell ourselves all the while not realizing that we are what we think. If we don't think we can do it, it won't happen.

This brings me around to a story about Peter in the bible. It is early morning and he has been fishing all night. There is no success. There are no fish. He has come up to shore, cleaned his equipment and is ready to sit down to nurse his disappointment. Jesus is near the shore teaching. He has so many around him that the beach begins to crowd so he asks Peter if he may use his boat as a platform. When Jesus is finished, he tells Peter to take his boat back out. Peter is tired and wet. The last thing he wants to do is go back out there. It just won't work. There are no fish. Something in Peter is moved, however, and he relents. They cast the nets and 153 fish later, they are back on shore eating a feast that Jesus prepared.

There must have been something, however small, in Peter that had hope. The mustard seed. That's all we need. We don't have to believe we can finish the novel, we just have to start the first paragraph. We don't have to think about how to plan our medical practice, we just have to click on "apply now." We don't have to think about cleaning out the basement, we just have to go get that first black trash bag. Just a step. A baby step that will take us in the right direction, then, your higher power do the rest. He just wants to see if we are willing. Willingness, to him, is like a big empty basket. One which he would like to fill for you to overflowing. Going from overwhelmed to overflowing is all in our heads. Be brave. Believe. And, remember, as a man thinks in his heart, so is he.

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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Blue Bicycle

The family legend goes something like this. I am five years old perusing a garage sale down the street from my Decatur  home. I replay it in my mind, adding or deleting scenes like an editor, so this time it's like this. I see this wondrous two-wheeled blue bike; big white triangle seat with handlebars like a mustache. The rust all over it is of no consequence. I want it. The woman lazily reclined in a frayed aluminum lawn chair eyes me slowly. I am silent as a child gently contorting herself into the final hiding spot, lungs still as the dead, squelching her giggles. I stare at the bike. I will have it. It is my first recollection of having that feeling of stubborn determination that will eventually be my downfall, and my deliverance. A heavy iron fan clicks in the background as the woman wipes sweat off her brow. She lumbers over to me, seemingly amused at my fascination. "You know, it's only a quarter, sweetie," she says. I turn abruptly and race home only to be met with the worst thing a little girl can hear. No. My orange and blue-striped socks fall as I run back to the late afternoon  scene. Oh! Don't let it be gone! I see a man rolling the bike toward a garage while the woman absentmindedly folds her chair. I panic. The sight of this little blonde girl in pigtails with tears streaming down her face must have worked. "Ed," she says, "I don't think we have room for that anymore, but I think someone else does." I give her a snaggle-toothed grin as I timidly approach my prize. I hear, "Go ahead, honey. It's yours," as she assigns me precious hold of the white plastic handles. I look at her. She looks at me. The man yells from his post, "Child, you know how to ride that big bike?" I straddle between the faded bars, hop on the seat and push off as I yell, "No!"

I think about this event in my life. I hold it close. I am so grateful I made it through the past four challenging years. Too much money. Success. Ego. Selfishness. Ungratefulness. Loss. Addiction. Need I say more? You never thought it would've happened to this honor student, elementary school teacher, prized daughter, true friend, once loyal wife. But, I lost it all. I cannot think about the past now, it has burned itself out, along with all of the bridges. I cannot even think about what's on either side of me; the current state of my life. All I can do is move forward. Straight. "All forward!" as we said guiding on that beautiful Tennessee river. I must trust. I do know that everything has it's purpose. Everything falls on everything else like set-up dominoes. And, if you take any of those dominoes out...it just stops.

I want to reach out. Pick others up off their dirty floors. Those floors that soon turn to mud. Look around, learn that what you have is greater than what you want. Be grateful. Find that little child inside with such a deep yearning for something. Hold on to that desire, and make it yours. Courageously hop in between those faded, rusty bars and ride off into the sunset on your big blue bike.

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