Keeping it Real

Re-Potted

I have a plant.

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I do not have a green thumb.

Somehow I’ve managed to keep this plant alive.  Probably because it’s one of those that it’s best not to water. Every once in a blue moon I look at it and remember that I forgot to water it.  It somehow doesn’t mind.  I give it a little water and the plant is no worse for the wear.  It’s a perfect arrangement for me. -Continue Reading

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Exhale What You’ve Inhaled

Do you have seasonal allergies?

Then you know what it’s like when flowers bloom, grass grows and tree pollen flies through the air!  You inhale something mysterious and invisible and suddenly you find yourself sneezing, nose oozing and eye’s stinging.

My husband and son have seasonal allergies. Certain seasons are miserable for them.  Other times of the year they aren’t impacted.  Different allergens create different responses when they inhale.

My friend recently told me when her husband was in high school a teacher said something negative that embedded deeply inside him.

He inhaled.

For years he’s been trying diligently to unhinge himself from the affect. Other negative words have come and gone in his life, but for some reason these were ones that created a histamine type reaction in his soul.  -Continue Reading

One Word

2017 has made a splash!  It is well under way.  I’ve long forgotten Christmas and New Years.  This always happens.  Celebrations short-lived and routine returns to a cold and gray January.

A few weeks ago I read some thoughts by a writer.  She does not do resolutions because they don’t seem to stick. I can relate, can’t you?  Instead chooses a new word that she wants to live into for the year.  A word that resonates with her and gives focus and imagination for life.  I like that idea.

So I thought about it for a while and finally landed on my word.

Curious

It seems to encompass the thoughts and feelings inside of me as 2017 begins.   I’m curious about this year, what it will hold?

The world is a noisy place right now.  So many opinions, ideas and perspectives and I wonder how we’ll all get along?

My family has grown another year older. The cusp of new frontiers await.   Where will it take us?

I think about possibility all the time.  “What if” kind of thinking.  What if I can go to….., what if I can experience….., what if I can have….., what if I can create….?

This word curious works for me. A framework which to wrap my day to day.  A filter through which I pass the stuff of my life.

  • When my mind is thick with worry or doubt, I will become curious about how God will help me?
  • When unexpected delays slow me down, I will wonder how to build myself for endurance?
  • When faced with others need, I will ask how I may help?
  • When God talks, I will wonder why He speaks at all?
  • When creation overwhelms me with its’ beauty and power, I’ll wonder why have we been given such a gift?
  • When seasons change and time feels rapid, I’ll ask how gratitude can enrich the transition?
  • When fear is present, I’ll ask its’ name and if it has power over me?
  • When examining the contents of my heart and hands, I’ll wonder what would change if I say yes to inspiration?
  • When God seems silent, I will ask how I may quiet my soul and trust?
  • When mankind isn’t kind at all, I will be curious about what prayers, words or deeds are mine to respond?
  • When I’m stained with guilt, I will inquire about the mysteries of forgiveness?
  • When life shines like the sun and I feel full and free, I’ll ponder the sweetness of happiness and ask how I may hold it in?
  • When the brilliance of humanity or the magnificence of a child take my breath away, I’ll be curious how much wonder can a heart hold?

When I become curious possibility opens. Possibility fuels imagination. Imagination brightens. Enlightens.

What about you?

What word would you choose to help shape your 2017?

I’d love to hear about it.

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I Have Rust

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Rust is ugly.

It’s hard to show my rust.  My husband and I are not rust kind of people.  We both work hard to keep rust scratches and dents from happening. We don’t like rust to show.

Some of you are like, get over yourself, rust is reality, don’t be such a snob. But there are others of you who know exactly how I feel. It’s hard to let the ugly truth just hang out in the open where everyone can see it.

Rust is eventual in the big scheme of things.

We bought our suburban 12 years ago knowing that it would be the car for the long haul.  The vehicle of investment that would facilitate our family need for a long period of time.  The thing is, it’s gone on much longer than either my husband or I had expected.  This is a good thing because we’ve needed it go keep rambling.  As diligently as we’ve tended to its’ engine and body, rust could not be kept from settling in.  Long term vehicle use in a snowy climate is subject to the effects of salt. Rust. It’s inevitable, but not terminal.  The suburban keeps on, keeping on. Doing what she was meant to do.

Symbol of longevity.

The rust on my car tells a story.  It speaks of the many years and miles we’ve shared caring for our family. The rust is her wrinkles. Although it takes a little more effort these days, she has not given up. She has been many places and seen many things. Always an integral part of life.

I notice now more than ever all the ways there are to make ourselves appear younger than we are.  The ways we can cover up rust and not let anyone know we’ve traveled many miles and been many places.  And I ask, why?  Experience is the badge of longevity and wisdom often follows.  Who doesn’t want that?  Who doesn’t want their life to read like a really cool story?

Silent sickness.

The patterns of rust that have formed on my car are in places where water and salt have sat longer than they should. The corrosion of rust began forming a long time ago in these unseen places and they have finally ripped through the steel. We didn’t know these spots on the car were vulnerable, that is why they are vulnerable. We often cannot see our area of weakness until some rust has formed.

Anytime we commit ourselves to loving other people long term, whether it be family, friends, c0-workers, church etc., our vulnerabilities will show up.  We don’t want them to but they will.

Love brings out the good and the weak inside of us.  It’s supposed to.

I said before that I don’t like my rust to show. I really don’t. But I think one of the greatest gifts we receive from being in long term love is accepting the rust in our lives. Not to shame us but to show our humanity and our need for extra TLC in certain places.  Love comes to accept and offer healing rather than destroy our self worth.

Rust sometimes has to form first before we know corrosion has taken place.

How many times have you had the same conversation with a loved one where they claim you “just don’t see it” or “this happens every time”?  You probably have some rust.

Don’t let the rust scare you.

Rust can be problematic but it doesn’t have to be cataclysmic. You can keep rambling down the road with rust as long as you know where it is and are actively tending to it. My tendency is to hide it and not deal with it.

Sometimes you can bounce around from friend or family group, never really letting anyone stay long enough or get close enough to see your rust. It feels comfortable at first but eventually you end up hiding and never get to experience what love and healing can do when they are mixed.

So, I have rust.

I don’t like it.

I don’t want you to see it.

But you have rust too.

Now we are not so alone.

…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God ~ Romans 3:23

Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, ~ John 17:3

 

Struggling with Struggling? Yeah, me too.

Struggle.

A universally relevant word. A word no one wants to experience. At times even a dirty word. But we all know it.  We all feel it.  We all pretend we aren’t doing it.

I don’t know about you but I’m quick to say things like, “I struggled with that but it’s better now.”  Notice the past tense.  It’s ok to say I’ve been there but somehow it’s not always ok to say I’m still there. We hesitate to admit current struggles.

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Struggling, at least in my life experience, has always been something hazy.  Pioneers and trail blazers, medical or academic pursuits, these are struggles of noble fashion. Stories with heroic and progressive outcomes, albeit tragic sometimes, are well loved tales.  But to speak in terms of real time struggling, deep or dark struggling; this is somehow not as acceptable.

Why?

The answer to that is layered and undoubtedly complicated.  Might I suggest my own thoughts?

We don’t like struggle because we think we were never meant to struggle.

Struggling is wrong! At least that is the internal conversation we have with ourselves. We must be a loser if we keep struggling. We must have made some great mistake in the cosmos of life and now we are subject to struggle.  Our struggle is a sign of sin. Sound familiar?

A few years back I was struggling to believe that God wouldn’t fail me.  I didn’t know if I could trust Him completely. The odds I was up against were so big. I didn’t see how I would make it through. I struggled to trust God. My emotions were all over the place.  A very well meaning loved one said to me one day, “You say you trust God, then why are you so afraid? Why do you doubt? You’re not acting like someone who trusts God.”  Ouch.  They had a hard time dealing with my struggle.

I was really angry and hurt at first.  But then I realized that my struggle was too big for them too and they didn’t know what to do with it, or me.

Where struggle can often be a result of our own mistakes it isn’t the only reason we struggle.

To struggle means you are a human being. To struggle means you don’t know everything and it’s uncomfortable. To struggle means you’ve smacked against this broken world.

For some reason we believe that struggle is something we shouldn’t feel after a certain age. Once we jump through various life hoops like; graduating high school or college, buying a home, losing weight, getting engaged, getting a promotion, starting a family etc., we should never struggle again. And when we do, we feel like a failure. But struggle isn’t quarantined to a certain season of life. So we do what we do best.

Run.

Ignore.

Hide.

Cover it up.

Succumb.

Guilt settles in when we struggle. We don’t want anyone to know about it. It’s so hard to talk because we don’t know how to talk about it. Shame shadows us and impairs our ability to see truth or friendship.

We don’t want to be seen.  We don’t want to see others. Struggle will do that.

Messages the world sends are; you are living right if you are struggle-free. Don’t get me wrong, avoiding mistakes, treating people well and lovingly to avoid unnecessary struggle, is wise. I’m not talking about being careless or stupid. But to lump all struggle in the mistake or “sin” category is naive.   We will never learn to move through struggle if we do not realize struggle is normal.  Not something to hastily judge or ridicule. That just makes us want to hide more. Regardless of why we struggle it can make us feel like a prisoner.

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Nobody wants to feel this way.

Struggle is a symptom that everything is not as right as it could be.  It’s a signal that something needs attention or loving care. It’s a catalyst to exercise faith in a very uncertain and confusing world.

Just because I wanted to believe God would help me didn’t mean I was able to believe.  That’s what struggle is.  Not being able to do something you want to do.

It’s easy to get lost living in the struggle. We begin telling ourselves, “Struggling is a sign of weakness. We shouldn’t struggle.  Why do I feel this way?  I shouldn’t have to deal with this. Nobody else deals with this. Nobody wants one likes to be around me.” Have you caught yourselves thinking this way?

I’ll admit.  I cave when I struggle.  I give in too quickly. Then, the struggle usually gets bigger.  But I’m learning to practice. Practicing what it means to be a human being.  Flawed, unsure but growing and learning.  Mistake ridden, wanting to believe but looking to God for answers.  When you and I accept that we will struggle we actually have a shot at getting through our struggles.  When we ignore them, they grow.

Struggle can be an invitation to more.  More learning, more practicing truth even when it doesn’t feel good, more grace, more conversation, more prayer, more patience, more encouragement.

Struggling doesn’t have to define us but it can design us.

Paul was a man in the Bible who understood the nature of struggle.  He writes of his struggles with himself and with a condition that wouldn’t go away. (Click on the links to read for yourself.)  He chose to let his struggle design the kind of man he wanted to be.  His struggles were real and he spoke openly about them.  With the admission of his struggle he incorporated a perspective that helped him get through:

  1. He shared his struggle openly. He doesn’t hide it. To struggle is NORMAL and no one is immune.
  2. He points to God. He recognizes that God sees and knows exactly what he is going through and hasn’t left him to struggle pointlessly. God will not leave us alone in our struggle either.
  3. He surrenders his struggle to God. He puts his faith into practice. He activates belief that God loves him and doesn’t allow the struggle to define him. We can follow God, even when it’s really hard.  Our character can define us instead of our struggle.

Struggling does not have to be the end of us. It can be a beginning of something new and transforming. No, it’s not fun to live with. There are no quick fixes. Yes, we should avoid unnecessary struggle. There still isn’t a good reason to be stupid.  Will others be ok with our struggle? Probably not all the time. But struggle doesn’t have to define us. It can be a beginning to “more”.

Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom. ~Psalm 51:6