Circle of Friends · Circle of Life · Experiences · Generations · Gifts · Grace · Growth · Healing · Hope · Lessons Learned · life happens... · Loss · Miracles · My Journey · Prayer · Prayers · Quiet Pleasures · Seasons · Standing in the Gap · Struggles · The Journey · Uncategorized

Resiliency and Growth Over Time…

today, tomorrow & every day  – THOUGHTS ON LIVING A BRAVE AND REAL AND GORGEOUS LIFE.  Written by M.H. Clark and illustrated by Jill Labieniec.

Here are my continued thoughts on this amazing book I received as a gift.

She hadn’t always been this way.                                                                                                                         She hadn’t always been as strong and resilient and brave and joyful.

Like any garden or work of art, it had taken her a long time to make things the way there were.   To learn.                                                                                                                                                                                  To arrange.                                                                                                                                                                    To rearrange.

Sometimes, she grew as such in one year as others do in five.                                                                                      It showed in her spirit.                                                                                                                                                                 In her laugh.                                                                                                                                                                          It looked and it sounded like wisdom.                                                                                                                         And she liked it that way.

 53 years.  I’ve come along way. The change really started noticeably happening when I turned 50.  But seeds were planted long before that.  Life events that required me to be strong and resilient and brave… and joyful…regardless.

At times I stayed the same for many years.  Other times I grew more quickly.  I can look back now and see those moments in time.

  • Moving away from everyone and everything I knew and loved, to teach in California at the ripe old age of 23!
  • Moving back home to WA to pursue a job near family and not having success… back to CA I went!
  • Living alone in a strange house during a large earthquake.
  • Getting married at the age of 34… step-parenting with an ex that hated me!
  • Moving to a new city in CA and getting a new job… starting over.
  • Caring for my step daughter as she recovered from a horrific accident and a traumatic brain injury. (This one made me brave and strong and resilient and selfless)
  • Divorce… everything I ever believed about myself was challenged and questioned.
  • Sold my condo and moved back to WA.
  • New job… again.
  • Bought a house on my own.
  • Married the love of my life… step parent to three young children.
  • Lost both parents and one of my sisters.
  • Turned 50 and said, “The hell with it! I’m done trying to please everyone!”

Now I continue on this journey to live a brave and real and gorgeous life!  I’ve got a lot of scars and old wounds to heal, as well as many wonderful memories to hold on to! I’ve listened to many people who have shared wisdom and counsel with me. I’ve shared my experiences with many… passing along the same. I’ve also talked less and listened more. I was recently told by someone very special to me that talking to me brought her peace. That must be what wisdom looks and sounds like. Jesus in skin.

How have you changed over time? What has happened your life to make you strong and resilient?

Cats · Circle of Life · Death · Grace · Growth · Healing · Hope · Lessons Learned · life happens... · Loss · My Journey · Pets · Struggles · The Journey · Uncategorized · Vacation/Questions to Ponder

Grief Revisited…

It takes only a song, a smell, a memory shared on FB, a sound, a picture, a date on the calendar… and the grief comes flooding back. Fresh as the day it began.

Today was just that… a date on the calendar. Four months to the day. A time on the clock.  It happened right now. The emotions and sadness and heaviness surfaced back up to the top of the heap.  I’ve worked so hard to let them go… to quell the sadness… to replace the sorrow with sweet memories that make me smile instead of cry. Her reminders around the house have brought me peace and comfort… until today.

Grief doesn’t happen in a straight line.

Those were the best words ever shared with me by a counselor I sat with for a year after my divorce. And how true they were. I’ve shared them with many friends over the past ten years as they’ve walked through the various stages of grief.

Today I was caught off guard and had to practice what I’ve been preaching!

Four months ago the tears were daily… many times a day.  That tapered down to once a day and then several times a week.  Eventually the tears have subsided; replaced by a smile and a little whisper that I miss her.

This afternoon felt raw and fresh.  Tears. That lost feeling deep in my soul. How has it been four months?  It feels like it just happened.

Tonight I’m upstairs preparing a space for a new little kitten (or two!) to join our household. It scares me to turn them loose in our huge old house so I’m creating a space that is smaller and more contained.  Eventually they can graduate to the big house!

As I’m sitting here in my rocking chair that Abigail and I spent many hours sharing, I’m having a moment.  I feel like the widow that visits her late husbands grave asking him to release her to move on and love again. It sounds crazy, but it’s real.  I am, in a sense, asking Abigail to release me to love another kitten or two. Up until now it’s felt like betrayal.  How can I love another cat like I’ve loved Abigail for 16 years?

Tonight’s grief revisited has been a blessing.  It purged another layer of grief and nudged me to begin to prepare for new life in our home.  Once I have the space prepared and the essentials purchased and staged, I will begin the search.  I know God will put the right little eyes and ears in my path at just the right moment.  Our hearts will connect and a new story will begin.

Abigail’s story will not be forgotten.  There will never be another Bubba Girl, but there will be new memories to make and a new one to love and grow with. It’s time. This grief revisited has opened a new door of possibilities and adventures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas · Healing · Seasons · Struggles · The Journey

Honest and Real and Raw…

Christmas letters.  That one time each year that you can summarize all of the fabulous things that have happened in your life over the past 12 months in one cheery, perfect message!

Susie made the Honor Roll… again… and had the lead in the school broadway production.  Jimmy was voted MVP in each of his 5 Club Sports travel teams.  Your spouse is the best thing that ever happened to you!  The family Disney Cruise was the highlight as you celebrated 30 blissful years of marriage!  Even your family dog was top in his obedience classes.  Ahhh, life is good…. no, according to your letter… perfect!

Can you feel the sarcasm dripping from my words?  If you are a cheery Christmas Letter writer, I apologize.  There was once a time in my life that I was able to write a letter that summed it all up in a perfect package.  Once upon a time.  Then life began happening and I found it more and more difficult to write a letter…eventually stopping altogether.

Do you really want to know how one’s year has gone?  Do you really want the honest truth about each family member and their struggles?  I’m always amazed that on an 8.5 x 11 sheet of cheery Christmas paper, a story can be told that paints a picture of perfection… even when it hasn’t been.

Being that person that wears her heart on her shirt sleeve and is as transparent as one could possibly be, I am no longer able to compose a Christmas letter.  If I did, you would immediately remove me from your Christmas card mailing list and would want to “unfriend” me from sending one to you!  At this point in my life, an honest compilation of our year would be too raw and real.

I joke that FB is like a 27/7/365 Christmas letter!  Amazing family celebrations… fabulous vacations… beautiful home remodels… daily reports of the many things accomplished… perfect children and grandchildren.  I’m guilty at times, for I only like to post positive things or words that encourage.  I don’t generally air my dirty laundry publicly.  When you post a cheery family photo the comments come back that you look so happy and your life is so great!  Really?

My recently posted family selfie at the Thanksgiving table portrayed us all as smiling and happy!  It must have been a beautiful day!  Well, there were moments that were sweet and then there were the other parts that were amazingly stressful and hard.  But the family photo spoke a different story.

What do we want people to really know about us?  Do we want people to know that our life is difficult and full of heartache?  Or do we want people to think that we’ve got it all together?  When you ask someone how they are, do you really want to know?

This Advent season I’ve been thinking about the extraordinary thing that happened to an ordinary woman 2000+ years ago in that plain stable.  What would Mary and Joseph’s Christmas letter have said?  Her journey was anything but easy and beautiful.  They traveled long and far to find themselves without a place to rest while Mary gave birth.  No resort upgrades for them.  No room service or WiFi.  Raw, real and full of grace.  A few visitors.  No family selfie to remember the event.

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I’m desperately trying to find balance in this world of social media.  I want to share in the joys and celebrations of my friends and family without feeling “less than” when I’m done.  I did not take a fancy vacation this summer, but found myself posting river pictures every weekend in hopes that you would all see that my life is not a total loss!  How sad is that?  While my Thanksgiving day was not at all what I’d hoped for, I forced a family photo so you could all think that my life is “normal” just like yours.  It’s not.  It’s the life I’ve been blessed with, but it’s not like most others.  We struggle and grapple and pray… every day.  Christmas this year will not be what my heart longs for, but the photo’s I post of my decorations will lead you to believe otherwise.  Again… how sad is that?

My hope this Advent is that I will not try to be anything but who I really am.  My cries to my Savior are honest and real and raw. I long for honest and real and raw relationships with people.  As the year comes to an end, I will once again re-evaluate whether or not I want to continue with FB.  I long for that connection, but need to figure out how to stay connected without losing my perspective on life.

My prayer for all of us is that this season can be a time to be honest and real and raw with ourselves and those we love. I am going to believe in God’s grace for those things that may seem impossible.

Healing · Hope · Lessons Learned · life happens... · Questions to Ponder · Struggles · The Journey

Beautiful…

What defines beauty?

What qualities deem one beautiful?

Recently on FB, there is a game (for lack of a better term) going around.  If you are tagged, you are asked to post five photo’s of yourself in which you feel beautiful.  I have only seen a few people take on the challenge.  Is that because it is new and not challenged many women yet?  Or is it because women don’t feel deserving of posting photo’s in which they feel beautiful?

What makes a person beautiful?  Money?  Status?  Fame?  Hair color?  Character?  Size?

I posed a question to my FB friends recently. What do you think of when you hear the word beautiful in regards to a person? What is your definition of beautiful? Be honest! Go!

I received many replies, and for that I am grateful.  I wish I could post them all.  Here are a few of what people shared…

Fruits of the Spirit, love, joy , peace, patience, gentleness, self-control, all wrapped in a package of thankfulness. A beautiful person is born from times of trial that forge and season their hearts.

It radiates from the inside out. Someone who is beautiful, smiles and makes you smile, just because you are inspired through them. You can feel their beauty, not just see it.

I believe a beautiful person has all these qualities, but doesn’t “know” it; humble and selfless, gives to others even when they don’t have anything to give but a smile and their love.

Balanced in care for others and self. Gentle in spirit.

Someone, who even in the midst of ugliness and pain, manages to shine!

Someone who has joy in their life. It shows from the inside out!

I noticed as I read each person’s reply, that no one really made it about physical appearance.  It was about character and heart and attitude.  Yet, our society has made it all about appearance.

Our poor teens don’t stand a chance.  I have two stunningly beautiful step daughters… absolutely gorgeous.  Both of them struggle with being pretty enough.  They embody physical beauty associated with appearance.  Our world has made it very difficult. Beauty is about size, shape, hair color, skin tone, clothing, money/status… must I go on?  This breaks my heart.  We have a generation growing up that has missed the part about  “beauty forged from times of trial.”  Or “balanced in care for others and self.”  This generation does not think of others.  They’ve been trained to look out for number one!  And being beautiful is on the top of the list.

I know in my head that beauty is not about physical appearance.  Yes, there are people out there that are truly “beautiful” in a physical sense.  Our eyes are drawn to them.  We often compare ourselves to them, whether we know it or not.

While I KNOW that beauty goes beyond physical, I don’t always believe it for myself.  For others, absolutely!  I can see beauty in each one of you!  I can convince you that you are THE MOST beautiful person out there!  But when I turn the tables and see myself in that mirror, all that I know about what truly makes one beautiful goes out the window!

Am I going to be chosen for a cover spot on a magazine?  NO!  Do I turn heads as I walk down the street!  Oh gracious no!  Will I make the list for the most beautiful people?  Mum, NO!  Thank goodness!

I KNOW that my beauty comes from deep within and it was given to me and is nurtured by my heavenly Father.  I am infinitely precious to Him.  How very much He loves me.  He is with me.  He has cried tears and rejoiced with me.  I am worth it to Him.  I am beautiful.

Now to get my head and my heart to agree on this issue!  I am going to find five photo’s that I feel beautiful in.  I don’t plan on sharing them, but it is a challenge I want to take on.  I’ve got layer upon layer of issues in my life that coupled with the word beautiful, cause great agony and heartache.  I’ve got a long way to go.

My beloved spoke and said to me, arise, my darling, my beautiful one, come with me.        (Song of Solomon 2:10)

Circle of Friends · Gifts · Grace · Healing · Hope · Lessons Learned · life happens... · Prayers · Uncategorized

The Mix of Life’s Emotions…

Social media is changing the way we live. The way we view life. The way we view people around us. We all want to present well. We generally don’t tweet or post the ugly stuff in our lives. We post the good stuff. The happy times. That one photograph that can make everyone think we’ve got it all together. I don’t think most of us do this intentionally. It comes naturally. We want people to see the good in our lives, not the struggles.

Everyone has a story. We all carry joys and burdens around with us each day. Some with greater joy and less heartache. Others with more heartache than joy. Some of us have the ability to keep that heartache tucked away neatly so others may not see it. Some buried so deeply they themselves don’t even see it. Others wear their hearts on their shirtsleeves, walking around transparent to those around them.

Life is hard. Life is amazing. Life is scary. Life is exciting. Life is full of hurt. Life is full of love. Life is difficult relationships. Life is incredible relationships.

It’s nearly impossible to always live as if life if great, grand and glorious! To wear that smile and attitude as if we’ve got everything in control is a burden in itself.

The flip side of that is that it’s exhausting to live with the hurts and trials of life dominating our world. Walking around with the glass half empty.

Our lives are a mix of struggles and joy. We’ve got to embrace them as they come and not try to hide or bury them. Exposing our heart a little more can allow not only ourselves to embrace the journey, but let others join us, so together WE can walk the path.

Life is full of emotions that collide in the moment. This can be a beautiful thing if we let them.

Sadness and gratitude.
Grief and grace.
Pain and beauty.

One without the other can be overwhelming. Finding gratitude amidst sadness brings hope. Receiving and extending grace as we grieve is healing. Finding beauty in our pain strengthens our endurance.

We must live an authentic life. People want to see our true hearts and struggles, not just our best FB world! We are called to reach out to others in our time of need and in theirs. Isolation is lonely. Fellowship is glorious and healing. Finding a community of people to come alongside and share this journey we are on. This journey that is full sadness and gratitude… grief and grace… pain and beauty.

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Healing · life happens... · Prayers · Questions to Ponder · Seasons · Struggles · The Journey

So Why the Yellow Towel?

I took it from the rag pile.  A small butter yellow bath hand towel.  Faded from years of use and occasional bleaching.  The edges were tattered.  It would be perfect to wipe down the newly cleaned bathroom fixtures.

I walked into the bathroom and laid the yellow towel on the counter.  Suddenly the memories came flooding back.  A strong wave of emotion came over me.  It was 1997 and I was in my house on Butterscotch Lane.

As clear as day, I remembered all of the towels we received as wedding gifts.  Our towel colors were dark blue, butter yellow, and white.  The yellow were my favorites.  I kept those out for my bathroom.

By this point I’m a puddle and can’t even think about cleaning.  I’m transported back in time.  I am newly married and setting up house.  Everything was new.  I am beginning my forever life with the man I married.  The man with whom I’d grow old.

It seems like just yesterday that I was a blushing bride walking down the path to say my vows at the beautiful Apple Farm.  At that moment in time, everything seemed perfect.  August 2, 1997.

I’m standing in the bathroom with this damn yellow towel and felt the urge to do the math.  I was married for the first time 16+ years ago.  Sixteen years?????  Where has time gone?  It was just yesterday.  I was 34 and had the rest of my life ahead of me.

Another story for another day, but by 2006 I was packing up those yellow towels and moving back home… without my husband.  He decided he’d rather do life alone.  So, off I go to begin again and start over.  In tow were a few things from that eight year journey.

Today I’m happily married to a man I fell in love with many, many years ago.  It’s been nine years since my divorce.  Plenty of time to get over it and leave it behind.  Slowly, the things that came north with me have gotten broken or given away.  The latest was the last of my crystal ice tea glasses.  While it was only a glass, there were memories behind it.  Needless to say, I had a small moment of emotion over that one.

So why the yellow towel?  What did it trigger that brought emotions up so fresh and raw?  How can a simple  towel take me back in time?  Then the questions start… Why?  What if?  Do I have regrets?  Will I ever truly be over him?  If a stupid towel takes me down, imagine if I were to see him in person?  Would I be strong enough?

Emotions are crazy.  Memories are powerful.  Feelings are deep.  Those three together can really reek some havoc. I guess today I needed to stop and process a bit more of something from my past.  While I don’t live in the past, it still creeps up.  So my little yellow towel, not only will wipe clean the bathroom, but will help me wipe clean a trail of emotions and memories that need to be sorted through, weeded out, and left behind… one more time.

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towel and heart

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and now to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”       Jeremiah 29:11

God’s got my heart right where He wants it.  Currently, it’s nestled in the middle of an old yellow hand towel.  I have to be willing and open to let Him use simple things like a tattered old towel to grow and change and heal me. No one ever said it would be easy.