Monthly Archives: January 2014
I found them hidden away, in a dusty old lockbox that hadn’t been opened for years. I knew they were somewhere, but I had no idea where. A month-long clean out of my closet revealed great treasures, among them, five diaries I’d kept from 7th through 12th grade.
Long before Facebook or Twitter, long before any blogging platform was conceived, there were these old fashioned things called diaries where crazy sentimental people documented every day events. Their deepest, darkest thoughts and feelings were revealed in the forever locked-up recesses of pages for no one to view but themselves. Ya, believe it or not, I was one of those crazy diary keepers.
I didn’t read every word of those five diaries. That would take a day or two. But I learned a lot about myself from what I did read. So how would I summarize my discoveries? The person I am today is fundamentally the same person I was 20-30 years ago. When I step back and make broad sweeping generalizations, it’s pretty remarkable how much I HAVEN’T changed. And it’s phenomenal to see how my past reflected my present.
Curious? Here’s what I found…
So ya, let’s just get that out there. I’ve always been an overachiever, striving to do my personal best. I have to ask myself, why would a 7th grader feel the need to document her grades in her diary if it weren’t internally driven? My only answer is, it’s just who I am, I guess. I want to do well, I’ve always wanted to do well, so be it. Looks like I’ll have to accept that as something that was in me from the start.
I’ve always been detail oriented. In this entry, which I vividly recall keeping for weeks, maybe months, I documented every single shirt a boy-crush of mine owned. What was the point of documenting every single shirt a human being owned, I’m not sure except pure teenage infatuation. The only other explanation is that I am and always have been a detail oriented person. I notice everything, and my brain documents it all, whether I write it down or not. Yep, edging on obsessive, that’s the real, hard truth of who I am.
I like to share my insights, if nothing else for my future self to remember and reflect on. There’s something about the way my brain was wired from the start – I make observations about life, and then I write them down for future reference. In this case, hey, maybe that advice from my teenage self will become valuable four years from now?!
Apparently, I’ve always needed an outlet for processing and documenting my days. The simplicity of this entry tells it all. (And no, I have no idea what the 3 days refers to! Apparently it was important.)
These emotionally charged entries really got me. While the details of what I’d say today would be different, the general feeling is still the same. Ya, still wish people would say what they really think. Ya, still wish people would stop putting off all the things they should do today instead of tomorrow. Yep, still hate it when people are judged by their cover. And yep, still believe the world would be a much better place if people accepted themselves and one another for who they truly are.
This was a power packed page! Where to start? Let’s just forget that first paragraph – complicated, awkward?! And did you note the number one New Year’s resolution from that year? “To be myself (which covers a lot).” Um. Ya. Didn’t I just kick off this month, January 2014, indicating that same desire (re-read When Becoming Yourself Means More Than Just Bit of Bling)? Maybe it’s time I actually met that goal! And what about the “I really want to be friendly to everybody and make them feel their best. Not that I didn’t do that before, but I really want to do it now.” Interesting. For some reason, this sentence stopped me dead in my tracks when I read it the first time. It tells me there’s something about the way God made me that makes me want to help others feel their best, help them see what’s unique and beautiful about themselves. It’s part of the big-picture goal for my work here on the blog.
OK. I’m a little embarrassed to share this one because it’s a little high and mighty, as if I’m SOOOO beyond high school I can’t stand it. But it provides insight into something I’ve felt most of my grown up life, and that is, I’ve always felt much older than my real age (and LOOKED much younger than my real age). My mom recently reminded me I was walking by 9 months and completely potty trained by 18 months. So I’ve battled this “old soul” feeling for a long time. Perhaps I’ve been given this old soul for a reason?
Fascinating. This is probably the most eye opening diary entry I read. My blog vision page is due for a MAJOR re-vamp, but if you read it as-is today, you will discover the basic vision for this blog is what I wrote in my diary entry 20 years ago. Now if that isn’t telling of God’s working over time in one individual’s heart, I don’t know what is. Why did I have such a strong desire to write that article about lonely, separated, ignored people? I have absolutely no recollection. And why, today, would I state the main purpose of my blog is to provide a voice for people and stories that would otherwise go unheard, untold? These are the little things that make me believe God is real, His desires for my life, unwavering.
So thank you for joining me on this scavenger hunt of a diary discovery! It was a little random, a little kooky, and a little unexpected, but I’m hoping it was as interesting for you as it was fun for me. If you were one of those crazy diary keepers back when, maybe you, too, will take a second look at the words you kept secret. I pray you’ll find hidden treasures that’ll help uncover more of the real you.
Four days turned into 11 days of the most peace and joy I’d experienced in a long, long time.
But inevitably, things went south on day 12.
It’s not like day 12 came and BAM, everything was bad. That would definitely be exaggerating! Reality was, not-so-fun things kept popping up one after the other, and all combined together, they set me back more than I would have guessed.
On Wednesday, I got a flat tire. The baby was with me, it was 1 degree outside, and since I didn’t know how to install a spare, I had to wait 1 hour and 40 minutes for a tow truck to bring me to the tire station.
On Thursday, my husband left for a 4-day business trip after having already worked 7 weeks straight like a MAD MAN.
On Thursday night, baby was up nearly all night long with a cough and runny nose, crying her eyes out next to me in bed.
On Friday night, I found crusty, dried-up yellow stuff in baby’s ear.
On Saturday, I gave baby a bath only to discover blood and puss coming out of that same ear as I was drying her. A double ear infection is what she had, one of the eardrums ruptured.
On Sunday, I woke up at 5:15 a.m. to get myself and three kids ready to leave the house by 6:20 a.m. to get to a 5th grade boys basketball tournament one hour away by 7:30 a.m. Games 1 and 2 were fine, manageable, tolerable. By game 3, ya, baby and I were on the verge of losing it. The mobile phone car charger we’d bought cheap on eBay wasn’t working. Without GPS, I took the least efficient route home, making it a 1 hour 20-minute drive through snow-blustery winds. And oh ya, I forgot, I’d officially become sick, so everything about me was wearing thin.
On Monday, school was called off for the 4th day this winter due to dangerously cold temperatures, and school was already called off again for Tuesday. All three kids were at home, all day, inside, with nothing to do, and I was sick and completely worn out.
After the two oldest had gotten in a fight, chasing each other around the house yelling stuff and grabbing at each other continuously, I yelled from the couch “STOP IT! YOU NEED TO STOP IT NOW, OR YOU’RE GOING DOWNSTAIRS TO FIGHT BY YOURSELVES! I DON’T FEEL WELL. YOU NEED TO BE QUIET RIGHT NOW!”
Where the Wild Things Are played in the background. Ya, it was pretty much just me watching the movie at that point. Baby was sleeping and the Wild Things were, well, being Wild Things.
They calmed down and I continued my on again, off again watching of the movie while trying to get a little much needed rest.
A half hour later, my daughter approached with a box of tea I’d purchased while life was feeling more peaceful and joyful. “Can I make you some tea, mom? It’s for stress and tension.” (Ya, I knew I’d need that sooner or later.) “Yes,” I said. “That would be awesome. Thank you for being so thoughtful.”
I continued to lie on the couch, all snuggled in tight with the last afghan ever knit by my late grandmother, and waited for my tea.
A couple minutes later, after a little direction from a distance, she arrived with the cup I needed more desperately than I knew. I took the cup, tested a sip, and gave that Wild Thing a big hug. “Thank you, that was so kind. You’re such a sweet girl.”
She let me rest in quiet while I drank.
The Wild Things agreed amongst themselves “Mom’s stressed today.” I explained, “it’s not so much stress as it is I’m not feeling well at all, and I really need some rest and quiet.”
Husband was home from his business trip, and I’d planned on isolating myself in the bedroom all night long when he got home from work. I’d planned on making myself a cup of that tea, but realized – receiving that cup as a heart-felt gift from my daughter was much more fulfilling than serving it up to myself.
When daddy came home and I was once again on the couch, he knew “If mom’s on the couch, that means she’s really not feeling well.” So I let him take all three kids to McDonalds. The Wild Thing that gave me tea took my order on a cartoon notepad before she left. Grilled chicken sandwich. Fries. Diet Dr. Pepper.
I got myself a hot shower, lay down in bed under the big fuzzy blanket, and waited in peace and silence until they came back home.
McDonalds was accompanied by the Bachelor wedding of Sean and Catherine, which was followed by another cup of hot tea delivered by the Wild Thing that was.
I glanced again at the tag attached to the tea bag.
The power of love is infinite.
When she delivered the tea, I’d told her this Bachelor wasn’t appropriate for kids, that she needed to go downstairs and spend some time with daddy. But she came back an hour later, “I just wanna spend some time with you.” “Lie down,” I said. “Lie down right here next to me.”
The cares of the day washed away in the moments before she fell asleep. It was in the slowing down, the caring for one another, the receiving of gifts unexpected, where peace and joy were found again.
I’d found myself there on that couch a couple hours prior. The two oldest were still at school, the barely-a-baby-anymore was napping. There was an hour, at best, before the noise would drown out the quiet again. So I plopped myself on the couch with my laptop. The screen was blank. Time stood still. I looked up, around, pondered many things. Deep questions about the meaning of life surfaced in those moments of quiet. What is the purpose of my life? How can I strip away the excess, the clutter, the unnecessary? How do I go about freeing space and time to make room for the filling of my soul? Why have I been given all this while others live in pieced-together mud, metal and sticks? My eyes were open as wide as they’d been, and I knew, it’s possible to live fully alive, receive without question every beautiful thing under the big, bright sun.
Two hours later, sunlight streamed in on that same spot. The 11-year-old tween played Minecraft to my left, the 8-year-old had gone to play with a friend, which left me and barely-a-baby-anymore with nothing to do but listen to her favorite song, “Mahna Mahna,” on my iPhone.
I sat her in my lap sideways so I could see her still-baby face. Sun came through the window behind her. Her hair glistened, glowed. Snot ran down her button nose and I could see every fuzzy baby hair on her face.
I looked down. Her baby feet were right at my hands. I grabbed them one at a time, one for each hand. She didn’t seem to notice, she didn’t seem to mind. I kissed those still-baby toes, breathed in the unforgettable fragrance of baby feet that’d been in socks all day. A tiny chip of pink nail polish on her big toe reminded me she’s not going to be this little for long. A mama of three knows truth the third time around.
I watched her push the buttons, she’d found a new song. Away went the phone, hidden forever behind my back.
I lifted her in one little swoop and laid her on my legs. Her whole baby body still fit comfortably between my knees and my waist. She bent at the hips, lifted her legs like an infant-baby, and there at my hands were her feet. I grabbed those feet, used them to cover my face, and peered through to the sliver of her baby face that remained. My eye met hers. I broke her feet open wide and we played peek-a-boo many times ’round. A mama of three knows peek-a-boo feet is for babies, babies alone.
We giggled and wiggled in joy and delight. I had triple my fair share of kissing baby toes in the sunlight.
I knew this game would only last so long. So I turned her again, cradled her tight like a baby, tickled up her belly, all the way to her neck. She giggled. I rocked her in tight. It was a beautiful dance, this tickling, giggling, rocking, tightening all close.
Before I released her baby body, I cradled her tight, rocked her like I did 12-15-18-24 months ago. And I saw the baby, the toddler, the big girl. I saw myself, my husband, I saw the woman she’ll be. I took it all in, this holding tight, cradling my barely-a-baby-anymore girl. Because a mama of three knows, it won’t be long before that baby body’ll turn big – the lifting, carrying, cradling will be all but a memory captured in the recesses of her heart.
Six hours later, I find myself on that same spot on the couch, alone. The questions, the ponderings about life remain. The light no longer shines in. The night is dark and the wind howls in the polar vortex of the outdoors. But this mama of three knows – kissing baby toes in the sunlight was a gift, a moment received by her soul, given to be shared, so ALL would know – life is fleeting, grab the moment, every moment, the purpose of your life is here, now.
For six or seven weeks, her husband had been working like a dog. Eat, sleep, work was his way of life. And it wasn’t going to end for another two weeks, at least.
She’d been watching the kids and working herself, and she hadn’t forgotten for a second – this was the month she was going to take care of herself.
So she needed to get out. She was desperate to get away, alone, by herself. This was the day, the one night to treat herself to her favorite things.
Two dear ones had given her gift cards from her favorite store, White House Black Market, for Christmas. They knew her well enough to skip all the other stores and go straight to the one she loved.
But for her, this accepting of truth, this accepting of self hadn’t been so easy, so obvious. Somehow, somewhere along the way, she decided she’d deny her own identity, she’d try to be someone else. She’d scoured the malls in search of the perfect orange carpet dress, only to find herself back there, at home base. Still, she didn’t learn. Months later, she thought other stores would fit the bill for family pictures, well, let’s just say, better. She bought and returned handfuls of clothes from everywhere else but there, only to find herself back there, at the place she loves.
Gift cards to her one and only favorite store were the perfect opportunity. She was just becoming settled in this who she is and who she wants to be. She was ready to turn the page. For no longer did she want to pretend, no longer did she want to search and yearn to be something she wasn’t. She just wanted to go, move beyond the things that held her back, and just be who she was created to be.
So she walked right in to that White House Black Market store. She pulled everything and anything that spoke to her that night – dressy black tunics, gray and tan jeans embellished just right, a silky floral white blouse with long flowing sleeves, dresses and tanks, sweaters, and black and white patterned bustiers.
As she tried on the clothes, she thought for a moment it was all too much, it wasn’t going to work this time. She wanted to run, take it all off, leave empty handed. Because she felt a little fat. She was 5 pounds over her ideal weight, after all. And who did she think she was? A mom of three, works part-time and blogs? Why would she need any of these fancy clothes anyway? Adolescent memories flooded back in. “Why are you wearing tights with dress shorts in the middle of winter?” She wanted to leave.
But she stayed. Because she knew better.
She’d felt like an odd ball all the way through. She’s the one who wore dressy flats when everyone else wore tennis shoes. She’s the one who dressed up when everyone else came in jeans in sweatshirts. She’s the one who stayed in her “church clothes” and didn’t think twice until someone mentioned it to her, while everyone else changed the second they got home.
It took her years and years and years to realize – she wasn’t the elusive “everyone else.”
The messy, beautiful truth of it was that she always knew who she was. God placed that deep in her core. She wanted to deny it, deny the beautiful work he’d set in her from the beginning. Truth was, something in her wanted to deny just about everything He created her to be.
But the time had come. There, in that dressing room, she decided – I’m not running away from who I am. I’m breaking free from the lies I’ve believed so long. I’m good enough, I’m not too much. I’m settling in to who I am, once and for all.
So she gathered up all those black and white things that didn’t work, and hung them back up in that dressing room.
She looked at what was left after all the trying and denying.
She’d found one shirt that was right. In fact, it was just right.
The black jeans were right, too. She’d second guessed herself, had to come out of the closet, look in the mirror again, and stand before another’s affirmations to realize they were, truly, just right.
And the blue jeans, it was just a matter of size. 8 Regular, too long. 10 Short, too big. She just needed the one that would fit her like a glove, 8 Short. Only, they didn’t have 8 Short. She accepted the clerk’s offer to call, the perfect fit found at a nearby store.
So she bought the shirt and the black jeans, thanked the soul kindly and made her way to the second White House Black Market.
It seemed silly, this tending to self, this driving miles for the sake of a pair of blue jeans that fit just so. But she did it anyway, because she needed this tending for her soul.
The blue jeans were waiting. They fit just right.
She’d allowed herself to look once more when she came in. Why not, she thought? Money remained on the cards, and this was the only place it was going to be spent. She’d found a gem of a shirt, one she hadn’t seen at the other store. Black with a big white flower to one side. Medium was too big, Small was just right. The woman with the accent smiled and agreed boldly.
She bought the blue jeans that fit like a glove and the black shirt with the big white flower. $14 remained on the cards. Perfect for spring, when things are made new, she thought.
This place, this White House Black Market, where who she was, who she is, and who she wants to be all come together just so? It’s helped her realize – it’s okay to be you. It’s okay to step into your identity, the truth of who you are. It’s okay, it’s truly okay.
As she pulled the items out of the bags, she noticed it all – the attention to detail, the simple classic design, the sparkles, bold patterns and clean lines, the black and white and even the gray grace she needs more of in-between, the comfort, the familiarity, the way all the pieces go together and make perfect sense. It reminded her of who she was, who she is, and who she wants to be. The 11-year-old girl, the 15-year-old adolescent, the making her way 23-year-old, and the 37-year-old woman all came together. And she knew, it was good.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:14
The peace and joy caught me by surprise. Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday too, for a grand total of four days of more peace and joy than I’ve experienced in a long time.
It’s not like I was giddy, off the wall for four days. There were certainly troubles and stress to be had. Most likely, nobody even noticed the peace and joy but me. But I’m telling you, when it’s rare for you to admit with all honesty that ONE day’s been a good day, then it’s a real rarity for FOUR IN A ROW to be good days.
And then I got to thinking. There has to be something to this peace and joy.
What’s the “magic formula” for good days? Giving and Receiving.
I started to write all the things that happened over the course of four days and realized, I’ve been on the receiving end of all of these events but one. I’ve spent a lifetime giving and doing, but I’ve NOT been receiving. Well, at least not very well. I’ve been so bound and determined to do what’s right for everyone else and in everyone’s else’s eyes, that I’ve never opened myself enough to fully receive the gifts God wants to bestow upon me.
Let me share what four days of peace and joy looks like. If you’re anything like me, you need to know this NOW.
But before I start, let me point out that in order for this formula to work, there MUST be one who gives and another who receives. This giving and receiving is mutual, from the heart, not contrived but completely authentic, and ultimately beneficial to both parties.
So here goes…14 ways to give more generously and receive more freely in 2014.
1) Look someone in the eyes and ask “How are you doing?” Only this time, really mean it. Don’t move on until you have their real answer. If there are tears, so be it. You’ve done your work. You’ve actually asked them how they’re doing. And now you know. Be glad you asked, because they really needed you to ask. If you’re on the once in a year receiving end of this question, seize the opportunity. Let your guard down. Be real. Take a chance. Allow yourself to be heard.
2) Ask for help. Just straight out ask for help. Do you need support, prayer? Then ask for it. You might just be surprised at all the people who are willing to extend a hand. Accept their offerings as gifts.
3) Tell someone you’ve been praying for them, and really mean it. That means you actually need to start praying for someone, keep praying, and then pray some more. Do it in the quiet, don’t make a big announcement. After a while, when the time is just right, tell them. Tell them anything like “You’ve been on my prayer list since ____ and will continue to be to the end of my earthly days.” Catch them off guard, assure them, then go pray some more.
4) When times are tough, and when times aren’t even that tough, make a meal for someone. If you’re fortunate enough to be on the receiving end? Say yes. Just say yes. And thank you very much. Days later, when you notice the cake plate’s empty but one piece? Put that last piece on a plate and wash the cake pan. Your act of kindness won’t go unnoticed.
5) Offer to watch someone’s kids so they can get their hair cut. And if you’re presented with the opportunity? Seize the moment. Let them take your coat, get you a water, hang your purse, massage your head, style your hair when they’re all done – even if you’re not going anywhere.
6) When someone’s 18-minute drive takes them 1 hour and 18-minutes because of snow and ice, buy them coffee or tea, and have a donut waiting for an extra surprise. Greet them warmly when they arrive, make them feel as if you’d wait all day for them if needed.
7) When someone confides in you, listen. Listen hard. Listen for the things untold. Listen for ways you can help next. And then wait. Let them know, later, that you really heard them. Caught a glimpse of each other as you passed in the hallway? Don’t let the moment pass. Turn back. With just one sentence, without saying it outright, let them know – I heard you, I want you to succeed, I understand who you are, I’m still here for you. Do little things to root for another along the way.
8) Share your wisdom through whatever means necessary. And if you’re on the receiving end of this gift? Soak it in. Take it to heart. Then Go. Live it out. For real.
9) When someone’s moved you, impacted you so much that you can’t keep it inside anymore, tell them. Let them know they made a difference in your life, even if it’s a little uncomfortable. It might just mean the world to them.
10) Buy something for someone who has more needs than you can humanly satisfy. Then prepare yourself to Go. Meet them right where they are. Go beyond your borders, out of your comfort zone, just Go.
11) Give generously and creatively to someone who has more than they ever need. Because they don’t need more things. They need to see and receive the love and generosity of the human heart. Let the little child buy you cookies with money from their piggy bank, let them use up all the play-doh to create you a plaque that says “best parents ever.”
12) When your God-sized dream comes up when you’re least expecting, in the most unlikely of conversations, and now you have to reveal a bit because there’s no other way out? Don’t run from the truth. Share it. Speak it. Get those dreams and desires out of your mind and out into the world. In speaking even just a bit of your truth, you might just discover there’s a reason that person’s been in your life all these years – they have a similar God-sized dream as you. And now, you’ve given someone the gift of confirmation, maybe this really is God’s plan for me?
13) Surprise your love with more than just a bit of bling. Wear it, receive it, know it’s a gift – for you.
14) Sing the song of your heart. Let your voice be heard. Don’t silence the artist inside of you. And when it’s time to watch, time to listen to another’s masterpiece, do it up big. Turn up the volume. Sit in the middle of the room. And let yourself be rescued.
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