An Acrostic Poem I Did Not Write

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I’ve been participating in a blogging challenge the past couple of weeks. And by participating, I mean I have been reading the prompts as they’ve arrived in my mailbox and not acting on them. Well, that’s not entirely true…I was challenged to write an August version of a Christmas letter a few days ago but I could not wrap my brain around Christmas when it was a gajillion degrees. I decided on a back to school essay. It’s fine.

There was another challenge to write a poem. I have not been able to get the idea of me writing a poem out of my head. I am not usually a poet, but more of a drop all my words on the page kind of writer. I was intrigued though so I kept rolling it around. I wrote one a few nights ago about the moon. I was outside, waiting on the dog to do his business and I was frustrated. I was frustrated by the heat, by the dog, by life in general. I actually liked what came out but it felt so personal, so vulnerable that I wasn’t able to post it for the world. Maybe one day. I’m in a season of holding things close to the heart, which is strange for me as I generally vomit every word and thought that enters my head. I’m the one who speaks publicly and is often just as surprised as the crowd at what comes out. But lately there has been a call, a need, for stillness and forethought.

So when I friend sent me this passage this morning, seemingly out of the blue, I cried. At the foot of the chapter from Psalm 37 the note read,”This psalm is an acrostic poem, the stanzas of which begin with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet.”

God was speaking to me, yet again, through ancient words. The cry of David fit my life and all the things I’m holding close right now, all the while written in beautiful poetic form.

So if you are a fan of poetry, or of evil-doers perishing as flowers in the field…this is a great read.

Psalm 37

Of David.

Do not fret because of those who are evil
    or be envious of those who do wrong;
for like the grass they will soon wither,
    like green plants they will soon die away.

Trust in the Lord and do good;
    dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
    your vindication like the noonday sun.

Be still before the Lord
    and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
    when they carry out their wicked schemes.

Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
    do not fret—it leads only to evil.
For those who are evil will be destroyed,
    but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.

10 A little while, and the wicked will be no more;
    though you look for them, they will not be found.
11 But the meek will inherit the land
    and enjoy peace and prosperity.

12 The wicked plot against the righteous
    and gnash their teeth at them;
13 but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
    for he knows their day is coming.

14 The wicked draw the sword
    and bend the bow
to bring down the poor and needy,
    to slay those whose ways are upright.
15 But their swords will pierce their own hearts,
    and their bows will be broken.

16 Better the little that the righteous have
    than the wealth of many wicked;
17 for the power of the wicked will be broken,
    but the Lord upholds the righteous.

18 The blameless spend their days under the Lord’s care,
    and their inheritance will endure forever.
19 In times of disaster they will not wither;
    in days of famine they will enjoy plenty.

20 But the wicked will perish:
    Though the Lord’s enemies are like the flowers of the field,
    they will be consumed, they will go up in smoke.

21 The wicked borrow and do not repay,
    but the righteous give generously;
22 those the Lord blesses will inherit the land,
    but those he curses will be destroyed.

23 The Lord makes firm the steps
    of the one who delights in him;
24 though he may stumble, he will not fall,
    for the Lord upholds him with his hand.

25 I was young and now I am old,
    yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken
    or their children begging bread.
26 They are always generous and lend freely;
    their children will be a blessing.[b]

27 Turn from evil and do good;
    then you will dwell in the land forever.
28 For the Lord loves the just
    and will not forsake his faithful ones.

Wrongdoers will be completely destroyed[c];
    the offspring of the wicked will perish.
29 The righteous will inherit the land
    and dwell in it forever.

30 The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom,
    and their tongues speak what is just.
31 The law of their God is in their hearts;
    their feet do not slip.

32 The wicked lie in wait for the righteous,
    intent on putting them to death;
33 but the Lord will not leave them in the power of the wicked
    or let them be condemned when brought to trial.

34 Hope in the Lord
    and keep his way.
He will exalt you to inherit the land;
    when the wicked are destroyed, you will see it.

35 I have seen a wicked and ruthless man
    flourishing like a luxuriant native tree,
36 but he soon passed away and was no more;
    though I looked for him, he could not be found.

37 Consider the blameless, observe the upright;
    a future awaits those who seek peace.[d]
38 But all sinners will be destroyed;
    there will be no future[e] for the wicked.

39 The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord;
    he is their stronghold in time of trouble.
40 The Lord helps them and delivers them;
    he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
    because they take refuge in him.

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How I Spent My Summer Vacation

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There’s a little more than a week until I send my kids back to school. I’d like to tell you I’m one of those moms pining away for more summer but I’m not. Maybe if I didn’t have to go back to work earlier this month I’d being trying to fit in one more trip; to squeeze in one last adventure. But truth be told, my kids have spend quite a few hours entertaining themselves since August hit and I think they’re ready, too.

I was helping my daughter sort through her school supplies a few days ago and started to remember back to my school days. There was no social media then. There were no cell phones, texting, snap chatting…you had to ride your bike to Jennifer’s house if you wanted to see her. So back to school was all about catching up on summer. Where did you go? What did you do? And then there were the “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” essays. Remember those? Do teachers still assign those? We always huffed and puffed like it was a chore but truthfully, it was always fun to hear what everyone had been doing.

So in the spirit of back to school, but in the buzzfeed fill-in-the-blank-style of today…

How I Spent My Summer Vacation by Tamara Lexow

Reading: I read lots of books but my favorite was “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brene Brown. Y’all, this book is so good. Like, change your life good. It’s all about letting go of the ideals we have all placed on ourselves to be something we aren’t and embracing who God has created us to be. I highly recommend it but make sure to give yourself time. This isn’t a sit down and read the whole thing in an afternoon kind of book. And it’s not a beach read. You may, if you’re like me, need to sit it down for a few days here and there to absorb the simple truths Brown offers. Good stuff.

Watching: I spent the early part of summer watching ESPN’s special on OJ Simpson. I think it was five parts. Charlie and I watched them after the kids went to bed. If you remember where you were when the police chased the white Ford Bronco then you’ll understand why this series is not for kids. It went into so much of the story that I had no clue about when it all went down in 1994. Gory, gruesome, but a story more about human nature and less about murder.

Now I’m watching the Olympics with the rest of the world.

Crafting: If you call putting a house together crafting then I’ve done a lot of that this summer. We moved into our new house in May and I’ve been unpacking, hanging pictures, planting new flowers, trimming trees….getting settled.

Loving: Our new puppy, Ron Burgundy. Charlie finally conceded and let me get a puppy for my birthday. I wanted to go the opposite direction of our dearly departed Frank the Tank. Frank was a Great Dane/Mastiff mix and weighed in around 160. Ron Burgundy is a Maltipoo and is expected to max out around 8 pounds. He is adorable.

Listening: I’ve spent the summer rehearing the hits of my high school days. Lots of Guns-N-Roses, Bon Jovi, Travis Tritt, Garth Brooks…

Drinking: Wine. Too. Much. Wine.

Eating: Out. This needs to slow down because my waistline is starting to show the damage.

Celebrating: I ushered in the final year of my 3rd decade on July 4th. I plan to make 39 the year I become the best version of myself yet. Actually, that’s my plan every year and most of the time I succeed. I’m always trying to be a better human. Except the year I turned 31. I took that year off.

Improving: Grace. I’m making efforts in giving more grace – to myself and to others – and grace with, well, grace.

Traveling: Charlie and I didn’t travel anywhere this summer. (See Crafting above) The kids traveled a lot but I was very content nesting in the new house with my love. He’s pretty dreamy so I don’t care where we are as long as we are together.

 

How about you? How did you spend your summer vacation?

 

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God is Good

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“God is good all the time.”

The words from my pastor this morning caused bitter tears to sting in my eyes. I blinked quickly, dabbing the inner corner in an attempt to catch the tears before they fell. I had to deliver the children’s message in mere moments and I did not need to have red eyes, smeared eye liner, or any semblance of sorrow. My message was on thankfulness, not sadness.

That’s the thing though. I wasn’t even sad. So why were these words, words I hear almost every Sunday, causing such a commotion in my tear ducts?

As I questioned myself, sitting in the pew, I felt my heart tug.

“Do you believe it?”

Do I believe what, God?

“Do you believe I’m good?”

Of course I believe.

“All the time?”

(Sigh)

There it was. Can I sing the praise from Psalm 145? Can I exalt His name forever and ever? Do I speak of His mighty acts and the splendor of His majesty?

Some days I do.

But then some days….

Some days the plumbing backs up. Some days the dog pees on the floor for the thousandth time. Some days the kids forget to show manners of any sort. Some days your iTunes account gets mangled with your husbands and he has all your information and none of his own. Or so I’ve heard from some people.

Do I believe God is still good in the midst of a presidential election where both candidates seem like a train wreck waiting to happen?

Do I trust in His sovereignty when the price of oil drops?

Do I sing of God’s splendor and majesty when police are being shot by children, when police are shooting children, and when terrorism screams at our faces through every single news cast?

No.

No, I don’t.

Forgive me, God, Forgive me for forgetting of your love; of your goodness. Forgive me for sitting in despair and wondering where you are. Forgive me, Lord for not singing your praises and falling to my knees in gratitude for the simple fact that I have air in my lungs and food on my table and family who loves me dearly.

I want to celebrate God’s goodness because He is gracious and compassionate. He is slow to anger. He is rich in love. May my eyes look to heaven and be satisfied with all I have.

God is good. All the time.

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Rainbows On The Floor

Positivity does not come naturally for me. I’m not sure why but truly, it never has. My gut instinct is to fear the worst, to assume the worst, and to think disaster. A simple stomach pain could be a tumor. I headache is certainly an oncoming seizure. That skin tag? Most assuredly cancer.

I rarely voice any of the fears running through my head because, well, I spend a lot of energy most days on not looking crazy. In fact, most people don’t know I have such a negative gene because I work so hard on speaking words that uplift and support and inspire. I try to put sunshine out but the truth is, thinking on the bright side, seeing the positive, and picking up a glass half full are are mighty, mighty efforts for me.

All this being said,  with a desire to follow through on my New Year resolution to seek fierce grace still brewing in the depths of my heart, I decided this summer to put some extra effort into positivity. I wasn’t even sure what that looked like when I made the decision but I immediately was tested in living it out.

We’ve had a lot going on in the Lexow house this summer. We moved in May and have been working hard to settle in. There have been bumps. Plumbing bumps, planning bumps, unnamed bumps. Some of the bumps have felt small. Some of the bumps have felt insurmountable. We are still trying to climb over some of them…so much so that they feel less like bumps and more like mountains. So finding the positive, on certain days, has taken a true effort.

Last week I had to text Charlie with a specific piece of news and I started with the age old question, “Do you want the good news or the bad news?” As I unfolded the entire story on my smart phone screen I regaled issue after issue but wrapped up the end with a smiley face and a word of positivity. He replied,”I don’t think any of this is funny.”

Even my own husband was confused by my efforts to see the positive.

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As I walked from my bedroom towards my living room my eyes caught a glimmer across the brick floor in the hallway. A tiny rainbow was shimmering there, almost waving to me. I rounded the corner and saw another one, a bigger one. I turned to grab my phone so I could take a picture. Something in me knew I’d need to remember this moment of beauty.

There was no magic in the moment, albeit beautiful. The rainbows were simply fractions of  light from the glass on my front door. But I knew right then that God was reminding me that he’s there. Always. And with that true and basic reminder, positivity made so much sense. Thinking positive isn’t about faking a smile or typing smiley words you don’t mean. Positivity is about hope. It’s about knowing that God loves me and has my very best interest at heart every minute of every day. It’s remembering that his plans are for me to prosper; never to cause  me harm.

That was a message I needed to hear this week. The news from around the country has been so devastating; so easy to look at with negativity. It’s easy to look at the  news and lose hope. But if there has ever been a time for us to find the positive, to look for the good…it’s now. These are the days to remember that Jesus never once promised us this life would be easy. He never said we wouldn’t face trouble. The thing I have to keep reminding myself is that Jesus has faced the worst of the worst already and he’s sitting on the throne in victory. On the days when I feel like all hope, all positive, all chance of good is gone, he sends rainbows to dance across my floor.

A few months ago I might have missed them. I might have been so self absorbed in my own troubles that I tromped around the corner, never to see the light on the brick. I’m working on it though. Fierce grace means loving myself enough to go a little easier, to reach out for hope, and to trust that God loves me. It means looking for rainbows and knowing they’re there, somewhere, as a beacon of love from heaven.

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When Waiting is Hard

When Waiting is hard

We dropped our kids at church camp yesterday. As we made our way through the registration line in the 100 degree heat we were greeted at each stop by very energetic, very bouncy, very smiley camp counselors. Each one would smile huge, toothy grins, ask my kids what their names were and if it was their first time to camp. Neither of my kids are particularly toothy grin kind of kids so they would shrink back a bit, whisper their names and share that it was their 4th trip to camp.

They love this particular camp. My daughter says it’s her favorite place on earth. They wait so excitedly in the weeks before camp because they can’t wait for the freedom from Mom and Dad, the cabins, the new friends, the pond, the home made hill side slip and slide…they love it all. But they will say that waiting for camp to come is the hardest, most agonizing part.

As I watched them go through the process of checking in and finding their cabins I couldn’t help but giggle at how may times I had heard them say, “I can’t wait!” throughout the week.

Waiting is hard.

We wait for so much in life. We wait for joyous occasions, holidays, celebrations, vacations…all the exciting good things that life holds.

We wait for clarity. Will the job fall through? Will the test come back positive? Will we stay or will we go?

Watching my kids yesterday made me think back to a time in life when the waiting was excruciatingly hard. I was remembering the years I was waiting on my kids.

Charlie and I got engaged and married when we were very young. Very. I walked down the aisle at 21. There was nothing I wanted more in life than to be married to him and to make his babies. I know that’s not very popular among the strong, vocal, young women of today who rage at the idea that a woman’s place is making babies. But that’s what I wanted. I had never loved or been loved like what I had with Chuck and I couldn’t imagine not having babies immediately.

That’s not how it happened for us though. Oh, we got pregnant. Getting pregnant was not the problem. Five times we got pregnant. Five times. Five positive pregnancy test. Well, probably more like 20 positive pregnancy tests. I know I took at least four per pregnancy. And yet five times we experienced loss. Five times a doctor looked me in the eye and said, “I’m so sorry.”

I reached a point where I doubted. I doubted this dream in my heart to be a mom. I doubted my desire, my heart, my yearning. How was it that I prayed so hard for so long and yet faced this heartache over and over and over? Five times over.

We decided to go see a specialist who took lots of blood, ran lots of tests, scanned me, scanned Chuck, and poked and prodded me in every way imaginable. I was diagnosed with endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome. I was put on a strict diet and given medication. And still we waited. And waited.

I was doing all the right things. I was praying and dieting and medicating. I had multiple surgical procedures. I was smiling at my friends who were popping out babies left and right. I was buying gifts and attending showers. And yet I was waiting. And in that waiting I grew weary and I finally reached the point where I was done. I didn’t give up on the idea of being a mom but I did give up on the idea of birthing them myself.

I was tired of the advice from people with lots of babies. I was tired of people questioning my resolve.  I was tired.

So I called several people I knew who had adopted babies. We made an appointment.

And I got pregnant.

I swear. I almost had to roll my eyes at myself. After all the people said things like, “As soon as you relax…” or “As soon as you quit worrying about it…” and then here I was pregnant after all those things.

We weren’t at ease though. After all, we’d been pregnant five times before and it was never good. We had never seen a pregnancy past 8 weeks. But 8 weeks came and went. And then 12. And then 20. And then one morning at week 36, I waddled out of bed to go to the bathroom and my water broke. Shelby arrived a few hours later.

And when she was 9 months old (because who’d have ever thought we would need to worry about getting pregnant again?) I found out Seth was on his way.

We’ve done a lot of waiting over the years. We’ve waited on medical test answers. We’ve waited on surgeries. We’ve waited on job offers. We’ve waited. Every time we wait I think back to those years of waiting to have a baby. I know that God’s answers don’t always look the way we want. I know his answers rarely come in the time frame we expect. What I do know though is that he is loving and good. I know that he never gives you a snake when you need a loaf of bread. I know that he is faithful.

So even though I still don’t like to wait on, well, anything…I know that waiting brings growth. Waiting brings trust. Waiting brings faith built upon faith. I can watch my kids wait for things and not feel the need to rescue because I know there is good in waiting. I can hold on to hope in waiting when the answers seem to be no where in sight because I’ve seen the faithfulness of a good, good Father.

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Running Towards the Dock

michael-sowa-kohler-s-pigWe saw about a hundred and three houses when we were house hunting. Seriously. Our agent, I’m sure, was ready to punch us square in the throat when we would text with a list of more houses. We weren’t entirely sure what we wanted but knew we’d know when we saw it. That’s the exact attitude that makes real estate agents want to pull their hair out.

In time, however, we started to narrow it down to a few “must have” and “must not haves” and our list got shorter and shorter. One of the houses on our short list in the end had Michael Sowa’s painting “Kohler’s Pig” on display in the living room. I’m assuming it was an original (or at least a really great print) because it was on a golden stand and was lit like a nice painting should be lit. I fell in love immediately. Not so much with the house, although it was an amazing house, but with the pig. I had never seen this painting before and didn’t have a clue as to who the painter was but Google solved all that for me with a quick finger swipe. Turns out there are lots of copies of this fabulous piece of art. You can get it in poster, canvas, t-shirt, coffee mug….all the regular art forms.

I’m sitting on my couch now in my new-to-us home and looking at Kohler’s Pig on my mantle. We bought a different house from the one where I first discovered this happy pig but I knew I wanted to find him again. I found a copy at a near by home decor store and asked the tired sales woman to climb her ladder to the very top shelf to retrieve it for me. I even had a coupon!  Although some of my friends have looked at me like I’m crazy I just really love this pig with my whole heart. I suppose it speaks to what life has felt like lately for us…lots of leaps of faith.

I want to imagine it was a really hot day when Kohler’s pig decided to make a break for it and ran as fast as he could to the pond. I think the water was cool and refreshing and that he swam in circles and twirls and fully enjoyed every moment of the leap. He probably had little butterflies in his belly when he was airborne but the water was bliss.

Life hasn’t slowed down for us since the move. We’ve had painters every day and new windows will come shortly. May is the craziest month of the year for most people with kids because end of year concerts, award banquets, recitals, pop shows, parties….Everyone tries to cram a butt load of closure into one month. And then VBS is there looming for me just around June’s front door. So when people ask if we are all settled yet (we’ve been in the house all of two weeks) I smile and say, “Nope. Not even close” and I’m not joking. I see another month, at least, of chaos ahead. A month of hurried dinners, rushed breakfasts, over flowing laundry baskets, and forgotten keys. But like Kohler’s Pig I am running towards the dock and I see blissful splashing in the very near future.

 

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A Keeper of Stuff

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I’ve read all the books and all the blogs and all the “how-to-pack-your-house-efficiently” articles I can but alas, sometimes you just have to jump in a do it. I started packing our house for the big move that is scheduled to happen in about 20 days. Someone asked me  yesterday why I started so soon, which completely and totally took me by surprise as I feel behind already. I hear that local moves are the hardest because you tend to think you don’t have to pack everything and end up making a thousand unnecessary trips. I’m trying to head that warning and be a complete packer.

My goal has been to pack one room per day…mostly. We still have 20 days, after all, and we still have to live here for those days. I can’t pack my whole kitchen yet and I can’t pack our bathrooms in totality. If I want to not bake muffins or cupcakes in the next 20 days I can pack the muffin pans but I can not pack the forks. I can probably pack my hot rollers but I shouldn’t pack the blow dryer. So mostly. The dining room, with all the crystal and antiques is boxed up and sitting in a corner. I doubt I’ll need any of that soon.

I’ve been trying to weed out a lot of unneeded stuff as we pack. When you spend a long time in one place you tend to acquire stuff. I wish I had a more eloquent word for it but “stuff” seems to best describe the items in the back of my coat closet and the bottom shelf under my bathroom sink. We’ve been in this house for eleven years and I feel certain we brought stuff from our previous house that we should not have. When we moved to this house my daughter was just over a year old and I was 5 months pregnant with my boy. I didn’t have a lot of time or energy to sort stuff and we had gracious and loving friends who helped with the packing and the moving. They certainly didn’t sort my stuff. They boxed it and moved it and I was very thankful for their boxing and moving.

So the sorting and the ridding of stuff has been both daunting and cathartic at the same time. My general rule for discernment has been simple. I ask if I/we have used it in the past year. If we haven’t, I ask if I/we need it for a job or chore that is done every other year. If not, it goes. Where does it go? If it is broken it goes to the trash. (hy do we hold on to broken stuff? That’s a whole other question for a whole other day.) If it can be used by someone else it goes to a donation or sale pile. If I have used it or worn it  then I ask if it brings me joy. Do I love it? Does it make my life easier or happier? If not, it goes.

For instance, I have things on my walls that I don’t particularly love. Or like. I’m getting rid of those things. I have clothes in my closet that I only wear if I have no other option. I have gadgets in my kitchen that, while very cool, don’t get used on a regular basis. Some of them are more trouble or space taking than they’re worth. This is also true for the stuff that belongs to my husband and my kids. We’ve all been holding on to lots of stuff that we don’t love or want or need. Easy Bake Ovens, hundreds of stuffed animals…It’s time to purge.

In the process of purging, however, lots of feelings get stirred up. I run across pictures and artwork and journals and letter sweaters (okay, just one letter sweater) and toys and…..stuff. Lots of stuff that reminds me of good times and bad times and hard times and times. Lots of times. Feelings start swirling and whirling and occasionally, tears come. Sometimes they trickle by the one, two, three droplets down the cheek and sometimes they flood like a dam of memories just burst and they don’t stop easily. Sometimes I can whistle a happy tune while I sort through folders and piles but sometimes I whimper Michael W.Smith songs through my crying.

Mostly though, I’m finding the whole process good. Not good in a “I want to move every year” sort of way but more like “It’s  time to let go of things that hold me back” sort of way. Which frankly, is the whole thing God has been working in me for a while. I held on to way too much stuff for far too long. I  had hurts, habits, and hang ups in my life that had been there so long I didn’t even notice them any more. I got used to the clutter in my heart; used to ducking and bobbing to avoid certain circumstance; accustomed to sweeping particulars under the rug of life. Swinging open the doors of my heart, inviting God into the mess, and asking him to  help me purge has been the most life-giving gift I could have every given myself. Packing up and turning over the stuff helps to clear the way for growth and change I didn’t have room for before.

Unfortunately, just like my house, my heart needs to be cleared and de-cluttered more often than every eleven years. Just like a daily clean up and a weekly mopping, does my house good, a daily inventory of my heart  is how I’m working to keep my emotional and spiritual life in check. Oh, I skip days from time to time. I have days when I don’t feel like making a gratitude list. I have days when I don’t want to admit the ways I’ve been selfish or self-serving; the ways I’ve hurt the ones I love. But the more days I skip the messier my heart becomes. The more time I spend running from God’s Word, the bigger the mess grows.

I want to be a purger in all of life. In my home and in my heart. I don’t want to let stuff build up. I don’t want to let the piles become invisible to my every day seeing eyes. I don’t want to start stepping over reminders and ignoring clutter. I don’t want to be a keeper of stuff any more.

 

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Vulnerability On A Sunny Day

To say my world is unsettled right now would be an understatement.  There are big things and little things, exciting things and sad things…life things. My life is probably no different from yours…just different things. We all have stuff.  Some days though…some days jump up and teach you lessons. Some days you have experiences that may not be so big in nature but big in that they show you where you’ve been coming from and where you are going. These “Ah-Ha!” moments that allow you to suddenly make sense of the pit you’ve been carrying in your stomach and not understanding.  I had a moment after lunch today where I felt the irony of life so thick I could have karate chopped right through it.

I lunched with a group of ladies who are so dear to my heart. We just completed over 9 months of step study together. We did all the steps – all twelve. We poured out our hearts and souls to one another each week as we worked to release our hurts, habits, and hang-ups. We sought God’s blessing and guidance as we learned to be our true, authentic selves. We were able to laugh together and poke a little fun at ourselves…things we can do because we all readily admit that none of us have it all together. We recognize that life is cuckoo and we are doing our best to, not just survive, but thrive.

After lunch I raced back to my house (which is on the market to sell right now) to get a report for my agent. I quickly adjusted fan speeds, put down toilet lids, and straightened pictures in case a showing booked this afternoon or evening. I want the house to look perfectly sell-able. I want someone to walk in and love it immediately and know that it’s the house of someone’s dreams. I need everything to be in place. Perfect. As I was racing back out the door I had to stop and catch myself. I’ve been so angsty lately and wasn’t sure why. And there it was. Perfection. Perfection is the opposite of the true and vulnerable self that I strive to be.

How ironic that I bolted from a meeting celebrating my imperfections to race home to put on an air of perfection?  As I was stepping off the front porch this little guy and his lunch caught my eye. Two very different stories of vulnerability.

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I’m used to seeing these little green lizards everywhere. This time of year is ripe with green creatures all over the bushes, the flowers, and the sides of houses. I’m pretty sure, however, this is the first time I’ve ever seen one mid-munch. I squatted down to watch him for a minute and snapped a few pictures. He would turn away from me but couldn’t run or else he might lose his lunch. He would tilt his head back my direction as if to say, “Do you mind? I’m working on something here!”

I only watched a moment because I know what it feels like to be so vulnerable. Living life in a place of authenticity is hard…especially when there’s a chance you’ll be judged. We worry that life, our own lives,the lives we live in as much normalcy as we can muster, will seem abnormal to someone else. We are afraid that in the middle of our lunch someone will stop and take a picture so as to further examine our oddities at a later time.

Part of why I love my step study friends so much is there is no judgement. We all have loads and loads and loads of crap in our satchels and no one person’s load is heavier than the other. We all needed, er, need God’s healing and power.

It’s for the same reason that I do not enjoy having our house listed. There will be a beautiful family (for which I am already praying) who will be blessed by our house. There will be a day when their agent will call and want to show our house to them. They will walk in and won’t even know how to explain it. They’ll just know that this is their new house. Until they find us though, there will be many others who walk through and judge. They’ll judge the flooring choices, the color of the walls, and the fixtures. They’ll question why this is here and that is there and I will feel a different vulnerability like my winged friend above…waiting to be devoured by someone who is just trying to find what they need. I know this to be true because in order for us to sell our house we have had to tour other house options for ourselves. I’ve said all those things and asked all those questions and felt all those feelings.

Authenticity is hard. Vulnerability is hard. But worth it – they are both so very worth the effort that goes into them. Opening up and showing my true authentic self has blessed me beyond measure with my friends and family. It has allowed my faith to grow by leaps and bounds. Of course there is a flip side. There are days that I stand in the open view, raw and tender, and a big green mouth opens up and swallows me. That sucks in a really bad way. But I have to keep coming back, reminding myself of the rewards of being the exact woman God has created me to be. There is a richness in life that comes when we open the curtains and throw back the shades and allow God’s light and love to penetrate every pore. I’ve been both and I’ve done it both ways. Imperfect and vulnerable is better.

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There Are No Burned Chicken Fries He Can’t Use

lightstock_56068_medium_tamara (1)I was sick last month. Really sick. Like, probably should’ve been in the hospital kind of sick.

I was actually sick in December. I had a cough and some aches and just a tinge of moodiness. Tinge.

But I ignored the sick and then in January I was really sick. Pneumonia kind of sick.

But I started getting a little bit better.

And then I got a little bit worse. And then better again.

And then I lost my voice. Which is really hard for someone who likes to talk as much as I do. My ENT put me on a five day vocal rest to allow my voice to heal and find it’s way back. That was extra hard.

My pastor/boss suggested I take the time of silence to reflect on my heart; to be silent before the Lord. Which is something a pastor/boss should totally say but it doesn’t mean I wasn’t tempted to poke him in the eye when he said it.

I tried to use a white board app for a few days to communicate to Charlie and the kids but they got really tired of how long it took me to write my words. They’d walk away before I finished and I couldn’t yell for them to turn around so I learned to clap to get their attention. That went over really well.

By Day 3 of the rest I was sneaking little words in here and there because I was over the silence.

But on Day 4 I had to stay home to wait on a repairman and so I allowed the silence to envelope me. And in the silence I grew weary. I couldn’t even express where all the weariness was coming from so I just called out to God, “I’m so weary.”

I had a list….

The sickness that wouldn’t go away.

The friend that isn’t in my life so much anymore.

That person who hurt me when they said those words.

That thing I wanted that fell through.

The work that seems too much and too hard.

The decisions that aren’t clear.

The people I want to protect but can’t.

That place I want to go but don’t know how to get there.

I sensed God, like a kind father, sitting there listening as my heart wept. There were no big things – just a pile of minor heartaches; little inconveniences. I felt his hand on my back, rubbing gently, as my tears started to silently flow.

“Lift your head.”

The words came softly across my heart and I knew what they meant.

God loves me on the good days. The ones when I am dancing through the hours with a song of praise on the tip of my tongue. The days I can quote scripture and I carry a slightly glowing aura about me ’cause me and Jesus are BFF’s.

God loves me on the bad days. The ones where I make list of all the ways He has wronged me and disappointed me and not given me what I want. The days I stomp my feet and shout.

He loves me when I’m rational and clear and precise and thankful.

He loves me when I cry over burned chicken fries. (If you leave them in the microwave too long they get hard and my kid won’t eat them and it’s a real problem that deserves at least three tear so don’t judge.)

He loves me when I’m moody, when I’m joyful, when I’m sad, and when I’m ambivalent about the whole freakin’ world.

“Lift your head.”

I just needed to take my eyes off my problems for a second to see the loving mercy and grace he was offering me – that he’s always offering me.

My tearful moment didn’t change the world around me. I was still on vocal rest and still waiting on a repairman. I still wanted the thing that fell through and I still wanted to go to the place I don’t know how to get to.

I was reminded, however, that I’m not alone. God knows what it feels like to be let down by a friend. He knows the ache of disappointment. He experienced physical pain. He knows what it’s like when people don’t get on board. He knows all the things my heart knows and more. He doesn’t condemn me when I feel the feels but instead comes and sits with me on my couch.

I saw a post on Pinterest yesterday that was a picture of a cupcake with the words “When life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate. When life is bitter, say thank you and grow.” While I was a little resentful of the cupcake temptation I knew the words were true.

I am better, healthier, happier when I acknowledge the crappy days with gratitude. When I quit fighting the muck, settle into it, have a good cry and ask Jesus to just hold me. I know he uses bad for good; that he blesses the struggle. I can hold it all tightly in my fist and grow hard-hearted and bitter or I can open my hands and let him take it all. There is no sorrow, no heartache, no burned chicken fries He can’t use. He just asks me to lift my head.

 

 

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Life Is Change

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Is there any more widely used metaphor than the butterfly and change? I’d be hard pressed to come up with one. And yet, as I have been mulling over some big changes in life lately, the butterfly continues to come to mind first and foremost.

My conception of what happens to a caterpillar went in for a major over ride several years back. When my kids were very small, their Nana gave them a bunch of milkweed in a mesh container. The milkweed was covered in caterpillars munch, munch, munching away their days. We watched them through the netted house as they grew fatter and fatter and fatter. I knew nothing about caterpillars outside of the hungry one in the book we read every day. I knew that very soon these yellow and black striped cuties would wrap themselves tight into a blanket and begin a transformation.

Except that’s not how it works.

We watched patiently and carefully (which is very hard when your kids are in preschool) one afternoon as the chubby worms climbed to the top of their container and attached to the roof. They spun a little silk string and began the process of hanging. Just hanging. I waited and waited for a cocoon to shoot out of their tiny butts. Nothing. I had laundry to do and the kids had cartoons to catch up on so I walked away.

It wasn’t long, however, before I moseyed by and noticed that one of the caterpillars was encapsulated in a cocoon.

Crap. I missed it. How did it get there? So I sat down to watch again and noticed one of them was turning green. We had a full on Banner/Hulk situation on our hands! Who knew?!?!?! The caterpillar doesn’t grow a chrysalis! It turns into one!!!

I felt like this changed everything for me. Like a whole belief system had been knock off it’s axis.

(That might be slightly dramatic but it was big.)

It turns out the caterpillar transforms into a pod filled with goo. I’m sure that’s the scientific term so don’t even waste your time by looking it up. Then, after some time, which feels like years to a preschooler and the mom she questions about it every hour on the hour until a butterfly appears, the goo starts to build a butterfly.

The stuff of the butterfly is inside the caterpillar all along.

The caterpillar literally has to die to it’s self to be transformed into a beautiful butterfly. What it used to be ceases to exist and something short of a miracle shows up in it’s place. It doesn’t mean the caterpillar isn’t beautiful. It just means that it’s purpose was never to stay a caterpillar forever. The caterpillar was created to change.

It would seem that all of life is created for change. The only things that never change are dead or have never been alive in the first place.

Life.

Is.

Change.

So if life is change, if it’s in us all along and it’s who and what we are meant to be and do, why is it so hard? Why do we fight it?

I think the first step to accepting change is admitting that it’s a thing. Change is real and it happens whether we want it to or not. The only choice we get is how we will roll with it.

I suppose the caterpillar who does not want to be a butterfly could throw itself into the mouth of bird, but that’s not the way of the caterpillar. No, the caterpillar moves forward, eating what it needs to eat and then hanging on for dear life. The change literally bursts forth from within.

I want to be like the caterpillar. I want to trust that God has a bigger purpose for my life than scooting with my belly through the mud and brush. I want to be nourished by the life He’s given me, climb to the highest places, and trust that He’s about to make something beautiful explode from within me.

I don’t know if it’s painful for the caterpillar. It may be an awful experience, the wilting, the gooing, and the forming of wings. It may hurt like hell. But the soaring of a butterfly tells me that the pain is worth it.

Life is change. If God can bring such beauty from a caterpillar…what more can he pull out of me?

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