Thursday, December 31, 2015

Well....This Is It

I don't know who is more ready for this purge to be over with....me or my loyal family and friends.

It is a toss up.

*Insert Big Uncomfortable Laugh Here*

Well....we are here. I am here. This is it.

The final day.

I remember back in late July/early August when I mapped out the rest of the year in a glorified plan of how it was all going to go with a nice wrap-up in December all easy-peasy and matter-of-fact.

*Insert Eye Roll*

Someone shoot me next time I do that...I annoy myself.

Pu-lease.

I have skidded, free-falled, careened, rolled, and literally nose-dived into this final day. December has been a BEAST! The week of the closets was so easy it most certainly set me up for over-confidence and failure for the week of my books. BUT that isn't true, because I did closets last (i.e., the week after) thinking that those were going to SLAY me. I had a week blocked out - it took me a day (a night actually). Say what?!?!?! Good thing...I spent the rest of the week back on books. *Insert Eye Roll* I am still shipping out books that I am "gifting" to others....yup, you read that right....still. STILL. I have literally been working on my books since November 30th.

Kill. Me. Now.

So....this is where I stand at 6 a.m. the morning of my final day....

  • Jeep is full of MORE packages to mail to others (i.e., gifting). UPS is my new BFF.
  • There are plenty of non-book packages still to ship and they are some special, special treasures that I have prayed and prayed and prayed over waiting until the very end to send (the truth is that there are a lot of items I am gifting that I still love very much, but they are no longer really "mine" or for me - it's complicated).
  • Still a few stacks of books - to keep (put up in shelves) and box up to mail/gift.
  • One tub in the living room that is so horrific to deal with I have been covertly moving it from room to room throughout the purge to avoid it which is to say oh it is in this room now so I will deal with it that day/week. *Insert Eye Roll*
  • Three boxes for the kids that are "special" plus another one that God put on my heart just this week (which is a good thing since I have been praying to God for FOUR months as to who should get this particular set of treasures). No God that was NOT sass that possibly you waited until the VERY last minute to answer that particular prayer. Yes sir, I will be taking a knee, yup two knees, at the altar Sunday begging for forgiveness for that one. *Deep Sigh*
  • Four boxes to ship that are going to take special "handling" and that is all I am going to say about those. *Chest Tightening Here*
  • A box of stuff for Sis that needs to be gone through one more time.
  • Miscellaneous small piles.

Now...there is also a (small...LOL) punch list still at my office which is more like I might actually pull the trigger on that match idea and light one in the pile of four boxes sitting by my desk. *Insert Nervous Laughter (or is that diabolical) Here*

A snapshot of the evil that is my iPhone (photo from last night).

Oh and because I know myself all too well, I scheduled professional house cleaners to come this afternoon for a three hour deep cleaning of my home because number one - I need the ADDITIONAL pressure cooker to be finished today (or at least have it all loaded in my jeep by the time they arrive) AND I have earned (paying) someone else to clean this place after all of this...*Insert Breaking Arm Patting Myself On The Back* (don't judge me...LOL)

So this little schedule and punch list of joy means that the "joy test" (how ironic *Insert Eye Roll*) will be taking place tonight beginning around 4-5 p.m. depending on the house cleaners. So...in my infinite wisdom (LOL) I have decided to purchase myself a bottle of the liquor store's best champagne, put on my favorite pajamas, and dive in....moving through my home room-by-room (drawer/cabinet/shelf) and touching every single thing I still hold in my possession and asking the question...I am doing the joy test on every item even if I am still up to ring in the new year (which by the way hasn't happened in about 4 or 5 years). Anything left to ship out or donate from it will be placed in the jeep and taken care of on Saturday (since Friday is a holiday).

I know what you are thinking....that punch list above is going to take you half a day?!?! Oh my yes...and you naïve little reader...OH. YES! I think you need to re-read how long I have been on books...a few stacks?!?! Yup that is going to take a bit. ;) Plus somewhere in the middle of that I have a couple of actual "work" to dos to complete with my business partner.

*Pause*

I had to go refill my coffee cup (it is now 6:30 a.m., and I have been up since shortly after 4 a.m., and this is my third or fourth cup of coffee).

The truth is that I had originally blocked out a lot of time for the joy test (which continued to get squeezed due to work demands and of course did I mention books have been a time-suck??), but I think this ending and time allotment (being forced upon me) is perfect. First, it is not going to allow me to dawdle, which the book I took the idea from frowns upon anyway, but I can see me struggling with that...AND....it allows me to end this year, this three years, this season...in JOY. Lets be honest.....the past three (or four) years have been plagued by loss, change, and the amount of stuff I have purged (I will share some statistics in a post later/after completed) borders on the obscene. Just the act of walking through my home and taking stock of what remains....well, there is some further healing and beauty in that...the fact that I will be in my pajamas with a glass of champagne in my hand...well, that isn't going to hurt either... ;)

 So...enough procrastinating....it is time to get after it.

*Deep Sigh*

Thank you?

I am not sure if that is a statement or a question.

I am not the same person inside or out that I was when this started....and like all things you both love and hate....saying good-bye is/will be difficult. There is no part of my life - physical, emotional, spiritual, or mental that this purge has not touched. Everything has been fair game. Everything.

When God says, "Are you ready to do it my way now?" A word of advice....weigh your answer carefully...take a deep breath....then answer. I wouldn't change my answer, but I laughingly wonder now if I shouldn't have taken a deep breath first. ;) God has taken me on the ride of a lifetime, and I know deep in my heart that all of this is simply a precursor to the bigger plans he has for my life in the days, weeks, months, and years to come.

*I am getting ahead of myself*

If you see this post today, I would simply ask that you say a prayer for me - mind/body/soul - because this might be the longest day of my life (to date). I am committed to be faithful to finishing this race well.

Also, thank you will never be enough. In just the past 24 hours, I have received some of the sweetest handwritten notes, text messages, instant messages, e-mails from friends, family, readers....like little angels you are all lifting me up and helping me across the finish line. If I had a nickel for every single time I have weighed the idea of giving up, I could retire today on Fiji. You don't do something like this alone. Not really. You need cheerleaders....you need angels. I have the VERY best heaven could assign to me. No...thank you will never be enough.

Well....this is it. Now...they all bowed their heads in prayer. :) ;)
 
**If you haven't watched/listened to "The Unmaking" by Nichole Nordeman yet, click HERE. I am not just saying this because it has become the theme song for the #threeyearpurgefest - it REALLY is the very best song. BUT should you take the time and read the lyrics of this song (the video also does that), you will be reading the story of my life from that cold January day in 2012 until now...and let me be clear....on the dawn of the final day of this specific journey, I can ABSOLUTELY "see the stars" and they are GLORIOUS!**

Sunshine Dreams to You ~ Today and Every Day! :)

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Finding My Heart In Christmas Cards

I just finished my personal Christmas cards. A task I have been putting off since Thanksgiving because I just wasn't into it.

I think 7 days before Christmas is not that late.

Right?


I haven't sent Christmas cards in something like six years. I could be off, but I don't think so...

I have been pondering a lot lately how it is that we let things we love to do or be or wear get shoved in a corner, or a closet, or we simply silence a part of who we are....

How is that?

We all do it. We all do it All. The. Time.

I wore a poncho yesterday to work that I swear had not been on my body in every bit of four years, but maybe more. It isn't anything special. It has a hole in it, is matted in a couple of places, and I think I bought it off Ebay a decade or more ago, but I love it. I love everything about it from the colors to how it makes me feel. Joy. Yup. It definitely passes the joy test. ;)

So if all of that is true...why not wear it...like every single day?!

Good question.

Memories.

I tie objects to emotions. I tie emotions to memories. I tie memories to people and places. I tie people and places back again to the last emotion I had with them (people) or there (places). So a simple poncho that I once loved reminds me of people and places that hurt me so I keep that poncho in the back of a small closet collecting dust.

Around September of this year, I felt God doing something crazy inside my heart. I call them touchstone moments. I am not saying he hasn't always done this with me, but the frequency and poignancy has certainly intensified since September. If you haven't read past posts where I have written about them, a touchstone moment for me is where God takes me to a place, or puts an object in front of me, I hear an old song, or someone enters my life....and dozens of other ways....God takes me to the old pain and provides healing to my heart and creates a new memory with it/them. It happened so much in Atlanta at Catalyst in October, I almost didn't leave...my friend Sherri thought I was losing it. ;)

Once I started writing about them and sharing them (thank you Sherri and Sis), I was able to see clearly what was happening...I also soon realized that the deeper into the purge, and closer to the end of it, I got, the more they were happening and the tougher they were getting to get through. A couple have paralyzed me emotionally for nearly a week; I simply couldn't work through them without some time to process. I have also gotten close to cancelling the purge altogether; the pain too much to bear. Here I am though...two weeks from the end, and I am more determined than ever to finish; not just finish, but finish strong.

Thursday night, the company I co-founded three years ago had its first ever Christmas party. Hard as it is to believe, I was worried about everything going perfectly; I was genuinely nervous. It went off beautifully, no doubt due to so many praying for it...and praying for my poor heart. I have a tribe and a Sis that know me well....and I know they were all praying me through it. God did something crazy though...he reminded me of not why I am doing what I am doing, but why He has me doing what I am doing...


Before I knew it, it was the next morning, and I was running late to work and looked in my closet and for some reasons laid eyes on that poncho...before even thinking twice, I grabbed it and put it on. I looked in the mirror and grinned like a six year old on Christmas morning. Huh?!?!!?! I even took a quick selfie before I headed out the door.


Now what does a Christmas party and an old poncho have in common?!?!?!

Well...it took me until a little while ago to figure it out.

I haven't watched the movie Christmas Card since December 2011, but I couldn't shake it as I sat writing out Christmas cards this morning. I remembered how much I loved it and why, and I said I just don't need that film anymore...too many memories. Finally, I could feel God pestering me to play it (Direct TV connection issues, etc. God is relentless). I pushed play and watched it as I finished up my Christmas cards, and I didn't cry....I did however love it. I also remembered why I really love that movie, and it is because I love the time and effort the young woman put into writing out the Christmas cards, and I always dream of being a person who takes that kind of time each year...

So....here I am eight hours later with a stack of Christmas cards, and my heart is full...of gratitude and joy.


We are never, ever going to get to the bottom of something painful or uncomfortable unless we are willing to do the work to figure out what is causing it...have the tough conversations, unpack the box in the corner, read the box of old cards, watch the movie, read the book, put on the poncho, or host the Christmas party. We are never going to get the answers we seek or heal the wound or let go of the past until we embrace the uncomfortable, the pain, the unspoken.

I feel like Pig Pen in Peanuts. Wherever I go, I am stirring up dirt, but at least I am moving forward. At least I am trying. At least I am not letting the pain paralyze me.

When I was at Captivating in Colorado back in 2012, God spoke to me, and I wrote down every single word he said in my journal. I have shared those words with only a handful of people since then because they are sacred and beautiful to my heart. I see now that God was making me promises, but just like Sarah, I couldn't imagine that what God was saying could really come to pass. I had doubts. Also, to pick up what he was promising me, I was going to have to let go of two fistfuls of stuff that no longer belonged to me. It has taken me every single bit of these three years since to unclench my fists and slowly let go of all I held onto so tightly for oh so long....

....yes, some of those things are possessions, but even more they are thoughts, lies, shackles, people, ideals, beliefs, shame, and old scabbed over wounds. Oh and those wounds...some of those have been the hardest of all to let go of...because then you have nothing left to hide behind...talk about vulnerability. Allowing yourself to heal is the most vulnerable I have ever been. *Deep Breath*

I am SO grateful.

I sit here today with a stack of cards written to people who have loved me through the toughest 3-4 years of my life. They have believed in me. They have challenged me. They have inspired me. They have given of themselves to me. They have given me a place to sit a spell. They have pointed me to God. They have been present in my life (no easy task with me always moving so fast). They have hugged me when I couldn't form the words to express my need for one. They have shown up with food when they sensed I hadn't eaten well that day. They have sent me articles and books. They have taken me out for a glass of wine or a good meal. They have crisscrossed the U.S. and Haiti to hear and learn and be pushed with me. They have prayed for me and over me. They have moved me. They have unpacked me. They have decorated my home(s). They have helped me give away my treasures to help another. They have donated to causes that moved my heart. They have spoken truth into me and over me when the lies were drowning me. They have picked me up and dusted me off. They have stood between me and other's lies. They have stood next to me when others abandoned me. They have stood behind me and pushed when I was frozen in fear. They have loved me for all the right reasons and for no reason. They have let me love them. They have let me lean on them. They have let me grieve with them and for them. We have grieved together. They have let me know them as I was learning how to be known. They have held me when there were no words. They have laughed with me and at me. They have been encouragers in a world of naysayers. They have rebuked the enemy and called up the Lord, sometimes in the same breath. They are warriors and friends. They are family and peers. They are my tribe. They are my heart.

I have lost so much this past four years. More than even I thought possible back then. There were days and nights I didn't think I would survive the pain and loss, and even more days that I didn't believe I deserved to even if I could..........that is hard to write.

God asked me in 2012 if after a lifetime of believing in him, but not believing HIM, if I was ready to do it his way instead of mine...and after nearly a year of wrestling, I said yes. I was tired of being a half-hearted Christian and trying to control every single aspect of my life; I had NO idea those two were inter-connected (that would take a lot longer to learn). I was miserable. I had everything and nothing. I was clueless.

God is faithful.

Faithful.

God gives me touchstones to remind me that he can re-graft not simply my heart, but my memories. He can create love and joy where there was once only pain. He continues to do it over and over again. In the eyes of a young man who looks to you to mother him. In the multi-colored threads of a poncho. In a song from your childhood. In a container of body powder. In a map on a wall. In the words of a Christmas card and the film that inspires the love of them in your heart. In a text message from an old friend.

In this season of Advent, let it be known that God sent his son to capture my heart...

"Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland...I provide water in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise." - Isaiah 43: 18-21

...and he did. ❤️☀️

***As soon as I finished typing this and hit post, I saw a text from one of my C7 where they sent me this video not knowing if I had ever seen it...Beautiful Things. God absolutely can and does make "beautiful things out of dust" and let my life be a testament to that...thank you Judy for letting God use you to remind me. I love you my friend. :)

Sunshine Dreams to You ~ Today and Every Day! :)

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Final Full Weekend

...and so it begins...

Today starts my final FULL weekend of purging...three years. The next three weekends are full of surprises and holidays so this is IT. Next week starts the last full week and it will be the cherry on top (another post). 

So...this weekend I have to wrap up all of the hanging chads from all the various areas...a box of photos here and there, some piles of books, a rogue closet....then the final mass shipping of the last of my "gifting" and another round of donations to drop off or ship on Monday. My jeep is already full so this is clearly going to happen in phases.

On top of this, I have the regular...dishes, trash out, laundry, and grocery shopping. 

Finally, I have Christmas cards to finish and a few gifts to pick up. 

God woke me up at 5:30 a.m. this morning and I was about to start whining out loud and then he reminded me of my massive to do list. I explained how tired I was...how I was emotionally spent from a long week at work...and there was no empathy...but he did give me a burst of energy. By 7 a.m., I had dishes loaded and running, laundry started, and coffee brewing. On a Saturday. 

I want to quit. 

On any given day I have wanted to quit and/or want to quit. The struggle is as real as you can imagine. 

Yesterday one of my tribe showed up at my office to hang stuff in my office. An office I have been in for 20 months with nothing on the wall. It looks AMAZING! Hours later, another member of my tribe surprised with a hug and a visit...she said the spirit had moved her...I know that it did. By the time she arrived, I had cried ALL the tears twice (I did it one more time before the day ended around 7:30 p.m. and I headed home). I told her I wasn't sure if I could make it. I confessed the silence of God. I told her how tired and stressed I was...and on and on. Then I told her all I could count on was God. I was being forced to rely on a higher power because all of my earthly and human strength were completely gone. Gone.

...and wasn't that the point?!

I have the best tribe. 

I am so grateful that God gave me such a beautiful tribe that have been his feet and hands...not to mention hugs and words...in my life this past three years. 

So, on one of the most stressful work days of my year...on the most stressful work month of my year...on the eve of the craziest weekend of my #threeyearpurgefest...God sent little angels to whisper and hug and pray his strength and encouragement into me. 

God, I love you. With all my heart, I love you. 

❤️☀️




Saturday, December 5, 2015

To The Ridiculous, With Love

I got my feelings hurt earlier this week. At first, I rolled my eyes when I read the comment on a post I had written about my purge, and then I laughed it off. They don't get it, I thought out loud. No big deal.

Well, this morning I woke up realizing that I had basically blown off two purge nights this week due to "no big deal" (the one I mentioned above and a couple of other ones that happened this week). I had allowed others' actions and words towards me (and my actions) to sink in...last night I even allowed them to send me to bed early without doing my Advent readings.

Dangit!

I am exhausted. There is absolutely no doubt about it. It also isn't simply physical. Emotionally I am rung out like a rag doll. At this point, I am done stating, "THIS is the most painful thing I am going to come across." It isn't just stuff I have made a treasure of...it is stuff that I filed away as something I would get to, projects, to dos, wants, dreams, desires. For the love of all that is good and holy, I came across a check today that I had not deposited. A rather large check. Now I am hoping beyond hope that that it is a mistake. That I somehow deposited it electronically and forgot to note it on the check. I have NO idea. It is the type of check that I can get re-cut to me once I sort it all out, but it begs the question....What. The. Heck.?!?!? I sat in the floor (because at the time I was sitting cross-legged in the floor of my office at work going through boxes) laughing....Laughing. Out. Loud.

Here is the deal.

I take care of others before myself. I say yes too much. I don't say no enough. I am a dreamer. I have a lot of interests. I am naturally curious. I am a procrastinator. I make lots of to do lists. I take lots of notes.

Good. Grief.

I have done a lot of purging at the office over the past three years. I have gotten rid of a lot of stuff. If you have followed this journey, you know...20 years of planners, years of training, MBA textbooks and files, but I have also made my office a catch-all for things that were "work" related OR "important files" so for as much as I have gone through, I have had a lot of boxes added back...so there were leftover boxes and new boxes....and what a bloody mess (sorry I went into my British alter-ego voice; I blame my business partner changing Siri on his iPhone to a British accent and having to listen to it all week). 

There was a moment today, about midway through, that I had the brilliant idea to light a match and torch it all. The moment passed. LOL.

My friend sent me a lovely text midweek, knowing I was having a rough time and it said, "You know more than anyone what journey you are on and what God wants of you. Continue to hold His hand and walk with Him through this. Run your race. You know what you need to do. :) Cheering you on from the stands."

A woman could not have a better tribe.

All the prayers and all the words of support....and it took the ridiculous today to connect it all together for me to where it sank in....

I know this journey does not make sense for some or most, but it is what I need to do...for me....for my heart. I have TOO much stuff. It isn't guilt or even as simple as over-consumption, it is the fact that I have LIVED hard and fast for a lot of years and somewhere in all of this I forgot to savor all of the experiences, do natural intermittent purges along the way, finish a book (or books) before buying more, or any number of things that normal folk do in the course of their life. In addition, I have had an all-consuming professional life, worked my butt off for a MBA, and been on an excessive amount of board of directors....those three alone have left me with tons of books, papers, calendars, organizers, manuals, and on and on. Oh and then three years ago I started a company. I have worked solid since I was 16 with no more than a weekend between any one job. Hell....I didn't even take a real vacation until 2001. I have traveled...A. Lot....in the past 10 years, and I have never met a landscape that I did not want to have a treasure from...rock, plant, book, menu, magnet, ornament, and on and on.

If I am guilty of anything it is that I have lived TOO much. Which is laughable and frankly ridiculous. I have squeezed a lot into my years, and I find myself on that backside of 40 wanting something more, deeper. I have LOVED my life, and I am proud of what I have been able to accomplish. I have GREAT memories of people, places, and experiences. I have certificates, degrees, photos, and trinkets. I just don't need ALL of it. Some would say that I don't need ANY of it. Where I am today is simply trying to find a new balance that works for me.

Today I threw away a bunch of framed certificates and award letters. There was a time when I was in a career that measured those sorts of things...on the wall of your office. I remember thinking that a good life would be an office with walls framed with stuff like that. I am not that person anymore. My career is not like that anymore. Now, I am not totally without care for the experiences....I checked my LinkedIn profile to make sure they were noted on there, and then I threw them away. I don't want or need a wall of accomplishments in my office. That isn't who I am. It never was. It makes me uncomfortable. I can't explain to you why, but it does...and so I am not going to have it anymore. Period.

So....this is where I tell you how I got through the entire 12' x 12' office today that was packed as tight as a sardine when I arrived earlier today. That I had blocked off 8 hours and nailed it. Bam!

Oh...how I wish.

I got a LOT done. You can see my desk and my floor...like a lot of the floor. This is serious progress because neither could be seen without moving things around...it was BAD. I would post pictures, but you know a woman likes to keep some shred of dignity. I still have a few boxes to go through, but I always do a week long purge of my file cabinets over the last week of the year, so I feel strongly that I can get the remaining boxes and the file cabinets done in one week...that week. Bless. I also have some prints to hang on the wall, but all-in-all it is done.

I sweated, laughed, and cussed a little today. I found a box of old cards that had been sent to me when my step-grandfather and my stepfather passed away....I re-read every single one of them. I found thank you notes and drawings from children I had taught Junior Achievement to over a span of 12 years. I found old love notes that made me giggle. I found old photos my uncle had sent me to make me smile. I found a Bible I had meant to mail someone three years ago. I found a box of sand that I brought back from Haiti for a friend (boy are they going to be surprised to get that package). I have enough cords and stuff to open an IT store (my IT guy is going to have fun going through that). Pens....don't get me started on the INSANE number of pens I found today. I have a problem. I know. ;) I have three boxes and three pieces of furniture to donate that are getting picked up on Monday. I filled every trash can in the office (my staff is going to LOVE me) and most of the recycling bins. I moved and re-arranged furniture (finding my chi).

The truth is I feel amazing. It was a GREAT day. Hard work. Emotionally and physically draining, but a GREAT day. I am proud of myself. As Sis said, "Look what you did. Wow!!!" when I sent her before and after photos.

Earlier today, I found a photo of one of my favorite Nelson Mandela quotes (he died two years ago today)...


What struck me re-reading that this morning was that there are all types of prisons - physical, emotional, mental. When you walk out of one of these prisons, or a season, these are good words to remember.

Let me tell you that at 8 p.m. at night after the day I have had....those words and his sentiment are even more poignant. Sometimes our "stuff" can hold bitterness and hatred for us, and it is only in the letting go of the item that you release all that junk you tied to it....like a leash, or an anchor.

I don't want to overstate that when I enter into 2016, I am crossing a threshold...and let me just say that I don't plan on taking anything but the good with me. That means I have to leave not just the bitterness and anger, but all of the bad stuff that masked itself as good in my life. All the whatmighthavebeens, shouldas, couldas, wouldas, and even the stuff that was very, VERY good but is now passed. It doesn't mean I won't remember, it just means I won't let the past (even the good parts) rob me of my future.

I am missing out on cool stuff today...time with family, time I could be resting, reading a good book, Christmas shopping...I am missing any and all of those things because I have to manage and organize and corral boxes and boxes of my past. I don't know about you, but that no longer seems like a good use of my time. So...I am going to push on. I have 25 days left of this purge. I need to make the most of every last one of them.

Please pray for me. Pray for my heart. Pray for stamina.

Thanks for listening and reading along on this journey.....even the ones that don't get it....you remind me why I am doing this, and I appreciate it.

Sunshine Dreams to You ~ Today and Every Day! :) 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Long Road Home

Sundays always leave me wanting and restless. The lists start, I flip through my Bible aimlessly searching for wisdom, my fingers twitch to write, my eyes dart amongst the book piles of half-read/need to be finished/want to read again, and the bed calls to me...taunting me...."rest" it whispers...but then my mind whirrs....
 
I am shocked by how my mood keeps pinging between euphoria that this three year purge fest is almost over (all hands raised in thanks to God) and twinges of regret over not documenting it better/did I get rid of too much/too little....and then there are the days that are hard where finding a Valentine's card I made a treasure of sends me into an emotional tailspin that it takes hours and then a good night's sleep to recover from.

Some days I question whether or not I will make it. Seriously.

I have a bone bruise. Google it if you are confused. I kicked my business partner last week (which is a funny story) because he accidently hurt me to which I instinctively kicked him and he instinctively protected himself and so my shin made contact with his steel-toe boot and the pain was so intense I actually went into a little bit of shock. Yesterday I had to give Gail a heads up about it so she wouldn't accidently rub it during my deep tissue massage and me instinctively kick her and come off the table. She was concerned due to its appearance...and what she felt...to the point that as I am laying there all vulnerable on the table while she examines my shin...I started thinking about blood clots and a friend of mine who had died when I was in my 20s of one releasing and going to their brain....and then my brain was "off to the races" so to speak. *Deep Sigh*

Anybody else?

For the love....please tell me that someone else out there has a brain that works like this....It is exhausting right?!?!?!...and in its own way, HILARIOUS!

I digress...

....and that is a heck of a digression if I do say so myself. ;)

God is taking me the LONG way home.

Some people learned about God's grace and salvation and loving others as children and they just "got it" and they lived sweet lives with their own amount of highs and lows, trails and tribulations, but for the most part...they learned it and it "took" that very first time. VBS and Sunday School for the win.

I found a drawing from Sunday School or VBS this past week dated July 8, 1973. I would have been 2 years old. There are stickers, my hand sketched around, my name and date, and a little saying, "Thank you dear God for our gifts."
 

...insert all the tears...

Yours, not mine. I didn't cry. Not one single tear.

I stared at that little drawing that I had OBVIOUSLY made a treasure of...and I placed my hand on that drawn out hand and I wished to go back there for the briefest of moments...so I could whisper advice to that little two year old, "Listen up...listen intently...let it soak in."

Then God whispered, "You did."

....insert ALL the tears...

Mine.

I have written so much about the lessons I am learning...that I have learned these past 3-4 years that I often forget to note the lessons I had in my heart all along...

Like gratitude.

I may not have trusted God consistently for my 44 years, but I have always been grateful. It is that very gratitude that I believe helped me to look up to God that day on the floor and stir the embers of beginning to trust him again. Wholly. Anew.

That makes me chuckle because it is crazy to think how grateful I have always been for God and given him credit in my life, but yet to realize that I was not ever fully trusting him. I didn't trust him. I didn't trust that he had my best interests at heart. I didn't trust his heart because I had only half-assed given him mine. That thin red string between us though ended up being my lifeline on that cold January day, and it is a string that has grown stronger...into a sturdy rope that I know will be tested in the days and years to come.

I got interviewed (I say that lovingly) by a reader this past couple of weeks. They had sent me a litany of questions in a message, curious of this journey of mine that they were watching from afar. It took me a few days to reply because I knew I needed to respond fully, honestly, and with ALL the words. A simple few lines was not going to do the job. I am so grateful for the message and the questions because in answering them it helped me work through a week of purging that was painful and bleak. She helped me remember the whys and wherefores. She helped me remember that this has nothing and yet everything to do with me and my heart. She helped me remember that God is all in this...from the timing to the items to the memories to the tears to the act of giving something away to the act of gifting something to someone to the trash. There is beauty in all of it. Not just lessons but beauty. God is showing himself to me in both what I have treasured....what action I am choosing to do with it...and what I am keeping. God is showing me strongholds I have around forgiveness, or lack thereof, for others....strongholds about money....strongholds about giving.....strongholds about position and praise (both in giving and receiving)...strongholds about what I value to what I believe...strongholds still in how much I am willing to trust God FIRST (not second, third, fifth, or last)....strongholds in how I love others, or sadly how I don't. Strongholds. Everywhere. Still.

*Deep Sigh*

I have been "working" intensively for three years and some days it is as if God and I just sat down together on that pine floor four years ago. Me with a tear-stained face and crumpled body; God with a loving arm around my shoulders.

I miss some things. I miss certain people. I miss some of my old habits. I miss hate. I miss anger. I miss having someone to blame for anything and everything I don't like. I miss excuses. I miss quick-fire reactions. I miss balls-to-the-walls approaches. I miss fire and ice. I miss fun.

I miss all of those things right up until the point that God gives me a touchstone moment and takes me back to one of those "things I miss" and restores it, heals it, or simply just makes it brand spanking new.

I lived out of wounds. Open, puss-filled wounds. I lived, reacted, operated out of, spoke from...wounds. Even my love...the goodness that has always been in me, came from wounds...unhealed, childlike parts of my heart. I loved out of desperation. Even my love was laced in anger...a deathly quiet, suspicious anger that others didn't know, but I am convinced they felt. I didn't trust them and at their core they really didn't trust me. If you can imagine a little girl barely up to your waist quietly terrified then you would be close to meeting the girl that resided in my heart up until four years ago. That frightened, hurt little girl was the boss of me for 40 years....and sometimes she still rears her little curly head up and spouts off, but in the four years since I confronted her...God has systematically been healing her....and as a result the woman she grew up to be.

That little girl has grown up.

Finally.

God has been giving me touchstones since right before Catalyst this past October. When I reference a touchstone it is where God takes an old memory (person, word, song, etc.) and he replaces it with a new memory so that when I see, hear, etc. I only see the new and no longer the old. It is something I have felt him do often these past (nearly) four years, but since October they have been coming FAST and FURIOUS. So much so, that they take my breath and leave me needing to sit down and take deep breaths nearly meditating for a bit on what happened...other times I am with someone, and I simply stand there staring at them dumbfounded and they look at me quizzically having ZERO idea that God is inside my heart and mind at that very moment making a new memory. How do I describe this? It is like when you watch a sci-fi show and someone is healed - there is a gaping wound and then poof nothing...or as I tried to describe to Sherri the other day, when ET heals the little boy with his finger (all lit up)...that, THAT is what I feel/see in my mind's eye when a touchstone moment happens. It is equal parts weird, intense, surreal, heart-wrenching, loving, breathtaking, beautiful. It is God.

I need a good cry. I need the kind of cry that you feel deep in your soul and when you are done crying...no more tears will come...you feel refreshed and renewed.

I need one of those.

God has given me this unique story of a life with him...of restoration...of redemption....of roads taken....roads missed. It is a story of healing and forgiveness. Mine is a story of transformation...and someone who took the long road home (no matter how long my life ends up being on this earth) and somewhere along the way grew okay with "owning" it.

Today I look at that little girl's pencil drawing of her hand, and I see God sitting there with her, holding her heart tight, and whispering, "I will never leave you." and he didn't...and he won't.

Sometimes the long road home is learning to trust that the God you love with your whole heart and believe in with your whole mind has always been there...INSIDE of you.

Sometimes the long road home is winding you back to YOU.

Sometimes the enemy bruises us...like a bone bruise...not always visible to the naked eye, incredibly painful, impacts how we walk and act, takes FOREVER to heal, but in the end it DOES heal.

Restoration.

The long road home is a story of restoration.

My long road home is a story of restoration.

To the little two year old girl...and every variation of her over the last 42 years since...I love you. Thank you.

Thank you God for restoring me to you....to myself...to who you always intended me to be. Whether I have 40 more years or four minutes, I am grateful to be loved by a good, faithful father like YOU.
 

Sunshine Dreams to You ~ Today and Every Day! :)

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Sitting In The Rubble ~ Chantilly

Tonight I started purging my master bathroom. I blocked out just an hour after work and before church as this is a room that I fully set-up and organized as soon as I moved in...so I am thinking...this is going to be quick and hiccup free...no emotional upheaval in toiletries.

Ahhh....

Why do I even bother?

First, let me just say that I am so past the shame part of this purge. I mean seriously. The fact that I can get two boxes of donations and a bag of trash out of a Master. Bathroom. For. The. Love. is so beyond ridiculous I dare not even bother reacting....see how I am not reacting?! :)))

*Breathe*

Then I came across this...
 
 
Cue the crooked smile...and then teary eyes...
 
This is a used (and not by anyone I know) body powder that I bought at flea market because it is the brand my Ma Ma used and when I remove the lid and breathe deeply I am transported back to her bathroom in Memphis with the cast iron claw foot bathtub and pink bathmat and the little shelf she always had her powder sitting on....and when the memories start washing over me in waves, I can feel her wrapping a towel around me as I stood up out of the tub and the delight in her allowing me to use her powder until I was covered in it and smelled like an old beauty parlor. I was the luckiest and most loved little princess girl in those precious moments.
 
I have a problem...one of the reasons that I am in the predicament I am in is that I have had an unrealistic belief that the responsibility for being the keeper of ALL the treasures was mine and I could not fail. Period. That isn't the problem though, well not the biggest one. The problem, my problem, is that I have an uncanny ability to transport myself into memories based on smells, sight, etc. Everyone has this ability, but I have taken mine and amped it up a notch. I have bought houses based on a smell, moved based on a 30 year old list, bought and/or held on to treasures to the point that they became strongholds in my life, but mainly I have been selfish. I have held on so tight to these snippets of the most precious of childhoods (mine) that I have suffocated the memories, stagnated my emotional growth, and isolated myself from others who might benefit from my sharing my memories or treasures.
 
Let me explain how difficult this is to write...
 
The tears are STREAMING down my face as I type.
 
You might read that and think maybe Heather is being too hard on herself. I'm not. Don't give me an inch on this.
 
There has been no room in my heart for new memories or new experiences because no one could get past the ghosts that had taken up residence there. The ghosts I kept snug and warm and fed treasures too...bath powders, music, land, a quilt, photos, books, and even a Bible.
 
I keep getting thank you notes and messages from people as I am mailing out about a half dozen packages a week to friends, family, and even strangers. Some I haven't seen or spoken to in years, but I will come across something and God will whisper...send it to _____. Other items I mail are things that I purchased for someone, pictures I took for someone...and sadly I just never got it to them. I had good intentions in those cases, but...well...no excuses. In these past few months, I am getting to some harder stuff...things that require a letter or message to explain, and I am forcing myself to take the time to sit down and write to them (electronically) or with good old fashion pen and paper. I want to share my heart with the receiver...why I thought of them...I want them to know there was nothing unintentional or casual about me sending it to them. I have been surprised at the responses.
 
I digress...
 
To systematically go through every single item you own is insane. I admit it. This isn't a path I chose as much as it chose me...God chose for me. The truth is that I needed this....desperately. I had a lot of junk (internally) to go through and often I have found that there is a direct correlation between so much of the internal to something external in my life. Funny, huh?! God has a sense of humor and don't ever think he isn't creative when it comes to delivering a lesson.
 
Tonight I am sitting here cross-legged in my floor looking into the bathroom that sat me here and spun my heart....all because of a pink box of powder.
 
So here is the kicker. Do I keep it?
 
I do.
 
I am.
 
Quite simply. It brings me joy.
 
I have been doing this purge for three years (officially/unofficially started in December 2012), and I will complete it 12/31/2015. I set neither the start or the finish and all of that is for another blog I plan on writing at the end. Bottom line, I came across this book a few months ago titled "the life-changing magic of tidying up : the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing" by Marie Kondo, and it is FASCINATING. The core of her process is this..."Discard anything that doesn't spark joy." If that has you scrunching your face a little...buy the book, read it, and when you get to p 181 where this sentence starts summing it all up it will all make a LOT of sense. Trust me. I wish the whole book began and ended with that sentence, but as luck (and learning) would have it, it doesn't. It delves into the whys and wherefores behind the joy...behind the holding on....and it helps you find the "pattern in your ownership of things"...
 
#micdrop
 
I read that section MONTHS ago and tonight it suddenly made sense to me.
 
Crap.
 
I mean. Holy. Crap.
 
So, I have been part of a launch team for a new book, Out of Sorts, by Sarah Bessey, and to say the least...I recommend it...HIGHLY! So our team got a heads up that Sarah had put together a special Spotify playlist for the book and I am including the link HERE: Out of Sorts Playlist so you can go and check it out yourself. Well....I am listening to it yesterday and Nichole Nordeman's The Unmaking comes on, and I. Die. My first thought, thank you God...this is just for me....and it is because it is the perfect theme song for #threeyearpurgefest :)
 
"...This is the unmaking
The beauty in the breaking
Had to lose myself
To find out who You are
Before each beginning
There must be an ending
Sitting in the rubble
I can see the stars..."

I have been sitting in the rubble for four years. Four. Long. Years. The first year, I sat in shock and pain. These past three years I have MOVED. Literally and figuratively. I really hope you take the time to listen to the song, read the lyrics....I think there are a lot of us who need The Unmaking...done to us by God. As someone who believes they are on the edge of the wilderness (season), I feel qualified to testify that there has been tremendous beauty in this season....deep, deep beauty. God bent over and met me fully on that floor and he has never left me as I have crawled out of the rubble.
 
So here I am still crawling out and the latest rubble is a simple thing of powder....powder.
 
Chantilly.
 
Ma Ma.
 
That little white house on Holmes Street in Memphis.
 
Pa Pa sitting at the kitchen table with the red and white checkered tablecloth in his white v-neck t-shirt and khaki pants, peeling an apple in what seemed like one swoop.
 
A creaky twin iron bed with the white chenille bedspread.
 
God whispered....remember. I am here. I have your heart. It's okay.
 
The Unmaking. This is tough stuff. It is like learning to walk again, but what I am doing is learning how to feel....with my whole heart...to lean into God ALL the time...not simply when the pain is too much to bear alone. To let go of the ghosts. To make room. To figure out what truly brings me joy and what simply suffocates me (mind - body- space - time - energy - money).
 
Tonight I filled yet another trash bag (don't ask how many there have been in three years) and fixed up two more boxes of donations.
 
...and on the shelf in between my hand towels and wash cloths sits a pink box of body powder because there is a lot of joy in the memories it gives me..no longer what I have lost, but what I was so beautifully gifted...and it is okay to mourn (even after all of these years) and it is okay to remember, but it is best to FEEL the joy.
 
Sunshine Dreams to You ~ Today and Every Day! :) 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

35 Days

Someone told me once that I think way too much about death....the frailty of life...good-byes.

Ummmm....totally and completely true.

This morning I found out that someone I knew and worked with passed away...35 days.

Yup....36 days ago they worked a full day....35 days ago they went to the doctor complaining about trouble digesting food/loss of appetite. This morning they passed away.

35 days.

I can almost hear God whisper...."Listen Heather, beloved daughter I love. Stop wasting time."

I am sitting here typing this at my desk looking down at piles and piles of STUFF that demands my time and in the center of the madness is a post-it note with 10 Bible verses about joy listed out one-by-one.

...and I shake my head.

*Pause*

I got pulled away...a package came for me just now....no kidding...it is a planner I ordered for 2016. It is unique....."The Dream Job Business Planner"....

I hear you God.

What are you not doing that you know you should....would....could....BUT....???


Life is about choices. Every single day...tons of little and big choices.
"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." - Matthew 6:21
My treasure is my time. What is your treasure?

Deep thoughts on a cold, rainy fall morning, but loss is a time to remember...to pause...to reflect. God is pulling me close and whispering in my ear...I am working to shut out the noise and just lean in and listen to his voice.

Sunshine Dreams to You ~ Today and Every Day! :) 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Awwww....There YOU Are

Two years ago I skipped (yeah...I am pretty sure I skipped) down to the front of the intimate auditorium, stood in line, and when it was finally my turn to introduce myself....I started crying (just a little), grinning like the cat that ate the canary, and gushing about the first time I read Beautiful Outlaw (two years prior) to its author John Eldredge. He stood there grinning, and when I said to him that while reading that book I said, "Awww...there you are Jesus." as if I was meeting Jesus for the very first time (age 40) having been saved at like 13...John replied, "I love your enthusiasm of that!"

October 2013 - Me & John Eldredge (I am the GRINNING one!)
This morning before church I watched that session from the conference two years ago and it was like a time machine back to that day. That glorious day (day two of the conference) when John Eldredge spoke about Loving Jesus (though at the time I had no idea that was what he had named the session), and I was captivated because it was a lesson on/from Beautiful Outlaw....and so this morning, I suddenly realized that while I became a Christian in my early teens, I had not fallen in love with Jesus until I was 40....and the lesson that day two years later was the gift from God reminded me of what it felt like that December when I DID. When. I. Did.

...a little worn...

The truth is that up until that book, I read scriptures different...I saw church differently...I saw God differently...I honestly didn't really know Jesus (like I thought I did)....and I was more LOST than the day I gave my life to him and got baptized by my beloved youth pastor, at night, in a dimly lit sanctuary, with only four other people there - two to small to understand and two who (to be completely frank) didn't really care, but they were all my people...and when you are saved and baptized you are "supposed" to be surrounded by "your people" and those were mine....and wow I am suddenly starting to have run-on sentences in my head that sound like the close of a Louie Giglio teaching. :)

If my love for Jesus is a love story....and I think all of us have a love story with Jesus....then mine has certainly been a love story for the ages. Filled with young love and adoration....then obedience...then disobedience and distance...then denial....then begging for forgiveness....and restoration.

The truth of the matter is that on that December day when I had that thought reading Beautiful Outlaw of "There you are Jesus," lets be clear....Jesus was probably chuckling a bit thinking, I have been here all along....lets talk about where YOU have been....and the further truth is that I probably knew all of that on that day which is why I didn't go running into his waiting arms.

It would be another month.

Do you remember the day you fell in love with Jesus?

Let me tell you....God has been reminding me of our courtship together for a couple of weeks now, and I am GRATEFUL for it. I am grateful that he knows that my spirit has gotten weary and dry. I am grateful that he is sending me sign after sign, circumstance after circumstance, reminder after reminder, word after word, awe and wonder, and it keeps coming....I feel God PURSUING my heart, and let me be clear....

I. Know. How. Crazy. This. Sounds.

...but it is true. He keeps coming and coming and coming....

and the HEALING.

Do. Not. Get. Me. Started.

I go to bed joyful and I wake up joyful....and here is the further crazy part....The STRESS is ALL still HERE! I still am overwhelmed, too much to do, too little of me to go around, demands, etc. BUT in the midst of all of it, I just continue to hear his voice. I mean I. HEAR. His. Voice.

Don't worry...I'm good....Fine to talk amongst yourselves for a bit....

My friend Sherri and I were at Catalyst week before last, and the two of us needed to lose sleep like we needed holes in our head, but what did we do....stay up most of the nights the entire time talking and sharing and DOING LIFE TOGETHER because we needed to share and connect and explore with someone else all that God was doing (or not doing) in our lives....and between that time with her and the lessons at Catalyst and dinner with our dear friend Ines (who we met via Haiti) who let me just be clear breathes JOY...I mean literally BREATHES JOY.....my joy tank must have somehow multiplied or something (I am really not quite sure what) because I cannot stop feeling the JOY even in the CRAPPINESS of a day or moment....So I ask you....what do you call THIS????

Jesus.....Awww...There YOU are.

In the story of Noah, he sends out a dove to see if the water had receded from the surface of the ground. This happened three times...the first time nothing, the second time an olive leaf, and the third time the dove did not return.

What in the world does this story have to do with me today?

God is faithful.

I have persevered.

God is still faithful.

If I could, would I go back to me that day in December 2011 reading Beautiful Outlaw and say, "I know you think this is BIG, but guess what...it is BIGGER. It is time to MOVE. Literally and figuratively. This is a sign. God wants your heart. You are about to enter a new season. This season is going to be BRUTAL. You are going to walk away from the career you have known since 1998. You are going to have your heart broken. You are going to lose MORE family. You are going to start a company with a stranger doing something you know NOTHING about. You are going to move four times. You are going to sell or give away most of your possessions. You are going to go to Haiti FIVE times in two years. You are going to purge and touch and re-distribute and remember every single "treasure" you have ever possessed/bought/been given. You are going to lose old friends you love. You are going to make new friends you love. You are going to learn about "tribe" and what that can really mean for your heart. You are going to teach and counsel and love. You are going to FAIL. You are going to RISE. You are going to feel pain and loss and grief and heartbreak and shame. You are going to find restoration in relationships. You are going to forgive. You are going to be forgiven. You are going to READ and WRITE and SPEAK....and it is going to leave you RAW and VULNERABLE....yet you are going to feel more ALIVE than you have ever felt. You are going to lose all comfort and faith in your abilities around income and money, and then there will be restoration....even there except restoration looks VERY different than before because now the neediness and dependency and striving is gone. There is going to be copious amounts of joy; such that you are going to FEEL everything and yet still you will be joyful. Oh...and God. Well God is going to come for you again and again....you are going to battle with him like a lioness throughout the bulk of the process....and he is going to keep coming for you anyway...because He. Loves. You.

Yeah....I am not sure that if I had known what would transpire over the next four years on that snowy day in December 2011 when I held that book that literally helped me fall in love with Jesus all over again, directed me back to the Bible I had used and read but not PASSIONATELY loved in years and known that one month later God would quite literally come for me by WRECKING my life in all the ways that mattered most at that time and keep unraveling it for this "season"....well, I might have done something altogether....different. I am quite sure though that I would not have believed it...for I was pretty confident I had it all together and knew what I was doing and was exactly where I was supposed to be....

Awww...self-delusion. Isn't it grand.

The truth is that in December 2011 I fell in love with Jesus and then he proceeded to let my life unravel, and yet I continued falling more and more in love with him (because I am crazy that way)....and today I was reminded of that beautiful memory when I first realized I was truly in love with him (October 2013) and yet even then he kept unraveling my life....and here I sit almost a full two and four years later (respectively) grateful to him for every single part of the journey.

In my twenties I wrote a song with a line in it "sometimes he has to break us to build us up again" and yes is was a Christian song....and yes it was about God....and yes I have always been a bit "dramatic" about...well....everything. What I didn't realize in my twenties (it would take 20 more years) was that I was the one who needed to be broken....and not in the ways I thought at the time.

People think I am nuts about this #threeyearpurgefest but the truth is that only here at the end of it is it even make sense to me...and I am the one doing it. Sometimes God has to take us through everything (sometimes literally) like touchstones (I have written about that before...CLICK HERE) to remind us of where we have been...show us where we are going....sometimes just to show us that something that has had "a hold of us" for forever (it seems) no longer does....let that sink in...I had to....;)

I see the end of this season...and not just because the dates are on a calendar, but because I truly see God preparing to turn the page for me. He is also sending in reinforcements to encourage me on because he recognizes how tired I am....how often in a day I simply want to give up...how my back hurts...how there are moments if I had a can of kerosene, a lighter, and no fear of prison...I would torch everything I possess....how he sends people to me who need and want what I have got and he whispers...GIVE it to them. Give. It. Away.

Ugh. That last one hurt.

*Dang It*

That last line was personal and he knew it and now I know it....God you are a jokester. ;)

*Tears*

The truth is that somewhere inside of me that December (2011) I did know....my heart knew before the rest of me that it was tired and ready for something different....my heart needed more...some people have mid-life crises when they turn 40; I had a heart crisis. I had treated (and/or allowed) my heart (to be treated) like crap for 40 years while God waited for me to get tired of it. He waited patiently for 40 long years; it wasn't his first time waiting that long. ;) I almost made him wait 41. I can be a stubborn douche (it is okay to laugh...just being honest here).

Why do we make him wait? Why did I?

Next year, in March (2016), I am going to a conference in Colorado to hear John Eldredge teach. If I have the opportunity to speak with him, I am going to take it...and once again...I will probably cry as I simply say, "Thank you. Thank you for being a voice in the noise and the wilderness reminding me of who Jesus was and is....and reminding me of who I was meant to be." I will also probably tell him that in heaven when I finally hear God's voice, I am going to be a little surprised if it doesn't sound just a wee bit like him (John E.) because...ya know. ;) BUT...but what I hope I have the simple opportunity to tell him (briefly) is my own story of restoration...and how it took four years to crash, burn, restore, crash and burn a few more times, and restore again and again....but that while restoration is a lifelong journey, I have successfully cleared THAT wilderness I was knee-deep in when he and I spoke in 2013....and thank you him for allowing God to use him as one of my many guides through it.

...and while I am thinking about that, let me say this to anyone reading this....Thank YOU. I never, ever, ever intended to peel myself like a grape to anybody and everybody who clicked on this website/blog. I would have NEVER EVER said yes to that willingly and knowingly, but somewhere along this journey being raw and transparent here just became....well, it became okay. I became okay with it. God said share here...this...here, and I said, "Yes Sir." Obedience comes in many forms.

Awww....There you are Jesus...in the growth, in the sadness, in the real life at every turn, in the healing, and in the JOY. I see you. I know you. Even better...I know you see me, and I know (without a shadow of a doubt) that you KNOW me. This whole walking through the (fields of) life thing we are doing is the sweetest gift I have ever known, and I am on my knees...face to the ground....arms outstretched grateful to you for wrestling hell for my heart. I love you Jesus.

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." - Hebrews 12: 1-3

Amen. Again and AGAIN...Amen.

Sunshine Dreams to You ~ Today and Every Day! :) 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Only Hope



How many times I have sat down to write in the past several days and weeks and just....STOP.

I can't even.

My can't even...can't even.

I am not dry. I am simply...overwhelmed. By. My. Own. Thoughts.

Allow me a digression.

I have lost my favorite turquoise earrings. This isn't the first time I have lost them...I lost one in my original set causing me to order a completely new set giving me three....just in case this happened again. And it did. Only this time, I have lost a whole set, leaving me with one, and the company no longer sells them...and I have looked EVERYWHERE....and so I was sitting here tonight accepting defeat.

They are GONE.

Suddenly I started laughing....God sometimes does some purging for us. :) ;)

Why would God want to purge a pair of earrings for me? Well....I can think of a few lessons in there for me...

....like the fact that I have hit a purging wall...AGAIN...and need the motivation once again that this is all just STUFF...including some of my favorite things...which are still just STUFF.

....like the fact that how much time have I spent in the last several days looking for a pair of earrings? Earrings. #forthelove  So...may I once again reference the last point...just STUFF.

....like the fact that I bought those earrings from a chain...and although beautiful....I now have access to beautiful artisans whom if I provided a photo would make me an even more beautiful and unique pair...with their hands...and I would be giving my money to someone who is providing creativity and jobs for people.

...did I mention they are earrings.

Ugh.

*Deep Sigh*

I heard this song at Catalyst last week called Only Hope. Jon Foreman actually performed it live...him (on guitar) and a cellist, and although I had heard it before (and it was on my iPhone (music)), it was as if I was hearing it for the very first time. It makes me wonder....but first let me share the words...

Only Hope by Jon Foreman
 
There's a song that's inside of my soul
It's the one that I've tried to write over and over again
I'm awake in the infinite cold
But You sing to me over and over and over again
So I lay my head back down
And I lift my hands and pray to be only Yours
I pray to be only Yours
I know now You're my only hope
Sing to me of the song of the stars
Of Your galaxy dancing and laughing and laughing again
When it feels like my dreams are so far
Sing to me of the plans that You have for me over again
And I lay my head back down
And I lift my hands and pray to be only Yours
I pray to be only Yours
I know now You're my only hope
I give You my destiny, I'm giving You all of me
I want Your symphony singing in all that I am
At the top of my lungs I'm giving it back
So I lay my head back down
And I lift my hands and pray to be only Yours
I pray to be only Yours, I pray to be only Yours
I know now You're my only hope
 
Here is also a LINK to a video of Only Hope performed by Jon Foreman (disclaimer...not the one from Catalyst last week).

I wish I had a nickel for the number of times since January 2012 that I have crawled in bed and lifted my hands to the heavens and prayed to God with all that I have...to just take it all. Every single last bit of it. Most of those times, I was referring to my heart, lets be clear. So...I am slightly amused at how I sit here nearly four years later, and after lots of ups and downs, spiritual battles, personal battles, professional battles...I find myself just literally giving it (as in the physical) all away because suddenly even the things that were priceless to me just a few years ago have zero meaning or value to me. Let me tell you that there are no words to explain that feeling. None.

My friend Sherri sent me a text this morning with a photo and a note...."read the whole section on Matthew..."....and the photo she sent me is below...


..."but for Matthew there was no turning back."

I told Sherri last week at Catalyst that there were parts of this three year purge that felt like I was closing a door on ever going back to a job, career, town, position, house, building, lifestyle, relationships, etc. So of course she reads this last night and sends it to me....because WOW.

I don't think my story or journey this past 3-4 years is for everybody. Why? Because most people out there are not as stubborn as me...listen better...don't need Thor's hammer to come down on their head....but I digress...

I do think there is a lot to learn from our personal journeys...and from other's. I know that I have gained a lot of strength learning from others this past several years. It has been a refuge in the storm to know that I am not alone in the questions, the wilderness, the season of searching for...more. That said, for as much as I have shared my journey this past several years, there are parts of my story that I have not written...well, written...here. I am not sure if that is going to change or not, but I am thrilled that for the first time in my 44 years, I am not scared to share my story...the good and the bad....to feel my heart lighten at the thought is nearly miraculous, but you would have to be in my skin to fully understand that. I get it.

I have placed my hope, and often my only hope, in everything and in everyone...including myself...for the majority of my life. It is breathtaking to feel that truly changing...not simply the words of a woman searching, but the words of a woman found. A woman who knows to whom she belongs...and that everything outside of that single fact is well...just details.

A woman found.

*Tears*

In Matthew 9, the Pharisees question Jesus on why he eats with "tax collectors and sinners" to which he replies, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

..."but go and learn what this means"....

"I desire mercy, not sacrifice."

I feel like I have been on the journey to learn what it means...mercy vs. sacrifice....and not all days, and maybe not tomorrow...but tonight, I feel closer to understanding....and the truth is that mercy starts with the person in the mirror...and whatever sacrifices I now find myself making do not feel like sacrifices AT ALL as they are made from a heart that longs for a relationship with Jesus that makes him my one and only hope. That feels fundamentally different than any relationship he and I have had previously....and feels like HEALTH personified as I trust in a God that loves me unconditionally above everything and everyone else in my life.

There are some shifts coming....I can feel it.

There are purging moments ahead of me that are going to break my heart. There are choices to be made. Conversations to be had with old friends. Corners to be turned. Yokes to be dropped from my shoulders. I have such peace about it though...and my eyes are full of tears...but not of sadness, of joy. Pure unadulterated joy.

I have these littles watching me (though they are hardly littles anymore), and I stood at Catalyst last week with my arms wide open (literally) and after God, I thought of them...what have I taught them, what am I teaching them, what are the lessons....and more than anything else, above lessons on loving, forgiveness, entrepreneurship, photography, Haiti, football, Monopoly, etc., I pray that I am teaching them that you can fall down, crawl through the wilderness....on your hands and knees...be forgiven, and learn to walk again...with God....side-by-side....again. Again. Knowing too that he never left their side. Ever. I pray that they learn to give mercy freely as they need/will need mercy. I pray that they will learn that sacrifice can come from a willing heart that is head over heels in love with Jesus. I pray that they learn that whatever plans this world has for them, God's plans are better...more better (inside joke).

God, thank you. You have loved me SO well. "...at the top of my lungs I am giving it back..."

"Follow me, he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him." No questions. No discussion.

Lord, I pray for obedience in my heart like Matthew.

You are my only hope.

Sunshine Dreams to You ~ Today and Every Day! :) 

Monday, October 5, 2015

Day 5



I am using an October Blogging Challenge to get back in the habit of writing daily. It is HARD. I have a lot of writing assignments coming up so I need to step up my "A" game. Plus, lets be honest...I need to write like I need to breathe; it is therapeutic. Truly.

Today I am feverishly working to get my office in order as I head out to Catalyst tomorrow. I can hardly believe it. Last year was my first Catalyst experience, and I highly recommend reading my entries around then...crazy, life-changing stuff. Check it out HERE.

So...when you are going to be gone this long, it is a matter of what MUST be done today and what can wait a WEEK. Grief. Some tough calls happening, but what can I say. #priorities

My business partner has some RIDICULSOULY challenging things happening in his personal life and today I offered to cancel my trip, and his face..."No WAY!" he quickly replied, "You need this!"

....and yes I do.

Catalyst is the best leadership, entrepreneurship, Jesus-centered, beautifully restorative conference I have ever attended, and I am over the moon to get to go back this year.

...and I need it.

Did I say that already?

I am tired. My nerves are frayed. I am overwhelmed. I am torn. I am deeply in need of recalibration.

What are you in need of today? When you get really quiet, what can you hear your soul whisper to you that it needs?

Sunshine Dreams to You ~ Today and Every Day! :) 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Day Four

Some days I have these crazy thoughts like what if I believe God is 1000% real, the Bible is 1000% true, and maybe as far as I believe God has already radically shifted my life....He is thinking lets go a little bit...more.

I am going to let this hang out here today....

Anybody else???

Sunshine Dreams to You ~ Today and Every Day! :) 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Another Fragile Edge



I started writing last night, stopped midway through a post, gave up, went to bed.

I sit here this morning trying to begin again.

I loved the title...so I kept it (see above), but I hated the words...whiny, nonsensical words. So....they are all gone to the Netherlands of where writers send their thoughts banished via the delete key.

*Deep Sigh*

When I was little I would swing...and swing...and swing. I remember loving to watch the clouds roll by and see the different pictures in their various shapes. I remember listening to leaves rustle and a dog barking or cow mooing in the background. I remember seeing my father come around the corner of our farmhouse. I remember my mother hollering through the screen door on the back porch off the kitchen. I remember...some days...I remember EVERYTHING.

Yesterday I lost my religion, and by that I mean I lost my sh*t. A client lied to my employees, then my business partner, and finally to me. They had been lying for weeks. It was more painful because it came right after some of the best news my partner and I could have imagined for our firm. Like...within 15 minutes.

I can't even.

I know that many people would respond with that is life. That is what it means to be an entrepreneur. Put your big girl panties on. Welcome to real life. And ALL of that.

No.

Life can be better. I can be better.

"One of the strangest quirks of our life here on this planet
 
is the fact that the one face we hardly ever see is the one

closest to us: our own. As we move about in the world

every day, our face is always right before us and always

just beyond us. Somebody could write a fairy tale about

that. It would be an allegory for how rarely we see ourselves,

who we truly are, the good and the bad. But in

unexpected moments we get a sideways glance, as when

passing by a plate-glass window downtown, and most of

the time we don’t like much what we see.


Notice how we are in elevators: No one makes eye

contact. No one wants to acknowledge that we are seeing

and being seen. In a moment of forced intimacy,

almost claustrophobic intimacy, we pretend we aren’t

even there. The reason? Most times we just don’t know

what to do with what we see. About ourselves, I mean.

It doesn’t take a Nobel Prize winner to know that something

dreadful has happened to the human race. So we

stare at the ceiling or our shoes; we watch the numbers

report the passing floors; we hide. This is how most

of us approach our entire lives—we hide what we can,

work on what we feel is redeemable, and despise the rest.
 

 There is a better way.


Whether you are aware of it or not, you crave goodness. In the depths of your

being, you ache for goodness; we all do. Our souls long

for a sense of wholeness, and goodness is essential for

wholeness. We are made for goodness like we are made

to breathe, like we are made to love. Goodness is the

strength of our condition. Friends, you are going to need

a deep and profound goodness for all that is coming at

you like a freight train."

 
The above is the opening chapter to "Utter Relief of Holiness" by John Eldredge. The book has been re-released under a new title "Free To Live" and let me state this as clear as possible...the book is a Game. Changer.
 
I was filled to the rim with goodness yesterday...towards everyone including myself and in the span of 30 minutes the enemy had me in a headlock. Took. Me. Out.
 
That is how it works.
 
....and just like that another fragile edge of myself is laid bare in front of me and anyone within ear shot.
 
I am not naïve. I know that life is hard and mean people are out there, but I also know that we have been given the ability (albeit not the gift) of self-control. It is our choice whether or not to use it.
 
A friend of mine was drunk-dialing me last night (and I was not in a good head space) and then again this morning (tied up), and when I finally was able to call her back she needed me to walk her off the ledge....she had heard all of these people jibber-jabbering about the pope and politicians and just bashing both...but something she overheard was curious...seems they were particularly upset because the pope had said "The Creator" instead of "God"...seriously?!?! Did you know there are 900+ variations of God in the Bible? Ways that God referred to himself or others did. 900+. How do I know? Google. Now I like a good debate as good as the next person and I am not catholic, but were they for real? 
 
People.
 
They will know us by our love.
 
 "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." - John 13:35
 
My fellow Christians....they don't know we love Jesus  and that we belong to him and that the Bible is true and beautiful and real....because we don't love others well, we don't love ourselves well, we don't love fellow believers well. We. Don't. Love. Well.
 
They will know us by our love.
 
I had no real words of advice for my friend but this...respond in grace with facts. Don't respond in anger. Don't lash out with words questioning their intelligence. Don't compound ignorance with anger.
 
....and my face flashes crimson.
 
I lost my sh*t yesterday, but you know what I also did...later after hours I sent a private text to the witnesses of my outburst with an apology for losing it in front of them (no matter the reasons). You know what they did? They replied back with no worries...we love you....and one sent a response in Pig Latin that I did not understand but made me LOL...he explained it this morning when we all came in.
 
You know what that is called my friends?
 
Grace. Goodness. Growth.
 
I may have found another fragile edge last night, but you want to know what else I found...my people...locking arms...to catch me....in love.
 
The world is hard. People lie. Mean people are everywhere. Religions vary. Politicians are (shockingly) politicians. Opinions differ.
 
Love can permeate and neutralize all of it. ALL of it.
 
Respond in love today to whoever needs it...and let me just say from someone who knows....start with the person looking back at you in the mirror. That person is doing okay...give them a fist bump.
 
Yesterday I really HEARD this song for the first time "Hot Gates" by Mumford and Sons and let me say the meaning is perfect...today. Don't look away from the tough stuff. The tough stuff is a disguise for the GOOD stuff. I don't know about you, but bless my heart....I want more of the tough stuff because I am addicted to the good stuff I find in it.
 
Sunshine Dreams to You ~ Today and Every Day! :)