I have found myself a bit unrecognizable of late. In spaces where I would hope to practice forgiveness, I have felt bitterness creep in. At times where I would hope to notice beauty, I find myself complaining. In moments where kindness would heal, I have been curt. Lately, when I look in the mirror, my first thoughts include what is wrong with me, what I don’t like, what needs to change.
I have chosen to live my life out loud, to share my story, to describe and let people in on the experiences in my little microcosm of the world. And sometimes it’s pretty embarrassing, because sometimes I am kind of a mess. But I would rather be embarrassed than on a pedestal. Check that. I would much rather be on a pedestal, I mean honestly. But that’s not good for my soul because it’s a lie. So I choose embarrassment. Is there a third way? Perhaps…but I really don’t know what that would look like.
Why do I do this? My mission is to inspire, motivate and facilitate transformation by the power of God. I find that what often inspires transformation is the sharing of stories, the vulnerability of inviting people into the struggle. Speaking about the fight and bringing it into the light, out of the secret place. Because in reality, we are all fighting some kind of battle. As much as I would love to shout my successes from the mountaintops, I am not sure that is helpful without sharing, in very palpable ways, the journey through the battlefield. The success isn’t what inspires…it’s all the qualities and experiences that get us to that mountain top…the struggle, the fight, the grit, the falling down and getting back up again, the failures, the scars, the gifts, the helpers. It’s the journey that inspires, not the destination.
When I read blogs that have perfect pictures and stories with all happy endings and with characters who can all fit into skinny jeans with cute boots, with people telling me that if I just do this and that then this or that will happen, I get a little cuckoo. This speaks to my own insecurities, I realize that, but I have lived long enough to know that life is just not that picture perfect. It just doesn’t work that way.
Life is brutally hard. Life is breathtakingly beautiful. There is pain. There is hope. I live in constant contradiction and mystery. I want to be invited into stories that reflect all of this. And these are the stories I want to tell. God forbid someone read something written by me or hear something said by me, and feel “less than” about themselves, their lives, their kids, their marriage, their life with God. This is out of my control, I realize, but it’s important for me to fight for the hearts of others in any way that I can.
So I choose to keep it real, at least as real as I can.
When you keep it real, people have a front row seat to the good and the bad; the beautiful and the brutal; the victories and the failures. And it’s embarrassing. Maybe when I get to the point of not caring what other people think of me, I will be free of embarrassment (perhaps that’s the third way?) That would be awesome. Not so sure it will happen for me this side of heaven.
Which brings me to today. Today I begin again by simply making the next right choice. Life happens and the urgent tyrannizes and things that matter get neglected. But all of that is irrelevant right now because there is today. There is a new moment, a new opportunity a new chance to do what is life-giving, to cultivate habits, once again, that will bring joy and new life to my body, mind and spirit.
The bitterness, complaining and unkindness is not working. This is not who I want to be. This is not who I am. This is no way to live.
Time for a course correction. My eyes are open and so now that they are, I choose to step back, breathe, look up, and search for the gifts.
Today I begin again. Time to resist the gratitude killers, grab my journal, my pen, and go on a God-hunt, to sight all the ways He loves, to count them, gift upon gift, to write them down, to read over them, to fight for perspective.
I am reminded of Emily’s speech at the end of Our Town, written by Thornton Wilder. In the play, she has died in childbirth and has an opportunity to go back and live one day of her life. She chooses her twelfth birthday, but she is overwhelmed by the fact that no one really notices her, no one truly sees her: “Oh, Mama, look at me one minute as though you really saw me…just for a moment now we're all together. Mama, just for a moment we're happy. Let's really look at one another! I can't. I can't go on. It goes so fast. We don't have time to look at one another. I didn't realize. So all that was going on and we never noticed. Take me back -- up the hill -- to my grave. But first: Wait! One more look. Good-bye world…Good-bye Mama and Papa. Good-bye to clocks ticking...and Mama's sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new ironed dresses and hot baths...and sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth, you are too wonderful for anybody to realize you. Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it--every, every minute?”
I don’t want to be dead before I realize all the beauty that I am living in right now, even in the midst of the hard. I long to be quick to forgive, to be softened and shaped by my pain and disappointment, not embittered and hardened. Kindness is a fruit of the Holy Spirit in me, and for me, practicing gratefulness is praying in the Spirit at all times, because it is constant awareness of the presence and goodness of God flowing from His heart to me.
I want to notice the beauty, cherish this moment. I want to sit and soak in the pleasure of braiding my daughter’s hair, and reaching around to plant multiple kisses on her dimple…I want to love it NOW, not wish for it when it’s over. I want to sit with my baby girl in her bed before lights out, and listen to her, really listen, rather than hurrying out to the couch. I want to notice the smell of the honeysuckle on my morning walk, and drink in the beauty of the purple flowers against the bright-white house on Logan Drive. I want to acknowledge the gift of a refrigerator full of delicious food, a water faucet that flows with pure water. I want to pause with gratitude as I watch the three loves of my life get into the car and head to school.
I am not talking about being perfect...Lord knows that I will grow tired and grouchy and blind. Shauna Niequist talks about being present over perfect. That’s what I want to be… present, awake to this moment. I don’t want to survive my day, my week, my LIFE. I want to live it, really live it.
So I begin my gratitude practice again today, because I know from experience, that this is the pathway to joy, experiencing it and sharing it.
Is there something you want to begin again today? A life-giving habit that you have neglected? How about starting over. You can. You will. Take a big breath and move into the next good choice. No more and no less.
Let’s stay in this moment—refusing to go back with regret or look too far ahead with dread.
You have what you need right now. Me too. Let’s do this.
So much love,
I would love to hear how you will "begin again" today. I would love to hear about it in the comment section below...
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