The Heart of the Matter

Three months after losing my Dad unexpectedly to what, we believe, was a sudden heart attack, I found myself sitting in the waiting room of a cardiologist’s office praying to Jesus that the little palpitation I was feeling was nothing. After speaking to the doctor about my family history, and my current state of being, he decided to have me wear a heart monitor for two weeks. This little contraption was strapped on and keeping track of my every move…at least it felt like that’s what it was doing! Thankfully, they have come a long way in the world of heart monitors, so I could secure it under my top with nobody being the wiser. It made me feel like I was walking around with this little secret around my neck. As the days went on, I told some people about it just in case I started buzzing due to an electrode popping off. I also told some people because I was just plain scared. It was weird. I became very, very aware of my heart. Could everyone tell I was hiding something? Should I make sure to side hug people, or not hug people at all, so I wasn’t found out? But the biggest question of all…was my heart working properly?

The day of my doctor’s appointment, I almost punked out and didn’t go. All of a sudden, the thought, “What if something is wrong?” came flooding in. Which was followed by the just as helpful thought of, “I don’t have time to deal with a heart issue right now…there’s too much to do.” That thought made me wonder if it was time to get my head checked too! There’s NEVER a GOOD time to deal with a heart issue…but deal with it I must. Especially if the issue had any chance of killing me.

As timing would have it, this journey of my physical heart issues had come at the heels of a 2-year long journey of some spiritual heart issues. In January 2016, in a moment of great transition, I received a word that my season of working with my hands would turn into a season of God working on my heart. I was also told that God was trying to show me love, but I wasn’t receiving it. At the heart of the matter, I believe my heart had grown weary. Years of unmet expectations, feelings of being overlooked and abandonment had left me believing that no matter how much I worked, or tried, or cared…I wasn’t going to have what other people have.

So, in a sense, God put a heart monitor around my neck at that moment. I had become acutely aware of all my “ish.” I began a journey of letting go. Another season of being put out to pasture. Moved out far from everything and everyone I knew. Or at least, everyone I thought I knew. Obscurity. A season of not making a move unless it was a move that God told me to make. A season that He didn’t tell me to move much, which was way uncomfortable. A journey of learning to hear Him in new ways. A season of becoming acutely aware of my rhythm…a rhythm that was beginning to beat at the same pace as His. Connected to Him in a way that I had never been connected to Him before. Just like that heart monitor I had hanging around my neck…I went nowhere without Him and was aware of Him at all times. If my heart was off beat, I pressed into Him a lot like I pressed that little button any time I had a palpitation.

Well the good news is, nothing major was found at the end of two weeks. I can get back on track of doing what I need to do…drink less coke and eat more green stuff. I can’t say I’ve been 100% successful at that yet…but I believe I’ll arrive there at some point. As far as the work on my heart that God is doing…well, I’ve learned that journey will take a lifetime to complete. I’m grateful that I have the “heart monitor” AKA Holy Spirit “around my neck” at all times. He reminds me with a gentle nudge when my rhythm is off and teaches me how to love wider and deeper.

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Sinking Sand

A few weeks after my Dad passed away, I stumbled upon a story about a woman who had found herself stuck in quicksand near the Santa Barbara area. We’ve had some pretty wild weather in California. Massive downpours followed by blistering heat had created a perfect scenario for the unexpected to occur at the base of a dried out riverbed. She was just walking along and all of a sudden, she was stuck and the Earth began to swallow her up. She was rescued…but even those who came to help her began to sink before successfully pulling her to safety.

I’d pretty much had forgotten about the story as fast as I heard it, which has been kind of the norm since my world changed on June 19th. Two days after Father’s Day, I received a call at work that has changed my family and my life forever. However, there was no “wild weather.” We had just had a beautiful day enjoying the family on Sunday. It was the first time we were all in one place for such a long time. My Dad was happy and had just been told he could take a few months off from seeing his doctors. He was really close to completing a long standing business matter, and was starting to plan for what he and my Mom would do after it was settled. And then, just like that, it felt like the Earth below us began to turn to mush and swallow us up.

I hadn’t thought of the story of the woman in the quicksand until I was in the midst of needing to grab hold of the only One that could rescue me during a momentary ‘sinking fast’ feeling: the Holy Spirit. I was listening to one of my favorite worship leaders sing:

I won’t win this battle with the strength of my own hands

You’re the Mountain Mover, and only You can

I won’t build my life on sinking sand

You’re my hope forever, the Rock where I stand

The one thing that has become so clear to me during the last 2 months is my complete and total dependence on God. When people ask me, “How are you doing this?” My answer is clear, “It’s not me, it’s the Holy Spirit in me.” I’ve heard people say that before. Shoot, I’ve heard ME say it! But I have never in my life felt so comforted during a time of complete and utter turmoil. And the reason I have never felt so comforted…because I’ve never in my life experienced grief this raw. The loss of a parent is hard. But witnessing the loss of a spouse so up-close and personal…I will never in my life be able to understand it until, perhaps, I experience it myself. But oh, how it has made me love my God all the more…for His Word says all throughout it how important it is to care for the widow…it’s like He “gets” it.

Hearing the words to this worship song led me to Matthew 7:24-27 which then led me to a new obsession with quicksand …so of course I googled it. I thought it was interesting that some of the tips for getting out of literal quicksand can also help when you find yourself in life with that sinking feeling.

According to Wikihow, here are some ways to get out of quicksand:

  • Drop Everything. The more you carry, the more it weighs you down and the faster you sink and get stuck.

It’s no surprise that God gave me the words “let go” at the onset of 2018. If there is one thing I have learned since my Dad’s passing is that I need to feel okay with letting stuff go so the important stuff…like getting through the next seconds…minutes…hours of the day when all hell is breaking loose, can happen. It’s made me acutely aware that not everything needs to happen right now and that holding onto some things could actually impede me in certain situations. 

  • Move horizontally. Try to move backwards. Taking a big step forward may get you stuck deeper.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to take matters into my own hands when I find myself in unfamiliar territory. Especially if that territory involves possibly being stuck somewhere. Fight or flight can move in fast…but if I can stop myself from making sudden moves, take a step back and re-evaluate, I find that I’m better able to move forwards only after taking a step backwards.

  • Lay back and create a bigger footprint by allowing yourself to float. Yes, do the exact thing that sounds absolutely crazy. Lay yourself back and allow your body to float above the very thing trying to suck you in.

This is probably the one that is SO against common sense. You’re standing waste deep in a pool of yuck and they say to lay back into it?! I mean, this isn’t a pile of fresh cut leaves or a bath of warm water…this is laying back in the muck and mire. The thing that hits me about this is rather than it taking you over, you take IT over by not getting sucked into it’s crazy. Oh, so many times in life I either fight like crazy or try running away when all I needed to do is lay back and let myself float above the muck.

  • Take your time. Relax. Don’t make sudden moves. Don’t panic. Quicksand is not usually very deep. It’s the fast moves and the panic that makes people sometimes injure themselves. It’s very rare that someone dies from quicksand.

Like many things in life that we panic about or in…it’s temporary. It won’t kill us. It may suck for a minute, but it’s not forever. In fact, the act of panicking is what can actually injure you, or in some cases, an innocent bystander.

  • Use a stick. This is how the rescuers got the woman out of the quicksand in Santa Barbara. It makes sense…it’s better to send a stick in than another, heavy human body. You don’t want to pull someone else in and get them stuck too. The stick is wedged under you as you lean back and almost serves as a buoy.

The idea made me think that it serves us well to grab a walking stick for the journey so we are already prepared for any quicksand situation we might find ourselves in. This last thought is where I found myself again at Matthew 7:24-27:

24 Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. 25 Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. 26 But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. 27 When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.

I can make the choice ahead of time to build my life on the solid rock foundation of Jesus. When the winds and the waves come, I won’t have to think about the fact that I’m getting swallowed up by the world. I don’t have to panic. I don’t have to take matters into my own hands. I can literally lay back and feel what I need to feel at the timing in which I need to feel it. I can know that I’m going to float above it and eventually feel the firm foundation again.

Today’s Forecast: A new journey with the potential of sinking sand.

Silver Lining: On Christ, the solid rock I stand.

When I Think About My Dad…

The eulogy I gave at my Dad’s celebration of life.

When I think about my Dad, I think about how I always had a Valentine. Every year since I was born, he did something to remind me that I was loved, whether I had a Valentine or not.

When I think about my Dad, I think about our drives to Legg Lake when I was in grade school. He’d teach me to fish and I sit for hours reading my Big Book of Amazing Facts and watch the ducks on the lake. Sometimes it was just he and I – I can’t remember what we would talk about, but I remember loving to go.

When I think about my Dad, I think about summer nights at the race track. I think about the excitement of the winner’s circle and the long walk back to the car. I can remember running to catch up to him to grab his hand. I wonder if he knew I pretended to fall asleep by the time we got home so he’d have to carry me to bed?

When I think about my Dad, I think about all the business picnics we went to throughout his career. I think about how everyone he worked with enjoyed being around him. He seemed to be able to get even the most unlikely people involved in the fun. As an adult, I realized he was a “head honcho,” but you never would have guessed it back then. He never treated anyone differently because of his position. It was probably because he had held every position imaginable – he worked his way up and he did it without a 4-year degree or family connections. Many of his co-workers felt like family – I believe that’s what was special about how he managed people. He stayed in contact with some of them even after he retired. A win for them and their families was often shared with us. He was proud of them.

When I think about my Dad, I think about how he hired and empowered women. I remember hearing that he had a workforce of women under him, which was sort of out of the norm for his field and that time. I think about the 10+ years I was blessed to work alongside him. I learned a lot watching him then…I understood why he was successful. He never sugar coated things, even with me. He looked at problems as opportunities. He could have taught a master class in the art of motivating people. I don’t know anyone who could speak to people the way he did. They wanted to be around him. They wanted to be better because of him. They believed THEY could because HE believed they could.

When I think about my Dad, I think about holiday family dinners. I remember him driving to pick up my Great Uncle Tommy so he’d be included. And mind you, this drive wasn’t down the street. This was a good 1 hour trip into Los Angeles before and after everyone came over. As an adult, I realized what a sacrifice that was because he often had work the next day. But he’d do it because family was important, and the alternative was that Uncle Tommy would be alone. And he didn’t do it just for family. I remember going with him to drop off food for an elderly woman, a former work associate who’d become family, because she was alone during the holidays and couldn’t leave her house. I remember when he bought the bank teller’s kid a camera because they shared stories about their children when he’d go in. She was a single mother, and he knew she was in need. There were a lot of things he did when no one was looking…but he often did them without a second thought and was so genuinely happy he could.

When I think about my Dad, I think about the many people who have come forward to tell me how special he was to them. How their lives were changed because of him. He was a man of influence in the fun ways of getting us back stage at concert events, or VIP treatment at the casino. I mean, this man talked his way into a meeting with Norman Lear because he had an “idea” for a show! But he was also a man of influence because of the special things he did like: Remembering someone’s name. Remembering their story. Remembering the things people like. Treating people with respect. Always, always being kind and courteous to the front desk of any establishment and tipping our waiter or anyone who provided a service. And sticking up for people who couldn’t stick up for themselves.

When I think about my Dad, I think about how much he loved his wife, his kids, and his grandkids. He also loved our friends. He included them on trips and family get togethers. And if I had a friend who needed advice, he’d be the first to offer it. And the thing is, he didn’t learn how to be a dad from his dad. But he taught his sons how to love their wives and their kids. We got to see our parents married for 56 1/2 years and I’m so grateful that I’ve been able to actually witness “til death do us part.” I realize not everyone gets to have a dad like that on earth.

When I think about my Dad, I’m not going to lie…I have thought about the things he won’t get to experience with me now. Meeting my future husband. A walk down the aisle. Any other grandkids or great-grand kids. However, I recently remembered a quote my Dad would use during a few of the eulogies he had to give over his lifetime: It’s from Robert Fulgham’s “All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten” and it says:

I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge

That myth is more potent than history

That dreams are more powerful than facts

That hope always triumphs over experience

That laughter is the only cure for grief

And I believe that love is stronger than death.

My pastor recently said that our lives preach louder than any sermon ever could, and I think he’s right.

So when I think about my dad, I’ll choose to think about the things he taught me with how he

lived his life:

to imagine more…believe more…dream more…hope more…laugh more and finally, but most

importantly, to love more.

Moms and Band Aids

I decided not to do the bouquet of flowers for Mom this year. I figured I’d buy her some flowers that would last a bit longer and brighten up the backyard she looks out on as she washes the dishes at the kitchen sink. The first few months of 2018 have been rough on our family, and probably roughest on her.

Growing up, Mom has been the constant source of encouragement. Even when we royally screw up, she’s often finding a reason this-or-that happened. Or when I’m sure I’ve been hit with the plague, she’s calming me down from an emergency trip to Urgent Care or coaxing me off of Web MD. Yep, Mom has always been the band aid “put-er-on-er” and “boo boo kisser.”

However, so far this year, it has felt like one big ripping off of the band aid. No warning. One moment you’re on the road of ultimate healing from something and then the next moment…rip!! Exposed. Tender. And I’m sure the first layer of skin and some hair is in there too!

So what do you do when you’re a Mom and the expectation of healing has seemed to be deferred? You do what my Mom does: You cry a little. You get mad a little (or a lot, especially if someone has hurt your man or your child.) You may even ask God, Why?” And then you brush yourself off and you make dinner. You do the laundry. And you tell your daughter she doesn’t have pneumonia because of a slight cough. You don’t have time to wallow or wait or wonder because there are people who are depending on you. There are people who are looking to you to say, “It’s going to be ok.”

Now don’t get me wrong. I’ve been through Celebrate Recovery, Grief Recovery,  Freedom, and Spiritual Coaching…I am a HUGE advocate of it all and the biggest advocate of going to God with your “ish.” Because if you are harboring resentment, unforgiveness or anger, you might as well tear off some band aids and pour salt on them. Angry, bitter Moms don’t usually have a positive effect on their children. And if you haven’t dealt with your own wounds, it’ll be really hard to relate to someone in their hurts.

I’m just recognizing that God needs me to walk through some stuff I don’t really want to walk through. And there are days I have worried and wallowed and wanted all the way out. There’s some band aids that need to be ripped off of myself and some people close to me…and my Father in Heaven is telling me, “I know this may hurt a little…but I promise it will be quick.” Now if there’s one thing I’ve learned: God’s “quick” and my “quick” are never the same. But He needs me to learn how to be a Mom from Him, and then be a Mom to others. To trust Him in this process of hurting and healing and then helping others to do the same.

In the throes of my early 40’s, single and no prospect of having a biological child of my own, God had given me a word that I’m just now really understanding: “You’ll be the mother to many.” I remember being moved to write about the realization that I was a mother. And in the last few years, I have had many opportunities to “kiss a boo boo” here and there for people I’ve come across or situations I’ve been put into. And if you ask me for a band aid and I don’t have one in my purse…well, I forgive myself eventually but it takes a minute.

The thing that I recognize about Moms are that they have faith. Things can get ugly and hard and hurt. But Mom’s can be the ones in the family that keep you going even in the sight of situations that seem will never change or are getting worse. They can be the constant one. The one who’s face is at rest during calmness and chaos (oh..He has SO much more work to do with me on this one! #NoPokerFace.) They are the ones who can keep you fed. Wrap your wounds. Listen to your uncertainty and speak truth over your situation. Don’t have any kids of your own? No problem. You can be a “Mom” to that young girl at your job who just broke up with her boyfriend, or the older woman at the bus stop who just lost her husband and needs to be heard. All you need to do is listen for that person in your life looking for a band aid and let them know you hear they are hurting, you’ll be there for them in there hurt, and that the hurt doesn’t have to last forever.

So happy Mother’s Day to all the Mom’s doing it day-in and day-out. Looking over their kids by blood, by marriage or by choice. Whether you are the Mom of your house or your neighborhood or your job – your role of Mom is important.  I’m continuing to ask and challenge myself to walk into situations like a Mom would, believing the best of her children, facing uncertainty by keeping the faith and encouraging others along the way.

Today’s Forecast: This may hurt a little…

Silver Lining:  …but I promise it will be quick!

Let Go

I used to carry a towel, beach chair and a kite in the trunk of my car. I had it there just in case. For the spontaneous getaway to feel the wind brush my skin, to hear the crash of the waves and the flutter of the kite tail.  It was my way of disconnecting from the world…the problem is the world was often waiting for me as soon as I got back in the car. The memory just came to me as I was sitting here waiting for my car to be serviced, sifting through work reports while intermittently being interrupted by a salesman’s pitch to a little old lady about the car he just knew she needed. And I’m irritated and trying to remain a good human being although I’ve been sitting here for 4 hours.

I’m a few days away from my birthday and wonder if I’m knocking on the door of a mid-life crisis. So far, 2018 is not going as expected. I’m not sure what I expected, but I certainly did not expect this. I feel like I’m knee deep in a swamp of responsibility, endless commutes and lonely nights. Surrounded by people talking about weddings, babies, retirement and vacations. And all I want at this very moment is to find that towel, beach chair, kite and a moment where I can run away and disconnect again.

My word for 2018 is “let go.” It came at the end of last year as I felt God gently deal with me during several “bratty” prayer sessions. It was around September that I thought I’d start preparing HIM for what I believed was the end of a season. “You know, I did tell you I could do anything for a year…well a year is up Pops, now whatcha gonna do?” And when I found myself in November in the same situation as I was the year prior…well, the prayers got a little more turnt up. “MOVE ME, Lord!” “Where are you, God!” “Please! Please! Please! Show me what I’m supposed to do…MOVE ME!”

He answered, “You first.”

?!?!?!

What does that mean? Quit my job?! Move closer to work?! Take that job offer?! Go back to school?! I honestly had no clue as to what He was saying, but I did know He wasn’t telling me to do any of those things just yet. It was later as I was speaking to my good friend Jennifer that I realized my next step was to let go. After having that conversation with her, and watching her walk that out so well, I realized it was the word being repeated in my head and every place I turned. Let go of expectations. Let go of the need to know. Let go of uncertainty. Let go of trying to understand why people do what they do. Let go of my time table.

Let. It. ALL. Go.

And what I’m learning is letting go is a lot different from disconnecting. Letting go for me doesn’t mean to grab the beach chair and run from everything that is trying to vie for my attention. It doesn’t mean to drown out the thoughts and feelings temporarily only to find them pop up again at the most inopportune time. For me, letting go is starting to look like a dance with God.

I’m realizing that there were some things in my life (a heart’s desire, some relationships, my next move, etc) that I’d been holding onto for dear life to either control or figure out. Kind of like that really harsh Tango where you are thrown around and it is set to that totally dramatic music. Now, letting go is starting to look more like an ebb and flow of the most peaceful dance. Think Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers floating through the air “Cheek to Cheek.” Recognizing that something is causing me to want to hold on for control only to come to that natural place of letting go as an act of surrender, so that “thing” can dance with God…and if it’s meant to come back, it will, but only after God does His thing to release it back to me. When and if it does come back to cut in…it’ll hold onto me different.

Today’s Forecast: Learning to let go and let God.

Silver Lining:  He’s the best dance partner.

Am I Enough?

It was the end of 2016 when I heard the whisper for the first time. It was a whisper that began to be repeated and confirmed in the days leading up to January 1st 2017. I had once again been given my word for the year: TRANSFORMATION.

To be honest, I thought for sure the transformation was going to be physical. I mean, how many years have I made that same New Year’s resolution to lose the weight?! I was starting the year with an injury that had reappeared in mid-2016, but I now had a great physical therapist and felt like healing was inevitable. Perhaps this was the year? Welp..it’s December 31st 2017 and I’m here to say…nope! I still have quite a ways to go for my weight loss transformation.

It wasn’t the transformation I thought it would be, but it was the transformation I needed.

Romans 12:2 says, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

I remember one morning this year I was getting ready and God spoke so clearly to me. He tends to do that in the bathroom. It might seem like TMI, but honestly, it’s a time that the world seems still, I’m alone, and I’m having my first conversation of the day.  I think He just knows His girl so well…He knows that I’m having a million thoughts of what I need to do most days, and as I go through those thoughts, I’m usually asking Him, “What about this?” or “I should pray for that, huh?”

Anyway, this was on a Monday and I woke up from a dream that left me in tears. You know those dreams that take your breath away. Feel so real that the emotion is still there even after you open your eyes? Well, it was one of those bad boys and I quickly went into a temper-tantrum with Him. “Why God?” “When God?” “How much longer, God?” I mean, it was every “Are we there yet?” back-and-forth between a parent and a child you’ve ever heard.

Then I heard: “Am I enough?”

My first inclination was “Get behind me Satan! That is not my thought! Of course I’m enough! I’m the daughter of a King! The apple of His eye! I am wonderfully and fearfully…”

Oh. Wait. Hello, conviction.

“Am I enough?” It wasn’t a thought I needed to take captive about myself.  It was a question FROM Him to me. It felt like the record scratched.

“Am I enough? Am I enough while you’re single and waiting? Am I enough in your 2-hour drive? Am I enough in that car that is one rain from becoming a convertible? Am I enough when you have many around? Am I enough when you are so lonely, it physically hurts? Am I enough if you are never someone’s biological mom? Am I enough if your last day on the job is today? Am I enough when you’re betrayed? Am I enough when you have plenty? I know you have questions, Gena, but in this place of obscurity you are going to fully come to understand that I am enough. Not everyone gets to understand it in that way.”

I knew instantly that this was part of the transformation. To fully understand and take hold of the fact that my entire purpose here on Earth is to “get” that. To really, really get that. God is enough. He’s enough in my valley and He’s enough on my mountaintop. He’s enough while I’m single, and He’s going to be enough when I’m married. He’s enough if I never have a biological child of my own. In a world where most people are trying to fill the great big gap, “what-is-my-life-for” question with anything or anybody…I get to answer, “God is enough.”

And bam. Transformation. It doesn’t mean I’m not ever going to question again. Or feel sad again. Or feel disappointed again. Nope, I’m sure those times will continue because shoot…life is rough sometimes. It just means that I have this safe harbor to pull into when the seas get rough. A place where I go when the world gets too much and I’m gently reminded I have everything I need. The simple fact is that when emotions subside and circumstances are what they are: Yes God, You are enough.

Today’s Forecast: Reflecting on my year of transformation.

Silver Lining: God is enough.

What I Learned About “Scary” Santa

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I came across this picture and laughed to myself as I made a connection I’m not sure I had ever made before. You see, I grew up deathly afraid of Santa Clause. I’m not sure if it came from some scary Santa story my brother told me, or maybe it was just the creepiness of a dude showing up in our house in the middle of the night. I would not even walk on the same floor of the mall as Santa! And the one year my Dad borrowed the company Santa suit to surprise me Christmas morning…well, I guess he had to tear the beard off because I lost my mind when I answered the door only to find Satan…I mean Santa…standing in front of our house. I loved the one special gift Santa left each year that was wrapped in some different paper or had my initial painted on it with glitter (because surely it was from him and not my parents…Mom would NEVER glitter paint our packages!) But anytime he made an appearance…forget it…I was not having it!

This is literally the only picture I have of myself as a kid with “Scary” Santa. Looks like I’m nervous…but I’m not crying. And why you may ask? Well, what I do remember about this picture that even my Mom doesn’t remember is what happened before it was taken. That blue overall set with the matching  turtleneck was a little snug. So snug that my pants ripped the moment I jumped on his lap! Now thankfully, nobody else noticed that this happened, and it was close to the end of the day so I’m sure I just tied my jacket around my waist. But perhaps THIS is where my fear of Santa began!

It’s interesting to think that there was fear associated with the first Christmas. I mean, how could the birth of our Savior elicit fear? But a few years ago I watched The Nativity Story, and it was one of the first times I really connected with what Mary and Joseph went through. I mean if anyone had a reason to be fearful, it was Mary, who found herself pregnant as a virgin in a time where her fiancé could execute her for being so. And could you even imagine the amount of emotions that Joseph must have gone through at that time? Both had to believe that they were visited by angels and instructed on what their next steps would be and they had to choose to obey. I am sure that they had heard, or maybe even been witness to, a woman executed for cheating on their betrothed. Yet, instead of connecting that past experience with their current one, they chose to have faith and believe that they did not have to fear. They had to believe they heard from heaven and they had to have faith to endure. What I also love is that heaven knew how they were going to feel…and they weren’t shamed for it. Instead, messengers were sent to remind them, “don’t be afraid.”

The connection I made with my “Scary” Santa incident is that one instance may be the reason I never wanted anything to do with him. Maybe I wasn’t really afraid of him. Maybe it was just the memory of him and, what could have been, a very humiliating day. Maybe I was more afraid that I’d jump up on his lap again and possibly rip my pants in a way that everyone would notice.

It made me think: Are there areas in my life that I am letting one past experience create fear in a present one? Do I let fear keep me from experiencing life because of that past experience? Have I “walked-the-top-floor-of-the-mall” in hopes that I would not have to face the fear head on?

If I’m honest: yes, yes and all-the-way yes.

Many have said that “fear not” is written 365 times in the Bible. I’m not sure if that’s true (I’ve never counted), but what I do know is that it was said a lot. And it was said by Jesus. And if it was said a lot in the Bible, and said by Jesus, then I know that it’s somewhere I want to be. A place where fear does not paralyze me from living my best life. A place where fear doesn’t stop me from opening up to new people or new situations. A place where fear does not control my decisions based on past heartbreaks or disappointments.

Today’s forecast: Memories tell me, ” Don’t do it, you  might split your pants again.”

Silver Lining: Heaven tells me “Fear not! We know a pretty good Seamstress.”

The Weight of Invisibility

The first time I saw the musical Chicago was on the big screen. I remember hearing the words to “Mister Cellophane” and just having an all-out ugly cry moment:

“Cause you can look right through me,

walk right by me

and never know I’m there”

 I felt like I had been singing the exact same words in my head on repeat for several years. Mister Cellophane understood what it felt like to be invisible and those words summed it up perfectly for me.

This year, I wanted to get serious about my health. God had given me the word “transformation” for 2017, and I was quite certain He meant a physical transformation. I knew part of that would mean finding a new doctor. It has been years since I had a real physical. It seems I had been able to bypass them somehow with the doctor I was seeing for the last 2 years. He was nice, sure. But other than referring me out for an injury, he’d often dismiss any questions I had about my overall health. And of course, losing weight was the answer to all my questions anyway.

I can’t speak for every overweight individual, but going to the doctor hasn’t always been on my top things to do. I always think about wanting to lose weight BEFORE I go in…even when that’s the #1 reason I’m going in in the first place. The dreaded moment where the intake nurse starts moving that part of the scale to the right and I say “Nope, you can move it over some more.” I have been pretty much humiliated at times by well-meaning doctors who take out the BMI scale to show me how I’m way off the charts, then lecture me on how many calories I should be taking in to lose weight. Not to be ungrateful, but I’ve been dieting since I was 9 years old, I could probably teach a class on it! I didn’t want a lecture, or to be made to feel like a fool…I wanted someone who would actually see me and know that there’s much more to my weight issues than not knowing how to count calories or read package nutrition labels. So often at this heavier weight, I have felt “seen through” or “seen passed” much like Mister Cellophane. A sort of invisible object that is a part of the backdrop of many life scenes, and often overlooked.

Feeling “seen” hasn’t always been a problem.  As a young child, I remember people stopping my parents to tell them something complimentary about me. Sometimes I’d get teased about it, so I never really took it as a positive, but rather unsolicited attention. I actually wanted to stop being noticed. I started feeling uncomfortable hearing teachers say, “There’s just something different about her.” At some point as I got older, it manifested this need to constantly be “on” in my head. And when I wasn’t able to meet my own expectations of myself as a young adult, I began to do whatever I had to do to be prettier or more well liked. More “seen” if you will. But I often found myself still feeling invisible and overlooked.

This sense of not feeling seen hit an all-time low after having my heart broken in my early 20s. Years passed, and I began to build a wall around me. The wall of weight helped me to explain away the invisibility I sometimes felt. When I feel invisible, it is easier to blame the wall that I’m behind. It’s the excuse for every unrequited crush, for every party I’m not invited to, and for every promotion I’m not extended. It’s the reason I’m “so awesome,” yet I’m never awesome enough to be set up with your friend. The crazy thing is the wall that I held as the barrier to being “seen” was self-inflicted. A continual cycle of feeling the weight of invisibility that I myself created.

It took me until June to make the call for an appointment with a new doctor. I had been given her name years ago, but never made it to her office. I had read a lot about her being kind, and wanting to really know her patients, so I decided to give it a try.

I’m so glad I did.

Within minutes of being in this doctor’s office, I could tell it was going to be different. Her intake survey even seemed to be a nice “Hello, Who are you?” We sat and talked for 45-minutes about everything from my medical history to my reasons for being there to my faith. Yes, we spoke about God and my calling and how the Holy Spirit could be my help through this. It was clear that this was a divine appointment and that this doctor was different from any others I’d seen. This doctor actually saw behind the wall, and started to speak to who I could be. It felt like a hug from heaven…God’s way of saying, “I see you – it’s time.”

The thing is, I know in my innermost being that I’m not invisible. I’ve been gently courted by God who has been so gracious in helping me slowly peel away to the root of the issue. He’s such a good Father, letting me know it’s time to face some things, and at the same time, allowing me to learn more about Him, how much He loves me and probably most importantly, how He sees me.

I know that I am loved, cherished, purposed and highly favored. I’m a daughter of the King and the apple of my heavenly Father’s eye. He has seen me all along.  So now it’s time for my soul and body to line up with what my spirit knows. It’s time to break through the false wall of protection I’ve allowed to go up. I’m done believing the lie that I’m not seen by God or that He has forgotten me. Perhaps instead of being invisible, I’ve just been hidden in the field for such a time as this. A transformation has certainly begun to take place. I’m just realizing that the transformation had to first begin in my heart.

Today’s Forecast: There’s a pretty big wall in front of me.

Silver Lining: My God’s pretty good at tearing stuff down.

 

 

 

She’s Single…Bless Her Heart

This past week at church, my Pastor gave a great message which included an example that made me chuckle. He explained that where he grew up in the south, you could turn any insult into something that sounded less like an insult by adding the phrase, “Bless his/her heart.” For example: “Man, she’s put on a lot of weight since high school…bless her heart.” Or, “He is dumb as a doorknob…bless his heart.”

You get the idea.

On the way home from meeting up with some friends, I started thinking about the fact that at my age it seems like an awful lot of people could describe me as, “She’s single…bless her heart.” Like being a woman at this stage of life and single is an insult. The reason I can say that with some certainty is that I remember my 25-year old self thinking the same thing about the older, single women in my life. And I can’t lie…sometimes it feels like an insult having to say out loud that I’m “still single.” Definitely painful during this time of the year. Or national holidays. Or that dreaded bouquet toss at weddings. Especially if they play “All the Single Ladies.” I mean you might as well “bless my heart” right then and there.

I can easily start down that slippery slope of “How did this happen?” The problem with coming to that question is there really is nowhere to turn for the answer but to blame myself. Something I did or didn’t do or somewhere I did or didn’t go.

But the upside of being this age and single is I’ve also been privy to seeing a lot of my friends and family manage the “being single,” “being married,” and sometimes “being divorced.”  None of these seasons are easy, and they can all feel like an insult at times. In fact, during all these seasons I’ve heard people say, “How did I get here?”

So where does that leave my blessed heart? Well, it leaves me today with embracing where I am and remaining hopeful for what’s to come. You see, I am certain that I will be married someday. God has put that desire in my heart, and I am made for it. I remind myself of the day that I heard Him say “I’m preserving you for someone.” And I know I hear His voice. (Because…hello, who else would use those words?!) I have to sometimes remind myself more of that on days like today where I wish I had a partner I could call and talk to about the breakthrough in physical therapy. Or about how afraid I am about my Dad’s upcoming heart procedure. Or about the cricket I hear chirping and am praying is not in my room. (I hate crickets…they’re like beige roaches that you can hear.)

But I digress. Being single is not an insult. It’s a season of preparation for what’s to come. I’d like to believe I’m like a really fine wine that is aging for just the right palate. Or a steak marinating for just the right barbecue. God’s working through me and in me for just the right man that will come at just the right time. If you’re reading this, and single, and feeling insulted by it…I pray you will take heart. In fact, take your blessed heart and get to praying for your future mate.

Today’s Forecast:  I’m still single.

Silver Lining: Bless my heart.

The Doorway Effect

doorway

Have you ever had a great idea, or remembered something you needed to do, and walked to the next room to divulge the great idea or execute the task, and completely forgot what it was?

Yeah, me too.

All. The. Time.

Why did I come here? How did I get here? What was I supposed to do when I got here?

Some will blame it on age. Others will say they have too much on their minds. But this experience of arriving somewhere only to forget why it is you went there is common. I’m happy to report that scientists say there is actually a psychological explanation behind it called the “doorway effect.”

The “doorway effect,” also known as the “location-updating effect,” is the idea that our brains actually forget things when we pass the physical threshold of a door (also known as an “event boundary.”) Researchers found it didn’t matter how hard subjects tried or how much they paid attention, as soon as they passed through a doorway, they were more likely to forget the task they were given. Moving from one environment to a new one causes the brain a lot of activity, so it purges “old information” obtained in the original place. In one article, scientists Gabriel Radvansky explained, “Entering or exiting through a doorway serves as an ‘event boundary’ in the mind, which separates episodes of activity and files them away.” It’s your brain’s way of getting ready to take in the new environment so that you can better understand what’s going on around you.

This is great…unless you really needed to remember that thing you walked into the other room to get!

I’ve walked through an awful lot of doorways this year. I moved for the 4th time in five years. I started three jobs. I quit three jobs. Some were planned. Some were mistakes. Some were unexpected. And this was all with 2 months left in 2016. Believe me when I say that there were many times this year I’ve asked myself, “Why am I here?” and “How did I get here?”

There have definitely been some doorways I’ve walked through that I was more than happy that my brain forgot what had happened in the old environment. Holding onto the information from the “old environment” certainly would not have served me well in the new place

The good news about all of this is that we can actually train our brains to remember what we need to remember. Scientists say that we can counteract the “doorway effect” and breakthrough an “event boundary” by repeating the action we need to take, or announce what we are about to do, when we are walking through the doorway.

My prayer is, and will continue to be, that I walk through doors only God opens for me. In addition, as I continue to learn my purpose and His will for my life, I want to remind myself as I navigate from place to place so I don’t forget what He’s already told me He wants me to do. I have found myself in new environments and have completely forgotten (or maybe disregarded) what God has already shown or told me. This has resulted in me learning the hard way that I’m in the wrong place. I know too well how quickly I can move from room to room, caught up in the tasks of life and distracted by busy-ness. When I do this, I tend to lose memory of what I was being told to do at the onset of my journey. If I know what God has purposed me for, and I continue to repeat the actions I need to take, I believe I will be better able to remember what it is God is calling me to do.

Today’s Forecast:             Sometimes I forget things.

Silver Lining:                     Sometimes I’m supposed to forget things.