What are You Letting Determine Your Worth?

Back in the day I loved to walk around bookstores. A bookstore was my happy place. I loved flipping through books, feeling the pages in between my fingers, discovering new authors and paperbacks filled with wisdom. Oh it was like a little slice of heaven here on earth! But those days are gone, so now I scroll through Amazon. I scroll and scroll and excitedly click on the books that say “Look Inside.”

Several months ago, I was on a tangent of scrolling because I kept clicking on the books in the “Customers who bought this book also bought…” section, and I came upon a book by Geneen Roth. Geneen Roth is a psychologist and author who specializes in writing on women, food, and body image issues. (Her books are excellent if you are interested in those topics.) Anyway, I stumbled upon a book of hers I’d never heard of called When You Eat at the Refrigerator, Pull Up a Chair. I thought that was a funny little title so, of course, I clicked on it, and lucky for me, it had a “Look Inside” button- score!

I scrolled through the book and began reading the introduction where Roth relayed a story from one of her workshops. She wrote that a woman at a recent workshop gave this honest admission:

“If I woke up tomorrow and this whole issue with food was gone, I wouldn’t know how to measure myself. Right now, being thin is how I know I’m good. Feeling fat is how I know I’m bad. If I didn’t have this system of fat and thin, I would feel terribly lost.”

I wouldn’t know how to measure myself.

Right now, being thin is how I know I’m good.

If I didn’t have this system…I would feel lost.

How do you measure yourself? What is your system? What is the thing you hang your worth on that determines if you are good, good enough each day, each hour? What is your prerequisite for feeling worthy?

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Maybe it is food and weight- I’m good when I’m thin, when I don’t eat that but do eat this. Maybe it is how much you do- I’m good when I get a lot done. Maybe it is exercise- I’m good when I workout X number of minutes each day. Maybe it is when your house is clean and all the laundry is put away and everything is in order for the next day- I’m good when I’ve got it all together. Maybe it’s when you’re doing well at your job- I’m good when my numbers are the highest in the office. Maybe it’s when your children are doing well- I’m good when Johnny is doing well in school and Sally makes the cheerleading squad and Sarah is the first to learn to read of her friends.

So many of us hang our worth on something. We let our to do lists or our relationships or our successes and mistakes determine our worth and how we feel about ourselves. It is so natural that we don’t even realize we are doing it half the time.

And maybe you’re wondering, what’s the danger in feeling better about yourself when you’re eating right or doing well at work or hitting homeruns in the parenting department?

Those things by themselves are great; they’re fabulous. Thumbs up to you if you’re doing those things. But when we allow the externals in our lives to determine how we feel about ourselves, then we are allowing those things to determine how we FEEL in general, how we interact with people, and what we do. It’s not a coincidence that you find everything annoying after you put on a pair of jeans that fit perfectly two weeks ago but now feel too tight.

When we hang our worth on external things, we easily fall into a spiral of feeling less than and not good enough. We allow these things- the scale, the bank account, the invitation to the party, your child’s performance- to put a stamp of “Enough” “Never Enough” on our lives, and we are left feeling anxious, frustrated, and defeated. We end up on an emotional roller coaster because how we feel about ourselves and our lives changes with every number on the scale, interaction with a colleague, and check on our to do list.

If we want off this roller coaster, WE MUST STOP OUTSOURCING OUR WORTH. Meaning, our worth is not determined by what we do, what we’ve done, what we look like, what type of house we live, where we went to school, how much money is in the bank, or how much debt is on the credit card.

Our worth is separate from all of that. Our worth does not hang on anything. It stands alone. It is internal, not external

The thought isn’t Being thin is how I know I’m good. The thought isn’t I’m good when _____.

The thought is… I’m good. I’m enough. I’m loved.

There are no disclaimers or qualifiers to our worth. Our worth is unshakable, unchangeable. It is the same today as it was the day we were born before life had a chance to tell us otherwise. It is the same at the end of a chaotic day where we binged on chocolate, got nothing done, and snapped at a loved as it is at the end of the day where we crossed every T and dotted every i.

The truth is our worth is unaffected by our actions, our failures because our worth is a grace-infused worth breathed into us in the beginning.   We must protect and shelter our worth from those external factors the world likes to tell us will make us better, more likable, more lovable.

What are you hanging your worth on? What is the thing, or things, in your life that you give the power to determine how you feel about yourself? There is true freedom that comes with separating our worth and how we feel about ourselves from what we do and what others think. Give yourself permission today to let go and let your worth stand in the undeniable, irrefutable, beautiful truth that you are enough, you are lovable, and you are loved.

The Wisdom of Harold and His Purple Crayon

Ahh the wisdom of children’s books… One of the gifts of motherhood has been rediscovering children’s books. Reading them as an adult, I have discovered a treasure trove of poignant wisdom. My son, like most children, enjoys reading the same story over and over and over and over and… well, you get the picture. The latest book du jour is Harold and the Purple Crayon. Somehow I missed this book growing up but am thoroughly enjoying it as an adult. Oh what a lovely story! If you’ve never read it, you really should go to the bookstore or library and read through it.

As I have been reading this story for several nights now, I’ve had some time to reflect, shall we say, on Harold’s adventure. Harold and the Purple Crayon is about a little boy named Harold who creates an entire world with his purple crayon. Harold goes on a mighty adventure filled with apple trees, dragons, oceans, ships, picnics with pies as far as the eye can see, mountains, and tall buildings until finally he decides it time to find home and go to sleep. I know, I know, it sounds too simple to be profound, but it is such a beautiful commentary on the power that lies within us to bring our dreams to life.

This evening, the beginning of the book really struck me…

One evening, after thinking it over for some time, Harold decided to go for a walk in the moonlight. There wasn’t any moon, and Harold needed a moon for a walk in the moonlight. haroldmoonresized_9737

And he needed something to walk on. He made a long straight path so he wouldn’t get lost.

haroldpageAnd he set off on his walk, taking his big purple crayon with him. But he didn’t seem to be getting anywhere on the long straight path. So he left the path…

But he didn’t seem to be getting anywhere on the long straight path. So he left the path…

Sometimes we need the long straight path to guide us so we don’t get lost, to give us security and direction when we are just starting out. The long straight path is indeed helpful. Necessary.

But sometimes we discover that we don’t seem to be getting anywhere on the long straight path. So we leave the path. We have to leave the path for the unknown adventure.

We need the long straight path and we need to leave the long straight path. If we stay on the straight path forever, we lose the opportunity to stretch ourselves and experience the glorious uncertainty of adventure. However, if we are always leaving the straight path for the unknown, then we never establish roots or plant seeds that will one day bear fruit. Our lives need to be a mixture of both… following the straight path when we need security and creating a new one when we realize we are not going anywhere.

What is your heart longing to do? What does your journey look like right now? Do you need the long straight path to keep you from getting lost or do you need to leave the path and set off on a new adventure? Wherever you are on your journey, remember you can choose the path… and don’t forget your purple crayon. ;)

Bittersweet Manna

I think throughout our lives we wrestle with two overarching spiritual questions: Is there a God? Where is God in times of difficulty?

Our faith starts by first questioning if there is a God at all. Is there a power greater? Is there a bigger plan? Is there order in the chaos? For some, these questions need concrete irrefutable answers. For others, they look around their world and they feel there is substantial evidence there is a God.

Then I think we move into the stage of wondering if God cares and where He is in the midst of our struggle. Does He see me? Can He hear the cries?

After surviving a hardship, we resolve those questions. Yes, there is a God, and yes, He does see and care.

Inevitably heartache strikes again. But this time it’s different. This time we know God exists, we know there is a plan. This time we lean into the knowledge that we have not been abandoned in our pain. We learned all of that the last time.

This time is different because we see the goodness, the provision in the midst of the struggle. As difficult as things are, we see… We see the manna.

Manna. Translated literally it means “what is it.” The what is it nourished the nation of Israel for 40 years as they wondered in the wilderness after being set free from 400 years of slavery. They were instructed to gather what they needed each morning but not to gather more than that for it would rot.   Manna nourished body and soul. It fed belly and faith.

But it was 40 long years of manna.

Like the Israelites in the desert, we see and are being nourished by the manna that is coming down from heaven. We know and see all of this but… but our hearts are still breaking. Our stomachs are still sick. We are still aching with sadness and worry. The goodness and provision may be helping our external world, but our internal worlds are still in upheaval.

What do we do when we can see the provision, but we are weary with the journey?

Have you had this experience before? You can see the manna on the ground and have even started to really believe it will be there each morning so you’ve stopped gathering more than you need. You see the manna and it is truly amazing and you’re grateful.

But I think we can reach the point, like the Israelites in the desert, where we are tired of the manna and we just want to get to the end of the journey. We like to judge the Israelites for their lack of faith and ingratitude. I mean, God was providing a cloud by day, a pillar of fire by night, and manna to eat and fill them each day. How could they have been so weak of faith and ungrateful? It is easy to point the finger from the cheap seats.

It is so easy.

It is so easy until you have been journeying for 40 years. It is so easy until you realize the bittersweetness of manna. I don’t know if everyone gets to this point in their journey, but for those of us that do, we know the beauty of grace. We know the breathtaking, awe-inspiring experience of seeing the grace in the wilderness… of seeing how we are being taken care of in ways that far surpass what we expect.

But we also know that there are some days when the manna tastes bitter. And we find ourselves in the confusion of painful gratitude… desperately trying to remind ourselves there will be an end. Desperately trying to fix our eyes on the grace around us.

But I don’t know that grace is always meant to be a painkiller. Grace is what helps us keep getting up every morning. It is the oxygen we receive when we think we can’t take another breath. Sometimes, though, we have to sit in that confusing space where we feel every ounce of discomfort despite the presence of amazing grace. It is such a truly difficult place.

I think that is the tough part about faith and hope. We can’t keep going without faith and hope, but they aren’t exit ramps from the journey.

It’s like if I break my arm. I know that it will heal, that the doctor will put a cast on it, and eventually it will be good as new. However, that knowledge does not stop the throbbing pain of a bone split in two. My arm still hurts.

Our hearts are the same. We get to the point in our faith journey where we have traveled long enough in the wilderness that we know we’re not alone, but we’re tired and our feet hurt and our hearts hurt. That is the place of hard faith. That isn’t the Sunday School felt board faith. It is the tears streaming down your face, falling to your knees type of faith. You can’t get through the trial without faith, but faith doesn’t anesthetize our pain.

Still feeling angry, sad, hurt, wanting it to be over doesn’t necessarily mean you aren’t grateful or you don’t have faith. It means you are human. It means the Israelites were human. It means we understand that God and Life coexist. God is God and Life is unfair.

What do you do when you’re not questioning if God exists or if He is there? What do you do if you are struggling to find comfort in the provision around you? How do you learn to rest in the green pastures of goodness while still honestly addressing the struggles in your life?

We can be grateful and wonder when this season is going to be over all at the same time. We can be grateful and have a broken heart all at the same time. If we are going to make it through the wilderness, we have to learn to hold those two opposing realities in the palm of our hand. We have to allow our souls to grieve and wail and our hearts to hope and heal.

What is the manna in your wilderness currently? How are you holding the two opposing realities of being grateful for the manna but tired of the journey?

Five Thoughts to Ponder in 2016

Happy New Year! Can you believe it is 2016?? 2015 was quite a year!  Over the past twelve months, I've enjoyed good times with family and friends, I got see Disney World (my favorite place!) through the wonder-filled eyes of my four year old son, there were some beautiful moments at work that made me so grateful for the privilege to do what I do, and I survived an incredibly hot and steamy Atlanta summer being nine months pregnant.  But by far, the highlight of the year was welcoming our second son, Sam, into the world. He is such a little bright light for us. And that smile! I know I am biased, but I’m tellin’ ya… it is pretty cute. The past couple of weeks I’ve been thinking about the upcoming year. I knew that 2015 was going to be a crossroads year for me. Twelve months ago there were a handful of unknowns and wait-and-sees. But now that the year has concluded, I am ready to dive into 2016 and soak up all I can from the next 366 days (it being a leap year and all… which btw means Summer Olympics!!! My favorite!).

What a gift each new year is! A new year means new possibilities to live out your purpose, fresh opportunities to heal the past while you embrace hope for the future, and additional chances to have the relationships and be the person you were created to be. Yes, each new year is a true gift.

If you’re like me, making resolutions can feel like an intimidating and overwhelming process. It is so wide open- where do I start?? And then there is the perfectionist inside of me that fears writing down a goal, not reaching it, and then feeling all guilty about it. Ugh that is just the worst, but that is baggage for another discussion. I have found, though, that if I have some sort of guideline for planning my upcoming year it feels more doable and motivating. Over the past few weeks I’ve been trying to organize my thoughts so that I can enter this next chapter with some focus and direction.   I’ve been thinking about what I want more and less of in 2016, what I want to do differently, what I want from this year, etc.  Here are the five thoughts I’ve been mulling over as I plan for 2016.

  1. I WANT TO WORK ON HAVING MORE_____________________________ IN 2016. (This could be anything you want it to be. More patience, more friends, more books read, more quality time with your spouse, etc.)
  1. I WANT TO WORK ON HAVING LESS _______________________________ IN 2016. (Again, anything you want… e.g. stress, worry, conflict with a certain person in your life, etc.)
  1. I WANT TO LET GO OF _______________________________ IN 2016. (This could be a negative habit, a resentment, a nagging concern that is out of your control, etc.)
  1. ONE WAY I WANT TO STEP OUTSIDE OF MY COMFORT ZONE THIS YEAR IS _______________. (What is something new or different you can do, learn, or try in 2016?)
  1. I WANT MY THEME FOR 2016 TO BE _____________________________. (What do you want your life to be about in 2016? What do you want to focus on personally? Professionally?)

I hope these sentences help you create a vision for your 2016. I know I’ve enjoyed thinking about them and they have already made me conscious of some of my decisions and choices. Feel free to print this out, fill in your blanks, and check in with yourself throughout the year.   But remember, your check ins are not meant to be evaluations on what you are accomplishing, but more like touching base with a friend to see how she’s doing.

I hope your 2016 is filled with love, hope, and joy. If you are entering this year with a heavy heart, may you find peace and comfort for your soul. If you’re struggling with a decision, may you find clarity for your mind. If you’re looking for a fresh start, may you find rebirth and redemption in your next chapter. I look forward to hearing from you and connecting with you over the next 366!

Decluttering Your Soul

I cannot stand clutter. It literally stresses me out. When my kitchen counter gets too overrun with unopened mail and my son’s artwork and stacks of other papers that I don’t know what to do with, my heart starts racing and I can feel my body temperature start to rise. That being said, I am not one of these super organized people. As much as clutter stresses me out, so do those pictures on Pinterest of organizing solutions and color coded, labeled bins. I look at those pictures I simultaneously feel jealous, annoyed, and overwhelmed. That level of organization just seems like so much to get organized

So as much as I dislike clutter, the truth is I’m no stranger to jam packed shelves, overstuffed drawers, and stacks… oh I love my stacks.

Whenever I think of clutter and things that I need to let go of, two items in my house always come to mind: the double Slanket and the ice cream maker

Let me start with the ice cream maker. I don’t know what my husband and I thought our lives as a married couple were going to be like when we were registering for gifts twelve years ago, but apparently we thought we were going to be entertainers extraordinaire. We registered for an assortment of entertaining items and household goods that in a million years I don’t know how or when we could have used all that stuff.   Over the years, I have managed to part with some of those things, but there is one item I simply cannot let go of- the ice cream maker

This ice cream takes up a rather large amount of real estate in our pantry/laundry room, and truth be told, I have never even gotten the thing out of the box. Never. Yet, I will not give it away. I feel bad that someone spent all that money on a gift and feel like I should hold onto it. I tell myself that someday I’ll make ice cream for my son… and there will be memories… and laughter. There will ice cream, laughter filled memories. And so there the ice cream maker still sits

Then there is the Slanket. About six years ago you may remember that the Snuggie appeared on the market. You could by a Snuggie at Walgreens for $14. But a Slanket, the original blanket with sleeves, was sold on television for $40. I have no idea what prompted my husband to do this, but one night he saw a commercial for a double Slanket, a Slanket with four armholes so you and your loved one can sit cuddled under this contraption, and he spent $40+ on this double Slanket. He was beyond proud of himself and so excited to have solved all of my nightly temperature challenges.

Well, the $40+ Slanket arrived, and I have no idea what this thing was made of but you couldn’t sit under it for more than five minutes for fear that your body would burst into flames. It didn’t just keep you warm. It set your body on fire… a sweaty, fiery mess.

So use of the Slanket was very short lived yet it lingers in one of our few cabinets we have for storage because my husband refuses to let me give it away. Clutter. It is the worst.

We all have things we hang onto and things that are easier for us to let go of, and we have all sorts of reasons we let things linger in our lives:

So and so gave me this so I feel guilty if I give it away. I might need it in the future. It might come back in style. I’ll reread it someday. I will read it someday. We got these on that trip years ago. I’ll hold onto these in case I lose the weight… in case I gain the weight back. I spent a lot of money on this- I can’t just give it away. This might be worth something someday. We have to keep it for nostalgic sake.

After we stare at the cluttered cabinet and closet for far too long and muse over this laundry list of reasons, we most likely end up feeling overwhelmed and we shut the door and think, “Ugh I’ll just deal with that later.” And the clutter stays… stays taking up space… taking up room… taking up opportunity that something more beneficial, more productive, more necessary could inhabit.

Isn’t that the problem with clutter? It takes up valuable space. Even if we don’t want to make room for something else, it is still taking up space. Clutter makes things harder to find. It clouds our vision and all we can see is the mess, the clutter. We can’t see the thing we’re looking for, the thing we need in the moment.

The cost of clutter in our homes is similar to the cost of clutter in souls. Like old sweaters we can’t let go of or kitchen appliances we’re convinced we will use someday, there are some things that we hold onto in our lives sometimes knowingly and sometimes unknowingly. Habits, quirks, worries, fears, decisions, regrets, hurts, relationships, images of who we think a loved one should be, images of who we think we should be, criticisms, dreams, nightmares. All of this stuff clutters our lives. It may not clutter our physical lives- on the outside those may look pristinely organized with color-coded, labeled bins- but it clutters our inner lives.

Just like the stuff in our closets and cabinets, this clutter keeps us from seeing what we need to see. It keeps us from finding answers, from using the resources available to us. It keeps us from trying new habits. It keeps us from going after new, healthy relationships because we’ve learned to live around all the clutter.   We’ve learned to accommodate the clutter.

What are the worries, concerns, and insecurities that are cluttering your mind? What are the feelings of anger, disappointment, and shame that are cluttering your heart?   A cluttered mind races at night and spaces out during the day. A cluttered heart is overly guarded, a little raw, and sometimes lonely. Mental clutter keeps us from doing the things we were meant to do while heart clutter keeps us from being the people we were meant to be.

What do you want to let go of in your life? What are you ready to let go of in your life? It’s the same question with one very important word change. We have to be ready to let go. We have to be willing to do the hard work to let go of the clutter that has become so much a part of our lives that we may not even notice it any more.  It can be a scary endeavor to think about letting go of the clutter that has become your constant companion, your excuse, your rationalization, maybe even your identity. But when you let go of your mental and heart clutter, you make room for the answers, wisdom, love, freedom, and joy that your mind and heart truly need.

What do you want to let go of in your life? What are you ready to let go of in your life?

Back In The Saddle Again

Oh my dear, beloved blog! It has been too long! Where has the time gone? Last time I posted, kids were just settling back in school and football season was starting. Now kids are getting ready for break, the football gods have decided who the best four teams in the nation are, and it is almost Christmas! It takes your breath away how quickly times passes!

So let me catch you up on what’s been going on. The Fall was FULL. Full with so many good things, but full nonetheless. I had the opportunity to speak in front of some amazing groups of men and women over the past few months. There is nothing I love more than seeing people eager to live as we were created- with purpose and for a purpose!   I held my first Daring Moms group and another Daring Way™ retreat for women. Both groups were filled with strong, courageous, amazing ladies. It is a true honor to do this work with women who desire change and freedom in their lives. On the personal side, we took my son to his first college football game and enjoyed some great time with family and friends. Yes, FULL indeed!

Although I have been MIA from the blog, I have thought of you often and written about a hundred posts in my mind over the past three months.  They were all really good- Ha! About three weeks ago, things finally settled down with my schedule, and I immediately thought that I wanted set aside some time to write. But an odd thing kept happening- I kept thinking of other things to do. I need to catch up on this. I need to read that. I need to contact so-and-so.

As my procrastination continued, I became more and more curious as to why I still had not put fingers to keyboard. Being the over-analyzer that I am, I did a little soul searching and realized I was dragging my feet because it felt a little vulnerable to post after so long. Vulnerable?   Yeah.

My thought process went a little something like this: It’s been three months since my last post, so this next post needs to be REALLY awesome. Ugh it’s easier not to write then I don’t have to worry about looking foolish. It looks bad that I haven’t posted in three months; that’s not being very dedicated or intentional. I said I was going to a do a read-a-long. Where’s the read-a-long, Mazi???

In short, my self-doubt and self-criticism began to shout a little. As I shared before, having people read my writing feels very exposing for me. I can speak in front of groups of people everyday and twice on Sunday and feel completely at ease. But there is something about having people read, rather than hear, my words that feels more vulnerable to me. It feels more out of my control. When I speak, I can sense if my words are resonating or if I need to re-state something. But when I write, I’m just… putting it out there. Putting it out there for people to read and criticize and judge.

Yeah starting to write again after a three-month break felt very vulnerable. I realized I was out of practice in facing that vulnerability and doing it anyway. My muscles were a little weaker so my self-doubt was chirping a little louder, and as a result, my procrastination skills were a little stronger.

Has this ever happened to you? You want to do something but you keep thinking of fifty other things to do instead. You are really excited about starting something yet you never follow through.  You've taken a break from something you enjoy but you're struggling to find the wherewithal to pick the activity back up.  Why do we put off doing what we say we want to do? Why do we procrastinate??

I think we avoid and procrastinate for a host of reasons. We don’t know where to start. We don’t know what to do. We’re afraid of making the wrong decision/doing it wrong. We feel vulnerable and don’t even realize it. The thing we want to do feels uncertain and exposing. We don’t know the outcome. We sub-consciously know we expect ourselves to be perfect so the thought of having to work that hard/try that hard feels daunting so we stop before we begin. We avoid doing what we want to do, what is good for us for all sorts of reasons.

And then the longer we avoid something, the bigger it seems in our mind to actually do make the decision or call the person or submit the proposal. Avoidance doesn’t make things smaller. It makes them seem bigger and even more insurmountable.   We stop practicing doing the hard and uncomfortable things so we forget we actually can do the hard and uncomfortable things.  It is difficult to get back into the routine of doing the things that are good for us and so we keep practicing avoidance.

Sometimes we have to stop thinking, stop planning, and just start doing.  In my case, I had to stop thinking about what would be the “right” topic for my next/first post, and I had to just start typing.   Action is so much more effective than intention. I’ve learned that in my life if I don’t keep practicing being vulnerable, then my doubts and insecurities are liable to take control of my life.  If I want to keep my insecurities at bay, then I have to regularly practice doing the thing that makes me feel uncomfortable.

So I’m back in the saddle again with blogging.   This blog continues to be an interesting teacher for me- it is something I enjoy and actually wish I could do more of, but it is definitely outside my comfort zone.  It feels good to put fingers to keys after so long.  It feels good to be uncertain and vulnerable.  Breaks are good, but we have to know when it’s time to saddle up and start riding again. Let’s saddle up together and start practicing doing the hard, uncomfortable things!   Practice doesn’t make perfect, practice makes permanent. Practice action rather than avoidance!

What do you need to stop thinking about and just start doing? What saddle do you need to get back on? What are you avoiding that you actually want to do or that would be good for you?  Are practicing the behaviors in your life that you want to make permanent?

Thoughts for Thursday... Climbing Mountains and Gaining Wisdom

Last week we discussed the curious truth about pain. Pain tells us something. It tells something has happened and something needs to change. Even though we understand pain and even though we know our pain will not last forever, pain is still… painful. Which leads to the bigger question- how do we survive our pain?

I am a super visual person. I constantly think in images. Years ago when I was going through a particularly painful period of life this is the image that played in my mind over and over like a song on repeat.

You are standing at the bottom of a mountain in the pouring rain. The rain is coming down so hard that the mountain has turned into a mountain of mud. Your eyes can barely cut through the sheets of rain and dense fog. You start to climb. You climb a few feet finding a rock for footing here and a branch to grab onto there. Your legs push you; your arms pull you. Then your foot slips, your tired hands loosen their grip, and you slide back to the bottom.

You start climbing again and this time you know which rock can steady your foot and which branch can bear your tug. You climb a little higher this time, grab another branch, reach for another tree root. And then you slide down again. You’re drenched. You’re covered in mud. Your knees are skinned and your hands are blistered.

But you keep getting up and you keep climbing. You crawl through the mud. You grab the branches and rocks that you know will hold you because they have been tested in your previous attempts. You learn your way rock by rock, branch by branch, and slide by slide. Each time you make it a little quicker to the point where you lost it previously because you know what worked and what didn’t.

You crawl and climb, climb and slide, and repeat that cycle as many times as you have to until you reach the mountain top... that safe haven. The slides down the mountain weren’t mistakes or failures or setbacks. They were lessons in knowing where to put your trust and where to place your footing.

Wisdom is nothing more than healed pain.  Yes, indeed.  How do we gain the wisdom and heal the pain?  We climb the mountain.  We keep climbing the mountain.   Are you ready to start climbing?

But There Was Meat in Egypt!! (Lessons on Letting Go)

Are you good at letting go of things? I’ll be honest; I’m not. A few weeks ago I shared that I have been trying to make a conscious effort to let go of fear and control.  But letting go of fear and control are really just two smaller parts of the greater challenge of letting go.  I’m not good at letting go of anything really.  This is a constant area of growth for me.

Instead of letting go, here’s what I do.  I ruminate.  I obsess.  I glorify things from the past that do not necessarily need to be glorified.  I replay conversations.  Not only do I replay conversations, but also I rehearse conversations I would like to have where I tell that person exactly what I think.  I’ve got several scripts all written and ready to go in my head.

Like I said, this is a part of my personality I really don’t care for because nothing good grows out of it.  This struggle to let go only brings forth more angst and anxiety into my life.  I would love to be that super peaceful-at-one-with-the-earth-wearing-long-skirts type of person who is all, “Go. Fly away worries, hurts, and resentments. I am releasing you.”  But instead, I’m more of the going-to-sit-and-spin-like-a-tornado-on-a-scratched-record type of person who is all, “Why? Why?  How could this happen? It’s not fair! What if, what if???”

Last week, I had a five-hour car ride to get in some good ruminating, and as I was moving into hour three it hit me- you’re glorifying Egypt.

Egypt?  Let me explain…

One of my favorite Biblical figures/stories is that of Moses and the Israelites.   The entire account of Moses and the Israelites starting with Moses being called to go to Egypt and set the Israelites free to the great exodus to the wandering in the wilderness for 40 years really resonates with me.  No, I’ve neither been enslaved nor led a nation of people to freedom. And no, I’ve never wandered in the desert for 40 years, but I love the accounts of Moses and the Israelites because I am an Israelite.

I think we like to judge the Israelites. We like use the Israelites wandering in the wilderness as poster children for complaint-filled doubt.  We like to wag our finger in disapproval at their repeated lack of faith and frequent grumblings about their circumstances.   But come on, if we’re honest, haven’t we all been like the Israelites at some time or another?

Oh sure, I would love to think that after I had seen the ten plagues I would have walked up to the Red Sea and instantly thought God’s got this.  I would love to think I would have been in grateful awe of the daily provision of manna and water in the desert.  But the truth is I’m sure at some point I would have resented the manna and found it to be bitter.  I’m sure I would have complained that the pillar of fire guiding me by night was keeping me up because it was too bright and that the cloud by day was blocking my view of the sun.  I am sure I would have joined in dancing around the golden calf because my memory is short and my fears are mighty.   And I am absolutely positive I would have joined in the mass moaning about how life was better in Egypt and how at least in Egypt there was meat, fish, fruits, and vegetables.

Forget freedom.  Forget reaching the Promised Land.  Forget seeing the impossible become possible.  In Egypt, there were cucumbers and onions and fish!

At some point along our journey, aren’t we all guilty of glorifying the Egypt of our past?

I’ve found that sometimes when we have a hard time letting go of the past it is because we are glorifying the past.  We remember the cucumbers and forget the slavery, so to speak.

Yes, I know the relationship was bad and it kept my heart broken and anxious, but we had a connection and what if I never find a connection like that again. 

Yes, the job was soul crushing and mind numbing, but I had all those vacation days and now pursuing what I really want to do means starting at the bottom of the ladder again.

Somehow in the midst of the pain of change (and change is painful… that’s why so many people choose not to change), we forget how unhappy, unfulfilled, unhealthy we were in our “Egypt”.  Instead, we remember some distorted version of the past where our “slavery” wasn’t that bad.  We convince ourselves there were some good moments and maybe if we could just go back it would be different this time.  Or we think that it will not be that good in the future.  Oh the lies we are susceptible to when we are in the midst of change.

Discomfort clouds our vision.  It is hard to leave our past behind, especially when we are struggling in the present.  Occasionally when we are confused and feel like we are wandering it is because we are truly lost, but sometimes when we feel like we are wandering it is really because we are being prepared for our future.  When we revere our Egypt, we don’t see the healing and freedom that is happening all around us.  But mind you, there is always a price for freedom and health.  And sometimes the cost of health is the pain of letting go of those unhealthy habits, relationships, and parts of yourself that are keeping you enslaved in the past.

Do you have an “Egypt” in your life that you sometimes glorify because the present is challenging?  What do you need to remember about your “Egypt” that will help you let go?

Choosing to Dance

Earlier this week I wrote about how it is easier not to.  It’s easier not to try.  It’s easier not to think before your lash out.  It’s easier not to connect and let people really know you.  But as I said in the earlier post, when we choose not to, we miss out on the blessing.  We miss out on seeing what our life can be about and what we can do.  We miss out when we choose not to.  As it would happen, Monday night I saw something on TV that beautifully illustrated this point. Before we go on, I should tell you that I am a huge Dancing with the Stars fan.  Huge.  I usually cry at least once during an episode.  I vote weekly.  I may or may not have tried to do the quick step around my house.  I often say the only reason I would want to be famous is so I can be just famous enough that I can be on Dancing with the Stars.   The show strikes a chord with me because quite frankly I think it is amazing that these people, who usually have little to zero dance background, learn these beautiful dances.  I love seeing people try hard, and I just love seeing these people totally step outside their comfort zones and dance.  After all, dancing is the very definition of vulnerability. (And I like the sparkly outfits too. :) )

This season, though, is like none other.  This season paralympian Amy Purdy is competing.  At 19 years old, Amy contracted bacterial meningitis and both of her legs were amputated at the knees and she lost one of her kidneys.  In this week’s episode, Amy talks about learning to walk again and her father’s gift of life twice in that he gave her one of his kidneys.  Amy shares how painful it was learning to walk with her new prosthetic legs and how one night, upon hearing a song on the radio, and she got up and danced with her dad.  She said she thought, “If I can dance, then I can walk.  And if I can walk, then I can snowboard.  And I can live a great life.” A great life indeed.  (Click here to watch Amy share her story.)

Amy and Derek’s dance this week depicts the story of her learning to walk again.  It is one of the most moving two minutes and thirty seconds I have seen on television.  This young woman who was given a less than 2% chance of even surviving the meningitis and who lost both of her legs below the knee is… dancing!  It literally takes your breath away and brings tears to your eyes as you see such an amazing display of courage dance across that stage.

No one would have faulted Amy for choosing not to.  Out of her control and without her say so, her life was forever changed fifteen years ago.  But Amy Purdy did not choose not to.  Amy Purdy chose I can and I will.

Friends, it is easier not to.  It is soo much easier.   And yes, the alternative is hard and sometimes hard is scary.  But when you choose not to, you miss out.  You miss the chance to dance.   I hope we all start choosing to dance.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fjb3u1IqhAw#aid=P7YuYtLOmRg

It's Easier Not To

Several months ago I was feeling particularly overwhelmed by some work related responsibilities and deadlines.  The to-do list kept growing and growing and my energy reserves kept shrinking and shrinking.  One day I thought, “It would just be easier not to.” Isn’t that so true?

It’s easier not to.

It’s easier not to try.  It’s easier not to change.  It’s easier not to put yourself out there, not to speak up.  It’s easier not to be vulnerable, not to take the risk of uncertainty and exposure.  It’s easier not to unpack the baggage that keeps tripping you up.  It’s easier to quit when it gets hard.  It's easier to believe you can't.  It’s easier to keep doing the things you’ve always done even though you know they are bad for you.  It’s easier not to choose health.

Or is it?

I’ve thought about this phrase a lot since that day.  I’ve thought about how true it feels, yet how dangerous this belief is.  Yes, it is easier… in the short term.

In the short term.

That’s the key.

It’s easier not to in the short term.  But in the long term, that easy path turns into a pothole filled road.  Choosing not to rarely leads us to where we want to be or who we were created to be.  Choosing not to leaves us outside the arena looking in.  And when we are on the outside looking in that is when we are most likely to be judgmental and critical of those who are on the inside.

Isn’t that the kicker?  We choose not to, but then we resent those who choose YES over NO.  When we choose not to, we end up staring through the window and watching as people pursue new adventures and opportunities, as they unload their cumbersome past, as they make healthy changes that bear sweet fruit.  We end up staring through that window as we wrestle with the most uncomfortable of emotions- resentment, regret, fear, and frustration.

No, it’s not easier not to.  It feels like it in the short term.  It feels like it, but although our feelings are valid, they are not always true.

Everybody has those days when it feels easier not to.  That’s normal.  The challenge is how do you keep picking yourself up and dusting yourself off.  How do you keep going?

We keep going by learning when we need to sit and be still and when we need to move.  Sometimes the very thing we need is rest.  Stepping away from the problem and doing something totally unrelated might be the very thing that gives you the perspective you need.  Giving yourself compassion and validation that this is a tough mountain to climb is often just what the doctor ordered.  More often than not, sharing your frustration, concern, and anxiety with a trusted loved one gives you the ounce of energy you need to keep moving forward.  We keep going by refocusing on why is this so important to us anyway.  Why does this matter to us?  What do we feel called to do?  When you push through the temptation to choose not to over I’m going to, you move closer to your unique purpose and farther away from your fears.  Yeah it may feel easier not to.  But when you choose not to, you miss the blessing.

I hope this week you give yourself the rest or compassion or time with loved ones you need to continue in your journey.  Choose long term over short term.  Choose purpose over fear.  Choose the blessing.

Do you ever have those days when you think, “It would just be easier not to”?  How are you learning to choose “I’m going to” over “not to”?  Which path are you choosing today?

What Do You Need To Give Up?

I was raised Southern Baptist.  This means a few things:  I grew up going to church Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night, I have been to a tent revival (white tent, funeral home fan, folding chairs… the whole nine yards), and I really only celebrated two religious holidays, Christmas and Easter. It was only when I started teaching at a Catholic high school and attending a Presbyterian church that I discovered anything about an Ash Wednesday service or the season of Lent.  My first Ash Wednesday teaching school I walked in and saw one of my co-workers with ash on his forehead.  I leaned in, so as not to embarrass him, to tell him that he had something on his forehead.  He smiled and said, “Dear, it’s Ash Wednesday.”  I nodded like I knew what he was talking about and went about my merry way.

I quickly learned about the traditions of an Ash Wednesday service, and it is now my favorite church service of the year.   There is something so moving about the service- the idea of preparing your spirit for the gift of Easter, the hope in surrendering your “ashes” for healing, and the beauty in the gentle touch of someone drawing the cross on your forehead.

Ash Wednesday marks the 40 days prior to Easter and is the official start of the season of Lent.  As tradition goes, individuals either give up something that is deemed bad or a hindrance in their life or they start doing something that is beneficial.  I always find it interesting to hear what people give up or what they add.  You often hear of people giving up sweets or alcohol or something like that.  The latest trend seems to be giving up Facebook.   (I thought about giving up Facebook, but who am I kidding?  I’m an avid Facebooker- they’ll have to pry Facebook out of my cold, dead hands.  J)  The idea behind giving up something is meant to be an act of purging and cleansing so as to refocus your spirit.   Letting go helps us open our hearts and minds.  Surrendering something, even if it is only for 40 days, helps clarify what has power in our lives.

I like the idea of Lent.  I think it is good for us to practice intentional surrender.  Surrendering and letting go are really quite the opposite of what we naturally want to do as humans.  We naturally want to control.  We naturally want to be in charge of our own fate.  So often, we want to hold on rather than let go.  We want to hold on even if we know the holding on is killing us.

What do you need to surrender?  Whether you observe Lent or not, where in your life do you need to let go?  What are you holding onto that is holding you back?  What do you need to give up?

What if you gave up shame?  What if you gave up fear or anger or caring about the number on the scale?  What if you let go of second-guessing your decisions?   What if you let go of the grudge and the resentment?

This Lenten season I want to give up fear and control.  There are some things in my life that I want to control because I am afraid.  I am afraid of losing them, of these things being taken from me.  I realized recently that when we start holding on so tightly because we are afraid of something being taken from us, then we are in danger of that thing, even if it is a good thing, becoming an idol in our lives.  We’re in danger of sacrificing our peace of mind and values on the altar of that idol.

When we start making those sacrifices, what we don’t realize is that we’re really not in control because that thing or that person is now controlling us.  We like to think we are in control and that this decision or that decision will bring the outcome we want, but that isn’t the case at all.  The relationship we love, yet we fear losing, ends up controlling the peace in our hearts.  The dream job we worked so hard to achieve, yet feel there’s no rest in because we’re compelled to continue climbing the ladder, ends up controlling our schedule.  The lifestyle choices we put into place to make us feel better, yet we still don’t think we’re pretty or thin enough, end up controlling our confidence and sense of worth.  We end up controlled by the thing we are trying to control.

I want to give up fear, and I want to give up control.  I want to hold loosely the things that could so easily become idols in my life.  I want my hands to be open to receive, rather than closed in white-knuckled fear.  I want to really embrace the posture of surrender because this is what I know about surrender…

Surrender is not weakness.  Surrender is not defeat; it’s not quitting.  Surrender is acknowledging where you end and the Power greater than you begins.  It is letting go of the idol.  Surrender is freedom.

What do you need to give up?  Where do you need to let go in your life?  Where would you like to experience the freedom of surrender?

Loving Well

Years ago, I noticed people started using the phrase “loving well/love well” to describe how they wanted to love or be loved in a relationship.  I just want to love him well.  I just want to be loved well.  I’ll confess I found the phrase a little self-righteous like now we have even put our love on the good, better, best grading scale.  I always wondered if people even knew what they meant when they tried to make a distinction between loving someone and loving him well.  So I wrote off the phrase as yet another example of a buzzword that bugged me. About a month ago, I had an experience that changed my opinion on the phrase “loving well.”  In early January, my father’s best friend of 50 years passed away.  I cannot remember a time when I did not know Dr. Hugh, and his funeral was a true celebration of a life well lived.  As I listened to his children deliver one of the most honoring and beautiful eulogies I’ve ever heard, I kept thinking, “He loved well.  This… this is what it means to love well.”  Dr. Hugh loved with every fiber of his being.  He loved with a dedicated, actions-speak-louder-than words type of love.  It seemed that so much of his life flowed out of love- his active engagement with his family, his business activities, and his mentoring countless young professionals.

On the way home from the funeral, the Mumford & Sons song, Awake My Soul, came on the radio and the line “Where you invest your love, you invest your life” seemed to be shouting from the speakers.  Where you invest your love, you invest your life.  For the rest of the afternoon I kept thinking about the truth of those words. Where you invest your time, talents, energy, soul, it is there you invest your life.  Dr. Hugh invested well.  He invested very well.

Are you investing well?

Are you investing your love in the things and relationships that are worthy of your love?  Are you investing your time in the things that will matter 10, 20, 30 years from now?  Or are you investing your time in short-term pleasure, or rather short-term pain avoidance?  Are you investing your energy in relationships that are healthy, reciprocal, and life giving?  Or are you investing your energy in relationships that are one-sided and incite worry and anxiety.  There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear…

To love and be loved are innate human desires.  We are born into this world seeking a finger to grasp, and we leave this world yearning for that same connection.  In her book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, Bronnie Ware noted that in her work with the dying one of the most common regrets she heard expressed was that people wished they had stayed in better touch with their loved ones.  In the end, it’s love and connection that matter.  Not success.  Not accolades.  Not being on time or having everything perfect.  It’s where we invest our love that matters in the end.

But there are two sides to the love coin.  There is the side of loving others, but there is also the side of letting others love you.  Too many of us spend our lives wanting to be loved, yet not knowing how to let down our walls so that people can actually get their arms around us.  We live like emotional porcupines and then wonder why no one gets too close.  If we want to let love fully into our lives, we must believe we are lovable and worthy of love.  We first must learn to love ourselves well.  If we ever want someone else to love us well or if we want to love others well, we must treat ourselves with love and compassion.

I was wrong.  There is a difference between love and loving well.   I think loving well has to do with investment.  Are you investing wisely?  Are you depositing your love in the things and relationships that will last?  At the same time, do you believe you are lovable and worthy of love?   May today serve as a reminder to love others and yourself well.  It’s the best investment you’ll ever make.

You Learn Courage by Couraging

A year ago today, I sent an email that set in motion a series of events I never could have predicted.  Here’s the backstory… In the Fall of 2012, I started reading and thinking more about what it means to live brave and be courageous.  I’ll admit when I think of courage the name Mazi Robinson does not immediately come to mind.  I am still afraid of the dark.  I don’t see scary movies.  I still have weird fears about attics, crawl spaces, and storage rooms and will not go in them by myself. (It is a hard and fast rule… much like my no fruit policy.)  I have no desire to jump out of a plane, bungee jump, or do anything that is remotely adrenaline rushing.  So when I started thinking about courage and living brave, my instant thought was I am not a brave person.  And my next thought was I want to be.

Over the next several months, I learned that living brave was not just jumping out of airplanes, but living brave had a deeper meaning to it.  Living brave means letting others really see you.   It means letting yourself be vulnerable and leaning into that vulnerability rather than running from it.  Vulnerability and courage go hand in hand-  anytime time you are being courageous, you are being vulnerable.   So I got honest about all the things I avoided and ways that I hid.  I started challenging my justifications for why I didn’t do or try certain things.  I started to identify and peel back all of my armor that I thought was protecting me but was really keeping me small and hidden.

How do you build courage?  You learn courage my couraging.  You stop hiding.  You stop avoiding and justifying.  You start doing.

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As I began to make little changes here and there, I noticed a shift within myself.  As I stopped doing some things and started doing others, as I tried new things and let go of old, I started wanting more.  I wanted to try more new things and let go of more old habits.  You learn courage by couraging.  I still felt some intimidation and second guessing- should I do that, say that, try that- but I learned to navigate through that dialogue in my head because I knew it was coming from my shame self, not my true self.  I was on a nice little personal growth journey, and then… and then I spent a weekend in January with a wonderful group of women.

Last January, I was asked to speak at a women’s retreat for a local church.  Let me say that it is not unusual for me to cry on the way home from a speaking engagement.  I usually feel so grateful for the opportunity to speak and teach that crying seems to be the only way to let that emotion out.   But on the way home from this retreat, I cried out of sheer awe.  Later that week a friend asked me how the retreat went, and I told her it had been the single most powerful experience of my professional life.  Because you see these women… these women asked for prayer.  They didn’t ask for prayer for their aunt or their neighbor’s cousin or their co-worker’s niece.  They asked for prayer… for themselves.  They said I’m lonely, I’m lost, I’m hurting.  With tears streaming down their faces they boldly admitted that they were tired and struggling to connect with God, with their husband, with their family.  And they didn’t write it on a notecard or say it sitting down with their head hung.  They stood up with heads held high and were vulnerable.  I have never seen such cut open, let-yourself-be-seen courage in all my life.  I was in pure awe of the vulnerability expressed and the courage lived out.

Brené Brown says that courage is contagious.  It certainly is.  These courageous women moved me, and I wanted to be brave and vulnerable.  I wanted to stop giving into my fears of I can’t and what will people think.  I knew exactly what I needed to do, what I had been avoiding doing for a year.  A year prior to this I had the idea for this blog.  I spent all of 2012 trying to convince myself not to do the blog, but the idea stayed with me.  I realize that for a lot of people starting a blog does not seem like that courageous of a step, but for me it was, and continues to be, the definition of vulnerability.    You see, I don’t consider myself a writer.  I have always been incredibly insecure about my writing.   (I am well aware that comma splices and other punctuation crimes litter these pages and am deeply appreciative that no one ever corrects me.  My deep issues with grammar are for another post…) Yes, I speak and teach all the time, but for some reason having people read my words, rather than hear them, feels much more exposing for me.  But the idea of this blog, and other changes I wanted to make in my  life, just would not go away.

February 5th, 2013, I emailed my friend, Kristen, and told her all that I said above.  I told her that this felt like a big step into the arena for me and that I believed she was the one that could bring my ideas to life.  Kristen has this amazing ability to infuse grace and beauty into everything she touches.  I wanted her fingerprints on my daydreams.  I knew that I could entrust my little brainstorms and hopes to her and that she would get it.  From that email, she began designing this blog and events started to unfold that I never could have imagined.  All of my little daydreams that I had silenced with thoughts of you can’t do it and what if you fail finally came to life when I started my own counseling practice in June and a whole new world of experiences and opportunities opened before me.

You learn courage by couraging.

You learn courage by being around courageous people.  I think of all the things I learned in this past year, the most important lesson was that you never enter the arena alone.  You never take your leap of faith alone. You enter the arena with the people in your life that have modeled courage for you.  You enter the arena with the encouragement of friends’ words ringing in your ears.  You enter the arena with the One who will never leave you alone or ill-equipped.

Have you been thinking about making a change recently?  Do you have a dream you would love to bring to life?  Do you want to start facing your fears and living more courageously?  Are you ready to step into the arena?  Do it.  Do. It.  Life inside the arena is riskier; it is more exposing.  Life is messier in the arena, but it is better than sitting in the stands watching others live bravely and boldly.  The stakes do get higher when you put yourself out there.  But let me tell you, it is so worth it.  Maybe it doesn’t feel like it in those first 30 minutes or hours or days when you are still wrestling with doubt and uncertainty.  But one day you will wake up, and you will realize I did it… I survived the uncertainty and I now taste the sweetness of being brave!  

You learn courage by couraging.

You never take your leap of faith or step into your arena alone.  The models of courage precede you, and the speakers of truth and encouragement walk beside you.  And maybe, if you are lucky, God will send you a special friend who can make it beautiful. :)

To those wonderful women last January… thank you.  To Kristen… Happy Anniversary.  Thank you for bringing this past year to life.  Here’s to more daydreams becoming reality.

Have You Ever Heard from Your Younger Self?

I recently heard from my 20 something self and what she had to say was quite interesting… When I was in my 20’s, I taught high school at a wonderful Catholic school.  Marist changed my life, and perhaps on another day I will go into all the details of exactly what I mean by that statement.  But to put it succinctly, I loved my time at Marist… I loved teaching there, I loved the students, and I loved the community.  One of the wonderful things about the Marist experience is that students have the opportunity to go on spiritual retreats each year of high school.  Juniors and Seniors go on a particularly moving retreat that is led by students and one of the school’s priests.  The retreat is filled with opportunities for spiritual growth and reflection and some endearing traditions.  One of those traditions is that the student leaders ask teachers to write letters that are then read to the group over the course of the weekend.  Ten years ago I was asked to write one of those letters.  It was this letter that I discovered a few weeks ago.

I forgot I had even written the letter.  The letter was comprised of a list of 15 things I had learned up to that point in my life that I thought would be beneficial to share with this group of individuals who were only a short time away from leaving the nest and entering into the next chapter of their lives.  Re-reading the list was both interesting and amusing.  It’s interesting to recall what your 20-something-self thought was important or humorous or worth passing on.   Here’s the list:

  1. On the first really beautiful day of spring, go eat somewhere with a porch.  My suggestion would be a Mexican restaurant with a porch.
  2. At least once in your life, go on a completely random and pointless road trip. Don’t plan it - just get some friends and go.
  3. Develop a weird, yet interesting, talent.  Mine:  gargling the theme to Jeopardy.
  4. The people you meet within the first three weeks of college will most likely be your closest friends for the remainder of your four years.  Example:  I met three of my bridesmaids during my first four days at college.
  5. This one is for the ladies:  Treat yourself and buy at least one bottle of Chanel nail polish.  You will feel so special when you wear it!
  6. Although TV is apparently corrupting society, I have found that watching Friends usually makes me feel better and, contrary to popular belief, Beverly Hills 90210 can answer some of life’s most puzzling questions.  If you are unfamiliar with Beverly Hills 90210 you can catch reruns on Saturdays and Sundays at 9 AM on FX.
  7. Stay up all night with your friends the first time it snows when you're in college.  It sounds cheesy, but in a cheesy way it is truly magical.  If you don’t go to a college in which there is snow, this life lesson will be hard to follow.
  8. It is more important to have a few CLOSE friends than many acquaintances.
  9. Life is not fun.  It will kick you in the gut and when you fall it may continue to kick you, but you WILL make it through.  YOU WILL.  It is those gut-kicking moments that make and mold you.
  10. Don’t date someone because you think you can change or help him or her.  Chances are you won’t be able to permanently help them, and you may do real damage to yourself in the process.
  11. Always bring extra money to the Waffle House for the jukebox.  Their jukeboxes are the best!
  12. Memorize your social security number.  It is the only piece of information you will need to know for the rest of your life.
  13. No matter how much you change once you leave Marist, stay in touch with at least one person from Marist.  It will help you remember where you came from.
  14. Memorize a quote or scripture verse or song that you can recite in your mind that will give you strength and encouragement when you are down.

And lastly…

  1. Nothing you can ever do will separate you from God’s love.  You may not feel His presence, you may fail at everything you do, and you may consider yourself a complete disappointment, but God will NEVER give up on you.  All you have to do is reach out to Him.

 

Yes, it is fascinating to hear from your younger self.  It is fascinating to notice the things that have stayed the same and the things that are different.  For instance, I’d completely forgotten I could gargle the theme song to Jeopardy.  I don’t know how one forgets such a factoid, but I guess that little talent has gotten buried over the years.  I can’t remember the last time I splurged on a bottle of Chanel nail polish, and I haven’t been to a Waffle House in ages.  (That being said, those two points are still true- you really do feel fancy wearing Chanel and the Waffle House does have an awesome juke box. Some things never change.)

The item that really stumped me was #2- go on a pointless and random road trip.  I stared at that sentence for a while racking my brain trying to remember why I would put something on there which seemed totally out of character for me.  And then I remembered… oh I was young then!  I did spontaneous, non-purposed filled things! Alas, my current self is anything but spontaneous.   The most spontaneous thing I have done recently is deciding to go to Target by myself for two hours last Friday night.  Oh dear, we are a far cry away from road trips these days.

Nowadays, my list would probably include such practical items as it’s okay to leave a job and it’s more than okay to change careers.  Deciding that you want to do something else or making a change because something is not a good fit is a sign of courage, not failure.  Don’t give into the pressure of “timeline living.” Meaning, if your adult life does not unfold according to the socially acceptable timeline, it’s okay.  You are not behind.

There were certain items, though, I was pleasantly pleased to see are as much a part of my life as they were a decade ago.

Episodes of FRIENDS really do make you feel better.

Yes, a few close friends are better than many acquaintances.  They know you better. This can be both a comforting and scary reality.

Life is NOT always fun and sometimes you may be shocked at how low it can spiral before it starts looking up. The trick is letting life mold and make you, not damage and defeat you.

Scriptures, quotes, songs, mantras- these are the walking sticks that help you keep climbing the mountain.  They are the tools we lean on when we feel like falling to the ground.  Your attitude and motivation are determined by what you tell yourself.  Since that is the case, you better make it good.

And lastly, I believe more than ever we are not alone and nothing can separate us from God’s love.  You are never beyond the reach of God’s redeeming love and grace.

Have you ever had the experience of “hearing” from your younger self?  What did she have to say?  Did it surprise you?  We collect life lessons and little nuggets of advice along every step of the way.  It is interesting to see the ones that stick and the ones that fall by the way side.

If you created a list of the things you have learned to this point in life, what would be on it?  How would today’s list be different from a list penned ten, twenty years ago?  Are there elements of your younger self that you might benefit from bringing into the present?  (A little true spontaneity never hurt anyone, right? J )  What beliefs have remained and grown throughout the ups and downs of adulthood?   I would love to hear your words of wisdom!