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. ;)

Finding Beauty... Fighting Comparison

The more beauty we find I came across this quote by Bob Goff last week and it really has had me thinking. Aren’t those words so true? We hear and read so much these days about comparing ourselves to others and how things like social media only seem to exacerbate that habit. I think we all pretty much agree that comparing ourselves to others is destructive. Comparison is corrosive. It kills joy, courage, and spirit. We know this yet so many of us struggle to stop doing it, and we are at a seeming loss as to how to stop doing it. It seems, though, that Bob Goff has beautifully stated how we can stop comparing ourselves to others.

We look for beauty. We find joy. We celebrate instead of resent and envy.

It makes perfect sense if you think about it. It’s next to impossible to fall into the slimy pit of comparison when we find beauty in someone’s work or when we find joy in a friend’s accomplishment or celebrate a loved one’s good fortune.   We rarely compare ourselves to the friends that we are genuinely happy for. But we tend to compare ourselves to those friends or co-workers that we secretly envy, or even resent. It’s real hard to find beauty when we are pea green with envy regarding someone’s promotion, relationship, or windfall.

Our habit of comparing is not just rooted in envy and jealousy but it is also rooted in fear and scarcity. We compare because we are afraid that we are not enough, that there isn’t enough “room for us”, that somehow we aren’t going to get our piece of the pie. It is amazing how strong the fear is in our lives that there “won’t be enough room”. All these people are getting engaged; there’s going to be no one left for me. All these people are moving up in their careers; there’s not going to be any space left on the ladder for me.   We simultaneously feel compelled to mark our territory and fear that our territory is not big enough/good enough. These mind games are exhausting!

A wise friend shared with me today that rather than fighting for a piece of the pie we should create a new pie. Rather than fearing you aren’t going to get a piece of the pie and comparing your slice to someone else’s, what if you believed in yourself and your calling enough to create your own pie?

Let that sink in.

That right there is freedom, folks. Freedom from comparison. Freedom from envy. Freedom from fear and scarcity. What you have been called and ordained to do, you will do. We have to dig deep into our faith and rest in that truth.

So the big question these days is how do we break free from the comparison quicksand. How do we do it? We find beauty and we find joy. We find beauty and joy in other people’s journeys and gifts and ideas, and we boldly embrace our own journey, gifts, and ideas.

What would it look like for you to find joy and beauty in other’s lives rather than comparing them to your own? How would that change your sense of peace and contentment for your life? Are you ready to take on that challenge? I am.

5 in 365: The Five Lessons I Learned One Year After My Leap of Faith

This month I am celebrating an exciting milestone in my life. A year ago, I took my biggest leap of faith yet and launched my own private practice. In some ways, I cannot believe it has been a year, and in other ways it seems like forever ago that Mazi Robinson, LLC opened its doors. As I shared in a post a year ago, I entered into this venture not knowing what the future held but feeling simultaneously excited and anxious. Now, a year later, I am in literal awe at what has unfolded, the women that I have had the honor to work with, the groups I’ve been privileged to speak to, and the doors that have opened.   This past year has been filled with abundant, over the top Grace, and I am deeply grateful.

Sitting on this side of the past 365 days and looking ahead to the next 365, I have been pondering what I have learned so far on this journey. Here are the five most important lessons I have learned since my leap of faith.

If you’re afraid to do it, you have to do it. If you’re afraid to do it, then you’re probably doing something right.

As I shared a year ago, it was when I voiced my real fears about going out on my own that I knew I had to do it. I was afraid of not being able to make it on my own, of failing, of losing connections, of being judged. Those fears were very real, but what I knew then, and what has become even more of a truth for me since, is that if you give into fear, then fear wins. Fear calls the shots. Fear dictates the path. Fear keeps you small. If you’re afraid, it is a sign that you are pushing the boundaries of your beloved comfort zone. It’s a sign that you’re growing. Growth is often painful and uncertain. Fear is not necessarily a sign that you should not do something. Fear is often a sign that you are on the cusp breaking free from the thoughts that you think are protecting you but are actually imprisoning you. Fear is often a sign that you are doing something right. I now take those butterflies in my stomach and what if thoughts not as indicators to turn back but as green lights to take a deep breath and move forward.

It’s not the critic who counts… it’s the man in the arena who counts.

I’ve shared numerous times what a fan I am of Brené Brown’s research and writing. When I read the Teddy Roosevelt quote she uses as the backdrop for her bestselling book, Daring Greatly, I was immediately taken by this idea that it is better to be marred by dust and sweat then to stay pristine and safe on the outside of the arena. For the past year, whenever I have tried something new or stepped into a new arena I have repeated this mantra over and over in my mind. Success is immaterial. Critics only have power if I give them power. At the end of my life, I think I will care much more that at least I tried- tried to tried to hold Daring Way™ retreats, tried to market myself (email marketing literally makes me hum and shiver with discomfort… more on that gem later), tried to blog, etc.- then if I “successfully” avoided the criticism and judgment of the mysterious “they.” Yes, I’ve decided I would rather be filthy, exhausted, and totally poured out in the center of the arena then standing all put together on the outside.

I am my worst self when I’m on the outside of the arena.

I am my better self when I am facing my fears, standing up to my insecurities, and doing the things that make me feel uncomfortable and uncertain. I am jealous, envious, resentful, critical of others, gossipy, and “territorial” when I am standing on the outside of the arena watching others do the things that I am too afraid to do. I am my worst self when I stand on the outside looking in. Isn’t that interesting how that is the case?   Standing on the outside of the arena brings out all of the unattractive qualities we like least about ourselves. We become the critic when we give fear the power to close the door to the arena we feel called to enter. Want to be free of the jealousy that morphs into insecurity that leads to saying critical things about others? I’ve learned you have to step out of that beautifully decorated prison cell you call home and walk into the arena you keep staring at.

There is never the perfect time, but there is the right time.

When we are contemplating making a change, how often do we say the timing is just not right? How often do we think when I get to… or when I have this amount in savings… or when we get past this hurdle…? This past year has taught me that there is never a perfect time- you can’t wait for the perfect time- but there is the right time. What I didn’t share in my blog announcement last year is that when I decided to start this venture in private practice, my husband was unemployed. In March of last year the company my husband worked for was sold and closed their Atlanta office. As I was putting everything in place for the opening of my practice, my husband was at the beginning of a job search process that had no known end date. On paper, this was not the time to start a new business. We had bills to pay, a little one to take care of, and the uncertainty of unemployment to navigate. This was definitelynot the perfect time. But after much discussion, we felt it was time for this change, and as I quickly discovered it was the right time. It was the right time for me to clarify my purpose and calling. It was the right time for me to be my own boss. It was the right time for a new challenge. The lesson? If you wait for the perfect time, you just might miss out on what is right for you.

I thought I knew what I could lose in my leap of faith, but I never dreamed what I would receive.

I had a long list of things I thought I might lose, fears of what might happen, things I thought I wasn’t capable of doing. (Thinking about things like bookkeeping, web management, and marketing made me want to sit in a corner and rock.) I think anyone has such a list when they are contemplating walking away from the known into the unknown. Over this past year, I have had to let go of some things, and, yes, that was as painful and agonizing as I predicted it would be. But we have to let go so that our hands are open to receive other things. We let go of Egypt so we can enter into our Canaan. We let go of the beautifully decorated prison so we can step into our arena. What have I received?  Opportunities I never dreamed of. Occasions to hear others’ stories that I will treasure in my heart. Knowledge that I am more capable than I realized. But more importantly, I’ve received grace, a bigger and bolder faith, healing, direction, and a new understanding of what it means to live free.   It is for freedom that we have been set free- oh yes, indeed.  I have felt both carried and covered like never before, and I understand on a whole new level that our imaginations and worst-case scenarios aren’t nearly as big as God’s vision for us- Amen to that. This year has been one of the most influential and shaping of my life.    To say I am grateful is an understatement.

Those are the lessons I have learned over this past year, and I'm sure there is more learning to come in the year ahead. I look ahead at the next year and I'm so excited about what I know is to come and what I cannot imagine is around the bend. Happy Anniversary, Mazi Robinson, LLC!

What are the lessons you have learned from your leaps of faith? Are you contemplating a leap right now? What are your worries and concerns? What is the arena you want to enter? I would love to hear about your journey and what you are learning!

Your Year In Review

As someone who likes to over-process, over-analyze, and over-reflect on life’s major and minor transitions, New Year’s is  my kind of holiday.  This annual celebrating of the end of one year and the start of another brings with it the inevitable assessing of the past and planning for the future.  A whole period in the calendar set aside for reflection- could there be anything better?  Not for this girl!

And don’t get me started on the anthem that is synonymous with New Year’s- Auld Lang Syne.  It could be 90 degrees with 90 percent humidity in the middle of July and those opening strains can still bring tears to my eyes.  I don’t know all the words and (confession) I have to Google what the words actually mean each year (the song is about friendship and the passing of time, by the way), but Auld Lang Syne, does it to me every time!

So with New Year’s, we have a holiday based around the idea of marking time and it has a theme song that makes me cry- well, I’d say that is just about perfection in my book!

I recognize, however, not everyone relishes this final holiday of the year.  The pressure to have a memorable rockin’ New Year’s Eve saps most people’s enjoyment of the holiday, and not everyone jumps at the opportunity for life reflection and pondering.  Some years, we are so thankful to see the year finally pass that reflecting is the last thing on our minds.  We are just holding our breath until 12:01 AM January 1st   when we can officially exhale and turn our backs on the year that we thought just might be our undoing.

It is in that exhale that lies the other reason I love New Year’s.   It is an opportunity for second chances.  You get another January 1st.  You get another chance to face your fears and defeat your insecurities.  You get another try at being the person you would like to be.  At 11:59 PM, December 31st there is all the hope and anticipation of a better year, a fresh start, a do over.  I’m a sucker for a good comeback.

But before we start planning the next year, we do benefit from stopping and looking back on the previous year.  Even if this was an extraordinarily tough year for you, just take a few moments and reflect.  After all, it is hard to know where we want to go if we are not clear on where we have been. Here are some questions to get those reflective juices flowing.

What are you the most proud of from this past year?

What was your greatest challenge this year?

What was the most fun or exciting or memorable thing you did?

What were some of your happiest moments?

What do you regret or wish you had done differently?

What relationships were life giving, reciprocal, and encouraging?

With whom do you wish you had spent more time? 

What relationships caused you hurt or disappointment or were in some way unfulfilling? 

What are you grateful for from this past year?

What was something your learned that was interesting or helpful?

In reviewing the past 12 months, what would you say was the theme of your 2013? Whether your year was terrific or one of your most challenging, I hope you will give yourself a moment to pause and reflect on where you’ve been and what you’ve done.  We will plan and set goals and make resolutions in the days to come.  But for now, let’s look back.  Let’s unpack the suitcase so we know what to leave behind and what to bring with us.

Happy New Year, friends!  May the experiences and lessons of this past year turn to the blessings of of your new year. P.S.  If you want a little tear jerking music to go along with your reflecting…

http://youtu.be/C7TdfiHlc0Q

The Middle

Have you ever felt like you were in The Middle?  You have some distance from your past or from that life-changing event, but you still can’t fully see the light at the end of the tunnel.  You know you are farther down the road, but you aren’t to the other side yet.  You are in The Middle. The Middle is an interesting place.  It is the in between.  It’s after the crisis but before the new chapter.  It is the period after the diagnosis but before the healing.  It's the period after you take the leap of faith but before you land.  The Middle is the aftermath.  It occurs after the broken trust/betrayal but before the reconciliation.  It’s in between the disappointment and the redemption.  It is when we look around, and we feel lost and confused.  How did I get here?  This isn’t where I thought I would be.

The Middle comes after the tragedy but before the triumph.

Lauren Winner, in her book Still, says, Here at what I think is the beginning of the middle of my spiritual life, I begin to notice the middle rarely denotes something good.  Middle School-when girls turn mean, and all kids turn miserable- is that ‘wasteland of our primary and secondary landscape,’ the ‘crack’ between grammar school and high school.  And middles are often defined by what they are not…”

The Middle is often not quick, not easy.  The Middle is not fun.

In some ways, The Middle is much more difficult than the initial loss or crisis because in crisis there usually is a lot movement.  Things are happening.  There are doctors to be seen, funerals to attend, calls to take, emails to return, decisions to make.  Adrenaline kicks in during a crisis and carries us through.  It is human survival at its best.  It is how we do the things we never thought we would have the strength to do.  It’s when we lift the car over our heads and save the women and the children.  Often in the dramatic crises of our lives we don’t think; we survive.

But then weeks pass.  Months pass.  The calls stop.  The emails are less frequent.  The treatment that is supposed to save you feels like it is killing you.  Everyone else has moved on and is no longer asking, but your heart is still breaking.  Enough time has passed that you should be in a different place.  You shouldn’t continue to love him.  You shouldn’t still rehearse what you would like to say.  You shouldn’t still be this angry, this hurt.

See, what is so hard about The Middle is that you have nothing but time.  Everyone else’s life seems to be speeding along.  Yours seems to be stuck, to be in a standstill.  The hardest thing about The Middle is waiting… waiting for it to be over… waiting for the money to come thru, the job to come along, and the test to be positive or to be negative.  The Middle is difficult because you don't know how long it is going to last.

It is this question of how long that is so agonizing.  Everyone wants to know how to get out of The Middle or make this period move more quickly.  Tell me how to do grief in three months max.  Tell me how to get over a break up in three weeks max. I suppose sometimes there are specific linear steps you can take.  I suppose sometimes there might be a 1-2-3.  But what I have found is that the only way out is through.  Avoiding The Middle, trying to escape, or looking for a quick exit never works.

What we discover, though, when we get to the other side is that The Middle changes us.  There is no going back.  There is only moving forward, and in this moving forward, we learn some of our most valuable lessons.  It is where we learn how to move forward.  We learn that time and faith are not platitudes or the easy way out; time and faith are the hard answers because they're intangible and out of our control.  But they serve as the walking sticks that help us gain our footing as we move through the mire and muck.  We learn about hope.  We learn we are not alone.  We learn we are much stronger than we ever imagine because we are not alone.

The Middle is the in between.  It is the period after the tragedy but before the triumph.  It is where we keep moving forward even though we don’t see the path or understand the plan.  It is the period where we recall past Faithfulness and we find evidence of continued Faithfulness.  The Middle is where we are given the strength to bear down and say I am pressing onward to the goal for which I am being called and I’m not turning back.

 

Have you ever been in The Middle?  What was it like?  How did you get through it?

 

 

The Truth about Forgiveness

Forgiveness.  This one word elicits so many questions.  How do you forgive?  How do you know you have forgiven someone?  Why do you have to forgive?  Why can’t you just take your heartache and hurt and never look back?  Does forgiving mean forgetting? Forgiveness is a process.  It is not easy, and it does not happen immediately.  It is something that some of us want and others blatantly reject.  But most certainly, it is something that many of us do not understand.  It does not always come naturally for us because sometimes we get stuck holding onto things.  We replay memories and conversations we would like to have with the person who hurt us over and over in our heads.  Our minds become like an audio track on repeat.  Forgiving someone IS difficult, and you can probably think of reasons not to forgive and why this person does not deserve your forgiveness.  I am sure if you told me what happened I would agree- they don’t deserve forgiveness.  But here’s the thing… they may not deserve forgiveness, but you deserve to be free.

Forgiveness has little to nothing to do with the wrongdoer.  Forgiveness has to do with the one who has been wronged.  Forgiveness is for you.  Forgiveness sets you free.  Free from your pain.  Free from your past.

Forgiveness means no longer needing anything from the wrongdoer in your life.  You no longer need the wrong to be made right, an apology, an explanation.  The wrongdoer and that hurt no longer have power in your life.  You forgive because you are hurt, because you are wounded, and because you want to be free. From my experience, it seems a lot of people are resistant to forgiveness because they misunderstand what it is and what it isn’t.  These misconceptions and mistruths can keep us locked in bitterness and resentment that threaten to take over our lives and relationships.

 

What is the truth about forgiveness? The truth is…

Forgiveness does not excuse someone’s actions or imply that what she did was not a big deal.  Forgiveness is a big deal so by forgiving someone you are "saying" to her that what she did was so significant that only forgiveness can set you free.  If something weren’t a big deal, then you wouldn’t need to be free from it.  Forgiveness involves acknowledging and admitting the depth of your pain and the parties responsible for that pain.

Forgiveness is not a means to avoid conflict.  True forgiveness does not involve stuffing your feelings or ignoring your hurt in an effort to keep the peace.  This is denial, and it never works.  Saying you forgive someone as a way to brush pain under the rug only plants seeds of resentment that later strangle the life out of your relationships.

Forgiveness is not tolerance.   I can forgive you and even wish you well in life, but your behavior may have reached the point where I can no longer tolerate or accept it in my life. We can forgive things that we can no longer tolerate, and we can tolerate things that we never forgive.  The first brings healing while the latter only brings continued hurt into our lives.

Forgiveness does not wipe out the need for justice or consequences.  You can forgive someone and still allow him to experience the consequences of his actions.  Forgiveness does not wipe out the need for justice, and the presence of justice does not automatically create a spirit of forgiveness.  You are giving that person continued power in your life if you are waiting for justice to occur before you begin the process of forgiveness.  He is determining whether you are free, not you.

Forgiveness does not mean reconciliation.  Forgiveness is a process that happens within you- it is intrapersonal- and it is not dependent on the other person.  Reconciliation is interpersonal- it requires two people.   Reconciliation requires forgiveness on your part and a commitment to and demonstration of behavior change on the other person’s part.  You can have forgiveness without reconciliation, but you cannot have reconciliation without forgiveness and change.

A life of un-forgiveness is like a life kept in bondage, and forgiveness is the key to the locked door.  You are hurt and angry, and you have every right to be.  What happened was unfair and unexpected, and it would be so easy for you to hold onto that hurt and anger like a shield of armor. You cannot force yourself to forgive if you are not ready, but you can slowly loosen your grip on all that pain and let Light begin to enter into that dark place.  That Light brings the healing, strength, and courage you need to begin stepping out of that prison of hurt.  Forgiveness does not change the past; it separates and frees us from our past.

 

That person may not deserve forgiveness, but you deserve to be free. 

 

In what area of your life do you need to experience freedom today?  What hurt would you like to begin letting go of?

 

Voice Lessons

Long before I was a counselor or teacher or wife or mother, I was a singer.  There have been so many years and life experiences since then that it is almost hard to remember that period.  What I do remember very clearly, though, is how much I enjoyed my voice lessons.  Truth be told, I enjoyed the voice lessons more than I enjoyed performing for it was in the lesson that you really grew as a musician.  You dove into the nuances and interpretations of the music, and sometimes just thinking of a phrase differently changed the way you sounded.  Mistakes were expected. You grew and learned because of those missed notes and missteps, and the hardest lesson often ended up being the most helpful.  In the voice lesson, you experimented with different techniques, making the slightest adjustments here and there.  Those slight adjustments sometimes unlocked attributes of your voice that you didn’t even know were there.  Very simply, you found your voice in the midst of the lesson. Gone are the days of vocal studios and voice coaches, and happily, my performances are now for an audience of one, my two-year-old son.  Now my days are filled with counseling my clients, speaking, and family life, and my voice lessons occur in the big and small challenges of daily living.   I think many of us search for our true voice because, unfortunately, we lost it or it got silenced years ago.  Bad relationships, trying to fit in, attempting to be everything to everyone all the time, addiction, abuse, or maybe just the daily grind have the power to make people very quiet.

When we lose our voice, we lose our sense of self.  It is easier to tell someone what she wants to hear than take the risk and share our opinion, story, or preference. We second-guess everything and sometimes just wish someone would tell us what to do. Perhaps we feel anxious and we don’t even know why.  We wrestle with feeling not good enough, and we live in a pressure cooker of working for love and belonging.

But somehow in the midst of the day-to-day activities and peaks and valleys of our lives, we discover our voice.  Perhaps it begins with baby steps- we learn our likes and dislikes.  Maybe we take a giant leap and set boundaries in a relationship or start saying yes and no when we truly mean it rather than when we think it fits the situation.  We discover who we are and step off the treadmill of self-doubt and criticism.  Finding our voice means we believe we are enough and that our worth is not determined by the fullness of our calendars or the number of checks on our to do lists.  When we find our voice, we feel settled, peaceful, and content.

Yes, at some point in time, we all lose our way.  The path gets clouded with bad choices or life events that are out of our control, but on that path littered with disappointments, difficulties, and challenges, we find markings of grace and learn that no life experience is wasted.  The experience becomes a lesson.

We find our voice in the midst of the lesson.

These are the lessons I have learned and am still learning.  I hope this blog will be a place where you can share your story and continue to find your voice.  These are our voice lessons… lessons in grace, freedom and becoming the real you.