Seeking Simplicity

Coffee in bed on a lazy morning. Puppy snuggles. Forehead kisses from my sweet hubby. Home-cooked meals. Connecting with friends and family. Giggling over random silliness. Feeling the love and comforts of home.

These are the things that my heart has been craving.

The past six weeks in my world have been a bit of a whirlwind. Work travel has taken me away from home and placed me in airports and hotel rooms and moments of solitude. Soul unsettled. Missing the simple pleasures that I sometimes overlook as blessings during ordinary days.

Funny how we miss the things we often take for granted when we are distanced from them. The things we crave most are the things we already have. That’s why we miss them. And oddly enough, it isn’t actual things – like our new fancy television or my closet full of clothes. It isn’t stuff at all. What we really miss are experiences and feelings and time spent well.

Much of my time last year was spent chasing after accomplishment, but that was not at all my intention. I chose a guiding word that I believed would bring about what I was yearning for at the time. “Create” was my word for 2015 and when I selected it, I didn’t think it was a results-based word. I thought if I made efforts to create space for the things I wanted more of in life, I would be fulfilled. The concept should have worked! And maybe it would have if I would have been less driven by outcomes. But I tend to measure my success by the end of the story instead of the brave beginnings or the meatiness of the middle. Wondering why I feel the need to measure it at all?

Simplicity. That’s what I’m seeking now.

Less stuff, more meaningful moments. Back to basics. Rebuilding foundations. Tending to relationships that feed my soul. Spending time well. Loosening my grasp on outcomes. Relinquishing my need for control. Letting go of things that don’t nurture me. Allowing myself to just be.

“Simplify” is my guiding word for 2016. And my soul is thrilled for this beautifully simple and pleasingly pressure-free journey.

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Wanna join me on my quest for simplicity? One simple step I took was to read Breaking Busy by Alli Worthington. Her words of wisdom reminded me to “never confuse a busy life with a full life”. The things that make our lives full have nothing to do with busyness. “We have to break the cycle of busy in our lives if we are going to have enough room to discover our destiny.”

The Permission Slip My Soul’s Been Craving

Hey Friends! Today – on this lovely Tuesday – I am sharing a book to add to your “must read” list. I’m honored to be a part of Emily P. Freeman’s Launch Team for her new book Simply Tuesday – hot off the presses and available TODAY!

In a world that screams for attention at every turn, this book whispers the wisdom my soul’s been craving. Accepting that not all moments in life are glamorous or glittery somehow makes way for the mundane, but in the best possible way.

Emily’s words are the permission slip I’ve been hoping for – to celebrate ordinary and to embrace exactly where I am on my journey, without the pressure of comparison or the regret of incomplete to-do lists. She addresses relatable challenges in practical ways and shares her unique perspectives, inviting her readers to sit awhile and allow our souls to just be.

Simply Tuesday is more than a book… it’s a realization and a way of life. It is a beautiful blessing wrapped in poignant paperback pages!

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Feeling Used – In the Best Kind of Way

There it was. The mysterious phlegmy bubble that appears in my throat when I get sick. It can’t be swallowed down, moved aside, or eased in any way. And it was just in time for the 100+ degree weekend. Yay!

I won’t bore you with my sicky sob story, but suffice it to say that I was miserable. My husband was out of town on a boys trip so I was on my own. I usually enjoy being alone, but this time it would have been nice to have an onsite nurse slash popsicle delivery man. No nurse. No popsicles. But I did have a beautiful new book to crack open, which was sort of the perfect medicine for me.

When Sunday rolled around and I rolled out of bed, I thought to myself “today I was supposed to be all better!” But I wasn’t. I hadn’t been out of the house since Thursday and had become a borderline hermit. Even though I wasn’t back to my spunky self yet, I tossed around the idea of going to church. I should go. My hubby and I usually go together in the evening and meet up with friends, but he wasn’t going to be home in time. But I should go. I invited my sister-in-laws to join me but they both had plans. I really should go. I was awake and could get ready in plenty of time for an earlier service. But I still didn’t feel very well. Although I was feeling better than the days before. So I should go.

Don’t you just love that witty internal banter that helps us make our decisions? Equally split across the pro’s and con’s of every situation until finally, something tips the scales and toggles us over to the “do it” side.

Not my best hair day and nothing I put on was as comfy as my jammies, but I had made up my mind to go. And so I did.

I didn’t recognize anyone as I entered because this was not the time we usually went. These were the morning people, and I am not typically among them!

As I made my way to my chosen seat, I passed by a young woman in the row behind me sitting alone, and I smiled at her. I wondered for a moment about her story and what brought her to church alone that morning. Husband out of town like mine? Perhaps she was meeting friends there that hadn’t arrived quite yet?

I stood and swayed and sang with the music and didn’t feel as alone as I thought I would. I introduced myself to a few people sitting near me and talked about the heat. I listened and let the message seep deep into my soul.

At the end of this particular service, our Pastor prayed a familiar prayer. The words come out differently each time, but the intent is to invite new Christians to choose God. At the end of the prayer, he asked those of us who prayed it for the first time to come to the front and accept a gift as they left. And he asked them to tell someone they had made that choice and prayed that prayer. I always pray along with that prayer because I am making the same choice every day in small ways. Even though it’s not the first time I’ve prayed those words, I still pray them every time.

As we filed out of our rows to leave, that sweet young woman who was sitting in the row behind me and I crossed paths and connected in the most unexpected way. She looked directly at me and proudly proclaimed “I prayed that prayer today!” and before I even realized it, I was hugging her and welcoming her to our church. It was a 20 second exchange at most, but it was everything.

God had used me, in the best kind of way. He didn’t care that my hair wasn’t perfect or that my throat was a little sore or that my spirit was a bit weary. He didn’t worry that I wasn’t up to certain standards. It didn’t bother Him that my voice cracked as I sang. In fact, all those imperfect things might be exactly the reason He chose me to cross paths with that lovely young woman yesterday.

Maybe those things made me approachable. Maybe my imperfections make me relatable. Maybe the worst parts of my life make the best testaments to His glory. Maybe she just needed a friendly smile to convey a welcoming message. Maybe He needed me to be exactly who I was in exactly that moment. And maybe, there have been a million tiny moments like this one that I didn’t even realize I was being used.

And just maybe He is using you in exactly the same way at the most unexpected times too.

When a Band-Aid isn’t Enough

A Band-Aid is meant to cover a wound, not to heal it. I’ve had plenty of skinned knees in my life, and I remember all-too-well the sting of Bactine on my owies.

“It will only hurt for a minute,” I remember my Mom saying. Only a minute, but it was a minute of pure torture. The icy-cold spray shocked the injured area and coaxed all the infectious potential to the surface and killed it. Just 60 seconds of the raging pain, then a cute Snoopy Band-Aid would cover it all up, and eventually the wound would heal.

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It turns out that when we are able to pinpoint the cause of potential infection, bring it to the surface and apply the proper medicine, our miraculous bodies will heal us from the inside out.

Sometimes the wounds go much deeper though. And no amount of antibacterial spray can surface and disinfect the pain. And no kitschy cartoon Band-Aid is big enough to cover it.

I am tending to some of my own festering wounds at this stage in my life. And I am reminded that to properly heal the infection, I need to surface it.

My childhood was tumultuous and my adulthood bears deep pockets of pain, but despite my challenges, I have always put on a happy face. Even when I didn’t feel happy, I wore my smile like a Band-Aid and it worked perfectly to cover my soul-scrapes. Yet, the infection persists. And the infection alters the way I see life and the way I view myself.

Here’s what that unhealthy thinking sounds like…

When I wasn’t able to have children, I thought I was undeserving.

When I unsuccessfully competed for the love of my step-sons, I thought I was unlovable.

When I was no longer able to see my step-granddaughter, I thought I was unworthy.

When I am not included in events or relationships are strained, I think I am unwanted.

My wounded heart sees my worthiness as the cause of my own pain. If I had tried harder or given more, then things would have been better or different. And that kind of toxic thinking translates into a deep self-loathing that cries out to be proved wrong. And when no one is able to love me enough to tip the scales of my skinned self-esteem, I prove to myself that I was undeserving, unlovable, unworthy, and unwanted all over again.

Where is that damn Bactine when I need it? Seriously. Spray me down!

But there is no magical disinfectant spray for what ails me. The cure is in the slow un-doing of my harmful thinking. And the un-doing will take some doing.

My “fake it ‘til you make it” mentality has not served me well. It looks pretty on the outside and it covers up whatever scratches and scrapes I may have, but it doesn’t allow me to feel. Instead, it pushes me to get over whatever caused me pain. But getting over isn’t the same as getting through.

Getting over diminishes the gravity of what happened. Getting over implies that there was nothing of importance that warranted sitting in the moment. Getting over sweeps things under the carpet and waits for them to re-surface later in life because we didn’t give them the attention they deserved at the time. Getting over minimizes our power and maximizes our shame. And when you’re talking about something monumental like not having children, sometimes there is simply no such thing as “getting over”.

Getting through honors the challenge and shows our strength and perseverance to trudge through the messiness. Getting through allows us to feel the weight of the issue and experience the painful, frustrating, heart-breaking emotions that we are completely entitled to. Getting through promotes our power and protects our hearts. Getting through is our badge of bravery and shows that we have grown and are forever changed. Getting through takes time and patience and understanding and grace.

I am ripping off the Band-Aids and exposing the wounds. After years of getting over, I am now working on getting through.

By hinging my value on the things outside of my control that have caused me pain, I’ve been subconsciously creating a life where I will never be enough.

The “if I achieve this, then I will be deserving” or “when I accomplish that, then I will be worthy” ways of determining our value pins everything on external circumstances. That if-then thinking tells our psyche that right now, in this very moment, I’m not enough. It has us reaching out for our value instead of reaching in.

My goal is to disconnect my self-worth from the outcomes of my life and to stop the cycle of situational self-esteem.

Here’s what that healthier thinking sounds like…

When I reflect on my inability to have children, I am rightfully saddened and understand that it does not define who I am.

When I look back on the struggles with my step-sons, I feel hurt and know that it isn’t an indication of my capacity for love.

When I miss being in my step-granddaughter’s life, I grieve the loss and realize that I was not the cause and the decision was outside of my control.

When I feel overlooked or under-loved, I accept that as a sign that I am placing my value in other people’s hands.

Squirting a little of that antiseptic enlightenment into my painful places today, knowing that in time it will seep into my soul and help to heal my wounds.

Wishing you the strength and power of “getting through” for your Band-Aid covered painful places too.

Moments Turned Months

Hello, lovely readers! I have been on a break lately from writing. Not really an intentional break. More like an “I’m not sure that I have any meaningful words to share” break. And even as I type these words, I am filled with doubt about that very thing. Meaningful.

Do you ever have moments that turn into days that turn into weeks that turn into months of heaviness? Of not-quite-right? Of silent battles behind the scenes?

I wish I could say that I have won the battles and have successfully come through a stronger, happier, more fulfilled me. But that would be a big fat lie. I’m still battling a little bit every day. Against exactly what, I don’t even know. But it sure does feel like a fight. And it often feels like I’m losing.

To admit I’m not doing wonderfully is a gigantic risk to my pride. It is a huge blow to my ego. And it is an incredibly vulnerable position.

I don’t do vulnerability well.

I do “here have been my struggles and here’s what I learned from them”. But in that uncertain place before the learning and before the understanding of what will overcome the challenges… in that confusing, uncomfortable crud, I am not good.

I don’t like the way I feel during the struggles. I like the way I feel after the struggles. Empowered. Accomplished.

But during – in the midst of those bad moments turned months – I feel weak.

Somehow lately, my thoughts are not lifting me above things, but are dropping me deep down in the sticky icky bits that seem impossible to trudge through. I’m stuck in the stuff that reminds me I’m not good enough. That painful and powerful stuff that is screaming lies instead of whispering hope.

This happens to me sometimes. I know I am capable of getting through it. But it sure doesn’t feel like it when uncertainty envelopes my brain and the destructive chatter drowns out my inner cheerleader.

So today, I don’t have words of wisdom. I just have a few words of “this is sometimes all I have to offer”.

These are the words that churn during my not-so-powerful but oh-so-vulnerable days. These are the open-wound words that don’t yet have a happy ending. And these are the words that I’m sharing with you today, sweet friends.

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Finding the Up Side of Down

Some days are just bad days. The days that doubt sneaks in through a judgmental comment. The days when your mind snags a tiny thread of evidence that you’re not good enough and your confidence quickly unravels. The days where your self-worth teeters on the edge of everyone else’s opinions. The days when finding the up side of down seems monumentally impossible.

Yesterday was that kind of day.

It started out just fine – plenty of coffee and potential. But then I let someone else’s story hijack my happiness.

Recently I auditioned for a local production of writers, reading their own original work on motherhood. And, while I know nothing about motherhood, I know everything about wanting it and the pain of never getting it.

My story wasn’t chosen, and I was fine with that. Oddly relieved, really. The thought of sharing my perspective in person, out loud for an audience to hear, terrified me. But it also stirred something inside of me. Something that may connect with people who have lived a similar journey as mine. Something that led me to be brave and put myself out there.

But that same courageous something was not quite as “fine” with rejection when I read about myself through someone else’s eyes…

“I noticed the four other women auditioning were in their 40s and 50s. They wore conservative department store outfits, had easy to manage hairstyles, and were a little overweight. Even the ladies putting the show together were similar to that ‘average mother genre.'”

Suddenly I was not so freaking fine. I was mad. Then sad. Then as judgy about myself as this stranger was about me.

These words were found on the blog of one of the talented writers that were chosen for the show. This particular writer has a similar story of struggle as mine, and I know how painful that struggle can be.

Let me be clear: I am not upset about not being selected. I am upset about being misunderstood, not fully seen, and pegged all wrong.

I know that I am one of those four women she described, because she also described herself in her post. I very clearly remember her leaving the audition room while I was seated in one of those rickety folding chairs, waiting for my turn.

As I read her words, I immediately began grasping for contradictory facts. I am 40-something, so nothing to contradict there. But I was wearing a vibrant pink sweater set, a turquoise scarf, some slightly faded and fitted jeans, and some seriously edgy, pointy toed, hot pink boots. I wasn’t dressed like a Sears catalog model. I was dressed like I dress – classy with a touch of sass, for Christ sake!

And let’s talk about my hair. It’s kind of my signature “thing” I like to think. It is long and blonde and not particularly common or “easy to manage”. Oh, and my weight – let’s go ahead and go there. My weight lands me in the “normal” range for my height, but is always on my mind. And apparently on the minds of others as well, as if I needed one more reason to feel insecure about my weight.

So, as I was mentally defending my style and personal appearance and nursing the sting of the snap – and snappish – judgements, my confidence crumbled beneath my cheerful exterior. Inside I felt not good enough. Not pretty enough. Not young enough. Not thin enough. Not talented enough. Not anything enough.

I am not part of the “average mother genre” that I had been erroneously lumped into. I am not a Mom at all. Even though that is all I ever wanted to be. Even though my appearance may indicate otherwise. Even though I would gladly trade in my savvy style for a saggy pair of mom jeans and a Dorothy Hamill haircut if it would change the outcome of my story.

I, like so many of you, have been misjudged and misunderstood. And yesterday I felt that deep within my soul. But isn’t that just the best reminder to all of us to look deeper than the surface?

How about this ladies…

Let’s learn the real stories before making up our own. Let’s leave our assumptions at the door. Let’s celebrate each other instead of comparing and competing. Let’s lift one another up. Let’s withhold judgement. Let’s be supportive and encouraging. Let’s include others instead of excluding them. Let’s not define people by their appearance. Let’s live and let live. And please let us love each other.

And THAT my friends, is finding the UP side of down.

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Silencing our Inner Critic

Some of my greatest suffering in life has come at my own hand, it turns out.

When I was a kid, my sister and I would argue. I am four years younger and had made it my life’s mission to irritate her. I was good at it!

Pushing her buttons was my specialty. I would pinch her, mess up her room, and wear her clothes. {Oh sweet Jesus, how I wish I could wear her size small clothes now!} I would mimic her, and follow her, and tease her.

Then, when she just couldn’t take it anymore, she would grab me tightly, take ahold of my own flimsy little arm, shake it back and forth in a flapping frenzy, and slap me with my own flailing hand.

“Stop hitting yourself,” she would say, over and over until we both giggled our silly heads off.

She used my own hand to punish my irritating behavior. And I use my own thoughts to punish myself too.

Maybe you can relate to being harder on yourself than anyone else could ever be? Or holding yourself hostage to your flaws? Or wallowing in your worries? Or your own personal version of self-created suffering?

I’ve been an “in your head” kind of person since I was a kid, and it wasn’t until recently that I began taking notice and taking steps to silence my inner critic. It still battles to be heard, but I am better prepared for it now.

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Here are a few tidbits of hard-fought wisdom that will help you refocus your thoughts and regain your peace of mind…

3 Ways to Turn Your Thoughts Around

31 Days of Soul Searching {Self-Talk}

5 Ways to Choose Happiness

Harnessing Your Power

The Power of Aligning Your Thoughts and Actions

Celebrating Your Superpowers {Confidence}