Me vs. The Storm

Source: photo credit unknown

Tonight I’m breaking my own rules. For the past week or so I’ve deemed electronics off-limits after 9 pm. Right now I’m supposed to be in bed with the lights turned off but still wearing a sleep mask while listening to a sleep podcast. All in the name of a good night’s sleep to start each morning well-rested and ready to tackle the day. Yet, here I am breaking my own rules.

I have this surge of energy and empowerment that I can’t let go until I get it out in writing. Not even to rest my head. I had a tough end to 2019. I had to dig into a deep place inside my soul and go to depths I didn’t even know I had in my mind and then climb my way back out. The last quarter of 2019 was crappy and difficult. That’s the best way I can describe it. It was days and weeks of feeling unsettled and unsure of myself. I know this tough season isn’t over quite yet. What I do know is that it has made me stronger. This tough season that’s had me in tears and on my knees asking “Why?” has helped me grow in my faith. It has forced me to question who I am and who I want to be.

I didn’t come into 2020 with a plan. In fact, I came into 2020 kicking and screaming. Unsure of what the new year would look like, trying to be strong yet feeling like I was failing. Every. Single. Day.

I did not come into this new decade with a plan. No resolutions or intentions or declaring my word. Those weren’t for me this year. Yet now, in the eye of this storm, I am calm. I will continue to be strong and grow stronger. I came into 2020 with just “being” and knowing that I had to be o.k. with that. I had to pray and rest. I had to create routines to feed my soul. I had to find space for gratitude. I had to be humbled and ask for help in numerous ways.

16 days into this new decade I have finally figured out how I want to embrace life. I’m creating space. I’m not referring to physical space. I’m referring to space for learning, creativity, comfort, joy, and acceptance. I’m stepping out of the “safe zone” and willing to take risks. 2020 get ready….here I come.

Stay tuned to read about my adventures and lessons learned. I’m sure there will be laughter and likely a few tears shed. I intend to be part of a world that shares life and builds communities near and far. My writing is my effort in doing this and if you’re reading this…thank you.

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us – they help us learn and endure. And endurance develops strength of character in us, and character strengthens our confident expectation of salvation. And this expectation will not disappoint us. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. “

Romans 5:3-5

Making Lemonade…

Amidst the start of a busy holiday season with Thanksgiving in 2 weeks, Christmas catalogs popping into my mailbox, commercials for this season’s hottest toys and multiple social media posts touting how to make this year the “Best Christmas Ever” I am centering my time and attention on taking an opportunity to make lemonade out of lemons.

You read it, lemonade. It’s probably a good time for me to back up and provide a bit of the backstory of how I found myself in this state. Approximately 3 weeks ago I was one of many associates impacted by a workforce reduction. To put it plain and simple, my job was eliminated. To make a clear connection, this was the handful of lemons handed to me.

In a matter of about 2 hours I sped through the 5 stages of grief. First came the denial. “I can’t believe this is actually happening.” Then, shortly after I closed my work laptop for the last time came anger. “Really? I’ve always produced and been a team player. Why me?” Next up, bargaining. “Ok Lord, I know you’ve got this and you have a plan. If you’ll just give me the opportunity today…” Yeah, how can you bargain with God? I certainly can’t. Then, depression. “Why me? Why was I chosen? What if I can’t find anything? What if… ” Finally, acceptance. “When a door closes a window is opened. I’m talented, have loads of experience and I love to learn and tackle new challenges. I’m gonna rock this.” These are the waves of emotion and thoughts I muddled through.

If I said that this was the one and only time I experienced these emotions I would be lying. However, as each day passes the negative emotions lessen and the positive emotions strengthen. Buy why? How can I choose to stay positive while headed into the holiday season, a new year and quite frankly the uncertainty of stability? I can do this because I know this is a season within a long lifetime.

This is a short period of time that I must work through. How am I making lemonade? I keep myself busy leveraging the amazing career coach and resources I have access to. I network via social and professional connections. I’m reading, attending webinars and completing self-paced learning. I research open job positions and companies like it’s my job. Actually, it is my current job, so I treat it as such. I set daily goals and prioritize my task list of research, applications and connection follow up. I keep a daily Google calendar, complete with time-blocks by activity to stay focused and productive in this transition phase.

I don’t know where I will end up. What I do know is that the work I put in now will lead to a great opportunity where I will leverage my skills and abilities to contribute to a great place to work. After all, as Elbert Hubbard coined and Dale Carnegie quoted in his book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, “If you have a lemon, make lemonade”. The choice is up to me and I choose to make lemonade. If you are in a similar situation, I encourage you to stay positive and make lemonade. After all, this is just a season.

The Week Between

This is one of my favorite weeks of the year. The week between Christmas and the new year. The merriment of the holidays is past and has provided us with another year of memories. For some of us these are the best memories of the year. Others may find the time sad and lonely. No matter the sentiment it’s time to wrap the ornaments, take the stockings down, finish the leftovers, and enjoy the final crumbs of cookies.

This particular week provides us with the ability to reflect on the previous year yet it still provides us with the hope for the year to come. I love to learn and, for me, reflection is a time for learning. I don’t think there is a “right” way to spend time reflecting, although there are probably thousands of self-help books and internet sites to provide direction. Personally, I choose to close my eyes and think of all of the happy moments and what I might have done differently in those not so favorable moments. Sometimes I will play songs that remind me of a special moment or person. It’s not the method of reflection that is important. What is important is that we dig down to the deepest depths of our soul and remember the moments of the year past that shaped our life and personality.

Reflection, however, is only useful if you take what you have learned and use it to shape your future. This is not always an easy task. Reflection can produce many emotions. Happiness, thankfulness, sadness, guilt and shame are just to name a few. Though some of these emotions are admittedly difficult to deal with this is the perfect time to consider taking the leap forward toward closure. This might mean forgiving oneself and letting past behavior and attitudes stay in the past. This could mean forgiving others and deciding to end relationships that no longer create happiness. Maybe it’s even mending a relationship that seemed to be long gone. For when you make it through the emotional maze of the year past you can see a light at the end of the tunnel.

This light is like a beacon of hope. A quick Google search of the “definition of hope” tells us that hope is “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen”. It is knowing that a new year is beginning and provides you the opportunity to start fresh. This hope does not promise only happy moments and it certainly doesn’t promise that life will be any easier in the coming year. What it does promise is to give you the opportunity to choose your expectations and desires for the coming year.

I think this is exactly the reason so many of us choose to make a New Year’s resolution list. Somewhere, deep down inside, we relish in the fact that we have the opportunity to embrace the hope and light of the new year and reinvent even a tiniest portion of our own self based on the findings from our personal reflection. What comes out of this will be different for each individual but one thing will remain the same. Reflection and learning of the past combined with the light and hope of the future offer the gift of peace in the present. Take the time now to treasure the reflection, slow down to enjoy the peace and embrace the hope.

Want to share your thoughts on reflection, enjoying the peace and embracing the hope? Please take a moment to leave your comments.

To “My People, My Tribe, My Whatever You Want to Call It”

It’s been 4 months since I wrote my first blog post. It’s not that I haven’t thought about logging in. It’s more that I just didn’t think I had much to say. Today is different. My heart and mind are so full that I’m almost overwhelmed. I am inspired by a podcast titled “For the Love With Jen Hatmaker”, specifically episode 1 “Savoring Your Friendships”.

In this first episode the host and her dear friend reminisce of how they became friends and how they have learned to nurture their friendship. They also discuss the importance of making time to connect with other people. This has inspired me because for so long I have told my husband, “It’s easier for guys to hang out with friends and find things to do.”. For example, golf league and basketball. It isn’t easier for guys, that’s just been my excuse. I’ve had this picture in my mind of how I’m supposed to be or the things that need to be in order to invite a friend over for coffee or dinner. Let’s not forget the “mom guilt”. You know what I mean. That little voice inside your head that tell you that you can’t do something because you should be doing something or making something 24-7 with your kids. Yeah…I hear that voice too. What I learned from this podcast is that it’s ok to let it go and just be present. I learned that friendships, like marriages, take work.

Now you might be thinking that I’m a little all over the place in this post. You’re right but that’s how my brain navigates life. This is where my full to overflowing heart of happiness and joy comes.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to spend the day with a very dear friend of mine. I have known this friend since elementary school and we officially have been friends for 24 years (since the age of 13). We navigated side-by-side through jr. high and high school together. We went to different colleges but still remained intact as “best friends”. As we entered into adulthood we did it together but we ever so slowly began to drift apart little by little.

One day a few years ago I looked back and became saddened by the realization that I didn’t know my best friend anymore. I carry the blame for this as I realize I became lazy in our friendship. I became so consumed with myself that I didn’t make time to reach out and connect. We were in different stages of life and instead of cherishing this about our friendship, I unintentionally let it push us apart.

So how did we go from the occasional letter or text to spending the day together? We did it slowly and with humility. My friend showed me the grace that I had yet to show her many years ago. I will forever be thankful that we have reconnected and have begun to share our lives together again. The best is yet to come. How do I know this? I know this because at the age of 37 years old, driving down I-71 on our way to a day spa I found myself crying with tears of laughter as we discussed everything from work to kids to husbands. It’s like there hadn’t been a day gone by since we were 17 and getting ready for dance team together.

I share my story of reconnection because as human beings we need other people. Whether we realize it or not we need to surround ourselves with people that not only care about and love us but that we care about and love as well. Although I embrace being on the “hot mess express” I still feel the need to want to hide this from others. As in “my house is too messy to invite the neighbor over for coffee” or “I want to get these non-critical errands done so I can finish off my task list”. Guess where these perfection striving thoughts get me? If you guessed “nowhere” then you would be correct. (Thank you Jen Hatmaker and Shauna Niequist for reminding me of this.) I’m a list maker and get sheer joy from crossing things off of my “to-do” list so I’ll always have a list laying around. What I won’t always have are the left behind moments that I didn’t choose to share with other people.

Our world is so full of negativity that it is up to us to bring positivity into our own lives and share it with others. We aren’t meant to be alone but we do have to put the effort in. Who cares if you have 19 baskets of laundry? Call your friend and invite her over for coffee. Dollars to donuts (donuts go good with coffee) her house has laundry to be folded too. What really matters is the connection we make and share together. This connection is what makes the happy times happier and gets us through the tough times. When it’s really bad our people help pull us through, even if we are kicking and screaming.

My people, my tribe, my “whatever you want to call it” range in age and life stages but they are so very precious to me. I love them all and will protect these relationships over my “to do” list. Take the time to show your people that you are thankful and grateful for having them in your life. Reach out to your people near or far and spend time with time or at least let them know how much they mean to you. Whether you choose phone, video chat, text, email or invite them over to dinner do it today because tomorrow is never promised. And to “my people”…thank you for the joy and kindness you bring into my life. You are cherished.

The Beautiful Mess

Life is one big beautiful mess.  We are all a mess in one way or another.  Admit it, you know it well.  It’s letting your kids walk out the door with mismatched socks because you can’t find one matching pair in the nineteen laundry baskets of clean clothes.  Which, by the way, have been waiting to be put away for over a week.  (Never mind the fact that as I write this I ignored the dog and he ended up eating the last 2 remaining slices of apple pie.  Not great for his diet but I’m on day 2 of Whole 30.  Thanks for the assist Wegman!)

Back to the mess.  How about a morning that you forget to put the coffee in the coffee maker before hitting brew?  I did that today.  Even the best Ninja coffee maker won’t make coffee grounds magically appear.  How about putting yourself in “time-out” because your husband has been away for 2 days and you can no longer stand to hear the YouTube videos your kids are watching of other kids playing video games?  Did I mention that “time-out” is locking yourself in the bathroom with a couple of mini Snickers bars and Pinterest on your phone?  Yeah…that happened….before the whole Whole 30 lifestyle change.

If you can relate to any of these, then you my friend might just be a “hot mess”.  You might consider joining my unofficial club lovingly dubbed by some awesome co-workers as “The Hot Mess Express”. It’s a judgement free zone because at the end of the day we’ve all got “stuff” to deal with.  It’s can be fun, hard, sad and messy but when the sun has set and the chaos turns to quiet a beautiful mess can be found in this crazy thing we call life.

Life isn’t always perfect and it isn’t always fair,  but it’s something to embrace.  To me embracing life is being thankful for what you have and sometimes for what you don’t have.  To be grateful for the goodness life can bring.  To be humble when life is good…and to be humble when life is maybe not so good.  To be kind to yourself, your friends, your neighbors, your community and to the world.

If you’ve made it this far and feel like you can relate, then I invite you to stick with me and embrace the mess.  I won’t promise this to be the most awesome blog you’ll ever read but you might get a few laughs from time to time.    You’ll share in my walk through life in my faith, as a wife, as a parent, and as a friend.  Most of all you’ll share in my life as a person living in this world, just like you, and trying to bring a glimmer of hope and happiness into the everyday and ordinary of life.

“Seek peace and pursue it.” Psalm 34:14