He is gone…
Thursday, November 29, 2012
He is gone…
Saturday, October 6, 2012
Friday, August 17, 2012
Monday, July 16, 2012
Thursday, April 19, 2012
I thought that I had finally dismissed wanting to be someone else. I now know that we don’t get to become someone we were not originally designed to be. But there is something about my friend, Amy. Amy is vibrant, fun-loving, spontaneous, adventuresome, and friendly. We are different. I wish I was more like Amy; I like the way Amy dresses…it’s so Amy. In a vulnerable moment, I opened up with my friend, “You make it seem so effortless. Your clothes say who you are. How do you do it?”
Did I honestly want the real Julie to show? Too many times I have labored through clothing choices like an acne-faced teenager having to go to school anyway. Choosing outfits had somehow become finding the right cover-up for shameful blemishes. Should the outfit be ill-fitting, then I would reveal my own discomfort in a crowd of peers or strangers. If the outfit was lacking, others could not help but notice my own deficiencies. Should the outfit be out-of-place for the occasion, I could draw attention to my insecurities. Or, should the outfit be too ostentatious, I could be posing as something I have no business pretending to be. What to wear has been a struggle for a long time…until I dared to ask one of the many Amy’s I have known throughout the years.
I don’t know exactly when some of those blemishes had faded. I only know that the day that Amy shared her private tip with me was when I no longer needed as much cover-up. My conversation with Amy that day surfaced unfamiliar feelings. Is acceptance a feeling? I knew I didn’t want to be Amy; I want to be Julie.
“I use pictures,” Amy shared. “I cut out pictures of outfits I like from catalogues and magazines. I tape them up in my closet and use them as inspiration for creating outfits with the clothes I already have. And then I know exactly what to buy when I go shopping…the missing piece from the picture.” She radiated just like her aqua bathing suit with flashy cover-up.
Amy’s private tip encouraged me to choose sample pictures that reflected my own style and comfort. I could do that: Use the pictures of dressed models for inspiration and then personalize it. Mine my closet for what I already have. Where was I when I missed learning these basics?…probably in front of a mirror focusing on my blemishes.
Recently I packed for a week-long conference. I felt like an uninhibited child choosing outfits. The smiling women in my closet whispered, “Good choice, Julie.” Some were holding hands with children, some were walking in the park and some were smiling back at me. All affirmed me, “That looks like you, Julie.”
I flew to my conference having packed five ensembles approved by the voices in my closet. Having my clothes already organized, I was free to concentrate on the topic of the conference….dealing with obstacles that hinder personal growth, effectiveness and success. However, I discovered that I was not fully out of the closet when a well-known author, who was one of the conference instructors, happened to catch a piece of my conversation about my newfound freedom. I suspected he was hoping to hear about a recent breakthrough or insight gleaned from my participation in his program.
Embarrassed and flustered, I rambled on about my theory of adult Garanimals using catalogue pictures and matching coordinating pieces of clothing. “You know, the children’s brand of clothing that helps children grow in confidence by matching Hippo-labeled shirts to hippo-labeled shorts, or giraffe-labeled shirts to giraffe-labeled pants?” Confusion rippled across his forehead.
So what did I do?...kept talking. “I would like to at least have my exterior appear pulled together—even if what’s inside of me is still kind of unsettled."
This kind of statement, especially from a babbling, Garanimal theorist, would perk any counselor’s intuition: “You know what that means, don’t you?”
“Uh, I guess I’m using this whole Garanimal thing as a tool to relieve the stress about packing and dressing…” Still babbling, “Okay, so the outfits are a coping mechanism right now.” And it hit me that I wasn’t hiding behind my clothes anymore but becoming what the ladies in the closet already knew….I was growing into my clothes. “That’s why I’m here…to grow.”
To which he astutely replied: “Coping mechanisms are good…for awhile.”
Sunday, March 4, 2012
Sailing has been an undeniable family adventure for more than thirty-five years. Angling through waves, surfing swells with dolphin, hearing the voluminous gush before spotting the spouting behemoth, diving into the warm sun-streaked waters, lulling into slumber at anchor….STOP! Who really believes that stuff?
When the ocean churns turbulent green, so do I. Traditionally, I have invoked seasickness as the perfect excuse to avoid the nautical threats outside my comfort zone, the discomforts of weather and sea conditions, the expanse of the open ocean, and well, just going green while being trapped aboard until terra firma is reached. For me, sailing, not unlike confronting fears, is about breathing deeply…inhaling fresh wind and freedom and exhaling overwhelming motion and e-motion.
One time the fog engulfed us as we were heading back to the marina. We couldn’t see more than five feet around us. While opagueness engulfed us, different-sized foghorns blasted from vessels about us. Our modest chartered sailboat was not equipped with radar, only a broken foghorn. We were a silent and indefensible target out in the open. Kids and I as crew spaced ourselves around the boat on lookout while sailor husband navigated and worked to repair our foghorn. “Whale!” shouted voices from a very close boat. We saw its fluke and felt its wake as we steered past the splash and the other boat. Through the fog, beyond the green, the wide open yielded the wonder of a whale sighting. Breathe in family, exhale resistance.
Sailing, the ocean, and venturing out into the open—from behind walls, from underneath guilt, from within captivity and through fears—challenges my excuses, and my pattern of self-protection. The words of a fellow struggler, an author, push back: “here-time asks me to do the hardest of all: just open wide and receive.” I lingered long in the motionless, soothing safety of a soak tub. Warmth and peace blanketed me like the foamy bubbles. Receive…the word drifts from mind to open fingertips as I lay suspended, arms floating still, palms up. What was I open to receive? Inhale...exhale…inhale…exhale.
Pondering an invitation to reconnect with a friend from the past, I walked the beach looking out over the horizon of endless ocean. The ebb and flow of swells undulated through the depths forming the waves that tumbled into shore at me. What was she wanting of me? I pulled back from the surf’s intrusion like I retreated from my friend’s invitation to meet. Later, lunch with my friend from the past was simply an open heart-connection between two women having traveled similar paths. Breathe in acceptance, exhale judgment.
Not too long ago, my husband-captain and I set sail to Santa Cruz Island off the coast of Southern California. The winds were pleasantly brisk. By the time we were more than halfway to the island, the wind and waves were beating against us. And everything went green. I lay down in the cockpit staving off the greenness and contempt for sailing, the weather, the ocean, the captain, and myself for choosing to be out in the open. The howling wind and tumultuous swells continued into the night while at anchor…as did my nausea. Choose to inhale peace; choose to exhale helplessness.
The next morning was crisp, clear and breath-less. My husband-captain brought me hot tea in bed and we stayed under the covers reading until the sun warmed the air. On our return, I stretched out on the cockpit cushion in the warmth of sunshine avoiding the wafting smell of diesel (which also makes me green). My husband set our course, adjusted the mainsail, tweaked the autopilot…while I purred like a cat in her favorite sun-lit spot. I awoke to a caring captain asking me what I’d like to drink with my lunch. Breathe in love, exhale captivity.
Sunday, February 5, 2012
My word for 2012 began to expose itself to the light weeks before the end of last year’s journey through willing (my word for 2011). The depths, the exposure, the risk, the journey reminded me of our explorations into lava tubes in Northern California years ago. An intense event in nature long ago had formed pathways, hollow tubes throughout the molten lava that hardened into a network of interwoven tunnels. Dark, enclosed, meandering paths beneath the surface. One could easily lose one’s bearings and get lost within the darkness. My husband the miner tied ropes for us to stretch out as we journeyed deep into the tubes. We could tolerate the risk of going deeper because we knew we would be able to get back to where we had begun. When we ran out of rope, we turned and followed the path out of the depths, out of darkness and into the open again.
As I approached 2012, residual feelings of confined spaces and directionless darkness still lingered. And I was intimately aware that I have stayed hidden in the shadows behind walls…from God, from my husband, my family, and from life.
It was in the darkness of the night as a little girl that I first started to hide…from the wounds imposed on me and the humiliation that kept lurking after me. Then I would hide away reading stories not meant for childhood eyes to read. Shame stuck to me like a stubborn price tag that wouldn’t peel off. Sticky note to self: I am bad.
Sometimes, though, I forgot about my favorite hiding spot under the back porch or high in the branches of the Japanese plum tree. And I ventured out into play with the neighborhood kids. I wasn’t hiding when my mother left home. I walked home from sixth grade and she was gone. Never to be caught exposed and vulnerable again, I knew I needed a better hiding place…one that I could take with me and was accessible anytime, anywhere. It was then that I began building the walls around my heart. Sticky note on heart: I am not worth loving.
I felt safe outside my walls when I met my husband more than 36 years ago. I was happy and blessed when our first baby boy arrived. Another son arrived three years later. We were laughing and playing outside my walls when we moved (again), lost our jobs and found out we were pregnant. I mistakenly chose abortion. Sticky note on my wall: I make bad decisions.
Over the years my walls have grown familiar and somewhat comfortable to perch atop. I don’t stray too far beyond my walls. So, less than two years ago, when my husband told me about his sexual integrity issues, I could simply forgive and retreat within the safety of my walls. Sticky note on marriage: I do not speak up when I am hurt.
I went to a Women in the Battle weekend last year because I was stuck all over with sticky notes. I didn’t know why I had no motivation, no joy and no insight from God. Arriving an hour early, I sat alone inside the walls of my vehicle in the hotel parking lot mindlessly checking emails, catching up on Words with Friends, and playing Solitaire on my iPhone.
The next morning—after a full day of teaching and group sessions—I found myself thinking about a man named Lazarus. I found his story in the Bible and read: So the sisters sent word to Him [Jesus] saying, “Lord, behold, he [Lazarus] whom you love is sick.” My lack of motivation and joy felt like I was sick too. Maybe the women in my group—my new sisters—had seen my own ‘sickness’ and petitioned to Jesus on my behalf.
I read more. But when Jesus heard this, He said. “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it. But Lazarus had been dead for four days. Martha lamented that Jesus had not arrived sooner to save her brother.
I needed to read more. So, Jesus again being deeply moved, came to the tomb. Jesus must have cared deeply about Martha and Lazarus; I pondered if He could care so much about me. Now it was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, “Remove the stone.” New sticky note: Jesus cares. Jesus can remove walls.
So they removed the stone. Then Jesus said: “Father, I thank You that You have heard me. I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe You sent Me.” Replacement sticky note: If I stay hidden behind my walls, I miss out on God’s goodness for me, and to others. And if I do not speak up, I have missed an opportunity for others to believe…how much we are loved, so that we can love others unconditionally. How much we are forgiven, so that we can forgive when it is undeserved. How much sorrow is redeemed, so that we can freely reveal God’s mercies through our stories.
And when Jesus had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, (that seemed to read) “Julie, come forth.”
Beckoned from the shadows, from behind walls, I have been released into the OPEN…my new journey for 2012. The call back to life and into the open was not only for Lazarus, nor just for me (although I felt that way), but is for all of us.
Thursday, January 5, 2012
A new year means one new word. This is my fifth year of choosing just one word that will be my focus—and my challenge—for the year. My reflection of past words is much more uplifting than my reflection in the mirror lately. Though face and skin can weaken with accumulated years, my heart seems to gain vibrancy and resolve as each new word unfolds throughout the year. The mirror reveals a progression of age, but my words…they reveal a progression of the soul.
In my eagerness to select my first word five years ago, my first word was more of a romanticized goal. Embolden…even the word sounded captivating and melodic. I recall several decisions that year where I forged ahead to be emboldened, rather than allowing God’s plan for me. It is not unusual for one word to stretch beyond its definition. My embolden also included several lessons in humility.
My subsequent words have revealed a shift from the word being my idea to realizing that God has an idea for me. Already I have noticed that God’s plan for me has been to move me away from that place of needing to keep myself protected behind walls and from needing to ‘fix’ others. My words have opened wide the door to receive God’s grace and then to extend grace to others.
The one word challenge is very different from making resolutions to achieve or setting goals to be met. A focus word is simply an invitation for God to work out His unique plan for you. This one word serves as a reference point for the next 12 months. Without obsessing about the word or His plan, you simply allow the word to creatively surface. And pretty soon, you naturally begin to notice how God is intimately working in and through your life.
If you want a year infused with focus, unconditional love and life-changing power of a Master Designer, I challenge you to begin this new year with hope…and with one focus word. Should choosing a focus word be new to you, here are some helpful suggestions in selecting your unique word for the year:
Step 1: First and foremost, pray for God’s revelation of a word for you. Be honest about where you are currently in your journey of faith. Consider where God may be guiding you to move forward in faith while taking into account the desires God may have cultivated within you.
Step 2: Keep a running list of words as they come to mind. When you add a new word, see if there are any others you can eliminate.
Step 3: Pick a word and reflect on it for a few days, until you work through all the words on your list. Be sensitive to how God might be highlighting one word over another…just for you. Then choose a word!
Step 4: Share your word with others. They will want to hear what your word means to you, and how you landed on its selection. (I am always blessed by hearing which word others have chosen!!)
Step 5: Be alert to how your word will unfold throughout the weeks…and how it spreads through your life.
This year I am also encouraging those who choose a word to adopt an anchor verse to accompany your word. You can utilize the same method of finding a word to land on your verse as well.
My word for the year? I’ll let you know next time…
Some previous words from others…
I have my word, actually I have had it for quite some time, but as always, I just wanted to be sure. My word is EXCELLENCE. I've been constantly reminded that God is a God of excellence and of order. He doesn't just do things halfway and expects the same from us no matter if that means leading a bible study or folding laundry. We should do everything we do with excellence and glorify Him in even the most mundane tasks. Excellence also refers to doing things in love as Paul reminds us in 1 Cor 12:31 in his introduction to his beautiful description of love in chapter 13. ~ Diana
It just came to me, my word for 2011 is…FAITH. ~Lisa
Well, I have been praying and reflecting and though I considered several words, today I have made my selection. The first word that was given to me was THANKSGIVING but it just didn't feel right. I moved onto GRATITUDE and stayed with that word for a few weeks but again, it didn't feel like my word. I tried on several other words, THANKFULNESS, PRAISE and even HALLELUJAH but nothing seemed to stick. Last night as I prepared for my small group study, I heard the story of the Prodigal Son told again. As I listened to the story, a voice inside my head kept telling me, "Neither son was content with what they had." Maybe the word I am looking for was CONTENTMENT. The next morning I clicked on a random issue of a digital magazine—November 2010—and blam, there was my focus word, GRATEFUL, staring me in the face. I am still waiting for an anchor verse but that too will be revealed in its own time. ~Lee-Ann
Here is my word – STILL! It was revealed to me on 12/29 so I have been living with it for a little while and I STILL love it. It inspires me and helps me prioritize and gives me peace (well really the peace is from God but the focus word helps me tap into it). God’s timing is perfect and I am learning to be STILL, wait and trust! ~Karla
I'll spare you the background on my word for 2011, but it is ENOUGH. I'm so eager to see where this year will take me, what my word will come to mean, and how the Lord will transform my heart over the next year... maybe He'll even let my choice for a word (something I always struggle to decide on) be ENOUGH. ~Jamie
I’m not totally set because the word sometimes implies inaction, like just resigning yourself —ACCEPTING—a crappy situation and that’s not what I want. So looking for a more positive spin on the same idea. I’m thinking that I need to be more ACCEPTING of things that I cannot change (my relationship status, my genes, my ex-husband, etc.) Closely related to gaining more patience. Also more ACCEPTING of people as they are, ACCEPTING my children as the individuals that they are and focus on working with their personalities rather than wishing they were different. Also goes with allowing others to do things for me without feeling guilty. It doesn’t seem exactly right so I’m still searching. ~Carol
I am actually having trouble with my word this year. You know I usually have more than one but so far HUMBLE has been the only one that keeps reappearing. How is that for a tough word?! I kept trying to give it back, does not seem to have worked. Will let you know how it goes. ~Tami
This year is full of POSSIBILITIES. ~Kristie