just be yourself

The last few years have been SO good for me. God has certainly taught me lesson upon lesson upon lesson.
One of the hardest to learn has been to be okay with being myself.

Lose the fear of being wrong. Just be yourself

To be myself means being okay with not being liked by everybody. I’ve always been a people-pleasing, people-loving people-person. For me, those things were inseparable. I loved because I needed to feel loved. I wanted people to know that I loved them because I needed people to let me know that they loved me.  I wanted to please others so they would not be reject me. My goodness … just writing those things exhausts me today. One of God’s lessons has been that everybody isn’t going to love you and that’s okay.  As odd as it sounds, He’s taught me to say “I don’t care.”  He has reminded me that He loved everybody, but He didn’t please everybody.

It WILL be okay

And since I am fearing rejection less, I am becoming more bold.
(*whispers* it’s so exciting ….. )

Life doesn't have to be perfect to be wonderful

So, when the time came to hang artwork at a local coffee shop for a second showing, I began to pull quotes from my folder at home and harvest them from quote sites and scan my pins on Pinterest …. until I had enough to fill a wall with artwork.

IMG_9290
I layered paper and paint and texture and tissue
and fiber and jute and sticks and rocks and stamps
and vintage penmanship … and created a whole wall of art
that felt more like adorned, creative notes to myself
hanging in a public showing.

i put it down. i did not want the burden of carrying it anymore.

Salvaged wood clock
I added some of my practical pieces from home like a clock I made a few years ago out of salvaged wood

A jewelry board made from an old chair

and a jewelry board that was made more recently from assorted old knobs and a vintage chair part.

As I have looked at all the pieces hanging, I see some things that are consistent. I’m finding the more that I create, the more similarities I see in my work. I work almost exclusively in autumn colors. My work is always layered in some fashion. And I use lots of pattern and texture.

I have recently had a realtor come to my home to discuss putting it on the market.
After spending some time chatting,
he pointed out that my house is “too brown.”
My fabulous first thought was, “No, it’s not. It’s perfect.”
Of course, he was speaking from a selling stand point,
and I knew that.
And I was responding with my heart.
I LOVE all the autumn in my home. I love my furniture, rugs and tablecloths.
I treasure my bedding, artwork and curtains.
I adore my artwork, practical creations and  clothes.
And when he said that my world was “too brown” ….
rather than thinking,
“Oh, no! Really? Well … I should add more color! What can I change?”…
I am proud to say that I comfortably knew,
“It IS brown, and it’s perfectly, wonderfully beautiful! I LOVE it!”
I knew in my heart that I couldn’t truly make any big changes (because of financial restrictions),
so I began to decide how we could get around the “too brown” thing.

So, if you’re out and about in Augusta
and you’d like to see some brown artwork (with other autumn colors thrown in),
feel free to stop by Inner Bean on Davis Road.  It’ll be hanging for a few more weeks.
Read the little notes that I wrote to myself and hung on their gracious walls.
And know that I’m pretty proud of how I’m finally becoming okay with just being me …
brown, layered, textured and intricate.
It’s a good thing.

Inner Bean Coffee Shop on Davis Road
I hope you’re finding that same boldness.
I hope that you’re comfortable in your own skin.
Some people seem to reach adulthood without struggling in this area.
I am not one of those people.
If you’re struggling, figure out why
and work to untangle those gnarly ties that keep you bound.
It takes a while to become free, but you can do it.
If I can do it, you can do it!
It’s a good thing to
                  ….  just be yourself.

Advertisements

Don’t let others make your plans

I had a salesman contact me a while back. He had a business plan for me.
He read my blog and offered this advice:

“I have the perfect job for you. It’s a job where you can bring your daughter home from school and you can work it into your daily routine…make good money…have fun doing it…put smile on many kids and grown up faces and your daughter could help you do it. It would be loads of fun for you and I will help you get it going. If you do move in the future, it can move with you.

Ice cream truck! …. it can make you a lot of money. ”

Then, this person went on to explain in great detail (over 1,000 words in the email) what type vehicle to buy (“a high top conversion van and by being a woman owned business, it takes away from the old, drunk man syndrome in the big bulky ice cream truck”), where to go (“select neighborhoods. I even have a website that lists the statistical data for each zip code as far as number of people and average income, because you won’t sell as many products going to a poor area as compared to nicer one”),  where to sell (“ball games, fairs, carnivals and other events like First Fridays downtown Augusta…. Arts in the Park…Upward Bound soccer games …. “), and where to buy my merchandise and how much I should mark it up for profit.

He also told me how to behave to be successful : “So…if you run a nice looking…funky and fun designed vending van and you are fun…nice…and polite…you will do very well.”

He ended with,  “I would be more than happy to assist you in getting it all together.

If I was bold, I could have said,
“Why don’t YOU buy a high-top conversion van, paint it pink and purple
and sell ice cream to little kids in rich neighborhoods?
If YOU are nice and polite, YOU will make really good money!”

But … I didn’t know how to respond.
So, I don’t think I responded at all.
I am still in the practice of my Word of the Year for 2012: Disengage.

And there must be good in that. Because, fighting back … arguing … trying to make a point …
isn’t always the best way to live. Some people won’t get me … or you.
Some people won’t want to. It is what it is, right? Just let it go.

But, just as important as it is to disengage from the person
you must also leave their words behind.
You choose your song in this wonderful dance called life.
THIS is where I am still spending much energy.

You see, the salesman that contacted me
obviously doesn’t even know me.

When my kids were little, I didn’t let them run to the ice cream truck to spend $2.00 on an ice cream that costs .50 from the grocery store. In fact, the sound of an ice cream truck was irritating. It seemed that it would come close to dinner and cause strife. Ice cream is a rare, rare treat at our house. I don’t buy sweets, treats and sugary stuff. It spoils your appetite for good food and creates a sweet tooth. I really don’t like to spend time in my car (even when it works well). I even mentioned here that I don’t like to drive or use gas.  And pandering to rich neighborhoods … would  … well, it would just make me extremely uncomfortable.

So, the only real plus to this entire business adventure would be spending time with Joy.
But, spending several hours a day, several times a week, in a vehicle selling sweets for profit
does not sound like quality time to me.

The fact is, everything about this business idea is contrary my personal preferences
and the values that I hold dear.

Through the years, I have done so many things to please other people. I have joined clubs/groups/businesses that I wasn’t fully behind. I have worn clothing or worn my hair in a style that didn’t reflect my personality. I have tried so hard to do what I thought would make other people happy ….
at the expense of losing myself.

I continue to work on this. I’m searching my heart for what is important.
I am digging into tangles of messes that need to be unknotted.
I am unearthing creativity that I haven’t touched in years.
This past year has had a great deal of earth moving.
Things that I would have told you that I know for sure …. I do not.
People that I thought were friends … I found were not.
And places I thought I was strong …. have been demolished.
But, in that shaking, moving and demolition
has come a revealing of beautiful friendships,
glimmers of new truths
and unveiling of surprising strengths.

What about you? Are you true to your real self? Do you even KNOW who you really are? Have you been wearing a mask to please someone? Is there a chance you can peek behind that mask to see the real you? Are you afraid?

Take my advice: Don’t buy that conversion van if you don’t like Bomb Pops.
Don’t wear your hair long if you love a short, funky cut.
And don’t let someone else pick the song for your dance.
Figure it out on your own … and then tell the truth about it … even if your voice shakes. Karen Lee Cason (Haughton)

In practice of “I don’t care”

I still remember the first time someone brought to my attention
the fact that I often use the phrase “I’m sorry.”

I was in the car on my way to high school with a neighbor, her father behind the wheel.
In conversation, Sandra  interrupted me to instruct me.
“You need to stop saying ‘I’m sorry.’ You say that all the time.”
I.had.never.even.noticed. 
But, after she pointed it out, I realized … she was right.
That was over thirty years ago.
Through the years, I’ve THOUGHT about how often I still say it,
but I’ve never really been able to figure out what motivates me to say it
or how to stop.

These days, it is my daughters who tell me.
“Mom. You said it again!”
“Don’t apologize for that! It’s not your fault.”
“Mom, WHY are did you say, ‘I’m sorry’?”
Yes, my girls …  wise and fierce, they are.

I apologize for all sorts of things ;
when I forget to stir the sauce which causes it to curdle or become lumpy,
I will sit down at the table, sauce boat in hand, and begin dinner with an
“I’m sorry ….” that spills into an explanation.
When I cut someone off in traffic,
I offer a wave and an “I’m sorry” …  though they can’t hear my words.
If I’m running late for school carpool pick up,
I take time to offer an apology to each child.
When I create something …. give a gift … I begin with an “I’m sorry”
for the things I see in the gift/artwork that are flawed.
When I say something that is truth, but could possibly hurt feelings …..
when I bump into someone …..
when I sneeze …….

As I watched Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday episode the other week, I heard Mariel Hemmingway do it. Oprah, Mariel and Bobby (Mariel’s boyfriend) were talking about what it means to love yourself. Bobby shared an observation that Mariel used to thank people when it was not warranted. And Mariel chimed in adding that she a used to say “I’m sorry” all.the.time.  .  .  .  I leaned the ear of my heart in to listen more closely.  .  .  .  They briefly discussed WHY someone would find themselves beholden to the “I’m sorry” habit … as Oprah appeared completely unable to relate to this habit, asking “WHY do people do that!?” and wearing completely-dumbfounded face-mask.  She didn’t understand the motivation at.all. The words and phrases Mariel used to describe the “why” included feeling less than, feeling insecure, not liking yourself, trying to make yourself small. She may as well have been trying to explain to Oprah how to use her wings to fly. Oprah knew she didn’t have wings and she couldn’t relate at all. It was an interesting part of the conversation for me.

Two new verbal  habits that I am working on include choosing to use the phrase, “I don’t care” and also refraining from explaining myself. When it comes up in conversation or I see someone who says, “I just don’t care,”  I say out loud, “I need a little more of that!” Because, if truth be told, I care too much …
and for many wrong reasons.

I think p.a.r.t of my apologizing and explaining is that I don’t want people to feel “left out.” I don’t want them to feel rejected because we don’t see eye to eye. I don’t want them to think that I think they are wrong. I want to be inclusionary.
But, this gives the illusion of being vanilla
when I am not.
In some ways, I am hiding … making myself “small,” as Mariel called it.

I want to begin to use a new phrase. I want to incorporate it in to my life. I know there will be times that I will need to preface the with the words, “with all due respect”   ….  like when I’m talking to my daddy or someone in authority over me…
But, for the most part, I want to be brave and begin to say
“I don’t care.”  I have been practicing. It feels good. I want to become proficient in using the phrase
often, with courage and in a timely manner (not later  … when I am explaining!).

I admire the woman who holds her head high … her chin points further away from her body than it does towards her chest. She has a look in her eye …  that really isn’t a twinkle
because a twinkle is just too pretty. The look …. is more like a metal-against-flint-born-sParK.

She has a steeliness about her. She wants to hear your thoughts,
but she doesn’t care if you agree with hers. She can say “I really don’t care if you agree with me”
and you know she means it. She has an opinion and she isn’t afraid to have it.
She.does.not.apologize for being herself or for owning her opinions.

I’m wondering if this idea … this focus should be part of my “Word for the Year” for 2014.
Do you choose a word for the year?  I have for about five years now.  I haven’t written about the last two years … but I’m looking forward to sharing those stories.
Yes, maybe just maybe, this could be the year that I learn not to care.

It’s okay that I bite my lip

Would you get MAD at your car if it stopped running?
Would you get MAD at it if it stopped because it ran out of gas?

Have you ever gotten frustrated at your knee for bleeding?
What if it was bleeding because you fell on the concrete and scraped it?
Were you angry at.your.knee?  Maybe you might have been mad at the concrete?
The Obligatory Clip-Out Fall wound

Has someone ever been upset with you for eating too many cookies?
You knew you were eating in excess … but you really didn’t care at the time.
The person reminded you over and over again that you shouldn’t  binge like that.
They really don’t like the way you look when you put on weight …
so they remind you ….  you know, to “help” you.

In the case of the car, there is no reason to be mad at the car for running out of gas.
The fact that it stopped is simply an “indicator” that it has no gas.
The car isn’t the problem. The lack of petroleum is the problem.

In the case of the bleeding knee, there is no reason to be angry at your knee or the concrete.
Maybe a lack of balance caused your fall. Maybe you tripped.
Either way, the scrape is an indicator that tender flesh met rough concrete.
The knee, the blood nor the concrete are the problem. The issue should be with the fall.

And honestly ….  falls happen. They are accidents. Accidents happen. Messes happen. Life happens.

What about the cookies? Are you the problem? Are the cookies the issue? Is gluttony the catalyst for this binge.
I would offer the answer “No.”

I mentioned over here that I have participating in an eCourse through Oprah’s OWN Network that features Brene Brown as the instructor. She is leading us through her book The Gifts of Imperfection.  

Last week, the topic was The Resilient Spirit: Letting Go of Numbing and Powerlessness.
To be resilient is to bounce back.
To numb is to choose to do something (usually mindless) that “comforts” … though it is often not truly comforting in a soul soothing sort of way. Numbing is using a comfort in excess. It may comfort when we enjoy  small amounts to gratify, but can soon become an excessive indulgence that is not helpful. For example, a single Junior Mint patty may be a delicious treat and, yes, comforting. Devouring an entire box of Girl Scout Thin Mints while reading through your Facebook newsfeed tips toward “numbing” and is not a good thing for your soul, spirit or body.  So, a comforting action can become a mindless numbing habit.

We were to figure out what we use to “numb”
and then figure out what might be a better way to “comfort.”
I added to the challenge that I wanted to ask myself WHY I do each “numbing” action.
What was my prompt?

I am a slow digester. I read. I think. I ruminate. I think some more. Moving through things is a slow, intentional process for me.  And … in my reading, soul-searching and creative journaling last week, I had an “Aha moment,” as Oprah calls them. (Did you know that she and Brene are my bffs?  Yeah … uhm…. we haven’t gotten to meet yet but really, truly they are super friends of mine.)
My revelation last week was this: I don’t mind when I bite my lip.
That’s it.
In fact, I actually like to bite my lip.

You see, biting my lip is a habit that I’ve had since AT LEAST high school. I don’t do it all the time, but I do it.  Some people pick at the skin on their fingers, or twirl their hair, or bite their nails, or bounce their leg, or tap the table, or grind their teeth, or crack their knuckles, or chew on pens/pencils … uhm…. you get the picture. There are many nervous habits.
Some numbing habits can become serious, life changing addictions …
like addiction to porn, drinking, smoking, prescription drugs, gambling and severe overeating.

We are all broken. We all look for ways to fill voids, calm stresses and comfort ourselves.
These actions … large or small … negligible or highly illegal …. are not really the problem.
They are just symptoms of a stress, irritation or emptiness.

I knew someone who used to help me. He used to remind me not to bite my lip. He did it often … at least weekly … for years and years.  I became so frustrated with myself because I wanted to stop … because HE WANTED me to stop.

But, really … I was trying to modify my actions
to please someone else
rather than get to the root of the problem and eliminate the stress trigger.
When I think about it now, I recognize that this was wrong.
And sad. Really, truly sad.

Last week … I realized …. it really doesn’t bother me if I bite my lip.
I only tried to stop because my friend wanted me to stop.
And … he’s no longer my friend.
So …. I really don’t need to consider his likes or dislikes.
It was so exciting to come to this realization
that my “numbing” habit should not cause me stress.
I shouldn’t beat myself up for doing it, rather
I should think about the catalyst for the action.
So, rather than being angry because the car is out of gas, ask what can I do to get it moving?
Rather than being upset for having a scraped knee, ask how I can stop the bleeding and
keep tender flesh from meeting rough cement in the future?
Rather than berating myself for reaching for that bag of cookies,
search for the source of irritation that is causing me to feel the need to numb.
Let’s get to the root of the problem and solve it from the inside out.

Me :D

Honestly … I don’t care if I bite my lip. I’ve recognized before that I bite my lip when I am stressed.
I’ve even realized that I bite it mostly … when I am stressed about money.
So, really … biting my lip is my friend! It is a good thing! It is a symptom that I am stressed! It is a catalyst that screams,
“HEY! There’s a problem! Don’t ignore it! Figure it out!”
When I find myself biting my lip, I need to ask why I am upset? Am I worried over money?
What can I do to take care of the issue? How can I spend more wisely?
What frivolous items can I remove from my budget? Where am I needlessly wasting?
And if there is nothing I can do to truly remedy the situation, I need to let it go.
Give it to God and be at peace.

So, what about you? What are your numbing tactics?
Can you figure out what sends you to them?
And what truly brings you comfort?
What activities calm your soul and soothe your spirit?
Reading? Nature? Organizing? Music? Exercise? Singing? Painting?
Cleaning? Yard work? Creating? Watching movies?
Search your heart, watch your actions and seek to answer these questions
that you can use your numbing actions to bring you awareness of stress.
Then focus on solving those stressful problems
or giving them to God, if you can’t really change them.
Find ways to comfort yourself with healthy, life-affirming actions.

 

Sculpting Whimsy

DSC05181

We walk down the corridor and round the corner at the Gertrude Herbert Institute. The walls are lined with artwork with some on pedestals in the middle of the room. The current exhibit is created by works collected from Augusta State University professors.

I am drawn to this corner.

My friend, Elizabeth L., asks, “What is your impression?”
And I hesitate for a moment … thinking.
I know that we are the only two in the building because we had to find someone to let us in. The volunteer left the other building with the keys and escorted us over. Yet, I am well aware that words have power.

I don’t think I’ll ever look at a work of art again and verbalize a less than positive critique.
I can find something positive in most any writing, artwork … situation.

When I went to Madison the other weekend,  I helped with the gallery that Elizabeth Collins is supervising. In conversation, Margaret (one of the painters)  shared with me
“I once told my husband, ‘hanging my art on the wall is like standing naked before a crowd.’ ”
You may hear, “I like her boobs, but her fanny is too big” or “I would like her if her legs were more muscular,”
or “She looks much too serious” or “Her color is all wrong.”

One or Margaret's pieces (the large landscape with clouds)

 

Artwork is an outpouring of the inner thoughts, experiences and personality of the person who creates it.
And because women want so desperately to be admired and thought of as “beautiful,”
I’m going to venture to say that the attachment of approval or disapproval may be more personal for us …
more damaging or have more power to edify.
I know, I can create something for myself and be perfectly thrilled with it.
But, the thought of holding it at arm’s length and asking another person “What do you think?” …
is terrifying.
Through the years I have had certain friends who should have been interested in my creations,
but would only comment W.H.E.N I held it at arms’ length and coaxed a response.
I have not had the blessing of encouragement that asked probing questions,
“Oh! What are you doing? May I see? What inspired you to create this? Tell me about it.”
Brian Rust

So, I stood pondering Elizabeth’s questions, “”What is your impression? Which one do you like?”

Carefully, I responded,
as the door behind the piece opened and a man entered the room.
“I love this one. I love that it is made from wood. I like the whimsy that draws you in … the movement and the antiquity of the elements that create it.”
Elizabeth smiles and says, “That appeared to be right on cue.” She stepped forth and said, “Let me introduce you to the sculptor. Brian Rust, this is my friend, Karen.”

Brian Rust and my friend, Elizabeth L.

Brian Rust has been one of Elizabeth’s instructors at school. He came to take some photos before the exhibit is taken down. This particular piece was built, created and fitted to this wall in this particular room for this showing.

Brian snapping shots before the artwork comes down

I love the whimsical feel of the piece. I love that the chairs at the base make it feel heavier at the bottom … and it looks as though it is lifting right up off the ground … traveling … taking off. It almost appears that a tornado has torn apart the furniture into basic elements and is lifting the pieces right up over the wall. You can almost feel the movement of the pieces as you stand and gaze.

Brian Rust

From any angle, it is interesting.

Brian Rust's artwork at The Gertrude Herbert Museum

I love the artificial patina that is created by his painting technique. I adore the depth of color and the added weathering.

Me ... :D

I step inside to get a better look and a different angle for a photo.

through the shutters whimsy

Brian says that he has a warehouse filled with pieces of furniture. He especially likes chairs because they have an “almost human” form … with arms, legs and a back.

Brian Rust

I love that some of the pieces are more than chair pieces … pieces of people … of bodies.
This part of a column or cornice is stunning. Oh, if it could only tell stories.

I am thankful that I chose to speak positivity about artwork (not that I saw anything I DIDN’T like!). Who knew that an artist would walk in mid-sentence. I could have been pointing out something I would have done differently.  Those words … had they been heard by the artist … could have been painful. Like gossip, those words could have been arrows or knives in the creative spirit of another. But, thanks to Margaret, I hesitated … I thought about my response … and I chose to find the good and speak encouragement and inspiration.

It is sad that it has taken forty-nine years to learn such lessons
about the tender human heart.
But, I praise God for every lesson learned
and for whimsy, antiquity and the brave souls
who stand naked before others
and create art
from the outpouring of their hearts.

Blossoming is a Risk

DSC04719

Each new project of late
is some self-expression
of where I am
and something I am entering, experiencing or exiting.

DSC04723

This project is one that started a while back
and then … it crashed.
But, I loved the dandelions … flowers considered “weeds” by some
and beautifully decorative yard ornaments to others.
DSC04725

I set aside the panel with the blossoms that I liked and let it wait for me for a bit.
Recently, I picked it back up and cut down the first project.
I tossed the part that was less than my vision,
and then prepared a more fitting presentation board.

DSC04726

As I worked,  I was reminded how this SHOULD work in our lives … this choosing to keep the good
and tossing the bad.
But many of us, myself included, try to hold onto the things that
once looked like a perfect match or needful as a means to an end … only to find that, today they are
ill-fitted, mismatched, out of style or simply out grown.
We people are always changing and always growing.
We move, lose weight, have children, begin a new hobby, change jobs, make new friendships,
get married, change churches, lose a parent, form allergies and break habits.
When these things happen, there must be adjustment.
We must make new friends, buy new clothes, change our bedtimes, learn new coping skills, form new habits, move out of our comfort zones and stretch our horizons.
If we DON’T make adjustments, we feel pain.
We can’t gain weight without buying new clothes … or we will be uncomfortable.
We can’t get married and continue to live our lives exactly as we did before being united … or we will experience discomfort.
We can’t form a new allergy and not make an eating or lifestyle adjustment …. or we will live in pain.

What changes have you refused to make ….  leaving you in pain …
especially those that are rooted in areas that you are just too fearful to look?
It’s a tough thing to explore.

But, we make the choices.
We experience the pain.
We can only control our own lives – not those of others.
What will we do to stop the cycle?
First … we must identify the source of the pain.

It is a risk to look.
But, sometimes the risk to stay tight in a bud
is greater than the risk that it takes
to blossom.
blossom1

Love Notes and Messages

When I make someone a card, I add a little something extra. I embellish. The card will have an extra layer or some added texture … a jute bow or several snips of coordinating ribbon. There might be a sprinkle of glitter or an image stamped inside rather than just on the outside of the card. And my cards are always mailed in cellophane envelopes because they make the card a surprise as soon as you open the mailbox.

When I cook a meal, I love to garnish. Potato Soup has added broccoli or parsley so there is a splash of green within the creamy beige goodness. A dessert might be sprinkled with toffee bits. French Toast gets a dusting of powdered sugar. It’s all in the presentation. It’s more than just filling the belly … it’s feeding the spirit, as well. The extra touch says, “I made it special for you.

As I do this for others,
I watch God do the same for me.
I am grateful.
I am moved.

Julie took a walk on Saturday at the ladies retreat in the mountains. She brought back two apples from an old orchard there on the property.  I admired them, sitting there on the high chair. I snapped a shot and then picked them up to examine them more closely.
They were beautiful.

But, later in the afternoon, the sun poured in the window and door of that archaic kitchen
and washed fluid right over that gorgeous fresh pair.
I was struck strong as I saw them
so much more beautiful now …
only hours later.
I said, “Thank you, Lord. Yes, they are stunning.”
Yes, I believe He did that for me.

Those apples could have been placed on the table amongst salt and pepper, cutlery and crumbs
but God had Julie set them aside for me ….
in a place that they would be on exquisite display
for my heart that loves the drama of sunshine and shadow.

These are the ladies that fellowshipped, supped and shared this past weekend. My room-mate, Suzie, is seated beside me on the far right with her sweet, pretty face cupped in her palm.

Of the eight of us on the weekend trip, two of us are owners of kayaks.

You can’t see the sign well, but Jayne named each of the bedrooms and then assigned rooms for us. She put Susie and I in the same room, not aware that we were the only two in the house that owned boats. The sign pinned on the door-facing just outside our room said “Up a Creek Without a Paddle.”  That made me laugh!! God had the two boaters placed in the same room and named that room “Up a Creek without a Paddle.”

Yes, Susie owns kayaks like me. She and her husband paddle and do all sorts of other adventurous things.  As we talked of the things that we both want to do but haven’t (like hang gliding), I thought how neat it was that God put us together. He pays attention to the small details. He knows our hearts and He brings us gifts of friends that can encourage us and understand us … right where we are.

I’ve mentioned my affinity for a flat-bottomed whisk here and here.   I don’t see them really often, but the style is my favorite.

And there on the counter in this homestead kitchen was a flat-bottomed whisk.
“I knew you were coming! I wanted you to know I’m here in the kitchen with you,”
is the thought as I hear the whisper and feel the hug of God.

Through the weekend, among Julie and Jayne taking time to share their hearts, Jayne played movie clips and videos that reinforced the message the two were sharing. And I sat with tears welled up in my eyes as Natalie Grant’s song, The Real Me played.

You see the font on the screen of that television? Keep in mind that I am a word lover … a communicator … and very  visual : the font used to convey the lyrics of the song in the video
is one of my two favorite fonts. ever.
My first favorite is called American Typewriter.  It reminds me of the old typewriter that my grandfather used to use years ago. He once typed a letter to me on that dear typewriter. I still have that sweet letter.
My other favorite font is also one with an antique feel. It’s called Papyrus.  Wiki says that it was released in 1982 by Letraset.  It was hand-drawn over a period of six months by means of calligraphy pen and textured paper with the intent of having the feel of heiroglyphics. I.love.this.font. My teacher at school made fun of it like many people do Comic Sans. I don’t care. I still love it.

As the video began to play, I paid close attention to Natalie Grant’s words.
I HAD to. Not only were they singing a gorgeous song, but they were printed in my personal favorite language: Papyrus.
The chorus …. said to me … over and over ….

But you see the real me,
hiding in my skin,
broken from within.
Unveil me .. c.o.m.p.l.e.t.e.l.y
I’m loosening my grasp
There’s no need to mask … my frailty
’cause you see the real me.

I still can’t understand the later words …
“Wonderful … beautiful … is what you see
…. when you look at me.”

I mentioned here that I’m reading the book Captivating. I had the book and the accompanying journal stuffed into my backpack over the weekend. The topic of the book is where God continues to work in me. I’m dredging through it
because it is  …so.much.work. It is difficult reading. It is just unbelievable to me. If this book is true … if I am beautiful, exquisite and stunning … then some of the men in my past have been liars. They have told me different … with their eyes, their words and their actions. I didn’t want to believe that they would lie to me, so tried to find a way to become beautiful to them with the right clothes, longer hair, a better fit body, by stifling my emotions or my analytical thinking. I …. just … never quite made it there ….. to that place of “beauty.”

But, God is telling me that I am. And he leaves me little love notes all around.
He bathes fruit in light and shadow for me to be stunned by the beauty … of dimpled, marred fruit.
He brings me alongside … and even makes me lie down (Psalm 23)  beside friends who are like-minded. He says to me, “You are not alone.”
He makes sure that I know that I am welcome … with things that I adore like a flat-bottomed whisk.
And He speaks to me in a language that I can understand. He puts a song on a singer’s heart to convey His message and then literally has it written in my favorite language …
so I can hear it AND see it.
I hear Him loud and clear …
I’m still working on believing Him.

And I share these things
because I know
I’m not the only one.
He speaks to each of us … but we must listen.
In this tangible, hands-on, physical world,
we become desensitized to the working of the Holy Spirit.
Be still. Be quiet. Look. Watch. Listen.
He has surprises for you. He has gifts and presents and messages … just for you.
Be on the watch …
because He adores you …. the “real” you.

Are you …. captivating?

Sunday was the first full day of my forty-ninth year.
Saturday was the day that I celebrated my birthday, the equinox and the first day of autumn.
The slowing of my days with the waning of sunshine
puts me to sleep like the trees and the critters.

Since the day was stunningly beautiful and perfectly temperatured,
I had to get out … get away … get into the sun and make some Vitamin D.

My list of dreaded activities includes taxes and resumes.

It also includes reading the book Captivated. The thought haunts me.

When I became inspired to go on this adventure,
I packed my backpack with water and a snack, highlighters, a blanket
and the book Captivating … a recent gift from my pastor.
“Okay, Lord, I’ll read it. But, You are really going to have to help me!”

 

The afternoon was ethereal … the air breezy … the water slick.
Adults were in kayaks, on bikes and on foot
with children, pets, spouses and best friends.

I rode through the shadows
and made my way to
lie in the sun.

I tried to read Captivating years ago …. not too long before I became single.
But, I couldn’t read.
The book …. was too difficult.
Lies. I couldn’t believe them.
If the book was true … I am captivating ??? ……..
… if the book was t.r.u.e…..
then I wouldn’t be single … alone.

I am fairly certain that I got no further in this book
than the introduction.
I remember reading, “women feel they are ‘too much’ and ‘not enough.’ ”
I could … and can
com.plete.ly relate to this thought.

And when I read the words, “You are captivating,”
I put the book down.
I could.not.read any farther.

Some time later, I gave the book away.
I didn’t just lOaN it out … I gave it away.
I knew it would be a long time before I would be able to read the book from cover to cover.

This book was a New York Times best seller.
So, this book speaks volumes to many women across our nation.
I am not the only woman who struggles.
I must read.

Even as recently as this weekend,
I found myself grappling with this idea of being “too much.”

I had several dates with a wonderful man. I found myself more and more comfortable around him. He told me once I needed to “let him in.” He wanted to kiss me … but I refused. He told me, if he could kiss me, he “would know.”  I know that a woman’s thinking becomes blurred when she becomes physical. I wanted to wait. I wanted to get to know him better … slowly … to see if he really would like ME for me.

In our weeks of interaction, he was such a pleasure. He is a kind, giving man. He is patient and interesting. He didn’t mind when my conversation ran off on rabbit trails or skipped tracks altogether. He told me time and again that he would love to have the chance to spoil me because he didn’t think anyone had done so.  He was fully accepting. He was always so complimentary … not using flattery, but simply complimenting me here and there.

But, I knew I was being careful.
Because he was a phenomenal listener …
even encouraging my trail making as being okay and acceptable.
But, he listened more than he talked.
My gut said that he probably wouldn’t like the way that I look closely at details and motivations.
My gut said that he wouldn’t like the way that I look deeply and question and ponder.
My gut said he wouldn’t like me if he could really hear my thoughts.

If you’ve read here often, you know that I’m a very positive thinker.
I choose to believe the best in people. I find the good from the difficult.
He told me often that he liked my attitude …
but, you see, my attitude is rooted in
taking things apart and working through to accept them
for the good that they have to offer.
That requires the filter of God’s word
and really sifting through.
Some might call it OVER analysis.
For me, it’s the norm
and, I might add, I think it’s a good thing.

 

On Saturday night, he took me out to eat. I took along one of my favorite books, The Book of Questions.
It is a book of conversation starters. It asks;
– If you knew you could cheat and win an important competition for your business without getting caught,
would you do it?
– Do you usually say what you really think or what people want to hear?
– Is there anything so bad that you would turn your spouse in to the police upon finding it out?
– At a meal, your friends begin belittling a common acquaintance. If you felt their criticism was unjustified,
would you defend the person?

Between spending time with this friend, sitting on an outdoor deck at a restaurant I had not visited prior and planning to bring along this book,
I was thrilled about the night.

And it was an absolutely lovely evening. There was a sweet breeze sweeping across that wooden deck. Dinner was delectable and I enjoyed thoroughly listening to my friend answer questions. I felt like I was getting to know him better. This was good!

The friend is getting ready to move. He indicated that he might move back as soon as possible, if he had a reason. He pressured me to give him indication about how I felt about him. As much as I liked him, my biggest struggle is that we do not share a similar passion for God. Through the year’s, I’ve begun to realize that THIS has to be the base of my closest relationships. While my closest female friendships share this commonality, it is even more of a must in a male companion.

After playing with The Book of Questions, he pointed out that I have a tendency to
“over-analyze.”

My heart dropped.

I felt like I finally let down my guard just a bit … I was letting him in …
and he didn’t like what he saw.
Did you hear it? What I heard was  …. I am “too much.”
If he thought I over-analyzed after just a few weeks of friendship,
his distaste would surely deepen as he got to know me more.

And since he is moving,
he pulled me close to kiss him.
I did not fully resist .. I wanted so much just to hug him.
But, he knew.
He sent me a text the next day that said, “I hope things go well for you. Take care.”

And so, I read. I will turn these difficult pages. I will read John and Stasi’s words. I will pray over the chapters.
I will ask God to search my heart and help me embrace who I am.
I need to settle this in my heart.
If God built me this way, how is it helpful
if men do not like it?

Because I do not want to believe that I am “too much,”
but that is what I hear.

I analyze and I cannot stifle that movement in my heart and mind
any more than I can turn off creativity or desire for the outdoors or my passion for encouragement.
I COULD but do not WANT
to blur the “filter” I use to view life.  I strive to see the world through God’s eyes
and I believe this to be a good thing.

It is exhausting to try to live life trying to be someone you are not.
I did that for years. I do not want to do it again.

 


And so, I begin to turn the pages of these chapters.
Can God use the Eldredges to help me accept myself… embrace myself?? ….
when some men do not like what they see?

I am trusting
hoping
and praying that He can.

Have you struggled with being “too much” or “not enough?”
Have you read the book Captivating?
How are you doing now?
Have God helped you work this through?

Perspective and Encouragement

Joy swims with the Summer Swim League here in Augusta. There are many swimmers in the league who swim on one of the year-round teams, as well, but Joy has never been a year-rounder. When placed up against a child who swims year round, she is at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to time in the water, technique and strength since the summer league begins around mid-May and wraps things up by mid-July. Eight weeks isn’t enough time to see grand improvements in stroke or strength … but swimming is still excellent exercise so my kids have always been a part of the summer league.

Because she isn’t a year round swimmer, Joy doesn’t come in first place in her races because she swims against girls who do. I don’t believe she has ever placed first overall.

Our summer swim league team generally competes against one team at a time. We participate in about five or six meets per swim season. Joy’s best strokes are back and breast. This summer, she came in fifth in these strokes out of 20-25 girls, depending on the meet. At the end of the season, at our Division Championship she did well enough to make the cut and earn the privilege of moving on to the All-Star meet.

The All-Star meet is composed of the top three fastest swimmers in each age group, in each stroke, from each team. So, Joy was one of the three fastest swimmers from our team in the 11-12 girls in backstroke and breaststroke. At the All-Star meet, she came in 13th overall in breast and 19th in back out of a total of nineteen swimmers in each race.

Do you see that? She was last in backstroke.

In the backstroke heat, she swam against Maggie who is the coach’s daughter. Maggie swims year-round most years. She is one of four siblings who swims under their mom’s excellent coaching instruction. Maggie works really hard and is an excellent swimmer. Maggie came in 13th above Joy’s 19th in backstroke.  Though the difference in time was only 2.29 seconds, Maggie was, yes, faster than Joy. I tried to explain to Joy that she shouldn’t compare herself to anyone … especially a year-round swimmer.

She is SO hard on herself. That night and through the next day, she was so sad. She was terribly disappointed in herself.  You would have thought that she was the slowest of a.l.l  the swimmers in the entire state. No amount of encouragement from me seemed to help.

So, I began to do some research.

I wanted to
put her placement
into perspective.

As I did research, I found that our swim league is made up of 21 individual teams. There are 18 counties represented in the CSRA league with 4 team divisions that are placed in each division by team size. Our team, the Makos, is in Division I because we have a large team.

The one statistic I could not find on the site was the total number of swimmers in the league.

So, I sent a quick apologetic email to the league secretary asking if he knew a number off the top of his head. If not, I asked him to please not worry about doing research. I really didn’t want to be a bother … I just wanted to encourage a disheartened pre-teen swimmer.

Within minutes, he sent me back a reply.
I called Joy over to the computer so she could see the screen.

“Do you see that number?” I asked, as I pointed to the string of digits in his reply.
“Hmmmmm” she grumbled.
I choked up as I spoke.
“You came in 19th
out of 2,100 total swimmers.
Do you see that? Two.thousand.one.hundred swimmers?” 

I continued with a pep talk about perspective and doing our personal best …
and about how important it is that we have all the facts.
I told her how proud I was of her and that she had worked hard
and did an amazing job this season.
I mentioned that, IF we choose to look at how we compare overall,
we should, at the very least, have the proper perspective.

In reality, I don’t want to encourage anyone to look a.r.o.u.n.d at others
to compare themselves
or find self-acceptance.
Truly, we should trust in God …
what He has to say about us …
what He asks of us …
how He wants to direct us …
how He evaluates us …
to find our perspective on ourselves.

But, in this case, a little looking-around perspective was a good thing.
This was a competitive event.
In this case, my girl was choosing to focus on a very.small.few
rather than the overall group.
So, in this case, I was happy to broaden that perspective and show her
that she was being illogically hard on her own performance.

I think we all do this.
Or maybe I should just speak for myself: I KNOW that I do this.
And it is so helpful when someone comes alongside
and says, “You’re doing a good job. Don’t be discouraged.
Let me put things in perspective for you.”

I am always thankful for words of encouragement. We all need it … daily.

So, I want to encourage you today.
I want to encourage you to be sure that you’re looking at the big picture
when you do find the need to compare yourself to others.
And, if and when you fall short,
even then, don’t be discouraged …
for God looks at your heart.
He forgives you when you sin. He loves you in spite of your messes. He does not expect you to measure up to the standard of others, He only asks that you obey Him and do your best. And, even.then, He has compassion and mercy when you fail … because we all do.