Beauty, Baubles and Backpacks

Several years ago, I found an awesome backpack in a Van’s outlet store. I doubt I spent more than twenty bucks on it … because I just don’t buy things new or expensive very often.

When I saw this backpack, I knew it was perfect for me. It was black and white (basic essential colors, right?  … that don’t even show dirt!) with a splash of pink to make it girly (I a.d.o.r.e pink).
And it had a bold geometric design on the front (I love stripes, plaid and checkerboard prints).

I had NO idea how sturdy this bag would be.

Joy has gone through one backpack after another …
having one with a zipper that split right open shortly after purchase,
another came unstitched
and yet another did the common “pull-apart-at-the-strap-seam”  action.
I don’t think she’s that much more rough on her backpack(s) than I am.

This sweet jewel has made it through a year or two of book-toting at college
and then graduated to become my go-to bag for every kind of adventure.

(LOOK at that fun little camera!! It even flashes when you push the shutter release
AND it makes a “click click” sound! Isn’t that fun??)

When I travel, it’s the bag for my laptop, cameras, chargers, cords, calendar, currently-being-read-book and my Bible. And when we camp, it’s our lunch-box for hiking … always stuffed with snacks, water and cameras, as well.

I’ve always been one to “decorate” things. Naturally, my fav backpack has “ornaments” that declare it is mine.
I adore pins, baubles and trinkets.

Not so long ago, Stone said,
“Ya know, your bag wouldn’t be as heavy if you’d take all that stuff off of it.”
I laughed and took a handful of trinkets
and with a gleam in my eyes said,

“Ah, but the small of burden that these l.i.t.t.l.e  t.o.y.s inflict
is FAR OUTWEIGHED by the joy that their presence brings.”

I can tell you with absolute certainty,
he does not get me.

Perfect example?
He doesn’t like that my cooking makes more of a mess than his kitchen time does
(calling himself a minimalist in the kitchen … meaning one spoon to stir all pots)
…. BUT, he doesn’t mind that my cooking is “exotic” (his word)
(which just means that I add garnish and sauces and sprinkles to make things special).
See that? One is a pay-off of the work from the other … but he doesn’t see the connection.

But, ya know, it takes all kinds, doesn’t it?
I’m okay that he doesn’t get me.
And I’m really glad that I’ve stopped trying to be someone I’m not.
Some of us travel light and some of us carry a little more of the fanciful.
Some of us are focused and intent on not being distracted,
while others are pleased to stop and notice the sparkle on the wings of a dragonfly
the disheartened look in the eye of an empty soul at the grocery store
or the need to gift a book to a friend who is hurting.

When in a store recently, I came across this precious card
and I laughed out.loud.

I purchased it and brought it home to be framed.
It sits on my desk now and just makes me smile
every.time.I.read.it.

(look at those cute little tippy-toe feet on that stool *grins*)

Rather than trying to be someone that I am not,
I am absolutely tickled to be perfectly comfortable in my own skin.
It has taken me years to get to this place of acceptance …
but it feels good to be here.
I can only hope and pray that I can instill in my own children
a fraction of this self-acceptance.

Yes, Stone, you’re right.  My bag would be ever.so.slightly lighter without my trinkets …
but my life would be less rich without them, as well.

I want to encourage you …
to know that you are created unique and special.
You have traits and tendencies that are unlike any other soul on this planet.
You are beautiful and intricate and wonderfully made.
There IS such a thing as constructive criticism that should be embraced and considered …
BUT
don’t let someone else’s standard of “acceptable” and “normal” and “right”
limit your freedoms in being the beautiful person that God created you to be.
If you are a “bauble and trinket” kind of person, then embrace that.
If you’re a “minimalist,” then that’s wonderful!
Just don’t let someone else’s standard
be the one that makes me feel that you’ve been put down or you’re not good enough.

Yes, you, my friend, are beautiful
through and through
just the way that you are.

I’ll never be Forty-nine

When someone asks your age,
do you have to s.t.o.p and figure out your answer?
I have had to do this for Y.E.A.R.S  … and year and years!!!!

In the early years, there are so many milestone birthdays, starting with thirteen, the year a child becomes a “teen.” Then fifteen and sixteen swing through with hoopla and the independence that new driving privileges usher forth. Eighteen allows you to vote and be held responsible for your actions within our law system. And at twenty-one, you are a legal drinker.

After that ….. is there a big milestone birthday?

Big “O’s” shake some people … but thirty and forty just didn’t make me tremble.

I am surrounded with friends who are turning 50 …
and frankly, some are a bit shaken up by this “turning point.”
Oh! There are plenty of things that concern me about my future …
but the number on my birthday cake is not one of them.

While riding trails on Friday afternoon,
I decided that I’m going to s.k.i.p a birthday altogether.

From now ’til September, when people ask me, “How old are you?”
I am going to answer, “Next year, I will be 50 years old.”
And in September, I will change my answer to, “I’ll be 50 on my next birthday.”

You know how some women will tell people they are 29
or 39
for years and years?

I really don’t want to ever have to answer the “How old you?” question
with “49.”
For some reason, I think people might think that I’m not r.e.a.l.l.y 49 …
I’m just hanging onto that number because I don’t want to move on.

So, I’m just going to leave 48 behind, skip over 49 altogether
and move on to 50!
Let’s embrace this! I just want to go ahead and take the bull by the horns!!
I’m going move right on past any fretfulness that might try to wiggle its way into my perspective.

I know for a fact that I am in the best shape I have been in my life. I run almost every day … up to three miles at least twice a week. After spending my entire life with a weak upper body, I can now do a few strong push-ups and one (almost beautiful) pull-up. I am at a good weight – AND I stayed at this good weight all the way through the holiday season and winter! Yay! I make wise food choices and  …
I may be a divorcee, but I am a loving person with a big heart.
I do my best at most anything I do and
while I have failed in multiple areas of life,
I seek God’s direction and fellowship
and know He loves me and forgives me
even though, frankly, I’m a mess.
The things that I can control – my attitude and my choices –
are handled to the best of my ability,
with the Holy Spirit as my Guide and Mentor.

WHY would the number “50” be a bad thing?

So, there ya have it.
I’m skipping the 49th year altogether.
I’ll be 50 next year.
And I am wonderfully, perfectly pleased with that.

What is Success?

Have you considered success? What does it look like?  …. and feel like?
Are you a successful person? … in your own eyes? … or in the eyes of others?

I was a member of the 1981 graduating class of Thomasville High School in Thomasville, Georgia.
Over the weekend, I attended my 30th high school reunion.

And I thought about success.

Friday’s events included a ride to Savannah for a day of fun on the river. Since I live two and a half hours from Savannah, I really didn’t want to make the five hour drive to Thomasville on Thursday … only to turn around Friday morn to drive six or so hours to Savannah and then return that night. I chose to stick around Thomasville and visit. As it turned out, there were several of us who were in town for the day on Friday. We had an absolutely wonderful time visiting and beginning the process of reuniting.

Our activities included the homecoming football pep rally at the gym.  That was fun! The cheer squad was huge, though the band and team appeared small in number and stature to this long-ago-graduated Senior. We got to watch the presentation of the 2011 Homecoming court and watch a skit played out just for the occasion.

We also had the chance to look around the high school Friday afternoon and again on Saturday morning. The current high school principal is one of our 1981 class mates. It was so odd to think of him as the principal … as he was once quite an instigator of mischief three decades ago. The little bit of interaction we saw between him and his students made it evident that he … does.not.play.  He’s firm and demands respect.  I’m betting he is an awesome principal.  I’m sure he would call himself a success … as would others … myself, included … and rightly so.

By Saturday morn, the school was quiet and empty. Only a few teachers were around to work on their own personal endeavors. Though the floor is now tile rather than the carpet that once helped absorb noise, the school felt the same to me. Chairs were perched on tables so that floors could be mopped and buffed for another week of activity.  Halls were still and empty.

This trophy case is filled with stories of success – in competitions of all sorts … ancient and recent.  I saw literary, chess and football trophies. There were awards for track, swimming and basketball, as well.

I am so comfortable in my skin these days. I can honestly say that I have done my best … or as close to it as I was able at the time … in most areas of my life. But, to others, I wonder if I am a success … for I am a woman divorced after a twenty-five year attempt at marriage. I am not exceptionally externally beautiful nor fit and thin. My two grown kids are living at home … both on breaks from college. I am not yet employed after graduating from school … with a second AA degree. If I look at “me” through this lens, I certainly don’t appear to be a “success.”

As I walked through the halls of school, this banner
hanging in the entrance of hallway off the lunch room
ruffled my feathers.

But, then I stopped to think about it. This banner is appropriate at a school, where grades influence life. Grades say you’re a hard worker. Grades reflect intelligence. Grades and test scores are of the utmost importance … and so they must be measured and used as a guide. In this way, success is measured in results.

But, in real life, this is not so. In everyday life …
to be emotionally healthy, we must ask
if we are giving our best
regardless of everyone elses standards and guidelines … for
Success is not measured in results, but in effort.

For the child with a social disability,
getting through the day with only three meltdowns can be a triumph.
For the alcoholic,
success is making it to lunch without giving in to the lure of vodka.
For the female with an eating disorder,
driving by the Krispy Kreme without stopping is a triumph
OR forcing yourself to eat when you WANT to starve is gain.
For the porn addict,
installing and not overriding an internet screening filter is HUGE.
For the new mom who struggles with postpartum depression,
keeping the diapers changed and taking a shower before 5pm is a victory.

Three meltdowns and a shower don’t l.o.o.k like a success,
but they are … for some.
They required great effort.

We had several classmates who told stories of tremendous difficulty in recent years.
On the outside, they might not have appeared successful (myself included) ….
but … oh, the tremendous effort it must have taken to attend the reunion.
And I was so proud of them for coming … I rejoiced that they were brave to come
share
fellowship.
It was wonderful to see them.

Me?  I am more fit than I have been in years, my kids are wonderful, healthy and beautiful, and I just graduated from college with a degree in an area that motivates me with passion. I am divorced, yes. But, I am also FREE!! I love myself through and through and am completely comfortable in my own skin. I AM a success.

I wonder about you? Do you see yourself as a success? If you have been through struggles, don’t let someone else’s standard of “success” be your rule of measure. Even if you have failed, let today be the first day of a new beginning. Do your best today … this morning … this moment. Take your life one step at a time. Don’t compare yourself to others. Ask God to give you strength to be the best that YOU can be – today … right where you are. And know that you have the potential to be a success …
right where you are right now …
simply by giving the effort.
Because success is not measured in results,
but in effort.

Standard of Beauty

I couldn’t understand it … at first.

I’m fairly sure we contacted at least fifty to sixty people from our college days to invite them to join us for a get together at Lake Lanier. In the end, we had six guys show up … and three girls. These guys came to have dinner with us Saturday evening. Two were able to spend the night (five bedrooms, by the way, and nothing inappropriate) and one female friend came on Sunday.

Many had legitimate reasons for being unable to attend. Many lived far away or had trips already planned.

But, my heart was broken when Mary Ann said that at least one girl said she couldn’t join us because she needed to lose at least twenty pounds.

Twenty pounds … the equivalent of four five-pound bags of sugar – would keep someone from rekindling friendships from almost thirty years ago?

This thought circled my mind as we talked, laughed and revisited old stories.
She gave up the chance to sit in a quiet corner and fellowship.
She negated the opportunity to reunite … to revive friendships.
She allowed fear of rejection …
due to society’s idea of “desirable”
to make a decision in her life.

I can honestly say that I don’t know which friend made this comment to Mary Ann. Maybe she was someone we didn’t know well and she simply wasn’t interested in this visit. In my heart of hearts, I hope that is the case. Because the thought that I missed fellowship with a long-ago friend
was forfeited
due to a constrained societal standard
that is ever-changing, shifting and sorting
the beautiful from the unattractive
is absolutely heart-wrenching.

I have to admit that I was nervous about going on this trip. I am … also … twenty pounds heavier than I desire. I have lived my life on a seasonal roller coaster – heavier in the winter/thinner in the summer. I exercise when I have the energy (March through September) and rest when I don’t (October through February). I’d like to say that this isn’t so, but I’d be lying to both of us.

The thought of hugging these men …
them touching my body, wrapping their arms around my waist or shoulder
upon our reunion … or departing ….
embarrassed me …
until I heard that there was someone who WOULDN’T EVEN COME
because of the fear of judgement
and rejection.
Because, in reality, that is what I hear in her statement.

The vulnerable expression of dissatisfaction
by this un-named “friend”
has strengthened my passion to scream
“YOU ARE BEA{YOU}TIFUL!!”

We live our lives handcuffed to standards
that are set by others.
Our days are parched of fellowship
for fear of rejection.
There is an ongoing paralyzation …
that steals our energy and enthusiasm for life.

I wonder about you and your life.  Would you say that you’re beautiful? Could you answer “yes” if I asked you, “Are you beautiful?” Could you answer “yes,”  ….. without hesitation?

We need to separate
self-acceptance from society’s ever-moving image of “beautiful.”
Would you give some thought to w.h.e.r.e your standard of beauty is based?
Would you take some time to think about how often your actions are stifled by fear
of what others would think about how you look?

Know, my friend, that you are beautiful!
With or without that 20, 30 or 50 pounds
that society might like or dislike you wearing,
you are beautiful, worthy, talented and gifted
through and through.
You are beautiful today … just as you are, right where you are.

A New Thing

We are sitting on a large, comfortable couch .. oversized.

He is to my left, me to his right.
His strong, right arm easily rests across my shoulders
gently, firmly cradling my right arm.
I am safe.
And as I talk to Him,
as I think of Christ with me
as I pray to the Father,
it only feels natural to rest my head on His chest.
Strands of our hair are intertwine.
I can almost feel the warmth of His body on my left cheek,
His presence warming my ear … my cheek.

I experience it every time I am still to pray.
Never have I before … but now, I do.
I know that He is there … more than ever before.
He hears me. He listens. He is there with me.
He wraps His arms around me. He is my friend.

It’s been years since I’ve had someone put their arm around me.

I am not lonely since the divorce. I don’t feel sorry for myself.
I am content and happy.
I have a lot to do. There are many years of energy still to be poured into Joy.
After she is gone,
and my home echoes empty,
I don’t know what I will do.
But, I haven’t spent a night in sorrowful tears.
There haven’t been any big pity-parties.

So, I wonder, why the change? Why do I feel more of a presence of God
a physical presence
than ever before?
I certainly don’t think that HE is the one that has made a move.
He has always been there …. with a space for me … right there on the couch beside Him.

I wonder if my change in attitude TOWARDS Him
is linked to my change in attitude towards MYSELF.

I still remember the story I heard from the pulpit
at least sixteen or seventeen years ago.
It was told by Brian Upshaw as he had the chance in the pulpit
before going off to seminary.
The story was told of an older couple, riding down the road.
The wife was reminiscing about how
when they were younger … newlyweds ….
they would always sit side by side on the front seat.
She turned to her husband and pondered out loud, “What happened?”
The husband simply questioned, “Who moved?”

I’m still pondering beauty … and self-worth … self- acceptance  … self-comfort.
Is my ability to accept that I am worthy and unique and, yes, beautiful ….
that has allowed me to allow Him in?
I don’t know. But, I am thankful
for the presence of a Savior,
that never gave up
that never walked away
that never quit.
He waited,
like a gentleman
for me to
let Him
all
the
way
in.

I continue to pray …. “More, Lord, please.”


Economics: You are more

I never dreamed that I would enjoy a class as much as I have l♥ved Economics. My professor has been teaching for at least twenty years.  He’s not a charismatic teacher.  He’s fairly soften spoken. So, those that love a tap dancing, entertaining focal point for an hour won’t get it in his class.  But, if you listen to him, he has a dry wit that will catch you off guard daily. I listen closely just so I won’t miss a punch line. He is subtle, yet terribly entertaining.  And he knows his topic.  He is historic and still relevant.  He has stories from decades ago and pulls information right out of today’s headlines.

The thing that has been unique for me is that I was expecting a whiteboard full of formulas, numbers, and percentages.
This class has been more of a human mannerism and philosophy hour. Day after day, I listen to him talk about why people do what they do. And I am fascinated.

The Fallacy of Composition is one of the ideas that stands out in my mind. This was covered in the first chapter, almost nine weeks ago. I have a phrase to attach to the idea that fits right in with this passion of self-acceptance….
a passion for myself
and a passion that makes me want to tell others:
You are more.
You are unique.
You are intricate.
You are beautiful.

The wonderful metaphor that was given to describe this idea is that of baking and eating a cake.

You can imagine a delicious cake.  In fact, let’s use Banana Bread as our example. You are probably familiar with the moistness of this delectable breakfast-worthy dessert. The taste of banana, that isn’t overpowering and melds well with the flavor of vanilla. Add a little butter to the warm bread … and  mmmm……..

In contrast, think of eating each of the individual ingredients before they had been mixed together, poured into a lightly oiled pan and baked at 350 for a thirty minutes to an hour.  Let’s see …. raw eggs, butter, sugar, flour, past ripe bananas, baking soda, vanilla and salt.  We would probably agree that imaging a mouthful of any one of these pales – or even a combination of several  – in comparison to the thought of fresh baked, warm from the oven Banana Bread.

And so the principle: The Fallacy of Composition
which is
The combination/sum is better than the individual parts.

In economics, the theory just supports the fact that there is always more to a picture than what appears on the surface.  There are many factors involved in any change in the economy and we can’t simply draw conclusions. We have to dig deeper and look at all angles – those that are obvious and those that might not be easy to see. The structure we live in is craftsmanship and design. And it is “home” to us because of those that dwell within. Our home is wood, bricks, mortar, sheet rock, nails and paint. But, our home is so much more.

A tree is who it is because of it’s underlying design.  Every species is slightly different from each other … but each tree within a family is unique ….completely different from any other … an original.  And a tree is a trunk, limbs, leaves and sap … but it is more.

I have gifts and talents that were intended for me to use to bless others and make my own life richer. I am unlike any other. I am wonderfully made. I am an original. And …like you …. I am oh so much more than flesh and blood, sinew and organs.

Tenth Avenue North has an awesome new song that puts guitar and lyrics to this idea.

And the concept for this video is
a pure surprise.
I.love.it!

Yes, you are more.
You are more than flesh and blood.
You are more than ideas and thoughts.
You are more than any name you’ve been called.
You are more than the voice that whispers lies when you’re down.
And you are more than any mistake that has stained your past.

You.are.more.
You.are.bea{you}tiful.

Dinner Inspiration

I have been very nervous about leaving the excitement of learning
and the comfort of the familiarity of school.
Moving on to the uncertain future  … is scary.
No matter how I feel about tomorrow, it will still come.

I know that I am not alone.

School will soon come to an end for me.  Many of my classmates have just finished or will be finishing their degree soon, as well. And so the conversation often turns to questions about employment and the future.
Recently,  a friend of mine asked, “What is your dream job?”
OOOooohhhhh …. what a lovely question.
His question made me think of a quote that I wrote on Glory’s wall a year or two ago. It’s tucked in the corner, under the bookshelf and partially hidden by a lamp, in this photograph.  You can see the word “fail” at the bottom of the quote.

The quote reads:

What would you attempt to do
if you KNEW that you could not fail?

Of course, if you “attempt” something but do not fail, then you aren’t just “attempting” it, you are completing. But, there is something so perfect about the wording of this question. The wording of the first line queries us to consider what we might do …. but the certainty of the last line solidifies our outcome.

Too often, we doubt ourselves. We listen to that little voice inside our head that says we are not
good enough,
smart enough,
or creative enough
to  ____________.
Maybe we’ve shared a dream and been told that our dream is outlandish.
Some of us don’t even have the boldness to share our dreams
because we expect to be told that they are too grandiose.
Maybe we’ve been told we are a “loser,”
and we believed it.

I have seen the talent that lies within the spirits of my classmates.
And I wanted to encourage them.
So, I planned a dinner party around the challenging question,
“What would you attempt to do if you KNEW that you would not fail?

And it was wonderful …. absolutely splendid … magic even!

With ten places set, we gathered around an extended table,
dined on salad,  lasagna and crusty bread …
and we shared our dreams.
Asian eyes, blonde curls, chocolate brown skin, Irish roots and dishwater dreads
sat side by side.
Just as beautiful as the plethora of external differences
was the diversity of our gifts and talents.
We listened to dreams of working for Google, managing an ad agency, being an Oscar winning movie director, and being an entrepreneurial, independent artist. We heard people confess that they knew where their strengths lie and then we took turns reaffirming that we, too, saw those strengths and knew that their dreams could be reached. We topped off our night with a champagne toast raised high. Then went as a group to a local coffee shop to celebrate with a classmate who had a reception for the opening of his photography show.

My dream of inspiring my friends was fulfilled.
Before I went to bed that evening, one of my friends wrote me a note to thank me for the evening. He’s a quiet fella; a man of few words. After opening the night by sharing my dreams, I asked him to be the next to speak. He has a tendency to stay on the sidelines and watch and listen long. So, I wanted to make sure that he had a chance to speak. He thanked me for putting him on the spot. He said he often feels like he’s out in left field, but he was encouraged by the evening.What he thought were far fetched ideas, we all thought were incredible and very attainable.  A few people even had ideas or connections that they shared to get him moving down the path towards fulfilling that dream.

I sent everyone home with a photo frame for their fridge.  Joy was with us so she received one as well.  Hers sits on her dresser.

My goal was fellowship and encouragement. I think my goal was reached.
And I was so richly blessed … by the presence of wonderful, warm friendship.
So, May I ask you a question?
Where do you see struggle or discouragement around you?
How could you encourage that person to step out and take a risk?
What risk would you like to take but you haven’t found the courage?
What is your dream job?
What would you attempt to do if you KNEW you would not fail?

Beautiful you

I took chalk with me on my camping trip. As we loaded the van and he came across the bucket of colored sticks, James laughed at me.  But, I had a purpose … a plan.  Some time ago, I read  about a really incredible woman who leaves notes of encouragement all over the sidewalks as she goes about her life.  We write notes on our driveway … but I’ve not yet left a note
in public
for just any passerby.

But, I did it here.

You are beautiful - You are BeA{you}tiFULL!My hope in writing this message is to begin conversation between mothers and daughters or friends.  My hope is to speak encouragement into a life that may not have heard this phrase in a long time. My hope is to get women thinking about beauty … internal … or external …..

As I sat on the sidewalk to tie my shoes, I watched a mother and daughter make their way into the bathhouse. I listened to the mom help her early-reader sound out the message. The little girl read, “ …. you ….. are …… “
and Mom completed the sentence,
“beautiful. You are beautiful.”

I wonder if she has told her little girl this before?
Does she tell her often?
Has she told her lately?

For several years, I have made it a point to tell friends, neighbors, young girls that I know  ….. that they are beautiful.

I remember watching an Oprah show once. It’s been at least five or ten years since I saw this particular episode.  She told the story of a woman who told her that she was beautiful.  She was around eight or ten years old, I think. Oprah still remembers it.  It was the first time she remembers being told that she was beautiful.

I can relate to that. I know that my own parents love me … deeply … but I don’t remember them ever telling me I am beautiful. That isn’t a BAD thing.  It’s not that they SHOULD have told me and DIDN’T.  It’s just … that it never came up. Ya know?

About a year and a half ago, I was standing with a friend at church. His early-teenaged daughter walked by and I said, “Savannah, you’re beautiful.”  She smiled her blushing smile and said, “Thank you.”  I turned to her dad and asked Tom, “Do you tell her that she’s beautiful?” He jokingly said, “Hhmmppff. No. She already knows it.”

By the standards of media, the world, fashion trends today, she is beautiful.
But, that beauty is fleeting. It is temporary.
It can be lost in a moment – by an accident.
It can be lost slowly – through bitterness and anger.
As the mind chooses that route, so follows our spirit.
Our external body then carries that wound and expresses it …
through our eyes …. our actions and attitude …. our mannerisms and words.
Bitterness of the heart seeps from our being
and kills beauty.

Inner beauty is the beauty that lasts.  And it is the beauty that permeates our being.
It overflows and spills out of us to be seen by others
… no matter what we look like.
Without inner beauty, there is no outer beauty.

I turned to Tom and said,
“If you don’t tell her she’s beautiful, she’ll find a man who will.”

Shortly, my pre-teen daughter walks by. Tom says, “Hey, Joy.  Does your Mama tell you that you’re beautiful.”  She laughed in the the same joking style that had come from Tom moments earlier. In passing, she rolled her eyes and said, with her Joyful, dramatic flair, “Hhmmmppfff. ALL.THE.TIME.”

That’s right. And I will continue to tell her.

But, wait. Understand here: I’m not talking about “beauty” by the world’s standards. This beauty is a contented acceptance of yourself.  It is a place of enjoying yourself from the inside out. It is knowing that you have worth and gifts to offer. In this acceptance, you rest in a place of being beautiful.

Has anyone told you lately?
Has anyone told you that you are beautiful?
You are. YOU are beautiful!
You are bea{you}tifull … through and through.
You are unique and worthy. You are original and of great value.
You are uncommon because there is nobody else in the world
with your particular gifts, creativities and experiences.
You, my friend, are richly, wonderfully and full beautiful.
Believe it.

Alone

I have taken a “test trip” of sorts, this weekend.

My dear van has been in and out of the shop for months.  I have now officially put more money INTO my van than it is worth. But, I felt no alternative.  I certainly can’t be financed for a new vehicle (being an unemployed, full time student with less than stellar credit) and I do not have five grand in the bank for a new car. So, last week,  my sweet Voyager was back in the shop twice (three times, if you count rotating the tires on Friday morning). After replacing the radiator cap (that was allowing pressure to be lost from the recently replaced radiator), the new-yet-appropriate pressure blew out the hoses (original to the van, probably). But, the place I’ve been taking the van was, AGAIN, wonderful … super …. fantastic.  Butler Automotive’s customer service is outstanding.

But, this time …. I think we’ve “got it.”  I hear no more odd noises. I have gauges (Yay!). My fuel gauge properly registers. The engine doesn’t leak fluids. When I push the accelerator, the van moves forward without hesitation.  These have become treats, not the norm. But, right now, things are working well.  And I’m thankful.Stretch bracelets - and working van gauges! Yay!Having not felt comfortable enough to take the van away from home, I’ve not done any traveling for, about a year. As the dynamics of our family have greatly changed of late, I have come to the conclusion that I’m just going to have to do some traveling alone. James and Glory aren’t able to get time off often and Joy is off with her daddy every other weekend. Dulcie ... wishing she was going camping, too.

While I’m at home, I tend to get distracted with “stuff” that needs to be done.  So, this weekend, I found ONE campsite left in the foothills of the South Carolina mountains.  I figured I could try a two and a half hour drive and be confident with the van. I prayed my “if-it’s-gonna-break-Lord-please-let-it-break-BEFORE-I-LEAVE” prayer and went about my business Thursday and Friday morning.  With no big calamity, I threw the bike and kayak, tent and sleeping bag into the van and took off Friday morn.

As James helped me load, Dulcie found her way into the van, hopeful that she wouldn’t be left behind. I may need to consider finding a way to train her to be more social so that she could join me on outings.  Hmm…. wonder if she would like to kayak. She’s not a water lover … it would be hard convincing her balancing in a floating boat on the water is a good time.

When Glory found out that I was going to camp alone, her reaction was the same as Joy’s later in the day: they bemoaned me. “AAAaaaawwwwwww, Mooommmmmm!!!” I didn’t get STOOD UP by a best friend. I didn’t get left behind on a trip. I didn’t have someone give me the slip at the mall. I was choosing to go on a trip alone! It’s okay!

As I was talking to Joy about it, I took her little face in my hands and looked into those blue eyes and said, “Joy. I like myself. I am very fun.  I can go alone and have a great time. Really. I will.” I want her to understand comfort in oneself and ease being alone. I want her to see it modeled.

I’m not bothered by the thought of being alone.  I unloaded and put up the tent without a problem. I slept on a blow up mattress in the back of the van, so I would feel a little more safe than in a “bare” tent.  (I was glad that I had planned for this as the temps dipped down in the 30’s.  I would have definitely been cold in a tent!) And I got up early this morning and hiked alone to try to catch some beautiful daybreak photos.

I have thought a lot about this wonderful video I found recently.

It was created by Andrea Dorfman, featuring Tanya Davis’ voice and poetry. I love everything about it.  I love the style of the filming. I love the prose spoken. And I embrace and adore the message.

So, I wonder ….
Are you okay being alone?
Are you okay sitting at a restaurant by yourself?
Reading a book in a library?
Taking a hike? Or camping?

It’s a new thing for me. But, I am thoroughly enjoying it.

Sunrise over the hills

Now, if you’ll excuse me …. I have a trail to hike,
so I can also take some sunset shots.

Many blessings.