She gave herself room to breathe.


I went to Hot Yoga yesterday. 


I walked in and knew that my only job was to stay in the room. I needed to do my best, but only my best. The hardest thing to remember was that there was no one I could disappoint. I couldn’t even disappoint myself because I did the hardest part by showing up and knowing this. 



For the first time since starting Hot Yoga a few years ago, I didn’t think about anyone else but me. I looked in my own eyes, took a deep breath in and let it out slow.  We are all kinds of broken down messes when we first walk in the room.  We are here so that someday we can look ourselves in the eyes and bow to our own grace and strength. 


I took a water break when I needed to. I smiled when I felt the sweat trickle down my face and back (I know sweat is usually gross but its so not. Sweat is sexy. Sweat means passion, hard work, health, detoxing. It’s hot, seriously).


 I adjusted poses with forgiveness and acceptance for where my body was right here, in that moment, on that day. Yoga turns someone who lately has been cringing at the sight of a mirror, hand hovering and skimming over broken areas- into someone who is beaming at her contorted reflection with messy (i mean…CRAZY) hair, red face and fanatical smile with what her body is doing. Everyone has a critical voice in their head when they walk in, I come to yoga to kill that voice.


I was gentle with myself. Then I killed myself when I knew I could. Then I was gentle again.  I respected my body.  I allowed myself time. to. breathe.  As more sweat poured down, everyone started removing layers. Normally I would sweat through it.  Gritting my teeth and envying the freedom and confidence they had. 


But off went my thin baggy pants. Off my long sleeve went. Hot yoga is a  warm intimate place where there is respect for every body. Down to tiny shorts and a tank top I felt like a butterfly shedding her grey dull wings that have been wrapped around her lately for protection. The girl smiling back at me in standing bow pulling pose was a colorful, light, free and strong butterfly wrapped in colors of red, orange, yellow.


I could barely recognize her. 


I was a giggling, crying, sweaty, red faced mess. And it was beautiful. 


I left what was outside the room, outside the room. 


We twisted out all the toxins and focused on new energy flowing into our organs but I felt that down to my soul. 


And when it was all over, when I was drenched through and wrung out like a sponge- I was fixed. I was healed. I was whole.  ”Yoga frees you from the drama, the tragedy, the saga your mind creates and allows you to experience your True Joyful Self…”


Then came Savasana. The hardest posture to do (for bumblebee types like me). Its brutal to be still in both mind and body. But that is ok, this is a lifelong practice. The practice is about embracing stillness, managing the mind. Its a profound experience, it just takes a class or two (or a few years if you are me) to get your mind to shut up long enough to realize that.  As I sat there, I once again, gave myself room to breathe. 


 
I was ready to leave that warm cocoon of peace and healing and go through the door into the world. The world where they don’t give you the same 26 postures to follow. Where there is no straightforward definition of success and you don’t have someone telling you that its just mind over matter and its gonna hurt but don’t be scared and all you need to do is breathe. 


I walked out into that world, the one that tends to wreck me, with the full comfort of knowing that I will be back to the warm embrace of Bikram- where we can put me back together again and allow me a chance to breathe deep. 

Dear Men.

Thank you to the ones who get it. The ones who show their daughters what it is like to be cherished and respected. The ones who can look at their wives and honestly whisper "it’s only been you. It will always be you". The men who refrain from whistling out their car window as she walks by, and who know the delicate but tough nature of a woman’s heart. 

You take this girl’s barbed wire guarded heart and remind her of the dreamer that is hiding in there with each of those “small” actions that aren’t small at all. 
To you, I say thank you. Because real romantics know the way to a woman’s soul is through the little moments of raw honesty. Because the real romantics know that different shaped women fit into the different shapes of men. Because real romantics know that the way to get to 50 years of Golden Bliss is less in the big youtubed moments and in the daily sacrifices of showing Love.
I know, you’re thinking…"Boring"…

Let everyone talk about 50 shades of Grey but don’t ever let that distract you from the fact that commitment and Love are really just two. simple. shades. Black and White. It comes down to commitment. Commitment in a relationship, a father’s commitment to his daughter to teach her Right, a brother’s commitment to protect his sister. It all comes down to the fact that Real Love will make you suffer. Simply commit and decide, “who am I willing to suffer for?” 

Who am I willing to take the reeking garbage out for and clean the gross muck growing in the bottom drawers in the fridge? Who am I devoted to after a hectic day- my daughter or my television show? Who am I willing to help dress after an invasive surgery, or patiently calm during an emotional storm? Who am I willing to listen to instead of talk at? Who am I willing to hold as they grow older? Who am I willing to let burrow a hole into my heart?

Here is the thing, while viral proposal and coming home videos do melt the heart, there is so much more than that. There is so much more simplicity. 

It’s easy. 

You tell her.

Not in a text. Not even on the phone. You tell her when, and only when, you can see the flecks of gold in her pupils. The scar on her knee. You tell her when your palms are sweaty and your words don’t feel like they hold an ounce of eloquence. You tell her, even when the whole thing could collapse at any moment, on any one of your syllables. She might reject you. She might turn away. But you need to say it all the same. 

You hold her.

Her hand. The small of her back when Ray Charles is on and she’s dancing on the toes of your dress shoes in the middle of the living room. You get all wrapped in the scent of her hair. You hold that same hair back on those rare but wild nights when there’s too much tequila and banter by the bar side. You hold her. All the parts of her. The secrets she has saved for you. The dreams. The fears.The Gold & the Glue to a story that becomes glittered with Us & We. Never again just you & her.

You challenge her.

Everyday. With every step. You don’t supply the easy ways out. You guide her the best you can. But you understand, you understand well, that you cannot move her nor can you make her. You see your limits. You push her to find her own.

You stay.

When dishes break. When snot is on the sofa. When the honeymoon period ends. The finances grow frail. When Life gets unruly, as she always often does, you suck in, breathe deep, and you work it out. You man up & work it out.

Men, you are powerful. More than you know. And you have the choice(s) to make each. and. every. day. how you want to affect those fierce, independent, delicate and beautiful women in your life. 

Aint no Blurred Lines here.

When it first came out, I couldn’t get enough of the beat and the hey hey hey’s. I never saw the video and I didn’t read the lyrics. It really wasn’t until the Miley/VMA debates started and it was on every radio station that brought out the ugly. Not of any performer or awards show but an ugly sadness- for the reality and reflection this was on Us.

I cannot say anything about her or even Robin Thicke on any moral basis because it would make me a hypocrite- to try and sit here and act like I am some saint who has never thought her body was too, just an object. I am just lucky my moments are not going down in history. But I am not that much different than Miley.  She is not a global issue or a trainwreck (or wrecking ball), she is a Girl. A girl who is fumbling to grow up and trying to figure herself out in a world that worships her, and turns it back on her in the same breath. And so, as I read “letters to Miley” and “letters to my future daughter” all I can say is that I am not going to hold my daughter someday and thank God she isn’t like Miley (or whatever starlet is going down at the time). I am simply going to do the best I can to raise her, and try to understand and still be there when train wreck moments happen. As they often do.

I am going to try to understand those moments. I am going to listen when she’s torn between brain and body. I am going to try to understand when she tries to change herself for a man or when she finds herself in situations that make her feel much smaller than she is. Not because I want these things for her but because I know there is no stopping a girl from learning what she needs to learn about her worth in a world that doesn’t give her much to follow but worthlessness.I will understand. Because I have been there before.

 

I’m not saying she’s right. I’m not cheering for her in this moment. But she’s not a criminal. Not a tragedy that hurt millions. She’s just a girl. Just like me. Who probably forgot, like the rest of us, what a fragile, radiant thing she really is. Made to be valued & designed with much worth. Brewed & brewed & brewed to be so much more than a body stapled & tied with an image of beauty that only runs ankle-deep.

Now as for those Blurred Lines, it was the music pumping through the speakers and Mr. Thicke crooning like he knows the wants of every woman this morning that made me see clearly why there are really no blurred lines.

Because there are men out there who know that women want a love that respects.

There are men out there who wear old wranglers and work hard to care for their family. There are men out there who drive busted up trucks and take pride in the dinner they put on the table.

And there are men out there who take the time to grow flowers or stop by the side of the road to pick a bunch and feel no shame bringing them home to the woman they vowed to.

Don’t ever think there isn’t something wild and sexy and untamed about this.

There is a relentless pursuit to cage women into polished skin and glossy nails and into a perfectly shaped ornament and tell her that she really wants this. (They know she wants it)

You can always tell the real men from the immature boys. Real manhood never objectifies women but edifies women. Real men ask women what they want.

Real men hear that their Woman just wants her words and ideas and dreams to carry more weight than a number on a scale. They know that She wants Her soul to be appreciated not her skin to be assessed.

And as I realize this, I am standing in my bathroom. Poking and sucking in and contouring and reading tips for a flatter this and how to get him to notice that and staring at my pore cleansing masked face, tears rolling down my cheeks and really at that moment I am not much different than a girl dancing on MTV’s stage for the glorification of her body- all for the applause. Why is it that any reflective surface makes a woman see pounds and deflating ugly?

And then I pause and I say a prayer of Thanksgiving. And I see clearly who you really are and I am so grateful.

Because real men (like you) adore women with Einstein-hair early on a Saturday morning, think nothing of making a wire contraption and de clogging a shower drain, or kiss shoulders where  Summer skin is peeling off. Real men like you romance by knowing how a girl takes her coffee and taking her hand on a walk to the drugstore.  A real man makes a woman feel her most beautiful when the rest of the world tried to tell her otherwise.

True love (romantic or otherwise) isn’t found. It’s carved.

Carved out of sacrifice, out of selflessness.

And Real Women share this with each other. Real Women tell each other (because it is the truth and We need to hear it and no matter if there is no Real Man its ok because there are sisters to share this with her, to speak into her cracked and bleeding places)You are so beautiful- so Soul beautiful” and we will watch our sisters eyes light up.

And Real Women won’t ever let each other forget that the curve of a woman’s smile is her most perfect curve and that each one is a treasured, wonderfully made possession and that when her eyes shine bright as she realizes this- her whole body is full of radient light.

And there aint no blurred lines about that, Sister. 

Going Primal

Art. We don’t always get it right the first time.

And what we get “wrong”…
*include that.*
Creativity is not so elusive as to hide behind our first drafts.
Creativity is in our first drafts. And our second, third, and so on…
We can’t erase paint,
No.
But as most artists attest,
We can paint over with new,
Bold
Strokes.


Keep creating,
Keep painting,
Until
What you see on the canvas
Reflects who you are
On the inside.”

This weekend I mentioned briefly to someone how I had a few defining moments in the last few years that all had to do with the (re)discovering of who deep down I was, no label included and no accomplishments to base it off of. Just learning a side of Who I am.

Cycles and re-birth are everywhere- they surround us and with looking inward, it is a constant dance of learning, unfolding, remembering, admitting. I think of my life sometimes in chapters that can often be summed up with one word or theme – “Trust” (2008), “Grace” (2010) etc etc. 

I think lately it’s been more of “Primal”.

Listening to when my body needs rest and also listening when it says “move”. Taking self care more seriously and more than that-feeling  freedom to express different desires that are deep down in the hidden crevices of the Soul and Heart.

Since last September, when the journey of doctors and prescriptions and labs and bloodwork started and it all came back that I may or may not be able to give Life, it was at like a ton of bricks had been put on my chest and suddenly Heart missed something it never knew it wanted.  And then slowly got pushed down and tucked away and Trust whispered to just focus on the Now and Here.

And as I think with gratitude of all the places and people I have been and touched and left part of myself with it becomes so apparent that Heart has been getting (and giving) what it wants to anyways. I have a deep connection with  my Creator who is always birthing new life and I know that there has always been a birthing of ideas, dreams, wildness, connection to Earth and  a deep desire to share this gritty beautiful journey with others.  And all along I’ve been reaching into that mama instinct to create art, laughter, comfort and tend to the tender souls who tug on my skirt and need to be seen-whether here or across the globe.  Primal means getting down to the realization that I Am free and feminine, nurturing, soulful, sexy, gentle and wild. 

And when it comes to these Big Ideas and Crazy Visions of what just letting go and living life on the Primal edge -of creativity flowing and community and love (the scariest and most exhilarating of all) and coffee and chickens and no schedule or bills  comes into comparison of what Freedom must feel like, suddenly the question of “what if I fail” loses its power.

And here is a little secret I’ve learned in sharing these Ideas- people will always ask you about failure but no one will ever think to turn their head, look you straight in the eye and ask you how broken your heart would be if you  Never. Even. Tried.

For me, that question and the thought of my someday child looking up at me one day scares every ligament in my body. Because no answer to the question of why I didn’t Try will be the right one that will not teach them to be petrified and worried and looking down at their shoes so frozen by my example that they just stay stagnant. All the excuses pale in comparison to being able to truthfully say I am doing what I know I was created to do. Even with bumps in the road and maybe a broken heart (or two) and with fear trying to stand in the way and failures- I still jumped in and surrendered. 

And sometimes that looks like this grand bohemian plan and sometimes it looks like just taking a break because I listen to what this Body, Soul and Mind need. A reminder to be young. Be reckless. Be bold. Be shades of red. And white. And blue. Be all the things Elton John sings about, and feel all sorts of eloquent for being only those things today. Not a worrier. Not a mess. Not nervous about the future or the way life will turn out. Just a tiny dancer. A blue jean baby. A ballerina dancing in the sand. Stop planning life long enough to just follow it. And see where it will be take you. Just stop thinking. Unclench your fists and stare up at the sunlight.

Let go of things. Big things. Little things. Clean out a junk drawer. Burn a diary. Tell him how you really feel. Have the courage to walk away from logic sometimes.  Forget the rules, screw expectations.

 

It’s a good thing, these little breaks. Those 5 minutes here and there of “wasted time”. Because then it goes back to that deep down craving to Create good things and worthy things and build with our hands and ignite spirits and really thinking of all of that can be exhausting.

But whether we admit it to ourselves or not (I have done both), there are dreams we have all kept since childhood. Those are the things that make you Alive. Those are those burdens in the Soul that feel like it’s been lit on fire and it makes it difficult to speak out loud and you fumble for those words and ache to quench that thirst.

 

That’s not your heaping serving of  hippy cliché for the day. That’s just the truth. The truth, that we are often made for things so much bigger than we ever allow ourselves to have. 

 

I’ve gotten small doses, and little reminders especially lately. .But what could it look like if I (you, we) just opened the flood gates and let the passion pour out.

 

The burdens and desires of mama Heart sit there for a reason. And out in the world exists the need that will tether you into creation of the stuff that really matters in this lifetime.

WE were made to create stuff that matters to this world. Stuff that leaves people heaving. & weeping. & inspired. & filled. WE were made to create that sort of stuff.  

Confession:

Confession 1) I have a terrible need for affection and a terrible need to give it. 

Confession 2) I stole that from pinterest BUT

Confession 3) sometimes I get caught up in this “love language” thing, the specific ways that I feel loved, and the ways I “best” give it back.  

Part of this is that I am beyond blessed to have a pretty darn affectionate family. I have a dad who tears up at my graduations and a hello is always met with a kiss on the cheek. I have a mom who is the latina version of santa clause and cousins who are my best friends.

But It kind of sneaks up on me like the sunset and then saturates my skin like oil.  I completely expect my those around me to “love” me in the ways that make me happy, and in the ways I can often exhaust myself giving it back. 

On a long walk tonight of thinking and searching my heart about this,  I zoomed in and rested on the realization that if the base of my happiness comes from expecting and then getting, if this person’s sweet words or that person’s kiss or time spent with me makes my happiness, I am in for a long road of unhappiness.  
What if I were free from needing?  What if I were free from want?  What if the essence of life, God’s smiling face in the center of my chest, the swoosh of my breath, my vibrating cells were enough to make me the most deeply happy person alive?  

If my well being, my joy, my vibrancy came from a rock in the center of my soul, that will never disappear, that I can sit on every minute of the day and smile, then every token of love from my family or friends would become the icing on the cake, that cherry on top of it all that is even more delicious because I wasn’t expecting it or craving it or needing it.  Instead of acting like a starving dog hunting for scraps, I can learn to let them be. Plus, by zeroing in on a few specific ways that I want them to express love to me, I’m blinding myself to the vast ocean of love that pours towards me from them in their own way.  

I love little notes.  I love surprises.  I love lingering conversations.  I love long looks and gorgeous kisses.  I love affirmation.  

But that love is a trap if I become dependent on getting these things for my happiness.  

"Expectations kill relationships". I read that once, and thought that the words had stuck. But here I am again, cup (soul) empty from pouring pouring pouring and it’s like it’s a brand new revelation. When our own cup is full of Love, Joy, Gratitude, Peace- Nothing can touch us. The world is full of surprises and suddenly we’re not waiting to be given anything.  We’re too full and we need to start sprinkling the excess anywhere, everywhere.  Every token from a loved one floats over like a moon just for us and it is so, so special, it brings tears to our eyes, and we can let it wash over us in a pure way.  and "Without expectations, what can topple the surprising wonder of the moment?”

As I turn the corner to go to my apartment, the usually sticky air is damp and cool and flows around me.  I just want to get a cozy sweater on, make a steamy cup of tea and let my inner eyes continue to look at the face of this freedom from needing to receive certain things from those around me.  I want to look at it until I really feel it becoming one with me, which will only happen with practice and with the spirit.  

I need to also apreciate my heart. My heart is that was so wonderfully made (Even if I don’t always feel that way), and is so tender and raw and affectionate. Reminding myself to protect those qualities, and learn from each lesson at the same time. 

It’s so beautiful how humans give to one another. We really each have our specific ways of giving, of loving.  If we can stay clear of becoming dependent on each other, the flow will be even more powerful.  

My note to self today as exhaustion deeper than lack of sleep comes barreling out and I am having a hard time keeping it together, showing Grace (for others and myself), and I need a reminder of how to simply push through it.   

Breathe. It’s how life works. It’s the way beauty is always born

Breathe in: I receive what You give.
Breathe out: I give thanks for what You give.

That’s it right there.

That’s the prayer for people who can’t remember to breathe, the prayer for when you think you might hyperventilate, the prayer when you can’t remember what comes next — just these 7-8 syllables that perfectly settle into the rhythm of breathing.

It’s the syllables of sanctuary, a surrender.

It’s the only cycle of sanity:

And then, on the those days you know — when everything is pilling up, and everyone needs something. When you feel your stomach in knots, when your heart is in your throat, and you are too tired to spread the usual Joy because your cup is empty.  When you want to pull your hair out, run away or lay down and cry like a baby —

the perfect prayer can do this thing where it gets real short, fits right into your panicked, shallow breaths and quiets even them:

Breathe in: God, I receive.
Breathe out:  ..and I give thanks.

So there’s that. You get to make peace with it. All of it.

This is how you labor and push  through a life, how you make it Grace-full.

And then the exhale with this prayer of thanksgiving for it all, because these moments produce perseverance, perseverance produces character and character produces hope and Hope does not disappoint.

When the verdict is in.

And everyone is flaming red with their thoughts and emotional ties and what has touched their heartstrings about a case and your own soul is hurting for this and for so much more in the world. The statistics and the newsclips and the articles and the injustice in all forms and you feel a weight on your chest.


Because pundits can banter about one southern cook and a trial and gun rights and the nature of racism in this continent, about the nature of marriage and truth, wars and protests and our screens can explode with opinions and rebuttals and politics.

And you don’t know where to start to fix any of it. And all you can offer is Love. Which is complicated and the simplest thing in the world at the same time, and that is all there is. And you realize you are changing the world- when you are changing one person’s world.

Because living radically isn’t about where you live, it’s about how you love.

And  you realize, that Love doesn’t happen when you arrive in a certain place. It happens when your Heart arrives in a certain place- whether it is here and now, or a dirt road in Africa or a side street alley in America.

It isn’t where we love. It’s how we love. It’s who we love.
 

There is so much pain on our tv’s today and yet there is so much  more that is unseen and “the lives of the thirty thousand children who die of starvation each day is like six September 11ths every single day, a silent tsunami that happens every week”.  

People are starved everywhere; there are poor too down our streets and down our halls and downs our pews. People are starved for food and for Love and for Hope and for healing both physically and in their souls. And being Radical means finding them and radically loving them.

But the answers to all the raging questions of the day won’t be found in what status or comment we write:it will be found in how we open our doors.

Our actual theology isn’t about who screams the loudest or who has the most controversial status update. It is best expressed in our actual hospitality.

Hospitality isn’t for the good housekeepers — it’s meant to shape our churches and politics, our work and our schools, our homes and our faith and our schedules and our meals and our lives.

Hospitality is Life with no Gates.

Hospitality means if there is room in the heart —there is always room in the house.

 

From a year ago….

Found this and was reminded and thankful for that season and all of it’s pain and lessons and beauty. Sometimes we have to see where we have come from to gain a bit more Joy in the present. This was written last Fall: 

"A week ago at this time I was curled up on my bed-spent from one of the hardest 24 hours of my life.  The night prior, I knew something was wrong and as I sobbed with pain and hope-I was certain that if I could have given you life instead of mine it wouldn’t even be a thought to contemplate. 

But God gives and He takes away (and the hardest realization-both are a blessing). There is a time to be born and a time to die. Those 24 hours were full of anguish and I spent it alone, not productive, phone off. A girl needs privacy when she bears a piece of her wild soul especially when it is wounded and agitated like an animal.

The only thing soothing my heart was the tinkering of piano music, the same song playing over and over in the background. Light. Pretty. Peaceful. The notes starting low, slow. Then reaching high like valleys to hills. There is a grief to this song too as it reaches a climax. It makes my heart ache a little and then- it reaches the other end of the piano and there it is- the soothing higher notes.

Because life is like a piano song- it is easy to think that the white keys are pure joy and the black keys are pure grief. But the thing is- the black notes can make graceful beautiful soothing melodies too.

It leaves me wondering, how pleasure and pain both flow mingled down. Rain quenches the earth and yet it erodes it away. There is no removing loss from our lives but there is always hope in the higher octaves.

My soul gasping out since the start of this difficult year- where is God when it all crushes and sucks the life out of lungs and sheers off the dreams and takes me to my knees? But this realization- just as I would have given myself up in a heartbeat for yours to keep on beating, He is there for me too. He can’t bear to let my grief spill careless and lost

And all these tears, all this rain. It all brings sowing and planting. I may weep in my private still moments but I press on- and that is exactly what got me through these last few days.

I may sorrow but I still sow. And though I’ve been broken missing you, I still bend and begin, working. I tell my hurts I must still do the task at hand and even though I may not feel like it, the “field” needs seeds. So I unpack and hang this frame and that frame as I try to just hang onpraying that out of loss, new life will unfurl. I give up my need for answers and control. My soul please remember that letting go is the true source of freedom and that it will all come together in the most splendid of times.  And I must be willing let go of the life I had planned so as to have the life that is waiting for me.

 I put one foot in front of the other and ask myself-

I have today, now. What do I make of it?”

Some people tease me because I like to play a game of sharing our “high’s” and “low’s” of the day over dinner. The conversation starter is met with moans and groans and distracted hmm mm’s from screen lit faces but once it starts it often opens a can of warmth or honesty or rawness that wouldn’t have come otherwise. It’s a connection that doesn’t require a signal.


The first day of this new year left me reflecting on my own highs and lows of 2012 but instead of relying on a black and white list of an end of the year reel, I wished for a do-over.

Last year, when the clock struck midnight I was surrounded by people who I only know now through filtered pictures and hashtagged updates. The world was full of promise and the puzzle seemed to be falling into place.  But as one by one those pieces fell away and I was left with hurdles to jump, climb, limp over- my bare heart will be honest and say that it feels like a failure.

How do you step hopeful into the next year when you tripped messy through the last one? How do you stand brave and ring it in when you are still tired?

But then I think of standing in the middle of the street at midnight as the clock struck 2013, alone in that moment in awe at the explosions in the sky- stronger, surer, straighter-until I am almost knocked over by 3 teenage boys with bear hugs and a tipsy coworker grabbing my arm and whispering “this is your year” and a kiss on the cheek and a quiet “I love you” and I know that any falls this year will be only forward.

Failing? (What feels like losing is really gaining experience)

Fearful? (Fear is always the first step of faith).

And I work myself up to going after the impossible today as I work on my to do lists: 
 
It’s on you. That’s where it starts and ends. 

(It’s on you & what you want & how hard you’re willing to hustle & how relentless you will be when people tell you to give up. Forget them. In the nicest sweetest way possible, forget them).

These goals are yours and you’re free to run towards them. Don’t wait on the corner for the direction to reveal itself, peace will flood in when it’s right but it’s through the first footsteps. You have one shot and the world won’t cry if you don’t use it. It’s on you.

Forget what you “think” the world is about, forget the status update or the mirror pic and remember what it is about: Humility, people. People trying to make this hard thing more graceful for each other.  
So strive to do good, strive to be the best version of yourself. Reflect. Learn from that year that made you feel weak. Stop letting people bend and break your heart. Play the music louder. Scream along with it if you need to. Walk away from anyone or anything toxic. You deserve better than that (and you have got to learn the truth of that sentence).

Learn to stand in front of the mirror without cringing. Let it out, say the damn things you have needed to say.

Make them good. Make them worth someone turning their head to listen to you.

 So start. Start small, start slow, start sprinting, start however. just start. It all starts with a simple question- are you worth it enough to start?

Some people tease me because I like to play a game of sharing our “high’s” and “low’s” of the day over dinner. The conversation starter is met with moans and groans and distracted hmm mm’s from screen lit faces but once it starts it often opens a can of warmth or honesty or rawness that wouldn’t have come otherwise. It’s a connection that doesn’t require a signal.

The first day of this new year left me reflecting on my own highs and lows of 2012 but instead of relying on a black and white list of an end of the year reel, I wished for a do-over.


Last year, when the clock struck midnight I was surrounded by people who I only know now through filtered pictures and hashtagged updates. The world was full of promise and the puzzle seemed to be falling into place.  But as one by one those pieces fell away and I was left with hurdles to jump, climb, limp over- my bare heart will be honest and say that it feels like a failure.


How do you step hopeful into the next year when you tripped messy through the last one? How do you stand brave and ring it in when you are still tired?


But then I think of standing in the middle of the street at midnight as the clock struck 2013, alone in that moment in awe at the explosions in the sky- stronger, surer, straighter-until I am almost knocked over by 3 teenage boys with bear hugs and a tipsy coworker grabbing my arm and whispering “this is your year” and a kiss on the cheek and a quiet “I love you” and I know that any falls this year will be only forward.


Failing? (What feels like losing is really gaining experience)


Fearful? (Fear is always the first step of faith).


And I work myself up to going after the impossible today as I work on my to do lists:

 

It’s on you. That’s where it starts and ends.


(It’s on you & what you want & how hard you’re willing to hustle & how relentless you will be when people tell you to give up. Forget them. In the nicest sweetest way possible, forget them).


These goals are yours and you’re free to run towards them. Don’t wait on the corner for the direction to reveal itself, peace will flood in when it’s right but it’s through the first footsteps. You have one shot and the world won’t cry if you don’t use it. It’s on you.


Forget what you “think” the world is about, forget the status update or the mirror pic and remember what it is about: Humility, people. People trying to make this hard thing more graceful for each other.  

So strive to do good, strive to be the best version of yourself. Reflect. Learn from that year that made you feel weak. Stop letting people bend and break your heart. Play the music louder. Scream along with it if you need to. Walk away from anyone or anything toxic. You deserve better than that (and you have got to learn the truth of that sentence).


Learn to stand in front of the mirror without cringing. Let it out, say the damn things you have needed to say.


Make them good. Make them worth someone turning their head to listen to you.


 So start. Start small, start slow, start sprinting, start however. just start. It all starts with a simple question- are you worth it enough to start?

And when the texts pour in and the emails pour in and the news pours in and the radio is pouring in and all we need is (a) love (letter).

….And maybe a chunky soft cable knit sweater. One to slip on and pull up and wrap around your hands while you wrap your fingers around a cup of tea and curl up to soothe yourself.
 

Maybe it’s one of them days because you figure your heart is failing when it yells frustrating curses, or when you feel like a Christmas failure in the age of Pinterest or when the holidays brings you a sadness you can’t explain despite it being your favorite time of year—(and don’t ask me how I know all these things.)
 

Sometimes the only thing you know by heart is that your heart knows it hurts.
 

(Before I write further, it is important to put this out in the open: I speak words of optimism and joy and I believe fully in them. However, as long as I can remember I have been a broken hearted girl. I have always been for other people’s stories and wouldn’t have it any other way. )
 

But its on them days, when it’s hard to wrap thoughts around what your heart is feeling, it’s time to simply delight in the simple syllables:
 

I miss you. I love you. I need you.
 

(the hardest to recite)
 

It’s often on these days when love words are needed most that the only adoration you get is from a John Mayer song that was recorded years ago about daughters and you think to yourself- “wouldn’t it be lovely to be the girl who puts the colors inside of the world?”. Keep your headphones in and let the salty goodness flow, tears of ache and the missing getting thick.
 

On them days you will curse songs on the radio that bring an ache to your bones. There will be days when all you wish for is someone who knows the depths of your heart and loves every achy breaky piece of it. 

There will these days when all you can do is sit on the kitchen counter spooning peanut butter into your mouth as dinner and with feet perched up watch the most hauntingly beautiful Christmas movie and just allow yourself to feel. Let it wash over and let it spill into your sweater and mug.
 

But then let it go. For your own good, let it go and realize that these same hands wiping the mess off your cheeks are the same hands that have held dirty little fingers and toes of children all over the world who have nothing, the same hands that have used the universal language of hugging to comfort a woman who has seen the depths of pain. These are the same hands that have protected, given, worked, created and loved all over the world. On them days, marvel at the good that these two hands have had the privelage of doing and thank the Giver of hands and life and breath.
 

And place those hands on your sweatered hips and get outside and face the world and remember that when our believing runs out God’s loving runs on.

And that’s the best place for miracles, right where we don’t always have it in us to believe.

Drive a lil slower tonight and take in the beauty that is living on lawns this time of year. It will be gone soon so take it all in- "Through the years we all will be together, if the fates allow… From now on your troubles will be miles away”. —(Lines I never thought to believe in, hand clutched to chest, until the red cups come out and the white lights bring a tear to my eye and it’s the 31 day span made for Joy, Faith, Love and Simplicity.) That’s the Hope in it all. The delicacy. The possibility. The chance to believe…and it sure is wonderful-all of this warmth and it’s ability to take you in and hold you by a hope you never knew you could have.

Drive a lil slower tonight and take in the beauty that is living on lawns this time of year. It will be gone soon so take it all in-

"Through the years we all will be together, if the fates allow… From now on your troubles will be miles a
way”.

—(Lines I never thought to believe in, hand clutched to chest, until the red cups come out and the white lights bring a tear to my eye and it’s the 31 day span made for Joy, Faith, Love and Simplicity.) That’s the Hope in it all. The delicacy. The possibility. The chance to believe…and it sure is wonderful-all of this warmth and it’s ability to take you in and hold you by a hope you never knew you could have.

This is about my someday daughter, already stung stained with insecurity begging, ‘mom, will i be pretty?’….I will wipe that question from her mouth like cheap lipstick and answer, ‘No, the word pretty is unworthy of everything you will be and no child of mine will be contained in five letters. You will be pretty intelligent, pretty creative, pretty amazing, but, you will never be merely pretty.’

How fickle my heart.

I.

In these bodies we will live. In these bodies we will die. 

Where you invest your love, you invest your life. 

Awake my Soul!!

II.

It’s never the wasting of time that hurts so much as the wasting of ourselves. 

III.


To do lists and planners and phone syncing and apps for this and apps for that. So much at our fingertips to make the most efficient life possible. 

But calendars can con: there are really only as many days left as you actually really live.

In the end, everyone ends up at the length of their lives — but only a few live the whole width of a life.

There must be a balance between always hurrying on to the next meeting or brushing of experience in order to cross of the the next box on the to do list. I am first to be guilty of this. Always have, always will be. I was making checklists before I could do my times tables.

But there’s another side to my Soul that craves adventures and getting dirty and experiencing new cultures- even just a culture in the inner most parts of my city where the rules and language are foreign to my own. 

And my Heart? Your Heart? We need relationships. We were made as such. 

Because Relationships are going to be the only thing standing at our funeral. 

So this is an awakening of another sort. Value is a subjective word- one which I am debating Stability vs Experience over. Value of comfort vs Value of happiness. 

How to Really Live

It’s like an awakening.

Sometimes I look around my office and in the grocery store, the bank, the traffic light..and everyone is so busy and on their phones “hmm mm”-ing to their loved one’s stories and trying to do so much stuff all at once but not really truly living.

I can only bow my head.

Because there are a thousand ways to be lukewarm and there’s a reason I know that. I’ve been apathetic about Grace  and casual about God and you can lose your First Love faster than you can lose the 100 meter dash. And when you lose your First Love, you don’t just lose your way — you lose your mind.

And then I read about a man who 70 plus years ago as of August 9th, changed my perception of living today.

Maximillion Kolbe. 1894-1941

At the very end of July 1941, WWII, a man escaped from Auchwitz. And the Nazis’ protocol to discourage attempts at escape was simple: One man escapes — ten men were executed in his place. So after the escape of this one man, all the men, looking like bags of bones, are called out of the barracks.

 So in front of the barracks, one man is standing: Franciszek Gajowniczek. And he’s thinking: Out of hundreds, I just have to escape being one of the 10 names.

The Nazi commandant calls the first name, second, third, fourth. Franciszek Gajowniczek hopes hard that he would live to see 42… live to hold his children close again…seventh, eighth, ninth names… And then they barked the tenth name: Franciszek Gajowniczek. He falls to the ground. Near starving, he peels back every shred of dignity and he flat out begs, ‘No, I am married! I have children! I am young! I beg of you! I will never see them again!!’

And behind him a man steps forward so all can see his face —- Maximillian Kolbe — a Polish priest. Known to give up his food rations to those less hungry than he was. A man known to give his blanket to those not as cold as he was and to be an active voice against Nazi violence… he steps forwards silently, takes off his cap, and he says:

Let me take his place. He has a wife and children. I am not married. I am not a father. He is young. I am old. Take me.”

Maximilian Kolbe was only 6 years older than Gajowniczek — 47.

And Kolbe, he was dragged off like a dog with the nine other men, left to starve.

He then spent the next 14 days singing hymns and praying with those nine other men, as one by one, all of them starved to death… And only one month prior to Kolbe being dragged off to starve, he had written this to his mom:

Dear Mama, I am in the camp of Auschwitz. Everything is well in my regard. Be tranquil about me and about my health, because the good God is everywhere and provides for everything with love.’”

That last line gets me. Lump in my throat as I realize this:  If a man in the midst of one the most hideous scenarios known in the history of the world could write a line like that — not from a bad day at the office or a hard day with the kids, but from the death stench of Auschwitz — how can anyone deny this ultimate iron-clad testimony : A Good God is everywhere — and provides for everything with love.  

How can I believe anything different when the obligations pile and the relationships are wearing and I’m buried in worries and a friend tells me the doctors have given her 60-90 days to live and even breathing can cause this pain in your chest?

If Maximilian Kolbe could stand in Auschwitz and write “Be tranquil — because the good God is everywhere and provides for everything with love” — is there ever really anything that should make one lose tranquility? That peace that is supposed to surpass understanding- does it really? Or is it LIMITED to my own (very meek) understanding? The good God is everywhere and provides for everything with love.

At the end of the 14 days, when Kolbe was still alive — still alive and still singing and breathing and giving thanks to God — the Nazi’s plunged a lethal injection into Maximillian Kolbe.

What line was I singing back in January in Atlanta when everything seemed to be going perfectly? “Bless the Lord, O my soul, Worship His holy name…” Let me be singing that in voice and in soul and in spirit all my days.

We often sing it but who lives it?

Kolbe had. And the Nazis had tossed his body into a mass grave.

Maximillian Kolbe was the first man who had ever offered his life for another man in the history of Auschwitz.

He would be the only man.

The man who saw that a good God is everywhere and provides for everything with love.

And Gajowniczek?  Gajowniczek would live to be released from Auschwitz. His sons were all killed. But he found his wife and a small home in Poland.He said this:

Because of Maximilian Kolbe, every breath that I take, every thing that I do, every single moment, is to me — -like a gift.’”

I am Gajowniczek. I deserve nothing and yet I have so much. How do I so quickly forget that and so easily remember this year so far of challenges and forget the blessings? How can I not sing thanks from my core, my bones and radiate love? How can any of it be less than a gift?

It’s time to be tired of being the living dead.

There is breath in my lungs.And rain on the window and people I love and a cup of tea right here in my lap and provision and shelter and there is today and health and who doesn’t unwrap all these gifts with utter thanks?

I don’t want to act frivolously. Because every. Single. Moment is full of meaning. Because it is all a gift to me from the One who gave me life that I might breathe this breath and embrace every moment and never take anything for granted.

It’s all a gift.

“Four years after his martyrdom, on August 9th, 1945, the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki but the monastery that Maximilian had founded years before WWII. Miraculously it survived. Maximilian’s Feast Day, when people around the world (who knew!?) celebrate his life and sainthood as a hero, falls one week after Nagasaki Day.”

Each year- a week is spent reflecting on the best and worst that human beings are capable of.

"Racism isn’t born, folks. It’s taught. I have a 2-year-old son. Know what he hates? Naps. End of list."

— Denis Leary, 1992