Muddy Places

“She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.” ~ Proverbs 31:25

(Dear reader, a combination of computer issues, the Thanksgiving holiday, a deadline driven project at work, and a personal creative project caused me to fall behind on posting and, more importantly, reading your wonderful posts. Please bear with me while I catch up.)

When you’re pregnant at 16, people don’t forget. To your high school peers, you’ll always be the girl who had a baby. When you’re older, colleagues appear stunned when they learn your firstborn’s age. Well-meaning, and sometimes judgmental, comments like, “Were you 10 years old when you had him?” roll off tongues. Eventually, you stop telling his age.

With family members, the story is more complex. No matter how old you are, how respectable you’ve become through education, career, marriage or any number of factors that render us so in the eyes of society, they don’t forget. A tense undercurrent is always present, as if somehow your success and respectability are an accident, and that at any moment the fragile façade can unravel. You almost start to believe it. You wonder, do I really have my life together or is it a fluke? Is there something wild and untamed and naughty in me that will surface again and undo all my work?

I have an aunt who loves to remind me of what a brat she thinks I was when I was a girl, even though that was over 30 years ago. It’s the same aunt who, when I announced at age 29 that I was pregnant, remarked how different it would be for me this time, better, more enjoyable, because I was older and stable now. I never forgot her words. They seemed intended to negate, and demean, my entire experience as a first-time mother.

People don’t forget our pasts. Some can’t seem to move beyond them. There is danger in this if we allow their view of us to become part of our story. In this muddy place lies shame, fear, feelings of inadequacy, a sense of not being good enough or belonging. It’s the voice that whispers in our head that what we want doesn’t matter, that our creative spirit doesn’t deserve to shine, that we are destined to fail. It’s what holds too many of us back from embracing the present and welcoming the future.

Whatever is lurking in your past that other people won’t forget or can’t move beyond, please let it go. Their opinions and memories are not your story. Each day that you can live without internalizing their judgment is a new opportunity to grow in strength and dignity, and to shine your God-given light into the world. Your future is part yours to write, part destiny. Let no one take that away from you or make you afraid.

Beauty In Darkness

“I loved you at your darkest.” ~Roman 5:8*

tears 2We’ve all had dark moments, and have witnessed them in others. They are painful to go through, and sometimes more painful to watch. Not one of us can escape them. They are part of the human experience.

Which is probably why the first time I read this verse, it sent shivers down my spine. These six words are loaded with so much meaning. They speak of the full range of dark and light that is present at once during life’s most difficult moments.

They speak of deep, abiding, unconditional love. They speak of the despair and longing that reside in the recesses of the human soul. They speak of agony and trauma and self-inflicted pain. They speak of the shadow-filled corners that haunt the mind. They speak of hope, mercy, and redemption. They remind us that even in our darkest hour, we are loved, valued, remembered, and forgiven.

I imagine God watching us at these moments, the way a parent watches a sleeping child without him knowing. There is a raw, heart-breaking beauty to be found here.

*This verse is the modern version of: But God commandeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 KJV

Two Days In The Life Of An American Voter

Dear Readers,

100I’m excited to announce that this is my 100th post! I couldn’t have come this far without your readership, comments, and support. I cherish each and every one of you. THANK YOU!!!

Now, on to more serious topics. I’m bypassing my usual mid-week quote to share with you my two-day experience on this wild, historic, American presidential election ride.

November 8, 2016: Election Day
I arrive at the polling station (a local elementary school) in the morning to perform my civic duty. Regardless of whether or not you like the presidential candidates, it’s always a good idea to vote for your state and local representatives.

 

After sneaking on to the Internet all day at work to get election updates, I finally head home, where I cook dinner and then plant my rear end on the sofa, armed with a glass of wine and a romance novel, to watch history unfold.

 

By 1:00 AM, it’s clear that Trump’s going to win. I go to bed.

November 9, 2016: Day after election

 

My work schedule is too busy to call out. In the class I teach, we ditch the lesson plan because the students want to talk. Some of the females cry. They don’t want a president who brags about grabbing female private parts. The males are more subdued, except one, who vows to learn as much as he can about civics. In the afternoon, a student-led anti-Trump rally is held on campus. Some students boo it.

Is it me, or does this kind of remind you of The Hunger Games?

The Empire State Building, NYC, lit up with Trump. Is it me, or does this kind of remind you of The Hunger Games?

 

Two students, a male and female, watched Hillary's concession speech in my office with me. The female was crying; the male was stoic.

Hillary Clinton doing her civic duty. Two students, a male and female, watch her concession speech in my office. The female cries; the male is silent.

Until today, I’ve avoided posting anything on Facebook about the election. I didn’t comment on any Trump or Clinton bashing posts by “friends”, despite all of the mean-spirited rants, memes, articles, etc. about both candidates. Today, though, I finally cave in and write this:

voting-12

The post incites the wrath of my aunt. She lives in another state, has no idea who I voted for, or if I even voted for a presidential candidate at all, yet she makes lots of assumptions. She assumes this post has something to do with the Clintons, brings up Bill’s intern scandal, and demands I tell her if Hillary has ever volunteered in a soup kitchen when cameras weren’t watching. All of this is happening while I’m out to dinner with my husband and son, trying to relax and forget all about this election. Well, what did I expect when I posted this, right?

This post has nothing whatsoever to do with the Clintons, I say. I am merely looking to hold our next president accountable for some things I noticed during his campaign. But since she brought it up, both Bill’s and Trump’s behavior toward women is disgusting and unacceptable. Another Facebook “friend” adds that Clinton was rightfully impeached for it; Trump was elected president in spite of it. I refrain from commenting on this. As for the soup kitchen, I don’t know, Aunty, just as I don’t know if Trump has or not. Your guy won. Be glad. I hope he does a good job.

I truly hope, for our country’s sake, that he does a good job. And I’m so glad this election is over.

Don’t Ask, Who Am I? Ask, Can I Accept Who I Am?

“By the grace of God, I am what I am.” – 1 Corinthians 15:10

homeless-man-and-dog

Do you think the golden retriever thinks any less of the man because he’s homeless? Image via http://webneel.com/30-most-inspiring-photographs-worth-million-words-photography-series

Note to my readers: The other day my aunt posted an article on Facebook, 27 Beautiful Bible Verses For Every Woman In Need Of Love, Reassurance And Strength. I was so inspired by the verses that I’ve decided to devote my next 10 weekly musings to a topic related to select verses. The beauty of most of them is you don’t have to be religious, or even believe in a higher power (or be a woman), for their universal message to speak to you

What if you accepted yourself exactly as you are, and stopped trying to change?

We’ve all met people who seem to know exactly who they are, and who accept themselves despite their flaws. They stand out from the rest because they’re comfortable in their own skin. Their very presence seems to radiate from a place deep within, rather than from ego or identity. I’ve always admired such people. They are few and far between.

Maybe you’re one of those people. Or maybe you’ve experienced moments of such clarity, where you caught a glimpse of your true essence. For many of us, though, it’s a never ending journey of self-discovery, filled with twists and turns , false starts and promises.

We’re trying to find our place in this world. We’re searching for that perfect partner, perfect job, perfect house, perfect life that will finally reflect who we think we are, or who we wish to be. We read self-help books, attend self-improvement workshops, seminars, and retreats. We meet with therapists to try to get to the root of our unhappiness. We get plastic surgery, new jobs, new wardrobes, new partners, new kitchens. We drink and use drugs. We try to change our spouses, children, friends, and ourselves into what we think will be better versions than currently exist.

We get so wrapped up in our identities that we become them, convinced they make us who we are. But what if our identities don’t feel comfortable, like a dress or suit that doesn’t fit quite right, but we wear anyway? What if our identities were given to us by others, or assumed because we were merely doing what was expected of us? What if they were literally forced upon us? Imagine if our myriad identities were stripped away, our families and friends wiped out, our jobs lost, our ability to move our body taken away – who or what would we be then?

Who we are goes deeper than our identities. I can call myself wife, mother, friend, daughter, sister, employee, yoga practitioner, writer, but this doesn’t tell me who I am fundamentally. As long as who I am is defined by my relationships to people and things, I may never truly know myself at the soul level. Only here do we transcend any perceived flaws, imperfections, and false notions of who we are. The trouble is, it’s so hard to get to that place, and once there, can we accept who and what we find?

Can we accept that we were created perfect, despite our imperfections? That everything good, bad, beautiful, and ugly about us is exactly what was intended? Imagine if we were to fully embrace who we are naturally, if we stopped trying to be someone and something we’re not. We would no longer be fighting our true nature. We would no longer be rejecting ourselves, our gifts, and each other.

Acceptance is key. Think about the people in your life that you find difficult to accept as they are. Maybe it’s a child whose quirks grate on your nerves. Maybe it’s a relative whose personality rubs you the wrong way. Maybe it’s a spouse or partner whose habits annoy you. Maybe it’s the coworker who is a little bit too needy. If you cannot accept these people for who they are, how will you ever be able to accept yourself?

This week, I’m going to do my best to practice total acceptance, of myself and others. When that mean voice in my head tells me I screwed up, that I’m a lousy wife and mother, that my house is a disaster, that I should have gone to the gym more, I’m going to gently tell her to be quiet, and remind her that I’m perfect as I am. Ditto if she starts telling me similar stories about others. I’m going to make an effort to get to know myself better, to appreciate who I am, without trying to change a thing. I hope you’ll join me.