Life Happens

From the Heart of Grace Waters…


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No Tricks Just Treats

Remember that last circumstance you found yourself in, and you couldn’t quite understand the good in it? Remember how it felt as if you were in the middle of a Halloween prank, and at any moment Ashton Kutcher was going to jump out and say, “You’ve been punked?” Yes, I know it’s fresh on your mind because we all have situations like that. I have had more than my share, and each time it never felt good. Those situations can make you skittish, hesitant, and have you looking over your shoulder waiting for the next proverbial shoe to drop. That is a hard feeling–a rough way.

I look back over the years, and I can vividly recall some of these moments in my life. I remember thinking that life was playing tricks on me, and there was no way good could ever come of “this.” Sometimes the situations had me feeling ashamed, other times nervous, but many times alone. What each situation had in common, though, was that it chiseled away at my “wanting to be optimistic” heart, and instead injected a bit of pessimism into the corners of my being. I found myself sinking into a sea of undesired thoughts, and when I raised my hand for help, it seems I sunk even further.

But, we all know that as much as we want to believe it, life is not a game. There are no tricks in our living. We can’t roll back time and change what has been; nor can we coerce our future into dealing us the best hand. What we can do, however, is stack the deck.

What if our perspective shifted? What if we understood that though life can be unexpected, how we view it can determine positive outcomes? For instance, the fact that after a hard day, we have another whole day to make things better, is a treat. The fact that we can love after heartbreak, smile after we have been let down, and forgive after we have been betrayed, is all a treat. Life is never what we expect, but the major blessing in it all is that each new day is a treat that we get to unwrap and savor.

So, what will you choose to do with your treats? Will you savor each one as they come? Will you stay so caught up in the “tricks” which appear in life that you are unable to enjoy the sweetness of what’s to come? I am guilty of holding on more to the tricks than savoring the treats. It’s time to change that.


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Adjust to the Season

Here in Georgia, if you look hard enough you will see the leaves changing colors and the sparseness begin as those same leaves begin to fall from the trees; however, though officially fall, someone forgot to tell the weather the same. The weather is still warm, even at night, but it is still fall. If we aren’t careful, we will function as if it is summer-cut off shirts, shorts, and sandals…leaving the gym sweaty and not covering up…behavior that denotes we’re in a different season. Just because it “feels” one way does not negate the fact that fall is upon us.

The same holds true in our lives. When we go from one season to another, sometimes we function as if we are still in the old place we used to be. Because it “feels” like it used to, we behave like we used to, and when we get the same results, we pat ourselves on the back for not falling for the “lie” that something has changed. Regardless of our feelings, life, like the weather, keeps moving. With the weather, if we refuse to put on a jacket, or we do not dress according to the season we are in, that opens the door for sickness. In a similar fashion, if we don’t navigate the changing seasons of our lives, we fall prey to depression, doubt, fear, rejection, and a myriad of other things that we could avoid if we adjusted.

Maybe we are trying to hold on to the last vestiges of what was a great time. For instance, I enjoy moderate heat and sunshine and detest cold and murky days, but how would I look wearing sandals and a tank top in the dead of winter just because I want to pretend that nothing has changed?

Things change. We change. Seasons change. We have to adjust our lives to fit our current season so we can stay ready when things change again. Get ready. Flow with the changes.


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No Apologies

I remember a time when it was normal for me to harp on my low moments. It was how I shaped my existence and how I determined whether I was coming or going. I never thought that glorifying the negative would be how I functioned, but doing so became a place of comfort and familiarity for me. It was easier, in those moments, to accept what was rather than believe that there was better. So, instead of hoping, I succumbed to the cycle of low moments, defeat, doubt, and fear.

It wasn’t until I began to realize that it is not just the low moments that define who we are. Yes, those moments can change the periphery of our lives, but it is also those moments that take our breath away and bring us joy which change our lives. For a long time, I was focused on negative, so when good things came, I often hid them or tried to downplay them. I went to the other extreme of “hiding my good fortune” because I didn’t want others to think I was rubbing it in their faces. I wanted to still be accepted and not seen as “better than.” But, then I thought about the years of negativity, and the times when it was my daily struggle getting past certain things, and my mindset shifted.

No longer would I hide the blessings coming my way, and no, I wouldn’t be arrogant about it; however, I know that my blessings can indeed encourage someone else. No longer will I apologize for the highlights in my life. I dwelled on the low moments, so it’s time to focus on something else.

Too often, we are so concerned with how others will see us when we talk about the good things in our lives, but just as we harp on the negative, we also have to talk about the good. Never apologize for blessings. Every single one is another one to be thankful for.


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My Own Competition

Every year around this time, I find myself rewinding through the first half of the year. I think about the goals I set and the desires I contemplated, then I compare those things to the present. Each year, I tell myself that no matter what, I will be proud of my progress. Each year, even so, I have found myself disappointed when I haven’t accomplished what I set out to do. This year, as I meditated on the year so far, I saw a lot of places where I thought things would be different–places where I thought there would be more progress. I could get upset myself, OR I could choose to celebrate and push even harder for the rest of the year. Either way, I really am competing with myself to be better this time next year than I am today.

Sometimes we get caught in the trap of comparing ourselves to others. We use others as an excuse for why we are not better. Then we get caught up in the trap of complaining that things can’t get better because of others. I’m guilty of that. Some things depend on others, but in the end, us being better than where we are right now is totally dependent on us.

So, maybe you are at a place where you are replaying what has occured so far this year. Maybe you are disappointed. Maybe you don’t see how things can change. I get it. But, instead of staying stuck in that place, it’s time to challenge yourself and determine that by the end of THIS year, you will be proud of how far you have come. It starts with you.


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Enough

We all have feelings of inadequacy…that overwhelming feeling that we’re not good enough. Many of us have spent years of our lives trying to prove to others that we matter, and daring anyone else to call our bluff. In our quest to prove our worth, sometimes we have sought validation from those who really don’t matter and we have pushed away those who do. This never-ending quest to prove ourselves usually only ends in disappointment, and that disappointment is not so much with others as it is with ourselves. At one point we should have realized within ourselves that no matter our shortcomings, we are still more…

For years, in one way or another, I struggled with my feelings of just not being enough…in friendships, with family, in my marriage, on my job…and the list goes on. Now, there have been people who have told me and intimated their belief in my inadequacy, but much of my struggle was about me; however, there comes a point when regardless of the things about you which are still a work in progress, you can look at yourself and say, “I am still enough.” Maybe I am not everything “they” want me to be. Maybe I am not the image of whom even I thought I would be at this point in my life, but “I am enough.” Tell that negativity party going on in your mind that the party is over. There is another part of your story waiting to be written. You are enough.


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What Kind of World Is This?

I had an interesting experience recently, and it made me really start considering the world we live in. Now, I am not in the least bit naive, nor do I walk around with rose-colored glasses believing that “everything is awesome;” however, I tend to believe the best in a situation as much as possible. Recently though, my optimistic nature took a crushing blow as I had to consider some unfortunate realities. Now, what I say in this post is not to be inflammatory or place blame on anyone. It is, however, the reality I had to face. Unfortunately, I had a death in the family and had to make plans to travel with my family for the home going service (funeral). Of course, with a new baby there are many things to consider. What I did not expect to have to consider is the safety of my family just because of the color of our skin.

As I began to plan the route and hotel stays, etc, I found myself googling “safe cities to stop in for black people,” and considering when to travel in an effort not to be on long stretches of highway at night. I started thinking about how to stay under the radar as to not draw the attention of police or anyone looking to cause trouble. It is not that we would be doing anything wrong or even going where we were not supposed to. I was considering our world’s climate. I vacillated back and forth, knowing that not all cops are bad and all people are not driven by hatred based on the color of someone’s skin; however, the fact that I even had to consider our safety JUST BECAUSE of the color of our skin hurt my heart.

I know racism and hatred have been a part of our society for years, but the blatant issues of the last few years have constantly drained me. When did it become acceptable to hate someone and show that hatred because of the color of their skin, nationality, sexual preference, gender, etc? Just because I don’t agree or have differing opinions regarding something should not give me a right to act inappropriately towards another. What happened to love, to giving people a chance, to being better than our base instincts? What would happen if we chose love?

How unfortunate it is that people have to consider their safety because of their difference, and that being able to live is seen as a privilege, not a right. What happened to our world? As I type this, my heart bleeds for those feeling marginalized, oppressed, disregarded, and unnecessary…for those who silently wonder if the person next to them secretly hates them…for those who just want to enjoy life but are constantly on edge. My heart hurts for you.

So, my experience of planning our trip brought up some deep feelings I did not realize were present to that extent. This makes me know that there are many people struggling with their own feelings. It may not be about race. It could be about gender, or sexual orientation, or age…either way, people are struggling, so when do we decide to change our world?

Maybe what starts in the mind and heart can transition to action…just maybe…


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When Life Shifts

Life happens quickly. Some things we can prepare for, while other things happen without us being able to get ready. Either way, once things shift, we have to determine our response to it. My life has been a steady avalanche of changes over the past few months. There have been some things I was anticipating, but often there have been things that were completely unexpected. Take the birth of my first child, for instance…my pregnancy was “normal” for a while, but towards the end, complications arose that changed every one of my birth plans. It would have been easy to stay completely stressed out due to the complications, but I had to make a conscious decision to be at ease. No, my first child was not born like I wanted, but the end result is that she is here. That in itself is enough.

Life has this way of reminding us that there are some things that will forever be beyond our control. How we respond to what happens can determine the next steps and how things play out for us. By learning to let go of the notion of always being in control, and remembering that when life shifts we were created to also be able to shift, we can make things just a bit easier for ourselves. The beauty of life is that even when things change, everything eventually works itself out. So, don’t get caught up in the shift. Flow with it.