I had the opportunity to travel to Hawaii recently in celebration of my 10 year wedding Anniversary. I was excited to rest and relax, but even more excited to have no real plans for about two weeks. As my husband and I drove to our hotel from the airport, I admired the view. The landscape was different, but beautiful. I saw the water, and then I saw the volcano rock. All around, there was rock. I wondered about wildlife and vegetation in this area of the drive. Then, I started noticing a grass-like growth seemingly right from the rocks. I admired the steadfastness of the growth and the fact that while nothing else was growing out of that rock, this grass was. I remarked to my husband how amazing that was, then I began to ponder on the significance of what was going on. It made me do some thinking about life. Sometimes our situations seem dark and do not, seemingly, have a foundation from which we can grow. In the midst of our trials, we despair. We fret. We struggle to see the end of the process; But we forget that every process produces growth within us. Just like the grass growing out of the rocks, out of a hard and impossible place, we too grow and evolve. We SURVIVE. The situations may not be ideal, and we may not like how we come to our growth moments, but it happens. So, we have to be as resilient as that grass growing out of the rock. Keep growing. Refuse to bend. Decide not to let go. But grow through it. Thrive. Be. Do. Just because you can.
You wake up when your alarm jerks you awake. You start running around, preparing for another busy day. You hastily get dressed, and head into the office for another day of endless meetings and piles of work. At some point, you realize it’s time to head back home, so you leave the office already thinking about the things you have to accomplish in the next day. You get home. Maybe eat some dinner. Then you go to sleep only to start the same cycle the very next day. Does this seem like you? Have you gotten so wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of doing life that you have forgotten to LIVE life. In all that we do, all the running, all the giving to others, all the sacrifices, all the building and growth moments, how often do we take a moment to breathe? Not thinking about everything else we have to do, or where else we have to be, but choosing to be in a moment and just breathe. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that life is not just about running around the proverbial hamster wheel, but it is about learning to embrace the moments. Breathing in the moments. Enjoying the moments. It takes being intentional, and sometimes being a little selfish, but you are worth every bit of it. Now, try it. Just breathe.
I was minding my business when a colleague approached me asking for a favor. I used to automatically respond, “Sure, what do you need?” Not anymore. I have gotten myself into some sticky situations by automatically agreeing. 🙂 So, as I waited for her to tell me what she wanted, she held up a tangled necklace and asked if I could fix it. Now, staring at the mess in front of me, I wondered how in the world she thought I could fix it, but she had faith in me that I could. So, I watched myself (kind of an out-of body experience) reach out my hand to accept this jumbled mess. I told her I would get to it in a bit, but as I stared at the mess before me on my desk, I could not resist at least trying to get it right. The going was intense. Every time I thought I had fixed the mess, another tangle seemed to appear out of nowhere. At some point, I felt myself getting frustrated and almost deciding that it was not worth trying, but I kept going. When I heard myself in my head giving myself a pep talk, “Slow down. You’re going to get it. Just one loop at a time.” the chore became more of a puzzle. I love puzzles, so that worked for me. Finally, I got to the last knot, and I began to hurry because the suspense was almost over, but then it seems the necklace got more tangled. So, I remembered my advice to myself and I slowed down. After what seemed like forever, I finished untangling the mess, and came out with a beautiful necklace. Now, I am patting myself on the back for a job well done.
As I untangled the necklace, I thought about how life happens, and sometimes the decisions we make or the decisions others make regarding us leave us in a bind. We get tangled up and frustrated, and many times it may seem that we will never be able to straighten out the knots and twists that life has brought to us. But, just like the necklace took time and patience to untangle, so do our lives. The great thing about life is that things can always get back to “normal”, but it is the twists and turns that make it a bit more interesting. Even when our lives get jumbled up, there is always an opportunity for us to get ourselves together. Just as I had to help my colleague, sometimes, we have to help others untangle their lives. Even if it is left to us to fix the “mess” of our lives, we have to remember that some messes can’t be fixed immediately, but they take time, patience, and some setbacks. The blessing is that when we work to fix it, we appreciate the finished work.
Maybe your life has seemed like that necklace. A mess. Tangled up. Confused. Maybe it seems impossible to fix. But, I challenge you to take it one “knot” at a time. Keep working at it. Don’t give up when things seem to get more difficult. Just keep in mind the image of what you want your life to be, and work towards that goal. After all, we are all “a mess”, but we don’t have to stay that way.
Have you ever thought to yourself, “I’m just not good enough”, and you believed it deep down on the inside of you? Have you found yourself comparing yourself to someone else’s greatness, and finding your own self severely lacking? When was the last time you looked at yourself and said, “I am good just how I am?” Are you still thinking? That long, huh? Yeah, I understand.
I had a discussion with someone not long ago, and he reminded me that in the whirlwind of all that I do, I had lost the capacity to consider myself. I helped everyone else. I got pleasure from seeing others happy. But when he asked me what makes me happy, it took a while to think about it. Caught up in everyone else, I realized that part of my drive to make everyone happy was so that they didn’t look at me and see that I was struggling. I didn’t want anyone to see that I didn’t think I was good enough to live up to the big dreams God put in me, so I pushed everyone else’s vision, supported everyone else, encouraged everyone else…and somewhere along the way, I forgot about me. It is easy to do. Sometimes, we get so great at hiding our need from others that they begin to think we don’t need anything from them, and they become content allowing you to push their vision while yours gets dropped off on the side of the road. It’s not totally their fault. But as I spoke with this person, I began to remember the dreams I had put on the top shelf, not totally out of reach, but far enough away so that I wasn’t bothered by the sight of unrealized dreams.
I understood again that if the dreams were given to me, then I am good enough to function in them. It is timeout for losing the essence of me trying to be everything else for everyone else. Not to say that we shouldn’t support others and help push others, but not at the detriment of losing ourselves in the process. So maybe you have allowed yourself to believe that you’re not good enough, pretty enough, old enough, young enough, popular enough…destroy the lie. You ARE good enough. Now own it.
I am socially awkward. I am that one who CAN talk to everyone in the room, but probably won’t. The wallflower that is vibrant and vivacious, but would rather stay to myself. That one who loves everyone, but still gravitates to seeking my own company. I used to wonder why God gave me the personality He did. Why did he make me quiet and observant as opposed to outgoing and the life of the party? Why couldn’t he make me to be the one with a whole lot of friends and associates, rather than the one with very few friends and even fewer associates? I have watched those who seem to be well-liked by everyone, and I wondered about their secret. Then I tried to mimic who they were, but it made me feel fake and out of pocket. Eventually, I came to realize that the me the way God created me to be would have to do.
If you think about it, all of us having the same personalities would make for a very bland world. No differences. Same way of doing things. There is a place in society for all of us. For the quintessential wallflower, the gregarious life of the party, the easygoing in-the-moment participant…all of us. Now, I know that our lives sometimes shape who we are. Looking back at my childhood, my experiences shaped me to be unnaturally suspicious of anyone I encounter. Trusting someone is not always first on my list. Then as I grew older, my own mistakes led me into hiding. I used to think, “What if they knew all the things I have done. The wrong I have done to others…THAT mistake? Would they still think I had value?” But that is a mindset that has to be broken. Our lives lead to us portraying ourselves in certain ways, then we project that on others and stop being true to ourselves. I decided I would live my truth.
So now, when I say I am a wallflower, it is not out of fear of what people think about me. It is because I have learned to speak when I have something to say. But, I am the one in the gathering who will most likely be off to myself. Not antisocial. Not standoffish. Just comfortable in who I am. It took years to get here, but it has been worth the journey. Spend time getting to know yourself, and being comfortable with who you are. Your experiences shaped you, but they don’t define the rest of your story.
“Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?”
This is one of my favorite short poems by one of my favorite writers, Langston Hughes. It says so much in such a succinct way. Every time I read it, it challenges me to think about my dreams, and consider what has happened to them. Have I let them dry up or fester? Are my dreams rotting or sagging, or are they on the verge of exploding? Have I stopped believing?
It’s easy to stop believing. When life comes at you from every angle…heartache and pain…friends and family walking away…emotional anguish…feeling unsupported and unseen…loss of loved ones…it can seem that your dreams move further and further away until they are gathering dust on the top shelf of the deepest crevices of your heart. I have felt the pain of dreams seeming to dry up. One moment things seemed to be going in the right direction, but then it seemed like out of nowhere, nothing was working. Whatever I tried failed. No one could really understand when I talked to them about it. I was on the proverbial island all alone with my thoughts, and my thoughts were not the best companion. I saw before me the vast horizon in which I had cast much of my hopes on this particular dream, and then I saw myself almost being catapulted in the opposite direction of my dream. Then I saw how repeated failures and attempts, and repeated frustration brought me to the verge of calling it quits. To that point where you say, “I just don’t care”, and you throw in the towel. I started trying to convince myself that my life would be so much simpler if I just decided to give up on that particular dream. I would have more time, more freedom, less stress, less people watching, and I could get back to my life before I decided to believe. Oh, how simple it all seemed BEFORE this dream. So, that was almost the end.
But then I remembered the purpose placed on the dream. My dream was not to benefit just me, but to influence and change the lives of those connected to me. I had to throw some “water” on that dream and give it life. So, as much as I did not want to, I decided to breathe into the dream again. Now, things have not turned all the way around. Some days, I long for the more “simple” times, but I know there is a mission to tackle. Someone is waiting on me to walk into my dream world so they can know that it is possible. It is possible. Living in dreamland IS possible. Maybe you are like I was right now. You have watched as your dreams have seemed to shrink or turn to dust. You have tried everything you know how to get them to breathe again, but it seems that maybe you should give up on this dream. Don’t. If it was placed in you to believe in, then keep standing on it. Dust it off and try it all again. Some things don’t work right away, but we have to believe that they will. We have invested too much to let our dreams explode, so what do you need to do today to revive that dream? Get to it.
As we approach the holiday in which Christians celebrate Easter, or the day that Jesus rose from the dead, many may be focusing on their best Easter outfits. Still, others are planning the perfect Easter feast for the host of friends and family who may come to their homes to fellowship. In the midst of making all of these plans, often the true reason for the holiday is forgotten. Just to rehearse a little, in Christianity, it is stated that Jesus Christ died for everyone’s sins so that humanity had a chance to be redeemed. Jesus was crucified and buried, and on the third day, Jesus rose again from the grave. The celebration, on Easter, is about the fact that Jesus rose. As we approach this day, I revel in the journey that is revealed. Whether you believe in Jesus or the Easter story, the story is still one to glean from. Here, we have a man who chose to unselfishly sacrifice himself to redeem mankind. The process was undeniably painful. The appreciation from others may have seemed dismal. Yet, this man pressed through the pain into what he was purposed to do. Again, whether you believe it or not, this is amazing to behold.
Imagine if we had a purpose so necessary and pressing, that despite what it felt and looked like, we still did the things that were painful to do. What would happen if we were so committed to the purpose of our lives, that despite obstacles, despite people not believing, in spite of us sometimes doubting ourselves, and even us wanting to let the “cup” pass from us, we persevered? What would happen? This world is filled with people who have lost their passion because of life and the many struggles they have endured. The pain has brought many to the point of being numb to their purpose, so they settle for a life of just having and being good enough. What would happen if we acknowledged the pain, but pressed towards our purpose? No, the ending may not seem worth it. You may not want to be everything for everyone. You may not even want to deal with the “craziness” it takes to walk out who you are, but there really is purpose in the pain. There is a reason for your specific journey. Just as Christians celebrate Jesus’ purposed pain, we too should celebrate that we are well able to endure whatever it is we have to deal with to get to our “place”. Don’t allow the process to get you off track, but instead use the process as a catapult to purpose. You were built for this.