Life Happens

From the Heart of Grace Waters…


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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.


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Fruitful Barrenness

I remember it like it was just yesterday…”you have PCOS…” Then, I remember as the doctor’s, year-after-year, told me that I would need medications to regulate everything. As time went on, doctor’s begin to talk about infertility. I watched them make faces each time they asked about birth control and I denied using any. They asked about how long I had been married, and they made more faces. I saw it in their faces before they told me it would be highly unlikely that I would be able to have children due to my condition. Then, my last doctor stopped returning my calls, letting me know there was nothing else she could do unless I opted for an experimental surgery that could possibly help. So, there I was, at the end of the line, or so I thought.

But during the journey, despite the heartache and struggles, in spite of watching so many others get what I so desperately desired, I was planting seeds. I encouraged others. I pushed others to believe. I wiped others’ tears. In the back of my mind I knew that even in my heartache, others still needed me to be who God created me to be. Slowly, I began to see the fruits of my labor. I saw people at the moment they chose to keep believing. I watched as others saw their dreams realized, and I rejoiced. Aching inside, I celebrated the fact that while my body appeared to barren, my spirit was alive and well. It was a daily battle, but one I chose not to lose.

Just as I remember the doctor’s telling me about the blemish in me, I remember the day I started feeling a bit “strange.” It was an uncanny feeling, and I took a pregnancy test more to rule out the possibility than to affirm it. To my surprise, what I had almost given up on had become a reality. Three more tests later, I finally believed. My body had rejected what the doctor’s told me.

Ten years later, I am finally seeing what was becoming a distant hope. This was a reaffirming moment, a necessary moment.

So, today I come to encourage you. Maybe you have some things you are believing will come to pass. Maybe the naysayers are more rampant than the encouragers. Keep believing even if the belief shrinks to just a glow in the corner of your heart. In the waiting season, sow into others. Be to others what you sometimes need people to be to you. In your barren place, be fruitful. Let your spirit flourish in the midst of. This is not the end.


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Life Check In

So, how are those New Year resolutions going? Are you sticking to them, or has life succeeded in influencing you to kick them to the side? For me, life has been something else, but I intentionally didn’t make resolutions knowing that life will take that as a challenge sometimes. Instead, I declared that this year I would be “better.” This means that as much as I may have gotten off track last year, as long as I don’t do what I did last year, I qualify as being better. Now, to some that may seem to be a low threshold; after all, not doing what you did before does not make you your best, right? Wrong. Continuously striving for better gets you ever closer to that elusive “best;” however, if I can never see improvement, it is much easier to get stuck in the mire of “not good enough.” I refuse to be stuck.

So, no matter how far off from your resolve you have wandered, I have some breadcrumbs to get you back on track. Each day that seems a bit off, strive to do the next day differently. The beautiful thing about life is that there are numerous chances to start again from right where we are. It’s up to us how many times we take advantage of the fresh start. So, maybe this first month of the new year has challenged you and won, but tomorrow is another day for you to fight back. Are you ready?