The Box

There’s this box. 

It might be your street, your neighborhood, your town or your city.  It might be your family or your clique of friends.  It might be your job or career.  It might be your religion or spirituality.  It might be your passions or interests.  It might be the color of your skin, your gender or your economic class.  And it might be a mixture of all of those.

You’re in a box.  You’ve created it.  You sat down inside and rested the lid on the top.  

It feels so safe in there. 

You filled your box with those people that are like you. People that agree with you.  That have the same beliefs and opinions.  The same interests.  The same career path.  The same energy.  You talk alike, dress alike, look alike.  Sometimes you even have names for yourselves.  It really is so nice inside.

Wait a second…

Someone has an opinion that differs from yours?  Close the lid tighter.  Someone doesn’t want to take up the same activity as you?  Tighter.  Someone doesn’t fully support the path you’re currently choosing? Keep closing it.  

We keep them out.  We push them out.  We feel so comfy.  We stay so one-sided.

Uh oh.  Then someone in your box changes?  It feels almost like chaos erupting.  But the easiest thing to do is to push them out of the top.  Lid closed.  No longer welcome.  Whew.

It seems like the light is shining bright all around you.  You want to be a light and spread it to others.  You have great intentions and your attitude and energy are awesome.  You shine.  But guess what?  There’s a lid.  It’s sealed.  Your light may be shining, but only within your walls.  You don’t even realize it.  

You think you’ve got it all figured out.  Those that sit on the outside of the box are the ones that are wrong. You judge them.  You don’t want to.  You know you shouldn’t.  But you do.  Your ego says your way is the best way.  Your way to the top is the right one. Your religion is a better one.  Your way of thinking is right.  The color of your skin is better. The political party you are a part of is the only way.

You’re wrong.  I’m wrong.

You know, we all have a box that we put ourselves in.  Maybe a few of them.  I think it’s pretty normal for all of us.  Some of our boxes are made of paper and some of them are made of steel.  Only you know what your walls are made of and how tight your lid is on.  

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I’m sharing this story of this box because this has been my life for many years.  I am only speaking openly, honestly and transparently to you because this was me.  Many of you, I shut out.  Many of you, I pushed out.  It felt comfy being in there with those that I chose. It really did.  I loved those people with all of my heart.  I still do.  But here’s what happened.  I’ve allowed my steel walls to turn to plaster and then to cardboard and then to paper.  The lid released from the top.  The paper sides started burning.  And the light that was trapped began to shine brighter.  I was curled in a ball inside of that box, going along with the motions for quite some time.  But as the walls came down, my arms and legs stretched out wide.  I reached out the top.  And the light…  Oh the light…  

“I feel like I know you again… my friend is back!” said one of my dearest friends recently.  Someone that I wanted to be close to me so badly it hurt, although I had no idea that I what I had actually done to push her away.

It’s not just that one friend.  It’s many.  I have spent months healing from the damage that I did in some of my relationships, when I didn’t even realize at the time how much damage I was doing.  I’ve reconnected and reengaged in friendships that were so special to me.  Thank God, they have opened their arms and said something similar – ‘I’m so glad you’re back’.  Each time this has happened I have been more and more enlightened.  To who I was.  To who I am.  To who I want to be.

The people that have just met me in the past 6 years of my life don’t know the person that I was before.  You met or came to know a different version of me.  Something that I allowed someone else to create.  So much of that ‘new me’ is good and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  I learned a lot and changed in good ways.  But there was much of the ‘old me’ that was good too that I let go.  So it may be hard for you to get what I’m saying if you haven’t known me long.  But if you have, I think you know.  You’re shaking your head.  YES.  Exactly.

It’s interesting to me also to see reactions of others as my walls came down.  Those that were in the box that stuck with me.  Loved me anyway.  And those that haven’t.  Those that really are trying so hard and maybe I’m the one that is struggling through it.  Maybe it feels like I’m pushing people away, but actually, I’m just trying to figure out how to get all of my worlds in the right balance.

I think we will all continue in our boxes to a certain degree.  It is normal and real life. And I think it’s a constant battle.  But we can be better people if we are more aware of what we have created and continue to create in the future.  

You see, the bottom line is, we can’t be LOVE, we can’t truly be the LIGHT that God wants us to be, if all we see is what we’ve created.  We just can’t.  We can’t teach our children to accept differences –  rich, poor, black, white… if we stay confined within our walls, within our towns, within our cities, within our cliques, within our workplace.  There’s a world out there that needs us.  That needs our love.  That needs our friendship.  Regardless of our own paths and beliefs.  Yes, we have those. Certainly. And not everyone is going to like yours.  So what.  Love them anyway.

You think your light is shining as bright as it can.  I thought mine was too.  But in reality, I had put out a lot of flames in my path in order for mine to shine brighter.  Come along or stay behind, but if you stay behind, bye bye, get out of my box because I’m moving right along without you.  If you have said this, if this is you.  Stop it.  It hurts.

For years I have quoted others and I have said myself, ‘Relationships aren’t something, they are everything.’  Oh wow, how I agree.  But how blind I was as to what was going on around me.

God is LOVE.  LOVE DOES.  We can’t DO and BE all that God wants if we don’t take off the lid and let the walls come down, or at least expand them a little bit. 

“For what it’s worth, it’s never too late to be whoever you want to be.  I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start over.”  F Scott Fitzgerald

(Thank you to my friend, Lori, my Southern cousin, for your wisdom and inspiration for this post.  For allowing me to see it a little different). 

When Your World Turns Upside Down

The rain turned over to snow this past weekend and families all over the South enjoyed playing outside. It may have just been a dusting or so, but enough! The Northern part of me has just decided that enough is enough.  Winter is the main reason we left the cold tundra of the ‘Burgh’ all of those years ago and I could totally do without it. Forever. It’s pretty to watch and that’s just about it for me.

But I digress…. The kids enjoyed themselves tremendously! My daughter even made ‘snow cream’ with her friend. And ate a leaf… Making memories, y’all!

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I have no idea how the girls managed a snowman this big, but I’m extremely impressed! Her name is Pricilla, by the way.

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I decided to get a little warmer on Saturday, so I went over to Ember for an inversion workshop with Carson Clay Calhoun.  Blown away.  If you have this picture in your mind that people that do yoga are just breathing, meditating, chanting ‘OM’ and trying to touch their toes, may you expand your mind.  I have known many strong people in my life, but lately I have been in the company of some of the strongest.  You know what’s really amazing?  What I’ve found is that these yogis have the perfect mixture of physical strength, mental strength and peace.  Mental strength – I’ve done my work on that over the years.  I’d say I’ve become mentally strong, having learned from a wonderful expert of a teacher and coach.  But to finally be able to combine this with peace has been freeing. Yogis have peace because they know who they are.  I’m getting there too.  And physical strength?  Well, Rome wasn’t built in a day.  

Cattywampus Snow Days and My Favorites

So it’s not really snowing.  But we live in Atlanta, so there.  We get to shut off our alarms, stay in our jammies and watch it rain.  And really, pray there is no ice. Because that’s never a good thing.  

I’ll take you back to December 15, 2010 when the ice hit as we drove home from a nice mall visit to see Santa. Kids all dressed up in cute matching outfits.  And it was like the apocalypse.  Once I made it to my street, my husband had just seen a car go down so he thought it was ok for me to try.  And then we started sliding.  Down the hill.  By the grace of God, and only by the grace of God, my van stopped horizontally in the middle of the street on the middle of a hill.  It was the closest thing to a near death experience I’ve ever had.  And even scarier was getting my three kids out of the car, the youngest being 1 year old and having to get us down to the house on a sheet of ice.  

And then again in 2014 when an early dismissal for ice resulted in buses sliding down Towne Lake Parkway and moms having to walk to school to retrieve their children.  I didn’t live here at that time, but I lived it through my friends.  The header picture above is what the entrance to our neighborhood looked like during that event.

No, we don’t take potential ice storms lightly here in Georgia.  I don’t, anyway.

This video sure made me laugh though.  

SNL Weekend Update: Atlanta Snow Storm

My favorite part, “The fair Georgia lady shone her gold radiance down upon the Yankee slush.” 

And that day in December 2010, we definitely were all cattywampus.  So I’ll stay inside today and take this moment to tell you about some of my recent favorite things.

What I’m watching:

Downton Abbey

I’m serious, why have I waited so long?  I’m entirely engrossed in the saga of the Granthams and the Crawleys.  I suspect that Abbie and I will be watching just a few episodes over the next few days (or seasons).

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Fixer Upper

If you’ve never seen the show and you could go back to one episode, let that be Season 3, Eposide 5: Chip and Jo’s Favorite Houses and Never-Before-Seen Outtakes.  And then after you wipe your eyes from laughing so hard at Chip Gaines, you’ll be addicted too (that is, if you aren’t already).

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What I’m reading:

Daily Walk Bible

I’m also engrossed in God’s word.  It’s so exciting!  This has been such an amazing addition to my daily routine.  I love the way this bible is broken up for daily reading.  I always assumed the Old Testament was just boring, but on the contrary! 

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A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet (Sophie Hudson)

BooMama (boomama.net) can tell the best stories.  She makes me feel at home.  (I also highly recommend “Home Is Where My People Are”, on my list of favorites from 2015).

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What I’m loving in yoga:

Chaturangas (or yoga push-ups/low plank)

I need to build upper body strength.  That’s all.

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Splits

I posted a picture on Instagram/Facebook last weekend of Abbie and I in a split.  I’ve been challenged to get my splits after Abbie informed me that “Mom, you could be one of those cool old ladies that do yoga and have all of your splits.”  Yes, I can.  

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King Pigeon

This is a powerful hip opener. I recently learned that yogic tradition says that we hold all of our negative emotions in our hips and when we open them we can make positive changes in our emotional state.  I’m all for more positivity.  Plus I have flexible hips, so that’s an added bonus!  This is such a rocking pose for me right now.

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What I’m waiting anxiously for:

Our new Golden Retriever!!

You heard me right.  The deposit is paid and we are praying that one of these special little guys will be ours in March.  

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Should he be Max or Walker?

Wishing you all a very safe and fun ‘Southern Snow Day”!

Stretching and Scaling

I’m in the hot room.  In the front row.  It’s 105 degrees.  I stare at myself in the mirror.  

Obviously, one does not wear large amounts of clothing in a 105 degree room with 40% humidity.  Less is best.  Women and men of all shapes, sizes and colors surround me.  Some are very covered, some are hardly covered. Me?  I’m usually somewhere in the middle.  But when the heat is intense and the sweat is literally pouring onto the mat from every part of your skin, as it is on certain days, the layers come off.  And there they are staring right at me in the mirror – those stretch marks.

You see, the goal in Bikram (or sequence) yoga is to be in a 90 minute moving meditation.  You don’t watch the others around you.  You focus in the mirror at yourself and on the instructions that the teacher is giving.  And you find stillness in the postures and in the in between and in the heat.  But despite the fact that no one ‘should’ be looking at me, I find myself starting at my stomach and not my eyes, wondering who actually is.

Isn’t it true that we want to cover up our scars?  That we want to hide behind them? Both the ones you can see and the ones you can’t.  This has me thinking a lot lately, as I’ve forced myself to become comfortable in my own skin in front of that mirror.  As I tune out those around me and what they ‘could be’ thinking about the scarred and stretched skin and work hard to stay with my eyes.  It really is all that matters if I want to become a better version of me, both off and on the mat.

Those scars on my stomach represent the most challenging work I’ve ever done.  Carrying and birthing those large babies (and by large, I do mean 9-10 pounders) was work, yes.  But each day – the joys, sorrows, successes and failures of being a mother is truly the hardest work I’ve ever done.  And the most rewarding.  Andy Stanley says that “Your greatest contribution to the kingdom of God may not be something you do, but someone you raise.”  It IS challenging work, my friends, and so much rests on it.

God has stretched me so much in this last year.  My insides and my mind ‘feel’ like my stomach looks.  Both with my career goals and even in my parenting journey.  The growth has really come in searching for who I am at the core, not the identities that I’ve created over the past few years.  I’ve needed to shed those identities, or scale them away, in order to recreate something new.  Something that was really there all along. 

I recently read the book, ‘The Truest Thing About You’ by David Lomas.  In the book, David references a story from C.S. Lewis’ “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader’.  The main character Eustace, who is a self absorbed school boy, has been taken to Narnia. The boy wanders and finds shelter in a cave of a dragon.  Eustace transforms into a dragon himself, due to the greedy ‘dragonish’ thoughts in his heart.

David says, “It is a the story of how we become who we hate, how the worst parts of us manage to find the light.  Have you ever looked in the mirror and thought, How did I become this?” 

I can so relate, my friends.  Maybe you can too.

Once Eustace becomes a dragon, he realizes that he was made for much more.  But he is covered in scales and does not know how to remove them.  Layers upon layers of identity that were created. Eustace eventually begins to see the reality and he begins peeling off his scales.

“And I thought to myself, oh dear, however many skins have I got to take off? said Eustace.  The process of un-scaling isn’t an easy one, but what Eustace comes to find out is that the only way to shed the scales and scars is to leave them at the feet of the one that created him.

Stretching and scaling.  I’ve done a lot of both recently, figuratively and literally.  In my yoga practice, I find my body stretching in ways that I never knew possible.  Just today, I was able to get my leg behind my head.  It may seem strange, y’all, but I love it.  I’ve also scaled back many things in my life in order to find the core of me because I’ve realized that who I’ve been really isn’t who I am, if that makes any sense. 

And those stretch marks.  They represent so much.  They are truly a sign of the greatest work that God has given me.  I realize I need to be proud of those scars because those three babies have changed my life.  And being comfortable showing the marks is changing me.  For many years, I was putting other work in front of my ‘greatest work’.  So thank you, lovely stretch marks.  You’ve taught me a lot this week!

So what scars and stretch marks are you hiding behind?  I challenge you to dig deeper, scale back, and come out of hiding, just like my stomach has.    

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The Season of Honesty

It’s time to get honest.  Or at least that’s my prayer for you in the New Year.

I’m not sure about you, but over the past few years, I found myself in a race.  A race for a finish that I was convinced God was calling me to.  I did what I learned and I believe I did it well.  Now, please don’t misunderstand.  I love to set goals.  I love to reach them.  I love to better myself.  I love to work hard at something that I’m passionate about.  But in the mix of all of that love for forging ahead, one can get lost in three small letters.  EGO.  At least that’s where I found myself.  Maybe you can relate.  If you’re honest.

Where do the feelings of guilt come from when we feel like our goals aren’t big enough, our race isn’t fast enough?  Who are we trying to please?  Who are we trying to catch? What are we trying to prove?  Seriously sit and ask yourself these questions.

It took some guts to listen to the pressings on my heart in the last year.  The uncertainty can be crippling and yes, I let it cripple me for a short time.  I knew that God was speaking, although I didn’t hear Him in a loud voice from the clouds.  Be Still.  That’s all.  I just felt it, over and over again.  Enough already, He pressed.  And pressed.  It took awhile, but finally I allowed myself to breathe.  And I got honest.  With myself first, and then my family.  And then He began to open my eyes to all of the ways that those three letters were controlling my life.

I heard Christine Caine speak recently and she said this about the Lord speaking to us. “What if I call you and YOUR dream is not what I’m calling you to do?  Would you be ok with that?”  

How many of us would?  How many of us stop and pay attention to what’s being laid on our hearts?  We have big dreams.  I know many of my friends that do.  I think it’s amazing.  But ‘what if’ God’s dream for you isn’t your dream?  Will you stop and listen?  Or will you be too caught up in your race?

I have participated in a ‘one word’ challenge each year.  Pick one word that you want to define your year.  In 2015, I picked the word BOLD.  It’s interesting looking back.  My reasons for picking ‘bold’, what I thought that was going to mean, isn’t what it meant at all.  Oh I was bold, but not in the ways I thought I would be. I was bold to step away from associations and methods that weren’t serving me.  I was bold to get past the fear of not worrying about what everyone would say.  Believe me, they said things.  I know.  It’s ok.  In the ‘race’, I would have probably said things too.  Well let’s get honest – I DID say things. So I give you grace.  I hope you give me some too, along with some forgiveness.  It wasn’t my place to judge your journey.  It’s not your place to judge mine.

I am here to tell you that it’s just plain A-OK to be content with where you are.  To re-group, to breathe and to maybe even CHANGE.  When things that were once passions become frustrations, maybe God is telling you that another road is being paved.  Another path.  Truly the hardest part is waiting for it all to come together.  But God’s plans always do.

I don’t know if you relate to my journey.  Reading this might make you angry because you just love your race and it’s what you want.  That’s ok.  I did once too and I understand.  It might make you sad.  Knowing that people will be disappointed in you is hard.   But please know that just because God has called one to a particular finish line doesn’t mean that he’s called all of us to it.

What I pray is that I’m speaking to someone out there just like me that may need to just get downright HONEST with yourself in 2016.  Hear me. You’re going to be ok, no matter what they say.  What God says about you is the only thing that matters.  The only person that you are here to serve is the Lord.  Far too many of us are serving other masters.

My ‘one word’ for this year is ‘servant’.  Christine Caine also said that “The highest thing we can ever do is to aspire to be servant of the Lord.”  I am there.  I challenge you to listen and hear your call too.

My goals for this year are a bit different than in years past.  It’s my 40th year and I am ready to embrace the things that I truly love.  I’ll be spending a lot of time on my yoga mat in that hot room dedicating myself to a daily practice that I let go of for way too many years.  I’ll be spending quiet time with books.  I let go of those too.  I plan to read through the bible this year, as my friend Billy challenged me to do.  Go on monthly date nights with my husband.  Support my children with their passions and activities.  Spend A LOT of time with my friends. Strengthen relationships in my Small Group. Serve and lead at our church.  And my goodness, by the grace of God, please let my husband allow me to get a Golden Retriever.  My goal this year isn’t a position or a dollar amount. And I’ve never felt so at peace in my life with the uncertainty of it all.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Ecclesiastes 3:1

Happy New Year, my friends!