Dipping a toe into the “uncomfortable”

A lesson I’ve been learning for years which keeps screaming out to me recently is that we will all find ourselves in uncomfortable places at times.  A comment we wish we had made, a job we wish we had applied for, a moment we wish we could do over.  How many times do we wish we had a second chance to correct an action or a word… To take something back?  I’m thankful that one of the benefits of getting older is that things seem to become so much clearer.  In our younger years we are so driven by what other people think.  In our older years that concern fades.  It’s very freeing, actually.  Unfortunate that we couldn’t have this knowledge in our 20’s when we all think we are invincible and bulletproof, and our driving life force is the desire to be accepted.  I much prefer being in this space of self-awareness and self acceptance.

A promise I’ve made to myself in the last few years is this- if I feel it I will say it.  I don’t ever want to imagine anyone who falls into my circle of life during my time here ever has to question my intention.  My mother has always jokingly said that “Amanda has never had an emotion which she didn’t express.”  That’s a pretty dead on description.  I can tell you that this truth has sometimes caused me heartache, but it has also brought me streams of happiness and blessings that make me thankful I found the boldness to act upon.

If we choose to love- let’s love fully.  If we are going to lose- let’s lose completely (giving it everything we’ve got).  If we’re going to try- let’s try full heartedly.  If we’re going to dream- let’s dream monumentally.  My fervent wish is that when my life is over there should be no one who questions their importance to me.  No wish I have should ever go unattempted.  I tell my family and friends as often as I can how much I value them and how much they mean to me.  When I have a goal I try all that I can to attain it.

It should be said that such “boldness” comes with a price.  You won’t always get the responses you hoped for.  Desired relationships many never come to fruition.  Desired hopes and dreams may never come into focus.  But the heart of the matter is that if we don’t try- if we don’t take the risk- we will never know what could become.  Moving forward in boldness requires a certain gut-level moxy which may take years to grow into.  It has for me.  I only know that when I look back and I pinpoint the regrets I have in my life most of them can be attributed to a floundering sense of security I had in myself.  I’m not that gal anymore.

This woman has decided that she’s going to be a risk taker and a goal setter.  It is easy to second guess ourselves when we can look at a past history of disappointment and doubt, but you’re never going to know if you never try.  It’s truly as simple as that.  Take your risk.  Don’t be afraid.  If “no” is the worse we ever hear surely we are strong enough to move forward and proceed.  At least we can rest in the knowledge that we made an effort.

John Mayer has a song called “Say What You Need to Say”.  It has always spoken to me.  Life’s simply too short for us to not say what we need.  None of us are promised a tomorrow.  Don’t we owe it to ourselves to make our TODAY the very best that it can be?  I think so.

Finding the strength

If you had asked me 20 years ago if I would describe myself as a “strong” person I don’t know that I could have.  I would have described myself as loud, fun-loving, adventurous, and friendly.  Today if you asked me I’d probably tell you that I pretty sure I’m nothing short of bionic, made of kryptonite, and a super ninja warrior.  It’s nothing I’ve done personally to gain those titles, but more so what life has brought me through.  I’d like to share with you where I found my strength and to encourage any of you who may be struggling that you can come out on the other side stronger, better, and happier.

Just as most (dare I say “all”) of us have experienced throughout our brief layover on this planet there are certainly going to be times of stress, trials, and hardships.  That may come in the package of a divorce, a death, a loss,  or a disappointment.  You just fill in the blank with whatever meets your specific need.  I’ve said many times that in Scripture we are never promised this will be an easy ride, but we are promised that it will never be more than we can bear.  I’ve gone round and round with God on that one a few times, but as much as I balk and protest He always ultimately proves Himself to be true.

In the last few years I’ve learned that a few things are vital to our successful survival here in this tornado of chaos that we call “life”.  I don’t want to give the wrong impressions- life has been so good to me.  I am blessed in so many areas and for those glimpses of fulfillment I am so very thankful.  I’ve learned that much (if not all) of the “chaos” in my life can be attributed to poor choices on MY part.  Sure, we can’t control death and certain other unfortunate circumstances which quietly creep into the corners of our lives, but we do control other factors which can lead to many complications.  I’m going to speak to you as if I were speaking to my friends, so let me share with you what I feel each of us as humans must possess in our aresenal of weapons to defeat and conquer the “ugly” in our lives.

First, it is imperative, IMPERATIVE that you have a strong faith in Jesus Christ.  I’m telling you that without Him a successful, peaceful, planned out maneuvering of this daily life is impossible.  I became a Christian at the age of 10 and from that moment I’ve had an ace in my pocket which has brought me through 42 years of this life thus far.  He is Who I turn to when I simply feel I can’t take another second.  He is Who I cry out to when I desire nothing more than to pull the covers up over my head and simply lay there and let life pass me by.  I’ve never ever been a person who would consider suicide because I simply think that is the most selfish act a person can commit.  A permanent solution to a temporary problem and that’s the key.  As badly as you may feel today- as hopeless as you may feel- you won’t always be swimming in this sea of despair.  As a teenager, during times of stress, I began visualizing myself literally crawling up into His lap and saying “I can’t do this anymore”.  I would close my eyes and just feel His arms engulfing me, pulling me in, and telling me that everything was going to be okay.  This is a visualization that I’ve found myself melting into so many times over the last few years.  He is our Father and He loves us unconditionally.  There is nothing- absolutely nothing- we can do that will change how He feels for us.  I find such peace and comfort in that.

Second, friendship.  I don’t think you need to have a million friends.  I think we all need to have one or two TRUE friends who aren’t afraid to be straight shooters with us.  We shouldn’t seek to surround ourselves with “yes” friends- people who will agree with every statement we make and every decision we come to.  I think the truest friends are those who aren’t afraid to have the uncomfortable conversations with us out of love by saying, “What the hell are you doing?”  If everyone in your circle thinks all of your decisions are wonderful then I’d be tempted to tell you that you may need to reevaluate your relationships.  Some of the hardest and most difficult conversations I’ve had with people come from my truest friends who only want what is best for me and aren’t afraid to rock the boat a bit to tell me.  We aren’t flawless.  We all make mistakes.  We are supposed to sharpen each other “as iron sharpens iron.”  Iron is strong.  It can be painful.  Listen to those well-intentioned friends and count your blessings that you have them.  The Amy Jos and the Kell’s and the Loris and the Jessicas and the Carolynns in my life were strategically placed here to help keep me grounded.  I am undeserving of them, but so eternally grateful for them.

Third, you have to find your purpose.  Mine, easily, is being a mother.  On my hardest days it is the fact that I am a mother which keeps me pushing ahead.  I prayed wanting to have these babies for so long.  I don’t take the responsibility of motherhood lightly.  Moms often joke that as mothers we don’t have time to be sick.  A mother can have a temperature of 103 degrees and still get children bathed, dressed, and ready for school- pack lunches and attend a PTA meeting.  It’s our calling.  On the “impossible” days those two sweet faces make getting out of bed possible.  I have no doubt that they were “gifted” to me as an acknowledgement of responsibility and as a requirement of growing up- maybe even quicker than I expected.

I hope if you’ve read this that you’ve taken something from it.  A year ago I literally couldn’t see even a day ahead without my heart racing and feeling sick to my stomach.  I cried out to God, to my friends, to my family and I was heard.  The loveliest part of my support system is that while they listen and hear my pain, instead of laying in the floor and crying with me and wallowing in sorrow, they are strength for me and immediately ask me “So what’s the plan?”  They are eternal encouragement to me and help guide me through the muck and the mire.  Sometimes it takes someone outside of yourself to help you pull yourself up by your boot straps and move forward.

I want to offer encouragement today.  Peace can be had.  We must be patient, make wise choices, and be still enough to listen to the quiet, but ever-speaking voice of God.  Don’t be afraid.  Even during the struggle you are facing you can rest assured knowing that He is already there on the other side waiting to guide you through.  Find your peace.  Allow it to come.  Be obedient.  Listen.  Calm yourself.  The reality is our future is already in His control.

Love ’em if you got ’em

Tomorrow will mark the 2nd Father’s Day my family will experience without my dad.  If you’ve lost a parent you understand the pain.  If you’ve not this message is really for you.

I was fortunate in my household to have grown up with a very expressive family- perhaps too expressive at times.  There was never a shortage of discussion in the Elder household- whether it was about church, life, boys, God, school, friends just whatever.  Jess and I grew up having open lines of communication with our parents from the time we could speak.  We were always encouraged to express ourselves (a life lesson I often wonder if my mother regrets having trained me in SO well!).  I never had to wonder how my parents felt about me.  “I love you” was a common phrase used in our house.  I’m not trying to paint an unrealistic picture of a fairytale existence, but the truth is we all  liked each other and even though we had our squabbles at times they were usually short-lived.

This Sunday, just as it is most other days, there isn’t anything I wouldn’t give to have the opportunity to see  my father just one more time.  I would give all the earthly possessions that I have for even just 15 minutes of sitting in his presence, holding his hand, hugging his sweet neck, hearing his voice say “Mandy” or “Manda” to me, and getting to be with him.  I miss my dad like I never knew I was capable of missing someone.  It’s an ache that comes from a deep place inside and never truly goes away.  I’m not even sure it fades.  I think I just chose to tune it out during the times when it is too hard to take.  It’s an enduring absence that never lessens.

Most of you know, but some may not, that during his sickness my father was at home.  It was his wish and my mother fulfilled it perfectly, beautifully, unselfishly, and without complaint.  The importance of that for our family was two-fold.  First, my dad’s final wish was being honored.  How could any of us not honor this man who had shown such honor for us as husband and father?  Second, we were able to see him all the time.  The night he died we stood at his bedside, and whereas in the movies a family will gather around and have the opportunity to say final words and things they’d never had a chance to say before, for our family it was simply a restating of the words and love we had for him every day.  Mom, Jess, and I all got to thank him.  We all told him how proud we were of him and what an amazing job he had been as provider, leader, and spiritual covering he had been for all of us.  I will forever be thankful for those moments.  Hard as they were to go through they were as perfect as we could have ever hoped for.

I guess what I’d like to express in this blog is this one simple thought- while you still have your family, your parents, your siblings…. love them.  Tell them that you love them.  When we are able to step out of ourselves for a moment and really, really take a hard look at the big picture it’s amazing how the problems and quarrels that we felt were “so big” will simply fall away like ashes from a burning paper.  People fuss.  We disagree.  We hurt one another whether intentionally or accidentally, and we all could benefit from growing up and learning to be more forgiving and more thoughtful.  If you have your loved ones this holiday, or this Sunday, or any day this month please don’t take it for granted.  Things can change in an instant.  I promise you.  Hug your dad tomorrow.  Kiss his face and tell him you love him.  In doing that simple and important action you’ll have the opportunity to do something that I’ll never again be able to do in this lifetime.  Don’t miss the opportunity.

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