I can see clearly now

Something that I never thought to do when I was younger was take some time to get out there and figure out who I was.  The reason why I never thought to do it is because I was so busy trying to be someone I thought I had to be; and that was an image of perfection that did not allow me the freedom to take time to make mistakes, explore different avenues, and decide which worldview I actually identified with. I think because it had been impressed in me that there was only one right way, and if I did not go that way, then I was wrong. Now, I am not blaming anyone for this.  I just was not exposed to the idea that it’s a lot better to find yourself before you go out chasing things: like relationships, in particular.

Like many others I have met, I was the type of person that had to fill my life up with so much stuff to do that I really did not have time to truly process many things that I really needed to deal with.  Now I know that was a defense that I had to protect myself from things that I thought were too painful to process.  I feel like a lot of other people out there very innocently felt, as I did, that if something bothers you or you don’t like it, you should avoid it.  I was a shy child and I did not get involved in lots of activities that involved social opportunities, for example, and I was not encouraged to step outside of my comfort zone so I could grow in this area.  I really regret not choosing more opportunities like this before my brain pruned all those pathways.

So, I just kept going and going and going continually filling all my waking hours with stuff and things to do.  I kept up this frantic pace for over 20 years, all the while not letting others in who perhaps wanted to help me, and basically feeling like I had to be in control of every aspect of my life.  This approach was taking its toll, all the while I was in complete denial that it was going on.  I had no idea how I looked to other people.  Then one day at work, a co-worker came up to me and said “I know you are going to think this is really weird, but God told me to give you this book.”  The book was a book about the Life of Mother Teresa.

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Now, I knew who Mother Teresa was, kinda.  But I didn’t really know much about her or why someone would be giving me a book.  I took it home and looked at it and discovered that she was someone with a whole different way of looking at people than I had really ever experienced.  She said simple things that were somehow very profound. Things like:

“The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread”

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, than feed just one.”

“Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love”

She also talked about simple things like faith and trust.  Mind you prior to receiving this book, I had not exactly been on a path looking for salvation.  I suppose I felt like I believed in God and that was enough, even though the life I was living really did not reflect any of that. After my son was diagnosed with Autism I really felt like God must be punishing me or that I wasnt worthy, and that was the last straw for me pursuing my faith.

I’d like to say I got the book from my coworker and then “Ahhhhh” I saw the light and my life moved in a new direction. Basically it spoke to me that I must look pretty pathetic for someone I barely knew at the time to walk up to me and do that.   Actually, it took over 2 more years of this same coworker  constantly walking beside me and feeding into me before things really started to sink in.  What can I say, I am hard-headed! I warmed up to the idea that there might be something to this whole Love thing Mother Teresa  talked about but I was still trying to do it my way.

Then one day I walked in to work and we all discovered we were getting laid off.  It was if God was saying “Oh, you don’t want to be still?  Well here, I am going to give you that opportunity”.  And just like that I suddenly had time.  The next 3 years, even though I was pursuing my Masters in Counseling, I had considerably more time to think and just be.  I examined myself from angles Id never even considered before, and re-evaluated who I am, where I’m going and how my behavior affects others.

The result is so striking its like I am not even the same person anymore. Its like I stepped into a clearing and suddenly things are crystal clear.  I listen to songs that used to speak to me and I just think “Wow, I can cross that one off the soundtrack of my life now”! Kind of surreal, really, like I should be singing this song :I can see clearly now – Johnny Nash

Here’s what I discovered.  I needed time to discover who I am.  I spent over 20 years trying to fit myself into a mold that either did not fit, or denying the truth or things about me that made me who I am, because I either thought they were inferior or because I was in denial that they defined me.  I was totally freaked out when I lost all control of the ability to keep that charade going.  I found PEACE when I decided to let go and do the necessary work involved to become authentic.  The peace I found involved me surrendering my role of playing God in my own life and required me to trust that I was incapable of doing many things myself but with God I can do anything.

I will definitely strive to teach my children to do this much earlier in life than I did!  As they say, Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free (John 8:32). The back story of this blog is all about TRUTH! Read about it here: tRUTHful Inspiration

 

 

Give me something to believe in

Recently I was told that Christians are weak and that’s why they need religion.  ABSOLUTELY!  I think I was supposed to be offended by the comment, but I found it very relatable.  I could totally relate to this perspective because of a song I listened to frequently in my angry youth days from the album Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morissette.  The song is called Forgiven.  If you havent heard  it, its amazing and you can find it here: Alanis Morissette Forgiven – Jagged Little Pearl

The lyrics I’m referring to are: “We all had our reasons to be there, We all had a thing or two to learn, we all needed something to cling to, so we did.”

You know, I realize not everyone participates in worshipping a religion, but I feel like especially in our culture, there are many idols that are worshipped  or things that people hold onto because they need strength.  And I’m not here to pass judgement.  I am just sooo grateful that I stumbled upon the community of believers that I did who recognize that people have TOTALLY been wounded by the church (as Alanis implies in her song) and that’s probably the number one reason why people turn away from it.  Some never come back.  People like me took a 20 year hiatus ( you can read about why here: Burnt Buttermilk Biscuit) But the community I belong to does not see a problem with weakness.  There is no expectation that after you attend for a while you will be transformed into someone who doesn’t sin.

On the contrary, they are a group of “meet me where I am” Christians who will walk with me through my valleys and hills as long as necessary.

To be honest I didn’t believe that people like this really existed. I was accustomed to feeling like nothing I could do was good enough and there was a long list of things keeping me from getting into Heaven. Then one day I took a chance, went to a service and heard this song: Mandisa – Not Guilty . I remember sitting there with goosebumps thinking “What?! Why haven’t I heard this perspective? People want to love me even if I’m so flawed? They aren’t just gonna tell me I’m going to Hell and I need Jesus?!”

And let me tell you, when I showed up on the scene, I was one hot mess! But, I grew up not having been taught that it was ok to show weakness.  Serving in the military probably did not help with that concept either. I thought like so many people do, that no-one would like me if they knew all my flaws.

I am very thankful for other people I’ve met in my life who called me out on my BS.  One such friend told me straight up that talking about myself like I had no weakness made me sound like a total snob.  OUCH!  But I needed to hear that. A manager took me aside and told me if I wanted a promotion I needed to be seen as someone who was not so ominous!  Let me tell you that really slapped me in the face too!  But you know what, I had a thick shield built all around me at that point in my life.  I can totally see how that could make me look ominous!

Ideas like that set me down the road to discovering myself, getting out of denial and being VULNERABLE!

If I hadn’t gotten laid off in 2014 and decided to pursue my calling (to be a counselor) I never would have done the work it takes to truly understand just what it means to be vulnerable.  In my program I repeatedly had to put myself under a microscope and not only list my flaws, but explain the conceptualization for them and how they affect me and others.  Hands down BEST thing I ever had to do.  Some people would just call this taking a personal inventory.  I feel like this is so important because it’s not very likely that I could begin to feel safe being vulnerable if I did not have an awareness of who I am.

When I think about how long it took me to get to this stage in my life, I just want to scream it from the rooftops to younger women out there to do the hard work it takes to discover who you are, including your weaknesses.  It’s ironic that God used some of the very things I thought were my weaknesses to help me discover who I really am!

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Taste and See

I was shopping at Mardel the other day. It’s typically a place I go to for some much needed solitude in my chaotic life. It’s like when I walk in the door I just feel peace. I can almost hear the “Ahhhh” resonate within me as I enter. And oddly enough I often hear a song over the loud speakers in there that feels like a direct connection to Heaven; it’s kind of surreal when that happens! During a difficult period of my life after my divorce, the song Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) by Hillsong United (check it out here: https://youtu.be/dy9nwe9_xzw ) would play at just the right time, not just at Mardel, but on the radio and when I visited a church over a thousand miles from my home!  I figured God was trying to tell me something, and it turns out he was! I got through that rough patch in my life not by my own strength, but by persistently holding on to my Faith.

Anyway, when I walked in yesterday I realize the store was under renovation and it wasn’t the usual quiet place I go to for solitude. Jack hammers and pounding replaced the usual calm atmosphere. The total layout of the store seemed to have changed also. How strange that even amidst all that construction noise I still begin to feel the same feeling of peace that I treasure when I go there!
So I was looking around trying to find gifts to put in my daughter’s time capsule for her first birthday, thinking about things that when she is 18 years old will speak to her about her future.
I really got very introspective about the woman that she will become and how I’m going to help her develop her spirituality and identity as a woman.
I thought about the innocence of a child and how adults expose children to faith.
Then, I thought about my own experiences with learning what religion was all about.
Then I saw it….

taste

The entire verse of Psalm 34:8 reads: Taste and See that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him (NIV).

When I saw this bag I thought “how perfect?!” I mean, isn’t that exactly what we do? We give our kids a taste of what religion is. Depending on how we present it to them, that taste can be sweet, sour maybe even bitter depending on the flavor we add. I mean, will they even want to taste it if it’s presented to them in such a way? Or are we figuratively or literally cramming it down their throats while screaming “Do as I say but not as I do?”Maybe, just maybe it can be something they savor and want to taste again and again and achieve what this verse suggests, taking refuge in the kingdom of God because we know its going to be soooo good!

spices

If you are just joining my blog, here’s the back story. tRUTHful is a blog inspired by the biblical character Ruth, being one of only 2 woman who have books named after them in the old testament.  My desire is to inspire and connect with other people interested in cultivating authenticity and character by the way we lead our lives.

Poker Face?

I’m SO not a morning person but this week ‘Im taking my kids to vacation Bible school, so I’m getting up much earlier than I normally do and you know what? Although I don’t think I’ll ever be a morning person, there’s something kind of refreshing about the cool morning air; you can still have your windows down when you’re driving since it’s not hot yet. It took me back to the years I lived on the beach in Florida when I was stationed there. There’s something about driving with the windows down feeling the wind in your hair that just makes you feel alive! It reminds me that I’m not just in survival mode, God put me here to enjoy life. I can hear the birds tweeting. I actually got to stop and get a cup of coffee alone which was nice.
Well, this morning I was driving around a town I used to live in, but no longer do because I moved to my hubbie’s hometown.With the windows down and the music flowing, no kids in the car so I wasnt limited to my usual “kid appropriate” group of songs I’ve heard a million times. You know, the ones I find myself singing even when my kids AREN’T around. Gotta love having “The wheels of the bus go round and round” stuck in your head!

So, on my random playlist the song Poker Face by Lady Gaga came on. That’s a song that took me back to being divorced and all the rawness of it just came back, being in this place I knew so well and a place that represents my singleness and overcoming of many of my personal issues; a place where I found myself.

I got to thinking about how I SO DON’T have a poker face. I mean, I can’t even look at my self in the mirror and keep a straight face, let alone not totally wear my heart on my sleeve, and all over my face. Apparently instead of having a poker face, I’ve got something that looks a little more like Michelle Obama’s face at the 2017 inauguration! If I feel something its going to be written all over my face. And you know, I used to really hate that about myself. I wished I could slap on the old poker face and not let things bother me. I still sometimes wish I could just let things roll off me with out them sinking in but the truth is my ability to deeply feel and connect with the people around me is really more of a gift than I once thought.

I mean, I can romance the idea of being comfortable numb, because feeling big emotions are painful.   But I’m so thankful God gave me the courage to step up to the plate and really get to play ball in life because I’m not just sitting on the bench watching the game of life play out.  Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 40ish years on this planet is that the worse think I’ve experienced is not feeling things so much, its REGRET. I’ve been bold and put myself out there and it wasn’t always appreciated or reciprocated but I didn’t regret it.
What I have regretted is not putting my self out there, not saying the thing or telling the person how I felt and they never knew and I never got a chance /:

The tRUTH is being real is being courageous. It’s being brave. It’s doing the hard things. I might not win big at poker, but I can rest assured knowing that I am being true to ME.

In case you are reading my blog for the first time, the back story is that tRUTHful is a blog about my quest for authenticity, through truth and inspired by the biblical character RUTH, whose name you see embedded in my blog title.

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These are a couple of pillows I bought for my boys on a business trip I got to take to Las Vegas! 8 years later they still use them as seat cushions!

Weed ’em out

I was pulling weeds  this morning and, who knew, it is surprisingly therapeutic!  My almost 1-year-old just discovered dirt… it rained last night so I guess I should say mud. I was reminded of a time in my youth when I used to make mud pies and then take a bite, thinking it would taste delicious.  Not so much.  Apparently she concurs on the taste of dirt!  And so it begins…

I got to thinking about all those metaphors you hear about weeds and dirt and some of them are kind of cliché aren’t they? The one I’ll focus on now is feeding negativity, a major problem of mine. It’s a lot like a garden full of weeds. There may be some beautiful flowers in there but they’re hard to see because of all the weeds. Even worse those weeds start to choke out the flowers until the weeds take over and once those weeds are deeply rooted, they’re very hard to remove.

So, like a good gardener,  I took about an hour pulling up these weeds, and I thought the pile looked huge till I took a picture of it and though it looks pretty puny! Not only that, there are so many left I haven’t pulled. Isn’t that about how it is: the work we have to do sometimes is so overwhelming and such hard, hard work. Then we take a step back to see what we’ve done and it looks like almost nothing.

How do you handle the daunting task of weeding out negative thoughts?  One weed at a time!

weed pile
An hours worth of weeds,pulled one handed while attempting to keep my baby from eating dirt!
garden lol
So many more weeds to tackle!
In a protected, nurtured area we started some zinnia seeds. Zinnias must be a gardeners dream (first time trying them) because we planted them and they germinated within four days! They’re already peaking up through the dirt. So I know they are delicate and if I put them outside right now they won’t survive out here; we’ve got rabbits and all kinds of birds, bugs like grasshoppers especially that love to eat tender young plants.
zinnia
just sprouted Zinnia plants
Kind of reminds me of a situation I experienced as a young girl. Someone very close to me used to tell me all the time that I was fat and ugly and I would never have a boyfriend. So I decided desirable characteristics to gain a boyfriend must be pretty and thin. I was young and delicate and I didn’t have a great foundation of self-worth. It didn’t take much for me to succumb to this kind of bullying behavior.
So began years of starving myself to be thin even though I actually already was. And a beautiful flower has a hard time growing with no nutrients.
Oh how I wish I could go back as the woman I am today and speak to that girl that I was back then! Maybe tell her about Ruth and how she had a lot of negative things happen to her but unlike her mother in law Naomi who became bitter and even changed her name to “Mara” which means bitter,  Ruth chose to focus on the positive ones, and ended up being part of an amazing love story! The other great thing about the story of these two women is that even though Naomi must have been a hard person to be around with so much grief at the loss of her husband and both of her sons, with no grandchildren, Ruth stood by her.  She pledged her faithfulness to a woman that she could have easily left behind and went on with her life.
 The world will tell you you’re not beautiful enough you: need more curves, you need less curves, you need longer legs, bigger boobs,  you need tan skin, you need the fountain of youth…the list goes on. You may compare yourself to the women you see on t.v. and in commercials and just start hating yourself. The weeds just start growing and growing!
If you aren’t in a community of like-minded individuals, it might even feel like someone is throwing Miracle Grow on those weeds and making them grow faster and stronger.
If I can suggest one thing to you it is this, if you are feeling like Naomi, so bitter and overwhelmed with the weeds in your garden, consider finding yourself a friend like Ruth.  Someone who can build you up and be a good support system for you, and even help you pull some of those weeds!
Here’s the back story if you haven’t been following my blog, you may have noticed the name RUTH cleverly embedded in my title tRUTHful.  She is the inspiration for this and many other future conversations.

A beautiful fool she wasn’t

“And I hope she’ll be a fool—that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool”.
Do you know that line? It’s from  F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1922 novel, The Great Gatsby, and it’s a quote from the iconic Daisy Buchanan when asked about her young daughter.

Ruth is one of only 2 women who have books in the Old Testament named after them. My favorite thing about Ruth is that she isn’t known for her beauty, but for her character.

The reason I find this significant is because from my viewpoint, thinking about women of that time (and it’s still prominent) the first thing that’s usually noticed or commented on regarding a woman is her beauty.
And herein lies a major issue I think females face today that can affect their ability to be authentic. I think back to times I felt so much pressure to be beautiful,and the lengths I went to fit into what our society views as beautiful.
It may seem strange to contrast the Ruth of the Old Testament with Daisy but bear with me. Daisy didn’t buck the system back in the 20s and sadly assumed her daughter was destined for the same. I’m very glad there are women today speaking out!
I listen to the lyrics to Lana Del Ray,s song Young and Beautiful from the 2013 movie and the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. Have you heard it? If not here’s a link!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_1aF54DO60
Del Ray asked the question many a woman thinks about when she realizes she’s not sure she can still describe herself as young. “Will you still love me when I’m no longer young and beautiful”? You can almost hear the desperation behind the question.
It’s compelling, isn’t it?
Do men fear getting older like I do? I mean I’m sure there aren’t a lot of men out there who are afraid they’ll get traded in for a younger model (maybe literally)  just because their body has the expected wear and tear any woman who has lived and experienced fabulous days on the beach, maybe pregnancy, or perhaps child-birth and definately the effects of gravity!
I think about cultural reasons why woman develop this fear. Just watch any major movie where a male costar is like 50 and his female costar is in her 20s. What a pervasive message this sends consider how film influences our society.  Where else do many children first see relationships other than that of their parents? Then I think about how ironic it is that Reese Witherspoon is now an advocate for the limitations of women’s roles in film when I can close my eyes and still see her as the quintessential Elle Woods in Legally Blonde.  Well, she’s 41 now and in my opinion as amazing as ever!
So, it makes me smile that the story of Ruth contains no reference to her beauty and it’s not the reason we know who she is! Now that I have my own daughter I want to remember that while she is likely to always be first noticed for her appearance, I will strive to inspire in her the character and strength Ruth exudes and which gave her her place in a legacy we still talk about today!bookpink

-Here’s the back story! If you haven’t read my other blog posts my title, tRUTHful has the name RUTH cleverly embedded. She’s the inspiration for this and many other future conversations.

Burnt buttermilk biscuit

Let me be transparent here. I thought long and hard about launching a blog that had something to do with faith or Christianity. Reason being, sometimes as soon as you mention these words people run screaming in the opposite direction because they’ve met someone who represented these ideas in a negative way and that bothers me. It’s the same reason why I took about an 18 year hiatus from religion myself.
But then I thought, there needs to be a voice for people like me or people like you who might feel like that. So before you see my biblical references or scripture in here and think “oh here’s another disillusioned Christian trying to tell me how to live my life” please understand where I’m coming from.
I’m far from having all the answers. In fact, I’d liken to myself to these biscuits I put in the oven under the broiler (because the oven heats up faster that way) and forgot to turn it back to 400 before baking them. I’m a work In progress. I’ve sadly had to learn the hard way from my mistakes, but underneath the surface you may find something amazing! IMG_6546

Inspiration

Ruth was a Moabite woman who ended up becoming a widow, but returned to Bethlehem with her Mother in law, Naomi. Naomi was in a particularly sad situation, as her husband and both sons were now dead, leaving her alone. She was bitter. And who could blame her?
What is it about Ruth that speaks to me? Her faithfulness. She lost her husband and did not bear him any children. In that time it was in her best interest to find a new husband, not stand by her MIL. But Ruth told Naomi, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.”
‭‭Ruth‬ ‭1:16-17‬ ‭NIV‬‬
http://bible.com/111/rut.1.16-17.niv

Ruth was true to her word. What a comfort she must have been for a woman who had lost everything dear to her.
Her character traits inspired me and her name is at the root of the name I chose for my blog. I picture her as a woman who has courage, but most importantly, hope. There’s so many things that can steal a woman’s hope away in the world we live in, but that wasn’t where Ruth chose to focus her time and energy. She knew somehow that the best was yet to come!
More than that, I’m reminded of other woman of strong character that have inspired me. It is my desire to raise my daughter this way.
It’s kind of funny, when my sons were born I wasn’t nearly as passionate about this. There’s something about raising a daughter who will one day leave my home and it’s very important to me that she know her worth and be strong. IMG_6540

Who was RUTH? What amazing TRUTH can we learn from her? Stay tuned to read and share about my quest to live authentically as a woman in today’s world and to empower other girls and women to do the same!