You Never Know Who’s Watching…and Praying

DSCN6696

 

Her arms were crossed. Angry brown eyes holding back the tears while looking across the street. Avoiding any eye contact with her lunch date. A wall of glass separated me from her, but the entire Atlantic Ocean separated her from her boyfriend who was sitting across from her icy demeanor. He reached for her hand. She pushed his offering away, making the physical distance between them seem like light years.

I was inside the restaurant with my kids. Enjoying lunch. GF pizza and a salad. My tummy was satisfied, but my heart was hurting. They were sitting outside on the covered patio. The air was cool and her heart was frozen. It was painfully obvious  something bad and irreparable had transpired to bring this couple to this deep crevasse in their relationship.

I kept watching, glancing, trying not to stare. I felt like I was watching a movie. This particular scene was unfolding at rapid pace. She rummaged through her black hand bag, trying to find her wallet. Upon finding her credit card, she tossed it on the table. He covered it with his hand and motioned for her to put it back up. She abruptly left the table and his head dropped. Her credit card still lying on the table, he got his wallet out and flagged down the waitress.

I munched on another slice of pizza and wondered what must be going on between them. I physically felt my body aching for them. I quietly prayed. Lord, help them work this out. Help them reach the other side of this icy crevasse. Just then, my oldest, who is intuitively brave with her questions asked, “mama, what’s wrong?”

Busted. By a 9-year-old.

I motioned with my head to the young man sitting alone outside and told her not to stare, but to listen to me. I shared that he was there with his girlfriend and they seemed to be having a disagreement. Then came the next question, “how do you know?”

Because I’ve been watching them for the past 15 minutes. Hurting for them.

About this time, the young lady came back to the table. Arms still crossed. Eyes still hurting. She plopped down into the chair and crossed her legs. Her body all tied up like a pretzel and her heart all tied up in knots. It’s amazing how much our body can reflect what we are feeling on the inside. It’s very hard to hide pain. We can numb it, but it’s impossible to hide it.

The young man slid her credit card across the icy depths of the 3 foot round table. She grabbed it off the table, took the last gulp from her wine glass, and left him sitting there. Alone. She crossed the street and he watched her every step. The crevasse was ripping open further. He could feel it and so could I.

I’ll never know what becomes of this young couple. Maybe this is what Cheryl Strayed meant when she said, “As long as I live I’ll never tire of people-watching. On city buses and park benches. In small-town cafes and crowded elevators. At concerts and swimming pools. To people-watch is to glimpse the mysterious and the banal, the public face and the private gesture, the strangest other and the most familiar self. It’s to wonder how and why and what and who and hardly ever find out.”

I’ll never find out. And I don’t have to know, but I will pray. For both of them. For them to each find their way, whether it’s together or apart.

Finding our own way in life. We can’t do it for each other, but we can encourage and cheer each other along our individual paths.

Who can you encourage this week? Who can you pray for?

I’m praying for you.

x0x0,
your fellow traveler

*********************************************************************************

This post is part of my Moving Forward series. I try post something new every Sunday to prepare us for the week ahead. If you have enjoyed what you read, you can sign up to have my blog posts land in your inbox. Sign up at the top of this page, upper right hand corner. Thank you.

 

 

One Year Later – Soul Graffiti Art Studio

logo_highres_whitebackground

I still have a hard time believing I own and operate an art studio. Soul Graffiti opened for business and creative ventures October 1, 2013.

The past 12 months have been a time of rapid growth for me. As an artist, as a business owner, as a believer, and as a dreamer.

I’ve cried, laughed, and yelled. I’ve experienced the amazing community of local artists who have supported me and loved me. I’ve been doubted, questioned, and looked down upon. I’ve been supported, loved, and encouraged.

People I barely knew one year ago have supported Soul Graffiti in ways I could have never predicted. People I’ve known for decades don’t even know Soul Graffiti exists…is this even possible with social media?!?!

IMG_1066

I’ve washed more paintbrushes than I care to think about. I’ve learned to appreciate mason jars in a whole new way. Acrylic paint may be permanently embedded beneath my fingernails.

Michael, Jerry, and Mr. AC Moore know me by name and my checking account number.

I’ve painted my rear end off. I taught more than 60 classes. I’ve partnered with other amazing artists. My work has received criticism and made divisive waves. Received accolades and gotten raves.

I’ve shipped paintings to towns I’ve never visited. The Soul Graffiti Art Studio FB page has almost {we’re so stinkin’ close!} 500 LIKES. I’ve been commissioned to create gifts for birthdays, weddings, and new babies.

All this and I’m still in disbelief…walking on water. The waves are always beating against my feet, but my eyes have to stay on Jesus, the architect of my faith.

Faith, the evidence of things hoped for, but not seen. Soul Graffiti Art Studio was a massive leap of faith. I had no idea what was even possible. I started paying rent on a 400 square foot space and didn’t have the first class scheduled. I even thought it was a little bit cray cray myself.

My husband and my kids believed in me. From inception. From the moment I met a complete stranger turned soul sister Andrea Noles and she spoke life into my soul…”Lizzie, you need a place to land”.

IMG_0877

Her aptly spoken words fanned a spark in me that ignited my inner artist and turned into a flame. Now that flame burns with fervor and energy that’s palpable. Before last summer, I never even knew owning an art studio was a possibility.

But…I’ve seen some of what’s possible in the past year, and I believe we have only begun to scratch the surface of what’s possible when people have a place to create soulful masterpieces. A place to express and put on a canvas the graffiti that is written on their very souls.

Even with all I’ve mentioned, you know what makes me cry and smile at the same time? Artists who’ve landed at Soul Graffiti. Precious souls to me. People who took a risk. Dear souls who chose to show up. To play with paint. To share little pieces of themselves on a stretched canvas.

They took a huge risk and showed up. That’s what life is all about. That’s all I did when I opened the doors to Soul Graffiti one year ago.

So, one year later, how do I measure success? It’s not my checking account. Or the number of canvases I’ve painted. Or the accolades. All of those things are incomparable to the smiles, and aha’s, and tears, and “wow, I did that!” comments that I get to hear every week.

That’s how I measure success. One soul at a time. One artist who takes a risk and shows up at Soul Graffiti. That’s all God asked of me one year ago and that’s all I ask of the artists who take a risk at Soul Graffiti. And of myself. Success is showing up.

Hope you show up at Soul Graffiti Art Studio very soon!

1003612_10152293099955943_315887286_n

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior.

 

 

 

Moving Forward: I Believe…

DSCN5593

You believe in what you know to be true.

Tonight, I am pondering three things I believe to be true:

I believe every little thing happens for a reason.
I believe life is full of hidden treasure.
I believe the best is yet to come.

So, if you take all of those beliefs and blend them together, I believe we can:

Look for treasure every day and know that the greatest Treasure is waiting at the end of your earthly adventure.

My kids love to hunt for treasure:

Buttons, bottle caps, and blueberries.
Rocks, rabbits, and rainbows.
Lizards, locked doors, and lightning bugs.
Pansies, puddles, and poodles.

Under rocks and behind trees.
In their closets and at Goodwill.
In my purse and under the couch.
Through the forest and under the bridge.
They are constantly looking and they always seem to find treasure.

What happens when we grow up? Where does the treasure go? I believe it’s still there, but hidden from our busy eyes. We stop looking for treasure. We stop seeing the good in things and make assumptions about people and things which then turns into what we know to be true and  becomes part of our belief system.

We get so bogged down in the day in and day out struggles, that we lose sight of the treasure. And the greatest Treasure becomes dim in light of our current struggles.

But, I believe, yes, really believe we can change our treasure vision…no glasses needed! We only need to pause and take a look at all the treasure around us. Choose to see the world the way you did when a stick was a sword, bottle caps needed to be collected, and lizards made great pets.

Friends, this week, take a few minutes each day to look for treasure. To see the things of this world with fresh eyes…those things that make you smile like a 6 year old. So hard your cheeks hurt!

What are you believing right now? What do you know to be true?

xoxo

 

 

“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” Matthew 13:44

Looking Forward: Don’t Freak Out…

Last Sunday, I started a new Sunday offering on this blog, “Looking Forward”:

Grace for the next 7 days of our lives.
The minutes we’ve yet to live.
The memories we’ve yet to make.
The masterpieces we’ve yet to create. 

May we pause together tonight and ponder the future minutes, memories, and masterpieces the next 7 days may hold.

************************************

The first day of vacation and between the 4 of us, we have a gastrointestinal virus, terrible allergies, and an encounter with a jellyfish that left the youngest Branch with his right foot tattooed:

20140921_184951[1]

He was playing in the surf, trying to catch little fish with his net. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him leap out of the water and start running towards his mama who wears her heart on her sleeve when it comes to her babies. I bolted towards him after I heard him screaming, “OUCH, OUCH, OUCH!!!” over and over again.

We met in the middle of what seemed like 15 miles between us. I glanced at his foot, which was already red and starting to swell.

“Right there on top of my foot,” he gasped. “It feels like a wasp stung me, but wasps don’t live in the water!” My literal son…love him.

“No, but jellyfish do!” I informed him.

“WHAT! What’s going to happen to me?” he seemed a little concerned…

I helped him back to the house and gave him Benadryl while googling “what to do when a jellyfish stings you”.

While I was googling, Sean was sitting on the bed with his eyes closed talking himself out of a conundrum. He wasn’t crying, not even a tear. He talks to himself all the time, but it was what he was saying that caused me to stop my googling and whisper a prayer of gratitude in the midst of our adversity. He kept repeating to himself:

“Don’t freak out, Sean.”
“Don’t freak out, Sean.”
“Don’t freak out, Sean.”

He was truly focusing on calming his heightened emotions. Now, it’s a miracle I didn’t freak out. I didn’t panic. I knew we had Benadryl and I knew worst case, we would go to urgent care.

But, I learned something from Sean today, my youngest teacher.

When life stings you, it would be so easy to just give in and freak out. To work harder to make things happen. To lose sleep worrying. To panic and stop breathing. But, there is a better way.

As we look forward and pray about the upcoming week which will hold stings of all types, let’s follow Sean’s example and not freak out. Even if we have to say it to ourselves out loud over and over again.

Friends, let’s not freak out! Let’s pause, breathe, and pray for help.

xoxo

Looking Forward

Things have been quiet in this space lately. I guess you could say I’ve been on a sabbatical of sorts. Not announced, not planned, not fully understood. But, good for me. Really good for my soul.

I’ve been writing, just not publishing. Bleeding at the keyboard, just not sharing my bandaged covered soul with you.

Writing from your innermost place of quiet and introspection requires a lot of you. I have to go to a different place in my head when I write. And it costs me something because I’m giving something away. Sometimes it costs too much.

I’m learning that writing is much like being in a friendship. You can never pay backwards. You always pay it forward. This learning brings me to an announcement of sorts. I am going to start posting mostly every Sunday. A new type of post.

Every Sunday in my life, I spend some time with my calendar. I look forward to the week ahead. I plan. I organize. I make lists. I stop and take a moment to ask God to help me and give me supernatural insight. I look forward to all that lies ahead of me.

So, on my blog, I am going to start writing {and posting!} a “Looking Forward” offering almost every Sunday. I like the idea of an offering. Nothing is required of you, or me. It will be an offering of lessons learned, things observed, quotes, coaching tidbits, coaching questions, encouragement, and grace.

Grace for the next 7 days of our lives.
The minutes we’ve yet to live.
The memories we’ve yet to make.
The masterpieces we’ve yet to create. 

May we pause together on Sundays to ponder the future minutes, memories, and masterpieces.

Here we go. Let’s hold hands and leap!

************************************

As most of you know, we spent the last week at the happiest place on earth. One word…magical. Smiles plastered on our faces. Yes, all four of us. Big kids, too!

My daughter summed it up one afternoon after watching the Nemo movie come to life on stage at Animal Kingdom…

“Mom, there’s so much to see and hear…I can’t take it all in!”

As a mom, I cried.
As a coach, I cheered.
As a believer, I thanked my God.

May we all look at the week ahead and choose to see the positive. There will always be negative and we can choose to embrace it, but I challenge you and me to embrace something different. Choose to see the silver lining instead of the cloud. The sparkles instead of the blemishes. The glitter instead of the mess. As my 9-year-old said, you won’t be able to take it all in.

Let’s live our minutes making memories and creating masterpieces. He’s called us out upon the waters. Let’s keep our eyes off the waves this week. Much love to you all.

20140908_133245[1]

 

How Do You Even Begin To Understand

I listened as she spewed forth the venom that poisoned her for years. My heart swollen, my hands sweaty, and my mind sickened by the details. Depressed? Of course she was depressed. To be honest, I was surprised she was alive. She had endured untold horrors. Things no one should ever have to endure.

How do you even begin to understand? To explain all of it?

frederick buechner butterfly

How do you go on? How do you live with the weight that smothers you so much you feel like you can’t breathe, yet go through the motions again for another 24 hours?

When you’re depressed, the hours roll off the clock like frozen molasses.

When you’re depressed, you often don’t want to go on.

The alternative, death, is much more appealing than the thought of having to endure. No one wants to talk about suicide. Depression. Very very dark days. Total eclipses of the heart.

And when we are depressed, we feel like no one wants to listen to our desperate saga.

So we masquerade in our darkness like nocturnal gypsies. In the dark of night when it feels safer, we cry into our pillows because we don’t want to be a burden…and pillows don’t remember or care.

When we’re depressed, what do we need?

We need to know we’re not alone.
We need to know we’re loved.
We need to know we don’t have to have it all together all the time.
We need to do our art.
We need to be accepted just as we are.
We need to not be judged for being different.
We need to share our stories with safe people.

Maybe if we know we are not alone, loved, okay just as we are, accepted, not being judged for being different…maybe that will be when we feel safe enough to share our stories. Maybe that will be a place where seeds are planted, shoots of green growth begin to painfully, yet miraculously pierce the ground, and vibrant life begins anew.

Loving one another is always dirty work. We’re all a mess if you strip us down to our basic selves. We’re all needy whether you want to admit you have needs or not.

I don’t believe in a “cure all” for mental illness. But, I do believe love and acceptance is always the best place to start. No one thing will cure all mental illness. But, one comment, one pay it forward at your coffee joint, one note dropped in the mail, one sincere “how are you”…these things will plant seeds. Seeds of change.

We need each other. We need grace. We need soothing grace to rain down and cleanse our souls. Be the gift of grace to someone today. And if you need grace, please don’t be afraid to ask.

My friend told her once “untold” horrors that day and I listened. Not because I wanted to, but because I couldn’t not listen. I was compelled by grace. Gripped by this familiar gift that I’ve been given so freely.

She spoke the unspeakable horrors that day and was so very brave. She spoke and grace rained down. Buckets of grace.

 

The Do Good Life

When I was a performance based, people pleasing, pew possessing Christian, I never read my Bible. I rarely prayed. But, I wanted you to think I did. Good works and church attendance and saying the right things paved the road of good intentions ahead of me. Never cursing or having a glass of wine or talking about all the doubts I had.

Doubts? What if someone found out I secretly had doubts. I questioned things. I wondered if all the stuff I said I believed was true? Or was it some game I was playing by adhering to a set of rules and jumping through hoops.

How could this be? I could quote verses that spoke of freedom in Christ, but I felt like a prisoner. I sang songs that echoed amazing grace when I felt way less than amazing. I held back anger and frustration for years thinking I must be doing something wrong or not doing enough or maybe I was just plain screwed up.

I feared God and other people. Honestly, I feared other people more than I feared God. I feared they would figure out that I didn’t have it all together. I wasn’t as perfect as I proclaimed. That maybe, I actually needed God. A lot.

But, I didn’t know Him. I knew a lot about Him. My eternal salvation was secure, but I was miserable. And as I looked around my coveted pew, I didn’t seem to be the only one who was miserable.

DSCN2271

I believe we preach freedom, but we live captive.

I believe we talk a lot about God, but we don’t talk to Him or listen to Him.

I believe we want our Heaven card punched, but don’t know who we are on this side of Heaven.

I realize that this message will rock the boat. Stir the pot. And ruffle some feathers.

And maybe that’s why I feel compelled to write it and share it with you. I was sick and tired of the “do good life”. It got me no where but depressed and farther from God than I’ve ever been. One day several years ago, one very lonely and dark day, I decided to show up. Naked and with nothing to offer but me. No good deeds. No performances. No money. No idea what would happen next.

What happened was a miracle of sorts. At the end of performing me, I found the real me. The one who had been hiding. The funny thing is, I really really liked her and knew her instantly. She had always been with me, but I was too busy posing to take the time to get to know her.

When I began to face my doubts, look for answers to my questions, and live in the truth of who I was, needy and desperate for Jesus Christ, only then did I begin to experience freedom and amazing grace and joy as the real me. I didn’t need God until I came to the end of the self who was playing god.

But when I let go of the ropes that held me captive consisting of good works, performing, and self-dependency, I discovered grace for the very first time. Instead of falling from grace, I landed in a huge sea of grace. Overwhelming and intoxicating grace.

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

  **Stay tuned for part two of this message. If you don’t want to miss it, subscribe to my blog by email. You can do this by typing your email into the box in the upper right corner of this page.  

 

 

 

When God Speaks

800px-1st_Yellow_Jacket_Of_The_Season

{Photo courtesy of Wiki Commons}

Callie and Sean were rocking and talking on the front porch. Anthony had plans to spruce up the natural area in our front yard while I was gone. The kids were going to help him pick up the branches and overgrowth after he finished cutting and trimming. It all seemed like a good plan. At my urging, the kids would sit on the front porch until Anthony finished swinging the axe and the bushaxe. Just made sense to this mama…

I backed out of the driveway and waved good bye to my three favorite people. As I shifted the car into drive, my mind shifted to getting to an appointment in Raleigh on time. I turned the radio off because quiet just made sense to this mama…

I started driving the backroads that would lead me to the highway 70 Clayton bypass. 3 minutes and less than 2 miles into my quiet drive, my solitude was interrupted by a jarring message. I sensed a breath taking thought from out of the clear blue sky:

“Call Anthony and warn him about the yellow jackets.”

Totally did not make sense to this mama, but I could not pick up my phone fast enough. I hit send and he answered. Now, when I left home, his cell phone was on the kitchen counter and he was outside. I knew he was probably not going to answer, but he did to my surprise.

I said, “Babe, please be careful and watch out for yellow jackets.”

He was breathless and said, “How did you know?”

I inquired, “Know what?”

He said with a gasp, “I just got stung by several yellow jackets on my legs. I must have disturbed their nest.”

“Oh my God…are the kids okay?” I asked. Just made sense to this mama to ask about the kids first…

“Yes. It just happened. No kidding, I just walked in the front door. Callie ran and got my phone because it was ringing when I told them to run in the house. Seriously, how did you know?”

“I didn’t know. I don’t know how I knew. I just got this thought from nowhere that said to call you and tell you to watch out for yellow jackets. Are you okay?” I asked. I was so concerned about the kids, I hadn’t even asked him how he was.

“You’re serious…you just had a thought? Wow…I wish you had gotten it about 60 seconds sooner. This happened right before you called. My phone was still ringing when I ran in the front door behind the kids,” he shared.

I chuckled at his humor, but quickly went into nurse mode and told him to take some benadryl and tell Callie to get the ice packs for his stings. I stayed on the phone with him for the duration of my drive to make sure he was okay.

I was shaken, but in awe. In awe of that thought. That simple yet powerful thought. I knew I had to call Anthony and warn him. Absolutely no doubt.

Sometimes it is a thought.
Sometimes a phone call.
Sometimes a dream.
Sometimes a vision.
Sometimes a message from a stranger.
Sometimes an answer to prayer.
Sometimes the way the light bounces off the water.
Sometimes a verse or quote.
Sometimes a song.
Sometimes a piece of seaglass.
Sometimes a letter in the mail.
Sometimes a missed flight.
Sometimes a red light.
Sometimes a license plate.
Sometimes you just know and you don’t know why.

But this I do know. God still speaks to us. And when God speaks, I listen. When I can’t give a natural explanation, there has to be a supernatural explanation. That is the mystery of walking with God. The mystery of listening to the Spirit.

How do you listen to the Spirit? How do you know when God is “talking” to you? I am no theologian, but I listen by being quiet. By resting in the moment and tuning out the world. It was no accident I was craving quiet when I got into the car to drive to Raleigh. I need quiet in my life. I need to shut my mouth and be still. Be open to hear what the Helper, the Holy Spirit, wants to say to me.

I don’t hear from God everyday in an almost audible voice. But, I see Him every day in creation. When I look at my kids. When I think about the love story I get to live everyday within the boundaries of marriage. When I get to talk with a soul sister who loves me. It just doesn’t make sense to think that all of these gifts could come from any other source.

Open your eyes. Open your hands. Open your ears. Breathe deeply. And be ready to receive. Always be ready, be expectant. This is the mystery. Don’t try to understand it. Respect it and trust that God knows best. Even if the phone call is 60 seconds “too late”.

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” John 14:26

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When your dreams seem forgotten…

She knew exactly what she was doing. And she knew it was wrong…but something inside of her couldn’t make her do the right thing.

Green and brown. The letter “T” for “turtle”. Instructions were given as she stared at the coloring page in front of her. “Use your green and brown crayons to color the turtle and then trace the upper and lower case T’s using your pencil.”

Green and brown. Green and brown. Green and brown. These words echoed in her head as she reached into the dark cold desk and pulled out the red crayon.

Dare she? What’s the worst thing that could happen? It was just a little color….

Ahhhh, there. Now her little box turtle had a red patch on his shell.

She no longer noticed the teacher sitting at her desk across the room as she replaced the red crayon for a blue crayon. The red box needed a neighbor and blue was the perfect choice. Somehow, deep inside of her, she knew this to be true. Red needs blue and blue needs red, for then they become purple!

You guessed it. Blue was slipped back into the desk for the chunky purple crayon. She peeled back the Crayola paper and filled in the whitespace outlined in black next to the red patch on the box turtle.

IMG_2841[1]

All the while, she could feel the excitement welling up inside of her little blonde haired blue-eyed soul. It was as if she was the only 5-year-old in the classroom. Nothing else mattered. She was creating a colorful masterpiece.

This process continued until she had the entire turtle colored Technicolor, explosion style! It satisfied her so much that she got out of her desk and walked up to her teacher’s desk to show her. She was so proud. Until….

She stuffed the folded piece of paper with a note written on it into her book bag. She couldn’t imagine why her teacher folded her masterpiece. And she had no idea what the words written in red on the back said. Her teacher’s instructions were to give it to her mom for her to read.

All the way home, she wondered what the words could possibly say. But, she couldn’t read yet, and the letters were all curvy. They weren’t printed like other letters they practiced each day.

She was so curious and couldn’t wait to share the picture with her parents. Maybe her teacher really liked her turtle, but she didn’t seem too happy about it when she folded it and wrote the note on it…

The next morning, she pulled the note out of her book bag. It was no longer a masterpiece. It was a note written in red curvy letters explaining that she had not followed directions and needed to learn to do what the teacher says.

She walked up to her teacher’s desk and handed it to her with an apology. “I’m sorry for not listening to your directions.”

But, deep inside, she wasn’t sorry. She was shamed. She was hurt. She was broken. She was changed. Soulfully so.

And, she had learned one thing very well. If you want to do well in school, in life, or in general, you have to do exactly what you are told and ignore the passion and creativity that wells up inside of you.

This is the only way to be successful in school. Once this lie weaved its way into her 5-year-old mind and soul, it grew vines and thorns and became a way of life.

All throughout school and college and graduate school, she did the right thing. Her box of 8 chunky crayons was traded in for a box of 264 crayons that took up space on a shelf in her office. She loved the splash of color it added to the room. But, she never used them…

Until she decided at 35 years old to write a children’s book. Writing is academic. It can’t be the wrong thing to do, she thought. She took a class in acrylics because she wanted to learn how to sketch and draw for her book. Not because she wanted to paint or draw, but because it would help her accomplish something else.

But you know what? That didn’t happen at all. It didn’t go quite like she had planned. She fell in love, and you know what they say about love, right? It consumes you. You constantly think about the person or thing you love. Her crayons came off the shelf. She dusted them off and used every color in the Technicolor rainbow.

The little 5-year-old girl who was also sitting on the shelf in the game of life, was given a second chance to do what she loves. And when she’s painting, nothing else matters. Hours pass by without her even noticing. They just seem to slip off the clock.

All along, God was helping her to become who she is now. It took 30 years for this little 5-year-old girl to break out the paint and crayons. And I don’t regret any of it. Not one thing I experienced in the 30 years before today. All of those experiences led me here. For that, I am very grateful for that 5-year-old little girl and her courage.

In those 3 decades, she never disappeared. There were glimpses of her all along the way.

The way she would pause and watch the sunset and clouds swirl. The way she would linger by the paint section at Lowe’s. The way she would always be attracted to those passionate artistic people she met along her journey. The way she would always use colored pens and markers instead of black ink. The way she would somehow mysteriously find every office supply store in town.

Yes. She never left. She was there all along. And now she gets to play with paint. All the time. And it feels just right. Almost perfect.

 

What is one thing you do that causes you to lose track of time?

What dream or desire inside of you is left undone?

What do you want to do about it?

 

 

Act With Freedom

act with freedom

Loyalty flows through my veins like a sanguinous river. If you are in my circle, something drastic has to happen in order for me to show you the exit sign. However, this is not always a great thing. My heart is often heavy because I will go to the 15th round, bloodied and bruised because I believe people are worth my effort, oftentimes regardless of what it costs me.

In recent years, I have been setting firm boundaries. Mainly because I have to. I have to guard my hours and minutes like a mother hen watches her nest. However, my heart is the same. I want to build deep connections with the people in my life. Those who I believe God wants me to pour into and build relationships with.

But, anytime you are in relationships, anytime you choose to link arms with another human being, you will hurt them and they will hurt you. Bottom line.

Please tell my you know what I’m talking about? Have you ever poured yourself into a relationship, job, ministry, child, project, or cause? Invested everything and every resource that you possibly could….only to be disappointed in the outcome?

I have done this more than I could possibly recount.

I was attached to the outcome. I had something in mind that I wanted to see happen. I wanted different results. And when I didn’t get them, I was hurt or afraid or bitter. Maybe I wanted more for them than they wanted for themselves… Maybe I wanted something from them that they couldn’t possibly give me… Maybe I put them in the wrong position in my life…

In all the examples I can think of, I acted with expectation. One of the first things I learned in graduate school was that “unmet expectations lead to frustration”. In other words, frustration is always the end result when you don’t get what you want. Well, duh. I knew what this felt like, but I had never taken the time to process it mentally, only with my heart, until recently.

As I was pondering what it means to “act without expectation”, my mind shifted over to this question: How in the world does one “act without expectation”? Or better yet, is it even possible to act without expectation?

The life coach in me started processing questions that would help me unearth the treasure hidden deep inside this enigma.

1) Would I do what I am about to do if no one noticed? Root = desire to be recognized

2) Who am I trying to impress or gain favor with by what I am about to do? Root = desire to be loved/liked

3) Is what I am about to do going to increase the chances that another person will think I am okay, good, normal, acceptable, etc.? Root = desire to be accepted.

4) Will I be upset or frustrated if there is no mutual reciprocation of my actions? Root = being a human being

This is such a difficult topic. There has been much research on altruistic behavior. And to put it nicely, it is very rare to find people who act purely based on altruism. When most of us do things, we expect something in return. Plain and simple.

After all, we are human beings. We need and want to be recognized, loved, liked, and accepted. Right? We are all born with these basic emotional needs.

But knowing that we have these needs and learning to manage them are two separate issues. So how do we act without expectation in our relationships?

I believe the answer is completely radical to our human nature. We can’t act without expectation (well, maybe some of us can, but I’m not one of them). When we act we expect things. What I am learning to do and what I would encourage you is to not act without expectation, but to act with intention. And when you act with intention, I would encourage you to answer these questions:

1) Is what I’m about to do or say kind, gracious, and necessary?

2) Would I still say or do this if I gained nothing? 

3) What is my motive behind my words and or actions? To make me look worthy, acceptable, and lovable, or something else?

4) Am I willing to accept the fact that my actions or words may not be reciprocated and be okay with it?

If you spend some time pondering these questions, I believe you will be able to discern whether or not you are acting with the wrong expectations or if you are acting with intention. If you check your intentions or motives before you speak or act, your frustrations will decrease as you realize that you and only you are responsible for your motive. When you release the outcome, you release yourself from emotional hell. You are not responsible for other’s actions, words, or motives.

Then you can act with freedom, instead of with expectations.

I am learning and living this right along with you. I pray we can both act in freedom and not be tied to the uncontrollable expectations of others. The only person you will ever be able to control is yourself. And that is more than enough for one lifetime!