Do you ever get immediate confirmation that you are not crazy? It is good to get confirmation that you are not crazy! Or do you ever get immediate confirmation that you are “on the right track”? You ask for a sign, “Is what I am doing what I should be doing?”…and “Voila!”…there you have it…your answer given to you in a book or an article in a magazine or in a random e-mail or text message or a phone call from a long-lost friend or a song on the radio or an announcement from a newscaster or a NEON sign on the interstate that you drive down and up and down and up several times a day that you just never noticed was there before?
Does that ever happen to you?
It happens to me all of the time. Usually I notice by the second or third “coincidental message” that all “happen” to say the same thing. But sometimes it takes running into the NEON sign. Or sometimes it takes me getting my finger smashed in the door or catching the flu before I slow down enough to notice.
As I have aged, I have naturally slowed down. Maybe that is why people say that with age comes wisdom! Maybe wisdom is not only a by-product of learning lessons…but now we go slow enough to see the hole in the ground that we are about to fall into… again for the 50th time. Now we can see it and make a plan to bypass the old nemesis that has brought us down so many times before. And maybe we will not only go around it, but we will actually stop and check it out. What is down there? Why have I always fallen in there? What will it take to cover it over so that I or NOBODY else will ever ever ever fall down into that hole again? ….at least THAT hole again?
That is what I would consider becoming wise.
And another way that we become wise is that we start noticing that we are not like other people…and that it is good. It isn’t good to be unlike others to be contrary or anti-social or rebellious. It IS good to recognize that we are all gifted in ways that complement each other. Where one of us is weak, another is strong. And we learn how to emulate the gifts of others that we admire even if those gifts don’t come naturally to us.
Once upon a time I knew a woman named Dorothy. She was a friend of mine…went to my church…was in my book club…had twins just a little older than my children. She was about my age…and without her knowing it, I looked up to her. She was a hero. Maybe I should have told her…but I guess at the time I didn’t even realize how what she was doing would shape me… isn’t that how it is? (See now why we shouldn’t give up just because we can’t immediately see what good we may be doing??)
Anyway, Dorothy was the person that was always looking out for ways that she could help. If the frazzled mother with three toddlers and no husband within sight was struggling to carry the Wednesday night church dinner plates, her children and a high chair…Dorothy was the first one to help. She would gently take a child and a plate and the chair while calming everyone down (including the other gawkers that had remained seated). She had a loving presence. She made the world immediately a better place to be just by her constant small acts of sincere generosity and kindness. I wanted to be like that. I wanted to notice people who needed a hand…there are so many people who need a hand!
I wanted to see THEM…care about them…make them feel like they have someone looking out for them. Make them feel loved. It is amazing how someone’s interest in us…even for a brief moment…can make us feel connected…visible…not alone.
It is not my nature to notice the elderly lady struggling to lift the 25 pound box of cat litter into her buggy at Walmart. It isn’t my nature to see the older man drop his just purchased 44 ounce drink all over the gym floor. It isn’t my nature to carry groceries out of Costco for the pregnant lady. I am the LEAST observant human being on the planet…well, probably not least but my inability to pay attention to things (other than nature) in my outside world is an ongoing joke (or criticism) with my kids. If I have heard, “Did you REALLY NOT JUST SEE THAT???” once, I have heard it literally forty six thousand one hundred and seventy three times.
But Dorothy is a beautiful person. And I want to be like her. And so I try to pay attention. Sometimes it happens. Sometimes I notice and I can help. And it feels so good.
I know a woman named Judy. She is a grandmother at my church. She is a precious person with a heart of gold…and she is SOOOO TACTFUL. She could get an unpleasant point across without inflicting any pain on anyone…especially the people who SHOULD BE PAINED. And she would also be able to say words that would inspire folks who would otherwise potentially be her adversaries into being advocates for her cause. She is NOT AT ALL manipulative or back-handed. She is classy. She is thoughtful. She is gently determined.
I love this.
I want this.
I am not gentle…The James Taylor song actually comes to mind right now…you know the one? “ I am a steamroller, baby!”. And that is not good to be a steam roller, baby… when “one” (me) is trying to make a way peacefully and lovingly through life…and when “one” (me) is preaching peace light love and joy….it is hard to be joyful when you have just been steam-rolled, right?
When I used to play basketball and “box out/ block out” for rebounds people would stay away because my elbows were so sharp. My sharp edges have not softened as much as I would like. But I want to be like Judy. I want to do what I need to do and say what I need to say while not inflicting pain. I may need to hold my tongue and wait and think about what I want to say…or if I need to say anything at all.
Pray for me!
Tact is not my nature…but Judy is a beautiful person. And I want to be like her…so I try and pay attention. Again…pray for me.
Sometimes we have natural gifts that we have to discover…and then once we discover them, we have to hone them. Undisciplined gifts can backfire. Undisciplined gifts CAN cause more harm than good if they are used improperly. We must ALWAYS ask…what are our motives? Why are we doing what we are doing…why are we saying what we are saying? To help or to harm? For our glory or to do good for goodness sake?
Yesterday I wrote about my jealousy …my desire to be a writer and a speaker and a teacher and a preacher. And the fact that I am not Jen Hatmaker or Stasi Eldredge or Anne Lamott….or a multitude of other famous women who live the life that I want to live.
And I shared to the realization that I do live the life that I want to live…kind of 🙂 At least I know that I live the life that God has me in right now…and it is a blessing because I do write…and I do speak and teach and preach. I write for me and for you (if you are reading). And I speak and teach and preach to my kids and the kids at my church… and in a give-and-take way with the folks I work with and with my friends and extended family…and the folks that cross paths with me on any given day. I am using the gifts God gave me. God gave me the desire to do…and I do it!
… I am trying to pay attention to learn about the things that others do that are not easy for me. Because I see the beauty in it, God has given me a desire to do things that are difficult for me too.
…like pushing myself to be with people.
I love people, but I would be a VERY content hermit. I am NOT JOKING.
Give me a cottage in the woods with window boxes of colorful flowers…a room full of books, a comfy chair, a mellow dog and a cuddly cat, big bags of Skinny Pop Popcorn; Gardettos; and Peanut M&Ms (and Fuji water)…and I would be in heaven on earth…maybe a bag of carrots and a few Honey crisp apples…and some oatmeal and nuts and dried fruit too when I get that “unbalanced” feeling. Oh…and coffee and dark chocolate. OK. Now I am ready….oh, alright…and Chardonnay.
What? …YES!!! OF COURSE. I LOVE my children…and my husband…and my parents and sister and her kids and my grandmomma and cousins and aunt Mitzi and my friends and the kids that I teach. THAT is why I live in a neighborhood with thousands of people and have a ton of kids and work in a church and coach and go to Women’s Conventions…and committee meetings …and reunions and …Christmas shopping at the mall.
God has in every way set me up to HAVE to get out of my comfort zone! I have to interact. I have no choice!
I have a quote on my refrigerator that says, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” ~ Neale Donald Walsch
Remember how I said earlier about God and His messages… and how sometimes they come like a downpour…like a bombardment…like a neon sign in your face?
Well, I was reading a book by this guy Neale Donal Walsch…then I saw this quote…then I went and heard Jen Hatmaker and one of the VERY FIRST THINGS that she said at the opening of her talk was “At the end of our comfort zone we find the Great Comforter and God’s Comfort Zone.” And God is NEVER outside of His comfort zone.
Whoa! That is crazy to consider. I might be uncomfortable…but He isn’t. So where I don’t feel comfortable or capable…He is! He always ALWAYS is.
So… along with God’s message that I shared yesterday where God said to me, “Get over yourself, Christy…It’s not about you!” I started reading my new Anne Lamott book a couple of days ago and in the Prelude it says, “Redefinition is a nightmare – we think we’ve arrived in our nice Pottery Barn boxes, and that this or that is true. Then something happens that totally sucks, and we are in a new box, and it is like changing into clothes that don’t fit, that we hate. Yet the essence remains. Essence is malleable, fluid. Everything we lose is Buddhist truth – one more thing that you don’t have to grab with your death grip, and protect from theft or decay. It’s gone. We can mourn it, but we don’t have to get down in the grave with it.”
Isn’t that what Life is all about? Believing that we know something…to find out that we only know part of something and the rest is crap…that we need to learn to let it go or live a lie…and if we keep living with crap that is a lie we deceive ourselves and begin to believe that the crap is really great…but it isn’t and never will be and it is taking up a lot of space where something good should be instead…not to mention that it makes everything else contaminated and stinky and people may not be able to see it but they will smell it and people who we SHOULD be attracting into our life will be put off by it! Real people have a “Spidey-sense” for crap…and smart people avoid it because it has a way of getting all over the place and making things FOUL.
If we are brave and get rid of the crap, we have to rearrange and re-create and readjust…and it doesn’t feel “right” or natural…UNTIL it does! And then as soon as we feel comfortable something else “crappy” happens and we have to adjust again.
At first it might be scary or awful to dive in to start the toxic clean-up. We don’t know how it will turn out. But if we begin we find it isn’t scary to rid ourselves of waste. It is refreshing. It is rebirth.
We aren’t meant to die and give up and stay in the grave. We are meant to die and have faith and be like the Phoenix that rises again and again more and more beautiful.
That is what Dorothy did for me. I died a little bit to my old self when I saw how beautiful her service to others was. I wanted to be like her. I wanted to be more beautiful than I was before.
That is what Judy and Joy and Rebecca and Heather and Judi and Nan and Kelly and Shelly and Regan and Angie and Kristi and Belinda and Jennifer and Nola and Eileen and Michelle and Christy and Sylvion and Betsy and Cindy and Pat and Lisa and Angel and Tracie and Chris and Andrea and Amanda and Jynni and Julia and Delaney and Maggie and my sister and my mother and my husband and so many other people have done and do for me…and for others.
You are examples. You are friends. You are life-givers.
I will leave you with one more thing today. This message keeps coming my way: WE NEED EACH OTHER. Life is tough…we need people to help us lighten the load. We need people to love us when we are not feeling loveable.
Last week my new friend Shelly clued me in to a new book called “Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace” by Anne Lamott….Shelly who I just met because I told God about a month ago that it was time that I meet a friend in my neighborhood…Shelley who asked me to the Women’s Convention at the Baptist Church (and I went!) where I heard Jen Hatmaker…Jen Hatmaker who said the quote about God being at the end of our comfort zone…and who expresed numerous times her love for… Anne Lamott.
I bought my new Anne Lamott book Friday afternoon and started reading Monday…after the Sermon on Sunday morning that spoke of the NECESSITY of people in our lives to help us Heal. You tell me…are these things Unconnected? Random? Coincidence? …or a Neon Sign to pay attention?
Listen to some words from Anne…
“A few women in the community reached out to me. They recognized me as a frightened lush. I told them about my most vile behavior, and they said, ‘Me too!’ I told them about the crimes against the innocent, especially me. They said, ‘Ditto. Yay. Welcome.’ I couldn’t seem to get them to reject me. It was a nightmare, and then it was salvation. …I’ve discovered that offering welcome helps a lot. Especially to the deeply unpleasant or weird. The offer heals you both…I didn’t know how to let go of judging people so quickly, on how they look, or dress, or speak, so I couldn’t stop judging myself. I didn’t know welcome was a matter of life and death. Look how often lonely people kill themselves, or others. Look at what squandered and ridiculous lives most people lead…Trappings and charm wear off, I’ve learned. The book of welcome says, Let people see you. They see that your upper arms are beautiful, soft and clean and warm, and then they will see this about their own, some of the time. It’s called having friends, choosing each other, getting found, being fished out of the rubble. It blows you away how this wonderful event happened – me in your life, you in mine.”
Isn’t that beautiful? What a gift to have a real friend…and to be a real friend. What a blessing to have friends with gifts that we can learn from and become better and smarter and kinder and healed because of…
Welcome to my world…your world. Sometimes we die here… but there is no need to die here. And there is absolutely no excuse that anyone should ever alone. The world is full of people that are made for us…that we are made for.
Find the message: see the message. We need to let people who will love us SEE us. Slough off the façade. Chop off the fake. Something new and beautiful will grow there. Before we know it most of our original parts may be gone…but we will find that those parts were like baby teeth…not meant to be permanent. It is called growing up. It is called becoming beautiful.