Stuck in the gutter?

Oscar Wilde once said “We’re all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” I don’t know the origin of the quote or the context in which he said it, but it’s striking to me. I see it as kind of an Eeyore mentality in that we’re all in the gutter, but a Winnie-the-Pooh mentality to look up at the stars.

Perhaps it strikes me strongly right now because I feel like as a country, as a society, we’re seemingly deep in the gutter — and not enough people are looking up at the stars. Because when you look up at the stars, you want to reach for something. When you want to reach for something, you dream about it. You imagine your life differently. You start to see a path forward and ponder how… You identify the action steps necessary. And, you begin to work your way out.

So, I began to wonder: what is keeping us “in the gutter?” I came up with a few societal ills that I think begin to cover our collective gutter-dwelling status. Disclaimer: I identify these and by no means say that I am innocent of them; quite opposite, actually. I think that we all can fall victim to these, and other problems that hold us down.

  1. Entitlement – We seem to live in a world where we believe we deserve the best things. We’re quick to be frustrated, we want everything perfect and immediately, and we are quick to judge others for a litany of different things.
  2. Violence – The world is plagued by people and groups who resort to violence to express their emotions, recklessly hurting others and extinguishing people with whom they disagree. This underlines a misconception on the value of each person’s life, as well as proves the entitlement issue (i.e.: a violent perpetrator believes their life to be more important than that of their victims).
  3. Apathy – We see a whole lot of bad going on, and don’t often do too much (if anything at all) to stop it. We need to be excellent – and by that, I mean we need to excel in our effort to do good, recognize good, praise good, reaffirm good, and ensure good continues. Aristotle said “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” So, we’ve got to continue to practice it.

So, while the previous list isn’t exhaustive, I think it groups some necessary realities into easy to digest topics. And, it helps me to think about how to transfer those into positives.

  • Instead of acting entitled, remember that I am NO better than any other person. I am called to be a peaceful, loving child of God – a sister to all. That means I do good and be good, loving those around me for all of their qualities and their flaws, and believe that they will do the same in return.
  • Instead of acting violent or endorsing violence, I preach and teach a culture of understanding and conflict resolution that takes place using words and conversation rather than acts of aggression. While I am blessed to not face extreme violence, I recognize that violent acts are a slippery slope, and so I keep my eyes open to actions that are violent in nature.
  • Instead of feeling numb about the tragic ways of the world and doing nothing, I seek to be a voice that shares positivity and a different way. I don’t submit that the world is unchangeable; rather, I believe that the drops I add to the ocean do indeed create a ripple (at least I pray that they do). I continually think “Is what I am doing today going to get me closer to where I want to be tomorrow?”

At the heart of it, I think that we as a society and a world are in a very busy, loud, place where there are lots of voices speaking and not enough ears listening. “Nothing in life is to be feared; it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more so that we may fear less.” I think we, collectively, have a lot to understand about each other. I truly believe that if we seek to understand and move forward so tomorrow is better, then we, despite coming from different places, are all “in the gutter together” but “looking at the stars.”

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numb to the news

It’s frustrating to me that yet another senseless act of violence has happened. It’s heartbreaking to me to hear the names of the victims. It’s confounding to me that it continues to happen. And its disturbing to me that I’ve reached a point where I come to expect it.

I am almost ashamed to admit that it doesn’t hit my heart as hard as I want it to. I don’t say that to sound robotic. But in attempt of being riskily honest, I will say that now, when I turn on the news and see yet another act of violence or terror, it doesn’t stop me in my tracks like it used to.

Instead, it follows a typical set of reactions: we are shocked, we begin to learn the names, we begin to hear a profile of the killer, 24 hour news cycles ask ‘why’ and camp out on the victims’ families front yards, you start to see #Prayfor(InsertCityHere) on social media, you hear talking heads on the news analyzing the crime and the mind of the killer, and you’re told to focus on the victims and not on the killers name. We’re told it’s not a time for politics, we’re told by the right the best way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun; we’re told by the left that guns are the problem. For those who don’t pick a side and many in between, we’re told that mental health is the issue. Either way, no matter what way you lean, there’s an issue.

I don’t say the previous litany of reactions to undermine the severity of the tragedies. In fact, it’s for the opposite reason. I say it because I’m so fed up with having this be such a routine. To hear Anderson Cooper have to come on and speak with mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, etc. To see grown men cry over the loss of their children, to hear politicians ask for prayers and support for their cities and states, and I just don’t know how I want to act.

To feel so small in a world that seems so full of hate is overwhelming. It feels like a burden that I can’t bear. I don’t know what is needed, I really don’t. I think that’s what is so hard. I can’t imagine the feeling of the families who lose a loved one and have the eyes of the nation on them, just to have another tragedy four days later and the news crews are gone. They pack up and move on to the next ravaged town. It’s hard to understand.

According to the FBI, a “mass killing” is defined as “murdering four or more persons during an event with no cooling-off period between the murders.” And USA Today reports that 208 people have died this year as a result of mass killings. This makes it the deadliest year for mass killings in over a decade. And the trend just seems to be being beat each year. Because the runner up was 2016, with 188 people killed in such attacks.

One of the craziest part of these statistics that I found in my research is how common mass killings are. I thought that what we saw on the news was bad. But according to USA Today, mass killings take place once every two weeks on average. And “though large public killings, like those in Sutherland Springs, Las Vegas, Orlando, San Bernardino, and Newtown earn headlines and national attention, the data reveal that these account for only about one in five mass killings.”

And, according to Mother Jones’ Google database on mass killings from 1982-2017, only 15 of the 96 were committed using weapons obtained illegally.

The Gun Violence Archive keeps track of public record and aggregates the information for public review. In 2017 alone, there have been 52,489 gun violence incidents, resulting in 13,183 deaths and 27,002 injuries. Of those killed or injured, 3,380 of them were children under age 17.

Living in Chicago, I became numb to the number of shootings happening each day. Particularly, the weekends where the article would be about a specific incident, and then the end of the article with quickly mention the 3-5 other gun incidents that happened during the same news cycle. Like, there wasn’t even enough room for them to include them separately so they group all the violence into one.

This morning, the headline in Chicago read “Chicago close to recording 600th homicide for only second time since 2003.” A neighbor of a homicide victim on Chicago’s South Side was asked why not move to a safer place. “I’m scared to move somewhere else because it’s so bad everywhere,” she said. “At least I know people here now.” What a situation to be in.

When I write, I want it to have an action step, a lesson, something to go on. In this situation, I don’t. And that is so tough. But, I think silence on a subject is worse than what I’m doing. At least thinking about it, learning about it, writing about it, well, it validates that it’s happening.

What now?

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stay awake, be ready.

Walking into church this morning, I didn’t expect to see purple. While I know that Advent comes around every year in what seems like minutes after Thanksgiving dishes are cleaned up, I still was surprised today. Today’s Mass was a prime example of how I get caught up checking off the items on my to-do list, but overlook the bigger picture! And to think that the whole message is “Stay awake, be ready, for you know not the hour when the Lord is coming.” Well, I wasn’t awake. But, I can assure you that after the great Mass experience I had this morning, I am awake and more prepared than ever to try and make this Advent my best yet. As I have referenced before, I’m a tad OCD when it comes to accomplishing things: I’m an organizer, a planner, a list-maker, a rule follower. So, the same will be true for me in this Advent mission. I have come up with a few items that I’d like to pay more attention to incorporating in my life this Advent, as well as a reflection on how my mindset can be focused during this season of preparation, anticipation, and excitement.

1) I’d like to get back into the routine of attending weekday Masses. For someone who works in churches every day, I haven’t been to a weekday Mass in quite some time. And I haven’t been going with any regularity since college. In an effort to be practical about the time binds of work and competition prep, I will strive to make it to a weekday Mass at least once per week during this Advent season.
2) As a professional in the nonprofit sector, one might think that I have many volunteering obligations. However, I spend so much time in the act of fundraising and working with my client, that I don’t sacrifice my personal time to service to others. This is something I’d like to change for this Advent season. I don’t have expectations on what it will look like specifically, but in a city with such great need, I want to make sure to incorporate at least two acts of volunteer service over this Advent season.
3) When we think of “getting ready for Christmas,” the first thing that often comes to mind is the shopping for gifts and the stress that perhaps accompanies the task. I am grateful that my immediate family has decided to forego gifts this year in order to take a family trip over the Christmas holiday instead. This makes me able to more fully focus on the reason for the season, seeing that I won’t be caught up in checking people off my Santa shopping list. Through this deferral of gifts, I think I will have greater opportunity to spend time and money on things that bring value to the season. At this moment, the first thing that comes to mind is my newfound love for cooking. I hope to work on this skill while giving back to others. I think that baking some goodies and trying some new recipes will be a great way to give back to the folks who make my life brighter each day (but who may not expect a gift from me!)

Lastly, the mindset of the season. This, for me, is paramount. As I prepare to wrap up a long term assignment in Chicago and begin to transition to a new client and assignment (perhaps moving states away), I think that the only realistic way I accomplish that with low stress is to give it up to God. I think that the metaphor of walking on the beach with the Lord is applicable here. Right now, I’m walking beside him, but now that at any moment, I’m going to be picked up and carried through to the next safe space to land. What can I do to make this preparation one that is fruitful and effective? And, besides the move and upcoming transition, a few overall questions to consider: Am I being who Christ wants me to be? Am I acting in a way that is loving, patient, and kind? Am I acting in service of self, or others? Am I the girlfriend that my partner deserves? Am I in control of my emotions and aware of my words? Am I being a supportive member of my family? Am I present while in conversations? These are some thematic questions I hope to keep in mind during this time of preparation for Christmas.

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Choosing Happiness: forgiveness, God, politics, lists, youtube, priorities, transitions, traffic, and friendships.

I think that we need to work on our understanding of happiness. In my mind, contentedness is similar to a point where it’s often unrecognizable. I know that for me, when I am “happy,” it’s a time when things are – simply put – going well. Nothing dramatically amazing is flying around in front of me, but if asked, I can’t think of too many rough things either. Happy means I’m set, I’m good to go, things are good…you get the point.

But what plays into that? Surely its not that I was prescribed a list of things to do to be happy directly before I was asked how if I felt that emotion, right? “Do this, this and this, and you’ll be happy.” *Proceed to do this this and this, and !@#$ there we go.* No. When I was writing down random thoughts I wanted to put forth in a post, I realized that in doing so, I was creating an ingredient list for happiness. There are some greater themes which could encircle the words, perhaps PERSPECTIVE and FAITH are among the most encompassing. But, I digress. I will share a bit about each of the things that flew into my psyche when I decided I wanted to spew some words into cyberspace.

(1) Forgiveness. It’s probably my #5 favorite F word, after Family, Friends, Faith, and Food. 🙂 When you search the term on Google, you receive over 68 million results in half of one second. So, FORGIVE me for adding yet another interpretation. The presented definition – in the handy little “we hope this is your perfect response and the only answer you need” box that Google provides – is “Forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as vengefulness, with an increased ability to wish the offender well.” Hmmmmm…I don’t like this definition. Though disagreeing with it would suggest I have a new definition, I don’t. But, I do think that forgiveness doesn’t require there to be a VICTIM and I don’t think there has to be an OFFENSE. I think it relates more to the CONSCIOUS DECISION that whatever the “offense” was in the SUBJECT’s mind/heart, is not paying the rent for squatting in their mind/heart any longer. It’s the first of the month, that offense isn’t a good tenant. Move Out.

Now I say that and it makes it sound transactional and easy, which I know would be foolish to try and persuade one to believe. In my life, I have come to realize that forgiveness is a freeing process by which I can let things go and the best part is it’s up to me. I think a VERY important truth of this is the following: Just because you have decided to forgive the other person for whatever the action/inaction was, it doesn’t negate the validity of whatever feelings you had. Does that make sense? For example: One hypothetically is in an office environment, when a coworker says something vile and offensive regarding our main character. It was hurtful and poorly thought out. Now, our subject is upset by this, understandably. Regardless of the offender’s reaction with either an apology or not, the ball is in our subject’s court. She/He can decide that this comment is either worth their stress/anxiety/mental energy, or not. Welcome, forgiveness, you’re now at the party. If and when the subject forgives the person (in their mind or by their words), it wipes clean the offense in the sense that they are no longer suffering from it because they have chosen to abort that feeling. I think it’s an important distinction, though, to know that it doesn’t mean that just because you can decide to forgive someone, that the initial feelings you had at the time of the offense are any less valid or reasonable.

So, forgiveness. Practicing it, working at it (literally done by not-so-simply choosing to do it) has been working wonders in my life. Both with very big things in my past, as well as the day-to-day antics.

(2) God. An obvious one for me so I won’t need to go on for long. But, talking to God keeps me happier than anything else. I have been winding around in “I don’t know how to connect with God” no-mans-land for a while, and then the tried and true method of writing in my journal every night works without fail. It can be short, it can be long, but doing that, putting my thoughts on paper (to God) really feels like the most genuine sense of calm in my day.

(3) Politics. (Insert obligatory laugh here, because WHY IS POLITICS LISTED IN THE HAPPINESS POST?!) Well, I’ll tell you. This Presidential election, no matter how incredibly theatric it is and is portrayed, teaches me something quite exciting. YOU can do whatever you want. That is a liberating feeling. We have a man who decided that he was going to dye his skin orange, his fake hair blond, own hotels, host a TV show, fire a bunch of worthy people, say whatever is on his brain, and, oh yeah, run for Oval Office. We also have a woman who has fallen down and continued to get back up, who has ridiculed others and broken laws, who has represented the people and also been out of touch, who offends fashion sense on a regular basis, and she has decided too, that she is qualified to be the President. I promise, I’m not supporting either one of them. But I will say this. When I see the platform these two people have and the influence they have drawn, I can only be encouraged by the realization that this means we ALL have an incredible opportunity to impact the world. We can each decide to do whatever the heck we want to, say whatever is on our mind, work 54234 different jobs, and still, we could still be top dog (that is, if we want to be). That’s encouraging.

(4) Lists. I don’t have to promise you that lists are constantly made by me, as this post is evidence of it….Zoinks. Well, being OCD about lists has made me happier. Crossing things off. Making personal to-do lists, work priorities, goals, dates of letters I’ve sent, etc. It’s satisfying for me because when I have written something down (usually in a list, haha) it is off my brain. I have room to think about and process other things. It helps me work more efficiently, be more present in the moment, and be happier. Boom.

(5) YouTube. Whew. I was close to omitting this from my list of choosing happiness, but I try to be authentic. I digress. I’ve gotten hooked to a few different YouTubers who really shine a light of perspective and happiness in my life. Some days, it’s because I learn something about that person that I find unappealing, thereby teaching me more about how I want to be, and other days, it’s because I admire a trait or way of acting and it inspires me to work better at that corner of my life. There are moments which just induce laughter, and I’m always grateful for that. By following some YouTubers who share similar passions as me, it makes me feel a little less “woman on an island” at times.

(6) Priorities. This one ties into lists, as my priorities are usually listed somewhere. But I think that there is a huge pressure for people to find BALANCE – it’s nearly a buzzword in today’s society….work life balance, personal time balance, it’s important to find balance…blah blah blah. What I would say to that is this seemingly epic quest of FINDING BALANCE really looks like (1) Identify your required actions. (2) Identify your most pleasing experiences. (3) Prioritize both of them, by treating #2 just as attentively as you treat #1. Does this mean since you love going to the spa, you do that instead of work? No. But it means that instead of checking your email 43 more times in the afternoon, you take a break and get a manicure. Then, checking your email later doesn’t stress you out – plus you get to look at your pretty nails as you type. 🙂 I think that the pressure of trying to find this stealthy balance in life puts you in a place where you’re unbalanced! How about that! I saw a post recently that said “Make a list of things that make you feel alive. Make a list of things you do everyday. Compare the lists. Adjust accordingly.”

(7) Transitions. I work in a profession where moving is a reality of my life. Geographic relocation is impending and not up to me at any time. So, I’ve found that applying my best friend’s advice has been a game-changer: “BLOOM WHERE YOU’RE PLANTED.” Every place has potential. Every where you live can be an okay place to be. If you decide, as you’re getting to know where you are, that this place is going to be good for you, then damn it, you’re going to seek out (and definitely find) things that are good. It’s a perspective thing again. But transitions that are monumental shifts in your life are written to be bad – usually attached to words like “Coping With Transition” or “Making a Positive Transition.” By qualifying a transition as positive, it assumes that without that adjective, it’s not! Why not? I’ve tried to have a better opinion on transitions so they are less scary and more full of potential!

(8) Traffic. Ugh. Chicago is one giant, beautiful, diverse, bustling, talented, incredible PARKING LOT. And the best part of choosing happiness when this ridiculous traffic exists in everyone’s life is to simply know that we’re all in this together. Let’s all just recognize that it sucks just as much for you as it does for the guy behind you, and by breathing in and out a few more times than you are right now, you would gain some perspective. You’re running late? IT. IS. NOT. THE. END. OF. THE. WORLD. I say this like I practice what I preach…let me be clear. I utter my 6th favorite F word constantly in traffic. But, i try to keep this in mind.

(9) Friendships. Boom, this one need not be explained. Simply put, that text from your best friend? Answer it. In unlocking your phone to see that meme she sent you, or to answer her call when she has a minute, you’re choosing happiness.

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Pay Attention. Be Astonished. Tell the story.

Dr. Terry Nelson Johnson is a profound theologian, one whom I admire so much. He is the resident theologian at Old St. Pat’s Church in Chicago and has spoken at many events at which I have been in attendance. His way of captivating the audience in a way that harnesses your soul to him is remarkable. Now, I try to attend any event where he is speaking.

The Theology on Tap summer series just kicked off this week all over the city; serving as an outreach mission for young adults to engage in theological discussion in an accessible atmosphere. When I heard the news that my beloved Dr. Terry Nelson Johnson (TNJ) would be speaking, there was NO way I was missing it. Kid in a candy store, I tell ya.

Though his talk was entitled “The Pope Francis Effect,” I knew that we were all in for so much more of a ride. Not to my surprise, he delivered a talk that made me smile, think, laugh (multiple times), and even tear up. Yet most importantly, he has a way of speaking the words that I really need to hear, and making me feel so incredibly close to God.

One point that he talked about throughout his presentation was the idea that we need to be conductors of the energy of God – to be so open that we just let the energy of God pass through us. The title of the post makes sense, as this is something he said. “Pay Attention. Be Astonished. Tell the story.” He wants all of us to do this, as he presented that it is the mission of God in the world to have humans pay attention, be astonished, and tell the story. TNJ is doing that, and now I am attempting to do so for you.

I think that the energy of God is a remarkable thing. To witness. To attempt to conduct. TNJ explained that in the first year of Pope Francis’ pontificate, the three words that he said the most were “mercy,” “joy,” and “encounter.” While the first two are expected, “encounter” presents more of a challenge. TNJ said (in a theatrical way, of course) that “You don’t just come home from an encounter with God and say ‘oh hey how was your day? good? good, me too. NO! An encounter shakes you up. It reaches straight into your chest cavity, shakes stuff up, and then says ‘Now how do you feel?!'”

I crave these encounters. I have always felt closest to our Almighty God in the small moments that become the big moments. The times where, as Pope Francis calls us to be, a church that lives outside the walls of the sanctuary. In his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, he says “I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and clinging to its own security.”

We live in a society where it is SO easy to become our own galaxy. Our autonomy is overwhelming. Through the world of social media, citizen journalism, endless entertainment, and on-demand everything, we can create whatever kind of world we want; ignoring the need of humanity surrounding us. Pope Francis even goes on to say, “I do not want a church concerned with being at the center and then ends up being caught in a web of obsessions and procedures.” Guess what? I do not want to be a PERSON concerned with being at the center, and then end up being caught in a web of self-obsession and routine! I don’t want to be governed by my daily “procedures” or value my “obsessions” more than the God who gives me breath! It’s exasperating to even think about!

Pope Francis assures you and I though. He added “More than by fear of going astray, my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up within structures that give us a false sense of security, within rules that make us harsh judges, within habits that make us feel safe, while at our door, people are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us ‘Give them something to eat.'”

Jesus is everywhere. In the hands of the one reaching out for spare change in the middle of your sidewalk. In the eyes of the man who feels like he has failed his wife. In the longing of a child to feel the love of a supportive family. In you. In me. Recognizing this, we are one step closer to doing what TNJ and Pope Francis have called us to do, and that is to take risks for God. Reach out and be open to those magnificent encounters. Psychologist Alfred Adler, quoted by TNJ, said “Perhaps our chief danger is that we take too many precautions.”

Not once have I taken a leap of faith for an encounter with God and regretted it. Not once have I “taken the gloves off” and loved unabashedly to someone who seemed “untouchable” and had one ounce of harm come my way. Not once. Why is that? Because God is present in those moments. Because God created, managed, orchestrated those moments — and he orchestrated my heart to enter right at the perfect note.

Where are you holding back? What encounters are you scared to open yourself to? Where do you need to 1) Pay attention? 2) Be Astonished? 3) Tell the Story? Perhaps you’ve paid attention and been astonished. Maybe you just haven’t told the story. Maybe in reading this, you’ve realized that you want to pay just a bit more attention, open those eyes a little wider. My prayer is that this has stirred something in you. Like I said before, I’m sharing with you because I was lucky to have witnessed TNJ’s talk, to have shared in those moments with him and the rest of the audience at Theology on Tap. I’m just paying it forward.

I’ll leave you with a quote that TNJ shared: “The fact that you’re not yet dead is not sufficient proof that you’re alive.” As for me, I’m going to work on building a strong case of evidence that I am indeed alive. Will you join me?

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You’re Never Fully Ready.

It took me a long time to come to this conclusion, and it may be completely obvious to you – so bear with me.

I hope that you’ve noticed that I’ve been absent for a while from the cyber world of my dear blog, and let me tell you why. I’ve been pressuring myself to write, starting a few drafts and leaving them out to dry — blowing in the wind of dissatisfaction and “not good enough.” So each time, I hit “Save Draft,” close out the window, and hope that next time goes better. That’s where I’ve been at.

However, a few things have happened recently, and they tie together in a “I can see clearly now, the rain is gone” kind of way:

I was at the gym the other night, pretty late in the evening. Equinox closes at 10pm, and I was finishing my workout as they were making the “please kindly get the heck out of here” announcement. There were two ladies that were close to where I was, and it was clear that they were talking about what I was doing. I had the battle ropes set up, an elevated step for lateral jumps, and the TRX band nearby for suspended pike crunches. I was ending my workout with a superset of these three moves, blasting through them as fast as I could. During a rest set, one of the ladies commented “that looks so hard” and the other agreed quickly. I immediately invited them to join me, and told them that it was hard, but that you can work up to it. One of the ladies said that she wanted to get in shape and work with a trainer, but that she needed to get to a better place first. What I immediately told her was that you have to come as you are — that’s why you get a trainer! Don’t try to get in shape to start working with someone who’s going to get you in shape. Be comfortable in who you are, as you are. Then go and chase your goals. By the end of the time I taught her the exercises I was doing, and showed her a progress photo of myself (I’ve lost nearly 20 pounds and 7-8% body fat since starting to work with my trainer in October), she seemed convinced that maybe I was on to something.

A different night, I was thinking about how I haven’t been in touch with my faith as much as I have been in the past, and it really bothered me. Working the job that I do places me right in the heart of the Catholic Church for 50+ hours per week, constantly working in parishes and with pastors, but I haven’t been getting that full faith experience in a personal way. Again, I got the thought that before I started to reconnect with God, I needed to figure out exactly where I went astray, examine my sins and work through them on my own — all before asking for God’s help.

And recently, I’ve felt a fear wash over me that falling in love may be the scariest thing ever, and that I need to prepare myself for that to ever happen. I’ve never been in love, and the idea of it is both intimidating, exciting, and overwhelming. I was talking to a friend and saying that I wasn’t ready to feel that way about any one, and she just said to me “if you think you’re not ready for it, and you’re freaking out, it’s probably because you are falling in love.”

……

So what connects the three little stories? The fact that we’re never TRULY ready for whatever we are facing. And, that. is. okay. Believe it or not. I think that learning to become content in the ebbs and flows of life, particularly those in which you want to have it all together, is a learned skill that shows a true spirit. I am not there yet, I’m a work in progress. But even this newfound thought that “it’s okay to not be okay” is a refreshing and relieving belief to have. So whether it’s writing five blog post drafts, or hesitating to start that workout…Whether it’s feeling like you’ve gone too far for God to come back into your life, or if you feel as though your heart is about to burst….Let’s all take a moment to realize that we are human, and we’re never going to be fully ready. That’s what life is all about — taking what is given to us, making the best out of it, and hoping that it too makes the best out of us.

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Finding your heartbeat.

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Sometimes you gotta lose your breath to find your heartbeat. Under Armour sometimes really gets their ads right. I saved this image a while back because I oftentimes find myself drawing upon inspirations from a long time ago — and always seeming to find the right quote exactly when I need it.

Today was one of those days. While there was good, I found myself dwelling on the rough parts of it. The one thing to close out my day with a guaranteed positive note was my workout. So when that didn’t go as planned and I struggled to hit my weights, I felt like I had kinda lost where I was at altogether. My trainer said to me “GET OUT OF YOUR HEAD” and I knew that was exactly it. In that moment, I was being so hard on myself and focusing on the negatives, that I wasn’t able to recognize the life and strength within me. And as much as I was upset and frustrated during the workout, I am able to look back even just a couple of hours and appreciate the realizations that I made during it. I proverbially (and literally) lost my breath during that workout, and then was able to find my heartbeat again…but that was only when I went to check for it.

As always, there’s a parallel. Recently I’ve felt disconnected from my true self – based on my crazy work schedule and the thoughts that seem to overtake my brain about useless worries and things that are out of my control, I haven’t checked to feel my own heartbeat in a while.

So last night, I made a first step. I wanted to reconnect with God in a way that is long overdue. I have mentioned/referred to it before, but when I write my thoughts, eventually I lose myself in the most sacred way. In those moments, I find my true self. In that way, it is a time that I take to check my own heartbeat, remember it’s there, and move on. I read the quote “This world is amazing and you’ll forget that again and again your whole life. But if you remember more than you forget, you’ll be fine.” I thank God for these times of being prompted to remember how amazing this world and this life truly is.

In true attempt-to-be-vulnerable fashion, I’m going to go out on a limb and post what I wrote last night in my journal.

Here goes, (unedited):

Tuesday Jan 13th, 2015 (12:14am so really 1/14/15)
I open up this book – a collection of sacred thoughts and words – once residing on the top of my tongue – now regarded as memory – and I’m not stopping to read them. I flip straight to a page where I can begin anew the journey of documenting my thoughts – because only then do I validate them. I know that in here I hold experiences that are dear and vulnerable thoughts of my heart broken open…and tonight I feel longing to get to that place again.

I need my heart broken by God so that I can be made perfect in Him. My eyes have drifted, sin has won over me too many times recently that I feel as though the mirror is a cloudy view of all He intends me to be.

Yet even now, I already feel my pen taking over, a reassurance that in my letting go, You are here. It is the thought I need – I need to be reassured that my heart is worthy of a love beyond that which I can imagine and project upon whoever is in my sights. I need my thoughts of doubt and guilt and lust and jealousy to come flowing out of me so that Your grace has room to dwell. Lord, I need you. Every hour I need you. — This song has been in my head for weeks now – even before I went home and put my hands on this journal for the first time in months. You are intentional, You are perfect, and You make all things new. Restore in me the comfort of your presence, and grow in me a love of self that ultimately continues to lead me to You.

“All along I was looking for something more, you’re so much more. I finally found what I could never see before, you’ve always been the one that I was looking for.”

*-end-*

Whew. The journal entry was a blessing to have before my day today, for as the challenges of the day made me feel broken, I now look back to the journal which had been neglected for months and I find strength. This time, in my own words. In April of 2014 I wrote: “There will prove to be many more times in which you are tested and challenged to rise to the occasion…” and in December of 2013 I referenced a quote: “Can we let go of our own individual fears and even our plans to embrace hope? Can we say ‘I don’t know what all this means, but I trust that good things will happen?'”

Finding your heartbeat by losing your breath at times is good. Losing your breath makes you start to want to embrace hope, to feel as though you can’t do it on your own. I know I can’t.

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