Bookends of Hope

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This morning after I dropped my son off at school, I saw a portion of a rainbow. The only part I could see clearly were the two ends.The middle portion was hidden by the rain clouds.

The words I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end came to mind immediately.

Colorful bookends of hope.

That’s all we really need to understand, isn’t it Lord?  There are a lot of unanswered questions, doubts and struggles that seem to gather in that cloudy space in between, but those two bright colorful ends are the hope of the world.

Strong Hands in the Winter

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One of the hardest adjustments to losing my mom early in life has been the inability to pick up the phone and talk to her. I can’t reminisce with her. I would love to experience adult to adult conversations with her.

I would love to listen to her talk about things she is passionate about, or to get her perspective on current events or to hear, again, the story of when Jesus showed up and changed everything in her life.

I would love to shoot the breeze with her, to go out for coffee together, to poke fun at each other, to share inside jokes and listen to her laugh, to hold her hand…anything, really.

Speaking of holding, I would have loved to have seen her hold and cuddle at least one of her grandchildren.

The last couple of nights my 11 year-old son has rested his head on my lap and has extended his arm for me to tickle. It takes me back to when I was a little girl. I would often stretch out in the same position on the couch and my mom would tickle my arms too. The other night I studied my hands as they moved up and down my son’s arm. They remind me of her hands.

I then thought about me at my son’s age. When I was 11 my mom was 48 and it would be two more years before the word cancer would invade our world. We were completely oblivious to the challenge waiting around the corner. In all honesty, it was wonderful. Innocence usually is, those moments before your world is rocked, before everything changes, and before you have no other choice but to adjust to a new normal.

I wish I could shield my son from the hard times in this life. I know there will come a day when pain will one day hit his world too. I can’t prevent it. I know that. But I can try to teach him where to run when life’s pains show up. I can remind him where to rest his head when things fall apart. I can remind him of those hands that took the pain of the world and how those same hands are strong enough to carry his pain too. I can remind him that the pains we experience in this life are never wasted and that winter ends and spring returns. I can and I will.

My thoughts today are with all the folks whose worlds might be rocking right now.

I want to remind you too.

Stretch out across His lap, rest your weary head, and trust His hands to hold onto you through it all.

Inspiration…a.k.a. “The Lollygagger”

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Two thoughts were running through my brain when my eyes opened this morning. Similar to the “what came first the chicken or the egg” logic, I’m not sure which thought showed up first.

Lord, thank you for this day. Thank you for the spacious place you’ve planted my feet.
“You can’t wait for inspiration to show up. You have to go after it with a club.” 

I grabbed my phone off the nightstand and checked the time.

4:51

I grabbed my club, got out of bed, and started the coffee.

Show up. Lately, those words have been showing up a lot in my life. I love that quote from Jack London. I came across it three of four years ago when I was writing a short blog post about inspiration and how you can’t wait for it to show up. In fact, 9 out of 10 times it doesn’t show up until I do. And sometimes (most of the time) I have to grab it by the hand and pull it up the path because is has a tendency to lollygag…like an easily distracted toddler.

These were some thoughts I wrote about inspiration shortly after I started to write my way through life. After a few more years of writing under my belt, they are still true today:

A Walk with Inspiration

I took a walk with Inspiration

His stride, much shorter than mine today

His gaze, drawn to all the yellow dandelions poking through the grass

I call to him, “Come now, Inspiration,catch up, it’s getting late.”

His little steps quicken

A caterpillar

emerges from the blades

and wriggles across the path

Inspiration giggles and crouches down to watch

I turn, and call again

“This way, Inspiration,

we’re running out of time.”

He bends down lower

his cheek brushes the earth

he waves good-bye to his friend

jumps up and continues along the path

The other day I decided that in 2015 I wanted to write a book. Even though it’s not quite 2015  I started showing up and writing this book earlier in the week. When I got up this morning, I wrote about 300 more words. I know that’s not many, especially when you think about stringing 50,000 + words together. But, I also know I have to start somewhere.

Three hundred words is better than no words.

I was reminded of when I started running. I had to show up and do one mile before I was ever able to do four, or six, or thirteen.

Showing up is the key to everything in life. If we fail to take this one step, we miss the beauty, we miss the lessons, and we never discover what we are capable of accomplishing.

Today, I want to encourage you to be willing to show up…grab a club and a cup of coffee if you have to. ;)

I Hold On and I Don’t Let Go

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There’s something very comforting about the idea of a Savior who refuses to let go of us.

In a world where things and people get discarded and neglected (sometimes without a second thought) this promise brings with it incredible amounts of comfort and peace.

Once we make the choice to grab onto Him, He embraces us. He refuses to let us go, send us away or give up on us.

We are home and no matter what happens, from that moment forward, there’s a seat at the dinner table for us.

Always.

A Twelve Steppers Thoughts on Goal Setting

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Can I blame my lack of ability to set long-term goals on 12-step recovery programs?  I mean, I have to blame someone, right? So, why not those folks who encouraged me to live “one day at a time.”

Maybe I can blame Elisabeth Elliott instead. I remember sitting in a meeting early on in recovery and when it was my turn to share what was on my heart I read this great quote to the group:  “Today is mine. Tomorrow is none of my business. If I peer anxiously into the fog of the future, I will strain my spiritual eyes so that I will not see clearly what is required of me now.”

Incidentally, Jesus also encourages folks to live one day at a time too. (Matt 6:34) Can I blame him instead?

Or if I do play the blame game, would it be a good indication I may be in need of a recovery refresher course?

Okay, so obviously, I’m making fun of myself. But, I do struggle with making long-term goals and step one in recovery is to acknowledge I have a problem.

Hi, I’m Eileen, and I’m somewhat of a scaredy cat when it comes to setting long-term goals.

I’m fairly certain I know where this fear stems from.

  • I’m a recovering perfectionist. Recovering perfectionists have a slight aversion to failure. If we make a long-term goal and end up missing the mark then we’ve just let down (not only ourselves) but all of mankind. ;)
  • The experience of losing a loved one “prematurely.”  I came out on the other side of losing my mom to cancer slightly bruised up. I had a somewhat jaded attitude towards goal setting for many years after her death. Goals? What’s the point? Life throws you curve balls and look where it leaves you.

Over the years, I’ve had to learn how to live life as an imperfect, flawed human being in a world where I don’t have any control over what might be waiting around the corner. Folks, I’m getting better at this…but there are times when fear still likes to taunt me with lies.

I do plan on writing down my goals for the year 2015. I will do this because I know the years I’ve chosen to do this, despite my fears, have been the years I’ve been more intentional with my time and have made more progress up the path.

This year I will get my goals out of my head/heart and down on a sheet of paper but my focus will remain on taking deliberate and daily steps.

Here are two questions I want to get in the habit of asking myself everyday:

In light of my goals, what does it look like to live fully alive today?

What does it require of me today?

I will keep one eye on my long-term goals but, more importantly, I want to have solid answers to these questions and then take the necessary steps to live those answers out.

The other day I shared with you how I’ve had to learn that “perfection is not the goal, showing up is the goal.”  I believe this. And, I don’t want fear to hold me back from showing up and living fully alive in 2015.

Showing up is more important than finished goals. Showing up is the only chance we have of actually making completed goals a reality.

The daily journey matters most.

Have you written down your goals yet for 2015?

It’s About Showing Up

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Over the weekend, I rewrote my About Me page. It was long overdue for a makeover. One of the ideas I touched on in my updated page was the lesson I’ve learned  (and continue to learn) from deciding to write my way through life.

Perfection is not the goal. Showing up is the goal. This is truth I can now apply to every aspect of my life too.

After writing about this idea on Saturday, I woke up in the middle of the night (early Sunday morning) with the same idea on my heart: showing up. I thought again about how the Christmas season is such a beautiful example of Perfection (Jesus) leaving perfection (heaven) to show up for each of us. Perfect Love came to dwell with us and in us. It left the comfort of heaven to show us what love really is.

At church on Sunday we started a new series called “Transitions.” The pastor kicked off his message by sharing how, nowadays, when we think of this season we often think about all the traditions. But, the first Christmas was not about traditions, it was about transitions…it was about God showing up.

I smiled when he said that.

It was about showing up. Of course it was. ;) 

If you’ve hung around this blog for any length of time, you know I like to call these moments breadcrumbs. These “coincidences” are breadcrumbs from heaven, sprinkled along the path, and guiding us along. There are beautiful lessons and reminders tucked away in these kind of moments too. And, it happens way too many times along this path for me not to pause and think about what those lessons could be.

Here are a few ideas for this Christmas season:

Showing up often requires that we leave the comfortable. It often asks us to be inconvenienced. I want to be okay with this. Our choice to be present is more important than perfectly trimmed trees or turkeys.

When we choose to show up then we are eyewitnesses to beauty which is so often hidden away in plain sight. I think about how Jesus chose to show up in a not so perfect manger. A miracle was born right there in the middle of a mess. It it my belief that Jesus wants us to see the same thing. Not just at Christmastime, but everyday of our lives.

There is beauty in the ordinary.

There are miracles in our messes.

But, we must leave our “perfect” plans behind, walk down some new and unfamiliar paths, and be willing show up.

 

Words On a Wing and a Special Appearance From Capt. James T. Kirk

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While flying out to Arizona a few weeks ago, my seat on the plane was in the row just behind the wing. My view, besides the wide open sky, was these words on the wing: “Do Not Walk Outside This Area.”  For the next four hours, I read my book, listened to music, ate pretzels, and thought about the message on the wing.

Do Not Walk Outside This Area: Nope wasn’t planning on it.

Do Not Walk Outside This Area: We are 30,000 feet above the earth, the last thing on my mind is brushing up on my wing walking skills.

Do Not Walk Outside This Area: I greatly appreciate this helpful advice because I was planning on stretching my legs once the seat belt sign was no longer illuminated. Now, I guess I’ll just opt for a leisurely stroll back to the lavatory instead.

Do Not Walk Outside This Area: Completely agree!  I still remember the lesson I learned from Captain James T. Kirk in my Twilight Zone watching days. Anyone walking outside in that area is up to no good! 

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So this is a strange transition but those wing words came to mind again after reading the following words in Isaiah 55 this morning: 

“For just as rain and snow fall from heaven
and do not return there
without saturating the earth
and making it germinate and sprout,
and providing seed to sow
and food to eat,
so My word that comes from My mouth
will not return to Me empty,
but it will accomplish what I please
and will prosper in what I send it to do.”

I thought about how God’s words will reach the hearts and ears of those who need to hear them. He assures us in these passages that they will never come back to Him not having served the purpose they were supposed to serve. I also thought about how those messages from our Creator are deeply personalized for the receiver.

It’s a not a one size fits all gift. The truth of the message doesn’t change but the way in which He chooses to reveal that truth to each of us is constantly changing depending on our situations and seasons.

The message you might need to hear at a specific season might be very different from the message I need to hear. That’s why I love Scripture so much. Even though I may have read a verse over and over, there are seasons when that same familiar verse suddenly becomes clearer or more relevant in my life. There was a time when the message seemed fuzzy or confusing but then the season I am in changes and the words suddenly make complete sense.

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I know the words written on the wing of that plane were not intended for me. I know (or at least I am fairly certain) the message was a warning/reminder for the maintenance crew. When passengers read the message (30, 000 feet in the air, on a plane going 500 miles per hour) it seems absurd. Yet, when those who need to read those words read them then the words make complete sense.

Today, I want to keep my heart open to the ways God chooses to speak to me personally. Because He promises us that when His words touch our lives then nothing is ever the same.

Acknowledge Your Failures to Find the Flowers

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“Mom, you made art with your failures!”

My son pointed this out yesterday on our drive back to Georgia. To pass the time, we were playing a few rounds of Hangman and each time I had a failed letter guess he would write it down at the top of the paper and add another body part to our stick figure hangman. During one game, my failed attempts spelled the word art.

I laughed at his comment and then couldn’t help but let it roll around in my brain for a few minutes.

He’s right. I make art with my failures.

I’ve shared two other blog posts this week. In one I shared how I sometimes turn into a toddler on road trips. In the other, I shared how I used to drink too much…definitely not “Lifetime Achievement” award material. ;)

I tend to share about my weaknesses and failures a lot when I write. One reason I  feel compelled to do this is because I’ve learned along this journey that my failures can only “do me in” when I hide them and refuse to acknowledge them. Today, I know there is beauty and redemption that can be extracted from even the biggest wrong turns of our life. If we refuse to uncover our failure, then we miss out on this beauty and redemption.  That is one mistake I hope to avoid more and more in life.

I think about the Prodigal Son. What if he had refused to come home? He would have missed the party. I like parties and I don’t want to miss a single one.

Yes, I make art out of my failures and by doing so I hope that others will be inspired to do the same with their failures. I love how our Creator is our perfect example too. He is able to take our failures and use them for His Glory. No wrong turn we take is ever wasted. How cool is that!

I read this in my devotional this morning and I thought it fit perfectly with this topic:

“…I have taken you along a path that has highlighted your need for Me, placing you in situations where your strengths were irrelevant and your weaknesses were glaringly evident. Through the aridity of those desert marches, I have drawn you closer and closer to Myself. You have discovered flowers of Peace blossoming in the most desolate places…” Jesus Calling

Today, acknowledge the failures and find the flowers.

Thanksgiving Day: Before and After

Winter Water ReflectionDepositphotos

I took my last drink of alcohol Thanksgiving Day 2001. Thirteen Thanksgiving Days later and it’s surreal to think about that Eileen. It almost feels like I was living some one else’s life. Other than the season when I lost my mom, that getting sober season was the hardest, most painful time of I’ve ever walked through. I learned a valuable lesson during that time. God doesn’t promise us that the path to beautiful is going to be easy…no…sometimes it hurts like hell. But, He does promise to carry us when we can’t walk, lead us when can’t see, and hold us tight when we are making our way through a valley that feels as if it will never come to an end.

This is why I give thanks today.

This is why I give thanks every day.

I am thankful for a Creator who refuses to give up on me, on us. I am thankful that His pursuit of us and His love for us is relentless.

This week, my family and I are visiting the same town in North Carolina where this pursuing Love finally captured my hurting and forever wandering heart thirteen years ago. I am grateful to be celebrating back here this year, back here where the love story became real to me.

This morning, I thought back to those first few weeks without a drink. I thought about the walk I took one afternoon down by the waterfront with my dogs. I remember it dawning on me how the road ahead of me was still filled with so much uncertainty and yet I was overflowing with joy. The questions didn’t matter. All I knew, for sure, was that I wasn’t walking through them all alone. I remember having my own Thanksgiving celebration while out on that walk. I thanked God for bringing me through so much and I told Him how I knew there might be times in my life when I would feel lonely but that I knew, with complete certainty, I would never be alone again. Never.

13 years later and that Truth remains.

Happy Thanksgiving! I pray that this truth will fill your hearts and homes with joy today.

The Toddler in My Car

Baby Dressed as Snowman Cries and Throws Temper TantrumDepositphotos

Have you noticed how traveling will sometimes bring out the two-year old inside us? A little over a week ago I flew back to Arizona to attend the funeral for the dad of one of my best friends. I decided to grab a bite to eat in the Atlanta airport in between my flights. There was a couple standing behind me and this is what I heard.

Well, I pointed out the Bojangles but you wanted to keep walking.
You could have stopped at the Bojangles. I wanted to see what else was here.
No, you didn’t want us stopping there, that’s why we kept walking.
Look, you could have gotten Bojangles. I don’t care. You can go get Bojangles.
No, let’s just eat here.You didn’t want to stop there.
You could have stopped. Why would I try to tell you you can’t have Bojangles. I don’t tell you what to eat you can eat what you want…

As I listened to their bickering conversation, a few thoughts crossed my mind.

  • They’re not fighting about Bojangles. There is definitely some other unresolved, buried issues that should be addressed.  (Yes, this is the inner marriage counselor coming out of me.)
  • Really, they’re fighting about Bojangles?  I’m about to board a plane so I can be with my grieving friend who just lost her dad to cancer and they’re fighting about Bojangles.
  • Gosh, Lord, we really do worry and complain and argue about the stupidest things sometimes. It’s too bad we can’t briefly stand on the outside of our conversations and hear how we sound. It doesn’t take much for us to turn into toddlers throwing a tantrum.

A few minutes later I was sitting by my gate and waiting to board my plane.  The elderly couple sitting next to me had this conversation.

I’m trying to change our seat so we can sit together but the lady at the desk said the only seats together are located in the last row on the plane.
Oh, no, not the last row on the plane. I don’t want to sit there. That’s by the bathroom. It’s going to stink. (Makes a face)
Well, the lady at the desk said she will see what she can do.
I don’t want to sit by the bathroom.

This was humorous to me because I really don’t care where I sit.  We are flying 500 miles per hour, 30000 feet in the air. I’m just happy I’m not on the wing and there’s some smart person sitting in the cockpit who knows how to get this hunk of metal from point A to point B. Thank you, Lord!

Fast forward to this past weekend.  My family and I made the 11 hour drive back to eastern North Carolina to visit old friends for the week. We divided up the trip over two days. We left Friday night, drove 4 hours, and then stayed with some friends in Asheville.

The next day we didn’t get on the road until after noon.  We had 7 more hours to go. About 5 hours into the trip, I was driving. It was dark, we were getting tired of being in the car, and we all had to go to the bathroom. You know what happened then? I chose the exit from hell. Do you know the one I’m talking about?  The one where the sign on the side of the freeway informs you that there’s a McDonald’s at the next exit and so you take this next exit…trusting the sign people. Then as you are driving down the exit ramp you see the sign that tells you the distance to said McDonald’s….THREE MILES!  When you are traveling and have reached the “I’m just ready to be at our destination” point in the trip, then three miles in the wrong direction is similar to dog years.

Folks, I completely lost it.

It wasn’t pretty.

It was toddleriffic.

Needless to say, once we made it to the McDonald’s (an hour later ;)), my husband took over in the driver’s seat and I sat in the passenger seat to decompress and give the 42 year old a chance to return.

Sigh.

I thought about my meltdown and then remembered the people I heard in the airport.

Yes, Lord, we humans worry, argue and complain about the stupidest things.  

Today, I’m thankful for grace…especially on road trips.