I’m so thankful it rained on my parade

ImageI had the honor of speaking at a women’s retreat a few weeks ago.  It was the second time I’ve been asked to do this.  Last time I even led and sang some of the music. I am not bragging.  I am in awe of it all, because I almost wasn’t here for any of it.

You see…it rained on my parade.  What does that really mean anyway?  It means you are pissed because things didn’t go the way you planned.  Well…it rained on my parade…for a long time.  And I got more than a little pissed…I got really depressed.  Nothing in my life had turned out the way I had planned.  Nothing.  And because of that…I chose to focus on everything negative and was missing out on the tons of blessings all around me.

But you see…life has a funny way of helping us out.  And sometimes things don’t work out for a reason, and by pouting about it, being mad and resentful…we are only delaying ourselves the joy and peace of what is next.  Don’t waste as many years as I did being a control freak.  You can’t control the weather, a sick mom, a cheating spouse, or anyone else for that matter.

So I had the privilege to speak about some of the hardest lessons I have learned in life, and share them very personally with an overwhelming 60+ women last week.  It was hot, it was crowded…there wasn’t enough chairs, but no one seemed to care. 

I wasn’t nervous really.  I was just hopeful that I would say what someone needed to hear.  I was hopeful that some of the hardest things I have endured wouldn’t be in vain.  I was hopeful that I would be able to articulate, not just the darkest parts of my life…but the victory and transformation that occurred.  I was hopeful that I might instill hope into someone that might have lost theirs, just as I had lost mine at one time.

But the funny thing about hope and inspiration is that…it’s not about the person trying to spread hope as much as the person that has lost it and finds enough courage to grab on to it one more time.  No one can “give” anyone else hope.  Hope is only received by the individual willing to believe in it.

I knew that.  And maybe that is why I was not nervous, but rather…hopeful, yet, realistic and even a little sad.  Because as I sat there in that crowded room looking out at all these women – all so very beautiful in their own unique way, my heart jumped as I saw the faces of women, young and old.   They had all come to hear – How To Take A Compliment And Find Beauty In The Small Things.

That is what my topic was about. 

As I went through a little survey I had devised, I could see that it had already struck a chord.  How hard it is to receive a compliment sometimes.  But the reality is that it is only hard when…you don’t believe the compliment.  And the thing that really sucks is that most of us don’t.

We shy away from compliments.  We may feel awkward.  I did for years.  Admittedly, still do sometimes…but I have been working very hard at believing and receiving the compliments.  Not in an arrogant, vain way like, “Sank you dahlink, yes, I know I am all that and a bag of pretzels too”.  More like in an accepting, grateful and graceful way.  Because grace is what got me this far.

There, in that room, in a matter of 40 minutes or so, I shared years of my own inner struggles, and how I have come to find peace.  How complete chaos turned to calm.  Now…I still have moments of chaos, but I don’t “live” in chaos.

It all came down to Accepting.  Accepting that I cannot change the past, I cannot change people, I cannot control most circumstances, but I can just simply accept things the way they are.  And let it be.

I also had to surrender my pride, which can be masked with self pity.  I had to surrender my control and plans.  I had to surrender and admit I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t have to.  And just let it be.

I had to make a conscious effort to quiet the noise in my head…all the questions, all the things I wondered about that had no definitive answers…I had to just let it be!

This is not a subliminal message for the Beatles by the way, but they were on to something there.

I said a lot in that hour.  And the really cool thing was that I got to hear from them too.  We shared some really cool things together.  I shared much more than I could write right now and truth be said, I probably wouldn’t even remember all of it anyway.  It was very interactive, and I am so thankful for that.

I wasn’t speaking to them.  I was sharing with them. 

A few came up afterwards and hugged me, we laughed, we cried, we chatted a bit more.  One lady even said it was the best thing she has heard including from professors in college.  Again…not bragging…I was just in awe of it.  I guess there is a difference between reading and regurgitating knowledge, vs. living it.

And one girl stayed after…waiting patiently.  I didn’t even realize she was waiting for me.  Her nonchalant, slouched posture in the corner of the room made it seem she was just bored out of her mind waiting on a friend.

But she was waiting.  Waiting to tell me that she was at the very end of her rope and had been for quite some time. 

We sat and talked for over an hour. 

I honestly don’t know if anything I said sunk in, or made a difference.  I can hope.  But it’s not about me, or anything I said.  It’s all about her, and anyone else that needed to hear it – that hope can prevail.  It’s about whether or not they mustered up the courage one more time to grab hold of something that only they can do for themselves.

To believe.  Believe they are worth it. To see life IS beautiful – even among the chaos.  To believe that there is beauty and freedom in not being able to control anything but your own outlook and perspective.  To believe and understand that only you can break yourself out of your own prison of doubt, confusion and fear.

To believe you can let go, let it be, and find peace in it all. 

I can’t do that for anyone.  I can only show that it can happen…

Here was my trick.  I couldn’t do it for me…or at least the right now me.  I had to see myself as a child.  

I saw my own precious, sweet, beautiful daughters.  I want everything good for them.  Peace, hope, happiness, love…you name it.  They are innocent, beautiful, amazing gifts! 

But wasn’t I once too?  I had to find my inner girl.  And realize that I too, was worthy of such things.  May sound silly, but it was really the only way.  I realized the very best way to give them those same gifts of acceptance, peace, love and joy…was to model it, live it, believe it. 

I’d like to say I succeed at it every day, but why would I need grace then?  And people…I am a walking picture of what grace is all about, let me tell you.  I AM a grace junkie!

Like I said…I wasn’t talking to them…I was sharing with them…and listening, and watching, and learning. 

That’s what we do.  We are not in this alone.  Don’t fool yourself and think you are.

I am very thankful for that opportunity.  It was really amazing.  I am very thankful that some of my very hard and humbling lessons are not in vain.  The one thing I prayed in that hospital room was that my sadness would not be in vain. 

If you are down, or running low on hope…dare to be courageous and grab it up again.  But do yourself a huge favor first.  Free your hands and mind of control.  Hope cannot be controlled.  It can only be received.  And you are the only one that can do that for yourself. 

And if you are too tired or just not able to do it…seek some professional help.  You are not alone and only pride is stopping you.  Let go of that too while you are at it.  You will be so glad you did. 

Because grace and beauty is all around us.  Little encouragements all along our path, just waiting to be found.  But you have to be looking for them.  You can can’t receive it your eyes are closed. 

The next time it rains on your parade…go outside afterwards and open your eyes.  If you let go of the control, and the pride and the anger, that the rain ruined your parade or picnic…you might see something so small and so beautiful that you just may suprise yourself and laugh as you think to yourself…I am so glad it rained on my parade…because I would have missed this!

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The Little Big Things

I used to live for the big moments.  Looking back, it almost feels like I simply existed and went through the motions of life in between those big monumental milestones that I would live for.  And I was very unhappy…for so many reasons.

First…what are those “big” moments of life.  Let’s define a few.  Graduation. A milestone Birthday (21, 30, etc.),  an engagement.  A wedding.  Pregnancy.  Birth of children.  I don’t know…the list can go on.

So in between that…what was there?  Waiting.  Preparing for that next big moment.  But honestly…not a lot of living.  When everything rides on these big moments…everything in between felt kind of like torture.  And I missed out on SOOOOO much!

It was like I was living some kind of race against the clock, against myself, against others…a race to get to that next milestone, or achievement.  And for what?  To cross it off the list? 

And once I got to the big milestone, there was so much anticipation and pressure riding on this one big moment in time that I had unrealistic and dangerous expectations of how everything should be and how it should go.  So if things didn’t go according to my plans…instead of just being thankful, I was miserable or felt let down. 

All that time in between the big milestones…waiting and being miserable…THEN living that big moment and being miserable was…well…really, really…miserable.

So after the big moment.  Then what?  I get to cross it off my list.  Great!  Check. 

Then what?  More waiting, or maybe even reliving that moment and how it wasn’t everything that I had hoped for.

What is that?  What kind of life is that?  That is more like a prison. 

But, Ta-dah! I finally broke out of my prison!!! 

How?  I woke up.  I opened my eyes. 

I became real.  Alive.  All with a simple perspective change. 

I started living day by day.  Each day has its own purpose.  Each day has its own gift.  Then I broke that down even further…and realized that each day has several gifts and purposes.  Each day has several moments that are like little flowers bursting open. 

But here is the catch.  You have to be looking for it!  And if you are too busy looking for that next big milestone or big moment…you are going to miss all the amazing little moments and gifts that each day has to offer.

We defined some of the big moments, so now let’s define what some of these daily gifts might be.

Dew drops on the leaf.  An extra kiss or hug from a little one.  Snuggles in the morning.  Looking into the eyes of someone you love and seeing love.  Laughter!  A tiny little wind that stirs up leaves and dust in a little tornado shape.  A peaceful ½ hour on a deck.  The last flower on the magnolia tree. The smell of my daughters cheek. A nose rub from a cat.  The first peony bursting open.  Catching up with an old friend at a café.  The smell of an old book from an antique store.  The wind blowing the smell of lilies into the house.  The sound of trickling stream.  Counting little piggies on my daughters toes and hearing her laugh.  Waking up to see this incredible partner, and gift of a man smiling at me or sometimes snoring.

This list is whatever you make it.  It cannot be defined.  It is different for everyone. These are the moments that usually don’t make it into the photo books but collectively are WAY more important.

Don’t miss them!  Become aware of here and now…not the then and what’s to come.

Flip flop your thinking. 

Life is not about the “big” moments…it’s not about what the magazines and TV ads would like you to believe.  Life is about the smallest gestures, the tiniest acts of respect, the most miniscule acts of kindness from those we love, those we know, those we come into contact with.

The “big” moments should just be an exemplified or amplified act of our normal lives. 

Sound like hogwash?  Not to some of you…Some of you know exactly what I am talking about.

But for those of you that are confused…

I used to think Christmas was the Be all and end all.  It was THEE moment.  Especially when I had kids.  Man!  Is there anything better than waking up Christmas morning with your kids?!  But then my life was shattered.  Divorce happened.  I had to endure some Christmas mornings without my kids.  Is there anything worse?

You see there?  You see the extremes?  The Best…the worst.  Extremes.

Maybe it’s because I have had the moments of plenty and the moments of complete devastation to finally understand when Paul wrote, “I know what it’s like to be in need and I know what it’s like to have plenty and I have learned how to be content with either…” He hit the nail on the head.  Balance.  Peace.

It has been years since my divorce.  I have learned that every day is a big moment.  If you live each day like it was Christmas…or like it was as precious and important…then Christmas day itself is not as over the top OR as devastating as it once felt.  It is just another, amazing day!

This really sunk in this past Christmas.  I woke up beside my true soul mate…the man God had intended for me all along, but I kept enforcing my right to free will and making ridiculous choices.  But thankfully, grace is even for me! So…back to the point…

I woke up this past Christmas morning and it felt…JUST LIKE THE DAY BEFORE! And the day before that! And the next day felt just like Christmas!  Joy! Every day! Not because of this man – but because of my perspective.  Because let me tell you…no person can complete you.  Not a man, a woman, your children, a friend…no one can do that for you.  No one can make you be aware of the abundance of beauty all around you, but you. You have to have your eyes open.

Only YOU can prevent forest…wait…wrong train of thought…

Only you can make time to stop and literally smell the roses, hear a child’s laugh and let it sink into your soul, to learn how to laugh at yourself, to learn to really love, and of course…how to focus on, and not miss all the amazing little big things.

Falling Star…or Crash Lander

So, apparently I am not the most graceful person.  Actually, you could compare me to a female version of Kramer at times.  And I have had some pretty memorable and laughable falls in my life.  Here are some of the better ones.

Ski Trip Fall

It was a girls ski weekend.  You know, some best friends, hitting the slopes (or small mounds) of Central Ohio.  Now…a lot of people have trouble with the whole ski lift thing.  I mean, come on…it can be a little tricky and intimidating, right?  But most people have trouble with the exit.  It’s pretty common to see novice skiers topple over at the top.  But have you ever seen someone fall trying to get ON the darn thing?

Well, envision this.  You know that thing just whips around like some carnival ride gone wild.  So here we all are – 70 or so people converging upon the same spot like seagulls fighting for the same fish – everyone trying to get at the next chair…or the next chair…

So in all the pressure I scooted up too far – and the next lift was whipping around so to avoid getting clobbered by it, I had to lean…but instead, because my legs are strapped into concrete like boots that make bending from the waist down impossible, of course I fall.  Ok…but here is where it gets really ridiculous…

Have you ever tried to get up with ski boots strapped into skis?  It is not the easiest thing.  So here I am, aware that 70+ people are watching and anxious to keep the line moving, so I start FLOPPING around like a fish out of water trying to get myself up!  Maybe envision someone trying to do that 80’s worm thing…that might be close to what I was doing I think.

I am really struggling and I see the ski lift guy come towards me and I thought, “Oh thank you nice man” only to find out he was not coming to help me at all!  He took this moment to sweep the ice debris away from the platform area!!  He looks at me and says something like, “Get yourself together, Ma’am”.  Bah!!

Chairs are hurtling over my head, and that is all he can do for me?  Really?!  So I finally managed to get myself up in what felt like minutes, but was actually only seconds and struggled/waddled my penguin like way up to the platform to catch a chair.

But in my struggle, I got my ski pole in an odd position so that when the chair whipped around to scoop us up, the pole lodged itself between my ski and the ground so I almost fell off the chair just as soon as I got on it because the force of the pole smashing under the weight of my ski was about to force me out! 

So I let out another little scream as I grabbed onto the metal bar of the lift just to keep from being flung off.  Not to mention the force and pressure of all that weight being pressed onto my one calf was crazy!!

After a few seconds of silence, I look over at my friends with wide eyed wonder and puffy breathing  and at the same time…it’s like we replayed the whole hectic scene in our heads and we laughed until we cried all the way up the 2 minute ride to the top of a little mound. 

Snow Tubing Fall

At the SAME place as the aforementioned fall.  2 years later.  With the whole family.  This time there are these conveyor belt like things that take you up the hill.  The first few times – no problem.  But after a few times I notice something feels a little different.

Around the 4th or 5th trip up…somewhere in the middle of the ascent, I lose traction…and I start sliding down this conveyor belt.  Nothing can stop me…I panic…I am sliding and no matter how I place my feet or where…I keep sliding…I have zero traction.

Luckily my girls were in front of me and UPhill from the gravity that was sliding me DOWN the hill towards complete strangers.  Luckily my honey, my rock, Will was between me and the complete strangers.  I look at him in sheer terror and I see the confusion and shock in his eyes as we are both trying to process what the heck is going on!

I’m screaming, people are staring at me and I jump off the conveyor.  The lift operator stops the thing long enough for me to get back on again thinking I just lost my balance, but the same thing happens!  I start sliding again!  This time Will just caught me and held onto me until we got to the top.  We look at the bottom of my boots and they were complete ice…like an inch thick. 

So there after…I made sure to keep kicking the ice off my boots.

Biking Fall…1st biking fall.

About 7 years ago I went biking with my niece and nephew.  My oldest daughter was 3 at the time and I was pulling her behind me safely enclosed in the bike cart…(thank goodness). 

We were on a nature trail, and the sun hit just right so I could see this Gi-normous spider coming down from the trees.  At the speed I was going and with little room to move right or left, I had no options…I was heading right for it…it was going to land on me or my little 3 year old!!

So, with no obvious other options my brain commanded my hand to lock on the brakes.  In the split seconds following that fateful move, I fly over the handle bars, skid my shoulder on the pavement, and proceed to do tuck rolls off into the grass and trees, while my niece and daughter safely watch in shock. 

But…I avoided that spider, by golly. 

Biking Fall – take 2!

Most people fall while actually riding their bike.  Have you ever seen anyone fall off their bike simply trying to get off of it? 

We were at the busiest intersection of the entire 20 mile ride.  My dear husband simply asks…”Hey babe, can you push the cross walk button please?”. 

Harmless enough…I’ve done it 100’s of times.  “Sure!”.

But this time was different.  I lost my balance, my foot got caught up on the pedal…I am not exactly sure…all I know is that I start falling…for no real apparent reason, in front of about 50 people in their cars at this intersection. 

It was like it happened in slow motion…I just started falling, and then the more I tried to not fall…the more that I fell.  It’s almost like I could see myself falling and there was nothing I could do about it. 

I saw the faces of my husband and daughter – their look of shock and confusion – and though it felt like slow motion, it was all happening too fast for anyone to really be able to react.  I was just out of reach of anyone. 

And I didn’t just fall off the bike…I fell, dropped and rolled…it was like the fall that just kept on giving.  In fact…I almost rolled right into the street.  My head was near the edge of the sidewalk just at the street and I finally came to a halt. 

And of course, it was the strangest position.  There I was, head almost in the street, on my back, with my feet up in the air!  Bah!!  Like a dog or something.

So, I quickly get up and get on my b

ike and immediately start cracking up. 

That is about when all the people who had watched this, finally let loose.  Now they knew I was ok, and it was time to laugh, honk, yell things at me and wave as they drove by. 

All that…and I never even pushed the darn button.