I’m Proud To Be…

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Welcome to a Secret Subject Swap. This week 12 brave bloggers picked a secret subject for someone else and were assigned a secret subject to interpret in their own style. Today we are all simultaneously divulging our topics and submitting our posts.

My “Secret Subject” is:

What nationalities are you comprised of and how do they reflect on the person you are?

It was submitted by: http://www.angrivatedmom.wordpress.com/

“Our heritage and ideals, our code and standards – the things we live by and teach our children – are preserved or diminished by how freely we exchange ideas and feelings.” Walt Disney

I’ve been thinking that if I’d gotten this question a year ago, or even 6 months ago, I would have approached it or thought about it quite differently than I do so today.  To be honest, I’ve never really given much thought to my heritage or nationality.

I’m an American.

I’m white.

I’m parts Native American (Osage and Cherokee), Scottish and maybe Irish (probably wishful thinking, but with my name being Shannon and all…)

I’m a woman.

I’m a mother.

I’m a wife.

I’m a daughter, sister, aunt and cousin, etc…

Some of those things define me more than others.

I’ve probably felt as if I belonged more to America than a particular ethnic group.  What does being an American mean?  These days I wonder.

As a general rule, I avoid politics.  I’m too emotional, passionate, defensive, strong-willed and opinionated to enter into such discussions lightly.  I tend to take differing opinions personally, as if my very personhood is being attacked or threatened.  I know my limitations.  I’d like to keep my friends, so I keep quiet.

I can tell you what being an American means to me.  I think that how I personally define what it means to be an American defines the kind of person I am or aspire to be.

“We, the People, recognize that we have responsibilities as well as rights; that our destinies are bound together; that a freedom which only asks what’s in it for me, a freedom without a commitment to others, a freedom without love or charity or duty or patriotism, is unworthy of our founding ideals, and those who died in their defense.” Barack Obama

I feel we’ve entered into an era of extreme Nationalism, where the idea of patriotism is being confused or misconstrued, twisted into something self-serving, hateful and largely based on fear and bias.

“Patriotism is when love of your own people comes first; nationalism, when hate for people other than your own comes first.” Charles de Gaulle

I love my country.  I love her beautiful diversity, a rich tapestry of different cultural and ethnic identities, religions and faiths.  A rainbow of colors and ideas, explosive and expressive, reflective and representative of the freedoms that brave men and women have fought, bled and died in pursuit of since the birth of this great nation.  I’m not threatened by that which is different, I embrace it, it inspires and motivates me.  I don’t believe in a world that divides people into an US versus THEM.  I don’t worry that God is on my side but whether or not I am on HIS side.  I’m pretty sure Jesus asked for a longer table, not a higher wall.  Ideologies built on hate and fear aren’t destroyed by the policies, philosophies or ideas based upon those same emotions.  Ideologies constructed out of those negative and destructive emotions are destroyed brick by brick only by love, by acceptance, by inclusion, by forgiveness and by understanding.

“True patriotism hates injustice in its own land more than anywhere else.” Clarence Darrow  

America, for all her imperfections and faults, IS a great nation.  Patriotism should not be confused with jingoism, which by definition refers to a country’s advocacy for the use of threats or actual force in efforts to safeguard what it perceives as its national interests.  I rebel against the idea that there is “only enough” for SOME people.  America embodies the hope that anything is possible for anyone willing and able to dream.  Walt Disney said, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” The American dream is an iconic part of our identity.  It is our promise.  Our hope. Our past, present and future.  Being American means we embrace and accept our imperfections as a nation, as a fallible and fragile people, but we work to overcome our faults, right our wrongs.

Being American defines me.  Being American means I strive to learn that which I don’t understand.  It means I embrace inclusivity and acceptance from people or ideas that might be different.  I see the value in the uniqueness of expression.  My growth, spiritually, mentally and emotionally is sparked by sharing ideas and experiences with cultures both ethnically and culturally diverse.  My belief in God is strengthened by these differences, not weakened.  America embodies hope.  Being an American means I’m an extension of that hope which should be reflected in the love and respect I hold for those that may not look like me or think like me. I believe in the free exchange of ideas, beliefs and experiences because it contributes to the vitality of our great nation and enriches humanity as a whole. As corny as it sounds, I do believe good trumps evil and that love conquers all.

“The love of one’s country is a splendid thing.  But why should love stop at the border?” Pablo Casals

I don’t know if I answered the question.  I’m not opting for a soapbox or a sound bite, these are the feelings I truly believe and embrace when I ask myself the question, “What does it mean to be an American?” I might have completely gone off script but these thoughts have been weighing on my heart recently and this topic and/or question felt like a path I could take to unburden myself, share my thoughts and my fears in the little environment I’ve created to experience the freedom of my emotions, such as they are.

I feel that being an American is a privilege, and I don’t take the rights and freedoms I enjoy for granted.  Despite the uncertain and turbulent times enveloping our nation, I feel optimistic and hopeful about our future.  I’m proud to be an American.  It is our differences, our unique voices and perspectives woven together that make up the rich tapestry of our Nation.  We don’t always get it right, but we never give up. ❤

Here are links to all the sites now featuring Secret Subject Swap posts.  Sit back, grab a cup, and check them all out. See you there:

Baking In A Tornado                        http://www.BakingInATornado.com

Dinosaur Superhero Mommy         http://dinoheromommy.com/

Spatulas on Parade                   http://spatulasonparade.blogspot.com/

The Diary of an Alzheimer’s Caregiver        http://www.thediaryofanalzheimerscaregiver.com/blog.html

The Lieber Family Blog                     http://thelieberfamily.com

The Bergham Chronicles                  http://berghamchronicles.blogspot.com

Never Ever Give Up Hope                 http://batteredhope.blogspot.com

Confessions of a part time working mom       http://thethreegerbers.blogspot.ch/

Southern Belle Charm                          http://www.southernbellecharm.com

The Angrivated Mom                          http://www.angrivatedmom.wordpress.com/

Climaxed                                           http://climaxedtheblog.blogspot.com

Love Actually

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All during the month of February, I’ve focused on the word “love.”  It is the month of Valentine’s Day after all.  I’ve posted quotes on Facebook and Instagram all about showing the love.  I’ve focused my efforts on giving love, whether in service to others or learning to love myself a little better.  I’ve really tried to see the face of God in every person I’ve met or crossed paths with in one way or another.  I’ve even tried to love Donald Trump.  Ok…  So, I’m totally lying about that one.  Sorry.  I’m only human.  I’ve tried to smile more, engage strangers, look for ways to offer kindness and service, live out my faith in my day to day life.

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Well…I was doing really good till the last two days of February.  On February 27th, it all went to hell.  Where you will probably find me…  with my grocery cart of anger and bitterness.  There are two places where I’ve found myself to be at my most vulnerable to react negatively – the grocery store and behind the wheel of my car.  If I’m going to present the worst version of myself, it usually happens in one of those scenarios.  Patience, love, kindness and sanity – all completely thrown out the window when I either enter the swish swish doors of my local grocer or when I slip behind the wheel of my car. I don’t know what happens to me.  It’s almost an out of body experience, I see myself behaving badly but appear powerless to stop it.

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It was a Monday, which should have been my first clue not to leave the house, but did I listen? Nope.  I dropped my husband off at the train station, and decided to stop by the store on the way home to just grab a few things, less than 5, it would take no time at all.  I’d zip in, then zip out.  Easy peasy lemon squeezy.  Right?  Wrong.  First, I talked myself into popping into the easiest grocery store from a navigation/proximity perspective.  After all, I only needed like maybe 5 things, 6 tops.  This is my least favorite location of this particular chain.  It smells funny.  I dislike the layout and parking is always bad.  I knew better than to stop here.  I should have gone just a teensy bit out of my way and perhaps none of this would have happened and I could have closed the month of February feeling as if I’d at least adequately mimicked a good person, full of love, generosity of spirit and a heart bursting with kindness and compassion.

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Might seem a tad dramatic, but you understand my point.  So, I grab my few items and walk immediately to the “speedy checkout” line.  There are two people ahead of me.  The lady checking out is an employee buying some gummy bears and the girl in front of me, has maybe 22 items (even though the sign says 20 or less…but that’s okay, I’m choosing to let it go, if only I’d kept up that mantra).  As it turns out, the employee is buying 2 things of candy, apparently paying for them separately.  She is talking animatedly with the cashier, like they have all the time in the world.  I can feel the tiny pinpricks of annoyance.  I force myself to smile (which was probably more of a grimace really).  Her second transaction gets messed up.  Sigh.  More laughing and talking.  I’m thinking she eats that package of gummy bears faster than she paid for them.  My mood is deteriorating at lightning speed.  I can feel myself deconstructing, my good intentions paving that road to hell.  A road that will be paved before she finishes paying for these damn gummy bears.  At this point, my mask of tolerance has slipped and probably something like this has been left in its place…

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Naturally, she chooses this moment to turn around and look behind her (yeah color me speechless, you aren’t the only one in this line!)  She grabs another candy bar (which I ungraciously think she doesn’t really need…) and includes it with the gummy purchase.  Finally!  She is done.  She turns around and hands the candy bar to the girl in front of me (who has been on her cell phone the whole time probably tweeting complaints about the amount of time this lady is taking btw) and thanks her for being patient, then shoots me a dirty look.  I feel a tiny bit of remorse for my impatience.  Ok, not really.  The slight just makes me more agitated and annoyed.

The girl ahead of me is super speedy (God bless her).  Then it’s finally my turn.  Hours later.  I unload all my items, grab my purse and step toward the cashier when he does the thing that completely sends me over the edge.  He actually beckons to the guy behind me and says, “hey since you only have one thing, I’ll check you out real quick.”

OH NO HE DIDN’T.

THIS IS SO NOT HAPPENING.

I mean, yes, he only had one thing but I was next in line and I had been waiting longer.  He just got there!  Sure, there have been times, when I’m not in a hurry, that I’ve let people with fewer items step ahead of me, but that’s been MY choice.  I can’t even find words.  I’m just standing there with my mouth hanging open.  Incredulous.  When my brain catches up to the scene playing out in front of me, my face turns from shocked bewilderment to something that I’m pretty sure looks like this –

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He ignores my death stare and sharp breaths that would rival Darth Vader’s.  I know my face is bright red, I can actually feel the rage.  I’m so pissed off.  The only thing that saved him and me was the fact I was too angry to even speak.  I just stared him down.  I didn’t even acknowledge the guy buying his yellow stupid ball; although, in hindsight, why would he accept!  I would have at least made sure it was okay with the person waiting in front of me that I was cutting off!  I can feel myself getting mad all over again, just reliving it here. This is why I would never carry a gun.  I know my limitations.  Yes, I was that angry.  I was in a hurry to get home.  It had been a long day, and I only needed 6 THINGS!  SIX!  I jerked my items off the turnstile and threw them in my cart, finding every possible passive aggressive form of anger I could use against this seemingly unaffected cashier.  To his credit, my anger and eye shooting daggers didn’t seem to phase him in the least.  When nonverbal communication doesn’t work to affectively notify the object of my ire that I’m angry, I result to muttering under my breath.  Which I began to do now.  I think he just thought I was crazy.  Yeah yeah…don’t say it.  I know.

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The next morning, against my better judgment, I go to the same store, different location.  I needed binders and school supplies and it was too early for Staples and Target was too far.  There were no checkout lines open, so I had to use the self-checkout option.  Not a big deal.  I’m pro.  As I scan each item and drop into a bag, I get an error message.

“Unexpected item in the bagging area.”

This happened after each item.

EACH.

ITEM.

I had 6 binders, tab dividers, coffee, orange juice and apple juice, a journal and a spiral.

By the 3rd item, I could feel it happening again.  I get to the 4th binder and it won’t ring up.  It says the barcode is invalid.  At this point, the cashier is practically standing on top of me because she keeps having to enter her code after I scan each item.  She attempts to scan it, even though she just watched me do it, and same error message.  She attempts to manually type in the code.  THREE TIMES.  Same error message.

Then.

She walks away.  WITH MY BINDER.  Saying nothing.

I’m all like…um excuse me?  I need that?

She responds, “the code is wrong.”

Ummm.  Yeah.  I got that part.  But I say, “well, I have another one, the same size…?”

She responds, “different brand.”

Are you freaking kidding me?  They are like 50 cents.  Ok so there are literally 5 employees just standing around talking, maybe she was going to ask one of them to go pick up another binder for me?

Nope.

She walked over (with my binder under her arm) and helped another customer.  Shaking my head, I rang up the rest of my purchases.  Getting an error message each time about the unexpected bagging.  At this point, my jaw is clenched, my hands fisted.  It’s taking everything I have not to erupt.  She clears my errors from her main terminal, not walking back towards me.  So she’s not completely clueless.  After I ring everything up, but the binder in question, I look over at her again.

She’s still holding my binder.

I say, “Umm… I didn’t put that into my cart for looks, I kinda need it?  Can you send someone to get another one, or can I leave my stuff here?”

Her response.

“It won’t scan.”

OMG

I’m done.  I’m need to get out of here. Screw the binder.  I will make one out of lasagna noodles and string!

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The month wasn’t a complete bust.  As a family, we spent one early Sunday morning in service to the homeless population in our downtown area with an organization that faithfully serves this marginalized portion of our society, feeding them physically, spiritually and emotionally.  It’s one of our favorite missions, and a time to truly live outside yourself and your own unique set of circumstances and learn the value of loving and helping others and the true definition of grace.  It’s a reminder to those who serve how much you have to be thankful for in your life.  A humbling experience that reminds each of us how precarious life can be and by the grace of God how much we are loved.

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In reflecting on my behavior in those two incidents, I am reminded of the hours spent in service to others that cold Sunday morning.  I’m brought low by my negativity, my poor behavior, my impatience with others, my anger and my selfishness.  I spent that last day of February in quiet reflection and prayer.  Thankful, that God’s grace has been bestowed upon me.  Reminded that although I will always be perfectly imperfect, made in His image, I’ve been afforded His grace, love and forgiveness, unconditionally and forever and that it is always within my power to extend that same love, forgiveness and grace to others, even when it’s hard. Especially when it’s hard.  It’s probably a lesson I will have to learn anew each day as I live out my faith as a flawed and fragile human being.

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I woke up on this new day, March 1st, with the promise of spring in the air, feeling renewed and refreshed.  During this season of Lent, I wanted to give up something meaningful, something possibly life-changing.  Not chocolate or social media or carbs.  I wanted to do something really hard, something that would require daily (heck even hourly) purposeful intention.

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I’m giving up…

IMPATIENCE

True story.  I might have to take up drinking.

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If it wasn’t hard, it wouldn’t be a sacrifice and I really need to work on this. It’s probably my worst vice and leads to many others.  Wish me luck.  I’m going to need it.

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I’ll leave you with this Irish Blessing ❤

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You Are Loved <3

“UNIVERSAL LESSON:  YOU SEE THE WORLD THAT YOU HAVE MADE, BUT YOU DO NOT SEE YOURSELF AS THE IMAGE-MAKER.” 

Gabrielle Bernstein, “The Universe Has Your Back”

Personal development has never been something I pursued intentionally.  One of the biggest lessons I’ve had to acknowledge during my health and fitness journey is that in addition to weighing almost 300 lbs, I was toting around at least that much weight in emotional baggage.  It was literally weighing me down, drowning me in depression and despair.  Unwilling and unable to even leave my house most days, because I was so ashamed and embarrassed at how much I’d let myself go. I kept trying to claw and dig my way to the surface, only to be dragged back down again by the hands of my perception and self-loathing.  It was a cycle I didn’t know how to break.  I didn’t weigh 300 pounds just because I loved food, and I knew that part of my health journey was going to include delving deep into my heart and rooting out the negative and self-destructive emotions that brought me to the edge of the precipice I found myself on the eve before I decided to have Gastric-Sleeve surgery.  I didn’t want to ever end up back in that place, literally hanging over a dark abyss of self-hatred and fear.  I knew losing the weight was only half the battle, delving into my personal “why” was the key.  Why had I allowed this to happen to my body?  Why did I do this to myself?  I was hiding behind the extra weight.  Hiding behind the poor choices.  I needed to figure out why.  I couldn’t let this happen to me again.

Gabrielle Bernstein says something over and over in her book (The Universe Has Your Back) that really stuck with me, “Energy flows where your attention goes.”  Our perceptions create our reality or projection.  Gabrielle compares it to a movie reel.  What we perceive is what we project on the movie screens of our life.  If you find yourself struggling, whether it’s with your weight, your marriage, your relationships, your life…ask yourself, what movie have I been projecting?  I began to really think about what fear motivated me in a negative way to make the poor decisions that led me to this crossroads in my life.  I knew I had choices.  I could keep doing what I’d been doing and continue to live in the shadows, afraid to step out.  Or, I could take a different path.  I could step out of my 300 pound shadow.  I could stop being a spectator in my very own existence and make the decision to actually live!  I could make the decision to be fully present, living my best life, not just watching from the sidelines.

Somewhere along the line between childhood and adulthood, I decided that love was conditional.  I developed along the way this idea that I had to walk the tightrope of perfection in certain relationships in order to be loved and feel love.  If I missed a step, if I failed to say the right thing or do the right thing, that love was withheld from me.  It was taken away.  Whether in my mind or in reality, it was my perception and it colored my attitudes and emotions.  Food became a comfort, a coping mechanism.  Metaphorically, I could hide my shame and low sense of self-worth behind my weight.  If no one could see me, they couldn’t hurt me.  Obviously, I see the fallacy in my thinking, but when you are trapped in a particular mindset, it’s extremely difficult to see your way around it.  The self-destructive behaviors make a weird sort of sense.  You begin to find comfort in the things that ultimately will bring you down.

It’s difficult to explain in words, and I’m probably botching it up, but it’s really painful to open yourself up in this way and bare your soul.  I carry these feelings in the deepest parts of myself.  I’m always waiting for friends and family to realize how screwed up I really am and turn away from me, realize I’m not worth loving and walk away.  This is the movie, I play in my head.  This is my projection colored by my perceptions.  I don’t want to live this way.  I don’t want to gain the weight back.  I still have weight to lose, work to do and part of that work is being 100% honest and transparent.  I don’t want to always feel as if I have to hide behind humor and self-deprecation.  I want to shine a spotlight on the deepest and darkest parts of me, so I can change my “movie”, my perceptions and project a different outcome.

Sharing my thoughts and feelings in such a public forum allows me to feel empowered.  I want to reshape these negative thoughts and structure my life in a more positive and productive way.  As it turns out, losing 100 pounds was the easy part.  Changing my perceptions is where the hard work really begins.  If I want something I’ve never had, I have to do things I’ve never done.  I find inspiration in the support of others.  A big part of me expects failure.  It would be easy to listen to that voice.  That voice tends to get louder when I shut myself off from loving and being loved by others.  The stories I sometimes allow myself to believe about myself block me from feeling supported and happy.

It is difficult sometimes for me to reconcile the fact that I’ve come so far in my health and fitness journey.  I’ve lost over 100 pounds!  I don’t celebrate this amazing achievement often enough.  I usually say something along the lines of “yeah, I’ve lost 100 pounds, but I still have another 50 or so to go.”  My emotional health is an integral part of my overall health and fitness.  I can’t ignore it.  To ignore it leads me right back to where I started and I don’t want to ever visit or live there again.  I need to acknowledge and congratulate myself on the hard work that has gotten me this far.  That sense of accomplishment needs to be the light I shine on the projection I want to play in my daily life.  I don’t want to stay stuck in the negative rut of that old reality.  I want to break down those walls, squash those feelings and crush that mindset.  I have to be purposeful about connecting to the positive images of my success and accomplishments rather than focusing on the negative and destructive.  Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will I be.  I am perfectly imperfect, a child of God, and learning to love myself, forgive myself is essential to my growth and progress to being the person I was meant to be.

Writing the positive story of my life makes for a happier, more joyful me which radiates a power and light that forbids me from hiding in the shadows of my old self, hiding behind those old fears and spiraling down the staircase of destruction.  Being present in my life, being an active participant is my power and from that power I derive my motivation and my inspiration to continue down this new, unchartered path.  Seeking the approval of others is an integral part of who I am, connecting to those feelings, recognizing and acknowledging those feelings without letting the outcomes control me is key.

I’m worthy of being loved

The above statement, a mantra I repeat to myself daily, sometimes multiple times per day.  I am flawed.  I am imperfect.  I make mistakes.  None of those things discounts me as a person worthy of loving herself and accepting love from others.  In losing 100 pounds, this is what I’ve discovered.  I choose to look back and see my 300 pound self cheering me on, wanting me to succeed instead of trying to trip me up or praying I fail.  I understand that my intentions, my perceptions color my reality.  By being the change I want to see in myself and the world around me, I turn outward judgment into self-reflection and action against the only thing I can ever truly control, myself.

If you are feeling stuck, unloved or in a place where you harshly judge not only yourself but those around you, I hope you find comfort and solace in what I’ve shared here today.  I hope you take the time to stop and think about the movie you’ve created of your life and the part you want to play in it, realizing the power to change the direction and the outcome does truly lie within you.  Empowering yourself is the greatest gift you can give yourself and others.  Forgive yourself.  Love yourself.  So that you may more freely forgive and love others.  Choosing to be intentional, empowering yourself and those around you, projecting the life you want and desire is a daily practice.  I find myself having to redirect my negative thoughts and actions over and over again throughout the course of a day.  Some days are better than others.  Don’t let fear be the guiding principle of your internal dialogue.  The point is to be intentional and purposeful in the changes you want to see and that will direct your thoughts and actions in a positive direction.  Taking responsibility for the lives we’ve created can be scary.  It’s much easier to blame those around us, or our circumstances.  Believe me, I know.  By acknowledging that my perceptions of self-worth, my negative thoughts and feelings and my destructive habits and choices were shaping the reality of my existence, my world, I was able to choose a different path, including the experiences in healing my heart, body and soul that resulted in the loss of 100 pounds and the journey to find the me God intended when he created me in His image.

The bottom line.

You are not alone.  You are loved. ❤

So, I’m Basically Moses

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My Bible study this week has been focusing on Moses and the Exodus from Egypt.  This study couldn’t have come at a better time for me.  When God tasked Moses with liberating the Israelites, he was full of excuses about how it would NEVER work.  Moses was a bit of a whiner.  I’m not judging.  To judge Moses would be to judge myself.  Not that I think I’m ACTUALLY Moses reincarnated or anything like that (although…), just that I completely understand his fear and reticence towards the monumental task set before him.  Moses basically attempted to dissuade God in three primary ways:

  1. Moses didn’t believe in himself or think he was good enough.
  2. Moses was afraid people would doubt his authenticity or credibility.
  3. Moses believed himself to be a terrible public speaker.

I am 45 years old and still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.  Well, that’s not exactly true.  I’ve always wanted to be a mother.  I’m not terribly ambitious.  I mean I can be super competitive, you probably don’t want to find yourself my adversary in a board or card game, but in the world of business, not so much.  I don’t have any desire to climb the corporate ladder or further my education.  I always knew I wanted children.  It’s the only life ambition I can ever recall truly wanting and craving.  Part of being a mother, meant helping to support our family, so working outside the home was a necessity.  I don’t have any regrets, but as I enter a new season in my life, I find myself floundering.

Our three girls are out of the house, adapting and thriving in a world outside of our little bubble.  We couldn’t be more proud of them.  Our son is only 10 and still living at home.  I don’t know where we went wrong with him.  I keep encouraging him to get a job and be a contributor in life, but he’s full of excuses (just like Moses).  Apparently, he’s under the impression that 10 is too young to work or drive.  I tell him he’s just not trying hard enough.

Obviously, I’m joking.

Or am I?

But seriously, most of the time, it’s just me and little man hanging out.  My husband (in addition to working 2 jobs) is in Seminary, completing his Masters of Divinity degree.  Unfortunately, we don’t see him as much as we’d like (never thought I’d say that!)  I’ve taken the last year off from working outside the home, choosing instead to focus on little man, my health, my faith, my husband and my girls.  We’ve focused these last few months on simplifying our lives.  We will be downsizing from 3600 square feet to 1300 square feet of living space in a few short weeks.  I feel like we are either selling or giving away our entire life and history, it’s both terrifying and exhilarating.  Like many people, we have entirely too much STUFF.

I’ve been looking into part-time jobs and opportunities, not having much luck or finding anything I’m truly excited about.  I feel lost and a little dejected if I’m being honest.  I’ve been channeling my inner Moses and whining to God about it.  I don’t do many things well, but I do think I’m a competent writer.  I haven’t figured out how to make money doing what I love, second only to motherhood.  I do feel I have a story to tell, and God has impressed this feeling onto my heart.  It’s scary to put yourself out there, metaphorically naked and under a spotlight.  I don’t like feeling vulnerable.  I’m embarrassed when I get complimented or even noticed.  I both crave and cringe that spotlight.  Maybe if I could keep my clothes on…?

As I read about Moses this week, I’m struck by his three excuses to God.  Why?  Because they sound so familiar!  Those same three excuses have been stuck on a loop in my head for months.

  1. I worry I’m not good enough
  2. I worry that people won’t like me or that I’ll annoy them
  3. I worry that I won’t be able to speak (write) confidently or authentically, that I will fall short and be judged harshly and found lacking

In short, I’m worried I will fail.

If you’ve followed my Instagram or Facebook posts lately, you’ll notice I’ve been posting more about my health and fitness journey. In my quiet moments of prayer and reflection, I feel like it’s this part of my journey that God wants me to share.  I keep making excuses and trying to ignore that little voice but it’s not going away.  I feel like there are so many people out there that have struggled with weight, poor self-image, terrible self-confidence and low self-esteem.  People who look at themselves in the mirror and feel shame, even hatred for the person looking back.  People who feel like they have tried EVERYTHING and nothing works.  People who have just given up, thrown in the towel, trying to convince themselves and others that it doesn’t matter anymore, that they don’t care.  People who are tired of failing.  Tired of feeling ashamed and judged.  People who find themselves spectators in their life instead of active participants.  People who just don’t feel good enough or that they measure up against the ideals of others, stuck in the perpetual cycle of despair and recrimination.

The other day, I shared my 21 day challenge group with all of you.  How it gave me new energy and focus, a sense of purpose and excitement.  My accountability group is comprised of an amazing group of women, who are motivated simply by helping and encouraging others.  I shared how in 21 days, I lost 3.5 inches overall.  I spoke briefly of how excited I am for my next challenge group to start.  In some ways, this group has given me a sense of belonging I didn’t even realize I was missing, a sense of purpose.

Over the last month, I’ve been reflecting and praying, listening hard for an answer.  What I didn’t realize was that it’s been in front of me all along, but I, like Moses, gave God a million excuses why I was the wrong person, at the wrong time, in the wrong place.  I will fail.  I can’t do it.  No one will listen.  No one will like me or relate to me.  I won’t find the words.  I’ll suck.  It will just be another thing in a long line of things that I’ve attempted to do that I’ve failed or given up on.  This time, I’ll fail publicly and spectacularly.  I’ll withdraw into myself again, gain all the weight back and feed on self-loathing, self-pity and cupcakes.

WOW.

For real though, this is the rabbit hole I find myself diving into, time and again.  I’ve worked so hard to change my thoughts.  Changing my thoughts has changed my behaviors.  Changing my behaviors has changed my perspective.  Changing my perspective has changed my life.

So I took the leap.

I decided to become a coach, a fitness consultant for Beachbody, run my own challenge groups, be a part of an amazing team,  and see if I can’t reach the people who struggle just like me, need the encouragement and motivation of someone who understands.  Someone who gets how hard it is.  Someone who has to fight for every pound or inch lost.  I’m living proof that perfection is not required, just a willingness to do the work, to show up, every single day.  Celebrating both scale and non-scale victories is sweeter when done with people who truly want the best results for you.  I love my challenge group because it’s not just about physical change.  There is a heart change, a mind change, a willingness to believe in yourself because other people believe in you and are walking alongside you, cheering you on.  Where I saw failure, I now see opportunity.  I’m excited to embark on my new journey, this new stage in my life.  I’m scared to share it.  I’m terrified of not living up to my own expectations.  I’m even more terrified of letting my team down. I feel I’ve found a beautiful way to share my journey, help others while doing what I love most, writing about it.  I will still write about other things, participate in my writing challenge groups, share my thoughts and insights, but I’m focusing my energies primarily on my health and fitness journey.  Even giving my blog and social media accounts a bit of a face lift, revitalizing my writing and sharing space with a new look and a new name.

I struggle with this concept that I could possibly know or understand what God wants for my life.  I know that in those quiet moments of prayer and reflection, this direction, this path feels right.  I feel God is telling me that I am the right person.  This is the right time.  And I’m in the right place.  ❤

If you are interested in hearing more about my next challenge group, please don’t hesitate to message me!  We have another one starting on November 14th (prep week starting on November 7th) and it’s going to be fantastic.  I’m beyond excited and I don’t get excited about exercise or eating healthy!  So you know it must be good.

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I hope I’m the mouse, not the frog 😛

HAPPY FRIYAY!  ENJOY THE WEEKEND ❤ 

Luckiest Girl Alive

“Marriage is the highest state of friendship. If happy, it lessens our cares by dividing them, at the same time that it doubles our pleasures by mutual participation.” Samuel Richardson

Welcome to a Secret Subject Swap. This week 14 brave bloggers picked a secret subject for someone else and were assigned a secret subject to interpret in their own style. Today we are all simultaneously divulging our topics and submitting our posts.

My “Secret Subject” is: 

What is the luckiest thing that has ever happened to you?

It was submitted by: http://thelieberfamily.com

When I received my prompt, I was so relieved.  Whew!  An easy one! The day I met my husband is definitely the luckiest thing that has ever happened to me.

All week, I’ve been writing this blog post in my head.  That’s how I do it.  I compose a general outline in my head before committing my ideas to paper.  It was going to be epic!

A beautiful tribute…

The love story to end all love stories!

Except today, I’m pissed at him. Like really angry. Suddenly, I’m not feeling so lucky. My feelings have been hurt. My brain is filled with all the things I find annoying and aggravating about him.

I tried prayer:

“Dear God,

I’m having a hard time loving my husband today. He’s a jerk. I mean really, don’t you see this, I mean you created him.  I’m not blaming you per se…but I mean… No, no I’m sorry God, this is not how I meant for this prayer to go. I’m struggling today. I need some divine wisdom, a calming touch, a deep breath.  Actually, you probably just need to hold me back from punching him in the face. ‘Cause THAT would feel good! I mean, it would feel terrible. Obviously, I don’t really mean that.  Except that you can see into my heart and you know that I actually do mean that exactly. I’m a terrible person.  An awful wife. Who thinks like this, I’m not a violent person. See what he does to me! I’m just really angry, and I need some help putting things into perspective.  Remind me why I love him? What?  You can’t think of anything either can you? Why so quiet?! Thank you for the beautiful weather today by the way. I opened the windows and usually that calms me, but today all I see is dog hair swirling around in the breezes. I should go vacuum. I don’t feel like this little talk is helping. No offense.  I’m sure you’re trying.  It’s me, not you. I want to be angry. It’s fueling my indignation.

We’ll try again later.  

Sorry.  

Amen.

P.S. You agree I’m right and he’s wrong though, right? Just checking…”

I went back through my workbook from a Bible Study on forgiveness I took, hoping and praying for inspiration. Everything I read just makes me more angry, because I quite strongly believe that I’m the injured party here.  My big offense was waking up this morning! Sorry my BREATHING angered you honey, tell me how I can make it up to you please?!?! Ugh!

Adam Levine never treated me like this when we were pretend married.

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Round and round I go. A vicious circle, never-ending. I tried meditation.  I took a long walk. Still angry. I indulged in a very Gone With The Wind moment, standing in my front lawn, shaking my fist at the sky. I felt very dignified, but I probably just looked deranged to any onlookers.

I wonder how many calories anger burns?

Oh goodness, he’s trying to call me right now.  I’m not going to answer, that’ll show him.  OMG he’s calling again. I’m ignoring you!  How does it feel?!?  Hmmmmm?

Now he’s texting me.  Sigh.

“Hello??” he says.

The nerve.

I remember when I first met my husband.  Our complicated history is not something I talk about very openly.

I had two concerns about dating him:

  1. he’s short
  2. he’s “churchboy” (my nickname for him)

I could probably best be described as agnostic when we met, which coincidentally happened to be at church.

I was a single mother. My divorce had been extremely difficult on me, both financially and emotionally.  I had 2 little girls and everything I’d ever dreamed or wanted for them (and for myself) had been shattered.  I was desperate for connection.  I was lonely. I didn’t have any family close by and any friends I kept from the divorce were single and interested in single-life pursuits, not changing diapers and wiping noses.

I remember giving my girls a bath and I just started crying.  It had been a rough day. An exceptionally rough day, and I just couldn’t pretend to be happy and cheerful in that one moment. I was watching them giggle and play and I just felt overwhelming sadness. This isn’t how my life was supposed to work out.  This was not the plan. In the blink of an eye, I found myself overcome with feelings of grief and guilt. I gazed upon their little blonde heads and felt with absolute certainty that I had ruined their lives forever. I should have done more, said more, been more…

My baby daughter looks up at me, with her big blue eyes, touches my arm and says: “It’s okay mommy, God loves you.”

The next Sunday, we got dressed up and went to church.

Where I met, “churchboy.”

I remember the first outing I attended with the church singles group was a family camping trip. We were all sitting down to dinner, and my future husband starts pulling out all of this tupperware, which he hands to the cutest little girl ever. I fell in love with her the minute I saw her. She was wearing overalls and sporting the most adorable braided pigtails adorned with girlie clips. She was 6 months older than my youngest and 2 years younger than my oldest. She looked so much like her daddy and boy did she adore him. In this tupperware, he had packed some chicken breast and asparagus tips…honestly, who packs asparagus tips to go camping! I suddenly felt the need to hide my bag of Cheetos and PB&J sandwiches.

He had a hole in his shirt though, which I found endearing.

Blending a family is no easy task. We experienced more than our fair share of challenges.

He was everything I never even knew I wanted or needed.

We dodged obstacle after obstacle, hurdle after hurdle. We somehow met each challenge, not always with dignity or grace. We each made terrible missteps, huge mistakes. We each carried pain from our previous relationships. We wore our grudges like armor, our fear like a mask. Our children needed to make adjustments. Sacrifices were necessary on all sides. On the outside looking in, we were a wildly successful blended family, hardly anyone even knew we’d both been married previously or that the girls weren’t all biological sisters.  The truth was ugly.  We were a hot mess. Battle lines were drawn daily.  His and hers. There were days I felt the rifts were as wide, if not wider, than the Grand Canyon, infinitely deep. Wounds barely had time to scab over before we were ripping them open again. We lashed out. We struggled. We fought. We questioned daily our decisions, our marriage, this idea that we thought we could ever make it all work.

Yet, we were both committed to doing exactly that, making it all work.  Somehow it did, it has. He’s my best friend. As mad at him as I am in this moment, I wouldn’t change a thing and I still believe with my whole heart that meeting him was the best and luckiest thing that has and will ever happen to me. We did struggle, but we also loved, laughed, hoped, dreamed and vowed to never give up.  We knew we had something special, something worth fighting for, no matter what.

Our faith journey has been rocky. We haven’t always stayed on the same page, I veered off the beaten track more than once. He remained steadfast and true in his belief, in his patience in the face of my doubts and fears. He never made me feel stupid or inadequate. My faith, or lack thereof, didn’t scare him. He loved me and he believed in me and he knew I would work it out and he’d made the decision to walk beside me as I navigated thru the twisty confusion my uncertainty and unbelief created in my heart and mind. He prayed for me. I envied his strength and convictions. I still do.

As it turns out, finding my faith was the easy part.  Living it out on a daily basis, now that’s hard. I wonder if God ever wants to punch me in the face? Probably. Sometimes I want to punch me in the face.

My feelings are still hurt, but now I’m also feeling nostalgic.  And dare I say it…loving.  Ugh!  It’s true, I’m thinking warm and gooey thoughts about the man whose head I wanted to rip off a moment ago. I mean, I’d still punch him, but maybe just on the shoulder…all affectionate-like. Ish.

He’s not perfect, but neither am I.

He is my best friend. He’s my person.

He changed my life. Meeting him, loving him, marrying him was the luckiest thing that has ever happened to me.

Thank you God. Thank you for bringing us together. Thank you for creating something beautiful out of the ruins of our mutual divorces and the inevitable fallout. Thank you for placing him into my life at the perfect moment. Thank you for blessing me, loving me, forgiving me. Thank you for opening my heart.

My cup indeed overflows.

Amen.

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“Marriage – a book of which the first chapter is written in poetry and the remaining chapters in prose.” Beverley Nichols

Here are links to all the sites now featuring Secret Subject Swap posts.  Sit back, grab a cup, and check them all out. See you there:

http://www.BakingInATornado.com

http://berghamchronicles.blogspot.com/

http://www.thediaryofanalzheimerscaregiver.com/

http://dinoheromommy.com/

http://www.southernbellecharm.com

http://notthatsarahmichelle.blogspot.com

http://thelieberfamily.com

http://batteredhope.blogspot.com

http://www.someoneelsesgenius.com

http://thethreegerbers.blogspot.ch/

http://spatulasonparade.blogspot.com/

http://www.angrivatedmom.wordpress.com

http://climaxedtheblog.blogspot.com