Sunday, September 24, 2017

Find your greatness

Have you ever attended something you think is going to be ordinary and when you are done, you cannot believe what just happened? I had this type of experience yesterday... an ordinary adventure turned exceptional after a few simple words were uttered.


It was a normal Saturday. I got up earlier than I wanted to, I ran farther than I wanted to (let's be honest... any distance at this point is farther than I want, that darned half marathon training plan haha...), and I hung out at home and relaxed for a bit. My kids and I then had plans to attend an event sponsored by our church. The two younger ones had invited friends along for the afternoon, so I reluctantly got ready, packed up the car and left to start the carpool service. It wasn't that I didn't want to go, really. Yesterday was just a hard day. If you know me or have read any of my previous posts, you are probably aware that I struggle with mental illnesses and a not-so-stellar past. I hit patches of time in my life where I can't seem to "get it together" even though that is often the advice I hear from acquaintances who just don't understand my history. It wasn't that I didn't want to go... I just didn't have much energy to put into the event or the activities we would be doing. And as a chaperone, I wasn't even certain what my responsibilities would include.

When we arrived at the venue, I kept thinking how much my body was hurting from my morning run, how much I would rather be at home, the fact that I didn't see my husband yesterday with his work schedule and how if I were at home, I might be able to sneak upstairs and see him for a second before he left again for work. We got out of the car and greeted our friends from church, waiting for a few minutes before the activities were to start. And then we began with a prayer and a small talk by one of our hosts, Ken. He asked the kids to name two people that they admired as well as writing down what they wanted to be when they grew up. After a few minutes, the kids turned in their papers and he read us the answers. Then he asked them why they had chosen the names they had written down. Most of the kids responded that it was because of something the person did or made the kids feel about themselves.... "Michael Jordan has this and that record," or "My mom always believes in me when I don't think I can do it." He discussed the fact that all of the names written down had one thing in common. Greatness. They each had their own greatness that the kids were able to recognize and identify with. And then he said these words, "Find your greatness." Ouch. Eww. What? Me?!

Earlier in the day after my run, I had analyzed everything about it from distance to pace, effort to mood, the terrain, even my heart rate. For the better part of a year, I have been striving to get back to running. Yes, I run. But it never feels good enough. I have not been able to get back to my previous pace or weight, and each day just feels like more of a failure in my own eyes. When Ken said, "Find your greatness," I really just wanted to go home. "I'm not great at anything," the internal monologue began. "Nothing I do is worthy of recognition or medals."

The definition of greatness according to Merriam-Webster is simply "exceptionally high quality."

It does not say you have to be first. No where does it state that greatness requires you to be the smartest. Or the strongest, fastest or the best. And while I agree with that definition, I want to add that maybe "exceptionally high quality" might not be the only way to describe greatness.

What if greatness really means how you lead others to be great? What do you do to help other people find their own greatness? We don't all have the same skill sets. Gosh, that would be boring! But we are certainly all called to something bigger and better than ourselves in this world, right? We are taught to always strive to be more... I just think maybe we have missed the boat on this one. Greatness isn't about being the most talented basketball or football player (if you are, keep going, that's not what I'm saying). It's not about having the highest IQ in the country or getting the most movie roles before you turn 30 or seeing your name published in TIME magazine's 100 Most Significant People in History. I actually think it is SO MUCH MORE.

Being great requires us to CHOOSE to live in greatness every day. We must believe in ourselves and what we are capable of, as well as strive to bring others along on the journey with us. Again, I'm not the fastest runner. I will never qualify for the Boston Marathon. At this point, I doubt I'll win any more medals or beat any of my previous PRs (personal records). However, as long as I keep showing up, especially on the days I don't want to, as long as I continue fighting the voice in my head that tells me I suck, I believe I am leading someone else to find their stamina, their strength, their greatness. I hope I am encouraging them not to give up when life gets hard and $hit gets real and it feels like everything is against them. I think THAT is greatness. I think THAT is what I am called to be and do in this life.

Our evening was incredible yesterday. We learned some MMA fighting including self-defense, we ran around and laughed, we cried, we ate, we prayed and we learned. After several hours of fun, the kids didn't want to leave. They had enjoyed themselves so much, they didn't even realize they had been learning. And neither did I... until I got home last night. The phrase "find your greatness" kept echoing in my head. I talked to my mom this morning about all of the things that were swirling around in my mind, the things I have shared here. I wrote furiously before church this morning to make sure I wouldn't forget any of them. Yet it still doesn't feel like enough. I want to hold on to your shoulders and look you in the eye and tell you to FIND YOUR GREATNESS, then hug you and tell you that you are worthy and loved and capable of so much more than you know. Maybe that's why I blog... to tell myself the things that *I* need to hear, in a more concrete way. In a few months, I will go back to this post and read it and think, "Huh, that was pretty good," just like I have done with other things I have written. I hope you will, too.

Whatever greatness YOU have been designed for, maybe the one that fills your heart or the one that God has chosen for you (maybe you have yet to experience it), may it bring you peace and fulfillment. May it nourish you unquestionably so you know that this, THIS is what you are called to pursue. If you haven't found it yet, keep searching. It's out there somewhere, just waiting for you to pick up and run with it (literally or figuratively). I'm standing in your corner. Let's find our greatness together!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Most girls... or not

(I haven't blogged in almost 18 months, but there is something soothing about writing that my body and mind definitely need today. Enjoy.)

I listen to music more than most people. I can't help it... music moves my body, soothes my brokenness and unquestionably fills a void for me. So it shouldn't surprise anyone when I tell you that I have found a song that inspires me. Heck, it happens several times each week! Today was different though. I was about to jump in the shower after a hard workout. I threw on some music and then stood still and listened to the words that came on. "I wanna be like most girls." I closed my eyes and listened more closely, five or six times on repeat. (In fact, I am playing the song again while I write.) 

Most girls are smart and strong and beautiful
Most girls, work hard, go far, we are unstoppable
Most girls, our fight to make every day, no two are the same
I wanna be like, I wanna be like, most girls
I wanna be like, I wanna be like, most girls
At first, I thought that Hailee Steinfeld had nailed it. This is definitely a girl power song, reminding us to be "smart and strong and beautiful." She kicks her heels off and changes outfits close to 10 times in the video... how fun! She encourages us to do life the way that makes us the most comfortable, finding what works or what doesn't. Yay, girls! Right? ....or not.

Before you throw me under the bus, hear me out. I am all about building each other up, supporting strength and courage, and redefining the standards the world has set for women. But isn't that almost the opposite of what she is saying? I love the song, I promise you. Like I told you, I have it on repeat and the volume is all the way up. However, what I don't love is that she wants to be the same as other girls. What happened to our desire to be unique, special, and powerful in our own bodies? Why are we suddenly putting our quirks, our abilities, our talents on the back burner and striving for sameness?? Since they were babies, I have told my daughters to always be themselves. That is rarely the popular choice and almost never the easiest, but it is always worth it. 

I DON'T want to be like most girls. I want to challenge myself. I want to be faster. I want to be healthier. I want to push myself beyond my own limits. I want to dress the way I want, not the way anyone tells me I should. I want to be stronger. I want to love myself more. I want to love others harder. I want to wear makeup if and when I choose, rather than everyday. I want to pray more confidently. I want to be kinder. I want to speak my mind when the world tells me to be quiet. I want to bravely fight the battles no one talks about, i.e. addiction, self-esteem and mental health. I want to be the exception to the rule when it comes to the way I give... time, talent or treasure.
Did you guys catch the VMAs this past weekend? P!nk was spot on in her speech about her recent conversation with her daughter. You know that she refuses to conform to anyone or anything. She said to her daughter, “We don’t change. We take the gravel in the shell and we make a pearl. And we help other people to change so they can see more kinds of beauty.” More kinds of beauty... that's what I want to see in this world. No carbon copies. No same-old-same-old.  And I want to see women who aren't f*cking afraid to be themselves, whatever that looks like. If you want to be stronger, be stronger. If you want to have a bigger heart, love harder. If you want to be more confident, find that. Be happier. Be better. Be unique. Be YOU. But DO NOT conform to this world.

Be whoever the hell you want to be. And do it with everything you have. That's the only way.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The H word... and other ramblings...

It's true, I probably swear more than I should. But there is one word that makes me cringe more than any other word. It's the H word. I shiver when I have to say it to anyone. I even stumble over it and try to bite my tongue. It comes from a place of fear and disappointment. No, I'm not talking about hell. I'm talking about H-E-L-P.

Somewhere along the way, I started believing that asking for help made me weak. It scared me -- who wants to be weak?! And thus was born the idea that I have to do everything on my own (and perfectly, I might add.) This has gone on for years and years to the point that I still have trouble asking for help as a 30+ year old wife with three children. My family and close friends know that if they hear the phrase, "I need help," I must really mean it.

Yesterday, I got another tattoo. It's incredible how many thoughts float through my head while those needles are stabbing me. I should blog more. Blogging helps me be honest about what is going on inside me. It leads to healing. I bet it helps other people. I like helping other people. And so on. Suddenly, I wondered if I had lost my internal monologue. "Have you blogged lately?" As she is designing something so intricate on my arm, she asks me a very intense question. No, no I haven't. Life has been rough and I've been isolating.

Several months ago, I started some new medications for my mental health issues. Things have been going fairly well. However, the side effects are intense and frustrating. This makes it even harder to ask for help. I'm fighting my own thoughts in addition to physical things I can't control. I thrive on chaos, but most days I reach a point of being completely overwhelmed. The house doesn't get cleaned, the laundry isn't done, and things get ignored. If you've followed my blog before, you know about the spoon theory... and this is where I run out of spoons. But did you know that when you ask for help, they bring their own spoons?! It's crazy, I know, but it really happens that way. Your true friends WANT to help you. They WANT to bring spoons and make your life easier. Think about it -- when one of your friends needs you, it doesn't feel like a burden. Most of the time I bet you jump on the opportunity because it's just what friends do. Your friends want to do it, too!

I have a very small group of close friends. We met in various places and circumstances. They don't all have the same careers. They like different things. They have other friends, but they all have one thing in common. They love me with all that they have and they'd drop everything to be by my side if I simply asked them. You have those friends, too.

At church this weekend, my priest said, "What is the burning bush God has given to you to get your attention?" In other words, what cross are you bearing, what signs is he sending, what way is God trying to show you your purpose? (And are you paying attention?!) Yesterday I sent a text saying that I figured out the answer to that question. I have never believed that anything in life is wasted. It's either a blessing or a lesson. Each difficulty I've faced lately is allowing me to help someone else, I'm certain. And this is my burning bush. It isn't going away completely because maybe I'm being called to share.

The point of all of this rambling? Use the H word. Be honest. Stop hiding. Help others. Pay attention. Love deeply. Then love a little harder.

Monday, January 25, 2016

It's a tunnel, not a black hole

The thing about life is that sometimes it is so incredibly awesome. And then it really sucks. And then it's great again, or maybe it's mediocre for a while. Suckish. Okay. Wonderful. No matter where you are in your journey right this minute, I heard something very important last week that I need to share.

"It's a tunnel, not a black hole."

The text came through last Saturday morning, before the day even hit the craziest part. I reread it at least ten times before I could really get it. Because when you are in the tunnel and there's no end in sight, you surely wonder if it IS, in fact, a black hole. Mental illness is a nasty beast. It convinces you of so many lies that it becomes impossible to decipher the truth anymore. And so I told myself it's just a tunnel.

My daughter ended up in the ER that afternoon. We were out of town and I was very much out of my comfort zone. Tunnel, not a black hole. We got her taken care of and made it back to our hotel. The rest of the weekend required me to be extra strong for her. I put my emotions on the back burner and pushed through to do what needed to be done. By the time Monday rolled around and we were home again, I sunk into my bed and prayed I could stay there for the whole week. Y'all know the rest of the story. I have three kids. No one has time to stay in bed all week. I spent the majority of my time fighting the hospital where we visited the ER and our insurance company to get everything lined up for my daughter to undergo the next procedure to diagnosis her injury. When the week was over, I had the same thought... can't I just stay in bed all weekend and next week?!

There was a glimmer of light on Friday. I had a really good day. You know, the kind where you almost think you're Wonder Woman without the cape and you cross everything off of your list and still have a little bit of energy left? If you know of the spoon theory, I had more than enough spoons and at least one extra at the end of the day. (If you don't know what that is, you can find a great explanation here.) I don't typically have enough spoons. In fact, most days I run out well before I expect to and then I'm stuck trying to explain why I can't get anything done or why the tunnel feels like a black hole. The spoons reflect the light. When you're out, it's dark.

After one great day, it was back to my typical less-than-stellar spoon delivery and I was in the dark again. This morning, I remembered that it's a tunnel, not a black hole. And I wanted to share that because someone else needs to read that today. You will get through this. Don't go it alone... people love you and want to help you! <3

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Nothing is wasted

I have a love/hate relationship with storms. I don't like the rain, but I am fascinated by thunder and lightning. Driving in the snow makes my heart race, but I love watching dark grey snow clouds decorate the sky and I could sit in front of a fireplace with a good book all day long, waiting out the blizzard. And so it goes for the storms in life. When you are in the middle of the storm, it's hard to see anything. You gasp, trying to catch your breath, often wondering why it has to be so difficult and scary. And eventually the storm passes. There isn't always a freaking rainbow. There's usually a lot of damage that we have to work through in order to get back to some normalcy. And although nothing is ever the same, that's not always a bad thing.

Just think, all of those disappointments, heartbreaks, and broken dreams brought you to this exact moment. I am willing to bet that your plans for life looked a little different than your current life. Am I right? Mine certainly did. I was going to either play basketball professionally, become an opera singer or move to a beautiful island to be a missionary with my husband. Obviously, none of those plans came to fruition. I'll be honest and tell you that sometimes I'm still disappointed. I really don't want to play basketball anymore and I am lucky enough to be a musician and sing all the time (without the stress of performances and rehearsals and getting the part, etc). I'm actually glad that we aren't missionaries in the Dominican -- I love it there, but I also love my family and I need them close by!

Still, disappointment gets loud sometimes. I didn't plan to be a young mom. We had our first daughter when I was 18. There is nothing anyone can say to prepare a brand new adult to raise a brand new baby. Parenting is really hard no matter how old you are... but if you are just learning how to "do life" yourself, it's extremely challenging. And putting your life on hold because you are being dealt a new hand can also shake up your world. I didn't ask for mental health issues or an addictive personality. It feels like a boxing ring. Except you have no gloves on. And you're being hit from every side. Eventually you get to a point where you'd like to tap out, except the ref never blows his whistle. No one wants to be overweight and miserable. It wasn't a goal I achieved. It happened over time. Then taking the first step to a better lifestyle is the hardest one. Admitting that you need to change is certainly scary. For most, they are stepping into the unknown and who likes that?! It's just not fair.

This week has kicked my butt. I tried to pretend that everything was fine, ride out the storm on my own. I know better than to do that, but I hate asking for help, and really there isn't much anyone else can do. I have to be the heroine of my own life. I'm not saying that I can do this alone or that their listening ears and broad shoulders don't help me press on. Yet, the decision still has to be mine. I shared with a friend that I'm simply exhausted. I'm tired of fighting all the time. I want a "normal" life. I want a boring past. However, that's not the life I was meant to live. It's this one... full of chaos and struggle, messes and baggage --- tenacity, victory, miracles and strength. Despite how many times I feel like I'm failing, what really happens is that after some time, when the sky breaks, I gain confidence, another chapter of my story is written, one more soul finds their own ability to press on through my sharing.

As my brother-in-law told me, the mess becomes a message. Everything I go through fulfills a specific purpose. All the sleepless nights, the tears as I sob uncontrollably, the anger that rages up from the bottom of my stomach, it all happens for reasons I still don't know. But I am trying to trust that it continues to help others. Sharing the struggles gives them less power over me. So, I share. And believe. And trust. Nothing is wasted.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Great expectations

Did you know that no one expects you to have it all together all of the time? Seriously, not one single person. And if you find someone that ever says that, smack them. That's just crazy talk. And you need new friends.

But guess who expects *me* to have it all together all of the time? ME! Somewhere in my messed up brain, I feel like a failure when we have laundry all over the living room (it's clean and folded and sorted, but that's just not good enough). I feel defeated when the dog hair tumbleweeds appear on our hardwood floors. The dishes overflow from the sink onto the counter and suddenly I tell myself I'm the worst person in the world. My kids argue with each other, wear mismatching clothes or walk into their dance classes 2 minutes late and I think everyone is judging me for being a horrible mom. The budget is tight and the voices in my head tell me I should have gone back to college. I have one really hard workout, I see every tiny flaw in my body or my run is just bad and I tell myself that I should just quit trying. I carry the weight of the world on my shoulders, but if I tell anyone, they will think I suck and that all I do is whine.

Never in a million years would I say ANY of those things to someone else if they were in the same situation. In fact, I would tell them how wrong they were. I would find those beautiful things that make them tick, the unique qualities that draw me to them, the way they make my life amazing and how they are irreplaceable to me. And I guarantee none of the things I would say to them have to do with laundry or sweeping or dishes or being on time or being rich or being a machine.

So quit it. Quit expecting so much out of yourself. And tell me to knock it off as well. At the end of the day, I want to count how freely I lived, how well I loved and how generously I gave. Not much else really matters to God or to me.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Some thoughts from the bar

I quit drinking eight years ago, so I guess that might clue you into the fact that this has nothing to do with alcohol or the local tavern. However, I had some pretty great thoughts today while I was holding a bar during a Les Mills BodyPump class. And they made me feel alive!

Before I get started, let me dispel some of those crazy myths that I'm tired of hearing. Lifting will NOT make a woman bulky. It will make her fit and build muscle. It will make her strong. It might even make her confident and happy. But huge, no. (Bodybuilding is a separate topic we can cover later.) Secondly, it doesn't make us any less feminine. I wore a pencil skirt and stilettos to church on Sunday. I got a ton of compliments and strangely enough, no one told me I looked like a man, so scratch that idea. Finally (for today, anyway), lifting is not dangerous. Honestly, anything you do or don't do can be dangerous. As long as you are lifting smart and listening to your body or your instructor/coach, you'll be fine.

Now that we have all of that out of the way, here are the things that went through my head today during Pump.


1. You can do anything for a short period of time.

I went to class today with a migraine. I felt like garbage. Before class even started, I gave myself permission to leave if I needed to. By the time class was half way over, I knew that I could keep going and finish class. Nice try, migraine. I win.

2. Laughing with friends is SO good for the soul.

Today's instructor is naturally silly and one of my closest friends. She always makes me laugh and today was no exception. Between the jokes, the laughing and the dancing, I couldn't help but smile! By the way, dancing with weights is even more of a challenge! Haha!

3. Moms are way too hard on themselves.

Our Tuesday morning class is made up of mostly moms. If you stick around after class or come a few minutes early, many of the conversations that can be heard revolve around what we are doing wrong as parents, what are kids are doing or not doing, and how we wish we could change this or that. Hold the phone, ladies. Being a parent is the hardest job I've ever had! You keep showing up and trying your best. I applaud you... give yourself a break.

4. Not all dripping faucets are bad.

I hate the sound of my faucets dripping. I run through the house making sure they are turned off and then yell at my kids for not noticing. During Pump, I sweat. It doesn't matter if it is the dead of winter or the middle of summer. I am soaked by the time we are 5 minutes into class. This morning, sweat was dripping from my elbows in a continuous stream. Disgusting and satisfying at the same time. That faucet did not need adjusted!

5. You are great.

There is no need to compare your accomplishments to anyone else. YOU are great just the way you are right this second. I can't run as fast as half of the people I know. My weights aren't what they used to be months ago when I was lifting three times per week. I'm not a very good cook even though I took two cooking classes in high school. I am probably the worst housekeeper in the history of mankind. But I'm still great. I run and lift weights instead of eating crappy food and lying in bed like I used to do. I'm a really good mom. I am involved in my kids' activities and I'm always there to support them. I am a godly wife. I pray for my husband daily and we work well together to keep our house running smoothly. (He's a much better cook than me!) And I am a loyal friend. I never want anyone to feel like they are alone. Ever.

And that just shows you that even when you are lifting heavy weights, you can have some amazing thought processes, "pop it" while dancing to GDFR, smile, cry and shower the floor with your sweat. Go do something that makes you feel alive.