How to move

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI woke up humming a tune.

“Whippoorwills in the willows…” I love that little song. It takes me back to a sweet time in my life when I had fewer cares and responsibilities, a time when love enveloped me like the warm comforter I nestled in as I awoke with the June sunshine streaming in through my bedroom window.

I have always heard “be where your hands are.” My mentor wrote this line to me this week, “Let your head be where your hands and feet are.”

Same essential meaning, but it hit me differently. Yesterday morning, I found myself nearly paralyzed in bed. This inability to move (and unwillingness to get up–it was half inability and half desire) only lasted for about five minutes, thankfully, but it was long enough for me to pause and reflect on the cause. I was unable to get up and make my daughter a cup of strawberry milk and to make my coffee for five minutes because I was humming a little sad tune from a movie I watched during a beautiful time in my life. I was reminiscing. And I was grieving.

When my head and thoughts are reflecting on the past and meditating on memories, I am completely incapable of being in the present. I’m unable to move. I’m unable to go forward. I’m unable to take actions. I’m unable to do stuff. I’m unable to have fun with my kid. The entire time I was floating through the memories of hearing that song then—and humming it again 18 years later—my daughter tugged on my arm, jumped in my bed, and even told me jokes. I half-listened, half-smiled, and half-replied to her. I was half-there. But I’ve been taught that half measures avail me nothing. And living a half life isn’t really living my life, either.

If I’m grateful for the RIGHT NOW, I’m capable of getting up, getting out of bed, and making strawberry milk and coffee in the morning without any problem, without any hesitation. I can do that when I switch my thoughts and focus from back then to right now.

Sometimes I do that easily, as I did yesterday morning, by simply making a mental choice to stop thinking about the past. Sometimes it’s not as simple, quick, or easy. I need to reach deep into my toolbox for help. I pray and work through the Steps of recovery, admitting I’m powerless over my desire to live in the past. I admit that I’m incapable of being where my hands are and ask for God to restore me to sanity. That’s expressing willingness. I say, “Help me, God!” I’ve never known a time when I’ve asked God desperately for help, and He’s pooh-poohed my genuine, unselfish request to make a change.

Another practical way I focus on what I’m grateful for—which switches my focus from then to now—is by paying attention to what I see, hear, smell, taste, and feel. And I give thanks to God for those things right away, and usually aloud. Does that make me seem like a weirdo? Maybe, but usually I’m home with my daughter, so who really cares? I’ll thank God for the smell of hot coffee as it’s brewing, for the warm sunshine on my blanket, and for the sparkle in Maggie’s eyes every morning. When I’m thanking God with my mouth, my mind doesn’t have as much control over me.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’m then capable of reading, praying, and meditating and putting first things first. I can make homemade muffins for the cutest four and a half year-old girl in the world. When my head is where my hands are, I’m grateful for where my hands are. When my head is living in 60-second snapshots from the past, I’m not able to see our gray kitten’s fur standing up on end, chasing a bird. I’m unable to hear Maggie giggling while chasing him across the yard. I can’t laugh in response. I choke down fresh farm eggs and homemade chocolate cake; food is bland when I’m in a time warp, either reliving something sad and beautiful or wishing I’d made different choices.

Thankfully, I’ve been taught how to live here. I’ve been taught how to live HERE, where my hands are, where I exist, in reality, where the clock is ticking on the table next to me.

Sometimes

Today’s post is written by my friend (and regular guest contributor) Debra Dickey. Thank you, Debra, for sharing your beautiful thoughts!

Sometimes……the slow person in front of you is in front of you to remind you to be patient.

Sometimes……the end to your lucky streak is to remind you of how fortunate you have been and still are.

Sometimes……what you perceived as an ‘error’ actually happened because it was the better option.

Sometimes……the change that you are not happy with is an incentive to better the situation.

Sometimes……a face that you didn’t expect to see just makes your day!  Or was that a cookie?

Sometimes……when you are outside viewing the colossal sky filled with the vast number of stars and constellations, some of which you cannot identify, your son will suddenly say, “I have an app for that!”

Sometimes……in the middle of January’s 20 degree temperatures, it warms up to 55 degrees!

Sometimes……you cannot even imagine the program that is running in the background of your life, until the beautiful evidence is illustrated.

Sometimes……the kindnesses that you send out into the world come back to you, and you are humbled.

Sometimes……you have nothing to hang on to, but you do.

Sometimes……the blessing are truly in disguise.

Sometimes……the puzzles are not puzzles at all.  (Vera Nazarian)

Sometimes……it’s not what was accomplished, but rather, if His Will was done.

Sometimes……the universe aligns with such clarity, that there is no mistaking Who is in charge!

Sometimes……the wonder and awe of His Presence is so infused that mankind cannot behold it.

Sometimes……now, the grass is too tall to take the path less traveled.

Sometimes……these treasures, in their own right, allow us an audience with God.  The whispers, the roars, the accomplishments, the defeats, the soldiering, the shouldering, the hidden, the luminesced, the white sands, the black shadows, the great and the small, each a brushstroke from His palette, details of essence and life.

Cosmos 2Tiny specks in the Cosmos — that which we are not privileged to view the entirely of — we are finite beings on our portion of this journey.  In unexpected ways and unforeseen places, may we recognize Him, within each discovery, each vivid contrast and fluent extreme, and at every impress.

Sometimes….. all that we have is not enough; all that we offer is.

Sometimes….. the seemingly insignificant is the supreme task.

Change gonna come

*Thanks to Mary Agrusa, today’s guest contributor, for sharing this beautiful piece with everyone.*

summer_haze_by_purpledino92-d5b2qf6

Summer Haze by Purple Ino 92

This weekend I saw it. Looking out my living room window I got the distinct impression that fall had arrived. Perhaps the approaching storm played tricks with the refractions of the sun’s rays, but the world outside was glazed in a more muted, mellow glow.

Mid-July in the Deep South is vaporous, a steam bath. Humidity spikes and the air is thick and muggy. Clothes stick like second skin as I stop glistening and start sweating. The autumn hue was deceptive. One step outside and reality hit like a warm, damp wash cloth. Still – the hint was there. Fall’s on the way.

I’m cognizant of the subtle, seasonal changes in the sun’s light long before the calendar or temperature confirms my observation. In the depth of winter I’m encouraged that warmer days are in my future. When everything wilts under summer’s sweltering haze, I take heart. It won’t be long before the trees adorn themselves in shades of vibrant color, citron to deep burgundy, and stand out in brilliant contrast to the cloudless, cobalt blue sky. I enjoy spring and fall the most. I prefer their moderate climes to the penetrating cold of winter or summer’s stifling heat.

Life appears to emulate the cyclical rhythm of nature. We have new beginnings and periods of growth (spring); the out-growing and passing of the familiar and established (fall). Like winter, the cold, hard grip of loss: loved ones, jobs, health, finances and the like leave us buried. Entombed under an avalanche of adversity we wonder, “Will I ever see the light of day again?” Like the onslaught of a long, hot summer we find ourselves under intense, relentless pressure and cry, “Will someone PLEASE, turn off the heat!” Depending which season life finds me in determines how tightly I cling to it. At times I want to move in, unpack and stay forever; other times I’m running hard for the nearest exit – if I can find one.

I’m thankful that in life, just as in nature, God sends hints that change gonna come. I praise Him for those snippets of hope that remind me that this too will pass. Reinforced with fresh, clearer vision, I’m rejuvenated to continue my walk of faith, confident that He knows exactly where I’m at and He’s in control.

Outside my window the sun now blazes and the temperature matches its intensity. I’m not concerned – I’ve seen what’s coming and I’m prepared for change.

New experiences

*Thanks to my friend Debra Dickey for serving as today’s guest contributor.*

If it hadn’t been for my kids, little people in my life, and even my pets, I would have missed out on an incredible amount of remarkable experiences in my life!  If you recall my previous posts, I have already mentioned that I am not a very adventurous soul, so to say that I am ‘new experiences’ challenged would be, hmmm, an understatement! 

Mt. LandI’ve always wanted to pretend to myself that maybe there was a bit of the wandering pioneer spirit in me, but I will tell you truthfully, that wherever I wandered, I mostly desired the comfort of being able to see my house from wherever I was standing!   But for a time, my world opened up –  often spit in my eye –  and my courage took wings . . . albeit at times, forcefully.

Initial lessons for getting me out of my comfort zones, were learned of course, with and for my children.  We have laughed and had the best times and the most fun just doing things together.  Some of those events were planned, others weren’t as much, and often, we were invited to create the experience for ourselves.  There have also been struggles, rough times, trials by fire, disappointments, and monumental obstacles which have required me to develop strengths that I never imagined I could possess, and doggedly test my resolve; but together, we somehow managed (and continue to manage) those ‘new experiences’ and challenges as well.  My kids have taught me so much, and continue to share so many insights, and such wisdom, strength, knowledge, joy and courage with me, that I cannot begin to imagine a life without the richness and depth which only they could have made possible — treasured experiences memorably shared, an endowment sweetly gained from these two remarkable people.

My most recent opportunity with new ventures has been my privilege and delight to spend time with my 8 year-old niece, who brings her own special brand of prospective, fun and laughter, and genuinely blesses my life with such a myriad of enjoyable hours.

All these experiences serve as an abiding reminder of what is really important, as well as help explain the reason and purpose for my existence, and my presence in the exact right spot at those exact right moments.

MeadowBut only by regular reminders, voluntarily or involuntarily, to make those conscious choices that will, time and again, propel me to step out of my comfort zones, have I been given the incredible opportunities to visit new places, see new sights, hear new music, experience new concepts, value new ideas, appreciate new cultures, share silly laughs, and regard, encounter, and enjoy the world through the eyes of my wise, courageous, and discerning companions.  What wonderful adventures for a homebody like me!  These days, even walks with my dog have prodded me to stray from my typical paths and discover fun tramps through the woods, which often call forward a bit of that wandering spirit.  And at this point in my life, I’ll say, that’s good enough for me.

We plan. God laughs.

pauseOur plans for the entire weekend fell apart.

A workshop I planned on hosting had to be rescheduled due to dangerous weather conditions. I felt so disappointed. I’d been looking forward to the chance to see old friends and benefit from the shared experience, strength, and hope during the workshop. I was elated that my new friends would have the chance to meet my old friends, too. But since safety was prioritized over excitement (wisely so), we cancelled the night before. At the last minute, I found myself frantically calling people who were planning to attend, letting them know about the cancellation and that the workshop would be rescheduled. In the hubbub of cancelling plans, I forgot to cancel our restaurant reservation and later apologized profusely to the woman who called to be sure they had the right date on their calendar.

The next day, we had plans to attend my sister’s 30th birthday celebration. I made some fabulous hummus and planned on picking up some veggies to go along with it. I picked out a yellow sundress for my baby to wear and my new shirt and khaki pants for myself. I even ensured I’d have plenty of time to bathe and genuinely fix my hair–and that’s rare these days, folks.

But Sunday morning, my niece fell victim to a stomach virus, and vomit was the cancellation culprit. My little sister changed her plans and went on a mini road trip instead. I was bummed that I wouldn’t get to celebrate her birthday with her and sad that I wouldn’t get to spend time with the rest of my family, either, especially on such a beautiful day.

My mentor reminded me over the course of the weekend that, “We plan. God laughs.”

This might be the theme of my life.

I am anal to the nth degree when it comes to planning. I do not like last-minute changes. I certainly do not like guests showing up unannounced. I want to know the date, time, and menu for holiday gatherings at least one month in advance, and preferably two. When I managed the career services department at my alma mater, I created a year-long to-do list, month by month, and my former administrative assistant still uses it to this day to keep herself and others on task and working ahead to avoid scrambling and last-minute chaos.

God knows all of this about me. And He certainly is amused by my inability to give in, flex my schedule, and let go of my plans. I believe this is why He has repeatedly put me in situations that require flexibility, adaptability, and total lack of control. I have made progress. But I’m still a planner by nature.

This weekend, I learned that there are always gifts to be discovered when plans go awry.

Our daughter napping during the rain this weekend

Our daughter napping during the rain this weekend

As my husband, daughter, and I waited for any stragglers who might show up at the cancelled workshop, I brewed a pot of coffee and enjoyed a doughnut we picked up on our way. A friend showed up to post a cancellation notice on the door, handmade by his daughter (and totally adorable). Two of his beautiful and rambunctious daughters accompanied him, and they had the chance to meet our baby and hold her and squish her cheeks for a while. As I nursed my baby in the next room, I heard through the old, thin walls my husband chatting with my friend, discussing landscaping and offering help to one another. The heavy downpour sounded light, steady, and calming to me as I sat right next to a large window, watching the rain cascade onto the shrubs, sipping a hot cup of coffee as my daughter nursed her way to sleep.

Sunday, after the birthday party was cancelled, I found myself with an entire day that required no plans, no schedule, and no need to wear real clothes. So I stayed in my comfy pajamas, wrote my teaching philosophy in preparation for a job interview, and took a much-needed nap that afternoon while my daughter did the same.

Sunset on the porch with my baby

Sunset on the porch with my baby

As I watched the sunset with her on our rickety old porch later that evening, I thanked God for the changes in our plans. I had needed time to breathe, time to write, and time to rest. I just didn’t know it because I hadn’t stopped moving long enough to admit to myself how totally exhausted I felt.

I plan. And sometimes God laughs.

This weekend, I think He just shook His head, orchestrated changes, and smiled as He watched me savor my coffee, gaze at my sleeping baby, cover myself with three blankets at three o’clock in the afternoon, and admire the damp, green life light up in our yard as the sun melted over it.

 

 

Keep coming back

Today I sat on a puffy leather couch at a local coffeehouse, answering questions posed by a kind woman who’s writing a news article about our local recovery program. My enormously pregnant belly served as a great prop for my decaffeinated gingerbread latte. I curled my marshmallow-like feet up on the cushions.

Me in 2007, two months before I began my journey in recovery

What a difference five years makes. Five years ago, I attended my very first 12-step meeting out of total desperation; a crisis in my romantic relationship had alerted me to the possibility that I might not actually know as much as I thought I did. I might not be in control of every single thing. And I might need help to determine the next best step to make.

I began learning. SLOWLY. I was eager and willing to read my heart out, work through the 12 steps, and attend meetings. Changing my behavior–which, in turn, changed my patterns of thinking–was a more gradual and reluctant process. Old habits die hard, and I had several unhealthy habits clinging to life support (thus sucking the life from me every single day). Thankfully, the patient people in my group reminded me that they’d just keep loving me until I loved myself and encouraged me to “keep coming back.”

They told me to keep coming back because they knew that if I worked at it, the same miracles God had performed in their lives through recovery would duplicate themselves in my life, too.

They were right.

I’m so grateful I did not give up before the miracles began happening. And so grateful they’re still happening in my life, day after day.

 

Kicked out of the box

*Thanks to my friend Debra Dickey-Liang for serving as today’s guest contributor!*

Have you ever gotten kicked out of your ‘box’?

Sure you have! You know, the one in which you have planned and worked very diligently to make the pieces of your life fit just so, created precisely the right amount of wriggle room, and stocked it with just the appropriate assortment of ‘cushion’ accommodations so that you think that you are fully prepared for any and all contingencies that probably won’t, but just might, pop up!? Actually, I’m quite sure that most of you were in that box shouting, ‘Let. Me. Out!!’ — but not me! ‘Some are born to change, some achieve change, and others have change thrust upon them’! (slight paraphrasing)

That’s me, at the end –kicking and screaming all the way! At least at first. As I have never been a terribly adventurous soul, naturally, the most effective avenue for dislodging me personally from my familiar, and more or less comfortable ‘box’, was for something to haul off and kick me out. It has been stated that women, more especially mothers, continuously live their lives in a process of change. For us, adapting is a necessary commodity, a reality really. For without that resource, managing and coping with all that the world of work, family, society, and the universe in general throws at us would be almost more than we would be able to handle! Reflecting on my own existence, it seems that my odyssey has been one very long series of changes. An existence that seems always to be moving, transforming, re-acclimating and adapting. One of my daughter’s favorite commiserations when faced with change and challenges is: “I don’t want to be a grown-up!”

I hear ya! Yet circumstances have a way of propelling us in directions that require us to grow in our comprehension, mature in our attitudes, stretch our minds to new ideas and competencies, travel unexplored paths, learn to do more with less, and most particularly, to decide how to go on when the road before us seems overwhelming. To put all that in context, we must be able to visualize the future so that the present becomes part of the big picture, rather than the entire canvas, then make the best of it, despite our fears and apprehensions. Sometimes the changes I experience are gentle nudges that prod me to make simple adjustments to my accustomed routine; frequently those changes are more complicated shoves that require some fancy footwork and extraordinarily creative adaptations on my part! But most fearsome have been those changes that have knocked my feet out from under me and slammed me to the ground.

However, at each level, the bottom line requirement remained the same — for me to discover the labyrinthine degrees of competencies accorded me from the Giver of All Gifts, along with the multitudinous (good word, huh!) score of capabilities measured out for me to put into place and apply to the adaptation process. Gradually or suddenly, those changes were ushered in, patterns were modified, emotions were altered, and situations were refashioned, in the end, becoming so much a part of me that I hardly remember what I was like before the change took place. Stubborn changes that I was forced to make arising from occurrences that were beyond my control – yet with each hurdle and at each juncture, demanding that I GET OUT OF THAT BOX!

When Jesus commanded His disciples, “Go ye…” could that be what He had in mind??!!?