Heart in the Clouds

Monday, December 22, 2014

So...





Yesterday, I wrote a great blog post about this past year, my struggles, my triumphs, my ups and downs. It was also about my goals for the coming year--the ways I want to challenge myself and things I want to learn.

But I didn't post it.

It didn't feel like what I really wanted to say, and it really wasn't that great.

So tonight on my 4-mile run in the dark, I started thinking. This past year for me has been about simplicity and getting rid of the junk in my life--physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. While I don't think I've succeeded fully, I've definitely made good headway. I've come out the other side of a bout with depression and anxiety. I've gotten rid of some toxic emotions--unforgiveness, anger, fear--obligations that have been draining me and even some physical junk that's been filling up our home. I've accomplished some goals. I'm more "myself" than I've ever been.

Yeah, I'd say 2014 has been pretty good to me, all things considered, and I've been pretty good to it. 2011-2013 were some of the hardest years of my life, in so many ways. But this year I started to feel a restoration in my heart.

While I was running tonight, though, I thought about this coming year and all the things I wrote last night. But I realized that all those things I wrote were just more "blah, blah, blah" to complicate my life. They're things I'd like to do and new goals I'd like to accomplish, but nothing that really spoke to the core of what I feel in my heart that I need to learn.

Then it dawned on me. Love. That's what I want to learn in 2015. I've simplified a lot in 2014, so I've opened up a lot of space in my heart and my mind.

To start off my 40th year, I want to start to learn what it means to love with my whole heart, out of a simple faith. I want to love like God does--without expecting anything in return. I want to love people whom others may consider unlovable. I want to be able to give my heart fully to my friends and family, without fear or reservation. I want to be like Mary (Luke 10:38-42) and sit at Jesus' feet and just listen--forgetting my self-imposed obligations, others' expectations and the tasks that I think need to be done. I want to make His love my focus and allow Him to teach me.

I want to be a person people know they can trust. I want to be a person who epitomizes what it means to live out the heart of God. To do that, though, I think I need to refocus. I tend to be a little scattered, but I feel the time is coming for me to focus myself on this one thing.

When we know we're loved, we realize our significance doesn't come from people's opinions. It doesn't come from what we've accomplished. It doesn't come from what we do, what we say or how we act. God loves us just as we are, imperfect and flawed. He loves us despite the darkness that lives in each of us.

Romans 8 reminds us that nothing can separate us from the love of God. Our sin and our walls can keep us from receiving it, but nothing keeps him from constantly giving it. I want to live that way--loving, whether people can receive it or not.

In the past few days I've been thinking about the aspects of real love. I want to be able to measure what I'm learning about it with the way it is defined in I Corinthians 13:4-8 (I'm liking the Amplified version at the moment). As you read through this passage, take the time to think about how you give and receive love. Maybe, like me, you'll want to make 2015 a year of learning how to love.

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"4 Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily.
It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong].
It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail.
Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening].
Love never fails [never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to an end]." 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Tuesday Thanks

We are all a part of each other, and it deeply saddens me to see people struggle. It's horrifying to know that right now other human beings in different parts of the world are being tortured and taken from their families, or they are dying from diseases that could be preventable, given the right medicine. I hate injustice and corruption. I hate fear. I hate that depression or addiction can overwhelm people to the point that they feel their only way out of the hole is to take themselves out.

Having gone through different levels of depression and anxiety myself over time, I know (even in a small way) that feeling of hopelessness--as though there is no light at the end of the tunnel and there will be no one to help me. Seeing others struggle unsuccessfully with that same feeling hurts my heart. I wouldn't wish that emptiness on anyone.

But, in the middle of all the world's chaos, my anchor "within the veil" is God and my gratitude for all He is doing that I can't always see. I can keep my eyes up and find God's hope in the world's darkness by being REAL with Him, with myself and with other people, and being truly grateful, knowing I always have Someone to thank.

Hiding behind any mask is harmful, especially the masks of religion and pride. Masks separate people from each other, and they separate us from the joy God has for us. Over time, He's taught me that there really is nothing to hide, and there is no fear when I step into the light and just BE who I am, flaws and all.

You are loved completely, just as you are, and there is no fear in Love. People will either judge you or they won't, they'll either accept you or they won't...but who cares? Take off your mask. Life is too short to hide. Let it all hang out, baby!

Simple gratitude strips away the "protective" layers we've put up around ourselves, revealing who we are at our core. I've learned that the best thing I can be is me--real and true, for better or worse. Years ago, God helped me learn to differentiate between trustworthy and untrustworthy people, and when I am listening to Him I can easily separate the two. The trustworthy ones will accept me as I am, build me up and encourage me. Learning simplicity has allowed me to love myself and to receive love from other people, but also to not accept less than authenticity from others.

Be your real, true self. There is no reason not to be. Don't be ashamed of your flaws or afraid to show when you're struggling. The act of sharing yourself may help someone without you even knowing it.


Gratitudes:

1. I'm grateful for the fact that I got help. The struggle of depression and anxiety is real, and every day we see the sad effects of shame or self-medication. If you are struggling, there is help out there. My life made a 180 when I reached out. Go get help now if you need it.

2. I'm grateful for the breath in my lungs and the power in my legs that I never knew I had. Running has saved my life. I truly believe it.

3. I'm grateful for laughter and the gift of truly funny people. Laughter has been medicine for me all my life, and I so appreciate "sparkly" or funny people. They are a gift to the world, whether they feel that or not.


Even when you feel alone, you're not alone, so...



Sunday, June 22, 2014

Three things...



"He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?"



If you look at the top of my blog page, there's a little Scripture reference on the bottom right of the header. Micah 6:8.

My favorite verse has been coming to my mind again. It usually pops up when I start to notice I'm over-complicating my life or my faith, and filling it with too many unimportant things. It's like God's little whisper to remind me that my goal for this year is simplicity.

I'm grateful for this little reminder. Amid the expectations I pile on myself, the obligations I accept from other people and the desires I have for more life and meaning, I can lose the knowledge that simplicity is best. More isn't better.

It's a process. Simple isn't a destination, it's a journey. Gradually peeling off layers of junk from my life is not easy, though. It's a cleansing of the mind, of the spirit and of the emotions. It's a refiner's fire. For me, "simplicity" has meant cutting off toxic relationships and cutting back on bad habits. It has meant throwing out trash and clutter, even some things I had deemed "important." It has meant cutting out the noise of the world and the voices in me and around me. It has meant losing some of the mental and physical weight that had held me back from seeing some of the true potential of my imperfect human body.

When I gradually start to fill up my life again (and the lives of my family) or get religious, I hear a little whisper, "Three things."

Do justly.

Love mercy.

Walk humbly with God.

The rest of the stuff doesn't matter.

It's a big eye-opener when I remind myself. It's the measure for my behavior, my thoughts, my attitude, my spirituality.

I feel like true gratitude brings these three things to the forefront and forces us to see and appreciate what's important--all the little, quiet moments and opportunities we might miss in the noise and clutter of a busy life. It cuts through the messes and the obligations. It separates the meaningful from the irrelevant.

So while you're going about your life, stressing about the expectations put upon you or those you put upon yourself, or you find yourself over-complicating your faith, breathe and remember...three things. Do justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly.



Friday, June 20, 2014

The Change begins...

Remembering to feel and experience and live gratitude is going to be something I have to remind myself to do daily because I've gotten out of practice. But so far I'm off to a good start.

Today was a good day.

I spent time with my older son, just the two of us. I spent time with friends. I finally met (in person) an online friend I've had for years. Lots of moments to smile about!

Today I'm grateful for...

Blue sky. I needed to see it, and it was there.

Wisdom. I needed to use it, and it was there.

Confidence. I'm learning to live in it and to help bring it out in other people.

Knowing when to keep my mouth shut. Sometimes maturity is about knowing when to keep thoughts, feelings and opinions to oneself, even more than it is about sharing exactly what's on your mind. That's something I've had to learn the hard way, in some cases, but I'm grateful for the many opportunities I have to put it into practice.

Imperfection. We all have our faults and issues. We all have our insecurities and fears. But we are beautiful in our imperfection. In our weakness, His strength is perfected.

Firsts. My younger son had a big first today--his first day at Cub Scout day camp. He was nervous about being without his big brother, but I have wanted him to have opportunities to find himself and have fun outside the family bubble. He loved it and can't wait for tomorrow. He's taking more steps into the world and growing more confident each time. I love him and can't wait to see the man he becomes...even though I'd sometimes love for him to stay my little boy a little bit longer.



Waiting for his ride on the first day of camp...



Thursday, June 19, 2014

I woke up this morning...

and I immediately thought to myself, "I need a change." Do you ever get the feeling that you're stuck in a rut, it may be a happy, mellow rut, but it's a rut nevertheless? No big highs or lows, and you're just happily putzing along?

There are times when I'm stuck in a rut and I don't notice it, usually meaning things are moving along fine, but I'm not really connected with my life. Yesterday, I noticed the days are flying by. Before I know it, a week has gone by and I have nothing I can say that has really moved me or made me think or put me in awe.

Part of it, I'm sure, is my medication. I am SO happy to be on meds...oh, you have no idea! They're not for everyone, but they have turned me around. My anxiety was overwhelming, which was causing me to be depressed. That has turned around for sure. But medication also has the ability to mellow me out to the point where I get comfortable and I coast. 

If you know me at all, you know I don't just like to coast. I want to feel. I want to move. I want to know that what I'm doing and how I'm living has meaning, and I want to give off a positive light in the world. My light has been pretty weak lately, if I'm honest with myself. Not much fuel in the fire. I'm just "here." A comfortable lump. While I love my comfort zone and would probably stay in it forever if I could, I need to give myself a swift kick in the hindquarters now and then.

So this week the training period for my second marathon is beginning (Columbus in October--woo hoo!). I'm already a few days in, and will be making physical changes, obviously, and eating less sugar, drinking more water, and sleeping more. But along with that, I am wanting to make some other changes, emotionally and spiritually.

Gratitude has long been a theme in my life. It's obvious to me that when I'm recognizing the people and circumstances that God has put in my path and the little things that I often don't take time to notice, I am more connected with this journey I'm on, I'm more "in the moment" and I find joy in the small things. I'm able to pay attention to what people are saying with their hearts, more so than what they're saying with their mouths. I'm able to have compassion when I would have only had judgment. I'm able to speak blessings, where I might have only spoken curses. I'm more focused on what I truly desire (God), and I'm not brought down easily.

So I've decided to reconnect with my gratitude. Not sure how it'll look, but I'm going to do it, as part of training for my life, not just my next marathon. 

If you look at your life, what is a change you'd like to make? Something positive you can incorporate into your daily routine that will connect you more? I encourage you to think about it. It's easy to be negative or just coast along. Being a positive light is a lot harder if you don't have the emotional and spiritual fuel to keep it bright.