Smashing Inspiration

Smashing Inspiration

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I have a list of secret ambitions hidden deep down inside me. Usually I think them up while I am drying my hair. (Which is the time for me when all great ideas are born.) One of those hair-dryer inspired dreams is to make cool products with words on them. (Basically what most stores everywhere are already doing) I’m sure you’ve seen those cool mugs, pillows, prints, bowls, journals, etc. that have beautiful quotes that inspire you to take over the world.  I want to make all of those things in a pretty sparkly factory and send them all over the world to spread happiness.

Usually.

But I’ve been in a bit of a slump lately. 

A couple weeks ago, I walked through my favourite coffee-shop-within-a-bookstore-with-lots-of-quote-products and looked at all the cursive words lined up so perfectly in rows of complimentary colours and patterns. Then, I had this weird feeling. I had this genuine urge to knock all those hope-filled mugs off the shelf and hear them smash on the floor.

It was one of those days.

Once an embracer and promoter of the short inspirational phrase, I now wanted to punch it’s lights out. Dramatic? Yes. But you know what, sometimes life just gets real. Sometimes fancy words on a mug just make you mad. Let’s be honest. It’s hard to dream, it’s not easy to rise and shine and you start everyday with coffee because you’re exhausted. 

So, I started thinking about creating some products with real life quotes on them. Here are some of my top prospects:

I’m hangry

My pants are tight

Muffin-Top forever

Afraid

I didn’t exercise today

World’s crankiest Mom

Stress headache

Is it Friday yet?

I’ve worn these sweats for a week

Who ate my chips?

I can see the product launch now. Hoards of tired people who didn’t have time to shower, lining up to get a piece of reality.

Listen. Sometimes, life is hard. It’s ok to admit where you’re at. It’s ok to be vulnerable. It’s not a sign of weakness if you aren’t chasing dreams and knocking it out of the park.

Get up.

Do your best.

You might fail.

Try again.

Let’s give ourselves permission to be real. Everything in our lives is not inspirational and that’s ok. It’s so much easier to share the parts of ourselves that aren’t messy. But the illusion of perfection get exhausting, as I filter the heck out of my instagram pictures and care about what people who aren’t even thinking about me, think about me.

Aren’t we just all a bit of a grace-filled mess?

As dramatic as I made it sound, I won’t actually ever smash pretty mugs in the store. (Don’t be afraid to go shopping with me) I won’t ever give up on dreaming and I still want to make things with beautiful words in my pretty sparkly factory. 

I’ll always go looking for inspiration. I need it, it fuels my life and ignites creativity. There is a deeper place in my heart where all my inspiration ultimately comes from that holds strong through everything. That hope, that anchor to my soul cannot be moved. 

But, I’m giving myself permission to be messy and if you see me walking around with a mug with some illegible words scribbled on it with a sharpie – I’m just having a real day.

Those are good too.

 

 

 

 

 

A Season of Alone

A Season of Alone

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I was at a gathering this week and after it was over, I realized that in the span of no more than 10 minutes, I had dished out exactly 8 or 9 really awkward hugs. I have written about my awkwardness before in The Awkward is Real. but this was a whole new level. I just couldn’t stop hugging people. People that maybe didn’t want a hug, but I hugged them anyway. Now that I’ve started this hugging, I’m afraid I might not be able to stop. If you have an aversion to hugs, you might want to stay clear of me until I sort this all out. It’s like I see a familiar person and my arms just flail out in a wide spread.

Come to Mama, give me a big old hug!

After being in a room full of people which led to this impulsive hugging, I realized that I have led a very secluded life this summer. You know how the turtle pulls itself into it’s shell? That’s been me. This has been my “season of alone.” I’ve pulled myself so far into the shell that you can only see my eyeballs peeking out. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve left the house for groceries. I’ve had the best family time with my kids. I’ve had patio dates with my husband. I’ve been committed to work.  

And…that’s about it.

I’ve been very much by myself.

Alone, but not lonely.

I’ll be honest, it worried me a little at times. Am I turning into a hermit?  Is it ok to be so inward? Is the fact that I haven’t hosted a BBQ all summer, or been able to write, or make plans with friends – is that ok? Is introversion my new superpower? Am I depressed?  Is there something wrong with me? Do I need medication? Can you hide away and still live life?

This week it finally came to me, and I understood what it’s been all about. 

Change. 

The other theme of my life. Deep, altering life change in a number of areas. It all started to make sense, I’ve been processing change in my season of alone. Some process change by sharing and talking. I apparently, do the complete opposite. And, it’s ok. 

Here’s what I’ve learned:

  • I’m never really alone
  • Alone places are quiet places
  • Quiet places are God places
  • God places are where we need to be in change
  • It’s ok to have a season of alone with Him
  • I can’t stay in the season of alone forever

The good thing about seasons are that they don’t stay the same. They are ever evolving, and fluid. When one ends, another begins.

What you are in one season, can change in the next. 

What you don’t understand in one season, can be made clear when you look back. 

If you are in a season of alone, remember that a new season is coming. When it starts to stir, and you are ready to move on – GO! Jump in. Don’t hesitate. Look for the opposite of where you have been. Embrace a season of community, move into a focus of together, look at what is ahead. Call those friends, plans those BBQ’s and get out there.

Remember what God did in your alone places, and take that into your connected places. 

Maybe that new season will begin with an awkward hug.

Or 9.

Go with it.

No matter the season.

You’re never alone.

 

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens

 

 

 

Making the Rough Places Smooth.

Making the Rough Places Smooth.

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There’s been construction happening all summer along the highway that I drive everyday to work. As they resurface the road, it seems like each week I come across a part of the lane that is half paved, and half rough. It’s really hard to drive on because one wheel of my car is on a smooth surface and the other is pulling against the force of the jagged unpaved ridges. It’s always a little challenging as I drive over it at 120kms. (Ok, I usually don’t go much faster than 110) It’s interesting because I’ve noticed that the rough side has the stronger pull, and that I have to work against the force to keep in the lane.

This morning as I fought against the rough surface once again, I thought to myself, “I am like this road.” It was a random thought, I don’t usually identify with pavement but those highway lanes painted a visual picture to me. 

There’s always something trying to pull me off my road. 

If ever I have lived through a time in my life that has combined amazing highs and celebrations with all out deep places pain – this would be the season. One day I will share the journey but for now it’s a hard one to navigate. It’s a road I wouldn’t choose to travel.

It’s not on my bucket list. 

It’s tempting to give into the pull of the hard and difficult. To get tired of trying to keep things under control. Instead, there can be the desire to veer out of the lane and bounce and lurch off the road.  To make an abrupt stop in the gravel, put the car in park, lock the doors and just stay in that safe location forever. Hiding away from continuing the journey because it’s too much work to drive on that uneven lane. It’s draining to manage the pull and tension between hope for the future, and the reality of the present.

The smooth and the jagged.

The joy and the pain. 

How can that be navigated?

Who can drive on that road?

Then I remember.

My favourite part about driving on the uneven lanes is that eventually they come to an end. I love the feeling of the pull being over, and I sigh with relief and loosen my grip once I hit that smooth surface.  I made it over the rough patches and am again able to navigate with confidence.

It didn’t last forever.

While we are on the rough roads, they try to pull us from our purpose. They try to erase grace and crush out hope. If we aren’t careful we can be left looking at our dreams in the rearview mirror. But thankfully the road ahead is not always rough and jagged, and more importantly – we don’t have to travel it alone. 

He can create smooth places from rough journeys.

He redeems hard stories with flowing grace.

Keep going fellow road travellers. Don’t pull off to the side and give up on the destination. Whether it’s smooth, rocky, uneven, full of stones or the dust is flying straight up in your face – hold on tight and steer through whatever road you are on. 

His grace-filled, love-filled, purpose-filled, healing-filled new road is ahead.

It won’t always be smooth, but you’ll never be alone. 

 

He has kept his eye on us all along the roads we’ve traveled….

Joshua 24

 

 

 

 

 

The World is a Bully

The World is a Bully

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The world is a bully.

Imagine your husband was running for political office in a very controversial campaign that dominates almost every headline. You have to give a speech, one that you know will be watched by millions. I would imagine all the beauty and confidence in the world would still make this a daunting task. As soon as your speech starts, the haters come out. Within moments you are a trending hashtag, a meme, and the whole world is taking shots at you. Within an hour you are being ridiculed on every media outlet and the headline writers are rubbing their hand together in glee.

On the playground of life, you are huddled in a little corner by a brick wall while the big bullies stand over you screaming and yelling about how ridiculous you are, and that you don’t have an original thought in your mind. 

I wonder what the feelings are when you scroll through the public opinion on social media and listen to the news later that night? Yes, you knew you were signing up for this. Yes, there is a price to pay when you are in the public eye and your husband produces such polarizing reactions. Yes, you come from wealth and privilege. Yes, there are haters and critics and you can’t expect everyone to love you.

Guess what?

Everyone deserves respect.

Isn’t that the other collective call out there right now?

 Is there no common decency anymore? Not even a shred?

This is not an isolated event. This is not a political event.

Every day there is someone being torn down and dismantled, and there are dances of celebration and glee as another one falls. There’s a daily special of scorn and ridicule and people are lining up to get a plateful. 

I find public opinion conflicting. One day we are moved by the tragedies around us and calling for peace, change and love. The next day our claws are out and we are rejoicing and celebrating what we see as failures in humanity. We mock and we ridicule as our hashtags for compassion change to hashtags that rip and shred people apart.

Stop it world.

Stop being a bully.

At this stage of my life.  I can sort things out, I know that that there are good people out there. I know how to evaluate things from a perspective that has developed over my lifetime. But it’s not about me. 

I look over my should and I remember – 

There is a generation behind us.

Always watching.

We have anti-bullying assemblies with them in schools, we teach them character traits in classrooms and encourage initiatives to build attributes in their life. We tell them to be kind, to show compassion and to speak words that build up and not tear down.

Then, they look out into a world that has become a bully.

They watch adults hurl insults and sludge at each other, and then turn around and create campaigns that encourage children to wear pink because bullying is wrong.

The hypocrisy of our message must change.

If we want a generation of world-changers to thrive, we need to stop this culture of bullying. It seems so naive to think that kindness can change things, but we need a restart. Is it too simple? Perhaps. But the complicated doesn’t seem to be working for us.

Our world is broken up and beat down. My first hope is in my faith, my next hope is in kindness and love taking centre stage. There are kind people everywhere. Not everyone is a bully. I see goodness all around me, but those voices need to rise up and shout loud.

Kindness need to spread.

Kindness needs to grow.

Raise your voice. 

Bring hope.

The world doesn’t have to be a bully.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just Keep Walking

Just Keep Walking

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A couple of weeks ago I attended my son’s grade 12 graduation. I decided before the evening started that I was going to hold it together. I’m saving most of my tears, ugly cries and convulsive sobbing for September when he leaves home to attend university.

I was doing SO well, I was really proud of my composure. Then, the school got involved and my waterworks started. I wasn’t even crying about my own kid! I was all welled up because of an invisible voice using a crackling microphone backstage. She started declaring the aspirations of each student as they accepted their diploma and walked into the next chapter of their life. It was so moving and hit a deep emotional chord within me. (Well-played school, well-played.) 

I watched as those young adults took their shaky steps, feet guided with trepidation and maybe a little bit of fear. Walking from a familiar part of life into the unknown can be scary. They hobbled across the stage awkwardly in their too-high heels and uncomfortable dress shoes, not sure what to do next. Tenatively holding out their hand for a handshake and diploma, hoping someone would reach back at the right time and they wouldn’t be left there hanging.   

I wanted to stand up and scream – IT’S OK! YOU CAN DO IT!! AWKWARD IS NORMAL! NEW SHOES ALWAYS HURT YOUR FEET! KEEP ON WALKING EVEN IF YOU DON’T KNOW THE WAY!

Sitting there in the hottest, sweatiest gym ever with my legs sticking to the back of the most uncomfortable chair, beside the 10 family members who snuck in, listening to a sound system that I thought might explode – my heart was filled with so much inspiration. I quietly prayed for those precious young lives filled with so much purpose and potential ahead of them as they stepped into their future. 

We don’t know where life will take us, but we all have a life waiting for us. 

To the graduate who wasn’t sure what they are doing next, it’s ok. You’ll figure it out.  

To the graduate with the goal to make people happy and smile, you touched my heart so deeply.

To the graduate expecting a baby in the fall, it must have taken a lot of courage and determination to walk across that stage. I was so proud of you. 

To the graduate who had to get up the next morning for a chemotherapy treatment, you are one of my heroes. 

I never really thought I’d find high school inspiring at my age, but I’ve been thinking about that night and about those students ever since graduation. Sometimes we have to step into a future that we don’t fully understand or have figured out. It’s ok. There are plans, purposes and hope for every future. 

Keep on going.

Shaky steps or awkward steps. 

Running fast or walking slow.

Directions not quite determined.

 Just keep walking. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So complicated.

So complicated.

Sometimes things go and get complicated.

Relationships change. Situations need attention. Finances shift. Family evolves. Expectations come from all sides. 

In the middle of all this – life keeps on speeding by. Day after day. The pressure to keep moving in the fast lane, no slow lane allowed. I just start to enjoy summer and fall catalogues show up at my door. I go to buy sunscreen for vacation and it’s on the shelf beside the Christmas lights. I fully immerse myself in strawberry season and I see flyers for the pumpkin patch. 

Slow down life.

I have a new longing in my heart for SIMPLICITY. The quality of not being fancy or complicated. I love the idea of an simple life. I dream of a little farm on a hill, where I can cheer the beautiful sunrise to come up each day and reflect as each glorious sunset goes down. But, I know that’s not realistic. Even if I lived on a farm and made my own butter, life would still be complicated. Time would never stand still. A perfect life is not attainable.  However, in the complications that we face, and the pace of life we travel it’s our perspective that shapes our attitudes and sets the tone and climate for our experiences.

Value simplicity.

Slow down.

I was reflecting on simple slowed-down experiences that made me happy in recent weeks:

Buying flowers from the side of the road and putting them in a mason jar.

Making buttercream icing.

Checking my nightly walk off my summer goal list. 

Breakfast with friends.

Wandering through a bookstore. 

Spraying the cold water from the garden hose on my feet.

Sitting on a patio with my husband.

Repurposing my morning coffee into an afternoon iced coffee.

Making nachos and watching movies with my family.

I feel like the simpler I make my life the more I appreciate the world around me. The more I slow down, I’m able to create margin to give because I have space in my life. My complications can be easier solved and faced with a simple perspective.

Drama ceases. Love abounds. Heart settles.

And honestly, I feel closer to Jesus. In a crazy life it’s easy to lose him in the madness. It’s hard to find time for him in the over-commitment. It’s challenging to hear his voice when your channel is always on the one that makes the noise that never stops. 

In the quiet of a simple life there can be more of what matters.

More loving.

More giving.

More serving.

More forgiving.

More dreaming.

More Him.

Things don’t always have to go and get complicated. 

I was invited

I was invited

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To be honest, for most of my life I’ve sort of felt like a spoon in a drawer full of forks.

A pair of flip-flops in a closet full of boots.

The jellybean in a bowl of smarties.

Something just didn’t belong.

And that something was usually me.

It was like looking through one-way glass. I could see everyone but they couldn’t see me. Looking in but not being able to break through. I would often think to myself, I wish I had one person that believed in me. Someone that would see something in me, encourage me and cheer me on. To step into the mess of my life and help me grow so I could get to the next stage. I knew there were people around me that cared, but I often felt very alone.

It sounds like I’m really needy.

But that is how I have felt.

So many times.

After a particularly hard season, I left my place of work and I wasn’t sure if I would ever go back. I took a year off, and God led me on some amazing adventures. But I couldn’t run forever. I soon found myself again nervously embarking on another leadership journey. I entered this new role with much fear, and to be honest, I didn’t let myself get too close at first. I wouldn’t be hurt again. I wouldn’t fully commit my heart in case I was going to be let down.

Then something amazing happened.

My leader found me.

I could tell story after story of how I was continually blown away but support, by inclusion, by being valued. I was accepted. I was asked. What I did mattered. There was a table and I was able to pull up my chair. I wasn’t trying to break through the glass anymore. As a result, I grew the the most as a leader in this season. I walked with confidence and learned about myself. Took risks and pursued dreams. 

As I look back, one thing stands out to me.

I was invited.

One of the greatest influencers in my life impacted me by simply inviting me into the conversation. Because of that, I was a faithful follower.

When you are asked to contribute, you become more invested. When you are valued, you give your best work. When you are invited, you attend with your whole heart. 

That leadership journey eventually ended, but the impact of it lives on. In my present season of life, I remind myself all the time that I need to be an inviter. I’m not always good at it, it’s very easy to get comfortable in my safe places. I often have to remind myself to lift up my head and look around. To seek out people who are longing to be asked. Wishing to come in. Not wanting to be looking from the other side.

We all have a table, and we can all make room. 

Look around where you are.

Who can you love, influence and include?

There are those waiting to be found. 

Pull out a chair.

Invite them in.