When the sparkle starts to dull.

Here, in my parts at the ends of the earth, we are in week four of a brand new school year. The kids’ school bags do not yet have the crumbs of fifty uneaten sandwiches congregating in the bottom of them, their books are all smooth and flat, however poorly covered they may be (pretty sure there’s a book covering anointing that I most definitely do not possess), and the teachers, oh the teachers, their smiles are genuine and sincere. Sparkly smiles indeed.

The start of a new school year is rather lovely. Crazy, expensive, demanding in some ways, but lovely. But I know that there comes a time when the whole shiny new thing, that is the new year, begins to dull a tad.

Like most things, really. Things, if left to their own devices do tend to dull a little or a lot over time. New jobs quickly become standard jobs, once new skills and requirements for the job have been mastered. New friendships and relationships can become a little too comfortable if you’re not careful.  People can feel taken for granted or unseen and unappreciated, once the sparkle starts to diminish.

I tend to think that if things are sparkly to start of with, then maybe we should all pay a little more attention to keeping that shine there.….that shine helps to keep life interesting, it gives variety and beauty, sometimes it breaths life into something that is otherwise somewhat lacking.

The only items of silverware I possess are a set of salad servers.  Given to my husband and I for an engagement present, these salad servers have moved with us all over the place.  And they have been used by us, all over the place.  And you know, for their first fifteen years of use they were very shiny and sparkly.  And then all of the sudden they weren’t.  I’m sure their dulling process was indeed a process and they just didn’t all of a sudden become dirty overnight.  But that’s how I noticed them.  One time when I used them they were fine.  And then the next time I went to use them, nah, not so fine.

It took about three weeks of writing ‘silver polish’ on the shopping list before the stuff even made it into my groceries, simply because I kept going past the aisle where the polish was kept….and when you’re shopping with small children, there’s no turning back down an aisle is there?  You’re on a mission and there are no detours.  Anyway.  I finally found the polish, purchased it, took it home, and…..eventually….about another three weeks later….finally got around to polishing my silver.  My whole two items of silver.  If you’ve never polished any silver yourself, you may already have some education on the matter thanks to Downton Abbey, but my method is pretty simple really.  You dip your piece of silverware into a ‘silver dip’ solution and then wash the item in soapy water and polish with a soft cloth.  Easy.  Not hugely time consuming, just something that needs to be done, to get the end result that you want.  Something to be intentional about.

So now I have silver dip for my two pieces of silverware, which will keep those salad servers looking as good as new, forever and ever, amen.

Why am I going on about my stinkin’ silver dip?  Well….. a.  It really does stink.  b.  You know the little boy in the movie ‘The Sixth Sense’ who sees dead people everywhere…..I’m in a similar situation…only it isn’t dead people I see, quite the opposite….. I see God at work in various pictures of everyday life.

We have silver dip to remove the tarnish from silverware.  That, armed with a little polish works wonders to restore things to their original and intended state.

In the same vein, I believe that we have things at our disposal to restore us to our original and intended state when life is starting to loose its sparkle, when life is starting to feel less shimmery.

We all have times when the world seems to close in on us. Sometimes genuine smiles are hard to muster up.  Some days we’re in jobs that become so automatic and robotic, that shift after shift can feel the same.  Just as when the school year goes on: sometimes our school books do get bent all out of shape in our schoolbags, the hats get lost and the permission slips that are forever coming across our counters never seem to get to the right person at the right time.  We all experience all kinds of corrosion on our bodies, our minds and souls at various times in our lives.

And that’s ok I reckon.  Blemishes, on all sorts of things is normal.  But restoration is always possible.  

There’s always hope for a piece of silver to be restored to its original shiny state.  There’s always hope for us, to be fully restored.  Fully restored where it comes to relationships. Restored to wholeness in our self-esteem and self-confidence.  Restored to fullness of joy.

As a Christian I believe we have this helper person by our side, the Holy Spirit is his official title.  You see I’ve found I can do things with his help that I know I could’t do in my own strength.  I see the Holy Spirit as my ‘silver dip’ for my soul.  When my body is physically exhausted, sometimes from illness and sometimes simply from the demands of life.  When my mind is drained of positive and happy thoughts.  When I just don’t feel like anything of much around me, including ME is sparkling and shiny…that’s when I know I need to cry out to the Holy Spirit. Help me.  Guide me.  Flow over me.  Flow through me.  May my words bring hope.  May my life bring joy.

That’s the ‘silver dip’ in life, available to each and every one of us….and part two of restoring silverware to its former glory is the ‘polish’ part.  The rubbing gently with a cloth.  That’s where friends are important to me.  Friends become my polishing agent.  Friends who challenge me, who encourage my thoughts and actions, friends whose wisdom and advice can be readily available to me, friends who can smooth over the parts of me that are not yet smooth, the parts I can’t yet see as being beautiful or worthy.  We’re called ‘the body of Christ’…..reliant on each other…..good friends can do so much good for us.

My silver salad servers are looking all righty at the moment, but I’ve got the tools at my disposal to give them a helping hand, whenever I think they need it.  And I’m pretty fortunate that I’ve got the right tools at hand to give my soul a do-over, when I need it. I recommend it you know…….Shiny and sparkly things are better than dull and tarnished…..

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Hitching up yer big girl pants.

I learnt a lesson  the other day. And, like most lessons, this lesson was learnt the hard way. And I got to thinking that maybe, just maybe, someone out there in the interwebs may need this gentle wee reminder that I received as a result of my stoopid  valuable lesson.

My lesson started on a Tuesday. My Monday was great, fine, all good. Then Tuesday rocked along. And my week suddenly turned a corner. My Tuesday became a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. And then my week became a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week.

You see on the Tuesday someone asked me a question about a certain aspect of my life. And in that moment, with my reply, I chose to be a little vulnerable, and a lot honest, and I gave this friend of mine a candid and genuine answer. Which happened to be mixed with some negative feelings and some blinking back of some tears.

Now that’s not the cause of the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day turned week…

Nope.

There’s great value in being raw and real with people, and I didn’t regret sharing that piece of my heart with my friend.

Nope.

That was good. We need to share our burdens with our ‘people’. The less masks we walk around wearing, the better.

My terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week simply happened because I allowed my attitude to stink about a few things, following on from that initial conversation and carrying on for the rest of the week. Doesn’t matter what those things were because my life is such a random mix of responsibilities and obligations, joys and sorrows that whatever I had a ‘tude about will never be exactly the same as what your ‘tude may be, but you’ll find the principal is the same. If you dwell on the stink, and allow the stink to rob you of your joy, then, yep, you are gonna experience a spiral downwards. And that slippery slope ain’t pleasant.

So I’ve learnt there is a fine line between giving honest answers to friends, and showing them your real feelings regarding things, and then carrying on with holding onto those feelings and letting them have too big a stronghold in your life.

Life can’t be all sunshine and roses. Not all the time. Sometimes you may be in a situation where you may well feel fully justified to feel sorry for yourself. But I know, that I know, that I know, that often you can change a situation a whole bunch, by how your change your perspective of it. How you change your attitude. That whole attitude controlling your altitude business. You’ve probably heard all this a hundred times already. I know I have. But there’s nothing like getting a migraine from your stinkin’ thinking to remind you of how important this is.

So if you’re in the middle of a hard situation, if you’re feeling the squeeze between how you know you should be feeling and thinking and reacting (ie. positively) and what your situation is actually dictating to you….have a think on this…

……your situation may be stink, but you aren’t.

…..you do have a friend who can stick closer than a brother, right by your side.

…..most things in life are temporary…..all deep and dark tunnels have to end at some point and you have to be reunited with fresh air and real sunlight, at some point.

Sometimes the best thing you can do is to be honest with yourself, honest with some trusted friends, but then hitch up yer big girl pants, and face your problems, face your realities, head held high, chin up, teeth gritted if you must…..because you can do whatever it is you are called to do. You are not alone. You are equipped – as a Christ follower I believe I have certain tools at my disposal to help me in my everyday life…’truth, righteousness, peace, faith and salvation are more than words….God’s word is an indispensable weapon…..’. Grabbing a hold of all these things, when life is good and when life is bad…..gives ease to your journey.

There’s so much to be said for just hitching up yer big girl pants and dropping your ‘tude. The world is just more of a beautiful place. I lost sight of that during my terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week. I hope I don’t loose sight of that anytime soon.


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Fairy Tales and Real Life

Out there in the real world, the general consensus on ‘love’ is that fairy tale love rarely happens. By rarely I mean hardly ever. By hardly ever, I mean only in your dreams. By in your dreams, I mean only in books and movies which could possibly star Meg Ryan. By in books and movies, I really mean fairy tales.

Fairy tale love belongs only in fairy tales. Right?

Right.

Only. Actually. NOT RIGHT.

Nah.

Fairy tale love has a lot more in common with everyday, real life love stories I see all around me, than we may think. There are a number of similarities between real life love and fairy tale love….plus we have the gift of perspective. How you view your love story changes everything.

Let’s explore some of these similarities, before you think I’ve lost the plot and am living in LaLa land….

Fairy tales are intentional. The authors didn’t just sit down one day and out came words that flowed beautifully and then, voila, ten minutes later there’s a story that has a concrete beginning, middle and ending and by golly, there’s even a solid moral to the story in there too. No. That doesn’t happen. The authors would have taken days just shaping their stories, fine tuning the plots, developing characters, cleverly intertwining subplots into the body of their story.

Real love has to be intentional too. Intentional with facing things together, intentional with decision making together, intentional with outworking life’s aims and goals together. Intentional with seeing the best in each other and calling that out, breathing life into that. As fictional stories are very carefully crafted, so are real life love stories. They don’t just happen.

Fairy tales often feature in them royalty; princes, princesses, Kings and Queens. Nobility stars in a lot of fables. Last time I checked I wasn’t surrounded by real life members of the Royal Family of any country. But I have a little inkling, a little nudging in my heart that to see oneself as a member of the Royal Priesthood (1 Peter 2: 9) helps a huge amount when entering into a happily ever after. It makes sense that the more you see yourself as a whole person, a complete person, God’s very special possession, called out of darkness into wonderful light, before you enter into marriage, the healthier and happier you’ll be. Have you seen the t shirts and wall placards reminding you to ‘always wear your invisible crown’, I truly believe that’s not just a neat saying but a very solid truth to build on.

Fairy tales often have very special and unique beginnings. A woodcutter boasting that his daughter can spin gold from straw. A penniless young girl selling matches on the street. The hatching of a very ugly duckling. These are all quite unique, original ways to start a story. And that’s a feature in real life happily ever afters. Have you ever noticed that when you ask a couple who are living out their happily ever after, how they first met, that’s usually immediately met with a smile and maybe even a giggle. And their story is retold with a lot of warmth. You see they know that beginning was special. They cherish that beginning. Happily ever afters look at their beginnings with much fondness. And I think that fondness is more often than not paired with a whole heap of gratefulness. A gratefulness for that beginning, for however unique it may have been, something lasting and very special has come out of it.

Fairy tales often feature in them universal truths. Sometimes they teach a lesson or demonstrate values important to a culture. I think a real life happily ever after does the same. A long term, committed and happy marriage clearly shows onlookers what is important to that couple. Patience. Forgiveness. Joy. Kindness. Self-control. Servant-hood. These are all things evident in someone’s happily ever after. Maybe not all of these things, all of the time, but snippets of these things, for the majority of the time.

Another feature of most fairy tales is that the happy endings are more often than not based on the resolution of conflict or problems. Basically ‘schtufff’ has to be worked through before there is any chance of a happily ever after.  True true true. Same same same in real life. There ain’t no happy marriage on this earth that ain’t never seen hard times. Ooh Lordy trouble so hard. But whatever that trouble may have looked like or have been, somehow by God’s grace and sometimes with the gritting of teeth and sheer willpower, that ‘schtufff’ has been worked through, those raging waters walked through, and while some marriages may bear scars, those scars tell a beautiful story of God’s fingerprints of grace at work.

As one gets older and as one gains a greater understanding of some of the darker and more grim sides to some of the classic fairy tales, sometimes one is reluctant to share these stories with a younger crowd. Some stories just simply don’t turn out the way we want them to. Sometimes we’re hoping for a real life happily ever after, but due to all sorts of things, that sometimes just doesn’t happen. If this is you, and you’re now filled with all sorts of regret, sadness, anger, grief, disappointment and heartache, I get it. Life is messy, hard and complex. But I’d like to give you a glimmer of hope. You’re a Prince or a Princess whether or not you have your Prince or Princess right beside you, right now. You can be healed and whole, right now. You are worthy. Fairy tales sometimes have a happily ever after, and sometimes they don’t, but that doesn’t take away anything from who the characters are and how much their creator has invested in them, how much care He has poured into them.

If you’re just beginning your happily ever after in real life, treasure what you have. Nurture what you have. See the best in each other. Speak highly of each other. Get to know your creator more, as your story is woven together, delicately, purposefully. And know that your happily ever after can be real. And it can be lasting.

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Today marks for me the anniversary of being 16 years into my happily ever after. People say that young couples have no idea what they are getting themselves into. And maybe some don’t, but we did. We signed up for a life of adventure, serving God together. Sure there have been curveballs along the way, life’s like that. But we’ve been blessed with unusual happiness and we’re living out our very own fairy tale, generously splattered with God’s grace. We don’t know what plots and twists our future chapters will feature in them; no doubt there will be times of blessings and hardships, but above all else there will be love.

Happy Anniversary to my Spunky Hunk. You make me a better person. I love you with all that I am.

 

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Noise.

It sure is noisy in these here parts of my interwebs world.

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. 

Refugees. Terrorists. Veterans. Illegals. Retaliation. Justice.

There are so many blog posts, newspaper articles, videos and opinion pieces doing the rounds. And yes I see the irony in writing this very piece.

I’ve seen posts in favour of absolutely every possible action and thought out there. I guess that should come as no surprise as I know a lot of people all over the world, and these people all have vastly different backgrounds and current situations, and all sorts of ‘flavours’ of political and religious views.

If I speak God’s word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump”, and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. 

He said, she said, they said.

It makes my head hurt as I struggle to find truth in among opinions. As I search for facts and not become distracted by fiction.

If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. 

Maybe you’re not quite as bombarded by such different thoughts as I am, maybe your social media world is not as varied as mine is, but still you’re feeling puzzled as to what to think on these big issues the world is facing at the moment…l can’t give you any answers. I can’t give you any solutions. I certainly can’t tell you what you should or shouldn’t believe.

But I can tell you this little ditty; fear thrives where ignorance prevails.

Much of what I see and read online comes from a place of fear. Many people give voice and words to thoughts when they don’t feel in control and they may not always recognize themselves as being fearful, but I think a lot of things originate from that. And much of this comes from ill-formed opinions, not based on real knowledge.

And fears tend to shout. Fears tend to need to be heard. Fears also feed off of each other. But fears are often silenced with knowledge. And with attempting to know the full story.

I could go completely off social media for a while, but I value my relationships too much for that. Instead, the best thing I can do, to try to eliminate some of the superfluous noise infiltrating my world, is to concentrate on giving more of my attention to the whispers of wisdom out there.

Because as much as fear shouts and fear builds upon more fear, I believe wisdom is out there for us to take a hold of too.

Wisdom utters calm and dependable thoughts. Wisdom under-girds solid and hopeful solutions. Let’s look and listen for the gentle whispers in all of this. Let’s look and listen to the wise souls that speak hope into the dark situations. They are out there. They deserve our attention.

So, no matter what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love. 

 

(Words in italics from 1 Corinthians 13: 1 – 7, The Message Bible)

Layers. 

Sometimes winter lasts for a very long time. Winter with its iced mornings and bone-chilling winds. Winter that brings numbing of the extremities and dribbling noses and foggy breath. It is winter that requires us to wear layers upon layers.

The coldness of winter means we need layers for survival. Layers to keep us warm and as healthy as possible. I see layers as a form of self- preservation. Sometimes layers are the best and only option.

However long and arduous a winter may be, it doesn’t last forever. 

No matter how hard and fierce and piercing a winter may be, unless you live in Antarctica, winter is followed by spring, as surely as day follows night.

Sometimes we can be in a winter season in our life, and it may feel like it is lasting forever. It may be arduous, it may be bitter, it may be challenging on many fronts. But for every person, I truly believe that Spring can and does come. Not necessarily when we wish it, or hope for it, or sometimes even pray for it, but spring does come.

Here’s what I know about life in wintertime: sometimes you just need those layers.

Sometimes you need layers of self-protection in your life, sometimes you need to just distance your heart just that little bit further away, to take time and to create some space.  But everyone knows that you shouldn’t wear too many layers in spring and summertime. It’s not a wise thing to allow yourself to overheat. Sooner or later, when circumstances are different, when they are better, warmer, brighter, you need to peel some of those layers away. And sooner or later you need to peel some of the layers around your heart away.  Because here’s the thing…..if you don’t allow those layers to fully peel away, it is hard to truly feel joy, to feel love and acceptance, because those are the things you need to swirl into your heart. 

Sometimes in winter your fingers get so frozen by winter’s touch that it makes undoing buttons or fiddling with a zip quite tricky. That makes getting your big, bulky layers off, just that little bit trickier. What helps is warming up a little first, then beginning the process of getting rid of a few layers. Sometimes you need to be in that happier, brighter, safer place for a bit first, before you start to break away the layers around your heart. And you know what is necessary sometimes?  A friend. A buddy. A pal. Sometimes your own jacket zipper keeps you stuck stuck stuck. But with the help of a friend…..you can get unstuck pretty fast. Friends, good friends can be really good at helping you cut through your unnecessary layers.

Chronic sickness can be like winter. Grief can be like winter. Anxiety, depression and self- harm. All these things can bring about extended times of life just being that much harder, and that much more trying, and that much more inward focussed. Which can in turn make someone either intentionally or unintentionally form layer upon layer over their heart.

The good news is that layers can come off. They aren’t stuck on forever. And like I said, sometimes they need a friend’s assistance.  Sometimes they need professional help. But always, they can come off as new seasons, brighter seasons, warmer seasons are entered into. 

Layers surrounding our hearts can be chiseled off in the act of worship. When we realign our hearts with God.  When we focus on his goodness and loving kindness. Sometimes the best heart surgery does happen when we’re around good friends, kindred spirits, like-minded people. Sometimes the layers peel off when we pray, or have others pray for us. Someone I know, told me that she had a protective layer of her heart just melt away by the simple act of a friend standing next to her, when she was having a ‘moment’, and her friend simply put an arm around her. A simple hug.

There really is a danger than comes from wearing too many layers in the wrong season.

Let’s be people who look out for over dressed people. And let’s be people who offer grace and love, understanding and permission, to those who are still in the depths of a fierce winter, who really do need a few extra layers on at the moment.

Seeing the Forest.

Sometimes circumstances in your life come together, and when compounded one on top of the other, they line up to form a perfect storm.

A number of years ago one of these perfect storms blew into my family’s life.  We were living in America where my husband could only work one job, for the one employer and I didn’t have the visa requirements to allow me to be earning anything.  I was pregnant with our much wanted, long awaited number three child, and our health insurance costs took a hike, a sneaky preemptive move by the insurance company before Obamacare came into being.  Then.  Whammo. The pregnancy took a little turn and all of a sudden I needed to be under the care of a Maternal Fetal Specialist and that meant more out of pocket costs that we just hadn’t planned on and what do you know?  Perfect storm.

We were stuck.

Winnie the Poo stuck.

Stuck.

We had very limited options and resources to face the bills coming our way. We chose to hunker down and keep our lips sealed on how big a storm we were facing, but there was a bit of pleading with God going on, a little bit of wailing and gnashing of teeth, and some sleepless nights.

And true to form, like every storm, this storm did not hover over our lives forever.  A very kind person who guessed from her own experience what we may have been facing, put two and two together and this kind person arranged for us to receive some help in the form of some amazing food parcels which helped with our grocery bill, which in turn freed up some finances for the extra medical costs.

Talk about humbling. And hard. And miraculous.

But most of all humbling.

I learnt a lot of lessons in that season of my life.  One reality that stands out to me most, and I didn’t realize how much it had impacted me, until just recently, is how hard and limiting life is when you feel like you have little or no options.

And for so many people – their lives ARE drastically limited by situations totally beyond their control. And I think that is easily forgotten when we are in the throes of serving people and helping people. Sometimes one’s options for a happier life, or a healthier life, or an easier life, are so much more limited by legitimate situations:  be it finances, or ill-health, or the very real demands of dependents (children and/ or elderly), than we sometimes acknowledge.

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When we were getting organised to move from Australia back to NZ, we got some people into our home to look at what we had and to give us quotes for moving options. Most people might get three or four quotes at the most. Ha. Not us. We’d never been in this position before, where we were moving a whole house load, so we called in eight different moving companies. Eight. When it came to looking at our dining area, every one of those eight moving agents counted up: one table, one bench seat and five dining chairs. ‘Where’s the sixth chair?’ all eight of them asked. Well you see, there was no sixth chair. But every agent had this preconceived idea that we should have had six chairs. No biggie. But an example of how we all come into different situations with certain ideas of how things should be. With important issues, with everyday not so important issues….whether we realize it or not, we put certain filters on situations by looking at them with the eyes we have.

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So why am I giving you far too much information about a time in my life that has well and truly passed now?  And why this random talk about filters and preconceived ideas that we all can’t seem to shake?

Well it’s to serve as a reminder to me….and who knows…could possibly be helpful to someone, somewhere….

Perfect storms happen in people’s lives at random times. And when they hit, often they take away people’s abilities to see the forest for the trees. When options are limited because of time/ health/ finances, then powerlessness prevails. And with that can come a multitude of self- esteem issues, trust issues and overwhelming worthlessness .

As a Christ- follower, I see that a big part of my ‘job’, my role in life is to love justice, show mercy and to walk humbly with my God. And from some of harder parts in my own life, I now know that one of the most empowering things you can do for people when they are in tough times, is sometimes to highlight for them the real options in front of them. Sometimes situations need to be ‘fixed’. Sometimes the best option is to show up at their front door with a food parcel. But always people need people to help them to see the forest. Not just the trees in front of them. And that’s what my friend did for me.  Yes we got practical help.  But it was more than that.  She helped me to feel hopeful about a stink situation.  She helped me to realize we weren’t failures.  She validated all of my feelings, without ever making a big fuss.  She was a forest finder for me.

And sometimes helping people, truly helping people, means applying some filters to your own thought processes, before you suffer from foot in mouth disease. I’m convinced that people don’t always know what they don’t know.

Sometimes when you’re helping people the best advice is actually no advice.

Sometimes you need to have the hard conversations and facts to be faced, but always with words seasoned with grace. Always with a heart willing to see the situation for what it truly is, and ears to really hear what a person is truly saying.

To me, that’s the best kind of helping. That’s the best kind of ‘fixing’. We all need friends to help us to see the forests, and sometimes we get to be the ones, leading the way on the wilderness trail,  finding the forests for others.

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Real and raw. 

Sam is a fellow Mum at my boys’ school. English is her second language, but I think it’s fair to say that Sam has a fairly good handle on the ins and outs of English. Three weeks into her brand new life here in New Zealand, Sam made the comment to me that ‘this flag debate. It is hot button topic, yes?’. 

Yep. This ole flag business is indeed a hot button topic. 

Sam’s English is just fine.

Anyway. Today at school drop off, which was more eventful than the norm because some fiddle fingers fidget managed to set off a fire alarm right before bell time so that all the doting parents who were either lingering  over a final kiss on young Johnny’s cheek, or, those who were deep in conversation with another parent, were stuck on the school campus too. 

I’m embracing the doting parent gig right now, so I was one of the stuck ones today. But so was my new friend Sam, so we chatted a bit while we stood on the top field and from a distance we watched the firefighters come and do their checks. Spring has sprung in these parts but someone needs to tell the wind to warm up a tad. Our conversation today began with the grumps over this stupid wind and the stupid coldness that just can’t seem to dissipate. Stupid stupid. 

Then Sam mentioned something to me that has been burning away quietly in my brain for the whole day. 

With a gentleness and earnestness, Sam said to me that she ‘always saw me with a calm face’. 

Now I laughed that off straight away and assured her, that no, my face was not always calm and my voice does get louder on occasion and sometimes I do overreact and definitely do not display lovejoypeacepatiencekindnessgoodnessselfcontrol all the time. Nah. Not this chick. I then told Sam that even if my face looked calm, then certainly my heart wasn’t. And Mother to Mother. Friend to Friend. Sister to Sister. Sam got that. I didn’t need to find a simpler way to say it. I didn’t need to think fast and reach for synonyms that she may have come across before. She got it.

But after I had made sure I had put her straight, and after I had secretly high fived my kids in my head for being the amazing kids that they are, I kinda felt a little teeny bit crushed. I’m not one to wear my heart on my sleeve, but I also don’t ever want to appear to be someone that I’m not. 

Ya know? 

What you see is what you get. That’s healthy, right? 

There’s this new hunger for people to be real and raw with each other. Which is great in my mind, but only sorta. It’s sorta good, but you can’t just spew your deep and meaningfuls to everyone, all of the time. Filters, people. Filters. 

So how do you approach this whole being real with people about your life – all parts of your life; the good, and the great and the not so great, but come out of it all with your heart intact, trust still strong and intact, and your feelings validated? 

One key I’ve only lately discovered is to listen for the right questions. 

Sometimes in your group of friends you may get lucky with a friend who asks you the right questions. Actually they are sometimes the wrong questions, coz they may make you unexpectedly tear up or reveal more of yourself than you ever intended, but that means they were the right questions. 

So listen for the right questions, and when you’ve got someone asking you the right questions, you know they are genuine. You know they are safe. You know you are safe. Because if someone is asking you the right questions, they are most likely listening to the answers to their questions. Your answers. 

Anne Lamott says that she thinks that ‘closing down is safe, but really staying open and loving is safer, because we’re all connected to all that life and love’.

I’d like to one day be remembered as one who asked questions. Questions about the big stuff, but also questions about the little things, and all the in between things. And as I navigate through life I know it’s important to encourage others when things are going well, but when things aren’t good…..when life’s challenges come and stress nips at my ankles, like a persistent dog who doesn’t know that playtime is over and his drooly jowls that were once cute are now unwelcome at my ankles, then it’s ok to not have my calm face on. And then, it’s time to seek out those who ask the right questions. 

That’s being real and raw.