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I want to be a hiker.
I really do.
I love the views and the challenge and the feeling of accomplishment when I’ve made it to the top of a particularly challenging peak.
I spent a season, last year, on a hiking team with one of I dearest friends, as we trained and raised money for the Luekemia and Lymphoma Society. It was an amazing experience. Every weekend we would get up early and get decked out in our fancy hiking garb and go to some amazing location where we’d spend a few hours traversing the trails and learning about the landscape.
Every time, when I was done, I would feel rejuvinated and proud of what I had accomplished and seen.
Every time, as I was doing it, I would feel impatient and anxious to get it done, to get to the top and move on to the next thing on my to-do-list. I would strap on my pack, lace up my boots, put my head down and say to myself, “Let’s do this thing.”
But that misses the point of hiking.
Hiking is all about the journey. Not about the finish line.
Hikers love nature and community and adventure.
Hikers are fit and relaxed.
I’m anxious and a bit flabby.
On these hikes, the leader of the group would point out flowers or shubbery or some “naturey” thing along the path up the mountain. Everyone would stop and take pictures and discuss the beauty of the thing. I’d stand there and tap my toes in impatientce. I got called on it once. I was barreling up, doing my thing, when I heard the leader say something to the extent of, “look at the pretty yellow flowers. Did Gaylynne see the pretty yellow flowers?”
No. I didn’t. So sue me.
You may be Mahatma Gandhi and I’m more Clark Griswold. Get over it!
But the public humiliation did make me ask a few questions:
- Why am I so rushed?
- What makes me all about the destination and not about the journey?
- How would my life be different, or what would I gain by slowing down and noticing the pretty yellow flowers?
- What might God want to show me that I’m missing by charging forward with my head down and my determination up, wanting to accomplish a task but missing the transformation?
I may always be more a 15-minute calorie crusher workout out kind of a gal. I accept that. But I do want to learn to stop and smell the roses. I want to enjoy the journey.
I want to get to the top of the mountain and not just be able to say that I made it, but know that I was made more beautiful through the process.
When talking about embracing or accepting your story, it is natural to think about the past and focus on learning to embrace the things that have happened to us, the mistakes we’ve made, the good and the bad. Or, we might get excited about moving forward and embracing our dreams for tomorrow. But I believe, in order to fully embrace where you’ve been or look towards how the story might evolve in the future, we first have to learn to Embrace Now. We cannot move forward or delve backwards until we are willing to accept where we are, who we are, in the moment. We have to savor and accept and cherish without pining for something differnt. This is the foundation of further embracing…
Over the next couple weeks I’m going to be talking about this “Embracing the Moment” stuff by exploring topics like:
- slowing down
- the productivity myth
- unrealistic or unmet expectations
- stopping to smell or at least see the flowers
So stay tuned and let me know what you do to Live Life in the NOW
The story of David and Goliath has always been one of my favorite Sunday School stories. It, along with Jonah and the Whale and Noah’s Ark, is not only entertaining and lots of fun to depict with colorful felt figures on the giant felt board, but it is one of those that I’ve pulled from the recesses of my memory over the years to inspire me to overcome obstacles, knowing that God can do great things even through the least of us.
Story synopsis from 1 Samuel 17: The Israelites were battling the Philistines (some things never change) and every day the Philistine army would send out their most fierce, gigantic warrior by the name of Goliath. He would taunt and tease the lowly Israelites,
Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me. 9 If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.”10 Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” 11 On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.
No one was willing to stand up to the mighty Philistine. Until David, sent by his father to bring rations to his big brothers who were serving in the Israeli army, heard the taunts and basically said, “What’s wrong with you people? How can you let this jerk defy God’s army. I’ll go fight the fool.”
To which everyone else basically said, “Yeah, right. Who are you that you think you can stand up to this guy?”
To which David said, “Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God.37 The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.”
And you know how the story goes. David gathers some rocks and his sling shot, goes out to the battle field, ignores the taunts of the giant and kills him with a smooth stone to the forehead.
But what stood out to me when reading this story again the other day, was the scene before David goes out with his sling shot. The part of the story that I’d never really thought about before, is really quite significant…when Saul tries to get David to wear his suit of armor to fight the giant.
38 Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head. 39 David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them.“I cannot go in these,” he said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” So he took them off. 40 Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.
It would have been so easy for David to try and rely on King Saul’s suit. He could have looked in the mirror, seen his scrawny self standing there, and believed what everyone else was telling him, that he was unprepared to fight the giant. He could have listened to the taunting, ignored the call of God on his life, and stumbled out wearing an ill-fitting costume to cover up and protect himself. And he would have been defeated.
God uses us. To do great and impossible things. Every day.
God wants to use you. To do great and impossible things. Today.
You don’t need a shiny suit of armor. You don’t need a giant slaying sword. You don’t need anything other than a willingness to be used. Completely. As you are. Plain and simple and capable.
What if David had worn Saul’s suit?
What does “Saul’s Suit” look like in your life?
How can you remove it?
What can you do with five stones and a sling shot today?
The other day I came across a horrifying television show. Not The Walking Dead kind of horrifying, but worse. It’s a reality show called Botched that depicts the lives of individuals seeking help from two Beverly Hills plastic surgeons to fix their jacked up boob jobs, or nose jobs or some other horrible hack job some quack performed on them in the past. The show is a train wreck. You cringe and shield your eyes, but you just can’t turn away from the ensuing disaster playing out before your eyes.
As I sat drinking my green smoothie, I pondered what on earth made these people so insecure that they submit themselves to these horrific procedures time and time again? Now granted, one of the “participants” was a cancer survivor and another had been kicked in the face by a horse, but the others were clearly addicted to these enhancements and were turning themselves into plastic freaks, spending a fortune in a futile attempt to make themselves “perfect.”
As I thought about this in light of my past post about making assumptions...I realized again that each of these individuals have a unique story. They are obviously trying to change what has been written about them, not realizing, I suppose, that changing the cover doesn’t alter the words inside.
And don’t we all do this?
At least to some degree?
We might not succumb to the knife (though I am embarrassed at the amount of cosmetic creations I’ve purchased in an attempt to enhance my “cover” and turn back the hands of time on my appearance!) But we all have ways in which we try to hide and/or present a pretty picture to the world. Don’t we?
We keep secrets. We keep quiet. We alter the truth. We are hyper-critical of ourselves. We are hyper-critical of others. We eat too much. We drink too much. We spend too much. We do any number of things to protect ourselves from the reality of our worlds and to make ourselves feel better.
Now, I’m not saying that wearing make-up and sharing a glass of wine with your friends is tantamount to plastic surgery addiction. I’m just saying that I get it. I understand how someone can be so unhappy about who they are that they do whatever they can to make it appear better and more beautiful. And I get why they keep coming back…
Because nothing ever works.
Until we accept fully the wonder of God’s Creation, and Embrace the Truth that His ways are right and wonderful, we will always be botching it up with useless attempts to make things right on our own.
“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” Psalm 139: 13-14.
So here I am…without the benefit of makeup or even a comb, trying not to cringe at His Creation!!
It means to hold someone close in your arms as a sign of affection. To hug or clutch.
It means to accept or support something willingly and enthusiastically. To welcome or adopt.
It’s a verb and a noun.
It’s an action and a gift.
It begins with humility.
It requires a choice.
To Embrace our stories we have to do both.
Reach out and receive.
Can you accept someone or something with enough conviction to step out of your self-imposed comfort zone, reach out your arms, and encircle them, no matter what they’ve done or what your history holds?
Can you let down your guard, stand still, and allow arms that perhaps once harmed or held back to encircle you warmly, tightly, closely and rest in the protection that embrace provides?
We have to humbly make the choice to accept what has been written by us and about us, hold on to that which is True and shed the sting of that which was meant to destroy. We must break down the walls that we’ve built up to protect ourselves, turn the page, and allow the God that created us, the Author, to step in, wrap us up, and keep us safe.
In order to receive or give an Embrace, we must allow ourselves to be vulnerable.
It is a risky business.
It is hard to stand still. It is uncomfortable to be touched. Not everyone is ready to accept it. Some might reject, stand back, turn away…but no matter.
Your story is meant to be told. To be lived out truthfully and enthusiastically. Embrace it. Live it. Love it!
I love this quote someone shared with me the other day:
“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” ― Brené Brown
The other day I was getting my monthly dose of pop culture, reading People magazine while getting a pedicure. A front cover teaser caught my eye with a thumbnail photo of Giuliana Rancic, and the quote “I know I’m too thin.” http://www.people.com/article/giuliana-rancic-admits-too-thin.
Now I admit I don’t really know who Giuliana Rancic is or why she is famous. All I know her as is, “that freakishly skinny woman on that ridiculous fashion show.” (Sorry E! News and the Fashion Police, your shows are just not my cup of tea.) But I was intrigued by the fact that one of the many super skinny Hollywood types was able to admit that she was too skinny. I expected some sad story about eating disorders and having to live up to the image and how size 6 is considered obese, blah blah. But that wasn’t the case. Rancic opened up about her struggle with breast cancer and medications she is taking that mess with her metabolism. She explained that she has scoliosis and suffered teasing and ridicule all her life because of jutting shoulder blades and a misshapen posture. She revealed details of her personal life that debunked many of my assumptions and made me feel, at least a little bit, sorry for her.
But mostly it made me think about how quickly we jump to conclusions about people. We make assumptions about why someone is the way they are or why they look the way they do and rarely take the time to listen to their story.
The woman at the soccer game I mentioned in my last post “Why Share Your Story?” , for example. I assumed she was just a grouchy, unfriendly person. She was a hurting, damaged, soul desperate to be free from the shame she’d carried for years. The homeless guy looking for a handout that we pass with a downward glance, we assume he is a drug addict trying to score his next hit. Which he very well may be. But why? How did he get there? Our coworker we try to avoid, because she does nothing but bitch and moan about the miseries of life while ordering another pair of shoes from Zappos, to be delivered to the office so her husband doesn’t find out. Why is she so unhappy?
What do others assume about us?
If we take the time to ask questions, listen to the stories, tell our own, we can stop assuming and start empathizing. We can learn to love more and judge less and let those around us know that we care about who they are, not the image they portray to the world.
I was sitting at a soccer practice years ago, reading a book about emotional healing after abortion as research for my first novel. Sitting next to me was a woman I knew only casually. Our kids were in the same Sunday school class I believe. She was, how do I put this? Not a very pleasant woman. She always seemed angry, with a scowl on her face that made you want to steer clear.
She asked me what I was reading.
I showed her the cover the book.
She looked at me, startled rather than scowling. “Why are you reading that?”
“I’m doing research for a book I’m writing.”
“An anti-abortion book?”
“No. It’s a novel about a girl struggling with the after affects of having an abortion.”
As she stared at me her face softened a little, so I decided to keep talking.
“I believe that the church has not dealt with this issue very well. We get so wrapped up in ‘saving the life of the unborn’ we neglect the woman who are hurting in the aftermath. No body makes this decision lightly. And when they do, they believe it is the best choice, having no idea the depths of the pain it can cause them.”
She was looking down at her feet. Her face was flushed. “What made you decide to write about that?”
“I realized during a right to life service a few years ago that, if I had been a young pregnant teenage girl, and I could have been a young pregnant teenage girl, I would have gotten an abortion. I have no doubt about it. By the grace of God, I never had to make that choice. I want to help those that have made that choice realize that God loves them, forgives them, and wants them to be healed. ”
She burst into tears. I put down my book.
“I’ve sat in church for ten years and I’ve never told anyone about my abortion. I never thought I could.”
Before my eyes this hard, unhappy, woman that I had always assumed was simply mean, broke down and began to shed the burden of shame she had been carrying for years.
I let down my guard, shared a little bit of my story, and God used it to speak freedom into the life of his child.
“I want to read your book when it comes out,” she said, regaining her composer.
I don’t know if she ever did.
I learned something that day.
We can share facts and sermonize about any number of things with the intent of helping others.
But it’s in the simple sharing of stories that lives can truly be changed.
Don’t be shy. Open up. Your story matters. Who knows whose life can be changed for the better just because you were willing to share a bit of yourself with them!
Everything I read about writing these days is about the major paradigm shift happening in the publishing world. E-books have finally taken over and it appears as if traditional publishing is being reserved for those lucky souls that have sold more than 2 dozen of their first published book to their closest friends and relatives. Okay, maybe it was a couple hundred. And I didn’t know everybody. But still, my publishing debut that allowed me to officially answer the proverbial “What do you do?”, with “I am a novelist”, fizzled out pretty quickly, leaving me a bit weary and no more confident of my abilities to actually make a living doing what I love than before I became Published.
As in most things, there is a good and bad side to this shift. Bad side, the chances of scoring a 6-figure advance on my next novel are right up there with someone knocking on my door with a bouquet of balloons and a giant check issued from some clearing house. Good side, the chances of my novel becoming an e-book that is not automatically dismissed as narcissistic drivel are better than in years past.
Options abound, and with a little luck and a lot of initiative, I might get my words into the hands of readers some day and I might make a buck or two in the process. That is if, and only if, I break down and do what I have been trying really hard to avoid for the last couple of years: I have to BLOG. I hate the word BLOG. I’m sick of hearing the word BLOG. It is an ugly word. Blah Blah Blah BLOG. And I really hate it when someone tells me I HAVE to do something. When I hear that there is only one way to do something, it just makes me cringe and commit to finding another, more reasonable way.
But here I am, blogging.
For better or for worse.
I want to write. I want to tell my stories. And my stories rely on OUR stories. Stories that are Open, Unique and Real. Your stories. And I guess I have to admit that the best way to do this is by, yes it’s true, Blogging.
But I am determined to come up with a better term for it. Maybe you can help me? Don’t you think we can come up with something that doesn’t automatically trigger a gag reflex?
Or is that just me?