What The World Needs

hole in wall
Over the last month, various circumstances have aligned to remind me of an obvious and basic truth of life.  It’s as if God started setting up dominoes a few weeks ago, in an intricate pattern of intertwining circles that He would eventually cause to fall into one another only to reach the end of themselves in the center of it all.  A central truth that was connected by so many small and different circumstances and thoughts.  A central truth that isn’t a mystery by any means, but seems to be difficult to integrate into life.

I guess it started when my daughter left for Kenya for the summer.  A summer full of people she’d been dying to get back to for a year and a summer full of new people she would have to connect with and say goodbye to over and over.  That part is difficult I think.  I know it is for me.  Both building relationships and saying goodbye.
Then a friend from our gym told me about a podcast that she loved and I proceeded to binge on it for the next 2 days.  It left me with an odd and disturbing feeling.  I guess it was a mixture of sadness and disgust. Sadness over the loneliness and self destruction so many people live with and disgust over the way we treat each another.

These two events were followed by weeks of my husband traveling, a busy schedule without much recollection of what kept me busy or of any meaning or value behind it all and news reels of terror attacks. Posts on Facebook that reminded me how long it had been since I’d seen friends.  A novel that challenged my thoughts on how a person of faith walks through  this world and loves people. Stories of friendships my husband was making in countries where you would assume they had nothing in common.   Friends struggling with heartaches over children, marriages, sickness and disappointments.  Even my grandbaby having such a profound connection with her mommy. One that you can literally see in her eyes when they are close or when she realizes mommy isn’t there.  One is of deep joy and love and the other of deep sorrow that I can’t explain but to say there is a tangible ache in the room.

In the middle of it all I was blessed to spend 3 hours with 2 friends that I hadn’t seen in 30 years.  I was nervous, to be honest.  Me.  The one who worries about going to parties and making conversation with people I see all the time. I would have to find a way to connect after three decades…. But it was so easy.  They are as lovely, fun and beautiful as they were in high school and I left that day feeling blessed and encouraged.  It was as if someone had lifted 20 pounds off of my back and I realized the central truth that I always come back to.

We are made for connections.

Even the most introverted among us need people in our lives who care for us and know us.  People who can disagree with us but love us anyway.  People who give life meaning and support us when it seems to have none.

My son-in-law recently reminded me of Audible so I downloaded a couple of books, Shakespeare’s sonnets and a book of poetry by Robert Frost (one of my favorites).  One of his quotes came to mind the other night as I sat in my living room late into the evening having a “discussion” with my youngest and a friend of ours.

“Forgive me my nonsense, as I also forgive the nonsense of those that think they talk sense.”  Robert Frost

I realized the next morning that I had enjoyed the debate but had wasted all too much time arguing for the sake of arguing or with the hopes of convincing them of my views when the reality was that I didn’t have to.  Many of my opinions are nonsense.  I’m sure of it.  I would dare say that many of yours probably are too.  I say this because I’ve watched many an opinion change over the years and I’m sure I will continue to do so.  I’ve thought myself to make sense only to find, later, that I was making very little.  So, why do I waste time arguing past the point of understanding one another?  Why do I get so defensive? Why is it so important that someone agrees with me or sees my point of view?  Is it pride and the need to be right?  Is it wanting to feel as though my opinion is valued or respected? Is it wanting to be heard?

Maybe all of the above.

The truth is that we can disagree and still be valued, respected and heard.  It’s even possible that both sides can be right. But, we so often push and push and push instead of realizing that the very pushing we do to draw someone closer to us is only building walls between us.

And then another Frost quote…

“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,

That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,

And spills the upper boulders in the sun;

And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.”

Frost beautifully argues that neighbors don’t need walls between them.  Sure, cows may need a wall to keep them out of an orchard but people…. people don’t need fences.

His neighbor tends to think that “good fences make good neighbors” and I wonder if we all have been convinced of that very thing as well.

Has our fear, pride and insecurity caused us to isolate ourselves? Sometimes without even realizing it?  Other times, purposefully, to protect ourselves or to hurt someone else?

Have we forgotten what it’s like to have people in our lives who are truly a part of our lives? What it’s like to sacrifice our right to be “right”, our time, our energy or our defensiveness in order to love, help and know someone else in a really vulnerable way?

I think the conversation that God used as the tipping point of the first domino was one I had in my front yard with a young woman we’ve watched grow up.  As we talked about relationships and life and emptiness and fulfillment, (and her not even knowing that I had been struggling with all these thoughts as of late), she said, “We need connections.  But, there is something unexplainable about the connection I have with a friend who loves Jesus in comparison to my relationship with someone who doesn’t. It’s so much deeper even when we are talking about things that aren’t deep.”

And the dominoes started to fall.  Twisting and turning through my mind as I thought of walls, loneliness, purpose, friendships, hate, fear, shame, forgiveness, value, acceptance, meaning, death, life, healing……

Falling into a beautiful pattern of intertwined circles that wouldn’t seem to have any connection until they each came to the end of themselves and fell at the feet of love. A love that is unexplainable but that another believer not only understands, but carries inside of them.   I was reminded that my life is never full, never meaningful and never powerful without it flowing from the center of God’s heart. The very heart of love itself. Without my heart being in tune with His heart and without my days passing in an undying pursuit of connecting with the people whom He loves so dearly, it is all in vain.

Because of His never-ending faithfulness, until we understand and remember this, He will continue to set up the pieces again, and again.  To align our circumstances, speak in the most mundane things, highlight the failures around us and to remind us over and over and over again that what we need and what we are created to give is one in the same: Love.

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How Insulin Sabotages Weight Loss

I wanted to share some thoughts about how insulin sneaks up on us and prevents the weight loss that many of us desire but decided to do more research before I did.  In the process,  I found plenty of blogs out there that already explain this concept as well, or better, than I could so I thought I’d just provide a link to one of them.

I think it’s straight forward, simple to understand and practical in it’s suggestions.  Take a few minutes and check it out.  You might be surprised at how a few things your doing on your fitness journey may actually be sabotaging your desired results.

http://www.slcfitcollective.com/slc-fit-blog/how-does-blood-sugar-affect-weight-loss

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Wings

As I pray tonight for my friends (especially my girlfriends), I am reminded of this Victor Hugo quote and I ask that God would breath His Spirit into their hearts so they can “mount up on wings like eagles.”

“Be like the bird who,

pausing in her flight awhile on boughs to slight,

feels them give way beneath her, yet sings,

knowing she hath wings. ”

 

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A Metaphor for Young Moms

As I listened to my oldest daughter talk about the life of a young mom the other day, I clearly remembered writing this journal entry years ago.  The feelings of loneliness, boredom, doubt and exhaustion came flooding back and I had to rummage through old journals until I found it.  Not because it’s all that good; but, because I wanted to remind all you moms of this.   Life can seem like an endless list of pointless tasks but they aren’t pointless at all.  They will come to an end and you will miss them.  So,  love your kids with all you are through the big and little moments of life.  They go by all too quickly and they matter more than you know.

Windshield wipers wipe away the water with little weariness to the work they wage.

Back and forth they battle to beat back the beads of rain.

A sudden stop sends them into a silent slumber without a schedule to serve.

A metaphor of a mom’s madness as she merrily minds so many mundane things.

Runny noses, recipes, rides and random requests.

Often with that quiet roar of regret and doubt that she’s simply rearranging but rarely remedying anything.

Yet, she will yearn for her young and for that yawning exhaustion when the year finally comes…

And it stops.

When the torrent of activity ceases and the work seems done…

And those she loved can shine.

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For Women Only

 

swimsuit.jpgIt’s March and spring is just around the corner.  Here in Texas we’ve already had a few days of 70 degree weather so you guys up north may not have Spring on your radar like I do.  Trust me though, it’s on it’s way. And with spring comes the panic over those New Year’s health goals that most of us forgot around 4 or 5 weeks ago. It just seems wrong to me that one of the most beautiful times of the year is marred by one of the most stressful times of the year.

Swimsuit shopping season.

It doesn’t matter who you are or what size you are, most of us hate trying on swimsuits.  At least most women.  No matter how hard I try, it never fails that my body decides it needs some extra insulation during the colder months.  I don’t mean to complain.  I’m grateful that an active life has left me healthy and in pretty good shape after all these years, but, I’m also 50.  Which means those extra pounds haven’t been going anywhere for the last few years like they did when I was younger.  I didn’t worry in my 30s and early 40s when March rolled around because I’d drop 5 or 10 pounds without too much hassle.  Not anymore!  Those 10 pounds seem to have no intention of going anywhere. And I have to say…I hate it. Regardless of whether others think it’s logical or not, the emotional toll many of us feel around this time of year isn’t as welcome as the beautiful spring days we anticipate.

Why is it such a toll?  Why do we feel like we should  look a certain way?  Worse yet, why do we put an expectation on ourselves to look the same way we did 20 years ago?  Some of us are actually stronger or thinner than we were in our younger years but many of us carry around a photo of our “teenage self”  plastered on the walls of our brain and it’s  impossible to live up to.

I’m not saying we should justify being unhealthy.  Contentment and pride about being overweight is as self-destructive as obsession and pride about being anorexic. What I am saying is…love yourself right where you’re at,  eat a clean and healthy diet, don’t over eat but don’t starve yourself, keep your heart healthy through exercise, find joy in your relationships and in the things you invest your time in and appreciate the diverse beauty that God has made in His daughters.

I follow Erin Motz at “Bad Yogi”. The main reason I follow Erin is because she’s real and she encourages her followers to be real as well.  She expresses this idea of being content and healthy in her new fitness/yoga program, “Perfect Body”,  by saying, “The perfect body is the healthiest version of the body you’ve been given.”  Simple, yet true,  don’t you think?  Find people who know about health,  do what they suggest and then be at peace with the body that emerges from those healthy habits.  At whatever age you’re at.

Here’s the reality: human bodies are living organisms and they are always changing.  During those years that I look back on with longing, I never had a single curve.  In fact, one of my “stellar” boyfriends  told me I had the body of a teenage boy.  (He was a keeper) So, now that I actually have a few curves, why do I scrutinize them because they may not be where I want them?  My capacity to be discontent and negative is staggering but I don’t think I’m alone in that.  We’re bombarded by varying images and opinions of how a woman should look: skinny, strong, tall, athletic, endowed with a big butt, or big boobs or no boobs, freakishly flawless skin, spider-like eyelashes, thick flowing hair, and on and on it goes.  There are definitely more diverse images of “beauty” out there today than when I was young but I question why we are judging ourselves at all.

Comparison (whether to my past self or to someone else) is the enemy to contentment and joy. It’s a difficult paradigm shift to decide that uniqueness is more beautiful than conformity but I think it’s worth the effort.  With all this in mind, here are a few tips for living this kind of lifestyle.

  1. Eating is essential but focus on fruits, vegetables and protein.  Avoid processed foods, fast foods and sugar as much as possible.  (Side note.  Some fruits are higher in sugar than others such as strawberries, bananas and apples.  Eat these in moderation and chow down on the berries. A side benefit to this clean eating is that it minimizes the effects or risk of depression, menopause,   heart disease, cancer and many other common ailments.)
  2. Your body was created to move.  Find varied and enjoyable activities to do daily.  3 or 4 times a week, break a sweat. (Body weight Hitt workouts can be found online and are perfect, and quick, to do at home.)
  3. Water is a necessity.  Drink all day. 🙂
  4. Sleep, or lack of it, will mess us up.  Seriously.  Even if we don’t feel like it, we need at least 6 hours a night regularly. (Many need 8.)
  5. We have the freedom to make choices but those choices have consequences.  (IE – If I want my wine every night, I need to be okay with the consequences.  If I’m not willing to completely give up chocolate at 50, that means something as well. Probably that I’m happier and 5 pounds heavier.)
  6. Your size and shape is unique, so stop comparing.  Your age makes a difference, so stop remembering.  Confidence is beautiful, so change the negativity.

There ya have it.  My goal for this swimsuit season is not to look hot in a new polka dot bikini but to feel beautiful in my own skin no matter what I’m wearing.

My hope is that you can set some goals yourself.  Goals that are encouraging instead of discouraging.  Goals that send you down the path of positive and healthy changes instead of negative and damaging ones.   Goals that reflect a joyful, content and beautiful woman to the world.  Lord knows we need more examples of that.

So, shake off the worry and jump back on if you’ve fallen off the health wagon.  With spring on its’ way and hope for sunny days ahead, don’t you think it’s time that our self-confidence follows suit?  After all, as the bastion of beauty says (insert sarcasm) “You’re worth it.”

By the way, post a picture of your confident and beautiful self in the comments. I’d love to see hundreds of strong, healthy and gorgeous women taking up the challenge to find peace in their own skin.

Love and Spring to y’all.

Karen

 

 

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Holy Lives Matter

floor

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I’m one of those people that ponders, questions and analyzes. If I’m being totally honest, I don’t always know what I’m pondering and I seldom come to any solid conclusions; but, this heart of mine often wanders to places where I simply sit and wait for the sky to open up.  It feels like I’m on the verge of a monumental “aha” moment that hardly ever comes into focus.

And then God will choose the most mundane of things to give me a bit more clarity.

I doubt I’ll ever figure things out.  In fact, I tend to think that truth is either found somewhere in between what two extremes think or, maybe more likely, somewhere outside the lines we’ve drawn all together.  I’ve actually become comfortable with that ambiguous view of life.  I find some comfort in knowing that none of us have it all figured out, not even the most learned among the human race.  But what I do believe is that there is a loving God who does have it all figured out.  And every once in a while, He gives us a glimpse of that truth.

As you’ve probably guessed, I had one of those moments on a recent morning.  A smelly, dirty, mundane and tiring morning. The story isn’t pretty, and it’s embarrassing for someone whose parents taught her the importance of showing gratitude for what she’s been given by taking care of those things.  But the truth is that my house wreaks! We love dogs but our dogs were once puppies that have since become older dogs.  Both stages of life tend to be characterized by accidents that dogs prefer to have on carpet.

Did I say my house wreaks?

Well it does.  Or did.

I’m slowly ripping up the carpet in each room and laying down a laminate floor.  I say, “slowly” because it’s a tedious and exhausting task. Today I tackled the dogs’ room of choice. Let’s just say I couldn’t get the bucket of bleach and water in that room fast enough.  But as I finished mopping the floor and looked over the room, I had this thought. “It’s done.  It may not be pretty but the filth is gone, it doesn’t stink anymore and the floor is clean and ready to go.”

And right on cue…which is how I’ve come to describe God’s weird, unexpected and random timing…I got emotional.

I know.  That’s like breathing for me. I hate that fact.  But I’ve also come to realize that very often, when tears tease my eyes, God is wanting to say something to or through me. So, I dumped out the bucket of filthy water, grabbed some worship music, and took my small-bladdered dogs for a walk while I tried to make sense of the parting clouds.

So much came flooding in at once.  But when my heart was still enough to listen, the truth that God and I came to was this profound revelation.

Holy lives matter.

Our lives can easily “look” pretty.  They may even seem to be fulfilling a grand purpose. But, it’s all to easy (and common) for us to allow things in that don’t belong. Things that spoil the whole atmosphere.  It’s still a life (or room) worth having and using but until the stench and filth is dealt with….it won’t be very inviting or effective for the purpose for which it was created.

I’ve written this blog post about ten times. Each time elaborating on what this revelation meant to me.  But, it never seemed right.  Maybe because God can only speak to us personally about the compromises that we allow into our lives. Conviction is very personal so I don’t feel right assuming this phrase will hit the same mark in you as it did in me.

What I do know is this.  The Word of God says a lot about the importance of holy living.

It says a lot about the fact that God’s people are meant to be different than the world. (That was the whole point of that awkward idea of circumcision). It says it in so many ways and so often that I find myself regularly on my knees, pleading for more power.  Power to live a life that resembles Christ’s life more than the life of this selfish, insecure person that I can so easily be. I fool myself into thinking I have it all together when, in reality, there’s a huge chasm between my life and the life that Christ died for me to live.  He is the measure of my choices, not the world around me.  God’s word is transformative…but only if and when I listen and obey.

This revelation isn’t a new and life-altering theological concept- yet- it’s a new and life-altering theological concept.   At least I think that’s the point.

Without any more explanation than the fact that I looked at a ripped up, cleaned up and bare floor and was reminded that a raw, unadorned but purified life is precious and useful to a holy God, I leave you to analyze the thought yourself and I leave you with a few passages to ponder.  But please understand that the truth of it will more than likely cause the Holy Spirit to point out some areas in your life that wreak. Or maybe they’re just starting to smell a little less like God and a little more like the world.  Question yourself.  Be willing to get dirty if you need to rip some things out. Even if they break your heart or cause you pain.  Only then can He come in and create what he’s had in mind all along.

A beautiful and holy life.

 

(You’re invited to share any other passages in the comment section below)                Jeremiah 9:23-24                                                                                                                               Proverbs 13:3, 10                                                                                                                                  Romans 12:1-2, 12:9-21, 14:11-19
Colossians 3:1-17
Galatians 5:22-26
Ephesians 4:1-3, 4:11-5:16, 5:22-27, 6:1-3
Philippians 2:3-8, 4:4-9
Colossians 3:1-14
1 Thessalonians 4:7-8, 5:12-24
1 Timothy 3:3, 6:11 (Equal opportunity counts in holiness)
2 Timothy 2: 22-24
James 1:19-20, 3:9-10
1 Peter 1:15-16, 3:4, 3:15-16
2 Peter 1: 5-9

 

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I’m a writer?

typewriterI’m a writer.

To be honest, that feels awkward to say and difficult to believe about myself.  Don’t writers need to be published or at least have their words read by a certain, yet arbitrary number of people in order to deserve that title?

No. I know better than that.

The best proof, to me, that this does NOT define a writer is found in the words that I’ve read by countless people that simply write for the sheer joy of it.  Or the sheer necessity…whichever the case may be.

I love how each person has a voice.  A way that they see and relate to the world and then express it.  A way that they make sense of the good and the bad around them and within them.  The beauty heard in each unique voice as I learn from their different experiences, beliefs, feelings, joys, thoughts and struggles inevitably touches something deep inside me and I connect to them in some transcendental way that reminds me that I’m not alone.

Some of us find it easier to express ourselves, to connect or to offer a deeper level of transparency and truth when we have the protection of a computer screen or paper and ink between us and those who care to listen. It’s as if we find the courage to let people see who we really are because we carry a shield in front of us while simultaneously revealing our most vulnerable thoughts.  And, ironically, it feels wonderful.

Until we lose our voice.

 

Until we have nothing to say.

 

Until what we have to say is something that we want no one to hear.

 

Until the words don’t come, leaving us with the inability to process our thoughts or find freedom from whatever apathy or passion has stolen our voice.

Or…. until we are afraid that the words WILL come only to be empty of truth or meaning or power to touch anyone.

Least of all ourselves.

What does a writer do then?

What does a writer do when their words only express the fact that there are no words?

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