Kindness Matters

All of us go through hard things.  We all have trials and tribulations.  We all weather storms.  Sometimes those storms are colossal hurricanes or a powerful earthquake that shatters your world, and sometime they are just small rain showers.  No matter the severity, we all face them at different times in our lives. That cashier at the grocery store may have just found out her mom has cancer.  The boy crossing the street alone may have recently lost his dog. The mom with the crying baby in the restaurant may have a deployed husband who she hasn’t spoken to in months.  The man sitting alone in the park may have lost his job.  The teen in line in front of you may have failed an important test.  The woman in the car next to you at the light with tears slowly rolling down her face may have just gotten terrible news.  The girl who seems to have it all together all the time could be crumbling inside.  The point is that you may never know what someone is going through. Every single person you encounter in a day has his or her own baggage just like you have your own. 

Many people are good at hiding what is going on inside.  They put on a brave face and carry on with life while their heart is being ripped open from the inside out. I know women who suffer in silence because they can’t get pregnant or sustain a pregnancy and no one else knows what they have gone through.  I’ve heard stories of so many young children who commit suicide and no one, including their parents, knew they were struggling.  I know of men who have served our country that are struggling to figure out who they are now that they have seen such horrible things.  We come across these people all the time without knowing.  They could even smile at us, and we don’t see the pain in their eyes. Some could be our own friends or family. Some are strangers. Of course we don’t go looking for these people, and they don’t seek us out.  Maybe we should.

I urge you to choose kindness.  Choose to smile at strangers you pass. Say a kind word to someone you encounter.  A simple please and thank you goes a long way. Give a compliment to someone new.  Do small acts of kindness. Lend your shoulder to someone to cry on. Ask how someone is doing and really mean it.   Let that person know that you want an answer other than “fine” because you truly care about their wellbeing. Take the high road.  Your kindness could be the thing that puts a real smile on someone’s face or fills a void in his or her heart.  Your kind words could mean the difference in someone choosing to take their own life.  Your smile could turn someone else’s day around completely. Your shoulder could bring healing.

What do you have to loose by being kind? Yes, it may take time away from your day, but there is so much you could get from it. Maybe it saves someone’s life. Maybe it will save your own.  Maybe it is the one thing that will heal your own broken heart.   Maybe it is what you were called to do.  Maybe it is God’s purpose for your life.  You have nothing to loose and everything to gain just by choosing kindness.  Choosing to live a life of joy by spreading kindness IS what we are called to do.    It IS the right choice. Kindness matters.  

Anchored,

Finding Motivation

Motivation is the reason behind our actions and behaviors.  We do certain things because we are motivated to do them.  Motivation comes from the reward we get out of it. That reward can be tangible or internal. Let’s use a job as an example. Some people may be motivated to get up and go to work every day because at the end of the day, they receive payment for their work.  People are motivated by money either out of necessity or want.  It is about what that money can do for them whether it is to pay bills, to live an extravagant lifestyle, or to give back to others.  The tangible money in your pocket is what motivates you to keep going. Someone else may get up and go to work each day because of the intrinsic way it makes them feel.  Their motivation is based on a feeling.  It could be that their work makes them feel good about themselves, it makes them feel like they are making a difference, or it is just something they are passionate about.  The reason behind your motivation doesn’t necessarily matter as much as the fact that there is motivation there at all.  It is really hard to accomplish a task without some form of motivation, big or small. 

What happens when there is no motivation? Sometimes we get in a funk and there just isn’t any motivation. A lack of motivation can be caused by a number of things.  Some people will loose motivation really quickly if the task at hand is something that they are being told to do.  When someone else dictates your actions, it is often hard to find the motivation needed.  No one likes being told what to do.  Sometimes people have a lack of motivation because they are overwhelmed. The task is too daunting and they are unable to see how to break it down into manageable parts or where to even start. Sometimes a lack of motivation is due to depression.  A serious lack of motivation is one of the indicators that you might be suffering from depression and is something that we should all look out for.  Other people loose motivation because they don’t believe in themselves.  They don’t believe that they are capable, and they lack confidence.  Pure exhaustion is even another reason that people loose motivation.  There is so much going on in your life that you are both mentally and physically exhausted.  You just can’t gather the energy to keep moving forward with whatever the task is.  The list of reasons could go on and on.  The point is that whatever the reason is behind your lack of motivation matters. Knowing why you are unmotivated is important because it is the key to regaining your motivation.  Without motivation, things will be difficult.  Tasks won’t get completed. Life will become miserable, and you can begin to feel useless.  

A lack of motivation is something I am struggling with right now.  I suddenly have no motivation to do anything at all.  I think most of my lack of motivation is due to pure exhaustion. When you are utterly exhausted, it is hard to find the motivation to keep pushing.  I just don’t have the energy.  The last few months have been completely draining on me.  I have been drained emotionally, physically, and mentally for various reasons lately.  Physical exhaustion is one thing.  You can easily get over that by taking the time to rest and get good sleep. It is the emotional and mental exhaustion that is harder to overcome.  How do you rest your heart and mind?  I wish there was some magical potion. It takes a conscious effort and hard work.  It takes motivation to overcome emotional and mental exhaustion.  I know you are asking how you can have motivation to overcome exhaustion when you already have no motivation at all. The motivation to overcome has to come from within.  You have to want it, and you have to work for it.  I am pretty sure that my heart will heal over time, but I am not sure my brain will ever get the rest it needs.  There is always something else to add, more things to do, more worries that will take up space in there, and more stress that will take over.  I don’t know how to stop it.  I do know that feeding my heart and mind with positivity will help.  I know that I need to take time to myself to work on fueling my body, heart, and mind. It is so hard to do that, though.  It is hard to take time for yourself when so many others are relying on you.  It has to be something that you focus on daily.  You have to build it into your daily routine.   It could be as simple as reading a good book for 20 minutes a day that you can loose yourself in, or sitting on the porch in the early morning hours before the rest of your house wakes with a cup of coffee, or spending time in a daily devotional and praying.  Whatever it is that gives your whole body a break and allows you to clear your mind, is what you need to do.  The key is doing it every single day, though.  Every now and then isn’t enough to recharge you to 100%.  Doing it sporadically is enough to give you a short burst of energy like eating a piece of chocolate, but it won’t sustain you. You will crash.  You have to build it into your daily routine.  This is what has gotten away from me.  I let other things get in the way of the “me time” that I had built into my routine.  I let other things push it to the side and take priority.  I was not practicing what I preach.  I admit it. It took me writing this post to figure it out.  I need to fuel myself with good, positive things and take the time to refuel daily.  That will give me the energy to increase my motivation.  I have to commit.  I will commit. 

I encourage all of you that are feeling a lack of motivation to figure out the reason behind it.  That is the only way that you are going to fix it. Ask yourself the tough questions. Once you have figured out why you are feeling this way, actively work to fix it.  Make it part of your daily routine.  Whether it is because you are depressed, overwhelmed, too stressed, exhausted, bored, or whatever other reason, you can fix it.  You have to believe in yourself and figure out a strategy.  I have faith in you! 

Anchored,

Heaven’s Angel on Earth

I am sorry that I have been MIA for the past week and a half.  I had to take some time to be with my family and grieve the loss of someone who was a big influence in my life. With my absence and the holiday this week, I am not following my normal posting schedule this week.  I will be back on track beginning next week, I promise! 

Today I want to write a tribute to one of the greatest women I ever knew. Heaven has had an angel on Earth return home. If you were to look up the word angel in the dictionary, you would find a picture of my Grandmama Rose. God sent her to this Earth back in 1933, and he has finally called her home.  Anyone who knew her (and let’s be real, she NEVER met a stranger) knew that she was something special. There is not a single person that knew her that didn’t love her or that will ever forget her. You will never meet another with a sweeter spirit, greater love for Jesus Christ and her family, or more zest for life than her. 

She was the wife of a farmer and mother to four (her oldest and only son is my dad). Life wasn’t always easy for her and the loss of her husband way too soon to cancer led to some low times, but those times are very much overshadowed by the joy she brought to our lives and the legacy that she leaves behind. Little did my grandparents know that their little family of 6 would blossom into what it is now.  To say the family is large is an understatement. As the matriarch of the family, she leaves behind her 4 children, 10 grandchildren, and 15 great-grandchildren. Let’s not forget all of those that came to the family by marriage. If you married into the family, you weren’t just an in-law; you became one of hers instantly. She would happily tell you that she had 8 children, 19 grandchildren, and 17 great-grandchildren. When we were all together for holidays there were 45 of us counting her.  That is a pretty big number, but that did not stop her from adopting anyone (and I mean ANYONE) she met into the family or to invite them to share in our family celebrations.  She loved her family with every bone in her body.  She loved people and she loved being everyone’s “Grandmama Rose.”

Now, my grandmother LOVED to talk. She could talk the ear off of anyone that would listen. In fact, if you listened long enough, she would tell you her life story as well as a story (or two) about the accomplishments of every single person in the family. Sometimes you never knew what was going to come out of her mouth, but it would either make your mouth drop open in shock, your belly be full of laughter, or your knees to buckle in prayer. She sure was a character! There was no such thing as a quick call to say hello. You better plan for at least a full 30 minutes or even an hour. She just didn’t want to miss out on telling you everything she knew or an opportunity to tell you how much she and God loved you. She had so much pride in her family and she was not afraid to brag about any of us. Oh, and let’s not forget about the cards (maybe my knack for writing came from her). Whenever she would write one, she practically wrote a book to tell you how proud she was of you and how much you meant to her. She would write every single one of us a card at Christmas. It used to take her hours to get through all of them, but she was determined. We were always impatient with her as it was inevitable that she was finishing them up until the very last second, but I will now cherish every single one of those cards that I have kept over the years. She loved playing “Ms. Claus” when we would get together as a family for Christmas.  She would make every one of us sit on her lap (even as large, grown adults) as she asked if we had been good, told us how much she loved us, and gave us our special card.  As silly as it was, I sure am going to miss that. 

My childhood is filled with memories of Sunday lunches at her house, playing with cousins in the yard and across the street, homemade ice cream, ‪4th of July fireworks, numerous birthday parties, riding horses, sleeping in the pink room, forced outings to the hen house to get eggs (even though I was terrified of the chickens), and so many more things. One thing I will always remember about her is listening to her sing hymns at the top of her lungs as she gave praise to God at church. She wasn’t the greatest singer, but that didn’t matter because you knew by her voice that she always felt every word she sang deep in her heart. Boy, did she love the Lord and her little country church! Unfortunately, life and distance prevented me from spending much time with her the older I got. I think I took it for granted that she would always be there.  It breaks my heart knowing that this past Christmas was our last with her.  I do, however, feel so blessed that my own children got to know her and feel her love.  They have their own handwritten notes that they can look back on in the years to come and their own memories of holidays at her house, riding horses, and sitting on her lap at Christmas. 

I was her 2nd born grandchild (second by only 3 months) and her first granddaughter. I don’t know if it was because I was her first granddaughter or what, but she used to always tell me whenever she could that I was the angel at the top of her tree. She even wrote it in every single card she ever wrote to me.  It was something that she said was just between us.  It all started when I was very young with a golden angel ornament that my name was engraved on. She would always hang it at the top of her Christmas tree every year. From a very young age, she would tell me I was her angel. Little did she know that I always considered her one of my angels.  She truly was an angel here on Earth. I only wish I could be half of the Christian woman that she was.  I have always looked to her as a role model for me in that area.  I’ve already said it many times, but she loved Jesus with every fiber in her body and it was evident to anyone that ever met her. Your salvation was always the one thing that she wanted for you more than anything, and she prayed for it every chance she got. I have had a note that she wrote me back in 1987 stuck in my Bible for over 30 years.  She wrote me that note when I made the decision to rededicate my life to Christ publicly and become an official member of our church. I sometimes pull that note out and read it, and it makes me smile.  Yes, she will always be my angel, and I will always be hers.  My very last words to her before she passed were that I would always be the angel on top of her tree, and I know that she heard me.  

As I sat at her funeral on Saturday, I was reflecting over my life with her.  The pastor was saying that there was a purpose behind her not passing away instantly and for her spending 7 days in the hospital before she took her last breath.  He said that is was so that she could continue to minister to those she loved and those around her.  While that is probably true and what she spent her life doing, I don’t think it is the main reason.  I truly believe that she hung on for those days so that she could bring her family together.  As we sat day after day, hour after hour in that hospital waiting room, I reconnected with so many loved ones.  Yes, we see each other once or maybe twice a year at best, but those times are short and hectic holidays.  In that hospital, I was able to reconnect with cousins who were such a huge part of my childhood. Some of them were distant cousins that I hadn’t seen in over 25 years but that meant so much to me as a kid.  I was able to connect with new family members that I had not yet had the chance to even really ever talk to before or those that were way younger than me and came along after I had moved away.  We sat there for days laughing, crying, reminiscing, grieving, and just loving each other. Hugs that are normally the quick side hug to say hello or goodbye became long, heavy embraces.  That was the gift she left us…the gift of family.

Although it breaks my heart to not have her here, I know heaven rejoiced when she entered the gate. I know she is dancing down the golden streets with my grandfather back by her side. She has been called home and she is looking down on all of us with great pride. I know that she is in God’s ear telling him about each of us and giving him our greatest needs.  I pray that her legacy continues to bless people for years to come and that more people will come to know Christ because of her example as heaven’s angel on Earth.

Anchored,

Do You Hold Your Tongue?

Hat (Katydid Collection) 

Do you ever have the feeling that no matter what you say it will be the wrong thing? This happens to me regularly.  If you say the thing that you really feel, you know that it will cause harm and make the situation worse.  If you try to sugar coat something, it will come out sounding fake or your point won’t be made. If you say what you think the other person wants to hear, you will eat yourself up inside for not saying how you really feel. There have been many times in my life when I know that I have to have a conversation with someone or I know that some situation is going to come where I have to speak up, and I struggle with what to say.  I spend many nights lying awake going over in my head what I really want to say.  I rehearse it over and over in my mind. Then the moment comes and none of what I have rehearsed is what comes out of my mouth.  Sometimes I sound like a blubbering idiot. Sometimes I dance around the real issue and try to lead the person to come to the conclusion on his or her own, but that rarely works in my favor.  I again beat myself up for not saying what I really wanted to say, and I go over the conversation in my head repeatedly and think of all the things I should have said.  Then there are those unplanned situations where something comes out of the blue that you weren’t expecting and you are so thrown off by it that the right words don’t come.  Sometimes there is no way to win.  You are going to lose. Are you going to lose by letting out your true feelings or are you going to lose because you held back? 

It is so hard to determine the right move.  There is one situation in my life where I, feel strongly about something. However, I am afraid to speak the truth.  I am afraid of the consequence.  I am afraid of how the person will handle it. My conclusion is like that line from Jack Nicholson in the movie A Few Good Men, “You can’t handle the truth,” so I continue to dance around it.  I continue to keep my mouth shut tight.  Is that the right move? I honestly don’t know. I do know that harm is coming from not speaking up, but I also know the harm that will come from speaking the truth. Both are equally detrimental, so how do you know which one is best? It is like putting two piles of poop on a scale to see which one weighs more. Maybe one is slightly heavier, but they are both still piles of poop. You can’t win with either of them. (Sorry, I know that’s gross but it’s the best way I can describe it.)  In this situation, maybe you choose the lighter one because it is slightly easier to deal with, but the heavier one is still there.  It’s still wrong.  They are both wrong. No matter which you choose, you will feel the repercussions.

Recently I had another situation where someone asked me a question, and I gave an honest answer.  That answer didn’t get the best of reactions.  I then second guessed myself and tried to back track to make the situation better.  I am uncomfortable with the uncomfortable.  I tend to lean towards sugar coating and holding back.  That is what is easy.  It is what keeps the peace. We shouldn’t always do what is easy, though.  Bottling up your feelings is not the way to go.  It is important to be honest and speak to how you feel when the time is right.  Otherwise it will eat you up and cause more damage.  Yes, it may be uncomfortable for a short while, but it will be better in the long run. 

Our tongues are quite the evil body part.  The words that come from them can be so hurtful and damaging even if the intent behind them comes from a place of love.  While we do need to choose our words carefully, we also need to use them to speak the truth. The challenge comes when you have to decide when to hold back and when to push forward. Only you can determine what the best course of action is and what the person you are speaking to can handle. We have been taught our whole lives that honesty is the best policy. The majority of the time this is true, but sometimes it really isn’t. It is up to you to determine when it is and when it’s not.  It is really difficult.  I always think that it is best to try to speak from your heart and pray that the right words will come. That’s really all you can do.

Anchored,

Listen to Your Gut

Do you ever have those times as a parent when you are struggling with whether or not to step in on behalf of your child? You have this feeling that something just isn’t right but can’t quite put your finger on it, or maybe you know what the situation is and know that it is wrong. Do you step in and say something or question what is going on? Do you hang back to see what happens? Do you use it as a lesson to teach your child to handle their own situations by guiding them with what to do? Do you just let it go and allow them to figure it out on their own even if it means heartache or pain? There have been so many situations over the years where I have had this battle of questions in my head.  These situations have been incidents with teachers, administrators, classmates/teammates, coaches, and other adults.  Early on in my kids’ lives, I felt this overwhelming mama bear instinct and would automatically jump in and try to resolve whatever the issue was. There were times when I really needed to step in and times when I probably should have stayed out of it.  As my kids have gotten older, I really try to let them handle as much as they can on their own. However, that mama bear instinct to protect is always there, and it is really hard to hold back sometimes. My husband has to tell me to stay out of it all the time and reminds me that we have to let them figure it out on their own. There really is a fine line between allowing your child to grow up and handle what life throws at them and being a parent that protects their child. I do believe that there are situations when you have to step in. The problem comes with knowing when that is.  

I am struggling with one of those situations right now, but it is one of those when I am not sure if there really is an issue or not.  I feel like something is off, but I cannot pinpoint what it is nor can my child. She has thrown around the word “hate,” which is not a word we use in this family or one that I have ever heard her say.  The difficult part is that she cannot verbalize why she is using that word other than to say it is the feeling she has.  At this point, I am just kind of sitting back and trying to let it play out, but I keep having this nagging feeling that I need to get to the bottom of it. It is especially difficult with this child because she struggles with anxiety and change.  This particular situation is new and different so it is hard knowing if it is a result of her difficulties with new and different things or if there really is something to be concerned about.  Again, it is that fine line of knowing when to let her learn to handle it or stepping in to protect her. 

We all know that parenting is the hardest job in the world.  We make mistakes.  We step in when we shouldn’t and don’t when we should.  Some of us are helicopter parents, some of us take a total hands off approach, and some of us fall somewhere in between.  We all parent differently, and that is completely ok. We tend to second-guess ourselves all the time, and we are our own worst critics. The one thing that we all do best, though, is love our kids will all our hearts.  We want what is best for them and we desire to do right by them.  The only advice that I can give is to go with your gut.  Do what your gut is telling you to do.  That is what I tend to always do. For the most part, when I have truly followed what my gut instinct was telling me, it has been the right decision.  Try not to lead with your heart because that mama bear instinct in your heart can lead you down the wrong path.  I know that is extremely hard to do, and I struggle with it all the time. Think of it this way… your heart and your gut (for this analogy think of your stomach) are two totally different organs with two different purposes.  You need both to survive but for different reasons. One of the main functions of the heart is to protect the body, and one of the main functions of the stomach is to defend.  You may be thinking that protecting and defending are the same thing, but they aren’t. To protect means to keep safe, while to defend means to ward off, repel, or guard. Your heart desires to keep your children safe at all costs.  Your gut desires to defend your children against whatever negative situation is occurring.  Your heart will do whatever it takes to keep them safe while your gut will stand back and determine the best defense.  That defense could be to do nothing other than to be on guard, or it could be to investigate or attack. Listen to your gut.  It will lead you to the best defense. 

Anchored,

The “N” Word

I thought I would write about the “N” word today because I have asked myself numerous times over that past couple of weeks why I can’t use that word.  Using it would make my life so much easier, but I just can’t make myself do it. It is almost like it is not a part of my vocabulary sometimes. I guess maybe I think it in my head, but I just can’t make it come out of my mouth. Have you figured out what word I am referring to yet? It is the dreaded word “NO.” I CANNOT SAY NO!  Hold on…let me back track for a second.  I actually can say the word to my children (although sometimes even that is hard). I just can’t say it when it comes to someone else asking me to do something or wanting something from me.  It has been this way my entire life, and people have taken advantage of me more times than I can count because they know I won’t say no. It is like people think, “Hey, let’s ask her because she won’t turn us down.” It is a known fact that not only will I say yes, but I will also give it everything I’ve got. I don’t half do anything.  If I say yes (and I will), I will do it to the very best of my ability. No matter what other things I have going on in my life, I will always add one more for the simple reason that I can’t say no.  I feel like that is a huge part of why I am no longer teaching.  When administrators asked me to take on more students (even though it was illegal), I said ok. When extra duties were added to my already full plate, I said ok. When I was asked to be a model classroom for other teachers and my classroom became a revolving door (to the detriment of my students), I said yes. It became too much and I got burned out.

I seem to have no problem saying ok or yes, so why is it so hard to say no?  Here are the reasons I think I, and maybe others, have the inability to say no. 

1. I don’t want to let anyone down. 

I think this is a huge part of why I cannot say no.  I don’t want to disappoint people.  I want people to know that they can count on me to come through.  I don’t want anyone to think less of me.  I don’t want to feel rejected because I said no. 

2. I feel guilty.

If I say no, I feel guilty about it.  I tend to overthink it so much that I will often go back and say yes.  This one kind of ties in to not wanting to let anyone down. It makes me feel like I have failed whoever it is that asked.

3. I have a false belief in what I can handle. 

I think that it won’t be that big of a deal and that I can do it all with no problems. It is like when you fill your plate full of food and it is way more than you can eat.  You say, “My eyes were bigger than my stomach.” I feel like my heart is way bigger than my brain and my body can physically handle. My desire to please others is bigger than what I can actually do.

4. I have a need to be in control.

My Type A, OCD personality means that I like to be in control of things.  I have to have my hand in it so that I know what is going on, and I can make sure things are done right.     

Not being able to say no means that I get overwhelmed.  I get frustrated.  I become physically and mentally exhausted.  It is something that I deal with all the time. It is an endless cycle.  If I could just say no, I wouldn’t have those feelings of stress all the time. I wouldn’t overcommit myself. I know that.  I know that things would be easier, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. It is definitely a character flaw that needs a lot of work. I have friends that are great at saying no. They know what they can handle, and they will not take on more than that.  I am so envious of them. I feel like they have their priorities better aligned than I do. Not being able to say no tends to put things/people that I really care about on the back burner.  I wish I could stand up for myself and tell people no.  I wish I could prioritize better.  

Here are some reasons why I need to learn to say no.

* It frees up my time.
* My stress and anxiety levels would go way down. I could breathe. 
* It keeps me focused on the important things in my life. My priorities get the most attention instead of getting pushed to the back burner.
* Saying no gives you a sense of empowerment. I am in charge of me.
* It gives others the opportunity to step up and say yes.  It doesn’t always have to be me.  Someone else can have a turn.  
* It gives me the chance to say yes to other things that can lead to bigger and better opportunities. 

Saying no is something that I will likely continue to work on for the rest of my life.  I have to build up the courage.  It is so hard, but I know it will make me a much healthier and more balanced person.

Anchored,

Starting Over

Earrings-Trades of Hope

Who knew that making friends as an adult would be so hard? The older I get, the harder it gets.  I have mentioned many times that I have had an amazing tribe of friends throughout my life.  Many have come and gone and some remain for life.  Moving has been the reason that I have lost and gained so many friends throughout my lifetime.  I lost touch with my childhood friends after my family moved to a new state before my freshman year of high school.  I lost my high school friends after moving away to college.  I lost my college friends after moving away after graduation and getting married, and I have lost touch with friend after friend as my family has moved due to the military.  Yes, I have my main group of friends that will always be my friends and know we will never loose touch, but it will never be the same as living near them and seeing them all the time.  Unfortunately, that is just the harsh reality of distance.  It really sucks, but it is true.  It’s just not the same. Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for each of those moves because it brought all of these different people into my life and each one of them has left an imprint on my heart.  It is just so hard to say goodbye.  We always have intentions of visiting each other and making it a point to connect, but it always fades after a while.  Life gets in the way.  New things take priority.  It just happens despite the best intentions.  It does sadden me to think about all of the people who once meant so much to me, and now I barely know them.  I only know of them what they post on social media and that is just a snapshot of their lives.  

Now I find myself almost a year into our latest move starting all over again. Each time gets harder and harder. My husband always says that it takes me about two years to really connect with someone each time we move. Part of that is because I am an introvert. I get really uncomfortable in social situations where I don’t really know anyone.  I tend to sit back and quietly observe.  That is comfortable for me. Interacting with strangers is not.  It is a coping mechanism.  It is painfully awkward for me to walk up to another person or a group of people that I barely know and strike up a conversation.  Many people who have turned out to be some of my closest friends have told me that they thought I was “stuck up” (or another not so nice word) until they got to know me because I just keep to myself.  I think another part of why it takes me so long to make friends is that I am guarded. I think I am guarding my heart from another loss. I am guarded because I don’t want to take anything away from my previous friendships by making new ones. I am guarded because I have been burned many times by people who I thought were my friends. It is almost like each time I have moved, I immediately put up this huge wall and it takes a while to chip away at it and for it to crumble.  Maybe even another part of it is that I am tired of the effort.  I am tired of starting all over again.  I am tired of the game of making and loosing friends.   

I know that according to my husband’s theory that I have another year, but it just feels different this time. I am struggling to connect with anyone at all.  Yes, I have met lots of people through my children’s sports, but I just haven’t really clicked with anyone yet.  All of this came to my mind this past weekend when I was at my daughter’s team banquet.  We walked into the place where it was being held and my daughter immediately took off and met up with her friends leaving me there alone.  It was the most awkward and uncomfortable feeling to be standing there with no idea what to do, where to sit, or who to even talk to.  I walked up to a few groups of people that I knew or had met before and totally felt like I was intruding and that I didn’t belong, so I quickly excused myself.  I ended up just wandering around by myself looking like a lost puppy for about 30 minutes before it was time to actually sit down and begin the event.  At that point, there were of course no seats near anyone that I knew, so I ended up at a table full of complete strangers for the night.  Yes, we made small talk and we were all polite, but it was so uncomfortable for me.  I think I texted my husband like 10 times telling him how awkward it was and how miserable I felt.  There was one person that I knew that did make an effort to talk to me several times throughout the night and tried to include me, and I am extremely grateful for that.  Overall, though, it was a very uncomfortable night for me. 

As I sat there at the table eating my dinner in silence that night, I started thinking about how hard it is to fit in at my age.  I thought that making new friends in a new school in a new state at the beginning of high school was one of the toughest times in my life.  That desire to fit in and to make friends is still the same now as an adult as it was all those years ago.  Why is that? After knowing all the things I have learned over the years and all of the life experiences I have had (including things that were leaps and bounds harder than making friends), why do I still feel the need to fit in just like I did as a teen? I want so badly to connect with someone here, yet I constantly sabotage myself by being so introverted and guarded.  People my age already have their core group of friends. They have been friends for years.  It is hard to let someone new in.  I know that my core group of 9 friends would be really hesitant to let someone new into the group. We have even joked before about other people we know wanting to push one of us into the ocean so they can take our place as the new member of the group.  I have even kidded them about not replacing me when I moved away.  It would be very hard for us to take in someone new to our group.  We have a history together. Someone new would be an intruder.  I totally get that, so I can’t expect others to bring me into their group here.  I would be the intruder.

I know that I have to be patient.  I know that I have to put myself out there. I know that I have to step outside my comfort zone and let the walls down. I know there is someone that God will place on my path that I will connect with eventually. I just haven’t found that person yet. I know it will come. It always does.  Every single time I have moved (8 times) I have met some of the best people in the world that I am lucky enough to call friend.  I know it will come again. I must be patient.  Starting over is hard, but I know it will be worth it in the end when I have someone, or lots of someones, who capture a place in my heart. Patience!

Anchored,

A Confusion of Holidays

I hope that everyone had a fabulous 3-day weekend.  My family and I made the long drive to our hometown for the weekend to visit family. That is the longest drive ever! Technically, it should take us about 8 hours, but it ended up being about an 11-hour drive both ways.  Being in the car for that long even with a few short breaks is miserable! I know many of you used this long weekend to kick off summer.  I saw pictures of pool parties, boat rides, and barbeques all over my Facebook and Instagram feeds. Many people associate the beginning of summer with Memorial Day because that is around the time that many schools get out for the summer break and pools open and such.  While I agree that it marks the beginning of summer, I would have to also remind everyone about the true meaning and reason behind Memorial Day. While I am doing that, I might as well go ahead and make a distinction between Memorial Day, Veterans’ Day, and Independence Day.  As a military wife, I feel that it is important to note the differences in what these 3 holidays represent.  Yes, they are all times when we feel patriotic and grateful for our country, our freedoms, and our military; but each day is meant to represent something different.  I will admit that when I was younger, I didn’t really fully understand the difference.

Memorial Day is the one day a year that we set aside to honor all of the men and women that gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country.  These are the mean and women that lost their lives while fighting for our freedom and safety.  Many people confuse this and think it is also a day to celebrate our military members and thank them for their service, but that is not what this day represents. That is an important distinction to note.  It is not about those who have served or who are currently serving. It is about remembering and honoring those that died while serving in the US Armed Forces. I would guess that most of you know of someone that has lost their life while protecting our country and our rights. It may be a distant relative or a grandparent you never met who died in battle years ago, or it could be a brother or friend who has lost their life in recent years in the war against terror.  Whoever it may be, we have likely all been touched by the life lost.  Memorial Day is the day to honor those people, to pray for their families that miss them deeply, to reflect on their lives and the sacrifice they made, and to just simply remember them.  Memorial Day was initially called Decoration Day in the south and was set aside as a day to decorate the graves of those who had died.  The hope was that America would be full of flowers and flags on this day. Many people still visit the graves of those that lost their lives on this day and decorate their grave. 

Veterans’ Day, on the other hand, is the time when you honor the men and women who have served in one branch of the military. This includes those who have served in the Navy, Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, National Guard, and Marines.  It doesn’t matter how long or short they served.  If they only spent one day as a member of our armed forces, we should honor them for committing to serve and protect our freedom. By signing that paper and taking that oath, no matter what branch, they committed themselves to possibly pay that ultimate price.  They are the ones that were willing to die for our country.  Because of that, we honor them on Veterans’ Day. 

Now you may be thinking, what about those that are currently serving.   I assure you those people have a special day as well.  It is a much smaller holiday and one that isn’t characterized by a day off of work or parties and is one that many forget or don’t even know about.  Armed Forces Day is the day set aside to honor those that are actively serving in the US military. It also occurs in May and is typically the third Saturday in the month. While this holiday is not observed or recognized like it should be, it is important that we have a day to thank those men and women who are actively out there fighting for us. We, as a country, should make this a more prominent holiday! May is also considered Military Appreciation month and includes Memorial Day (honoring those who have died), Armed Forces Day (honoring those who currently serve), and Military Spouse Appreciation Day (honoring the spouses of those who serve).  Through all of these holidays, we honor every member who has served, is serving, supports someone who serves, and those who died serving.  

Moving on to Independence Day…this day is not about our military at all.  This is the day that we celebrate the Declaration of Independence.  It is the day that we celebrate America.  It is the day we commemorate the proclamation of our independence from Great Britain back in 1776.  This day is also spent much like Memorial Day with pool parties and barbeques.  It is the day when we see glorious firework displays. It is the day we celebrate our freedom and our love for our great country.  

As a military spouse, I personally feel like we should celebrate our military every day.  These men and women sacrifice so much to serve our country. They spend years apart from their loved ones and put their lives in danger over and over again all to keep us safe and secure in our little homes.  However, I do think it is important to know the significance of each of the holidays so you know who and what to honor on those days.  When you are out swimming or cooking on the grill, take a moment to remember or thank those who made it possible for you to have that party.  Say a little prayer for all of the service members alive or dead and their families. Remember, reflect, and rejoice. Remember those we have lost. Reflect on those who are committed to fighting for us. Rejoice in those that came home to be with their loved ones.

Anchored,

Leap of Faith

This past weekend, I spent time with 8 of my closest friends for our annual girls’ trip to the beach. One afternoon a few of us were sitting on the beach discussing the feeling of being trapped by our chosen career. We chose a career path when we were younger that we were so passionate about. We all became teachers. We just knew that we were going to make a difference in the lives of so many children. I know I felt like that was what God had always called me to do. I was destined to be a teacher. Unfortunately for many of us, that path is no longer one that we really want because teaching tends to suck the life out of you.  When you are someone that devotes everything to your career, you eventually will become burned out.  You are forced to choose your job over everything else in your life because you think that is what you are supposed to do. It’s who you are. Sadly, it makes you become bitter, resentful, and angry.  It causes you to take time away from the people and things you love the most.  I know it made me a miserable person.  I wasn’t someone that others wanted to be around.  I took all of my frustrations out on my own kids and husband.  They always got short changed because the job came first.  It got to the point where it took all I had just to get through each day.  I had nothing left by the time I got home to my family each evening.  I felt like a failure…a failure to my students, to my kids, and to my husband. It is really sad to hear that so many of my teacher friends feel the same way. It is sad to hear teacher after teacher leaving the profession because they just can’t take it anymore.  What is more heartbreaking, though, is all of those teachers that are forced to stay because they are afraid to leave.  They are afraid of loosing an income that their family desperately needs.  They are afraid of the unknown. They are afraid of no longer having a purpose in their lives. They are afraid of not knowing who they are because their whole existence has always been about being a teacher.  They are afraid of loosing their identity.  These are all things that I struggled with when I made the decision to walk away from the classroom.  It is the same thing that many of my friends are struggling with.  

As I sat there on the beach, I looked one of my friends in the eye and told her that she is worthy of something else.  She is worthy of something more. We all are.  I only wish that someone had told me that years ago. I may not have listened, but I would like to think that maybe it would have sunk in and made a difference. Staying in a situation that clearly is killing you is not worth it. It is not worth the stress, the fatigue, or fight that you constantly have with yourself.  It is not worth all of those times that you feel like a failure as a mom because you can’t devote the time you need to your children or the times you feel like a failure to your students because you are being pulled in a million directions.  It is not worth it.  It wasn’t worth it for me. I was not willing to sacrifice my own happiness, my family, my health, or my sanity anymore.  I had to take that leap of faith.  Of course I worried about how my family would handle the financial loss of my income. I worried about what my purpose in life was. Who am I if I am not a teacher? I worried about looking like a quitter. I worried about letting people down.  I worried that I was going against God’s plan for my life.  I can tell you that it was not an easy decision. It was not something that I took lightly, and it certainly wasn’t something that came quickly.  It actually took me 3 years to decide that I wasn’t going back to teaching.  There are still days when I think about how much easier it would be on my family if I just went back.  There are days that I still feel like I want to go back. I loved working with my students.  I really did. I know that was what I was called to do at that time. Unfortunately, I just didn’t love all of the extra stuff that came with the job or the pressure. It wasn’t my passion anymore. Maybe I will go back one day, but right now my choice is for something else.  It is for something that fulfills me in ways that teaching no longer did. 

How did I finally get to the place I am now? Trust me, it wasn’t easy.  I did a lot of praying. I did a lot of soul searching. I had to rediscover who I was without teaching.  I had to really reflect on what my dreams are now. I learned that those dreams are something totally different than what they were 20 years ago, and that is okay.  I listened to a few podcasts and read a couple of books.  Most of all, I sat still and listened to God. I listened to what his will for my life is now. I had come to a fork in the road. One path was the one that I thought I was supposed to be on. It was the path that was familiar.  It was the path I knew my way through.  The other path was new. It was a path that led to places I had never been.  It was scary. I was afraid I would get lost, but when I was still, I heard God telling me to take the unfamiliar road. He told me that he would be my guide. He would lead me through the uncharted waters.  He promised me that he would hold my hand and carry me when I needed him.  You know what? That is exactly what he has done. He showed me that I was supposed to become a teacher all those years ago. I was supposed to influence the lives of hundreds of children, but he also showed me that chapter in my life is over. God has different plans for me now.  Yes, we have struggled financially since loosing my income. Yes, it has been hard. Yes, it has been an adjustment. Guess what? It has been worth it all because I am worthy of something more. God showed me that. He has provided for me in all the ways I needed. He has now opened doors for me that I never knew existed. He is leading me down the uncharted path one step at a time. He has blessed my family in ways we never could have imagined. He is taking care of us because we are all in his hands and he is in control.  

I am so glad that I listened and took that leap of faith.  If I hadn’t, I would still be in the midst of a job that was literally killing me.  It was robbing me of so much.  I would never have known what amazing things that God has in store for me now. Sometimes it is still scary.  I still second guess myself.  Whenever those times come up, I stop and pray.  A peace will come over me, and I will be reminded of whose I am and who is in control.  If you are at a crossroads and you have to choose the right path, I encourage you to be still and listen.  Search your soul.  Rediscover who you are.  Take the leap of faith. Dive head first into those uncharted waters. You are worthy. You are worth the jump. God will take care of you, and he will show you the way.

Anchored on a New Path,

6,933 Days of Imperfection

In just 6 days, my husband and I will be celebrating our 19th wedding anniversary. In some ways it feels like a lifetime ago and in other ways it seems like a few weeks ago.  I am not going to sit here and lie to you and tell you that it has been 19 years of wedded bliss.  I can’t say that, and I believe that anyone that does is either lying to themselves or to you.  No marriage is absolutely perfect.  No marriage is without arguments and struggles.  While I cannot say that the past 19 years have been absolutely perfect, I can say that I would do it all over again, including all the heartache and struggles.  Those things have made me who I am now, and I am sure that my husband would say the same thing.  I think we could both say of each other that we are very different people than we were 19 years ago.  I know I was a young, naïve, skinny little thing who had no clue what military life was all about.   I had dreams about the perfect little family with the perfect house.  I had dreams that I was going to change the world as a beloved teacher who was making a difference in the lives of children with special needs.  The perfect life. While I did get the family and the house, and I think I made a difference in the lives of many kids, none of it was perfect.  None of it was without struggle.  My image of perfect didn’t really exist.  It wasn’t realistic.  I am not telling you that I have had a bad life or a bad marriage by any means.  In fact, I would say that my marriage is pretty darn good. It’s just not picture perfect all the time, and I no longer want it to be.  

Marriage is hard in general, but throw in military life and it is even harder. Military life adds a whole aspect to your marriage that those that aren’t military would never understand.  I can assure you, your husband’s traveling doesn’t compare! You can never fully understand unless you have lived it, and I don’t even think I could adequately explain it. If I were to add up all of the days that my husband has been deployed, I would not be exaggerating to say that he has been gone for at least half of our marriage. He has missed so many things, and I know that weighs heavily on him.  It has changed us both.  People tell me all the time, that I am so strong and that they don’t know how I do it. I am strong when I have to be, but all those people didn’t see what happened when I was in my room all those nights feeling a deep loneliness and the weight of the world crushing my shoulders knowing that I had to get up the next morning and brave it all again alone. It was hard, and no amount of strength could have made it any easier for either of us.  One of the hardest days of my life and my husband’s was a day when we should have both been rejoicing.  It was the day our youngest daughter was born.  He wasn’t there.  He was deployed and unable to come home.  By some miracle, he happened to be pulled into a port that day, so he did get to talk to me on the phone that day and knew that she had been born and she and I were fine. He literally went back to sea minutes after she was born, and we didn’t have any communication with him again for 6 weeks.  I can only imagine what torment that was for him.  I know how hard it was for me, but I know it was even worse for him.  He didn’t get to meet our daughter until she was 3 months old.  I know that is something that will haunt him for the rest of his life.   Another struggle that military life brought was having to learn to live with and share life with each other over and over again. There was always a learning curve adjusting to life together and apart every single time he left and every single time he came home. It wasn’t easy.  I can go on and on about the struggles of military life, but that isn’t what is important.  What is important is that it was hard.  It did affect our marriage and who we were as individuals and together.  

Yes, I could say that I would have rather not have experienced any of that, but that’s not entirely true.  I proved to myself that I could do hard things. I had strength that I never knew existed inside me. It forced me to step way out of my comfort zone over and over again. It shaped me into the person that I am now.  That person is someone that I am proud of, someone I want my girls to look up to. That young, naïve girl from 19 years ago is gone. In her place is a woman who loves her husband more than anything in the world, knows that life isn’t perfect, has strength beyond measure, has fought her way through the tough times, and has dreams that are far bigger than anything she could have imagined years ago. No my marriage isn’t perfect. We fight, we argue, and we even dislike each other sometimes; but none of that matters.  At the end of the day he is my person and I am his. We love each other beyond comprehension, and we will continue to grow and change together through whatever life throws us until we are both no longer here on this Earth.  Then we will spend eternity together in heaven where we will walk hand in hand along those golden roads. I know that sounds cheesy but it’s true.  We joined together as one that day 19 years ago, and we will stay that way forever.  As I look back over the years, I see lots of struggles and hard days, but I also see so many days of happiness, love, and pure joy. I don’t want to erase any of them.  I want to hold them all tightly in my heart.  There is plenty of space left for all the days that are to come, and I can’t wait to see what they hold for us.  I have said before that I am perfectly imperfect, and I can totally say the same thing about my marriage.  The past 6,933 days have been perfectly imperfect. Here’s to many, many more! 

Anchored in love,