A Late Start

Today I am 41 years old. I woke up, poured myself some coffee, sat in my favorite chair and read my morning devotionals. Now that it is summer break I don’t have to rush through it, instead I can sit quietly and just soak it all in.

One of the habits I am starting to form is to be grateful- to count my blessings. I sat in my chair and realized that I have been in this house for five years now. As that may sound like a little thing, it is a big deal for me. Since I was 20 I had moved every year or every other year until I married Dan. I shuffled around trying to find a better place, a cheaper place or to simply, get away.

I know some people move a lot because they have to, I moved around a lot because my life was such a mess. Now that I have been in this place for a few years, and plan to for a long time, I finally feel I at home.

It’s easy to start thinking stuff like, “If only I had this when I was younger.” Or, “If I had started doing this stuff in my twenties, imagine where I would be today!” It’s easy to put certain mile stones and attach them to our age. Then we start to fear that we are missing out, or not having a FULL abundant life, because we haven’t done this or that at a certain age. Such Hogwash!!

Back in January, I accomplished something huge- I ran 26.2 miles. I was 40. I had wanted to run a marathon for YEARS, but I just did not have the time to train.

There were over 10,000 runners for the Houston Marathon, and so the organizers placed us in corrals according to pace. I was placed in corral B. By the time I got there, after using the bathroom, checking in my gear, it was shut down. I had to walk to corral C. By the miracle of the Running Gods, I found my bestie Alma- we separated as she was placed in corral C.

We were surrounded by a crowd. I mean completely surrounded. We were standing on the sidewalk waiting to enter the corral. The race started at 7:00 A.M. and sure enough it started right on time. Slowly we marched like the penguins in “March of the Penguins” trying to reach our destination.

Then we hear, “Corral C is closed!” Suddenly I can feel the people around me wanting to rush to corral D I thought this was how I was going to die! Trampled by runners before I could run my debut marathon.

By the time we were able to reach corral D it was 7:30ish. The crowd still surrounding us as we slowly and inch by inch get closer to the start.

When I finally see the start line, I take a deep breath and begin to psych myself up. By the time I was able to pass the start line, it was 7:50ish. It took almost an entire hour for us to start the race.

Luckily with our technology, my time does not start recording until I cross that start line, so even though it took an hour for me to get there, my time was not effected. I still ran 26.2 miles even though I had a late start.

You probably see where I am going with this. We’ve heard it many times before, “It’s never too late to start, to plan, to accomplish.” Life throws stuff at us, and sometimes we do stuff that results in us having to put stuff on hold, or to wait a little longer for whatever it is we want. I don’t know why society puts pressure on us, or if we put it on ourselves, that we have to marry at a certain age, buy a house, and have kids- in that order too- or we are missing out or life isn’t as meaningful.

The truth is that life isn’t rigid like that. Life isn’t a straight line from start to finish. It’s thinking and believing that life is SUPPOSE to be a certain way that makes us feel bad, not how our lives truly are.

So where ever you find yourself today, be thankful. Let go of the messages that say your life isn’t meaningful because you haven’t done this or that yet. It is NEVER too late to start. Run your own race!

Love Always!

Happy Birthday to Me!!

A Mother’s Day Story

The parking lot was empty. Just an old building, falling apart but sturdy on the foundation. She just couldn’t hold it in anymore. The tears started to cumulate and the choking feeling in her throat had to be released. She laid her head on the steering wheel and cried. The baby was sound asleep in the back seat and the one forming in her womb stirred. “God, I need food to feed my babies and the church pantry is closed. What do I do?”

It was just two years ago, drunk and no worries in the world. All that mattered was satisfying her desire to fill the void. To feel beautiful and wanted.

The pregnancy test showed positive and all she could do was stare at it and murmur “No, No, No…” She wanted a baby, eventually, but not now, not like this. After all, she did just go through a divorce, at the ripe age of 19. The baby daddy was someone she only knew for a few months.

When she sat on the examining table, the doctor confirmed that she was indeed expecting. He asked what she wanted to do. She was paralyzed with fear but she knew in her heart and soul that she was going to have this baby and to do whatever it took to raise her. It didn’t occur to her to terminate.

The odds were against her. Oh! they were very much against her!

Unmarried. No permanent place of her own. No job. Just a 20 year old college girl trying to find her place in this world.

Leaving that doctor’s office she made a promise to her baby and to herself. She placed her shaky palm on her womb and whispered, “No matter what happens, little one, I promise you that I will give you everything I never had, I promise you that I will protect you and love you.”

That day she and the baby daddy found a place to live and started on journey that would not be comfortable, a journey that would encompass growing pains, hardships, heartaches, and redemption.

Two years later and she was expecting her second child. There wasn’t enough money for the month, and not enough government subsidies to assist with the necessities of life. She knew that a church offered food to families in need. It was closed and she just couldn’t hold it in anymore. Hopeless. Empty. Angry. Angry for letting her life be exactly what she didn’t want it to be. She stared in the reflection of the rear view mirror, eyes swollen and tear stains on her cheeks. She had to admit that she was falling into the same footsteps as her own mother. She stared into those eyes and murmured, “No, No, No… I will not let this happen.”

She left that parking lot, feeling a lot like that old building- falling apart, empty but had a sturdy foundation. That foundation was love, grit, determination, and faith.

A few years later, with a lot of therapy, support groups, faith and facing some Giants along the way, she made a life for herself and her children.

If you ask her today about her “why,” about what makes her so strong and why she works so hard. She’ll tell you their names are Stacy and Kevin. Fourteen years later, God said, “Well, since you love them so much, let’s bring Avery along to spread even more joy, to remind you that children are not an inconvenience, they are the symbol of love, hope and wonder. They are a blessing as you are to me.” There are days I disagree with God when these kids drive me to my breaking point sometimes… but they truly did save my life.

And how true! Because of my children, I learned what God’s love was all about. I may have lived my life backwards, but I would not want it any other way. I cannot imagine a world without my Stacy and Kevin and Avery. After that day at the parking lot, I no longer wondered where food was coming from. Don’t get me wrong, I still hunger. I hunger for more joy, love, peace and faith for the remainder of my life.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the Mamas out there. Doesn’t matter how your children came into your life, you love them and will do anything for them. I promise you that you are doing better than you think you are.

Also don’t forget to use condoms or don’t forget to take your birth control pills people. 😉 After all, are we not all a product of druken sex? 🙂 That was a joke…

Love Always

It’s Going to be Okay

For the last several years, I have had my students work on a final project to end the school year. I like to end the year with reading of The Giver. If you have not read this piece of treasure, please do yourself a favor and take a few hours and read it. The cliff notes of the story is about a young boy who lives in a Dystopian world-a world with no color, no pain, no past. As the protagonist becomes more enlightened about the world beyond- a world of color, music and love, he makes a heroic escape to “Elsewhere” to save another soul from injustice.

I ask my students to create a Utopia in response to the reading. I ask them to create a money system, a government, theology, family structures, level of technology, agriculture, rituals, traditions etc. I also have them create a flag and map.

It’s a great creative and critical thinking project, and it never fails to amaze me how some of their Utopias turn out.

It does make me think about the world we create in our own minds. Don’t we all carry in our hearts a Utopia of sorts. Don’t we strive to make this perfect world a reality?

In my little perfect world, everyone gets along. There is peace. Everyone forgives and respects each other and drinks beer and eats pizza everyday- without gaining any extra weight.

In my perfect little world, everyone would have a safe home to live in and enough food to eat.

In my perfect little world, everyone is included and there is no need to lie or steal or cheat.

As simple as that sounds, I believe we all tend to create a world in our minds that is much much better than the one we live in.

As middle age becomes me and I ponder more and more about my time here on this planet, I realize more and more that the perfect little world I create causes more problems than it does good.

For one, it makes me feel bad that my life isn’t at all as I imagined it “should be.” The image of my perfect world causes me to “control” situations and problems to fit my idea of what I believe to be best. And when I try to “control” anything in my life- frustration, anger, disappointment and discouragement are born.

You see, when we create this world of what “should be” it is easy to become discouraged by the gap between our ideal and the real. And when we long for the ideal we criticize the real. And then it is tempting to just throw in the towel and give up on the ideal and just settle for the real.

It seems to me that real maturity has to do with living in the in between. To love the reality, without apology or shame, in spite of its imperfections, and still strive for the ideal.

After all are we not called to love REAL people, not IDEAL people?

“The person who loves their dream of community will destroy community (even if their intentions are ever so earnest), but the person who loves those around them will create community.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

For me it is time to destroy my ideas of what “should be.” I don’t want to hold people to a standard that I myself cannot live up to. As a human race, we will fall short. We will hurt others. We will make wrong decisions. We will cheat. We will lie. And then we will also love. We give when there is a need. We encourage others. We laugh. And we have moments of exquisite happiness when a child is born, or get married, or reach a challenging goal of some kind. And then in a blink of an eye all that was good is taken away- divorce, death, rifts. Then slowly we once again experience the rich grace God has for us all.

Brene Brown teaches that we as humans have a strong need to belong. To be a part of a community. She states that the opposite of belonging is not aloneness, but fitting in. When we create a world that others or situations must “fit” in order for us to be happy, then we have experienced a taste of hell.

This post is to encourage you- because you might find yourself in a situation that doesn’t make any sense. Maybe your brother decides that his life is better without you. Maybe you find yourself in a place of unemployment and uncertainty. Maybe you find yourself divorced- twice or three times. Maybe you just found out about a diagnosis. Maybe you are in the middle of grief and mourning. Maybe you find yourself an outsider of some sort. Maybe your marriage is not anything as you planned. Maybe you have been betrayed, abandoned or abused.

I encourage you right now because life IS suppose to be hard, and crazy and messy and confusing. Life isn’t a neat tidy experience. It is in the chaos we find peace when realize that we are not alone in our ugliness and beauty. Embrace what is and strive to suck less with each day we are given. We CANNOT control the surroundings- but we can choose to love or life anyway, because life loves you! Life is a gift and the people in them is your treasure. Love them and your life, and you will be okay!

Love Always