Head to Toe

Heads and feet define the edges of our lives.

We emerge into the world, tumbling head-first into waiting arms.

We trip along through our days, sometimes falling head over heels.

When we are up, we are getting a-head.

When we are behind, we are dragging our feet.

Good advice gives us a heads up, and teaches us to watch our step.

Enthusiasm has us jumping in with both feet, often finding ourselves in over our heads.

If you’ve said too much, you’ll find a foot in your mouth.

It may signal a big head, if you are taciturn instead.

Advantages could mean getting a head start or a leg up.

Stepping up is sometimes applauded, but be careful if you stick your neck out.

Nothing hurts like a stubbed toe or a throbbing head.

Throwing caution to the wind may find you running head-long into the unknown, footloose and fancy-free.

The laurel wreath may grace the head of one who dares to dip their toe in.

To be completely loved is to be adored from the top of one’s head to the soles of one’s feet.

A life complete will leave footprints in the hearts and minds of those we meet.

Until the end, when under a headstone, each one lies six feet deep.

Just Breathe

Life is full of demands. It seems like something or someone always wants our time, our energy, our focus. Work. Family. Kids. Health. Friends. Interests. Causes. My list of things to do, people to see, books to read, miles to run, events to attend is never-ending.

I can’t place all of the blame on culture, society, or even on my list. I am the master of my list, nothing is on it unless I put it there. Saying “no” may not be comfortable, but it is a necessary skill if I am to keep my sanity. So from time to time, I decline. I make space. I push back against the tide of demands.

And just breathe.

There are ads everywhere telling you all of the things you cannot live without, and needs surrounding on every side screaming that they cannot live without you. In the end, though, the one and only thing that is absolutely necessary every minute of the day is to fill your lungs with air and blow it back out again.

Just breathe.

Do you know that breathing not only takes vital oxygen to your cells, but it massages your internal organs and sends chemical signals that affect your adrenaline production? Short and fast breaths are part of your fight or flight emergency system. Slow, deep, full breaths can bring calmness and a sense of well-being even in the middle of a stress-filled moment.

Breathe.

Fill your lungs with air that presses to the bottom of your capacity, that stretches the space between your ribs both front and back, that causes your spine to align and your posture to straighten. You can’t take a deep, full breath when you are hunched over. Breathing supports life and health in so many ways.

So breathe in with your body in a neutral position, feet shoulder width apart whether you are sitting or standing. Let the breath carry your heart high, let your belly melt down and out. Press your breath into your rib space and find more room under your shoulder blades.

And exhale. Breathe in deep, and blow out the air like a balloon. Pull your belly button in toward your spine and use your diaphragm to squeeze all the air out of your lungs, then relax and let them fill again.

Close your eyes and let yourself just breathe for a minute or two and you will find your mind clearer, your body more invigorated, your posture straighter, your mood improved.

Just Breathe.

ReFreshing

Baby Steps

I was pondering recently how different I am today than I was 10, 15, or 20 years ago. (Alas, the peril of birthdays!)

I don’t know if the me then would like the me now. I am not sure the me now would like the me then, either. (Sometimes I shake my head, but I love her dearly. Honestly.) We certainly would not agree on many things.

We wouldn’t like the same clothing, although our fashion would be the least of our differences. We would have different views on what makes a body healthy, a marriage satisfying, and children happy.

We would certainly have different views on politics, religion, and world affairs. We would both claim to love God and follow Jesus, but the way that faith expresses itself in our lives would stand in stark contrast.

Some things have not changed, or I should say some things began there in the form of seedling decisions and have grown bigger and stronger.

My choice to love instead of respond in hate, the seeds of non-violence.

My choice to love others who are different from me, the seeds of broad acceptance of people as they are–expressing the image of God in them, instead of trying to remake them in my own image.

My choice to allow the Holy Spirit to shape me, the seeds of so much growth and change in how I read scripture and see my life in light of its truths.

Like looking back in snapshots, I can clearly see who I was in those moments, but the path between them gets blurred. I don’t remember when I decided that while there were things I would die for, there is perhaps only one for which I would kill–my children. I don’t remember when I decided that I would rather be healthy than wear a certain size. I don’t know when I decided it was ok for me to speak my mind and trust my husband to listen and love me anyway (and he does in surprising ways as the years of marriage continue to stack up).

Maybe I don’t remember because all of those changes came slowly. Testing the waters. Going a little deeper.

Baby steps toward being the fully-formed person who will probably look back on this post in 10 years or so and shake her head at all the growth that still needs to come.

Taking that journey one step at a time and trusting the Way to lead me,
How Refreshing!

Unexpected

Hours roll by without a break. Meetings, flow charts, spread sheets overwhelm her schedule.

“Just one moment of peace, please,” she screams internally to no one in particular.

Stuck.

Traffic jammed up for miles before and behind.

Smile twitching the corner of her mouth.

Unbusy at last.

Someone was listening.

Part of the 50 Word Challenge:
http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/04/07/writing-challenge-fifty/

Love Is a Servant

Today I served a couple as a doula at their baby’s birth. Mom was a champion, and dad loved his wife and baby. It was great, and I would do it again tomorrow! Labor was induced and I wasn’t sure that it was what I would have chosen in their shoes. But as a doula, my job is not to make their decisions for them, but to support them as they walk through their experiences making their own choices.

Having typed that, I am left to ponder how this is really our role in life as we walk alongside the people that we love. Love serves. Love may have opinions. Love may even offer those opinions in caring advice. But love does not insist on its own way. Love takes on the role of a servant, supporting and persevering as the loved one moves forward making their own decisions.

When things do not work out, our role is to be there for the clean-up and the debrief. Our job is to listen as our loved one sorts through the broken pieces and seeks to figure out what went wrong. Love doesn’t say, “I told you so.”

And surprisingly, even if the choices are not what we would prefer, many times everything works out just fine. Then Love rejoices!

Love is a servant. When we truly love, we are servants as well.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end

–The Message, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

That’s ReFreshing!

Dropping the Façade

I like it when people like me.

Strange right?

I know that everyone likes it when people like them. We were built for community and relationships are really important for our overall health and well-being. But I have to tell you that I really like it when people like me.

It always sort of takes me by surprise. Like I am walking along in my everyday life and someone drops a million dollars in my purse. Surprise!

And I react (inside of course) like I just received a Golden Globe, or the crown at some beauty pageant. “Who, me?” (wave the tears away)

Why is this a big deal?

Because when someone disapproves of me, it throws me into a panic.

This is bad. Really bad.

I have spent most of my life feeling invisible. I can’t say why that is. Perhaps it’s the result of middle-child-syndrome… I am not sure it matters. Sometimes the root can help you deal with a problem, but sometimes it is just a distraction. In this case, I need to deal with this issue more than I need to explore where it came from.

Invisibility can be seductively comfortable. I know how to be invisible. I don’t know how to be seen. Whether in a good light or a negative light.

So praise is a really big deal.

And so is criticism.

It is personal criticism that really brings on the panic. I think it is because as comfortable as invisibility is, there is a part of me desperate to be seen.

To be seen is to be vulnerable, though.

And what I really want is not just to be seen, but to be accepted for who I am flaws and all. So what if someone sees me and loves me for my strengths, but turns when they see my weaknesses?

When I am approval-seeking, my tendency is to hide my imperfections so that people do not have a chance to reject me for my faults. The problem is that what I need is not approval, but acceptance.

Approval is so fickle, but acceptance is forever.

So, here I am World. I choose to throw back the cloak of invisibility and stand fully visible.

I bet you thought I was going to reveal something shocking. The truth is that my faults, like most of yours, are not exceptional. I get grumpy when I am tired. Sometimes I say things without thinking them through. I can get hyper-focused on a subject trying to figure it out, and drive people around me crazy with my incessant need to talk it through. I speed on the highway even when I am not in a hurry…

I am not perfect, and never will be this side of eternity. I am learning to be ok with that. I am also learning to let myself be seen for who I truly am. I believe it is more valuable to be accepted for my whole self than to receive approval for presenting an incomplete picture.

Plus, it gives people around me freedom to be their true selves as well.

Honest relationships, fully accepting (even when not fully approving). That is my goal.

That’s the refreshing life.