Friday, October 30, 2015

{Words Are Powerful ~ Only if you Let Them Be}

Mark Twain is quoted as having said these words "I can live for 2 months on a good compliment."

For me, it might be more like two days.  ;-)

But the point remains that when someone gives you a sincere compliment, it means a lot.  Words are such powerful little bullets, penetrating the heart's of others and sometimes being lodged there for years to come.

I can remember both uplifting and negative things that people have said to me in my lifetime, some of them literally being 10 or 15 years ago.  In fact, sometimes the negative sticks even longer than the positive.

I still remember being told that I walk funny -- way back when I was a teenager.  Since I was already self conscious about this, someone else mentioning it only confirmed what I already thought I knew to be true.

The same goes for a comment someone made to me within the last year or so about how I am a person who just likes attention and that I'll take negative attention over no attention at all.  While I don't believe this to be completely true, there is enough of doubt in my mind about myself in regards to this that I still wonder if this might be true of me.

I've also noticed that when I truly believe something good about myself and it rings true with who I believe that I am, I can easily accept a compliment about myself in that area.  Lately someone told me that they feel I am a very genuine person and I just said "Thank you" and felt grateful for the compliment.  The thing is...I already believe this about myself. I know I am a genuine person.  It resonates with me that someone would recognize this about me.  Along those same lines, if someone told me that I was disingenuine, I would brush it aside.  Because I believe in myself when it comes to this character trait.  Those negative words would have no power over me.

But if someone tells me I am beautiful or that I seem very even keeled emotionally, I would have a hard time accepting that compliment because I don't really believe it about myself.

I am starting to see that the MOST important thing is not what anyone else perceives me as being or not being.  The most important thing is what I believe is true about myself.  For me, that truth comes from a power and a being higher than myself.  Who does HE say that I am?  How does HE see me? And what choices am I making that align myself with that person that I already am?

Words are powerful. For sure.  As humans, I think we need to recognize this and be much more careful with our words and use them as weapons of kindness and love and peace instead of daggers of fear and jealousy and pride.

But more than anything, we need to know who we are despite what anyone else thinks of us...whether negative or positive.

That is where the real power lies.  So that when you hear that positive affirmation or that negative comment, you just check in with yourself and what you know to be true about yourself and YOU choose whether or not to give those words power in your life.

Probably the most difficult part of this is making choices that back up the person that you know that you are while knowing how much you still struggle to be that person and how often you mess up.

Grace.  Grace.  Grace.

For yourself in your journey and for other's in theirs.  And then let your words be something that encourages someone else to see who they really are and lifts them up closer to being that person.

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Monday, September 14, 2015

5, 4, 3, 2, 1

I struggle with depression.

I don't know that I've ever had the courage to say that out loud to a {potentially} large group of people before.  It feels in some strange way like saying it gives it more power. But maybe it works the other way?

But when it's been 6 or 7 years and I'm still fighting the same battles to see good in my days, to recognize things to be grateful for, and to fight away the grey cloud that hovers just over my head, I guess eventually I have to face the reality of my life.

When I tell people that I struggle with depression, especially those who don't know me well, they always seem to surprised.

"But you're always smiling."

"You always seem so happy."

It goes to show you can't always tell what is going on with someone just by the face they show to the world.  I'm not trying to be ungenuine by smiling when I'm sad inside.  It's more that smiling is a long standing habit with me and I don't see the harm in keeping it up.  May as well not bring others down with me if I can help it.

Today is an absolutely gorgeous Wisconsin day.  I finished with my work and went and sat outside with a good book.  But I didn't feel happy.  I felt like I should feel happy. And then I felt guilty that I didn't.

So I did this exercise that I sometimes do these days.  It's an exercise to bring me back to the present moment, to help me recognize all that is around me that is wonderful, and it gets my mind out of it's default over-thinking mode.

This was my "observation chair" today
I noticed that my nails need to be re-done.  Although that wasn't
 one of the "5 things"

I thought I would share this with you all because maybe someone can use it in their days as well.

You look around (anytime, anywhere) and you really take in...

5 things you can see -- Today it was the boys' wiffle balls and football lying in the yard, our firewood pile to heat our house this winter, the leaves moving in the wind, the gorgeousness of the blue sky and our trusty van.

4 things you can hear  (This one sometimes takes a little patience)  Birds, a vehicle in the distance, the wind moving the leaves, more/different birds

3 things you can touch  (your own skin, the book in my hands, the grass on my feet)

2 things you can smell  (sunshine.  I think you CAN actually smell sunshine.  And summer.)

1 thing you can taste  (this one is hard sometimes, but usually you can taste something if you focus on it)

Maybe you can try this sometime and gain a little perspective and happiness in your day!
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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Perfectly Incongruent

I wish I could fly, but stay on the ground;
I'm willing to dare, when guarantees can be found.

Don't tell me to stay;
I'll probably just go.

I want what I want, 
but what?  I don't know.

Give me security;
then let me run free.

I am who I am,
but who might I be?

I need time and space, to know how I feel;
just hold me too close, I need love that is real.

I may seem confusing and tough to explain;
I'd say you're just lucky you don't live in my brain.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

{A Broken Wing}

I honestly don't understand why these strange things happen to me.

Well, maybe I do.  I believe deep down that it is because I am loved by a very, very personal God who knows ME.  I also believe that if you ask Him to start showing His love to you in ways that are meaningful to you (and probably only you), He will absolutely do that for you.

So while sometimes it feels like my stories seem weird and childish and insignificant to others, I think that a lot of people can relate to the feeling and experience of God making Himself real to them in a way that meant a lot to them.  And maybe they felt weird and childish about their story too.

That is the purpose of sharing connect a part of my story with yours and to show you how much God loves and cares for You!  (Maybe one day I will write a post about who God is to me now versus the God I grew up believing Him to be and how I almost cringe to use the word "God" to define all that is love and light and goodness and peace in this world, because of my - and potentially others - religious aversions to and definitions of God that are not true to who He really is.)  But for today...this is the story I want to share.

I would say it was about a month ago that I started noticing a lot of Monarch butterflies.  They seemed to be everywhere.  Beautifully stunning in their colors, its not surprising that they would catch someone's eye.  But it was more than that for me.

I felt this quiet yet insistent voice tell me to pay attention to those butterflies.  I noticed that voice and I heard it but I didn't really know why it spoke to me or what I was supposed to do with this little piece of information.  I didn't mention this impression to anyone else. I just kept watching for and seeing lots of Monarch butterflies and every time I noticed one I just felt this little burst of happiness and this feeling of a special little hug from God.  And then my day would go on.

Last Thursday I was just around the house here by myself.  Doing chores like laundry and bookwork and then I went outside to mow lawn and take care of the pool, etc.   I was walking in our driveway and I looked down and saw a Monarch butterfly sitting there.  Of course, it drew my attention, so I went over and looked at it more closely.  It didn't take long for me to notice that it had part of it's wing missing and it couldn't fly.  And then I glanced over and saw the rest of it's wing...lying there in the driveway.

I carefully picked up the butterfly and held it in my palm.  And then I picked up its wing part that was lying there on the ground.

It wouldn't rest in my hand or perch on my finger.  As soon as I would take my other hand off of it, it would just try to fly away.  Except that it couldn't.  When it tried, it would just fall down to the ground.

I felt something well up inside of me.  Emotion that I couldn't quite explain.  But it had to do with the connection I felt to this butterfly and it's struggle to fly with a broken wing.  The way it wasn't giving up and how beautiful it still was...even with it's obvious flaw.

I gently carried it into the house and got my phone, and then went out to the back yard with my new little friend.

Depending on how I snapped the pictures, you could barely tell that it was missing a wing.  But for anyone who cared to look close enough, it was very apparent.

I looked to see if I might be able to re-attach the wing, but that didn't seem probable.

So I just watched it struggle to fly, I watched full of life and determination and fearlessness, and yet so broken.

And then after a little while I picked it up and carried it to the edge of the yard and put it in the tall grass amongst the trees and just hoped for the best.

I felt a kind of sadness as I walked away.  Can butterflies live if they can't fly?  What really is a butterfly without it's ability to fly?  Does it still have significance?  Does it matter?  Does anyone still appreciate it's beauty?

Then, honestly,  I forgot about the butterfly.  I had the pictures on my phone but I hadn't looked at them again.

Last night Jeremy and I were both at home, working on projects around here.  I decided to mow the grass.  I was coming up alongside our back deck on the riding lawn mower when I glanced ahead of me, and guess what I saw?

I may have gasped internally if not audibly, because there in front of me in the grass, was my broken-winged friend.  It was a good 50 feet from the edge of the woods where I had placed it to the back deck where it was now.  I got down off of the lawn mower and I picked it up.  Yes, definitely the same butterfly.  With the same distinctive injury.

I gently put it aside and continued with my mowing.  But that's when I knew I had to share this story! Because it is about so much more than a Monarch butterfly with a broken wing.

It is about love.  It is about redemption. It is about struggle and courage and pain.  It is about God speaking and it is about us paying attention.

Later, I Googled "Can a monarch butterfly grow a new wing?"

I found out that they can't.  Once a wing is gone, it's gone.  I also learned that Monarch's only live about 1 week so the odds of me seeing that same butterfly twice are even more amazing.

But I learned one other thing.  A broken wing can be fixed.  If I had looked it up last Thursday when I had that wing piece with me, I could have gotten a tweezers and some special glue and I could have given back to that butterfly the gift of flight.

I wish I would have taken the time to do that.  I think it would have been good for my soul.  Had I known it was possible, I probably would have.

There is a lesson in this for me.  We can't fix ourselves.  We all have "broken wings", unhealed places, things that keep us from reaching our full potential.  But there is someone who can help.  Who can heal.  Who can restore us to new.  We just need to be still and let Him do His gentle work.  Let Him touch us and put us back together.  And then we can fly!
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Monday, August 10, 2015

A Beautiful Mess

I've had what is easiest to refer to as "writer's block" for about 2 years and 4 months now.  850 days of dealing with the inability to express myself through writing.  20,400 hours in which I haven't been able to fall back on something that to me has always been therapeutic and healing.

Last Tuesday morning I had coffee with my friend Rhoda.  She inspired me to find my writing voice again.  To push through the self-doubts of "it's all been written before...what do I have to say?" along with the "what value do my words have?" type of questions.

So here I am...sitting at the computer...trying to put down on "paper" what's in my heart.

I used to write about anything and everything.  I wrote many blog posts about trivial and funny happenings in my life.  I wrote about my kids and about my clothing and I wrote blog posts inspired by a "random word of the day."  Sometimes I wrote about the serious thoughts that were happening in my heart and mind.

And then I just couldn't anymore.  Shit hit the fan in my internal world and along with my sunny outlook and my carefree attitude, my writing went out the window.  I missed it.  But I had trouble expressing myself with words, in person, much less being able to write in a way that made sense to anyone else.

After my conversation with Rhoda, I realized something.  Maybe this isn't new to you and it really isn't new to me either, but it struck me once again that there are two very effective tools that the forces for evil in this world use to keep us from succeeding in our lives and fulfilling our dreams and connecting with others.

They are both lies.

The first is that we are alone.  No one else would understand.  We are the only one who is struggling in this way.  So we had better just keep our pain and difficulty to ourselves lest we feel shame or guilt or feel misunderstood.

The second is that what we have to contribute to the world isn't valuable until we "have our shit together."  That lie that whispers in your ear when you want to help a friend by sharing your story. When you want to speak up but you know how far you still have to go and so you stay silent.

I have news for you!  Your shit is never going to be together.  You live. You learn.  Your experiences teach you valuable lessons that can help someone else. Right now.  No matter what is still "wrong" in your life and no matter what you're still dealing with or struggling through, your voice matters!  When you feel that inner prompting to speak up, just follow it and see what good things will happen.

I think for me, it is hard on my pride in some twisted way.  I don't want to put advice out there and then have someone look at my life and think "What the heck does she know?"

But vulnerability and honesty often speak louder than the "perfect" person with the "perfect" life who has it all together. So many times my life has been touched by the words of someone who was just being real with me.  Sharing a part of their beautiful mess.

I think that's what God sees when He looks at us.  We're a mess.  He knows it.  But to's beautiful.  Because we are His children and He feels this immense and all-encompassing and amazing LOVE for us.  So He looks down on me in my struggle and He sees my issues and I just picture Him sitting down right there beside me and putting His arm around me and just looking over at me with SO much love in His eyes and then kind of getting a twinkle in His eye and saying to me "Girl, I'm proud of you.  So proud of you.  Because you're a fighter.  You really care.  I see you trying and I know you're life is a mess, but it's a beautiful mess.  And we're just going to just keep working on this together. One day at a time. It's gonna be OK."

So here are a few pieces of advice that I think I can put into words.  These are things that I am learning through the struggle of the past few years.  Take them for what they might be worth.

**You are not alone.  If you will have the courage to open up your heart and bare your soul, you'll find others who say "Me too" and will walk alongside you.  Not everyone will, so choose carefully and pay attention to your instincts, but those friends are definitely out there.

**Advice will come from unexpected sources.  Take it anyway.  If it rings true with you, don't worry about who said it and why they might be unqualified.

**Our thoughts are extremely powerful.  We create the life we really want by the ways we think. But changing your thoughts about yourself and about life is a long and ardous process and there really are no short-cuts.  Slow and steady wins the race.

**Everyone's story is important.  Many are heart-breakingly beautiful.  When someone trusts you enough to let you in and tell you a part of their story, treat that as the beautiful treasure that it is.

**A lot of days it is going to feel like you're going 2 steps forward and 1 step back.  That's ok.  Give yourself a break.  Cut yourself some slack.  And get up the next day and do the next right thing. Two steps forward and one step back is still progress.

**The sun will keep on shining even when you can't see it.  It will be there on the day when you can finally raise your eyes towards the sky.  Your perception didn't change the reality.

**Surrender is a mystery I don't understand but I know it to be truer than true.  When you surrender a thing in your life that you've been holding on to and you let go of the grasp for control, miracles happen. Sometimes instantly.  Sometimes in a while. But they always happen.  I've seen it too many times in my own life to believe otherwise.  So take that leap.  Surrender that thing you just can't seem to let go of.

**Gratitude is hugely important.  Be grateful for the teachers that life sends your way.  Be grateful for what isn't "wrong" in your life.  Be grateful for little things that you tend to take for granted. Write things down.  Gratitude has the ability to transform your perception of your life.

Be encouraged, my friends!  Hope is always there.  Love and be loved, even in the midst of your mess.  You have a beautiful soul...let it shine!
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Thursday, August 6, 2015

40 is the New 716

This is a story that only a few people in my life know.  And now I'm sharing it with all of you. Which feels very vulnerable but also powerful.

It started more than two years ago and I began the see the connections with both increasing alarm and clarity.

The number was everywhere.  This number that represented awful choices I'd made, people that I'd hurt, and insecurities and fears that dwelt so deep inside of me that the light of truth hadn't even yet shone on a lot of them.

It did not strike me as coincidence that I was seeing this number at a time when I was about to repeat some of my same mistakes and make more choices that would hurt those I professed to love. Still on that search to artificially heal what was so deeply broken and lacking inside of me.  That lack of coincidence helped me to see this appearance of the number as a warning sign from God.  A flashing red light that He brought into my path time and again.  Which I ignored. Time and again.

First it was that casual glance at the clock soon after I'd woke up in the morning and there it would be.  7:16    Bold and red.  I dare you to look away.

Then it was the last three digits of an invoice I was entering at work.  Or on the back of a semi trailer I was following down the highway.  It was on license plates and road signs and price tags.

And the clock.  Always the clock.  I wouldn't glance at the clock for hours and then I would check the time and, as if my attention had been pulled by some mysterious force, there it was.  7:16

I remember the time that I was flying out for a girl's weekend.  I was on the phone with a man who was not my husband and I walked up to the kiosk to get my boarding pass printed out.  I remember looking at the time down in the bottom right hand corner and sending a picture of it to the man who was not my husband and saying "Notice the time down in the corner?"  I had told him the story and the significance of the number to me.

Sometimes I would actual startle when I would see the number.  It would be in red, or black, white or green.  Unexpectedly.  That was how it almost always showed up.

I learned that you see what you look for.  The number 716 is not an easy number to see.  But when it has significance to you and especially a significance that you would rather ignore, you somehow see it everywhere.  The universe can be persistant like that.

And then I had the dream.  Which was as real to me as anything has ever been.  I was away for a few days of alone time.  October 2013.  I had been reading and praying and just being in silence and then I felt tired and I lay down for a little nap.

I would up with such a start that it was as if a gun had gone off in my room.  I sat up in the bed and I only had one thought in my mind.  The dream I had just been startled awake from.  In this dream, God showed me that I would know that I had conquered my long standing issues surrounding the belief that there is someone out there that would make me happy...when I started seeing the number 40 instead of the number 716.

Does this sound crazy?  Yes.  Is it true as true can be?  Yes.  And I knew it. Without a shadow of a doubt.

One would think, using powers of logic, that the number 40 would be much easier to see than the number 716.  One obvious reason is the number of digits that need to be present.  Another is the fact that 40 is a round number of even ten's and 716 is a very random number somewhere between 500 and 1,000.

But could I ever see the number 40?  No.  Never.

Until about exactly a year later.  When I again went away for what is now becoming my annual couple of days of solitude.  I spent time praying. I spent time in silence.  I read. God miraculously (different story for another time) brought a book into my path that I read during my time alone in that big vacation house.  I cried.  I marveled.

And on my drive home, I passed through a town that had not one, not two, but three huge 40 mile per hour speed limit signs.  I laughed. I cried. I praised.

For the next day or two, I saw the number 40 a few more times. I thought "This is it.  This is my sign." And then it stopped.  Just like that.  I didn't know how to change what I was seeing and I figured it just meant I wasn't far enough along on my journey yet.  But that there was hope.

Fast forward to early June of this year.  The kids and I set out on our amazing road trip adventure.  A lot had been changing in me in the past year or two.  I knew that.  But we are always hardest on ourselves and sometimes until something makes us take a step back, we can't see the distance between point A and point B. It can feel like all we've been doing is climbing, and when we look up, the top of the mountain is still just as far away and obscured by clouds.

It started with one speed limit sign.  40 MPH.  Isn't it usually 45?  But no, here was a 40 MPH sign. And then there was another.  And another.  Down through Iowa and into that small town in Missouri that we wound our way through.  Slow down.  40 MPH.

I smiled to myself as I kept seeing the number 40. I texted my friend from back home and said "I think this trip is going to go well.  I keep seeing the number 40."  She was happy for me.

That's been 2 months ago and it hasn't stopped!  I see this number everywhere.  In the time on the clock when I glance over and it reads 9:40.  In the calories I've burned on the eliptical at the gym. In speed limit signs.  On license plates and road signs and price tags.  On invoices I enter when I'm doing bookwork.

It's a miracle.  It's my miracle!  It doesn't have to make sense to anyone else.  It doesn't have to match anyone else's story.  But that's the power of our experiences.  They are ours alone and the telling of those stories and what they mean to us is powerful. The way our life has been shaped by those stories and the driving force (God) behind them is powerful.

Have I conquered my demons, as my dream had indicated?  Some days it certainly doesn't feel like it. The struggle is still there.  The insecuries and fears and old ways of thinking die hard.

Once this spring when I was alone at the cabin where I sought solitude, I cried out to my loving Father God and I said "Show me what you see when you look at me!!"  Please.  I sat there with tears running down my face.  Tears fueled by long years of seeing myself through a very distorted and negative lens.  You know the kind of thoughts? Those demeaning and defeating words we speak to ourselves?  The kind of words we would be appalled to have another person say to us.

God so firmly and gently and lovingly spoke this to me, and I wrote it down in my little red, leather diary.

Audrey, you are...


Honest (because He knows me)

Sane (because He made me)


All of these words represented things I doubted about myself.  Things I wondered if I would ever be. I have thought of this encounter with God so often since then in moments of self-doubt and self-hatred.

So can I say I have arrived in my journey because I now see the number 40?  Probably not.  But you know what it means to me these days?  It represents hope.  It represents strength that is greater than my own. It represents a power that I have access to...within me.  It represents a journey and the promise that while I'll never "have it together", I will always have the tool necessary to make the right choices.  It flashes in front of my eyes when I feel unable.  It literally has shown up seconds after I've had discouraging thoughts about where I am on my journey.  It encourages me.  Daily.  And He knows ALL of that.  He knows ME.

God has seldom shown up in my life in ways that I have expected.  But He has always shown up in ways that were meaningful to me when I have opened my eyes and surrendered my heart.  What they say about perception is true. We really do see what we look for!
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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

{A New Chapter}

A lot of changes have happened in my life lately.  Big changes. 

I quit a job that I've had for the past 6 1/2 years...doing bookkeeping for the pellet mill in town.  Along with that was a lot of letting go...relationship and work wise.

An honest and wise friend told me lately that she thinks I have a hard time letting go of things.  Relationships. Jobs. The easy and comfortable.  I know she's right.  Part of the issue for me is knowing when to hang on and try harder and when to let go.

I was feeling anxious about the changes in my life.  What if, without a job, I was too bored and drove myself crazy? After all, I'm {mostly} unemployed for the first time in 20 years.

This is only the second week of my "retirement" and I have to say...I am loving it so far!  Not that I plan to never work again, I know myself too well to think that will work out, but for now, it's been great.  I am realizing that sometimes life just gets you in a rut and when you step back, you realize you aren't even doing what you want to be doing and you're just going along on auto pilot.  Fulfilling commitments and obligations and just getting swept along with the current.  I realize that most people don't have the chance or the luxury of being able to hit the "pause" button and re-evaluate what they really want to be doing with the hours in their day, but I think we can all do that on a smaller scale if we take the time to consider it.

Anyway, one of my goals for the months of April and May was to spend a day a week in solitude. I cannot tell you the reason for this or what will come of it, only that I have known intuitively that this was somehow very important in my process of healing and growth.  I have been praying since last fall to find a cabin close by to be able to use for this purpose.  A peaceful place in the woods where I could just get away from it all and find clarity and direction.

God totally answered that prayer through a friend of mine whose brother in law owns a cabin that is un-used these days.  Granted, I wanted it to be by a lake, but there is even a lesson in that for me:  Don't allow your expectations of what something is going to look like prevent you from seeing the amazing blessings that are right in front of you!

                                                      (My little hide-away in the pines)

Yesterday found me there again and it was the most amazing, gorgeous spring weather!  Sunny and 66 degrees.  I took a walk, sat and read, talked to God, listened and observed, and then I sat down in the sun on this little bench and got out my "writing promps" book to see if I could get some inspiration to write.

The very first page I opened up to had the writing prompt of "Write a new chapter in your life right now".  I didn't have to look much further.  I knew that writing about this made total sense right now.

I am sharing with you what I wrote yesterday and I hope that it inspires you in some way.

"The new chapter in my life starts now.  Granted, it probably started a long time ago because life is a journey, more circular in nature than a straight path and I've noticed that life's lessons keep circling around until you're ready to find a seat, plant your ass in that chair and actually pay attention to what the teacher is saying.

So when I say the new chapter starts now, it is also inferred that tomorrow morning the new chapter starts again. And the morning after that.

The person we believe we are and the choices that we make out of that belief are not one time decisions. We make them over and over and over again.  One good choice begets another.  You cannot believe in yourself and your positive affirmations and your thoughts about where your identity lies if you are consistently making choices that do not back that up.  You will feel fractured and splintered, restless and lacking peace.  Trust me.  I fuckin' know.

So starting now...  I am not who I was.  I am more than the sum of my past mistakes.  I am a woman of courage.  I am honest, even when it scares me or causes conflict.  I am faithful and loyal.  I am positive and hopeful.  I am habitually grateful.  I am sane and I have much wisdom inside of me.  I am secure in who I am and I am not afraid of how other's perceive me.  I know that I am strong and that no matter what happens, I will get through it and come out having learned something that I can put in my life's toolbox.  This is the new chapter in my life and it starts NOW."

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