Life is tough…But so are you

Recently a very brave friend has been struggling, and sharing her struggle publicly on Facebook. In recent days she has shared, through words and pictures, that she is feeling vulnerable and broken.  My guess is her posts are making many people uncomfortable, but I see so much strength in her candor and her willingness to share her brokenness with the world.

One day this week, I commented on one of her posts to let her know I am thinking of her, praying for her, and cheering her on. My comment was – One minute at a time. One hour at a time. One day at a time. Whatever it takes to get you through. Her response was one of thanks, but in that she referred to me as “wonder woman”. And I cringed.  I am not a wonder woman.

I am a broken woman who is struggling in my own way each and learning to live my own advice – One minute at a time. One hour at a time. One day at a time. I share my story not from a place of strength, but from a place of vulnerability. Sharing makes me stronger, but I am really no wonder woman. Certainly no more of a wonder woman than my friend. She is brave and candid and something of a wonder in her own right.

In sharing her story, she is definitely helping herself. But more than that she is helping to open a dialogue about an often hidden reality for most people – the reality that no matter how strong we may appear to the world, we are in fact all a little broken. By sharing her story, she is stepping into the light and shouting, “Hey world! Look at me! I am struggling right now, but that is not where the story has to end. And if you are struggling too, know that you are not alone!”

By sharing her story, she is making space for others to share their own stories. In her brokenness there is beauty and light and strength. She is a wonder and an inspiration.

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Choosing Grace

Should.

That’s a trigger word for me. I know I use it with myself too much, but I make an extreme effort to not use with it other people. In my opinion, “should” feels critical or judgmental. It diminishes the possibility that there is more than one “right” way to do or be or feel. Should lacks empathy and limits perspective. It is a word that has the ability to make a person feel small and question their choices. It is not a positive word.

Clearly I have an opinion on this. But why?

I am my own worst critic. Truly I am harsh on myself. There have been periods in my life when I constantly and consistently “should-ed” everything I did or said, or didn’t do or say. Those were seasons of self doubt. Hand in hand with the shoulds I put upon myself,  I would also absorb the shoulds that that world put upon me.

Life and time and age bring the gift of perspective, if we are open to receiving. Thankfully, those long seasons of self-doubt are somewhere back in my younger days (along with big hair and questionable fashion choices). That’s not to say that I don’t still occasionally slip a “you should” into my own self-talk, but it does mean that I am infinitely better at not allowing the shoulds of the world color my perspective or choices. It also means that I try really hard to not limit the perspective or choices of others – I’m not perfect, but I am certain that should is not a word that passes my lips toward another person very often.

Bottom line? Should removes the space in which grace – toward myself and others – can thrive. And instead of choosing to live by should, I have chosen to live with grace. Dozens of times each day, my inner voice reminds me “Grace in. Grace out.” When I remember to treat myself with grace and treat others with grace, I counteract the shoulds. Living with grace means allowing for possibility and perspective and choices. Living with grace means allowing for mistakes and second chances.

As a parent, wife, daughter, sibling and friend – instead of choosing should, I choose grace. With my voice and my actions – instead of choosing should, I choose grace. In a world that is becoming increasingly divided – instead of choosing should, I choose grace.

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Standing at the “Gates of Hope”

“Hope.” By Victoria Safford.

Our mission is to plant ourselves at the gates of Hope—
Not the prudent gates of Optimism,
Which are somewhat narrower.
Not the stalwart, boring gates of Common Sense;
Nor the strident gates of Self-Righteousness,
Which creak on shrill and angry hinges
Nor the cheerful, flimsy garden gate of
“Everything is gonna’ be all right.”
But a different, sometimes lonely place,
The place of truth-telling,
About your own soul first of all and its condition.
The place of resistance and defiance,
The piece of ground from which you see the world
Both as it is and as it could be
As it will be;
The place from which you glimpse not only struggle,
But the joy of the struggle.
And we stand there, all of us, beckoning and calling,
Telling people what we are seeing
Asking people what they see.

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Life Lessons from Anne of Green Gables

I was scrolling through my Facebook feed yesterday morning and noticed that a friend from college had posted about Netflix airing a new original series based on the Anne of Green Gables books by L. M. Montgomery. I “liked” the post, and thought about how it was probably time to begin sharing one of my childhood literary obsessions with my own daughter.

Later in the day, I was scrolling Facebook again and noticed that several women had commented on the original post about the new Netflix series….and all of those women were friends from college. At this point, I added my own thoughts to the comments – including the question “What is it about Anne and Wells women?”

I attended Wells College in Aurora, NY.  At the time I was a student, it was a women’s liberal arts college. (The college became co-ed in 2005.) It was a time, and place, and an experience that shaped me into the woman I am today. It was a magical place and time, (I graduated one year before the first Harry Potter book was published, but in the years since I have been known to describe the college as resembling Hogwarts), where personal growth was encouraged, community was fostered, laughter and tears were shared in equal parts, and grace was lived out loud.

So what is it about Anne and Wells women? If I took a poll of my friends who graduated from Wells, I’d venture a guess that the vast majority of them would say they did read the Anne books as young girls, or at least watched the movies sitting in a dorm room.  Anne Shirley is fearless, unpredictable, intelligent and compassionate. She isn’t perfect. She’s real. She’s somebody I could both relate to as a young girl, and also aspire to be like. The women I went to college with came from a wide range of backgrounds, and we have all gone on to an even wider range of “adult lives”, but there is something at our very core that unites us. It’s a spirit that lies at the center of each of our beings. I recently was back on campus for my 20th reunion, and wrote about that spirit as being Joyful Confidence. Anne Shirley personifies joyful confidence. Wells women personify joyful confidence. That’s what it is about Anne and Wells women. That and the fact that Anne Shirley understood, “Young men are all very well in their place, but it doesn’t do to drag them into everything, does it?” (L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables)

Once I had followed that thought thread to the end, I picked up the next thread. What lessons did I learn from Anne Shirley,  and the other characters in those book, that I want my daughter to learn and own as she is teetering in the space between childhood and adolescence? There are so many life lessons in these books, but these are the ones I want most to pass along to my daughter.

Be yourself and speak your mind, but always be open to people and experiences that may shape you or change your opinion. “I do know my own mind. The trouble is, my mind changes and then I have to get acquainted with it all over again.” ― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of the Island

When you live life with confidence, people will often be influenced by what you think and what you do. Use that influence for good…be a change maker and live with compassion. “We ought always to try to influence others for good.”  ― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Life won’t always be easy and you won’t always win, but never be afraid to try. If you learn from your mistakes, you will always come out a stronger person. “Next to trying and winning, the best thing is trying and failing.”  ― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Find your people. Build community. “Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.” ― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

No matter how bad things seem, know that there is always tomorrow. Each day brings a new opportunity to be your best self and shape the world for yourself and others. “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” ― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

It IS nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it. It is also nice to think about how much fun it will be to share Anne Shirley and her friends with my daughter,  and discover what life lessons she is able to pull from the works of L. M. Montgomery.

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