Sunday, October 31, 2010

Going Deeper to Reach Higher

If you read back to my first post then you know that this whole blogging experience began as an uncharacteristic impetuous decision, which, by the way, I don't regret. But as time has gone by I have been asking myself a lot of questions about what this blog is really supposed to be. What should my focus be? Who is reading this and what is it I want them to get out of it? I know that I want to encourage others, but in what area do I want to focus my encouragement? If I believe that this is an assignment, then how do I fulfill that assignment? Successful blogs (blogs that people actually want to read!) come out of the writer's passion and experience. What is my passion and what experiences do I have to share that make my blog unique and make it worth someone else's time?

I focused on the name "Real Life" because I want to share my honest self with you. I am in search of a more original name, but I don't want to change that purpose. What is my purpose in sharing my real life with you? My journey of self discovery may aid you in your journey of self-discovery. The only way to mature in life is to be honest with ourselves about who we really are and who we want to be. As we discover our strengths we learn how to achieve our God-given destiny. As we discover our weaknesses we learn how to overcome them, if possible, or accept them as a reminder that we can't be or do everything and we need help.

I initially named my blog "A Work in Progress" because I needed to come up with a name in order to continue the template, but then I thought about how life is a work in progress. My life. Your life. We are all a work in progress. I want this blog to reflect my progress. I want to be honest about what I am struggling with or thinking about. I want to share what I have learned or am learning through this working out of life. The truth is we are all trying to "arrive" and we won't get there until we draw our last breath. As we realize that others are on the same journey, facing similar inner obstacles, we begin to accept ourselves as we are, while continuing to work towards who we can be.

When I write I see a broad audience. I have a lot that I could say to women, but I don't think I am blogging just for women. Maybe some day I might start another blog just to encourage women to be all they can be beyond artificial boundaries, but I don't believe that is the purpose of this blog. I am a Christian. My faith is the driving force behind everything I do, say or think, but I don't believe I am supposed to write for a "Christians-only" audience.

So, who am I writing for? I am writing for you. You are reading this today. You are the one I write for. You are the one I want to encourage to be all you can be and do all that you were created to do. I want to encourage you that it's okay to examine yourself and acknowledge that you have faults and weaknesses. I want to encourage you that being honest with yourself about who you are is the first step to finding out who you were meant to be. The current URL for my blog is When I settle on a new name I will change the URL to reflect it, but I don't want to change that purpose either. I am believing for the best in you. I know that you have a Creator who intends you to fulfill your life-purpose and to be fulfilled in that process. I believe that, like a seed, all that you are meant to become is hidden inside you and in the right conditions you will grow beyond anything you can imagine.

So, like this blog, like me, you are a work in progress. The best is yet to be written about you and me. Let's share the journey together and go deeper inside ourselves so that we can reach higher in achieving all that we are meant to be.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Hot Buttons! DO NOT TOUCH!

HOT SURFACE! DO NOT TOUCH!  I am not one of those people who would see a sign like that and then put my hand near the surface just to make sure. If I know that something is hot, then I want to protect myself. I am staying as far away as possible!

Wouldn't it be nice if people had some kind of warning label to alert you to their "hot" buttons? We all have them. Some of us don't show them as much, but they are still there. The closer you are to someone, the more you get to know what really pushes those "hot" buttons. Maybe you are like me. I try to avoid those triggers whenever possible for two reasons. Reason number one: I care about those I love and I know they don't like to have their buttons pushed any more than I like to push them. Reason number two: I don't enjoy conflict. I don't enjoy getting "burned". So like the hot surface, if I can avoid that unpleasant experience, then I will! I have to be honest and say that I think Reason number two is probably a higher motivation. Self-preservation over selfless protection probably rules the day. Ugh!

My "hot" buttons are less obvious than other people's to the untrained observer. I am an internal processor. That doesn't mean I get less annoyed, I am just quieter about it. To the untrained eye that may appear to be patience and strength of character, but I know better! Patience is an internal quality that is expressed in an outer attitude. In certain instances I may appear patient, but I know that I am not!

Case in point: I work in a school and interact with many students, most of whom do not bother me at all. However, there is the rare student that pushes my "hot" buttons. Something in their attitude or behavior ticks me off inside, not just once, but every time they are in the room. I have been more aware lately that true patience, the kind that is considered a virtue or what the Bible calls a "fruit of the Spirit", goes much deeper than my external efforts to be civil with the person who brings me to a boil inside. True patience, also called "long-suffering", means that I don't just deal with my outer behavior, but my inner attitude. Perhaps because I can "keep the lid on" my behavior I haven't worked as hard at understanding my own "hot buttons" as I have at understanding others so that I can protect myself.

Because I want to be truly patient and not just appear to be so, I guess it's time for some self-observation. I don't want to just "keep the lid on". I want to disable the "hot" button completely!


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Threads of Insecurity

Something just isn't quite right. I need to fix something...just a little. I missed something somewhere, but I am just not sure what. You ever feel that way?

I have been feeling that way about a recent conflict, not fight, not disagreement. Something needed to be addressed and I did it as respectfully as I possibly could, but did I handle myself as well as I should have? Could I have handled the situation better? Is there anything I should do to follow up?

Perhaps all those questions swirling around in my head are because there is something that needs to be done. Or maybe not. Maybe all those questions are just a clue that there are some threads of insecurity lurking around inside of me that need some clipping. We all have them. Sometimes they are neatly tucked inside and we forget about them. Sometimes those threads are visible to others, but not to ourselves. Then we need someone else to bring it to our attention so that we can deal with it. You know, like the person who notices that you have a thread hanging from the hem of your pants and brings it to your attention. Then you realize that you've been stepping on the thread for the last 15 minutes and the hem is about to come down. You might feel a bit embarrassed that you didn't notice it yourself, but you do your best to remedy the situation in a temporary way immediately. Then you take the time to make more permanent repairs later.

Insecurities take time to remedy. Longer than it takes to fix a hem. They take honest self-evaluation and disciplined effort to overcome. And often, when we are sure that we have overcome insecurity in one area, confident that "thread" is neatly clipped, another one surfaces and we have to go through the whole process all over again. Don't you hate that?

Guess it's time to get out my scissors...again.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Humanly Honest

"Honesty is such a lonely word. Everyone is so untrue. Honesty is hardly ever heard. And mostly what I need from you."  Billy Joel
These lyrics are from one of Billy Joel's most popular songs which was, believe it or not, the theme for my junior prom in 19...never mind. Lovely thought for the junior prom, don't you think? "Everyone is so untrue." Well, I guess if you think about it, honesty is what we really want from those closest to us. We want honest relationships where we can say what we really think and feel and be loved just the same.  We want to know and be known. But at the same time, we are often afraid of what people will think of us, so we "put on a mask", so to speak, and cover up who we really are with all our questions, quirks and general messiness. We choose to show only our best to the world and ignore the rest.

I recently finished reading the book "Choosing to SEE" by Mary Beth Chapman.  She is the wife of well-known Christian singer/songwriter Stephen Curtis Chapman. Unfortunately, the whole family received national attention when they tragically lost their 5-year-old Maria in an accident in the family driveway. What impressed me most about her book was, not how the whole family is so strong to get through such a horrific experience, or what a great gal Mary Beth is (although I do think she'd be a great person to have a cup of coffee with). What impressed me about her book was her honesty. She shares much about her life and the final third or so,of the book covers the tragedy of May 21, 2008 and the time following. Much of it reprints  her blogs as she struggled to cope, to understand, to go on with life. She shares her questions, her anger, her fears for her other children. She shares her deliberate choice to trust in God's goodness even when the whole thing seems to make no sense. She disarmingly shared many personal details and let the reader in on the family's indescribable pain and journey of healing.
We might use the phrases "painfully honest" or "brutally honest" to describe how Mary Beth wrote, but I think I would choose the phrase "humanly honest" to describe her. Too many times those who profess a whole-hearted commitment to Christ choose to "show their best face" in times of tragedy and struggle, rather than just be honest about how they feel. If I, as a Christian, come across as someone with no needs why would anyone think that I have something that they need? Mary Beth showed herself to be a real person who finds her strength in faith, even when God seems to make no sense at all. She showed herself to be a human being with deep needs like every other human being. She showed herself to be one who finds herself relying on God to meet those deep needs in ways that no one else can touch.
So, is everyone "so untrue"? I hope not. I struggle with how much of my "junk" to share with others. I think I often come across as one of those with "no needs". Of course, that is absolutely not true and definitely not intentional, but knowing when to "let it all hang out" can be a bit tricky. I have learned, though, that I can "let it all hang out" with God.  If He loves me, then wouldn't it follow that He wants honesty from me? I firmly believe that He can handle all my "junk" better than anyone else. I honestly do.

For more on Mary Beth Chapman's book click here. 

Amy Grant's newest song does a great job describing God's desire for honesty from those who call on Him. Click on the title to hear the song and see the lyrics.
Better Than a Hallelujah

Saturday, October 2, 2010

What Is It About History?

     Maybe you aren't like this, but there is something about history that stirs me. Perhaps it's because whenever my family traveled we'd stop at every historic marker along the way and find out what important person or event was associated with that location. In former days I was an actress, and my greatest love was for the period pieces with language and costumes that drew me into another time. I loved researching and learning about what it was like to live in that time and immersing myself in the manners of the time as well. I was a costume designer's dream. I loved fittings!  I was in one play where each female member of the cast wore a custom-fitted corset. I may have been the only one who didn't complain. I loved it. What better way to identify with the Renaissance period?!
     What is it about history that stirs me? I was recently moved almost to tears at a board of education meeting. I know it sounds really weird, but let me explain. I work in an historic school. I guess it's something that most of us in the school just forget about or aren't aware of, but some members of our community (all former Social Studies teachers!Go figure!) have undertaken the task of commemorating the history of our school and its connection with Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. As they were giving their presentation at the board meeting I was overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude and pride. Gratitude to those who have committed themselves to a project to make sure that our history isn't forgotten, and pride to be connected with them and our school. How many people get to work in a place that is now on the national and state historic registers? I was surprised at the depth of emotion I felt and it has made me wonder just what the privilege of being connected with history in this small way touches in me.
     I suppose the thing about history is that it reminds us that we aren't alone, that many, many people have lived on this earth before and that, in some way, we are all connected. Those who came before, whether from ancient or contemporary history, have forged a path for us. Their experiences and contributions are part of who we have become. When we study the past and learn to connect with historical figures we learn something about who we have been and who we can be.  The contributions they have made inspire us to give of ourselves and reach beyond our comfort zone to make a difference, or show us how not to behave and remind us of the damage that poor choices and selfishness can inflict. 
      When I learn about people from the past I feel a sense of connection with them in their humanness. Their weaknesses and strengths challenge me to evaluate myself. As I compare myself to them, I see my own strengths and weaknesses more clearly. It's often encouraging to recognize that these frail and flawed humans can make a great contribution to the world around them. Case in point: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. Though there is often a hushed awe when their names are spoken, it doesn't take much research to discover that they were deeply flawed people. Yet in their "for such a time as this" moment they each contributed a great deal to our nation and our world. 
     Can God use deeply flawed people to accomplish His purposes, even when they aren't aware of it? I believe the answer is "yes". So, I will continue to let history, world history as well as Biblical history, inspire, challenge and encourage me to let my life, though flawed, make a difference.

The former Franklin D. Roosevelt High School