Just say, “NO!”

SOMETIMES, we just need to learn to say, “NO!”

We heard this statement many times on television through those anti-drug commercials of the 80’s. We heard it month after month, encouraging all to not give into the enticing voices of culture and drug dealers who would lie and say, “Just a little won’t hurt you!”

Yet, we seem to have moved further and further from the totality of this sentiment as we’ve become a “tolerant society” that seems more bent on pushing one agenda or another rather than actually saying, “No” to many things to which we need. We seem to have risen to a new level of “tolerance” where every cultural opinion must be agreed to, or we risk being called a racist, fascist or just simply a bigot. As I’ve stated before, just because I disagree with you does not mean I hate you.

I disagree with my husband at times; yet, he is my best friend, my confidante and my love. I disagree with my children, especially when their decisions will put them in dangerous situations; yet, I love them so much, I’d lay my life down for them. My loyalty may not run as deep for you or for those with whom I disagree and do not know personally, but it does not mean I harbor hate within my heart simply because of my disagreement.

Yet, because of my own experiences, life choices and personal convictions, you and I may not agree on all things. Ya know what? That is completely ok! You may live your life quite differently than mine, and that’s ok, too. That’s actually part of living, and that part of being an individual and having your own choices.

Being of different opinions is okay, too. However, when those opinions begin infringing upon someone else’s personal wellbeing, there should be a wake up call. When those agendas or disagreements come with an expectation of agreement and are followed with a demand of approval or a threat of consequences if not adhered, then, a separation and distance should be put into place for those involved.

Sometimes, we just need to find the courage to say, “No,” and stick to our decision. Sometimes, we need to find our backbone and settle into the boundaries we have set for a dangerous relationship or a rebellious child or a consistently wounding acquaintance and resolve to leave it there. Sometimes, we need to cut the ties with that toxic person in our life with whom only turmoil and chaos resides.

Sometimes, for our own sanity, peace of mind and personal wellbeing, we must look at the “appointment book” of our life and reply to their request,

“No, Thursday’s out. … Yeah, Friday’s out, too. … How about never – is never good for you?”

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Homemade Happiness

I have this in the center of my kitchen table. Our kitchen is kind of the “hub” of the house. This table sees a lot of activity throughout the week. This table gets family meals, single-man breakfasts (when my son is headed to work at the crack of dawn and no one else wants to get up), late night homework binges, random board game ambitions and Sunday afternoon chillin’-on-FB-and-WP time.

I found this trivet, as they call it, and I knew I needed to sit it in this spot as a constant reminder to myself, our boys, and anyone who enters our home, of its vital truth. Too often, in today’s society, especially in the realms of media, we hear so much of what will bring happiness, what will bring fulfillment, what will bring an inner peace to one and all. Some claim more money, materialistic endeavors, fame, fortune, popularity, and even more political based ideas and agendas, will bring you all the happiness you need.

Yet, I wish I could scream this phrase from the rooftops and write it in the sky for the world to see. Happiness IS homemade. Happiness is found within rather than “without.” In all actuality, happiness is never truly found…

You see happiness is simply a feeling that will come and go with the trials of life. It is an emotion that will rise with the next success story and plummet to the depths in the next failure. Happiness does not last longer than the event with which it enters.

Oh, but JOY does! Joy is that homemade “happiness” that doesn’t just rise on occasion or fall with common mistakes. Joy is birthed within one’s very soul, and it can sustain the midnight hour of grief, sorrow and pain.

So many mistake happiness for joy, because it brings a smile to your face and a spring in your step. Others replace joy with the temporary seduction of happiness, because a greedy heart is satisfied or a fearful mind is momentarily calmed. Yet, this kind of happiness dwindles when the storms of life roll back in with the tide of broken hearts. This kind of happiness dissipates as the rocky road of despair and doubt settle in for the long haul.

No, joy comes from a deeper source. Joy is a state of being that, often times, can’t be described in mere words, but rather, it must be experienced. Joy like this is only found in the One who gives life, the One who brings all things good, the One who knows every intricate part of you and me and who has unfathomable, unforgettable plans for each of us.

Yeah, He is the only One who can give you this kind of JOY. He is the only One who can give it, because He IS that joy, and that joy is Hope in Him!

Is Happiness Relevant?

There is a cultural push in today’s world to “do what makes you happy,” “do what makes you feel good.” Honestly, these phrases and this mentality boggles my mind and even infuriates me. This type of mindset can even be dangerous and detrimental to any and all it impacts.

Go ahead. Get annoyed with my approach. Get frustrated. Get angry with my words if you’d like. However, before you turn away, click the back arrow and decide to never again visit this blog, finish out this post. Read till the end and then decide…

Struggle doesn’t feel good, but it brings the ability to persevere. Conditioning doesn’t feel comfortable, but it brings a strength and durability that wouldn’t exist without it. Conflict isn’t something that brings enjoyment and “all the feels,” but it brings more wisdom and experience than the avoidance of conflict ever could.

When I struggled to teach my sons to bathe themselves, dress themselves and wipe their own backsides, it wasn’t always sunshine and roses, but as I persevered, they learned how to be little men. When I conditioned my mind to not dwell on the thoughts of my father’s abandonment in my childhood or on other broken relationships that have wounded and scarred my life, it was never comfy, but in my consistency, I have learned to stand strong. I have learned to be stable on my own, forgive the craziness and pain of the past, and become a durable, strong and reliable woman. When I have had conflicts throughout my years, never once did I look at those conflicts with giddiness or excitement, but every single trial has brought me closer to my God, deeper into wisdom and has instilled more insight, more perception and more maturity than any truce and moment of surrender could ever bring forth.

Living for every “happy” moment not only causes us less growth, but it causes us to miss out on so much richness that is freely available for our character and soul. Seeking only the thrill moments and avoiding every difficult moment, causes us to be selfish, self-consumed and altogether blind to anyone else in our life.

Living for only what “makes me happy” causes us to seek personal pleasures, eventually, at the expense of everyone we love and care about. This only leaves us lonely, desolate and desperate. Addicts, divorcees and abandoned children can all attest to this truth.

So, I choose to grow. I choose to mature. I choose to be strong, resilient and dependable. I choose to dig deep and persevered through the storms of life. I choose to choose life not the fantasy or the fairytale.

And because I serve God, and I love Him, I choose to glorify Him in all I do rather than allowing the winds of cultural “happiness” seduce me to believe that “doing what makes me happy” will actually bring me happiness and “all the feels.”

Learn to Dance

I saw this pic the other day, and please forgive me, it hit me all wrong. Yes, I do understand the concept. I do understand that everyone wants to not feel broken. I do understand that being happy and free feels so much better than being heartsick and broken beyond repair. I get it.

I’ve had my share of brokenness. I’ve had my share of broken dreams, broken promises, broken images, and broken foundations in my life. I’ve had more than my share of tears shed through the years. I’ve experienced more than some and not as much as others. Brokenness is not comfortable, enjoyable, or even a bearable element of my soul.

But I cannot embrace the cultural trend that forgetting from where I came makes me more joyous, more loose, more free to live. I refuse to welcome the notion that to obliterate my past makes me a better, more balanced, human being. I will not accept the propaganda that tells me “a forgotten past brings a brighter tomorrow.” (*chosen words before seeing similar quote online. No correlation or reflection. Unaware of that author, quote or beliefs.)

When someone is hiking up a mountain, forgetting from whence you came will only cause you to lose your way back down the trail. When someone goes on a long extended trip, obliterating the road map will only cause you to never return to home.

When someone tries to erase history, history is never truly erased. What has been has been, and there is no way to live as if it never existed. That is just pretending, and pretending just makes you as a child.

Being a child is wonderful while you are of a physically young age, but once you have crossed the threshold of maturity, that immaturity only makes you look like an ignorant fool. (…and yes, those can mean two very different things.) So then, you have to look yourself in the mirror and ask yourself the hard questions…

How old am I? How old should I be acting? Will I live my life in immaturity, ignorance and foolishness, or will I live in maturity, knowledge and wisdom? The choice is truly yours.

I choose to walk in integrity, maturity, wisdom and truth. I choose to embrace my past, my pain and my brokenness, even the shattered pieces that may always carry a shards of irreparable moments. I will carry on, even if I walk with a limp, and even if my scars are evident for all to see.

I choose to be full of joy. I choose to have peace. I choose to love and be loved. I choose to have life and give life.

Is it hard? Heck, yeah! Is it uncomfortable? Always. Telling you that’s it’s not would be returning to those childhood days of pretend and make believe. Life is so much better than the fairytales. Not because it never rains and not because there is no pain, but rather, because through the rain, I learn to dance, through the pain, I learn to sing.

And this song and dance is better than any mythical enchantment I could ever dream. This song and dance gives birth to a beautiful melody called life created by an unimaginable symphony of experiences and awakenings. Without these notes on the pages of my soul, I could never leave the legacy of song for my children, my friends, my family, for one who is ready whom I may never know.

So, I will choose to dance even when it’s raining and even though the storm brews darker. I will dance and sing, and sing some more, to bring a little memory of sunshine through the pain; so, the legacy will live ever more brightly for my children and those who are to come.

**Listen to this.

*I do not own nor possess this song, video or photos. These are all from simple Google search.

Christian or Nah?

Spent a lot of time reading today, and one particular thought kept recurring through my head as I read this post by a “Christian” and that blog by an “nonbeliever” and a tweet by a “Christian who is a professional” and then an article by a “self proclaimed heathen” and so on…

Observation for today: If you call yourself a Christian, yet mock those who have overcome failures and defeat, focus more on race, politics and cultural agendas, and create division rather than unity by your words and/or actions,

what is setting you apart from the world??

…and if we are not set apart from the world, why would “they” want anything we have?

Grief: Learning to Live

Grief isn’t fair. Grief isn’t gentle. Grief isn’t considerate, or gracious, or kind…or any of those nice words, really. Grief stinks. And that’s an understatement.

Grief makes you want to stop time, remove yourself from it, and retract minutes from eternity. It makes you want to return to simpler days, days where there were less cares, less tears, less pain.

Yet, life doesn’t work that way. Time moves on with or without you. The clock, living and breathing, keeps ticking until your heart doesn’t.

Demanding that it be any different is just as foolish as if I were to say, “I’m going to hold my breath until the sky turns green.” Demanding it to be different only causes you more pain, more regrets and more agony. Demanding others to remain stuck there with you only causes them more sorrow for the loss, more bitterness for your constraints and can even cause a dwarfism in growth for both you and them.

Ecclesiastes 7:2 says, “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart.” Ecclesiastes 7:4 says, “The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure.” Ecclesiastes 3:4 says, “(there is) a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance…”

Time is the constant, grief is the variable and choice is the solvent in this equation called life. We can choose to drown in the river of grief and loss or dance in the torrential rains of grace.

Does the choice to dance make the journey through grief disappear? No. Does the choice to dance make the hours shorter or the days brighter? Maybe, maybe not. What I can assure you is when your perspective is focused on the dance more than the pain, it does make the burden a bit lighter, and it will cause the healing come in a bit stronger.

Dancing in the rain never dissipates the raindrops, and it never removes the moisture from your drenched hair and skin, but it surely will enable you to see the rainbow beyond the clouds.

I ask you, “What will you choose today?”

Grief Like An Ocean’s Tide

Grief is such a difficult journey, and it’s different for every person who encounters it. Some scream, some cry, some wail, some cling, and some push away, and some even still simply walk away.

There seems to be no rhyme or reason to the reactions to grief. Grief is not selective. It doesn’t skip the wicked and only hit the believers of this religion or that. It doesn’t skip the rich and only threaten the poor. It is no respecter of persons. It is not bias to name, prestige, status, heritage or race.

Grief comes to us all, and if you think you’re excluded, well, just keep on living, my friend…

I read these two pics, and they seemed to just sum up almost all there is to know about grief. It is like a morning’s tide, except there’s no gadget, computer or orbital phase to help you schedule its rise, fall, or turbulence.

Sometimes, the waves roll in, and you just have to roll up your pant legs and wade until they roll back out. Other times, the sea rushes in so swiftly, without warning, and you just have to sink or swim, as you work hard just to keep your head above to catch a breath. Still other times, the tide pulls back awhile, giving the appearance that you can walk a little deeper, out to a sandbar or two, in order to find a bit of a reprieve.

As I struggle to describe the different phases of grief I’ve observed, I can’t claim to know all the answers of “Why?” “When?” or even “How much longer?” Yet, I may be able to give someone an answer to the “How?”

How can I go forward? How can I ease the pain? How can I be left here? How can I go on living without them?

For, I may not know much, but this one thing I do know! HE is an anchor that holds. Jesus is the Rock that I can cling to. I stand as a testimony, as a witness, that He will bring comfort in our darkest hour. He will carry us through every single step of this painful journey. With Him holding your hand, and sometimes, even picking you up to carry you, you CAN make it.

Afterthought…

This is one thing that He is absolutely amazing at doing: bringing comfort to the broken and giving grace to the desperate. I stand back in awe each and every time as I watch someone experiencing grief and leaning on Him as their source of strength.

Sometimes, it almost seems instantaneous the grace He gives, and other times, the depth of pain seems almost insurmountable; yet, each and every time, without fail, He comes through for those who believe. His promises are true. His love is unfailing, and His grace is so sufficient.

It doesn’t mean there everything is instantly washed away, and you never feel another moment of pain. It doesn’t mean you all of a sudden feel giddy and lightheaded, because the sorrow is no more. It doesn’t even mean, just with a snap of a finger, you somehow stop longing for the return of the one you lost.

No, the pain still rocks in like the tide. The sorrow still awakens you in the night as you reach for their hand. The longing in your heart still stretches to eternity. But the peace He brings, the grace He sustains, the stability He instills is worth giving Him the chance.

All we have to do is simply believe. When we believe and place our trust in Him, we are releasing His Holy Spirit to do what He does best. He is called The Comforter for a reason.

Crush the Pain

I absolutely love crushed ice. I love it so much that it makes me drink water when I need it. We don’t have an ice crushing machine at home, and I don’t really want to take up the counter space to get one; so, I crush my own. I have found that if I will just take the few extra minutes to crush the ice, I will drink almost a whole quart of water in one sitting.

I have also found that crushing ice, often times, releases tension and even frustration within me as I take the spoon firmly within my grasp and “pop” each ice cube into nice little slivers of crunch. It will usually bust holes in the ziplock bag I use, but that’s ok. I just consider it the vessel that’s “suffering for a good cause.” There have been moments when I’ve looked at each cube of ice and taken true “vengeance” out. It is truly a refreshing moment. 😂

It’s a great little lesson in “proper venting methods” that maybe someone reading this might find helpful.

This may sound silly to some, but for a moment, just think about it. I’m not screaming at my kids because of my frustrations. I’m not fussing with my husband, because I’m angry or feeling tension, and I’m not kicking a wall or driving erratic, because I’m struggling with trying to find some sort of ever evasive ‘inner peace.’ (not that I necessarily would do the latter, but just stay with me here…)

Maybe someone out there has been down this road of reactionary discontent, and you need to find a different outlet to release your stress. Now, this simple exercise might not work for everyone. You may truly need to go to the gym and run or hit a punching bag, but if you’re a “steam kettle,” like me, and you just need to release a little steam from time to time, you might want to try it.

Once, all the ice is crushed, pour it in your glass, fill it with water, and Enjoy! You’ve succeeded in refreshing your mind and your emotions, and you’ve done something beneficial and healthy for your body as well, without some medical application, crazy substance abuse, alcohol consumption or erratic behaviors.

Welcome to the world of emotional self control! 😉💕

Character Screams

A man or woman of character may not be numbered with the most popular, the most fashionable or the most affluent in the crowd. He or she may very well have each of these, but these won’t be the first assets he/she will seek.

This person will have deep roots, gentle eyes, and a soul that is anchored in peace and in truth. When gossip is given, her deep roots will sustain her. When chaos arises, his gentle eyes will see purpose and promise. When the storms of life threaten to overwhelm, the depths of her soul will not be shaken, for she knows where her strength rests.

People of character draw people of strength to their side. They live with purpose, promise and even preparation for the good and the bad, never relying on carnal and material things to be their refuge or their guide. They reside in a place of security, hope and freedom.

You will not have to question if he or she is a person of character, because what they do is not impulsive; it is a lifestyle.

Character will reveal itself through every action you take. It is the one thing that speaks louder than words. When you are the most silent, your character will actually scream to the world of its existence.

… What kind of character are YOU? …

Wordless Heart

When no words can be found within your heart, and the weight of life seems unbeatable, or the sadness begins creeping in where joy once was, step outside. Go for a walk, sit down and listen to nature, enjoy good company or even stand in front of a waterfall.

Often, to find the peace your soul needs, you will have to move beyond the four walls in which you live. You will have to leave the agenda, the busyness, and all the cares and strife behind for a moment, or even, for several hours, and move out of the daily grind.

Go watch a sunset. Climb a mountain or a hillside where you can see the valley below. Sit by the lake or the ocean, or stand before a rushing river or near an avalanche of a waterfall and just listen.

You will hear His voice on the wind, calling your soul to peace. You will feel His presence surround you as you just simply soak it all in. Even if you don’t know Him yet, your soul remembers…