Beauty From Ashes

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 For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated with abandoned buildings.   But this fascination always came with a side of sadness…a melancholy feeling of sorts.  The thought of something that was once so vibrant and full of life left to stand in silence, all alone and no longer serving its intended purpose would make me feel a longing deep within my soul.  Looking back, I can also add another word to those melancholy feelings, hopelessness.  I felt that the purpose and plan for these places had passed them by somehow.  They had been created for a single purpose, and once that purpose had played out they were no longer needed.  I didn’t have the ability to cast a new vision for these places, to see them in a new light.  Beauty from ashes…

   I turned 51 in August.  As a little girl, I saw my life going in a very specific way, I had a plan and a purpose, and those words were all singular.  There was no backup plan, I didn’t need one. To say life hasn’t turned out quite like I planned is an understatement.  After 25 years of marriage, I found myself starting over with my 3 children.  I begin to question everything in my life.  My purpose, my plan, had it somehow passed me by?  Beauty from ashes….

   It was during this time that the way I looked at life began to change.  I felt a spark of excitement, something I hadn’t felt in a very long time.  I was not hopeless.  My purpose, my plan was being reshaped, remodeled and recast.  I began to see the beauty in what was and also the beauty in what was to be.  But more importantly, I began to see the beauty in the process; the very messy, uncomfortable at times, unable to be planned process.  And I fell in love with my life, with all the unexpected twist and turns, the imperfect edges and corners, the amazing chaos.  Beauty from ashes….

   As I began to fall in love with my life, I began to see things with different eyes.  Eyes that truly saw beauty in the broken and abandoned, through the lens of hope.  It was during this time that I picked up a camera for the first time and began to explore my city and photograph what I saw.  I began to see that the buildings that I remembered from the past, the ones that were abandoned, whose purposes and plans had passed them by, were, in fact, being given new life.  There were warehouses that had once been central hubs of commerce and community that had stood empty and forgotten for years being given a new lease on life.  What appeared hopeless and abandoned became loft apartments, cafes, medical clinics, office buildings, the sky was the limit.    All it took were vision casters, people who not only remembered the beauty of the past but saw beauty in what could be.  And it didn’t have to be what it had once been.  There was a good strong foundation, the buildings had good bones.  With a little imagination and a lot of elbow grease, it could become something completely different and perhaps even more beautiful than it had been before.  There were some buildings that had been neglected too long, the destruction and the damage to the original structure was beyond repair and had to be torn down.  But even in these cases, there was hope.  The land the building had stood on was still a good solid foundation and a new building was built there.  Many of the pieces of the old building were able to be salvaged and found new life in their new home.  As I looked through my camera lens all around me I saw hope, new life, and fresh vision.  Beauty from ashes…

I realized that I could learn a lot from the abandoned buildings that I loved.  I could learn lessons of hope, perseverance, and patience.  That the scars from being neglected and forgotten for so long could become beautiful when seen through the lens of hope.  That a good strong foundation, many times the part of the building that you never even see until a storm passes through, that foundation is more important than the beautiful parts of the building that you can see.  There is beauty in the hidden part because a strong foundation represents a strength of character that doesn’t fade away like outward beauty. I learned that people, just like buildings, can have many different purposes and plans throughout their lives.  That all the different purposes and plans are important in creating the rich history of the building and the person. But most importantly I learned to view things that appear hopeless and damaged beyond repair not with a heart full of sadness and mourning of what was, but with eyes of hope, anticipating what is to come.  Truly Beauty from ashes.

Doing This Gratitude Thing

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Gratitude:

the quality of being thankful;

readiness to show appreciation for and

to return kindness….

 

I have been a journaler for most of my life.  But in the last few years, I added another practice to my journaling routine, gratitude journaling.  It doesn’t take long at all, just a few minutes before bed every night.  I made it a goal to write down 3 things I was grateful for every night, but I quickly learned that gratitude breeds gratitude.  What started out as something I was “making” myself do became something I looked forward to doing, and 3 grew to 5 and sometimes even more.  This doesn’t mean that some days coming up with just one thing to be grateful for isn’t a stretch. But an attitude of gratitude goes a long way in changing the way we see things.  When we take time to notice the small everyday things in our lives, we begin to celebrate the beautiful life we are creating.  There are so many benefits to living a life of gratitude, improved relationships, better physical health, improved psychological health,  increased empathy,  reduced aggression, stronger self-esteem, better sleep, and increased mental strength. And gratitude journaling isn’t the only way you can get more gratitude in your life, there are numerous other ways.  Pick a particular person in your life each week and seek out ways to show them your appreciation.  Find ways to involve your family in your new mindset, challenge them to begin their own journey of developing an attitude of gratitude.  Make it part of some task you are already doing on a daily basis, like brushing your teeth or washing the dishes.  While we are doing those things that we do on auto-pilot every day, we can take that time to reflect on the many blessings we take for granted every day.  Take the time to write a letter to someone from your past that has encouraged you or played an important part in your life.  Even when bad things happen in your life, try to find the good in the situation….be the person known for specializing in silver linings!  But remember, habits are hard to break, so when you let that negative mindset creep back in, show your self some grace and compassion.  Then pick yourself up, dust yourself off and challenge yourself to once again find the beauty in the ordinary!!

Sunday Self-Care

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There is a saying that goes “A Sunday well spent brings a week of content,” and I am a firm believer in this philosophy!  For the last few years, I have made a point of taking some time every Sunday to plan out the week to come.  Does this mean that everything always flows smoothly and goes according to my plan?  Absolutely not, but by taking the time to review my calendar and doing a few simple tasks, even if I am thrown a curve ball during the week, my week is much less likely to completely unravel.  This planning doesn’t have to take an enormous amount of time or complicated systems to complete, but the benefits are many, so maybe give some of these suggestions a try tonight and see if it helps your week run a little smoother.

 

  • Check your calendar for anything out of the ordinary.  This could include birthdays/anniversaries, assignments that are due, projects, children’s activities, spouse/significant other’s activities…you get the picture.  Now is the time to transfer these things over to your personal planner/calendar and make sure everyone is on the same page for the upcoming week.
  • After transferring dates to your calendar, write any upcoming gifts/cards you need to purchase, project materials you are lacking or anything other than food that you need to pick up for the next week.
  • When filling in your calendar, make sure and write in some time for self-care..something as small as 15 minutes a day will add up to almost 2 hours at the end of the week.
  • Also, make sure you plan in some time for physical activity for the upcoming week.
  • Make a meal plan and grocery list.  After getting a general idea of your commitments for the upcoming week, you can better plan out your meals.  One thing that has helped me in this regard is to have a regular plan for certain days of the week.  For example, Mondays are CrockPot or InstaPot meals, Tuesdays are ground beef, Wednesdays are breakfast, Thursdays are chicken or fish, Fridays are leftovers, Saturdays they are at their dad’s, and Sundays are homemade pizza night.  After coming up with a meal plan make out a grocery list and make sure you have everything needed for all meals you have planned.
  • Roughly plan your wardrobe (and your younger children’s wardrobe) for the upcoming week.  Make sure everything is clean, mended and pressed if needed.  Many people do laundry on Sundays, this has never worked out for me.  But remember, systems are personal, and you need to find what works best for your particular stage of life.
  • I use Sundays to pick up around the house after a weekend of activities. De-cluttering major clutter spots (mine are the kitchen counters and my car)and making sure things are returned to their rightful home goes a long way in giving me peace of mind to face a new week.
  • Get finances in order.  I always balance my checkbook on Sunday nights and file away any stray receipts.  I review my budget and make any adjustments, and review what bills are due during the upcoming week.
  • Fill your car up with gas…not something you realize you need when you are trying to get to work or school Mondy morning!

While Sundays do mark the end of your weekend and the beginning of the new work week, by implementing a few of these suggestions you can make Sundays one of your most productive days and prepare as much as possible for the week ahead.

 

 

New Traditions…

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Traditions are meant to be kept, right?  I mean even if they aren’t working out for your family and the stage of life you are in, they are traditions and therefore like the Ten Commandments written on stone tablets, you have to keep them, right?  Wrong!  Change is good.  While I have learned to embrace that philosophy over these last 6 years, I am not going to lie, it scared me to death at one time.  Even if something is uncomfortable and even unhealthy, many times, we hold onto it.  Why?  Because the unknown is frightening.  With the uncomfortable and unhealthy we at least know what to expect and therefore don’t have any disappointments or unmet expectations.  Wow, that got deep and emotional fast didn’t it?  Let’s back up and talk about what this post was supposed to be about…traditions.  As changes occur in our lives, it is only natural that traditions change as well.  And maybe we have been guilty of trying to make our family traditions resemble something we have seen on Pinterest or Instagram, even though it isn’t a good fit for the people living under our roof.  Confession time…that’s what I have done with Halloween in the past.  I mean what is the perfect Halloween meal???   Chili of course!!  With chips and cheese and sour cream in rugged crockery with cornbread and crackers…or at least that was what I saw it as and therefore was determined to make this tradition fit my little family.  One problem, not one person in my family likes chili…including me.  I have finally accepted this is not my family’s ideal Halloween night meal and have come up with the following game plan:

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On the menu tonight is mummy hotdogs (aka crescent roll wrapped hotdogs), dip and chips, apples and caramel dip, and sugar cookies dyed orange (like pumpkins…get it??!!). And after a big night of trick or treating popcorn and The Great Pumpkin.  Nothing Pinterest worthy about this new tradition but I have a feeling it will be a hit with my crew, and that is what traditions are all about!!  So, the moral of this story is to use Pinterest and Instagram to inspire you to try new ideas, but let the people you love have the final say on the traditions you start and then be open to changing them as needed.  Find things that fit your stage of life and celebrate them.  And it is ok to create traditions that are just for you.  I change our mantle with the different seasons and holidays…now my kids think this is silly, but I love this tradition and plan on keeping it up no matter how silly they think it is!!

Grace…Not Just For Others

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We are all taught from an early age to be gracious to others, but I don’t ever remember a lesson on extending this healing grace to ourselves.  If I talked to others the way I talk to myself on a daily basis I can assure you I would have no friends, as a matter of fact, I would not just have no friends, I would gain a whole bunch of enemies!  I am brutal with myself…I kept up with it for a few hours this week, and here is a small sampling:

  • You are a failure as a parent, your kids are going to be ruined for life
  • My pictures are horrible, I can not possibly post them
  • I can’t believe I ate that
  • I can’t believe I didn’t work out today
  • I deserve to be alone
  • I should have read instead of watching that episode of The Office yet again
  • My kids should listen to K-Love….not the Foos
  • No one wants to read what you write…what are you thinking??
  • Good Lord look at the dust on that ceiling fan…
  •  If I were a better daughter, I would not let words hurt me
  • If I were a better Christian, I would pray more
  • Where did all these wrinkles come from?
  • I should dress more my age, I look ridiculous…
  • No wonder my kids keep a sinus infection, I should cook healthier food
  • I am so stupid
  • I can not believe I didn’t get those last things 2 things on my to-do list done

And let me preface this by saying this is a few hours IN ONE DAY, not even an entire day of cut downs and insults that I tell myself.  And I wonder why I end up feeling defeated and like a complete failure.  I would NEVER talk to anyone else like this, as a good southern girl I was taught to value politeness above everything.   Why are we not taught to extend this to ourselves?  This is a huge part of self-care.  It doesn’t matter how many routines we implement, how many hobbies we begin, massages we get, or classes we take, if we continue this toxic dialogue with ourselves it will never matter.  We have to stop that little voice that whispers in our ear night and day, recounting every mistake we have ever made.  And I think I have found the kryptonite for this unwelcome guest, gratitude.  Such a simple thing, but so much power in this word.  It isn’t easy to form a new habit, we all know that.  That whole 21-day thing can seem like 365 days when you are trying to replace a bad habit with a good one.  But the payout is worth it, I genuinely believe that.  Small victories deserve to be celebrated as much as big ones….so maybe I didn’t get those last two things on my to-do list done, I did the other four things, and that makes me pretty amazing! Perhaps there is dust on the ceiling fan, but we all have clean socks this week….so go me!  See how it works?  It’s like we have always been taught, garbage in, garbage out.  When we truly start valuing ourselves as the beautiful souls we are, we will begin to change this inner dialogue we have with ourselves every day. None of us are great at everything, but every single one of us is good at something, and those somethings are what we need to look for and celebrate. Living in guilt and despair is such a joy sucker. There is too much goodness and possibility, let’s grab a hold of that and live this beautiful life, extending grace to everyone, including ourselves!

What Is Your Passion?

camera marine hospitalAnother way to practice self-care is to find time to pursue your passions.  Our lives can get very hectic, with people pulling at us from every direction.  Many times our own passions and interest are the first things that get cut from our overbooked schedules.  This can leave you feeling resentful towards the very people you love and care for.  Over time this can cause you to lose your joy and zest for life.  It seems like a quick and easy fix at the time, but it actually is an expensive one in the long run.  Just like with routines, continuing to pursue your interest during the busy seasons of your life doesn’t have to take a lot of time, just a little planning, determination, and belief that you are worth it.  Maybe you,

  • Join a book club at your local library
  • Take an online class through Skill Share
  • Find an outside walking trail and start collecting leaves…bring them home and press them old school style between wax paper.
  • Pick up a book to help you identify the leaves
  • Pick up a camera and begin to notice your world in a different way
  • Take part of a Saturday and explore an art museum in your area
  • Buy an inexpensive set of calligraphy pens and check some books out of the library on hand lettering
  • Start a journal…with a little washi tape and some pictures and memorabilia you have a scrapbook!!
  •  Find a YouTube video and learn how to crochet, knit, embroidery, cook, make soap, raise chickens, build birdhouses…you get the idea!

And maybe it’s been so long since you allowed yourself to think about what you are passionate about that you have no idea where to start.  That’s ok too. Sit down and make a list of anything you have ever been remotely interested in learning about.    Pick something from the list to explore weekly, and if it doesn’t interest you move to the next item.  I can promise you will eventually find something that will inspire you.  And remember…YOU ARE WORTH IT!!!

Persevere

37199423_10212282213031226_6766893989015584768_nSometimes things come out of what seems to be nowhere…and kinda sucker punches you right in the gut…and it takes your breath away…and maybe you even feel disoriented, defeated,lost and alone. But then you realize your in the palm of His hand…and nothing takes Him by surprise and everything that touches your life is Father filtered. And you aren’t called to understand, or make sense of it..,you are simply called to stand tall and and keep your eyes forward not backwards at what has happened, or sideways at how others are standing or down in defeat or inward in bitterness but forward at the Son….because at the end of the day The greatest of these is love…and love ALWAYS works…maybe not in our time…or the way we think it should…or in a way we understand…but it works…Every. Single. Time. Amen.

I Believe In You

37863573_10212352235621747_8658021076455915520_nA very personal post today with a lot of words, so you have been warned.  The picture on the left was taken May 11st, 2012, the day I entered Lakeside. The picture on the right was taken on July 23rd, 2018. I don’t even recognize the person on the left anymore. But I keep the bracelet to remind me how far I have come. There are so many people walking around out there that feel like I did in that picture on the left, defeated, hopeless and broken beyond repair. The night before this picture was taken I had taken an entire bottle of sleeping pills in hopes of ending the horrible pain I felt inside. But God has other plans. And I am so thankful He did. I am posting this because I know there are people who feel like I did in the picture on the left. And they are real feelings. And they can consume you and make you feel like there is no way out from the blackness you feel. I understand those feelings but I can promise you there is a better way. It won’t be easy…as a matter of fact, it may be the hardest thing you have ever done. I know it was for me. And there will still be dark moments. But you are stronger than the moments, because you are a mighty warrior. And I believe in you. And so do a lot of other people. You feel isolated and alone right now, but the simple act of seeking help will show you what an amazing support group you have. Because you are an amazing person created by an amazing God. There are many people out there who have walked this same journey you are on. Reach out to someone and let them walk beside you. I would love to be that someone for you. Because I believe in you.