One Small Step

This is a follow up to a post that I wrote yesterday entitled Finish Strong.   I spoke briefly about the accident I had involving a green horse, although we did not know at the time that this horse was green.   I have been warned about “horse people” and how, unfortunately for us, not all are honest.   However, I try to see the good in people and take them at their word.  I learned a very valuable lesson here after the accident.  As much as I want to see the good in people and believe that what they say is true, not every one is going to be honest.  It’s sad, really, that any one would feel the need to be deceitful and to betray you … this could have cost me my life.  Thank God it didn’t!   And, within a few months of the accident, I’m back in the saddle again.

Today was a victorious day for me!   Why is that, you may be wondering?   Because I conquered my fear!   Allow me to explain.

As soon as I was able to get around pretty good again, I wanted to get back up on a horse.  I did not want to let much time pass at all before I got back on because I knew that the longer I waited, the more fear would set in.  The likelihood of me getting back on a horse again would be slimmer and slimmer with each passing day as the post traumatic stress set in of holding on for dear life as the horse took me for the ride of my life (read: NOT an enjoyable moment!), then threw me off!   I’m blessed to have only had the injuries that I sustained (a concussion, a fractured hand, and a fractured hip).   It could have been much worse, but God was definitely protecting me!

The first time I tried to get back on a horse, I had overwhelming anxiety that slammed into me.  I tried to calm myself because I know that the horse can sense my anxiety and become anxious themselves.   Finally, I was able to just sit on the horse, and I was happy!   I didn’t need to do anything more, just sit there.  My husband became a little anxious himself when I leaned forward on my horse, Sugar.  He wasn’t sure if I was falling off or what was going on, but I simply leaned forward to hug her with every fiber of my being.  I love this little horse (no she was not the one that threw me – we no longer have that horse!)  I just allowed myself to lay against this massive horse, to allow the love to flow from me directly into her beautiful reddish-brown and white patches on her muscular body.  I just took a moment with my horse to show her nothing but pure love.  I didn’t expect a single thing from her at that point. I just wanted to show her some love and appreciation!

The next time, I went a step further … until it brought me to the present day.

Today we went to our new friend’s house.  They have a ranch where they break and train horses.  We met them through a group specifically for animal lovers.  They posted a horse, and we fell in love with this beauty.  Within a few weeks, we were bringing this baby home!   We purchased another horse from them after that as well.

My girls have really bonded with their twin 16 year old daughters.  They are precious little red-heads that love horses – they live and breathe horses!   My 17 year old daughter looks up to them while my nine year old daughter wants to be JUST like them.   These young ladies have so much knowledge and skill for their age.  It is quite impressive!   They rope and barrel race, and they have a grand time doing it, too!

Today my family and I went to their ranch with two of our horses.   We all saddled up and rode together in an arena until everyone felt comfortable enough on their horse to go on a trail ride.   While we were in the arena, these young ladies really encouraged me to try to trot.  Now, since I had been in the accident, anything with speed scares me.   I was not sure if I could actually trot without fear of being taken on a wild ride like the one I had just recently recovered from.   These young ladies offered me such encouragement, as did my family, and so I decided to at least try!   And you know what?   Not only did I trot, but I then got enough confidence to lope the horse – which means … speed!   Was I nervous?  Yes!    Did I find courage within to just do it any way?  ABSOLUTELY!

I rode their horse, Reno.  This horse was not one that I was familiar with, so it took a lot for me to get on that horse not really “knowing” him or his behaviors.   I did initially try to get my horse, Sugar, to trot, but she was just too lazy.  She prefers to walk, which has been my preference up to this point as well!   However, today, I had to try it.  I had to conquer my fear.  I had to put those flashbacks to bed and put them behind me so they no longer held any power over me.  These flashbacks and this post traumatic stress was holding me back.  It was preventing me from doing something that I had such passion about; riding horses!   So, with my little group of cheerleaders gathered around, I hopped on Reno, took a deep breath and kicked the horse into a trot … and then into a lope!  I did have a moment while in the lope that I felt some anxiety come over me, but I quickly dismissed it and carried on.

And you know what?  IT FELT WONDERFUL!

These young ladies will never know how much their encouragement meant to me.  They believed in me and my abilities when I did not believe in myself because of this fear that I was now carrying around with me.   They stood on the sidelines cheering me on with smiles on their faces as I trotted … loped … and stopped with the biggest, widest smile spreading across my face!

One of these young ladies took a short video of me trotting.   While it may seem like something small to a lot of people when they view this video, it is HUGE for me, especially considering the accident that I had!   I made progress today.  I found the courage deep within me with the help of God above, and I kicked this fear to the curb.  I found such joy and happiness today, and the encouragement that I received touched my heart far more than they will ever know.

I left that ranch today with a new appreciation … and a sense of accomplishment!   This one small step is opening the door for me to be a more confident rider and to live my dream again!  Yes, Lord … YES!

My point in this is never ever judge another.  I posted that video on Facebook, of all places, where I am sure to get raised eyebrows and maybe people are rolling their eyes as they watch it thinking it’s no big deal.  Well, to them, it’s not.  To me, it’s huge!    So never judge another person as we truly do not know their story unless they open up and tell us.  Unless they allow us in and share the details with you, you’ll never know what a person has gone through or is going through, so honestly, who are we to judge?   Instead, stand on the sidelines of their life and cheer them on.  Encourage them … and you never know what might happen.  They just might be able to live their dream … you might be the one person that they needed that encouragement and support from to have them conquer their fears … and you might just get to witness one of the greatest moments in their life!

Yes, one small step … but perhaps, also, a huge turning point in one’s life!

My proud moment trotting Reno is here.  Next time, we’ll get a video of loping, too!

I feel the need … the need for speed! ~Top Gun Quote~

Finish Strong

You know the feeling as you start out with pure excitement over something new.  It thrills you completely, and you walk around with this silly grin on your face.  You beam with joy and happiness that pours forth from within.

Whether you’re learning to ride a bike or learning to ride a horse … you anticipate that you’ll be triumphant.  You will soar high in the sky like an eagle as your spirits take you to new heights as you experience such freedom and adventure in the journey.

You’re well on your way, and then … it happens.  You fall off of your bike and skin your knee, or even worse … you get thrown off of a horse (one that you did not know was “green” as in NOT fully broken nor dependable for a beginner to be riding … and no, the owner was not honest about this little piece of information that could have saved me a whole lot of pain!).  There you lay on the ground as your horse bucks and runs some more … you … now with the concussion, fractured hip, and fractured hand.  Yes, the latter actually happened to me on March 31, 2014.

You hurt … not from the physical pain so much as the pain you feel in not having completed something you had your heart set on.  You ache … not from the pain shooting through your body as your nerves become like live wires under your skin from the impact of the hip meeting the hard ground.

Your joy and happiness has turned into tears and sorrow.  You mourn over the loss of being able to ride … of accomplishing something you had your heart set on.   You feel as if you’ll never be able to get back up on that horse now after this accident.   You’re stuck between wanting to fulfill your dream and the harsh reality of an injury that has not only set you back physically but has impaired you mentally as well.  The fear sets in, and pretty soon, you’re depressed and unsure of anything any more …

Except for what is your passion.  And that is riding a horse!

And so, you heal.  You allow some time to pass, and when you feel you’re ready, you get back into the saddle again.  It may take you more time than before, and you may be slower on your approach or even putting one foot in the stirrup as you tremble with fear of what happened just a few short months ago.  Now you’re putting your faith in another horse as you say a silent prayer … and then you lift yourself over your horse with all of your might as you take your place in the saddle again.   Feet in the stirrups, reins in your hands, and a determined look on your face.  You take a deep breath, exhale, and command the horse to “walk on” as you whisper silent prayers from your heart to God’s ears … feeling as if your horse tunes into those feelings and emotions on their way from you up to the clouds and into Heaven to reach the throne of Jesus.

You set out to ride this horse, to take lessons, to do this which your heart desired … and now you’re determined to have a strong finish!  You WILL ride that horse.  You WILL take those lessons.  You WILL be a confident rider!

And you live your dream …

Finish  Strong

 

This post was inspired by the prompt word FINISH for the weekly Five Minute Friday party.    When once I sat looking at my screen trying to write something of worth with this word, then all of the above came pouring out.   Thank you, God, for allowing the words to flow and to release something that has been inside of me for months … for allowing me to release the fear and get back up on another horse to try again … to live my dream, to honor the passion I feel around your massive yet beautiful and gentle creatures … to finish strong!

 

What does FEAR stand for?

Consider this:  what does FEAR stand for?   False Evidence Appearing Real

I recently took a plane flight. I love flying! Looking down at the earth below has always been an exciting experience for me. What is not so exciting is checking in, navigating the airport and crowds, all the noise. There is much going on in an airport and for anyone it could lead to sensory overload! It does for me. As is my fashion, I make pre-arrangements to protect myself from what I know will be a difficult period for me to pass but it is momentary and I do try to keep that in mind most of all. What I do remember is that this anxiety I experience is really just a brief touch of fear and that I will endure, I will enjoy the ride, I will survive the crowds, the noise, the strangers. The FEAR.

I learned early in therapy that one of the hallmarks of a victim is their belief in FEAR: False Evidence Appearing Real. When I heard that acronym used the first time it hit home for me; I let what I believe will overwhelm me, overwhelm me before I even enter a situation! All because my mind is telling me that crowds are pushy and don’t pay attention and aren’t very nice with which to deal. I believe that all the distractions around me will get to me; the noise from this establishments, people conversing on their phones, the beeps and technological noise of today’s world, and sadly, an unrealistic fear that I for some reason won’t make it through TSA – that I’ve done something wrong when logically I know I have done nothing wrong and there is no reason for anyone to take notice of me. Yes, ridiculous, but only when applied to this situation.

Fear can be stifling only because it leads us to be afraid of something we have not yet, often, experienced. My job today is to figure out how – if I no longer care to live in the negativity that is fear – do I escape the false evidence appearing real?

For me, the only escape from fear is to live in the reality of today, accepting life on life’s terms and moving forward despite – in spite of? – the fear I may hold. I do not have to let the fear control me. I need to accept that it is there but I do not need to live in it. Living in reality means doing that which is necessary to “survive” the airport experience so that I can fully enjoy the “vacation” experience!

Truth be told, the biggest fear I lived with was that people would not accept me, would think less of me, if they knew of my bipolar or brain tumor. There are stereotypes attached to those labels that I try my best to live outside of each day! I can honestly testify that having recently begun the process of no longer denying my disabilities, the “false evidence” of what I feared would happen when others found out has proven to be the exact opposite of what I’d dreamed up in mind own mind. I have found loving acceptance and not the bum-rush to the door to get away as fast as anyone could from me! Grateful doesn’t begin to express the feeling of freedom and joy this knowledge gives me.

The thing I find most sad about fear is that fear in itself can disable. It can grab ahold of a heart and clench it so tight that a person is unable to move forward to escape the fear. It can prevent someone from fully living their life. Something as simple as an airport and the brief time one spends in an airport could have prevented me from enjoying a beautiful wedding but more importantly, spending time with my new family and having a great time doing so! The thought that I could have allowed my fear to rule and deny me a wonderful experience drives me to continue to place one foot in front of the other so that I do not stifle, so that fear does not make the decisions. I do.

Have you had a time of fear in your life? Can you remember a time when you allowed false evidence to appear real for you? What did you do to overcome it? How did you step away from the fear and continue moving forward? We all have our stories, it’s when we share them that they lose their power over us.

We Care Wednesday: Show Sincere Interest

Last week I talked a little about how we all feel the need to know that we are important to someone. It gives us a wonderful feeling that we matter in this huge world we live in. One way to make a person feel good is to show sincere interest in something they love. I will relate an experience I had with this over the past weekend.

I went on a wonderful four day weekend event called the Brickman Bash. This is an event put on by musician Jim Brickman where his fans get together for a weekend of events, concerts and some time spent getting to know Jim himself. As I have mentioned in previous posts, I am a shy quiet person. I go on these events by myself so I sort of keep to myself. During dinner on Saturday night the tables were setup in eight foot lengths so ten to twelve people could sit at a table. As I was looking around for a corner table to sit at with a lost look on my face when a woman asked me to join their table.

I was right in the middle between two groups having different conversations. I started thinking of some of the things I have recently read in Dale Carnegie’s book. So I thought I might try some of his suggestions for “making friends.”

The woman sitting next to me started showing some photos she had taken of wildlife in their area. The photos were truly amazing. So I complimented her on her photography skills which led her to start pulling up picture after picture. Now to be honest, wild life photography is not my thing, but her photos were quite good and very professional. I kept complimenting her on them and making suggestions for her on places she might be able to sell them as graphic artists are always looking for good photos to use in their works. She was having a wonderful time showing me the photos. I could see that my interest in her photos truly gave her pleasure. It was a wonderful feeling to see her so passionate about her photography.

You can make an impact on anyone you meet by showing interest in them; especially those in your family. Take a little of your time and spend it with them encouraging them in whatever they like to do. It will make more of a difference to them than you can ever imagine.

Accepting A Compliment

Do you have trouble accepting a compliment?  Do you say, “Thank you” as you blush and turn away?  Or, do you toss your hair over your shoulder as you strut your stuff as if to say, “Tell me something I don’t know!”?    OR … are you simply unable to accept a genuine compliment, and therefore, when you receive one, you respond with something like this exchange:  “You’re so pretty!”   “Aww, thank you, but I wish I could lose some weight” … or …”I wish my skin was clearer?” or any other response that would take away from the compliment that was given?

If you’re uncomfortable with compliments, ask yourself why this is.  Do a little soul searching, if you must, to dig deep down to uncover what the root cause is exactly.

For me, I was told for too many years growing up that I had “buck teeth.”  I was also picked on a great deal because I was the shortest person in the class.  I was always petite, too, and thus, I was more prone to bullying due to my size.

Later in life, I was in a relationship with someone that abused me every chance they got.  Abuse does not necessarily have to come in the form of physical abuse with strikes to your physical being for the strikes to you mentally and emotionally hurt some times greater and for an extended period of time.  Unlike physical abuse where the bruises fade and wounds heal, the scars of emotional abuse linger for years and years after those harsh words were spoken.

In my adult life, at the hands of an abuser, I was told that I was fat, ugly, a b____ from h___ and that no one would ever want me if they left me.   Now, when they first started saying these things to me, I could not understand why they were being so mean to me.  I would look in the mirror and say that although I knew I didn’t have the figure of a super model, I certainly wasn’t fat.   I knew that I wasn’t the most prettiest woman in the world, but I knew I wasn’t the ugliest either.   I knew that at certain times of the month we all can turn into the wicked witch (thank you PMS!), but I most certainly was NOT a b___ from h___.    The last thing that they would say to me repeatedly really left me wondering what was so wrong with me that this person would say all of these mean and hateful things, but then to say that no one would ever want me?  As if I was lucky that THEY wanted me … and that I should be thankful that they hadn’t yet kicked me to the curb.   It was as if they thought they were God’s gift to me, and I should worship the ground they walked on simply because they took me in when no one would or could possibly EVER want me.

Ummmmm … no!

For way too many years than I want to admit, I did buy into these lies.  When you hear something long enough, no matter how sure of yourself you can try to be, the abuser chips away at your self esteem and your self worth.  Slowly but surely more of your insecurities will start to creep in, and before you know it, you’re standing in front of the mirror analyzing every little thing about yourself and finding fault with yourself!

WHY do we DO this to ourselves?!

In a world where so many people are waiting to tear us down every single chance they get, the ONE person that should love us is OURSELVES!    Are we perfect? No, we all have flaws.  Do we deserve to be torn down?  Absolutely NOT!

For abusers, I can only imagine that they do not have a good or high opinion of themselves if they look to tear other people down.   Do they think it makes them bigger and badder or more appealing when they tear at another person’s self esteem?   Do they think it makes them “the man” or “the woman”  because they say such mean and hateful things to others?   They certainly are not in my book!

All of these things and more can lead a person to not graciously accept a compliment when one is offered.  I know I have friends that have recognized this with me through the years, and they know what I’ve been through.   They have tried everything to help build me up when the abuser took great pride in tearing me down.  As years have passed, I have come to realize that there wasn’t anything wrong with me all of those times that this person launched their assaults on me.  There was something deeply wrong going on inside of them that caused them to lash out as they did.   I can only pray for them and that they find peace within for the demons that torment them.

I have realized that the only person that I truly need acceptance from is God, and I already have His approval.   Does it feel good when someone acknowledges that I got my hair done or that my nails are freshly manicured and look nice with the color that I’ve chosen?   Yes, it does!   Does it feel good when someone compliments my blue eyes saying that they are beautiful and that they get swept up in these deep pools of blue?  Yes, I appreciate that they recognize the assets that God has given to me, and I do consider my eyes to be one of my greatest assets … but I recognize also that my beauty or any one’s true beauty does not come from the outside … it comes from inside.  That is where it truly matters.

These days I still remember what the abuser used to say to me, but those words no longer have the power over me that they did at one point.  Praise God for that!   I have been able to see the hurt that this person carried around inside of them, and I have been able to pray for them.  I have also been able to forgive them for what all they did to me.   It has taken time, but today I am free from the grip that these words once had on me.   Those words no longer rip my heart out when they are spoken because I know who I am.   I am a child of God, and I am not only greatly approved but deeply loved by Him.

When someone compliments me now, I do tend to blush, but I will say a gracious, “Thank you” as I smile.   And it is a thank you straight from my heart with much appreciation and grace.

When You Are Too Nice

I never thought it was possible to be “too nice” … until now.

I’m the girl that gives everyone the benefit of the doubt.  I try to find the good in every body, and I give chance after chance after chance for a person to do the right thing and show me respect in return.  I don’t think it’s too much to ask for someone to be nice to me just as I am nice to them, but the thing I’m learning is that not everyone plays by these rules.  Instead, they seem to prey on nice people.  When you are “too nice,” people view this as a weakness instead of one of the greatest strengths!  It seems that the nicer you are, the more people want to take advantage of you.

I have been in numerous situations throughout my life where I give so much of myself, and instead of appreciating me, they use my niceness against me.  They begin to push me to give more of myself and more to them.  Pretty soon, they are trying to push me around.  I am at fault because I allow it to a certain degree before I’ll finally get enough and put a stop to it.

I’ve worked with employers and supervisors that started out fine, but they soon realized that the more they asked of me, the more I’d willingly give.   Then, instead of appreciating that I was a hard worker, they put more pressure on me and started asking things of me that they were not asking of other employees.  I knew I was being paid to do a job, but resentment started building when I was carrying the workload of three people while slackers in the office bragged about how lazy they were to anyone that would listen.   It seemed that the more efficient I was, the more work they threw at me.  I didn’t get a “thank you” for a job well done, all I received was more work piled on me while the slackers continued to do what they do best; slack off.   I worked there for many years, and finally I left because I was clearly being taken advantage of.  You know what’s funny?   When I left, they hired two more people to do the job that I was doing, so I was not exaggerating when I said I was doing the work of three people.

Recently, I had a situation where I was paying someone for a service.  It started out great, but as time went by, this person started disrespecting me in the way that they would speak to me.  It wasn’t the same type of situation as above, as I was not piling any work on them.  They were willingly doing this service for my family, and they set their own schedule and their own price.  I was as easy going as I could be, but apparently, I was “too nice” to the point that they thought they could disrespect me, talk down to me, etc.  because that is what they started doing.  It wasn’t a one time thing, either.  It was something that happened every single time we had any interaction, whether it was in person or through text messages or private messages.  It seemed that this person really thought they were the authority figure on everything (also known as a “know it all”).  They came across in such a way that they really were talking down to me every chance they got.  It is hard for me to understand why someone would do that to another.  I could see if I went up against this person constantly, but I did not.  If this person said they needed for us to get supplies, we went right away to get them.  If the person said it would be best to do it this way, we did it that way.   We were as cooperative as we could possibly be and listened to them as they were the expert in this field, and we, merely beginners.  However, just because we were beginners did not mean that we did not deserve respect.  We did, and we do.   I felt this person lacked respect for me, though, and it was obvious in the way that they spoke to me as they did not speak to my husband this way.   He was not able to be present for all of our exchanges, though, and so the disrespect continued to increase because they knew they were primarily dealing with me.

When this first started happening, I tried to reason it away in my mind.  Maybe this person didn’t realize how they were coming across, or maybe they didn’t mean it the way it sounded.  I gave them the benefit of the doubt.  Then it happened again.  Each time it happened, though, it was more obvious to me that they did intend every bit of the way it came across and how it sounded.  They intended to let me know that they were the authority and they were in charge.  The thing is, I was paying them, and the services were at my house.  So, this person was on MY property disrespecting ME, and I was paying them to do so!

Yea, that did NOT sit well with me at all.

I thought things would get better if we just stopped texting and sending private messages, as you cannot tell a person’s true tone with words on a computer screen although they seemed argumentative in every single one of their messages to me.  However, it was not any better when I’d speak to them in person.

This is where I struggle because we’re taught as Christians to turn the other cheek.  We’re taught to rise above and treat people the way we would want to be treated.   We’re taught to forgive, but in doing so, are you to continue to put yourself in the line of fire?  Here is the problem I am having.  If someone continues to do this to you, if every interaction with them is laced with disrespect toward you, or if someone is bullying you, are you to continue to accept this treatment?   I do not think that God intends for us to continue in the line of fire all because we’re Christians and ultimately, “too nice” to the point that people take advantage of us.   Yes, I can turn the other cheek … but exactly how many times must I turn it for them to slap the other cheek after they’ve already reddened this one?   Yes, I can rise above the situation and treat the person as I’d want to be treated, but because I’m “too nice” again they view it as me being a push over because they continue to mistreat me and yet here I am not only allowing it but making it easier for them to show me more disrespect because I haven’t stood up to them!   Instead, I’m almost enabling them by allowing the mistreatment by being super nice to them when that is actually the way I’d like to be treated by them … but it will never happen!   And Yes, I can forgive, but again, forgiving does not mean that I have to allow this behavior to continue!   Even as Christians, we have the right to be respected and to be treated with respect!

I’ve had people tell me that I lack boundaries, and that is why this type of thing occurs.  No, I don’t think that is the problem because I can put boundaries in place with people and often do when they continue to treat me this way.  I will either quit the job and move on to a much better place of employment where they treat me better and value me as an employee in an environment that is stress-free (thank God for that), or I will dismiss the person that was performing a service for me if I’m paying them well and doing everything they ask of me and yet they disrespect me and continue to treat me in this fashion.   I can put boundaries in place, but my point in this is that if people would just respect you and show that respect, those boundaries would not be needed in the first place.    Why, then, is it so hard for people to show respect to each other?  It truly isn’t that hard to do.   I understand that respect has to be earned.   But, I have done nothing for the person to disrespect me.  I have paid on time for their services, often tipping them as well.  So, it’s not as if they aren’t getting paid and paid well, too, I might add.  It isn’t that I’m working them too hard or expecting too much of them either, as they set their own time, hours, and duties pretty much.  I don’t stand over them or ask more of them than is expected either.

Often times it seems as if people view “nice” people as weak individuals.  Why is niceness perceived as a weakness?  It is one of the biggest strengths a person has, and honestly the world would be a better place if we HAD more nice people around!   It would be wonderful, though, if others would not take advantage of a nice person.

If any readers out there have advice on how to be nice and yet not be taken advantage of, or how to remain nice and not be talked down to, I’d love to hear your thoughts.  I’ve had people tell me to my face that I’m “too nice” and so, I read a book on the topic as well.   It was more along the lines of learning to say “no” to people  … that’s not my problem, though.  I can say no.  I read another book for Christians, but this one was more for setting boundaries and how it was okay for Christians to do so.  However, boundaries aren’t the issue as  I can set boundaries.  The problem is when people view my niceness as a weakness, and I’m not sure what I’m doing to come across in this way to others.

I still say that if people would just have respect for others, there wouldn’t be an issue of the “nice” person asking where they went wrong for someone to mistreat them, talk down to them, etc.   The nice person would not walk away feeling taken advantage of or as if they had little value in this world.   They would not feel highly disrespected, either!

Respect … it’s not so hard to give to another!  Yes, even to a person that is “too nice.”

 

The Art of Forgiveness

Yes … you read the title correctly.  I decided to call it The Art of Forgiveness because it truly is an art.  It’s not something you can haphazardly go after.  It is something that takes time, determination, precision, and something that you continually have to work at … just like a piece of art.  If you were a painter or a sculptor, you would not give up so easily with the wrong stroke of your paintbrush, nor would you destroy your creation by an error made during the process.

Let’s explore a little more in this regard, shall we?

Since I enjoy painting, I will imagine you sitting in an art class with your white, crisp canvas before you with all of the pretty colors on your palette.  Oh, they are mixed just beautifully, darling.  There are soft colors and vibrant ones waiting to leap onto your canvas to create your best masterpiece yet.

You lean forward as you carefully place the tip of the paintbrush onto the canvas in a sweeping motion.  Within minutes, it comes to life with a beautiful scene taking shape right before your very eyes.

Now, some can freehand the image while others have to draw it onto the canvas beforehand to get it “just right.”  Regardless, you sit with superb posture, leaning in then back again as you take in the sight before you.   You hold your mouth in a way that shouts determination.  You wrinkle your forehead slightly as you lean in once more.  Then all of a sudden your paintbrush slips and paint splatters where you certainly did not intend for it to go.  Oh no!  Your masterpiece is surely ruined.

Or is it?

In frustration you stop and draw in the longest breath of your life.  You hold it for a moment and then slowly release it as you contemplate how in the world you will ever fix this mess.   You sit back slowly in your chair looking at the painting.  When once you had such high hopes, now all you can see is the destructive mark made by the paintbrush when it slipped from your hand.

You have a variety of feelings coursing through you at this point.  Frustration and anger mount as you fuss at yourself in your head for making that mistake.  Oh, why did you have to be so careless, you scold … why couldn’t I have paid more attentionWhy didn’t I try harder?

You glance at your neighbor’s painting to see them smiling as they delight in their piece, and yet, here you sit.

Then, you gather your composure and try to figure out how to make something beautiful out of this … Surely everyone will be able to look at this and see the error I made so why do I even bother? you ask yourself.   And without blinking, the thoughts Because it’s my passion and it’s worth it in the end! rush in.

And so you pick up that paintbrush and begin again.  You forgive yourself for the mistake you made, for the accident that happened, for something that was beyond your control at that moment in time … and you work hard at correcting it on your canvas.   Where once you imagined a hammock, now you think of a way to fix the paint splatters and so you work toward placing a beautiful flowing tree blowing in the wind near the banks of the water … all of this slowly begins to take shape now on your canvas as you correct, as you forgive the mistake you made and make something beautiful out of it after all.

If you get in a place where you simply cannot imagine how you’ll fix THAT part of the painting, you can always call in the art teacher for surely they know the answer when you tried desperately to fix this on your own.

And you create your masterpiece after all.

How in the world does this tie in with the art of forgiveness?  Well, my friend, I’m glad you asked.

We are only human, and in this life we are going to mess up.  We are going to make mistakes.  There will be people along the way that will hurt us, and we will hurt others, too, but certainly not on purpose.  Things will happen that will injury us and will pierce the hearts of those we love dearly.  We would never inflict pain upon a person intentionally, but in all of our humanness, it happens.

Just like you would not destroy the painting or punch a hole through the canvas just because you made a mistake, you most certainly wouldn’t end a friendship or a relationship when a person has wronged you.   At the first sight of trouble, you wouldn’t pack up and leave the relationship, just as you wouldn’t trash the painting for a few splatters of paint.  No, instead, you would try to salvage it.  You would give it your all in trying to mend the relationship.  If you’ve hurt someone, you would go to them and ask for forgiveness and hope that some day it would be granted to you … just as you would hope that someone that offends you or hurts you greatly would come to you and apologize asking for your forgiveness as well.   You would take responsibility for you actions, even if that meant stopping to take a good, hard look at yourself in the mirror to see the error of your ways.

You might even wring your hands  or run your fingers through your hair in desperation as you cry out …

And just like the teacher that stepped in when you had done all that you could possibly do, our God will do the same if we only ask Him.   For some reason, the one that holds all of the answers seems to be the very last person that we turn to when we’re in trouble.  We worry over situations and agonize over things for days.  When we’ve tried everything humanly possible, then and only then do we go to the great Almighty … when we can do no more to fix the situation, we turn it over to Him.  He will fix it all for us, if we only ask.  Some times it might not be in the way that we would like, but it is His will and what He knows is best for His children.

Forgiveness takes a lot of soul searching, and you do grieve and hurt when someone wrongs you.  When you are offended or injured by someone’s words or actions, it takes a lot to finally say okay … I’ve reached a place where I feel forgiveness is possible.  You can look yourself in the mirror now and say I forgive you as you ease up on yourself for the mess you’ve made in this life.  You turn to your family or friend, your spouse or your co-worker and say I’m sorry … please forgive me and you mean it with your whole heart.  You own it, and you take responsibility for your actions.   You no longer make excuses for now you’re striving to mend broken hearts.   You pray over the people and you pray over the situation.  You cry until you feel as if you cannot cry any more, and then you turn it over to God.  He picks you up and holds you in His loving arms as He comforts as only He can …

And then, something magical happens.

Slowly, things feel better.  Maybe just a little at first, but the hurt isn’t as intense any more.  As more time passes, you can touch that part of you and it doesn’t send you wailing to the ground in a heap.  You no longer tremble with fear of what has happened.  You begin to forgive yourself for the part you played in the situation, and you begin to forgive the other person.

It takes time … but hearts can be mended.  Forgiveness can be sought and granted.   Lives that once felt shattered can be put back together.

Do you have someone in your life right now that you know you’ve offended and would like to make things right with?   Think on this and consider reaching out to them.  Think of your part and examine yourself.   Pray about it and ask God to help mend broken hearts and put you two back together, if at all possible.  Then look yourself in the eyes in the mirror and forgive yourself.  Now reach out to this person and also ask for forgiveness.   Humble yourself before them whether it’s in an email or a hand written letter … but preferably in person, if possible, where it will have the most impact.   Pour your heart out to them and see what happens.   Know going into this that you cannot control another person … you can only control yourself.   Be willing to accept that they may not be in the same place as you are right now, and so forgiveness may not be as easy for them as it seems to be for you at this moment in time.  Realize that you may have to offer your sincerest apologizes and feel the person still harden their hearts as you turn to walk away … but know that you’ve done your part.  They will think back on the situation, and they will think of your apology in the days to come.   You will make an impact in their life.

If someone comes to you in this same way, if you don’t feel ready just yet to let go of the offense, then you have that right to carry it with you.  But, ask yourself how it is helping you or the situation to hold on tight to this?   Wouldn’t you feel better if you forgave the person?  Wouldn’t it make life easier if you vowed to begin again with them?  I’m not saying to wipe the slate clean and pretend nothing ever happened or forget and go blindly back into the same situation.  No, but what I am asking you to do is to pray about the situation and consider the times you have messed up and have sought forgiveness.   You would want the person to forgive you and offer you another chance.  Or, even if you two didn’t remain the best of friends or continue on in the relationship, wouldn’t it help to know that you two forgave each other and could go on peacefully in the world after having that forgiveness granted?

Prayerfully consider the art of forgiveness and see how it improves your life.  Holding on to bitterness, resentment, and anger does nothing to hurt or injure that person … but it hurts you in the end.  It imprisons you.  Release yourself from this prison and consider the art of forgiveness today … extend it to anyone who may have offended or hurt you in the past, even if that person was yourself.  If you’re holding on to regrets, consider forgiving yourself today.

 

The Art of Forgiveness

Stand Or Sit?

What do you do when you know something is wrong? What do you do when you see or witness something that you know in your heart just should not be ? What in creation can we do? What does God expect of us when we see something happening or about to happen and we have the power to stop it?  Do we stand by silent, or do we stand and voice ourselves?  Do we stop what we know to be wrong, or do we sit silently and as the years go by yearn for what might have, could have, should have been or what we might, could, and should have done? Do we stand and fight for what is right, or do we sit out of fear of losing that which we hold most dear? Do we get involved and stop what we know to be wrong, or do we sit and spend year after year having regrets for not taking action?

I try to live my life without regret. I try (the key word in that statement is try), I try very hard to do what I would consider “the right thing.”  I do have one regret, and that is what spawned this posting. The time when I could have stood up, had my voice be heard, stopped something I knew down to my toes was wrong … I didn’t.  Instead, I was a coward, and I stayed put, not muttering a word. Yes, I said coward.  That is what I was –  plain and simple, a coward.

I have faced my own mortality on more then one occasion, looked death in the face and said, “Let’s dance, you and I.”   I have stood up to prominent physicians, at the risk of not only my job but reputation. Why this one time … this ONE time in my life when I could have stopped something that i knew was wrong on every level … why did I sit on my hands and let the universe go out of balance?

My ancestors called out to me and urged me to have the courage to do what my heart told me was the right thing, regardless of the potential personal loss. To this day, it is my one regret.  It was a mistake I feel everyday of my life.

I look back with tear filled eyes, saying, “If only” … if only I had the courage … if only I had the strength … this one time!

There are times in our lives that we have to make a choice. The right thing may bring personal hardship, loss and emotional pain. The easy road is just that, the easy way out. But is the lingering pain of regret worse? For me, it is.

The saying around now-a-days is “YOLO” meaning You Only Live Once.  A very wise and caring person once wrote to me and said, “We are not guaranteed another day.” Life is short. You shouldn’t spend it with regret or plural … regrets. Live it to the fullest, let yourself be loved by those who have it to give to you. Discard those who would use you or take you for granted.

If only you have the strength, if only.

When that time comes in life when a choice is to be made, what will you do?  Will you look down the easy path, or will you draw your sword and charge down that path of hardship because your heart says, “That’s the way to go!”?

If I could go back in time and correct a mistake I made, I would do so without hesitation. Ah, but alas, we cannot go back, only forward.

Learn from yesterday, plan for tomorrow, and live for today.

I live with my regret and touch it daily.  I pay for it with tears and a shattered heart. If I have learned anything from my yesterday, I will not be sitting down anymore. No, not any more. I have my feet firmly planted in the ground. I don’t know what the path in front of me will bring. I only know that I haven’t fought this hard to be IN this life to stay sitting any longer. So I say, “Look out world, the wolf is off the chain.”

I may have regrets but realize there is nothing I can do about the past.   However, please know that I am not letting it govern me. I am proud of all of my scars. They prove that I have fought and fought hard, which is something that I will continue to do.

So, to life I say, “Bring it!  I’m up off the ground and will never go down again!”

And so to the question, “Stand or sit?”  I now say to life’s challenges,Let’s dance … you and I.”

The right way is not always the popular and easy way.  Standing for right when it is unpopular is a true test of moral character- Margaret Chase Smith

Bloom

We’re gearing up for Friday, y’all!  Write your little hearts out for five whole minutes without worrying about getting it “just right.”  Don’t worry about perfection.  Just let those fingers fly!

Ready?

Set?

GO!

There is a saying that goes a little something like this, “Bloom where you are planted.”  What, exactly, does that mean?  Let’s explore, shall we?

Thinking back, I was uncomfortable in my own skin for way too long.  Circumstances and things of the past influenced my overwhelming feelings of low self esteem.  I was lacking self confidence, and I was full of insecurities.

I’ve known about Jesus from a very early age, and I had asked him into my heart and life early on as well.   It wasn’t until I was much older in my adult walk that I came to really realize and appreciate what having this relationship with Jesus was about and what it truly meant to be a Child of The King!

For so long I sought other people’s approval.  I wanted to “fit in” when the truth of the matter is that I was not like everyone else.  I think that added to my insecurities in my younger days; however, I’ve come to appreciate the fact that I am different as I’ve grown older and wiser (or so I’d like to think).   Now I don’t concern myself with fitting in or agonize as to whether people will like me.   I don’t try to be just like them because I recognize our differences and respect them, knowing full well that God made each of us in our own unique fashion because each of us brings something valuable to the table.  No, we may not be like Suzie Q, but that’s okay because God wants us to be exactly who WE are and who He created us to be.  He wants us to recognize the beautiful people that we are, how He made us with His very hands, taking His time to form every detail of our being.  He smiled looking at his beautiful creation, why then do we stare almost in hatred at ourselves when we look in the mirror?

Bloom where you are planted … to me, that means to appreciate where you are today.  You may have faced many trials and tribulations along the way.  You may have had situations arise in your life that threatened your sanity, your well being.   But know this.  God can take the most horrible situation and turn it into something good to be used for His honor and His glory.    Bloom where you are planted … watch the tiny little rose bud (that’s you in your younger days wrapped tightly in the bud with insecurities and lacking confidence) slowly begin to open up (that’s you as you’ve grown and matured in life) and transform itself into this bright, vibrantly colored rose displaying all of its wonder and grace (that’s you now, sweet one … we all recognize it but you!).  Bloom dear one, as God intended you to be.  Recognize your beauty in the present day, appreciate your transformation and know that God has great plans for you … bloom, darlings.  Bloom …

STOP!

 

1Flowers

 

Be Thoughtful

Do you practice being thoughtful of others?  Merriam-Webster defines thoughtful in three ways.  The one I want to talk about today is this; “showing concern for the needs of feelings of other people” or their full definition: “given to or chosen or made with heedful anticipation of the needs and wants of others <a kind and thoughtful friend>.”

In today’s world it is so very easy to get wrapped up in our own lives that we can lose sight of what is going on with those family and friends that are an important part of our life.  There is a wonderful book that I am re-reading to gain some more insight as to how I can be a better person towards others; Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”  There is a singular concept that is talked about throughout the book that really hits home with me; we all need to feel important.  This doesn’t mean we all have to have a big ego, it just means we all need to know that someone thinks of us and cares about us.  I try very hard to live my life within this philosophy and to treat people with kindness, compassion and respect for their feelings.

Being thoughtful towards others is not difficult.  It could be just remembering a special day in someone’s life and letting them know that you do remember.  It could be stepping aside in a long line at the supermarket to let someone go ahead of you when they have a few items and you have a cart full.  It is as easy as holding a door open for someone.  All of these things can be considered being thoughtful towards another.  Just doing a small thoughtful gesture for someone can brighten someone’s day.

Take a moment today and think of those you care about.  What is some thoughtful gesture you could do for them today?

Be thoughtful!

This was supposed to be a part of the We Care Wednesdays segment.  Yesterday, Tamela shared an important message regarding the need for everyone to feel loved.  Gregory’s message complements it and goes hand in hand with the message that everyone needs to feel important!   Therefore, we thought we would share these two back-to-back … We Care Wednesdays and now Thoughtful Thursdays.  :)  We hope you enjoyed! ~Shirley