Month: June 2014

Slipping On The Ice

IMG_1383There’s a movie called Frozen that came out this year. Have you heard of it? (Subtle sarcasm intended.)

Thanks to my four year-old, my world has been filled with Elsa, Anna, Olaf, some letting it go and wanting to build a snowman for the last six months. On Saturday mornings we’ve usually watched it once…all the way through…by 9 a.m. We have dolls, music, coloring books and toys reminding us that some people are worth melting for.

When it was time to celebrate A’s fourth birthday, she wanted none other than a Frozen party where she could “skate like Elsa.” So, off to the local Ice House we went, with six of her friends…and their hesitant parents.

Skates on, I took her onto the ice and held her as her feet went in various directions underneath her. She was depending on me for balance, direction and safety. We went once around the ring and she got steadier. Twice around and my back was thanking her for the break as she stood upright and needed less of my help. A few more times around and she was skating while I was only holding her hand. She was in her Elsa moment and loving every second.

“Do you want to be brave and try skating on your own,” I asked?

“Yeah, then I can be just like Elsa,” A replied.

I turned to face her, skating backwards holding my hands out towards her as if I was waiting for her to walk to me for the first time, while she got used to standing and then began skating along on her own. She had taken a few strides and was so proud of herself.

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A few moments later, she lost her balance, her feet went out from under her, she landed with a plunk on her bottom and looked up at me with tears in her eyes.

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Even though she had seen many people falling throughout the day, Elsa doesn’t fall in the movie so she wasn’t supposed to fall. And as I picked her up, wiped her eyes and continued to skate in circles around the rink, I had the perfect opportunity to talk to her about how falling is a part of ice skating and that even the professional figure skaters fall. That learning will mean making mistakes and trying again and getting up after she falls. That it will be scary and it might hurt, but that it’s worth it to keep trying again so she can get stronger.

As I was talking to her, I realized I was talking about ice skating, but I sure as heck could have also been talking about life. Sometimes it’s slippery. Sometimes we can do it on our own and sometimes we need a little help staying steady. Sometimes just when we think we’ve gotten the hang of it, our legs slip out from under us, and we find ourselves landing with a plunk on cold ice. Sometimes the falls hurt. Sometimes it’s hard to get up from them. Sometimes it seems easier to just get off the ice.

A few laps later, she was ready to try again. After an hour, she was still going strong. So strong, she was pulling me around the rink as she ran on the ice and skated as fast as her little legs would carry her. And as we skated around and around and around, I was again amazed at how much I continue to learn from this little girl as I teach her about life and see the world through her eyes.

Just like ice skating, the only way we get stronger in life, the only way we go on is to get back up. To brush off the snow, wipe our hands and slowly, steadily put one foot in front of the other and try again. Because it’s worth it.

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Characteristics vs. Problems

photo(52)I disliked DC traffic for all of the years that I lived there. I loathe it even more now. Determined to go spend time with a great friend in Baltimore, I knew I had a trip around the Beltway waiting to welcome me back to the area.

The area where everyone has nowhere to be except in front of you. Where 80 miles an hour isn’t fast enough. Where, if you had a million choices, the area that would be the last place you’d want to have car trouble.

And it was there, just after I exited 495 onto 95N, when my steering wheel shook so bad, I thought for a fleeting second that it just might fall off. While at the same time, the transmission needle revved up and then dropped off like it had hit some kind of cliff.

Panic washed over me like a wave. I was sure I was 2.5 seconds away from my car coming to a complete stop in the middle of the highway and the reason thousands of people would soon be cursing as they were interrupted on their nightly commute.

And then, it stopped. The shaking stopped and the car drove smooth as could be, as if nothing happened. At all.

I made it up to Baltimore and back with a few, let’s call them, “episodes of the shake.”

Convinced I needed a new transmission, torque converter or both, I took my dear Honda to a transmission specialist. I had it looked at and driven by more than a few friends who know a thing or two about cars. I took it to the Honda dealer.

And each time, it wouldn’t shake. Each test drive, it performed perfectly.

The Honda service manager was involved by the end, and he explained it like this, “It seems, Miss Clark, that this is a characteristic your car has developed and not an actual problem.”

I get a tingling on the tip of my tongue when I’m nervous. Sometimes I can’t take a deep breath. I eat a lot of chocolate. I tried to plant and grow vegetables. After four years of rotted tomatoes and mushy cucumbers on the vine, I shop at the farmers market. My pinky toe on my right foot grew slightly crooked and looks kind of funny. I have an extra bone in the arch of each of my feet.

I thrive on organization. I love doing dishes. I hate cleaning bathrooms. I love a good, long run to think and an hour of yoga to stretch and challenge my strength. I’m a single-mom and some days, I’m just tired. I have a tendency to tell myself I’m not good enough. I’m working on silencing that lie, but that struggle is part of who I am.

I used to judge all those things about myself. However, these things are who I am. They are what makes me, me. These aren’t problems to be fixed. These are areas to be aware of.

My pastor told me once, when you become aware, it’s like the lights have been turned on in the room. Being unaware is like stumbling around in a dark room, bumping into things. When the lights are turned on, all the furniture is still there, you can just see what is there. It’s easier to navigate now.

What are your characteristics? What are the things in your life that just make you, you? Can you work on accepting them?

While that service manager was talking about my Honda that day, he was also talking to my heart.

All those “problems” I tried to solve. They aren’t supposed to be changed. These are characteristics that I’ve developed, not actual problems.

Because, just like my Honda, these are the things that make us uniquely us. And what would our lives look like if we embraced some of these characteristics and accepted them, instead of spending our energy and time trying to “fix” them?

And even more, what if we used them to influence and impact? We if we gave the world our best, fully accepted, unapologetic self? What would that look like?

The Beauty of the Storm

 

photo(51)I had been looking forward to that particular run for the better part of a week. Any day that I can get in a run is a good day. Any day I’m at the beach is a good day. Any day I can get in a run…on the beach…is a really, really good day.

I crunched through the sand with only my left earbud in so I could also listen to the water as I watched it wash up on the shore. About to hit the two-mile mark, I had just broken a sweat when the first raindrop hit my forehead. I decided then, that it was probably a good time to turn around.

Not more than 30 seconds later, the sky opened up. Not 30 seconds after that, I looked more like I had just finished a swim in the ocean instead of a run along its shore. The rain was refreshing, but the wind had picked up, making it both difficult to see and to keep going.

Something about any run in the rain, though, makes me feel slightly more bad-ass, so, iPhone safe in my plastic baggie, I continued back the way I came, taking it all in.

This: the stormy ocean, the cloudy sky, the rain coming down sideways, the loose sand, the water-logged sneakers, the empty beach. It wasn’t what I had in mind all week when I day-dreamed about that run. I saw the sun shining off the water, packed sand making it easy to run and a crisp breeze cooling me.

And then it hit me.

True, there is nothing quite like a warm, sunny, not a cloud in the sky, perfect day at the beach. And experiencing those please-never-let-this-day-end moments is soooo great. They make me want to be able to make time stand still. However, I realized that even with the storm swirling, it was still the same beautiful beach. It was still a perfect day, and there was so much to behold.

It just looked different.

Just like that particular beach, the same is true for my life. And yours. There will be sunny days and stormy ones, one almost guaranteeing the other, but it remains the same beautiful life. On the sunny days, we celebrate, maybe exhale and perhaps, smile. Through the storms, we find resolve and determination and strength.

But every day, we have a choice. In how we see the storms and how we endure them. In how we appreciate and soak up the sunshine. Each day may not be easy, but each day, each season and each storm, each ray of sunshine has something to offer. A lesson to learn. Something for which to be grateful. Something beautiful to behold.

Eye on the Prize

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By a stroke (pun intended) of luck, some good contest odds and an answer to prayer, Ashley and I were off with gifted tickets to the U.S. Open at No. 2 in Pinehurst, NC, on a beautiful June morning.

Describing ourselves as rookies to the sport is a stretch. We have a few lessons under our belt. We know how to two-putt. We have chipped…once or twice. We generally know the names of the clubs and which one to use for which shot (or between the two of us, we can figure it out). And both of us have felt the golfer’s joy of swinging with everything you’ve got, connecting perfectly with the ball and then watching it go flying through the air.

But that’s about it. We haven’t played a game yet. We don’t have clubs…or shoes. We’ve never walked a golf course. And Phil Mickelson was the only name we recognized on the roster until doing some brief research the day before.

Once we arrived, we approached the 12th hole where McIlroy, McDowell and Stenson were teeing off.

Ooh, the excitement. It was quiet. There was anticipation. The Marshall’s arms went up, it got quieter. One by one, each player swung, hitting the ball down the fairway a distance that would have taken me at least 4 shots alone.

With no specific game plan for the day, we were headed to the Trophy Club. Along our way, we followed the trio for a couple holes, watching them in their element. They were on their game. This was their jam. Talented beyond belief. Each having precision and skill envied by thousands. There to do what they were made to do.

We made it to the Trophy Club, got our bearings and checked the roster for a few players we wanted to see: Bubba Watson, Jordan Speith and Phil Mickelson. As we were refueling with a Chick-Fil-A sandwich and a Bud Light Lime (at 11:30 am, mind you, but you know what they say about it always being 5:00 somewhere!), we chatted with two gentlemen from Henderson, NC, who we learned meet at BoJangles for breakfast each morning (U.S. Open fans are friendly folks we would soon realize).

We decided to camp out on the 8th hole for a bit. Conveniently, the groups that included Speith and Mickelson were only a few threesomes apart. We found a great semi-shady spot to the left of the stands with a perfect view of the hole. We stood there for over an hour chatting with another golf lover and his wife, Nance. We learned about the players, the history, the game, tips for aiming, golf trivia (that it costs $415/round per person to play the No. 2 Course, for example) from our fellow fan.

We watched Erik Compton, who at 34, is on his third heart. Out there in the heat, you would never have known. He was doing his thing. On his game. We watched Kevin Na tap in a perfect shot. We watched Phil Mickelson, along with an incredible crowd of followers, make his way down the fairway where the crowd then got so quiet, we could hear the “tock” as his club putted the ball in, resulting in the oh-so-quiet crowd erupting in a huge cheer.

In Mickleson’s threesome, we watched Matthew Fitzpatrick, a young 18 year-old, with poise and talent that far surpassed his age, hold his own, as he golfed alongside one of the sports’ greats.

Ricky Fowler, a favorite to win, paid an appropriate fashion tribute to Payne Stewart as he golfed his heart out. We watched Jordan Speith. Dustin Johnson. Martin Kaymer. Brendon De Jonge. Bubba Watson.

Ball after all ball, play after play, stroke after stroke, swing after swing. Athletes. Artists. Professionals. People. All in their zone. Giving it all they had. Playing their hearts out.

The atmosphere was electrifying. The anticipation could have been cut with a knife. Fans were everywhere, soaking up both the sun and the moment. There was hardly a shot where we didn’t hear the club connect with the ball. There was reverence. There were mistakes, like when Dustin Johnson missed his shot and threw his club up in the air in frustration. There were unexpected birdies and eagles….and bogeys. There were great stories of overcoming obstacles and defying odds and choosing not to live, but to thrive. Of choosing not to give up, but to play on. And surrounding these people in their moment were thousands of people who cheered on the great shots and moaned on the misses.

These athletes were doing what they were made to do. They were in their zone. In their holy place. Nothing else mattered. Everything failed in comparison. They had their eye on the prize (which, in this case was $1.5 million).

And then, dusty, sweaty and hot, it occurred to me. Isn’t that what each of us are here for? Isn’t that what each of us is made for? Isn’t that what each of us is capable of?

Perhaps, it’s not golf tournaments, and instead being at home all day, wiping up one sticky mess after another with kiddos who seem more like mini tornadoes. Or maybe a job. A hobby. Or a dream that has been placed upon a shelf for when there is more time to be had “someday.”

But what if I lived out my life with the commitment and determination and dedication that I had witnessed from not one, but dozens, of golfers that day. What if we all did?

What would that look like? What things would become more important, what things would fall away if I lived in the zone and kept my eye on the prize? What if played my heart out every day and then got up the next day and did it again. What if I didn’t let setbacks or frustrations or obstacles be the end of my story? What if, instead, I let those be my launching points and kept practicing and trying and growing and picking up my club and hitting the ball again….and again…and again.

And, what if we joined others in their pursuits too, cheering at the victories and mourning the losses?

Psalm 96

Sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth.
2 Sing to the Lord, praise his name;
proclaim his salvation day after day.
3 Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous deeds among all peoples.

4 For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
he is to be feared above all gods.
5 For all the gods of the nations are idols,
but the Lord made the heavens.
6 Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and glory are in his sanctuary.

7 Ascribe to the Lord, all you families of nations,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
8 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
bring an offering and come into his courts.
9 Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness;
tremble before him, all the earth.
10 Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns.”
The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved;
he will judge the peoples with equity.

11 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
let the sea resound, and all that is in it.
12 Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them;
let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.
13 Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for he comes,
he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
and the peoples in his faithfulness.

I imagine if I lived like that, it would look something like this:

The atmosphere would be electrifying. The anticipation could be cut with a knife. There would be reverence. There would be long days and mistakes and frustration, no doubt. But there would also be great stories of overcoming obstacles and defying odds and choosing not to live, but to thrive. And I would be surrounded by people who were in the ring with me, celebrating my victories and mourning with me in my losses.

Let’s try it. For maybe just a day? Maybe two? And let’s see what God will do when we show up and give him all we’ve got. There’s life there. That’s where life is really lived. In the zone, doing what we were made to do. While $1.5 million isn’t always at stake, our lives are. Our children’s lives are. And then all of a sudden $1.5 million seems small. Eye on the prize the whole way.

Martin Kaymer went on to win the tournament, breaking and setting new records along the way. Erik Compton, who never knows from day to day what his stamina level will be, came in second. And Ricky Fowler, third. They all played hard until the end. Eye on the prize the whole way. Nothing else mattered.

Let’s Paint Em’ Yellow

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Tonight, we painted our fingernails yellow. Bright yellow. Ready for a pep-rally yellow. And it felt so good.

For years, I’ve refrained from things like purple streaks in my hair, piercings, and well, yellow nails. It started when I was young, and it was my “job” to stay out of trouble, get good grades and not have sex, drink alcohol or do drugs. There was a standard, and life was easier when I complied. When I followed the rules.

I could not only do that, I decided, but I could take it up a notch. I could blow expectations and win the astonishment of my friends, my teachers and even family. I could be better than what they expected, and then they would praise me more, like me more, and I would fit-in better.

I did just that. I worked hard at everything. Starting in school and then my career, my house, relationships, being a mom, being healthy, managing finances. I experienced success. I accomplished goals. I surrounded myself with admirable people. I kept my house clean and my yard in perfect order. I had to excel. It had to be perfect.

But here’s the truth: That life that was never, ever perfect, and it was a world where I was never, ever enough.

Throughout my life, I’ve been on both ends of many spectrum. I’ve been both fat and thin, married and divorced, rebellious and compliant, to name just three. And, regardless of any definition or category, regardless of my age or my place on the spectrum, whether I was fat or thin, I wasn’t enough. Married or divorced, not enough.

I’ve known this about myself, but I had no idea how much it was influencing how I navigated life. I’d make choices based on what I thought other people wanted me to do. I’d set the bar and then raise it higher. I processed everything. I mean…e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g…through the standard of trying to be perfect and never ever being enough.

Come to find out, they’ve got a name for this. Atelophobia. Who the heck knew? That tells me that I’m not the only one who’s lived with this lie and maybe someone else needs to hear my story to put that gremlin to rest in their mind, too.

What I’ve realized is that perfect is never achievable on this side of Heaven. It’s just not. I can stop trying to be perfect and start creating my beautiful, joyful life story, that, while it won’t ever be perfect, it can be beautifully mine. And perhaps, that is better in the end, anyway.

So, for today, here’s to yellow nails!