#Churchladies Take On Bible Retreat

This weekend was unforgettable. Why, you ask? I loaded up with twenty other ladies, all middle-aged just like me, and headed to see my favorite Bible teacher in a neighboring town. We borrowed a bus and talked one of the ladies into driving us. The bus ride is always one of my favorite parts, we laughed, we cried and we sweated when the air didn’t work like it was supposed to. But, mostly we shared with our seat partner or someone close by the joys and difficulties of our lives.

And, of course, showed each other pictures of our kids.

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My #churchladies

 

There’s just not too many things much better than a bunch of church ladies headed to a Bible retreat. We come in all shapes and sizes, from all sorts of backgrounds and from all over the area. We come expecting a blessing and carrying our Sunday morning Bible, a pen, a highlighter and wearing anything from dresses to jeans and, of course, comfortable shoes. You see, we’re almost professionals when it comes to Bible retreat etiquette. You come to enough of these things and you know the ropes.

And comfortable foot apparel is a MUST.

Once I wore the wrong type of shoes, don’t get me wrong, they were so cute. Trust me, many of you would’ve appreciated their trendy style and neutral color. They were the best of both worlds, except they were the exactly the wrong thing to wear to a conference with thousands of other women who were smarter than you and wore shoes that didn’t make their feet feel like they might fall off. You see, at these events you walk thousands of stairs, stand in lines hundreds of feet long and park miles and miles to get to the conference center. (Maybe a slight exaggeration there, but you get the idea.) Cute, neutral, trendy wedge sandals are not meant for these type of Bible retreats. Trust me, I know this to be true from previous experience. So this time I wised up and wore cute, neutral, FLAT sandals. Much better choice, but honestly, I secretly envied those ladies wearing sneakers.

Those ladies or the ones in Dr. Scholl’s, they were the smart ones, and for sure the comfortable ones.

Once we arrived at our destination in our borrowed bus, all twenty church ladies piled out and headed to our hotel rooms to freshen up and then back on the bus and down the road to get a burger before the opening service. It was a Friday night and many of us had worked that day and then we had hopped on the bus for a couple of hours.   By the time we sat down to eat, we were exhausted, and hungry.

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Our borrowed bus.

 

But, we were also thrilled to be together and excited for what we were about to experience.

There were literally thousands of women there, women just like you and me. They too had come to participate in something bigger than themselves; something life changing, something worth walking and standing in line for.

Jesus.

Once we finished our burger, we were on our way. We pulled up in our bus, like every other church bus group, in front of the huge building that would accommodate a group this size, and piled off a second time. Then we headed into the auditorium to find a seat. Just us and nine thousand other women trying to do the exact same thing at the exact same time. It was a challenge to keep us all together, but by the grace of God we did it. We made our way to the nose bleed section, found seats and proceeded to nest, getting ready for an amazing evening.

We were not disappointed.

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Nine thousand strong.

 

The music started and larger than life screens lit up with words to choruses and hymns both new and old. I wish you could’ve heard it. The sound of so many voices raised in praise to our Lord.   Some sang loud, some you couldn’t hear and others just closed their eyes and listened. We sang songs of praise, and songs of worship. I think my favorite, well, my two favorites were “My God is Awesome” and “The Blood of Jesus Speaks for Me.”  Right before we sang the second song I mentioned, the worship leader gave the most impactful introduction, really explaining the lyrics and what they meant in our personal lives.

He said,

“You know, when Satan comes to you and reminds you of all the terrible things you’ve ever done, all of your regrets, and fears…just mentally look him in the eye and agree with him, ‘yes, I am nothing, and I cannot defend myself, BUT the blood of Jesus speaks for me.’”

I wept.

Yes, I have made terrible decisions, hurt others, acted selfishly, BUT I don’t speak for myself, the blood of Jesus Christ who redeemed me, speaks on my behalf. And you know what He says, “You’re forgiven, and you have great value.” THANK THE LORD FOR HIS GRACE.

And that we don’t have to answer for ourselves, Christ has paid the price and He’ll do all the talking.

By the time the speaker got up our hearts were so ready to hear the message. She didn’t waste a minute, she dove right into Proverbs chapter eight and began a compelling case for why we should choose wisdom over folly. I know what you’re thinking, “of course we should choose wisdom over being foolish, that’s a no brainer.” And yet, even KNOWING what we should choose, we still struggle with doing the “wiser” thing. For example, I KNOW I am to forgive, but I choose to hold onto that grudge because I’m not ready to let go of my hurt feelings. I KNOW I should not be involved in that gossip filled conversation about that very difficult person, but, I do it anyway. I mean, after all, if they weren’t so difficult…

You see what I mean?

Most of us are not purposely choosing to be foolish or as the dictionary says about folly, to lack sense, but we aren’t purposely choosing wisdom either. Maybe you’re like me, I don’t do the really bad stuff, the more obvious foolish stuff, but I find myself more often than I would like to admit falling into the smaller, seemingly less of a big deal foolish stuff. And it never leads to anything good.   Foolish behavior, whether intentional or not, big or small, is still foolish and the Bible says that foolishness leads to death.

Death?! Man, talk about cutting right to the chase. But, here it is in the Word,

Proverbs 8:35-36, “For those who find me (wisdom) find life and receive favor from the Lord. But those who fail to find me harm themselves; all who hate me love death.”

If you have time read the whole chapter, it is so rich with a good word, and who doesn’t want a good word?

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Dear friends and my precious daughter.

 

We ended up getting back to our hotel late that night and then up very early the next morning. You can imagine how early when you think of three women needing to share one bathroom. It was a challenge, but we pushed through. I guess it could’ve been worse, we could’ve been camping in a tent. I know some of you just gasped because you LOVE camping and can’t imagine anyone NOT loving it. But, I am of a firm conviction that if I can’t plug my hair dryer in somewhere close by, then I probably don’t need to be there.

Sharing a bathroom with several others is as close to a camping experience as I want to come.

These types of weekends are so special to me. Not only do they encourage me to press on and to make good decisions, they remind me I am not alone, not even close. There are so many of us out there trying to live out what we believe, and working hard to soak up the Word as if our life depended on it.

Wait, our life does depend on it.

And that is why as long as the Lord gives me strength, I will seek out retreats like this one and gather some church ladies to go with me. It’s a weekend full of laughter, tears, and, usually some sweat. It’s so worth it. Even if you have to borrow a bus, cope with intermittent air conditioning, and share a bathroom, I strongly encourage you to find one to attend.

It makes for some great worship, compelling teaching and lots of great memories.

Just don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes.

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My sisters, Carla and Nancee

 

 

 

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The Cry of My Heart

I want so much to be honest and transparent in my life. I haven’t always been and that’s why it is so important to me now. To be faithful, open, encouraging and not a quitter are daily goals for me. Sometimes I meet those goals and sometimes I don’t.

But, I always try.

Today it feels especially hard as I am physically tired, emotionally spent and spiritually needy. I can’t totally put my finger on it, but it feels a lot like sadness. Maybe mixed up with a little depression. I think physical exhaustion leaves me vulnerable to roller coaster emotions, you know the ones that take you on a wild ride in the course of twenty four hours.

I’ve learned to stop and evaluate myself when I start feeling this way. When I was younger I would just “feel what I felt” and allow my actions to follow my emotions like a cart leading a horse, instead of the other way around. As I’ve grown in the Lord, I’ve realized that to give into every whim or emotion is to live in bondage and I’m determined to be free.

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I took a drive today through the country, I love a drive when I am feeling blue. The landscape was so beautiful and green. We’ve had plenty of rain, so the fields look like something out of a story book; almost perfect. The sky was blue, peppered with those tiny little puff clouds that almost look like freckles across the expanse of the heavens. I turned off the radio and allowed my mind to wander, in the quiet I kept asking myself what was really the matter.

I prayed sincerely for the Lord to reveal to me what was in my heart. I am of the belief that we don’t always know what’s in our own hearts, only God really knows the depths of it. I love the verses in Jeremiah that remind me that God searches my heart.

“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked.

Who really knows how bad it is? But I, the Lord, search all hearts

and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards,

according to what their actions deserve.”

Jeremiah 17:9-10

After riding in quiet for a while, I began to feel Him stirring in my soul, He didn’t speak in an audible voice, it was more of an impression. What He spoke was so true and it’s something He’s been dealing with me about for a while. But, try as I might, I still fall back into the same trap.

Again and again.

The truth is I really like approval. I actually crave it at times. It’s as though my world is “righted” when everyone around me is giving me their stamp of approval. Giving me “atta boys” and telling me that God is using me and basically letting me know that they like me. I cling to those morsels of affirmation like my mental health depends on it. But, on weary days like today, days when my heart feels so raw, I don’t think there could be enough people in the entire world to give me the emotional lift I yearn for.

I imagine myself walking around with a basket held out in front of me, I walk up to each person expectantly waiting for them to contribute to my basket, hoping someone can fill it up. But, there’s always disappointment. That’s what I’m doing with my heart. My heart is the basket, and no one can fill it. They might contribute and make me feel a little better for a moment, but that “feeling” goes away pretty quickly. And again I am left with emptiness.

Especially on days like today.

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I was rolling in self-pity and my weary mind believed every word and accusation that was being hurled at it. All of the thoughts of insecurity and fear and failure were filling my senses as I took my drive, to nowhere really. It’s amazing that in the midst of such an attack on my mind, all I could see were the lies. I just bought into them. I wonder sometimes why the negative is so much easier to believe. Why I just take any negative comment or word spoken about me to be the gospel truth. Even after all the Bible studies, church attendance and focusing on the positive that I’ve tried to do, one tired day sets me back miles in my progress.

As I was praying asking God for encouragement, for whatever it was that I needed. I kind of expected my phone to start lighting up with texts or phone calls with scriptures or words of affirmation. Instead it sat quietly, not making a sound.   I immediately thought of my basket why was I looking to others for the fulfillment that only God could give?

No one can do that. They were never meant to.

I am so thankful for the pursuing love of the Lord. He just keeps chasing me and chasing me. He is relentless and I am so unworthy and thankful. It was so clear what I needed, but only after He showed me. The same thing that I always need.

More of Him.

Just more.

Can we ever really get enough?

I think there are many that can relate to me. We don’t mean to, but we are looking to others to meet the need of our hearts. To make us feel better about ourselves and give us a sense of worth. But, we remain sorely disappointed; let down. When the reality is, no person was ever meant to meet those needs.

Let the people in your life off of the hook.

Your husband/boyfriend can’t make you feel like a confident woman.

Your friends can’t make you feel like you have value.

Your family cannot fill your insatiable need to be loved.

Your job can’t meet the desire within you to succeed.

Your church can’t be your only spiritual nourishment.

ONLY GOD.

He is the ONLY ONE who can fill all the cracks and holes the injuries that our hearts have sustained while living out our faith, walking the road of life.

Well, my beautiful drive finally ended in the next town over. I parked my car, went into a coffee shop and began to put into words all that was going on in my heart. This is a journal entry meant more for me than for anyone else. I will be looking up scriptures tonight reminding myself of WHO I belong to and that my value, my riches are found ONLY in HIM. I’m going to pray for a good night’s rest and get up tomorrow expecting a fresh perspective and a better attitude.

But, mostly, I’m going to pray for God to help me not to buy into the lies that are whispered into my ear that I’m not good enough or that I need approval to have value.

You see, I’m on this road to freedom, the road to wholeness and the road HOME.

Now, I think I’ll finish my nonfat, decaf, no whip iced coffee, and rest for a while.

Tomorrow is a new day, a fresh start.

 

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Dreamer

During this week of Olympics and while wide eyed, open minded, dreamers are going back to college, it’s impossible to keep my excitement for the future at bay.   This is a feeling that had completely disappeared from my heart in recent years, but the Lord has been doing a healing work. I feel it trickling back into my soul and it comes with a joy I cannot adequately put into language. I guess if I had to pick a word to describe it I would say, hope.

And with hope comes anticipation and excitement for the possibilities life brings.

I’ve had several conversations with my son lately about just that, hope and the other word that gets added to it to make a pair; hopes and dreams. The stuff that futures are made of. He is a big dreamer, and I seem to find myself in the position of dream crusher, or maybe dream suppresser, or probably both.

Well, at least until recently.

I used to be a dreamer, I really was. I can remember wanting to accomplish so many things in my young mind; writer, world traveler, fabulous cook, financially secure, dynamic follower of Christ, and of course, mother of the year. Basically I planned to be an experienced amazing person all by the ripe old age of twenty five. But, life didn’t quite go that way for me and as I sit here on the week of my forty sixth birthday, I wonder where those dreams went?

What happened?

Don’t get me wrong, my life has been good, really good. And until recently I hadn’t visited any of those dreams in years. I had laid them to rest in a safe place in my heart, somewhere hidden and out of sight. Every once in a while I would peek into that special dream holding place and have a look, maybe even grieve over what seemed like the loss of them.

But, not very often.

As one day turned into the next and months turned into years, my dreams began to look a little different than when I was young. Each time I would stop and pull them out to think on, a more mature version emerged. Being a writer was still on the list, but some of the others were redefined or completely absent. I was no longer shooting for mother of the year, but to be a Godly, consistent mother and finances didn’t seem to matter as much, as long as I had my family, I felt rich.   I still wanted to travel but I had no idea where I would go and how much I would enjoy it with three kids in tow.

So, I would close that dream door and focus on the things at hand.

 

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I guess somewhere along the way I lost my belief in the idea that dreams could actually come true. I didn’t lose faith that God could do whatever He wanted in my life, I just didn’t think my dreams fit in the picture. I had been disillusioned a time or two and I felt too vulnerable to risk the disappointment of unfulfilled hopes. Of course, I didn’t see it this way at the time, I just thought I needed to be an adult and make the sacrifices an adult would make. Keep in mind, that I had never read anywhere in scripture that I needed to give up my dreams to grow in Christ or that becoming mature in Him meant I had to live only on the practical side of things. I know there are verses about self-sacrifice, but that does not have to involve giving up the deepest desires of our hearts.

Many times the two go hand in hand or at least live on the same page.

Back to my son, the dreamer, he challenges me to think outside the box. Sometimes it drives me crazy, but most of the time I’m thankful to have my thinking stretched. He wants to change the world and my practical side strokes out at the thought of anything that doesn’t involve a reliable income or steady work hours or something you wouldn’t be embarrassed to tell your friends about over coffee. I mean, how do explain “dream chaser” to a table full of practical women just like me?

I wanted him to think ahead.

How can you find time to change the world, if you’re busy supporting your family? Never mind that he didn’t have a family yet, he needed to be thinking about being responsible. That sounded good to me, res-pon-si-ble. Get your college education, get a good job, pay your bills, spend your nights and weekends at the ball park like every other little league parent and keep things safe and dependable. For many young people, that sounds good and desirable, but not to this one.

He wants to change the world or at least grab it by the tail.

And give me a nervous breakdown.

We’ve had discussion after discussion about pursuing a career that is down to earth and measurable by some standard, something he could be proud to tell a father when he picks up his daughter for a date. But, to no avail, his mind is made up and he is willing to work hard and let these dreams that are bursting at the seams, lead the way for a while.

He just wants my approval.

Not gonna happen.

Nope.

No Way.

Nada.

Well…

Every time he comes home for a visit from college, he talks to me and tries to persuade me to remember what it was like to have dreams. Not aspirations or goals, but dreams. The kind of dreams that may never come true, but need to be attempted. The ones that no one else understands, but you’ll feel like you let yourself down if you don’t try.

Those dreams.

The ones that scare practical mothers, like me, half to death.

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I don’t think it happened in a moment, at least not one that I can put my finger on and I didn’t have an epiphany, not that I can remember. But something changed, or shifted or was enlightened, I don’t know how to really explain it, but I feel differently today than I did last week and the week before that and the month before, you get the idea. There has been a slow revelation happening in my mind, a deeper kind of understanding. I’ve said hundreds of times over the past twenty two  months since my mom died, “life is short, live it to the fullest.”

And I suddenly felt like the biggest hypocrite.

Because I said it, but discouraged my son from living it.

So, this is my apology letter to him and to all of you, and to myself.

Dreams are the wind beneath our wings, we need them.

I mean, how many chances do we get to chase our most unrealistic, possibly unattainable, maybe even crazy dreams? How long can we put them off before they can only be regrets living in a dark room somewhere in the bottom of our heart? I don’t have the answer to those questions. What I do know is we have TODAY. We have THIS DAY and we are not promised another. If I REALLY believe that, what would I change in my life; how would it change my choices; would it change how I spend my time? What would be different if I really lived like this was my LAST CHANCE to accomplish something I’ve dreamed of for so long?

I have a lot of soul searching to do, a lot of questions to ask myself. I feel the winds of change blowing over my spirit and I want my heavenly Father to awaken my senses to the possibilities of what could be. He is, after all, the creator of ALL good dreams. I don’t feel judged by Him for being practical, as a matter of fact, I feel like we NEED to have a practical side, it just shouldn’t define our whole being. Our practical side and our “dreamer” should live in harmony as the Spirit of the Lord weaves them together to form a beautiful outlook on life.

One shouldn’t squash the other.

Well, my dreamer went back to college this week. He’s not afraid of hard work, and I am very thankful for that. He’s bent on setting sail into an uncertain future and I’ve decided “you only live once;” go for it. I’ll be in constant prayer for direction, guidance and God’s protection. But, I’m not going to try and hold him back, I’m going to set him FREE to chase a DREAM.

I can’t wait to hear him tell all about it.

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 “We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.” Proverbs 16:9

Semi-Colon

This is a big week at our house. My youngest child will head out the door for his senior year of high school. I said GOODBYE to him as he backed out of the driveway and started down the street. This time of year puts me in a very nostalgic state of mind. All the many “first days of school” play like a highlight reel in my mind; one more year to go.

It has been a beautiful journey.

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My middle child, oldest son, who has been home for the summer will head out the door as well to start his junior year of college; another GOODBYE.   I wonder how much change a heart can take. I want so badly to pick up the phone and call my mom to tell her about all that is going on and how the kids are changing and adjusting. But, then I remember she’s not here anymore.

I said a final GOODBYE to her a while back.

My daughter came home from college to visit for a day and then she headed back out the door to her new home and new life. Saying GOODBYE to her should be easier by now, but I still feel an ache in my heart as she drives out of the driveway. The days don’t last long enough.

All of these GOODBYES remind me that life is full of endings; closing of chapters and farewells.

This time of year when there is so much promise, so many new beginnings, fresh starts, I am reluctant to mention it, but there’s still plenty of GOODBYES, lingering in the air like the fragrance of fall spices that are soon to come.   It’s inevitable; with exciting new beginnings come heartfelt GOODBYES.

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Life brings change.

I don’t handle change very well. I didn’t really know or understand this about myself until recently. Maybe it took me half a lifetime to figure this out because many of the changes that have come into my life until now have been positive. Getting married, having kids, chasing a career, balancing career and family, expanding my life. Although very stressful at times, it was still pretty good stuff happening; but, as I enter the “middle-aged” years, more difficult changes  have begun to present themselves . Kids are growing up and leaving for college, parents are ailing and passing away, more body aches and pains. I guess what I’m trying to say is that even though pain weaves its way through our lives from the time we can remember, it’s likely to increase as we grow older, both physically and emotionally.

I read somewhere a long time ago that good and bad run through our lives like rail road tracks; side by side, there’s rarely one without the other.  I’m pretty sure that we learn to appreciate the happy times in our lives so much more because of the lessons we’ve learned during the painful times.

The GOODBYES make the HELLOS more meaningful.

It’s remembering the life someone lived that makes their death survivable.

It’s the sight of the sunrise after a long hard night that gives us hope for a new day.

It’s repentance after wrongdoing that fills us with renewal.

It takes facing the difficult to really treasure the good.

Without pain and troubles we might not appreciate when things finally turn for the better. We are more grateful when we land that job after the long days of unemployment. We hug that child a little tighter after what felt like an eternity of a hospital stay. We linger a little longer with a loved one when we finally live close enough to visit.

Life is sweeter once you’ve tasted the bitter.

A friend of mine came by my office the other day to give me a present. I was so excited; presents are so fun, aren’t they? Anyway, I opened it to find a painting of a semi-colon on a block of wood. Curious, I read the card she had attached. I LOVE what it said and I want to share it with you.

“A semi-colon is the pause in a sentence, not the END. But, it represents a new sentence within one. Just like our life…we often have a new beginning, a new chapter, a re-do, a new start.”

It’s because of the GOOD and the BAD that we welcome new chapters and seasons, fresh starts. Thank heavens we don’t park in the bad times and stay there, we pass through, we pause and then we enter a new place.    And it’s  a good place, a new beginning. Semi colons in our lives are not always obvious, but they are always present. Look back and see if you can spot some in your own life.

And then be thankful for the pause and for better days that are yet to come.

I hugged both of my sons really tightly today as they parted and went separate ways.   It was a difficult GOODBYE. But, I am holding onto the hope of a beautiful HELLO once my senior gets home from school and my college junior comes home to visit. And next time I see my daughter, I will squeeze her too!

And, one glorious day, I will hug my mom as well.

Until then, I will hold on to the truth that life has been good, and hard, and worth it all.  Just like that semi-colon, these sometimes hard days are just pauses in what has been a beautiful story; the story of my life.

Take a minute and thank the Lord for the story he’s writing in YOUR life.

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The Observers

I am a people watcher; I just am. I’m coming to terms with it, and even learning to embrace it. One of my favorite things is to go to a large airport, find an off the beaten path bench, and just observe. I know, it sounds weird, but I am a lover of humanity and watching them in their natural habitat just makes me happy.

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Sometimes I like to pretend I’m some kind of fashion critic and decide who among the poor unaware souls walking by is dressed to my “standard.” Of course, the standard changes often since I really don’t know what I’m doing.

Plus, I am a total copycat and I get lots of good outfit ideas this way.

I also love to watch children follow along behind their parents; reminds me of the few times I’ve flown with my own small ones. These little guys and gals I observe rarely want to be there; all they really want is a place to sit and something to eat. But, none the less, they are being dragged around this huge corridor against their will, all the while being promised a special treat if they will only cooperate. Most do, but there’s always the occasional child that has had enough and NOTHING this side of heaven is going to make them comply. Those poor haggard parents, all they want is to get from here to there without a major incident. Is that too much to ask? Sorry, parents of those children, it doesn’t get easier. Not until they are way older, and anyone who tells you it does is not being a true friend to you.

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Then there’s the few random souls who catch that little mini bus tram that comes through and loads up folks to be dropped off at their appropriate gate. They are the lucky ones. The rest are forced to walk pulling the piece luggage that promised when it was shiny and new to be the easiest rolling bag around.

IT LIED.

Now in its defense, it did not know when it was sporting the shiny new tag promising to out roll and out perform any other suitcase on the market that you would fill it with half of the house, including the bedroom furniture. So, it can’t help that it weighed twenty pounds over the limit and cost you an extra twenty five dollars at the airline check in desk. And it really is your fault that it only has one wheel because the others popped off due to the extra poundage. Who knew suitcase wheels could be so temperamental anyway?! I know, I know, the tag promised…

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I know exactly how frustrating the whole airport experience can be.

It seems I NEVER get a gate close by when making a connection, I usually get off of jet A on gate two only to need to get on jet B at gate eight hundred and fifty seven which is inevitability three miles of airport terminals away. And I usually have twelve minutes flat to get there. The moving sidewalks are a small joke compared to the ground I need to cover, and does anyone else feel kind of sea sick after walking on those things? But, nevertheless, I pile off the plane, with a positive, can-do attitude behind at least fifteen people who clearly have nowhere to be and all the time in the world before I start the great race to my connecting flight.

These are the folks to whom I most relate. You know, the ones sprinting with the bulging bag dragging behind them on the one remaining wheel. Sweat popping out on their foreheads, doing a sort of walk run that kind of looks like a desperate ostrich dragging a sloth.

Those are my people.

I would much rather be sitting on a bench WATCHING those folks and not actually BE one of them, it’s so much easier. Watching doesn’t require near as much effort and doesn’t cost me a thing. It involves no risk and is basically free entertainment. But, you know what I’ve discovered, watching keeps me on the sidelines. It may keep me from experiencing some of the bumps of life, and maybe some blisters from inappropriate shoes that I chose to wear while sprinting the length of the airport, but it keeps me from the many joys of life as well. Sitting there may feel safe, but I sacrifice the opportunity to grow and expand and live in the immeasurably more that God has for me.

Life is not meant to be OBSERVED.

It is meant to be LIVED.

Okay, even as I typed that last sentence I rolled my eyes at myself for sounding so cliché. I mean, of course life is meant to be lived, that sounds so obvious. But, wait, what does LIVING LIFE really mean? Doesn’t getting out of bed each day and breathing count as being alive? And if it does, then what is the difference between being alive and REALLY LIVING? Is there a difference or am I just splitting hairs?

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I decided to ask a few people that I love doing life with for their opinion. I am sharing their quotes with you because I felt they were so good and I wanted you to see them for yourself. Names will not be included to protect the “innocent,” but I will include their occupation, gender and age.

The question I proposed was simple and straight forward, “What is the difference between being alive and really living? Or do you think there is a difference?”

The responses were golden.

“I think probably just being alive would be a day to day existence and taking what life brings and being REALLY ALIVE would be attacking life and getting the most out of it.” – Pastor, Male, age 70

“Well, just talking off the top of my head, when I think of being alive I think of the physical, like having a pulse, breathing. But truly living, I can’t help but think of Christ and what He brings to our whole being; body, soul and spirit.”—Elementary School Teacher, Female, age 42

“It’s the same difference between thriving and surviving. It’s one thing to breathe in and out and be more than stagnant. It’s a totally different thing to be excited for life and searching for ways to make life more than what you see in front of you. In practical terms, I think it is being excited to wake up and face the possibilities a day has rather than accepting a bland, riskless life.”—College Student, Male, age 20

“Yes, I definitely think there is a difference, being alive is existing, occupying space with no drive, no plans and no purpose whatsoever. REALLY LIVING is enjoying life and being excited, loving those around you and being with them. Engaged in their lives, being a part of their plans, a part of what is happening. Looking forward to participating in life with others.”— Retired School Bus Driver, Female, age “seventy something.”

“I think being alive is just existing-one day after another. I think REALLY LIVING is doing everything in your power to make your life better and the lives of those around you better.”—Retired Child Care Advisor, Female, age 73

“Being alive- I suppose it is the context of the word alive, but when I think between these two scenarios, I think of the words-existing or existence. Possibly going through the motions, but lacking a feeling of life. REALLY LIVING- invigorated with life, ‘in the game,’ having the emotions of life -whether happy or sad -but seeking to press ahead in all circumstances. Allowing oneself to feel life- meaning all the emotions that life can bring, but not staying in the moment forever-especially in sad or hard times. One more comparison. Alive-shallow breathing, unaware of the breath one is taking. REALLY LIVING- inhaling and inhaling deeply, feeling the breath in ones lungs. I guess for me, I have thought of these comparisons in terms of existing or of being ALIVE. That is why I said at first about the context of what is meant by alive. I have treated many people who have not had a good situation, and in some circumstances some people would think they were not really living, but even in their sickness they were life-giving to me and others around them. If you ask me, they are still living. REALLY LIVING. I have treated others who had no life-giving qualities in them, and more so appeared to be existing. I would say they were alive, but only existing in life, not REALLY LIVING. So, in two words Existing vs. Invigorated” -Physical Therapist Assistant, Female, age 42

Aren’t these great? Can you relate to any one of them more than another?

After reading these answers, I noticed a couple of reoccurring themes.

One, REAL LIVING involves EFFORT. Getting out there and trying new things, exploring, challenging your status quo and taking some risks. Causing your emotions to be moved and not continuing to keep them lulled to sleep in the safety of what is familiar and easy. REAL LIVING should hurt sometimes, it should make you laugh until you can’t breathe, take your breath away, and bring you to tears with the beauty of it all.

Secondly, I saw a reoccurring theme of engaging in the lives of others. Making a conscience effort to make the lives of those around you better.   In sickness or in health. Investing yourself in the people God has placed around you involves taking a risk. People are far from perfect and they will let you down, sometimes they will drain you and maybe even use you for personal gain.

So, why take this risk?

Because we are meant to be connected. We really do need each other. We need the interaction, and the love that communion with another gives. It’s fulfilling and beautiful when a friendship/relationship is grounded in Christ. It meets the need we have to be a part of something bigger than ourselves, part of a body. Just like it talks about in scripture.

Romans 12:4-5 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and not all members have the same function, so in Christ we who are many are one body, and each member belongs to one another.

The investment is worth it, because more often than not, people become our great treasure.

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REALLY LIVING involves so much more than could ever be put by pen on paper, and it is so perfectly individual to each of us. But, the one thing that rings true for everyone is that is requires EFFORT. You cannot sit on the sidelines, or on a bench, and expect to live a life that leaves you feeling spent and wonderful.

What is it in your life that you keep putting off because you fear failure or don’t want to commit the time? Or maybe you’re afraid or worried about what others might think if you did this “thing” that’s been in your heart for so long.

For me, it was writing this blog.

I have no experience in writing and no formal training on how be an author, but I have so many stories I want to tell and lessons I want to talk about. So, after being crushed to a point that I didn’t think I would recover, I finally decided it was time to take the leap.

Grief was my catalyst.

And now, every week I share my heart with people, with you. I risk feeling inadequate, possible ridicule, and I am constantly reminded that I have more to learn than most. But, I’ve decided to live, REALLY LIVE my life, to take the chance and TRUST that God will use it somehow. And each week I am thrilled when I publish it and someone says, “That really spoke to me.” It makes it all worth it and I feel so alive and fresh inside.

It was worth taking the CHANCE and making the EFFORT.

Let me challenge you to do the same, whatever “it” is for you. Get up off of that “bench” where you’ve been sitting for so long OBSERVING and get out there and do the “thing!”

And, any time you want to go get a coffee and sit and watch people for a while, call me. I’m always up for free entertainment.

And maybe a few new outfit ideas.

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