The Folly of Fitting In

I have felt like an outsider for most of my life.

Photo by Wendy Wei on Pexels.com

This picture, taken from the vantage point of an onlooker, is how I felt for much of my life. Always an observer. Forever on the outside looking in. I desperately wanted to be one of those girls, arms wrapped around each other, laughing and having fun together. I was never invited.

Most people who know me think my self image is silly at best and possibly crazy. I’ve been told that my self perception is wrong, that I don’t really know myself, or that I have low self esteem. For years I assumed everyone else knew better. Then I got mad. Why would someone outside my head know me better than I know myself? The truth is I see things differently than most anyone else I know; therefore, I see myself as different. I am different. And so are you.

The thing about me that has separated me from many others, particularly my family, is my spiritual nature and my relationship with God. I was not raised in a family that went to church together every week. God was not discussed. It wasn’t a matter of belief as much as practice. My parents had not had a religious upbringing, so neither did my brother and I. Mom took us to church sometimes; she would take us and some friends to Sunday School then come back to pick us up. Finally, as we grew older we simply fell out of the practice.

I began going to church with friends and neighbors. I would walk down the street to attend the little nondenominational church in our neighborhood. Sometimes mom would come with me, but I felt an urge to be near God and this is where I thought He lived. So I went.

Fast forward to my fifth and sixth decades of life. Some days I don’t think I’ve learned anything; other days I stand in awe of all that God has done and is doing with me. This morning I had such a moment. It was a burning bush moment.

I picked up a devotional book that I haven’t touched in months, “Yes, And…” by Fr. Richard Rohr is a collection of meditations that move my heart, mind and soul. It always astounds me when I just open a book or the Bible and what I read speaks directly to what is happening in my life. It is a frequent enough occurrence that I have to believe God is enlightening me to something important.

You do not think yourself into a new way of living as much as you live your way into a new way of thinking.

Fr. Richard Rohr, Yes, And….

This one sentence stopped me cold. I had to read and reread it. Allow it to penetrate beyond the logical mind and into my soul. I sat quietly and allowed experiences and thoughts to flood back into my conscious mind. Images, of what have always felt like the tattered pieces of a life that had no direction, slowly came into focus. Thoughts from long ago returned accompanied by the late night whispers that our home is where we are to be and to invest in our community.

In a society that values decisiveness and action, God wants us to be still and listen. We are to watch and wait and live. Do the day in and day out stuff that seems mundane, but always do it with a sense of anticipation. We never know when God is ready to move in our hearts and minds towards something greater than we could have ever expected.

Do I fit in? Nope. Not on earth and certainly not in the world we currently live in. Do I care anymore? Nope! I am here because God has more work for me to do and my plan is to allow him to do what is necessary and enjoy the ride.

Peace and Love,

Sheryl

Radical Love

What is radical love? In looking for an image to illustrate my thoughts, I typed in the word “sacrifice.” This image of Jesus on the cross is the first choice. Is there, a more perfect example of radical love than to lay down one’s life on behalf of others? If there is, I can’t think of one.

I am having a hard time living in the world as it exists today. It isn’t just the political turmoil or the rapidly changing social dynamics, though both of those things play a role in my discontent.

I don’t do external conflict. I don’t argue, discuss, or debate. I turn inward. Thoughts roll around in my head like rocks in a tumbler. I want the edges to smooth out and the surface to become all shiny and pretty, but that is never the outcome. It always seems as though no matter how much I ruminate on a particular topic I fail to come to an adequate solution or even a soap box to stand on. Surely I am not alone.

And then I remember the one. The one who came to earth as a baby and as a man died to pay the price for all humanity. What would Jesus do and say at a moment like this?

The denomination I have belonged to my entire life is in the throws of a split. There are two issues that divide our country and our churches – abortion and homosexuality. No matter how hard I try, I do not see evidence of Jesus’ radical love involved with either of these situations. In Jesus’ earthly life he was surrounded by “holier than thou” religious leaders that condemned others while elevating themselves. How are we any different?

Who needs the radical love of Jesus anymore than a young woman facing an absolutely gut wrenching decision? Do I belong in a church that condemns rather than loves?

How about the gay man or lesbian woman who has been rejected by family and been told God doesn’t love them because they are homosexual?

I believe we are called to love like Jesus and leave the rest to God. Somewhere along the line it feels to me as though knowledge and logic eclipsed love and compassion. Dissecting the Bible to the point where the student feels superior has naturally led to being just like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. I have participated in that kind of study. I know I have thought myself superior in knowledge therefore it was my duty to educate others. I have begged forgiveness and received mercy and grace.

Today, I choose to see the holiness of God in each person that crosses my path. Even if their light is dim, they are still his creation and deserving of kindness.

I want to exhibit radical love as Jesus taught his followers to do.

Today I pray for the courage to be who God created me to be in all situations, not for my good but to point the way back to Him.

Love and Peace,

Sheryl

Heaven Is A State Of Mind

We just returned from a seven day trip to Arkansas. The purpose of the trip was to see fall color that is nonexistent where we live. The Ozark Mountains are closer that any other location where the changing of the leaves and the cool, crisp weather are almost guaranteed in October. There was also a secondary purpose. Ever since my brother’s wedding in Arkansas, we have toyed with the idea of living there. Lakes for fishing, trails for hiking, a slow pace of life in a state where the entire population is smaller than the metro area where we currently live.

As often happens when one sets their sights on something of this magnitude, disappointment is often just around the corner. Most of the southern United States suffered from a drought this past summer; this lack of water had a negative impact on the trees, thus fall color was not as expected. Beautiful, but not quite a match for my vivid imagination.

I tend to fall in love with virtually every new place I visit and then imagine what a life there could look like. Inevitably this leads to dissatisfaction with where I do live and that path is never a happy one. We decided to go back to Arkansas just to see if the reality matched the memory. Some of it did, other parts did not.

I have learned that upon a second, or third, visit to my fantasy home, without my rose colored glasses, I am able to see clearly what these new locations all have in common. None of them are perfect. None of them offer anything different than what I have here, except the landscapes are all pretty. And, in fact, this time that small still voice came to me in the middle of the night to remind me what I would be leaving behind if we were to move.

I always snap out of the funk. I resign myself to life in the hot, humid and rather unattractive place I have lived for forty three years. I choose a life where my family is close at hand. I choose a life where I have made memories which sustain and delight me. I choose to trust the voice that comes to me when I am at rest and receptive. That voice never leads me astray.

Image from @writtentospeak on Instagram.

This morning when I read this quote, I knew God was comforting me in my human disappointment. Arkansas will always be a place we go for the soul nourishment of natural beauty. Once refreshed, we will come home to continue with the life we have been given.

Peace & Love,

Sheryl

Rabbit Ears

Folks of a certain age know that rabbit ears are not auditory appendages for cute bunnies; rather, rabbit ears are old fashioned antenna devices used for television reception. As kids we would work at adjusting each one for optimal picture and sound.

Lately my rabbit ears have been way out of whack, and the fault is all mine. My last post was in August. One day I just didn’t feel I had anything to say, so I didn’t. When I continue too long on this path, my ability to receive God’s guidance gets fuzzy. I begin wandering and wondering what I am really supposed to be doing with my life. Nothing satisfies. I just feel listless and lost; adrift without a compass.

I am constantly shocked at how easy it is to fall out of the habit of doing things, even things we love and are good for us. I tend to turn inward and blame myself for being weak, lazy, or any other of a number of degrading adjectives. The truth of the matter is that I am human. Just like everyone else on earth, on my own, I am frail and lost.

This time it took a trip to where I thought I would find my best life only to be reminded by God that I already AM living my best life. Does my house look out over mountains and rivers…no. Do I live where the weather is “perfect” and I get the seasons I crave…no. So what do I have here?

I have a house that is just waiting for me to dig in and make it the home I have always wanted; a home where I can welcome family and friends; a home where my grandchildren will love to come to make more memories; a home where my husband and I can live out the rest of our lives in security and peace. I have a huge backyard that just needs landscaping to create a natural environment not only for me, but for birds, butterflies and family fun.

God has provided for us all these years and now, we have abundance for ourselves and others. It may not be perfect by the standards of the world, but the Lord has provided me with riches I could never have imagined or created on my own. It just takes getting tuned in to realize all I want is right in front of me.

My plan is to work with God to post something everyday. My desire is to share and allow God to use my words wherever they might make a difference.

Peace & Love,

Sheryl

Will Power

From the moment babies learn that they are independent from their parents a struggle for autonomy and authority begins. We have all heard of the “strong-willed” child. When it comes to God’s power in our lives, I believe most of us are still strong-willed children. I know I am.

Jesus is my example. So, I ask for God’s will not mine and I wait to see what doors are opened and experiences come across my path as I go about my day to day life. God’s will is always what is best for me.

~Sheryl

A Life Well Lived

My husband constantly asks me, “What do you want me to _______?” Fill in the blank. I attribute this behavior to laziness; it is easier to ask me than it is to figure things out for himself. It drives me crazy, but after thirty three years I have given up. I answer the question then let him do whatever he wants. Most often he does the exact opposite of what I say. It is one of those funny behaviors that people who have been married a long time often do as a result of years of give and take.


But I do nothing without consulting the Father.

John 5:30a

This verse jumped out at me this morning as I asked God to show me what I was to write today. I opened my Bible to John and picked up where I left off. Jesus had healed the lame man and was then confronted by the religious leaders about breaking the rules. What happened next is what we in the south refer to as a “come to Jesus meeting.”

Jesus took the church leaders to task and in so doing said so many profound things including giving us a glimpse into the relationship between Father and Son. Jesus could have done everything he did on his own without consulting the Father. But he didn’t. He is our example, our guide, our teacher. Remember the WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) bracelets? Here is the answer. He would do nothing without consulting with the Father.

I fail at this most days. I get busy or distracted. I wonder how my life would look if I began my day, before I even get out of bed, thanking God for the new day and asking him what he wants of me that day. Do I expect an audible answer? No. But what I know is that in the course of the day something will jump out at me like this verse did, and when I do what is before me I will have done what God wanted of me that day.

At the end of the day, this is a life well lived.

Blessings to you…Sheryl

Nourishment

This is looking for nutrition in all the wrong places.

So much of what I think will nourish me and provide purpose and meaning to life only ends up leaving me empty. It makes me think of the song “Lookin’ for Love.”

I was lookin’ for love in all the wrong places

Lookin’ for love in too many faces

Searchin’ their eyes

Lookin’ for traces of what I’m dreaming of

Hoping to find a friend and a lover

I’ll bless the day I discover another heart

Lookin’ for love

Johnny Lee

I’m not looking for love, I found that, I’m looking for daily purpose in my life. I hop from hobby to hobby, always trying to turn those into a business only to get tired and move on to the next thing. I’m seeking a sense of fulfillment and purpose…I’m just looking in all the wrong places.

True Nourishment

I found my answer in the words of Jesus. As I continue my journey of reading and studying the words attributed to Jesus, I find that all the answers I need are right in front of me. He set the ultimate example. I just try to make it way too difficult.

My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work.

John 4:34

In a previous post I wrote about the work each of us is given to do. Doing that work is doing the will of God. Being the wife, mom, grandma, daughter, sister and friend that God created me to be, is doing the will of God. Showing Jesus to the world in the way I act, speak and behave, that is doing the will of God.

In a world filled with dopamine rushes at every turn it is easy to think we are missing something in our lives if we don’t get that high from all activities. Those moments of pure joy that come with doing something and feeling the reward…those are gifts from God to let us know we are on his path. But just like eating cake or winning a video game, too much of a good thing makes that thing mundane.

Be you. Be kind. Especially be kind to those who are not kind to you and let God handle the rest. That’s what Jesus did. He went where he was sent and took care of what was right in front of him. The more we live like this the more opportunities God will bring across our path to experience the joy of true nourishment.

Until Next Time…Sheryl

Life’s Work

In today’s highly connected, technological world, it is so easy to become discouraged. Social media creates the illusion that, it seems, there is a life out there we are not only missing out on, but that none of us can ever live up to. It is a conundrum for me. I enjoy engaging with folks who have similar interests as I do; I love sharing what I am doing; but I detest the inevitable discontent it breeds.

I am a creative person and all of my hobbies, in my mind, become possible business opportunities. I allow this mindset to suck the joy right out of everything I do. I am constantly pursuing validation through the work of my hands.

This morning I read this verse:

God in heaven appoints each person’s work.

John 3:27

No, I don’t believe God finds us our next job. But I know that we are all created with a certain set of abilities, gifts and talents along with the personality to use these things for good. In my case I am a nurturer. Though I never became the teacher or the mommy I always wanted to be, but all of the strengths needed for both of those were put to work in every area of my life.

I became a medical assistant so I could work in a doctor’s office; several years later I became a licensed nurse which led to working as a school nurse. I stopped working and came home when my step daughter’s mother died and I was needed here. That led to many years of nurturing her and then her children. And now, we have our oldest granddaughter living with us as she navigates her place in the world.

At sixty-four I spend much time analyzing where I’ve been as I look to where I might go next. It is clear to me that God appointed me as a caregiver to the next generation. One day when my work inside my family is done I will step out once again and care for the children and youth in need in my community. I don’t know where or how, I just know that God put that work on my heart and it will be my work for life.

May you find and know your worth and purpose; it comes from God and no one can separate you from it.

~Sheryl

Looking Backwards, Moving Forward

I’m still thinking about my life’s purpose and the path I should be taking during this season of my life. Since history is the best predictor of the future, I decided to look back and see where my life has been and where I should be looking in the future. As I analyzed all the things I have done, both consciously and unconsciously, one thread has continuously run through all the fabric of my life. That thread is children.

All Paths Are Personal

I never bore children of my own. The only profound regret of my life is that I never experienced the growing, delivering and raising a child of my own flesh and blood. Once it became biologically impossible the pain of this diminished and I was able to look back at my life and really see how God had given me hundreds of children. Granted none of them bore any resemblance to me, nor was I responsible for their well-being and life; however, I was given a chance to make a difference. The ripple effects of these relationships will continue to grow and affect the next generations. That is a powerful path.

Working at a school was the highlight of my working life. Both as a nurse and an assistant teacher I had the privilege of nurturing and encouraging children for ten years. I had always wanted to be a teacher and no other job fulfilled me like this one.

I left the working world to come home and be present in when our daughter was going through a particularly difficult time in her life. I was needed here to make a difference in her life far more than the kids at school needed me. The purpose was the same, the intended beneficiary had changed.

Next came our first granddaughter. Born to a single mom, lost and struggling as her own mother had died when she was sixteen (I am her stepmom). I now had two girls who needed me. My purpose continues.

Two more granddaughters come along; a marriage doesn’t work out and suddenly our empty nest is full again. The joy of a full house is indescribable. I loved the activity and purpose it brought to my life. Cooking for and helping with the girls brought so much joy. And then it was time for them to move on.

So, that brings us to today. Just when we thought we were done. Ready to live the retired life and wondering what we would do with this time on our hands, our first granddaughter — the one who changed everything for us — was in a crisis. So many experiences in such a short life left her in a rough patch. Her mom and stepdad were at wits end and they have two other girls to care for. We opened our home and brought her back to the place that was her first home. The past few months have been difficult but the growth and change are remarkable and she is well on her way to being the adult we dreamed she would be. Again…I (we) continue on the path.

Little Picture Living

I don’t always see what I do everyday as part of the bigger picture of life. I never had the “I’m going to change the world” mentality; never been the activist, or the person who wanted to accomplish big things. My goals were always about creating a home and family. I have written before about my one passion and that is children. I set out to care for children in my working life and I spent the vast majority of my career doing just that. But even that didn’t trigger any “bigger picture” views of myself. I just got up everyday and did what I was trained to do.

I think God protects me from thinking of myself in a grand kind of way. I am just an ordinary person who tries to be kind and do what is right. If I saw myself as some kind of saint I know it would go right to my head and all the good I could do would be wasted. The irony of all this is I spend so much time wondering what I am “supposed” to be doing with my life, when in fact I was doing exactly what God designed me to do all along.

I think because so much of what I have done just falls under the banner of you do what you gotta do. In the midst of the fire you don’t stop to analyze the fire, you just put it out. I have been on my path for all forty years of my adult life. During that time I never gave myself credit for doing anything to make a difference because I just looked at the big stuff. I never did anything big. I just left a crumb trail of lots of little things. Because what I did wasn’t traditional or I wasn’t the “teacher” I wanted to be, I only saw what I wasn’t not who I was.

One Path, Small Detours

I don’t want to leave the path, I’m just ready for it to look a little different. I want to use my talents and skills to improve the lives of another generation of children. I have always dreamed of writing books. I could write a picture book for emerging readers. I would love to write the kind of story that encourages children to be the best they can be, or tell a fabulous tale that is remembered forever. Maybe it should be a book for the adults on blended families and lessons we have learned through the years. Maybe I will volunteer with disadvantaged kids and help them with school work. After all I did want to be a teacher. That urge is still inside of me. I don’t know where I am going next, but I do know that my path to the destination is sure and I have history on my side.

Wherever you are in life, do what you can. Don’t beat yourself up for what you can’t do, rather look at what you are doing and know you are doing your best. If, like me, you feel a nudge towards something, a tug at your heart, pay attention. God might be preparing you and showing you your path. If the time is right and you can do something about the nudge, then do it. If you aren’t able, just be aware and know that one day in some way, your path will become known and you can follow in confidence.

My Three Step Program

For the first time in my nearly sixty-four years I don’t have anything to worry about. I have a happy marriage, stable and thriving child and grandchildren, a roof over my head, enough money to meet and even exceed my needs, all extended family are healthy and happy, in short, I want for nothing. I am blessed beyond measure.

And yet I am constantly seeking that one thing to do that will give purpose and meaning to life. This usually takes the form of a maker type business. I am a talented human being and have everything it takes, including small business experience, to succeed in such an endeavor. So why do I struggle?

Living In Fear

I don’t know any other way to explain my feelings and inability to follow through. I get excited. I come up with a concept, product, logo, website, social media marketing, and then it comes time to put my work out into the world and I freeze. The feeling is very uncomfortable so I tell myself I am simply not cut out to do this. So I stop. And I feel like a failure. This cycle has repeated itself over and over again for many years leaving a trail of broken promises and an inflated sense of failure. I know this is not how God wants me, or you, to live. So, what is the answer? Here is my three step plan of attack.

Step 1: Trust God…Do Not Fear

I think I read somewhere that the admonition to “not fear” is the most used often used in the Bible. God knows us all too well. I am considering having the word trust literally tattooed on my body. God equipped me with skills and abilities to use in this lifetime. I have tried too hard to make things work on my own. I need to relax and just do what I am capable of doing then letting go. I believe I am finally coming full circle and can see fewer dead ends on my life’s road.

Step 2: Identification

Before something can be fixed it must be identified. I assumed I was on the wrong path because I felt anxious that my work would not be good enough or that no one would want to buy what I make. This was a signal to stop and look for a different path; but all paths ended the same and the desire to do this has never left me. Maybe I was changing the wrong thing?

I am notorious for trying to create a life that will fit nicely into pretty little boxes. Life is not to be viewed as a box to fill but a road to travel. Each experience leads to something new and everything builds on previous experience. Instead of a winding road with the usual twists and turns, hills and valleys, I have allowed my road to be a series of dead end detours. I see something interesting and I veer off only find a dead end. At each dead end (aka whatever craft I am passionate about at the moment or whatever product I think I could spend the rest of my life making) I tend to throw my hands in the air and give up. My instinct is to get rid of all the supplies and declare that endeavor as dead. This rarely ends well as I usually decide I still want to resume doing whatever it is I have abandoned. The internal message is that I am a failure incapable of following through and doing what I dreamed of doing.

In fact, what I did was give into that negative voice and stop before I gave myself a chance to get started. Self-sabotage happens every time I listen to the wrong voices in my head. I am currently in the beginning stages of starting yet again. This time I am not trying to fill a niche in the market I am simply going to make the things I love to make and would use in my home. I am also honoring the historic roll of textiles and fiber in women’s lives. I am fascinated by how women’s roles have changed and how modern women honor the contribution of our ancestors by keeping these skills alive. I am excited to make things, research, learn and write about what excites me. I know that no matter what else happens I will be making a contribution to something I care about.

Step 3: Be Authentic

I am a jack of all trades but can never be monogamous to just one pursuit. This is usually where I fail. I try to be known as…a hand spinner of unique yarn, a crochet artist, a crochet historian, a weaver, a stitch artist, and the list could go on but I won’t bore you.

My authentic self loves old tools, old ways, and doing lots of different things. Why I ever thought that sticking my very round peg into a square hole was a good idea is beyond understanding. I love history and knowing I am continuing doing things the way they have been done for hundreds of years. The methods are old, the end result is modern. Gotta love the dichotomy.

The other authentic part of me is my love for writing. I write here about life and as my new site gets going I will be writing about the historical and modern aspects of needle and hand work as it applies to the lives of women. That is a win-win in my book.

You’ve Got This

No matter what your heart is calling you to do, you can do it! Be careful who or what you listen to, pay attention to what tugs at your heart, and do not fear. You’ve got this!