Good Vibes Only?


Good vibes only?  I’m not so sure about that one. 

I consider myself a pretty positive, optimistic person by nature.  I tend to not even consider half empty or half full, instead hovering over a space of gratitude for having a  beautiful  glass in the first place.  It is in my nature to find the good in others, and I do truly love my Life.  Beyond measure.

So, it makes sense this would be the perfect mantra for me…Good Vibes Only!, right?

Wrong. It worries me.  Actually, it makes me scared and sad.

I could do Good Vibes Usually , or even Good Vibes Are Fun 

But what I really relate most to is REAL Vibes Only!

I struggle with the division of our emotions and moods into Good and Bad columns.  Here’s the thing…emotions are neutral.  Emotions, by nature, are what they are.  Anger is anger, joy is joy.  While most of us tend to be far more comfortable with some over others, we do ourselves a huge disservice (and may I venture as far as to say a danger?) when we categorize them into good or bad. 

We all do it.

Love= good

Anger = bad

Irritation = bad

Silliness=good

Sorrow = bad

For years I’ve worked with children with significant social and emotional challenges, and this is one of the greatest mindsets to overcome.  There is an astonishingly rapid connection between, ‘If I feel a ‘bad’ emotion then I must be a ‘bad’ person.  Something is wrong with me. I need to be better.”

I’m pretty sure even the most pious or Zen among us is angry or irritated at least once a day.  I pray each of us feels joy or silliness at least once a day.   And yet, the only ones we share are the “good ones”.  If you question that, just check out Facebook or Instagram.

Life isn’t just good.  Life isn’t just bad.  Actually, Life pretty much just is what it is, which is a dizzying, swirling hurricane of every possible emotion.  When we condition ourselves to only acknowledge or share the good ones we essentially shut down/shutter up very real aspects of lives, of our true selves.  And when we batten down the hatches of our hearts and minds to those “bad” emotions, we are essentially closing them in.  Think about that.  Shutting down emotions, locking them inside, is like feeling ashamed for being human.

I love people fiercely.  I tend to go “all in” .   And because of that, I don’t just want to talk about the happy stuff, the good stuff, I don’t only want that side to shine. 

I LOVE when people are raw and honest…I’m having a hard day.  I’m feeling slow, sluggish, sad.  Today was a tough day. 

How often, when someone shares a challenging emotion with us, do we rush in to offer advice, to try to “fix” it for them, to raise their spirit? Our intention is sincere: to show love, support and encouragement.  And yet our uninvited fixing advice sends a very clear message….where you are isn’t okay, and you need to find an exit strategy FAST!  

What if our offer of a quick “fix” actually makes our loved one feel quilt or shame for his or her current state, as if grief, fatigue, discouragement are not legitimate places on their own? 

And honestly, how many times do we offer snippets of off-the-cuff advice because we, ourselves, are uncomfortable with our loved one’s pain? 

Sitting with a loved one’s pain, grief, frustration, irritation or general foul mood is tough.  We want to help and we associate helping with solving. 

But I wonder what could happen if we could learn to just hang with people right where they are. 

Today is a rough day for you? 

I hate that.

Can I just sit with you for a bit?  

How can I best support you? 

Is there anything you need? 

Or simply, I love you.

What I want most is REAL communion with God, Life, loved ones.  Not only the “good vibes”, but ALL the messy, chaotic, scratchy vibes that make up REAL Life. 

And to get those Real Vibes Only relationships, I need to learn to sit with the tough stuff, both mine and other’s, remembering that sitting in solidarity of love is better than any “quick fix” I can fling off quickly. 

Holding space for Real Vibes Only is, perhaps, one of the greatest acts of love we can offer one another.

Selah

I am one who believes in signs, symbols and synchronicty.  I find magic and messages in seemingly random moments, and my meaning-finding missions usually lead me to some pretty spectacular places.

My pandemic personality varies from day to day, and often from hour to hour.  As a bit of an introvert anyway, filling hours alone til my “essential worker” husband comes home is seldom problematic. But there is something about the knowing that “out and about” is no longer an option, whether it’s getting back to work, lunch with a friend, a quick trip to TJ Maxx.  It’s the being told “no” part that can make me anxious. Somehow, knowing I “can’t” makes me want to all the more!

One a recent morning when my pandemic personality was jogging from joyful to melancholy, I rushed to keep my brain busy.  I flipped on the television.  I flipped open a book.  I swiped on my phone.  I pulled out my journal. 

And there it was.

Selah.

The word selah, not heard on a daily basis in our home, was mentioned on TV, in the book I was reading, and in a blog, all within the matter of 30 minutes.  Selah.  This required further inquiry.

Selah, believed to be of Hebrew origin, is a term found 74  times in the Bible.  Seventy-one of those are found at the end of a Psalm. It is also a term heard in Islam and Arabic.   While religious scholars report that the intended meaning remains a mystery (how awesome is that….a word that remains a mystery!), it has been given the following implications:

Silence

Cease

Interlude

To pause and reflect

To ponder over the previous information

To assign meaning

To cease and shift

The most agreed upon meaning, due to it’s frequent use during Psalms, which are intended to be songs of worship, is “silent pause”. Imagine a musical interlude where the voices stop and the instruments continue alone. Because the most obvious has stopped (the voices), the less obvious (the instrumental) can take center stage. It is in the pause that the often overlooked or underappreciated parts get their chance to shine.

Silent Pause.  An interlude. To Pause and Reflect. To have attention shift to what has been lying in the background.

We are most definitely in a time of silent pause.  Life as we know it has ceased.  Our activities are slower, even if our thoughts continue to race. 

As a little girl, I was never fond of roller coasters, but give me a ride that spins in circles and I can go for hours!  I love the sensation of still spinning even after the merry-go-round has stilled, that dizzying feeling that you’re still moving.

That’s how the initial days of shelter in place seemed to me.  I was still spinning, still moving, still working off of Life’s momentum.  Then slowly, slowly slowly the spinning stops.  And there is stillness.  And Silence.

Selah.  The silent pause. 

Selah.  The silent pause that occurs when our busy Life voices stop, and we are left with “just” what’s been in the background.  Our quiet thoughts and prayers. The voice of God.  The laughter of our children.  The singing of the birds.  When we silence the busyness of Life, when we pause and truly listen, what’s been subtly in the backdrop has it’s chance to shine through.

Just as we often don’t hear the instruments because we’re busy singing along with the vocals, we frequently miss the beauty of daily Life due to our focus on the daily frenzy. 

This is not a silent pause any of us asked for.  The reason is one for which no one would ever wish.  The stressors and anxieties that accompany it are never to be minimized. Yet when faced with a “forced” silent pause, are we able to still our selves enough to listen to the underneath layers? Can we lift up and exalt all that has been hovering behind the to-do lists, meetings, and carpools? I hope we can.

Selah. May you each find the magic in allowing the quieter parts of your Life shine through.

Prayer Bench

Shortly after we purchased our farm, our dearest friends came for a visit.  These are the kind of friends that make things in your life “real”, as if events or places don’t exist until they are a part of them.

Just prior to their visit, I’d discovered a little alcove in some trees that reminded me of a little temple.  Knowing the husbands would want to be busy and do “guy stuff” like building and tearing things down, I asked my friend, Dave, if he could make me a little bench for this spot.  It was the ideal place to  pray, meditate and just breathe deeply.

There is a reason I didn’t ask my wonderful husband to build the bench.  He’s an engineer.  He would have built the PERFECT bench, measured exactly (twice) , precisely cut (once) , evenly painted, and durable for all time.  Dave is NOT an engineer, and I knew he’d create from his heart and not his head.  This bench needed to be rugged and raw, just like the prayers that would be prayed there.

Dave was delighted to have busy hands and a purpose, and immediately set to work.  He scoured the old barn for blocks, boards and bricks…anything he could use to create my sacred space.  He worked for hours, lugging materials to the bottom of the hill and piecing together the bench only he could imagine.

I was delighted.  I was grateful.  I was so excited to have a piece of them right here on our land…  Something he created with his own two hands, and his heart.

But as Terri and I sat in the gazebo up the hill and watched him build, she became more and more agitated.  I couldn’t figure out the issue until she finally exploded and said “It’s so UGLY!  It’s crooked, and uneven and looks awful!  Didn’t you want a REAL bench?  Why can’t he just go to Lowe’s and put together a pretty one??”  I couldn’t stop laughing.

Our friends had spent several years in Japan while serving in the Air Force.  Dave had always been fascinated by the Japanese culture and one key lesson he learned while over there was make do with what you have.  Use what you have to create what you want.  

The fact that the bench WAS crooked and uneven was exactly why I love it, and why I’d asked him to build it.  It was created with love, ingenuity and with materials he discovered while digging in the old barn.

This bench as become my sacred space over the years.  It’s where I go first when my heart is elated, and also when my heart is broken.  I’ve prayed and cried and meditated and loved fiercely while sitting on that bench.  I’ve sat on that bench during both literal and figurative storms in my life.  The bench is rugged and raw, just like my prayers.

That bench not only reminds me of my friend’s love, but also of the lesson it carries. 

We have all we need to make what we want.

 Within each of us, we have the strength, courage, determination, creativity, faith to uncover our hidden supplies and create something beautiful.   There is no need for us to rush out and build something that thousands of others will have.  Rather, we can find our own supplies, use our own tools, and build our own imperfect, one-of-a-kind lives from what we already have.   We may have to scour, finagle and adjust things a bit, but we WILL be able to put the pieces together.  Perfectly, and just as they belong.  Rugged and raw, just like life itself. 

You’ve got what you need.  You’ve always had it.  Dig deep and build.

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Out on a Limb

Isn’t it funny how a seemingly mundane moment can cause you to really stop and think?

As I was making the bed the other morning, I looked outside at the huge tree in front of our house.  This tree is so big and so close that the previous owners actually built an extension AROUND the tree!  I was feeling excited about spring,  the buds and bright green leaves, and all that comes with it, when I noticed a bird’s nest.  This nest was packed tightly against the trunk of the tree, stable, secure and conventional.  I’m not sure I’d have thought much more about it if I hadn’t also caught sight of a second nest.  This nest was VERY different, teetering out on the top of a very long, thin limb.  It’s the second nest that really caught my attention because my first thought was, “Who in the world builds a nest on the MIDDLE of a branch???  Who would do that???”

Now, I’m sure there are some orinthologists out there who will be able to chime in about different species of birds and their unique needs, but to me, an average girl just making the bed, I was flabbergasted.

Why would one build a big, sloppy house nestled securely against the ancient and stable tree trunk, while another would build out in the middle of it all….quite literally, out on a limb. 

Full confession.  I judged.  Yes, I admit it.  I judged that out-on-the-limb bird. I’m a tree trunk girl.  I’m one who tends to build safe and secure, close to home, without a lot of risk.  This made it so much easier to relate to the tree-trunk mama bird, wanting to keep everything safe and under her control. But that out-on-a limb mama….   didn’t she know that she was putting her babies at greater risk?  Didn’t she know that Alabama springs are ripe with tornados and she can be blown away any afternoon of the week?  Didn’t she know there were NO bushes below to protect her babies if they wandered and squirmed too far?  What was she THINKING????

Oh, but the longer I watched as each mama bird brought string and twigs and grass, the more I realized that limb mama was on to something.  Her nest was just as sturdy, just as secure, and just as cozy.  She also had an amazing view, was in the midst of the green new life of the leaves, and had easier access to the meadow below.  She kinda had it going on!

Being out on a limb may seem a little scarier, but there is also great beauty and independence to be had.

If there was ever a time in our lives when we’re being called out on a limb, now is likely it. We’re facing so many changes, challenges, and confusions. Every day seems to bring developing news and extended time frames. We’re all having to leave our comfort zones, scoot a bit further away from that tree trunk nest of familiarity and out onto the more tenuous branch of faith.

Stretching, straining, inching further out on the limb provides us with a new place to call “home”. We are, quite literally, branching out and learning innovative ways to build new nests, new “normals” while keeping our loved ones close and safe. While most of us would not have chosen to stretch like this, and none of us would have chosen the reason, this can also be a time of great creativity, innovative ways of connecting, and opportunities to slow down and breathe. And just take in the view…..