Our lives are not fairy tales…

I’m a visual person. I learn best when I can see something. I think in pictures. I have vivid dreams. I experience much of life by seeing – and that sense seems higher functioning than the others… yes, they all play their part, but seeing something is… in my world – is powerful and quite affecting.

For as long as I can remember, Movies have been a most intriguing thing. I can get lost in another’s world – their reality for hours… forgetting my own, feeling part of their lives, their experiences and whether the writer, director or actors themselves intended to ‘teach’, I seem to see something, a lesson, watching their circumstances unfold.

This past weekend I wanted a chill night so I ordered pizza, picked up a movie and plopped on my couch ready for a mindless evening…. But what I experienced wasn’t the chill, disengaged-from-life 120 minutes I planned – this movie rocked me!

Maleficent.

I hadn’t remembered the storyline, or watched the trailer, so I didn’t know what was about to happen, but I was intrigued from the opening credits.

The story unfolds – the stark contrast of 2 worlds. Human and Fairy. And as with many fairytales – the two unlikely characters meet and fall in love. Sadly it’s not ‘and they all lived happily….’ scenario after that. Through the course of time – greed, desire for power and the approval of the king influence the prince to play his hand well. He gains the Fairy’s trust and in her defenseless moment – he steals her strength. He takes her wings.

Watch the scene…. (Click here).

Maleficent.

Broken.

The realization of betrayal and intentional pain. She is wounded – to the core. Her cries piercing.

I sat there – moved by the depth of her pain. In that moment – I felt broken with her. I sat watching, knowing there was a moment of truth, a moment where a choice would be made. This moment – where brokenness was tangible – physical – deep… and it would catapult her either into bitterness, anger and revenge – ultimately affecting every aspect of herself and her kingdom or, if she drew on something deeper, a different choice could be made…… 

So if you know anything about Sleeping Beauty’s story… (and as with most fairy tales and blockbusters), bitterness and revenge was Maleficent’s choice. The tone of the movie shifted. It was dark. I watched, hoping there would be a moment where Maleficent realizes her choice, her reaction to how her life played out, and change, before affecting her kingdom and all those around her. 

It does come, later in the film but damage is done. People have been hurt, killed and even in the midst of hidden pain, she fights, mostly with herself, seeing the result of her choice, affecting the one she loves – truly!

I won’t tell you the ending…. so you should just watch it…. But, since Saturday, I’ve been thinking about it over and over…..

Our lives are not fairy tales that play out in 120 minutes with directors, producers and actors (who can write happy endings)……. but there are some similarities. We are the main character and “life (does) happen” — and we have choice to write our script, our reactions to the action, the drama, the horror that is the backdrop and scenes of our everyday.

In our moments of brokenness, when our wings – our strength, our unmet expectations, our dreams, the very identity we’ve grown accustomed to, gets taken – what choices do we make? Revenge? Anger? Bitterness? Or do we search deep? Do we seek something higher? Are we willing to look beyond the brokenness, the pain and the power we could play out over people.

Maleficent lived her days acting out of her pain. She eventually figured somethings out and got some resolution……… And ultimately was able to move forward, altering her future course, but she wasn’t the same fairy, and her world was changed.

As I sat watching, and as the days continue to unfold around me, I wonder if I’m functioning in brokenness, allowing the pain of my storyline to affect my day to day, my little ‘kingdom’, or if I have taken the pain of my script and chosen to alter the course – choosing to allow brokenness to make me stronger……..

….. still working that out!

 

* I think you should watch the movie… It’s an interesting one!

 
 

754.5oz of “RIDICULOUS” Love

The last few days have been filled with a mix of emotions. The older I get the more I realize that life is hard, difficult, full of tough times, brokenness, but at the same time, life is joyous, lovely, people do care, encourage, support and in some cases show RIDICULOUS amounts of love.

February 18th was my birthday. I had mentioned to “my people” that I didn’t really want to do a big celebration, that I wanted low-key, a small dinner with a few friends, and perhaps card games.  We went ahead with plans for that, Friday night, but then was pressed for what additional thing we should do on my actual birthday.  I mentioned perhaps wanting to do drinks/bowling with a few other friends and a plan was born…… My sister asked if I wanted to plan it and honestly with the way I was feeling, about celebrating another birthday wasn’t really on my to-do list (and also, I felt odd asking my friends to come “celebrate” me!)  So my sister RAN with plans.

February 18th, I arrived at my celebration and as friends began showing up and the mountain of love (literally) piled in the corner, I began to feel overwhelmed.

FullSizeRender[1] 12.59.31 PMLet me back up a moment…… when our family was in Atlanta over Christmas we visited the “World of Coke”.  (If you’ve not been there, you should plan a trip!) In their opening dialogue, they show a 6 minute video including “Coke Moments” from all around the world.  People sharing beautiful, special moments…  Watch the World of Coke “Moments of Happiness” HERE!

And so my sister contacted many people FullSizeRenderin my circle, asking if they would share a “Diet Coke Moment” for my birthday…… Here was her message to my friends:

I was thinking through what we could do for a birthday gift for Shauna to let her know how much she’s loved. Something that those who value her could participate in together and this is what I came up with. When we were in Atlanta we went to World of Coke and they had a 6 minute video, that we watched – it was snippets of happy stories tied together and Coke as part of it… it was about celebrating happiness…love, fun, laughter-moments of happiness. It was honestly amazing and made us cry. We realize that we have been lacking those moments this year. (It also made me want to drink more Coke :D)

So my idea is to have each of us use a can or bottle of Diet Coke, (because we all know is much she loves that) or something Diet Coke inspired and write a note to Shauna of happiness-memories or plans, stories or wishes, on the bottle or attached to the can or whatever you are inspired to do.  I will collect them and give her a big old basket of happy.

Thanks for loving Shauna so well – she truly is a lucky lady to have each of you as a friend ❤

Nicole

And they did.

The total amount of Diet Coke was literally IMG_4929754.5oz (and counting), but the words, the thoughts and kindness of the messages attached to each of those ounces showed more friendship (more Diet Coke Moment/”happiness”) than I ever imagined.

Reading the words from each person was so moving —- but when I got home, sat alone and re-read each message again, I was reduced to tears.  God’s way of reminding me that I’m not alone, that I’m seen, that I am impacting and showing people they matter, was RIDICULOUS overwhelming and he used some of the most RIDICULOUSLY AMAZING people in my life!

I’m beyond grateful to a sister, who’s idea was incredibly life-giving to me. I’m beyond thankful for friends who do life with me and who demonstrate “practically” their encouragement, support and love!

IMG_4897

 

And so every time I see the very large stash of Diet Coke goodness, (which will take me a while to get through), I will continue to feel RIDICULOUSLY LOVED!!

 

 

*Thank YOU to everyone person who contributed – not only to the gifts – but who has made my LIFE… RIDICULOUSLY amazing and full of happy!

 

365 days…..

JOY-HOPE_bkgrnd
Some moments of the last 365 days have felt like an eternity…. In other moments, 365 days seemed like a mere blink of the eye.

365 days….. Moments of more pain and heartache than I ever thought it was possible to endure.

365 days…… Moments of remembering and thinking back on happiness, memories of life, love and joy.

365 days……. Discovering that, although I miss her more than I can ever express, my life’s purpose goes beyond, and I am more her daughter than I ever realized before!

365 days ago……. Mom took her last earthly breath and stepped into a glorious place………….. Where she’s lived her moments more alive, full, real, true…. whole!!

Today, 365 days later…… intentionally taking moments to remember, to think back on Mom’s life, to see who she was, how she impacted me and so many others…. and even more, to celebrate that we’ve survived, and somehow managed to continue forward, one step at a time…….

 

So today, 365 days later, remembering the words I shared FEBRUARY 10, 2014….

First of all – as it’s been said before, thank you so much for coming!! Seeing so many people – both newer friends and ones from years ago, speaks to how well Mom lived her life —

The past few 4 weeks have been a whirlwind – a roller coaster of emotions for me. From January 9th – when Mom was first in the ER for difficulty breathing, to a cancer diagnosis and 16 days in the hospital, there were moments of uncertainty, moments of disbelief, but also moments where heaven’s touch was more tangible than ever before.

Mom lived her life — truly LIVED her life, fully! Over the 2 weeks she was at LGH (with amazing nursing staff and doctors), we had conversations that have and will impact my perspective of life and love and I will treasure them forever! One of our conversations was about the people in our lives … many of whom are sitting in this room today! We talked about how the concept of “Return on Investment” — and the biblical parallel of sowing and reaping…. had been demonstrated more clearly than ever. We talked about relationships and those we invest in, whether intentional, of by default, they give back – and oftentimes you see that so evident in times of crisis or tragedy. I can say — that not only were those investments that Mom made returned to her, but our family has been receiving those returns, the reaping of those SHE had invested in!

The 3 words – the themes Mom has written to you all, Joy, Hope and Grace, are as impacting as you’ll let them! Ann and Heather shared earlier about JOY… and as I thought through how to incorporate those words into today, Nicole and I were asked to share about HOPE….. the crazy thing is that earlier this year – I had blogged that my word – to help define 2014 – was Hope-filled. At the time I wrote it, I didn’t know what would be coming my way… but standing here today, I’m convinced that it’s no coincidence! Hope is not just wishing for something — it’s not about crossing your fingers and believing that something good or fun will come about…… HOPE is a choice — a lifestyle of belief, choosing to live in faith — whether we see or feel, or not.

As I was thinking about Hope — I was reminded of the lines from the Hymn “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness, I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus name….”

That was Mom. She didn’t put her hope or trust in things; in people, in doctors, in medicine, in anything here… her HOPE, her Joy was always Jesus. I can remember so many times, but especially in the past few weeks where I’d walk in the house (or hospital room) and music was playing, she was journaling or just sitting – rest/hope was incredibly evident! There was no fear, no discouragement or panic – HOPE, in who Jesus was, not necessarily what He would DO, was incredibly evident!

One morning before I went to be with mom in her hospital room, I prayed (and cried) my questions… and the response I felt was: “Yes, Shauna, you love her much – but I love her more and it’s time for her to be with me!” Mom and I talked later that day and I told her about that. She just smiled, nodded her head and said she was ready to go!!

Yes our hearts are so broken, and we will need to figure out what a new normal will be without her – quite possibly everyday —- but I am confident that Mom’s HOPE – her belief in Jesus – was fully realized when she took her last breath on earth and saw Jesus’ face. Her HOPE was fulfilled, when her body no longer struggled to breath or fight disease, but lives where there is no cancer, fatigue, shortness of breath, tears or pain. I know she is having the most amazing time, and that He is loving her – like she’s never been loved before!

So to my Mom, my friend – you will be missed, but thank you for being You, and for allowing us all front row seats to watch you live a Joy, grace and HOPE-filled life!

Missing you today…………

Life’s Timeline

I recently had the opportunity to sing during our weekend church gatherings and after a friend sent me a photo of me singing, I posted the photo with the following caption –

“So love these moments in my life’s timeline…”

imageAnd that phrase got me thinking about my life. I’ve heard over and over again that life has a beginning (birth) and an end (death) and then goes on into eternity – but have you ever really thought about what happens in between?  Life is a journey, with lots of ups and downs, but I think much of my life I live, from one major life-event to the next. Life began and then just kept going; from birth, to childhood to becoming a teenager. From being a vehicle passenger to the one in the driver seat. From being the high school student to college graduate. Seasons of living my days in the US to 3 years in Australia. From renting an apartment to owning a home.

Our lives are not void of a finishing line. We all have a start and an end and we all have a course we live – moments we experience – in between.  I don’t think my life path is set, as oftentimes our choices alter that path. I’m not a firm believer that there’s only “one perfect person” for each of us, neither am I a believer that there is only “one perfect path” for our lives. I believe God has a plan for each of us, but we make the choice to live, to make changes, to respond to our circumstances and other’s choices. There are things we see. There are things we don’t.

I realized as 2015 began, that so much of my living has been just waiting for those big moments in my timeline, (you know the ones with fireworks and angels singing…),  and although those moments are great, and should be, I think I might have missed a few of the “tiny” but most meaningful moments, those long-lasting, perspective-altering ones, that you should cherish always!

I’m so thankful there’s more time, for me to work to change things!  I want to LOVE and enjoy every moment on my timeline… so here’s hoping the coming days, weeks, months and years hold many amazing “tiny” moments where I take a deep breath, slow down and take in all the moments of my life’s timeline!

 

2hr Relationships

time_is_running_out_2-t2So I had a slight revelation over the Christmas/New Year holiday break. It was a thought that I’ve been mulling over the past few weeks. It’s a thought that when first entered my brain, shocked me, then scared me, then inspired me to process further, and now here I am… writing and hoping that something I’ve been thinking about possibly resonates with someone, if not — no worries, it’s doing a job on me (and still in-process).

If you’ve followed my blog, you know I do my best to live my life, do my job, enjoy my friends, live my experiences and be thankful for all those moments, the good, the bad the ugly. There are moments where I “do single” well and then other times, in my most honest and vulnerable times, where I “do single” very poorly.

So my revelation……. it was (and still is) emotional. It was (and still is) a bit shaking.  It was (and still is) very much in process!!  I realized that over the past years, probably 5-10 years, in a effort to live my life to the fullest, to make it a good life, to enjoy it fully – and an effort to just sit at home, pass the time waiting (possible for “Mr. Right”) I have filled my life with 2hour relationships.

What is that, you ask…..?

I have discovered that the AVERAGE breakfast, dinner,Spiral Clockcoffee or date, tends to be about 2 hours long.  I used to plan my social schedule on that data. In my less content days, where I was doing everything possible to fill my vacant schedule (and in essence, the emptiness – to avoid pain of soloness), I would schedule a dinner, at 5:15-7:15pm then schedule another friend for coffee 7:30-9:30pm. That’s insane, right?  I know… and you’ll be glad to know, I stopped doing that.

Being 35, spending the last 10-15 years on the go, in college, traveling the globe, starting a job, finding friends to do life with – I’ve gotten great at catching up with friends in those 2 hours chunks of time. And I think, in all honesty – connect well, feel encouraged, loved, valued, challenged and I think they did too.

For Christmas my family and I headed to Orlando, from PA, driving, hours upon hours in the car, it was good Quality Time – one could say.  I was nervous about not having “my space”, my car, my  schedule and routine, my control over noise and people being in my personal-space bubble…  spending 10 days with people, all the time, was going to be interesting as my norm the past 10 years has been solo, quiet, my space, my schedule……..

a-clocks-melt-Salvador-Dali-time-abstract-HD-WallpaperVacation was great, it was way better than I thought – and I SURVIVED!  On our way home, we stopped at an extended family’s house and stayed several nights. They were the perfect host and welcomed all 7 of us into their space for 2 days.  On our last night there, we ended up eating dinner around the family-dining table, sitting and chatting, then played cards for several hours.  We had a great time, but I didn’t realize – until I was in my room later that night, alone, what those several hours did to my soul, to my perspective on my reality.

We had a great time. We laughed. We were family.  It wasn’t just a 2 hour dinner, a chat and then off to the next thing.  It was chill, relaxed, it was family – it was meaningful relationships. There was nostalgia in that moment of reflection, remembering back to days when I was younger, but in that moment of reflection, there was happiness, sadness, pain and tears.  My reality, post vacation, would be soloness – relationships in 2 hour chunks of time and moments ending with “see ya later” – and watching my friends drive off to their reality of spouses and kids, and me going to mine, solo. Yes, I have a great house, great space, quiet, and it really is great, but there are moments as I watch friends – seeing their lives full of long-term relationships, people witnessing their everyday, minute-by-minute lives, beautiful dreams and I stand watching it all happen, not seeing my life with the same glow and fullness – it feel like I’m just marking time, 2 hour chunks of time.

I’ve realized that as glamorous or great as my life may watchseem to others, it’s made of my 45hrs of work and beautiful friendships functioning in those time frames and on some level it very sobering! I have some of the most amazing friends on the planet — ones who call me on my crap, who embrace my messes and challenge me to new places, who love and accept all my quirkiness but there’s something so sobering to me, the reality of the makeup of my life right now that smacked me so hard in the face.

Please hear me:
I don’t dislike my life. I do not dislike my amazing friends who are married and have families – I LOVE that’s their reality, and I’m not saying that “2hr relationships” over dinner or coffee shouldn’t be, because they are some of the most life-giving times for me. However the reality of my life, and where I stand right now is way different than I ever dreamed, and I think perhaps there needs to be a shift. A friend recently asked me what the “plan” is when I told her of this revelation, and I honestly don’t know.  I love that this is my challenge to think through (because sometimes challenge reminds me I’m not dead), but I’m still very much working out the details of change…… I guess that’s why life is a journey. Thankful to have more time, more days to figure out what a few more steps forward look like.

Memories made

So the last 12 months – the days, the weeks, the months of 2014 have had their share of high highs and very low lows. I’ve learned more about myself than I ever thought I would. I’ve learned more about the friends and family that surround me than I ever knew before. Life has a way of bringing perspective to things we never viewed “this way” – perspectives that is both good, a little thought provoking and life-altering!

Typically Christmas and gift-giving are high on my “brings me much joy” list – but this year felt so different. I don’t know if walking through a journey of loss brings a difference in perspective, or really want it is – but this December, the thought of pulling together great gifts, fun ideas, shopping or even trying to make something to show how much I appreciate all those in my life felt like walking through tar. I dreaded shopping. I dreaded even thinking of who “should” get a gift or thinking of who might get me something and therefore I should return the favor. The buying the gifts wasn’t really the problem… It wasn’t about the money – I just felt the lack of excitement and the very thought of gift-giving was exhausting and daunting.

My sister and I recently spent a few hours going through some of my Mom’s things. Even though it’s been 10 months since she’s been gone, I looked at the clothes, the jewelry, the things she wore and touched everyday and really what was left? She wasn’t those things. Yes, there were memories for us of moments when she wore a certain outfit and remembering where a piece of jewelry came from – threads and fibers and crafted metals – we’re just that, fibers, material and metals. She wasn’t there. The stuff wasn’t even truly the thing of emotion or even her.

It’s so common to hear around Christmas phrases of, “remembering the real meaning of Christmas” and “Jesus is the reason for the season”… And that is all true. We give gifts to each other because it’s a tangible reminder (or supposed to be) that God GAVE to us…. Gift-giving is that reminder to each of us of love, forgiveness and ultimately life, should we choose it. But more than that – the gift we’ve been given is relationship!

I realized the last weeks of stressing over what to buy all melted away a few days ago when I had that perspective shift. Stuff is so temporary. Yes it brings joy and excitement – but in the end – when that person, the giver or the givee, is gone the stuff remains, but the things held more dearly – the things that are most meaningful are the memories of time spent, conversations had and just being together!

The older I get, and the more life hands me, I’ve found that time spent with people is the most valuable and most meaningful thing I possess. Things are lost, broken or stolen – but time with people is quickly becoming the best gift I am given! Memories are made, treasured and held onto way longer than any thing someone hands me with pretty packaging!

Speaking of time… The next 10 days of my life will be spent with the 7 most important people in my life, family! There will be fun moments, laughter, probably some tears, but Christmas and New Years in Orlando will be something to be treasured – memories made!

MERRY Christmas.

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Waiting… waiting… waiting…

I’ve started more than a few blogs the past few weeks but for whatever reason, I’d get halfway through, not like where my thought process was going, it was all too jumbled or it was just too personal and probably best to be kept close. [I guess every writer has those moments but they keep writing… And so have I.]

So last night, I had decided I wasn’t going to write. I was just going to veg out, make dinner, drink a glass of wine, sit on my couch, (watching too many hours of TV) and just shut my brain off. But as I sat there, I realized something…. I actually realized a few things, but this one hit hard (and so writing happened…)

I’m a 35 year old girl who has the house. Who has the job – I always wanted. And I’ve got a car, the best circle of friends, the great connections – that I thought I needed, and yet, sitting alone I realized that in some ways I’ve literally (and in many ways figuratively) just have been sitting – waiting for something. Waiting for change. Waiting for something new and exciting. Waiting for that one phone call that would make my heart skip a beat. Waiting for that one conversation that would alter my professional future. Waiting for relief from emotions and out-of-my-control situations. Waiting for my current reality to shift to a new, brighter, more grass-is-greener kind of moment.

And yet, my reality is what it is. I’ve “climbed” the professional ladder and here I am, sometimes questioning, struggling and frustrated. I’ve had conversations, texts and phone calls that made my heart skip, and yet all those ‘relationships’ faded to nothing. I’ve had high highs and low lows of emotions – and believe me, since February 10th, there’s been many times where emotions and feelings have gotten the best of me.

I tend to be an all or nothing girl. I’m either working hard at life, to embrace emotions and to stare loss, loneliness, fear, uncertainty… Life – squarely in the face. (It is exhausting, but good.) Or I’m shutting down, because feeling all those things, or facing a different realty than I dreamed is just so incredibly tough.

And yet, as hard as I’ve worked, as much as I’ve allowed emotions to be felt, loss of Mom to be processed and that vacancy and life-altered norm to sink in, and even for moments of relief I find, I think I’ve missed something. I’ve been sitting….. waiting…. waiting… waiting… But for what?!

Reality is, all the things I think will make my world happy, full, bright and “right” – can’t actually do it. Yes, life is meant to be enjoyed and lived fully – God really wants that for us – but the truest ‘right’, happy and fullness can only BE HIM.

I realized that I’ve been waiting for something I wasn’t aware I needed. For every moment I’ve been waiting for all the stuff around me to change and shift, He’s just hanging out with, waiting for me to stop staring at all the circumstances, feelings, situations and actually say, “hey…” – to just talk to Him. My circumstances, uncertainties, job title, financial standing may never change, look, feel, or be any different but my perspective may shift and that’s where ‘change’ occurs.

This past weekend I heard this song and it’s lyrics ripped my heart apart…. I couldn’t sing the words at first, but as I take one step ahead, starting the simple, “hey…” conversation with heaven, I’ll eventually be able to sing, even in my waiting……..

I’ve seen many searching for answers far and wide. But I know we’re all searching for answers only You provide. ‘Cause You know just what we need before we say a word.

You’re a good, good Father
It’s who You are – it’s who you are!
And I’m loved by You
It’s who I am – who I am….

Watch the video here: http://youtu.be/djrY_eFDOwE (Patt Barrett / Tony Brown – 2014 Housefires)