Good Grit

It’s Saturday night and I just came across a handwritten very rough post.  I’m doing something that I’ve never done before and sharing this completely unedited.  Honesty, I don’t even really remember writing this, but I do remember living it.

A Long Winter

It’s been a crazy long one.  Early snow, extended single digit temperatures.  The treacherous driving conditions have been my least favorite part of this winter.  I’ve had loved ones in the ditch a few times this winter season.

The early fall snow snuck up on us.  We were so busy with the final stages of getting our house into livable condition, that we didn’t get the snow tires on before a nasty early storm hit.  There I was with no traction, the road slipping out from underneath me.  Not a secure feeling.  Where was the sand truck?  I could use a little grit.

If you’re still with me, this post isn’t actually about the challenges of winter weather – well, not entirely.  It’s about the challenges of a long winter of life.

It could be a difficult person that you live with, a failing relationship, a death, financial struggles.  It could be anything, and you just need a little grit to stop you from slipping around and going out of control.  You need traction so that you can get to where you are going.

I haven’t always been gritty.  It’s been acquired after too many chances to let the pressure of trials, perform a transformation in me.  I used to run, beg and plead to get out of the work of transformation.  But the pressure is how I developed a little spunk and pluck.  I stopped running away and instead I started doing the work.  Looking in the mirror is a good place to start.  Complete honesty is a must.  I’m learning to sacrifice my perceived rights – my right to have it my way or my right to get what I want or what I think that I need.  I’m learning to do the right thing even when it feels impossible or seems unfair.  I’m learning to take full responsibility for my sin and not blame shift.  I’m learning that I don’t have to take responsibility for another’s sin.  Every bit of this drives me directly to God.  If He is faithful to convict me, He is certainly faithful to walk me through confession, receiving forgiveness and turning in a new direction in repentance.

This is where your grit becomes attractive.  This is not an angry, judgmental, religious person.  This is a humbled yet tenacious follower of Christ who has credibility.  When they tell the truth, it comes from a place of love, because they’ve struggled.  Good grit is soft, but not wimpy.  It doesn’t stay paralyzed by fear.  It’s bold, but with the smooth finish of a confident hope that comes from knowing that God has a perfect plan

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Well, It’s Not Any Wonder

I’m a juggler.  No, a magician.  Superwoman?  The truth is –  I’m dropping the balls, the trick has lost its magic, and I definitely don’t feel super.

 

Suddenly, the little chunk of world that I’ve managed fairly well, seems to be coming undone at the seams.  My mom who is my only living parent, is very ill as I write this.  Those babies, that I held in my protective arms, are now going out into the big scary world and making big scary choices.  I’ve loved deeply enough to have been hurt.  I’ve lived long enough to be blamed for things that weren’t my fault.  My once orderly home-school seems disordered.  I’m still running a business and still trying to finish up our new home.  I’m being faithful to my ministries.  Most importantly, I’m taking care of my husband, marriage and mothering a teenage young man.  And the cherry on top – I’m officially menopausal, and I’m no longer recognizing the woman that looks back at me in the mirror.  It’s still acting like winter here and honestly I feel like I’m living through a long winter of life.  Well, it’s not any wonder that I’m overwhelmed and mildly depressed.

 

Sorry for the gloomy introduction, but there’s just no way to sugar-coat the pressures that a woman feels in this stage of life, and there are days when it does get the best of me, but I’m learning to focus on living well, and I’d like to share what I’m learning with you.

 

>When I realized that I was emotionally disconnecting, I told my husband what was happening.  We need to let someone know – they may not be able to identify this on their own.  Now, he is my lifeline – he can pray for me and intervene, and since he knows my insecurities about aging, he tells me that I’m getting better with age.

>I asked a few trusted friends to pray for me.  I withheld nothing.  They know exactly what state I’m in.  Since they are each unique – they have each encouraged me in unique ways.

>I’m focusing on the people and relationships where I have influence.  No matter how tired I am or inconvenient it is, I’m intentional, because I don’t want regret.

>I’m reading God’s Word every single day and sometimes multiple times a day, and I fall asleep meditating on His promises.  I’m praying bold prayers – no wimpy prayers for this woman.  This has given me hope.

>I’m choosing forgiveness where others have wronged me or continue to hurt me, and I’m choosing to believe that God is my victor, and He will bring the truth forward when the time is right.

>I’m doing what I need to do to take care of my physical health.  No guilt.  I’m sleeping in if I need sleep.  I’m making my nutrition and exercise a priority, and I’m throwing the to-do list aside if necessary.

 

You are everything to someone.  Please don’t forget that.  You don’t need to jump higher to please others.  You are amazing exactly who and where you are, because God has put you in your unique setting to solve a problem – so take a breath, and be still, and know that He is God.

 

Update:  My precious mother passed away two days ago, just after I wrote this.  I’ll be taking time to grieve and help my brother.  My next post will be a Mother’s Day post and I’ll tell you all about this amazing woman that I called Mom.  Thank you for taking the time to read, react and comment.  You really do encourage me.

If at First …

I carefully read all of your comments, and I enjoy each one of these gifts.  Why then did I feel slightly uncomfortable, when I read a comment that complimented my writing abilities?  Somewhere around twenty years ago, I mailed a manuscript to several publishers.  Somewhere around ten weeks later, I learned that all of them thought my manuscript stunk.  They didn’t say stunk – they were professionals – they used a much more courteous approach.

 

I’d never attempted creative writing.  I was home with my newborn, and my job-from-home workload was under control, so I decided to venture into the world of fictional writing.   My hope of becoming a writer was dashed as those letters started arriving in the mail.  As I write about this, I’m experiencing that same sick feeling in my stomach.  Why didn’t my writing attempts stop there?

 

It’s because of my own personal ending.  Not a literal ending, but where I decided to finally accept that a handful of publishers didn’t own the world.  Their pass on my work, didn’t mean that I was a failure.  It simply communicated that they weren’t on board with my writing, or that I needed to eventually go back and work to improve my writing.  But when it first happened, it negatively impacted me.  I was embarrassed and felt like a loser.  I was dejected and out of sorts for a time.  I grew to accept the rejection, and even realized that it was proof that I was courageous.  I had tried something different and challenging, and that fact made me proud.  I always knew that being published after my first attempt was a long-shot, and I don’t want to diminish the efforts of those that have or haven’t been published after years of perseverance, but I had stretched myself and I’d tried despite the odds.  As the years passed, I was honest about the inferior quality of my writing, but I also chose to be gentle with myself.  I accepted that it wasn’t the season to put more work into this, but nothing had to stop me from trying again someday.

 

Working through this taught me a valuable life lesson.  Rejection should not define me.  Easier said than lived out – rejection hurts.  We either believe that it tells our story, or we fight hard to come back from it.  In this way, I’m a fighter.  I fought and refused to allow the rejection to speak for me.   I speak for me through the good things that have already happened, and will continue to happen because of my involvement.   I’m a good wife, mother, daughter and friend.  I’ve encouraged and stood by my husband through many difficult times, and as he completely changed his career at age forty and moved us to an entirely different environment and lifestyle.   I’ve had success in the corporate world, but left it, to go home and do my most important job – raise my children.  I’m far from the perfect home-school mom, but I’ve demonstrated tenacity by sticking with it from kindergarten through high-school.   There are people who trust me and desire to share their time with me.  And yes, I’ve attempted writing again.  This time I chose to write about my own experiences, and my hope is that my writing will reach a special person at precisely the right moment.

 

I’m not the sum total of all of my rejections and neither are you.  You now know more about me, and why your encouragement means so much to me.  Is there something that you need to try, try, again?

Civility

Some might consider me to be old-fashioned.  I believe in the value and necessity of kindness, civility, others-respect and self-respect for all man-kind, but this post is written specifically about a certain person.  The person that proclaims that they are a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, the son of God, blessed redeemer to those who put their trust in Him.

 

I’m finding myself increasingly demoralized by the lack of civility in our society, but what really gets to me, is when the foul language or vindictive attitudes come out of a fellow Christian.  When they’re behind a computer screen, some seem to have invincible courage, or at least a lapse in good judgement.  Why do so many feel the freedom to behave in a mean-spirited way online?

 

I wonder if they’re not thinking very far ahead, and only considering what feels good to them in that moment.  I wonder if in that moment, they are forgetting who they belong to.  I know this for sure – there is a human being on the other end of that remark, meme or photo.  The snarky words that make the writer feel as though they’re hilarious or vindicated, have the potential to break someone’s heart.  The recipient is not weak-minded – they are simply human.  There is nothing outdated about common decency, using discretion, and respecting other human beings, or even self-respect.  The author of poor taste humor or foul attitudes and language, would benefit by following the golden-rule.

 

Perhaps using some simple damage prevention tactics would be helpful.  Consider how you’d feel if this was directed at you.  A personal cooling off period – say ten hours of prayer and consideration on whether or not the comment or post is acceptable.  Will it hurt someone or damage a reputation?  Does it add value?  Institute a personal code that you will not violate, and double check that your code lines up with Scripture.

 

Unfortunately, there will be times that we unintentionally hurt other people, but being mean-spirited is disgraceful.  There’s a flesh and blood human with feelings on the other end of the comments and posts.  Our words and actions have consequences – they will always have an effect.  Even though you cannot see the reaction on the other side of the online world, it is still occurring, and that reaction might be a tearful, broken heart.  Is this really who you are?  Is this who you want to be?

 

Do not be wise in your own opinion.  Repay no one evil for evil.  Have regard for good things in the sight of all men.  If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.  Romans 12

Friend of Comfort

The one that you trusted so much, was untrustworthy with your heart, and now they are your lost one.  It feels safer to climb up onto a shelf and watch life, rather than allowing someone else into your heart again.  So many tell you to move on, or get over it, or their words communicate their thoughts of “why are you still hurting”?  Whether platonic or romantic, your lost one, possesses a piece of your heart, and you have a piece of theirs.  That aching that you feel from time to time, is the void that was left in your heart, when they left your life.

 

Hopefully as you learn to trust again, a friend of comfort will come into your life.  They won’t be able to fill the void that the other one left, but that’s alright, because they will make their own special home in your heart.

 

How will you recognize a Friend of Comfort?  They won’t tell you to get over it, because they might have a void in their heart from a lost one, and they might still be hurting.  They will understand and be patient with you, when you grieve.  They will tell you kind things, like when you feel a tugging on your heart, it is your lost one tugging from wherever they are, and that they must be remembering and missing you, because you played such a special part in their life.  They will remind you that rebuilding after an emotional storm, is a process.  They will encourage you when you’ve seen your lost one, or heard from them, and feel as though all of the rebuilding that you’ve done, has been for nothing.  They will see that you are strong and compassionate, and they will tell you so.  They will see that you are special and beautiful, and they will make sure that you believe it.  They will see that you have a heart that can comfort, because it knows pain.

 

I have been blessed with friends of comfort entering my life, and this post is dedicated to them.  Each one has played a very special part in rebuilding me, after the storms that have hit in my life.  They each are a piece to my puzzle, and this has become a beautiful puzzle.  Some are sensitive.  Some are quirky.  Some are hilarious.  All are smart, honest, loyal and fun to have in my life.  They persist in telling me that I’m special.  They have proven to me that I am worthy and deserving of having true and loyal friends, that also have the capacity to give back to me.  I’m just so thankful for each one of them.

 

Come on down from that shelf.  You’ve learned a lot about who to trust, and how to trust.  There is a friend of comfort waiting, because they need a friend of comfort too, and that might be you.

 

2  Corinthians 1:3-4 All praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He is the source of every mercy, and He comforts us.  He comforts us in all of our troubles, so that we can comfort others.  When others are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort that God has given us.

That First Step

It’s so natural for us to get bogged down in the negatives of life, or even the trivial details of living life.  Perhaps you’re dealing with many challenges right now.  It can be overwhelming.  This is not a think positive post, because I know that these difficulties are real, and they cannot be positive mental attituded away.  Instead, I’m asking you to hit them head on.  Take the actions that are within your ability or resources, and don’t forget to search for, and focus on, the blessings that already exist in your life.

 

I’m writing with my knee propped on a pillow.  I really have no idea what I did to injure my knee.  It might have been when I stumbled off of some unfamiliar steps a few months ago while moving boxes, or perhaps, it is as simple as turning 54.  This bum knee has been the source of a lot of angst lately.  I love to dance in the privacy of my own home, and that’s not as easy, or enjoyable as before.  Also, I must work out, or I gain weight – rapidly in fact.  Right now, I’m 5 pounds up and my clothes don’t fit correctly.  My modified workouts don’t feel effective.  I know that I should go to see a doctor, but we are within a month of moving into our new home.  I’m in a conundrum.  I’m not comfortable sitting and watching others put my house together, or letting others take care of me.  I’m a worker bee by nature, but I’m concerned that if I attempt to do this move, in my current condition, I’ll do more damage.  I’m not exactly hitting this head on, am I?  The pain and indecision nags at me. That’s it – I’m going to put some action behind my words.  I just got up, grabbed my insurance card, performed a few Google searches, made a few phone calls, and presto! – I have an appointment with a doctor.  I’m now unstuck and moving forward.  It was that simple – I took the first step, and then I’ll take the next and the next and the next.  I’m no longer focusing on the uncertainty of how it’s all going to work out, but I’m focused on doing what I have to do, to feel better.

 

Once I took the first step, things moved rapidly.  Suddenly, the appointment that I had made for the following week, was being rescheduled for the next day.  When I went to see the doctor, he examined me and sent me for x-rays.  Once I returned to his office that afternoon, we reviewed the x-rays together.  He remarked that I had a gorgeous set of generally healthy knees, and he determined that I have a meniscus tear in one knee.  We began working on scheduling the surgery, which has now been set for next Thursday.  My doctor thinks that I’ll heal quickly.  I should be good as new, and busting my moves a couple weeks after surgery.

 

Was that so hard?  I was completely psyching myself out.  The current complicated nature of my life, didn’t make things easy, but I just needed to take a step, and get moving forward.  What do you have going on in your life that’s nagging you, or bogging you down?  What’s the very first thing that you need to do?  Take that first step today, and start moving forward.

A Little Bubble, Perk and Joy

She’s a bit bubbly, and she smiles a lot too.  When she was a little girl, her Daddy nicknamed her “Smiley”.  Her life isn’t perfect, and she doesn’t always feel happy.  She has just as many heartaches, struggles and challenges as the next woman, but she was created with a perky personality, and she can usually find the bright side, in most situations.  Sometimes she even laughs through her tears. She has felt self-conscience about these traits, but she is arriving at a place where she accepts, and even values the positive aspects of her personality.  Who is this woman? It’s ME – Madeline Eatenton.

 

Hello, I am Bubbly, and my bubble, perk and joy isn’t always tolerated well by other women.  I am sure that I’ve annoyed a few women, and sometimes women just don’t like me at all.  Some of these women were created with a personality that is more subdued, and as for the others – your guess is as good as mine. I will call the subdued woman, Somber.  Somber is akin to a regal feline, perched high.  Her demeanor is reserved.  Bubbly is a bouncy, energetic, friendly puppy that just wants to play.  She could be friends with almost anyone.  Somber doesn’t really understand Bubbly, but if she gives her a chance, they can teach each other great lessons about life.  I now have women friends that fit into the somber category.  They are open to my bubble.  We appreciate each other and our differences.  I value their influence greatly, and I believe that they value mine.

 

For my fellow Bubbles – a Somber may have difficulty relating to you, but she’s still open to the possibility.  Beware of another type of woman that doesn’t understand you – she may have a somber demeanor, but she has already decided that you won’t be entering her life.  She will use various tactics and behaviors to make you feel disliked and unwelcome, and her manipulation can be so powerful, that you might believe that you are the problem.

 

Women of all personalities, shapes and sizes are sisters.  We understand each other, and relate in ways that only sisters can.  We can value each other, and realize that there is something to learn from other types of women.  Instead of being turned off by a personality type, try examining her integrity.  Is she open, kind, giving, honest and non-manipulative?  If so, let her add her own unique brand of personality to your life.

 

Fellow bubbly: you and I must learn to temper our effervescence just a little, at least until we know whether it’s safe to pop the cork, and let the bubbly flow.  Remember, when another woman doesn’t accept you, it is not about you.  She may be dealing with her own insecurities, heart issues, emotional difficulties, mental illness, or at the very least, she simply isn’t able to understand you.  You will learn to recognize the men and women that appreciate you for who you are – that Bubbly that naturally exudes a little sparkle and joy.

My Word Lesson

It wasn’t always this way.  Words haven’t always meant so much to me.  I didn’t always grasp the impact of a word, or the chasm created by the absence of words.  Now I seem to have a love affair with words.  Sometimes I choose to keep them to myself, and sometimes I use them to express my heart, and sometimes I use them to make someone else feel good, but unfortunately, sometimes my words have made someone feel bad.

 

Recently, our son said “mom, you don’t talk to us the way that you used to – you’re not as kind and patient as you were before”.   Before what?  My heart broke, and I thought long and hard.  It seems that the pressures of my current life and challenges were really getting to me.  Due to the necessary busyness of my life, I now believe that my relationship with my Lord began to suffer.  The branch, had become disconnected from the Vine.  The fruit that had existed on the branch, was beginning to shrivel and rot.  This manifested itself in short-tempered and harsh attitudes and speech.   As I wrote this post, I realized something else.  My son had been witnessing his mother as she worshiped God on Sunday, and then she returned home as a hypocrite.

 

I make no excuses for myself.  Yes, the demands are great, but do I have the same power in me that raised Christ?  Yes, it is available to me as a Christian, but if the branch is disconnected from the Vine, I am also disconnected from His power.  This is the power that could enable me to have grace on my tongue, no matter what my circumstances.

 

Now we’ve come full circle.  Why do words mean so much to me?  One word – legacy.  I want to leave a sweet legacy.  As it has been said, “taste your words before you spit them out”.  I want my words to be silent when appropriate.  I want my words to be carefully measured, with exactly the right amount of grace combined with truth.  I want my words to be merciful, encouraging and uplifting.  I want to be speaking these words for the rest of my life.  I want these words, to be the words on my lips, as I speak my very last.

 

I am the Vine, you are the branches.  Those who remain in Me, and I in them, will produce much fruit.  For apart from Me, you can do nothing.   John 15:5

Youthfulness Doesn’t Have a Number

You know her.  She walks into the room, and others become aware of her presence. She is hated by some women, and loved by most men. The woman that despises her, will search high and low, to find a chink in her armor.  Men will notice her, and think that she rocks completely chink free. There is just something about her.

 

What this woman possesses and releases into the room, is the magic of youthful feminine loveliness. She is confident, but this doesn’t mean that she believes that she’s perfect.  Actually, it is quite the opposite. She is very aware of her imperfections, but she chooses to view them in a positive light. This kind of confidence, comes from a deep relationship with the One who designed her.  She is happy with her appearance and her personality – imperfections, quirks and all. The confidence that she feels, allows her to reach out to others, freely giving of herself, and she works to accept that she may never receive anything in return.  This doesn’t always come easy to her.  There are days that she could easily curl up inside of herself, to lick her wounds and insecurities, but she chooses to reach outwardly instead.

 

How does she do this?  It’s really not that complicated.  She is sweet, spicy and fun.  She is open and honest – showing her authenticity.  She smiles.  She looks others in the eye. She talks to the ones that others ignore. She listens with care. She doesn’t allow herself to be cliquish.  She may not be young, but she exudes youthfulness.  She’s like a magnet that draws others in.

 

Don’t be jealous of her – she isn’t your enemy.  You would be better served to examine your own attitudes and demeanor, and then learn from her.  Here’s a word about men.  They like this woman, and they can’t see anything wrong with her, so if you are tempted to speak negatively about her, or even raise an unapproving eyebrow when her name comes up, you might be pushing a man away.  A man won’t always be able to identify why this offends him – he just knows that it makes him very uncomfortable to hear a woman attempt to destroy his image of woman that he admires.  Men are attracted to youthfulness, and they are repelled by prudish catty behaviors.

 

Good news – youthfulness doesn’t have a number.  It exists in a woman that whether she is physically young or not, she captivates others with a glow that comes from within.  It’s her capacity to love others, and it comes from a confidence that quietly, softly radiates outward.   Youthfulness is so much better than merely a young physical appearance. This woman will actually make others feel better after they have had interaction with her. She breaths life-giving oxygen into a room and into the lives within it.