YOU ARE AWESOME

Tuesday was the one year anniversary of the eternal homecoming of an awesome guy, Chad Rogers.  Chad was a friend of mine, a friend of thousands, a beloved son, dad, husband, brother, nephew . . . .  I always knew Chad was well-loved and the outpouring of postings on the anniversary of his death was just another reminder of Chad’s beautiful legacy.  Like me, the guy wasn’t perfect and Chad was the first to own this – which is probably one of the big reasons so many of us loved him.  He was real.

One of the things I love about social media is the on-going tributes that are shared when someone loved dies.  It is a virtual support group.  I thought about how important is was for folks to post expressions of love, funny stories, and  lasting lessons about Chad.  I rejoiced at what comfort it must be to Chad’s dear family to know that Chad continues to live in so many people and that they are not alone in their grief and their memories. I hope Chad’s Facebook profile is around for a long time so that his young son can one day read it and find comfort in how loved his dad was and how many of Chad’s pictures and status updates were about his son, Matthew Job. 

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Embracing the Adventure

It is unfortunate that it often takes bad times or painful experiences to sometimes wake us up to beautiful things around us. Like an extra long winter makes us euphoric for the sun and a little warmth. Or like a crazy busy season of work leads us to crash and slowly remember the joy and necessity of rest or spending time with family.

One of the best sensations.

One of the best sensations.

It is unfortunate but it is also good. Because I don’t know that many of us would ever voluntarily shout “ENOUGH” and jump off the crazy train in order to frolic in green pastures and to smell roses and lilacs. To take of our shoes and let the cold grass squish through our toes while we make memories and moments with people that we love and people that we will come to love.

And perhaps that last paragraph was a little flowery than normal because I have narcotics in my system but I find I’m speaking more honestly these past few days. And if I may be honest … I love cold, squishy grass between my toes and rolling down grassy hills and picnics on blankets and impromptu dances in fountains and the smell of creation. What I don’t love is the crazy train. Especially the crazy train that I insist on riding solo.

The week before last was an unfortunate experience. And although I don’t want to relive the pain at all and I am doing tons better, I’m really grateful for the experience. For many reasons. God reinforced things he has been trying to teach me. God didn’t zap my sacrum. I did that. But He used the journey to grow some healthy things in me that we’ve been working on for awhile.

1. Gratitude – God reminded me on so many occasions of the countless things I have to be grateful for in my life and in the world. God used gratitude to take my eyes and thoughts off my pain and my circumstances and to be fully present with Him. It didn’t bring miraculous healing or lessen the pain but it shifted my focus from me to Him who comforts and who strengthens my spirit in order to deal with the pain and the work that would be required to heal. There is no better place to focus my eyes and heart than on my Abba who puts everything in perspective. When I look elsewhere, I get distracted and unsettled and pathetic.

2. Dependence – As I blogged about early on, I hate being dependent. I’ve always struggled with it. During this journey, I had no choice but to ask for help and to receive it. I can’t begin to thank my mom and dad enough for all they did for me. They rearranged their schedules. They drove me to countless appointments and work obligations. They went to the store for me, helped me dress, mowed my yard, checked in on me, winced with me. They spent hours getting things together for Mission JC that I could not do. If they could have, they would have traded places with me. Why? Because they love me. I’ve never doubted that for a single moment of my life but it is still humbling and overwhelming and one of the most beautiful things to know that you are loved so deeply. Their love for me helped me receive their help and I am a better person for being dependent on them. Their love embraced my pride in such a tight grip that it had no choice but to relent and embrace them back. And that brokenness has carried over to my relationships with God and with others.

3. Friendship – I think part of being independent is something I’ve developed over the years because I’ve seen so many friendships come and go. It is hard enough for introverts to let people in but it is especially hard to get close to people, to be vulnerable, to really share your heart when you know from experience that the odds are great that it will not last. Life is always changing. Jefferson City is a community where so many come for a short time and then they move on. And that is how I think I’ve approached a lot of friendships subconsciously. Guarded so that I’ll be ready to move on with minimal causality when the time comes. I’m realizing just how much beauty I’ve missed by approaching relationships this way. During the past two weeks, my amazing friends have reached out to me and have been there. And with my gratitude up and my independence down, I’ve been able to just relish the joy and gift of friends and relationships. Random texts to check in on me. Late night deck conversations that did more to lift my spirit than any drug (legal or illegal). And so …. 🙂 I’m just so blessed with many wonderful people in my life and I want to be that some kind of wonderful friend to them.

Bad times or painful experiences are a part of life. Many of them are out of our control.

What we do have control over is how we respond to them and what we are willing to learn from them. I want to learn. I want to live life to the fullest that God dreams for me which I can’t even begin to imagine. His dreams for me far exceed anything I could ever conjure up. The only requirement that God asks of me is to leap. Don’t be afraid, Melissa. LEAP!

I want to leave you with these challenging words from none other than my hero, Brennan Manning. May they inspire you to leap as well.

“The unaffected heart is one of the dark mysteries of human existence. It beats dispassionately in human beings with lazy minds, listless attitudes, unused talents, and buried hopes. …. they never seem to get beneath the surface of their lives. They die before they ever learn to live. Years wasted in vain regrets, energies dissipated in haphazard relationships and projects, emotions blunted, passive before whatever experiences the day brings, they are like snoring sleepers who resent having their peace disturbed. Their existential mistrust of God, the world, and even themselves underlies their inability to make a passionate commitment to anyone or anything. Paradoxically, we attain self-awareness, not by self-analysis, but by the leap of commitment. According to Viktor Frankl, a person finds identity only to the extent that ‘he commits himself to something beyond himself, to a cause greater than himself.’ The meaning of our lives emerges in the surrender of ourselves to an adventure of becoming who we are not yet.

I’m gratefully surrendering myself to the adventure of becoming who I am not yet. And I’m so grateful to the people in my life who I get to live that adventure with and who allow me to be a part of their own adventure as well.

Secret to Joy

There are four commonalities among those who live joy-filled lives:

  • a feeling of being forgiven;
  • forgiving others;
  • a feeling of life purpose;
  • a strong sense of gratitude.

Gratitude drives joy. When we focus on what we have rather than what we don’t have, we are grateful. And that brings us joy.

For each of us, one of these four commonalities will be a weakness at various seasons of live. They may switch around and move on us depending on life circumstances that we allow to toss us about like waves in the ocean. Learning to intentionally pursue these four commonalities will develop the kind of life that I believe most individuals desire.

At this stage of life, a feeling of life purpose is my struggle. I’m camped out on this idea of life purpose and what truly I should be doing with my life. I’m aware that until I feel that my life has purpose, my joy will be incomplete. Whether it means doing something different with my life or seeing my life differently, I have to feel purpose in how I”m living my life in order to live the joy-filled life that I desire.

What about you? Do you agree with these four commonalities? Is there one that you struggle with and that is keeping you from living a joy-filled life?