The Shirt

Today I am wearing a shirt that I have owned for over 20 years.  It is probably the last time I will wear it.  It has been stained to the point of embarrassment, it is pulled out of shape, the cuffs on the sleeves are literally disintegrating.  It is my favorite shirt to wear around the house.  But its time has come.

It’s amazing how something so inconsequential can make you so nostalgic.

When I bought this shirt, I worked at Potomac Mills Mall.  I bought it there – at the Disney Outlet when it first opened.  I was in college at the time working part-time to pay for gas and books.  My dad was still alive.  I didn’t know what I wanted to be or who I could be.  But I never thought I would succeed or fail…I just lived each day as it came.  Don’t get me wrong – I have always been a worrier.  But it was less then.

The shirt never really fit.  I was miles too big when I bought it and it hung awkwardly on me whenever I wore it.  But I really loved it.  I still do.  There is a comfort in something you have had for a long time.  It is like a connection to someone you used to be.  Or at least someone you thought you were.

I was recently listening to the soundtrack of a Broadway show called “Waitress” – based on the Keri Russell movie of the same name – and there is a song called “She Used to Be Mine”.  The song comes at a time when the lead character is pregnant by a man she is trying to get away from and she really didn’t want to be in this position.  And she talks about how she used to be someone different.  (With apologies to Sara Bareilles for printing your beautiful lyrics)

She’s imperfect but she tries
She is good but she lies
She is hard on herself
She is broken and won’t ask for help
She is messy but she’s kind
She is lonely most of the time
She is all of this mixed up
And baked in a beautiful pie
She is gone but she used to be mine

That is how I feel when I wear this shirt.  I was a different person then.  Not necessarily better, but not the me I am now.  I sometimes wish I could go back to being her but then I realize how much I have gained since then…

I am still imperfect and I am still trying but I know a loving God who takes me as I am.
I am still good and I still lie but I know a loving God who takes me as I am.
I am still hard on myself but I am no longer broken and I know how to ask for help because I know a loving God who takes me as I am
I am still messy and I am still kind thanks to knowing a loving God who takes me as I am
I am no longer lonely thanks to knowing a loving God who takes me as I am
The old me is gone but the new me rejoices in knowing a loving God who takes me as I am

20+ years ago, I didn’t know I would be writing this while being engaged to a loving and kind man.  I didn’t know my 3 closest friends.  I wasn’t singing at all as I had quit.  I had not found the job that would fit me best.  And I didn’t know the God that loves me so.  I didn’t know how much He would bring to my life and how many doors He would open and how many He would close.  I didn’t have an identity in Him yet…but He knew and was just waiting for me to figure it out.

(And if you are interested in hearing the song above – its amazing – here is a link from the show.)

 

You Are Here For A Reason

I have attended many women’s conferences and retreats in the last 15 years.  And at some point, almost every speaker makes reference to the idea that each person is there for a reason.  It is not random, it is God ordained that they were there to hear/experience/meet/etc at this particular event.  In the past, while I have appreciated the sentiment, I am not sure I really felt the kind of purpose that was intended by that statement.  Sometimes, it DID feel like chance.

And then my sister bought us tickets to the Dare To Be conference at Hylton Chapel for my birthday.  It was early December.  I had forwarded her the event on Facebook, and she said, “If you want to go, I will get tickets for your birthday.”  Ummm…yeah.  I would go just to see Natalie Grant alone, so this was a no-brainer kind of response.

Around this time, I had been contemplating my word for 2017.  If you don’t know about this practice, you can look back at some of my old posts (usually in Jan) or you can google One Little Word.  So anyway, I normally think on the word for a while and invariably a word will come to mind that I can’t seem to shake.  Its usually a back and forth between 2 or 3 options and I keep getting pulled to 1.  But this time, a word had come to me and I knew it was meant for me.  I couldn’t figure out why.  But there it was – SHINE.

Its a word I don’t really think about in terms of my life.  I don’t like to be the center of attention (unless I am on stage and even then it is uncomfortable) and I have spent a good part of my life trying to not be noticed.  So shine seemed a bit…off. But I felt really strongly about this word.  An so SHINE it is.

So my sister and I go to the conference and I had no idea what she was about to talk about.  Charlotte Gambill, a writer I am not familiar with, was the speaker and her ENTIRE sermon, the entire night, was about  – SHINING your light.   Daring to be the light and not hiding your light under a bushel.  Shining your light from the mountaintops.  Shining God’s love to others.

If I ever doubted Gods immense love of the details, last night was a like he had set a bright NEON sign saying – HELLO MICHELLE, I have been trying to get your attention.  Listen up!

So now my eyes are open and I am straining to keep them that way.  Its easy when you come down off the mountain into the real world to forget the high you were just on.  Its my job to make sure I see the opportunities God is laying out for me to shine my light.

 

 

Passing of Another Year

Each year I have written a short post looking back on the current year before it ends and a second post where I look at the next year and list out some things I want (or don’t want) to happen.  Not this year.  This year, I am writing a double post.  Largely because 2016 has been a most peculiar year and 2017 looks to be the same.  I am not sure if I am looking forward to 2017 yet but I am sure not ready to hang on to 2016.  And yet, as I make the list of things from this year – maybe it was not all bad…

Physically, 2016 has been marked by a general lack of wellness.  I was in pain each and every day.  Physical pain.  And while it took me too long, I am finally ready to make it stop.  They say start were you are.  I feel like I have been stuck at the start for a long time.  Ready but not committed.  Trying but only half way.  Seeing the needed steps but feeling helpless to actually do them.  Afraid to fail, so never starting fully.

That time is over.

I am letting go in order to feel better.  I feel like I don’t really have a choice.  I feel like every year I say I am going to be better.  I even have this very conversation where I talk about how I was going to do that last year but didn’t and now I am.  I can’t describe it, but something has changed.  A level of desperation has been reached and I literally can’t live like this any more.  So whatever it takes.  Things have to change.

Emotionally, I have been all over the map.  I had a few YES! moments and a few OMG! moments.  But mostly there has been a general sense of blahness.  That is not good.  There are things that need to be resolved and some of them I have no control over  But I want to work on the ones I can.

Work was good in 2016.  I feel like it was a breakthrough year for me.  I have a lot to live up to in 2017 and a lot of things I want to accomplish. And I have big shoes to fill with the my client.  I am really looking forward to it all.  (Remind me of this when I am bogged down in the mire)

Relationships in 2016 have been good..  Things with J are as good as ever, but I am always looking to make it better.  He and  I both have a lot of growing to do and we are committed to doing so together.  It will be a tough year in 2017 – change is never easy and some of the changes needed will be the toughest we have each faced, but together we can be stronger and better when we get ready to enter 2018.

My sister and her family moved back to Virginia and while I realize that not everyone was happy about it in their little family unit, it has been such a joy to have them back local.  And I know my mom has LOVED having the grandkids (and Heather and Jeff) so close again.  They are becoming such great little humans.  They are learning to be better each day (and that is such a testament to Heather and Jeff’s commitment to raising them correctly).

I feel like connections were made at church this year that helped it feel like home.  Whether it was hosting our first movie night (more of these in 2017 please), game night (so much fun), craft days (my personal favorite) or the summer Bible Study we did (Angie Smith’s Seamless) I have come to love my SS class as much as I possibly could.  We are all so different, but I feel like part of the group in a way that has been missing for some time.

I was able to reconnect with some old friends – Ranessa, Janna, Cari – and strengthen a few newer ones.  I didn’t get to talk to some people as much as I have in the past – Matthew, I still owe you a phone call – but I did get to have a very special meeting with 2 of my all time favorite people at the same time (we are so hard to corral these days).

I got crafty at the end of the year.  Too late it turns out to be useful, but it has re-sparked some interest in me. I am letting go however of the “should” attitude.  I plan on crafting as I want to  – not just doing what I used to do just because.  I want to create – not feel guilty about what I am not doing.

I found SnapChat this year – I am not sure that anyone is really impressed with this as I am so behind the eight ball, but it did something that nothing or no one has ever been able to make me do before – I took pictures of me.  It seems so small, but there is a reason that my Facebook profile pic is usually a bulldog.  I hate being in pics.  But having let go of my “I hate having my picture taking stance,” SnapChat has opened up a while new world.  In fact, my plan is to start printing some of those pictures and using them to decorate a small book.

And then there was the election.

Much has been written about the political impact of a new president.  Some are truly fearful as rights they had obtained may be in jeopardy under a new regime.  Some are hailing this as the start of getting things back to the way they “should be”.  Some are just watching and seeing how this all goes.  I fall in the latter category.

I am part of an traditionally protected class – I am white, middle class, and straight.  However, I am a woman and if the election season showed anything to women like me it is that we have not gained as much as we think we have.  There are still a great deal of men who see us as either a weaker sex that needs saving or a plaything for their own pleasure.  There are still men who do not see us as people.  We are not entitled to our own opinions, feelings, ideas or desires.  We are to be used as they see fit.  We are only defined by what they deem important.  We are second class citizens in their world.

Please understand, I don’t have nearly as much to lose as others I know.  I fully recognize that and I don’t wish that on anyone.  To feel like you are finally making progress and in one election season, to have the hatred and scorn of so many focused on you – and then to realize that the hatred won and you may lose all you gained.  I can’t imagine the sorrow and pain that causes.   Whether it be about your race, your religious background, your ethnic heritage, or your sexual orientation, no one should be subjected to the kind of rhetoric that incites people to hate.  And we have been given a triple dose this year.

I am watching this coming year with a skeptical side eye.  Its the first time I can remember feeling this way about a new year.  Hope is a little strong right now, but God is on my side.  I have nothing to fear.  I know who I am, because I know who He is.  My faith is stronger than ever and I can’t wait to see what God can do this year.  And I am open to how He may want to use me.

Cozy

  • The faux fire in my fireplace
  • The lights on the tree in a dark room
  • My favorite sweatshirt bundled around me
  • The last 10 minutes in bed with the warmth of the blanket keeping you in place
  • Big socks on your feet
  • Mittens for your hands
  • Hugs
  • TV Christmas specials
  • Seat warmers in my car
  • Carolers
  • Seeing the kids open gifts and love what they got
  • Our traditional Christmas breakfast – just like dad made
  • Christmas cards in the mail (see yesterdays post)
  • Birthday cake
  • The lights in the trees in downtown Culpeper
  • J

 

 

Christmas Musings

I am trying to get myself ready to do a big project post Christmas about what Christmas this year was really like.  So I will be posting musings on different topics all month – so I can work with them later next year 🙂

Best gifts:  I have blogged before about my favorite gift surprise (a stereo my dad hid and I had to find after all of the other gifts had been opened).  The truth is that each year,  there are 1 or 2 things I would like to have, but since I was a kid, there is not usually anything I can’t buy myself.  My wishes are simpler these days.  I love giving gifts (a year a infinitely more stressful if I am worried about how to pay for Christmas) and while I do love receiving them, it is hard to surprise me anymore.  The best gifts tend to be the ones I was not aware that the other person knew I wanted and managed to find for me.  My family does lists – and trust me it is essential for us to do so.  But when someone surprises me (not necessarily with a big thing), it represents so much more.

Planning: I have had years where I was so busy at Christmas that I could barely breathe.  And I have had years like last year where I was recovering from surgery, where barely anything happened.  The truth is, like it or not, the month has to be planned.  Too many happenings going on to NOT plan.  Here are some of my favorite things each year:

  • Family Christmas party at my cousins on my mom’s side of the family.  It is the one time of the year we all gather (or at least most of us) and we jsut spend the afternoon together.  Low stress, catch up, eat and go home.
  • Christmas Eve services.  No matter where I am, it is one of my favorite things each year.  I miss singing each year in some capacity.  I miss doing O Holy Night (which I hope to do again some day).  But overall, it is just about being in a beautiful church, at night, with candles and remembering the celebration that happened in Heaven a couple thousand years ago.
  • See traveling friends.  It doesn’t happen every year, but invariably, I have a friend or two from out of town who travels in for Christmas and I get a few precious moments with them.  Last year it was Penny.  This year it is Sara.  I will take the 10 or 15 minutes I can to see them any day.
  • Christmas concert.  This has not been as consistent in the last few years, but I always love singing in a good Christmas concert.  This year I get to be a part of the one at CBC and I am excited.  It has been too long.
  • Visit to the office.  As crazy as the company supplier party schedule can be, it is one day when I know that almost all of the people I work with – including the telecommuters like me, will be together again in the office.  Its chaotic and I never feel like I get much done, but I do love seeing everyone.

Christmas Cards:  Oh the bane of my existence at Christmas.   I love getting Christmas cards.  I hang them up in the hallway and I often leave them up until late the following year.  I love the picture ones and the store bought and the homemade.  I love the greetings and the simple signatures and the well wishes.  But what I do not love, is sending them.  I put way too much pressure on myself to make them, get them perfect, and have them ready in time that by the time I get to where I am happy with them, they never get sent.  I apologize to my friends and family who are so good about sending them.  I love to get them.  I am terrible at sending them.

More musings to come as the month wears on.

 

My Christmas Wish List Manifesto

I have a few wishes for this Christmas and while I know myself well enough to know that calling a “manifesto” is setting myself up to fail, I will do so anyway:

  • I wish for some peaceful evenings this Christmas.  Surrounded by people I love and enjoying just being together.
  • I wish for some resolution in my life.
  • I wish to be able to make at least one other person’s Christmas better.
  • I wish for the everyday miracles to be more clear to me this year.
  • I wish for good things to happen to the people I love.
  • I wish for the willpower I lack at times to do what needs to be done.
  • I wish for love to surround me this year.

 

First signs of Christmas

Since Christmas kind of creeps up earlier and earlier each year, I find it amusing that I am talking about “first signs” today, December 1.  We have been seeing signs for MONTHS now.   I feel like there are a multitude of first signs I look for each year:

  • Santa arriving at the Macy’s Christmas Parade
  • Peppermint replacing Pumpkin
  • 97.1 WASH-FM Christmas music 24-7
  • The Halloween clearance becomes the Christmas Sale
  • Cute Christmas commercials on TV (and the sappy ones)
  • Lights start to go up on houses
  • Christmas Muzak in elevators and stores
  • New Christmas Music CD’s coming out

So what is it that I hope to see each year?  Its practicing Christmas music.  I have had it start as early as September and as late as, well tonight.  I have a Christmas rehearsal tonight and I am thrilled.

What is your first sign?