Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Dangling Carrot

As I followed the bread crumbs to embark on this new chapter in life, I really thought I knew where God was taking me. I really felt like I had it all figured out. Come to find out those bread crumbs were more like a dangling carrot.

I have been thinking about this journey that I am on and trying to wrap my mind around it… it is what I do before I can finally surrender to “what will be, will be”. I know in my heart that I had to close my last chapter because it wasn’t good for me or my family. I found myself stressed out and, at times, depressed in my career as an Art Teacher. I wanted a better quality of life. I wanted to strive to live a life I love and love the life I live. I wanted to live in accordance with God’s purpose for my life… in harmony with His will. In order for me to close one chapter, God knew I needed something to entice me… a carrot dangling in front of my face to motivate and encourage me to accept the beginning of a new chapter.

That carrot was becoming a yoga instructor. God knows me soooo well!

I snapped my pearly whites at the carrot and kept at it… until it didn’t feel right any more. I have said all along, “I go where God goes”. I felt God had detoured; therefore, I stopped in my tracks and waited until I felt His guidance once again. 

I prayed. I meditated. I sought God’s guidance for where to take my career as a yoga teacher. Many ideas ebbed and flowed through my mind in this past 6 months. I felt like I was being lead in the direction of teaching at the yoga studio where I practice; however, after two weeks of teaching there, my heart felt heavy and burdened. Therefore, I slowly backing away from my obligations at the yoga studio and I am back in the business of seeking guidance. I am searching for the trail bread crumbs once again… or a carrot on a stick.

As you can imagine, this was very hard for me swallow at first. I felt shame. I felt like I was a failure. I felt like I made a mistake. I worried I disappointed people. After I allowed myself to feel those emotions and stopped over identifying with those lies, I saw what was really happening… God is working in me. That’s all I truly ever wanted in this new chapter of my life… God’s purpose and will.

I am using this free time wisely. I am focusing on being a better wife. I am focusing on being a better mom to not only my one-and-only child, but to the foreign exchange student from Sweden that we are hosting as well. I am focusing on my health and fitness. I am deepening my faith and relationship with God. 

I am so thankful that God dangled the carrot and I took the bait. This is not where I thought I would be, but I am grateful for where I am. AND… I can see what God is doing in me and through me in this new chapter. I wait patiently for God to lay the next bread crumb… or dangle the next carrot.

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him.” Psalm 37:7 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Fish Out Of Water

I almost feel abandoned or traded by my own feelings. I didn’t expect to feel this way. Here I am pursuing a dream and what I felt like was God’s purpose for my life. Yet, I am feeling so inadequate, so not enough, so unworthy… which is so unlike me. You know me. I am self assured, confident, enough, and worthy just as I am… perfectly imperfect. In this new season of life, I feel the opposite.

I am floundering and flailing like a fish out of water because I am out of water… out of my comfort zone.

I read inspirational quotes like…

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” Neale Donald Walsch

“You can choose comfort or you can choose courage but you can’t choose both.“ ― Brene’ Brown

“Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.” Brian Tracy

I nod my head with a resounding YES to those quotes… that is, when I am IN my comfort zone. When I am out of my comfort zone, I nod my head in uncertainty at the irony. Assuming that they must have written those statements on the flip side of being back in the water… back into their comfort zone. Because when I am so far out of my comfort zone that I don’t even know who I am… my feelings sit in my chest and I feel like I am going to throw-up.

You know that feeling?! Where your emotions are filling to the brim of your heart? You read something touching or you hear a song and you cry like a hungry baby because you just need to get those tears out. You know those tears aren’t about the thing you read or heard. Those tears are overflowing from your already too saturated heart. Your heart cannot handle one more drop of emotion.

I am a fish out of water… yet saturated at the same time.

Marco… Polo… one mist… one splash at a time… I will find my way back in the water.

Monday, August 4, 2014

My Friend, My Teacher... Greg

After a 6 hour drive, we arrived at our vacation rental house in Mission Beach. It was exactly what the pictures depicted. Just steps to the beach and walking or biking distance to anywhere we wanted to go. Right away, we went for a quick visit to the ocean to say hello and announce our arrival; as if the ocean had been expecting us.

 The next day, I spent some time doing yoga on the beach and then we enjoyed the beach as a family.  About mid-afternoon we took a break and sat on our front porch to relax… soak in the beauty of our surroundings. About that same time, a homeless man stopped and sat on the wall across the sidewalk. He was probably about 60 years old, but perhaps the streets ages a person faster. He mumbled a few words to himself, smoked a couple of cigarette butts that he had obviously found on the ground, and a couple hours later he walked away… as if he had somewhere important to go.We put him out of our mind and went about our vacation.

On the third day of vacation, our day started out the same as the day before. In the afternoon, my husband and son went out to explore some of the shops and Belmont Amusement Park. This gave me some free time. I sat on our front porch to watch the people walking by. The homeless man came back again. I decided this must be his usual daily stop, on his normal daily walk. He and I sat there awkwardly for a few minutes. We resided in the same space, yet worlds away. 

I called out to him, “Hey, man! What’s your name?”
He responded, making eye contact, “Greg.”
I said, “Nice to meet you. I’m Melissa.”
As he was pulling something out of his backpack, he was saying, “I have something I want to read you.” He shuffled through the pages of a worn Bible. As he read to me I was so intrigued by this man and the Bible verses flowing so eloquently from his white bearded lips...

1 John 4:7-12

God Is Love

7-10 My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can’t know him if you don’t love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God.
11-12 My dear, dear friends, if God loved us like this, we certainly ought to love each other. No one has seen God, ever. But if we love one another, God dwells deeply within us, and his love becomes complete in us—perfect love!

I paused for a moment and replied to Greg, “God is love! That’s beautiful. Thank you for sharing.”
A friendship had begun! I looked into his beautiful blue eyes and they told a story. A story that I needed to hear… a story that needed to be told.

Greg lost his wife to breast cancer, but he told me… even though, he was still married. Greg’s child had also passed away. With two devastating losses, he gave up on life. After being homeless for some time, in 2010 he was sleeping under a bridge and woke-up to being beaten by teenagers with crow bars. He spent time in the hospital, yet still has no feeling in his right hand. He sleeps on Bay front property near a hotel. The sprinklers come on every night at about 1:00 am; except form Sundays. He reads his Bible every day.

I think people have preconceived notions about those who are homeless… they must all be on drugs, they can get a job if they want to, they are different from me. Well, maybe some are like that… but not Greg. I believe that I too might be the same person under similar circumstances. I too might have given up on life.

I think people look the other way when it comes to those who are homeless because it is too difficult to realize that there is a little bit of Greg in each of us. We might be a few circumstances away from this life of homelessness… this life of throwing-in the towel.

For the remaining days of our vacation, my husband and my son got to know Greg too. We learned that he missed having a cup of coffee in the morning… so we gave him money each day to go buy a cup. We left him goodie-bags if we were going to be gone when he arrived for the day. We gave him food. We bought him clothes and a towel. He was always thankful and grateful. He always respected the boundaries of our friendship.

We learned that he missed having an am/fm Walkman… so after spending half a day unsuccessfully walking around and riding our bikes across town, we finally ordered him a Walkman on Amazon and had it delivered to the rental house. It arrived late on Friday, after Greg had already left his wall for the day. Since we were leaving the next morning, I was worried I wouldn’t see him to give him his gift. My husband went for a bike ride and saw Greg. He told him that I had something for him. Greg walked back to our house, sat on his wall, and waited for me to approach him. He couldn’t believe I got him a Walkman. I explained how it worked and gave him back-up batteries. He put the headphones on his ears and immediately pulled them off and said, “Have you heard how great these sound?!” I agreed that they did sound great. I told him we were leaving in the morning and that this was our good-bye gift. I told him that it was nice to meet him… but that was an understatement.

I truly think that Greg is one of the greatest blessings in my life! He taught me so much... He taught me that the greatest blessing we can ever give is one that can never be repaid. He taught me to not judge people by their outward appearances or circumstances in life. He taught me how to be blessed by being a blessing. He taught me that it isn’t about me. He taught me how to truly love others how God loves us. He taught me that everyone has a story to be told and heard.

Since we’ve been home, I have thought about Greg every day. I told my husband to not be surprised if there is a charge from the local pizza place delivering food to Greg on his wall.

I began volunteering at a local shelter, House of Refuge House of Hope. Funny thing is… or should I say, God thing is… I had already committed to volunteering here before I left for vacation… before I even had my Greg encounter.

I feel as though maybe this vacation rental house chose us rather than us choosing it because had we stayed in another house, on another block, in another part of Mission Beach… we would have missed out on an amazing opportunity to meet a friend who changed our lives forever. If you are ever in Mission Beach and you meet a homeless man named Greg with beautiful, storytelling, blue eyes… tell him Melissa from Arizona says hi! And, if you ever have a chance to bless someone who can never repay you… trust me; you will be the one who is blessed!