Sunday, July 14, 2013

I WIll Do Relationships Differently

Wordle: Community of People

I think we all have those moments when you don't quite recognize your life, the person you've become.  You've lost yourself along the way.  It happens over time little by little, each choice taking you on a winding path along the life's journey.  One of the more complex and clarifying things that shape our lives are the health of our relationships.  That is where I have been parked for the past few months.  Seems like life has rolled on by and here I am a wife, mom, boss, army veteran and mentor.  I have a mortgage, I'm making preparation for my daughters' education, and I'm picking out my long-term care insurance.  But wait, I can still vividly remember my high school homecoming, senior cut day, and passing the driving exam...where did the years go?

Now I don't don't know if I have come into a different season since entering the fabulous forties, but all of sudden life has more meaning.  I have a clear sense that I have more years behind me than in front of me and I don't want to waste another moment in dysfunctional relationships.  Consequently, I cannot allow anything or anyone to keep me from fully enjoying relationships with the people that God has blessed me with, my people.  My people may not be be the people that others have chosen or the people I think "should" be there for me.  I have let some relationships fall by the wayside because I was concerned about another person's feelings.  But the person I was so concerned about has never been capable of having the kind of healthy relationship with me that I could have had with the many people, my people that God brought into my life.  Suffice it to say, I have deficits in areas of my life where I could have been whole.

Other things are not so cut and dried but have essentially had the same impact on my relationships: finding balance with marriage, family, and self.  I've made what seemed like tiny little sacrifices in the name of marriage and motherhood.  I've also invested much of my life building security through my career and trying finding balance with work and home life.  After 13 years of marriage, two children, and a full-time career, my outside relationships have dropped lower and lower on the totem pole of priorities.  I've missed weddings, graduations, and other important events in the lives of some of my closest friends due to work and/or family commitments.  I feel pangs of guilt for taking the time to get regular manicures, let alone even meeting a friend for coffee.  Add to that the church commitments and I'm pretty much tapped out.  But I need my sister girlfriends to walk with me as I navigate the role of wife/mother/leader; to sustain and support me through all the stages of womanhood.

So here I am in the midst of the centennial celebration of my beloved sorority, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.  And while I was fortunate to share precious time with a few of my sisters it was also a bittersweet reminder that I've missed out on too many years with some amazing women because I didn't place enough value on cultivating the relationships.  But I love the beauty of true friends, the ones you can pick up with like you just spoke yesterday.  I spent some quality time with some of my beautiful Sorors who are genuine sisters and friends to me and in one day together we connected in a way the was empowering and inspiring and life-giving.

This post is dedicated to the many women who have graced and impacted my life, as well as, a call for me to do better with my relationships.  I must adhere to the call for my own well-being and for the sake of my daughters.  It recently dawned on me that I am not setting a good example for them in terms of self care.  One day when they are grown with families of their own I want them to be balanced enough to build strong relationships with the people that God sends their into their lives to enrich them as women.  There has to be an investment in self in order to be healthy and able to give to those we love.  Part of that health is gaining what we need from meaningful relationships.  It is in gleaning the wisdom of the elders who have lived so much longer than us.  The elders may not be your Mom or Dad.  Maybe Mom or Dad is not in the picture or they don't have the capacity to love and nurture you the way you need it.  Cultivate relationships with the elders that have become a part of your personal community, your people.  It is also in protecting sacred time with your sister girlfriends.  As a married woman, I can't get everything I need from my husband.  Though he is a big part of my life and I have grown through the course of our marriage I need my sister girlfriends as well.  No matter how much he pouts when I am away (smile), I am always better when I have the time to connect with the women in my life.  However, from this point on these relationships will have priority and not be sporadic stops and starts.  I have made a commitment to myself to be intentional about fortifying my community of people.

On a final note, a very wise woman and I were talking one day shortly after we moved to this area.  She asked me how things were going and I mentioned that things were good: I had found a cleaners, the girls were adjusting to school, still searching for a nail shop, etc.  Then I told her that one of the ladies from church lived near me and we kept meaning to get together because it seemed like we had some much in common: married, children around the same age, and so on.  She smiled at me and said,  "relationships are not about proximity or those kinds of similarities; meaningful relationships are born organically."  That was a powerful statement that I have just come to understand some four years later.  I have my people.  That is not to say that I can't add new friends along the way, but I have a sisterhood of women who I owe a great deal.  They have been there for me at some defining moments in my life and I will not let distance or busyness or the feelings of others keep me from having the depth in the relationships with my community of people, the people assigned to walk with me through my lifetime.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Take A Second Look

We have been in our current home almost four years and for the most part love it!  It is a home better than I have ever lived in my life and more of a blessing than I ever dreamed of having.  We were introduced to the community by some friends when we were on a discouraging home search.  We thought that building a home was out of price range in the Virginia market so we had been looking at a fixer-upper that would give us access to good schools for our daughters.  We were not looking for anything high-end, just something comfortable and safe for our family.  So we were cautiously optimistic about the possibility of building a home.

Well, we were ecstatic when we visited this development and even more elated when we were pre-approved for a mortgage that would give us more house than we knew what to do with.  For months we tracked the progress of our home from site clearing to final touches and when the move-in day arrived we were beyond grateful.  Fast forward four years and things had begun to become a little familiar.  We had a couple half-completed DIY projects, a massive basement flood that destroyed one of the completed projects, and a loud dishwasher that often had us saying things like, "I knew we should have gone for the top of the line appliances when we were building."  Where had the gratitude gone?  I would even get a little antsy when we had guests over because I kept thinking about the fact that we hadn't gotten around to painting our main level.  Oh my!

Then a strange thing happened a few weeks ago.  We were hosting a gathering and someone had taken pictures and posted them online.  And although my house was not the object of the photos, I realized that my house was quite beautiful.  The hardwoods were gorgeous, the decor was warm and inviting, and the fading paint on the walls didn't matter.  My gratitude was rekindled and I had to seriously repent for allowing those ridiculous thoughts overtake my mind and rob me of the things that God has blessed me with.  Do I still plan to make some home improvements? Yes, but it will be an effort to enhance and preserve my blessing and not from a place of discontent or ungratefulness.

I began to realize that many of us are robbed of our peace because all we see are the imperfections, the places for improvement, the unfinished places.  I encourage everyone to take a second look at your home, your car, your body, your face, whatever it is about you or around you that keeps you in a state of malcontent.  Receive the compliments of others, embrace the beauty of your surroundings, and be present in the moments of your life.  If you think it will help, take some pictures and see the things differently.  Those pictures of my home were a pivotal moment for me maybe it could work for you as well.  It would be a shame to miss out on living a full and content life because we don't have the right type of sight.  Take a second look and see the beauty that surrounds you/that IS you.  Don't waste another moment being robbed of your peace.