Contemplating Cancer – Part 1

Is it really happening to me? I won’t know for sure until the end of next week according to the nurse. That is a best case scenario. It could be as long as two more weeks. Although, I’ve already waited that long thus far, what is two MORE weeks. Well, in total it is a month. One month to contemplate whether or not I have cancer.

And I have not reacted exactly as I imaged. Not that I ever before imagined having cancer. But I suppose that if someone were to tell me it was a possibility, I would expect my reaction to be wrapped up in disbelief, tears, fear, anger….

Why me?

It’s not fair.

What am I going to do?

But instead, it’s been more like….

Why not me?  Not in a self-deprecating way, but more so as in a – I’m 43 years old, cancer seems to be a roll of the dice and I just rolled craps – way.

Life is not fair. God never said it would be fair. There is sin in the world and bad things happen to good people.

There is nothing I can do. It is truly out of my hands as to what my final fate will be. God’s plan for my life is just that, His.

I’m am not putting on a brave front or trying to be all stoic about it. And I’m certainly not okay with it. But I don’t have very many tragic feelings swirling around in my head. Maybe I am numb.

Numb is a great, non-committal place to be. It is in the land of numb that I resided when the kids were first born at 27 weeks. Numb allows me to function. It allows me to still laugh with the kids, make dinner, work. Numb helps me take it day by day – step by step.

Step 1: Doctor’s appointment

Step 2: Another Doctor’s appointment

Step 3: Blood test

Step 4: Wait

Step 5: Harass Doctor for lack of response

Step 6: Wait

Step 7: Schedule ultrasound

Step 8: Have ultrasound and watch the screen show chaotic bloodflow to 4 tumors.

Step 9: Wait

Step 10: Harass Doctor for lack of response

Step 11: Schedule biopsy

Step 12: Harass Doctor for earlier appointment

Step 13: Have biopsy on Monday

That is where I am when I write this – Step 13 – oh the irony is laughable. But I don’t, laugh. Because I am numb.

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Starting Over… What Is Possible?

Starting over is not easy.

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In fact, I think it’s one of the hardest things we have to do as an adult. Far too often we get stagnant in life. Sometimes even in our own misery. It’s safe. Easy. It’s why people stay in a bad relationship or a bad job. Change is scary for most of us. And as we grow older we tend to resist change. At least some folks do, not all. I suppose it’s the element of risk that rattles us. The unknown is a mystery and the familiar is comfortable.

But sometimes you have no choice. I would not have chosen the last two years of my life, if you talked to me 12 months ago. But ask me now and you will get a different answer. I have come so far in life in what seems to be such a short period of time.

Nashville flood victims would not choose the last two weeks either. Given the devastation of the flood, it is quite possibly the most difficult thing that some have ever faced. Even if you didn’t lose everything, it is still very frustrating to deal with paperwork, insurance adjusters, policies, agencies, and on and on. If you did lose everything, it is even worse. Where will I go? What will I do? When will the assistance come? What if I lose my job? Certainly, with all of this it may not be possible to look at the future with joy and anticipation.

So how do you keep up your spirits and not get sucked in to the exhausting daily struggles?

Ask yourself “What is possible now?”

My journey after the divorce was based on one premise: Who am I beyond Jacob & Emma’s mommy? (Beyond JEMS) What else was there to me besides being a stay at home mom.

  • What was I capable of doing?
  • Where would I go?
  • Who was I as a woman?
  • How would I support my kids?
  • What did I dream of doing?
  • When would I get my life back in order?

Many folks did not understand my journey. Many scowled, visually and verbally, at my choices. But there was only one thing I knew to be true…. I knew that this was my opportunity to start over. I was facing the second half of my life and I wanted to it mean more, be MORE! I had to discover what was possible.

Not many folks have the choice to start over. It can be a blessing, even if it is forced upon you by circumstances beyond your control. You have a choice to dwell in the negative or try to see what is possible.

Trust me, I’m not suggesting, it’s all wine and roses and happy-go-lucky, cheery, positivity. It can be hard. Very hard. But it can be done. I recall someone saying that if you are not growing, you are dead. And we all know that growing pains hurt.

Take the moments of reprieve to dream.

  • Dream about possibilities.
  • Dream about what if’s.
  • Think about when.
  • Think about how.
  • Think about why not now.

Believe in yourself., believe in God and dream. If only for moments a day. It’s a start.

Nashville Flood: Lives In The Ditch

Franklin flooding brings community to help victims discard the ruins and pick up the pieces.

My Street

My Street in Rebel Meadows

The air was thick with a musty odor that reeked of rot and decay. As it should, given the amount of debris that lay by the road side waiting to be picked up by the city of Franklin.

The Rebel Meadows subdivision, my neighborhood, sits right beside the Harpeth River. It winds around us and ventures on back to the Cottonwood and Fieldstone Farms neighborhoods. We were all in the same boat during the flood, somewhat literally.

I ventured out last week to help my neighbors by offering the use of my home for bathroom breaks, air conditioning, or a general reprieve. I also delivered cleaning supplies, trash bags, towels, etc. It wasn’t much, but I grabbed anything extra under my kitchen sink. I had to reserve a bit for my own cleanup efforts, but what I had to deal with paled in comparison for folks just 2 doors down from me.

Lives Tossed Aside

Lives Tossed Aside

Furniture, clothes, toys, it was all in shambles. Piles upon piles lay in the ditch waiting for pick up. It was overwhelming. I didn’t realize how much it threw me off-balance emotionally until much later in the day. It left me with a feeling of loss and emptiness.

It also shed a whole new light on the disaster that brought New Orleans to its knees. It was one thing to watch news coverage of Katrina on television, but being evacuated from your home is another. During the flood, I had to reassure Emma and Jacob that God was not flooding the world again. But it’s hard to process as a child when you are being carried out in 2 feet of rising water. What a relief for them to come home and see their stuff safe and dry.

Flood Victim Guts House

Flood Victim Guts House

But it was also a good lesson to see the other homes on the street. You have a new perspective when you have to stand next to the destruction and smell it the very moment you step outside. You can teach children empathy by talking about it, but until they see it live, especially the littler ones, I’m not sure much of it really sinks in. This was an exceptional opportunity for them to learn and grow.

In fact, it made such an impact on the kids at their school, they initiated a toy drive for the boys and girls who lost their toys in the flood. Yes, when I say “they” initiated it, I do mean the students. Emma & Jacob voluntarily chose to bring two each. And not just any two, but newer toys they play with today. It makes me so proud to know this is who they are becoming. THEY ARE NASHVILLE!

flood clean up

It Seemed To Never End

And that is the bright light in all of this. The people. The community outpouring of support and generosity is amazing. People are not just donating things, but they are diving in, getting dirty, helping complete strangers dig out. Companies, volunteers, neighbors are all doing their part. Even Atmos Energy, our gas company, set up camp on my street for the week to pass out hot lunches and drinks for victims and volunteers alike.

Everywhere I turned people were coming to help. Just as I delivered cleaning supplies to neighbors on Wednesday, on Friday I arrived home to find two large industrial tubs of cleaning and safety supplies from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The irony. One I used. One I donated again.

This is what stands out to me the most from last week. The positive energy. The willingness of people to help. The countless volunteers driving by asking, “What can I do? Can I get you anything?” It surrounds us. It defines us. It is who we are. WE ARE NASHVILLE!

Taking A Mommy Time Out For Yourself

I’ve often written about being a single mom. Some of the good and probably more of the bad. But the one thing that has been resonating with me so much lately is that I do not devote time to myself. Mind you this is not a “single mom” thing, it’s a mom thing. Moms in general are so many things to so many people. It is easy to forget about yourself as an individual and easier to focus on others.

How does this apply to the single mom? Well, it just takes it a step further. We are not so many things to so many people, we are EVERYTHING to some people, our kids. You are the one who provides for them 24/7/365, deals with nightmares, plans birthday parties, leaves work when someone is sick, plays tag in the yard, supervises TV, and teaches them everything about life. Somewhere along the line we become it – the everything.

There are fortunate single moms who have a great support network of friends and family to help and many ‘non-single’ moms who do these things on their own on a regular basis for various reasons. But for whatever reason, the burden for a single mom is greater mentally and emotionally because there is no spouse to share the responsibility, pick up the slack or give them a break when needed.

Some women I know lose themselves in their family almost intentionally and very happily. Some do it with a bit of martyrdom as if it is biblical to sacrifice everything of yourself for your family. So pardon me if I step on some toes here, but while it may sound all noble and Christianly, it is really a disservice to your family and God.

As a single mom, because we are everything to our kids, we have to be sure that we can fulfill that role. It’s very important to maintain our health – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually – and this takes time. It takes an intentional plan to ensure all of these areas of our lives are where they should be.

I’m guilty of it. I don’t always eat right and I never get enough sleep. So I’m constantly working on new strategies, new plans, new drugs (i.e. Ambien) to help improve physically.  But I think it’s harder to address are the areas of our lives that are not so tangible – mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

Taking time to attend to these areas may begin to look and even feel selfish. It can involve spending time with your girlfriends, taking a pottery class, going for long walks alone. Enter the guilt. Here’s a starter guilt list and what it looks sounds like.

  • Homemaker Guilt – I shouldn’t do this because I should be doing x, y and z at home.
  • Mommy Guilt – I shouldn’t take the time because the kids really need extra attention from me right now.
  • Money Guilt – I shouldn’t spend the money (i.e. on a girl’s night out) because the kids need x, y or z.
  • Peer Guilt – I shouldn’t do this because I know people won’t understand and will judge me.

It is this combination of things that lead us to put our needs aside and be everything to everyone else.

For me, writing, painting and socializing, were three activities I regularly took part in as my first year as a single mom. It was my sanity. It helped me develop my relationship with God and allowed me to figure out what the second part of my life was going to look like. Now, during the last year I have swung the other way. I have let my pursuits fall by the wayside to be replaced by life.

So if you are like me  and need that extra push or a reason to take some time for yourself, here’s a list to motivate (both of us!)

  • Just like being in a healthy relationship requires one to be whole as an individual, so does being a mom.
  • Giving them the best version of me is one of the best things I can do for them.
  • Developing myself sets a good example for them to be balanced and healthy throughout their life.
  • Taking a few hours a week is not selfish. It is healthy. Start small and work your way up.

Now that Spring has sprung and it has breathed new life in me. I have a new sense of the importance of self and how it impacts my ability to be EVERYTHING to them. I hope this will you as well.

How do you take time for yourself? Do you feel guilty or embrace it? What’s holding you back from making yourself a priority too?

When Missing Daddy, Call On Your Father

“I miss my daddy,” Emma cried.

I’ve heard this more and more over the last month. I guess it is a matter of timing. They haven’t seen him since our trip to Hungary in July. Well, except for about 10 minutes mid-October when he Skyped with them.

The last time he spoke to them was the 3rd week in November. He called mid-December, but the kids were with my dad. He said he would call there, but I’m not sure he did.

That has to weigh heavy on a little one’s heart. Most of the time, I’m sure they just go about their business of life – going to school, church, play dates, family movies, etc. But it’s in the quiet times or times when they get hurt that his absence seems to be more than apparent. This is when they cry out to a father that does not listen.

It’s especially rough during the holiday season. We get photo Christmas cards depicting bright, smiling families – complete with a daddy. They also know they are going to spend time with their daddy at Christmas. And I remind them so it will relieve some of the tension of ‘when’. Then you get questions like this:

“Is daddy coming back to marry us mommy?” Emma asks with such innocent hope in her eyes.

It burns me up! I flood with emotion: anger, frustration, resentment, sadness. I hurt for them. Still. You would think this gets easier over time. But it doesn’t. When your child is hurting it really doesn’t matter if they are 4 or 40, you hurt with them.

For a long time, I didn’t know what to say to the “missing daddy” statement. My standard answer was “I know”. What else is there to say?

“He was a crappy husband and is even a crappier father.”
“What else is to be expected from such a self-centered, ego maniac.”
“It sucks to be you!”
“You’ll be missing him the rest of your life, get used to it.”

There are no words.
At least I thought not.

Then I remember the wonderful book of Isaiah and some of the lessons I have learned this past year and a half. Painful but reassuring lessons that have given me a peace like I have never known. So now, I have a new reply.

“I know. I know you miss your daddy. And I know that sometimes you feel sad and confused. Sometimes the people we love make choices that we don’t understand. It is confusing and sometimes it hurts us. But I know your daddy loves you very much. And you know what else? God loves you even more. God is our Father in heaven. He is my Father and your Father. He is our Father because He created us and loves us more than anyone else ever, ever will. He will always take care of you and be there for you to talk to or ask for help anytime you need it. He is with you always in your heart.”

I often go on to talk about how Mommy loves her and is always here. We talk about Mr. John and Papa, my dad, being there for her too. But I guess that thing that I want her to get, that I never did as a child, is that she is not alone. God is our Father in heaven and He is with us always. She doesn’t have to long for the love of a father because she has it already. Maybe it’s not in the way other kids have it or that she expects it, but it is there.

Always Emmanuel

Life at 40 with ADHD

So I was recently diagnosed with ADHD. Shocked? Well, I sure was. But the more I have learned about it the more it has made sense to me. It explains behaviors and traits that I thought were just bad habits or anxiety, even depression.

As it turns out, there is a lot of misinformation regarding ADHD. I used to think that anyone with ADHD couldn’t focus or pay attention, struggled with school and/or work, and generally bounced off the walls all day. (Somewhat like my twins when they were 2 and 3) But that is not the case at all, especially for adults. Here’s a snippet of info from CHADD.org, a resource for folks like me..

Until recent years, it was believed that children outgrew AD/HD in adolescence. This is because hyperactivity often diminishes during the teen years. However, it is now known that many symptoms continue into adulthood. If the disorder goes undiagnosed or untreated during adulthood, individuals may have trouble at work and in relationships, as well as emotional difficulties such as anxiety and depression.

This makes sense… for me. In fact my diagnosis was the result of peeling back the layers surrounding my anxiety and depression that resulted from the divorce. But after post divorce healing, there was still anxiety and depression left to manage. As we dissected it, repeated themes began to emerge from periods of my life.

But first, I want to take a step back to the basics of ADHD to load up on facts and disspell some myths.

1.  There are 3 subtypes of ADHD. They all present with different symptoms.

AD/HD – Primarily Inattentive Type:
Fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes, struggles to follow through on instructions.
Has difficulty sustaining attention, avoids or dislikes tasks requiring sustained mental effort.
Does not appear to listen, is easily distracted.
Has difficulty with organization.
Is forgetful in daily activities.

AD/HD – Primarily Hyperactive/Impulsive Type:
Fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in chair, has difficulty remaining seated, runs around or climbs excessively.
Has difficulty engaging in activities quietly, talks excessively.
Acts as if driven by a motor, has difficulty waiting or taking turns.
Interrupts or intrudes upon others,
blurts out answers before questions have been completed.

AD/HD – Combined Type: Meets both inattentive and hyperactive/impulsive criteria.

2. Symptoms have to be present before the age of 7, present consistently for 6 months and significantly impact 2 areas of life (home, school, social settings, work)  Most people exhibit these behaviors at some point, but it the consistency and the extent to which these symptoms present that make a diagnosis of ADHD appropriate.

3. The cause of ADHD is largely unknown, but research has established that it is neurobiological. Heredity is the main cause of proliferation.

4. Now to list some common myths: (Each link is addressed in detail in the article: Myths and Misconceptions About AD/HD: Science over Cynicism By Phyllis Anne Teeter Ellison, Ed.D.)

Myth # 1: AD/HD is Not a Real Disorder
Myth # 2: AD/HD is a Disorder of Childhood
Myth # 3: AD/HD is Over-Diagnosed
Myth # 4: Children with AD/HD are Over-medicated
Myth # 5: Poor Parenting Causes AD/HD
Myth # 6: Minority Children are Over-Diagnosed with AD/HD and are Over-Medicated
Myth # 7: Girls Have Lower Rates and Less Severe AD/HD than Boys

Quite frankly, there is so much I am processing right now, it’s a bit overwhelming. I would have never guessed that this would be a diagnosis for me. I was an Honor Student in school, but received poor marks in Talks Unnecessarily and Mischievousness. Apparently, I finished my work first, then bothered everyone else. I also excelled in my career. At one point I managed 3 programs through 5 model year changes and thousands and thousands of engineering changes and builds. I was very good at my job, especially projects. This is driven by motivation and hyperfocus (a skill most ADHD folks possess). But I struggled with repetitive tasks, the daily grind.

It’s also why I have struggled this past year. The daily grind, the mundane day in day out, the lack of motivation, the lack of a structured schedule. Moving three times, getting a house put in order, etc. is the epitome of what I detest.  I get overwhelmed by the amount there is to do and get depressed when I don’t accomplish what I think I should.

The good news is there is a reason for the way my brain works and solutions to help me get headed in the right direction again.

Rewarding Kids For Not Cussing?

IMG_0548There was a post Mom Connect requesting advice on how to get her 6yo to stop interrupting her while on the phone. I ran across the tweet and went to check it out.

One of the replies was to reward them for not interrupting. i.e. give them stickers or a prize, etc. This riled me up a bit after I thought about it. So I replied.

I used this tip from a mom who also found success. It is not a reward for not misbehaving, it is a consequence for inappropriate behavior. There are pros & cons to both, but I strongly disagree that we should reward kids for not misbehaving for general everyday activities. That’s like giving them a reward for not cussing. They begin to expect rewards for just being nice and doing the right thing. It can backfire later on in life, but that’s just my opinion. A 6 yr old is old enough to know better. This is a matter of doing it because they get away with it.

It’s a quick and easy rule: If you interrupt me on the phone, the answer will be no. Unless it is an emergency (i.e. injury, fire, etc). That’s it. It didn’t take my kids long to catch on and they are 4 yr b/g twins. It deters 80% of the “Mom, I want a….” “Mom, can I….” “Mom, can u…” There are times when they think something is an emergency, but it’s not really. Hope this helps!

I explained the situation to John as a safety check and he agreed. It IS like rewarding them for not cussing. We would never consider it.

Keep in mind I’m not against using positive recognition or reward systems. I think they are great for teaching and helping establish new behavior patterns. i.e. potty training, taking on chores, etc. I use(d) one with my kids when introducing them to their bedtime routine of cleaning their room, brushing their teeth, putting clothes away, etc. It worked great initially, but then those actions became part of the routine, most of the time anyway. So now we are in the process of moving on to bigger tasks for rewards and letting the standard baseline include the ones they have mastered.

However, I just think we often set up kids to expect rewards for doing the right thing or the responsible thing instead of just doing it because they should. We see it on TV everyday. The little sitcoms laughs at the daughter being told to help or clean up and the retort is, “What am I gonna get for it?” (hand stretched out seeking compensation) I HATE THAT!!!!

I’m not a perfect mom and I don’t have perfect kids. In fact, my kids are expert negotiators at age 4! And I basically taught them how to do it. We (me, moms, society) teach them to share. It’s one of our primary directives when navigating year 2 with a child. Sharing is about negotiating. I take my turn and then you take yours. I’ll do it 3 times, then you do it 3 times. It’s all a negotiation. And this is key because life is a myriad of negotiations in relationships, business and even self-discipline.

But… you knew it was coming… there is also a fine line drawn when it comes to what you do for compensation versus non-compensation. Getting in to interpersonal relationship and family dynamics presents more opportunities where you have to make a choice to either negotiate or just do it because.

When we begin to negotiate bad behavior with rewards versus consequences, we set ourselves as parents up to fail and ultimately we set the kids up to fail! Plus we miss an opportunity to instill a sense of pride and self-esteem for doing the right thing.

I am the worst when it comes to not realizing that I do it. John points it out to me quite often that I negotiate compliance versus expect it. He’s right. It’s typically a scenario where I’m giving a choice because that’s what we’ve been ‘educated’ to do with children. Give them choices, make them feel a part of the process, that they have some control. This is good. It is true. But not necessarily when it comes to compliance.

Like just about every other mom out there, I often wonder if I’m getting it right or screwing it up. I know I don’t have all the answers. Very few for sure. But I hope I’m making more right choices than wrong ones.

How do you see it?

Each Day Is A Tragedy…

For Someone, Somewhere.

The Appomattox

The Appomattox

This is an odd statement to start out with, but isn’t it so true. It was prompted by a friend’s tweet regarding this week being filled with tragedy for so many.

Yes, yes it has. But isn’t every day for someone, somewhere. Are you following me?

Many people in the Franklin, TN area have been following the progress of Josiah Berger, the son of Grace Chapel’s senior pastor, Steve Berger. Josiah was involved in a car accident and has been proclaimed brain dead. Since the event there has been a wave of prayer surrounding the globe for God’s intercession. The support befalling the family has led Vanderbilt Medical Center to request the family to stop receiving visitors, which I personally have never heard of before. It is an amazing testimony to the love and support of so many. And many are probably strangers linked by the wondrous social media tool, Twitter. Of course, this is how I first heard of Josiah.

While yesterday on the East coast, in the small town of Petersburg, VA, a young man named Jason took his own life. He hung himself down by the Appomattox River. Someone noticed and called 911, but it was too late by the time they reached him. There was no prayer vigil, there was no twitter outcry for support for the family, there was only a few emails between friends. He was a friend of John’s. He was in his early twenties and from what I gather did not have the easiest life. He struggled and John’s description of him really took me aback. He said he was insignificant. Not in the harshness of a life that had little value, but that he was one who was rarely noticed. He never made a fuss about anything, never called attention to himself. He was quiet, along for the ride, simple.

Of course, John’s greatest regret is not reaching out to him more. Not making him feel like he belonged more. That he could get through whatever it was that was hurting him so badly. But John didn’t know that this is what he needed because he lived his pain in the shadows. No one knew.

As so often is the case for all of us.

Each and every one of us encounter strangers, acquaintances and even friends who are living in pain, and yet we don’t know. We are either too busy to notice or they are too good at hiding. So before you jump to conclusions about someone’s ‘perfect life’ or rush to judgment about someone ‘getting what they deserve’; step back and ask yourself if you really truly know who they are and what they are living.

Grant each other grace because you never know what tragedy has occurred in their life today.

The Scary Guy

From my friends at Firepit Friday Media Group… I was able to participate in this amazing talk by The Scary Guy. It is 28 minutes long, but it is worth it. For folks who have young kids, older kids, single, married, young and old can benefit from this video. CC and Cynthia invited The Scary Guy to Nashville to speak to a group about his mission. The Scary Guy has a new effort for the elimination of ANGER, HATE, VIOLENCE, & DEATH! At 6ft tall and tattooed from head to toe … The Scary Guy is quite possibly the most powerful Agent For Change on the planet today! The Power to Create World Peace Lives Within Each and Everyone of Us.

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Loving Unconditionally

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UNCONDITIONAL – Not contingent upon ANY condition(s)

CONDITION – Circumstances that must exist or be realized before something else is possible or permitted.

*** No circumstance must exist or be realized before LOVE is possible***

Love, unconditional love. Real UNCONDITIONAL love. It’s such a hard concept to even wrap one’s mind around. Especially if the one you love is hurting you. I remember my dad telling me once that love is not a feeling, it is a choice.  And in my marriage I made a choice to love him and to stay. But in reality it was not a choice to love it was a calculated resolve just to endure. Even in the end I said I would not divorce him, but I made my love and my marriage contingent upon his willingness to get help for a problem he didn’t recognize. And he filed. Then one day about 8 months later, Gail Hyatt sent out a tweet about loving your enemy. See it’s easy to love someone who is loving you back. But what about those that don’t?

I attended Rolling Hills Community Church this past Sunday. Thanks to Chad Jarnagin‘s invite. And the message was the last in a series on love. The opening video is what got to me. It was of a girl who was speaking on how hard it was for her to love freely without hesitation, without reserve. To give from the heart not just to those who are asking for help but joyfully giving something that is precious to us at random. It is for all of us to do this isn’t it? But what would happen if we did? What would happen if we even just tried? A little bit.

See, we were created BY LOVE, WITH LOVE, TO LOVE. It is God’s intention for us to LOVE EXTRAVAGANTLY! (Borrowing from the sermon here! Thanks Pastor Jeff!) That’s it. Pure & simple. I love that idea so much, that I just have to repeat it.

WE ARE TO LOVE EXTRAVAGANTLY!

I’m such a word geek, so please bear with me. Words have meaning, they have power and influence and all too often they are taken too lightly. So I love (haha) to dive into a word’s meaning and synonyms to really get a feel for the power behind a word. And look at the word extravagantly and what it means and represents:

Extravagantly -freely, without restriction, at will, candidly, deliberately, fancy-free, intentionally, openly, plainly, purposely, spontaneously, voluntarily, without hindrance, without prompting, without reserve, without restraint, without urging.

Pure and simple, right. But it’s not simple because we are human and we have been taught by other humans.  It’s hard to let go of the unspoken values we were raised with and the baggage of the past that weighs our hearts down. But it is possible with Christ in our lives. Challenging but possible. I often say that my father was the best example of Christ’s love for us that I have ever known. That is because he loved me unconditionally. Even in the bad times. Even when I was making his life hell (there were a few of those). He rarely raised his voice. He knew how to see the difference between a rebellious daughter acting out and his little girl who was really hurting and confused by life and love. So even in the bad times that’s who he loved and who he reached out to hold.

I have never in my life loved like that. Truly, never loved like that. My love has always come with conditions, with limitations and with reserve. I will love you…

  • IF you love me back
  • IF you love me the way I want you to
  • IF you believe as I believe
  • IF you give me what I want
  • IF you constantly prove it to me, over and over and over again.

I have been loving the wrong way most of my life. There are exceptions to that of course, I love my parents and siblings and kids. Especially my kids. But there have been more times than not that I have not acted like I loved my parents and sisters unconditionally. And yes, I have always loved them. But I have not shown them that love. I have not acted on that love. What they have seen, as others have in my life, is my list of conditions. My demands. I’ve held my love hostage and negotiated it’s release based on what I would get out of it. Subconsciously of course. It was never with intentional selfishness or malice, yet it happened.

There has been one friend in my life that I have loved without condition. I’ve written about her before, my friend Michele. We actually talked about this tonight. She jokingly tells her daughters that we are the girlfriend version of soul mates. And that is based upon the fact that regardless of what the other one is doing or what they are dealing with, between us there is no judgment, there is only friendship and love. That’s hard to come by because even the best of girlfriends have it out at times.

This phenomena of unconditional love occurred for me a few weeks ago out of the blue with another friend, of the male variety. We were in a sensitive situation where I felt betrayed, hurt in some way. But in reality I wasn’t. He is one individual who has been nothing but straight up honest and transparent with me from day one. So after some consideration of the circumstances I realized that what I was feeling was mine. I owned it. It was all of that baggage and resentments that I had carried around for years, especially when it comes to men. All of my IFs, so to speak. And then came a pivotal moment, a moment that I had to chose to either hang on to my insecurity and fear or let them go and just love freely. Love Extravagantly.

And I did! I’m not sure how or why it came over me, but I finally got it. I made the choice to love without hesitation or restraint. Nor was with the rose-colored glasses of romantic love that skews all things. It was just love. And it was a choice. Can I tell you the weight of the world lifted off my heart in that one moment. And it was clear to me without question how insanely freeing it was to feel pure unconditional love. WOW! I can’t describe it. But I finally got it at age 40. This is what it means, this is what it feels like.

This is how Christ loves us! Unconditionally, without reservation or limits or conditions. He loves us with all of our flaws and mistakes and years of wrong doing. He loves us like this. And we are to love like this. It is hard. But it is possible. We are to love each other, friend or foe, like this. Not just the our friends and our families. Not just the people who are easy to love. Not just the ones that make us happy. Not just the ones who love us back. Not just the ones who believe as we believe. But everyone.

It is what we were created to do. This is what we all deserve to receive in life. To be loved like this. This is also what we all are responsible to give in life. To love like this. Everyone. Extravagantly.