Real Love. Real Life. #WorldOfTheLiving #LoveIsReal #LoveJustFlows

I never knew how much I didn’t know about love until I set forth on a path to understand it. If you walk into my house you will find the word love all over the place–quotes and scripture and even in marquee lights. I love love. It’s how I’m built. Sorry, not sorry. 😉

Yesterday one of my bestest friends and I had one of our usual all-over-the-map conversations. It left me pondering my journey into the world of the “living,” a journey I’m still winding along on. How did this awakening truly begin for me? How was this new Michelle born?

With death. Death brought me into the land of the living. (That line hearkens to be both poetic and unintentionally scriptural.) My friend and I were discussing my time in counseling and psychologically how that journey unfolded for me. How counseling gave me that safe place to discuss the inter-workings of myself, the falsehoods I’d taken as facts about myself, and the learned behaviors that were not healthy ones. Counseling is a place where you learn how to cope and unravel the “fake news” of your life. With the right counselor and the right openness it can lead you towards the truth. I am certainly a seeker of truth and facts. It’s just how Jesus made me.

I wonder how this works for other people. How does their “awakening” happen for them? I’ve watched countless programs and read plenty of articles and often times it is loss (the death of something: a person, relationship, career, etc.) that is credited with the change. Wouldn’t it be easier for us if we just jumped head first into the change ourselves? It would definitely be less traumatic, right? But if you’re anything like me you have to do things the hard way. *insert eye roll*

It wasn’t until after the unraveling of grief and sorrow from the loss of Chris that I was able to truly see I had a deeper issue on my hands. I was seeking to fill a void long before his unexpected passing. I’d been moving through the motions of life trying to fill my life bucket up, attempting to find my worth, and my purpose on my own with my education, my career, and my relationships. That was exhausting. Looking back my heart was in the right place, I was just walking down the wrong roads.

Yesterday as I was picking at my salad, searching for the words to explain the changes within my inner being it was difficult to muddle through all of the things I wanted to share. Besides, if I did share everything we would’ve been there for days.

The basics that spilled out went something like this. Counseling helped me immensely but so did the people in my life. We cannot look to a single solitary tool to fix us. We are complex beings. We were built to need one another. It is the basis of our society, our family structure, and no matter how much we want to throw our hands on our hips with our noses in the air saying, “we don’t need anyone,” we do. We cannot know everything, do everything, be everything on our own.

Loss offers us this frightening but life changing experience that crushes our world. We begin to question everything and if we’re willing to rise to the challenge we can begin the pursuit of truth. We begin to find ourselves in the midst of the brokenness. We are all broken but that’s not something to despair over, because our brokenness makes us new. It makes us unique. It gives us a special experience that we can use to help others, to change systems, to heal the broken. It gives us a point of reference to be alive, authentic, and real.

The pursuit of truth—it is in this adventure we find ourselves and who we are truly meant to be. In my pursuit of truth, I realized the emptiness I felt wasn’t from being a widow, that ache had been around my entire life. That ache came from false teachings, faulty learned behaviors, and those things gave rise to a darkness that lived within my spirit.

Counseling pointed me towards the psychological reasons for this and why those feelings weren’t based in truth. But I’m stubborn so it took a little more than psychological facts to sway me.

What broke my stubborn heart? Love. It was love that changed me. It was learning what real love is and experiencing it. Love is the root of all things good and real and true.

Real love doesn’t sweep you off your feet; it grounds you. It gives you roots so you can grow to bear the fruits of love like kindness, encouragement, and trust.

Where did I find this love? Did some tall, dark, and handsome man appear on my doorstep and wipe away all the emptiness? Nope. I used to think that if that scenario played out I’d be healed. I’d feel loved and whole. That fact is also fake news.

You see, you can’t find love. You can’t steal it. You can’t control it. You cannot will it. Love is a gift. A gift by its very definition involves only one act: for it to be received by the donee. Gifts do not constitute any effort of the recipient EXCEPT receiving. We must open our hands to it. Open our hearts to it.

These two birds (a male and female finch) visit my feeder every morning. They always show up together or rather “dine” together. They are a living visible representation of love. They do nothing to receive their meal other than be open to it. They fly up and open their little beaks to take part in my gift of love to them.

And here’s the beauty of love, it is unending, reciprocal, and feeds our inner hearts. Love is what fills the emptiness. Love fills our buckets. When I feel the ache of emptiness return, I’ve come to realize that I’ve stopped being open to love. I’ve stopped accepting it. When I get truly frustrated and empty it is because I’m grasping at love. Seeking to control it and make it work for me to fill that hole. When we give love, we receive it which if you flip that around reads like this, when we receive love, we give it. (Mind blown.) Love will always find its way back to you, you don’t have to find it. Love shows up. Love never fails. It is us who fail to receive it.

Open your heart to the gifts around you, love is in the little things. God is love and He meets us where we are, in the small blessings of the day. Large blessings come our way too but there is an endless supply of those little acts of love we often close ourselves off to while we long for something “bigger.” Those gifts of a smile, a laugh, a meal shared, a door held open–it is in these little things our emptiness begins to be filled.

The little things fill our buckets much quicker than big things. Love is incredibly powerful. But for it to work you have to let it in. Just like for counseling to work I had to let my counselor into my pains. Just like for a true friendship to work you must allow the other person into your heart.

Our inner demons keep us from the abundance of love around us. They tell us love isn’t real. So we settle for what we think is love. They tell us everyone has bad intentions. So we shut people out. They tell us we aren’t good enough. Our value is NOT determined by our demons. Our value is determined by our Maker. But we won’t ever believe that unless we learn to trust and let Him back into the beautiful hearts He created within us.

Love is as real as the words on my walls. As real as the two little birds on the feeder. As real as the person across the table from you. Love is real. And what’s even better is love is endless, eternal, deeper, and more perfect than anything our stubborn imperfect selves can attempt to define.

Love does heal, but you must hold out your hands, and open up your heart for it to be received. Because love does not force its way. Love just flows.

I hope you find the love in your life today. If you’re looking at dark situations or difficult times, remember love is still surrounding you even if you can’t see it or feel it. It’s there. Love is always there for you. Love never fails us.

Love will change your life. It has mine, in ways I’d never have imagined.

Love, Hugs, & Sunshine,

Michelle

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Verge of a Nervous Breakdown or Peace in the Storm #QuestionOfTheDay #Easter #Confessions

I was driving home last night recounting my day, my to-do list, and my life in general. There’s so much happening around me right now. I was thinking to myself, “I should be more stressed out, these are deeply difficult issues.”

Yes, that’s me the over thinker, thinking I should be feeling something even though I’m not. Then it hit me rather boldly amidst everything that for the first time I truly had no idea, no plan, no preconceived notions about what my future should look like. Then I asked myself, “What do I want for my future?”

I drove along the dark roads searching my brain and my heart for the answer while avoiding deer and raccoon. (Multitasking at it’s best.) What do I want? In that moment of searching I realized there’s been an unraveling of sorts happening within me.

What do I want? The first thing that comes to mind is my partner, my best friend, my spouse, my person to build and share my life with. But in the calm of that moment I realized I had no idea what that would look like. I’ve stopped trying to construct deadlines, potential family photographs, and future holidays moments. All of that involves imagination and with my imagination being such a strong part of my nature it’s shocking that I’ve stopped envisioning those things.

Why? Maybe because those visions were too vivid and when reality returns it causes me deep pain. Maybe it’s because I’ve learned it doesn’t matter how I think things should work, they will work out in ways beyond my imagination so why waste my energy conjuring up a fake reality. (Unless I’m writing books with fictional characters.) The truth is I belong in the present moment. I belong in the now. My energy belongs to today.

I’ve experienced first hand how fleeting life is. I’ve experienced death and all its after effects. There are moments and experiences I could never put into words. Moments of great sorrow, moments of deep blessings, and moments of irrational peace. I have felt the space between what is seen and what is unseen. There are indescribable emotions, knowledge, and an unexpected wisdom in that place.

My journey has been unconventional, but the more people I meet the more I come to understand all of our lives are a bit unexpected and unconventional in one way or another.

In musing over my life and the insane amount of peace I was experiencing. The amount of suffering in and around my life should have caused the tears to roll, but instead I was questioning my lack of “feelings.” (#OverThinkerProblems)

I’ve been on an intense journey of faith for several years now. A journey that started with the loss of my husband and a loss of every plan I’d made with him over our thirteen years together. Past the sorrows of loss, I deeply remember the feelings of unworthiness. I truly believed that I was being punished for something. Punishment was the only concept that would reconcile the pain I was experiencing. I had to have done something deeply wrong to bring this sort of aggressive reprimand on my life and not only mine but to my husband and those who loved him as well.

That faulty thinking screams fake news. I could psychoanalyze my “bad” thinking with you for hours, but there’s one theme in particular I want to look at here.

Being a woman of faith, I’ve come to learn getting closer to God, finding my true path, and pursuing His will for my life does not mean that the pain and sufferings of life will disappear. Pain and suffering is real. It is a part of life and if you’re looking for religion to make your life shiny and perfect well you’ll be sorely disappointed this side of heaven.

If you believe Jesus is the Son of God, there’s a connection to woven here. He did all the right things and treated people with a radical deep love and was crucified for it. He suffered for no true reason, at least to the rational thinking mind. He was ridiculed, misunderstood, alienated, disregarded, physically assaulted, and he was innocent. Just like Jesus, we are going to face crap that we didn’t ask for. We are going to deal with pains and sufferings no matter how often we do the right thing. (This sounds super positive, right? LOL!)

Suffering is a part of life. You don’t have to have a spiritual affiliation to recognize that. Yes, sometimes we do things and make poor choices that bring consequences on us. But if you’re doing the right thing and suffering shows up at your door step, it’s not necessarily a punishment rather a by product of the world we live in.

Where’s the sunshine here? Because this post has gotten seriously dark pretty quick, right?

What happens (or at least has happened in my life) is the closer I get to God the more peace I experience in the sufferings. I can be sad, angry, hurt, and yet somehow there’s this overlying sense of peace and comfort. My emotions are still the wild beasts they’ve always been but how I manage and approach them has certainly changed. Each time I find myself tangled up I pray. Inevitably within a day or so, sometimes within the hour the distress settles and I’m able to see beyond the feelings and believe beyond the rationale of my brain.

Faith is a beautiful gift. You don’t need much of it to be able to move mountains.

The good news here, I’m not in the midst of a nervous breakdown (at least I’m 99% certain I’m not. LOL!) I woke up today with a sense of peace and joy beyond the difficulties. The facts and circumstances remain the same (and in some cases are getting worse) but I have a hope that continues to grow.

I know, how can this make any sense?! For me, it is a prime example of the peace that surpasses understanding. Maybe you have a different assessment. Yes, I know I’m a different kind of bird—God made me that way. Sorry, not sorry. 😉

I have no idea where this road is leading, what pit stops will be made along the way, if that empty spot in my bed will stay that way, if I’ll ever have the love, marriage, and family I desire. I have no idea how my future will take shape, but somehow that doesn’t bother me. Because it’s about loving who we are today, where we are today. It doesn’t mean we have to like it but real love is a choice. True unconditional love is intentional and each day I get up the end goal is to be an instrument of peace and true unconditional love. All the details of life will fall into place. When and how they should.

If you take anything away from my ramblings today, hopefully it’s love today no matter how easy or difficult it is. Today is always a gift. Find a way to see it that way and just maybe you’ll end up in this crazy weird place of peace, too.

Love, Hugs, Sunshine, and Happy Easter!

Michelle

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