For those times that you think you suck at life. . .

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Me, after a morning meltdown that resulted in me stating that I suck at life. I got over myself pretty quickly and made it to the office–grateful and happy. After all life it too short to be anything else. Right?

This morning, I sucked at life, or at least I thought I did. Thankfully, it was a temporary suckfest that all started when I didn’t follow through with my original morning plan.

I told my husband the night before that I HAD to get up when he did. HAD TO. I wanted to get my run in for the day before the sweltering heat returned. I told him no matter what I said to him in the morning that he should make sure that I get out of bed. He should not listen to any excuses that I may offer on why I am not ready to get out of bed. (And for the record, I am fully aware that it is nobody else’s responsibility but my own, to get out of bed. But that’s beside the point, right?)

Well, the time to arise came and went. When he finally reminded me that I said I was getting up with him so I could run and that the time had definitely passed, I told him that I was going to run later and that I already knew I was going to be sorry that I wasn’t up yet because the heat was going to suck. He replied, “Well, as long as you know.” (Perfect answer, honey, perfect answer.) 

I reset my alarm. A full hour and a half and three snooze button hits later, I rolled out of bed. I had already decided it was going to be a “bun” day for my hair so I wouldn’t need much time to get ready, which was good, because the three snooze hits had really set me back. Then the suck began to snowball. . .

The bun didn’t work. What I had planned to wear didn’t work either. I poured too much milk in my coffee, and I had already started the defeatist self-talk that went a little something like this. . .

“Why didn’t you get out of bed and run? You are lazy. What is wrong with you?”

Which progressed to . . .

“That shirt looks terrible on you and shows your rolls. Yuck, start working harder on your weight loss!”

And kept going. . .

“Why do you have a closet full of clothes that make you look terrible? You supposedly had that all figured out. You need to get better organized.”

And so it went. Two pairs of pants, two hair-dos, six shirts, and three pairs of shoes later I was finally ready to head out the door, a full half-hour later than I needed to be. At least I was dressed and out the door, right?

At some point during the fiasco of the morning, I stopped the madness to check the time, which at that time should have been the time that I was leaving work but I was not yet dressed nor did I have hair that was anywhere near work ready. It was at that point that I said, “WTF, YOU SUCK AT LIFE!” And at the time, I believed it. Dramatic, I know. Ridiculous, yep. Nonetheless, I had went there and it really hadn’t taken that long, after all, I’d only been out of bed for a short time. Suck sure multiplies quickly if you let it.

I sat in that yuck for a minute or two and then took a breath and began to shake it off. I thought for a minute about the struggles that I had this morning and realized pretty quickly that it was no surprise that I had ended up in a mini mental suckfest. Life has been a little bit more intense than normal for me the last couple of weeks. This morning’s meltdown was simply the by-product.

For starters, there have been some big personal and professional happenings in my life, all good thankfully, but these goings on have zapped my energy. All of that has added stress to the usual amount of life stress. The added stress has taken a toll on me mentally. To add to all of that is the constant ebb and flow of grief in my life, which right now, of course, is flowing like a raging river. To top it off, I am trying really hard to cut excess sugar from my diet and to actually follow a running training plan, both of which are new for me. After reflecting, I realized pretty quickly that I did not suck at life (which I knew) but I was simply having a tough morning, which was the result of a few tough weeks. I took a deep breath and focused on the things I was grateful for (at the moment I was grateful that I had a closet full of clothes that fit me so I had options during my meltdown) and extended myself some grace for my shortcomings.

By the time I finally got my butt out the door, my mind was racing. I am a physically, mentally (although not this morning, obviously), and spiritually healthy person with an amazing support system and a stable life. My life is really good and yet I STILL struggle sometimes. Soon, my thoughts wandered to those times in my life that I have not been in a good place. A morning like this could well have triggered some really yucky emotional stuff that could have quickly spiraled out of control. Then, I thought about all of the people that struggle with this every day that are maybe not in a good place. What do they do when they can’t escape the suckiness?

I kept thinking about it while on my commute and soon realized that no matter where you are or what you have going on in your life, there is always a way out of the suck-fest.  I promise you that if you mindfully practice the following, you may begin to see the light at the end of the suck.

To begin with, BREATHE. Yes, BREATHE.  Close your eyes, inhale deeply, hold it in, then exhale forcefully. Repeat this. Again, and again and again.  Then repeat some more. Eventually you will begin to feel calmer. When you are calm, you can think more clearly which creates space for reflection. Besides, breath is a life-giving force, literally. Use it your advantage.

Next, with your newfound clarity, take a moment to REFLECT. Why are you thinking the way that you are? Any changes in your life recently? What is your stress level? Have you been practicing self-care? By taking the time to reflect on the happenings in your life, you should be able to figure out why you are feeling the way you are right now. Be honest with yourself and you will be able to gain some clarity.

After that, take a hardcore GRATITUDE check. The absolute quickest way to get yourself out of a funk is to make a list of all the things in your life that you have to be grateful for. Gratitude is the antidote to self-pity and every single one of us has something to be grateful for. If you can’t think of anything to put on your list, start with this. . . be thankful you have the ability to read this, that you have access to the internet, and that you are breathing.

Lastly, learn the meaning of the word GRACE. Life is hard, so hard sometimes! Most of us though, are doing the best we can with what we have been given. We can’t always choose what happens to us in life but we can choose how we respond to what does. Start by choosing to go easy on yourself. We are all human and we all struggle. Practice showing grace to yourself first and then learn to extend it to others. Eventually, you will find that grace is pretty amazing.

If all else fails, B-R-E-A-T-H-E again and remember that this day is only 24 hours long. You can get through it. For the next few hours, give yourself to permission to sit in your suck and then vow to begin the next day with a fresh perspective. Breathe in the good and breathe out the suck. Sleep it off, and the next day, start anew. Life is just too short and amazing to let it be otherwise. 

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A rambling good-bye

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My map of what breaks me open, an exercise in turning brokenness into beauty. I am currently navigating my way through a book called “the Geography of Loss” by Patti Digh. She talks about taking those moments that break you open and creating a map using those moments as landmarks by which to move forward–creating beauty from brokenness. This is my beauty of a map. Artist I am not, but luckily that wasn’t what this map required.

Update July 29, 2015: When I originally wrote this, I was sure I was ready to move on and start fresh in a new blog. Well, I guess I lied. I’m really not going anywhere. This place has too much of me poured into these pages to ever let it go. I was and will always be Hanging by a Thread. ~Melissa

This is a rambling, a jumble of words, a see-ya-later-but-not-really.

They say all good things must come to end, and so to must this blog.

When I began Hanging by a Thread in January of 2012 I was a different person, one that had done the work and was ready to take charge of her life.

And took charge I did.

But little did I know what life had in store. . .

Unimaginable loss. Change. Grief. Pain. Heartache.

Comfort and safety snatched away.

Healing. Love. Gratitude. Growth.

Grace. Redemption. Hope.

Learning to trust His way.

Little did I know that the title of my blog would become an aching metaphor for life. . . 

And now I have come to a crossroads. . .

A season of major life changes, a season of loss, a season of finding me–is slowly fading.

I can feel it in my bones.

What is next?

I have no clue. . . only visions in my head of where the path is leading.

Visions placed there by the whispers of my soul.

It feels like a settling in, of heading where I am being called, of finding the courage to share with my whole heart what life’s journey has taught me over the years.

And even though I am ready to take the leap, to dive headfirst into the deep end–it is scary.

Very scary.

But in a good way, I think.

It’s a new season.

A new day dawning.

I have felt it for a while now.

But it takes courage, both to let go and to move forward.

And sometimes courage is hard to muster. Really hard.

It is easier to just stay where we are at because it’s comfortable. It’s safe.

Then I remember that comfort and safety are really just illusions anyways.

I wrote this a while back and just found it the other day. I don’t even really remember writing it. It was one of those thoughts that popped into my head and I recorded it on the spot. I knew it was a perfect snapshot of where I was at, of where I am, and of where I am heading.

Change is coming again. I can feel it. I don’t know exactly what it will be, even though I have an inkling. I have learned to be okay with not knowing. I have learned to trust, even though I wonder. I have learned to be patient, even though I’m not wired that way.  I have learned that even though I know the change will be amazing, it will be hard. It always is. Growth and change and healing are like that. They don’t call them growing pains for nothing. 

I have learned to trust, even though I wonder . . . luckily my middle name is faith.

Faith.

It’s what has gotten me through, given me hope, and brought me home.

Even though this blog is ending, I am not done writing.

In fact, I am just beginning. . .

You can find me here, in my new place, with my new blog, My Middle Name is Faith.    http://melissafaith.com/

I don’t know exactly what it will be. In fact, there isn’t even anything there. And even though I don’t exactly know what it will be yet, the words real and raw come to mind–kind of like a conversation with those that know me best. A space where authenticity, tolerance, grace, and love are welcomed . . .

Thank you all for your encouragement and love over the past few years. I thank God for each and every one of you.

Thank you to all who have shared my tears, watched me come undone, and stayed by my side through the good, the bad, and the ugly.

And lastly, thank you to those that have remained through the brokenness and the beautiful of this journey. 

Let the new chapter begin. . .

My December To-Do List (It may just kill me)

Maybe it was a pre-emptive strike on the pending holiday season. Maybe it was because I needed some focus to get through the next month without having a hater-induced meltdown. Or maybe it was something entirely different, but the other night I jotted a December “To-Do” list in my journal–not generally what I jot in my journal, simply for the fact that I am NOT a fan of to-do lists. To-do lists often cause undo angst. For example, is there anything on your to-do list right now that will cause the sun not to rise tomorrow if you don’t complete the task? I didn’t think so. The world will not end if your floors are not scrubbed or your holiday baking doesn’t get done. Enough said. Moving on!

Lately I have been thinking a lot about the holiday season, especially since the Christmas ware hit the store shelves (it gets earlier every year) before the Halloween pumpkins were out of the field. The Facebook memes soon followed. It all makes me really uncomfortable mostly because the holiday season brings out the worst in people and society–especially Christians, especially in the United States.

We freak out because somebody says “Happy Holidays” to us instead of “Merry Christmas” yet we walk by homeless people like they don’t exist. We rant and rave about putting “Christ back into Christmas” yet we trample each other, literally, on Black Friday for a deal on something we probably already have 10 of at home. We stuff our faces with food and drink from Thanksgiving until the New Year yet our neighbors go hungry. We sit in church pretending to do unto others yet hateful words directed at those who are different from us spew from our lips, sometimes even while we are still in the pews. To sum it all up, we use Christianity to justify our worst human behaviors and in the process we become self-righteous a@@holes. Merry Christmas everyone!

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Yes please!

Eat. Drink. Be Merry.

Spend. Spend. Spend.

Overindulge.

Be self-righteous.

Spew hate.

We proclaim. . . 

“Jesus is the reason for the Season.”

Yet, we fail–time and time again–to serve our fellow man.

We fail to serve others because their of skin color, or because they are gay, or Muslim, or Atheist, or in prison, or an addict, or mentally ill, or homeless, or poor. . . Hate, fear, and ignorance get all jumbled together and before we know it we’re deeply offended because somebody had the audacity to greet us with a Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas yet people all around us are hurting and messed up and we don’t seem to care. Love one another? Sure, as long as you are just like me.

I say its about time we ALL get over ourselves and act the Christians we proclaim to be. After all, it’s easy to buy a cup of coffee for the next person in line at Starbucks but what about buying a cup of coffee for the homeless person standing on the street corner?

You see, from the time the first Christmas light twinkled on a store shelf mid-October to the first meme that reared its ugly head on social media, I have been irritated, frustrated, and angry. I have found myself unfriending, unfollowing, and complaining about anyone that even came remotely close to displaying their self-righteous Christian attitudes and behaviors about anything (and there has been a whole lotta hate spewing around lately), especially Christmas.

Until. . .

I realized that I was being a self-righteous a@@hole towards the self-righteous a@@holes. UGH! I was justifying my self-righteous a@@hole hater behavior with my belief that good Christians don’t act the way the self-righteous a@@hole haters were, so therefore it was okay for me to hate on them.

But wait. . .

That’s really not what being a Christian is all about, is it. Besides, I don’t want to be a hater, even to haters because hate, and fear, and ignorance take up space that could be filled with love, and grace, and kindness. And love, and grace, and kindness are essential to putting Christ back into Christmas. UGH, UGH. Hating haters is so much easier than loving them, or extending grace, or being kind. But then again I don’t remember anyone ever saying being a Christian was supposed to be easy. UGH, UGH, UGH.

As I have said a million times before, when you know better, you do better. Me blogging about self-righteous a@@holes will not change them or put Christ back into Christmas–but me, changing myself? That might make a difference for someone. After all, the only person we can truly ever change anyways is ourself. By making changes in my heart, I can hope that the ripple effects change someone else, and in turn change someone else, and so on, and so on, and so on. . .to infinity and beyond.

When I finally got over myself (which I am pretty good at because I have to do it often) I made my to-do list. My list is short but challenging to me. For those of you that know me well, you know which “dos” on the list will challenge me the most. Some of you will probably snort with laughter like the hub did. You better sit down before you read it.

Anyways, the list went into effect December 1. So far, I’ve been doing pretty good, but it’s early in the month, Christmas is coming, and change is so hard! I have vowed, though, to do the following every day–either until the changes are so ingrained in me that they become innate or until this list kills me. At this point, it could go either way. So, here goes!

This holiday season (drumroll please) I vow to:

  1. DO KINDNESS. Yes, that means to self-righteous a@@holes, to people that are different than me, and to strangers, and to my friends, and to my family, and to myself. Kill ’em with kindness, they say. (Ironically, this may be the one that kills me.)
  2. DO SELF-CARE. For me this means hydrating, drinking green smoothies, running, and trying to get enough sleep. It is only when you practice self-care that you can serve others to the best of your abilities. Putting your mental and physical health needs aside is plain foolishness. You CANNOT take care of anyone else if you choose not to take care of yourself. Don’t be a self-care martyr. Just don’t. Period.
  3. DO GOOD DEEDS. For others, for myself, for the planet, for whatever “doing good” means that day–even if what I need to do makes me uncomfortable. (Like being kind to self-righteous a@@holes.)
  4. DO SPEND WISELY. This means my time and my money. Consequently, I have vowed NOT to buy myself ANYTHING material until the New Year. (That is the part where the hub nearly lost it.) Yes, that means clothes, shoes, purses, makeup, and the like. I have more than enough. I plan to do something good with the saved time and money.

Will my to-do list move mountains and end all the hate in the world? Of course not. Will a trend of actually putting Christ back into Christmas sweep the nation as we all set aside our differences and do unto others? Nope. Not even close. But will my to-do list make me a better person? Yep. Will my to-do list make the world a better place for somebody else? It already has.

P.S. And as an added holiday bonus, there is currently one less self-righteous a@@hole in the world. Well, at least for this holiday season anyways. Maybe to-do lists are good for something after all.

Uganda 2014: Love shows up

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The Michelle and Julia Hoffman Memorial Children’s Home. Photo credit to the beautiful Sarah Elbing.

It’s a love story that began long ago.

One that will go on long after I am here to write about it.

Rising from the Ugandan dust. . . 

An orphanage grew.

Seemingly overnight.

That doesn’t just happen.

Orphanages don’t just appear.

But this one did.

Beauty from the ashes. . .

An orphanage born of redemption and grace.

But most of all LOVE.

Because love never fails.

It shows up.

Even in death.

Even when we are brokenhearted.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In a few short days, I will be boarding a plane to Uganda to visit the Michelle and Julia Hoffman Memorial Children’s Home. I will be traveling with some very special people. At the moment, I feel like I am about to burst from pure joy and excitement.

And yet, I can hardly believe it. . . even though I’ve been there before.
I’ve seen it.
I’ve hugged the children.
I’ve touched the red earth.
I’ve felt  joy and grief simultaneously flood my heart. . . until I thought it would explode.

It’s all very real. . .and yet, still so surreal.
I sometimes can’t help but wonder if this all a really long, tragic-yet-beautiful, neverending dream.
Some days I think that maybe this will be the day that I wake up.
I’ll call my mom and sister-in-law and tell them about this crazy dream I had about an orphanage.
And they will listen as I recount every detail.
I’ll chase butterflies with my niece and tell her that I’ve met a whole bunch of her 100 kids.
And she will tilt her head back and laugh wildly!

Then I realize that I am awake. . . and I remember that they already know about this orphanage.
Because, when I was there, I saw their spirit everywhere. . .
In the faces of the beautiful children and in the butterflies that would linger.
I saw them gloriously looking on from above.
Their love reigning over us.

Love is like that.
It shows up.
It builds orphanages.
It transcends death.
It heals the brokenhearted.

Love never fails.

And the story goes on. . .

God always knows. . .

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As I was waiting to fall asleep on Halloween night, a sense of holy-crap-what-just-happened-in-my-life-over-the-last-ten-months washed tidal-waved over me. Thank goodness that wave was immediately followed by a tremendous sense of calm (or I quite possibly could have had a severe meltdown.) It was if I could almost hear God whispering ever-so-gently, “It’s okay, you can breathe now. . .”

2013 has been a whirlwind of amazing things happening in my life. SO MUCH GOOD has happened in the first 10 months of this year that I often struggle to wrap my head around everything I have seen and experienced. Propelling everything to a total mind-blow stage for me is the fact that I have been witness to so much good arising from the worst of life’s circumstances. Because of that, life has become an everyday battle to stay the balance between joy and heartache. It’s a paradox that I have become accustomed to; one that I never could have imagined or even thought possible. It’s also one that I know won’t last forever. I thank God everyday for the good because I can’t imagine the pain without it.

So far November has been filled with friends, fellowship, worship, spurts of creativity, and even some time to rest. Quite frankly, I am exhausted on many levels but in a way that I am okay with. I know that life is slowly moving forward with a healing grace that soothes my soul. Despite the ever-present heartache, I am slowly beginning to feel like I can breathe again. Throughout it all, I have learned that without fail God always knows what we need before we do, we just need learn to listen. Without fail, He has our hand, even when we are hanging by a thread.

All things Africa: Our day at the Michelle and Julia Hoffman Memorial Children’s Home

If you would have asked me at that moment if I thought that this was real life I would have told you NO and meant it.

If you would have asked me at that same moment if it is possible to feel your heart breaking and mending at the same time I would have shouted a resounding YES, and meant it.

If you would have asked me at that moment if it was possible to feel terribly heart-wrenching grief and the most immense joy ever–simultaneously– I would have screamed OF COURSE IT IS and meant it because that is exactly what I was feeling at that moment.

If you would have asked me in that same moment if I ever thought God’s redeeming grace could be SO GOOD, I would have shook my head in bewilderment and mumbled no, and truly meant it.

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The first building we saw when we arrived at the Michelle & Julia Hoffman Memorial Children’s Home in Njeru, Uganda. (Photo courtesy of True Impact Ministries.)

Driving up to the Michelle & Julia Hoffman Memorial Children’s Home was one of the most SURREAL moments of my life. As I had on so many days prior to this one since the crash, I felt like a bad actor in an equally bad Lifetime movie. Nothing around me seemed real, yet I knew it was. Every sight, sound, and emotion were so very real. But how could it be? How? I have yet to wrap my head around this. Maybe I never will. It was just a year ago when our family was locked into group hugs at the MSP airport welcoming Mike,  Michelle, and the kids home from another school year abroad.  And now? Just months later? We were about to spend the day at an orphanage in Uganda that was named in Michelle and Julia’s honor? How could this be real life? How could it be?

There are still days that I think that we will all wake up from this nightmare of the last year and our family will be whole again. Then? I actually wake up and realize that this IS real life. I wake up and realize that the pain and heartache of the last year are very real and there isn’t a single thing we can do to change it. Thankfully though, God’s redeeming grace is so wonderfully amazing. 

The blessings that are beginning to rise from the ashes of this nightmare are good, SO VERY GOOD. There is a beautiful little orphanage, rising up in love, that brings a hope of healing for so many. For that, I am so very grateful.

Here’s a few pictures from our day at M & J’s. . .

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Most of the 51 children that will be living at the orphanage came out to meet us when we visited. Just over half of the children have sponsors already and the rest are waiting. . .
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Enjoying some sweets!
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This little sweetie’s name is Harira. She is six-years old and is in need of a sponsor.
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Dressed in their finest and happy to have a soda. These guys were so full of life and love that day!
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The children were rather quiet and shy at first. It didn’t take long though before this beautiful place was teeming with laughter and love.
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And there was even some dancing!
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We were blessed to have the chance to meet our little sponsored guy Mayanja! 

To see some video from the opening ceremonies click here http://youtu.be/KRQN-VOWZHY and here http://youtu.be/v5ZZ1vQ18J0.

For more from our day at the orphanage you can check out the True Impact blog here–http://www.trueimpactministries.com/blog/michelle-julia-hoffman-home-day/.

You can keep up-to-date on the progress of the home by following The Michelle & Julia Hoffman Memorial Children’s Home on Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/HoffmanHome and by following True Impact’s page here https://www.facebook.com/pages/True-Impact-Ministries/289875141039444.

A prayer of thanks. A guest post by my youngest.

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Dear Lord, thank you for the ways you work in our lives. Dear Lord, thank you for the ways you reveal yourself to me in the simple sounds and sights of everyday life.

Thank you for the ways you humble me, Lord. I’m thankful for the pain and struggle and for all the things that any sane man wouldn’t be, for I am crazy Lord. I am crazy for You, the King of kings who cares more than just to be my leader and example, but also cares to die a painful death fit for a murderer of many, even though You’re cleaner than a fresh fallen snow in the calm of a meadow.

I know there’s no way to repay you. There’s no way I can repay you for spending every last beat of your heart and breath from your chest on me, Lord… on me…the hypocrite, the liar, the unfaithful by nature…. However, I am these no more. By your blood and sacrificed body, by Your conquer of evil and victory over death I no longer carry the burden of being a failure a thousand times a day. I am new. I am as new, as clean, as fresh as the snow in the meadow. Who am I to be compared to You oh Lord? Though I don’t understand why it’s me You chose to extend Your endless grace, I do understand what I am to do. Be thankful. With the best of my God given ability I am to love, to witness , to give everything I have in holy devotion to You oh Lord. I am to know that this doesn’t mean that hard times and sin won’t try to prevent me from doing so, for the devil is always lurking. This does mean, though, that I have a purpose, I have meaning, and I have a place in the plan of the Creator of the universe, and when that purpose is fulfilled I will take my seat in the heavens next to my Savior Himself.

As for now, I will live to be thankful. Every breath, step, kiss, and tear. I will be thankful. Thank You oh Lord!”

~Taylor James Bodin