Friday, December 19, 2014
I’ve learned something really important over the last four months and that’s the importance of family. Many times we get overwhelmed in the process of planning family gatherings, especially over the holidays but the truth is family reunions are made for renewing bonds’. In 2014 I was blessed to have taken part in two family reunions and one rather large family gathering. Looking back on all three, I realize how important these bonds truly are, not just in theory, but in real life experience and how they bring us together. Family is one of the greatest connections we have. We’re made and many times defined by how we see ourselves through our family’s eyes. Our families impact and sculpt us, sometimes through destructive and turbulent ways and other times with stillness, peace and harmony. Their very act of accepting or rejecting us can decide the direction we take in life. Webster’s Dictionary defines connections as this: The act of connecting, the state of being connected, one that connects; a link. This is Family.
Do we always get along or agree, nope, not in the least but when the cards fall family pulls together, we protect one another and we circle the wagons. We stand together or we fall. Sure we may disagree, heck we may even spend months if not years apart, but when the dust truly settles, our lives are always connected. Whether we realize it or not, life has a way of sitting us right back down at the same family table each and every time.
Disagreements, misunderstandings never remove our place from the family table; we just have to decide when we’re thirsty or hungry enough to put our plate back down and pull up our chair. Pride is usually the culprit in most family squabbles when everything else is stripped away, an opinion vs someone else’s two cents, but do we really want to live our lives wasted, filled with un-forgiveness, jaded and for what, pride? We can’t always see eye to eye, it’s not humanly possible but we can forgive, genuinely let go and pass the potatoes!
At the end of the day, it’s not about who’s right or who’s wrong, who hurt who or what was said. It comes back to family, being part of something bigger than ourselves. The reality is family can be exhausting at times, the complete kind of head banging, driving you up a wall and out the door kind of madness. Sadly many times we fail to realize family is not always about us individually, and our own definitions of a perfect picked fence home life. Family is greater than our own wants, desires, aspirations and our personal needs. Family truly is about how we put ourselves last, aside, for those we love. Family is not something we use as leverage; instead they are the ones we sacrifice everything for. Family is the very heartbeat, the core and the true essence of who we are. Family in its purest form is about unconditional love. When we finally say our last goodbyes, our memories will be defined by how we both gave and received this love.
As for me, my family is a gift. I have been blessed to grow up surrounded by two sides of family, and inherit another who loves me. I could not and would not want to do life without any of them. Each family has molded me, made me and left footprints in my life. We laugh; we cry, reminisce, celebrate, argue, disagree and come together time and time again. Some bonds just can’t be broken, like Georgia Florida line says. “That’s how we do it around here.”
Friday, December 5, 2014
Have you ever felt as if you have so much to say and yet nothing at all? I’ve been there for the last month. Countless thoughts rushing through my brain over and over again. Each time I'd attempt to catch them, the words floating from thought to thought inside my head would just fall short each and every time. No matter how hard I'd try to utter and vocalize what was actually swimming around inside my head up there nothing came out making sense. Believe me I’ve had lots to say during the last month, topics ranging from Joshua’s 18th birthday to an amazing family reunion and Thanksgiving but nothing has emerged clearly. I promise, I will get to those subjects in the next few weeks, as all are equally important for me to share with you, but for now, in this moment I know without a shadow of a doubt where my words are leading me. The floodgates of my heart came down very quickly and that’s when it happened. Last night as I tried to sleep I knew what I needed to say and how I would say it. It was as if suddenly the fog cleared and my mind was set free. One solitary picture stood out in my mind, an image taken of my mama and I over the previous weekend by chance and yet it spoke volumes. Two hands, intertwined, locked together, displaying strength, unity and unconditional love without saying anything at all.
Chapter 2, Life lesson # 14: Strength is found in conflict, without it peace and unity are not possible.
I have always worn my heart on my sleeve, up until this last year anyway. The truth is the experiences in the previous 12 months have completely changed me, caused me to become guarded, and cautious with whom I share my life with. Some of you may feel certain of the events I’m speaking of, but I can assure you, you're probably wrong. The reality is these emotions pouring out of me are overflowing from no man’s land. There have been three very distinctive events in my life since the beginning of 2014 which have turned not only my life inside out but also those of my family. The thing about being a part of family is no one is an island; we never go through anything alone, even if it feels that way at times. The truth is we are a team, so when one of us takes a hard blow to the gut, we all do. United we stand, divided we fall about sums it up. So when I say most of this last year has been spent in a full blown weed pulling, digging up the rot and prune sheering process with painstaking discoveries I am not joking. Gut wrenching is not even close to describing life for about 4 months straight which followed blood curling cries of how and why, what’s wrong with me and how do we get over these horror show short reels. At one point I felt as if all of me had died, and I even wondered what my existence was all about. Seriously I had no clue how our family would ever recover from the first blow 2014 brought us, not to mention the two after that.
We all have active conflicts, some kind of drama in the background we try and tune out. Some of us are targets for drama because we feel too much, love so much, we forget what boundaries look like leaving us open to be hurt, manipulated and used. If I could sum up life in a nut shell I’d say personal boundaries and learning to say no, has been my biggest life lesson this year. Being brought to my lowest point not just once but three times in a year could have devastated me and completely destroyed our family. I came completely undone, our family was near torn apart but by God’s grace we were held together by those He chose to comfort and speak healing not only into my life but those of my entire family. Personally, I had to learn whom I could trust and give access to my wounds and who not too. Yes I had to break down and seek council from outside my normal circles, at first confiding in people who ultimately I shouldn't have, but in the bigger picture every confidence lost, every hurt; each betrayal was a blessing in disguise. We’ve all been there, chasing answers. Sadly sometimes there are simply none to be found, life is rather clever that way. But what I do know, from where I stand right now, is this: Perfect is not the objective, real, everyday love is. I am not nothing less nor am I unworthy of unconditional love. I am flawed, my imperfections are as worn out as a second hand jacket but they are mine to own not someone else's to collect back rent on. Of all the things we have been through, we have come out of ALL of them as a FAMILY. Looking back some 10 months following our first life altering event, it's clear what was meant to destroy us, to be a foundation splitting crack in the process has been repaired and rebuilt our foundation stronger. Though slowly, something beautiful and real has bloomed, stronger than ever before. The remaining events of 2014 have left their mark and forever changed us, yet as a family we have gained strength, closeness and a determination not even we knew we existed.
Now at the end of this year, together as a family, we have found what we are made of. Strength isn’t always in numbers, or from winning the battle, instead strength comes from being able to accept your circumstances, set boundaries and work together with humility. The absolute truth is this: We know each others flaws inside and out BUT instead of trying to change what makes each of us unique, we’re learning to be more in sync. Life begins to unfold once we understand boundaries are there for our good, and not to harm us. When it comes to my families love, I have it and they have mine. We have a beautiful if not colorful history together, full of laughter and tears. I will not apologize for where it has led us or where it will eventually lead us. Our family history is ours, it can’t be changed, the past is the past, nor can it be retold but there is plenty of room for many, many more chapters. Underlying life lesson in #14, when you really, really love someone unconditionally, those bonds can never ever be broken!
The bottom line is this, conflict, cannot be avoided; it’s part of the process. Change cannot be avoided either, because without conflict, change is not possible and change is essential for our growth. Becoming unified, while embracing difference in those you love is a byproduct of growth which in the sum of things ultimately offers us peace. This year my life even though very far from perfect and while painful and gut wrenching, has been changed for the better, all of our lives have. Yes as a family and individually, we continue to struggle with conflict, it’s simply a part of life, but there is an inner strength, so deep and rich and an underlying peace that’s settled deep inside each of our hearts following the raging storms of 2014 we can't be anything but thankful. We’re part of something special, wonderful, a collaboration of love, a team not defined by our conflicts but in our resolve. John F. Kennedy once said, “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” I for one don’t plan to miss out on the future story my family has yet to tell!!!!