Listen With Your Heart

Do you listen with your heart, your head... or both?
When others ask you how you're doing, are you honest?
Sometimes pasting on a smile with a "positive attitude" is a great cover up.
Sometimes behind that smile is a heart that is actually withering away.
Or cursing, in conflict, devastated, angry or confused. 
Sometimes that forced positive can even take the form of denial.
It's okay to face the facts- healthy even.
It's happened to me several times recently.
 I was being honest with someone about how I felt about some hurts inside of me that have impacted me deeply. I didn't go into the gory details, just in general.
Well, they asked.
But what I experienced from them was interesting.
Instead of empathy                      I received "well, at least you....." and "you think that's bad"
Instead of compassion                 I received platitudes.
Instead of validation                     I heard about how I should try to see it from the other side.
Instead of a hug                           I received uncomfortable silence.
I'm not sure what I was looking for, but I instinctively knew those things weren't it!
I don't blame them. They probably didn't know any better.
I'm not saying that we shouldn't embrace a positive outlook on life. Of course we should!
We choose our response to things that happen to us.
But when that's all we offer to encourage others, it falls flat.
It's like putting a little Band aid on a gushing,
bleeding wound and expecting instant healing.
Honestly, this experience was actually good for me though.
(although it left me disappointed)
It was a good reminder to really listen when people confide in me.
For most of us, it takes an enormous amount of energy to spill our guts.
It takes courage to trust someone with our heart, because it's risky.
I was reminded to:
Listen and respond with empathy                                 Resist the urge to compare hardship
Flood them with compassion                                        Resist the quick fix answer
Validate their feelings, even if they are skewed           Their feelings are very real, hear them
Sometimes all they need is a hug and a prayer           Show simple comfort and love   
For most people, hardships will see an end. For others, their battle may never end.
So let's spur one another on with encouragement and compassion.
And when you take the time to ask, take the time to listen with your heart.


Just Show Up

All of us have unique gifts and talents. 
The Creator is a creative God- just take a look around you. 
Even the Bible starts with God as Artist- all of it magnificent.

Since you are created in His image, you have His creativity in you.

And get this...

He wants to flow out through you in a unique way 
that He won't through anyone else. 

You have been given this one unique life.
You have been asked to show up.

You have been given your hands, you mind, your personality, your insight. You have been given your sense of humor, creative expression, your sense of right or wrong, unique problem solving skills, an ability to love and receive love. 

You may have been given your sick parents, a diagnosis, a disability, a leaky basement, a rusty car, a challenging child, a lonely house, a crabby co-worker or a layoff you didn't expect. 

You have been given a passion for something, perhaps a heart for the homeless, justice for the abused, compassion for the needy or a desire to bring a light to dark places.

You were born and given life.
You have been asked to show up.

There isn't necessarily one big thing you were meant to accomplish.

Rather, there are most likely a million little things that you were meant to 
bring forth- and all these little things add up to big things that matter.
Your touch, creative expression, contributions, prayers and other things that are uniquely yours touches another life...
...then another
...then another
...then another
until the connections cannot be measured through the generations.

There is no retirement plan for showing up. It's not someone else's turn to show up. As long as you have breath, you are asked to show up.

He has creatively given you life. 
How are you showing up?


A Dog Called Courage

I love dogs.  I grew up with them.
They are the best pet in the world. (my opinion- no hate mail please!)
They are so lucky. They prance around living the good life- when to eat, when to go out, when they get to run, where are their toys and when they will get their belly rubbed.

Their only real concern is when they are going to see their Master next. And when they do, they will dance with joy. 
They don't worry about stuff like we do...
Public speaking, performing, speaking up when it's not popular, facing the unknown, taking a huge risk, asking your boss for a raise, sharing something personal in public, thinking about the future- or the future of someone else, uncomfortable confrontation, regretting the past, thinking about tomorrow, initiating a difficult conversation, taking the first step....

for pete's sake, they don't even make their own breakfast.
Life can be full of so much drama. Trouble. Worry.
And if your not feeling it now, it's lurking around the corner.
Fear is an interesting thing, as it can come in so many forms and tenses.
I fear the past will come back to haunt me.
I fear what you'll think of me- now and later.
I fear for you- what you'll do- or not do.
What's happening right now?
What's going to happen next?
Call it what you want- fear, worry, anxiety...
Either way, it can be paralyzing. It can take your breath away.
It can rule your thoughts and make life miserable.
Check out this comment I read the other day:
Fear and adrenaline feel exactly the same in our body...
fear is about stopping you, adrenaline is about forward action.

Choosing forward action takes courage.

In Psalms 27, David writes:
Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!

And again in chapter 31:
Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the Lord!

If I had a dog today, I might name him Courage.
He would remind me that I can choose forward action, instead of paralyzing fear.

He would remind me that the best part of my day is waiting on the Master. It's then that I can dance with joy.