Be The First.

DSC_2154.jpgI’m laying awake tonight thinking of all the things that are bothering me.  As I toss and turn and try to understand what makes me restless I am beginning to see a little theme.  Lately I have noticed the value of being the first at things.  Sometimes I wish I didn’t have to be the first at anything.  I think we humans don’t like being the first at a lot of stuff actually.  It would be preferable for someone else to do it.

This might make me sound like somewhat of a lonely person and lots of the time I am, but it also helps me understand the value of being the person of initiative be it in relationship, friendship, and the daily interactions we have with peers, coworkers or even strangers. I also know the blessing of being on the receiving end of when others have gone first in my life.  Each day provides thousands of little opportunities to let someone know that you see them and value them in whatever capacity you know them, even if it’s just for a few brief moments after which you will never see them again.

So here’s some things I would like to encourage you to always be the first at.  Don’t be the one to wait for these things.

Be the first to call your best friend.

The first to say “hello”.

The first to ask “how are you?”.  And when asked by someone else first, don’t just say “fine”.  Reply with a question for them.

Be the first with any question.  And the first to be quiet and to listen.  Really listen.

The first to send a text to let that person know that you’re thinking of them.  Has it ever ruined your day when someone sent you something to let you know that they were thinking of you?  Don’t be that stalker though. . .

The first to say “love you”.  Say it a lot.  Especially strive to be the first in this.

The first to hold their hand.  To kiss them.

The first to ask “is everything alright?”.

The first to call your parents.  Trust me, it makes their day.

The first to compliment. Tell him he’s handsome.  Tell her she’s beautiful.  Trust me, she needs to hear it many times. She doesn’t just “know”.  This could be your spouse, a parent or a stranger.

The first to be vulnerable.  To admit the hurt, the insecurity, and the pain.

The first to acknowledge and to affirm.  Let them know you see how hard they’re working and they’re trying.  Really this is powerful whether you practice this with the waitress serving your table or your husband putting in 60 hours this week.

The first to invite someone over for dinner.  Or out for a beer.  Don’t forget how it feels to be invited and give that feeling to someone else.  Being invited is wonderful.

The first to start the conversation.  Do it without the angle of talking about yourself.

The first to be quiet when the speaker stands upon the stage or the musician begins to play.

The first to step aside and let them go first.  Along that note, always take the opportunity to hold the door for someone else.

These are merely a few.  When it’s all said and done I feel like less people would feel alone if we each treated each other with the idea that we can be the first to give goodness instead of waiting around for others to be good to us.  Don’t be the one not giving what you could because you’re craving it yourself.

Always be the first to do good and to do it without the intent of showing how good you are or with the idea that it will be reciprocated.  Do it because we live in a world where we can make a difference in the most subtle and smallest ways in the lives of those we love the most and of those we might not know at all. We are all somewhat standing around waiting for the obvious heroic moments in which we will be the hero but really, we are standing in small and seemingly insignificant intersections with which we can make or break people by being the person of initiative or by doing nothing at all wishing they would go first.

Be the one to make another feel significant, to make them feel like they matter and trust me, you are doing the good work by doing anything at all. By doing it first.

Can you imagine if we all did it first?

With so much love,

Sara

 

Stop Pursuing Passion.

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“Pursue your passion.”

“Find your bliss.”

“Reach for the stars.”

We’ve heard them all before.  We even give credit to those little nuggets as words to be guided by.

Is this why we might be in a state of discontent?

Lately I’ve been drawn to unpopular thought patterns in which I question all these little sayings and wonder why I feel an aversion to them.  Shouldn’t  I want to do something I’m totally passionate about?  Don’t I want to be blissful?  Okay, reach for the stars. . . that one has never made much sense to me; not even when I was little.  Maybe I’m too literal but that looks weird if you try.  It only looks cute when you’re two.

I feel like we might give all our credit to only the underdogs of our culture.  Take for example the untalented kid who decides to join the team and when he gets a home run the crowd stands to their feet cheering.  I like those scenes of the underdog winning, but why is it that we feel gross when we see the other kid who has the talent keep succeeding by literally hitting the ball out of the park every time?  Don’t we resent that kid and call him lucky?  Why are we not inspired by him and want to share his picture all over Facebook with sayings like “if he can do it so can you”?  The other kid who didn’t seem to have what it took but did totally is cuter to talk about.

I feel like we have this idea that you need to be passionate in all you do all the time so therefor only pursue what gives you that feeling.  I also feel like this idea is why most people feel guilty for what they do that doesn’t involve much passion on a daily basis.  We feel that we’re the ones missing out if our jobs aren’t what people want to see on Instagram.  I think we have been cultured to feel like the moments in our life that we don’t want to post about are not worthy of praise and for that reason we are on the wrong path in life.  If we have a talent that isn’t from a source of passion but rather from hours of discipline and work we have a tendency to look at it as lesser grade of gifting?

Have we misplaced value with passion?  Where has the word dedication gone in our daily vocabulary?

I don’t think we should be in loveless, soul sucking work.  If you really don’t feel like you’re in the right place than trust your discontent because it’s your gut telling you that you have settled for something safe and that could lead to an unfulfilled life. You know when you are in the wrong place and if you are in something that has caused you to lose sight of real goals than get away.  But consider what influences you in your understanding of being in a job that is right or not.  Do you think public servants are in public service because service equals consistent passion, or is it that they have a dedication to serve others despite of the dispassionate moments?  Do you think case workers in child protective services go to work everyday saying that they’re passionate?  Or maybe do you think it’s because they’re committed despite the good and the bad feelings that arise daily?

Maybe we could trade out passion for value.  What if we pursued value?  I sincerely feel that if we can find ourselves in something that is pouring out into the world what we are called to give than what will be returned to us is passion and joy.  Maybe we’re putting the horse in front of the cart by saying “pursue your passion”.  By handing in the passion card you aren’t giving up on anything but rather you are realizing that life is about so much more than what we are feeling.  Life is about choices in which we can garner feelings as a direct result of what we give.  Passion comes from hours of work that is motivated by the value we add to others and to our own lives.

So don’t give up on yourself by comparing to others on social media.  Don’t look down on who you are because you’re not the perpetual passion energizer bunny.  Instead maybe adjust your lenses a bit to see that you have what it takes to be exactly where you need to be by realizing what value you add.  If you feel like you’re in a spot where your talents aren’t being utilized than go somewhere else.  If you feel like you can add so much more value than what you are than put in the two weeks notice.

Before you can feel passion, maybe you need to first give, recognize and add your value to the world around you.

With so much love,

Sara

 

What If Regret Is A Good Thing?

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So this is a tricky one to write about.

What if we need to stop with saying “No Regrets” when pontificating about the future?  I guarantee you that this life is impossible to survive without regret so stop kidding yourself.  I also know that for the many mistakes we all can make that there can be grace that’s immeasurably more than what we can think to ask for or imagine when we are honest about doing something we wish we hadn’t.  So this isn’t a judgement rant but rather a request for you to consider how “no regrets” might not be the greatest pep talk to yourself or others on the brink of decisions whether they be about sex, finances, relationship and the plethora of subject matter that can define our futures.  If it was a good self talk than why is it that your therapist is booked 3 weeks out at a time?  At least that’s the case for the therapist I visited for awhile and it’s likely because she’s a dang good one.

I promise I won’t go too far into the weeds (who am I kidding?  If you didn’t know by now I basically live in the weeds) and that this isn’t a bucket into which I’ll dump loads of self loathing.  This isn’t a prompt to induce shame but very much the opposite; I hope.  What it is is recognizing that some mistakes that I have learned from might had been avoided if I had stopped excusing poor choices by my repetition of the mantra “no regrets” to myself in some pivotal moments.

I can say that I genuinely love myself now but I didn’t get to here without a fair dose of convincing.  It took grace, love, and honor for myself, and from my Creator and that of the people who love me the most.  Again, so much grace has been needed on the road to today.

Many might provide the counter argument that “if you didn’t make mistakes you didn’t learn”.  Yeah that’s true.  However, I feel that the idea that you can make this poor decision right now because you probably wont have no regrets later is an enabler of what can actually cause shame down the road.  And trust me, I’ve had my bouts with shame and luckily after seeking help and sifting through my stories I got to a point where it stopped controlling me or defining me.  But oh boy it sure did for awhile.  I kept thinking that my mistakes would feel less painful later if I didn’t have to think about them for awhile but that wasn’t true.  In the formative teenage years and my early 20’s I went through a season of being unable to look myself in the eye.  It sucked and I don’t think it had to go down like that.  It’s not like I was a criminal but it was a time when in many ways I was in direct rebellion of what I valued and it was tough to keep excusing myself when I knew I could stop making those mistakes that kept me staring at the ceiling at 3 am.

Luckily my regrets paved the way for me to have empathy and grace for others sifting through their reflections of the choices they made.  I’m so blessed to say that there are many young women out there who I just want to hug whereas before I went through some crap of my own I might have had gross condemnation.  This is about knocking off the railroading of yourself before you have to get to that hard earned wisdom.  It’s about biting your tongue when you want to say no regrets and instead trust your gut when it says “actually this is gonna really suck to work through later”.  It’s about letting your conviction (not shame) tell you to take a moment to reconsider what you’re about to do.

Know that with the gauntlet of emotions we all have been gifted as humans that they each are necessary to an extent and regret is especially among them.  Without regret we wouldn’t feel humility and we wouldn’t ask forgiveness. The avoidance of regret led me to shame which in turn caused a continuity of the same mistakes.  The life cycle of non-reconciled regret is endless without stopping to realize yeah, that shouldn’t have happened, it was a letdown, and now that you can look what you did in the eye and from you can take the next steps to understanding the grace that’s out there for you when you are finally honest.

I actually feel like the avoidance of regret is to deny something very human about you and it causes you to see yourself through rose colored glasses.  It makes you avoid yourself and creates the illusion that you are incapable of mistakes.  If you could stop and say “I have my regrets” than you can finally see that you are a beautiful and broken person who is capable of being well and of learning even if it had to be the hard way.  I do love seeing someone who can say they did that, it didn’t feel good, they had to process that regret and can now love who they have become as a result.  That’s powerful, it’s healing and can pave the way to helping others on the brink of similar choices you once faced.

Regret is a necessary part of the story of who we are.  We just can’t stay there is all.  We can come to the realization of regret, see it’s necessity and grow from there.  I just hope that if one day I happen to become a parent or a person of influence to a young person that I can encourage them to avoid the “no regrets” pep talk to save a therapy session or two down the road.  I would love to tell them that if they have to give themselves  the “no regrets” talk in the moment it’s probably gonna mean the exact opposite later.

As my mom would wisely say “chew the meat and spit the bones”.

With so much love,

Sara

Believe a Belief That’s Inspired by Love

DSC_3402.jpgFor awhile now I have been running circles in my head trying to process the following.  Maybe it’s inspired by the current social climate, political currents and the social media that I see daily.  If you have read some of my previous posts you’ll find that I keep circling back to understanding conflict and the role it plays in our lives.

I find what I value and believe to constantly be brushed by counter arguments, opposing views and different perspectives. Here’s what I have begun to understand; if my argument requires for me to tear you down and belittle you than it’s wrong.

I see that people are voting for candidate based not upon their belief that this is the right person to vote for but to vote against the other guy.  I see that people make sexist statements not based upon their sincere views of supporting their gender but because they have a bitterness towards the other (and trust me, I’m not what you would consider a feminist in Western culture).  I hear arguments of individuals based upon the sins of the generations before us that refuse to take in the context of today.

When I was younger (not that I consider myself “old” by now) I was so sure with what I believed and I would bare my teeth at anything that challenged it.  As I have grown in years, faith and understanding I have realized that my beliefs aren’t this precious little treasure chest to protect and keep safely away from adversity.  I have come to realize that if my views face adversity at the cost of my values that my view is compromised.  If I can’t hold a conversation with another who has different ideas without maintaining my patience, integrity, and honor of this other person as a fellow human being than is what I believe worth believing?

You will find that if you ask me what I feel about many issues that I have strong views for what I think based upon what I value.  So lately I have had to ask myself why I value what I believe.  I won’t lie that there are views out there that grate my nerves to no end and that I’m not going to accept everything as my personal opinions.  There are so many perspectives I want to call out for the unproductive and hurt they cultivate and I want to sincerely convict the people who can inspired by such bitterness. And what I have have realized about the mini campaigns I want to start is that until I can articulate what I believe not out of hatred for those bitter views but out of love for those directly affected by them that I’m not ready to speak.

With all that said it has become a true challenge in my heart to be the person of conviction that I desire to be while having grace for others of equal conviction and different ideas.  Can I think that they’re wrong and not slander them? Yes.  Is it possible to recognize the their views with respect despite of how they contradict your own?  Yes.  Can you stand for what you believe without inciting belittlement? Yes.

If what you believe can’t let you answer yes to those questions I just asked than what do you need to adjust in your lenses of perspective?

A challenge for myself and for you are to now ask these questions:

If you  can’t converse but fight every time you brush up against a different view than what do you have to do to change?

Can you see conflict as a positive opportunity to understand varying views so that you can embrace yours all the more?

Can you stand up for what you hold dear without inciting hate for others?

Do you value people over ideas?

Have you taken a stand on something far removed from your personal life that might be changed if you had to come face to face with it?  Consider the issues of abortion, Syrian refugees, guns, etc.

Can you manage conflict with the understanding that it doesn’t mean a result in bitterness, closed mindedness and disconnection?

If what you love about your belief is based upon hate for something else can you tell me it’s love?

If you have come to claim your belief not out of sincere desire for whatever it is but rather by a dislike for something else than I pray that you can see what you are missing.  If your belief isn’t motivated by faith, hope and love than I also pray that you can open your eyes to what is lacking in such an idea system.   If your belief requires you to set a barricade between you and others who see things differently than I hope you question that necessity.

With so much love,

Sara

Fly Fishing: Present vs. Positive

DSC_0998.jpgYou been casting, casting, casting and casting all morning.  No luck. No hits. Nada. Are there even fish in this river?  Wait obviously there is.  This is the Mighty Mo you Space Cadet!

I have found so much value in mornings like that.  It requires for me to stop being overly positive in what I have tied to the end of my line and to look around and see what I haven’t taken in.  What bugs are out right now?  Do I have a fly convincing enough for a fish?   Am I mending my line so my fly is keeping pace with the right water? Oh crap, maybe if I slowed down to take a look I might have noticed  that I’ve had a bunch of slime caught on my fly for the last half hour.  If I were a fish I wouldn’t want fresh water kelp on my breakfast either.

I can also see the times when I have been stubbornly casting the same fly I had tied on that morning because I simply don’t want to switch out what I got on.  You could say that I was staying positive about what I already had.  I’ll admit that sometimes with a bit of patience I might get a hit eventually by staying positive but it usually doesn’t pan out as well as the other times when I took in what I needed to adjust and did.

The funny thing is that this conversation just became a lot more than fly fishing.  Lately I have heard and seen so much where people are throwing out the mantra to “stay positive”.  Oddly, I have found a recoil in my gut every time I hear that and I have been asking myself why for the last few days.  Isn’t it good to stay positive?  Shouldn’t we keep persevering by staying upbeat, happy, and positive?  Do I think negativity is a healthier alternative?  What am I missing? What the heck does staying positive do for me when I need to stop, breathe, and take in what I need to process in my life?

I guess where I get the recoil from is that there have been times that I have been told by well meaning friends to “just stay positive” that did more damage than good or did nothing at all for me.  It was like they were throwing out words that have the same effect as comfort food in the way they look good, taste good and are empty calories.  I knew that there was something I needed to get through a time of learning, but being positive wasn’t all of it.  That advice made me feel inadequate.

I feel like if I were a soldier running into the fight I wouldn’t need my commander to yell “stay positive!!!!” to me.  What the heck does that do for me when my army is getting torn down by the enemy and I have to survive despite my wounds, the blood on my face and the odds stacked against me?  I think I would want him to tell me to “stay present!” instead.  A battle might be a dramatic example (especially when this started out as a conversation about fishing) but for a few of us, life might be a battle as we sift through anxiety, disconnection and depression.

It seems like people who have stayed present in their circumstances have the ability to see their end game despite of what is casting a shadow over them.  I feel like the times when I had to go through growth that hurt I had to just look at where to place my footing next.  When I stopped telling myself to be positive and instead acknowledge when I was lonely, anxious, or belligerent I was able to see life without rose colored glasses.  I could see what I need to develop and even to extent of admitting my need for help that otherwise might had been lost if I just kept telling myself to see the bright side.  If I “stayed positive” I never would have walked into my therapist’s office.  I never would had called my mom when I needed advice.  I wouldn’t have asked my husband for forgiveness when I needed to ask it of him.

By choosing present over positive I found something deeper than an exterior perception to aim for. I found hope instead.

Hope. Let’s talk about that.  I feel that’s a concept that has a bit more meat on the bones than positive.  Hope can always be within you even when you are seeing the reality of what’s surrounding you.  It can be in your soul even when you can’t smile and doesn’t have the shallow requirement to be happy the way that positive does.  You can see the light at the end of the grief, trial and pain.  I don’t think you can just step into hopefulness but rather it’s the product of seeing what needs to be done and finding the tools to do it.  It’s the assurance of things unseen by having the audacity to get through today.  Hope is the souls gumption to survive.

My sincere desire is to let you know that you are not failing for not seeing the bright side today.  Please stop feeling like a letdown because you haven’t been able to smile as brightly as you used to. Maybe we need to stop making others feel inadequate by throwing around shallow advice but instead just sit down, let them verbalize what they’re processing, tell them we love them and say that it’s okay to cry.  Maybe this means looking at yourself in the mirror and saying “I’m done doing this alone”.  It could mean walking into a therapist’s office for the first time.  Talking to your spouse about the hidden addiction. Or to put on those gym shoes collecting dust.  It means doing whatever it is you know in your heart needs to be done and finding the support to do it.

Like fly fishing maybe we can be done with casting that same old fly that worked last week.  Look around, see what’s actually happening on the water and tie on something new and see what you land.

With so much love,

Sara

 

My Disparate Sense of Right and Wrong

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So my mind is baffled for which I’ll only be able to ask questions and not even begin to have the confidence to attempt any answers in the following.

Have we tried to make our character as a species an intellectual conversation?  And is it even possible that we have been going about the conversation in a very disconnected way? Like, we have maybe been trying to water the plant with milk and are perplexed as to why it dies.

We all walk around with an innate sense of what we feel to be right and wrong and are governed by what we feel to be our one true moral compass.  We have a true north that we know is the one right way in which our world spins on its axle.  We even can have a fellow tribe that feels the same gravitational pull as we do.  You can have a group of five people stand in a circle in a valley and agree that the sun rises behind that mountain and sets behind that other one every single day and therefor you all universalize that that’s the truth of where your little world begins and ends.  The only problem is that there can be another little clan of people living in a neighboring valley on the other side of that mountain where the sun rises who would argue with you that it’s the mountain the sun sets behind.  Well you’re both right, right?  You both can find a thousand ways to argue about your little worlds which are really tiny little spreads on the grander scheme of whats out there and that you both belong to whether you like it or not.  And the problem is that you both would be right in your fighting.

So do you see what I mean?  Like that weird little example, have we failed to see that in our arguments of what is right and wrong that we are failing by the degree to which we are keeping the content at an intellectual level versus what the spiritual reality might be?  Is it really small minded to hope for and feel that there is indeed one gravitational pull that pulls all of our souls to one source?  That there is something deeper to all of us which has a sense of what our character should be?

This would be the worse essay to submit to a professor back when I was attempting college because I literally have no conclusion aside from asking questions.  Have you ever considered how you have defended and argued the issue of character in your idea of humanity?  Are you trying to resolve what is right and wrong by your intellectual capacity to do so?  Do you feel that we all can accept our little worlds of understanding and be okay with accepting the notion of, “Well if it feels right to you than it must be right”?  Would you be confident in that reasoning if you were having a conversation with the man just a few minutes before he walked into a club in Orlando and killed all those people just a few months ago?

I know those are too many questions without any conclusions which might seem cowardly on my part.  But there you have it!

With so much love,

Sara

How Do You Process Confrontation?

Brent Sara Fleming April 9th 2016-Reception-0026.jpgWhat reaction occurs in your gut when someone throws out one of the following statements?

I’m voting for Clinton.

I’m voting for Trump.

I’m not voting at all.

I believe in God.

I’m an atheist.

I’m not sure about vaccinating my kid in the future.

I don’t want a pit bull near me.

One of those statements undoubtedly ticked some response in which you agreed and decided to like that person more and the others might had spurned your internal character assassination of them for thinking that way.  I’m not going to elaborate on who I’m voting for this November. This isn’t a political conversation.  It’s not a call to pacifism either.

I’m just wanting to delve into what has been on my heart lately about what it means to understand the natural and inevitable occurrence of confrontation in all our walks of life.  So I am what you could consider a confrontational person; it has been an asset as well as a detriment.  If I’m not  careful of my heart, I can view confrontation as purely an ugly event that becomes the breeding ground of resentment.   I can choose to make moments of confrontation as opportunities to harm and demoralize whatever force is bumping up against me.  And that’s not good.

I feel like we naturally have an aversion to confrontation.  But what if we adjust our lenses a bit and see it for the normal part of life that it is?  Sadly, 99% of us have had a poor example of how to examine it’s role in our lives whether it was in our childhood, relationships, past careers or unhealthy friendships.  We might have become avoidance strategists as a result.  Or perhaps we are on the other end of spectrum as volatile Titans. Regardless, each end of the confrontational spectrum isn’t healthy if it’s your home base.

I don’t know where to begin in delving into how you can become a person to perfectly handle the gauntlet of emotions that disagreement stirs within you.  Probably by saying that there isn’t going to be a level of perfection achieved in this life.  I’m just trying to encourage you and in the end process in my heart what it means to accept this part of what makes us human.  What if we leaned into our fights with the desire to seek understanding versus the natural desires to “make them feel sorry” or to just prove you’re right?  Is it possible that a fight can result in finding a deeper love for the person you’re at war with?

Maybe this week we could examine our hearts in the moments where there is something confrontational in our lives?   Are you seeking pacifism, the Clash of the Titans or understanding?  When someone says they’re voting for a candidate who you would rather die than vote for, maybe take three seconds to see if your response will bring life or anger to your relationship with them?  If you disagree with them maybe choose to not become angry or fearful and maybe instead capitalize on the chance to learn something new.  I feel that if we can become people who can have the character to self examine how our perspective towards confrontation can be adjusted that we can have the character it takes to be strong, honorable and kind in all our conversations.

With so much love,

Sara