Tuesday, April 19, 2016

"Help, Thanks, Wow." by Anne Lamott

  I keep going back and forth about my thoughts on this book, Help. Thanks. Wow.  I remember reading Plan B and Traveling Mercies and being so caught up in the pages and feeling like I and the author were one.  I connected with Anne Lamott's writing style, her personality and almost everything she was saying and I wanted more.  Now, maybe it's because of my lack of reading lately or just because I've grown into different tastes, I found that her writing style didn't seem to grab me as much.  I still related to her and what she wrote in this book, but I guess I was expecting or wanting more... of course there was still a lot that grabbed my attention!
  The past several months have been such a rollercoaster for me emotionally and spiritually.  Who I want to be, who I think people expect me to be and who I actually am, just don't seem to be lining up and digging through all the rumble of the past two years of my life has only caused me to feel like I might never get back to the person I once was.  But, what I am beginning to realize is that maybe that's a good thing.
  Years ago now, when I committed my life back to God, I cultivated a relationship with Him where I didn't want to do anything, say anything, act any certain way because I thought I "had" to...like it was the "Christian" thing to do.  I wanted authenticity and honesty and I believed as Lamott says in this book, that "when you're telling the truth, you're close to God" (I still agree with this, by the way).  But in the back of my mind, hidden away well enough that I didn't recognize it, was still this belief that I needed to be perfect for God.
  Spoiler Alert: I am NOT perfect.  I make tons of mistakes, say and do things wrong all the time and have a tendency to make things worse by not confronting issues as they come up!  Never before have I seen the very depth of my own sin has I do now, especially as I look back at my time in Ecuador.  In fact, as I began seeing just how "human" I really am, in some ways, it began to destroy me.  I felt like it was all too much and I couldn't face God anymore... so for a bit I didn't.  Over the past few months though I've begun remembering the truth of what Anne says in the beginning chapter of this book, that "prayer is taking a chance that against all odds and past history, we are loved and chosen and do not have to get it together before we show up"!  And that has brought me some freedom!
  Lamott says, "When we think we can do it all ourselves, it's hopeless.  We're going to screw things up.  We're going to get our tentacles wrapped around things and squirt our squiddy ink all over so that there is even less visibility and then we're going to squeeze the very life out of everything".  I've been there, done that... but then I've also had to continually remind myself that it's true, "The three things I cannot change are the past, the truth and you".  When I let that sink in...when I loosen my grip of control and stop over analyzing everything, learning to deal with things not on my own but with the help of God, I can actually walk in that freedom I mentioned above.
  Truth is, I can continue to live a life where I beat myself up continually for not living up to a perfection I cannot reach (the old me) or I can do my best, turn to God and as Lamott says, "Leave the results in God's good hands".  Anne laments that "if we stay where we are, where we are stuck, where we're comfortable and safe, we die there"  but then encourages us that "having done the right thing lift us out of the glop, the dregs of our own delusional thinking, and puts us a bit closer to being on the right track".  This is the kind of life I want to live.
  So do I recommend this book.  Yeah, of course.  Like I said there is a lot of good in here (some of which I have shared).  The writing style isn't exactly where all her previous books seemed to be and sometimes I got lost in the "poetry" that she quotes throughout the pages, but her words will speak to different people in different ways and there is certainly a lot of value in reading them!

Friday, April 8, 2016

"Carry on, Warrior; The Power of Embracing your Messy, Beautiful Life" by Glennon Doyle Melton

  So one thing I enjoy doing, is listen to and/or watching TED talks online.  I've been introduced to quite a few interesting people through doing so, and Glennon Doyle Melton is one of them.  Maybe I missed out on the whole Momastery blog and community she's created over the years because I myself and not a mom, but apparently she is pretty well known and liked...and now I get why.
  Glennon talks a lot throughout her book about how in opening herself up to being brutally honest about herself to the world, she has seen other women feel like they have permission to do the same.  Lives have been touched and hearts have been open, all because she was willing to put her real self out there and help other women know they are not alone.
  In the first few pages of the book Glennon states, "I was born a little broken, with an extra dose of sensitivity.  Growing up, I felt that I was missing the layer of protections I needed to expose myself to life's risks... risks like friendship, tender love, and rejection.  I felt awkward, unworthy, and vulnerable.  And I didn't want to walk through life's battlefield feeling that way.  I didn't think I'd survive".  Reading that, I could totally relate.  As an overly sensitive person who has spent years of my life trying to protect myself from hurts that normal people seem to be able to just roll with, I felt like....yes!  Someone gets me!
  She goes on to talk about how, "maybe the battles of life are best fought without armor and without weapons.  That maybe life gets real, good, and interesting when we remove all the layers of protection we've built around our hearts and walk out onto the battlefield of life naked".  At first I was like....uh, yeah you lost me, crazy woman....why would I ever go off to war without protecting myself!  But the more I read her story, the more I began to see how she seems to really LIVE life... in all it's gloriousness and messiness... and maybe that's really what it's suppose to be like.
  Glennon doesn't skirt around the issue either and pretend like life is easy if you just learn to put a happy spin on it.  In fact she says, "Life is equal parts brutal and beautiful.  And/both.  Life is brutiful.  Like starts in a dark sky.  Sharing life's brutiful is what makes us feel less alone and afraid.  The Truth can't be stuffed down with food or booze or exercise of work or cutting or shopping, for long.  Hiding from the truth causes it's own unique pain and it's a lonely pain.  Life is hard... not because we are doing it wrong, just because it's hard".  I needed to hear that... as I've experience the lonely painful side of what she said!  But to be reminded that in those moment of brutalness, it's not that I just can't seem to get it right and figure out this thing called life... It's that this IS life...both the good and the bad put together (which I obviously knew but often forget to remember)... brings a sense of comfort.
  She also talks about love and how "it's not something for which to search or wait or hope or dream for.  It's simply something to do" and how it's not always "warm and fuzzy or sweet and sticky. (But rather) Real love is tough as nails.  It's having your heart ripped out, putting it back together and the next day offering it back to the same world that just tore it up......resisting the overwhelming desire to quit, to save yourself for yourself".  I have a tendency to run away from SCARY love like that.  I don't want to be hurt so often times I leave before I can experience true, life affirming love.  But as Glennon also says, "Brave is not something you should wait to feel.  Brave is a decision!" and her book certainly gave me a lot to think about in terms of stepping out in bravery in this way.
  So while this is certainly not a new book and I'm probably one of the last people to get around to hearing about Glennon Melton, if you haven't read it, I certainly recommend it.   I think it would probably speak a lot to you too... not because it's perfect or because the author is (she admits herself that she is anything but), but because it's real and will make you feel less alone and more open in reading it...and I think we could all use a little more of that!