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Fill in Your Own Blanks

Fill In Your Own Blanks

***I was inspired to write this after reading a post from a friend recently.  I’m always grateful for the words and thoughts that come from a brilliant and beautiful mind and a truly good soul. So, I wanted to explore those words on my own.  There’s nothing original here.  There’s nothing earth-shattering either.  My hope is that anyone who takes the time to read this will ask themselves questions that might inspire them to ignore the voices that would seek to silence them.  Instead, hear the voice that tells you, “Yes! I can!”

“You can’t do that!”  “You can’t do that because______”

You fill in the blank. My guess is there has been someone in your life who took great delight in telling you what you can’t do and why you can’t do it.

There are always those who want to define for us and make sure we understand without a doubt what’s  right or wrong, proper or improper, sacred or sacrilege, socially acceptable or rude, crude and socially unacceptable, politically correct or politically incorrect.

You must know these things, you see, because if you deviate from what you’ve been told you should do or be or believe, you will get yourself in trouble.  Worse still, you will create problems for others. You will be a trouble-maker and no one likes those. Right?

So, what have we been told we could or couldn’t do by someone else? And, why did they feel compelled to fill in that blank for us?

Side Note:  This isn’t about conversations we have with children, telling them they can’t do something because what they think they want to do involves an issue of safety and they might be harmed by their actions.   There are perfectly good reasons to tell a child (or an adult) they can’t do something that have everything to do with love for that person and for their well-being.  I’m a mother.  I have lot’s of practice with this one.

This is a different kind of “you can’t do that.”

This is the “you can’t do that” that seeks to stop us from being who we are and living an authentic life.  It’s the voice that tells us we are something less than and unworthy.  And, it is a voice that does harm, causes endless pain, and relentlessly kills the spirit of one who was once filled with life and possibility.

Maybe you’ve heard those kinds of “you can’t” words.  Here are some of the ones I’ve heard over time.

  • You live in the wrong neighborhood.
  • You don’t deserve that.
  • You can’t have that because I never got that.
  • You aren’t smart enough to go to college.
  • You’re too smart and you are a threat to others.
  • You won’t finish college. You’ll get married and quit.
  • You don’t have enough money so you can’t.
  • Who would hire you?  You don’t know anything about doing that.
  • You’re too young.
  • You’re too old.
  • You’re a female. You won’t get hired.
  • You’re divorced. You won’t get hired.
  • You have children.  It will be too hard for you to manage that.
  • You don’t have a degree.
  • You don’t have the right degree.
  • You don’t have a degree from the right school.
  • You don’t have enough education.
  • Your voice is too high and you don’t sound good.
  • Your writing is weak.
  • You’re too attractive.
  • You aren’t attractive enough.
  • You’re too big (meaning I was too fat).
  • You aren’t worth the effort.
  • You aren’t the right fit/the right person.
  • You don’t have the right experience.
  • You don’t have the right credentials.
  • You aren’t enough. And, you never will be.

Is that enough for you?  It has been more than enough for me.  The saddest thing I can tell you about this list, besides the fact that these were things that were actually said to me, is that there were far too many of them that I believed were true.  Not all of them.  But, some of them were enough to give pause to even the most confident person, and I haven’t always had confidence in myself.

Let me stop right here and say that I’m not writing this for pity or sympathy or attention.  Nope.  That’s not what this is about at all.

This is about offering a different voice that maybe someone will hear above the ones that tell us we can’t.

It’s time to stop letting others fill in the blanks for you.  FILL IN YOUR OWN BLANKS!

Fill in the blank with the answers that work best for you.  The real ones.  Those will be the answers that you already have within you.  They’ve been given to you by The One who knows you completely.  And, our job is to listen for the truth in that voice, the truth that is within us, the truth that lives in our core being and longs to be heard.  Hear that true voice and believe what it says!

They are answers for the blanks that you will discover with the help of those who love you without condition and care enough about you to give you room to question, explore, think, reflect, and dive into what’s in front of you and around you.  These are answers you will cherish because they will show you the value of learning and growing as you share your life with others who genuinely delight in seeing you grow into your real self.

They are answers that will come out of difficult and painful experiences.  That’s how life works.  Not everyone will like who we are.  Not everyone will care and not everyone will want us to succeed.  Not everyone will be nice or play nice.  Some will be just plain ol’ mean, rotten, and nasty.  Know without a doubt that there really is evil in the world because there is.  And, it will seek us out and do everything it can to destroy us.  Do not, under any circumstances, let evil fill in your blanks.  But, do let the hard experiences teach you things that will not only give you truth but will allow you to share what you’ve been given with others.

Be who you are.  Be who you are called and created to be.  Use what you’ve been given to the best of your ability.  Do it for good–for your good and the good of others in the world.

There are always those who will be very glad to fill in your blanks for you.  And, you can let them do that if you want.  It’s a choice.  It’s your choice.

It takes courage to fill in your own blanks. When you fill in your own blanks, be honest.  The only right answer is the one that is true.  What is your truth?  What is real for you? What answers are the very best reflection of the human being you have the potential to be?

For some of us, filling in the blanks with the true answer has taken some time.  But, there is a sense of freedom that comes with the truth. And, it was worth whatever it took to get to the truth.

As you walk your journey of life and fill in your blanks, I wish you peace…

Stories with Heart and Soul

Reverend Mother

There was a movie that came out several years ago called The Straight Story.  It’s based on the true story of a man named Alvin Straight who traveled from his home in Iowa to Wisconsin to see his brother.  On the surface, that’s not much of a story. But, there were a couple of things that made this story worth telling and worth hearing.

You see, Alvin and his brother hadn’t spoken to each other in several years.  They’d fought about something and as a result they refused to be in contact.  But, when Alvin received word that his brother, his only sibling,  had fallen ill and been in the hospital, Alvin decided he should go to see his brother.

Seems simple enough:  except it wasn’t. (No one makes movies about simple things.  They don’t sell tickets.) Alvin hadn’t lived an easy life.  His time in the service, the…

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Stories with Heart and Soul

If we can find the stories with heart and soul, then I believe we’ve found something worth hearing. And, they are treasures worth keeping.

There was a movie that came out several years ago called The Straight Story.  It’s based on the true story of a man named Alvin Straight who traveled from his home in Iowa to Wisconsin to see his brother.  On the surface, that’s not much of a story. But, there were a couple of things that made this story worth telling and worth hearing.

You see, Alvin and his brother hadn’t spoken to each other in several years.  They’d fought about something and as a result they refused to be in contact.  But, when Alvin received word that his brother, his only sibling,  had fallen ill and been in the hospital, Alvin decided he should go to see his brother.

Seems simple enough:  except it wasn’t. (No one makes movies about simple things.  They don’t sell tickets.) Alvin hadn’t lived an easy life.  His time in the service, the anger and fear he brought home from the battlefields, the alcohol that gave him some relief from the pain, and stubborn pride had taken their toll on his body and soul.  Due to poor eyesight, Alvin could no longer see well enough to drive. He had bad hips and couldn’t move around very well without a cane to steady him.  Despite these things that might have deterred others from making the trip, Alvin figured out a way he could get to his brother.

He built himself a small trailer and hitched it to a riding lawnmower.  He bought some coolers to take his food in, put in a couple of chairs and some bedding to sleep on.  He also had several large containers of gasoline and all the other essentials he would need for his trip.  And, he set off traveling a few miles each day on his old, but fairly reliable John Deere mower.

Because I highly recommend this movie to anyone over the age of 13, I won’t tell you the whole story and how it ends.  Watch it.  You’ll be very glad you did.

It won’t come as a surprise, I’m sure, to know that this movie has a whole lot of life lessons in it.  Frankly, given what we are often offered by movies today, it was a joy to watch a story unfold that offered something positive, hopeful, and incredibly touching.

It’s a story of determination and vulnerability.  It’s a story of letting go of pride and embracing forgiveness.  It’s a story of sacrifice and love.  I mean, how many people do you know who would hitch a riding lawnmower to a homemade trailer and drive it nearly 400 miles because it was the only way they could think of to get to see someone they hadn’t spoken to in years? I’ve only known a couple who would have done something like that and they were pretty amazing folks.

Some of the best stories I’ve heard and some of the finest people I know have stories with a common thread that is found in Alvin’s story.  They are stories that have a heart and soul.  Because they do, they can speak to the heart and soul of others in ways that will ring true and will touch them to the depths of their being.  These folks and their stories may have things about them that will stretch our imagination or test our ability to comprehend.   But, when we hear them we will have no doubt that what was shared was honest and real.

We can hear a lot of stories everyday without much effort.  Turn on the news or log onto a social media site or sit on a bench in town and listen and watch as people pass by.  There are stories to be heard.  Our challenge these days is trying to figure out if what we’re hearing is real. Is it true? Is it honest? Is it factual? Does it matter? Who cares?  All good questions.  But, maybe we’d better ask another question while we’re at it.  Where is the heart and soul of this story? Where is the thread that is woven and linked with another to create this tapestry?  Is it a tangled web spun to deceive (thank you, Shakespeare)? Or is it intricately and thoughtfully told so that when it ends, we will know that those threads have now become part of our tapestry, our lives, too? And, we will be thankful that is so.

If we can find the stories with heart and soul, then I believe we’ve found something worth hearing.  And, they are treasures worth keeping.

I wish you peace….

You Gotta Have Friends

I think if we spent more time trying to make friends with others we might have have more to smile about. We’d probably have more to laugh about. We’d surely have a few things to cry about. I’m certain we’d all have more love in our lives.

According to Facebook (the ultimate in all-knowing sources) I have over 700 friends. This was pointed out by a friend (one I knew before Facebook) who decided I must be very popular. (Yes, I know sarcasm when I hear it…)

Who knew that many people would want to be my friend (at least on social media)? I sure didn’t. Actually, it had never occurred to me check the number until my friend decided to have a little fun and poke at me.  Nevertheless, there are people who’ve decided that it’s okay to be my friend (or there’s no harm in accepting my request to be a friend) and I’m glad they did.

Of course, not everyone on that list is my “best” friend.  I don’t think you can have more best friends than you have fingers on one hand.  Well, I don’t think I can, anyway.  I do have best friends.  You know who you are and I am beyond grateful for your presence in my life.

Not everyone on that list is a friend I’ve actually seen face-to-face for awhile–like for years and years.  Some of these folks I knew in another state and in another time of my life–like grade school and high school and college (Round 1 at Western Carolina and Round 2 at Gardner-Webb).  Some are people I know from places I used to work and some from where I work now, from church (which is where I work), and from various endeavors in my past and present life.

Some of my friends aren’t even on the Facebook list because they aren’t on Facebook at all.  But, they are my friends no matter what Facebook knows or doesn’t know about them or me.  Thankfully, social media is not the only way we make or get to have friends, and I was fairly good at making friends with people long before I even knew what a computer or the internet were.   But, when we use it well, social media can be a really good way to stay connected to people or reconnect with folks who have added meaning to our lives.

What I find interesting as I read posts and look at pictures and remember how and when and why and where all these people have crossed paths with me is that the people I know come from far and wide.  It is a fairly eclectic, sometimes eccentric, often entertaining, and fairly diverse group of friends.  I can’t fit them all in just a few tidy box and label them.  For the record, I don’t want to.

These folks I know and call friends come from all walks of life.  They have different political leanings that go from the far right to far left and everywhere in between.  They come from different faith traditions and from places where faith isn’t really important to them at all.  Some are Republican, some are Democrats, some are Libertarians, some are Independents, and some don’t care about politics and never will.  At present, these are my most sane friends.

Some of my friends are Smoky Bears, some are Catamounts, some are Tigers (more than one variety of those), some are Bulldogs or Runnin’ Bulldogs, some are Demon Deacons, Wolfpack fans, Paladins, Cavaliers, Volunteers, and of course, Tar Heels.  I even have a couple of friends who love the Blue Devils (I don’t know why, but they do). Some don’t know a bat from a ball or a touchdown from a hole-in-one and they don’t care to know.

I have friends who cut hair, dance, practice law, practice medicine, and teach.  They are accountants, professors, truck drivers, cooks, nurses, pharmacists, realtors, preachers, musicians, singers, actors, small business owners, sales people, broadcasters, and bankers. Some are students, some are between jobs, and some are retired.  Some are doing pretty well for themselves, some are on Social Security, and some barely get by from paycheck to paycheck.

They hunt, fish, play golf, play tennis, ride bikes, ride horses, kayak, shoot pool, run 5k’s and marathons, hike, walk, watch NASCAR, are obsessed with college basketball, and play pickle ball.  They make quilts, paint, crochet, knit, write books, bake cakes, garden, take pictures, coach little league, lead scout troops, teach Sunday school, save turtles, and take in stray animals.

I have friends who volunteer at Habitat for Humanity, Hospice, Meals on Wheels, the United Way, teach ESL classes, serve meals to homeless people, work at the local animal shelter, make prayers shawls and baby blankets, and  tutor children at local schools.

They do things I would never do like scale huge mountains, zip line, scuba dive and sky dive to name a few. They do things I love to do like read, play tennis, hike and travel.  They do things that make me scratch my head and get puzzled looks on my face.  I’m certain I do the same for them.

Who would have thought that a little girl from Surry County, Virginia and Sevier County, Tennessee would get the chance to cross paths with so many interesting and truly incredible people?

You know one of the things I really treasure about my friends–all of them, not just the ones on Facebook?  I treasure that they/you are part of a beautiful, intricately woven tapestry of life–the one I got blessed with.  Whether you are a friend I’ve known since elementary school or one I’ve only recently come to know, you make a difference in my life.  Thank you!

We get the opportunity in this life to be part of another human being’s story.  Sometimes that’s just for a few fleeting moments, but they are moments that can have a profound impact on the life of another person.  Hopefully, if we are doing it well, the impact is positive or, at least, not damaging.

One of my very best friends died several years ago.  We met in high school and I have never known anyone quite like her. In many ways we were complete opposites, but that didn’t keep us from becoming and remaining friends.  I miss her and her quick and quirky sense of humor and her enormous heart for others.  Early in our friendship she asked me why I wanted to be her friend.  You see, she hadn’t made friends easily and it seemed to puzzle her that I would be friends with her.  The answer was simple; I told her that I liked her for who she was.  I didn’t have any need or desire for her to be anything else.  Later, as we grew up and would sometimes find ourselves at odds with each other, that was a core truth in our friendship.

I think if we spent more time trying to make friends with others we might have have more to smile about.  We’d probably have more to laugh about.  We’d surely have a few things to cry about.  But above all, I’m certain we’d have more love in our lives.

Thank you, my friends.

I wish you peace…