Tag Archives: inspiration

Why Yelling From A Boat Is The Right Thing To Do

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These past few weeks there have been numerous people yelling at me from boats. Just when I don’t think I can come up for another breath, there they are. Their muffled encouragements drifting into my ears through the crashing waves. At certain moments I lose my bearings and ability to judge if I can even make it to my destination at all. But the hodge-podge crowd of boat sailing cheerleaders yelled at me telling me that I was so close – almost there. Keep going Liz.

Okay, I think to myself. Just breathe. Keep going.

You may not know this about me, but I am NOT a marathon swimmer. However, some people actually are. And when they set out to conquer things like the English Channel or swimming from Florida to Haiti without a shark cage, they don’t go it alone. They are accompanied by a support boat full of people. People to cheer them on, give them what they need throughout the journey and rescue them if need be.

I have been my own kind of marathon swimmer as of late. My oceans are composed of legal documents. Instead of waves I have deadlines and my sharks are simply too many unknown elements to name. Four years ago, we began the process of international adoption. It has been a gritty and grueling marathon of its own.

I leave in two weeks to travel to Africa and begin meeting with orphanages. After four years of what seems like aimless swimming in an endless sea, it is as if I can see a shore for the first time. But these past few weeks have had some significant challenges. Thank God for the boat full of people yelling at me.

Random texts asking how to pray. Phone calls from people I rarely talk to calling just encourage me and see how I am doing. A $500 donation to our adoption account from a complete stranger. People in a boat. Cheering beside me.

My life has been filled with moments that seemed to hard to endure. Moments that my weary eyes were blurry and couldn’t really see the target anymore. Days when it seemed like the darkness was greater than the light and that somehow in the scuffle of it all I didn’t really matter much. But in those moments that ached with tiredness I heard the yells and remembered that I wasn’t alone.

We all need boats of people yelling at us.

Screaming our rally cry when we have forgotten the very words our own heart wrote.

Gladiators who step in the ring with us saying, ” Have a rest friend. I’ve got this round.“.

Dreamers who never let us forget our vision and  pray for endless hours to a God who gives the strength we need.

But we have to let them in. Tell them what battles we are fighting and give them permission to journey alongside us. Not following at a distance, but close. Where they can see our labored breathing and hear our subtle cry for help. Yes, they will see us ugly cry and wrestle with our inadequacies. But we trust them – so its okay. These are the ones who will cover for us when we fail and who only Instagram our highlights.

Don’t swim your oceans alone. Bring people in.

And get in another’s boat.

Be the the one yelling that the shore is close. Remind others that this saltwater won’t surround them forever, but soon they will be able to put their feet down and walk onto the beach having conquered that which seemed impossible. And when they get there, throw them a party.

Yell, cheer and pray until you have lost your own voice on another’s behalf.

Build a boat and fill it with people who have your back. Hop in a canoe and paddle alongside a friend who needs you.

Our destiny is not to drown alone in the dark waters, but to defy the odds with others.

Love crosses oceans.

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Filed under Adoption, Faith, Fire, something bigger, Whimsy

Be Fully Seen

I’ve never really had an addiction to anything until Instagram came along. That is where I found Alisha Sommers whose pictures and captions draw me in every time. She is the coolest lady , just check out her bio at the bottom if you don’t believe me. Plus, I have a total crush on her hair. So, when I was thinking through guest posts for An Uncomfortable January, I knew she would provide a very vulnerable insight about getting outside of our comfort zones. And that is what this series is about – being real with ourselves and taking risks. Alisha is taking us into the risk of being seen. So, go on and read it if you are feeling risky. 

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2013 was a transformative year for me. I learned so much about what I want in life, what my true values are, and how I want to move about in this world. I chose the word “illuminate.” I wanted to do things that lift up my soul and show others that there was another way to live if they really wanted to. But I knew the only way to do that was to fully embrace who I was becoming. So I dug deep to rediscover my heart’s desires and learn how to honor the gifts and talents given to me. As I began to write more, share more, and connect with more people, I got more attention. And I got more uncomfortable. Here I was living out this word “illuminate” and feeling uncomfortable with shining. Which meant that I was not living as fully as I wanted.

I am that woman who tilts her head down when someone makes eye contact with her as she walks down the street. When I’m having a conversation with someone I don’t know well, I will not hold their gaze for more than 3 seconds. I suppose it is out of the fear that the old saying is true: That my eyes are the window to my sould and that when you look at me – look into me – you will see everything. I can no longer hide. Yet this is how we truly connect with one another. It is why new lovers lean in across the table. It is why, when I need my children to listen to me, I get down on their level – I want to look into their eyes. But it is scary, right? It is scary because it means that I might face rejection. Just stepping outside of the door every day and choosing to be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you into something else is so uncomfortable. But I choose to do it every day. So many of us do.

This year I knew that I wanted to really embody the rediscovered me that was ready to move forward in her life. This year is all about the integration of what I believe to be true about myself and the world and finally acting upon it. Late last year, when Elizabeth asked me to contribute to this series, I knew that my challenge was to look people in the eye. Because looking people in the eye is not just about being polite or letting them know that I am paying attention to them. It is also about me being okay with being fully seen. It is about me owning my beliefs and values and standing tall in them. It is about allowing myself to be fully seen and walking with that uncomfortable feeling, while trusting that I would still be loved and accepted.

A few weeks ago I went to dinner with a friend who told me about her conscious effort to look people in the eye as she interacted with them throughout her day. She mentioned an afternoon when she saw a panhandler on the side of the street and while she did not have any money to give him, what she did give him was eye contact and a smile. She could have looked away and pretended not to see him like most of us do – like I do. Instead she chose to see him. She said there was just something about that brief moment they shared, separated by concrete and steel and glass, that moved her. I am sure it touched him too.

When we really choose to see people, we remember they are human. We see their essence. We feel a little more compassion. We feel a little more love. When I choose to let you see me, I give you the opportunity to love me too. And Love – that’s something we could all use a little more of.

Even if it makes us uncomfortable.

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Processed with VSCOcamAlisha Sommer is a writer living in the suburbs of Chicago with her husband and three children. She loves fresh-baked bread, laying in the sun, and the smell of the sea. When she’s not knee-deep in laundry and lunch-making, she edits and publishes BLACKBERRY: a magazine, a literary magazine featuring black women writers and artists. She is the co-creator of liberated lines, an Instagram-based poetry course, and a guide in the upcoming writing collective, Our Word. You can find her at her favorite playgrounds, Instagram and Pinterest.

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Filed under Uncategorized, Uncomfortable January 2014

Dying to Live

January

I am beyond excited to run full on into our Uncomfortable January  series. Examining what we want and taking the risks getting there is what this month is all about. I could think of no better way to start it off than by getting really uncomfortable with the reality that our life is short. And we are taking risks because we know that another opportunity is not guaranteed to come our way.

I’m happy to introduce you to my friend and our first guest in this series : Robert Fuller. He is a master storyteller, igniter of laughter, and very much a dreamer. Robert writes at Fuller Stories and is going to remind us today why we are risking big in 2014…because we are here now. But not forever.

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Lets start out with a simple fact : I almost died last summer.

It’s safe to say few things are as risky as standing on the precipice of death.

I’d gone in for a standard hernia surgery and ended up with a gnarly post operative infection that inflated my abdomen to almost Jabba-like proportions (gross, I know.) The doctors were perplexed (never a good sign), and pumped me with so many antibiotics I languished in hazy delirium for days. In the process I underwent two additional surgeries that left me with a gaping wound the size of a butcher knife on my belly. I looked straight out of a slasher movie – like one who wouldn’t survive.

As I lay there with all those tubes and i.v.’s and beeping machines my mind began to ponder the possibility of my demise. Who would teach my children about love and courage if I was gone? Who would write them stories at night, their eyes wide with wonder before drooping toward sleep? And what of my wife? She’d always told me she could never love another man if I left the earth before her. But I found myself hoping she would not be alone for the rest of her life. And what of me? Was the curtain to be closed so soon? There were so many things I wanted to do. So many dreams left unrealized.

In that moment of agony, when everything seemed ready to be stripped away forever, I could only weep. But my tears came not from fear, or pain, or anger, or despair. But gratitude. All I could think of was how good God had been to me. That He’d given me thirty-seven years of blessing: a rich childhood, loving family, friends upon friends, adventure, joy, laughter, love, children, and most of all, Himself. My life had been a gift. And if this was all there was to be, I was thankful.

But, as this post attests, I did not die.

My fever abated as the infection was driven back like a vanquished horde. Soon the doctors were smiling (always a good sign) and I slowly returned to the land of the living. My recovery would be a long one, considering the gaping chasm on my abdomen. But I was alive. There was breath in my lungs. And the curtain hadn’t closed after all.

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This experience was a crossroads for me. A kind of wake up call. In the following weeks (when I wasn’t high on pain meds) I thought much about how I wanted to live in light of my survival. So in honor of the New Year, I present my top ten lessons learned from almost going to the grave. May they propel you to greater heights in 2014.

1. I am not the center of the universe. As obvious as this sounds, I need reminding. Selfishness is a plague.

2. Timidity is not humility and confidence is not pride. How do I help the world by being so paranoid about looking arrogant that I don’t take initiative with things I’m passionate about? As long as I’m loving, who cares?

3. Fear is not your friend. It might seem a protective ally, but the only thing fear will do is keep you hiding in your foxhole. It will tell you not to do anything that rocks the boat. It will convince you to play it safe. Lame.

4. Consume less, create more. Instead of trolling on Facebook or being on YouTube or obsessing over Pinterest…add something to the world. Write someone a note. Cook someone a meal. Write a poem, a story, a song.

5. Failure is an option. Face it… you will fail. And the more you risk, the bigger the failures will be. It’s a promise. Whoever said that failure wasn’t an option was either delusional, or a flat out liar. If you want to do anything in life more than watch T.V., of course failure is an option. But giving up is not.

6. People will fail you, give them a break. Make forgiveness your bottom line. Giving grace to others is a pleasure. Try it.

7. Spend time with those who love you. There will always be more work to do. More rooms to clean. More money to make. But the best moments are spent with friends, family, and children. I will relish bedtime with the kids, for one day they will be gone. I will take my wife on dates, because let’s face it. She’s hot.

8. Journal. If not for yourself, then at least for your kids. Document your life for someone down the road. It will change them.

9. Never underestimate the power of laughter. People take themselves way too seriously. Help them. Tell a funny story. Play a prank. Poke fun, in love.

10. Live like it’s your final day. Who will you talk to? What will you say? What are you waiting for?

If it all ended now, what are the things you wish you would have done? So, then. What are you waiting for? 

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Filed under Uncomfortable January 2014

Say Something Meaningful

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It wasn’t until his death that I realized just what a significant impact he had on me. This past Saturday I found myself sitting in a crowd of  80 people who had gathered together for a memorial service to honor Dr. Loring.

To say that I knew him well would be misleading. I knew Dr. Loring from a distance. I couldn’t have told you where he was born, the hobbies that filled up his empty time or what his final days were like. All I knew is what he meant to me and what I saw that day.

I scanned the room and found some familiar faces while waiting for the service to start. By the end of that next hour, my life would have been deeply impacted by the people sitting next to me. The pastor got up and shared briefly about Dr. Loring’s early life. Talked about his marriage, family and the years he spent pastoring churches in Oklahoma and Texas.

A significant part of Dr. Lorings adult life was spent working with the homeless population in Dallas, TX.  It was compassion,  not pity drove him. A genuine care, not obligatory or with a savior-complex. Dr. Loring loved people.

About halfway through the memorial service, a strange thing happened. The event turned into an open-mic where those attending could share their thoughts. I kind of moaned to myself at first. This is going to be boring and take forever. It wasn’t boring, and I wish it took forever.

One by one, people stood up and shared the ways they were impacted by his life. A politician told of the evenings spent with Dr. Loring and all the wisdom he offered. A homeless man shared about how Dr. Loring had changed his life while he was on the streets in Dallas. Story after story from friends and family.

By about the tenth person I clued into a pattern. Each person mentioned a specific thing they remembered Dr. Loring telling them. His words stayed with them. Words that created a sense of identity or purpose. Words that comforted a broken place.

These were not simply antidotes or greeting-card phrases. Dr. Loring took the time to see people, recognize who they were & speak to that area. What he spoke everyone remembered. I remembered.

It was either the spring or summer of 2005 and I was at a conference outside of Dallas. My husband and I were gearing up to leave that fall and start a church in Seattle. Dr. Loring was there and came over to chat with me before one of the sessions started.

Chit chat and a few thought provoking questions met with my half-thought answers. The room was buzzing with people grabbing their last minute coffee before taking their seats, but Dr. Loring kept our conversation going.

I’ll never forget what he said at the end of our conversation. “You, you are lionhearted.” 

That was the end of our conversation, but I kept replaying that line over and over. I tried to breathe it in and hold onto it. Those words spoke to a huge question mark that always seemed to linger over me.

I wanted to believe that I was brave. I desperately hoped that I would have the courage to live the life I wanted. All the insecurities of my early 20s seemed to try and convince me otherwise, but those words nailed identity into me.

Over the years I have pulled on those words. When things felt too big, too heavy or I was acutely aware of my shortcomings, I would remember. No. I can do this because I am lionhearted. 

I owe much of what I have accomplished in the past 8 years to that one conversation. And that is why I was there that day to celebrate Dr. Loring’s life. It is why we were all there.

His words brought us together.

You know that kind of introspection that leaves you overwhelmed and nearly paralyzed? That is what I experienced on my drive home. I mulled over the things people had shared about the ways Dr. Loring’s words had marked them.

Lots of people say nice, kind and friendly things. But his were deeply meaningful and spoken with a level of intention and thought I’ve rarely seen. Those statements have given courage to many and provided a foundation for amazing things. I realied that I wanted to say things worth standing on.

I am mildly intentional about what I say. Is that a bad thing for a writer to admit? I want to say things like Dr. Loring did. I want to say something that has an eternal purpose in it. Something that will be the foundation for strong relationships, charity, faith and dreams.

Words hold eternal opportunities. Say something meaningful. —> click to tweet.

Don’t worry,  I’m not going to turn into some guru who tries to be impressive and profound all the time. But, I am going to take opportunities to speak life to people.

Words should be constructive not destructive. They should dispel insecurity and impart courage. Our words should make a difference.

Take the time to say something meaningful. Your words might be your legacy.

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Filed under Faith, Fire, My Life Thus Far, Uncategorized, Whimsy