The Messy Dance of Grace

I learned a long time ago that it is never a good idea for me to tell myself that I'm going to commit to do something every day.  You see, I'm what I like to call a "recovering perfectionist," and the key word here is recovering.  I have learned that a part of my recovery process is giving myself space to set the bar lower than perfectionistic Miranda may desire.

Or at least I thought I learned that...

Enter the New Year 2015.

A week or two before the New Year, I began to think about what my goals and resolutions would be.  I picked my "mantra" for the year (maybe that will come up in another post!), and also decided on some of my goals, big and small.  And then…I did the unthinkable.  

I decided I wanted to dance every day.

You heard me, folks!  I said EVERY. DAY.  Perfectionistic Miranda was delighted by this high bar, while recovering perfectionist Miranda rationalized "Meh!  It's dancing!  It's the most fun resolution ever!  I CAN do this every day!"

Fast forward 2 weeks into the New Year… I am in that in-between stage right before I fall into a blissful, deep sleep, when all of a sudden, I sit up... wide awake.

I had forgotten to dance.

Immediately, I was scrambling to get out of bed and to do a few shimmies and jazz hands by my bedside table.  Forget the fact that I was exhausted and had an early morning ahead. (When perfectionism is in charge, you can forget about sanity, obviously.)

Yet, as I was scrambling with the perfectionist voice screaming loudly, I somehow managed to catch a hold of the whisper of my far messier, far truer self: choose grace.

With this soft whisper, I stilled.  The perfectionist whimpered in the face of possible failure. But the recovering perfectionist rejoiced at the chance for freedom… the chance for failure, and the chance to embrace grace and mess and authentic living.  

Perfection binds and constrains, while grace frees and dances.  I don't know about you, but I want freedom.  I want my heart to dance, even when my feet cannot.  I even want my messiness to leak out of the constraints, because that's where I can feel the grace that's waiting for me. 

This morning when I woke up, this post was basically already written.  But then this happened....

 This sky, y'all.  Glorious.

This sky, y'all.  Glorious.

When I saw this, my eyes filled with tears at the newness and beauty of it all… all the colors imperfectly leaking and blending with each other.  The epitome of messy grace is a glorious sunrise.

 This may be a New Year, but every day is a new day. 

A new day filled with new chances. 

A new day to dance. 

A new day to make mistakes. 

A new day to make memories.

And always, a new day for grace. 

In the words of one of my favorite literary characters, Anne Shirley (I couldn't just let the nerdiness end with Elizabeth's Wicked post, now, could I?):

"Isn't it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?"

Why, Anne Shirley, it is nice to think that!  And because I know that tomorrow isn't messy yet, I hope that can give me space to embrace my mess a little more today.  

In case you are wondering, I didn't dance that night.  And honestly?  It was hard not to.  It was hard to choose grace.  But I decided that grace was the braver choice for me in that moment, even with something so silly as dancing.  Grace was what I needed then, and it's what I need now, and it's what I'll need tomorrow and the next day and the next.  I want to always choose grace, even when I choose to dance.

Friends, let's choose to fill our new days of this New Year with messiness, beauty, dancing, and a whole lot of grace. 

 

Pride Isn't Always Wicked

Last week, my sweet husband took me to see the musical Wicked for my birthday. (NOTE: this may be the nerdiest week ever on the blog… first, The Hobbit and now, musical theatre. I’d love to promise it won’t happen again, but I’d probably be lying.) As I sat there, completely fan-girling (is that a verb?) over the elaborate sets and the music... it's time to tryyy defyyying gravityyyy... and the incredible, incredible performances, I couldn’t help but let my mind wander to the real people underneath the whole production. The people, just like you and I, who are below all the makeup and costumes and stage lights. And I must admit, I got a little emotional thinking about the journey they may have taken to end up on that stage.

It likely all began with a big, seemingly unlikely dream – a little girl twirling around in a tutu singing along to a Disney movie...

 Me, circa 1997, for the Laurel Ballet School's performance of  Sleeping Beauty.  

Me, circa 1997, for the Laurel Ballet School's performance of Sleeping Beauty. 

As that little girl grew up, she probably accumulated some cheerleaders – people telling her that she could accomplish anything she set her mind to. I’m sure she had a few negative voices in the mix – agents telling her she wasn’t pretty enough or teachers telling her she didn’t have what it takes - but she pushed those voices aside, gathered an insane amount of courage, and auditioned for the role of a lifetime. And she achieved what seemed like a one-in-a-million chance – she got the part.

Even just writing that imaginary story makes me a little teary (don’t worry… I know I’m a little bit crazy… I also cried during a speech by an actress I’ve never even heard of watching the Golden Globes last weekend). I can’t help but be excited – like jumping-up-and-down-acting-full-on-mental – to see others achieving their goals. Imagining the pride and gratitude they must feel to live out their fairytale each and every night... I’ve been there – well not there… I promise you don’t want to hear me sing – but there, having accomplished something that once felt so far away. I was so proud of these people I don’t even know!

And then, I let my mind wander to the aftermath...

Once they finish this tour, will they forget how far they’ve come?

Will they forget what it felt like to accomplish this lifelong dream?

Will they move on so quickly to wanting something else – something bigger and better?

We live in a world where contentment seems nearly impossible. We’ve trained ourselves to always be wanting, instead of resting in gratitude and a sense of accomplishment for even a moment. We may even feel guilty for the opportunities we’ve been given or for being proud of ourselves. We let the fear of not getting the next thing we want paralyze us with anxiety. We let tomorrow's concerns rob us of today's joy.

Imagine the excitement that little girl with a dream would have felt to see the grown up version of herself. Why not let her twirl and skip with an ear-to-ear smile on her face for just a minute?!

I know some people say don’t look back, but sometimes, just a moment of reflection can give us the perspective to enjoy the here and now and the courage we need to take the next step… again.

Happy Monday, friends! Make it a great week!

A Hobbit, A Girl, and A New Year

Can you believe the last time I posted was all the way in last year?! Happy 2015 to all!  I am feeling incredibly grateful for the chance to end 2014 and begin 2015 in my childhood home in Mississippi, which I was unable to visit for the past year.  Fortunately for me, the log cabin remains reasonably unchanged and cozy, the stars still shine over the farm, the swing in the oak tree still makes me feel like I can fly, and my sister and I still geek out over Lord of the Rings.

And I do mean GEEK out.  If nothing else is stable in my life, I’m 99.9% positive that my sister and I will always have the stability of our love of Middle-Earth.  For any non-LOTR or Hobbit people, allow me to inform you of something huge that just happened for us nerdy nerds: the FINAL MOVIE in The Hobbit series is in theaters (which, by the way, it hurts my heart to think that you could possibly not be in love with these stories… but I’ll try to forgive you if that’s the case).  And y’all?  It’s THE LAST MOVIE IN MIDDLE EARTH.  I am not happy about it.  Not at all.  (see photo below)

As a way for my sister and I to prepare to “visit” Middle Earth for the last time, we watched the first two Hobbit films (and put together a Hobbit puzzle, just to be super hobbity).   While watching the first movie, my eyes became teary with the following exchange between Bilbo, the hobbit, and Gandalf, the wizard, who has invited Bilbo to come on an adventure:

Bilbo: “Can you promise that I will come back?”
Gandalf: “No…and if you do, you will not be the same.” 

Have truer words ever been spoken?  I believe it is impossible NOT to change in this life, even if you are fighting it.   It is even more likely that change will happen if you become an adventurer.   And to be completely honest?  Change isn’t typically what I'd call "fun."  Those things I love about going home to Mississippi?  Well… they won’t always be the same… my log cabin may not be there forever, skies may fill with clouds that cover the stars, and I may learn to fly without my special swing in the oak tree (I wish!).

Looking back on the past few years, I see so much change that has happened in my life, and I wonder if I’m even recognizable at times.   I’ve said yes to a few life-changing adventures, but I've also had a few adventures simply happen upon me.  Some adventures seemed pleasant, and some adventures?  Well, I would have rather avoided them.  In each case, I quite fearfully took the necessary steps outside of my comfortable hobbit hole. 

But with each step, I am finding out the truth… The truth that I am one step closer to my inner truth.  My adventures, as scary and challenging and anxiety provoking and fun as they may be, are revealing what I’m truly meant to be. 

With all the changes that are possible in this new year, I’m choosing to see life as an adventure.  I’m choosing to look at the obstacles differently.  I hope to remember the feeling of pride that comes when I’ve accomplished some difficult adventure (I’m looking at you, dissertation!) instead of wallowing in the shame and fear and “should haves” of my insecurity.  I hope that if I can't go back to who I was, that I can embrace who I am.  I hope that I can see the beauty in the sameness and the changes.  

The truth is, we can’t always choose the adventure that happens to us, nor can we always choose the coming changes… but we can make choices within the adventure.  When Gandalf comes to our door and tells us the adventure is happening, we can grab our breakfast (and second breakfast) and hop on our pony for the ride.  We can even stay at home, which may be the adventure we need most.  No matter what, we have a choice.  A choice to stay.  A choice to leave.

 A choice to fight to find our inner truth of who we were made to be. 

Whatever choices I make along the way… I hope that Gandalf would say this about me too: 

“There is a lot more in her than you guess, and a deal more than she has any idea herself.” 

I like thinking that there’s more within me than I even know yet, and I hope change and growth and newness and adventure can help me find some of this “more” that’s in me.

Remember, precious ones, that "adventures are not all pony-rides in May-sunshine" (words straight from The Hobbit!), but it will be worth it to be an adventurer refined by your own two feet walking a new path and the April showers bringing to life the Spring.

Slow-Mo Goal Setting and Loving Well

There's something about a New Year and the calendar rolling over to January 1st that gives me a massive burst of motivation. Maybe it's the feeling of leaving the past year behind and having a blank slate ahead full of possibility and promise. Or maybe it's my January birthday and journeying into a new age. Whatever it is, it makes me feel like I can conquer the world.

I've been making a mental list of things I want to do and be in 2015 for the past week, but this year, I'm trying something a little different. Instead of making it my life's mission to have my yearly goals completed as soon as humanly possible, I'm taking time to iron out those desires. To pray. To talk with good friends. To develop meaningful goals - goals that last and have an impact. 

Because the truth is, as my friend Lara Casey says...

 Image from LaraCasey.com

Image from LaraCasey.com

Sitting in a church service yesterday, the pastor said something that hit me like a punch to the gut. If my home is not open, my heart is not open. That phrase played over and over and over in my head. Inviting people into our lives - to dinner, to coffee, a phone call - isn't about the experience; it's about welcoming people into a relationship with you - to love them, to listen to them, to say you are important, and to be there for one another.

I keep being reminded over and over that life isn't about showing people the highlight reel via a pretty Instagram feed full of perfect children and beautiful homes and fairytale marriages. It's about sharing the nitty gritty. It's about not only listening, but truly hearing the person in front of you. It's about meeting people with grace and love, not judgement or selfishness. It's about being human. It's about letting your messy show and saying I'm not perfect and I don't have the answers, but I'm here. It's not about speaking eloquently or always saying the right thing but being present.

So even though I'm taking my sweet, sweet time with goal setting, there's one thing I know for sure about this year and every year from here on out:

I want to love people well.

My friends. My family. My husband. My clients. And myself. There's always enough time for a hug, a kind word, a hand-written note, a kiss, a listening ear, or a sacred moment of stillness - even when it feels like we don't have a second to spare. There's always, always time for love. We as humans are messy and imperfect, but love NEVER fails.


One of the tools I'm using for this year's goal setting is Lara's new book, Make It Happen: Surrender Your Fear, Take the Leap, Live on Purpose. Y'all - you have to read this book. I've already made it through one round, and I'm planning a second read to journal my way through it along with a small group of women. I encourage you to join me, and I'll be making a special announcement on our Instagram this afternoon, so follow Purpose Over Pride on Instagram and check it out!

 

Sacred Moments | The Giving Series

Merry almost-Christmas, friends!  Today, I would like to tell you a story.  (I know, I know… I think every blog post I’ve written so far has had a story in it… nothing new here.) 

Here it goes...

Recently, my sweet Mama reminded me of a little Christmas miracle that happened over a decade ago in our family. Before I start the story, I must say… I am blessed to have a mother who has so often shown me the beauty of giving, even if it feels like there is not much to give.  I can think of many moments of my childhood in which my mom taught my sister and me the joy of serving others, and I am so thankful for this gift she has given me. 

One of the ways that she demonstrated giving was through the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program.  Participating in this program has always been one of my favorite Christmas memories from childhood.  We usually picked at least two children, and often, we would pick little girls similar in age to my sister and me.  It was quite humbling, but also joyous, for me to think about giving to someone who may not have much… someone who was a little girl like me, who needed to experience happiness and fun… and maybe someone who liked dolls and bows and teddy bears with a similar passion to my own. 

Months prior to this particular Christmas season, my mom volunteered to help families fill out their applications for the Angel Tree.  My mom remembers that she helped many, many families complete the forms that day, but one precious woman stood out to her.  This woman told my mom all about her family, even showing pictures of her little girls.  The woman’s story and her strength in the face of trials touched my mother deeply, giving her perspective regarding our own life circumstances at the time. 

Months later, the Christmas season was upon us and it was time to pick out our Angel Tree children.  Instead of taking ones straight from the tree, my mom asked the Salvation Army for two little girls that were “leftover” after all the cards were returned to the Salvation Army.  The forgotten cards, but not forgotten children.   Can you guess what happened??  My mom was handed the cards for two little girls, sisters from the same family… and the daughters of the woman my mom had helped months before.   

This is one of those sacred moments that when I reflect on it, even to this day, time stands still and joy overflows with the tears.  Through the giving and the strength of two mothers'… two sets of sisters were drawn into the sacredness. 

In this holiday season, where the greatest sacred Gift is celebrated, take time to give, but also to notice.  Because it is in the giving that sacred moments are found, but these moments may be lost if not noticed.

Sacred moments like...

…giving a gift thoughtfully and bringing happiness to someone.

…giving love to a family member who may be hard to love.

…giving yourself grace for the absence of perfection. 

…giving a smile, and receiving one in return.

…giving time to something you believe in, or to someone who needs your presence.

…giving Christmas cookies to neighbors, and Christmas cheer and warmth to hearts. 

Notice.  

Notice the sacred all around you as we walk together in this crazy, broken world.  

Notice the gifts and the giving.  

Notice the beauty that exists to redeem the pain.  Give the sacred, and receive the sacred, too.