The Hard Love Stories

I love a dewy, feel-good, happily ever after Hallmark romance.

I love the “meet cute” over video rentals (long gone), e-mails, car accidents, and spilled coffee.  I soak in the formulaic “circumstances” that nearly break apart the adorable 20-something couple before they laugh over the misunderstanding, and the movie fades as they kiss off into the sunset.

But I know, ever more now than ever, it only happens in the movies.

I’ve seen some gut-wrenching love stories wrestle with realities lately.   The porn addiction.  The relapsed alcoholic.  The cancer diagnosis.  The loss of a child.  The affair.  The job loss and bankruptcy.  The family scandal turning brother against brother.

I have watched up close my friends beg God to release them from a marriage that is in the darkest of places.  To escape the hardest of the hard.  The unfathomable.  Those parts left vague in the wedding vows promising for better and worse.

It doesn’t make an entertaining story filmmakers want to shoot.  Reality, without the farcical injected drama of today’s television shows, is hard to stare at in the face.  In fact, the colleague you pass at work would never tell you about what’s going on.  The person in the pew next to you would never show you the pain.  Even friends out to celebrate a birthday together won’t make mention of the horror.

It’s whispered in the cavern of a car to a soul-friend on the way to carpool or in a bathroom after everyone has gone to bed.  It’s shared in bits and pieces because it hurts too much to say it all at once.  At times, sobs choke the words from coming out.  Other times, the voice is devoid of any feeling at all.

I love him so much, but I can’t trust him.  I want to leave.

I have loved her with all I have, but this, well I can’t bear it.

But it is still a love story.  And bear it they do.  Stay, they decide against all logic.  They fight and claw and cry and beg and scream and, most of all, they hope.  They hope they can survive.  They hope they can rebuild.  They hope and pray and long for a miracle.

I’ve seen the miracle.  I’ve seen those dedicated faithful friends grit their teeth and strengthen their grip and spend their mornings on bended knee believing their relationship can survive even this.  I’ve watched their inner circle come around them to do whatever needs to be done: laundry, accountability, restoration, bringing meals, showing forgiveness, mercy, picking up kids, recommending doctors…  They checked judgment at the door and sat down to hold a hand.

If you are in one of these marriages struggling to make it through to the other side, you are not alone.  Others have gone through the battle and bear the scars even after making it through.  I’ve had girlfriends battle everything from sexual addiction to infertility to alcoholism to great loss.  Their marriages survive.  Their marriages end up stronger in the place it was broken.  Their marriages light the path for others still in the darkness.  They are the survivors living to tell you that God can make it better and restore you to love each other even more than you did when you innocently took those vows.

Hang in there.  Say a prayer and take a step away from packing your bags.  Dare to hope.  This can be restored.

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair. (Isaiah 61)

Put your hope in the Lord,
    for with the Lord is unfailing love
    and with him is full redemption. (Psalm 130)

A Day Away

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Mommy, LOOK, she happily exclaimed, pointing to the butterflies in vibrant colors darting overhead.  We were cautioned not to chase the butterflies or run on the trail, but often a butterfly would nearly light on her extended arm.

It had already been a long weekend even though it was 10 am on Saturday.  Extended work hours during the week bled into the weekend and calls started early that morning.  Another deadline loomed demanding Saturday afternoon attention, and the butterfly center was a brief, but deeply therapeutic, break from the pressure.

She hopped down the stone staircase urging me to rush after her.  We cycled between staring down at the plants and waterfall and craning our neck to catch the butterflies soaring against a backdrop of sunlight crashing through the atrium windows far overhead.

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I followed meekly, a servant to the force of her excitement and wonder, caught up in the warm dewy air and children exclaiming under oversized emerald leaves.

I did not direct our path.  I did not lead the way.  I did not suggest a timeline or itinerary.  She tired of the spectacular capsule well before I would, and we wandered on to the other adventures in the adjacent museum, driven singlehandedly by her curiosity and energy.

Leaders need to be led. 

Feeders need to be fed.

Healers need to be healed.

Protectors need to be protected.

An ever-increasing number of women are leading on so many fronts, they have no respite.  They lead successfully at work.  They come home and lead their children.  They lead in churches or community organizations where they spend their free time.  They even have to direct someone making their coffee.

Even the most successful leaders have to find time to be led.  Those at the top of their game still need mentors and wisdom and time off stage.  Leadership is a life cycle and part of it is stepping back to learn or be still.  There is no weakness in asking questions.  There is no punishment for letting someone else take the reins.  There is no condemnation for allowing yourself a turn to follow.  You may find the rest that will fuel your next challenge.

Fashion Fridays: S.W.A.P., Gala (Shopping with a Purpose)

Alright.  I apologize to all my friends that I totally bumped from their allotted Shopping with a Purpose (SWAP) slot.

But since it’s my blog, I’m taking a point of personal privilege.  I seriously need some input, friends.

I have a very fancy event coming up.  Black tie gala with star power, dinner and dancing.  This event is also my first time I’ll have a seat at my company’s sponsored table (normally lawyers don’t get those seats; I go as invited guest of other companies, not mine).  Inevitably, this will be located at the front of the room.  My hubby has it easy.  He just throws on his tux.

I have not attended a black tie gala since I birthed triplets.

This is the only dress I have.  It certainly is an option and is classic and formal.  (With industrial Spanx.)

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However, I’d also like to really blow this out of the water.

If you know me personally, you know (approximately) my size.  I’m 5’10 and most of the time wear a size 12.  I carry weight in my post-triplet middle, and while I can disguise it with suits and blazers at work, most gala dresses are column.  I used to embrace column dresses, but now feel like I look like a spare tire has run loose.     
 
Here are the Pros & Cons of the gala dresses under consideration:

1.  galaPros – Elegant, well draped for body type concerns, reasonable;
Cons – While I love me some gray, this pale shade won’t be that flattering, and I’m a little worried about those pleats over my middle.
 
2.  gala1Pros – this has a wow factor, I love this bright red, and it feels sophisticated with an awesome back (without actually showing a bare back);
Cons – this is the fitted column that may not work for my current figure.
 
3.  gala2Pros – so lovely, great cut, both for my arms and hips, and the bright blue color won’t go missed;
Cons – this may be too much on top, and I worry sometimes the royal blue “cheap” looking, I always hesitate with this shade for formals.
 
4.  gala3Pros – so dressy, which this event is, and charcoal gray is a flattering shade on;
Cons – it’s still probably cut too narrow and puts sequins across my middle; plus the fabric could read inexpensive. 
 
5.  gala4  Pros – classic, black, slimming, timeless;
Cons – unclear how the inset will fall, and definitely understated (which may be fine, but obviously I’m drawn to color), and it basically feels like another version of the dress I already have. 
6.  gala7Pros – also classic but with color; I love the crepe-y feel of the dress with that gorgeous back, but the green is also one of my best colors;
Cons – it is very simple so I feel I’d have to dress it up with hair and accessories, and there’s no room to hide flaws.
 
Here’s the thing.  I don’t know that any of these really WOW me.  I have a budget, so nothing may, which means I can live with the classic dress in my closet.  Just for perspective, if I had an unlimited budget, and I most certainly do not, these are the two dresses that would top my list.  I really love the color, fabric and style:
 gala5gala6
 
{An Aidan Matton encrusted blue dress and Sherri Hill emerald embellished gown.}
 
Would you VOTE on your favorite one or two dresses (on FB, Twitter or in the comments) OR (for extra bonus points) propose an entirely different dress you’d recommend?  Pretty please with sequins on top.  Are their colors you think I should avoid?  Is bright color frowned upon?
I promise, we’ll return to others challenges next week.

The Construction Site

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This is a picture just outside my office.  I’m working in a brand new office building this year.  A new campus.  It’s lovely.

Well, parts of it are.  The gym is finished and amazing.  The main food court is completed and serving a global explosion of cuisine.  Most of my building is done, but on my walk to the front door each day I pass ten feet tall safety fences and PPE-required signs while men in hardhats make sure I don’t cross the barrier to the unfinished.

This muddy mucky construction mess is my view for a few more months.  Even as I walk out of a break room with freshly ground coffee and into a conference room with state of the art technology.

It’s unfinished.

I sat staring out at the scaffolding and thought how much it resembled my life.

There are really pretty parts of my life.  I have a good faithful husband and three healthy kids.  (They’re the tricked out conference room.)  I have a great job I enjoy and work with people who have become personal friends.  (They’re the freshly ground coffee.)  I get to write books and blogs and kind people have me come and encourage audiences of women to lead well and hang in there.  (That’s the new building.)

But it seems there’s muddy mucky scaffolding over other areas still raw and undone and into which you should not wander without full personal protective equipment.

Areas like unloading the worst of myself on my husband and kids even though they love me more than anyone.  Areas like lacking self-control about what I spend or what I eat or what words I choose to use.  Areas like offering up judgment instead of mercy and inflexibility instead of forgiveness and selfishness over service.

Yuck.

Even surveying all that mud and debris and piles of unfinished material, I hope.

I still hope.

Unveiled Faces

I serve a II Corinthians 3 God that offers hope of transformation day-by-day.  A transformation that leads to ever-increasing glory; His glory:

Such confidence we have through Christ before God.  Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God…For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!
Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold… Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

We know that the construction at long last will be done.  The scaffolding comes down.  The fences are packed away.  The dirt is replaced with lush grass and trees.  The roar of power tools is replaced with birdsong.

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Every day I walk to work and see the progress.  And every morning I wake and see a new thing He is doing in me and know there is progress.  It’s slow, but it’s worth the wait.

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”  Revelation 21:5

Photo Credit: Dallas Morning News

Why Not?

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Why?

Why?

Why?

Have you ever been around a toddler?  It seems like every question only births five more.  And WHY do they ask why?  They are curious?  They want to know the reason for everything.  But the questions can go on forever.  They stop yielding any useful information and ultimately test the patience of the adult on the other end until they admit defeat and respond with, “I don’t know,” or “Because I said so,” because everything doesn’t have an easy answer.

Aspiring leaders can be like toddlers sometimes.

They find themselves mired in a vicious information seeking cycle until it hits the point of diminishing returns.

Try this next time:  ASK WHY NOT? 

Why should I launch a new vision for my team to try to inspire them in this shaky economy?  That dooms the answer.  It approaches the issue like a problem that has no easy solution.  Ask instead, Why not?

When you say WHY NOT, it’s like a switch flips in your head and you charge: “Let’s do it!” 

Why wouldn’t we do more or try harder or take a fresh approach or be different?

In fact, you can almost hear the “sure” that precedes the “why not?”

Whys have a place.  But why delays action.  Why not demands action.

If you want to lead, you have to take action.  {===>Click To Tweet}

Tomorrow, stop asking why and start asking why not!