The Bridge

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We are told never to cross a bridge until we come to it, but this world is owned by men who have ‘crossed bridges’ in their imagination far ahead of the crowd. – Unknown

I recently got a new Cannondale bike. Since I am new to riding this type of bike, a road bike, I wanted to test it out in a safe environment that was not too congested and where I could land softly if I were to “crash and burn.” So, my new bike and I headed east to the Shelby Bottoms Greenway. This beautiful greenway is tucked away along side the banks of the Cumberland River.

I set out to ride 10 miles, and was close to the half way point (3.75 miles to be exact) when I approached this very large bridge.

Bridge 2The Cumberland River Pedestrian Bridge serves as a connection point, a thoroughfare that connects Shelby Bottoms Greenway to Two Rivers Park – a park off of Briley Parkway near Opryland Hotel. This public bridge links 22 miles of walking and bike trails. For without this bridge, people and neighborhoods could not “connect” and enjoy the trails as they were created for.

I made my way to the top of the bridge, which was a journey in itself, and stopped to take in the sights, and most importantly, catch my breath. The view was breathtaking and the wind blowing off the peaceful Cumberland River provided me relief from the heat. I wanted to stop time for a brief moment.

Bridge 4As I stood there, absorbing all the beauty surrounding me, I starting thinking about what qualities it would take for me to be more like a bridge. I want to be a vessel that helps people connect to new ideas, people, and experiences. I want to help people “cross over” into new territory such as healing, freedom, and love.

Bridge 5In order to be a bridge, I have to be transparent, real, and “open” to connect with others not quite like me. I also have to be firm and resilient. Those who cross paths with me may resist my ideas or actions. They may not freely engage with me.

I cannot be like others, either. I have to be my true authentic self. They may not share in the same experiences that have shaped and molded me into the person I am today and the experiences that are needed to help others. I need to stick true to my own path. Also, I need to find my voice and my platform. I can no longer sit back and bury my words out of fear of how others will perceive them.

Bridges are meant to be crossed and provide connection, no matter if others don’t walk similar paths.

I rode my bike again this past Saturday and actually rode the entire length of the bridge. I really had no idea where I was going, but I decided to trust the path that the bridge had given me. It turns out, I was on the other side of Briley Parkway, the place where the giant water parks sits on Exit 10. I know this place well. I’ve driven by it many, many times over the course of living in Nashville, Tennessee.

It turns out this place was not so scary. It was just another beautiful park filled with new trails to explore, new people to engage with, and new beauty to absorb. All that was needed to get to this new place and experience, was the courage and the desire to cross this one bridge.

Maybe your purpose is to not be a bridge, but to simply cross one. Maybe like me, you have stood on the banks admiring the view, but never found the guts to cross over. Connection is scary, it is risky, but it is vital for us to live enriched lives.

There is a great big world waiting to connect with you, your ideas, your experiences, and most importantly, your heart. Don’t let fear of the unknown stand in the way of you experiencing something truly amazing. Don’t deny yourself of what you were created for – connection.

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The Road to Love

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Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it. – Jalal ad-Din Rumi

The sweltering outdoor conditions in middle Tennessee is an indication that we are approaching the second season of the year. Time is racing by, too fast in my opinion. Like everyone else, I have big plans for 2013. I don’t want the year to quickly pass by and I have not accomplished any of my goals.

I set my sights high, but I believe they are in reach. I want to be love and I want to fall in love as captured in my One Word Resolution. I’ve been exercising love at every chance and proud to say that I did not fall victim to New Year’s resolution statistics – abandoning my resolution after a month.

The goals that I mapped out for myself have been challenging and led me in unexpected directions – road blocks, adversaries, discomfort, and even a taste of excitement.

Today, I accept the challenge presented before me and to others who have embarked on the journey of One Word Resolutions. I am to post a mile-marker blog on how the word has shaped up so far. What an unbelievable journey it has been 🙂

  1. Accept first challenge – myself.

I naively thought love was going to be easily attainable. I was going to fall right in like diving into a refreshing pool. Wrong. Although I hungered for it, I was not quite ready to sit down and eat. I was scared, a bit of a coward. I feared the pain of opening myself back up. I was reluctant to carve out the space that love needed to fill.  For some strange reason, I grabbed my shovel and began picking at the hardened soil of my heart. Every encounter, experience began creating a new home for love.

2.  Pray for love with expectancy.

God deeply convicted me that I did not fully believe in myself and that I actually deserved to be loved. Deep rooted wounds of rejection and abandonment covered every square inch of my heart like cancer invades the body. As a result, I gave the ho-hum approach to prayer – halfheartedly pray because nothing would come true anyway.  I’ve learned that prayers are answered when you believe.

3. Educate myself on the real meaning of love.

Apparently, I was taught the wrong meaning of love. Life gave me a second class education on that subject. My knowledge of the word and my approach to it was totally wrong. I thought in order to receive love, you had to be perfect – blameless, no imperfections. I thought the person you were in love with had to be perfect too. You had to have the perfect little union, you know, do everything right all the time.

As this former teacher heads back into the classroom, I am presented with a new teacher and a new syllabus. I am learning that love is more than compassion, romance, laughter, and warmth. It is intrusive. It pops its head in without a notice or an invitation. It’s persistent and somewhat direct. It’s messy and a tad on the crazy side – impractical, erratic, and unusual.

It’s not perfect, but it’s genuine, thoughtful, and respectful. It creates a soft place in your hardened heart, leaves a smile on your face, and it leaves you hungry for more.

4. Accept the invitation to love.

God’s been knocking on the door of my heart for years now, but I never really let Him in. I couldn’t, I wouldn’t for fear of letting go of control and honoring my vow to never be hurt again. God was persistent. He sent various vessels of love my way. Finally, I accepted and He began to heal my fears of rejection and unworthiness – wounds that have haunted me for most of my life.

5. Defeat the enemy – myself.

I was born to act. I played many parts on stage and in my own life. My most frequent role was the enemy. I carried around feelings of disbelief, doubt, and unworthiness for most of my life.

I fully gave myself to others, like in my performances, but never opened up the door to receive the love that I deserved.  As the door is opened, kind words like,  “you are beautiful”, “you are brilliant”, “you are inspiring”, rush in unleashing belief. They melt away the layers of my frigid heart a little at a time. With every word I swallow, the wound dies a little bit more till eventually there is no more.

6. Close the door to the past.

Recently, I read this quote “How do you know when it’s over? Maybe when you feel more in love with your memories, than with the person standing in front of you.” My response, “I think you know when your heart has made the connection that the mind already knows. It’s over and it has been over.”

After making this connection, I wrote a letter to the great love of my life – the one whom I thought I would marry. I thanked him for reviving my lifeless heart and discreetly said goodbye.

7. Swim in a pool of vulnerability.

The book Daring Greatly by Brene Brown challenged me to take a risk and walk head on into vulnerability and engage with my whole heart.

Every day we experience the uncertainty, risks, and emotional exposure that define what it means to be vulnerable, or to dare greatly. Whether the arena is a new relationship, an important meeting, our creative process, or a difficult family conversation, we must find the courage to walk into vulnerability and engage with our whole hearts.

Instead of walking, I belly-flopped in. It was painful at first, but I find myself  lounging around in the pool with no immediate plans of getting out.

8. Build something new – trust.

This brings me to the present – the middle of the year.  I am in a place of rebuilding. Love completely bulldozed the strong, impassable tower which I labored over for years and left me with new land to build on. I am building confidence in someone based on their word, their character, and their actions. I am building trust.

As I write this, I am overcome with waves of emotions. I choke back tears as I stroll down memory lane, revisiting the stops along this journey. The short journey has been filled with bumps in the road, but the closer I get to destination, the easier the path becomes.

If you were to survey your own road to love, what would it look like? Would you still be wrapped up in yourself? Would you be too afraid to love again? Do you feel unworthy of love? Would you still be hung up in the past hoping things would work out? Better yet, would you be taking risks and building something new?

Your response will be different just like your road to love is different. I think it doesn’t necessarily matter how you travel it, just as long as you reach the final destination 🙂

Stay tuned for a post year recap…

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A Pool of Vulnerability

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Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen. – Brené Brown

Pool season is rapidly approaching. Here in the South, pools open around Memorial weekend. The water is still too chilly to submerge yourself in for long periods of time, but warm enough to stick your feet in.

I am a lover of the sun and I love laying by the pool. My fair skin would arguably disagree as every summer season it is tortured for the sake of a sun-kissed look. It’s a high price to pay, but everyone looks better with a tan 🙂

Every Saturday and Sunday if possible, I can be found at a friend’s pool.  A good book, a good research magazine aka People, conversations with good friends, tasty refreshments, and music pumping out of an Ipod sums up a delightful weekend.

However, for the past month, I find myself sitting in a different kind of pool – a pool of vulnerability. I’m not finding the same satisfaction as I do at my friend’s pool either. My mind endures the same type of torture as my poor pale skin does when it is first introduced to the sun. I don’t like it. It burns. As one author described it, “It feels like I am coming out of my skin.” I absolutely agree.

As I sit in this pool of vulnerability, of course I have a book to read. I cannot go at this alone, and I need some form of entertainment.  I am reading Daring Greatly by Brene Brown.  Taken directly from Amazon, the book is described like this,

Every day we experience the uncertainty, risks, and emotional exposure that define what it means to be vulnerable, or to dare greatly. Whether the arena is a new relationship, an important meeting, our creative process, or a difficult family conversation, we must find the courage to walk into vulnerability and engage with our whole hearts.

Unfortunately, this does not entertain me like People magazine. The text lends itself to those “hard” conversations I prefer to avoid.  I’m not a fan of engaging with my whole heart, and I sure don’t enjoy being vulnerable. Vulnerability is emotional exposure. It’s torture. I am quick to jump out, grab my towel, and cover up. I can’t risk getting burned again.

As summer progresses and my skin is exposed more and more to the sun, the burn starts turning into a tan. I have that sun-kissed look, that healthy glow I’ve always wanted. Eventually, my tan begins to fade, and my skin starts to peel. As the skin begins to peel back, a fresh layer of skin appears. My skin is healthy and no longer damaged by the sun.

For the last few weeks, I have desperately tried to get out of this pool. I feel like I have been kicking my feet and all I do is keep turning in circles. My float is getting no where and definitely not closer to the edge of the pool. I’m stuck and my skin is on fire.

However, I am learning that the longer I stay in the pool, the burning sensation lessens. The dead layers of my heart are being peeled away and wholeness is beginning to emerge.

You will know because of my glow 🙂

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