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Good Words

Friends, my playlist is about to get a major Mama makeover. Elliott and I have never been the kind of parents to keep our preferred music away from our son. Sure, some of the content got watered down once little man’s ears started to pick up on words, but we never fully converted our music of choice over to a Kidz Bop-approved variety. Over the last year or so, Brooks – our son who is now five years old – has taken a special interest in singing along with me to the songs that are on my playlist. We sing in the car, he sings along with the music while I work out or while we run down back country roads. It’s kind of become our thing. When we get to the songs that are filled with uplifting messages – messages that reinforce our faith or encourage self-confidence – I always say, “Listen, buddy! These are good words.” After a few months of me reminding him to pay close attention to the lyrics in certain songs, Brooks has now started to ask me, “Mommy, are these good words?” wh

The Other Side of the Fence

I’ve been a terribly delinquent blogger since the first of this year. One of my 19 goals for 2019 was to publish two blog posts per month…and I haven’t accomplished that yet. But as I often tell my team at work, you can only hold so many things in your hands before you finally have to set something down. I don’t ever want writing to be one of the things I have to set down for very long, but certain seasons of life just demand a different priority order. And I’m learning to try and swim gracefully with that current instead of fighting against it.

The first couple months of each year are always busy for our family, both personally and professionally. After the holiday rush, I travel to New York City for work each January for a few days. That trip is usually followed by a string of events at my work; this year, a few classes for Elliott’s work were sprinkled into that mix. Then we head into planning and celebrating little man’s birthday in mid-February, and before you know it…it’s March. And with my mind focused on so many other things, I haven’t had much creative inspiration lately for blog posts.

And then I was driving to Target yesterday to pick up a last-minute gift for a baby shower (all aboard the Hot Mess Austin Express, always last minute and running behind!), and I drove by one of the many pastures along the route between our house and the closest area resembling civilization…and I found my inspiration. There were two cows leaning their heads between a couple of wooden slats, reaching for the grass on the other side of a fence.

This sight isn’t unfamiliar – living in the middle of nowhere, as we do, it’s a pretty common occurrence to drive by a cow stretching for a few blades of grass that are technically beyond his boundary line. I’ve even been inspired to write about it before, from the vantage point of reaching beyond your limits for what you want to achieve. But when I drove by the cows yesterday, working so hard to reach beyond the limits of the fence at the border of their pasture, a different thought was dropped into my heart.

Those cows had an entire gigantic pasture to munch on…and they were straining for a few pieces of grass that seemed so much better than the ones they could easily reach on their side of the fence. And it felt a little too familiar. It was like I was watching a farm-life caricature of my own behavior in so many seasons of my life.

I have a track record of being moderately impatient. Ok, fine – only because my husband and my mama will both read this and roll their eyes so hard that they’ll probably get stuck in the back of their heads, we’ll go ahead and ramp that up to severely impatient. I wouldn’t want to be responsible for anyone’s eye damage.

The point is, I don’t like to wait. I don’t mean that I don’t like to wait for small things…I can handle sitting in a long Chick-Fil-A line or waiting to check out at Publix just fine. Sipping a glass of wine while I wait for dinner to be ready? No problem. Big crowd at my favorite nail salon and I’m at the bottom of the mani/padi list? Happy to wait. But having patience with seasons of life? Trying not to rush into unchartered waters that I’ve yet to explore but am convinced I can navigate? Oh, bless. Here’s where things go sideways. Every. Single. Time.

I’m a dreamer. Always have been. When an idea crosses my mind that I want to pursue, I don’t know how to let it go. This big world is so full of incredible opportunities to take part in; all we have to do is make the choice to participate. And I haven’t always been known to have the best ability to decipher when it’s the right time to get involved and when it’s the right time to stay still.

My husband told me recently that I’m “always looking over the fence” at one thing or another…so it’s no surprise that the image of the cows reaching beyond their pasture boundary resonates with me so deeply. The older I get, the more I feel a constant struggle between being peacefully satisfied and relentlessly reaching for more. And although I’m more aware of it now and able to name it for what it is, I also recognize that I’ve been this way my entire life. I am blessed. I am thankful. Sometimes I’m even truly peaceful. But my eye is always drifting to that boundary line, wondering what other opportunities are just beyond the fence.

It is this part of who I am that caused me to bounce around from job to job in the early years of my career. It has taken a special combination of variety and challenge that has kept me where I am now for the last five years. And yet I still sprinkle in a few side hustles, just to make sure my mind stays engaged and I keep my finger on the pulse of the opportunities around me.

It’s also this part of who I am that has sparked a fire in me to pursue the best physical version of myself in a relentless way. Sure, I’m happy enough with the shape I’m in…but when I think about how much healthier, stronger or faster I could be, it motivates me. It makes me hungry. It keeps me pushing and chasing after something that I honestly can’t even define. It’s not tangible. I just want more. I want better. I want what’s beyond the fence, even though I have no idea what’s actually out there.

I can be so very guilty of thinking that every good idea is a good idea for me. That every great opportunity would be a great fit for my life. I want to impatiently throw myself from one good idea to the next, often without weighing the consequences or stopping to consider the ripple effect that these seemingly good ideas could have on the other parts of my life. But more importantly, and most dangerously, without stopping to consult the Creator of every good and perfect opportunity, to see if He does in fact want me to pursue whatever the flavor of the month may be. I tend to instead run ahead of God toward a new season, then look back and call over my shoulder to Him, wondering why He won’t just bless my new direction. Like I said…all aboard the Hot Mess Austin Express.

To be honest, I don’t have a nice way to tie all this up in a pretty bow. I don’t have a planned inspirational ending for this blog post. All I can tell you is that I’m (finally!) starting to intentionally embrace the season I am in and work on this part of who I am. And I don’t believe that it’s all bad. I believe that God created me to be a curious creature and that He don’t make no junk. But I also believe that I have a responsibility to figure out how to tame that part of who I am, to give thanks continually in every season, and to find peace in my pasture.

Through reading, searching and studying, I have come to realize that we are often protected by our Creator from moving into certain seasons of life. Maybe because we’re not yet ready, and we need to learn a few more lessons before we can move on. Or maybe because that season that looks so shiny to us now is actually a dead-end road that would lead to disaster and devastation. (Thank you Lysa TerKeurst for every single message you have written along these lines. You have changed my heart, my mind and my life with your words. I hope I can meet you one day and say that to your face. But even if I got the chance, I would be a blubbering idiot, so I’ll just write it here.)

I don’t think the answer has to be giving up our curiosity. I don’t think we have to pretend like life doesn’t exist on the other side of the fence. But I feel stronger than ever that we need to find peace in our pasture. And that we need to earnestly seek out every good lesson that we can learn while we graze here. And one day, when that gate finally opens, we’ll be ready for what happens next.


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