JCO’s Click

I met John Cave Osborne on Twitter shortly after Amy died.  After he learned the story, he reached out to me and expressed both sympathy and empathy.  He is the father of triplets, married to a beautiful and petite woman (just like Amy).  The story hit close to home for him because his wife had been through some of the same issues with early labor and bed rest as Amy had.  He has become a very good friend, spiritual companion, and cheerleader.  You can visit his blog, follow him on Twitter, and find information about his upcoming book “Tales from the Trips.”  Please enjoy the story below that explains the road he took to get where he is now!

The Jungle and the Machete

In 2001, I flew over 100,000 miles, visiting places like Vegas, Tahoe, and South Beach for fun and places like Birmingham, Tupelo, and Macon for work. I was a financial services wholesaler; a white-collared gunslinger, clad in a tailored suit—armed and dangerous with my carry-on, the Wall Street Journal, and a frequent flyer card.

After the first full year at my job, I won my company’s highest honor for sales excellence, the Reach the Peak award—an all-expenses-paid vacation for two anywhere in the world. But in spite of my professional success, I was a personal failure. And while this isn’t the forum to explain why that was the case, I will offer the following. I continuously molded myself to become whatever it was I thought people wanted me to be. In so doing, I had morphed from a person into a persona and was dangerously close to losing touch with who I really was.

I cashed in my Reach the Peak award on a two-week South African tour. It was in that foreign land I began the long process of rediscovering myself. It was there I realized how unfulfilled I was, as well as how much more I wanted from my life. I longed to fall in love, settle down, and have children. I also longed to pursue my dream of becoming a writer. Finding love and writing the perfect novel weren’t exactly the typical topics my metro-sexual buddies and I discussed while clubbing in Midtown Manhattan, yet I was at a point where I needed to give such concepts the attention they warranted. I knew that if I was really serious about trying to find a more fulfilling life, I needed to change my playgrounds as well as my playmates.

So in April of 2002, I quit my job and blew up my world. BOOM. Done.

In the months that followed, I was lost as a bat. Many couldn’t believe I’d thrown it all away, but I didn’t care what such people thought. I was deep in the throws of a spiritual reawakening, thanks, in part, to a few special friends and a couple of books by C.S. Lewis. (Incidentally, if you’ve not read Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters, it’s not safe for you to die yet.) I repeatedly pondered God’s will for me, near convinced that it included a wife and little ones, hopeful that it may even contain writing. I constantly prayed for God to show me the way, confident that something would soon reveal itself.

I was wrong.

Eventually, I moved back to my hometown and started a granite countertop business with my sister-in-law. The first two years were sheer hell. I found myself working doctor’s hours at janitor’s pay, much of them in the form of grueling manual labor. My dream of writing? There was simply no time. My dream of finding love? Though I was more true to myself than I had been before, I was still bouncing from one dysfunctional relationship to the next. By 2004, I was officially in a rut, often wondering if blowing up my old world was the right call after all. I grew skeptical that love and family were in the cards for me, but, regardless, I knew that God had something planned and I repeatedly prayed for Him to show me how to find it. Those prayers continued to go unanswered.

Enter Caroline, a girl I had known since 1980, but one I had not seen nor spoken to in over a decade. I was coming off of (yet another) dysfunctional relationship, and she was emerging from the wreckage of an unsuccessful marriage. We formed an immediate bond, and I was incredibly attracted to her. Sadly, however, I knew that our relationship had no future. Thanks to a few different trysts with single moms in my past, there was one thing I was certain of: I was not interested in becoming a step dad. Period.

But in spite of that preconceived notion, I fell madly in love with Caroline. And then something else happened. I fell madly in love with her daughter. Two and a half years later, Caroline and I got married. Thirteen months after that, we welcomed triplets into the world. Once worried that I’d never get married and have children, today I find myself happily married and the father of four. The business that used to suffocate me is now up and running to the point that I’m able to spend more time writing than I ever dreamed possible. Could it be that after all these years, I’m just now on the path that God had intended?

A close friend of mine, Dr. Michael Ruth, recently told me that, to him, God’s will is nothing more than each of us standing on the outside edge of an impossibly thick jungle armed only with a machete and the knowledge that God’s got our back. As I reflect on my journey, I believe my friend is right. God’s will isn’t something that’s magically revealed to you just because you’ve prayed about it. It’s not something that’s laid at your feet. It’s a feeling that’s deep in your soul. And that feeling is what you use to guide the machete as you cut your path through the jungle that lies ahead. That feeling is proof that God does, indeed, have your back. Other than Him and the machete, it’s all that you’ve got. Other than Him and the machete, it’s all that you need. The path you forge with the tools He provides is His will.

I’m so incredibly thankful for my beautiful wife, my four children, the successful small business I co-own, the time I’m able to spend writing, and the indescribable happiness all those things have given me. Not so long ago, it seemed unlikely that I’d be in such a spot. But I guess I just kept hacking away until I found them. I’m not naïve enough to think that my work is through, for I know how easy it is to get lost in the jungle. As I continue to forge my way, I’ll continue to uncover countless new challenges and will undoubtedly find myself lost as a bat again and again.

And daunting though that may be, it doesn’t change one simple fact. Above all else, I’m most thankful for the One who put me on the outside edge of this impossibly thick jungle. For without Him, the machete, and the feeling He placed deep within my soul, I would never have found any of the other wonderful things for which I’m eternally grateful, nor would I be able to continue making my way through His beautiful jungle.

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Learning Experience

I have given myself a new exercise in poetry writing.  I sit down with my deck of Saints and Angels cards (by Doreen Virtue) and ask for a poem topic, then pick a card.  I did it for the first time last week and wrote “Safe Travels” this week the card I pulled was “Learning Experience.”

Learning Experience (1-22-10)

stepping out

over the waters

a fire burns within

screaming to be put out

with a leap

once taken

the only choice

is to swim

a lesson that is necessary

building strength

endurance

faith

a dark hallway

you must move though

hands outstretched

leading to an end

that whispers to you

no guarantee

promises withheld

only to be discovered

in the effort

of the plunge

a life

navigated

by the heart

learning to love

and be love….

Taking the Plunge

In the beginning of September I swam (if you can call it that) at Wakulla Springs for the first time.  It is, of course, spring water which means it is about 70 degrees all the time.  That first visit was on a cooler day where the outside temperature was about 85.  I jumped off the lowest platform and as quickly as I could made my escape from the icy water.  I wanted to jump from the highest platform.  Mostly, I wanted to prove to myself that I could overcome my fear of heights…at least for a little bit.  That day I stood on the top walking to and from the edge for about 20 minutes.  I watched several people overcome their fears and take the plunge, but I did not overcome mine.  I was worried not only about the height, but about the icy water and how deep I’d plunge when I finally jumped.  I left without the satisfaction of accomplishing something that day.  I regretted it and promised I’d do it the next visit.

The next visit happened on Saturday, September 26.  Mark, the girls, and I met my new friend, Jen, and her precious family at the Springs.  As soon as we were settled in, Jen and I made our way to the platform.  I took a leap off the low dock first, just to get adjusted to the water temperature, and Jen took her first jump off the top.  Then she escorted me to the top.  I felt pretty good about going up with Jen.  She happens to be one of the most loving and kind people that I’ve met recently and if anyone could encourage me to do this it was definitely her.  Once up there, I was scared, but desperately wanting to take the leap.  I needed to do this for so many reasons.  I walked back and forth and Jen stood by my side.  Finally she made a comment about how she thought I was a confident, strong woman.  At first I thought really? and then I thought of course and in that moment I got this rush of courage and I counted to three.  I did it, I jumped and Jen jumped with me.  We came up from the deep water letting out yells of joy!  It was incredible.

An hour or so later, I wanted to make the jump again only this time the hubbies were snorkeling and I needed Jen to watch the girls.  I made the trek up to the top all by myself.  For some strange reason I was much more scared this time.  Apparently, Jen’s strong, confident woman remark had more power over me and my courage than I had realized.  I stood up on that dock for about 15 minutes.  One little kid jumped 10 times while I paced to the edge and back.  Finally a girl in her 20’s arrives on the dock and I couldn’t help but notice her tattoo.  It was a poem, probably one she’d written herself.  I stood behind her and read it silently.  Then another girl on the dock was like “What it is?  What are you looking at?”  So I read the tattoo/poem aloud.  The last line read Do whatever it is that scares you the most. And there it was, my sign from the Universe!  I walked to the edge and took the leap a second time.

When I got back over to the kids and Jen, I realized I was shaking.  I’d experienced a real adrenaline rush from doing something exhilarating.  It was a legitimate rush, not like in high school when you were doing something and afraid of getting caught, but a true leap of faith that wasn’t breaking anybody’s rules.    I can’t wait for the next adventure…maybe I’ll take a trip to the beach and try parasailing.  And of course I still have hang-gliding on the list.

Here’s a picture of what I jumped off of…

wakulla

Enlightening Assignment

I wrote about the workshop yesterday and today I want to share an assignment we were given.  We were asked at the beginning of the day to write down the names of three people we admire and at least one thing we admire about them.  Then we were asked to write down the names of three people who really get under our skin and at least one reason why.  The first part of my list (the admiration part) without thinking too deeply about it, looked like this.  (And we could pick anyone, living or dead, whether we know them or not.)

My husband Mark-determination and follow through

Lissa Rankin-her ability to take a leap of faith and follow her passions

Joel S. Goldsmith-being a spiritual teacher and healer, letting God work through him

The second part of my list contained the following characteristics.  I, of course, will not mention who they belong to.  (Again though it could be anyone, living or dead, whether we know  them or not).

-Judgmental, set in ways

-dishonest

-unwilling to get to know the truth about others

After completing the list we were asked to look at it carefully and were then told that these people were our mirrors.  All of these characteristics were within us, which is why we notice them so quickly in others.  Obviously we talked mostly about the negatives.  Kamala explained how people often don’t believe that those dark aspects really belong to them.  They deny, deny, deny.  But for me it was the complete opposite.  I’ve understood for a long time that the reason I get so hurt and angry when I witness others being judgmental is because I myself do this and desperately wish that I did not.  As for dishonesty, I claim to be an honest person.  I can not tell a lie and I never look for loopholes in the system.  I’m a “by the book” kind of girl.  BUT, I am not always honest about my feelings.  When asked how I am, the standard answer is “fine”…even if I am far from fine.  When asked what I want, I often say “I don’t know” even when I always know.  Within my own head, I do an excellent job talking myself into and out of things, without always looking honestly at the choices I am making.  And as far as the last one is concerned, I like to think that I am willing to understand people, but I must admit I have been known to put them in boxes after I learn a tidbit of information about them.  So I am embracing this shadow side of myself and hopefully I can bring it into the light.  Maybe eventually I won’t even notice when others are being judgmental or dishonest.  Then I’ll know I no longer am…

As for the positive aspects, that’s where I found myself a bit confused.  It’s always been very easy for me to notice the qualities I am not proud of, but to claim the good stuff…that’s scary.  I have some great ideas and I want to see them through, this requires determination and the ability to take a leap of faith and follow my passions.  Apparently because I see it so clearly in others it is also within me.  And these days more than anything I want to put my energy into my spirituality and letting God lead me.  And I can because the ability to surrender is inside.

This activity was really the most enlightening one of the day for me.  It allowed me to learn so much about myself and who I can become.  I can build on the positives and try to find a way to work through and release the negatives.

The D Word

This post has been in my head for a while, but I haven’t quite been able to mesh my thoughts together to write it.  Recently it seems that everywhere I turn people my age are divorced, getting divorced, or thinking about it.  Apparently there is some life crisis that happens in your 30s that no one ever told me about.  I know a stay-at-home mom with three children, who took an amazing leap of faith and got divorced before she even had a job.  When I was being told her story another woman piped in and said “I wish I could find a job so I could divorce my husband.”  When I was in NC, I heard about two couples who got married around the time I did, have kids the same ages as mine and are now separated.    I’ve also been reading about the challenges of divorce in Jase’s blog, as he struggles with child support payments, court dates, and the other ego stuff that goes along with divorce.  All of this still doesn’t include the number of people I’ve talked to who are somewhere between wanting a divorce and settling for an empty marriage so that they never have to take that leap.

I’m not exactly sure what this says about marriage and my generation.  The reality is I think there are very few perfect marriages.  I think most of us grew up on Disney movies where the girl is always whisked away to live happily ever after with the perfect prince.  The problem is they never showed us exactly how that works.  I know there are situations where life is intolerable and divorce is the only healthy solution, but I also think in a lot of cases the only thing that is truly missing is happiness.  We get a marriage license and then with the exchange of rings put our happiness in the hands of someone else and take on responsibility for theirs.  It is a lot of pressure and as time passes and life gets more complicated we start to feel like the bargain isn’t being held up.

I have come to a place recently where I have realized that I am the only person in charge of my happiness.  I know in the past that I have put pressure on Mark to make me happy by saying or doing the right thing.  I also know that he’s had down moments and I’ve felt somehow responsible.  I’m learning to let that all go and focus on the good stuff.  That is a huge step in changing a relationship for the better.  I think if you chose to be happy, life works itself out.  Every time I look at my husband I think of something that is wonderful about him.  I think of the amazing life we have together and everything we’ve built.  I am so proud of us!

So if you find yourself in a rut just start counting your blessings.  Look for the silver lining in everything.  Change the way you look at it, little by little, until you find yourself feeling happy without anyone else having done anything!