What Lies Before Us

Paul Bunyan Trail Minnesota 2

 A couple of days ago I was riding my bike, deep forest lining the trail on both sides of me.  The weather was warm and breezy, the sun shining through the green leaves on my shoulders.  I took in deep breaths of the fresh air as I peddled, the woodsy, mossy scent filling my lungs. MN 2013 056

I studied the woods to my right hoping to see some wildlife, glancing occasionally in front of me to keep on the path.  It was during one of those brief glances I caught quick movement as a fawn ran frightened from the middle of the trail before me into the woods I had just a moment before been searching.

Fawn

 Mama deer stood very still, looking right at me as I hit my breaks, the squealing of the worn metal scaring her away.

In looking for what might be, I missed what was actually right there.

I learned a lesson from my wilderness encounter that revealed to me the parallels in my everyday living.

How often I miss the beauty right before me because I’m busy searching off in the distance.  Somewhere other than where I am.

How many times do I take my gaze off of God and the path that leads to closeness with Him in order to see what I might be missing elsewhere. MN 2013 061

And how often do I have an idea eager to travel from my mind through my hand to the page, and yet I look and search for more.  Better.  The right time.  The right place. The idea long forgotten, unable to recall, when I decide to write about it.

I have always been a child who likes to wander away from the beaten path, instead walking to the beat of my own drum.  And while that’s not a bad thing, it can border on rebellion.  And has many times.  Looking for and wanting more than what I have right before me.

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Contentment.  Joy.  Experiencing God’s goodness and blessings.

While watching for them so that we can be attentive when they are present, may we not miss what is right before us in search of what “might be,” always remembering to appreciate and give thanks for “what is.”

All is Grace.

Thankful Thursday – Vacations

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Whether it’s a vacation or staycation, it’s medicine for the soul.

What better therapy is there than to unplug from all things electronic and just get back to nature.  To the simplest of pleasures.

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There is much to be said for simplicity that is best summed up not with words, but in quiet reflection.  Uncomplicated living.  Even for one day if that’s all you can string together before duty and obligations need to be tended to.

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Free from the distractions of television, Internet–yes, even social media, telephones, radio.  All electronic devices.   To completely unplug.

Just to absorb the solitude and beauty of pure silence.  Nature and its sounds in its purest form.

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Or to do nothing but reading for pleasure.

I’ve experienced reading or writing with pen and paper in nature or in complete solitude to bring a whole new level of creativity and joy than with the distractions of electronics.  Even if they’re not on.

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The threat of the phone ringing or someone turning on the TV or radio limits my thought process from being completely free.

Unplug.  Unwind.  Vacate the busy-ness of life.  Vacation.

Rejuvenate.  Re-energize.  Renew.

All is Grace.

What Will People Think?

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That concern has consumed too much mental energy through the years, as well as dictated my words and behaviors on all too many occasions.

It has led to lying and racing to cover up anything that would not be acceptable, sometimes stopping at nothing, magnifying the situation tenfold, in order to control what others would think.  Simply put, manipulate the outcome.

I can trace that fear all the way back to those tumultuous teenage years, wishing I wouldn’t have said or did what I did and wishing I would have said or did what I didn’t.  Sometimes I would obsess over all the “what if’s” for days.

What if people will think I’m stupid?

What if  s/he thinks less of me because of what I said–or did?  I gotta fix that! And the cover-up would begin…

And that would lead to worse behaviors in order to try erase what was, or withdrawing until the shame, humiliation and fear would fade into a more distant memory.

That fear of what people will think continued to monopolize mental energy through the years of being wife, mother friend, divorcee…you get the picture.

If my husband would be unhappy, surely it had to be because of something I did or said. And what would people think?

Or if my kids did or said something that appeared less than acceptable, I would feel shame because surely people would think it had to be my parenting.  Heaven forbid, what would people think?photo (5)

With age comes wisdom.  Yes, some good does come with age.

As my spiritual foundation has gotten stronger and I’ve made it a priority to spend time in prayer and meditation, really getting to know God through His Word, what people will think no longer holds me captive.  The chains have been broken.

Worrying about what people would think of me, made “me” just a little too important.

Once I took the spotlight off of “me”, and deflected it to God, my life became much less stressful as I became more confident.  Less self-focused and more God and others-focused.

What people will think of me is no longer my motivator for what I do or say. Not everyone is going to like me.

And. That. Is. Okay.

And if when I still occasionally experience that fear of what people will think,  I reflect without making it about how I feel,  but rather if I said/did something to make someone else feel less than lifted up.

Let go of what no longer serves you.

Nothing? Then let it go.

If not, make amends so I can let it go. To God. All of it.

And all of me.

All is Grace.

Thankful Thursday

Cover of "Thank You (Gift Books)"

So I’ve decided to make Thursday’s one of my two posts each week, each one highlighting something I’m especially grateful for.   “Thankful Thursday” may sound cheesy–or even like a cliché …but being thankful is anything but cheesy or  cliché.  Being thankful promotes optimism and joy and reduces stress and keeps us connected with God.  It’s a natural medicine.

With that said, today I’m especially thankful for unanswered prayers.

If God had answered every one of my prayers along my life’s journey, I would be in one heaping pile of trouble, much too deep to ever dig my way out.  One hot mess.

I have learned that some of the most powerful God-speak is in the unanswered prayers.  In fact, I’ve come to realize it’s not that they haven’t been answered, just not in the way I had hoped for at the time.

Thank God.  Literally.

Gratitude Tag

If any one of those relationships I had prayed so fervently for as a young adult would have come to be, I shiver at the thought of where I would be today.

My unhealthy mind was not capable of making a wise choice back then, too hazed by numbing agents, to even know what it was I wanted.  God, however, not only knew what I wanted, but more importantly, He knew what I needed.  And that was to let go of those abusive relationships.  He made sure that happened by not answering my prayers according to my desires.

Again, thank God.

I remember praying to have knowledge of how long I would live on this earth, how much time I would have to spend with loved ones.  God knew better than to give me that answer.  If it were to be a short time, I would have done nothing but worry and mourn until that day arrived.  Worry robs us of life.

On the other hand, if He answered by telling me I would have a long life, I may not live each day as if it were my last. As the gift it truly is.

Thank God.

If God had chosen to answer my prayers to make my life easy, conflict-free, and always full of sunshine, I would miss the rainbow after the rain, the calm after the storm.  I would wither from weakness rather than grow in strength and perseverance through trials.

Yet again, thank God.photo (16)

Now when I pray, I’ve learned to end all with, “Not mine, but Thy will be done.”  That takes me out of God’s way to work His miracles in my life.  Rather than give me everything I want as a spoiled child, He loves me enough to give me what I need.

And thank God for that.

All is Grace.

Celebrate Life

Celebrate...

For too many years I’ve stepped into the month of July somewhat reluctantly, and raced to the finish line when it came close to being over, eagerly welcoming August, holding my breath, hoping an unwanted phone call wouldn’t slide in at 11:59 p.m. on July 31st.

July 3rd marked an anniversary of being a victim of a crime that changed my life forever.  Changed the way I saw things and viewed the world in general.  Despite it being a long time ago, it has shaped my life to this day.

July 14th marks the 4th anniversary that we lost our family dog of thirteen years.  In his last moments we lay in the grass in the back yard, him fighting for every breath, me making sure he was taking each breath.  Until he breathed his last the moment I lay him down to leave for just a moment. DSC00036

July 16th marks eight years since I lost my stepdaughter, Becky, who was also one of my dearest friends, in a tragic event.  An event that hangs over me like a black cloud of sadness and anxiety.  And even guilt.  In fact, a lot of guilt.

July 29th marks seven years since I got the phone call while at a Rockies baseball game that my 17-year-old son had an accident at the city pool and was en route to the hospital with a head injury.

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A lot of anniversaries that are not cause for celebration.

But as time travels on, I’ve been able to look at it this year as a reason to celebrate life.  The lives tied to each of these anniversaries have blessed my life beyond words.  To celebrate what they have added to my life, and to celebrate the lives of those I love who are still in my life.

July 3rd? A reason to celebrate turning victimization into being a survivor.  To honor that by helping other victims walk the path that crosses over to being a survivor, reclaiming their lives.  To forgive so that I no longer give my power to the attacker, but take back that power and use it for good

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  Romans 8:28 (NIV)

July 14th I can celebrate the memory of a family dog who helped my boys and me with many transitions from moving to another state to offering comfort during a painful divorce.  And I can celebrate our pound puppy, Roxie, who was nearing the end of her stay at the shelter and the joy she brings.

Jenny & BeckyJuly 16th I can celebrate the beautiful woman who was my stepdaughter.  Who taught me true beauty comes from within.  Who’s glitter and smile lit up a room before she even walked in.  I can thank God for bringing us together to share our lives for the time we did have together and be so incredibly grateful that we will be together again someday because of my Jesus who made that possible.  God made me a very rich woman the day he brought her into my life.

July 29th I will celebrate the fact that my son is still with us.  Healthy, happy and whole.  I will cherish his life and the lives of each and every member of my family.  And I thank God for keeping him here with me.  I will hold them closer and take that moment from feeling like I have to DO something and just BE with them.  Every single day is a blessing, for we don’t know what tomorrow holds.

Only because of the grace of God, I have the desire to turn July from a month of mourning to a month of celebration.  A time of gratitude for this amazing life I’ve been given.  For every person who has seasoned my life to perfection along the way.DSC00716

Instead of mourning what I no longer have or what I nearly lost, I will celebrate what I was so blessed to have and the life I still have.   Amen? Amen!

All is Grace.

My Aha! Moment -K.I.S.S.

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I always love reading the My Aha! Moment section in Oprah‘s magazine.  In fact, I usually feel like I have mini Aha! moments with each one.

Being of the perfectionist type A personality, I’m quick to find the error of my ways, looking how to improve the way I’m doing things, kicking it into overdrive as I do.  There is no half way here.  It’s speeding all the way, pedal to the metal, as I tackle not just one or two things to improve, but the whole shebang.

And before I can pinpoint what’s working and what isn’t, I’m burnt out, tired, and completely unable to focus or remember what I was trying to “fix” in the first place.  My mind is hurried and harried, my body tired and trembling.

Recently I found myself up to my neck in the middle of too many irons in the fire, being “good” at any one of them not an option. Only excelling at all of them was allowed.  By me.photo (26)

I burned rubber, skidding sideways into a burnout moment which resulted in the need to take a mental health day from work.

The first half of that day was spent feeling guilty because I wasn’t being more productive.

But somewhere in there God placed His gentle, firm hand on my shoulder, breathing new energy into me.  Energy that didn’t make me feel like I needed to DO something.  But mental energy that created focus and clarity.

I realized that in trying to do everything, I was doing nothing.  At least nothing worth doing.  I spent so much time trying to micromanage (aka Control) everything I took on from the process all the way to the outcome.  And the weight of that need to control was suffocating me.

A modified definition of the acronym K.I.S.S. hit home.  Keep it super simple.

Instead of trying to do everything perfectly, I now work at doing some things that are the most important to me–like being mom, wife, grandma, writer, employee–the best that I can. God can, and does, control the outcome.

photo (24)When I stress about the outcome of something I’ve taken on, I envision the worst possible scenario. Yup.  The worst thing I can think of.  Because it’s usually so far out there and absurd that I end up laughing until my stomach hurts and the anxiety simply dissolves.

Rather than try to tackle an entire book in the Bible during my quiet time with God, I have learned that reading and meditating upon one or two verses–or even a short passage–brings much more peace.  It’s then I truly absorb God’s message because my focus becomes God, rather than my time.photo (27)

I have found that when I slow down and take off my control superman cape, I’m  less restricted and  more productive.  And  life is so much better.

Slow down and smell the roses is more than just a cliche.  It’s keeping things simple. And that simplicity has saved my sanity.

All is Grace.

 

Ten of My Very Favorite Things

1)            The smell of a fresh rain–and the sound of it falling while snuggled in a sleeping bag in a tent with a good book.  It has been a long time, but the memory is vivid.

2.)           The smell of fresh brewed coffee, and that first cup of the morning. Yummmmm.

Coffee cup

3.)           Snuggling up with a quilt made from squares of my grandmother’s clothes after she went home to Jesus. Covering up with that quilt after a bad day or when I’m not feeling well is like being enveloped in a hug from my grandma, who was a second mother to me.

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4.)           Sitting around the bonfire after dark roasting marshmallows and making s’mores, listening to the crackling of the fire and watching the flames spark and the embers glow in hues of blue and orange, and watching the sparks of light from the fireflies off in the woods.S'more

5.)           Sitting on a dock by the lake watching  the sun sparkle on the water’s surface looking like a million sparkling diamonds.

6.)           The smell of Night Blooming Jasmine body lotion from Bath and Body Works.

7.)           The feeling of accomplishment after an intense kickboxing session or a long run drinking in all of nature surrounding me.

8.)           Beginning each day with prayer and ending each day in prayer and a gratitude list, naming and recognizing blessings given to me that day. That makes for a beautiful day and a restful night’s sleep.

9.)           Long bike rides on the Platte Trail in Colorado or the Paul Bunyan Trail in Minnesota to connect with God and that encourage and open my mind to create ideas for writing.

Paul Bunyan trail, Brainerd MN

10.)        And the very best of all, all of my family members–including my dog, Roxie–under one roof at the same time, watching them interact, knowing they are all safe and happy.  A mother’s greatest joy.

All is Grace.