How to discern the answer you’re looking for

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During the past several weeks, I’ve mapped out a (tentative) new plan that I write about in “Making a fresh start…” And every day looks different: One day might require setting aside my personal agenda to work with significant others on common goals. Another day it may take all I’ve got to clock in my eight hours and squeeze out 90 minutes of yoga. I’ve also spent time contemplating an ongoing dilemma. During a recent hike, I looked for answers—and for “love”—in the desert. Myriad rocks bordered the trail, yet the heart-shaped stones I sought eluded me. Until I changed my focus. I realized, then, that the sign or solution we seek can be right in front of us—or doesn’t always appear as we expect—and we must “zoom in” and/or alter our perspective to distinguish it. However, if we become distracted by the clutter of our surroundings, our selfish ambitions or vain conceits, we risk overlooking the obvious.

What answer do you seek today?

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Taking stock of the old, ushering in the new

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Two weeks ago I began the following post. This morning I found it, nearly complete, on my computer. Although not timely in relation to the date on the calendar, it may still resonate for some as it does for me: Numerous emotions course through me just a week after my birthday celebrations (yes, plural). Gratitude as I observe each day as the gift it truly is. Love for family and friends as we embrace the spirit of Christmas mere days away. An indwelling of peace as a byproduct of restored relationships. Yet, even then, a sense of melancholy over unexplored opportunities. Grief and disappointment. “What if’s” and bittersweet memories. The should’ves, could’ves, would’ves. But a glimmer of hope remains—a brightly covered package I tear into each morning with renewed expectation. As we tie up our last-minute holiday shopping and baking, wrapping and socializing, I encourage each of us to pause and reflect on the clean slate ahead.

What is one thing you’d change about the past year?

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

When doubts begin to threaten your peace: remember to look up

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Yesterday morning, as I drove through my neighborhood to work, my thoughts turned inward. Doubts began to intrude on my peace. Tears sprung to my eyes and I blinked to keep the waterworks from spilling over onto my cheeks. And then a beautiful thing happened: I remembered to look up. At that moment, the sunrise bursting through the clouds served as a reminder which I continue to reflect on time and time again: I am loved. I am here on this earth for a purpose. I matter. Even when I feel invisible or misunderstood, the Creator paints a canvas of hope upon my heart in order to reflect outward onto a hurting world. Dear friends, it’s easy to get caught up in the holiday frenzy. To feel insignificant, overwhelmed or broken. Even as I type these words, my heart squeezes with emotions I have yet to explore. But it’s enough, for now, to know that I need only look up.

What is your panacea when doubts take hold?

#1 way to grow in every area of your life

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At my last acupuncture appointment, my practitioner inquired about a trip my husband and I took up north to celebrate our wedding anniversary. I told her the getaway proved a magical way to usher in our 30th year of marriage. I also shared that, in retrospect, the majority of our married life had always seemed effortless. This insight struck my husband and me recently after we experienced a falling out and realized that, over the past several years, we’d stopped investing: in each other. In us. Bottom line: When we begin to pursue separate interests more and communicate less, we invite apathy. When we fail to faithfully plant seeds of kindness and love, we foster discontent. But when we afford effort to make together time a priority, we cultivate connection. Here’s the takeaway, friends: what we feed (invest in) grows—whether it’s our vocation, education, bank account, spiritual life, health or relationships. Or even an addiction. And what we starve dies.

Where do you invest the most effort?

Photo source: http://www.erinbettis.com.

Effecting change: love harder, forgive more

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During my lifetime, I’ve met basically two kinds of people: The ones who are grateful simply because they are alive and breathing, equipped with the ability to contribute to society in some way; and the ones who greet you with, “It’s going to be a bad day” and proceed to tick off a barrage of superficial complaints. In my own experience, each set of people exhibits certain stereotypical qualities. The former kind seeks to put others’ needs first, walks his/her talk, leads by example and always looks for the good in humanity. The latter kind tends to obsess over messages of hate and judgment, holds grudges and finds fault with (seemingly) every little thing. Oh, how my heart aches for storm-ravaged Texas, the condition of our world, for the division that separates. My deepest desire is to collectively become one kind of people who learn to dismiss the small stuff, love harder, forgive more and unite to make a radical difference.

What can you do to effect change?

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Loving yourself: a lesson on self-worth

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Perhaps, we should love ourselves so fiercely,
that when others see us they know exactly
how it should be done. ~ Rudy Francisco

It’s funny how we can learn how to operate something complex, like a smartphone, in a matter of hours (maybe minutes), but it can take a half century or more to figure out the simplest of truths. My self-worth, for more years than I care to think about, had been wrapped up in how others perceived me: Was I pretty enough? Witty, skinny, engaging, smart, creative, strong… enough? Admittedly, over the years, I have not measured up in my own eyes—whether true or unfounded. To see my value from a higher perspective has required trial and error, (mental) kicking and screaming and a conscientious effort. It means extending grace rather than criticism. And perhaps, instead of labeling our flaws as flaws, we should view them as perfect imperfections that set each of us apart as originals.

What one thing do you love about yourself?

Photo courtesy of Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

7 truths on and off the trail

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As I often do while hiking, I pray. I meditate. I search my soul and ask what it longs for most. I plot my goals or a story outline. While trekking through the desert this weekend, it’s as if life made a little more sense to me on and off the trail with these truths: 1) Danger is always possible: prepare for the unexpected and proceed with caution. 2) To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under the sun. 3) Remember where you came from: embrace your roots. 4) Keep your eyes open for love: it can show up in unlikely places. 5) Obstacles [aka mountains] are inevitable: it’s our choice whether to scale or avoid them. 6) If it’s meant to be, new growth finds a way. 7) When we think we’ve made it unscathed, another obstacle looms in our path: if it’s the same one, quit going around it and tackle it head on.

Which truth(s) can you relate to everyday life?

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