Surrendering: the painful process of pruning

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How often do you pray for patience, and then without warning a situation occurs that demands an inner fortitude that a) you never knew you possessed and b) you wouldn’t need to tap into had you not asked for patience? I wrestle with this lately. But not patience so much as seeking to live out my word for the year: growth—which shows up as frequent “pruning” and a daily practice in humility. Merriam-Webster defines pruning as “to cut off or cut back parts of for better shape or more fruitful growth.” As a Christian, this can be a painful process of surrendering in any number of ways, such as letting go of a position, possession, relationship or some other desire to better align oneself to the image of Jesus. In my case: be careful what you pray for. Yet without a season of pruning, we carry around “dead branches” that hinder our ability to grow. And to eventually flourish.

What area of your life could use pruning?

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Walking into the new year like: putting on a new identity

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On New Year’s Eve day, I awakened early, my spirit bubbling with anticipation. This is it, ready or not, the new year—the new decade (depending on which “camp” you reside)—begins in T minus 20 hours. And I decided right then—the scent of rich hazelnut coffee permeating my kitchen—I need a new identity to accompany the new year. I’m not talking about the witness protection change of identity but, rather, an identity that I can speak life into. One that I can fix my gaze on and watch unfurl. Not unlike a “word” you might choose (see “20/20 vision…”), it’s who you envision yourself to be. As for me: I’m a Godly woman, a loving and patient wife and mother, joyful worker, kind friend and gentle neighbor. I’m creative, organized and successful. Even when I fall short. Because the truth is: we’re a work in progress, ever evolving. Until we become who we were truly created to be.

What identity do you believe about yourself?

20/20 vision: ring in a new look, new direction

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Anyone else brimming with excitement over the ball dropping in T-minus 19 days? I love a blank slate—revisiting previous goals and dreaming new dreams—366 new beginnings to be exact (yes, it’s a Leap Year). And this year begins a new decade, so I hear—along with my new “word” for 2020: growth. For those of you who have experienced your own growing pains that often accompany progress, you know that growth can manifest itself from the inside out. This undoubtedly requires an exercise in patience when unable to immediately discern external change. Or, it may appear messy on the outside initially but, as you cultivate your goals, the fruit of your efforts begin to blossom. Stay tuned as I grow in tangible ways, including a new direction for Always The Write Time blog. I’m thrilled to share this fresh season with followers of my rhetoric and ramblings—the messy, the colorful and everything in between. Buckle up for an exciting ride ahead.

Happy New Year blessings!

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Quit forcing the issue: a study in contrasts

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During a solo hike on the Sonoran trails last month, I sought—as a matter of course—divine guidance pertaining to my vocation, my relationships and my spiritual, physical and emotional health. Oftentimes, it requires miles of silence, a veritable test in patience, for me to gain any type of clarity. That afternoon proved no different and, while I navigated the ins and outs of a new-to-me trail system, I sensed clear instruction: Quit forcing the issue. Although not quite the message I’d expected or hoped for, I understood the directive. For a planner like me, however, to sit back and go with the flow also illustrates a study in contrasts—not unlike the vibrant desert blooms fixed against a backdrop of rugged terrain. Yet, the moment I quit forcing the issue created space: to either freak out, or to growth within. To wallow in the challenges, or to celebrate the victories. Most important, it allowed the magic to unfurl.

What issue do you need to quit forcing?

No wrapping necessary: the gift of grace

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With the holidays in full swing (wasn’t it just Christmas?), I’ve noticed tempers are quick(er) to flare, smiles are less forthcoming and a pall of malaise feels all too real. In addition, the hours in our days are set to fast forward. I read an article recently about patience suggesting: instead of praying for it, try practicing it. With Christmas and the new year making appearances in a mere few weeks, I have no doubt there will be opportunities galore to practice patience, to extend grace. For example, choose the longest checkout line at the grocery store. Pick the slowest lane of traffic. Yield to other drivers. The more we mindfully practice patience, the more it will become second nature when we don’t have a choice about which line, lane or crisis we’re muddling through. What about the harried pharmacist, receptionist or caller, colleague or spouse, child or stranger? Practice patience, and give the gift of grace this holiday season. No wrapping necessary.

How do you practice patience?

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Your breaking point: recognize the signs

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This past year seems like it’s elapsed in a whirlwind, with my goal to pursue the power of P (peace, patience, purpose and a more passionate prayer life) being usurped by the practice of mindfulness. Which makes sense, because it’s a concept that involves each of these pursuits. This past weekend, the chance to practice mindfulness showed up in a big way: As is often the case, my plans on paper did not translate well into real time, and I quickly recognized the signs that signal my “breaking” point. Close to panic mode when the little piles and pressures in front of me become overwhelming, I turn inward and disengage. Oftentimes, this means a solitary trek into the mountains as a means of avoidance. This weekend, however, I opted to dodge all outside commitments to allow my soul to catch up to my body right where I was at. To let the day unfold with no agenda. And with no regrets.

What does your breaking point look like?

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Energy flows where attention goes

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focus-on-plenty

I’m happy to report that my focus on the ‘Power of p’ is off and running—peace, patience, purpose and prayer at the top of my 2017 pursuits. In addition, I plan to emphasize another P: my plenty (vs. lack). Thus far, this has proven an exercise in attitude adjustment. Sometimes you just want to pout because you’re not where you thought you’d be at this stage of the game (of life). For example, while hiking a couple weeks ago, I ruminated on my novel and how I still haven’t written it (yes, I wrote one a few years ago, during a 30-day challenge, but I consider that my practice)—and about all the writing workshops on my schedule this year. I’ve decided that, like any person training for a marathon or the Olympics or a trek into the Grand Canyon, that’s what my practice and workshops are doing: prepping me to write and publish my novel. It’s about keeping focused on the plenty.

How’s your energy flow?

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The Power of P

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the-power-of-p

If the number of visitors who read my recent post, ‘A simple(r) life…,’ is any indication of what much of society pursues, then this topic ranks up there with all things happiness-related. I believe that’s because a happy, simple life is a basic necessity many of us seek. However, we often get in our own way and make it complicated, instead. For example, if you’ve searched for happiness your entire life—in relationships, material goods, addictions, net worth—you’ve discovered it’s an illusion, a temporary fix. Why? Because true happiness manifests itself when we sow into others’ lives something of value, something that will last: our time. A simplicity known as kindness. It’s only then that we find fulfillment—contentment that arises from a humble heart. Good news: it’s an ongoing practice, not perfect. With that said, my pursuits for 2017 revolve around keeping it simple with the power of P: peace, patience, purpose and a more passionate prayer life.

What is your No. 1 goal for 2017?

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When we stop trying to plan everything

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Stop planning
Last week we celebrated my daughter’s birthday. A day beforehand, I asked her what flavor cupcakes and ice cream she preferred. Surprise me, she said. For a Type A planner, this kind of response causes my heart to race and my palms to sweat. OK, not really, but why make things more complicated than they need to be? In my writing life, I demand certain conditions be met before I write. And, unless I have an outline in place, forget it. Plus, my days must be planned from beginning to end. But, when I don’t allow wiggle room into the equation, I miss out on the opportunity to improvise; to practice patience. To be kind(er). Perhaps instead of crossing every T and dotting each I, we apply a simplified mindset to the moment: a go-with-the-flow approach. A skeleton idea, of sorts—to our day; our (personal) story. Then let the rest be a delicious surprise. P.S. The birthday sweets were a hit.

Do you practice a go-with-the-flow mindset?

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Shhh… nobody is watching

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Shhh

A couple of days ago, a transaction at a local home improvement store—worthy of a mere minute or two—took long enough for several patrons behind me to lose their patience and switch lanes. Although the cashier explained to me I was in the wrong (then did not apologize when, in fact, she discovered I was right), I remained calm, respectful. Gracious. I’d like to think I was practicing my yoga breath outside of the hot room. Not too long afterward, I bumped into a gentleman at the grocery store who had witnessed the earlier checkout debacle and we laughed over the situation. But later that evening, I wondered, what if I had handled myself differently with the cashier—lost my composure? I think many times we can feel our frustration or anger is justified. Yet kindness, rather than a harsh response, most always does more to pacify. Ripples, my friends. Even when nobody is watching.

Are you quick with a hot temper or a cool demeanor?

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