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Regrouping

img_1263-e1493141438594.jpgOh my friends, it has been some time, hasn’t it? I apologize for my absence. The last two weeks have been all about regrouping and redefining. I followed through with that big decision I was in the process of, and now that it has me on a new path, or possibly, back on my original path, I have had to step back and reevaluate my situation.

Overall, I am incredibly thrilled with the situation. I still needed to process and reevaluate. I have renewed excitement. I had most definitely strayed off course. Suddenly, my passions are back in the picture. What happened? Well, that non profit I started was due to a vision I received when I was saved. I was given a clear set of pictures of what it was supposed to look like. Founding a non profit is not what you would expect if you have not been through the process. One thing you may not realize, is that even though I founded it, did all the work, and raised all of the money, it does not belong to me. Once it becomes a non profit, it belongs to the state, and the board has all control. I am just the instrument for getting it done. Unfortunately, my board had a different vision of this foundation than I did, and I was becoming miserably burdened, chasing all those dead end roads, and getting no where. It was becoming something that I was once passionate about, but recently found myself waking up resenting. It was costing me a ton of money, It was playing on the co-dependency issues that I had learned how to resolve years ago. It was causing me a great deal more stress than I was willing to give to it. It was affecting my entire family negatively. And then one day my husband asked me what was up? Why was I avoiding this situation so much? What had changed that my passion had fizzled away. I gave him a lame but valid excuse, and then spent several days weighing this question in my mind. What I came to see was that God had given me a vision of a mission. In an attempt to follow through, I built this non profit. In the process of having a board that did not have the same vision and agenda as me, it became warped into something very different from what I had been shown. And I resented it. Deeply. I resented the way the board treated me. I resented the way that half of them snickered when I spoke of God giving me this mission, or the way they snottily told me that I should be asking my church for money because “thats what they do, isn’t it?”. I resented what they had turned it into, and I resented how they talked to me. It most certainly had become something very different than the mission I had been shown, and I needed out like my ability to breathe depended on it.

I asked them to dissolve it, they said no and called me at the last minute to tell me that I was not welcome at the meeting that would determine the fate of my “baby”. In somewhat of a “thanks for doing all the hard work, have a nice life”, goodbye, they just dismissed me from the foundation I had built. I felt betrayed. One of the people I trusted most in this world hurt me deeply. It took me a few days to process that betrayal, but ultimately I got through it. I asked them to at least change the name and let me keep the name and logo for my own mission as it had been presented to me, and they agreed. So in the end, I am not really out anything. I set up a non profit, and essentially had it stolen from me, but maybe it was what was meant to be. I have my doubts about their ability to maintain it, but I am content that I am no longer committed to it and that I am in a position to rebuild it, privately this time. I have to wait three months to reclaim use of the name, and maybe longer while they submit a name change to the government, but ultimately, I got to keep what was mine.

This whole process unlocked some doors I was feeling trapped behind, and ultimately renewed my passion for the original vision. That moment of betrayal had a hidden blessing in it, as they always do, and once again, my burdens have a way of teaching me who I am meant to be and why I am living the life that I am. I have been in an introspective space for months now, and I am becoming blatantly aware of things I feel helpless to explain to people. As I watch from my quiet little existence on the edge of society, the level of mental unhealth terrifies me. The pace of life at which people live astounds me, the toxicity of our society horrifies me, and I feel helpless. The problems are so intertwined, I do not know how you go about starting the process of fixing it. Shame. Lack of love. Poor mental health. All leading to a society that is lost and confused. A society that is hurting. What causes all this shame and lack of mental health. Oh good grief, where would we begin? Food, environmental toxins, poor parenting habits, the rat race, loss of community over a perceived need to do more, have more, and be more.

At what point does one step back and say “How do I fix this”? Where is that line that we cross in order to take control of our lives? How do we teach the inhabitants of this Earth about love, simplicity, gratitude, and lifting each other up? How do we reach the masses and teach them how to clean the toxicity from their lives. How do we get healthy skills taught to so many lost souls who just never had a chance to learn that life can be different. We can’t expect people to use skills they were never taught, so how do we most effectively get the information about healthy skills, to the masses? How many times have I tried to show people how to make these changes and choose healthy skills, only to hear “but, can’t, won’t”? How do we get people to see that it does not have to be the miserable existence that they believe they are doomed to? How do we get them to see that they are able to change things if they are able to listen openly and change their thought processes and behaviors? I am aching to see the state of societies mental health heal, and I do not know how to make the biggest impact that I can to affect the most people.

The answer always comes back to love. We must teach each other how to love in a healthy way. We need to create more love and teach others how to project it in everything they do. If we are creating anything other than love, we are not perpetuating mental health in the world. Shame, addiction, anxiety, and depression are rampant in this world. Disease is eating us alive. There is an epidemic happening, and there is a shortage of compassionate, empathetic, love inoculations. We desperately need to consciously decide how we will show someone love today. Genuine love. Not the image of love, but genuine, honest, sincere love. What skills can we gently teach people so that they too are able to create more love? I ache for the children who are growing up in this unhealthy society. I ache for the young adults who think that is normal. I ache for the old men and women who look around at this society and hang their heads in shame, and I ache for those of us in the middle somewhere, looking around wondering what in the hell happened to the world, and hearing a hundred answers come pouring in all at once, so deeply intertwined with each other that it is like untangling all of the chains in an old necklace drawer. Where does one even begin?

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Sometimes that tangle of chains seems impossible. We have to step away and look in at it later when our brain is calmer. Sometimes we break a chain or two in our impatience, but eventually we can usually untangle the mess. Today, I am looking at the tangle of chains that bind this society, and I am desperately seeking one loose chain to start unraveling. I am desperately seeking the answers to where I fit in most effectively for the purpose of untangling the chains that our society bares, like the weight of the world tying them down and keeping them prisoner in this crazy world we live in.

Where is the bolt cutter in my toolshed? Is it sharp enough for these chains? Is it ready to take on a task of epic proportions? As I toil away at my peaceful little existence, cleaning, cooking, gardening, and caring for my family, I am grateful for the blessings in abundance. As I dream of how I will grow this existence for us, I forget sometimes, how removed from typical society I am. I forget that this is an atypical existence that we have built. Until I try to talk to people about what it feels like to live with peace. Then I become blatantly aware of how atypical our existence is, and I feel desperate to help others understand that they too, can build there own personal atypical existence. One that honors them and who they were meant to be. That traditional social standards may at first make it look impossible, but that is an illusion. A consequence of being trained to think inside of a social parameter. Remember my old cars post a few weeks back? Its all about choosing to be genuine to ourselves despite societies perspective on the matter. Are you struggling with desperately wanting something that you “can’t” have? Are you wondering how to find your purpose? Are you unsure what to do next? Are you just unhappy and don’t know why? Where are you in identifying the things holding you back?

A technique that works well with cutting through this stigma of being trapped in our miserable situation is to list it. Start by stating your goal. What is it that you want? Write it down. Now in two columns, make lists. On one side, the issues holding you back. What is stopping you from having what you want? What roadblock is stopping you from taking that path. What chains are tying you down? In the second column, what are some solutions to each individual issue. Prioritize them. Decide which order they need to be addressed, and start seeking outside the box solutions. One at a time, check them off as you find solutions, and before you know it, you will find yourself in that place that you thought was impossible to get to.

What if you don’t even know what you want. There have been a few times in my work, that the person I am working with does not even know what they want, what they are passionate about. They just don’t want to be miserable any more but isn’t life just get up, go to work, come home, eat, sleep, and do it again? What do you mean “passions”?

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How do you find your passions? If you don’t even know what you want, how on Earth do you go about creating it? Well, ask yourself this question. “What makes my heart beat fast?” What is it that shaped you? What affects you? When you scroll through facebook, or the news, what is it that catches your attention? There is a very good chance that those are your passions, and if you follow your passions, you will eventually be successful. I honestly had no idea that when I finally discovered my passions, they would be so much different than what I thought my childhood dreams were, and yet in many ways, my childhood dreams hinted at pieces of those passions. A great example is that I always knew that I loved writing, but I never could have predicted that it would be a vessel for helping people to heal. I grew up in a city and had no idea that I would base my entire adult life around creating a self sustainable homestead. I had no idea how much I love taking pictures, despite the many photography classes that I took and that I was a photographer for the high school yearbook. But, when I sit down and make a list of things I desperately want to achieve, I find that many of my passions have always been deeply ingrained in me, I just didn’t put together the pieces until I had hindsight for perspective. I had a special needs child, and helping kids grew in me. I was a single mom, and helping single parents became a seed in my garden of purpose. I worked in an animal shelter, and learned that I am passionate about humanitarian work. I got sick, and food became one of my passions. These became a driving forces, and somehow, it all fits perfectly into that long term goal. When I step back and look at the whole situation, using my hindsight, I see that life has always been setting me up to pursue my passions, and tie them all together in one big bow of service to community that leaves me feeling content and full of peace. Its a quiet life. An existence I could never have imagined as a child. I never foresaw myself pursuing a life of service to others. Until I was in it, and then I realized it is always what I wanted. To make the world a better place. In my own quiet little way, I am doing exactly that, and I am doing it with the tools that I was granted through passion. Passions I have always had, and passions that grew as a result of life and trying to “get there”. Chase the things that make your heart beat fast. Those are the areas of life we are called to. At some point they all tie together and become purpose.

What is your purpose, and what is holding you back? If you identify those things, you can identify a way to achieve the unachievable, and you can overcome the misery and pave a new path. Having a passionate dream to pursue renews hope, and renewed hope is, as far as I can tell, the only loose chain available in this tangle of chains that holds us back. As you unravel the passions, and renew the hope, the other chains will start to come loose and soon you will have unraveled all the chains and be able to see clearly how to move past the “can’t, but, won’t” of your passions and on to the changing of the world part.

If I can help you. If you have questions. If I can clarify anything further. Please let me know. The world needs more peace, love and healing, Those of us who know how to achieve it are responsible for teaching others how to have it as well. I know today’s post is less uplifting than typical of me, but if I can help one person to see that they can change their miserable situation, then it has been worth it.

The air is heavy with Spring rain. The fire crackles in the fireplace, and my babies are germinating like crazy. The homestead beckons. I love you all! Until next time…God bless.

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One door closes…

So a few days ago I told you I had been wrestling with a major life decision. I am pleased to say that I have made a decision, but I cannot tell you about it yet, because there are others involved who need to be notified of the change that is coming before I can disclose it publicly. I had alot of concern with this change, alot of coming to terms with perceived “failure” and what happened to kill my passion. What I found when I finally made a decision, was that I feel all around better. I talked to the folks whom I was worried would see this as a failure, or giving up, and they were so supportive, so I took the steps to start the ball rolling. And my goodness did it snowball fast! I talked to one of the parties involved, who took complete agreement with me. As worried as I was about how my supporters would respond, they have actually surprised me with how much more convicted they were about the issue than me. Meeting with that one woman led to a series of events that set the ball in motion. As it became clearer and clearer that this was happening, the relief started to grow into something I could not have anticipated. I found myself thanking God profusely for the answers, and the relief that came with them.

And then I found myself overwhelmed with affirmation and hope. I saw as moment after moment passed, that this was indeed the right decision. I found myself dreaming about new possibilities, and feeling like a cage door had been opened. I hadn’t even realized how much the issue had been affecting me until I faced it and felt the effects of it lightening everything about me. It was like my entire body was released. The decision has the potential to have a profoundly positive impact on every area of our lives. It frees us from a situation that I believed that we had to just make the best of for a bit longer. I would say, in many ways it feels like chains were broken. Suddenly, my hands are untied, and I have freedom to spend some time focusing on other priorities. I have been praying on this for so long now, I am so incredibly grateful to finally be released. Today, perspective is the best gift I could have asked for in my little world.

And so, armed with sharpened perspective today, I look forward to seeing what doors open as I leave this path behind me. I look forward to being able to focus on my writing. I am absolutely thrilled at the idea of simplifying even further. I have spent the last several years desiring and working to create a simplified existence. I have no interest in this current rat race, or the political environment that seems to go with it. I am saddened by the hurt and shame causing so much outrage in the world, and I am hopeful that this latest decision frees up more time and energy in my life to help people heal some of that hurt and find a more rational space to reside in. I find myself in a space of hope. I find myself looking forward to what the day brings, instead of dreading a task that i am supposed to feel joyful about. I find myself realizing that I had strayed off of Gods path for me, and never even realized it, and I think he has me straightened back out, or at least facing the proper path again.

One of the things that I wish to do is to start highlighting inspiring people in this blog. I wrote a piece a couple weeks ago about a woman who inspired me. It was just a whim but it had a profound impact on me. I have not stopped thinking about it since. I want to start regularly showcasing someone who has taken the challenge to overcome obstacles, and who chooses to do so with as much positivity as they can muster. I already have my next subject in mind. I reached out to her today, and got her permission. I think we can all benefit from highlighting infectious positivity, and I look forward to this new aspect of my blog. I look forward to telling you about her next week. Today, I have been easily distractable, and it has taken me hours to get through this post. It is way later in the day than I had hoped it would be as I finish up and start to feel anxious to head to the garden. Until next time, may you find your day full of blessings and joy! See you soon!

Be still my beating heart

I finally felt good enough to bundle up and go for a walk about in the garden yesterday. It has been a few days and there were no signs of life last time I checked, so you can imagine my surprise when I came across these big, beautiful chives having popped up while I was flu ridden. I was so thrilled, I immediately ran back in the house for the camera and my galoshers. Upon further exploration, it was confirmed. Spring has officially sprung. What a lovely treat on the first day of the new season.

My health is finally improving, the weather is warming up. Life is showing signs of renewal. What a glorious day! Spring in the Rockies can be so hard sometimes. One day its sixty degrees, the next it is spitting snow at us. Today is a spitting snow kinda day, but it can’t steal my joy. I am so thrilled to see these babies popping up everywhere!

Hubby built me a huge raised perennial bed last fall and I cannot wait to get it planted! Its going to be so gorgeous!

I am struggling with a life changing decision this week. With letting one of my passions go, and what that looks like for me in terms of failure or success. What does God want me to do? What is the right path? I listen intently for any sign of what I should do, but this one is weighing heavy on me, and I don’t want to make any rash decisions while I am feeling so under the weather. Being ill for so long has a way of clouding ones judgement, and as I finally start to feel better I find myself looking at the issue again.

The one thing that I am certain of, is that I am seeking a smaller, simpler existence. At one time this passion fit perfectly into that goal, but it has been warped and changed to a degree that it no longer fits, it is affecting a relationship that I once valued immensely, and just generally causing wear and tear on my spirit. At what point do we decide to let go of a passion that we have worked so hard for, in order to keep the rest of our passions ablaze? For me, it has to be when said issue is affecting my ability to achieve the rest of my goals, and I fear I have reached that point. I pray that I find a way to resolve this issue, without leaving a piece of my heart behind with it. Meanwhile, as the clouds fade and the sun peeks through, it is far to glorious out today to sit in here stewing on it, so off to the garden I go. Until we meet again, have a glorious day, my friends!

The vision

IMG_1088Good Morning my friends! Today I wanna talk about my “vision board”. I put it in quotes because for some reason that I haven’t quite identified yet, the term “vision board” is not quite comfortable for me, but I have not found the word that is, nor the reason for my discomfort with the prior. Whatever the case, it has made a profound impact on my daily approach and I want to share that with you.

I have this giant list of passions. I feel that life is too short to possibly fit all the things I want to experience in, and I have much to accomplish in this lifetime. Some of those things are optional, if I get to them, but most feel critical, before I die I must achieve as many as possible. I find that I have so many passions, that I often get caught up in one and neglect the rest, or I lose myself in daydreams about what the future will look like once I accomplish them. Its self defeating and I had to find a way to overcome it. I have been struggling with balancing my time as I work from home, try to manage the home, and start a non profit. I have Bible studies to do and beads to string and quilts to sew. I have a garden to plant and a home to maintain. I have a homestead to work on, and a start up non profit that serves several niches of people and animals that have slipped through the cracks. I have a book to write about healing and joy. I have a family and lovely handful of pets to remember not to neglect while I chase my dreams. There is no shortage of passion in my life.

The problem of having the dreams and goals of ten people, is that it can become quite difficult to prioritize, balance, and stay on track to accomplishing them all. For some time, I made giant lists. Every night. Hundreds of to-do’s. My goal was never to cross them all off in one day. I would do what I could, then redo the list each night before bed and start again the following day. The problem was that this list was never done. Ever. There was a grand lack of satisfaction with this list. Being ill for a few months has made it nearly impossible to imagine tackling a list that size, and I just ran out of will power for these lists. So, I started a new kind of list. Instead of writing what I wanted to get done, I started keeping a list of things I had achieved that day. This was brilliant. My family gets my evenings. All of them. I put away the computer, make dinner, forego any unresolved chores for the day, and just spend a few hours with them. It is a priority that fell naturally into place and when hubby sits down after work and says “how was your day?” I have a direct answer for him. I don’t forget to tell him things that I wanted to share, my list makes this time of evening so much more satisfying and pleasant. It gives me freedom to see all I have done this day and to set aside anxieties about productivity and just enjoy my family.

Still, I struggled with staying on task. I found myself looking for a quick fix,  feeling impatient about the longings of my life, and looking for an answer in daydreams. Simply longing to be doing it now, instead of what I was doing, would send me into an unproductive cycle of daydreaming instead of doing. And so comes the “vision board”. January rolled around. I was aware of this cycle of daydreaming that was holding me back. I was aware of the lack of balance in my scheduling each day, and I was desperately seeking a solution to both. Looking inside and outside of the box, under every flap, I just kept coming up empty.

I don’t make New Years Resolutions. I think that is just self defeating. If I want to make a change that badly, it should not depend on the day of the year I did something and I should not make a goal just to say I did something for New Years. I have never been a conformist. Maybe resolving not to make New Years Resolutions is just my subconscious way of fighting needless conformity. I really don’t know. But, I needed a change. Somewhere along the line I learned about these vision boards. I had always been skeptical. I mean, how could simply putting your dreams on a board really affect the outcome? Well, I  decided to give it a try. I was so sick and it was New Years week. With the holidays over and everyone returning to work, it was a good time to give this a shot. I took my time. I had a lot to organize. Just tossing it all up there on a board wasn’t gonna help any. I made a list (because we all know I need lists at this point). I drew a sketch of how I wanted to lay out that list on the board, so things could overlap and priorities could be made with the size of each section in mind. It ended up looking like a big sun, so I went with it.

And then I started my board. I got out all the scrapping materials I might want to use. I found a perfect sized piece of cardboard and I covered it with pretty paper. I put my sections on with “rays” of sun. I had eight sections in total. In the middle of it all, the center of the sun, I glued a big picture of a beautiful dream home. The rest of my goals went into the sections surrounding the center. They consisted of the following categories: God. Writing. Sewing. Crafting/Creating. Gardening. Livestock. Food preservation. And Business development,  for both my husband and I. For the next several days, I tediously cut, pasted and organized these dreams into a picture of a truly satisfying sense of my passions. Many times it just felt like I was doing more of the precious time wasting, daydreaming and longing. Making a collage of my dreams rather than chasing them. Thankfully, I was sick enough to allow it, since I couldn’t really do anything else, and the “vision board” came to fruition.

I set that board in a prominent place in my living room where I have no choice but to look at it daily. I can not believe the change! I don’t really know how to explain it, but my life looks completely different, in just three short months, and I won’t let you forget that I have been sick for the duration of it. Sicker than I have ever been, for longer than I have ever been, and still my productivity is at the strongest it has ever been. The change blows my mind. I still manage to keep the simplified pace of life that I have worked so hard to create for myself, and in many ways, this board helped to further that goal of slowing it down. My house is cleaner than it has ever been. My garden and yard are getting the care that I always want to give them, but struggle to consistently maintain. I have balanced my responsibilities between all of the dreams and goals that I have prioritized right now. I am making more progress on all of them, consistently, than I ever have before. Like everybody, I have household chores ‘nemesis’, and those are even all caught up. I find extra time for purging and decluttering, and I still have as much, if not more, down time, than ever before. My stress level is lower, and I can’t remember the last time I wasted time daydreaming on stuff I could be doing. My family has noticed, my friends have noticed. I have to be honest, that board changed my life. I was so skeptical, but I gave it a shot. I am so thankful that I did. I can’t imagine having made it this far, this fast, without it. Especially with all this mucous clogging up my brains. It keeps me on task. It reminds me. I have things to do. I have heights to reach. I can’t stop now. It helps me find the ambition to just get up and spend ten minutes on one thing, when I just really don’t want to do the tedious right now. Then ten minutes more, and ten more. Before I know it, my list of “have done’s” for the day is always satisfying by the time hubby gets home. Dinners are earlier and family time is more appreciated. I spend alot less time nagging at my family for help, and simply state the one or two things that I need them to do. The difference is astounding. I will continue to make a new board each year as my dreams are achieved and evolve. I will recommend it to my friends, and if you are even a little intrigued, I seriously recommend you try it. What do you have to lose? I lost alot. I lost a big chunk of unproductivity. I lost a huge pile of clutter. I lost the mess that used to embarrass me each time someone came in. I lost the big pile of clean, unfolded clothes that were always so hard for me to get to. I lost the neurotic, unorganized feeling. I lost a whole lot. The things that replaced the stuff I lost are exactly what I was looking for.

Are you ready to start your vision board? How can I help you? No matter what you do, have fun with it. Do a good job. You need it to motivate and inspire you so you aren’t compelled to waste time looking for motivation and inspiration elsewhere. I would love to see what you come up with!

Answered prayers

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Good day, my friends! I hope today finds you well. It has been a few days since our last encounter, and my brain is just swimming with thoughts. So many things I would like to talk about today, choosing one subject is hard. Bare with me if I jump around a bit. First, a disclaimer. I did not make that meme, and I don’t know who did, but it sure feels perfect for today.

Its been kind of a rough winter here. Who am I kidding? Its been one of our toughest seasons ever. I have been really sick since December. I have tried every remedy that I can find, from conventional medicine and antibiotics, to every alternative treatment I can find. I am finally feeling a bit of relief with my last two remedies, the two I was most apprehensive to try and yet, they seem to be working better than everything else, and so, while they make me nervous due to lack of scientific backing (I like to research things before I put them in my body), I may have finally found a routine that works. Sweet Heavenly relief!

Its been an exceptionally long, harsh, cold winter for us. It has gotten so trying. Being a single income family, we can’t afford for hubby to be ill. Just two days of illness set us back quite a bit, and the challenge of heating this big old home has proven to be a lesson in patience and perseverance this Winter. Finally, a light at the end of the tunnel. The days are slowly warming up, and we were blessed to receive a cord of wood from our wood company, out of the kindness of their hearts. I cried with inexplicable gratitude for answered prayers this weekend. Somehow, with patience and trust, we are going to survive this winter. The end is in sight.

We spent the weekend processing wood and setting up the seedling nursery. Its time! Yay! Time to start seedlings. My all time favorite season. I used to volley between Fall and Spring as my favorite seasons, but Spring is starting to prevail, because I spend most of the winter impatiently waiting for planting time. Something so satisfying about watching those little seeds pop up out of the soil. Longing for the day I can start to harvest the fruits of these precious babies. My mouth waters at the thought of fresh garden produce.

I find myself lamenting on so many blessings, and so incredibly grateful for answered prayers. For faith and patience. I find myself wondering if any of you felt compelled to look into the ways your food is processed after my last post. Do you want to hear more about food? Do you want to hear about some of the natural remedies I prescribe to? What do you want to talk about? I find myself flooded with topics. We can talk about homesteading, simplifying and slowing down (yes, it IS possible), alternative remedies? What is in your food? I certainly don’t want to talk about politics, although I could rant about them for some time right now. We can talk about special needs, natural remedies, food processing and gardening. We can talk about crafts and sewing or homemade body products, without all the chemicals. For that matter, we can talk about the many ways to reduce the chemicals in your environment. I have so many passions, we can talk about just about anything you can think of.

I am all over the place.

Scattered.

Overwhelmed with important subjects.

What do YOU want to talk about?

What can we explore together?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts and exploring whatever topics you are interested in, together. I look forward to meeting you and talking to you. I look forward to finding ways to help each other grow into the most loving, positive, joyful forces we can be. How can I help you expand your joy? I have committed to prioritizing this blog. It is time, and God has made that clear to me, so what shall we chat about? I can’t wait to see what you come up with for me. Until we meet again, much love, my friends, and may your days be filled with the loving light of God.

Living my words

Good morning and happy Monday, my friends. Its been a few days but I haven’t forgotten you. Just been busy living my words. It was barely moments after my last post that I started getting big, messy gifts from God. One thing after another, they were piling up faster than I could open them. Boy did I find myself having to remember everything I just wrote for you. There reaches a point where there is just nothing you can do but give it to God and trust that He will carry you, and that is where I found myself on Friday afternoon. One baby step at a time, I asked God to lead me through the solutions. We managed to tackle a pretty heavy load of messily wrapped packages this weekend, and here I sit, fresh, rejuvenated, and ready to start the week with a good attitude and full of hope. It left me feeling full of gratitude, and gratitude is one of the tools I feel is needed to have lasting joy, so lets talk about that today.

Giant burdensome blessings have a way of helping us grow our gratitude, but only if we choose it. I could sit around crying about the mountain of challenges that seemed to show up all at once. There was a time in my life that I had forgotten how to see the bright side, and that is exactly what I would have done. I would have cried, ranted, complained, whined, and basically had a pity party, to anyone who would listen. Once upon a time not so long ago. But, today I have tools. I have tools of choice, and one of those is gratitude. I can not tell you what a difference it makes to fight the pity with gratitude. You have something to be thankful for, of that I am sure. You are alive, breathing, and reading this right now, aren’t you? Finding gratitude has a lot to do with the little things. On days when things feel so hard, that you have to force yourself to find gratitude, this can be challenging, and that is why it is your choice. You can choose to feel sorry for yourself. Why me? Poor me? Oh life is always out to get me! Or, you can make the conscious choice to focus on other things. Is the sun shining today? Do you have clothes on your back? Did you have the luxury of coffee with your breakfast today? For that matter, did you have breakfast? Do you have a healthy child (even if they are attached to your hip when you just need a minute of quiet). Are you a comfortable temperature? If you answered yes to even one of these questions, and the thousands more just like it that I could ask, then you too are blessed, my dear. You just have to choose it. You may have to look hard, but you can find hundreds of blessings in your day, week, month and life.

Recognizing your blessings can be a real challenge, especially if you are already feeling defeated by life. Thankfully, this is one of those tools that, the more you use it, the sharper it gets. That may be one of the best things about preparing a good strong tool shed. All of the tools for joy are unique in that the more you use them, the sharper they get. And you can do things, simple things, to help you remember to choose gratitude. I am a big fan of “notes to self”. More than once I have recommended that clients write themselves reminders. Post it notes are cheap, but if you don’t have any, a simple piece of scratch paper will do. Maybe you have some scrapbook supplies and want to make them pretty. Whatever will motivate you to read them. Make yourself reminders, and stick them anywhere that you are apt to read them.  You have to start where you are at. My notes to self look much different than they did ten years ago. Back then, I had to remind myself simple things. To remember that I am loved. To be thankful that I have a roof over my head, clothes on my back, food in my mouth, and a car to drive. Having spent some time with a two year old, couch surfing, I know what nothing looks like, but even in those times, I had friends who would let us sleep under their roof. I had this beautiful child to go through this journey with. I didn’t know how to appreciate it at the time, unfortunately. I often say that I try to live without regrets, but if there is one thing I would change about my life, it is the lack of gratitude and perspective when I was a young mother. I realize that there is a point to growing and learning as you age, and that a young mother can’t expect to know all that, but boy would it have had a profound impact on the quality of life that I was able to provide for my child. Gratitude takes the focus off the negative. You really are what you think about. If you spend all day focused on the horrors in a negative light, you will always be a “poor me”. If you must focus on the negatives, then change how you see them. What can you do to change them? If you focus on the positives and the problem solving aspect of them, you will be the change you wish to see. We really do live where our mind dwells, and luckily, we do have a choice to dwell where we want to live. I read all kinds of articles about how anxiety and depression cannot be healed. How they can’t be controlled. How they are a result of chemical imbalance, and it frustrates the crap out of me. I lived with anxiety, bipolar disorder, severe depression. They are not life sentences and I am living proof. You are not doomed to a life of meds and fighting every day. You don’t have to be a survivor forever. At some point you can just live. There are other ways. You don’t have to resign yourself to a life of pharmaceutical care. Don’t get me wrong, I am not anti mental health meds. I used them, and if they are helping you stay above water, you should too. What I am saying is, use the opportunity. The blessing of access to pharmaceuticals, to help you get stronger. To help you take the edge off while you develop the tools. But don’t just rely on them. Use the time to get some healthy tools for choosing your happiness. Use the time to learn what people mean when they say happiness is your choice. Get a therapist. Read some self help books. Focus on the things that are blessings in your life. I had several different therapists over the years, and each taught me different skills. If you aren’t comfortable with your therapist, don’t feel bad admitting that it isn’t a good match, and finding a new one. Going to therapy doesn’t mean that you are crazy. Every single one of us has shame triggers, and it is my belief that every single one of us could benefit from some therapy in our lives. Some people need six months, some need six years, but every single one of us has hang ups. The ones who face them are the ones who will see change in their lives. I know that anyone who has been told that there is nothing they can do about their anxiety thinks I am unempathetic and don’t understand right now, but I promise you, I have been in those shoes. I too, was told I would take medication for the rest of my life to control my emotions. I had no choice but to pursue therapy with my child, and this is how I learned that wasn’t truth. It felt like the doctors were right when I was in the midst of it, but with perseverance, I learned that meds are not the only way to stay above water. In fact, there are much better ways. The meds just took the edge off long enough for me to find strength to fight. You are strong enough too! I know you are! I am happy to take the journey with you if you want a little help, or just someone else in your court cheering you on. You got this!

What do you want to change?  The easiest place to start is to write it down. Get yourself a little notebook and write down the things you want to change. The things you don’t love about yourself or your life, and lets get cracking at how to overcome them. Goals. Obstacles. Problem solving. It applies to every area of life. Think outside the box. Realize that your individuality is Gods plan and try to worry less about what others will think and find what is right for you. The other day I wore some fuzzy pants to the store. Far too thick to be pajamas yet not really public appropriate in that they look like house pants. I looked down at myself, and started checking out the other shoppers in the store to see if anyone else might be there with less than socially acceptable pants on. For about 30 seconds. Then I had a very loud thought. “I am covered. Since when do I care if society likes my pants? I am not here to fit the norms, I am here to get groceries”. I have been sick for months and getting myself to the store a half hour away was a huge blessing. I had to choose. Let anxiety about my pants distract me from my task, and probably be much less efficient about it, or let it go and get about my shopping. I don’t have time to be anxious about my clothes being acceptable for everyone else. It was my choice to let that anxiety go and get back to my grocery list. I promise, with practice, you can learn it too. It is a long, arduous road, but boy, when you get to the destination, you are so glad you didn’t wait another day to start the journey. Happiness, and sustainable peace, don’t happen overnight, but they can be yours if you are willing to put in the time and energy. Start by finding as many things as you can in your life to be thankful for, and lets move forward from there. Until next time, Godspeed my friends.

Commitment/Hindsight

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So I have made a commitment to you, my friends. I made a decision to put my gift of words to use and make a point of staying consistent with it. I promised you that I was going to be here, sharing uplifting words and insights with you, on a consistent basis. Well, it only stands to reason that after a commitment like that, my normally overactive brain, decides its time to go blank. I have spent two days wondering what on Earth to write about. Now if you know me at all, you know I love to research. I have a host of knowledge on all types of subjects, and can learn about any subject I don’t know. I had considered just picking a topic out of the bag and doing some research and doing an essay type entry for the day, but that didn’t sound appealing either. In the end, I decided to just come write and see what God has for me to say today. I decided I would ask you what you want to read about? What topics do you feel compelled to think or learn about right now?  I fit in the “Jane of all trades, master of none” category. This used to be bothersome for me. It made me feel like I had no skills that were marketable. That there would always be someone better at every skill I had and  that I would always come in second best or mediocre with my talents. It is a good thing I am not very competitive. In retrospect, I see all kinds of value in this very defining personality trait, and especially as I get older and come to realize what I really want out of life, this is a blessing, but it took hindsight and healing to see that.

Hindsight. What an amazing tool it is! Hindsight helped me heal more than any other single factor. When I was able to look at the obstacles I had overcome. As I look back at those oh so difficult days, I am reminded that hindsight is the tool that helped me to trust God more than any other tool I could find in my extensive bag of tricks. Let me back up a little bit. I, like most of you, had a few really trying issues to face in my childhood. As a child, I hid behind a smile. Behind the gift of finding the bright side. I always told myself, and others, “I have a roof over my head. I have clothes on my back. I have food in my mouth. I have a family that loves me. I am warm. I am not beaten. I have it better than a good portion of the population of the world” I smiled big. The more I hurt, the bigger my smile. Crying. that wasn’t going to work for me. Self pity. No thank you. I lived behind a mask of denial. Little did I know that those tools for finding excuses to not hurt would end up being some of my greatest gifts later in life. Oh I would have to move mountains to see the blessing in them, but for my youth, they were just the coping skill I needed. Unhealthy at the time, but today, one of my most abundant blessings! I knew how to choose joy all along, I just didn’t understand how the tool worked and instead of using it properly, I was using it to hide from healing.  I spent years in therapy, learning to fill my tool shed with new, shiny, well oiled tools. Ones that would prepare me for any breakdown. Ones that would allow me to fix any malfunction in my life. I learned about faith, patience, acceptance, forgiveness, and gratitude, but not in that order, more like, little overlapping bits, all at once. I learned about intention and about being able to choose my joy. All the tools we need to sustain lasting contentment. But hindsight is the one that made trusting the process possible.

Hindsight was the tangible. The rest were just theories, but hindsight proved that they were true. That childhood of convincing myself I had it so much better than so many others, well, that backfired when I hit 19 and ran away to another state. By this time I had started dabbling in some less than savory behaviors and  the unchecked shame that had been building in my youth was in full control of my emotions. At 19, my world turned upside down and inside out. A combination of things affected my emotions and for the first time, I was officially depressed. I had no idea yet. I just thought, “poor me! I got a really crappy deck of cards”. I also started an oral contraceptive at this point in my life.As a disclaimer, I believe that this oral contraceptive played a huge role in the drastic change in my personality and behaviors at this time, but I would not make the connection until years later, when I was 36 and stopped taking birth control. This is a subject for another time. I feel strongly that tri-cyclic oral contraceptives mimic bipolar disorder in many women, and I have a few reasons for believing this, I just don’t know who you talk to about getting this kind of study done, and neither did the doctors and mental health professionals whom I discussed it with.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that I think my birth control pills caused this issue, just that they forced it to the surface where I couldn’t hide behind that big old smile anymore. I spent the next 15 or 16 years wrestling bipolar disorder. Depression, and all of the emotions that come with this diagnosis. I searched for fulfillment in all the wrong places. I projected and blamed others for my misery. I asked “why me” a billion times over. I did not have God in my life, and from the little I learned about Him as a child, I didn’t want or need Him, or more judgement, in my life. I became a single mother. I moved halfway across the country away from all those people and places I believed were making me miserable. I jumped from one whim obsession to another. I cried and blamed and asked “why me” when each of those whims failed. When life hit me hard, I raged on the phone to anyone who would listen. I cried. I screamed. I used all the “but, can’t won’t” excuses I could find. Such a shame looking back, I was awful. I had no idea. No one told me I could change this. Well. I take that back. Alot of people told me I could, they just didn’t teach me how. When you are in a broken cycle of shame and self destruction, and people tell you that happiness is a choice, but don’t teach you how to choose it, you just think they are an ignorant person who is clueless to your very real life struggles and that it desperately feels that you have no control, how could you possibly force life to give you joy.  In a way, it helps to perpetuate the “can’t, but, won’t” attitude. I lost so much respect, so many potentially great relationships, over people telling my that happiness was my choice, and then not showing me how that was possible. They were all “idiots” who had no idea what it was to be a broken single mother with a special needs child and no marketable skills. They were clueless to my plight. At least, that is how it felt at the time. Today, I would not call them idiots, or judge them at all, because I have learned that acceptance is critical in choosing joy, but I would advise them, if you are going to tell someone that happiness is a choice, don’t say it and turn your back to walk away. Teach them what that phrase means instead of just sounding like an unempathetic fool who doesn’t “get it”. To someone who doesn’t have the tools to choose joy, that is exactly how you come across. Condescending and haughty. “Joy can be yours too, if you just choose it”. Clearly, a person in this state of mind does not have the tools to choose it, or they would be doing so. This kind of advice with no follow up just feels like judgement and lack of understanding, to the person who does not have the tools for choosing joy.

But I digress. We are talking about hindsight today. Understanding the journey is an important part of hindsight. You have to just imagine some of the trials I faced as a single mother, with a special needs child, facing dropping out of college, bipolar disorder, and poverty. Most days it felt the world was out to get me, and that nothing would ever go my way or be on my side. I overreacted to every tiny detail of my life. I had no idea what patience was, or that I could be the change I wanted to see in my life. Here I was, in low income housing. A disgusting, gray, poverty stricken, moldy, housing complex. I was surrounded by people with habits at least as unhealthy as my own, many much less healthy than even my pathetic self was. There wasn’t anyone around to show me what healthy looked like, or how to attain it for myself. I struggled through one day after another. As I left school, I found myself without a source of income and somehow, just at the perfect time, God opened a door for me. I didn’t realize that it would forever alter the course of my life. It was a foreign world. One I had never dared to even peek into before. I took that ranch job 26 miles from home because I didn’t think I had any other options. Little did I know, that it was God intervening. It was God saying “It is time for you to see me, my darling child.” Don’t get me wrong. This didn’t happen overnight. I spent years in that barn with my mentor, crying over the wrongs and injustices of my poor pathetic life. And he was so patient with me. He didn’t shame me. He did not judge me. He did not condemn me. He gently guided me with patience, understanding, empathy, and I am sure a plethora of prayers that I never heard him utter. He may never know how truly grateful I am to him, for showing me what a spirit in love with Christ looks like, and for showing me that the God of my childhood was not the reality of God at all. For his prayers for my salvation. I had rejected God for one reason. He was not rational. The God I was introduced to as a child was presented as a hateful, mean, judgmental creature, much like I imagine the enemy to be. I was not willing to embrace that God. But this God. The one my good friend was showing me. Not telling me about. He obviously told me some things about God, but it was his behavior and demeanor that showed me the truth about God. I pray that God rewards him when he gets to Heaven. That man saved my life! By being a shining example of Gods love, he saved me from myself. He opened my heart and made it possible for me to receive Jesus and forgiveness. Its all a new book from there. Day in and day out he patiently dealt with my ugliness, because, I imagine, that is what God told him to do. I don’t know that he will ever realize how much he changed my life, or how thankful I will always be to him for that. I have told him, in the best human words I can find, but the gratitude goes so far beyond what words can say.

And we finally get to hindsight. After a few years of this man’s mentorship, I started to think that maybe I could have this joy? Maybe I could be enough for God? Maybe God wasn’t punishing me for being alive after all? Maybe God didn’t think I was awful? Could this be real? Oh I wanted it to be. I felt the longing in my heart to be good enough for God. I slowly let my guard down. I finally found the courage to step through the doors of a church. I was scared. I was timid. I hadn’t told a single one of my friends. I went out of necessity. A bargain I made with myself out of a desperate need for financial assistance, I made an excuse to take myself to church three times before I would turn to them for help. It is hindsight that allows me to see how I was pulled through that door. I loved what I found. A whole congregation of people who were trying to emanate this spirit I had seen in my mentor. A thing I had only once seen before in my life, in my grandma, that I was too young and lost to recognize at the time. A simple, loving desire, to love because He first loved them. Tears well up as I get to this part. As I think about that overwhelming love. As I remember back to the day that I gave Him my heart and soul and desperately, quietly hoped that He would accept them. Hindsight. On the day I was saved, He gave me a gift of hindsight. He showed me how every obstacle was indeed a blessing. That the bigger the obstacle, the more He was preparing me, gifting me, leading me the way that He wanted me to go. I had no idea I was already fulfilling my mission on Earth. I had no idea I was developing a set of skills that would prepare me for His exact assignment for me. He showed me how He allowed me to feel lost in the dark over and over again, so that I could understand the light, and most importantly, I realized that He had been beside me the entire time, I just wasn’t looking for him. I often find myself telling people ” God will carry you through the dark, but He resides in the light, and to see Him you must turn to it”. You can not dwell on the darkness, and expect to see light. You must open the door to it. He won’t leave you in the dark, but you have to choose to turn to His light. What I saw, when I opened the door to light, was hindsight. It was every time that I thought I was on the edge of falling into the deepest chasm you can imagine, always, at the last minute, something grabbed me and held me from the plunge. I always managed to get by. I always managed to have a warm home and food in my belly. Somehow, against all odds, I always managed to come out of those extremely emotional battles, and survive to fight another day. Time and time again, He let me feel the brink of destruction and pulled me back just in the nick of time. Little did I know that this was a blessing. That every trial He allowed me to face was a gift. That He was teaching me, so that I could teach someone else, what hindsight is. How it allows for trust. How it allows us to see every burden from a different perspective and how it teaches us to trust Him. He let me stumble. He let me fall, just like any good parent would. He let me learn the hard lessons that all children need to grow, and He was right there to kiss my knee when I stumbled. Pick me up when I fell. He never let me face it alone. Even if I couldn’t see Him, He was right there, opening doors for me before I walked smack right into them. And on that glorious day when I opened my eyes to Him, He showed me with hindsight, that He had always been there, waiting for me to open my eyes to Him. That all along He had been blessing me. Carrying me, opening doors and paving paths for me. This hindsight taught me many things, but most importantly, it showed me that I could always trust Him. That even when it hurts, He has a reason, He is still here, and good will come from it. Ultimately, He taught me with hindsight, that burden is our biggest blessing, that our most important gifts come in packages that look like a four year old wrapped them. With struggle. Messy. But beautiful. Too much tape in one corner, not enough paper on the back. The messier the wrapping, the more precious the gift. God showed me, with hindsight, that I could always trust Him to pull me through, and that the messiest packages will hold the most precious gifts. This is how hindsight helped me to heal. To trust God, and to find patience in the darkest of days. I now see my burdens as gifts that I can’t quite recognize yet, but I know that as I come through them, and get some hindsight, God will once again reveal the beauty of His ways to me. That feeling is priceless. It allows me to face situations calmly. Rationally. Without shame and worthlessness. Patiently. The tools for joy overlap and reinforce each other. Hindsight really makes a profound impact on patience, as well as all of the other tools for choosing joy. Hindsight made it possible for me to trust God. I know that I could not have this lasting joy and contentment, through the daily ups and downs, without trust for God. I am full of gratitude for hindsight, and for the gift of understanding what it means. I cannot imagine a complete, functional toolshed, without a nice sharp “hindsight” in it.

So, it looks like I found some words today. I knew they were in there somewhere. I hope your day is full of hindsight, and the wisdom and calm it brings as you meander through your routine today. I pray your day is full of peace, contentment, and gratitude as you ponder the blessings of your burdens. Much love, my friends. See you soon!