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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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Finding Hope

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Anyone who has read this blog even one time knows that I try very hard to keep it positive. I make a conscious effort to find the bright side of even the worst situations, because I know that our trials are blessings in disguise, if we are willing to grow from them. This week has been an exceptionally trying for me, and I have had no energy to fight for joy. I spent the last two days keeping to myself instead of fighting the blahs. I spent a great deal of time thinking to myself “How can I write something positive while I sit in this dreary mood?”

Some days it is much harder to find hope and positivity than others. For some reason this week is proving exceptionally trying, for no good reason at all. The little things that I normally take with a grain of salt are really weighing on me and I am struggling to shake them off. I look around at my life, and it is no better or worse than it was a week ago, but boy am I tired of gray skies and chilly weather. Starting to feel like a caged animal and I suspect that is contributing to my lack of positivity and joyful abundance. The weather says sun, but day after day, I wake up to chilly weather and gray skies. Expectation causes disappointment, and maybe the answer is to stop hoping the weather forecast will be right about sun one of these days.

Meanwhile, I need a way to get out of this funk, and maybe I am not alone. It occurs to me that maybe it would  be a good idea to highlight some ways that we can rise above the dreary blahs and create some joy and hope of our own. How do you go about making a difference in the world? Living in the country, and making it my business to avoid going to town as much as possible, makes it challenging at times, to find ways to spread joy to others. I often hear people express that they don’t have money to give to strangers when challenged to make a difference for someone. Today I want to challenge you to find a way that doesn’t involve monetary donations, to brighten someones day. It doesn’t have to be a stranger. People we know need their days brightened too. How can we be more present to hearing others needs, and taking a moment to try to perpetuate their needs being met, or even just give them a spark of hope in humankind to get them through the day?

Even perpetually positive people need a pick me up sometimes. They are not that way because they have no challenges. More often than not, they have learned how to rise above challenges, and find the bright side of their situation. I have found that my “inspirational people” posts have made a profound impact on the people I have chosen to highlight. People who are overcoming challenges, finding the bright side, and consciously trying to reside in a place of positivity. They need to hear that they are doing good too. Staying hopeful and positive can be real work at times. It doesn’t just come naturally. Even the most bright, cheerful, positive, and hopeful of us have to work at times, to hold on to that joy. To not be defeated by the harder parts of life that would hold us back if we weren’t fighting for the light is challenging at times. There are definitely days that it would be much easier to give in to the crappy attitude and overall blahs. Maybe you know a perpetually positive person who could use some kind words about how their attitude inspires you? A simple way to create more joy, and to help the joy creators to stay on task. There are days when it feels like people take joy for granted and assume that because we try to keep a smile on our faces, that we have no stressors or doubts. It always helps to hear a little validation that our joy makes a difference. A simple challenge. Find someone who inspires you and tell them that they make a difference in your life.

There are many little ways you can make a difference that have nothing at all to do with monetary donations. What about stopping to let someone in front of you? Be it a line at the post office or grocery store, or in the midst of heavy traffic? You might make someone mad. Someone who hasn’t seen the example of slowing down and making room for others. It is always a possibility. You have a choice to care about that or not. You get to choose if making a difference outweighs what others may think. A while back, I was at the post office in town. I rarely use the post offices in town because they are chaos. Madhouses with lines that don’t stop. Using a post office in town means allowing at least an extra half hour for errands, vs using the local office, which takes no more than five minutes, ever. However, occasionally I find myself needing to use one of the town post offices, and I always make sure to prep my brain for patience when I do. When I do have to go to town, I try to remember to pray for an opportunity to make a difference for someone while I am there. On this particular day, I had a long list of errands, and I was certain there would be a way for me to spread some joy. I went through my list, one item at a time, and as I stood for what felt like forever, in that post office line, I was pondering that I hadn’t yet received an opportunity to bless someone random. This was a long line. I think the entire wait was nearly an hour. Every employee was busy and it didn’t appear that things were going to pick up any time soon. This is also the office that deals in passports, so it has more traffic than the other branches do. After about half hour in the line, I was starting to get close enough to the counter that I could see what was happening at the counters. The line behind me had grown and was nearly out the door. I noticed a middle aged woman wandering around looking so lost and confused. I watched her for about five minutes, getting nowhere. She had no idea where she needed to be, and it seemed apparent that she did not want to get in that long line to wait to be told she belonged elsewhere. Without thinking twice about the people in line behind me, I invited her to stand in line in front of me. She looked taken aback and started to protest. I assured her that it was absolutely ok, that she looked confused, and that I was sure the people at the counter could quickly tell her where she needed to be. We talked for a few minutes. She accepted my offer and graciously stood in front of me in line. She thanked me three times before that line behind me occurred to me again. At some point I turned around to apologize if I had caused any inconvenience to those immediately behind me, and what I saw when I turned around was astounding. I saw warm smiles. Nods of approval. I got a whole lot of affirmation from all of those people who had been impatiently waiting in line. They were smiling?? talking to each other. The entire line had been impacted by this moment, and not in a negative way of having to wait an extra three minutes. A couple people smiled, nodded, assured me that it was just fine. I really started out just trying to make a difference for one person. And a profound difference I had made, just being friendly and kind to a stranger, but that energy overflowed to the people behind me. The air of impatience in the room had dissolved and people were talking to each other! I got approving smiles and nods. People were happy to see this good thing happening. They supported it, and the positivity spilled over and affected everyone in the room. If anyone was upset by my actions, I was none the wiser. I left that post office surprised at the immediate effect that one random act of kindness, on a single stranger, had on an entire room full of strangers. I have to hope that at least one of them was inspired to go do something nice for another stranger, somewhere else in their day,

The ways you can help change the world are numerous. They range in size from a tiny gesture, such as letting a little ole lady in line in front of you, to a huge act of sacrifice, like organizing a rummage sale and donating the proceeds to someone in need.

Maybe you see a mom with her arms full. Do you have a minute to help her to her car? Maybe you see a child acting out in the grocery store? Do you think “if that were my child…” or do you remember the days when your child was actually having that tantrum once upon a time? I have found that simply engaging the child can change the whole scene for that exacerbated mother who just wants to get through the grocery store and get out of there with her overtired child. I have yet to meet a parent who does not seem truly grateful when I distract their child from their tantrum. We don’t always have the choice to leave our children with someone else while we get the necessities for dinner. Empathy goes a whole lot further than judgement. Do you see someone in a wheelchair? Maybe you could offer to reach something on a high shelf for them?

Pick some wildflowers for a neighbor. Make an extra big batch of soup and share with someone, Hold a door or carry a bag. Simply smile and make eye contact. Plant some extra garden seeds to share with a neighbor, or bake some cookies to share with a stranger. There are unlimited ways to make a difference in this world. Share your extra eggs or veggie bounty. Tell someone something you find beautiful about them. Do you have extra jerky or meat from this years hunt? There is always someone hungry, or simply someone who is not blessed with the opportunity to have real, fresh food. You have any idea how tiresome it must be to eat McDonalds day in and day out, because you are homeless and that is what kind hearted people do, buy you some fast food. Certainly, any food is a blessing, and I have even recomended that people buy a book or two of gift certificates from the fast food places, to keep in their glove box and pass out to homeless people, and of course, we all know beggars cant be choosers, but I had an experience with a homeless man one time that shined a light on this for me. We had just bought groceries, and were headed through a drive through to get one of those all too sugary frozen coffee drinks that are a rare treat for us. I saw a man in the parking lot, and I almost ordered him food. Then it occurred to me. “I bet he gets sick of McDonalds”. My son agreed, and we quickly did a mental inventory of our groceries. I ordered him a spoon on my way through the drive though. We cruised over to him, and I told him that I would buy him McDonalds if he wanted, but that I had the thought he must get sick of it. He nodded so enthusiastically and quickly confirmed that he gets way too much of that nutrient devoid “food”. We dig through our bags. I gave him a yogurt and the spoon I had grabbed while getting our icy drinks. My son held open the donut box and let him choose his pick of the mixed dozen we had purchased. We gave him a few real food items. Cheese and some yogurt, a donut filled with jelly. We offered jerky but he didn’t really have any teeth and declined. We chatted with him for five minutes or so, wished him blessings, and headed on our way. It was evident that he was thrilled that someone considered maybe he had had his fill of cheap cheeseburgers and fries for the week, possibly for a lifetime. He also really seemed to appreciate that we took time just to talk to him, instead of just tossing a bag of food or a couple bucks his way.

I recently won a hundred dollar gift certificate to a higher priced local establishment. With my celiac, I can’t eat there. I carried that gift certificate around in my wallet for months, wondering what I would do with it. A couple weeks ago,  I was in the gas station, when I ran into a local business owner, working behind the counter. Now why would she need a second job, unless life was handing her lemons, despite her positive outlook, and it occurred to me to gift that restaurant meal to her. I had no expectations. I just wanted to give it to someone who would appreciate it, but a week later, when I was feeling some stress about a detail of our life, she showed up with an answer to that stress, completely unexpected, and changed the whole course of a week for me. Because when you spread joy, it comes back to you in unexpected ways.

We all have some hotel sample products around, don’t we? One really creative idea that I just love is to take old purses or cosmetics bags that you are done with, and fill them up with some of those hotel samples of soap and shampoo you have taking up space in a cabinet, and keep them in your car for when you see a homeless person. They need soap and toothpaste too. Or, if you are able to spend money to help, you could toss a granola bar, pouch of jerky, dried fruit, and a water bottle in there too.

There are countless ways to make a difference in peoples lives. Most of them require very little effort on our part for the amount of difference they make to another. It is true, smile at a stranger and they will be more inclined to smile at the next guy. Five minutes out of your day to impact a stranger can have so much more impact on the world than you may think, as they go on to share their joy in a contagious outbreak of loving words and gestures. Joy spreads rapidly if we take a moment to distribute it. All we have to do is plant a mustard seed of joy in the world, and it will grow into a great tree of loving actions and words beyond the scope of your site. You may never see the true reach of your loving actions, but I promise you that they will grow roots and branches that are abundant with fruits of spirit.

How can you spread some love and joy today? What seeds can you plant to nourish the world? There are many places to get ideas. A quick google search will bring up a plethora of websites completely dedicated to spreading kindness. I found a couple for you to start with. Being kind is not synonymous with spending money. There are more ways to be kind without money than most realize. Here are a few places to start. I would love to hear how you randomly spread kindness. I would love to hear your ideas for ways to change the world. I want to know how you nourish the spirit of others. Do you wander through life in a daze, just trying to get through the race today? Or are your eyes and ears alert, seeking ways to create some love and spread some joy?

If you are looking for more ways to spread some loving kindness, here are a few websites that might give you some creative ideas. Tell me what you come up with. Lets keep each other accountable for creating loving light.

http://www.spreadkindness.org/kindness-ideas

https://www.randomactsofkindness.org/kindness-ideas

http://www.bradaronson.com/acts-of-kindness/

http://andthenwesaved.com/random-acts-of-kindness-ideas/

http://www.kindspring.org/ideas/

That should give you a good start at finding at least one way that you can make a difference today. I would love to hear how you plan to make a difference this week. God bless Ya’all. have a great day!

 

 

 

 

Simple Pleasures. Blessed abundance.

As I sit here wondering what to chat about this morning, I can’t help but feel a little overwhelmed by my blessings. I am so incredibly lucky to lead the life that I do! I have so many simply abundant blessings that I don’t even know where to begin. I gaze out the window at the expanse of land surrounding me. The clouds hang on the mountains in the distance and I have so much joy and appreciation for the rain. I just did all that transplanting this past few days, and I have been impatiently awaiting the Spring storms. There is something so refreshing about the Spring rain, encouraging new life, telling those roots to reach deep into their soil and find the nourishment to grow. The smell. Oh the fantastic smell that Spring rain brings! I could sit outside all day, just to smell the freshness of the cool rain. I wouldn’t get much done though, would I? So, i opt for stepping out every little while for a brand new fresh whiff. It’s so inspiring! So uplifting. The grass already has a new shade of green peeping up, just from the overnight moisture. I can’t wait to put on those lovely purple galoshers and head out to see how the transplants are doing. Or maybe today is a red galoshers day?

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Well, life took a detour one paragraph in, and I got distracted by a two and a half hour phone call. How blessed am I that I can just stop my day and take two and a half hours to just visit with one of my closest friends? This wasn’t a catching up call. We have been close since just out of high school, but I guess today we had some real stuff to chat about. Such an uplifting conversation, and while I started this post thinking about my blessings, they have just been highlighted and uplifted in this conversation that leaves me feeling invigorated about this blessed life I am living. My friend and I have grown together, raised kids together from different states, and just become who we are as individuals, together, over the years. We have had ups and downs, as any friendship will, but we stand the test of time through the good and the bad. As we both embark on new adventures this season, it is so refreshing to have a close friend, one who has seen it all, and see’s the great possibilities that the future holds for each of us. We are blessed to enjoy the little things and cry over the pain together, and she belongs on my list of things I am most thankful to be blessed with.

And now my husband is calling from his lunch break. How blessed am I to have such a fantastic man in my life? And that he has a fantastic job? And that on his short, half hour lunch break, it is me he is thinking of? Seriously, I can find blessing in abundance everywhere right now. I have a lovely adult teen son, who has never been in trouble in his life. I hear his voice coming from his room and am filled with gratitude for my family.

I have this lovely pack of pets, all very well behaved. Totally and completely in love with me. Three awesome rescue dogs, and two lovely cats. Also rescues. It is a blessing to be able to provide a safe, stable environment, for all of them. They are getting old. Every one of them has more than ten years of life lived, and its such a delight to see them still in good health and full of abundant energy for this wonderful Spring day.

While I was talking on the phone excitedly with my friend, about all the doors that seem to be opening and what ideas I have for the immediate future, the sun managed to burn off most of the clouds. Now it is damp, fresh, cool, crisp, bright, and sparkly out there. I wandered through quickly. Didn’t even bother with the purple galoshers. Everything has so much more green than it had yesterday! I found more asparagus popping up. In just a few short weeks we will be eating from the garden again. Oh sweet, Heavenly relief!

All this dwelling on blessings really hit hard last night. I was watching a recorded episodes of “Live free or die” and perusing YouTube videos of Glacier National Park all at once. Glacier National Park is to date, my favorite place on the planet. I think we are due an adventure up there soon. Thinking about taking a long weekend to head up to Glacier really got me thinking how blessed I am to live in this beautiful “last best place”. A place where wild still exists, and the race is just a bit slower than the rest of the country. I spent time reflecting on the fact that I am surrounded by beauty at every turn, but moreso, that I am just a short drive from both Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks. Two of the most unique, amazing places that I have ever been are right in my back yard. That thought is what really got me thinking about the abundance of blessings in my life, and that thought got those blessings flooding my mind to a point of near overwhelm.

At the same time that I was browsing videos of Glacier and daydreaming about a road trip, I heard one of the “Live free or die” cast members start to talk about his relationship with fire. He was talking about how the majority of the population has no relationship with fire, and how they rely on it for daily life. How the majority of people’s relationship with fire consists of turning on a burner on the stove to cook dinner, if they even cook at all. For a moment, I considered that his off grid life has him so disconnected, that he doesn’t even realize that fire is a major component of plenty of peoples lives, and it started to sink in that he was indeed correct. I just happen to live differently from most people. I have a relationship with fire. I rely on fire to warm my home. I wake up to cold mornings and the first thing I do is start my fire. Before coffee. Before dogs get a potty. First, get the fire started. And it made me realize that I am coming along in this dream for a simpler, less rat raced life. I am not off grid. I am not at the level of simplicity that he is, but I am headed that direction, and again, perspective on how blessed my life is.

So, here I sit. Blessed beyond comprehension. I have this bountiful life. I have land around me, and a gorgeous horizon full of snowy mountain peaks. I have this lovely handful of pets distributed around my feet as I sit here writing my thoughts to share with whoever feels compelled to read them. I have a nice, juicy roast in the bean pot in the oven, and boy do I love my bean pots. I could write a whole post on them alone. If you ever get a chance to try one, don’t hesitate. They are fantastic. I have a delightful child who consistently makes me proud, in the next room, and a darling hubby who takes time out of working his tail off to provide for us, taking a moment to message me from work, just to say “Hi, how are you today?”

I have fully equipped and ready to stock beehives. I have a grand vegetable garden getting ready to start producing for the year. I have some of the freshest, cleanest well water that you could imagine. I live next to a river and get to watch birds of prey hunt over the pasture out my bay window. I have abundance! My house is warm. My closet is full. There is a big, hearty chunk of meat in the oven, and a hugely satisfying pot of soup on the stove to go with it.

I have Faith.

And, I am about to embark on yet another new adventure. My blessings can only grow with each new adventure, and already I am blessed with bounty that I never imagined for myself. Hard to believe I get to keep growing that bounty, but oh so exciting!! I am ready for this adventure. I am excited to walk through the coming days with my eyes and ears wide open. I can not wait to see what is next! I look forward to experiencing each moment. Isn’t that a blessing in itself? The excitement to experience each moment. I am thankful to see my blessings. I am thankful that I am not on a constant hamster wheel, trying to get more, more, more. Insight that I am not confined to that social structure may perhaps be the best blessing of all.

Often I hear people express that they would love a lifestyle like mine, but…..

but. can’t. won’t.

It makes me want to convince them that they can, while feeling a sense of sadness that my words are falling on deaf ears, because in their mind they have “but, can’t, won’t” for every statement I make. I know that it is a simple reorganization of priorities. The ability to look at your obstacles and brainstorm a way around them. Life is about the choices you make. I choose a simple, country life, but because I choose a simple, country life, I don’t choose the latest vehicle upgrade or the fanciest name brand clothes, and my cell phone might be going on three years old now. My laptop from which I write this post, has quirks that cause my cursor to jump all over the page, randomly, and I often have to delete and retype my words multiple times. I take time to download digital coupons to my grocery card, because those savings add up pretty fast and food is exorbitantly expensive. I cook my food, almost all of it, at home. I don’t keep up with the rat race, and it doesn’t occur to me, until someone who finds my way of life foreign, questions a factor.

I have this fabulously dependable little SUV that I purchased for six thousand dollars, eleven years ago. This was a particularly rough day for her, but she pulled through. I love that little beast. She is quirky, and she knows when someone that isn’t me gets behind her wheel. If you aren’t gentle with her, she locks up on you. She won’t let the key out of the ignition, or she refuses let you shift out of “Park” until you give her a friendly, loving jiggle. Countless times, my husband has looked at me with a sigh and said “I need you to get the key”. I don’t know why, but she usually lets go right away for me. A quirky, but dependable car, she has never failed to get me where I am going. Not. Once. Ever. She has taken me on long, winding, mountain drives. She has bounced in the mud off the beaten path in deep mountain terrain. She has rolled off the interstate at a mere twenty miles an hour, for over 15 miles, flashing her check engine light the entire way, but she never stops till she gets me to a safe place. She is paid for. Completely paid for. She qualifies for permanent registration. She has cheap auto insurance. And she is dependable. She is big enough to hold all of my pets, and has a high enough clearance on her to deal with some of the worst roads. She stood strong when a dodge Ram slid through an icy intersection and crashed smack into her front bumper, leaving me with not even a sore muscle to complain of. I really am thankful for this dependable little car.

I have never had anything but appreciation for this little car. And then one day, I went to an event. An old neighbor, and dear friend, invited us to an annual Fourth of July celebration. I had seen her every single year for this event, for the entirety of our relationship, but a few years ago, I pulled up in front of her house, and her response was the strangest thing. She got a quizzical look on her face, and said to me “Oh. your still driving that thing?”

She wasn’t being rude. She wasn’t being condescending. She was just genuinely shocked that I would still be driving this car. I replied “Of course, why wouldn’t I be?”  and later that night it started to sink in. What is surprising about driving an older, dependable, paid for car? It is not in terrible shape, it is not a rust bucket. It has a bit of hail damage, but nothing horrendous.

Not long after that I had a similar experience with a client. I was giving him a ride to town. He had noticed that we own three older vehicles, none in terrible shape, but all old enough to qualify for permanent registration for several years now. We also own an old truck that we only really use for big jobs. As we were riding, he asks me, first, if he can clean my car for me for ten bucks, to which I said no. And then he went on to ask me why we didn’t trade in all of our “old, crappy cars” for a nice new one.

I giggle as I think of my response to him. The furthest answer from the truth, but how could I explain my entire philosophy of frugality to an adult teen child from a fairly well off family, living the epitome of the race? I said “you just asked me if you could clean this car for ten bucks, why would I want a brand new car for my pets and family to make filthy with hair and mud?”

It left him silent, but the two incidents, so close together, really shined a light on something about myself that I hadn’t really seen yet.

I don’t care.

I don’t care that I have the shiniest, trendiest new car. I care to have the peace of a sturdy, dependable car, that is paid for. It is wonderful to not have to rely on a bus to get me to the grocery store. I don’t care, if I get out of that car, and you think my jeans aren’t cool enough or that my purple galoshers don’t match my red hoodie. I don’t care at all that I no longer fit into this society by the standards of this society. I am not in this race, and I have no desire to beat anyone to the finish line. I am here to stroll through the adventure, stopping to smell the roses and enjoy the finer things in life. The blessing that is no car payment. The blessing that is comfort in my own skin. The blessing that is embracing who I am, finding a way to exit the race, and being happy to meander along, participating at a pace that allows me to enjoy the abundant gift of life.

I love the blessing to think for myself. To make decisions based on my understanding of a situation, and not because it is what society and my peers expect of me. It is too high pressure trying to live a life where others expectations are the goals you aim for, and today I reflect on the blessing that is me embracing me. In all my eccentric glory, I am simply grateful to be alive, and living an abundant lifestyle that suits me perfectly. I hope each and every one of you finds that kind of blessing and abundance in your lives. I hope with all of my heart that every one of you learns how to be their most abundant self, and experiences it to it’s fullest while on this Earth. Until next time my friends, don’t forget to embrace life in true authenticity. These are the moments that will matter most. Now go enjoy something simple!

Timing

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Isn’t timing everything? It occurs to me that with the onset of Spring, I open a new chapter of this book of life. It is fantastic outside, the hardiest of the perennials are starting to come up. I mean really popping up! Yesterday I saw my first asparagus spears. How incredibly thrilling! I have been in deep introspection the last few weeks, and this week it finally seems to be coming together and making sense. Such an incredible relief. I spent a lot of time in the garden this weekend, in my time of reflection. I moved a bunch of perennials from their pots, to a new permanent raised bed that hubby made for me last Fall. Every morning I wander out there and see a little more growth, as they embrace their fresh, new homes.  They are really taking off now. It invigorates me to see them digging their roots into the fresh, rich, new soil.

I feel fresh. I feel ready to take on a new chapter and turn the pages of the last one. I feel ready for closure, so that I may begin my journey down the next trail in my pathway.  I am really quite consumed the last couple of days, with thoughts on how a seemingly negative situation can really help us grow into the beautiful souls that we are meant to become. I have had many months to process my situation. I am not one to make rash decisions, and once I start talking out loud about something, it is safe to assume I have probably considered all of the details that I have available and have already made a decision based on the information I have. Like the plants in my garden, I am ready for a transplant into a more nourishing situation.

I made a big decision to take an abrupt left turn onto a new trail head. I am not abandoning the path that I was on, just taking a side path along the same route. The path I was on was twisting a different direction than my end goal, and I decided to stay on a route along that path, even if it was an off shoot of my original path, but to head in the direction that seems more likely to get me to my destination. The beaten path is not always the right path.

Life twists and turns. It is ever changing. That which does not bend in the wind will inevitably break. We must stay flexible if we wish to get anywhere. Often it is hardship after hardship, just for a glimpse of the magical. We have to climb rocks and scale mountains if we want to see the glorious sunset over the valley. We bump our shins, sometimes stumble through stinging nettle, and often encounter obstacles that wish to slow us down. We must use our critical thinking and survival skills to overcome these obstacles if we wish to continue forward to that glorious sunset. Sometimes we have to wander off the path to get some mud for that stinging nettle burn, but ultimately, if we keep putting one foot in front of the other, we will crest that mountain.

I promised you that I was going to start writing about people who inspire me. In this period of introspection, I find myself thinking about my friend Katie. This woman is an inspiration like none you have met before. An ever beaming ray of light, who faces hardship with determination and infectious positivity. She doesn’t pretend that everything is peaches and cream all day long. She doesn’t hide her hurts and only share her joy. This woman is present. You can count on her to be living in the moment. Dark or light, she comes through true to herself and her work. When she hurts, she says so, while actively finding a way to turn that hurt into light and opportunity. She always manages to find a way to turn her pain into an opportunity to create light in the world. She reaches out and asks for love and light when she is knocked down. Just think about it. When she is down, rather than whining, complaining, and doing the ‘poor me’, she asks for love, light, and insight. She seeks conversations about the ways that others have overcome similar hurts. She reaches out to her sources of love. She grasps for the light, reaching with every ounce of energy she has on some days, just to grasp a ray. And every time she grasps, she compels others to put light into the world. We can never have too much love and light in our universe, and her optimism, even in the face of excruciating pain, is contagious.

 

She is a gleaming example for anyone who wishes to live a spiritually fulfilled life. She finds ways to see blessing in her hardship. She finds ways to use her hardship to bring more love and light into this world. She takes advantage of the moments when she isn’t facing her demons, to truly appreciate the simple things. Mud between your toes, the love of a great dog, the smell of fresh air, the ability to breathe another fine day. She has grand dreams and stops to enjoy the simple beauty that surrounds her in any given moment on her way to reaching those dreams. She is most definitely determined to make the very best of every moment she has been gifted.

She recognizes her limits. She honors her body. We live in this society that is next to impossible to keep up with. Many of us forget to honor our body and spirit. We get so caught up in the rat race that we forget that we need nourishment in the way of rest. Our bodies will scream for that nourishment until they get what they need. Katie has learned to listen to her body and honor it. When it screams for quiet, she quickly acknowledges that and gives it the down time it needs, without shaming herself for needing that break. Without forcing herself to try to be a part of the race. She finds ways to grow, even in her darkest hours.

When I was going through the hardest part of my healing process, I kept hearing “You are a survivor. You will be fine”. At some point, that brought up anger in me. I was tired of hearing “your a survivor”, and one day it came gushing out in a mad wave of rage. “I don’t want to be a survivor anymore. I want to LIVE!” I want to really experience and enjoy life, not just survive it. And I became determined to overcome survivorship. I was done with that label. I was going to be the poster girl for really living life. Nothing was going to stop me. I was going to find a way to stop surviving, and start living. For once and for all. Determined. New goal. I had to look at my obstacles, and use some outside the box brainstorming to find ways to overcome them, but I was committed. I was doing this. Time to shed the survivor skin, and start breathing every minute of air I was blessed with. Katie encompasses this for me. She is a real life version of this epiphany I had so many years ago. I am working hard to remember it every moment, but there are many, many times, that I am thankful for her as a reminder.

Some days it is hard. Some days I feel compelled to fall back into a pattern of stinkin thinkin, even if only for a moment. Somehow, it seems that when these moments hit, she shines through. Her light beams through my screen and reminds me that I have a goal. A simple goal. To live. In the truest, most honest and loving, sense of the word. To really embrace life, even on dark days. To remember to be thankful for the very gift of breath.

I have never met Katie in person, though I like to think that we would hit it off fabulously. She is truly one of the most inspiring women that I have ever met. I see her from an outside view of her world, and I wonder if she see’s the radiating light that I do? I wonder if she realizes what a profound impact she has on this world? Watching as she and her beautiful pup companion, Obi, travel down their path, is truly a gift. I am a fairly spiritually stable woman, and I am all too aware of how many people struggle to survive, every  single day. I consider the impact she makes on my life, and I wonder if she realizes what an astounding impact she must be making on the lives of so many people who are far less spiritually healthy. She lives by example, and she is a shining example of someone who really embraces the art of living each day.

We would all be better off with a Katie in our lives. Thank you, Katie, for filling the world with light. For being a shining source of inspiration. You keep doing you. It is just what we need more of in this world. Know that you are changing lives, and keep embracing that beautiful spirit of yours. If you would like more inspiration by Katie, you can check her out here.

*The photos of Katie and Obi belong to her. I have not yet been blessed to meet her in real life to take my own. All rights to the photos of Katie and her pup belong to her and may not be reproduced without her permission.

 

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!

Six months!

Spring has sprung in the Rocky Mountains and the hubby and I decided to celebrate this weekend by taking a long, rambling, meandering drive through the countryside. As we were rambling through the back roads, reflecting on the renewed hope of spring, it occurred to me. What a landmark I hit this weekend. I made it to the six month mark! Everything I read when I first went gluten free told me that I would start to feel better at the six month mark, but that it takes six months to two years to get all the contaminants out of my life and out of my body. Those numbers felt like forever six months ago. At first, I felt so much better after three days, and two weeks, and a month, without gluten, that I could not imagine a profound change at the six month mark, because I had already had my profound changes. Whoa! If only I had known that those giant adjustments were just the tip of the iceberg. This weekend, I was showing my hubby the Celiac rash and how much it had changed for the better this week. It wasn’t until the next day that I realized I had hit the six month mark and that was probably why such a drastic healing difference. I am sure you guys get so sick of hearing me talk about gluten all the time, but I am truly troubled by the detrimental impact that  it has on everyone, and I am surprised it is still a viable food source honestly. I was telling my friend a few minutes ago how its similar to asking for a heroin cookie for snack. And about as good for you too. Its discouraging to see so many completely dependent on this so called food source, and completely ignorant to the effect it is having on them. Even more discouraging is that the medical tests to define it are unreliable at best. So, even once someone accepts that it may be hurting them, they go to the Dr. for confirmation and he tells them, nope, no gluten intolerance, and they go right back to their old ways. There are over 200 symptoms of gluten intolerance, and I do not know one single person who doesn’t have any of the symptoms.

The most common ones I see daily are anxiety (why hasn’t anyone stopped to ask why anxiety is an epidemic these days?), headaches, lack of focus, lethargy, weight problems, and just basic minor complaints all over the body that are unidentified but most likely related. You can do a simple google search and connect almost every disease out there to gluten simply by typing in “gluten intolerance and (insert ailment here)”. You will find that just about every single ailment on the planet is affected by gluten in a negative way. The stuff is horrid. And that is just the beginning of it. That does’t touch on things like nitrates and dyes and preservatives. It doesn’t go anywhere near talking about pesticides and genetically modifying our food sources. Our food is toxic and it is keeping us apathetic and miserable and I spend my days wondering how I can do something about it, so here I am, utilizing the only voice I know at the moment, to try to get your attention. It won’t stop if the people don’t know. In the six months that I have been gluten free, I have seen a huge change in the market. I am guessing that within ten to twenty years, the gluten will have been streamlined out of our diets altogether. Much like the FDA finally released information stating that vaccines CAN cause autism, I suspect that it won’t be but a few more years until they finally admit that gluten is toxic. There is twice the gluten free food available to me in the store than there was six months ago. The transition is happening, and it cant happen fast enough.

I know people roll their eyes at me, they think I am just another faddy foodie, jumping on the gluten free bandwagon. One guy in the grocery store not long ago, told me that gluten is good for you, that it “puts hair on your chest”. I wanted to tell him that he was right, being a hormone disruptor, it probably would put hair on my chest, but being a woman, I am not sure that is what I want in my food. I think the hardest thing for me to face, aside from breaking the addiction, was the concept that people would think I was high maintenance, a faddy foodie just making life hard for dining establishments. Trying to fit in. Oh I am an eccentric. I have never cared much about fitting in, and I had a lot of shame to face in this area. Now, I shamelessly go on and on about this toxin. It is so bad for us. For everyone. And never have I found a topic that people have more excuses for. The reality is, they don’t realize that their fear comes from addiction. They don’t realize how much better they can feel, and they are terrified of a life without gluten.

It is true that eating gluten free can be quite expensive, but I have thoughts on this also. That was one of my biggest excuses too. What I found is that I buy and waste way less food, and I appreciate the food I do have way more. I have also found that as I see the market for gluten free food increase, the prices go down. I can go to the specialty food aisle and buy a gluten free brand of pasta for five dollars, or I can look in the regular food aisles and find gluten free pasta made by the major name brands for a third to half the price as the “fancy” brands. Also, when I eat healthy food, I need way less. Gluten makes us feel full, but not because we are nourished. Eating whole foods, I require much less to feel and stay satisfied.

I have had a drive to grow my own food for some time now, but being gluten free increases that drive, for a multitude of reasons. Firstly, I want to reduce the cost of my groceries. Secondly, the garden food is so much tastier, and thirdly, gluten is everywhere. Because it has been modified to resist pests, it is often used in organic pesticides, which makes organic vegetables a risk for me. How does one find the lesser evil when being forced to choose between vegetables that may have gluten residue on them, or foregoing the chance of contamination, and giving in to pesticide ridden produce?

And so I grow. I grow and grow and grow, in an attempt to free myself from the vicious cycle of supermarket food and having to choose which food is the lesser evil. Isn’t that sad? That I have to decide which food is the lesser evil when I shop. That God gave us food as nourishment and medicine and when we buy groceries we are weighing the contamination and toxicity factors? A quick internet search on what the Bible says about genetically modifying our food will be eye opening. God gave us perfect food, and silly humans just had to go and change it up. When will we learn that we can’t do it better than God?

Oh, it is just that kind of day. I had a lovely ending to sum this piece up nicely, when wouldn’t you know, the site started acting up. It won’t save, it lost half the post when I tried to publish, and you know, all of the lessons that go against the whole point of this post, which is really convenience. It is all about patience. All about taking a deep breath and refusing to be defeated. All about exposing convenience for what it really is. Convenience is a lie. It does a good job at pretending to make life better, but it does the exact opposite. It steals our joy and gratitude. It dumbs down the senses.

Gluten is like that. It pretends we love it. It pretends to be a good thing. It sucks us into its grips and convinces us that life would not be better without it. Convenience doesn’t make life better, it just appears to do so. When we take time to do things well, to stop and be present, to be aware what we are putting into our lives and our bodies, that is what gives us a bountiful life. That is what gives us health and gratitude. How often is convenience toxic? How often is it a sacrifice for something better, healthier, or more nourishing?

Convenience has stolen our patience, and in doing so, it has stolen the joy from so many aspects of life. Convenience has trained us all into believing that we must go faster, try harder, climb higher.

I promise you, that if you choose a less convenient route, you will find yourself more fulfilled at the end of the day. Much like gluten makes us feel satisfied and full momentarily, then leaves us feeling empty and seeking more, so will convenience. So often people talk about wanting to just slow it down. The first way to tackle that is by foregoing the quick fixes and fast solutions. Patience gives us appreciation and humility.   It forces us to be present and to do things in healthier ways rather than compromising for a quick solution.  If you want to end your day feeling nourished, start by looking what conveniences you can forego. What compromises have you made in order to “fit it all in”?

The rise of illness, especially in the mental health field, is staggering. In a time when we have so much convenience, so much technology and information available to us, how does it make sense that we are sicker and unhappier than we have even been as a population? We are divided, hateful and shameful. Killing our brothers and sisters in the streets. Taking more than we are willing to give. Blaming and shaming everyone who doesn’t agree with us. In a time of plenty, people are getting less and less of their needs met. We get out what we put in. From our food, to our behaviors, everything is a result of what we put in. If our food is toxic, out bodies will be unhealthy. If our behavior is toxic, our relationships will be unhealthy. If convenience is our defining factor, entitlement will be what we get out of it.

How is convenience stealing from you? How can you take the time to prioritize foregoing one convenience for something richer and more fulfilling today? You will find that you have more gratitude, more fulfillment, and more humility at the end of the day. You will appreciate the fruits of your labor far more when you take the time to be present and make conscious decisions about the difference between convenient and healthy. Can you trade in your highly processed existence for one that is more fulfilling and nourishing?

 

Mind Control

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Good morning my friends. I often talk about happiness being a choice, and how we need to learn to sharpen our tools to make it possible to choose happiness. I think perhaps the most important factor in this equation is guarding our thoughts, so I thought maybe we could touch on that today. This may be the singlemost important factor in choosing joy, simply because it sets you up to sharpen all of the tools necessary to choosing contentment.

So what does it mean to control your thoughts? I am sure many are reading this thinking “I can’t help what pops into my head”. But, you can. I hope to show you how to do that today. Negative thoughts are always bound to pop up. The enemy at work. The enemy lying to you. But you can overrule them. You can decide that they are lies and you can push them out. It is a critical skill and if you want to master happiness and sustainable contentedness, then it is a tool you must start sharpening right now. It is not as hard as it sounds, and like any skill, the more you practice it, the easier it becomes, until eventually it is habit to look for the positives. To find yourself on the brighter side of any given situation. It is rising above the negativity and lies, and choosing to find a reason not to succumb to them.

It is the action of rejecting the “poor me”. Let me see if I can give an example or two. I know a mom. She has three beautiful, healthy children. She has a loving partner who is there for her. She owns her home. I am sure she has many, many other blessings (a car, food, clothes, and a three month surplus of diapers stacked in her kids bedroom, are just a few examples that come to mind). But, she only see’s her “poor me”. Consistently she talks about how miserable her life is. How she lacks worth and how no one cares for her. I happen to know her family very well, and there is no truth to this. They love her, support her, and are there for her every time they can be. However, if she wants something and there is no one there to comply, she starts projecting shame and blame on those very people who love her so unconditionally. So, healthy people learn to draw boundaries. If there is a day that someone draws a boundary and can’t drop their lives to come give her what she perceives as a “need”, she freaks out, publicly and loudly, about how awful her family treats her and how no one is there for her and blah blah blah. It is quite tiresome to read day in and day out actually.

What she doesn’t realize is that she has a choice. She can choose to take that one little moment where she didn’t get exactly what she wanted, hate and blame the world for not giving her what she wants, and spend the day in a miserable rage about how no one loves her and everyone sucks, or she can chase out those lies. I know her family very well. I have seen how much they do for her, how much they care for her, and how proud of her they are. It is her choice, and hers alone to handle this situation as she see’s fit. However, its possible that she would have a whole lot more joy in her life if she could approach it more like “Oh dang, everyone has to work today. Its really too bad that no one can watch the girls while I run to the store. I am so thankful that I don’t have to do this alone every time”. Or “Crap, mom the babies sick and I really need some toilet paper, no one around to help right now. I would be so thankful if you could grab me a pack after work”. Instead, we all get a tirade about how no one loves her, everyone hates her, she can’t count on anyone, and everyone can screw off. Somehow, I don’t see that public tirade making many want to help her in the future, and so, her stinking thinking defines how tomorrow will go. How things will go next time she needs help. Our thoughts control where we end up. Somehow we need to let go of the notion that life is out to get us when it doesn’t go exactly as planned, and figure out how to find a blessing in it. If we constantly put down the ones who can’t just drop everything and be there for us every single time we ask, how much will they help us in the future? Who will even want to be around us? And our thoughts perpetuate a future. If we spend our days looking at unfortunate events as just that, no more, no less, we can find gratitude and a bright side to it.

Now, on the contrary. Add a bit of gratitude and patience to the situation and it becomes an entirely different path. A little perspective, if I may. What if she turned that shame filled pity party into gratitude. “Oh thank God I have so many people on my side. One of them will be off work in just a few short hours and can help me then”. It isn’t life and death, and if it is, then 911 is the appropriate answer. If she was showing gratitude, then perhaps someone would be happy to help just as soon as they had time. And the cycle continues. Show people you appreciate them, and they will continue to help you. Shame them, and they will walk away. A simple, but obvious example of how our thoughts determine our future.

If we spend our days focused on the “can’t, but, won’t” thought process, we never will. But if we spend our days in the “can, yes, will” thought processes, eventually, success will be ours. Its just simple fact. It may not seem true when you are stuck in the stinkin thinking mindframe, but with a little practice, you can force yourself to overcome this mindset. I am positive of this, because there was a time in my life that stinkin thinkin was all I knew. I was sure that God hated me, the whole world was against me, I couldn’t count on anyone, and I would always fail. Moments of joy were fleeting and always stolen by the enemy and his lies. It constantly felt like “one step forward, ten back”. My life was full of words like “never” and “no one”. Poor me. I would let my emotions consume me. Disappointment felt like defeat. Let me tell you, the two are not one and the same.

The choice belongs to you and you alone. Do you choose to let your emotions rule you? To define your reality? Or can you step outside of the box and see the bigger picture? Is the situation going to kill you? If not, there is a good chance that you might be overreacting. This is training in our brain, and like any habit, it takes hard work and determination to overcome it, but it is still a habit, and habits can be changed. For me, It looked like years and years of therapy and hard work. I had to learn how the amygdala worked and some days no matter what I tried,  I could not force those emotions into a reasonable place, until I learned to walk. For me, the only way I could find to break that pattern was to physically force it away. This was perhaps one of the hardest things I ever had to learn to force myself to do. When you are full of rage and shame and pity, there is nothing you want less than to bundle up your kids and go for a brisk walk. Heck, even without the kids, it can be so incredibly hard to pick yourself up and decide you will not tolerate these awful thoughts for one more minute. The thing about stinkin thinkin, and being so consumed by an emotional response, is that you are essentially in “fight or flight” mode. Our body pumps chemicals into our body that tell us to fight or flee when our situation seems unhealthy. This mechanism is intended to be of short duration, just long enough to get us to safety. When we are stuck in an emotionally driven state, these chemicals pump constantly and are very unhealthy for us. Walking forces them to stop pumping. A brisk walk, or any other exercise that gets your heart rate elevated for at least twenty minutes, signals to your amygdala that the threat has passed, and triggers rational thought. When it becomes habit to live in this emotionally controlled state, we can’t always just talk ourselves down. For me, it took many weeks of forcing myself to get that heart pumping every time the negative thoughts overwhelmed me. I had to retrain my brain that that was not how we were going to live. I had to train my brain to do something different than what it was doing. I had to teach it that the amygdala is not for every day use, it is for emergencies only. Fight or flight. Life or death. When your every day thoughts are controlled by emotion, it becomes pretty clear that you must retrain your brain in order to see a change. No one wants to go around with a “poor me, life sucks and will never get better” attitude, but until you choose to physically take control of it, that is all you will get out of life.

If you want to thrive. If you want to choose joy, then you have to kick out the “can’t, but, won’t” attitude, and physically force new thought processes. Exercise is the most effective tool I know for this. The first two or three times it will be hard. Your pissed. You don’t wanna walk. You want to live in this self righteous, “screw everyone” place. It feels justified. You feel like “why should I have to be the one to change?” Well. Reality is simple. If you want your life to change, only you can make it happen. You can not expect others to do it for you. Its so hard to get up and force yourself out of that self righteous place, find some humility, and decide to walk. But after a few times, the relief you feel becomes apparent, and there comes a day when it is the only solution. When pity isn’t an option and you must walk now. I can already hear it. “BUT I CANT walk now. I have the kids. Its snowing. My foot hurts”. Well, there is the “but, can’t won’t” that I speak of. As long as you are making excuses, nothing will change. Do some sit ups. Jumping jacks? Jump on the bed. Yoga or Tai Chi. Turn on some music and dance. There is always an exercise you can do. Always. Stop making excuses and find one that will work for you right now. That is how you take control of being emotionally and irrationally driven. Nothing works faster. Nothing works better. Your brain learns new behaviors and soon you walk because you want to. Because it feels good and your body knows the relief of stopping the fight or flight mechanism physically. It becomes a longing to walk, just to control the thoughts. Eventually, your brain retrains effectively and you don’t need this at all. Eventually, you get to exercise simply because you want to. Eventually you learn to react with reason and patience and gratitude. Eventually you overcome the stinkin thinkin and are able to apply the positive thoughts without a forced mechanism at all.

And one day, you will wake up on the wrong side of the bed, or life will throw you a curve ball, and rather than freaking out and allowing your emotions to dictate your behavior, you will have the skills to let your behavior dictate your emotions. You will assess a situation with ration and reason. You will have control over your mind and be able to tell those stinking thoughts go away, and you will identify the reasons that they are lies. You are the only person who can affect the changes in your life. If you walk around all day thinking “poor me, life sucks” well, simply put, life is bound to keep sucking. You will walk around defeated and ineffective. You will waste your time ranting and raving about situations that are “beyond your control”, and then later, dwelling on the shame and embarrassment of your tantrum. If you force yourself to consider your blessings, it only stands to reason that your life will be blessed. No one can change your life’s circumstances for you. You must be the change you wish to see. If you want joy and blessings, then you must be willing to see them in your life. If you want to feel good, then you must choose to feel good. We all have the choice. We can wake up and spend our day dwelling on the burdens, or we can wake up and chase those negatives away with gratitude for our blessings. If you have trained your brain to focus on the negatives, to be controlled by emotion, then you must reprogram your thoughts. Sometimes it takes actual, physical effort, not just mind control. Sometimes you have to get your heart rate up long enough to chase those awful thoughts from your mind, and allow rational ones in. And sometimes this takes a physical routine for days and weeks on end to reprogram you, but only you can decide how you want your brain to work and do something about it. Only you can decide to be the change you wish to see in your life, and take the steps required. Happiness is your choice, but it isn’t just about choosing. Sometimes it is about reprogramming. It is about accountability and taking control of your own life. The choice is yours. What will you choose?