"Be who we are and be that well." St. Frances De Sales
Hi there, my friend!
On the screen where I'm typing this, there's a tab that reads, "CONTENT", prompting me to enter my thoughts in this particular spot - to create "content." I smile every time I see it, remembering its homonym refers to "a state of being satisfied".
Shakespeare said it well
Getting to a place where we are content with who we truly are can be quite a journey. Shakespeare said it well,"...Ah, there lies the rub". I'm in my sixth decade of walking on this planet. Although I'm not so crazy about how the years bring a few random aches, I have grown to love the way the years have forged contentment with who I am. Younger years found me chasing the mirage of conformity. Like a dog chasing his tail, that pursuit is always a lost cause.
The wisdom of Dr. Seuss
“ You are you. Now, isn’t that pleasant?”– Dr. Seuss
No more pinching!
It feels so much better to lean into the confidence of who we were created to be. It's like slipping on that favorite pair of jeans that fits you "just right". Ahhh! No pinching. No squishing. One of my favorite thoughts about this acquired comfort is from St. Francis de Sales.
“Be who you are and be that well. So that you may bring honor to the Master Craftsman whose handiwork you are.”
The domino effect
The beautiful thing about finding the grace for contentment in who we are is that we can more easily radiate that same grace to others. When we're trying to stuff ourselves into some strident ideal of perfection, we're more likely to hold others to demanding standards as well.
Let's do this instead
Let's aim to accept ourselves - with all of our strange warts and all. And let's extend the same acceptance to our fellow strangely-warted-travelers we meet along our journey.
"As human beings, our job in life is to help people realize how rare and valuable each one of us really is, that each of us has something that no one else has- or ever will have- something inside that is unique to all time." Mr. Rodgers
You are rare and valuable!
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Holding onto Hope Every Day
The virtue of hope
I love this thought about hope from Richard Rohr, “The theological virtue of hope is the patient and trustful willingness to live without closure, without resolution, and still be content and even happy because our Satisfaction is now at another level, and our Source is beyond ourselves.”
Choices to be "OK"
But, my, my, my! What a challenge it is, right?! Finding the heart space to be willing to live without closure, without resolution is where I am this moment, to be honest. But I'm putting on my 'Big Girl Panties" and making tiny, incremental choices to be "OK" in the great big grayness of the "Unresolved". I'm breathing deeply. I'm taking baby steps. I'm moving toward stillness. I'm holding onto hope even here, in the rubble of brokenness called 'Life"..
Validation and Success
This morning I found myself thinking about the things we long for.You know, those nebulous, evasive things like ‘validation’ or ‘success’. ⠀
The dog keeps chasing his tail
And I was thinking how chasing those longings are like the proverbial dog chasing his tail. I smiled in remembering CS Lewis’s insight,
“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”
Let's remember to keep a healthy perspective on the slippery gage of "success". Let's hold our desires and goals up to the light of eternity, keeping both feet on the ground and hearts grounded in gratitude for the gift of life.
Seven Simple Words
Recently, I was stunned by the simplicity of seven simple words.
“Slow down to the speed of wisdom.” — Vicki Robin
Profound and difficult
Putting brakes on life is one of those things that are easier said than done! But if we can manage periodic pauses, there may just be some beautiful benefits to our efforts.
Years pile up on us so quickly
Before we realize, entire bundles of decades accumulate. Some are kind and gentle. Others are fierce and brutal. But, whether sweet or bitter, all years conceal their “life-lessons”.
Life-lessons are found by the curious
Some time ago I got curious about some particularly prickly bundles of years I was carrying. I felt compelled to slow down and try my hand at sorting through these "bundles" - even the darkest ones - in search of their hidden lessons. I did what I usually do when wrestling down an idea. I made appointments with my two favorite counselors: Journaling and Painting. They are always available and helpful!
Priceless lessons wait to be found
With pen, paper, paint, and brush, I poked around the question, “What priceless lessons are buried in these years?" As I reflected and wrote, unexpected treasures rose to the surface. As I drew and painted, I concluded: “Any dark season can offer up bits of beauty, hope, and wisdom when we pause long enough and peer deep enough.”
The piece pictured here, "Looking Deeper", is the summation of my probing. I share it here with you as an encouragement. May you too take time to pause, ponder and reflect. And may surprising bits of redemptive beauty rise up to greet and empower you in your own journey. Reflective journaling
If you are intrigued by the idea of "reflective journaling", you may enjoy the journal I recently published, "Restful Reflections: An Illustrated Guided Journal for Tending the Heart".
Growing in Gratitude Builds Stronger Bonds of Love
Counting up Blessings
We all know we should ‘count our blessings’; but did you realize that doing so gives tons of positive effects, including promoting loving feelings and happiness?
Half Full or Half Empty?
Finding “the positives” is easier for some than others. We’re naturally wired to either be in one of two categories; we see the glass half full or half empty. My husband is the former. I am the latter. But I’ve discovered that it’s possible to grow and expand the “gratitude” muscle. If you’d like to enlarge your capacity for appreciation, check out these following ideas.
1.) Ready, aim, focus
You may want to set an intention for yourself to focus on cultivating gratitude for at least month. We generally hit what we aim for. Start by focusing on the things YOU are doing that are commendable.
2.)Smile, this is your life!
The incredible thing is that these smiles don't even need to be deeply felt. But in the very act themselves, Neurotransmitters called endorphins are triggered by the movements of the muscles in our face. Our brain responds to these movements by releasing the chemicals, endorphins, which are responsible for making us feel happy, and content.
3.) Grab a notepad by your bed
Each night, before going to sleep, jot down these observations from the day:
4.) Look up and out
5.) Keep it goin'
Upon completion of your month long journey, you may want to continue honing your abilities. Here's just a few ideas for you.
6.) For the brave and daring
Avoid negative media and movies with destructive content.
Yeah, I know, #6 is a real doozy, right?!! Well, that's the one I'm working on now. Do I have any takers? I'd love to have some company!
Red and Pink Candies and Knick-Knacks
February is characterized by red and pink hearts - candies and knick-knacks galore. Store displays remind us that it’s this little month is all about “the love”. Around Valentine’s Day each year, that classic old song, “Love is a Many-Splendored Thing” by Andy Williams, drifts through my head - probably because my parents made good use of Andy's album. Ahh, yes... love is splendid!
Love is a Splendid Thing
But what keeps “love” being so splendid? It’s those simple things like kind gestures, courteous considerations …and gratitude. Did you know studies actually show a direct link between gratitude and love?
How to Grow More "Love"
We can actually cultivate and expand our love by actively looking for, making note of and giving verbal appreciation. And I can personally vouch for this. In our marriage, this has been one of our most sustaining energizers. We’ve been known to make a game of it, taking turns to name 10 things - or more - that we admire about the other. With nearly four decades of a shared life together, it has served us well.
This guy has been helping me understand the power of gratitude since 1981!
Kindness is a ‘superpower.” It can make others glow with good will. And the absence of it has the power to create distance. To grow in kindness, it’s a great idea to reflect at the end of the day, and jot down any kindnesses you may have shared or those received. You might be surprised the effect this practice could have. Then as an additional exercise, you might also write down the missed opportunities where you could have been kind—or kinder.
To hit any target, we focus our aim. I wonder what amazing things could happen if we decide to practice aiming toward kindness. What magical, transformative things might ensue if we set a goal to explore the possibilities of kindness?
The most exciting thing is that kindness is contagious. Even a small act of graciousness is likely spread to others in a “pay it forward” way. Here’s list of ideas we might consider growing our kindness capacity.
1.) Decide to purposefully increase your awareness of kindness. Be on the look-out for acts of kindness around you. Take notice. You might make a sort of game of it.
2.) Be intentional about showing yourself kindness. It actually becomes easier to offer kindness to others when we first extend it to yourself. When we’re hard on ourselves, it make it more challenging to show mercy to others.
3.) Be kinder to yourself. (Yep! I’m repeating the “be kind to yourself” point. Because it really bears repeating!) Embark on a self-care crusade. This can mean anything from getting more sleep to avoiding negative self-talk. Showing yourself kindness has endless ripple effects.
4.) Practice being appreciative. If someone shows you a kindness, instead of brushing it off or saying “you didn’t need to do that,” just say “thank you.” In doing this, you’ll not only tenderize your own heart but you’ll also maximize the other person's enjoyment - which is another form of kindness.
5.) Look for opportunities to practice being kind. It may be something as simple as giving a genuine compliment or giving your full attention in a conversation. Both are simple gestures of kindness.
6.) Aspire to smile more. Smiling increases positivity within yourself while also cheering others. A genuine smile is one of the best ways to we can show cordiality. And we may never know the ripple effects this tiny act can set in motion.
7.) Consider ways you might show courtesy and goodness to the people closest to you. We often take them for granted - snapping at them, or not fully listening. Whenever you lose your temper, apologize immediately. When someone forgets a task, practice saying, “It’s OK. sometimes I forget stuff too.” You will feel lighter knowing you gave a kindness.
8.) Verbally commend someone for a job well done when the occasion arises. It’s even better to do this in front of those who are most appropriately significant, such as co-workers in an office situation, or family members in the home.
9.) Send a card, flowers, cookies or some thoughtful expression to someone you know who is going through a difficult time that lets them know that you care and are thinking of him or her.
10.) Take a deep breath the next time someone is rude or inconsiderate, Instead of getting defensive, consider what trying situation they might be in. Of course this doesn’t mean being a doormat, but just taking a pause and giving them a pass. We all need passes at one time or another.
11.) Express your gratitude to someone who has made a difference in your life. With a letter or in person, share with them how their kindness, support or a particular gesture affected you and how grateful you are to know or have known them. You can be sure that you will make their day and move them deeply with your act of kindness.
12.) Hide notes of encouragement in your spouse’s or child’s lunch box or in a coat pocket, shoes or other place where he or she will receive this nice little surprise. Try to be specific about something they’ve done.
13.) Declare a moratorium on complaining. You can try it just for one day or set a goal of a week. Perhaps even two or three weeks. You might consider tracking how you become more positive, hopeful and optimistic. Not complaining is a kindness because your positivity will help others to do the same.
14.) Listen to people with interest, concern and compassion, giving them your full attention. It is a truth that all people really want is to be seen and heard.
15.) Bring someone a special treat such as donuts, homemade brownies or cookies. This will brighten their day - and yours!
16.) When at a gathering, try looking for that person struggling with socializing. You’ll feel more fulfilled showing this simple kindness. And you may be surprised what incredible, life-changing conversation you may have with them.
These "kindness" prompts are only the beginning of endless possibilities. Have fun with them! Let's all work toward being a kinder, gentler people, shall we?
“Unfortunately, most of us were taught that God would love us if and when we change. In fact, God loves you so that you CAN change. And what empowers change, what makes you desirous of change is the experience of love.” Richard Rohr captures our conflict perfectly.
Ok, friends, It’s Monday. You know what’s coming... stuff of every sort will challenge us. Our peace will be bombarded and accosted. But let’s cling all the more tightly to our peace and not allow it to flutter away.... “Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset.” —Saint Francis de Sales
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For those of us who are facing hard things, I offer the sweet words of C.S. Lewis when he penned Prince Caspian’s sentiment, “Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different ...” Let’s take courage, today, my friends.