Don’t Think about it, Just Jump

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A year ago this week my husband and I were in Maui, taking a private tour on the road to Hana.

If you’re not familiar, the road to Hana is a miles long stretch of highway along the east coast of Maui. As you drive you’ll find yourself in the middle of a glorious rain forest with a number of waterfalls, beaches, and about 64 million photo opps. The views are incredible.

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We were nearing the end of our day when our guide, Laura, brought us to Wai’anapanapa State Park. Here we walked the black sand beaches and afterwards she asked, “Do you guys want to swim in a cave?”

It took me all of ten seconds to answer, “Yes!”

My husband looked at me. Between the two of us, I’m more the adventurer or at least I used to be. He was thinking it through, considering the downsides of swimming in a cave. Do we want to be wet in the car? Did we have the right shoes? What about our wallets and phones?

All I could think about was that I didn’t want to miss out on this experience. We’d wanted to swim in a waterfall, but the week’s heavy rains made doing so unsafe.

It took a little coaxing, a little me talking about this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get my Steve to agree.  But once his concerns were met, he was all in.  After changing into our swimsuits we followed Laura down the short trail to the cave.

“Not everyone knows about this,” she said, “but a lot of locals come here. It’s actually a lava tube (natural tunnel made out of lava) and some even swim out through to the ocean.”

We arrived minutes later to find a father and his four children getting ready for their swim. I watched them, one by one, as they jumped into the narrow opening of the cave. The children were filled with delight, laughing as they jumped, there father right there in the water with them.

Georgia O'Keeffe's Island Fling: Maui, Hawaii

 

After they were all in, Laura followed suit, “Ah, feels good! Who’s next?” she said, “Steve? Tracy?”

Suddenly I was terrified. I hadn’t expected to have to jump into the water, but the rocks were such that one could not step in. They were situated a good six feet above water. When was the last time I’d even jumped off a diving board?

Steve looked at me, “Well? You going?”

I giggled, I do this when I’m nervous. “I don’t know, it looks scary, you go first.”

My husband hesitated, but only for a minute. He jumped, went under and rose to the surface. “Whew!” he said with a laugh.

Oh Lord, it was my turn.

I wasn’t sure I could do it. I wanted to, yet I didn’t. The water was going to be cold (refreshing Laura had called it) and I hate being cold. Not to mention the jumping part  But I knew if I chickened out, I’d regret it. Still, I couldn’t get my feet to remove themselves from the ledge.

The father, who was still in the water, saw the fear in my eyes, “Come on, we’ll count you down,” he said. I looked up at his smiling face, his dark hair slicked back from the wet water. All four of his children were staring at me, excitement in their eyes.

“One, two, three…” shouted the crowd.

Lord have mercy.

“No, no, don’t do that!” I said, giggling again, “That makes it worse!”

Oh, the pressure.

Then Laura gently said the words I needed to hear, “Don’t think about it, just jump.”

Yes, I thought, she’s right. My fear is paralyzing me, holding me hostage. I mean, really, what did I think was going to happen?  I needed to quit thinking and just do it. And with that I closed my eyes, pulled my legs up toward my belly and jumped into the cool dark waters of a cave in Wai’anapanapa State Park in Maui, Hawaii.

It was thrilling.

It was exhilarating.

It was better than I could have ever imagined.

Laura, ever the tour guide, pulled out a waterproof flashlight and told us to follow her into the depths of the cave.  We swam along in the dark, following her tiny light. The water, spring fed, was crystal clear and beautiful.

It was an experience unlike any I’d ever had.

And I’d almost missed it.

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How often, I later wondered, have I allowed my fear to paralyze me?  How often have I missed out on something spectacular because I feared the water might be too cold?  The answer: lately, it had been all too often.

The older I get, the less I like stepping out of my comfort zone. I like being comfortable.  And part of me feels like I’ve already had my share of thrills in this life.

I could be content to sit on the sidelines, watch others ride the roller coaster, cruise the zip line or swim in a cave.

But here’s the thing: there is joy to be had when I step outside of my complacency.

Doing something different, doing something scary is exhilarating. It makes me feel alive, and there is nothing better than feeling alive.

Let me repeat that: There is nothing better that feeling alive.

I’d forgotten about this adventure until recently when we took our daughter to Holiday World.

“Come with us Mom,” she’d said, as she and her friend got in line for a crazy water slide ride.

I hate water slides. I hate being cold and wet and those tunnels on the slides scare me a little.  But I love living. I love the joy of life.

“Okay,” I said, “I’m scared, but I’ll do it.”

In all aspects of my life, I think I need to say that more often.

 

Posted in Faith, Goals, gratitude, inspiration, life lessons, travel, trials, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Standing in the Middle of the Mess

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She came down the stairs, a look of defeat on her face, “It feels like I’m not making any progress,” she said, “You can’t even tell I’ve done anything.”

My oldest daughter is going to grad school and is moving into her own apartment. As my youngest is dying to move into her room, I’ve given the eldest the task of cleaning it out before she leaves. Completely.

She’s been sorting through all her things to determine what she needs to take with her, and is tossing or donating what she no longer needs.  The hardest part is going through all the memorabilia of her childhood.

Boxes and boxes of craft supplies, photographs, papers, notebooks, CDs, stuffed animals, letters from friends, mementos from her high school years. It’s a tough job.

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Cleaning out her room is a big, messy, time consuming endeavor, and not one I can really help with.

“I know,” I say to her, “That’s the way it is when you tackle a big project. It always gets messy before it gets clean.”

We spend the next few minutes talking through her stress. I give her words of encouragement. I suggest she not think about how big the job is, but instead focus on the task at hand. I tell her she will get it done, it just takes time.

It is then that I realize: I need to take my own advice.

I’m working on a book, my second book. And I am smack dab in the middle of the writing. I’ve got pages upon pages of outlines, chapters completed, chapters half-written, a notebook full of words I need to add, change or fact check. I think about it so much my head might actually spin off my body. The thoughts and fears and doubts tumble around my brain over and over again.

Is this a good story?

 Is that part even important?

 Am I getting my point across?

 What am I missing?

 Is this entire project a fail?

Just as my daughter is cleaning out the belongings and memories from her childhood, I am cleaning out the inklings and thoughts in my heart.

As I look at what I’ve written, I realize it doesn’t all quite go together yet. I’ve got some stories on paper and others lingering in my brain.  I’ve got plot twists rolling around in my subconscious attempting to rise to the surface. Part of me is crazed with wanting to sit down immediately and complete this puzzle. But another part of me wants to run away from it all, ditch the entire project.

Like my daughter, I often cannot see any progress. But I won’t give up.  Because I’ve learned that sticking it out makes all the difference.

In 2013, I attended the Midwest Writers Workshop. It was my first time there (I went this year too, it’s a great conference!) and I especially enjoyed a session called Buttonhole the Experts. Attendees can sit down with a faculty member (all of whom are successful in their own right) and ask anything they want. I sat at a table with Hank Phillipi Ryan, a successful journalist and author of multiple, award-winning mystery novels. Ryan spoke of how she became a novelist and how she goes about writing her books.

There were eight of us wannabees at the table, clinging to her every word, anxious to learn her secret sauce. You know what she said? Every time she writes a book, she doubts herself. Every time.

She feels the same way when she’s working on a news story.  About half way through, when things get tough, she feels like giving up. The various parts of the story feel unorganized and pointless, like nothing viewers would ever be interested in. It gets…messy.

But she keeps working and next thing you know the story comes together.  Ryan eventually realized messy is just part of the process.  Her comment really struck me.  It helped me complete my first book and as I remember it now, it will help me finish this one.

I need to get comfortable with the chaos.  A mess lying at my feet can be overwhelming, it feels as if I’ll never get the job done.  Never get the room clean, the event planned, the kid raised or the book written. But that’s okay.

Feeling anxious and overwhelmed is a step within the process.  

If I keep cleaning, writing, event planning or sticky-finger wiping, my efforts eventually pay off.  The disarray and clutter come together. And then, the hard work transforms into something beautiful.

UPDATE:  We moved our Sarah into her apartment last Friday. I’m not sure she could be any more excited for her new journey.

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I’m sure her year will be filled with new experiences, some good, some not so good. She’ll have days where she questions herself, her abilities, the choices she’s made. But she’ll also have days when everything comes together.  And in the end, because I know my girl won’t give up, she’ll end up with a diploma (and hopefully a job).

My youngest girl now gets a new empty room to make her own.

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And me? I’m embracing the messy.

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I’ll keep trudging along and remind myself that with time, all my post it notes, lists of edits, and half-written stories will eventually come together. I can only hope it turns out to be something beautiful.

Posted in attitude, Faith, Family Life, Goals, humor, inspiration, kids, life lessons, parenting, trials, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

On Becoming a Cowgirl, or Finding Your Happy Place

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It’s day one of our adventure and we’re getting ready. I look across the room and see my husband sliding his feet into his new cowboy boots. I can’t help it, the sight makes me chuckle.

Steve. In cowboy boots. Never in a million years did I think I’d see it. He looks up at me and grins. “What?” he says.

“Nothing, it’s just…you’ve changed. I never thought I’d see you in boots. This is not the same man I married twenty-five years ago,” I say with a giggle.

He smiles, “I don’t know, I think I’ve just figured it out, the things that make me happy.”

I knew exactly what he meant. My husband comes alive when he is in nature, he loves being in wide open spaces and watching wildlife.  I too, am learning to recognize what I love.  I’m learning the difference between things I like, and things that bring me great joy. They are very different things.

My family has just returned from a week at the Bar W, a dude ranch in Whitefish, MT. For me, it was a dream vacation; a bucket list item I’ve been considering for over 10 years. Was it expensive? Yes.  Did it measure up to my long held expectations? Yes.

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There are so many reasons this was a great trip. For one, it was a wonderful ranch in a beautiful setting and we had great weather. The staff, food and lodging were top notch. Secondly, my family and I had the opportunity to try new things: fly-fishing, skeet shooting and river rafting to name a few. But really, for me anyway, the joy was in the setting.

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 I seem to find myself in nature. It is here than I can stop thinking about everything and focus solely on the trees, the wildflowers, the colorful stones I find upon the path I’m walking. I loved being able to get up, throw on a pair of dirty jeans and head out for a morning ride (so much better than waking up to check email, Facebook and the news). I loved getting to know my horse Cody (sweet but grumpy, with a penchant for wildflowers).  I loved waking up in the middle of the night, peaking out the window  and being rewarded with a multitude of stars. 

 

I think I could have been a cowgirl. I could have been happy growing up in a small town in the west where riding, rodeos and line dancing aren’t a novelty, they are just what you do. I could be okay with crawling out of bed, sliding my feet into my boots and spending the day getting dusty and dirty with the horses.  Maybe.  I mean, I will say I was sore in all kinds of strange places by the end of the week.

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It doesn’t matter if I could or couldn’t.  The chances of me chucking my life and becoming a cowgirl at this point are slim to none.  Instead I’ll make sure I make time for nature in my city girl life.  I’ll take walks in the park, watch the sunset from my patio and take full days to unplug, completely.  It won’t be quite the same, but hey a (cow)girl can try.

Thanks Montana, you’ve helped me find my happy place.  Friends, where is yours?  

 

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6 Lessons Learned From Being Alone

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My bucket list, handwritten in 1998.

Back in 1998, a friend and I decided we would make bucket lists; 100 things we wanted to do in our lifetime. My list was entitled, My Ultimate To-Do List! Oh my, was I young…

Anyway, I keep this list in my nightstand drawer and look at it from time to time. It’s interesting to note I never came up with 100 things I wanted.  In fact, I got stuck at 61. Of those, I’ve now done 29. I don’t consciously work my way through the list. I just come back to it from time to time and happily discover I’ve completed a few more items.

Last week, I was able to scratch off item number 23: Take a trip by myself.

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While most people shy away from being alone, I seem to revel in it. It’s not that I am a loner; in fact I’m quite social. But being alone recharges me. It is in the quiet that I find peace and renewal. So when my husband gave me the go-ahead to go away for a few days to work on my next book, I jumped.  Days before my trip, I began to get cold feet.

What if I’m lonely?

 What if I get bored?

 What if I can’t get myself to work?

 What if an Uber driver abducts me?

 I’m happy to report none of these things happened. In fact, I had an AMAZING trip! I not only got work done, but I also rested, road my bike and took long walks. And most important, I gained insight into myself and the way I work. Here’s a bit about what I learned.

6 THINGS I LEARNED FROM BEING ALONE

1-THERE IS VALUE IN DOING NOTHING. I’ve heard this before but the idea is so counter-intuitive to the US culture. On this trip, I really allowed myself to indulge in doing absolutely nothing for a few minutes every morning. I did not think, pray or plan my day. It was just a cup of tea, the beautiful view and me. This practice not only relaxed my body, but also relaxed my brain. Ultimately I believe I was more productive over the day for having started it in this way.

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2-I TALK TO MYSELF. I’ve always talked to myself, but I never really noticed how much I do it until I was surrounded by silence. Or standing in the produce aisle of the grocery by myself (embarrassing!). But as it turns out talking to yourself isn’t so strange after all. A lot of people do so and in fact experts believe there are benefits to those of us who chatter solo. More on this here: http://www.today.com/health/talk-yourself-out-loud-here-s-why-experts-say-s-t76531

3-THE NOISE OF LIFE ZAPS MY CREATIVITY. By nature, I’m a do-er, a list-maker, a get-things-done kind of girl. I like having a rhythm to my day. I enjoy hearing the hum of the dishwasher and washer in the background as I work in my home office.  I like to  take a break from work to check Facebook or to get a handle on the endless email.  But writing is so mental. It takes getting out of your head to get in the creative zone. Thus my constant, internal struggle… I’ve learned when I step away from the list, the housework, the junk of life, my mind is free to wander.  It allows me to look at my writing in a different way, to think more out of the box.  I hope I can find ways to continue to do more of this now that I’m home (I’m a work in progress people).

4-THERE ARE A LOT OF THINGS IN THIS WORLD I COULD LIVE WITHOUT. Let’s just name a few: reality TV, junk food, make up, many forms of social media and about 85% of what is being calling news these days.

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5-THERE ARE SOME THINGS I CAN’T. Chocolate, books, tea and comfy pajamas are high on that list.

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6-I REALLY LOVE MY FAMILY. While I loved being alone, I equally loved coming back home to my family and friends.  I’m so grateful that my hubby and kids understood my need to get away and that they loved me enough to allow me that time.

Have you ever traveled alone or thought about doing so? 

After having this on my Bucket List for 18 years, I can now say I wish I’d done it sooner.  I imagine it’s like that for most things we put off. Perhaps that is the biggest lesson learned. 

 

 

 

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Like Mother, Like Daughter

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My mom, daughter, me and Grandma ‘Cille

 

If she were here, she’d have called me on the phone a month ago, asking me about my plans for Mother’s Day.

I’d have said, “I don’t know Mom, I haven’t gotten there yet.”

If she were here, she’d have called back an hour and a half later. If we did come over, she’d say, would pot roast be okay? Kroger had a sale and she has a nice one in the freezer. She’d also make mashed potatoes, and strawberries for the kids of course. And pound cake for dessert.

I’d be chuckling at her enthusiasm over food, and would have replied with, “Okay, Mom, we’ll see. I need to figure out what we’re doing first.”

It’s what she did when she was here.

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If my mother was anything, she was enthusiastic about life.  Whatever she did, she did full on.  Whatever she loved, she loved with all her heart. And whenever she was faced with pain or sadness, she chose to look to the good.

I miss my mother most every day. I miss her phone calls and our conversations about my kids and the way she got mad at my father for being forgetful. I miss her smile, the light in her eyes and her determination to live a normal life despite being chained to an oxygen tank.

I miss her.

Though my grief has subsided, and my memories are no longer painful, losing my mother fashioned a hole in my heart. It’s the smallest of fissures, but it’s a space too substantial to ever be filled. Oh have I tried: stuffing the heart with food, alcohol or material items. But such tactics fail me.

So what do I do with this hole in my heart?  With time, I have to learned to:

Acknowledge its presence.

Feel my pain.

And most importantly, move on.

So often in life I don’t want to feel. Pain. Anger. Stress. Sadness. Frustration. When these emotions come, I want to drown them.

I eat.

I drink.

I buy shoes.

I pray for God to make it all go away.

As I gain in years, I’m learning; I can’t really escape reality (who knew?).

I might get nice shoes out of the deal, but fabulous feet won’t really curb my pain.

I’ve also learned that heartache and joy are not mutually exclusive.  Instead, the two reside side by side, taking turns with me throughout life.  I can feel sad about my father’s dementia and thankful for my lovely daughters all in the same space and time.  I can be happy over the richness of life and aching for a friend’s challenges all at the same time.

I can feel, I can release and I can move on, thanking God for the many gifts I have in life.

Like mother, like daughter, I guess.  It’s perhaps the most important lesson she ever taught me.  Now, on to plan Sunday’s dinner…

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY TO ALL THE FABULOUS MOTHERS IN MY LIFE!

 

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Mom at her beloved lake house.

 

 

 

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10 Reasons Why I Love Yoga

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I’ve spent the majority of my life exercising. But in the last seven months I’ve been fighting a few pesky health issues that have knocked me off the proverbial exercise wagon.

Only now am I beginning to get back into my routine, and I’m starting with yoga. I’ve practiced yoga on and off for years, but today I have a new appreciation for this ancient practice and want to share why.  

If you never tried yoga, here are 10 reasons why you should.

1-Yoga is for both the Body and the Mind. Yoga has long been considered a physical, mental and spiritual practice. The stretches and poses reduce the stress hormone Cortisol in the body. Your muscles get a workout while your brain gets a break. What could be better than that?

2-Yoga allows me to Move at my Own Pace. I love that there is no stress of competition or comparison. I can work on my tree pose as fast or as slow as I like. I’ll probably never master the headstand. But who cares? There is no pressure and I slowly improve.

3-Yogi’s are Friendly. I’ve met more people in yoga than any other exercise class. It’s a friendly, nurturing environment, making conversation easy. It’s perfect for introverts like me.

4-Yoga Works a Variety of Muscles. Most gym classes focus on strengthening the same muscles. Yoga poses often stretch muscles we rarely use otherwise. It’s a great way to strengthen the entire body.

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5-Yoga Instructors Tell Me What I Need to Hear.   Just breath…Focus on this moment…Give yourself permission to let go of everything…”  These sweet words of calm and peace are music to my ears in this very busy world we live in. I can’t get enough of it.

6-Yoga reminds me to Live in the Moment. The deep breaths, the positive words from the instructor, the slow and steady movements for each pose, all these things help me to stay in the present. I can forget about everything that happened before I came to yoga and everything I need to do after. It’s like getting a break from my brain.

7-Yoga is for Everyone. Most yoga classes welcome people of all ages and abilities. I’ve been in classes with seniors, high school and/or college students, and even mothers with their young ones. It’s nice to take a class with a variety of people.   And I love that even as I get older, I won’t have to give it up any time soon.

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8-Yoga Eases My Aches and Pains. Another benefit of yoga is how I feel afterwards: relaxed, calm and able to handle whatever is coming next. The pain and tension I come into the studio with are left behind when I leave. I also tend to sleep better after a yoga session.

9-Yoga Class is a Judgment Free Zone. Yoga is all about acceptance. As you learn poses, you learn to push yourself, but never to the point of pain. Instead, you become skilled at accepting where your and accepting your body’s limits.

10-Shavasana, need I say more? Most yoga classes end with Shavasana, a final resting posture. It is meant to be a time of complete relaxation to give closure to the session and help the body and mind reap the benefits derived from the class. But whatever-to me it’s a tiny, ten-minute slice of heaven.

I believe when we enjoy an activity, we’re more likely to stick to it.  What’s your favorite exercise or stress reliever?

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Nothing Good Happens After Midnight and Other Lessons From My Youth

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“…And you know what he said? He said, ‘It’s good to want, Tracy.’”

I chuckled to myself at the memory.

My daughter was less than impressed.  “I know, Mom. You’ve already told me this story…”

Had I? I couldn’t remember. But it’s true I’m often recounting tales from my childhood with my own children.  I do so as an example.

My parents were very wise people.

My father was a man of quotes. I don’t know if he made them up or heard them elsewhere but he had a slew of them up his sleeve. He repeated them so often that they’ve been ingrained in my memory.

When I complained that things weren’t fair, he’d say, “Tracy, the fair is where you go to see the horses and the pigs.”

When I whined about life in general, I’d hear, “In each one’s life, a little rain must fall.”

When I wanted something he considered unnecessary, he’d inevitably say, “It’s good to want.”   End of story.

My father gave me wise words designed to teach.

In my teen years, I often begged to stay out later, and he’d say, “Tracy, nothing good happens after midnight.”   I later learned in college that this was pretty much true.

When I got old enough to have a say in my curfew, he’d (jokingly) tell me, “Don’t call me if you go to jail.”

You know what? I did go to jail. It was a minor infraction, a cops teaching teens a lesson kind of thing. And though I hesitated for a minute, I did call my father (who else was I going to call?).  And yes, he came to get me.

My father may have been disappointed in my behavior, but he was there for me. He helped me through the situation.

My father showed me love through his actions.  

My mother had a few sayings of her own. Her words helped me in times of great duress.

When life got difficult and I wasn’t sure how to get through a situation, my mother would tell me, “The only way out is through.”

When I felt like giving up, when things looked hopeless, my mother would remind me, “This too shall pass.”

When I struggled to take a risk, my mom, who knew I tend to doubt myself,  would always say, “I think you should do it.”

My mother believed in me and gave me hope.

Now, everything is different.

My mom is gone, I’ve been without her for almost two years.

My dad is in assisted living, his memory not what it once was.

My words of wisdom and encouragement now come from a different place.    

When I need words for how to live, I go to the Bible.

When I need direction, I pray.

When I need to hold on to hope, I focus on scriptures.

And you know what?

Just like my parents, God gives me wise words designed to teach.

Just like my parents, God shows me love and grace.

Just like my parents, God believes in me and gives me hope.

When life doesn’t feel fair, when things don’t go the way I want, when the only way out is through, I now turn to my heavenly Father. 

I want nothing more than to lean on him, rely on him.

I want the peace that surpasses all understanding. 

Sometimes it’s hard to hold on to my faith.  And I admit, I fail, over and over again. Worry usurps trust. 

I want so badly to get better at this. And so, I will keep trying.

He may have meant something completely different, but my dad had it right: It’s good to want.

 

 

 

 

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Pain, Acceptance and God’s Magic Wand

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“I just want to eat,” she says with a frown, as she stares at the fruit on her plate. She is grumpy and I get it, I understand why. I remember the pain.

“I know,” I say, “and you will. The pain you are feeling today won’t last. Soon, you’ll be able to eat lots of things.”

From the look on her face, I’m pretty sure she does not believe me. After all, she’s thirteen and I am her mother, one of the least credible sources in her universe.

While I know the pain will end, she can’t see it.

My youngest daughter got braces this week. And while I must say she’s been a good sport about it all, today the pain is getting to her. Today she is sick and tired of her teeth hurting.

I’m right there with her. Only for me, it’s my back.

I’ve had back pain for four months. It’s manageable in the day, but really bad at night. I’ve done all I could to remedy it. I’ve been stretching and icing and taking Advil and getting adjusted by a chiropractor. I’ve backed off on exercise. All of this helps. So just when I start to feel better, when I get excited and anxious to get back to my old ways, I do something to exasperate it. Then I find myself back at square one. It’s getting old (apparently so am I).

As I’ve prayed about this, or rather, as I’ve complained to God about this, I can’t help but wonder why it’s happening. I’ve always been healthy. No major illnesses, no major surgeries, nary a trip to the ER that I can remember (beside the time I got hit by a car, that’s a story for another day…).   Now what, God, what do I do?

How can I help myself get better? What am I doing to make this worse? How can I sleep at night in the meantime? And the scariest question of all, will I always be in this pain? Am I forever done with yoga and Pilates and strength training and long walks and early morning bike rides? (One might think I’d be much thinner with all this activity…).

I’d like to tell you God gave me a concrete answer. That he whispered in my ear that this too shall pass, and that soon I’d be downward-dogging to my heart’s content. He did not.

I’m praying and waiting and praying and waiting. Sometimes, this is how it works.

I’ve just finished Jonathan Golden’s book, Be You. Do Good.   The book itself talks about how to find and pursue your calling. Jonathon is the founder of Land of a Thousand Hills, a multi-million dollar coffee company.   He’s also am Anglican Pastor and Executive Life Coach. His company provides work and wages for over 2,500 Rwandan farmers and their families. Wow! He’s a driven dreamer with a lot of great advice on partnering with God as you pursue utilizing the gifts He has graced you with.  But my favorite part about the book was his talk about time.

Golden explains that in English we have just one word for time, but that in Greek there are two words to describe different kinds of time. Chronos refers to time on the clock, how much time we have in a given day. Kairos refers to opportunity, the time when you are in a prime moment of life and seize what is before you. Think of the unknown recording artist who happens to be in the elevator with a music producer. The artist just happens to have a copy of his music with him and seizes the opportunity to give his music to the producer.

Golden goes on to talk about how when we go after our calling, we are sure to face challenges. He stresses the importance of learning to get through these times instead of trying to force outcome in a certain direction. When difficulties arise, we must be patient, pray and wait on God. Kairos will come, in God’s time, not ours. This is the part that stuck with me.

Though I am wired to act, to solve my own problems in life, I am better if I am in sync with God’s plans for me. I must partner with him, not just in the pursuit of my calling, but in all aspects of my life. There are times I wish it didn’t work this way. I wish God would just wave his magic wand for those of us who are giving a life a faith the old college try.  But unfortunately, one can’t abandon all faith during the crappy parts of life.  The pain-in-the-back parts. The part your when braces hurt like heck.

Looking at my daughter, I finally hear for myself the words I just said to her.  And I realize, even though God didn’t whisper it in my ear, it’s true; This too shall pass. 

“Would you like a milkshake?” I say to my daughter. 

Her eyes immediately light up. It may not be the most nutritious dinner, but it will get her through.

Accepting where I am, trusting where God is taking me, and getting through, this is the life of faith. 

 

 

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All I Want for Christmas is…

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Dear Santa,

Hello from Indiana. I hope you and the Mrs. are well. How are the elves?  I’m hoping they aren’t too sleep-deprived during this last minute holiday rush in the workshop.

I’m so excited that Christmas is just days away, and I’m really trying to focus on soaking up the season. I want to remember what it’s really about, and also what it’s not about: shopping, stress, erroneously working my tail off to make sure everything is perfect and eating too many cookies. I’m a work in progress Santa…

Today I’m writing for two reasons: I want to personally thank you for last year’s gifts, and to present you with this year’s wish list.

You really delivered in 2015, Santa. I was especially grateful for the following:

1-Another Year of Health and Happiness. I know I complain a lot, especially about my back. I’ll try to curb my whining in the coming year and remember that it could be worse. Because I know, especially now that I’m 50, that not everyone gets the gift of another year. I want to thank you for the years I’ve been given and all the good you’ve thrown my way.

2-My Family. I know I complain about them, Santa. It seems I can’t help myself. But they truly are the people I love the most on this earth. And while I don’t think about it often, I know any one of them could be taken from me at anytime. It’s a horrifying thought, and I don’t want my last words to any of them to be ‘For the love of God, could you just pick up your shoes?’ any more than you do. So thanks for giving me chance after chance to get it right.

3-My work. Santa, you knew just how badly I wanted to get my book published and having it happen was the best gift! That so many people took time out of their day to tell me they enjoyed it-well, that was just icing on the cake. I even (sort of) like the way you kept me humble throughout the process. Those events that didn’t pan out, they were a great reminder that I’m nobody special, just a girl who likes to write.

Decorated Christmas tree on white background

As for this year, here are a few of the gifts I’d love to find under my tree:

1-Patience. Oh Santa, we both know I lack in this department. I hate waiting, be it for lunch meat at the deli counter, my problems to be resolved, or the weight to come off. We live in such a day of immediate gratification and that makes it hard. But Santa, I also know having more patience will make me a better, stronger and more compassionate person.

2-Faith. I know I should believe in you with all my heart, but sometimes, you seem far away and I forget you’re really right there with me. You see me when I’m sleeping; you know when I’m awake: I know this Santa! But still, I question. Still, I worry. Still, I doubt. With the gift of faith, I know I can be an encouragement to others.

3-Courage. This one will come easier if you give me gifts #1 and 2, Santa. But even so, I’ll need another dose to get through my days. When the world gets rough, I need courage to face the day, courage to press forward and courage to do the right thing, day in and day out. Courage will give  legs to my fear, Santa.  Just think of what all I could accomplish if I’d just focus on what is to come (the big picture) instead of the challenge in front of me.

Santa, every Christmas for 50 years, you have shown up. You’ve been there for me and you always leave me at least a little something. For that I thank you.  I may not always get what I want, but I always end up appreciating what you’ve delivered. I think it’s safe to say you are the best gift-giver.   Enjoy the cookies-

Love,

Tracy

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Gratitude Schmatitude! What really makes us happy?

Happiness Key On Keyboard Meaning Pleasure Delight Or Joy

Happiness is watching a cute movie on a chilly Saturday afternoon.

For the first time in a very long time, I found myself with an empty Saturday afternoon this past weekend. What a treat! And so yes, I could have gone to the gym or cleaned my house or done the laundry, but I didn’t. Instead I chose to plop down on the couch, wrap up in a blanket, and watch a movie. I’m so glad I did.

The movie I chose (or rather Netflix suggested) was Hector and the Search for Happiness. As my daughter says, it was a total Tracy movie. In this film, the main character Hector, a middle-aged English man, finds himself a bit bored with work and life. Being that he is a psychiatrist, Hector is concerned that since he himself is feeling out of sorts, perhaps he’s not serving his patients well.  So much to the dismay of his girlfriend, he decides to take off and travel the world for “research.” For the majority of the movie, we watch as Hector goes through a myriad of comical and scary adventures. All the while he is keeping a list of what does and does not make people happy.

Hector And The Search For Happiness

I enjoyed this movie because it was different and funny yet also meaningful. And it really got me thinking: what makes us happy, or more important personally, what makes me happy? I think it’s definitely a question we need to ask ourselves, for many reasons.

I am a Christian which also means I believe I’m designed to serve God and my fellow man.  One could easily argue that happiness should not be on my priority list.  However, I believe God wants us to be content (check out Ecclesiastes 3:12-13, Psalms 37:4, Proverbs 17:22 or 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ).  I also think we’re at our best when our own needs are met.  It is then that we can be more productive, kind, loving and giving toward others. It’s a win for the world.

So the question becomes, how does one achieve happiness?  Is it through attaining our goals? Acquiring the cool things we covet?  Spending time with loved ones?  Giving to others? Traveling more?  Though it’s a simple question, the answer must be elusive to many, as there are a myriad of books and psychological research on the topic.  This blog post could go in a million directions, but let’s stick with the movie for now.

The list Hector comes up with is a good one. And while I won’t spoil the movie for you by sharing it, I will say this: when it comes to being happy, think small. Through his experiences and the people he meets, Hector realizes happiness is not about possessions or accomplishments or money or looks or having found the love of your life even.  It is about the way you live, love and perceive the world around you.

Two weeks ago the pastor at my church suggested we keep a gratitude journal for two weeks (until Thanksgiving) and see how it makes a difference. Yawn. How often have we all heard this?  For about 5 seconds I smugly thought about how for years I’ve been writing down 5 things I’m thankful for each day. But that thought was quickly countered by another thought (um, thanks God, for the reality check).  I currently mark off the things I’m grateful for faster than I make out my grocery list. Lame!  So, I decided to challenge myself. I would not only write about the things I am thankful for, but also a few sentences about why I was thankful for those things.

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I’m only a week in, and I can’t tell you what a difference it has made.  Writing about my blessings and why I’m grateful for them makes them come alive. I begin to feel excited about all the things I have. And trust me, I’m just your average person.  Today I wrote about how much I love a class I’m taking, how lucky I am to have my best friend, how cozy my house is when it’s cold and rainy out and how fuzzy socks rock.  Sounds silly, but it does the trick.  I believe this exercise is improving my mood (perhaps we should ask my husband to be sure…). I actually looking forward to the few minutes I spend on it each day.

Am I a Pollyanna you ask? Well, maybe.  I do try to focus on the good in life.  But it doesn’t mean I’m in denial. I’ve had my share of cruddy times.  Haven’t we all.  I could write an entire post of all the thing in my life that make me slightly batty.  But I don’t like focusing on such things. It downright sucks the energy right out of me.  So when I start down that path, I try to remember: When I choose to focus on what I’m grateful for (every day, not just during the holidays) I am rewarded.  My mood is lighter, my perspective changed, my heart a little healthier. I’m sure that I’m a little easier to live with.

We hear it all the time: be grateful.  In fact, we hear it so much we often tune out the message. We’ve long been reminded to focus on our blessings or keep a gratitude journal.  We’re all well aware that research proves gratitude is good for us.  In some ways, we’re kind of over the entire message.

But still. There it is: gratitude and happiness go hand in hand. It’s the simplest answer of all.

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HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO MY AMERICAN FRIENDS AND HAPPY DAY TO THE REST OF YOU!  MAY YOU ALL REMEMBER HOW BLESSED YOU TRULY ARE.

 

 

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