Compassion is the universal language of humanity. No matter what words you speak, acts of kindness and empathy resonate soul-deep. The more we each speak this language of compassion in thought, word and action, the more we’ll understand each other. The more we understand each other the more we can imbue our lives with peace.
Take Action: Today find a way to speak the language of compassion by reaching out to another person (family member, friend or stranger) and asking “What can I do to support you today?” And then if you’re able, do that thing.
The other day I attended a bridal shower where the honored guest asked everyone to offer a piece of marriage advice. It is always interesting to stop and consider marriage from the perspective of someone just diving into it. With every ounce of newlywed respect, it felt a little like trying to explain how to use, clean and care for one of the brightly wrapped gifts in front of her when her focus was, quite naturally, on the novelty of the item. I wanted to share wisdom and perspective about the work ahead, offer warnings about pitfalls and acknowledge the potential for deep and lasting joy. This is the jist of what I said:
With this marriage you are creating something that has never existed before. You each bring unique strengths and vulnerabilities to the relationship and your task is to combine those in a way that allows you to move through your days, weeks and years together. Life will invite you and this marriage of yours to many places. Some of those moments will be surprising and may break things that you thought were sure. Other moments will reveal that ties that seemed weak were actually very strong. It is important to remember that in all of this you have the ability to choose how you navigate those moments. The more times you are both able to turn to each other, communicate, draw on your inherent strengths, humbly accept and seek to move through your vulnerabilities the more your relationship can grow. And the more moments you can string together where all parties are growing and becoming something stronger, the more your marriage will thrive.
Take Action: Think of a relationship you value. It could be a marriage, partnership or friendship. Express gratitude to the other person in that relationship today. It could simply be for the existence of the relationship and how it enhances your life or for something specific like a kindness offered or a strength they possess.
Recently my family moved about 1,500 miles from the place we’d lived for the past 12 years. We’ve approached the experience with a mix of gratitude, sadness, joy and adventure. We are so grateful for the life we lived in San Antonio and the people we came to know and love. Because of the beauty of our life and our love for the people we feel sadness at leaving. At the same time we feel joy and excitement at the opportunity of living close to our family, trying new things, meeting new people and having new adventures.
Over the past few weeks as I’ve sought to settle into a new rhythm of life I’ve found myself missing certain people or experiences. Something will trigger a memory and I’ll feel a wave or twinge of longing. In those moments I’ve decided to honor that connection by drawing a part of that person close, whether it’s in practicing creativity in a way they’ve taught me or saying or doing something that reminds me of them and makes them feel near. It’s comforting.
After several of these experiences I began to think of heaven and how this life gives us the chance to live removed from the Divinity from which we came and sometimes we have moments where our soul remembers it’s part of something much bigger. In living, we are presented with a similar invitation to grasp these bits of divine that we recognize along our path and weave them into our being, giving increasing voice to that infinite part of us that has always existed and will always exist. Sometimes the distance, the longing helps us understand what we value the most and it gives us clues of what to seek.
Take Action: You receive daily communication from your body, mind and soul. Today open yourself up to the wisdom of your soul, notice the things that invite you to greater peace, greater love, greater awe. Those are the moments when your soul is speaking.
After reconciling himself to the actual ocean crossing and seeking ore to make tools, Nephi’s next step was to commence building the worthy vessel that would convey his entire family across the deep water to an entirely different life. In moments of uncertainty it is nice to fall back on the familiar but Nephi’s way forward would be anything but familiar. He says that as he began building the ship he did not build it “after the manner of men” but rather was instructed by the Lord on how it should be pieced together. I think this part of the story strikes at the heart of the living that we all do each day. When we realize that we are on the shores of an ocean we’d like some sort of blueprint for the boat that will take us safely across foreign waters but often God asks us to trust Him as He helps us to build our own curious ship. Like Nephi’s, your vessel may not look anything like ships you’ve see and you may not understand why certain things need be a part of it but oftentimes the wisdom of the form is revealed over time. As Nephi’s boat took shape he was ridiculed by his brothers for the unfamiliar design of his ship. In those moments where doubt was flung at him from many angles, he was invited to dive into deeper attunement with heaven and trust the revelation that he was receiving. Those, my friends, are the formative moments, where we own our own architecture with God. And the potential result of those brave moments, if we stick with the building, is a kind of soul-deep knowing that influences everything else we create with Him.
Take Action: If, in your occasions of forward progress, you have times where the deafening voices around you crowd out the whisperings of intuition and inspiration, take note and find a few quiet moments to re-align with Heaven and then tuck those moments of connection deep in your soul, stand tall and walk confidently forward knowing that you and God are building something that is strong and seaworthy to carry you purposefully across the oceans you face.
There was a man named Nephi (pronounced Knee-Fye) who was working to take his family to a safe place where they could live peacefully and worship God. He sought heaven’s guidance as he journeyed toward this place and God promised him that he would find it. At one point, after wandering with both his immediate and extended family for quite some time he came to water. Not just a small bit of water but an ocean. Like many of us do when faced with a seemingly insurmountable obstacle to our forward progress, Nephi stops for a while, camping at the side of this ocean. When Nephi comes to terms with the reality that an ocean crossing is in his future he does what faithful people do, he asks God to help him figure out how to make it happen. He’s not a boater or shipbuilder, he hasn’t brought tools or sails or anything to make this job the least bit easier. But he is a believer and in this instance, like in any instance, that is enough. He shows his willing (maybe resigned belief) in the next question he asks God which is “Where can I go to find ore to make tools?” Note that he didn’t ask for a boat. So often I ask God to deliver a boat to get me across the oceans I face. But the more oceans I cross with His guidance the more I treasure the grace-full way He teaches me to build boats. In my experience He is always willing to answer prayers for tools once we cultivate a willingness to build the boat.
Take Action: Are there any tools you need to get somewhere in your life? Tools that will help you face a daunting obstacle? Tools that will enable you to move out of a stuck place? I know God loves us and wants to bless us. With that in mind, identify what it is you need in order to make forward progress and then ask him to help you find the tools (people, resources, education, wisdom, experience) to make it happen. Then look earnestly for those things and you will find them.
I’ve gotten a lot of questions lately about the Autoimmune Protocol I followed for two years to put Hashimoto’s into remission. When I began the AIP I knew it as the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol which was put together by Sarah Ballantyne, PhD. It stood out to me amidst all the other healing protocols for these reasons:
- Sarah Ballantyne is a mom so presumably her ideas would fit a family lifestyle.
- She holds a PhD in Immunology and she could explain fairly complex biology in clear and straightforward ways.
- She pulled in pieces of research and information that seemed connected to her autoimmune diseases and built a protocol around it that other people had success with. One of her initial followers, Mickey Trescott, had reversed Hashimotos using the protocol.
- The protocol bore some resemblance to the initial diet my endocrinologist had me try to level my blood sugar and get some energy coursing through me.
After seeking to follow the protocol for 18 months I had normal thyroid numbers and much better self care. I was off my Synthroid medication. Now I could call it the Almost Impossible Program. Almost impossible because most people that I talked to (doctors, friends, family) couldn’t believe I was doing it (especially for so long) nor could they believe it would actually deliver results. Despite the fact that it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, I’m really grateful I invested time, resources and energy into learning more about how to live well in this body of mine.
On Three Kings Day my daughter Jessica received three soft juggling balls in her shoes along with an instruction sheet on the art of juggling. As with any new endeavor, she took to it with great enthusiasm, confidently tossing all three balls in the air expecting to be able to keep them aloft with relative ease. After all, people make it look easy all the time. After a few attempts she got frustrated so we pulled out the instruction sheet which directed her to practice juggling with only two balls and to add the third only when two could be consistently kept airborne. Though juggling two balls doesn’t seem overly complex, there is a recommended way to keep the balls moving so as to easily incorporate a third. Without practice with the rhythm it’s hard to smoothly transition to an additional item to juggle.
I have thought a lot about juggling this week as I try to keep myself and my family aloft while tossing a business into the mix. When we’re faced with an unexpected or new endeavor life invites us to practice juggling more than we’re used to. Initially it can feel overwhelming and frustrating, especially if other people seem to have a handle on it and we find ourselves with not one but maybe all three balls falling to the ground despite our frantically flailing arms. I’m a firm believer in practice and respect for growth. I may not be able to juggle those three things proficiently now but with patience and a focus on my established rhythms I think I can get there. You can too, with whatever you’re trying to juggle in your life. In the meantime, if you see me dropping the ball just give me an encouraging smile.
As I mentioned in my “Love Story” Facebook posts a few months back, Ritchie and I went on our first date Valentines Day 1997 which means that we’ve spent the last 20 years cultivating our relationship. As I look back and reflect on how those two sweet teenagers made their way from that first spark of giddy infatuation to more steady and enduring love, I am reminded of how small consistent decisions have far-reaching consequences. Here are a few decisions we make that I am so very grateful for…
-Greet with a hug and a kiss. I watched my parents do this and so it seemed natural to welcome Ritchie home at the end of the day with this small ritual. When it was just the two of us I would stop whatever I was doing when he got home and meet him at the door. Now I am usually outpaced by Jessica and Cassie but almost everyday we all express our gratitude for Daddy’s arrival home.
-Fight fair. Early when we were married I drove Ritchie nuts as I played both referee and combatant in our verbal tiffs. With my Family Science degree I was armed with communication recommendations (many of which I am still working at :)) and I would stop us in the middle of an argument to insist that we not use words like “always” or “never” or to patiently request a specific example when I felt I was unjustly accused of something. 20 years later that looks like clear and calm communication most of the time.
-Commit to creating something unique. The relationship we have is unlike any other we have had or ever will have and it is different from any other marriage we know about. As long as we both keep choosing to make it a priority it will grow and deepen. We each bring our own gifts and in this shared space of our relationship we seek ways to let those gifts flourish as we develop as individuals, as a couple and now as a family. As two different individuals seeking to grow, learn and make it through life we sometimes stumble and we each have a birds eye view of the others shortcomings. In those moments we have the opportunity to extend patience, understanding and love and to witness the distinct beauty that comes from intimate kindness.
-Smile at each other. As often as we can. In the unexpected moments, the ones those two teens never could have dreamed of, from the hours of anxious anticipation in IVF clinics to the breathtaking views from mountain jungles sometimes there aren’t words to convey the emotion or the gratitude we’re feeling. In those moments, with a simple smile I’m saying thank you for the gift of your loyal and incredible soul at my side along this path of life. I think Ritchie’s smile is saying the same thing that gangly and goofy 17 year old said “Wow.”
Happy Valentines Day.
As I wrapped up work with most of my “seasonal refresh” clients this week, I started to contact some of the people who wanted landscape consultations. It’s been an interesting process to see what the market will bear by offering different prices to people. I determined relatively early (like Day 2) that running a business at a $20/hr rate is not viable because once I’m up and running, sales tax, payroll tax and overhead costs not to mention supplies, scheduling and job preparation will eat a large chunk of that amount and I will basically end up volunteering. Now I volunteer quite a bit each week but I’m trying to learn more about business and by definition businesses earn a profit.
I’ve been more busy than I want to be at $20 but so far I haven’t had very many people take me up on my consultation and landscape design offers which, depending on what they wanted, ranged anywhere from $40 (for a troubleshooting consultation to address remediation for a specific area of the yard/garden) to $300 (for a landscape review, a full front and backyard design plan, 2 revisions, a full plant list with sources, phased and detailed installation instructions and an HOA ACC submittal packet). I’m looking for that sweet spot, the one where I have enough work to occupy the hours I want to devote to this each week at a price that’s worth it for me to spend time doing the work (supply) and where the work I do adds enough value that the individual is willing to pay it (demand).
I have had quite a few people ask me to quote other seasonal clean-up work (for the backyard or a friend or neighbor) and my little family crew and I have been doing that for reasonable and profitable rates. I’m wondering if seasonal maintenance is something people are more interested in in my neighborhood than well-designed landscapes. I’m grateful I had so many people interested because I’ve been able to conduct a ton of market research these last few weeks. Here’s to a deepening understanding of economics!
I’m not sure exactly what’s going on here but something beautiful is growing. One of my gifts is being able to see potential and this humble little endeavor holds a lot of promise. That’s what I tell myself when I hear myself saying things like this to my clients:
“Well, I mean, I’m not exactly licensed at anything…”
“In my Master Gardener Classes, they told us we had to kill 100 plants to qualify as a Master Gardener.”
“Oh, you don’t need me at all.”
“How long have I been doing this? Well uh, this is my 3rd week.”
It’s a good thing I can laugh at myself and that I’m also imparting massive amounts of plant wisdom. I’ll get the hang of this. Growing to greatness, that’s me!