A week and a half ago, after setting the intention to be more budget-conscious I found myself needing a black ink cartridge. Those things are expensive and I didn’t have enough left in my weekly home management budget to buy one. I could’ve used money from another account or my savings and it would’ve been fine but I tend to do that a lot so I decided to stick to my budget and get creative. I printed everything in blue ink instead of black for a while but as the week wore on this strategy got increasingly frustrating and I found myself with a list of “things to print when I get an ink cartridge.” I needed a black ink cartridge to live efficiently. I decided I could try to earn one. Now I’m a little rusty when it comes to earning money since I’ve been staying home with Jessica (and preparing for Jessica and trying to conceive Jessica) for the past 11 years and I’m particular about the time I commit outside our home. So I decided to post a message on my community Facebook group offering to cut back the myriad brown and crunchy frozen plants in people’s front yards. I listed my qualifications (Master Gardener Training, Landscape Design practice/consulting) as well as my availability (3 spots on Thursday) and price ($20). I hoped 3 people would want to take me up on my offer so I could buy my ink cartridge and get on with my life. In less than 3 minutes I had 3 customers and I was elated. Within 8 minutes I had 5 customers so I said I could do 2 front yards on Friday too (Hey, I thought, I can also buy the essential oil I’ve been needing to replenish). By the end of the night I had about 20 messages and by the next morning I was up to 30. The following week saw an additional 10 people added to my list, each wanting a different service (tree pruning, lawn consultation, landscape design, winter clean-up). As I met with different neighbors I realized that I inadvertently stumbled into a ready market for my landscape love. I’ve worked hard, I’ve made some mistakes, I’ve learned a lot, I’ve gotten dirty, I bought a hedge-trimmer and wielded it with pride (because I spent 60 hand-cramping minutes cutting back ornamental grass with hand pruners and that hedge trimmer gets the job done in less than a minute!). So this past week I filed papers with the Texas State Comptroller to officially establish Beautiful Village Landscaping LLC. Now proudly (and humbly) operating in Bulverde Village.
I have been off my synthroid medication for 8 months. I had my 6 month follow up in February and my antibodies were the lowest they’ve ever been, my thyroid hormones were were great. I’m telling you this to give you hope because bodies can heal. I have been told (repeatedly) by all manner of individuals that this doesn’t happen. I have been told by a small handful that it can. Anything is possible.
I remember sitting on the living room floor with Ritchie 2 years ago. I’d just been to the doctor where they suspected I had celiac disease. I was devastated because autoimmunity can be a slide and once you have one disease it’s easy to start collecting disorders until eventually your body is just mired in dysfunction. I sat there feeling so disheartened at the prospect of that and also humble. Like, well, if this is what God wants I will accept it. But, like many of you, I had other plans! Mainly living with and loving my family having adventures, using my gifts and skills to help other people grow. These last few years have been an interesting adventure in cultivating a deeper understanding of the interesting tapestry that is woven from personal choice and God’s will. Sitting on the floor in tears, I didn’t feel like I had filled the measure of my creation, there was more for me to do. And not in a self-aggrandizement kind of way, just in a mothering-give-back-to-humanity kind of way. So I asked God to help me figure out a way to do that, to fill the measure of my creation. I remember praying to be healed and then over time I changed my prayers to ask for the gift of healing. Instead of relying on something external to change my circumstance, the gift of healing meant asking God to teach me about this beautiful creation of his (the body) and to help me understand it and how to work with it’s natural tendency to heal. I think sometimes we think of the gift of healing as something we have and use for other people but in my experience asking for the gift of healing to heal myself has been a different kind of prayer leading to a beautiful journey. Like any artist, I have found my Heavenly Father to be more than willing to share the intricacies of His creations with me. Tune into your inherent strength & divinity, be brave enough to seek it and see what happens!
When beginning a new habit it’s important to start small, be consistent and build some incentive into it. This Family Council Quick Start Agenda covers the basics and allows you to easily begin your first family council meeting this week. Use this agenda until meeting together weekly is an established routine (at least 1 month).
To your spouse you can say “Hey babe, I’d really love your feedback and input on some family stuff and I’d like to have a brief family council meeting. I’ll take care of the agenda.” People rarely say no when you ask for their opinion.
To your kids you can say “Hey guys, I want to know what’s going on with you, we’re going to have a quick team meeting after dinner on Sunday.” You may get grumbling but you can smile and offer to let them choose the game.
Expect to hear “How long is this going to take?” from all parties. Smile and respond with “Not long, and it’ll be fun.”
Print 1 Family Council Quick Start Agenda copy for each member of the family and provide each person with a colorful pen which makes their random doodling all over your painstakingly-prepared agenda look especially nice. Feel free to review the agenda with notes but if your family sees that many words on a page at your first meeting they may run for cover so tuck it under your copy of the Quick Start Agenda and refer to it as needed. Start with the gratitude and make sure each person receives some because that sets a tone of love and appreciation for the whole meeting. Ending with a game leaves everyone feeling like there was at least something fun that came out of it.
In our house my role is to manage our growth and experiences so I create the family council agenda each week. In the coming weeks I’ll share ideas on how to evolve your agenda as your family acclimates and embraces the meeting. So much of it is in the presentation and like Ritchie said, when the agenda shows up, we have family council.
p.s. I welcome your feedback and I’d love to hear how it goes for you!
Yesterday as I settled into the news of the terrorist attack in Belgium and felt the fear that comes when people are hurt, this scripture kept coming to mind. These timeless words were uttered by the prophet Elisha to his servant when they woke up confronted with a seemingly insurmountable opposing force (represented by the tents). Before taking any action, Elisha prayed that the servant’s eyes would be opened and that he would be able to see that their sincere and brave efforts supporting Israel were augmented by the surrounding horses and chariots of fire. It was at that point that the real state of things was clarified to at least those two individuals.
Sometimes when disaster strikes or hurt abounds, it can be hard to “see” the hand of God because frequently we want to see Him in protection. Like Elisha and his servant, we want heaven’s hand to be manifest in the avoidance of pain for innocent people. It takes practice, patience and earnest seeking of the spirit to learn to see him in the midst of pain, to see Him in moments when resilience is being cultivated. After yesterday, take a deep breath and acknowledge the fear that you naturally feel because it has the power to transform you, to give you the desire to see things you might not have seen otherwise. When hurt abounds, as it does now, God can always be “seen” in the healing if that’s what you’re looking and praying for.
After acknowedging any fear or anxiety, try to see this: The signature of the adversary’s work is in fear, division and coercion. On the other hand, the signature of heaven is found in compassion, cohesion, healing and growth. So find peace in the stories of compassion that begin to emerge, bask in the goodness that flows from people who care. Find strength in the solidarity of humanity, the vast majority of whom abhor such violent acts. Watch as wounds, both physical and spiritual, heal through the ministering grace of heaven. Listen for the stories of people who draw on angelic strength and choose to grow through this hard thing that life offered them. And hug your babies, your spouse, your parents or yourself, maybe sit in stillness for a few minutes, smile at a neighbor or a fellow driver, recognizing that whenever you choose to love, unify, heal, strengthen and support growth, especially in the midst of fear, you’re in good company “for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.”
Around the age of 14 I learned to slalom ski on Lake Mojave in California. I had been water-skiing for a number of years and I was getting increasingly comfortable and ready to put another sport in my recreational repertoire. Sometimes life offers us the choice of taking on something challenging. Sometimes it doesn’t. This is one of the times I got to choose and here is what I remember about slalom skiing: Until experiencing it, I had little understanding of just how much work it takes to stay steady and rise above the water.
I had watched other people, snugly fit in their life jackets, hop into the cool water, wrestle with an unruly ski, fitting one foot in first and then tucking the other behind it. I’d watched them struggle to keep their heads up as they waited for rope, jostled in the water at the mercy of the current and the boat wake. I’d seen them grab the rope and straighten the ski, positioning their bodies directly behind the boat. And then I’d watched them call “hit it” to the boat driver and endure the pull of the boat, rising almost effortlessly out of the water as the ski would plane out and they’d fly across the lake with exhilarating freedom.
What I learned when it was me in the water is that those few seconds that seem effortless are, to the skier, quite challenging. And that the hardest moments of skiing are the moments of endurance between “hit it” and gliding across a lake of early morning glass. No matter who you are and how strong your body is, those few seconds of extreme pull require commitment, endurance and vision. You have to tell yourself that you won’t let go until you reach your goal. You have to remind yourself that you can do it and you have to see yourself skiing on that lake. Sometimes struggle is like that and when you’re in the thick of something hard, those moments where everything seems more than you can bear, you think you can’t hang on or that you’re the only one who struggles or that you’ll never move through the stretching moments you find yourself in. It’s not. You can. You’re not. You will. Believe & hang on.
Every summer when I go to Lake Powell I like to slalom ski at least once to remind myself what it feels like. I usually have to make a few attempts because I’ve forgotten, as it’s easy to do, how to hang on to the rope when every muscle in my arms and legs screams for me to let go. I ski to practice skiing, to get some water up my nose, shake it off and try again. I ski to remind myself that I am capable of enduring the pull of the boat for as long as it takes to get me up out of the water. I ski to practice steadying myself in positions I know will move me forward as the wake of the boat and the water of the lake rock me back and forth. I ski to remind myself that it’s worth hanging on because there’s nothing quite like watching the sun rise as I slide across the lake with a smile on my face, the wind in my hair and my fingers grazing the top of the water. Like most things in life, the price we pay for experiential knowledge can be steep but it’s worth the effort.
In the middle of a numbness so shocking and deep, I was blessed with a measure of grace for a few days but I soon found that peace alluded me as I muddled on with life and holidays and vacations. It is so hard to seek heaven and hear silence. Left to my own devices, I could glimpse moments of preparation, mostly in the form of my connections with other people. As I continued to grasp at any strands of heaven that came my way, I was offered the opportunity to weave together a new understanding of God and to seek Him where He is instead of where I wanted Him to be. From a broad perspective, this endeavor has turned out to be one of the more enlightening journeys that I have found myself on. But as is so often the case, the enlightenment has been accompanied by soul-searching and a depth of awareness that is sometimes staggering.
Many times throughout His ministry, the Savior offered His listeners the opportunity to find the things they were seeking. I think we live in a time when it is increasingly easy to find ideas, information, opinions, such that one can cultivate community around any ideas he or she wants to. I think one of the pathways to spiritual growth is the belief that one can be a lifelong seeker of God, continually piecing together an understanding of heaven during whatever experiences one finds oneself in until the day that soul and heaven are eventually reacquainted in full and we have the opportunity to see Him as He is. With a bit more life experience, I have a better understanding of how much effort it takes to make this reconciliation sometimes, to seek out and believe in goodness, love and mercy in the face of devastation, to courageously grow and live when there are so many reasons to fear. With the effort has come the realization that each unique journey offers surprising beauty. Here’s to bravely seeking to see.
to experience life. Sometimes it feels confusing, oftentimes it’s messy, it can hurt and be overwhelming, it has the potential to be peaceful, joyful & exquisite.
to inhabit a body. Sometimes you’ll feel at odds with it, oftentimes you’ll forget that so much of life is written in it, it can weaken and break, it has powerful potential to heal and guide you to wholeness.
to be part of a family. Sometimes it will surprise you, oftentimes you won’t realize how much it has shaped you, membership is forever soul-altering, it has the potential to support your growth & nourish you in a way nothing else can.
to make choices. Sometimes they feel daunting, oftentimes you’ll realize you can’t control the consequences, it can be hard to make the same one consistently, they create your response to the invitation and they will shape your experience.
So much depends on how you receive and respond to the invitation. The invitation itself isn’t out to get you. It may be offering to teach you a few things. If you are snugly cloaked in the awareness that you are incredible and that you’ll have the strength you need when you need it, you respond with your inherent goodness.
If you draw on your strength of soul (yes, you have it) and seek to learn and grow, no matter how hard some moments may be and no matter how many times you have to get back up after you stumble, beautiful things are in store for you. I promise.
We take breath at a time unlike any other in the history of humanity, when it is possible to collect wisdom from any time, place & people. It’s incredible really, to consider the opportunity that we have to thoroughly understand so many things. I think understanding comes when we unearth truth and then cultivate it in our lives. The cultivating is the important part. A true idea merely thought about or depicted can be powerful but the experience of a true principle in a life offers a unique, majestic and dynamic kind of beauty. As we move through our days, our lives become a reflection of the truth that we’ve sought and the work that we’ve done to integrate and understand it. We understand truth by believing in its existence and learning to recognize it. We integrate truth by making choices in alignment with the principles we believe to be true and then learning from those experiences. Here’s to seeking truth and living it.
*image courtesy of motherteresa.org
Since last fall our household has been navigating a substantial disappointment. In the aftermath of our experience, amidst the agony of confusion, self-doubt, and just plain hurt, I feel unsettled about my ability to trust myself and anyone else, including God. As I acquaint myself with this rift that has torn my spirituality to shreds, I comfort my soul with the assurance that there is no animosity directed at me. There is no condescension or judgement aimed my way and this moment I speak of didn’t represent a “lesson” or a “trial” that I had to endure. Rather, it’s an experience and it will be what I make it of it. And it doesn’t have to be all sorted out right now. I believe someday I will I look back on this stretch of my life and really respect the substantial work that I’m attempting to do in settling my spirit so that it can begin to heal. Even now, with a small amount of space, a bit more heartbreak and further introspection, I can sometimes see these months as maybe as a prodding, a gentle nudge. It’s surprising, even to me, that moments have the potential to move from ‘near death blow’ status to ‘gentle nudge’ in the space of a few months. In addition to simple time, I think a lot of that has to do with not berating myself or forcing meaning but rather trying to wait compassionately with an eye towards recognizing the hand of God while the rest of my story unfolds.
The other day I found myself behind a car with a few different bumper stickers plastered to it’s backside. One of them read ‘My FREEDOM is more important than your FAITH.’ I felt a visceral punch to my abdominal region as I processed this jarring statement (and we hit a few lights together so I had plenty of time to think it over). I don’t know the driver of the car. Based on his other bumper stickers, I have a few clues about him but other than that I’m left to speculate. I think I might’ve liked to have had a conversation with him though, and this is what I would’ve asked:
1-Can there be any sort of real freedom without faith? Where does a freedom governed only by human nature lead a society of people who have increasingly less value for themselves, let alone each other?
2-If you don’t use faith to appeal to your better and nobler self, what do you use?
3-I’ve been grappling with a sensitivity to humanity and her struggles and a respect for principles I hold dear and all this time I have worked to fight this mental battle on compassionate ground. Are you willing to offer me the same space to be and do as I will according to my faith that I am trying to grant to you either with or without your own?
I wonder what he would’ve said.