Here in the Unites States on this day of reflection, I am reminded of opportunity. Whenever a nation, city, family or individual is confronted by sheer devastation, be it a massive terrorist attack, an overwhelming storm or an acute crisis, there’s shock, grief and then some still space and then action. That little bit of space can be and often is the hinge on which everything afterward swings. When reduced to our very lowest, completely vulnerable and no longer blanketed by safety and security what do we choose? So many of us choose compassion. So many of us choose to be patient with ourselves and our circumstances. So many of us choose to help and rescue and offer aid. It’s our nature and that’s what we do here. As individuals in nations and citizens of the world, if we can continue to root ourselves in solidarity and compassion we can rise from any ashes, overcome any struggle and build resilience no matter the circumstance. Here’s to hoping that when that small space of stillness opens up, we take note and choose to ground ourselves in goodness.
Last week we hiked up another beautiful canyon to a place called Grizzly Gulch. Now if your imagination works like mine this name conjures up all sorts of images. The hike offered some spectacular views of the canyon on a winding switchback trail bordered with vibrant wildflowers. As we neared the gulch, the 8 year-olds threw their backpacks down and scampered down the slippery slope using an exposed tree root to steady themselves as the rocks and sand slid down ahead of them. As they half-slid, half-climbed down they excitedly chattered about the possibilities of this steep-sided ravine and all that they were noticing. After spending a little while exploring they began scaling the sides. As the responsible adult, I stayed at the top of the ravine and scanned the terrain above and below them as they struggled up the side of the 20 foot gulch. I may be new to these mountains but I’d seen enough rocks sliding around to know that the ground we were standing on wasn’t entirely stable and rock slides and little girls are not a good combination. In that moment, I wanted to teach them to respect nature and I also wanted to honor their curiosity, enthusiasm and sense of adventure without dampening it with fear. So we talked about being aware of our surroundings, testing our footing and choosing to take a different course if the one we were on felt unstable and wouldn’t bear our weight. As we talked it occurred to me that life is like that. When we have an invitation to try something new or stretch and grow it can be tempting to default to fear and avoidance while it can be rewarding to tune into our sense of adventure, while also balancing it with a need for stability and respecting the particulars of our ability and the circumstances we find ourselves in.
After playing in the ravine for half an hour the girls made their way back up to the trail with a new kind of confidence, testing different methods of ascent, gently grabbing onto a different root here and there to see if it would hold their weight and then setting their feet on firm paths that would take them where they wanted to go.
Take Action: If you feel the nudge of adventure today, tune into it. It could be something as small as telling someone how you feel or taking a walk to a new place or it could be bigger like planning a trip to somewhere you’ve always wanted to go. Be curious and see where adventure takes you all the while respecting your surroundings and your current limitations. When you’re done soak in the satisfaction that comes from choosing to try something new.
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.
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.
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.
So it turns out when you accidentally start a business there are quite a few things you have to learn really quickly. Here are a few tidbits I picked up this week:
Important Acronyms to know:
FEIN (Federal Employer Identification Number)
LLC (Limited Liability Company)
JSN (Just say no…especially important when people ask you to do something you REALLY don’t know how to do-like remove a tree)
TAGQ (Pronounced tah-gque, “That’s a good question”….turns out there are quite a few of these coming my way)
Live & Learn
Don’t apply for your Federal EIN number before your LLC paperwork confirmation comes back. Because maybe the name you wanted is taken (it turns out checking domain names and the federal EIN site isn’t the same thing as checking in with the State Comptroller. Who doesn’t buy their domain name when they file their business paperwork!?) and then you have to file a bunch more paperwork to make your EIN Number match your LLC name.
Applying for insurance when your previous experience is a volunteer apprenticeship and the person you worked with is now deceased (but lives on in everything you put in the ground) presents an interesting series of hoops to jump through. Additionally, submitting a resume, payroll estimates and gross revenue estimates is challenging when you’ve been in business for 2.5 weeks. But having insurance to bring in jobs and earn that revenue seems like the responsible way to operate. So much for the advice in $100 Startup to just try something out and see if it works, write the business plan later.
Sometimes things work out and fall into place. Sometimes they don’t. Ritchie and I have been trying to figure out a way to create a revenue stream that we could use for humanitarian endeavors. We’ve sorted through and planned a few different things now but kept hitting roadblocks. Then this opportunity just kind of opened up and I feel hopeful and confident that Esteban, our newly-sponsored high school student training to be an Agricultural Technician will give this whole endeavor added meaning, motivation and success. It’s a blessing to use our freedom, gifts, experiences, time and opportunities to empower others. Until next time, happy landscaping!
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.
Each day we breathe we’re invited to increase our capacity for experiencing life, for really living. We can choose to use our experiences to support this goal of being vibrantly and fully alive. Many times we notice this invitation when we feel sadness, grief, guilt or sorrow. We may shy away from these experiences or cover the emotions and avoid processing them because they are uncomfortable. In the thick of a challenging moment it can be soothing to remember that you are simultaneously deepinging your channels for feeling joy and peace. So navigate your way through struggle with as much grace and support as you can access and then look for the deeper joy and peace that are now inherently yours as well.
you just have to look to notice it.