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.
The other day we were hiking up in the mountains where the air is clear and the clouds are so close you want to touch them and we lost the trail. We'd stopped to take in some rest and sunshine in a clearing and when we got back up we didn't know which way to go. I don't know about you but I feel like that a lot in life. I'll have a clear direction and then there will be a distraction, a break or a roadblock and the way forward isn't as clear as it was moments before. In life, as I did in this instance, its helpful to take a step back, closely observe your surroundings, look at where you've come from with an eye toward where you want to go and then peer around closely for a way forward. In time a path will appear. Thank goodness because three extra granola bars will only get you so far.
Take Action: Already applied this post to your incredible life dear reader? Great, see you again soon!
If you need help to dive deep, think of a problem you're facing. Go ahead and challenge yourself, choose a tough one. Now think about 3 things you've done or overcome in your past that were hard. What qualities or attributes did you rely on or cultivate to make it through those situations? Write them down. If you can't think of any ask a friend or relative to help you. Were you dedicated, quick thinking? Creative? Faithful? Now figure out how those attributes serve you in this situation and trust that they'll come through for you again. Now building on that sturdy foundation of your own personal growth, look forward to where you want to go and assess what other qualities you need to make it through this specific stretch of life. Do you need patience, ideas, bravery? Whatever it is confidently cultivate it (you can do it!) and let it lead you onward. The path is there you just need to find it again.
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.
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.
Yesterday I had the chance to go ice skating with Jessica. Having only been a few times in her 7 years she’s still a bit unsteady on the ice. She enthusiastically donned her skates and I watched her stumble through the door to the rink and wait with anxious anticipation for the Zamboni to finish it’s job so she could begin skating. Her initial enthusiasm quickly channeled itself into focused determination as she gripped the wall and unsteadily made her way slowly around the rink. After a few minutes, I followed her out onto the ice, watching her strong little legs jerkily move along as she tried to master the feel of balancing her entire body on two very narrow blades and gliding on a very unforgiving surface. When she was ready to leave the wall she took my hand and held tight, scooting one leg and then the other shuffling herself around the rink again and again. After a while she began to let go at intervals. Feeling increasing confidence in her steadiness, she would move a few feet from me, sometimes falling, sometimes skating and inevitably looking back to see if I was watching. After a few laps of back and forth hand-holding, I began skating close to her holding my arm out. I opened my hand and flexed my arm muscles so that my arm was strong and available to her. I imagine watching me skate was pretty comical, partly stooped with one arm bent at the elbow. It didn’t matter though, I wanted to serve as firm support for her when she needed it. She grabbed on quite a bit but increasingly she could balance on her own. A few times she skated farther from me and someone would come between us. Other times she’d fall and look up at me with the tears that come from pain (knees+ice=hurt) and question why I wasn’t right next to her, why I’d left when she needed me. I told her it was because she had skated on her own, she’d quickened her pace. I thought about God, as I always do in my contemplative parenting moments, and how his support for us is the same. He tells us his arm is extended, and that for all our faltering moments, His hand is stretched out still. Just like I held my arm firm and steady, He offers his strength, support and solidarity as we learn new things, as we stumble, as we venture out and gain confidence in this thing called living. And when we stumble and fall and look up blaming Him for His absence, he simply holds out His arm, helps us up and reminds us He’s never been far and that He’ll skate with us as long as we want Him there. I love that about Him.
Take Action: Nourish your soul with a prayer today, gratefully acknowledge one blessing and ask to have the eyes to see His hand in your life.
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 wouldn’t know it by looking at cotton, but like any fruitful creation, it’s seeds are carefully housed inside it. With the fluff peeled back you can see the seed just waiting for the protective seasonal covering to fade away so it can grow. Sometimes our personal protective coverings are hard to give up but it’s essential to the process of growth. The decay of one gives rise to the other. So the next time one of your protective walls comes down (in mind, experience or emotion) look for what is uncovered and thus able to grow. Then nurture that thing by your thoughts and actions with a curiosity toward what fruit will come of it.
if that’s what you’re seeking. There was a time when I would focus on all that was missing from a picture like this. That view was usually wrapped around a desire for more carefree cartwheeling children. Life is so much richer now that I have eyes to see all that is there. There is one beautiful joyful child and I get to mother her. There are cartwheeeling children the world over. They don’t need to be mine for me to appreciate the hope, love and meaning that they represent. The overflowing love I have for this one can fill her and then spread wherever it’s needed.
Whenever I need a reminder about what abundance feels like, I look at the never-ending sky and feel gratitude for the chance to experience life below it each day. And then I do a cartwheel.