Jessica and I took an adventurous walk yesterday, trying to get better acquainted with our new surroundings. Having recently moved we are becoming adept explorers, letting curiosity be our guide as we try new things and experience new places.
About halfway down a tree-lined street nestled in the shadow of the mountains I noticed that what I thought were light colored leaves were actually puffy seed pods. We gently pulled a few of the velvety pods from a tree admiring the full bright green seeds ensconced within them. Upon further inspection we found some more mature seed pods drying out on the ground exposing seeds that were weathered, dry and dark. While the shiny bright beauty of the newly birthed seeds, protected in their green cocoons were what caught my attention, they were not the seeds that were primed to grow. As we peered closely at the ground and sifted through crackly brown casings that pulled away easily from the dry seeds I was reminded that nature usually seasons seeds over time as she prepares them for growth. Their potential cannot be rushed but rather nurtured, letting it develop intentionally over time. I think the same goes for children, relationships, ideas and experiences. It can be hard to wait patiently for something or someone because the process of change can seem laboriously long. But people are a lot like seeds and when the conditions are right and the seed is ready the resulting beauty is usually worth the wait.
Take Action: If you've already applied this post to your life thanks for reading, please come back soon!
If you need some help to take the leap from story to action, here you go:
Think for a minute about a relationship (family, romantic, friendship, etc) that you're in that has potential. Consider the beautiful things that could come from that relationship. Focus on one of those beautiful things and then think about one thing you could do today to support and work toward that potential. So if I want to cultivate a stronger relationship with my daughter so that she'll talk openly with me when she's a teenager, I will strengthen our connection today by listening intently to her 8 year old stories when she wants to tell them to me. By listening today I'm building a little pod around the seed that is our relationship, creating space for it to grow and change and become what it's meant to become. As always, I'd love to hear your epiphanies!
In love and nature,
It is my nature to regularly stretch myself to max capacity, to test limits, to fill my life with beautiful and meaningful endeavors. Today I am thinking about how moments of operating at full creative strength are insightful and invigorating. They can also be exhausting. It’s a fun challenge to find the comfortable yet still-edgy ground of optimum capacity, where we’re growing and evolving in strong, steady and sustainable ways.
The Lord has always asked His people to sacrifice. It’s looked different throughout Judeo-Christian history but the principle has been constant. Regardless of the sacrifice, Israel of old and the Savior’s followers now are asked to give something to the Lord that puts them in a vulnerable position. That’s the nature of sacrifice right? It hurts a little, or sometimes a lot. We give something we want or love or maybe even need. When the Lord asked Israel to offer up the firstlings of her flocks and her beautiful, unblemished rams, she was handing over very useful, perhaps even vital elements of her livelihood in order to be obedient.
In this day, one of the sacrifices that the Lord asks for is a broken heart and a contrite spirit. A lot of times that feels like willingness to me and I find myself struggling to find clarity in what the Lord is asking me to do. In an effort to wade through the overwhelming number of ways to humbly obey and give of myself, I grapple with words like ‘needful’ and ‘expedient’ and ‘requisite.’ I seek to understand whether a situation is calling for specific talents or time or energy that I can lay on the altar. This intricate dance is one that I get wrong often, either withholding too much or diving in with gusto that I actually can’t sustain. It’s in those moments though, where I have the opportunity to see Him, to have Him teach me where I crossed the “needful” line or what about my offering was just below requisite. I think it’s important to be willing to experiment because the process of learning to sacrifice can have sweet blessings.
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.
I’m especially convinced of this after hand-delivering thank you notes today. Last weekend the Relief Society of our church worked with Catholic Charities to host a Refugee Family Education Day and offer 300+ refugees job and home management classes. I was part of a committee that spent time seeking donations from different individuals/companies in the community so that we could serve lunch at the event. Today I got to return to the donors and tell them how meaningful the event was and how much we appreciated their support. There is something so beautiful and powerful in the recognition between two people that help was requested, received and appreciated. Gratitude adds meaning and perspective to this beautiful circle of life that we’re all connected in.
A few weeks ago on a sunny southern California day, I knelt at the side of my Grandfather’s grave as my dad and I arranged flowers in a makeshift flower dugout (a Titos Tacos cup was all we had and my dad was sure my grandparents would appreciate that more than the flowers).
My grandfather served in the Pacific Theatre during WWII. As with all veterans, his military service could be counted in years but the sacrifices he made for that service spanned his lifetime. As my family and I took a moment to honor this brave and good man my dad looked over at us and said “Guys, trust me, he wouldn’t want us to be here crying, he would want us to be at the beach having fun. He would want us to be living.” While the tears were important, it was a beautiful idea to me, to honor my grief, honor his life and his many sacrifices by living fully.
Viktor Frankl, who lived on the other side of the world and endured his own horrors in concentration camps as my Grandpa hunkered down in island foxholes, said “What is to give light, must endure burning.” Today we feel gratitude for the light offered to us by so many of our fellow humans. I stood up from the grave that day and brushed the dirt off my knees determined to take the light my Grandfather gave me and let it guide me into places where I can offer that same compassion and strength to others who may need it.
As those of us in the US navigated this voting season we partnered with people and principles that resonated with us. Each of us considered the challenges and opportunities we faced and listened to the ideas presented that might assist us in living our lives with more integrity, compassion and purpose. Throughout the year I’ve contemplated what the world would be like if we each took up our causes and spent a little of our time and energy each day working towards them. Not just thinking, talking or posting about them but creating experiences that initiate changes we’d like to see. I have experienced the meaningful joy that comes from this kind of action and I know it’s possible to act now. Perhaps we could each take the full spectrum of our election energy, from relief to despair, and instead of counting on a handful of people to change the trajectory of our country and our lives, we could carry the bedrock banner of individual goodness and choose to be the change we want to see and then watch that change ripple through our own lives, the lives of our family and friends, our communities and the world.
Tomorrow is Sunday, it’s the day we have Family Council each week. Family Council lets our family practice communication and connection around the everyday things in our life. It’s the space in our week where we talk about our schedules and check in with each other about how life is going in our house. Meeting together briefly each week has given our family a lot of opportunities to communicate and creatively tackle problems and challenges. It’s taken us from a place of reactive growth to proactive growth. A few weeks ago I posted a quick start agenda and guide. This week I’m posting an Easy Family Council Agenda with tomorrow’s date. It just includes gratitude, a schedule review and a quick reflective question. There are three agendas to a page. Print out enough that each family member has a copy, give it a try after dinner tomorrow and let me know how it goes!
It is Easter. I am 35 and it feels like maybe I’m wholly celebrating it for the first time. I’ve spent the past 2 years seeking to put an autoimmune condition into remission. In the process of working with healers, both in heaven and earth, to accomplish this seemingly miraculous feat, I have cultivated a deeply affectionate and respectful relationship with my body, this friend of my soul. I have sought to understand the way it communicates to me, to come to terms with it’s vulnerabilities and utilize it’s incredible strengths. I have learned how to nourish its different systems and respect the interplay of this intricate work of God. I have had a front row seat to some of the inherent rebalancing capabilities that are built into it and I have grown to love it in a way that you love an old worn set of scriptures or a favorite book, one that you re-visit many times because it contains more wisdom than you’ll ever glean in a lifetime of study. You see, this body of mine, it carries both the signature of God and the story of my life, manifesting so much of how I have lived and been treated and what I have chosen to make a part of me, all of it written in the fleshy tables of my heart.
When my spirit is called home, it will still the beating of that heart which has guided me to so much goodness. It will lay aside this mind which has sought to make sense of my experiences in ways that lead to learning and growth. The eyes that have watched many a sunrise will close and the ears that have heard laughter and birdsong and music will cease to collect sound. The departure of my soul will quiet the breathe that allows life to flow to all of me. Life will withdraw from these bones which have structured my work and it will leave the muscles which have given strength to my endeavors. It will leave the arms that have cradled my child and held my spouse and the hands that have opened books, written words, prepared meals, dried tears, planted seeds and pulled weeds. The legs and feet that have kicked soccer balls, walked the dog and held me firmly to the earth each day will cease to carry me. Without the atonement, that separation of my soul from my experiences would be permanent.
Inviting myself to make peace with the inevitability of this moment has encouraged my soul and body to weave themselves together to create a life where I don’t waste the moments I spend in this body, I own and cherish them. It is with tear-filled eyes that I consider the gracious redemptive work of the Savior that we commemorate today, wherein He gave me the opportunity to inhabit this body and to choose how to use it to grow and experience living as I seek to glorify and serve Him. What a blessing that the labor of connecting my soul and body need not be a finite work, but a timeless and eternal one. Happy Easter.
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.