Learning about backstrap weaving in the village of Nuevo San Idelfonso.
This NYT lens piece resonated with me. During our trip to Guatemala last year we frequently heard the words “Mi esposo se fue” or “My husband went.” When you see the poverty, the extreme living conditions, you understand. The reason we went to Guatemala was to empower people and improve conditions there so that the need to immigrate would be less. We wanted to share the goodness, the strength and the hope that America can offer in a place that could use some support. We wanted to strengthen and support the already beautiful Guatemalan culture and people so that both could flourish more fully and bless all of us with their strength. We chose Guatemala because my husband Ritchie has a background there from his two year church mission and we love the people and culture. We didn’t do it from a place of superiority but from a place of gratitude. We thought “We are presently recipients of freedom, beauty, and opportunity and if any of it could be useful to you we will happily share it.” If we all did this, even in just small ways, the world would be such a different place.
1) Identify a country where you could make a difference. It could be a place you dream of visiting, a place you have experience with or a place you’re curious about. We chose one that was easy to get to from our home here in Texas. Ultimately it’s the land and the people you are connecting with.
2) Do a google search for a person or organization doing empowering work in that place and join their Facebook page or email list. It could be a local from the country you’re interested in or a globally-minded person in your country. Once you begin to understand what they do, brainstorm skills you have that could be useful to the organization. Offer those skills and a bit of your time and let me know what happens.
Do you ever take a minute to look at the sidebar ads google suggests for you? Every once in a while it’s really insightful to look at them because they’re populated based on your searches, purchases, emails, etc. It’s kind of like looking in the mirror, the ads become a reflection of what you’ve been looking for and what you’re interested in. When you look at them, are you surprised? What kind of person do they reflect? Is that the person you are? The person you’d like to be? The good news is that google changes as you change and as the things you seek become more refined, the ads and content you see are elevated too.
A few weeks ago I was volunteering in Jessica’s classroom. After reading with the kids, I mentioned to her teacher that I was going to go tidy up the plants in the patio garden. Her wise Montessori guide kindly cautioned me to be mindful in my “cleanup efforts” because some of the flowers were going to seed.
As Jessica and I worked outside in the backyard yesterday afternoon, I recalled her teacher’s words and I delighted in collecting the bountiful harvest of seeds that my plants were generating so effortlessly. Usually when plants are going to seed something beautiful and intentional is happening. Though they look dried up and done-for they’re just in the process of offering up next year’s colors. This principle has wide application, especially in a world where we put so much emphasis on the way things appear. Sometimes appearances are deceiving.
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.
Our “plancha” ride
When Ritchie, Jessica and I set out for Guatemala last year we knew that we were undertaking some things we’d never done before and there was a good chance we were going to make mistakes as we immersed ourselves in experiences with new places, cultures and people. We committed that instead of getting frustrated when something didn’t quite go the way we planned we’d remind each other to “Live and Learn.” The strategy worked well for us and sometimes the mistakes were funny like when I told our local guide I needed to take a griddle (plancha) instead of a boat (barco). Other times they were more serious like when a flight got cancelled and we didn’t know that the large-group-tour-guide was running to the reservation counter because when you’re near the end of the line you wait for the shuttle for an additional hour AND get the last available hotel room on the outskirts of the city AND eat your “free” dinner with your six year old asleep in your lap around 10:30 pm. Nevertheless the practice of saying “live and learn” at each misstep helped us to laugh and enjoy our adventure. Over the past year we’ve continued to use this mantra in our home, work and travels and it’s lightened things up nearly every time. So next time you goof something up, just be curious about what you could learn from the experience. It makes a world of difference.
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.
Proportioned growth is a natural practice. Grass seeks to keep a balance between root and blade. The roots pull nourishment from the earth and the blade absorbs energy from the sun and both elements combine to support growth. (This is why keeping grass at a consistent height helps it to flourish. It can grow and thicken without spending it’s energy trying to constantly re-calibrate the root and blade balance). Life is like that. It is wise to balance our external outward endeavors with our nourishing self-care and vice versa. In a time when it’s relatively easy to grow outward at extraordinary rates, it’s important to focus on our own root systems, the things that nourish and sustain our bodies, minds and spirits. This type of balanced growth is rich and sustainable.
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.