Learn by living

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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.

Optimum Capacity

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.

Intentional Sacrifice

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.

Keep your balance

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.

The Nature of Growth

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.

Abundance is everywhere…

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.

Gratitude is Magic

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.

Trees & kids

Intended tone: Gently encouraging

Under the shadow of the tree from which it was born, an acorn will take root and begin to grow.  It has its own unique way of knowing what it will take to become an oak tree.  Much like children, who hold within themselves the secrets to their own future, and ours, for that matter, the acorn will take what it can from its surroundings and use those resources to overcome obstacles and slowly and steadily reach upward.  
“To stimulate life, leaving it free, however, to unfold itself–that is the first duty of the educator [or parent, friend, aunt],” so said Maria Montessori.  It is so easy to lose sight of the vast intelligence housed in the tiny people we call children.  So often we try to replace it with our own or someone else’s.  May we look at a child today with the same awe as a seedling; both are engaged in a great work.  It’s a gift to be able to provide a bit of shelter and watch that work unfold.

The beginning of something

 Ralph Waldo Emerson said “The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.” There are many things I do not know.  I do know that in a few weeks a cold and scared human fleeing to the mountains from Syria will be handed a sleeping bag.  And when that human lays down at night on the hard earth under a blanket of brilliant stars and snuggles up in that sleeping bag she will feel something slightly rough on the inside lining near the zipper.  And when she wakes up in the morning and the sun illuminates the world she will see the simple stitching of a seven year old in the shape of a heart.  And that one action, that one acorn, I do not know what forests will grow from it but I have faith that it can be the beginning of something beautiful on both sides of the world.

Do Good Now

As I gardened at my local LDS temple this morning, I found this tiny sprouting acorn amidst an array of other acorns who had yet to take the leap from acorn to sprout.  Wanting to show it to Jessica, I kept it moist and brought it home.  Acorns serve as seasonal symbols of nature’s steady reminder that small things proceed very large things.  A timely application for that wisdom is the awareness that big changes grow from small decisions.  So today, make it a point to do something good.  Don’t wait until tomorrow, don’t talk yourself out of it.  Just do something good today because you never know what may stem from your actions.

Live your Gratitude

img_2060A 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.

You for President

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.