Anything important and lasting is grounded in courage overcoming fear, reaching rather than retreating. A short walk in Richmond, Virginia yesterday brought me to a monument honoring a 16- year-old young woman protesting the status quo, not accepting the unacceptable. Never settling.
Barbara Johns’ protest led to the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education US Supreme Court case. Reaching for the moon transformed to touching the moon. Never accept anything as inevitable. Reach.
“Permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragements, and impossibilities: It is this, that in all things distinguishes the strong soul from the weak.” – Thomas Carlyle
The joy of watching the Olympics is to witness the fruition of years of work, stories of struggle, come-backs and then after all of that a medal or just the mere opportunity to compete among the best and be counted as one.
We reach our dreams and aspirations by opening our eyes and pursuing them with diligence, grit and a “never give up” attitude, no matter what. There will be a lot of noise and clutter along the way. Tune it out and stay focused on the pursuit and most important, enjoy the journey along the way. Don’t let your “to do” list, a snarky comment from another or your own fear and doubts get in the way of becoming who you are called to be. And do it daily with great joy!
“But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God. – Acts 20:24
“O, wind, if winter comes, can spring be far behind?” – Percy Bysshe Shelley
“It is the life of the crystal, the architect of the flake, the fire of the frost, the soul of the sunbeam. This crisp winter air is full of it.” – John Burroughs
Even in a -25 below day, the sun remains casting light, warming the earth, reflecting off the crystals. No matter the weather, no matter the circumstances, light always remains whether we see or feel it in that moment. Knowing that puts our shadowed frigid moments in perspective as they serve their purpose of transformation. Light always remains. That pull, that thread, that knowing is called hope.
We all have our seasons, our winters to testify to this truth. So, if you are in a -25 below pocket of time right now wandering and lost, suffering and empty, light remains holding you and patiently waiting for you to find it again. Always with you, never letting go.
Winter shall pass when it has done its work, preparing you for the transformation of spring. Grit and resilience breaks the frozen ground to bloom anew to discover yet again the depth of light.
“There’s something just magical about flight. Period.” – Graham Hawkes
“Be like the bird who, pausing in her flight awhile on boughs too slight, feels them give way beneath her, and yet sings, knowing she hath wings.” – Victor Hugo
We all have it in us. The longing and the ability to take flight, to be airborne. To run so fast that you break gravity. Feel the freedom of flight if but for a second to get a glimpse of heaven. It is in us you know. In each one of us.
Chase it. Let it chase you and get caught up in it. There is such delight waiting just outside our thoughts and fears. Calling us to come out and play. Pursue and be pursued. Pure magic.
“Life seeks life and loves life. The opening of a catkin of a willow, in the flight of the butterfly, in the chirping of a tree-toad or the sweep of an eagle – my life loves to see how others live, exults in their joy, and so far is partner in their great concern.” – Edward Everett Hale
“There is pleasure in the pathless woods, there is rapture in the lonely shore, there is society where none intrudes, by the deep sea, and music in its roar; I love not Man the less, but Nature more.” – Lord Byron
What is one less thing you can do? Not more, less.
What we say “no” to gets us to the richness of the “yes” things we long for and are called to do. I jam as much activity into a minute better than most and it merely fosters more activity. Yet that which I value most is not quantity of tasks but quality of moments of depth that comes from “single” tasking.
A long run, throwing the ball for the girls, writing, reading more than 3 pages in a book, prayer and reflection that leads to gratitude and grace, a walk in the woods, undivided attention and device free moments with family and friends. That’s my list. What’s yours?
And when we get to more “yes” things that matter, the other stuff that makes up our ridiculously long “to do” list gets done. And if they don’t then maybe those things shouldn’t be done in the first place. Add more quality to your days and your tasks by doing less so the things that you spend your precious and limited time on bring more joy and discovery to your days. Remove items from the list so you can fully participate in life rather than be a “productive” machine.
Add by subtracting. It’s the new math.
“Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset.” – Saint Francis de Sales
Busyness is the ailment of our time. Hurrying from one thing to the next to keep the balls in the air, never questioning the value of the balls we frantically juggle. Breath and let go. Two very difficult tasks when we are all lathered up. But we have choices and we must act on them, never accepting what is as the inevitable.
So if it’s been one of those days or one of those months or even years, don’t resign yourself to it. Fight like hell to find peace and furrow into planting calm. Circumstances, expectations and people often won’t change, but we always can.
There’s a weariness to daily living. And when we dig a bit deeper, we quickly expose the beauty of each moment, of the present. Don’t fall for your first reaction or frustration. Wait it out, push on through and never accept mediocrity over full living.
“Faith is the strength by which a shattered world shall emerge into the light.” – Helen Keller
“The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can.” – Neil Gaiman
Each morning, set the tone for the day. This requires quiet to be able to contemplate, to see the beautiful forest rather than be lost in the trees. Decide what song you will sing and if you will dare to even dance. There are a lot of distractions, so you must make a conscious decision if you will sing and dance or if you will merely get through.
“Have tos” and “should’ve beens” are joy thieves. And we don’t realize that we’ve been robbed until we’ve wasted many days that turn into years. Struggle is certain, our response is not.
So remain in this day and give it your best voice and step. That is what we are called to do, especially when we don’t “feel” like it. Our joy is not in some far off land or mythical future when everything falls in place. It’s right now, this moment, today.
And when you sing your song and dance your dance, you give others permission to do the same.
My best friends and roommates Sasha and Abby know how to dance to be sure. Ear-flapping freestyle.
“When you dance, your purpose is not to get to a certain place on the floor. It’s to enjoy each step along the way.” – Wayne Dyer
“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.” – Denis Waitley
If you make only one resolution this year, make it daily gratitude. Commit each day to soak in your blessings. We move so fast that our blessings that we are showered with barely touch our skin, much less soak in.
Soaking and depth demand quiet and connection. Be grateful and all of your other resolutions that are meant to be will fall into place.
Our cup is not only half full, it’s overflowing. Soak it in.
“I don’t have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness – it’s right in front of me if I’m paying attention and practicing gratitude.” – Brene Brown
“Keep every promise you make and only make promises you can keep.” – Anthony Hitt
As the holidays wind down with the new year around the corner, the next thing on “the list” is the obligatory list of new year’s resolutions. If we are not really resolved and ready to commit, they fall by the wayside by the end of January. And we get disappointed in ourselves and fall back into the same old rut perplexed that we are getting the same results.
Rather than a laundry list of well-intended but uncommitted to items of what to fix, lose or remove, choose what you will add to your life. Actively and consciously choose how you will spend your time and what you will give yourself to.
Be present in the moment, spend quality time with family and friends, carve quiet into each day, commit to running or walking at least one mile every day, vow to not hibernate over winter, play more. Being active, eating better, resting more, having fun and being curious will bring daily contentment and lasting results. We never really start over, we start where we are at. And we’re farther than we think we are.
No need to wait for January 1 to live more fully. Start today.
“Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” – Michelangelo
Daily life is often unclear, messy and loud. With an abundance of options and directions, we bury ourselves in the mundane pursuit of tasks and find ourselves in a hole of scarcity. We don’t see the exact path, so we don’t take the first step.
But just one step beyond the noise, grey and cloudiness, we are called to carve out our lives with what we are given in this very moment. Each step prior has prepared us for steps unseen. Discovery and delight are found in daily pursuit of joy, unfolding the statue inside.
So instead of over-analyzing and over complicating, simply start chipping away each day to carve out the life you are meant to create. Take the chisel back from others and hold it in your hand firmly. Set the angel free.
“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” – Michelangelo