Friday, September 16, 2016

The Gift of Child's Play

In a child's world, each day is occupied with play.  Their world is filled with possibility; a gift hidden within the gift of play.  Each new day brings the opportunity to explore, imagine and create.  Old clothes from a vintage storage trunk become Paris's latest fashions; teddy bears at tea become trusted confidantes; and make-believe butter, sugar and flour become the most delicious Italian Creme cake you've ever tasted.

I love the art of play - approaching each new day with awe and wonder, much like a child! Approaching life this way is akin to being given a blank canvas on which to paint, or a fresh sheet of paper on which to write or draw.  Like being given a new seed to plant in the garden, or discovering a sandbox just begging for a castle to be built.

The power of play is such a gift!  It awakens us to the possibilities that reside all around us.  It allows us to discover the joy and beauty of creating and to do so in a way that is an authentic expression of who we are.  It gives us the freedom to try (without fear of failure) and it gives us the opportunity to uncover what truly makes us come alive!

It is in play that we truly learn to celebrate the moment and to celebrate life each and every day!

Starting today, why not challenge yourself to begin to see and experience life through child's play?

Ask yourself these questions:

Can you remember when you last lay on your back and watched clouds morph from cats into old ladies?  How long has it been since you said "hello" to the man in the moon or quietly waited on your front porch for "star light, star bright, the first star I see tonight?"

When was the last time you went out and played in the rain and stopped to enjoy a raindrop gently caressing your cheek?  The last time you skimmed a rock over the top of a creek just so you could count the ripples it made?  How long has it been since you listened to the secret conversations hidden deep within the recesses of a sea shell you discovered at the oceans edge, as the tide changed from high to low?

If you could approach life as child's play, seeing each moment through creative eyes, looking for treasure in the ordinary, what wonderful possibilities might await you? What might you create?

I encourage you to discover the gift of play.  For, I truly believe that it is by observing and emulating a child at play, that we begin to get a taste of what celebration and creativity amid an otherwise ordinary life can look like.

*This post was originally published as an article in Belle Inspiration Magazine. You can follow the lovely Mimi Bleu's daily photos of life in Paris on Instagram at belleinspirationparis.




Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Gift of Surrendering


Right now it is storming here.  The rain is pouring from the clouds outside, and inside, the tears are pouring from my eyes.

Today is one of those days, when I just want to go back to bed, pull the covers over my head and forget about everything.  It comes on the heels of a particularly bad couple of weeks.  I have been battling the Shingles for the third time; I have had another painful gall bladder attack over the weekend; and this morning I had to rush Pork Chop (our little doggie) to the vet because he his throat and nose were swelling up and he couldn't breathe (a reaction to a vaccine he had received).

And today marks one year since my since my husband and I pulled up roots.  Roots that ran wide.  Roots that ran deep. A year since we relocated, in order for us to follow what The Lord is calling us to do, in this season of life, in the place he is calling us to do it.

But here's the thing.  It has not been an easy transition.  I am missing my friends.  I am missing our home that my husband and I built and the memories that we created there as a family.  I am missing the life we knew for the last 20 years.

My husband works long hours and I am finding myself alone and isolated from others far too much of the time. Current health challenges keep me from getting out and about as much as I would like in order to meet and make new friends. The health care modalities that could ease (if not possibly eliminate) the chronic pain I suffer with are readily available here, yet not accessible, since our insurance won't cover their cost. Our house still hasn't sold.

At this point, I am wondering what in the world are we doing here??

But here's the other thing  - even on my worst day, I have so much to be grateful for.
I serve a God who lavishes his Grace on me each and every day. A God whose Mercies are new every morning. A God who walks with me, lovingly leading me to a renewed sense of His Presence, Mercy and Love. I have a family and friends who love me. I have a beautiful home (well heck - right now I have two) and my husband has a good job.

And here's the third thing - What if the very things I need are the very things I fight the most? What if this solitude is exactly what I need at this time to draw me closer to my Lord? Exactly what I need to become more serious about my prayer life? Exactly what I need to step more deeply into my callings as writer and life coach? What if this season of transition is actually a gift wrapped in suffering?

So what if it's not really about the transition after all?  What if this transition is really about transformation?  My transformation?  A stripping away of the old, and ushering in of the new? Excruciating growing pains.  My loving Father inviting me yet again to follow Him in FAITH?
Me, kicking and screaming like a toddler who doesn't yet want to leave the ice cream shoppe.  He, like the good Father that He is, reaching down, picking me up and carrying me, until exhausted I stop kicking, I stop screaming, and at last, I are ready to let go of my will and surrender to His.
Hard Surrender. A Long Time in Coming Surrender. Not a One Time and It's Done Surrender. But Sweet Surrender.

Perhaps, it is in these moments -  these moments of Surrender - that He sets me down, takes my hand in His, and once again invites me to follow Him in the calling and places He has chosen and equipped me for long before I ever arrived here; perhaps it is in these moments  - when Surrender finally comes - that I get to participate in the great exchange - exchanging my Temporal wants and needs for His
Eternal Purposes.  Perhaps it is in these moments - the Not a One Time and It's Done Moment - but these times of Sweet Surrender -  that I get to partner with Christ in the plan He has set out for me, using the gifts he has given me, in the timing He has ordained for me, to actually make a difference in the world.

I certainly hope so.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Breathe, Just Breathe


Life begins and ends with a breath.  In between, there are literally millions of breaths that we will take.  Most of them ordinary, most unconscious and unnoticed and the great majority of them are unfortunately somewhat shallow.

But then there are moments in life that take our breath away - The joy of a bridegroom as he watches his bride walking down the isle, each step taken a step closer to their life together; hearing the long awaited cry of your firstborn, and your second and your third; watching a wild cottontail bunny scamper across your garden, his white tail flashing in the sunlight; the first sight of the robin's red breast appearing after a long hard winter, the sound of waves lapping the shore as seagulls fly overhead........

And then there are moments which knock the breath out of us - the call in the middle of the night that our son or daughter was just killed in a car accident; sitting across from the doctor trying to comprehend the news that we are infertile and cannot ever bear children; the sudden loss of our husband of 35 years to a heart attack, leaving us in the unexpected, unwanted place of widowhood. Hearing the words that all women dread to hear - "you have breast cancer"; or learning that we will have to live from an incurable chronic illness; or that we are dying from a terminal one; feeling that all too familiar feeling of helplessness as we draw in a series of breaths each time our child has to have another IV put in for another round of chemo as they bravely battle the big C; Or being engulfed with despair as we watch our home and all our worldly possessions going up in flames in the middle of the night, or being swept away by the tide in the aftermath of a hurricane.

This blog posts and the ones that follow are about learning to breathe again, whether you have been in the habit of unconsciously taking in a serious of shallow breaths, or you have had the breath knocked out of you.

It is about learning to deeply inhale the extraordinary gifts of God, through his Grace, admidst the otherwise ordinary days.

It is a lesson I am learning to  practice in my own life, in response to battles that I am personally fighting with moments that take my breath away.

It is a lesson I HAVE to learn - just to survive on some days - and in order to thrive on others.
I am ever so grateful for the whispers of the Holy Spirit comforting me each day with the reminder to "Breathe, Just Breathe."

I pray that these writings will open up to you the  "Gift of Breath" and that by so doing you will begin to experience anew the grace and mercy of God in Christ and the extraordinary gifts He has waiting for you to breathe in on ordinary days as you begin to learn to "Breathe, Just Breathe".






Saturday, March 1, 2014

When Opportunity Shouts

It's been a strange kind of day.  I had lunch earlier with a dear friend, who no longer lives in the same town as I do, so I cherish our get togethers all the more now.  While at lunch, we were discussing how neither of us really wanted to serve "inside" the church anymore, but wanted to go "outside" its' walls to reach the lost and hurting with the love of Christ.

Later in the evening, my husband and I were sitting in our living room eating dinner, while watching the evening news.  We heard someone shouting outside and at first we ignored it, thinking it was just a neighborhood kid playing around.  When the shouting got louder and more insistent, we went to the window to see what was going on.  We saw a woman standing outside our gate, yelling and waving a flashlight.  My husband went outside first and I followed behind.

The young woman was shouting hysterically that something had happened to her dog - that he was hurt and that no one was home and she needed help.  We recognized her as someone we had seen in the neighborhood and working around town, so my husband went down the road with her to check on her dog, and I stayed behind and prayed.

We live and operate a bed and breakfast off the beaten path on a long winding country road.  We are grateful that The Lord has given us the resources to turn our modest home into our dream home, as well as to build a lovely bed and breakfast cottage on our property, surrounded by beautiful gardens, to offer as a place of rest and refreshment to others.  There are other modest homes in the neighborhood and a sprinkling of mobile homes - some well maintained - some badly in need of repair.

When my husband returned home, the news was not good.  The young woman lived in very poor conditions inside one of the mobile homes. She owned several dogs whom she dearly loved, and the one she came frantically looking for help for, had been hit by a car.  She had recently lost her job and had just broken up with her boyfriend because he had been abusing her.  She now had a roomate, because she was afraid to stay by herself.  And tonight one of her "babies" that she had adopted from the humane society was badly injured.

She apologized for "bothering" us and for crying about her dog.  As I hugged her and assured her that as a dog lover myself with a "baby" of my own, I completely understood - it seemed so inadequate.

My husband's calm compassionate demeanor, as he followed this distressed young woman home, examined her little dog, and helped her determine the best course of action to help her precious pet - all seemed so inadequate as well.

I wanted to take away her pain - all of it.  The pain of possibly losing her precious "baby", the pain of poverty, the pain of suffering abuse at the hands of another.  But I couldn't.  My husband couldn't.  We couldn't.

I wanted to pack up my extra clothes, my extra dishes, my extra sheets and blankets and bring them down to share with her.  When my husband told me she had mentioned to him how beautiful she thought our bed and breakfast gardens were and how peaceful she felt when she walked by, I wanted to throw open our garden gate and tell her she could come sit in it anytime she wants.

But I can't go down the block, goods in hand and drop them off uninvited and unasked for.  Still, I believe she came "shouting" at our house for a reason.  Perhaps, it was just for tonight's need - comfort and help in her distress.  Perhaps more.  I honestly don't know how to help her, only that my heart wants to.

Later, as I pondered the obvious question out loud to my husband of "Why?" "Why did she come to our house for help?" - she doesn't know us, we aren't the nearest house - he gave me the obvious answer.  "Because she saw the light on." The other houses in the neighborhood were dark - ours was shining brightly.

Yes! I want to be the house with the light on.  I want to be the life with the light of Christ shining brightly.  I want to offer people in distress the same love and compassion that I as a child of God have been so blessed to receive from Him through Christ.

Perhaps, we did give the woman all she wanted and for that matter all she needed from us.  Perhaps it was just a start and there is more to give.  I will have to trust that the same God who brought her to our home in her time of need, will show us if there is more to do.  But for now, I will be thankful for the opportunity that came "shouting" tonight.

Questions for Thought:
What opportunities are "shouting" at you?
How might God be calling you to respond?

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Emmanuel (God with Us)


"Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will give conceive and give birth to a son and call him Emmanuel." Isaiah 7:14

It has been a long and harrowing year and I have been silent and absent from my blog for far too long. I could tell you that I have been experiencing writer's block, or that I have been preoccupied with more pressing things - both of which are true - but the raw truth is that I have been derailed!

About this time a year ago, the train I had boarded was going at a pretty good clip.  Not speeding, mind you, just chugging along.  Our bed and breakfast business was booming and I was in the process of taking my coaching and writing business to the next level.   I had grand plans for it all and not only was I going places, but I was enjoying the journey as well.

And then it happened - without much warning, the train ran off its tracks.

It seemed to happen in an instant - the pain struck like a knife, then went away. A few seconds later, the pain stuck again this time more insistent and then stayed.

"Pelvic Pain of Unknown Etiology."  That was my preliminary diagnosis.  A series of tests ensued.  Exams, Ultrasounds, Blood Work, etc.

"Pelvic Pain of Unknown Etiology."  Two trips to the emergency room, doubled over in pain. my normal bodily functions compromised.  The hoped for diagnostic tests not run. Pain pills dispensed.

"Pelvic Pain of Unknown Etiology."  Finally in desperation, my husband drove me two hours to Ochsner Hospital's Emergency Room to get a battery of tests run.  We waited over three hours in a room filled with flu patients, and the tests took another three. Finding out there were many issues inside my pelvis, I was given some prescriptions, stronger pain medicine and a referral to a GYN pain specialist - which was not until two weeks later because of the Christmas Season.

We arrived home early the next morning, I slept for a couple of hours, but was soon up again because of the pain.   Later that evening, I took a pain pill, went to bed and slept. At some point during the night, I got up to go to the bathroom and began to feel quite woozy.  I headed back towards our bedroom and barely made it into the room, before losing consciousness, falling and hitting my head on the foot-board of our king-sized sleigh bed, then bouncing off and hitting my head a second time.

Either the hit on the bed or the scream that came from somewhere inside me, woke my husband and my youngest son and they ran to help me up. But I was too weak to even be helped up and I insisted they let me lay there until I felt stable enough to be picked up and put back in bed. At that moment I felt so utterly helpless, and truth be told, hopeless.  I didn't know how I would make it another day, much less another two weeks until I saw the specialist.

Christmas came and went. All around me, people were celebrating the birth of Christ - Emmanuel (God with Us) and for the first time in my life, I missed the joy of celebrating His birth and did not feel my the usual joy of His presence.  My family cooked and cleaned, lovingly cared for me, attended church and exchanged gifts.  I lay in bed weak and in pain, simultaneously grateful for their presence, yet wishing at times to be left alone.

"Hysterectomy."  Finally, the long awaited appointment arrived.  After consultation with the doctor, it was determined that I needed a complete hysterectomy and my surgery was scheduled for the first available date - February 5.  I was originally told that I would have a six week recovery period and then I would feel like "a new woman."  But after surgery, the doctor informed me that it was a "mess it there" and he had to do extensive work and that my recovery period would now probably take 6 months to a year.  But he assured both my husband and I that the surgery had indeed proved absolutely necessary as I was just one stage away from cancer!  MY Emmanuel (God with ME) had cleared the path before me, long before the train derailed, and prepared a way to save me from a worse fate, in spite of the fact that I did not "feel" Him with me.

"Pelvic Floor Dysfunction."  The recovery period has been long and arduous, and I developed complications from the surgery.  Several months into the recovery period, I was diagnosed with Pelvic Floor Dysfunction - a disorder of the pelvic muscles which causes chronic pain.  I have been referred to physical therapy and am blessed to have a team of PT's who are very invested in helping me overcome my pain.

It is now a year later and we have just celebrated Christ's Birth again.  I had hoped that all of my issues would have been resolved by now, and while some are getting better, I have developed new and puzzling symptoms and once again find myself undergoing tests and waiting.

"Possible MS." The spoken words in the doctor's office at first startled me, now terrify me. Waiting is not something I ever do well and in this circumstance, it is even harder.
But as I look back over the past year, I am in awe of the many ways God was with me.

I am so grateful for my loving husband who has been with me each and every day - whose love and strength enabled me to keep going, when at times, I wanted to give up.
I am so grateful for my children and grandchildren whose phone calls and visits brought laughter back once again.
I am so grateful for the care and concern of my friends and their prayers which sustained me.
I am so grateful for the knowledge and compassion of the doctors and nurses who cared for me and who are caring for me still.
I am so grateful for my sweet doggie who  made it his personal mission to stay close to me and keep a watchful eye on me and even licked my tears, which fell too often from my face.

I am so grateful for the winter that gave way to spring, for the beautiful gardens we are blessed with, which provide  the perfect place for prayer, rest and recovery; for the melodious songbirds sitting in our trees each morning who serenade I look forward to each morning and evening; the scampering squirrels who daily fight over the hickory nuts that have fallen to the ground and try to find new ways to get into the bird feeders; and even the occasional surprise bunny whose presence makes it into our garden, brings instant joy to my heart.

 I am grateful to be reminded that it is not always in the extraordinary that we meet with God, but most often it is in the ordinary. I am grateful that I have been forced to slow down and have been given the opportunity to drink in the beauty of God's creation, but even more grateful that I have been given the opportunity to drink more deeply of Him.

"EMMANUEL." God with us, God with you, God with me. Emmanuel - Born of a virgin, laid in a manger; fully God and fully man, yet without sin; who lived and dwelt among us and became sin for us; who died our death on the cross; who rose from the dead and is and has been eternally our Emmanuel (God with us).

"EMMANUEL." I don't know what the future holds, but I do know WHO holds the future.
And that gives me courage to face the future - whatever it holds. His strength enables me in my weakness to continue to serve Him with the gifts and calling He has given me. His grace enables me to take one day at a time.

It won't always be easy, nor will I always like the detours that the Lord in his faithfulness and love for me determines are necessary, nor will I always understand or know the answer to "Why?"

But, I think that now, at long last, I am ready to surrender my hand to His, as He helps me up the steps and back onto the train, because I know in a deeper way now than I ever did before, that there is an unseen person, sitting next to me and His name is:

 "EMMANUEL." God with us, God with you, God with me; Then and Now.
















Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Power and Privilege of Words


I've been thinking a lot about words lately and the mystery of them. 

Both the spoken word and the written word have always intrigued me. 

I still stand in awe of the way a young child learns to speak the language of his or her parents.  The way that language just seems to be absorbed as if by osmosis, the way one wondrous day a word comes forth, and then another and another, finally to be followed by a sentence and before long a conversation.

The written word holds no less intrigue for me.  In fact, they may even hold more. I never cease to be amazed at  how these symbols we call letters are put together to form a word and how those words are put together to form a sentence and those sentences form a paragraph and those paragraphs form an article, a blog post, a story, or a book.

But perhaps my greatest surprise is the power that words hold and the effect they can have on others and where that leaves me as a writer.  This realization of the power that words hold is simultaneously both awesome and frightening to me.

Words have the power to uplift, encourage and heal.  They also have the power to tear down, discourage and wound.  They hold the actual power of speaking life or death to others.

I had two teachers in school whose words still ring in my ears and so perfectly illustrate this point. 

The first spoke death to me. I still vividly remember both the incident and the words as if they happened just yesterday.  I was a small grammar school student who had worked diligently on an art assignment the teacher had given us. When I was sure that it beautifully conveyed on paper the image I saw in my head, I proudly handed in my  work.  A day or two later, the teacher (whose name I don't even remember) handed back my art work with a Big Fat Red F marked across the page while she boldly proclaimed to me (and the rest of the class) "YOU have NO artistic talent whatsoever!" To this day, I've never picked up a paintbrush (other than the ones I paint beautiful rooms with!) again.

The other spoke life to me.  Miss Vella (whose name I do remember) told me regularly that I had talent, that my writing was beautiful and that she had no doubt that one day I would be a published author. I credit Ms. Vella, my high school teacher, with my love of language, love of words and the fact that I am able to string a word or two together today to convey a thought or an idea. 

Now the point here (in case you're missing it) is not whether I have even a smidgen of undiscovered or underdeveloped artistic talent in me, or even whether or not I'll ever find myself on the New York Times Best Seller List.

No, the point here is that words hold power.  And that consequently, as someone who holds words in both her heart and fingers, I am given the privilege and the responsibility to use them in a way to speak life to those who read them. 

And what an awesome privilege that is - to have the opportunity to speak life and birth greatness in others.  Not an art that I've perfected yet, but  certainly an ideal I aspire to. 

And I hope I get it right, at least some of the time.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Crazy


"You can find inspiration in everything (and if you can't look again)" -Paul Smith

I've been asking myself a lot of questions lately.  Questions like: "What type of women do I really want to coach in my coaching business?" and "Who exactly do I want to reach with my writing?"

I've also been wrestling with some recurring questions swirling about in my head (yes I hear voices - does that make me crazy?)  ones that are constantly vying for top billing in my thoughts. The winners as of late have been "Does that make me crazy?" And "Who do you think you are?"

I often find inspiration in strange places and today I found it in Southern Hip Hop Artist Cee Lo Green's hit "Crazy." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BgRLrOyxUBo&feature=youtube_gdata_player.  He wrote the lyrics to "Crazy" after a conversation he had with a friend about people thinking artists are insane.

In case you're not familiar with the lyrics, they read like this:

I remember when, I remember,
I remember when I lost my mind.
There was something so pleasant about that place.
Even your emotions had an echo is so much space.

And when you're out there, without care,
yeah, I was out of touch.
But it wan't because I didn't know enough.
I just knew too much...

Does that make me crazy?
Does that make me crazy?
Does that make me crazy?
Possibly

And I hope that you are having the time of your life
But think twice
That's my only advice

Come on now
Who do you
Who do you
Who do you
Who do you think you are?
Ha, ha, ha!
Bless your soul!
Do you really think you're in control?

Well...
I think you're crazy!
I think you're crazy!
I think you're crazy!
Just like me!

My heroes had the heart
to lose their lives out on a limb.
And all I remember
is thinkin' I wanna be like them.

Ever since I was little,
Ever since I was little, it looked like fun
it was no coincidence I've come
And I can die when I'm done

But maybe I'm crazy
Maybe you're crazy
Maybe we're crazy
Probably


Yes, I remember when I lost my mind - when I decided to follow my dreams and I remember the pleasantness of that place as I finally gave myself permission to free up the creative space to do so.

I know what it's like to be out of touch - to ignore logic and reality and to follow my dreams anyway - because I know what they are, and because to me, they are worth following.

I'm all too familiar with  the voice(s) in my head that are constantly asking me "Are you crazy?" And "Who do you think you are?" And I know all too well the constant struggle to not let those questions deter me from my path.

I realize that while following my passion in life will give me the time of my life, thinking twice about the cost to do so is so very necessary.  So I've thought about it twice (maybe three times)  and I've decided that not following my dream would invariably cost me more.

Today, the answer to the nagging question "Who do you think you are?" was finally forthcoming! "I think  I am an ordinary woman with an extraordinary dream - to inspire others to follow their dreams by following mine." 

That dream (to be a writer)  was there since I was little and as I looked at my heroes, I too can remember thinking I want to be like them.  And no, it is not a coincidence that I've come to this place - it is a decision.  A decision to follow my dreams.  A decision to do what it takes to get there.  A decision to inspire others to do the same.

 I only recently declared myself a writer along with many others followers of 
http://www.goinswriter.com and shortly thereafter writing opportunities began to open up.  I am now in the process of transitioning to a writer's life and finding inspiration in the two online classes I am presently taking at http://www.susannahconway.com and http://www.kellyraeroberts.com.

I now know the type of women I want to coach, the readers I hope to reach with my writing.

They are the "crazy" ones.  The one's that have a dream deep in their souls, a passion burning them from the inside out, a calling that won't stop calling their name.  They are the crazy ones who know  too much - they know what their dream is and won't give up its' pursuit until it's realized.  They are the crazy ones, the ones who are ignoring the medical reports and seeking to find purpose in their pain and fighting their way back to a joy-filled life in spite of the facts.  They are the crazy ones who leave the cushy life of the corporate world to open their dream business.  They are the crazy ones, the artists, the musicians, the writers,  the designers who want to speak to others through their beauty and their words.  They are the crazy ones, the ones who'll ignore logic, the ones who will push past  insurmountable obstacles, the ones who hear questions swirling around in their brains, and the ones who want to find the courage to answer those questions...... all because of a dream.  

Yes, I want to reach the "crazy" ones - the ones just like you and just like me.

"Does that make me crazy?"

Probably.