“Intentional living means making chooses for your life based on your greatest values, not the habits of others.”
I think this time of the year, with all the hustle and bustle of the season it’s all the more important to take the time to set our daily intentions. It helps me to focus on what I’m doing at the moment. The most important intention I have is to find joy in each project every day as I work my way closer to Christmas. Living an intentional, mindful, conscious life allows me to pick and choose what I can handle today. It also allows me to get rid of the things that eat away at my precious time, like the internet and TV. While I know it’s important to know what’s going on in the world, I’m trying to avoid too much media that brings me down. Listening to Christmas music lifts my spirits and gives me the energy to keep being creative with the things I want to accomplish.
Reflection: I think of the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson when he said, “What lies before us and what lies behind us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” It is an excellent reminder of how important it is to set our intentions from the heart.
“We who come to God for refuge might be encouraged to seize that hope that is set before us. That hope is real and true, an anchor to steady our restless souls, a hope that leads us back behind the curtain to where God is.”
We all have different journeys to walk in life. They don’t just start when we become adults. Our childhood and the experiences we had growing up are part of our ongoing journey. The lessons we learn along the way will either make us stronger or leave us feeling defeated. I have learned that nothing is worth going through if I don’t find something within it to make me a better person for going through it. A journey is full of lessons and new things to learn. As long as we are alive, there will be new journeys to travel.
In the senior year’s of my life, I am still in awe as I think about how I survived my youth. I know looking back now that it was only through the grace of God and the relationship I had that I am here today to talk about it. When everything you know and love is suddenly stripped away from you, your parents, family, friends, even your clothes. And as if that isn’t enough, every particle of your life is scrubbed away from your body and out of your hair. You sit wrapped in a towel, feeling numb and empty. That was the way it felt for me as a child when I was abandoned. Hope kept poking at me, and when I let it slip back within, it was that hope that led me back to God. He was there all along, and I learned that the only thing that separated me from God was the thin veil I chose to walk behind, where God was out of sight and out of mind. That’s the difference between God and us. We are like the Prodigal Son, always trying to find our way, and God is the loving Father, always ready with open arms welcoming us home again.
Reflection: Sometimes, it takes losing everything you have to let hope lead us back behind the curtain to where God is a true constant in our life.
“If God is the DJ, then life is the dance floor, love is the rhythm, and you are the music.”
There is a rhythm to the changing seasons. Fall gives us the chance to slowly glide into the cold of winter, spring awakens us with a few of its fancy steps, and summer puts us in the full movement of the rhythm of life. Within each season, we dance to the steps of each day, and within each day, we flow into the rhythm of our daily work. At least that’s the way I want it could be. It takes a conscious effort to be in tune with the opportunities that life brings before us; how we perform lies within the choices we make. I can choose to dance my way through things or let my anxiety block the sounds of the music within me.
This weekend as I get into the rhythm of the Christmas season decorating, I realize I have two choices in how I can go about it. I can remember the reason for the season and why I put so much effort into it. Or I can become overwhelmed by perfection and the time limits I put on what I’m doing. Conscious thinking, a few deep breaths, a little Christmas music, and I remember how much fun it is to dance my way through the things I actually enjoy doing.
Reflection: If God is the DJ, life is the dance floor, love is the rhythm, and I am the music. I’m not sure it gets any better than that. I want to dance to the music every day in everything I do and dance my way through the rhythm of life.
“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”
“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” ~Charles Dickens
Whatever way we decide to contribute to the better good of others should come from a place within us that tugs at our hearts. I would rather give from the heart than out of obligation. So that means putting some prayerful thought into the gifts I have to offer. And if I didn’t have time to put together the things I have to give away, I could always provide some money for a worthy cause.
My Tom donates his blood every few months because he has the kind of blood used universally. I have a bag full of clean, nice clothes I hardly wore to give to the Salvation Army. We give away furniture we no longer need to those who can use it. This year I’m going to have a food donation box for family members and friends to contribute. After Christmas, we will take it to our local food bank.
Did I ever tell you the story about when I was a kid, and we didn’t have much money? I came home from school the day before Thanksgiving, and there was a basket full of food sitting in front of our door. It had a turkey and all the fixing for a thanksgiving dinner. We didn’t know where it came from, but our thanksgiving meal was all the more special because of the thoughtfulness of others. When you know what’s it like to be hungry and in need and then to have those needs met, you know how important it is to give back.
Reflection: Putting thoughtfulness into those less fortunate than me, I can’t think of a better way to give this Christmas.
Thenceforward we move from Thanksgiving into the Christmas season
I was looking for a word to describe what comes next. Thenceforward means onward from this place and time. It seems perfect for the day after Thanksgiving. While I want to relax, there is the overwhelming feeling of the Christmas season that slips into the empty space Thanksgiving leaves behind. I want to sit in the empty space for a while and find a way to take one day at a time, enjoying the thenceforward anticipation every step of the way. It feels good to pull the reins back on myself, slowing down enough to gain control. It reminds me I got this. I can do it and enjoy myself with each step.
Reflection: Every day, in every way, I have the opportunity to sit in the empty space between the thenceforward movements of time and place. Here in this place, I can contemplate what comes next and take one step at a time.
Now is not the time to think about what you do not have, but rejoice and give thanks for your God-given talents and all you have to work with.
Our electricity went out last night, and it became pitch dark in the house. The first Tom said was, there goes our Thanksgiving dinner. It got me thinking about how we could still cook things. The turkey was going on the grill anyway. We can still use the top of our gas stove. We could turn on the gas fireplace to stay warm. And other people are bringing things to eat too. This is us in the modern-day world trying to figure out what the pilgrims already knew how to do with the bare essentials. It has given me a new aprication for everything that went into the first Thanksgiving. How hard it was to establish a life in a new country. They were starting from scratch with nothing but the tools and seeds they brought with them. I can’t even imagine how hard it must have been for them. At least I have a roof over my head; I thought as I fell asleep in the pitch dark.
As I awoke this morning, the electric clock beside our bed was blinking off and on. I was instantly thankful for the convenience it brought back into our life. But I am most grateful for what it reminded me about the first Thanksgiving and how all-inspiring the human spirit can be when put to the task. We are so much more creative than we give ourselves credit. Sometimes difficult things need to happen to remind us what we are still capable of doing.
Reflection: Every day, in every way, I am grateful for the gift of life and all it has to show and teach me. How exciting it is to be alive, to share this day with those I love, and it reminds me of all the wonderful blessings in my life.
We are so very blessed with the gifts of the earth every day. Gifts we take for granted that we have neither earned nor paid for, like the air we breathe, nurturing rain, rich soil, seeds to plant, trees that bear fruit, and vegetables to harvest. The gifts of the earth are endless; how can I not rejoice and be glad.
I am sitting in the corner of my office, my little sacred space inside my house where I write in the cold days of the winter months. I would rather be outside where I can hear the birds chirping, the bees buzzing about, breathing the fresh air smelling the various earth scents. It truly does awaken every sense in my body, and I feel connected to the earth and the same way I feel when I’m in tune with God.
So what do I do to appreciate what the earth still has to offer from the warmth of my sacred space inside my house? All I can see of the outside world is from my window. It is like a picture on the wall of a big evergreen tree with the crisp blue sky in the background. It all comes down to how I choose to see what is right in front of me. How easy it is to ignore and take for granted the gift it has to offer. It’s just one small part of the vastness of our earth, but it is there for me to receive. The evergreen is a beautiful piece of artwork, and the crisp blue sky reminds me how endless the gifts of the earth are.
When the earth has so much to offer me, I wonder how I can give back? I can have a consciousness for how I care for it; of course, that’s important for sure. But I wonder if the earth is very different from us when we give a gift we don’t give to get something in return, just seeing the pleasure in your face is enough gratitude for keeping the spirit of giving alive.
Reflection: Every day, in every way, I am grateful to be a part of this great big wonderful earth and all gifts it has to offer me.
“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
When I write the words “being courageous,” I hear the roar of a Lion in my head. I think it’s because it reminds me of the Lion in the Wizard of Oz. All he wanted was the courage to be who he was, but fear held him back and made him feel as small as a mouse. Courage sounds like such a big and powerful thing to have. The Lion thought he had to ask for it, but the Wizard told him he had all the courage he needed already inside him. All he had to do was use it.
Learning to use our courage takes practice, though. First, we have to step out in blind faith until we trust and believe in who we are. Getting past the fear that holds us back is the biggest challenge, and the only thing holding us back from being the courageous person we are is ourselves.
Being courageous means doing the little things we think we can’t do as much as the big stuff. When I am brave enough to step out of my comfort zone, I realize I can still do something I haven’t done in a long time. It makes me feel empowered, strong, and capable. It builds the muscles we need to do the more complicated things in life, like speaking up when we need to.
Reflection: I have learned that one of the best ways to be courageous is to try and understand what I’m afraid of and then refuse to let that fear paralyze me.
“Alone, we can do so little; Together, we can do so much.
It’s interesting how the isolation of the Covid-19 pandemic brought to mind the importance of my various community groups in my life. I am grateful for the opportunities that technology has provided during this time. It has given us multiple ways of communicating with our social groups, from watching church on tv or connecting with my spiritual support group through the internet. And I can’t forget the happy hours with my friends. Seeing your faces hearing your voices all helped to keep me grounded. Even those distancing visits when I got a wave from my grandchildren from the driveway was something, but not enough to feed the needs of the human heart that craves touch and eye-to-eye communication.
We have various community groups our families, churches, spiritual, cultural, county, political, reading groups, the list goes on. What the pandemic did do for me was make me slow down. In many ways, I liked not being committed to anything. That lasted for a little while, but it also gave me a chance to reevaluate what kind of community I really wanted to be a part of. The most important thing that I learned was that the value of being part of a community makes me feel as though I am a part of something bigger than myself. It allows me to connect with people to reach my goals. It also makes me feel responsible, secure, safe, and most of all alive.
Reflection: There is not much more to say but to reflect on the words of Lance Amstrong: “Knowledge is power, community is strength, and positive attitude is everything.”
“You can have a do-over starting today. But you have to get over the feeling that it’s too late.”
Have you ever said or done something you wish you could go back and do over differently. I remember years ago being hurt by friends who discussed my actions or lack of reactions in our friendship behind my back. I was so hurt and angry that I let those feelings react in a way that was not like mine and almost lost a very valued friendship in the process. It made me question what friendship was all about. While it’s true that friendship involves two or more people, I am not one to blame others but tend to wonder what’s the matter with me. Why didn’t I know how to be a better friend? I do this because I can’t change the way others think, but I can change the way others see me. I can use it as an opportunity to feel sorry for myself or reevaluate how I am being perceived. I realized it was time for a much-needed do-over of what friendship meant to me. It wasn’t about reinventing myself. It was about how much I valued what I had and what worthy changes I needed to make for myself. My do-over had to express who I was, not what others expected me to be. In the end, my do-over helped create stronger friendships.
Reflection: I know I can never go back and change the things I regret, but I can use those opportunities to create a do-over so that I am best expressing who I really am.