The Present of Presence

Being Present

The best lessons come from the most difficult trials, the most significant growth from when we’re at our lowest.

When we’re filled with pride, the inevitable fall is hard. And so painful. But with humility comes peace. Yet It never ceases to amaze me that like the monster it is, pride rears its ugly head time and time again.

I have found the one surefire way to stay humble is to be grateful. One cannot be grateful and filled with pride at the same time. It’s like being angry and laughing at the same time. They cannot coexist. The next time you’re angry about something, smile, even if you have to fake it, and see if it doesn’t change your perspective at that exact moment.

When I talk about being grateful, I don’t just mean about the big things that happen during the day. The in-your-face-can’t-miss-it blessings. I’m referring to the little, seemingly insignificant things that oftentimes go unnoticed unless we’re consciously aware of our surroundings. The hundreds of presents given to us daily waiting to be unwrapped, graciously accepted, and savored. All of the ordinary moments that collectively make the day extraordinary.

  • The birth of a new day.
  • That deep, long inhale, followed by a long cleansing exhale, feeling every muscle relax in the process.
  • The sound of laughter.
  • That smile from a stranger at that exact moment you needed a smile. And when you didn’t even realize you needed one until you received it.
  • A child’s belly laugh.
  • That one line in a book that speaks directly to your heart.
  • A vibrant red umbrella on a gray, rainy day.

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  • That magical “I love you” from a loved one.
  • That out-of-blue phone call from an old friend, just calling to see how you’ve been.
  • The smell of a freshly opened box of crayons.
  • The feel of fresh, crisp sheets after a long day.
  • The soft hum of the furnace on a cold day.
  • Bright stars twinkling in a black velvet sky.

Stars

  • The comfort of slipping into yoga pants and a sweatshirt after a long day at work.
  • Kindness from a stranger.
  • That out-of-the-blue scent that transports me back in time to one of my very favorite moments, like the smell of Chantilly that brings my grandmother close again.
  • The scent of a balsam pine candle.
  • Sea salt caramel gelato.
  • Letters written in silver script.
  • The warmth of the clothes as they’re pulled from the dryer.

Presents given endlessly, waiting to be discovered. And we can only receive them if we’re present in the moment. Presence. It’s the best present we can give ourselves.

Hodgepodge

There’s a lot that’s swirling around in my head these days, the top of that list being sheer gratitude for life in general. There’s something about starting and ending the day with a simple “Thank You” that makes all the rest in between all the sweeter. 2015-02-15 18.37.41 Estes Jan 2015 It’s hard to believe it was a few short weeks ago that my husband and I were enjoying our time in Estes Park for Valentine’s weekend, walking along the riverwalk in the falling snow, everything blanketed in a thick, pristine layer of white. Then cozying up in front of the fireplace with a cup of tea and a good book while the snow piled high outside the window. The weather this past week in Colorado has been beyond beautiful. Add to that the extra hour of daylight in the evenings–thank you Daylight Savings Time–and I feel completely rejuvenated. Once the sleep issues resolved themselves from the time change. But that’s a small price to pay for longer evenings and warmer weather. Yesterday I had the afternoon off work so I slipped into yoga pants and a T-shirt and camped out on the patio. I put my feet up and let the warm sun seep deep into my muscles, relaxing me into a state of bliss. The birds were flying in and out from the feeders, a squirrel ran along the top of the old wooden fence, three times, for the sole purpose of teasing Roxie, my dog, I’m sure–who took the bait hook, line and sinker–and the wind chimes chimed their magical meditative tune. I watched as Roxie settled into a state of complete contentment lying in the grass, head dipping as she dozed, and I savored every bite and crumb of a lemon muffin and every drop of a cup of coffee. It was better therapy than money could ever buy. While on the patio, I finished reading Louisiana Longshot: A Miss Fortune Mystery, by Jana DeLeon, an entertaining read that provided a healthy dose of laughter more than once, and one I would highly recommend. I will definitely be reading more of her work. I also tweaked the back cover copy of my book, Shear Madness, and have decided while editing that I don’t so much like the first person present tense. While present tense seems to add a sense of immediacy, it didn’t read smoothly. So on my next run through I’ll be changing it to first person past tense. I would be interested in hearing what you prefer–present tense or past? Which do you find easier to read? I’m thankful for all of my blogging–and blog reading–friends, and hope you all have a beautiful weekend. Carpe Diem

The Rainbow After the Rain

This morning as I was doing my “prayer and meditation time,” finally feeling better after having a flu bug that knocked me down harder than I can ever remember, I thought about something my sweet grandma said I told her numerous times years ago.

“Grandma, I like getting tummy aches ’cause it feels so good when they go away.”

She said she thought it was so funny when I said that.

However, maybe I was on to something at that young age, with that sentiment that was difficult for grandma to understand.

It’s not by avoiding the difficulties that we get to see the joy, but by going through them. By embracing them even.

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. (James 1:2)

Going through the pain of losing loved ones has led me to a greater appreciation for the people who are still in my life.

Going through the devastation of suicide with a boyfriend years ago and with my stepdaughter later has led me to an empathy for others experiencing that devastation, enabling me to shine a light so they, too, can get through that very black space of so many questions and so much guilt.

Going through the process of healing after being sexually assaulted by a stranger at the young age of 18, working my way through the fear and turmoil that followed me for years, the PTSD, has given me the aptitude to help other victims of crime along that dark, lonely path. The path that only a survivor can possibly understand and give hope to the still suffering that there is light at the end of that tunnel.

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At the risk of sounding cliché, it’s not until after the rain and the cracks of thunder, frightening bolts of lightning, that we can see the incredible rainbow that brings peace and awe.

While I wouldn’t count it joy while in the midst of those dark times, the fact that there was joy in my life afterward is nothing short of miraculous. Those trials have led me to a closer relationship with my God. My Savior–literally. Left to my own, I would not have survived, but He carried me through those troubling times. Like the footprints in the sand poem.

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I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)

And today? I’m so thankful I’m feeling better and embrace this day with renewed energy and passion for health.

Peace, my friends. Have a beautiful day.

He Sees – And Still He Loves

Matthew 28-20

Matthew 28:20 (NIV)
(b) “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Sometimes when I read the Bible a verse that I’ve read a dozen or more times will jump out at me with a whole new meaning. This is one of those verses. So many times I have read this and found comfort without giving it a whole lot of thought.

Today I thought about it.

And not only did it bring the usual comfort, but discomfort as well. Or maybe it was conviction. Do I live my life as though He is with me always? Would I be okay with Him seeing how I live each day? I have to admit most days that would be a big resounding “No!” Rather, I would be ashamed if He saw me:

Exhibit that eye roll at someone’s suggestion.

Firing off that angry email in response to another’s.

Cheating the system, just this once.

Offering harsh criticism and judgment instead of acceptance.

Exhibiting contempt rather than love.

Feeling entitled rather than grateful.

That all-to-quick sharp human retort.

Turning a blind eye to someone in need because I don’t have the time to be inconvenienced.

Hoping not to get caught because no one is around to see? Busted!

Psalm 73:23 (NKJV)
“Nevertheless I am continually with You; You hold me by my right hand.”

And though I may think at times, “Well, I’m not so bad, because at least I haven’t been as bad as so-and-so.” I don’t believe God measures in degrees. Rather, I believe He sees it simply for what it is–the condition of the heart.

He is with me always, to the very end of age.

Reading and meditating on this verse today has led me to a desire to want to live my life more intentionally. To be more aware of my words and actions, and to be proactive rather than reactive. To extend love in all circumstances, and to live my life in a way that shows gratitude and honor at being the daughter of a King. To love as He loves, forgive as He forgives, extend grace, as He extends grace.

To bring Him joy as He is always with me. To the very end of age.

Silence – Part II

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In Part I, I announced My One Word, Silence, for 2014, and the benefits I have found through my conversion to one word rather than a list of resolutions.  Following is a list of how one word can help shape my character and draw me nearer to God if practiced diligently, keeping in mind it’s about progress, not perfection.  And to think this list can happen from just one word. 🙂

1.)  When I feel anger toward someone for their words or actions, whether they were intentional or not, remaining silent until I’ve had time to process and bring it before God will prevent me from spouting off with a comment I will likely regret later.  And staying silent, not even so much as to comment under my breath to myself in the name of venting, will keep my thoughts clear. I believe that our thoughts become words, so if I say something unkind in a moment of emotion, whether to someone else or to myself, I’m allowing my thoughts to travel that path.  Stopping a negative thought with a positive one before it flows into words, prevents those thoughts from germinated and growing wildly out of control, weeds choking out anything beautiful that has the potential to grow.  And it’s impossible to feel anger when I’m being grateful to God for something He’s blessed me with.

2.)  Taking a moment of silence before responding to a question that holds any weight gives enough time to invite God into the conversation.  If I follow His lead, I can’t go wrong.  In the presence of impulsivity and many spoken words, there is greater chance for sin.

3.)  It’s in silence and stillness that God breathes answers to my questions, even those that are often unasked.  If every waking moment is absorbed in sound, whether it be the television, radio, others or myself talking, there is no room for listening to His still, small voice.  I enjoy listening to the K-LOVE radio station in my car, or WAY-FM, songs and spiritual words lifting me high.  However, I have found that when I listen for it coming from Him, in silence, rather than through noise on the radio, it blankets my heart in peace that is incomparable to anything else.  That being said, unless I think about the word “silence,” in a world that’s accustomed and conditioned to noise, I often run on auto pilot and turn my radio on without thinking.  My one word reminds me to invite the silence into my day.

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4.)  Keeping my one word consciously and  subconsciously close, invites my thoughts to be still, bringing them back to Him, riding that wave of peace.  It’s a peace that is unmatched and one I discovered cannot be found anywhere except in close communion with God.  Silence reminds me to take deep, slow, cleansing breathes throughout the day, keeping the chaos and noise to a tolerable minimum.

5.)  Mindfulness of silence keeps me from reliving yesterday or jumping ahead to tomorrow, and keeps me living, fully experiencing, the here and now.

As I now prepare to sit quietly and enjoy a moment of silence before proceeding with my day, I wish you all a beautiful, peaceful year, journeying on your path to growth toward whatever it is you’re striving for.

Peace to you.

Mental Health Days

Mental Health Awareness Ribbon

If someone hurts your feelings, it’s unimportant unless you persist in remembering it.”

I’m taking the day off from work today as a mental health day. With difficult things coming at me from all directions lately, I’ve decided to disconnect from the world and re-connect with God. When my boys were in school, I used to give them two mental health days each school year. They used them so wisely, planning very carefully when to use them, and usually saving them until the end of the year when their mind truly needed a break. I was so proud of them for using those two days as they were intended.

After I finished my time of quiet meditation, prayer, and Bible reading this morning, my mind traveled to my job. For most of my life, whenever things got tough, I was a “quitter”.  That’s changing.

I work in a large company that has many women employees. I’m not sure what it is, but this has been, by far, the most difficult job I’ve ever had when it comes to relationships with others. The cattiness and pettiness are brutal, the gossip rampant, and sometimes it feels like I’m in a shark tank.

That being said, I have been at this job for seven years now and I have not quit, as has been my history.  Not that I haven’t wanted to several times, but I have stuck it out. Many people would argue that life is too short to be miserable.  And I fully agree with that sentiment. However, this is what I have learned by sticking it out:

*     Others cannot make me miserable unless I allow them to. Joy comes from within me. That means I can find joy wherever I am and whoever is around me. If I allow others to make me angry or rob me of my joy, I’m giving them power over me. That can only happen if I allow it to.

*     Looking back through the events that have led me to this job, I truly believe that God has placed me here to make a difference. To learn how to be happy and thankful despite circumstances and to practice persevering through hard times. It has made me stronger, more resilient, and more compassionate.

*     Meditation is really such an easy thing to do, but so darn easy to forget in the midst of a struggle. Placing a reminder in front of me like a simple acronym that only I understand, reminds me to take time, even if all I have is a moment, to take a deep, slow breath, focusing on something I’m grateful for. Practicing meditation during all circumstances has made me much more proficient at it regardless of the noise and activity around me. It centers me, brings me back to God, and quiets my mind, making me more intact internally when externally things are nothing less than crazy.

*     When those around me are talking about someone, not only do I not have to participate, but I don’t have to listen, or even pay attention. It’s okay to get up from my desk to make copies, get a cup of coffee, or even make a point of walking by the person being talked about and show compassion with a simple smile.

*     When I’m on the receiving end of the gossip, and it reaches me, if I have done what is being said and it was wrong, I can take it as a reminder to not do it again and make amends if necessary. If I didn’t do it, then I have nothing to worry about. I can take the high road, knowing the rumor doesn’t have any foundation.

*     I don’t have to please anyone other than God. Having struggled with being a people pleaser for most of my life, this has been huge. And I get constant practice at my job. Not only is it okay, but commendable, to do the unpopular thing if it means pleasing and serving only God.

*     Not to take things personal. If someone is having a bad day, or women are whispering around me, it’s highly unlikely about me at all. Everything is not about me. And there is such freedom in remembering that!

I am grateful to work in a place where my immediate supervisor believes in mental health days. In working with victims all day, she understands the importance of taking care of ourselves. And that is something I’m so grateful for.

All is Grace.

Thankful Thursday – Every Breath of Life

Every sweet breath that fills my lungs from the moment I wake up in the morning until I wake up the next.

I’m grateful for every breath that isn’t my last.

And for the power the act of breathing holds, the benefits, the gifts, the blessings.

meditate

Meditation has taught me to be conscious of each breath that pulses life, to be mindful of the power each one holds, giving this God-given and blessed heart life.

Mindful breathing calms fear and anxiety, allows for focus on the path before us, encourages gratitude, and fuels the body with renewed energy as it fills the cells with oxygen. It’s a simple, automatic action that has the power to transform your life.

Serenity

“A lifetime is not what is between
the moments of birth and death.
A lifetime is one moment
Between my two little breaths.
The present, the here, the now,
That’s all the life I get.
I live each moment in full,
In kindness, in peace, without regret.”

Chade Meng, Taoist poet

All is Grace.