Nature’s Voice

On a morning run recently I was running behind a squirrel who had a large plastic wrapper in its mouth. The wrapper blocked his view, so he was running in a zig zag fashion trying to get away, failing at his endeavor. As I got closer, he ditched the wrapper (literally) and bee-lined in a straight line climbing a pole to safety.

On my cool down walk, I got to thinking about the squirrel. He reminded me of how we oftentimes get so caught up in what we’re doing and where we’re trying to go that we can’t see where it is we actually need to go. We take off running helter skelter on a course we’ve designed for ourselves rather than ask Him to guide us. We pick up garbage along the way and it blocks us from seeing and following the One who can get us where we need to go safely. We let the garbage in life prevent us from tasting life’s goodness. Take the following, for instance:

  • We allow the judgements of others to dictate who we are.
  • We compare ourselves to others, blinding ourselves to our unique goodness.
  • We believe we don’t deserve goodness because of what we’ve done in the past. (ie: I’m an alcoholic/addict/thief/liar–or whatever your vice may have been–and have hurt people in the past. I don’t deserve forgiveness.)

When the truth is:

  • We are each and every one unique and equal.
  • Despite the fact we may make poor choices, it doesn’t make us bad people. It makes us human. Humans are fallible.
  • Whether a stay-at-home mom or a high paid executive, you are exactly where you need to be at that very moment in time. Bloom where you’re planted, learn as you grow. And just my humble opinion, stay-at-home mom’s are priceless. 🙂

At the end of my cool-down walk, nature spoke to me yet again. I passed a pavilion in the park, under from which came swallows diving at me from every angle trying to divert me from my path. Satan’s fiery darts attempt to do the same thing. The question is, are we going to let them? Or are we going to stand firm in our beliefs and values?  Are we going to succumb to those who attempt to thwart our successes and goodness, or are we going to rise above it and prevail?

I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in.” ~George Washington Carver

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Morning Glory

This brilliant sunrise is what greeted me on my morning run. What a glorious way to start the day!

Morning run

 

And this mama bird protecting her babies, still unhatched, as I marveled at the maternal instinct of all God’s creatures.

Morning run-2

Morning run-3

Carpe Diem

Seize this day with gusto, my friends! Life is a gift. 🙂

 

Prayer in Numbers

runner

It started, as my ideas usually do, on a morning run. Typically I like to listen to music or audio books when I’m running, but there are times I enjoy simply basking in the sounds of nature or beautiful silence. And there are times I go on a prayer run.

This was one of those mornings.

There are a lot of people in my life that are in need of prayer right now, and as I was running, and praying, it occurred to me how many people out there in the universe, people outside of my small circle, that need prayer.

What would happen if I prayed for one person every day for 30 days. Someone that I came across in my daily routine. A daily routine that often becomes a rut that we continue mindlessly.

BUT…

If I prayed for at least one person, it would force me to live mindfully while I searched out the person God leads me to. The person who needs prayer that day.

And then it was placed on my heart to call my sisters to join in this challenge with me. Both who enthusiastically agreed to join.

From there, I took it to my job–going as far as I could without crossing the whole line of church and state since I work for a government office–and invited several people to join the cause, also all who enthusiastically joined.

Yesterday my person was someone I spoke with on the phone. He’d received a head injury years ago while serving in the navy, later had a stroke at a much-too-young age, and recently had become a victim of a second degree assault. My job as an advocate is to help make sure medical bills are taken care of. This man, after all he’d been through, told me before we hung up, “I just give it to the Lord.”

Wow!!

And when someone yells and cusses at me over the phone, what better salve for the heart than to pray for them rather than what would normally come to my mind–and lips–causing destruction all the way around.

Lesson learned – Prayer helps the prayed for as well as the one doing the praying.

Why thirty days? While experts claim it takes two weeks to create a new habit, I’m a slow learner. It takes me a very long time to break a bad habit. Sometimes months. So doubling that two-week theory of the experts gives me needed extra time. 🙂

Do you want to join our prayer challenge party?

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Running is Cheaper Than Therapy

Running

I’ve posted in the past that running is my therapy. And a whole lot cheaper! Running in the early morning is when my mind churns out ideas for my novels or short stories, or brings to light an answer to something I’ve been praying for. However, that being said, this typically only happens when I’m running outside in nature, not on a treadmill or on the track at the gym where I feel like a hamster on a wheel. This was my lesson this morning:

When I think I’m certain of what God is telling me, it’s important for me not to be so certain I’ve heard the message that I miss what He’s really telling me. In other words, when I think I’ve heard the message, listen further and don’t walk out of the room while He’s still talking.

al-inspiring-quote-on-listening

The last several weeks I’ve been promising myself that I am going to work on staying tuned in to His presence throughout my day. That usually lasts until I walk through the door at work when busyness, deadlines, the phone ringing, and constant chatter around me transports me far away from Him. Without realizing it, I allow the noise of the world around me to drown out the One who brings me peace in the midst of chaos.

Which brings up the importance of mindfulness even in the small things. While I was running this morning I mentally mapped out the route I would take, a different path from the one I typically enjoy. When I got to the crossroads that would take me on my preplanned route, I was so busy thinking about the day ahead of me, my mind miles ahead from where I was physically at that moment, that I automatically and mindlessly turned onto the same path that is routine. I was certain the message was to pay attention. And while that is a good thing to work on, it was just the surface of what went so much deeper.

That happens all too often in life every day. What has become habit in our lives is what we tend to do naturally, and if we aren’t mindful of the present moment, our thoughts and behaviors fall into the habit rut. The only way to create a new, more positive habit is to be mindful of what we’re doing and thinking in the present moment. And the only way to make mindfulness a natural activity is to mindfully practice mindfulness.

Had I not kept my mind and ears open, I would have walked out of the room at the “pay attention” part of the conversation, figuratively speaking, which was a very small brush stroke in the whole picture. I would have been blessed by the sun but would have missed out on the beauty of the entire landscape.

Another thought that came to me during my run? An entire scene for one of the books in my mystery series. I would say it was a pretty productive day before I even left my house for the office.

Rather than morning coming too soon, I’m already looking forward to my morning therapy session to see what gems He will bless me with. 🙂

running

 

Productive Thinking

Running

When I’m running or biking is when ideas for new work, or my work in progress, flows. It’s then that life seems to teach me what it wants me to learn, and when my thoughts are somewhat productive. Not only does running and biking exercise my body, but my mind as well. This morning I was listening to the audio book of Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it.

Some of the words of wisdom that I heard while listening to this book I’ve heard before, but today I really heard them. And those words and thoughts took on a life of their own as I processed them. Here they are:

1.)  “Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” -E.L. Doctorow

I’ve used that analogy for other aspects of life, but when it pertains to writing, it makes me realize the importance of writing in scenes. Beginning a new writing project, especially a long one like a novel, can be intimidating and daunting. Especially when you look at the blank screen/piece of paper, and realize all the work that has to be done to complete the novel. That can be paralyzing to the point of making one want to give up before getting started. If we think of taking it one small piece at a time, writing just one scene, no matter how small that scene is, and then the next after that and the next after that, pretty soon you have several scenes to work with. By only focusing on one scene at a time, you can make the whole trip to the end of your novel without fear.

2.)  “Life is 10 percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you respond to it.” -Lou Holtz

How do you respond when things don’t go the way you want them to? When I spend a lot of time on a piece of writing, or if a lot of time goes by without seeing any fruits of my labor, I begin to question my ability to produce something worthwhile. Last month I only sold four books and I have to admit I was feeling a little down and out. This quote by Lou Holtz boosted my mentality into another stratosphere. Selling four books last month means I reached four people I wouldn’t have had I not published the book. That in itself makes me grateful. And the fact that I published a book is an amazing feeling of accomplishment. (More on that below.) The reminder that I don’t write to sell books or quite honestly, even to make a living from it, but because I can’t not write. It’s as much a part of my existence as breathing. I’m a much better person when I write because then the rest of the world makes more sense to me.

3.)  And though this next one didn’t come from what I was listening to, it snowballed from the others. As my thoughts and ideas frequently do when I’m running or biking. I realized the battle for writers, self publishing vs. traditional publishing, doesn’t have to be a battle at all. One of the books I read by James Scott Bell, and whose books on writing I would recommend to anyone and everyone, seemed to shame self-published books. What I know now is that his words held a ship load of truth, but the way I heard it at the time was a reflection of what I was feeling within myself. I self-published my first book, The Inheritance, and at the time was battling whether I was going to self-publish my Melanie Hogan Mystery Series or try the traditional route. How we perceive things is more often than not due to where we’re at within our own head, usually when we’re completely unaware of it. For instance, if everyone around you seems to be having a bad day it’s probably your perception based on the place you, yourself, are at in that moment. We hear what people say and how they react based on where we are in our own heart and mind.

That being said, when I read those parts in James Scott Bell’s book, I was insecure about self-publishing a book and if people would take that as a sign that I wasn’t successful at traditional publishing. That I wasn’t good enough. Good enough for whom or for what I didn’t even know and quite possibly it didn’t matter. Just plain ole’ writer’s insecurity of being good enough. The fact of the matter is, I had decided not to go the traditional route because I wanted my first novel to be done completely by me. I wanted to experience the entire process, and I have not a single regret. Not. One. In fact, I’ve decided to self-publish my Melanie Hogan Mystery Series as well, the first of which is expected to be released in July if all goes according to plan. The cover reveal will be coming in the next couple of weeks. 🙂

Now the revelation that came to me yesterday (drumroll….)

Making a difference

There are a lot of crappy traditionally published books out there, with missed typos and loose ends that were never tied up, with plot holes and poor character development, as well as with self-published books. The difference being that since e-books have become such a huge development and will only grow as time goes on, it makes it incredibly easy to self-publish work, and many are doing it without any editing, the goal being to just to get their work out there. What I’ve realized is as long as you’ve taken the time to make your work the best it can possibly be, without doubt, self publishing or traditional publishing is irrelevant. Whichever method you choose, you can hold your head up as the amazing author you are, regardless of what anyone else thinks. That, my friends, set me free from the insecurity that plagued me. And what a feeling that is. 🙂 If you’re out to please people, it will only lead to disappointment. If you’re out to touch people’s lives, to simply make a difference, by doing what you love to do, you can’t go wrong.

See you after Camp NaNo. I’m almost to the finish line.

Bonfire-Brainerd

 

 

 

 

 

The Beast

While I was running yesterday morning, I realized how much of life is lived mindlessly while we wait for whatever it is we happen to be waiting for. (Click here to read post.)

Today while I was running, I realized where that thought came from. I had a moment where I thought I was going to meet my maker. Really!

This is what chased me when I was running on a trail along the river that doesn’t get a whole lot of traffic other than a person here or there, walking their dogs. Typically on a leash. And typically the leash in a person’s hand. Typically…

sandlot dog

Yes, I thought I was seriously going to pee my pants!

I was running along, enjoying the birds, the trees, the water…the nature that surrounded me on all sides. I was in “the zone” that runners fall into. Rounding a corner, I saw this enormous black dog sniffing the ground, his leash trailing on the ground behind him, his master a few steps behind. Too many steps behind, because when the dog looked up and saw me, he had one thing on his mind. Me!

It looked like the dog straight from the movie The Sandlot, whose name was The Beast.

He came running at me, growling, his master running behind him (far behind him by now) calling desperately, “Vader! Vader!”

In a split second, thoughts rumbled like a freight train through my mind.

Vader? As in Darth Vader? I don’t think he was one of the good guys!

Is this how I’m going to go?

I’m going to die! I’m so going to die!

I quickly tried to think of what I was supposed to do, but my mind failed me.  And it was too late by now anyway. The Beast stopped right before he got to me and barked a warning.  I froze, covered my face with my arms and heard a scream that sounded like it was coming from me. And then I realized that it was, indeed, coming from me.

“Is he nice?” I managed to get out to the master who was still catching up. And when he didn’t answer me, even after asking again, I was sure I was a goner. The Beast jumped up on me, when he did his head was taller than mine. He growled, barked, I screamed again, and his master finally reached us, muttering a breathless, “sorry ’bout that.”

Sorry ’bout that?!?! Really?!?!

While the dog in The Sandlot appeared to be ferocious, it ended up licking the face of Smalls when he finally caught him. But I wasn’t about to take that chance and offer this dog my face to lick. My face is far from perfect, but I like it just as it is.

This morning when I was running, I did run along the trail again, hoping I wouldn’t be subjected to The Beast two days in a row. (I’m a slow learner.)  I met a woman walking her small, friendly dog, and she stopped me as I got to her. She said, “You sure had a ferocious dog after you yesterday. Looked like it was the dog from the movie The Sandlot!

We talked for a moment, I told her I really like her dog, and waved my goodbye to finish my run.

Carpe Diem

T.G.I.F. – Gratitude Friday

Gratitude-photo

My Top Three for the Week:

3.)  The first juicy red tomato from my patio tomato plant. Yum!

tomato

2.)  My sister and nephew visiting from Minnesota, one of my sons being here as well, and the four of us sitting around the kitchen table late into the evening reminiscing and laughing so hard we were in tears. I think my sister and I lost some parental credibility with our sons as they learned about the pranks their mothers participated in as our stories unfolded of when we attended International Band Camp. Yup, I did say band camp!  🙂 She played the clarinet and I played the flute.

1.)  An early morning run, at a time when the world is quiet and still, and the sun is beginning to rise, giving birth to brilliant pink and white clouds. Truly a blessing to witness such intense beauty.

What are you grateful for this week?

May peace be yours this next week.