A small moment worth remembering.... The moment when you can look inward at yourself and think "Damn, all the hard work is FINALLY paying off" while asking yourself, "Who is this woman, and what have you done with yourself?" I had a moment like this today, when I found myself giving my best friend advice... THE very same best friend who has been my rock, my totem for the past three years, offering me advice, solving my problems, feeding me solutions. Here I was giving HER some amazingly mature & thought provoking advice that she openly sought & took. Don't get me wrong... I am often known to be able to provide solid advice on certain topics, 'my topics - my passions', but with her it was just different, special if you will... Why? Because for over three years of our friendship it was her wisdom that I sought after - it was her advice on life & love that I valued -and, it was often her who helped me see the light. And now, three years later, I finally have wisdom & value that I can offer her! The moment... the simple and small moment when I listened to her say that she can learn from me.... is a moment worth remembering.... it helped me confirm that growth has been in the air & that felt good. As I often say, "Don't sweat the small stuff - but ALWAYS appreciate it." Thanks lovely :)
An old proverb says , "To get what you've never had, you must do what you've never done.”
Lance Wallnau says, "Everything you've already gotten is a result of what you already know. Therefore to get what you've never got (or what you want) you'll have to embrace ideas you've never heard."
I feel like I've spent the better part of my life living against organized religion. I've also spent the better part of my life running on a hamster wheel, spinning in circles mindlessly... Well, ok, not quite- at least not the mindless part... for a while I actually had myself thinking I was doing OK. Perhaps I'd be better off saying that I was spinning in circles while physically, mentally & emotionally draining myself.... I always thoughts I could do it all on my own, but when I truly got real with myself I had to ask: What have I done? What have I accomplished? What do I have to show for? How are the relationships in my life? Are they what I always imagined? Where are my values? Where is my focus? And, How do I fill my spiritual cup? (There's no balance without mind, body, AND spirit.
So I reached a point where I knew in my heart that I couldn't do it alone anymore- what I had done for 31 years on my own, in fact, wasn't working. No self help book- no seminar- no personal development degree - no transformational leadership education- would work... alone. So what did that mean? Well @ first I didn't know.... but then a friend invited me somewhere that changed my life.
She invited me to her baptism. As resistant as I was initially about going, I knew there was really no good reason to not go and support a good friend through something seemingly meaningful to her, so I went. While I was there I was in awe and extremely touched by how much this symbolism meant to everyone participating. Although I couldn't understand it myself, it was beautiful & touching. And it made me realize something...It made ne realize what I may have been missing all this time ... I thought to myself, " Was it time to invite god into my life? ... to reunite." So, I went to church- the very next weekend . I went with a friend to her church, and while it felt so good to be in a church, I knew that wasn't the 'right' church for me ,but I remembered one I had visited once long ago and remembered having a good feeling about it - so I went back, and then I went back again... And so it began....
The message from God at this evenings church service was so perfect. It's funny how it almost always seems to work that way. These are all the things I have been thinking about lately and asking myself, and the message was very fitting - it opened my eyes on a whole other level and my heart. The question Kevin asked us to ask ourself throughout the message was, "Am I alive?" ...What does this mean to be alive through God's eyes?
-It means: To do what God wants us to do ...How am I supposed to know what that is, I wondered.... I mean, what does God want me to do? (Ohhhhhhh ... it's in the Bible, you say?) Do I read scripture or do I show up to church & truly hear the message being spoken?
-It means: To be a person of prayer ... Do I pray only when I hit rock bottom & need something OR do I pray always & everyday? Do I pray with gratitude? Do I spend my time worrying or praying?
-It means : To be passionate with God ... Do I sing during worship or do I simply stand there making excuses that I am not a singer worrying about what someone might think?
-It means: To reach out to others about God.. Do I talk about him openly, freely, & honestly?.. Or do I withhold my thoughts & feelings around some people out of fear of judgment or rejection?
"AM I ALIVE?"....
...This is the question I kept asking myself and while I know I have a long way to go, I must also recognize that I have come a long way. I already believe in the value of the commitment to getting there, and know it will be a challenging journey, and I'm taking it one day at a time... I'm not alone ... I've invited him into my life - to work through me...I know I can only get so far on my own, and I am ready for more.
I started thinking this morning about actions .... Well words vs actions .... I truly believe that actions are everything - they speak louder then any word! Words can be a great tool for communication, words can hurt, words contain meaning, words can feel good, but words can be abused, misused, and misleading. Anyone can use words, if even they hold no value, but actions show everything. Actions show truth, and most of the time without someone even trying. Sometimes someone can alter his/her actions to disguise the truth, but usually this requires them to be a really good actor. The truth usually shines through in actions even what words try to conceal. Often actions are natural, sometimes learned behaviors, but usually honest.
It's like the person who says they love you but then beats you. You hear I love you while feeling hated, but then they try to cover their actions up with apologies and more of "I love you". You feel lost not knowing what to believe torn between leaving and staying. The flip side is the person who says he/she doesn't believe in love but then she has love radiating off of her through everything she does - everything she is -her overall state of being. Perhaps she was burned and had a fear of being vulnerable - but the loving side still resides...
It's part of our makeup to want to believe the words so bad - but I think we would all be so much better off if we focused on being more in tune with actions and less with the spoken words. We would be able to live in more harmony, understanding each other so much more on a deeper level. We would experience so much less heartache, thinking of all the cruel words spoken that we let get into our heads - that we turn into a part of our story - our personal story. We want to so badly to believe the abusive partner truly loves us and wouldn't lie - that we stay and suffer, all the while we walk away from what could be true love...why?... Because we believe words.... Words tell stories, and they can be great for that- a lot of greatness can come from words and their stories - but through stories are often lies. And believe no one when he/she says "I don't lie" because we all lie to ourselves even when we don't know it - it doesn't make us good, bad, right, or wrong - it doesn't even make us imperfect...It makes us human.
I just think we can't allow words to have so much power over us when spoken whether good or bad - if we are too focused on our word we loose sight of our action. Actions create more meangingful experiences- I was just reading in this book how we know the truth because we "feel" the truth- the minute we try to label the truth with words we twist it - because to experience real truth and God love there are no spoken words to convey - only a feeling in the heart.
With all that said, I don't feel words should be totally disregarded because often times we may be experiencing something in our life that inhibits our natural ability to act in truth - and this is when words become a powerful and helpful tool to convey a message. I just think we need to be open to receive the message spoken through both actions and words with a strong sense of awareness, and I think we need to be particularly aware of the messages we are sending through both as well!
Generally speaking, I prefer proper unwind time before attempting to fall asleep. Tonight, however, I broke my usual rule and watched a movie right up until bed time. I normally try to not do this, as watching movies, especially on a large tv leave me emotionally, mentally and physically stimulated. Then when I retire to bed I still need the unwind time for my mind to settle.
Tonight while I was lying here I had a million things racing through my mind spinning in circles and weaving together into and out of each other. One thing that kept popping up in my mind was the idea of synchronicity.
The wiktionary defines it as: Coincidences that seem to be meaningfully related; supposedly the result of "universal forces".
But is it coincidental? Or is it just the result of a universal force? My belief is that its the latter - as I also believe there are no coincidences....
The reason this idea kept creeping up is because that is exactly what I feel has been the result of a series of messages I have recently received from several different outlets. After receiving the same message from several different sources all with their own twist yet still intertwined, it begins to make sense just how meaningful these messages truly are and obviously meant for me for a reason in my life at this time. It is so fitting too, because it is also exactly what I feel I needed to hear .... And I believe that sometimes God has to send the message through multiple mediums to truly reach someone because just one and it might get overlooked.
It started on saturday in a book store (although I didn't know this until Sunday ). It was @ church Sunday while I was listening to the message from God that I found myself saying "Oh how funny - I was just reading about this yesterday." This was followed by a blog I read by a friend on Monday where I yet again thought to myself "Oh how funny - I was just learning about that in church." Again, followed by a chapter in a completely different book I was reading, I found myself thinking "Wow this is so connected to that other book (just from a different perspective) & the message from church." Which was followed yet again, by another book today, where the very same thoughts crept back into my head.
This was the "ah-hah" moment when I finally realized that this message was meant for me and was exactly w hat I needed to be reminded ... It also fits so perfectly with this quote I just read in this book "God never does anything accidentally, and he never makes mistakes" (A Purpose Driven Life pg. 23) It goes on to explain there are no accidents or mistakes and there really aren't.... It's funny how the world works... How intertwined everything really is, even when we feel like there are a million worlds between two things. When you really start to think about it everything begins to unravel itself into one long stream of eb and flow .... I think this is such an important lesson to remember when something in life happens that makes no sense, doesn't seem quite fair, or is saddening in the moment- to remember that if even impossible to understand in the moment - eventually it all becomes very clear. In my recent read by Don Miguel Ruiz (The Voice of Knowledge) I am reminded that "Everything in God's creation is perfect" (pg. 44). From a religious perspective these two very different books might appear to come from two very different view points, and they do, yet they both refer to ONE God, and in essence are delivering many overlapping messages.
I just want to acknowledge and say out loud that I am truly grateful to have such a wonderful, amazing, uplifting, positive, cheerful, supportive man in my life! This man is my father. The irony behind all of this is that for the better part of my life (and by that statement I mean close to 29) years, my dad and I didn’t have the best relationship. When thinking of how to describe it, I can’t even say roller coaster like - cuz there were a lot of downs, but not a lot of ups... Perhaps a better word is simply - rocky. It wasn’t his fault and it wasn’t mine, because I don’t think it is about right or wrong or blame... It just simply was (or wasn't for that matter).
We often didn’t see eye to eye... And the funny part about that is that it was often me not agreeing w/ the choices he made (even though I was the child & he was the father). I never really felt like he cared much because he never really showed emotion. I mean, he would say he loved me, but in my heart actions always speak louder then words. If he didn’t see me for weeks or even months, on my end it just never seemed like he really minded. I allowed his lack of visible emotion and his ability to consistently reach out to me get the best of me, I took it personally w/o fully understanding him, and I pushed him away even further. I know over the years that I must have said some extremely harsh, cruel and hurtful things to him. At one point I even disowned him as a father, and during that time period I thought there would be no going back, and well, there wasn’t... but there was going forward!
After almost an entire year of no communication, Dad finally reached out to me. He sent me the most sincere & kindest letter ever. From there we started a new journey together. At 28 years old my father came to Cali to visit me for a long weekend. It was in planning for this trip that I realized I had NO idea who this man really was anymore, or perhaps ever, but what a wonderful opportunity to learn. Through out the weekend one thing I noticed about him is how dorky his laugh was - which meant - he must have laughed a lot for me to notice! lol... but other qualities still had not stood out...
It wasn’t until much later when I was about 31 (probably 6-8 months ago) when the truth really started to shine. I can remember the day distinctly. Him and I talked on the phone for what seemed to be hours, catching up, while I tidied my house. Through the whole conversation I could feel my dad’s smile, his warmth, his heart, his love. Through his laughter, his voice, his expressed compassion, the words he used, the language he was speaking... What changed? Did Dad change? Or was he always this man? OR maybe, was he always this man, but life held him back from shining? Was he finally in the right place at the right time where his true heart could express itself? I think it was a combination of 1. D, all of the above, and 2. church. My father found God.... And at the time - that wasn’t my thing - but I was happy it was his, because to each their own and it seemed to work.
What I noticed most from this man was that despite some serious and very real hardships he was going through & telling me about, he still had gratitude, appreciation, love, compassion for other people in worse situations, and he had faith. He could tell me something sad but still smile. My father figured out what it meant to be truly happy in ANY situation... (and by this I do not mean he just settled for what was, but he plowed forward and continued to seek opportunity for growth but from a joyful mindset). I brought this up to him and he said “oh honey, I have you and your brother and sister, and Celia, and my step children... I love...and that is really all I need to be happy” Dad had love. And he realized... that love was truly the magic ticket to inner peace & happiness... Dad had love... I was in awe... Who was this man? Shortly after he put my step mom on the phone & her and I talked about this epiphany I just had about my father... She was telling me all about how this is what she loved the most about him. How, more then anything, he was so loving and kind and caring... and she told me a story about sitting in church one day when the pastor was sharing a service on this very topic and how she looked over and saw my father crying and she said, “Mark, he’s describing you - you already do this - you are this man” ...
Needless to say, conversations w/ my father haven’t been the same since. I look forward to each and every next call. I feel and know that our relationship has gotten stronger and deeper with every conversation. As time goes by, I know we learn of more and more we have in common. He always supports me and helps me to feel good about the choices and decisions I make and have made in my life thus far. He helps fill my cup - I can’t think of a time I don’t get off the phone with him and not feel inspired, excited, & simply proud of him. I can’t wait until the next time we get to see each other and have the opportunity to converse face to face and I will embrace every moment I get with him with so much gratitude when that day comes.
<3 you dadiO :P
So I had a little ‘homework’ assignment I had to do today & as I was writing everything out for it, it really got me thinking...
It brought up the topic of friendships for me, and it made me realize how incredibly lucky of a woman I am! You know those friends that are like a one in a million type of friend or that once in a lifetime type of friend? Ya that kind.....well as I was doing my little homework assignment, while thinking about who is in my life and how they add value, and it made me realize that I am the luckiest woman ever - why? Because I wasn’t so lucky to find just one of those type of friends - I found TWO!!! While I have had numerous people come into my world who have been absolute blessings and added value, most of the time they come and go, or are perhaps here for a reason or a season, or maybe a lifetime, but the value added just isn’t as extreme as the value that is often added by the one in a million type. But thinking about my life today, right now, and how these extra special people are a part of my world right now & how much value they each add daily is pretty amazing. I think about the woman I am today and I know w/o a doubt that I wouldn’t be this woman if it weren’t for these special people. Each of them has played such an integral role in my personal development, my mental health, my self esteem, my confidence, my ambition, and my accomplishments. So yes, I would say that makes me one super lucky gal ;-)
This week in church (New Life, Petaluma) was the start of a new series. I was so excited that I was able to attend, as the past few weeks that have gone by I had other commitments, and I had to listen to the message via podcast. I love that I am able to listen to the message via podcast when necessary, but it always feels really good to go and be a part of the service. Sometimes just sitting in the same room with everyone can be an added reminder of how amazing people and life are.
The new series is based on the book of Jonah. The topic: Obedience. I don’t know exactly why, but I found myself slightly antsy, and perhaps a tad bit disappointed... See, thus far, since I started going to church I got really lucky and there were two months of really exciting, fun, topics that were right up my alley. Then came obedience. As I sat through the service listening to Pastor Ron talk about obedience, I had a lot of random thoughts and mixed emotions come up. At the beginning he talked about how if we truly sat there with an open heart then he believed that God would speak to us and let us know where we have fallen off our chosen path. He explained that God doesn’t remind us when we aren’t obedient to be in control or to rub it in, but because he believes that we are better off on this chosen path most of the time, and he attempts to guide us back to that path when we veer off.
So here I was thinking to myself, “Ok, open heart .. I wonder what God is going to say to me...where I am not being obedient in my life?” .... Well one hour later, and I still had no answers. Now a part of me kept thinking through the whole thing, “Oh hmm... maybe there isn’t a thing I do that isn’t obedient...” while still pondering in my head over everything I do and wondering what my message was going to be. Then I thought, “Ha, nothing!” As if I am a saint - yeah - I’ve arrived - oooooooo.k...... OR NOT. But then, how could I sit there for the entire message and not receive the message God was suppose to send me? I mean, surely my heart was open..... wasn’t it? ... Or wasn’t it?
I feel that I have been doing a great job practicing having an open heart since I started going to church, during my daily prayer, and through my gratitude conversations... But the truth is, I still have a lot of practicing to do. As a matter of fact, I can imagine the act of maintaining an open heart is probably a lifetime commitment of ongoing practice. Truthfully, I believe that not having an open heart is exactly what brought me back into a church to begin with. For so many years, I kept my mind sooooo busy, always doing this, doing that, thinking this, thinking that... and never setting time aside to quiet my mind in order to allow myself the opportunity to be guided by something / someone bigger then me. I knew that something in my life was missing, and I knew I needed that something. So I went to church. I wanted to start a relationship with God so I could learn to have an open heart, so I could learn to quiet my mind, so I could learn to be at peace internally, and so I could be open and receptive to what he was offering & through his guidance. So here I am in church, end of service, thinking to myself, “Well how I am I going to know what to fix if I didn’t get the message?”
After coming home and letting it all soak in is when it dawned on me... Maybe I lack in obedience through my inability to hold my heart open and quiet my mind. As much as I thought I have been good at committing to this practice, I actually realize how very difficult it is still for me to just quiet my mind, open my heart and listen, to hear a voice or to sense a sign. And in truth, if I am not doing this, then I am not trusting that he will provide me the strength I need to stay on my chosen path, to make the best decisions, to embark on the journey I was cut out for, to live my true life of purpose. I know there are so many quotes in the bible related to hearing God’s voice, and trusting that he will guide us. One that stood out to me: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not
on your own understanding.” —Proverbs 3:5. I don’t know yet how to master this skill, but I do know that I am committed to practicing daily: Creating new habits, one day at a time.
Dictionary.com says that gratitude is: the quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful.
A long time ago I took a Best Strengths Test from The Positive Psychology Center @ The University of PA that measured my top 24 strengths. The concept of positive psychology is to list and rate your top 24 strengths, teaching you how to focus on the strengths you already possess and how to strengthen them more, rather then focus on your weaknesses, as this strategically allows you to be more successful by focusing on what is already natural for you - and just making it stronger. It was suggested that gratitude is the single handed most important positive personality trait that one could benefit from possessing.
The Pursuit of Happiness Organization quotes a great Roman Orator Cicero stating that “gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.” (http://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org/science-of-happiness/positive-thinking/)
You will find verse upon verse in the Bible on gratitude.
Can an overwhelming feeling of gratitude really make that much of a difference? If you had the ability to just bring gratitude into your daily ritual, would that in and of itself have the capacity to enrich your life? Your love? Your soul? I believe it will, and I believe this through personal experience. Several months ago I woke up one morning, a bit on the groggier side, not extremely excited to get out of bed, when I realized, that I didn’t want to be that person who took life (and everything it offered) for granted. I didn’t want to fail to appreciate the vastness of our Earth, the beauty, and what I was surrounded by. I didn’t want to neglect honoring my friendships & relationships with those special people in my life. So I sat up, took the deepest breath, enjoying every second of it as the cool air filled my lungs, and as I let it all out I thanked the Universe for that breath of fresh air. I thanked the Universe that my eyes awoke to yet another day of perfect life. And in that moment I made a commitment to practice daily gratitude from that day forward. Thus far, I have done a great job with this. While I admit, some days, in the midst of a crazy rushed or a busy morning I have forgotten to say my thanks before getting out of bed, but I usually quickly remember on my drive to work, then enjoying the moment. Lately, however, I find this becoming a regular practice on my daily walk with my dog, usually in the morning. What better time to appreciate the simplicity and shear beauty of life, then when on a walk: feeling the ground beneath my feet, inhaling fresh air, enjoying the gentle warmth of the morning sunlight falling onto my face, all while appreciating the crisp cool air, admiring the silly excited innocence of my dog, and thanking God for another day of life!
The best part about incorporating this daily practice into my life, is that like with anything, practice makes perfect (or so the saying goes). But with practice I have found that I definitely get better and better at gratitude! It’s like with each passing day I find more and more to be grateful for, and I feel that on some level the more I find to appreciate in my life, the more God brings me to appreciate!
Around December 2011 I started having serious pain in my groin -the intensity would vary. I found it was often interfering with my olympic lifting workouts. Some days were good; somedays not so much. However, most of the time, once I warmed up I could usually work through the pain. Well by the first week of January 2012 the pain worsened and worsened to the point that I was no longer able to work through it. Then on one specific day, January 7th, instead of listening to my body, I went to the gym despite my better judgement. I was hurting really bad, and I knew something wasn’t right, but I was also stubborn and determined. I thought if I kept the load light I would be ok. Needless to say 2 lifts into my session I felt this sharp and worsening pain. I backed off and by that night the pain had traveled from groin into low back and there was no looking back. As it turns out, the doctors explained that I more then likely bulged a lower back disk. Groin injury and lower back injury commonly occur together. What comes first... The chicken or the egg? One will never really know, but what I do know is that if you suffer from one and neglect it, the other is likely to occur as well. So here I was faced with 2 intense injuries at once. It is now June 7th. If you would have asked me 6 months ago if I thought I wouldn’t be olympic lifting in 6 months I would have thought you were crazy, but 6 months to date and I still haven’t gotten back into the studio. My body hasn’t been ready.
Point of my story? People often hear briefly whats wrong with me, find out I couldn’t olympic lift all this time (knowing how much I loved it), and how I dramatically had to downshift my level of fitness and make a lot of changes. The first thing I usually hear from everyone with their kindness is empathetic statements of apology. My first response is usually “Oh it’s all good - it’s actually been a huge blessing in disguise... it’s funny how sometimes it takes something like this for the best outcome to happen.” And, naturally, with that comment people are often mesmerized and surprised. But this is truth, I have spent every day for the las several months (well since I started praying) thanking God for this injury, while still asking for his strength and support to continue the healing process. So why would I be gracious and thank God for something that altered my life, took me out of my element, took me away from something that I absolutely loved? Because, with any situation, good or bad - happy or sad, we have an opportunity to learn and to grow. Had I not had this happen to me then I wouldn’t be the woman I am today. And while it has only been 6 months I can not emphasize the amount of awareness, knowledge and growth it has allowed me to obtain! For that - how could I not be grateful?
Plus, I look around me: I have a great roof over my head - a healthy dog - an abundance of amazing people in my world - my health - knowledge - eagerness to constantly grow & learn - desire to help people - an amazing brother that I also get to call my roommate and one of my best friends - an amazing best friend who supports me and brings out the best in me - not one job - but TWO jobs both with an excellent staff of people - I live in one of the most gorgeous counties I’ve ever been to surrounded by hillsides, and vineyards, and cows, and greens - I’m a close drive to the Northern Cali coast - a hop skip and jump away from beautiful Tahoe - I have two arms - two feet and 10 toes! And hey - those are just to name a few things... Therefore, I can’t think of a reason to not practice gratitude, to be quite honest.
I think it is important to remember to “stop and smell the [coffee]” as often as we can remember. Practice appreciating even just the smallest things - because the reality is - in the end - those are the biggest of things! And like I said above, the more we can practice gratitude - the more we become gracious of - and the more I believe God brings into our world for us to be grateful for!
When someone's behaviors don't meet your expectations, how do you fill the gap? Is it through assuming the worst or believing the best?
Pastor Kevin, of New Life Christian Church, suggests in this weeks message (6/03/12) that if you want a lasting relationship based on love that you will always believe the best, even if that means risking being wrong sometimes. He asks, " would you rather be right all the time & push someone away & fill your heart w "stuff"or would you rather the risk to be wrong only to pull someone closer?"
I can openly admit that I've spent the better part of my life (ok 31 years) assuming the worst. It wasn't until recently, thanks to my best friend, Sophia, that I started looking through a different lens & believing the best. In just a short amount of time (all of four months) I have already found so much value in the experience of believing the best. Thus far, that belief has yet to be wrong. Pastor Kevin says that "yes there is always associated risk- sometimes it will be the worst, sometimes someone will wrong you, but more often then not, people will rise above to the level you believe in them"
I know I have a lot of opportunity for growth still - I have a deeply rooted unhealthy habit that I strongly desire to break & I know in my heart with God by my side and my dearest friends support & someone so very special in my life that I know will often rise above, as he has this far , the rewards of creating this new habit will so very much worth the effort put into it. As I mentioned I have been practicing this over the last four months - but I'm far from good at it. Each and every encounter with a gap started out with my initial natural instinct to assume worse. Luckily I have Sophia in my life and usually through one amazing conversation she can almost always get my switch to flip so that I can see more clearly & shift my attention. I feel that although I am a long way from a total shift that I am at least on the right track, as the awareness is in my forefront & that is the first step to change. Now I can at least really recognize when my mind goes to the wrong place & I have the ability to consciously choose a shift & realign my beliefs. In the past I was so caught up in just thinking the worst that I didn't even see any other thought process as a possibility. I know this will be a daily struggle until I deeply ingrain this new belief system into my mind, heart & soul, but I am so ready for this challenge, as I know the outcome will greatly affect my life, my ability to love, and my ability to create a lasting loving relationship someday.
I feel so much gratitude to have this awareness, support & commitment toward to new way of thinking & being. Just another step one of many to come - always growing because if your not in growth you are in decay - who wants to be there?