Monday, September 24, 2012



I've been working my way through Julia Cameron's "The Complete Artist's Way" over the last few weeks and have enjoyed some of the exercises she recommends.  One was to write out ten tiny changes I'd like to see happen in my life.  That took a little bit of thinking, but I finally settled on ten.  After listing those, I was to choose one and begin implementing it immediately.  The one I chose to do right away was a daily list of things I'm thankful for.

Today marks Day 6 of listing things I'm thankful for.  I'm trying not to make it a great big deal, because I want it to be sustainable, so I just write down five things that immediately pop into my mind.  I decided that to keep writing down things like my family, friends, love, health, God, etc. would take up my list of five each day, so those are planted in big letters across the top of the note.  I'm always thankful for those.

There are so many things to be thankful for and so many people to whom I should say thank you, so it is never difficult to uncover five each day.  Sometimes it's as simple as fresh sheets on the bed, or a chance to sleep in while snuggling a kitty or as profound as a friend finding me after thirty years.

I've actually created these lists several times in my life. The first time was when I was in high school.  I got the idea from my father.  He had received a phone call late one night from a man whose family came to our church, but whom I had never met.  The man was on a beach in Florida and intended to kill himself. He hadn't been much of a husband or father and decided it would be easier for everyone involved if he just went away.  Dad asked him to wait another day and while he was waiting, come up with ten things he was thankful for.  The man promised to do that and then promised to call Dad the next morning.  The phone call that next morning came from the airport.  The man was coming home to renew his relationship with his family and to begin a relationship with God.

That story struck a chord with me. Though I was nowhere near suicide, it did occur to me that an attitude of gratefulness would overwhelm the negativity that I had in my life. As a high-schooler, negativity pretty much went hand in hand with growing up and I was tired of Mom telling me to change my attitude.  It was time to actually do something about it.  The fights with her were more difficult than simply trying something new.  So, I did.  Every night as part of my devotional time, I began writing out a list of things I was thankful for.  I won't tell you that it caused as radical a change in me as it did for my Dad's friend, but I will tell you that it is an exercise I am glad to return to on a regular basis.

Gratitude opens the mind and heart.
Gratitude takes me outside myself.
Gratitude is bigger than problems.
Gratitude spills out on others.
Gratitude brings perspective.
Gratitude lifts others up.
Gratitude lifts the heart.
Gratitude is a journey.
Gratitude is a lifestyle.
Gratitude is humbling.
Gratitude is a choice.
Gratitude shows love.
Gratitude brings joy.

What are you grateful for today?  How will you share that gratitude today and tomorrow and the next day?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Tattoos and Piercings and Love, oh my!

Last week I took my Jeep in for some TLC at Jiffy Lube.  The young man who checked me in and the out at the end of the session had some nice tattoos on his left arm, but it was the tattoo on his right arm that caught my attention.  Across the side of his forearm was simply "Joshua 1:6-9" in a nice, clean script.  I was in the middle of signing my credit card slip and was trying not to stare so as to ensure I knew what I was reading.  I probably was making an idiot of myself, but as I was ready to walk out the door, I finally had my wits all about me and said, "Be strong and courageous."  His eyes lit up, he smiled and said, "I will ... thanks."  (The picture isn't of his tattoo.)

The night before, I was at a restaurant with some friends. My friend, Fran, had just gotten a tattoo on her right forearm / wrist with the word "Believe" tailing off to a dragonfly.  It's gorgeous.  Our waitress also had a tattoo on her wrist and Fran asked about it.  The waitress was embarrassed about it and tried to toss off the conversation. I wonder how many times she's gotten harassed about that tattoo by those who don't like them.  All Fran wanted to do was make a connection, not give her any trouble about it.

When Max worked at CompUSA, their policy for piercings was that the employee had to remove any facial piercings before coming on to the floor.  I think the bright red holes in a person's eyebrow are much uglier than some of the jewelry worn.

I've teased some friends with the words from Leviticus 19:28 where the law states you aren't to put any tattoo marks on yourself.  In all honesty, I can look at many other laws from this section and recognize they have no place in today's society.  We have to be very careful of standing on OT law. Paul clearly tells us that if we choose to live by one, we must live by them all.

I have friends with tattoos and I have friends who abhor tattoos.  I have friends with pierced ears who think that any other type of piercing is also abhorrent. Me? I'm fascinated by the whole thing.  I'm not big into pain or permanent body decoration, simply because I don't want to have to maintain it through thick and thin.  My ears were pierced years ago, but I just don't wear that much jewelry and honestly, I suppose the holes are still there, but I have no desire to wear earrings these days, so I don't.

The point of all this isn't just about tattoos and piercing, but about our ... my attitude regarding those who choose to do this.  I remember my mother being quite rude about tattoos, asking whether a young person was really going to want to have that decoration on their body as they grew older.  It was believed that people wouldn't be able to get higher paying jobs if they were tattooed where it was visible.

Then I began asking myself why it mattered to me at all what another person chose to do.  It is not my concern whether or not they work in a job I think they should work, or pierce their bodies, or wear spacers in their ears or tattoos on their body.  God doesn't actually call me to make those judgments in their lives or tell them how to live their lives.

God tells me to love.  That's pretty much it.  I don't have to make everyone adjust to my perception of what life should look like and then ridicule them if they don't.  Sometimes I think that is one of the most courageous things we can do.  Love people where they are, no matter what ... even if we encounter them only one time in our lives.

So, as I got in my Jeep and drove away, thankful for freshly vacuumed carpet, clean windows, and an oil change and thought about the exchange, it occurred to me that the moment he and I made a connection over that scripture verse tattooed on his arm, we had shown each other a little love.  It probably wasn't a world-changing moment, but it was another step on the path toward love.

In my class today we had to answer the question about what is non-negotiable in our lives.  For me it is love.  I'll get into that another time.

So, do you have a tattoo? What is it? Do you want a tattoo? What do you want and where do you want it?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Facebook and Birthdays

A few weeks ago, I read the article "Saying Happy Birthday to Your Friend on Facebook Is Meaningless." What a snarky, mean-spirited, shallow and sad look that person has towards life.  You see, I believe in the power of social networking and relationships which are built because it exists. There are people I would never have been able to reconnect with were it not for Facebook (I'd talk about MySpace, but that causes most people to groan, so it can stay in the background of my thoughts).  I also have several people whom I consider to be amazing friends today because of Facebook. I would never have met them in person, our paths would never have crossed; but because of various circumstances, we made connections and those relationships astound me every day - they mean the world to me.

So ... Saturday was my birthday.  What a wonderful day I had. I was really looking forward to seeing who would just jot down a few words to let me know that my name and face had crossed their mind that day.  It was kind of an extraordinary experience.  You see, I know that Facebook puts my name in front of you all day long until you deal with it.  If you ignore it, that's fine.  I don't ignore things like that very well.  But, I get it that Facebook pushes for you to say something.  However, it was your choice to actually type the words and the moment that you did so, I smiled and a quick connection was made.

A great many of my friends on Facebook are there because we knew each other years and years ago.  I'm thankful to have found them and so grateful for the opportunity to see that their lives are filled with wonderful things, whether kids or grandkids, exhilarating job or exciting new adventures.  These are connections that would never have been made and friends who would have been lost to time because we had no possible way to discover each other in the immense morass of people that interact in our lives today.  For some, my memories are locked into short periods of my life and until Facebook, only a picture in an old yearbook  reminded me we once spent a great deal of time together.

Because of the way I grew up, as an itinerant preacher's daughter, I lived in several different communities and built different circles of friends. I attended three different colleges the first time around and at this point, I have made friends in two different universities as I get my Master's Degree.  I have friends from so many different churches that I have attended, the idea of taking count is a little overwhelming and I've made friends in varying organizations that I've belonged to throughout my life.  As one thing supplanted another, friends and circles of friends transitioned and I lost contact with many people.  That I've found any of them again is a joy to me.

All of this means that every year I anticipate my birthday because of the moments I connect with my friends on Facebook.  I choose to believe that everyone's intentions regarding their comments to me are as good as mine are.  When I type Happy Birthday to someone online, flashes of our past interactions happen in my mind. It brings me joy every time.

I believe that building a community is intentional, whether it is face to face or online. It is just as easy to avoid relationships with people when you see them face to face every day as it is online.  I believe it isn't as much about the location as it is the intention of the individuals involved.

It might take only a moment for you to type the words 'Happy Birthday' to a Facebook friend, but for just that moment, you have made a connection. It might take only a moment for you to read those same words, but instead of believing them to be meaningless, consider that connection between the two of you.  However you know that person, you can build on the connection today or tomorrow, but it's still a part of the world in which we live.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Overwhelmed? Scheduled.

No wonder I multi-task. There is much too much to do, learn, read, take in, experience in a single lifetime. And even when I do multi-task, I feel like I miss out on so much.  The other day I actually cried when I realized how much there was in the world I know nothing about, yet fascinates me completely.  For a person who loves information, the internet has given life to my mind.  So, how will I manage to keep filling my mind with information and still be productive with all of the things that I want to do?

My goal was to build a tighter, more organized schedule so I could begin achieving some major goals which are important to me. The first part of this project was to begin listing all the things I do, the things I need to do and the things I want to do.  Right now there are nine categories with multiple activities in each of the categories.  By the time I typed the last word in the last category (at which point I added three more blank categories because I'm nowhere near finished), tears threatened to squirt out of my eyes.  To be honest, I'm not sure if those happened because I was overwhelmed by excitement or utter terror at the immensity of this.

I started this post six days ago and yesterday I finally created a schedule offering flexibility and structure.  I tried it out and when evening arrived, I had accomplished everything from writing a bit of fiction to listening to a 75 minute lecture on Ancient Greek History. I wrote my blogpost, a thousand words in my journal and walked. I spent time posting responses in my class forum and continued the task of inputting hundreds of pages of handwritten notes into  a format where they will be searchable and useable.  All of these items were finally in a format which would act as a reminder to me as well as offer a sense of accomplishment when I checked them off the day's list.

Writing this blog?  It's finally on a list of things to do each Monday. Of course, I could avoid it, but in order to continue to grow and achieve goals, it's time to find a better way to delineate my goals and challenge myself to meet all of them.  If this works for me, I'm going to be a very happy girl!

I built a two week schedule that cycles through all of the things I should be doing.  I wanted to ensure that I didn't overwhelm myself during a single day, because I've found that I can rebel against myself as much as I ever rebelled against anyone else telling me what to do.  I needed to be honest with myself about exactly what I would do and what I would just ignore.  If I thought there was a chance I'd ignore something, I either moved it to a day with fewer responsibilities or really considered whether or not it was something I want in my life.

For instance, Wednesdays always need to be spent writing papers, which means Tuesdays require a great deal of research and reading.  Those two things take more time than nearly anything else I do and even so, I am great at wasting time as I try to avoid doing them. I know that about myself and am willing to admit that it is true, so I build time into the schedule for procrastination.

This has been coming at me for quite some time. For the last three months I've been laying the groundwork for a more succinct system.  I began with a very flexible structure in June, knowing that as time passed, I would tweak things and continue to build in more layers. Discovering it was working for me allowed me freedom to actually move forward. It took a while to figure out exactly what things would look like, but finally, my creative little brain found its way.  I thought I'd build this in Google Calendar, but then I wanted a more limited framework ... something that would look the same week after week, with variations to keep it interesting.  My calendar is a reflection of the big activities that show up in my life, the schedule holds the little, day to day activities.  Activities must be organized by type, not just by the hour of the day, because that type of flexibility is important to me.  I didn't want to be bound by a clock, knowing that if I missed writing my blogpost by nine o'clock, I've screwed up the entire day.

The schedule is a work in process, an organic outgrowth of myself. Even as I was writing about it here and looking at it, I realized there were a couple of things I could do to make it more cohesive, so I made the changes and am happy.

It is a little strange to come to this point in my life and finally have an idea of how to organize my world and work.  But, now that I'm on task, you should be hearing more from me!  And I actually have some things I'm looking forward to telling you!