7 days 7 small ways...
  1. Take your shoes off...slowly wiggle your toes a few times.
  2. Breathe...deeply....consciously.
  3. Tug gently at your earlobe.
  4. Smile.
  5. Look for three good things in the moment.
  6. Use a good word...they have great power.
  7. Make the effort to like what your doing...you can't always do what you like.

 

Life can be difficult to navigate. 

Are you looking for a way to make it through the day less stressed?          Find the tools you need here.

Is the well you draw from empty?                                                           Find ways to fill your cup here.

Ready to throw in the towel and give up on your goals?                           Find a fresh perspective here.

 

Monday
Apr152019

Fear FULL? Faith FULL? What are you full of?

"And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.  And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow; and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish? And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still.  And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.  And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?" (Mark 4:37-40)

Jesus Christ was asleep on a pillow in the hinder part of the ship during the storm which his disciples feared would end their lives. He had entered the ship after what had to have been an exhausting several days. Perhaps, that very storm had rocked him to sleep.  The storm for him was not an issue.  He was at peace on that pillow.  Ultimately, He was the source of Peace for everyone on that Sea. After "Peace Be Still" and the resulting "Great Calm" Jesus followed up with two questions:

"Why are ye so fearful?"

"How is it that ye have no faith?"

It is easy for one to consider these questions rhetorical. Perhaps even an observation of evident weakness.  What if they were not? What if He was actually opening a conversation? A conversation which would decrease fear and increase faith for those willing to consider their own answers.

Christian religions are not the only ones which speak to fear and faith.  And Faith is not allocated only to Deity.  It requires Faith to believe that the uphill climbs in our lives end at a peak worth the effort when you cannot even see a clear path ahead of you.

I have been contemplating Faith and Fear this year. With these two words on my mind I see lessons in all my reading, interactions,  times of self reflection, and even the movies I have been watching.  The interaction of these forces are an integral part of life. Specifically, I have been considering being Faith Full and/or Fear Full.  I have found it helpful to consider a gas gauge, only instead of Empty and Full it reads Fear on one side and on the other Faith.  In my life if the gauge is too far to the Fear Full side I simply cannot move forward. I actually stop.  Forward momentum can only happen when the gauge is leaning towards the Faith Full side.

Faith in one's self.  Faith in our children.  Faith in friends and family.  Faith in community. Faith that the sun will shine in the Pacific N.W. (It is Springtime after all).  Faith in healthy living. Faith in the power of Nature. (For me, that means Faith in a hike, kayak, walk, and getting my hands in the dirt while gardening.) Faith in a Higher Power. (For me, that means Faith in Jesus Christ.)  Faith our efforts at life's up hill climbs each day are at a minimum heading towards our desired destination.  Faith applies to every good thing we rely on for strength on our most Fear Full days. 

Fear is powerful when the gauge tips towards Fear Full.  Fear we cannot withstand the "press" of life. Fear we simply are not "enough." Fear of the unknown beyond the next curve in life's road. Fear should be given due consideration when navigating life. Fear can be benefical...it makes us slow down and consider our next step. But a road sign that reads "Caution Watch for Falling Rocks" does not mean "Stop Here...Turn Back" or "Stop Here...Wait for Rock to End Your Misery." A pursuit of Peace requires facing Fears and moving forward in spite of them. 

From ancient texts to Kung Fu Panda, the quest to balance the Fear/Faith gauge is not new. 

On the Island of Kauai, there is a rock at Shipwreck Beach which has been the setting for many a movie cliff jumping scene.  It is a short walk from where we stay on the Island and is one of my favorite locations to watch the sunset.  Prior to sunset there is often a line of people waiting their turn to jump from it's heights into the sea below. I have watched several of my children stand on the edge contemplating their leap towards the deep blue waters. Some have jumped (many times) and for others (like myself) this   beautiful solid rock serves it purpose in their life as a sunset perch. The Rock for some a place where strength is gained for a literal leap and for others a place where strength is gained for those other leaps of Faith in life.

At times our Faith (or lack there of ) can be about something very specific and at other times we are unable to pin point why the our Faith gauge is tipping towards the Fear side of the tank. Sometimes you have to leap into the deep waters and swim and other times you simply must wait and watch.

In the movie Kung Fu Panda, the wise tortoise, Master Oogway, taught Kung Fu Panda, Po, that "today is a gift."  One of best ways I know of for tapping into Faith is recognizing this fact. Focussing on the present day at hand and looking for the good things within your immediate reach is fuel to the Faith tank. Panda Po spent a great deal of time expressing fear of external battles, when actually, his fear was an internal battle to be won.  The Faith he lacked was Faith in his own ability to become.

Writing down fears makes them much less scary. Writing down where or what your Faith is each day makes it much stronger. In this way you are following Master Oogway's advice and acknowledging each day as a gift. Write each question, "Where is your Faith?" and "Why are ye so fearful?"  at the top of a journal page. Write your answers each day for a week, and then a month, and then another...  This may seem too simple to some who read this. Simple does not equal easy.  It can be extremely hard to see where your Faith is in the midst of Fear's darkness.

You will find your efforts rewarded as your answers over time give witness to courage and strength when you thought you had none. When you see challenges which presented great fear leave you with a sense of empowerment and ability.  You will see miracles arise from the small daily efforts to overcome fear and exercise faith. Fear loves isolation that is where it can grow best.  Faith grows when it is tilled and cultivated. There is a reason it is called "exercising" faith.  This work is made easier with a work out partner or two. Share your fears. Have conversations about faith.

We are not alone on the seas of life. "Carest thou not that we perish?" Perhaps it is time you wake up a ship mate. You will awaken Peace in your own life as you respond to the questions which require you to reflect on your Fears and your Faith. It is o.k. to be afraid.  It is o.k. to talk about it.  Fear is not weakness.  We frequently exhibit our greatest courage utilizing faith despite real fear.  

 

What are you afraid of?

Each day IS a gift. Master Oogway never said each day is Peaceful.  But they can be just that...Peace FULL. 

Friday
Sep092016

Whatever comes my way...

 "What are you fishing for?"

I had asked this of a young man, with his fishing gear in hand. I was hoping the answer would be Barracuda. That was the fish my son, Matthew, was seeking on the Island of Kauai.  He had done his research over the past two days searching various web sites and YouTube videos, talking to locals at every small town market and roadside angler we came across.  

We had already been to two other gorgeous river inlets. There are 8 places where the rivers of Kauai make their way to the Ocean from atop Mount Kawaikini the highest point on the island. We had even retrieved our live bait for the occasion from a local tide pool.

It was at dinner the night before that Matt became convinced this beautiful lighthouse setting was the perfect place to cast his line. Our waiter's excitement was evident as he shared with us the story of his own Barracuda catch, pole set up, location and even time of day.  "Early while the sun is still low and the shadow around the cliff keeps the fish from seeing you there."  

The next day, at Ninini Point Lighthouse, we crossed paths with another young man. I had asked him what he was fishing for.  He gave me an unexpected answer...

"Whatever comes my way."  

For over 15 years our family has made the trip across the Pacific to the peace and tranquility of Kauai's paradise. The locals who might otherwise avoid tourist's conversation, ( I don't feel like a tourist anymore), are happy to share their love of the sea and fishing for it's bounties. We were not the only ones carrying fishing poles everywhere we went.  In fact, if you pay attention to the details, you will notice a pole sticking out of the window or the back end of most cars and trucks without a rental car tag.  Men, women, and children are everywhere on the Island throughout the day casting a line into the sea. 

Perhaps, the joy they find in this daily routine comes from the answer I was given that morning.  They accept each day from the sea "whatever comes their way."

We each cast our lines into the sea of life daily. Is the joy, the peace, the satisfaction with that "life line" found in our ability to accept whatever comes our way? I believe it is. Below the surface, just out of our view, the sea of life actually carries within it's current greater abundance than we could possibly estimate.

We plan, we prepare, map out the perfect time and location, then cast into life our efforts. Looking forward to a specific return on our baited hook, the reeling in is thrilling, though almost always more work than we anticipated. To what end? Exactly what you planned for? Did you catch what you were expecting? something better and bigger perhaps? Or, more likely, did you catch a snag and an emptyhook?  Is it "the one that got away?"  Will you accept a catch that is completely unexpected today?  Is it a keeper or will you toss it back into the sea?  Will it feed your family today and require the same effort again tomorrow?

So much effort for the unknown.  

At this lighthouse fishing spot in Kauai, as well as many others, there are anchors in the rock cliff that the lighthouse sits upon.  Fisherman tie a bell onto their poles and then anchor the pole to the rock.  They then wait at a distance, close to the lighthouse, so as not to be swept away by the temptest waves on stormy days.  Waitng for the faint tinkling of a small bell to signal that their cast for the day, even in the storm, has granted unto them a gift from the sea.

When taking fishing into consideration, "Let go and let God," has a whole new meaning. The visual of letting go of the line and watching it fly across the sea is powerful.  We can only control what happens on the shore before the cast. The location, the bait, our patience with the bite, even our willingness to accept the days catch.  Peace whispers that the fisherman's work (our work) will, in time, bring forth the bounty we seek. And so, we cast out our line again with a prayer... "Make me strong enough to reel today."  "Give me courage to face an empty hook...again."  "The beauty of the sea today Lord was enough." 

With the permission of my daughter, Colby, I share a piece of her life.  She is the oldest of my four daughters and has been a constant light in my life.  Her enthusiasm for and joy in "fishing life's sea" in spite of the unexpected each day is amazing!  She married her husband Al, at the age of 21.  Their daughter Brooke was born a year later.  Just over a year after that their son Kaden blessed their lives.  Good jobs, sweet family...perfect, exactly as they had planned. 

One year later, Kaden was diagnosed with Autism. Not exactly what they had been expecting. The emotions they experience and the challenges they face together often seem unsurmountable to others. Yet, on a daily basis, they accept whatever comes their way.  In Colby's own words, "We appreciate so much more and find joy from so many new things with Kaden than I ever thought possible.  Brooke is a better sister because of him. It's perfect for us!"  An unexpected snuggle, a joyful laugh, a successful family hike, a full night of sleep...each worth the days work of reeling for the catch. So much joy in the unexpected gifts from the Sea.

Kaden is four now.  He is amazing!  Brooke is a first grader...such a big girl! And, this year baby Blakely is a new addition to their family. Kaden is still non-verbal but he does not needs words to show his love for his baby sister! Their life is lived unconventionally.  They cast into life's currents with the same consideration for the details as any good fisherman would.  There are evenings when I talk on the phone with my daughter and I can feel her tired bones through the phone line.  I know her husband feels the same exhaustion from the days labor.  Yet, there is always gratitude for the ability to make the cast regardless of the catch that day. 

Colby, has a tatoo on her left shoulder that reads "find joy in the ordinary."  If you ask her, she will tell you that I thought she was crazy to get words permenantly engraved on her body. (I would never have that same confidence!) What I really think is that they are perfect for her...an acknowlement of how extrodinary the ordinary can become.

Most days in our lives are "ordinary."  We cast our line and reel it in, with little grand reward, at times we are left completely empty handed. I have had days when I have left my fishing pole on the shore...it just didn't seem worth the effort.

It is our willingness to bait hook and cast into the currents, despite our discouragments and sore reeling arms, that allows the opportunity for the extordinary to find it's way to our nearly invisible line and tiny hook in the great sea of life. 

Finding joy in the "ordinary" of each day makes the fishing trip grand!

My son did not catch a Barracuda that year on the Island.  I am certain he will cast again another day...