Monday, July 23, 2012

REFRAMING OUR FOCUS


“Our life always expresses the result of our dominant thoughts”~ Soren Kierkegaard

There is nothing like early mornings in the garden for quiet contemplation. I never know what I am going to hear from God while basking in the cool shades of green and dodging honeybees I disturb while seeking fat butterbeans.

This morning was no exception.

While peering through the vines, I noticed the leaves at the bottom were yellow. Upon further inspection I found a few bugs. I made a mental note to take care of those hungry critters. With my mind on the vine’s problems, I couldn’t see the beans. I scanned the leaves and saw nothing but lush vegetation. And then, my focus cleared and just a breath away from my nose hung a cluster of fat pods.

So it is with my life sometimes. I focus on the problems so much that I miss the fruit. Yes, we need to deal with problems, but we shouldn’t let it hijack our vision. How often are we so distracted that we miss what we seek and it is right there in front of our nose?

This week, take a deep breath. Get a plan for the problem, then step back from it and see the fruit.

Monday, July 16, 2012

MEOW REMIX



“Time spent with cats is never wasted”~ Sigmund Freud

Cats have always been a part of my life, that is, until my precious grandson developed a serious allergy to them. After that the only way I could have a relationship with my favorite animal is if they stayed outside. But that just didn’t seem possible. I needed a cat more comfortable outside than inside. One that knew how to survive in the wild and in all kinds of weather. You don’t find that in your typical housecat.

A couple of months ago, while my husband and I spent a quiet evening on our front porch, a stray cat came to visit. We shared our snack with the friendly feline. And, as you have already guessed, her visits became quite regular. We called her the kitty who comes for dinner.

One day we got quite a surprise when she hauled her four kittens to our deck. Two were black, one a tabby like its mother, and the last one was gray.  She almost had them weaned. The problem was they were feral and would have nothing to do with us.

Then just as suddenly as the momma cat drifted into our lives, she disappeared. So did all of the kittens except for the gray one. She stayed behind but hid from me every time I came outside.

Then it hit me. This kitty fit all the requirements for my perfect outside pet. The problem? She was as wild as they came and even the door opening sent her sailing off the deck. But I decided to try and tame her anyway.

I named her Willa, after Willa Cather. Cat-her, get it?

The long process of training began. I used canned mackerel as my bribe. But as hungry as she was, she just did not trust me. I spoke to her in my most endearing, quiet coo.

No dice.

What to do? An idea came to me. Years ago I raised Shaded Silver Persians. I remembered how the mother cat used to call her kittens, so I tried it. Willa’s ears perked up and she made a beeline toward me. However, she stopped about four feet away because while I sounded like momma, I sure didn’t look like momma. I tossed a piece of fish to her and she devoured it. As long as I meowed, she stayed put. If I spoke in English she scurried away. Over the following days I continued speaking her language and feeding her.  However, she never got close enough for me to touch her.

The next week Willa began to trust me more. She came closer and ate from my hand. And I could mix in my English with my cat-speak and she wouldn’t run. The week after that, while she ate, I could reach behind her and stroke her back. Two days later I could also scratch behind her ears.

Last week I picked her up and held her close, cooing in English and barely meowing at all. Now when I come out with her food, she runs up to me. And as long as I sit down, she will get into my lap, give me a few nose-bumps and knead me with her paws. The process is slow and ongoing. She still will not let me walk over and pick her up. But she will.

You know? The same process I used to earn Willa’s trust can be used to promote trust and communication between people. The key is to help them in their time of need and be willing to speak their emotional language instead of expecting them to speak ours. Over time as trust is built we can use both their language and ours. Then the day will come when they trust us and understand our language. All it takes is patience and the willingness to enter their world.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

FIRST PLACE


My stepfather missed what some consider the most important firsts in their child’s life. He wasn’t there for my first smile, my first word, my first tooth, first step, or first birthday.
         He didn’t come into my life until I was four. However, although he missed my babyhood, the poor guy more than made up for the firsts he missed as I grew.
         He bought me my first bike and taught me how to ride it. I can still hear his feet pounding the grass in our back yard as he ran behind me holding my bike steady.
         You know, I could ride that bike as long as I knew he was there. But once I missed the sound of his steps I fell. Dad would be a few yards back hunched over, bracing his hands on his knees trying to catch his breath. He’d smile, his face red and glistening with sweat, and say, “You did good, Sis. Let’s try again.”
         In my first year of school, Dad listened to me read about Dick and Jane in my first reader. Mom loves to tell the story of how I’d pause and stumble while reading for her, but when I read for Dad, I wouldn’t miss a beat or a word. What she didn’t know was that Dad had promised me that I could stay up late and watch television with him if I did a good job. He always knew how to motivate me!
         He bought me my first car and taught me how to drive it. And while it didn’t physically wear him out, I’m sure his heart pounded as hard as his feet did when he ran behind me on my bike.
         He was there for my first date. Before my date arrived, Dad pulled me aside, pushed a dime in my palm and whispered, “Sis, put this in your shoe. If that boy gets out of line, you call me and I’ll come get you.” That dime in my shoe reminded me all evening that I had a champion at home and I was safe.
         On the day of my wedding he walked me down the aisle, patting my hand to reassure me and himself that we’d be okay.
         He held my first child, and a few months later held me when my husband left us. He helped me walk through that dark valley and rejoiced with me when I married my husband, Neal. Years later he held my first grandchild.
         My Dad may have missed the important firsts that new fathers experience. But I don’t care about that. He was there for the “firsts” that I remember and I will treasure those memories as long as I live.
         Thanks, Dad. You were there for what really matters.
        
         

Monday, June 04, 2012

MY SOURCE?


This spring started out dry. Oklahoma-dust-bowl dry. I’ve been soaking the garden, and my flowers, herbs, and veggies have hung in there instead of wilting like Oz’s Wicked Witch of the West. That said, it didn’t thrive either. Thank goodness the temperature hasn’t been hot. 
This week it began to rain. It thundered. Lightning flashed. And my garden? Looks like a jungle. So what is it? Water from a hose helps it limp along. Water from the Heavens makes it grow lush and fruitful. 
The source makes all the difference. The same is true in life. In times of struggle I have to ask myself, from which source am I drawing from—this earth or from the Heavens? 




This spring started out dry. Oklahoma-dust-bowl dry. I've been soaking the garden, and my flowers, herbs, and veggies have hung in there instead of wilting like Oz's Wicked Witch of the West. That said, it didn't thrive either. Thank goodness the temperature hasn't been hot.
This week it began to rain. It thundered. Lightning flashed. And my garden? Looks like a jungle. So what is it? Water from a hose helps it limp along. Water from the Heavens makes it grow lush and fruitful.
The source makes all the difference. The same is true in life.
In times of struggle, I have to ask myself, from which source am I drawing from? This earth or from the Heavens?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

ENEMIES-R-US?


“We have met the enemy and he is us.” ~ Walt Kelly

Four years ago we built our home in the country and named it “Selah, ” an ancient Hebrew term found in the Psalms. It is believed to mean: “a pause” in the music, to “reflect & meditate” on the message, or a “transition” in the song.

That was exactly what Neal and I desired for all who visited our home. We wanted our guests to pause from their busy lives, transition from their hectic schedule in order to relax, reflect and meditate.

That said, every spring the peace of Selah comes under assault when a pair of red birds called Tanagers starts attacking the windows in our house. All day long they fly into the glass and peck as they slide down. Feathers fly everywhere. Sometimes they take turns, other times they fight the windows together.

It isn’t our windows that have them worked up; it is the bird they see in the window. A bird they perceive as a trespasser in their territory. They nearly knock themselves silly, but are determined to drive the intruders away.

From morning till night Selah’s windows reverberate with thuds from bird body slams and Tommy gun “rat-a-tat-tats” from resolute beaks. The problem? The birds they are fighting are their own reflections. They are fighting themselves! All that energy, all that time—wasted! Silly birds . . .

But wait? Don’t we do that?  Sometimes we perceive an enemy intruding into our lives, keeping us from success or putting stumbling blocks in our way. But what we often fail to recognize is that the enemy is actually . . . well . . . us.

I am my own worst enemy when it comes to time management. Not only am I guilty of over committing, I also procrastinate. NOT a good combination!

There are those who focus on the negative. It could be on their past experiences—missed opportunities, failures, unmet expectations—or on their self-perceived imperfections due to comparing themselves with others. Along with a negative focus is negative self-talk, which creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

Most of us have a “bird in the window” episode at one time or another. What’s the solution? Recognize our self-sabotaging habits and do something about them. For instance, I keep careful tabs on my calendar and stay mindful of my commitments. I also write down a daily schedule that I follow even if I don’t feel like it. This habit was hard for me to develop, as most good habits are, but I can attest it was worth it!

Eventually, Mr. and Mrs. Tanager will wear out, give up and build their nest. Peace will finally return to Selah.

May peace return to you this week! 

Monday, March 26, 2012

TIME TO THRIVE



There is an interesting tree in Liss, England. It is hollow in the middle. Like the one the Keebler Elves live in! You can actually go inside it, look up and see the sky. It is empty, but it lives. Not just lives, but thrives as you can see in the picture.

Every time I feel like I’ve failed or not measured up somehow, I think of that tree and how I feel as hollow as it is, and yet, I can and must still thrive.

How do I do that?

I have to make a decision. How am I going to use this “failure” experience? Am I going to let chew away at my soul, or am I going to use it as a learning tool? You know, failure can be an excellent tool. Not only can I learn from it but I can use this experience to connect and help others.
Just like this tree, I should welcome others to walk inside my experiences and see that it is possible to thrive no matter what happens.

If you’ve failed, I’m so sorry. But now it is time to examine the experience, write down what you’ve learned, and from that . . .

Grow and Thrive!

Friday, March 16, 2012

PECKING ORDER



“Everyone has an invisible sign hanging from their neck saying, ‘Make me feel important. . . ’” ~ Mary Kay Ash


Recently we decided to add to our flock of hens, or Fr’Hens as I call them. I’ve learned a lot about life from my Fr’Hens. And it is no different with these new balls of feather fluff. Even though they are less than a week old, they have already established a “pecking order.” And although this is a natural social organizing among chickens, it is still sad.

The little chick in the above picture seems to understand and accept that she is not welcomed to join the bundle. If I could speak “chicken” and if she could understand, I’d pick her up and say, “Don’t let them fool you! You are just as cute and healthy as they are. You have the same purpose as they, and will lay eggs with the best of them. Hold your beak high and jump right in the middle of them! Peck the back. Stand your ground!”

Alas, I cannot speak chicken, and she wouldn’t understand me anyway. But I can do this for people.

There are those who, although are visible to the eyes of others, are still invisible. They know it. It is easy to recognize them. They are the ones who stand apart from the crowd, who stare at their feet, who listen on without saying anything. They are the students who sit alone in school cafeterias, the adults that sit alone in social gatherings.  They have the look that says, “I wish I could think of something to say, I wish I was part of your crowd, I’m so lonely.”

Let’s train our eyes to see those who are invisible. Let’s listen to our hearts and help them to realize they are important, valuable, and that they should hold their heads high. 

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

ONE STEP AT A TIME




“Procrastination is, hands down, our favorite form of self-sabotage”
~ Alyce P. Cornyn-Selby

I heard Rory Vaden, author of the book Take the Stairs, interviewed the other day. At first I thought he was an exercise guru, but he is actually a motivational speaker and self-discipline strategist for businesses. His premise is to do the right thing even if it is hard.

Although he is focused on helping businesses succeed, what he talks about it true about life. I thought about my life. Where am I taking the elevator when I should really be trudging up the stairs? Well, one thing is exercise. And I literally have to walk up stairs to my exercise equipment. I hate to exercise. It is boring and time-consuming. But it is also necessary.

Other difficult things may be standing firm with a teenager. Having that talk with someone. Making that apology. Applying for a new job. Being a better employee. Stop procrastinating and do what has to be done. Stop spending and save money. The possibilities are endless.

Are you on the elevator, taking the easy way out? Do you need to take the stairs, do the hard thing because it is the right thing to do?

I encourage you to do so. Take one step at a time. Guess I better head up my stairs and start the Jane Fonda DVD!  

Sunday, February 19, 2012

FORGIVENESS A FORMIDABLE FEAT



“Every one says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive.” ~ C.S.Lewis

Last time we looked at what forgiveness is and what it isn’t. Today we will look at how to forgive. And just like it says in the title, to forgive can be a very difficult thing to do.

When I was in elementary school we used to play a game called “dodge ball.” Remember that? We would stand in a large circle, and one of us would go to the center of the circle. We had a ball, kind of like a basketball only a lot softer. The goal was for those forming the circle to try to hit the person in the center and the person in the center to dodge that ball. Who ever finally hit the “dodger” took his or her turn in the center.

To forgive is a lot like that game. The offense is the ball. Life circles us and situations throw the offense at us. We are wise to dodge it, but too many times it knocks us flat. Or we might catch it and hold it tight, nursing the hurt. We may turn it over and over rehearsing the story in our head, or to others. But the true object of the game is to dodge it. And should we catch it, to reverse it—throw it away from us.

For most of us, forgiveness takes time. But if we will practice the following steps we will succeed:

·      Decide to forgive. Decide to let go of that offense. We must not listen to our emotions. They keep a death-grip on our hurt because at first it doesn’t always feel good to forgive.
·      Move forward. Not forgiving holds us in a state of inertia. Believe the truth. We did not deserve to be hurt in such a way. But now is the time to close the door on the past and move on to our future.
·      Focus on how this has made us stronger, wiser, better people, and more compassionate people to others in similar situations. Let us think about ways we can help others?
·      Redefine ourselves. We must quit being “the victim.” Let’s no longer allow the offending person or situation continue to have power or control over us.

Finally, we must be patience with ourselves. Sometimes in a weak moment we might forget to dodge and the offense will land in our hands. When that happens, we mustn’t nurse it, or rehearse the stories. We must reverse it. Throw it away. Life will get tired of playing that game and we will emerge the victors!  

Thursday, February 02, 2012

FINDING FREEDOM IN FORGIVING



“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”~ Lewis B Smedes

As a child, I always heard the phrase, “Forgive and Forget.” As an adult, I learned that forgetting is physically impossible. Our brains are not designed to forget. So what do we do? Live in the prison of our bitterness and anger? Draw others into our prison so they too can suffer?
No. Even though our human design makes it impossible to forget, forgiveness is possible. It involves our Mind – how we think about the offense, our Will – the choice we make, and our Emotion – controlling our reaction.
Most of us have been offended, cheated, treated unfairly, rejected, abandoned. Some of us have been heinously abused and feel the right to hold our attacker in un-forgiveness and hate.
For the next few posts we will explore forgiveness. Today I want to say what it is and what it is not.
Forgiveness is releasing the offense. Holding on to anger and bitterness is like squeezing a fist full of stinging nettles. It hurts and yet we hang on. We look at our hand and cry because it hurts and we hate it, but still we refuse to open our hand and throw them from us. But in order to heal, we must. Even after we throw the offenses (nettles) away, our hand still has wounds, it still bleeds, but the process of healing can now begin. 
Forgiveness is not saying the offense was justified! If someone has hurt you, to forgive the person is not giving him or her a pass. By forgiving we are not admitting that person had the right to hurt us. We are not saying it was okay.
To release an offense is to release ourselves from that person, from our own personal prison, and to grow. It will give us perspective and empower us to help others.

Are you holding onto stinging nettles? Will you let today be the beginning of your healing?   

Thursday, January 12, 2012

THE KINDNESS OF GOD


This morning I had one of those moments, one of those object lessons from God.

While en-route to meet friends at my son's new coffee shop, The Pressroom, in Bentonville, AR, I passed a house where a huge Doberman Pincher lives. Normally he has on one of those collars that keep him in his yard. But today he frolicked in the middle of the road. When he saw me approach he planted his paws and prepared to "stand me down." By his lifted lip and his stance I knew he growled a warning. 

Of course I slowed down. This only served to make him bolder. He charged my car, alternately snapping at the tires and returning to the front barking, warning, and demonstrating his dominance of the road.

Silly dog.

He had no idea that his display of power wasn’t what made me apply my brakes. Rather it was my kindness and patience with his ignorance. He had no way of comprehending that I was the one with the power. I could have continued on my without slowing down and knocked him off the road resulting in his death, or at the very least, severe injuries.

And that is when it happened. A light went off in my soul. For all the times I take a stance, bark my opinion, feel all powerful, it is the kindness and patience of God that waits until I'm all barked out and ready to listen, ready to be teachable, ready to repent from my error.

Silly Linda