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Saturday, November 19, 2016

Last Sunday, I hiked the Turkey Hill Overlook Trail with my daughter, Peyton.
As we started the hike, the initial ascent didn't require much effort. We chatted and she pointed out things along the way. But as we climbed higher, the pitch of the trail grew steep forcing me to lunge up it. It also became littered with rocks and slick inclines that caused me to lean over and secure my hands on the ground so I wouldn't slip. The trail became narrow and these precarious areas edged along drop-offs.

I found myself focusing only on the very next step I had to take, negotiating my footing and exerting myself. At one point, I had to stop to catch my breath. When I did, I looked up and out and saw a beautiful view. The sun leaked through the trees and cast an incredible hue over the woods and the colorful foliage. I realized in that moment that I'd allowed the difficulty of the climb to shift my focus from the beauty of everything surrounding me to putting one foot in front of the other, pushing myself forward, and trying to literally catch my breath. Instead of navigating the trail at a pace that allowed me to not lose sight of the beauty of where I was and who I was with in that moment. I'd seen the trail as the means to an end (the Overlook), rather than a beautiful journey of its own.

Recently, life has felt like a series of footsteps. Days upon days of putting one foot in front of the other, trying to push forward, without pausing to look up and realize the beauty of my life. Problems and situations can quickly consume our energy, our conversations and our thoughts. We shift into an emotional survival mode that causes us to see each moment as something to merely survive. And sometimes, that's necessary. Sometimes, we live in days, weeks or even months where survival--mentally, emotionally, spiritually and even physically--is the singular goal we confront each day. But even as we're living in those times, we need to stop and catch our breath. Even in those times, we can pause--however briefly--to look up and remember the beauty of everything else in our lives. To remind ourselves that these steps are only a few on our journey and that, no matter hard they might be, we will keep moving forward. We will reach the Overlook. And that the journey along the way has beauty and breath if we're willing to look up from the struggle to see it.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Pokemon Go and Perspective


In the past two weeks, we've all seen them. If you're a gamer, you've seen Pokemon--lots of them--everywhere. On street corners, in grocery stores, at churches and even on people's shoulders. You've stopped whatever you're doing--some even driving, talking or working--to focus solely on trying to capture these imaginary and illusive characters. There are mere seconds to concentrate all your efforts  on grabbing them.  At work, I've seen grown men walking around holding their phones in the air. In my neighborhood, I've seen people walking around with their electronic devices and spinning in circles. Conversations that span generations discuss strategy.

I won't begin to dissect the magic that is Pokemon Go. It's genius. It's captivated so many, created its own language and imposed virtual and fantastical characters that interrupt our everyday lives.

Such is creativity. Those who write, paint, sing, sculpt or otherwise put pieces of themselves onto display for others to interpret, criticize or relate to can all appreciate the fleeting moment of inspiration. We listen to conversations and hear intentions. We see beauty and think of the layers of creation and change. We hear songs and become overwhelmed with the spectrum of language and chords. And in doing so, creativity is sparked. Whether it's simply a few words, a design or a note. We see life spinning around us, taunting us to capture tiny inspirations. So we move. Attempting to capture something that will be gone in seconds.

But in seizing our muse, we can't be blind to the other things happening around us or wish to fast forward through a moment to one in which we can focus on our inspiration. If we do, we miss moments we'll never experience again. Last night, I had a flash of inspiration and wanted to sit and start writing. My husband and son were on the couch debriefing his golf game and watching parts of the Open. My folks, who are visiting from Alabama, were wading through documents we'd discovered in my grandfather's old briefcase. I found myself irritated that I didn't have the quiet in that moment to sit and write.

Yet, as quickly as my irritation rose, it subsided because I realized that I sat in the middle of a rare moment. My boys sharing time together over something they love while my folks reminisced about my grandfather. How could I want that moment to pass?

In the past couple of weeks, people have run cars into trees and children have been hit in traffic while stepping out to catch a Pokemon. Being outside in July is no longer about enjoying the summer but, instead, about catching a virtual character. In life, as in Pokemon Go, we must be self-aware to what is happening around us rather than focusing on pursuing what we want. Passions feed us. They bring life to us. And they birth incredible advances in technology, systems, works of art, writing, music and even ministry. But becoming singularly focused and not creating balance in our lives can hurt those around us. Those we love most. And, quite possibly, cause us to metaphorically run our car into a tree.

Embrace your passion. Allow it to feed you and bring you life. But remember that those closest to you are sitting on the outside of your screen and need you to look up from it.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

One Word, Two Letters Can Change a Relationship

A couple of weeks ago, my honey and I went to talk to a friend of ours about something personal. Because of the time of day, it happened to interrupt a critical 15 minutes of her work day. When I asked if she was sure she had time, she answered in a reassuring way that it was fine. As soon as she spoke, I asked myself what she'd said. Because one word changed the tone of our interruption and her involvement.
She spoke quickly so I wasn't sure if she said, "There's nothing going on over there that's as important right now." Or if she said, "There's nothing going on over there that's very important right now." One word interchangeable, "as" or "very." I paused in that moment not to dissect the intent behind her words because I know her heart. It's big and giving and open. Instead, my dorky, literary self sat in the magnitude of what one single word in the same sentence can do to change not only its meaning but how it's received by those who hear it.
Our friend's use of the word "as" tells us that whatever we need to share with her is more important than anything she is doing at that moment. To use the word "very" implies that whatever she is doing isn't important and she can spare a moment.
In a sentence of simply eleven words, a single word can change its meaning. Whether someone you care about hears that you have a minute because you simply do or you have a minute because they matter most.
Words are incredibly powerful. We tend to use them superfluously and not appreciate how they can affect another person. Alter their sense of reality, understanding or belonging. I live with and love a lot of "verbal processors." People who need to dissect situations by talking through them. But in doing so, they often create situations or exacerbate emotions in their need to understand. But for those of us who don't process this way and believe each word carries a reverency of truth and vulnerability, we ingest each word instead of hearing it as a single link in a process.
Words carry weight and emotion and revolution. We must always keep this in mind. To some, you can be hyperbolic but with others you need to be literal. Remember the power your words carry. Speak with love. With grace. With life.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Whispers

Our lives are filled with whispers. Some are quiet and some are loud echoes in our souls. Like a whimper in a canyon that reverberates and multiplies beyond its original source. While some are spoken and hidden in a cocoon that never allows them to go beyond the tight walls that encase them. Others have no walls and echo infinitely.
Everyday, we encounter things we perceive as truths by those around us and by those closest to us. We take steps each day toward being a better person, toward making the space around us better, toward helping someone else be more. And in that mess, we encounter pockets of insecurity, ineptitude and sheer inability. But we keep reaching and trying because we are all in this together. Trying to make one another better.
The whispers might tell us that we aren't enough. They might tell us that we don't matter. They might point out our inadequacies. Or they tell us that what we're doing matters. Like faint reminders that echo beyond today and into the future that our lives matter. Because isn't that what we all want? To know that our lives affected someone? Made a difference? Potentially set in motion something that changed the world?
A whisper that echoed...