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Archive for the ‘Gifts’ Category

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There are always themes that tend to emerge when I pay attention.

Right now it has been the significance of small kindnesses, the need, both physical and emotional of so many that is so evident at every turn,  AND the flipside, of the ability of all of us to meet those needs at various times and in various spaces and how so often when it is right it takes so little effort.  Also, this idea that I am called to meet those that I can, but also to trust that others will step in as well, and to learn to discern when, where and how to step in, to fix, to let things be, to release.

In paying attention I have been reminded of many things:

I have been reminded that not every problem is mine to solve,

I have been reminded that I have a lot more to give than I realize,

I have been reminded that kindness- no matter how large or small- can transform moments, individuals and lives,

I have been reminded of the power of presence,

I have been reminded of the gift of being present,

I have been reminded that I am much happier when I pay attention to where my joy, my love, my kindness overflows and giving from that space,

I have been reminded that I need to include myself in the grace and kindness I offer.

In this interview, Krista Tippett from On Being interviews Nadia Bolz-Weber: Seeing the Underside and Seeing God:  Tattoos, Tradition, and Grace .  Pastor Bolz-Weber talks about the idea that we are here to be a community to one another, that we are here to help carry the burdens for each other, and to offer grace.

“And so it’s like this thing like I don’t think faith is given in sufficient quantity to individuals necessarily. I think it’s given in sufficient quantity to communities. The same with that whole thing like God will not give you more than you can bear. I don’t think God will give you more than a community can bear. And we’ve individualized this thing of faith so much.”

And ever since hearing this interview I have had many things from it that I have been pondering and playing with.  One is how many times I have been taking on things that are not my own, letting the heaviness weigh me down and missing out on being present for those who are here in front of me who I am called to be there for.  I have been missing the grace that is present in so many ways.   And secondly, the freedom that is granted when we can rely on each other to help shoulder the burden.

Currently one of the families that I love and cherish is going through a difficult time, and seeing the community rally around them, seeing the love that is shared, the prayers that have been sent, the ways that they have been held has only reminded me that we are that community.  We are here to offer grace, to offer love, their burden is too much to carry alone, but together, together we will walk through it.

That word,

GRACE

has been showing up in my reading, my conversations, my thoughts and prayers a lot lately.

So I am paying attention.

Grace, the power of it, the spaciousness in it, the lightness of it.  It is something that has been fun to play with, to continue to ponder.

And so I ask you.  What have you been paying attention to lately?

 

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If you haven’t ever done it before head over to see the pure awesomeoness that is Danielle LaPorte, brilliant and straight to your heart her words simply shimmer.  And her latest post did what it always does and hit me straight in my heart.

We need to know about your joy. (And other conversations of fulfillment.)

We need you to tell us your good news. Tell us how deeply in love you are. Tell us how your life is rocking. How free you are these days. Tell us how wonderful your family is. How many opportunities are coming your way. How great it feels to make your work in the world. How lazy, luxurious, or revitalizing your holiday was. Tell us how fulfilled you feel in your job. How sexy you felt on the dance floor, on your bike, in the interview. Tell us how well you’re being loved. How delicious your dinner was. How healthy and sturdy you are these days. Go ahead, tell us how lucky you are.Do you feel so utterly blessed at times that it blows your mind? Ya? Tell us about it. Please.

Even if you have to stretch to find the one golden thing in your existence right now, accentuate that. And give it to us.

We need you to light up our realities. Don’t shrink from sharing the story of your good fortune. Give us examples of well-loved living. Give us evidence of the rewards of courage, that it pays to hold out, or to go wild, or to burn prayer candles.

Declare your fulfillment without restraint.

Create conversations of fulfillment so we can step away from the shadows of media madness and habitual, repressive, dampening complaining of the day.

Forget about arrogance and your britches. Never mind potentially envious reactions — envy can be a positive agitator. Yes, be gentle in the face of another’s lack, but still, let them know that certain happiness is possible — you’re living proof.

Tell us what’s good in your life so that we can believe in it for ourselves, so that we can reach out and join in.

Speak of your joy. Whatever it is. Often. twit bird We need to know about your joy. (And other conversations of fulfillment.)

Wise words from Danielle LaPorte
I have been thinking a lot about this concept lately.
I have friends struggling with some big things, medical issues, relationships shifting, cracking, adjusting to big changes in so many ways… and when you are in the midst of those deep shifts it can sometimes be daunting to see other people’s highlight reels… but there is another side to that.
When I see someone deeply reveling in their joy, when I see them fulfilled by their perfectly imperfect life it reminds me to do the same.  When I see someone celebrating the gifts they have in their life I receive it as a personal invitation to celebrate my own gifts that are waiting to be noticed, to be discovered, to be opened, to be shared.
It is good to be reminded that there is always another story to be told, one of abundance, of joy, of gifts… even in the midst of the darkest nights there is light to be found, peace to be shared, joy to be experienced…
So dear ones… tell me of the beauty you see before you right now, in this very moment.

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Beaded Beauty

Another Erica Experiment.

It started with a necklace.

A friend who liked it, who needed some beauty in her life at that moment and a little note to remind her of the beauty that was yet to come in her life.

Then there was a friend’s sassy new haircut that needed some sassy new earrings and it just so happened that I had created some fun ones recently.  So out the door and into the mail they went to find a new home and some new lobes to decorate.

Then there was the closet that was too full, and yet things that didn’t make me happy, or things that were either too big or too small, or in some other ways not “just right”.  And there are lots of other bodies that would be blessed by them, and that would be “just right” on… so out the door goes another 20 items.

And it occurred to me that it might be fun to add them up.  To keep track of the ways, and times I give… both as recognition for myself on the days when I wonder if I am “doing enough” or am “enough” and also to remind myself of the ways that I am here to give, to be of service, to use my gifts to make others lives just a little bit better.

I spent much of the last two years learning how to receive.  I had focused so much of my life on giving, and on the kind of giving until I was depleted, until I had nothing left, giving that left me empty.  And now after getting better at the receiving of gifts I am ready to learn my own balance… to be more open to the flow of giving and receiving.  To pay more attention to the giving that gives to me as well… and more importantly to get rid of my own bias that then it must not be “giving” if I get something too… so there was only one rule…

The only rule with these gifts, these 1,000 ways is that they must leave me feeling more full…

And it occurs to me that I have already received so much from these gifts.

I had the honor of seeing the necklace looking stunning on my friend’s neck and seeing her smile.

Getting a text from my friend who had gotten the earrings made me smile ear to ear.

And sometimes it is the intangibles… today it was a wonderful interaction with my favorite guy at the Post Office, the one who calls everyone by name and greets everyone with a smile.  Today it was a gift to give him a smile and return the favor.

And then it was to go to my local coffee shop to purchase some surprise coffee’s for the people at the Print Shop who went out of their way to help reduce my stress and print my items ahead of schedule.  And when I was at the coffee shop I ran into several people and of course great conversation and connecting ensued.

Getting a chance to connect with all of my friends and to feel like I live in a welcoming community where my participation, my gifts are valued.

So much receiving in the midst of giving.  It is all so intertwined and beautifully connected, just as we all are.

I am learning how to build my muscles… because I believe much like anything we need to flex and exercise these muscles too… The more I think about giving and receiving, the more I practice them both, the more they become like breathing… a part of my life that comes naturally, that keeps me lit with joy and that brings meaning.

The more I have acknowledged and honed my gifts the more easily I see how they can be of use.  Which reminds me of Marge Piercy’s words given to me by a dear friend years ago that still resonate today.

To Be of Use

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil, 
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used. 
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real. 

Marge Piercy

I love seeing how life interweaves gifts, giving and receiving often making them impossible to pull apart.  Love weaves them together creating a beautiful gift in the entirety of it all. The ordinary creating extraordinary, the light merging with the dark and beauty shining through.

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Tonight I completed another thing on my life list. Getting my picture taken with one of my favorite authors!!

Brene Brown and I

I was blessed this evening to have a few moments with Brene Brown.  Long enough to dare greatly, stumble over my words about how powerful her work has been for me and for my adult self to try to remain cool, calm and collected while my inner 8th grader danced around and wanted to show her how cool I thought she was, how much I knew we could be BFF’s – if only she knew me :).

I gave her my book… and not for the reasons that people would probably assume.  I gave her my book because 2 years ago when I saw her speak I gave her a letter about how important her work was and how it truly changed my life and the way I looked at myself, at others, and most importantly it gave me language for who I wanted to be.  It was my very first “Brave Letter” and it was one of the first times that I did something where I was that brave and honestly didn’t care what the response was- because for me it was the act of stretching, it was the act of knowing that she knew was bravery was and she would receive it with love and compassion.  What she did with it was nothing personal, it was the act of me stretching that was the teaching for me.

And now two years later, thanks to employing my own vulnerability, to as Brene says- “calling deep on my courage” I have something to show for it.  And I gave her the book one because it was way outside my comfort zone, but it was also a part of me saying “look, you have placed your heart and soul in these books that you have shared with us, you have risked, you have been vulnerable, the least I can do is offer you a little piece of my heart as well.”  It was the quickest way to show her that YES your bravery has elicited a response… YES your bravery has started a domino effect… YES your work matters and your willingness to be in the arena, your willingness to show up inspired me to do the same.

It happened to correspond with Alana’s release of the Transformation Talk that she and I did a few weeks back.  And I wasn’t sure when it was going to go live so I had honestly forgotten about it.  And so here I am… in an interview where I am “in action” and don’t have a chance to think about it, to delete, only show my “best self”… but yet, when I watched it I watched it with kind eyes, with excitement and curiosity.

I am so excited to be a part of what amazing work Alana is offering to the world.  Her writing is simply beautiful, her willingness to be present, to share deeply and her authenticity shine through both in her words and through her interviews and in her work.  Powerful things happening in her little corner world!

So today I am going to live into Brene’s words from the Gifts of Imperfection:

“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.”

And trust that I did just that today in a variety of ways.

 

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In our Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook obsessed culture we tend to believe what we see and we forget that there is a story behind every picture, behind every post.  Sometimes there is a larger story that we don’t know, and sometimes we assign stories where there are none.

There is a balance to walk, a fine line.  Currently I am going through a difficult period of my life, relationships shifting, anniversaries of difficult things, learning more about some situations that bring sadness. And yet, in spite of it all I am experiencing a deep sense of peace, of connectedness and of deep trust through it.  And through it all there is so much to celebrate- births, beauty, deepening of relationships, love and so much more.

It is the Cone or Crap debate from the Ted Talk- Gratitude, Gifting and Grandpa by John Halcyon Styn … which do I focus on, what habits do I cultivate, what tools do I have to help me navigate the difficult places.

Grandpa & Halcyon – Tickled Pink

I realize now that it is this mental discipline that determines the degree in which you enjoy your life. It is so simple: Focus on the good.

But in our modern world it isn’t simple at all. Our advertising bombards us with the message that we are not enough and we do not have enough. Or news relentlessly tells the story of doom and fear.  It is no wonder that so many of us struggle with unhappiness and depression.  It takes a committed practice to stay focussed on the good.  (Or frequent visits to an especially magical Grandpa.)

But since Grandpa is no longer here physically, I developed a  little trick to snap myself into the Grandpa mindset.  It is called, “Crap or Cone.”

Visualize yourself  holding an ice cream cone in one of your hands…and with dog crap on one of your shoes.  This is the state of our lives at every single moment.

At every moment there are aches and pains, work to be done and people who don’t like you.  At the very same moment, there are gorgeous flowers, laughing babies and your favorite foods.  There are always both. And the degree in which you live in Heaven or Hell is determined by where you place your focus.

This is not the same thing as pretending that you have no problems.  Time and energy should be put towards addressing the crap on your shoe.  (My grandpa spent a few moments EVERY DAY writing his congressional representatives.  But he didn’t spend the rest of the day complaining about the issues.)

The problem comes when we make our lives all about the crap.  And in a world so focused on problems, that crap-focus is an easy trap to fall into. In fact, it is scary how often you will see people set down their cone, take a huge whiff off their shoe and demand, “Oh this is horrific…you have GOT to come smell this!”

Some people will argue that focusing on the good is simply not facing “Reality.”  But reality has almost an infinite amount of things for us to pay attention to.  Yet, our lives have a finite amount of moments.  Where we place our focus is everything.

When you start practicing focusing on your cone, you start to realize just how much there is to be grateful for.  So much in nature. So much in our own bodies. So much in our fellow human beings.  We are practically swimming in an avalanche of ice cream.

 John Halcyon Styn

Concentrating on the crap won’t make my dear one’s cancer disappear, or bring back a loved one, or keep another from her hurting heart… but only focusing on the cone, the delicious parts of life like the beauty of the autumn light, the fact that my words have been pouring forth and I feel connected to the juice of life in so many ways, that doesn’t fit entirely either.  When we aren’t honest about where we are really at, where we struggle, how we are really doing there is the loss of the opportunity to make a connection, to really meet each other where we are at. And I have found that my relationships have thrived where I share all of me, the cone and the crap, and where I make space for people that I love to be who they are and where they are at.

At the same time I have started to set more boundaries around how much crap talk I can handle, and I no longer spend the amount of time I used to

Those who are interested in living wholeheartedly know that behind the perfectly captured photo of the angelic toddler there were the moments before with the meltdown because they didn’t want to wear matching socks, or because they wanted to do it “all by myself”.  And we have those same tantrums as adults, we just seem to hide them more effectively.

And as I strive to live a life where words like- authentic, congruent, intentional, wholehearted, clarity are used daily. I find myself celebrating the cone, but acknowledging the crap and learning to walk that balance.

And it has been a helpful practice to remember that people’s cultivated lives aren’t always a reflection of the entirety of their lives… and there are people that are brave enough to share all of themselves with people who have earned the right to hear the entirety of the story:

Share tenderness with people who have earned it. Trust is built in small moments over time. Work through your stories one-on-one before sharing them publicly. Be careful whom you trust with your tender places. Hence, boundaries are important.

It’s a privilege to see me outside of my armor. People have to earn that right. There are people who are not safe, so limit time around them or else be armored / boundaried around them.

Thoughts from a talk by Brene Brown on Bettina Shzu’s blog

We are all in process, we are all doing the best we can with what we have, and we are all deserving of so much love and kindness.

If anything I would ask that you remember that what you see often isn’t the entirety of the story, and that sometimes we forget that other people have the same fears, struggles and issues that we do.  We are so similar and we tend to spend so much time making ourselves so separate, so special… and yet… what peace, what wonder is found when we realize that we are all such magical beings full of light, love, tender moments, frustrations, fears, regrets, anxieties with a hope that is woven through.

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Sometimes…

Fall 2012

Sometimes it is words of others that remind me of all of the things I need to hear…

Here are a few blog posts that struck me the past few days and I am hoping that they touch your heart as well.

The Permission Slip– Susannah Conway

Oh Susannah, how did you slip into my soul and write out just what I needed to hear?  After reading this and my soul sighing deeply I realized that I needed some space, and some silence.  So I spent the next 8 hours in silence … something I will repeat again very soon, and for a longer period next time.

What Your World Is In Need Of– Valerie Tookes

Beautiful to me because of this:

It has never been true, not for a moment, that criticizing or shaming ourselves leads to love. Only love leads to love.
~Geneen Roth

and this:

In order to provide THE world with what it needs most, I must provide MY world with what it needs most which quite simply is me.

A me – who acts authentically, her heart filled with love and compassion toward herself and others.

A me – who is so filled with a peaceful spirit that joy and happiness just radiate from her eyes.

A me – who is mindful enough to notice and provide deep rest and comfort.

A me – who can reach out in connection with passion and purpose to support others when she is feeling 100% fully herself.

And this: Day of Rest– Jill

Because of this:

To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.
~ Mary Oliver

So much beauty in the world.  And on the days when my heart is weary and my soul tired and sore there are so many others who remind me of the beauty in the midst of it all.  And for that I am grateful.

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Autumn 2012

A Blessing

May the light of your soul guide you
May the light of your soul bless the work you do with the secret love and warmth of your heart.
May you see in what you do the beauty of your own soul.
May the sacredness of your work bring healing, light and renewal to those who work with you and to those who see and receive your work.
May your work never weary you.
May it release within you wellsprings of refreshment, inspiration and excitement.
May you be present in what you do.
May you never become lost in the bland absences.
May the day never burden.
May dawn find you awake and alert, approaching your new day with dreams, possibilities and promises.
May evening find you gracious and fulfilled.
May you go into the night blessed, sheltered and protected.
May your soul calm, console and renew you.

John O’Donohue

Sent to me by a friend just when I needed it, perhaps you needed it today too.

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