Every day in our life's journey holds its own special treasures, if we have eyes to see...

Monday, December 31, 2012

Living the Dream

Oh Christmas! The hours my siblings and I used to spend gazing at the old, chipped manger scene under the tree, the peanuts we used to "roast" on the electric light bulbs  and the plays we would practice for the grand performance on Christmas Eve--such joy. Such anticipation! These childhood memories meld with the present delights of family gathered from faraway places for a holiday together, and over all weaves the magic of twinkling lights, laughter, and the scent of cinnamon rolls and coffee.

For me, this stretch between the old year and the new seems suspended in time. Snow blankets the ground and there's a chill wind blowing as twilight creeps on, heightening the comforting fires in the fireplaces, while violin and harp music wends its way into the corners where people read (or play with their iphones or ipods). It's rather like a dream. And as too often happens with such times, beauty and perfection intertwine with lesser things (rattling windows, nose blowing, and having eaten far too much for comfort). The prosaic masks the poignant and leaves us not quite awake to its wonders.

Perhaps all of life holds this tension: The majesty, the treasure of the present cloaked in the garb of the everyday. Lacking intentionality, we can pass through golden fairytale moments with only the faintest of recognition.

Yes, too often we may walk unseeing, but in the year to come, what if we set about re-discovering childhood wonder--that state where every experience feels epic, full of all manner of possibilities? Rather than pass through time only vaguely aware of the gift each day holds, we can dream big dreams, then take them past imagination into reality. It is a year of no fences, so here's to moving forward into the unexplored. 2012 has been epic. Why should 2013 be any less!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Hosting Royalty

This past week, I got to be part of an amazing event: More than 120 tables filled the huge civic auditorium, each holding 8 people and decorated with  unique holiday-themed settings. A chef-crafted meal, a team of servers in black and white, greeters, transportation crew, table bussers, kitchen staff, and more all collaborated for the effort, assisted by artists, singers, Christmas elves, and picture ops with Santa. Why? For the express purpose of honoring greatness.

The guests were not monarchs from other nations, nor lords and ladies with famous names. Media does not value or know these individuals. Many did not even value themselves. Somewhere along life's journey they had lost some if not all vision for pursuing dreams, and it was our job and our joy to speak to the treasure within them, to awaken them to hope again by reminding them of what they may have forgotten about who they are. We wanted to do this not through words, but by treating them with dignity, honor, and grace, and giving them a day to remember.

Some walked through the doors pushing all their worldly goods in little rolling basket-carts. Another left his dog tied to the bushes outside, guarding bike and backpack while big feathery snowflakes drifted down. But in spite of these and other such situations, many wished me "Merry Christmas" as they passed by, and their smiles were heartfelt. I was so impressed. One couple at my table cheerily announced they lived in a tent.  "What do you do when it snows like this?" I asked, to which they replied as if they had the best set-up ever: "We have a heater!"

 From the raucous little boys in the table behind mine to the baby dressed in Christmas best for her picture with Santa, it was the children that impressed me the most, though. I marveled at the way they immersed themselves in the wonder of the moment, and had not yet forgotten their greatness. One little boy stood up to show me how tall he was and let me feel his muscles. "I'm Daddy's strong boy," he said with a toothless grin. His sister confided that she is her daddy's brave girl, and undertook to teach me her family members' names. One child wanted to be a singer, another a writer, and as they confided this, the light of a thousand possible horizons shone in their eyes.

Our teams set about to give, but in the end, it was we who received, for we came away knowing we had gazed on something of wonder and magic. But after all, isn't that how it works when royalty comes to call?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Fresh Trails

Sacramento River Trail
I love new trails! The operative word here is new. The first time I see someplace, the first time I walk or ride a trail, the first time I come around a bend and the road opens up before me is akin to magic. After that, I may become fond of the place. I may revisit the trail. But I will always want to experience it just a bit differently each time.

For me, it's about fresh horizons--seeing something I have never seen before. I've often wondered what it must have been like for mountain men like Jim Bridger and Kit Carson, or even Lewis and Clark, to go where no other save First Nations had ever gone--coming over a peak to see a mountain valley spreading out below them and to know that with their own eyes, they are gazing into timelessness. Had I gone west with the wagon trains, I would have been a scout, because they went ahead, scoped out the land, and came back to give a report.

This is not to say I thrive on danger or living on the edge of safety. I don't. Nor is this urge based on competition--I don't have to be the only one who sees it. I just want to explore, to drink in all the newness on my own, not second-hand. I want to take the journey myself, in my own way, at my own pace.

As a child, I yearned to explore the unexplored--a desert island no one knew about; a mountain valley undiscovered from the dawn of time; a cave; a ghost town; an undersea world, and I lamented that even then, there were no unknown places in my country.

I lamented because I did not know that there were whole realms that no one had broken into yet. But as I have lived my life, I have come to the great and freeing truth that all that is known is but a tiny fraction of the world in which we live. There are realms of relationship with God, with people, with myself, with all of creation, that I could explore for the rest of my life and never travel the same trail twice. Wow!

So while I may have missed my chance to be a mountain woman or a wagon train scout,  I can't tell you how exciting it is to know that I need never be confined to the known. I can go as deep, as far, as high as I am able--forge through mountains, cross rivers, swim oceans--and return to tell other journeyers that just around the corner are treasures for the seeking, horizons to be gazed on, and worlds to be explored.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Time Travel

Wow. It's been striking me lately how amazing people are, and how much goes on inside them--substance at which we can only guess, because it is not written on the outside.

Over the Thanksgiving season, we were blessed to have family visiting, and among these dear ones was our baby granddaughter. She watches. She ponders. She smiles and interacts, exploring this world where everything, for her, is new. I find myself wondering what goes on behind those violet-blue eyes with their long curling lashes. She is a little mite of a person, yet her inner world is growing by the hour.

We are bigger on the inside than we are on the outside. I find this a fascinating aspect of humanity, and I'm put in mind of the TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimension in Space)--a time machine from a long-running British sci-fi series. While I am not the world's greatest fan of the genre as a whole, I've been enjoying certain themes that run through these episodes: the sanctity of life, the importance of stewarding the gifts and callings we carry, and the victorious power of love. 

And I like the TARDIS itself. It looks like a sixties-era British Police box  with a cute peaked roof, opaque windows, and a battered, navy-blue exterior. So ordinary from the outside. So extraordinary within. Easily ten times as large as its exterior, the TARDIS is filled with amazing instruments, a mysterious power source, and what seems to be an invincible and steadfast ability to take its occupants where they need to go, provide information and power to perform their missions, and take them on to the next adventure, all very prosaically and without drama.

How like people. We hold the whole of our existence within the tiny confines of our physical bodies. From babyhood to old age, it is all stored within us--the memories, the adventures and experiences both bad and good, the questions, doubts, faith, and core values. When we look in the mirror, we only see our surface, yet we understand  that we are more than what our eyes behold.

It strikes me as ironic, then, that so often we look only on the surface of other people. We see their outward person and assess them accordingly. Maybe they impress us, and for that reason, we lift them up. Maybe they depress us, and so we tend to avoid them. Or maybe we even sort of know them, and can look past mere surface and glimpse their worth. But what if, to quote a well-known verse, we didn't view anyone "after the flesh (outer person)"?

I'm talking to myself, really. A week spent with special people who I don't get to see often enough has me looking at life and people with eyes that want to see those around me in a deeper way. I want to go beyond just hoping to get through the checkout line at the local grocery in record time. I want to see the person behind the counter not as someone with a bad attitude, but as an individual with an interior as big as the universe. What about the homeless person who stakes out a certain corner every Sunday? What is he hoping for? What has happened in his life to so obscure his gifts, talents, and callings that even in his own estimation, he is reduced to smallness?
People are so much bigger, so much more valuable, so much more amazing than what their outsides testify. I love that. And I love it that every time I meet someone, I have an fresh opportunity to look beyond their surface appearance and behaviors. If I look deeper, I may be able to help stir up and even free the greatness within those who have lost sight of themselves. And if I can do that, in a way it will be like entering the TARDIS. I will be transported into a world so much larger and more magical than the one I see with my physical eyes, a world where amazing and unexpected things happen. And the deeper I look, the more the eternity in me contacts the eternity in them, and the more their world can open up to me.

If that's not time travel, what is??!!! 

Sunday, November 11, 2012


On behalf of Veterans Day, I want to dedicate this piece, and as I do, I also want to say a special thanks to Charles, to Brandon, and to Joe. You know who you are :-)

Someone very important died not long ago, but only a few people noticed. Where were the headlines for Ace Gibson? Surrounded by family and staff at the veterans’ home, he quietly exited this earth. Why did no reporter show up to cover this, his last great act of gallantry? Though we live in a world of million-dollar sports contracts and block-buster movie earnings, surely the passing of an old soldier is still important.
I know he wasn’t famous—not in the way other men have obtained fame. He was not a film star. Not a NASCAR racer, rolling out of control on a dangerous curve. He wasn’t even a politician or a small town businessman. Yet surely this must be one of  life’s more glaring ironies: Often those that live and die for themselves receive much public acclaim, while those that live and die for others, die in obscurity, unseen and unsung.

That’s how it was for Ace, anyway. What he accomplished on the battlefields of Europe was infinitely more important than any celebrity “job” which ultimately benefits only the celebrity himself. But to be fair, barely a handful of Ace’s buddies are even alive to remember the days when they were all young together, and others knew him to be just a regular guy who looked like any other old man, and they never knew his past. He was a quiet man who lived a quiet life. He stayed married to one woman for 60 years, raised a family and worked with the railroad in Kansas City for thirty years. He never talked about war experiences. Oh, he’d share the funny things—frying “borrowed” eggs in his combat helmet—things like that.
“Did you ever kill anyone, Dad?” his daughter asked one day.
His eyes looked far past her, and finally he answered. “Yes.”
But that was all he ever said. So maybe it is not anyone’s fault that no fanfare was blown and the nation’s flags never moved to half-mast when Ace passed on. There he lay, where the frailness of age and the ravages of Parkinson’s disease had brought him quietly to the end.
 It wasn’t until his funeral that things began to surface. “Did you know that the battalion he was in landed on Utah Beach at Normandy just days after DDay?” someone said. “He fought in the Battle of the Ardennes and was on hand for VE Day.”
“He received five bronze stars for gallantry in action,” shared another.
His wife doesn’t know where the medals are, but she found an old map, yellowed now with the years. It shows the path his battery, part of the Super Sixth Armored Division, took on those sad, weary days so long ago. A dotted line shows where his young feet walked, the battles he fought, the victories won. But it doesn’t begin to tell what his eyes saw, what his hands had to do, and what he was willing to give for our freedom.

More than sixty years have passed. Other wars have come and gone. And other men like Ace—some older, some younger—still hide their stories behind quiet eyes. And this is what I wonder: How do I say “thank you” to them before they, too, pass away unsung? Is there a way I can let these soldiers know that someone somewhere appreciates what they did on the behalf of women, children and a nation still free?
They don’t want to talk about it. But I do. I’d like to speak to each and every one—the pilots, the sailors, the infantrymen, and somehow convey to them that the hardships they endured, the atrocities they witnessed and committed to purchase freedom—were not in vain. I want to show them my children, laughing and carefree, and say thank you. Thank you for doing what you did, so I and my children could grow up in a safe and free country, where we can meet without fear and speak without apprehension.
I also want to say, “Thank you for risking your youthful dreams to purchase mine.”
I’m sure they’d brush it off, saying, as one has already said to me, “The real heroes are underground.”
But here’s what I cannot comprehend, as I look at soldiers—some in nursing homes now, some still strong in the power of their youth, and just returning from Iraq or Afganistan—why should men and women die for people and children they don’t even know? And yet I know the answer, even as I ask: Because within each is heroism, is gallantry, is the willingness to fight for the things that are precious, even to the giving of life. Truly, “…greater love hath no man than this, than that he lay down his life for his friends.”
So what I’d really like to say to Ace and to each and every soldier, sailor, flyer and marine, alive and dead is this: “May He who sees all things, bring to remembrance and hold in honor your quiet heroism. God bless you, Ace—you and those like you. And on behalf of all Americans—a deep and heartfelt thank you.”


Friday, November 2, 2012


Brandy Creek
Philosophy has never been of burning  interest to me.

Those who know me might well consider this an understatement. Questions which have no real bearing on living life well usually hold little attraction for me, though sometimes I feel apologetic about that, as if a more leisurely and gracious me would dabble there occasionally, just because she could.

In spite of that, a philosophical thought not only actually occurred to me, but managed to capture me one lovely autumn afternoon this past week:

Is a moment only a moment--here, then gone, existing henceforth only in memory--or is a moment actually a tiny portal of eternity-a pinpoint at which time and timelessness touch and are forever merged? 

Weighted with our yesterdays and fueled by tomorrow's dreams, is this moment we're living right now pinned to a point on our earthly timeline by our conscious mind and simultaneously stored for us outside of time in a continuum beyond that which our senses can register?

I wonder...

October Colors
As a finger touches a mirror and is in its turn touched by the reflection of a reflection of a reflection as it runs on into infinity, do moments echo-and therefore exist-forever?

And if so, does a moment relived in memory happen only inside our minds, or do our hearts reach into that other realm to live again the essence of the moment?

Without building a belief system around this line of thought, I do very much like it. "He has put eternity in our hearts...", and I, for one, am very glad about that, for there are far too many beautiful moments and beautiful things in life to have them exist for just one fleeting instant in time...

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Through a Cat's Eyes

In preparing for our recent cross-country move, I wanted to bring bits and pieces of our everyday life to the new house in order to create an instant sense of home. Little things like favorite coffee mugs, certain pieces of furniture, musical instruments, books. But as it turns out, one furry individual more than all else combined, has given pleasure and continuity in a place where everything else is new. So this post celebrates Miss Moppet, aka "Toots".

Relocating halfway across the United Sates seemed rather extreme. Extreme and decidedly disruptive, from a cat's eye view. Sulking seemed to be the obvious way to deal with such an event--lots of sulking combined with lurking about in the far regions of the moving vehicle, punctuated by sulking and lurking in strange hotel rooms and hiding in the box springs of hotel mattresses.

There is something about her tail-waving, silent-pawed presence that lends a timelessness to the place in which she dwells, be it Missouri or California. Her wide-eyed acceptance of  change has helped blur the edges of our relocation, lending a sort of haven't-we-always-been-here quality to every day. With a cat's usual disregard for boundaries and time, she prowls about in exploration, spends inordinate amounts of time in what could be called catnapping (if it didn't represent solid hours of oblivion) sprawled upon whatever ledge, bed, or if at all possible, forbidden surface she favors. Nocturnal habits and an addiction to cheese aside, she is a pleasure and a joy in our world. Indispensible.

A new house is a place of wonder. There are ladders to climb. Vines to ravage and spread in little bits over the carpet. Plants, of course, make very good hiding places, and if they, too, loose a few leaves or begin looking a bit bedraggled, who can blame such a face?

Should all those other activities begin to lose their appeal, a cat can always read or journal, activities at which Toots show great skill, as you can clearly see...

Now where was I? Ah, yes. Journal-
ing by osmosis. A rare skill. I stare off into space as I ponder the uni-
verse. Perhaps it trans-
fers to the pages upon which I lie. 
Or not.
Either way, I am fine. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

River Birch Bend

Setting forth
Over five years ago, my youngest daughter and I saddled up Journey and Ginger (our Welsh pony who was only 30-years-old at the time and still able to be ridden) and wove our way through field and stream, deep into the Corps land that lies behind our house in west-central Missouri. By some miracle, we actually found an enchanted place we christened "River Birch Bend". Next time, we agreed, we must pack a lunch, come sit upon the creek bank, and soak in the solitude and beauty.

But somehow we never quite did that, and then Ginny got too old to ride, (and no person with half a wit would ever venture into the Missouri woods in summer on foot unless they had a love affair with chiggers or had marinated themselves in bug spray). Therefore it was only this summer that we set out on horseback  to re-discover River Birch Bend.

Was it three fields over and then across the creek and down, or was it two fields, then forge into the woods? No, and no. But after three attempts, dense and poison ivy laced undergrowth and a few impressive wounds, we found it once again.This time, we  marked it so that whether we struck the trail head at top or bottom, we would not end up beating our way cross-country and wishing ourselves back home.

Why am I relating this? Because four weeks ago, I took my last ride on Journey for what may be a very long time. Down through the creek bottoms, dappled by dancing shadows of leaves and streaks of sunlight, this special horse and I wended our way to to River Birch Bend. It seemed fitting that I would say goodbye to Missouri this way before she went to start the next chapter in her life journey and I in mine...

Wow. I started this blog entry just as we left for our new home in northern California, whereafter, it languished unfinished while whatever brilliant or un-brilliant thing I was going to say disappeared beneath a slew of unpacking, article deadlines, and getting acquainted with a whole new chapter.

So, I think, rather than trying to figure out whatever it was I was going to say, I will just share this video of our last ride, (can't figure out why I can't change it from sideways to right-side-up, but oh well...)

and say that I'm loving this new adventure, challenges and all, while Journey has settled into her new home with the beauty and grace with which she always approaches life.

Abigail on Journey--2012

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Further up! Further In!

On a ride with Honor
These past couple of weeks I have been pondering endings and beginnings, due entirely to the fact that I have had a lot of the former this summer, which has precipitated the latter. Like it or not, moving is that way (a fact I've managed to avoid for 20+ years). But the time has come--in less than two weeks, we'll say our last few farewells and head for California for months and months.

As I explored in my last blog, an ending is also a beginning, so even though it is not without angst, it is still good. Going through a door means leaving a room behind, and in big or small ways, we are not the same when next we enter.

All of life, in a way, is a passage from known to unknown. When we experience the unfamiliar, we seek to establish an equilibrium, a familiarity, so that we can relax and understand at least part of what we are living.

But if finding and maintaining equilibruim becomes our over-arching goal, then we will remain forever in that spot. Growing older. Less brave. Less able to pioneer and break open new ground. If we are not careful, we store our wisdom and experience in a safe place, hung like armor we once used in battle but now gathering dust, removed from its usefulness and true purpose.

Our spirits strain against such things, I think, and our eternal-ness, like a captive bird, flies against the bars of a cage we have forged ourselves--forged of comfort and familiarity. We bid our hearts be satisfied with a warm meal and a bed at the end of a day, when we were really made to climb the heights and plumb the depths of a thousand fresh horizons.

Here we have no continuing city, and deep is calling us ever deeper. If there is a threshold before us, let us don the armor of braver days, and whether it be big or small, may we step forward and embrace what is to come!

New Paths Await!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

A Summer of Goodbyes

As noted in a previous blog entry, we're re-locating to northern California for the school year. That has made this summer different from others in many ways. Where normally I would divide my time between tending flowerbeds, processing garden produce, and generally occupying my world, I have instead been systematically sorting through closets and cubbyholes, packing what must go and purging that which has outlived its usefulness.

Rosie and Bucky
Besides having slightly unruly flowerbeds as a result of my aforementioned neglect, I have a growing list of goodbyes as well--and goodbyes have never been my favorite thing. This week, we said farewell to Rosie, our Jersey milk cow, and her calf Bucky. I have enjoyed them and they have been amazing. They have also been a lot of work and worry at times. So our goodbye was just that--good. But it has caused me to ponder farewells in general.

Whether it is a visit with a friend, a change of workplace, or moving from one season or state to another, a goodbye is the ending of something. And yet it is also a beginning, for in order for something new to come, something old must pass. A baby must leave babyhood behind. That is sad. But sadder still is a baby who never grows up. Adult children move from home, leaving a hole only they can fill. That is sad. But sadder still would be an adult child whose life does not move forward.

The more epic the goodbye, the more it carries the weight of ending. This must be why we wave until the harbor can no longer be seen from the ship or the friendly lights of the house are no longer visible around the curve in the road. Most of us do not relish the process of letting go, for in that moment between ending and beginning, we hang in space. The future, even if welcome, holds the unknown, while that to which we are bidding farewell holds the comfort of a familiar world.

Why would anyone volunteer for a goodbye of this sort? I'm asking myself this question. And I'm remembering the day my mother said goodbye to me at the door of my kindergarten room. It was one of those hard farewells, and I, for one, was not willing. But looking back, I can see that it was also the beginning of many good and growing experiences. I could not stay five forever, as safe and comfortable as that would have felt. This holds true even today, as I contemplate our move. Sure, we could stay in this little corner of Missouri paradise, and it would be good. But it would not be best.

When we stand before an open door and do not go through it, we choose to stop growing, I think, and that is one thing I do not want to do. I love the safety and comfort of the known at least as much as the average bear. But stagnancy scares me more than the loss of my comfort zones, and my pioneer blood calls me forth. "Explore!" it urges. "Experience. Go where you have never gone before. Great things lie before you, so step bravely forth."

Having heard that voice, I am not content with the cocoon I have fashioned. It constrains me, and looks to the past and present, but not the future. So I brace myself for the series of goodbyes that are lining up before me. I am not the best at farewells, and do not know how to do endings very well. But it will be all right. Some of my leave-takings are but temporary, and for those like the one with Rosie and Bucky, I will draw comfort from memories, from assurance that they are in a very good place, and from the God of all Comfort, who Himself completely understands goodbyes.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Journey and Honor

This morning I'm sitting on my porch swing before the heat descends. A cacophony of bird sounds permeates the air--roosters crow, hens cluck and call, barn swallows warble and a mockingbird trills out all sorts of songs. There is a breeze--soft, rain-scented, and all the flowers curtsy and bow as it passes by. Such a perfect place for musing, and what I'm thinking about this morning is the name of this blog: Journey with Honor. Those who did not follow from the first few postings will not know that this is a multi-purpose, or rather a multi-layered name.

I began it here and here, as I embarked upon a journey with my Arab-quarterhorse gelding, Honor. At the same time, the lessons I was learning in the natural realm lent themselves to other aspects of life and relationships as well. And just to add to the wordplay or confuse the issue, we also have a horse named Journey. So "JourneywithHonor" is about our horses, Journey and Honor, it's about my journey with Honor, and it's about living life's journey with honor.

Why ponder this at this time? Because two of the original three purposes for this blog are changing.  Journey goes to a new home at the end of August. In my last post, I referred to a friend who has begun her own horse journey. What I didn't mention is that her adventure is made possible by her own courage to pursue her dream, and by our Morgan-cross mare, Journey, the embodiment of the dream. As my family and I re-locate to Northern California for at least the school year, Journey (and her faithful companion, good old Ginger, our 30+ year-old Welsh pony) will begin a new adventure and be part of someone else's journey.

I find this very satisfying and appropriate, for Journey was a dream come true for me--a horse lover who had been "horse-less" since I left the farm I grew up on. She has been the perfect horse to begin with after a twenty-year hiatus--so calm and sweet, so willing and eager on the trail, so beautiful. It makes my heart glad that she can once more be the fulfillment of someone's dream. It speaks to me of the goodness of God and how He cares about all the little things in our lives.

Then there is Honor. I want to take Honor with me, and I find that, too, symbolic. Wherever we go, we have a choice to take honor with us into our interactions with people. So I am not done with Honor. But--and here the allegory breaks down a bit--I can't take him with me right now. So he will join a small herd of well-loved horses where he will have companionship and care, and depending on our long-term plans, will ultimately journey to California where he and I will ride all over the mountains there.

So even though Journey will stay in Missouri, enjoying the woods and the rolling hills, exploring new paths with a dreamer on her back, my journey with Honor and my journey with honor is still unfolding. I don't know what shape upcoming adventures will take. I do know there will be new lessons learned, new allegories unfolded, new frontiers to explore. All of life holds secrets. Mysteries. Connections. And whenever we walk those out with honor, great things can happen!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


I'm pondering last week's horse-riding session with a friend. Outside of a few rides 20 years ago, she'd had no experience. However, in six sessions, she has gone from complete beginner to being able to catch, halter, prep, saddle, and bridle Journey, pick up and clean out her feet. Put on hoofboots. Mount. Today we even rode around "the block"-- (about 5 miles), walking and trotting. It was a bonafide ride complete with Honor cavorting about keeping things interesting, the smells of leather and woods and dusty roads, and a blue, blue sky arching above us.

When we finished, my friend commented on how helpful it was to practice all the bits and pieces she'd been learning, and how with the doing, they began to come together. All the random  information with which I had inundated her--"Watch a horse's ears, and you'll have a good indication of what it's thinking." "Keep the reins quiet and low." "Lean forward and lift the reins a bit if you want to go faster," and a hundred and one other odds and ends we'd been working on--fell into their proper place.

Once again I am struck by the importance of practice. Theory is great. Knowledge necessary. But if we never actually apply it in real-life situations, we do not advance. There had to come a day when my friend scraped up her courage and rode outside the confines of the corral, and then beyond the yard.

Speak Up
There is no substitute for experience. We can't borrow someone else's. We can't buy it at Wally World. We have to acquire it the same way every other person must--by doing, doing, then doing again, a bit longer and better each time, or more bravely--until after multiple repetitions, we begin to know.

This has got me to thinking about an area in which I need more experience--brave communication. Oh, yes, I'm quite proficient in passing the time of day, discussing the weather or the latest about whatever. But when it comes to communicating how someone's actions are affecting me, I find that I have knowledge a-plenty and way too little practical experience.
Brave Communication in Progress

So, like my intentional friend who is well on her way to becoming a confident rider, I need to practice. I'm won't have as steep a success rate as she has had--after all, no one becomes an amazing communicator is six interactions. But that's all right. Every time I move into pursuing connection, I'll be one step closer to proficient, and one step clower to the people I love!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Treasure and Diversity

In Zion National Park

Sometimes you find treasure in unexpected places. It could be an item in an antique store. Perhaps it's an old letter tucked away in the pages of a book. Or maybe, when you least expect it, the end of a winding and isolated road ushers you in to splendor. Such is the road into Zion National Park, Utah. You round a bend and plunge into grandeur on a scale so huge that it shrinks you to the size of an ant.

We just completed a 5700-mile road trip and found treasure on every side. Every so often we'd stop at some amazing place: Mesa Verde, CO, with its ancient cliff dwellings, the aforementioned Zion--tunnel, river, rock formations--and Yosemite, where El Capitan and Bridal Veil Falls dominate among granite outcroppings of gargantuan proportions.

It strikes me that people are much like Zion national Park. From a distance, they may appear commonplace, their personality unknown, their character obscure. But take the time, make the journey of discovery, and before our eyes the treasure that they are comes to light. 
Missouri Summer

And the diversity! Missouri was lush and green as we drove off one early morning. Full-fledged summer was upon the land, and all the trees waved their brightest leaves over long-grass fields that dipped and rolled like an inland ocean. By nightfall, we had reached deep into the Colorado mountains. Here the air was crisp and dry, and apsen and pine hugged the slopes.

Cliff Palace-Mesa Verde, CO

The next day, we found Mesa Verde baking in the sun, cactus flowers like orange and red splashes against the red soil, cliff dwellings perching in shaded alcoves waited for the relief of sunset, as they have for more than 800 years.

Giant Coastal Redwoods, Northern CA

What a contrast to the mist-shrouded giants in the Humbolt Redwoods . Centuries of stillness seem embodied there, fern and frond and fallen trunks two and three hundred feet in length slowed the march of time as we wandered for an afternoon. Ocean waves wet and wild, Arizona desert with its arid beauty, the very grand Grand Canyon--each so different yet so completely right.

I'm pondering this same diversity in people. Each one so different, yet there is not one "right" way. Never, no matter how hard we try, could we create a redwood forest in painted desert, nor wind surf on the high mesas of the ancient cliffdwellers. But we can enjoy the unique aspects of each.

Why then, is it so difficult at times, to let people--as diverse as Missouri is from Arizona--be themselves, and enjoy how they are different? Hmmm. I want to remember this the next time I'm tempted to expect others to think and respond exactly the way I would. 
Treasure and diversity. Even, perhaps, treasure in diversity!

Diversity--Grand Canyon, AZ

Saturday, May 5, 2012

On Being Powerful

We have just ended soccer season in our community. For most of us, it was comprised of weeks of watching from the sidelines in all weather, which this year was predominately rain. Or should I say mud! In sun, wind, heat, cold, kids of all ages battle it out on the soccer fields while parents, grandparents, and coaches holler from the sidelines. Most of this is positive and even enjoyable, but I've got to say--when grown men or women begin screaming at the players or the referrees, projecting intimidation and out-of-control emotion, I am both offended and amazed. Seriously? Since when does bad-mouthing your fellow human beings and brow-beating your players make you powerful or turn your team into a winning machine?

And soccer is not the only arena we see this in, though perhaps it is one of the more public. It seems that the universally accepted definition of a powerful person is that the more willing and able we are to overpower other people by our words and actions, the more powerful we are. I'm guessing the assumption is that it's sort of like a stronger nation having the ability to conquer and then control another.

Whoa, whoa, whoa! Soccer teams, nuclear weapons and bullying aside, since when did being willing and able to push others around become synonymous with power?! That is like saying, "I have the ability to control you (usually by inflicting emotional, mental, or physical pain), therefore, I am powerful." How does controlling others make me powerful? What if I don't want to overpower someone? Am I therefore rendered powerless? Can there only be one powerful person in the equation? The deeper we dig, the more problems there are with the common assumptions about power.

I came across this description:

 A powerful person is one who is able to control him or herself. No matter what the provocation. No matter what the circumstances.

I didn't come up with this defnition. In fact, I am challenged by it. I find myself far harder to control than I like to admit. Maybe I don't rant at soccer games or stomp off the field, but can I tell myself what to do and do it?  Can I tell myself to keep my mouth shut when what I really want to do is have the last word? Can I tell myself to forgive an offense and actually let it go, rather than rehearsing it multiple times in a day? Can I choose to do a kindness for someone, when what I really feel like doing is telling them off?

Although I've had decades to practice, doing something with "me" is often still a challenge. I'm thinking this is because I've focused way too often on the wrong end of matters. "What am I going to do with me" is not a question I usually ask myself. Yet I'm realizing that this is where being powerful starts. It's not about how well we can manipulate people or circumstances to make our world all peaceful or exciting or full of purpose. It's about managing our own will, thoughts, and emotions in the face of provocations, obstacles, and opposing soccer teams.

Now that's powerful!