The Landscape of the Soul

 

 

So a month ago my husband and I found ourselves in New Zealand.  To call it a beautiful place is putting it mildly for rather it’s massive, rugged and has an untamed value that’s reflective to that of our home, Montana.  It was more than our own back yard so it gave an awe inspiring jolt with just about every corner we turned.

Tonight I’m thinking of one particular day when we were on the South Island in the Mount Cook region where the mountains that rose around us were as massive as the sky.  You’d be standing in rain-forest  where the sand flies were attempting to eat you alive while hearing parcels of glacier fall off and tear thunder throughout the lonely high places.  It was a place that made you feel the wilder side of your soul within you.

No, we didn’t climb Mount Cook itself but rather we climbed a smaller neighbor not far from it where you could set your eye on that beasty hill as much as you desired when you paused to catch some breath.  I’ll admit my lack of character revealed itself when our idea of a “short hike” was indeed a short distance of trek being no more than two miles however, it was 4000 vertical feet of difference between the bottom and our goal.  I was a little late to that morsel of information until I could see that the ladder like trail wasn’t a mere tough section of the path but rather the majority of the story.  Being a creature of average shape I was well aware of how my lack of working out prior to our trip was ungracefully revealing itself during the climb as my legs burned and I gulped air like I was drowning.

It’s funny to see it now but the miserable fun is the best kind.  When you are struggling mightily and yet have a goal you gotta reach, that’s the time you have a good story to remember when it’s over.

There was a point when you could feel yourself high above most other things.  We came to a ledge where all around you there was mountainside, persistent glaciers, and Mount Cook.  As we stood there and rested our eyes, I felt like I discovered a region of my being I had never touched before.  I think we all have felt this feeling in our special ways, for in each of us there’s a soul that is no other than ours so please don’t feel like you have to count yourself out of this conversation if you haven’t looked upon Mount Cook yet (but I so hope you do someday).  There was something that was awakened by my eyes resting on new places that will never change though I might never see them again.  As we let ourselves find new landscapes in which we feel alive, maybe those very places are the reflections of the epic souls within us.

I know this is way out there but my prayer is that I never neglect my soul to remaining undiscovered.  I hope that even in my own backyard, that I find my ways to let my soul be stirred whether it’s looking upon the massive reality of the wilderness around me, or from letting myself be known in a conversation with those I love the most.  I hope you know that you have something within you that is deeper than your worries, your responsibilities, your discontent and the lonely echo of what you haven’t touched.  Know that you have a landscape that is waiting to be discovered that no counterfeit of entertainment can touch.

We have an compelling need to understand the depth of our own souls.  That might be a concept that’s way out in the weeds of our daily lives in which we have all the push and pull of the demands of careers, bills and often the mundane.  But I think we feel a need, a vague hunger for knowing creation, ourselves and looking into and connecting with the depth that runs deep within us all.  It’s the reason that our desire for love, adventure and connection is ever restless and maybe unsatisfied.

What if we let ourselves feel the discomfort of new things so that we can better follow the paths into the wilder sights of what is in all of us?

 

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Election Thoughts: The Rumble, Jolt and Surprise

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We’re all shocked after the elections.  Some are truly happy, some are devastated and there are others that were lacking enthusiasm for however the results panned out either way.  But I think we all can agree that we are surprised by what’s happened.  What has been interesting isn’t the jolt that we’re going to have a presidency that will be dramatically different from what we’ve had maybe ever.  What’s surprising is the manner in which so many of us have handled the rumble.

I see statements that now America is putting behind a corrupt political system.  That if you voted democrat you are for corruption, murder and lies in the White House.  If you’re a democrat you’re okay with letting ISIS into our country via the southern border. Or if you voted republican that you are a misogynist, a racist, anti woman, homophobic and it’s likely you didn’t get a bachelors degree and you’re white. If you voted third party you’re sheeple, a self righteous purist, an idiot for throwing your vote away and it actually was a vote for the bad guy.

Congratulations, we all have been called things that are untrue.

I have some sincere questions and thoughts to share with you my dear reader for whom I have empathy and a deep respect for.  I get how exciting, joyful, apathetic and maddening it all is right now and I want nothing more than for you to feel heard. I know that your view matters greatly.  But I want you to consider how much your opinion matters.

Where do we consider drawing a line in the sand to rein in our opinions?  How much value is in the weight of your words and is it worth polarizing yourself from the other half of the country?

By your passion to let your voice be heard you’re enjoying the right we have to a voice as Americans and it’s at the cost of your respect for a significant portion of the people you share life with.  Here’s the hinge that this ramble is about.  Does your opinion cut you off from others?  If it does, is it seriously worth it?  If your opinion requires insults, belittlement and costing relationship with half of the country I’m sorry, but you are closed minded.  I find it genuinely confusing to see so many say that others need to have an open mind and yet after the election I see the very same people say that they will have nothing to do with anyone who voted for opponent of their favored candidate.

And finally, have you even considered how hard it is to hate someone and what their views are if you were looking them in the eye while trying to prove them wrong?

Don’t let this be the beginning of division.  Let this be an opportunity to stop commenting on every post that provides an opposing argument and instead suggest meeting that person across the table for coffee so you can find a window of understanding into how they formed that view.  Challenge yourself.  See if you can call someone a racist to their face after you take the time to really see them.  I’m thinking it would be tough to call someone an ISIS promoter if you found out why they feel the way they do.

Take the chance to see people.  Use this season as the means to become more loving, more empathetic and to not forget that the other half of the country that voted differently than you are authentic and good people for the most part.  They’re parents who want to see it better for their kids and grand kids.  They’re owners of that business you love in your community.  They’re your coworkers, employers and customers.  They’re your family.  Your children.  Each person despite of who they voted for is a chance to love and honor them for being as human as you are.

Handle the the surprise with grace.  Recognize the jolt and be humble.  See the goodness of so many people who are different than you.  Realize we’re all gonna grow from this.  See that as individuals we face the choice to make America be great not because it ever lost greatness but because we are what makes it such if we’re in it together.

 

With so much love,

Sara

Could I be the Hero?

DSC_1421.jpgThis morning I’m mulling over the idea of letting go of waiting on the heroic moments.  Letting go of waiting around for the character of a hero to suddenly appear within me.

I feel like I’m one to just hope that I’ll arrive to the character that I’m called to have and to just maintain that state of being effortlessly from there on.  Wouldn’t it be nice to arrive to such a state?  But what if we won’t?  That doesn’t dare mean to give up on becoming who we’re called to be.

Take for example the proclamation that you might have said to a partner, spouse or dear friend that goes “I would die for you”.  Those are some hearty words that have a lot of meat on the bones.  They bear weight.  They’re badass.  The thing is, for most of us it’s unlikely that our devotion would be put to the literal test of those words (and I pray that we never have to be so harshly tested).  Most will walk down life alongside others who we love without facing the challenge of taking a bullet for them.  No, we face the challenge of living for them.  When we say “I want to live for you” it doesn’t sound as epic as dying for them.  We even feel an inkling of dislike for that idea.  For me, my knee jerk response is to live for myself and if you’re kinda human like me, you’ll have the same adverse reaction to that as well.  The intimidating thing about choosing to live for others is that it’s not always certain they’ll reciprocate such a devotion. Sometimes sharing life is a bore if not a chore.  Wow, I didn’t mean to rhyme there but I’m keeping it!

I’m not speaking as if I know, but rather this blog is a bit personal processing for me here. So don’t assume you’ll read to the end and be able to enjoy the impeccable revelation of what it means to live for others perfectly.

I know we all will face those moments of where we must be the hero.  This could be the moment of forgiveness against a bitter wrong made against you.  It really could be taking a bullet.  Or maybe it’s starting the difficult but necessary conversation you’ve had on your heart for awhile.  If we are living with our necks our there even slightly we will have to face moments that require epic character.  But here’s something to consider.  What if we are waiting for our character to grow just as we are waiting to be heroes?  What if we are missing on pondering our character in the mundane and cultivating it there?  Maybe the big moments aren’t where the character is developed but merely proven.  What if we’re just living to prove ourselves?  I think we could be missing out if we aren’t careful.

We might want to consider the scary thought of having to be intentional in the daily to becoming a person of true character.  I don’t want to reach the end of my life realizing that I have mostly the character of a person I don’t admire because I didn’t put in the effort in the moments that counted but looked boring so I passed them by.

I feel that we have to let go of hoping to be a person of integrity in a moment of grandeur but instead take it seriously when we are at the office when the boss is away that week.  I feel that we might only have a handful of moments between now and our last breath where we could see that we were an epic hero and maybe even less than that.  My point is that your character matters now.  It matters today when you walk into work this morning.  It matters when you pick up the kids from school this afternoon. When you say ask for forgiveness from your spouse.  It’s in all of the mundane and unacknowledged moments.

My hope is to encourage you to know that who you are is only who you see in the mirror today.  We might never be a hero as we picture heroes but we can have a choice to build and grow heroic hearts every day. We always have the choice of character.

So with whatever you are living for, live it well my friend.

With so much love,

Sara

Be The First.

DSC_2154.jpgI’m laying awake tonight thinking of all the things that are bothering me.  As I toss and turn and try to understand what makes me restless I am beginning to see a little theme.  Lately I have noticed the value of being the first at things.  Sometimes I wish I didn’t have to be the first at anything.  I think we humans don’t like being the first at a lot of stuff actually.  It would be preferable for someone else to do it.

This might make me sound like somewhat of a lonely person and lots of the time I am, but it also helps me understand the value of being the person of initiative be it in relationship, friendship, and the daily interactions we have with peers, coworkers or even strangers. I also know the blessing of being on the receiving end of when others have gone first in my life.  Each day provides thousands of little opportunities to let someone know that you see them and value them in whatever capacity you know them, even if it’s just for a few brief moments after which you will never see them again.

So here’s some things I would like to encourage you to always be the first at.  Don’t be the one to wait for these things.

Be the first to call your best friend.

The first to say “hello”.

The first to ask “how are you?”.  And when asked by someone else first, don’t just say “fine”.  Reply with a question for them.

Be the first with any question.  And the first to be quiet and to listen.  Really listen.

The first to send a text to let that person know that you’re thinking of them.  Has it ever ruined your day when someone sent you something to let you know that they were thinking of you?  Don’t be that stalker though. . .

The first to say “love you”.  Say it a lot.  Especially strive to be the first in this.

The first to hold their hand.  To kiss them.

The first to ask “is everything alright?”.

The first to call your parents.  Trust me, it makes their day.

The first to compliment. Tell him he’s handsome.  Tell her she’s beautiful.  Trust me, she needs to hear it many times. She doesn’t just “know”.  This could be your spouse, a parent or a stranger.

The first to be vulnerable.  To admit the hurt, the insecurity, and the pain.

The first to acknowledge and to affirm.  Let them know you see how hard they’re working and they’re trying.  Really this is powerful whether you practice this with the waitress serving your table or your husband putting in 60 hours this week.

The first to invite someone over for dinner.  Or out for a beer.  Don’t forget how it feels to be invited and give that feeling to someone else.  Being invited is wonderful.

The first to start the conversation.  Do it without the angle of talking about yourself.

The first to be quiet when the speaker stands upon the stage or the musician begins to play.

The first to step aside and let them go first.  Along that note, always take the opportunity to hold the door for someone else.

These are merely a few.  When it’s all said and done I feel like less people would feel alone if we each treated each other with the idea that we can be the first to give goodness instead of waiting around for others to be good to us.  Don’t be the one not giving what you could because you’re craving it yourself.

Always be the first to do good and to do it without the intent of showing how good you are or with the idea that it will be reciprocated.  Do it because we live in a world where we can make a difference in the most subtle and smallest ways in the lives of those we love the most and of those we might not know at all. We are all somewhat standing around waiting for the obvious heroic moments in which we will be the hero but really, we are standing in small and seemingly insignificant intersections with which we can make or break people by being the person of initiative or by doing nothing at all wishing they would go first.

Be the one to make another feel significant, to make them feel like they matter and trust me, you are doing the good work by doing anything at all. By doing it first.

Can you imagine if we all did it first?

With so much love,

Sara

 

Stop Pursuing Passion.

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“Pursue your passion.”

“Find your bliss.”

“Reach for the stars.”

We’ve heard them all before.  We even give credit to those little nuggets as words to be guided by.

Is this why we might be in a state of discontent?

Lately I’ve been drawn to unpopular thought patterns in which I question all these little sayings and wonder why I feel an aversion to them.  Shouldn’t  I want to do something I’m totally passionate about?  Don’t I want to be blissful?  Okay, reach for the stars. . . that one has never made much sense to me; not even when I was little.  Maybe I’m too literal but that looks weird if you try.  It only looks cute when you’re two.

I feel like we might give all our credit to only the underdogs of our culture.  Take for example the untalented kid who decides to join the team and when he gets a home run the crowd stands to their feet cheering.  I like those scenes of the underdog winning, but why is it that we feel gross when we see the other kid who has the talent keep succeeding by literally hitting the ball out of the park every time?  Don’t we resent that kid and call him lucky?  Why are we not inspired by him and want to share his picture all over Facebook with sayings like “if he can do it so can you”?  The other kid who didn’t seem to have what it took but did totally is cuter to talk about.

I feel like we have this idea that you need to be passionate in all you do all the time so therefor only pursue what gives you that feeling.  I also feel like this idea is why most people feel guilty for what they do that doesn’t involve much passion on a daily basis.  We feel that we’re the ones missing out if our jobs aren’t what people want to see on Instagram.  I think we have been cultured to feel like the moments in our life that we don’t want to post about are not worthy of praise and for that reason we are on the wrong path in life.  If we have a talent that isn’t from a source of passion but rather from hours of discipline and work we have a tendency to look at it as lesser grade of gifting?

Have we misplaced value with passion?  Where has the word dedication gone in our daily vocabulary?

I don’t think we should be in loveless, soul sucking work.  If you really don’t feel like you’re in the right place than trust your discontent because it’s your gut telling you that you have settled for something safe and that could lead to an unfulfilled life. You know when you are in the wrong place and if you are in something that has caused you to lose sight of real goals than get away.  But consider what influences you in your understanding of being in a job that is right or not.  Do you think public servants are in public service because service equals consistent passion, or is it that they have a dedication to serve others despite of the dispassionate moments?  Do you think case workers in child protective services go to work everyday saying that they’re passionate?  Or maybe do you think it’s because they’re committed despite the good and the bad feelings that arise daily?

Maybe we could trade out passion for value.  What if we pursued value?  I sincerely feel that if we can find ourselves in something that is pouring out into the world what we are called to give than what will be returned to us is passion and joy.  Maybe we’re putting the horse in front of the cart by saying “pursue your passion”.  By handing in the passion card you aren’t giving up on anything but rather you are realizing that life is about so much more than what we are feeling.  Life is about choices in which we can garner feelings as a direct result of what we give.  Passion comes from hours of work that is motivated by the value we add to others and to our own lives.

So don’t give up on yourself by comparing to others on social media.  Don’t look down on who you are because you’re not the perpetual passion energizer bunny.  Instead maybe adjust your lenses a bit to see that you have what it takes to be exactly where you need to be by realizing what value you add.  If you feel like you’re in a spot where your talents aren’t being utilized than go somewhere else.  If you feel like you can add so much more value than what you are than put in the two weeks notice.

Before you can feel passion, maybe you need to first give, recognize and add your value to the world around you.

With so much love,

Sara

 

What If Regret Is A Good Thing?

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So this is a tricky one to write about.

What if we need to stop with saying “No Regrets” when pontificating about the future?  I guarantee you that this life is impossible to survive without regret so stop kidding yourself.  I also know that for the many mistakes we all can make that there can be grace that’s immeasurably more than what we can think to ask for or imagine when we are honest about doing something we wish we hadn’t.  So this isn’t a judgement rant but rather a request for you to consider how “no regrets” might not be the greatest pep talk to yourself or others on the brink of decisions whether they be about sex, finances, relationship and the plethora of subject matter that can define our futures.  If it was a good self talk than why is it that your therapist is booked 3 weeks out at a time?  At least that’s the case for the therapist I visited for awhile and it’s likely because she’s a dang good one.

I promise I won’t go too far into the weeds (who am I kidding?  If you didn’t know by now I basically live in the weeds) and that this isn’t a bucket into which I’ll dump loads of self loathing.  This isn’t a prompt to induce shame but very much the opposite; I hope.  What it is is recognizing that some mistakes that I have learned from might had been avoided if I had stopped excusing poor choices by my repetition of the mantra “no regrets” to myself in some pivotal moments.

I can say that I genuinely love myself now but I didn’t get to here without a fair dose of convincing.  It took grace, love, and honor for myself, and from my Creator and that of the people who love me the most.  Again, so much grace has been needed on the road to today.

Many might provide the counter argument that “if you didn’t make mistakes you didn’t learn”.  Yeah that’s true.  However, I feel that the idea that you can make this poor decision right now because you probably wont have no regrets later is an enabler of what can actually cause shame down the road.  And trust me, I’ve had my bouts with shame and luckily after seeking help and sifting through my stories I got to a point where it stopped controlling me or defining me.  But oh boy it sure did for awhile.  I kept thinking that my mistakes would feel less painful later if I didn’t have to think about them for awhile but that wasn’t true.  In the formative teenage years and my early 20’s I went through a season of being unable to look myself in the eye.  It sucked and I don’t think it had to go down like that.  It’s not like I was a criminal but it was a time when in many ways I was in direct rebellion of what I valued and it was tough to keep excusing myself when I knew I could stop making those mistakes that kept me staring at the ceiling at 3 am.

Luckily my regrets paved the way for me to have empathy and grace for others sifting through their reflections of the choices they made.  I’m so blessed to say that there are many young women out there who I just want to hug whereas before I went through some crap of my own I might have had gross condemnation.  This is about knocking off the railroading of yourself before you have to get to that hard earned wisdom.  It’s about biting your tongue when you want to say no regrets and instead trust your gut when it says “actually this is gonna really suck to work through later”.  It’s about letting your conviction (not shame) tell you to take a moment to reconsider what you’re about to do.

Know that with the gauntlet of emotions we all have been gifted as humans that they each are necessary to an extent and regret is especially among them.  Without regret we wouldn’t feel humility and we wouldn’t ask forgiveness. The avoidance of regret led me to shame which in turn caused a continuity of the same mistakes.  The life cycle of non-reconciled regret is endless without stopping to realize yeah, that shouldn’t have happened, it was a letdown, and now that you can look what you did in the eye and from you can take the next steps to understanding the grace that’s out there for you when you are finally honest.

I actually feel like the avoidance of regret is to deny something very human about you and it causes you to see yourself through rose colored glasses.  It makes you avoid yourself and creates the illusion that you are incapable of mistakes.  If you could stop and say “I have my regrets” than you can finally see that you are a beautiful and broken person who is capable of being well and of learning even if it had to be the hard way.  I do love seeing someone who can say they did that, it didn’t feel good, they had to process that regret and can now love who they have become as a result.  That’s powerful, it’s healing and can pave the way to helping others on the brink of similar choices you once faced.

Regret is a necessary part of the story of who we are.  We just can’t stay there is all.  We can come to the realization of regret, see it’s necessity and grow from there.  I just hope that if one day I happen to become a parent or a person of influence to a young person that I can encourage them to avoid the “no regrets” pep talk to save a therapy session or two down the road.  I would love to tell them that if they have to give themselves  the “no regrets” talk in the moment it’s probably gonna mean the exact opposite later.

As my mom would wisely say “chew the meat and spit the bones”.

With so much love,

Sara

Believe a Belief That’s Inspired by Love

DSC_3402.jpgFor awhile now I have been running circles in my head trying to process the following.  Maybe it’s inspired by the current social climate, political currents and the social media that I see daily.  If you have read some of my previous posts you’ll find that I keep circling back to understanding conflict and the role it plays in our lives.

I find what I value and believe to constantly be brushed by counter arguments, opposing views and different perspectives. Here’s what I have begun to understand; if my argument requires for me to tear you down and belittle you than it’s wrong.

I see that people are voting for candidate based not upon their belief that this is the right person to vote for but to vote against the other guy.  I see that people make sexist statements not based upon their sincere views of supporting their gender but because they have a bitterness towards the other (and trust me, I’m not what you would consider a feminist in Western culture).  I hear arguments of individuals based upon the sins of the generations before us that refuse to take in the context of today.

When I was younger (not that I consider myself “old” by now) I was so sure with what I believed and I would bare my teeth at anything that challenged it.  As I have grown in years, faith and understanding I have realized that my beliefs aren’t this precious little treasure chest to protect and keep safely away from adversity.  I have come to realize that if my views face adversity at the cost of my values that my view is compromised.  If I can’t hold a conversation with another who has different ideas without maintaining my patience, integrity, and honor of this other person as a fellow human being than is what I believe worth believing?

You will find that if you ask me what I feel about many issues that I have strong views for what I think based upon what I value.  So lately I have had to ask myself why I value what I believe.  I won’t lie that there are views out there that grate my nerves to no end and that I’m not going to accept everything as my personal opinions.  There are so many perspectives I want to call out for the unproductive and hurt they cultivate and I want to sincerely convict the people who can inspired by such bitterness. And what I have have realized about the mini campaigns I want to start is that until I can articulate what I believe not out of hatred for those bitter views but out of love for those directly affected by them that I’m not ready to speak.

With all that said it has become a true challenge in my heart to be the person of conviction that I desire to be while having grace for others of equal conviction and different ideas.  Can I think that they’re wrong and not slander them? Yes.  Is it possible to recognize the their views with respect despite of how they contradict your own?  Yes.  Can you stand for what you believe without inciting belittlement? Yes.

If what you believe can’t let you answer yes to those questions I just asked than what do you need to adjust in your lenses of perspective?

A challenge for myself and for you are to now ask these questions:

If you  can’t converse but fight every time you brush up against a different view than what do you have to do to change?

Can you see conflict as a positive opportunity to understand varying views so that you can embrace yours all the more?

Can you stand up for what you hold dear without inciting hate for others?

Do you value people over ideas?

Have you taken a stand on something far removed from your personal life that might be changed if you had to come face to face with it?  Consider the issues of abortion, Syrian refugees, guns, etc.

Can you manage conflict with the understanding that it doesn’t mean a result in bitterness, closed mindedness and disconnection?

If what you love about your belief is based upon hate for something else can you tell me it’s love?

If you have come to claim your belief not out of sincere desire for whatever it is but rather by a dislike for something else than I pray that you can see what you are missing.  If your belief isn’t motivated by faith, hope and love than I also pray that you can open your eyes to what is lacking in such an idea system.   If your belief requires you to set a barricade between you and others who see things differently than I hope you question that necessity.

With so much love,

Sara