Entering into a fast…

I am about to enter into a forty day fast of sorts. I am committed to walking through forty days without many of my daily comforts. I would like to say I am spiritually motivated in this venture, but I was first motivated by my desire for weight loss and health. As I looked at the meal plan I would be committing to for the next season of my journey, I began to consider this next forty days as much more than a journey on the scale.

I have committed to my journey being about wellness as opposed to weight loss and I find that helpful. I find the spiritual journey to be an unfolding of it’s own kind. This next forty days feels as if it is a time when I plan to focus less on the gym and my workouts and more on my spirit and my faith. I don’t know what it will look like. I don’t know what it will result in…but I trust that God is going to lead me and  teach me more about myself and Him.

I will be eating for nutrition only and my options will be limited and somewhat dull. But I will eat enough to sustain myself and learn how my mind and heart respond when I desire or crave something which I will not allow myself. I will learn more about the power of my mind, body and spirit. I am committed to living each day out with the recognition that this is a choice I am making and one that has an end in sight…but also very aware that I go through my day-to-day, denying myself of very little. I believe the timing is right and the journey will be worthwhile.

My wish for each of you….

Amazing to me that we are already at December 22 and Christmas is only 3 days away. So much of life passes quickly and I can’t quite believe we are approaching 2011.

I got to thinking about those of you who I know read my blog and the many I do not have a face for. I began to reflect on what I wish for each of you….even if I am not sure exactly who you are. Let me share some of my wishes for you….

I desire to live fully in the moment…I wish the same for you.

Living in the moment free’s us up to enjoy what we have, right now. I know what can be lost living in the past or worrying about the future. I hope you will choose to live fully in the moment at some point every day.

I desire to live with a sense of adventure and risk but also to be content and at peace…I wish the same for you.

I believe that living with a sense of adventure and risk calls us to live at the edge of our comfort zone. I try to find some space there every day, space where I am thinking, acting, believing something risky or adventurous. But if I live only in this space, I miss the gift I can experience of contentment and peace. Lots of things in life are not right or just and much of what I see (and sometimes experience) is unfair, but I am learning to develop the space in my own heart, mind and soul that is about peace and contentment, even when my circumstances are difficult.

I desire to live with a generous spirit but to hold enough that allows me to provide for myself and those I love…I wish the same for you.

I am learning the balance of giving to others and ensuring I am wise in what I keep for myself. This has to do with my financial and emotional reserves. It is my hope that you will not cling to anything out of fear, but risk giving away what you find yourself clinging to. I pray that if you give so much away, ignoring your own needs, that you will risk saving for yourself and those you love.

I desire to live a healthy and balanced life…I wish the same for you.

I am learning about healthy and balanced. I know that this looks different for everyone and where I need healthy and balanced is likely different from where you need to focus. It is my wish that you will identify a key area or two and start to make changes….changes that will bring you the delight of living in a healthy and balanced lifestyle.

I love the feeling of family, friends and fun, of laughter and understanding. I delight in shared heartache and joint celebration. I enjoy the power of community, the after glow of good connections and the power of solitude. I hope that in 2011, my day-to-day will hold some of all of those….I wish the same for you….

Goodbye to 40…

Hello to 41…

It is my last day of being 40. Better than the last day of my 40’s! I am excited for a new beginning.  I know that when I wake up tomorrow it is not like anything new really begins,  but I am at a point where I believe so much is unfolding in my life. When I started this blog in August, I wrote the following:

I realize that I am journeying through some pretty significant places in my life right now….turning 40, realizing that seeking God does not always mean finding Him and so grateful that finding Him still gives me a sense of amazement. i recognize that God is calling for transformation of my heart and in that process I am shedding extra weight and discovering and uncovering my body….I enjoy the mystery of each day more than the predictability and I love the way life unfolds in the most unexpected of ways.

I would say that today as I look at turning 41, so much of those words still resonate as true. The journey I am on right now is leading me to be more content in my heart. I understand more what it means to trust God with my life and yours. I feel less of a need to rescue and invade other’s lives and more willing to enjoy where I am at.  In that I can wonderfully enjoy the experience of sharing what others  invite me to.

I am more confident that God is everywhere and yet more amazed at where He reveals Himself to me. I love the conversations I have with my nieces and nephews, ages 4 to 17 (since Johanna isn’t talking yet) that reveal to me the freshness of life and all it holds.

I enjoy waking up each morning ready to live the mystery of the day, wondering what I will reflect on at the end of each day that I never expected when I ventured out the door.

But hear me say this, my journey is far from all joy and celebration. I see and experience the depth of the valley and know all to well the cry of my heart and have shared in the tears of others.  Life is not simple and it is not by any means easily understood nor explained. I expect that to remain true all thru my forties, fifties, sixties and beyond.

But this is true as I turn 41….

I am grateful for the journey of my heart, the truth of God’s promises and the faithful example of my parents about how to live in Faith. I am blessed by family and friends who are willing to love me and allow me to share in loving them. I am passionate about my work and so thankful for the relationships I have enjoyed over the years from Sylvan Christian, Holland Christian, Calvin College and Western Michigan University.  Then there was children’s ministry at Sunshine Community Church, my first Social Work job at Three Rivers Area Hospital Hospice,  facilitating children coming home through adoptions with All God’s Children International, serving alongside my soul mates in Open Hearts Ministry, through the blood, sweat and tears of my Fitness North community and in faithful day-to-day service at Visiting Angels of West Michigan. I am a fortunate woman who recognizes every day the goodness of God in my life.

And I will continue to live fully in my 41st year. I have high hopes and a vision for myself and a few other things. I would imagine that life will bring a variety of events, emotions and experiences in the next 365 days…I hope many of you will share in much of that with me.

Every morning as I come down my steps, I see these words…Awake my soul and sing….that is my hope for this coming year!

Thankful…

It isn’t what you have in your pocket that makes you thankful, but what you have in your heart.   – Author Unknown

I love this quote and find it to be so true. Now I don’t want to minimize at all my thankfulness for all that I have in material things, but tonight, I do want to focus on what I have in my heart.

I am thankful for the love and support of family and dear friends. The journey to my heart has been ongoing. During this process I would say that I have learned the joy and delight of living with a full heart. I used to fear having a hollow or empty heart. I can boldly say, of this I am sure, that my heart will never be hollow or empty. For that I am thankful!

I am thankful that I have learned to be content in my own skin. In my relationships, many of you have modeled to me how to live content and at peace. I have grown in my own heart by watching and listening to others. Please remember that your life is an invitation to others to live the same. My heart is full because of the invitations many of you have extended to me to risk living differently…I am forever grateful!

I am thankful for the opportunity to have a passion and a vision for who I desire to be and who I believe others can be. I have a favorite canvas I would like to buy sometime. It includes the following: Let Your Passion Overflow. There are times when the fluffy, feel-good stuff just doesn’t work. I love this artist’s sense of humor! “As much as I try to be an easygoing, stretch your wings and fly type…I just can’t stop trying to burst people into flames with my mind.” I long for people to live with a passion…a passion for something that makes their heart beat. What makes my heart beat? I believe it is the journey to one’s heart…the long and winding path is worth the journey….both in my life and yours…Praise God!

And so tonight, I am thankful for the people in my life who love me and allow me to love them, for my job and the amazing people who offer care every day through Visiting Angels of West Michigan. I am thankful for my home and car and the daily provisions that make my life comfortable. I am thankful for the freedoms I experience and enjoy throughout every day. I am thankful for the community of believers I am a part of in my Church, Visiting Angels, Open Hearts Ministries, Fitness North and other places I enjoy the relationships the Lord has blessed me with. Tonight I am thankful for so many things but also thankful for so many people and experiences.

My life is full, my heart is alive, my joy is deep, my soul is content, my relationships are dear, my vision is big and my passion is burning….what more can I ask for….I am thankful!!

Saluting my hero’s…

This year my perspective on Veterans Day feels is different. I can honestly say that my travels to South Africa this summer allotted me incredible insight to what it means to live in a free land. The power of Apartheid was prevalent and listening to first hand accounts was powerful and surreal. To have never lived in such oppression made me realize how fortunate I am.

I have great respect for my brothers and the many others who have served in our Armed Forces. I have seen the camaraderie of those who serve together. I have watched the vigorous and brutal training that prepares one physically for war. I have listened to the heartache of those in training  that accompanies the emotional and mental torment that comes from giving your entire being to something you believe in. I have wept as I have seen others say good-bye to those we call soldiers and they call sons and daughters. I have witnessed the cost to families when their husbands and fathers are absent for long periods of time. I have seen the celebration of victories of all sizes! I don’t know that I can imagine the depth of the valleys or the incredible mountain tops that  those who serve our country experience. I do know that my admiration and appreciation grows with every day older I get. There is a great cost to my freedom and I never want to lose sight of that. Thank you, thank you, thank you to all who have or continue to serve for our freedom!

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.  ~John Fitzgerald Kennedy

EXCELLENCE

Who you are will show in what you do….

These words are on the wall at Visiting Angels Conference Room. I see it every morning when I walk into the office and I am reminded that every day, my work will speak to my character. I will have many opportunities with in the day to act professionally as a Director, Business Owner and Social Worker but I want all of those professional actions to be interwoven with the heart of a compassionate, strong, tender Christian woman.

This is not always an easy balance to find. I have moments when I struggle with what interwoven may look like, but I am pleased to say, it comes more naturally now than it used to. Is it because I have parents who modeled this well for me, or perhaps because I have been well-educated at Holland Christian, Calvin College and WMU MSW program? Is it because I learned about ministry while on staff at Sunshine Community Church, about advocacy while facilitating international adoptions, quality of life while working for Hospice or how to grow and manage a business that is all about professional boundaries and deep endless compassion. I want to say, it is all of those things and more. It is the big and little pieces in my story. It is about the journey of recognizing I am a woman of dignity and depravity. It is about the path that God has led me on and how He has gifted my being, It is about all the many wonderful mentors and friends who have helped me to grow up and mature and to learn how to love people well.

I hope and pray every day that who I am will show in what I do and as a result, that God will be Glorified!

 

What I have learned from Dutchess….

I am not one who has always wanted a dog. I really never considered it much. But on the  journey to my heart, I started to realize that I needed to set some goals for myself. Being single, carefree and on my own, it was getting too easy to live without a routine on the weekends. I figured a dog was a perfect answer to aid my desire for structure and routine.  I had three primary goals…to pick up after myself more, to get out of bed at a decent hour on weekends and to go for walks regularly. So with that in mind, I stopped to see these puppies, named one Dutchess, wrote a check and brought her home when she was six weeks old. That was in April of 2009….

I have learned that my dog has far expanded my vision of what she could do for me. I recently said how I long for the days when it was clear in my mind that beds were for people and kennels for dogs. Dutchess has moved into my world with a gentle persistence  and I wouldn’t change it for anything.

Dutchess makes coming home more fun. She is ALWAYS” happy to see me.

Dutchess calls out the playful side of me when she ALWAYS brings her ball to my feet and gives me a true crazy grin when we come in from playing fetch!

Dutchess makes cleaning up a food spill so much easier. she is ALWAYS happy to assist.

Dutchess makes walking a mile so much quicker, she pulls me most of the way.

Dutchess knows how to read my moods and adjusts hers accordingly.

Dutchess has shown me that Pavlov really knew what he was talking about.

Dutchess demonstrates she only exposes herself when she is in her safest space!

So, as far as my original goals. Dutchess loves to sleep and will stay in bed until I get up. If I leave her home alone, I come home to any piece of clothing recently worn, gathered on the couch to provide her my scent while she snoozes. (meaning she contributes to my need to pick up more) But, Dutchess has been used to tenderize my heart.She comes to work with me every day and is in training to be a therapy dog.  All I can think as this dog lays at the base of my bed, snoring away, is that my heart is tenderized in way more creative ways than I ever dreamed possible!