A prayer of thanks. A guest post by my youngest.

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Dear Lord, thank you for the ways you work in our lives. Dear Lord, thank you for the ways you reveal yourself to me in the simple sounds and sights of everyday life.

Thank you for the ways you humble me, Lord. I’m thankful for the pain and struggle and for all the things that any sane man wouldn’t be, for I am crazy Lord. I am crazy for You, the King of kings who cares more than just to be my leader and example, but also cares to die a painful death fit for a murderer of many, even though You’re cleaner than a fresh fallen snow in the calm of a meadow.

I know there’s no way to repay you. There’s no way I can repay you for spending every last beat of your heart and breath from your chest on me, Lord… on me…the hypocrite, the liar, the unfaithful by nature…. However, I am these no more. By your blood and sacrificed body, by Your conquer of evil and victory over death I no longer carry the burden of being a failure a thousand times a day. I am new. I am as new, as clean, as fresh as the snow in the meadow. Who am I to be compared to You oh Lord? Though I don’t understand why it’s me You chose to extend Your endless grace, I do understand what I am to do. Be thankful. With the best of my God given ability I am to love, to witness , to give everything I have in holy devotion to You oh Lord. I am to know that this doesn’t mean that hard times and sin won’t try to prevent me from doing so, for the devil is always lurking. This does mean, though, that I have a purpose, I have meaning, and I have a place in the plan of the Creator of the universe, and when that purpose is fulfilled I will take my seat in the heavens next to my Savior Himself.

As for now, I will live to be thankful. Every breath, step, kiss, and tear. I will be thankful. Thank You oh Lord!”

~Taylor James Bodin

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Unconditional kindness? What?

“In the absence of love and belonging, there will always be suffering.”

~Brené Brown

Over the last several months I have spent hours upon hours thinking, reflecting, soul-searching and ultimately thanking God for everything and everyone that I have had in my life. Despite the pain, tragedy, and heartaches that have been part of my existence, I have been blessed with a deep faith, hopeful spirit, a capacity to love, and an incredible support system of family and friends. This support system has continually lifted me up from the depths of those deep, dark moments when I was literally hanging by a thread. In fact, there has not been a time in my life that I have not felt a deep sense of peace (even though I may have not been consciously feeling it or feeling deserving of it at the time) knowing that I was unconditionally loved. Sadly, I am ashamed to admit that at times I have taken for granted this God-given love and support.

Often times through my work, I cross paths with some of the most courageous and incredible people you will ever meet. Some have suffered a lifetime of abuse yet still have the ability to look forward with hope no matter how dire their circumstances. Their stories constantly tug on my heartstrings.

Lately though, my heartstrings have been in a tug-of-war. Something was missing in the lives of some of these women–something so simple and obvious but often overlooked when survival is first and foremost on the list. The past few weeks I have spent a lot of time trying to figure it out. When I finally did, a sea of guilt flooded my soul. It was really so very simple. The one thing these women were missing is something that I have in abundance—something I so often have taken for granted in my life–simplythe love and support of a friend.

When I came to this realization, I tried to picture my life without my friends. No random lunches, coffee breaks, shopping trips, or nights by the bonfire? What?  Nobody to share the joy and heartaches with? I couldn’t fathom. I tried to imagine my life without the kindness, love, and support that I have been afforded. It wasn’t possible. I simply couldn’t imagine. Can you?

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As I pondered, my mind immediately began to turn to what I could do to change this. Every person needs a friend. Every person deserves a friend. It’s a basic human necessity needed for survival. But, how could I make that happen? Well, that answer was pretty obvious. I couldn’t. We can’t do anything alone–but, if we all worked together. . .

What if we all reached out in kindness to just one person? If we all offered to lend a listening ear over a cup of coffee, sat down by somebody alone in church, or struck up a heartfelt conversation with somebody different than us? What if we made it our mission in life to practice unconditional kindness? WHAT IF? Imagine the possibilities. . . .

When it comes down to it, it’s really pretty simple. Unconditional kindness = more love and less hate. That’s an equation that solves most of the world’s problems.

So, I challenge myself and you to ponder this? What if we all stepped out of our comfort zones, reached out in kindness, and became a friend?  The rewards far outweigh the risks. The possibilities are endless simply because love never fails. Practice kindness, practice love, and restore hope to someone in need.  “Do unto to others. . .”  Can you think of a better way to live?

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Lean into it. . .

Lean into it.

When that message came to me twice the other day– I figured I better listen.

The first time I heard those words I was listening to Dr. Brene Brown speak. (If you haven’t heard her message, STOP READING THIS NOW and Google her. Then listen whole-heartedly to what she has to say. It will change your life in ways you can’t imagine. Trust me on this one.) Later on that day, I received the following message in an email series that I am currently subscribed to called 40 Days of Deep Wisdom by Erica Staab. It’s pretty powerful. . .

In life, we think the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem.  The real truth is that things really don’t get solved. The come together for a time, then fall back apart. Then they come together again, and fall apart again. It’s just like that.

Personal discovery and growth come from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy. 

Suffering comes from wishing things were different. Misery is self-inflicted, when we are expecting the “ideal” over the “actual,” or needing things (or people, or places) to be different for us so we can then be happy.

Let the hard things in life break you. Let them effect you. Let them change you. Let these hard moments inform you. Let this pain be your teacher. The experiences of your life are trying to tell you something about yourself. Don’t cop-out on that. Don’t run away and hide under your covers. Lean into it.

What is the lesson in this wind? What is this storm trying to tell you? What will you learn if you face it with courage?  With full honesty and-– lean into it.

~Pima Chodron

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The harsh beauty of this poem stunned me for a moment, then I wept.

Then I read it again.

And I cried some more.

“Let the hard things in life break you.” 

Broken? More like shattered.

“Let this pain be your teacher.”

Lord knows, I’m a straight A student.

“There must be room for all of this to happen.”

My soul has grown exponentially throughout my lifetime,

constantly making room for the pain that has broken me,

and the joy,

and the love,

and the gratitude,

that have restored me.

Coming together and falling apart,

over and over,

sometimes almost rhythmically,

like waves crashing into the shore.

Unfortunately, the storms of life are inevitable.

Sometimes they are a like a soft summer rain,

and other times,

the storms are like a hurricane.

The harsh but beautiful reality is that you have a choice. . .

to run for shelter, or to dance in the rain.

It’s so hard, sometimes, to make that choice.

But today?

I choose to dance. . .

with courage and with love,

sometimes while dangling only from the heartstrings of hope.

All the while praying for the storm to pass.

Today,

I will choose. . .

to let my soul grow,

to let my pain rest,

and to open my heart to the whisper of the wind.

Today. . .

I will lean into it.

Project 333

Today, I am committing to (or at least some version of it) Project 333.  Have you heard of it? In a nutshell, you pare down your wardrobe to 33 items and commit to wearing only those things for three months. (Yes, you read that right, 33 items. I have more shoes than that. Are you kidding me?)  The 33 items include outerwear, jewelry, shoes, and regular clothing. You can keep your workout and lounge clothes. If you haven’t checked it out yet, it’s definitely worth the read. Anyways. . .

I stumbled upon Project 333 last fall when I was researching for a class that I was taking on the excess of consumption. The project inspired me to do a major closet cleaning– which after a couple of grief-induced closet meltdowns– I desperately needed.

Here’s my pile from round one. . .

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Yes, I am ashamed to admit, this was just my give away pile. At the same time I also packed up a tub of summer clothes and a few other things that aren’t pictured here.

Much to my surprise, I lived quite easily without the excess and getting dressed in the morning became MUCH easier. Go figure right?

As the spring months have begun to approach though, the urge to pick up new clothes has resulted in a few trips to the consignment store (and of course Goodwill) and my closet has began to fill up. . .

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As if on cue, I came across the Project 333 site again this afternoon. I’m taking it as a sign to try much harder this time around. April 1 is my target date to have my closet cleaned out.

I am going for it.

33 items?

Yikes!

I’m scared.

Wish me luck.

I’ll keep you posted. . .

And P.S. To my daughter, STOP laughing, now.

Check out how to get started on Project 333 here http://theproject333.com/getting-started/ .

Letting go of sadness. . .

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Yes, I admit it. I am a quote junkie. The fact that people now slap them on random photos even makes it better for me. It’s a form of art that should have it’s own category.

This morning I rolled over in bed to grab my phone and check the time. I decided to do a quick email and Facebook check (a requirement before I get out of bed. Don’t judge me. Yes, it’s sad and I admit it.) and the quote above was in my news feed. For a split second my foggy brain was agreeing with the positive message. Then a few more circuits began to fire. What? All I have to do to stay happy is to let go? I snorted, a mixture of laughter and disbelieve, rolled my eyes and then rolled over and went back to sleep. Yeah, letting that quote go would actually make me happy. . .

An hour later, I re-awoke and repeated the above routine. Although my news feed was filled with fun, new Saturday morning postings, I couldn’t let the quote I had read earlier go. In fact, I was beginning to get a little annoyed by the message. I decided to get up, have some coffee and think about it. Why was this seemingly innocuous, feel-goody quote making me uneasy?

A couple of cups of coffee later (with some peanut butter toast to boot) and the cobwebs began to clear. It was pretty obvious why I was annoyed with those words. While there is definitely truth to the message, how do you tell a person immersed deeply in the pain of their past to just let it go? Sexually abused by your father for years? Ahh, no problem, let it go. In the midst of a painful divorce? Not a big deal. Just let it go! A battered wife living a hell on earth? No biggie. Let it go. Grieving the loss of loved ones? C’mon, let it go! Let it all go and you’ll be happy, just like the quote says. Right? Yeah, by now, I was completely annoyed. . .

While letting go of past hurts and realizing that there is absolutely nothing we can do to change our past is absolutely the single biggest step we can take to begin to heal our wounded souls, it’s simply not that easy. Unfortunately, the truth is that letting go is incredibly painful, messy work that often involves reliving some very dark moments from our pasts. The truth is, letting go is simply not as easy as the fluffy blue skies and balloons message above leads us to believe. Letting go requires that we dive headfirst  into a deep pool of pain all the while praying immensely that we rise someday from the depths. We dive in with a desperate, aching hope for peace in our hearts and a future filled with happiness. For some, it can take years before they begin to emerge. And when they do, happiness isn’t an automatic. What? All that work and still no guarantee? Maybe then, despite the truth of the previous message, we should look at letting go a little more realistically, like in this random quote photo.

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The truth? We can’t be happy all of the time–there will always be some darkness–but, when darkness falls, hold on tight to that ray of light that we all have somewhere deep inside. Let that light guide you, even if it is only as bright as a single lit match right now, into the pain of the past. In time, your light will slowly shine brighter. And eventually, despite the pain and messiness of letting  go, your inner light will illuminate your soul like the sunshine lights the earth. Bask in it, rejoice in it, and finally allow yourself to celebrate a peaceful, happy heart. That is a truth I think we can all embrace.