Content Beyond Measure

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My heart is full. I’m snuggled up on my sofa with my daughter. My family is watching an old movie on TV. We’ve satisfied our bellies with some popcorn – cooked on the stove the old fashioned way – and are relishing in the beauty of our laziness. It is the perfect unwind to a blessed holiday weekend.

We logged a lot of miles over the past few days, nearly 1,000 end-to-end, to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family. It was a much-anticipated weekend of precious time with my sister and her family, my mother and her husband and my niece. My own family looks forward to this annual gathering, knowing no distance is too great to be together.

This year’s gathering was decadent. My dear sister, who so expertly organized and orchestrated everything, left me with no option but to relax and thoroughly enjoy my family time. Her ability to flawlessly feed an army, stay calm in the midst of a houseful and make it all seem effortless is a quality I admire. She is gifted with an ability to care for others and does it with grace.

I am blessed to have a great role model in my big Sis. Her faith leads her every decision, providing her with the DNA to be a strong wife, a patient and supportive mother, a caring daughter and a best-friend-turned-sister. She is the woman I aspire to be. I am blessed to have her as mine.

She gifted me with a weekend of decadence: great company, amazing food and the rest my soul and tired spirit needed. Not in the grandiose ways that one might think is needed, but in a dozen little moments that leave my family blessed, my body renewed and my soul already wanting for more.

For a weekend that is all about Thanks and Giving; she excelled in showing how thankful she is by the ways in which she treated us. In how she reminded us of the need to always show love to others. In the giving of our time, talents and the special gifts God has bestowed upon us. Yes, My big Sis reminded me of that this weekend. And I am outrageously blessed and content beyond measure.

May You All Be Together Soon

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As American’s all over the world stop today to give thanks for their blessings, I cannot help but turn my thoughts to those who are separated from the ones they hold dearest. Whether by circumstances, or by choice, I am saddened by the empty chairs and saddened hearts that are the scene in countless homes today. For this day, above all others, should be filled with the scents and sounds of love.

To those who serve our Nation, willing to sacrifice all for your fellow Americans, I pray you are surrounded by a supporting community of love and that those you are separated from today feel your presence. May you all be together soon.

To those who are struggling – be it health, finances or other obstacles – I pray for the tides in your life to turn. My hope is that those challenges that separate you from your loved ones find healing and resolution. May you all be together soon.

To those who have let hurt, misunderstanding or grievances give way to uncrossable chasms in your life, I pray you find the bridge to reconnect you to the path home. Broken hearts and bitterness are not the ingredients for joy. May you all be together soon.

To those who feel the pain of separation from loved ones who have a seat at heaven’s table today, I pray your heart feels peace. I wish for your thoughts to be comforted with joyful memories of yesterday and that your day finds room for love and laughter as you gather with those who share your loss. In God’s perfect timing, may you all be together soon.

Today is a day for gratitude and Thanksgiving. We gather together to count our blessings. No matter where you find yourself, know that it is exactly where you are supposed to be today. Those you serve with, labor with, care for and/or celebrate are the ones God has chosen – especially for you – to spend this day of Thanksgiving with.

Be present in the moments of this day and aware of the gifts which await your Thanksgiving.

Dancing in the Rain

Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 5.58.57 AMThere is no better metaphor for gratitude and outrageously blessed living than to dance in the rain. The idea that the storms and challenges of life are reason to stop living is nonsense. Living is finding the purpose to the storm, the solution to the challenge and the motivation to kick off your shoes when the rain is pouring and just dance with glee!

When I awoke on my wedding day, after weeks of carefully watching the long-term weather forecasters predict a high chance of rain, I breathed a sigh of relief. I heard not a sound. Unfortunately, the intensity of the rain falling outside created its own white noise effect, masking the reality that awaited. It rained harder on my wedding day than I could have imagined and the plans for a beautiful outdoor reception hung in danger.

We proceeded with our morning of preparation. I remember walking down the sidewalk of my hometown, from the bed & breakfast reception venue to the hair salon; a parade of perfectly coiffed and manicured ladies dodging puddles and huddled under massive umbrellas. We laughed and celebrated the day, knowing nothing could dampen the joy in our hearts.

The downpour stopped at 3:00, the staff of the venue literally wet-vacced the lawn to prepare the celebration and by 7:00 p.m., when we arrived from the ceremony, a beautiful night awaited us. The post-rain skies were magnificent and the air was crisp and clean with the heady scents of the summer gardens. Yes, that night we danced and danced.

That rainy wedding day was a life lesson to my groom and I. We have seen many a storm in our fifteen years together. Some have lasted for years and threatened to undermine the very foundation under our feet. Bitter cold winds have taught us to huddle closer. We have clung together as raging rivers swirled at our feet, giving thanks in the aftermath. We’ve looked around at the destruction of life events in our wake, thankful for each other and for the miracle of the garbage in our lives that washed away in the storms’ waters.

Dancing in the rain is a choice. It is not always easy and the music is often better suited to a clumsy box-step than a fiery tango. But regardless of the situation or the intensity of the storms that rage, listen for the music and dance. Open your heart to the gentle strains that tug at your heart. Listen to the rhythm and take caution to align your steps to the beat of life you feel. Take time to grab the hand of the one you love and don’t let go; you will need their guidance as your move forward together.

Storms will come. Trash and debris will threaten your very existence. But don’t give in to the storm’s current. Listen, instead, for the sweet music that will guide your steps and lift your heart. Yes, in the midst of the storm, dance. Just dance!

When Profits Matter More Than People

This time of year, many of usB1ONxCNCAAEOiUw turn our attention to the holiday gatherings and traditions that will soon fill our days. There is no holiday I love more than Thanksgiving, a time where the traditions of family, time-tested recipes and togetherness take center stage. I love that this is a day where we are to set aside the worries and demands of the season and just surround ourselves with those we love and remember our blessings.

It saddens me that the spirit of “getting” has encroached on this most special holiday, with more and more retailers putting profits ahead of people and asking their associates to work Thanksgiving for their “Gray Thursday” and “Black Friday” sales. No, you won’t find me standing in line for great bargains to treat myself, or others.

Instead, I offer my kudo’s (and my 2014 holiday spending) to the retailers who stand firm on their decision to set aside Thanksgiving as a day to remain closed to enable their associates time with family and friends honoring the traditions of Thanks and Giving. Thanks for the loved ones who support them in their career endeavors, and realizing that no holiday incentive can replace the memories and love that is shared around the family table. The giving of our time and attention is worth more than any bargain you will find on store shelves.

Kudo’s to Costco, Barnes & Noble, Sam’s Club, Home Depot, Nordstrom, TJ Maxx, Marshall’s, DSW, Pier 1 Imports, Burlington Coat Factory, Crate and Barrel, Petco, Radioshack, GameStop, Patagonia, REI, Dillard’s, Jo-Ann Fabrics & Crafts, and American Girl for being the leading retailers who chose to put their people ahead of holiday sales. Costco said its employees

deserve the opportunity to spend Thanksgiving with their families”

and I couldn’t agree more. I applaud these retailers, and those who join them, in protecting a day of American thankfulness.

There will be plenty of time in the days that follow to spend money on the latest technology and fashion trends that will land under holiday trees in December. Undoubtedly, most of those “most have” bargains will end up returned, unused or unappreciated. Your and my time – and money – is worth so much more!images

For me, I’ve got a date with my sister and mother for a long overdue Scrabble game, a late-night Turkey and Stuffing sandwich to add to my already satisfied appetite and lots of love, laughter and memory making to do with with ones I hold dearest.

If you have the ability to choose people, thankfulness and gratitude over profits and material possessions, take a stand this Thanksgiving and reward those retailers who choose as Ace Hardware does, saying

“Some things are more important than money.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Above All, Just Love

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Life’s curve balls can catch you offguard in an instant. Coming at you from any direction, the challenges and opportunities that come your way can exhilarate you or knock you to your knees.

I’ve had one of those periods of late. The balls thrown my way — it seemed there was a pitching machine aimed my direction — hit me with some of the greatest highs and unexpected lows one could experience. The highs took my feet off the ground for a moment; the lows pulled me right down to reality.

In the midst of it all, there was love.

Love from an incredibly supportive spouse who is my #1 fan, my ballast on crazy days and my best friend. He celebrated my highs and held me through the lows. He reminds me constantly to just love.

Love is the glue that holds firm the cracks of life. Whether those cracks come from growing pains or brokenness, just love.

Love is the calming force that settles the raging winds of life and gives direction when my compass spins uncontrollably. Yes, just love.

Love knows no secrets are too dark to handle. Love gives purpose and clarity when confusion abounds. Love is patient, love is kind. When doubt and fear have kneeled you, just love.

The unexpected can unleash a spectrum of emotions. Exciting moments that let the enthusiasm and zest for life carry you away like a kayak in the rapids; heavy events can drop you to the floor like a rock. But when you have love, and give love, the unexpected can be the defining moment. It can calm life’s waters and give rise to the weights that burden us.

Giving love is my focus to the hurt around me. To provide a healing cocoon to ease the pain and bring light and new direction where darkness and jungled pathways are found. Just love.

Listening, praying, laughing through the tears. And saying nothing when words have lost their meaning. The calm of a gentle touch and the awareness of being is enough. Yes, love – just love – matters most.

When your first reaction to life’s curves teeter you from your steady ways, find love and cling tightly.

Yes, when in doubt, just love.

Embracing Change

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I love Fall! As much as I love the warmth and sunshine of Summer, there is something unmistakably perfect about the air that is ushered in with Autumn.

I love the routine of life that returns after months of carefree living. I get inspired by the reflections of gratitude and thankfulness that abound on social media. I find time to bake, watch a little football and get cozy with my love. But truth be told, Fall is not my favorite time of the year.

In all honesty, I love the time between the seasons most. That special time when the tired becomes refreshed and renewed. The air is filled with excitement and anticipation. New plans, fashions, reasons to gather with friends and family consume us all. Yes, I love change.

As you pack away the last vestiges of Summer and turn your eye to Fall, savor every moment. Use this time to reflect on your accomplishments and celebrate special memories. Look ahead with hope as new days give path and purpose to the moments that become tomorrow’s memories.

Embracing change – good or bad – is the frigate for the journey of an outrageously wonderful life!

Are You Hearing What I Am Not Saying?

Screen Shot 2014-09-05 at 2.04.56 PMLet’s face it, the devil doesn’t come dressed in a red cap, wearing pointy horns and brandishing a pitch fork. More often than not, the evil in our life shows up looking like a dream come true. A dream that is, well, too good to be true. The difference between recognizing what is right for us and what is almost right comes down to discernment. Our ability to look hard at the situations and opportunities before us and thoughtfully – even prayerfully – considering the options (and their impact) before we act.

For many, the ability to discern, carefully, comes with time-tested wisdom and experience. A strong upbringing, where right and wrong are clearly modeled, can be a great help in learning how to evaluate the decisions life puts in our path. But solid parenting and guidance isn’t enough; discernment comes with the wisdom and experience that life – and a few wrong choices – will bring. Until we know the pain and impact of choosing the impostor called almost we will never be able to take the time to weigh out and identify the real.

What seems to us as bitter trials are often blessings in disguise.

–Oscar Wilde

Being a person of discernment  requires paying attention. It takes listening to the unspoken words that fill your relationships. It is taking time to observe how the actions of others align to their own testaments of integrity and intention. It is listening, closely, to that small quiet voice that often speaks the loudest. It is knowing that when it all just isn’t adding up, it is time to start taking away the distractions.

One the hardest – and most important – characteristics of discernment is the ability to say no. To walk away. To lean into everything you know to be true and choicefully wait. To know that good is not enough when great is still around the corner. When you are a goal-oriented person, seeking an outrageously wonderful life, saying no is hard. It feels like you are turning down opportunity or choosing to sit on the sideline. We want to do more, be more, say yes more, not ever miss an opportunity.

It takes strength, maturity and intentional choices to be willing and able to say no. This ability, even just understanding the importance of this ability, is hard to learn. But oh, so necessary.

Along the pathway of life, do not settle.  Don’t kid yourself into settling for the almost right, or the good enough. Listen to what is not being said – to that whisper in your thoughts – that is gently telling you to wait.  Wait for the right partner, the right job, the right college acceptance, just wait. If you listen with discernment, you will always know.

 

 

A Box of Full of Memories

shoeboxMy daughter just completed a week of Art Camp. It was five magical days of creativity and self-discovery designed to unleash the playfulness of tween girls and build the self-esteem and confidence girls of her age need to cultivate.

A part of the required pre-work was to collect little trinkets she could use to create an journal of encouragement. The idea was to use special objects (e.g. a button from Grandma’s sweater, a sea shell found on a family vacation, etc.) that would inspire her and celebrate special people and memories.

With Dad out-of- town, she and I began the hunt for the tiny objects that she could use. What a journey we began!

As we went through her drawers and countless treasure stashes, the conversations and memories poured like a sweet Spring rain. Our little project turned into an 8-hour marathon of storytelling, laughter and hugs. Each discovery led to another box or drawer; before the day ended, we had a mountain of candidates for her journal and a mess strung from one end of the house to the other. It didn’t matter; the special time our quest afforded was worth the hours I’d have to spend righting everything.

I found the airplane tickets from the flight where my husband and I first met, a short 1.5 hour trip that began the most incredible journey of a life. In a box of old greeting cards was a note written by a friend, offering encouragement and the use of her cottage during the final days of my Dad’s life. An uncashed check, the first love note my daughter ever wrote, a menu from a special wedding anniversary dinner… Box after box and drawer after drawer, the moments of my life poured forth. Amidst the mess and clutter were the remnants of a blessed life.

Don’t forget the little moments
They’re the ones that mean the most
When the way home seems so far away
Take ‘em out and hold them close

And take a picture with your father
‘Cause one day he’ll be gone
And don’t forget to fill an old shoebox
Full of things to look back on

–Chris Young The Shoebox

Everyone should have a box full of memories. A treasure to periodically be unearthed and used to rediscover the mosaic of your life. More importantly, that box should be shared, talked about and those moments relived. The tears of joy and sadness it will evoke are the stitches on a fabric of a life worth celebrating.

If you haven’t cleaned out your drawers and secret nooks in a while, I challenge you to set aside a day to embark upon the return to your past. Bring a special loved one along on the journey. Don’t rush the magic it brings and relive each special moment. A life blessed with outrageous moments is worth revisiting.

Rediscovering Me

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It has been ages – too long – since I’ve written a blog or even felt compelled to “check in” and contribute anything to the community I am blessed to have built around the idea of Outrageous Living.

I wish I could pinpoint the source of my disinterest. It makes no sense. Truly. I love to write and create, feeling wonderfully empowered to draw upon my experiences and ideas to craft a post worthy of others’ time. But when the well is empty, well, it’s just empty.

My time away has been an interesting journey. I’ve been busier than ever, yet not so busy that the time to write has not availed itself. But my thoughts are returning and I sense the opportunity – and desire – to write wells up within me again.

Sometimes we all need to give ourselves permission to slip away quietly from the noise and hustle of everydayness and rediscover ourselves. To shed the clutter in our world, find harmony and balance in the simplest of living and just be. Ridding our self of the obligations we have – real or self-imposed – and renew the hunger and passion of our existence.

I’ve found that me again and she’s the same outrageous, passionate and centered person I like to hang out with. Thanks to a few months’ hiatus, and some time ahead to forge new paths and ideas, the journey of a blessed, outrageously wonderful life is about to hit the restart button.

Thanks for waiting for me.