Thursday, June 30, 2011

Smoke Detector

Like a woman fanning a blaring smoke detector with her kitchen broom, blaming it for the burning dinner in her oven, I often focus energy on the pointless task. Other times, I am simply really late to the table.

Today while reading Robert Lupton’s Compassion, Justice and the Christian Life, I discovered this:

ancient Hebrew wisdom describes four levels of charity 

a job for one in need without his knowledge that we provide it
work that the needy one knows we provided
an anonymous gift to meet an immediate need
a gift to a person with his full knowledge that we are the donor

So very often, I choose to gift a person with her full knowledge that I am the donor. I write a check or insist on a receipt. I drop off a meal or a box of clothing or a piece of hand-me-down furniture. I insist on paying for both our meals, every time we get together.

I carelessly wave the broom at the bleeping smoke detector rather than engaging the teacher and learning to cook.


I Brought This For You

Personal Recipe by Harley Schreiber
I do not wish to expiate, but to live. My life is for itself and not for a spectacle. I much prefer that it should be of a lower strain, so it be genuine and equal, than that it should be glittering and unsteady. I wish it to be sound and sweet, and not to need diet and bleeding. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
Think about the type of person you’d NEVER want to be 5 years from now. Write out your own personal recipe to prevent this from happening and commit to following it. “Thought is the seed of action.” HS

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Simple Inclines

My Call to Arms is not a summons to undertake a particular course of action defined by someone else, but the realization that every breath is shaping me.

In the rivulose journey of these past five years, I remember a personal passageway revealed, a path through a dense forest at night, sure footing often absent in the agitated shadows cast by tree branches above me, steps quietly revealed in moonlight and patience. As I gaze into the next year and beyond, the path of my time here on earth becomes something more. I step out of a wooded valley, a place of searching. The simple inclines challenge me. Blackness behind me, I am toddling into the light.

My Manifesto—

I want to live on less
an older car
a small wardrobe
simpler meals

I want to give more
groceries for neighbors who sometimes go hungry
transportation for companions who do not own cars

sharing abundance
living on less

I will say no
to lukewarm opportunities
to pointless tasks
to being a bully

I will say yes
to exploring my faith
to hearing the heartbreak of strangers
to nurturing my husband, my family, my friends
to respecting myself

I will say no
to hiding my heart
behind mammoth stone walls
with guillotine-gates

I will say yes
to harboring my heart
within sturdy fences
and locked gates
on well-oiled hinges
keys in my hand

I will build up, encourage and celebrate a noble humanity

I will refuse to wield any book as a weapon of mass destruction

I will affirm what Christ affirms, accept my Creator's lavish love

I will live a life worthy

Call to Arms by Sasha Dichter
The secret of fortune is joy in our hands. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
What if today, right now, no jokes at all, you were actually in charge, the boss, the Head Honcho. Write the “call to arms” note you’re sending to everyone (staff, customers, suppliers, Board) charting the path ahead for the next 12 months and the next 5 years. Now take this manifesto, print it out somewhere you can see, preferably in big letters you can read from your chair. You’re just written your own job description. You know what you have to do. Go! (bonus: send it to the CEO with the title “The things we absolutely have to get right – nothing else matters.”) SD

Monday, June 27, 2011


Is ordinary common, bland, unpretentious and mediocre?
Or familiar, modest, humble and natural?

Common is the uncomfortable metal chair beneath me, amid a sea of folding metal chairs, in an audience of humanity required
to attend, diminished under harsh fluorescent light, in the large room with a failing sound system, breathing stale air. Familiar is
a comfortable
stuffed chair
I seek each morning, a place within easy reach of my bookshelf, a cup of hot coffee, an east facing window that frames the sunrise.

Bland is a featureless container filled with overcooked white rice. Mediocre is something forgettable. Unpretentious tempts me to hide my vibrant self. Modest is a bowl of wild rice soup, creamy and delicious. Natural is a feast for the senses, an immersion into creation. Humble is knowing the radiant colors within me come from God.

Words are unpredictable, multifaceted, misquoted, misinterpreted. I seek words that reflect the person I strive to be, words selected by the person I am today.

Not the rusting metal of false comparisons, but an acceptance of my place on a continuum – some are better writers, with more training, wider life experience AND some are just beginning to write, learning to play with words and individuality and life experience.

Not the overcooked ego of false expectations, but an examination of my intentions – to write words so important to me that my book will be a free downloadable pdf, given away to all who wish to read OR my own recognition of a yearning for public success, a hardcover book on a best sellers list. No wrong or right, simply an envisioned and articulated goal.

Not false investments, but a celebration of the audience – a sea of individuals cushioned by comfortable worn upholstery and pained by time spent on folding metal chairs. People sitting on bar stools, tufted leather office chairs, woven mats, concrete curbs, simple stools, dirt floors, park benches, wingchairs and swings.

My strong offer to the world awaits within me.

Natural. Humble.

Modest. Familiar.



Most Ordinary by Patti Digh
Good and bad are but names very readily transferable to that or this; the only right is what is after my constitution, the only wrong what is against it. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
We are our most potent at our most ordinary. And yet most of us discount our “ordinary” because it is, well, ordinary. Or so we believe. But my ordinary is not yours. Three things block us from putting down our clever and picking up our ordinary: false comparisons with others (I’m not as good a writer as _____), false expectations of ourselves (I should be on the NYTimes best seller list or not write at all), and false investments in a story (it’s all been written before, I shouldn’t bother). What are your false comparisons? What are your false expectations? What are your false investments in a story? List them. Each keep you from that internal knowing about which Emerson writes. Each keeps you from making your strong offer to the world. Put down your clever, and pick up your ordinary. PD


Intuition is a tall woman with soft oval nails, unpainted, on her beautiful sun-kissed hands. Resting open on her lap, her hands are warm, welcoming, expressive. Her eyes deep pools of light, patient and inviting.

She sits in a generous chair, amid the lushness of a private garden. Like a child swaddled in a baptismal gown handed down from generation to generation, her bare feet peek from beneath an ancient garment of palest ivory. She waits.

I approach and say hello. I take the seat to her left.

Relax, she says.

There is something greater out there.

This day is as temporary as lost keys or found wallets.

What matters is not answers, but questions.

Intelligent curiosity.



Moment by moment.

Intuition by Susan Piver
The secret of fortune is joy in our hands. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
If you could picture your intuition as a person, what would he or she look like? If you sat down together for dinner, what is the first thing he or she would tell you? SP

Friday, June 24, 2011

Crumpled Risk

With each breath, within each moment, I choose.

Like a middle school teacher who gets tired of picking up trash, will I walk past the crumpled paper in the hallway? Or, will I stoop to pick it up?

The enemy counts on our bodies getting tired; our hearts choosing to look the other away; our minds deciding to walk past the crumpled mess, to leave it for the custodial staff, for the people who are paid to keep the hallways tidy.

Somewhere deep inside us, we know there is risk in stopping to notice a crumpled mess. Sometimes the risk will be manageable.
A student may see us and laugh. A colleague might roll her eyes.

Sometimes the risk will be bigger than we imagined possible.

In picking up a crumpled paper, I risk that on my way to the trash I will uncrumple the paper and discover that the paper held in my hand is . . .

. . . an email

. . . an email to a student

. . . an email to a middle school student from an adult

. . . an email filled with inappropriate innuendo.

I cannot unread the uncrumpled words before me.

In this breath, in this moment, I must choose between a simple task and a difficult journey. I can choose to throw away an uncrumpled paper. I can choose to begin a journey that I know will exhaust my heart.

How will I choose?


A video: Julie

My gratitude to all the people who teach AND care. Thank you!
As I wrote, I thought of two teachers. My 3rd grade teacher was someone who instilled in me an appreciation for the rules of grammar and spelling. She will like the word tidy. My high school biology teacher was someone who invited me to think like a scientist and use words to describe my observations. He will like the word uncrumpled.

Courage to Connect by David Spinks
Men imagine that they communicate their virtue or vice only by overt actions, and do not see that virtue or vice emit a breath every moment. - Ralph Waldo Emerson Who is one person that you’ve been dying to connect with, but just haven’t had the courage to reach out to? First, reflect on why you want to get in touch with them. Then, reach out and set up a meeting. DS

A Simple Gift

Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.
–Ralph Waldo Emerson

Iron string. Silver cord.

Trust thyself. Remember your Creator.

When the almond tree blossoms, trust. When your hair turns apple-blossom white, trust. When you are doing the thing you love, working with a heart vibrating, trust.

Trust that you are creating something beautiful.

Imagine the brush strokes, as Van Gogh created Almond Blossom.

I look at the painting, then close my eyes to imagine the feeling, talent pulsing from heart to fingertips, creating something so beautiful ...

... to give as a simple gift, a painting to hang in a child’s room.

After the birth of his nephew, Van Gogh wrote in a letter
to his mother, “... I started right away to make
a picture for him, to hang in their bedroom,
big branches of white almond blossom
against a blue sky.” Feb 20, 1890

 Today, my hair is apple-blossom white. I kept my hair a youthful shade of brown for 26 years, applied artificial color and highlights more than 260 times, spending an estimated 1081 hours of my lifetime covering true me. On the second Wednesday in March – 108 days ago – I asked my stylist to cut it at the growth line, to essentially shave my head. He gently refused, agreeing to cut it short, then later cut it again, then cut it again, and again until all that remains is true me – an almond blossom me.

How will I use the time I am not in the salon, dyeing my hair?

How will I use this time here on earth before the silver cord is severed and the golden bowl is broken?

I will use it to remember my Creator.

Life, lovely while it lasts, is soon over.
Life as we know it, precious and beautiful, ends.
The body is put back in the same ground it came from.
The spirit returns to God, who first breathed it.


Ecclesiastes 12

Enthusiasm by Mars Dorian
Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string. – Ralph Waldo Emerson  “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” is a great line from Emerson. If there’s no enthusiasm in what you do, it won’t be remarkable and certainly won’t connect with people on an emotional basis. But, if you put that magic energy into all of your work, you can create something that touches people on a deeper level. How can you bring MORE enthusiasm into your work? What do you have to think or believe about your work to be totally excited about it? Answer it now. MD


Nobody else
     on the planet 
            knows how to live your life better than you.
… and this helps to put in perspective 
          the one or two people 
                 who may think they do: critics rarely create

Trust the integrity of your mind. Listen to your heart.


You Know by Jen Louden
Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world. - Ralph Waldo Emerson  We live in a society of advice columns, experts and make-over shows. Without even knowing it, you can begin to believe someone knows better than you how to live your life. Someone might know a particular something better – like how to bake a three-layer molten coconut chocolate cake or how to build a website – but nobody else on the planet knows how to live your life better than you. (Although one or two people may think they do.) For today, trying asking yourself often, especially before you make a choice, “What do I know about this?” JL

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Fortune Cookies

A plastic-spiral-bound 1993 Iowa Woman Endeavors workbook and an unopened second edition of Brenda Ueland’s If You Want To Write accompany my half-written writing projects, strewn across the table, discarded paper fortunes amid the crumbles of broken cookies. Scattered pages. Tattered dreams. The title page for Rock-A-Bye Moon – an unwritten book for my children – is a remnant of my pre-Google existence. Notes From The Kitchen Window – a compilation of family folklore – is an unpublished book written before the concept of ISBN entered my consciousness. The 100 recipes dispersed from my mother’s kitchen were actually published as a family cookbook about a decade ago, but my youngest sister never received a copy. She asked again recently.

As I examine the scattered pages amid the crumbled cookies, the task before
me is not as overwhelming as it once seemed.
I unearth the originals for my mother’s cookbook and set them aside to take to the printer, make a copy for my sister. I read through the family folklore. The writing is actually pretty good. The typos will be part of the charm. I’ll take that to the printer too, maybe get an ISBN, just in case.


Speak Less by Laura Kimball
What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is the harder, because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know - Ralph Waldo Emerson I once received a fortune cookie that read: “Speak less of your plans, you’ll get more done.” What’s one project that you’ve been sitting on and thinking about but haven’t made progress on? What’s stopping you? What would happen if you actually went for it and did it?

Easily Crushed

The cost of inaction – the price of a decision unmade – is to hand over control to anxiety.

Anxiety is the whisper of failure that haunts the darkness, the black thing crawling down a white wall, slithering in to steal and kill and destroy.

I want to be a woman who prays and a woman who loves. I want to be a person who cherishes ideas, the fragile desires inside each of us, delicate hopes that are wispy and easily crushed. I want to be a woman who risks putting down her own masks before asking others to take risks, a woman who scorns appearances  – opting to display all facets of me – true me.

I will not let anxiety slither in and choose what is next for me.

If tomorrow if a terrible thing about me is exposed, it will launch a voyage of discovery, a journey revealing my true friends – eyes grieving with me, words encouraging me, arms embracing me.

I will emerge, a woman not easily crushed. 

Facing (and Fearing) by Dan Andrews
Greatness appeals to the future. If I can be firm enough to-day to do right, and scorn eyes, I must have done so much right before as to defend me now. Be it how it will, do right now. Always scorn appearances, and you always may. - Ralph Waldo Emerson  Trusting intuition and making decisions based on it is the most important activity of the creative artist and entrepreneur. If you are facing (and fearing) a difficult life decision, ask yourself these three questions: (1) “What are the costs of inaction?” I find it can be helpful to fight fear with fear. Fears of acting are easily and immediately articulated by our “lizard brains” (thanks Seth) e.g. what if I fail? what if I look stupid? If you systematically and clearly list the main costs of inaction, they will generally overshadow your immediate fears. (2) “What kind of person do I want to be?” I’ve found this question to be extremely useful. I admire people who act bravely and decisively. I know the only way to join their ranks is to face decisions that scare me. By seeing my actions as a path to becoming something I admire, I am more likely to act and make the tough calls. (3) “In the event of failure, could I generate an alternative positive outcome?” Imagine yourself failing to an extreme. What could you learn or do in that situation to make it a positive experience? We are generally so committed to the results we seek at the outset of a task or project that we forget about all the incredible value and experience that comes from engaging the world proactively, learning, and improving our circumstances as we go along.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Tennis Balls

A friend recently expressed concern about writing, “How do we know what we say today will be true a year from now? What if we write something that contradicts what we wrote before? Change our minds?”

Today, as I write, I discover that I won’t need a year to find out the answer. Within this Trust30 challenge I’ve already written enough pages to know that I don’t want to look back, searching for contradictions, checking to see if my writing today meshes with what I wrote just a couple weeks ago. The simple truth is, that if I write from the heart, my mind will grow and learn. New ideas will emerge and well-worn beliefs will be viewed with new perspective. Precepts in my heart will expand and evolve.

Day 18 Challenge
write down your top 3 dreams
now write down what’s holding you back from them

my visual
tennis balls bouncing out of their can

my audio
Can I Juggle?

yesterday, when asked to invent a future
the tennis balls were 
snow, white buckets, clean water
bouncing out of a can labeled
a world where people help each other

Today, alongside clean water and within a world where people help each other, I want peace in Sudan.

I want hope and healing and a future for the orphans, courage and sustenance for their amazing caregivers, and an end to the decades-long massacre of families. In her blog Kimberly L. Smith writes, “…be awash in a thunderstorm of prayer, and let it wash you upon Action’s Shore of giving, going, and shouting from the mountain tops so that others might join us.”

Give. Go. Shout.

My dream is to give, go and shout – to share the abundance of my middle-class American life with my neighbors in Sudan and the person sitting next to me, to speak up today so that others might hear, to risk being discarded by those who turn their backs, and to freely embrace the passionate people who join me.

Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! 1 Cor 12:4-11 MSG excerpt

Kimberly L. Smith blog (Warning! Contains sensitive pictures.)

Dreams by Michael Rad
Abide in the simple and noble regions of thy life, obey thy heart. – Ralph Waldo Emerson Write down your top three dreams. Now write down what’s holding you back from them.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

I Want This

While our kids were in elementary school, my husband and I purchased our first old house. Built in the 1920s Destiny House stood on a generous corner lot in a neighborhood filled with vintage houses.

A quick Google search reveals that in the old neighborhood, property owners get ten hours to clear sidewalks… or be charged around $150 for services. Each time it snowed, we shoveled our sidewalks. Early. Really early. Not because the city demanded it, but because shoveling early made shoveling easier.

If we were delayed, the man who owned the adjoining properties would clear his sidewalk north of us, then shut off the ‘blower’ part of his snow blower at our property line. Tilting the machine slightly upward with engine running, he’d travel across the entire expanse of our sidewalks, crushing the snow under his self-propelled tires until he reached the next property line, where he’d dutifully clear his sidewalk west of us – then turn around and travel across our sidewalks, crushing the snow under his self-propelled tires, again. His method-most-convenient made it much more difficult for us.

Today, my husband and I live in another old house, on another corner, in another neighborhood filled with vintage houses. When it snows our neighbor clears his sidewalk, then travels along our western sidewalk – snow blower blowing – on his way to clear the sidewalks of a neighbor on the next block. We start up our snow blower and clear our northern sidewalk – not stopping at the property line but going beyond – snow blower blowing. Helping our neighbors. Trusting our neighbors to help us.

I want this: a world where people help each other.

I want a world where abundance simply flows, where people with a little something extra put $ in a bucket, and those who need a bit of help take $ out. Helping our neighbors. Trusting our neighbors to help us.

I want a world where clean water flows, so that our neighbors whose drinking water looks like this

will celebrate like this

– a world where we dare to embark on a journey of love

Invent the Future by Cindy Gallop
A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his. – Ralph Waldo Emerson My favorite quote of all time is Alan Kay: ‘In order to predict the future, you have to invent it.’ I am all about inventing the future. Decide what you want the future to be and make it happen. Because you can. Write about your future now.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Quit Listening

I am in fifth grade.

I live in a small rural town,
a tiny midwestern community
in northwestern county
in a northern state.

Our parish priest visits my catechism class.
He is looking for volunteers to be altar boys.
I’m excited. I raise my hand. Silence.

In the silence, I hear a patiently chastising voice forming words – a voice telling me I can’t. I can’t because I am a GIRL.

I lower my hand.

Shame and embarrassment creep in and wash over me. Wow. How could I not know that? It’s right there in the words: altar BOY.

For years I refuse to raise my hand in class. I avoid the shame and embarrassment of making a public mistake, the potential criticism of my teachers, the laughter of my peers. I develop a deep fear of public speaking. The words I can’t come without mercy, echoing endlessly in my mind. I hide in the shadows, avoiding persecution. I immerse myself in a lonely pursuit of perfection, a desperate silence.

That fifth grade girl, the one who wanted to be an alter boy?

She has quit listening to I can’t. She is welcome in places she once believed she couldn’t go. She walks into clubs and reaches out. She lifts up her friends, the women working there – sisters, mothers, girlfriends, wives, daughters – with encouraging words. She stands up and argues that the words I can’t do not apply to any person – woman or man.

She has quit listening to I can't. She works to silence the hurtful words of those who picket strip clubs, the words without mercy, the people choosing to hate while calling themselves Christians.

She believes in I can. She believes WE can.

She prays for changes in her own heart and in the hearts of those who picket – that ALL will open their eyes to see each person as an amazing creation of God.

She believes God can.

She believes God can do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.

She believes.

I believe.

Ephesians 3:20

Day 17



My life is half over. If I live to be 100, my life is half over … and the thing I want to do is public speaking. Not teaching Chemistry 101 or How to Edit a Manual but really speaking, saying something important, changing hearts and minds with words.

No more waiting? No more letting topics like One Thing lay on my desk, untouched and undone day after day? No more letting someone else’s urgent get in the way of my important?

I am now a full week behind in this 30-day writing challenge. Yesterday my pastor-friend used the word ship, as in Seth Godin ship. No more waiting!

Speaking. Changing minds and hearts. If this is my life’s task, the step I see before me today is defining important, the topics infused with the power to change hearts and minds.

I love that – the little word thing flowing from brain to keyboard this morning – the flippant reuse and reordering of words. Hearts and minds, minds and hearts, hearts and minds. This is fun!

Like fancy throw pillows on a plush guestroom bed, the number of topics is
a delicate balance.

Pillows can easily become stealers of time. Throw pillows never magically leap onto the bed in the morning, falling into an exquisite arrangement, a feast for my eyes. Fancy throw pillows might easily become too much and too many, laying in a cluttered heap, tossed carelessly into the corner of my bedroom.

Topics. Speaking. Changing minds and hearts. A list lays on my desk, to the left of my keyboard. A list written in pencil on lineless computer paper:
heaven on earth
we can take it with us
not the $
but the people
Yes. No.

The list is no longer fleeting, written in pencil on lineless computer paper. The list, with a simple click, becomes a published post.

PHOTO: throw pillows on a plush guestroom bed in the home of friends, a spa and oasis, a place of grace and beauty and comfort

One Thing by Colin Wright
Do your work, and I shall know you. Do your work, and you shall reinforce yourself. – Ralph Waldo Emerson Take a moment, step back from your concerns, and focus on one thing: You have one life to achieve everything you’ve ever wanted. Sounds simple, but when you really focus on it, let it seep into your consciousness, you realize you only have about 100 years to get every single thing you’ve ever wanted to do. No second chances. This is your only shot. Suddenly, this means you should have started yesterday. No more waiting for permission or resources to start. Today is the day you make the rest of your life happen. Write down one thing you’ve always wanted to do and how you will achieve that goal. Don’t be afraid to be very specific in how you’ll achieve it: once you start achieving, your goals will get bigger and your capability to meet them will grow.

Monday, June 13, 2011


In recent weeks I lifted my eyes and my heart from the task at hand – reaching out to women working in strip clubs – to explore a greater vision, a network of women reaching coast-to-coast and around the world, women joining hands, coming together, praying together, reaching for the best on our journeys, together.

We are all connected.

In recent weeks I found myself embraced in conversations, in a global convergence, an unfettered exploration of humanity – a passionate vision of a world without strip clubs, pornography, prostitution and human trafficking.

It is a tall order – a seemingly impossible dream – especially for a woman who values freedom of expression and abhors censorship; a woman who champions choice and passionately believes in God; a woman who is tentatively exploring the Creator who intelligently and divinely grants her the dignity of free will while laying out a plan for every breath of her life before she was a heartbeat in a living womb.

If my first 45 years here on earth were a pallet of primary colors and a time for learning the basic brush strokes of experience, the past 4 years matured in me a heart for blending colors, a budding understanding of the play between light and darkness, a depth of exploration that is only possible in Christ.

The blending of color and light comes in choosing to examine my own moments of darkness, uncovering the painful edges of emotional broken bones and cutting away life-draining infections within my soul.

I cannot comprehend how free will intersects with God’s chosen path for me. I simply listen in this moment, seek the next step on the path – then choose. Yes. No.

Yes, buts and Maybes are not an option. Simply and fully, Yes or No.

Today I am asked, What alternative opportunities, interpretations and paths am I not seeing?

The phrase that comes is parallel paths.

As I reach out and touch one human life, then another – move one relationship at a time, one step at a time on a path toward a world without strip clubs, pornography, prostitution and human trafficking – where are God’s parallel paths? Who are the people walking beside me, on paths I may not see?

I see poverty and hunger, lack of clean water and education. I see physical need. I see human need. I see spiritual hunger, a starvation of hope and dignity. I see the broken hearts of the women, children, and men prostituted and trafficked. I witness the shattered humanity of the men and women casting the net of evil, selling and buying, beating and raping.

I see the power to stop traffick: I'll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home. I know what I'm doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. *

I will never attain all I dream possible. My life here on earth is not long enough. Each day, as the sun rises, I will reach out and seek the eyes of another human being, and say yes. God has plans for us, God will never abandon us, God will give us hope and a future. We need only say yes.

* Jeremiah 29:10-11 MSG excerpt

Alternative Paths by Jonathan Fields
When good is near you, when you have life in yourself, it is not by any known or accustomed way; you shall not discern the foot-prints of any other; you shall not see the face of man; you shall not hear any name; the way, the thought, the good, shall be wholly strange and new. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
The world buzzes about goals and visions. Focus. Create a vivid picture of exactly where you want to go. Dream big, then don’t let anything or anyone stop you. The problem, as Daniel Gilbert wrote in Stumbling Upon Happiness, is that we’re horrible at forecasting how we’ll really feel 10 or 20 years from now – once we’ve gotten what we dreamed of. Often, we get there only to say, “That’s not what I thought it would be,” and ask, “What now?” Ambition is good. Blind ambition is not. It blocks out not only distraction, but the many opportunities that might take you off course but that may also lead you in a new direction. Consistent daily action is only a virtue when bundled with a willingness to remain open to the unknown. In this exercise, look at your current quest and ask, “What alternative opportunities, interpretations and paths am I not seeing?” They’re always there, but you’ve got to choose to see them. (Author: Jonathan Fields)

The Dance

There is a recurring dream. I am below ground, how far below I do not know. I am dragging myself along with my elbows, exhausted human prey crawling through the duct work just minutes ahead of an unseen predator. There is light ahead, a square of light, about 50 feet in front of me. I continue to move forward. I am a body-length from the light. I can feel the freshness of the air, the warmth of the sunlight. I crawl with more urgency. I am nearly there. The door slams shut. A lock turns. It will not open. There is no way to move forward. There is not room to turn around. There is nothing to crawl back to. I hear my own breathing. I am aware of my own heartbeat.

There are no words. I stand in front of an audience. I am very afraid. I would rather die – be run over by a semi, an eighteen wheeler – than stand in front and speak. I hear my own breathing. I am aware of my own heartbeat.

It is September 2008. It is Wednesday evening. In the Bauer Dining Room of the Green Lake Conference Center, I see a familiar face. Perry, my friend and my pastor, walks toward me. He asks how I am doing, here, in this place I was afraid to be – surrounded by women from around the world who are serving women and children caught in the tangled web of human trafficking, precious advocates bringing hope and light where others see only darkness.

I am radiant. This place, this conference, is a spa for my mind, my heart, my soul. Perry listens, then he asks … will you speak, in front of our community, Sunday morning?

I hear my own breathing. I am aware of my own heartbeat.

I can’t – the familiar words, the words I used all summer – ringing in my head.

Over the next 88 hours, I hear the question repeating within me … will I speak, in front of my community, Sunday morning?

The question is attentive, determined, dogged, persistent, tenacious, resolute. On Sunday morning, 20 minutes before worship begins, Perry asks again.

No cries my fear-filled heart. Yes my voice answers. I agree to say 20 words. I hide in an alcove. On a sheet of borrowed paper, I scribble 20 words.

I take the microphone and in a quiet trembling voice share how I’d rather be run over by the truck. I am interrupted. The playful voice of a puppet behind me says, that’s 8 words … I laugh, letting go of the fear. I share how my heart was moved by the women bringing light into the darkness.

I no longer scurry like human prey through the duct work. The last time the dream haunted me, my friend was there, on the ground above me, opening the door. A familiar face welcomed me as I crawled out – elbows scraped, eyes squinting at the light – to lay exhausted on the green, green grass.

This day is a new day. This week a new week. What yes awaits me at the end of the next 88 hours?

Like Steve Carell in Evan Almighty, will I take a leap of faith? Will I do the dance? Will I build something, do something, that will make a difference in this world? Will I let go of my fear and laugh?

Will I dance with God?

Evan Almighty

Divine Idea by Fabian Kruse
Imitation is Suicide. Insist on yourself; never imitate. – Ralph Waldo Emerson Write down in which areas of your life you have to overcome these suicidal tendencies of imitation, and how you can transform them into a newborn you – one that doesn’t hide its uniqueness, but thrives on it. There is a “divine idea which each of us represents” – which is yours? (Author: Fabian Kruse)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Graceful Tenacity

There are moments in life – terrible blunders when our human frailty becomes painfully evident – moments when shame jumps from behind a blind corner, surprising us, knocking us off balance.

We feel exposed. I feel exposed.

In each terrifying moment of exposure, I want to slink away in noncommittal silence, skulk in a dark post-blunder storm cloud of my own making, go over and over and over each moment re-experiencing every second of shame, regretting each step on my path, worrying what the elusive conglomeration they might think.

My heroines are survivors of public exposure, women who refused to slink and skulk; women who embraced their human dignity amid the swirling frenzied feeding of a media culture.

In 1983, when Vanessa Lynn Williams was crowned Miss America, I was just days from giving birth to my daughter. In July 1984 when she resigned, I was newly pregnant with my son. While my children attended college, Vanessa Lynn Williams delivered the convocation address to her College of Visual and Performing Arts graduating class at Syracuse University, her life and her words “…cherish the moment; these days are irreplaceable...” revealed an inner strength, a grace-filled life that moved my heart.

In 1993, as our new First Lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton stepped outside societal expectations to lead healthcare reform, she inspired me to think beyond my immediate family, my small midwestern life. In 1998, as she weathered the storm surrounding her husband and the White House aid with the blue dress, Hillary Rodham Clinton became my heroine. I glimpsed within her a passionate faith that moved my heart.

When shame jumps from behind a blind corner, knocking me off balance, what will I do? Will I choose commitment over silence, passionate belief over speculation, graceful tenacity over regret? Will I take a breath and stand my ground, in the moment, in the fear?

My dream? I passionately want each and every woman to discover her purpose in life, reach for the best on her journey.

My task? I will listen as my sister tells her story. I will honor her vulnerability. I will celebrate her courage. I will treasure her tears.

I will lay down my masks. I will face my own fears. I will take a breath and stand my ground. I will choose my passionate belief over public speculation. I will ask God to wipe away the ruins of regret and replenish me with grace and tenacity, innocence and acuity.

I will be an Encourager, a speaker and writer of words – quiet, grace-filled, life-affirming words.

Fear by Lachlan Cotter
These are the voices which we hear in solitude, but they grow faint and inaudible as we enter into the world. Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members. – Ralph Waldo Emerson Is fear holding you back from living your fullest life and being truly self expressed? Put yourself in the shoes of the you who’s already lived your dream and write out the answers to the following: Is the insecurity you’re defending worth the dream you’ll never realize? or the love you’ll never venture? or the joy you’ll never feel? Will the blunder matter in 10 years? Or 10 weeks? Or 10 days? Or 10 minutes? Can you be happy being anything less than who you really are? Now Do. The Thing. You Fear. (Author: Lachlan Cotter)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Hiding Words

Echoing in the canyons of childhood memories is the message that I didn’t quite measure up.

Whether real or imagined, I internalized this barrier, which as an adult led me to be a Helper, someone who prefers working behind the scenes, alleviating burdens and responsibilities of others. While this is a good and kind impulse, it lacks spontaneity and uniqueness, my own passion.

During my career in graphic arts and printing, I cultivated proofreading as a survival skill. Later came editing, then writing – or rather rewriting. When a friend started a visitors’ guide for local tourists, I assisted with rewriting customer copy and producing articles on events and opportunities. I researched the advertisers’ websites and paraphrased copy. Occasionally, I wrote something somewhat original, but mostly I cleaned up the narratives of others, added a dash of sparkle – like a parrot expanding her vocabulary.

This past fall, a friend asked me to help publish her book, the story of her life journey and the early years of the nonprofit that is her passion. Later, she invited me to accompany her on a weekend retreat where she gifted each member of the nonprofit board a signed copy of her book – an amazing story, an awesome experience.

My author-friend did something I believed I could never do – she published her book, found the courage to put her words out there for all to see.

Just a few days ago, I was afforded the opportunity of a To Be Told workshop where each of us was asked to share her story, then share more of her story. In my telling, I used the words icky, icky and yucky – my vocabulary revealing a child-like immaturity, hiding my love of words.

Today, riding the cresting wave of my author-friend’s courage and the freedom I uncovered in To Be Told, I accept the Trust30 Challenge.

I step away from the Helper and come into the light. I am an Encourager, a speaker and writer of words, seeking to inspire others with courage, spirit and hope.

Learn more about telling your story at

My author-friend’s book is Touch Stone, the nonprofit is

Divine Idea by Fabian Kruse
Imitation is Suicide. Insist on yourself; never imitate. – Ralph Waldo Emerson Write down in which areas of your life you have to overcome these suicidal tendencies of imitation, and how you can transform them into a newborn you – one that doesn’t hide its uniqueness, but thrives on it. There is a “divine idea which each of us represents” – which is yours? (Author: Fabian Kruse)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A Heart Not Big Enough

Just a few weeks ago, I embraced the opportunity to attend the International Christian Conference on Prostitution and Human Trafficking in Green Lake, Wisconsin. For me Green Lake is a tiny glimpse of Eden – a place where generations of believers gather, a place where faith runs deep, a place where God is tangible.

As I drove through the front gate I found myself exhaling a huge breath and snuggling into the grace-filled arms of God.

Monday morning, after breakfast, 250 people from around the world come together to worship and pray. The room grows quiet.

A sassy red-head – a woman of frailty and strength – needs to speak to us. A delicate skirt of pale blue and white flows around her legs as she walks up the stairs and onto the stage. She is the mother of many, and the children on her heart this morning are in an orphanage in the Darfur region of Sudan. Her delicate hands are clasped in anguish.

Our children have watched wide-eyed and anxiously through our chain-linked security fence as thousands of southern soldiers have trekked past… the thing weighing most heavily upon [the orphanage director] are the contortions of fear etched across our children’s faces. The thunder of dropping bombs, the rhythmic stomp of troops marching by, and the mechanical roll of heavy artillery kicks up the violent winds of war, sweeping through their little minds and excavating all too recent memories of those they saw raped, tortured, and murdered in the last storm of human greed. *

In Darfur, the director watches and waits. The 550 children entrusted to his care wait with him. A decision lies ahead – to stay with the orphanage and risk capture, or to abandon the compound fleeing with the children into the bush where the loss of life will grow each day.

In the anguish of not knowing, the woman leads us in prayer. We pray protection for the children and wisdom for the director, the man entrusted with the decision to stay or flee.

Genesis 1
God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—

On Tuesday there is no word. My heart is not big enough to bear the pain. Beside me each day are women telling their stories of death – not a dying of the body, but a massacre of the soul. We share tragedy and hope. What brings us together is a passion for ending prostitution and human trafficking. What we find is a celebration of human dignity and life in communion with God.

And there was evening, and there was morning—

On Wednesday a young man takes the stage. “Many of you have been asking about Darfur and the children. Communication is difficult, but [the director] got through by phone.”

How beautiful to hear a rumble of laughter out of [the director] this morning! In the backdrop of our phone call, instead of bombs, I heard our children singing. “The children are praising God for the worst rains we have ever had! The rains have come so hard for so many hours that the killing machines are all trapped in the mud.”

Rain. This morning we praise God for simple rain. The children within the orphanage, a roof over their heads are dry and safe, and they are singing.

And there was evening, and there was morning—

Today – this morning – are the children singing? In the anguish of not knowing I pray.

My heart is not big enough to grieve the loss I find in the tangled insanity of evil. Compared to the battle waging in Darfur our work here in the midwest often feels unimportant, but in Green Lake, surrounded by a sea of people with hearts on fire, I rediscover truth.

No atrocity is too large, no story of redemption too small, for our God.

Each of us – each of you – is invited to be part of God’s plan to bring heaven to earth.

Matthew 10:16
“I am sending you out like sheep among the wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”

We ask God for healing, and in the asking we find the power to heal ourselves and heal others.

We reach out to take the hand of the person next to us, and we touch the compassion, clarity and courage God offers.

God calls the light “day,” and the darkness “night.” And there is evening, and there is morning—

What will you do with this day?

* excerpts from


Perhaps I didn’t phrase the question correctly, but when asked what he sees as my greatest fear, my husband replied, spiders. I laughed. I admit it. I ask him to kill spiders, and this time of year in our century-old house there are lots of spiders.

So what are my spiders, the things too scary to write about?

Too scary for me is admitting publicly that I am destined for something bigger, a world-changing something. Admission – ownership – sets me up to be knocked down, to fail. Admission gives opportunity for ridicule, invites public correction and behind-my-back whispers of criticism.

I am afraid. I am afraid I will fail. I am afraid I will succeed.

The number of people following my blog doubled this week – from one to two – and it scared me. It seems silly, but somewhere deep inside my brain (or was it my heart?) I wanted to believe that no one would ever read my words. Now there is evidence that someone might. Am I ready to be read? Am I worthy?

I posted my first blog on March 13, 2009. High Dive began as a request from my pastor, an opportunity to speak to my faith community, a 4-minute time slot. It took me 36 hours to write and prepare – 9 hours for each minute.

I believe that I am efficient.
36 hours whisper, perhaps you are not!
I believe that I am a public speaker.
4 minutes of recorded audio whisper, perhaps you are not!
I believe that I am a writer.
343 words whisper, perhaps you are not!

The whisper is not a behind-my-back criticism nor a public correction. The whisper comes silently in the night. Like a black thing crawling down a white wall anxiety slithers in to steal my voice, then stands boldly upright just inside my door, taunting me. I am speechless. I am without words. I am afraid.

Afraid to Do by Mary Jaksch
The other terror that scares us from self-trust is our consistency; a reverence for our past act or word, because the eyes of others have no other data for computing our orbit than our past acts, and we are loath to disappoint them. - Ralph Waldo Emerson Emerson says: “Always do what you are afraid to do.” What is ‘too scary’ to write about? Try doing it now. (Author: Mary Jaksch)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


Hello, I say softly, as to a frightened child. The younger version of me has so much yet to discover and embrace about herself, about the world. You will learn to overcome your fear of public speaking, I announce. She laughs, easily dismissing my announcement. The fear, her fear, so firmly entrenched in every fiber of her being the syllables flow past her like the soft breezes of early summer. She cannot hear my words.

You look familiar. Have we met before? I say to my future self, searching for her name, wanting to force the elusive connection within my brain. Do you have time for a cup of coffee? A soda? I seek her permission, her company, a gift of more time together.

Five Years by Corbett Barr
There will be an agreement in whatever variety of actions, so they be each honest and natural in their hour. – Ralph Waldo Emerson What would you say to the person you were five years ago? What will you say to the person you’ll be in five years? (Author: Corbett Barr)


All my adult life, I dreamed of writing a great work of historical fiction, in the styles of Colleen McCullough’s The Thorn Birds or Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind. Perhaps a darker essence, Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice. Decades after attending my first writers’ workshop, and years after packing my dusty journals away in an unused dresser drawer in the corner of an unused room, a blank page is all the exists of my novel.

Just a few days ago, I read a book in a single sitting: Kimberly L. Smith’s Passport through Darkness. I am inspired by her courage, her wisdom, her passion, her faith. I am awed by her frailness, her strength, her vulnerability, her humanity.

The blank page remains.

I am an empty-nester without demands of children, laundry and meals. I am without a job, saying goodbye to coworkers 26 months ago and embarking on a new life of volunteerism, a quest to change the world.

The blank page remains.

Perhaps my book is not a novel, a vehicle to provide income and a legacy. Perhaps it is a harvest of ideas, gathered seeds of wisdom to be scattered like the fuzz of an aging dandelion.

On June 7 Tuesday, Seth Godin writes:
Which of the four are getting in the way?
You don't know what to do
You don't know how to do it
You don't have the authority or the resources to do it
You're afraid
Once you figure out what's getting in the way, it's far easier to find the answer (or decide to work on a different problem).
Stuck is a state of mind, and it's curable.
You're afraid.

At this moment, I find myself picking up my empty coffee cup. My hands are no longer on the keyboard. Without a thought I stand to leave my desk, mindlessly giving myself over to the urge to walk downstairs to the kitchen, to get a fresh cup of coffee, knowing I will need to make another pot, that this will take time. I move to escape. I sit back down.

I am afraid. Failure? Exposure? Risk? Ridicule? Laughter? Stupidity?

Stupidity? I fear looking stupid. At stupid is defined as lacking ordinary quickness and keenness of mind; dull. If that is what I fear, that my book will lack quickness or be dull, I need only to think back about the books I’ve read that were dull. None come to mind. I can’t recall the authors and titles I found dull, only those that inspired and entertained me, took me to faraway places and exposed me to uncharted waters of new ideas.

Obstacles. What to do. How to do it. Authority and resources. Overcoming fear.

What to do? Write, words on the page, every day.
How to do it? An accountability partner, someone I trust to read my words, with the strength to refuse the mediocrity of a blank page, and the compassion to encourage more words.
Authority? I will harvest the words of my own life experience. I am the expert. I am the authority.
Resources? Yes, there is time in each day to write. Yes, there is an infinite number of book-books and e-books to inspire me, a limitless tribe of self-published and traditional authors who go before me.

A few days ago I used the phrase possible impossibilities.

A book. A book written from life experience, instinct and intuition. A possible impossibility.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Come Alive

Today, as I write, there is joy and challenge, a sense of purpose. Never mind giving it a week. If my last breath is this moment – I am ready.

My life hasn’t always been this way. For nearly three decades I fought and struggled, felt trapped by life itself; constantly walking in circles, trying different doors, different floors; running from discontent, scurrying down life’s blind alleys and hiding my baggage behind dumpsters; insisting like a three-year-old do by self! Then one day four years after our youngest child left for college, I stood barefoot on our living room floor surrounded by walls that had witnessed more than a century of humanity. In the silent submission of my own exhaustion I found the strength to stop fighting, to focus on the light not the darkness, to commit to doing things I found uplifting and to shoulder the drudgery of the must dos with quiet strength. I was 45 years old.

Today, as I search for an image to depict the years I fought and struggled, I discover a postcard so familiar, so perfectly depicting the architecture of my life, I decide to paste the link into this entry. The postcard is from the International Rotunda, Mission Inn, Riverside CA, where my Uncle Jimmy once worked. In 1978, as a newly licensed driver on a family vacation to California, I was in that rotunda. I had forgotten. I now remember.

In 2007 as I stood barefoot on our living room floor in the moment of submission, I made a conscious decision to bloom where ever God planted me. It sounds hokey, even to me. I look back now and see clearly the change beginning in that instant. It wasn’t always easy. It wasn’t always clear. It took time, nearly five years, as ever so slowly God and I chiseled away parts of my To Do List, letting the unimportant fall to the floor. As we worked, the nonessential must haves created by a world of false promises fell away and a new community came around me. I found myself meeting people – individuals and families – who were not focused on building their portfolios and real estate holdings, but on sharing whatever they owned with friends and neighbors, other people in need. It was utterly refreshing. It was absolutely odd.

As I think back to the Mission Inn that summer, I now envision myself simply sitting on the floor of the lowest level, bare palms held firmly against the cool tile. Instead of running up and down stairways, hurrying from archway to archway and door to door, I sit quietly and look up. I take a breath and simply wait, letting all the possibilities come alive.

International Rotunda, Mission Inn Antique Postcard

Come Alive by Jonathan Mead
Life wastes itself while we are preparing to live. – Ralph Waldo Emerson If you had one week left to live, would you still be doing what you’re doing now? In what areas of your life are you preparing to live? Take them off your To Do list and add them to a To Stop list. Resolve to only do what makes you come alive. Bonus: How can your goals improve the present and not keep you in a perpetual “always something better” spiral? (Author: Jonathan Mead)


Manhattan. I am already blessed x3. My first visit to Manhattan was on a middle school bus trip – 2400 miles – with my son and his classmates, teachers, friends and families in 1999. In April 2001 I stood atop the World Trade Center with my son and daughter, my sisters and my mother. In November that same year, I visited Ground Zero with my husband.

When my husband and I dream the ‘what if’ dream, he wants 800 midwestern acres of forested land with a lake. I want a tiny loft in Manhattan within walking distance of Central Park, its 843 acres and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir.

While owning a loft appears impossible, a visit is within my reach. Airfare is $400 roundtrip. No passport required. The hotel is $248 per night.

My favorite place to stay is a 12-story hotel at 8th Avenue and West 51st Street, just a few blocks south of Central Park. I remember a coffee shop across the street and fresh baked muffins in the morning; the corner drug store with one-hour photo services and an articulate young man at the counter. He welcomes me like a regular. He says thank you. Our transaction ends. As I turn to leave, a friendly banter begins, the language changes. The young man is talking with the co-worker beside him, sharing a story in EspaƱol de Puerto Rico.

This encounter, the human heartbeat of merging cultures, is the treasure within Manhattan.

I stopped writing to count the change in the jar on our bookshelf.

Today it holds $61.90; tomorrow a bit more. I am on my way.

Travel by Chris Guillebeau
If we live truly, we shall see truly. - Ralph Waldo Emerson. Not everyone wants to travel the world, but most people can identify at least one place in the world they’d like to visit before they die. Where is that place for you, and what will you do to make sure you get there? (Author: Chris Guillebeau)

Post-It Challenge

On Day 3 I wrote, “I am throwing off the satanic shhh don’t tell of my middle-class, midwestern Christian childhood.” On Day 4 the question I ask is, “How do I set aside my childhood expectations and love my parents, the people Mom and Dad really are?”

A statement and a question, intersecting and intertwined, thrown off and set aside. My mother would cringe at satanic – a word with scads of shock value. I like to do that. Shock her. Watching my mother apply her lipstick in the rearview mirror of her blue 1968 Ford Galaxy, shhh don’t tell is what I heard. Not specifically in the car, but throughout my childhood. What did we need to keep secret? My parents paid bills on time, valued education, participated in community and in church – just like their middle-class mid-American neighbors. What is it we weren’t supposed to tell?

Today, decades later, the answer still escapes me. No dark childhood memories haunt me, no events dug up would merit a headline in the next issue of Psychology Today. Why shhh don’t tell?

Recently an intimate group of four strangers, including a man whose work I greatly admire, heard me tell my story – the story of me. After listening and responding, the man gave me an intriguing directive: respond with your ability. Not the tired take responsibility, but something that challenged me. Respond with my ability.

I am not expecting my parents to enthusiastically subject themselves to my new quest of discovery, to gather around the kitchen table submitting to impromptu therapy sessions led by an untrained me for my benefit – and in the event my own children are reading this – I want to state for the record that I respect my parents’ right to privacy. Living out that respect is often quite challenging.

There are other challenges.

The human mind itself contains natural barriers to my quest. A single event videotaped is concise and factual. A single event witnessed by three different people within minutes becomes three unique eyewitness accounts. Memories held for decades will be even more divergent. Or worse, a single event held in the heart of the child, may not even register as a memory in the minds of her parents.

There are the hurdles inherent in the aging human body. My father lost his vision to macular degeneration more than a decade ago and his physical ability to hear deteriorates with every passing year. Conversation is difficult, visual cues non-existent. So, how do I unlock this puzzle box?

Like a newbie C.S.I. field agent, I need to look for tiny interconnected clues in the people who are before me today, overlaying these bits with the people I remember as my parents, checking to see what my sisters remember and examining the evidence from every possible angle.

Today Mom and Dad love their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. They seem happiest when we gather together for celebrations – holidays and birthdays, weddings and anniversaries, births and baptisms – times I so often find tiresome. Is it because I am not engaging, because I am withholding something myself?

What are my abilities? I can see and hear. I can choose to watch and listen.

I will engage in conversations and ask questions. I will let go of my childish, childhood expectations and choose to see my parents as both mentors and peers. I will not be intimidated. I will not be a bully. I will seek the heartache and joy behind my parents’ words, and respond with encouragement as their stories unfold. I will pray for guidance in our short time together here on earth.

Friday, June 3, 2011


Post-it Question
That which each can do best, none but his Maker can teach him. Where is the master who could have taught Shakespeare? Where is the master who could have instructed Franklin, or Washington, or Bacon, or Newton? . . . Shakespeare will never be made by the study of Shakespeare. Do that which is assigned you, and you cannot hope too much or dare too much. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Identify one of your biggest challenges at the moment (ie I don’t feel passionate about my work) and turn it into a question (ie How can I do work I’m passionate about?) Write it on a post-it and put it up on your bathroom mirror or the back of your front door. After 48-hours, journal what answers came up for you and be sure to evaluate them. Bonus: tweet or blog a photo of your post-it. (Author: Jenny Blake)

Thursday, June 2, 2011


One Strong Belief by Buster Benson
It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude. - Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance. The world is powered by passionate people, powerful ideas, and fearless action. What’s one strong belief you possess that isn’t shared by your closest friends or family? What inspires this belief, and what have you done to actively live it? (Author: Buster Benson)

Each person has a story to tell. Trauma and heartbreak reside in every human life. I believe that as we examine our stories, we find healing. In my family of origin we often wear masks, become sitcom caricatures, two-dimensional expressions, barely alive in a masquerade of suffocation. My mask is good girl perfectionist first born conformist. My truer self is at once a rebel and an escapist. I lash out rebelliously stepping in to speak for those I see as ostracized or judged. Left alone I escape to stories, the solitude and comfort of books. I am confidently defiant. I lack self-confidence. I believe these are not a contradiction, but an indication that God has a path for my life. I am stumbling blindly, trying to find it. Like a middle school student struggling with her first locker combination, I am trying one set of numbers, then another, and another – seeking, learning, changing, growing. As I complete each turn of the tumblers and try the lock, shame and embarrassment wait just around the corner. I sometimes hold my breath. Failures gather in great numbers. Success is rare. Not a tangible success measured in cars, clothes and money, but a succulent expansion of life measured in human contact, compassion and love. I am examining my own story and treasuring the stories of others. I am jumping into today, actively choosing change. I am failing miserably and learning how to let go of failure. I am inviting others to join me and releasing those who turn away. I am celebrating the rare sweetness of outwitting embarrassment and shame. I am throwing off the satanic shhh don’t tell of my middle-class, midwestern Christian childhood. I am embracing the radiant light of God. In the darkness behind the mask I once shriveled. In the light, slowly and deliberately, I am choosing to bloom and grow, a creation unfolding with every change.


Gwen Bell – 15 Minutes to Live
We are afraid of truth, afraid of fortune, afraid of death, and afraid of each other. Our age yields no great and perfect persons. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
You just discovered you have fifteen minutes to live.
1. Set a timer for fifteen minutes.
2. Write the story that has to be written.
(Author: Gwen Bell)

If only 15 minutes remain before I die, then there is not much time. If it were 15 minutes before the world ends – and I am given the grace to know, what will I say? I will speak of grace. God’s grace. I will spend these last minutes holding the hand and the heart of my husband. I will think of our children and the people our children love, I will celebrate my sisters and my friends, my nieces and nephews, and the deep connections I have made along the way with my children of the heart. In the final 15 minutes that my heart beats, I reach out and take your hand. You are so very special. You are as God intended you to be, your gifts and joys, the life of grace laid out before you were a heartbeat in your mother’s womb. Every breath drawn on this earth is a gift. Each smile a glimpse of heaven. I ask you to stop and celebrate, to look back on the joy in your life, to re-encounter the moments when life felt so very right, the moments when every piece of the puzzle that is you fell into place and you were alive with every fiber in your being. Heart. Mind. Soul. Heart, Mind, Soul in Communion with God. Not the sterile churchy communion, but true Community. Heart on fire. Mind humming with possible impossibilities. Soul feeling so deeply that the passion comes alive. I will speak of grace. God’s grace, waiting for us, not just here on earth but in the next life. I believe that yes, we can take it with us – this life, our family and friends, the people we love. Christ died because He loves us. Reach for the grace. Today. Tomorrow. Forever.