We all have masks. Everyone has at least one, but most everyone wears a mix of many. It may be that we began to create these masks to become closer to the “Me” we wanted to be. Remember when we were kids in art class and we learned how to create something with paper mache’–usually a mask! Tearing piles and piles of small, skinny strips of newspaper and after dipping them in our “glue” of flour and water, we then started layering them, over and over again atop each other. Until finally, we had that shell of the mask dried to the perfect thickness, to hold just the right shape. We did not leave it there. We added paint then, and perhaps adornments like beads, fringe, glitter, anything we thought would make our mask unique, beautiful, different… our own. Somewhere down that road to “Me”-ness, we end up picking up peices of other people’s masks to add to our own. We looked at our friend, our neighbor and we liked what they had done with their mask, so we borrowed some of their ideas and added them to our own. Did we pick up those parts for our mask because we did not like our own or were afraid to show what our real mask looked like? Or did we pick those parts of the mask because we had a dream, a goal, a want to become something bigger than who we were? Who knew that exercise in art class all of those years ago would bring out thoughts on such a lesson in life as an adult. Is your mask there to hide who you are, or is your mask there to create who you are to become? As you layer the strips of paper for your “Me” mask and it begins to harden, do you like your own mask enough to share it? Do you love each layer as it is applied, adorned with your own touches, colors-soft or vibrant, glitzed or quiet, beaded or plain? I love the Shel Silverstein poem above. It helps remind me that maybe we should all show a little bit of our own blue skin in the mask that we wear and share everyday!
My daughter’s 8th Grade Formal is coming up this weekend. It is a fancy and fun dance, but more than that, it is a celebration of the end of middle school and the ushering in of high school. After getting all dressed up, we normally go up to our club and take pictures of all the teens before they go off to the dance. This year there is an event going on at the clubhouse, so my daughter and I went out to find another spot for pictures. We were thinking about going to a pretty field near our house, but as we passed it, we realized that amid all of the spring rain and renewal it had become overgrown and was no longer accessible to us. Looking into that tangled mass of new, green leaves and weeds I was reminded that a path only remains one by being exercised, tended to and cared for. Our lives so closely mimic that of the path in the woods. There are moments of clarity in our minds where we set out to forge new paths, or reconnect with old paths, or struggle to stay on the same path! It could be a New Year’s Resolution, a commitment for Lent, an academic or athletic goal as you enter high school or trying to stay the path you are on when obstacles try to crowd the way. Some of our mental paths take form and settle into our daily walk of life. Some get overgrown with weeds and obstacles and end up being unusable. A single footstep doesn’t make a path and a single step in your mind’s path doesn’t make a life. Is there a pathway in your mind or heart that needs tending? Go there once and again and a clear walkway will begin to form. There is incredible beauty in beginning! The first step, the first breath, the anticipation of what’s to come… Eventually what once seemed impossible becomes possible and real. Is there a pathway in your mind that is already there? A well-worn comfortable place that you go back to again and again, like sinking into your favorite chair at the end of a busy day? Either way, repeating over and over our intentions with our thoughts and our actions will lead us down the path we are setting, as long as we tend to it, care for it and exercise it regularly. Grab your boots and hat and take a walk, one step at a time down that path!
We have all heard the saying, “You are what you eat”, so I guess that means that because I ate toast with Nutella and bananas this morning that I am crunchy, sweet and…. yellow? No, seriously I know that the idea is that what you put into your body is what nourishes it or doesn’t depending on what you choose. I have been thinking about the opposite of that. What you put out of your body can also nourish your insides or not depending on what you choose… In other words, you are what you speak. Raising two teenagers can become days of lessons upon lessons in life, but experience tells us that the best way to encourage a thoughful, kind, respectful human being is by showing them that in a world full of the unexpected, you can carry yourself in whatever manner you choose. Your reaction is your own choice (even though sometimes it feels like you have no choice but to be rude or forceful right back at someone)! Words have the power to enhance your life and the life of the person you are speaking to. Your words become a mirror, a big reflection that follows you around and shows you what you look like from the outside. If you run around judging someone harshly or gossiping about them, the feelings those words create will come back at you in the form of a judgement against you, or a story behind your back. On the other hand, and thank you God always for the reminder that there is the other hand, if you run around sharing words of kindness and encouragement, the effect of those words will also come back to you. Never underestimate the power of a kind word. We all know that a word once it is spoken cannot ever be taken back. Everything you say will be connected to you forever-good or bad. Are the words you share meant to be nourishing or to be breaking down? Imagine that the words you speak swirl around you mingled with the air that you breath, and at any given moment they become a collage that creates the picture of you to the world. Your reflection in that big mirror. The words that you choose will allow you to create whatever self portrait the world sees in you. Is your word picture beautiful or is it ugly? Just as a flower grows from the dirt, you too can create a beautiful you with only a tiny seed, a small word of nourishment to a friend, a stranger, an adversary. Like a mighty oak tree from an acorn grows, once spoken your words become a living thing. Do you remember a time when someone complimented you on a day when you felt inadequate? Do you remember a day when someone encouraged you to try when you were scared that you would fail? Do you remember a day when someone gave you wise advice when you were faced with a tough choice? These are the things that made all the difference on those days. One word, a string of words, a conversation, this is what we speak, where they take you is up to you! I remember when my children were young and one of them came home complaining that “so and so” was mean to them, and they did not want to be friends with them anymore. My response that day, and my response today would be the same as it has always been anytime a situation like that arises, “I do not expect you to be best friends with “so and so”, but I do expect you to be polite and kind”. Living out this example is at times, harder than not. We all probably prefer to puff up our chests and show we are as tough as the cookie next to us who is ranting and raving, but I am reminded that God does not measure strength in raised voices or cutting remarks. Our strength is measured in words of faith, wisdom and love. As we walk from place to place and speak with person to person, what word picture is being painted around ourselves today? If you are what you
eat speak, then I’d like to order a sweet words sundae with a cherry on top…to-go please!
Reading was my first love. I cannot remember the actual moment that I fell in love. I know it wasn’t when I was very young. I know it wasn’t when I was still being read to. It didn’t actually happen the minute I began to read on my own. It could have been a gradual falling, a getting acquainted and settling down deep kind of love. It started later, when I actually had the book in my hand, eyes on the page, reading as quickly as possible to find out what happened next, while at the same time forcing myself to read slowly so I could make it last. You readers out there know what I am talking about…the turtle-paced-speed-reading towards the end of a book! It could have happened when I laughed out loud in a room with only me and the book or when I wanted to scream “Don’t do it!” at the black and white pages. It could have happened when tears welled up in my eyes, glued to the words on a page as Della cut her beautiful hair and Jim sold his grandfather’s watch on Christmas. It could have happened when I spent countless summer hours on our screened porch lost in the heather of Thrushcross Grange. It could have happened when I felt a state of panic trying to find out if Maxim really killed Rebecca or better yet, if he did, would anyone find out? It could have happened when Alexander Dumas showed how sweet revenge could be and that buried treasures really do exist. It could have happened when I followed Santiago on his simple journey through the desert and came out the other side a better version of myself. It could have happened when the entire household was asleep, my eyes bleary (a cross between blurry and weary) but finding I could not let go until I read if Katniss and Peeta would eat the berries. It could have happened when Alexander and Tatiana barely survived WW II in Russia and what came next for them and many immigrants to the USA. I am not exactly sure when I fell in love with reading but once I did, it was irrevocably part of me! Cooking, cleaning and sleep are hopeless against a good book! Carpool lines, kids practices that go long and plane rides are my book’s best friends! Thick or thin, historical or post apocalyptic, simple or complex, they are all welcome in my library. There are some books that I have even read several times because I just need to visit there once and again, like a favorite vacation spot that you go back to each year. I have never actually seen a movie that is better than the book. And sometimes if I have loved a book, I am actually scared to see the movie! It is said that a reader lives a thousand lives before he dies and a man who doesn’t read, only one. If you ask a reader what their favorite book is, you may find yourself sitting a while listening to the answer because well, there are so many that we could write a book! Reading can open our world to lives beyond our own. Beautiful, sad, silly, enchanted, tragic, epic, adventurous… Oh, the places you’ll go when you open a book! Gotta run, if I hurry I can get a couple of pages in before lunch is over!
Books mentioned in this post (a few favorites but of course, there are many more):
Gift of the Magi by O. Henry
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas
The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons
Oh, The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Suess
Friends are like the jellybeans in my Easter basket. If I just had one, my basket would look a little lonely. If I had too many, my basket would be a little hard to handle! If I had all one color of jellybeans, my basket would be a little boring. If I had all one flavor, my basket would lose it’s taste. It is so important to me to have all different colors and flavors of jellybeans in my basket of friends. It makes me a better person. It makes me a better friend. I can hear more stories. I can see different points of view. I can experience a world out there that is bigger than myself. And as a result, I can live a life enriched by the blessings of good friends in all shapes and colors and flavors and varieties. I am blessed to wake up this morning to an Easter basket full of the most delicious jellybeans. Red, yellow, blue, green , sour, sweet, spicy, long, short, fat, skinny, speckled, plain…Thank you friends for the zest you bring and for filling my “basket”! Jellybeans really are better in a bunch!
For the past couple of Sundays while in quiet prayer at church, the voice of Jesus has been reminding me of this most important command. It is a simple command. It is always within our power. It needs no translation. Sometimes though, it can be difficult to do. It can be something you want to resist- The human in us loves to resist this command when we are hurt, or mad, or tired or selfish. Perhaps it is that you do not have the time, you do not have the money, you do not have the patience, or you do not have the desire to do it. We all have that person who drives us crazy and gets under our skin. They were rude, they hurt someone you love, they gossiped, they lied. I have actually had internal dialogue with myself over someone like this and wanted to shout “NO” to loving that person! But I didn’t say no, and while I still don’t love them with my heart, I love them with my mindfulness, my actions and with intention to serve my God. And you know what? It works. It is not perfect by any means, but thankfully, He is not expecting perfect. We fail, we get up and try again, that is what He expects. Allow this command to work in your life and bless you especially as we celebrate Easter, spring, new beginnings and new life. As a busy wife and mom, my times for quiet reflection are scarce, but I do find that throughout my daily activities I can cling to a simple thought and end up living out my reflections. As I am running around my daily life in the passenger seat, I am repeating this verse, “Above all things, love one another”. There is a lot going on in the news, in school, in church where at times it feels like we are asked to take a side. This is not what loving one another means. There are no sides in loving one another. When you strip down any circumstance in your life to the basic question of, “am I fulfilling Jesus’ command to love one another by the way I behave in this situation?“, it actually becomes the easiest path to follow. We are not asked to judge, we are not asked to make others’ life choices, we are not even asked to agree with everyone. Jesus asked us to love one another in ALL things–That’s it. I am thankful to have this verse to fall back on, when so much of the world is in disarray and disagreement, all I have to do is one thing… love a little bit everyday.
Perspective is everything. It starts the moment you wake up in the morning and lasts until you fall back to sleep at night. It is one of the most powerful tools in a happy life. I know this because one day in my life (about twenty years ago) I woke up and decided to treat my perspective as the precious gift that it is. Since that day my perspective and I have been great pals.
This is something that I have been giving some thought to because in my daily conversations with people I get to hear their point of view, which is sometimes the same as my point of view and sometimes different. I have come to realize that in all avenues of our lives the thing that makes us, molds us, changes us, grows us, nourishes us, feeds us and turns us into the eventuality of who we become is born out perspective. It always amazes me that two people can have the same set of circumstances and end up living two completely different experiences. Why is that? It is because of what we believe and what we tell ourselves. It is because of how we percieve the experience–anticipating the outcome, participating in the moment, and then reflecting on what transpired. Really, in any of these steps our perspective is what sets the tone for how we enter an experience, how we react to it and how we sum up our feelings about it. When one of my children is worried about an upcoming practice or performance I have been known to, every once in a while, say “Just get out there and shine your light, and if you cannot do that then just try to fake it!” I do not say that as a joke! And I don’t mean to actually fake the whole thing, but I am trying to illustrate to them that if you set your mind to thinking that you are going to go out there and shine, you convince yourself that you can do it, and even if you were faking it, when you walk away that light will follow you. This is the magic of perception. It is something that no one can take away from you and something only you can give away. It is your own gift to yourself. I read something today and this is what it said, “We are never really alert to our destinies, are we?” and it hit me– we do not get clues along the way to finding our destiny and creating a fulfilled and happy life. We are not given a map or a cheat sheet. We don’t know that one particular minute that changes our lives forever, but we know that it happens. Poof! One moment in time and our lives are changed forever! Just for kicks, over the next couple of days, try out opening your perspective every day as a gift! … Use it to transform your ordinary experiences to extraordinary ones. Imagine that you are going into an everyday experience and create an inner dialogue of positivity as you anticipate the experience. I can do this and it is going to be fabulous. Once you arrive, set the tone with your attitude, fake it if you have to. Oh yeah, I got this, I’m workin it! Once you are finished, reflect back with as much intention as you started out with. That was amazing! Maybe when asked, “are you excited?“, “are you nervous?“, “how did it go?“, your answers will reflect the attitude that you brought into the situations with you and they will reflect that you transformed the experience into something beautiful just by your perspective! Is your glass half empty? half full? or three quarters of the way there? Is the grass greener in your own little garden or does it look greener on the other side? Was that small moment the biggest part of your day? Count the simple times on the same hand that you count the big ones. Each second that you fully experience the moment are you laying the foundation for a magical minute, hour, day, week, month and year? We only get these minutes once in a lifetime, and hey I get it, they might not all be exactly what you dreamed of, but with the right perspective they make great days, great years, a great life! When that alarm clock sounds tomorrow morning just get out there and let your light shine, shine, shine!
i wanted to share one of my favorite irish jokes with you. it has been circulating for years, but always gives me a chuckle… cheers!
An Irishman walks into a bar in Dublin, orders three pints of Guinness and sits in the back of the room, drinking a sip out of each one in turn. When he finishes them, he comes back to the bar and orders three more. The bartender asks him, “You know, a pint goes flat after I draw it; it would taste better if you bought one at a time.”
The Irishman replies, “Well, you see, I have two brothers. One is in America, the other in Australia, and I’m here in Dublin. When we all left home, we promised that we’d drink this way to remember the days when we drank together.” The bartender admits that this is a nice custom, and leaves it there. The Irishman becomes a regular in the bar, and always drinks the same way: He orders three pints and drinks them in turn.
One day, he comes in and orders two pints. All the other regulars notice and fall silent. When he comes back to the bar for the second round, the bartender says, “I don’t want to intrude on your grief, but I wanted to offer my condolences on your great loss.”
“What do y’ mean?” says the Irishman.
“Only two pints… one of your brothers must have passed on.”
“No no no. My brothers are fine. I’ve just quit drinking.”