Sunday, November 10, 2019

Sunday Sunshine: Feel Peace

Life can be rather a stressful experience. There are all kinds of reasons to feel stressed. As a culture, we thrive more and more on conflict -- with others and with ourselves.

It seems these days that people tend to like feeling stressed and conflicted. We surely talk (or tweet or post) a lot about those things that make us feel that way. We zip about quickly, trying to do too much. We don't take good care of ourselves. At the end of the day, we're exhausted and spent and perhaps even a bit lonely as we isolate ourselves from others, hidden behind our electronic devices.

Tomorrow is Veterans Day in the United States. As those of us who live in America reflect on the men and women who have heroically served our country and continue to do so around the globe, let's also take a few moments to pause and express gratitude to them -- perhaps through your thoughts and prayers, perhaps through your words and actions. Think healing thoughts of peace for them.

Then, think about how you can diffuse the stressful, conflicted moments in your own life so that you feel grateful, connected and at peace. Once you feel that sense of peace, be generous with it. Spread it around so that when others feel stressed or conflicted, they'll feel your peaceful energy and find that they, too, can live in such a wonderful state.

Today, this week: Feel peace. Spread peace. Live peace. Be peace.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

The Quiet Grace of Gratitude

"What would you do if you woke up tomorrow morning and all you had is what you thanked God for yesterday?" That message, which landed on my Facebook timeline several months ago, made me pause as it reminded me of the quiet grace of gratitude.

Gratitude isn't showy, bossy or bold. Gratitude is a quiet state of knowing, a peaceful place of blessing. 

Gratitude seems to be the perfect theme for November, a month marked by not only the American holiday of Thanksgiving, but also the quieting of nature. After the vibrant colors of summer followed by the crayon box of brilliant hues in October, November arrives appropriately in shades of tan and taupe. With it comes the opportunity to pause, to soak up the silence and to be grateful -- even to be grateful for making time to be grateful.

As human beings, our wants are often greater than our needs. When we pause and reflect on our blessings, both large and small, grand and everyday, immediate and evergreen, everything changes. When we're grateful, we often find that what we have is enough. There is a quiet peace in having that deep knowing that it is all enough, there is no need for more, what we have is already blessing.

As I joined three others from my church at an out-of-state conference last year, our pastor led us in prayer before we embarked on our road trip and before each meal. It didn't matter if we were at a fast-food restaurant or taking our sandwich with us in the car, she made sure that we spent a moment in reflection and prayer that always included the words "thank you."

One of those pre-meal reflections was based on a tradition in her household where those dining together share something aloud for which they are grateful that day. I found, as I always do, that when I am forced to think about my blessings, they seem to bubble up in such abundance that naming one blessing isn't sufficient.

As a child, our family's meal prayer consisted of these lovely words: "Thank you for the world so sweet. Thank you for the food we eat. Thank you for the birds that sing. Thank you, God, for everything."

I haven't said that prayer for a long time, but its words are affixed to my childhood memories and I realize that I should say them more often. As I look at those 26 words now, I see that they say it all. The prayer focuses on the good that surrounds us and is inside of us, the magnificence found in the details of the natural world, the blessing of having food to nourish our bodies, and the realization that everything, everything is blessing.

Everything is blessing. Everything.

As an adult, I often experience overwhelming feelings of gratitude. Those feelings are likely fueled by the daily conditioning I do of naming three things for which I'm grateful upon awakening and then repeating the practice before I fall asleep at night. The act of framing my day in gratitude affects my perspective all day long.

How do you experience the quiet grace of gratitude? Take a cue from the gentle shades of November and sit quietly, if only for a few moments each day, to express your thanks. Everything is blessing. Everything. May you feel blessed today and every day.

Sunday Sunshine: Count Your Blessings

When the alarm clock rings, what are your first thoughts? Do you think about what you're going to wear? Do you worry that you might have overslept? Are you in a hurry? In a fog? Do you feel excited for the new day? Or do you feel a sense of dread? Or, perhaps even worse, a sense of resignation that the day will be the "same old, same old"?

What if you turned your mornings inside out and upside down until they were right side up by expressing your gratitude? That's right! Try being thankful at the start of your new day. How might your day, how might everything look if you chose to view it through the lens of gratitude?

At the end of the day, repeat the process. As you place your head on the pillow and get ready to relax, rest and renew, spend a few moments naming your blessings. Chances are you'll even sleep better. 

It's amazing what a little dose of gratitude can do. Try it! A grateful heart makes all of your hours a gift.

Today, this week: Spend time each morning and each evening counting your blessings. 

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Sunday Sunshine: YOU Are Sunshine!

During a string of rainy days, I got to the point where I felt as if the sunshine was never going to return again. Although I don't think of myself as being negatively affected by the weather for very long, I have to admit that the day-after-day experience of slate skies and downpours was affecting my happiness.

The rainy days will come--perhaps as just one day of drizzle or perhaps as an extended period of torrents--in your life. But, no matter the weather, no matter the circumstances in your life, you have the ability, you hold the power to rise above the rain to a place of blue skies. 

You hold those blue skies inside of you at all times. You hold a place of sunshine inside of you always. You are light. You can bring that light to yourself at any time. And you can share it with others and be the light for them, too.

Today, this week: Spread sunshine, no matter the weather. Be light.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Sunday Sunshine: Let Your Joy Burst Forth

At this time of year, when we often experience an abundance of blue skies and brightly colored landscapes that wear their favorite fall colors, there is a joy in the air. The bright colors bring a loveliness to our days and uplift our spirits.

We can take a cue from nature. We can bring joy--a feeling of blue skies and brightness--to ourselves and others every single day, regardless of the season or the weather.

It's much easier to be joyful than it is to be dispirited. And when we focus on joy, more of it seems to come into our lives, as if our joy attracts even more joy!

Today, this week: Let your joy burst forth, bringing loveliness to your day and to those around you.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Sunday Sunshine: Plan, Plan, Plan

Plan, plan, plan. You have daily to-do lists, work goals, projects at home. It seems as if you're always in a state of planning, thinking ahead, preparing for the future.

Sometimes, however, your plans get derailed. 

It’s during those times of derailment when you would benefit from pressing "pause," considering your reality, and then redirecting your thoughts and actions. 

When you flow with the newness that's been thrust upon you (contrary to your best-laid plans!) —and the opportunities that can come from the unexpected, you can find blessing. Those blessings can lead to satisfying, new directions that weren't even on your radar when you were busy keeping your head down planning.

Today, this week: Make your plans, but also leave space for the unexpected that may take you into satisfying, new directions you could never have imagined.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Make a Harvest of Memories

Although I'm a self-proclaimed "spring" person, I have a deep appreciation for all four of the beautiful seasons we experience here in Wisconsin. Each season has its own distinctive characteristics. Autumn in Wisconsin is a treat to all of the senses, from the palette of fall colors splashing the countryside to the taste of crisp apples and acorn squash to the scent of dry leaves as they swish and crackle underfoot. 

As a little girl, I collected brightly colored maple leaves each fall, placing them between sheets of wax paper and then nesting them between the voluminous pages of Sears Roebuck, J.C. Penney and Montgomery Ward catalogs to flatten and preserve the leaves before they became brittle and curled. 

We lived in the country, so a Sunday drive to take in the fall color was never necessary. All we had to do was look out of our living room or kitchen windows to see breathtaking views of autumn's finery. I got to see that beauty every weekday on the school bus as we rode through valleys and up hills, picking up and dropping off child after child to and from school.

Recess time at our quaint, old elementary school was meant for building forts, homes and castles out of fallen leaves, letting our imaginations soar with the possibilities that piles of leaves could create. 

Fall was the time to walk up the hill behind our dear neighbor, Elsie's, big farm house and pick low-hanging pears off of the trees heavy with fruit. I recall indulging in too many of our pickings one year and getting a belly ache for my efforts. 

And speaking of fruit of the season, it wouldn't be autumn in our neighborhood when I was growing up without several trips to Ski Hi Fruit Farm up the road from where we lived. The orchard is located high on a hill overlooking the Baraboo Bluffs. The owners of the orchard, Art and Olga Bassett and their children, Betty and Phil, were wonderful neighbors and dear friends. The apples they grew were always a treat -- and they still are today. My mom favored Macouns, so our home always had an ample supply of them. When I eat a Macoun apple from Ski Hi these days, I'm immediately transported back in time to when I wore knee socks and dresses to school and my mom and I would make a treat of sliced Macoun apples and popcorn every Sunday night for dinner when my dad was away for his work.

As a child, going trick-or-treating on Halloween was a safe endeavor. We'd drive into town with our neighbors, stopping at the homes of several of their family members and our friends, for the annual adventure. I didn't need to receive lots of candy, only enough to consider it a treat. My Halloween costumes varied from homemade versions of cheerleader uniforms to store-bought versions of Cleopatra. 

October also meant carving pumpkins -- nothing fancy, just triangular eyes and nose and a toothy grin. Jack-o-lanterns with a candle stuck inside of them always created a happy pumpkin-face glow.

Now that October is here, I dedicate a little time to recalling fond memories of Octobers past. I also relish all that October in Wisconsin has to offer today. Autumn is at its peak. So spend some time outdoors savoring the season and this month of harvest and riotous color. Enjoy the many simple pleasures that October has to offer: Swish through dry leaves. Tuck a few of them between the pages of a book to save for later enjoyment. Visit an apple orchard. Try your hand at carving a pumpkin. Delight young trick-or-treaters by wearing a costume when you hand out Halloween candy. 

October is a celebration for children and for the child in each of us whose youth is in the rear-view mirror. Indulge and enjoy! Make a harvest of memories during this glorious, glorious month.