How I am finding signs and peace in this crazy world

“When someone you love dies, you are given the gift of "second chances". Their eulogy is a reminder that the living can turn their lives around at any point. You’re not bound by the past; that is who you used to be. You’re reminded that your feelings are not who you are, but how you felt at that moment. Your bad choices defined you yesterday, but they are not who you are today. Your future doesn’t have to travel the same path with the same people. You can start over. You don’t have to apologize to people that won’t listen. You don’t have to justify your feelings or actions, during a difficult time in your life. You don’t have to put up with people that are insecure and want you to fail. All you have to do is walk forward with a positive outlook, and trust that God has a plan that is greater than the sorrow you left behind. The people of quality that were meant to be in your life won’t need you to explain the beauty of your heart. They already understand what being human is----a roller coaster ride of emotions during rainstorms and sunshine, sprinkled with moments when you can almost reach the stars.”  -Shannon L. Alder

I am well aware that I myself am a terribly flawed person. Do not ever forget that, we are all incredibly flawed. I think that we, myself included, at times hold each other to a higher standard than we hold ourselves. We are less willing to forgive each other for our flaws and our weaknesses.

And then sometimes we are even too hard on ourselves, when it comes to forgiving.

I make a lot of mistakes. I am imperfect and broken, something I think that most of us can find to be unifying because we all likely have that in common. It is a large part of me, this imperfection and these mistakes. I pick myself back up from the ego-bruising falls, I brush off the dirt, I head out to make more inevitable blunders. It's a process that I'm quite sure will repeat itself as long as I live. I have made huge mistakes and I have made minor ones. I have made mistakes that have changed who I am as a person. I have made the kind of mistakes that have created an internal battlefield filled with exhausting fights to forgive myself and to move on.

I am more aware now than ever before of my flaws, of the pieces of me that I would like to modify and refine.

For example, I would like to listen more and talk less. I have never been good at this, at listening. I talk and I talk loudly and I talk when other people talk. I interrupt people and when I don't interrupt them, I find myself robotically thinking about what I will say in reply rather than listening to what they are saying.  It is one of my biggest flaws, something that perhaps I inherited or perhaps became a habit at a young age without my ever realizing it, something that comes naturally and is a fight to change. I want to be a listener, not a talker. So I am trying, and I am changing.

I read a book recently called "An Altar In The World: A Geography of Faith" by Barbara Brown Taylor. This is a follow up book to her first book, "Leaving Church". Barbara Brown Taylor is a professor of religion and was once a pastor in her church for something like 30 years. Essentially, this book is wonderful advice on finding God in the world everyday, outside of a church house, when you are a spiritual person who doesn't identify with a religion. It was fascinating and insightful and I loved every chapter.

One of my favorite parts in the book is when Barbara talks about the story of Jacob, you know the one, with his dream/vision of the angels and the ladder connecting heaven to earth. She says:

"Jacob woke while God's breath was still stirring the air, although he saw nothing out of the ordinary around him: same wilderness, same rocks, same sand. If someone had held a mirror in front of his face, Jacob would not have seen anything different there either, except for the circles of surprise in his eyes. 'Surely the Lord is in this place,' he said out loud, 'and I did not know it!' Shaken by what he had seen, he could not seem to stop talking. 'How awesome is this place! The gate of heaven!'

..Since the spiritual practice of vision is waking up to the presence of God and God is everywhere, the spiritual practice of vision is waking up to the reality of God everywhere.

...I can set a little altar, in the world or in my heart. I can stop what I am doing long enough to see where I am, who I am there with, and how awesome the place is. I can flag one more gate to heaven-one more patch of earth with ladder marks on it-where the divine traffic is heavy when I notice it and even when I do not.

I can see it for once, instead of walking right past it. ...Earth is so thick with divine possibility that it is a wonder we can walk anywhere without cracking our shins on altars." 

Since James died, I am always searching for signs. I am laying on the ground in a pool of blood from a wound so tender and raw and I am begging for signs the way a victim desperately begs a murderer for their life. I want to know he is out there, I need to know he is okay. I want it to be true so badly, him being okay now. And so I watch for him. I watch for him, and I watch for God, and I search the horizon for opportunity and understanding and peace. I open my front door and I hang a big bold sign that says WELCOME, please come in!

But it came to my attention recently, and rather quite abruptly, that I am a walking contradiction.

All along I have been saying welcome!, but then I would turn around and shut my front door. I was begging for signs, but then I would walk with my head down so that I could not see anything around me.

I was distracted.

I became aware that a large portion of these distractions were made by spreading myself thin between too many outlets. I deleted some social media apps on my phone and I reminded myself of how terribly unimportant they are, these petty things that take up time distracting me all day long in place of the important things, in place of possibility and potential for altars and signs and God.

I have grown to really dislike this little box of distractions they call a phone. There is black, and then there is white. There is peace, and then there are interruptions. My iPhone can be much like waking up rudely at six o'clock in the morning on a Saturday to the loud drilling of construction outside your window. My iPhone is full of interruptions, loud beeping tractors and churning cement trucks and ground shaking drilling rigs that impede on beautiful weekend morning sleep.

And I am full of what ifs. What if I would have had a dream? What if I would have had a dream with answers, or meaning, or comfort, or even just a dream of lovely things that I wouldn't otherwise have seen, but yet because of the loud construction, I missed out on that dream? The dream that could have been? And what if the dream was saying to me, STOP HOPING FOR A DREAM AND THEN SLEEPING NEXT TO A WINDOW OF CONSTANT CONSTRUCTION FOR PETE'S SAKE.

Do you know what I mean?

So my new rule was to clear it out and put it down. I deleted the unnecessary and chose to keep the couple of outlets that I find beneficial to my passions and even my sanity. Then I decided to make a further change by constantly telling myself: put it down.

When I pick up my phone to browse while I am waiting in line for my food, waiting in line at the store, waiting in the car for my husband. When I am sitting next to the bathtub while the boys bathe. When I am sitting on the patio drinking my morning jo. When I am mindlessly munching on lunch. I stop myself, and I put it down.

And when I put it down, in its place I find the lovely things that I have been missing out on. I find that I can learn a lot through watching people, like genuine patience and compassion while watching the man in front of me take ten minutes to choose a brownie flavor at lunch. I can make new friends in line at the grocery store and talk with the young cashier about her hard day. I can step outside of the car while I am waiting for my husband and sit in the shade beneath a tree to watch a butterfly land beside me. I can blow bubbles or draw words in the shaving cream with my boys, stopping every now and again to kiss their soapy-bath-water-dampened cheeks.

And then I can set a time, a specific time, for the outlets I might need on that phone. And only at that time do I pick it up to become a mindless drone for a short period, where I can surf and post and find a dose of inspiration or photo-journaling or whatever it is I feel the need to do.

It has been like picking up a pair of glasses and realizing those green blobs in the distance are in fact mountains. It has opened my eyes to what is around me.

And it's not just that. It's not just my phone. There were other things that were taking down my welcome sign. Like how I am often much too hard on myself. I realized one day how very counterproductive it was to my current fight with depression, being so hard on myself. So just like that I decided to stop it, and to be kind to me. I gave myself a pep talk. I said, listen here self! I am flawed and I make mistakes. Sometimes I am obnoxious and sometimes I am not my own favorite person, let alone anyone else's favorite person, but I will not let guilt take over me. I will forgive myself for my faults and I WILL LOVE MYSELF ANYWAY.

I deleted my fitness tracker, the one that tells me and everyone else how fast I ran and how far I biked and how often I did both. Now, when I run, I run for me. I don't worry about how far I am going or how fast, I don't think about an upcoming race or my weight or my skill level, but rather, I focus on the feeling of my breath. I listen to my heart beating. I watch the birds flying in and out of branches above me. I stop at the creek and sit on the dirt bank where I can watch the cold river water flowing gracefully over and under rocks, where a cutthroat trout jumps from an eddy to my right, flipping sideways in the air to show off his brilliant shine before he plops back into the water and lets the stream carry him onward. I walk when I want to think and I run when I want to push myself, and I let myself be here while I enjoy everything that this moment has to offer me.

If I want a cookie, or three cookies, or a big bowl of popcorn, I will eat it without any worry of the softer stomach that is taking up residence beneath my shirt. I do not need a six pack of abs. What I need is contentment, and I do not find that in avoiding indulgence and criticizing my stomach. Life is so very short to feel anything badly about our bodies. So I eat sugar when it appeals to me, and I will not be sorry for that.

But I also listen to my body when my stomach churns or my face breaks out, my body telling me to cool it on the sugar, and I stop eating sugar again until I feel better. Because my body generally knows best, so I listen. And I will not be sorry for that either.

I practice yoga. I take my mat and meet my sisters beneath the mountains, where we follow along with my sister's routine beneath the sunrise that is soaking our faces, welcoming the day. I can't touch my toes but I can hold a tree pose and a headstand. I feel strong and beautiful and I know that I need this in my life, slow paced yoga beneath the sunrise. So I find any opportunity I can, without fear for anyone watching, and I do yoga. Outside or inside, morning or night. I bring it into my life.

It is all a work in progress, but I think I am doing something right because my welcome! sign is hanging up at my wide open front door and I am letting everything in. Things and people and moments that otherwise would have stood at the closed door unseen. All of these new people I am gaining the chance to meet and love when they cross my path, if even just for that minute, never to be seen again. All of these beautiful observations I am gaining the chance to see with my eyes and not let pass me by. Signs! God! My brother! My family! New books and mother earth and memories made with my littles. And all of this simplicity and extra slowed down time I am gaining by losing all of these distracting distractions.

It is all a work in progress.

It has become more clear to me this year than ever before in my life how much I need simplicity, how much I need to quiet down and listen

I am trying. I am refining and growing and it is not easy, it has not been easy! All I can say is I am trying. Thank you for being patient with me. I am just broken and flawed and trying. I bet we have that in common, me and you.

Happy Thursday morning and cheers to simplicity! Let's open our doors today. It's a big world out there filled with things we need to see.



  1. When you posted about Barbara Brown Taylor's book the other day, I looked it up and ended up buying her book about darkness. I am a third of the way through and it is so good. I want to read the one you just read too. As for the rest of your post ... so much YES!! To all of it! Simplifying matters and I'm trying so hard to do it too.

  2. Oooh I should read that one too! She writes beautifully doesn't she? So very inspiring.