Where Does Strength Come From?

apple-tree-print

“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.”  ~Louise Erdrich, The Painted Drum LP

“You’re a strong woman,” I’ve heard too many times. I honestly don’t know what strong means. People are people. We are all making our way.

I don’t see strength or weakness. I see humanness.

I don’t see broken people. I see moments of falling apart before the coming together begins again for the zillionth time.

I see life.

Perhaps what I have is a unique perspective? Maybe we have the same one?

Some say that strength comes when you believe…in God, a Higher Power, etc. I possess that knowledge, but that alone doesn’t strengthen me.

I believe my strength comes from a Knowledge of God’s character…at least the beginning of an understanding: I have a desire to know why things are the way they are and what’s LOVE got to do with it anyways? I have found a way that makes sense to me and makes sense of life.

I no longer feel like life happens to me or even for me as if my job is just to show up and make the best of it.

In other words, I’m not a victim.

Believe what you will about your life, but that’s my truth.

I believe we were all given the opportunity to see the intricate patterns of intersecting lives before we were born. I believe we understood what we were coming to and saw how the perfect people and situations would come into our lives to be our teachers. We knew they would  give us opportunities to practice the many faces of love. We saw how so many people’s choices would appear random, but would actually be miniscule and necessary parts of a larger tapestry that was, is, and always will be a beautiful work of art. We agreed that experiencing a life was the only way to understand. I believe that we also understood completely that even though there is one goal – understanding and growing into the love of God – there are as many paths as there are people.

I’ve come to the conclusion (aka  “the truth”) after watching patterns outside of myself trigger patterns inside of me that I’m the author of my life. I’m a co creator of it with God, and it’s creation started long before I was born. My life is the manifestation of sacred agreements designed out of my awareness of my desire to understand how and why God thinks and acts as a god thinks and acts, and to put myself in situations where I could figure that out. My only weakness is my humanness, and my only strength is found in my ability to find love (God) everywhere.

Love is an incredible subject to study. Everyone has issues with many parts of it. But we can all be masters of it when we use our life’s moments of uncertainty, disappointments, cruelty, meanness, as well as moments of joy, happiness, ease, and peace as tools to learn more about this enabling power. I have found that ofttimes that is the only good choice I have – the only one that frees me from despair and cyclical blame and complaining.

My lessons in love have taken me down paths mostly of self-love.

The prerequisite to that course is coming to terms with how your life choices reflect the amount of self-love you’ve mastered. I can love (see the godliness) in anyone. That’s not hard for me. What’s hard is understanding the strength of love for self  that is required to walk away from anything and anyone as a gift (of love) to them as well as myself – when too much collateral damage stares you in the face and refuses to move – when you have to stand in that place that can’t deny any longer that this is one of the faces of love that  God has mastered and patiently waits for all of His children to understand – boundaries.

Sometimes love isn’t all that pretty. But it’s always kind. I’ve learned that I’ve made excellent choices to put myself right in the middle of what I refused to believe was true. I say I had no idea because of my innocence or ignorance, but the truth is I have needed the experiences I’ve been through to know what I now know. So, I’m kinder when I look back now. I say, “Good job! Now move on!”

In all of my experiences I’ve learned a basic truth about love:  I truly feel stronger and like a better version of myself when I know I’m loved for the person I am in the world. I don’t mean the generic love that’s cast like a wide net over humanity. I mean the looking deep into my soul kind of thing that says, “I know you. You’re cool. I wouldn’t change a thing about you because I know you have that handled. Wanna go for a walk?”  kind of love. Lao Tzu put it plainly:

“Being loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”

Yes, I’m all over the place with this one. I know. But if you take anything away, take this: you are not a victim. You are a student. You chose your curriculum and teachers. Have fun with it and don’t forget lunch and recess. Find someone to love because it make the journey better.

I Loved You First

It’s dark when I wake up. I mean that in more ways than one.

I feel his whispers in the darkness and I open to his love that is nudging me to let him in. A familiar energy slips itself inside of me. Joy. I’m what we call alive, whereas moments before I was living elsewhere, dreaming.

Another day full of minutes and hours remembering him awaits. I look for evidence of him everywhere, all day long.

I feel him on the floor beneath my feet and drop to my knees to thank him for the ground I walk on.

I walk into the hallway and hear him in the soft thudding of eight little kitten feet trying to catch up with me, and he reminds me as I switch on the hallway light that he’s always there, following me around, illuminating beauty and truth as it shows up in things like the stairs I am about to descend.

I see evidence of his visit the night before strewn across the living room, and as I put the chaos back in order I hear his giggles and see his joy played out on couch cushions and rugs rearranged to make ramps and forts.

The kitchen smiles back at me, and in a shared sigh shows me all that was done for my family. He was there in every bite and swallow, glad to fill bellies large and small, making sure that crumbs were left for the tiniest creatures to enjoy at their leisure.

In the quiet I make room for him beside me in my comfy chair next to purring babies. I feel him fill me up and strengthen me as I tie broken thoughts to the ends of their beginnings that dangle from heaven. They will anchor me in his love before the waves and the whirlwinds catch me off guard.

And then he sends me the sun – the crowning moment of new beginnings. And as the rays of light meet my gaze through the bay window, there is an exchange – one that I must understand and remember if my day will be meaningful and happy:

“I am the source of all light, God says, whether it be from the sun that warms the ground you walk on and dig in to sustain life, or the light that is in hope and joy. I am in the dark clouds and stormy days. I’m always there. See me first before anything else and you will never be alone in the world. I’ll wrap my arms around you and share the journey with you like nobody else. That is why I gave you the morning – to remind you that I loved you first. Thank you for remembering me. Carry on.”

Happy Valentine’s Day tomorrow!

God DNA

I woke up at 3 am this morning because my new little kitties willed it to be so.

I walked through the darkness and made my way downstairs as they followed. I was on automatic again, doing my routine stuff when I opened the bathroom door and there they sat waiting for me. They looked up at me with big green eyes and I stopped and looked back at them. We made our way to my overstuffed chair in the living room and got comfortable – Onyx at my neck, Noir curled up at my feet. I listened as the slow purring started and immediately melted into the day. What a gift they have become. A gift of awakening in many ways. Their presence opened up my heart and gave me a few thoughts to share with you:

What if today you knew who you really were, where you came from, and what would make you feel connected and alive?

What if everything inside you shifted and your eyes were opened to see things as they really are…who YOU are?

What if you found a way to never be shaken from your center again – to feel so secure in the world that no matter the strength of the whirlwind circling you, you felt steadfast and immoveable even if you had to sit still with arms wrapped tightly around bruised knees, sitting on cold ground every once in a while?

I feel that way all the time.

I have a knowing inside that tells me I have “God DNA” and so do you. I’m made of the same stuff and come from the same place as joy and light and love. I am connected to all things and everyone as you are, too.

My gift is that I know it.

The ocean, the trees, the wind – they all know me, I think better than I know myself. I can feel it. On my walks or swims or even driving, when I open my spiritual eyes – the ones that have a veil over them that I have to consciously part – the world becomes a different and more real place. Everything in it is a teacher, a friend, a gift that reminds me of who I really am and why I’m here. I remember how precious and perfect each moment is, how incredible and unique every soul I meet or pass by is, and that I can deepen my joy as I choose to experience all of it as the spirit whispers how.

My challenge is that I forget that sometimes and I’m not sure how that happens. Maybe it’s supposed to be that way so that I’ll treasure remembering?

But when I remember, I feel it again. I feel the life in life. I see the beauty in the simple things. I once again know who I am.

And heaven smiles.

What If Today… You Understood Freedom of Choice?

unknown photographer

There were so many people there, and they were all as different and special as the next. Each was engaged in studying something. Some were flitting from one thing to the next, excited by the discoveries they were making, anxious to apply them in physical form. All things had to be learned spiritually first. That they knew. But someday they’d be born and have that chance. For “now” – even though forever doesn’t have a now and then – they were absorbing whatever it was that they were attracted to.

“That’s how it works,” He whispered, noticing my wondering about how freedom and choice and individuality came together to form a life – then and now.

“I know,” I said. “But how will I remember that and not blame you or thank you for things that you didn’t do?”

Freedom to choose, he said, was an eternal principle. It doesn’t get activated at birth. It has always existed. If that weren’t so, then everyone could blame God for things because he would have chosen for them, assuming that he knew better. Of course he would know better, they’d argue! He’s God! Well, he said. I trust my children more than you trust each other or me. I understand how spiritual growth works and why. It’s wrapped up in freedom and light.

I sat and reflected on what I’d witnessed forever, ’cause a lot goes on in the eternities before you’re born. You see a lot of patterns unfold, and I saw some that were starting to make sense.

Betsy, he interrupted, why do you like the things that you like – dancing, drawing, writing, swimming? Did I plant those “likes” in your heart? Am I responsible for those gifts, talents, loves? Or could it be that I am actually just watching you and supporting and guiding you? What’s your role in the acquisition of  and growth in those things?

There was a common thread, or ingredient, I had to admit, in all of my experiences there – light and the freedom to move toward it or away from it. Whenever I was attracted to something it was because I was either searching for the light in it or it was calling to me with a brightness that connected to my heart – I felt joy with and in the expression of it in such a way that I stayed with the study and mastery of it in its spiritual form.

The things that I couldn’t understand – things whose light was less discernible by me and more difficult to understand, I’d study here on Earth because everything was important even if I couldn’t understand it. I’d started my education of things like compassion, forgiveness, worry, doubt, fear and the many faces of love there and then, and I’d search out ways to continue that education here and now. God’s only role was and continues to be supporter and guide towards the light of the truth of those things.

I find him when I find the light because he stands still in it. He’s steadfast and immoveable. It’s that simple. I’m not compelled to learn by loved ones’ suffering, natural disasters, illness, or financial struggles. My one and only “lesson” is to see the light of God in all of those experiences so that I can feel peace and love in them regardless of the outcome. I’m the one who started those lessons and they dissolve peacefully as soon as I see the light in them – when the part of them that has light in it becomes a part of me – when I have no need to resist it anymore.

When it comes to talents and gifts, I know that I’m responsible for those, too. I wasn’t given a basket full of things that God thought would do me well to try on and play with that didn’t fit my nature. He knew that only I could do that. He knew that by not getting in the way of my freedom to choose to follow what I’m attracted to was the only way for me to learn to find pure joy. It could not be forced on me or on anyone else. That way there would be room for  applause for my brothers and sisters as they remembered and continued their studies here on Earth – there wouldn’t be any jealousy or comparing. There would be no desire for any of that because I’d be so in love with who I am, what I love and the freedom to spend my time uncovering truth, light, and God in everything that I’d be too happy.

With that perspective I’d be comfortable with who I am and the life I’m choosing (complete with problems that are the ones that I chose to get a master’s degree in!) and be a better cheerleader for my brothers and sisters.

*****

maybe this is good example, maybe not….you decide:

James and Kenny were playing a video game and the competition was getting heated. Kenny is three years older than James, but he’s also very attracted to everything that games offer whether they be in the form of videos or sports. James can’t keep up with him half the time, but what’s funny is that he doesn’t really care. He just really loves hanging out with his brother.

The “problem” is that Kenny needs to “win”. He’s a finisher. He’ll work on the skills related to sports and games until he’s so frustrated I think he’s going to pop. But the joy that emanates from his face when he finally succeeds is overwhelming. That, whatever it is, is one of Kenny’s gifts or talents. Nobody gave him that gift. You can tell that it comes from a spiritual place by the look in his eyes when he gets lost in what he’s doing.

“My teacher said that no one should win -that it’s better to play and have fun. So, James, let’s just play. NO LOSERS!”

I was drawing in the dining room and I couldn’t help myself.  I didn’t know if I was right or wrong, but something in Kenny’s statement rubbed me the wrong way  – he was stifling his gift to make someone else (James) feel better, so I jumped in, “No! That’s the thrill of the game, Kenny! Someone has to win and someone will lose. But here’s the fun part: the loser gets to clap for the winner! They get to be happy for him and then play a little harder themselves!”

I wasn’t sure how they took what I’d said, but they were quietly playing and I went back to drawing.

Seconds later James squealed, “You did it Kenny! You won!”

Kenny smiled and laughed, “Yeah! I’m really good at this game.”

“Yeah, you are.”

*****

And God watched, listened, and smiled with them. Kenny was comfortable with something he loved and James was loving him as James has a gift for doing. Someone just had to see and point out the light of the truth for them and it unfolded naturally.

They could have chosen a different way ’cause that’s the way freedom is.

This time they chose light….and it really made a difference.

Moral of the story ( there are many more, but I’ll get you started): Play your game full-out. You chose it.

What Do You Need to Be Happy?

“Your friend is your needs answered,”~ Khalil Gibran

I don’t know why he did it, You’d have to track him down and ask him. I’d crossed the stream, stretched out on a rock to relax in the sun and fell asleep. I woke to a passionate kiss from the lead guide, Charlie.

“Wake up Sleeping Beauty. It’s time to go.” I was shocked and amused at the same time. I watched him walk away, grinning from ear to ear. He had barely said a word to me the entire trip. He had no idea how I was struggling with being a skinny and shy dancer who didn’t know where her place was in the world. That kiss was never repeated, but it woke me up in a way that nothing else could have at that time.

I believe that God knew Charlie’s playful nature and my need to feel whatever it was I needed to feel, and created a moment of healing for me.

That’s the way life has always worked for me: people bring the gift of who they are to my life and we both grow. And God sits back and watches. I think he’s as easily entertained as I am.

Five days later I was sitting in the back seat crying. I’d spent the best week of my life camping in Utah’s canyons and I was on my way back to civilization. The memory of how I felt on that drive is vivid because it is attached to this song. Whenever I hear it I go back to a simpler time.

I don’t know why I woke in the middle of the night last night, remembering that week. Perhaps I’d triggered the memory by my earlier reflecting about what makes me happy and feel fulfilled. Maybe it was Kenny’s daydreaming about the upcoming county fair that he’s so excited about. His happiness, he believes, is waiting for him there.

I searched this memory for the answer to what makes me happy? What do I need?

It seems like such an easy question. You know? But life can hide the real answer sometimes, and going back to our hearts can be difficult because hearts don’t lie. And realizing how far one might have traveled off a true path can be confronting.

I was quiet back then and I don’t remember talking much. But I remember how I felt.

Secure.

Alive.

Humble.

Happy.

Peaceful.

What was it that made me feel those things?

It wasn’t a big fancy house – I slept in a tent on the ground. I don’t remember feeling uncomfortable. I loved rolling to the tent door in my sleeping bag and looking up at the stars. Unobscured by city lights, they danced and twinkled silently, reminding me of how small I am in the universe and yet how significant I am at the same time.

It wasn’t a car – I walked with a 40 lb. pack on my back over rough terrain in very hot sun. I don’t remember feeling tired, although I must have been. The scenery was just so inspiring.

It wasn’t gourmet meals – I ate what a poor college student could afford; I’d packed peanut butter sandwiches, apples and oranges. That made for a very bulky and needlessly heavy pack, but it was all I had. And I ate like a queen ’cause I was hungry and grateful.

It wasn’t beautiful clothes or well-done make-up – I had no mirror to assess how I looked and I washed in mountain streams ever day to remove caked on sweat and dust. I was liberated in a funny way. Everyone was more beautiful.

It wasn’t parties with food, drink and merriment – there was a nightly campfire where we sat and reminisced about the day, life or nothing at all as we readied our minds and bodies for bed.

It wasn’t Charlie and his kiss, although it was magnificent, and made me realize how much I love kisses! – it was knowing that I was loved and enjoyed because I radiated more than my skinny body showed….I connected heart to heart with people who’d been strangers days earlier.

There was no music, television or books to read. No distractions. Just me, nature, and new friends.

If I could put into words what made me cry on my way back to the dorms and college life, it was that I’d reconnected with God for the first time since I was a child and was going to miss that. I’d awakened in the desert and knew instinctively that I was returning to a spiritual desert of sorts.

I hadn’t a clue how to live my life and stay connected to God and people in meaningful and lasting ways without literally retreating from the world.

And that made me so sad.

I’m a lot older and wiser now, and I really do know what makes me happy and how to feel connected to God (and people) all the time. I have a very strong relationship with him and never feel alone or misunderstood, in need, or lacking in any way. I’ve come to understand that ingratitude and lack of joys is a reflection on the health of my soul.

My one and only need is deep and meaningful connections to God and people.

What makes me happy?

I do. Me. And you do, too. I truly believe that God leads people into my life to meet my needs and theirs even if I don’t understand why or how or for how long..

My joy isn’t a reflection of what or how much I have, it’s a reflection of how full I feel and how willing I am to share myself with others in my path.

You?

🙂

Enthusiasm…God Within Us

“Nothing is so contagious as enthusiasm; it moves stones, it charms brutes. Enthusiasm is the genius of sincerity, and truth accomplishes no victories without it.” ~ Edward Bulwer-Lytton

Sometimes God speaks, grabbing you by the heart and mind, and takes you on wonderful journeys where you start at one end of the rainbow and end up at the pot of gold.

I was upset. (Translation: I had a problem that I needed to solve.)

Driving to get my mom to take her to work, trying to avoid potholes while sorting through thoughts fueled by recent upsetting events, one thought stuck: Betsy, you need your own car. I almost dismissed it because I felt like one for the family was enough and the only two cars I’ve ever desired were impractical – a red Ford 1950’s pick-up truck, and a Volkswagen Bug.

Impression #2: Why don’t you just drive through the lot? It’s on the way to your mom’s anyways.

Five minutes later, I drove in one end, completely bored with the cars that were sitting there, made the turn left to the exit, satisfied that I’d tried, and…there it was. My yellow VW Beetle!

I jumped out of the car, ran inside, and talked to Mike about it, making him promise to hide it in the woods so that no one would buy it before I could come back with some money. Problem was I had no money. What was I doing car shopping?!!

However, what I lacked in my pocketbook I made up for with enthusiasm! And that, my friends is a necessary ingredient in all deals, large and small. Without it there has to be a lot of convincing. With it miracles happen.

I brought my mom back and we sat down with Mike and another young man, Mike’s assistant, and listened to the details of the car, none of which I heard because I was in love and had found my car – one I’d held out for my whole life! You see, I’ve never bought a car for myself.

Two weeks later, with money borrowed from my mom, a lot of laughs with Mike, and delayed paperwork patiently waited for and signed, my car is sitting in my driveway.

Want to hear the funniest part of this whole adventure?

I don’t know how to drive a standard! And it’s a standard!

So, what did I learn?

I felt the distinct impression of an important new direction to take in my life accompanied by an undeniable enthusiasm that entertained and overcame all doubt as I moved forward. I had doubts and almost backed out of the deal a few times, especially when there were delays and enthusiasm waned.

But when those doubts surfaced I remembered the ride to my mom’s and the flow of events and feelings that culminated in seeing my little car, waiting for me in the lot. Because I wasn’t looking for just any car, but was specific in what I knew would amount to a “meant to be” for me, I knew it when I saw it, and there was no denying the feelings.

The enthusiasm I felt that day has always accompanied “right” decisions in my journeys. It feels as if the conduit between Heaven and me is open, pouring energy into me that bubbles out in laughter and positive thinking / acting and lights up everyone in it’s path.

Things, big things, get done when enthusiasm is present.

One good thought will lead you one step at a time toward what you want, even if you’ve forgotten what that is.

Your heart knows what you want. You just have to trust it and have some fun. There is nothing in the world that compares to the feeling of inspiration that moves you faster than your little legs can carry it, or that makes you speak so fast that people have to ask you to slow down and explain, but you’re too revved up to make any sense.

 You never know when it’ll hit, but you’ll feel it. And it’s not the kind of thing you wish or search for. It’s just there. You know it when you feel it.

It’s too big for your body but makes you feel completely alive.

Such is God.

I have to thank my mom and a few other friends who encouraged me and shared this life-changing event with me. This was a hard decision to make because,,,well, it was new. And new is hard.

See my car?! This is the view from my living room window. I think I’ll name him Sunshine!

20130703_053237 (1)

When Life Is Cruel…

Forgiveness is the final form of love.” ~ Reinhold Niebuhr

How do you deal with disappointment, sadness, cruelty? Mostly, those are foreign feelings to me. Or, at least I don’t let them hang around my neck and pull me down.

I get mad,

I vent,

I cry.

Then I forgive myself…

for being human.

Then I pull up any and all anchors and float away. I go deep into nothingness where no thoughts can reach me. I feel, and feel, and feel some more. By myself, but not alone. While adrift I talk to God. He listens to me and comforts me. I tell Him everything. He doesn’t say much, but He always smiles and loves me. He shows me what others left for Him. Some of these, Betsy, He says, are caused by you. I stare in disbelief. He shows me those things to help me to understand that everyone will hurt and be hurt. But only those who are willing to pull up anchor and go out into the deep will find the truth.

The truth is that the pain has to go somewhere. If it stays in me it’ll search for others to hurt. It’ll grow as it feeds off of the pain it creates in others. However, the whole truth is that I will be its first target.  It’ll turn inward first and do a lot of damage to my well-being with my subconscious permission. It’ll manifest in self-abuse through addictions and behaviors that do anything but heal.

I know through experience that nobody can hurt me more than I can hurt myself.

Knowing that awful truth as well, He begs me to leave my wounds out in the deep before I turn back to face my journey back through the nothingness.

He tells me, in fact, that they were His all along anyways –  that He bought them from me a long time ago. I wonder how that is? But I believe Him and reluctantly let go of a part of me as if it never was. He assures me that I’ll always remember, and that the remembering is a gift to me as well. He wants me to remember the choice I made to let it go – to forgive others and myself for the parts we played, and to move on.

When I return I’m a different person. I’m weak, humbled, and very vulnerable – more aware of what it means to be human in a sometimes cruel world.

And when I look around with dry eyes and patched up heart I see beauty and love.

May you see it, too.