Monday, October 31, 2011

Marshmallow Time

Sometimes life should not be so darn hard. I know it is up to me to make whatever choices I need in order to bring about the changes that need to be made, but sometimes it is as simple as taking a time-out to roast marshmallows over the coals of a fire. That is what I did today. It's not summertime and I wasn't sitting around a campfire. I had been out for a run earlier in the day, tackled a few things in the garden and was looking forward to a bit of time to myself after lunch, but the coals of a nearby fire beckoned.

I cut a vine maple stick, poked around the fire, crouched down and roasted one marshmallow after another all by myself. It was heaven. It’s hard to roast marshmallows without thinking about being a kid, it’s hard to roast marshmallows and feel bad, it’s hard to roast marshmallows and not smile somewhat to yourself as you say, “This is right where I need to be, this moment, right now.” This is a choice I am making and I am choosing marshmallow time for myself. It just wasn't exactly what I had in mind originally when thinking of time to myself. Oh well.

The length of time I took to enjoy every⎯last⎯bite was an absolute delight. I won’t say just how many marshmallows I roasted because, quite frankly, I lost count. Yes, I know there is nothing good for you nutrition-wise in devouring marshmallows, but I do know it was a wonderful, sticky moment I will recall again and again.

Sometimes it is all about the marshmallows, nothing more.

Photo courtesy of Ken Bosma
© Copyright 2011 Michelle Clark

Monday, October 24, 2011

Autumn Joy

I am the grass pushing through the soil of my garden. I must soak up the sun, the rain and the nutrients in order for my roots to spread deep into the soil. As the autumn rains wash over me, I am able to absorb the necessary nutrients to sustain me. The sun pulls me upward in a warm and loving embrace until the cool temperatures slow me down once again to a dormant state. Ah, the pleasures of an autumn day.

It must sound as if autumn is my favorite of all seasons. Well, it is right now, but come December as autumn moves into winter⎯that will be my favorite season⎯until spring and summer roll around, that is. Lately I have been out in my garden whenever I can manage to devote time to bedding it down before its winter nap. The low glow of the sun warms me as the brisk bite of wind stings my face and ignites a sense of peace throughout my garden and myself⎯the kiss of autumn joy. Tending my garden mirrors the need to tend to my own needs as well. The more I tend my garden, the deeper and stronger the roots grow. Deep roots help overcome famine, drought, pestilence and whatever storms blow my way. The ability to stand firmly planted and create joy in your life for yourself is not something you merely consider⎯it is something you must do.

Those who have not tended to their garden with love and care find they do not have deep, robust roots to make it through the difficult times. I am the garden and my roots grow deep. How about your roots⎯could they use a bit of autumn joy right now?

Photo courtesy of Mizrak
© Copyright 2011 Michelle Clark

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Great Expectations

 “You are the light of the world…”
Mathew 5:14
 A friend’s son just came home from his two-year missionary stint in Ghana, Africa. I saw Russ today and we chatted a bit. While he still has his wonderful smile, I could see he was dealing with the feelings one has when living in such a different place. I asked him how he was doing, but it was difficult for him to put into words. I mentioned that years ago I had an intern working with me who spent time in Thailand with the Peace Corps and Care. I told Russ that Lynn had shared her experiences and feelings with me in letters while she was overseas and when she came home.

As I was quickly outlining some of the frustrations Lynn felt, I saw a look of recognition of those same frustrations Russ was experiencing:
  • You are setting off on new horizons with great expectations.
  • Nothing is ever exactly what you imagined until you experience it.
  • You set and re-set your goals as you watch your “great expectations” shrink away.
  • You wonder how whatever it is you are doing can make a difference at all.
Now that Russ is home, he is re-experiencing his home life in a different way. Understandably, it is hard to live in a remote place then BAM⎯home again to a completely altered way of life. I told Russ it would take time and to ALLOW for the time to feel the experience and carry it forward in his life.

After talking with Russ, I got to thinking, the same four points hold true for whatever “great expectations” anyone is embarking on. But it’s okay, head for those new horizons anyway. It doesn’t have to be on mission in a far-off land. Your new horizons may be doing something you have always wanted to do, it may entail changing bad habits or creating new ones, but most importantly⎯great expectations can change your life by learning to simply be a better you. The fact you even tried will make a difference⎯even if you can’t see it for what it is until you have time to look back at the experience...

I know Russ will soon be embarking on more great expectations. Someday he may understand that his adventure in Ghana changed more than he realized. Just showing up with that amazing smile of his touched everyone he came in contact with. His is a smile you would never forget for it lights up the world. Where will your great expectations shine?
…“let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds…”
Mathew 5:16

Photo courtesy of shuttermonkey
© Copyright 2011 Michelle Clark

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Rejecting the Ugly-Self

It doesn’t matter which ugly-self comes to mind, but I am willing to bet many of us have a few things about ourselves we would rather not have others see let alone know about. Just because historical bad behavior follows you like stinky cheese, it doesn’t mean you can’t start changing the aroma a bit.

I was talking to Kay the other day as she was in the aftermath of yet another confrontation with her ugly-self. We talked about what brought this particular battle on and why she thinks she responds the way she does. Many times it involves other people⎯you know, the ones that push your buttons. Then again, it may involve no one else but little old stinky you. Your ugly-self pops up when you least expect it. It’s sneaky that way⎯hmm, sneaky and stinky are not words I want following me around.

I was already familiar with other aspects of Kay’s life and how many things SEEM to be out of control. The more out of control our life SEEMS, the more ugly-selves we have staring back at us in the mirror. Kay mentioned she really did not want to act the way she does, and it only makes her feel worse about everything in her life. I pointed out that her past behavior had not served her well and there was only one way to address it. STOP!

The ugly-self usually reacts immediately in any given situation, so I have found in order to make a change:
  • I must become aware of the moments I want to change.
  • I need to STOP in those moments!
  • I need to take a breath, or two or three…
  • I need to make a choice (do nothing, respond in a positive way with no lingering aroma, or let the stink fly and deal with the consequences).
Simple⎯STOP, take a moment, take a breath and you decide in that moment how you will respond. In that moment you can take control and make a difference in your life right now. You see it really is up to you. Other people may set you off, but you are the one allowing ugly-self to respond. In my life I find it much easier to make a change if I start out by keeping it simple. Thus, by taking a pause, I have a moment to do a quick analysis of why I am feeling anger, stress or whatever the negative emotion is, and because I am making a real concerted effort to change ugly-self behavior, I change.

DO NOT let your stinking history foul up what is happening now. The more you pause and become aware of your thoughts, feelings and emotions of that space in time you can change. Kay listened and in an absolutely confident voice she said, “I can do that!” There is a big learning curve here for everyone, and we will all experience a whiff of stinky cheese every once in awhile, but the more you STOP and take control of the moment, it becomes a habit. Now that is the sweet smell of success I can live with.

Photo courtesy of D. Sharon Pruitt
© Copyright 2011 Michelle Clark

Monday, October 3, 2011

Releasing the Rhythm

"Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better."
Albert Einstein

As I was swimming laps in a pool a few weeks ago, I was contemplating the rhythm of the beat. Every stroke of my arms, kick of my feet and rolling of my head for a breath reminded me how in control I was at that moment. With the waning days of summer I could feel the pull of autumn reminding me to slow down just a bit, telling me it is time to savor the beginning of the next season with a slowing of my rhythm.

Those heady, warm summer days have released me into autumn. Today I was reminded once again of the need to slow down as I strolled the autumn air. I could smell the leaves and feel the release of their weight as they drift unhurriedly to the ground. I could hear the dewdrops falling in the trees telling me that rain will soon follow. The sounds of autumn begin my day with a lazy, foggy quiet that reminds me to listen and hear my heart, my voice⎯reminding me to plug into the rhythm of this season. As the trees drop their leaves and begin their annual slowing into winter, I will follow their cue. Mother Nature knows all about rhythm, so I will listen to her primordial voice. There are times when one must release the need for control to go about the natural rhythms of the day. You just can't argue with Mother Nature!

How will you release your rhythm into autumn?

Photo courtesy of Randy Robertson

© Copyright 2011 Michelle Clark