The unapologetic, raw, unedited interpretation of living life. Each of us is the artist of our own life, constantly remolding, reworking, and roughing out the details and applying what we've learned to the changing canvas. There are no do-overs, no take backs...just rough cuts that release what lies inside us.

I saw the angel in stone and I carved until I set him free. - Michelangelo

Sunday, November 27, 2011

What Preceeds Greatness?

"Have an Attitude of Gratitude"

I am not really sure where I first heard this, but it serves as a daily reminder above all else, to first be thankful.  In light of post Thanksgiving hoopla, this phrase urges me to use this space today for reflection.

If we are to pursue Greatness in this life, we must first learn to give thanks.  Humility opens our heart and mind to awareness and from awareness, we are able to see what needs to be done and have the courage to see it through.

I am THANKFUL for the opportunities placed in my life, perfectly arranged by a God of mercy and grace.  Many of those opportunities came with a call to action, a RISK.  I am thankful for the trust I placed in love outside myself to pursue them with purpose.  Where I am today, the people and situations which surround me are a result of taking leaps of faith, some of those quite substantial.  We are promised when we follow what we know to be right and good, we will see reward far greater than we imagine.  For this promise, I am eternally grateful.

I am THANKFUL for my family and friends, for those who support and encourage my efforts as I pursue my dreams.  I learn my hardest lessons and feel the greatest joy within the comfort of my own home.  There has never been a time in my life when I have felt a greater sense of belonging, acceptance, and genuine love than in this moment.  I cherish my children and husband as we journey together in this life.  They are treasures worth more than gold.

I am THANKFUL for the ability, gifts, and awareness uniquely given to me to make an impact in this world.  For having seen parts of this world and only knowing a taste of the struggles, pain, and horrific conditions under which most of our world lives.  I am grateful for those experiences, for they remind me every day there is more to do than what I am doing, there is more to know than what I am learning, and there is far more to see than what my eyes have seen.  I am reminded to stay focused and diligent so in time I am able to, in some small way, make a difference.

What are you thankful for today?  What grounds you and reminds you you are perfectly positioned to make a difference? 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Passion in the Process

No matter what steps of improvement I have tried to take in my life, whether for my health, for my family, or in my spiritual growth, if I wasn't committed to enjoying the process, it was not going to work out.  For many years I really struggled with this. I thought if I only workout this much or if I only do this one thing my life will be exponentially better.  What I found out is no amount of action will grant me God's grace.  Not a single step on a treadmill will maintain an ideal weight if my head and heart are not in it together. 

You only reach the finish line by step away from the starting line and placing one foot in front of the other over and over again.

In my life, achieving spiritual maturity meant letting go of control and being in the moment.

The artist paints because he revels in the act of making art.  The runner meditates to the rhythm of her steps.  The leader pushes forward because another vision lays on the other side of his current goal.

We too must overcome the results so we can find passion in the process.  If the process to reach your goal isn't what you had in mind or overwhelms you, use creativity and imagination to identify an alternative route to your goal.  You will love it longer, reach greater, and live better if you have passion in the process! Running might not be "your thing", do you love to dance?  Reading the Bible is a path to gaining spiritual prowess, however it isn't the ONLY way to get to Heaven.

None of us know how long we will be on our journey, we should find ways to enjoy the process of living.  What is your passion?  What could you spend a multitude of days doing? 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Drawing from Life

There is a faded, greenish colored hardcover book in my library with a publisher date of 1952.  I haven't done anything more than flip through a few of its yellowed pages, but its title Drawing from Life is what capitvates me.

The skill of an artist is taking from life the forms, images, and textures, then converting them into masterpieces we desire for our walls or seek out in museums across the globe.  Some are even worth millions!  What drives the intrigue for us?  What about an artist's work stirs something from within us?

The artist draws from life.

He takes seemingly ordinary, non descript features of life and applies his own life, his experiences, his trouble, his joy, his exuberance to what he sees.  Those emotions, the rawness and depth of them transfer to color and form on a canvas.

It is what we apply to the small, insignificant parts of our lives which transform into the moments, memories, and experiences we hold so tightly and revere so highly.  Do you 'Draw from Life' to create your own masterful version of you?

Living better lies in our ability to create better thinking. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

4 Steps to Freedom

Lately, I find myself in deep conversation with my daughter about choices and decision making, a conversation I know is far from over. 
Most of the time when my daughter and I have these discussions I walk away feeling as though I learned more than she did (Parenting 101 - they should have included that chapter!) One night, we spoke about four interrelated topics: gratitude, initiative, pride, and decisions. 

I have to tell you, this discussion was a game changer for both of us.

Gratitude:  Appreciating what has been given.
Our evening prayer normally includes a "thank you", on this night I said the thanks for a home, a warm bed, and food at every meal.  My daughter asked why I would say thank you for those things.  I said because many children (people) don't have those things.  She was quite upset by that and said, "Well I don't like that - I will make sure every kid has a warm bed." 

Initiative:  Seeing what needs to be done and doing it.
"In time, you can do some great things if you are really wanting to help others all over the world.  What could you do today?" She thought for a while and said, "My school has a food drive!  Can we buy some canned food?"  I told her to make a list and I would include it on my next shopping trip. 

Many things keep us from doing what needs to be done, or what we want to do.  This is absolutely something a 7 year old understands well.  Having courage and then making decisions in spite of distraction and resistance is difficult even for an adult, hence the learning for me.  Our conversation continued...

Pride:  Confidence in knowing you are part of something greater than yourself.
Being proud of yourself is something you have in here, pointing to her heart. It causes you to do the right thing even when it's very hard. "What things are you proud of?"  "I can make my bed and I really like to write stories,"  was her confident response.  Just for fun I added, "So, because you are proud of making your bed, I don't have to ask you to do it since you like doing it so much, right?" (I do believe I saw a light bulb turn on in the midst of her dark room.)

Decisions:  Choices we make which direct our action.
When you are proud of the way you do something, you want to do more for others, and you know what needs to be done, but something comes along to keep you from it, whether it's your little brother or a toy you like to play with, you are left with a decision to make.  Making WISE choices to keep doing what we know needs to be done over and over again puts us on a path closer to the one which will allow us to do what we really want to do...Freedom! 

As leaders, teachers, parents, as people making decisions every moment of the day, some big and some less significant we must not miss the connection between our ability to make wise choices and our capacity for making an impact in the world.  What choices are you making today?  Are they leading you to your dream, a better way of being, more freedom?  OR are you the victim of your own making?  If at any time you find yourself far off the path to freedom, ask yourself:
Am I Thankful, do I appreciate what I do have?
Do I have the initiative to take action?
Am I proud of who I am (What are you uniquely designed to do?)
Am I making wise choices?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Nothing Stands Against Us

A unique bond forms as an artist dips his brush to the pallet and gazes upon his canvas.  A distinct passion rises up from the heart of a parent while watching their once small toddler walk confidently across the threshold of adulthood.  Solemness overcomes a soldier as he laces his boots, remembering those gone before him.  A sense of unity arises from a sea of strangers dressed in the home team colors. 

We ourselves do not create it.  The broken world around us threatens its strength and significance.  It is nothing that can be given or taken away. 

It is built from the union of ideas, spirit, and heart.  It forms from the blood, sweat, and tears spent to sustain it, protect it, and express it.  It spans time, age, and geography. 

It is the very thing which drives us into the depths of turmoil and destruction, and causes us to claim victory even when it seems all hope is lost.

From a young age we recognize it.  In our old age, it bonds us to a generation falling in line behind us. 

Pride rests in how you define who you are as a part of a greater, stronger, and collective we.

Today, tomorrow, and what lies in our immediate and distant future is a reflection of who WE ARE.

Pride is being the daughter of a U.S. Marine as the Corps celebrates 236 years of sacrificial service today.

Pride is being the wife of an U.S. Air Force Veteran, recognized tomorrow for protecting our freedom.

Pride is being a Penn State University graduate (BA '02, Masters '10) and will shout "WE ARE!" during kickoff this Saturday as a team of dedicated students, donned in nameless jerseys, run onto the field to continue a legacy.

Pride is being part of something far greater than yourself, whether it be on a team, with a group, or in your family.  Relinquishing your devotion to those people and ideals is not an option because alone we stand no chance, but together...We Are, We Can, and We Will!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Art of Adaptability

If there is one thing certain in this life it is change, yet it drives fear into the hearts of many. What is it about this word which causes such unrest? and why do some seem to seek it out?

I grew up in a military household, what this meant for my childhood was as soon as we felt comfortable, change would surely find us. This meant six new neighborhoods, six different houses, seven schools...six times my family was asked to Pull up our roots and settled back down make new friends and re-establish a normal life while my Dad spent months, even entire year away from us. Looking back on those years, of course I recall tears shared by friends, that pit in my stomach before walking in to homeroom, wondering if I would sit next to acceptance or rejection for the next 180 days.

What my adult mind knows, which my preteen mind could not begin to fathom or appreciate, is "change is good." In those 13 years, I learned the Art of Adaptability. I came to understand nothing lasts forever, you have to be ready at a moment's notice when fate comes knocking had at your door, and the environment and it's inhabitants are a pliable material poised and ready for the impact you will make on it.

Granted, my experience is unique and limited to those circumstances to which I was exposed at a young age, however I do know this: we've but a limited time in this place. A single chance to make such an impact that it staggers a community, shakes our complacency, and demands the world pause and take notice. You don't know where you'll be tomorrow, when you'll be called to pack your bags and follow the movement. Do know that your life has purpose and your capacity to adapt determines your impact.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Execution of Exellence

I've mentioned before, I push the envelope in a lot of my projects.  It isn't ever enough to just deliver the expected product, I prefer to jazz it up with my own flavor.  There have been some hard lessons learned over the years regarding adding spices to someone else's sauce, so hopefully here today you can learn from my mistakes and avoid making your own.  I heard a talk earlier this year about a company's "sauce".  In the talk, the speaker described a restaurant known for its branded sauce. People came from miles to taste this sauce.  The chef wanted to add a little something extra, just a pinch of something different. You can imagine what came next - he changed the sauce! It was good, but it wasn't the world famous sauce people had come to crave. The trouble with adding a dash of you instead of what's required is you wind up creating something brand new.  Artistic Leaders are particularly vulnerable to creating a new sauce, adding our own spin on a tradition and calling it the new normal.  We get caught up in the excitement and thrill of creation and forget to stop and ask for the recipe.  

Artistic Leaders must master the Execution of Excellence.  If that means following a tired, worn out recipe or (gasp!) coloring inside the lines, then he must do it to the best of his ability and push the envelope of skill rather than embarking into new territory. When you are able to execute the normal with excellence and focus and passion, the same way you would if it was your own idea, your capacity for growth increases.  The commitment and dedication it takes to carry out another's vision with the same intensity and drive you would if it was your own takes leadership.  Be known for your excellence, because when the day comes to move in the direction of your dream, nothing will hold you back!

If you lead a team or if you have children, then you know for certain the chaos that ensues when everyone is doing their own thing instead of focusing on the task at hand.  It's madness and what gets left behind in the dust, curled up in a crumpled heap is your dream, your plan, your vision.  How much stronger is your team, family, or group when everyone works together to accomplish the vision?  When you execute with excellence you gain trust, build integrity, and you learn humility.  And once you open yourself up to learn, you provide a place to grow and be inspired.