Pursuing Life's Daring Adventure

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Catching Joys

Every evening about this time last year, I caught a Wow sight from my kitchen window.

Golden light drenched patches of our backyard, creating pools of beauty where the setting sun mingled with indigo shadows in a final play of Nature’s evening art. Daisies, birdbath, light, stillness—everything contributed to the dramatic beauty over ten minute spells last spring. I looked forward to watching it again this year.

This May, though, the scene happens to be quite different. Not only is the birdbath broken and lopsided, but the daisies surrounding the spot are only halfway in bloom this year. Unfortunately, other plants crowded the daisies out. The Wow sight is nothing of the same this year.

Isn’t that the same with life, though?

Occasions when time is sweet never seem to last, do they?

Time moves, today becomes yesterday, and yesterdays become memories. Time never is the same. Change, however, is inevitable, certain. Tomorrow will be different than today. Today will never be the same again. Wow moments strike once, maybe twice, then flutter away changed forever.

One of my most treasured friends has a wonderful saying:

Catch the JOY as it flies!

The joys in life may be fleeting, but they can be enjoyed, thoroughly, if we are open to them. Perhaps we can be aware of joy as it flitters by, and capture the delight accompanying it, to savor and remember and share. Like a vibrant butterfly, perhaps we can find life’s fragrance in the recognition of its uniqueness and in the celebration of the moment’s beauty. Catching the joy as it flies.

This year, the scene might be different, but it still is beautiful—everywhere, in different ways, if I just look for it … and catch the joy as it flies.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A More Beautiful Place

A few years ago, we enjoyed a summer vacation in Maine, the camping kind involving a tent and hiking boots. Since it was not the first time we’d traveled around Maine, we had an idea of what to look forward to—the rocky coastline, the sleepy clapboard villages, the saltsprayed restaurants serving mouthwatering blueberry pie and to-die-for lobster, the lighthouses marking way to safe harbors, the wildlife and wildflowers and pristine wilderness. Maine has a way of stealing a heart, or at least capturing the wild at heart. And so, we ventured back to Maine for another summer vacation not knowing we were in for more than we had imagined.

That summer, not only did we see a Bald Eagle and a moose in action close range, but we again explored the majestic Acadia National Park and dug up even more hidden treasures. There, beside a tiny village on Somes Sound, we happened upon a breathtaking field of lupine. For moments standing in the lupine meadow, I realized that the natural beauty would stay with me forever. The photographs I took (including the one above) stand to remind me of that day.

Afterward, a dear Boston friend gave us a remarkable picture book entitled Miss Rumphius, written and illustrated by Barbara Cooney, which won the American Book Award. The story contained within the book, with its gentle images and serene cadence, is hauntingly beautiful, another reminder for me of the lupine meadow.

In the book, Alice, the main character, sits on the knee of her grandfather, who tells her of three things she must do in her life: travel to faraway places, live beside the sea, and do something to make the world more beautiful. As a result, Alice Rumphius makes her way through life … and eventually discovers her own way of making the world more beautiful. Full circle in the end, as Miss Alice Rumphius, now old, tells her young niece of the three things, they look out on the surrounding Maine hills covered with lupine meadows, all which started with a single seed scattered by Miss Rumphius.

It is amazing to imagine, with a world full of people rife with gifts to share that life would be much richer if we were to open up our lives to impacting the world for good. I’m perpetually inspired by World Vision (http://www.worldvision.org/) and their work on behalf of the extreme poor in the world, and more recently by Michael Hyatt (http://michaelhyatt.com/) and his traveling companions just arriving back from a trip to Ethiopia. Certainly traveling to faraway places has a way of opening our minds to more than just ourselves and our hearts to helping others. I find vacations by the sea to be unsurpassed, and would love to someday live with the waves crashing at my doorstep. But truly, finding our unique place in the world, finding the place where we can share our lives and experiences and gifts with the world around us, opening our minds by experiencing faraway places (whether it is around the corner or around the world), that is the place I think where we begin to make the world more beautiful, the sum of all three, the point, I think, of Miss Rumphius. Perhaps by offering our lives to help others, we can truly make the world more beautiful. In my mind, nothing can be more significant and worthwhile than that …

… It all begins with one small seed.

Monday, May 4, 2009

More Than a Hill of Beans

It doesn’t seem that long ago, coming home from the hospital in Metairie, Louisiana, with our firstborn—a truly memorable experience. The gracious night nurse had just given me a crash course on caring for a newborn … not just any newborn, but my own. It didn’t take long to realize the meaning of the new little life depending on me. Diaper changes, feedings, and all-nighters followed by all-dayers proved to be much more challenging than I had imagined it all to be. Soon, I realized, it adds up. Caring wholeheartedly for someone else takes a toll on the caregiver, on the mom. It wasn’t long after that I realized the best gift coming home from the hospital would have been something unexpected, but entirely needed—a prescription for weekly, or even daily, guilt-free personal time for the mom.
An interview I read in the USA Today (click here for link) with Marie Osmond, mother of eight children, was along these same lines—that women, moms especially, rarely take care of themselves. One of Marie’s sons said to her, “Mom, we think you're beautiful no matter what you weigh, but we want you to start taking care of yourself. ... We want you to be around for us and for our kids, too." Such truth.

The longer I’ve been a mom, the more I’ve realized the intensity of the need for time to care for myself. When we give, we also earn the need to replenish. It doesn’t matter if the replenishment comes in the form of an undisturbed hour to soak in the tub or daily time to unwind with a walk or a run, but caring for ourselves, in general, is often difficult to justify. There is always another meal to prepare, room to pick up, bill to pay, or dish to wash. But we need time away from drudgeries like clothes ruined by the errant crayon melted in the dryer. We, as human beings, need time and investment in our health—more than an occasional check in a box to say that we are worth more than a hill of beans.

When we invest more than the tired minute at the end of the day in ourselves, we’re able to gain balance, restore or gain personal health. Even more, when we allow ourselves time to reflect and sort the healthy from the harmful, and let go of those things pinning us down under the weight of an oppressive past, we begin to feel a change, a positive awakening to something full and vibrant and real—something authentic. There is nothing more valuable to give to our spouses and children, to the world around us, and to life and living, than an unhindered, authentic love coming from the depth of personal well-being and health … beauty and love at its best.

When we care for ourselves, we care for our families as well. When we invest in our health, we invest in the health of those we love as well. When we continue to learn, exercise, laugh, and enjoy life, we also help those we love to do those very same things. We want the best for those entrusted to our care. Maybe by beginning with something as innocuous as prescription for spending intentional time remembering our own health, we can remember that our health is important, too.

This Mother’s Day, give the gift of encouragement and empowerment to someone you love (even yourself!) so that she may take another step toward becoming all that she can be. It just may be the best gift ever.