Going Beyond . . .

Going Beyond

It is spring! After what seems like a very long winter, I am sure that everyone in Alberta would agree that it feels great to see the sun shinning and the snow gone!

I love the seasons, but there is something special about spring. Everything that looks dead comes alive with the warm weather. It is a season of hope, spring-cleaning (get rid of the old), and new beginnings. For me, it’s a time to go beyond the barrenness of winter and consider where I want to be a year from now. I think about my goals, my purpose, and my heart’s longings. Am I being true to myself, or am I more concerned with stuff than life? (I must say that it isn’t easy ignoring the demands of stuff in our culture.) Nonetheless, my passions always seem to bring me back to my heart’s desires. What are you passionate about? Where do you want to be in a year, five years, or ten years from now? Do you have any heart dreams that are still waiting to be accessed?

Our goals and dreams are as unique as our personalities, but have you ever wondered why some people are so driven by their dreams? Gertrude EderleAmelia Earhart, and Walt Disney were relentlessly driven by the dreams that were written on their heart.  Their tenacity and relentless passion is called ‘grit’, and their stories are an inspiration.[1] Would you agree?

Stories about great achievements inspire us, but pursuing our heart dreams can be difficult. When we read great stories, we see success from an end point back to the beginning, but in our lives, we can only see from the beginning. We can’t see the possible results of our hard work beforehand. It is easy to map out something that has already happened, but it isn’t easy mapping out something that goes into the unknown. Considering all of the unknowns beforehand can be so intimidating and overwhelming that it can be easier to forfeit the idea altogether.

But the good news is that we can all take a step towards our heart dreams today. Instead of looking at the ‘big’ picture (and envisioning all of the risks, commitments, and hard work needed to get there), we can take one small step and start walking – one step at a time.  One small step is greater than a lifetime of never trying. Every great story began with one step, and every overnight success is the result of endless small steps that refused to give up.

What are your heart dreams? If you are not sure, think about the things that you do simply because you love doing them. What activities make you happy? My photography is a heart dream. The reason for starting a studio years ago was because of my love for creative expressions through art. I can easily lose myself in the process of creating the ‘perfect’ portrait. Photography is an important part of who I am more than what I do.

But our heart dreams are not limited to creativity. They can be administrative work, mothering, gardening, engineering, teaching, or working with animals! Some people have jobs they love; these are heart dreams. Our heart dreams are the activities that we get lost in – the ones that consume us. Recent studies show that happiness is contingent on our ability to live our true self – to pursue and experience our heart dreams. In fact, happiness is minimally connected with materialism and greatly connected with authenticity. That means that if we want to be happy, we need to get in sync with our heart dreams.

Our heart dreams generate meaning and purpose, and when we pursue these activities, we experience happiness from the inside out. Our happiness is intrinsic; it doesn’t depend on feedback from others or monetary gain. That’s a great thing! But it doesn’t stop there. Happiness from the inside is stable (it doesn’t bounce all over the place like a rubber ball that isn’t perfectly round). It is also deep-seated. It goes below the mundane chores that we all do each day. That means that however difficult your chores are, they cannot snuff out the happiness that comes from living your true self. Great stuff!

So, where am I going with all of this?

Happiness is a universal desire, but so are meaning and purpose. If our dreams are the connecting point between happiness and meaning and purpose, we need to pay attention.

Do you have a dream that is waiting to being pursued? C. S. Lewis said that we are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream. There is no time like today. Pursuing your dream can feel daunting at first, but the intrinsic rewards far outweigh the risks. People, who live authentically tend to be happier, live longer, have fewer regrets, and are more satisfied with life in general.[2] They feel alive! If you feel intimidated by the risks of stepping out, remember Nelson Mandela’s words: “it will always seem impossible until it’s done.” Start with one step.

Spring is about new beginnings. Where do you want to be next spring? If you have something that has been on your heart for a long time, I challenge you to pull it out. Consider it. Pray about it, and take a step towards it this year. There will never be a perfect time to start, so why not today? Life has no guarantees for our tomorrows. What is your dream? What gives you purpose? If you are not sure, think about it. To live is to dream. Dreaming makes us alive. It gives us purpose and reason beyond the mundane. People were created to live their dreams.

It’s time to live yours!

[1] Fry, M. (2016). 5 Awesome historical women who had grit way before it was trendy. Retrieved from https://verilymag.com/2016/07/grit-the-power-of-passion-and-perseverance-angela-duckworth-amelia-earhart-gertrude-ederle-flannery-oconnor-harriet-tubman
[2] Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1999). If we are so rich, why aren’t we happy? American Psychologist, 54(10), 821-827.

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Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1999). If we are so rich, why aren’t we happy? American Psychologist, 54(10), 821-827.Feeney, D. J. (1996). Purposeful self: Accessing sensory motifs as empowerment in flow states and clinical interventions. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 36(4), 94-115.Frankl, V. (1963). Man’s search for meaning. New York: Washington Square.
Fry, M. (2016). 5 Awesome historical women who had grit way before it was trendy. Retrieved from https://verilymag.com/2016/07/grit-the-power-of-passion-and-perseverance-angela-duckworth-amelia-earhart-gertrude-ederle-flannery-oconnor-harriet-tubman

 

 

Life is Tough!

Life is tough!

Life is tough! Anyone agree? I am an optimist, yet I have realized that there are times when a person’s optimism just isn’t enough. When a child is hurting, there is no money to pay the bills, or a friend or family member is dying from cancer: optimism just isn’t enough. Life is challenging, and when I feel overwhelmed with these challenges, I need more; I need hope! And I need more than extrinsic hope (hope in outside circumstances, a quick feel good, or support from others); I need intrinsic hope – an inner peace that will not be moved when everything around me feels unbeatable!

I have studied hope extensively in university, yet my greatest resource for hope is not from my studies; it comes from my faith. Because of this, I have decided to step out of my safety zone and be vulnerable with this month’s post. I want to share a story of desperation that turned into hope, and I trust that it is an encouragement for someone reading this today.

It started in the fall of 1997. I was raising four children on my own, and my finances were next to none. Struggling to pay the bills, I decided to sell the few horses that I had left. I had raised Morgan horses for a number of years, and I still had a few mares. So I created some flyers with professional photos and sent them to a number of breeders in hopes of selling at least one or two. After a few months of trying to sell the mares, none of them had sold and I felt desperate. It really didn’t make any sense. There were numerous breeders who had expressed an interest in them, yet I had zero responses to my ads.

The days turned into months, and before I knew it, it was winter, and my difficult circumstances in the fall were now desperate. After feeding the horses one day in mid-February, I felt like I had hit a wall. I broke down and started to weep. Raising four children on my own was impossible; everything seemed impossible. I leaned over the rail fence and cried, and in my desperation, I cried out to God: “Where are you; why are you not helping me; what do you want me to do?” To my dismay, there was no answer. It was as if God had shut me out of heaven and sealed the door. I was alone, and I felt trapped in my circumstances. Cradling my face in the palm of my hands, I felt weak as I slumped over the fence in exhaustion. It was no use. I was on my own.

The darkness of the winter sky that day was a reflection of the hopelessness in my heart. The bills were coming in faster than I could manage, and the horses that I had once loved — so passionately — were now a burden that I no longer wanted to carry. Groceries were my only concern now.

Walking back to the house, I wiped my face and pushed my thoughts back into a place that was not visible to the outside world. It was not time to be weak.

My love for horses began as a young teenager. I remember watching my older sister riding her mare through the fields. She rode with such agility and confidence. I wanted to be just like her. And as fate would have it, I did get an opportunity to buy my first horse at fifteen. For a hundred and seventy five dollars, I was the proud owner of a 16.5-hand sorrel mare who loved to run. She was everything to me, and we spent endless hours together—carefree and irreplaceable hours.

Years later, I bought my first Morgan horse, and I was hooked. I lived and breathed horses for a number of years, and as I set my mind to studying bloodlines, I became intentional about owning a black Morgan horse someday. Black is one of the most sought after colors in the Morgan breed. It is beautiful, but it is a challenging color to breed. (I seem to like challenges.) Less than 8% of all Morgan horses are black, so the difficulty was an incentive to my determination.

Nonetheless, after years of breeding mares to stallions that might potentially sire black, I still didn’t have a black Morgan foal. And now, in the midst of my trials, having a black Morgan horse was no longer a priority. I had no idea how to move forward. At least one of the four mares should have sold. They were breathtakingly beautiful and correct. It was odd that at least one didn’t sell.

Somehow, I made it through that fateful winter. In my busyness — one day faded into the next, and before I knew it, it was Easter break.

In response to a last minute invitation, my two youngest daughters and I joined a mission team and headed out to a small village just outside of Tijuana for the Easter Break. Getting to know the local residents was such a wonderful experience. In fact, it was so relaxing that I found myself struggling with the idea of coming back home to Canada. I missed my two oldest kids (who had now graduated), but I wasn’t ready to face the bills and the heavy workload — at least not yet. Life in Mexico seemed simpler. I enjoyed the people, and I especially enjoyed learning about the Mexican culture. I smiled thinking about my daughter’s shrieks the first night there as mice scurried around our room. Yikes! As much as I dislike mice, the thought of coming home, and being plunged into a workload that seemed insurmountable, seemed worse. As I pondered my circumstances, a thought occurred to me that I might be going home to a black Morgan filly. The idea caught me by surprise, and for a brief moment, I found myself smiling at the possibility. Could it really be?

When we arrived in Canada, my oldest daughter was waiting for us at the airport. By the look on her face, I knew something good had happened. The words came out almost as quickly as her greeting, “Mom, Misty foaled, and she had a black filly!” Her words silenced me — after all of these years — a black filly. It was almost bittersweet. Now, when it seemed impossible to keep the horses, I had my foal. And there was more, “Mom,” she said, “the foal was premature, so we had to take her and Misty to a vet in Edmonton; otherwise, the foal would have died. But she is home now, and the foal is doing well.” Now, there were vet bills to pay.

Three days after the girls and I arrived home, the second mare began to foal, and it was Peaches — my favorite. Peaches is a chestnut mare that I raised on my own, and I have spent hours with her — taking her for walks just for the company. I rode her a lot, and she was my shoulder to lean on when life was difficult. Whenever I was out in the pasture, Peaches would be there — right beside me. Sometimes, I had a hard time getting her to move out of my way. Out of all of the mares, I knew that her foal would be my favorite.

As I watched the foal being born, the pace of my heart began to quicken. It seemed to be very dark in color, but it was difficult to tell for sure. Within a few minutes, the foal arrived — healthy and active, and as I removed the sac, I realized that the foal was indeed black. And to my surprise, it was also a filly. The odds of one black baby seemed miraculous, and now I had two. And this one was perfectly healthy and perfectly beautiful.

A couple of days later, the third mare foaled. This was a black mare that I had finally purchased to increase my chances of producing black foals, and sure enough, the third foal was also black. This foal, however, was so black that it appeared blue. I now had a colt to add to my collection of black foals.

The last mare to foal was my oldest mare, Lady. Lady was a chestnut mare like Peaches; however, unlike Peaches, who had a bay filly a couple of years earlier, Lady had never strayed from having a chestnut foal like herself — even though I had repeatedly bred her to sires, who had black in their pedigree. With Lady, I found my analytical mind doubting the possibility of one more black foal. Considering this mare’s foaling history, it seemed impossible for the old mare to produce anything other than her dominant color, which was chestnut.

One day, as my children and I were contemplating this strange occurrence of black foals, I expressed my doubts about the old mare. “It just wasn’t possible,” I argued. In my thinking, the odds were like winning a lottery. At this point, one of the girls spoke up and said, “Mom, if God can create the Heavens and the Earth, he can put a black baby in Lady.” She was right — but I still didn’t believe her.

Needless to say, a few days later, Lady gave birth to a beautiful black colt. There it was — four foals: all black. Out of a bay stallion, two chestnut mares, one brown mare, and one black mare, somehow I ended up with four black foals. What were the odds? For me, it was an extraordinary gift! And to add to my excitement, all of the foals were incredibly beautiful. I had never seen or heard of such a thing.

I still do not have answers to the big ‘why’ questions concerning our personal struggles. We all have them at times. Why did this happen; why isn’t this happening? I have spent years trying to ‘do all of the right things’ to avoid circumstances that challenge us, but to no avail. Life is difficult. We do not have the answers, and we never will. But I did learn an important lesson that spring so many years ago, and it still moves me today. And that is to let go of the ‘whys’ and trust God. If God had answered my prayers and sold the mares before spring, I would have never known the gift that was uniquely mine. I had prayed extensively to sell the mares, and I was so upset that I was unable to sell any. On the other hand, I had never prayed for a black foal, and I ended up with four.

One of my favorite scriptures is Proverbs 3:5-6: Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths. In the end, I sold one of the foals for the price of a mare, so it worked out for my good.

Life is difficult, and not all of my challenges have ended up like this one. But in spite of our circumstances, there is an inner peace that we can all have, and it comes when we learn to let go and just have faith. If you are wondering what it means to have faith, it means to trust God with whatever you are going through and know that he is big enough to see you through your troubles.

Do you believe in yourself?

Do you believe in yourself?

This month’s topic is epic,

Do you believe in yourself?

When you hear this question, what is your first response? Do you think people should believe in themselves? Or would you consider the idea – of believing in yourself – selfish?

Every person’s response to this question will vary, but for some, the idea of believing in one’s self will stir a bit of unease inside. So before we begin, let’s address this question: is it selfish to belief in yourself?

And the answer is . . . NO; it is not selfish to believe in your self! Selfishness is an unhealthy focus on self that places the self above others and disregards the well-being of others. It is not selfish to believe in yourself. ON the  contrary, it is your responsibility. Believing in your self is vital to your entire well-being.[1]

Believing in yourself is knowing, trusting, and valuing your true self. It is self-acceptance, self-respect, and confidence to assert one’s self. Self-esteem and self-efficacy are both causes and effects of believing in your self. Dr. Robert Burns, an expert in the area of self-concept, argues that “the beliefs and evaluations people hold about themselves determine who they are, what they can do and what they can become”[2] To believe or not believe in your self is one of the most important decisions that you will make every day because it affects every area of your life.

Your appraisals of your self will determine things like: how you will relate to others, whether you will take risks in life or not, what types of jobs you will apply for, who you will marry or not marry. And on a day-to-day scale, it will affect your choices to try new things, how you cope, and what you spend your time on.

Now, I know that sounds like a lot, but it is just the beginning. It literally affects every area of your life.