Friday, November 30, 2012

voices in my head

I have two voices inside my head. 

One, the negative, discourager voice sometimes says things like:

"You'll never have good posture. Just look at the way people suddenly stand up straight around you when they talk to you, giving you the hint to pull your shoulders back and not slouch."

"Why have you allowed and continue to allow this house to  become such a mess, such a wreck? You are letting things go more than ever."

"Stop making this excuse of it being too cold outside in the mornings to not run; not even once this week. You don't seem to care anymore. All it is is laziness."

"The only way you seem to interact with these kids is with your constant nagging, drill-sergeant ways. That's all they'll remember of you."

"This anatomy just keeps getting harder and harder. How are you ever going to remember it all and keep up?"

"You aren't and never will be good enough. Or lovable enough."

But the other one, the voice that is becoming ever more present, even crowding out those ugly words that sometimes bring me down and bring on the tears and bring me to my knees are those positive, building, and encouraging words. 

Words like:

"It's so good how you smiled, genuinely listened, and found real joy today when the owner of that Indian market wanted to talk and talk to you and show you all the interesting things in his store. How he smiled and smiled at you. Your love and warmth for people shows."

"You have demonstrated that you really are and have it in you to become a good student. You are diligent. You are a lover of learning. You are an intelligent woman. Just look how well you've done on all these tests so far. "

"Miracles, answers, and wonders just keep happening over and over in your life. In their lives." 

"Your touch is not only therapeutic but flows with awareness, with love, and with peace. You have this gift of facilitating healing within you."

"You have been so faithful with writing each week to your missionary son. Putting your whole heart and soul into these letters to him. You care."

"You take beautiful, artful photographs. Photographs filled with soul."  

My awareness and consciousness of these powerful voices, especially the negative voice, has increased as I've gotten older and (hopefully) a little wiser. I guess the best way you could describe it would be that I've learned to step back from myself almost as an outsider and notice the voices, become aware of them, and understand that these are just thoughts. They are not who I really am. Having the knowledge that I am not my thoughts helps me feel safe, like I am in a little bubble of protection and security.

It seems like the positive voice--really, a presence of truth-- has become ever stronger this year of my life. I believe this change has been brought about because of the ever increasing habit of incorporating gratitude into my life. Focusing on the beauties in my life; the generosity and goodness in the world that's there and always has been. Coming to understand and recognize that through these powerful, positive thoughts, through faith, unwavering belief, and the power of joy and love, I can attract good things into my life. I can feel them into being.  

Coming to an understanding that when there's light, when there's truth-- darkness just naturally gets crowded out. 

A couple of months ago, Eliza depicted these very ideas in her art journal. Just for fun. Here, she calls the positive voice, her inspiration-- her "Motivator". I love the sound of that and I love the symbolism her image became of a sweet, kind, and peaceful Angel of Golden Light.

I love how she thoughtfully describes and visualizes this concept, her vision through this avenue of creative expression.

I get where she's coming from
and it makes my heart even happier.

"For this journal entry, I tried to draw how I imagine my "inner motivator." This motivator is made up of all of the positive, happy feelings as I create art. I depicted these inner inspirations as an angel of golden light, her arms outstretched to share her happiness and confidence in my abilities. I used mixed media for this journal page and used newspaper clippings of uplifting words to show the positive feelings in my heart when I create."

"On the opposite page, I painted a person to represent my "inner critic." This depicts those thoughts in the back of my head that criticize myself as I draw. The light from the Motivator is spreading across the page, blocking out the face of the critic. This represents my optimistic side striving to cover the negative thoughts I have when I criticize myself."

"I really enjoyed creating this journal entry. It helped me to realize that when you focus on the positive, your weaknesses will eventually become your strengths."

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


To laugh is to risk appearing the fool.
To weep is to risk appearing sentimental.
To reach out to another is to risk involvement.
To express feelings is to risk exposing your true self.
To place your ideas or dreams before a crowd is to risk their loss.
To love is to risk not being loved in return.
To live is to risk dying.
To hope is to risk despair.
To try is to risk failure.
But risks must be taken.
Because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.
The person, who risks nothing, does nothing,
has nothing, and is nothing.
You may avoid suffering and sorrow if you don't risk, but you simply cannot learn, feel, change, grow, love or live.

Only a person who risks is free.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

country roads ll

We live in a town. 
I guess you would consider it the suburbs.
We are surrounded by little pockets of rural.
Fields full of weeds or corn or alfalfa or sheep.
Many moments through many seasons
where I  just stop 
and watch the horses and cows 
gaze and graze.
Old fence posts run 
with barbed wire between.
Where silos tower.
Roads taken 
driving kids to and from.
Familiar running routes, 
views that bring me peace.

I just had to pull over today
to see and to capture 
these last few glimpses of autumn.
The light was just right and even weeds are so pretty.

(more country roads from summer's end  here.)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

twilight in november

what a treat it was,
gathering together at day's end.
this house on a hillside
nestled in scrub,
welcomed in kind hospitality 
by those sweet grandparents
of both beloved room mates
of hers.

and so we couldn't help but
take a little stroll to admire it all 
taking this in,
exploring with wonder
this yard with even its own stream running through
with bridges, groves, and meandering paths
a child's dream come true
this magical place 
where does and their fawns 
make their way down the mountain
at sundown-
a common sight.

and then comes the time,
the evening's highlight
the moment we've been waiting for
to bask in their music making;
fiddle, banjo, and guitar.
these young voices blending, 
singing in perfect three part harmony.
and we sit there
amazed and touched
enough for tears.

and then 
the sharing time of 
pie and smiles and talk and art
with goodbye hugs at the door and promises of
another not too far off distant

Thursday, November 22, 2012

happy thanksgiving!

Hope your Thanksgiving was a happy one. 
Ours was.

Jane and I baked up a storm. 
Mostly yesterday. 
Five pies altogether. 
Pretty standard, like most years.
She whipped out an apple and a mixed berry. 
Lattice crust, even.
I took care of the two pumpkin pies and a Grasshopper. 
(Mint chocolate if your not sure on that one.)
Those two pans of rolls were well received, too.

The day was as beautiful as it could possibly be. 
A house full of love and smiles and laughter and warmth. 
Family ties strengthened and relationships renewed. 
Thoughts turned to loved ones far and those passed on. 
These bellies filled to full capacity. 
I slept on the car ride home.
Contented and grateful.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

an abundance

This has been a quiet, lazy morning. Just taking things slow. Jane's home for the long weekend, as we all gathered last night to watch Sam play his first home basketball game of the season. I had to leave not even halfway into it to get to school. The night's topic specifically about giving a pregnancy massage. Side lying position. I'll have class again tonight.

Isaac left the game with his cousin who is here from Arizona with his parents for the holiday and are staying at my mom and dad's house. He spent the night there and is now enjoying this much looked forward to time off from school and time spent with this cousin who he bonded with over the summer. A day that will probably become a board game marathon.

I lingered for so long in bed this morning. Amazed that I slept so deeply through the night and even slept later than is my early rising norm. Most likely from last night's massage. No real desire for running this morning. Only books and the newspaper and quiet and the cozy comfort of my bed. 

I will get going soon, I know. I'm on pie duty as is the case most years. Jane has expressed her interest in helping me. She's become such a good cook. We've been invited to join Keith's sisters and their families for dinner at his cousin Cindy's home. So kind and generous of her to extend this hand of hospitality to us. 

I will get up early tomorrow and go for my run and then start the rolls which have become part of my Thanksgiving offering. From the way things look outside my window today, it appears that the day will be clear and beautiful. 

As Thanksgiving day has approached, I cannot help but reflect on all the abundance that this year has brought. So much goodness. So many blessings. So many miracles. So much of a fullness. So many tender mercies. So many prayers answered. So many opportunities for growing. So many cherished relationships.

Even as I see that my life is far from perfect--where days sometimes bring moments of disappointment, struggle, and stress-- I realize that I have so much. Truly. So much that I am thankful for. My heart is full. Filled to overflowing. I think that I am the happiest I've ever been. More than ever, an acceptance and an understanding of who I am. For what is. Coming to an understanding that this is what I have. That I can't control, change, or dwell on the past or what the future may hold. What I do have is this present state of now. These moments. So fleeting. So precious. I find great comfort in this.

I feel so much peace and love coming into my life. Purpose and meaning and contentment and understanding. Being able to quietly observe all that's good; all the simple beauties and gifts that are right before my eyes. Even the goodness and personal growth that comes through suffering and hardship. 

I can see a connection between my happiness and my gratitude. The literal act of quietly observing and then tangibly recording these blessings; whether it's been through my writing, my journaling, my photography-- it seems like everyday, my capacity to see this abundance, God's love and presence in my life, being able to see all these connections and these tender mercies and happy coincidences--this ability and these opportunities just continue to keep on growing and growing and coming and coming. 

It's all so good. So very, very good.

Friday, November 16, 2012

digging deep

As part of a Professional Development class for my massage therapy training, we had a discussion last night that really caused me to dig deeply. A chance and an opportunity to search my soul. A time to really question, reflect, and verbalize who I am as a person. The values and vision I have in my life for not only my career as a massage therapist, but as a person.

Doing this sort of exercise wasn't that difficult for me, as I am a very "internal" person; often analyzing my emotions, my thoughts, and the meaning of my life.  The meaning and purpose of life in general.

But as I sat there in my desk last night, this act of deep pondering, concretely thinking, and written expression about my life brought so many feelings to the surface. Tender emotions that have been building, especially within the past few days.

And the tears wouldn't stop flowing...

(I'm not sure the exact purpose in my sharing of these deeply personal feelings here, but I feel a need and a desire somehow, as this blog is literally my personal journal and record of my life. In a real sense it is a profound, meaningful, and often times, much needed "therapy" of sorts; a place of deep and satisfying self expression and soul searching.) 

My Ideal Life

If I could do anything with my life it would be...
Making a difference in others lives and finding personal fulfillment, purpose and meaning in doing so.

The people I know who seem to be happy are happy because...
They are at peace with "what is". They embody the power of gratitude in every aspect of their lives.

I am happiest when...
I am growing, learning, feeling peace, feeling meaning, feeling success in my life.  When I feel loved. When I feel gratitude. When I serve others.

My most treasured memory is...
The births of my children.

They came from a culmination of sacrifice and suffering, bringing a complete fullness of love and joy into my life. This highlight and most treasured of all memories of my life.

The most admirable things about me are...
That I'm a caring, giving, warm, and dedicated person.

When I look at my home life, the activities that are the most worth are...
Spending one on one time with each family member. Building meaningful relationships. Developing closeness and intimacy through communication and time spent together.

The things I most value in a relationship are...
Communication, intimacy, compassion, and kindness.

Who and what have been major influences in my values development...
My parents and other's examples and teachings, spiritual and religious doctrine, beliefs, teachings and messages of spiritual teachers and leaders of which I have studied and internalized. 

The most important people in my life are...
God, Jesus Christ, my immediate family, my parents and extended family, cherished friends, and so many other people in this world who I've learned from, have been influenced by, and who have touched my life with their goodness and example.

I could improve those relationships by...
Serving them, spending time together, engaging in heart-felt, deep communication.

The values that are most important to me are...
Love, compassion, mercy, and gratitude.

The character traits I deem essential are...
Love, kindness, courage, peace, gratitude.

The greatest accomplishment of my life is...
My motherhood.

Something I hope to do that is as great, or even better, is...
Rising, living to the full measure of my creation.

If I only had one year to live, I would concentrate on...
Building relationships. Creating meaningful memories.

Am I doing those things now?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Day Jane Gets Her Mission Call!

I'll never forget this day.
She'll never forget this day.
Her dreams coming true.

Early last month, our church announced that the age requirement for young women who would like to serve as full-time missionaries would be dropped from 21 years to 19 years. Serving a mission has always been something that Jane dreamed about, but never knew would be part of her life's plan.
Well, once she heard that announcement, her world would soon change. Her heart burned, this dream and desire confirmed, that yes, this was the right choice for her to dedicate and set aside 18 months of her young life to God and go wherever she would be called in this world to serve His children.
Her brother Gary's current missionary service in Finland has been an inspiration to Jane. They have always shared a close relationship and bond, and will be a great support to each other as they each labor in different parts of the world. I never dreamed that two of my children, these two, would be doing this at the same time. An idea that I'm still trying to wrap my brain around, but at the same time, beyond thrilling and a blessing to our family for which we are profoundly and eternally grateful.
So for the past month, she's/we've quietly (I haven't shared any of these doings here in this space) gone about visiting with her ecclesiastical leaders, getting paperwork completed, and doctor and dentist appointments scheduled. It's been a busy time, between her demanding college life and all the changes (Grandpa's death and my going back to school) these past few months have brought to our family life.
So yesterday, we found out that the special "call" or letter would be coming in the mail this morning. I went that afternoon to pick her up from school to bring her back home where she would stay the night and we'd wait eagerly for an early visit to the post office.
You can imagine that sleep didn't come easy. Like that night last December when Gary, too, was waiting on pins and needles for his own mission call. Think Christmas  morning anticipation x10.

We knew that our town's post office would have the letter waiting, so around 6:00 am this morning, Jane and Keith hopped in the truck and headed out into that frosty darkness. We wanted to open the letter all together as a family before everyone headed to school and work.

Last night, Jane made a little chart for us to all place our guesses for where in the world Jane would serve her mission.
(The one closest gets a prize, she said.)

So the moment we'd all been looking forward to, this pivoting, life changing moment for a girl who's now made the journey into womanhood,  this moment that she'd dreamed and hoped for and worked for her entire life... was finally here.
And then there was that hushed, sacred quiet while she silently read, and we looked on in wonder and anticipation.
All of us privileged onlookers, each holding our breath.
And then those tender tears began to spill.

 "Dear Sister Jane Crofts,
You are hereby called to serve as a missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. You are assigned to labor in the Taiwan Taipei Mission. It is anticipated that you will serve for a period of 18 months..."

You see, this was all part of her dream.
It all began when she met Xiaoyi way back in her Sophomore year in high school. She felt a special connection and bond with this new found friend which soon blossomed into a love affair with even more Chinese friends, the Chinese culture, and the Mandarin Chinese language. A language that she has now pursued as a major these last two years at university.
But when this past September came, Jane was faced with a painful realization that this language, one that always came so easy for her, was becoming more difficult and would continue to become so if she wasn't given an opportunity to learn it with native speakers. So she turned to God one night in frustration, pleading for help in knowing what course she should take; whether or not she should drop her class and if this whole idea of majoring in Chinese was an impossible dream.
 After the missionary age change was announced, and after determining and deciding that a mission was right for her at this point in her life, she kept all these feelings in her heart, knowing, too, that God knew it, but at the same time coming to a place of willingness and peace that wherever she would be asked to go, she would go and serve with her whole heart.

You can only imagine her happiness. This joy now that's filling her heart. This utter joy that can not even be expressed.
And all along, in this mother's heart, I, too felt that God knew all these things. There have been times this month, that when I'd be thinking about Jane's mission call or talking about it, I would have come into my view or mind's eye something that had to do with Chinese culture... even just like yesterday when I was waiting to meet Jane in the hallway in front of the university bookstore, I thought about her call coming, the warm tears coming, and then, my eyes turned slowly to the sweet face of a young student who looked like she could be from China.
And like today, after making all the phone calls to announce her good news to interested family and friends and a visit to share the happy news with her loving grandparents (and on stepping through the door, Mama beaming out "It's Taiwan, isn't it!!)
... she heads back to school, amazed when she is in the restroom and here are these two other students, Chinese girls; each walking out from each side of her stall, no less!
And  then a few minutes later, while walking through the food court, there is that sweet, familiar face of an older woman from China who tutored her last year and who she hasn't seen since then. And after joyfully hearing Jane's news, told her that she never frequents this spot on campus...
Happy coincidences?
 "God Signatures" is what I like to call them.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

inside, outside

These days have certainly called for warm things to eat. Mugs and bowls filled to the brim with tea and soups and hot breakfast porridge and comforting pudding for a special after-dinner treat.  

The sunshine was so beautiful and welcome when it came out today. Shining all bright on this newly fallen snow. The mountains looked so glorious and I was so glad-- giddy almost-- that I had brought my camera along; taking some time to take a few pictures when I drove to pick up Jane this afternoon after church. 

It was such a peaceful feeling, too, yesterday morning when I set off on my run. Everything so still and silent. The gift that comes after a snowstorm in the quiet, early morning hours. Snowflakes softly falling, again, on my way back home. That was lovely.

The weekend filled with good things. Between errands and out and abouts and cozying up here at home, my massage table arrived this week and was put to a lot of use. I went to my parent's home yesterday and worked on both my mom and dad. It makes me so happy to know that my massage work for them is really making a difference. If this is the only reason why I'm gaining this training, it is all worth it, I've decided.

Later that night, Eliza, Isaac and I went to a movie. And how serendipitous that our reserved tickets were right next to my dear friend and her sweet son. 

Sunday afternoons seem have seemed to become "Mom's massage school hands-on homework day" as far as the children are concerned. Spent two and a half hours working on Sam, Jane, and little Isaac. It was not at all draining for me. I so enjoy this work. I love the satisfaction I feel. The peace, mindfulness, and this profound sense of quiet that distills upon me. The compassion, the reverence, and the absolute wonder I feel for not only each of these bodies, but for each soul that I'm able to connect with this way. The love that just seems to flow and flow out of me.