August 14, 2014 ~ One Year Later

DSCN3252A lot of living, hiking, testing new waters, meeting new people, and soul searching happened during the first year in my new home. Some of those stories will be revisited in other posts as they bear significance in other ways as well.This was my journal entry on the anniversary of my arrival in the Flathead and what was to be my new ways of life.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  

~Jeremiah 29:11

There was no spectacular sunrise for my photo journal this morning; no overwhelming sense that today would be any different from yesterday, and yet I awoke with a spark of something, perhaps a reminiscent twitch of anticipation for the events of this day exactly one year ago. The actual activities of August 14, 2013 were rather commonplace in our shared human story: packing up one’s belongings and striking out for somewhere new. For me however, that day and the ensuing days of settling in were the opening sentence of the first chapter of my new life.

Looking back, it seems like ages ago and yet just yesterday, when I stood still in the soft morning light of an Eastern Montana sunrise and breathed a weary sigh. I surveyed the pared down contents of 42-years of life stuffed into a trailer, the back of my Santa Fe, and Tim’s pickup truck. Saying good-bye seemed surreal; the actions felt imagined, my throat constricted with a twinge of guilt, and my stomach was a flutter with nerves.

As we pulled out of Billings, a heavy silence enveloped me despite my planned departure soundtrack of Neil Diamond tunes keeping my tears at bay. Gone was the chaotic din that was constant in my life for the past month of job leaving, possession packing, possession discarding, panic attacks, and the social commitments that came with saying good-bye.

So, this is it! Here I am world, I thought at the time. I felt emotionally exhausted and amazingly free.

Had my life so far prepared me for that moment of independence? Oh, YES! All at once, I was alone, truly and wonderfully alone for the first time in my life. I at once marveled and trembled at what was transpiring. I was leaving behind a life that was full of responsibility and friends. People of all walks in my community recognized me. I was leaving a well paying but unfulfilling job for what I hoped would be a career that used my talents and challenged me. I was leaving my history behind. Now I was free to be me.

Naturally, I am not the same woman today that I was that mid-August morning one year ago. I realize now that I have a very independent spirit and a heart that longs to be shared. My treks into the mountains seeking ever-higher peaks and grander vistas reflect the journey I am taking personally. After years of living a regimented work-a-day life, I have discovered this crazy, wonderful, selfish desire to play! I panic with realization that time slips away quickly and I wasted a lot of it in the past doing every-day, comfortable, and safe tasks rather than challenging myself, taking a few risks, and having fun. While I refuse to be fenced in as I grow into this new sense of self, I desire boundary lines I can grasp onto from time to time, seeking direction and support.

I am forever thanking God for the friendships that have crossed the miles with me and sustain me, my family who despite missing me prays for my continued happiness here, and for the new family and friendships I have found here through my love, my job, my church, and the risks I am taking in life by putting myself out there. I will admit to times of great loneliness and rejoice in times of such happy belonging that I pinch myself. Life is certainly an interesting rollercoaster ride of emotions! I thank God for every tear and fit of laughter as each enrich my life with colors of the heart and make me feel alive.

The melancholy moments of longing for what was and the joyous highs of the adventure that lies before me can exhaust a person at times and I gather that is why life is revealing itself to me on an as needed basis, a situation that reveals my lack of patience when it comes to my personal soul searching. Nevertheless, each day I awake with renewed vigor in my quest. What a book I will have to write before it all comes to a close (I am obviously extending the publication date by years!)

Thank you Lord sustaining me through this journey, for filling me with the bread of life, and giving me wonderful hope in tomorrow. I cannot wait for the next chapter to begin!

Making the NOW Matter

A study of sky and place over time. 7-3-2014

A study of sky and place over time. 7-3-2014

“A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.” ~ Psalm 90:4

If you are anything like me, you are perplexed right now at the realization that August is upon us. How can it possibly be August already? How can time pass so quickly? Can someone please explain how a month has already gone by since we celebrated Independence Day?

Some days I count minutes that seem like hours only to find myself dumbfounded later that the time I thought I had slipped through my fingers as swiftly and quietly as the sand in an hourglass. In time’s swift passing, my goals are left unreached, my plans fall victim to the spontaneous chaos of daily life, and any thoughts of the future are an impossible focus when I can’t even make the now present. How do we make the NOW matter in our lives?

While there is nothing I can do to slow the passage of time, I can make the time that passes richer and more fulfilling. Amidst all the busyness of work and family life, I find that by bringing something I am passionate about into my everyday life I am adding life to my every day.  Instead of my usual inclination to delay gratification in just about everything I do, that is, save the good stuff for later, for when I have more time, I take a dose of that joy giving, life enhancing, smile inducing, heart fulfilling passion of mine and relish it each day.

A study of sky and place over time. 7-6-2014

A study of sky and place over time. 7-6-2014

In my case, that passion is photography. Rather than waiting for an epic hike or family get together, I have found satisfaction in capturing the beauty of every morning’s sunrise and evening’s sunset in a photograph. In fact, I wake up almost giddy with anticipation, rising before the rest of the world stirs to venture outside and see what the Lord will paint for me on his canvas that morning. I look forward to the end of the day as well, capturing in a photograph, the closing moments of the day in the Western sky. I guess you could say I am documenting the passage of time, even though I cannot grasp it.

This daily dose of doing something creative outside of my daily tasks lifts my mood and helps me approach my everyday tasks with a renewed vigor. If I allow myself to succumb to the monotony of the get up- go to work- eat- brush- floss- go to bed routine, my work and my mood suffers. But, by adding a dose of passion, creativity, and diversion to my daily schedule: getting up – running and doing photography- going to work- eating – brushing – flossing- going to bed, my spirit receives just as much attention as my other daily demands which results in my feeling balanced and focused. The key is to make time for this! Just as you make time to go to work, shop at the grocery store, mow the lawn, or do your laundry, carve out some time for your daily dose of creativity and pursuit of your passions.

Studies show there are numerous health benefits to pursuing a hobby. Herbert Benson, M.D., of Harvard University gives the example of the repetitive and rhythmic craft of knitting in describing what he calls the relaxation response—“a feeling of bodily and mental calm that’s been scientifically proven to enhance health and reduce the risk of heart disease, anxiety and depression.”  “You can induce the relaxation response through any type of repetition, whether it’s repeating a word, prayer, or action, such as knitting or sewing,” he notes. “The act of doing a task over and over again breaks the train of everyday thought, and that’s what releases stress.”  Practicing a hobby leads to a reduction in blood pressure and stress levels.

Hobbies take our minds off our daily work and obligations and let us focus on doing things we truly love. Dr. John Milton, associate professor of Neurology at the University of Chicago used a functional MRI to study the brain activity of professional golfers playing in the U.S. Open and that of amateur golfers. The MRI detected changes to the blood flow in the brain “in effect, lighting up a certain part of the brain when it goes to work.” The brain would light up less and less as the golfer became more proficient in his play. Milton cited the importance of letting your brain go on “autopilot, because that frees up the brain giving it time to catch up with all that is going on.”  Practicing a hobby forces your mind out of the day-to-day rut of routine and causes your brain to renew brain cells and form new connections resulting in improved mental abilities including speed, focus, memory, and flexibility.

A study of sky and place over time. 7-18-2014

A study of sky and place over time. 7-18-2014

Howard Tinsley, professor emeritus of psychology at Southern Illinois University conducted 15 years of research involving 4000 people from high school age to senior citizens all with hobbies. His results were the same across all age groups. “People who were more active in leisure activities reported greater satisfaction of life; they scored higher on standardized tests on satisfaction.” In a nutshell, play is good for you!

If you have a hobby or passion that you have been setting aside because of a lack of time, remember how swiftly time passes and how temporary our lives are. Pick up the paintbrush, start crafting, find an instrument you love to play, or immerse yourself in the books you have been putting off reading. Give your spirit a lift. Try being creative or pursue a hobby in whatever form that takes for you. Carve out time in your schedule to pursue it and enjoy the feeling of accomplishment as you delve into a creative process or see your skills blossom. The results in themselves will add meaning to the days that just seem to fly by without so much as a blink of an eye. Don’t wait to pursue what brings you joy and add life to your days.

Here is how my pursuits have enriched my days. I am finding fewer and fewer hours to sleep and the 5 hours (if I am lucky) that I do sleep are excessively short! It should come as no surprise that I overslept one recent Friday morning thinking it was a Saturday but I still had another workday to tackle. After the initial fly out of bed shock wore off, I realized I still had time for a morning run so I made my way out into a brighter than usual morning light.  Ah yes, it was the perfect time to practice my passion of photography! Leading up to that morning, my usual photographic focal points had become rather drab in the pre dawn hours of my running schedule. The days are already getting shorter and the sunrises are coming later and later, a circumstance that makes me grumble as I hunger to capture the radiance of the morning and want summer to last forever. Had I awakened at my intended time, I would have missed the splendor of that morning’s spectacular sunrise, a special gift God had in store for me along my route.

I took full advantage of the situation to pursue my passion and the results were decidedly rewarding and two-fold. That day my favorite landscapes revealed themselves to me in a different light and I captured some brilliant photos. Normally I would have been out of sorts all day after my panicked awakening, however diverting that energy towards doing something I love (not to mention at a faster than usual sprint) released in me a brighter mood and a focused mind. Contemplating as I ran, I relished the lesson learned that morning: Once again, God’s timing is perfect, even when it is flying by.

Lord, help me value the time that I am given and make the most of it! Give me patience to see your timing as the gift that it is and help me to rejoice in the now, live in it fully, and not rue what has passed or pine for the future. Thank you, Lord for reminding me that my timing is not always the right time.

A study of sky and place over time. 7-31-2014

A study of sky and place over time. 7-31-2014

“Life is not a matter of milestones, but of moments.” ~ Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy