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Archive for beautiful ordinary

sketch journal 062717 . Strength of the Ox

It’s a strange day in the Pond when I’m writing about oxen. I’ll start with that. I feel cluttered this week – distracted by so many thoughts, and juggling a growing list of projects and things I want to do with the kids. So, I guess oxen seem to fit right in. When I find myself surrounded by some combination of cluttered activities, cluttered goals, or cluttered thinking, this proverb often floats to the surface. Just a couple of lines from a rich book that stuck some time ago during a meditation. It’s a gentle reminder that brings much needed clarity…

For me, that growing sense of being overtaken by a cluttered spirit starts with the physical environment. I look around and find various buildings sets and racing tracks scattered around the living room. Cups in the sink. Blankets and shoes tossed aside on the floor. The remnant of one of Baby Girl’s craft projects on the table where an Independence Day centerpiece should be. Magazines and books piled up on my desk waiting to inspire me. Cards and prints that need packaging in the studio. Surfaces and spaces. All filled with things out of place. Or things reminding me of something that needs to be done.

Then, it moves to logistics – the thousand responsibilities to juggle in just keeping up. Waiting for Roto-rooter. Waiting for the cable guys. Shuffling to accommodate their maintenance. Juggling meetings. Getting meals together. New client projects. Each sweet little spirit wanting some attention and affirmation – one wanting help with hot glue, one with a tummy ache, one eager to start a new video project. When I look around, I see clothes and toys and mail that need weeding. Not to mention flower beds. Sally needs to go to the vet. My project schedule and supply closet need organizing. We should pull something out of our summer jar today. Someone wants to go swimming. And I might cry because the summer days are halfway gone, now.

And, then the clutter settles into heart matters. It’s a jumble of questions. What are the most important things? Am I spending time on them? How DO I want to spend my days? How am I doing? How are WE doing? A jumble of concerns and hopes and needs. Channeling this heart, who has a perpetual stream of big ideas and a hankering to accomplish them all. Comforting and giving confidence to this heart, who seems to struggle with a nagging fear that won’t let go. Nurturing and capturing the imagination of this heart, who won’t stop growing up, though he’d really like to. How do I manage all the decisions and expectations? How do I filter the influences on them, while preserving the precious spirits inside? How do I juggle the pull between home keeping and growing freelance projects? How do I prioritize my own list of creative pursuits? How do I NOT miss out on this time? Question after question, fueled by a clutter of thoughts and feelings and responsibilities.

That’s when an unlikely proverb about oxen rises to the surface. A gentle reminder of one truth… Life is messy. It just is. All the jobs and responsibilities, the space we create, the things we own, the precious people we love and the dreams we want to chase. They’re messy. The only way to avoid the mess is to avoid the life.

“Where no oxen are, the manger is clean.” Clean, pristine, free of debris and out-of-place fragments. A clean and uncluttered, empty place.

“Much increase comes from the strength of the ox.” It’s a shift in perspective. If the price of clean and neat constraint is emptiness, I don’t want it. I want full! That increase. That fullness. It can’t be achieved when tidiness is the ultimate benchmark. It can’t be experienced when everyone and everything stays in its place. Those narrow constraints of perfection and precision. To embrace the fullness is to embrace the messiness. The clutter. The complicated. The unclear and unkept.

Yes, I can insist on keeping all things tidy. I can reject the unexpected hope or worry or idea or plan in favor of some pristine routine and schedule and kitchen table. I can suck all the life out of our experiences and our time together, our hearts, our home, in service to neat plans, neat feelings and neat rooms. Or I can revel in the ripe energy of the life happening all around me. The friction of each little creative heart and creative pursuit rubbing against each other.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I value an ordered space. I need it. I thrive when I can prioritize what I see all around me with what is beautiful and full of memory and inspiration. So, I’m a big proponent of bringing the spaces we inhabit – where we nurture our family and hearts – to a comfortable place of order. But, I’m learning to balance that order with the freedom to breathe and do and enjoy without holding so tightly to where things ought to be. I hope I’m learning to extend that freedom to my children.

Those things out of place. They’re evidences of activities and games and projects experienced together. They’re the trappings of feeling like you’re at home, where anything goes and speaks and feels. Those logistics. They’re really the easy things. The things with clear expectations. The to-dos that make our home go and my business go. The products of having the freedom to clutch and shift when it’s needed. And, all those heart questions. The cacophony of my own wandering thoughts. They’re what come out when I take the time to stop and look and listen to the other souls around me. They’re the realization that knowing the question is often so much more powerful than knowing the answer.

So, I’m sitting in my studio, typing away on the computer. The Magic School Bus is playing on my tiny television, and Mrs. Frizzle is on her latest field trip. All three children are piled in the room, and I’m struggling to concentrate. Baby Girl has her beanbag heaped in the bay window with pillows and popcorn. Elisha and Travis are sharing the couch with more pillows, kool-aid, and episode commentary. Each one content and insistent that I be involved in the conversation. The work I planned to do isn’t getting done as quickly. But, the work of drawing near. Drawing together. Sharing time and space and the beauty of a messy manger. In this moment, that work seems right on track.

letters to my daughter . 091216


It started out as a threat. I’m not ashamed to admit it. School mornings are tough at our house. School Monday mornings are tougher. Nobody wants to get up, including the Mommy in the room. I try my best to keep it positive, but sometimes that first hour of the day tries to do us in with cajoling, begging, groaning, and more often than not, a little raising of the voices as I try to pry my children from their beds to get started with the day.

Sometimes I resort to threats. The first (and least invasive, in my singular opinion) is this: “Do I need to start singing?” Yep. I threaten to sing if I don’t get a response to the admonitions to wake up and sit up. Now, I like to sing. And, my children are used to me adding my own brand of wackiness to situations by breaking out in show tunes, or 80’s tunes, or jazz tunes, or the occasional beat box. There was a period when they were younger (and the words were simpler) when I sang a song for every spelling word on their lists as we practiced for tests. But, that’s another story.

So, singing is not really all that unusual or earth-shattering around our house. In the mornings, however, it’s gotten pretty rare because of the groaning responses emanating from their beds. Enter the threat. Usually the morning singing threat is met with a chorus of “NO!”, followed by begrudging movement under the covers as they attempt to open their eyes to the light. This morning, however, something astonishing happened. When I asked the infamous question, “Do I need to start singing?”, Elisha Bug gave a small, half-sleepy grin and responded, “Maybe.”

Holy wow. Maybe. For a Monday morning, that’s pretty amazing. So, I brought out my usual morning song — the old Lake Forest Ranch camp favorite we sung at morning council to “wake up” the echo living on the other side of the lake.

Rise and shine and give God the glory, glory!
Rise and shine and give God the glory, glory!
Rise! And shine! And give God! The glory, glory!
Children of the Lord!

I sang it. I got some giggles — so as to indicate an actual awakening of the 4th grader. And then, this from Bug: “We might need the kick.” (More giggles.)

Now, Bug was clearly toying with me. Another good sign that we were actually waking up. “The kick” refers to my history of inserting a cheerleader kick/clap under the leg after the third “Rise! And shine!”

I was all in now. So, round two of Rise and Shine came, including the requested kick, more giggles, and the morning routine begun.

Just a morning. Just a Monday. Just an ordinary moment. That I hope we’ll never forget.

letters to my daughter . 090916
Maggie and the Moon


I’ve had this Jazz standard on my mind today, poking up into that playlist in my brain in between all the residue from a very busy two weeks of client design work. It’s on my mind because of a little activity Baby Girl planned for us last night. Her third grade class is doing a unit on space, and they’re learning about constellations and the phases of the moon. They’ve been documenting the look of the moon so they can understand how the phases work. Each group has certain nights to look at the moon, draw how it looks and write down any other observations. Maggie had already recorded the findings on her night, but decided before school yesterday that it would be fun to do it again that night — along with the whole family.

Now, Maggie has great ideas. She has lots of ideas. And, I’ll admit that sometimes my response to her ideas is to try to simplify, to put her off, to cajole her with practicality. How did I get to be that person? I’m given to getting lost in my own imagination. I’m not usually practical minded. Except when I’m at the end of a long and busy day, coming at the end of a long and busy week, when I tend to want as little fuss as possible.

Last night, I tried to talk Baby Girl out of fuss. It’s true; I tried to encourage her to alter her plans in favor of just walking out and looking up at the moon. But, I could see the disappointment in her eyes. So, I rounded up the boys, and we decided to go for it.

It’s an interesting thing when you take a small thing and make a real “thing” out of it. When you take a have-to and make a celebration out of it. Those transformations are part of what I want to be “normal” in our home. We put a lot of time (and decorations) into celebrating things — even little things. Maggie has learned well. How easy it is to let the little opportunities for celebration get crowded out by busy-ness.

So, at 8:00 last night, the Montgomerys spread a quilt on the front yard, spread out the lanterns Baby Girl brought,  and stretched out on pillows looking up. At first it was a have-to — one of those things big brothers have to do to please their little sisters. One of those things Mommies have to do to keep from disappointing daughters. But, before I knew it I was breathing deeply — the first time all day, I think. I stretched out my arms. Bug snuggled close to me on the pillow. Maggie showed everyone her moon journal. Travis discovered an airplane. Then another. Bug got his glasses to see the stars better. We turned off the lanterns. We counted stars as our eyes slowly adjusted. We watched the clouds move across the half moon.

Time that moments before had been spent with each person gazing into a screen of some kind turned into time spent talking to each other, noticing the world around us, and celebrating the night together. And yes, everyone was ready to go back in and enjoy their own things after a little while. But, for those short moments, we were amazed by the sky and the night. And, everyone decided we should lay out our quilt another night to look at the stars.

For me, it was a treasured moment. A moment when I realized, I’d never see the moon the same way again. Because when I look up tonight or the next, I’ll think about Maggie and her ideas. I’ll think about Elisha scooting closer to me on the pillow and counting stars. I’ll think about Travis wondering out loud if we were seeing light from 500 years ago. I’ll remember that we looked at that same moon together. On this one night. And it was a “thing.” A beautiful thing.

Years ago, when I started my first blog, I wrote a column called “Gift Tags…”

“the tiny messages God continues to include with our gifts — 2 little joys of boys and 1 little jewel of a girl, each with open eyes, open ears, open hearts, and much to teach. “Behold children are a gift of the Lord…” (psalm 127:1)”

The series was an exercise in paying attention to those little miraculous things I learn from my children. It was before I had this business. Before Mike died. Before I was tasked with being the sole provider for my family. Before these last few weeks and this season, when I feel like I’ve been so stretched emotionally and creatively to meet the challenges of work and art and parenting. But, the messages are just as poignant. Just as essential. Just as much balm to my soul.

I realized that again in a new way last night. I reminded myself what a treasure they each are. What a treasure time is. And how important it is to take advantage of every moment. Maggie is our living laboratory assignment for the pursuit of beautifully embraced moments. I’m so thankful that she stretches us toward experiencing them.

“I’ll be looking at the moon, but I’ll be seeing you.”

Programming note: Today is Number 55 in the Letters series, and I’m on a mission to get to 100 this fall. Stay with me!

letters to my daughter . 062816


It always seems to happen at bedtime. It doesn’t matter whether we’re staying up late or going to bed early, at bedtime, the giggles ensue. And it’s not just a small chuckle. It’s a full-blown, every single thing in the world is funny, giggle-fest. From all three of my little ones. Just as I’m ready for some down time and trying to get everyone settled down. And so, I pull out my “I know it’s summer time, but mommy still has to get some work done tomorrow,” lecture. Followed by a short soliloquy on how “when you guys are sleeping late tomorrow, Mommy will be getting up to do my client projects, so we need to quiet down!” Even I am thinking “blah, blah, blah.”

This morning, as I was thinking about how this scene unfolded last night, it occurred to me… “what am I doing?” Not fifteen minutes before, I had been begging them not to argue with each other. And then, the sounds of uncontrolled giggles coming from my bedroom, each one joined in, and not a cross word in earshot. (until I decided to join the conversation) Maybe it’s time for me to reevaluate this giggle thing. Maybe it’s time to embrace the giggling. To celebrate that unexpected explosion of joy. And to remind Baby Girl and her brothers that the sound of those giggles isn’t an annoyance. It is the precious and priceless sound of joy and love and togetherness. One I hope I can always hear clearly.

I’m closing in on 50 letters! My goal is to get to 100. You can view the whole series here.

oh happy day . The Summer Jar


Friday is here, and I’m finally getting back to my Oh Happy Day! Gratitude Project posting series. I started it as a way to remind myself to make gratitude part of every day, every week. Thornton Wilder wrote that “we can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures,” and beginning with gratitude is the best way I know to live aware of how blessed we are.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that blessing over the last few weeks as we’ve been finishing up the school year and getting ready for summer. This spring, I devoted some time to thinking through the direction of this blog, and by extension, my business. And, I guess, by further extension, my approach to work and how it integrates with the rest of life. As an artist, so much of creating and exploring new ideas is an on-going process that isn’t necessarily confined by the typical workday. As a single mom, dealing with the loss of my husband and the changes that has brought to our lives, I’ve also grown to understand that for me, it’s very important that what I “do” in my work and how I spend my days creatively be meaningful and inspiring.

As I was thinking through some of my blogging topics and inspiration-focus back in March, I wrote a “creative map” and lots of notes about various aspects of the creative life. For my “living” category, I wanted my thinking, writing and creating to reflect a “quiet, authentic and conscious life” — there is that word “conscious” again. My goals for some of the writing and sharing settled on three things…

  • to talk and “be” about real things
  • to be a good steward of time and blessings
  • to infuse daily life with beauty, creativity and celebration

The concept of being deliberate and conscious in what we’re doing isn’t easy sometimes. Being that “good steward” can be difficult when faced with all the mundane activities required in working, mothering and home-keeping. And, of course, busy-ness can be our enemy as we get stretched and pulled in lots of different directions. We often start to lose the joy in whatever we’re doing and begin checking items off our calendars and to-do lists.

I want to stop that cycle in my life. I want, as Emerson said, to “finish the moment” — each moment — and to make the most of each opportunity represented in that moment. I think I’m particularly more motivated in that commitment as I see my children growing at what seems like an exponential pace at times. As they become more and more independent (and just physically bigger), I find the desire to grab onto each fleeting moment with more of a white-knuckle grip! And, I suppose, summer offers it’s own impetus to slow down. Our schedule slows down, and we have fewer commitments as a family, but how will we use that freedom? I don’t want to get to August and say “where has the summer gone?” We’ve had an unprecedented build-up of excitement anticipating the start of summer, and I’ve been determined to put every effort into taking full advantage of it.

Enter the Summer Jar.

The children and I decided to create a list of things we wanted to do this summer — experiences big and small that would help us have memories and joy to show for the time spent this summer. We decided to put them in a jar that we could pull from to plan for activities or to surprise ourselves with fun experiences. Baby Girl decorated the jar with her special brand of summery illustrations, and we have it front and center on our dining table with a pen and sticky pad ready to add more experience suggestions. We’ve included things like our normal trips to the farm and to the beach, but also things like building our train set and a lego city, getting yogurt or ice cream, going to the library, eating outside on the picnic table, swimming, game nights and more.

None of the activities are earth-shattering, not all of them require “going” somewhere, and most aren’t new experiences. But, the power comes in the intention — the conscious choice of experiencing and “finishing” each moment. I want to recognize the joy and to take time to celebrate it in my heart at the end of each day. I suppose that’s the essence of gratitude. And, I want our summer jar to encourage us to embrace the beauty and wonder in some of those mundane activities that weave our lives together between the other fun experiences. I hope we can have a healthy mix of going and simply being together in those moments of someone sitting in my lap, working together to cook dinner, reading together at bedtime, playing games and sharing the same space.


We started some of our “summer jar” experiences yesterday with a trip to Denny’s for pancakes for breakfast and a visit to the MSU Library to see the Kinsey Collection on exhibit there. I’ll share more about this remarkable collection of African American art, literature and historical documents in a later post, but today, I’m so thankful we had the opportunity to enjoy it together and have it as one of our memories of the summer of 2015. It is open in Starkville through June 20 at the John Grisham Room of Mitchell Memorial Library, and it’s well worth the time in experiencing some little-seen aspects of our own history.





On this “Oh Happy Day,” I’m also so, so grateful for the opportunity to build my work life on my own terms with the freedom to organize my days so that these types of experiences with my children are possible. It’s never easy to balance family and work responsibilities, and I’ve become more and more mindful of the blessing I have as freelancer to set my own schedules. It’s a true gift I don’t want to squander or take for granted in these seasons when all my loves are together under the same roof.

Oh Happy Day!


morning letters . wednesday 031815


Wise words this morning during practice.

Sometimes I get questions from folks about my art and design process. It varies for me, usually depending on the project, but it very often involves hand-crafted work, my scanner, and photoshop. I use the Morning Letters series truly as practice in lettering where I hone my craft in painting various typefaces I’ve seen or my own lettering style that seems to be rising to the surface among everything I’m doing. BUT, I always want to put pieces out on the blog and in social media that represent me and my work well. Sometimes meshing those two goals needs a little more help from the scanner… like today’s practice piece:


That’s the original behind-the-scenes page where you’ll see that I mis-spelled “around” and generally missed the mark on that line of script lettering. Although perfection isn’t really my goal, I’ve learned that practice DOES at least help create a look I like better. So, my “tech” (as my kids’ Iron Man tv shows usually call it) helps me replace the goofs with the second effort I’m happier with! It’s all part of the process. In the words of my 8-year-old Bug, “if you make a mistake, just X it out and write it again.” More wise words.


I’m listening to the early morning sounds of my babies waking up. My parents are here, so I’m given the privilege of sleeping in when they begin to stir. There are whispers of conversations because they know Mommy is sleeping. Or trying to. Soft and tender words spoken just to themselves and their imaginations, unaware and unhindered by self-consciousness. Something about sharing and lunch and babies. The little patters down the hallway rush to get this or that. Faint sounds of electronics let me know they are piled up in the living room — our Mario Bros and Transformer “tech” paired with some intermittent rattling I’m now convinced is a toy mixer. There’s that thick cough I’ve been concerned about. The on-and-off of the air conditioner briefly dims the sounds and now I can hear the Weather Channel forecasting the day. And maybe the dishwasher.

They are the sounds of normal. And so very daunting. I know getting up will get easier. I know moving will get easier. I know the fatigue will lessen and the sleep will become more sound and the rising of the sun will just get easier. But now it’s so daunting.

When I hear these sounds, I’m so intimidated and overwhelmed to face them. Yes, it’s intimidating to think of dealing with their grief in whatever unexpected ways it comes out and the sadness I know they feel. But, more than that, it’s their overwhelming normal-ness I’m not sure I’m ready for. They are SO glaringly normal. Their blessed youth and innocence of this life makes normal so much larger for them and unquestioned. They are still young enough to be a little confused by time and place. And absence. And so today is just Saturday, like most Saturdays. A new day.

They deserve this day. This new day. They deserve that great luxury called normal. And as I continue to listen — someone’s winning a race with Bowser and Baby Girl has chosen another puzzle — I can almost know the sound of normal in my own spirit. It’s only a faint rumble. And it brings this strange guilt and shame and sorrow and loss. Which I know is all, yes, normal. Hearing it, I can almost be ready for this day. This ridiculously normal Saturday. I can almost be excited for this new day with them. Almost. And almost is something. It’s something.

“The Lord’s mercies indeed never cease. They are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness.”

The Sky

It’s been a while since I looked at the sky. For no good reason. I follow the demands of my little ones quite often as they direct my attention to the moon or a star or a jet stream, but I have to admit that I don’t often ascertain the same wonder they seem to glean. No, my gaze is sometimes more of a momentary patronage of their whims while my brain is centered on my own passing fancies. I guess that’s how it goes with the seemingly constant multi-tasking that calls itself motherhood.


Yesterday afternoon I looked at this sky. On purpose. For no OTHER purpose but to see it. My children were using it as a time-keeping device for how long we could stay outside — until the sun went down. But, I was just looking. Just looking to see it change and glow from a peaceful seat. Just looking to let it impress me, which it rarely fails to do when I’m paying attention.

On Friday the kids and I came to the farm to spend the week of Spring Break. It’s a place where the main rule has become, “everyone does what they want to do.” And while being the mommy requires me to keep that in reason, still we try to adhere to the spirit of the rule as closely as possible. We’ve all been looking forward to it for a long time — since our visit here for Thanksgiving really, when we had the idea to spend this week here. It’s been my pleasure to plan moments and days in this place away from our routine, and somehow the moments become cause for celebration.

The word “respite” is defined as an interval of relief. It’s the word that has risen in my thinking as I’ve been approaching this week on holiday. I’ve felt the need recently for a respite and when I arrived at the farm I realized that I’ve been relying on this week to provide it.

A respite.
From demands.
From schedules.
From keeping time.
From routine.
From stresses.
From creative exercises.
From information.
From availability.
From the pull of being in touch.
From the push of deadlines.

I found myself reducing my expectations for any “work” I wanted to do this week, communicating to clients transparently that I would be out of town. I found myself eliminating my own overestimation of what I might accomplish — a rare occurrence for my brain which is a champion overestimator when it comes to organizing “free time”. I found myself searching my bookshelves for more books to read and skimming past the design titles for more fiction options. And, of course, I found myself wanting to soak up my babies, just to enjoy their presence and their laughter and their funny stories. I get that a lot from them, but I’ve been looking forward to a time when it wasn’t encumbered by schedules and reading homework and my own need to do the dishes or put the toys away.

Yes, I have a lot of expectations about this week at the farm. The funny thing is; those expectations aren’t based on what I’m doing. They’re really based on what I’m NOT doing — my own willingness to stop. To sit. To listen. To laugh. To gaze at the sky.


I saw an old leather-bound journal in my office the other day. It was one I had gotten from Barnes & Noble several years ago with a dyed and stamped, striped leather cover that I know reached out to one of those artsy tendencies in me. I thumbed through it again and discovered that it was mostly unused. I’d only written in a fraction of the pages.

I was thinking about that journal, and about the process of writing words. As I sit writing this post, I’m using my iPad and an app called Chronicle. It’s my diary these days — my journal. I use it to record my thoughts, compose them and refine them. It’s a process I once used my bound journals for.

My digital life has made many things more convenient, even many things more possible. But, I also wonder if I’m loosing something in tapping keys and touch points rather than moving ink along a page. I type faster than I write. It’s why I started journalling on a computer to begin with, and there is some value in using a tool that allows me to record thoughts quickly. But, there is also value in using a tool that slows my thoughts and ideas and memories long enough for me to capture them — to absorb and experience and embrace them. It gives me time to ponder, to synthesize, to form opinions, to take stands.

It’s the same with the experiences or moments my words are meant to expose and evaluate.

Embracing experiences is a special skill. It requires engaging the senses. Engaging the mind. Engaging myself with others around me. Slowing the process of thinking and processing to absorb the nuances — much like the process of writing by hand in that journal. Slowing the need to move to the next thing. To remain in the present long enough to enjoy it, absorb it, reflect on it. Or, maybe the reflection comes later. Maybe you have to remain in the moment long enough to let it’s uniqueness make an impact — an imprint on your experience. An imprint that you can later touch and feel with your spirit. And draw conclusions from. That doesn’t happen when moments are glossed over or rushed past.

I’m finding that I’m in need of slowing, of retraining myself to soak in, absorb and speak. After so often slipping into the habit of glossing over situations, of hurrying from one thought to the next, I’m re-learning how to discern my own opinions and impressions of an experience, be it a conversation, something I see or hear, or the actions of others. I’m relearning to expose myself to the things that really interest me, to define for myself what experiences are valuable and holding them long enough in my mind to glean all they have to offer my spirit.

I’m beginning a week or so of time away from home, visiting my parents for the holidays. Although I’m not sure three excited children running through the house in search of the full Christmas experience really qualifies as “slow'” but I’m looking at is as an opportunity to practice slowing. To focus my attention on these few simple treasures as I seek to define where I really want to focus my broader attention in 2012.

One Life

Well, we finished up the Thanksgiving holidays. Little Drummer Boy’s Fall break at school was the catalyst for some time away from home. A change of scenery is usually good for a change of perspective, too. Plus, the fresh air and clear skies of the family farmland doesn’t hurt either. I’m always amazed at how much clearer things sound when you’re surrounded by pasture and how much crisper the light is when there isn’t the competition of street lights.

Thanksgiving and my 12 days of posting was a worthwhile experience. As it always is. Looking back through some of the posts, I can easily see how valuable it is to focus my attention on blessings — to consciously look for and recognize the elements of life that bring me joy. Recognizing that joy helps me focus my attention. Through the last 12 days I’ve realized once again how important it is to take responsibility for defining my own life of joy and bringing that life into clearer focus by setting my own priorities.

I have one life. I have to make that real. In fact, I’m the only one who can make it real. And let’s face it; a life lived in pursuit of someone else’s dream is just pretending. It’s a waste.

If I am to make this one life one of meaning, it is imperative that I hear the clear ping of my own heart telling me what is important — what is required to make that life real and valuable. It is imperative that I maintain a crisp view rather than a hazy picture of what that life should be. And that takes discipline and soul-searching and some hard choices. But it’s worth it if I want to have the assurance that I spent my life living rather than waiting to live it. Hoping to live it. Thinking about living it. Imagining living it.

So, I’ve been thinking. What are the shadow areas of my life? What are the areas where I am content with the mere outlines and silhouettes of the real thing? Life goals and themes change over time. Once again, it’s time to decide. What do I want my life to be? What do I want my children to see or expect when they prepare to live their lives?

Tough questions. Ones that are not always easily answered. More challenging still, at times, are the choices required to follow through with making my answers materialize. It requires courage and resolve and a clear understanding that this life — my life — is worth it.

We can choose to exist. To simply subsist. But that isn’t enough for me. I don’t want to poorly invest the one life with which I’m blessed. So, I must define my own terms for it. And dare to reject anything that pulls me away from that true life. Anything that clouds the picture of a life lived to its fullest.

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