Riding Into Lent

Lego Ash WednesdayRiding my bike daily is one of the practices I have decided to take up for Lent. While we often think of Lent being a time when we give up something or when we take up a ‘spiritual practice’, something like prayer or alms giving, Lent can also be a time of reflection, repentance, and change. I need to turn from my unhealthy practices I have fallen into and take up healthy practices – my bike is quite literally a vehicle of change.

view from my bike

My goal is to ride 40 minutes each day for the 40 days of Lent. There is no speed goal. No distance goal. Only time and movement. The first day I fell short by 9 minutes. On day 2 Jenn rode with me and as I came to the point when my driveway was – RIGHT THERE – Jenn said, “Want to ride to the end of the street and back?” My head screamed NO! My legs concurred. But my mouth said “Sure”, because I didn’t want to appear weak and we rode a loop that gave us the extra 5 minutes we lacked to have gone the entire 40 minutes.

As we were out for our ride, we came to a place where the road is dirt (sand actually), that gives way to broken pavement and loose gravel. To make this all the more treacherous it’s a decent downward incline (I live in Southeastern NC, most everything is pretty flat) with a giant mud puddle at the end. As I was riding I was constantly looking ahead, choosing my path though the danger that created the possibilities for a crash. My safest way was very clear. I began to think about how easy it was for me to see the safest path and direct my bike tires to follow. Which reminded me of a scripture I loved as a teen Proverbs 3:5-6 (CEB)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
don’t rely on your own intelligence.
Know him in all your paths,
and he will keep your ways straight.

It was easy for me to trust my own judgment in choosing the path for my bike tires to follow yesterday. I was confident and self-assured that I would not fall and I would safely stay on my bike. But seeing life’s path is not as confident a place for me. Seeing God’s path for me isn’t always clear but  staying on God’s path is even harder. I don’t think I am alone in this struggle.

So, in this season of Lent, while riding my bike, I’ll be meditating on God’s path (while watching for cars and loose impediments); and engaging with those who can help me discern my path and spur me on.

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Holiday Spirit

I am not feeling much of a holiday spirit this year. As usual, I can find many reasons to explain why ‘THIS” year I don’t feel the spirit – but the reality is it’s every year. Christmas is stressful! From what do you want for Christmas; shopping; and gatherings; to shopping, decorating; and gathering….it is all stress!

Yesterday, I said a line I think I say every year “I want to like Christmas!” to which Jenn replied “Yeah, you like the idea of Christmas – reality not so much.”

I saw this video touted as the best holiday video this year, Maybe it is! Although I don’t know what’s Christmasy.

It’s a cute video! With a cute dog (always a bonus in my book). I read it was filmed in Poland in English. I hope it helps you find your Christmas Spirit!

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Beyond 30 Days of Thankful #52thx

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.”
― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh














A few days ago, I was reading through my twitter feed. It seemed as if each of my friends was complaining. Complaints about their neighbors, their co-workers, or unknown callers, professors and teachers, spouses and children…it was a smorgasbord of complaints.

I wondered if these people are really this unhappy. 

Or is it just convenient to take to social media to complain?

Gratitude – actively focusing on being thankful for what you have rather than a focus on what you lack.  
~ Gayle Tabor                                                   This definition is my own – and I hope Webster (and everyone else) will forgive my latitude.

How much gratitude do you have? 

The John Templeton Foundation commissioned a survey to determine how thankful Americans were. The polling firm Penn Shoen Berland surveyed over 2,000 people in the United States, capturing perspectives from different ages, ethnic groups, income levels, religiosity, and more. Their results provide an unprecedented snapshot of gratefulness in America.

According to the Greater Good website at Berkeley.edu:

This poll suggests that people think their own gratitude is increasing, while everyone else’s is going down.

The good news? This is impossible, and likely due to a well-documented bias: we’re better at noticing and tallying what we personally do than what other people do. It may also be the case that Americans have simply gotten worse at expressing gratitude to each other. According to the data, most of the people surveyed are feeling more grateful today, and only lack in their tendency to say “thanks”—despite knowing that expressing gratitude can bring more happiness, meaning, professional success, and interpersonal connection into their lives.

Is this true? Are we just not good at expressing gratitude? 

30 days of thankful

The past few years I participated in the annual Facebook and Twitter Tradition of posting Thirty Days of Thankful (AKA #30daysofthankful) for the month of November. Each year, as I pounded out my thirty day, I was haunted by the idea that it just wasn’wasn’t enough! AND by how hard it was by the last few days of the month to find the words (not to be thankful but to find the words to post). This year, I decided not to participate (but to write this post instead). Since it is now several days into December (and I’ve been working on this since the first of November) I think we can all agree these words aren’t coming easy either. <grin>

However, my inability to find words has little to do with the gratitude I feel.

Or does it? If I am not expressing gratitude, what am I expressing? 

As I stated in the beginning it is easy on social media and in life to find someone who is complaining. However, are they really that unhappy or is it just easy (and a habit) to complain?

My guess is that the answer lies in all of the above. Gratitude is hard to express. We all have some reason to be unhappy. And, it’s so easy to complain than address real problems.

What should we do? 

The answer is simple – be thankful! There are a myriad of reasons why (I’ve listed some here):

It’s good for your heart – A 1995 study in the American Journal of Cardiology showed that appreciation and positive emotions are linked with changes in heart rate variability.

Sleep Better – spending time writing what you are thankful for before you fall asleep will help you get to sleep quicker and sleep more soundly, according to a study in the journal Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being.

Boost your immune system – Gratefulness is linked with optimism, which in turn is linked with better immune health. Gratitude, it turns out, can help us better manage stress. “Gratitude research is beginning to suggest that feelings of thankfulness have tremendous positive value in helping people cope with daily problems, especially stress,”.

Better grades – Grateful high-school students have higher GPAs — as well as better social integration and satisfaction with life according to a 2010 study in the Journal of Happiness Studies. The study reports that materialistic youth seem to be languishing while grateful youth seem to be flourishing. I think this probably translates to better work reviews and satisfaction.

Be a better friend – Those who express gratitude have better social circles. Perhaps because gratitude makes us more willing to help others and therefore boost pro-social behaviors According to a 2003 study in the the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

Have a better love life – a study by the University of North Carolina showed that ”Men and women with grateful partners felt more connected to the partner and more satisfied with the romantic relationship. The researchers found that the emotion of gratitude ultimately helps people find, remind, and bind themselves to others who seem to care about their welfare.”

Which leads us to a much harder question – HOW?

There is the obvious answer – actively focusing on being thankful for what you have rather than a focus on what you lack – which I gave you at the beginning. However, it can’t really be that simple can it?

YES! It is really that simple! 

In almost all of the studies mentioned they imply or even flat out say that journaling your gratitude is a great way to help you focus. I keep a journal – it’s difficult to write everyday (even though I keep mine electronically and am able to speak my thoughts). I’m sad to say that although I share my inner most thoughts in my journal (and some of those ARE complaints) I rarely journal about being thankful. That’s about to change!

Gratitude journal


I am committing to write once each week about gratitude. I have no doubt they will be personal thoughts. I also have no doubt that there will be those worthy of sharing. Although, I will write mine in my journal but don’t think you need a fancy book or online blog – a scrap of paper will do!


The challenge to me, and now to you, is to write once a week about why you are grateful. Write to yourself, write to your blog, or write to your social media feeds.


Then share, no need to share everything but share something; each week share something you are thankful for and use the hashtag #52thx. That’s 52 weeks of thankful.


Search for others sharing – just search Facebook, twitter or google+ for #52thx – and write encouragement to someone.


Lastly, invite others to join in and experience a year of gratitude.


Just so we are all clear on what we are doing, write something each week about something (doesn’t have to be just one thing) you are grateful for in your life. Share one thing via social media (with hashtag #52thx). Encourage others who are participating. And invite friends and family to join.

Lets make 2014 the year of thanksgiving!

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Focus on your path


We have reached the end of summer – WHAAAAAAT? 

Labor Day Weekend (the unofficial end to summer) begins in a matter of hours! School started back this week (at least for my neighbors kids – check local listings for times and days in your area). All of which leads me to the classic question:

What did you do this summer? 

For me it was a busy summer. Full of Farmers Markets and work; Wildlife and new friends; small adventures and learning new things;  sea turtles and WOW is that just amazing; and just getting off the couch! It was a summer of doing things! (and still there was plenty of couch time). I read more, I complained less.  In years past plans would be made but when it came time to do – – the appeal of relaxing won!

It is easy to justify enjoying the air conditioning after working 8-10 hours in the sun! It’s effortless to give in and choose ease over exertion. But not this summer! This summer a conscious decision was made to do things. I made a conscious decision to live life! I saw the beach and sat on the beach more this summer than I have in probably 10 years.

Beach Time

 However, the most important thing I did this summer – – I stopped comparing my life to someone else’s life!

WOW! Is it freeing! 

You see when you are in that comparison game it is easy to find a plethora of people who fill the need of your comparison. (I know that’s a strange sentence – so, let me explain). I can make myself seem better, or worse, depending on who I use as my comparison stick. But my life, my talents, my interests do not always align with the person I use for comparison.

It is like comparing apples and oranges. 

One of my all-time favorite quotes is from Albert Einstein:

picture from Pretty Spiffy Art

picture from Pretty Spiffy Art

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”  ~~ Albert Einstein

It is difficult to not look at other peoples lives and compare. It is difficult to hear someone’s story and not wish to one-up them or to tell them how your life is worse (maybe that’s one-down them?).

I almost believe it is human nature. To use others to build ourselves up or to use our story to break others down. However, it is VERY freeing to decide not to compare! In the end, we are all walking a hard path, but it is our path. We may have friends who join for a while. We may share burdens. In the end we all walk at our own pace on our own path.

I implore you today to enjoy your walk. Focus on your path!

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Mountains, Molehills, and 4-steps to Overcome FEAR

Our kitchen faucet over the last year or so had become increasingly slower. No matter the time of day nor how hard we attempted to open the tap the volume of water produced was barely a drip. Every time I turned on the tap I thought of the horrible and costly things that could be wrong.

Slow Faucet1

I dreaded the idea of the cost and effort to fix the problem, so I chose the path of least resistance. I can’t tell you how many times we’d just take a large pan and ‘fill it from the tub’. It was far easier to carry water throughout the house than to consider the cost and consequences of a real repair.

A couple of weeks ago, as I waited for the coffee carafe to fill with water, I decided I had had enough! It was time to at least see what the problem was. I began by removing the strainer at the faucet. Amazingly the problem was the strainer – it was clogged!

Within minutes, the catalyst of the problem was clear! Even better was the fact that the fix was quick, easy and very inexpensive.

But wait, there’s more!

This isn’t just a story about my faucet. It’s a reminder that often the problems we imagine are a huge mountain – We imagine thousands of dollars in costs – We imagine huge investments of time that are really molehills, minor and simple. We often imagine the mountain when we encounter a molehill.


We imagine the worst possible scenario and become paralyzed by fear.

Fear can be a great motivator and a powerful tool of survival (especially when there is possibility of a lion attack); however, fear can also become the antithesis of action. Fear allows us to take a little mole-hill and create a mountain in our minds. Dale Carnegie once said

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”

In an effort to help me ‘overcome fear and go out and get busy’ here are the 4 steps I have come up with to overcome fear:

1 – STOP THINKING START DOING – I can and oft do get so caught up in thinking about a project / problem / idea. I spend so much time and effort thinking and planning that I do not actually do anything.

2 – REDEFINE FAILURE – this is ridiculously hard for me! However, with each thing that doesn’t work you are one step closer to discovery of the thing that does work.

3 – REALIZE DOING NOTHING IS AN ACTION – by avoiding or doing nothing I am taking an action. I know it seems strange but the act of inaction is in itself an action. By taking responsibility for the action of inaction I can spur myself to being more proactive.

4 – SHIFT FOCUS – By shifting my focus to what I can gain it becomes easier to act. In the example of the faucet when I was completely focused of how much I wanted better water pressure I was spurred to action.

Choose to be fearless today!

Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt. ~ William Shakespeare

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One Day – Two Day – Three Day – Four Day….Equals A Lifetime

A few weeks ago I picked up a book and skimmed a few pages. When I picked the book up I knew it really held no interest for me, I don’t really recall the name or who wrote it. The title was something like “What’s it like to be married to me?” I am very certain I do not wish to know the answer to this question – so, why read the book!

However, in my short perusal, I encountered an idea that so perfectly dove-tailed with something I have been thinking and meditating on for most of this year – allow me to share.

The story in the book invites you to imagine that 30 years in the future you are attending a funeral. When you arrive you know all the people in attendance and as you approach the casket you realize it’s you that has died. Your spouse is prepared to give a eulogy about you. What would they say? The idea is that your spouse – the person who knows you best – will have far different insights into who you really are than anyone else in the room. If they honestly stood in to look back at your ‘body of work’ a true look at your at your lifetime; what would they say?

The author then talks about how we are all DAILY beings. It is the things we do everyday that make up the whole of who we are.


In the grand scheme of things I would want to be painted with broad brush strokes. I sometimes think the broad strokes cover the small daily missteps or miscues. However, this book drives home the point that our life is just the opposite. The things we do daily make up the broad stroke picture of our lives! Everyday is just one more pixel in the picture of your life.

Just as Pixels create a picture - Days create a lifetime

Just as Pixels create a picture – Days create a lifetime

I have written several places where I am sure to see it daily the following quote:

The Difference Between Who You Are And Who You Want To Be IS What You Do TODAY. 

Do you complain everyday?

Do you laugh everyday?

Is nothing ever good enough?

Do you hug your spouse or kids everyday?

Do you worry everyday?

Do you learn or try something new everyday?

Do you yell at your kids or spouse everyday?

Do you take time to meditate everyday?

Are your days too busy to take time to appreciate little things?

Do you exercise everyday?

Are your food choices healthy everyday?

At the beginning of 2013 we began a practice in our house of putting a smiley face on the kitchen calendar every day we successfully ate every meal at home. Our budget said we ate out WAY too much. However, it didn’t feel like we ate out a lot. We quickly learned that although it didn’t seem like much – it was easy to make excuses, develop reasons, or conveniently forget previous dining – we were indeed eating out far more than we should! I have said this before –

If you can’t measure it you can’t change it

Maybe you are like me, just because you know how to do something; just because you can identify the problem, you believe that in some magic way the problem is already solved.

For example, I know I should avoid sweet treats (even though I love them). I also know that I can occasionally indulge in a sweet cheat without dire consequences. However, when I conveniently forget prior indulgences, when I make excuses, when I allow an occasional cheat to be come a daily habit, the consequences (weight gain, higher blood sugar levels, etc) become clear.

Because we are experts at rationalizing to ourselves the one little indulgence – the one little indulgence that becomes a daily habit – it is helpful to track and measure.

It may seem silly. 

But you can track and measure anything. Track the days when you avoid complaining. Track when you laugh. Track when you hug your spouse or kids. Track when you meditate. Track when you avoid worry. Track and document your appreciation of little things.

For me, the smiley face on the calendar is reason enough for me to pass by convenient lunch or dinner and come home and cook. The orange squares (signifying completed) on my marathon training calendar are motivation to do it again tomorrow. The joy of seeing the physical manifestations of success helps me to stay on the path of being who I really want to be and meet my goals to get there.

Decide who you wish to be today – repeat it everyday (even if it means giving yourself a smiley face for the day) – and you will be exactly who you wish to be.

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