Multiplied

Do you see how the light doubles those four letters? It’s the light and not the dark that multiplies the best thing that ever was.

The best thing that ever was, is, or evermore shall be. Its more than a feeling, more than a song of chemistry and compatibility. More than a four letter word on a wall. It’s caring and being cared for—a true give and take. Giving of oneself and also connecting with others, receiving from them too. Allowing it, you know? The uncomplicated exchange of giving an others-focused type of love that brings a peace to the heart and the mind.

Sometimes we may need to spend a little coin to deposit some love into another human soul. A cup of coffee for a stranger, a monthly support pledge to educate a child in Ghana, a dish or a day spent in giving a Thanksgiving meal to local military families . . . so customizable and limitless in its variations though money is never at the heart of it.

And while money “can’t buy me love,” as all Beatles fans fully know, it’s still nice to have a pocketful. But then even a burgeoning account possessed by an empty heart leaves a soul incomplete, unsatisfied, and unfulfilled. Oh, neither an empty heart nor an empty wallet is particularly awesome—most of us have been there and know a little about the effects of lack—more than we’d like to. However, a full heart, a give-and-receive heart, a heart that lets others affect it will truly know what it is to be multiplied.

It Is Time

Sometimes, at the most unexpected moment, a solution I’ve been looking for suddenly crystallizes in my mind and I know what I need to do next. Sometimes it’s abundantly clear. Sometimes its just enough for a first step.

Does it ever happen to you that way? It might be when I’m mindlessly driving along a familiar route when a few words that I’ve read or that someone spoke to me will take shape. My mind is still turning in the formative stages of an answer I’ve sought and then there it is! Bells go off and I know.

I paused at a stop sign yesterday just a little longer than my usual California roll. SIDE BAR: our SoCal “rolling stops” are apparently called that by officers of the law. Though we’re known for being laid back on the west coast, we’re also always in a hurry. With no one behind me I drank in the scene. Young and old made their way to the historic San Juan Capistrano Mission as the church bells rang out loudly with a message I was waiting to hear. “Its time,” they called out. And it is.

It is time to move forward, take next steps, move ahead. It is time.

Glow

There was this flame-like glow coming from a stand of foxtail fountain grass I passed on my walk near the end of the day. It shone like a fire though not burning. No smoke, no heat, no crackle and yet glowing yellowy orange. It was stunning. Arresting. An attention getting sight to be sure. From ninety three million miles away the end-of-day sun cast its rays with outstanding effect.

It was a show-stopper of a moment right there in that bit of landscaped vegetation, that “Cortaderia selloana,” did not put on blush; sing a song; do a dance. It did nothing on its own but exist under the glow of the sun and yet something transformational happened to it—fleeting as it was. With no will of its own, no power or ability in its cellular structure there was a change to its color. The light of the sun made it so as it took on the same shade of it. Did it reflect the sun’s hue? Hardly the case. It had no mirrored surface to reflect such a shade.

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How about this, what if we came to realize that we each have the power to cast color on those around us? What if our own brightest glow and brilliant color were to splash on those we care about and those we have compassion for? What if all it would take would be for you to be your truest, most pure form of YOU, God-empowered in the form of your love, your joy and your wisdom? Cast some color where you can.

Happy Sunday to all my colorful friends.

Selected

Ahhh, dinner last night at Wood Ranch with a good, good friend. Have you been yet? Even their patio lights are all-that good.

The menu included a smoked brisket taco, kicked up with habanero sauce and a smidge of mashed potato, and THAT is precisely what I chose. So good! Prior to this night out my friend had selected the restaurant. Even before that, say six years or so ago, we had selected each other as the kind of friend you choose to walk the day to day stuff-of-life with.

Selection is something we do almost subconsciously as we choose this or that from one moment to the next.

I recall being a young housewife of twenty and a particulargrocery shopping run I made with my new mother-in-law. I was a new and inexperienced homemaker on a very slim budget trying to stretch a dollar as far as it could go. She was in another stage of life and I marveled as she selected one extravagant item after another, thoughtlessly dropping pickled fig leaves and such into her cart. Sort of like a TV contestant on a 60 second shopping spree. Her selections weren’t based on a budget or coupons or sheer necessity like mine were. Both of our situations and current life stations had shaped our selections on that day.

But with more lasting things than entrees and restaurant choices—with things like relationships, career decisions, and other life-altering, more permanent commitments we may carry a lingering sense of regretful sadness about failed selections we’ve made in our past.

Oh, we’ve got to learn from these and then let them go. Next time a regret from the past comes to haunt just think, “what have I learned?” then let it go. On this I do practice what I preach. Learn and live. Let it go.

Tied

The leaves from a family walk last November. How has a year come and gone?

We walked and we talked, we laughed and threw an acorn, a stick or a pine cone across the wooded path. We enjoyed the handiwork of autumn and one another. I picked these that day. Once brilliantly colored leaves that stood out in stark contrast as our feet rustled through hundreds of the crunchy fallen of the season. I chose just five and in their state at the time, still fresh and pliable, quite flat, bright canary colored and in perfect gradation of size from large to small. Like a little family I suppose. Just like ours. I bound them together with a bit of twine so to keep this leaf family—the moment really—tied to my heart.

My own mother kept several collections of things like leaves and small trains and other trinkets gathered from meaningful life moments. They had their own significance to her as anything we humans choose to collect will have. The sentimental among us will place a certain unascertainable value on our collectibles as there is often no real monetary worth in them. But to us . . . to us they serve as memorials of how we felt when we visited that grand cathedral or small chapel, those faraway castle ruins, or the walk in the park with someone worth remembering. They serve as a touchstone to a time or a love or a memory we choose to hold dear.

And so in the sentimental mind we look back. We recall. We reminisce about the days that came before. We save stuff that sparks the journey back to when . . . and with a small scrap of twine we hold our favored moments of the past together. Our fond memories are really quite a gift. Though the dried leaves may crumble and descend into dust, the tie . . . the tie is what binds us to those moments gone before. Blessed be the tie that binds.

More Than One

I’ve taken to making my own home brewed Kombucha lately and that alone gives a sense of Little House on the Prairie meets modern day mixologist. It begins with a couple of isolated ingredients that magically create something unique when they come together. I start a new batch by dissolving a cup of organic sugar in 12 cups of cooled black or green tea. If you don’t have a kombucha buddy who’ll share some of their’s then add a cup of good quality purchased kombucha as a starter (think sourdough); cover with a tea towel and wait 2-3 weeks. Free yet slo-mo entertainment ensues as you watch the daily progress unfold. In a few days gas bubbles begin to appear on the surface as the tea and the sugar do their thing. As the probiotic nectar gradually develops, a delicate yet solid film “grows” on its surface. Yes, it becomes a living thing. Eventually, in a matter of 14-21 days, this materializes into a lumpy, quarter inch thick blob of micro organisms atop a beverage that is gut healthy and teeming with probiotics. Whew (or ewww)! Though I make and daily sip this stuff it STILL sounds creepy around the edges even to me.

However I must point out that what forms on the top is the real star here and it has a name. They call it SCOBY for Symbiotic Community of . . . (wait for it) Bacteria & Yeast. Nummy.

Other than imparting unto you a recipe for a trending probiotic beverage, I must say that the process itself just screams of the health giving, yay life giving benefits of community. You know—aka friends. Drinking buddies (Kombucha of course). Co-workers. A neighbor or two. Family. More than one. Opposite of isolated.

Its called Community not Alone-ity because it isn’t done by one. The partnership works and creates something healthy that didn’t exist, COULDN’T exist when it was only a cup of sugar and some loose tea leaves on separate shelves in the cupboard. Online community works too, dear friend. Join one. Create one. Make something healthy and bottle it. This takes more than one.

Black and White

This isn’t really a black and white photo. The painted green wall and the red one nearby are just inches away. Lil’ salt jar abides in a wonderful world of color but you’d never know from the camera’s perspective and the rest that’s been cropped out of view.

And it underscores, really, that most of us use a specific (and mostly flattering) perspective when we display our lives to the world. I know I do. Others mainly see what we want them to see. And our iPhones grant the power to filter brightest colors into monotone, or the reverse, making a drab little sunset look spectacular. Now consider this:

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With a filter of the heart we see beauty in a thing or a soul or a situation where others see nothing of the sort. They only see the black and the white of it. Others may assume you’re embellishing. But no. You’re crazy about something or someone and no one who knows you (at a certain level) can see why. But maybe one or two folks will get it because they get you. Our emotional snapshots of people, places, and things have been taken through the lens of all we currently know. Our unique experiences and our pre-set filters having been applied, we make a determination based on how we perceive a thing and we conclude that is how it truly is. And what else can we do really?

We quickly and intuitively form perceptions. But perception is not equal to perspective and that is my angle today. When I change my perspective and widen my lens I take in so much more. More color, more detail, more information, more understanding. At the end of the day it’s my choice to learn and grow or else continue to see just the black and the white. Wider lens, lots more color, new perspective.

Time to Shine

The key speaker at Saturday’s breakfast taught us something I won’t soon forget.

She spoke a simple truth. That there are seasons we exist in the shadows, in the wings, not center stage, and its okay. We may be cast as “best supporting actor” while another at our side takes a bow in the brilliance of a moment. It’s our turn to stand off to the side, raise a cheer, position the spotlight even, while the other has their place in the sun. Our turn will come just not now.

One of my kids’ teachers knew this and introduced it to every class of third graders she ever taught. She was intentional about creating a shining moment for each of her students through the medium of the grade-school musical. While those can be precious or disastrous (or both) she mastered the art form quite well. Once during rehearsals a particularly squirrelly kid in the chorus began to act out to get himself some attention. He truly needed it and craved it. To know his story is to understand. However this time he did it just as a shy little thing struggled painfully to get through her solo number. Without missing a beat the teacher firmly stated to them all, “this is HER shot—do NOT take the ball.”

The kid in the back had some talent. The girl at the mic—not so much. But the Director made the call and the cut saying, “You . . . sing in the chorus today. And you, trembling child, take the stage.”

We may fancy ourselves to be noble as we wait in the wings, just off camera. We must do it well by intention not just while biding our time. Do you think we can we go one step further? Can we ourselves lead the applause while the “star” of the moment takes a bow?

To EVERYTHING there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven. The Byrds sang it in the sixties and a very wise man wrote it long before. There’s both shadow and sunshine over time.

The Best Part

Do you remember the old Folgers ad campaign from the 80’s? 🎶 The best part of waking up . . . 🎶

While this has NOTHING to do with my lil’ pumpkin photo above it is what’s on my mind this morning. So, regarding my personal coffee history (but really, who cares?) my earliest recollection of actual consumption was the first cup of Joe I ordered and paid for at a Bob’s Big Boy restaurant at seventeen. Hanging with a group who were older than me—my first time eating out with no parent there to order or pay—I associated an air of sophistication with drinking coffee alongside these early twenty somethings. I was a tad nervous but also inwardly euphoric to have been included. Our conversations went on into the night until the restaurant closed.

Life was different after that—I felt more grown up because of this practically insignificant quite ordinary experience. And it was only partially due to what was in my cup that night. It wasn’t a pink lemonade and it wasn’t a Shirley Temple (which made a young kid feel very grown up). It was coffee. Cowboys made it on the range and grown ups drank pots of it. Now I was in their ranks (in my own mind) because of that first cup.

And yet again it wasn’t entirely what was in my cup at all but the sense of being treated as an equal. It was a subliminal dawning of a new day. What I metabolized in that seemingly meaningless/totally empowering experience was inclusion. At my youngish age I wasn’t yet old enough to be running with their pack, I knew that, so when they welcomed me in it impacted me.

Its not always easy to welcome others “in” to an existing and functional pack. It takes less effort just to keep the circle closed and to run with those we know. I get it because I can, and do, go both ways but maybe its a good time to look outward at who’s on the outer edge and ask them in. For a metaphorical coffee. That’s all. Though you may not imagine so, it may leave a lasting impression, as it did when it happened to me.

Into Focus

There’s nothing quite like the luxury of a wasted day. Do what you want. Read all day long, binge watch some Netfix, scroll through your phone, hang at the beach or just stay in your PJs.

Once in a while an unstructured day fills the bill. Once in a while a “day off” is just plain medicinal in the best kind of way.

But too many footloose days and we begin, without too much notice, to lose focus. The edges of a thing that matters to us begins to get fuzzy and then gradually, gradually, gradually nothing is crisp and clear anymore. Importance and sense of urgency becomes hazy. Definition blurs. But when we refocus on a thing we begin to realize that adding structure and parameters gives shape and borders and definition to this project or relationship or idea or life or dream. An appropriate refocus can turn, “I one day might . . .“ into “I will . . .“ I will take these steps to start this project because it will take me closer to what I’ve set my focus on.

Thinking that “one day” I’ll do this or that takes your objective out of focus and puts it on the shelf of indefinite obscurity. The focused lens of the magnifying glass captures the brightness of the sun causing a dry leaf to catch fire. What amount of focus will set your soul on fire? Adding some structure to a once nebulous thought will narrow the lens and bring your next steps into focus.

What do you already have, whether resources or passion or availability? Focus on what you have as a starting place. Then set some priorities, become more intentional and get your focus back.