The Upside of Being Down

“You Change Your Valley Into A Peak When You Find And Use The Good That Is Hidden In The Bad Time.”

– Spencer Johnson

The following post has been written over the course of the past week, and is a journey through understanding and responding to sadness. It transforms and grows as you read through it, and my hope as always is that it connects with each person who reads it

I have felt downhearted more times in the past few years than I can recall. Some of the loneliest and saddest times have peaked as well. Be it a form of depression, feeling meaningless, or just feeling unimportant and ineffective; Today though, I find myself in a space of reflection and insight. While currently in the middle of this struggle, hope is also present.

This post is not intended to discourage, on the contrary, the intent is to encourage through transparency. Being transparent with our struggles is the only way to have a meaningful conversation about the inner workings of our heart, the feelings we experience, and the impact it has on our life. Therefore, I will be as honest as I can with the state I am in, in the hopes that it connects and empowers you the reader as I seek to connect and seek empowerment as well.

The theme of this article will be about the effects of sadness, and the power it has to teach us. At the core, sadness may be the greatest indicator of our purpose. You cannot be sad without trying to identify the source of it, because we desire joy and peace; and once you find the source, you find a choice. A response is needed: do we just lay down and accept that things just are what they are, or rise up and choose to do the work that must be done to climb out of the muck and the mire.

Sadness is necessary to move forward. In Disney’s movie Inside Out there is a scene where the character Sadness has to step in and help another character (Bing Bong) come to grips with the change that has taken place in his life.

Sadness-with-Bing-Bong

He cannot go on, and the character Joy has done everything in her power to help cheer him up. Sadness steps in, and instead of trying to cheer him up; she simply sits with him and acknowledges that his sadness is justified. In this simple act, she helps him accept that what has happened as the past, and she helps him get through the feeling of giving up in a way that the character Joy could not. He finds a new strength at this point of the movie. He finds the ability to move on, and team with Joy once again.

Sadness has it’s place in our life, and it has an important role in our growth and our purpose.

A common theme and open struggle that I’ve shared in previous blog posts, is my current inability to be comfortable being alone. I have come to understand that this longing for constant community comes from deep inside of me. I grew up as what I thought what was an introvert, and it turned out that I was actually just a shy extrovert; so the feeling of being torn when alone has been in my life since my adolescent days. I developed a habit of wanting to be involved, but being too scared to step out and join. I eventually became more comfortable with stepping out, but the habit of longing for more connection and involvement has stuck around. So there are times I find myself in a state of sadness because I feel disconnected, but I can see sadness as a teacher.

Here are five things sadness has taught me:

1. Aloneness is a part of life; so there must be a level of acceptance in those times. There are opportunities to grow in knowledge, strength, or creativity. Whether it is reading, writing, playing guitar, exercising, or being still; all of these activities are beneficial for me and ignite hope within me. I have written about loneliness and solitude in previous posts.

2. Sadness is a window into the soul. If you want to know what you desire, be attentive to your feelings. Just as energy and excitement in a station let’s you know you like what’s happening, sadness shows you what you need.

3. Take the time to grieve an unfortunate situation. There is a time for sadness, and we do need to acknowledge when a situation arises in life that brings heartache. Whether it is the death of a loved one, a personal injury, a missed opportunity, a feeling of failure, or the state of our nation; take the time to process that feeling inside.

4. Do something about it. If feeling disconnected from community, put forth the effort to connect. If grieving a death, remember that life and ask what they would have you do in this time. If you don’t like the state of our nation or environment, take baby steps toward making a difference. Do not let hopelessness take over.

5. Sadness calls us to be intentional, and that is why I choose to write about it today. “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” is a quote that holds a lot of truth. We can blaze a path through this life, we can even choose which path to follow; but if we are unintentional about our decisions, we forfeit ownership of the direction of our life.

I have learned so much while writing this article over the past week. I started in a state of despondency, hoping for insight to move toward meaning; and today, I find myself hopeful. There is a fine line between heartache and hopelessness, and we must recognize the difference, because there is always hope. I thank you for reading this article, and that it brings hope if you are in need; or in the very least, it will challenge you give sadness it’s place when it comes to you.

 

The Movement of Meaning

There is a movement taking place.

It is growing each day, yet it has always been a part of who we are. It is a part of our human story. Each day we wake into the question of “who am I to be?“; and each day we make a choice. Longing for insight, and looking for inspiration; we breathe purpose.

Is there a greater ideal to set our minds on than our meaning in life?

The question of our meaning leads to a lifelong answer because we discover it with each new day. It’s a common theme, and it is a timeless theme. It is at the core of philosophy, and begs our attention. In some of my favorite stories, the protagonist has to decide who they are going to be, and whether or not they will rise up to their calling. Luke Skywalker, Frodo Baggins, Neo, or Peter Parker;  each character had to decide whether or not they would take up the tasks laid before them. Likewise, some of our greatest tragedies and greatest villains, both in reality and fiction, have come from a purpose twisted or misunderstood.

When it seems as though there is no meaning to a life, despair takes the throne; and in that reign there is little hope to carry on. Yet a glimpse of hope, a glimpse of our purpose, can provide room to breathe again and carry on. Sometimes it takes only a spark of an idea in our mind, or a fluttering inside of our heart to wake us from our slumber, and open us up to the possibility of a big life.

“To be awake is to be alive…We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us in our soundest sleep.” – Henry David Thoreau from Walden

It is our duty to pursue purpose, not only to become alive for our own good; but to become alive and become a beacon for others.

Inspiration.

If we accomplish nothing else, may we at least find ways to inspire. Inspiration will find it’s way into our lives through books, blogs, movies, speeches, plays, songs, interviews, and so on; we must look for it, listen for it, and relay it to those around us because it is our duty to inspire. It is the movement of our time. The positive thinking/self development movement is nothing new, but is booming right now; and I believe it is because the world is rapidly changing, and opportunity is abounding. Those who have found peace or success can now reach millions with their story with an ease that did not exist before. Those who have found healing can lead others down the path of healing through sharing their own journey.

If we are willing to put in the work, if we are willing to read and listen, we can find inspiration all around; and in doing so may we catch a glimpse of our purpose in this life.

 

Blog Swap with The Last Day of Regret

Today’s post is an interview with my long time friend Matt Jo Diaz, author of The Last Day of Regret blog and soon to be book. Thoughtful, compassionate, passionate, driven, and wise are words that I would use to describe him; we have had big laughs, deep talks, and life forming experiences together. His joy is contagious, and his heart is big.

In The Last Day of Regret, Matt Jo gives insight into everything from scripture and spirituality to movie reviews, to the very art of becoming a writing itself. We wanted to promote each others blogs, as well as give insight to the person behind the keyboard. So without further ado, here is an interview with Mat Jo Diaz.

Brian: Give us your current life stage as of today?

Matt Jo: I’m in my sixth year of teaching a high school New Testament epistles class at Northwest Christian school.  I also get to teach an Intro to Graphic Design class as well. I’ve been married to my wife Katie for nine years and we have four wonderful children ranging from twelve to two.  My hobbies include endgame survival practice during the hottest months of the summer here in Phoenix. This week it has finally cooled off with the rain which is a nice break from the triple digit temperatures.  Seriously though, my hobby other than writing is traveling. The school I work at has provided me many opportunities to go to new places, one of which is Cambodia where I will lead a team of fifteen student in June of 2019, it will be my third time there.

 

Brian: What is your earliest memory of me?

Matt Jo: What can I say about Brian Grayum that has not already been said about…(Playa Hater’s Ball throw back)?  It was the summer before my freshman year in High School and we were at a Christ In Youth conference at Point Loma University in San Diego.  Brian was one of the good ol’ boys of the graduating seniors. He was among the heroes of old, Kelsey Drayton and Michael Garrison being two other people I remember cracking jokes on the beach.  My timeline could be totally off.

 

Brian: When did you start your blog?

Matt Jo:  I started and stopped a blog three times, this one being my third attempt.  My first one was right after the death of my sister in January of 2014. I put a lot of pressure on myself to create something that was way too thought out and a reflection of my broken soul that I got six weeks in and stopped writing.  I had this idea of talking about life as a journey and got caught up in this analogy that I eventually realized was super repetitive. However, I kept it and it’s still viewable through blogspot.com. It’s in the archive section on my current sight.  I didn’t write anything again until I returned from my second trip to Cambodia in July of 2017. I wanted to capture my experience there and teach about the history and culture of the Khmer people. I think I only wanted to write the five segments that are there but hoped it would spark more thoughts.  I left it there in adobe spark and placed in the same archive tab. This most current blog, the last day of regret, was set up in June of this year and I’m writing more than I ever have, still trying to find my niche, but getting there.

 

Brian: Why did you start your blog?

Matt Jo:  I started my current website, that features a blog called thelastdayofregret.com through wordpress.com on the advice from a friend.  I was at the tail end of finishing the manuscript of my first book and wanted advice about self-publishing. I was told starting a website and a blog were essential to start creating connections online to market the book.  So, my end goal, is that I will write this blog in preparation for the launch of my book which won’t happen until probably next May…fingers crossed. I have a completed manuscript that is just now being edited. It is painstakingly slow.  However, I have started to refine my writing, finding my voice and telling a story that is true, painful, but completely transparent.

 

Brian:  Has your blog changed in terms of writing style or purpose?

Matt Jo:  My first two posts were specifically about my book.  It took me a while to realize I just needed to write about whatever until I figured out what my place in the blog world is.  I still haven’t found where it should fit but, I’m just trying to write as much as possible so that people can go back and see what my style and interests have been.  As a first-time author, I want my audience to have some context to who I am as they read the book. I’ve decided I’m going to hit on movies I like, things in the Christian culture I think need to be critiqued and bible teaching snippets since that is what I do for a living.  I have a lot of former students after ten years in ministry and five years of teaching that I think I can still connect with. They might remember me as Matt Jo, or more recently Mr. Diaz and if they see me as just a guy still trying to speak truth into their life than I think that is a worthwhile endeavor.

 

Brian:  When has been the best times for you to write, either day or season of life?

Matt Jo:  The best times to write have been when I have something to write about.  Sounds obvious but if there is nothing to write about than I start forcing words that don’t really make sense.  That’s why I wanted to do this blog swap, to help me write. Process my own goals and decide if I need to rearrange them.  For now, I think I have time for two a month which isn’t a lot, but it’s something. I need to start promoting before I post, of when the next post will come.  It’s a marketing strategy that will hopefully gain interest before it happens. I hope this interview with you will accomplish that for the both of us.

 

Brian:  What do you find yourself writing about the most?

Matt Jo:  I think I had mentioned earlier that I went from talking about life as a journey, to social justice and now onto the art of writing itself.  My selected categories are culture, both secular and Christian, and theology. My most recent post that was a satire piece on the song Prodigal by Sidewalk Prophets got the most views, so I think comedy is a topic I need to include more.  As we have learned from Jon Acuff or more recently Jon Crist, there is a place in the Christian community to laugh at ourselves. Really though, it is about connections and I think that is what my book will hit on the most. Can you find your own brokeness inside the story of my brokenness?  Maybe some feelings you have can surface and you can deal with those bottled up emotions.

 

Brian:  What is your favorite post?

Matt Jo:  My favorite post is in two categories.  One is my favorite title and then the other is based on the content.  My favorite title was “Memoirs of a Guy…” (https://thelastdayofregret.com/2018/06/13/memoirs-of-a-guy-bad-movie-pun/) A play on words off the book and movie Memoirs of a Geisha…a terrible dad pun.  It’s a short post asking a question, “Who is my audience?”  I’m still trying to find that answer, but the more I write I know that will be fleshed out.

My favorite post by content was on my first blog I started called “A Path Obscured.”  The title of the post is, The Spirits Path (https://thelastdayofregret.com/a-path-obscured/).  It’s a post about how I see the Holy Spirit working in my life.  I’ll share a quote that sums in all up. “More often than not, when faced with obscurity, to stop and go nowhere prevents the Spirit from taking you to a place that is somewhere.  Sometimes the point of the path being unclear is to test if you trust enough to travel only with one step in front of you” (2/20/2014). I still find this true 4 ½ years later, life is revealed one moment at a time, I think it’s all I can handle.  I know we want to know the future, but I’ve learned to trust that God has a reason for us not seeing the future. I don’t think we would be able to handle the pain of life and so God asks us to trust him in each moment.

 

Brian:  What is one thing you desire people to experience when reading your blog?

Matt Jo:  I want them to either think, “I agree it makes sense,” or “I disagree and let me leave a comment to exchange in dialogue.”  It helps my writing if someone critiques it. It is feedback that allows me to refine or restate what I intended or stand by it.  If you agree, I hope you are encouraged, inspired or empowered. If you disagree, I hope you are encouraged, inspired or empowered.  It can happen either way. Agreeing with everyone isn’t possible, but learning what other people think and believe is.

 

Brian:  What are your dreams for the future of writing?

Matt Jo:  It has been on my bucket list to write a book, but more specifically to publish a book.  The publishing part is just as long if not longer than the writing. After that, I will either be encouraged to write more or discouraged and focus on the other things I am good at (laughing face emoji here).  Seriously though, the book I’ve titled, “The Last Day of Regret,” is a very transparent story of my relationship with my sister Hannah who passed away in November of 2013. I hope that it validates people who feel imperfect in their relationships, and want to be better friends, family members, parents or spouse.  I also hope that people who have lost a loved one can find a part of themselves in my story here Jesus telling them that the best days of our life are still in the future. Whether in this life or the next, hope for a better tomorrow is what people who grieve need to remind themselves of often.

 

Every good article or story takes on a new morning once you have the context of the person writing it. I find it interesting that both of our blogs began with the death of a family member, I think that says something about the narrative that is taking place inside of all of us; and it also shows the important role that writing can play in our lives. Matt Jo has found a passion and skill in writing, and I hope this interview strikes a note of inspiration.

ThelastDayofRegret.com contains an interview with me if you would like to check that out.

 

 

Intentional Moments

It’s Saturday, and I all of a sudden found myself with two hours of uninterrupted free time as the entire family was out. Alone time is exactly what I have been needing, as well as lacking; but I found myself overwhelmed with the options of what to do with this time; as well as some resistance to being alone. Sometimes the best thing to do is stop and take a breath. Stop and take a breath… I need to do this more.

My mind started racing through the following options of what I could do:

  • Nothing (just sit in a chair and stare)
  • Purposeful nothingness, which sounds like something (meditation and/or prayer)
  • Tasks that need to be done
  • Tasks that could be done
  • Hobbies I enjoy (Reading, playing guitar, running, writing)
  • Friends I could call (which would no longer be alone time)
  • Zone out on tv (I managed to dodge this one)

As I felt my brain on the verge of shorting out, I decided to stop, take a breath, and knock out one task that needed to be done soon because I tend to be task driven; and I have a hard time slowing down some times. I took on the easiest smallest task on my mind, and that bought me just enough time to begin entering into this space of aloneness, or rather, potential solitude.

I finished the task, then took a breath, then stared out the window for a minute. Next I decided to do something I always enjoy, which was write. It is nice, it is calming, and I feel satisfied that I am still doing something productive; at least in my mind. That is literally happening…right now. I am writing this as it’s happening.

I’m reminded of that scene from the Mel Brook’s movie Spaceballs, when they are watching Spaceballs the movie during the movie and they stop the tape at the exact moment of the movie that they are in. Check out the link on You Tube here: Spaceballs Clip

I hope you are laughing at that clip as much as I am, and if not, I must be getting old.

These moments of aloneness can be quickly turned into moments of solitude if we are intentional. I have written about this idea of solitude before, inspired from the book Reaching Out, by Henri Nouwen. There is so much benefit to our development, creativity, minds, hearts, and lives around us if we learn to stop, breathe, and be in the moments of solitude.

The above list that my mind raced through are all beneficial depending on where you are and what you need. We are all wired different, and perhaps zoning out to The Office or staring out the window is exactly what we need sometimes. These moments of alone time are few and far between for some of us, so we must be ready for them, tuned in to what our souls need to stay on track to be our best self.

I fully intend to maintain intentionality with my next 30 minutes, and that may include some guitar and some prayer, but whatever it is; I am thankful to have it today.

To Be Yourself

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

The quote above is from Ralph Waldo Emerson; and I often turn to it when I need motivation or need to be reminded that there is a whole world taking place as I walk through my days.

What is it to be yourself? Is this a form of destiny combined with ambition? The truest form of who we are is somewhere in our soul, and that part of our soul speaks to our mind; and in those words, we hear whispers of what we need to do. In our soul, we can feel the rumblings of purpose.

Purpose. Our purpose can be found by asking what does life expect from me? This is a question that I have mentioned before as it comes from one of the most influential books I have read titled Man’s Search for Meaning by Dr. Viktor Frankl. This question was raised as he observed not only himself, but other men who had lost everything as prisoners in concentration camps during the Holocaust; and had been stripped of their very humanity, yet found the strength to rise again each day and believe that there was a reason to persevere in the face of their great suffering.

We can learn from their perseverance, and find strength from their strength. So I ask, what does life expect from you?

Another of my favorite quotes that I have shared before is from Howard Thurman about coming alive:

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

What moments in your life did feel truly alive?

To be truly alive is akin to being yourself. When the task at hand can be done with joy amidst struggle, or the process becomes  more enjoyable than the product; perhaps you have glimpsed your purpose. This is found in the space where your skills or talents align with what you enjoy doing. This is a sacred space when you discover that your passions and talents also align with what the world needs.

I ask you these questions as I ask them myself. Perhaps together we can find our true self, our purpose, come alive, and in turn provide the world around us with what it needs.

 

Lessons from the stars: Comfort and the Necessary

Last night was a good night for stargazing.

Piercing through the ebony background, the stars seemed to appear before my eyes. I just stood there for a while soaking in the grandness of it all, wondering how many people I was sharing that piece of sky with? How many people were at that moment looking up at those stars, and what was going through our minds?

The beauty of stargazing, is that it opens up your world. Stars broaden our perspective, expand our worldview, and open our hearts. I have looked up at the stars in sorrow, I have looked up at the stars in joy; and they will always speak to me. It’s not an audible voice, but a subtle whispering in my soul; something stirs inside me, and I receive insight.

Last night, the stars reminded me that there is a big world out there. I was reminded to stay connected to the world around me. I naturally move towards what is comfortable in life, which is natural for all of us, but I also want to be aware of the necessary.

The necessary is the part of life that requires something from us.

This will intersect with the comfortable parts of life, meaning that what is required is that which we already enjoy. This varies from person to person, but I would describe this as when the need falls in line with our passion and strengths. This may also be comfortable if the person in need is someone you already love dearly, and this love may be the key to unlocking a world of purpose.

The necessary will at times require sacrifice. Not an Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom kind of sacrifice, but that which requires us to dig deep inside and summon courage, forgiveness, and the love. It takes courage to confront someone who has wronged you, and forgiveness must follow. It may require you to give money to a cause at the expense of not buying something for yourself. We may need to ask forgiveness from someone we have hurt, and in turn learn to forgive ourselves.

The necessary may also be something that you need to do for yourself. You may find inspiration to create something, from a painting to a charity. You may find direction in life, or change in the direction of your life. You may be reminded that you are loved.

The necessary requires love, because if can learn to love on a broader scale; we will become more comfortable with the uncomfortable. In love, we are eager to serve, help, and rescue. In love, we can be freed from regret and as stated above, find the key for unlocking our purpose.

The stars speak, if we are willing to listen.

 

How Minimizing has Maximized

I have been on a slow, yet constant move towards de-cluttering my life. It has taken a lot of work, time, introspection, and letting go. I have read books and blogs that have common themes of “less is more”, and it  goes beyond the material and into the spiritual. Clarity, confusion, focus, regret, joy, and heartache have all been a part of this minimalist roller coaster; but it has been worth it, and continues to be worth it.

A lot of these ideas were inspired/confirmed in the book The Life-changing Magic of Tidying up by Marie Kondo. Check it out if you are into the idea of less is more.

When it comes to minimalism…

You must embrace the process. There is no true end point, because it is a lifestyle in which you continually remove from your life that which is not you. Refinement, this is a term I would apply to the purpose of why anyone should look into minimalism, de-cluttering, spiritual awakening, or whatever you decide to call it. The more you remove what does not belong in your life, the “un-you” stuff, the more the “true you” will rise to the surface.

The process can be painful. As far as removing the material items from our life, we have to remove the value that we have paid for those items. This is tough, because we work hard for our money; and it is hard to feel like we have wasted it. You will end up selling items for mere fractions of what you paid for them, or straight up donating them to the Goodwill or local charities. The way to make it through is to focus on the benefit of letting go and the promise of life transformation, more than the loss of monetary value.

Realize that what you own feeds who you are. Don’t let your life trajectory be dictated by what you own. Find your identity at the deeper levels of life and the lives around you, not only the surface. Motivational speaker Jim Rohn famously said that “we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with.” This same idea applies to the items we surround ourselves with as well. We live in a marketing culture where brands want to claim us. In other words, enjoy what you enjoy; but realize the impulse to accompany each interest with purchases to affirm your interests.

Recognize the benefits. 

Generosity will spring forth. The more you let go of your stuff, the easier it is to give it away. Your heart and mind will become more attuned to the needs of those around you more than your own needs/wants.

You will have more time. The less consumer minded we become, the less time we spend buying and shopping. An hour on the porch reading a book can replace an hour spent shopping on Amazon (this is something that I had struggled with). That hour of reading will exercise your mind. You will increase your critical thinking skills, improved memory, increase your knowledge; these are just a few of the benefits of reading.  An hour spent walking on the trails or around the neighborhood can replace an hour spent walking around the mall. Being under the open sky and breathing fresh air (or maybe not so fresh depending on where you live), is healthy and allows your mind to wander and think about what you truly value in life; as compared to walking through a marketing gauntlet that is aimed at telling you what you need in your life. (Note: I still shop on Amazon sometimes and walk around the mall sometimes, these are just examples to ignite a thought process, not intended to cast judgement.)

You will be able to appreciate what you have. When we remove the unimportant or unnecessary from our life, we are left with the important and necessary. When we remove what does not inspire, we are left with what inspires.

I share all of this as someone on the journey, as a student, not as an expert. I highly recommend reading the book I mentioned at the beginning of this blog if any of this has struck a chord inside of you. It is a book that talks about how what we surround ourselves with, impacts all other aspects of our life. There is union between the material world and the spiritual world through our belongings, and it is worth examining.

The cover photo of this blog contains my favorite coffee mug. Through the act of de-cluttering, this mug has stood the test. It brings me such joy for so many reasons; it’s Star Wars (which I love), it goes into light speed when it heats up (which is super-cool), and it was a gift from my wife and daughters (who are also super-cool). Minimizing doesn’t have to mean owing the least amount of stuff, but it does mean maximizing that which you truly love.

 

Solitude

Loneliness.

This is a powerful word, because out sparks such strong emotional reaction; and I believe that it is something that all of us can relate to at some point in our lives. If being alone becomes translated as loneliness, then sadness and desperation will begin to take root. Desperation mode is survival mode, and we will find ourselves  reacting to our circumstances instead of creating our circumstances.

Time.

Time gives and takes, it builds and breaks down, and it can be a gift if we choose to see it as so.

I start with these words, loneliness and time, because they are in relation to each other. We all have the same amount of hours in a day, though not the same amount of hours in a life; and we all want to make the most of our life. The feeling of loneliness can cause us to enter a place of circular thinking, which in my case, leads to feeling of self-doubt and regret. This is a downward spiral that I have found can rip the hours and the days, which are a gift, away from us.

Now even the darkest of nights lead to a new dawn, and time is reflected best in the form of a new day; though one day may feel lost, a new day is given.

The best book I’ve read this year is Reaching Out  by Henri Nouwen.

The theme of this book is rooted in a transformation from loneliness to solitude, and that is what we will focus on. Just as time is a gift, our being alone is truly a gift, because it is in those moments that we can dig deep to discover who we truly are and what passions lie inside of us. A simple word swap can change everything, so we translate loneliness  to solitude.

The best thing I can recommend is to go out and get this book, but for the purpose of our time right now; I will share some highlights to inspire you to join me on the path of finding solitude in what has been described as loneliness, starting with probably my favorite excerpt from the book:

“When loneliness is haunting me  with it’s possibility of being a threshold instead of a dead end, a new creation instead of a grave, a meeting place instead of an abyss, then time loses it’s desperate clutch on me. Then I no longer have to live in a frenzy of activity, overwhelmed and afraid for the missed opportunity.”

“The more we come to the painful confession of our loneliness, hostilities, and illusions, the more we are able to see solitude, hospitality, and prayer as part of the vision of our life.”

“Does not all creativity ask for a certain encounter with our loneliness, and does not the fear of this encounter severely limit our possible self expression?”

“Friendship and love cannot develop in the form of  an anxious clinging to each other. They ask for gentle fearless space in which we can move to and from each other.”

“Instead of running away from our loneliness and trying to forget or deny it, we have to protect it and turn it into a fruitful solitude.”

“Then our life would indeed be a different life because then fate becomes opportunity, wounds a warning and paralysis an invitation to search for deeper sources of vitality. Then we can look for hope in the middle of crying cities, burning hospitals, and desperate parents and children. Then we can cast off the temptation of despair and speak about the fertile tree while witnessing the dying of the seed. Then indeed we can break out of the prison of an anonymous series of events and listen to the God of history who speaks to us in the center our solitude and respond to his ever new call for conversion.”

I hope these words have brought hope and healing, if not for you, then for someone close to you. Let us make the most of the time we have been given, this beautiful gift that lies in each day; and may the moments that we find ourselves feeling alone be transformed into moments of solitude.

 

Transitions, Courage, and Insight

Life is an array of transitions.

Starting from the moment we are brought into this world; we find ourselves in the momentum of life. We grow, learn, and develop. Whether we choose it or not, we are moving. Yet, we do choose what we do with the time that is given to us.

gandalf.gif (nerd alert)

When facing decision points in life, do you have a tendency towards fearful thinking or courageous thinking?

I was watching the Disney musical Newsies with my daughters the other day, and there was a line that struck me while they were deciding whether or not to go on strike against the newspaper company. David says to the other newsies:

“Courage cannot erase our fear, courage is when we face our fear.” – Newsies Broadway musical

Courage. It is found in adversity and challenge, it is uncovered only when fear enters the situation. It is in these moments that we need to state our fears clearly, and in doing so, we will find where the fear is rooted. Once we understand the root of our fear, the path to overcoming it becomes clear.

I was having a conversation the other day about my fear of change, and I was challenged to look back at my past for times that I had to rise up in the face of my fear. I began to think:  My family move from Lakewood California to Flagstaff Arizona, my first piano recital, the first time I played guitar on stage, The first time I sang on stage, Every job that I applied for, every talk I’ve given to a group, proposing to my wife, having a daughter, having another daughter! The list went on and on, and I began to feel confident in my ability to adapt and maintain a forward momentum in life.

What insights can be taken from our past?

Ask yourself this question; and find confidence, wisdom, and empowerment. We may not have always responded the right way to change, or even made the right changes; but we always…ALWAYS… have a choice. Our tomorrow is happening today, so enter each day with confidence and courage.

There is a fragility to all of us, but there is also great resilience. Where there is fear, courage lies also. May you find insight from your past, and today may you find courage to face the future.

 

It takes time

So here is what I want to explore in this post: Developing character takes time, perseverance, and dedication.

If you have readthe Dark Roast Dawns blog before, then you already know that I am someone who is hungry for purpose and meaning in life. I expect more from myself than anyone else, and I believe that every day we are deciding who we are. My mind, heart, and soul have been caught up in a whirlwind for quite some time now.

As someone who enjoys a good movie, The Greatest Showman is a movie that has struck a chord inside of me. Discontentment and dissatisfaction had driven PT Barnum to rock bottom. The people that mattered most in his life became more distant as he pursued self ambition. He had wanted so badly to prove himself to himself, that he ended up alone. The song From Now On towards the end highlights the timeless tale of finding that everything you ever wanted was right in front of you.

The decision to come back home takes but a second; the journey to get there on the other hand will require endurance and perseverance.

That’s where I find myself today.

The declaration of contentment is nothing more than words until action follows.

Two words are helping me move forward from the past and regrets: Kindness and forgiveness. Both of these virtues need to be put in place towards myself to effectively put them into practice with others