First Words

The first words we choose to speak in a day, give insight into the state of our hearts and minds.

I was watching the sun rise through the window of our living room this weekend, and it was as if something had lit the sky ablaze. The sky changed from soft gray to a blazing orange surrounded by purple, and I felt blessed and encouraged once again as I do with each sunrise. A sunrise greets the day with hope, the promise to rise again holds true each day. As I sat in the orange glow, it occurred to me that how we choose to greet each day can have an immense impact on those around us as well how we choose to view the day ahead.

Most of my days starts with silence, as I am usually the first one awake. In this silence I get a chance to choose my state of mind. Will I greet the day with a grateful heart, or will I choose a less positive path? In these times of silence, we are formulating the trajectory for our day, and choosing the lens through which we will see the day ahead. Entitlement or humility? Compassion or hate? The line that separates these dichotomies can be very thin at times depending on our filter for the day.

I want to be as committed and steadfast as the sun. It does not matter if the skies are clear or cloudy; the sun will arrive and shed light to the best of it’s ability.

When my oldest daughter wakes, she is usually greeted with kindness and calmness. We have a mellow morning before she is off to school and I am off to work; and the days with each other start pleasant. As we part ways I feel peace, because I see and feel the reciprocation of that positive attitude that I put forth. But there have been times when I had chosen to see the day through a lens of self centeredness or grumpiness, and in those times I could see and feel the reciprocation of what I put forth; and as we had parted ways, I felt restlessness rather than peace.

As the day goes on, I will continue to have first encounters with people; I have a choice as to what my first words to each person will be. Will I choose to encourage and inquire on their well-being, or will I choose to say something unimportant and somewhat negative like? There is not a need for the first words to be deep wells of wisdom or philosophy, they can be as simple as good day or how are you doing today? There is weight to those first words, because they can set the stage for the direction of our attitude; and they can set a trajectory for someone else’s day. If we put forth negativity, we will likely receive negativity; and we negate our responsibility to this life to be a source of light and hope.

As with most areas of life in which we want to succeed, there needs to be a goal or mission that you are working towards that guides our decisions. Whether we simply choose a few words (compassion, hope, inspiration, etc.), or have a declaration that states our intentions; there needs to be something in place if we wish to be intentional about our impact. I would like to end this article with some words from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. regarding this idea of a blueprint for life.

Now each of you is in the process of building the structure of your lives, and the question is whether you have a proper, a solid and a sound blueprint.

I want to suggest some of the things that should begin your life’s blueprint. Number one in your life’s blueprint, should be a deep belief in your own dignity, your worth and your own somebodiness. Don’t allow anybody to make you fell that you’re nobody. Always feel that you count. Always feel that you have worth, and always feel that your life has ultimate significance.

Secondly, in your life’s blueprint you must have as the basic principle the determination to achieve excellence in your various fields of endeavor. You’re going to be deciding as the days, as the years unfold what you will do in life — what your life’s work will be. Set out to do it well.

“And finally, and finally, in your life’s blueprint, must be a commitment to the eternal principles of beauty, love, and justice….However young you are, you have a responsibility to seek to make your nation a better nation in which to live. You have a responsibility to seek to make life better for everybody. And so you must be involved in the struggle of freedom and justice.”

This is an example of intentional living. Value yourself, work hard, and be committed to beauty, love, and justice. What will our blueprint be? What words will guide our days? What story are we choosing to write? Be as committed and steadfast as the sun, and rise to greet each day, as well as the people in it, with an intentionality to make the day a little brighter.

Books

Books have power.

When you enter into a book, you are beginning a journey. Perhaps this journey will take you to far away lands where tales of honor, valor, and treachery reign. You may find yourself standing in the shoes of a hero, a villain, or the oppressed; feeling what they feel, and almost seeing what they can see.

Some books take you on a journey of the mind. Topics of science, faith, history, parenting, writing, economy, biographies, diet, you name it; we can feed our minds with knowledge. It is knowledge that you have to work for, as you have to be committed and intentional about taking this journey. 

Other books may take you on a journey of the soul, the deeper layers of what this life is about. The words may jump off of the page and into your heart, creating inspiration or longing for something you cannot describe at times. Meaning, purpose, hope, and love are weaved throughout the pages, making their way into our very thread of our being; aspects of our character are molded as we read of perseverance, compassion, and empathy. These are the kinds of books that I have connected with most in my life, and most in the last couple of years.

I have not always been a reader. I actually had read very few books before I got into my thirties. My world was opened though as I finally began to put in the work to get through a book and apply myself to understand the themes. In all honesty, it was very hard as it would take me a long time to get through a book, and I had to reframe my mindset to embrace the time spent reading as an investment into not only my personal life, but the lives connected to me.

I would like to share some the books that have impacted my life in the last couple of years, with a brief overview of the theme. 

Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl

  • The title says it all. Dr. Frankl’s logotherapy guides the narrative of this book. The first half of the book is his experience being taken into, enduring, and coming out of the Nazi concentration camps. He shares stories of how men stripped of their humanity, managed to endure each day with the hope that they would some day be free. The second half of the book takes a deeper look at logotherapy.

Reaching Out by Henri Nouwen

  • This book is summed up in the journey of moving from Loneliness, Hostility, and Illusion to Solitude, Hospitality, and Prayer. One of the most impactful books I have read.

The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson

  • This is a series that currently has three books; The Way of Kings, Words of Radiance, and Oathbringer. These are long epic books. The first book sets the stage and takes you through the back story of each of the main characters. This is a great story because it takes you through themes of courage, perseverance, anger, dealing with revenge, bravery, faith, family, and loyalty. These are very long books, but great reads if you enjoy the fantasy realm of writing. 

The Old Man and the Sea by Earnest Hemingway

  • A short story that is just a good read. This book makes you want to be a little tougher, as it is a story of a fisherman. It also contains the theme of endurance and commitment. Bonus, you can say you’ve read Hemingway.

The Emigrant Edge by Brian Buffini

  • Buffini is a motivational speaker/real estate trainer. He is an Irishman who has no shortage of passion, motivation, dedication, drive, and love. This books takes you through his journey as an Emigrant (one who leaves their country to permanently live in another). He challenges us to have a strong work ethic as well as recognize the abundance of opportunity we have in this life, and specifically, America. He writes very accessibly, he is funny, and does not pull punches as he challenges us to live and love fiercely.

Soul Cravings by Erwin Mcmannus

  • I have read this book a few times since it was released in 2006. Erwin jumps off the page and into the chair across from you as he engages the reader in a conversation about faith, love, creativity, and hope. This book also has one of the coolest book covers. 

How To Be Here by Rob Bell

  • Mindfulness, contentment, kindness to self, and finding your passion are all themes covered in this book. Rob is one of the best writers of personal development, faith, and Christianity that I have read. No mater how deep he takes you, he writes in laymen’s terms, so that anyone can engage. He also has many other books I would recommend, but this is the most recent that I had read.

This is not a complete list, but these have impacted me in a positive way. I would recommend all of these to any one (exception The Stormlight Archive, due to it’s fantasy style and length of books). Books are a gift, and there is much to be gained by sitting down and working your mind through the words on the pages. We are writing our story every day, so take some time to read a story; and in doing so, you add to your own. 

 

The Story We Write

If you know me, you are part of my story.

Our lives are not lived independent of the world around us; rather, they are connected and strung together to weave our human story. Each word spoken, glance given, or space shared become part of the narrative. The story is being written, will you choose to direct your narrative or leave it up to chance?

We are writing this story for ourselves, our family, our friends, acquaintances, co workers, and the passers-by. Likewise, a story is being written on us. All of the people in our life are adding to who we are. So many aspects of this life are imprinting into our being; our environment, our homeland, our climate, our culture, these are all peripheral investors into our development.

I’ve been asking a lot of questions lately about why I am the way I am, why I believe what I believe, and why I react the way I do to certain situations. What is it that establishes the core of who I am? I’m not sure how eloquently I can dive into these in this blog, but I would like to share some of the beginnings.

Let me start by sharing the lyrics to a song I had written about four years ago:

To know a story, counting the days passed

Remember the ways and the paths tread

If you could see inside, what I hide

Darkness there, leads only to despair

But the one who brings light, brings sight to the blind

Brings life inside, opened my eyes

No longer reeling

Recounting struggles, remembering defeat

If I grow, then I find liberty

Humility, whether or not I want it

Grace came to cover me

Peace granted to steady me

Every time I fall, you remind me

Of my name

Defined not by the failures, defined not by defeat

Every time I fall you remind me

There is more than we see

There is more that you’ve breathed

Every time I fall, you remind me

Of my name

This verse came about during a time of loss. This was not a loss in the sense of death, but rather a time of loss of self-identity; actually, this was probably the beginning of this existential line of thinking. I remember the words forming in my head as I walked the halls of my workplace. I was in my early thirties, and I was about five years into my new job, learning to raise two daughters, and reframing my understanding of my faith.

Time is a funny thing. Sometimes the days can creep along, and at the same time, the years can fly; which is why I believe that we need to make the most of the time that we do have. We were given life so that we can live. The time had flown by, and I needed to assess that I still “had the reins” so to speak on the direction and state of my life.

The verse above talks about knowing my name. This refers to how I am known. There may be many names we have, and I would like to know which are the names that are true. The story we write is being written…right…now. Today, take a moment to reflect on who you are, where you are headed, and the narrative you are writing.

 

Forward Motion, Empathy, and Impact

If we can learn to see what we accomplish in the midst of a struggle, we can find the strength and confidence to keep moving.

We find ourselves, at times, in situations that are less than ideal; be it a momentary discomfort of completing undesirable tasks, or a stage of life that is constantly calling you to a sense of duty or obligation. Likewise, we will also be taken into dire situations outside of our choosing; with the only choice being how to proceed.

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.

“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”   J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

I love this excerpt, because every one of us has been here. Not literally journeying to Mordor to destroy the ring of power because the fate of the world is in our hands; but potentially left standing in disarray because life has taken a turn for the worst. We have sat across the table from friends and family struggling with death, addiction, divorce, abuse, and the list goes on; and the conversation turns to “I wish it need not happen in my lifetime”; yet here we are. We can not always change our environment, or the stage of life that we are in; but we can choose how we will move forward.

We can choose what impact we will leave in this life.

Great stories are wrought with adversity. Great stories take you through the struggles. Heroes do not arise out of a state of Utopia, they rise from necessity. We can only run away from purpose for so long. The choice between apathy and empathy is always before us, and each path shapes our heart. If I am being honest, empathy is an attribute that I need to build upon in my life. I have a tendency to avoid discomfort or the pain that comes with empathy; therefore, I lean towards apathy at times. Though, I would still say that I am more so an empathetic person than an apathetic person; at least, that is the hope.

The word apathy in itself is harsh, or it hits you in a certain way when you hear it or read it. If we label someone as apathetic, there are negative connotations that come along with it. There is danger in labeling someone, or ourselves, because labels come with a lot of extra baggage. For example, apathy comes with the following baggage: callous, cold, and emotionless. Who would associate with those words? Also, we are in danger of possibly becoming or remaining apathetic if we choose to only identify the term in those words.

I choose to break down this idea of apathy into words, because I believe that in the words we find understanding, and in the words we can begin to see a path. Another word that I believe better describes the true nature of what we are up against with apathy is the word passive. All of us can say that we have been passive at times, and associating apathy in terms of passiveness creates a smaller focused picture of what to work on. Passivity puts our choices into the hands of others. Passivity in times of struggle   can be dangerous because we are left to the flow of the situation instead of choosing to steer that ship ourselves.

To choose what impact we will have in this life, we have to do just that…choose. To find victory in struggle, we need perspective; we need to be able to take that snapshot of our situation and place it against the bigger picture.  

If we choose to care, if we are able to see our impact on others through our tough times or momentary troubles, and if we can choose to be intentional rather than passive; then perhaps we can find victory in the struggle. This shift towards forward motion may begin with something as seemingly minute as changing our mindset or perspective. We are actually meant to grow, develop, and live a life of impact; and empathy may be the key to endure. Choosing compassion, or choosing to put ourselves into someone else’s shoes, may give us the perspective we need to find victories in the midst of struggles.

Hope

I love the Christmas season. I love the smell of pine, the chill in the air, the good food, the merry gatherings, and the music all around. The songs range from reindeer on the rooftops to declarations of the glory of God, and in that space, there is a story. Whether we long for Santa or God (or both), our hearts ache for someone or something greater than ourselves; a story of grandeur.

When we hope, we are longing for that which we do not have; we are reaching for something that is beyond us. We dream of a life that we want, yet sometimes that life is out of our grasps in our current state; but that dream, that hope, can fill us with such passion and drive that the life we desire will not be out of reach for long. We all have something to hope for, because we are all in need. We are in need of kindness, love, peace, and a better world.

Where there is a need, there is a need for hope.

We should always be challenging ourselves to grow, and pursue that which makes us come alive. The hope of the world, is that people will come alive and bring the healing that the world needs.

Hope is the campaign slogan that won Barak Obama his first term as president. He spoke to the very core of all of us as he laid out a vision of a country that can change the trajectory of this world. He called us to become the people that we dream we can be, and embrace our role in the future of our world.

Lou Holtz says that for someone to life a fulfilling life they need to have something to do, someone to love, something to believe in, and something to look forward to. In other words, we need a purpose, and hope is a pillar of that purpose.

Hope has always been a guiding force in my life. I have had to remind myself time and time again that we are not at the end, and that no matter how many times I fail; there is always a chance to make things right and try again. This expectation becomes even more important as I get older. If I believe that my best chance to accomplish something great is behind me, then dreams lose their power to inspire and purpose fades; the moments, days, and years ahead seem meaningless. On the other hand, when you believe that your chance for impact and accomplishment is ever before you; purpose and inspiration will abound all around.

When hope thrives, the future is bright.

While I was looking back through one of my journals today, I was reminded of my fundamentals in life. The words I saw on those pages were written over the past three years. The themes I saw were love, faith, creativity, perseverance, and hope. There were many struggles and disappointments on pages, but they were met with words of hope and strength; the words I have written in the past were speaking to me in the present.

Each day is a building block in the tower of who we are, and if the days are the structure; then our decisions are the mortar that hold the building together. We choose hopelessness or hopefulness constantly throughout our days, we can see the cup half empty or we can see the chance to fill the cup.

Hope is a fundamental of life; do not lose it, and if it is fading; seek it fiercely.

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.

 

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.

 

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.