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Archive for October, 2010

Is it faith or family?  Is it money or purpose?  I sat back this week…yes, I sat back…and thought about my recent trip to New York.  I once again soaked up the smells, sounds and sights of my favorite city…and I quickly began to realize that PEOPLE were what inspired me the most. People, humanity, reality!

My taxi driver, Ahmed inspired me as he spoke of his journey from India with his wife and kids; my nephew, Nathan who greeted me at the hotel elevator, as the consummate optimist, with a grin from ear to ear as he showed me to my matchbox-sized room in Midtown.  It was the group of boys on the corner hustling CD’s (possibly blank, but I bought one for 7 bucks anyway).  It was Richard, our tour guide, on the Greyline who prided himself on his knowledge of history and HIS city!  It was the sales clerk at The Gap who went above and beyond to ensure I found what I was looking for at a store across town. 

People inspire me because they somehow inspire themselves to give each day, and everyone in it, all that they’ve got! Everyday, ordinary (really extraordinary) people inspire me by how they live their lives out loud.  It doesn’t always take a Lance Armstrong or a Randy Pausch to inspire but it does have a lasting impression when people live inspired lives because it’s who they are to the core.  I watch my next-door neighbor Cathi, who has MS, tackle each day with more fervor and gusto than most people I know; I often forget she’s in a wheelchair let alone stricken with a debilitating disease.  She makes me want to be a better person.

SO many people say the words, “My wife makes me want to be a better person.”  What does that really mean?  What does being better mean?  Better than whom? Better than what?  Well, I guess better than I was yesterday…and better than even I want to be on some days. 

Today, back at my everyday life, I’m working outside with my husband stacking wood and I am inspired by a man who puts so much care and thought into everything he does for us.  I might be more apt to sling and stack at a spastic pace that gets it all done in record time; not Tracey, he thoughtfully and strategically grooms the yard, stacks the wood and ensures that everything is in its place.  By witnessing him and other people who live their lives right in front of me I learn new skills: the art of patience, the value of resting, the pride of a job well done, and a respect for people doing everyday things that inspire me to be a better person than I was yesterday.

The question I ask myself next is: what have I done to inspire others lately?  And one I ask of you: what have you done to inspire your spouse, your kids or your co-workers?  I think it’s a valid question with answers we can all come up with.  In part, the question is intended to force us to take inventory of the inspiring things we do on a regular basis; to give thanks for our gifts, to celebrate our achievements and to recognize the good in ourselves and other people.  I bet we inspire people more than we know it.

Sometimes I forget to appreciate our individual differences, but today I’m taking time to see simple but amazing things that inspire me about the people in my life and the people I may have only one chance to inspire if I so choose.  How amazing would it be if I could live in this space forever?  What an incredible impact I could make if I made a concerted effort to be intentional; to inspire.  I think part of inspiration IS acknowledgement.  How often do we tell the people around us that we appreciate their gifts, their character or their impact on our lives?  Admittedly, not enough, but I vow to make an effort…starting today. 

So I ask you again, what or who inspires you? If someone immediately pops in your head then today might just be the day to pick up the phone and let them know!

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I liken this time in my life, in your life, in our lives to the Lotus flower whose seed is planted deep in the bottom of a pool of muddy water; and through stormy and calm seasons has fought its way to the surface.  As it grows from its root it pushes onward and upward toward the light.  And just after it breaks the waters’ surface it blooms into the most beautiful, vibrant water lily one can imagine. 

I want to be a Lotus Flower. I want all of us to be!

There is a Chinese poem that depicts the life of the Lotus flower most eloquently, “The leaves break the bandage of the green stem, stretching themselves and form a green pool with untidy edges. Now the flower comes from out of the vast surface of the water, just like a very beautiful woman coming gracefully from her bath.” 

Chinese poets also use Lotus flowers to inspire people to continue striving through difficulties and to show their best part to the outside world, no matter how bad the circumstances may be. This is understood as being just like the Lotus flower, bringing beauty and light from the murky darkness at the bottom of the pond.

I’ve been at the bottom of the pond and it’s been weeks since I have had the opportunity to share my thoughts in writing.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve shared PLENTY of thoughts (and a few gestures) over the past twelve weeks of producing the state fair, but the quality time I once spent on a Sunday evening writing about my crazy week, crazy job or the crazy people in it has been on hold as I pushed onward and upward through some pretty muddy waters of my own.  Tonight, it is cathartic making time for my long-trusted friend “the blog.”  I’ve taken part in an effort to save the Tennessee State Fair and by all counts, succeeded.  And now, on the other side of that daunting task is a very tired woman and the wonder of what’s next.  I’m guessing this is my time to blossom–again!

These post-event doldrums are like that beautiful water lily having to make a trip back down below the surface to start the climb all over again.  I wonder if that flower would feel the same way right now had she kept some balance in her life the past few months (hint, hint)?  Sometimes it takes wallowing down in the muddy waters to reflect and realize that we have a lot to look forward to…it also takes some reassurance from within that we are exactly where we should be, doing exactly what we should be to continue with our life’s work.  We must push through so one day we can become beautiful Lotus flowers that people can admire and enjoy.  Yes, I will do it  (or something equally as crazy) again…but next time there will be ground rules:

  1. Never, ever, ever give up the balance of your beautiful life and family for your job
  2. Spread your “yeses” and “no’s” out according to your priorities and your abilities
  3. Make time for the littlest of things that mean a whole lot to the people around you

I thought about waiting until I was fully recuperated and on more solid ground, but that wouldn’t have been very “Lotus flower” of me would it?  And the truth of the matter is, there is no perfect time to get a fresh perspective and dig in and celebrate the fruits of our labors while pushing through life’s waters.  There’s also no time to rest on our laurels.  Waiting for the right time or place would be like, “a flower planted in North Dakota putting off blooming because it would prefer to do so in Illinois.”  It just doesn’t make sense.  Now truly is the time!

So dig in, plant your seed and push on!  Push through the doldrums and the struggles and the murky waters.  Set your aim at the sunshine and get busy. THIS is our time! Nobody ever said life would be easy but no one ever said we couldn’t get through it all either.  We survive, we fight, we persevere; we become Lotus flowers time and time again throughout our lives.  It’s a thing of beauty and grace.  It’s our calling to emerge from whatever stormy depths of our lives as the strong, resilient women God made us to be!

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