Are You Up for a Challenge?

In light of my recent post about living from a place of appreciation rather than expectation, I would like to propose a challenge to myself as well as those who feel drawn to a more observant and conscientious life. So here goes nothing, *insert deep breath* – I am going to make a list of 100 simple appreciations I can hold close to my heart today.

The first 10 will most assuredly be a bit generic, and perhaps quite obvious as well, but further down my list I’m sure I will have to dig for hidden treasure, and that is where the challenge lies. Wish me luck, wish me well, and I’ll do the same for you. Please feel free to share some of your list in the comments, I would love to hear what nurtures appreciation in your life. ❤️

1. My beautiful, smart, healthy children.

2. My supportive, hardworking husband.

3. The sturdy abode I call home.

4. The heart friends I share life with (you know who you are❤️).

5. Freedom.

6. The blessing of staying home to homeschool in an age where it is considered a luxury.

7. Watching my girls grow into beautiful young women who are fully capable of living joyously in this world.

8. Coffee (perhaps one of THE primary sources of all that is worthy of appreciation 😉).

9. The ability to exercise, a strong body.

10. My femaleness, femininity.

11. Birds that sing their sweet songs each morning.

12. Trees, glorious, strong, grounded trees that dance in the wind and shade from the sun.

13. The vastness of the ocean, my soul so often yearns to visit the sea, and when I am able the sense of awe it brings me is indescribable .

14. Hard lessons. I can have appreciation for these because they have helped to strengthen and nurture growth in my life.

15. Enjoying alone time, I cherish my ability to spend hours in solitude gratefully, enjoying my own company is a blessing.

16. Road trips, who doesn’t love them? Enough said.

17. Books. Books. Books. And only the paper kind that I can hold in my hands, listening to the pages turn. One of life’s most valuable and simple treasures.

18. Music  without it life would be a dull shade of gray.

19. Cats, they rock and I love their sass.

20.  My front porch  I always envisioned having one and now we do.

21. Voxer. It’s pretty much the best app ever invented for an introvert like me.

22. Porch swings. I love them. A lot.

23. Finding my new favorite park yesterday, it felt like discovering a hidden treasure.

24. Fresh flowers on my kitchen table. Always and forever.

25. Chocolate.

26. Having the windows open on a breezy day. Simply the best.

27. Trader Joe’s, otherwise known as my own little piece of heaven.

28. Cold slices of watermelon on a hot summer day. Must include seeds. 🙂

29. Bare feet on cool grass.

30. Watching a good movie with the people I love.

31. Sweet Red Wine. Deliciousness.

32. New shoes. A girl has to love new shoes.

33. Sharing an inside joke with a wink or a glance. ❤

34. Evening walks.

35. Making new recipes that turn out wickedly delicious.

36. Starting new projects (finishing them is another story). 😉

37. Creating in any form:

38. Drawing.

39. Painting.

40. Writing

41. Playing my bass, feeling the music.

42. Decorating, rearranging.

43. Long, meaningful, deep conversations with interesting people.

44. That one song that comes on the radio and immediately makes me want to dance.

45. Sleeping in later than I should. Glorious.

46. Baby bunnies.

47. Prayerful meditation, it is changing my life.

48. Positive affirmations.

49. Sunday afternoons.

50. Being INFJ, at times I forget to be appreciative of this because it is so HARD to be me, but in reality it is something to be cherished.

51. Learning to love myself.

52. You, the people who take time to read my posts and share life with me. You rock.

53. The internet, without it I wouldn’t be nearly as far along on my self discovery journey, I wouldn’t know my personality type, and I wouldn’t be blogging right now.

54. Running water. I mean, a lot of people on this planet don’t have the luxury of hot showers and clean wTer at their disposal.

55. Hot showers. See above  😉

56. Kind people. All of them. They are precious and rare.

57. My hands. I have two of them and they both work. It’s fabulous.

58. Our vehicle, it is exactly what I wanted and we got an amazing deal on it. Even after driving it for quite a few years it still feels special to me.

59. My parents are both relatively healthy. It’s a blessing.

60. Poetry that speaks to me.

61. Podcasts, in pretty much addicted to them.

62. ItWorks! Because finding products in purvprice range that we can feel good about and share with others is pretty awesome.

63. Patience. I do appreciate the power  of patience, though it isn’t something that comes easily to me.

64.  Spirituality, Papa God, the Divine within us all. The deeper truths behind the inner workings of the universe provides both awe and inspiration.

65.  Caretakers, those who serve and sacrifice for the sake of another. They deserve appreciation.

66. Ice cream. Duh.

67. Finding the perfect pair of jeans. You know the moment…you’ve tried on a gazillion pairs and suddenly the impossible happens and you find your Jean soulmate. It’s a beautiful thing.

68.  Concerts, the most fun a person could wish for.

69. Compassion. For myself, for others.

70. Honesty, an elusive yet valuable thing.

71. Skiing, it makes me feel alive.

72. The ability to drive.

73. Growing deeper in relationships.

74. Finding other INFJ’s to click with. Beautiful.

75. Thirst gor knowledge, both in myself and observed in others.

76. Being able to say I was there for all of my children’s “firsts”, from steps to learning to read, to learning to pump gas for the car.

77. I appreciate being appreciated. ☺️

78. Full moons and starry nights.

79. Picnics in the park.

80. Simple romantic gestures that make me melt like ice on a hot summer’s day.

81. Iced coffee, a good book, and sitting poolside.

82. Sincere hugs.

83. Natural remedies, I’m a junkie for essential oils, herbs, supplements, Homeopathy, and all the other crazy cures that all seem to work wonders. 😜

84. The way the wind feels when it’s not too hot, not too cold, but just right to kiss your checks and whip your hair.

85. Pedicures are lovely.

86. Artists. They bring beauty to the world in their own unique ways.

87. Dimmer switches. Seriously, low lighting is one of my favorite luxuries.

88. The hard work my hubby has put into remodeling our home, he’s pretty great like that.

89. Our jobs. I’m grateful we have them.

90.  Holding hands with my love and still feeling like sweethearts.

91. Accomplishing goals I’ve set for myself, there’s nothing quite like that feeling.

92. People who volunteer their time to serve kids, like my daughter’s soccer coaches.

93. Dreamers.

94. My phone. It is a little magical device that does a million fascinating things.

95. My bass, she’s pretty awesome.

96. The smell of fresh cut grass.

97. Every mistake I’ve ever made. They’ve sll had a reason for existing.

98. A great hair stylist, a girl can’t live without one.

99. Midday naps. The bomb!

100. And lastly…dun, dun,duuuuun…..being alive! It’s a privelage and a gift!

Phew, I can’t believe I made it through all of those! Good luck making your own list of things you appreciate in life. Keep it handy, and look at it the next time you feel down, I know that’s what I plan to do.


Expectation Vs. Appreciation

We all have them, these sneaky things called expectations. We have them in every way, every day, realistic ones, foolish ones, and even those which we haven’t yet had the courage to  acknowledge exist. Some expectations are practical, such as working with the expectation of receiving a paycheck, but others, well, they can cause us indescribable amounts of pain and anguish if allowed to go unchecked.

I was involved in some deep suffering the other day (of which INFJ’s such as myself are quite prone), struggling inwardly with my sense of injustice and disharmony, when suddenly it occurred to me that much of my suffering was stemming from a place of unmet expectations. My focus had shifted from that which I can control, such as my own actions, beliefs, and ability to create beautiful things, onto the parts and pieces of life over which I have no sway. I was placing my ideals upon the actions of outside forces and people, expecting things from them which they were not capable of fulfilling.

In that moment I realized that though my expectations were rooted in good and beautiful things, I was doing nothing short of paralyzing myself by continuing to hope for things that, though lovely, may never pan out. It was as if I continually punished myself with disappointment by knowingly expecting better from people who had already proven they were unreliable, or even by expecting things from myself that I could not reasonably accomplish without causing a massive amount of stress or pain in the process. I was the cause of my own suffering and I determined it must end.

This realization came after spending about 6 weeks of practicing daily meditation, affirmations, and communal with God through a 100 Day Gong commitment I had chosen. The time of quiet contemplation each day had begun to open my eyes to a greater reality, one that spoke to the oneness of all things, one that shifted my perspective from focusing on my laundry list of expectations to one that became more sensitive to the beauty that comes when we live from a place of appreciation.

Yes, that was the key to my freedom, the magic bullet to end my suffering. Dwelling on all of the things in my life that are good, beautiful, alive and well, all the people who are good and kind, all of the small blessings that so easily go unnoticed, these things warrant my appreciation. They cry out for it, and when I deny them their due, misery sets in and bleeds the joy from my very bones.

There is no denying that life is unfair, we each have so many trials, too much pain, and far more challenges than we can count, but when we choose to focus on those things they become giants, gaining power in our lives and stealing from us the most precious of gifts. The gifts that seem so obvious, the ones that sit right in front of us, silently waiting for acknowledgment, pleading for our attention. I choose to see these things. I choose to let go of my expectations and live from a place of appreciation. I choose to focus on that which is good and lovely. I choose joy.

That Girl in the Mirror

I looked into the mirror and saw a girl. She was once young and pure and kind. SO full of life. I saw her face now, worn and wounded. Tear stained and broken. Expectations had bled her dry. Not the expectations from others necessarily, though those cast a heavy shadow, but rather the ones she placed upon herself. The expectations that she could achieve perfection. Be the perfect mother, wife, friend. Look perfect, act perfect, be quiet, cook well. A thousand calls to answer, a thousand calls too many.

She may be bruised and scarred, but she is awakening. She is expanding, realizing one very beautiful, magnificent, life changing fact, and that is this; it is all an illusion. All of it. There is no “perfect”. There is no way to be all, do all, end all. The girl in the mirror has everything she needs within herself. She is enough. She is tormented only because of her own perceptions, the world created within herself, the tapes that have played a thousand times without thought or question as to whether they hold any validity or value. She has all but broken HERSELF.

The girl in the mirror is powerful. So very powerful. She is her own savior, and through her discoveries has come to realize she no longer needs outside validation. She is a Phoenix rising, a song that is about to be sung. She has stumbled upon the life changing truth that being kind to herself is both brave and empowering. That even if the world screams a thousand judgements it is of no importance as long as she is her own best friend. It is only through accepting herself wholly and fully that the freedom and peace she has searched for all her life will find a home in her heart. That girl is beautiful, and she is becoming a woman. She has been her own worst enemy and survived. Now she looks in the mirror and sees what has always been true, her eyes are opened and she is awake and alive. She is my hero.

The Thing About Fear

Fear. It’s a thing. A horrible, no good, awful thing that ties our hands and blinds our eyes to the greatness of our true potential. It’s the hissing voice that whispers lies in our ear when everything is quiet and still. It is the nagging feeling of inadequacy that rapes us of our joy, the constant uncertainty that harasses us as we are rising toward a mountaintop moment in our lives. It steals our peace and breaks our spirit, It is the destroyer of dreams, the master of discouragement, and it is a well known companion to us all.

Fear does have power. It has the power to keep us trapped in a space we no longer belong. It convinces us to hold so tightly to people or ideas or things that they begin to whither and die under the pressure of our grasp. Fear is sneaky and it is relentless, but it doesn’t have to win. I know fear well, we’ve been buddies for most of my life, he likes to make me feel like I’m not good enough to do anything worthwhile. He enjoys  taunting me with my inadequacies and then proving them to be true.

Yeah, sometimes fear pans out. I had to speak publicly recently, which is basically the last thing on this planet I would ever choose to do. I think I’d rather play with Tarantula’s or snakes, or maybe cliff dive, but I digress. I blew it. I did all the things I’ve read to do beforehand, like, you know, breathing. It didn’t work. My fear won and my ego took a pretty good hit to boot, but you know what? I’m glad I did it. I’m glad because every time I fight the fear that tries to hold me back it gets weaker.

And that’s the thing about fear. Each time we stand up and face it, the power it holds over us diminishes ever so slightly. As we do this our inner selves grow in size and strength and the bully we call fear begins to look a whole lot less like a powerhouse, and more like the sniveling little punk that he is. He doesn’t deserve my time or energy, and I’m done giving him more than his fair share of either one.

It is said that the scriptures mention “fearing not” or some variation thereof 365 times, which seems to give the idea that it is something of which we may just need to take note. I am certain there will be plenty of times when my strength against fear will be tested in the coming months and years, but I’m growing, training, and becoming bigger than these fears day by day. So let’s encourage each other to rise and be our greatest selves, facing the fears that have held us back for so long. I’ve got this, you’ve got this, let’s make life happen!

Imperfectly Perfect

So I kind of figure if you’re here reading this then you either know me or you’d like to know who the crazy person writing this blog actually is. I’m a wife. I’m a mom. I’m an INFJ. I’m a dreamer, I’m a poet, I’m extraordinarily ordinary, and yet completely unique. I love fitness and food and fashion, playing my bass, drawing, and braiding my daughter’s hair. Some days I feel like I can conquer the world, most days I’m happy just to accomplish half of my to-do list and take some deep breaths. I’m a writer who has decided it’s time to write, it’s time to stop being afraid.

I’ve been on a journey these past few years, one that’s left me bumped and bruised and smiling despite it all. It led me to Finding my long lost self buried beneath a pile of obligations and “shoulds”, and realizing that there was a beautiful girl become woman who had forgotten that she mattered. Becoming a mother at 19, marrying at 21 can do that to a girl I think. Growing up as an only child, raised by a single mother, moving, moving, moving, surviving but never really living leaves its mark.

Despite a story I don’t often tell, the truth remains that I’m thankful for all the scars this life has given to me. They have each contributed to the person I am becoming, they make me uniquely beautiful, and for that I am grateful. The people I most love and respect all bear their own scars, ravaged by the realities of a cruel world, yet radiantly alive with hearts that beat tenderly, caring deeply for their fellow travelers.

It is with these fellow travelers that I long to share life, bearing together the burdens that would alone weigh upon us too heavily. It is for these beautiful souls that I will bear my own, shaking as I write the musings I’d prefer stay hidden in a notebook, probably beneath a mattress, perhaps eventually stuffed into a trash can far from the critical gaze of prying eyes. But hiding is no longer an option. Hiding is not living, and living is what I aim to do.

So I’m Going to Blog

Yes, it’s true. I’ve lost my mind, errr, I mean decided to start a blog. This year has been all about letting old things go so new things can bloom, and this, apparently, is going to be one of those new things. I’m not exactly certain of all that I will share here, but I’m fairly confident that my fitness/weight loss journey, adventures in homeschool insanity, artful pursuits, musings about spirituality, and my recent leap of faith into the world of being an entrepreneur will all make appearances at some point. As for now I think a cup of self congratulatory coffee is in order because new things that stretch us are always worthy of recognition. So here’s to new beginnings, new adventures, and the moments of complete and utter insanity that make life the amazing roller coaster ride that it is. Cheers!

You Were Made to Fly