“You weren’t an accident. You weren’t mass produced. You aren’t an assembly-line product. You were deliberately planned, specifically gifted, and lovingly positioned on Earth by the Master Craftsman.”
– Max Lucado
You are a gift to the world. Please believe this. If that seems hard, stretch toward this. Make room for the possibility. Aim to believe and feel the truth of this as best you can. Value yourself. Your gifts and talents. Your unique appearance. Your personality. Your dreams. Your life experiences. Your lessons learned and lessons yet to be learned. All that makes you YOU.
Today, let’s say “Thank you!” to the Master Craftsman for the gift of our beauty-full beings.
PS – Even worse than thinking one is an “accident,” is being told, “You were a mistake.” Some children actually hear that. No wonder they feel unworthy. Let’s send waves of love around the world. Imagine every hurting child washed by those waves.
“The sixth gift is Joy. May it keep your heart open and filled with light.” – from The Twelve Gifts of Birth
I find that sincere gratitude always opens my heart to the joy that is naturally there. The blossom of joy that follows gratitude may or may not bloom into happiness. Happiness, of course, follows more readily when our hearts are not covered with a protective layer due to deep hurt, sadness, fear, grief or worry. In such times, we may feel as if we will never feel happy again.
But even at the dark and heavy times in my life, when I allowed authentic gratefulness for something–anything–to bubble up from my heart, some joy seeped through with it and gave me a small yet pleasant uplift.
Sometimes joy is like the Rose Bowl Parade of floral floats and marching bands. Other times joy is like a gentle, fragrant breeze on a summer night, barely there, so subtle one might not even notice it. Ahh. But when we do, that little petal of joy is soothing and sweet.
I am recalling times when I was seriously ill or heartbroken. I found that if I sat still, slowed and deepened my breath, and stayed in the present moment, some appreciation always emerged. It might have been for the color of my bedroom walls, or that my digestive system had worked easily, or that my back felt comfortably supported by the pillows behind me. Or, I noticed beauty in something in the room or in nature, outside the window. Or… the possibilities are endless.
I am offering this because I know that among us, always, there are people we know or friends we haven’t yet met who are experiencing one of those dark and heavy times. In particular, a comment to a post on one of my Facebook pages prompted this writing at this time. I think we’ve all known times when inspirational messages and encouraging suggestions might seem like well-meaning but empty platitudes.
I suspect we’ve also experienced at least one time when the energy of someone’s robust joy felt painful upon our fragile state of being. Bright light joy upon a hurting heart can be like driving into the late afternoon sun in Arizona. It’s so blinding that you have to shut your eyes, look away, or turn to another direction. Have you ever felt like that?
At fragile times, I believe that loving acceptance, along with compassionate kindness and reverent listening to understand, is the most wise and caring thing we can offer to one another. Although, I admit that sometimes I have offered advice instead of giving the gift of simply being there. But we live and we learn, yes?
What’s your experience? Both on the giving and the receiving side? And with joy itself?
“I hope you never lose your sense of wonder…”
~ Lee Ann Womack
Me too, Lee Ann. I wish that wonder would be protected and nourished in every child and adult.
I believe we can’t actually lose the wonderment we were born with, just as we can’t lose our innate gifts of hope, joy, courage, compassion, love or any of the qualities that are a part of our essence. But we can lose our sense of them. It seems to me that we all sometimes lose our sensing of the beauty that’s built into our being. If we ignore them, we can get out of touch with all of our inner gifts.
That’s why I write “touchstones” and share them freely each day. They feed my gifts. They feed my soul. And sharing them doesn’t diminish them one bit. In fact, the more they’re shared, the more their nutritional power grows like yeasted dough.
I’m resolving to deepen my awareness of and appreciation for the gifts of life in the New Year. Care to join me in this intention for 2018? That’s all we need to begin: the intention. We’ll be guided further.
Already I’m feeling a surge of increased enthusiasm for messages that uplift and encourage us. And not only for the touchstones I compose. I’ll be watching for inspiration in books, films, music, news and all forms of expression and communication. If you don’t already receive Today’s Touchstone via email, perhaps you’ll subscribe now, using the form on this website.
Before closing, I’d like to add a few more lines from the well-known song recorded by Lee Ann Womack:
“I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens
Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance
I hope you dance”
“I’d gone though my life believing in the strength and competence of others; never my own. Now, dazzled, I discovered that my capacities were real. It was like finding a fortune in the lining of an old coat.” ~ Joan Mills
We’ve probably all known the delight of finding money when it was needed. I can recall college days and newlywed times of finding a few dollar bills in a purse or a handful of change between sofa pillows. I wouldn’t say I was dazzled, but I was elated. I might have even jumped for joy.
Did you know that about $2 billion in lottery prizes go unclaimed every year? And there’s an estimated $850 million lying unclaimed in lost and forgotten bank accounts.
What is the undiscovered and untapped wealth within us worth? Far more than any amount of money.
If we only knew how to readily claim and develop our inner resources of love, talent, courage, hope, imagination, compassion, faith – all our gifts – we could achieve a rare way of living life, being fully ourselves.
With faith and enthusiasm, let’s look within ourselves every day for discoveries of our gifts. Let’s also do something, however small, to cultivate and grow them everyday. One way to grow our gifts is to use them everyday.
“How do I do that?” you might ask. There are many ways. I will offer two here.
At least once each day stretch beyond blah feelings, angry feelings, hurtful feelings and choose to act kindly, caringly. In other words, decide to use the gift of love even if you don’t feel like it.
To symbolize and strengthen your intention to grow your inner wealth, start with a clear jar similar to the one in the photo. Every time you notice a demonstration of any one of the gifts – either within yourself or another person – add a coin to the jar, even if it’s just a penny. Every seemingly little penny will contribute to the growth of actual money in the jar just as every seemingly little act of courage or statement of hope will be growing your conscious awareness and appreciation of your inner wealth.
Watch for examples of all the forms of strength in your personal life, in the world, in books, films, everywhere. Look for the word “strength” on billboards, on TV ads, everywhere. Become more aware of strength, especially in yourself. Do this with each of The Twelve Gifts: strength, beauty, courage, compassion, hope, joy, talent, imagination, reverence, wisdom, love and faith. If you do this, whether or not you use the money jar, you will be growing your gifts. But the visible symbol and action of adding coins to the jar will help anchor your intention and commitment. It will also be fun.
You are likely to collect some interesting stories about each gift too. If you feel inclined to add any here, please do! We will all benefit. Send your story the contact box or enter it in the comment area. If you wish to know of some true story examples of others growing their gifts, you can find a collection of them in TOUCHSTONES: STORIES FOR LIVING THE TWELVE GIFTS. This book is available both as a paperback and as an e-book. You can also access stories about each of the gifts right here, on this home page, to the right of this blog.
“My own path towards wellness has been a long and dynamic one. It’s taught me that healing from the inside out takes time and there can be great value in various sources of guidance.” – Carre Otis
What is your path like? What does it include?
Mine follows a trail through hope and faith while tapping into strength and courage; applying lots of kindness and self-compassion; daily doses of joy; appreciating beauty in many forms; time in nature…and more…including prayer; meditation; inspirational reading; savoring scents, sights, sounds and tastes…touch too…as in dry body brushing, gentle massage, warm salted and essential-oil-scented baths and Reiki treatments; visualization…that’s a major one! Do you visualize the outcomes you desire? What promotes well-being for you? What helps you heal? I’d love to hear from you!
(This photo was taken by me while walking on a path near our home when my husband and I lived in Sedona, Arizona. I was healing from lymphoma at the time. Along with standard medical chemotherapy, I did “apply” daily doses of The Twelve Gifts. Love, joy, beauty, hope, faith, compassion..they all promote healing and well-being.)
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
– Franklin Delano Roosevelt
“I’ve learned that fear limits you and your vision. It serves as blinders to what may be just a few steps down the road for you.” – Soledad O’Brien
“If we can acknowledge our fear, we can realize that right now we are okay.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
FEAR. We all experience it. Whatever the cause, fear limits our ability to face the challenge and address the issue. So it’s wise to release fear. Not resist it, deny it, or stifle it, but let it be and then let it go. Here’s a simple tool you may wish to try the next time you feel fear for any reason. All you need is an ice cube, something to hold it – I like to use a clear custard cup – just a few minutes of your time, and sincere intention.
ICE CUBE RITUAL
Upon waking or before you begin your work day, remove an ice cube from your freezer and place it in a cup, saucer, or bowl. Set the container in a place where it will remain undisturbed.
See the ice cube as representing fear, your own fear in all the ways it shows up, as well as fear in the world. You may wish to use a cube for each fear you identify. Silently or out loud say, “This represents fear. I am willing to allow my feelings of fear to soften and melt away today.” Go about your day.
Later in the day, bring your attention again to the container. Notice the water now in the liquid state. See it as representing fear transformed. In your own way, bless the water. Use this water to nourish a plant in your home. Or, go outdoors and pour it onto a place where, symbolizing your intention of contributing to healing on Earth, this modicum of water can nourish some living thing.
Of course, it is not always this easy. But sometimes it is. And nearly always it is at least a start. I learned this when I faced a life-threatening illness. Since you may appreciate the story behind my Ice Cube Ritual, I am sharing it here.
In September of 2000, I was diagnosed with a form of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma for which present-day medicine says there is no cure. When I learned that cancer cells were growing in lymph nodes in my throat and abdomen and in my bone marrow, I felt as if I had been spun around and punched in the stomach. For several days I could digest only small bits of medical information at a time. I glanced at diagrams of mutant lymph cells then quickly looked away. Like most cancer patients, I experienced many emotions. At first I felt frozen with fear. I mourned the lost health I had taken for granted. Then I became determined to heal.
The metaphor of waging war with cancer is useful for some patients, but I did not want to hold a violent attitude toward my body nor hate any part of it. I didn’t want to fight cancer, but without a doubt I was determined to release it from my system.
I sensed that my cancer diagnosis was a call to love my whole self more and to better appreciate the trillions of healthy cells that were living in harmony with one another. Along with treatments with a biologic agent (Rituxan) and standard chemotherapy (CHOP), I used many complementary therapies, including meditation and visualization, which relaxed and empowered me. I drank large quantities of purified water; ate nutritiously; and further nourished my cells with music, aromatherapy, and therapeutic touch. I prayed, watched funny movies and read spiritual stories. During that time, I was also inspired to write a fable. It became The Twelve Gifts for Healing, a story about an ailing woman who journeys to seek healing wisdom from a wise woman named Mater. Like those women, everyday I recited twelve specific blessings for myself and all others. One of them was “May you allow fear to soften and melt away.” I was inspired to act out the intention by witnessing the simple, inevitable melting of an ice cube at room temperature.
So I went to my kitchen, opened the freezer and removed one ice cube. For a moment I cradled it in the palm of my hand. I let it rest there and noticed the chill on my skin. Gently, I placed it in a saucer and centered it on the table. Later I returned to see and appreciate the ice cube’s transformation to water.
Hundreds of times since then, I have repeated this ritual, whenever fear shows up about cancer or a situation in my family or global warming or tension in the world or anything at all. You may wish to try this ritual yourself whenever you feel fear about health, relationships, finances – anything in your personal world or in the world at large.
In September 2001, after the completion of chemotherapy, CT scans and a bone marrow biopsy revealed no evidence of cancer.
I would not have consciously chosen cancer as a teacher, but I appreciate the valuable lessons it offered.
I guess I needed to learn more because I faced cancer again in another form. In May of 2016 I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Both cancer adventures led me to look deeper into many things, especially about nurturing and using our inherent gifts of strength, beauty, courage, compassion, hope, joy, talent, imagination, reverence, wisdom, love and faith for healing. I discovered a lot but there’s so much more for me to learn, for all of us I think, about the inner resources we all have.
One of my favorite quotes conveys a sense of what’s possible when we begin to realize these gifts:
“The day will come when, after harnessing space, the winds, the tides, and gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, we shall have discovered fire.” – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Hmm. I think we all believe, to some extent at least, that we can look at “problems” differently. We can find blessings in every challenge.
If/when we do ever truly see them as valuable opportunities, the outcomes will be different. We will be different. Stronger. Healthier. Freer. Better in so many ways.
Today, let’s take another shot at grasping the powerful truth that our problems are chances for us to get it better, to overcome limitations, to clear away stumbling blocks, to remove blind spots and to remove hurts and hates from our hearts.
There are many possible tools and practices that can help us “see differently.”
Select one of your worries, one of the things you have labeled as a “problem.” Write a brief description of it, fold the paper, and place it in a spot you designate as sacred, or special to you in some way. Intend, as best you can, to release the worry. Even if it feels “impossible,” do it anyway. Do it with faith, even if that faith is smaller than a mustard seed. Ask for help, guidance and grace to recognize opportunities and solutions that lead to something greater. Then use your gift of imagination. “See” the person, the issue, the financial challenge, the threat of loss, the illness – whomever and whatever – in a different light. Remember a time or vision one in which all is well. Open your heart further to love and compassion by bringing to mind someone or something you love dearly, something that makes you smile. Baby animals do this for many people. Go about your day, gently.
Also, let this drawing be a reminder that truly can see things differently. Are you familiar with it? You should be able to see both a young woman and a very old one. While neither is the “correct” or “better” way of seeing, seeing problems as opportunities is the better way for our health, happiness, and success overall.
May every problem in our personal lives, in our country and in our world lead us toward greater love, hope, beauty, and joy. Toward greater courage and compassion too. And peace.
With faith always,
“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
If you find yourself feeling impatient today, think of trees growing, rocks eroding, caves and canyons forming.
How do you typically react when you’re stuck behind a car traveling under the speed limit or in an already-long checkout line when the cashier calls for the manager? Instead of tensing your muscles – if that’s what you do – bring to mind a flower blooming. Make that century plant!
Perhaps you’re impatiently frustrated with yourself. If you feel behind in realizing your dreams, take a deep breath and remember: we are a part of Mother Nature too.
For greater peace, health and happiness, let’s gently and kindly get in her flow.
With compassion for ourselves and all,
PS – I’m not saying we should literally move as slowly as these examples! Just let images from nature help you to shift into a peaceful,
patient pace. Making a literal comparison of a checkout line moving at the rate of a century plant blooming might tickle your funny bone though. And laughter can move us to a healthier pace and “place” too! Wishing you peace, patience, and joy. Hope and faith too.
“Thank you for helping me feel like a shiny stone instead of a plain old worthless rock,” said a third-grade boy in Tucson, Arizona.
An effect and reaction like that is what I hope for when I offer a polished stone to children in classrooms – adults in audiences too – after we discuss the message of The Twelve Gifts of Birth. If you’re familiar with the book, you know that the story, illustrations, and photographs help children of all ages recognize their inner gifts and feel valuable.
To anchor the message and help make the intangible gifts of inner strength, beauty, courage, compassion, hope, joy, talent, imagination, reverence, wisdom, love and faith feel more touchable and real, I use a bowl of stones in a show and tell way. You can do this too in a one-on-one way or with any size group.
When speaking with groups, a clear fish bowl is an ideal container. Fill it at least halfway with medium-sized polished stones of all varieties. On top of all the shiny and colorful stones, place a regular, rough rock, the kind you might pick up from a street, sidewalk, or hiking trail. For a one-on-one talk, a handful of polished stones and one rough rock is sufficient.
The bowl of stones does a good job of grabbing attention and stirring curiosity in groups. I present the bowl after the reading, discussion, and the question, “Who feels valuable in this moment?” All (or nearly all) hands shoot up.
That opens the door for THE THREE LESSONS IN POLISHED STONES.
The plain rough rock is used to acknowledge that we all sometimes feel like that: plain, ordinary, maybe even worthless. The truth is that we are all like the polished stones. Like them we’ve been tumbled. For them it was in a machine. For us it is in life. The keepsake polished stone is meant to remind us that no matter what we look like on the surface or what we feel like, we have strength, beauty, and other valuable qualities within us always.
The second lesson the stones offer is the beauty of all their various colors, shapes, and sizes. We too come in various colors, shapes, and sizes. No matter. Like the stones, in that way too, we are all valuable.
The third lesson comes from taking a very close look at one or any number of the stones. Upon close examination, we see little cracks, nicks, scratches. While they are indeed beautiful, strong, and valuable, they are not perfect. Neither are we.
And those are three lessons for all of us to remember for ourselves and to share with the children in our lives.
Parents, teachers, counselors, all readers who may use this activity in any way, I’d love to hear from you.
I’m guessing that a collection of colorful stones can carry other meaningful messages. What do you think of the three I described? What other life lessons do you see?
Toward dignity for all,