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March: A Month of Change

Peonies from my garden, May 2018 [et_pb_section fb_built=”1″ _builder_version=”3.19.15″][et_pb_row _builder_version=”3.19.15″][et_pb_column type=”4_4″ _builder_version=”3.19.15″][et_pb_text _builder_version=”3.19.15″]

“It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.” Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

In Ohio, many winters are harsh and spill over long into spring. As I write, it is snowing outside — the perfect type of day for a writer. No matter if it is sunny and warming and beginning to feel like spring, or if it is snowing out, March is a month of change. 

March, Month of Change

Many years ago, I read a quote to the effect of Even if we live to be 100 year old, we will have experienced Spring only 100 times. I have written about that quote here. 

I’m a person who loves to witness the miracle of Spring. I marvel at the green shoots poking through the barren earth in March, and I anticipate the flowers that will blossom from the stems in a month or two. I love Spring.

 

Peonies from my garden, May 2018

Peonies from my garden, May 2018

Change in Blog Frequency

Some may have noticed that for the months of January and February 2019, I posted daily blogs, which republished content from the book I wrote in 2007. It was an effort from the heart.

I personally read brief thoughts and devotions each day, from the Bible.com app and from other thinkers like Seth Godin. Both impact my train of thought for the day. I like to spend time to stretch and grow and be inspired to live my best.

The effort in publishing the daily inspirations from my book published in 2007 by Tyndale House was a success. But I have also learned something else during the past two months. The large amount of effort needed to sustain the daily blog is beyond what I am capable of sustaining. I spend much time and energy at my work, at being a mom and a friend, and have to invest myself carefully. This is why I am scaling back.

I will continue to occasionally publish photographs of travels and things that inspire me, and will share them here. And with that, I want to say thank you for your interest, reading, and thoughtful words you’ve shared with me.

Now, to enjoy the season upon us, of change, of miracles, of rebirth. To enjoying one of those 100 springs!

Jennifer

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View over Prague from the Castle: New Oil Painting

Oil Painting Prague's 1000 Spires, View from Prague Castle

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” – Thomas Merton

Oil Painting Prague's 1000 Spires, View from Prague Castle

The Best of Intentions: Oil Painting

Have you ever started a project and then life gets in the way? This seems to happen every time a fun project comes up, whether it’s a book I can’t wait to read (Kate Morton’s newest novel, The Clockmaker’s Daughter, just arrived!) or a painting I’d like to try to paint. For me, the painting above began as a blank 36″ x 24″ canvas I placed on my easel last November 2017. On Saturday, October 13, 2018, I finished the edges, signed it, and hung it to finish drying. I am relieved and thrilled to be able to move on!

First work on the painting

Prague painting: Still a lot of work to do!
Prague painting: Still a lot of work to do!

Prague 2018

My family and I visited Prague again this summer and it was just as beautiful as I remembered it. Our family lived just outside of Prague in a village called Horomerice from 2009 – 2013. One of my favorite things to do after dropping my boys off at school was to meander into the city with my camera in hand. The month of October seemed to be the month with the best photographs, maybe because the tourists had fled for the season or because the fog settles in some mornings. The history seeps from the crevices of the buildings and stones and seems to speak out loud.

This summer, the heat and the swarms of tourists stifled the feeling of the history I’d had in cooler months when we lived in Prague. The photograph I based the painting on was taken in the month of October from the lane descending from Prague Castle and Hradcany.

View over Prague from the Castle

In this view that I’ve painted, many stories can be told about the buildings and their significance over time. The main tower in St. Nicholas Church of Mala Strana (left in this painting) served as one of the main spying points for the Nazis and later the Communists during their occupation of Prague. The Powder Towers in the foreground and background held significance from the time King Charles IV (also Holy Roman Emperor , who lived 1316 – 1378) along with his Charles Bridge connecting Old Town across the river to the Prague Castle. The Old Town Hall Clock Tower holds the famed Astronomical Clock (more than 600 years old), but also was the site of the 1618 defenestration of Prague. White crosses mark the cobblestones below the windows. And center, Tyn Church stands at the centerpiece of Old Town Square. When we lived in Prague, the Pope came and visited Prague, which meant every surface was polished to a high gleam for his visit, especially at Tyn.

Prague painting and Jennifer -- happy!

It took time for me to understand what to paint and how to paint it, including color values and shading — months, literally. I think the most important part is that I have finished it. Now, to enjoy it. 🙂

Prague painting

 

What types of projects have you started and then had trouble finishing? What helps you to get to the finish line?

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The Unlikely Story of the Patio Project: Deck Demolition to Paver Patio

Me, installing the steps

The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand. – Vince Lombardi

The Patio Project and the Rotting Deck

My family has always used our backyard deck often, for dinners and relaxing and time with family and friends. This summer, though, after having our chair legs go through the decking, we knew our deck wouldn’t live much longer. We knew we needed new deck boards, even though we had sealed and stained them annually. In August, my three sons agreed to help with the project, and we dove in.

tearing out a deck

I ordered the right lumber from Lowe’s and scheduled delivery, but once my guys had taken the decking off, we discovered the joists below had rotted, too. We made the decision to demolish the entire deck and start over with a patio.

Now, I’m guessing you’re laughing by now. We all know that one home improvement project always turns into a few more than expected. It’s true, and for a mom and her teenage sons, it probably isn’t the smartest thing to take on a huge project when none of us had any experience with decks or patios. But we did.

The deck was a beast to demolish, but my sons did it almost solely on their own. They were amazing.

a blank slate -- the deck is torn out and preparing for pavers
a blank slate — the deck is torn out and preparing for pavers

The Patio Project

The patio, we thought, couldn’t be too difficult — just calculate, watch a few online videos, and go.

There were a few things we learned during the 6 weeks it took to accomplish the patio:

  • Deck footers and bracing bolted to the house does not remove easily
  • Patio stones are heavy. So are the bags of sand and gravel. 40 pounds a piece times a hundred or more = a whole lot of lifting, carrying, and moving.
  • The bigger the patio stone, the more difficult it is to level it.
  • Patios are not accomplished through perfectionism, just through lots and lots of hard work.

Stone by stone, installing a paver patio
Stone by stone, installing a paver patio

The whole process took us four weeks from the first prying up of a deck board to the final sealant being applied to the patio. I spent almost every night after work on some aspect of the project.

Me, installing the steps
Me, installing the steps

But now, it looks and feels great, and it’s added another order of value to the house, both in use and in future value. And though it is not perfect if it is scrutinized with an expert eye, it has been accomplished through a lot of (fun) teamwork, hard work together, and time spent working together toward a common goal. My family and I feel accomplished. I am so grateful for the wonderful helpers and the time and energy to do this — though other things (like this blog) have had to be on hold…

Now, as fall settles in, our only goal is to enjoy it!

Enjoying our new patio
Enjoying the new patio

I hope your summer – into – fall has been a fun one together with your family and friends! – Jennifer

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A Dip in the Ligurian Sea on a Summer Sunday: Embracing the Simplest Things

Vernazza, Cinque Terre

I love spending time with my friends and family. The simplest things in life give me the most pleasure: cooking a good meal, enjoying my friends. – Cindy Morgan

Bright, Intoxicating Summer Days

These long summer days are intoxicating. Whether it is the heat and flowers and summer sun, the wonderful privilege of having all of my boys around, the great feeling of being with those we love, or just the ability to step outside and enjoy a weekend cappuccino as the sun rises, I don’t know. But for me, this summer has been the brightest one I can remember. It might be because I am taking time to embrace the simplest things.

I haven’t blogged in weeks, but not on purpose. Thoughts often run through my head, things to mark and write and keep. 99% of those thoughts stay private in journals these days, not because things are bad, but because they are so good.

I’m reminded daily at work about the need for balance in my life. What I do for a living could become the dominating force in my life — what I spend my days doing is complex, complicated, difficult, and yet satisfying. I love helping to make a difference We do spend a lot of time doing what we do, whether it’s teaching a room full of students, running a home business, being a full-time mom, or what I do now — strategic marketing. The time doing our jobs is super important, but it is not IT. Every day I learn more and more the importance of balancing a living with living a rich life. It is important to slow down and invest time into doing the simple things with those we love.

A Dip in the Ligurian Sea on a Summer Sunday

A Dip into the Ligurian Sea on a Summer Sunda, Vernazza, Cinque Terre

Two months ago, my three sons and I had the wonderful pleasure and privilege of traveling to the remote village of Vernazza, Italy, in the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Cinque Terre, or Five Lands. It was the most enchanting place I have ever been. Time there together meant we were almost completely unplugged for three days, and had time to be present — to each other, to the beauty of the region, to the richness of the food and local people and culture. We hiked cliffs along the Mediterranean, ate local meats and cheeses and gelatos and oranges, and could relax together.

On Sunday morning in Vernazza, I slipped out of the little house we rented earlier than my guys, down the narrow cobbled street to the tiny harbor. It was quiet except for the church bells and the gentle lapping of waves along the rock breakwater. A man raked seagrass and debris from the sliver of beach. Two women eased into the water and swam gentle breaststroke laps beside the colorful fishing boats. And I, somehow realizing the scene, snapped an image on my iphone (above). It is likely my favorite image from our entire trip. The feeling of the photograph holds me even today. It is one of tranquility, of simplicity, of investing in time for rejuvenation, and for family.

Strategies for Embracing the Simplest Things and Enjoying the Summer Days

Despite the speed at which life is moving — too fast — I am willing myself to slow down. A few things seem to be working. I am really enjoying this summer:

  • Take notifications off of every program and app I use — no dinging or pinging of emails or notifications of comments or anything to disturb what I am doing in the present moment.
  • Schedule and organize times with dear friends, set up for one time per month so life does not get away before we can meet again.
  • Family dinners and church together when we can. I am not a great cook, but I do love being around my loved ones while we reconnect at dinner.
  • Group projects. We have home renovation projects in progress — together. It is fun, though lots of work!
  • Dips in the water at the pool, a walk by the river, a Sunday drive to see new things — these don’t have to be at the Ligurian Sea. These times can happen at home, and are likely the best memories.

 

Cinque Terre, Italy and the Ligurian Sea
Cinque Terre, Italy and the Ligurian Sea

 

What are you doing this summer to simplify and make time for you and family and friends? For soaking up the summer days together with those you love?

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July Backyard Gardens: Color Palette and Planting Guide

Backyard Gardens

“The human soul is hungry for beauty; we seek it everywhere – in landscape, music, art, clothes, furniture, gardening, companionship, love, religion, and in ourselves. No one would desire not to be beautiful. When we experience the beautiful, there is a sense of homecoming.” – John O’Donohue

July Backyard Gardens

One of the best parts of a home is having a place of beauty where we can rest. Whether it is a planter outside the front door or planted in a small patch of dirt, a garden does not have to be grand in scale to achieve the same effect. A few flowers can still the soul. For me, that is a place that is serene and quiet, yet full of vibrant color.

I have previously written about my backyard gardens. It began humbly out of a patch of sparse grass and dirt which wrapped around the deck at the house to which we moved. It gets adequate sunlight from about noon to five in the afternoon, and it is just below the kitchen window where we wash dishes and spend time eating as a family. It was the perfect location.

Me, planting a rose (my favorite)
How my backyard gardens began

Every garden has a story. When my boys were very young, we used to dig in the dirt for fun. They would help me with plants and weeding and mulching with their own plastic shovels and Tonka trucks, and we all learned about the joy of gardening. I became hooked on placing plants in strategic spots for the right bloom times and color combinations. I could plant and rearrange, and as I learned, I noted the combinations I liked the most.

We dug up the entire garden one winter to install a French drain and alleviate the flooding in our basement. That was not ideal — many hours and days of digging and hard work did work and correct the drainage problems. But the poor plants we had to dig up had a hard time recovering the next spring. Yet, most survived.

This July, the colors are bursting and the plants have filled in the border. I love the result!

July backyard gardens

 

Planting guide:

Echinacea (native of the Midwest, thrives in Ohio)

Echinacea, unfurling

Daylilies in selected colors

Monarda (careful to thin them in March because they spread)

Tall Garden Phlox (fragrance!)

Red Admiral butterfly on Echinacea

Liatris

Scabiosa

Veronica

Daisies, Becky

Butterfly Bush

Lithrum

Russian Sage

July gardens planting guide

 

Color Palette:

Tangerine, Magenta, Violet, Lavender, Pink, White, Cream

July gardens color palette

 

Tomorrow, I am delighted to have an image from my 2008 backyard gardens featured on the Monrovia plants website. If you would have told me 10 years ago that the gardens I loved to photograph would be featured with one of the most esteemed plant companies in the US, I wouldn’t have believed you. I am thrilled. Thank you, Monrovia!

 

July gardens
July gardens: from 2008

 

To buy premium fine art notecards of above images, click here… in July 2018, buy 2 sets of notecards and receive 5 mini cards free.

Photographs, notecards, canvases, and my published book are available here. Other images and products of my photography are available by clicking here. Thank you, and Happy Independence Day!

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Fun Times Traveling Europe with My Family

Cinque Terre, Italy

“Stories are light. Light is precious in a world so dark. Begin at the beginning. Tell a story. Make some light.” – Kate DiCamillo

I am a firm believer in writing our own stories. Life is story and story is life, and life is easy in our comfort zones. Stepping out of our normal routines sometimes means tapping into a long-held dream, saving dollars and coins in a jar, and taking action by making the plans. In this case, stepping out meant the pursuit of fun times and family travel. Destination: Europe, with my three almost-grown teenage sons.

Every once in a while, I note that my sons are far taller than I am, and are growing into themselves, which I love. This has always been the goal. But I also note that times with the four of us won’t always last forever. I love it when we are together. And so, taking action on the “I wish we could go back to Prague” wistful dinner conversations, I booked tickets last fall for us to travel to Europe together. It is a dream trip, and it came true. I am so grateful.

For some reason, tickets across the pond landing in Belgium were astoundingly reasonable, so that is where we began: in Bruxelles.

We had a few hours to spare before our next train, so we took the chance to have a local breakfast of waffles and walked around the Grand Place. With a clear blue sky, the buildings shone. It was beautiful – a place filled with sunshine, the sounds of footsteps across cobblestones and spoken French and Flemish, with the fragrance of chocolate accompanied by pristine architecture.

The hours to our next stop didn’t quite go as planned – our trains got mixed up with a cancellation, which was lost in translations. And so we boarded the wrong train, but luckily still made it to our Amsterdam destination to see best friends, arriving only an hour later than planned. We spent days with them in their native Haarlem and enjoyed days on bikes, at the beach, and at the Anne Frank House and Van Gogh museums in the city. It was wonderful.

We flew out to Prague and landed amidst the celery green fields waving with wheat in the morning. Most things have not changed at all in the five years since we’ve repatriated to our native US after living in Prague from 2009 – 2013. Our favorite nearby restaurant on a pond still serves the same pizzas and goulash. The same heavy trucks still consume the narrow roads. The village potraviny still operates exactly the same way. Daily life has continued without us, which was good to see. Our apartment rented through TripAdvisor impressed us immensely with its views over the Vltava River, National Theater, and Charles Bridge. We soaked up every minute in our former home. (More to come in future posts…)

Our final stop was a bit of a reach, but it, too, wowed us. We flew to Milan and took trains south to the coast and stayed in obscure Cinque Terre. It surpassed our hopes with its fun, natural surroundings, and beauty.

Finally, we boarded trains through Nice, France, and returned for a night in Bruxelles before returning to the US.

More photographs on our adventures to come…

Hope you all are having a great start to summer!

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35 Ways I’m Finding Joy This Spring

Lilacs in bloom

Here in Ohio, Spring has been hard to find. Winter kept its grasp on the weather and continued snowing up until the last week of April. It’s difficult to feel like winter will ever end on years like this one. And yet, spring is indeed arriving, even if it is a few weeks late. Now, the flowers are blooming, undeterred. The lilacs (photo below) caught me off guard — I hadn’t expected them. But despite the adverse weather, whether it’s in our natural worlds, or in our lives, difficulties do pass, and color does return to our worlds. We just have to hang on. Tight, sometimes. This spring, I am excited for the color. Looking for the joys also helps me to see them, especially when I slow down. Finding joy is one of the most important things we can do.

“Let your joy be in your journey—not in some distant goal.” —Tim Cook

Here, a few ways I’m finding joy this spring:

  1. a mason jar brimming with Lilacs from the yard Lilacs in bloom
  2. the sound of songbirds waking the dawn
  3. a table-full of family
  4. cappuccinos in the morning
  5. candlelight
  6. a sunroof open kind of day
  7. finding a penny and making a wish
  8. Lindt chocolates by the bag-full
  9. fresh baked cookies
  10. a simple, sincere thank you
  11. roadtrips
  12. a week with no snow
  13. spring florals and a fragrant breeze
  14. a smile ear-to-ear
  15. a glass of rose
  16. a hug from a long-time friend
  17. singing along in the car
  18. sandals and sunshine
  19. picnic in the park
  20. spotting my first hummingbird of the season!
  21. high-fives to a job well done
  22. unexpected opportunities
  23. spicy guacamole
  24. a low full moon
  25. an American flag waving in the breeze
  26. scent of cut grass
  27. hikes through the forest
  28. peonies bursting into bloom
  29. the blue of a crisp spring sky and hydrangeas in bloom
  30. the purr of a kitten
  31. clean scent of air after a hard rain
  32. a shelf full of books ready to read
  33. clean sheets, a hot bath, and an evening to soak it in
  34. music playing, and dancing follows
  35. laughter. Till your sides hurt and your heart feels whole and happy

The truth is this spring has been busy–far too busy, in my opinion. But the good news is when the days slow down and I have time to breathe again, finding joy comes more easily. The simple things spill into the moments and fill my heart again.

“Joy is the holy fire that keeps our purpose warm and our intelligence aglow.” —Helen Keller

My favorite time of year is when the grass greens, the skies clear to pure blue, and the flowers burst into bloom. The world is a riot of color, if we look for it. If I am open to the joys, they pile up and my thankfulness meter returns to the right place. All is well with the world.

Please share the joys you find that bring light to your spring days. I continue to capture photos of spring on Instagram under the hashtag #100Springs. Wishing you a wonderful spring day!

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100 Times to Experience Spring

Peonies from my garden

“Is the spring coming?” he said. “What is it like?”…
“It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine…” – Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

Today I am ready for the reawakening of Spring. It snowed today for hours with white-out conditions. By this time in the year, I am ready for the darkness of winter to pass and the light and color of spring to come. I’m ready for a new season.

Spring / Winter in Ohio today

Spring shakes me up inside because of the newness of it all, the rebirth. The reawakening of the world does something to me deeply. When autumn passes to winter, I mourn the brown sticks and rustling dead leaves. And now, after months of dead and dark, I yearn for renewal. The best way to do that is to really experience spring.

I once heard this: “If we live to be 100 years old, we will have only experienced Spring 100 times”

We can only experience Spring if we’re paying attention.

That quote always brings me back to this season with wide eyes. In only weeks, I’ll be looking out at flowers and hummingbirds and butterflies. By the way the deadened world looks now, it seems impossible. But it will come. Something bigger is at work, right before our eyes. Spring.

100 Times to Experience Spring | #100Springs

My life always fills up and brims over with busyness, so unless I am intentional I will miss this rebirth we call Spring. To help me remember to watch and be on the lookout for the miracle of Spring, I intend to do these 5 things as often as possible:

  1. Pause and look at the landscape, and notice what has changed from the day before.
  2. Take a walk through someplace wild—the backyard, or a park, or an open field. I love the fresh smells and popping colors floating on the breeze.
  3. Plant more flowers. I can’t wait for the peonies I planted four and five years ago to bloom. My modest garden now yields hundreds of peonies. I’m excited for flowers and color as Spring draws near.
  4. Cut bouquets to bring indoors. Tulips, daffodils, lily of the valley, peonies, iris … an endless parade of Spring beauties wait outside laden with fragrance to be enjoyed. And as I mentioned, I can’t wait for the peonies to come.
  5. Pull out the camera and capture a photo or two of a Wow moment—that moment when I see something new and its beauty takes my breath away. Somehow, capturing something through a lens makes the experience richer, into one that can be shared.

Peonies from my garden
Peonies from my garden

If you have a cell phone with a camera and have Instagram (my favorite photo-sharing app), take one photo a day–not a great one, but one photo of Spring in action that catches your eye, and share it there. I’m tagging my photos with #100Springs so that at the end of the season, we can look back at Spring as it came. If you tag your spring photos with #100Springs (no spaces), they’ll show up in the tag and we can view all of them together.

My account at Instagram is @jennifer___lyn. I look forward to you joining me!

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On Waiting

Ready to bloom again

“Patience is not simply the ability to wait — it’s how we behave while we’re waiting.” – Joyce Meyer

Most people do not like to wait. In fact, if you google waiting, you’ll find that almost all answers pop up with how much we dislike having to wait, whether it’s in line for food or in a traffic jam. Waiting, to us in our high-powered, fast-paced age, can seem like an eternity.

This past six weeks I have been waiting. I think I am a patient person. I don’t need to rush and I don’t mind waiting. But waiting on my sons to tie their shoes when they were little is certainly different than the waiting I’ve been doing over the past six weeks. I am usually an Energizer Bunny kind of a person. I can keep running around for ages, just to get things done. But that hasn’t been the case for at least the past two months. I have had to slow down — WAY down.

I’ve learned that six weeks, actually, CAN seem like an eternity, especially compared to waiting six minutes in line, or six hours for a phone call. Even six days wouldn’t be that much compared to six weeks. And psychology tells us that uncertainty in the time we have to wait makes the wait seem even longer. That is the truth.

Ready to bloom again
Ready to bloom again

On Waiting

In my experience, these past weeks have been long. I had a routine minor surgery in December which turned into 4 trips to the emergency room, another surgery, and when that one didn’t work, a huge surgery. It is so strange to think that most things we like to keep in our control, but the one thing we can’t control is our health. Even more, we cannot control the timeline for healing.

I have been mostly confined to strict resting for about four of the last six weeks, waiting for healing to take place. The thing I’ve learned is that healing happens on its own time. There is no timer for restored health.

In the four years living in Czech Republic, I learned to line up at the Posta (post office), where citizens, mostly in coveralls, would cordially line up to wait to get their paychecks or to pay their bills. It was a completely different and more challenging atmosphere than a US post office, where we begin tapping our watches after a minute or so. The Czechs have learned over their sixty+ years of Communism that waiting is part of life.

I can honestly say that waiting is not really something I want to do. But through this season of questionable healing, I learned to find creative ways to embrace the wait.

Some things I have learned, On Waiting:

  1. Those friends who show up and wait with you through uncertain times are the truest of true friends.
  2. Those friends and family who disappear when the going gets rough are not.
  3. The things we can do while we wait are priceless.

One thing I have focused on while waiting has been to work on the book I’ve had in progress. Everyday life interrupts writing — between work during the day and my boys’ activities at night and on weekends, the writing usually gets set on the back burner. But with the time at home, waiting for healing, I decided to make the most of the time and write. I am delighted to say that the book is complete and that I’ve had ample time to edit, craft a proposal and query, and begin selectively sending them to literary agents. I am hoping and praying one connects with the story, one who believes in it enough to carry it forward through finding a publisher and through publication. That would be my life dream. So the waiting has not been all bad.

Also, so many friends — many more than who I thought cared deeply — have showed up with hot meals in hand and other fun waiting things to do in the meantime. One dear friend brought a coloring book (I loved this!), another brought books to read, many brought flowers and chocolates. All through the four intense weeks of waiting, they brought smiles and hugs and conversation. For all of these things and for the priceless friends that they are, I am forever grateful. Because of them, waiting was not drudgery.

Now that I am at the end of the waiting, I can say I am immeasurably grateful for an employer who has empowered me to work from home, sons who have done everything imaginable to help, and friends who have bridged every gap.

And waiting? Well, it can be long. It bothers us because it means ultimately that we are out of control. And we are, aren’t we? If we can rest and give up the control and trust, and find creative ways to pass the time, waiting can be a rich time to capture the things we normally don’t get to do. I know now that waiting can be a blessing.

For you: have you had to wait on something recently? How has it impacted you? Has it been for the better?

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Confidence: 9 Aspirations for 2018

Baronne Prevost Rose

For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone. – Audrey Hepburn

When life goes the way we planned and all things are roses and rainbows, the above statement isn’t so hard to envision. But when life doesn’t go as we planned and all things feel terrible, to rise above a situation and be clothed in strength and dignity is difficult, and almost impossible.

A few weeks into 2018, I want to remember what it is I aspire to be: secure and confident, despite all that is not secure or under control. These are nine things I believe define someone who is strong and confident:

9 Facets of Confidence to Aspire to in 2018

1. Happiness

“Never tie your happiness to the tail of someone else’s kite.” – Beth Hoffman, Looking for Me

Instead of happiness coming from external things or from someone else, her joy comes from within. She hopes and believes and dares to be happy.

Baronne Prevost Rose

2. Gratitude

“True forgiveness is when you can say, “Thank you for that experience.”” – Oprah Winfrey

Being able to say Thank You frees us from the negative things which would weigh us down and frees us to be positive.

3. Yes and No

Our yes comes because we really want to, and our no is spoken with certainty. We don’t need to worry about what others think when we speak with grace from the heart. Instead, she works to keep a bigger perspective, invests her time in things she really wants to do, and works to make the world a better place.

4. Seize the day

If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward. – Martin Luther King Jr.

When there is an opportunity, whether it is to better herself with exercise, to pursue a dream, to be with friends and family, or to travel, a confident and secure woman goes for it. She just does it, because she can. There is risk, of course, but she is okay with that. The rewards are greater than the fears. And her life and those around her are infinitely richer for it.

5. Generosity

With generosity, she listens more than she speaks, gives more than she takes, seeks out ways to help those who need it, and appreciates those around her. She knows that everyone has something to offer, is a human being of high value, and gives them the benefit of the doubt.

6. Kindness

She isn’t focused on being right, and is unafraid to be wrong. She instead believes kindness is imperative in all situations. Because everyone has a burden they have to bear, too.

7. Laughter

“She is clothed in strength and dignity and can laugh at the days to come.” – Proverbs 31

A confident woman doesn’t take life too seriously. This, too, shall pass, she says when things are tough. She prays, she trusts, and she can laugh, because she knows who holds her days.

8. Connects

“Paradise has never been about places. It exists in moments. In connection. In flashes across time.” – Victoria Erickson

Friends and family are paramount in her life. She leans on them and they lean on her. She allows herself to be vulnerable, even when it is uncomfortable, because she knows that when we share our stories, when we share our lives, two and three and more are much stronger than one. She loves and is loved.

9. Boundaries

Boundaries are essential for a life well-lived. Not everyone is kind and thoughtful. Many come into her life and take more than they give. Some gain her trust, but then do things that shatter her. It is when that occurs–because those who are in pain and hurt others are plentiful–she knows that she has a choice: to become destroyed by the actions of others or to choose to forgive.

It is when she can forgive, she draws a firm boundary with those who have hurt her and and does not let them cross that line again. Then, when she picks herself up and moves on, she is enriched by experience, strengthened by new resolve, and more enlightened to who she truly is.

It is impossible to arrive, but instead success to me involves continuing to move toward the person we aspire to be one day at a time. It is a journey.

Do you have a quote or a trait you aspire to that you would add to this list? I would love to hear them! Please share in the comments below.