The Art of Failure

I once had many failures hidden in closets and tucked inside drawers. An untouched sewing machine, next to patterns and material never used; bottles of paint, packages of brushes, mere dreams of pictures I would someday create; jars with buttons, tiny bits of ribbon, greeting cards never made; strings of beads and baubles, jewelry never completed.

I tried almost every type of craft, and many times, most times, I quit. I used to think I was a failure, incompetent, inept.

But one day, I cleansed my home, rid its contents of everything that didn’t matter to me. As I poured craft remnants into a large bag, my heart began to ache. I was sad for a life I had dreamt of, one I had never seen.

But a funny thing happened the day I dropped that bag at the thrift store. My heart did a turn around, a reversal, a leap in the air. I was free, I was light. The stress was removed, gone from my life.

I no longer had to pretend to be someone I wasn’t. I no longer had to try to like things I didn’t.

The sense of failure I once felt was gone. I had never failed. I had only tried. I had made discoveries with each stroke of a brush, felt it in the hum of a sewing machine, saw it when I placed a tiny bead upon a string.

That day, when almost every craft was gone from my life, I discovered something new about myself. My gifts were not in strings and baubles and beads, my gifts were in words I would one day share.

How can we know what we truly love in life if we never try? How can we know who we are if we never… Click To Tweet

I own very few craft items now. What once filled a room now sits inside a box. My projects were never failed attempts, only lessons waiting to be learned.

You can never fail, unless you never try. Never give up exploring, discovering, experimenting with life.strong>

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The Little Girl with Red Hair and What She Taught Me about Courage

I was five when my parents and I moved into our new home, a large bungalow on a quiet suburban street. My mom and I stood on the front lawn, taking in our new surroundings. Our next door neighbor walked over and introduced herself. Holding her hand was a little girl with long red hair, and a quiet, confident personality.

“This is Jean,” said her mom.

I hid behind my mom’s legs, clutching her trousers until my mom pried my fingers loose and made me say, “Hi.”

Our friendship was initially forced on us, but it didn’t long for us to become best friends. Jean became my confidant, the keeper of my secrets, the one who knew my every dream. We read the same books, played the same games, sometimes even inventing our own. We played dolls, built houses out of large cardboard boxes, threw Frisbees, rode bikes to the beach, and created many (often failed) concoctions in the kitchen.

But as much fun as we had together, Jean and I were completely different.

Jean could cut a worm in two, watch both parts squiggle across a hot sidewalk while she gave her scientific explanation as to why this worked. I sat by and watched, horrified and disgusted, trying hard to be brave like my friend. But I never was.

Jean had a bravery I didn’t know. Perhaps it came from being the youngest of many children, a kind of survival technique, or maybe it was because most of her older siblings were brothers, and she learned bravery from them. But whatever it was, compared to her, I was a pampered little girl, devoid of any courage.

Jean taught me my first lessons in bravery. She taught me to wear scars like badges of honor. Once I skinned my knee, and when I started to whimper, she said, “Don’t cry.” And I didn’t. I didn’t even cry the summer I stepped on a bee, or the time I stood on a pile of hot coals.

One summer Jean sat on her front lawn, holding a saltine cracker smothered in peanut butter. She stretched out her hand, waiting for a little gray squirrel to snatch the cracker from her fingers. I think Jean was afraid, but never once was she not courageous.

She was even brave the day her family was taking her on vacation. I clung to her, afraid to let her go, afraid we’d never see each other again. As she got into the station wagon, she looked back at me, and with tears streaming down her freckled cheeks, waved goodbye.

I learned a lot from the little girl with long red hair, that even in the face of fear, we can be courageous. That if you let fear lead your life, you will never truly live.

I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t met her. I wonder if I would have fought my fears the way I did, if I would have survived traumas, an auto accident, and a brain injury.

Through each event I was afraid, yet I had learned to move ahead anyway, to fight my fears with courage. All because of a little girl with long red hair.

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Find Your Inner Hippie

A hippie, by definition, is someone who walks whatever path they choose, isn’t held down by society’s standards, and dresses or lives in an unconventional manner. They are often opposed to war, and deal in drugs and miscellaneous activities I’d rather not get into.

I think that definition of hippie is an outdated 1960s version that doesn’t fit with today’s world. Since the 60s hippies have evolved, blending with society, working in offices and retail stores. The hippie is now the neighbor next door, the teacher, the pastor at church. The hippie is people like me.

If you met me on the street, hippie may not be the first word you’d use to describe me. I rarely wear long, flowing skirts, and never have flowers adorning my hair. You will never find me in a forest picking mushrooms (funky or otherwise), and I have yet to learn how to use a sewing machine to make my own clothes. I have never held a protest sign, or swam in a clothing-optional beach.

Yet I consider myself a hippie. This is why:

Hippies are stewards of the planet, taking care of it the way it takes care of us. Hippies try to stay as close to nature as possible, loving it, living with it, and using resources in a responsible manner. Hippies know we’ve only been given one earth, and if we let it die, then we, too, shall die.

Hippies accept idiosyncrasies, those tiny quirks that make each of us unique. They know we are all different, and that it’s because of our differences we live in this grand and glorious world.

Hippies don’t agree with everyone, and don’t even try.

Hippies appreciate the simple life, for themselves, and for others. They know simplicity brings us closer to nature, and nature brings us closer to ourselves.

Hippies wish for love to conquer all, and Biblically, they know it can. But they are realistic, and know that we do not live in a world full of love.

Hippies are unique, marching to their own drum. They do not wear what society says, nor do they look, think, or work where others tell them to. Hippies want others to dance to their own tune, find the beat inside themselves, be who they were meant to be, live where they were meant to live. Hippies know we all have a little hippie in us, often stifled by society, crushed by others. Hippies want us all to find our inner hippie.

I am not the definition of a 1960s hippie, but in my soul marches a tune only I can hear, and my heart beats to the sound of a drum only meant for me. I hope you find your beat, and listen to the music that dances in your soul. I hope you find your inner hippie.

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Slow Down, You’re Moving Too Fast

Life speeds by, one minute after the next, one day forever gone, one month, one year. Children grow, new lives are born, others taken away. Time mixes together, mingling our years into one, until what we are left with are significant moments that mark our days.

It’s a cliché to say time passes quickly. But it does. We blink, we breathe, and time is gone. How well I’ve learned that time can be taken away, as well as people, as well as life.

I know we can’t stop the passing of time. But perhaps we can slow it down and learn to enjoy each day a little more. Perhaps we can learn to stop watching minutes tick by, and stop crossing days off the calendar.

It’s a journey I’ve been on, learning to enjoy life, and not see it as one quick passing of time. I don’t believe we were placed on this earth to work and eat and sleep and work again, and watch time sift through our fingers. I think life is more than that.

Sure, we have obligations, children to attend to, as well as spouses. We have jobs, some of us two. We have dinners to prepare, and breakfast to serve to our families. We have school commitments and sporting events. And, unfortunately, that’s not all. Life is busy, hectic, and sometimes confusing. And when it gets that way, time speeds by, until our days and lives have passed.

I want you to take time this weekend, to enjoy life, family, or being alone. Here are a few things I found helpful.

1. Get up before everyone else. Enjoy your tea, coffee, or freshly squeezed juice. Breathe.
2. Involve the family for breakfast. Make pancakes and eat together. Talk, or just be silly.
3. Laugh at life. Laugh at mistakes. Enjoy the mishaps. At the sheer insanity of it. It may not slow down time, but it will make the moments that go by seem like a breeze instead of a whirlwind.
4. In between errands, or running to sports, or in the middle of a Saturday-long clean-a-thon, stop and breathe. Literally. Wherever you are, close your eyes (preferably not while driving), and take a few deep breaths, and slowly release. Listen to the world around you, and for just those few minutes, enjoy each sound.
5. Take time to hug your family, your spouse, your children, your parents, or whoever is with you. (Or a stranger? – That might be taking it too far.) Take time to tell them you love them, not in a fleeting way, but with heartfelt sincerity.
6. Do one thing with your family, something that is fun. Stop at the park for lunch in between errands. Go down a slide with your child. Kick the ball in a field. Take twenty minutes to let them know that life is more than work, that they are more important than anything.
7. Do one thing with your spouse. Watch a movie, sip wine, sit on the patio, take time to be a couple. No children, no phones, nothing but the two of you.
8. Do one thing for yourself. You are special, unique, and busy beyond belief. Take a bath or a long hot shower. Paint your nails. Read a book. Go for a walk. Do it. For you.

Nothing can stop time. It speeds by, as if its very mission is to make our lives into a harried frenzy. But only we can do that. Even with all the commitments and activities we need to attend to, our lives can have quiet moments that silence time, if only for a moment.

Slow Down. Don’t Move So Fast.

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10 Simple Ways to Jumpstart Your Day

I wish I was the person who jumped out of bed and immediately began the day with a string of thoughts and a burst of energy. But that’s not me. Instead, I sleep through the alarm, and three snooze alarms, until half an hour later I drag my limp body across the bedroom, dump myself into the shower, place drops into my weary eyes, and fall down the stairs to find breakfast.

About two hours later, after many cups of tea, I begin to talk somewhat coherently.

The funny thing is, I love mornings, the sounds of birds (unless they are by my bedroom window) and joggers shuffling across the pavement; the smell of fresh air and dew on the grass; the gentle breeze blowing in my window. Even the sunrise is beautiful. But getting up? That’s a problem.

I decided it was time to make a plan and tackle this problem. This is what I came up with. Perhaps you can find a few tricks in this list to jumpstart your morning.

My Morning List

1 – Wake up grateful. The day ahead may be hectic, work isn’t always pleasant, and crisis happen. But even in the worst circumstances, and the most stressful days, there is always something to be grateful for.

2 – Breathe. Deep breathing has been shown to have many positive effects, like lowering blood pressure and calming our spirit. Take a few deep breaths before rising.

3 – Listen. Wake to the sounds of early morning.

4 – Drink water. This is probably one of the best things I added to my morning routine. It hydrates my body, refreshes my mind, invigorates my muscles. Keep a filled water bottle next to the bed, ready to drink first thing in the morning.

5 – Stretch. Or do yoga. Let your muscles wake up slowly. Also great for the brain.

6 – Get Outside. Fit in a walk, even if it’s really short. If you don’t have time to walk, step outside and breathe the fresh air.

7 – Coffee or tea. Need I say more?

8 – Breakfast. Yes, it’s still considered the most important meal of the day. It starts our engines, gets our brains functioning, and nourishes our souls. Whole, healthy, hearty.

9 – Read. The Bible. A personal development book. The newspaper. Anything that makes you think.

10 – Most importantly, be excited – you have a new day. To anticipate, to wonder, to dream. You never know what awaits you on the other side of dawn.

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