Karen

You’re the Star today!

September 21, 2009 in Inspirational

If a movie was being made about your life just as it is at this moment, would you cast yourself in the starring role?  Would you be able to understand your main character well enough to portray your life in Oscar-winning style?  In many ways, I’m grateful that in my formative years I was nurtured to put others first, to lend a hand, to help when I could, but I wonder if we can take that thinking a bit too far and forget about our own leading role?

I have no desire to be the center of my own universe, but sometimes I’d like to recast my character slightly.  I’d like to make her strong and brave and confident.  I’d like to make her witty, and honest, and brilliant.  I’d like to have her make better choices at those pivotal moments in life so she could become everything God intended.  I’d like to give her a life where she wouldn’t suffer regret.

Ah, but there it is, the difficulty…the reason that cinema is only a reflection of life and not reality.  The truth is you are in the starring role of a lifetime at this very moment.  You’re the one who has been cast by your Creator to live fully, to give every ounce of your talent and your gifts.  You have a chance with every breath to offer an outstanding performance.

I heard a graduation speech where the speaker reminded the graduates that it doesn’t serve the world for you to stay small.  In other words you have to be the star.  You have to be the one who takes your role seriously and plays it with all your heart.  Perhaps it helps to remember that your Savior thought it was all about you because if there had been only you, He still would have given His life for you.

Today I encourage all of us to look at the character we’re portraying, to determine if we’re really giving the performance of a lifetime, or if we can do something to change things, to stand in a stronger light, or offer a new interpretation of the events at hand.  As we do that,  let’s applaud each other in the efforts we make to enrich the lives of others by offering our best, by taking a lead role in our daily performance.

In one sense, it really is “all about you” because when you play your part well your story flows out to the world and becomes “all about them.”

As it says in 1 Corinthians, “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but they all come from the same Spirit.   There are different ways to serve the same Lord, and we can each do different things.  Yet the same God works in all of us and helps us in everything we do.”

God wants you to be a star, fulfilled in the role He gave you to play.  Take a bow for being fabulous you!

Karen

Mini Moments–Perseverance

September 20, 2009 in Mini Moments

Some of us have held up our dreams and watched them go out like so many candles in the wind.  Gathering our courage and perhaps taking a new path, we light them again and keep going.  We may not even now be at the place we set as a goal and can feel weary in the pursuit.  When that time comes, it’s helpful to remember these words from Helen Keller.

Be of good cheer.  Do not think of today’s failures, but of the success that may come tomorrow.  You have set yourselves a difficult task, but you will succeed if you persevere; and you will find joy in overcoming obstacles.  Remember no effort that we make to attain something beautiful is ever lost.

Today, I stand with you, my candle aloft, poised to try again to light the way toward goals and dreams.  Together we can find the path.

As it says in 2 Chronicles, we are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in dispair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

And again in Hebrews we see the reason why…You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.

You’re on the path, keep going and watch for the markers of joy along the way.

Karen

Mini Moments–Courage

September 19, 2009 in Mini Moments

As I work on building a bank of stories to post each day, I’ve decided to share some of my favorite quotes on the weekend, little nuggets to muse a bit more about until we get back together again.  This one is about Courage…just in case you need a boost today.

Whatever you do, you need courage.  Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong.  There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right.  To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs.  Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and women  to win them.                                                Ralph Waldo Emerson

So come on, let’s walk together today, standing firm in our convictions, believing in the path we’ve taken, brave enough to correct any course as we see a need, and moving forward with a courageous and stout heart.  Remember everyone you know needs a little more courage in some area of life.  You do too.  Embrace your courage because God has already promised to strengthen you. For as Isaiah (30:15) says, In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength.  And of course, Phil.4:13 reminds us, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Be strong.  The world needs you to be outrageously courageous today!

Karen

Costa Rica Chronicles–A New Yorker in Yorkin

September 18, 2009 in Costa Rica Chronicles

Part of the gift of growing up with humble roots was that my family was the center of my world.  We each shared the responsibility for making life work.   I was raised in a small upstate New York town and around kindergarten age moved into a farmhouse built in 1850 that had hardly ever been updated.  It had 13 mysterious old rooms for a kid to explore with imagination.  With just a big old pot belly stove and a coal furnace, we often had frozen water pipes in winter, a garden in the springtime, canned our foods in the summer and made syrup from the trees by fall.  As I look back on it now, it was a beautiful season of my life!

As part of my Costa Rica adventure, I spent a couple days at an indigenous reserve called Yorkin.  Though much more primitive than my humble beginnings, it was a reminder of the importance of each person in a family and of what it means to feel blessed for every simple thing you have.

Getting to Yorkin meant stepping into a hollowed out tree trunk, chasing away a spider with a five-inch leg span and holding on tight.  The “boat” was guided by two capable natives who watched for obstructions and river rapids and made sure the passengers were safe.  It didn’t take long for the breathtaking landscape to sweep me away into its storybook wonder.  In fact, I was so focused on being in the midst of what felt like the Garden of Eden that I totally missed the moment when our guides struggled to get us over an obstacle.  For once, I was so immersed in God’s grace, I didn’t notice we were in some kind of trouble.  While others stewed in momentary concern, I blissfully basked in the present joy.  I know there’s a lesson in there somewhere that I need to remember.

Getting to our appointed place on the river bank, we donned our backpacks and were led into the jungle through the mud and the biggest ferns and foliage I’ve ever seen in my life.  We soon discovered our “hotel” which consisted of a round wooden structure with two floors and some tents where we would sleep.  It was totally open air and was a great place to catch all the sounds of the night.

The most colorful roosters I’ve ever seen in my life strutted cheerfully around the grounds amidst the fruit trees, the flowers and the tender dwelling where the host family lived.  Our host, an honorable grandfather, was the only one who would sit with us at meals.  His wife and daughter prepared the food and his sons taught us about the trees on the grounds and how to make the grass roof.  His beautiful grandchildren laughed and played and looked at us with curiosity.  There were no toys from Walmart, no stove, no TV, no refrigerator, no beds, just hammocks.  Food was prepared in a make-shift oven with the help of a camp stove.  The family embraced us, happy to have company and happy to share stories.  Our host prayed with us at dinner and blessed us.  He was clearly proud of all he had and of his beautiful family.  The bamboo floors may have been wobbly and the facilities humble, but the experience was fit for a king.

Sometime soon I’ll tell you how we made our own dreamy chocolate sauce and how we put our mats out under a cascade of stars so clear you could pull the lights out of the sky.  It was a magical opportunity.  Here we had everything that was important and we weren’t distracted by what wasn’t.

I invite you to find a place, a space, a moment today to just slip away from the noise and hustle-bustle of life and give God a chance to connect you to the stars and to your roots.  Let only the things He has made for you distract you.  Let the world carry on without you.  It will renew your spirit and create a longing in your soul to connect more often.  That’s what this adventure did for me.  There’s more to tell, so I’ll take you back to Yorkin again soon.

Karen

Costa Rica Chronicles–Wonders and Waterfalls

September 17, 2009 in Costa Rica Chronicles

Waterfalls are beautiful from a distance, something worthy of respect and awe at the powerful impact they have on everything around them.  Until I came to Costa Rica, my only waterfall experiences involved tourist moments at Niagara Falls, standing a very safe distance away, and some picturesque observations of lovely falls in Hawaii.  Actually stepping into a waterfall though, had never really occurred to me and my Costa Rica experience was both fearful and exhilarating.

At first, wading a respectful distance from the waterfall, I felt the water rushing in pools around my knees and ankles.   Maneuvering the rocky bottom and immersed now in the pounding torrent up to my  hips, I felt the mists get heavier as my whole body was bombarded with the force that spewed tons of liquid into my face like no mere shower had ever done.  If the winds didn’t knock me over, I thought I could try to stay standing and look up at the gushing force pummeling me and trying to catch me off balance.  The waterfall has all the power and I was simply at its mercy, rubbing the rushing spray from my eyes,  hardly able to blink.

Then, I walked closer still and the force from the cascading waters  seemed calmer, almost accepting of my being there, yet still  demanding as  the flume-like down pour continued.  Mind you this was the feminine waterfall, the one willing to embrace me and let me in.  We would not have attempted this in the more masculine waterfall a short distance away.

As I adjusted to the experience of  this moment, my friend suddenly disappeared beneath the waterfall and left me standing there alone in my fear and trembling.  I stood breathless with the anxiety that coursed through my body.

“Karen, come on,” I heard him call to me.  “What? I thought, there’s no way I’m going into that massive wall of water.  I won’t be able to breath, I’ll drowned.”  As I stood there, contemplating my fate and unable to actually move, a strong arm and a beckoning hand came out through the watery wall and caught me by surprise.  “Come on,” he said again, and this time I found myself being pulled through the force and quickly sitting under a ledge where I could breath and laugh and be amazed at what had just been accomplished.

This experience may not seem like a big thing to those of you with no fear of water, but for me, it was huge and totally different from any experience I had ever had.   As I sat under that rock ledge, behind the powerful falls, I realized that moment did something for me.  It was a triumph of unknown proportions…it opened the way for me to become a more adventurous spirit, a more willing participant in my own story.  God had blessed me to learn more about Him and about myself.  I left that place a brand new woman and I’ve been awed by what God has done ever since.

Perhaps it was a baptism of sorts because I became a new person.  I believe God has moments like this for you too, perhaps couched in something you’re afraid to face or uncertain of how to pursue.  Today, I encourage you to go after those things, to be bold and brave because the obstacles are fleeting. They only appear to be there to give you the chance to work out how you’ll see them.  In my case, I certainly give thanks to my friend who helped pull me through the fear to discover a new way of seeing.

May your friends walk beside you today and help you face your fears and remind you that you’re safe in the hands of the One who made you and wants you to jump into life with both feet.  Just remember this word from Isaiah 43 which says, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.”

You are not alone.  You are called to a life of great adventure.  Are you ready to take it on?

Karen

Costa Rica Chronicles–The Trust Walk

September 16, 2009 in Costa Rica Chronicles

One of the awesome things about Costa Rica is the opportunity it affords to visit the variety of volcanoes in various parts of the country.  Most are not active, but they have a powerful presence just the same as you hike to view them from designated observation points.  At one such volcano, I took part in a trust walk.  It happened that when we got to the volcano, the view was crystal clear and we could smell the sulfur, see the immense power of the crater, be awed by the variety of colors and textures the crater possessed and be still and listen to the sounds emitted at its depths.  Volcanoes hold a bit of mystery and seeing them against the vast mountainous landscape of Costa Rica and against the rich blue sky is a powerful experience.

As it happened that day, our perfect vista of the volcano was short lived as the clouds came rolling in rather quickly and within twenty minutes of  our entering the spot, the volcano disappeared.  If we hadn’t seen it with our own eyes, we might not have realized it even existed there as the cloud cover was so thick as to make it invisible to us.  The speed of its disappearance was truly like a magician had simply laid a blanket over the top of the space.

Since we could no longer see anything, my friend suggested we take a walk around the perimeter a bit and so we headed out across the black sand of the rim.  It was a pretty wide open space, a little bit cool at that elevation, and had sparse vegetation.  He suggested to me that I should look at a tree at the far end of the grounds from where we were and by simply listening to his voice, see if I could head straight toward the tree.  He promised to tell me if I came upon any notable obstacles.  Not sure quite how I felt about the whole thing, I agreed somewhat timidly, but proceeded to close my eyes.  He told me to walk and count to fifty and then stop and open my eyes as I listened to his voice.  I did.  When I got to fifty, he suggested I keep my eyes closed and go another fifty steps.  I did, but this time he was no longer guiding me with his voice.   After I walked about 25 steps, I stopped and called out to him.  “Are you still there?” I asked.  He assured me that he was and that I should count another 25 steps and then open my eyes.

At the suggested point, I stopped and asked if I could look to see where the tree was.  I was pretty sure I had walked a fairly straight line and anticipated it would be close to me and directly in front of me.  When I opened my eyes, I was astonished to discover the tree was nowhere in sight, in fact it was a good 90 degrees off to the side.

Several things happened in that experience.  One, I had to totally trust my friend to watch out for me as I walked over uncertain terrain.  Two, I had to keep listening to his voice so that I would both feel comforted and directed.  Three I had to believe that I could achieve the goal of reaching the tree.

When I saw how far off the path I was I laughed out loud.  “Isn’t it just like us to get off the path when we aren’t listening to God’s voice,” he postulated.  “Isn’t it interesting how quickly we lose our way when we try to maneuver the path on our own?”

Most of us are on a continual trust walk as we go about our day to day tasks.  We’re working toward a goal, believing we can get there, and yet oddly, not really getting where we meant to go.  Perhaps we need to be much more aware of listening to His voice.  If we don’t hear it, we may be wise to simply stop until we have caught His essence in the winds around us and understand the way we should go.

As Jesus said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”  Mark 4:9

I don’t know about you, but I’m doing my best to keep my ears open.

Karen

Costa Rica Chronicles–The Happy Place

September 15, 2009 in Costa Rica Chronicles

Today marks the 188th anniversary of Costa Rica’s independence from Spain in 1821.  It is a day of celebration and dancing in the streets.  Costa Rica is considered one of the happiest places to live on the planet and I’m starting to understand why.

Now that I’ve lived here a few months, I’m discovering what it means to live in a place that makes you feel happy, a place where no matter what your job is or your income level, you can find reasons to smile.   The Spanish word sonrisa means smile and reading it leads me instantly to the word sunrise.  That’s one of the things that makes me happy.  I wake up every morning to the sound of the roosters crowing (around 6AM) no need for an alarm clock these days, and the sun is up and ready to cheer me on for the day.  It’s not just sunrise though, it’s sunrise against a background of clear blue skies and beautiful lush greenery and vibrant flowers.  It’s a constant  reason to smile.  The earth simply calls me back to life.

Waking up happy is possible everywhere I know, but living here has taught me to appreciate those things that I had nearly forgotten before.  I smile at the birds who talk in a variety of languages from the mango trees and dance with the butterflies in the garden.  I smile at the workers repairing rooftops who sing out “Good Morning, pretty Lady” as I walk to the local market.  No matter how old I am, I appreciate a little flirtation.   I smile as I walk past the little school near my house where four year olds are learning to sing in Spanish, English, and French.  It just makes me happy.

I’m also getting quite spoiled simply by receiving the love of my friends and family and co-workers here.  I don’t know why the whole world doesn’t greet each other with a cheek-to-cheek kiss and a smile.  Greeting each other, welcoming each other into the day is a beautiful thing.  It  acknowledges your presence, lifts your spirits, and embraces you into the inner circle of life.

So here today as we celebrate Costa Rica’s independence day, celebrate your independence too.  Celebrate your reasons to smile…sonrisa!  Celebrate all that makes you happy right where you are.  I’m reminded of that old saying, “bloom where you’re planted.”  Well do that…make today a happy day, a chance to bloom into the full measure of all that God meant for you.  Remember that the one with a happy heart has a continual feast as it says in Proverbs.

So let’s do some feasting on all that is good and do some dancing in the streets.   Pure Vida!

Karen

Costa Rica Chronicles

September 14, 2009 in Costa Rica Chronicles

Some of you have asked me why I came to Costa Rica and have wanted to know more of my experience here.  To that end, I’ve decided to take this week and share a bit of my story.  Since yesterday marked the anniversary of the first time I set foot in Costa Rica, it seems appropriate to start at the beginning.  After a fleeting ten days in this incredible place, I returned to the United States and my dear friend and tour guide asked me to send him my thoughts on the trip.  Here’s a bit of that reflection…

Every now and then, we receive an unexpected gift.  We can almost imagine God smiling as He sees us unwrap it, anticipating our immense joy when we actually see the thing that He has given.  Surely, a little happy dance is going on in heaven as we open gifts like that.

What did I experience?  The first thing was an invitation to relax, let go of fears, and live in the moment.  As a person who spends a lot of time working, planning, preparing, and fulfilling the needs and expectations of others, this was an important and beautiful opportunity for me.  It took a little getting used to…being out of cell phone range of the world, being away from everything I know, taking in the incredible beauty of the landscape. It was so freeing!

It happened though.  Without really being aware of it, I found myself…that is, I found my self.  I allowed the situation to be all it could be without judging it or manipulating it, simply loving it.  I was a girl seeing a great big world and what seemed so intimidating at first, became a challenge I wanted to win, a moment to embrace and enjoy,  and a chance to become more than I had been before.  I wanted to be a new and more complete me. I wanted to be better than I have ever been.

I loved everything, from the generous hearts of the people as they delivered their wares in the market and shared tastes of exotic fruits, to the rumbling rainstorms that hit the tin roofs like marching bands across the sky, to the realization how very alike we are, all over the world.  We all have the same need to be valued, to be loved, to be accepted simply by being ourselves.  It has nothing to do with money or expertise or status, it simply is the desire of our hearts.

I loved the city because it is rich in texture and color and design, intermingled with God’s design of flowers and fruit trees and crystal clear night skies.  It overflows with the complexities of making life work and the simplicity of letting it unfold.  I loved the rain forest with its abundance of life-giving plants, sounds of life that echo through the night, and gracious people who are happy with what God has given them, able to see His abundance everywhere.  I loved the idea that people embrace the design of life and blossom fully under the care of a loving and generous God.  I loved the smell of the mud that brought me back to the earth and to my foundation and robed me in a kind of splendor no evening gown could ever fashion.  I loved the waterfall that threatened me and then embraced me with its power and beauty.  I loved not wearing makeup for days at a time and though I suspect I was less than beautiful, I felt good anyway.  I loved the idea that maybe for a few minutes I didn’t have to prove I was worthy enough to receive this gift.

My spirit is alive in a new way, my heart is overflowing with joy at this discovery, my soul can’t quite take it in.  My gratitude is to the God of my heart who knew more than I did how much I needed this experience.

I’ve been here seven months now and those reflections are still the truth.  This gift to me has been immeasurable.

I’ll tell you more about that as the week goes on.  Wherever you are today, may you recognize the gifts God has for you.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.  James 1:17

Karen

In Search of the Dreamers

September 13, 2009 in Inspirational

Some of us are dreamers!  Because of our willingness to take a risk and step beyond the clearly marked path, we can find ourselves in places we never meant to go.  When that happens, the realists in our midst remind us that there are definite guidelines, processes, time-tested ways for things to be done, and if we would just stop kidding ourselves, stop dreaming, than all would be well.

Perhaps.  Perhaps we could postulate that life is meant to be lived in some sort of linear pathway from point A to point B and that if we are just willing to take the obvious steps we can get there quickly.  But then what?  Oh, yes, we get there, but how was the journey?

It’s the journey that actually carries dreamers along.  Mark Twain once wrote that we must “never part with our illusions.  Without dreams we may continue to exist, but we cease to live.”  Perhaps then, the dreamers, armed with imagination and persistence to unlock the doors where dreams come true actually have the secret to living, at least the secret to making the journey more fulfilling.

Today, it is my hope to encourage all of us who believe in the direction of our dreams, to be willing to take a new step, even a new leap forward.  Build on yesterday by creating today in a new way.  Is there one thing, just one thing that you can do that will start to tip the scales in your favor?  Can you engage one more person in possibility thinking? Can you draw one more picture, write one more chapter, practice your dance steps one more time and feel the difference, feel the dream coming to life?

The saddest moment for anyone filled with the creative spirit of God is to give up the dream.  You may indeed have your heart broken by love, but even worse is when your heart breaks over a dream that is taken away. It’s okay to be a dreamer, in fact, it’s a gift you were given the day you came into the world.

For the sake of your own heart then, and the delight of the One who watches over you with every breath and in every dream, keep your spirit alive with the joy that comes from holding tight to the gifts of your imagination, to the dreams in your soul.  Keep believing in your dreams.

Repeat after me…Everything is possible for him who believes.  Mark 9:23.

Dream on!

Karen

Bumper Cars Anyone?

September 12, 2009 in Inspirational

Do you ever feel like you’ve gotten stranded in a bumper car?  You go along just fine for a few moments, then wham, you’re hit from the side and  heading in a different direction doing your best not to get slammed again by a jolt from behind?   No matter how hard you try to stay clear of things, the ride gets bumpier making you dread whatever is ahead.

With the current state of the economy, you may have been bumped from your job, or hit from behind by the stock market.  You may have a dwindling retirement portfolio or a house that just won’t sell for anything near what you paid for it.  Bump, bump, bam!  It all stacks up and you think you might not be able to handle one more hit.  What do you do?

The thing about a “bumper car” life is that eventually you do begin to figure out how to take on the turns a little more effectively.  You find yourself navigating the course by trying some new tricks, some new direction that wouldn’t have occurred to you before.  You calmly get back in the driver’s seat because now it’s your turn to see where this path will take you.  If you are willing to see it, you may find God has now given you a chance for an up-turn, a chance to get clear of all the obstacles.

Ralph Waldon Emerson once said that “what lies beyond us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”  Whatever direction your life is turning, no matter how many bumps you’ ve experienced lately, the up-turn happens when you discover more of that answer.  What lies within you?

What is the stuff you’re made of, the God-given talents you possess that remain undiscovered territory for you?  What will it take for the Potter to reshape you and remold you into the purposeful being He knows you already are meant to be.  As it says in Isaiah 64: 8, “We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.”

May God make something beautiful out of your life, giving you an open road to feel the fresh breezes of His love and the confidence that He will be there with you at every turn.  Sure, you’ll have to slow down for a few more bumps, but you’ll be on the right road!