Let’s Keep Looking Up

I should eat, I thought. I’ll regret it if I don’t. So I pulled out the eggs, the friendly spinach, and some easy oatmeal and got to work. Well, I did stop for just a minute to turn on the music. Nothing much gets done without the music. The raw green spinach leaves jumped into the warm pan to cozy up with a little rosemary and garlic olive oil.

As I stirred the greens, my ears caught the story of the song. The singer sang of love and how their memories were kept in a photograph, a place where hearts were ”never broken” and where time stays frozen. My smile started small at the idea of it, then grew in salute to the fellow encourager. And I say encourager because to label us idealists might break my heart. An encourager can see potential in what others may see as impossible.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if love could save the world right now amidst all of the pain, chaos, and uncertainty?

I find myself searching for answers, so lately I’ve been up to my ears in books. Books about writing. Books about teaching. Recipe books—because my cooking still needs some help. Books about becoming a better me. Books about anti-racism. Of course, there are the books that take my mind away from all of the above, even if just for a little while….the fiction, the make-believe. It’s been a season of books.

I sat down to eat my breakfast, squinting a bit against the morning sunlight through the open window. Looking out, I laughed out loud as I noticed a small grey and white striped cat with a big swashbuckling tail arguing with a pesky bird who kept swooping down at it from a low place in the sky. They were both squawking and hopping in the middle of the otherwise quiet cul-de-sac. That cat must’ve got into the bird’s business again. I wondered if maybe they could learn to be friends. I’m sure it’s possible. Anything is possible, right? With love…

When I finished eating, I got up and rinsed off my plate. The water was as mild as the summer morning, and a new song came on. The tune was catchy, and one I’d never heard before. As I processed the words in my mind, I smiled again. It must be one of those mornings when everything is lining up. All this love stuff. Just the other day on Facebook live I listened to a conversation with Dr. Clarence Jones, who played a role in some pretty amazing history, speak about events going on today and the thing he kept coming back to was…love. Redemptive love. Soul love. I stared out the window above the sink and focused on the new song.

“Love can change the world in a moment, but what do I know?” Ed Sheeran sings from my little speaker propped up on the kitchen counter. From his heart to my house. Isn’t it amazing how songs can travel from so far? Yet we connect with them as if they were born right here in our hearts. I get it…I mean, really, what do I know?

Leaving the music on, I turned and walked into the room where I like to write. With a day free from work, I sorted through the pile of books I could read today. I thought about how lucky I was to have a pile of books. The libraries must be so lonely right now. I picked up one book and then another. Hmm…this one? No. That one? Maybe.

Still undecided, I turned toward my favorite reading chair. It waited for me beneath the window. Golden sunlight would be my lamp. On the wide, curved arm I spied a rather large and familiar book which I knew held 1,809 pages. The spine was terribly damaged from being read over and over for thirty years, even though I’ve been careful. Last night, I set it on my chair to remind myself to revisit it again soon…because it had been awhile. With a Facebook check, a Zoom workshop, taking care of the dog, and breakfast, I’d already forgotten about it this morning. It’s easy for me to forget. Because you know, we fill life up with all these things we feel like we have to do. In order to pay the bills. Or to improve. Or to distract ourselves.

Looking at the big book on my chair, I remembered that it’s the best book I’ve got. It’s got it all in one place. Personal development, action, drama, comedy, and best of all…love. Man, I did have love on the brain. Seriously, though, when my mind does the swirly thing and starts spinning with the what-ifs and what-abouts, there really is no other book than this one that squashes all that. Every time, it guides me back to the truth and the reason for everything. The last time I opened it, I had begun reading about a king from history named Solomon. He’s known for his wisdom. I could use some of that right now. Okay, always.

The greatest love story is all throughout the pages of that great book. Love for me and love for you. It also talks about loving everyone, even those we disagree with. Even loving those who don’t like us. That’s not easy, as we well know. Not easy, but not impossible. That’s why I’m not giving up on this love stuff. It’s the real deal. It can heal. Let’s give it and receive it now more than ever. Just like the One who loves us.

I sat down, ran my hand slowly over the cover and then made that my first choice for today’s reading—the Bible. I wanted to be reminded of the Love. It’s not fleeting. It’s eternal. Sometimes it’s a process that we wait on with patient urgency. Sometimes it’s a call to immediate action. Love will meet you when you’re ready for it; sometimes it will find you when you think you’re not. I may forget again and read something else tomorrow, but one thing is for sure: it will always be there, waiting tenderly…calling on my heart.

The songs in the kitchen have been moving along as I write this. I can’t help but appreciate the words I hear right now as they drift down the hallway and reach my ears. “Love is more precious than gold,” Chris Stapleton’s voice croons confidently, “…I got love enough to spare. That makes me a millionaire.”

May you be rich in Love, friends.

Image result for pink heart clip art loveRobin

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

“…Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.” -Colossians 3:12-15

Love Is No Small Thing

A few Wednesdays ago, joy came out of nowhere and surprised me. I was at an outdoor yoga class with my friend. It was just after sunrise. I hadn’t yet heard about George Floyd. Our mats lay on a grassy space above still, sleepy vineyards. We began to move. I lifted my arms, reaching up as far as I could, all the way to my fingertips. A row of young olive trees behind us also stretched toward the brilliant blue sky. A pair of long-necked geese honked “Good morning!” over our heads as they crossed high above the rows of grape vines. I looked upward and watched in contented silence as they continued their flight past the husky golden rays of the newborn sun. 

Twice I nearly burst out laughing, the bubbles of happiness rising inside of me. My hopeful heart ached to dance and play with nature. The sun comforted me with its gentle warmth. I breathed in deeply then pushed all the air out as hard as I could. Whoosh! I felt the frustration of the last three months leave my lungs. With each inhale and exhale, my blood awakened in my veins as it traveled from head to toe.  The glorious simplicity of the rhythm of life amazed me in that moment.

On that morning, I had a hard time staying within the speed limit while driving home from class. The joy in my heart was inspiring, and I hoped to write about it before starting the work day so I could share it with you. Maybe I could try to rebuild the scene so that you might be able to experience the joy, too. My favorite snuggly chair was waiting for me, so I sat and placed my Chromebook on my lap. I decided to check the news first.

Honestly, I rarely check the news. Mostly because I don’t like biased news sources that I feel have hidden—or not so hidden—agendas. Whether it’s the left or the right, they blatantly air their opinions and persuasions. No matter what my political party is, I want news without interjection. But the world cannot be ignored. So it was two days late on that Wednesday morning that I learned about George Floyd, and saw his horrific death on the screen before me. In a heartbeat, all of my giddiness left. As it should. I still can’t get the image out of my mind.

When it was time for yoga a few days later, I was still troubled as I drove up the hill.

“I’m sad today…I was up all night…” I texted my friend before I left the house to meet her for our class. “Just wanted to give you a heads up if I’m quieter than usual. Feeling reflective and prayerful this morning.” I knew she’d understand. When I arrived, the sun wasn’t shining. All around us was a distant, gray fog. The birdsong was oddly quiet, muffled, and it was unusually cold for late May. As if the earth knew and mourned with us.

I lay my forehead on my yoga mat and began the deep slow breaths, thinking of George Floyd who could breathe no more. I didn’t know the circumstances, but it just didn’t seem right. The whole scene flashed again in my mind of that man’s knee on his neck. The officer’s intentional, slow movements… Closing my eyes, a quiet guttural sound escaped from my throat as I grieved the life of a stranger that was so casually taken away. Over what? It didn’t look at all like self-defense. It certainly didn’t look like a humane way to detain someone. I was filled with indignation.

The majority of police officers in our country surely would not condone what happened to George Floyd, and I’ve seen responses to confirm that. The officers I know stood ready to protect my students on our campus several years ago while an armed criminal hid in the nearby neighborhood. What would’ve happened if they weren’t there to call? I thought of the police officers over in Gilroy last summer who ran toward a shooter while the patrons of the Garlic Festival fled from the bullets. How much more death would there have been had those officers not been there to risk their lives for the people?

My own heart, it still aches now. For all of it. For everyone. Cities destroyed, people hurt and killed. Obviously, we need to work toward a solution to this too-old problem and at the same time realize that it will take time. But it shouldn’t take so much time!

The time that has passed between now and that Wednesday has been…I don’t even have the words to explain well enough all that has been on my mind. I have failed in coming here to this space because my thoughts have been such a whirlwind. A dozen blog post drafts have been started and abandoned in the last two weeks or so. I’ve been trying to put off my own thoughts for awhile, and instead listen and learn.

The roller coaster of emotion has been at full speed. Sadness one day, anger the next. Confusion. Love. Resolve. Love. Heartbreak. Love. It all keeps coming back to love. I want the world to know more of it. I want the world to feel all of the love from anyone who is willing to give it. I know it is out there. It just needs to be found and cultivated…nurtured. In some cases, it needs to be taught, the love. It’s not a naive thing, love. It’s a powerful thing.

Love is not just holding hands and singing songs. Love is action, and it can be in many forms. Love is being respectful to all people. Love is educating ourselves and celebrating our cultural differences. Love is registering to vote in the country you live in so that you can be part of change for the better. Love is teaching your children that no one race is better than the other. Love is listening. Love is giving a consequence for crimes against humanity. Love is peacefully protesting what is unjust. Love is casting aside fear to stand up for what is right. Love is creating something healing for those who are hurting. She’s a tough one, love is. Love requires forward motion, courage, and hope—not destruction and chaos.

We need connection. With everyone. To continue walking in love and learning each other’s hearts. To be brave and reach out. To listen and acknowledge. To maintain our integrity, not bypass justice, and lift up respect. To communicate and follow what is right. But most of all, to love one another as we were meant to do…in whatever way we each feel called to show it. I believe that Martin Luther King, Jr. meant what he said in the video below, that “hate destroys the hater as well as the hated.” Love is no small thing. It’s a powerful thing. And we have that power within us.

Image result for pink heart clip art loveRobin

Photo by JESHOOTS from Pexels

We, Who Think “Too Much”

I’ve been thinking about overthinking. Over and over…because I’m an overthinker, too.

Yes, we feel like concrete statues stuck in our thinking while the swarm of immediate action-takers buzz on by us.

But the thing is, not every body and every mind was designed to be the same. You are you. I am me. That’s the beauty of our existence. Uniquely able to take action on a dream at our own pace and no one else’s.

So, hey, let’s think on this:

Our time is the right time when it’s God’s time.

There’s nothing wrong with a lot of thinking… unless it keeps us from the doing. And that won’t do at all. Keep on thinking, but lock up those doubts and worries and then throw away the key.

That dream is knocking loudly on your heart for a reason, my friend. Did you give up on it? I hope not. It’s time to get back in the groove. I’m rooting for you. And for me, too.

Image result for pink heart clip art loveRobin

Photo by Dick Scholten from Pexels

More Dancing, Please

You know that saying, “Dance like no one is watching”? Literally, right now no one is watching. I know this because I pretty much danced the whole way home during The Walk Up the Hill today, and not a single quarantined soul saw me. I think.

But you know what? At this point, I really don’t care if they did.

I’ve been frustrated, stressed out, sad, and missing life as it was before the world turned upside down. I’m always trying to look on the bright side, but some days it’s just a hard battle no matter how sunny you are. Life gets that way.

One of the things that has helped these past few weeks are our walks. We head out when all is still, the crickets tuning up for their evening chorus…the light breeze chilly enough for long sleeves. I often watch my husband and try to figure out what’s on his mind as he treks a few hundred yards ahead of me.

I know he misses golf. He doesn’t talk about the loss of his stress-relieving pastime, but I can tell by the way he sometimes skips the sidewalk in the narrow park and marches through the cool, thick grass alongside it…as if pretending he’s once again heading down his Sunday fairway, toward the green. Our happy yellow dog trots right beside him. Nothing’s changed for the dog. Except she’s getting more walks now, so all is right in her world.

But nothing feels right in mine. Unless I take the time to really think on what I can be thankful for. Unless I have the pleasure of being stopped by a friendly neighbor on my way to the mailbox, and we have a longer than usual six-feet-apart chat in real life. Real life! No screens or miles between us. Unless I find myself tutoring a smiley student or two in a video conference while clutching my Christmas gift teacher mug that says “Best Teacher Ever” and is full of my homemade chai tea latte, which makes me feel like I am almost holding a Starbucks in my hand and almost in my classroom. Almost.

We say we are safe in our homes, we say we are doing our part to save lives, we say things could be worse–how dare we complain–but the reality is that our community is distanced, our activities are no longer scheduled, and that takes a very real toll on our emotions.

I am not a runner, but tonight I wanted to break into a full sprint. I didn’t want to hurt myself, so instead…I danced. I didn’t care if I looked like a fool. But no one was watching anyway.  And it helped that is was nearly dark. The streets were silent, with no cars passing by on the newly paved road…the houses were all tucked away with their people, as if calling it an early night and heading to bed. The sun had barely settled in itself. Not even my husband who was ahead of me knew that I was groovin’.

The walking is good for us. The fresh air is an amazing feeling when you’ve been stuck to a computer screen for hours all day. And it is when I walk that I start to forget all of my struggles and all of my worries. It is when I begin to brainstorm creative ideas….it is when I begin to daydream of better days.

The walking is good, but the dancing is better. Dancing is like a gift to the stars, as they show up to their cozy, indigo theater seats one by one. Dancing is a better representation of your soul rather than simply plodding along with one foot in front of the other. When life feels grim, it’s the music that has the power to unlock your tension which begins the life-giving movement and fills your body with new energy and delight. It’s in the dance that we discover the freedom to feel.

My walk didn’t start out that way. I was as grumpy as a bear woken up out of an early hibernation when we first set out. But about halfway through (I’m sure there’s some science in this having to do with endorphins or something), a new song came on through my earbuds and I rebelliously decided to smile and bust a move right there on the sidewalk in front of an audience of none.

By the time I got home, my frown had disappeared and I felt a little closer to content than I had all day.

So I’m going to try to remember this dancing day. And I might just do more of it.

But don’t tell anyone.

Image result for pink heart clip art loveRobin

Photo by Josh Willink from Pexels

 

Keep Going

You. The one who keeps trying, even when things get hard? This one’s for you.

Totally impressed am I when you keep showing up and persevering. When so many other people are convinced they can’t, you say,  “Well, hang on a minute…maybe I can.”

When I was in high school, my grades were not what my mom wanted them to be. One evening after she came home from work, she came into my room with a box and said, “This is what you’re doing this weekend. And you’re taking notes.”

A feeling of dread washed over me as I glanced from her face, tight with determination, to the box that lay on my bed. I couldn’t even begin to imagine what was inside.

“Notes?” I stammered. I couldn’t be bothered with those back then. When I sat in the classroom each day, my mind was filled with daydreams of the New Kids on the Block. Who had time for notes?

I took my headphones off and set my Walkman on the mauve and forest green floral bedspread. Lifting the brown cardboard flaps, I peered cautiously into the box.

When I looked back up, eyes like steel were waiting for my reaction. Stifling my groan, I knew better than to argue. So I sighed and agreed that in the morning I would start watching the entire VHS series of Where There’s a Will There’s an “A”…a seminar on how to take notes and get good grades.

Good grief. 

That series wasn’t a miracle in the making. I’m not sure my mom got a good return on her investment. Okay, wait, I need to be nice to myself. I did complete college…eventually. 

The one thing I do remember about that punishment is the title on those tapes. That alone ended up being very valuable to me because, even now, while there might not always be an “A” in the outcome of things, I do believe that, as the old saying goes, where there’s a will there will often be a way. A way through that difficult thing. The first step is to try. And the next step is to keep trying. Until it gets done.

That weekend in high school wasn’t my only experience of not being allowed to quit trying my best. I’ve had to pick myself up and keep going many times, even while dealing with parts of my life that were just. plain. hard. Things haven’t always been roses and fairy tales. I wasn’t allowed to give up, so I get a little peeved sometimes when others do.

Of course, there are always exceptions, and I have no idea what it is like to live someone else’s life.

On the flip side, I can’t stand if someone judges me when they haven’t walked in my shoes. Everyone has a different level of tolerance, a different history, and a different set of capabilities. I am not unsympathetic to that. There are still times when I give up, too.

There are those of us who have also had to work really hard to change our beliefs about ourselves, so that we can move forward and persevere to the best of our ability. None of us are perfect, nor will we ever be. Once we realize that, the trying gets easier.

So tonight, before I go to bed and dream of New Kids on the Block the vacation my husband and I will get to take once the COVID-19 quarantine has been lifted, I just want to say to those of you who see tough things to tackle yet you don’t back down from them…Bravo. 🙂

Seriously. I am so inspired by you. By all of you who might be shakin’ in your boots and want to throw up your hands and say, “Forget. This.”, but you keep going. It might be pain you have to deal with, it might be low confidence, it might be trying to understand or do something you have never done before. Yet….you get it done.

Rest is good. Reviewing our options is great. Reconsidering our negative thoughts is even better.

At the end of the day, if we’ve tried our best and have done all we can, we can go to sleep with a sense of pride and accomplishment which is worth putting one foot in front of the other every single time.

Image result for pink heart clip art loveRobin

 

Make Room for Joy

I know you had a rough day today. You’ve been trying so hard to stay positive, and that takes a lot of energy. Sometimes we get determined, though, to retreat our little turtle heads inside of our little turtle shells, and no matter how much knocking goes on to try to get us to come out, we just. don’t. want to—-Right? I’ve had days like that, too.

But I can’t to go to sleep tonight until I share with you this…

It will pass, that heavy thing. Some way, somehow…it will.

That great big world out there is waiting patiently for you to discover its brilliance once again. Those cotton candy clouds and that radiant shining sun that you loved to watch? They’ll be there for you when you’re ready.

Sometimes we feel imprisoned by what we feel we can’t do, but we are not prisoners. We have so much to be thankful for…a roof, water, heat, technology, books, memories…the ability to breathe. Even for those who may not have a backyard or a window to open, even for those who may not be able to go for a walk…nothing can incarcerate the imagination…nothing can snatch hope away…unless we let it.

Don’t let it. 

Create! Innovate! Choose to look for the good. You have a mind that can be original and smart, so use it. Look around and see all that is there for you. Look, and see the gifts you’ve been given. Give in to gratitude, and hang on tightly to hope.

Hope does not disappoint.

Unless you let it disappoint you.

Don’t let  it. 

You are stronger than that. You can do hard things. We can have our moments of sadness, and we will have journeys with grief riding along in our pockets. There’s room for that. But Joy is where the power lies, so let’s make even more room for that.

Hold on.

And I’m going to knock on that shell just one more time to say…watch Some Good News. 🙂 It just might help turn that frown upside down.

 

Image result for pink heart clip art loveRobin

Easter At Home: Rejoice!

Today, I’ve got a list of 7 things you can do at home to celebrate Easter, and even some things for the kids! 🙂

If you’re worried or sad about not being able to go to church this weekend, I understand. But remember this:

God is with us wherever we are.

You may be depressed that your egg hunt won’t be the same, or that you may not wear that special Easter dress to mark the occasion. Instead, we’ll be watching church through our computer screens and singing worship songs in our living rooms, which will be very…different. Just remember, God loves you no matter what you are wearing and He is excited that you’re celebrating his son Jesus no matter where you may be.

God is with us wherever we go.

Church is important to Christians. Absolutely. It’s where we go to worship together as a body of believers, where we learn more about what the Bible says, and where we go to be supportive of our brothers and sisters in Christ.  But in times like these, during the COVID-19 crisis, do not fret because we can’t be there together in the same room right now. We can worship God and praise Him at any time, from any place.

I can say with confidence that He knows exactly what is going on in our world, and He understands why our Easter won’t look the way we are used to.

We needn’t worry because…He is with us wherever we go.

So while you’re at home on Easter Sunday…rejoice as you normally would, in your heart and with your soul. We humans like to keep to our traditions as much as possible, though, so if you need some ideas of how to celebrate Easter without leaving your home, I’ve got a list for you.

Here are 7 things you can do to celebrate Easter from home:

#1) Read the Easter passage in the Bible. It can be found in Matthew 28:1-20, Mark 16:1-20, Luke 24:1-53, or John 20:1-31 .To read or listen to these passages, click on the name of the book in red that you’d like to go to. Better still, go back a little further or read the whole book of Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John for the entire account of Jesus’s life on earth, including the time when Jesus died on the cross three days before Easter.

#2) Pray to God, thanking Him for Jesus and His sacrifice for our sins. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” -Romans 6:23. If you haven’t yet done so, ask Jesus into your heart and believe in Him, as He is the only way to eternal life.  Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” -John 14:16.

#3) Pray for your loved ones, your community, your country, the world…and anything else that might be burdening your heart today.  Wow. We have a lot to pray for these days. Many people out there need our prayers. Beyond thanking and praising God, praying is a means to communicate with Him….asking for wisdom, comfort, healing, or specific needs. Sometimes you don’t know the words to say, but God hears your heart. He knows what you need.

#4) Sing!

  • Click here for Good Housekeeping’s list of 20 Best Easter Songs–Worship Music for Easter Sunday

#5) For the kids 🙂 :

#6) Easter meal ideas….click here for 87 of them from Country Living.

#7) Watch an Easter service online. If you need some links for that, here is one for South Valley Community Church and here is one for Twin Lakes Church, both in California but can be viewed anywhere.

Have a blessed Easter! Stay safe, be well, and fear not. God is with us….always.

Image result for pink heart clip art loveRobin

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” -Joshua 1:9

10 Things to Do to Pass the Time

I’m so excited! I have gifts for you today—some links to things that will help you pass the time while you’re sheltering in place. I don’t know about you, but we’re in Week 4 of staying at home and it’s time to change the scenery here a bit.

It’s raining today, so most of us are staying inside. We’re supposed to be inside anyway, but I believe it’s still important to get out and take a walk or a drive to nowhere to get out of the walls of your home at least once a day. A walk around the neighborhood while being mindful of keeping your distance from others is good for the body and for the soul.

When it rains, however, our outdoor time is dashed. So what do you do when the clouds are releasing their burdens? It can be especially quiet around the house if you are an empty nester or don’t have children, like me. Also, I’m typically working from home now during the day, but we are currently on Spring Break.

Scrolling through Facebook for a limited time is good for connecting with others, but it’s probably not a good idea to stay on it all day long. Certainly, it’s nice turn off the TV now and then, too. I rarely turn that box on at all.

There are lots of things you can do without leaving your home. The thing is, you just might need to be brave and try something new. So here’s my list, just for you:

10 Things You Can Do At Home To Pass the Time

  1. Read a book—My all time number one fave thing to do. No explanation needed. 🙂 Click here for a current list of the New York Times Best Sellers. Most of my reading time this year has been devoted to children’s books. Therefore, my current read (technically reread) is Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, which is a gem of a book. I am sad to say I have not read any of the Top 5 in any of the categories on The NY Times Best Seller list YET, except for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling. Teacher life. *Sigh*.
  2. Work on a puzzle—This is not one of my favorite things to do, but I thought I’d list it because I’m seeing a lot of my friends’ finished puzzles pop up on their news feeds, and they are beautiful. Trivia is more my thing, and recently I discovered Trivia Plaza which has tons of online trivia questions with a lot of different categories. That’s another option if you don’t have a puzzle handy. Riddles are fun, too. In fact, I’ve been working out a riddle on Facebook recently. Trying to find connections with mystery is fun. Playbuzz has a page with 13 fun riddles that aren’t too hard, yet will still make you think.
  3. Reorganize something in your home—Last week, I created some office space of my own in the guest room since I’ll be working from home for the next several weeks. It was fun to get creative and find some things in the garage that I could use for my home office since I couldn’t go purchase a small desk. That is, until the little table I was typing on yesterday collapsed and caused my head to ram into the wall. But that’s another story. Stay safe in your house, friends! Or get LifeAlert. I might need that, myself. Anyway, if you don’t need some office space, maybe cleaning out your closet is just the thing (I love StitchFix, by the way…and no I’m not getting paid to say that). Or reorganize your garage or pantry.
  4. Call someone—At least every few days I like to make some phone calls or texts and check in on some people to make sure they are doing okay. It’s nice to hear their voice. The human connection is truly important, and unless you’re involved in a battle with someone, talking with someone always lifts your spirits and reminds you that you’re not alone in this strange event. If you make each other laugh, you get bonus points. If you’re kind of shy when on the phone, click here for 3 Ways to Make Your Phone Call Less Awkward. This has always been a struggle for me. Again, you’re not alone!
  5. Sing along to karaoke songs on YouTube—Did you know that you can search for pretty much any song title on YouTube and add the word “karaoke” after it to find a sing along version of the song? One of my current favorites to sing to is Memories by Maroon 5…the melody reminds me of a fast relative of Pachelbel’s Canon in D.
  6. Dance…it’s exercise!—-Speaking of music, turn your living room or kitchen into a dance studio. Push back the furniture, turn up the volume, and shake it. Meghan Trainor’s I’m A Lady always gets my feet moving.
  7. Play solitaire—If you have a deck of cards and you’re by yourself, solitaire is a great game to play. It will really help the time pass by. Never played before? For the rules of the game, click here. Or you can play a digital version here if you don’t have cards at home.
  8. Write a letter—If you’ve been too busy before to sit down and write a letter like back in the old days, now’s the time. Grab a pen and paper and surprise someone with snail mail. My best friend from college, Rosie, did this for me just a couple of weeks ago. She used to write me when I studied abroad in England, and said she thought she’d surprise me for old time’s sake. It really brightened my day.
  9. Try a new recipe—-Well, because we were out of it and I want to avoid the store as much as possible, I found a recipe to make my own BBQ sauce for our pulled pork nachos tonight. It was fab! Loved it so much, I don’t think I’ll ever buy bottled BBQ sauce again (although the sugar content is quite high). And it was super easy. For the recipe, click here.
  10. Write your story—Last, but not least, having extra time is a blessing for writing. Is there a story on your mind you’ve been wanting to put onto paper? Is there a time in your life you’d love to share with readers? Have you always wanted to document your life and the many lessons you’ve learned along the way? Any struggles that have turned into triumph? Or maybe you want to teach people how to do or make something. The words are your oyster. Hee hee. Seriously, though, to quote other writers out there, “your story matters”. Connect with others through writing yours.

BONUS ACTIVITY—-Think of something kind you can do for someone. Here’s a list of 58 Random Acts of Kindness, many of which you and I could still do even during the shelter in place.

Have fun, and please drop a comment if there is something you love from the list, OR if there is something that is not on the list that you’d like to share.

Stay safe and have a great week!

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Struggling

This encourager needs some encouragement.

Keeping my mind preoccupied from the very shaky state that the world is in right now has been my priority today.

So I rearranged some space to create an office at home, since it will be a longer time than we hoped for. The creativity of that brought me some joy.

Overall, I’m content…but it’s mixed in with one part stress, one part frustration, and many parts sympathy. So when I do turn on the news, my heart hurts for others and my fear returns a bit. It’s a struggle, that.  I don’t want to turn a blind eye to the suffering of others. But I also wish I could just ignore the news.

But you know, it’s got to be expected. The down days.

Everyone has down days.

And that’s why I’ll continue to pray and remember to count on the sunrise. And Jesus.

Tomorrow will be a new day, with a new beginning, and another opportunity to keep our eyes fixed on what we can be thankful for.

Just wait and see.

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Nope, Not Gonna Do It

My goal was never to reach the top. I had only two goals when I hiked the trail up to the renowned granite jewel called Half Dome. It became clear to me about a half hour from starting the trek that they were a) don’t cry and b) don’t faint.

I really had no idea what I was getting into when I volunteered to spend a day hiking with my friends to the top of that silver peak. “Sure,” I said. “Sounds like fun!”

Just to make certain I could hold my own, my grand plan was to go to my gym, GB3 Fitness, to spend some time on the StairMaster one week prior to our sunrise meet up in Yosemite Valley. I was sure this would be all the prep I needed.

Half Dome is 8,839 ft above sea level. It’s about 17 miles round trip. It has an elevation gain of a little under 5,000 ft. from Yosemite Valley (imagine the height of nearly 3 Empire State Buildings). It’s a 10-12 hour hike, which is considered “steep, but moderate”, and there is a cable segment for the last 400 feet. Meaning, the cables there on either side so you have something to hold onto because there’s a chance you could fall and die. People have, actually. But I didn’t know any of these facts prior to my experience. I was just happy to go along with my friends. I must not have been paying attention to the details when we discussed it. I’ve been known to do that.

The day of the hike arrived. What I thought would be a fun day in the rugged outdoors turned into a prayer for mercy. I literally—sometimes even out loud—prayed my way up nearly the entire 5,000 foot elevation climb. Oh. my. goodness.

The thing was, I couldn’t quit even if I wanted to. There was no turning back. There were four of us, and you just don’t say in the middle of the forest that you’re going to turn around and go wait in the car while the rest of your friends hike up and down Half Dome for 10-12 hours. I had too much pride to ever turn around.

We had started on the trail head at sunrise and didn’t return to the parking lot following the hike until after the sun set that night. We only stopped for a very quick lunch break. Also, it was imperative that we continue on so that we wouldn’t be forced to turn around in the afternoon if we didn’t make it to the cables in time.

Around that time in my life, I had been memorizing the book of James in the bible. In the very first chapter of James is the verse, Count it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” I was glad to have those words imprinted in my brain, because those were the words that ultimately pushed me up that mountain. When I wasn’t praying that my out-of-shape lungs wouldn’t give out, I was saying that verse over and over as if it would give me strength. And it did. 

My other three friends were in much better shape than I, and had more hiking experience than I had. I’m not even sure how I ended up there with them, actually, but when all is said and done it’s one of the most memorable experiences of my life. And the thing is, I didn’t go to the top.

I didn’t go all the way to the top of Half Dome.

After hours and hours of hiking we finally made it to the cables section, but I decided to take a rest on a rock and enjoy the view right from where I was. I looked up at that granite dome, I looked on both sides of the thick cables bolted into the side of the dome, looked at the smooth slope of the rock…and I just decided, “Nope, not gonna do it.”

But even though I had come so far and most people would think it was not worthy of a triumph, in that moment I was super proud of myself for even making it that far. It was good enough for me. To proudly watch my friends ascend the last 400 feet, to watch all the hikers around me ecstatic and tired from their journey, to feel the powerful winds rushing past my face….that was enough.

You know, so many people compare themselves to others and feel not enough because they didn’t accomplish the same things or the “best” things or the “greatest” things. But what about your best or greatest thing? Doesn’t that count for something?

The fact that I, a young woman who had been overweight her whole life….whose “P.E.” for most of her school years was band…who grew up eating fast food and who found it painful to run…the fact that I was standing nearly 400 feet from the peak of Half Dome after hiking uphill for 5-6 hours and made it without crying or needing medical help (okay, maybe I did cry a little) and knew there was another toe-bruising 5-6 hours back down hill in the dark….that is a feat in itself!

Some might say, “You only had another 400 feet to go!!!You should’ve gone for it.” And I’d say this:

I have no regrets about it. None.

When I got up to the point where I stayed behind, I was completely content. Something in my heart knew to stop and enjoy the view right from where I was. So I did.

Life is like that, too. It’s good to be ambitious, but there is also a place for being satisfied with what you already have. Others may surpass you, but that doesn’t make you any less valuable or unable to experience joy in the space you are at the moment. We are able to do hard things, but we should also be able to sit back and enjoy the view now and then.

For the rest of my life, I will remember Half Dome with fondness. I hiked with some awesome salt of the earth people. I persevered like I never had before. The crunch of the pine needles. The cleanest of air. Count it all joy. The sweat glistening from my brow. The way the Clif bar tasted when we finally took a rest, as if I were dining at Morton’s. The gorgeous view from the almost top. So good. So, so good enough. Yep. No regrets.

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