Life Rules

We’re in that season…the season of graduation, beginnings, endings, ceremony, commencement speeches. This week we’re going to California to attend a niece’s high school graduation. I was not asked to give the speech. But this is what I would say, if I was standing before those kids. I can’t take personal credit for any of this…this is the wisdom of others I’ve distilled into my own words. And most of this is not particularly profound…just the things I’ve learned work for me.

  • First, be brave little Simba! I say this to my kids, to myself, to friends. We all need encouragement to be brave, to push, to try. We never stop needing to hear the words: you can do it!
  • Keep faith. Keep faith in God; keep faith in people. There are sorrows and disappointments throughout life. But miracles are everywhere. Albert Einstein famously said, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” I choose to live with hope, and it is astonishing to me how often hope is rewarded. Not always as I expected; but rewarded none the less. Life will surprise you, if you’ll let it.
  • Be honest, first with yourself, then with those around you. But be kind with your honesty. Don’t use it as a tool to harm. Use it as sunlight to illuminate.
  • Be energetic! Get up early! Morning is my energetic time of day, and when I realized this, my whole world changed. Find your time of energy, and don’t sleep through it!
  • Don’t be seduced by busyness! Activity does not equal productivity, and it certainly does not feed creativity! Be thoughtful about how you spend your time. Learn to say no.
  • Present well. You are more attractive when you are pulled together, pressed, and feel confident in what you wear.
  • Maintain order. Order inspires calm and serenity. Excitement is for other areas of life, not for your physical space. Your physical space should be a place of refuge in sound, scent, lighting, texture, ambience.
  • Be organized. Organization is key to accomplishment. Write lists for everything. Have redundancy…spare keys, back ups for power cords, etc. Redundancy can save the day.
  • Go for the best, whatever that is, in your opinion. You really do get what you pay for.
  • Be kind, look for ways to be generous. Stretch yourself!
  • Be humble. Pass credit on to others, look for ways to share the wealth.
  • Step up! Unless the task is surgery or flying a space ship, I always say I’ll give it a try. Commit first, then find a way to accomplish the task. If you can’t do it, you can admit that you tried and failed, but you will have first tried.
  • Stay in touch. People won’t know you are thinking of them if you don’t share with them. No one reads minds.
  • Read! Expose your mind to new things to stay current and find inspiration. Challenge yourself to try new things, or try things you’ve always wanted to do but have put off.
  • Have a plan for your life, but don’t be afraid to wander off the track. I’m often impressed by the stories of people who have had amazing lives, and how frequently the amazing part came to them unexpectedly. Allow for the magic of serendipity.
  • Center, focus, gather, balance. Center yourself, focus yourself, gather yourself, balance yourself. Remember you are a human being, not a human doing. Every day should have time for reflection and meditation.
  • Live out of abundance: abundance of joy, energy, peace and acceptance. You can’t give what you don’t have, and you actually have to choose to have these qualities in your life. You must make conscious choices; being deliberate and intentional allows you to say no to things that steal these qualities away from you.
  • Practice forgiving. You will need to forgive yourself, and others, and you will need to receive that gift as well. Forgiving is a powerful act, whether you experience it by giving, or receiving.
  • Celebrate whatever comes. Be gracious to life, and it will be gracious to you. But this is tricky! Like most acts of reciprocity, you have to act for the right reasons. You don’t give, hoping to get. You just give. But you will also get. I don’t understand how, I just know it works.

Wisdom often comes just through the process of living, and while I learn, daily, that I’m not as wise as I’d like to be, I know I’ve advanced a bit since I was 18. I recognize now that a lot of what I’ve “learned” in my life was actually all around me, being lived out day by day. But I had to experience enough of life that I could begin to see and incorporate, in my own way, the wisdom of others. Will the high school and college graduates who sit through the ceremonies get it? Probably not. They’ll have to learn it on the job. They’ll have their own moments of “a-ha!” and their own insights when they’re sitting in the dark of the night, wondering, struggling, questioning. That’s the beauty, isn’t it? Everyone gets to work it out for themselves…to create their very own life rules, gleaned from faith, humanity, experience, and all those speeches along the way.

Congratulations to all the new contestants, now playing the game of life! May you be winners, all, and may you enjoy the game as much as the victories!

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My mom

I’m not going to be with my mom tomorrow, although we’ll have a chance to celebrate a belated Mother’s Day together in a couple of weeks. It would be nice to be with her on the day. But often we make do with phone calls to mark special events, the price of living many states apart.

While I won’t be with her in person, she knows my heart. In many ways, we are very different people, yet we share a strong bond that has stood the test of time and distance.

My mom is a passionate person, and cares deeply about family, faith, and country. She loves to cook big meals and have a crowd around her table. One of her favorite things to do is to plan treats for the little ones in the group. She has a play area set up for the small fry, and over the years the grandchildren and nieces and nephews have all had their turn among the toys. They’ve had their special cakes and tea parties, and they know she keeps kid food on hand at all times. “Goodie bags” and little “unbirthday” presents have marked many a visit to her house.

She’s a great one for family photos, and is always on a mission to gather the group to get an updated shot for her wall. You can see the changes over the years…the babies who are now teens, or worse, the young adults who are now grey adults.

She and my dad were married more than 50 years, and though he left us in 2008, he is still in her thoughts, a close companion throughout the days. She remains married, even in her widowed state.

She’s a strong woman, healthy, energetic, and motivated. She always has more to do than she can do in a day. She is creative, and when she was younger, channeled creativity into sewing, cooking, yard work, painting, and mothering. She made my wedding dress, sewed special things for my children, made drapes for the house. She’s an artist who painted in oils, and a gardener who loves flowers. She is a legendary cook, and has created memorable feasts over the years. She’s famous for her yeast rolls, her fried rice, and her Italian Cream cake, a few of her many specialties.

She’s enthusiastic about her work, continuing the commitment to Christian missions that she shared with my dad. She’s a writer and publisher, a traveler and a speaker. She is tireless in her efforts to share her heart, and her faith in God.

She is a prolific author and an amazing correspondent. Computer savvy, she emails and Facebooks friends and co-workers across the country and around the world. No slouch, my mom. She often works late into the night keeping up with her commitments.

She has been a support throughout my life, listening, listening, listening. She has heard my sorrows and my joys, and has made soothing noises at the right moments, rejoiced in the good things, and resisted opportunities to throw out the occasional “I told you so,” even when it has been warranted. She is ever hopeful for me and mine.

My mom is generous in her caring, ferocious in her concern, and sympathetic to a fault. I rarely catch her in a down mood. She’s carried along by the tide of her hopes and plans, and by the memories: so many good memories through the years.

My mom has been fortunate in many ways. Though not a rich woman by monetary standards, she has had love and family and calling to fill her life. Though the family picture has changed through the years, and some dear ones are not in more recent photos, she finds joy in those around her. And she looks toward the future, to accomplishing her goals, finishing her mission, and watching the grandchildren, and great grandchildren, grow.

Happy Mother’s Day to my mom, Betty Burton Choate: my example, my encourager, my friend, a charming woman with a charmed life, and a full life. Long may she live it!

Wise words

I am a seeker. I seek inspiration for my day, motivation for the work at hand, and wisdom to guide my steps. Sometimes I find these things in the actions and character of people. Often inspiration comes through words. These are some of the words that encourage me today:

Keep trying!

How I want to see myself as successful! I admit, the first illustration is what I expect. The second seems more realistic!           

Happy Saturday, and may you find wisdom, courage, and hope for the day!

(All images from Pinterest)