My word for 2016

A few years ago I started choosing a word…just one word…to frame my intentions and goals for the coming year. I got the idea from a blog post, and it was a challenge to distill my thoughts, to be succinct.

I think it’s been a useful exercise. My past words have been:

  • 2012: Revision
  • 2013: Momentum
  • 2014: Consistent
  • 2015: Hope

This year…well, what one word could encapsulate the coming year?

I look forward to an amazing year of growth, surprise, challenge, joy, making memories, launching projects, writing, travel, being still, family, friends, work.

I look forward to thriving.


Thrive is my word for the coming year.

I feel on the brink, on the cusp. The last four years have ushered in a sea change for me, bringing so many unforeseen experiences, circumstances…some wonderful, some beyond difficult. Some days I felt like I was flying, others have been a struggle I wasn’t sure I could survive.

Tonight, thinking about what my word would be, I see my life bearing fruit in new ways. This year, I will thrive.

Does that mean there won’t be challenges? I’m sure there will be. What life exists without challenge?

But that’s not the point. The point is, I’m ready for the adventure life has given me. I have grown; I am growing into it!

Join me, if you’d like. I love to hear what word you would choose to describe your hopes for the coming year. It can be enlightening to consider what one word speaks to you. And that’s really the point of the whole thing…evaluate, find a word that will resonate, will capture your essence, where and how you find yourself in this very moment.

Let’s begin, shall we? I’ve got my one word, I’m ready!

~ Sheila




Sunday Inspiration

Found this beautiful song a few weeks ago…I love the words, and the ending is a reminder of a song I grew up with, “It Is Well With My Soul.” Brave encouragement!

Happy Easter!

Tomorrow is Easter Sunday and I’m excited to spend the day with our little ones, Riley and Jack. Riley, turning four next week, and Jack, 16 months, are too young to grasp the real meaning of the day. They’re just old enough to hunt for a few eggs and enjoy some treats from their Easter baskets. And at their ages, that’s enough.

But for me, and anyone of Christian faith, the day is a reminder, among all the Sundays of the year, that grace is a tangible gift. Forgiveness and mercy are available to everyone, freely given, and found through the choice of belief and obedience.

My use of the word “grace” in the title of my blog has nothing to do with religion, and everything to do with displaying an understanding and gracious attitude when we’re confronted with difficulties in life. I use the word to refer to many of the little joys, the things that make life a little better, a little happier…the grace notes.

But the grace that we celebrate on Easter, the gift of savior and healer and friend…that’s the real thing, the real joy. Happy Easter, and may you know the meaning of the grace of the day, and the giver of joy.

~ Sheila


I am learning

I am learning to accept the feeling of unease that frequently settles in the pit of my stomach. I am learning to live with uncertainty, with fears, with doubt. I am learning this because in the last few years I’ve experienced:

~ living far, far from family

~ my son’s deployment to Iraq

~ my daughter’s miscarriage of her first pregnancy

~ my father’s battle, and loss, to cancer

~ the death of my grandmother

~ family torn by divorce

~ stress, stress, more stress

~ distress in my marriage

~ uncertainty about work and income

~ a house for sell that didn’t sell

~ the struggles of my adult children with jobs and life decisions

and life continues. This is my list since 2006. I’ve counted other losses and difficulties before. These are the major markers since we moved to Alaska.

And what do I say? What do I do? What can I do? I pray. I feed myself the sustaining, nurturing words of wisdom that encourage me when I need the spark of hope. I believe in belief. I believe that above all, there is goodness in the world, there is joy in the morning, there is comfort for the downcast. I count the ways I’m fortunate, and the joys that fill my life even when I’m anxious.

I tell myself that life works out. It will be all right, whatever “it” may be. Have faith. But sometimes, I falter a bit. What if it doesn’t work out? I see others whose stories don’t end well, whose lives have not worked out according to plan. What if I, or those I love, have the same experience? What if?

I face the fear, feel the physical sensation in my stomach. We’re old friends now, this sensation and me. I recognize it for what it is. It feels good to be stronger than this feeling. This isn’t a sign of bravery. It is a victory of strength, strength I didn’t know I had, strength I am growing day by day. It comes from recognition. I can only do so much, I can only do what I can do. I, who avoid conflict, am learning to confront.

Back to first principles. Do your best. Do your part. Don’t give up. Appreciate what you have. Share when you can. Believe.

Last weekend I found a site that expresses this eloquently. If you are looking for encouragement and a call to be thankful, grateful, joyful, this may speak to you.

A Holy Experience

I am learning to rest, to have peace, to keep my joy…I didn’t have to acquire it, I came here with joy ingrained in my being. But I’ve struggled to hold it, through some of life’s question marks. And even as I write this, I know that I’ll have to do this again tomorrow, and the next day, and next.

Saturday night, hearing the tsunami warning sirens, racing to throw a few things in the car before evacuating, some of these thoughts were flashing through my mind. I thought of family, plans, dreams, impacted by unseen force of earthquake. How do you plan for earthquake? For tsunami? The answer is, you really don’t. You can do so little. But you do what you can. You evacuate when you’re told to. You follow instructions. You hope, you pray. You thank God for the people, the good things, filling your life. And when the rush of the moment is over and you realize there’s no life threatening emergency after all, you promise yourself you’ll remember that flash of insight. I have so much.

I am blessed. I am grateful. And I am learning.


Grace and space?

Someone asked me, recently, about the title of my blog. I gave an explanation of “Grace and Space” in my first blog post. But that’s long buried in my archives at this point. So to answer the question of what that phrase really means, here’s the story:

A few years ago, when my son was 21 and we were having difficulties transitioning through some young adult issues, I had an epiphany one day: he needed grace from me, and space to be allowed to work out his issues. And that phrase has continued to have a useful place in my life, as I often feel that I either need these gifts for myself (from others), or I need to extend these gifts. Like most catchy phrases, it’s easy to say, more difficult to do in the grip of the moment, whatever the issue, and whoever the others involved.

The point of this blog is recognizing that there are many grace notes in life…some come from and through others, some just seem to be gifts that come when needed, and bring a smile, comfort, hope…or perhaps understanding. As most people instinctively recognize good things, recording these experiences may seem unnecessary. But I believe that when I consciously mark joys in my life, I increase their power. If the experience is one of personal luxury, I can repeat it when possible. If grace comes from someone or something as a random kindness or event, I can appreciate it more fully by acknowledging and being grateful for the gift I’ve received.

These bring a smile to my face: my family, a good book, a moving quote, a phone call or email from a friend, comfort food, shopping in a favorite store, sunshine…grace is all around us, in many forms. We have only to open our eyes to see, and our spirits to receive.

Happy Birthday Stephanie!

Today is my daughter’s 28th birthday. She’s juggling a lot at the moment, being a single parent for a stretch while her husband has moved ahead of her to take a new job; teaching full time; packing to move in December. She’s reaching for her strength and finding it in new ways. She’s rising to the challenge. I’m proud of the strong woman who has emerged to take her place among the women of the world.

This will be a memorable year for her in many ways. This is not a decade milestone or other significant marker, as a birthday number. But as a life marker, it is important. Major moves always shape and rechannel life.

I’m honored to be part of my daughter’s story, to see her joy, feel her struggles, rejoice in her triumphs. I’m honored to be a link in the life chain that binds us together.

Leap of faith

The house is off the market, at least for a while. Not a good time to be selling at this price range in Ketchikan, Alaska. So the listing will get a rest, at least till spring, and regroup begins.
I ask myself: if I can’t control the housing market, what do I control? What is my response?
I’ve taken inventory of commitments, obligations, opportunities. I’ve talked with managers at my office who can work with me through a transition.
This is my plan.
I’m moving to relief status with my administrative position for the medical group in January. I’m also enrolled as a substitute teacher for the local schools. I can’t continue to keep both feet in Ketchikan on a weekly basis and maintain a life with Rob. So I’m choosing. I’m choosing opportunity for the unknown over security, change instead of stability, serendipity over structure. I’m stepping off.
The house will still be a commitment, and one that I have to support. So I’ll do it, but in a way that doesn’t require a daily presence.
I’m reducing my income, streamlining my habits. If I’m working relief, and subbing in school when possible, that’s just a given. I can’t have it both ways.
And what do I get in exchange?
I get more time to be with my partner, the husband I chose long ago, and the relationship I’ve committed to. When he’s in the region to work, I’ll work, and when he’s off traveling, I’ll travel.
I get more opportunity to be with others who are important in my life.
I get potential for adventure.
I’ll have time to develop new interests and hone new skills.
I get…I don’t know…that’s part of the charm and the magic. I don’t know what I’ll get!
Planning for this means that thought, budgeting, organizing, daydreaming, anxiety, stress, hope, excitement, and joy are all part of the process. There are days I am excited and days I am nervous. I’ve left jobs and income before. I’ve moved. I’ve sold houses. But I’ve never left a job behind, kept the house, and planned to stay afloat on part-time work, not knowing what the future would hold.
It’s a brave new world, for me, anyway. I’m sure I can do it. I think it will be like the sky diving adventure in June. The first step was the hardest, and after that initial leap out the door, the rest was easy, including the perfect landing.
Granted, doing this is possible because I’m at a time in my life when kids are grown, there are more resources and flexibilities built in. But it isn’t easy, and it isn’t automatic. I suspect, as is the case for most things that promise great reward, it will take a lot of energy to stay ahead of financial needs, work scheduling, travel arrangements, and syncing of schedules. But isn’t that life in general? Outcome requires input. Result requires effort.
I’ll be shifting my efforts come January. I’ll be living life in a different way.
When Rob and I did the sky dive in June, we were each hooked to a professional jumper, we each had a buddy who did the work for us. We were along for the ride. This time, we’ll have to hold on to each other. We’ll be doing the work ourselves. But I think we’ll be safe. We’ve held hands before, through some pretty rough rides. This one should be good…just have to take the first step out.