Viewing entries tagged
gratitude

On Gratitude



This is my second try at this post. I wanted to share how I got here - to November 3, 2014 in relation to gratitude - and how my commitment to a daily gratitude practice has evolved over time. That seemed important to me. I was being defensive. Defending something I started years ago as a way of healing and holding on to hope, when I really only wanted to crawl into a hole and stay there through the holiday season. Something that a few of my Facebook friends were finding trite over time, and decided to complain about and tease in their own status updates… I thought I needed to clarify, to defend, and to justify why I think November is a great month for people to express gratitude on their own and in public.

I don't want to do any of that.

A few months ago I began reading One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. On page 58 of her book, Voskamp says the following: 

"I know there is poor and hideous suffering, and I've seen the hungry and the guns that go to war. I have lived pain, and my life can tell: I only deepen the wound of the world when I neglect to give thanks for early light dappled through leaves and the heavy perfume of wild roses in early July and the song of crickets on humid nights and the rivers that run and the stars that rise and the rain that falls and all the good things that a good God gives. Why would the world need more anger, more outrage? How does it save the world to reject unabashed joy when it is joy that saves us? Rejecting joy to stand in solidarity with the suffering doesn't rescue the suffering. The converse does. The brave who focus on all things good and all things beautiful and all things true, even in the small, who give thanks for it and discover joy even in the here and now, they are the change agents who bring fullest Light to all the world. When we lay the soil of our hard lives open to the rain of grace and let joy penetrate our cracked and dry places, let joy soak into our broken skin and deep crevices, life grows. How can this not be the best thing for the world? For us? The clouds open when we mouth thanks."

That is why I do what I do and why I want to do it (THANK YOU ANN VOSKAMP!). I want to embrace joy, to be brave, to focus on all thing good and beautiful and true. I want to give thanks for all things, even the small things because I want to bring the fullest Light to all the world.

I don't care if it makes other people uncomfortable. In fact, I -kind-of like that it makes some people uncomfortable. I would invite you to explore the discomfort if and when it bothers you to witness another's expression of joy. That discomfort will tell you more about you than it does about the other person. Go there.

In the past, I have used an art journal as a means to capture my gratitude each day. I have been on  a mission to figure out the easiest, least expensive way to make an art journal because I LOVE art journaling, and find it to be healing and hopeful and fun. This is what I've come up with so far…

Junk Mail Art Journal

I took a catalog I received in the mail (it was a Williams-Sonoma Fall catalog). I glued 2-3 pages together throughout the catalog with a glue stick, to form a series of new, thicker pages. I used plain old cheap craft acrylic paint to cover each page. I glued tissue paper to the covers of the catalog - I used two pieces to completely cover the catalog cover. Some of the words and images from the catalog show through the paint, and I love that. It was so easy to make and it was virtually free because the catalog was junk mail and I had the paint on hand.

Each day this month, my family and I will choose one word to express that for which we are most grateful that day. We will record the words on a piece of paper and at the end of the month we will have a special journal filled with our gratitude. I look forward to seeing how this evolves.

Our first page. 
I stamped part of the quote from Ann Voskamp on the first page, and left the
Williams Sonoma Thanksgiving table, rather than painting it.
I love how the quote turned out.
My sister made a Junk Mail journal too! I love it!

Each and every day, in every minute even, we have a choice about whether to "deepen the wound of the world" with our voices and actions or "bring fullest Light to all the world." Hands down, I choose light. It is absolutely a choice. It is not always easy, but I make it because I believe it makes a difference to me, my children, my husband, and our community.  I make it because I want to experience joy while I'm here on Earth - to balance out the pain.

Gratitude manifests joy. It's been proven time and again. Try it - big or small, in whatever way works for you. Share what you find.

With love and gratitude. Especially to Ann Voskamp. I don't know her, but I LOVE her and her beautiful words. xoxo

Tradition with a Twist


Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It involves all of my favorite things in the world: Autumn, my family, friends, and food. For a while now, my husband Dan and I have hosted Thanksgiving dinner at our house. We invite all of his family, all of mine, and my sister's in-laws. Everyone is welcome.

When I faced my first Thanksgiving after my dad passed away - that would have been in 2011, I wanted to boycott Thanksgiving. I didn't want to host it. I didn't want to acknowledge it. I didn't want even a whiff of turkey.

While I was given a lot of grace in that first year after my dad's death, nobody would let me off the hook for Thanksgiving. I decided that instead of wallowing in my dread of the impending holiday, I would embrace the opportunity to give thanks.

On November 1 I used my Facebook status to share my gratitude for that day, and did the same for every day in November. I called it 30 Days of Gratitude. I'm not sure why I had to do it publicly, but I'm thinking maybe I needed some accountability. Once I committed to a public declaration of my gratitude for every day in November it was much harder to stew in the muck and much harder to disappear.

Several of my friends reminded me about 30 Days of Gratitude the following year and so it became a tradition for many of us to share our gratitude through the month of November.

This year, I'm trying something a little different. I've been keeping a gratitude journal for several months now, and it is something I've come to love - the actual journal itself and the practice of setting aside a few minutes each day to give thanks for the things that moved me that day.

The cover of my first journal (I'm on my second)

The journal itself is an old book I altered and made into an art journal. It was inspired by Jeanne Oliver in her class The Journey of Letting Go (Creating Beauty from Ashes). It's one of my favorite things I've ever made. In fact, at my fall retreat I incorporated an altered book workshop so my guests could make one of their own.

Art journaling is a really special way to combine words and art. Art journals aren't necessarily meant to be shared so it can be liberating to create just for the sake of creating. I love flipping through the pages of my art journals. There is so much going on in there!

I love the way watercolors look over the old book pages

It can be super simple or very elaborate. I've seen photos of some really beautiful art journal pages. I keep mine pretty simple because I want to get them done fast. It's more about the process than the outcome for me.

a Zentangle page

Sooooo, this year instead of sharing a few words of gratitude on my personal Facebook page I'm going to share last night's entry from my gratitude journal on my Heart Connected Facebook page. I will most likely share the post on my personal page too. I think it's going to be fun, and maybe even inspiring?!

AND, here's where you come in... When you "like" the Heart Connected gratitude post on Facebook, you will be entered into a drawing. At the end of the month, I will draw a name from the "like" pile and make an altered book journal for the winner! YAY! How fun is that?! I may even include a little art journaling kit when I send it.

I hope you enjoy my posts! xoxo




You're likely to see a lot of hearts in my journal. This page is with acrylics.



OH, one more thing! You must "LIKE" or have already liked Heart Connected on Facebook to win.









Signs



There are a few things that are begging me to be shared. I know, it's not like I have a gazillion readers, but I feel like I need to share these things because someone out there needs to hear them. Maybe I will have a gazillion readers someday and that someone will find exactly what she needed to hear in the Heart Connected archives? You just never know. So, I must follow these urges.

It is really that simple. What I need to share in a nutshell is simply that you must follow your urges
YOU MUST (in my most convincing Mom voice with pursed lips and squinty eyes).

Some people call them heart whispers. Some people call it your gut. They come in many forms with many names but in their simplest form, these urges, or callings even, are little (or big) signs directing you on your path.

The tricky thing is that sometimes when you see these signs, you might think "Hmmm...was that for real? Or, did I just make that up?" In the course of a fully developed practice of not following those urges, all the signs begin to look like this one:





What felt so right that it made you light up inside when you first thought of it begins to look a little risky. And the warning sign goes up: CAUTION! STEEP SLOPE - DO NOT GO BEYOND THIS POINT.

There are lots of reasons for warning signs. Sometimes they are even warranted, and we can be thankful for them, but much of the time the warning signs are a scare tactic. Real signs, the ones that feel right they come from Source - the Universe, God, Goddess, our CREATOR, your divine self...They are the signs that whisper in your ear while you're minding your own business in an art class and say things like, "Anna, you could do this. You could help people to heal and grow with art..."

Then the ego mind starts with its scare tactics and says, "NO WAY! Who do you think you are? DO NOT GO BEYOND THIS POINT."

It scares me to share this because for many years I was all ears when the CAUTION signs went up. Rarely did I go beyond this point. So even in writing this a little caution sign is rearing its ugly head, telling me that I am on a steep slope and there could be a landslide at any time. 

Thank you caution sign. Thank you for protecting me for all these years. 
I am grateful for your service. 
The thing is, someone needs to know that it is okay to follow 
the urge she had to day - the urge she had to quit her soul sucking job,
or to pursue a dream,
or to reach out to a friend,
 or something. 
I'll keep writing...

The honest truth is that when you do decide to listen to what your very own heart is telling you to do, the signs often look like this:



CURVY ROAD AHEAD

You will need to know that the curves are coming. You might not know how to handle them. It's okay, the important thing is to keep going.

When I first began my Heart Connected journey it was mostly because it felt right. It had very little to do with feeling prepared or equipped or qualified. It just felt like something I had to do. So I did it. I jumped in. I made business cards, a website, a blog, and a whole lot of other things. There have been several moments of sheer doubt where I have decided to just stop with the whole putting myself out there thing already. I don't know what the future holds. The only thing I know for sure is that there will be curves in the road. Things don't always go the way I hoped they would go. There are curves. I am learning to embrace them. And sometimes, the curves aren't so bad. In fact, sometimes what is around the bend in the road is downright DELIGHTFUL!

What I'm learning is that as I keep my commitment to show up, the road rises up to meet me. There are all kinds of new signs popping up in my life. Signs I've never seen before that tell me I am on the right path. And again, in all honesty, when I see these signs I'm not always sure I am worthy - I still think "ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!!!!" It feels like magic, really. The more I put myself out there, the more I show up, the more I open to receiving these magical signs, the more they appear as affirmations that I am on the right path.

I was recently invited to participate in a bazaar at my favorite yoga center. As I was getting ready for the event I posted a picture on Facebook of some of the creations I planned to bring to the bazaar. That night I received a message asking me to participate in an incredibly inspiring yoga event on Sunday - YogaLove Detroit. WITH MY ART. YogaLove Detroit is an all-day offering of yoga intended to raise money for Gleaner's Food Bank. This is a dream come true for me - to be involved with helping my community doing something that I love to do! I am so grateful for this opportunity. I am SO grateful that I kept putting myself out there. So, so, SO grateful.

Moral of the story: follow the signs that light you up inside. 

Open to the possibilities that await you. Thank the caution signs - they got you this far, but you don't need to rely on the stories they tell you anymore. Listen closely to your truest, most deeply held stories - the stories in your heart. You've already got your wings baby - it is time to fly!



 xoxo