Our minds are like puppies.

Our minds are like puppies. If we don’t train them they will go everywhere. It is like the difference between the German words “fressen” and “essen”. One is like how an animal eats, the other is like how humans eat. Both are satisfying your needs, but one is civilized and under control.

What is helping me gain control of my mind is prayer. Just like how prayer helps me be mindful and focus before a meal, it is helping me before everything else.

God is the potter and I am the clay. Clay is only useful to the potter if it is flexible and pliable. Then it is fired – a hard process on the clay, to be sure. Then it becomes a vessel, able to hold what is necessary.

We all need water but it is the cup that holds it. The cup does not nourish or refresh but it carries what does. Likewise, we are merely vessels for the love of God. We are to carry it to others and share it.

Sure I slip in my routine. I forget how important discipline (being a disciple) is. Then I have to return to my routine, my order, to become civilized again. I repent (return). With some parts of my routine I slip daily, even hourly. I am not fully in alignment.

The mustard seed idea helps me. The fact that I desire to do it means that (a) God wants me to do it and (b) it is possible. So sometimes I jump a few steps ahead, saying if God wills it then I’m already there. Not that I believe it could possibly one day occur but that it is a reality that I just haven’t lived into yet.

You know how you plan to go on a trip, and you pack and prepare for it? You have a goal in mind and you work towards that goal. All your efforts are directed there – you buy your tickets, pack, and read up on the place you are going for ideas of things to do when you get there. You might save up money in the months before the trip. Everything you do is directed towards that goal. You aren’t there yet but you know you are going. Then one day you are there. It didn’t just happen. Any life goal is the same.

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Homemade

I just realized something. I didn’t even know I was missing these pieces, this peace. I had dinner at a friend’s house and got a little overwhelmed. She invited us over for a home-cooked meal and it nourished me in my soul as well as my body.

We’ve been meeting with these friends like this once a month or so for about a year or so. Sometimes it is planned and sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes we are lucky to get 24 hours notice that we are invited. I feel a bit awkward that it isn’t reciprocal, these invitations.

Our house is small and messy. Sometimes there isn’t enough room for even two in our house. I bought the house when I was single thinking I’d stay that way. One of the people helping me move ended up moving in. He was the one I’d been waiting for but I didn’t realize it.

While I love him, I don’t love his stuff and it gets in the way of my neatnik tendencies. In short, I’m embarrassed to have people over without a huge push to relocate a lot of stuff. I’m grateful our friends understand and we try to even things out by bringing over food if we can -cooked vegetables, salad fixings, dessert. It never seems like enough. It never seems that we are equal in our contributions. They almost always provide the main dish. They almost always provide more than we are able to. In part it is because of the very impromptu nature of these invitations.

A whim, a new recipe, a realization for a desire for company – whatever the reason, we sometimes don’t have time to prepare something special for four. That, coupled with the fact that these gatherings almost never happen at our house make the relationship a bit lopsided in terms of reciprocity. They clean their house for company, and we can’t.

I felt overwhelmed this evening eating homemade chicken marsala made from scratch. Everything we had was from scratch, like usual. I noticed I was being filled in an unexpected way. It was more than my stomach that was being satisfied – it was my soul as well.

My Mom didn’t cook from scratch unless company came over – and that happened about as often as holidays. It didn’t happen on holidays mind you. This is just to say it was rare to see anyone at the table other than my parents and my brother. Therefore it was rare to see homemade food at the table as well.

Our meals usually were from the freezer, not from scratch. Our basic needs were being met like that – basically. We got enough to get by. Even the environment the food was cooked in was less than ideal when I was growing up. Both my parents smoked two packs of cigarettes a day. That, coupled with the fact that our dog was paper trained – and the papers were in the kitchen – created a less than ideal environment for healthy food production. Secondhand smoke and dog poop aren’t the smells you want wafting in the air intermingling with your dinner entrée.

I realized tonight that I was having a piece of me restored and I didn’t even know I was missing. I’d grown up minus this part I needed without even realizing it.

I was missing the simple honesty of a meal cooked and offered with love. Rather than a meal cooked to fill a need, this meal was extra. It filled more than my daily requirement of the USDA suggested amounts of protein, carbohydrates, and vitamin C. There is no place in the nutritional requirements label for love.

Maybe that was the problem. All those meals from boxes were cooked following the instructions but there was no instruction for love. My Mom didn’t learn to put in that ingredient because it wasn’t in the box. And I didn’t know that I grown up deficient in that basic building block. It is like I had rickets or scurvy but it wasn’t vitamin D or C I was missing.

Homemade, made not just in a house but in a home makes the difference. And what makes a home a home? Intention, focus, individuality, being awake are starters. Sure, frozen pizza can be “homemade” with awareness and mindfulness. Add some shredded Parmesan cheese and some Italian herbs and yours is uniquely yours and not the same as every other box pizza. And even “homemade” can be blasé if made without feeling or focus. We have to put a little extra into our food and into everything if we want them to be real.

In Hebrew the word is kavanah, which is a bit like focus, a bit like intention. We need to pray with kavanah at a minimum but really we need to live with it. And that’s part of it. With kavanah, the meal becomes a vehicle for nourishment of the soul. With kavanah, the prayer becomes a vehicle for transforming not just the self but also the world.

Rocks and life.

Good habits are like the reverse of water wearing away at a stone.

If we are intentional and mindful about our lives we will create something really amazing. Good habits are like building a cathedral. Each stone, one at a time, is placed upon another. There is a plan to it and a lot of hard work. It isn’t built overnight, and it isn’t built by accident. It requires a lot of focus and discipline.

When we are intentional about our lives, every little bit counts and every little bit works towards a goal. We are building something amazing and strong.

If we are not intentional about our lives, those stones will end up being more like a field of rocks.

They will cause us to trip.

They will make the field unable to be used to produce a harvest.

Consider this – a stone, left untouched, is just a stone. But with vision and focus and hard work, over the course of several years, can result in an amazing sculpture like Michelangelo’s “David”. Perfection takes a plan, a lot of work, and time. It doesn’t happen on its own.

So how can we be intentional? What we read counts. What we do to take care of our bodies counts. Any classes count – whether a normal course of study or extracurricular.

It may seem like a little bit here and there. But over time, it amounts to a lot. Make it count.

Yoga in the morning.

I’m rethinking my idea of yoga. I think it is better to do it every day, rather than just once a week at a class. I also think it is better for me to do it first thing in my morning routine rather than at the end.

I hear it is best to do yoga before having breakfast. This would certainly take care of my need to get my morning started but not be in the way of my husband. Our day overlaps by about thirty minutes and if I go into the kitchen where he is it is a little chaotic. I’ve discovered that it is best for both of us if I don’t try to start my morning in the same place where he is trying to finish his.

As an alternative, I’ve been bringing my Kindle into the bedroom to write during that time, and while I may still do some of that, I think that doing yoga then would be good too.

I’d been leaving yoga for the end, just after my shower. Somehow I was running out of time and I was either rushing through the poses or just skipping them entirely. So that isn’t working. When I had been making time to do it I’d also been doing an example of “Praying in Color” and that was good too. In the past several months if I’d done either they were done as a sort of afterthought.

If I do them first, they are done. No excuses.

I like how I feel during the day if I’ve done a little yoga. Things seem to go better. I’ve actually found myself sort of checking in with myself. Did I write? Yes. Did I do yoga? Yes. It is like taking a multivitamin for my soul. If I’ve done it, I feel better.

Now, do I feel better because I’ve done yoga, or because I’ve done something I feel is good for me? I don’t know. This has long been something I’ve wondered about. Is it the activity that matters or the commitment and discipline that matters? Sometimes I think what helps me the most is intentionally living my life, rather than just drifting aimlessly through it.

This is part of why I write. Writing keeps me awake. Writing means I face things, rather than running away from them. Writing means I don’t hide behind the unknowing, behind the questions. When I write, I dig, and when I dig, I learn. I start to uncover, and recover, the truth, and with it, myself.

Writing is yoga too, like that. Yoga isn’t just poses. Yoga is a way of thinking. Yoga is sticking with it and working through it. Yoga is leaning in and being patient. Yoga is trying. Yoga is sometimes just showing up, bored and tired, but there anyway. Yoga is finding the center calm. Yoga is better lived off the mat. Yoga is being awake in the moment.

So why wouldn’t I do this every day? Why wouldn’t everybody?

“What you focus on expands”

I don’t have children. I read a lot of child-rearing books though. Whether someone is three or thirty, the same rules apply. Often you can learn about how to deal with adults by reading books about how to deal with children. Sometimes adults are simply children in bigger bodies. Getting older doesn’t always mean getting wiser.

I know a lady who insists that dog-training books are useful for learning how to deal with husbands. I know I’ve certainly learned a lot about customer service by watching “the Dog Whisperer.”

Either way, energy is energy. It is all about how you direct it and how you spend it. It has nothing to do with changing the other person. It has everything to do with changing yourself. If you present positive energy, you’ll get positive energy back. If you expect trouble, you’ll find it. So change yourself first.

The basic message that I’ve gotten from these sources is that any attention is better than no attention. So if you ignore your child (or dog, or coworker, or customer) when he is behaving correctly, and yell at him when he is misbehaving, he will keep misbehaving. Ignore the bad behavior, and praise the good.

Ignore what you don’t want. Don’t give it any energy.

People want energy, and they will take it any way they can. Even if it is negative, it is better than nothing.

Workplaces do their employees a huge disservice when they only communicate with their employees when they have made a mistake. It is far healthier to praise them for doing something right.

I have had several bosses who never got this. Their opinion was that you should know when you were doing right. You should know how to do your job, and take pride in it. They only talk to their employees when they messed up.

To them, they messed up a lot.

There is a lot to be said for praise. There is a lot to be said for letting people know that they are doing well. We all need to hear when we have done well.

Now, does this apply to everything? Can we take this and apply it to all things –not just people? Can we apply it to pain, and loss, and hurt? Can we apply it to physical as well as emotional pain?

Maybe. I’m working on it.

It seems like focusing on the good is always a good idea. Oprah says “What you focus on expands.” This seems very useful. You just have to be mindful of what you focus on – what you give attention to.

I’m reminded of the phrase “You’ll either find a way, or you’ll find an excuse.” It is your choice.