Friday, July 31, 2009

Refiner's Fire

re⋅fine–verb (used with object)
1. to bring to a fine or a pure state; free from impurities: to refine metal, sugar, or petroleum.
2. to purify from what is coarse, vulgar, or debasing; make elegant or cultured.
3. to bring to a finer state or form by purifying.

According to these are some of the definitions of refine.

There are many things that that we use every day that are refined. If you drive a car, you use refined oil products. Unless you have fasted, you probably eat refined sugar that is in some food almost everyday. If you are wearing any piece of got has been refined.

I'm not sure of how the oil and sugar are refined, but I do know that gold is refined by fire. Gold is heated up by fire to the melting point. As the gold heats up, the impurities rise to the surface. They are separated from the gold. The more it is heated, the more impurities are pulled out and drained off. What is left behind is cleaned, refined and pure gold. *

Life feels like the refiner's fire sometimes...OK most of the time. Anything that causes us to stretch or grow is like a flicker of the flames. These everyday things bring stuff to the surface and separate it from our old selves and leaves behind something just a bit purer and refined. Learning something new, making a new friend, or stepping out of comfort zones are like the flickers. They are good and part of the process. We generally are ok with this kind of heat in life.

But, there is also the white hot core of the fire and the raging flames of life that truly melt us. These flames break us down, burn us up, and liquefy our souls. They humble, scare, and cause us to question who we are and what our purpose is. They pull out the impurities that keep us from being who we are capable of being, responsible to be, and know we should be. We don't like this kind of heat.

This heat comes in many forms. It may the loss of someone or something. It may be struggles with a spouse or significant other. Perhaps, amid the joy children bring, it is the struggles of raising them and watching them feel the fire of life. It could be it's finances. Maybe it's an internal struggle within one's self. Whatever the source is, this fire is hot and it hurts.

Unfortunately, we have no choice but to walk through the refining fire. It is part of life. It makes us who we are.

As a woman of faith, I know that I will not have completed my walk through the Refiner's Fire in this life. But I also know that the heat I face in life will not leave me in ashes, but will serve to refine me and each day bring me a bit closer to the day that I am pure as gold.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Parallel Tales, Perpendicular Perspectives

"You're not in Kansas anymore....."

I have heard that phrase a thousand times. It is a play on a great line from the wonderful story, "The Wizard of Oz." You've probably seen the is on TV every November at the start of the holiday season.

I thought about the movie when I recently had the pleasure of seeing the play, "Wicked." It was a wonderful story about how the witches in the Emerald City got their titles of Good and Wicked. It paralleled the tale we know so well by showing the lives of those that lived in within the green gates. From the winged primates, the merry citizens we see on that road of gold, the non-human characters in search of miracles from a magical man, and of course the witches, the story is told from a perspective completely different. A perspective that is perpendicular to the tale that most of us grew up knowing. It is a humorous, touching and even a bit scandalous story.

As I watched it, I was struck by how I viewed the characters in a different light than I did when I only knew the original story. Those winged primates really scared me until I found out why they had wings. The magical man seemed like the answer to all problems and strife before I knew his past. The witches...well, we all know the good witch is good and the wicked one is not...or do we?

I looked at the characters through one set of ideals. They were the ideals that were put in front of me and I gladly accepted. Because of the delivery and slant of the story, my opinions and attitudes were shaped to fit the agenda of the author of the story. Once I saw a different viewpoint, my opinions and attitudes were not the same.

For all of you who may be thinking that I am taking this a bit too seriously, let me assure you that I do know these are fictional characters! What I do take seriously though, is how this scenario plays out in the real world.

I know I am guilty of seeing much of the world from one perspective. It has been shaped by the things "my" culture presents. I often fail to see a perspective different from my own. I often am charmed into adopting attitudes because of the charisma and skill of the teller of the story. I often neglect to consider that there is another side of the story. My world will not tell me there are other views unless I take the initiative to seek them out myself. It is up to me to be educated and informed and not blindly accept what the world around me presents.

Knowing another view does not mean that view has to be accepted as right. The additional knowledge may even cement the original views as truth. However, maybe some wickedness lies in denying the fact that there is another view to be considered.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The art of simply being....

As I write this I am sitting at a Starbucks.

Surrounding me is the noise of the Barista's various machines, the hum of the air conditioner, the rumble of the patrons placing their orders, and the faint trickle of the never empty coffee p0ots being brewed.

When I think about it, I can hear all of these things. When my attention is caught and held by any one of these, it becomes a distraction. If I am not thinking about it, it is all white noise to me. All the noises around me fade into the background to create a jumbled and diluted wall of sound.

Funny thing though...the white noise helps me concentrate. It would seem that the constant noise would be a hindrance. But, for some reason I write better, quicker and with more focus than if there were silence.

It doesn't matter whether I am trying to focus on another task or focus on nothing at all, when I am left alone in silence with my thoughts, the noise they make is overwhelming. It's kind of like the neighbor's car alarm that blares all night long, or the car with the way over the top bass that pulls up next to you. The thoughts running through my head turn the silence into a deafening concert of mismatched and out of tune instruments.

I am not sure of the reason I have so much trouble turning down the volume of my thoughts. The events of the day, the current issues going on in life and the pervasive mental to do list seem to be resistant to the mute button. For as much as I try, the more persistent the noise becomes.

I'd like to think that I had the ability to control this. If I knew how to turn all the internal interference into white noise, I'd do it in a second! I bet I'd be a lot more productive!

To be able to just be alone with myself and not accompanied by the throngs that crowd my head would be a welcome respite from the ever running and very tiring process of managing all my thoughts. I wish I was ok with silence. The truth is, for some reason I am not. I guess I have not mastered the art of just simply being....

Monday, July 13, 2009

Waves or currents...

Have you ever stood and looked at the ocean?

It is so vast and so powerful. On the surface the waves crash about, with force, swiftness, and sometimes destruction. They have the power to slam bodies to the ground, erode the shorelines, and break apart the boats that call it's surface their home. The waves come and go. When the storms are gone, the water is calm and most of the waves disappear. Some ripple on the shoreline, but most, batter the surface leaving a debris to be cleaned up and then fade away till the next time.

But, there are also currents that run through the monstrous body of water. They are not as visible. Sometime you can see where the water is moving.But many currents are deep and unseen. Like the waves, they are powerful a different way. Whether the weather is stormy or calm, the currents are always present. They are continually mixing the oceans, creating a pathway for life and growth, and provide a steady stream of movement.

People are like waves and currents.

We all know waves. They are the people that create controversy (good or bad), yell the loudest, and sometimes do some collateral damage with their words and actions. They loudly voice opinion, spotlight an issue, or simply create some chaos for the sake of recognition...and then as quickly as they appear, they fade into the shadows leaving a trail of debris for others to manage and clear away.

Then there are the currents. They are the people that keep ideas and movements going. They are the lifeblood, the flow and the backbone of change, virtue and social consciousness. These "currents" continue long after the waves have died down and faded away. Some are visible, but most run just under the surface and out of plain sight. They clean up after the waves. They strengthen and rebuild what the waves have deconstructed. They are satisfied and proud of not needing to be in the spotlight.

Now, of course the world needs both waves and currents. Waves can bring attention to things that need to be more visible. But if we were all waves, at the end of the storm, all we would have left would be an ocean full of broken and sunken boats with no one to rebuild them. It is from the currents that growth and change continues.

Which are you? A wave....or a current?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Hat Tricks! Wearing Your Nature Hat

Wearing your nature isn't always easy when you live in an urban or suburban area. Visiting your local botanical garden is a great way to wear your Nature Hat and escape the busyness of the city!

Don't forget to check the Hat Tricks Vlog archives for other great tips and tricks to help you juggle all of your hats!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Hat Tricks! Creating Family Memories and History

An annual family photo is a great way to capture family memories and record family history.

Don't forget to check out the Hat Tricks archives for other tips and tricks to help you balance all of your hats!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Ghost of Betsy Ross

Have you seen her?

She visits our family every year.....

If you are a lover of American History, you probably know that Besty Ross was born on New Years Day in 1752 in Philadelphia, PA. She is most well known for creating the banner that Americans pay respect and honor to (hopefully), our great Stars and Stripes, the great American Flag. If you are not a history buff, well, hopefully you can add this little piece of American history to your knowledge bank.

For me and my family, Betsy Ross has played an integral part of our celebration of Independence Day, the 4th of July. This particular holiday is the one time of year that my sisters and I, our families, and our parents are all together...all 14 of us. We spend it crammed into my parent's 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom mountain cabin. It is a cozy 7 days, but full of lots of celebration.

The Ghost of Betsy Ross as been a huge part of our festivities for the last 15 years when she first left a patriotic themed gift for each of the children after they each helped place an American flag in the yard of the cabin.(One of the kids speculated it was her she has returned every year since.) Each year the kids have looked forward to decorating the yard as patriotically as they can, and seeing if Betsy Ross will return again. Sure enough, from the morning after the flags go up to the morning of the 4th, she has left them mementos that help them display their love of country and respect of the flag.

I understand that this is not the most traditional way to celebrate, and may even draw some criticism from some for associating gifts with patriotism. But the way I see it is this:

America is a great country. It is far from perfect and like every other country on this planet can always improve. But, it also is a country that through the voice and hard work of the people and the guidance of great leaders, continually strives and is dedicated to overcoming injustice and ensuring equality of all people. In essence as Americans, we are given the gifts of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as a benefit of our patriotism - I say gifts because of the many women and men that gave their lives to ensure us these things. And what may be even more amazing, is that for those that live in this great country that are against what America is built upon...they are granted grace, and receive the same gifts.

I think that The Ghost of Betsy Ross has taught the children of the family a great appreciation for this Great Country. Untraditional as it may be, this way of celebrating has shown them the gift that they have by simply being able to call America home.