I'm definitely not a winter person, I prefer the the warm sunshine and long days. Over time, with intention, I've grown to appreciate the cold and the dark. That's what having a gratitude practice has done for me, it allows me to notice, appreciate and find beauty in the things that I use to just complain about.
Now I focus my attention on, and marvel at, the beauty of the pure white freshly fallen shimmering snow, the icicles glistening in the sunlight, the crackle of the snow and ice beneath my boots, the crisp winter air, the berries still hanging on the trees against the backdrop of the white snow and the bright blue sky. I take it all in and am amazed by its stunning beauty, with the awareness that each day that passes brings with it more light.
Now I focus my attention on being able to cozy up with a warm cup of tea, wearing my warm fuzzy clothes, changing into my comfy pajamas at 5 in the evening because it's already dark out, sitting by the fireplace, eating comfort foods.
Now I focus on doing a lot of self-reflection, regenerating and renewing. Using the opportunity to look within to the story of my heart. The Sacred Romance by Brent Curtis and John Eldredge beautifully says it this way, "The inner life, the story of our heart, is the life of the deep places within us, our passions and dreams, our fears and our deepest wounds. It is the unseen life, the mystery within-what Frederick Buechner calls our 'shimmering self.'" I ask myself...How I am showing up in the world? How I can be of service? What are my intentions?
I invite you to focus your intention on seeing the shimmer of the outside and also on the inside, in your heart...seeing your shimmering self.
An excerpt taken from The Sacred Romance by Brent Curtis and John Eldredge
"For what shall we do when we wake one day to find we have lost touch with our heart and with it the very refuge where God's presence resides?"
Starting very early, life has taught all of us to ignore and distrust the deepest yearnings of our heart. Life, for the most part, teaches us to suppress our longing and live only in the external world where efficiency and performance are everything. We have learned from parents and peers, at school, at work, and even from our spiritual mentors that something else is wanted from us other than our heart, which is to say, that which is most deeply us. Very seldom are we ever invited to live out of our heart. If we are wanted, we are often wanted for what we can offer functionally. If rich, we are honored for our wealth; if beautiful, for our looks, if intelligent, for our brains. So we learn to offer only those parts of us that are approved, living out a carefully crafted performance to gain acceptance from those who represent life to us. We divorce ourselves from our heart and begin to live a double life. Frederick Buechner expresses this phenomenon in his biographical work, Telling Secrets:
"[Our ] original shimmering self gets buried so deep we hardly live out of it at all...rather, we learn to live out of all the other selves which we are constantly putting on and taking off like coats and hats against the world's weather."
On the outside, there is the external story of our lives. This is the life everyone sees, our life of work and play and church, of family and friends, paying bills, and growing older. Our external story is where we carve out the identity most others know. It is the place where we have learned to label each other in a way that implies we have reached our final destination. Here, busyness substitutes for meaning, efficiency substitutes for creativity, and functional relationships substitute for love. In the outer life we live from ought (I ought to do this) rather than from desire (I want to do this) and management substitutes for mystery. There are steps to a happy marriage, five ways to improve your portfolio, and seven habits for success.
The inner life, the story of our heart, is the life of the deep places within us, our passions and dreams, our fears and our deepest wounds. It is the unseen life, the mystery within-what Buechner calls our "shimmering self." It cannot be managed like a corporation. The heart does not respond to principles and programs; it seeks not efficiency, but passion. Art, poetry, beauty, mystery, ecstasy: These are what rouse the heart. Indeed, they are the language that must be spoken if one wishes to communicate with the heart. It is why Jesus so often taught and related to people by telling stories and asking questions. His desire was not just to engage their intellects but to capture their hearts.
Indeed, if we will listen, a Sacred Romance calls to us through our heart every moment of our lives. It whispers to us on the wind, invites us through the laughter of good friends, reaches out to us through the touch of someone we love. We've heard it in our favorite music, sensed it at the birth of our first child, been drawn to it while watching the shimmer of a sunset on the ocean. The Romance is even present in times of great personal suffering: the illness of a child, the loss of a marriage, the death of a friend. Something calls to us through experiences like these and rouses an inconsolable longing deep within our heart, wakening in us a yearning for intimacy, beauty, and adventure.
This longing is the most powerful part of any human personality. It fuels our search for meaning, for wholeness, for a sense of being truly alive. However we may describe this deep desire, it is the most important thing about us, our heart of hearts, the passion of our life. And the voice that calls to us in this place is none other than the voice of God.
We cannot hear this voice if we have lost touch with our heart.
The true story of every person in this world is not the story you see, the external story. The true story of each person is the journey of his or her heart. Jesus himself knew that if people lived only in the outer story, eventually they would lose track of their inner life, the life of their heart.