nesting day.

65e7822422d211e38faf22000a1f99f9_7

65e7822422d211e38faf22000a1f99f9_7

i’ve got nothing special planned today – which is always a good thing in my world. it’s really gray outside. drizzly and chilly. and the hard rain, with possible thunderstorms, is on it’s way. so, i’m gonna hunker down on my sofa and read some new magazines. of course i’ll sip on coffee. and perhaps do some writing. but, we’ll see about that. in a little bit, i’ll light my autumn candle and fill the apartment with the sweet smell of spices and cinnamon. there will also be blankets involved, and definitely some comfort food, like a grilled cheese sandwich or swedish pancakes. oh, and some netflix time too. can’t forget that.

life is moving at warp speed. my days are filled with activities, meeting people, driving around town, exploring new places, spending time with my brother, and writing. and i get to share this life with the woman that i love, my inspiration and my everything. i couldn’t ask for anything more. truly. i have never, ever felt so content and at peace.

so, today, i am going to slow down and simply bask in that peace. it is international peace day, you know, and this is how i am going to celebrate.

909ba18a22d211e3a38422000a1f96a9_7

you see, i believe that to be peacemakers, we have to live as peacemakers ourselves. that does not mean that we have to board a plane and go work for the peace corps, though we can do that – and that would be awesome. what i believe about living as a peacemaker is more simply than trying to be like a saint or a guru that has achieved enlightenment. it means to live a life of peace in our every day lives, to  get to know ourselves from deep within, to work on ourselves, and to try to be true to who we are deep within our core – and that includes following our dreams and having the courage to acknowledge who we are, what we want, and how we have been created to use our own unique gifts. we were not made to follow a crowd, but to simply be who we are – and each of us is magnificent, beautiful, and amazing. each of us is already a powerful peacemaker in the making.

inner peace, enlightenment, contentment, happiness, whatever you call it, is already within us. nurturing our inner life will only lead us to live lives filled with deep peace. if we turn inward, if we explore our inner light, our inner soul, our inner truth, and then have the courage to follow it, we will exude peace in our daily, outer lives. others will see it and feel it. and that, my friends, i how we teach peace.

we teach peace by being peace.

i must admit to y’all, there is nothing like some good ole raw, honest, genuine bluegrass/folk rock for a rainy day to bring me to a place of deep peace. right now the darkness is closing in, the rain is  pouring down, and i have this video on repeat. these guys always touch my soul with their music & their lyrics. i cannot describe it, but i feel whole. grounded. well, simply peaceful. so, curl up somewhere for a few minutes and take a listen:

“we came to leave behind the world a better way” ~ the avett brothers

today, i am not going to march in any peace parade. or go to any protest. or take part in any community peace anything. i could, this is asheville, you know. hehe. instead, i’m staying home. i am going to let all the peace that is within me settle and soak deep into me today. i am going to nest. and i am going to nurture this peace that i feel, and listen to that still, small, quiet voice that whispers to me to simply be.

for me, today, peace begins at home.

“His ambition was not to become wealthy or to be well known, an image which society for some reason dictates each individual should prescribe to, instead his only ambition was to be at peace with himself, if he could achieve that than anything else he might need would follow. From now on he would question all things in life, but especially the rules and regulations of all authority institutions; he would take nothing on face value and only would accept what he personally knew to undeniably be true.” ― Andrew James PritchardCharnel House

sending you wishes for a calm, restful, peaceful weekend.

tragedy & beauty.

i could be angry. but i choose to channel that anger into passion. i could live in fear. but i choose to face my fears. i could feel overwhelmed and give up. but i choose to keep on going. i could just turn my head and live in my happy, little bubble. but i choose to be aware. i could focus on the evil, the violence, the pain. but i choose to focus on healing, reconciliation, and peace. i could pretend it didn’t happen. but i choose to acknowledge the pain and heal from it. i could stuff all my emotions down inside me. but i choose to find a way to talk about it. i could forget that it ever happened. but i choose to remember. i could hold a grudge and seek someone or some system to blame. but i choose to be a part of the solution, to educate, to move forward.

i could think that it won’t happen to me. but one never knows…

today marks the one year anniversary of the shootings at the youth camp and bombing in olso, norway where 77 people lost their lives. i remember the day last year, hearing the news of this act of terror, listening to the details unfold hour by hour. and then, the days that followed… hearing the stories of the victims, their stories of survival or the stories of their short lives as told by family members and friends.

it crazy to grow up in a time where i mark my life by acts of terror/tragedy (these are the ones that just popped into my head as i was writing).

  • 1986 the challenger space shuttle exploded
  • 1991 racial riots in my high school
  • 1995 oklahoma city bombing
  • 1999 columbine shootings
  • 2001 september 11 terrorist attacks in NYC
  • 2003 war in Iraq
  • 2011 norway massacre
  • 2012 aurora, colorado theater shootings

but, i guess i’m not the only one who can mark their life by tragedies, remembering where i was when this or that happened… my parents have this list, and then countless others to add: viet nam, civil rights protests/violence in the south, assassinations: martin luther king, jr. & president kennedy, the cold war, etc. and then, my grandparents: WWII, WWI, the great depression,etc.

of course, all i am mentioning here is from my tiny american perspective. i am greatly aware of (without knowing all the details & history, i admit) the fact that all of the countries/continents across the world have their own history, in addition to the history that we share. however, i can only speak from my experience, while acknowledging that everyone has their own experiences with tragedy and violence as well. many have much, much more first-hand experience of tragedy and violence than i.

i am painfully aware of the fact that there are horrible acts of terror and violence occurring daily in other parts of the world, of which i do not know the details. still, on a daily basis, details or not, i consciously try to think of all the people i will never meet who are suffering, who are frightened, who face bombs, guns, and abuse on a regular basis. i may not know them personally, but i know that they are my neighbors here in sweden, my neighbors in africa, my neighbors in the states, my neighbors in asia. they are my neighbors all around the world… and so many face the loss their lives or someone they love. yes, violence is everywhere. it touches everyone.

but, hang with me, friends.

the point of this blog post is first, for me to process my thoughts; and second, to remind myself & all of us what is most important. however in order to focus on what is most important, we have to be honest with ourselves. we have to open our eyes, we have to hear the cries, we have to see the pain and suffering, we have to listen to each other. we have to acknowledge what is happening in order to move forward. we have to open our minds and think. i agree, it’s not fun. it’s depressing. and it’s scary. but, i believe that we are in this together. we are not alone, and if we look honestly together at the state of our lives & our world, it  is perhaps not quite as overwhelming.

the thing is… we need each other.

i don’t have answers to solve the problems of war & violence. i don’t know how to stop acts of terror. but, i do know that how i live my life makes a difference. just think, though, if we all thought about how we lived our lives, faced our fears, worked together, sought, as a community, to heal each others’ pain, shared each others’ burdens, listened to each other, and lived life from a place of love instead of fear and exclusion, we could begin to make a big difference together. still, i am only responsible for myself, i know. but maybe part of my responsibility in my life is to talk with others, listen to others, be someone with whom others can process their thoughts and reflect on their own lives.

it’s the whole pebble in a lake theory. what one person does makes a little impact, but it spread out further and further.what if we were all making little impacts?

however, all the tragedies and violence in this world teach us something else too. it’s not just a reminder to try to make a better world, but to look at how beautiful & wonderful the world is already. yes. i said it. even in the midst of all the pain & suffering, there is beauty and joy. perhaps the most important thing that tragedies teach us is to live life! 

to soak up every moment. to greet each day and welcome all the possibilities it holds, to focus on moving forward, to reframe everything in the positive instead of the negative, to see problems as opportunities, to hear the music, to dance, to laugh until your stomach hurts, to enjoy good company & surround yourself with people who make you a better person, to close your eyes and breathe deeply, to face the sunshine, to believe in hope, to spread smiles and give hugs, to take risks and be adventurous, to dream big, to travel the world, to create art, to follow your bliss…

yes, i believe we must remember the victims, we must be aware of what’s happening in the world and in our own lives. we must be honest and face the dark times, because they are real. they are part of life. but, life is so beautiful as well. why not enjoy the beautiful moments when we have them? why not share that beauty with everyone we meet? why not work together to bring more & more beauty into the world?

thursday night, there was another act of violence & terror that occurred in aurora, colorado as people watched the midnight premiere of the newest batman movie. 12 people lost their lives and 59 people were wounded, many critically. *heavy sigh* yes, again. more violence. more death. more pain.

but, more opportunities to begin to talk again about how we can create a better world, without access to guns and bombs. and another opportunity for those of us left, to remember what is most important. to remember that the darkness exists, but the beauty of the world is brighter. as i always say, love wins.

i want to leave you with the words of one of the victims (jessica redfield) in the colorado shooting. no doubt many of you have heard of her on the news already… she survived a random shooting one month ago in canada, only to be killed in the shooting thursday night. chilling. but, her words are beautiful.

I was shown how fragile life was on Saturday. I saw the terror on bystanders’ faces. I saw the victims of a senseless crime. I saw lives change. I was reminded that we don’t know when or where our time on Earth will end. When or where we will breathe our last breath. For one man, it was in the middle of a busy food court on a Saturday evening.

I say all the time that every moment we have to live our life is a blessing. So often I have found myself taking it for granted. Every hug from a family member. Every laugh we share with friends. Even the times of solitude are all blessings. Every second of every day is a gift. After Saturday evening, I know I truly understand how blessed I am for each second I am given.

don’t we owe it to each other, to ourselves, to all victims of violence, to all who are suffering (even ourselves), to jessica… to make beautiful music with our lives, to live every second of every day as a gift?

breathe it all in, friends. love & hope. it’s all around you, even today.

peace. 

i’m busy. hoping to get rich.

my entire bedroom has an orange-pink glow to it as the sun sets. it’s warm & calming. i’m under the covers, computer’s on my lap, and the cat is trying to figure out where she is gonna settle down – or if she’s gonna settle down. i tackled and accomplished most of my to-do list today, and i’m feeling pretty good about that; but i have another one waiting for me tomorrow. filled with new & exciting things…

yes! i’ve got a few meetings filling up my morning. one of which is to plan a theme and activities/classes/moments of reflection & discussion for the camp that i am working next week. it’ll be good to get some things decided, then i can really focus on specific details = what i’m gonna talk about with the youth/how i am gonna plan some mentoring/opportunities for spiritual moments during the camp.

then, my 3rd meeting of the day is with a woman from somewhere in the middle east (i can’t remember where). she moved here during the past year with her husband and has been studying swedish. i met her in the fall and she was working really hard, but could not talk in swedish. i saw her last week and wow, what a difference! she has really picked up a lot of swedish. impressive. but, the really impressive thing is that during the summer, while she has a break from swedish classes, she is studying english. but, she’s really unsure of her english and wants to be better, understanding that it is important for her to know english since it’s spoken all around the world. well, we were chatting with each other and i offered to meet her once a week to just talk in english with her and help her with her english assignments, if she wants. so, tomorrow, we have our first little tutoring session at the cafe in the church where i work. i’m really excited! i can easily help people with english, and i’ve offered it to other teenagers or adults before, but this is the first time it’s actually happening. why not help with what i can?! can’t wait to meet her tomorrow!

on a related note, this morning i got my little email from the universe & it said this:

It’s not how much one gets paid, Liz, but how much they give, that makes them rich. Bling, bling ~ The Universe

wow. how true that is. and how rich i feel when i am able to know & use who i am to try to make a difference somewhere. when i know who i am, follow the beat of my heart, and listen to my soul, then opportunities just come. and ironically, the more that i am true to myself, the more life becomes about how i can be used. you’d think that it’s selfish to listen to your soul, to follow your own dreams. but, instead, it is freeing. whenever i find that i focus inward, seeking peace for myself, i find that i am thrust out into the world even more – and perhaps can be used to create peace. the reason for that is, i believe, because of our connection as humans. the more i am in touch with my true self, my inner self, the divine spark within… the more i am in touch with others. the spark is the same in us all. in other words, love and peace is what we all seek. and i do not have true love and peace unless my neighbor does too.

two weeks ago i had a weekend camp retreat for my youth. one of the things that i didn’t mention in my previous posts was a connection i made with two older teenagers from the middle east. the two teenagers live in a group home because they are refugees from their home countries. they’re here in sweden on their own. refugee children. without their families.

well, a man who works with them contacted the church where i work to ask if there was any work that we could do together… if there was anything that we had to offer these teens. the other minister i work with suggested this camp. so, after a meeting and some email contact, 2 of the teens who live at this home came to the camp. they were amazing and fantastic, and i was so impressed. they were in a completely new setting, surrounded by swedish youth & adults (and me!) they had never met before, experiencing things they had never experienced before. and yet, they were kind, friendly, outgoing, and simply wonderful to have during the weekend. i felt so blessed and thankful that everything worked out – at least that’s what i thought.

then i got an email from the man who works at the group home. he attached a letter that one of the teens had written (in really good swedish!) about the weekend. as i read this 17 year old’s words, tears streamed down my face. he wrote that he felt welcomed, appreciated, needed, and he had a great time. he commented on what we did, how he felt, and that he sees these youth now as his sisters & brothers.

folks, this is how world peace is created. by simply being together. these 2 teens are muslim & from the middle east. we were all westerners, coming from a christian perspective. but none of that mattered at all because we all accepted each other as we were. that was how determined we would be. and all the teens followed right along. brothers & sisters. all accepted. all respected. i am overwhelmed and humbled that we had a chance to meet these incredible, strong teenagers. you’d better believe we are already planning how we can continue to work together & support each other, because they have plenty to offer us. it’s not just about us giving them help. i can’t even begin to explain the love & joy they gave us.

these are the moments in life when i remember why i am here. and by here, i mean alive. on this earth. i remember that my quest for peace is real and important. and that hope does exist. just get 16 amazing teenagers together from different places in the world and watch them love each other. there is a ton of hope for this world. and i am so very amazed that my work (whether it’s writing or the work i am paid for) allows me to focus on finding ways to work with others in order to help this world be the place it was always meant to be.

with all my heart and soul, i wish you a day, a week, a year, a lifetime full of moments of peace and love.