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ALWAYS DO YOUR BEST

My Mom has a theory she uses for pretty much everyone. “People are generally doing the best they can.” Now, there’s a lot of grey area in that statement because “best” is somewhat relative. But, boy, does it ever help me rationalize my behavior and others behavior, too.

The truth is that our best is constantly in flux. Like our mood or the way we feel, it’s always changing. If you’re having dinner with me and I’ve had a rockin’ day, odds are I’ll be totally present and lots of fun. But, if my day has been a real stinker and I feel bad and a little beat, odds are I won’t be very present or fun. But, whatever the case may be, I’ll bring my best. It just looks different from day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute.

Insert grace here. There’s no true predictor of what our mood or effort or demeanor will be like because we can’t predict the future. We just navigate the best we can and do the best we can. And, the people in our lives that matter will totally get it and give us the grace we need in the moment. In fact, we just might be the one giving them grace. As life abs and flows, so does our “best.”

Sometimes, I overcommit myself. Just kidding, one given is that I almost always overcommit myself. And, sometimes, I’m just not feeling it even though I gladly committed to it. I’m learning that I not only need to give and receive grace from others in moments when my “best” isn’t what my idea “best” is. I’m also learning to give myself the same grace if not more. All too often we hold ourselves to standards that are way too high. As a result, we feel defeated by it, never reaching the standard we’ve set.

But, not anymore. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not ever. I’m striving to be my best and do my best, but I’m also giving myself the grace I so desperately need when I don’t meet the expectations of others or myself. Just writing this gives me some sort of permission to just BE. What an enormous relief. Monday, bring it!

Friends, I hope his little epiphany will serve you, too. I know that like me, you’re out there hustling, doing the best you can. And, whatever your best looks like, you deserve praise for it. It takes courage to get out of bed each day and LIVE. But, if God is gracious enough to give us the chance to live another day of life, let’s feel worthy of it, present in it, enjoying life as it naturally ebbs and flows.

Stay Divine,
JL PARISH

NAVIGATING THE CURRENTS

In the last seven to ten days, I’ve received concerning news about a handful of people that I love dearly. I’d like to tell you that I’ve put it in God’s hands, but the giant knot in my left shoulder from stress is calling me out. Instead of handing it over, I’m holding onto it in my mind, in my shoulder and in my unrest. I’m sure you know exactly what I’m talking about. As much as we know that God is in control, we try our best to help him.

I think it’s a basic part of our nature. We want to control things. We want to know exactly what’s going on at all times and why. And, we want to determine the outcome. But, life just isn’t like that. As convenient as it would be for everything in life to be tempered the way we want it, it would deplete life’s mystery and all the lessons that go along with navigating that mystery.

Yesterday, while waiting at Whole Foods for a chair massage to work on that knot in my left shoulder, I looked through all the herbs and homeopathic remedies, flowers, juices, fruits and soaps. And, my final stopping point before climbing into that massage chair was a table full of books. If people were reading or buying them, you wouldn’t know it. They were all covered in a very thin layer of dust. But, I’m in Whole Foods, so, who knows, that dust might have been some sacred addition with healing powers brought in by a local farmer. I oblige, because, at this point, any healing of my mind, body and spirit are welcome. So, with a shake of the book, I opened it up to what I have to believe was the page I was meant to read. It said, “You need not be concerned about he future, only the now.”

It was simple and to the point. And, it almost felt as if it was a command. I felt my body straighten up and my mind expand. “We cannot swim against the tide of life,” I thought. “Instead, we have to swim with it knowing that it will take us exactly where we’re supposed to be.”

Each year my sweet husband lines up an Arkansas Expedition for our family and friends. There’s always a fun and exciting itinerary that boasts of outdoor activity and plenty of time to relax into the beauty and splendor of the Natural State. However, the trip is always built around a six mile float via canoe or kayak down the Buffalo River. There aren’t a lot of rapids in that river, but there are a lot of people floating during the time we’re there. So, when you do hit a small rapid and you’re close to another kayak or canoe, getting caught up in a river bank or turning over are strong possibilities. And, friends, my beloved Cheetos getting wet is NOT an option.

On the first two to four floats down the Buffalo River, I found myself at attention and ready to do whatever was necessary to keep our canoe afloat (and, my Cheetos dry). But, in truth, I didn’t know when the rapids would come or if there were going to be other canoes and kayaks coming through them at the same time. I was bracing for the worst the entire float. Nevermind the splendor of the bluffs, the fun of having friends float along with you and the fact that we were on vacation. No, I was focused on what was ahead. And, friends, I can tell you this for sure, I didn’t enjoy the ride.

Life is precious. Its currents are not in our control. But, the God who made those currents certainly is. And, if we can hand it over to him, then, surely we can stay in the moment, enjoying the ride of this mystery called “life.”

I don’t know about y’all, but I want to be less concerned about the rapids ahead and more present to see all the beauty and splendor that this very moment holds. Whatever is going on in life or is to come, is mostly out of our control. We must remember that God is in control, always. What a comforting truth that is. Write it in your heart and seize the moment. There’s probably something really precious in it that you’re missing. Why? Because you’re too far ahead of yourself to be in the moment, taking in this beautiful life.

Stay Divine,

JL PARISH

WONDERMENT

As many of you know, my Dad suffered a stroke more than three and a half years ago. At the time of his stroke, they said, “There’s nothing medically we can do for him right now. We’ll have to wait and see what God does.” After those words from the hospital’s top Neurologist, I remember walking into the bathroom and locking the door just so that I could be alone with my thoughts. I remember thinking, “There’s nothing medically they can do for him… We’ll have to wait and see what God does. Is this it? Is he done? Or, is God just beginning? Yes, God is at work here. Trust in him.”

I came out of the bathroom like an NFL athlete comes out of the huddle- ready, assured and completely focused. “God is on this,” I would say to myself over and over again and out loud to my family, too. And, it wasn’t because I thought saying those words had power, I knew The One hearing those words did.

After months and months of being in the hospital and two rehabs, my Dad is back home on the range enjoying life. Every single moment with him is literally a “gift from God.” And, the other gift from God was how He increased our faith as a family (and everyone involved from friends to medical professionals). You cannot watch miracle after miracle unfold and not know who orchestrated them.

Just weeks ago, I went back to my hometown to pay my respects to my childhood bestie’s beloved grandmother who passed. My Mom needed to do the same, so we worked out a plan where we could both go and Jimmy would be well cared for. While he’s home and enjoying life, he does require 24/7 care. So, I drove down to my parents home, and my Mom headed to town while I spent some time with my Dad.

During that time, we ate dinner and dessert (of course), strolled around the house, and soaked up a little evening sun on the back patio with a primo view of the cattle passing by. But, as my Dad watched the cattle, I watched him. Few words were spoken. We sat quietly under a forty plus year old fruitless mulberry tree. The sun was going down, the cows were moving slowly but surely across the pasture, the wind chime was making a beautiful noise and, though hot as can be, a soft breeze would blow through every few minutes, making the Texas heat somewhat bearable.

It was a precious moment, but here’s what made it that way mostly. My Dad looks at the world through a different lens after his stoke. It’s with curiosity and surprise. Everything is old and somewhat new. I found myself watching him watching things- the cattle, the sky, the tree, the chime, the bee buzzing by. And, it was with absolute wonderment- those bright blue eyes wide and a half smile on his face. He was and continues to revel in the life he was given a second chance on.

At times, we’re filled with wonderment, too. But, for most of us, it’s fleeting. Instead of taking the time to really see things and soak them up, we’re focused on the next task that has to be done. And, while taking care of those tasks is necessary for our survival, seeing things through the same lens as my Dad is necessary for living.

We’re given 86,400 seconds in a day. Which means there are potentially that many gifts every twenty-four hours, if not more. But, the choice is really ours… Do we see the need to change the coffee filter, or do we savor that cup of hot coffee? Do we feel pushed out of bed by the rising of the sun, or do we take a moment to soak it in? Or, do we take for granted this very breath we’re breathing? I think I’ll choose to breathe in deeply, ever so aware of the life that very breath gives.

Stay Divine,

JL PARISH

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