How was Bulgaria?

How was Bulgaria?

This has become the #1 question of the day anywhere I go…and the answer is rich and complicated.Bulgaria was beautiful, it was painful, it was exhilarating, it was vulnerable, it was fun, it was sad, it was heartwarming, it was heart-wrenching, it was full of laughter, it was uneasy, it was delicious, it was contemplative, it was challenging, it was funny, it was energizing.  So, how does one even begin to answer? 

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Winners Announced!

Thank you to all who entered the Red, Yellow or Green Converse™ Amazon book review giveaway.  We are thrilled to announce the two winners!  Stop Breathe Believe book review:  Carrie and I’m Fine, a real feelings journal review: Jackie.  Carrie and Jackie have been notified via email to get color/size selection and the shoes will soon be on their way to them!  

Thanks to each of you for taking time to write a review.  Your words in the reviews meant more to me than you will ever know!  What an encouragement you are to me!  

If you didn’t get your review in for the shoe giveaway – no worries, your reviews are always welcome – needed AND wanted!  You all are the best readers/supporters – I am so very grateful for each of you!


Reflections of Phoenix World Burn Congress 2016

Words that come to mind:  listening, compassion, radiant, sacred space, sanctuary, hugs, sharing stories, vulnerability, courage, resilient, learning, openness, risk, safety, gratitude, celebration, wholehearted, spiritual, growth, Namaste, love, warmth, heartfelt joy, tears, beauty, depth, struggle, opening, opportunity, embracing heartache, circles of connection, engaged, fear, grace, spurring others on, community, kids, friendship, remembrance, transformative, seeds for growth, hard to go home, survivors, joy, thrivers, sincerity, helping one another, connection, inspirational, hope

To be honest, it is mind boggling to even know where to start in sharing the experience of participating in the Phoenix Society World Burn Congress for the first time. Distilling just a few highlights from our time there has been one of my most difficult writing assignments!

 Phoenix World Burn Congress (Phoenix WBC) is a group committed to building a community to create a healing environment for those who have experienced a burn injury. The community is composed of burn survivors, families, nurses, firefighters, therapists, caregivers, doctors, children, youth and young adults. Add to them the wonderful folks who helped make Congress 2016 happen, including the large team of dedicated volunteers, the skilled AV (audio visual) Seals, the professional huggers, the image enhancement team, the leaders of breakout sessions and support groups, and the wellness team who provided massages and led yoga for participants. They were all astoundingly beautiful.

If you’ve read Stop Breathe Believe, you may recall I shared about the time I was first introduced to Phoenix WBC. I was in Cincinnati, Ohio in 2011 helping our daughter and her boyfriend as they were filming Temple Grandin for their documentary about autism and sensory disorders, Spectrum. We were in the same general area as the WBC convention, and I kept noticing these beautiful people who did not seem ashamed of their scars, some of which were quite significant. And as the weekend went on, I kept noticing the joy these people exuded. It was a remarkable time for me as I was in the process of writing about the concept of perspective—and saw how this group of people exemplified joy through obvious heartache and struggle.

I wrote about this experience in SBB. As I wanted to be sensitive to wording and how I portrayed the people who’d made such an impression on me, I asked Amy Acton, the Executive Director of Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors, if she could get someone to proof what I was writing. Amy apparently liked what she read and asked me to write an article for the Phoenix Burn Society magazine.

Then, as crazy things sometimes happen, two different members of their speaker team contacted me—neither knowing the other was calling. One team member had read the article and the other had heard me present a keynote in Texas. So, I got vetted twice for this engagement! I was so thrilled and grateful to be invited to be one of three keynote speakers for the event.

And I was also challenged. Did I have something to offer? I could, of course, talk about Stop Breathe Believe® and cultivating self- compassion...but I wasn’t a burn survivor. Would they relate to me?

What I’ve learned throughout the years is to be honest and open about my areas of expertise. When my colleague and I work with homeless vets, one of the first things we share is that we are not vets, and we’ve never experienced homelessness…so we’ll need them to teach us about what that’s like, and only then will we teach them what we know. So, in keeping with the idea of “practicing what you preach,” my green statement leading up to the conference was, “They did not ask you to come be a burn survivor, they invited you to share about Stop Breathe Believe and cultivating self-compassion.” I have no idea how many times I repeated that mantra to myself in the months and weeks leading up to the conference. I am also so grateful to Nancy Johnson, PhD, the Patient & Family Support Coordinator at the Burn Treatment Center of the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics, for inviting me to burn camp over the summer and spending hours with me helping me understand the trauma and experiences of the burn community. Here is a pic of Nancy with the Iowa group at the convention:

Roger, my husband and #1 encourager, was excited to be joining me for the conference in Providence, Rhode Island. You may recall that West Warwick, RI was the location of the disastrous Station nightclub fire in 2003. The toxic smoke, heat and the stampede of people toward the exits killed 100; 230 were injured and another 132 escaped uninjured. I recall watching the horrific scene on the news.

As we arrived at the hotel, we were greeted by firemen, volunteers and an amazing gentleman named Bruce who welcomed us all. All throughout the conference, I continued to notice Bruce reaching out to others, being kind, and extending grace and hospitality to so many! 

The first evening was the Walk of Remembrance, recognizing those who have lost their lives in fires.

The dignity and care with which the walk was carried out was a beautiful honor for those who did not survive. Many held pictures of lost loved ones as they walked up the hill toward the capital, where two firetrucks displayed the American flag. The Walk of Remembrance was a solemn, but significant way to begin the conference.

The first day of the conference, I met Michelle, a new friend at yoga. Here is a pic of us in our “non-yoga” attire.

Each day of the conference there was a keynote speaker, break-out sessions, support groups, programs designed specifically for the children and youth (age 7-17) and a program for the young adults (age 18-25). One of the most significant events for the adults each day was a session titled “Healing Though Our Stories – Open Mic.” As one who is a total believer of the healing that comes through sharing our stories, I was inspired to listen and get to know the survivors and their stories. The organization is very thoughtful in providing a safe place for people to come and share their stories with one another by emphasizing the roles of confidentiality and privacy. At times, open mic is the first time someone has had the courage to share their burn story. Tears, triumph, fear, courage, listening, loving, Kleenex and learning from one another are facets of the transformative journey and healing concepts of ‘You Are Not Alone’ and ‘Your Story Matters’ that are exemplified in Open Mic.

Roger and I most loved the precious moments of connection with so many. For some, it was brief moments of exchanges and hugs in the elevator. For others, it was significant discussions and understanding of their stories of pain, healing and hope. In yoga at closing, we often say Namaste, meaning the Divine in me honors the Divine in you. The teacher in me honors the teacher in you. The student in me honors the student in you. Roger and I truly learned from each person we got to know in the burn community.

One of the highlights for me was a deaf interpreter who taught me Stop Breathe Believe in sign language. You can view a quick video of Cheniene and me doing Stop Breathe Believe in sign language. I especially love how at the end of Believe, how you clasp your hands tightly together. What a beautiful picture of how we “hold” those things that are meaningful to us, such as our values and beliefs. What a beautiful picture of how to hold on to our green statements, our believe statements, or “believements.”

In addition to giving the keynote on Friday, I also had the opportunity to share with the youth (age 7-17). Oh my, what an age span for a breakout session! The challenge of being able to engage that group felt more overwhelming than the keynote presentation! I LOVE and ADORE kids of all ages and so wanted the time together to be beneficial. Thankfully, the program provided many trained volunteers and I could rely on their expertise in the discussions around the topics of Stop Breathe Believe and Overwhelmed Pie (which we changed to Overwhelmed Pizza for this audience). Each individual painted their own watercolor stoplights, played Beach Balls with their tables to Justin Timberlake’s song, “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” learned about Daniel Siegel’s hand model of the brain,

and had a 3-minute meditation of focusing on their breath while piano music played. The group was active and engaged. As a huge believer in getting feedback after presenting, I took it upon myself to ask a few of the youth what they learned, and was relieved and excited for them to share that they HAD learned and experienced something valuable. What a delight to share with the youth! 

I also led a breakout session with adults (ah, back to my comfort zone) in regards to What’s On Your Clothesline, Swirling Funnels and Perspective Glasses—all metaphors from various chapters of Stop Breathe Believe—as an opportunity to go deeper in the concept of re-wiring our thoughts, being aware of our feelings, and how we relate to our experiences with compassion.

The conference also included a talent show and a closing banquet—and then, much to Roger’s liking, a dance. What a joy to see survivors wear sleeveless attire and be open to being real and authentic about their scars, their stories, their courage. Roger and I were both challenged in our thinking so many times during the weekend. The resiliency, the wholeheartedness, the courage, and the perseverance of the survivors was remarkable. What an incredible experience to see the love of others shared so freely with one another. In the entry hall of our home is a framed chalkboard with the words, Love is a Verb.

At the Phoenix World Burn Congress, ‘Love is a Verb.’

The Phoenix World Burn Congress was founded by Alan Breslau, who was extensively burned in the crash of a commercial airliner in 1963. Following a visit to a young boy in a burn center, Alan realized the importance of peer support for those with burn injuries, and was inspired to establish one of the first burn support organizations in the United States. After many years of working with burn survivors, Alan officially incorporated the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors in 1977. Here is a pic of us with Alan and his lovely wife, Delwyn.

If you know of a firefighter, burn survivor, someone who works in a burn unit, or a caregiver, please consider sponsoring them to participate in the Phoenix World Burn Congress next year. You can contact for more information. What can you do? Donate airline miles? Give a monetary donation? Sponsor someone from your community? Share this blog post so that others can hear about World Burn Congress?  Go for it—you’ve got what it takes to make a difference! 

And guess what? Next year the Phoenix World Burn Congress will be in Dallas, TX (Oct 4-7, 2017). I am sure that Dallas and all of Texas will roll out the barbeque eating, boot scootin’, Texas warm and friendly embrace and welcome to the burn survivor community. Roger and I will be there! 

In working on a short slideshow of my photos from the week, I serendipitously discovered the song, "For Good," from the musical Wicked.  The lyric that spoke to me was, "It well may be - That we will never meet again - In this lifetime - So let me say before we part - So much of me - Is made of what I learned from you - You'll be with me - Like a handprint on my heart."

I loved those words, and the "handprint on my heart" epitomized the experience.  Each of the survivors exemplify such courage, such vulnerability, such strength, such beauty, such authenticity, such resilience - all things that I so respect and admire in others.

Please enjoy watching the slideshow of meaningful moments from the 2016 World Burn Congress.

You Are Not Alone

"You are not alone" is one of the mantras that I often encourage others to embrace as a "green" statement or "believe" statement.  The value of sharing our own meaningful stories with one another is one of the most powerful ways of connecting and embracing courage to persevere during struggle.

The Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors is a community of burn survivors, their loved ones, health professionals, and firefighters that promotes sharing stories of healing and common experiences with one another.  I am both honored and humbled to be speaking at this year's Phoenix World Burn Congress, being held in Providence, Rhode Island.  Roger and I are grateful to be joining the participants in the workshops for several days and would love for you to join us on the journey as share via social media, facebook, instagram, and twitter.  I would love for you to follow along as I share about our experiences in Rhode Island!

Would you please take a few minutes to help me?

Happy fall!

As I traveled to a recent speaking engagement, I had a wild and crazy idea.  That wild and crazy idea led me to order three pairs of shoes in Stop Breathe Believe ® signature stoplight colors of red, yellow, and green!  I want to give away two pairs of shoes in the winners' size and color choice (red, yellow, or green)!  You can win!

Here's the deal, I really need to increase the number of Amazon reviews for my two books, Stop Breathe Believe® and I'm Fine, a real feelings journal.  One of my "Green Statements/Believe Statements" is "Asking for help is a strength."  So although it feels vulnerable to ask for your help, the reality is I need your help to make this happen!

Go to Amazon and leave your review of one or both of my books.  By November 15th, email me at, include the link to your review of Stop Breathe Believe® and/or I'm Fine, a real feelings journaland you will be entered to win a pair of these fun Converse® shoes in your choice of red, yellow, or green.  The first 50 emails for each book will be entered, so review both books and you have two chances to win!

If you have already reviewed either of my books, you can still enter.  Email me the link to your review!

To recap:

  1. Post an Amazon review of Stop Breathe Believe® and/or I'm Fine, a real feelings journal.
  2. Email the link of your Amazon review to by November 15.
  3. You are now entered to win a pair of Converse® shoes in your choice of red, yellow, or green!  Winners will be notified by email

Thank you for helping me with this and good luck!

- Dianne

Butterflies and Battlefields, Reflections of Civil War Trip – The Us-ness of it All

What is your passion? Roger, my husband, is a devoted student of the Civil War.  His eyes light up when he shares stories about his readings and discovers friends to engage in animated conversation (as opposed to the “the glaze,” what we jokingly have named the look after about .25 seconds when someone is uninterested in Civil War happenings). So, we choose to bookend a business trip with Civil War adventures, and we are off, off on a trip to the battlefields to learn and explore more.

Some of my friends were quite astonished that I would be interested in joining Roger on this excursion, as they are aware of my indifference to the subject matter. I actually ordered, as a primer for the trip, a historical fiction book, Across Five Aprils, that I remembered loving in the 7 th grade. I hoped to re-kindle a connection to the period, so I could feel more genuine enthusiasm for Roger’s passion.

Roger and I are firm believers in certain activities being “us-ness” events. Terry Hargrave, a marital counselor and amazing author of multiple books, who has counseled us through several different hurdles of life, taught us years ago about “us-ness” times. There will be times that one of us might not be totally interested or invested in a particular topic or event, but participating in the event together can be great for the “us-ness” of our marriage. We have expanded our understanding of one another and our interests by adopting this “us-ness” mindset. For instance, us-ness times might be Roger attending with me an Enneagram workshop, a ballet, a mindfulness class.... Or it might be me going to the Drake relays, reading segments of the Wall Street Journal, following the Olympics closely with Roger. We have learned we not only grow and expand our learning of various facets of life as we explore some of our varying interests together; in addition, the adventure enhances our understanding of one another in a deeper way.

So, this past week I was thrilled to watch Roger become absorbed in one of his passions – the Civil War. He did a fantastic job of planning our trip by incorporating various ways that would peak my interest – a hike up Maryland Heights at Harper’s Ferry where once atop the peak you can look out and see the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers,

tours of re-enactments of artillery and cannons firing versus simply reading about the events on a plaque, and a horseback ride on the actual trails that General Lee led his Confederate troops at Gettysburg.

As I was observing Roger’s zeal, the whole concept of “passion” struck me. Passion is defined as a strong liking or desire for or devotion to some activity, object or concept. Several other passions became very obvious this week – I love it when you begin to look around more diligently through the lens of a phrase or thought, and you find the idea everywhere.

In Washington, DC, I began to reflect on how passions surface in others. Here are some of the glimpses of passion that I saw:

…the National Park Ranger who took time to show us how to best tour a specific part of Harper’s Ferry – even after her shift was apparently over – all because she cared that we know and see and understand history in a deep way.

…the hotel cleaning staff and one particular woman’s passion for cleaning and making the bed “just right.” I watched her take immense pride in her work while I was in the room studying and Roger was off working.

…the work-out instructor at Orange Theory (where we work out, both in Clive and as we travel) who showed us just the right way to do a particular exercise. He gave us nutrition advice every second he could – it was obvious he cared about the health of others in a deep way!

…the enthusiasm and care of a particular waiter at a restaurant whose diligence was exemplary. His interest in our dining decisions and experience seemed to be authentic.

…the detail in which Thomas Jefferson planned his gardens and his flowerbeds at Monticello with such precision. His love of nature and his recording of growth seasons, his analysis of plant progress and demise – all were truly remarkable.

…the love of the seemingly homeless woman who joined me for conversation one day after lunch. As we shared our stories with one another, I learned of her immense love for her father, age 93. After her mother passed away nine months ago, she chose to move back to DC from several states away – giving up her job security, etc. to care for her father.

…the Civil War tour guides who were incredibly thorough. Many hours of study, reading, preparation and love of the topic led to their exemplary level of presentation.

What does the word “passion” stir up within you? What are you passionate about? How can you deepen or strengthen a passion that may be lying dormant in your heart and may have been for some time?

One of my passions is photography. It seems that I am always looking for a “shot” – getting just the right angle of light on a subject, capturing a picture that stirs an emotion within me, allowing me to slow down and contemplate the deeper story under the narrative of an event – whether for deeper understanding of the other person or as a way to open up and explore my own heart separate from the business or “busyness” of the day.

So, it might not surprise you that, as we were on the battlefield tours, the artistry of the butterflies sometimes caught my attention. Enjoy a few “takes” of one of my passions – actually two passions combined – a love of nature and a love of photography!

While at Monticello, we discovered one of the sitting places that Thomas Jefferson contemplated.

I invite you to find your own quiet place and pause with me and reflect on where you see and experience glimpses of passion….

Back to School Reflections – What is Your Story?

August brings ads for back to school shopping, lunch box ideas, the latest styles in school clothes, fall calendar planning, football two-a-days, back to school PTA nights, meet the teacher nights, anxieties, excitement, letting go and new beginnings.

When we reflect back on our school stories from childhood and adolescence, now with the advantage of adult wisdom, what is it we remember?  What are the stories we TOLD ourselves then?  What are the stories we TELL ourselves now?  Are they true?  Are they accurate?

My Back to School Stories
I grew up in Seymour, TX and started first grade at age 6.  (I know, way back then we didn’t even have kindergarten and preschool!)  Julie and Kim and Mitzi were my best friends and playmates.  Of course, my sisters Annette and Melinda were my built-in, 24/7 playmates as well.  I remember the classics of Dick and Jane, learning to do math, my red and blue plastic “rest” mat, and playing Red Rover on the playground.  What do you remember about your beginnings of school?

After moving to Lubbock, TX, I began 3rd grade at Haynes Elementary.  One of those “school scars” happened to me on the first day of the new school in the new town (can you feel the apprehensions of this little brown-eyed 8-year-old)?  My teacher asked us to write something and turn it in.  Much to my dismay, after lunch the teacher called me up to the front of the room and held my paper up and said that I was trying to show off by writing in cursive.  Apparently in Lubbock, the students didn’t learn to write cursive until the 3rd grade – and my classmates had printed their papers.  Then it got worse!  As punishment, the teacher made me sit by the boys’ bathroom in the barracks classroom for 30 minutes.  I had never been in trouble at school before – I still clearly remember the tears dropping down on my new blue plaid dress.  After that, I tried really hard to keep a low profile and stay out of trouble at school.  

One positive development was making new friends at school and in the new town of Lubbock. New friends Katherine and Brenda, along with my sisters, became my “real, already established, don’t have to prove anything to anyone” friends.  We could play school together and jump on the trampoline and just have fun.

My 4th, 5th and 6th grade years took me to the brand new school of Mae Murfee Elementary.  We had a blast being the first students at the new school, and enjoyed the privilege of getting to pick the school mascot and school colors.  Back then it just seemed fun; now I see that this was a genius idea to give the students a sense of ownership and pride in the school.  

Evans Eagles with the scarlet and gold pride that rang through the halls was my home for Junior High – or middle school as it is now called!  I loved Evans and with football games, pep rallies, student council, choir, and amazing memories with friends, I found junior high a blast.

Not that there weren’t hurdles and growing pains along the way, like losing the Student Council Vice President election to Paul, or wanting to dress like, be like, and act like everyone else. (Or, from the perspective of adult wisdom, eating two chocolate cupcakes and a Dr. Pepper EVERY DAY for lunch!) And then, one spring morning I opened up my locker to find it stuffed with cotton stalks sporting fluffy white cotton bolls. A note that had been shoved among the stalks read, “Dianne, why don’t you try stuffing your bra with some of these?” For a few weeks afterward, I would be walking along during passing period and someone would should out, “Hey, cotton balls!”  I was so humiliated, and cried for days. Those were a hard few weeks! I’m thankful for friends who listened and questioned the intention behind what felt like a really cruel prank to a developing young teen.

By now, my Lubbock group of friends had expanded and there were seven of us—the Seven Dwarves, as we were often called.  Sharon, Marianne, De, Susan,  Laurie,  Michelle  and I were the gang.  We were excited to be “grown up” and off to high school.  I was the first to get my driver’s license, so each day at lunch we would pile as many as we could fit in my burnt orange Ford Galaxie 500 and rush down 50th Street to McDonald’s or Taco Villa for lots of fun lunch memories and giggles between the girls.  And of course, high school brought more social and emotional challenges, with dating, dances, and increasing leadership roles to navigate.  I was lucky to go to school with a great group of people, and we were convinced that our Monterey Plainsmen Class of ’78 the best class the school had ever produced.  We were “Loud and Proud” and loved supporting our amazing sports teams!  High school was a little mischief and A LOT of fabulous memories.  (How’s that for leaving the “mischief” stories to your imaginations?)

Texas Tech University seemed to be the logical choice for college as I had grown up as an avid Red Raider fan.  I loved learning and the independence of being able to choose classes on my preferred subject matter.  And of course, there was tons of fun to be had in college, with friends from Wall Hall dorm, Kappa “memory making” times with Susan and Cheryl and the pledge class of ’78, more dating, football games, Raider Recruiters, late night studying, and struggling through algebra…. And then, of course, meeting and falling in love with my amazing husband, Roger, which was a great closing chapter to a rewarding college experience.

My next Back to School Memories came as a Mom!

I spent so much time hoping and praying that Justin and Jill would get just the “right” teachers and make just the “right” friends. Every year we had a traditional first-day-of-school picture, and there were a few tears shed along the way after dropping them off. Not tears of sadness, but of gratitude and excitement for what the year would hold…and a recognition that each stage was passing more quickly than I would like. These were tears of tenderness and fragility as a Mom.  

All the schools in Amarillo, TX turned out to be fantastic and supportive learning environments for our kids.  We still cherish the friends and social support of neighborhood, church, soccer, Scouts, and volleyball, football and basketball teams.  We “learned” the value of community in the school of parenting.

Then when Jill was in 4th grade and Justin in 6th grade, it was Back to School for me! I decided to re-enter the school world to get my Master’s in Counseling at West Texas A&M.  Guess what?  Even at age 36 I had back to school jitters – and frankly, it was first the “Can I get into a Master’s program?” jitters, and “Can I pass the GRE?” jitters.  I recall Justin, age 12, sitting with me on the den floor and re-teaching me Algebra to prepare for the GRE.  And it must have worked, because I got in.

Then I discovered that the challenge and the depth of learning that came from the studies in counseling were life-giving to me!  I LOVED it!  It was certainly challenging to juggle active kids’ schedules, family life and the rigor of tests, papers and more papers.  But graduate school was a mountain of learning and labor that led to the work I love – of coming along with others in the journey of hurt, heartache, and steps of healing thorough counseling.  Again, the encouragement and support of friends and family were critical – Roger’s love and support were phenomenal!

In 2000, we moved to West Des Moines, IA, and faced more back to school jitters.  Justin was beginning 9th grade and Jill was beginning 7th grade in new schools, but thankfully Indian Hills, Valley Southwoods and Valley High School proved to be incredible places of growth and learning for both of them.

As we reflect on Back to School moments, what is it that we can learn as we look at the stories we told ourselves regarding those experiences?  What a privilege to take some time during August and September and reflect on our Life Map of School – our Life Map of Learning.  Grab some old photos, connect with a classmate, thank a teacher, reflect, and ponder.  Maybe your school days were difficult, maybe you moved many times, maybe you experienced some of the learning curves that I did.  What could you learn about your heart if you reflected on your school days?

Pick up a notebook or your laptop and join me in taking a moment to gather perspective.  What did your heart as a little girl or little boy need at those moments?  Who was there for you? What was your favorite subject, and who was your favorite teacher? What did your tender, growing and learning heart need?  What do you discover as you get curious about your school stories?

“Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing we’ll ever do.”
Brené Brown, Rising Strong

“They Ruined Our Trail…”

Oh, there are so many things fundamentally wrong with that statement!  However, it WAS the statement traipsing through our minds as Roger and I recently slipped and slid our way through the muddy “new” terrain of a favorite hiking trail.

We have hiked this trail often—through the icy cold of winter, watching the deer explore the frozen pond; through the budding beauty of spring, listening to the symphony of birds; through the heat of summer, consistently amazed at the green and the growth; and of course, through the changing lens of fall, absorbing the palette of fall colors as they unfold.

Yes, the trail WAS just perfect—wide enough for the two of us to walk alongside each other and have Sterling, our silver lab, frolicking along just ahead of us. One of her favorite games was to run up ahead, just far enough to get out of sight…then turn and wait patiently for us. As soon as she spotted us she’d rush back to us, and then she was off again to repeat her game. Run ahead, wait, rush to us, run. Sterling always out-hikes—no, out-runs—us twice the distance!

But on this particular Saturday, we found the trail in ruins—or at least that’s how it looked to us. A bulldozer had chewed up our cherished path, tearing down adjacent trees and shrubs and doubling the width of the trail. Deep ruts marred the once-smooth path, and as the snow in Iowa had only recently melted, we found ourselves looking at a wide expanse of deep, sloshy brown mud. We had worn our hiking boots. But we were not prepared for this. Any of it! How could they ruin our trail?!

Let’s pause right there. What is it that made that trail ours? Of course, it didn’t actually belong to us. The trail is public property, a section of an area called Maffitt Reservoir Park. But if anything made it “ours,” it’s the memories we created there: the times we’ve enjoyed a hike with others, the hundreds of photographs we’ve shot, the thousands of steps we’ve taken—whether with hiking boots, running shoes, or snow shoes. The conversations this trail has witnessed are deep and rich—it’s there that we’ve asked each other difficult questions, and listened for the answers. It’s there that we’ve also held space for silence as we walked along, sometimes hand in hand, sometimes one in front of the other. Roger and I are intentional about times of solitude amidst our full schedules of career, family, travel. We experience solitude together along this trail. We worship the Almighty along this trail—it is so natural to worship in His Sanctuary of the seasons, the trees, the geese, the flowers, the snowflakes, the sunsets, the water.

It’s all of this—the memories, the conversations, the shared solitude, the spontaneous worship that arises from being in creation—that creates the illusion of the trail being “ours.” I’m certain I’m not the only one who feels this way. One day we encountered a fellow snow-shoer who told us he’d walked this very trail daily for 10 years. “I used to run it,” he proclaimed with pride. “Now I’m slower, but I’m here every day.” He was an older man with a weathered face and trim build. Surely the trail belonged to him as much as it belonged to us. Surely it belonged to all of us….

Back on the day we discovered it in ruins, Roger and I looked at the trail in dismay. “Why are they ruining it?” I couldn’t help but cry out. “It was perfect the way it was!”  “Must be some sort of maintenance project,” Roger said as we began to stumble along the uneven path. The cuts in the earth were fresh, the “maintenance project” in its earliest, messiest stages. We clambered over felled trees and made our way around piles of brush, and tried to avoid the deepest ruts of watery mud. Down the path a ways we discovered a deep hole where a new drain would be placed under the trail to divert stream water into the nearby lake.

Early that morning I had read a reflection by Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest, and suddenly a line came back to me: “New beginnings invariably come from old false things that are allowed to die.” 

So far all I saw on the trail was the dying: the place I’d known and cherished for so long was no longer there, and I was already grieving its loss. But there was another chapter to this story: with this “death” something entirely new would come to life. What would it be?  What was the master plan here? Of course, we didn’t know, but in time we would.

The same holds true for life, doesn’t it? New beginnings arrive when old things are allowed to die.

Is this process happening anywhere in your life right now? What changes are you experiencing that signal a new beginning? What are the old things that might need to die so new life will have room to grow? 

Just as in the trail project, we may have little idea of the master plan—and the “not knowing” can sometimes be as difficult as the grief that accompanies any loss. With our literal trail we can trust that the Des Moines Water Works has a plan that is well thought out and that will eventually restore and preserve the beauty of the area.

But what about the many trails and interrupted paths that occur? What if we’re on a path with little clue of where it goes or even how we got there? Such trails come in myriad forms. Aging parents. Uncertainty regarding upcoming elections. The devastating loss of a relationship. The fear of what comes next. Health struggles—our own or a loved one’s. A decision that needs to be made regarding education or career. A pregnancy—planned or unexpected. The difficult conversation that needs to happen. The mounting credit card bill.

Can we be still and hold the known with the unknown? Can we cultivate greater patience with not knowing?

“New beginnings invariably come from old false things that are allowed to die.”

Ask yourself what you need to let go of, what can be allowed to die. Whatever you’re going through, on whatever trail you find yourself, how can this experience be a moment of new beginnings? In the very midst of the mud, can you look for the signs of new life, just waiting to be born?

Please feel free to share your story of new beginnings in the comments below.


2015: A Year in Review

Its been a wild ride and we've been having a great time. Here's a quick review in photos...

Join Sterling for a tour of Loring Park, Downtown Minneapolis