NOTE: Registration opened today for The Breathe Intensive, Online! Register (or learn more) here.

 Wether you’re a “writer” or not, I’m a big believer in writing your way to a better life. (I should disclose that I subscribe to a school of thought that believes— if you are a human being, with a brain that thinks and a heart that feels, like it or not, you are a writer. You may be a writer who doesn’t write, but you are a writer, nonetheless.)

I’ve been journaling consistently since I was a tween, and the process has never failed to enrich my life and bring clarity and peace to my soul. Daily writing has offered me greater purpose, passion, companionship, fulfillment, clarity, equilibrium, connection, encouragement, direction, gratitude and peace (and that’s only the tip of an inexplicably expansive iceberg).

Even through my greatest tears and fears, even amid my most soul crushing challenges, even during the times when there was no hope to be found and despair threatened to overwhelm me completely, writing delivered hope. Writing shined a light on the dark and stormy places in my heart. Writing carried my heaviest fears and lifted my most horrifying burdens. Writing offered me respite from debilitating resistance and searing pain.

The bottom line? Writing will bless your life.

There are no rules. Simply put the pen to the paper, and go. You’ll be amazed by what you find.

Whether you’re new to daily journaling or you’re a seasoned pro, here are a list of 20 prompts to get you started or keep you inspired:

1. Think of a time when you felt deeply centered and connected. Describe that day (or that week or that month or that moment) with as much visceral and emotional detail as you can.

2. What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?

3. Make a list of inspiration. Include people, places, things, smells, events, colors, activities etc. There are no rules.

4. What are you very most afraid of? What is the worst case scenario if that greatest fear were realized? Would you survive? How?

5. Describe your ideal work day: include as much detail as you can.

6. Describe your ideal personal day: include as much detail as you can.

 7. What are your greatest strengths? How are you currently using these strengths to bless your own life and the world? If you aren’t currently engaging your strengths in the ways you know you could, what shifts could you make in order to engage these strengths more completely in your life?

 8. What are your greatest weaknesses? How can you work to intentionally embrace and/or overcome them?

9. What are your greatest weaknesses? How are you still “perfectly enough” despite of them? How have these weaknesses blessed your life?

10. If you could sit down to lunch with 5 people from any time in history or the present, who would you invite to your table and why?

 11. Who loves you unconditionally, and why?

12. What is the greatest success of your life thus far? What are you the very most proud of?

13. Write a list of gratitude: include everything you have been blessed with, down to the most simple things: like air to breathe in and out all day long.

14. How do you measure your value? What determines your worth?

15. When you think of the word “love” what do you see? and/or What other descriptive words come to mind?

 16. When you think of the word “strength” what do you see? and/or What other descriptive words come to mind?

 17. Describe the natural environment that most embodies who you are as an individual. Example, I am most like a meadow, because. . .  describe the scene with as much sensory detail as you can.

18. How patient and compassionate are you with others? How patient and compassionate are you with yourself? Do you treat yourself with the same care with which you treat others? More? Less? How does this exploration make you feel?

19.  What is the one thing you wish someone would say to you? What affirmation are you most eager to hear? Start with a paragraph if you need to and then whittle it down to just a sentence or two. Write this affirmation at least 20 times in both second and first person, respectively. Example: You are . . . 20 times AND I am . . . (2o times).

20. Project yourself into the future 2, 3 or 5 years from now. What kinds of memories do you hope to have created in your life?  Be as specific as possible. For example: “I hope to have had happy memories” isn’t gonna cut it. ;)

 Happy writing, friends!

xx,

Natalie

This morning, as we drove the boys to school, Richie in the back seat right along with the rest of the crazies, everyone singing along to The Beatles (my absolute favorite band), reading family scriptures, having family prayer, and then shouting our “I love you’s” back and forth as the boys piled out of the van and bounced joyfully into the world. . . I was filled to overflowing with gratitude and joy.

We’ve worked so hard, Richie and I, to set up our lives intentionally. Early in our marriage, we sat down together and decided upon staunch priorities surrounding what we wanted our life together to look and feel like. (NOTE: It’s no surprise that the majority of those goals centered around the kind of life we hoped to be able to provide for our children).  I’m so happy to report (to myself more than anyone else) that despite pitfalls, roadblocks, discouragement, and outright failures (yes, plural), we’ve remained committed to the things we deemed (together) to matter the very most. Case in point the ability to drive the boys to school—together—in the mornings, and the luxury of picking them up—together—in the afternoons. This is a small example of a bigger picture reality we have worked so hard to achieve.

Not to say that we’ve got it all perfect. We still have SO (so so so so so SO) far to go, but we’re on the right path—the pathway toward our intentional life, and it is so absolutely energizing and fulfilling that my heart nearly bursts with joy just thinking about it.

Intentional living will look different for everyone, but friends, do the work to get clear (about what you want your life to look like) and then get busy (creating the life of your dreams). You CAN do it, and you’ll be so glad you did!

Allow me to leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Ms Karen Lamb: ”A year from now, you’ll wish you started today.”

xx,

N

 

Good morning. Good night.

“You look awful!”

He steps in to get a better look.

“Like, (perplexed pause), you look like you are about to die!”

He leans in even closer.

But before he can find a way to further articulate his horror, we both burst into side-splitting laughter.

“This is what I need him for,” I think, as I look down and realize that I’m still in my pajamas at 7:30. . . PM.

There is a pile of wrappers that used to contain the canister full of dinner mints that have sustained me all day long.

This was . . . a day. Ya know? And if I’m being totally honest, I’ll say that I have a lot of days like this. I’m not the mom who wakes up and has her make-up on before she gets the kids out of bed in the morning. I’ll never be that mom. I wish I were that mom. But guess what? Reality: I’m lucky if I get my make up on before our semi-annual family photo session, forget the drop off line at school. And that’s ok with me. (Sort of. . . . Well, most of the time. OK. A good percentage of the time. Like say, 35%.)

On days when I’m feeling particularly spread thin and frazzled, I remind myself that I’m a part of something. Something that matters. In fact, I’m a part of a lot of somethings that matter, and I get to live them out every day, with my entire soul. That means something to me. It really does. So yes, I’m still in the stars and stripes that I put on at 10:30pm . . . yesterday. And no, I’m not ashamed (I’m a little ashamed) to be admitting that out loud. (Actually, you know what? I did it on purpose. It makes going to bed again a cinch.)

______________________________

Dear, sweet, strong, brave, bat-freaking-crazy, zombie face Natalie,

Every day, as you break up fist fights between your children, stop and look at them (but not for too long, or there will be blood). Stop and really look at them, and remember that they are yours. You made them. And you get to keep them, forever. That’s a something to be proud of. 

As you look at the pile of dishes that is stinking up not only the kitchen but is sneaking it’s way into your living space as well, remember, you survived on dinner mints today because you wanted to, not because you didn’t have enough food to eat. You have a kitchen full of dishes and a pantry full of food to put on them. Why you chose to subsist on dinner mints is a mystery of the free world. But every girl needs to keep a little mystery in her life. So, good on ya! This is all a something to feel very grateful for. 

When your husband tells you you look like the walking dead, wrap your arms tight around his neck, because if it weren’t for him, you would drive yourself right into the ground with how hard you work every day, and you know it. His love and hilarity are the solitary reasons you stay sane and keep your head square upon your shoulders. That is a something to cry tears of joy about.

When you are starting to doubt the wisdom of your 3 month long email strike as you see unanswered messages spilling out the front door and onto the neighbor’s lawn, remember— each one of those emails (except the stupid ones from Living Social and K-Mart) represents one of God’s children that you get the absolute honor of loving on for a few measly minutes of your big bad day. That is a something you need to appreciate as a gift. That is a something you need to remember to love.

When you are losing your mind trying to coordinate all the logistics of your crazy-beautiful life, just look around at all the SPECTACULAR people who are constantly rising up to help, to encourage, to support and to sustain your efforts. YOUR life is FILLED TO OVERFLOWING with not only somethings but someones who love you fiercely. . .far more than you deserve.

 

Above: Discussing Metta (loving kindness) Meditation with Mom after a particularly hard night.

 

 At the end of a long day of hustling like your life depended on it, when your 10 year old asks you to come and not only listen to him practice his drums, but sing vocals for him as well (WHAT?!), remember, migraines.are.awesome. (That’s not a something. It’s just torture, by the way. But it is evidence of a life full of love and belonging. . . and THAT is a something you could never live without.)

And when you didn’t get dinner on the table, and your house is nearing disaster status, and your laundry is taking over the bathroom, and said bathroom smells like number one, and you are exhausted on a cellular level, and despite going a million miles an hour—all.day.long—you really aren’t sure what you even accomplished . . . remember, you have opposable thumbs, and that is neat.

Hang in there, sister. Your life is beautiful.

xo,

Self

PS Want to join me in an upcoming something that I’m incredibly proud to be a part of? Come see me and two of my most treasured and respected friends (Tamara Lackey and Jen Bebb) in Brooklyn, Nashville or LA for a day of encouragement, straight talk and practical, sustainable application that is sure to get you from where you are now (10:45pm in yesterday’s pajamas?), to where you truly want to be (10:45 pm in yesterday’s pajamas, but eating ice cream too??).

All joking aside*, this event is not to be missed. Find (real) information here: What If Conference | The Day Camps.

*Note: this is my last scheduled speaking engagement of 2013.

When you really love something, when you really, truly, madly, deeply, passionately LOVE something, it’s always shocking to wake up one morning and realize how long that thing has been gone from your life—how far away it feels—how foreign—how . . . irretrievable. When you finally find the courage and resolve to go after what you’ve lost, when you finally realize that life without it is worse than the horrifying reality of what will be required to get it back, there’s a part of you that believes that once you “jump back in,” you’ll be simply overwhelmed by the utter rightness of it all. “I’m home!” your spirit will cry!

Here’s the truth that I have found: It will hurt, this process of righting wrongs, of chasing our bliss, of restoring what was lost, of building what we hope has the potential to be. Once you’re in the thick of all the searching, it will be hard, and it will hurt. You’ll feel clumsy and unsteady, insignificant and small, and the journey will feel very, very long and unyielding. To paraphrase Robert Frost—the woods will seem dark and deep and there will be miles and miles (and miles) to go before you’ll sleep.

But where there is love, there is light. And light, my friends, is ALWAYS worth fighting for. Once you get back in the ring, the entire universe will begin to conspire together for your good—in absolutely miraculous ways. And out of nowhere, you’ll start receiving signs. Trust them. These signs will validate the stirring in your heart, and they will give every ounce of the courage you need. My sign was delivered to me by a stranger. In the exact moment my heart needed it the most:

“Please come back to the web. If only you knew all the people that you were encouraging, lives you were touching, the way that God uses your pain to shape others lives, to comfort those who feel the same. I know you will probably never know the depths of the way that God is using you, your story, your writing, your talents, your gifts, your trials, your sufferings….but I do hope and pray that you come back and process more with us. There needs to be more hope and truth out here on the internet….and more voices like yours. Thank you for all you have done here…you are a gift and a blessing and a teacher and a mentor and even in a way, a friend. Thank you.”

I’ll be back to writing (blogging) tomorrow (well, and today, as it would seem).

(Deep inhale, soft smile.) I’ll see you soon.

Pictured (L to R): Racquel Marvez, moi, Manjula Varghese

My episode of The Generations Project won an Emmy last night in the Human Interest category. Pardon the above screen shot of someone else’s cell phone picture, but metaphorically, it’s the perfect example of how last night felt— a blurry moment in the middle of someone else’s dream. It was surreal to say the least.  Wonderful, yes, and totally surreal.

This morning, I woke up to this face. I woke up to real life, and that moment wasn’t blurry and surreal. It was perfectly clear. . . and exquisitely beautiful. . . and filled with real life joy—real life joy that is at least a thousand times more wonderful than all the pretty shoes, fancy dresses and yes, even Emmy awards, the world over.

Over the last 8 weeks, I’ve been really sick. I mean very, very, ill. (No, I’m not pregnant, promise). Because of this, I’ve had to retract from nearly every facet of my life that doesn’t require my absolute presence. Essentially this equates to every ounce of my available energy being focused solely on breathing in and out and loving on my children—there hasn’t been any time left for blogging, shooting, writing, (cleaning, eh hem) . . . or running around like a glorified chicken with her head detached and tucked pridefully under her wing.

And guess what? I finally remember.

I remember that life isn’t about anything except for what’s right in front of you. Oxygen—breathing it in and out, all day long. People—loving them with every last beat of your heart. God—trusting his will and timing, even and especially when it’s confusing and seemingly unfair. Everything else is merely peripheral to what matters most. No, everything else MUST exist solely to SUPPORT the things that matter most.

None of this to say that Emmys (and fancy shoes) aren’t amazing! Last night really was a dream, not to mention an incredible honor! But waking up to that drippy, freckle faced, little boy reminded me, for the trillionth time, that if I want to not only survive but THRIVE in this thing called life, I have to turn down the volume on the things that matter least and emphatically embrace the things that matter most, for therein lies real life joy.

PS. Speaking of fancy shoes, I couldn’t walk in mine. I may be the only person in history ever to walk up on stage to accept an Emmy. . . in bare feet. (Just keepin’ it real.)