Secrets, Stress, and Soul Food on Sunday

Cutest heartwarming shot of dog and cat sleeping in an embrace. #animalfriends #sleeping

Personal Reflections on Secrets, Stress, and Soul Food

Secrets.

Is it my secrets that brought you here? Well then, let’s just cut to the juicy reveal.

1) Like everyone else on planet earth, I wrestle with fear and sense that blog readers long for bloggers (even design bloggers they deem to be “less deep” types) to more frequently go out on a limb and authentically share thoughts they are maybe terrified of sharing. I mean, that’s typically where all the fruit is, if you ask me. 2) After a nervous breakthrough a decade ago, I learned that peace comes when I venture: in the direction of my fear…and through it, and not away from or around the fear. 3) While I never tire of seeing and sharing beautiful shelters, I’m equally inspired by how we might become, in small but important ways, lovely and loving shelters for each other. (The images of animal friendship just feel right with how I am feeling.)

photo at top: Pinterest/unkown

Elephants mate for life and grieve their mates when they die. As we begin to understand their language, there is even more to learn, from who they choose to be. #elephants #animalfriendship

Personal Reflections on Secrets, Stress, and Soul Food (photo: Pinterest/unknown)

Stress.

Like you, my thoughts have often turned to all of the stress we see around us. I have felt a little, but my people are experiencing a lot, and maybe you are too. So let’s chat for a moment and not get political but maybe get existential.

But not too existential! I don’t wanna add stress or detain you online when you could be luxuriating in nature, interacting with friends, practicing your faith, and giving back to the universe (all such effective antidepressants!).

baby doll sheep. George and Thomas. #babydollsheep #sheep #animalfriendship #smiles

Personal Reflections on Secrets, Stress, and Soul Food (photo: Pinterest/unknown)

I get worried about us sometimes.

About how common depression and anxiety have become in our culture. About all the violence and aggression and our constant front row seat to it. About how much artificial reality is increasingly replacing the real in daily life and how much nature we’re missing. I get worried about the fact there is still so much stigma surrounding mental illness in spite of the fact one in four of us is suffering.

Adorable seals snuggling. #animallover #animalfriendship

Personal Reflections on Secrets, Stress, and Soul Food (photo: Pinterest/unknown)

There are more than a few places (and varieties of wine!) to turn for stress relief techniques, and if you google those three words, you’ll be confronted with 15.5 million results. So many opinions and strategies for recovering wellness. So many pills, promises and products pointing to relief. So much art that unlocks and names our pain. So much spiritual guidance. There is help in abundance. But the suffering continues, and I wonder what keeps us reaching for the quick fixes, keeps us stuck in unhealthy patterns, and keeps us resistant to true transformation that endures?

I’d love to hear your responses in the comments.

Animal friendship in bloom. #adorableanimals #cuteanimals #dachsund

Personal Reflections on Secrets, Stress, and Soul Food (photo: Pinterest/unknown)

I’m a personal believer in daily transformation, in seeking grace for the strength to start right where I am planted, in seeking transformation this very moment–without a plan or even any hope. I love AA, 12 steps, and addicts in recovery–we are seeking the same grace for serenity.

How do you manage stress and maintain a healthy love for humanity?

Three of the most helpful ways I find balance and perspective to manage stress are: meditation, prayer, and walking in nature. The meditation I do is centering prayer. Sometimes it can feel boring or humbling, and other times I sense there is a peaceful divine therapy at work. This practice is consistently about emptying, observing, and letting go. I am happy to share more about centering prayer should you be interested.

Orange cat reclining like a person in windowsill with meditative trance expression. #cutecat #concentration

Personal Reflections on Secrets, Stress, and Soul Food (photo: Pinterest/unknown)

My prayers changed after the breakthrough. They’re not wordy or often spoken aloud. Instead, I kneel and simply bring the contents of my heart–all of it—in surrender, to be placed under the blessing and purified. The deep desire of my heart when I pray is always the same. It’s a version of: PURIFY MY VISION SO I MAY SEE AS YOU SEE. Even if my heart harbors resentment and bitterness, turning to communion with God and offering consent, gently leads me like a shepherd into forgiveness.

And forgiveness? Wow. It’s a powerful, lovely healer.

Electric green leafy trees and grass, red haired girl, and red fox on branch. #vibrant #brightgreen #redfox #redhair

Personal Reflections on Secrets, Stress, and Soul Food (photo: Pinterest/unknown)

Walking in nature is also deeply restorative since it connects and anchors us to the universe, erasing all those illusory barriers we often believe exist. We don’t live on earth–we ARE the earth. We are made of ocean and stardust after all. I see the bird’s wing, and it becomes this wondrous and beautiful miracle. I see sunlight dancing through the trees and am dazzled by the master creator’s brilliance. I notice my own small hands and think “oh, what lovely you have held!” In nature, gratitude bubbles up over and over again.

None of these strategies requires me to be polished, polite, or even positive. Only present. Shauna Nieqiest nailed what I am expressing in her book: PRESENT OVER PERFECT. I may show up hopeless, angry, broken, and stressed. I may show up in a state far, so very far from perfect. Yet somehow, my vulnerable brokenheartedness can align with perfection (or whom I call God through Christ) to create in me a new heart. It’s a creative adventure really. It’s a paradox I love.

Cuteness Overload with sleeping animals and baby wrapped in knit blanket upon a floral sheet. #animalfriendship #sleeping #babyanddog

Personal Reflections on Secrets, Stress, and Soul Food (photo: Pinterest/unknown)

Soul Food.

I’m thinking about you this very moment; about all you’re facing and juggling. I know you may be carrying a heavy load of cares and stress which could be weighing down your heart and compromising your heath. You’re important, and I want to remind you of who you are.

Kitten and child gazing out window with candle. #heartwarming #kitten #quiet

Personal Reflections on Secrets, Stress, and Soul Food (photo: Pinterest/unknown)

You are that true, shimmering, luminous soul underneath all of the titles. Perfectly made to be loved, you are remarkably resilient and good. You’re strong. You’re brave, and all of your beautiful scars reflect this truth. Since I’m a believer all prayer can do is heal and that we can heal each other, I am sending you blessing this very moment.

Child playing with kitten in frosty window. #serene #quiet #kitten #childhood

Personal Reflections on Secrets, Stress, and Soul Food (photo: Pinterest/unknown)

Light for your darkness, comfort for your suffering. Gentle tenderness to soothe the harsh edges. Precious relief from the pain.

Child discovering frog with gaze of wonder. #summer #frog #heartwarming #childhood

Personal Reflections on Secrets, Stress, and Soul Food (photo: Pinterest/unknown)

May you begin to breathe easier. May you trust the trustworthy energy pulsing within the music of every moment, especially when your feelings and thoughts tell you otherwise. May you be encouraged and baptized by streams of living, lovely water flowing from realms within realms we cannot see. May you sense a hidden wholeness flowering delicately within you, offering assurance in tender whispers that you indeed belong and that all shall be well.

Peace to you right where you are.

~michele

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34 Comments

  1. Sugar R
    March 11, 2018 / 7:43 pm

    Wow…such beautiful and powerful words and images…I can feel my blood pressure going down…Thank you Michele!

    • March 11, 2018 / 8:46 pm

      Great to hear, Sugar. You’re so welcome, friend. 🙂

  2. sharon
    March 11, 2018 / 10:47 pm

    Michelle,

    I am trying to breakthrough forgiveness for ….. a former business partner that we are covering his debts b/c he went BK and we just won’t do that… and another family member who has justified taking from an estate…..I pray every day to get past it because it is unhealthy. Thank you for your thoughts that I needed to hear.

    • March 12, 2018 / 9:50 am

      Thank you for sharing your heart and seeking something so beautiful and healing even though it sounds painful. Sending peace to your open, brave heart. xox

    • March 12, 2018 / 1:32 pm

      Money is the root of some much angst. I hope that you can find forgiveness, I know it is hard when people do this. Especially taking from an estate and making justifications. I will pray for you to find some peace.

  3. Susan
    March 12, 2018 / 1:29 am

    Much love and thanks Michele. You are a lovely, caring woman. Susan xx

    • March 12, 2018 / 9:47 am

      Thanks for reading, Susan. I’m just muddling through with a desire to see. xox

  4. Suzanne Doin
    March 12, 2018 / 7:24 am

    Beautiful photos, beautiful words! Thank you, I needed this!

    • March 12, 2018 / 9:45 am

      Thanks for reading, Suzanne! Have a lovely week, friend. 🙂

  5. DRitchie
    March 12, 2018 / 7:32 am

    Thank you for reminding us that “peace that surpasses all understanding” is available to all who believe and trust in Jesus Christ. I am a believer and even though the world tries to tear us down, we can choose peace & forgiveness. It’s that simple, but sometimes so hard to remember.

    Peace & love to all~

    • March 12, 2018 / 9:44 am

      The older I grow, the more I am awed by the power of forgiveness to heal wounds. I suppose the ego is always hard at work to erase the memory of this power. 🙂

  6. Alice Genzlinger
    March 12, 2018 / 7:46 am

    Wonderfully said and wonderfully healing when practiced.

    • March 12, 2018 / 9:39 am

      Thank you, Alice. Hope you have a wonderful week, friend. 🙂

  7. Mary Williams
    March 12, 2018 / 8:06 am

    You are a lovely writer, Michelle. Your words hit home with many of the silent majority who pray and are believers. I applaud you for expressing your faith, which can be critized these days. I personally don’t see how people exist day to day without the faith and inspiration of God and His words. Your heart is expressed daily in your blog; in your words and your images. Thank you for touching the hearts of so many!

    • March 12, 2018 / 9:38 am

      Thanks for the encouragement written so eloquently, Mary. I really don’t feel brave, just humbled – which leads me into gratitude where I belong. xox

  8. Connie
    March 12, 2018 / 8:10 am

    So right; so true what you say. Matthew 6:26 says “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”

    In today’s busy, busy world, where people often find themselves in a constant state of worry, confusion and stress, if they were to remember but one Truth, that verse might be it. The verse talks about not worrying….but with that comes the necessity to trust.

    (New blog follower here. Glad I found you.)

    • March 12, 2018 / 9:34 am

      Thanks so much, Connie, for adding richness and depth here. What a beautiful truth that we are also being fed and provided what we need, if only we will see it and step over our fears. Thanks for reading with an open heart.

  9. Karen H.
    March 12, 2018 / 11:25 am

    Beautiful, prayerful words Michele. Thank you for deeper reflections today. I would love to know more about centering prayer. Blessings to you.

      • Karen H.
        March 12, 2018 / 9:39 pm

        Thanks Michele, I greatly appreciate! I will look forward to future blogs on that site as well.

  10. leigh
    March 12, 2018 / 11:36 am

    Lovely , powerful and inspiring! Thank you so very much! The words and the photos were just perfect!

    • March 12, 2018 / 2:12 pm

      So happy you took the time to read and comment. Peace to you.

  11. Carolyn
    March 12, 2018 / 12:17 pm

    Michele, this world is in a frightening place. It is people like you that have the courage to speak and share from your heart that reassure me that we can make a difference. Thank you for sharing!!!

    • March 12, 2018 / 2:12 pm

      I’m humbled and honored by your words, Carolyn. If I can somehow reflect the beauty and sweetness flowing freely from the Divine Mystery, oh, wouldn’t that be something? xox

  12. Mary
    March 12, 2018 / 1:18 pm

    Reading Hello Lovely is a gift that I give to myself each day. Sweet photos (how can anyone not love animals?) . Faith in Christ is all that matters. He is The One on whom we can find the truth and have the, “peace that passes all (earthly) understanding”. I have always felt that we are in the world, but not OF the world. Once you choose to plant your flag in heaven as your home, this temporary, earth experience get’s a healthier, more carefree perspective. Nothing from here goes with us to there, with the exception of love. So what is the purpose of earthly life? It is to find our way back home to heaven, to The One, Jesus, who made it possible for us to do so. (it is each soul’s choice, btw, and there are only two choices) On that day 2000 years ago, the heavenly doors were opened, once again, for anyone who wanted to know Him. I often marvel that after 2000 years that too many people still make the other choice. This is not difficult to understand…but the other side is very clever and very busy. Pray for everyone and rejoice in the fact that He wins in the end. Forgive my preachiness. I get very excited about this subject because it is at the heart of everything that is happening, and at everyone’s heart.

    • March 12, 2018 / 2:09 pm

      Thank you for reading and sharing your faith openly, Mary. Finding our way home is a rich topic never far from my heart either. xox

  13. March 12, 2018 / 1:34 pm

    Michele,

    These calming photos of sweet innocent animals and your words are food to nourish a soul. I could not agree with you more about finding ways to destress. For my it is prayer, yoga, long walks and my sweet pups.

    • March 12, 2018 / 2:06 pm

      Thank you for reading, Elizabeth. I sense in you a kindred spirit, which is comforting especially in dark times. I would love to make time for more yoga and someday, for a new pet! 🙂

  14. Rhonda
    March 12, 2018 / 1:42 pm

    I wish I had read this yesterday as I was feeling sad for no apparent reason. I had a wonderful service at church which normally would have left me uplifted. Maybe it was the weather, it was a dreary-rainy day. I decided to visit one of my brothers and was delighted to find his 7-month old grandson there. His smile and innocence warmed my heart and filled it with joy. Funny how a child can make us feel childlike again.

    My blessings in this life have been too many to list and all undeserved. I thank God in my prayers for all things. I have no reason to feel sadness, but we all have those moments. Thank you for sharing your true self and your true faith, Michele, you are using a beautiful gift God gave you.

    • March 12, 2018 / 2:05 pm

      Rhonda, I always feel joined when I read your beautiful, eloquent expressions, and I think I know just what you mean about what being in the presence of an infant can do for our hearts and souls! I’m the same way! The thing about sadness is, I don’t think it’s a terrible thing at all. I believe it belongs. But when we feel shame for feeling sad, now there’s what is unlovely. In other cultures, sadness is not feared or dishonored – it often has much to teach and it definitely can be a vehicle for transformation if we can have the courage to sit with it and in it and let it deepen us. Thanks for inspiring me, Rhonda. xox

  15. Kathy
    March 12, 2018 / 1:59 pm

    Thank you for sharing, Michele. I, too, have had times of significant anxiety in my life. I have had panic attacks in the past and quite often experience a variety of symptoms that have all been diagnosed as related to anxiety. I also find that meditation and long walks are a tonic to my worrying self. Plus, I would be lost if I did not turn to God when things get to be frightening! Years ago I found the writings of Dr Claire Weekes to be very helpful. Through her I learned not to add second fear to the first fear which helps me become calm almost immediately. Thank you, again, for your honesty. I find it very helpful to know that others are often struggling and it is ok not to have to pretend to be perfect!! By the way, I loved the photo of those two darling lambs! Too cute!!!

    • March 12, 2018 / 2:01 pm

      Thanks for adding to the beauty here and sharing your heart openly, Kathy. Thanks for introducing Claire Weekes and these thoughts about adding second fear, friend. How encouraging to be joined on the journey! 🙂

  16. March 13, 2018 / 9:25 pm

    Michele there’s so much to relish in this post. But can I begin by saying how happy these adorable photos make me? As I’ve gotten older I get downright gushy over all feathered and furry creatures, especially dogs. But that’s another story. Getting back to your post. I always appreciate when bloggers share their vulnerabilities with readers. Thank you. There was a time when I felt like a design blogger and I noticed I felt some discomfort sharing non-decorating posts but now, since that I’m barely any kind of blogger— I feel more liberated. Ha.
    When it comes to stress I’m like you. I find meditation, old fashioned prayer and walking outside to be deeply replenishing. I’m quite the hodge-podge when it comes to my spiritual life these days. Born and raised a Catholic, I love praying to the Blessed Mother, love the soothing I get from the smooth beads between my fingers, and I have a tender sentimentality for the Mass. But as I’ve gotten older— I’ve been drawn to Eastern wisdom, especially though my yoga practice. And I’ve sprinkled my posts with contemporary Buddhist’s words as you know. Funny, but I never realized how different and possibly off-putting this might be to some readers from different regions of the US. Until I recently went with my son to a funeral and found it quite eye-opening. A dear buddy of my son lost his mother to cancer. She was a fundamental Christian and as I sat in the church I lost track of how many times I heard the words, “righteous God” spoken. You don’t hear that in Catholic masses. I also noticed the emphasis on how sinful and unworthy we are without God’s salvation. That was all new to me and it did sensitize me to how others might view my occasional sharing of ‘Buddha’ thoughts. But in the end I think we can only be ourselves and share our version of love and kindness with the others. This is new to me. The idea that I’m not everyone’s cup of tea. Ha. Took me long enough huh? Hope all is well with your sisters, (parents too) you guys would be a blast to hang with. I’m telling you, you’ve got to get out here to Southern California. You would love it.
    Hugs and smooches,
    Leslie

    • March 13, 2018 / 10:00 pm

      My family is doing well. My mom keeps defying odds, and we are grateful for that. I was in your neck of the woods recently but had no time to play! Boo! I love your heart, Leslie. And your words. And your kindness and light. Eastern influences don’t trigger me or raise flags even though I grew up in the Evangelical church. A Jesus girl contemplative in love with the Mystery is not everyone’s cup of tea. I love the Word. I’m too politically conservative for some of my friends, too liberal for family members, and too mystical for, um, everyone. Thank you for being vulnerable enough to put yourself in the arena over and over again as you blog about what is on your mind and beautiful heart.

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