Monday, October 3, 2011

Season of Reflection

“Listen” said the White Spirit.  “Once you were a child.  Once you knew what inquiry was for.  There was a time when you asked questions because you wanted answers, and were glad when you found them.  Become that child again; even now.”

~ C.S. Lewis (The Great Divorce)

 “No one has ever, or will ever, come into this world with the exact same mission as yours.   The light you are meant to shine into the world is yours alone, as individual as your fingerprint, as personal as your voiceprint.” 

~ Sara Yoheved Rigler

We don't ask "What is the meaning of life?" but "What is the meaning of my life?"

 ~   Gregg Levoy (Callings)

Last week, in contemplating the meaning of Rosh Hashanah, I made a few discoveries.  Far more than just a New Year - with resolutions (not often kept) - it’s a time of deeper reflection and evaluation…and a time to identify our life’s mission. 

Rabbi Nivin suggests that we ask ourselves (and write down): What were the five or ten most pleasurable moments of my life?   Be more specific than “Seeing Niagara Falls.”  No universal, transcendent moments such as enjoying nature or music.  Think callings.    

Some time ago at a spiritual retreat, speaker Keith Miller asked us the question, “What do you want to do for the rest of your life?”   We were then told to spend the afternoon writing down all the things we loved doing enough to make them our life’s purpose. 

Of course I naturally named “writing” - among other things.  But it’s amazing how all of my dreams – unspoken until that retreat – have been achieved.  From that pivotal moment, I can vouch for the need to list our desires of the heart, to name them one by one…  

Because, most likely, they were God-given from the get-go.  
They just need to be awakened in order to bear fruit. 

Alexander Seinfeld asks 20 questions designed to move us forward toward our life’s purpose.   He suggests that we spend 5 meditative minutes on each question.    

Meanwhile… I’ll ask you that seemingly simple question that Keith Miller asked at the retreat:

“What do you want to do for the rest of your life?”


  1. This is insightful... we do something like this in our training program for Yoga and i remember the first time I had to do it... I was surprised by my answers and what was achieved...
    I will do this again...

  2. That is going to take some contemplation. My passion is photography, and caring for others. I spend as much time as feasible outdoors, I will have to think on it. Thank you for the prompt.

  3. I love this. I want to WRITE! And I want to help others shape their dreams. I recently lost my job and feel that this is the time that God is using to lead me to that. I have NO CLUE how it's going to happen but, I know in my heart it will.

    My dad says that you can only be two things if you risk: a hero or a zero. But you should always risk in order to try to achieve your dreams. Take the leap and have faith that you'll land right where you're supposed to be. I don't believe in coincidences. Thank you for sharing this at this moment.

  4. Savy – At least yearly we should do the reflective meditations and evaluate where we’ve come in the past year, and where we are going forward…

  5. Jan – Alexander Seinfeld recommends that you take your time. One or two reflections per day is enough. Let me know what else you come up with from your ponderings.

  6. you brought back old memories of the Jewish holidays i used to spend with my family....they are nice always...XOXOXOX

  7. Sil – a good way to help others shape their dreams is to show them how in your writing ;-) Think how many you can reach with words. Losing your job can be a plus, you know. It could mean a new beginning for you.
    Be a hero or a zero; I like that. Here are a couple of proverbs that relate to what you’re saying:
    Begin to weave and God will supply the thread. Leap, and the net will appear.
    Do you have a link you could leave here so I can find you?

  8. Bonnie – I’d love to read about some of those happier memories… are both sides of your family Jewish?

  9. I know I want to write for the rest of my life! :) I do love the idea of sitting down at least once a year (maybe more) and assessing where we have been, where we are, and what goals lie ahead. The 20 questions you linked us to will be a great start for me in this focus.

    Once again, a superb and inspirational post, Debra!

    Blessings always!

  10. A wonderful question Debra, and one that is not easily answered! I always find myself uncomfortable when presented with questions like this... Of course I have dreams, but there is an aspect of the mystery of life that allows me to feel the complete freedom to create. At the same time, I fully believe that I'm on a path. So I guess I want freedom, love, creativity, beauty, nature - and definitely writing! Not very specific, I know. Perhaps I will try those questions that you linked to above.

    Love the quotes you chose at the beginning - so beautiful.

  11. Have I mentioned recently how much I wish we lived in the same city. You write like I think, which scares me sometimes. I am never short on dreams and lists of things I think I want. When I was younger that list was material what you might expect from a young woman living the fast life. It didn't take me all that long to figure out material did not equal being fulfilled, but I had to learn on my own. Now.. I still have a list of things, some days it's smaller feet or to figure out how to defy gravity, but mostly I want to stay connected to this place I have found in myself. The writer. I want to remain healthy, continue to laugh as much as I do, and mostly importantly, to remain intrigued by the mystery of life. Beautiful post.

  12. This is great! Ummm, what do I want? Peace, Calm and to feel loved!

  13. Martha – You can’t get much more specific than that! Speaking of writing, I’m looking forward to moving along with our project. Doesn’t writing bring such incredible joy? And it isn’t just the writing per se, but writing with purpose.

  14. I want to live without any regrets, write to my heart's content, love with my soul and give back to the negligent contribution to this wonderful place I call my planet.

  15. Kristen – I remember at the retreat when Keith gave the assignment to write down all of our lifelong dreams, and I’m thinking, oh p-lease… It felt like a school assignment. But I’m so glad I heeded, because now I have a record of all those dreams that have come to fruition.
    About the question… it seems I’ve picked up (subconsciously) where I left off last post, with the fusion of creative and innovative doesn’t it? Weaving our creativity together with innovation = mission and purpose. Before, I felt like I was floating aimlessly on a raft at sea ;-) Now, there’s a sense of destiny.

  16. Brenda – We live on opposite sides the country, but still communicate more than some of my friends in the same city. We are East and West, and yet it seems like you ARE living right down the street.
    Funny, but values, how they change with age! At one time it was a certain car, or house, or neighborhood, and now… living in the upper hood is enough, as long as I have peace and purpose. And the writing is SO a call for us both. I’m so glad we connected in cyberspace ;-) Cheers!

  17. Sea Green Natural - My wish for you is peace, calm, and that you feel loved always! But what do you want to do for the rest of your life?
    ~ Blessings

  18. Sulekkha – Find your purpose and stick with it. Living with no regrets is a great desire; I want that too. And writing to your heart’s content; ditto! What do you want to give back to society?

  19. Seek God in deeper ways, serve others more fully, cultivate the growth of my family, building it on the foundation respect and love, travel and experience life more and write all about it :)
    Great post Debra, you made me really think!

  20. These are tough questions, sometimes in moments only of clarity I get an inkling of the answers.
    These are great directions for deep thinking.

    Life is so busy, I try but it is hard to set aside time just to be and think. Lately on the bus ride I have actually been doing more examination but I can't write while in the bus.

  21. Debra, I always find your posts from the heart of God. I read once in Walking With Arthur by Jim O'Donnell that three things make us happy. If we get one or two, it is amazing. But all three is bliss.
    1- Doing what God wants us to do.
    2- We love what we do.
    3- It serves others.
    All three and we are in heaven on earth. That is just my secret. :)

  22. Jessica – Keep your eyes wide open for God to show you ways to walk in your call. Living what we write – or rather writing what we live – is a good start, don’t you think? All the things you mention: seeking God in deeper ways, travel, etc, can be formed into a ministry where you get to do all of the above ;-) Exciting!

  23. Being Me – Yes, these are contemplative questions. Thoughts to ponder and linger over before jotting down an off-the-cuff answer –although you can do that too. Whatever works for you, that is wisdom. Just take 5 (when you find time) and answer meditatively. And if and when you come up with a concrete mission plan, I hope you’ll let me know. Most of us are still in progress…

  24. Sonia – Oh girl! You are amazing. I love these three things you mention:
    Doing what God wants us to do.
    Loving what we do.
    Doing work that serves others.
    Thank you SO much for sharing your secret with me! Have you done a blog post on this yet? Because if you haven’t… well, you should ;-) This is most helpful to readers who aren’t sure what path in life to take. It’s a great guideline and formula for success.

  25. Like you, I would have to say I would like to write for the rest of my life, specifically write poetry, but even beyond that, I want to always get better at it and grow, to learn.

  26. Debra, this is one of those posts that serves as a prompt for deep introspection. What do I want to do? I think I want to be generous, perform random acts of kindness, stay true to my beliefs and values, kiss my children when I see them, take long walks with Roxy (though I know that won't be possible) and laugh. I want to enjoy life through the simple pleasure of laughing. It gives your heart wings and makes you believe that anything is possible. Lovely post, lady!

  27. Adriene – Take those writing skills of yours and shoot for a Nobel Prize in literature. You never know. Or… just keep enjoying the journey, regardless. I never expect to make a fortune with my writing. But neither did Stephen King ;-) He was, at one time, among the starving artists. Whether I make a penny or thousands of bucks, I’m going to do it anyway. We are living our dream right where we are, in the here and now. And THAT’S what counts. Cheers!

  28. Bella – I am deep like that, aren’t I ;-)? It is a good thing to go inward and ask ourselves the important questions once in a blue moon.
    But between reflecting on the deep things of life, I enjoy most of all going over and laughing with you. Because you already know you’re on the right path. You have a rare gift for making people smile; you’re just a natural born comedienne – you and your mascot Roxy. What a delightful team!

  29. I think I'm doing what I want to be doing for the rest of my life. I'm very grateful and will do all I can to protect that situation!

    Also, I expect to find more things that I love doing as time goes by. For example, I can hardly believe I had never even read a single blog a year ago! Now blogging is such a big part of my life!

    I have bookmarked your 20 Questions and plan to incorporate that into my morning prayer time tomorrow. Thank you!

  30. You know, Debra, there are few people that could post something like this and have as many hearts open as wide as they are here today. That tells me something. It tells me that you are doing what your heart and soul beg you to do. You are living with magic, listening to your calling, following a path that illuminates not just your life but the the lives of all those who know you as well. I think that deserves a twirl! Or seven:) TWIRLS FOR DEBRA!!

  31. Linda – I know you are following your bliss; have known this since we first met…when I was drawn in by a comment you made at Stuart’s education blog, then went straight over to your place and read about what you’d wear for the rapture! What an original ;-)
    I just came back from viewing the most awesome photos - and put in my two cents. Your art should be published widely. Go for the big leagues!

  32. Brynne – You’ve just made my day - seven twirls for Brynne too! Do you ever wonder if what you post will fly? I never know for sure until it’s a fait accompli. I don’t want to go on about how dreams come true (because we all know that they can), but I do feel a call to help others find their unique paths, for so many seem to be wandering aimlessly through life ;-(
    Sometimes I meet kindred souls along the way, those like you who are in touch with their resident child, and who have the gift of sprinkling magic all around, and it just fuels the fire in me. Thank you! Did you save any cupcakes for me, btw?

  33. Or COURSE I did! If you look outside and find the brightest star then look a little to the left, that's where I'm waiting. On a gentle cloud. Don't worry, you cant get lost. I will be playing with my favorite sparklers and singing a happy tune. You wont be able to miss me. I cant believe you know good 'ole Marion..can we talk about that when we eat our orange cupcakes? Did you read on my blog that they have rainbow sparkles but are a little heavy on the pink? Perfect, huh?:) See you soon!

  34. Brynne – I’ll be there! What happy tune should I be listening for? Hooray; you DID save me some of those orange cupcakes! How grateful I was to learn that the treats are covered with rainbow sprinkles, heavy on the pink ;-) Perfection. Hey, you know what? We should invite Marion to come along and have a fairy tale fest! Sound good?

  35. You know Debra, if I think back through the different seasons of my adult life, I believe that my answer back 15, 10 and even 5 years ago would be completely different than it is today. It's fascinating to me how God leads us along our journey, tempering and honing our directions through the people and experiences He places in our path. While I still have some of the passions and interests I did back in my earlier years, priorities and desires change as I walk closer to Him, thereby altering how I would wish to spend my remaining days.

    I guess with that being said, I'll answer that I'm enjoying being a "work in progress", and can't wait to see where He takes me tomorrow. :-)

    Have a Blessed Day!

  36. Phil – I hear you. We are all a work in progress. All sojourners along the way. But still here by design, and each with a unique plan and purpose in His mind. I do know folks, though, that are aimless wanderers with no sense of direction. It isn’t an absolute necessity to define our mission, but rather to begin the process of seeking and asking. I’m not talking grandiose illusions of greatness when I say ‘mission’. I think of Brother Lawrence, a humble cook, and how his purpose was to practice the presence of God every day, and to show others, through his writing, how to do the same. And I think of the anonymous author of The Pilgrim’s Way, who taught through his writing how to live a life of utter reliance on God’s mercy. There is no purpose too small when it’s God’s purpose, because if we do all for the glory of God, it will always be great!

  37. I will have to sit down, take some time, and write down a list. I can tell you though the first and most important thing I want to do with the rest of my life is... LIVE!!!

    Not exist or be... live. I want to live every single moment of my life, good and bad. Feel it, touch it, love it, taste it, see it, hear it, smell it... live just plain and!!! I want to be fully present through every bit of it.

  38. I have to say that I agree that I want to live and spend the rest of my life truly knowing the people I love, not just "socialize" with them. I want them to know me as well. Not much of a dream it may seem, but for me it is most important. I will have to think and write, but for me ther is little of importance after love.

  39. Jenn – Even if you don’t answer all 20 questions, just answer the ones that speak to you.
    You want to do more than survive; you want to thrive! That’s what it sounds like you’re saying. And you’re already on a mission of sorts, writing and advocating for breast cancer awareness.
    But I’m sure there’s more for you. So I hope you’ll be back if you discover any other calls. Have a great weekend!

  40. Jan – Yes. That is so true, we want to go beyond the superficially of relationships, intimately knowing those in our lives. Knowing and being known. Life is too fleeting not to develop bonds with our loved ones. I just lost a dear friend of mine this week named Nancy. When I think of her now, all I see are the good memories we shared. It’s funny how we don’t stop and ponder our fond memories until a person is gone.

  41. Debra, As always a wonderful post. I have been asking myself this question from the first weekend I had leukemia :) Still coming up with an answer though :) Thank you for the wonderful reminder. I always love reading your blog, it always fills me with such wonderful inspiration and wisdom.

    One small request :) YOu should set up an RSS feed through feedburner or something so Google reader can pick up the feeds...then I would never miss a post! More of a selfish request than any :)

  42. Debra - Once again I am stunned by this...because I can relate to this so deeply. And then you go and give a link to Jeremiah 29:11 - which is 'my verse' and how can I not answer this question....I just had a 'moment' reading this..thank you, for the inspiration, time and again.

  43. Beautiful, Debra.

    I want to write... Write and inspire...Touch other people's hearts... Write for those who are willing to read what I have to say. I have one blogger friend tell me how much wisdom I have for a 28-year-old. I do my best to share that wisdom to my loved ones but those who are older than me think I'm a know-it-all and get annoyed about the things I say. So I keep my mouth shut nearly all the time. I can only write about them, hence, my blog.

  44. Aaron – Aren’t you writing a book? One would guess that writing and photography would occupy the rest of your days. You certainly have a unique story to tell, one that would inspire others to live out their own days in fruitfulness, as you are doing.

    I’ve thought about setting up an RSS feed (like most everyone else) but, for some reason, I always put it off ;-( Thank you for reminding me of what I need to make a priority.

  45. Corinne – I know. I stole your verse ;-) Every time I go to your site and see Jeremiah 29:11 I’m filled with awe…that each one of us has an individual and special purpose for our lives. I can’t remind myself of this enough.

  46. Irene – Keep walking in that call to write and inspire, for there isn’t a more fulfilling destiny (at least to me there isn’t ;-) I remember a quote by Brian Doyle that has always spoken to me. “Writers are deep in their souls didacts who itch to deliver the Unvarnished Truth and cannot help but unburden themselves of that which burns in their hearts. Writers are preachers.” Except our ‘pulpit’ is our desk and our ‘congregation’, our readers.

  47. If I look back at my life , I have been doing everything I have wanted to do in that moment of my life. I feel that it is not any one given aspect that I aspire to..for me, it is through experiences of the Living of a passion or a guided direction that I achieve the different aspects of my " Life Purposes"..key being we evolve and change we deepen our purpose through many levels of service, whatever that may be..and maybe...someday it compiles into a Life Well Lived ..and if I look at the common thread through my life, I have always gravitated towards empowering others to reach their full potential, whatever that is for inspire each soul within its own understanding of its evolution within this lifetime. great post Debra...really enjoyed this...shared...

  48. first, Debra, I hearted all of those quotes – magnificent! Second… To finish well, grab hold of and not let go of peace, to want the will of God, pray for the will of God, accept what happens as the will of God – and to love – and even with this insomnia that steals life and opportunity – to be able to find a way to pay the bills – that would be nice – but even that is not wanted so much as to want his will and love. God bless you Debra!

  49. Ravenmyth – A life well lived…exactement! And that one phrase sums it up best. If we give everything we do our best shot, be it hoeing the garden or pulling weeds, washing dishes or cooking a meal, teaching or writing, painting or weaving, it all boils down to this one thing: did I give it my best? Now onto empowering others to reach their full potential… I can see that you and I both, in our own unique ways, are following this call. All the best to you along the journey dear one!

  50. Craig – When I read your comment, I immediately thought of Acceptance with Joy from the book Hind’s Feet… know what I’m talking about?

    Peace, check. Pay the bills, check. Embrace the will of God, check. Love, check. Finish well, check. Same here.
    Why do we have those crosses? Surely they do bring us closer to Him. I think Jesus must have had insomnia too, because he was the only one awake in the Garden of Gethsemane, while all the disciples were dozing. Of course, under the circumstances, I wouldn’t have slept a wink either. But I get the feeling that even before this fateful evening, he probably spent numerous sleepless nights. Just surmising.

  51. “If you ask me what I came into this life to do, I will tell you: I came to live out loud.”
    ― Émile Zola.

    I live out loud - through my photography :D

  52. Great question. Hit the mark more often I guess would be my answer. (God's strait & narrow so I can hear well done...)
    PS I love CS Lewis

  53. Blessings… how will you attain the goal of hitting the mark more often, I wonder… do you have a game plan? Somehow, I believe you will hear “well done.” Just a hunch ;-)

  54. Oh my, what a wonderful question! My answer can't be boiled down to one word, but to several:

    - Curious
    - Fulfilled
    - Successful
    - Enthused
    - Accepted for who I am
    - Educated about things that matter to me
    - Creative

    And if there could be an epitaph for me, this beautiful quote would be apt, from one of my favorite poets and authors, William Butler Yeats:

    "You that would judge me, do not judge alone this book or that, come to this hallowed place where my friends' portraits hang and look thereon; Ireland's history in their lineaments trace; think where man's glory most begins and ends and say my glory was I had such friends."

    This is one of the most beautiful summations of a life well lived, I think.

    As always, I adore the way your blog prompts me to delve deeply for a response! Loving you, sweet girl. <3

    - Dawn

  55. I just realized I should've put the word "be" in front of each bulleted word. Otherwise it doesn't read properly. :)

    - Dawn

  56. Dawn, these seven things…
    Be curious… fulfilled… successful… enthused… accepted for who I am… educated about things that matter to me… creative… I embrace all of these myself.
    And the quote by William Butler Yeats, yes, how fitting an epitaph for me too!

    Another I’d choose is this epigram by Emily Dickinson:

    THIS is my letter to the world,
    That never wrote to me,—
    The simple news that Nature told,
    With tender majesty.

    Her message is committed
    To hands I cannot see;
    For love of her, sweet countrymen,
    Judge tenderly of me!

  57. I love Emily Dickinson! I remember reading this poem in first or second grade and then devouring anything of hers, or about her that I could get my hands on. That was when it first hit my consciousness that women/girls could write and be published. I determined at that young age to find a way to do that and I'm still working on it, and enjoying every minute and every written word. :)

    - Dawnie

  58. Oh Debra... if I answered this a month ago, I would've said I wanted to be married and have children and live a good life.

    But somehow, as God redirected the course of my path, I was beginning to listen and somehow, with all the events that is happening in my life, He seems to lead me to the same place as before ~ being with the children... And this desire grows stronger everyday.

    Well, for the rest of my life?... God knows...


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