Under The Influence

What has an effect on you? What shapes your view of yourself, the world and those around you? Whether or not we admit it, we are being influenced by something or someone all of the time.

Periodically, I like to take a inventory to evaluate what is fueling my thoughts and choices. The last couple of weeks I have been doing my own mental check up to understand what has influenced me, motivated me and inspired me. Probing into these insights may help me decide if some things need changing. After all, these controlling, stabilizing beliefs in me guide my thoughts and choices.

Ever think about what influences, motivates and inspires you? I invite you to consider it.

Last night, I had the privilege of leading about 15 of us through a contemplative retreat at Meijer Gardens. We considered these same concepts together. Using the following dictionary definitions, each of us considered how these abstract power punchers inside of us operate.

Influence

1 the influence of parents on their children:, impact; control, sway, hold, power, authority, mastery, domination, supremacy; guidance, direction; pressure.
2 a bad influence on young girls: example to, (role) model for, guide for, inspiration to.
3 political influence: power, authority, sway, leverage, weight, pull, standing, prestige, stature, rank; informal clout, muscle, teeth.

Motivation

1 his motivation was financial: motive, motivating force, incentive, stimulus, stimulation, inspiration, inducement, incitement, spur, reason; informal carrot.
2 keep up the staff’s motivation: enthusiasm, drive, ambition, initiative, determination, enterprise; informal get-up-and-go.inspiration

Inspiration

1 her work is a real inspiration to others: guiding light, example, model, muse, motivation, encouragement, influence, spur, stimulus, lift, boost, incentive, impulse, catalyst.
2 his work lacks inspiration: creativity, inventiveness, innovation, ingenuity, genius, imagination, originality; artistry, insight, vision; finesse, flair.
3 she had a sudden inspiration: bright idea, revelation, flash; informal brainwave, brainstorm, eureka moment.

Influence seems to be something outside of us which tries to define us, put expectations on us, driving an agenda created by a person(s) or culture. Coming with some sort of requirement to achieve recognition or acceptance, an influence is as good as the source is pure.

Inspiration comes from within. Perhaps it is monitored by how well we stay connected with who we are in our true self. There is something intrinsically genuine about inspiration. It is birthed from a place within us connected with our unique purpose and personality. Often it revealed by a Divine decision.

Motivation seems to be birthed in the tension of the two. Are you motivated by an outside force or an internal revelation?

If you chose to consider these robust rallying  forces within you, a new perception and perspective about yourself and your life may emerge. Change is hard. Sometimes staying the same is harder.

Finding joy in life, going to the deep places within to explore the source of motivation fueling my choices.

May you experience inspired motivation each day being fully connected with your true self and your Creator.

It’s a great day!

 

 

Advertisements

Longings…

Within each of us are longings. Many are common such as a sense of purpose, a place to belong, to love and be loved, to know and be known, connection with the Divine and making someone else’s life better because of our choices.

The last couple of weeks, I have been pressing into the longing to know myself as I am today. In order to do that, I have delved into who and what has influenced, motivated and inspired me. It’s a journey both fulfilling and painful. It energizes me and depletes me.

In and though writing about my journey with Richard, I was confronted with my past and how other’s choices have influenced me. I have looked deeply into the consequences of my own choices. Seeing how childhood sexual abuse impacted my view of myself has brought me to a place of visceral compassion for my younger self. Living out of distorted beliefs and paralyzing fears, covered with a shield of “having it all together” was a truly terrifying and lonely place to be held captive. So many opportunities were lost because of fear of judgment, shame and insecurity.

These introspections can lead to regret. I refuse to allow regret to grow in me. We don’t know what we don’t know. Right or wrong, we make choices out of what we know. It is often after we learn more, we recognize another choice would have been better. We must allow grace to lead us to forgiveness for ourselves and others.

My longing to know myself better is stirring a need to go someplace beautiful and enjoy creation. Lake Michigan is calling. The sound of the waves, the feel of the sand, the smell of the breeze is a sure bet in restoring my soul. It is the place I grew up. I can find my younger self there easily. Going to find her, then asking Life and Truth to speak into her will provide healing. Bringing all I know now to what I didn’t know then will transform her, integrating her more fully into the resurrected Larko I am becoming.

So, off I go, with my main squeeze Shiloh, maybe even rascally Cricket, to a place I have been, believing I will come back more fully who I am.

May you know the best of who you are so you may enjoy what Love wants to bring to you and through you.

Finding joy in life discovering me, looking forward to how knowing myself more fully may help others take a step toward the Creator. It is by encountering him, we all find who we were made to be!

It’s a great day!

 

There Is A First Time For Everything

Living life to the fullest often requires us to try new things. If we stay with what we know, what are we missing? Continuing to challenge myself to try new things has been quite an adventure.

One of the barriers of trying new things is an aversion to change. We establish default patterns in our lives, sometimes started decades ago. Our lives become comfortable with familiar choices and thoughts. But, if we do not try new things, how will we grow? How will we know if our choices are true to who we are or just automatic responses learned to survive everyday mundane existence?

Hear me friends, not everyone has to be as adventuresome as I am. Being one of the people who live outside the box is nothing new to me. I traveled to Africa to visit my sister and her husband by myself when I was 15. That is when my passion for travel ignited. A few years later, I boarded an airplane, by myself, bound for Paris, France for a year. I had no job, couldn’t speak the language and was equally scared as I was electrified by the adventure awaiting me.

Those types of opportunities provide endless possibilities to try new things, meet different types of people, experience different cultures and grow personally in profound ways. Living outside the box often allows us to find ourselves.

Now, obviously, I haven’t always continued incorporating new things into my life after trying something for the first time. Anticipating my sister and her family visiting this summer, I looked for fun things to do with the youngest members of our clan. Then it happened. I learned of BeanBoozled.

JellyBelly’s has been around for years. I keep at stash of them at my office for my clients. Their dazzling realistic flavors make them a fun snack. BeanBoozled is made by the JellyBelly people, this will be fun I thought.

The premise of the BeanBoozled game is based on pairs of seemingly identical beans looking the same on the outside, but with two different flavors, very different. One is delightfully tasty and the other is, as times, horribly nauseating. You won’t know what you get until you bite into it. Each person takes a turn being directed to select one particular type bean. They then bite into it in front of everyone else and they must finish eating it. This game is not for wimps. It became clear very quickly which flavor the sneaky candy was by the look on my loved ones faces, and mine. There is a first time for everything. Sometimes it is the last time as well. BeanBoozled and I will not enjoy each others company ever again. I can still taste dog food, rotten eggs and spoiled milk when I think about it. It is a reminder, counterfeits in life are real. That’s for another blog post. 🙂

It will not stop me from trying new “firsts”. If I want to continue to learn about and grow into the person I am when nobody is looking, I have to take chances. I must not be afraid of change. The more I learn about me from the past and present, the more I can grow into the me of the future. When I am comfortable in my own skin, the desire to make a difference in others lives flow more freely out of me. Embracing my true self always propels me into learning to love others and there I find pure joy. It is worth the risk to love purely even though we may be hurt. Choosing not to love is what destroys me. We were created to love and be loved.

May you embrace the “firsts” necessary for you to soar into the life the Creator intended. May your Divine DNA position you to embrace each day with a sense of wonder and joy. May you encounter Love.

It’s a great day!

 

The Best Year of My Life

Today while enjoying time with my brother and sister-in-law, I enthusiastically announced “The Year of Resurrecting Larko”. I am going to do every thing in my power to make this the best year of my life.

Just like I did last year….and the year before.

Several years ago, I learned something life changing for me. Each day holds the elements capable of making it the best day of my life. Whether or not I experience it that way is up to me. I can chose to live out of regret or gratitude. No one can take the choice away from me, except me.

Often times we live in the hidden destructive world of fantasy where “what could have beens”, “what used to bes”and “if only’s” distract us from the blessings only available in reality. When we let go of the need for things to be different in order for us to find joy, we will experience joy finding us.

Last year was the best year of my life. I chose to live it that way. Living out of what remains, not what had been lost, made it happen.

So this year, the best year of my life once again, is going to be called, “The Year of Resurrecting Larko”.  I am going to find the me only possible because of what has actually happened in my life story. No room for regrets. In and through the journey of my life I have experienced great losses. I have also been blessed with tremendous gains. Both have shaped me into who I am today.

So, I am making a list and starting to plan how to embrace every ounce of life this year in my ever emerging new normal. I want to road trip with my collie, enjoy more time with my family, enjoy the lake more frequently, write a book or two, blog, find more time to spend with friends, explore new destinations and finally get in shape.

If you wanted this to be the best year of your life, what would your list look like? Don’t know where to start? Try to start just with today. Make today the best day of your life.

Finding joy in life living every day pressed into the only place life and love is found, reality.

It’s a great day!

 

 

To Thine Own Self Be True

 

IMG_6627

Sometimes this girl needs flowers in her home to fill her soul. Today is one of those days.

Each one of us is created uniquely. At the center of our being, a Divine intentional design has been emerging within us since we were conceived.

Our identity is not created by our childhood experiences, how other people perceive us, how we perceive ourselves, successes, failures, money or power. We are who we were created to be. From the deepest part of our being, we long to find our true identity.

Growing up a people pleaser, I have to consistently evaluate my motivation for choices I make. Am I falling back into denying who I am to please others? Am I allowing the best of who I am to enter into relationships, being true to myself? Sometimes it is hard to differentiate.

Before we can fully enjoy our true self, we must understand what makes us come alive. What activities, experiences, types of people and self-care provide the best soil in which to grow into our true self? Understanding what is life-giving to us is essential. Once we discover what energizes us or depletes us, we are capable of finding balance in life necessary for us to thrive. Through maintaining our true self, we bring strength and beauty into every encounter we have. There is no need for insecurity or comparison. There we find love at it’s finest.

So how do we know how to embrace our Divinely inspired design? We are all different. For me, my needs are tended to primarily through trusted friends with whom I can share my deepest fears and highest dreams. Those who will hold my heart when I am hurting, encourage me to move forward if I fail, cheer me on when I get weary and who will allow me to do the same for them. My deepest need is to love and be loved purely.

Relationships are vital, yet other things are life-giving to me as well. Really dark chocolate, my dogs, exploring new places, music, flowers, colors, the beauty of nature, pure fragrances and countless other luxuries available which are too often taken for granted.

Knowing what my soul needs to soar in the marvelous adventure of life is an ongoing process as life changes. For now, I only need to know the Spirit will guide me and provide for me through experiences with people, places, and things.

May you embrace all of life with your true self, designed by the Divine.

Finding joy with the beauty of creation, cherished family, trusted friends, furry canine cuddles, and ever-increasing gratitude for being blessed beyond what anyone deserves.

It’s a great day!

Leaving a Legacy

 

Today, my Richard would have turned 60 years old. Because we knew he wasn’t going to live to see this day, we threw him a party a few weeks before he passed away. It was such a special time of outrageous joy, gratitude, love and celebration. I love this picture with him along with my brother and sister-in-law. It shows the sparkle in his eyes and the joy he poured out onto others until the day he passed away.

The picture of his children was taken after the memorial. During a time of deep sadness and grief, the seeds of hope were planted in them to take the best of their father with them as they chose life each day for themselves. His greatest desire was for his children and grand children to learn from his failures.

He inspired me everyday during the last year his life. One year ago, on his 59th birthday, we made a video specifically to be shown at his memorial. He learned so much about life, love, God, gratitude, and himself during the previous three years, he wanted to share it if it could benefit others.

In the last year of his life, his biggest motivation for living as long as possible was to help his children heal  from the hurt he caused. He wanted them to know how much he loved them even though so much of their lives he was living in a world of isolation no one could enter.

The following is the script from the video we showed at the end of his memorial. On today, his birthday, it is my honor to share with you the legacy left behind. It is a story of transformation.

My body is wrestling with an illness which is taking away my ability to speak. The privilege of making a video has allowed me to share with you some of the most amazing life lessons I have learned and continue to learn in and through what might be the last years of my life. I want to share them with you hoping they might help you or others you may know.

We all face many challenges in life. We cannot speak of, nor understand how difficult it is to live the life of another. We can only share our story, from our perspective. It is so easy to judge others choices. I know I have been guilty of it my whole life. It was all part of covering up the fears inside of me. The fear I fought was the fear of myself. I was so afraid of not measuring up. I hid inside myself my whole life trying to be anyone but me. I was afraid if anyone really saw me they would see how horribly inadequate I was. So I fought to be someone I’m not. I ran from my self, God and others. I looked to become “someone” through education, money, success, relationships etc. someone who people would like, value and appreciate.

That process drove me into isolation and then chronic pain drove me deeper internally through drugs and alcohol. I discovered numbing the pain, emotionally and physically was the only way I could feel “normal”.

No one wants addiction. It is not something one seeks. It is a drive stronger than words can explain. Addiction literally consumed me. By nature, I am a kind, considerate, loving, giving man. I am a God-fearing Christ follower. I became the antithesis of that during my years of addiction. I hurt everyone I love and I hated myself for it. I begged God to deliver me every day for years and yet I continued to do it! The guilt and shame from the hurt I caused drove me deeper into it to shut down the screams inside.

God didn’t deliver me any of those countless times I begged Him to. What He did was give me the ability to get back up and fight against it again and again. He was with me though the process to humbly be honest with myself about myself. Then I was able to be honest with others. The truth will set you free yet the journey to honesty is bloody when addiction is present.

Living inwardly focused is a lonely place. In that place it was all about me. “No one understands how hard it is for me, I know what is best, I know how to take care of this, poor me, the typical blah blah blah playing the victim…yuck!” Love became something associated with what I got out of it because I was the center of the universe too afraid to let anyone else in.

But now I don’t have to hide. I let people in. They see me and I see them. What I have learned since getting outside myself is that love is doing what is best for another, even if it’s not good for me. It is always considering what is best for the “we” in relationships. I have found my true God-given self. I have started learning how to consider the needs of others more centrally that ever before. With a new focus, I am becoming more and more alive. I am no longer afraid of being who I am because now I am who God made me to be. I am still far from perfect but I am free even though my body is becoming more and more limited.

When I started having the symptoms associated with ALS, I didn’t feel “targeted” or “picked on” by God. I’m not afraid of dying. I am afraid of how this will all progress until my body dies. That is all unknown right now so I try to stay focused on enjoying every day as much as possible. I intentionally want to be more present for as long as possible.

On the way home from the doctor’s appointment regarding insertion of a feeding tube, Jean asked how I was doing. My response was, “I used to have good days and bad days. Now everyday is a great day!” I have learned the extraordinary blessing of living in what is real right now. It’s not about what has been lost. It is what is still here. Gratitude is often a lesson hard learned. It is worth every fight to get there.

Continuing to get up and fight where you left off is almost more important than experiencing freedom. Without fighting to move forward you will never experience what God has in store for you.

If you don’t keep fighting to break free from what is holding you captive, you will never experience what it is like to be truly yourself. Don’t give up on yourself. Don’t give up reaching for your true self.

God was with me every step of the way. One day recently, I was spending some quiet alone time with God at Meijer gardens. I was enjoying time with God talking with him about the beauty in nature. It one point I asked him, “Why haven’t/won’t you heal me?”
It felt as if he pulled me onto His lap and said, “ That is the wrong question. Think on this and ask me again after you look at your life.”

After considering it for a while I then knew the better question, “How have you and where have you healed me? Where are you continuing to work in my life?” Then I could see he had healed me in very profound ways. I was free to live life unlike ever before. I am now asking, how can I help people who are struggling? How can my experiences help build others faith who are faced with terminal illness or addiction?

After God has opened your eyes to recognize what has happened in your life, express gratitude for the miracles that have occurred. You will be amazed what He will show you!

I can handle the miserable that I face now with this illness much better than the miserable I was in the past with addiction, (fighting depression, manipulation and controlling others for my benefit, etc.) My eyes are open now. It is interesting how priorities change depending on what challenges are set before us. There are always things I can’t control but I can always control how I act and react. My choices are my responsibility.

I choose to never give up fighting for what is right
I choose to continue to learn to love more purely
I choose to live in gratitude for what I have
I choose to remember that there is always someone who has it worse than I do
I choose to remember God is always with me providing me with the courage to keep going as long as he choses to give me breath.

ALS is not the hardest thing I’ve ever faced. God has brought me through much worse. He’ll be with me through this and beyond.

This isn’t goodbye. This is see you later.

It’s a great day!