What is Your Joy Meter?

I recently offered condolences to a friend whose adult son had died suddenly. As we conversed, I was pleasantly surprised to glimpse a very strong resiliency within her.  She expressed the positive things experienced during and after his death and highlighted her gratitude in seeing another side of her son through his friends.  She was thankful as well to have gained an unexpected closeness to so many of them.

Curious, I questioned how these resilient traits of optimism and gratitude were formed.  Many years ago, she explained, she had become severely disabled by her fibromyalgia.  In her search for healing, she discovered that when she got to the root of her emotional state AND resolved that which troubled her emotionally or mentally, her body would respond positively.

She learned most of all that forgiveness, optimism and gratitude impacted her health the most.  Her fibromyalgia had become her “joy meter.”  If her symptoms began rearing up their ugly heads, then joy was down in her life.  Instead of stuffing away the problems of her life, she would evaluate, find that broken area, and mend it right away.

I couldn’t agree more.  In my own life I know that my MS symptoms often get more pronounced when I’m under stress or in emotional turmoil.

And for you?  What is your joy meter?  How do you know when there are areas in your life that need to be addressed?

Today Spiritual Prescription:

Mentally scan your body. (After each question, you may want to close your eyes and breath deeply as you listen to your body…)

Where do you hurt? Where are you carrying tension? Have you been more sick lately?  If you have a chronic illness, is it under control or have symptoms bubbled up lately?

Now take an emotional and mental scan. 

What is worrying you the most in your life right now? With whom are you in conflict or irritated?  What needs are being left unmet?  Are any emotions like anger, greed, resentment, depression, shame, or anxiety ruling your mind and heart these days?


Our bodies and minds are very much connected. One absolutely impacts the other.

Take time to discover your joy meter and
allow Forgiveness, Optimism, and Gratitude to bring you back into balance.


The Dormant Soul

One thing I loved about living in Vermont was witnessing the frozen land burst forth in new life when spring would finally come around. “How is it,” I would marvel each year, “that all these beautiful plants successfully remain dormant through the long frigid winter and reappear in such splendor?

cactus in bloom3
Our neighbor’s cactus in it’s springtime glory.

After four years in the Green Mountain State, my family and I moved to Arizona, the land of eternal sunshine—over 300 days of the year.

Spring did exist and had a unique beauty to it, but it was not the same as the yearly dramatic resurrection of the New England landscape.

I was looking back on a journal entry from my early days in the desert.  I was so desperate to move back to a cooler climate where the landscape’s changes were distinct from season to season.

I was surviving in the Sonoran desert, but not thriving.  I wrote that my very soul had become dormant in that place.


A great word.  According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary it means:

(1) :  being in a state of suspended animation (2) :  not actively growing but protected (as by bud scales) from the environment

“Not actively growing but protected from the environment.” That’s exactly how I felt.  A majority of my energy went toward protecting myself from the environment.  I was alive, but not growing in splendor.

As I have learned in my ministry with the dying, one’s soul can be dormant for many different reasons.

We protect ourselves from past traumas, whether consciously or subconsciously, by diminishing or burying the experience. We look past our own transgressions, unwilling to acknowledge the havoc or pain we have wreaked in our own lives or the life of another. We continue to view ourselves negatively as others have defined us, not as God has, beautiful and beloved.

We have no desire or are unable to grow spiritually.

We do not hunger for the transformative experiences where the healing powers of unconditional love, acceptance, and forgiveness are discovered.

One of my favorite, inspiring quotes is from author Anaïs Nin:

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud became more painful than the risk it took to blossom. 

Perhaps for many, the hunger for inner growth is not powerful enough to demand action.  But for others, it becomes too painful to remain where they are.

The lack of purpose weighs too heavy.  The level of anxiety is no longer acceptable.  The addiction has caused too much destruction. Rage and resentments have become too crippling; the number of broken relationships, too many;  depression, too deep.

Whatever the catalyst, being “tight in a bud” is no longer a viable choice.   The soul can remain dormant no more. The risk to blossom, to heal and grow spiritually, becomes the necessary path.

That was true for me while living in the desert.  My depression was growing with each day I faced.  The longing to move was transitioning into an obsession. By Spring of 2012 it was clear I had to change.

I shared here at Desert Sojourn of my soul’s transformation:

Within the last few months, I have come to terms with my life here in the land of endless summer. I have ceased compulsively striving away from the Now and have accepted that this desert is my home.  I have been able to let go.


That was such a turning point for me.  In fact, I had not noticed until now that in July, that following month, I posted more than ever.  My blossoming soul, no longer dormant, was enjoying a glorious springtime resurrection! Thanks be to God!

And what about you?  Are you experiencing a dormancy of your own soul?  Has it become too painful to remain in that frozen state?

Stay alert.  Rest in prayer and meditation.  And trust that God’s grace will move your very being into a season of healing and new life!

May you take that risk…and blossom!




Spiritual Lessons from the Desert, Part II: Take Shelter

When people ask me how long I lived in the Sonoran desert I usually respond in terms of summers, not years.  “I survived 6 summers!” I boastfully reply, as if they should be impressed with my cunning, woman vs. nature survivor skills. (Yeah…right…).

As I continue to ponder the spiritual lessons that the desert taught me, it may be no surprise that with the extreme climate the desert can bring that I would think of “shelter” as a spiritual necessity.

The Southwest sun can be brutal much of the year.  Last May 2012, Tucson had two hikers die from the heat within a 48 hour period, one from Germany (age 35), the other from the Midwest (age 23).  And let us not forget the countless migrants whose lives are claimed each year from heat related deaths.  Taking shelter from the heat and understanding the dire importance of drinking lots of water is crucial in surviving in the desert.

The beautiful Palo Verde in bloom

My urban shelter came in many different forms.  I discovered that using a UVA/UVB umbrella while walking reduced the harshness of the sun.  It felt womb-like each time I entered my car after its windows were finally tinted.  And I rejoiced every time I could sit or park in the shadow of a Mesquite or Palo Verde tree.  They may not compare to the grandeur of a Maple or an Ash, but even the slightest bit of shade for me was a welcomed blessing.

And what might spiritual shelter look like?

This is often what I attempt to discover when I first meet a hospice patient and his or her family/caregivers.  How have they coped in the past when things turned foul in life?  When circumstances intensify, from where or whom do they seek shelter?

Here are some of the things that spiritually shelter me:

  • Scripture or even profound quotes often buffer me from life’s hardships.  I will never forget coming across an inspirational Ojibwe saying on the BART train, of all places, that shifted my self-deprecating mood. “Sometimes I go about in pity for myself, and all the while a great wind carries me across the sky.”   Like stepping under the cool shade of that Palo Verde, I was instantly comforted. The intensity of my life had lost a bit of it’s heat. For your own spiritual shelter, have a few memorized scriptures and/or quotes  to draw upon or have at a glance for those moments of need.
  • Having several confidants—whether a friend or a professional—with whom I can share my heartaches, frustrations, and worries protects me from holding things in and letting them fester (Which is always bad for the soul!). There have been several core people in my life who have rescued me through the years with their gifts of presence and listening.  (And I thank you.) Seek out and keep close in your life those who truly care about your well being.
  • A spiritual discipline is an essential shelter.  A spiritual discipline might be reading sacred scripture like the Bible, praying, doing yoga, or meditating.  It could be that gardening or hiking reconnects you to the beautiful world around and gives you a fresh perspective on life.  What matters most is that the discipline allows for or leads to personal reflection. For me, I find journaling to be very effective at leading me to examine my life, to notice my connection—or lack there of—with God, and to see my spiritual growth. But know this.  This is the kind of shelter you don’t want to get too run down.  Maintain it! Create time each day, or at least each week, to practice your discipline.

My environment is so very different these days living in the Pacific Northwest.  But I will always be grateful for the things I learned on my desert sojourn.  May your own journey provide you with valuable, spiritual insights.

And feel free to share them here at Desert Sojourn!





Spiritual Lessons from the Desert: This Too Shall Pass

I haven’t blogged in such a long time.

Alas.  So much for being a “true” blogger who’s at it unceasingly!

It seems, however, that I needed this hiatus.  Much of my energy during this break has been poured into realizing a dream to move to cooler climates.  After literally years of prayer (of asking, seeking and knocking—Matthew 7:7), a door of opportunity opened for my family and I to move to the Pacific Northwest.  As I write this I am in a climate so very different from the desert.  Eugene is wet, lush, green, cloudy and cold…and I’m loving it!

But the lessons I have learned from my time in desert have not escaped me, especially the spiritual ones.  I am so grateful for the intense spiritual growth I’ve witnessed in myself over the last 5 1/2 years in the Sonoran Desert.  My sojourn tested me physically, emotionally and, without a doubt, spiritually.

As I reflect on this desert journey, I want to pass on some of the lessons I’ve learned.  Here is the first one:

This too shall pass.

Summer in the desert can seem to last forever. It arrives early in the year and continues month after month. It is not uncommon for late March and early April to be in the mid 90s.  The month of May continues to see temperatures rise and by June it is guaranteed to be dry and blazing.  July, August and September are hot and if luck has it, humid with the wet monsoon season.  By October, with the weather still warm both day and night, it feels like cool temperatures won’t ever grace the desert land.

And then it happens.  A sudden shift occurs in the evenings.  A cool  breeze beckons you to open your windows and doors. The nights almost require a long sleeve shirt and quite possibly, for the thinner-blood, desert dwellers, a light jacket. With little warning and almost overnight, fall arrives.

But it wasn’t just the heat that I thought would never pass. There were days and weeks in the desert when I believed my depression would never lift, financial burdens would remain heavy or illness would forever be present in my life.  I could look to the future and see no hope on the horizon—only more of the same, heat and heartache.

Ever felt this way? Ever believed life couldn’t possibly change for the better?

Like the fierce desert sun that can be so oppressive, perhaps your burdens are overwhelming you right now.  You cannot find any shelter; no sanctuary seems to exist for the renewal of your spirit.  Your life has become an ongoing battle and despair is winning.  Just as cool weather in the desert seems to have abandoned the land, so too does hope seem out of reach.

If this is how you feel, if this is your reality here and now, know this: This…too…shall… pass.

This season of your life will NOT last forever.  And if you cannot believe this for yourself, I will hold that hope for you.  I have been where you are now.

Do not give up

A new season is just around the corner!












Today’s Spiritual Prescription:

I double dog dare you.

No…Triple dog.

I triple dog dare you to skip AND be sad or angry or discouraged at the same time.  But know this.  I have concluded, from numerous testings, that it is impossible!

Now my husband believes that he could both simultaneously be angry and skip.  But this is what I think.  He might be able to begin skipping while being enraged (that image alone makes me giggle), but I truly doubt his anger could outlast a worthy amount of skipping.

There is just something about skipping that lightens my heart.  Perhaps it’s because it literally gets my heart going, producing those calming endorphins. Or maybe it’s because I’m feeling silly—like I’m a carefree child again.

I remember being slightly embarrassed, yet somewhat intrigued, when my 50-something mother came skipping toward me on my college campus.  Why on earth was she skipping?

As I approach the age my mother was back then, I’m realizing the importance of not taking life too seriously. I love the fact that Jesus tells us that to enter the Realm of God we must “become like little children” (Matthew 18:1-4).

In this scripture, Jesus was implying that his adult listeners needed to humble themselves and be willing to accept the lowly position that children carried in that culture.  But I’m going to also believe Jesus understood that children have a special way of seeing the joy and beauty all around them. Most are not weighed down with the weight of the world. What a wonderful way to live life—at any age.

So…here’s your Spiritual Prescription:

The next time you are feeling out of sorts, I want you to skip.  Skip in your neighborhood, down the halls of your workplace or your school.  Skip in the grocery store, in the local park or even in your own home. Skip with your friends, your children or your grandchildren. If you must, you can do it alone under cover of night.

Give it a try and let us know here at Desert Sojourn

how high your spirits got!