Pale belly bared, legs stretched on a floral blanket, Lizzo mutes the dogs and children romping and running wild on a perfect evening lost in limbo of late spring and early summer. There’s a subtle yet sure sense and scent of new life and fresh starts in the cooling air.

She sits and revels in awe and gratefulness remembering seasons not too far gone where joy didn’t come easily. The ease of the evening is interrupted by memories of insecurity and inadequacy that once fueled the inner turmoil and conviction that she wasn’t worthy of real happiness or epic love. That she was somehow inherently flawed and unworthy of life’s pleasures great or small. She sends the girl in her daydream compassion, love and hope and returns to the present just in time to catch the setting sun.

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The days are getting longer, but I still find myself dreaming of and reflecting on summer. North Dakota summers have a special ease about them. Clear roads, warm days, and sun that fills our bones with Vitamin D and seemingly endless energy. However, as my reflections quickly remind me, even on the most ideal summer evening, it’s easy to forget the blessings in front of us and question our purpose and place. We can still be haunted by our perceived shortcomings and get lost in the stress or fear of the moment and let feelings of self-doubt flood through us rather than the light that’s all around us.

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We often long for weekends or warmer weather. Too often we endure the present simply to make it to some point in time we’ve decided is more ideal than the moment we’re in. The opposite is true, too – we let the fear of what might happen paralyze us. The truth is, that date and time we’re living for or fearful of is fleeting and full of wild unknowns. We’re better able to appreciate the possibilities of the present when we recognize that which we’ve endured to lead us there.

Our seemingly insignificant lives in this wild world make it easy to question where our place is, why we matter, and who we’re supposed to be. Yet, this great big world brimming with beauty and surprise, possibility and miracles, is ours to make the most of. We were put here to take up space, make a difference, and be only our own individual selves.

We each belong to this universe equally. We are fashioned by the same molecules that create the stars and the steady earth beneath our feet. We are born to experience all that surrounds us. Joy is not something we earn, it’s something we create. It’s who you love, it’s what you do, it’s time you take. Silence the voices that tell you not to, you ought to, or you have no right to. Be your own voice of reason. Create your own path to joy, no matter which roads you take to get there. There’s no universal path to or definition of happiness and success so we should embrace the present with the light and potential we each emanate - even a cold February day in North Dakota.