My Year With Sufficiency, Service, and Invitation

Sufficiency, Service, InvitationEvery year, about this time, I select a set of words to represent my intentions for the next twelve months. For 2014, I chose three: sufficiency, service, and invitation. Before I leave this year behind and select a new set of intention words, I wanted to share how navigating a year by these three words affected me.


I selected the word ‘sufficiency’ as a way of expressing the concept of enough. “Sufficiency isn’t an amount,” writes Lynne Twist, “It is an experience, a context we generate, a declaration, a knowing that there is enough and that we are enough.” I wanted to experience sufficiency as a context in every aspect of my life: financially, spiritually, psychologically, physically.

Paradoxically, one of the ways I went about pursuing my financial experience of sufficiency was to do something really crazy: I stopped charging for my services. Instead, in January 2014, I started giving all my services to my clients as gifts. In return, if they wished, my clients were free to reward my services based on their satisfaction, gratitude, and means. I call this approach The Gratitude Model. Long story short: I’ve been very happy with the results. Some clients pay me more than I used to charge and others pay me a lot less. My business grew by leaps and bounds in 2014 and I’ve been blessed with many new clients as well as a number of organizations—all without any real marketing effort on my part. In fact, this is the first time I’ve made my unconventional business model public.

As I’ve worked with sufficiency, I’ve come to realize that I have too many possessions. More-than-enough has come to feel bloated and uncomfortable to me. As a result, I’ve started seeking ways to share what I have with others by giving away items I no longer need or use. After reading The Parable of the Iron Pan, I was inspired to learn more about the New Economy and to think about how I can make my own small contributions to a more just and fair economic system. I’m looking into Wonolo and other skills sharing hubs to hire help for my growing business.


My life of service flows directly out of sufficiency. Because I have enough, I’m free to serve—to give of myself generously and wholeheartedly. Although I understood at the outset that sufficiency and service were strongly intertwined, I underestimated their capacity for synergy.

Sufficiency, especially as expressed by the Gratitude Model, gave me the freedom to openly pursue opportunities for service. In the past, I felt reluctant to approach organizations with the offers of my gifts but not any more! By embracing sufficiency, I lost the need for recognition, praise, or approval for my service; it simply became part of how I live my life. As a result, I became more engaged, more joyful, and more generous in sharing myself with others.


I chose the word ‘invitation’ because I wanted to cultivate an awareness of being invited as well as my ability to invite others. Invitation seemed like a natural companion to service. As it turned out, sufficiency granted me the freedom to turn down invitations that weren’t right for me even as I was issuing invitations to those I wanted to serve. Not only that, but when my invitations were rebuffed, I was much less hurt by that.

I didn’t leave my equanimity about invitations—getting and giving, being accepted or rejected—to chance. One of my affirmations was, “When I am rejected or passed over, I know that it isn’t because I’m not good enough or not successful.” By reiterating my trust in sufficiency, I was able to keep failure in perspective. This was a great victory for me because in the past, I would use failure as an excuse to beat myself up and feed my self-doubt.

Not that I make New Year’s resolutions, but when anyone asked me what mine were for 2014, I said: “Overcome self-doubt.” I’ve come to realize that I can’t completely get rid of self-doubt but I can be more “self-doubt resilient.” By improving my awareness of what self-doubt feels like, I am able to intervene more quickly and stop the cycle of emotional self-abuse before it gains momentum. Of all the obstacles I’ve encountered in my life and career, self-doubt has been, by far, the most destructive.I didn’t anticipate how effective these three words—sufficiency, service, and invitation—were going to be in my battle against self-doubt.

As a new year dawns, why not choose a set of words to express your intentions for 2015? You are invited to enjoy a 30-minute coaching session by phone and I’ll guide you through a reflection and review aimed at inspiring your thoughts about your intentions for the coming year. While 2014 will be left behind, my commitment to sufficiency, service, and invitation are on-going. Let me know how I can serve you!

Welcoming the Stranger

Advent means a heart that is awake and ready.

The moment I saw him, I knew he wasn’t Catholic.

I was standing in the vestibule of St Mary Catholic Church after Mass on the first Sunday of Advent. As the tall, slender young man walked past me, he breezed right past the Holy Water. I watched him closely as he walked down the center aisle. He didn’t genuflect before sitting down in the second pew from the front nor he make the Sign of the Cross before he bowed his head as if to pray. I nodded inwardly and thought to myself, “That boy has got a heavy heart. He is looking for some comfort here.” I sat down in the back pew and waited.

It was my Sunday to be a greeter for the 7 A.M. Mass. Being a greeter means mostly saying hello to the same people I see every Sunday. I smile, say “Good Morning,” hug people, and try to be a welcoming presence. Being a greeter is not a hard job but it’s not necessarily an easy one, either. The Hospitality Ministry is pretty new and the ushers are still getting used to the idea that a greeter is horning in on their territory. They glower at me while I attempt to maintain a serene frame of mind. One usher in particular seems really offended by my hugging people so I try to pray for him while I’m standing there. I figure if I’m praying for him, I’ll keep from flipping him off which is what I am sometimes sorely tempted to do.

While I was waiting for our young visitor, I thought about all the times I went to Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church in Monroe, Louisiana. Like him, I wasn’t Catholic either. I was a lot like I imagined this young man to be: troubled, confused, hurting. I would go sit at the feet of the statue of Our Lady and cry. I can’t tell you how many times I watched the nice parishioners look the other way while I was suffering so much youthful angst. My memory of how alone and sad I felt in those days was one of the reasons that I was so bound and determined to be present to this boy. Of all the things I may be, a sanctimonious, stuffy church lady, I am not.

When our visitor stood up to leave, I got up, too. I stepped over to the baptismal font and blessed myself with the words: “In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” I bowed toward the tabernacle and straightened up just as my young friend drew near.

I looked him in the eye and said, “My name is Tara. Are you okay? Do you want someone to pray with you?”

He nodded and told me his name was E–. After we sat down, he told me about how he’d been having trouble with drugs. His mom was insisting that he go to rehab before she’d let him come home. And there was a girl, too, whom he loved and lost. I could smell the cigarettes on his breath and I remembered a chain-smoking, binge-drinking eighteen year old I knew once. She was mourning the death of her boyfriend who’d been killed in a car wreck.

“I used to have a drinking problem, too,” I said. “I drank because I was trying to make the pain go away. I did drugs. I drank so much that I had black outs and shit.” Yes, I cursed in church; I told you I’m not a stuffy church lady.

We talked and prayed and cried together. Before he left, I gave him my card and told him I wanted him to let me know how he was doing. I promised him that I’d pray for him and that I wouldn’t forget him. I told him that I knew he could heal from everything that he’s gone through. And I told him that he has his whole life ahead of him.

A few weeks ago, when the scowling from the ushers was particularly fierce, I felt like an outsider again. I got discouraged and wondered how long I could tolerate the disapproval glares and being scolded for hugging people. I wasn’t sure I could get through it without mouthing off, either. On Thanksgiving morning, I asked God to send me a stranger. My reasoning was that as a greeter, I was there to welcome the person who was friendless, not merely to say hello to the people who see me every Sunday.

From the moment I set eyes on E–, I knew he was my stranger, the one I had prayed to the good Lord for. With all my heart, I hope I didn’t let him down. Maybe he heard me when I said, “You are not alone.”

Sharing Your Gifts: Should you let people take pictures of your artwork?

Should you let people take pictures of your artwork?“Tara, I need to talk to you right away.”

The voice mail was from my dynamite web developer, Kelly, and her tone made me think something was seriously wrong. I checked my website and everything seemed ok. Breathing a sign of relief, I dialed her back.

When Kelly answered, she got straight to the point, “Honey, I hate to tell you this, but someone is stealing your content.”

Frankly, I didn’t think I had anything worth stealing so in a way, I took this news as a compliment.

This incident came to mind for me this weekend while I observed artist’s reactions to people’s picture taking.

One artist had large, ugly signs posted all over his booth that read: NO photos; NO video; DON’T ask. With all of those no’s, don’ts,’ and bad vibes, I didn’t even bother to go into his stinking booth.

Another artist interrupted his conversation with me to leap in front of a visitor, blocking their effort to snap a pic of one of this prints. As the would-be admirer stomped off, totally offended, I wondered if it even occurred to the artist how much bad juju he was creating for himself.

And then there was Kat Dellamater. When I saw the banner for her Rocky Canyon Tileworks Mosaics, I practically ran to her booth. After going gaga over her table tops, table-runner sized trivets, and other mosaic gems, I introduced myself and ask if I could snap a few photos to illustrate this post. “Of course!” Kat replied. “Take as many pictures as you want.” When I photographed this lovely mirror, I was lucky enough to capture a reflection of lovely Kat herself!

I didn’t get any pictures when I visited with Kim Hamblin because Kim and I were having too much yucking it up. Kim’s assemblages—complex cut paper, paint, nails, and wood—are simply delightful. Kim left me feeling like I’d just found a long lost soul-sister.

Gena Ollendieck shared her incredible blend of mosaic, collage, assemblage, and book binding with me. Her work (pictured at left) is haunting, intriguing, and complex.

What these women understood was that by sharing their gifts freely, they increase the likelihood that their gifts will go farther, get more exposure, and bring more fans to their work. And, to the best of my ability, here I am doing my part and telling you about them.

I do understand the fear that an artist might have that someone could copy, plagiarize, or try to fake ownership of the work. But I also know, as I told Kelly when she discovered that someone was copying my posts, I give my gifts freely to the world. I don’t have any control over what happens to my work after it leaves me.

Yes, I like it when people give me credit where credit is due and yes, stealing is wrong. But am I going to try to police readers or scold Pinterest pinners or castigate Instagramers or stalk anyone else who has access to my work? Nope. Maybe something I write will be of value to someone, maybe something I create will be of benefit. I mean, isn’t that what gifts are for: to be given away.

What do you think? As an artist, do you worry about people taking pictures of your artwork?

Tara Rodden Robinson © 2013 :: Policies :: Contact