This story began when I was 6 years old and I had a broken arm. It was summer and I attended Vacation Bible School at Pajaro First Assembly. There were many, many children that attended that year but there was a really nice girl who I met. She helped me carry things because of my broken arm and we became new friends.
Even after Vacation Bible School was over we continued to spend time; I would invite her over to my house to play on our 54 acres of apple trees. We had such fun and became good friends.
The story is long and involved but after seeing the need in her life; as well as that of her baby sister, my parents were given legal guardianship of both girls and my family grew from four girls to six overnight.
The reason I share this story is because I find it fascinating how God’s plan in our lives can be so creative. Over the years she and I have grown as “sisters”. No, we don’t share the same blood as she is a mix of Spanish and Native American and I am Irish and Scottish yet we share the same heart and love for one another.
Alberta Wray has been my friend, confidant, coach, and encourager throughout my life; God in His wisdom knew I would need her in my life. As you look at your life in hindsight is there someone God gifted you with in a creative or surprising way? If so , thank Him for it because it shows that He knows what you will need; who you will need to navigate life!
Alberta has impacted the lives of hundreds of people all over the world, she is a wonderful human; I’m glad she’s my sister.
This has surely been a season of learning, hasn’t it? So many of our lives and the way we have lived our lives has been turned upside down. Nevertheless there are some life truths that remain the same no matter what season of life we find ourselves in!
There is no mistakes, only lessons to learn.
The challenges we face are an incredible opportunity to find our grit, to stretch and to grow IF we allow them to! An incredible part of this learning is that we can then, in turn, support others when they face similar challenges.
Life is a journey, not necessarily a destination.
Our lives are full of seasons and assignments. Our lives are full of experiences, relationships, memory making, as well as challenges. If we live our whole life to finally make a million dollars we will ultimately miss out on all the journey has to offer if we are blinded only by the goal.
If you don’t believe in YOU, it will be hard for others to.
If you don’t see good in yourself, if you constantly talk about your flaws it may become all others can see in you. And it is true that if we don’t believe in ourselves we will make choices and act on our negative self-focus. Work on loving yourself, believing in yourself, and choosing to focus on the talents and gifts you bring to the world. If you believe, others will too!
There is a big difference between loneliness and solitude.
During this pandemic I have learned something new about myself. I actually like being alone and I’ve had a great opportunity to test that out. My life has always been lived in a very social way and yet this time of solitude has been good for me. Being lonely is a different experience because it speaks of the absence of people who care and who love you~just feeling alone. Loneliness is painful, solitude can be life-giving.
The world is full of voices but not necessarily inspiration.
This unique season in our culture has created an opportunity for there to be many, many voices. There’s opinions, rants, education, politics, news, and medical updates but there’s not a great deal of inspiration. I am always moved when I read an article or see a post where people are doing good, where senior couples are still crazy about each other, and when children show love to everyone regardless of the color of their skin! We need more inspiration…always.
Everyone deserves a fresh start.
Our lives are always in process. Sometimes people find themselves making wrong choices, causing harm, or breaking the law. It would be easy to decide that there is just no hope. But there’s always hope and the story of a persons life is not over until it’s truly over. God is so good at giving second chances and so should we.
We all have baggage don’t we? As we navigate our lives with people, professions, challenges, and changes our baggage will show up, we can count on it. Sometimes the baggage with be very evident and sometimes it sits under the surface affecting our choices, relationships and thinking.
Les Parrot and Dr. Neil Clark in their article ” Losing your Emotional Baggage express this thought “Wouldn’t it be nice if we could simply lose our emotional baggage the same way our luggage gets lost by airline companies? If only we could turn off our emotions and memories that easily.” “History is what has happened in our lives. Baggage is how we feel about it. Your perspective on your past determines, to a great extent, your personal health and vitality.”
If we are not aware of our Baggage and take good steps to address them they hold the power of negatively affecting our whole life.
Our baggage may come from a traumatic upbringing and yet even those from healthy homes walk away with baggage as well. The way we experience and perceive the events of our lives; no matter what, can shape the type of baggage that we carry.
So how can we begin to un-pack our Baggage and walk in fresh freedom?
1. Get some outside insight: Ask trusted friends or family if they can see any “blind spots” that keep sabotaging your relationships or occupations. Identify the themes and try to find the source of this baggage.
2. Take some time to reflect of past hurts or disappointments. Are you carrying baggage into this season of your life because you refuse to forgive, haven’t tried to gain real truth? feel like a victim? Are you bitter? If we won’t look at these things we will always be a slave to them. Be brave. Look at your challenges and ask yourself if being free of the baggage would be worth the effort it will take to move forward.
3. Choose to forgive. It’s said that “unforgiveness is like feeding ourselves poison while hoping our enemy dies!”. When we choose to forgive the people and experiences that “handed” our baggage to us, we open the door to freedom ourselves. Forgiveness does not mean we minimize the pain, that our offender’s behaviour has been acceptable, or that we have to reignite situations and relationships that are simply unhealthy for us. It simply means we lay it down. Piece by piece we drop off one “suitcase” after another until we can stand tall, breathe deep, and experience a hope like never before. In the same article mentioned above the authors express “Letting go is not easy and a person may not deserve forgiveness and may not even ask for it, but you should extend forgiveness because of what it will do for you. You may also need to forgive yourself.”
We are in a strange and emotional season now and a great deal of of baggage could emerge, it would be so wise to be mindful and address baggage as it reveals itself; you are worth that!
Four weeks ago in a darkened Theater I, along with my family and my parents, watched the story of Aibileen, Minny, Skeeter, Hilly and a host of other characters unfold with a mix of truth, humor, sadness, and challenge. This was a fascinating story of life from the perspective of “the help”. I don’t think anyone could watch the movie without being stirred within.
What shocked me was how strongly I responded walking into the hallway following the movie after catching my mothers’ eye. A deep cry poured out of my heart as questioning eyes looked at me wondering what was going on……….I knew.
Prejudice. For two hours I had come face to face with the ugliness of prejudice causing my thoughts to reflectively take me back to my first experience with it at the age of 4.
It was in the early 60’s when my parents, while away at a retreat center, committed to the Lord to do whatever He asked them to do. Within a couple weeks they received a call that a teenager from Kenya, Munyi, was in need of a place to live until he could finish his high school experience. At the time my parents had three little girls ages 5, 3, and 20 months yet they felt certain that this was something they wanted to do.
In preparation for Munyi’s arrival my parents met with a large group at their Methodist Church asking for their relational and emotional support as this young man came to be a part of the family. The church didn’t want to lend their support; in fact the leaders didn’t agree with my parents even opening their home to him. At the end of the meeting my mother stood up expressing that, frankly, she didn’t care what they thought. Period.
Months after Munyi had come into our home my parents experienced a shunning, hateful responses from the neighborhood and the church; received threatening phone calls, even the church youth pastor who lived across the street would not talk to them. This was my first experience with the ugliness of prejudice.
Munyi experienced loneliness both in the church and in the High School setting. My parents, in response to that, sought out an International Fellowship at San Jose State to possibly find other African young men to build some friendship with him. Ultimately two young men, Eliston & Dixon, came to be apart of our family. I had three brothers. It was a wonderful time and it was such a treasure to share life with them.
As you can imagine, my parents left the Methodist church and we eventually moved to Watsonville, CA where our lives were fully immersed in a multi-cultural growing experience for which I am eternally grateful. I am most thankful for parents who stood strong in their convictions, never bowing to public opinion! They continue to live the same way today.
Munyi finished High School and went on with his life ~ he expressed in a newspaper article that he wanted to eventually go back to Kenya because he cared about the people there. Dixon married and opened a successful store in Mariposa, Elliston went on to become Kenya’s Ambassador to Zaire.
Prejudice, no matter who it is aimed at is wrong. And yet prejudice can be a sneaky thing, seeping into our attitudes and thoughts. Scripture calls us to “Love our neighbor AS we love ourselves.” Let’s be people who choose love at all costs.
I read the article about Jonathan Steingard this week and simply pondered the implications. A man full of passion, talent, and conviction now rejects everything he held dear for year and years.
I was raised in the Assembly of God denomination from the time I was 6 years old; certainly I was indoctrinated more that I could have ever known! No dancing, no alcohol, no make-up, etc!!
I understand how it feels to be dissatisfied with what you see inside the church! I became a pastor’s wife at 26; life behind the veil was so ugly and hurtful!
Though people hurt me, disappointed me and disillusioned me…..God did not! God carried me in these times, God provided crazy finances during such dire times, God met me in so many personal ways that I would challenge Jonathan Steingard to look through his life and recognize the Ribbon of Grace that has been present for so, so long.
Faith isn’t simple—it tests us; yet the harder test is seeing people hurting others….it can effect our faith! People can turn us off to being Christ followers because they are as imperfect as us—ugh!!
Dear Jonathan ~I understand your challenge but…..is it your disappointment with people, or have you never seen God show up for you in a personal way?
At 61- I have seen God show up in my life in incredible ways; healings, finances, opportunities, and so much more. Oh sweet Jonathan, I think you are disappointed by people and I understand that. But, God is real, God is good, and His shoulders are big enough for your disappointments. I am praying for you.
Today I was just sad. I think everything caught up with my heart and I hit a sadness I had not yet felt till today. I am a hugger, a connecter, a people person; that is how I’ve always lived my life. When I read or hear about so many precious people suffering, losing loved ones, and dealing with isolation depression I want to fix the situation for them and I cannot.
I had some sweet phone calls today with precious people offering help if it was needed and I was simply brought to tears by their goodness; by their generosity. This is a season where there is a great deal of kindness being shown and it’s both inspiring and humbling.
We don’t know when this will end and we don’t know how this will end but I believe our faith and resilience will bring us all through to a new place……I doubt we will take as much for granted as we may have before.
When I have to walk through a grocery store it is evident that people are anxious around one another, barely getting eye contact. This is so strange to see one another as a threat instead of seeing one another as family and friends. I pray this stigma does not remain once this is over.
People are scared. People are worried. People are isolated. I am digging deep to try and figure out how I can creatively reach out and be an encouragement. The world has changed but if each of us look for ways to love on and care for those whom we love or those who are suffering we will help make this world a better place and hopefully lift the sadness many are feeling; like me today.
I don’t have any brilliant answers –just wanted to be real.
We all experience ups and downs in our lives. We all walk through good seasons and challenging seasons. Often times we’ve made choices that have ended up having negative results and we’ve had to walk it out. For many of us unexpected losses, a job, marriage, the stock market, sickness, etc. have “happened upon us” and it takes a lot of courage to keep moving forward with hope.
However, there are times when our lives can feel like they’ve blown up! Challenges and changes can come with such intensity that we are left with heavy dread and hopelessness. It’s easy to get into a downward plunge that can emotionally spiral out of control.
You may be thinking, “Wow! I’ve never really felt that way” or you may be thinking “I’m in that season right now”.
Almost 9 years ago when my Nephew was murdered I was ill prepared for the emotional trauma that would follow for my sister, my family, but also for me personally at so many levels. My church theology I had believed all my life that If you prayed for your family no harm will come to them was completely shattered. The depth of sadness took me to a really dark place that felt too heavy to bear. My outlook, in the midst of that season was new to me and with all my counseling and coaching experience I had zero answers for myself.
I have friends whom, right at this moment are going through a “life tsunami” that feels dark, hopeless, and incredibly uncertain. I ache for the process they are walking through because there is no magic wand to turn it all around.
There are some really key elements that are important for all of us whether we are walking through a hard season or what feels like a tsunami and I’d like to encourage you with a few:
Don’t isolate yourself! None of us are great at cheerleading ourselves in tough times. We tend to be hard on ourselves and negative in our outlook. WE NEED GOOD PEOPLE especially in these times.
Choose to forgive well-meaning friends or family who are clumsy in their efforts to be a source of encouragement. Statements like “Oh, I know just how your feel” can sound like nails on a chalkboard! Try to see their heart in their clumsy efforts and don’t become angry.
Take care of yourself! Rest, exercise, eat good food, don’t over medicate with alcohol, be careful about what you watch, read, and listen to (a lot of stuff available to us can be dark and emotional which is not helpful) and find cup-filling activities that can give you joy even in the midst of an over-whelming season.
Find someone to talk to. Find counselor, a coach, a trusted spiritual advisor. Journal your thoughts and try to find 3 things to be grateful for every day no matter how small they might be.
Lastly, don’t be mad at God. I hear this so often and even said it myself during my darkest time “Where were you?” “Why didn’t you change the outcome? “ “But, I’ve trusted you and tried to be a good person!!” These comments and more feel very real at the time but they are not truth. We do have a God who cares deeply for us and wants to walk with us and comfort us in our darkest moments. We live in a world where there is illness, hateful people, tragedies that affect everyone on the planet! But, if we lose hope in God and separate ourselves from Him in anger or distrust we will miss the very comfort and hope we are longing for.
You may have a shattered faith, or have never had any kind of a trust in God and I am not assuming all my readers do. All I can pass on to you is what I’ve learned and experienced; the only way I climbed out of one of my darkest seasons was by the strength, hope, and kindness of God and I would be amiss to give you tidbits of good ideas and then leave out the greatest source of hope and healing I have ever known.
Seasons of challenge can be very real. To all of us in a season of calm; extend your hand and heart to help carry someone in a life tsunami. Don’t judge.
There’s a verse that I love. It’s a tough one to read in the midst of an overwhelming season but it’s beautiful to read it in hindsight and know it is true.
“When you pass through the waters I will be with you; when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire (of life) you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”
Sunday afternoon I made a quick trip to the grocery store to grab a few items for a family dinner later in the day. I had just come from attending my first bi-lingual church service where the pastor shared an inspiring message about how we are all family, that even with our differences and disagreements we are all family.
As I looked around the room I knew there were those with whom I could not converse as I speak no Spanish and they spoke no English~ but yet as we caught eyes we knew we were family! This was a rich, rich reminder that served as an important backdrop to the remainder of my day.
Walking into the grocery store a ragged young man with piercing blue eyes sat in the gusty wind in front of the store. He had a dirty jacket and an old blanket. I said “good afternoon” in a perky fashion and made my way into the store.
I barely had a foot inside the store when I felt a huge dose of sadness that overwhelmed me. Here I was ready to buy amazing food items for our dinner and all I could do was pass him quickly and give him a perky Hello? Was giving him a smile the extent of my human ”family” connection to him? Ugh! I felt so disappointed in myself!
As I paid for my groceries I purchased a $50.00 Grocery store certificate and a Starbucks coffee. I was anxious as I rounded the corner and saw him still there huddled up in the cold. I sat down beside him and gave him my offerings, His beautiful blue eyes welled up with tears and he said, “ I felt invisible today” Thank you for paying attention to me. I hugged him and we said goodbye.
Driving out of the parking lot I looked his way only to see him weeping; hands covering his face. I was thankful for God’s graciousness to me by challenging me to respond to the amazing teaching I had received hours earlier – I was sad that God HAD to remind me.
What difference does my faith make in my day-to-day interactions?
I pray I can better live out the truth that” they will know we are Christians by our love”. Thought I’d be honest about my own struggle.
Words are powerful. Words can encourage us, give us clarity, and words can be a powerful catalyst for change in our lives. What do you feel when I say “broken”,” hopeless”, or ” powerless”? What do you feel when I say “impacting”, “empowered”, or “inspirational”? Isn’t it amazing how words can actually have an emotional impact on us!
As a Coach I always like to ask my clients if they have a “word” for the year, a word that would serve as a laser beam to keep them on track with what they’d really like to accomplish or apply to their lives.
If you were asked to stop and consider a word for the coming year what might that word be? If you look back over the past year; what you experienced and what you learned, and then you look toward the year ahead….what kind of person do you want…
It had snowed that day and was probably 24 degrees. She stood there ringing her bell for the Salvation Army. To be truthful, I am suspect that weeks before I had seen her with a sign on the corner of the roadway; her sign said “anything will help”. I was actually happy to see she was willing to “work” in order to earn money for herself.
She smiled her toothless smile and I put a few bucks in the red pot! Then I said “ would you like a coffee?’ to which she replied “a small black coffee would be wonderful. I smiled and expressed to her that I was talking about a really yummy coffee like a Mocha with whip cream. She stared at me for a moment and then said, “I haven’t had a coffee like that in over 10 years”. After completing my shopping I purchased her a coffee and a $15.00 Gift Certificate so that she could have another during the holidays!
Arriving at home I pondered the simplicity of blessing people. It’s not scary, it’s not complicated, and it’s truly cup-filling if you care about people. I don’t toot my horn to make it sound like I’m wonderful by any means but rather to express that the Holidays can be lonely and sad for many people. This is a beautiful time to choose to walk out your kindness for others! It could be a fresh, clean blanket for a homeless man, a coffee for a stranger, or paying for the groceries of the single mom with whom it’s obvious she is struggling to pay. There’s just so many ways to show love!
The holidays are a prefect time; it will fill your soul!
Luke 6:38 says:
Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”