This Christmas….

 

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Sitting in my living room looking out at the blustery snow storm outside, I am pondering what Christmas is like for you this year.  Each year the “feel” of the season may be markedly different from the last.  I have a dear friend who, last year, grieved her inability to carry a child; this year she is in her first trimester of a stable pregnancy.  I have a colleague who is walking through the first Christmas without her spouse by her side.  I have a client who is reveling in the birth of her first grandchild and yet another who just found out that she will no longer have her job in 2016.

The “feel” of the holidays can ebb and flow against the filter of what’s presently taking place in our lives. We all want to be sensitive to others while also being grateful enough to celebrate the joys in our lives as well.  This can be a fine balance that I have not mastered but attempt to be mindful of.  Five years ago was a “blue” Christmas for me as our family was walking through the pain of a dramatic loss in our family.  I don’t think I was resentful of the joys others were celebrating, I just didn’t have the enthusiasm to celebrate that year, I understand the challenge.

What I have learned over the years is that there is always elements of our lives we can be grateful for–some unchangeable areas where our gratefulness can be expressed:

  1.  We have an amazing God who loves us, forgives us, gives us grace, and watches over our lives every single day!
  2. We live in America.  We are not a perfect nation and have much to learn but as of today, we are free to worship, to work, and to travel freely.
  3. We all have friends.  Some years we may not have as many friends as we’d like but if we were honest, we all have one or two dear people who love us and this is a real gift!
  4. If we are breathing and our heart is beating, we still have life within us and the opportunity to love and impact the lives of others around us.

I don’t know what your holiday filter is for you this year but it is my prayer that you will take some time to ponder, even list, the good things in your life as you navigate Christmas Day.  May you begin a New Year with a fresh perspective, renewed hope, and a grateful heart.

Merry Christmas to you all. 🙂

Sometimes we just need something Sweet~

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Last week my heart felt so heavy as I watched and heard about so many devastating events that caused death and sadness to countless people in many parts of the world. I watched the news in the morning and listened to the news while in my car while out doing a few errands. I could feel the weight of the concern on my heart.  I prayed. I cried. I prayed again.

Sitting at a traffic light a young Jr. High boy, riding on a scooter, stopped at a cross walk, he pushed the button and when he did he noticed an older homeless man a little way up the sidewalk.  Without hesitating, this young man pulled out his wallet, grabbed $20.00 dollar bill and handed it to the homeless man.  He turned, jumped on his scooter and headed across the street to the other side.

That little sweetness lifted my heavy heart.

I like to treasure hunt, when I can, at our local Goodwill.  This particular day I heard one of the employees loudly say ” Hey, there’s the birdman.” Then I watched a wonderfully kind interaction between them.  The “Birdman” was a tiny, hunched over, toothless man who comes into Goodwill to find bird houses.  In his hand was his treasure for the day ~ a bird house made completely out of rocks~ he was beaming!

As I made my way through the store I looked up and only the “birdman” and I were alone in the  same aisle.  He walks my way, puts his hand on my shoulder and says “honey, have you ever imagine the stories that the old items in this store could tell?  Stories of joys, memories, sadness, and celebrations?  Isn’t life precious?”   and he walked away.

That little bit of sweetness lifted my heavy heart!

Sometimes we just need something sweet, something precious, to remind us to appreciate our lives and the people in it.  I was grateful to have experienced these “sacred moments”.

In the midst of reports that break our hearts let’s not forget that there are still multitudes of precious, good people! 🙂

I wish you “sweetness” today.

I cried again today~

 

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Grief is an interesting beast.  Grief sneaks up on us through a smell, a look, a song, or even in dreams.  Experiencing “loss” is something we will all endure in our lives causing us all to walk through different levels of grief.

Today I saw that People Magazine wrote a short story about my nephew who was taken from us over 5 years ago.  It was tough to see the story in print. I cried.

During the first year of grief I was sad and angry at God for having this sadness as part of our family’s story.  How?? Why??  I raged inside.  I cried a lot. Then God began to speak to my heart; asking me to trust him with the questions and the grief ~ He is so good. But the tears would still fall.

Over the years I have cried at the oddest times, it just happens.  Oceans remind me of him, homeless people ( for whom he had great compassion) remind me of him, electronic music reminds me of him, his nieces remind me of him ~ He’s always just a thought away and he is always missed.

Today I cried again.  I know it won’t be the last time, grief is kind of like that.

http://www.people.com/article/california-entrepreneur-covers-up-murder?xid=socialflow_facebook_peoplemag

Oops!

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It’s going to happen.  It’s inevitable. At least once in your life you are going to fail at something.  Everybody has failed even if they refuse to admit it. Interestingly enough, some of the greatest success stories were born out of some form of failure: Steve Jobs, Walt Disney, even Oprah.  C. S. Lewis said it best “Failures are the finger posts on the road to achievement.”

Failure can be a real opportunity!

  1.  You can learn a great deal from failure IF you choose the to.  For all of us there is room for improvement; failures can bring those needed areas to light and give us the chance to grow!   Hindsight is, indeed, a great teacher. A failure can become a defining reference point when faced with a similar challenge or opportunity.
  2. Failure can make you stronger.  When some people fail they throw in the towel, give up.  Others fail and they seem to find a deep strength within to learn from it and do better next time.  Though it feels really bad in the moment but it shouldn’t stop or break you.  Getting through a challenging failure; in business, a relationship, or experience should help us to learn how really strong we are!
  3. A failure may lead to new opportunities.  Sometimes a failure can lead to a necessary ending; a new direction.  A failure can help us assess if we are on the best path for our lives. A failure, as painful as it can be, might lead you to considering fresh avenues for your life.
  4. Failures simply make the successes so much sweeter! To have grown and learned from a past failure and having  fresh success in a previously challenged area is the best feeling in the world!  The learning and hindsight gained somehow makes the challenge worth it.
“Success consists of going from failure to failure without the loss of enthusiasm”  Winston Churchill
“Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead-end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” – Denis Waitley
 
Learn from failures, forgive yourself, stand up tall and move forward with fresh resolve.

Being Mindful on Valentine’s Day~

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For so many, Valentine’s Day can be sweet, romantic, and full of warm remembrances of years of marriage or a meaningful relationship!!  Valentine’s Day can be a celebration of a marriage or a relationship that has weathered obstacles and stood the test of time.  These things are certainly “celebration worthy!”

However, there are those who walk into a very romantic holiday alone either by singleness, divorce, sickness, or loss!  I can only imagine the loneliness that is experienced by those facing these particular situations.  Valentine’s Day can, frankly, be a sad and lonely day! 😦

I am sensitive to the seasons of life that others may be in. I don’t have all the answers….solutions…or wise words. BUT I do know that in the midst of sadness or loss during a very Hallmark Holiday: I would wish all those feeling lonely or sad the HUGE knowledge that they have a Saviour who loves and adores them!! That they are fearfully and wonderfully made; they matter!!  This is my heart today.

imagesAppreciate and be thankful for what you have; be mindful and sensitive to those who are challeged~~reach out, include, invite! 🙂

Surrounded by people~ Completely alone.

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I live just down the street from an Elementary School; often driving by when the kids are out to recess.  For the past 3 day I have driven by; my heart saddened by seeing the same little boy standing along the fence alone while all of his classmates swirl, dance, play, chat, and run all around him. Everyone seemingly having people who want to know them.  He stands back, surrounded by people, but yet, seems to be very alone.  As a mother, my heart ached for this little  guy.

I grew up in a large family; 5 sisters and both parents.  I experienced many emotions growing up but I NEVER felt lonely.  I always felt like I belonged, that I mattered.

When I was 21 I transferred from a college in Northern California to another University in Southern California.  A tradition of this university was to  take ALL the students to a large camp for the first weekend for the school year to reunite with past students and to help new students connect with other students; to kick the year off well!! Such a great idea, right?  I went and for 3 days I was completely alone.  I roomed with students who only wanted to connect with those they already knew, I dined with students who only wanted to eat with those they already knew, I listened to great teaching alongside students to whom I was completely invisible.  Literally, no one cared that I was there!

To be surrounded by over 400 students and to realize that I was invisible was devastating–the loneliest kind of lonely ever.  I snuck outside the camping cabins and wept. So painful.

There’s no more painful loneliness that to be surrounded by people and to realize you are all alone…….

My husband and I served as church pastors for many years; it was always easy to come into a church and make friends. People made a special effort to know us because…we were pastors.   However, breaking into a new church over the years as just simply “church attenders” has been much more challenging, it’s takes so much longer.

I write about this because, especially in the church, we have many gatherings and events.  There are many who “brave” walking through our church doors alone under the hope that someone will want to know them; will go out of their way to include them, make them feel wanted.  But, unfortunately I have heard all to often that it is painfully difficult to “break into” a church culture……..

Hmmmmm……could we do better?  Could we make an effort at our many gatherings to be watchful for the person who is alone; standing in the back hoping so desperately that someone will acknowledge them and invite them to be a part of their group?  Let’s not leave anyone “standing along the fence alone”! 🙂

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Tears of a Clown~

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I had just given birth to my precious newborn son~ I had long-awaited his birth with great love and anticipation! Why then, when we arrived home, did I feel blue, dark, and sad……..for days?  I am a happy, positive person! Why was I feeling so “dark”.  I felt guilty and embarrassed.  I reached out to my personal doctor who helped me walk through what is called “postpartum” depression.  I found that experience scary and disconcerting; once it passed I was incredibly relieved.

It was in a small town in Northern California where my husband was serving as a pastor in a small church, I experienced the impact of depression once again.  I had two small boys, we were isolated, we were poor, my husbands schedule was enormous, and I was struggling to see where I fit in this community.  The darkness slowly began to settle in. As the church leadership became more and more unhealthy I became worrisome, scared, and lonely.  The darkness settled in even deeper.  I can remember the day when I called my mother who had always been so supportive; we talked for a half an hour when she began to say her goodbyes.  I can clearly remember saying to her ” No mom, you cannot hang up the phone, I can’t promise you that I’ll still be here”.  She remained on that long phone call until I could catch my breath and see a glimmer of hope again.  Depression had led me to the brink of reactional and unhealthy thinking.  It was scary.

In light of the recent passing of Robin Williams; a multi-talented actor and comedian, I was reminded of the power depression can have over the emotions and will of those struggling with it. I recognize that my depression was a result of hormones and situations that felt out of control~ yet, I have experienced just enough to know how scary it can be.  Clinical Depression is really serious and to onlookers often makes no sense.  A flourishing career and a history of great success could not remove the darkness that continued to settle into this actors heart.  Drugs, alcohol, and other unhealthy coping mechanisms could not make this darkness disappear, in fact it only made things worse.

We are left to ponder the power of depression in the lives of those we love and care for.  How can we help?  I know I don’t have all the wisdom needed to be a definitive voice on the subject; I have dealt with many people struggling with different levels of depression. Here are some ideas that could support those who struggle with depression:

1.  Talk about it, draw them out.  Be willing to sit and listen, really listen. Encourage them to journal.  Encourage them to find a counselor whom they can trust over a long period of time.

2.  Pray for them.  intercede on behalf of their un-healthy emotions. Believe that God cares for them. Remind them how precious they are to God.  ( Psalm 139:13-16)

3.  Get educated on clinical depression.  (http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/depression-resources)  If we, or a family member struggles with depression, we must intentionally learn what we can so that we can watch for the signs and respond IF we see them.

4. Invite them into life-giving experiences–get outdoors in the fresh air, create opportunities for laughter, show you care.

5.  Isolation is a response to depression; be mindful that your friend or loved one does not experience long seasons of isolation.

Ultimately, we all need each other. Learning about depression, finding helpful tips, being prayerful can make a difference in those we love who are facing this “darkness”.

Suicide is heartbreaking for everyone! Everyone!  My prayer is that we will not lose another mother, brother, friend, or celebrity due to  the effects of depression!  😦

Unanswered Prayers.

 

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I had the good fortune this week to have the opportunity to talk with a friend and fellow coach about trusting God.  Her honesty was refreshing and both of us acknowledged how difficult it can be to trust God in the face of unanswered prayers. Now I am mature enough to know the God is not a “spiritual Santa Clause” so I’m not talking about prayers that involve frivolous requests.  ” I pray I get a parking place.”, I pray I win a trip”, or I pray I can get a new, fancy car”.  No, I am talking about prayers for a friend that has cancer; who passes away.  I’m thinking about those who pray to become parents; remaining childless. Or the prayers of protection those who have beloved children pray; only to lose their children long before their lives have been lived.  How do we navigate continuing to trust what God’s word clearly tells us:

Luke 11:9 says “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

Mark 11:24  Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

I believe these promises are true and have experienced God’s faithfulness over and over again!  But, I have also walked through the darkness of prayers that were prayed with absolute faith yet have remained unanswered.  How do we remain faith filled?  How to we keep ourselves from feeling as though God is distant and unfeeling?  How do we protect ourselves from becoming angry and disillusioned?   In the movie God’s Not Dead, the college professor makes a profound statement; ” The biggest atheists are those were had been believers and experienced unanswered prayers”.

Have you experienced unanswered prayer?  How have you kept yourself faith filled in the midst of the disappointment?

Three years ago, I had a precious family members life taken brutally at a young age.  I had prayed for him all his life.  I had seen God do mighty things in and with his life.  He was amazingly talented and deeply loving.  Upon the news of his death I spent almost 90 days angry at God, seeking understanding with the knowledge that God “could” have stepped in and protected him from losing his life.  I was devastated and confused by the scriptures that had once given me comfort.  Those verses now served to cause greater hurt.

God is good.  His shoulders were big enough for my questions; even my anger.  In His still small voice He just kept reminding me that He would help me through the pain. He would never leave me nor forsake me. He spoke the truth that His ways are higher than my ways.  And slowly, with the power of the Holy Spirit, I could feel myself beginning to whisper   “Even so, I will trust you.”

I couldn’t even begin to give you a formula for navigating this particular spiritual challenge, but there are a few action steps that will help keep your heart from becoming bitter.

1.  Stay in God’s Word, it speaks to your soul.

2.  Be brave to talk about your questions, don’t isolate.

3.  Make sure you continue to look at your many blessings, even in the midst of unanswered prayer.

4.  Be willing to learn something fresh from what you are having to walk through.

5.  Remember, loss and challenge falls on the just and the unjust.  It is part of our human condition and can help you gain keen empathy that will enable you to love and support others along the way.

Steven Arterburn in his article , When Prayers seem Unanswered says;

It certainly seems like a secure bet that sometimes God doesn’t answer our prayers because he’s aware that his, ours, and the whole world’s best interests will not be served if he does. It’s safe to say that when God decides what’s best, he’s got a broader perspective for making that decision than anything we can bring to the table.

All of which brings us to the very good reason that when mature Christians do pray for something, they tend not to say, “God, please do [such and such],” but rather, “God, if it is your will, please do [such and such].” This is the all-important caveat. Always leave to him the final determination of whether or not what you’re asking for is, in fact, the thing most ultimately beneficial.

We all want to live a life trusting the Lord. However, life can broadside us.  Rather than pulling away, becoming angry, and perhaps even bitter, choose to remember God’s heart for you and I. Find yourself whispering “Even so, I will trust you.”

 

 

But–I’m so disappointed!!!

 

“The wounded Oyster mends his shell with a Pearl” Anonymous

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Disappointment is a part of life.  You cannot dodge it, you cannot prevent it, but you can deal with it in a productive and successful manner.

 It took Hershey four attempts to launch Hershey Chocolate.  Henry Ford was not a winner the first time, and Thomas Edison had more disappointments then successes! However, they all succeeded because they had the fortitude to stick it out and deal with the disappointment effectively.

 Disappointment can be a major cause of business or relational failure because we may quit too soon.  We may have difficulty weathering the setbacks, walking through structural changes, or we simply get hurt or offended.  Setbacks and conflict can create disappointment killing your prior ambition.  You may simply have a huge urge to walk away!

 One of the biggest challenges with disappointments is that we can become bitter and offended; even see ourselves as a “victim of circumstances”.  These emotions will cloud our view of the situations, others, and ourselves. It’s a vicious trap and one to avoid!

 In my life I have found that I am most disappointed when my expectations for a person, project, or experience are unreasonably high!  When the situation ends up much different then what I had in my mind and my hopes are dashed!  It’s tough to return to my “visionary” thinking!

 So how do we navigate disappointment without allowing it to rob us of our mental and emotional health?

 Balancing our expectations is probably the key.  When working with others we will have conflict and at times, find ourselves offended. Expect it. When conflict arises have a plan in mind to address it , learn from it, and resolve it.  Without a plan you will simply leave yourself open to be wounded.

 Business will have ups and downs.   In the DISC Profile I have a high S, which means I like things nice and STEADY!  I get scared when things feel “uncertain”.  I am learning that business and projects have seasons to navigate.  If we don’t anticipate these seasons we will be left discouraged!

 Most of all, disappointments are a great opportunity to grow, to learn greater trust,  to forgive, and to see life from a fresh perspective~~

Pretty sure my opinion of “disappointment “ is not FUN, but at my ripe old age            ( LOL) I have learned the value of hindsight.

We are told in scripture that God promises to never leave us or forsake us, that He  uses all situations for our good, and that He has a plan and purpose for our life,  so if we believe Him then  disappointments can create growth IF we navigate them with grace.

I am still a learner, how about you?

🙂

Birthdays~

I love birthdays, don’t you?  I love having the opportunity to celebrate a friend or family member on their “special day”.  Though most of us may not admit it,  we really do like  to have our “special day” celebrated as well.

Facebook has created a crazy phenomenon that allows ALL your Facebook Friends to know that it is your birthday and within a 24 hour period you may have well wishes and Birthday greetings from hundreds of people! It’s amazing to have greetings from everyone you know, from every season of your life, gathered on one page!!

Birthdays give us a chance to say things to others that could feel awkward saying at other times of the year:  “I love you, you matter, you are special, I care about you, I want the best for you, YOU ROCK!!”  🙂 Birthdays create the opportunity.

Birthdays are often a time we reflect on those that have passed away, our birthday thoughts are bittersweet as we remember many celebrations in days past; we miss them. We may know where they are and that they are at peace, yet on birthdays~we miss them a little bit more.

This week is my nephew, Christopher Smith’s birthday. Because I blog from my heart each week I cannot miss this chance to remember him in my writings. I miss his smile, humor, creativity, love for family, and zest for life.

With this in mind, perhaps waiting until a birthday to share those meaningful and heartfelt thoughts you have for those you know and love shouldn’t wait until a birthday~Today could be a really good day! 🙂 Grab the opportunity……