Monday, December 31, 2018

New Year's reflections

Today is New Year's Eve. It's often a time of reflection and review. What did we learn in the past year? What lessons do we carry into the new year? What will we do differently? For what are we thankful? What was the most challenging? From whom did we get help? To what are we looking forward in the new year? If you were to put a word on 2019 (perhaps what you long for in the new year or what you'll work on), what might it be?

My fiancé, two friends and I do this together each New Year's Eve. We reflect on the year past and look ahead to what might be coming or what we hope will be coming in the new year. We each select a word for the new year, writing it on a stone so we'll remember all year long. It's interesting how having that stone in sight increases intention throughout the year.

While I won't be writing blogs in this new year (I need the time I spend writing them to do other writing and sorting projects), I encourage you to sample the archive of my past blogs going back to 2012. I also encourage you to sign up for my monthly ezine if you haven't already. You may sign up to the right of this blog. All you will receive are the initial three free gifts that come in your email inbox and an ezine once a month to your inbox. That's it. Nothing more.

I encourage you to stay hopeful and grounded in this new year. To that end, I leave you with this blessing for now:

The path before me: May I walk it in peace.
The path behind me: May I leave it in peace.
The path within me: O God, may it be peace indeed.

Friday, December 28, 2018

'Learned helplessness'

As we approach the end of another year and reflect on all that's happened in our lives and in the life of our country and our globe, it's easy to become discouraged. I know so many people this year who are feeling depressed and overwhelmed with it all. It's easy to feel that way, especially if you listen to any news broadcasts at all.

However, let's all resist the temptation to descend into hopelessness and to feel that "We're only one person and what can we do anyway?" It's vital to remain hopeful and to do whatever things we can to contribute to the common good and to help ourselves with whatever we face, too.

I just learned that there's a name for the attitude of "I'm just one person"—psychologists call it "learned helplessness." It's toxic and can hold us back from taking any action. We believe there's no hope, and we quit trying to change things. It's so easy to grow weary. In fact, many of us are completely exhausted with our own challenges and with hearing about all the hatred and violence that surrounds us. Let's resist the hopelessness and helplessness.

Structures are built one stone, one brick, one board at a time. That's how we deal with life, too: one small step at a time. Change happens just that way as well. Let's help ourselves and each other to avoid "learned helplessness" and to stay in the game. It definitely takes a village to get through.

Although I will write only one more blog (Monday, New Year's Eve) for a while (I need to take a break to tend to other things on my to-do list), I will still send out my monthly ezine. If you haven't signed up, please do so to the right of this blog post. All you will receive is the initial three free gifts and thereafter, one ezine each month to inspire you. I don't sell my list, and I don't send you anything else.

For now, I want to encourage you to stay in the game and keep hope alive!

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Children's top fears

Christmas Day is past, but the season is still here—if you believe in the Twelve Days of Christmas. And a brand new year is approaching.

What changes would you like to see in our country in 2019? In our world? And what will you do to bring about such changes?

If you want to do something for children, here are some thoughts. The Children's Defense Fund recently released a survey to tell us children's top three fears:

• Being bullied,
• That a shooting will happen at their school, and
• Feeling pressured to do things they don't want to do.

Or perhaps you have other things on your list. That's great. Always remember the power each of us has to effect change, one small move at a time.

A reminder: I will post blogs in this space for the remainder of 2018. But in 2019 I will not be doing so, so I can give myself more time to do other things. I will continue to send out my monthly Way2Grow ezine, however. If you don't yet receive it, simply sign up with your email to the right of this blog post. I won't sell your information. I won't send you anything other than the initial three free email gifts and thereafter, the once-a-month ezine to inspire you.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Every stone counts!

Today is Christmas Eve. We have heard much throughout this season about peace on earth. And yet, we hear stories of war and violence across the globe. We hear fights over immigration. We see the huge refugee problem. We are stunned by the amount of gun violence and the mass shootings in our country. We are constantly aware of the awful cycle of poverty, homelessness and hunger all around us and globally.

These issues seem insurmountable. We often think, "But I'm only one insignificant person. What can I possibly do?"

Confucius once said, "The person who moves a mountain begins by carrying small stones." At Christmastime and all through the year, let's remember the power we really do have. Let's start by carrying small stones. Pick even one of the country's or world's problems and do one small thing to begin. One small stone. Then another. Join hands with others. See what a difference we really can make! Change happens one person at a time.

Think of the possibilities!

Friday, December 21, 2018

Give your time

The countdown to Christmas is shrinking. Only a few days left.

Just yesterday I read some interesting "justice" gift ideas: Volunteer. Even one hour is helpful. Wrap gifts for children in shelters. Write holiday letters to our troops. Escort an older person to do some Christmas shopping. Serve a hot meal at a soup kitchen. I'm sure you can come up with ideas of your own.

It may be too late for this year. But there's always next year.

And speaking of next year, I have decided to give myself the gift of time to do some things on my to-do wish list that simply aren't getting done. To do that, I am discontinuing these weekly blogs—at least for now. I will finish out December. Who knows? I may resume again at some point.

However, if you sign up to the right of this blog post, you can receive my monthly ezine—if you aren't already signed up to receive it. All you will receive when you sign up are the three free gifts that come initially into your email inbox, and after that my ezine once a month. Nothing else. I don't sell your name or email address. I don't send anything additional. Just a monthly ezine to inspire you.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Freeing up time

Only one week until Christmas. I'm trying to keep a lid on the busyness this year. While I enjoy buying gifts for those I love, wrapping them, baking some of my traditional cookies, singing the beloved carols and spending time with those I love, I'm not crazy about the high stress of rushing around. So I'm trying to do a little less and enjoy this time even more.

Those efforts are part of an over-all effort on my part to cut back on busyness and high stress. There are things I want to do in whatever remains of my life that simply aren't getting done.

So, to assist in that whole move toward what the Danish call hygge (a term that means well-being, simplicity, coziness, being with those you love and more all wrapped up in one—something that perhaps seems unAmerican!), I'm going to stop doing blogs every week beginning in the new year.

I will continue to send out my monthly ezine. If you haven't yet signed up for that, notice the opportunity to the right of this blog to "Subscribe to our mailing list." If you do so, you will receive the three free gifts initially and then receive an ezine once a month only. I don't sell your name to anyone. I don't send you anything additional. Only the monthly ezine, which is similar to a blog and only slightly longer in format.

I will use the time that I've been spending on blogs doing some of the things that have long been on my to-do wish list. Who knows? Someday I may resume blogs. But after another week, they'll disappear for a while. My blog archive still remains on this site, however. So feel free to help yourself to any of them going way back to 2012.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Fears are real and normal

Why do we always think we need to deny our fears and act tough, as though they aren't bringing us down? Both men and women can be hard on themselves when it comes to fears. Fears are normal—and actually, it's healthy to feel fear. Some things ought to be feared: fire, floods, violence, a stampeding elephant or bull. Oh, yes, it's quite silly to stand in the face of any of those things and dare them to harm you! But there are other things in life that are feared, too, and this can differ for each of us.

Admit to fear. Then see what your best course of action might be. Do you need to simply face the fear and do what's needed anyway? Do you need to call on outside resources to help you? If so, please do so. There's no shame in that. Or do you need to just give yourself some self-care and self-compassion until you feel stronger and better able to move on? What do you need right now?

The clichés "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger" and "God doesn't give us more than we can handle" aren't really helpful at all. In fact, many people are brought to their knees by some events in their lives and never do recover. They don't gain strength at all. And sometimes we do have much more than we can handle.

This is a season that can be extremely difficult for some people. If you're one of those, I invite you to reach out to others. And please feel free to contact me if you just need to talk about it. Do whatever will help you through this season.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Kindness rocks!

So many people talk these days about having a "Super Power" of one type or another. It might be Invisibility. Or Superhuman Strength. Healing. Superhuman Endurance. There are so many. But we often forget that each one of us has an amazing Super Power that is so simple to employ.

Think of the power you have at your disposal by just uttering a few words—knowing that ONE KIND WORD CAN CHANGE SOMEONE'S ENTIRE DAY.

Isn't that absolutely incredible? That's a lot of power.

I'm sure you've experienced that from both sides of the coin—when someone has said something kind to you at a time when you really needed to hear it and the times when you said something to another person and noticed how they lit up and stood taller!

Look around you right now. Who could use a kind word today? Perhaps it's someone at a distance whose face you won't see light up but whom you know really needs to hear he or she is heard, accepted and loved. Or perhaps it's someone who resides in your house. Or sits at a desk near yours.

It's so easy, really. And it seems like the best Super Power of all!

Go ahead. What are you waiting for?

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Be still and be ready

Last week in my women's Bible study group, we talked about the role of the manger in the Christmas story. I had included a short poem in my December ezine, which had just been distributed the day before my group met. So we read that poem (by poet Barbara S. Germiat) in class. Here it is:

How to be a Manger

Be empty.
Be sturdy.
Be soft on the inside.
Be still.
Be ready.

After we read it, someone suggested that, in the week until our next class, we find ways to "be a manger." What a fascinating assignment.

Already, I have found opportunities to listen to others as they share a painful story, a source of ongoing frustration, or a story of loss. I practiced being empty—just listening and being present as witness to someone else's life. It's been a reminder to me that most times when people share, they don't want or need advice. They need to be heard and validated. They need to be accepted and loved. They need us to "be a manger." Empty, still and ready.

Is this something you'd like to take on this season, too?

Monday, December 10, 2018

Traditions to keep

Do you have some seasonal traditions that are on your A-list for the holidays? Several people I know are cutting back on the activities during the holidays because life can become so stressful at this time of year.

Some things bring so much joy and pleasure that you wouldn't possibly consider cutting them from your calendar, however. For me, one of those activities is a women's night out sponsored by a local megachurch. This isn't a church I would consider attending regularly. But I have to say they put on the most wonderful evening of food, Christmas music and inspiration for women. The evening begins with serving tables scattered throughout the large space laden with cheeses, crackers, Christmas cookies and a huge variety of goodies. In addition the men of the church wander through the crowd bearing trays of goodies from which we can select. All while we enjoy the lovely food options, live Christmas music is being played. So we wander through the building, stopping at food stations or selecting from trays carried by the male church members, talking, enjoying music and also shopping in their gift shop.

In addition there are a few opportunities to have photos taken in Christmasey settings. So we have photo memories to keep. Then later in the evening, the nearly 2,000 women who attend find seats in the huge worship space and after singing a few carols, hear an inspirational speaker. What a powerful evening!

A dear friend and I have attended this event for the past seven years and both agree that this is a fantastic way to launch Advent and the Christmas season. When I think of the things I might cut from my to-do list, this is never one of them!

What traditions are keepers for you?

Friday, December 7, 2018

Live a life of gratitude

A Vietnamese proverb goes like this: "When eating fruit, remember who planted the tree. When drinking water, remember who dug the well."

That tells me that a life of gratitude is one of being awake and aware. I don't want to sleepwalk through my life, taking for granted all the good things that come my way. Someone is responsible for even the most ordinary things that we use and enjoy daily. Someone planted the tree or dug the well. Someone set in motion the machinery that brought this or that into your life.

It might be interesting to be more intentional and watchful for at least one day: Give thought throughout the day to as many things as possible. What or who made it possible for you to enjoy this? Just for an example, at one of your mealtimes, think of all the people it took for that food to be on your plate: the grower, the harvester, the trucker, the grocer, the cook and so many more. Take time to be grateful.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

'This too shall pass'

Best-selling author Joey Green once said, "When you experience joy, remembering that 'This too shall pass' helps you savor the here and now. When you experience pain and sorrow, remembering that 'This too shall pass' reminds you that grief, like joy, is only temporary."

This makes so much sense and is good to remember. But when we're knee-deep in grief, it's tough to keep in mind the temporary nature of things. Even when we're up to our eyeballs in joy, we may not take the time to truly savor the feeling. It's easy to forget that it won't last forever.

At this time of year, when many people feel the joy and wonder of the season, others are feeling the pain of it all. They feel alone, depressed, afraid—and the joy of others only makes them more depressed.

What's really important for us all is to be aware of what those around us are feeling. We ought not assume that everyone shares the emotions we feel. Once we notice, we can respond appropriately. This is a good time to be gentle with ourselves and others. It's a good time to practice compassion and self-compassion.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Deep breaths!

Following on Friday's post about the Danish concept of "hygge," let's talk about how to pull back from the edge when you get all wound up in busyness this season. Or when that crazy driver beside you pulls in front of you with inches to spare. Or the shopper cuts in front of you and a long line of others at the checkout. Because this can be such a busy and frantic time of year for so many, our tempers can fray and we can be on edge.

You can choose to get angry and all worked up at any of these things. Or you can take several deep breaths—and take a longer view, deciding whether the adrenaline rush is going to be worth it. In the case of the shopper cutting in, you might decide to quietly point out where the line is forming (giving the shopper the benefit of the doubt). The whole point is: You have choices.

Do whatever will make your heart feel good. And whatever will add to your peace and the peace of others this season. It's all about choices and well-being.