THE SOFA

We moved in November. Unpacking left us with over 100 empty boxes. I posted them for free, but as you might imagine, not many folks are moving around the holidays. About a month later, we finally had a taker. A lovely woman and her husband brought their truck and took them all! I let them know we were also selling the beautiful sofa in the garage, which was in plain view beside the boxes. I explained it would have been perfect in my basement family room, but it wouldn’t fit down the steps. We had even thought about taking it apart and rebuilding it once we had it downstairs! She sympathized and said she’d let her friends know.

I later posted my sofa for sale on social media. After a couple of weeks, no one had responded. I changed the ad and made it available for free. I quickly had a taker who was coming the next morning. When the truck pulled in the driveway, the same woman who took the boxes emerged. I greeted her. “I recognize you!”

“I feel bad for taking it,” She immediately responded. “I know how much you wanted to use it.”

“Please, don’t worry,” I replied. “I’m glad you can take it.”

We chatted while her son and husband loaded the couch. She shared some of her life experiences. Her first husband died when she had four small children at home. She supported them all as a nurse. She later lost her twenty-seven-year-old daughter to a stroke and a twenty-year-old son after a car accident. There was more heartache she described, but she was doing well now. What was so impressive was how kind she seemed, despite having more than her fair share of life’s burdens. She did not appear bitter or angry. She was thankful. She said she had remarried a wonderful man, and her son, although permanently injured, was home from military duty. We hugged good-bye, and I wished her all the best. I realized, once again, my priorities need adjusting. Was I upset over a piece of furniture?

This dear woman also reminded me of the outstanding qualities we humans often possess—strength of character and an indomitable spirit. We’re going through a rough patch, but so have generations before us. We’ll come out of this, and my guess is more appreciative of our blessings and less focused on the things that matter least. God bless us all during this challenging chapter.

COMMENCEMENT SEASON

Graduation season is upon us and commencements abound. I, for one, am a fan of the whole thing. In spite of long lines, scorching heat, and waiting forever to exit the parking lot, it’s a thrill to see the students cross the finish line.  How can we not join in celebrating the culmination of years of hard work, victories won and challenges overcome? Nights of cramming, tears over assignments, final exams, and the struggles dealing with difficult professors—it’s all over!  It’s joyful and we want them to go forth and prosper.  Secretly, though, I wish I could talk to each graduate the next day. I’d want to encourage them not to forget the lessons learned.  I don’t mean the subject matter they studied, but rather the truth about who they are:  how they patiently persevered; endured and showed true resiliency; rebounded when they achieved less than what they had hoped for or even failed; grew in understanding people and relationships; perhaps survived times of loneliness, feelings of inadequacy, and maybe even despair.  I would want them to know when the rainbows fade or life throws them a curve ball, that they have what it takes to keep on keeping on.  I’d also ask them to tuck away three words for when they really need them:  “JUST HOLD ON”. There may be days when that is all they’ll be able to do, and that’s quite okay, until they can once again get back in the race.  For us onlookers, we have an assignment too. We have to continue to show up, to be that still, small voice that whispers truth when they have bought into the lie about who they are or what is possible.  We have to listen, guide and always celebrate when there is opportunity to do so. Graduation is the end of a chapter. There is so much more of each book to be written. How exciting it is!

MIRRORS IN YOUR LIFE

photo-book-coverWho and what have been your mirrors, and what have they said about you and about life itself? When we embark on a journey of discovery, to acquire knowledge and apply wisdom to separate truth from untruth in the mirrors of our experience, we have enormous potential to grow into all that we are called to be in order to live a transformed life.  Read and learn more: Reimagine: Your Life, Your Purpose, Your Future: https://www.amazon.com/REIMAGINE-Your-Life-Purpose-Future/dp/1799073009/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=REIMAGINE+YOUR+LIFE%2C+YOUR+PURPOSE%2C+YOUR+FUTURE&qid=1552239299&s=amazon-devices&sr=8-1-spell

PITY PARTY ALLOWED

I recently attended a training program that met a couple days a week over several weeks. On day two the instructor asked if we had done our homework and how the process went. A young woman responded quite candidly. She had not completed her assignment.  Instead she described that she had a major meltdown followed by an elaborate pity party. She was doing much better and was proud of herself for just showing up for the meeting. Everyone clapped.

I could identify with her. I’ve been there, haven’t you?  Life is often a roller coaster.  We have highs and lows and can land in a tough spot. So, if we find ourselves in such a place how do we make it a short visit?

  1. IDENTIFY AND CHALLENGE. Identify the source of the negative messages that are overwhelming and controlling us. Are they internal or do they come from an external source—or both?
    • For example, consider a common belief and/or feeling that we are inadequate for the task at hand. What does the evidence of our life choices and experiences tell us? We can’t just look at how far we still have to go. We have to look back at where we started and how far we’ve come. Competency and confidence come over time and chances are we’re in a stronger place now that when we started. That’s who we are and determines what we’re capable of in the future.
    • Perhaps we have a special person in our life—someone who likes to remind us we’re pretty much a loser. Why are we giving him/her permission to define our reality? Why does his/her vote count so much? We need to decline the invitation to see ourselves as less than and perhaps even remove him/her from our circle of influence.
    • We may benefit greatly by scheduling time to talk and listen to people who will be supporters, encouragers, and even mentors. These folks will help us stay on the right track.
  1. TAKE ACTION. Create an action plan for how to get from here to there.
    • Doing nothing results in nothing. “Just do it!” We’re not to let fear, anxiety, or other counterproductive beliefs and emotions win the day. Even if we go shaking and trembling, we’re to move forward!
    • Don’t underestimate the value of taking even one small step—making a phone call or setting up a meeting.
    • There is usually no such thing as an overnight success. Success is the culmination of many, many small steps, lots of practice, and multiple failures.
    • Set realistic expectations. When we overestimate outcomes, we set ourselves up for disappointment and discouragement.
  2. SELF-CARE. If you’re exhausted, hungry, or isolated you won’t have anything to draw from. Take care of the basics first and maintain that level of self-care; otherwise, we work from a deficit and our goals are much more daunting.
  3. ENDURANCE. Challenging times may last a while. Commit to doing what it takes to make it over the long haul.
  4. APPRECIATE AND VALUE. Difficult times tend to grow us up. Sometimes the process is far more important than the goal. We may even determine this particular path is not ultimately right for us. That’s okay. It gets us ready for what will be.

So, have a great self-pity party if you need to but don’t let it last too long. It may be part of our journey, but we don’t want it to be our final destination!

SAFETY NET

My eighth grandchild, Grace, recently came into the world. She’s beautiful.  As I held this tiny little girl in my arms, I was keenly aware of how fragile she is.  As the days, weeks and years pass she’ll get bigger and stronger as did her older brother and cousins.  One day she’ll be able to take care of herself.  Grace doesn’t realize it but many folks have already rallied around her to provide support. During the sleepless and exhausting first few weeks of life, her mom and dad have been blessed by encouraging messages, visits, meals, and gifts.  There’s a team in place to watch over and enter in when there’s a need.  I’m grateful for that. The truth is, no matter what our age, we’re all a bit like Grace.  We human beings are a bit fragile, at times more so than others.  We need a team around us. They become our safety net, locking arms and preventing us from falling or catching us when we do. They cheer us on to be our very best self.  So, how are you doing?  Do you need to build or add to your team?  No time like the present to surround yourself with caring people who will help you and whom you can support as well.

2019 – A New Year

The other day my husband and I stopped for lunch at a place we regularly frequent. My husband asked our server if she had any plans for 2019.  She smiled and hesitated a moment, as if saying it out loud made it too real, or that she would be committing herself prematurely.  She then responded by stating she was planning to run a half marathon in Canada in the fall.  She had looked up the air fare and she thought she could save enough to swing it.  She had enough time to train and it was something she always wanted to do.  What she said next was interesting.  She knew the race itself would probably be awful.  She really didn’t like to run all that much but, “Everyone says that when you’re done the runners high is worth it!” She made us smile and I hope she gets to go.  Dreams fulfilled often make for life-long memories.

New Year’s brings positive feelings. We think of new beginnings, of adventures, of things unexpected.  It’s fun and exciting to ponder. The year will certainly bring some surprises but our server brought home an important point.  Our choices have a lot to do with the outcomes we desire.  There is great value in planning, preparing, and persevering. Some of that is not much fun and some of it no fun at all. But when we’ve passed the test, reached the goal, accomplished the task, the celebration is worth it all! This New Year, 2019, is certain to be different than we expect in many ways—every year is, but we have much to say in making each day count when it comes to fulfilling our dreams.  Blessings to all for a wonderful year ahead!

LOVING WELL

LOVING WELL

I found myself drawn to watching the recent tributes for former President George H. W. Bush. I responded strongly to the salutes from those who served with him, many now in their twilight years, and the recounting of his own military service.  I appreciated anew the recap of historical events under his leadership.  Seeing the presidents and first ladies who followed him sitting front and center in the church and the powerful political figures and writers who spoke of his contributions, was impressive.  The glowing admiration and deep affection from family members was tremendously moving and heartwarming.

If I had to say what touched me the most, though, it would have to be that President Bush seemed to know how to love well.  In relationships he gave his whole self, was genuine, and down to earth. One person after another–whether friend, someone in the political arena, or family member, spoke of his loyalty, warmth, connectivity, humor, initiative, affirmation, forgiveness and grace.  His letters, many handwritten and deeply intimate, illustrate these characteristics. The recipients had a sense that they were important to him, that they mattered in his life.  It was mentioned that every one of his grandchildren believed they were his favorite.  What an accomplishment, to convey to each impressionable young person that they were so special and greatly valued.  When people disappointed him, President Bush had a pattern of forgiving and showing grace.  He often reached out to affirm someone who had made an error in judgment, letting them know he was still there for him or her.  Perhaps most challenging of all, he owned up to his mistakes and apologized when necessary.  He truly seemed to operate from the perspective that he was here to serve, not just the country, but every person God brought his way.

President George H. W. Bush was a relational role model, something much needed in our current culture. Perhaps that is, in part, what held us captive to the numerous broadcasts. Too often loving, respecting, investing in, and putting others first is low on the hierarchy of what matters most in life.  When I leave this earth, I hope those who knew me well will feel a loss—not because I did anything great, but because someone who loved them well would be away for just a while and be missed.  Love is expensive, it costs us a lot, but the return on investment sure seems worth it, if what I watched this week is any indication.

WORDS OF AFFIRMATION

My sister recently shared excerpts from letters written by our aunt. One, from 1981, was penned shortly after our father had passed away and as our birthday approached.  She tenderly spoke of the sadness my sister might feel since daddy was gone.  She commented on what a good daughter she had been and encouraged her to continue to move forward, enjoying her daughter and the little person that was on the way.  In another note, my aunt talked about our mother, whom she still missed, some thirty years after her passing.  She reflected on their growing up years and said from the time mom was a little girl, more than anything she just wanted to be a ‘mom’.  She said our mother would be so proud of her girls; in essence, that we were a wonderful reflection of the love she had poured into us.  I am touched when hearing these letters.  During her life, our aunt was encouraging, affirming, and showed her love in many ways.  What a wonderful blessing this continues as we re-read her beautiful letters and cards.

All of us, big and small, have opportunities to affirm one another, sometimes in ways that are very simple. I played a game of Go Fish with my granddaughter the other day.  She would ask if I had any blue cards and when I gave them to her, she sweetly said “thank you” every time.  I couldn’t help but smile.  Her response sent a message—that she appreciated me.  When I call my Boston crew, often one of my grandchildren will just yell out that they love me.  You better believe I am smiling on the other end of the phone.  I know they love me, but it warms my heart to hear it just the same.

Words of affirmation contribute to the quality of our lives and say much–that we are valuable and worthy of dignity and respect, just because we are, not because of anything we do.  We won’t ever do it perfectly, but seeing others as bearers of God’s image, individuals to be valued, cherished, might help us use the right words – those that will bring about good and far less that have the potential to cause harm to another. “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 12:18 (NIV)