With the end of April 2020 upon us, I am sitting here counting my blessings, naming them one by one. Amidst all of the chaos our world has observed since mid-March, I’ve discovered that having a heart of gratitude is more important than ever before.
As a sixty-something woman, I am grateful for my reliable God, my family, my friends, just to mention three bounties here in my earthly life.
As I ponder this further, I realize that sometimes the basis for gratefulness in my day is because a “spot of sunshine” has come my way.
Have you considered some alterations you would like to see in your life journey. Seriously, the vast majority of us have had extra time to consider our lives and our ways of living out our days. This reminds me of a favorite hit from the Broadway hit, RENT. Seasons Of Love. “525,600 minutes, 525,600 moments, how do you measure a year in a life? How do you measure a year? In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee, in inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife. In 525,600 minutes. How do you measure a year in a life. Measure you life in love.”
It’s easy to recall all the hype that came with the introduction of a brand new decade just 113 days ago. 2020 had quite the ring to it didn’t it!?! Now that the first quarter of this new year has sailed us by, we are left here wondering what has happened. That trio of months seems like a long time ago, doesn’t it? It does to me! So much has changed.
This Global Pandemic has truly turned our world upside down, hasn’t it? This unprecedented season came to us with very little notice and by mid-March, our schools and “non-essential” establishments were shutting down. We were, in fact, blindsided when COVID-19 came to town, weren’t we!?!
How have you and I navigated this new normal? Have you, like me, had more pj pants…yoga pants…in the laundry than ever before? More food in the frig, the pantry than ever before? More rest and relaxation than ever before? More time to think, to reflect than ever before? If so, then WE are the lucky ones. Unlike the countless first responders who are carrying 40 + hours on the front line, quarantining from their families, literally laying their lives on the lines for the rest of us.
Yes, we are the lucky ones if we have the resources, shelter, and food that we all need. WE are especially fortunate if we have a stable foundation of love and emotional support under our roofs, as well.
How is our overall mental health? An article by, Jennifer Glover Yaeger that I read recently could be very helpful to you and to me in this current environment. Click here to find it.
I recently read a devotion that reminds me that Life takes muscle work and resilience. I want to be willing to make changes as life evolves.
Otherwise, I am just “a bystander”. And I don’t know about you, but I want to be “a participant” in this life, not just someone who is here and accounted for, but not really taking part, not connecting, not interacting, not having an impact.
I am learning that the best way to bring peace to my external circumstances is to begin with internal work. Internal peace will begin to settle external chaos.
Here is an excerpt from the devo I read:
“I’m convinced that life without risk isn’t much of a life. There’s a certain comfort in predictability. But it’s the kind of comfort you don’t find when you’re moving and growing. It’s the comfort you find in hibernation.
If you’ve followed sports or been around athletes, you know that an athlete regularly stretches his muscles to the point where they burn. Otherwise these muscles become inflexible, unresponsive, and easily fatigued. The same is true with your soul. It must be regularly stretched. Failure to do so gives you comfort in the short-term, but ultimately leaves you emotionally and spiritually unfit.
Connecting, loving, and pursuing dreams, all require risk and energy! Yes, you’ll be stretched to the point of discomfort. Yes, you may experience some hurt and disappointment. But these are far better alternatives than the loneliness, boredom, and quiet desperation that accompany a life without risk.” ~Steve Arterburn, New Life Live~
While it is not always comfortable, I want to stretch ALL of my muscles from here on out! My physical muscles, my faith muscles, my brain muscles, my compassion for others muscles. ALL of these, and more.
In addition, I want to discover what in my life is no longer serving me well.
Maybe it’s a bad habit I have been carrying around for decades. A routine that has become commonplace. A Rut. A pattern that is no longer useful. A temperament that is not as kind as I would like. There is no better time than a pandemic to make the changes we want to make, when many of us are allotted an extra span of time to ponder this.
If only we will.
What is it for you and for me that we would like to change and alter for the days ahead as we all begin to live our “new normal”? What pandemic alterations would we like to create?
What is no longer serving us?
Yes, it can be difficult, and risky, too. But, so, so worth it. It is truly a Fork In The Road, and we get to choose the way.
Let’s Start Today!
P.S. I know you join me in this thought: I cannot wait to give big hugs like this one to all of my friends and family!!!
Do you have a lot of stress in your life these days? With all of the changing news of the pandemic, day-by-day, it would be no surprise to anyone that our stress levels are at an all-time high.
We are all getting a taste of a slower lifestyle, one that came unannounced,unplanned, and topped with an uncertain future.
What has slowing down meant for you? Have you and I stopped to think about our days gone by when we were so busy that we could barely catch our breath? I think it is a good opportunity to look at that busy life and see what changes might be possible going forward.
'We're all broken. That's how the light gets in.'
Today, I will share with you six ways we can begin to relieve our stress starting today.
S-Seize the moment, pause and be IN the moment. Realize that this few minutes may be all we have. Breathe deeply connecting with your heart.
T-Take a break to meditate and pray…whatever that means for you. Express gratitude. While you are taking a break, consider coloring, collaging, escaping for a bubble bath, or taking a walk alone. Exaggerated self-care is vital during this time of sheltering in.
As a Christ-follower, I have learned that He meets me right where I am whenever I reach out to Him. I’m so thankful for this truth.
R-Rest enough. I know this is easier said than done. Especially for parents and teachers who are currently homeschooling when they were not used to doing it. Insufficient sleep puts us on edge. Try setting the timer on your phone and stretch out for a 15-25 minute power nap. At night, keep your screens away from your bedside table. It is particularly important to do this before sleep as it can cut down many of the problems related to insomnia and other sleep disorders.
E-Be sure to get some exercise, even if it is a simple walk around your workplace parking lot during your lunch break. Move. Stretch. Stretch. Move. Exercise will pump up your endorphins, improving your mood.
S-As many have been sharing on social media, this is actually a perfect time to declutter your spaces. I have found that an uncluttered space = less stress. Watch YouTube videos to give you ideas and the motivation to get started. Shed Stuff. Even after the Pandemic, keep a “give away” box handy and put things in there on a regular basis. Most will agree that we just have too much stuff! Let’s give things away that are still useful and unclutter our lives some to help us relieve stress.
S-Screen Time Reduced. Most of us, if we were completely honest, spend way too much time looking at screens during our waking hours. The preoccupation with our devices, even during free time can often mess up other schedules causing delays in routine work, creating unwanted stress.
Regulating screen time can help individuals block out at least some of the channels through which stress is stimulated. During this extra time at home, consider creating a “cell phone basket” where all phones can take a break from their humans. This is especially important during meal time and family board game time.
Which of these six ideas will you incorporate into your life in the days ahead?
It may be a distant memory now, but there were some very rainy days in Georgia during the month of December. It is easy to recall driving home slowly from a holiday party and climbing into our warm, comfy bed as soon as possible.
Then the thoughts would begin…Where are the homeless sleeping tonight on this soggy cold evening? Were there enough beds at the shelter? Are there children out there with their Mommies and Daddies? Will they be okay?
Then I would utter a brief prayer from my bed. “Please, Lord, keep them safe and help them to find dry shelter and warmth.” I knew in my heart, felt compelled in my soul, that He would use me to help those in need somehow, someway during these cold, wet December days.
As the December days clicked by, we held a wonderful caroling gathering on the last Sunday before Christmas. Our guests brought new socks, underclothes, gloves, hats and scarves. We collected an abundance of these items, wrapped a bow around them individually and delivered them to The Zone. A nearby center, The Zone has programs that fuel recovery and fight addiction. Those who are in the throes of an addiction are often not welcome in their family home during the holidays. Knowing The Zone would be open for 36 hours during Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, feeding all who came by, our small love gifts would be distributed to those who stopped in.
Soon it was Christmas Eve, 2019. Knowing that my last-minute chores were squared away, I stopped by the local Salvation Army office and asked if I could ring a bell. The receptionist told me that no one was ringing at a nearby Wal-Mart and would I be willing to work there. My assigned shift was 10:00-1:00, and a Salvation Army representative would meet me there.
I arrived a few minutes early. After waiting a good while, the representative never arrived. I tried calling a few numbers, but most offered only a machine since it was Christmas Eve. Sadly, I entered the Wal-Mart to pick up one last thing, potatoes for our Christmas feast.
As soon as I came out, I saw her! A woman was ringing the bell cheerily and walking to and fro on the storefront sidewalk. After introducing myself and acknowledging that there had been some misunderstanding, my new friend offered me the bell and her chair and slipped inside to hang out at the Subway sandwich shop. I was going to get to ring that bell after all!
The next couple of hours, I called out Merry Christmas to all who could hear, offered up friendly smiles, and a chocolate Santa to the children. I noticed the variety of nationalities represented. (and considered my American citizenship)
Sadly, I saw a homeless young man searching for food or a tobacco butt in this trash can and ash bin. I offered him a chocolate Santa and he heartily accepted it. ( and I sent up an arrow prayer of gratitude that I had never been in this man’s shoes) I took in the number of taxi rides folks needed to get the shoppers to and from the store. (and I thought about our pick-up truck in the lot full of gas and ready to take me home) I thanked those who slipped small change, a single or a five into the traditional red bucket. As I thanked one woman with her two young children, her reply warmed my heart, “Salvation Army made a real difference in my life in the past, and I want to give back.” (and I considered the fact that I had never had to reach out for help like this)
Just as He promised that cold, rainy night when I uttered a short prayer from my bed, I was given the privilege to help some souls in need. My heart was warmed that Christmas Eve, not just by the surprising warmer, 60 degree Georgia temp and blue sky, but by that feeling you get when you’ve made a difference in someone’s life, no matter how small.
Hurting hearts and painful paths come with the tremendous challenges surrounding depression and suicide. Mental illness is a palpable concern in our lives these days, and we must increase the dialogue. Complicated? Yes. Grueling and toilsome? Yes. Still we must start talking more openly about this suffering that so many souls deal with much too often.
Our family has an especially heavy heart today. We have recently learned of a much-loved young man, age 25, ending his life this past weekend. A sufferer of depression, our friend was treated with meds, placed in residential settings, loved by many, and monitored carefully by his devoted parents and sibs.
However, while our hearts ache, this post is not about our dear friends’ tragic circumstances, it is far too raw and personal. They will rely on God, family and friends to walk down this horrific and painful path.
“We learned how to look after ourselves and we had to do this otherwise we couldn't cope.”
Lisa, mother of Jason who ended his life
Instead, I will share, with permission, another story that has been made public.
My hope is to shed some light on this extremely difficult subject.
Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one’s own death. Risk factors include mental disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, personality disorders, and substance abuse, including alcoholism and use of benzodiazepines. Other suicides are impulsive acts due to stress such as from financial difficulties, troubles with relationships, or from bullying. Those who have previously attempted suicide are at higher risk for future attempts. Suicide prevention efforts include limiting access to methods of suicide, such as firearms, drugs, and poisons, treating mental disorders and substance misuse, proper media reporting of suicide, and improving economic conditions. (Wikipedia)
This mission allows children to see what it feels like to be a giver, to make an impact in areas they are interested in helping in. If you still have children under your roof, I hope you will check out Kristen’s work and join in.
Here is how it works!
Donate: Generous donor makes donation to Kids Boost. Example: Donor John Smith contributes $100 to the Kids Boost General Fund to jumpstart a new Kids Boost project.2. Connect To Cause: Child chooses a cause important to him or her. Example: Weston, 12 years old, signs up for Kids Boost and declares he would like to fundraise for the Special Olympics in honor of his brother who has special needs.
3. Innovate: Child receives startup money and coaching support from Kids Boost. Example: Kids Boost provides Weston with $100 in startup funding and a coach to help him implement his project “Run the Bases Marathon.” Weston uses the $100 to create flyers for the event and provide drinks and pizza for all the participants. A local ballpark donates field time and Weston’s dad volunteers to be the PA announcer and “scorekeeper” at the event. A family friend donates time and a few huge speakers to add fun music at the event. The local dollar store donates balloons.
4. Multiply: Child Boosts multiplies funds and awareness for chosen charity. Example: All the teams in Weston’s baseball league volunteer to participate by running as many bases as they can in an allotted time frame. Each base runner volunteer collects pledges for the number of bases he runs. Weston’s “Run the Bases Marathon” raises $500 for Special Olympics.
5. Pay It Forward: 80% of the total raised goes to the charity of the child’s choice. 20% goes back to Kids Boost to help another child participate. Example: Weston presents a check for $400 (80% of the total raised) to Special Olympics. $100(20% of the total raised) goes back to Kids Boost to help another kid get started on another project. Donor John Smith sees a huge return on his investment plus the intangible benefits to Weston and his base running friends.
Today, I want to share with you three touchstones of showing up.
Acts of love that will truly help during difficult seasons of life.
When is the last time you heard some grueling news about someone you know? A few days ago, a week or month ago? It seems the older we get, the more frequent it is. Someone has a new health diagnosis. A tragedy has happened in a family you love or a marriage has split up. Someone has passed suddenly.
This book gives many great ideas about how to best reach out when someone you love is going through a hard time. Here, I will give you just a fraction of what I learned in this quick, colorful, informative read.
Three Touchstones Of Showing Up:
(1) Your kindness is your credential. (page 58) “At its core, kindness is a total absence of ego and self-interest in doing something for someone else. The defining feature of kindness is that it comes unsolicited, and in its most awe-inspiring moments, it comes to the aid of those who are shunned. ” (page 60) Kindness comes from a basic social emotion: compassion. Compassion is to Notice, Feel, and Respond.
(2) Listening speaks volumes. (page 90) “Knowing how bad it can feel to hear the wrong thing, and how easy it can be to say the wrong thing, many of us would rather remain silent and walk away from an emotionally difficult situation.”
'I loved her texts. Just knowing that she noticed and cared, was all that I needed; it's not like she had a magic lever that would release balloons from the ceiling and make my disease go away.'
-Ken, diagnosed with MS
“Even if we know from experience how comforting it can be to have someone to talk to, when we’re in that position to provide such comfort, that conversation can easily feel too overwhelming to handle.”
“Thankfully, the conversations get easier with practice, and they can pretty much guarantee us the absolute best way to build deep, trusting, unshakable relationships–the kind most of us can use more of. The best way to have a conversation with someone in a difficult time, is not in the talking, but in the listening. And thankfully, it’s much easier to listen than it is to find that elusive ‘useful’ thing to say.”
'If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but do not love, I'm nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God's Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain 'Jump!', and it jumps, but I do not love, I am nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don't love, I've gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I am bankrupt without love. Love Never Gives Up. Love Cares More For Others Than For Self. Love Does Not Want What It Does Not Have.'
1 Corinthians 13:1-3
(3) Small gestures make a big difference. (page 145) “Sometimes, what’s holding us back from offering comfort isn’t that we don’t care enough, but that we don’t feel we have the time or the bandwidth to do something that will make a difference. We may feel that we have to be 100 percent available all the time when we’re around someone in a tough situation. It’s not unreasonable to think that saying ‘I’m sorry’ is an inadequate response to, say, the loss of a loved one. Or that asking ‘How are you?’ and genuinely wanting to know means we are then responsible for talking with this person about their situation until the end of time. The good news is these fears are normal. The better news is these fears are not rational. Empathy Tip: (page 167) “The sick, grieving, or freaked-out person ALWAYS gets a pass. Always offer up your gift with a ‘No need to write a thank-you.” And mean it.
In the days and weeks ahead, how can you and I better love the hurting folks who end up directly in our life path?