This first day of a new year has me sifting through conflicting emotions.
People I cherish are celebrating the birth of a long awaited baby. Oh, what joy in a dream realized. And yet others are coping with the untimely death of a sister and friend – the first in their circle to pass into eternity. It feels like it’s too soon to let go of her, as everyone else believes they have decades still to live.
Same day – two diametrically opposite sets of emotions.
As this day unfolds for me, I’m going through the collections my mother has amassed over her 84 years. It’s a small apartment, but it’s full. I’m trying to help her decide what is necessary for the next chapter in her life, and what she can let go of – either to someone else (not me) or into a garbage. She’s sorting through physical artifacts that mirror the emotions of the other people I referenced above. Good memories, sad ones, joyful experiences and tragic happenings. It’s all here in her stuff.
We are all the same – we will all experience the scale of events from joy to tears.
What do we do with it all?
The value of a moment.
Do we know the value of each happening at the moment it occurs? Not always. Just as Dr. Seuss says, “Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.”
Even the bad moments can create valuable memories.
Maybe that needs to be our goal as we go through the days… creating value in the moments, regardless of the emotions – good or bad…
What do you think?
How will you mine the value of a moment – this year?
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
It’s rare to know how much someone else is hurting…
Even if you’re standing next to them…
(Regardless – even if you’re their spouse, parent, sibling, best friend, significant other, and especially if they’re a stranger.)
That person could be feeling totally broken, but we couldn’t realize.
Make kindness a habit. Always. No matter the provocation.
A few years ago I had a heart-breaking experience with a grouchy security guard at a library in Florida. We had been traveling fulltime for a while and regularly used the WiFi at the public libraries to work during the day. This was the only library, over the space of two years, that had a “be silent” policy and a guard to back it up.
He prowled the stacks of books seeking those talking out loud or on their mobile cell phone to “shush” them with a scowl and to point to the outside door. (Yes, he found me twice – I was “that” woman.) It both humiliated me and made me grumpy too, even though I was clearly in the wrong.
At the end of the day, I sat outside on a bench waiting for Rob to pick me up. (The truck was parked a fair ways away.) I saw the grumpy guard on another bench. It was so tempting to ignore him. And yet…
Be Kind. Always. To yourself and others.
(Do you ever get those inner promptings? I do. And I’ve learned not to ignore them.)
So I got up and walked over to the grumpy guard’s bench and sat beside him. I started the conversation about the weather. (You’ll find that’s often the opening line with a Canadian… I don’t know why.) Since it was Florida in the winter, the sun was shining and warm, it was a good start. Anyway. He began to share.
He shared his whole life story with me – I guess I appeared to be a friendly ear.
He hadn’t had an easy life. And the latest blow was his cancer diagnosis.
The grumpy guard was scheduled for treatment the next week and he was afraid. He wasn’t on speaking terms with his siblings and It didn’t seem like he had a support system around him. But for those few moments, I was privileged to listen and put a hand on his arm to convey that someone cared.
He told me he believed in God, so I assured him that I would pray for him. By the time Rob pulled up in the truck I had gotten a few smiles out of that grumpy guard. I hope, with all my heart, that my kindness made a difference. Even if it was for only a few moments.
There was no way I would have known his story. And his fear, hurt, loneliness, and isolation. I’m chagrined that I just saw an old man who “shushed” me. At least at first. However, I’m not going to beat myself up – I’ve learned from that experience. Hopefully, I won’t make the same mistake again.
It’s not that simple, though. And we shouldn’t be surprised, I guess, as everything that truly has worth needs effort to shore up the action.
Is being thankful easy for you?
I think all of us would like to believe that we are thankful people. (It’s almost indisputable that we have many, many things to be thankful for…)
Maybe our parents insisted we write a thank you card after receiving a gift, which began a habit which continued into adulthood. Or not.
Perhaps we use the words “thank you” a few times a day when our spouse or wait-staff hand us something to eat. Or we respond with thanks when a stranger, co-worker or loved-one does something to benefit our well-being.
It’s even possible that we journal or list those items we are grateful for each day. For example, I have an app on my phone called Gratitude 365 – it’s especially useful because my phone is with me all day, every day. I snap a photo and write down all I can think of that causes me to be thankful. Robert and I have made lists of more than 100 items we’re thankful for – you’d be surprised how easy it is to do this.
But does all this thankfulness lead to a higher level of thought and bring about a happiness doubled by wonder?
Happiness doubled by wonder. Really?
I’m going to suggest it’s not the action of cataloging thankfulness that brings about happiness… (though maybe it begins there). It’s not saying, “thank you” that makes a difference in our happiness.
We need to pause to feel thankful.
First pause. Then feel.
After those steps, perhaps our thoughts can rise above mundane and petty annoyances.
When I take the time to really feel that gratitude – I must be candid – I am humbled.
I know my mistakes and failings. I know my smelly inner dialogue. And there is a scary and startling wonder that comes from realizing I’ve been gifted (often despite my efforts) with an immense list of things to be thankful for… relationships, physical abilities, and items, circumstances both avoided and experienced, and a good future, in my view, granted by the grace of God through the sacrifice of Jesus’ life.
It’s not comfortable.
That wonder isn’t always a comfortable feeling. And the happiness which grows from the wonder makes me realize how very blessed I am. Which, again, isn’t always comfortable.
Should feeling thankful be comfortable? What do you think?
What do you feel?
How does being thankful – feeling grateful – work in your life? Has it made a difference? How? Please share your insights…
Is feeling thankful easy for you? Comfortable? Is there a sense of happiness and wonder when you feel thankful?
Prayer provides strength. And isn’t strength what we all really need as we face challenges and questions?
Strength to move forward, strength to meet the challenge, strength to persevere, strength to overcome, strength to stand our ground, strength to…
As good as venting can feel, it doesn’t provide anything long term.
Sure, you’ll get a bit of solidarity (or pushback). A “vent” on social media is there in the moment and then slides away in the feed. What about a “vent” in person with friends? It’ll get you a hug or a sympathetic look or word, but after it’s over, everyone just searches for something else to talk about…
Prayer provides strength.
For those who have uncovered the joy of praying, any and every challenge (your own or others) has the potential for building long-term strength.
Because unlike a “vent”, answered prayer unfolds into a long, long, stretch of experience that builds confidence. Prayer provides strength.
Your efforts in prayer don’t just disappear. Those efforts remain as an experience of tapping into the power that originates and flows from the Creator, the One who loves you.
Is prayer easy? Sometimes. Not always. Prayer can be work. However, the effort to pray for something for a very long time, regardless, is sweeter and more satisfying than anything else.
And if you’re wondering about God being silent when you’ve been praying for a long time, then consider these words from Oswald Chambers when Jesus didn’t show up to heal Lazarus. Rob and I have been praying for what feels like a long time, and hearing silence. But His silence hasn’t been what we thought…
Invest in Relationships – Celebrate all the Little Things
Life can be rough. Even the day-to-day grind can pile up to become a seemingly overwhelming weight. Heap on a few helpings of seeing friends also struggling, and it may become difficult to look at the bright side.
What’s the antidote to this burden if we want to be positive?
Throw little parties – impromptu celebrations for those who add value to your life.
I’m not suggesting being excessive, expensive, or extravagant… rather, focus on finding the little opportunities to celebrate something small, yet important. Uplift. Encourage. Notice and affirm.
Here are 10 opportunities to celebrate all the little things and ultimately invest in relationships you value:
1 – Notice an achievement.
Has someone graduated, bought a new vehicle, home, hat, dog or shoes? It might seem silly, but any achievement, large or small, is an opportunity to celebrate. Send a card. (Yes, a real, snail-mail card!) Show up with a cupcake. Or if you’re pressed for time, then a simple “high-five” is always a good way to celebrate all the little achievements.
2 – Recognize a movement forward.
Sometimes it takes a long, long time to reach a goal. Think about all those really tough, long-term missions: growing a business, losing weight, recovering from an injury, overcoming an addiction, finding peace after an emotional upheaval, etc. Invest in your relationship with that person by acknowledging a movement forward (however small). A small, private encouragement, praying with that person to give thanks, and even a literal pat on the back are some ways to recognize a movement forward.
3 – Kudos for being married.
Growing a healthy marriage takes an investment. Are there couples around you who are doing well in their relationship? Celebrate with them! (It doesn’t need to be their anniversary.) Buy them a book on building a good marriage – this one is a must for every couple. This is one I’m reading right now – it’s about making your marriage matter now and for generations to come. (And here’s a marriage book I wrote.) Write a little note into the book telling this couple how much their marriage is an inspiration! Just consider: people regularly read and study for their profession. It’s a given. Yet they expect a marriage to be easy without any investment? Huh? Rob and I write about husbands and wives leading meaningful lives, so that makes us focus on our own relationship also.
On March 29th I discovered it was National Lemon Cake Day, so I made Rob some lemon cake to celebrate, and took some along to church. It was silly, yet fun. (Read about it here.) Pick anyone – and celebrate that day with them!
5 – Revel in your friendships.
Having a friend is precious. Old friendships or new friendships are all something to celebrate. Get together for coffee today with a friend and tell them how much you value them. Rob and I are visiting the cities where we grew up, and one of the joys is connecting with friends. We may not see each other for a year or more, but we still value our connection. Who haven’t you invested time with lately? Reach out – now!
6 – Honor a mom or dad.
It matters little whether children are small or teens, parenting is hard. Give a parent a “high-five, you’re-doing-well” accolade. Take them out for ice-cream, give them a funny DVD, and just smile kindly at them while they’re doing the hard stuff of parenting. Tell them they’re doing a good job. Your love and affirmation can make a difference when the going is really tough. Celebrate their job as a parent!
7 – Affirm a hard decision.
Life is full of ’em – those hard, sometimes bitter-sweet decisions. Sometimes they’re so fraught with negativity that it would be easier for you to say nothing. And yet… sometimes years of hardship have led to this point, and more anguish than we can imagine has gone ahead of the final decision. Don’t judge or criticize. Help them acknowledge this hurdle.
You can imagine, right? A divorce. Moving a loved one into a long-term care facility instead of taking care of them at home. Selling. Ending. Closing. Oh, those decisions are hard. Yet, sometimes having a loving person come alongside at those bitter moments, to celebrate that the actual decision is finally made, can add a little sweetness to the moment. (Perhaps you don’t even agree with their decision, but you can acknowledge that they’re doing the best they can with the situation. Plus, unless you’ve lived in their shoes, we have no reason to judge.)
It’s hard. I get it. Maybe just sitting with that person, putting an arm around them, and saying nothing is enough of a celebration.
8 – Acknowledge someone doing good!
Is someone you know passionate about a charity, non-profit or ministry? Do they invest their time doing good for others? Celebrate their contributions with a gold medal like this one, an encouragement card, gift card for a coffee or dessert, or a donation to their cause. Showing you care about what that person cares about is a gift – look for a way to help out to see what’s it’s all about…
9 – Celebrate an anniversary.
When did you first meet someone? Measure the days you and a friend have been in school or calculate how many minutes you’ve been married. (As I write this sentence Rob and I have been married 17,815,543 minutes!) How long have you been living in the same place or attending a church or drinking the same soda/pop? If you use the Elapsed Time Calculatoranything can be celebrated as an anniversary!
10 – Cheers!
Clink your glass with someone where-ever, whenever and for whatever! Every time you have a drink – even water – clink your glass with someone else. This moment you’re in – right now – is worth celebrating. It will never come again! Cheers!
Yes. Life is short – be ready to party at any moment!
Which opportunity will you grab today? Leave a comment!
Plant kindness. What grows from being kind to others is beautiful and nourishing.
Kind or Critical?
In case you were wondering, criticism is not kind. Criticism is like a poisonous weed.
I’m imagining criticism – that deliberate judgment of others – is like hogweed. Hogweed’s sap burns and scars.
If you try and mow or weed-whack a hogweed plant, it’ll just send up new growth. Isn’t that exactly like being judgmental? Start criticizing one action or aspect of a person’s character, and you’ll quickly find other points to criticize… And hogweed might appear to be Queen Anne’s Lace or Angelica, just like criticism can be disguised as helpful advice, but it’s not. Get involved in criticism and it’ll burn. And scar. You.
Plant a Garden of Kindness
Now, imagine a garden filled with beautiful flowers, fruit, and vegetables. It’s nourishing for the soul and body.
That’s just like kindness – when we watch others be kind, isn’t it a joy to behold? When we, ourselves, are beneficiaries of a kindness, isn’t it nourishing to every part of our life? And, when we are the authors of an act of kindness, isn’t it something we rejoice over with the other person?
Make this a day to sow seeds of kindness.
(Toss those critical thoughts/words on the burn pile!)
If you judge people, you have no time to love them.
~ Mother Teresa
Love does not judge.
Judgemental = having or displaying an excessively critical point of view.
Many times I feel judging and criticising are kin to each other.
Criticism = the expression of disapproval of someone or something based on perceived faults or mistakes.
What do you think?
“Do not judge other people. Then you will not be judged. You will be judged in the same way you judge others. You will be measured in the same way you measure others. You look at the bit of sawdust in your friend’s eye. But you pay no attention to the piece of wood in your own eye.”