“FAKE NEWS!”

“FAKE NEWS!”

This was the unedited outburst that a twelve-year old shouted out upon hearing that his favorite ice cream was unavailable.

My son, James, was working behind the counter of the sweet shop where he is employed when this child had a conniption because he couldn’t get what he wanted, when he wanted it.

James, and all his co-workers — especially the poor guy who was trying to help this kid — were horrified by this bratty display of temper.

James immediately looked at the kid’s father to see what, if anything, he intended to do about his inappropriately apoplectic child.

Nothing.

Absolutely nothing.

This dad didn’t even look disturbed by his kid’s behavior.

James said the dad had this vacant, vacuous look on his face. He might as well have had a “Space for Rent” sign plastered across his forehead.

Ok, you can already tell that this one is going to be a rant. I’m giving you fair warning. The roots of my rant run deep into the soil of the U.S. Constitution, and  the responsibilities I feel as a mother, and as a citizen.

As I see it, there are two issues here. The first has to do with parenting. When people decide they want to bring kids into the world, a boat load of responsibility comes with that. Teaching kids how to behave, even when (especially when) they are disappointed, is a big part of the job.

In my purview, it runs deeper than social decorum; it speaks to the development of character. Character breeds integrity. When this process breaks down, it lays the groundwork for problems with this kid. When enough parents fail to teach their kids the basics of civility and respect for self and others, we are heading into rough waters. When parents fail to make the effort to cultivate integrity in their children, the idea of polite, and even democratic, society begins to break down.

This is not hyperbole. This, so sadly, is our current reality. We see it every day as more and more leaders of families, communities, businesses and government opt out of behaving with respect, kindness and grace because it is either too hard to take the high road, or because they simply don’t care.

What some see as a matter of bad manners can easily snowball into serious problems. It’s easier and more effective, in my opinion, to safeguard our families, communities and society by taking our job as parents tasked with raising polite, respectful, well-informed kids very seriously.

This line of reasoning also applies to being members of a democratic society, which leads me to the second issue…the tolerance of the casual and frequent castigation or anything unpleasant, unflattering or unsavory as ‘FAKE NEWS!’

Democracy demands a free press. When petulant children in ice cream shops, or the halls of government, denounce facts that don’t suit their fancy as “untrue,” it is a far more than a nauseating annoyance. If left unchecked, it threatens to undermine the bedrock of a free society.

As you know, this blog is about where faith and real life come together. Here’s how this incident fits in to this…

I think having faith in God, or, on a more secular level, having faith and confidence in Country, takes courage and resolve to stand up for what is right. The self-serving disregard for rules of polite social conduct as well as the blatant attack on free press in America is disturbing. It is outrageous. It is horrifying.

I feel like if I sit idly by and say nothing about this alarming trend, I am complicit, to a degree, in the unraveling of the democratic fabric of our society. I might have just limited my rant to the confines of my own home and family and my like-minded friends, but the novel I’m reading about the weeks and months leading up to World War II and the Holocaust has changed that.

The story talks about the growing fear among Jewish families for their safety as Hitler began stripping Jews of their advanced degrees, denying them the right to practice law, or medicine. That was just the start.

People couldn’t believe that this government sanctioned decimation of an entire race of people could happen. Many who lived in that frightening, horrifying time said they just didn’t see it coming. They just assumed that reason and justice would protect them from the unimaginable horrors Hitler had in the offing. People felt with good reason, powerless to stand up to the forces or a corrupt government.

It all started with the ego-maniacal machinations of a dangerously insecure, narcissistic little man who was so hungry for power, dominance and ‘security’ for his people, he annihilated millions of innocent, contributing members of  society. And the genesis of this devastating chapter of human history was propaganda…a war of  words.

We need a free press, imperfect as ours may be, to shine a bright light on the truth, to defend against power grabs by people in power in both the public and private sector. We need a free press to protect people from injustice.

We need a free press to safeguard democracy. We need to teach our children about the importance of that in our way of life. We need to defend a system of checks and balances.

Normally, I like to write posts that lift people up.

Today I’m asking people to rise up…to stand strong against attacks on the media, to teach our children about how and why the founders of this country framed our government to protect individual  freedoms.

Today I dig deep on my faith, courage and resolve to stand up for what is right, and call out what is wrong.

Today, out of respect for my role as a parent and a participant in the U.S. democracy, I say without reservation, I will fight to protect the free press in America. Spurious, unsubstantiated attacks on the veracity of press reports will meet fierce resistance from me and my family.

With love and light,

Making Room for Magnificence!

Happy New Year my friends! I hope you all enjoyed the holidays as much as I did.

I am inspired! For the first time in more than three and a half years, my pain from my car accident is significantly improved. One more back surgery next week and I’m convinced that I will be cooking with gas again! I get a fresh start and I’m ecstatic about it!

In my untrammeled glee to have survived that horrible crash, and to finally be able to move with increasing ease, I’ve decided it is time to clear out the clutter to make room for my magnificent second act.

The guys at the dump see me coming and just smile and give me a knowing wave. They must have seen people on a mission like me before.

The people at Goodwill are getting to know me well too. In one of our early visits, Robert, Haley and I were unloading a bunch of stuff, and the lady from Goodwill and I became fast friends when she told me how lucky I am to have such a handsome husband and beautiful daughter. Of course, I couldn’t agree more!

As we were chatting, she noticed a necklace I wear 24/7.

One of my adult Bible study students gave it to me years ago. It’s a tiny mustard seed, and a reminder of the parable about faith that would see this tiny seed, when sowed in good soil, grow into a big, strong tree.

In her broken English, this diminutive elderly Asian woman grabbed me by both shoulders and said, “That’s YOU! You’re like the mustard seed all grown, tall and strong!”

That made me smile. I am still tall, but I am not currently strong. I worry that I may never regain the strength I have historically taken great pride in…and taken for granted. Her words fortified me and gave me hope that my muscle power would return someday soon. In the meantime, I was glad I had Robert and Haley to do the heavy lifting  as we unloaded the rest of the items we were donating.

As we were leaving, my Goodwill friend tugged at my elbow, complimented me again on my beautiful family and said, “You, my friend, you move mountains!” With that, she gave me a hearty pat on the back, a wave and a smile and sent us on our way.

She was such an angel in my life that day. I didn’t realize how much I needed an encouraging word. She gave me just what the doctor ordered.

Coming back from such a huge setback feels like moving mountains.

I think we probably all have mountains to move in our lives. It is, without a doubt, an arduous task to clear out the obstacles that block our paths to greatness.

I used to always think of these obstacles as annoying stumbling blocks to work around. Now I’m beginning to wonder if the ‘mountains’ in our lives are the gift. As we work hard to go over, around or through them, we build so much strength. The challenge also cements our resolve move past the obstacle to reach our goal.

That’s a good thing.

It’s hard.

It’s not fun.

It can be overwhelming, but it is a good thing nevertheless.

As I forge my path toward my magnificent second act, I remind myself that it’s a miracle that I’m here. I remind myself that I’m on the planet for a reason. The adventure of life is finding out what I’m here to do.

As we embark on a new year, and maybe a new chapter for me and for you, I want to pass along the words of encouragement I received from my Goodwill angel…With faith, all things are possible. You CAN move mountains! The obstacles we encounter on the way only make us stronger. We can rise up, tall and strong, to face whatever life throws at us. Most importantly, we are not alone.

With love, light and prayers that you realize that you already have everything you need to move the mountains in your life.

 

The Power of People

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

In the past few weeks and months, there has been a groundswell of people who are courageous enough to stand up to injustice.

That includes all the women who have stood up to their bully abusers to say, out loud in front of the whole world, that sexual misconduct is not now, nor has it ever been, o.k., and demand that we, as a people, put an end to this.

It also includes the millions more women who have experienced sexual abuse and suffered in silence. Dealing with that violation takes a level of courage and strength that most of us can’t even begin to understand.

It includes Alabama voters who refused to rubber stamp the party’s pick when that person failed to demonstrate the character or competence required to represent American citizens.

People seem to be casting off complacency. There are growing numbers of people who are finding their voices and stepping out boldly to fight for what they believe in.

As the tide starts to shift in very public ways, I’m seeing it reflected in individuals as well.

I see it in my kids as each one, in their own way, in their unique circumstances, is getting clarity about how, when and where they want to devote their time, talent, and energy. Each one of them is uncovering what they feel passionate about and, in the process, they are determining how they want to make a positive difference in the world. Sure they are concerned about their own needs and wants, but they also recognize that there is a bigger picture that supersedes selfishness and demands a level of dedication if we intend to see positive progression in our world.

It’s a beautiful thing for any mom to see her children growing up, and growing in confidence, and their sense of purpose. It inspires me because the seeds of leadership are taking root, and this is a generation for whom justice is particularly important.

I see them not only standing up for themselves, but also standing in solidarity with people who are equally committed to fighting for what is right. I’m particularly proud of my children when I see them come to the defense of others who are getting mistreated.

Part of the job description of being a parent is to raise your kids to hold fast to the values and virtues that bring out the best in individuals, families, communities, the country and the world. While it’s gratifying to witness those values in practice in my children, I’m aware that there is still so much more to do. Today, I want to celebrate the fact that I feel like we just might be making some small, but significant, steps in a direction that gives a voice to justice.

When faced with depravity, rapacious greed, and/or wanton disregard for what is in the best interest of the whole, rather than the few, it restores my soul to see so many people coming together to say loud and strong, “You don’t get to do that here!”

This is finally happening when it comes to sexual harassment and that is a very good thing.

This is NOT about politics…this is about PEOPLE. When our system operates the way the framers of this country intended it to, our political representatives will accurately reflect what the people say they want. This is, quite obviously, an area that needs some work. It is also an area where we, the people, can cast our influence and our votes to make changes for the better.

That said, I hope that this groundswell of people standing up for what is best for ALL of us continues to gain momentum. As it does, I suspect we will see a lot of positive changes…at least I hope we will.

Ultimately, the cream always rises to the top. It’s a force of nature, and nothing can keep what is best down. As Dr. King said, the moral arc bends toward justice. There is hope, power and comfort in this unequivocal truth.

You, my friends, are the cream that rises to the top, and I’m so grateful to you for that.

With love and light,

 

 

Holiday Hoopla…Pros and Cons

I’m an unapologetic lover of all things Christmas. I love the music. I love the lights. Most of all I love the message of peace and hope that is the magic of Christmas.

Here are the reasons I bubble over with joy from Thanksgiving through the New Year. I’ll start with the secular and move on to the sacred reasons for my eternal enthusiasm.

  1. Whether you are Christian or not, Christmas lights brighten up the darkest, longest days of winter to dazzle and delight even the most bah humbug-iest among us.
  2. Christmas trees fill the house with that magnificent pine scent that never fails to make me breathe deeply of the holiday cheer with a smile on my face and peace in my heart. Each year, we get a new ornament, and we also have a treasure trove of homemade ornaments we’ve created over the years, so our Christmas trees (yes, I admit it…we have two) are brightly lit chronicles of our life as a family.
  3. Christmas cookies, toffee and fudge. These are a holiday mainstay at our house and the source of much rejoicing in the making, giving and eating of these tasty treats.
  4. It’s a time when families and friends come together to celebrate the joy of the season. Even when I can’t be with all the people I love over Christmas, holiday cards and letters keep us connected.
  5. In some cases, the holiday hoopla brings people of different faiths together. When I was a kid, we always went caroling with our good friends, the Podalski’s. I always liked standing next to Mrs. Podalski because she knew all the carols even better than I did, so if forgot the words, she could always get me back on track. Celebrating with our Jewish friends was not weird to us…it was normal. Ben Stein, actor, writer, economist and occasional philosopher, opined about how Christmas brings all people together in his now famous 2005 commentary on CBS News. I’m with him and am so glad he shared his insights on this holiday in this powerful segment.
  6. Holiday traditions create an anchor of familiarity, fun, faith and celebration. On Christmas Eve, we like to go Christmas caroling in the next town where they fire up a huge bonfire and many voices come together to sing joyful praises to the world. We come home and have a yummy dinner and go to the candlelight service at our church. When morning comes, we read the Christmas story from a well-worn (and well-loved) copy of a picture book that marries images of breathtaking paintings depicting Christ’s birth with the Bible narrative that tells the story. Then it’s coffee, cinnamon buns (albeit gluten free) and presents. Later we head over to Robert’s Aunt Lucy’s house for a big Armenian-style family dinner. I’ve had to forego some of these traditions in these past few years as I recovered from my car accident. That makes these traditions even sweeter as I add them back in a little at a time.
  7. To me, the biggest, most powerful element of celebrating Christ’s birth is the message of HOPE that is the bedrock of Christmas. That’s where the magic lies. The possibility that miraculous change can and will happen recharges and fortifies me every single year. There’s so much joy in that.

If I had to account for any ‘cons’ about Christmas, I’d list three:

  1. The commercialization of Christmas makes me nauseous. The untrammeled material consumption that, for many, is the highlight of Christmas is, in my opinion, a tragic loss for those that go that way. To me, it feels like any of the more lasting, life-changing elements of Christmas that hinge on giving, not taking, peace, not insatiable acquisition, are lost on the way to the mall.
  2. I know that the holiday hoopla that, for me, inspires so much happiness, can trigger sadness in a lot of people for a lot of reasons. I wish I could deactivate those triggers and replace them with the joy of Christmas. I think that can happen when we open our hearts, and our doors, to others during this festive season with the hope that they might get a taste of some of the joy of the season.
  3. The final ‘con’ I see intertwined with Holiday Hoopla is the huge amount of stress that comes when meeting all the end-of-the-year ‘obligations’ leaves us exhausted and miserable. I get pulled into this and have to remind myself to say ‘yes’ only to the activities that bring me and my family joy. I’ve found that there are a lot of extraneous activities that can (and should) be relegated to the ‘no’ column on our ‘To Do” lists.

For me, the holiday hoopla ‘pros’ far outweigh the ‘cons.’ Christmas is, at the end of the day, all about peace, love, hope and joy. I think that is ALL GOOD.

With love, light and prayers that your days are filled with holiday cheer during this festive season!

 

 

When It All Comes Together

Three and a half years ago I almost got killed in a car accident.

Trying to get my life back on track has been an arduous task. Working through injuries is a constant and consuming struggle. A big part of this struggle is beating back the despair that threatens to derail me as I face this overwhelmingly difficult tasks.

As I try to stay positive while I move through this one step at a time, I am realizing a couple of things…

First, getting frustrated about things over which I have no control is a futile waste of energy. I am smarter to do what I can about the things I have control over, and put the rest of it (dealing with doctors, lawyers, my agonizingly slow healing process, etc.) in the God Box.

Once I invite God in to help me out with something, I have to trust that however it unfolds is all good. I like to think God’s thumbprint is on the outcome.

Once I put a problem or worry in God’s hand, I admit that I frequently have trouble LEAVING the issue in God’s hands. It’s a matter of trust, and I’m not always great at that with God or humans. This has been a huge stretch that my circumstances have forced on me, and I’m getting better at it with practice.

This humbling effort to trust extends beyond God to the people around me who are here to help. That includes my friends and family who have been amazingly supportive through all of this, and also the doctors and lawyers I’ve needed to count on to work through all of this. My first lawyer and set of doctors turned out to be epic failures. It took a leap of faith for me to press on to find GOOD doctors and lawyers who truly wanted to help, and it was worth the effort. Ultimately, I have wound up with the best doctors and lawyers I could hope for, and for this, I am deeply grateful.

A second big lesson learned through this difficult time is about acceptance…specifically, accepting that pain has slowed me down. I have spent a lot of time being really mad about that, but I’m learning that this, too, is a fruitless waste of energy. It ultimately amounts to a distraction that hinders me from moving forward in this new reality I find myself in. Instead of being mad about that, I am learning to reset my expectations of myself and celebrate progress instead of lamenting the limitations.

The cool side effect of no longer being able to race through life Mach V with my hair on fire is that I have time to notice all kinds of wonderful things that I have missed by being in such a hurry all the time. I’m learning that I’m able to accomplish a lot, with less drama and exhaustion, when I keep my eye on the goal and move steadily forward with determination and patience when needed.

Fully embracing faith, trust and a calm, measured pace are lessons I learned out of necessity, and they are lessons I could only learn with an enormous dose of humility.

I feel like I’m finally getting to the other side of this. My amazing lawyer, Pam Cameron, and the awesome team at Moore, O’Brien and Foti, have successfully navigated me through the uncharted (and often disillusioning) terrain of litigation around the car accident.

My neurosurgeon, Dr. Andrea Douglas, and pain management specialist, Dr. Ofer Wellisch, have a plan in place to address the considerable pain I’ve had since the accident. Between now and the New Year, I’ll have two more procedures on my back, more physical therapy, and, I hope, less pain and a greater ability to get my life back on track.

I share their names not only in great gratitude to them, but also in hopes that if anyone reading this needs the kind of help Attorneys Cameron and Moore, and Drs. Douglas and Wellisch can offer, knowing who to call will save them a lot of time, pain and frustration.

The fascinating thing about all of this is this: when I invite God, and the people who care about me, to help me, miracles start to happen and things finally start to come together. Humility, faith and trust are catalysts with the power to move mountains. Who knew?

My wise mom always tells me that the benefits come in proportion to the severity of the test. This experience has transformed my faith from a set of cerebral, ephemeral ideas into an indispensable, life-saving (literally and figuratively) action plan that makes me keep God front and center in my life through good times and bad. It has also opened me up to the idea that accepting help from others when needed is a show of great strength, not weakness like I thought. These are benefits that I am sure I could only have internalized by facing a critical need like I have through this experience.

I think my mom is right. Difficult times often bring great blessings. This has certainly been true for me.

My prayer is that I, and everyone facing hard challenges, will remember that God can bring blessings out of the most unlikely circumstances.

With love, light and gratitude to all of you who have helped me, whether you know it or not, through a very hard time. THANK YOU!

The Strong Finish

I’ve been working on a big project over the past few weeks, and I’m in the final stages. My mom, always the voice of love and encouragement, left me a message the other day cheering me on to make a strong finish.

I need that. Mom knows that boost at the end of a project makes a huge difference for me because the finish, for me, can be the hardest part.

I was a swimmer as a kid. Freestyle sprints were my favorite events, and the difference between winning and losing can come down to 100ths of a second.

Our coaches used to drill it into me and my team mates to put our heads down in the final few yards and find another gear so we could power into the wall. Coasting to the finish, even if you won, was a cardinal sin in the world of swimming. No matter what place you were finishing in, you had to come in to the wall as though you aimed to knock it down.

This mantra of the strong finish that I initially learned from my parents and coaches was repeated over and over by teachers, professors, bosses and mentors. 

Why?

Because a weak finish is a natural default. Whatever the endeavor — a race, a paper, a work assignment, a DIY project, etc. — it’s likely that towards the end, you’re just sick of it already and you just want it to be done. You’re tired by this point, and this is when fatigue can undermine the entire effort.

I suspect I am not the only one to need a boost at the end of a race, a project, or an assignment.

For me, that extra gear comes from fierce faith that I can do whatever it takes to get the win. I remind myself that there will be plenty of time to rest and recover when the project or race is over, and I dig deep to get the very last bit of energy I can muster to power through to the finish.

It’s in these final stages that I need my cheering section, in this case my mom, to remind me that I can do this. It makes such a huge difference. Somehow it makes the impossible suddenly seem possible. I find myself thinking, “Well, if Mom (or Dad, husband, sister, brother, step mom…whoever is in your corner) thinks I can do it, maybe I actually can!”

A cool thing happens at this juncture…for me, I find myself feeling like I don’t want to let those that believe in me down. I give it everything I’ve got, not just for me, but also as a show of gratitude to those that have unwavering confidence in me and my abilities. It’s a really powerful exchange of energy and love!

As my faith has evolved over the years, I find myself asking God to help me out along with my human support system. I pray for an infusion of power and strength needed to finish the challenges I undertake. It initially happened by accident in really tough, touch-and-go, life-and-death moments, and it has become a habit over time.

I figure if God showed up for these perilous moments, maybe He would show up in the smaller things. I’m happy to report, I’ve never been disappointed. God always is there to give me the lift I need, when I need it the most.

All I have to do is remember to ask for help — heavenly and otherwise — to make magic happen in the strong finish that is always what’s needed to get the win.

I hope and pray you feel the remarkable power deep inside you, and flowing to you from the people who love you and the Heavenly Father who created you, when you need it most. Here’s to you and strong finishes!

With love and light!

‘New Normal’

Sometimes life happens, and you find yourself facing a ‘new normal.’

The changes weren’t expected, they weren’t wanted, but there they are.

So now what?

One of my kids has recently been in that spot, and it’s so hard to see her struggle through.

As difficult as it is to get used to a new set of circumstances, these times are reliably catalysts for great growth, and this has certainly been the case for my daughter.

It’s been hard for her to see that, ultimately, the things that have led to her ‘new normal’ are a good thing. Her challenges have served to redirect her life, and while it isn’t fun going through the changes, getting to the other side of it is something she can be (and is) really proud of.

This particular trial is largely in her rear view mirror. As her mom, I can see her rising like a Phoenix from the ashes, and it is a remarkable thing to witness.

We all face times like these. I certainly have had my share, and I’ve had a front row seat for the changes every member of my family has gone through.

Along the way, I’ve noticed some patterns emerge.

It seems that these hard times are inevitable. Everyone experiences at one time or another. That appears to be a ‘given’ in life.

What is different is how people move through the changes.

Those that seem to weather these storms the best consistently do a few things:

  1. They face the tempest of the moment head-on and don’t waste time trying to ignore, side-step or avoid the problem.
  2. They let themselves fully feel the emotions that bubble up as a result of the storm. This lets them move past the painful part faster and with less damage.
  3. They assess their new reality with as much objectivity as possible.
  4. They accept the fact that they now have a ‘new normal.’ This step seems to be the most important part of the process. The sooner a person lets go of what life used to be like, and entertains the idea that life might be good in this ‘new normal,’ the faster they get to the next step.
  5. Finally, they can embrace life that might be just a little different, or perhaps it is completely different, than what they thought their lives would be like. Recognizing the blessings that the unexpected (and usually unwanted) changes have brought them frees them up to rise up out of the trouble and emerge victorious, happy, strong and better than they were before the storm.

Even with the problem that set the whole process in motion behind them, life with the ‘new normal’ usually comes with some growing pains. New muscles have to be strengthened to thrive in the ‘new normal’ environment, but those that get after it and tackle the challenge with gusto, persistence and determination typically fare well.

When I face times like these, faith helps me get through it. I hold onto the idea that with God, all things are possible. Tough times can be transformed into a ‘new normal’ that is actually far better than my original plan. With faith, I find comfort for the pain or sorrow I feel, and strength to push through the hard part. When the storm subsides, faith makes it easier for me to find the rainbow and make a smooth transition to my ‘new normal.’

This has been the case for my daughter, and I hope that if you are facing a ‘new normal,’ you too will come through it enjoying the changes as a hard-fought victory.

With love, light and blessings of faith and fortitude when/if you face a ‘new normal.’

 

 

 

A Fresh Coat of Paint

There’s this sweet antique house down the road from where I live. I’ve always loved it for its charm and character. Since I moved to Connecticut more than 20 years ago, this 1850’s gem has been taupe with white trim and black shutters. Over the years, it became clear that this aging beauty needed some TLC.

In the waning days of Summer and into the Fall, this charming, historic home got just that with a fresh coat of clean, white paint and sassy, bold blue shutters. Now this vintage home looks brand new again.

I’m always amazed at what a fresh coat of paint can do. The house is the same. The location is the same, but somehow, it feels like that simple (yet work-intensive) change has given this centuries-old structure a new lease on life. It’s no longer tired looking and a little beat up…it’s dazzling!

I wonder if the same is true for people. Whether you are an empty-nester transitioning into a new chapter of life, or someone who is feeling restless and ready for change in their professional life, sometimes, for a variety of reasons, we feel the need for a ‘refresh.’

Just like a paint job for a house, refreshing anything seems to be part of a process.

It starts with a desire to make a change. Change is hard and it requires effort and work. Often, the value of the change is weighed against what it will cost in time, effort, energy and money, to execute the revitalization endeavor.

Part of the decision-making process to make a change or stick with the status quo requires an assessment of what ISN’T working. That is followed closely by a review of what IS working.

If you’re assessing your house, or your job, similar questions come up:

  • Do I like this house/job anymore?
  • Have I outgrown it?
  • Is there anything about it that still fits?
  • Am I holding on out of a sense of comfortable familiarity or is there something here (in the house or job) that genuinely makes me want to stick with it?

The assessment phase requires honest introspection. The outcome dictates whether you stay with the status quo, decide to move on, or perhaps you land somewhere in the middle. Maybe there is enough that is good about the old house or job that it’s worth sticking with it, but it needs some updating.

This leads to phase two of the introspection process. Now is the time to get creative. Can you make the house/job into something that fits you and your changing dreams and desires? Are you willing to do the work?

For me, this is also where faith comes in. Do I believe the changes I want to make will give me the boost I need in my home/job? Do I have confidence in myself to create the home/job (or LIFE for that matter) that I truly want…one that will fit who have become?

Do I have the vision to do this?

Do I have the strength and stamina to make this happen?

Do I have the skills needed to make the changes I have in mind?

Do I have a clear sense of what I hope this ‘refresh’ effort will do to transform my house/job/life?

Do I have the resolve, determination and commitment to keep going with the project, even when I’m tired and the whole process feels daunting and untenable?

If my experience offers any guide, the desire that started this whole process is that bit of your Spirit that is asking for you to step all the way into the fullness of your being. It’s that part of you that started as a seed and it has now started to grow. It needs more air, sun, and water to grow and become fruitful. This is the part where you have to listen to that still small voice inside of you that is stirring you to action. It’s this soulful element that will keep you going, even when you want to abandon the project. At least, that is how these things roll for me.

A word of warning: there may be those around you…those close to you…that don’t want you to make the changes you feel like you need and want. Typically that is because they might not see your vision. Maybe they don’t share your passion. Perhaps they like the status quo just fine and wish you would just relax about all the discussion of your ‘refresh’ project.

This part can be annoying and it sometimes stirs up dissension in the ranks. The good thing about this is that it forces you to defend your decision, get clear about your vision and articulate it with passion. It will either deepen your resolve, or it might make you decide, after reconsidering it, to abandon the project.

With me and my family, when I take on a project, there is usually grumbling and naysaying at the outset. This is made worse if my project entails me making a bigger mess as I prepare to do the refreshing coat of paint (actual or metaphorical). Honestly, that’s fair. My growth process or home improvement project impacts those close to me and they don’t necessarily have to love it.

But when I stay the course and work with purpose, dedication and a clear view of the end goal of my ‘refresh’ effort, those around me can not only start to see my vision as it takes shape, but even more importantly, they can feel the positive difference the ‘refresh’ process is having on me. The messy transition can be tough on all involved, but it is so worth it in the end. Try to hang in there and power through to the finish line. You’ll be glad you did.

Ultimately, making the change(s) you need to your home/job/self/life is part of the process of making yourself and/or your home/job/life BLOSSOM. It takes time, energy and a willingness to stick with it, but it is always beautiful to embrace change and work through the transitions to get to the next wonderful chapter.

With love, light and encouragement to take on the ‘refresh’ project in your life and make it bright, bold and beautiful…just like YOU.

 

Keeping the Faith

When I was talking with one of my sisters on Halloween, I got a notification on my phone that someone had driven their truck down the bike/pedestrian belt that runs along the West Side Highway in Manhattan. I turned on the news and was giving her the blow by blow as it was being reported.

She cut me off.

“Heid, I just can’t hear this right now.”

She is not alone. It isn’t an issue of her not wanting to know what is going on. It seems like for her, and the vast majority of us, sometimes we just can’t take the overload of really horrible things happening on a regular basis in our lives today.

Maybe it breaks down to two things. First, the horror of what is happening all around us that is so tragic and heart-breaking. Secondly, the reality that it feels like there is very little any of us can do about it.

Would it help to have stricter gun laws? There are a lot of people who think that it would, but those that are able to enact legislation to make it harder to get a gun, and maybe ban automatic weapons all together, don’t seem willing to address this issue.

And what about the problem of mental illness as a catalyst for these violent, killing events that have become a regular occurrence in American society today? There is no question that there are a lot of people who are tormented by mental illness. Clearly, too many are slipping between the cracks. They aren’t getting the help they need, and the fallout is catastrophic.

In times like these, it’s hard to keep the faith. I hear that all the time from people from all walks of life. I know it’s really hard for me to hang on to my faith when faced with a barrage of awful things happening in the world.

I don’t have any answers. I wish I did. I can share how it feels to me and what I try to do about it.

I have a big justice thing. I can’t believe that things that are clearly so WRONG seem to just go by without any action taken to correct that wrong. This is where I can really get my panties in a twist.

It happens with enough frequency that I’ve learned that the best thing I can do is to take a deep breath, calm myself down and try to make sense of the situation. It usually comes down to this: if there is something I can do to turn around the injustice in question, I need to do it, even if it is hard to do. Usually, there is nothing I can do to change the situation. In that case, I try to see if there is a lesson in there somewhere that I need to pay attention to. That can be so difficult to see, but I’ve realized over time that if I can recognize the lesson in the situation, the injustice will have provided a benefit.

Honestly, I’m just not typically that mature. Seeing the lesson comes more often with hindsight than it does in the moment.

So where does that leave me? Facing another terrible situation…powerless to do anything about it…feeling pain in every cell to see the damage that is happening all around me.

This is when I realize that I can’t handle this on my own. I need some help. When it is hardest to have faith, that is when I typically need my faith the most.

The only way I can hang onto that is to remember that throughout my life, I’ve come to know God as a loving father.

When horrible things happen, I know that this is just the reality of life…difficult things happen. Challenges aren’t somehow punitive acts designed to hurt me. This wasn’t always the case for me. For a long time, I thought God was somehow punishing me when I hit a speed bump in my life. It has taken a lot of time, study and full-on temper tantrums with God for me come around to the belief that God does’t inflict the traumatic events of life on us, but He can help us work through them.

When the tough parts come, it isn’t because God has suddenly become mean and vengeful. That just isn’t how God operates, in my experience.

I really do believe that God works all things for the good of those that love Him.

All of what I just wrote is the outcome of a lot of theological wrangling I’ve done over time.

The truth is, when I’m in the moment and facing yet another horrific world event, I have no where else to go, but to God.

There is no way I could ever make sense of someone mowing down innocent pedestrians enjoying a beautiful Fall day by the Hudson River, or a shooting rampage unleashed on faithful church goers on a Sunday morning in a small town in Texas.

These things hurt my heart and my default…the first place I go for comfort…is to God. We need some miraculous changes in our world, and God is where I go first to ask for peace, guidance, and healing in my own heart, and in the hearts of all of us who are trying to make sense of such gut-wrenching events. I may not have any power to fix what is broken, but God is in the miracle business. He does have the power. I know this for sure because I have witnessed miraculous things in my own life with enough regularity to have confidence in this possibility.

When the going gets tough for me, I go to God. It isn’t a passive deferment of a problem that I deem above my pay grade; it is an active engagement with a power greater than myself. It is a visceral and energetic outreach for help when needed.

I do keep the faith, even though I don’t always feel God’s presence when I need it. There is nothing noble about it…it’s my primary resource in my survival toolkit. It’s what helps me stay grounded in a topsy turvy world.

I hope you are able to keep the faith, and enjoy the power and the comfort that comes with it.

With love and light and prayers for peace,

Deeper Dive: How to Banish Bullies

We all have bullies in our lives. Maybe they are the toxic people at work. They might be bullies in leadership positions in your town or organizations you are part of.  It could be that the bullies are part of the family. They are everywhere and we are all impacted by them.

When dealing with bullies, the key is to set and maintain boundaries…clear, strong boundaries.

The first thing to remember is that suffering bullies denigrates what is divine in you. You are God’s Girl or Son. Keeping that in mind might make it easier to hold fast to the idea that no one gets to bully you, demean you or try to intimidate you.

Secondly, take the high road. Bullies typically like to pull you into the mud with them. They also tend to be blustery and loud. Don’t go there. Try to stay calm and steady. Invite them to have a discussion, not a screaming match. You can say, “I’d like to hear what you have to say, but yelling doesn’t work for me. Let’s just talk.”

Who knows, maybe it will work, and you can glean some understanding about how Bully Blowhard actually thinks about an issue. You might still disagree, but at least you can have a civil conversation, which is better for all involved.

I like this approach because I think, at the heart of it, bullies are actually insecure and may not know how to present their ideas in a way that others can hear. Sometimes their bluster is just a mask to hide the fact that something feels threatening to them, and the only way they know how to deal with it is to vent their inner discord on those around them. That is why they yell. At least that’s what I like to think. It’s better than the alternative, which is that they are just big, dumb, ignorant jerks.

Even if the latter is the fact of the matter, bullies, like all challenges and adversities, bring with them opportunities to learn. We may not learn anything from their way of thinking, but we CAN learn how to deal with difficult people…we CAN learn how to diffuse volatile situations. Maybe most importantly, we CAN learn how to protect ourselves from their spray of verbal vitriol.

You can try to set some ground rules to get the ball rolling. For example, no yelling. No interrupting. No cheap shots (e.g. you can’t say stuff like, “You’re an idiot.”). It might be true but then you’re down in the mud with the bully and that is just too messy. Make a point, back it up and let the other person respond. If you can keep that going back and forth a bit, you might just have a conversation, and that would be so much better than the usual bruising interaction with a bully.

Asking questions is another great way to try to draw them into a productive, enlightening conversation. If you succeed, there is no guarantee that you will agree with them, but you might understand them better. That is good step in the right direction.

If these efforts fail, there is a Biblical recommendation you can follow.

“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” Matthew 7:6

In short, disengage. Recognize that sharing the wisdom of your thoughts and ideas with people who are unable to respect you or what you have to say is fruitless. If keep trying, the bully just might go berserk (it happens) and that is a scene that is best avoided. Cut off the conversation and turn and talk to someone else.

There are times when any polite way to get out of the bully’s line of fire is impossible. The Bible has some advice about that too.

“If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.” Matthew 10:14

This is helpful when there are no other options but to just move on completely.

Standing up for yourself this way is not only important for you, but it is also an important example to set for your children. They need to see that (a) it is good to stand up to bullies as a powerful affirmation of themselves, and (b) pushing back against bullies respectfully, but firmly, can be a great way to diplomatically re-frame tense situations that brings relief and resolution to all involved.

One final thought about how to deal with bullies is to always stay clear about yourself…who you are, what you are about, where your focus is, etc. This ties back to taking the high road and remembering that you are a divine being that deserves to be treated with kindness and respect.

When you keep this focus, it is easier to stay true to yourself and be loving (to yourself and others), even in the face of a bully. They just lose their power when the light of Spirit is shining in you.

Remember, better boundaries make bullies lose their bluster. That, to me, is BLISS!

With love and light!