Tag Archives: healing

Angels and Diamonds

March 20, 2014

This post is going to pour forth, so hold on.

It’s the story of angels among us and diamonds forged through pain. The last week has taken me the full gamut of emotions, from freefalling surrender literally 13,000 feet above the earth to the depths of spiritual depletion. But this is ultimately a story of hope and gratitude.

It’s funny how life presents us mirrors to clearly see the actions of others as well as our environment, if we are present in the moment and honest with ourselves. Mirrors that shake our intuition and expose our raw desires. They may push us to pause and look around a room, to sink into our heart and ask the painfully tough questions, and to shine a revealing light on the recesses of relationships. That happened twice in the last week. Something broke through the ground I was standing on and gleamed . . . a gem of truth about what serves my soul.

Amidst this reflection, I said this on my personal Facebook page and meant it:

Beauty of friendship: unconditional love, tactful honesty, immense support, open forgiveness, belly laughter, picking up the phone and connecting like no time has passed, hugs sweeter than candy, prioritizing time, humbling oneself. No ego. No competition. No judgment. No guilt. No games. Just spiritual kinship.

It’s rare. It’s precious. It’s bright. It’s strong. It has many facets. It’s a diamond in the rough landscape of life. And when you see it, you know it’s something special. No need to keep entertaining imitations like cubic zirconia camaraderie.

Those diamonds are especially brilliant in times of trial. They are the people who will rush to your bedside, send a sweet text just because they feel you need it, assume only the best, say nice things behind your back, rush to be of assistance, pray for your well-being, and put all personal interests aside to simply offer a servant’s heart or hand.

And among those diamonds you will find angels. Angels like my dear, inspiring friend Angela. In a matter of 48 hours I experienced, witnessed and stood in awe of the power of angels. You see, this particular noble spirit was involved in a tragic car accident. In her words, “It felt like being hit by a Mac truck,” but she told us that with a smile so bright and irresistible that the entire ICU staff, all of her friends and even her surgical team marveled at her positive glow.

Angela is, indeed, a rare being. She is one of God’s great blessings to this earthly existence. I’m not trumpeting her perfection or her invincibility. No, I’m saying that her feisty, stubborn, beautiful, surprising, endearing, witty, giving, amazing soul is a stunning balance of humanity and heavenly. I love this lady so much that words have escaped me for days. Thank the Lord that she, her son and cousins survived the crash. And Jesus watch over her mother, who was called up to heaven.

When everything finally sank in Wednesday, I had nothing left. No energy, no focus, no strength. My spiritual well was depleted and I had no clue how to fill it. I tried brief physical rest but it went deeper, like a vein of ore tucked far into a mountain. I tried food to replenish my senses but I barely noticed the taste. I tried exercise, thinking I could burn off or rekindle any adrenaline in my system, but I only felt numb and dizzy. No, not even a double shot of espresso did it. So, I sat down, prayed and hoped God would invigorate my spirit.

That night, I pulled myself into GriefShare to teach class for those experiencing the loss of a loved one. I had no clue how I was going to do it . . . be present, be helpful, be a good shepherd. I did the only thing I could, I kept hoping and going through the motions. Then, something phenomenal happened. I imagined Angela’s smile, I felt the light of the Holy Spirit and I stopped trying. In that moment, I had a very real exchange with the group and saw waves of empathy rush into the space. I saw a gift of healing begin to emerge for us all.

So, recognize the diamonds of truth and friendship. And cherish the angels who grace your life. Nothing is so eternal or so valuable as those who show you the power of faith, hope and love.

faith, hope and love typography God bless my gorgeous and giving friend. I love you, Angela.

Hope for Healthy Body Wellness

March 4, 2014

What do you hope for your body? Perhaps, you crave fitness, weight loss, better immunity or overall wellness. Nurturing hope in your life means nourishing hope through your body.

Much like a complex food strainer, our body filters and accepts what we consume based on its needs and its experiences. Yes, your body has food memory, which you may recognize as sensory reactions on your palate (mmmm or yuck), learned cravings (even addictions) and possibly resistance.

About a year ago, I wrote a post on “The Sensitivity Spiral,” if you want to know more about what chemicals, stress and allergies can do to disrupt the body’s relationship with food, as well as tips for lessening the impact, give it a read.

Today, though, I want to shine a light of hope on the complex workings of food allergies, intolerances and sensitivities. My humble disclaimer is that I am not an allergist or nutritionist, both of which I recommend speaking with. However, I was tasked by an allergist to take a deep dive into food mapping, reaction logging and personal testing. I have been poked, scanned, examined, interviewed and tested more than I prefer to recall. So, I have seen firsthand what food choices (even well-intentioned ones) can do to interfere with having a hopeful outlook and healthy body.

For instance, consider if your body does not respond well to a food, it may result in behavioral problems, increased anxiety, panic attacks, digestive sluggishness or rapidity, depression, bloating, diminished energy, an inability to sleep soundly, joint aches and muscle pains, migraines, notable weight gain or loss, irrational outbursts, breathing issues, impaired immunity, food dependence, itching, tingling extremities, swelling and a general feeling that something is not right. Listen to it.

Ok, so you may know some or all of the above from increased media awareness. But did you know that seasonal allergies can cross react with foods, triggering a response 1-3 days after ingesting them?

Example: If you are allergic to grass, you may have a seasonal sensitivity to tomato, melons, orange, peanut, peas and potatoes. Don’t believe it? Access The Cross-Reactors chart to educate yourself. Oral intake of related allergens can exacerbate the sniffly, funky feeling you get when things are in bloom. The challenge is that your reaction may be delayed or recurring, so you don’t think of the food you had for lunch two days ago.

For perspective not drama, I am chart-toppingly allergic to all of these items (and most everything else). So, for my well-being, I recently took them all off my safe foods list. I don’t advise this for you nor to intend for it to be a permanent choice. But I do see noticeable improvements in my body when I am discerning about such foods. The result: I am more hopeful, upbeat and energetic.

Ok, now let’s face the dreaded topic of gluten. It has become the bad guy on the culinary scene in the last few years, much like cholesterol and carbs before it. But do you know the real enemy? It’s inflammation. Regardless of origin or trigger, digestive inflammation is especially impairing to wellness and a hopeful mindset. If your body is feeling constantly attacked, swollen, bloated and achy, it’s difficult for it to accept nutrients, to heal itself and to deliver its best for you.

Here is a summary of the three ways to identify food allergies (source: DrHyman.com):

  1. Get a blood test. Blood testing for IgG food allergens . . . can help you to identify hidden food allergies . . . work with a doctor or nutritionist trained in dealing with food allergies.
  2. Go dairy- and gluten-free for six weeks . . . allows the inflamed gut to heal. This one move may be the single most important thing most you can do to lose weight.
  3. Avoid the top food allergens . . . gluten, dairy, corn, eggs, soy, nuts, nightshades (tomatoes, bell peppers, potatoes and eggplant), citrus and yeast (baker’s, brewer’s yeast and fermented products like vinegar). Try this for a full six weeks . . . When you reintroduce a top food allergen, eat it at least 2-3 times a day for 3 days to see if you notice a reaction.

Don’t even get me started on preservatives, dyes, fake sugars, binding agents and biosynthetics like GMOs. I would never drink from a beaker in chemistry class, so I’m absolutely not going to put these digestive grenades in my body.

In my case (again, I’m not saying this is for you), I am now grain-free, dairy-free, corn-free, bean-free, soy-free, mammalian meat-free, whole nut-free (too dense for my system to process right now) and a variety of other restrictions. My focus is organic green vegetables, a few select fruits, wild caught low-mercury fish, coconut oil and certain seeds. Why meat restrictions? Well, that adage, “You are what you eat,” applies to animals too. I find, funny enough, that what they eat can lead to reactions in me. Interesting how life is so connected, if we think about it.

If you are a brainiac who loves knowing all the scientific details like I do, here is something to make your head spin: “Food Allergies and Other Food Sensitivities.” It is remarkable reading and breaks down the many levels to reactions.

I am hopeful and know, with awareness, I will achieve the balance my body deserves. It may not look like anything anyone else eats and yours may not either. The key is to pay attention to your body, know what feels good, log what you eat for a while and honor its best interest above your urges. Be hopeful and be proactive, friends.

Seeing Hope in the Face of Suicide

December 18, 2013

Some say the true worth of writing is how deeply you stir the soul. What if the soul you need to stir feels helpless, lost or depressed to the point of taking his/her own life? If this is you or you know someone who is struggling, please read on.

Know this: you are not alone and help exists. I urge you to call the number below immediately . . . not later or maybe, right now.

Suicide Prevention

Facing these computer keys, I long to inspire real hope. I long to “make it all better” . . . but I can’t promise that. Instead, I hope with every shred of my being that each soul who sees these words feels wanted, feels connected and feels value in continuing to live.

  1. You deserve to live. I’m not telling you that you have to, not guilting you, not judging you, not demeaning your feelings, not listing all the things that could or should be, and not arguing with your perception. I’m saying that your journey is unique. Yes, it is (not “may be” or “could be” but “is”) immensely painful at times, yet you are not worthless or worth less than anyone else.
  2. Your choices are your own. Life likes to spin us, trick us and distract us from feeling stable. Still, every choice is truly your own. Deciding to face a challenge, addiction or change is not easy, but you don’t have to face it alone or tackle everything all at once. Small steps keep us from feeling overwhelmed and help us recognize progress.

The holidays may seem shiny and jingling with joy, but that is not the case for everyone. The pressure to feel happy, to be ok and to mask pain at parties can be draining. Again, whatever you are facing or feeling, it is valid. You don’t have to suffer in silence. Let me share a story:

Someone very close to me struggled with thoughts of suicide for years. More nights than I can count, we had late chats about how “life isn’t worth living” or “it’s too much to bear” or, the most heartbreaking to me, “no one loves me anymore” coupled with “no one will miss me.” I remember pleading for him to reconsider and to see the bright side. I remember promising to never give up and always be there, so he never felt alone. I remember debating about his drinking and how he was choosing to destroy himself. I remember forcing myself to stay awake long enough to ensure he was in a deep sleep. I remember praying fiercely that he would be alive in the morning, often falling asleep crouched by my bed. Most of all, I remember keeping it to myself so no one would judge him.

Looking back, no one told me the “right way” to speak to someone contemplating suicide. No one said not to argue, not to keep it secret, not to carry the weight. My hope had to flicker quietly behind my breastbone, fearful of being snuffed out by sudden loss. I thank God for the days we had together, particularly the ones where he later chose sobriety and life. I now know that his life and the decision to live it was always his own. I was a hand, a shoulder, a friend, a compassionate companion but not a savior. That’s Jesus.

Now, those nights roll back in as sparks when I need to summon embers of empathy or when everyday trials cast emotional shadows. They give me perspective, they define my character and they remind me of how fleeting and precious, I believe, life truly is.

As a grief facilitator, I am now called to be a steady hand that reaches out when the dark fog of loss seems suffocating. I am not the light (that is within you) nor will I “fix” you. Despite my training, I want to be clear that my degree is not in psychiatry or psychology. For the best care, seek out a licensed professional whom you feel comfortable speaking with and who demonstrates genuine interest in your well-being.

Suicide is not necessarily about weakness, selfishness or mental instability. Forget about the labels. What’s important is that help exists for your hurt. There is no shame in asking for help; in fact, it’s you walking through the door toward greater hope. That door is always open.

Hope in Times of Loss

February 24, 2013

The past month has seen the waves of grief crashing ashore for several friends. It is in these times I feel both powerless to hold back the tide of their pain and, yet, called forward to wade into the surf with a steady, compassionate hand.

Grief is an island no one wants to visit, but we all, inevitably, do. While difficult to believe when emotions drown out the world, hope does not disappear during these shadowed hours—it remains tucked behind the horizon, waiting to slowly emerge as the fog begins to dissipate.

When I facilitate grief support groups, the hardest question to answer is “why.” Before I can address that here, I must say that I believe in God with all my being. Some of you may be inching toward the x in the corner of your browser, but know this: this blog is about enlightenment and hope, not exclusion and hype. If you are still deterred, I wholeheartedly bid you peace and welcome you back at any time.

So, returning to why. My answer begins with a question: have you ever held back details with a child, a friend or a family member because you did not wish to cause further pain? Or, perhaps, you knew it was not the time or place to share every element of a story, since the person before you was not in the state of mind or heart to fully acknowledge such details. I have found, through many losses and trials, that the truth I desire, the answers I crave and the path I seek are all revealed at exactly the right time . . . when God knows I am most ready for them mentally and spiritually.

No loss is greater or lesser than another. Bidding farewell to dear grandparents, close friends, even family acquaintances all have an impact. In this moment, I reflect on one particular friend—a gloriously beautiful angel, creative partner and inspiring mother—who is facing a tremendous loss. Her father just passed in the same manner my dear dad did nine years ago. A sudden heart attack called him home, and the lives of those who knew him changed in a dizzying instant.

The news strikes like a tidal wave of numbingly cold water to every pore of your body. If you think this is an exaggeration, I pray you never face such an ache that drifts to your bones and submerges your vision. And no, the pain never dissolves entirely. It does, though, become more of a river than a vast ocean.

ocean reflection

If you read “The World Needs Hope,” you know my father is woven lovingly into my dedication. If you know me, you feel the fingerprint of his legacy in the words on the page. If you were lucky enough to know my dad, you will see his smile, feel his warmth and recall his strong hand reaching out to help any one at any time. Big Mike with the big heart (pictured below in high school).

dadhighschool

Thinking again of my friend’s grief journey, I can relate to the pang of losing a mentor, a best friend, an ally, a father and a rock. One person takes many roles in your life and, therefore, you face many losses all at once—the car fixer, family mediator, problem solver, rule enforcer, Yahtzee champion, billiard buddy, spiritual leader, joke instigator, movie chauffeur, coffee companion, humble sacrificer, smorgasbord preparer and inventive gift giver. As you feel up to it, lean into the emotion. Honor each tear, own each longing and embrace each memory. We would not grieve if we did not love.

Every loss transforms you from the inside out. The blessings of enhanced compassion, enriched empathy and heightened awareness may be granted in their own time, as you are able to slowly heal and accept them. There is no magic wand and, I implore you, no earthly drug to escape the journey.

A grief support group can offer great comfort. I encourage you to visit GriefShare.org for locations near you. If you have a small group or organization seeking tools for navigating grief, consider arranging a Healing Hope: Your Grief Journey workshop. Access the Journey tab to learn more.

You are not alone. You are never alone. God is reaching out through His words and graceful presence to comfort you. I pray you reach back. And I hope this message floats past the rocks of worry, around the cliffs of sorrow and leads you to safe harbor.