Tag Archives: hope

The Ebb and Flow of Hope

September 15, 2014

Oh, how I have missed you, friends! Somehow my life had a lot (understatement) to unfold over the last five months. During that time, I took an unplanned hiatus from the blog and much of social media. So, at the risk of being self-interested, I want to share the inspiring moments of ebb and flow since April.

Ebb
Such an intriguing concept . . . the waning of certain areas or, as I like to think of it, the pulling of life from your point of comfort into an ocean of change and challenge. In late March, I chose to set my heart free. No former attachments, no lingering what-ifs and no more seeking to find a someone. It was scary, it came with a clearing of energy, and it took all my courage to let go and give it fully to God.

Around April, I started noticing a reduction in freelance work and a shift in my network to a period of pause. That pause came with a frenzy of wrapping up projects, seeking new clients and praying the Lord would provide for my needs as bills mounted. I’m sure you know the stress and pressure of such times. Can I pay my rent in a month? What cavernous maze of steps must I take with credit cards? What am I doing wrong?

Simultaneously, several friends drifted into injury, illness, loss and trial. As I closed out the final weeks of the GriefShare class I love, I shifted immediately to be present and find the sunshine needed to bolster their spirits. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I simply didn’t realize my own candle was flickering.

Flow
To flow, to let life move as it will and to be pushed toward your greater self.

In mid-April, God richly blessed and challenged me all at once. He sent me David. Someone full of the spirit, a servant at heart and a playful personality with well-disguised redhead tendencies. On Easter, we had our first date. Imagine me sitting in the car before I walked up to the restaurant, praying to God that whatever He had in store would be my path. No expectations, no void to fill, no second guessing my outfit and nothing more than an honest glimmer of hope. David and I were instantly comfortable, immediately wrapped up in conversations that flitted from superheroes and action movies, to great books and helping others . . . even a sprinkle of goofy humor about our main courses (Chicken Bryan & Chicken Marsala, which we dubbed our double date Bryan & Marsala—at least until we scarfed them up). Yes, I scarfed on a first date. Don’t judge. He murmured on about baseball after a dizzying first kiss, so we’re even.

Fast forward (literally, it went so fast) to May when I met his kiddos (Joshua and Madelynne). Within a month of meeting, we were engaged. Crazy? Yep. Perfect? Yep. Predictable? Nope. We still stand silently and stare at each other sometimes and say, “Wow, this is real. I feel like the rollercoaster is still going.”

In June, we consolidated homes, in blessed time to combine both of our temporarily diminished finances. At the same time, I became a full-time step-mom in training. What a whirlwind of emotion, routine, questions and oops-my-bad. As David started his summer university term toward his doctorate in psychology, along with work for the Army Reserve, I set about reaching out to over three dozen job openings, clients and leads. But it wasn’t the Lord’s timing.

In July, we were married. I had spoken to the pastor once via phone, emailed the photographer, never met the hairstylist, never seen the flowers, never seen the winery in person and never met David’s family until the 24 hours before. It was like jumping out of a plane, into the ocean, looking for a star to guide you and seeing a hand reaching out. I wouldn’t change one ebb for all of the flow or one stressful moment for every priceless smile.

I humbly invite you to share our wedding day . . . the blessed culmination of surprises revealed, hope fulfilled and a new journey unleashed: View Our Video (one of the fabulous creations of the talented Tamara from Every Emotion Photography).

Also that month, I was given the opportunity to work on creative projects with a couple of brands I admire and the amazing blessing to begin building a brand with some visionary friends. It has God at its core, promoting good works to the world (can’t wait to share more in the coming months).

Every day has bumps and learnings, but my hope is wrapped in a glow of immense gratitude.

Crossroads and Detours

April 12, 2014

Ok, show of hands, who feels like life is pulling you in too many directions? Everyone? Thought so.

Sure, some of you may wish that life was linear with a well-lit, clearly defined road to follow without debris, bumps or fog. Something perhaps like this:

Driving on empty towards the sun

While certain moments may go by smoothly, like cruise control on new pavement, most of life is about twists, turns and detours. And, that’s alright. It may not be your preference or even comfortable, but it affords you the chance to learn lessons, explore new directions and challenge perceptions.

However, how do you feel when the bumps keep coming, the road stops being labeled and the turns get tighter? Perhaps you can relate to these common reactions:

  1. I feel like I’m stuck in a life that is always “under construction”
  2. I feel like I’m racing through life without any rest stops
  3. I feel like I’m driving at night with dim headlights in a fog
  4. I feel like I’m always on E and stopping constantly to fuel up
  5. I feel like I’m continually at a crossroads with no clue where to turn

If you answered all of the above, don’t worry. I have honestly experienced each one of these feelings at one time or another . . . sometimes several at once. It doesn’t mean life is hopeless or that you need to pull off the road and give up.

Detours and crossroads are manageable, if you know how to navigate them. Let’s rephrase the five feelings above into more tangible (tackleable) concepts:

  1. Construction is change. Embrace that every plan, appointment and expectation may change. It can be liberating. Surrender controlling the outcome in favor of celebrating that life is not boring and you are evolving into your best self.
  2. Renewal is crucial. If you feel anxious or frenzied, set priorities for your time, whether it means trimming commitments or dedicating a day a week to true relaxation. After all, there is no way to win a race if you are too drained to reach the finish line.
  3. Fog is lack of light. This may come from an impact event like grief or it may be some degree of depression. In these moments, it helps to talk to a counselor, facilitator or friend. Often, the light is present (like sun behind blinds) but we need a helping hand to acknowledge it.
  4. Empty is depleted. The body is an electrical, chemical and physical masterpiece. Food must be rich in nutrients, full of color and fresh from nature to sustain a healthy system. When you feel empty, remember food is fuel and that fuel needs to be from quality sources.
  5. Crossroads are clarifying. They give you a chance to redefine your journey, align with your principles, embrace a new dream or shift your destiny. Yes, you may feel overwhelmed and there will likely be contemplation. Pray, journal, turn to wise friends and trust yourself.

It’s not easy, friends. It takes practice and self-awareness. Even today, I coach myself into turning detours into crossroads. I have scoured resources, like maps to others’ life experiences, to show me the quick route or the best way. Ultimately, though, my landmarks and my journey are my own.

It’s good to research and ask for input . . . but you are the driver and need to make the final decision how to proceed. Have faith, hold on to hope and buckle up for the exciting things life has in store for you.

Reciprocal Compassion

April 3, 2014

I was scrolling my social media feed this morning and saw a post by one of the special needs organizations I follow. Unlike some of the images I have seen from them before, they were poking fun at how individuals outside the autism community ask questions that they feel are ignorant. I had to pause. Three things unsettled me:

  1. This organization’s mission is acceptance, yet the tone of the post was exclusionary.
  2. The page asks the world to be more understanding of disorders, yet they were criticizing someone for asking a question and also implying a level of ignorance in the asker.
  3. The group often celebrates individuality and touts open-mindedness, yet they were so quick to set up an us (we get it) vs. them (they don’t get it) scenario.

My only thought is . . . such a pity. Compassion is meant to be unconditional. That means that despite misunderstanding, difference or even naiveté, we are called to respond with tolerance.

As I have said before, tolerance is not setting yourself up to be a silent punching bag. However, it is definitely not compassionate to respond to people with something akin to, “Duh, I can’t believe you didn’t know that. How stupid are you?”

Instead of assuming, which gets everyone into trouble, try reaching out with love. For instance, here are some questions you can ask when you feel compelled to strike out to justify your position or retaliate with a snarky comment:

  • What was my interpretation of their view? Our reactions (e.g., wow that was silly, I can’t believe they said that, what a mean statement) are based on life-conditioned interpretations and it is important to recognize our own patterns. The trick is then to wipe away your emotional bias and see the statement as if it were on a page.
  • How can I see this person with loving eyes? Even when someone hurts us unknowingly, we tend to strike out to combat the pain. Before you act, think of what you could do to stop that wicked cycle in its tracks. Try looking at this individual as if they were a child and imagining how adorable, precocious, goofy or vulnerable they would be. Our adult selves are not far from those children.
  • What can you do to improve their understanding? Tolerance begins with you. Instead of assuming someone is ignorant or despicable, consider that they simply may not have good information and may be feeling awkward about the topic. Try humbling yourself, validating the individual and offering help, “That is one way to see it. Would you like to know more about what makes my child so amazing?”

Not everyone will be open, comfortable, ready or capable of accepting your compassion. That does not mean you should not offer it. More so, instead of the hurtful cycle of reciprocal criticism, you can shift into sparking cycles of reciprocal compassion. Imagine opening the eyes, minds and hearts of others . . . that’s a hopeful gift you can give the world.

One final thought. If you carry the burden of angry victim, you will be setting up a courtroom of judgment in your mind. In that room, you may play the role of judge (presiding), the prosecutor (accusing), the court reporter (rehashing), the bailiff (barricading) and the jury (dwelling). If you play all or even one, imagine the diverted energy you are investing.

Let go of the need to make the world see it your way or walk in your shoes. Each soul is busy enough just trying to walk in their own. The best you can do is enlighten with respect, respond with gentleness and offer abundant compassion.

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.

Letting Go of What Doesn’t Serve You

March 2, 2014

Who do you serve? Perhaps, it’s your family, country, God, community, pets or work. But do you know what truly serves you?

Hope is one of the greatest acts of service to oneself. It reflects a deep belief in good, a passion for positive change and a willingness to take action to shape this world in helpful ways. So, hope serves to enhance your well-being. It gives us something other than static worry or recurring fear on which to focus. Since hope is contagious, it also serves others. Win win.

Hope is nourishment, fearlessness, laughter and so many other things addressed in my book. Therefore, it stands to reason that what serves to uplift you is living a full life crafted around love, giving, optimism and gratitude. In essence, it’s important to know what serves your mind, body and spirit in enriching ways.

To that end, do you fill your life with people and opportunities that serve you? People who cheer you on, challenge you to achieve your dreams, love you unconditionally, open your eyes to new possibilities and stand fast when you need to lean. Opportunities that expand your worldview, lift your spirits, raise your empathy, attune your awareness and leave you feeling lit from within. I ask because it’s important to know when to let go of what doesn’t serve you.

If you are struggling against potential guilt, foggy confusion or rising angst related to people or options in your life, think about where to let go. Let me help:

  1. How does this relationship or opportunity serve you? If you struggle to find redeeming value or feel like it is draining you beyond balance, it’s time to assess.
  2. How eager are you to make time for this person or take this step? If you dread an interaction or keep putting off action, consider what is holding you back.
  3. What words would you use to describe this relationship or opportunity? If you find yourself using negative lexicon or feeling anxious, lean into your feelings to identify the triggers.

The point is not to avoid all challenging people and moments. No. The key is to know that, even while you are forging a new path or overcoming a fear, you feel this person or opportunity serves to make your life better. Likewise, you have to be willing to take action either in mutual support for them or to embrace whatever the opportunity brings into your reality.

Now, there is another version of letting go that is vital to mention. It’s much more intimate, more difficult and more crucial to serving your best interests. Here is a thought cue:

“If you love somebody, let them go, for if they return, they were always yours. If they don’t, they never were.” – Kahlil Gibran

This is probably one of the most difficult things in life. As a people, we struggle with change, we struggle with rejection, we struggle with comfort and we struggle with the fear of letting go of someone. I was reminded of this truth this week. And here is what I realized:

You can want to know, to support, to serve and to cherish another. However, if that person is holding you at arm’s length and unwilling to invest in the same way . . . the timing isn’t right. Let them go with no ill will, no judgment and no tethers. Let go with a loving heart.

This doesn’t have to be romance alone but involves all interpersonal dynamics. We fear letting go because we often get stuck in a cycle of, “I could have done more . . . maybe if I tried harder . . . if only I say it in a different way . . . or, if I stick it out this may change.” Trust me, dear one, people who honor your mind, body and spirit will be people who reach out to serve you too. Besides:

A true spark never fades but can reignite the candle between you when the time is right for you to share its glow.

So, let go of the anchors of your mind. Let go of whatever doesn’t serve you. For you to be of true service to yourself and others with the brightest light possible, you must be free to welcome the people and opportunities life has waiting just around the corner.