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So I’ve decided that today is “Find the Good” Day. If all goes as planned — and doesn’t it always? 🙂 — I’ll be able to cajole a smile out of even the grumpiest of people around town. I’m determined to find the good in everyone I meet and in every situation. 

This approach was put to the test immediately as I had to wait a long time to see my doctor. My appointment time, 2:30, came and went, as did 3:00 and 3:30. Once I was checked in, though, I realized the wait is long because she takes time to listen to each patient. I had a lot of questions and she spent a long time with me, answering every one of them.

“Find the Good” can be used as you go through the day.

Traffic’s bad on the road today? Great! Another chance to listen to some audio books. 

Sink’s clogged? No biggie. Now you can try out your DIY skills. YouTube has plenty of helpful videos on the subject.

Can’t find those pants you need for work tomorrow? Terrific. It’s a perfect time to organize your closet so you have everything in its place.

Of course, it’s not always easy to find the positive in a negative situation, but if every problem is really a project in disguise, it’s not as much of a burden anymore. 

“Find the Good” Day is another way of saying, find the good day. It’s always there, waiting to be found. Bad news may always make the headlines, but finding the good can become the story of your life.

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donuts“A mini-bagel, plain, please,” I said to the clerk at my favorite bagel shop. “Okay, mini-bagel. What-” he replied loudly and stopped himself. “Oh, you want it plain,” he muttered. He’d started to ask what I wanted on the bagel, but realized I’d said I didn’t want anything on it. 

I smiled and said, “Jose, you were like, ‘You want a bagel at the bagel store? What?!? Next you’ll want a donut from the donut shop!’” This sent the clerk and the other customers in the store into hysterics. As I left, I continued my shtick and said, “I’m here all week! Good night!” 

It’s in those small moments that you realize humans have the capacity to connect. It might be for a brief moment, but shared laughter is like a virtual hug. It also helps to get to know the people who will be in your life on a regular basis, like the cashier at the bagel shop or your mail carrier. It often occurs to me that I could never do what my mailman, Calvin, does, just based on the sheer volume of letters and packages he needs to deliver on a daily basis. 

On some blocks in my town, there’s an ordinance that homes may not have mailboxes. This means that letter carriers have to deliver to those houses’ front doors, every day, rain or shine. Winters are the most challenging time for them, as you might imagine. 

All of us have a load to carry and things we’ve got to get done. So when you see the “regulars” in your life during the day, a warm word of encouragement can go a long way.

bowl of vegetable saladsSueBE wrote about having lost weight on a diet, and she did it the right way: sensibly and over time. I did it the wrong way recently, cutting out everything with any fat, sugar, salt — heck, even taste. Ate only fruit and veggies. Sauteed squash with a bit of olive oil and Mrs. Dash turned out great, but other dishes weren’t as tasty, so it was discouraging. I was convinced it would be worth foregoing all foods with flavor when I got on that scale at the doctor’s office. Cut to: I’d gained five pounds! 

So what went wrong? It was a diet of deprivation, and I was focusing only on the numbers, not on how I felt. 

I’ve realized since that draconian approach failed that I really do love fruit and vegetables, just not as the only items on the menu. I’m keeping “heart healthy” and have shifted my focus to sticking with the basics: eating the things that are good for me, along with an occasional thing that just plum tastes good. (Plums are among the things I love, by the way.)

I’ve also gotten into the habit of moving more and sitting less. At a seminar for people with MS, a nutritionist told us this:

“Sitting is the new smoking.”

This means that the adverse effects of a sedentary life-style are on par with the negative impact of smoking on a body. Yikes. Okay, I’m on-board. Now I get up every hour, and if I’m reading a book on the computer, I’ll put it on “read aloud” so I can do some stretches while listening. 

Small steps over time. That’s how to make lasting changes, and stay positive along the way.

One of the things that we talk about on Praypower is grace.  We are saved through God’s grace. It isn’t something we earn but something freely given.  We discuss sharing grace with others and trying to give people the benefit of the doubt.  Maybe they are doing the best that they can.

In yoga, we talk about ahimsa or do no harm.  When I hear that phrase, I automatically think “do no harm to others,” but in yoga it is about how you treat yourself.  That is why our instructor translates it to “honor your body.”

Again, it is a broader concept than you might immediately assume.  It includes many things including recognizing the fact that what you did yesterday may not be in reach today.  Our bodies differ from side to side and from day to day.  But it also means that if you can’t do something, let it go.  Don’t beat yourself up about it.  No self-nagging!

That was a message I really needed yesterday.  It seemed like I was constantly on the wrong foot or a step behind everyone else.  That’s the sort of thing that can really get to you if you let it.  Why can’t I get anything right today?  Sound familiar?  In a society were everything is supposed to be Pinterest perfect it can be easy to beat yourself up.

I’m not going to say that I immediately slipped into ahimsa but I finally got there.  Things went much better after that.  I’m not sure that I was any more in step, but I didn’t let it bother me.

After I saw my husband off to work, I went back to sleep.  That extra hour and half was just what my body and mind needed.  Today I feel much more together.  Tomorrow? Who knows.  I will see when I get there.  And, if I need it, I’ll grant myself a little grace and continue to give it my best.

–SueBE

A group of us had been discussing “Come Walk With Me.”  This is a program at our church where groups of us get together and walk.  Normally my group consists of myself, a female friend and a male friend.  Since Sarah had a meeting it would be only Carl and I.  Another friend drew me aside.  “Does his wife know you two walk together?”

I really wasn’t certain but then the real issue came out.  “What if she thinks something funny is going on and causes trouble for you?”

It still took me a minute because Carl does love a good joke but then I realized that she meant something sexy.  “I think she knows.  I’ll ask.”

Suffice it to say, that raised a real kurfuffle.  But in all seriousness, anyone who knows me knows that I opt for the straightforward.  I do it with big things like this and I do it with little things too.

Yesterday I was not at my most astute.  I had started the day with a migraine and it was gone by the time I made it to church but I was loopy.  I walked right past one friend when she said good morning.  I was at the other side of the fellowship hall before her question registered.  I caught up with her a few minutes later and apologized.  We had a good laugh because really nothing had happened.

But how often, when we are convinced we have been slighted, someone suspects us of something, or someone has left us hanging is it really nothing.  Bounced messages, dead phones and just human nature can compound misunderstandings.

By reaching out, we can pull things into the light and laugh at how silly most of it really is.

–SueBE

 

CALLEJA (DIARIO DE NAVARRA)

Abel Mutai, an athlete on the verge of winning a race, misjudged where the finish line was and stopped running too early. Another runner, Ivan Fernandez Anaya, could have run past Mutai and won the race; instead, he helped Mutai cross the finish line and came in second.

“He was the rightful winner. He created a gap that I couldn’t have closed.” said Fernandez Anaya. The photo of him helping Mutai across the finish line went viral, garnering praise from all over the world. When asked for a comment, however, his coach voiced his disappointment. “The gesture has made him a better person, but not a better athlete,” Martin Fiz told El Pais. “He has wasted an occasion. Winning always makes you more of an athlete. You have to go out to win.”

In another race, two Olympic runners collided, and, as the race went on, they helped each other carry on to the finish line. Neither runner won the official race, but later, both were given a special commendation for sportsmanship.

Some things are more important than a trophy. Maybe we should change the term, “human race” to “human family.” Life’s not a competition. Don’t listen to the naysayers, even if it’s your own coach. We’re all on the same team. 

“Don’t be surprised when you can’t keep the weight off.”

That’s only one of the many things I’ve had people dump on me about.  And I have to tell you, I’m a little sick of it.

It isn’t that I expect to always succeed.  I don’t and I won’t.  After all, I’m human.  I’m flawed and I’m going to fail.

My desk is still a mess.  The back wall in my craft room is still only half painted.  The linen closet?  I cleaned out one shelf.  Four more to go and I haven’t even bought the paint yet.

But I’ve lost almost ten pounds in the last four months.  Eight.  I’ve lost eight.  And I’m feeling better.

I bought a loom and am learning to use it. I’ve been making ornaments out of felt which is also a new thing for me.

I worked in the church garden this year and am now one of the people who does the yard work.

Oh, and I learned to make tea cup candles.

I’m flawed but there are things I manage to pull off.  I do, after all, have talents gifted to me by my Creator.

And the crazy thing is that you have talents too.  They might not be the same as mine.  In fact, they probably aren’t.  But that’s okay.   Figure out what they are and you’ll know that’s where you stand the greatest chance to succeed.

Does that mean you shouldn’t try anything else? Of course not.  Some tasks will be much harder but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worthwhile.  Sometimes they are actually the most rewarding.  Like getting rid of that 8 pounds.

Will I keep it off?  I’m going to try.  Lord knows he gifted me with the ability to bake but he never said I have to nibble on it all myself.  Tomorrow we have Sunday school so it is the perfect time to try out that new recipe.

–SueBE

alex-jones-Tq4YjCa2BSc-unsplashGot a problem? “Give it to God,” they say. Only sometimes it’s not that simple. I, for one, tend to be an ambivalent giver. I claim to hand over my trouble, only to take it back obsessively, ruminate on it, rummage through the possibilities, ponder all the “what-ifs.” As if Providence rests in my nervous little hands.

The great and wise Richard Rohr once said, “The opposite of Faith is not doubt; the opposite of faith is control.” It’s a lesson we, like poor Hamlet, learn the hard way. That in the end, “There’s a divinity that shapes our ends, / Rough-hew them how we will—….”

And, as we know, “the rest is silence.”

Of what substance
is hardship made
that, in shaping it
with sturdy hands,
it liquefies, slumps,
refuses to hold its shape?
Persists with devilish intensity
to be captured or controlled?
If only we understood:
That in lifting our hands,
in setting free that which
we cannot sculpt to our ends,
the obdurate thing will fly from us,
ascend to one who will form it.
The shape it takes, no wringing of limbs
will change. It is what it will be.
Swallow it, in pieces, as you can.

What huge task are you facing?   Maybe you need to lose 20 or so pounds.  Or your house is full to the rafters and a bit of a mess.  Or there’s that book you’ve been meaning to write.

Huge tasks are daunting.  Not making any progress on them is demoralizing.

Fortunately, a friend of mind has a saying that she shares with the rest of us at times like this.  “How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.”

Even a huge task can be accomplished if you break it into smaller steps.  Don’t contemplate losing 20 pounds.  Focus on 5.  There is no way to declutter and fix up your whole house at once.  Focus on a kitchen drawer – like Ruth’s utility drawer.  Until she wrote that post, I had forgotten that that is what my grandmother called it.  Practical Missouri German that she was, she didn’t have a junk drawer but a utility drawer.  So you want to write a book?  Focus on writing one page.

So many of the things that overwhelm us can be handled by focusing on the small.  The world is an unkind place?  Post a positive quote or a prayer every day.  Smile at your noisy neighbor.  Say good morning.  Hold a door for someone.  Little by little we can all spread God’s light and accomplish mighty things.

–SueBE

When I saw this quite, it reminded me of one of the Bible lessons that made up part of our service yesterday. The Rich Man and Lazarus is in the sixteenth chapter of Luke.

The Rich Man and Lazarus (NIV)

19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’

25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’

27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’

30 “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

Pastor Sean explained to us that different theologians interpret this passage in different ways.  The one he prefers is that Lazarus, the only person named in a parable, is so low and miserable that even the dogs take pity and clean his wounds.  The rich?  They ignore him.

Every day, when the rich man exited through his gate, he would have seen Lazarus.  He could have gotten Lazarus a doctor.  He could have fed him. He could have reached out.

Our pastor encouraged us not to feel guilty about what we have. Why?  Because that will only drive us to also turn away.

I know that not everyone who reads this has wealth, but even if you are using a computer at your library, you can write a letter.  Encourage a policy maker to address poverty, health care issues or environmental change this is impacting the poor.  Thank someone who has inspired you.  Reach out to someone who simply needs to know they are seen.

Come on.  Don’t let the dogs be the only ones who get the message.

–SueBE

 

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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