You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘encouragement’ tag.

Photo by Matt Collamer on UnsplashShowing up as someone other than your true self can be wearing.

As long as I can remember (!) I’ve had trouble remembering things I’ve done, people I’ve met, conversations we’d had. So I learned to make up for it with humor and this unrelenting cheerfulness that has become a lifelong habit. In my 20s, I’d use the phrase, I had a senior moment there! when I’d forget basic things. Co-workers would laugh and say, You’re too young to have those! and the infraction would be forgiven.

If I’d said, I don’t know why I can’t remember anything, and to be honest, it’s kind of upsetting, it would’ve gotten a moment of discussion or a shoulder shrug, but you could only do that so often. People would assume you weren’t applying yourself, or were just not that bright.

So most of the time I would flip a switch and turn into this upbeat version of myself, which meant I was always presenting a persona instead of being who I am. I needed to write lists of every task. Not a general to-do list, but pages of what I needed to do, checked off as I went. If it wasn’t documented there, I honestly couldn’t remember if I’d done it.

It was only after I was diagnosed with MS that I realized there was a reason for my forgetfulness.

It made me wonder: What is it we don’t know about the people with whom we interact? Is everybody grappling with something? It’s possible that someone in your life right now is feeling this way, but doesn’t know how to express it, or where to turn to make it better.

Maybe we’ll never know what others are going through. Assuming there’s a story might be enough for our collective compassion to kick in.

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I just read a biography of Buddha, who’d been born a prince and lived a life of luxury, then gave it up. He came to believe Nirvana would be achieved by eliminating all desire.

I think the key to enlightenment is to stay in the Heaven in your head all the time instead of expecting some event, thing or person to complete you so you’ll feel worthy. Waiting for some momentous change may make us forget that there are blessings all around us, every day.

In a previous post, I wrote of how I was reminded during a power outage of all the daily gifts God sends to me. Love letters such as lights that turn on with the flick of a switch. Hot and cold running water. Toilets, faucets, gas burners. A little laundromat in my own basement.

Right there, in the dark, in the cold, I got into a warm fuzzy space in my own soul and I find that I can get there again, every time I read this line:  This was a gift to me today. A reminder to appreciate the power, all the way up to the power source.

The light-bulb moment comes when you accept that you’re blessed. You remember you’re remembered. You’re not forgotten. God loves you enough to send countless provisions your way every single day.

My moment of enlightenment came when the lights went out. I didn’t need the heat to work at that moment. I literally felt warmed up. I hadn’t felt like that when all of the systems in my life were percolating on as usual. It took a moment in which God blinked to remind me he’s always got his eye on me. That interruption in my life’s regular programming reminded me never to take grace for granted.

So I bought a frozen pizza that was on sale for less than a dollar. Turned on the oven and put the pizza in to cook. Once it was done, I tried to pull it out of the oven, but it got stuck on the rack. After a struggle  to get it out of the oven, I was really hungry and took a bite. Instantly, I regretted it, as it was still too hot and it burned the roof of my mouth. To boot, it was flavorless, as if I was eating the box it came in. All that work and it tasted like cardboard.

And I thought, how many life experiences are like that?

You twist yourself into contortions for someone else (insert situation here: a peer group, a romantic interest, a potential employer, etc.) and end up looking back on it with regret. They didn’t like you anyway, even after you changed yourself to make them like you. And you didn’t like yourself in that context either. That wasn’t you.

When the past comes at you with all the weapons in its arsenal – shame, guilt, and regret – whip out the shield to fend off all efforts to get under your skin and into your soul: faith. Faith that every day is a clean slate and a chance to start again – on your own terms. Faith that the choices you made in the past were your best efforts at the time, and helped you build an acumen for action going forward. Faith in the fact that life is good and you deserve every good thing it has to offer.

And as for that negative narrator in your head, reminding you of times you’d just as soon forget? Put on your boots, kick it to the curb, and keep moving.

Photo Credit: Jack Gruber, USA Today

When you hear the phrase “free time,” you might think of reading, going to the park, socializing with friends. But reading this article about a wrongfully convicted man who was recently released after being in jail for fifteen years, I wondered if it’s possible to put a price tag on time. 

“Under a 2016 law, Michiganians who were wrongly convicted can qualify for $50,000 for every year spent in prison, making Salter’s imprisonment worth roughly $700,000.”

Even with this settlement, how will he ever get his life back? And isn’t false imprisonment a crime? Isn’t somebody going to jail for that offense?

On the other side of the justice system, there are those who have been jailed for crimes they did commit, some of whom have been rehabilitated. How will they ever make up for lost time? And is it really possible to leave a life of crime behind and become a contributing member of society? This novel program in Baltimore hires ex-offenders to remove reclaimed wood from abandoned buildings. It keeps wood out of landfills, which improves air and land quality. It reduces crime by eliminating abandoned buildings, which often serve as drug dens. It allows participants to learn a skill and earn a decent day’s wage. It’s a metaphor: from unclaimed to reclaimed. They get to re-build their own lives by tearing down remnants of the past.

As the first story shows, some prisoners turn out to be innocent. Of those who aren’t, all of them turn out to be human. Granted, there are some in jail who need to stay in jail. Forever. But if lumber from an abandoned building can get a new lease on life, surely a person who has served time and changed their ways can be given a second chance.

This picture of a cheetah named Bingwa who gave birth to eight cubs makes me smile when I look at the two cubs in the corner. Looking at their mother, heads tilted, as if to say, We just love our mom! We’re so proud of her! I may be wrong, but that’s what I want to be true. Of course, it looks like Bingwa needs a break already, and who can blame her? I can imagine her thinking, What have I gotten myself into? That’s a lot of mouths to feed.

Do we ever know what any other living being is thinking, really? We can barely communicate with each other in this country lately. Even when people use actual words, we don’t always know the whole story.

Last January, an emergency alert was sent to cellphones across Hawaii, warning of an incoming ballistic missile attack. It turned out to be incorrect, thankfully – the alert had been the result of human error. But if even state-of-the-art technology can’t prevent communications breakdowns, what hope is there for human beings?

I actually got myself into a mood this afternoon as I was thinking about the state of the world at large and situations I need to decipher in my own little world. I needed a nudge to get myself back to center and found it in the story of this little boy with spina bifida who was having trouble walking.

No matter what you’re facing today, think of Roman, walking on his own for the first time and sharing the moment with his best friend, Maggie the dog. Small steps that give us a sense of perspective in the big picture. Just what we all need right now.

Writing time for me is only official when I listen to the songs my mother used to play on the piano. That audible cue says to my brain, it’s time to create. As I said in a previous post, she gave me an abiding love for Bach. When I was a child, I’d ask her to play what we called the “clockwork” song (BWV 847a – C Minor – Prelude at 5:19 in this YouTube video.)

She’d oblige me, sitting in front of the piano, stretching her hands and squaring her shoulders before tackling the song. It was so densely packed with notes, my eyes got tired trying to follow her fingers as she played. How did she do that? And how did Bach create all of these majestic movements? I noticed that this masterful song is called a “prelude.” Interesting. It’s not even considered a “fugue,” yet so much energy and effort has gone into it.

At the end of this prelude, there are three notes that foreshadow what the fugue that follows it will sound like. I remember her nodding as she played, saying to me, “there it is,” to remind me to listen for those notes that told you what was coming up in the fugue (BWV 847b – C Minor – Fugue at 7:05.)

Instead of trying to overhaul your life all at once, why not try a “pre-vamp” instead?

Whatever it is that you feel you don’t have and are hoping to achieve or acquire that would lead to a “re-vamp,” there are already grace notes of your future’s fugue in your present’s prelude.

So if your blessing arrived tomorrow, wouldn’t you like to be prepared to receive it? Make space in your heart for it. Listen: the music’s already playing. It’s just a matter of the whole orchestra joining in. Later, you’ll look back and realize the preludes of life are often just as lovely as the fugues.

My birthday is coming up next month, so I’m hoping to encounter some German Chocolate Cake and a new pair of sneakers (if my son is reading, hint-hint!) While I’m all for presents and cake, I don’t like surprises. I agree with Angie Dickinson, who told friends she’d never appear on the show, “This is Your Life,” and when they conspired to surprise her anyway and got her to the set, she walked out!

Now, I do love a surprise ending in a movie. A good play on words. A clever juxtaposition. I was tickled by this observation in an article about hidden writing that was recently found in ancient manuscripts in a desert monastery: “For a monk who lives in the Sinai desert in Egypt, in the world’s oldest working monastery, Father Justin replies to emails very speedily.” Researchers who visited had to “follow the monastic spirit of the place and Father Justin’s schedule, breaking for lunch and Vespers.” He didn’t put his faith on hold, despite the fact that this was an important scientific find.

I also like this unexpected revelation about Lauren Ridloff, a deaf actress who stars in the Broadway play, Children of a Lesser God. When she went to a deaf camp as a teen, the kids spoke exclusively in sign language. Not having to focus on what her words sounded like to others meant she could put all of her energy into signing to express herself. She never spoke again, changing her life for the better as a result.  

All of this to say, it’s okay to show up in life as yourself. Some may drift away if you do, but the ones who just “get you” will stick around. After all, this is your life. You might as well live it your way.

Each and every day opportunities come our way.  We can’t take advantage of all of them.  I think that’s one of the toughest lessons I had to learn as an adult.  Our time and energy are finite.  We can only do so much.  Fortunately, some things can be slipped into even an activity filled day.

What?  I was just talking about not taking on too much.  Now I’m encouraging you to do more?  Calm down.  Encouraging others only takes seconds.  Of course, so does shooting them down and it seems to be the way we most often relate to each other any more.

Yesterday, one of the women in adult Sunday School suggested that a group of the older women gather at church during the week to walk in the fellowship hall.  It is cool in the summer, warm and not icy in the winter.  It is someplace they can feel safe.  In short, it is a great idea.

But no.  One of the men had to shoot her down.  “Walk the mall.”  The mall in question is in a horrible location.  Due to road closures it is difficult to reach and because of this most of the stores have closed.  Sure, it is huge but it is also a ghost town. These women just don’t feel safe there.

“Then they should go to Menards.”  Sigh.  The church is five minutes away on side streets.  Menards is 15 to 20 minutes of highway driving.

As an idea person, I get it.  When one person suggests something, it is easy to start tossing out ideas of your own.  Or we could do this or this or this.

What is more difficult is to encourage someone, especially someone who doesn’t often speak up.  Take just a few seconds today and encourage someone.  Maybe it is the girl who swipes your membership card at the fitness center or the kid picking up kickboards after the swim lesson.  Acknowledge them and watch it make their day.  It is a great way to share God’s light and love with another.

–SueBE

Scrolling through one of my favorite sites, Katzenworld, I found an interesting article about feeding cats raw food. There was a picture of the recommended brand, along with the words, “Made with Human Meat.”

What the heck?

Nearly fell off the chair. Had to scroll back up quickly.

“Made with Human Grade Meat.”

Oh. That’s a relief!

For a minute I thought I’d taken a turn into the Twilight Zone, and stumbled into the Little Shop of Horrors!

One word can make all the difference sometimes.

In today’s political climate, you don’t have to agree with everybody you meet. Online, you don’t have to dignify mean-spirited comments about what you believe, or where you come from, or how you live. But sometimes, one word of kindness can change the conversation.

And if it doesn’t, you may come to the conclusion that this isn’t a conversation anyway, but a monologue. You can always – respectfully – unfollow people who bring drama into your feed. This is true in real life as well. There comes a time when you realize that people who were once your friends bring nothing but negatives into your world. It’s okay to let them go.

In many cases, this will happen by attrition as you refuse to get sucked into the vortex of either/or online. You’re one of us, or you’re one of them. Someday, the zeitgeist will change, and we’ll see each other as people again. Until that time, unplugging from the constant barrage of angst and anger will do your soul good. Here’s one word that will hold your heart together: peace.

Try as you might, you can’t be in the present and in the past at the same time. Well, not unless you dive into quantum theory. But that’s neither here nor there. Get it? It’s a pun!

Two quantum physicists won the Nobel Prize for proving “the correctness of the bizarre properties of quantum mechanics, i.e., that electrons can be two places at the same time.”

I like to read about quantum theory, although I can honestly say that I don’t quite understand it. It’s so murky that even Einstein refused to accept it, saying, “God does not play dice.” Niels Bohr responded, “Einstein, stop telling God what to do.”

I’m with Richard Feynmann, who said, “If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don’t understand quantum mechanics.”

That being said, you’re not an electron. You may have an electric wit, even flashes of brilliance, (not to mention hot flashes😉) but you’re still only human.

You can’t hold onto the past – whether it was your heyday or a Nightmare on Elm Street – and reach forward to the future at the same time. You may be in your cubicle at work, but once your psyche time-travels back to your first heartbreak, you’re not really anywhere, anymore.

Not to worry; there’s a map to mental health in Philippians, with two keys.

“…One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead.”  

Forget what lies behind.

Reach forward to what lies ahead.

Forget and reach. I think it’s interesting that “forget” is used here. It’s something separate from “forgive.” Not just forgiving a slight, but forgetting it to make way for better things. To put it more simply, let go, let God, and let new blessings in.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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