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Better a dry crust with peace and quiet
   than a house full of feasting, with strife.
Proverbs 17:1

Even with the help of a kind-hearted friend, I was wiped out at the end of yard sale day.

They’d plow through the neat piles of clothes labeled with yellow sticky notes that listed the size and price. What size is this? They’d yell across the driveway. How much is this? I’d say, It’s on the label. Oh, they’d yell. Is this negotiable?

We were charging two dollars for a pair of Levi’s with the tag still on. They’d try their best to lean on us to take one dollar.

Really?

It wasn’t the physical exertion, though that can really take a toll. No, it was the energy it took to deal with a few of the people who’d left their manners at home, along with their wallets, apparently. One woman said, Oh, I forgot my purse at home. All I have is fifty cents for this scarf. Will you take it?

The first time I heard that one, I didn’t realize it was a technique to get a better deal. At the same yard sale, a man said he’d forgotten his money clip.

While nobody expects to get rich from the proceeds of a yard sale, I really didn’t expect to feel depleted at the end of the day. My friend had really done all the work, but just being there was wearing.

Why is it that the slightest hint of getting a deal brings out the worst in us?

It was the first – and only – time I’d ever participated in the block yard sale. Ever since then, I’ve reminded myself to consider this when I accept an invitation or take on an obligation: How will it make me feel? Do I really want to do this? Is it worth it?

That soul-draining day taught me something. If you don’t safeguard your own peace of mind, somebody will try to put a pricetag on it. Check your back for sticky notes, use the good sense God gave you, and keep on moving.

My son is eighteen-years-old, and, as you can imagine, I’m keeping him covered in prayer. At the same time, I’m trying to keep my distance.

After all, he knows how to navigate the world, and he’s got a good head on his shoulders. I have to remember that I’ve raised him to the best of my ability, and now the rest is up to him.

Still, occasionally, if my prayers were read aloud, they would sound frantic. Because sometimes, that’s just how I feel.

He’s going to college. He’s got a steady girlfriend. He’s driving on New Jersey’s busy highways.

The other day, I prayed anxiously. I’d been thinking of all the things I hoped for him in his life, and felt tight. At the end of the prayer, I spoke to myself, just as if in conversation with a friend, trying to understand why I felt so unsettled.

I hope he does well.
I trust God knows what he’s doing.
I believe it all works out in the end.

Breathing in and out a few times slowly, I went into my sunroom and sat in the spot on the couch bathed in soft light rays. Just as my cat might do, basking and being. Just being.

There was a subtle shift in my soul and I exhaled, speaking out loud the words I had just said, only this time, I changed the punctuation slightly. When I put the emphasis back on Providence instead of on the problem, a wave of of peace washed over me.

I hope. He does well.
I trust. God knows what he’s doing.
I believe. It all works out in the end.

“What if you woke up and the only things that remained were the things you gave thanks for yesterday?” This is something I read on Twitter recently, by a site called Amazing Grace.

Staying in a state of grace is putting God back in charge. You know. Where he was all along. It’s okay to let go of things you really can’t control anyway. Just a gentle reminder from someone who’s been there.

In a dream the other night, I was given some sage advice. I was told, “It’s not solve the problem. It’s resolve the energy. How do you get from down to up. That’s what matters.”

That’s been true in so many situations in my life.

When the Great Gatsby came out a few years ago, I was really looking forward to seeing it. I got my ticket and found a seat in my local theater. About two hours into the movie, I noticed it was sapping my spirit and affecting my energy.  It’s not that it was a bad movie, but it got so sad that it was really bringing me down and I felt like I wanted to ditch it. I held off, thinking that others in the audience might look askance at me if I did.  

Due to health issues, I was using a crutch. I’m visually impaired. If I were to leave, I’d have to find my way down the steps in the dark, tap-tapping as I go, drawing attention to myself.  Should I stay and feel deflated by this bummer of a movie?

As I was pondering this question, a character said, “Sorry you have to be going.”

I thought, hm. Is that for me?

The other character replied, “Yes, sorry, I have to be going.”

Does that confirm it?

“Here, let me show you to the door.”

Okay, God. I get it.

Later, Leonardo!

It’s okay to decide that how you feel matters. We spend so much of our time pre-processing our potential actions to run them through the filter of norms and expectations that we don’t even put our own state of mind on the list.

Honor how you feel. If something/someone is bringing you down, catch the bus on out of there. You’ll thank me for this public service the next time you’re in this situation. Just do me a favor – send me your Milk Duds when you leave the movie! 🙂

At the mall, I picked out three pairs of shoes and waited for the salesman to help me. It was a very busy day, and he caught my eye. “I’ll be right with you, ma’am,” he said, breathlessly.

“Don’t break your back,” I said.

He stopped in his tracks, dropping one of his boxes.

“How did you know?” he asked.

“Know what?” I replied.

“That I broke my back. This is my first day back on the job.” He sat down, looking a bit ashen.

I sat down with him. “I honestly don’t know why I said that. But I … I think it means, pace yourself. You’re just finding your feet,” I said, as he laughed at the shoe pun.

We spoke for a few minutes and he went back to work, this time at a slightly slower step. He smiled over his shoulder and nodded good-bye.

I thought about the exchange. It was the first time in my life I had ever used the phrase, “don’t break your back.” If you think about it, it could be taken as sarcasm. I didn’t mean it that way – just that I wasn’t in a hurry.

It was such a small moment, but it made me think. How many times do I want to speak words of encouragement, of praise, of inspiration, and I hold myself back? What if they take it the wrong way? What if they just aren’t in the mood to hear it?

In a previous post, I wrote that I know I don’t have all the answers. What gives me the right to offer advice to anyone else?

It may well be that none of us has all the answers, but together, we can find a way to wend our way down the path of life.

Sometimes God puts words on your heart for a reason. It might be just the small sustenance someone needs to make it over that next hurdle.

Slow down and travel at Godspeed. Speak kindly to a stranger. Say it from the heart and you may end up making someone’s day.

nitish-meena-37745The little boy was three-years-old, and, apparently, his job was to examine all the minutiae of life very carefully, like a pint-sized forensic scientist  – gum wrapper on floor, display of succotash by the register, even his own shoelaces. It came as no surprise that he’d meander very slowly, like a sloth on a speed bump, out the door of the grocery store.

We were stacked up behind him and his adoring mother with our carts, our own kids in tow, but we were patient. He looked around, he lingered, he investigated. All the while his mother looked at him adoringly, as if he had invented time itself. “Isn’t he something?” she asked the lady waiting behind her, who nodded graciously.

When you love someone, you find a way to overlook their faults. It never occurred to this young mother that everyone else might not find her toddler’s molasses-slow stride to be endearing. Those things didn’t even register in her mind.

There’s been a lot of discord in the world lately, with those of different viewpoints finding themselves at odds. Sometimes it seems people are acting like petulant children, not hearing anyone else’s voice at all. I’ve been deep in Scripture lately, seeking some solace.

The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride. Ecclesiastes 7:8 NIV

Keeping things in perspective, thinking about compassion and mercy.

You help them stay calm when trouble comes…

Every line of this Psalm gave me peace.

The Lord will not leave his people. He will not leave them without help.

Sometimes you find comfort in passages you’ve read a thousand times. Perhaps if we all read the Good Book and pray together, wherever we are, we’ll remember we’re all family.

Justice will return and bring fairness.  And those who want to do right will be there to see it. Psalm 94:13-15 ERV

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Every year around this time, Google reports a surge in this search term: “Superb Owl Day.” No, it’s not a gathering of bird-watchers in the foliage. It happens around the weekend of that big ole football championship game. You know. The Super Bowl.

It’s just a misplaced space (now there’s a tongue-twister) that yields a result that’s way off-base (oh, that’s a tiny poem), but it’s something of a metaphor. Sometimes in life we know what we’re looking for, and even have all the ingredients, but we’re just not sure how to put it all together.

Like something’s missing. That space can feel like a void. If you think of all the things we yearn for, they’re big ticket items. True love. Mega-million jackpot. Job with an expense account. Maybe it isn’t the thing we’re looking for, but what we think it will bring to us.

Just as there are many different versions of the Bible, I like to look at life through my own personal filter of faith. I’ll give it a name too, to make it official. How about this: Light-hearted Upward Version, or “LUV.”

Maybe if we strike it rich, we won’t have to worry about how to make it through each month. We’re really looking for sustenance and certainty. Verily, I say unto you, this is another way of saying “Faith.” Book of Ruth (No Relation) 2:6a LUV By the way, 2:6 is just today’s date. Nothing deep. 🙂

Maybe if we find true love, we won’t have to eat alone at the diner counter anymore. We’re really looking for a sense of belonging and a support network. Brethren and Sistern (Cistern?) I say unto you, this can be found in “Fellowship.” BoR(NR) 2:6b LUV

Maybe if we get the perfect job, we won’t have to spend the whole day at the copier again. We’re really looking for a sense of purpose and personal satisfaction. Yea, though I travel through challenging times, I can accomplish this through “Outreach.” BoR(NR) 2:6c LUV

There are many ways to find the missing pieces in life, and often, they’re already around us. It might be just a matter of stretching out, and reaching up.

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There have been very few times in my life when I’ve actually been speechless.

But something happened over the weekend that defies words. In fact, it defies logic. Humanity. The bounds of decency.

President Trump wrote an Executive Order banning immigrants from seven mostly Muslim countries.

This seems like the action of someone out to prove a point. Perhaps he was irked by the recent women’s marches or fired up about his contention that the popular vote was rigged to make it seem as if most of the country voted against him.

Just as it’s never a good idea to discipline your children when you’re out-of-control with rage, it’s not prudent to issue edicts on the spur-of-the-moment and without knowing all of the facts.

As we all adjust to this new reality – the “reality” of “alternate facts” and grudge matches between officials with the power to declare war on countries and on whole groups of human beings – I’m gaining strength from great gurus, such as our own SueBE and Lori, and I’m meditating on their wise words.

Taking solace in this quote from FDR:

“Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.”

Enjoying the irony in these words from John Steinbeck:

“My whole family has been having trouble with immigrants ever since we came to this country.”

Nodding in agreement with the wisdom of Margaret Mead:

“The discrepancy between American ideals and American practice — between our aims and what we actually do — creates a moral dry rot which eats away at the foundations of our democratic faith.”

And leaving you with these words from an Enlightened Encourager, the great Mother Teresa:

“The more I traveled, the more I realized that fear makes strangers of people who should be friends.”

hzg0vjhfyg0-gary-rockettTell me this. When, exactly, do the cows come home? They must be the Ultimate Party Animals. People always say, “We’ll stay out until the cows come home!” as if it’s a measure of the amount of fun they’re having. Now, I’ll get along with anybody, but if Elsie Moos and Mambos at five AM outside my window, I’m going to be pretty darn lactose intolerant!

I wonder why we phrase it this way: “Nightfall” and “Daybreak.” To me, they should be reversed. Night actually breaks, if you think about it. The sudden presence of pitch-blackness disrupts us as we’re going about our daily lives. Oh! Not even 5 o’clock. Night-time already! Well, better get the knitting. Warm up the cocoa. We’re in for the night!

But if you’re an early bird and have ever (voluntarily) seen the sunrise, you know it comes gently, gradually. Often beautifully. It doesn’t “break” upon the scene, no, it rolls in. Perhaps even strolls in.

It isn’t always clear why “things have always been done this way.” Sometimes it’s out of habit, or tradition, or maybe it was whoever won “Rock, Paper, Scissors.”

It may take a few years, but eventually, you’ll realize that it’s okay to be yourself. There was a time when I’d check in with friends to see what they’d be wearing to the party, or to make sure I knew where the action was later on that night.

Nowadays, I don’t get out as much as I’d like due to health issues, but as I sat in my sunroom and watched my cat watching squirrels, I realized something startling.

This is the peaceful life I always wanted. These are my druthers. Sure, there are things I’d like to do: it would be good to get out and explore the world more. See my friends in person. It would be nice to be able to “impulse-shop” once in awhile.

But I don’t miss the hustle and bustle, or the “schlepping” to get where you wanted to go – the place where you thought the action was.

Just as the church isn’t a building, but the people, the party isn’t the location, but the company you keep. Sometimes it’s the whole family, or just you and your cat. It’s all good.

My definition of blessings? A home that’s peaceful, prayerful and positive. Just like this blog.

Here’s to the good life!

l8a9vhn6pje-gabriel-piThe one who blesses others is abundantly blessed;
those who help others are helped.
Proverbs 11:25 (MSG)

Waiting in the lobby of the doctor’s office for my appointment, I noticed an elderly gentleman walking in the door. He stopped, squared his shoulders and set his chin. It occurred to me, Something is about to happen.

Marching over to the front desk, he waved a paper at the receptionist.

“You people did it again! Tried to bill me twice. But I’m onto you. You won’t get another DIME from me!”

The receptionist said, “I’m sorry about that sir, but if I can direct you to call our billing department, which is at another location….”

The angry man turned on his heel and noticed someone he knew. “Hiya, Tom,” his friend said. “Having an issue with the billing?” The man said, “Yeah, I had to give them a piece of my mind. Sometimes you have to show them you’re not gonna take their BS!”

Proud as punch, he swaggered out; still, he didn’t get his problem resolved. He’d refused to listen to the woman trying to tell him how to address it, and he was still as tightly-coiled as a cobra.

Not exactly one for the “Win” column.

You can berate, raise a ruckus, and cause a stir, or you can represent yourself and your faith in a memorable, mindful, mature way. Really, you can’t do both. There is a clear choice, every day. Navigating sticky situations with compassion. Showing the world your character, even as others lower the bar. Outreach instead of outrage. Tact instead of attack.

A new approach might be to “Bless-tify.” To testify about your faith by treating everyone with respect, even reverence – especially when emotions are running high.

“Blessing” is both a noun and a verb. The beauty of it is that you can give it and receive it at the same time. You’ll find yourself walking in the same spirit of love that changed your life when it really mattered. The saying goes, “Think before you speak,” or to put it another way, Pray Before you Say.

ef1h5yttmz8-annie-sprattAs they say in Vegas, “Whatever happened in 2016, stays in 2016.” We’re just days away from a brand new year. It’s your chance to decide which way to set your compass. Whatever mistakes you made during the year are in the past.

Most of our worries fall into the category of “anticipation anxiety.” I just made up that term, so if you use it, kindly send me a dollar as a royalty. 🙂 Focusing on the worst case scenario can send anyone into a panic.

So here’s what I’d like to propose for 2017. Make a vow to yourself to live in the present tense.

Think of negative emotions as volatile compounds that can burn and scar.

Guilt is like gangrene.

Regret is like rust.

So in the new year, if when you make a mistake, don’t feel bad about feeling bad. That was something you wouldn’t do if you had it to do again – even if it just happened yesterday. Give yourself a break.

Feel what you feel, but give yourself a timeframe. Say, I’ll wallow for the duration of this sad movie, then I’m getting out of the swamp. There’s a meadow over there I can meander through instead.

Don’t look back on times you weren’t yourself and say, that wasn’t me! Of course not. You’re you now. That’s good enough.

Don’t look back and say here’s another reason why that wrong ___________ was wrong for me:
□ Man
□ Job
□ Hairdo
□ Clique
□ Church

Two wrongs sometimes do make a right. That noun that left your life did you a favor. It wasn’t right for you.

Re-hashing is a drag counter-productive, because, in the first place hash is kind of gross aesthetically unpleasant, so having it again is yucky not optimal two times over.

Here’s to a new year and a new you. You’re a blessed, beloved being in all your glory. Whoever you were last year is in the past. Whoever you were a minute ago is, too. Why not take advantage of this unlimited time offer and be yourself in this moment, right where you are?  

Peace & Blessings to you and yours!

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