Grief and Gratitude

seminar, personal developmentTwenty-five years ago, my husband and I attended a five-day personal development seminar. It came highly recommended but we hadn’t been given any specific information and weren’t sure what to expect.

I saw several banners on the walls. One said If Better is Possible, Is Good, Good Enough. It caught my interest because I thought my life was pretty good but knew there was room to make it better.

To say the seminar changed our lives sounds cliché, but it’s the truth. I came away happier and with the confidence to believe in myself. Our family became stronger and my marriage reached a depth I never could have imagined before. I learned firsthand that better was possible.

Over the years we witnessed countless others, including friends and family, benefit from the program. Volunteer roles allowed me to make a small difference in someone else’s life. I was stretched and challenged and learned I could do much more than I realized. Deep friendships were formed with those I served with and for.

Last week it was announced that this amazing program would not be able to continue. The global pandemic had imposed restrictions that couldn’t be overcome.

Feelings of grief and gratitude intermingle. We were not just participants or volunteers in a program, we had become family. Many are scattered across the country and we will no longer come together on a regular basis. I don’t know if, or when, I will again see these people I’ve come to care for. This is where the grief comes in.

I’ve heard the saying, Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened. With that in mind, I look back in gratitude for the Choices program. It truly was the adventure of a lifetime. I am a better person because I took what I learned there and applied it to my life. The training will forever live in my heart.

I am a confident and valuable woman, gently leading and making a difference by sharing from my heart.

Same, Same

imitation, clothing
photo credit: Unsplash

I met her in a lineup where we were both waiting to pay for items of clothing.

This lady was so excited with the garment she was about to purchase, she couldn’t resist telling me about it.

“When I saw this on a mannequin, I knew I had to have it,” she told me. “I don’t even know how much it cost!” She carried on to tell me this was for her six-year-old granddaughter. She explained that the two of them looked alike, and her granddaughter always says, “Same, Same, Nana.”

The little girl would be thrilled to experience the same, same in matching outfits.

I thought back to my mom knitting matching sweaters for my young daughter and I and a Cabbage Patch doll! For a child, wearing the same type of clothing as someone they look up to, helps them feel as important as that person is to them.

As an adult, I no longer want to be dressed exactly the same as someone else. I have, however, looked for other ways to emulate people I admired. If I tried to duplicate their methods, could I be as successful? Could I copy their mannerisms and be as popular?

The trouble was, I could never do enough to be the same as someone else. It left me frustrated and feeling like a failure.

My efforts to be the same caused me to lose sight of my own unique qualities. I had to learn to accept and appreciate who I am and what I have to offer. Only then did I feel good about my own accomplishments.

Now, I am willing to learn from others but my goal is no longer to be the same as anyone else. Instead, I am happy to become the best version of me.

I Wish . . .

children, wisdomAlthough the temperature was still climbing, my husband and I decided to go for an afternoon walk. The new route we chose rewarded us with some lovely scenery but offered no shade to give relief from the sweltering heat.

Part way through our walk I overheard a snippet of conversation between a dad and his young son. They were standing by their bikes at the side of the path. I guessed the boy was suffering from the heat when he said to his dad, “When it’s summer, I want it to be winter and when it’s winter, I want it to be summer.”

This child had just expressed what many of us, myself included, often think. It is so easy to take life for granted and not appreciate what I have until it’s gone. Only then do I wish I had it back.

Does this sound familiar to you? I wish and  are both thoughts that sabotage my enjoyment of today. Both of them are focused on a time that is in the past or the future. When my mind is occupied with these things, I fail to appreciate what I have right now.

Recently I unearthed a scrap of paper containing part of a song lyric I’d jotted down because of the impact the words had for me. They said, “Yesterday’s gone and tomorrow may never come, but we have this moment today.”

I may need to rewrite this and put it in a prominent place as a reminder to enjoy every moment. Life is too short to wish it away.

Don’t Lose Weight!

weight
photo from unsplash

My reasons for working with a nutritionist were twofold. Digestive issues were the main reason. The other one was to lose some of the excess weight I’d accumulated.

I was told as we addressed the digestive issues my body would start to release the weight. I wouldn’t need to stick to a calorie count or be concerned about portion control. The object was to restore balance to my body and let it heal. As that happened, the weight would take care of itself.

To let my body release the weight, rather than trying to lose it, was an unknown concept. The more I thought about it, the more it made sense.

When I lose something, it is usually unintentional. I am unable to find what was misplaced and start a search to find whatever it was. This is not what I wanted to do with my extra pounds!

It’s not only objects, like car keys, I lost. I’ve also attempted to lose a bad attitude, resentments and frustrations. Sometimes I’ve found them again when searching to make sure they were really gone!

Releasing something has an entirely different connotation. It means I willingly, intentionally give it up. I had to do this with many items when we downsized last year. The difficult process was worth it as each item I set free liberated me.

Another meaning of release is to allow or enable to escape from confinement. When I did the work to heal my emotional state, I could release anger and experience true forgiveness. Bitterness gave way to freedom and happiness, enabling me to escape from a self-imposed confinement.

My experience with the nutritionist has helped me to weigh the difference between loss and release. I’m now on the proper end of the scales both mentally and physically.

Finding Wisdom

life, experience“I’ll give you my wise woman discount,” she said. “Thank you,” I replied, before joking, “Is that your nice way of saying senior?”

The answer both surprised and pleased me. I was told of her belief that seniors have much accumulated wisdom, so she truly thought of them as wise. She also told me that too many people don’t recognize or appreciate this. Needless to say, I was quickly gaining respect for this young woman!

For many years, I didn’t think of myself as wise. I don’t have the formal education that many do. I don’t always make good decisions.  It took a long time to realize that these facts don’t negate the wisdom I’ve gained in my lifetime.

My wisdom has come from experience. I can’t speak for others in my age category, but for me, many of the learning experiences in my life have come from mistakes I’ve made. The longer I live, the more opportunity I have to make mistakes. They are an inevitable part of life. Over the years I’ve discovered that my mistakes have enabled me to gain wisdom.

When any of us are willing to be vulnerable and pass our experiences on to others, wisdom is shared. It’s nice to know that all the mistakes don’t have to be mine. I can learn from yours as well!

One of my favourite sources of wisdom comes from children. I have heard some profound things from my grandchildren. Young children don’t filter their words. They say what they think and feel. I have learned a lot from paying attention to them.

So, while I appreciate being called wise, I know it’s as a result of the mistakes I’ve made and also from paying attention to what I can learn from others. I’m also wise enough to accept the wise woman discount when it’s offered!

What Trips You Up?

trip, fallIt was my third day walking the narrow bike path through the woods. I’d had no problems the other days but this time I tripped, not once but twice. Within about ten minutes, each foot had taken a turn!

Both times, my body propelled forward. Both times, I managed to catch myself and regain my sense of balance so I didn’t fall. After the second time I was more aware of my steps. On my return I watched to see what my feet might have caught on.

There were several spots where rocks or exposed roots could have been the culprit. However, it was only a couple that actually tripped me. Maybe I’d been dragging my feet in certain areas. Perhaps, since I’d travelled the path before, I was overconfident and didn’t pay enough attention. Either way, it got me thinking of the things that can trip me up in life.

I have been known to trip over my own feet. I can’t even blame that on an unseen obstacle in my way. It is purely a case of not paying proper attention.

Come to think of it, not paying proper attention is generally what causes me to get tripped up. The trip may not be literal. It could be a slip of the tongue. It could be impatience, overconfidence or carelessness. Whatever it may be, I am always caught off guard.

Sometimes I am able to catch myself before any harm is done. Other times my action causes me to fall on my face. In embarrassment I look around to see if my error in judgement caused anyone else to stumble with me.

I pick myself up and vow to be more careful in the future. And I am, until the next time I forget and rush into something instead of slowing down and paying attention. I can’t be the only one and so I ask, what trips you up?

A Good Father

father, children, family
Photo credit: Unsplash

Once upon a time a man fell in love with a mother of two young children. A wedding took place and they became a family.

As the children grew, he was there to instruct and watch over them. They were nourished, cared for and disciplined when necessary. He loved his children. They loved him in return and knew he always had their best interests at heart.

Years passed quickly and the children became young adults. They were now old enough to make their own decisions. One day they approached their father with a question. “Will you legally adopt us?” they asked.

The man was overjoyed. He had always considered them to be his children. Now they wanted to officially state that they belonged to him.

This story flooded me with emotion. As a good father who had loved and taken care of these children for many years, the man now had the great joy of knowing the children were taking his name.

This man’s joy was an example of my Heavenly Father’s response when one of his beloved children comes before him with the same request.

I picture him rejoicing over each of his children who choose to be identified with His name. God’s arms are outstretched to receive us to himself. There is much more I could share about my Heavenly Father and my relationship with Him. For now, I’ll close by telling you, since I asked Him to make me one of His children, my life is more fulfilling than I ever could have imagined.

“Consider this: The Father has given us his love. He loves us so much that we are actually called God’s dear children. And that’s what we are.” 1 John 3:1

More Than Meets the Eye

dandelionsWhen the digestive enzymes my nutritionist recommended arrived, I was surprised to read the main ingredient was dandelion root. I’ve had to focus on the healing effects to help me get past the atrocious taste!

This product has given me a new respect for what I formerly thought of as weeds.

Dandelions are the most well-known plant in the world. I did a little research and discovered while I knew them by sight, I actually knew very little about these plants.

They are filled with nutrients and have health benefits too numerous to mention here. But these plants are useful for much more.

Dandelions have one of the longest flowering seasons of any plant. Bees pollinate and feed upon the flowers. Their seeds, nectar and leaves are consumed by various insects and animals.

Their wide spreading roots help to loosen hard packed soil and aerate the ground. They also pull nutrients from deep in the soil to make them available for other plants. As anyone who has attempted to rid their lawns of dandelions knows, the deep roots give them an incredible ability to survive.

All of these facts, plus many more I won’t bore you with, have caused me to rethink my attitude to these plants. Their value extends well beyond the joy children receive as they present a bouquet of these bright flowers to their mothers!

I wonder how many other things I have disregarded based on limited knowledge. Worse yet, have I done the same with people? Everyone deserves to be treated with respect. A passing glance is not enough to determine the value of another. It’s time to take a deeper look in order to understand, appreciate, and acknowledge the unique qualities others possess.

Precious Gifts

gifts, heartfelt, affirmingOver the years, I’ve received many lovely gifts. Some were beautiful and extravagant. Others were practical items I’ve used and enjoyed. Still others filled an unspoken desire.

Among those I count the most precious are words straight from the heart. I still have a letter written to me several years ago by my employer. In it she expressed her appreciation for me not only as an employee but also for my personal traits. This was a rare gift and I treasure it.

Recently I received a simple card with You Are written on the inside.affirming words Underneath, in various handwritings, were words like loving, understanding, compassionate, funny and caring. For me, this was priceless.

Many years ago, a man I respected told me he kept a file folder labeled “encouragement.” In it were placed encouraging letters, notes, and cards he’d received over the years. Words of praise, admiration, thanks and support were saved in this file. He would reread these when he was feeling down and they would always give him the boost he needed.

After hearing this, I started a similar folder. The messages contained inside come from various areas of my life. They are precious gifts, reminders of times my heart has touched that of another. Rereading them is like being wrapped in a warm blanket on a cold winter day.

Encouraging, affirming words can bring hope. They have the power to change a life. Spoken words are wonderful but I believe those written are even more important. Because they can be reread at any time, their impact can continue many years after they were written.

It’s been a while since I sent a note to let someone know I appreciate them. Every day is a good day to send or receive encouragement. In fact, I have a few people in mind to reach out to today. How about you? Can you think of someone to share the precious gift of encouragement with?

Stand Still

natureI almost missed it. In fact, if someone hadn’t pointed to the opposite bank of the creek, I would have remained unaware.

A Great Blue Heron stood perfectly still by the creek bank. Without movement, this large bird easily blended into the natural surroundings. The previous week, I had seen a heron flying low over this same body of water. Perhaps it was the same one. This time I had the opportunity to take a picture.

I thought of the patience needed to remain motionless for an extended period of time. Standing still is not easy. For the heron, this patience would pay off when it saw its next meal swim by.

For me, patience can stop me from rushing ahead and making foolish mistakes. Oh, if only this were as easy as it sounds!

Right now, it seems like I’ve been in a holding pattern for far too long. I wonder how much longer I need to stand still. What repercussions will I face if I rush ahead before the timing is right?

As I pondered these questions, the words of a favourite song flooded my mind. “Stand still and let God move. Standing still is hard to do. When you think you have reached the end, he’ll make a way for you. Stand still, and let God move.” I am once again reminded that my timing is not perfect, whereas God’s timing is.

Maybe I’ll take a lesson from the heron and practice my patience. That way, when the time to move ahead comes, I’ll be ready.