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.

A Frosty Lesson

Nature, hoarfrostClimatic conditions needed to be perfect produce the spectacular view I was looking at. Tree branches coated with hoarfrost are a sight that thrills me.

The majority of my life was lived on Canada’s west coast and I’d never experienced this particular beauty until we moved to Alberta fifteen years ago.

I’d seen my share of frost, but nothing as photogenic as the feathery type that forms on blades of grass, tree branches and leaves. Hoarfrost is so much more than a simple coating of ice crystals.

Several times during the day, I sat and gazed at the beauty. Instead of venturing into the frigid air for a closer look, I enjoyed the view from my warm living room. By mid-afternoon the temperature hadn’t risen but a wind had come up, loosening the frost. Bit by bit, the ice and its weight was removed and blown away.

This scene reminded me of problems and cares in life. Like many others, I put on a brave face and tell you everything is fine. Even if I don’t feel that way, it’s important to ensure everything looks good on the surface. I sometimes forget that ice, no matter how pretty, still feels cold.

When I acknowledge my need to be authentic and relational the frosty mask starts to fall away. By sharing my concerns with others, I am able to surrender the many items I have no control over. The icy bits that were weiging me down get blown away by the warm breeze of companionship. Together we find peace.

The Upside-Down Church

My husband and I attended a church service in another city and encountered something we’d never experienced before.

#inspiration, #God, #churchWe were confused by signs proclaiming this was an upside-down church and wondered what that meant.

Someone quickly came over to introduce himself and explain the concept of an upside-down church.

He said they run on a four-week rotation that includes not only Sunday but how the congregation views the rest of the week as well.

Week one was UP, in which their focus was on new and growing relationships with God. Week two was SIDE, in which they came alongside each other in accountable and supportive community. Week three is DOWN, when they reach down in humble acts of service to bring justice, hope, joy and peace to their community. Week four is PARTY. This is when the church as a body celebrates what God has done during the previous weeks.

I thought of the difference I could make in the world if I was turned upside down.

Personally, I would spend more time getting to know God. When I focus UP, God is a priority and not simply an afterthought.

SIDE can be a challenge for me. I often come and go, make small talk and then have no further contact with these people until the next Sunday. It is up to me to make the effort to get to know people in order to build a supportive community.

DOWN is when I take time from my busy life to reach out in acts of service to those around me. It is incredibly rewarding to experience what happens when the love of Jesus is shown in practical ways.

Next, we come to PARTY, which to me means to celebrate. God does great things in and through us. These deserve to be celebrated.

It’s very possible the visit to this church will turn my world upside down.

The Picture I Show You

idyllic, #inspirationPicture this: I’m sitting on my deck in Mexico, overlooking the sea. My view is of water that changes from green to blue and stretches as far as the horizon, where it meets with a cloudless azure sky.

Three pelicans float on the water. Suddenly they dive under. As their heads emerge I can see the silver glitter of fish in their large beaks. I’m close enough to see them swallow their catch.

A bit farther out, gulls flock around a small boat, hoping to enjoy some of the fisherman’s catch. The only sounds are the lapping of the tide along the shore and an occasional bird call.

This sounds idyllic and it is, but from this vantage point, you haven’t received the full picture.

A few days before strong winds blew in masses of seaweed. It came in with the tide and temporarily has been deposited on our beach. In order to get to the water, I have to walk through piles of seaweed. Some is dry but closer to the water’s edge it is soft and spongy underfoot.#inspiration, vulnerability, picture of life

This picture is an analogy of life. I have the option as to the picture I show you. Will it only be the pretty picture; the idyllic one that leaves you wishing you could experience the same as I am?

How well do you relate to someone who always seems to be under clear, sunny skies? I find it much easier to connect with people I have something in common with. Shared struggles promote closer relationships.

At some point in our lives, all of us have had to walk through weeds to reach our desired destination. The question is, do we turn back or make our way through the unpleasant areas?

I have found it much easier to navigate the rough spots when I’m not alone. The support of others helps me find the strength I need to keep going. When I stumble, it’s nice to know someone will be there to help me get back on my feet. In turn, I can do the same for my companions. This won’t happen if you think my life is perfect.

So, the question is, what picture am I showing to those I want to connect with?

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
― Brené Brown