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Who’s In Charge

MP900438650Survival requires management – the ability to manage our time, our attitudes, our relationships and our finances. Management means you are in charge. It means you have organized and supervise what you do. You are the CEO of your life.

Do you know how you spend your time? What routines and schedules are habits that keep you moving in the right direction? Which are time wasters?

There is an immediate payoff from unproductive behaviors. That instant gratification, however, has a long term cost; giving in to our moods in the moment can eventually create a downward spiral of dissatisfaction, discontent and eventually depression.

Do you know how much money you spend in a month?  Do you have an emergency fund in savings?  Have you set up a budget that you follow?

Finances are managed by setting up a budget and monitoring how we spend our money. It isn’t just about saving but prudent shopping.

Marketing ads are designed to convince us we need to purchase their product in order to be happy. That is their job.  Our job is to ask ourselves whether we really need that product.  Will it really make you happy? Do you really need it?

There is a difference between needs and wants. Happiness doesn’t come from having lots of money or having lots of toys.

If success is defined by how much money you make, while you may succeed, the cost could be the loss of loving relationships with spouse and family and a life of meaning and purpose.

Woman and young girl embracing outdoors smilingIts not just finances that need managing, but our attitudes.

Defeatist attitudes blame somebody or something else for what is wrong in your life.

It allows you to hang onto and nurse grievances when we perceive we have been wronged.  But it can also come in the form of an internal critic that whispers in your ear that no matter what you do, it won’t ever be good enough.

If we listen to either of those messages for any length of time, it will keep us from living a happy, satisfying life. Such attitudes take you out of the driver’s seat of control.

We have only so much energy. We can direct that energy to create a more meaningful and purposeful future or remain a victim to circumstances.

 

Life can be tough. Life can be a struggle. We can probably think of a million reasons why we can’t succeed.  But, there probably are a million + reasons why you can.

 

We can focus on what we can’t do or we can focus on all the things we can. It’s our choice.

 

Tune in next week, as we continue our discussion on habits, which are productive or wasteful and how we can replace ineffective habits.

Marlene Anderson

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To Receive a Free Consultation for putting together a Personal Plan of Action for yourself,  fill out the contact form beside this blog or send me an e-mail.  I am also available for speaking engagements, retreats or teaching workshops for your church, clubs or women’s groups on a variety of topics that affect our lives.

 

Acceptance in Tough Times

img_2847What are you being asked to accept today?

What major change are you facing?

As I enter the senior years, losses seem to be a routine part of life. I hear the poignant and tragic stories of people who are struggling to make ends meet, or struggle with the loss of their health or the untimely death of a spouse.

My first response when I suffer a setback is to think, Oh no, not again, Lord, I have had enough.

But then I read of what others are going through and realize my problems are trivial in comparison.

As I complete a new chapter in my new book, The Next Step, which speaks to acceptance and letting go, I am reminded again of how important it is to develop this skill.

What acceptance is not 

To accept our situation does not mean we are powerless, unless we choose to remain powerless. It doesn’t mean we give up; instead it means we stop resisting and struggling.  It doesn’t mean we are a victim or somehow to blame or others are to blame for all the bad luck we are having.

Working through the hurt and uncertainty of adversity is never easy. We may want to withdraw and isolate ourselves, not wanting others to see our vulnerability or our doubts. Sometimes we build thick walls around our spirits to protect us from further hurt and disappointments.

But it is precisely in those difficult times where we grow our spiritual muscles, come to terms with our inabilities and begin a trusting relationship with God.

 

j0433127We find in acceptance and letting go, a relief and sense of peace because we have stopped struggling with the reality we find ourselves.

Letting go may not give us all the answers we desire, but our spirits are calmed and we are able to look for new solutions, pick up the pieces and rebuild.

Acceptance is not giving up. It is not resignation. It is opening your hand and allowing new information to meld with the old in order to examine new options and new opportunities.

 

Here are some ways we can understand acceptance

 

  • Acceptance means I do not have to stay in this uncomfortable spot – I can learn and move on
  • Acceptance says life isn’t fair – I didn’t ask for this, but I can work with it
  • Acceptance means a new beginning, starting right here, in this moment , right nowj0438577
  • Acceptance tells me I don’t have all the answers and don’t need to pretend I do
  • Acceptance means I can ask for help when I need it
  • Acceptance tells me I am okay no matter what has happened
  • Acceptance means I don’t have to blame someone or something for what has happened; Allowing ourselves to remain a victim is self-defeating and a dead end
  • Acceptance acknowledges my need for forgiveness, grace, humility and honesty. I allow God and others into my life and walk with their support
  • Acceptance allows me to discover myself with dignity and honesty. I am free to be me, with all my shortcomings as well as all my unique qualities, special gifts and talents

Marlene Anderson

If you enjoyed this blog post, share with your friends.

Sign up today to receive the entire series:  http://eepurl.com/baaiQ1

To Receive a Free Consultation for putting together a Personal Plan of Action for yourself,  fill out the contact form beside this blog or send me an e-mail.  I am also available for speaking engagements, retreats or teaching workshops for your church, clubs or women’s groups on a variety of topics that affect our lives.

 

 

Love or Hate

Frustrated Businesswoman on the PhoneLove or Hate – Which of these two emotions would you say resonates more in your life?

In his book, You Will Not Have my Hate, Antioine Leiris writes about the shooting rampage on November 13, 2015 when terrorists took the lives of people attending a rock concert at the Batacian Theater in Paris.  His wife was one of the victims.

Shortly afterwards, he posted on Facebook an open letter addressed to his wife’s killer that stated in part,

 “. . .you stole the life of an exceptional person, the love of my life, the mother of my son, but you will not have my hate.”

Later he wrote a memoir book on the shock, grief and challenges he faced to move forward with his life (click on the book title link above for more information). He was instantly widowed with a seventeen month old son.  How would he teach his son not to hate?  How would he rebuild a life that had been so happy with his wife.

It seems we often put our focus on either love or hate or anger – with few exceptions. Can we forgive and refuse to hate?

In a 2015 post I did a book review on “Forgive for Good” by Dr. Fred Luskin, covering the points Dr. Luskin presented in letting go of hate, bitterness and resentment.  (Click on the link to read that blog).  In the “Yes I Can, Three Steps to Enrich your Life” life coaching program I am completing, there is an exercise on Forgiveness.  Here are some excerpts from that exercise:

fourteen year old teenage with aggressive bully expressionTragedies or senseless acts of violence can create deep-seated resentment and bitterness that keeps us in a powerful grip.  It is not easy to let go of wrongs.

However, if we remain resentful, blaming and angry, hanging onto our grudges and grievances, it will have a huge psychological and emotional effect on our well-being.

Learning to forgive allows us to free ourselves of that anger and replace it with renewed optimism, trust and enthusiasm for the future.

We remain prisoners to resentments that we choose to hold on to, becoming a victim to our own story.

While it gives us short term satisfaction to continue to repeat how we were maligned or wronged, it is a toxic and corrosive mindset that will eventually devour us.

MP900285119Forgiveness is not condoning unkindness, inconsiderate or selfish behavior of anyone who might have hurt us.  It is not the same as forgetting that something painful happened.  We do not want to forget so we don’t allow it to happen again.

Instead, we put in place appropriate boundaries that guides both our behaviors and what we allow from others.  It is not imposing our rules on someone else.  It is simply saying, I choose what is right for me and hold myself responsible for my responses and actions.

Man and woman shaking hands isolated on a white background.Forgiveness opens the door for possible reconciliation with others.  But forgiveness and reconciliation is not the same thing.  Forgiveness means you make peace with a bitter part of your past, refusing to push the “Blame” button, and choosing instead how you want to live.

As Dr. Luskin says in his book, Forgive for Good, “we create grievance stories because of unrealistic and unenforceable rules we put in place.”  We have expectations that life will follow some sort of predictable path.

It is not a normal expectation to have terrorists kill people we love while they are attending a concert or going to church or an outdoor market.

How easy it is to hate.  It is our first reaction to senseless actions.  But we choose what we want to do with that hate, anger, injustice, etc.  We can choose not to hate, but instead to forgive.  As Jesus told us so long ago, “. . .pray for those who persecute you.” In so doing, we can let go and focus on loving those in our circle of family and friends.

Marlene Anderson

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To Receive a Free Consultation for putting together a Personal Plan of Action for yourself,  fill out the contact form beside this blog or send me an e-mail.  I am also available for speaking engagements, retreats or teaching workshops for your church, clubs or women’s groups on a variety of topics that affect our lives.

 

Losses

Aria as baby - 9-03-07As I write the chapters for my book, “The Next Step,” I am reminded of the many losses people face within their lifetime. Some are a normal part of life. But many are unexpected, traumatic and devastating.

The last thing you wanted was to lose your baby, or your marriage or your health that impairs your ability to earn a living. When hit with such major losses or tragedies, we can’t imagine that life can ever be considered normal again.

Think of soldiers who come home with the loss of arms or legs or PTSD nightmares. Or a parent who is told their child has a terminal illness after waiting for years to have that child. Or a teacher who discovers she has a slow degenerative disease that will take every ounce of effort to continue working to support herself.

As great as the death of a loved one, chronic illness can seem like a slow death sentence.  Living with severe health restrictions is a struggle few of us experience. Losing a beloved child, born or yet to be born, can be devastating. Losing your ability to make a living, tragic.  Losing the ability to see there are options even more tragic.

 

SCOC0070There are many losses that crash into our lives like the waves of a powerful storm.

The loss of your home, your job, your financial security – all can seem like the end of the world. Where do we go from here?

Part of grieving is coming to terms with what has happened. If an accident or senseless act of violence has taken a loved one, you will struggle with the enormity of those events.

And yet, it is precisely here and in the worst circumstances where we are asked to accept and let go – let go of what was important and valuable to us.

How can you accept such awful and life shattering circumstances?

Acceptance

 

RainbowIn order to accept and let go, we need to understand what acceptance means. Coming to terms with our tragedy is not resignation. Letting go does not mean it wasn’t important. We may not get the justice we feel we deserve, but in letting go, we can take the next step needed to create a new positive reality.

Acceptance and letting go does not mean you let go of what your loss meant to you; it means you will work with it and go beyond it. You do not need to remain stuck in that place of mourning forever.  The loss and its meaning can be integrated safely into our memories if we allow it.

Unwanted change, tragedies or losses of any kind can seem overwhelming. Working through the endless tangles of emotions and thoughts, we often feel as though we will never see the sun of joy again, never experience happiness, laughter, contentment or satisfaction. But we do.

Over the following weeks, the focus of my blogs will be on how we can accept, let go and reframe our situations so we can take that next step in life, finding the options that will help us create a new reality that brings with it the possibility for peace, hope, contentment and joy.

Marlene Anderson

 

If you enjoyed this blog post, share with your friends.

Sign up today to receive the entire series:  http://eepurl.com/baaiQ1

To Receive a Free Consultation for putting together a Personal Plan of Action for yourself,  fill out the contact form beside this blog or send me an e-mail.  I am also available for speaking engagements, retreats or teaching workshops for your church, clubs or women’s groups on a variety of topics that affect our lives.

Gratitude

DSC00751Did you know that just by searching for positive things to be grateful for, you are activating your brain to produce more “feel good” hormones? Just by the process itself you are changing how your brain is operating.

Wow! That’s pretty significant. But why then don’t we focus more on all the blessings and things we can be thankful for rather than the things we don’t like and that make us unhappy?

Because we also get a payoff from continuing to focus on all the bad things.  We are rewarded at least in the short term. Even worrying makes your brain feel better – at least for the moment.  But not in the long term.

And that is what is important – the long term consequence of what you are doing.  Because that will have a more lasting effect on everything you do.  It produces a feedback loop that continues to expand into more positive things.

Alex Korb, a UCLA neuroscience researcher gives us insights into the importance of gratefulness, happiness, and reduced depression in our life and has written a book about it entitled The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time.

j0438577We see around us so much anger and hatred; hanging onto  grievances and seeking retribution. We fail to see the long term negative effect it can have on us.

As a therapist and former teacher and facilitator, I encourage people to challenge negative thinking and replace with more positive thinking.  As we change how we interpret and respond to life’s challenges, we will begin to see things to be grateful for. Even if they seem small and inconsequential, they are still important.

It isn’t events or people who make us angry, depressed, etc. It is how we choose to respond to whatever is happening around us.

We can reframe our circumstances so we not only see the bad stuff but the good stuff too, which all too often gets pushed in the background. The wonderful thing is that nobody can force us to remain angry, upset or hopeless if we choose not to.

Start a gratitude journal

Get a journal and call it your gratitude journal.  Every day write down something you are thankful for.  Search for those jewels of gratitude.  Include those bits of humor or funny quips – those things that make you smile. Read them as often as you can.

Purposefully search out those blessings and they will expand your frame of reference – your view of the world. You no longer see the telescopic dot of misery, but other aspects of life that is good. When you do, you will find your mood, attitude, thinking, point of view, and your life take on a new color, a new sense of thankfulness and contentment.

We are making choices all the time. We choose what we want to focus our attention on. We can focus on constructive planning and decision making or we can focus on thinking about how nothing will turn out. We can choose to worry or we can choose to put our energy into problem solving. We can spend our time thinking about how little we have or we can be truly grateful for all we do have. We can choose to be happy.

Marlene Anderson

If you enjoyed this blog post, share with your friends.

Sign up today to receive the entire series:  http://eepurl.com/baaiQ1

To Receive a Free Consultation for putting together a Personal Plan of Action for yourself,  fill out the contact form beside this blog or send me an e-mail.  I am also available for speaking engagements, retreats or teaching workshops for your church, clubs or women’s groups on a variety of topics that affect our lives.

Laugh – Its good for your health

Eliz and Don“Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand.”

Mark Twain

 

“When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and

hang on.  And swing!!!”  Leo Buscaglia

 

“The crisis of today is the joke of tomorrow”   H. G. Wells

 

Laughter is a tonic that makes today better and raises hopes for tomorrow. Humor is not just fun. It is extremely powerful “medicine” that heals the soul and mends the body.

 

Each person has within them the ability to create humor and laugh.

 

Medical research suggests that it gives a workout to many bodily organs and triggers the secretion of hormones connected with the immune system. Humor is a revival, a mini vacation, a breath of fresh air, a way to cope. Laughter counters isolation and puts people in empathetic touch with others.

 

Humor can:

  • Instantly transport you to another world
  • Remove you from the troubles of the moment
  • Allow the pain to subside for a moment
  • Make life more bearable
  • Allow you to laugh at yourself and your situation
  • Give you power over what seems impossible and powerless

 

Don in disguise 001

What makes you laugh?

Our youngest son had to wear a brace to hold his head up.  While it took a bit longer with more hard falls to learn to walk, once he did he never stopped.  Full of mischief and a sense of humor that never quit, he would do something totally unexpected and have us all laughing.

Our days are full of moments when if we are aware give us not only pause to smile but out and out laugh.  The ordinary can become moments of comedy or an opportunity to turn it into something to laugh at.

 

When do you laugh the most?

 

The following are some ways to bring humor into your life. Try some. Don’t be concerned about whether it seems strange or phony.  It may seem corny, but if it makes you smile or laugh, hey isn’t that what we need today?

 

  1. Take an intolerable situation – one that is packed with emotions and stress. Flip it over and “tickle its tummy.” Humor can take the edge off any crisis.

 

            “I’m giving so much money to the doctors, they’ll want to

erect a statue in my honor.”

            “I’m hanging on so tight, I’m getting rope burn!”

 

  1. Exaggerate. Take a bad day. Blow it out of proportion. Make a mountain out of a mole hill. Imagine you are giving a performance at the local theatre. Or become one of your favorite comedians and during the day deliver their usual script using your situation.

 

            “I had such a bad day. . . You wouldn’t believe

how bad it was.   It was so bad. . . “

            “I wouldn’t say the rooms in my last hotel were small,

but the mice were hunchbacked!” Fred Allen

 

  1. Create a good news/bad news scenario by turning upsetting events into humorous ones. Start with the bad news – then end it with a humorous punch.

 

            “The bad news is I had all my teeth pulled.

“The good news is I don’t have to floss anymore!!”

 

  1. “Accent-tchu-ate the positive, eliminate the negative. . .” and “latch onto the affirmative” was a popular 1940’s song. Choose to look at the world on the positive vs negative side. Example: a 50% chance of sunshine instead of a 50% chance of rain. A glass half full vs half empty.

 

            “How did the play go tonight?” “Oh, the play was

a great success,  but the audience was a failure!”

Oscar Wilde, Playwright

 

  1. When you’re hurting, the world looks grey and dismal. Start a “Happy Journal.” Paste a large smiling face on the cover.

Record one happy, pleasant or joyful event each day. This may include smiles, warm comments, a beautiful sunset, a favorite saying or anything that made you laugh. Paste in cards and letters. Write a love letter to yourself.

 

  1. Start a list of fun things to do. Things you have always wanted to do. Choose one to do each day.

 

  1. Smile at yourself every time you pass a mirror! At the same time, give yourself a big hug. (Simply wrap your arms around yourself and squeeze!)

 

Then, the next person you meet, ask for and give them a big hug.

Hug somebody new each day!

 

  1. Cut out jokes and cartoons and place around the house.

9.   Create and put some humor affirmations. When you start to feel depressed, repeat:

“I love to laugh”

“Each day provides funny moments. I just have to look for them.”

“I am so grateful I just want to laugh!”

 

  1. Write your troubles on a piece of paper. Burn it in a large ashtray and watch “your troubles go up in smoke.” Or tie the pieces of paper to a helium balloon. Take outside and release. Watch your troubles float away.

 

10.  Perhaps the greatest gift of all is our ability to laugh at ourselves! If we laugh at ourselves

nobody can laugh “at us” – they can only laugh “with us”.

 

            “When we admit our schnozzles, instead of defending them,

we begin to laugh and the world laughs with us.”   Jimmy Durante

 

So try it out.  Smile, laugh, share a moment of happiness with someone else, hug a friend who needs it and then help them smile with a word of hope and grace and humor.

 

Marlene Anderson

If you enjoyed this blog post, share with your friends.

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To Receive a Free Consultation for putting together a Personal Plan of Action for yourself,  fill out the contact form beside this blog or send me an e-mail.  I am also available for speaking engagements, retreats or teaching workshops for your church, clubs or women’s groups on a variety of topics that affect our lives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Packing

IMG_2971Last year I went on a long anticipated river cruise. It was something I had wanted to do for years and was excited when I had the opportunity to go.

Because good friends had done most of the research for our trip and had established our traveling plans, what was left for me was to determine what I would take with me for the fifteen days we would be traveling on a beautiful river boat up the Danube, Main and Rheine rivers.

It took careful thought to determine what I would need on the trip.  The clothes I chose would need to meet many different weather situations: rain, sunshine and chilly winds as well as dress up and casual. At home I had a whole closet to choose from as needed. Now however, what ever clothes I took had to fit into two suitcases that I could carry.

What should I take? What do I need to purchase? What would I like to take but really could do without? Eventually, I came up with just the right amount, the right balance and was ready to take off.

 

The Trip of Life

As I work on my next book, The Next Step, Beyond Survival, I am reminded again of all the “stuff” we take with us through the trip of life:

resentment, grievances, labels, fault finding, unfair comparisons, hate, anger, fear, anxiety and tons of other garbage that continue to weigh us down.

Perhaps as we travel on this trip through 2017, we can repack our bags, take out the things that only weigh us down and put the following in place instead:

acceptance, confidence, problem solver, compassion, hope, humility, love, forgiveness and grace. The load will be lighter and much more serviceable.

Whatever we decide to take with us on our next steps into the future, I hope they will be exciting and motivating and energizing, helping us to solve problems, enhance our relationships and make life a true bold adventure.

Marlene Anderson

 

If you enjoyed this blog post, share with your friends.

Sign up today to receive the entire series:  http://eepurl.com/baaiQ1

To Receive a Free Consultation for putting together a Personal Plan of Action for yourself,  fill out the contact form beside this blog or send me an e-mail.  I am also available for speaking engagements, retreats or teaching workshops for your church, clubs or women’s groups on a variety of topics that affect our lives.

My Next Step

Woman Doing Sit-ups --- Image by © Royalty-Free/CorbisTradition compels us to start the New Year with new resolutions. We have good intentions, but too often they don’t go anywhere.

 

I resolve to . . . .  Go on a diet,

start an exercise program,

lose 25 lbs. and on and on it goes.

 

But if you are anything like me, I look back at the many resolutions I have made and most did not come to fruition. Perhaps some effort was put into them, but then they were abandoned.

 

But why? I think we have a spurt of motivation which evaporated once our regular routines begin again after the holidays. So do we abandon the idea?

 

Woman filling in a formGoal setting works – most of the time – and when it doesn’t, it’s usually because the goal wasn’t specific enough or realistic enough. If you want to lose 25 lbs in a month without the appropriate dedication and commitment, you will fail. And that brings me to the last point.

 

It takes more than just immediate motivation – it takes a long term commitment. That commitment must take you beyond two weeks, two months, or a year. It is a commitment to yourself to make your life better because you are the only one who can do that.

 

It’s not just losing 10 lbs. It’s not just joining a gym. It’s not just dieting. It’s making life style changes that go beyond the little goals. The long term goal here is becoming responsible for your health and putting in place those tiny steps to work towards that goal. It’s an ongoing process.

 

Businesswoman Writing on White Board and Businessman at TableI don’t make New Year’s resolutions anymore, but I do reaffirm my life long goals and the goals I put in place during the year; goals which I have considered carefully.

 

I am committed to living my values and principles, take charge of my overall health, my behaviors and my attitudes.

I remind myself that I am responsible for what I do with my life.  I can waste time or I can manage it more successfully.  I can sit back in comfort or take a step out and beyond my comfort zone. I am responsible for not taking on more than I can handle.

 

As I reflect on 2016, I stop and think about the gains I have made. I have made and completed goals. For those that weren’t completed, I ask was it important enough to me? What can I learn from this and what can I give myself credit for. Were my goals realistic?  Did I understand what it would take to reach my goal? We can learn from looking back and evaluating our efforts.  Give yourself credit for trying and the work you did; then ask what you want to do next time.  Perhaps it is fewer goals and more realistic ones.

So among your new resolutions, go back and reflect on your accomplishments.  List even the tiny ones, because it is the tiny steps towards a goal that eventually help us complete our bigger goals.

Happy New Year

Marlene Anderson

If you enjoyed this blog post, share with your friends.

Sign up today to receive the entire series:  http://eepurl.com/baaiQ1

To Receive a Free Consultation for putting together a Personal Plan of Action for yourself,  fill out the contact form beside this blog or send me an e-mail.  I am also available for speaking engagements, retreats or teaching workshops for your church, clubs or women’s groups on a variety of topics that affect our lives.

New Steps – New Year

Family Celebrating KwanzaaOver the last few months we explored six little words that can help transform our lives.

Imagine    Create    Believe

Achieve    Inspire  Transform

These are words I want to remember as I step into the new year. I want them to form stepping stones to a better life, a renewed life, a transformed life.

 

It takes imagination to create a church, a cathedral or skyscraper. It takes time to build a structure that will rise thousands of feet in the air. We need to believe in ourselves and our abilities to achieve the impossible. It takes determination and a willingness to allow our inspirations to find a way to transform our dreams and goals into actualities and a willingness to be vulnerable.

MP900439522

Within each of us are great possibilities for doing great things.  But it starts with the little things.  It is more than belief in one’s ability; it’s a belief in others – in their potential.  The possibilities then become how can we work together, how can we see the good in each other instead of all the things that divide us.

For after all, what each of us wants is to be loved and accepted; respected and given the opportunity to become all that God created us to be.  We can make that the focus of this next year or we can continue to strive for things that will divide us.

MP900444270As we reflect on all the things we have; if we allow our imagination and creativity to flow and believe we can do the things necessary to bring us together, we will be transformed from the ordinary to the extraordinary.  Our next steps will be discovering our potential and living our values, and reaching out to help others realize there’s.

Any new step can be both scary and exciting.  But It is where we reach out and take our Lord’s hand, asking Him for guidance and understanding and wisdom to become His people.

Marlene Anderson

If you enjoyed this blog post, share with your friends.

Sign up today to receive the entire series:  http://eepurl.com/baaiQ1

To Receive a Free Consultation for putting together a Personal Plan of Action for yourself,  fill out the contact form beside this blog or send me an e-mail.  I am also available for speaking engagements, retreats or teaching workshops for your church, clubs or women’s groups on a variety of topics that affect our lives.

 

Transformation through Action

Christmas tree with presents and fireplace with stockings --- Image by © Royalty-Free/CorbisChristmas – we look at the twinkling lights and bright decorations and for a few seconds the Christmas spirit permeates our hectic schedules and “to do” lists.

We extend greetings and mail Christmas cards and packages and feel that “spirit” for a few more minutes. For some people, time is taken to attend candlelight services at a neighborhood church as a token to an old ritual or tradition.

But is that all there is?

Have we reduced Christmas to a few watered down traditions that we observe once a year before we go back to life as usual? Do we forget that we have this holiday because we wanted to honor and celebrate the birth of a tiny child who happened to be the Son of God? It is with this monumental event where transformation of the heart and soul begin.

j0444212A friend of mine buys a wreath every year to put on her parent’s grave.

This year, time was running out for her annual tradition and she stopped at a store she usually doesn’t frequent and was visibly disappointed to discover all the wreaths had been sold.

When she made an inquiry as to whether there were others in the back room not yet put out for sale, she was told no, they were all gone.

Her disappointment led to a conversation about why this was so important to her. The clerk suggested perhaps she could buy a swag, which was above her budget. The store manager, overhearing the exchange, came up and said they would like to give the swag to her free.

She was overwhelmed with such generosity and told them she would accept their kind offer. A week later, as she told me about the exchange, she reported how long lasting the deep warm feelings of good will she had experienced with this gesture of kindness and understanding still remained.

Girls Holding Plate of Mince PiesOne little act of understanding, of caring and giving created long term feelings of peace and good will.

If such a simple act could resonate so strongly and last for a long time, how much would a string of little acts transform the lives of those around us?

With this story, I am reminded again of the times I have not followed this principle of being sensitive to the needs of people around me. With a warm smile or a few compassionate words of understanding, we can let someone know they are not alone, that we have been in similar situations and that there is hope. We can extend that tiny kernel of belief that will carry them beyond the moment.

Christmas Tree in the SnowAs I look back over this past year, I am reminded of those times when I was too busy to see the need of another and to respond in some way. As I kneel humbly before the Christ child’s manager, I ask for more awareness and sensitivity to those around me – times when I can listen, or give a hug. It doesn’t take a lot of time. I ask that the transformation that He started in me so long ago, continues – that through my actions that transformation will grow – a transformation that goes beyond rituals and holiday celebrations but is seen everyday by simple acts.

Marlene Anderson

 

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