Encouragement, Family

Summer Solstice and Hope

 

Twittering birds began their rabble-rousing earlier than usual this summer solstice morning.

I enjoy listening to their conversations and energy as I wake.

This morning I’m praying for a better day for the thousands of detained immigrant children spending agonizing days and nights without their parents or someone to comfort them in their distress.

I’m praying for the moral treatment and morale of our country to do better.

I’m thankful for the hundreds of organizations, thousands of Americans, and others around the globe signing petitions, and calling on elected officials to do something more humane for refugees/immigrants.

My own personal problems are minuscule by comparison. There is no comparison for babies and children ripped from their parent’s arms.

I’m heartened by those who are showing up at airports, detention centers, and their elected official’s offices to show their support of the refugees and their anger about the existing law.

I’m grateful for the many organizations who are helping refugees and those who are using social media about the places to donate. (One organization is Raices).

As the quote above states:

Let all things live with loving intent.

Today, all things seem possible. I’m praying more people will live with compassion and loving intent.

Make your summer solstice day one of random acts of kindness, a supportive word, a hug, a smile.

 

 

Encouragement, Gratitude

How A Community Can Help in a Crisis

Thomas Fire, Ventura, CA 12-7-2017 photo by VCFD PIO

The fires here in Ventura County and adjoining Santa Barbara still rage. The fire consumed 265,000 acres with 40% containment this morning. However, the fire has redirected to the city of Montecito which is now under evacuation.

Hundreds lost homes, property, and pets. People remark those city icons and landmarks they’ve loved are no longer around. (We just hiked this area a week before the fire. Remarkably, the Serra Cross first erected in late 1700’s survived).

Before and After the Thomas Fire, Ventura, CA

 

People died. A woman and a Fire Fighter lost their lives to this fire. Hundreds more had to flee their homes with no more than the clothes on their backs.

Schools are closed because of the air quality. Most people need to wear a smoke filtering mask to go about their daily business.

All of this devastation disorients many people; more for those directly impacted by the fire and those who have no resources to stay with friends, relatives or in hotels.

I saw this loss in the eyes of those staying in Red Cross shelters and heard the stories of men, women, and children who lost everything and have no place to go.

What lifts the spirits and helps people go on is the work of many organizations, like the Red Cross, restaurants who donate food, community people and small businesses giving clothing and water. Cell phone providers donating charging stations.

Mental health staff, nurses, and children’s services came to help. Church communities reached out to provide resources and care.

Kids from schools made paper holiday wreaths, green and white linking handprints, which they gave to the shelters. Shelter clients looked up from their cots and smiled to see those decorations. Children hugged new donated stuffed animals.

Along the streets and near the base camp of the firefighting operations are “Thank You!” signs that parents and their children made. The Museum of Ventura County organized a free workshop for kids. I’m sure that weary eyes appreciate the gratitude.

Museum of Ventura County Thank You workshop for kids 12-2017

What gives people hope for this trying time is a sense of community, pulling together, everyone and anyone helping to ease discomfort and pain. In stressful times like these, what children learn is how their parents react to a crisis and how a community can help.

There is much more to do in the aftermath of this fire.

The website of the Thomas Fire Fund, set up by a coalition of emergency service groups, is taking monetary donations. You can also text “UWVC” to 41444 or call 805-485-6288. Thank you.

 

Encouragement, Faith, Family, Gratitude, Thanksgiving

How Do We Go Through Disappointments and Still Be Grateful?

Thankful. Photo by Jessica Bristow on Unsplash.com

In preparation for our Thanksgiving gathering, we moved the living room sofa out, rearranged the coffee table and other stuff and fit in three tables so we could be all together in one room.

Halloween used to be one of the top holidays around my house until the kids grew up and moved out. Now, there are more Fall decorations than ever before.

Not my table, but it’s pretty. Unsplash.com photo by rawpixel.com

 

Fall makes me think of harvest which makes me envision gathering and storing up. We can’t help but recognize the shorter days, cooler nights, moving faster toward bare trees, cold and winter.

This transition between seasons from bright to dark makes me think of the past year, globally and locally with terrorism, war, and mass shootings. We’ve had struggles, disappointments, and failures in our life or that of our own families.

How, then, do we get through so much disappointment and express gratitude?

If you want to take a Gratitude Quiz and compare this year’s results with next year’s, go for it. It might be an eyeopener.

But back to the original question: how do we express gratitude?

This isn’t easy, but with practice, it gets easier.

We remember the days of light. The getting up when we’re down. We look back at those times when we tried again or started all over.

We recall that we’ve faced the unknown before, and survived.  We’ve had family and friends die but we talk about the memories and what they added to our life.

We remind ourselves that even in the dark, we can push through and grow.

With daily practice, we can feel gratitude. Hopefully, we can express this to our family, friends, or a stranger that gave us support or showed a kindness when we went through the valleys.

A “Gratitude Journal” can get you into the practice of feeling grateful and eventually expressing gratitude. Here are some tips on how to keep such a journal.

I like what Jim Wallis says in his article “Gratitude as a Spiritual Practice” and share it here:

So in a year especially characterized by things that have made me deeply disappointed, concerned, worried, fearful, and angry, let me name my top 10 sources of gratitude at Thanksgiving 2017. (Not in any particular order.)

  1. Parents who put their children’s lives and well-being as primary in their own schedules.
  2. The indigenous people who led the way at Standing Rock against the Dakota Access Pipeline and who demonstrated to us the vocation of stewardship for the earth.
  3. The women who are standing up to tell their stories of sexual harassment and assault — and the men who have called out their peers.
  4. Black pastors who are willing to speak the truth to power and protect their young people from increasing racism by finding themselves in the streets and not just in their pulpits.
  5. White pastors who love their people enough to preach the gospel to them, even if their white parishioners are motivated more by the agenda of Fox News than the gospel.
  6. Black and brown Christians who have called out their white brothers and sisters who say they didn’t vote for Trump because of his racial bigotry, but for other reasons, by saying I guess that wasn’t a deal breaker for you.
  7. Global church leaders who are willing to exemplify the body of Christ as the most racially diverse community in the world in sharp contrast to the American bubble where racial geography trumps theology, and for American church leaders who are willing to denounce “America First” as a heresy.
  8. Principled Republican conservatives who have been willing to stand up morally and politically to Donald Trump — like Mike Gerson, Peter Wehner, David Brooks, and Russell Moore.
  9. Conversations with people who tell the truth like Bryan Stevenson, Michelle Alexander, William Barber, Brittany Packnett, Margaret Atwood, Valarie Kaur, Eboo Patel, Joe Kennedy III, and Mark Shriver.
  10. Thanks be to the God who loves and sustains us while we try to figure out our strategy every day!

Full article here.

So this Thanksgiving, as I gather with my extended family, the meat eaters and the three vegans, we come together to share the harvest, reconnect and celebrate another year of living.

I wish you and yours a Thanksgiving meal full of reconnections, laughter, and love. I’m grateful to you for reading!

thank you card
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

 

Encouragement, Writing

When You Need a Kick in the Writing Butt

Kick in the Butt by Tiana 101 Meme Center

Half of August is gone and September is rolling into view.

A lot of stressful events occurred in the last few weeks (life between the sheets of paper) but they aren’t my stories to tell right now. They belong to my family but I can share some of my own more positive days.

I’m deep in the middle of a UCLA online writing class and to be blunt, it’s kicking my butt.

Sometimes we need a boot in the behind. And not to sound like a masochist, but it’s a good thing. The class contains a lot of great short stories to read, discussion with other students, and here’s where the shoe hits the soft spot, I must create and write a story every week.

Like everyone else, there’s a ton of stuff to do as a parent, sibling, daughter, and friend that could be done instead of reading and writing for a summer class.

But, I’m viewing this as a test of patience and persistence on my writing journey. Which reminds me of this quote:

keep calm poster
I read this whenever I want to give up and know I shouldn’t

 

At first, the assignment was 100 words, then 150 words, rising to 400 words (easy-peasy) but then we began to climb the word count mountain. Now it’s 500 words, and the final is a complete short story of 750-1250 words due in three weeks when I’m leaving to the UK. (I know, boo-hoo) 🙃

Although I may sound whiny I am enjoying the process. Sometimes it’s good to get back into ‘school.’

So, I thought I’d share a couple of items that may benefit my blog readers who are writers. Maybe you need a little inspiration to stay on the writing wagon.

Reprise

“Don’t let yourself set page goals, or think in terms of what gets done in a given session of work. Spend the time–the session is what counts, the time. The goal should be two hours, or three, or four, however many. Did you spend the time? If the answer is yes, no other questions. Cultivate patience of the tidal kind. This day’s work. It doesn’t have to be especially productive–no matter how well or ‘not well’ it seems to go in a day, it is always going well if you’re working, if you’re making the time. The good things will come if you’re making the time.” Richard Bausch

And now for an excellent video:

 

I hope you enjoyed the quote and video. Whatever your chosen passion may be, a good kick in the derrière may drive you over the hump and into the desired place you want to arrive.