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

 

living life fully before death
Encouragement, Faith, Inspiration, life lessons

How To Live Before You Die

living life fully before death
Live Like You’re Dying

 

The last week was a blur. I attended the Association of Writing Professionals (AWP) 43rd conference at the Los Angeles Convention Center with three of my writing group sisters.

The week of ‘conferencing’ was a good one, inspiring and fun, but when I say conference I mean a 12,000 peopled flow of writers, editors, booksellers, professors, and others. 

The hours were filled with writing techniques, editors/agent panels, poets reading heart-wrenching poetry, and writers speaking eloquent words. You know how even great stuff is exhausting and truth be told this great stuff was also intimidating.

Did I measure up, should I be writing fiction, should I revise, should I be spending countless hours writing? What was I doing?

I ‘shoulded’ all over myself.

When I got home from sleeping in a different bed, meeting people, and eating out I just wanted to decompensate and breathe.

The next day, my mind and body wanted to sleep in and tune out. The suitcase, books, and an art piece I bought lay strewn at the foot of my bed.

Could I skip a Sunday service? I had so much to do before my next day departure to Denver to see my young adult kids. But I hadn’t missed a Sunday service in years unless I was really sick.

The mess would have to wait. I dressed and left for service and was grateful I attended. The message was:

Life is a gift and what you do with it matters…

Our pastor told us the average lifespan was 79 years of age or 28,835 minutes. If those minutes were on a clock, a fifty-year-old would have 18 minutes of their life left. That put life in perspective.

Was I living a life that was significant and meaningful? Is there compassion in what I do and say. Do I give gratitude, show kindness? Do I live my life in a way where others will know I’m a Christian? Do I trust and have faith when the going gets tough?

I thought of all these questions after the service and how the sermon put everything in perspective. I was striving to live the answers to these questions. Trying is good. Trying is movement. There were no more “Should’s.” I felt balanced once again.

Achieving writing success is important to me but it isn’t the end all to my life. I reminded myself that I write because I can’t think of not writing, that would kill me inside.

I remembered that I began writing to tell the stories of girls and women who faced challenges, made bad choices, but struggled to do better. The girls who felt like no one cared who they were and only focused on what they did. The unseen women who wore mask upon mask. Girls who grew up through the garbage strewn upon them.Women and girls who needed family, in whatever shape it presented itself.

So how to live before you die?

When I thought of why I write, I remembered we all have the ability to improve the quality of our life.

We can all make choices to improve our spirituality, our health, and our emotional life.

We can love ourself and others.

We can be of service to someone or something.

Living is finding something to have a passion for whether it’s family, service, or a combination of a thousand other things.

Living is making your minutes count and they count when you stop to look at a sunset, a sunrise, notice a smile, hug someone, and other countless ways.

I’ll end with a quote about life from Maya Angelou.

Life Purpose
Life Purpose

 

 

 

Creativity, difficult times, Encouragement, Faith, Frank de Acosta, Inspiration, poetry

How Love Trumps Hate – A Poem and Photograph

glass flask, alchemy, chemistry
Glass flask, photo by Marissa Anderson, flickr.com

 

Alchemy is an ancient practice shrouded in mystery. Its practitioners sought to turn lead into gold through a purification process involving heat.

The word “transformation” is a synonym for alchemy. So is “magic” and “power,” both which can describe love.

Love, an emotion, is also a quality we all need more of during these difficult times in our society.

This poem demonstrates the power of love, which trumps hate.

 

Alchemy of Love (Love trumps Hate)

Never lose grace in faith
Believing there is beauty
To be found in everyone
All of us at one time
Have walked in brokenness
Through the dark corridors
Of our hearts and minds
An empathetic kindness
Compassion without condition
Received from another
Can be the spark that turns
A lost, dark, wounded soul
Towards the healing of light
Mending frayed, fragile lives
Prayers reaching to embrace
The stranger as relation
Engenders the true power of love
I say this with humble gratitude
Knowing I have received love
Undeserved; given love, unrequited
We are called to walk a sacred manner
Believing there is alchemy in love

Reflection by: Frank de Jesus Acosta

This photo made the rounds on Facebook. Eric Gaines, a police officer at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, was standing at a bus stop on March 1 when a teenage boy stopped to pray over a homeless man. The officer snapped this photo.

Eighteen-year-old Stephen Watkins said he was on a bus home from school when a song he was listening to inspired him to get off at an earlier stop in order to bless a complete stranger.

“I prayed for him. I said, ‘God right now you’re using me to bless this man,’” Watkins told WJZ-TV. “Thank you for showing me this song.”

teenager, young man, praying, homeless man
Teenager Praying for a Homeless Man; photo from Facebook.

Life can be difficult, sometimes devoid of sense verging on hopelessness. Let’s chose compassion and love to make life a little better in our tiny part of the world. Maybe, just maybe, that gesture will travel and touch someone’s life like this poem and photograph did for me. Keep the faith.

Encouragement, Faith, Inspiration, Writing

Don’t Meltdown When You Feel Like Giving Up

quote on not giving up

Have you ever had months or weeks when you just want to throw up your hands and give up? One of those weeks when not much made sense, you asked ‘why?’ and the gloomy clouds outside matched your mood?

Yeah, I had a month of those weeks in my writing life.

But a great thing happened in the midst of the dark. I didn’t have a meltdown because other people’s posts and words (which I stumbled upon) lifted me above the clouds; especially this week.

I want to share these words and say thank you to the writers/bloggers who I came across in the past seven days:

“I heard a preacher say recently that hope is a revolutionary patience; let me add that so is being a writer. Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.” Anne Lamott

A revolutionary patience. I loved hearing hope described in that way.

“misery shared is misery halved, and joy shared is joy doubled.”

At Publishing Crawl, author Stacie Lee and Stephanie Garber gave encouragement with their post, Moving Beyond Rejection. My misery halved.

Bustle.com had an article on Octavia Butler’s Letter to Herself:

Octavia Butler's letter on writing, books,
Octavia Butler’s Letter to Herself-archives Huntington Library

Some humorous pet photos passed my way and the laughter lifted my spirits:

dog with eyebrows, humor, pets
Yeah, I got my eyebrows done. What do you think?

An angel appeared:(from Gerry Wilson’s blog).

brandonangel

12 reminders to live passionately  dropped into my email box.

And this past weekend I went to a woman’s worship service and Sunday service. The message from one: You can worship through your hardship.

The message from our ‘tell it like it is’ pastor: “Hard Life, Good God.” He spoke on the reality of trials, that they are unavoidable but purposeful.

Yes, it was ‘one of those months,’ but I heard the message loud and clear.

When we don’t know what to do pray, ask for wisdom, have faith, and believe.

I feel better already!