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, Gratitude, Inspiration

A New Garden of Hope Restores

Low water garden-photo by AlvardoFrazier
Low water garden-photo by AlvardoFrazier

One day the mulch covered the ground, dense and moist, an earthy covering for a new garden. Today, weeds sprouted everywhere. This seemed like an allegory of recent life.

Dirt under fingernails, the smell of damp earth, I pulled on shallow roots, plucked them with ease, until one pricked my fingers. Ouch. Microscopic spines lost themselves under my flesh. Time to quit, take a breather and wander the garden.

Two months later, the sculptural beauty of succulents seemed more pronounced. Orange milkweed leaned toward the lichen-spotted rock, both sharing colors.

milkweed, lichen covered rock in garden
Milkweed and Lichen-Covered Rock-AlvaradoFrazier

Feathery fronds on the Mimosa branches danced. Two lizards skittered across the pebbly patio floor, diving into a crimson mound of bougainvillea.

Tiny buds unfolded on the thin branches of the peach and tangerine trees. Green leaf flags from the birches waved a good morning.

Around the corner of the stucco wall, a baby rose bloomed sunshine among glossy leaves. A spiral of fragrance rose. Breath of beginnings.

yellow rose bud
First Rose-alvardofrazier.com

Maybe it sounds simplistic to think the beauty of a garden can rectify the unruliness of the political scene or the horrors of terrorism in the world. It doesn’t.

But as I walk in my garden today, I take in the beauty and restore myself. I think of how I can be of service to someone, promise myself to practice more random acts of kindness.

More weeds will poke through the mulch and I’ll pluck them out. The trees will leaf up, the lizards will grow bigger, more roses will bloom.

I wait in my garden of hope.

 

Encouragement, Goals, Gratitude, Latino culture

Why Looking Ahead is Better than Falling Behind

Make a new ending

I woke to sunlight creeping through my bathroom windows.

Unusual, since the last month has been grey days of coastal overcast. More unusual since June in our parts is called June Gloom.

It dawned on me (no pun intended) we are quickly approaching the middle of the year. Almost half of 2015 is gone.

Yikes. This got me thinking.

Did I follow my intentions for the year? Did I complete what I intended to complete or experience?

That attitude created pressure, anxiousness.

Bummer feelings for the first minutes of a new day. Especially since sunlight shone through my windows.

I took a deep breath and thanked God for a beautiful sunlit morning.

The oxygen and gratitude flipped my attitude.

More important, did I enjoy the past six months. Did I find pleasure in my family, friends, work and new experiences? 

I answered yes and felt invigorated.

If you can answer yes to the last question, all is well.

If you answer no, the good news is half of 2015 is ahead.

To quote a Mexican dicho:

“El que adelante no mira, atrás se queda

He who does not look ahead falls behind.”

There is still time.