I often tell people that winter is my favorite season, but this year even I’m ready for spring. As beautiful as the snow has been, having so many storms has been disruptive. It has thrown off my ability to accurately anticipate what the next days or weeks will bring. It’s highlighted to me that as much as I try to control my life – I’m not in charge.
When winter comes
The most common use of the word “winter” describes the season marked by cold weather and bare trees. During Mother Nature’s winter season, we are forced to retreat inside and many things stop growing. The characteristics of the winter season can show up in other parts of our lives. We experience winters in our careers, in our relationships, in our health, and in our hearts. Often our focus on serving the world around us has to shift to hibernating and healing. It can be especially hard for people focused on service to go through times of winter. We are used to serving others and have to allow ourselves to be cared for.
The last full day of this winter season is tomorrow, March 19th. If you’re coming to the end of any kind of winter, here are 10 questions to ask yourself before ushering in spring.
- What stopped growing this winter?
- Do I want to see all, some, or none of it grow back?
- What do I want to plant next?
- How much energy do I have to care for a new blossom?
- Which habits helped me through this winter?
- Which habits made this season more difficult for me?
- Was my home a place I wanted to retreat to?
- Who kept me warm during my coldest days?
- What will I do to prepare for the next winter?
- How has this winter better equipped me to serve?
What would you add to this list?
Seriously, more snow? Yesterday wasn’t a major accumulation, but it was enough to create lots of traffic. I grew up just outside of New York City so I should be used to traffic. But I’m a closeted country girl. I dream of traveling on uninhabited roads instead of congested highways. But, the country is not where I live. So I spend plenty of time in my car navigating traffic each day.
And I’m not out there alone.
If you’re out there with me, here are seven ways to serve while sitting behind the wheel.
- Sing and car dance to your heart’s desire, especially when you’re at a light. It spreads the joy to those watching.
- Respect the “fast lane”. If you don’t plan to drive fast (meaning faster than the cars in the other lanes) please move over. This is not a demand. You have a right to be in the fast lane at any reasonable speed. But, respecting this unspoken rule is much appreciated by your fellow drivers.
- Show some love. If you see a car with the name of a team or school you support, give them a “thumbs up”.
- Be honest about your sense of urgency. Decide if arriving three minutes later would make a difference for you. Sometimes it truly does. Safely rush if you’re in a rush. Yield to another car that needs to enter into traffic if you aren’t.
- Grant forgiveness. There have likely been times when you were driving too slow or made an incorrect maneuver. You were probably lost, tired or distracted. It happens. Give your fellow drivers a break.
- Never do it. Get serious about never driving while texting, under the influence, or exhausted. And don’t underestimate exhaustion. Similar to texting and being impaired, exhaustion has been proven to put lives at risk.
- Smile! People are all around you. Many get a chance to briefly enjoy your smile. Share it freely.
In honor my grandmother’s 80th birthday, I’m kicking off a series of posts that share the answers people gave when asked:
“What are some ways to serve you?”
This one features responses from grandparents with adult grandchildren. And oh how we love our grandparents! If you’re blessed to still have grandparents in your life, here are 15 ways they want to be served.
- Tell them things they can brag about. You may hate talking about your successes, but they don’t.
- Let them show you off to anyone willing to meet you. You’re a living tribute to their lives.
- Help them feel significant. Tell them the ways they’ve shaped who you are.
- Ignore their advice if it doesn’t work for you. They just can’t help but offer it.
- Don’t pick sides. Share your time with both your mother’s and father’s side of the family.
- Send pictures of yourself. You’re grown so they no longer receive your annual school pictures, but they wish they did.
- Call them often. And never underestimate the power of a surprise phone call.
- Don’t worry about them dying. They hate for you to be sad about anything.
- Let them teach you. Learn their traditions, skills, and recipes. They want to pass their wisdom on.
- Call. (Oh wait, wasn’t that #7? I guess it came up a bunch of times.)
- Achieve more than they did. Witnessing it serves their soul.
- Call frequently. (Yes, they mentioned wanting more phone calls enough to warrant three slots.)
- Make time to visit them for the holidays. It’s a major highlight of the year.
- Reach out to them when you’re in need. They’d still rather serve you.
- Tell stories about them forever.
Are you a grandparent? Anything we missed?
(The next post in this series will be on how parents can serve teachers. If you’re a teacher and would like to contribute your thoughts please send them to email@example.com).
Picture yourself in my kitchen two nights ago. My husband and I just got home from work. I came into the kitchen a little later than him. I’d just hung up my coat and was starting to think about dinner. Here’s the exchange that followed.
Him: “Were things really crazy getting the kids out this morning?”
Me: “No, not really? School had a 2 hour delay because of the weather. I had extra time.”
Him: “Oh, because you left the cereal out on the counter.”
Me: “Oh ok. Sorry.” (Meanwhile I’m wondering where he’s going with this conversation.)
Him: “…And then I saw that you put the milk away in the pantry.”
Me: “Wow. I really didn’t sleep well last night.”
Sleep matters. For most of us, it matters a lot. The only thing that makes being sleepy better is getting more sleep. I want to make that clear because this post will not help you with being sleepy. It can ONLY help you with being tired. Being tired is a completely different animal than sleepy. Tired is more about energy and motivation. Sleepy is about a physical need to restore your systems. But it can be hard to distinguish them from each other. The chart below has some examples that might help you tell them apart.
|“I wonder if anyone would notice if I got 15 minutes of sleep here at my desk.”||“I don’t really feel like taking a nap, but I do feel like laying in my bed.”|
|“I keep trying to get online, but the light from the screen is giving me a headache.”||“Wow, have I been on this site for two hours? I can’t get anything done today.”|
|“Where did I put my keys? Not again!”||“Since I’ve gotten up and gotten my keys, I should probably head to the grocery store. But man, I really don’t feel like it!”|
|“God, please give me the strength to feed these kids tonight.”||“Why can’t these kids feed themselves yet?”|
So are you sleepy or are you tired? If you’re sleepy, stop reading and at least rest your eyes. If you’re tired, read on.
- Chances are good that you will be getting up tomorrow. Life is short, but more than likely it will be pretty long. It’s probable that you will get up tomorrow and the next day and the day after that. Point being – You are going to have a lot of waking hours to pass time in.
- You will be putting in work. If you have any obligations such as family, friends, and/or a job you will be performing work during a large part of your waking hours. Point being – Doing things that need to get done is going to be a required part of your day every day.
Can we agree on these two things? Sounds simple.
Getting up and putting in work will likely happen every day of our lives. We are going to do it regardless of how we feel about it. But what if putting in work partially feed us with energy instead of merely draining it? That’s basically what “inspired action” is. Inspired action is also a type of work but it’s work that feeds us emotionally. That’s different from plain-old “action” which is work we have to do because we’re awake and we have responsibilities. In many small ways, we can shift our thinking toward viewing work as inspired action. Most if not all of that shift has to do with intentionally trying to serve others. This can be done in small ways while doing your daily routine. Inspired action leaves you more connected and energized. Since we’re going to be awake and putting in work anyway, it just feels better to be serving others.
And it makes us A LOT less tired.
Don’t believe me? Try it for three days. I don’t mean taking time off from your job to do more community service. I’m talking about serving as part of your normal day. Easy examples are letting someone in front of you in traffic, correcting a small problem for someone on your job, or getting a meal on the table for dinner. Consciously and intentionally think of everything you do as service and then see how you feel.
Are you tired enough to try it?
Like any mother, the safety of my sons is constantly on my mind. So this week has been scary. I’ve wondered if there is an entire US state where I should not send my sons to college. I’ve wondered if a place that I associate mostly with Mickey Mouse is a place where the law can’t protect their lives. I’m not an expert on these cases. And this post isn’t about that. If I’m being honest, I’ve tried not to follow the cases too closely. They scare me too much. They make me feel small.
I was reminded by a friend on Facebook that individual lives may feel small at times, but they are powerful.
This was his response to one of my status updates.
“Think globally, act locally. If everyone looks after their family and friends, a geometric progression suggests everyone is better off and taken care of.”
Here are six things we can do whenever we’re feeling small.
- Be still. Notice that I didn’t say pray. Prayer is speaking to God. Stillness is allowing time to listen.
- Cook for someone. Sure you can eat some too, but cook with the idea of serving and nourishing another. Any recipe will do.
- Seek out a child. There is something about a child’s energy that neutralizes defeat.
- Find art that moves you. My favorite book is Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. I find it hard to believe that a person could weave together a story so complex and vivid. It reminds me that humans are capable of beautiful things. Sometimes I need the reminder.
- Take up someone else’s cause. We all have struggles that are unique to our position in life. Help someone else with theirs. Embody the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous quote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
- Serve in the way that only you can. If you aren’t sure what that is yet, refer to #1 on this list.
What do you do when you’re feeling small?
Oh Saint Valentine – sometimes we love you. Sometimes we hate you. And we know very little about you. There may have even been two Saint Valentines. But one of the saints died on February 14th. Why we celebrate his (or their) legacy of love is the subject of much debate.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not a saint.
When I look across my life it is hard to ignore that there are things I regret. I’ve hurt people. I’ve failed to be the person I hoped I was. Thanks to God that hasn’t been my whole story. I’ve also loved deeply. I’ve been fiercely loyal. I’ve encouraged and protected.
People are complex and they are neither good nor bad. We can’t be a “good person” nor a “bad person”. All the things we do are part of who we are. I’m working to make peace with that. I’m working to forgive some of my past faults and focus on my current actions.
“Legacy” appears as just a word, but embedded in that word are a bunch of questions.
- What will you be known for?
- How will your life have mattered?
- Who did you serve?
Valentine’s Day is as good a day as any to work harder at answering those questions. Every day we can get up in the morning and have another shot at building our legacies. I hope you have a great one!
How are you spending your Valentine’s Day?
Every now and then I receive a call on my cell phone from someone speaking another language. When I don’t answer the call they leave me a voicemail. But I don’t understand the voicemail. I usually guess at the language they are speaking. Then I wonder how they got my number. Eventually, I start worrying that they might need something urgent. I try to judge how urgent the call is based on the tone of their voice. A few times I’ve called back the number and tried to say “Wrong Number!” in hopes they also speak English. Each time, I’ve not been able to tell if calling back helped them or not.
THE 5 LOVE LANGUAGES
For some things in life you get credit for effort alone. But when you speak different languages the recipient may not be able to appreciate your effort. This is the basic gist of The 5 Love Languages written by Gary Chapman. This book completely changed the way I serve the people I love.
You may already be familiar with his work. If not, his main point is that everyone has a primary and secondary love language. These are the ways that they most like to receive love. Those ways are:
- Words of Affirmation
- Acts of Service
- Receiving Gifts
- Quality Time
- Physical Touch
Do you have a guess which one is your primary Love Language?
What about your spouse? Your children? Your best friend?
Knowing the love languages of the people you care about will allow you to serve them better. It will give them the opportunity to feel your love more deeply. It will give you a much higher return on your efforts to serve them. Knowing your own love language will also help you tell them how to best love you.
SPEAKING ANOTHER LANGUAGE
Here is how this concept has played out in my marriage:
My primary love language is Physical Touch and my secondary love language is Words of Affirmation. My husband’s primary love language is Acts of Service and his secondary love language is Quality Time. Now we both value ALL five ways of receiving love to some extent, but our primary and secondary styles are the way we hear the love messages most clearly. Since we have two completely different languages we have to make special effort to speak each other’s languages. This does not come naturally. It has to be deliberate and I’ve had to remind myself about it almost daily.
When I feel most loving towards my husband, I want to be with him physically or tell him how much I love him. Because those are my love language preferences and how I instinctually think to show love to him. Instead, I have to make sure I place a high priority on cooking for him and doing our laundry. Those things show him love through his primary Act of Service language. To me, laundry is definitely NOT sexy. For him, it gets him feeling loved and energized. He would instinctually show me love by doing housework. He thought most women desired more help around the house (and many do). And though I appreciate the help, it is much more important to me that he rub my back or tell me I look beautiful. He has to make a special effort to be more touchy and verbal than his natural style so I feel loved.
TAKE THE QUIZ
You can find your love language preferences and have others in your life take the Love Language Quiz by visiting Gary’s website. http://www.5lovelanguages.com/
READ THE BOOK
If you want to read more about how to use the love languages in your relationships, see Gary Chapman’s book The 5 Love Language: The Secret to Love that Lasts at http://www.amazon.com/The-Love-Languages-Secret-Lasts/dp/0802473156/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1392047956&sr=8-1&keywords=the+five+love+languages.
He also has a number of companion books and other books that speak specifically to children and teens.
What’s your love language?
Do you love someone that speaks a different language?
A. Having a broken heart
B. Loving someone with a broken heart
The answer is A.
Heartaches acute pain can pack a punch that threatens to knock out those we love. Most of us have also experienced being knocked out by its punch. And, it isn’t pretty. Valentine’s week is especially tough for the heart broken.
When someone you love has a broken heart almost everything you do for them is an act of service. This is also when your words have an incredible power to comfort, heal and uplift. Here are some things I try to say because there were times when I desperately needed to hear them.
10 Things to Say that Serve a Broken Heart
- “This is going to hurt for much longer than you hope it will. I need to tell you this so you don’t expect more from yourself than what is possible”.
- “You will likely do something desperate or embarrassing if you haven’t already. You might even do it multiple times. That’s alright. We’ve all been there.”
- “Yes, my life is busy but I have time for you.”
- “He didn’t know you. He knew a version of you in a bad relationship. That isn’t who you are in total”.
- “I want better for you. I know you miss her a lot. But you could receive so much more love than what you were getting.”
- “Be sad. You’re giving this fight to get happy again all you have. But whenever you need to take some time to be sad you shouldn’t feel bad about it.”
- “I need you in my life. He may not have needed you and that hurts, but I do.”
- “Yes, I think you’re correct. You made some mistakes. So did she. But you’ll get a chance to do better next time and I know you will.”
- “Yes, I am tired of talking about him, but I’m happy to keep doing it if it is still helping you move on. Is it?”
- “I love you and I’m not saying that to make you feel better. I really love you”.
What do you say?
What do you like to hear?
The comment floor is open.
How can I help?
Recently, a friend’s young and insanely full of life husband passed away suddenly. I was with her the day before he died. It still runs through my mind every insignificant thing we talked about that day. Even writing this now, it is hard to believe this isn’t a fictional story. When truly awful things happen to people we care about we want to help them. We want to be doing something (anything) to make them feel supported.
I came across the Lotsa Helping Hands website when offering to deliver food for my friend following the funeral. Someone had set up a private community page for her. Once accepted into her community, I could sign up for days to do tasks and deliver food. These communities can be used for shorter term support like during the early days of grieving or when someone is recovering from a medical issue. It was originally designed to provide longer term support to care for caregivers. These are the people that provide daily assistance to another person like an aging parent or a special needs child.
The possibilities to coordinate and serve each other through these sites are endless. I just wanted to pass this on as we are all likely to need it some day. Please tell everyone you know.
You can find them at www.lotsahelpinghands.com.
Would this have helped you during a difficult time?
Do you think of Facebook as a place to serve? If not, check out these seven ways to serve your Facebook friends more. This is just another way to weave more serving into your day.
- If you really like it – Like it. Sometimes I read a funny status update and literally laugh out loud. Then that’s the end of it. I don’t like the post or engage with the poster in any way. The same goes for interesting shared articles. I enjoy the message and then quickly scroll on to other updates. It’s a missed opportunity to send a small positive message to the poster. And let’s be honest – it takes half a second of effort. This isn’t about liking every post that comes our way. It’s just about giving others more genuinely positive interactions.
- Broaden your circle of commenting. Most of us limit our comments on Facebook to things posted by our bestie, our family, and the people we talk to offline anyway. Facebook is a great place to interact with our close friends. But we may miss a chance to strengthen our broader social networks. Think about the last 10 comments you’ve posted and consider if they were all to one group of friends. If so, maybe it’s time to give others some love.
- Support the dreamer in your life – Share their content. If you have someone in your life that is trying to get a new community service or business venture off the ground consider sharing their posts. This is a simple act of support. It shows that you want to help them spread the word. It also sends information to your network that could be useful to them.
- Consider compassionate online celebrating. When you get engaged, most people in Facebookland will be happy for you. The same goes with when you get pregnant, when you have a baby, when you celebrate an anniversary, when you get to go out with your mother on Mother’s day (because she is still alive and vibrant), when you take that trip to Paris, when you lose 20 pounds, and when you realize you’re gorgeous and that everyone should see your face frequently so they can appreciate just how gorgeous you are. When these things happen, most of us on Facebook are genuinely happy for you. Please don’t censor happiness out of your posts. Just try to consider the feelings of those in your audience that may be wishing for what you have in that exact moment. Try to post with humility and with compassion. This isn’t a science. I don’t know exactly how to do it. But if merely thinking about it makes our posts more compassionate then I hope we will be serving someone.
- Do not accept friend requests from people you do not know. It opens all of us up to privacy issues or something worse like pictures of discount sneakers routinely showing up in our Newsfeed. Please don’t do this. You’ll serve us all. Thanks.
- Write unique Birthday messages. Someone recently told me that writing only “HB!” on someone’s Wall was an appropriate birthday message. I thought it seemed a bit impersonal. Try to take an extra minute and craft a sentence or two that expresses a unique message for that recipient. Our online friends are worth it.
- Defriend your ex-boyfriend and anyone else you might use Facebook to make jealous. Does defriending them seem too mean? Then create a list that sends your updates to everyone but them. Sure making them jealous was fun the first few times. But you’re better than that. Plus it is probably making your posts less authentic. This makes it harder for your real friends to experience the real you. Do yourself and the defriended person this favor. It will serve you both.