“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”
— Maya Angelou
Seeing the tributes to Maya Angelou’s life has been incredibly beautiful. Many people were touched and captivated by the news of her sunset on Wednesday. And I’ve been amazed at the sheer volume of moving quotes seen online. The quote above is my favorite though I know I haven’t read them all.
Maya Angelou reminds us that one life has the power to touch many. She used her God given gifts to serve others and showered this world with blessings. She also reminds us that ALL lives (no matter how great) come to an end. Her sunset shows us that our time to shine and serve is while we are still living. The time to make our mark is now.
A legacy doesn’t start once a person dies. It is built throughout the days of their life. But it endures long after they’re gone. Today is a great day to start thinking about your own legacy.
How beautiful will your sunset be?
Last week our family dog (who goes by the names of Dillon, Deacon, and/or Deac) stayed with my parents while we were away on vacation. Now Deac makes himself comfortable almost anywhere, but he notices the differences from being at our house. Since my mother is not much of a “dog person” she didn’t spend much time focused on him. She also prefers that he not have free reign of their house. That said, his physical needs are definitely well met there. And it’s possible they serve him even better since they walk him much more frequently.
Yesterday, my parents came over for a visit and my father commented on how happy Deac seemed to be back in his own home. This while one of the boys was rubbing his tummy and I was affectionately calling his name. My father said, “Deac has the right idea. Go where you’re celebrated!”
He then explained to me the biblical context of choosing to be around people that value, serve and are prepared to grow with you. And most importantly, these people sincerely want you around and make it known.
So today’s post will be fairly short and sweet, but will ask you to consider these three crucial questions on your own.
- What does it mean to be celebrated versus served?
- Are you actively choosing to go where you’re celebrated?
- Do you create an environment where others feel celebrated by you?
As always, the floor is open for comments.
Would love to hear from you.
Many people told me that the blog you start is rarely the same blog you’re writing after a few months. This rang true for me. In the last six months my view on why I’m writing and what I want to write about has taken more shape. I’m not certain that it is done. But I did think it was time to update my About page. It no longer accurately describes what this blog is about. So rather than a new post today, I’d greatly appreciate if you’d serve me and check out the new About page. I would love to get your feedback. And thank you in advance. I really appreciate it.
Talk to you soon.
My anniversary was this weekend which makes this post rather special for me. Anniversaries allow you to relive and honor memories long after an event has passed. For me that event was a marriage, but I also celebrate the anniversary of my birth, my children’s birth, and the birth of all of my close family and friends. To celebrate wedding anniversaries and birthdays just seems natural. We could let these days pass by unmarked, but we instinctually realize that by celebrating them annually we renew our gratitude for the original gift. On my anniversary, I’m celebrating with my husband but I’m also thanking God for sending him into my life. So the celebration may be between two people, but the expression of gratitude is really quite personal and doesn’t require much fanfare.
Here are 4 anniversaries you may not be celebrating now, but should consider. This doesn’t have to be an outward celebration. Truthfully, nobody other than you even needs to know about it. You can just set a day to remind yourself to be especially grateful because that’s what an anniversary is all about. And as said previously, building more gratitude in your heart WILL mold you into a better server.
Four amazing anniversaries
- The day you gave up something that wasn’t serving your life anymore. Was it a substance you were abusing? Was it an unhealthy attachment to someone? A compulsion to outspend your means? A job you hated? A life that wasn’t authentic? Either way, at one time this thing had a hold on you. And now it doesn’t. Set an annual day to celebrate and thank God for seeing you through to the other side.
- The day you met a close friend. If you aren’t sure of the exact date agree on your best guess and celebrate that day every year. You can do it together, but this is more about your acknowledgement that they are a blessing in your life. Remember on this day that there was once a time that you could not lean on them, but now you can.
- The day you met a pivotal teacher in your life. This is similar to the day you met a friend, but this person may not share a friendship with you. They may have been your boss or a high school teacher. They may have been someone you didn’t even like at the time. But if they came into your life and left you forever different (for the better) you should take a day to celebrate that.
- The day you met God. Try to pinpoint one day that stands out for you as the day you first felt God’s presence in your life. This is the day you went from just assuming there was a God to knowing there is God. This is the day your world expanded and the seeds of peace, gratitude and service started growing in your life. This day changed everything. This day is truly worthy of an anniversary. Celebrate it.
What else should we be celebrating?
One of the greatest things about getting older is that the desire to chase perfection sharply declines with passing years. We realize that perfect parents, perfect leaders and perfect partners simply don’t exist. The value we place on outcomes goes down while the value we place on effort goes up. Then hopefully, we have no choice but to start cutting ourselves some slack too.
If you’re at this place in life (trying to cut yourself some slack) then this post is for you. There are lies you may still be telling yourself about perfect service or perfect giving that are significantly limiting your impact on the world. These lies paralyze us with subtle fears that don’t really hold up under close examination. So please read each subconscious thought and see if you’ve got a voice in your head telling you any of these lies.
“What I have to give will fall short of what is really needed so I should do nothing.”
- What fear tells us: “I’m wasting my time or money.”
- An example of how this lie affects service: We don’t give $5 if the cause needs millions AND/OR we don’t volunteer an hour of our time if the organization is understaffed and really needs a lot more support.
- Why it’s a lie: Because we instinctively know that something is better than nothing. Every bit helps move a mission forward. Also, most missions survive due in large part to many small donations and short volunteer efforts. Believing that only big donations and large efforts matter is what gives this lie its power. Don’t believe it.
“I don’t know which need is more important so I won’t support either.”
- What fear tells us: I want my limited time and money to matter. If I don’t have the resources to support all missions I have to decide which mission has the MOST value.
- An example of how this lie affects service: We don’t donate to support global clean water because we aren’t sure if we should support local food banks instead. While we consider the importance of both, we don’t support either.
- Why it’s a lie: Each and every mission to serve others will have value. Choosing what you support is personal and will change over time. We don’t need to evaluate the merits of services against each other. Consider which missions you’re more drawn to, but be careful not to get caught in analysis paralysis. Getting stuck in judgement is precisely what gives this lie its power.
“There is no end in sight to all the needs. I should ignore them and focus on my own life.”
- What we fear: By opening the door to care about a service mission we will open the door to guilt and sadness when we can’t easily fix the problem.
- An example of how this lie affects service: We don’t support an affordable housing program because there won’t be enough housing for everyone that might need it.
- Why it’s a lie: Because once again small service efforts have a large impact. And you won’t serve at all if you don’t allow yourself to care. Doing nothing is the enemy of change but so is indifference. Ignore this lie. Be strong enough to stay emotionally connected and show concern for change. Serving others will also change YOUR life for the better. I promise.
Any thoughts I missed?
Here are 30 ideas on how to fit quick acts of service into our days. Every month I’m adding 10 new ones to the list. At first glance, these may feel too small to have a major impact in the world. But I still believe in the power of small acts of service. Even if they don’t change the world, they change us.
30 ways to serve in 4 minutes or less
- Fight indifference. Let yourself feel sadness when you see a homeless person.
- Put a Band-Aid in your wallet to give away when needed.
- Call someone you usually text and tell them you just wanted to hear their voice.
- Tell someone you forgive them. And mean it.
- Pick up an extra item or two from the grocery store to donate to your local food bank.
- Practice empathy. Take a few minutes and imagine the struggles of someone you know.
- Make a small online donation to a charity you support.
- Listen carefully. Many people yearn to be heard.
- Thank a teacher for their service.
- Contact an elected official via social media to quickly advocate for a cause you believe in.
- Tell someone a joke.
- Save someone from a work conversation they aren’t enjoying. “I hate to interrupt, but can I borrow you for two minutes.”
- Actually take your reusable bags into the store with you.
- Actually take your reusable cup into Starbucks with you.
- Pray for someone.
- Teach someone something. Anything.
- Text someone a specific compliment. (e.g. “I admire how much patience you have with me.”)
- Give someone you love your undivided attention.
- Hold a door open and wait while multiple people pass through.
- Take time to write a supportive comment to someone on Facebook.
- Hug someone.
- Share any online article that raises awareness of a service need.
- Let that busy person behind you go ahead of you in line.
- Leave change in a vending machine.
- Pay the toll for the person behind you.
- Thank a solider for their service.
- Discuss with a younger relative a piece of your family history.
- Cheer loudly for someone else’s kid.
- Give away an extra umbrella on a rainy day.
- If you love them, tell them.
How’s the list coming?
What am I missing?
If your mother is living, there is a good chance you will speak to her this Mother’s Day weekend. You may even spend a significant amount of time together. So I thought I’d provide a few quick questions to ask her that might just serve you both.
Questions for Mom
- What is your favorite memory of your mother?
- What is your favorite memory of us together?
- What would you want to be remembered for?
- What life lesson taught you the most?
- What would you still like to teach me?
- Where is your favorite place on earth?
- How did having children change you?
- Have you ever experienced a miracle?
- Is there anything you wish we could do together?
- How can I serve you better?
Happy Mother’s Day
Last Saturday while I went to the grocery store, my husband and the boys went shopping for my Mother’s Day gifts. I’m incredibly blessed to have been given such wonderful sons. They are talented and beautiful in surprisingly unique ways. I look forward to seeing the men they will grow up to be. I want them to be empowered to carve out their own space in life without worrying much about my expectations. But I pray that they will grow up to embrace a passion for service and here are the reasons why.
- I want them to find themselves earlier than I found myself. I know that their minds will be bombarded with thoughts and questions centered around who they are and who they want to be. I want them to have the tools to discover key elements of their character. A deliberate focus on service develops discipline, patience and a concept of honor much faster and easier than the world will.
- I want them to get over themselves. I know that they will snap a thousand “selfies” or whatever form of self-expression is popular in the days to come. But I want them to know that they are not the center of the universe. I want them to feel significant enough to lend a helping hand, but humble enough to seek help when they need it. I want them to have a balanced view of themselves. So they can appreciate their strengths, but also accept and forgive their imperfections. They will need to make peace with their self-image if they hope to have the compassion and empathy to serve.
- I want them to love hard. I want them to be prepared for the work love requires. I want them to be prepared to serve those they love. And I also want them to require that those who claim to love them show their love by serving and respecting them. This will help them not waste time on people unworthy of their vulnerability. Love in all its forms (friendship, family and romantic) requires great commitment and effort. I want them to expect love and serving one another to go hand and hand.
- I want them to know where they can find happiness. I know that they will look to new jobs for happiness. I know that they will look to money for happiness. I know that they will look to parties and friends and women and alcohol (and hopefully NOT drugs) for happiness. I want them to have the insight to measure their lives by love and service and not just superficial signs of success. I want them to know God’s magical formula that gratitude plus service equals happiness.
- I want them to know how to quiet the voices in their heads. I know their internal voices will talk ceaselessly about their own needs, about their pain, their failures and their struggles. I want them to have ways to quiet those voices. I want them to have the tools to connect to God. I want them to know that prayer and service will quench their thirst for validation.
- I want them to be resilient. I want them to embrace life as a magnificent learning experience. I want them to accept that struggle, grief and loss will be some of the best teachers in their lives. I want them to submit to viewing hardships as character refining lessons. I want them to see through service that tough times are universal and that faith, time and love can heal all wounds. I want them to know how to bounce back.
What are some of the things you want for the children in your life?
May has to be one of my favorite months. In addition to the many flowers that come into bloom. May is the home of Mother’s Day and my wedding anniversary. I find myself feeling pretty grateful during the month of May. And this leads me to the spectacular marriage of service and gratitude. Rarely do two things bring out the best in each other so well. This May, let’s make gratitude the center of attention because time spent on gratitude will surely inspire service.
Gratitude married to service
The practice of gratitude focuses on being thankful but it also introduces your heart to the concept of “enough”. Most of our lives we’ve strived to have “more” so “enough” is a somewhat foreign notion.
Take a look at the lines below and pay attention to how you feel about the “More” line versus the “Enough” line.
More money. More beauty. More power. More things. More time.
Enough money. Enough beauty. Enough power. Enough things. Enough time.
- Which one is most comfortable for you to read?
- Which one most reflects your current thinking?
- Do you have enough of some, but want more of others?
Practicing gratitude allows you to take a step back and appreciate what you already have. It also allows the concept of “having enough” and “being enough” to take root in your life. This makes you likely to serve others for two reasons. First, you feel a sense of duty to bless others when you are more aware of your blessings. Second, you have more to give emotionally (and physically) when you aren’t exhausted from chasing more accumulation. When your heart and hands are free you’ll want to use them to serve. Gratitude helps free you.
Welcome May. You’re another wonderful month for serving. And a great time for gratitude to bloom.
What are you grateful for?