friends

Is winter really over? 8 questions to ask yourself before the cold weather leaves.

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Blossom

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 a winter season can show up in other parts of our lives too. We let certain things go dormant and experience winters in our careers, relationships, health, and even in our hearts. During these types of winters our focus has to shift from growing to hibernating and healing. It is always difficult to go through times of winter, but it gives us a chance to rebirth something even more beautiful.

The last day of this winter season has already passed, but it seems as if the cold weather is staying with us a bit longer. If you’re coming to the end of any kind of winter, here are 8 questions to ask yourself before temperatures rise. I posted some of these questions last year, but my answers have definitely changed. Have yours?

  1. What stopped growing for you this winter?
  2. Do you want to see all, some, or none of it grow back?
  3. Was your home a place you wanted to retreat to during your winter?
  4. Who kept you warm during your coldest days?
  5. What will you do to prepare for the next winter?
  6. What do you want to plant in your life next?
  7. Will you have the desire and energy to care for a new blossom?
  8. How has this winter better equipped you to serve others?

Are you ready for warmer weather?

100 ways to love on the world

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Lovetree

“The day the power of love overrules the love of power, the world will know peace.”

Mahatma Gandhi

Whether you look forward to Valentine’s Day or despise it, I’m sure we can all agree that the world would benefit from more attention on love (and not just the romantic kind). Below is the list of 100 simple, loving, compassionate and gratitude-inspiring actions you can start checking off immediately.

Share the love!

100 Ways to Love on the World

  1. Send encouragement to someone caring for an aging parent.
  2. Donate coats and blankets you won’t use often.
  3. Get to know someone on a deeper level. Who did they love? What did they lose? What matters most to them?
  4. Enrich a livelihood. Donate to fund a microloan to help people in other parts of the world increase their earning potential.
  5. Marvel in the power of human expression. Buy tickets to music, dance and other live performances.
  6. Make an effort to use both sides of your paper.
  7. Laugh long and hard. Laugh loud enough for others to hear you.
  8. Plant something and watch it grow.
  9. Buy art that moves you and says things words can’t.
  10. Donate batteries to keep lifesaving appliances and smoke detectors working.
  11. Shop kindly. Choose to shop from companies that donate a portion of their proceeds to charity.
  12. Say no. Knowing you can set limits will give you the confidence to serve more.
  13. Join a bone marrow registry.
  14. Raise your awareness of the employee working conditions at the companies you support.
  15. Help them live the dream and share their art. Dine at chef-owned restaurants.
  16. Tip generously.
  17. Advocate for a minimum living wage in your community.
  18. Put a Band-Aid in your wallet to give away when needed.
  19. Text someone a specific compliment. (e.g. “I admire how much patience you have with me.”)
  20. Learn the warning signs of suicide and take them seriously.
  21. Buy local produce.
  22. Hear gossip and refuse to spread it.
  23. Adopt your next furry family member at a rescue or shelter.
  24. Plant a passion for service in a child’s heart.
  25. Keep the craft growing. Support new and independent artists.
  26. Choose books that broaden your view of the world.
  27. Shovel your neighbor’s walkway.
  28. Donate your old computer to a school.
  29. Offer your home repair skills to the elderly, ill or a military family.
  30. Learn CPR.
  31. Register to be an organ donor.
  32. Be a designated driver.
  33. Choose to shop at small businesses more often.
  34. Be bold enough to ask for help. Let someone else experience the gift of giving.
  35. Make a small change to conserve energy such as not pre-heating your oven or opening it while food cooks.
  36. Be a connector. Introduce two people with mutual interests or career pursuits.
  37. Multiply the impact of your donations by joining a giving circle.
  38. Share a meal with someone you love.
  39. Brighten a teacher’s day. Send in an unsolicited treat or thank you.
  40. Treat your spouse to an unexpected display of passion.
  41. Do online research about the distinction between charity and philanthropy.
  42. Encourage someone to share their faith with you in a place where it is normally kept quiet (work, school, etc).
  43. Grant someone the freedom to parent differently than you without judgment.
  44. Bring a neighbor an unexpected gift.
  45. Register to vote or correct your voting information.
  46. Offer an elderly pet owner peace of mind by suggesting you care for their beloved pet whenever they are unable.
  47. Choose to share something shameful or painful in your past if it will help another feel less alone.
  48. Rally around an acquaintance going through a difficult time. Sometimes it’s the most unexpected acts of love that touch us the most.
  49. Act! Move beyond sympathetic thoughts. Vow to do one small thing (donate, advocate, etc.) to address a world problem that seems hopeless.
  50. Give someone the freedom to live an unconventional life and still be accepted.
  51. Donate school supplies.
  52. Offer support to a grieving soul long after the funeral.
  53. Share a piece of wisdom that only comes with age.
  54. Make a call and check on an elderly family member.
  55. Create a disaster plan for your family.
  56. Give someone a gift you made yourself.
  57. Take a walk with a loved one. It serves the body and soul.
  58. Drive cautiously and without distractions.
  59. Admit you’re biased. We all are. Facing that we have biases (racial, class, religion, etc) helps us to better address our issues and to serve more sincerely.
  60. Loan someone a book you love.
  61. Don’t let it sit in a drawer. Give your old cell phone and chargers away or donate them to a charity.
  62. Treat a pet with kindness and respect.
  63. Make a small change to conserve water such as not prewashing your dishes before using the dishwasher.
  64. Donate suitcases to foster children.
  65. Share public service information (traffic detours, power outages, flood warnings etc.) via social media.
  66. Turn off and unplug electronics you aren’t using.
  67. Pick up trash that wasn’t properly discarded.
  68. Give someone more credit than they deserve.
  69. Believe someone’s dream is possible. And tell them. They need the support.
  70. Fight indifference and don’t look away. Let yourself feel sadness when you see a homeless person.
  71. Tell someone you forgive them. And mean it.
  72. Contact an elected official via social media to quickly advocate for a global or domestic cause you believe in.
  73. Call someone you usually text and tell them you just wanted to hear their voice.
  74. Pick up an extra item or two from the grocery store to donate to your local food bank.
  75. Make a small online donation to a global, domestic or community nonprofit with a mission you believe in.
  76. Practice empathy. Take a few minutes and imagine the struggles of someone you know.
  77. Listen carefully. People yearn to be heard and understood.
  78. Thank a healthcare provider for their service.
  79. Tell someone a joke.
  80. Save someone from a work conversation they aren’t enjoying. “I hate to interrupt, but can I borrow you for two minutes.”
  81. Actually take your reusable bags into the store with you.
  82. Actually take your reusable cup into Starbucks with you.
  83. Pray for someone.
  84. Teach someone something. Anything.
  85. Get or stay committed to a recycling program
  86. Give someone you love your undivided attention.
  87. Hold a door open and wait while multiple people pass through.
  88. Take time to write a supportive comment to someone on Facebook.
  89. Hug someone.
  90. Share any online article that raises awareness of a service need.
  91. Let that busy person behind you go ahead of you in line.
  92. Leave change in a candy machine.
  93. Pay the toll for the person behind you.
  94. Thank a solider for their service.
  95. Discuss with a younger relative a piece of your family history.
  96. Cheer loudly for someone else’s kid.
  97. Give away an extra umbrella on a rainy day.
  98. Keep your brain sharp and body strong. Serve on!
  99. Share this post and spread the love around.
  100. If you love them, tell them.

 

What am I missing?

Turn your thanks into giving. 70 ways to act on your gratitude.

Posted on Updated on

FallThanks

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”

– John Fitzgerald Kennedy

I have to admit it; I’m one of those people that doesn’t wait until after Thanksgiving to start my holiday season. I’m singing carols and thinking about Christmas decorations already. I know it’s wrong since Thanksgiving hasn’t passed yet. I just can’t seem to help myself. I know that Thanksgiving deserves better.

Thanksgiving is a tremendous holiday marked with amazing food and thoughts of gratitude and community. If you want to put the spirit of Thanksgiving into action right now, below are 70 simple ways to get started. Why wait?

70 Ways to Live Your Gratitude

  1. Send encouragement to someone taking care of an aging parent.
  2. Rake your neighbor’s leaves.
  3. Donate coats and blankets you won’t use often.
  4. Register to be an organ donor.
  5. Be bold enough to ask for help. Let someone else experience the gift of giving.
  6. Get to know someone on a deeper level. Who did they love? What did they lose? What matters most to them?
  7. Be a connector. Introduce two people with mutual interests or career pursuits.
  8. Multiply the impact of your donations by joining a giving circle.
  9. Share this post to give others ideas on gratitude in action.
  10. Brighten a teacher’s day. Send in an unsolicited treat or thank you.
  11. Treat your spouse to an unexpected display of passion.
  12. Do online research about the distinction between charity and philanthropy.
  13. Encourage someone to share their faith with you in a place where it is normally kept quiet (work, school, etc).
  14. Grant someone the freedom to parent differently than you without judgment.
  15. Bring a neighbor an unexpected gift.
  16. Register to vote or correct your voting information.
  17. Offer an elderly pet owner peace of mind by suggesting you care for their beloved pet whenever they are unable.
  18. Choose to share something shameful or painful in your past if it will help another feel less alone.
  19. Rally around an acquaintance going through a difficult time. Sometimes it’s the most unexpected acts of love that touch us the most.
  20. Act! Move beyond sympathetic thoughts. Vow to do one small thing (donate, advocate, etc.) to address a problem that seems hopeless.
  21. Cut a neighbor’s grass.
  22. Donate school supplies.
  23. Offer support to a grieving soul long after the funeral.
  24. Share a piece of wisdom that only comes with age.
  25. Make a call and check on an elderly family member.
  26. Laugh long and hard. Laugh loud enough for others to hear you.
  27. Give someone a gift you made yourself.
  28. Say no. Knowing you can set limits will give you the confidence to serve more.
  29. Take a walk with a loved one. It serves the body and soul.
  30. Admit you’re biased. We all are. Facing that we have biases (racial, class, religion, etc) helps us to better address our issues and to serve more sincerely.
  31. Loan someone a book you love.
  32. Don’t let it sit in a drawer. Give your old cell phone and chargers away or donate them to a charity.
  33. Treat a pet with kindness and respect.
  34. Share public service information (traffic detours, power outages, flood warnings etc.) via social media.
  35. Turn off and unplug electronics you aren’t using.
  36. Pick up trash that wasn’t properly discarded.
  37. Give someone more credit than they deserve.
  38. Hear gossip and refuse to spread it.
  39. Believe someone’s dream is possible. And tell them. They need the support.
  40. Fight indifference. Let yourself feel sadness when you see a homeless person.
  41. Tell someone you forgive them. And mean it.
  42. Put a Band-Aid in your wallet to give away when needed.
  43. Contact an elected official via social media to quickly advocate for a cause you believe in.
  44. Call someone you usually text and tell them you just wanted to hear their voice.
  45. Pick up an extra item or two from the grocery store to donate to your local food bank.
  46. Make a small online donation to a charity you support.
  47. Practice empathy. Take a few minutes and imagine the struggles of someone you know.
  48. Listen carefully. Many people yearn to be heard.
  49. Thank a healthcare provider for their service.
  50. Tell someone a joke.
  51. Save someone from a work conversation they aren’t enjoying. “I hate to interrupt, but can I borrow you for two minutes.”
  52. Actually take your reusable bags into the store with you.
  53. Actually take your reusable cup into Starbucks with you.
  54. Pray for someone.
  55. Teach someone something. Anything.
  56. Text someone a specific compliment. (e.g. “I admire how much patience you have with me.”)
  57. Give someone you love your undivided attention.
  58. Hold a door open and wait while multiple people pass through.
  59. Take time to write a supportive comment to someone on Facebook.
  60. Hug someone.
  61. Share any online article that raises awareness of a service need.
  62. Let that busy person behind you go ahead of you in line.
  63. Leave change in a vending machine.
  64. Pay the toll for the person behind you.
  65. Thank a solider for their service.
  66. Discuss with a younger relative a piece of your family history.
  67. Cheer loudly for someone else’s kid.
  68. Give away an extra umbrella on a rainy day.
  69. Serve this service blog. Send via email or social media one idea to quickly put the spirit of service into action.
  70. If you love them, tell them.

This list has been building all year.

Which ones have you done already?

Which ones do you plan to try next?

Standing in bright light. The power of amazing friends.

Posted on Updated on

Light

Imagine this:

Scene 1: It’s nighttime and the lights are completely off in your house. You turn on a flashlight to navigate your way to the kitchen. The light from the flashlight prominently cuts through the darkness. There is no missing that the flashlight is on.

Scene 2: It’s daytime. The windows are uncovered and bright light is shining throughout the entire house. You turn on a flashlight to navigate your way to the kitchen. The light from the flashlight seamlessly blends with the bright light of the room. You can barely tell that the flashlight is on.

In which scenario is the flashlight playing a more important role?

BUT what if…

What if the goal was to see the clearest path to the kitchen?

In which scenario would that be easier to do?

What if you needed to know what color the flashlight was?

In which scenario might you have noticed?

 

These two scenes are meant to mirror our experience with the people we choose to love and the company we keep. We may feel more important in Scene 1, but we thrive more in Scene 2. Imagine that you are the flashlight in Scene 1 and your close friends represent the darkness in the room. When your friends are down in life, down on themselves, or generally a downer to be with “their darkness” allows your light to be much more noticeable. You’re the bright spot in a dark room and that might feel good at times. You’re much more significant in this scenario.

In Scene 2, imagine you’re the flashlight surrounded by close friends that are succeeding in their life pursuits, growing more confident every day, or generally wonderful to be around. In the company of this group, your light is less distinct. You blend in even when shining your brightest.

As servers, it is important to be there for people in hard times. But it’s also important to surround ourselves with positive people and to know how to celebrate their successes. At times their achievements may surpass what we are destined to accomplish. Still we know that our lives are important just the same. We even have additional impact by being part of their journey. I’m blessed to have many “bright lights” in my life. I’d be lying if I said I was never intimidated by them. I am because they’re amazing. Still, I’d rather stand in their shadows than standout in a dark room. I know it is the power of their lights that will show me the most beautiful version of myself and my clearest path to service.

Are you comfortable standing in bright light?

How to support a revolution.

Posted on Updated on

Explosion

This weekend my husband and I had some extended time with a young man that we consider to be a part of our family. He wasn’t brought into our lives by birth, but he was bought into our hearts for a purpose. He’s going to start a revolution and he’ll need our support.

When I picked this title I thought I better make sure I knew exactly what the definition of revolution was, so I looked it up. Here’s what I found:

Revolution: A forcible overthrow of a government or social order in favor of a new system.

At the ripe old age of 19, I see the spark of revolution in this young man. His particular revolution involves overthrowing the social order that views almost anything that is synonymous with the inner-city as “hood” and “ghetto” and therefore inferior. This is a very complex issue. Like most revolutionary campaigns it will be hard work and require a massive commitment to service.

I’ve never been someone to start revolutions, but I think it’s important to support them. Revolutions don’t just make things better, they change the world. They introduce concepts and systems that were previously off our radars all together. Revolutionary people are often very passionate about service, but they need to be served as well. Supporting them fuels the fire that sets the revolution aflame. Here are three things to consider when offering support to a revolutionary thinker in your life.

  1. Don’t be afraid of crazy. Try to let your mind think beyond our current realties. There was a time, not that long ago, when the internet did not exist. Even democracy was once a brand new concept. Were these things crazy at the time? Yes. Were their founders crazy? Yes. Would you have been able to support them?
  2. Embrace naivety. In most cases being naïve can be a detriment, but in a revolution it’s a strength. People that are well grounded and informed often get deadlocked by the complexity of finding a reasonable solution. But the naive get right to action. They start trying because they believe they can make a difference. And they do, because they are actually working on it. We can offer them wisdom, but it’s important not to crush the innocence that’s fueling the revolution.
  3. Be a safe place. Believing passionately in something (anything) opens you up to examination and judgment. Grant them your unconditional acceptance. Make sure they know that if they make mistakes along the way, they will be learning moments. Let them know that any learning moments will just make them better prepared to serve.

Are you starting a revolution or supporting a revolution?

Why it’s not what you say. And it’s not just how you say it.

Posted on Updated on

Truth

I’m late getting this post out because I spent my writing time having a firm conversation with my soon-to-be 12 year-old son. It was a conversation that almost all parents have at some point. I’ll call it the “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it” talk. Often how we say things makes a greater impression than the words and points themselves. By the time we reach adulthood, we tend to be well aware of this fact. We may actively try to monitor things like tone, body language and facial expressions in hopes that our communications will be received more favorably. This is critically important because it’s almost impossible to serve others if we aren’t able to connect and communicate well.

I was passionate about explaining this to my son. I pointed out the visual cues that revealed his mixed emotions. And I explained how those visual cues created more hostility in me than his words alone warranted. But I’ve been thinking about it more since then and in hindsight I think I missed an opportunity to teach him something additional. Correcting his tone or body language is important when showing respect, but it can also lead to suppressing the truth. Covering things up will make his conversations more palatable, but true emotions have a way of being felt and known even if not fully observed or expressed.

When I revisit this talk with him again, I’m going to do a better job of pointing out that he should also try to identify and deal with how he feels. Because directly dealing with his feelings will actually help him manage them better. It will also allow for a more open and honest exchange. I’m going to encourage him to examine his emotions and intentions even if it’s still appropriate to display them more calmly. I need him to know that tone and deliver definitely matter. But if the relationship matters – the truth about how he’s feeling matters too. So I want him to have some tools to identify his feelings because sometimes he won’t even be sure what they are.

Feelings that speak loudly

So these are the 10 questions I’m going to encourage him to ask himself. The truth behind any of these answers is often hard to hide. I’m sure he won’t remember them all but I hope he’ll try one or two. They should help him come to a conversation knowing what he’s feeling and if he’s being genuine or not.

  1. Am I angry with this person?
  2. Has this person hurt my feelings?
  3. Do I like this person?
  4. Do I trust this person?
  5. Have I tried to see their point of view?
  6. Do they remind me of anyone that may have hurt me in the past?
  7. Does this situation remind me of anything that’s happened before?
  8. Am I open to changing my mind?
  9. Am I willing to hurt this relationship to make my point?
  10. What is the outcome I’m hoping for?

What is missing from this list?

How to say “just the right thing.”

Posted on Updated on

Hook

This is an exaggeration, but I feel as if almost everyone I know is in the middle of a life transition. They’re evaluating the things that are no longer working in their lives – like their relationships or career choices. They’re blazing new trails and even trying unconventional ways of creating purpose and joy. One friend is considering a major relocation. Another is trying to defeat a chronic habit of self-critical thoughts. They’re allowing some things to die in their lives. And they’re trying to be more deliberate about what they plant and grow in its place.

During times of transition, I’m particularly sensitive to encouraging the people I love. I hope to serve them. I hope I make them feel supported and empowered. But sometimes I’m not really sure if I’m saying the right things?

So this post is one I will leave half done in hopes that you will help me finish it. Think of a time someone said “just the right thing” and left you feeling encouraged. What did they say? Below are five things that have meant a lot to me. But, what am I missing? What would you add?

Words that encourage

  1. I want for you what you want for you. This is your life’s journey. And I don’t have to fully understand your path to love and support you. If this is where God is leading you I will be fully behind you. ”
  2. I’m here to celebrate success and cry in defeat. Whatever you’re about to go through, you will not go through it alone.”
  3. Life is short. I know on the surface change is scary and perhaps this is a bit crazy. But no matter how cliché it sounds, life really is short. You have to take risks to take control of your experience. Some people will judge you while sitting on the sidelines, but I’ll be cheering you on just for being in the game.”
  4. Life is long. If you change your mind or if you make a mistake there’s a pretty good chance you will have time to rebound. Time is an amazing healer. Even if what you’re most afraid of happens, you will recover, learn and be stronger.”
  5. The devil is in the details. Faith requires that you be willing to take the first step even if you can’t see the entire staircase in front of you. Don’t obsess and try to address every fear with detailed plans. If God is telling you to take this step you won’t have to figure it out alone.”

There are a lot of ways we talk here. You can reach me on Facebook, Twitter, email or the comments below.

Please share with me what someone said to you that was “just the right thing.”