Being Inspired

As a writer, I’ve trained myself to try to be observant to the world around me. I love to people watch, and sometimes I can’t help but eavesdrop on conversations at the local coffee shop. You never know what is going to inspire you, no matter how small it may seem. A snatch of a phrase here or an action or motion there. But in observing the world, you sometimes overlook what’s right in your own home.

I’ve been honored to have three stories published in various Chicken Soup for the Soul books, including the one out now for Mother’s Day -“Chicken Soup for the Soul: Best Mom Ever!” Many writers are inspired by their own parents, and I definitely admire my mother for her strength and courage, and fun sense of humor.
Chicken Soup Covers

But in the case of two out of my three stories for Chicken Soup, the inspiration has come from my daughter, Bonnie.

Bonnie became my daughter via marriage to her father. She started as my step-daughter, but our relationship grew to the point where she asked to be legally adopted ; This story was recounted in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Celebrating Mothers and Daughter. From there, I watched her finish high school to going to college, to shopping with her for her wedding dress to most recently, walking with her through her own pregnancy and birth of her beautiful daughter. This is the story in “Best Mom Ever!”

Bonnie lost her mother due to a car accident, so me coming into her life and trying to be a mother wasn’t always an easy thing to do. How do you walk the line between respecting the memory of her mother to wanting to develop my own motherly relationship with her?

It’s been a journey, filled with highs and lows, but we’ve walked this path together, communicating openly and honestly. And the fact that she opened her heart to love another mother astounds me and I couldn’t be more blessed with her and our precious relationship.

There’s something about choosing each other that has made our bond even deeper.
Bonnie’s faith in me in a parental role (when I had no children of my own previously) and now as a grandparent fills me with such joy. You never know how your heart can grow with love.
Granddaughter
She continues to inspire me as I watch her grow into her own role as a mother, and I’m so honored to walk beside her during this time.

So, while I look around the world for inspiration, I need not forget to look among my own family. This beautiful light that is my daughter is proving to be the greatest inspiration of all.

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Little Things

This summer seems to be filled with anger from an ugly political season and violence. Many people I know are also facing tough times, with health issues and tragic deaths in their families. For me, I’m just upset about computer problems. That may seem minor, but my entire job is on the computer and this time of year, having everything work is critical.

Ok, compared to what others are going through, I have no problems. However, all that to say is when you feel surrounded by sadness or anger, how do you battle through? How do you keep from being pulled into the pit of negativity? Life events may take us to negative places, but how do you not stay there?

For me, I find solace in little things. Admittedly, sometimes I have to look hard for the little things that are positive, but they’re there. The other night, in the midst of my computer frustration, a friend texted me. The conversation evolved from what I’m not doing to how to reach future goals. She lifted my spirits in unexpected ways.

Then the next day was just coffee and breakfast with a friend. Thinking that I really didn’t have time to be away from my desk, I felt rushed and hurried when I arrived to meet her. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to see my friend. But I was concerned about the timing of our visit. As always, God showed up then. That breakfast had good conversation, serious thoughts that moved to laughter, and a sweet morning of sharing. I’m so glad I took the time. It was the boost I needed to power through the rest of my work day.

None of this will solve the grief my friends are experiencing with tragic deaths of relatives, or help others with serious health issues. But friends, family, and little moments can help all of us get through one day to the next. Knowing friends are there for prayers and support are God’s way of saying “I still have this.”

So despite the turmoil surrounding us, we cling to our faith. God’s still got this. He has us! He’ll make a way for us to walk through these trying times.

I’m determined to cling to His promises and to look for the little things.

What We can Learn from Kids

If you’re a fan of the Food Network or cooking shows in general, you’ve probably noticed the overabundance of shows featuring kids these days. Namely, Chopped Junior, Kids Baking Championship, Rachael vs Guy Kids Cook-off, and on a different note, Project Runway Junior on Lifetime.Chopped Junior

I haven’t watched all of these shows, but I’ve caught a few. At first, before watching any of the shows, I had a negative attitude. Why would I want to see a bunch of kids cook or sew or whatever. It didn’t appeal to me.

But as a longtime viewer of both Chopped and Project Runway, I started watching. And now I don’t want to miss an episode. First, these kids have more talent than I can imagine. They inspire. They have passion, and most of all, they have FUN!

But one of the main things I’ve noticed is the spirit and positive attitudes of these kids. Yes, they’re on a competition show, and unfortunately, not all will win. But these kids have the attitude of “we’re all in this together” and “isn’t it great that we’re all on this show.” There’s a real sense of camaraderie. They want the best for each other and they’re willing to help each other out.

On Chopped Junior specifically, if one kid finishes early and another is still plating, the first kid will help out his fellow contestant so they can finish. There’s a sense of everyone needs their shot at this, a sense of fair play. Let everyone do their best.

You don’t always see this sportsmanlike behavior in the adult versions of these shows. The adult version comes with the “it’s all about me” attitude. Not willing to help their fellow contestants, not even cheering for them. Now this isn’t true in all cases, of course, but there’s a definite difference. And by airing these shows with kids, those differences become very apparent.

Now, I appreciate good competition as much as the next person. It’s one reason I love tennis. For the most part, you leave everything on the court, then you go to the net and shake hands. You should be appreciative of the competition and appreciative of the talents of the other person across the net.

If you lose a competition, or lose the tennis match, it doesn’t mean you’re not talented, or that this isn’t what you’re supposed to do, it just means you lost that match, that competition. What do you do from here? Learn from it and move on.

You get a feeling that these kids are learning. Learning that they won’t win every time. Learning that not winning means they don’t have talent or this isn’t what they’re supposed to do. And maybe most important, they’ve shared an experience with their fellow competitors and possibly have made lifelong friends.
So, what can we as adults learn from these kids? I think we need to learn to appreciate others around us, learn to appreciate the competition, the ups and downs, and maybe most important, the acceptances and rejections of life and how to move on, gracefully, head held high. Because we did our best despite the outcome. We need to accept responsibility for our own errors, and always try to do our best. We need to realize it’s not all about me.

I want to be appreciative of all the situations, good and bad, and maybe one of the most important things, I don’t ever want to lose my sense of fun!

Amazing what you can learn from kids, if you look around and pay attention.

A New Perspective on “One Word” for the Year

If you’re like me, you know several people who choose “one word” for the year and try to live by that word. I’ve done it myself. Many are talking about it now as we’re preparing to go into the new year.
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This has got me thinking (always a dangerous thing! :)) There’s a song out now that keeps echoing in my head:

“When you don’t know what to say, just say Jesus. There’s power in the name….”

Last year, my word was “shine.” I wanted to shine Christ through me and shine in all I did, I wanted to make sure my focus was on Him.

And every time I felt like I was failing, or when I was having a bad day, I would pray. And the first word out of my mouth was “Jesus.”

I had already picked out my word for 2015, which was “time.” You know, time for God, time for others, better time management at work. You get the idea. The thing is, none of that can be accomplished without Jesus first.

While it’s great to ponder whatever word is on your heart for the new year, or if you don’t utilize “one word”, let’s not forget to name the most important: Jesus. Nothing we want to accomplish in the new year can be done without Him.

So perhaps, every year, every month, every day, we already know what our “one word” should be: Jesus.

Wishing you many blessings for 2015.

Stay focused on the one who saved us.

Being There

As I write this, the world is talking about the shocking passing of Robin Williams. As the TV talking heads are going through his television and movie credits, I realize how many of his movies I’ve seen… and loved.  It is incredibly sad to lose such a great talent.

But through all of this discussion, this man who is being heralded as a comic legend, who entertained millions, has suddenly become very human.  Yes, we tend to put celebrities on a pedestal, forgetting that along with their immense talent, they are human beings, going through this life of ups and downs, marriage, children and everything else.

Obviously, Robin Williams was battling more.  He was always open about substance abuse, but did many of us realize he struggled with depression?  Severe depression.

It’s almost inconceivable that someone who was so loved and admired was in such a dark and lonely place where he was driven to take his own life.  He brought such laughter to everyone else, but couldn’t find the joy for himself. It’s tragic.

I’m almost embarrassed with my last post, when I talk about “wallowing” in my own sadness of recent events in my life.  Thankfully, I haven’t been to the darkest place where I’ve thought of a “permanent solution to a temporary problem.”  I always knew I’d pull out of this and things would get better.

But I didn’t share with many how sad I was feeling.  I don’t always share, because I don’t want to burden others, I don’t want to come across as a whiner, and I don’t want to be considered a negative person.

Was that mindset preventing me from getting the support and encouragement I needed at the time?  How do you balance reaching out without being a whiner?  How do you invite people in without pushing them away?

Hopefully, more discussion will come from this awful passing of Robin Williams about depression, about how to help others.  One thing I heard this morning was just be there. You may not be able to solve the problem, but you can come along beside someone and just remind them that they mean something to you, that their life has value.

Maybe this is a reminder to all of us to hug your family and friends and say “I love you.”  I hate that we have to be reminded, and that we’re usually reminded when someone else has died. We need make this part of our daily lives.

Life is short.  Reach out to someone.  Touch base.  Just be with someone today and hold their hand, give them a hug…. heck, just smile at someone and wish them a wonderful day.

What a difference we could make if we all did that every day.

Can You Be an Inspiration?

The Winter Olympics are happening, and yes, I’m watching.  I love the inspiring and uplifting stories, the competition, patriotic pride and more.Olympic Medals

To see athletes achieve their lifelong goals along side those who are just happy to be in Sochi right now is heartwarming.  Remember the young American skier, Heidi Kloser, who was injured in a training run before opening ceremonies, and hobbled into the stadium on crutches? When she was injured, her first question was “Am I still an Olympian?”

During opening ceremonies, the commentators talked about another athlete, I believe the only athlete from his particular country,  who knew he would come in dead last his event, but it didn’t matter. He was just happy to be there.

So while we are inspired by the medalists and all they’ve accomplished, are these two athletes  I’ve mentioned any less inspiring?  I love that these two (and so many others) are happy to be Olympians, to have strived, trained, and worked to make it that far and to experience this international competition that’s unlike anything else.

Most of us won’t make such a big impact on an international, or even national stage in our lives.  But I believe we can be an inspiration in our own little world.  What can we do for others around us — in our city, neighborhood, at our jobs, or heck, even in our own home?  Are we striving to make a difference? Are we shining God’s light and inspiring someone else no matter where we are?

What can you do today to shine?

Being Whole with Missing Parts

 

I saw a story on CBS Sunday Morning this past weekend about wounded warriors playing music, lead by Roger Waters of Pink Floyd.

One of these hero warriors lost a hand and both legs in Afghanistan.  He told the story of how when his world was crashing down around him, he heard God’s voice ask “do you still trust me?”  In that moment, that brave soldier trusted. The result, despite the loss of limbs, he said he’s never felt more whole in his life.

His words and his attitude touched me and inspired me in a profound way.

That statement brought me to tears as I watched the video of this young man singing “Hallelujah”, backed up by a band of other hero soldiers, including a drummer who had lost both legs and an arm, and could still play a mean set of drums.

In a very tiny, tiny way, I can relate. Having a double mastectomy due to breast cancer hasn’t made me less of a person…or less of a woman. (Of course I have the most amazing husband, who encourages and supports me with his unconditional love.)

I can relate to that soldier because in some ways I’ve never felt more whole.  God uses the tragedies and tough times in our lives to lead us to something good. God saved my life, and saved the lives of these soldiers for a purpose.

I have such gratitude for my life, and pray to fulfill the purpose of God’s will.

So, despite what we all think is missing in our lives, whether physical or emotional, maybe we need to take a moment to be grateful for all we do have….and not focus on what’s missing.

I guess we need to ask ourselves “do we trust God?”

Thoughts to ponder as we head into the season of thanks.

If you’re interested, here’s the link to the uplifting and inspiring story on CBS Sunday Morning:  http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-3445_162-57611639/band-of-brothers/

It’s worth your time to watch.