This Christmas

“This is going to be the best Christmas ever.”

This is what my daughter told me this weekend as we brought out our Christmas tree, shopped for some new strings of lights, and hung the ornaments on our tree.

We’ve been easing our way into our Christmas preparations. We like to take it slow, focusing on one thing at a time. While many people love decorating and shopping for Christmas over Thanksgiving weekend, we spend the entire weekend relaxing and enjoying time together, reflecting on the blessings in our life.

Not too long after that, though, we start to bring out our special Advent and Christmas books. We read every night, but we save these books for this time of the year. In the books of Christmas, we’ve read about the legend of the Candy Cane, the life of Saint Nicholas, and many more. We have books that range from short and sweet and silly to more serious and lovely and deeply meaningful. She loves them all. And I can’t wait to introduce her to some new-to-her classics this year. I think she’s ready.

We begin December concentrating on Advent, preparing to celebrate the birth of our Lord at Christmas and she’s all over it. She helps find the Advent prayers to say as we light the candles each week. She insists that we bring out  our Nativity sets first – but no other decorations until later in the month. I don’t know how my eight year old child acquired such an appreciation for savoring each moment, each day, each individual joy, but she does and I am so glad to know her heart works that way.

Around this time of the month, we bring out the tree and start thinking about gifts for those we love. We’ve already gathered gifts for several donation collections and she has about three more she wants to help. She was bothered a bit that we didn’t take a food donation to church this morning – my fault, I forgot. How did my child gain such an awareness that there are others in need and that we are responsible for helping?

Her class worked on writing friendly letters in class over the last few weeks, adding a letter to Santa last week. Zilla finished hers this evening, asking only for two small things for herself. As she wrote, she asked my husband and me what “non-thing items” we would like for Christmas. I told her I’d like peace and happiness for my family, the Hub told her he would like the gift of time. She included those in her letter. I was floored. When did my little girl gain an appreciation for the gifts that money can’t buy?

We’re enjoying all the trappings of the season, things like hot chocolate and footed pajamas, warm slippers and cozy socks, candy canes and cookies, holiday movies and popcorn… And of course she is wound up and silly and taking full advantage of the slightly relaxed rules about weekend bedtimes and screen time and sweets, just like any other kid. But even in her silliness, there is balance, and it amazes me. Have I taught her these things? She teaches me always…

She gets it – all of it. She understands the fun and frolic and she understands the significance of this season in our faith narrative. She believes in Saint Nicholas and Santa Claus and in the gift of the Christ Child. She believes in what is right and good and that those things will always triumph. She believes in love.

My daughter believes this is going to be the best Christmas ever.

I believe she’s right.

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The Morning After

So. Here we are.

The election is over and you would have to live under a rock to be unaware of the climate this morning. Sure, about half of the people in the U.S. are mighty pleased with themselves this morning, but the other half are devastated.

I don’t do politics here on the blog. Or at all, really. While I have very strong feelings about such things, I have always held to the philosophy that politics, religion, and sex simply don’t belong laid out on the kitchen table. These topics create so much dissension and anger among people – even people who love one another fiercely – that sometimes it is better to simply refrain from discussions in certain public settings.

But today I cannot be silent.

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I cannot be silent when so many of my friends and people I love are hurt, scared, and angry. I cannot be silent when my daughter stands before me and cries at the results of this election because even at the tender age of eight, she understands that bullying and hate appear to have been rewarded. I cannot be silent when the new president-elect consistently spews hatred directed at so many groups of people in this country (and the world) – people who are simply different from him.

I understand that this nation has problems. It always has; every society does. I understand that people want change, and I don’t disagree that some change is in order. But I sat in front of the TV last night dumbfounded – dumbfounded – that this country just put a man in office who has behaved as this man does and who is so uniquely unqualified for the office in both temperament and experience.

How in the world did we get to a place where so many people are willing to tolerate this level of hate? In all sincerity, I want to ask someone who voted for him these questions.

I want to ask parents of daughters how they can back a man who has treated and spoken of women the way he has. My daughter is a woman. What does this presidency mean for her?

I want to ask people who know someone who is Jewish how they can back a man who delivers not-so-cloaked anti-Semitic rhetoric and is endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party?  My husband is Jewish. What does this presidency mean for him?

And the list goes on and on…

I have to say again that if you are unaware of all the insults and hate he has directed at African Americans, Latinos, Muslim and Jewish people, handicapped people,  the LGBTQ community, women, military personnel, and so many more, then you haven’t been paying attention. And if you are aware, why is that behavior acceptable?

Please don’t talk to me about deleted e-mails or pro-life topics or trade agreements or any of the other myriad reasons people cite as reason where this election is concerned. You’re going to have to come at me with something stronger than that. We can argue those points for the next four years and it won’t change the fact that above all, hate has somehow become tolerable. That is unacceptable.

This all reminds me of the movie The American President. Have you seen it? Watch it. Really. Set aside the love story angle and pay attention to the election angle between the incumbent President and the hopeful who is trying to unseat him. This guy spews hate at people, preys on their fear, and gets those who are dissatisfied with the status quo to buy into his attacks. One of the characters in the movie finally asks the sitting President, “How do you have patience for people who claim they love America, but clearly can’t stand Americans?”

 

I feel like that’s where we are. And it frightens me.

So where am I going with all of this? Well, forward. That’s the only place we can go. But I will not move forward with the kind of hate and anger that has characterized this election season and continues to characterize discussions this morning.

I choose to do what I have always believed is the way to go – live with a focus on love, on kindness, and on compassion. Am I perfect in that regard? Of course not. But I sure do make the effort to be mindful enough to learn from any mistakes I make and continue to improve.

I choose to hold fast to my faith and to my personal belief that all things have purpose, even tragedy. We may not always recognize that in the throes of a challenge, but it has been my experience that ultimately, there will be an answer. If you’ve read here for any length of time you know how strongly I believe that even in the darkest moments, there is always hope for light.

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If you need a reason, look into your children’s eyes. Think of the people you know who are part of groups that have been insulted and oppressed in this country. If you need to know what to do next, think about all the similar instances in history where people turned fear and hate and disappointment into action. Do something. Join us at 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion. Be kind to people. Period. If you need something to remind you why we keep working and keep fighting and never quit, read Thomas Paine’s The Crisis, No. 1This is not the first time we’ve felt down and out and it probably won’t be the last.

Be sad and cry if you need to. Wear black or whatever helps. And then remember what President Obama said in the Rose Garden just a little while ago – the sun is going to come up again tomorrow. So get up and go forward.

And please…always remember that Love Wins. Even when that’s difficult to believe.

Peace.

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I’ve added this post to the Finish the Sentence Friday link-up hosted this week by  Kristi at Finding Ninee and Denise at Adventures of a Jayhawk Mommy.  

This week we’re talking about change and the unexpected.

The results of this election certainly qualify.

Our Inherent Good – A #1000Speak Post

We can easily strike up a debate about the inherent nature of humans.

Are we inherently good? Or are qualities like goodness, kindness, and compassion learned behaviors? Are they the product of nature or nurture?

It’s easy to look at today’s headlines about the tragic events plaguing our world, and say no, there is no good.

 

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And that much is true, of course; there is much hate and negativity in the world right now. There always has been. But I will argue that if you look through all of that, you will find good everywhere.  You will find stories of courage and compassion, stories about people doing great things and small to show another that they matter. We can probably swap headlines one-for-one, but at the end of our discussion, I will still insist that the vast majority of people are, for the most part and with the exception of certain extreme circumstances, essentially good at heart, at least most of the time.

Because no one is perfect. And because that’s true, maybe we don’t always do good things. Maybe we are not always good to one another, but even so we were not created to be evil.

You will say that’s hard to believe, given the violence and hate and anger we see in the headlines every day. That’s because media loves conflict. There is no drama when things are going well and everyone is satisfied – and the media hates that. The media wants you fired up, angry, ready to engage in a battle of opinion with anyone who wants to engage. It is the media’s job to tell you what to care about, what you should be afraid of, and who is to blame for whatever is wrong with your world. If only we saw half as much positive in the headlines – philanthropy, service, community spirit, and more – we would remember those good things and look for more.

Right now negativity prevails. But think about where a lot of the violence and hate and anger comes from. It comes from individuals’ desire to do something good, something just. Perhaps their actions or intentions are misguided. But if we reason to the root of things, we will so often see that people are angry because they want to be heard. People lash out at others because they want justice for those they see as oppressed and downtrodden. They speak up and act out because they want to effect change. And I think we’re really good at that – championing the underdogs, championing our causes. Most of the time. Except for the misguided few.

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But I’m going to stop here. I don’t really want to debate whether people are inherently good because I have my answer – we are and I can show you proof. (The story is on my Facebook page.)

Today, I want to talk about an area in which we as humans are not good, an area in which we fail to be good and compassionate day after day, an area that if left unchecked leads to so many other problems. We humans may be inherently good, but we are not inherently good to ourselves.

Most of us at one time or another have treated ourselves more harshly than we would ever treat a friend or family member, or even a complete stranger.

We criticize and shame our bodies.

We minimize our gifts and talents.

We emphasize our bad habits and flaws.

We tell ourselves that we don’t deserve happiness, success, love, respect, or a nap. We push too hard and go too long and we don’t say no for fear that we might disappoint someone if we don’t take on one more thing that is simply too much to handle.

We do not care for ourselves. We do not make the choice to take care of our minds, bodies, hearts. We are simply not good to ourselves.

And that is a problem.

When we don’t love ourselves, we can’t love anyone else. If we do not know how to care for ourselves, to treat ourselves with gentleness and compassion, how can we do it for anyone else? We cannot be happy for others, we can not lift them up and support them. We can not rejoice with them or cry with them. Perhaps we go through the motions, give a good external facsimile of what we deem “good.” But that is too difficult to sustain for very long.

And it doesn’t stop there. The problem does not rest with a simple inability to show compassion for others. It becomes something much more complicated, something much worse. Without self-love and compassion, we begin to treat others just as poorly. We treat others not merely with a lack of a compassion and kindness, but with distinct and specific hatred, cruelty, and jealousy. We refuse to see other points of view. We fail to respect the beliefs, practices, or personal space of other people. We want our own voice to be heard so badly that we become misguided in our approach. Rather than caring for our Selves so that we can in turn care for others, we destroy our selves and have nothing left to offer. Feeling inadequate makes us lash out and bring anyone we can down to our own level of misery.

And so it becomes clear that in order to heal the world, we must first heal ourselves. In order to be compassionate to others, we must first be compassionate with ourselves. It’s just like the flight attendants stress in that pre-flight safety speech – put on your own oxygen mask on first, then take care of the guy next to you. If you can’t breathe, you are of no help to him.

Shaking our heads at the bad news and grumbling about how the world is going to hell in a hand basket isn’t going to change anything. Neither is overwhelming ourselves with worry that we can never change enough to make any difference. Before we set out to stop all the negativity in the world, we have to stop the negativity in our own minds.

Be good to yourself. Be kind to yourself. Acknowledge and embrace your imperfections. Let the good that lives inside all of us rise to the surface and ripple outward. And be amazed at how much good you see around you.

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1000 Voices

 

This month, 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion continues to work toward a better world with a focus on inherent compassion. 

Write a relevant post and add it to the link-up right here by clicking the blue button below.

 

Join 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion on Facebook

Visit the 1000Speak blog

Follow @1000Speak on Twitter

Use the #1000Speak hashtag across social media.

#10Thankful – A Heavy Heart

It has been a week of such sadness.

I’m sure most of you know of the terribly sad and tragic headlines that have filled our news feeds this week. My heart is also heavy for people in my life who are grieving the loss of family and beloved companions, people who are struggling with illness, emotional and physical pain, financial difficulty, and so much more. There are so many hearts out there in need and lately it seems that there is far too much hurt to be helped.

I’ve started my list of thankfuls at least ten times over the last few days, and each time I sit in front of it, it seems…something. Trivial? Wrong? I don’t know. None of those is either true or fair, really. We are not wrong to be thankful for the blessings in our lives, yet many of us find ourselves thinking that somehow we should not be celebrating when so many are hurting. I know I’m not alone in this; a few friends have shared similar feelings. It’s more than OK to go on, to live, to continue putting foot in front of foot as we make our way through each day set before us. And yet, somehow, things like weight losses and spiralized vegetable noodles and replacement mobile phones seem…trivial. Wrong.

I’m dancing dangerously close to the deadline to add my list to the link-up for this week, so unless I’m planning to just opt out because I couldn’t figure myself out, I need to make a little haste here. I would rather get a few short things down and acknowledge them here than give up. Love wins. Goodness wins. I do believe that with all my heart, no matter how much evil floods my news feed. I refuse to believe that there is no good, no joy, no blessing in life. I’m not blind to what’s happening. I’m not ignorant of the problems in the world. I know. We all know.

I also know that light and cool meals made with spiralized veggies are perfect on a hot summer evening.

I know that reaching any goal is better when you have friends to encourage you.

I know that I am so very glad to have the opportunity right now to live my life in a manner that allows me to spend time with my daughter and my husband and do the work I love from the peace and comfort of my home.

I know that I am glad when we check projects off our to-do list.

I know that I am happy when our Cat One feels better after a bout of his tummy troubles. And I am definitely glad when his tummy troubles don’t land on the new carpet.

I know that losing a cell phone down a composting toilet shaft is definitely not the end of the world, just a relatively minor inconvenience to replace contact info and the phone itself. I do have to admit being very sad for the loss of some very special photos that had not yet been transferred to my computer. That bugged me. But they’re photos, not the actual people in them. Everyone is alive and safe and I know I will always hold those memories in my mind and my heart.

I know that I am grateful for my Husband’s patient ear when I need to talk and cry a bit.

I know that tears are wonderful, powerful things. And I know that crying helps and is necessary sometimes.

I know the same is true of writing – at least for me. It is a wonderful, powerful endeavor, even if the words never see anyone’s eyes but mine. It helps and it is necessary sometimes.

I know that the world is not all bad all of the time. If the world were good and perfect all the time, well, it wouldn’t be this world, now would it? It would be something else entirely. I know that love wins and eventually, somehow, some way, good does triumph over evil. We just have to keep working on improving our selves, our lives, our world, one little bit at a time.

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#1000Speak – A Home Remedy for the World

It’s 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion link-up time again! This month I’m “guest hosting” over at the 1000Speak blog. I have a guest post up over there, A Home Remedy for the World, so please hop over and check it out. You can also link your own post via the linky tool there.

Later this week, I’ll have a guest post to share from my lovely friend Kristi Campbell who blogs over at Finding Ninee. You’ll definitely want to check out her guest post as well.

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In the meantime, here’s how to get involved with 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion:

Join 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion on Facebook

Visit the 1000Speak blog

Follow @1000Speak on Twitter

Use the #1000Speak hashtag across social media.

This month’s link up is open and ready for your posts and will remain open until June 28th.  You can link up right here, or via the post on the 1000Speak blog. Join us and help us work toward a more compassionate world!

 

#1000Speak April Link-Up: Compassion and Vulnerability

Somehow, another month has passed and here we are at the 20th of the month – time for another 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion link-up!

I honestly don’t know if I’ll make it in with a post this month, but at the very  least, here is your avenue to link your own post and check out the words of others!

This month, 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion continues to work toward a better world with a focus on Compassion and Vulnerability.

Write a relevant post and add it to the link-up right here by clicking the blue button below.

Here’s how to get involved:

Join 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion on Facebook

Visit the 1000Speak blog

Follow @1000Speak on Twitter

Use the #1000Speak hashtag across social media.

1000 Voices


Choose Happiness – A #1000Speak Post

What makes you happy?

No, it’s not a trick question. I’m serious. Sit down. Close your eyes and think about it for a few minutes.

Now, answer the question: What makes you happy?

 

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The answer, of course, will differ for everyone. The things, experiences, even people that bring us joy are as varied as we are. Maybe you said your family or friends make you happy. Maybe it’s seeing your grandchildren’s faces on the computer screen when you Skype with them. Maybe you said ice cream makes you happy or a walk on the beach or shopping or your dog. Maybe you said that kindness and compassion make you happy. Maybe it’s the smell of cookies baking or your Grandmother’s pot roast on a Sunday afternoon.

No matter what your answer, it’s a good one.

Let’s keep going. I’m out on a limb here, but my suspicion is that you – like most people – listed outside sources for your happiness. Am I right? But did you think of anything within yourself or anything about yourself that makes you happy?

Continue reading “Choose Happiness – A #1000Speak Post”

Celebrating One Year of Compassion – A #1000Speak Post

I want to tell you a story.

It’s a simple story – very short, truly sweet. It’s the story of a little girl who saw someone in need and acted with compassion. This little girl was on the school recess yard with a friend, playing whatever things little girls do on the school recess yard at lunchtime.

It was one of those days in the very late fall where some people feel cold and others feel warm. The second little girl had left her coat in the classroom and was cold. And so the first little girl removed her own coat and gave it to her friend to wear until the end of recess.

 

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That little girl – the one who gave away her coat – is my daughter.

My husband and I learned what she did from a teacher who had witnessed it firsthand. The whole thing took seconds. There was no debate, no pretense; she just saw a need and acted upon it. It very nearly brought me to my knees and most certainly brought me to tears. Continue reading “Celebrating One Year of Compassion – A #1000Speak Post”

Six Sentence Stories – The Blizzard

“Sir, you can return when we re-open the warming shelter this evening.” She knew that he would not; turning him out into a blizzard was an act even the devil would find unthinkable.

He squared his shoulders, willing the lump in is throat and the tears behind his eyes not to betray him. “I understand.”

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Continue reading “Six Sentence Stories – The Blizzard”

#BeReal – LISA LISTWA | hastywords

I’m visiting over at Hasty Words today to talk about what I think it means to #BeReal. And about a good pair of jeans.

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Not too long ago, a friend told me I was brave.

I think the word she said was brave… she admired my chutzpah in posting my whole and actual weight in a group setting focused on lessening our overall gravitational pull.

The compliment did not set well with me. What she couldn’t have known is that mere seconds before I saw her message, I clicked off my own desperate and panicked message to the group moderator asking him to please and immediately pull the image of my whole and actual weight…

Continue reading “#BeReal – LISA LISTWA | hastywords”