Heart Breaking Sadness

Today’s post is in honor of my dear publisher Gary Lindberg whose beloved son Brendan passed away suddenly this Sunday.

It comes as a phone call, a text, or even an email sharing the unexpected news of a sudden and unbelievable loss. Your jaw drops; the air is drawn from your body, and your heart suddenly aches. Someone dear to you has passed onto the next world unexpectedly. For me, I can feel my body and entire being falls to the floor. It is a collapsing filled with a heaviness that is beyond words. I draw my hands to my head to hold it up and then as the news saturates my being, the tears begin to form and fall my face. I am trying to process this sudden news at an intellectual level while my emotions start to swing into a full response. I can feel my heart breaking with sadness.

When a loss happens in this manner, I wish the world would stand still for just one moment. Just long enough so we can fully honor the person who is no longer here. I think that is one of the most surprising and even one of the most humbling things with death; that life keeps going on without our loved one. How is this possible? The feelings are bubbling, the questions are looming, and my need to make sense out of the seemingly senseless are both in play and fighting for my internal attention. But still amidst all these emotions and thoughts I can feel my heart melting with sadness.

Intuitively I know that I am entering a club I don’t want to be a part of again, grief. It is thick, hard and exhausting work. Grief will steal my sleep. Pain will take my appetite. Grief will try to build upon and amplify my previous losses especially those that I have not done the good work of finding resolution and peace. Grief will demand my full attention trying to lay claim to my heart, mind, and soul. Pain will take it all if I marinate in it long enough. I work to remind myself that grief is a process; grief is not a destination but a part of life’s journey. I resolve not to stay in a mourning state. No, I commit to pulling myself through this heartbreaking sadness.

I ask myself if I will ever find the love of the one who lost to me so that I have the strength to put one foot in front of the other. Will I have the courage to be truly open so I can fully feel the loss? Will I be open to the love and support that my family and friends will inevitably share? Will I be able to lift up my head and my heart from this amazingly dense and thick blanket of grief? Will I be reminded of the promise that is available to everyone? Will I trust in the belief that we have a Creator who loves us like crazy? I believe that this Creator keeps his promise that He conquered death. Will I go to him as I feel my heart fill with sadness?

As I take a deep breath and am thankful for that breath, I find the strength to take another breath and realize that yes I will find it within me to walk through this heartbreaking sadness. Yes, I can do this knowing and trust in the gift that is open to everyone. Even though my heart may feel broken, in the end, I know that my hope is to one day say goodbye to this earth and go to be with God. That is where I hope to find my loved ones once again. While they will be apart from me for what may seem like an eternity, in God’s book of life, it may only be the opening page of a long and beautiful book. I breathe again and feel my heart and soul begin to mend. With God’s help, I will do my best to walk through heartbreaking sadness.

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What would your favorite person say?

I wonder what your favorite person in the world would say they are most proud of you for – now do it! As I think about beginning a new year and what I am in need of hearing both in my head and heart, I look back to a tweet I wrote last year: Take a moment and think about your favorite relative. Imagine them right next to you. What achievement or strength are they most proud of, do you know? Now do it! If I were to imagine a favorite relative next to me today, I would dream of having one more chat with my Great Aunt June.

In my life, I have had the privilege of getting to know and love some amazing human beings. One who was and will always be near and dear to my heart was my Great Aunt June. She was great in both definitions of the word; she was my grandfather’s sister and she was a great woman. While her life wasn’t easy, and as a single woman her entire life, she gave freely to her extended family, friends, and community.

I remember Aunt June as a force of nature. She could roll into your life like a full force hurricane, or she could whisper into a room like a cool summer breeze. Depending on the situation, she always knew when and how to show up. She taught me about how to determine what is appropriately needed in certain situations as well as how to behave and act towards others. Her grace and wit always helped her engage people in a deeper and more meaningful level.

I long to hear her stories of how everyone deserves respect and the same treatment. Everyone deserves respect, kindness, and love. When times get tough, this is when one’s real character and nature shine through.  The heat of a situation challenges us to grow and stretch. We should welcome these opportunities to see ourselves perhaps more as our maker sees us and made us to be.

I long to be around this woman who knew who she was and was courageous beyond belief. She stood up for what she believed in even if there was a cost to her. As a teacher in the Pittsburgh schools, she received a written warning because her red patent leather shoes were against the dress code. Some may have called her stubborn, but for me, she was truly a woman born before her time.

I long to hear her talk about how everyone deserves second, third and fourth chances – even one thousandth chances she would argue. Aunt June never gave up on her students, friends or family and she had such patience, grace, and mercy. All one needed to do was to call her, and she would be there to listen and advise. Even towards the end of her life as it was tough for her to get around, she still always showed up.

I long to hear from her what she was most proud of even though my Aunt June would find a way of helping me to find things that seem trivial honestly to me were, in fact, the things that had the biggest impact on others. She loved that quote by Mother Teresa about finding the beauty in small and that is everyone’s call. Minister in the ordinary, everyday moment.  I bet she would lift up the challenges I have faced, to help me find the growth while soothing the bruises and hurts.

I offer you the possibility of imagining a conversation with your favorite relative or friend – what would they be most proud to see you accomplish? What would be your first step to begin having this conversation? Seek more stories about finding faith in ordinary moments, try my book Seeing the Extraordinary in the Ordinary.

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Take Miser Out of Miserable and You Get Able

What a delight to find this good thought of the week in my dad’s box of his favorite ideas, insights, and quotes. What a powerful reframe for all of us. How do we see things when we are miserable? We tend to close our hearts and minds. Wen we are stressed, tired and grumpy how do we see the world? And more importantly, how do we appear to the world?

Each of us has the potential to be a miser and be miserable. What is a miser – I would say it is one who is grasping to hold to what they have and one who doesn’t know the concept of sharing and giving of self. A miser tries so hard to hold onto what they have that they never learn the real gifts of living from a place of generosity. A miser feels entitled, a miser becomes stuck in the accumulating rather than in the living, sharing and being. When you cannot see your provision – then you will never have enough. The whole of seeking and needing will never be filled by any amount of stuff –  never.

What do you choose and why do you choose it? I ask you to reflect on this important question and take the opportunity to turn misery around. Find a place where you can become the hands and feet of the One who made you, who gifted you to be a blessing to others.

What I am asking is not easy and for many, it is not quick. It takes a time to be able to see where you are and then more time to find the path from miserable to neutral.  From neutral, you can then think about moving into an “able” mindset. Moving from a negative frame takes time and many times it takes the love and honesty of a close family member, friend or peer or a life-shattering pain or crisis to wake up our massive ego’s to the false frame we have been carrying around and operating within.

Be kind to yourself. Don’t expect smooth sailing at first as it will take time. Celebrate small wins and find someone whom you trust to hold you accountable. Find a truth teller who will tell you what’s going on and then find someone (it could be the same person) who can define the path to help you re-frame, and then do something every day that moves you forward.

Remember, it takes sixty-six days to improve your golf swing, so don’t expect quick changes. We are not talking about any overnight miracles. Give yourself time and space, and find others who can model and support you through this. You can do it!

Do you have an example of when you were able to move past being miserable and found yourself ABLE? Please share your stories in the comments section. Would love to hear from you!

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Stop Externalizing, Start Being

I love the writings of Parker Palmer. He challenges you to think about who you are in this world. He asks that each of us stop externalizing our problems and begin to own the space in which we live. He suggests drawing a Tic-Tac-Toe board. Put yourself in the middle. Now can you name all your neighbors, co-workers and those around you? Are you in relationships with those around you? Do you even know the names of those around you in the workplace or where you live? When I pose this question to individuals and organizations, many times I see blank stares as the audience realizes they are not in relationships with their neighbors.

This post is not about pointing fingers. To the contrary, this is all about owning your space and choosing how you want to live and where you want to BE. Our world is in need of humans who are in relationships with each other—not just people who are like them, but people who will challenge them to see things from a new angle, perspective or thought process. I know the world around us can seem scary. I know the headlines can leave you wanting to hide under the covers and never leave. But know this—until we reclaim our connectedness until we get to know our neighbors and are in relationships, we will continue in the same direction.

So I ask you: today in the grocery store; today in the parking lot; today by the copier; today at the bank—what would it feel and look like if you were to meet someone new? What would it feel like to say hello to someone you haven’t met yet? What would be different if you introduce yourself to a neighbor you haven’t met yet? I say breath in a deep breath, dig deep and be brave. When we can live from an authentic and courageous place, we can change who we are and the world around us—one human being at a time. Begin with you and see what happens.

When we can live from this place, we become the most effective change agents – ones that are trustworthy, authentic and very powerful!

I would love to hear how you connect with your neighborhood and even better examples of influencing the world for good. When we can share in community powerful things, happen. We have the power. Making a difference starts with the small and starts with building trust in relationships!

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What the World Be Like If It Imitated Me?

Be ye imitators of me. 1 Corinthians 11:1 (NSRV). This great scripture was written by St. Paul and poses a great question for us to ponder. Have you ever wondered what the world would be like if everyone were to imitate you? Maybe the world is too big a stage for you to wrap your head and heart around so let’s pull it in closer. Let’s pose the same question but at a much smaller and more intimate level. What would your family be like if they were to imitate you? What would your workplace be like if your co-workers were to imitate you? What would your classroom, your team, your “you fill in the blank” be like if they were to imitate you?

What kind of world would it be? Would it be kind? Patient? Fully present? Now imagine your experience in it. What would that feel like if it fully reflected and resembled how and who you are today? Your perspective shifts when you step outside of yourself and view the world as if everyone behaved like you.  So often we complain about our WORLD and how terrible and broken it is. My challenge to you is what are you going to do about it? You hold complete power on how you are in this world.

Each of us has been given a role to play in making our world a better place and must take responsibility for our actions. I believe that every human being is uniquely made and gifted. As Henry Winkler, the Fonz, recently shared so beautifully at WE Day Minnesota, “It’s our job to dig up that talent and share it with the world.”

Today as you go about your day, I challenge you to think about how you behave within our world. Know that other will imitate you for both the good and the not so good. Choose intentionally and choose well.

Please share your insights in comments below. I love how we learn from each other. Sharing is powerful. How are you showing up in the world?

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Be Still and Know

One of my favorite memories is having spent a week on Cape Cod with my family. Every morning we would hike out to an isolated spot on the peninsula to enjoy the ocean. As it was low tide, we could explore the shallow areas for magical sea creatures. As the tide began to rise, we needed to move closer to shore to avoid the water. We moved to higher ground as the waves began to claim the shallow areas we had been exploring. We even had to move our blankets and beach chairs.

Just like the ocean, our lives also have ebbs and flows. There are times when we are in shallow waters that are easy to navigate, and there are times when we are in deep waters that take a lot of energy even to survive. There are times when we are full and times when we are empty. I think we tend to forget that we are human and we, just like the ocean, have beautiful rhythms in our lives. Some we can control, but many we cannot. Where we fall off the tracks is thinking that we control everything. We become so reliant on ourselves we begin to lose sight of what God has in mind for us. When we learn to trust God’s timing and will for each of us, and when we learn to trust the rhythms and ebbs and flows, we find true freedom.

Wherever you are today, whatever your troubles, my hope for you is that they pass just as surely as the tides rise and fall. Take a breath, and trust the rhythm in your life and the plan God has for you.

I would love to hear about your journey. We learn so much in a community and sharing with each other.  Please post a comment about the ebbs and flows of your life.

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