Looking for the Gift of Grace

ImageI do not at all understand the mystery of grace, only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.
-Anne Lamott 

The word “Grace” derives from the Greek, chars. In Secular Greek, chars was related to chair, “to rejoice.”

Over the years I have learned to look for the tiny signs, the details that may lead me to a moment of grace, a moment of quiet rejoicing, in finding that I am truly not alone in this world.

I want you to think of a time where life was painful or you felt alone or you needed comfort and someone showed up, or you received a phone call you needed to hear or a special song played on the radio just for you.  I want you to think about the smallest threads that have held you together when you felt like things were unraveling around you. It is through these moments that we can find that quiet place of grace.

I have been very blessed with little moments when I need them most. It’s as if at my lowest points there is a glimpse or shimmer of something bigger than me. When I need an answer more than ever, I am handed a gracious gift. They may seem small and insignificant to you, but to me they are cherished jewels that I can string together and hold on to.

I wanted to share a few of these moments with you, so hopefully you will look all around you and see a moment, a sign, a gift of grace…

Just the other day I had been thinking and praying to know what is going to happen with my husbands professional career…would he find a job, will he be able to handle the pressure, will we have to move? I had been feeling very anxious, needing to know what lies ahead, wondering if we will have to move again, concerned about how my daughter Kate will handle such change…on and on the worries played.

Then, that night while we tucked our daughter into bed we were debating if we should listen to music, read a story, etc. I lifted up our little children’s devotion book and my daughter grabbed it out of my hands and started flipping through the pages. She said, “lets do the day of my birthday.” We had practically missed almost every day in February, so I was fine going back to her special day. We began to read and I instantly knew the message was for me, for all of us. It read…THE FUTURE IS MY SECRET…Sometimes you think it might be nice to know the future, what to expect, how things will turn out. There are even some people who claim they can tell you the future. But the future is a secret. It is my secret. When you try to figure out the future you are reaching for something that is Mine. My keeping your future a secret, I am teaching you to depend on Me. Trust My promises to care for you, to look out for you. I will show you the next step you need to take, and the one after that, and the one after that–one step at a time. Don’t try to rush ahead of Me. Just relax and enjoy the journey to your future–one day at a time.

Another moment was a time when my husband was leaving town on a business trip. He had been really stressed with work, had not had time to physically work out and things were really getting to him.  I was worried, really worried about where he was in his mind. He had been very emotional. I stood in our driveway with our little girl and we watched him drive away. I had this terrible feeling come over me and I was filled with more worry and concern. I felt like we may never see him again, that something was going to happen. I grabbed my daughter’s hand and told her we needed to say a prayer for Daddy. She asked me why and I told her I was a little worried for Dad and that we needed to pray for him to be safe. We said a prayer and I still felt a little unsettled. I saw Louise Hay’s affirmation cards and I grabbed one from the stack, it read, “I move through life knowing that I am safe—Divinely protected and guided.” A wave of calm ran through my body and peace filled me and I knew he would be okay.

One last moment I will share was this last summer when my little family was deciding if we should make a special trip to the Oregon coast.  I have wanted to go visit the Redwood Forest for years and my husbands job was constantly taking him to Washington and Oregon, so we were thinking this would be a good time to go. I began planning, looking at costs, trying to figure out if it would be good timing when my daughter ended up in the hospital a few months before with Pneumonia. Thankfully she was there only a couple days and got better, but then the medical bills came, our car had some issues and the Redwood trip looked like it should be pushed back to another year. The day we had decided the timing was not right I had a couple of moments of grace…that same day I was looking through my book collection for a book to include in a teacher appreciation basket. I came across a book called  “The Woman’s book of Confidence.” I began to flip through the pages to make sure there were not any notes or markings when I came across a page titled, “Deep Roots.” I was curious and began to read, it was all about this women’s trip along the coast and the Redwood forest. I knew this was a sign. I immediately called my husband and told him we needed to go. Later that same day I took a walk through the forest near my home. I was smiling to myself thinking about the amazing coincidence that had just occurred when a voice in my head said, “it’s about time you got it!! I have been trying to tell you, I even had you move to Redwood Drive.”  I laughed out loud at this funny moment. There was definitely inspiration about!! It is a good thing we took the adventure to the coast because now my husband will not be traveling to Oregon or Washington again. Thank heavens for that amazing trip. I am glad we listened.

Well, inspiration, grace, whispers, feelings, thoughts, all echo the same song…that you are not alone, so look for the little signs, pick up the books that seem to call you, fill your heart with wonder, look for the magic in all things and know you are not alone.

Lots of love and grace filled moments to you. -Heather

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Ways you can learn to be optimistic

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“When life is sweet, say THANK YOU and CELEBRATE. And when life is bitter, say THANK YOU and GROW.”

My husband’s last day from his job was Friday and it has been a wave of emotion through many lenses. I have heard story after story and phone call after phone call of the emotional ride many of my husbands associates are going through. He just got of the phone with some one who is getting hit with the anger ball!! He is mad at everyone, the situation, the company that did not hire him, that he may have to move to feed his family, that he won’t make as much money…I loved hearing my husband chime in “I think this could work out to be an even better situation for all of us.”

Yes, OPTIMISM!!

If we can focus on not becoming the victim in any life challenge or change, we will come out better for it. If we can keep our heads from falling down in defeating thoughts and rise above the negative, we will be able to truly see what is ahead.  If we can continue to move forward daily and not get stuck in the mire of self doubt, then the road will be clear, clarity will be seen, the direction will be one of focus.

Life truly does throw us a challenge to help us grow, to help us move, to help us reach higher. It is like the metaphor of a spring flower reaching up through the layers of hard soil, reaching to break through the tough dirt to feel the warmth of the sun, to grow stronger, to feel the light of day and begin to feel of its purpose, to then bloom and grow again.

If we can change our perspective and look at change and challenge as a tool for growth, to learn to see the optimistic side, then each day will have purpose, each moment will challenge our thoughts, our direction will unchanged.

Can we learn to be optimistic in times of challenge?? Here is a great article that shows some great examples..

I can ‘learn’ Optimism     From Dr. Martin Seligman

Yep, according to psychologist Dr. Martin Seligman, you sure can…and if you believe the

research, you probably should!

We all know that optimists see the glass as half-full while pessimists see it as half-empty. But, that doesn’t come close to doing justice to the importance of optimism and how it affects our lives.

Martin Seligman, one of the leading psychologists in the world, has spent the last three and a half decades researching the influence of optimism on our lives. Much of his work is presented in his book Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life.

Met Life

What does Met Life have to do with optimism? Quite a bit. Met Life was one of the first organizations to work with Seligman to apply his theories to the working world. And the company did so with great success.

Met Life (and all insurance companies, and many businesses for that matter) pay a lot of money to screen their candidates. Seligman believes that optimism is an important variable to look out for, and that this characteristic ties directly to the bottom line.

We’ll begin with traditional hiring wisdom which “holds that there are two ingredients of success…the first is ability or aptitude, and IQ tests and SAT are supposed to measure it. The second is desire or motivation. No matter how much aptitude you have, says traditional wisdom, if you

lack desire you will fail. Enough desire can make up for meager talent.”

Seligman continues, “I believe that traditional wisdom is incomplete. A composer can have all the talent of Mozart and a passionate desire to succeed, but if he believes he cannot compose music, he will come to nothing. He will not try hard enough. He will give up too soon when the elusive right melody takes too long to materialize.

Success requires persistence, the ability to not give up in the face of failure. I believe that optimistic explanatory style is the key to persistence.”

“The explanatory-style theory of success says that in order to choose people for success in a challenging job, you need to select for three characteristics:

1. aptitude   2. motivation   3. optimism”

Seligman took this theory to Met Life and tested it out. What did he find?

In short, he found that insurance agents who scored in the less optimistic half of his test were twice as likely to quit as agents who scored in the more optimistic half. Further, The agents from the top quarter sold 50% more than the agents from the bottom quarter.

Matt Biondi

Do you remember Matt Biondi? He was the greatest swimmer of his era and one of the most victorious Olympians of all time. He also happened to be a subject in one of Seligman’s research studies–an incredibly optimistic subject, in fact.

During the 1998 Seoul Olympics, Biondi was expected to bring home gold in all seven of his events. His first two events were a disappointment–he received bronze and silver.

Seligman tells a story about how he was watching the events at home, listening to the announcers ponder whether Biondi would rebound well following his two disappointments. Seligman says, “I sat in my living room confident he would.”

Why? “Because his explanatory style was highly optimistic and he had shown us that he got faster–not slower–after defeat.”

How’d he do? In the last five events in Seoul, Biondi won five gold medals.

The NBA

Seligman took his theories to the sports arena and found some fascinating results.

His question: Could a sports team be optimistic or pessimistic? How would this affect its performance?

His study: He focused on the Atlantic Division of the NBA. Holding other variables constant, his research team scientifically analyzed quotes from players and coaches to measure their level of optimism or pessimism following either a win or a loss.

His findings: Teams, and not just individuals, have a meaningful and measurable explanatory style. Following a loss, an optimistic team was much more likely to beat the spread. A team’s explanatory style for bad events strongly predicts how they do against a point spread after a loss in the next season.

In his study, the Celtics were the quintessential optimists–always explaining away a bad loss as temporary, specific, and not their fault. They were an uncanny comeback team. Language they used: “They were making good, quick cuts to the basket.” And,

“That’s the best I’ve ever seen a team run.”

The Nets, on the other hand, were mentally shipwrecked. They explained losses as permanent, pervasive, and their own fault: “We botched up things ourselves and blew all our opportunities.” And, “This is one of the physically weakest teams I’ve ever coached.”

-Seligman article taken from thinkarete

Optimists, in other words, know how to bounce back. Martin Seligman, professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and author of Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life, explains it this way: “If a setback is thought about as temporary, changeable, and local, that’s optimism. If it’s thought about as permanent, unchangeable, and pervasive, that’s pessimism.” Victories are just the reverse: Optimists think of them as permanent and far-reaching; pessimists think of them as fleeting and situation-specific. For instance, if an optimist encounters a recipe she can’t make work, she’s likely to perceive the failure as external and temporary (“I’m just having an off day”), while the pessimist makes it internal and indelible (“I’ll never learn to cook”). As Seligman explains, optimism serves as a crucial framework for relating to experiences. “It’s the skeleton of hope,” he says.

-this quote from Oprah article http://www.oprah.com/spirit/Optimism#ixzz2NFi0OwlJ

Become More Optimistic

How do I become more optimistic?

Seligman’s advice: monitor your internal dialogue! As you know, we’re constantly talking to ourselves. The next time you find yourself anxious or worried, pause for a moment and pay attention to what you’re saying to yourself.

Internal dialogue is a big one—what dog are you feeding?  We have a great indian metaphor that we share in our family…imagine two dogs in your head. Imagine one with loving eyes and the other with a mean stare. Which dog will you want to feed? the one that may bite your hand off? We look at positive and negative self talk the same way. Do you want to listen to the good or bad?? Which beast do you want to feed?

We tend to have automatic responses to different situations. We need to develop awareness of those automatic responses, and then develop new, more effective ways to interpret life’s events.

Look at the positives in your life—there are many. Get grateful. From gratitude many gifts will unfold.

Look at the strengths you possess: Are you giving yourself any credit for the contributions you make to the world, to your family, your friends, your work?? My husband through this whole work change has received many letters of thanks and appreciation. I told him to make sure he keeps those words of praise and he tried to shrug it off.

Look at things on a brighter side…have an optimistic outlook no matter what. You can literally change your brain to trick it into thinking things are better. Facial expressions and the way you explain something will make a difference.

The grass doesn’t have to be greener…no matter what your situation, there is always someone else who is worse off than you. When you begin to compare yourself to your neighbor who has a bigger house, who has a great paying job, a cuter dog….just remember to stop, don’t go there. Nothing good will come out of comparisons. Begin to get grateful.. for your health and think about how great it is to not be in a hospital bed, for your children that don’t have an illness…you understand.

SMILE…its contagious and connects you to others.

Well, I hope this article has given you some ideas and direction about learning to find the GOOD in any situation. Your life is the only one you’ve got, so make it AMAZING!!

Cheers to a GREAT day! Heather

What you can learn from Disneyland!

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I was creating a activity book for my ten year old daughter for our long drive to Disneyland a couple weeks ago and came across some great Disney quotes…

So, I thought after a fun trip in Disneyland last week that I would write about some of the fun things I learned from Disneyland!!

“Hakuna Matata…it means no worries.” -Lion King    This is a great lesson for our little family. We are in between jobs, but decided to put worry aside and head to Disneyland for our daughter’s birthday. You only have birthdays once a year, so we lived by the quote Hakuna Matata…no worries & we will always have our memories together in Disneyland for her sweet, one and only 10th birthday!

“Faith makes dreams come true”  -The Rescuers     Where do dreams begin? They begin with each small step that takes you closer to anything your heart desires.  It is taking the first step that seems to be the biggest faith building moment.  I have been thinking about faith every single day, knowing that doors will open.  “Put your faith in what you most believe in.” -Tarzan

“A whole new world, a new fantastic point of view.”  -Aladdin   I am looking at each day as a new adventure, not knowing where our little family will be, if we will have to move, if Kate will be able to handle change…each day is a new day, full of surprises.

“The more you like yourself, the less you are like anyone else, which makes you UNIQUE”  -Walt Disney  My daughter reminds me of this daily. She has this amazing ability to shine…like children do. She is fearless and full of enthusiasm. While we were in Disneyland she wanted to stand out, be noticed, so she danced everywhere (she has done this since she was little in any theme park). On her birthday she was given two Disneyland birthday buttons, which she wore proudly (on her shirt & hat–so everyone could see them) and enjoyed everyone telling her “Happy Birthday.” While we were watching some street performers, they asked for some people to join in, my daughter jumped at the chance. She didn’t hesitate and walked out into the middle of probably fifty people and began to dance with the performers. No fear!! Proud to be who she is and happy to shine, like she was meant to!!

“Happiness is a state of mind.”  -Walt Disney  I know we were happy enjoying ourselves on every little favorite, simple pleasure. We were happy eating our churros and Mickey ice creams every single day!! Our daughter was Happy waiting in 45 minute lines to see the princesses. My husband was Happy even though he was running between parks to get fast passes. After three days straight—I was Happy to find a quiet bench. You can find Happiness in everything!

“What if it’s not everything that I dreamed it would be? What do I do then? You get to find a new dream.”  -Tangled   There is always a bit of struggle in any type of change—new job, new baby, new move, new relationship…but you do your best to make things how you imagined, and if it seems tainted or not how you envisioned, then you begin again to find something you can cherish, something you can learn from, something you can take with you into a new moment. There truly always is a silver lining in all things, you may just need to look a little closer to see it.

“Laughter is timeless, imagination has no age, and dreams are forever.”  -Walt Disney   After walking around Disneyland for three days, there was no shortage of childlike adults sporting their sequined Minnie ears or pirate jack costumes. It is always fun to see families in the spirit of Disney with matching Disney shirts, little girls twirling about in their favorite princess dress and little boys fencing with their new plastic swords.  Watching people makes you  truly see the child within everyone and understand Walt’s sentiment that  laughter truly is timeless and has no age limit.

“It seems to me that we have a lot of story yet to tell.”   Thank heavens for additional pages in our life story. We take for granted that we have another day, yet hopefully, we find a grateful heart for another page, a little more of our own story.

“Dreams do come true, and maybe something wonderful will happen.”  -Giselle, Enchanted   This is already true for everyone. Something wonderful happens every day…you get a gift…a new day, a new chance to begin again, another moment with your children, a new love to live, a new dream to fulfill, another story to tell…

I hope these thoughts will help you to make it a better day. That you will look at today a little differently and that your life will shine a little brighter.

Thank you Walt Disney for creating a place where people can let go of worries, find a little magic and believe in dreams. You truly are a man of inspiration.

Have a beautiful day.  -Heather