2016: Year in Review

There have been times in my life when I’ve had an overwhelming sense to do everything I can to remember the moment. Sometimes the moments have been big, life altering events like my children’s births or the death of a loved one. Other times the moments are found among mundane everyday tasks. Moments that stand out as special, holy gifts. In good and bad moments, I have commanded myself to stop, take a good look around, listen, and pay attention to the people who are with me. Then I pray. I pray my careful observations will become a memory or a lasting impression on my heart in which I can always feel.

Over Christmas break, we traveled to my brother’s house where we gathered with my family. Our family lives in several different states making times when we are all together very rare and special. It was loud and crazy. There was food, a lot of food. There was dancing, singing, praying, and playing with the kids. And food, more food. There was a whole lot of talking and a whole lot of love.

While we were together, I couldn’t help but think about what it was like for my Grandma, Mom and Dad, to be surrounded by a family they started. A bittersweet mix of the golden memories of the past and forging new ones in the present to be remembered for a future time. Missing loved ones and celebrating life in their children and grandchildren. A job well done, children reared, overcoming hard times and celebrating the good times. All this wrapped up in this thing called life.

One night my brother-in-law called us into the living room to watch a video he put together of clips he had taken of his family throughout the year. He captured the big moments and the small ones and masterly put them together complete with touching music. With my family, I watched a year fly by in about three minutes. I was struck with how much of our daily worries and what we think is big stuff, really isn’t and how the small touches, details, and love in life are really what mean the most. All those little moments collected together to mean something very big. It is not the things or even the places, it’s the people that make life worthwhile and meaningful.

My brother-in-law’s video inspired me to reflect back on my year. I went through hundreds and hundreds of pictures and picked out the most meaningful captures. When I look at these pictures, I see a common theme. My word for 2016 was community. These pictures represent so many of the special communities I am part of. God has richly blessed me through this word and my heart is so full thinking of His kindness and His gift to me in people. I was going to add captions but then changed my mind. For those of you who were with me, I hope these pictures spark a special memory or a special moment for you. Thank you, thank you all for being a part of my life, praying for me, and inspiring me to be the best woman, mother, and leader I can be. I love you dearly!  Happy New Year! ❤

January- Subways and Skiing

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February- School, Snow, Sunsets

 

March- Family

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Road trip to my brother’s house where we met up with my sister, my parents, and Gammy. We do not get to see each other often so these trips are important and special time.

April- Wonder and Discoveries

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May- New Friends and Callings

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June- Overcoming Fears and Heights

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July- Gammy on the Go

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August- ADVENTURE

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September- New Beginnings

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October- Incredible Opportunities with Incredible Women

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November-SHINE…Together

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December- Home is Where the Heart Is

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Here’s to 2017….

2017


Gratitude Letter Challenge

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21 Day Gratitude Letter Challenge

Wow, we made it through the day! If your social media feeds were anything like mine, a broad spectrum of thoughts, raw emotions, declarations, and many opinions stemming from the election were represented. Today, I sat quietly on the other side of the screen, reading and liking comments here and there, and cheering on friends who offered positive suggestions for moving forward (regardless of their political stance.)

A few days ago, I wrote a post about the benefits of choosing gratitude over grumbling. I noted several positive benefits to a thankful attitude and mindset. I love the brain research on this topic and could write and discuss much more about it but I want to give you a way to put into action the information I wrote about.

I have heard it takes 21 days to form a habit. Although this may be a myth, I think 21 days is a good place to start moving forward with positive change. The recent election has put a lot of focus on the differences between people, thoughts, and ideas. I would like to challenge us to take the next 21 days to try something to help us switch the focus off of our differences and put them on our similarities. Something that will help us highlight the things we are grateful for in each other.

We are going old school, bringing back letter writing and snail mail. You will need, paper, a writing utensil, envelopes, and stamps. Each day, try to find about five to ten minutes to write. It does not have to be an uninterrupted time period. It could be a minute here and a minute there. You can write at a desk, the kitchen table, in the carpool lane, or in the bathroom. It does not have to be a letter filled with long, elaborate, flowing words and rhymed prose (although that would be totally awesome) but it does need to be genuine and point out one or two things you appreciate, admire, and like in the person. Seal up the letter, write the address, and drop it in the mail. And smile!

If you need a little help thinking about who to write, I created a document/picture (see above) with letter prompt ideas. This is just a suggestion, please write to whoever you like. Be creative. Use your church directory, address books, MOPS group directory, pull names out of a hat. Include your kids in this challenge. I believe these letters have the power to strengthen and change relationships.

Will you consider joining me in spreading some kindness and gratitude? I would love to hear from you if you do. And if you want to really take the challenge up a notch, hand deliver your letter and spend some time with that person. Oh, just think about that! What a way to make someone’s day brighter!

PS You can post on social media and follow along at hashtags #embraceletters, #embracegratitude


Choose Gratitude Over Grumbling

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Hold on to your donkeys, elephants, porcupines, and stop to consider the Earthflowers. With Election Day on Tuesday, this week is sure to be an emotional one. The election has created an atmosphere of negativity and complaint that will continue if we do not do something about it. Come Wednesday morning, some Americans will be happy and celebrating and some will be angry and grieving. And regardless of who becomes President, I would like to suggest we all should be grateful.

Just like voting, we have a choice to choose gratitude over grumbling.

Did you know that grumbling is bad for your health? Complaining rewires your brain to expect more negativity forming a habit of negative thinking. Researcher, Professor Sapolsky at Stanford Medical School found exposure to just thirty minutes of complaining and negativity per day (including viewing this on TV) can cause physical damage to your brain.1  Indulging in negative emotions can weaken one’s immune system and triggers physical symptoms such as anxiety, increased blood pressure, and trouble sleeping. 2 Negativity attracts and breeds negativity.

On the other hand, gratitude makes your brain and body healthier. It changes our perspective, helping us to see beyond self-pity and self-centeredness. With practice, our brain becomes wired to seek out the good and positives in any situation and help us to appreciate the people and situations around us (even in the most dire circumstances.) Practicing gratitude has been associated with many health benefits including improved kidney function, reduced blood-pressure and stress-hormone levels, and a stronger heart. “A grateful stance toward life is relatively immune to both fortune and misfortune,” says Robert Emmons, a pioneer of gratitude research. We see the blessings, not just the curses.3 

For those of us who follow Christ, we are commanded to be thankful to God in all circumstances. Our heart and thoughts turned upward and outward in His love extended towards others through us.

This is the day that the Lord has made;  let us rejoice and be glad in it.  Psalm 118:24(ESV)
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (ESV)
14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, Philippians 2:14-15 (ESV)
15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:15-17 (ESV)

You do not have to be happy with the election results. It is okay to be disappointed. In the days following the election, let’s all think before we speak. Expressing our dissatisfaction in respectful discussions that do not include stereotyping, assumptions, and accusations. Disagreeing in grace and in love. Allowing the words out of our mouths not to be ones of anger, wrath, malice, and slander (Colossians 3:8) but rather words used to build each other up (Ephesians 4:29.) Use the days to come as an opportunity to be an example to our children, our neighbors, friends, and our family members. Let our gratitude attract gratitude and let our words become actions that point others to the real Hope of these days. The hope of Jesus!

REFERENCES:

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

(3.) Kamps, L. (2016). What Gratitude Can Do For You. TIME Magazine: Mindfulness:The New Science of Health and Happiness, 54-57.