Put In A Good Word

Words have power.

I don’t put any stock in the old adage, “Sticks & stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Words do impact us. Look no farther than former President Trump’s vocal accusations of fraud in our recent elections. Or Amanda Gorman’s stirring recitation at last week’s U.S. presidential inauguration.

Words stir our emotions. Sometimes, words rouse people to action. They can soothe, disturb, incite, or unite. How aware is each of us, really, of how our words effect those around us?

Since the transfer of power in our country last week, I’ve seen an interesting shift on social media. I’ve seen hopeful posts about the new direction of this leadership and about the  healing of division. But I’ve also seen an immediate need for many to keep complaining, latching on to the most disagreeable thing they can think of, as if their lives wouldn’t be complete without sowing an undercurrent of constant dissatisfaction. I’m not talking about differing opinions, healthy debate, or trying to right social injustices. But there’s a way to express these without tearing people down or pointing out darkness just so it will weigh people down. We’re all low enough after a full year of living under Covid19’s shadow.

Have you ever pledged to spend a whole day without complaining or saying anything negative? Maybe this is easy for some people โ€” but not for me. And I suspect it’s challenging for most. But I propose that we all try it. That goes for social media posts, too, by the way. And, to take it a step farther, find some good words to say instead. Let our words stir hope or soothe. Let them lift someone’s spirits. Let them call for change in a way that rouses others to positive action. We may find that the hope and comfort and inspiration they offer come right back around to us. Wouldn’t that be a blessing!

So, let’s put a few good words out there… and see what happens. ๐Ÿ™‚

Epiphany…

The first picture that comes to my mind is of the fabled three magi visiting baby Jesus in the manger. No one really knows how many magi travelled, guided by that bright star, to find the place. But this week, we celebrate their arrival. I wonder how each of them would describe his own journey and arrival in terms of an epiphany.

At mass this morning, our pastor reminded us of the definition of epiphany โ€” that moment of awakening. Miriam-Webster defines it as a sudden manifestation or perception, an illuminating discovery. Our pastor suggested that the Covid-19 pandemic has been a catalyst of epiphany for many of us. What an interesting thought. All this social-distancing and isolation, hunkering down at home, has given us a new appreciation of what we once took for granted. Watching people being deprived of their health, livelihoods, and basic necessities has brought out a deeper and more widespread sense of charity and community. And many people have discovered what’s really important in their lives. Both societal and personal epiphanies have definitely occurred.

So, as many around the world celebrate the Feast of Epiphany, let’s each take some time to reflect on our own personal epiphanies of the past year. And let’s step into this new year with a better sense of what’s truly important and of how we can be our best selves going forward.

Happy New Year! Be safe and be well. ๐Ÿ™‚

Happy New Year!?

Most of us can’t wait to slam the 2020 door shut and open a new door into 2021. But, before you put your hand on that 2021 knob, it may be a good idea to reflect on your expectations for the new year.

The easiest way to bottom out by March is to set your goals and expectations higher than even Wonder Woman or Superman have a right to fly. Be kinder to yourself than that.

The pandemic that put a major damper on 2020 is not over. It’ll be months before enough of us have taken the vaccine and developed an immunity. And many of us have suffered losses โ€” of our social lives, of jobs, of income, of loved ones. There’s a lot of grief going around. So, be kinder to others, too.

Expect a slow journey back to whatever you want your new normal to be. If you can help someone else recover, then reach out. Instead of expecting everything to work out for you and your life in 2021, be a part of things working out for someone else. Let’s make 2021 a year of lifting each other up.

And if you really want to make some New Year’s resolutions, make them achievable. Keep them simple and specific. Instead of I want to lose 20 lbs., how about I’m going to choose a healthier snack at 3 o’clock each afternoon. Make a small change and develop a new habit that’ll bring you closer to your bigger goal. Instead of I’m going to go to the gym everyday after work, or I’m going to start running every morning, try I’m going to take a fifteen minute walk on Mondays. Making a simple, achievable resolution may sound too easy, but how many Mondays do you think it’ll take before that fifteen minute walk becomes a true habit? Try it. Maybe by March, you’ll be adding resolutions, instead of giving up on them.

OK. Ready to turn that knob now and open a new door? Go for it.

And have a happier new year!

Peace. ๐Ÿ™‚

Advent 2020: Four Signs of Hope

Advent is a season of hope.

For Christians, it’s a season of anticipation and preparation, getting ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. We believe that God took human form and came to show us immense love. By participating in Advent, we hope to ready our hearts and homes to welcome more of that kind of love into our lives. Because love is the bottom line, isn’t it?

I’ve been decorating my house this past week, as I’m sure many of you have been doing, too. I started thinking about hope and how our choices of decorations can reflect hope. I’ve also been watching the news, which, again, I’m sure many of you have also been doing. Hope is sometimes harder to find there. But not impossible. Here are four signs of hope that caught my attention this week. Maybe you can think of others.

A Covid-19 vaccine. Several companies have been working like our lives depend on it (because they do) and they’ve finally developed versions of a highly effective vaccine. Distribution is about to begin. Of course, it won’t be immediately available to those of us who fall into the lower risk category. But the end of this devastating pandemic is in sight. If that’s not reason to hope, I don’t know what is.

Snow. I usually start my holiday decorating by adorning our windows with snowflake stick-ons. Then, I pull out every snowperson decoration I own. Some people set up elaborate Christmas villages on fluffy snowscapes. Others inflate snowmen or whole snowfamilies in their front yards. I live in New England, which means there may be snow on the ground for Christmas, but I’ll bet that people in warmer climates still use images of snow in their decorating. Why? Is it because we love snowstorms and shoveling and icy road conditions? I think not. It’s because there’s beauty in snow. And fun. So, we choose to celebrate the good over the not so good, when it comes to snow. We hope for the beauty of a quiet snowfall or the exhilaration of building snowpeople, instead of clinging to the downside of a snowy season. That’s hope in action, in my opinion.

Lights. I like to wrap my Christmas tree in all white lights. It makes me think of a starry sky. And many houses (not mine ;)) are draped in a variety of colorful lights. Some people put electric candles in their windows. Locally, there’s even a zoo, a motor speedway, and a national shrine each boasting light displays worth traveling for. It’s a dark time of year in the northern hemisphere, and celebrating with lights reminds us that darkness, both literal and figurative, is temporary. There’s hope for light at the end of whatever your dark tunnel might be.

Evergreens. Whether you bring in a freshly cut pine tree and pine branches, or you put up a fake tree and light a pine-scented candle, we gravitate toward evergreens in our decorating schemes. Why? This one’s fairly obvious, especially for those of us in colder climates. Trees, bushes, lawns, and gardens go dormant for the winter. A lot of what we see outdoors looks dead. But evergreens remind us that there’s still life in our landscapes and that spring will come again. For me, the smell of fresh pine is the smell of hope.

My decorating isn’t done yet, how about yours? There are still a few weeks before Christmas. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I intend to enjoy every minute of them. Advent 2020 has given me the unexpected gift of slowing down enough to appreciate the season and to savor the hope it embodies. My hope is that you each find that same gift this year. God bless.

Gratitude Spiral: Day 358

Today, I’m grateful for hope.

It comes in a variety of sizes. There’s the hope that wakes up with me in the morning, looking forward to a new day. There’s the hope to attain some level of success as I map out my goals. And there’s the momentous hope for a better future for all, and the hope that I can do my part in it.

What are you grateful for today?

Gratitude Spiral: Day 134

Today, I’m grateful for second chances.

When a first attempt at something, or maybe a whole day of trying our best, doesn’t work out the way we’d hoped, it’s heartening to know that it’s possible to try againโ€”to improve upon what came before. So, I’m thankful for this new dawn and this new day.

What are you grateful for today?

P.S. Wondering what aย Gratitude Spiralย is? Find the answerย here.

Gratitude Spiral: Day 126

Today, I’m grateful for the sound of birds singing in the dark, just before the dawn.

It sounds like they’re celebrating the new day.

Whoo-hoo! We made it through another dark night!

Yippee! Here comes the sun!

Hey, everybody, I’ll meet you at the feeder!

What are you grateful for today?

Gratitude Spiral: Day 77

Today, I’m grateful for the Facebook page of the Contemplative Monk.

The man behind the scenes and his wife, too, have struggled with cancer and he’ll actually be going for another biopsy today. Through it all, he posts positive, hopeful, uplifting messages day after day. What a refreshing departure from all the negativity of Facebook and the world at large.

What are you grateful for today?

Gratitude Spiral: Day 35

Today, I’m grateful for the New Year, 2020!!!
A new year brings hope and possibilities and promises! I’m grateful for the opportunity to reach for these and to become a better version of myself. ๐Ÿ™‚

What about you?

Gratitude Spiral: Day 31

Today, I’m grateful for a brand new day.

When yesterday becomes one of those difficult or boring or disappointing days that threatens to leave you full of regret, it’s helpful to face a new dawn and a new day full of possibilities.

What are you grateful for today?