Heart Connections

Easter Monday Reflections

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Let me say from the git-go that I’ve never considered myself a religious person, except perhaps in college during a deeply philosophical conversation and far too much liquor. If I ever acted religious, it was for show.

Not being religious gave me a heady, intellectual persona, or so I thought (Alcohol was probably talking again.). With recovery, not only did the alcohol go away, so did the idea that I had to find a religious type.

Instead, I took up with spirituality. People in recovery told me I could live with a higher power–a God of my understanding–and I was good with that.

A few weeks ago I wrote about my Fat Tuesday impulsive decision to write daily essays during Lent based on prompts from Rev. Phil Ressler’s book, 40 Things to Give Up for Lent and Beyond: A 40 Day Devotion Series for the Season of Lent. I set the intention of getting more God in my life.

You see, I was kind of coasting during the early part of this year. Feeling kind of blah for no real reason. You know the story–everything is fine but nothing is really good. I needed a shake-up and now that I’m on the backside of 40 days of publishing 350-500 words each day, I’m feeling pretty darn good.

I wish I could fully express what writing those 40 essays did for me. (To read the series, go to my Facebook Notes page.) It feels like a pretty cool accomplishment and I’m grateful for the reader interaction.

The best part about the practice of letting go of 40 different things–and writing about it–was my heart opened as it hasn’t in a long, long time.

My open heart led me to say yes when my sweetie asked if I wanted to go to a church service on Saturday night. A friend and colleague of hers asked if we would be her guest at the Saturday evening Easter service at Elevate Life Church here in Frisco, Tx.

This is my Year of Yes, so I had to go. My mind was open but I was not prepared for the swell of emotions that washed over me during the evening. From the time we stepped out of the car in the cathedral’s parking lot to the time we stepped out of the ladies room following the service, we felt a genuine welcome and warmth from the multitude of volunteers.

The production of the Easter story was moving and masterful. My eyes leaked torrents of tears from start to finish.

I was surprisingly absorbed by the musical uplift and by Pastor Keith Craft’s message about seeing the proof and feeling the promise of the Resurrection. He said a resurrection plays out for each of us as we feel renewed or restored to our Christ-like selves (not his words, but the words that work for me).

I was carried away from the experience on a blanket of love. I felt (and feel) unstoppable–that word is Pastor Craft’s. I know the power of Christ is deep within me, that Jesus is a part of me. I guess that makes me religious after all.

Who knows what happens next. I don’t much care. I gave up a lot of things during Lent but gained so much more. On this Easter Monday, I am an Easter-sated gal ready to take on the world!

Photo courtesy of lauramusikanski

My Friend’s Father Just Died

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A friend’s father took his last breath about 20 minutes before I began writing this post.

She and I were high school classmates but I did not know her dad. I don’t think that matters when you’ve carried a friendship for nearly 40 years.

After seeing the news on Facebook, where she kept us all posted and we offered steady prayer, I sat down to type out a few thoughts. Then I called my own father.

My friend’s mom passed away a little more than a year ago and I shared my experience with losing your mother. Someday I expect she’ll share with me what it’s like to live on as a daughter without either parent.

My classmate wrote on Facebook that one thought that comforted her during her father’s final days was knowing her parents would be reunited. I’m betting that she’s clutching that thought like a warm blanket on a wintry day.

And then there’s new life

My nieces are each getting ready to have children. The youngest, who is having her first child, will deliver in less than a month. My older niece will have her second child about three weeks later.

I think they’re both terribly brave to bring little ones into this world of violence, race and religious wars and the deadly plague of addiction. The latter terrifies me; in fact, is one of the main reasons I am not a parent. But that’s another subject for another time.

In the natural course of things, all three children will one day endure the heartbreak of losing their mothers and fathers. Although all too often these days, the child dies first in a gut-wrenching reverse order.

I have another friend who’s college freshman granddaughter was found dead in her room on campus recently.

Unspeakable tragedy.

Have no regrets

Leave nothing undone. Don’t put off anything important. Say I love you often. Make phone calls even when you don’t want to. Follow your gut—if you think you ought to get in touch with somebody, you should.

Today.

Live now. Say and be and do the things that matter to you. Don’t spend one moment sweating the small stuff because you’re bigger than small stuff.

You matter. There is no one else—no one!-who can live your life as you can. Don’t let them.

Try lots of new things. Say yes to as many requests, ideas and offers that you can.

Don’t let other people get to you, especially strangers. Who the hell cares what other people think? It’s none of their business!

Have a go at living large today. Don’t hold back. This may be the only shot you’ve got, so make it good.

If you mess up, so what? The sun will still go down tonight. My friend Tess Marshall says, “Oh well. Who cares? Next?”

Be good to yourself as you’re being good to others. You are one of the others.

Always play your best hand even if you have to bluff every now and then.

When the time comes for you to draw your last breath, you’ll have two choirs of angels surrounding you, one here and one to carry you to whatever comes next.

Now THAT was a life well lived. Rest in peace, Rev. Huelse.

Stay Sane This Week With Christmas Quotes

BHT Christmas photoReprinted from December 1, 2014. Merry Christmas 2015–may your hearts and minds be filled with love, laughter and light!

Happy December! For those of you who love Christmas like I do, welcome to the 2014 season. It is this time of year, more than any other, that helps me know that hope does spring eternal and love is the greatest reason to live.

However, for all the sparkling lights, boughs of pine scents and piped in mall music, many of you struggle through the holidays. You may even wake up every day in December grateful that you’re one day closer to January 2 because you’re worn out by family drama and/or exhibitions of addiction.

Regardless of your circumstances, know that you’ll survive. You’re tough and resilient. But when things get tough, turn to these 31 Christmas quotes–one for each day of December–and allow yourself to take a breath and mindfully remember the season is about love. And in the words of Dr. Seuss, “Maybe Christmas, the Grinch thought, doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas… perhaps… means a little bit more!”

2. Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.  ~ Calvin Coolidge

3. Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful. ~ Norman Vincent Peale

4. It is Christmas in the heart that puts Christmas in the air. ~ W. T. Ellis

6087e53d8a293c77740cda01943252f35. If you haven’t got any charity in your heart, you have the worst kind of heart trouble. ~ Bob Hope

6. A lovely thing about Christmas is that it’s compulsory, like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together. ~ Garrison Keillor

7. I love the excitement, the childlike spirit of innocence and just about everything that goes along with Christmas. ~ Hillary Scott

8. Christmas makes me happy no matter what time of year it comes around. ~ Bryan White

9. There are a lot of Grinches out there that would like nothing better than to take any references to religion out of the holiday season. ~ Ernest Istook

10. To perceive Christmas through its wrappings becomes more difficult with every year. ~ E. B. White

11. Christmas can be celebrated in the school room with pine trees, tinsel and reindeer, but there must be no mention of the man whose birthday is being celebrated. One wonders how a teacher would answer if a student asked why it was called Christmas. ~ Ronald Reagan

12. Christmas is doing a little something extra for someone. ~ Charles M. Schulz

13. This is the message of Christmas: We are never alone. ~ Taylor Caldwell

14. Christmas is a necessity. There has to be at least one day of the year to remind us that we’re here for something else besides ourselves. ~ Eric Sevareid

15. Christmas, my child, is love in action. ~ Dale Evans

16. Peace on earth will come to stay, When we live Christmas every day. ~ Helen Steiner Rice

17. I truly believe that if we keep telling the Christmas story, singing the Christmas songs, and living the Christmas spirit, we can bring joy and happiness and peace to this world. ~ Norman Vincent Peale

christmas-is-a-precious-reminder-christmas-quotes18. Remember, if Christmas isn’t found in your heart, you won’t find it under a tree. ~ Charlotte Carpenter

19. Christmas is the keeping-place for memories of our innocence. ~ Joan Mills

20. With this in mind, Ava tells herself to be present and celebrate the holiday instead of wishing it was over. After all, one is given only a certain number of Christmases in one’s life. ~ Elin Hilderbrand in Winter Street.

21. The month of December isn’t magical because it sparkles. It’s magical because it changes people’s hearts … at least momentarily. ~ Toni Sorenson

22. Christmas is best pondered, not with logic, but with imagination. ~ Max Lucado

23. Christmas is a whisper of peace and a sigh of hope on the lips of love.” ~ Richelle E. Goodrich

24. If my Valentine you won’t be, I’ll hang myself on your Christmas tree. ~ Ernest Hemingway, 88 Poems

25. Why not share with the world the way it is and tell them my feelings about my cat, and how I played with my kids, and how addicted to Christmas time I am, and the smell of pine needles and hearing my kids laugh. ~ Steven Tyler

26. You have to remind kids to stay connected to the meaning of Christmas. Sometimes it takes a little bit of effort, but it’s so worth it. ~ Caroline Kennedy

27. I think it’s important not to grow up too fast. I’m 26 now, and I still can’t wait for Christmas Day. The inner seven-year-old isn’t buried too deeply in me. ~ Laura Haddock

28. It is the personal thoughtfulness, the warm human awareness, the reaching out of the self to one’s fellow man that makes giving worthy of the Christmas spirit. ~ Isabel Currier

29. Want to keep Christ in Christmas? Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, forgive the guilty, welcome the unwanted, care for the ill, love your enemies, and do unto others as you would have done unto you. ~ Steve Maraboli, Unimagesapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience

30. One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas day. Don’t clean it up too quickly. ~ Andy Rooney

31. For the spirit of Christmas fulfils the greatest hunger of mankind.  ~ Loring A. Schuler

 

 

23 Gifts of Willingness, Thanks to Recovery

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November 20th is the mid-point in my sobriety year. Three days ago, the recovery calendar turned to 24 1/2 for me.

I think I remember that first six-month mark–24 years ago–because it came right at Thanksgiving and was the beginning of my first sober holiday season.

I remember spending a good deal of time in November and December of 1991 overcome with gratitude. In fact, I don’t think a single season since then has quite captured the magnitude of emotion I felt then.

Now, in full disclosure, I was an emotional wreck in 1991; gratitude was only one of many emotions that lived on my skin’s surface. I was also angry, bitter and self-righteously indignant, mostly with my family. Those poor people.

24 years ago and now

Six months into recovery found me fiery and righteous. I looked and acted tough although my insides quivered in fear of not drinking or smoking pot during the holidays. My God, how would I survive?

Thank you, God, for feeling comfortable in my skin all these years later. I no longer wear my emotions just above my hairline. Sometimes I may still not like the skin I’m in–I’m working on toning and tossing some of it–but I really like who I am today.

Who cares if it took nearly a quarter of a century to get here?

The gift of willingness

Of all the reasons for thanksgiving and gratitude this year, I am grateful for the gift of willingness. This topsy-turvy year brought me to a recent resting place of sorts; a place where I’m settling in and figuring things out. I wouldn’t have this resting place without willingness.

In this past year I have become willing to:

  1. 1. Trust the process
  2. 2. Keep my mouth shut
  3. 3. Let go of outcomes
  4. 4. Cultivate awareness and quiet time
  5. 5. Say, “No, I don’t want to”
  6. 6. Believe in unknown possibilities
  7. 7. Have faith in right outcomes
  8. 8. Love without liking
  9. 9. Look beyond what I see
  10. 10. Try something new, then something else
  11. 11. Sit with uncomfortable feelings
  12. 12. Say, “Yes, I will do the thing I love to do”
  13. 13. Bow my head more often
  14. 14. Leap into adventures
  15. 15. Lend hand and heart in service
  16. 16. Appreciate others’ struggles without fixing them
  17. 17. Reach and stretch mind, body and spirit
  18. 18. Grow where I am
  19. 19. Pray without ceasing
  20. 20. Cherish my family
  21. 21. Turn from the angry and violent
  22. 22. Stay mindful
  23. 23. Caress my heart-mate with tenderness, open arms and a welcome home at the end of each day

God’s grace grants me, not only willingness, but also desire to do each of these things. What a bountiful feast of joyful living!

Feelings of blessing begin with an inner knowing that all is well. I feel well today! My soul feels happy–me, the one who always tried to “figure out” the meaning of happiness. Now I’m basking in pools of heavenly happiness.

My prayer for you during this week of Thanksgiving is that you feel well too. May your soul feel happy, may you uncover your own willingness list and may you grow in your sense of God’s grace.

B Well and Happy Thanksgiving!

Photo courtesy of taliesin

Heartache for Paris–and for Humanity

parisThe ache in my heart for the people of France–and for humanity–simmers in sleepless, early morning hours following the horrific massacre in Paris.

How, or maybe more importantly, why, do terrorists attack? The devastation among families must be so immense. The city must be bereft with grief as it begins each new day following Friday night’s tragedy.

The “why” is not important

Anne Lamott wrote on Facebook that asking the why question is not very useful, “that we are an extremely vulnerable species, that Cain is still killing Abel.”

Aren’t you just bouncing off the walls with fury? My head is silently spewing every swear-word combination imaginable.

I want justice. Like with Sandy Hook, Aurora and especially 9/11, we can whip out our pointing fingers faster than you can say “heinous crime” because we have to blame that which we can’t comprehend.

Blame gives us a place to dump our nervous fear. Otherwise, we’re a skittish mess, anxious eyes darting like hummingbirds back and forth among red-tipped flowers. Only the red tips for us are like potential bloody traps.

We never know. It could be our loved ones next time. It could be us.

Assailants died in Paris, which probably played well in the hearts of many revenge seekers. Not so much for those of us who profess love and peace in our hearts, however. I still don’t understand.

Before their suicidal bodies hit the ground, more stepped into their cowardly shoe prints. At Career Day, did the killers check the application box that read willing to die if I get to blow up innocent people?

My God, there is so much hate in the world. Again, my mind begs for the answer to the why now question. But as Anne reminds us, the response to hate is so much more important than the why.

This much I know–and this is just for me. I cannot meet hate with hate. As much as I deplore what happened in Paris on Friday night, the 13th of November, every time I show up with hate, death advances on me just a little bit.

Let your response be love, light and peace

Fortunately, most of the entries on my Facebook wall reflect the best of humanity. My friend Ann wrote, “LOVE! Love with all your heart, soul and mind! Let love permeate everything you do, think and BE! Let your words Not be about ugliness, murder, meanness…. ONLY LOVE! Stand FOR….not against!”

My friend Sandra Pawula wrote on Facebook, when asked about how she confronts the idea of terrorism, “Violence comes from confused or painful thoughts and emotions: pride, jealousy, desire, ignorance, greed, and anger. So I practice mastering my own mind and emotions, and I try to help others learn to do the same.”

Another friend posted this picture:

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Anne Lamott gives us instructions. She writes, about the days after Sandy Hook:

Talking and sticking together was the answer. It honest to God was. We were gentler, more patient and kind with each other. If people are patient and kind, that’s a lot. It means something of the spirit is at work. For me, that is grace made visible. 

I have no answers but know one last thing that is true: More will be revealed. And that what is true is that all is change.

All is indeed change. “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”