Calling “We the People”

I respect that there are many who are not happy with the results of this Presidential election. On many levels, I’d argue no one is thrilled that out of 300MM+ Americans, the ultimate slate of candidates represented the very best our nation had to offer. But after primaries, debates, caucuses, conventions and elections; we have what we have.

Grieve and mourn if the results are not as you wish, but you cannot change it until the next election.

What you can do is get involved. Learn how your state’s party and primary systems work. Get to know the candidates, their platforms and the policies they stand for.

Educate yourself on the electoral process, local, state, national and global issues that influence the economic, policy and legislative decisions that shape our lives.

Check the media and don’t believe everything you read or are told. The term

“trust but verify” is catchy for a reason.

Learn how to talk – and listen! – to people who think, believe and are different than you. Find where your opinions are common, seek understanding of where your beliefs are different and respect each other. Drop the blanket demographic wrappers that “all” members of a specific group subscribe to an identical set of beliefs and values. 

I guarantee you not all African Americans or all Catholics or all White Southern Baptist Millennials look, believe or value the same things. If we’d all strive to listen to hear versus listen for the purpose of readying our next retort, we’d make miles of progress.

What I do not understand is how taking to the streets and destroying property, physically hurting others and defacing monuments resolves, solves or begins the process to ensure a different outcome in the mid-term or next Presidential election. Destruction hurts the very communities who are already struggling – many economically – and will not change the outcome. 


Be angry. Be disappointed. But channel that toward action. 

Toward real change.

Go help communities and neighborhoods that need the power of a motivated crowd. If love truly trumps hate, show it now more than ever and be the change you seek.

It doesn’t take a candidate, it requires We the People.

French Fries, Deer and Wishes

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For as long as I can remember, loose French Fries in the bottom of a greasy takeout bag represents an opportunity to make a wish. Three fries? Three wishes. One lone crinkle-cut crisp turns into one well-placed whisper of hope. For me, a trip to Five Guys is like going to Vegas and hitting a straight-line payout.

My wishes aren’t the big, ostentatious-grab-for-stuff kind of wishes. There are no “I wish I could be a billionaire” or “please make me the most popular girl at school” requests. Mine are the little wishes that make present the most immediate desires of my heart.

Sometimes those wishes are very specific — I wish my Mom will heal and return to a life of joy and mobility — and sometimes they are generic — I wish it will all work out. But regardless of the specificity of my wish, I know my French Fry wishes lighten the worries of my heart.

In my mid-30’s, my little French Fry game expanded to include random sightings of deer. Seeing three deer standing in a field is a Mega Millions winning lottery ticket kind of wish. Two won’t count and even the thrill of a thundering herd that lifts my heart must take a pass. Like the Divine Trinity, I know that seeing three deer means God is right beside me and that he hears the deepest pleas of my heart.

I’ll never forget driving home from my Dad’s funeral. His eight-month illness was a whirlwind of doctors visits and trips home; gut wrenching conversations and difficult decisions for us all. No words can explain the fear, the ragged emotions and the countless prayers we all uttered during those months. One moment we were grasping the dreaded news of a terminal cancer diagnosis and, it seemed, the very next we were saying our goodbyes.

On that 16-hour drive home after his funeral, I did a lot of staring out the window, tears rolling down my face and silent as my body was wrecked with grief. My hero, my role model, my Dad was gone and I could not fathom never hearing his voice again. As we rolled along those secondary roads, somewhere in the barren cornfields of Southern Illinois, my heart stopped. Up ahead I could see three adult deer standing solemnly in the cold morning mist.

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As I tearfully thanked God for knowing the wish I could not ever give words to, I saw a fourth deer appear out of nowhere. As he ran to join the others, he paused, turned his head up toward us, as if to acknowledge us as we passed by. And, as if in some majestic movie scene playing out before our eyes, the foursome flicked up their white tails, exhaled visible breath and disappeared, together, into the woods that bordered the field. In that moment, my unformed wish found meaning and I rejoiced that it had been answered so beautifully.

You can bet that I’ll continue to wish on French Fries and trios of deer forever. My own silent game is my visual reminder to never give up, never stop believing and always listen to my heart. Somewhere over the years, random wishes turned into prayers. They became stolen moments in the midst of a crazy day to invite God in and let him take the reins on my life.

How do you wish? Don’t ever stop clinging to the spoken and unspoken desires of your heart. Believe. Those wishes given life to the outrageously blessed life that awaits.

The Naked Truth

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I have a secret to tell. If you know me – err, think you know me – it just might surprise you. I really don’t care what you think; it honestly doesn’t matter one way or the other. That said, it is high time I come clean.

I lie.

Surprised? Maybe; maybe not. I’ve been pretty good at concealing things for as long as I can remember. Sometimes, my lies are so skillfully crafted and believable that I can convince even the most clairvoyant of folks that it is truth.

My lies aren’t the kind of lies that are constructed to hurt others, but I suspect admitting it will bring pain to those I love deepest. Truth be told, I’ve never lied to intentionally hurt anyone. No, my lies were all about sparing those I care for most from the harsh reality of life.

Those big, fat lies are many:

I lie when the actions of others have hurt me, pretending I’m ok. Just for the record, my heart is broken in a million fragile shards and it is taking forever to cobble back together.

I lie when I pretend the falsehoods others accept are my truths really do not make me feel helpless and small. They do.

I lie by erecting thick walls of indifference – the same walls some chose to call arrogance – because I know no other way to shield the pain in my heart.

I lie when I put on a mask of control and shield myself with busyness. It helps me hide the chaos of hurt and my urge to fall apart and cry. But I don’t, because I know others are are too consumed with their own tears to wipe mine.

Lies are what others are most comfortable with. They keep it easy. They lend an convenient excuse for others’ to continue their own selfish ways.

Truth be told, I’m making it easy for others to walk away, instead of holding them accountable for their own truths. And I’m no longer certain that’s the right thing to do.

From now on, when you ask if I’m ok, my answer may not be what you want to hear. But it will be the truth. And if you can’t handle it, that’s ok. You have my blessing and forgiveness to keep walking. My life has become emptier, but more honest, without you in it.

Outrageous living sometimes detours down a lonely, bumpy path. Thankfully, those twists and turns do lead us to a life of full, vulnerable and abundantly blessed living. A life I choose to wholly embrace.

And that’s the naked truth.

What Matters Most

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My favorite college professor, who was the Chair of the College’s Business Communications program, always reinforced her “one truth” that our credibility matters most. As she led and taught her Public Relations and Advertising students, she often reminded us:

No matter what you do, never forget your credibility is your only asset. Lose that and you’ve lost everything.
–Nancy Wahonick

We all have our truths. Those simple, but defining beliefs that are the essence of what we stand for, believe in; they are what remains of us when all else is stripped away.

Who are you? What is your one truth? When you are stripped bare of life’s trappings, what remains?

None of us can pursue an outrageously wonderful life without knowing who we are. If you don’t know what your core beliefs and truths are, do the work to figure it out.

Once you define the core of you, the path forward is forever illuminated.

Time: What Matters Most

“If I could save time in a bottle…”

“I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then…”

“If I could turn back time…”

Recognize the lyrics? Funny, it seems the most memorable songs of my youth all share the common theme of time and the desire to have more of it. Like it or not, we all get the same amount to spend, save or squander each day. Your allotment of 24 hours is yours to use; it very well could be the most valuable possession you have.

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When it comes to parenting, it is — without argue — the most important gift we can share with our children. No, we do not give them time. Rather, the wise parent shares it.

As the youngest of four children, time was very precious in my parents’ home. I arrived two weeks before my oldest sibling’s fourth birthday. With an infant, two toddlers and an emerging preschooler, my parents must have prayed daily for even an extra 10 minutes!

In the hustle and bustle of our busy family, I learned the important lessons of how time equals love early and often.

From my earliest memory, my Mom worked out of necessity. It took a lot for a young family to provide for their children. Her work as a bank teller provided a meager supplemental income and offer reliable hours that worked around available school and childcare. Her organized and efficient ways opened the door to lots of togetherness and family time.

When our schooling years were busiest, Mom quit her job to stay home. Money was tight, but we rarely felt like we were “doing without” and the love that filled our days outweighed any material sacrifices we made.

Mine was the house where neighbor kids gathered to play, impromptu games took shape often and sleepovers were the norm. My Mom was a room mother, a PTA leader and always had time to stop her work and help a friend in need. Her time, it seemed, had no boundary.

Dinner was promptly at 5:00, with all of us seated and ready to share the events of our day. Dad was a stickler for clean hands and shirts, and no one left the table early. Family dinner was our anchor for most of my formative years and is a practice my own family religiously adheres to. Nothing beats the time we share around the dinner table.

In this day, I cannot stop time or turn it back and recycle the many hours I have wasted. I am away from home on business often, and accept that my “away” time makes me largely unavailable to my own family. I try feverishly not to waste the moments I have.

I work hardest when I am away, to minimize the work left to be done when I am home. I am fortunate to have weekday help that enables me to not be weighed down by domestic responsibilities that would burden my weekends. I do not squander the gift of time on activities that do not include my family, knowing each moment we have together is priceless.

I believe in a life/work balance; with my priority on the life part. Yes, I am proud to admit I work to live, I do not live to work. I define myself by the happiness and quality of life my family shares. To do it any other way would make me a fraud and a failure.

Time is love. It is not to be wasted or thrown away carelessly. Well spent, it will enrich your life and those of the ones you hold most dear.

While I, too, may never stop wishing I had a tad more time, I am blessed with plenty. I just need to spend it on what matters most.

How are you spending your time?

Cherish the Moments

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Life is moving at breakneck pace. It seems zero to sixty is happening at faster and faster speeds. The exhilaration of it all is simultaneously frightening and exciting. Good or bad, these moments of today will all-too-quickly become the memories of yesterday.

My advice? Cherish the moments. Focus on the present and soak in the joy that is yours for the taking. Do all the things that fill your life with love, hope and contentment. Make time to take time.

Something I saw on an in-flight entertainment show caught my eye yesterday as I made a long transatlantic flight. The image of a couple dancing in the empty living room of their recently sold family home sparked a cherished memory.

Years ago, my parents came for a visit to my East Coast home. Time and distance made those visits seldom and precious; Dad found the drive exhausting and, to avoid boarding the dog, they would not fly.

On this particular evening, we had finished eating a lovely dinner – just the four of us – in our seldom used formal dining room. After dessert, my husband and I left Mom and Dad to linger over coffee while we got a jumpstart on doing the dishes.

With some Frank Sinatra gently playing on the CD player, we got down to business rinsing the dinnerware. A quick glance through the butler’s pantry to confirm no strays were left behind, I caught sight of a precious distraction: my parents slow-dancing in the fading evening light.

Mine were not openly affectionate parents. My father hated PDAs and I doubt I ever saw more than a chaste kiss pass between them. Their’s was a quiet, gentle love that matured and deepened like a fine Cabernet. In all my life, it was the only time I ever witnessed such an open, carefree sharing of intimacy between the two people I loved most.

In that quiet, timeless moment, I was awestruck. I don’t think I had even seen such a beautiful moment and I was frozen in place as they quietly whispered and waltzed across the floor.

I cannot recall my parents ever at my house, together, after that visit. Dad has been gone over eight years and there are no more tender moments to share or witness. The flood of emotion recalling it brings is both comforting and overwhelming.

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changing.

–Bob Dylan

I’m thankful for the cherished moments I am blessed to remember. They appear in my mind at the most unpredictable times and bring sweet joy and happiness.

Make time to fill the lives of those you cherish most with beautiful moments that will become tomorrow’s cherished memories.

We only get one shot at this beautiful thing called life. Dance the dance…make beautiful music… Just live every moment with passion.

It’s your life: make it outrageously wonderful!

Finding Hope in the Randomness of Life

 

 

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A pretty darn good list I cannot help but share. The message, of course, is that all around us there is beauty, opportunity, hidden diamonds and bright tomorrows awaiting to be discovered. We must only cling to faith, hope and never stop believing in love.

Beyond the Shattered Dream

shattered_prism_by_fourthdayofgrace-d3dekwsI do not believe there is a more helpless feeling than to see the hopes and dreams of someone you love strown across the floor in a seemingly shattered mess. The jagged, pointed edges of broken promises, the wounds that cannot be prevented, the pain and heartbreak…

Indeed, there is nothing more utterly gut-wrenching than seeing someone you love in pain and accepting your own helplessness. No words or gestures can stop the gaping, sucking hurt that tears at their soul; it is a feeling no words can amply describe.

I’ve had my own dreams broken and bore witness to the shards that come with the hurt and loss of those I care deeply about. What I know is this: when you are standing in the middle of the carnage and pain, there seems to be no remedy to heal the hurt. The feelings of anger and helpless literally suck the air out of you. You cannot breathe.

In the beginning, once you get past those initial emotions telling you this just cannot be, the ping-pong effects of anger and bargaining consume you. They tug at your heart; consume every waking thought and drive you nearly insane with every range of emotion. You seek understanding, trying desperately to move heaven and earth to change the situation, all to no avail. With time, the anger gives way to an intense grief that knocks you to your knees. Your world has changed; you have changed. And then, acceptance finally comes. The scars and pain are real and unforgettable. They will forever shade every decision you make, but they are the refining point that turns your ‘dream-turned-nightmare’ into purpose.

“Something wonderful survives everything terrible, and it surfaces most clearly when we hurt.”
–Larry Crabb

 As I look back on my life, I can recall the many broken dreams of yesterday that are the mosaic of my foundation for today. I can remember moments – days on end – where sleep failed me and I begged God, in the midst of my emotional exhaustion,  to quiet my mind and allow rest to come. I’ve loved and lost many times; broken relationships, untimely death, ended friendships, unfulfilled plans that at the time all seemed unfathomable to accept. Thankfully, God’s grace and mercy carried me through to today. Yes, there are times when I would have given all of my tomorrow’s for immediate understanding and am thankful God knew better than to accept my offer.
“Shattered dreams open the door to better dreams, dreams that we do not properly value until the dreams we improperly valued are destroyed.”
–Larry Crabb

When dreams shatter, the brokenness and pain does eventually give way to new beginnings. In his book on the topic, Larry Crabb draws parallels between Shattered Dreams and the story of Naomi in the Bible. He reminds us of the pain she suffered when she lost her husband and two sons; the anguish she expressed to God over him not employing his omnipotent powers to ease her unfathomable hurt. The story of Naomi’s heartbreak is a lesson in how shattered dreams are the prelude to unspeakable joy.

When I recall the deepest, darkest moments of my life and the cries of my heart to God, I am thankful that he did not appease me. I know the joy and love that fills my life today would not be possible if God had given in to my painful cries. Steeled with the confidence of my seasoned heart, I am convinced that the pain and suffering I felt were necessary to allow me to experience the incredibly blessed life I now have. Yes, without the extreme pain and brokenness that caused me to completely surrender my will to his, I know I would be nothing. I would have nothing. I would not know joy.

There are no easy words that come when dreams shatter. No helping hand or offer to help put the pieces back together will suffice. The only path forward – when you are sitting in the middle of the mess – is to feel the pain, find surrender and languish in the joy that will surely follow.

I am on my knees, crying, for this season to pass quickly for those I know are hurting. It is the desire of my heart that his lessons show themselves and be quickly taken to heart. I ask for the pain and suffering to give way to eventual acceptance of the situation and rejoice, knowing that one in not-too-distant morning, we will celebrate the glorious arrival of unspeakable joy.

And, I know God is listening.

Doing “Goodbye” Right

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I’m not a huge fan of goodbyes. The mere word to many seems like an oxymoron. How in the world can a departure be good? Someone – or something – is moving forward and leaving another behind. Many goodbyes bring tears and sorrow, most evoke promises that are seldom kept for long:
-We promise to write to departing friends, giving assurance we will “keep in touch”
-We tell colleagues who are moving on to new opportunities that we will get together soon, knowing schedules and responsibilities make it near impossible
-We cling to crumbling relationships with pleas that we will change our offending behavior
-We grieve the loss of loved ones, attempting to barter personal changes we need to make as currency for time

Yes, goodbyes are hard. Despite their sadness, goodbyes can turn into good byes.

Leaving, no matter the circumstance, is never easy for either party. When one door closes, it ushers in the season of change for everyone involved. And whether it is a new job, a new personal life or a the conclusion of a life well-lived, the process to follow is much the same.

We have to weigh heavily our responsibilities to those we leave behind. Good or bad, we are leaving people who rely heavily on us. Our time in their lives – personal or professional – came with accountabilities and expectations that must end. As professionals, we need to ensure that we are leaving our business relationships and records in good stead. We owe it to the clients we serve to pass the reigns to capable hands; ensuring commitments and promises can be fulfilled.

In our personal life, the relationships are far more important, but the responsibility no less: we owe it to those we love to be able to function without us and have the life skills to survive. Despite the difficulty of an ending life or relationship, making sure those we love – or once loved – have the means to go on living must be discussed and planned for. Closure is so hard without it.

We must prepare ourselves for the next phase we are embarking upon. Whether it is to learn the skills necessary to thrive in a new position, eliminate the clutter we’ve amassed to make the physical move less stressful, or to ensure our heart has been freely given to God, avoiding this work will only derail our future plans. We cannot take lightly the importance of preparing ourselves for the next chapter to come.

We must encourage those we leave behind. There is sweet sorrow when goodbyes are spoken. Co-workers and clients will miss our contributions, lovers – even embittered ones – deserve to be shown respect and compassion; dear friends and family will cling to the memories of final moments and words. Ensuring our words, actions and reactions are grounded in love and encouragement will make the parting a little easier.

We must take care of unfinished business. The rule is simple: don’t leave a mess for someone else to clean up. Finish the projects you started. Close out the open accounts in your name, ensuring your outstanding balances are paid in full. Return to others the property you have borrowed. Heal the hurts and clear up the misunderstandings. Say ‘thank you’ and ‘I love you’ to those who need to know. If you made the mess, don’t expect someone else to set things right on your behalf.

Taking time before we go to celebrate our accomplishments is important. We must all take time to make lasting memories with the people we care about and do the work we must to leave behind a better situation than we found. That should be the priority of us all.

Yes, some goodbyes come at the most inconvenient of times and can be horribly unplanned. But if we live, daily, as if each day might bring an unexpected farewell, we can soften the blow and make it a good bye.
-We can leave behind order and structure for others to follow until they begin to trust their own instinct and skills.
-We can instill confidence and capability that our work will continue.
-We provide assurance that the time spent together was invaluable and far out measures any temporary pain that endings bring
-We can leave lasting memories and legacies that others will remember, leverage and share

And most importantly, we can trust that when we meet again, whether on this Earth or not, it will be a joyous reuniting.

Make sure you live each day preparing for every goodbye to be a good one. That is a part of embracing this outrageously blessed life.