Compassion, Gratitude

My Compassionate Friend

Several weeks ago, I received an email from a woman I have never met, Kim Fredrickson, a licensed mental health counselor in California. In her email, she said that she had found my articles on self-compassion and asked if I would read her recent book on self-compassion from a Christian perspective, “Give Yourself a Break: Turning Your Inner Critic Into a Compassionate Friend” and pass the book along to anyone that might benefit. Before responding to her request, I read through some of her articles and was deeply touched by her personal story, her courage, and how God is at work in her life. She was recently diagnosed with a terminal illness and has dedicated to live each day of the rest of her life as a testimony to God’s compassion, truth, and grace.Give Yourself A Break

We began to email back and forth and found so much in common, especially a calling to share God’s compassion in a very personal way. Through Kim’s emails, I personally received words of encouragements and prayers over my transition into private practice. Even as I type, I feel so blessed and grateful that God brought Kim into my life as an encourager and mentor.

Last night, I received her new book in the mail and immediately read over half of it. It is wonderful. I was so excited this morning that I jumped out of bed to write this blog! Here is a little taste of a book packed with wisdom, words of grace, and practical ways to apply compassion:

“As children we’re taught to treat others the way we would like to be treated. But as adults, we often need to turn that old maxim around. We’re good at showing compassion to other people – but many of us have trouble showing that same compassion to ourselves.”

“Self-compassion is absolutely essential for healthy, balanced living. It provides huge benefits including emotional resiliency, stress reduction, contentment, and healthier relationships. Without it we are vulnerable to the opinions of others and find it difficult to deal with and let go of our mistakes. It is tough enough to go through a difficult situation, especially when we think we had a part in creating it. It is another kind of torture to never be able to let go of self-criticism and blame… God’s heart is tender toward us in our suffering, frailties, and mistakes. He is our perfect example of balancing truth and grace. He knows we are but dust and is merciful (Ps. 78:38-39).”

I am deeply grateful for my compassionate friend. She has ministered to me personally… and we have never even met. I am deeply grateful for her boldness and courage. I highly recommend her book for anyone who struggles with an inner critic and negative views of self.

I am grateful. God works in marvelous and mysterious ways.

Gratitude

Acceptance, Love, and a TEDx Talk

A few weeks ago, my husband, Jeff Christian went to Abilene to give a TEDx talk called “How My Tribe Created My TEDx Talk.” A caravan of loving friends, family, and myself went along for the ride.

As I watched my husband speak, my heart filled with gratitude as I recalled the journey we have shared and the love and acceptance we have received from so many along the way.

Acceptance…

What a healing experience to be accepted and to offer acceptance… to be enough… just enough… right now in this moment… even with the scars I still carry and the mistakes I continue to make.

And love…

What a healing experience to be lovable right now. To be loved and give the gift of love to others.

One of the most healing messages I have read was from Anne Lammot, “God accepts you just the way you are, and loves you too much to let you stay that way.”

Today, as I watch my husband’s talk, I smile. Grateful for his vulnerability. Grateful to share this moment with him.

Gratitude

Dedicated to the One I Love

Look at the Bright Side

Today I am thankful for my husband. I continue to notice that our gratitude practice is a significant nourishing element and a protective mechanism over our twenty-two years of marriage. The more intentional we are about counting our blessings, the greater our level of marital satisfaction. Woo Hoo!

It is so easy to take each other for granted. We get busy. We get tired. What starts off as little frustrations can build into big irritations.

So, it is important to actively look for the bright side. Pay attention. Seek out blessings. Notice.

According to a recent article published in Psychology Today,

“Couples who had ongoing reciprocal appreciation were less likely to break up in the next nine months and even reported being more committed at the end of that time. The researchers concluded that a nourishing cycle of encouragement and appreciation provides extra incentive to maintain our relationships. In other words, when we appreciate our partners, we develop trust and respect. When we feel appreciated, we feel needed and encouraged.”

Today I am thankful for my husband. He is kind, compassionate, a great dad, a loving friend, and a generous listener. He is funny… really funny… full of adventure, smart, witty, and his eyes crinkle in a special way whenever he looks at me. I am blessed. I am grateful.

Gratitude

Time to Ride

Before we had our children, motorcycles were a big part of our life together. We rode all around Texas having little adventures together. But then small children came along and our priorities naturally shifted. He continued to ride, but our escapades together were put on hold.

We have been talking about getting a new bike for a while. The kids are getting older and we are once again restless for some adventure together.

Over the past year, Jeff has written his own version of a gratitude blog called 10,000 Truths to celebrate life and his experiences of over 10,000 miles of road on his dependable black and chrome steed.

So yesterday, he rode up to the dealership to say goodbye to his old friend and begin a new chapter. I expected another black and chrome edition, but was surprised when he texted me a picture of burgundy and very dark red. Then, he told me the nostalgia he felt when he saw this new bike. It reminded him of the bike we owned our first year of marriage. We lived in a cheap run-down house with no air-conditioning or heat. We occasionally heard gun shots ring from neighboring houses. So, we weren’t too keen on leaving his prize motorcycle outside in the front yard. We would wheel it in at night, right into the living room, and tuck it in to sleep. What a memory. IMG_3500

Last night, as he wheeled the bike into the garage, he beamed. It brought back so many memories for the two of us. Like we were circling back again. Right where we started so many years ago. Two idealistic dreamers ready for the next adventure. I am grateful he wants to share this whole big crazy adventure called life with me.

11015944_10206001841862167_4547999106910022286_n

Gratitude, Main Dish

Gutten Buns (Bierrocks)

It’s Friday! I drove the kids to school for the first time in months. Now that my son is driving, it is a rare treat. We played loud music and laughed on the way.

Notice the gift of this moment. Absorb. Smile. 1001895_10200893008880954_1910035649_n We have so much stuff going on today. In preparation, I made some healthy “hot pockets” to eat tonight after the kid’s soccer games. These German meat-filled buns are so delicious! My whole family loves them and we enjoy how easy it is to throw them into our lunches during a busy week. Somewhere along the years, we started calling them “Gutten Buns.” I used organic beef this time and they turned out really good (and healthy!) Bierrocks (Gutten Buns) Dough

  • 2 c. warm water
  • 2 pkg. Dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • 6 – 6 ½ c. flour

Pour yeast and warm water (barely warm or luke warm to touch) in a small bowl and set until foamy on top. In large bowl sift together flour, sugar, and salt. Make a well in the middle of the bowl and pour in yeast mixture, melted butter, and egg. Stir together and kneed until smooth consistency. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill for 3 hours (or overnight). Meat Mixture

  • Sauté 1 cup diced onion in olive oil (I prefer sweet onions)
  • Add 1 lb. Beef and brown.

Then Add:

  • 3 cups cabbage, finely cut
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • dash Tabasco sauce

Cover skillet and continue cooking over low heat, stirring occasionally, until cabbage is tender. Do not add liquid. Cool slightly. IMG_3496 Roll dough into large thin square (about 1/4 inch thick). Divide into 5″ squares (about 16 squares). Place 2 T. meat mixture on each square. Bring corners of square together and pinch to form a roll. Place pinched side down on greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 – 30 minutes.

Great ideas for substitute fillings: 

  • Marinara sauce, pepperoni, and mozzarella cheese
  • Ham and cheese
  • Chicken salad and cheese
Gratitude

The Sun Will Rise

“The sun will rise. The sun will rise. Bringing life to the earth as it springs from the ground. The sun will rise. The sun will rise. Won’t you dry all your tears? Lay your burden down. Won’t you dry all your tears? Lay your burden down.” The Sun Will Rise, The Brilliance

At church today, our children performed this beautifully simple song in sign language. Beautiful moment. Precious children reminding me to lay the burdens… the ones I cling to so tightly… lay them down.

This afternoon, as I walked around my neighborhood, I noticed new blooms springing forth along my path. New blooms promising that spring is almost here. Spring. Fresh start… Begin anew… Lay your burdens down…

Budding tree

Oh, how I needed to remember.

Grateful today for the health of my children, their vibrance and laughter as they hang out with friends, intensity as they play soccer, and determination as they study diligently.

Grateful today for my husband of 22 years. Wow. How precious. To share this life with my dearest friend and love of my life.

Grateful for time with my church family this morning. The signing of our beautiful children. Our shared laughter. Holding space for each other’s joys and trials. It was so nourishing.

The sun will rise.

Grateful.

Gratitude, Loving Kindness

Love What You Do

Love-What-you-doToday I figured out my New Year’s resolution. Okay, I realize it’s October… so it might be a little late in the game. However, it just feels like the right time to begin the practice of love.

A couple of weeks ago, my family had the honor of sharing an evening with the master Flamenco Guitarist, Ron Radford. Many years ago, he had the opportunity to study the ancient tradition of Flamenco music with the Romani people in Spain. Music that holds the stories of struggle, celebration, love, and loss has been passed from master to master for generations. Ron shared with us the story of his last lesson with the Gypsy master. The following is what I remember from his story… in my own words:

You can practice and know all the techniques perfectly, but it will not make you a master. To become a master of anything you must practice three important things:

The first is love… Love what you do. When you love what you do, the love will come out of your music and give love to all who listen.

The second is love… Love people. If you do not love people, it can create a barrier between you and others. They will have difficulty receiving what you have to give.

The third is love… Listen with love. When those around you listen with their hearts and when you are able to listen to others with love… something beautiful happens that is beyond just “me” and “you.” We become the music together.

I have thought of these three things often since our evening with Ron and I realize that this will become practice:

  • As my family wakes up with a case  of “the Mondays” and I inevitably find myself frustrated, a little voice gently invites me to, “love what you do.” And, I find myself feeling warmth and joy of having my family (even a grouchy family) all together at the beginning of the day. Gratitude!
  • As I share spontaneous laughter with my sister over some very silly cake decorating mistakes, I breathe in the moment of just “listening with love” and laughter.
  • As I get home from the office unusually late one evening, feeling tired and keyed up… “love what you do.”
  • As my husband and I share a few quiet moments with a cup of coffee. “Listen with love.”
  • As I struggle to find words of comfort for a friend going through a difficult time. “Love people.”

Love.

Love what you do.

Love people.

Listen with love.

Words from a master.

If you would like to experience some beautiful Flamenco guitar and share in the love. Here is Ron Radford performing, “Tarantas.”

Compassion, Gratitude, Loving Kindness

Letting It Matter

Art by Kelly Rae Roberts
Art by Kelly Rae Roberts

Today I am grateful for a reminder to look for the beauty in everything… even ourselves. I heard sprinkles of wisdom throughout this day: We matter. You matter. I matter. The moments we share together, when we feel seen and understood, can be healing moments that move gently toward healing our world… like a pebble dropped in water that creates concentric circles that get wider and wider.

The first wisdom was a quote from the author of Momastery:

“Look for the mess in others- you’ll find it. Look for the beauty in others- you’ll find it. Seek and you shall find. It’s just the rule. We need to deepen our vision, maybe. Learn to look past the surface and into the depths of people and stories. It’s often quite lovely there.” Glennon Doyle Melton

Then, I listened to Krista Tippet’s interview with Rachel Naomi-Remen. She shared a story her orthodox Jewish grandfather told her as a present for her fourth birthday. It originated in the Kabbalah Jewish tradition:

“In the beginning there was only the holy darkness, the Ein Sof, the source of life. And then, in the course of history, at a moment in time, this world, the world of a thousand thousand things, emerged from the heart of the holy darkness as a great ray of light. And then, perhaps because this is a Jewish story, there was an accident, and the vessels containing the light of the world, the wholeness of the world, broke. And the wholeness of the world, the light of the world was scattered into a thousand thousand fragments of light, and they fell into all events and all people, where they remain deeply hidden until this very day.

“Now, according to my grandfather, the whole human race is a response to this accident. We are here because we are born with the capacity to find the hidden light in all events and all people, to lift it up and make it visible once again and thereby to restore the innate wholeness of the world. It’s a very important story for our times. 

“And this task is called tikkun olam in Hebrew. It’s the restoration of the world. And this is, of course, a collective task. It involves all people who have ever been born, all people presently alive, all people yet to be born. We are all healers of the world. And that story opens a sense of possibility. It’s not about healing the world by making a huge difference. It’s about healing the world that touches you, that’s around you.

“It’s a very old story, comes from the 14th century, and it’s a different way of looking at our power. And I suspect it has a key for us in our present situation, a very important key. I’m not a person who is a political person in the usual sense of that word, but I think that we all feel that we’re not enough to make a difference, that we need to be more somehow, either wealthier or more educated or somehow or other different than the people we are. And according to this story, we are exactly what’s needed. And to just wonder about that a little, what if we were exactly what’s needed? What then? How would I live if I was exactly what’s needed to heal the world?” Rachel Naomi Remen

What if we are enough and exactly what is needed in this moment in time? What if all that matters is the person you happen to be with at any given moment?

Good food. Love. Compassion. Laughter. Tears. Touch. It matters.

Gratitude, Loving Kindness

Loving Kindness Centering Prayer

Satisfy us by your loving-kindness so shall we rejoice and be glad all the days of our life. Psalm 90:14 (Translation: Phyllis Tickle)

Today I am grateful because of God’s everlasting love and kindness.

A friend sent me an article by Henri Nouwen about the practice of moving from solitude… to community… to ministry. I was moved as I read his thoughts about the importance of setting aside time to abide in God’s loving presence:

“Solitude is being with God and God alone. Is there space for that in your life?

Why is it so important to be with God and God alone on the mountaintop? It is important because it is the place where you can listen to the voice of the One who calls you “the beloved.” To pray is to listen to the One who calls you “my beloved daughter,” “my beloved son,” “my beloved child.” To pray is to let that voice speak to the center of your being, to your guts, and let that voice resound in your whole being.

Who am I? I am the beloved. That is the voice Jesus heard when he came out of the Jordan River: “You are my beloved; on you my favor rests.” And Jesus says to you and to me that we are loved as He is loved. That same voice is there for you. When you are not claiming that voice, you cannot walk freely in this world.

Jesus listened to that voice all the time, and he was able to walk right through life. People were applauding him, laughing at him, praising him, and rejecting him… calling “Hosanna!” and calling “Crucify!” But in the midst of that, Jesus knew one thing – I am beloved; I am God’s favored one. He clung to that voice.” Henri Nouwen

I was struck by the idea of intentionally setting aside time to be filled with God’s loving presence… basking in His love… finding satisfaction in His loving-kindness. These thoughts were swirling through my mind when I ran across another article about the use of a daily Loving-Kindness practice with adults who experienced neglect and abuse as children. I realized that some people have a difficult time holding onto the feeling of love, even God’s everlasting love. It sifts through their hearts like water in a leaky bucket. The use of a formal, Loving Kindness meditation allows people to experience love and compassion, even if it is a little at a time. Furthermore, it lets them become less dependent on others for their sense of identity. Just as Jesus went over and over again to the “lonely places,” he went to abide in God’s loving presence before He went back out into the world.

With these two articles in mind, I was inspired to create a Loving-Kindness Centering Prayer that would integrate the idea of a daily formal centering prayer with an intentional experience of God’s presence. I was able to use *“A Christian Loving Kindness Meditation” to create a beautiful framework for my own Loving Kindness Centering Prayer.

I am grateful for this practice. A week has gone by and I already notice a difference in how I respond toward myself and others. I have more self-awareness of my moments of negativity. Plus, I am much gentler with myself as I learn to send out a prayer of God’s love, rest, and peace during difficult interactions.

I realize I have a long way to go. But this simple practice is a tangible way for me to experience and abide in God’s presence every day. If you would like to practice along with me, simply click on this link and it will take you to a 13 minute Loving Kindness Centering Prayer.

*Note: I had the honor of leading “A Christian Loving Kindness Meditation” at my church’s annual Women’s Retreat this year. This blog is also a response to those who requested an audio recording of the meditation.

 

 

Gratitude

Wake Up and Come Alive Again

Sunlight on WaterLife is not lost by dying
Life is lost minute by minute
Day by dragging day
In all the small and uncaring ways       
Stephen Vincent Benet​
Today I am incredibly thankful to be awake and alive in my life. Over the past year, I found it difficult to come out of the instinctual auto-pilot that clicked into gear as a result of some unavoidable, life-altering crises. So many things that used to come naturally felt forced. And I felt sadness, but not quite to the point of despair…
… not to the point of despair. When I shared my prolonged sadness–(but not quite despair)–with a friend, she observed that my gratitude project probably impacted the way I experienced disorientation. Gratitude is the antitode to despair and scarcity. This daily practice held my head above water and helped me swim forward, even when I felt tired and unsure of myself. Although I lost my ability to articulate in writing, gratitude created space to breathe and to remember the tremendous blessings in the midst of the storm. Gratitude reminds me to wake up, come alive, and notice… see God right now, actively present in this very moment.

And so I noticed…

A friend sitting next to me. The crinkles around my husband’s grey-blue eyes. My son’s screechy, playful singing along to a silly song on the radio. My sister’s beautiful, handmade quilt. A fresh-roasted cup of coffee. A cold winter day. A warm cheese enchilada. My dear Egyptian friend showering me with encouragement. My daughter burying her head onto my shoulder as she cries. A fried chicken, finger-lickin’ lunch split with a friend. My grandfather’s gregarious, contagious laughter. My breath.

I noticed… and slowly, life began to seep back into the extremities… auto-pilot began to dissipate…

I listened to an inspiring interview recently with Ellen Langer who studies mindlessness at Harvard University where she talked about how the act of noticing brings zest back into our work life, marriage, parenting:

And so, mindfulness, for me, is the very simple process of actively noticing new things. When you actively notice new things that puts you in the present, makes you sensitive to context. As you’re noticing new things, it’s engaging. And it turns out, after a lot of research, that we find that it’s literally, not just figuratively, enlivening. Ellen Langer, On Being

Today I am grateful to be alive.

Wake Up

Do you have a body? Don’t sit on the porch!
Go out and walk in the rain!
If you are in love,
then why are you asleep?
Wake up, wake up!
You have slept millions and millions of years.
Why not wake up this morning?

Kabir