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A 4-Year-Old’s Lessons on Loving and Living During a Divisive Presidential Election

Let’s face it. The 2016 presidential race was brutal and divisive. While so many hoped that the election would put a stop to all the divisiveness, the election of Donald Trump seems to have caused an even greater divide within our great nation, the United States of America.

Will we heal?

Will we hear the other side?

What will it take to bridge the gap between us and them?

Questions loom and linger.

How will we move through and beyond?

Some are grieving. Some are angry. Some are numb now. Some just don’t understand.

Is our country safe anymore?

What will come of our world?

What will a Donald Trump presidency look like?

Will the protests subside, or will they go on for four or eight years?

Will we ever be able to cross the divide?

So many unknowns.

So many uncertainties.

There is no clear or right answer except to remember we are ONE nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for ALL.

So what do we do?

Where do we start?

Perhaps we need to step back in time.

This week, my offering to a world that’s in awe, a world that’s divided, a world that’s uncertain and in need comes from my 4-year-old daughter.

In the midst of my grief over what’s transpired during this deeply divisive presidential election, my four year old has shown me what it means to love and live, through and beyond the turmoil.

When asked who was running for president of the United States, my four year old was able to name Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. I think she would probably be able to name them if she was shown their faces. But that’s it. Nothing more. She knew their names and that they were running for president. I’m quite sure she doesn’t even know what President of the United States means. But one thing’s for sure. My four year old has taught me what it means to love and live, purely and simply, even when the world’s going mad.

Let’s learn. Let’s turn our ears towards the young. May we learn something profound, something our soul’s forgotten.

LESSON ON LOVING & LIVING #1: Find ways to compliment people and love on them even if you disagree with them.

This week, my 4-year old daughter wanted to write cards for her friends. She got out a piece of notebook paper and had me fold it into four. Then she got some post-it notes out. She wanted me to help her write notes to her friends, Sydney, Henry, Edry and Rylan, on the post-it notes. I wrote as she dictated. It was pure and simple. One sentence or two. That’s it. A compliment. A way to show her love to her friends and neighbors. Then she signed her name after each one.

Perhaps we can glean wisdom from a four year old’s simple and idealistic world.

Find ways compliment people and and love on them even if you disagree with them.

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dsc_1777LESSON ON LOVING & LIVING #2: Surround yourself with diversity.

As I was driving to the gym with my daughter on Thursday, she randomly shared this story. “I have brown hair. My friend has white hair and a white face. My other friend has black hair and a brown face.”

“That is so awesome!” I replied exuberantly. “I’m so proud of you that you have all kinds of friends. It’s fun to have lots of different kind of friends, isn’t it?”

What was most notable about this conversation was that my daughter made that statement with NO judgement. It was a matter of fact. Pure and simple fact. She recognized that her friends were diverse, that they had different physical traits. But she didn’t place any judgement on those differences. There’s something refreshing about that to me. We can recognize differences without casting judgement.

It’s hard to admit, but it’s sometimes easiest to hang out with people who look, act and think like us. But hanging around a monolithic group of people who think, act, and behave EXACTLY like us  doesn’t do anything to expand our worldview. The more we’re able to surround ourselves with diversity or AT LEAST open ourselves up to seeing and hearing the other side, the more likely we’re able to expand and diversify our worldview. Diverse perspectives and worldviews are critical to bridging the great divide.

Perhaps we can glean wisdom from a four year old’s simple and idealistic world.

Surround yourself with diversity.

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LESSON ON LOVING & LIVING #3: Create art.

This week, my 4-year-old daughter brought home oodles of art from preschool. Handmade cards with drawings. Colored pages with paper punches lining the sides. Red, purple and pink pieces of construction paper cut into mountains, hills and rectangles. I’ll be honest, I usually throw away a bunch of this stuff because a mom can’t keep everything or it’d lead to boxes upon boxes of memories. But I’m keeping every single one of my daughter’s art pieces from this week. They’ve been gems to me in a week of presidential, political and personal turmoil.

If you make any sort of art, you MUST continue creating during these days of uncertainty. The world desperately needs your art, your perspective, your unique way of expressing love and joy, despair and destitution, anger and peace. The way you see life, the way you express it through your art? It’s important. It’s noteworthy. It’s crucial and life saving. We must continue making art, even when it seems completely pointless. We must continue making art, even when it seems like everyone’s too busy to see it. We must continue making art, even when the world’s gone mad. Keep making art. Keep creating. Keep putting it out there. We need your art more than ever.

Sing. Dance. Paint. Write. Photograph. Collage. Decoupage. Knit. Crochet. Quilt. Sew. Garden. Decorate. Build. Woodwork. Mosaic. Make jewelry and pottery. Whatever it is you do to create art and beauty in this world, do it and keep doing it! We need art now more than ever.

Perhaps we can glean wisdom from a four year old’s simple and idealistic world.

Create art.

Bridge the great divide.

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greensig

What I Learned From Writing Someone’s Obituary

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He called me first. I was on the phone with my husband, so I wasn’t able to answer. Then I received a text. Having received a phone call and text within seconds of each other, I knew the message was urgent and required a prompt and personal response on my part. My husband suggested I hang up and return the call immediately.

“Hi. I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of your mom this week. We all know it’s going to happen at some point, but it’s still never easy,” I said.

“Thank you very much,” he responded. “Actually, that’s why I called. I need to write up something about my mom for the back of the bulletin for her funeral, and I was wondering if you’d be able to do that for me.”

“Sure,” I said, without giving it much thought. After all, just six days prior a writing colleague suggested that I should consider writing peoples’ life stories. It should’ve been no surprise that I was presented with an opportunity so soon after the suggestion was made to me.

He told me he’d spoken with his siblings, that they’d gathered some information about their mom and her life story, and could I possibly put all of this together and write it in a nice format for the back of the bulletin?

Undoubtedly, YES I can.

Who would say no to such an honor?

Basically, I was being asked to write this woman’s obituary.

I took the son’s notes, spent time putting them into paragraphs and emailed the final draft of the obituary to him around 10:00 p.m. that night.

The next morning bright and early, he shared the draft with his siblings. They removed some information and added some information. He called and asked if I could rewrite and refine the obituary with the changes in mind.

Undoubtedly, YES I can.

I made the changes and emailed the obituary back to him within 30 minutes. He needed to get it to the pastor that morning.

She passed away on Monday. I sent the final draft of the obituary for the funeral bulletin at 9:50 a.m. on Wednesday. The funeral was Thursday. Today it’s Friday.

Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. – James 4:14

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All of this has me thinking…

What did I learn from writing this woman’s obituary?

It is with great honor and respect of this woman’s life and death, that I share just a few of my learnings. Perhaps one or all will guide your path, your life, the light you shine during your short time on earth.

  1. In the end, your life will be reduced to a few short paragraphs in an obituary. What would you like those paragraphs to say? You are not victim to what happens in your life, nor are you victim to what shows up in your obituary. You have a chance to change the trajectory of your life NOW.
  2. Whether you believe it or not, whether you believe you’re making a difference or not, you WILL be a part of someone’s obituary. Your name is important. Your contribution and service to others is important. Your presence and dedication to others is important. Whose obituary will you be on, and how are you contributing to their life today?
  3. Isn’t it beautiful to have grandchildren, great-grandchildren, extended relatives and friends? Wouldn’t it be awesome to have a powerful influence in your grandchildren and great-grandchildrens’ lives? How will they remember you once you are gone? What legacy will you leave for future generations? How about extended relatives and friends? What relationships are you fostering now that will actually hold weight on your death bed? Who’s the friend you can’t imagine life without? Who’s the cousin or aunt or great uncle for whom you always had a special affection?
  4. Your mistakes, your sins, your faults, your terrible mishaps, and the worst moments of your life will rarely show up on your obituary. People will remember the BEST of you. What do you want that BEST to look like?
  5. LOVE is perhaps the one and only thing you want to show up most on your obituary. Love deeply, to the best of your ability.
  6. Work hard, but definitely not too hard. Work with your heart. Work with the end in mind. Do you want to be remembered for earning $200,000.00 a year, or do you want to be remembered for being a great leader? Do you want to be remembered for never missing a single day of work, or do you want to be remembered for being committed and dedicated to whatever you did? Do you want to be remembered for being “over” hundreds of employees, or do you want to be remembered for being a faithful mentor and guide? Do you want to be remembered for all the awards you won, or do you want to be remembered as a servant heart? The list could go on and on. Be wise about your work, for the days are short in this one wild and crazy life.
  7. What are you doing to stay busy in your down time? Watching TV? Watching your iPhone? Vacuuming? Dusting? Or would you rather be remembered for something cool and interesting like knitting, skydiving, woodworking, writing, traveling to all the continents, pottery, jewelry making, or something super cool like that? Find and develop your interests now and as you’re able. Who knows? Maybe someday your grandchild will find your box of antique rulers and bottle caps, and will think it’s the coolest collection in the world!
  8. If your entire life had to be summarized in just ONE sentence, what would you want it to say? What do you want to be known for? How do you want to be remembered? What kind of legacy do you want to leave for future generations? What changes can you make that will begin to shape and mold the ONE sentence that describes your life? Hint: It’s not necessarily about WHAT you did, it’s more about WHO you were. “She was always such a graceful lady.” “He was such a funny guy.” “She was such a kind and generous soul.” “He was committed to his family.” “She was faithful to the end.” “He never gave up on his dreams.” “She sure went through a lot, but she was one tough cookie.”
  9. What do you believe at the core of who you are? Believe me, your core beliefs will show up on your obituary. What do you believe, and how is that being expressed in your life? It’s worth pondering today and every day.
  10. What would be devastating and terribly unfortunate if it never showed up in your obituary? What are your dreams, your plans for your life? Is there some goal, some life aspiration, some way of living and being that you need to commit to so that someday when your obituary is written, it will actually show up and be remembered? What is your one true calling? Are you short-changing yourself? Are you foregoing your dreams for daily pursuits that don’t have any long-lasting legacy power? Are you selling your soul for things that won’t really matter at the end of life? If you were to die today, what would be missing from your obituary tomorrow? Move towards the thing that’s missing.

That’s it. That’s all I learned from writing someone’s obituary.

Be blessed. Be a blessing. Live life as if it counts. Live today as if it’s your last.

greensig

Who is Your First Responder?

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I’ve always admired my parents’ relationship with their friends, Don and Cyndy. They’re the kind of friends who will drive you to the airport at 3:30 in the morning, bring a sloppy joe meal when you just got home from the hospital, and touch base when everyone else seems to have forgotten. Last night, I was reminded yet again, that Don and Cyndy are my parents’ first responders.

“The person who arrives first at the scene of an accident or other emergency situation, for example a police officer or firefighter.” – Macmillan Dictionary definition of FIRST RESPONDER

As you may or may not know, my dad had a lung transplant three months ago. Since my dad just finished pulmonary rehab and it’s been three months since the transplant, my parents thought there was a good chance they’d be able to move back home this weekend or early next week. Unfortunately, this week, my dad’s lung function tests went down, and they found multiple antibodies in his blood that aren’t supposed to be there. He had a bronchoscopy yesterday morning, which is a procedure where they go in and collect fluid and tissue from inside the lung to examine, more closely, the health of the lung. The doctors told my dad that he would need to be admitted to the hospital after the bronchoscopy in order to do a “plasma exchange” to treat the antibodies they discovered this week. They didn’t disclose or promise a timeframe for the hospitalization. We thought it could be a couple hours, an overnight stay, or perhaps worst case, a couple days. But yesterday afternoon when my dad got admitted to the hospital, the doctor came in to let my parents know that he would need to stay for a minimum of 10 days and that they would be treating him for rejection through a “very difficult” pharmaceutical and plasma exchange treatment. If the 10-day treatment works and the results of the bronchoscopy are good, my dad will be able to go home after that. If the 10-day treatment does NOT work and the results of the bronchoscopy are NOT good, then my dad will need to go through ANOTHER 10-day plasma exchange treatment. This was disheartening and completely unexpected news, especially since my dad has been feeling well.

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Last night, I stayed up late to get as much work done as possible before my dad begins treatment today. I worked on laundry and photo editing for my photography business. I also spent time writing a Caring Bridge post to update friends and family with my parents’ unfortunate news.

Around 10:00 p.m., I received a text from my mom’s best friend, Cyndy. Brief, but heartfelt, Cyndy wanted to let me know that she and Don are planning to visit my parents at the hospital around 4:00 p.m. today after she gets off work. She was bummed that they had to go through more when they’ve already gone through so much. Two sentences. That’s it. Simple. Thoughtful. Out-of-her way kindness. Who does that? A first responder. Don and Cyndy are my parents’ first responders.

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In the past 12 years, I’ve been through a lot of unusually traumatic and stressful situations with my sister’s battle with addiction, mental illness, and two pregnancies as a single mom; my husband’s eye cancer; my dad’s lung transplant. I’ve had more than ample time and experience to recognize and think about the need for us to have first responders in life.

Who is your first responder? 

Who’s the first to send a text, email or Facebook message when you’re in need? Who will bring you a meal when everything’s going to pot? Who will offer you child care or a ride when you can’t drive yourself? Who will ask “How are you doing today?” and really mean it? Who will sense that you need encouragement when everyone else waits for you to say you need it? Who’s the first to forgive you when you haven’t updated them in longer than you should because you’re SO stressed and preoccupied? Who will show up to the hospital, the special event in your honor? Who’s the person who sends you gas gift cards when you’ve traveled back and forth to the clinic three hundred times? Who’s the person who actually cares what’s happening in your life? Who’s the person who consistently cares about what’s going on in your life? Who’s the person who responds in your time of greatest need?

That’s your first responder.

Today I’m asking us to think about one very important question.

Who is your first responder?

Perhaps you know the answer without thinking at all. Perhaps you need to do a little more thinking.

Who is your first responder?

Who’s there for you at the drop of a hat? Who’s there for you in the worst case scenario? Who shows up on your behalf?

I do believe there’s always someone. Perhaps it’s your spouse. Perhaps it’s a family member or someone from your church. Perhaps it’s an old friend, a new friend or a neighbor. I don’t know who it is for you, but there’s always someone who shows up in an emergency. Thank God.

But perhaps this question begs for some soul searching, or at least some stand up and noticing. What kind of relationships are we fostering with others to the extent that we actually SHOW UP for one another in times of great need? This is a question worth pondering. I promise you it’s a question worth pondering TODAY, whether you’re in need or not.

Who is your first responder?

greensig

I Am Woman

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I am woman.

Born from my mother’s womb. Bloody. Bruised. Breathing, bright and beautiful.

Still in pain, her belly barren, Mama bowed low and bestowed upon me all names I’d ever need.

Precious.

Princess.

Queen.

Diva.

Beautiful.

Beloved Daughter.

Born to bring light and life, dignity and strength, elegance and grace.

I am woman.

Yes.

I am woman.

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Do it all. Have it all. BE. ALL. The world tells me how and who I should be.

Daughter. Granddaughter. Sister. Niece. Cousin. Wife. Mother. Stepmother. Godmother. Aunt. Grandmother. Great Grandmother. Friend. Friendly. Best Friend. Bestie. Mentee. Mentor. Single. Stay-at-Home Mom. Work-from-Home Mom. Working Mom. Part-Time Working Mom. PTA Mom. Volunteer. Cook. Chef. Chocolate-Chip Cookie Maker. Taxi-Cab Driver. Counselor. Psychologist. Fair. Balanced. Business Woman. Writer. Actor. Artist. Elegant. Engineer. Model. Sexy. Sexy Mama. One Hot Mama. Rocker. Beautiful. Beast. Built. Big Breasted. Athletic. Trim. Thin. Funny. Smart. Witty. Kind. Savvy. Independent. Submissive. Generous. Giving. Philanthropist. Missionary. Designer. Graphic Designer. Pinterest Pretty. Stylish. Sassy. Hip. Cool. Calm. Collected. Casual. Considerate. Revolutionary. Chic. Prim. Proper. Perfect. Primped to the Nines. Fashion Forward. Poised. Politically Informed. Politically Correct. Quiet. Polite. Thoughtful. Thorough. Thick-Skinned. Vulnerable. Flexible. Decisive. Fierce.

I do it all.

Or maybe not.

I try to DO, HAVE and BE.

I am woman.

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My voice, it will not be silenced. My heart, it’s torn. My life, let it be.

Most days I’m filled with insecurity.

God formed me, fashioned me, made me and named me.

I’m here for a reason.

I’m not a possession or a productivity robot.

I long to be seen for who I am, for who I really am.

There is nobody, nobody like me.

I am claimed. Named.

Beautiful. Holy. Chosen. Precious one.

I am woman.

pinksig

 

Breathing Eden: A Book Review & Giveaway!

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Jennifer Camp and I have been virtual traveling partners for years now. Honestly, I don’t remember when we first crossed paths, but it feels like I’ve known her a lifetime. Jennifer is one of several soul sisters I’ve met online. I know it sounds cliche, but when we finally meet in real life, we’re going to pick back up like childhood friends who never missed a beat. That’s how much I adore this woman, this dear, kind, sweet soul.

Perhaps you’re wondering why I’m telling you about Jennifer on this most random of Tuesdays? Wonder no more! Jennifer’s new book, Breathing Eden, releases today! Happy Birthday, Breathing Eden! I’m honored to be on the launch team, and incredibly excited to share Jennifer’s book with you all.

Breathing Eden: Conversations with God on Light, Fresh Air, and New Things is beautiful. The fonts are aesthetically pleasing and easy to read. The spacing is thoughtful. There’s even a note from the publisher, which I thought was a unique personal touch. There’s white space, which is hard to come by in books for adults. And at the end of every story, there’s a place for women to sit and listen to God’s still small voice. Breathing Eden reflects Jennifer’s beautiful, richly nuanced heart.

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“This book consists of our prayers to God and his answers. Forty women. Forty prayers. Forty women’s conversations with God.” – Breathing Eden 

Jennifer has a huge heart for women who are wounded and in need of encouragement. She also has an incredible gift of listening and discerning God’s voice amongst all the noise out there. Breathing Eden invites readers into 40 women’s raw stories inspired by real life. Then, like a desperately needed breath of fresh air, we read God’s perspective, God’s response to the women’s stories. After each story, there’s an opportunity to listen, think, trust and pray. Honestly, I don’t usually like books that try to engage me with reflections, prayers or exercises at the end of each section. But this book’s “Trust” and “Pray” sections were practical, helpful and encouraging.

Wondering what these 40 stories are all about? Think there’s no reason to read a whole book of women’s stories when there will probably only be one or two that resonate with you? Not so fast. Breathing Eden is brilliant in that SO MANY of the women’s stories resonated with me, not just one or two. I found myself in Lucy’s story, Kelsie’s story, Kate’s story, Lea’s story, Catherine’s story and Holly’s story. God’s whispers spoke to my heart through Cara’s story, Hannah’s story, Jacqueline’s story, Ruby’s story, Diane’s story and Shelby’s story. Add all of those up, and that’s a grand total of 12 stories that resonated deeply with my soul out of 40. Honestly? We’re all in this together, ladies. You’re never as alone as you think you are.

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What are you facing today? What hurts? What’s broken? What healing and hope do you need in order to break through and break free as a beloved child of God? You’ll find yourself among the 40 women’s stories in Breathing Eden.

These are the stories I needed and found in Breathing Eden. Hope for a mom who’s uncertain. Promises for God’s perfect timing. A reminder of the girl I used to be. Stories untold. I’m never alone. Faith for when I cannot see. Trust in God’s plan. Love without strings. Forgiveness aplenty. Chains broken. Light and restoration. Freedom from darkness. Confidence to run. Yes, those are the stories that resonated with me. Those are the stories that spoke to my heart.

Thank you, Jennifer, for the beautiful gift this book is and will be to so many women around the world. May you be blessed in the giving, blessed in the sharing, blessed as you breathe a bit of Eden.

breathingedenIn honor of the release of Breathing Eden, I’m giving away TWO COPIES of Jennifer’s book today! All you need to do is complete the Rafflecopter below, and you’re entered to win! Winners will be selected randomly and will be notified via email.

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a Rafflecopter giveaway

Rachelle Craig - What a beautiful review! I too had the honor of being on this amazing launch team! What a joy it has been reading Breathing Eden and connecting to so many of the women in the book. I am looking forward to gifting this book to women I love, and know they too will find peace and healing through this book.October 6, 2016 – 6:12 am