“Butterflies can’t see their wings. They can’t see how truly beautiful they are, but everyone else can. People are like that as well.” Anonymous
A beautiful thing took place for my family last weekend. We had the incredible experience of witnessing the water baptism of my two teenagers. In our particular faith (Pentecostal), we dedicate our children as babies and then each individual chooses the right time to be baptized in water for him or herself when he or she is ready. Both my kids decided that Easter Sunday was the right time for them. Together with family and friends they shared their stories of how they wanted to live a Christ centered life and make a public confession of their faith. This time our church started a new tradition with baptisms which was having a parent or significant mentor speak a blessing over the person being baptized. This was a very powerful experience for me and for those who attended as well. It was extremely emotional, yet so meaningful. A very proud moment for parents when their kids have chosen on their own to live for God and can get up in front of a packed church and declare that. We witnessed a beautiful thing take place that day. Parenting teens certainly has its ups and downs, but when a parent experiences a moment like this, it is one they will truly always cherish.
Likewise I heard a beautiful thing tonight. I attended a concert in my hometown that was truly incredible. This small orchestra made up of mostly teenagers played a wide variety of songs from pop to classical and left the crowd mesmerized with their incredible talents. The most impressive thing about this orchestra was that all their instruments were made from garbage, literally. The call themselves The Recycled Orchestra and they were from Paraguay. Among the various instruments were violins created from paint and baking cans and saxophones created from eaves trough tubing. Why you might ask? The reason is that this is the only option they had to bring music to this impoverished area. It was unreal that instruments made of junk made such beautiful music mimicking the actual instruments they were based on so authentically. I did not anticipate this when I went there and was so impressed by this group. I heard something beautiful arise from what others would see as just a pile of rubble originally. It always amazes me when people can see such potential in something. Who would think that a cookie tin could be converted into part of a guitar or a oil can a string base? Wow! A concert to remember that is certain! They kept saying talent is everywhere but opportunity is not. This was their way of creatively trying to level the playing field a bit and I would say they were very successful. There is a saying that one man’s junk is another man’s treasure and I literally witnessed this tonight.
Beautiful things are all around us but we can get so busy it is hard to notice them sometimes. A child’s giggles, a favourite song, a sunny day, a warm hug, a wonderful visit or even a hot cup of coffee. Beautiful things come our way all the time and we sometimes need to remind ourselves how truly blessed we are to be able to experience them.
As people we may not feel like we are that beautiful at times. We may struggle with feelings of low self worth or a sense of inadequacy, yet God specializes in making beautiful things out of our lives. We bring Him brokenness and he provides healing. We bring Him fear and he brings us peace. We bring Him worry and he brings us faith. On our own we cannot do it, but with God’s help He can bring out the beauty in all of us if we are open. A song I have sung often is called Through His Eyes of Love and the lyrics say “Through His eyes of love. See yourself the ways God does. Through His eyes of love. You’re perfect through His eyes of love!“ When Tyler was little he had a collection of tiny ceramic dogs. He loved and handled them so often that they were very nicked and scuffed. When I noticed what rough shape they were in, I inquired about what he wanted to do with them. Tyler quickly replied that he just loved them “that much more,” because of their nicks. He was looking through eyes of love and something beautiful was seen despite their obvious flaws.
It is so vital to focus on seeing the beautiful things that exist in all people. I believe we need to attempt to focus more on seeing the potential in people around us over their shortcomings. What a world we would have if we all tried to envision more frequently what could come from a person or situation if the right opportunity and encouragement was provided. I have often shared the starfish story when I have speaking engagements. The story is told of a little boy who was walking along the beach one day. The tide had gone out and had left countless starfish stranded on the beach. One by one, he began frantically tossing them back into the water. An older man witnessed this and inquired about what the little boy was doing. The boy explained that he had to save the starfish. The negative man scoffed saying “There are so many starfish and only one of you! What difference can you possibly make?” The little boy sweetly replied as he tossed a starfish in the water, “a huge difference for this one!” He saw the beauty and potential.
We all have beautiful things inside of us to offer this world. I know there are beautiful things just waiting to be shared in you and I want you to see it as well. Take a good look in the mirror tonight and know that a truly beautiful person is looking back at you. Believe this and let the world see it too!
Isaiah 61:3 ~ God gives: “a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”
Little Lesson Learned: Beautiful things are in us and around us. Take time to realize that and notice them today. Enjoy the song "Beautiful Things" below.
Copyright: Littlelessonslearnedbydana, 2014
The Things That Matter Most
“Things that matter most in our lives must never be at the mercy of things that matter least. ~ Milton K.
Easter season is upon us and we are easily reminded especially when shopping. It is then we are bombarded with a sea of rainbow grass, a huge assortment of chocolate eggs and
sky-high towers of colorful wicker baskets. The Easter Bunny and his enormous stash of sugary loot has certainly taken on very high importance in our society. It is sad however how many people miss the true meaning of Easter altogether, which is Christ’s death and resurrection. One particular Easter when I was teaching Sunday School, I had the lesson to teach about Mary and Martha at the tomb of Jesus. Before I told the story, I was well prepared and started my discussion about what Easter is really about. I was on a mission and with great enthusiasm I laid it on thick. I described in detail how chocolate bunnies are wonderful, but there is so much more to what Easter is really about. I felt like Linus in Charlie Brown’s Christmas when he takes center stage. In the spotlight he delivers a life changing monologue and enlightens his friends to what the true meaning of Christmas really is. I went on with gusto to tell the story of Mary and Martha and how they were at the tomb. I described with precision how they were so sad about their special friend Jesus who had died. They did not know that He would perform a special miracle and rise from the dead at that particular time. I had their attention. You could hear a pin drop and I was so proud. When I asked if someone could share what the lesson was about and summarize what I was trying to say, one little boy quickly volunteered. He said boldly “I agree with you about Easter so much! It is not about the chocolate bunnies at all! It is really about the chocolate eggs and just so you know, I think the real reason why Mary and Martha were upset is because they lost their chocolate bunnies!” True story! What? Talk about a let down and unfortunately a little boy who despite my greatest efforts and best intentions clearly did not get it. Not one of my best teaching moments that is for sure, but a very comical story none the less. He did not see what really mattered most much to my dismay!
I have to laugh about this story though because we are like that in life sometimes. We listen, but do we really hear? Do we realize what really matters most? One day I was teaching a lesson on childhood obesity and one little girl chimed in and said she found the lesson very interesting and that she could not wait to share with her parents what she had learned. I asked her “And what did you learn?” She proudly said grinning from ear to ear, “I learned that Mrs. R. taught us a great lesson on how not to be obedient!” YIKES! I quickly cleared up that vocabulary mix up let me tell you! Kids do say the funniest things and provide me with some of the greatest chuckles indeed, yet another case of someone not quite getting what matters most.
Many adults miss the point too. I was watching TV today and there was a show called My Crazy Obsession and this couple had a collection of over 5000 cabbage patch kids. This alone may not seem that bad to avid collectors, but when they spoke of how they talk for their dolls, set up play dates and take them on errands, I knew there was a big problem. It is great to have a hobby or interest, yet when it dominates your life and hurts relationships, there is a huge issue here. There is so much more to life than that, yet they failed to see it! Their hobby mattered most and that is very sad.
On the flip side, there are the people who totally get it. They clearly have their priorities in life very straight. They know what is truly important. They know what matters most and they inspire others to do the same. One such person who inspires me very much on a daily basis is a mom named Tara McCallan who has started a website and blog called Happy Soul Project. On this blog she shares her very honest experiences about being a mom to two “hooligans” as she affectionately calls them named Noal and Pip. Pip has Down Syndrome and has been getting much notoriety and spreading great joy to many through this blog. Tara openly speaks of celebrating life’s little moments and realizing it is our differences that make us all such special people. Her blog’s recent entry entitled “33 Things I Know to Be True That Have Helped Make My Life Special” really captures what is truly important in life. Amongst the wonderful items on the list are being honest, saying thank you and being truly grateful for the life you have been given. Simple truths, but so important for all of us to grasp! Thank you Tara for the laughs, reality checks and reminders of what is most important! Please check out her blog at www.happysoulproject.com, as you will be very inspired and will really enjoy the pics of her adorable children as well!
Daily I want to strive to be someone who “gets it” too. Life is too short to do otherwise. It is people who matter most and we need to acknowledge that. We can get so easily distracted with other things. We wear many hats and get very skilled at juggling so many responsibilities, yet at the end of the day the people we love the most still need us. Other aspects of our lives are extremely important to keep in balance as well. A great book I read was called Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas by James Patterson. In this novel it talks of the 5 balls we are juggling and what is really most important. It says “Imagine life is a game in which you are juggling five balls. The balls are called work, family, health, friends and integrity. And you’re keeping all of them in the air. But one day you come to understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls… are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered.” Our careers are very important indeed, but must take their proper place in the priorities line up. I found this quote very enlightening.
Sometimes we need to look at things in our everyday lives and ask ourselves does this really matter? Are we really grasping what life is truly about? Is this really all there is? God wants us to so “get it.” He wants us to place a relationship with Him high on our list of priorities because He loves us so much. It says in His word: For I know the plans I have for you “declares the Lord” plans to prosper you, and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. It is God’s plan for us to see what is most precious in our lives like His direction, marriage, children, friends and family and to lovingly protect those relationships. He wants us to prosper and have a positive, fulfilled, and meaningful future. Time goes so quickly and we do not want to have regrets. The good thing is it is never too late for a fresh start. Our priorities can become mixed up easily even sometimes for the best reasons, yet we can all find our way back if we want to. If you are in this category, take a good hard look at your life and ask yourself what do you need to change? Is there any activities that you need to discontinue right now? Are there ways you need to simplify your life to free up time for the things that matter most? Taking inventory like this is so healthy and empowering for us. I encourage everyone to do this regularly to make sure that our lives stay in the proper balance. Tomorrow is a new day and another wonderful opportunity to celebrate the things in life we most value and are truly thankful for. Don’t forget it.
Jeremiah 29:11 ~ For I know the plans I have for you “declares the Lord” plans to prosper you, and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.
Little Lesson Learned: Sometimes we miss the point of what matters most. If that happens, acknowledge it, refocus and move forward. A fresh start is awaiting you and it is never too late to “get it.”
Copyright: Littlelessonslearnedbydana, 2014
Sunshine On My Shoulders
“Life is a journey with problems to solve, lessons to learn, but most of all
experiences to enjoy.” (iliketoquote.com)
The sun was out today and it felt absolutely wonderful! After a very cold and long winter, what an encouragement it was to feel the warmth of the beautiful sunshine. Normally I am a stickler for wearing coats at school, but today I admittedly bent the rules a bit. I took my students out a little early because I had yard duty and it was so nice. When we got outside, it was even more beautiful than I anticipated, so when I was asked if they could remove their coats, I quickly agreed. It was so funny to see each child’s face light up as he or she was set free from the bondage of heavy winter gear. They could run around in total freedom and they were clearly delighted. One kid was laying on top of the enormous pile of coats making “snow angels” in total bliss! So funny and sweet! What a wonderful feeling to feel the sun on your shoulders and the freedom of recess! I remember those good, carefree times when I was a kid so fondly.
For many years I sang with a group called The Dale Butler Band. It was a very memorable time in my life singing at many local venues in the area for concerts and fund raisers. The repertoire of songs was very diverse including: southern gospel, pop, bluegrass, country and easy listening. The band was amazing and singing backup with such a talented group of vocalists and musicians was an incredible experience for me that I will always cherish. Although I had many favorites in the band’s very broad list of titles, clearly my favourite songs were the many hits of John Denver. I have long been a fan of John Denver so when Dale phoned me to join up with his band for the first time to work on of all things a John Denver tribute show, needless to say I was elated! Although it is a hard decision, I would say my favourite John Denver song is Sunshine on My Shoulders. If I do say so myself Dale and I had some beautiful harmonies going on it and I just loved the “feel good” message it provided. Every time after that, if ever we had John Denver songs on the line up, I would always put a request in for that one! The chorus says “Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy.” The first verse goes on to say “If I had a day, that I could give you, I’d give to you a day just like today. If I had a song, that I could sing for you, I’d sing a song to make you feel this way!” The song just speaks to me that if we could, we would love to provide wonderful days for everyone. It would be so perfect to order only sunshine and rainbows for this world, but clearly that is not what life is really like. Problems and heavy hearts can prevent us from frolicking in the sun like we once did.
When I led group therapy sessions, I often ran groups based on The Twelve Steps. The first step is admitting we have a problem and that our life had become unmanageable. We cannot make profound change, until we realize what is hindering us from moving forward. To illustrate this in a funny and creative way I would often do what became affectionately known as “the backpack” skit. In this skit I would wear a heavy backpack that represented my “problems” and showed how people try to handle them in a variety of ineffective ways. I would cover the backpack with a sweater illustrating how we think we are covering it well yet are sadly mistaken. People realized I had a big, noticeable hunchback under the sweater, representing that people can see when we are burdened even if we are in denial. In the skit I would also try to ignore it, convince myself it didn’t really exist or minimize the impact these problems were having on my everyday life. The skit ended with the message that we must surrender our problems by acknowledging them to be truly free. I showed this by removing the backpack and encouraging people to seek help from professionals, family, friends and God. Life was never intended to be a struggle and to start the process of breaking free as soon as possible was essential. It was a comical way to illustrate this premise, but many people told me that this little dramatic production really touched them and gave them some much needed perspective.
It is very difficult to admit that we have struggles at times. We want to save face and don’t want to make it seem to others that we are not our old selves. I have always said that reaching out for help is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of true strength. It takes very strong and courageous people to admit they cannot deal with things on their own. A very powerful TV show I sometimes watch is called Intervention. Intensely I watch feeling the pain of the addicted and their families, as I have worked with them. I cry at their heartaches and rejoice when the addicted person accepts the much needed treatment offered. The first step to a better life has begun! How exciting for everyone.
The Bible says “ I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” You may be burdened with very difficult issues. Your heart may be so heavy, to even get out of bed each morning is next to impossible. My wish for you is to release these burdens to God, get help and take the positive steps to recover that are needed. It was never part of God’s plan that you would just exist and go through the motions in life. One of the most powerful sermons I have ever heard emphasized that each and every one of us was created with a specific purpose. Each one of us has enormous potential and we were created to fulfill that potential, yet stress and problems can sometimes get in the way. We all have talents, skills and love to offer this world as only we can. The speaker said sometimes we doubt that and say to ourselves God must be thinking, “Oh great! What am I supposed to do with this one?” You are here for a special reason and don’t you forget it! Life was meant to be enjoyed and you were created to be a celebrated gift to this world. Let that sink in. There is no one else quite like you, and this world desperately needs what you have to offer. Oh how I want you to fully grasp this. I wish for you sunshine on your shoulders and a song in your heart. Do what you need to do to get back to that place if you need to. Know that when life gets hard, there are better days in store if we keep taking one day at time, reach out for help and believe in God’s plan for us to heal and move forward. I have included the link to Sunshine on My Shoulders below as well. I hope you enjoy it and know that this is my sincere wish for you!
Philippians 4:13 ~ I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.
Little Lesson Learned: Step into the sunshine. You deserve to be happy and feel lighthearted. It is God’s plan for you!
Copyright: Littlelessonslearnedbydana, 2014
Love In A Lunchbox
“Kind words can be short and easy to speak,
but their echoes are truly endless.” Mother Teresa
Packing lunches! This is not my favourite parenting task! Trying to keep it interesting, healthy and tasty is no easy feat at times, but I certainly do try to do my best. I remember when I was in public school, my mom would always try to provide myself and my siblings with a little encouragement to help us with our day. We would always pray together before going to school and another way she did this was to write little love notes in our lunchbox. Sometimes it was a short phrase, a word of encouragement or a cute joke or riddle. It was often written on a napkin, and was something I really looked forward to each day. Not only did I enjoy it, but this simple ritual gained a lot of attention in my elementary classroom. Kids, lunch monitors and adult lunch aides would often eagerly gather around to see what I received each day. Proudly I would share openly grinning from ear to ear just what my wonderful mom had written. Looking back on that now, it has occurred to me that although kids were curious about what my clever mom had to say each day, I wonder if they were a little bit envious as well? Not to say that they didn’t have good parents, but what little kid wouldn’t want an encouraging note in his or her lunch each day if you asked him or her? Let’s face it being a kid can be rough at times and we as their parents need to recognize that and lift their spirits whenever we can.
I would sometimes carry on the lunchbox love note tradition with my kids when they were younger. I felt like the best mother out there and was so proud to continue this special little ritual my mom had started. This window of opportunity for this type of thing is much smaller than it seemed though. There comes a time when they get older when this type of parenting can become a source of embarrassment for them. I found out the hard way when my son came home at quite a young age much to my dismay very upset. He said that a student who knew about the notes, snatched my love note out of his lunchbox and read it aloud sarcastically to the whole class. My son was mortified and thus sadly the special lunchbox notes came to a screeching halt. As the kids get older your communication methods change. Now I find texting them very effective. It may be with encouragement for a test, or regarding a struggle they may be experiencing, or just to let them know I am thinking of them. It also is a simple yet powerful way to feel connected to them. Sometimes I need to make a conscious effort to engage in meaningful conversation with each of my kids. They are so busy with their teenage lives and although we are in the same household, I can sometimes feel that a really meaningful conversation session is long overdue. Sometimes this needs to be scheduled like I will go for a walk with my daughter and chat, or I might take my son out for coffee to visit. Sometimes it may come at the most inconvenient time like let’s say 12:30 at night when I am completely exhausted and just need to crash! I have learned to be open to these times however, as tired as I may be as some of the best talks I have ever had with my kids have come up then. An unexpected moment, but still very meaningful. Apparently according to my dad I was also famous for these late night, endless, soul bearing chitchat fests so I guess my kids are just following suit! Oh well, I am grateful because as my kids grow, we have deeper conversations and I am so happy they feel they can openly talk to me about anything on their hearts.
This has happened at school with my students as well. Sometimes they will come up to me in class or walk alongside with me when I am on yard duty and share very special aspects of their lives with me. They will convey their hopes, dreams, struggles and interests. In these times we chat more as friends and I feel blessed that they trust me enough to share openly with me in this manner.
Sometimes we think we have to take the time to have a lengthy conversation to provide encouragement. Never underestimate the power of small, meaningful phrases that can provide really big comfort. Try these for example: “I am proud of you!” “You got this!” “Good for you!” “You are really improving!” “Keep up the good work!” “This is your forte!” “That’s my girl!” “That’s my boy!” You get the picture. One of the most powerful short phrases a teacher ever said to me when I was unsure about a difficult project was “I am leaving this is your very capable hands!” I admired this teacher so much and I felt if he believed in me and my abilities, then I guess I should too.
The Bible says to trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Sometimes it is good to pray and ask God for wisdom about what our kids need to hear from us. They may be going through things that we are not even aware of and God can reveal this to us when we pray for them. The most important thing to remember is to keep the communication lines open no matter what your kids are going through. Let them know they can come to you with anything regardless, even if it is difficult, disappointing or embarrassing. That is what we as parents are there for. Keep the encouragement flowing. They need it. Being a kid or teenager can be very challenging some days and it is easy for us to forget that sometimes. Letting your kids know that you are in their corner, and you believe in them is so crucial. So put a note in their lunch, send a loving text, set a special outing on the calendar, or write them a card. Whatever works for you and your kids, just do it! It will help your relationship grow and it will help your child more than you could ever know!
Proverbs 16:24: Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.
Little Lesson Learned: Being a kid can be hard sometimes. Let your kids know you remember that, you care and you got their backs.
Copyright: Littlelessonslearnedbydana, 2014