The Beauty of a Fresh Start
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“I love the big fresh starts, the clean slates like birthdays and New Year’s, but I also like the idea that we can get up every morning and start over.” Kristin Armstrong
Can you believe that we have very few days left in 2021? 2022 is very fast approaching. Many may feel when it comes to reflecting on this past crazy, roller coaster of a year great satisfaction to see it go. It seems many have an extreme feeling of a relief that it is finally over. If this is you, I understand and I can totally relate. But despite the state of our world overall, joy was still found this year with new births, weddings, graduations, answered prayers and personal milestones achieved. Life still goes on and I am truly thankful for that.
Thinking ahead to a new year, I always enjoy the feeling of a clean slate. A fresh start is truly a beautiful thing. I recall many years feeling so excited with a whole slew of overly ambitious New Year’s resolutions written down and great determination to see each one of them come to pass. Oh, the things that I was going to do! It was so incredible to imagine!
I also sadly recall before the calendar turned to February that many of my very lofty goals had not been achieved and the great excitement of the New Year’s resolutions had completely disappeared. There I was left defeated and discouraged. My enthusiasm had vanished and I felt like a total failure. It was silly to feel that just because I had not been successful in January that that had to set the tone for my year, or perhaps even my whole life, yet sometimes I would allow myself to feel that way.
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In reality I needed to realize that you and I can have a fresh start each and every day. It is funny to think why do we allow ourselves to walk in defeat when the gift of a fresh start comes with every sunrise? It is not about how we start but how we finish that really matters.
This may sound too simplistic as some of us are dealing with very dark and serious daily realities. Our circumstances may not change with the new day. It may take many days, weeks, or even years to get that true fresh start you crave. What can be fresh is our attitudes and we can partner with God to face the battle from a position of victory. This can be the very first step to having a fresh start.
Chuck Swindoll was quoted as saying "Life is 10% of what happens to me and 90% of how I respond to it." Much of what happens to us is not to our liking. Our plates are often overflowing and and we feel that we cannot handle one more thing without going over the proverbial edge. It is empowering to learn that shifting our mindset can be the key to handling what comes our way like a boss!
I have met many people who appear to have it all together. At first glance you may think their lives are perfect and they do not have one care in the world. Often the reality is quite the opposite. I have found that those people handle life’s challenges better because they have a different mindset. These people approach life with a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset. I will explain the difference between the two.
A fixed mindset has the perspective that when it comes to our lives “it is what it is” and that things cannot and will not change. We feel that we are not good enough, change is too hard, our mistakes are too many, and acceptance is our only option. Many times this stems from past failures, negative comments that others have said or traumatic life experiences. Sometimes people speak negativity over our lives and we soak it up like a sponge whether we realize it or not.
I have written about my traumatic experience with my art teacher in years past in my blog entitled "The Power of Ish.” In a nutshell my teacher repeatedly spoke of me and my artistic abilities with extreme criticism and disdain. I picked up what he has putting down and I carried it with me for years. Even as an adult I was afraid to draw or do anything artistic, as I could always hear him taunting me in the back of my mind. I overcame this but it took great effort and time. A fixed mindset is crippling. We lie to ourselves that life as we know it is all there is when, healing, great growth and exciting new possibilities are available to us if we pursue them.
A growth mindset puts a positive spin on things we are learning or find challenging. We feed our mind with positive comments and uplifting self talk believing that in time we will improve. We are patient with ourselves and realize that life is a marathon and not a sprint. We tell ourselves that we can’t do that “yet” and it literally changes how we view the whole scenario. By adding “yet” to the sentence it is implied that we will get it in the future, at our own pace and that is the game changer.
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I remember a young student was doing a reading assessment with me and before she even started she said sadly “I just want to let you know before we start, I can’t read.” I said “Ok, but what you really want to say is I can’t read yet.” Her face lit up as she let those words sink in. This was the start of changing her fixed mindset to a growth mindset. She broke the mental block that she had established and I am pleased to report that her reading really improved. What a momentous day it was for her and I when she was Guest Reader in our classroom. Guest Reader gets to read a book of his or her choice to the class and she actually was so confident she could barely contain her excitement. Quite a different mindset from a student who told me she couldn’t read. It was a beautiful moment to witness.
As we enter a new year, please know that change is possible. Set goals. Strive for them and know that we are all works in progress. You may fall. We all do. So what! Does it mean that you are failure? Absolutely not! It just means that you need to dust yourself off, adopt a growth mindset and get back in the game. Let’s work on our goals together. With the power of “yet” and a positive attitude there is no telling what we both can accomplish!
Let's go get 'em!
Until next time
Philippians 4:13: I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me.
Little Lesson Learned: If you fail, celebrate your mistakes. Regroup and try again. Positive change will come in time if you keep believing.
Copyright © 2021 littlelessonslearnedbydana
Five Gifts That Money Can't Buy
Photo by S&B Vonlanthen on Unsplash
"Sleep, hugs, kisses, love, friends, family, memories, smiles, laughter and fun.
The best things in life are free."
The countdown to Christmas is on and I am happy to say just little things and some wrapping remain, so I am pleased at where things stand. Every year I try to think creatively and choose a nice variety of gifts for my family that are not only what they would like, but are also memorable as well.
I recall a special memory when I was a child of receiving the most amazing gift of my first and cherished Cabbage Patch doll. It was actually a birthday gift, but one of the most memorable gifts I have ever received. I remember my sweet mom stood in line at Zellers at the crack of dawn braving the “Black Friday” style crowd for the mere “chance” to get one of these dolls who were in extremely short supply that year. Cabbage Patch dolls were what everyone was asking for that year. To get ANY doll, let alone the one your preferred, would be anything short of a miracle at that time . Sadly, my mom left empty handed that day. Knowing how heartbroken I would be, she was sharing her extreme disappointment with her cousin. To my mom’s delight, my cousin just happened to have gotten her hands on two of these high demand dolls and was willing to sell one to my mom. Not only was this an amazing turn of events but it happened to be the exact one I wanted, a bald, baby Cabbage Patch doll with a soother. You can imagine my mom and dad’s joy to give me that doll and the excitement I felt receiving it. Well, what can I say? The rest is history and Raymond Fred and I lived happily ever after!
Yes, I am very fortunate and have received many special gifts through the years. With so much emphasis these days on the gifts we buy at this season, it got me thinking however about the incredible gifts we have that money can't buy. They are precious things or people that we may at times take for granted. I would like to bring them to the forefront at this time to remind us of how fortunate we are. When it comes to gifts that money can't buy as they say in The Sound of Music "these are a few of my favourite things."
~ Special People ~
Cherish your family members and special friends. You honestly do not know how long they will be in your life. It is so easy to become comfortable with those we see on a regular basis that we fail to let them know how much they mean to us. Once they are gone you do not want to have any regrets. My precious mother-in-law Evelyn died in 2020 from Covid 19. With her passing it has left a void that will never be filled. This is our second Christmas without her, and it is still so hard. She is so noticeably absent. Although I miss her so much, I am so grateful that we had a beautiful relationship and I truly have no regrets. I have many special memories of her. She was such a comical, kind and generous soul who loved her family fiercely and was always looking for opportunities to bless others. I was honoured to sing at her funeral and give her a musical tribute. I cherish the memories I have with her and know we will meet again one day.
Photo by Emma Simpson on Unsplash
~ Good Health ~
If you are in good health be so grateful. Good health is never something to take for granted. Take steps to take care of yourself and do what you can to stay healthy. Many people through no fault of their own this holiday season are not so fortunate. My heart rejoices for some, yet is heavy for others. My sister Judy has made an amazing recovery from breast cancer. She went through some very dark times but she fought hard, inspiring so many people along the way and we rejoice with her this Christmas that she is completely cancer-free! My mom however is in need of healing now. I am also aware of many other families who have family members who are battling serious illnesses and are in a need of a miracle for their loved ones. It is so difficult when the illnesses linger on for the people who need healing and the family members. Be a light to those who are in this situation. Reach out to them this Christmas with a loving gesture or ask how you can be a blessing to them. They need to talk about their story and they will be so appreciative for your thoughtfulness and interest in them and their situations.
~ Employment ~
It doesn't take long to realize that without financial income, we would be in a very bad way. We have experienced unemployment in our home and know the stress of living on a very tight budget. Many people are out of work and are dealing with the reality of not knowing if they will be able to pay their bills each month. If you have employment, be grateful. Some of us have dream jobs. Some of us have decent jobs and some of us have what we might deem as “the worst jobs of all.” No matter what category you fall into, know that your job is supporting your family and assisting to meet their many needs. If your job is difficult, dissatisfying, or inappropriate for you, pray for a new opportunity. In the meantime, be thankful for where you are right now because every job provides an environment where we can really learn something and bless others if we are open to it.
Photo by Paige Cody on Unsplash
~ Precious Memories ~
Memories are the keepsakes of the heart. I have many precious memories of Christmas growing up with special Christmas pageants at the church, Christmas Eve at my Aunt Bev's house and sharing special times with my family. Many of those family have passed on, yet my memories will always live on. Take a stroll down memory lane from time to time and reflect on all the positive you have experienced. It will warm your heart, bring a smile to your face, and remind you of how much you have to be grateful for.
~ A Forgiven Heart ~
The most important gift money can't buy this Christmas is a forgiven heart. Not only is it important to offer and receive forgiveness from each other, but it is vital for each one of us to experience God's forgiveness. Many people feel they must work for God's love. Many struggle with feelings of unworthiness. They feel if they are good enough or try hard enough that maybe, just maybe God will love them and allow them entry into Heaven one day. Christ came as a baby to offer us the free gift of salvation and forgiveness of sins. God wants to give each one of us a clean slate and a fresh start and all we have to do is ask. There is nothing that we could do to make God love us any less or any more. The free gift of a forgiven heart is offered to each one of us and I can't think of a greater time of year than Christmas to experience this life changing gift that money can't buy.
So this Christmas in the midst of all the store bought gifts, look around the room and notice the special people at your table and reflect on all that you have been blessed with that money can't buy. There is so much more to appreciate and counting your blessings is a truly wonderful thing!
Merry Christmas and Until Next Time,
James 1: 17 ( NIV) : Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
Little Lesson Learned: Many of the most wonderful gifts we have on a daily basis are absolutely priceless. Let's make a conscious effort to really appreciate them!
Copyright © 2021 littlelessonslearnedbydana
Photo courtesy of Kristen May
"If you look for it, you will find that Christmas feeling in the smallest of things."
Can you believe that Christmas is just around the corner? This year has just flown by and the fact that the Christmas season is in full swing along with the familiar sights, sounds and stressors seems unreal.
Do You Hear What I Hear?
The sounds of Christmas are all around us despite what is going on right now in our world. I hear carols on the radio, children laughing and well-wishers saying, “Merry Christmas!” I gave my students colouring books this year as a gift and while they worked happily, a few of us had a spontaneous dance party in the classroom to Rocking Around the Christmas Tree. Their excitement was absolutely infectious. When you are a child there is lots of excited chatter and giggles this time of year. Oh, to be a kid again! When I see these moments I wish I could bottle them and save them for a rainy day when I am needing a much-needed ray of sunshine. Kids are so precious! It is heartwarming to hear them enjoying the season, despite all the chaos and uncertainty a global pandemic brings.
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Do You See What I See?
Christmas decorations and holiday themed artwork adorn homes, halls, and school classroom doors. A dear custodian at my school Denise set up special Christmas inflatables at work for a fun surprise for the students and staff. She is so thoughtful and kind. It sure brought a lot of much needed laughter and smiles to an otherwise routine day. Hustle and bustle are also in the air. I am working to complete all my Christmas shopping as I am determined to avoid the last-minute rush this year.
I see lots of festive sights, yet amongst that I see discouraged people as well. I see you. I know how you feel. I understand. Christmas is just not the same this year for a variety of reasons. Please know it will not always be this way. There will come a day where things improve and masks and social distancing will be a thing of the past. I find comfort in that.
Do You Feel What I Feel?
Nostalgia? Excitement? Fatigue? Stress? Maybe a combination of all four? For women especially I find the Christmas season brings it all. It is easy to focus on the “work” of getting ready for the Christmas season and miss out on the joy. I saw a quote that said, “ I have come to realize that the magic of Christmas was really just the work of a mom who loved me very much.” When the kids were little I especially felt it on Christmas Eve trying to make everything perfect for them before they woke up Christmas morning. Getting everything done on time for everyone is certainly no easy task. Take a deep breath. Regroup and try to relax and take in the moment as hard as that may be at times.
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Do You Know What I Know?
Christmas comes and goes so quickly, and we need to make a conscious effort to be emotionally present and enjoy it. Cherish the time with family and friends and keep on making precious memories. Don't let Covid 19 steal your Christmas spirit. Put your foot down my friend! This nasty virus has already taken so much from you, don't let it have your Christmas too! Remember that it is not about the gifts, meal or decorations but truly about having those you love around you.
Finally, don’t forget that Jesus is the true reason for the season. He is the whole purpose of why we celebrate this blessed holiday in the first place. Santa Claus is special indeed but let's remember who truly deserves the spotlight.
I wish you and yours a wonderful and very Merry Christmas and a blessed and prosperous new year. Make this a Christmas to remember. I know that is my goal.
~ Until next time,
Romans 15:13 ~ May the God of Hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him.
Little Lesson Learned: The sounds, sights and experiences of Christmas are still ours for the taking. Make a decision to really take it all in this year. I know I intend to.
Copyright © 2021 littlelessonslearnedbydana
Photo by Olesia Buyar on Unsplash
“Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.”
~ Henri J.M. Nouwen
The Christmas season is upon us and once again it is hard to believe how fast the year has gone by. The hustle and bustle of the season can leave us with a variety of emotions ranging from excitement to complete exhaustion.
As a young girl I loved to watch the Christmas specials every year. Among the cherished favourites was A Charlie Brown’s Christmas, which my siblings and I watched with great pleasure as a special and cherished family tradition. Christmas was always a happy time for me growing up. I came from a strong, Christian family who loved each other dearly and put Christ at the center of Christmas. Christmas and life in general were all that it should be in my corner of the world and I was very unfamiliar with anything different. Naively I assumed that most families had the same experience as I did. With this is mind, it is understandable how I could not identify with people who did not have the joy of the season.
I recall being very confused when Charlie Brown confides in Lucy that he is struggling with feelings of sadness over the holidays, yet to his dismay he can’t quite pinpoint the reason. As a child that seemed inconceivable to me that anyone, especially a child could be sad at Christmas. Fortunately for Charlie Brown he made it through the holidays. With the support of friends and getting engaged in holiday traditions such as being involved in a Christmas play; he eventually finds peace and joy over the holidays. Needless to say though, it was definitely a painful process for him.
As I got older, it made so much sense to me. I came to realize that many people in life are very much like Charlie Brown. He was not as exceptional as I had once imagined. The holidays lose their magic as you age and others too had difficulty with the holiday season. For some depression and sadness linger over the holidays like a heavy cloak. They hear songs like It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year over the loud speaker and all they want to do is cry. For them this time of year is anything but wonderful and certainly not the “happiest season of all,” as the song states. Many people have deep sorrow and sadness in their lives throughout the year and the holidays can only accentuate that further in many cases. Many have lost loved ones and their painful absence at a family get-together can be almost unbearable. Where some may hope the Christmas season like magic can make all sadness disappear, this is realistically not the case.
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In my work as a clinical social worker at the Salvation Army I heard many sad stories of lives torn apart from substance abuse, poverty, great loss, and family dysfunction. It was especially difficult at Christmas for many. With all their other problems, these people were often living below the poverty line, so purchasing gifts was extremely challenging. This is where the joy of giving rather than receiving really took action. The Salvation Army provides food baskets and toys for needy families year after year and it was so exciting to be a part of that rewarding process. As I would hand out bags of toys to thankful parents it was extremely touching to see the gratitude and relief on their faces. They knew that their Christmas would be a bit brighter due a little help from a caring community.
The carol Joy to the World understandably comes to mind when pondering this season. The lyrics are “Joy to the world. The Lord is come. Let Heaven and nature sing. Let every heart prepare him room.” The last line really hits home. The concept of “let every heart prepare Him room” is very thought provoking. This speaks of the need and desire we all have to experience true joy, yet we need to make room for the One who is the "true joy giver."
Individually the choice is ours. I was taught in Sunday school that to have true joy (J-O-Y), it meant to have Jesus first (J) others next (O) and yourself last. (Y) This does seem like a winning formula, yet many have not discovered this yet. Each person needs to prepare Christ room in his or her heart, yet many have not taken that important step. Hearts can be so full of other desires, dreams, and pursuits that people miss the true reason they were created.
We were created to love God and put Him first. It says in God’s word Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6:33) The “all these things” that this verse is speaking of includes the joy that we all are seeking. When we have our priorities straight and Christ is at the center of our lives, He helps us each day to discover the joy we desire.
We were never promised a perfect life as Christ followers, but we were also never meant to live this life on our own. In each one of us there is a deep void that longs to be filled to make us whole, and healthy individuals. Too many people are living life on autopilot. Their lives have become routine, perhaps comfortable, yet sadly no passion remains. Too often people seek to fill that void with fleeting whims and fancies and their joy dissipates like a puff of smoke. Empty and frustrated, they wonder when their lives will change. The Bible says that Christ came as a baby at Christmas to lead us to a life that is abundant and full, not stressful, and meaningless.
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Are there any Charlie Brown’s out there? Do you feel that there is joy everywhere else but in your corner of the world? Don’t despair. Happiness is a choice and with God by our sides, the burdens we carry become more bearable. This Christmas can be a real turning point for all of us if we allow it. As we choose to let Christ’s joy penetrate our lives, it spills out to others and changes us for the better.
Have you “prepared Him room” in your heart or perhaps you need to “prepare Him more room” in your heart? These are questions only you can answer. Allowing Christ into your life and heart is the greatest Christmas gift you can give yourself. Preparing room for Him in your heart will put you on the path to the most joy filled and purposeful life you have ever known. The gift is just waiting for you! Won’t you open and receive it this Christmas?
~ Until next time,
Nehemiah 8:10 ~ Do not grieve for the joy of the Lord is your strength.
Little Lesson Learned: A relationship with Christ is the best gift you could give yourself this holiday season. If you have never received this gift, won’t you consider it?
Copyright © 2021 littlelessonslearnedbydana
His Hands ~ His Feet
“No act of kindness, no matter how small is ever wasted.” ~ Aesop
Life is pretty crazy these days with all that is going on. Our plates are often so full we can feel that reaching out a helping hand to others in need is beyond our capabilities. It is empowering to realize that despite that feeling of overwhelm we can often experience, when we are willing to open our eyes to the wide world around us, taking the focus off ourselves beautiful things can happen in and through us.
I remember one special Christmas when I worked at the library there was a lovely older gentleman, a war veteran who I got to know very well. He loved the old black and white movie Sergeant York that we had available at the library. He would borrow it often as he could make such profound connections to this classic story of a soldier and the unique struggles he experienced on the battlefields representing his country. He even asked if he could buy it from us as the story meant so much to him. Unfortunately, that was not a possibility, but as I looked into his sad eyes, I knew that it had become my personal mission to find that sweet man his own personal copy of Sergeant York if it was the last thing I did. God laid in on my heart and I understood the assignment. Sometimes you just know that God has enlisted you on a special and specific task to be His hands and feet and bless others and it is life changing. It can be very exciting and nerve-wracking all at the same time yet nevertheless, away I went on my quest!
I scoured the internet to no avail but on a trip to the mall I was delighted to find a solitary copy of this beloved old movie! It was a bargain for me, worth every penny and I knew it would be absolutely priceless for him. Arrangements were made to meet and bless him with this video and when he received it, he was very pleasantly surprised. We both cried. He was beyond grateful. I was so delighted to do this for him. A small gesture that meant so much, and the two of us sure shared a special moment that day that is certain.
Years ago, I had the pleasure of singing in a trio with my cousin Lisa and dear friend Lisa. One of our signature songs that we sang was called “We Are His Hands” by Whiteheart. It speaks of whatever you have to offer, give it to God and he will use it for His glory to bless others.
I used to have a lot of self doubt. I would get caught up in a “Why me?” mentality. When I had been asked to do things in the past, I had a dozen reasons of why I was unqualified and why I was clearly the wrong woman for the job. Now I look at things differently, and ask myself … “Why not me?” I realized that however unqualified I may feel, God can still use me and teach me things I never imagined.
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
My first job in my career as a social worker before I was a teacher was a Substance Abuse Coordinator. In this role I provided counselling and led workshops on addictions. I remember on my very first day receiving a call from a frantic and desperate mother who needed to know how she could know if her son was using a specific drug. In my heart I totally panicked because I was just learning too. I was so unprepared. Rather than show her my insecurities though, I put her on hold and grabbed a great informational pamphlet on that particular drug and calmly shared all the info she was needing reading right off the pamphlet. She was so appreciative and none the wiser. I pulled it off and I was so relieved.
Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash
The Bible talks of when we are weak that He is strong. Partnering with God is amazing. If you are chosen, he will equip you to get the job done, and to get it done well. Everything that is done for God is meaningful and has value. Never underestimate it.
Believe in yourself and that you can make a profound difference to others in big and small ways. Look around you. Hurting people are everywhere. Maybe your kindness is just what is needed to get them back on track again. You bring much to the table and you just might be the one to bring that discouraged friend the answer to what he or she has been praying for.
Until next time,
Little Lesson Learned: God can use anyone who is open and willing. Keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities to bless others. Partnering with God is very exciting.
Ephesians: 2:10 We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Copyright © 2021 littlelessonslearnedbydana