We thrive in the midst of cracks that life sends our way For when it is truly dark, our light still remains To see us through the hard times, the sad times and the pain As we allow God to further grow us into the beauty that He’s made.
Just as a child comes into the world, often starting with a cry It is often our struggles that truly make us thrive For when we are pushed beyond what it is that we desire It’s then that what’s within us starts truly turning into a fire.
One that ignites justice One that brings warmth One that allows others to gather and to be close One that provides a source to guide us along the way One that reminds us that our light has something to say One that speaks louder when so much may seem dark One that draws us to singing around the glory of its sparks For as the fire grows, we see the cracks for what they are They are there to let us know that God is never far The light that’s within was never meant to be kept small For we are meant to BE LOVE in the darkness most of all.
If 2020-2021 has taught me anything it has most taught me the necessity to relax. With so much happening that none of us were expecting, I learned to value time with those I love, respect and enjoy being around.
I learned that some things I once viewed as necessary may not have been so important. This also helped me to find more balance in my life, with personal life, work life and my spiritual life. When one part overwhelms the others exponentially, the equation of our lives can lose focus.
Spending time doing nothing, alone or with others, is not a waste of time. I have found a lot of calmness, peace and time to think more clearly in those moments. Relaxing is not a bad use of time. It provides us with more time.
Laughing, dancing and talking with friends and/or family are some of the best forms of relaxing that I’ve experienced over this past summer. Finding who you need in life helps us to stay healthy, happy and living the lives we are meant to live. It also helps to keep us accountable.
Relaxing definitely looks different at various times and can be very different for each of us, but it is so crucial to our mental health. While we should all take care of our physical bodies, this past year has taught us so much of the importance of mental health for all of us. No one is one dimensional. We are multifaceted for a reason.
If you need more balance, make it happen. Value yourself. Value others. Make it happen. You may need to start small, or you may be able to drastically change your life immediately, but whatever you do . . . relax.
So often, we humans can focus too much on the negatives of life, because they dare to tear us down.
We are thrilled when good things happen in our lives, but we also cling to wanting our lives to be full of good times and peace. While we realistically know that the bad moments are also a part of life, we can’t help but want to avoid the pain that comes along with those times.
“The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” – John 10:10
Every time I read this passage, I’m reminded of God’s mercy to us. Let me explain.
I spent many years of my life with asthma. At times, it was so debilitating. More than once, I came near death. I’ll never forget being asked by a paramedic, weeks after a massive asthma attack who not only treated me, but knew me, “I didn’t want to tell you this in the middle of helping you, but there’s still one thing I don’t understand. On that day, we couldn’t figure out how you were awake, how you were communicating with us [I used body language to get them to give me paper & pen to do this.], how you were even alive. How did you do that?”
I wasn’t certain what he wasn’t telling me, so after asking him what was so unusual about that, he replied, “Everything we had you hooked up to, every one of them showed your oxygen levels were at zero. Not only should you not have been able to communicate with us, but all signs pointed to the fact that you should not have even been conscious, let alone alive!”
That’s when I answered him with, “Well, let me tell you more of my story and my God.” Without Him, without my Lord, that miraculous situation never would have happened. While I don’t know why God used that health situation to occur, my life with Him has shown me over and over and over again, that He is good, that He is love and that His plans are always for our good. I give God glory for using me, even in that time, to touch the life and soul of another for Him.
Something that could have killed me, gave me an even stronger appreciation for being alive.
Since last March, it’s been even harder to avoid the negatives of life. Having lost loved ones and having seen so much grief on various fronts, I am all the more grateful for God who has never left my side. I say all of this as a known optimist, but I am also not naive and have had many situations throughout life that have dared to tear me down many times.
In spite of the ups and down, I still have a passion for life.
Just last week, the world celebrated Easter . . . the glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ.
While Jesus had disciples who learned and did so much from Him and with Him, prior to Jesus’ death on the cross, they found life much more abundantly in the years they had afterwards. They were able to travel to various locations, preaching the Good News to so many. Miracles occurred again and again. However, their stories cannot be told without also knowing that they each experienced what we would call negatives in life.
While that was so long ago, I can’t help but see that they felt more alive than ever before. How? Because, even after all of my own painful life experiences, God has shown me through all of my life that the great moments in life are that much sweeter. The great moments in life aren’t as powerful, without also knowing the other side. Life is fabulously amazing, because He lives.
Because He lives, the art and beauty of this world and universe exist.
Because He lives, we get to have others to love and to be loved, in return.
Because He lives, we are still in awe when we see an amazing sunrise or sunset, when we hear the laughter of children, when someone says or does just the right thing when we need it most and when we experience the joy of God through it all.
Because He lives, we know the negative parts of life are not all that exist.
Because He lives, we have those who provide healing for the mind and body.
Because He lives, we have churches that remind us that we are meant to live in community, we are here for a purpose and we are wondrously loved and wanted.
Because He lives, we have teachers who spend time helping others to find themselves, to learn, to connect and to find their passions.
Because He lives, we can get back up again after traumas that will forever remind us that life is fragile, but there is still so much abundance of life giving moments ahead for us . . . HOPE.
Because He lives, we live. That’s something to rejoice over.
For while I have breath I know I am alive For while I have breath I enjoy the beauty of life For while I have breath I can embrace another For while I have breath I am a wife and a mother For while I have breath I can sing and dance For while I have breath I can take another chance For while I have breath I can live my passions For while I have breath I can provide compassion For while I have breath I can dream great dreams For while I have breath I have faith in the unseen For while I have breath I can make this world better For while I have breath God always holds me together For every breath that I will ever breathe I will know I was created By the King of kings.
Being alive will always have its heartaches, but one thing I have learned from knowing how quickly one’s breath can be taken from them, is to never take a single inhale/exhale for granted. Never believe that we don’t matter. Never lose sight of hope. For within each breath we take, there are so many moments we are meant to be a part of and wonderful people whose lives are meant to intersect with ours. Every breath is a reminder of life, because He lives.
Don’t allow the hardships of life to tear you down. For we are more than just ourselves. There is purpose. We were made with strength. We were made with love. We were made to live life abundantly.
With every breath, know that you are alive for far greater things and with each breath your breathe you are walking further into your destiny. So never forget how each inhale and exhale matters. YOU MATTER!
So many are looking for 2021 to help us heal from what’s happened in 2020. Deaths of loved ones. Isolation. Lockdowns. Normal education having so many shifts. Fears in various forms. Faith and hope shaken up. Places shut down. Shortages and hoarding. Events cancelled. Places of worship shutting doors for weeks and months on end. Political unrest in ways never seen before. Racism and prejudices becoming harder to ignore. Loss of jobs, food, homes, relationships, and the list goes on and on.
I get it. I have faced a lot of that myself, as I’m sure you have, too.
There’s not a single human who can rescue us. God does all He can for us, yet we humans don’t make it easy. We never have.
We want life to get back to normal, while much of what was normal needed changing. Normal doesn’t exist.
We want masks gone. Not seeing full faces is not in our nature.
We want to hug and touch others. Humans crave connections.
We want to be there for our loved ones in the hospital or in adult care facilities. Going through hard times alone is not what we were meant to endure.
We want to gather with others for weddings, births, funerals and celebrations. Life milestones are important.
We want some sense of predictability we can rely on, after all of this. Yet, when was life ever predictable?
2021 will not erase the past and it will not entirely fix the world. However, each of us can do our parts and be the change this nation and world needs, be truly selfless and the best versions of who we each are meant to be in the time we have on this planet.
We can each make the differences that are needed, making life easier for all. Each of us have purpose and it is those purposes within us that are parts of so many solutions. There is much to be changed, no doubt.
However, if we truly consider our fellow humans and other living creatures that inhabit the land, sea and skies, as well as the planet itself and our Creator, life in 2021 can be the turning point that can finally get us all on the right path.
By truly choosing to see others as humans who have their own burdens, we can have more compassion.
By truly listening to understand, rather than to have our say, we can have more empathy.
By giving of the resources we have to those in need, we can heal.
By trusting those who have proven themselves worthy and by giving the benefit of the doubt to others till shown otherwise, we can have more respect for others.
By seeking truth and not just trying to confirm our own conceptions, we can have better discernment.
By doing all we can, by valuing the lives of other, we can have more unity.
While we head into 2021 in a matter of hours, reflect on what you have learned during this past year. Reflect on the good moments, because they also happened even if some were different than prior years, and learn from the bad ones.
While no year can fix so much, we can shift the trajectory too many of us have been on and begin moving into brighter days, weeks, months and years. We can leave a better legacy for those who come after us, rather than leaving behind more heartache.
May we all see the pandemic end or at least lessen to a huge degree soon.
May we give, love, laugh, and enjoy one another more than ever before.
Let’s make 2021 the year we all begin to heal and help others to heal, because we seek to make our lives and those all around us the best examples of ourselves that we all need. When we are each on the other side of Heaven, may we truly do so knowing that we were “good and faithful servants” to all.
Healing comes in many ways. Seek and you shall find.
Last spring, schools across the nation went remote. Not enough time to prepare. Everyone in shock from the pandemic.
What helped my school? Our culture. The environment that had been established way before life changed.
When life has ups and downs, the culture helps people to rise or fall.
Nothing was as good as it should have been. Not enough was known about much of anything, and I’m not just talking about education. A crisis of massive proportions arose across the globe, and we functioned as best we could.
Our principals and leadership met with groups of staff each week, so we stayed connected, made decisions and processed together and cared about one another. Culture.
Teachers taught, but we spent a lot of time having conversations with our students through video meetings, emails and phone calls. Culture.
Whether students or staff, we knew we could rely on one another. We knew to supply grace to each other. We knew we were a community and the culture helped us feel like not all was lost.
What said even more were families and students sending staff emails. They encouraged us. They asked if we were okay. They shared what we meant to them.
They supplied light back, because of the light we provided in darker times. A culture like that creates a safe place to function, no matter what.
Now, in a matter of days, our students will start the new school year. It most definitely will not be what it used to be, except for our culture.
Knowing that the cornerstone of our school is a community of learning while also teaching to the whole child, every child, we’ve been learning. Through the summer. Through extra professional development. Through our own feelings of what if what we’ve always known to do and what we’ve learned isn’t enough. Because our culture means we go above and beyond, always, because our students and their families matter. Details matter.
The pandemic hasn’t gone away. It’s why we changed from students either being remote or hybrid to all going remote to start. Culture we can still maintain, but without safety, it’s hard to learn and grow.
A school cannot have a culture that could take us through a pandemic time, without the right leadership. Principals who have led us with grace, understanding, realness and wisdom, even as they’ve made changes and admitted some of their own struggles through this process.
They’ve given us leadership roles to not only delegate, but to show their faith in us, even now.
They’ve given us time and shifted their original plans, so we could grow, but not break.
They had us make videos of ourselves so this year’s students and families can see us, hear us, and know how much we can’t wait to teach and to also support them all.
Even more powerful than all of that was having us email and call the families of those students who we will be with at the start of each day. We let them know what to expect so they’re not feeling nervous for the first day and beyond, for the students and their parents. To answer questions. But most of all, to help let out a breath, knowing we care enough to call and be there for them even before we have met their children. Culture.
On my end, I adored talking to students who were excited to hear from me. I realized how much I missed hearing the awkwardness of being the age of middle school kids. I soared when parents shared how happy they were to receive my call, how much better they felt and how supported they felt. But, what made my teacher heart fill to completion was getting emails from several of my new students asking me questions they had and then thanking me for my help.
CULTURE! We haven’t even started our first day together, but our culture’s base has already been laid down.
Our school’s vision is to engage, empower and excite our students to grow and learn. Without a building, through emails, calls and soon via video conferencing and other online tools, they will thrive. They will learn. They will feel supported.
And we will be their school community, doing what we know is best for them. Content, we already knew. Learning new ways to engage, empower and excite our 2020-2021 students is simply a part of being educators. What more we may need to move forward? Well, we will grow together, stronger and our culture will be even better than it’s ever been, no matter what life throws our way.
Dedicated to Blake Revelle, Tara Mahoney and our Amazing Knights Community. Love working with all of you!
We can all relate to having an emotional attachment to something or someone and noticing that attachment everywhere. For example, a child wants a dog and is trying desperately to convince their parents to get them one. So, they seem to become obsessed, noticing every dog that shows up on the shows they watch and the ones they see in public.
Were there suddenly more dogs around? Not likely. The child simply has their emotions tied up strongly to their desire for a dog.
With couples, ideas of children and parenthood are common. Maybe they are trying to have their first child. Maybe they’re waiting for a birth mother to choose them as the adoptive parents. Perhaps, the couple isn’t ready for a child yet or at all, but others are pressuring them with questions of when they will have a baby. Whatever the situation, the said couple cannot seem to help but notice pregnant women everywhere or couples interacting with their child/children.
Why? The emotions of the couple are wrapped up on a strong desire to become parents or to remain childless. Either way, situations like these are usually full of emotional reactions.
Imagine you’re walking your dog through the neighborhood. You notice the houses you’re passing by, the way the sky looks, the joggers and cyclists, the sound of kids laughing in a yard somewhere and for some reason, you happen to zone in on one person sitting outside their home looking sad.
Why? Normally, our mind will choose to gravitate to where our emotions are, when too much is around us to focus our thoughts.
It’s likely that a source of sadness that you’ve experienced during the pandemic caused your emotions to pay more attention to the sad person, since you could relate.
Emotions have power.
Take the same scenario of walking the dog above, only instead of a dog you are walking through the neighborhood with your early elementary school aged child. While you go through the same walk, your child who is aware that the pandemic has changed life but doesn’t fully understand it strongly enough as an adult, gravitates to the laughter of kids in a yard.
Your child then says, “Hey, hear that?! When we get back home, can you run through the sprinklers with me? Wouldn’t that be fun?!”
What’s the difference? Whether we are an adult or a child, we have power to control which thoughts and emotions to concentrate on more rather than allowing our emotions and thoughts to empower us in a negative way.
Maybe you’ve gotten the coronavirus or possibly, you’ve lost loved one during these times.
Perhaps you are a person of color, as I am, and your heart, mind and soul keeps breaking over all of the injustices that are still occurring.
You may have felt inadequate in one of your roles at work, home, or in any area trying to navigate the new ways of life since the pandemic became more real for our country.
There may be exhaustion setting in, as you haven’t had a break or vacation for far too long and all you want is some way to temporarily escape and have some fun for a while, but it isn’t possible.
I can go on with a myriad of scenarios that can apply to just about anyone, but the point is that mental health is super important and you have a good deal of power to stay mentally healthy.
This video is Renée Elise Goldsberry from the musical Hamilton, as performed on Broadway and more recently shown on Disney+. Watch this brief video explaining the concept of the power you have within you.
Emotions can lead our thoughts astray or steer us onto the best paths.
That one minute video says a lot. The creator of that musical who also played the main character of Alexander Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda, shows this very clearly. In a nutshell, Hamilton was a minority having been born and raised on the island of St. Kitts. He arrived in what would be America, an orphan with nothing, who had also witnessed his own mother’s death. Yet, he saw all of the pain of what was happening in this land and asked himself the questions referred to in the video above.
Rather, Alexander Hamilton said POWERFUL statements like the following:
He could have given into so many negative emotions, wasting away his life and just survive.
He could easily have said, “What’s the use? This is too much. I’m just one person. I don’t even have any family with me.”
Instead, he saw that he was alive, intelligent and resourceful and chose to seize the moments being given to him. To stay focused on the positive emotions that were telling him, “Go for it!”
You can gain control.
I don’t know your situation, but we all have the power to take the reins of our emotions and thoughts, which while clearly different are also heavily intertwined, and decide what will have power in us. Even during a worldwide pandemic that is still shaking up people’s lives, this holds true.
As Galatians 5:22-23 reminds us, we can have these as our points of focus. They can change even the worst of situations:
Use your emotions to be the best you.
Two major themes of both the musical and of the good that many have done during the pandemic is this concept.
As a Puerto Rican Christian woman, a wife, a mother, a teacher, a business owner, I know that my life impacts others. During these times, our lives’ impacts matter all the more.
Whether we like it or not, we are living a part of history. People will look back on these times we are living to see how we handled them. What will they learn from us?
We can be complainers or encouragers.
We can be hopeless or hopeful.
We can be bystanders or world changers.
We can be blind to reality or stand up for those who need us.
None of the above are easy, but it’s up to each of us to rise up!
You’ve got the power!
Maybe you have been already been managing your emotions fairly well. I’m proud of you! That isn’t easy when life is full of so many unknowns.
Possibly, you may have reached this point and wish you had maintained your emotions better than you did. Or you may think you haven’t done enough to help yourself and/or others.
The great fact is that you have power. You truly do!
Moving forward there are still many ways to shift your emotions for your well being and that of those around you. It’s not too late.
And know that this doesn’t mean that you can’t have negative emotions. They are just as important to have at certain moments, as long as they are not where you remain.
With so much ahead of us to accomplish as a people, living in times that are not ones any of us have lived through before, our mental health matters very much.
If you’re looking for reasons to be scared, you’ll find them.
If you’re looking for reasons to be mad, you’ll find them.
If you’re looking for reasons to be encouraged, you’ll find them.
If you’re looking for reasons to be grateful, you’ll find them.
If you’re looking for reasons to be confident, you’ll find them.
If you’re looking for reasons to be pessimistic about the future, you’ll find them.
If you’re looking for reasons to be optimistic about the future, you’ll find them.
If you are looking for a reason to be x, you will probably find it.
YOU have the power. YOU can decide. YOU can act. YOU can make the journey better.
Life is yours, so don’t lose focus.
Whether you believe in God or not, the concepts of this Bible verse still has powerful truths.
Focus on what you are thankful for.
Focus on speaking praise to those who deserve it and need it.
Focus on good when life gets bad; balance is good.
Focus on love. Those you love and those who love you.
Focus on holding on to faith, to believe in what you can’t see knowing that it’s coming, for this generation and for all the ones that will follow us.
Hope is powerful! Though life is hard and often can be VERY HARD, we humans are quite resilient and resourceful.
While New York City still has the most amount of victims of COVID-19 in our nation, and there is still a world of pain there, take solace in this video and maybe find a song of your own that makes you happy and fills you with hope. Then, go and do all you can to make this world a better place.
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Almost from the start of mankind, the existence of evil and suffering have been a part of the human experience. While the faces and the circumstances may change, evil and suffering still persist. Watch the news and there is plenty of evidence of the horrific acts that have been happening in the Ukraine, the beheadings of Christians in Iraq or the fighting and killings in Israel, to name a few.
While these are indeed horrible, there are other acts of evil, of injustice, happening daily in our own country and world-wide. Sex trafficking is one issue many would rather ignore. According to F.R.E.E. International:
1) There are more slaves in the world today than at any other point in history, including the trans Atlantic slave trade
2) Commercial Sex Trafficking is the third largest criminal enterprise in the world
3) Trafficking occurs both internationally and domestically within the United States
4) It is estimated that anywhere between 100,000-300,000 children are exploited for commercial sex every year in the United States
There’s also the issue of the abuse and neglect of children by the hand of those who are supposed to love and care for them. According to Royal Family Kids, which serves abused and neglected foster children across the globe, “Annually, 3.6 million cases of child abuse, neglect or abandonment are reported in America,” and “One of these victims dies every six hours due to that abuse” (http://royalfamilykids.org/about/our-history). Those are just the facts on the reported cases.
Actor, comedian and humanitarian Robin William’s suicide was another stark reminder that the hurting are among us. Many people put on a good face and say that everything is fine, when their lives are far from it. There are people going through domestic violence. There are people contemplating taking their lives, feeling there is no other way. There are people who wake up every morning wondering why they exist, because they feel worthless. There are those suffering from mental illness. Need I go on?
Unfortunately, we often ignore the obvious signs of the pain in others and the injustices that exist, because it makes us feel uncomfortable or we don’t realize that we can do something to help. What’s even sadder, is we don’t often even notice the pain and injustices around us, because people have learned to hide so much of it, recognizing that most people will sit by and do nothing.
Christians have been taught to serve, to love our neighbors, to get involved when we see someone in need. Many who haven’t read Matthew 10:25-37, have heard of the Parable of the Good Samaritan. In a nutshell, those who should have helped a stranger who had been victimized walked by him and did nothing, while the most unlikely person stopped to not only help him, but to get personally involved.
Jesus Christ died for all. As John 3:16 tells us, ““For this is how God loved the world: He gavehis one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” Notice that Christ died for ALL people. He has and always will love ALL people, and yet, we don’t often do the same.
Love requires action. Love goes beyond feeling. Love sometimes involves us to get uncomfortable. Why? Because it is not about us. It is about others, loving them, protecting them, serving them.
In Mark 12:30-31, Jesus reminds us, “And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’No other commandment is greater than these.” To love God is to love people. To love people is to act.
As my pastor, Dr. Ryan Darrow shared on a Sunday morning, “The Samaritan could have made many excuses to not help, like the others. What area is God asking you to get involved in another’s life? It doesn’t always mean getting involved with an organization, but the person who we see every day.”
We so often feel more comfortable conforming to what others do, even when we know we have the means to help, which doesn’t always mean money. We can help with our skills, talents, knowledge, time, whatever we have and are. What is right is still what is right. Our lives are meant to make a difference in the lives of others. We are called to fight for justice with whatever we have within us and whatever we have to give.
The Lord calls us to be involved in a practical way. As Pastor Darrow reminded us, “Our neighbors, [at home, school, work] are often metaphorically lying in a ditch hurting. What can you do? What is God calling you to do?”
We are His hands and feet. There are people dying on the inside. You are not where you are without a purpose, a purpose to change the world.
We are called to advocate on behalf of others. They are counting on us. We all know that change is needed. Be the change.
Want to talk with me more about how you can be the change? Let’s join our efforts. Are you already being the change? I’d love to hear about what you’re doing. Let’s inspire one another to do what we were called to do. May Jefferson Bethke’s latest video inspire you that darkness is losing.
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