Whiners and Winners

Today, I’m taking a little break from the self-care blog posts.  I was reading an article this morning about Christian artist, Matt Maher, that I found inspiring.  He reflects on how so many people whine about different things and forget to look beyond these to the greater and brighter picture.

It’s so true.  Life is full of challenges.  Through the media, and through our own life experience, we witness injustice, discrimination, pain, poverty, etc.  What do we do about it?  Most of us, myself included, do nothing.  We shake our fist at the evil and complain about it, but do nothing to improve it.

I’m obviously not suggesting that we take on world poverty or major injustices on our own.  What I’m getting at is that we shine a light of hope around us where we can make a difference, and thus inspire others to do the same.  The whiner feels sorry for himself and others.  The winner makes the difference he can and inspires others to do the same.  Whiners judge lousy situations at face value, whereas winners see how they could turn the situation around and put in an effort to make a change, however small.

My question to you, then, is this: What difference can you make in someone’s life today, however small?  Remember those times when someone’s gone out of his or her way for you, at how touched and honored you were for that gesture.  Can you pay it forward and do the same for someone else?

Be a light to your world today!

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The Art of Self-Care

This begins a series of blog posts on self-care.  My experience as a mental health counselor has taught me that people often don’t understand how best to take care of themselves.

Self-care is a multi-faceted discipline that’s not easy to master.  Unfortunately, some view this discipline as laziness or a sign of weakness.  Why?  For some, it shows limitations that they feel make them look weak.  For others, it’s “non-productive” time and therefore a waste of time.  Still others may feel that they are selfish if they think about themselves and so take a brake from worrying about others.  What’s behind those beliefs varies from person to person.  And these ones are just a few of many.

The truth is, self-care is essential to our lives.  Yes, we do have limitations, but that’s a condition of our human nature that can’t be ignored for long.  When it’s ignored too long, you pay for it: burn-outs, depression, anxiety… just to name a few.  There’s a fair number of mental health issues I deal with that are caused by poor self-care.

To say that self-care is a waste of time is like saying that workers who take the time to maintain their equipment are wasting their time.  The real waste of time is when they’re slowed down by poor equipment or when their equipment breaks.  Then they can do nothing until it is replaced or restored.  If we don’t take proper care of ourselves and become indisposed for a while, that’s where we’ll see the real waste of time.  Besides, it’s difficult to appreciate life and its blessings when we’re constantly on overdrive.  Enjoy life, don’t just plow through it.

Be a light to your world today!

The Long and Winding Road

It’s a fact of life that most things don’t come easily.  Whatever you want, you have to fight for it.   Sometimes you have to wait for circumstances to align themselves.  If we were to plan a future for ourselves, we’d make our goals easier to achieve than they actually are.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have a straight path to follow, bathed in sunshine with the sweet chirping of birds and the tamed wildlife to keep us company?  It would… but our road is long, winding, often laden with risks, fog, and other uncertainties.

Looking back at my life, I see the long and winding road I’ve had to take to get to where I am today.  Although I wouldn’t be thrilled to go through it all over again, I wouldn’t want to go back and take a different road.  It made me then man I’ve become.  It brought me the many blessings for which I am thankful to God.

I look at the present and at what is to come, and there are circumstances in my life that are truly annoying and inconvenient.  I would prefer that they be different, but I know that God will lead me to a better and happier life.  I am reminded of these words from the prophet Jeremiah:  “I have not lost sight of my plan for you, the Lord says, and it is your welfare I have in mind, not your undoing; for you, too, I have a destiny and a hope.” (Jr 29:11)

Be a light to your world today!

Walking Through Fog

Recently, I was talking with a friend who basically told me that he doesn’t take on challenges or endeavors that don’t come with a laid out plan.  He feels angry with God that he doesn’t find more purpose to his life.  Needless to say, he’s not happy with the way things are right now.

If there’s one thing that my 36 years of life have taught me so far, it’s that most things come without a laid out plan.  If it does, the plan usually changes along the way, so it doesn’t matter all that much in the end if you had a plan or not.

I’ve followed God down paths that didn’t always make sense to me (I could write a very long blog on that topic alone).  Did things turn out the way I thought they would?  Never.  In fact, my expectations were often surpassed.  Most of my life has been like walking through a fog.  I never see far ahead of me, and sometimes I get disoriented, but God’s always lead me on a good path, even though He didn’t give me many details as to what I should expect along the way or when I reached my destination.

If you’re afraid to take on a challenge or a project because you can’t figure out a plan, take the few steps you can see in front of you and see what’s revealed to you as you go.  You may be surprised by the doors that open up to you.

Be a light to your world today!

The Heart of Happiness

This post is inspired by one of my fellow bloggers’ posts.

The quest for happiness is universal.  We all seek to be happy… but do we go about it the right way?  We all have challenges that have no easy solutions.  We may have physical or mental pains.  Life throws us many curve balls we can’t dodge.  Sometimes we suffer losses that threaten to turn our world upside down.  Through it all, we can be happy.  How?  By embracing the good in our life.  Happiness does not stem from having it all, but from appreciating what we have.  Being happy is to want to be where you are as you are.

Even though the “good” things in life can sometimes wear the mask of “it could be worse”, appreciating these can bring peace to our soul and compassion for others’ sufferings.  Make peace with those problems you have no control over and courageously tackle the ones that are within your power to solve.

Be a light to your world today!

Raising a Child with Special Needs

Raising a child with special needs can be a very lonely road to tread.  Though there are many resources available to us to help us, we can feel lonely.  I think the loneliness comes from being surrounded by hundreds of people who don’t understand what it’s like.  Some try to show their support, some behave a little awkward around the topic.  It is not uncommon to be given unsolicited advice to encourage us or to tell us what we should do.  Some may even think that they know better than us.  The truth is, no one knows our child better than we do.

My oldest daughter was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder almost two years ago.  In my experience, it’s easy to get frustrated and overwhelmed when comparing her behaviour and milestones with other children.  I can get fixated on faults and lacks.  It is then that I remind myself that she’s perfect the way she is.  She’s a fun-loving, sweet little girl.  She makes us laugh when she’s in her silly moods.  She doesn’t ask for much… just to be loved and accepted as she is.  Sure, ASD has its own set of challenges, but remembering how special the child is has inspired much patience and appreciation for all the good in her.

Love your children for who they are, regardless of their challenges.  Be a light a compassion for them!

Even Doctors Need Doctors

We all know the feeling of wanting to be present for others but having little energy or motivation to do what we want to do.  We want to help others carry their burdens but can hardly carry our own.  We try to beat our bodies and our minds into submission and push through, but it feels like running a marathon with a ball-and-chain on our ankles.  Ever wonder why?

There are multiple reasons that can get us to that point, but it all comes down to needing to look after ourselves.  Perhaps I focus so much on caring for others that I’m neglecting myself.  Perhaps I’m so busy that I’m not hearing my mind or my body telling me to slow down.  Perhaps I’m struggling with difficult circumstances that take most of my energy and I should, therefore, cut out the unnecessary stuff in my agenda, or at least put off what can wait.  Perhaps there is darkness from my past that’s asking to be dealt with.  Whatever the reason may be, it’s important for us to figure out where our energy is being spent when we’re feeling heavily burdened.  This can require talking to someone who’s removed from the situation who could give us a more objective point of view on the matter.

So when you’re feeling down, take a step back and think about it.  You have something to learn from it, and something to change.  If someone you know is living this, listen patiently and say what you see with all the honesty and kindness within you.

Be a light to your world today!