PRACTICES

Need a little hope this year? Don't look under the tree.

Do you ever feel hopeless? It can happen when you hear or read the news. It can happen when you look at your bank account. It can happen sitting in traffic driving to a job that you hate. It can happen when think about what is next in your life and realize that there is a gap between what you want and the constraints in your life. You find it difficult to consider that things will get better. The thought of anything improving feels like wishful thinking. And you would love to have some hope.

Last week I talked about Reframing Christmas. I wrote, "I want to help make the season sacred for you - regardless of your religous beliefs or where you place your self on the spiritual spectrum. Iā€™m not just going for sacred but also for truthful and honest and authentic. I want you embrace the mystery of this season and sit with all of it. And at the end of December, look back satsified you reclaimed the holidays. One way I am focusing on bringing the sacred into my life this year is by reclaiming advent. You are probably familiar with advent calendars. They are a big deal. I read an article on calendars that go beyond chocolate. Read it here. Clearly retailers have figured out advent sells! You can get just about anything money can buy in an advent calendar.

But advent traditionally was about reminding us that there are things in life that money can't buy. Things like hope, peace, joy and love. This week on Reframe Your Life I explore hope. You can hear the whole episode here.

Since I recorded the episode I have been thinking about the difference between saying, "I hope things work out" and "I have hope things will work out." Charles Snyder and his associates have researched hope. His work is called Hope Theory and he says if you have hope you have the will and determination that your goals will be achieved and a set of strategies at your disposal to reach your goals. What I understand about hope is that it can be learned. You believe you'll be able to reach your goal and you have a way or a plan to get there. I think your will, determination and belief that you'll reach your goal can come from faith or spirituality. It's definitely worth considering. Do you have hope? How do you understand hope?

Tomorrow is the first Sunday in advent. I have a few people in my life going through difficult times. I know from experience that sometimes when life gets difficult and when we are experiencing pain and suffering, we can lose sight of hope. We don't see a way through the darkness. So, I've decided to light a candle and hold space for them this weekend. It's my way of reclaiming advent. My hope isn't magical thinking that everything will turn out great. It's rooted in knowing that there is a way through the pain in life.

Don't let the peaches get you down

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At 6 a.m. this morning I was leaning over the sink with peach juice running down my chin. Not my best look. I don't eat a ton of fruit but I love fruit in season. And I have a flat of peaches on my counter right now. And apparently little self-control. But I was enjoying that pure innocent peach. A major shift from the way I felt about it earlier this week. 

I've been thinking about consumption and abundance. I've got about 15 books on my shelf to read, podcasts ready to go and a couple of audio books in the queue. There are people to see, places to go, things to do, and experiences to be had. And at times I feel overwhelmed. 

I actually found myself feeling a little bitchy about my list on Sunday. I was planning my week and thinking about everything I wanted to do and how I couldn't possibly squeeze it all in. I started feeling pressure and resentment. And at the same time I was beating myself up for being so whiny. My internal voice started mocking me, "Oh poor Sandy, she has too many people to see, a house to take care of, work to do, and fruit to process. And she said she would blog every day. Poor baby. Life is so hard."

I definitely needed to reframe things and so I started being intentional about practicing gratitude. I made a list of everything I needed AND wanted to do this week. And then I went through the list and reflected on how grateful I am for each one of those things. Visiting my father in LTC gives me a chance to be with him in this difficult season and driving there gives me 30 minutes to listen to a podcast. (As it turns out that podcast was just what I needed that day.)  I have a house to clean!  I love writing and I've got the opportunity to write every day! 

I've been reading Gratitude by Diana Butler Bass. She writes, "Practice takes time. But that is not the only relationship between time and gratitude. When gratitude becomes a habit of being, our capacity to see time --  past, present, and future --actually changes. Not only does gratitude open our hearts; it also give us new perspectives on our own lives. It stretches through our experiences -- past, present, and future -- creating a fabric of appreciaton and awareness that forms the story of our lives."

By the end of reviewing my list, I had a new perspective. Simple? Yes. Obvious? Yes. Automatic? No. Our lives can be overwhelming. And we need to make good choices about what we consume and I want to talk more about that this week. But let's start with gratitude. 

I disagree but that doesn't mean you are wrong

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I was just listening to a podcast today and they were discussing theological differences. The guest mentioned that when someone has beliefs we don't agree with we need to stop saying they are wrong. That makes sense to me. But then she said, "We need to just put our beliefs aside and continue being in community and working together." 

I'm not sure I agree. And that is awkward. For one thing, I don't know if we can put our beliefs aside. Or that it is necessary. There is a space between saying you are wrong and completely ignoring our differences. I think it would be great to be able to say I disagree and talk about our differences. Not to win or prove that we are right but because it is how we learn and expand our thinking. I've understood why others have their beliefs because we have talked about them. I can respect their position because they have articulated it to me.  As soon as someone wants to shut down the conversation completely and say we need to just focus on the things we can agree on I get concerned.

You might disagree.