You Can Do Something Positive

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Perhaps you are feeling a little antsy right now. Perhaps that’s an understatement. You’ve watched all your favorite movies, cleaned out every junk drawer and taken your dog on three walks a day. Maybe you are wishing that you could do something – anything – meaningful. The good news is, each of us can find one positive thing to do to help others.

Selfless acts lift our spirits and help us fell as sense of purposefulness. We may not be able to solve all the world’s problems, but we can do small acts of kindness in our own sphere of influence. Here are some creative ideas gleaned from people around me that may spur you on to love and good deeds:

  • Several friends are using their sewing abilities to make face masks for health care workers and individuals.
  • Others are gathering groceries and leaving them on the doorstep of those who need help or have lost their jobs.
  • Some are making a deliberate effort to write at least one note a day to uplift the heart of another.
  • In my world, I help direct an organization calledEngage Positive Parenting Initiative. Since we serve parents in under-resourced areas, my team has joined together to assemble family fun packs filled with snacks and activities to encourage and help homebound parents.
  • One thing that all of us can and should do each day is fall to our knees and pray. There is a true sense of peace we experience when we sincerely go to the Lord on behalf of others. Ask God to comfort the hurting and bring hope to those in despair. Pray for our leaders and the healthcare workers and first responders. Pray for an effective vaccine to be developed quickly. Pray for those who are sick and dying here and around the world. Ask God to show you what you can do and who you should reach out to using the gifts He has given you.

Yes, everyone can do something positive! When we do these simple acts of love, we bring joy into our own environment as well as the world around us. Stay Calm. Stay Kind. Stay Strong.

Maintaining an Up Attitude During Down Times

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Here in Dallas we have been ordered to “Shelter in Place,” but that doesn’t mean we have to step away from joy and happiness. We can still open the curtains and let the sun shine into our lives. How do we stay upbeat when we feel downtrodden? Here a few ways to invite a little sunshine to brighten your days.

Give Thanks Every Morning. Things may seem gloomy, but you can always find reasons to be thankful – you just need to look a little bit harder. Thank the Lord that you can still go on a walk. You can still hear the birds chirping, and see the spring flowers blooming. Daily write down at least five blessings that you experienced in the last 24 hours.

Listen to Uplifting Music. Music can soothe the soul. The other day (before we were quarantined) I was at a friend’s house, and we sat down at the piano and sang hymns together. It was rejuvenating! Be deliberate about finding songs that strengthen, encourage and inspire you. Listen to them often and play them for your family. While doing the 20-second handwash thing, sing a praise song. “Oh How I Love Jesus” is my go-to handwashing song.

Play the Glad Game. When you feel like complaining, turn it around to consider what you can be glad about instead. You may feel frustrated about the fact that you can’t go out with friends, but you can be glad about the fact that we live in a day when you can facetime or conference call one another. Replace every complaint with something that makes you glad.

Take Time to Pray. I know we all talk about praying, but do we actually do it? I encourage you to find a quiet place and time that you can get on your knees and cast your cares to Almighty God. Seek His guidance and wisdom as you face these challenging times. Find your solace in this sweet time of prayer. Pray for those who are sick around the world and the healthcare workers who care for them. Be much with God in the quiet places as well as throughout your day.

Do Kind Acts for Others. We may be confined, but we can still show love. What about calling or texting those who are lonely? Write notes to neighbors, family and friends to let them know you are thinking about them. Drop off groceries (or toilet paper) to those who are in need. Be a source of kindness and encouragement on social media and in your neighborhood. Possibly the most important acts of kindness you can show during this time is letting go of resentment and anger toward others.

Guard your thought-life and do not let your mind ruminate on the worries and what-ifs. Live wisely and thoughtfully but not fearfully. This can be a positive time, but we make it a negative one if we live with selfishness and/or anxiety.  Let’s inhale God’s peace and exhale needless fear as we walk together though this time. May we each turn our minds upward to make the best of each day that we have here on earth.

Staying Sane While Hunkered at Home

happy african american young woman at home

These are certainly strange times. Perhaps the fear of the unknown is only slightly greater than the fear of going stir-crazy while enduring two months of isolation from your community. How can you make the most of being homebound? Begin by focusing on what you can do, rather than feeling frustrated with what you can’t do. Here are five positive action steps :

Draw Close. Use this as a beautiful chance to draw close to loved ones both under your roof or at a distance. Avoid the temptation to constantly peruse social media, and instead be deliberate about engaging in conversation and experience eye contact. If you have kids, get on the floor and build a fort, read a book, play board games, do some art work or a puzzle, cook a meal or watch a movie together. It will require loving-kindness and patience toward each other, but couldn’t we all use a little growth in that area?

Reach Out. Consider ways you can reach out to help others who are in need or may feel alone. Perhaps you can offer to watch the kids of a healthcare worker or drop some groceries off at the local food bank or give gift cards to someone who has lost their job as a result of the quarantine. This is not a time to think only of ourselves, but rather to think of the needs of others.

Take Up. What are those projects that you have always said you would do if you just had more time? Here’s your glorious opportunity! Start a blog, write a book, read a book, learn a language, discover a new talent with art or floral design, take up guitar lessons, start working out – the possibilities are endless.

Weed Out. Most of us have drawers, cabinets and closets that need a little weeding out and cleaning up. Use this time to simplify and get rid of extra stuff that you no longer use or need. You will experience a sweet sense of joy when your place is organized  – and who knows you may discover things you haven’t seen in years. When life speeds back up again, you will be glad to have everything in its place!

Be Still. We all need quiet alone time to meditate, pray and rejuvenate our spirit. In the normal hustle-bustle of life, we rarely take intentional time to be still and listen. This is a good time to focus on who God is and to seek to know Him in a deeper way. Read the Bible, seek His direction and release your burdens to His care.

Let’s continually be aware of how God wants to use us to impact others during this unique time. May we be grateful for the blessings He has given us and be generous with love and good deeds.

 

 

Thriving Through Difficulties

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How is it that some people end up thriving after a dramatic difficulty or even trauma? That is the question researchers are asking as they study Post Traumatic Growth (PTG). We are all familiar with the term PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), but few are aware of what some call Super Survivors – those people who actually get better and move in an improved positive direction after a trauma.

Here are a few of the principles that have been observed in PTGers.

They grieve well. Studies show that those who eventually show improvement after a trauma, have first grieved their loss deeply. They don’t ignore the pain or put on rose colored glasses. They recognize the hurt or loss and don’t dismiss their sadness.

They ask hopeful questions. As they grieve, they also begin looking for glimmers of hope in the form of questions. They may ask, “Given my new set of circumstances, how can I make the best of this?” Or, “How can I grow and learn from this?” Or, “Is their a way I can use this experience to improve someone else’s life?”

They use their pain to help others. Often a PTGer will take pro-active steps to start an organization or interest group to benefit and strengthen others as a result of their experience. This not only gives them new vigor in life, but it helps them heal and feel purposeful.

They are thankful. Although they are not thankful for the pain, they are able to find reasons to be grateful for what they have experienced. They may be thankful that they grew stronger or that they were able to find meaning in life or discover a new life purpose as a result of their trauma.

Whether we are going through a life-jolting trauma or simply a heavy disappointment, we can learn from these principles to help us discover an element of positive in our pain. Some have said that PTG should stand for “Put Trust in God.” Interestingly, studies show that many PTGers rely on their faith or find their faith strengthened through the difficulties. In Psalms we read David’s words, “God is our refuge and our strength. A very present help in time of need.” May each of us be strengthened by the comfort and hope He brings.

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You can read stories of PTGers in my book, Thrive, Don’t Simply Survive.

3 Effective Ways to Encourage Others

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Everyone needs a good word now and then. Like sunshine breaking through the clouds on a dreary day, so a bright ray of encouragement can bring hope to someone’s darkness. Certainly we must be sensitive to those who are going through deep sadness. Sometimes the best way to be an encouragement is to “weep with those who weep.” But there are many opportunities in our daily routine to provide a glimpse of joy for the people around us.

Here are three effective ways to offer a healthy dose of encouragement to family, friends, co-workers and even strangers.

Be Sincere: No one likes insincere flattery. If you are going to offer a kind acknowledgement, be truthful. You may need to look a little deeper to find a way to sincerely speak an honest word of encouragement. For example, if your child’s piano recital was a bit rough around the edges, instead of insincerely telling them that they did a fantastic job, consider the factors you can compliment. “It takes a lot of courage to get up there and preform. You were able to hit some tough notes under pressure. I’m proud of you.”

Be Specific: When we offer specific accolades we are not only offering a gift to the other person, but we are tying it up with a bow and putting a note on it that says, “This gift is just for you.” For instance, simply saying “Great job!” is nice. But saying, “Great work on the Simons account today. I liked your creative presentation and the way you spoke directly to the client’s needs,” is better! Look for specific words and phrases you can offer others to help them know you paid attention and focused on what they did well.

Never Underestimate the Power of a Smile: A smile speaks a thousand words. It says, “I see you. I believe in you. I know you can do it. I care.” Just as words of encouragement are a precious gift we give to others, so a smile can lift up those around us and help them along their way. Think about when someone takes the opportunity to smile at you – it makes you feel a little stronger. A smile is that non-verbal expression that gives you the sense that you are noticed and appreciated. Offering an encouraging glance seems simple, but it may be a day-brightner to someone who desperately needs to know you care.

The word encourage actually means “to give strength.” The root word cour comes from the Latin word heart. Sincere, specific encouragement with the added blessing of a smile can literally strengthen another person’s heart and turn their mediocre day into a monumental one. May our words and actions be used to build up, rather than tear down. Let’s bring glimpses of sunshine to the people God puts in our path each day.