Category Archives: Spirituality

Election Stress: Faith Soothes the Soul

As I write my blog this morning after the election results, many people are anxious, confused, in an uproar, fearful of the future, and more divided than ever. The stock market is jumping around, people are protesting and venting all over social media, and the non-stop coverage is overwhelming.

As the Washington Post pointed out, “By now it has been well documented that this presidential election cycle has had a particularly negative effect on Americans’ mental health.” Feelings of discontent are consistent regardless of political party affiliation or ideology, the article added. Heated arguments between family and friends continue as people debate, celebrate, or mourn the election results.

Which makes this the perfect time to embrace your spiritual side.

believeAll the turmoil from this election year makes me more grateful than ever for my faith. I am thankful that my hope and trust rests – not on politics or election results – but on God and his wonderful promises for the future.

While others are suffering from “election stress disorder,” I am at peace.

As I wrote in a previous blog, the vast majority of studies show that spiritual people report higher levels of happiness and mental well-being. Why is that the case?

Faith consoles and comforts, promises positive outcomes during difficult times, and makes sense of a troubled world. By believing in something greater than themselves, spiritual people can stay positive in times of stress and foster resilience.

While I realize that not all of my readers may be Christian, for those of you searching for some soothing words during what has been a dismal year in politics, I would like to share a couple of my favorite Scriptures with those of you so inclined on this beautiful November morning:

“Do not be anxious over anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving, let your petitions be made known to God; and the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your mental powers by means of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6,7

“Do not be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be anxious, for I am your God. I will fortify you, yes, I will help you, I will really hold on to you with my right hand of righteousness.” Isaiah 41:10

If you are looking for answers along with comfort and hope, if you so choose, you can click here to view a brief video, Why Study the Bible? for food for thought.

In addition to embracing your spiritual side, meditating, and praying, take some time for yourself. Don’t let fears and uncertainties rule your life. Take a walk, spend time with loved ones, take a deep breath, focus on positive thoughts, do something kind for someone.

And, yes, have faith.

Image courtesy of BJWOK at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Three Simple Things You Should Do Every Single Day

As readers of my blog know, I have deemed this as my year of healing after a tumultuous few years. Last week I made a deal with myself. I listed three non-negotiable things I must do every day to help me along this path.

Make a list of three non-negotiable things you must do every single day.

Make a list of three non-negotiable things you must do every single day.

And you know what? So far, it’s working. I feel calmer, more centered, and yes, happier. I encourage every one of you to do the same thing.

My sister, Joanie, sold her house recently and is staying with me while she looks for new digs. She saw me writing this blog and asked what the subject was going to be.

When I told her, she said, “Just three things?”

Yup, just three. It’s tempting to list 10 things you should do every day, but so as not to put pressure on yourself, I suggest you start with just three as well. Everyone’s list will be different.

For example, Jim Valvano, the passionate and committed former basketball coach Jim Valvano who in the fight of his life against cancer, stated: “To me there are three things everyone should do every day. Number one is laugh. Number two is think — spend some time in thought. Number three, you should have your emotions move you to tears. If you laugh, think and cry, that’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.”

I like that list.

There’s nothing revolutionary or new on my list, just three simple things that provide an anchor for me. Three things that help me focus on myself, which often gets lost in the hustle and bustle and stresses of life. Three basic needs that help me get through a bad day.

Mind you, I was doing all three of these things before, but not every single day. What are the three? Not in order of importance, but for me they are:

exerciseExercise.

Yes, I was exercising, but not every single day. Even if it’s only 15 minutes – I do something. I’m not talking running a marathon or deep squats. I get bored easily, so I rotate activities. Some days I go to the park and walk. Afterwards, I lift weights at the city gym (I joined for $25 a year – what a deal!). Other days, I do a 20-minute Windsor Pilates routine that relaxes me from YouTube. Most days, my dog sits by my shoes in the closet begging me with his sad eyes and guilts me into taking him for a walk.

Read something spiritual and inspirational.

Once again, I am a regular Bible reader. The religion I belong to provides a daily text with a scriptural thought that I read in the mornings, a suggested Bible reading each week which we review at a midweek meeting, and a convenient online Bible and library I can access on all my mobile devices. Even so, admittedly I’d become sidetracked with work and the business of life and a day or two would slip by without any spiritual fortification. Because of the challenges I recently faced and still am facing, my reliance on God and need for spiritual food requires more deep reading and meditation – yes, every single day. Of course, praying each and every day is also a worthy goal.

read a bookDo something I love.

Yes, I promised myself that every single day I would take the time to refuel and refresh myself so my tank is not depleted. Many days that means lounging on the couch with popcorn and reading a bestseller which feels luxurious. Other days that means sitting on the patio with a glass of wine, relaxing music, and watching the sunset with hubby. Or it could mean snuggling with one of my grandchildren, writing in a journal, gardening, taking a nap, or doing some deep breathing or relaxation exercises. But at the end of the day, I make sure I’ve done something that is just for me.

That’s my list. There are tons of other things you could include on your list to do every single day (with links I’ve written blogs about) such as:

It’s entirely up to you what you choose to do every single day. But make that list and start living!

I’d love to hear what you would include on your list. If you are so inclined, please share in the comment section below!

Images courtesy of nuttakit, everydayplus, and apolonia at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

How to Savor Solitude

This year I have learned to savor solitude.

Being a full-time caregiver for my mother before she passed away in June certainly made me appreciate solitude.

Last Saturday, my mother-in-law’s “celebration of life” after her brave battle with ovarian cancer was attended by over 400 people. The service and gathering afterwards were lovely, but after weeks of being with people, my soul craved an escape to a quiet haven where I could peacefully be alone with my own thoughts.

As Henry David Thoreau wrote, “I never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude.”

SolitudeThe Definition of Solitude

The word solitude is defined as the state of being alone. However, that can mean different things to different people. The word ‘solitude’ can take on a negative connotation and be paired with words like loneliness and isolation.

However, in this article I am referring to a few hours of peaceful, quiet solitude. As a quote by Paul Tillich so accurately describes, “Loneliness expresses the pain of being alone and solitude expresses the glory of being alone.”

Well said!

Benefits of Solitude

Solitude can help you re-energize, reflect, and relax. When I force myself to be social all the time or when life gets too demanding, I feel all my energy, perspective, and joy draining out of me. All the hectic noise obscures my inner voice and thoughts. That’s why as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to embrace my need for quiet time and solitude.

Like most writers, I’m a bit of an introvert and must have time to meditate on spiritual matters, take quiet walks alone, write, and reflect quietly on the day’s events, I don’t consider it a guilty pleasure or selfish. When I honor my need for solitude, I become recharged and better able to help those around me,. I actually become a better person.

Even if you’re an extrovert, you can benefit from the simple pleasure of solitude, stillness, and quiet time.

A bit of solitude will give you an opportunity to connect with your spirituality, meditate, pray, and count your blessings. Being alone with your thoughts provides time to get to know yourself better, to reflect on your life, what you’ve learned along the way, and how those life lessons can help you going forward. You will have time to consider what you still want to accomplish. Quiet time will help you find your own voice and be more creative. Solitude gives you the chance to unwind and enjoy peace and tranquility.

As Albert Einstein wisely said, “Solitude is painful when one is young, but delightful when one is more mature,”

Finding Solitude

Solitude 2Before you can find the peace that comes with solitude, you’ll need to let go of your worries, anxieties, and to-do lists. Be assured that the world can get along without you for a short period of time.

Find a place where you can escape the frenzy and hubbub of life. Disconnect from your phone, technology, and social media. You may have to schedule and create time for solitude, but it’s worth the effort. 

Take a walk alone, find a shady spot under a tree and read a book, indulge in a cup of tea on your patio, or write in your journal in a comfy chair by a fire. It may be as simple as turning off your radio during your commute to work and simply letting your mind wander. Or sitting on a park bench during your lunch break where you can allow nature to sooth your soul.

Savor solitude, silence, and serenity. Never feel like it’s selfish or frivolous to indulge in some quiet time. Honor your need for solitude in this fast-paced and noisy world knowing that is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself and your loved ones.

Images courtesy of razvan ionut and anankkml at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Four Ways to Heal From Emotional Pain

We would all like to hide and run away from emotional pain, but no one skips through life untouched. I can’t complain. Most of my life has been relatively easy and free of pain and adversity. However, as I’ve written about in this blog, this year was a tough one with two recent deaths in our family.

Emotional HealingI’m sure there’s many of you out there going through similar experiences. If you’re going through a challenging time, how can you heal and move forward with your life?

Of course, recovery takes time. Allow yourself to surrender to feelings of sadness, anger, and pain. Accept what you are going through. Give yourself time to rest and heal. However, there are things you can do to help the process along.

Last week, my father in-law and sister-in-law as well as my two sons, daughter-in-law and three grandchildren went to the Living Desert, a local animal park. (If you ever visit the Palm Springs area, be sure and visit this charming zoo.) The day was therapeutic for all of us. Why?

After giving this some thought, I came up with four reasons. If you’re going through emotional pains, I hope these tips will bring you some peace of mind:

Tap into Your Spirituality

At the Living Desert, we couldn’t help of thinking about God and all the beautiful creations he put on this earth for us to enjoy. God gives us strength beyond what is normal and reliance on Him is essential to recovery. Honestly, I wouldn’t have made it through this year without a spiritual foundation, prayer, meditation on God’s Word, and the support from members of my congregation.

Surround Yourself with People You Love

This is true in general, but never more so than when you are going through emotional trauma. Lean on those people who genuinely love and care for you. My husband, my children, my father, and my siblings became more important than ever to me after my Mom’s death. The same thing is happening now with my husband’s family. As we mourn my mother-in-law, we are all clinging to each other. Our grandchildren are soothing and restoring us with their laughter and silliness, their excitement as they learn about new things, and their hugs and kisses.

If you are in a state of recovery, make it a point to only be around those people that make you happy and bring positivity to your life. People that are optimistic and cheerful. People who can make you smile and laugh. People who remind you of the beauty in the world.

River w butterflyAllow Nature to Heal You

Simply being outside in nature will heal and comfort you with its gentle reminders of rebirth, rejuvenation, and renewal.

At the Living Desert, the sun shone bright on us warming our faces. Butterflies landed on our shoulders. We laughed at the giraffes’ long purple tongues greedy for carrots. We ate lunch surrounded by palm trees.

My grandson, Rowan, said, “This is the life.” And he was absolutely right.

That’s why you’ll find me sitting in the courtyard enjoying the smell of lavender and rosemary, watching our new kitten play, and listening to the gentle sound of our gurgling fountain every chance I get. Our family often spends evenings on the patio by a crackling fire gazing at the stars. We planted a garden and are thrilled to see carrots and radishes breaking through the soil.

As Thomas Merton said, “One has to be alone, under the sky, before everything falls into place and one finds his or her own place in the midst of it all.”

Turn Your Wounds Into Wisdom

Now is the time to contemplate and meditate on lessons learned from pain, loss, and disappointment. Yes, there are always important life lessons that can improve our lives.

“Turn your wounds into wisdom,” Oprah Winfrey advises.

So, allow yourself time to rest, time to heal, and time to recover. Then follow these four steps and remember that no pain lasts forever. You’re still alive and there are people to cherish, exciting places to see, thrilling experiences to be had, and new things to learn. No matter what happens,  you can rebuild and create a fabulous life feeling grateful for every day you’re alive.

Postscript: I wrote this article before the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California yesterday – which is only about an hour away from where I live. My heart goes out to all those affected by this senseless tragedy and I pray you all can find emotional healing from this horrific event.

Image courtesy of marcolm at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Five Ways Imitating Jesus Can Make Us Happy

This last weekend I attended a three-day convention, Imitate Jesus! What did I learn? When we imitate Jesus we can conquer the world, and yes, we can be happy.

How? Here are just a few ways:

  1. BirdsStop being anxious. In one of the discourses, the speaker reviewed the scripture at Matthew 6:25-30. It says: “Observe intently the birds of heaven; they do not sow seed or reap or gather into storehouses, yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” The birds are not working overtime, slaving to save for the future, worrying about what they will eat. Yet, God takes care of them. Instead of being anxious over material things, focus on spiritual matters. Have faith. Then Jesus says, “Take a lesson from the lilies of the field, how they grow; they do not toil, nor do they spin; but I tell you that not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed as one of these.” Lilies do not live long, yet God gave them such beauty. Is that not a lesson for us? God does not want us to simply exist but wants us to find joy and beauty in our lives. Jesus asks, “Who of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his life span?” In fact, science has actually proven that stress and anxiety can affect our health adversely and actually shorten our lives.
  2. PrayUse the power of prayer. The devout have known about the benefits of prayer, but now science backs up this thought. “Studies have shown prayer can prevent people from getting sick — and when they do get sick, prayer can help them get better faster,” said Duke University’s Harold G. Koenig, M.D. An analysis of more than 1,500 reputable medical studies “indicates people who are more religious and pray more have better mental and physical health,” he adds. Jesus prayed constantly while here on earth. Prayers should include supplications (intense entreaties), petitions (specific requests such as asking for wisdom and thinking ability when making a major life decision), thanksgiving, and praise. Linger in prayer. Scriptures show Jesus praying all night. Imitate him by telling God each thought and concern we have in private, in-depth prayers. If we do so, God promises at 1 Peter 5:10,  “he will make you firm, he will make you strong, he will firmly ground you.”
  3. Do not retaliate. The famous scripture at Matthew 5:38-39 when Jesus tells his followers to turn the other cheek is often misinterpreted. This doesn’t mean if someone punches you, you should stand up and allow him to smack the other side of your face. In Bible times, a slap often was associated with an insult. Jesus was telling us not to exact vengeance which can lead to more violence and hatred. If someone offends us, we should take the initiative to make peace with him. Peter denied Jesus three times on the most difficult day of his life. Yet, after his resurrection, Jesus appeared to Peter and allowed him to express his sorrow. Jesus wanted to help Peter heal from the guilt and anguish he was suffering. Jesus did not take the attitude, “I’ll never trust Peter again!”  In fact, he entrusted Peter with even more responsibilities. Each of his apostles and closest friends left Jesus and abandoned him at the time of his arrest, in his time of need. Still, he forgave them. Copy Jesus. Do not keep account of injuries and let go of resentment.
  4. GiveBe generous. Mark chapter 5 tells us that when Jesus healed a woman, who for 12 years had been suffering from an embarrassing and debilitating flow of blood, immediately Jesus realized that power had gone out of him. Evidently, healing took a toll on Jesus, yet he performed miracles without expecting anything in return. A number of studies show that giving unselfishly gives us a sense of well-being, lowers stress levels, improves our health, gives us a sense of purpose, and increases happiness. People who give often report feelings of euphoria, which psychologists refer to as “helper’s high.” This does not always mean giving in a material sense. We can also give by being compassionate, encouraging, and consoling others in their time of need. Jesus had a knack for perceiving what a person’s real needs were which made his words and gifts more meaningful. How often do we say, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do?” While these words are often said with the best intentions, why not take it a step further and put ourselves in their shoes and ask, “What would I need if I was in these circumstances?”
  5. Stop judging. At Matthew 7:1, Jesus did not say: “Do not judge”; he said: “Stop judging.” Why? He knew that many of his listeners were already in the habit of being critical of others. That’s because it is our imperfect human inclination to be judgmental, However, this bad habit can cause us anxiety and agitation in the long run. So try to catch yourself before you speak harmful words or send that sarcastic or vicious email or text. Before becoming overly critical or questioning someone’s motives, stop and take a deep breath. We must acknowledge our own imperfections. We must lovingly and patiently try and understand where the person may be coming from. By the way, stop judging also means to stop judging ourselves harshly too.

1 Peter 4:1 tells us to “arm yourselves with the same mental disposition” as Christ. How? Our feelings can be controlled by changing our thinking. Then we can act on those feelings to make positive changes in our lives.

Those are just a few points I learned from this inspiring convention that I felt compelled to share. To be honest, the events this past year left me shaken, but I felt like these three days lifted my spirits and gave me strength to move forward and make positive changes in my life. I am so grateful.

If you would like to attend this free public event, click here for a complete program schedule and a location nearest to you.

Image courtesy of anankkml, David Castillo Dominici, and Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

When a Parent Dies

Saturday night, my Mom passed away.

Me, my sister, and Mom at her 50th anniversary party.

Me, my sister, and Mom at her 50th anniversary party.

Hospice had told us that Mom would probably die three to seven days after we started morphine treatments. On day six, Mom began pausing between breaths and our caregiver told me that my mother had a weak pulse.

After almost a week of agonizing waiting, the time had arrived.

I told my Dad and brother who were in the house that Mom’s end was near and asked my oldest son to call both my sisters to tell them that they should come over to say their last good-byes. My father came into the room briefly and said a few words and left in tears. My brother and I held our mother and told her not to worry and promised that we would all take care of each other. We both told her how much she meant to us and what a wonderful mother she had been.

I kissed her face and told her that she was a faithful servant of God and would be safe under his care and that I looked forward to seeing her again when she would not be in pain or sick anymore.

My youngest son and his wife came in to say their good-bye. I went outside to see how my father was doing and talk to the caregiver who was giving us our privacy. When I returned to Mom’s bedroom, the pauses between my her breaths were much longer. And then she took her last breath.

That moment will be forever in my memory. Although I am glad that Mom died peacefully at home with family by her side, I am still haunted by it.

Range of Emotions

Mom in the middle with her family on a trip to Australia.

Mom in the middle with her family on a trip to Australia.

My sisters both arrived and we all sat in the room crying together. When the hospice nurse came to care for her body, we went outside on the patio. We looked at the stars, and talked about some of our memories of Mom. Surprisingly, we were even able to laugh about some of humorous moments we had with her. However, when the mortuary came to take my mother away, we all burst into tears again.

It’s now been five days since I lost my mother and my best friend. The tears come and go.

As everyone knows, a wide variety of emotions are involved in the grieving process. The standard advice is to allow yourself to feel whatever you need to feel during this time.  In my case, anger is not part of the equation. However, there is a bit of guilt. I had been a caregiver for my Mom, who had Lewy Body dementia, a combination of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, for a few years. There is some remorse that I couldn’t be more patient at times. On the other hand, I also know that as an imperfect human being I did the best I could under the stressful circumstances. There is also some guilt over the fact that on some level I am relieved that my caregiving days have come to an end – it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done – and I will now have my freedom again. At the same time, I feel a little lost. Once again, I am older and wiser and know this is a natural way to feel. I can forgive myself.

I am grateful that I was able to keep my promise to Mom that I would never put her into a nursing home – one of her biggest fears. There is also tremendous relief that my Mom’s pain and suffering is finally over.

My Mom (right) with her own mother.

My Mom (right) with her own mother.

The fact is that I’ve been losing my Mom bit by bit for years now. Although it was not a sudden, shocking death, it is still painful and I already miss her. Sadly, as my Mom and I had told each other, you only get one mother in life and no one can take her place.

For the past week, we’ve had relatives, friends, and members of our congregation coming over to say their good-byes and then paying their respects. We have had an outpouring of texts, emails, phone calls, and visits offering kind words, food, help, and comfort for which I am so grateful. My husband, my siblings, and my children have been together almost every day which brings me comfort since they share many of the same feelings and memories.

On Monday, I went to see Jurassic Park with some of my family which was a welcomed distraction and break from all the emotions we’ve been going through. Nothing like watching dinosaurs eat people to take your mind off everything, right?  My grandchildren who were here over the weekend have also been a breath of fresh air.

As I write this blog, I am grateful to be alone for the first time to process some of my thoughts and emotions. Unfortunately, I got an awful case of the stomach flu and right now – besides being miserable – I am extremely fatigued.

Those who have lost a parent have assured me that it will get better and I know that is true. The aching will always be there but it will dim with time so that memories will bring me comfort instead of pain.

Hope

I couldn’t get through this without “the Father of tender mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation.”

My mother and I share the same hope for the future. I look forward to the prospect of being reunited with my mother. God, who started mankind off in a lovely garden, has promised to restore Paradise on this earth under the rule of His heavenly Kingdom in the hands of the now glorified Jesus Christ. (Genesis 2:7-9; Matthew 6:10; Luke 23:42, 43) In that restored Paradise, the human family will have the prospect of enjoying life without end, free from all sickness and disease. (Revelation 21:1-4; compare Job 33:25; Isaiah 35:5-7.) Gone, too, will be all hatred, racial prejudice, ethnic violence, and economic oppression. It will be into such a cleansed earth that God through Jesus Christ will resurrect the dead. If you would like to learn more about this hope as well as for tips on dealing with your grief, you can download the free brochure, When Someone You Loves Dies.

This hope brings me enormous comfort.

A Tribute to Mom

Mom, I will never forget your boundless love and generosity, your complete dedication to your family, your kindness, compassion, and thoughtfulness.

I am so grateful that you brought us all up according to Bible standards, that you gave my siblings and I such incredible childhoods, that you always made us feel secure and safe, that you so willingly listened and helped us through all our troubles, and that you were such a good friend to me. I am so thankful for all your unfailing loving support and wise advice throughout my life.

I am happy that you were adventurous and took us children with you on your travels around the world. And thank-you for being such a great grandmother to my children and grandchildren.

I know your passing will leave a huge gap in my life and I already miss you more than words can say. I so look forward to the day when we can be together once again.

Love you, Mom.

Losing a Parent

My Mom is dying.

I’ve known this for several days now, but this is the first time I’ve written down the devastating, heartbreaking words.

My Mom on her wedding day.

My Mom on her wedding day.

These past few weeks have been a nightmare.

As readers of this blog already know, my Mom, who suffers from Lewy Body dementia, recently broke her hip. She had a hallucination in the middle of the night and was trying to get out of her bedroom, forgot her walker, and fell.

After her surgery and a few days at the hospital, my Mom was sent to a rehabilitation center. Unbeknownst to us, she developed a bedsore which was not treated. Within days, the bedsore turned into a seven-inch long and an inch-and-a-half wide raw, gaping wound. We are not sure who to blame. Although we cannot be sure, we are suspicious that Mom may have had a staph infection as a result of her surgery at the hospital.

At any rate, the sore began to tunnel and quickly became infected. Antibiotics were not effective. We landed back in the hospital. However, the doctor did not recommend surgery since it would have been horrifically painful and Mom probably would not have survived it. If by some kind of miracle she did, my mother would have had a permanent colonoscopy bag. The doctor recommended that we bring Mom home and put her back into hospice care with the goal of making her as comfortable as possible.

The family agreed to take his advice after a long cry-fest.

I’ve been a caretaker for my Mom for a few years now and my job is not over yet. We are told that even though she sleeps most of the time that the hearing is the last to go. So we talk to her, watch home movies, and listen to music with her. My sister and daughter-in-law are sitting with her now so I can have this quiet moment.

Surprisingly, amidst all the pain, I still can feel grateful.

My Mom (in front) at her 50th anniversary party.

My Mom (in front) at her 50th anniversary party.

For 77 years, I’ve had the best relationship with my mother. She is my best friend and for that I am thankful.

Before we started the morphine treatment that would put Mom into a gentle sleep – we were all able to tell her how much we loved her. I realize not everyone has the opportunity to do that and for that reason I am grateful.

That same morning, when Mom saw all the extended family in her room, she said it felt like a party. She asked for a sip of wine which we gladly supplied. Mom wanted to wear her favorite red lipstick and her rings. She was more alert than she had been in weeks. Even though she was in and out of it that day, we felt it was a good morning for her. I am thankful for that.

Mom told us that she wanted us all to take a trip to Maui together and we assured her that we would. Right before my mother gave birth to me she lived in Hawaii for a short time and has the best memories.  I can hear Hawaiian music drifting out of Mom’s room now and know that she is smiling inside.

I am grateful that we are a large family and can support one another. I am thankful for all the friends and members of our congregation for their kind words, prayers, and offers to help. I am appreciative for the wonderful hospice workers and caregivers that are lovingly helping us. I am grateful that my mother will die at home surrounded by the family she loved and dedicated her life to knowing this was her desire. I am happy that she won’t be suffering any longer.

And I am grateful for my faith that has taught me to rely on God for strength beyond what is normal and given me a solid hope for the future. I know that I will see my Mom again. That is a tremendous blessing.

Still, my heart is breaking into a million pieces right now. Grief comes in tidal waves of despair.

A parade of relatives and friends are coming through the house to say their good-byes and trying to find some sort of closure. This has been exhausting but a blessing of sorts. All the people are a distraction and that is not completely unwelcome since I know that my emotions would be overwhelming otherwise.

Even though I am a writer by trade I do not have any words to describe the pain I am feeling right now. A part of me is dying and I know that I will never be the same again. As anyone who has lost a parent no doubt knows, this is another journey. There are no shortcuts to grieving or the healing process. Unless we die first, losing our parents is a road we must all travel.

As I wrote in my blog, This Too Shall Pass, time may heal all wounds, but while the open, gaping wounds close up, the scar remains. However, I am old enough to know that life will go on and take me with it. Our ability and infinite capacity to endure and bounce back is far greater than we think.

As Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, a Swiss-American psychiatrist and author of On Death and Dying, said: “The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to.”

In the meantime, I console myself with the scripture at John 5:28-29: “Do not be amazed at this, for the hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who did good things to a resurrection of life, and those who practiced vile things to a resurrection of judgment.

And my all-time favorite scripture at Isaiah 41:10: “Do not be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be anxious, for I am your God. I will fortify you, yes, I will help you, I will really hold on to you with my right hand of righteousness.’

Aim for Fulfillment Not Happiness

If you read my blog, you know that now is not the perfect time in my life.

ThoughtfulFor the last few years, I’ve been caring for my Mom who has Lewy Body dementia with an extra dose of Parkinson’s. She recently broke her hip and was just released from a rehab center. My son is going through an awful divorce. My mother-in-law is fighting ovarian cancer and her numbers are up which means another debilitating round of chemo. We are a couple of weeks from the completion of building our new home which is a bright spot in my life but is also stressful. Budgets, getting a mortgage loan, and an upcoming move are all dancing around in my head.

So stay with me here. I’m not whining about my life. Believe me, I have many blessings to count and I have learned to savor the day and appreciate the small moments of joy that we all experience.

But are these the happiest days of my life? Let’s just say I’m not exactly doing cartwheels of joy or a happy dance right now.

And that’s my point. I want to be clear. Just because I write a blog about happiness doesn’t mean I believe that you should feel inadequate because you can’t maintain a certain level of glee at all times.

Happiness is not Sustainable

We live in a strange era where boundless happiness studies, books, and websites like mine rule. While they provide some useful information, all that hoopla about happiness could make us feel that if that fleeting feeling of joyfulness escapes us, we’ve somehow failed. Or that our lives are lacking in some fashion.

We baby boomers might be especially vulnerable to these feelings since we grew up in an age of entitlement where we were taught to go after whatever makes us happy. If we can’t achieve that elusive happy feeling at all times, we feel a bit insecure and disillusioned. Like something is wrong with us.

But here’s the thing. It’s okay to feel sad, angry, worried, or depressed sometimes. These are perfectly natural feelings. We don’t have to be happy 24-7. The simple truth is that a giddy feeling of happiness is not sustainable.

Target

Aim for Fulfillment

So instead of shooting for happiness, why not aim for fulfillment instead?

That’s what Michael Hedrick suggested in his article written for Psych Central, Why You Should Seek Fulfillment Instead of Happiness.

“Fulfillment is the idea or feeling that things are okay even if you’re going through a rough patch,” Hedrick wrote. “It’s the knowledge that you’ve got comfort and a stable foundation and that you’re working towards something bigger.”

As he points out in his article, fulfillment means different things to different people. Many seek fulfillment through spirituality. That’s certainly true in my case. No doubt, I’ve gained a sense of purpose, meaning in life, and personal satisfaction from studying the Bible and striving to live my life in a way that pleases God. Helping others and making a difference in people’s lives, developing your character and abilities, or achieving a goal can also feel fulfilling.

So make fulfillment your target.

As Albert Einstein said in one of my favorite happiness quotes, “I have never looked upon ease and happiness as ends in themselves – such an ethical basis I call more proper for a herd of swine…The ideals which have lighted me on my way and time after time given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.”

Well said!

So maybe Bobby McFerrin shouldn’t sing: “Don’t worry, be happy,” but instead say, “Don’t worry, be fulfilled.” I admit, not quite as catchy, but more realistic!

Images courtesy of marcolm and renjith krishnan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Embrace Your Spiritual Side

Image courtesy of podpad / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Image courtesy of podpad / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

“Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need,” Jesus said in a lecture that is world-renowned to this day. It is usually called the Sermon on the Mount and is recorded in Matthew chapters 5 through 7.

For me, spirituality is the primary key to happiness. Research backs up this thought. The vast majority of studies show that religious and spiritual people report higher levels of happiness and mental well-being.

Spiritual people who regularly attend religious services frequently live longer than those who do not; thanks, in large part, to faith, hope, and a sense of meaning and purpose in life.

Faith consoles and comforts, promises positive outcomes during troubled times, and makes sense of a troubled world. By believing in something greater than themselves, spiritual people can stay positive in times of sadness and foster resilience.

Moral living provides sound values and teaches love, unselfishness, respect, and compassion. Prayer and meditation has been shown to have a strong link with well-being because it calms the body, reduces stress and anxiety, and also supports positive thinking.

The social support that comes from being part of a community with shared values and beliefs can also contribute to happiness. In fact, the frequency of attendance to religious services mattered more than anything besides health in determining how satisfied people were with their lives, according to researchers in the journal American Sociological Review.

This weekend I attended a two-day Bible convention and one of the speakers suggested setting a specific time every day for our spiritual needs. Even if it’s only 15 minutes, make an appointment with yourself. The speaker said the best time for him to read the Bible was in the morning before he left for work. “That’s the best part of the day,” he said.

I read the Bible on a regular basis, but I liked this idea of setting aside a specific time each day. So I started my 15 minutes this morning by reading some of the Sermon of the Mount. Much of what Jesus said is self-explanatory, though putting it into practice can certainly be challenging. However, by reading these verses carefully and thoughtfully, I hope to let the power of his ideas influence my thinking and attitude.

With the utmost respect to the various religious beliefs of those reading this article, for those who want to read the Bible and may not have their own personal copy, I’m providing a link to a modern day English, easy-to-understand free downloadable online Bible available in over 70 different languages that I personally use.

In conclusion, whether you set time aside in the morning to start off the day in a positive way or at night before you go to bed as a way to wind down after a stressful day, let spiritual matters occupy more of your thoughts.

That’s the key to happiness.