Life Inventory

Last month I celebrated another birthday. It was not one that is usually considered to be a milestone birthday and yet it did cause me to pause for some reflection on my life. I realized that like everyone else, I have experienced a long list of wonderful events in my life. Also like everyone else, I have experienced a number of challenges.

As I mentally created lists of both the positive aspects of my life and the challenging ones, I realized how blessed I truly have been. Like others, I have not always made decisions which produced beneficial outcomes. I did make the decisions that seemed right to me at the time. Most of those decisions were after consulting others. Yet, even after making some wrong choices, I would have to state that my life so far has leaned much more to the positive then the negative.

Reflecting upon where I am now in my life, I am grateful for the outcome so far. I am living now with integrity and honest display of who I am as a person. This has led to having an amazing husband who is a true partner who supports me completely. I also have two wonderful biological sons and two “adopted” foreign sons who bring me joy. Both of my sisters remain an important part of my life and I treasure our conversations in between too infrequent visits. My home provides shelter and comfort with some wonderful additions such as an amazing front porch to sit upon, an amazing backyard which I can view while sitting on the covered back patio, and an in-ground pool which I am starting to use for exercise. I am currently engaged in a new career as a writer (and blogger). I am also preparing to lead an online faith discussion group. I would be remiss if I did not also state that I have two loving dogs who always provide entertainment, challenges, and affection.

There have been plenty of challenges as well. I have experienced the extreme sense of grief when my eight-month-old nephew, my mother and my father each died. Having to be honest with the woman whom I married and had children with in regard to my sexuality was difficult. The divorce which was necessary after being honest caused pain and overwhelming fear. Leaving jobs and a number of moves each came with their own challenges even though they advanced my life in positive ways. At various points there have been lesser challenges as well.

Looking at my life to this point. I determined that the positives have far outweighed the negatives. My success has been due to the amazing people in my life. In fact, I would say that the relationships which I have had and continue to have been the greatest positive in my life. This truth leads me to say thank you to the family and friends who have made my life as wonderful as it has become.

During this time of isolation due to Covid-19, I challenge each of you to do a life inventory. Even when we are faced with challenges which this virus has created for many of us, when we reflect on where we are in life, I am confident that each of us will see how much better we are than we often realize. I am also confident that our positive outcomes can be linked to the relationships from our past or present.

Raising Up

Today, I was looking for some inspiration as I prepared to write this post. Once a week, I sit and jot down ideas of possible blog post topics. When I looked at the one which I had planned for today, I discovered that I was not completely sure what I meant when I wrote down the idea. I also decided that I did not feel inspired to write on that topic even if I could figure out my initial intent. This left me with the question of what the topic was going to be. I sat for a while seeking inspiration while looking out the window….nothing. I changed rooms in our house to get a different perspective, still nothing. Finally, I decided to check out some videos on YouTube and inspiration came my way.

The video which caught my attention was of a group in an outdoor setting singing the song, You Raise Me Up. You can check it out by following this link. I think the reason that my eye was drawn to this video is due to the reality of our world currently. We all are dealing with the impact of COVID-19 on our lives, our jobs, our families, and our activities. The title of the song made me pause to consider what raises me up. As I listened to a talented group of young men singing this song, I thought of those in my life who have been, or currently are, the ones who raise me up.

Here are the lyrics to the song made famous by Josh Groban and written by Brendan Graham and Rolf Lovland:

When I am down, and, oh, my soul, so weary
When troubles come, and my heart burdened be
Then, I am still and wait here in the silence
Until you come and sit awhile with me

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains
You raise me up to walk on stormy seas
I am strong when I am on your shoulders
You raise me up to more than I can be

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains
You raise me up to walk on stormy seas
I am strong when I am on your shoulders
You raise me up to more than I can be

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains
You raise me up to walk on stormy seas
I am strong when I am on your shoulders
You raise me up to more than I can be

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains
You raise me up to walk on stormy seas
I am strong when I am on your shoulders
You raise me up to more than I can be

You raise me up to more than I can be

These lyrics remind me of the times when I have felt down, times when it seemed I could not go on another day. I recall those individuals placed by God into my life who have supported me, built me up, given me confidence, walked through rough times with me. The list seems endless. Faces rush through my mind as I recall these incredible individuals. The list includes family members, friends, teachers, mentors, neighbors, classmates, and co-workers.

During this challenging time in many of our lives, I encourage us to think about the words of this song. As we listen to or read these words (or both), let your mind list the names of individuals to whom you would sing this song. Consider how many people were part of getting you to where you are today. As you do so, realize that there are still people in your life who can, and are, raising you up even today. Be sure to say thank you to them. Be sure to thank God for placing them in your life.  

Making Friends

When a person starts kindergarten, one of the pieces of advice that a parent usually gives is to try to make a friend the first day. For some children this is an easy task, especially if they are social and outgoing by nature. Others tend to struggle with living out this piece of advice because they are shy and more introverted. Whichever the case might be, most children seem to be able to make at least one friend by the end of their first week. Aiding this task is the reality that there is a captive group of children in one room with the same piece of advice and dealing with the same challenges. They have some automatic commonalities.

Moving to a new community usually places a person into a similar situation as the first day of school. The person is in a new environment and is encountering people who are not familiar. Making new friends is easier if certain conditions create natural connections. An example would include having children who attend the same school and are part of a school group together. Parents who go to support their children in an extracurricular activity often engage in conversations at the various events so a bond begins to form and friendships develop.

Another example would be if the person joins a community group or faith community. Attending meetings, fundraisers, and activities provide a natural opportunity for relationships to form. In this case there is some shared interest which brings people together. Already having an interest in common with another person makes conversation easier. Sharing of personal information and stories becomes natural. Friends are found.

However, if you are an adult, do not have school-aged children or an opportunity to join a local group, making friends becomes much more difficult. This is something which my husband and I have experienced since our move at the beginning of the year. We have begun forming relationships with a few of our neighbors but schedules and commitments do not always allow for time to interact in more than just friendly greetings. Previously we were part of an awesome faith community which allowed us to establish many friendships. My husband also had been actively involved in a YMCA swim program as a coach, so he had some pre-established friendships before I moved to join him. To date, we have not been able to find a faith community which connects with our spiritual needs. Nor have we found a community group in which we have shared interests.

I share all this because I have come to realize that even for a more extroverted person, making friends is not always the easiest. As we prepare to move from our rental home to own our home, my hope is that we will be able to find connections in our new neighborhood that will assist us in developing meaningful and lasting friendships like the ones we still have back in Iowa.

Binding Ties

When I was in elementary school, we would get to watch a couple of television shows in our classroom each week. One of the shows was the Electric Company. The other show was the Big Blue Marble. The latter show would feature stories about kids from different parts of the world. The producers intended to communicate that our world is not really as big as it may seem and that by getting to know people from other parts of the world, we would build a better society together. There was even a pen-pal program (writing actual letters to another person for those who do not understand this concept) that would encourage an ongoing connection and conversation.

I share this memory from the past because I have been thinking about the connectedness of people. It is not surprising that in the age of the internet and social media, the ability to connect with others is even greater. Additionally, technology allows this connectedness to be almost instantaneous. Yet with the tools provided to us, we still seem to struggle with connecting to others.

I am a fairly outgoing person. I engage in conversations with a variety of people in a variety of settings without much difficulty most of the time. Not everyone is comfortable in social settings or in engaging in conversation with individuals whom they have not met. The challenge in being able to have a dialogue with another person is finding that connection. Sometimes the setting provides a clear connecting point such as attending a wedding, being at a job-related gathering, or being at a school event. Other times it may be harder to identify the commonalities which you might have with another person.

The truth that was presented on the television show, Big Blue Marble, is that we have more in common with one another than we ever realize. It is important to find that connection with one another. The reality is that our actions impact one another. This has become increasingly clear in regard to how we treat creation. Even greater are the acts of violence which continually shake our lives. When we acknowledge that we have more in common than differences, then we begin to see each other as valued. If we see the value in another, we are less willing to take a negative action toward that person.

We are connected in ways we have yet to discover. Our commonality far exceeds anything which would divide us. All of us live together on this big blue marble called earth. It is time we lifted up our connectedness.