Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Love’ Category

Share the Love and be the first to get my Defying Small Manifesto!

sharethelove

Want to live a more passionate life but don’t know where to start? In just a few weeks, I will release my Defying Small Manifesto, a free, downloadable PDF that will show you how to DEFY SMALL by helping you:

– choose yourself
– overcome your fears
– make an action plan
– take that first step (or keep going) towards your biggest, most passionate life!

Take a moment and share this Valentine with your friends on Facebook. Tweet it to your followers on Twitter with the hashtag #sharethelove. Then email me at defyingsmall@gmail.com to let me know you’ve done that. In mid-March, you’ll receive an email with a link to a free, downloadable PDF of my Defying Small Manifesto (before it’s available to the general public). It’s that simple!

Thank you for your support of Defying Small. And thanks for Sharing the Love!

2013-05-13_21-20-40_603

Surprised by Joy

product-hugerect-18019-2474-1331543304-7f599f8742baf89d493e5b321164a5f8_large

Joy is in the business of surprise.

I went through a very difficult parting of ways yesterday with the person, next to my children, I love most on earth. I’d seen it coming. And not coming. But it came nonetheless.

I went to bed feeling sad, angry, hurt. I woke up knowing it was for the best. An opportunity for discovery and growth, and perhaps, one day, a deeper, more lasting connection.

As I stepped outside this morning, I saw a robin. Spring, I thought. I looked up at the sky, pastel and full of promise. I heard birds chirping. Not the usual Muzak twittering, but a lilting prayer.

And then I felt it. Joy.

5705397960_65628d1826_zWhy is it that joy so often surprises us? I believe it’s because we walk around expecting bad things to happen. Things like break-ups, a cancer diagnosis, a hit-and-run. We expect to be blindsided at 4 pm on some idle Tuesday. And, often, we are.

But we don’t expect joy. It frightens us. We’re afraid it will sneak in the back door, give us a momentary glimpse into Glory, and then leave just as quickly as it came.

Boom.

And we just can’t afford to let that happen. Are you kidding? More pain? So we keep up our defenses. We guard against vulnerability. Vulnerability will chink our armor, and, if we’re not careful, leave an opening for joy to enter in.

Yep, you’d better watch out for joy. It’s sneaky. And terrifying.

In this interview with Oprah for Super Soul Sunday, Brené Brown talks about “foreboding joy” and why, she believes, it is the most frightening of all emotions:

So now I understand my “joy moment”. It broke in because:

I loved with my whole heart.

I am grateful, so grateful, for this person and all we have shared.

I confess it’s not easy to write about this very personal thing that happened yesterday. It’s not easy to write, period. It means being vulnerable and keeping a lookout. For joy.

Have you ever been surprised by joy? I hope you’ll share your story, below.

Presents? Or Presence?

IMG_2300

The Whitfields: Jimmy, Annie Laura, Horace, Laura, Lawrence

School is out, my girls are home, things have slowed down a bit, and my thoughts have turned to presence. That’s right. Presence, not presents. While everyone else is rushing from one thing to the next, I’m thinking about the importance of being present. Here. Now. I know, the holidays are upon us with all of their crazy scurrying about. But, perhaps, that is when we need to be present most of all.

I got an email on Friday that kicked me in the solar plexus. No need to elaborate, but it could have ruined my day. I was about to begin Morning Meeting with my kindergarteners and wondered just how I could do that with composure. I took a deep breath, lifted a Help! prayer (Anne Lamott-style), sat down in my teacher’s chair and began.

First, I took a moment to look at the faces staring back at me. I pondered what I loved about each face, each personality. I drank in the fact that they were sitting there, literally looking up to me, waiting for me to reveal some new truth or teach them some new thing. My thoughts drifted for a moment back to the email. “Be present,” I told myself. “Don’t go there.”

santa3And, so, I did. Stay present, that is.* And I began to read Santa’s Favorite Story. It’s the book I read at the birthday parties for Jesus we held in our home each December when my girls were young. The story goes like this: Some animals find Santa sleeping in the forest on Christmas Eve and are worried that there isn’t going to be any Christmas. Santa tells the animals that Christmas doesn’t have anything to do with him, and he tells them the story of the first Christmas. He finishes by saying, “It’s my favorite story because it reminds me why we are so happy at this time of year. Love was the gift God gave to us on the first Christmas, and it still is, you know. And this love is far better than any presents I can deliver.”

There’s a lesson or two (or three) here, people.

One: Being present means taking care of yourself. The Big Guy is taking a nap on Christmas Eve. It’s his busiest day of the year and he’s practicing radical self care. Whoa. When you’re overwhelmed, stop and listen to what your heart (and body) are telling you. Then do at least one thing to take care of yourself. It’s amazing how it will energize you for the tasks ahead.

IMG_2237

Our Christmas tree

Two: Being present means focusing on the people around you. As many of you know who follow me on Facebook and Twitter, I’m addicted to social media. I could spend hours tweeting and posting and forgetting about everything and everyone around me. But my three beautiful daughters are here for a brief visit this week and I’m aware that our time together is precious. So I close my computer, turn off the ringer on my phone, and sit down with them to watch “Elf.” In minutes, we are laughing and quoting lines and being present with each other. I look at them sitting on the sofa, heads in laps, all beauty and light, and I fall in love with them all over again. So love the one(s) you’re with. Which brings me to my third, and last, point.

jan48xmas_largeThree: Being present means opening your heart to loving and being loved. I know, we’re all in pain. Someone we love is sick or dying. We’ve been wounded by our parents or our spouse. Our children are ungrateful. We’re out of money, time and patience. We’re a mess, we’re feeling vulnerable, and to heck with everybody. “I’m not going to let one more person in just to let them hurt me,” we mutter to ourselves. And right there is the very reason we should. We need love and we need to practice love. It’s what we were created to do.

Oh, yeah. That photo at the top? That’s a picture of my family taken at Christmas when I was about three. Of the five of us, only my brother, Horace (left) and I are left. I miss Mama and Daddy and Lawrence, especially at Christmas. But missing them reminds me of who I do have in my life and how rich it is and how blessed I am. And that is being present. And it’s the best gift ever.

*  It turned out to be a great day.

North and South: Finding Your Way to Love

gg57130085

Today is the Day of Love. So whether you’ve discovered your true love or you’re still searching, there’s one sure way to find love on this special day. All it requires is finding your way to a great book—Elizabeth Gaskell’s mid-Victorian novel, North and South. You may just find, as I did, the character who becomes (dare I say it?) the compass of your soul. Your True North. For me, that character is John Thornton.

But before I begin waxing romantically about Mr. Thornton, let’s retrace our steps. North and South begins in an idyllic country village and ends in Milton, an industrial town in northern England. As in many great romantic novels, its two star-crossed lovers come from completely different worlds.

victorians041-wl

John Thornton, heir to a cotton mill, moves in a world of money and machinery: The North.

Margaret Hale, an educated and privileged parson’s daughter, hails from a world that is gracious and genteel: The South.

Cornwall, Helston, Looe Pool

When Margaret’s family moves from their comfortable country parish to begin a new life in Milton, the trouble begins. Margaret’s father takes on students, the first of whom is John Thornton.

John finds Margaret alluring, yet naive and evasive; Margaret finds John dashing, yet unfeeling and aloof. A romance between the two seems impossible. Can they break through the social barriers that forbid a union? Will Mr. Thornton’s pride and Margaret’s prejudice (hmm) forever keep them apart?

This meticulously written novel, first serialized in 1855 in Dicken’s Household Words, is a must-read for anyone looking for romance on a grand scale.

But wait, there’s more.

In 2004, the BBC adapted Gaskell’s novel into a movie starring Hobbit heartthrob Richard Armitage and Daniela Denby-Ashe.

Why my obsession with John Thornton? Perhaps it was his brooding, Darcy-esque passion that won my heart.

“Yes! He knew how she would love. He had not loved her without gaining that instinctive knowledge of what capabilities were in her. Her soul would walk in glorious sunlight if any man was worthy, by his power of loving, to win back her love.”

Sigh.

Let’s face it. We could all use a little romance in our lives. So whether you’ve found your True North, or are still finding your way, North and South is a read guaranteed to point the way to love.

Click below to read the other posts in Terri Guiliano Long’s Valentine’s Day Blog Hop 2013!

The end of the world. Or, it’s all about faith, hope, and love.

tumblr_mdpbztHV9O1qlwab7o1_500

Well, December 21, 2012, has come and gone, and we’re still here. Honestly, Doomsday pretty much escaped my notice, except for the ground swell of sarcastic posts and tweets on Facebook and Twitter.

No, the world as we know it didn’t end yesterday. At least for most of us.

But somewhere on this apocalyptic-free planet, I assure you, it did. Like in Newtown, Connecticut, where loved ones laid their wife/mother/girlfriend/son/daughter (five in all) to rest.

When the world ends, it usually doesn’t explode in a fiery inferno. Instead, life as we know it simply is no more. It either tumbles down around us. Or quietly slips away.

Over the years I have often quoted the following line from Mary Schmich’s famous “Sunscreen” column in the Chicago Tribune: The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday. Or, for the citizens of Newtown, at 9:30 am on some idle Friday.

Eric Thayer/Reuters

Eric Thayer/Reuters

I teach kindergarten, and Monday was the second hardest day of my thirteen-year career. 9/11 was the first. And that includes the day I got the call from my doctor telling me I had Stage I breast cancer.

Every single one of us—to one degree or another—has been there. You know, on the receiving end of “the news” that changes your life forever.

What do we do with that certainty of uncertainty? Live in gripping fear just waiting for our world to implode? Or cling tenaciously to the only things that will help us survive the fallout? Faith. Hope. Love.

Faith. It was faith that helped a teen-aged virgin believe an angel’s message that she would conceive a son out of wedlock. In one of my favorite children’s Bibles it says, “So Mary trusted God more than what her eyes could see.” Believing beyond what we can see when our grief and pain make it impossible. Believing that there really is something more.

Which leads to hope. But how can you hope when all hope is gone? Often, when we lose something or someone, we also lose hope—the hope inherent in that person or thing. Things like love, security, a future. For me, faith (and specifically my faith in Christ) is the key to hope. I have this hope “as an anchor for my soul, firm and secure.” ~Hebrews 6:19. It’s what keeps me from being tossed about when storms rage.

Finally, love. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. ~John 15:13. Rachel D’Avino. Dawn Hochsprung. Anne Marie Murphy. Lauren Rousseau. Mary Sherlach. Victoria Soto. Jesse Lewis. These, and nameless others, were the heroes of Sandy Hook. It will be their final acts of love and courage that live on and bring hope to those who remember them.

In memory, 26 balloons

So, this started out being a post about the thwarted Apocalypse and ended up being my way of processing what happened last Friday in Newtown.

Because I teach 6-year-olds, my first day back at school was especially hard. Making it through that day was a matter of putting one foot in front of the other. And I did so, recalling these words from President Obama’s speech given at an interfaith prayer vigil on Sunday:

There’s only one thing we can be sure of, and that is the love that we have—for our children, for our families, for each other. The warmth of a small child’s embrace—that is true. The memories we have of them, the joy that they bring, the wonder we see through their eyes, that fierce and boundless love we feel for them, a love that takes us out of ourselves, and binds us to something larger—we know that’s what matters. We know we’re always doing right when we’re taking care of them, when we’re teaching them well, when we’re showing acts of kindness. We don’t go wrong when we do that.

And so I kept going that day, as we’ll all keep going. Clinging to what is true, doing what matters. Faith. Hope. Love. But the greatest of these is love.

Becoming grace

God's grace is becoming

Year of All Years

A process for your best year yet.

6 Months to Live: The Experiment Continues

Life is waiting. Will you join me?