What do you see?

It must be Mondays. Or maybe it’s because of the extra advertising for the holiday season. Whatever the cause, I’ve been struck today by the number of social media posts I’ve seen that address self-image.

Beloved friends bemoaning their appearance. Reminders that grit and balance and kindness are more important than outer beauty. Ads with sparkly models on the side. Scrolling through the feeds, I know I’m not alone in seeing the trends.

We are beginning the season of darkness outside, contemplation inside, and attempts at shining light into the world. Darkness has a way of making us feel alone. Contemplation can reveal parts of ourselves we’d rather not face. The odd thing about shining light into the universe is that it is terribly difficult to see the impact we make adding our candles to the starlight. It can overwhelm even the strongest among us.

There can also be comfort in the cozy winter darkness. We can make friends with the person we find in the mirror. It is our choice to continue holding our candle high.

hands-1926414_1280

There is a real struggle, I don’t want to minimize what it takes to follow through with rewriting our narratives. Some face not only the common struggle, but intense depressive episodes and anxiety related to the dark. These friends rely on those of us who are able to light our lights to lend a shoulder or ear. We must first shore up our reserves.

Here are some practical steps toward lighting your own darkness:

  1. Engage your spiritual practice. If you attend worship, go fully prepared to enter in to the service and participate with your whole heart.
  2. Connect to your body. This is a time where temptation to excess abounds. Make a plan and stick to it regarding how you will feed and care for your body. Eat real food. Move and stretch. Get enough sleep.
  3. Program in time for reflection. Whether it’s 5 minutes or 30, simply quieting your mind and processing your day go a long way toward peace of mind.
  4. Make a small change. Most of us know at least one thing that we can do to improve our daily lives. Maybe it’s cleaning that shelf or closet or room that’s been nagging you at the back of your mind. Maybe it’s making that phone call or returning that email that brings on heart palpitations. Maybe it’s deleting that phone number from your contacts that always catches you unaware as you are looking up a friend.
  5. Give yourself a break. Chances are you are doing better than you think. Find time to celebrate whatever progress you’ve made this year. What did you accomplish? Even small things like sticking it out in tough situations count in our list of victories.

candle-2738532_1920

More than anything, I hope you can know more fully and deeply today that you are beloved. Your existence matters. Care for the gifts you’ve been given and use them to bless others. The light you shine banishes the darkness.

A blast of hope and love, like the crisp winter air.
How ReFreshing

A Prayer for the Season:

God who fill the whole universe,
You bring light and love with your presence in our lives. May we know that you are near. Give us the ability to see you at work in the world around us. Grant us the will to join you in restoring peace.
Amen.

Advertisements

7 Questions to Help YOU be your own best advocate!

If you are like me, it can be hard to know what to say when your doctor or other professional asks if you have any questions. The truth is we often don’t understand enough about what is happening to know what to ask. That is why we are talking to a professional! Here are some questions to help you learn the things you need to know in order to make the best choices for you.

7. Ask for more information–“What else can you tell me about this procedure?”
Sometimes when talking with an expert, they may assume we know what they know about their field of expertise.

6. Ask for more time–“When do I need to make a decision about this?”
Not all decisions have to be made right now, or even today, or this week. Find out your time frame and ask when you need to decide.

5. Ask for clarification of jargon–“You used a word just then I am not sure I understand, can you explain it to me in plain English?”
Related to #7, you and I may not understand the words those experts are using.

4. Ask for a second opinion–“I want to make sure I get more than one perspective on this, who do you recommend for a second opinion?”
If you don’t think what they are describing applies to you, or if you feel that the person you are consulting is not relating well to you, go see someone else. You are the consumer, you are paying for a service. Don’t feel bad about getting a second opinion.

3. Ask about alternatives–“What other treatments are available? Is there something else we haven’t tried?”
Maybe there is a treatment, or a process that is unavoidable for your situation. Ask about alternative ways to gain the same benefit.

2. Ask about risks–“What are the possible side-effects?”
Often, all we hear are the benefits. Don’t forget to ask about the risks in the short term and the long term.

1. Ask why–“What specifically are you hoping to achieve with this therapy?”
Especially when pressed to make a decision quickly, ask why this is the best option for you and your situation. Maybe it is, but maybe it is more beneficial or convenient for the professional.

Don’t say yes unless you feel it’s best!