Love: Want An(other) Extraordinary One?

There is Hope

After a long, cold winter and now an equally long, rainy spring, I am ready for some warm weather and this weekend has not disappointed. It is hot! Summertime hot! Warm weather often turns people’s hearts towards love, especially those currently without a romantic relationship in their lives. Having a great relationship often tops many people’s lists for creating a life they love.

A Picture of Black Couple Embracing

However, past experiences have many of those same people questioning the likelihood of experiencing a great love. So, today, I am starting a new series on relationships beginning with a post on hope of a great love, even another great love. This series consists of reposts from our newsletter A Stitch in Time. I hope you enjoy it whether reading for the first time or second!

For Those Looking for Love:

“What you said gave me hope,” Tara said. She was in the audience the night before when Reggie and I had shared about handling baggage before and during a relationship. Her comment took me back. 

Rise Above: Changing Your Thinking

Three Tools for Taking Your Self-Talk to A New Level

A teenager in my life had a tendency to tear people down after a conflict with them. Their words hurt, so this teenager would respond in kind, and criticize and/or belittle these people in an effort to make them appear less and him more. In an effort to discourage his behavior, I inquired, “Wouldn’t it be better to rise above than tear down?” I believed rising above would help his self-image and self-talk (thinking) so much more.

Image of a black man with a mini man talking to him

Let me explain. If the teenager and the other person were both on a scale of 1-10 and the other person was above the teenager, pulling the other person down only changed the other person’s location on the scale. It did not change the teenager’s. He was still in the same place. In other words, instead of trying to change the other person (which you don’t really have the power to do), why not focus on the one person you can change—yourself? And not just with words, change yourself by changing your thinking.

Many people, myself included, fall prey to talking rather than doing because talking is easier. Like water, we follow the path of least resistance. Unfortunately, the path of least resistance rarely creates a life we love. To do that, we are going to have to work beginning with working on ourselves.

Are You Resisting a Rest?

Two Reasons You Might not Cooperate with Winter

Do you deserve a break today? Or more importantly, do you (your body and/or your mind) need a rest? When I say rest, I am talking about more than just a good night’s sleep. Sometimes, we just need more. I suspect that if you struggle to get a good night’s sleep every night, that you may just need more rest in general too. If so, you may be in what I like to call winter, a season of rest.

A Polar Bear's Winter Rest

I like to call this season winter, because just like our daily sleep/wake cycle, we (our bodies and/or our minds) are wired for cycles of activity and rest. These cycles resemble the seasons in nature (winter, spring, summer, and fall). I believe that if we follow these seasons in our lives, we will be more productive in each season, and more productivity means that ultimately we will reap a greater harvest.

More Reasons for Getting a Good Night’s Sleep

It May Cost You More Than You Know

“The single most important behavioral experience that we have” is an s-word. No, it is not (gasp!) sex. It is sleep. That is, according to Russell Foster, an Oxford professor of circadian neuroscience. And most of us (I fall into that category) don’t get enough. Ironically, getting a good night’s sleep was at the top of my list of things to incorporate into the new vision I have for my life.

Black Woman Asleep in Bed

I actually added getting a good night’s sleep to my personal vision statement this past fall, but in my drive to get my blog up and running, care for my mother, and the demands of my day job, sleep somehow took a back seat. However, after listening to some TED Talks on the subject, including one by Foster and another by Jeff Iliff. I am more determined than ever to make sleep a priority. The costs are just too high and the benefits just too good.

Stumbling Due Your Personal Vision?

Here are Two Strategies for Creating One

Happy New Year! Last week, my friend Joe shared about using what God gives us to create God-honoring designs. Does the prospect of creating God-honoring designs feel overwhelming? Are you stumbling around trying to create one? Maybe you need to have your vision checked. Your personal vision, that is.

Stumbling Due to Lack of Personal Vision?

Why? Well, Isaiah 29:18a (CEB) says, “When there’s no vision, the people get out of control.” The Message Bible translates “the people get out of control” to mean “they stumble all over themselves.” Basically, when you can’t see where you are going, you will go anywhere and do anything.

Remembering Loved Ones During the Holidays

Four Way to Honor Those You've Lost

Remembering loved ones is another way of coping with grief during the holidays. By remembering your loved one, I mean intentionally including your loved ones in a holiday ritual or tradition.

Woman alone remembering loved one

Reggie’s death from a heart attack came out of nowhere. It was our custom to speak each day around mid morning. The day Reggie died was no exception. Reggie called me around 11 am. It was one of the ways we stayed connected in our marriage.

At that time, Reggie and I were both part of our church’s youth ministry, Merge. Before our call, Reggie emailed several of our co-laborers in the ministry. These emails were full of Reggie’s warm-hearted, good-natured jovialness. I remember joking with him about them.

“You have been busy on email this morning”, I said.

“Uh-huh”, Reggie replied.

“What am I going to do with you?” I joked.

“Nothing. It’s too late. You’re stuck with me now—‘til death do us part.” The word stuck implied that we had many years ahead. Neither Reggie nor I planned on leaving the other anytime soon. Little did we know that less than two hours later, Reggie would be gone.

Needless to say, I wasn’t ready for Reggie to leave, let alone spend a holiday without him. And I didn’t have to not completely. I could still include Reggie’s memory in the festivities, even if I wouldn’t have his physical presence. Remembering Reggie was my way of honoring his memory.

Four Ways of Remembering Loved Ones During the Holidays

  1. Reminisce – Reggie wasn’t the first loved one I made a point of remembering during the holidays. My father has that honor. Daddy died six years and a day before Reggie. Reggie never met my father, but Reggie told me he felt like he knew Daddy because of how my family talked about him during the holidays.

This started quite organically. We didn’t have a family meeting. No one spearheaded a conversation about how to include Daddy in the festivities. It all started naturally with someone reminiscing about Daddy. I don’t remember whom. It may have been me. That first memory sparked another in someone else and then another. Next thing we knew, we were laughing and smiling as we  told stories about Daddy.

Though it was unplanned, it turned out to be one of the best ways we could honor Daddy. Those stories brought him alive and Daddy joined us for a few moments that Christmas. It was wonderful, so much so that we continue to do it each year.

Whether you do it informally or formally, reminiscing about your loved one and sharing memories about them is a beautiful way to include them in your holiday celebrations.

  1. Display Meaningful Items – This is how I remember my children who I have yet to meet because I miscarried them before they were born. I bought ornaments for them. I have never hung them on a tree, but I do take them out each year and take a moment to remember them, grieve another Christmas spent apart, think about them spending Christmas with their father and grandfather in Heaven, and dream about the holidays and time we will spend together when I finally join them in Heaven.

Ornaments are but one way to include meaningful items. There are others, as many as there are meaningful things. You also can include a meaningful item by wearing something that belonged to your loved one or that reminds you of him/her. Include what is meaningful to you.

  1. View Photos/Videos – Ours is the most documented generation in history. By documented, I mean there are more photographs and videos of us than any other generation before us. Not only do we have the technology by way of digital cameras for taking stills and videos, but also social media has provided a mechanism for organizing and viewing them. Many people post a picture of their loved ones using social media on holidays. My niece and nephews have done this with both my father/their grandfather and my husband/their uncle.

Another option with photos is to set up a photo table. A photo table is an assortment of framed photographs of your loved one(s) arranged on a table. The photos typically fill the table. With this option, the photos are out on display. If the loss is fresh, you may opt to put out a photo album. That way, the photos are available if someone wants to look through them, but leaves them the choice.

  1. Include His/Her Favorites – A way that I learned about preparing for this blog is to include your loved one’s favorites. You can include a favorite food at dinner, play some of his/her favorite music in the background during the festivities, or watch a favorite holiday movie or TV show.

Last week, I mentioned doing something new as a way of coping with the loss of a loved one. I think this is one I will try this year. Reggie loved my caramel carrot cake. I would make it during the holidays for him. I haven’t made one since he died, but I think it would be a great way to include him this year.

These are just a few ways of remembering your loved ones during the holidays that have worked for me. Maybe they will get your creative juices going and you will come up with some of your own. If so, please share. Your idea may bless someone else.

Until next time,
Dawn

 

Questions: How are you remembering your loved ones during the holidays this year? Please respond by clicking on the Comment, Facebook, Twitter, and/or Pinterest buttons below.

Coping with Grief During the Holidays

This past week, a widowed friend checked up on me to see how I was coping during the holidays. Thankfully, I was able to report that I am doing well. My friend’s question made me evaluate my feelings deeper. Part of that was looking at why I did so well. What I found was that this blog has played a large part in my feeling better.

Coping with Grief During the Holidays

If you have read any of my blog posts, you know I still think about Reggie a lot. The difference this blog made is that more and more my thoughts about him come from the perspective of what have I learned from this experience and how can I use that to help others. This change in perspective is a much happier experience for me than focusing on my loss and pain. That is what today’s blog post is about—coping, so you have a better holiday than you would otherwise.

An “Unexpected” Source of Help

The Women Who Helped Me The Most

Right after my husband Reggie passed, several widows in my church approached me to express their condolences. They shared their stories, and often their pain, in an effort to connect and show me that I was not alone. I appreciated the love they expressed in their efforts to comfort me. I know they were trying to help. Truth be told though, I wasn’t ready.

Women walking together, helping each other through life

Reggie died so suddenly that I wasn’t ready for the W-word (widow), at least not in association with me. Everything in my psyche screamed it was too soon. Reggie and I married just two years earlier. We were in baby mode—trying to conceive. My focus was on wife and mother. Wife was the W-word that I wanted to embrace. Widow just did not compute.

Consequently, as much as I appreciated their hearts, it didn’t help. I did not find solace or comfort in their words. Instead, the women who helped me most after Reggie died were a group with whom I shared a different tragedy. As I mentioned above, Reggie and I were in baby mode, trying to add to our happy family. Unfortunately, six months after our first anniversary, tragedy stuck in the form of our first miscarriage. 

Want An(other) Extraordinary Life?

There is STILL Hope

The topic of the very first A Stitch in Time newsletter I wrote was hope, hope of a great love. Reggie and I were 43-year-old newlyweds. I mention that we were 43 because we didn’t come by our love early in life. We stumbled first, each in our own way, before finding each other. I wrote about hope because I wanted to encourage other people who had stumbled, not just once, but multiple times like me, to not give up. There was hope. Reggie and I were living breathing proof.

Good Things Are Going to Happen

My dream of a great marriage came true. In fact, God gave me exceedingly abundantly above what I asked or thought. I had an extraordinary love. Buoyed by the hope of that love, we began to build an extraordinary life. Nine months into our marriage, we founded our ministry, A Cord of Blue. A year into our marriage, we began trying to conceive. We wanted to add an addition to our happy family. 

What a Difference A Change in Perspective Makes

Finding Hope and Healing Through Letter Writing

This is a guest post by a mentee of mine, M.C.P., who is a breast cancer survivor. She lives outside of Washington, DC.

In August 2012, at the age of 32, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Many feelings overwhelmed me as I went through this major “disruption” to my life.

Handwritten letter in an envelope with a red lipstick kiss

I thought to myself, “I’ve been seeking and serving you Lord, not perfectly, but with a heart intended to please you…did I do something wrong? Am I being punished? It feels like a punishment. I’m not married, nor do I have any children yet. You know these are some of the things I desire most. Now, my body is disfigured. Will any man want me? Will I be able to have children? What about the future? Do you love me?”

After several months of chemotherapy, a mastectomy and radiation, I decided to see a Christian counselor to help me deal with the emotional issues that developed as I went through this experience.