All posts by april

The Perfect Gift

We are bombarded by advertisements, displays, salespeople, and online ads of ‘the perfect gift.’

It’s all a bit much, isn’t it?

Or do you love the hustle and bustle of the season? Worrying what to get and how you’re going to find the time to even get it?

Do you love the sleepless nights filled with dreams of recipes that fail, presents that are returned, and family that doesn’t make it home for the holiday?

Do we lose something, in this commercialized version of Christmas, or do we gain what we wait for all year, to be with our families, months of planning, all over in hours of endless preparations and a few minute meal.

Is this, what Christmas was meant to be? Is this, what Christmas felt like when you were a child? Is it filled with excitement and wonder and magic and awe of the beauty that surrounds you in the lights and the giant trees, and the bigger than life presents that Santa brought for you? Is this, what Christmas still feels like to you, today?

Or can we agree, maybe, that as we’ve grown older, our families bigger, and our hearts maybe a tiny bit smaller, (I mean, how often do you really see the neighbors anyway, they don’t need a gift from you)…can we agree that maybe, as the old saying goes, “Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

Perhaps, the Grinch was on to something.

I’ve always been in awe of the true meaning of Christmas. Whatever your belief may be, Christmas is filled with hope and majestic wonder. Just look into the eyes of a child, or a loved one. I dare you not to smile.

Joy. Laughter. Love. Excitement. Extravagance. Tradition. Closeness. Giving.

Just a few of the words that describe Christmas for me.

But if I’m honest, I’ve lost some of the magic, too.

It’s easy to do. I think that in our fast paced, need it now, have to get the best of the best, world, we forget that the true meaning of Christmas is love. That the true spirit of Christmas is in giving, but not just giving because we have to for the many reasons that we’ve been lead to believe, but giving because it comes from our heart. Giving that means something to us, from deep within us, because it gives us joy.

Stressing over what to get everyone and spending more money than we have does not bring us joy, let’s be real here.

Joy is in the little moments of putting up the tree with our family, baking with the kids, getting that gift off the top of our niece’s or nephew’s Christmas list because we can afford it, and we know how happy they will be playing with that toy, with us. It is in the moments of, regardless of a Christmas tree with presents under it, or food on the table, we are surrounded by people who love us, exactly as we are.

Christmas is a time of togetherness.

This looks different for everyone. This could look like family and friends or neighbors and community. It could look like many presents and a table full of food or no presents and an empty belly. Or any combination of these.

There is one ingredient that can’t be taken away, despite our outside circumstances, and that ingredient is love.

We all have it, and we can all give it. We all want it and we can certainly all use it.

It might take a little humility and vulnerability, I know. It might take biting your tongue, and loving them anyway, despite what they’ve done. It might take a phone call that you’ve not made in a long time or a visit you’ve been dreading all year.

But if we can try to remember, even if just for a moment, that the perfect gift is love. That the reason for the season is hope. For a better tomorrow, for a better me, and a better you. For a better world, one that remembers love.

If we can try to all be gracious givers this holiday season. To only give what we have, with love and joy. To be peaceful and patient, with kindness that comes from a heart filled with love.

Love doesn’t look like what we bring, it looks like showing up for someone. Our families, friends, and perfect strangers.

The things just simply don’t matter when you are surrounded by people you love, or at least like, somewhat. Try to like them a little more this year.

May the true joy of Christmas surround you this holiday season ❤️

There is something that has challenged me these past couple of years. I like to give, to family and friends, but sometimes I look around and I see that my family and friends are quite blessed. So, I look for ways to give outside of the usual presents, sometimes at the expense of gifts for friends and family, and sometimes extra, depending on my own financial circumstance.

I’ve challenged myself, and I’d like to challenge you, as well.

There are many organizations in our region. The YWCA is of course one of them. These organizations need items on an ongoing basis. I know this can look like a lot of work and maybe even complicated, I know it did for me at first. Even overwhelming. But over time I’ve learned a thing or two.

Poverty has many faces in our region. Causes are no longer just national organizations that we click a button on the webpage and donate our annual allotment of donation money, though this is of course a great way to give back. When we look around our cities, we see the faces of people that have come upon hard times. I know that you see them.

But if you’re like me, you might like to know that you’re truly making a difference, and may have no idea who to give to.

Can I challenge you to make it meaningful? To you, and maybe even your family?

We can give to an organization or organizations that mean something to us, whether past or present.

For example, though I’ve never used the services of the YWCA, it has meaning to me because there are many times that I have been in a place where I’ve thought of an emergency shelter as an option. To give back one year, I learned that they have a list of needs on their website and I donated formula and diapers. I had no idea this was an item that was needed. I didn’t think about it simply because I don’t have children.

I was challenged once to put one thing that I didn’t need in a box each day for 30 days. I can’t even tell you how much joy it gave me to bring a box of items that I loved, but really didn’t need, to a local thrift shop. Thrift shops give back in big and meaningful ways to the community, and the world. They even gave me a gift in return, a punch card with a discount for the next time I shopped there. I craft, thrift stores are gold mines for items to craft with.

When I was in high school, our grade 9 French class decided to give a family Christmas. This meant buying all the gifts and food for the family’s Christmas. There are a few organizations that do this. I will never forget this experience.

There are many people in need of winter items, hats, scarves, mittens, that you can buy at the dollar store, or donate from home, as well as gently used coats and boots. This is a great way to teach kids to give.

I have been blessed to be a part of a motel ministry that provides food, clothing, and support to those living in the many residential motels in our region. I had no idea that many of our motels are no longer for tourists. The people who live there need everything. Stop by, take a look.

Books can be donated to many organizations, if you happen to like to read, and wanted to pick up a few extra for someone else.

And of course, there are the beautiful red kettles, of an organization that works tirelessly to combat many things, but hunger certainly being an important one of them.

The more I learn about what the organizations in our region do on a daily basis, the more inspired I am to give, based on what has direct meaning to me, or what might be an immediate need in our region right now, such as shelter and a warm meal during the cold months.

If you can’t give money, give time, and vice versa. Be creative. There is something that you have that someone else needs, whether it is time, talent, or treasure.

There are people in need all around us.

Have a wonderfully blessed holiday season.

Celebrate Men

International Men's Day (IMD) was on November 19th this year. "Objectives of International Men's Day include a focus on men's and boy's health, improving gender relations, promoting gender equality, and highlighting positive male role models. It is an occasion for men to celebrate their achievements and contributions, in particular their contributions to community, family, marriage, and child care while highlighting the discrimination against them." IMD recognizes the importance of men's mental health, addressing the suicide rate of men, and speaking to the crucial discussion of men's homelessness and poverty. The YW operates a 15-bed Men's Emergency Shelter for men and their children. We think it is important to celebrate them and their successes as well.

By: April

What if the very things that we dislike about men, are the very things that make them men?

Men fix things, or try to, even when we don’t ask.

Men step up and are good at things like being a dad when we ask, though often we don’t have to.

Men are logical sometimes before they are emotional, which makes them good at solving immediate problems, turning off their emotion for a time and having emotion later. Whether this is good or bad, right or wrong, they do it and they are good at it.

Sometimes they suffer for it. Sometimes they lose their life over it. Sometimes they become heroes because of it.

This month we look at Movember, which brings awareness to health issues specific to men. We look at International Men’s Day, the theme being Celebrate Men.

I have thought a lot about what to write. I even asked Facebook.

I had different ideas, thoughts about many things, but one thing stuck.

Men are beautiful.

Men are beautiful, and this is the absolute last thing they want to hear.

They are a kind of beauty that we forget about.

They are strong, but when they are weak and vulnerable, it brings tears to our eyes.

They are told their whole lives. Be strong. Toughen up. Get it done. Well.

As women, we expect men to be strong, because who doesn’t want a man with muscle that can make us feel protected, but then we want men to be loving and caring, at the very same time that we call their emotions, weakness.

If there was one thing that we could do this month, I think it would be this.

To the beautiful men of this world, you don’t have to be strong. Be weak, we understand.

Tell us your logical reasons and your illogical emotions, maybe we have some insight.

You don’t have to be afraid of how you feel, or what the outcome of your emotions might be, we love emotions.

We are sorry that we forget that you are human, not superhuman. But you’re still allowed to be our Superman, sometimes.

We love you, just as you are, beautiful and strong, all at once.

You are just as necessary to everything in this world; love, family..and we are sorry that we make you feel that everything you’ve been taught from the beginning, that you must provide for your family, is the very thing we shame you for the minute you come home.

In honor of men this month and every month, may we look to you for your knowledge, wisdom, strength; and may we recognize that love and care looks different to men than women.

May we seek to understand the things that the men in our lives do for us each day instead of wondering why they don’t do it the way we want them to.

May we recognize their heart, that their kindness often looks like doing things for us, when all we want is a hug. Or someone to listen.

May we honor their effort, may we acknowledge that maybe sometimes they need us to do things for them to.

May we recognize their emotions not as weakness but as beautiful strength.

May we be gentle in telling them what we need from them, knowing what we know now.

May we thank them for everything that they are, today, tomorrow, and always.

May we recognize that it takes both men and women, exactly as they are, growing each day, to make the world better.

 

Love Others As We Love Ourselves

This is really quite hard.

For example, an analogy was spoken to me earlier today. If I have a nice comfortable bed to sleep on, but I know someone who doesn’t, then the ultimate “love others as yourself” would be that I buy them a nice comfortable bed to sleep on.

Out of my abundance, my love pours onto others. This love can look like money, possessions, a kind word, a smile, a hug, or simply, love. Just a thought that I love the person standing in front of me.

But when I’m not able to love someone as myself, when I’m not in an abundance, or a place to be generous, what happens?

When I decide to take care of myself, what does this mean, for myself, and for others?

Self-care for me personally, looks like quiet time. It is me, in my room, with the door closed, listening to music, reading, thinking, pondering, wondering, processing. This can look very different to each of us.

You can go to a spa, to the movies, for a manicure. Treat yourself. You can close your door, turn off your phone, close your eyes. Still yourself. You can take a nap, go for a walk, sit in nature. Calm yourself. You can run, lift weights, eat. Power yourself.

How you take care of yourself can be very different to how someone else might take care of themselves.

There is one thing, though, that I believe is certain about self-care. It is short lived, and it is needed more often, the more we keep neglecting our needs.

As a person who gives an extensive amount of time and other resources, I often find I run on empty. I need to refuel, refill, and re-energize, daily. Often more than once a day.

The demands that are placed on us are far too often more than the resources we have to give. But our relationships are far too valuable.

So where is the balance between self-care and caring for others?

We each have a rhythm. My rhythm is a lot of quiet time, a lot of time reflecting and learning, a lot of time growing. When these things fill me up, when I’ve read enough, sang enough, thought, pondered, and wondered enough, I get to be joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, loving, good, gentle, faithful to my friends and family and most importantly, in control.

I’m not tired, worn out, too busy, overwhelmed, bombarded, needing someone to take care of me first.

I’m full. The rhythm of my heart is just as it should be. I have an abundance of all things good and that love, and everything else that goes along with it, can pour out all over others. My needs are taken care of. First.

I am no good in taking care of another, until my needs are met, first. This can take some time, trial and error to learn. But it is worth the struggle. Once you find your pace, your life will change.

Your relationships will be more fulfilling. The amount of people you take care of will be greater and but the work will be lighter. You will be filled with so much love that you can share it all around you, all of the time.

You are loved. You are worthy. You are a beautiful woman that gives so much. Take care of what you need so that those who need you, can be taken care of, all around you.

Eyes of Love

What if we looked at others through eyes that could only see the good in them? What would our world be like? What would our daily life be like? Could the way we see others influence our every interaction?

At first I was afraid. When I would see someone who looked a little different than me, I would start to notice their imperfections, I would look at their facial deformities or their lack of responsiveness and awareness and I would, for a brief moment, feel bad for them. I would look at people with missing limbs or bones and feel sorry for them. I would look at someone who had no “quality of life” and wonder, is this kind of life really worth living?

It didn’t take long, though, for me to realize that this fear was something very deeply rooted in me that was very wrong. This fear, was more that I was shy and I didn’t always know what to say. It was more an ugly part of myself that thought beauty and the quality of the life we live was based on how we look and how close to perfect we are.

It is these very people that I looked at, and learned how to interact with, that taught me some of the most valuable lessons of my life. The most important parts of my personality. The best qualities of myself that I could ever hope for. It is the people that I was able to support that showed me what compassion looks like. Showed me what love looks like. Showed me what acceptance is. Showed me, a girl who thought she was kind, gentle, patient…what kindness, gentleness, and patience actually is.

It is the very people that I looked at and felt sorry for that opened my heart to the idea that I was very blessed to have the opportunity to even communicate with the people that I supported. That I was so very fortunate to be a part of their lives, a part of their care, a part of their success, their failure, their joy, and their sadness. I didn’t include them, they included me.

They included me in ways that I could not have ever asked for. I’ve looked into the eyes of people and I have sometimes thought, is what I’m doing even worth it? Do they even know that I’m here? Who I am? They can’t communicate with me, they barely even look in my direction, what could I possibly be doing to benefit them? To make their quality of life better?

It turns out that they were making my quality of life better. With one smile, with one laugh, with one gentle touch of the hand, with one brief second of eye contact; to remind me that, they are here, they are human, they are a valuable life. It may seem like they have limited functional abilities, but they see you, and they know that you care for them.

They know that you include them. They know that their life matters to you. They know that you will not be another person who looks at them and doesn’t see them. Who looks at them and doesn’t know how to communicate or interact with them. They know that you will try and fail at being good at this and they will appreciate when you finally let go of your own insecurities and just see them for who they are. A beautiful creation worthy of love and belonging. A beautiful soul within a body that was made to look different, but perfect just the same.

They will know that you see them through eyes of love for all people. How beautiful it is to connect and relate to a person despite our differences. The greatest feeling I’ve experienced might just be this. A heart filled with joy, certain, that it has deeply connected with another heart, through eyes of love.