Jean Anne Costa
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Christmas Miracles

Affirmation: I possess the Christmas spirit all year long.  
Miracle on 34th Street was released in May of 1947.  It originally had the word Christmas in the title but because of the release date it was removed.  How do I know this?  My husband, Sandy and I went to visit his mom, Yolanda, this last weekend.  She lives in Savannah, GA and they were having a fund raiser at the local original Savannah theatre showing Miracle on 34th Street.  We had all seen it many times and we knew it was delightful but we went simply to share the afternoon together and to support the Humans Society.  Once again, I was wrong!  Watching this classic, corny movie in the midst of a crowded theatre was a remarkably different experience than watching it at home alone or in a small group.  We laughed, sighed, applauded and shared all the clever and tender moments that has kept this film so meaningful.  
It’s definitely a secular film.  There is no mention of a God or Christ, other than in the frequently used word “Christmas” but what I consider to be the spirit of Christmas permeates every scene.  Kris Kringle, The real Santa Claus only cares about making others feel valued, loved and important.  It’s not about the physical gifts he’s been told to promote, it’s what they represent to the child or adult that is asking for them.  He brings people together for their betterment and the betterment of all.  He spreads his charm and good will like a net over everyone with whom he comes into contact.  He converts the unbelieving, skeptical Maureen O’Hara and her disenchanted child, Natalie Wood into people with imagination and faith.  He even converts the USPS.  
I saw a cartoon this second week of December, 2014 in the USA Today where two children were standing in front of Santa and asking for world peace and good will towards men.  He asked them if they’d consider an Xbox instead.  The news this week was so sad and tragic that I couldn’t listen.  It only took a glance at the headlines to see the horror that we are perpetuating on our fellow human being.  Has the devil won?  Has “Satan” truly become the ruler of this world?  It would be so easy to believe we are at the end of times but it is Christmas.  It’s a time to promote hope, peace and love for everyone whether one is or is not labeled “Christian.”  We know what He came to do.  He came to show the world that we were put here to love and to serve and that I believe, is the one true truth.  He was here to raise our level of awareness to a higher purpose.  He wasn’t concerned with the rules and regulations.  He was only concerned with the person and their well-being.  He was here to bring comfort to those who most needed it and to make uncomfortable those who are able to be of comfort.
I know there are many believers who believe theirs is the only way.  There’s the joke about the Catholic, Baptists, Mormon, you choose, who arrive in heaven and ask St. Peter why he whispers every time he gets close to this huge wall that is there.  Why is there a wall at all?  He tells them that the Catholics, Baptists, Mormons, you choose, are on the other side of the wall and “they believe they are the only ones up here.”  Oh, to be so sure.  To know that because you are right, you are saved and the rest of the world is damned and how truly sad.  I read a wonderful quote recently, “You can be right or you can love.”   
One of my greatest strengths is my gift of perseverance.  I believe it’s the reason I have accomplished most things in my life.  I truly believe if I simply “hang in there” I will learn or finish whatever it is I’m working upon.  The other side of perseverance is stubbornness and I am as guilty of that as I am proud of my determination.  Just ask my hubby.  This summer, for example, I wanted to walk a new path around Bass Lake in the NC mountains.  We headed out and after an hour we hadn’t reached the lake yet.  Sandy reasonably wanted to turn around.  Turn around!  I couldn’t even imagine it.  We hadn’t even seen the lake yet.  Finally, a few minutes later we arrived.  I knew we were close.  I was right!  Now he reasonably wanted to go back the way we had come.  Go back the same way!  No no no!  We needed to follow the path and head up the other way.  I had been told it was the same distance.  I knew I was right!  He agreed and we got lost and four hours later, we finally found our way to our starting point.  

Sandy not only didn’t leave me, he barely scolded me.  He lives a life of love, not right.  It wasn’t the first time he’s had to put up with my set thinking and I am here to confess he is not the only person in my life with whom I’ve exhibited this trait.  It’s one of those personality shadows that interferes with the quality of my relationships and which I have only recently begun to understand.  Perhaps, this is why I’ve been granted these sixty eight years of life so I can continue to recognize how flawed I truly am.  What was Pope Francis’ first message?  “I am a sinner, pray for me.”  Oh, yes, we are all flawed but as long as we don’t believe we are above or beyond anyone else, we can embrace our humanness and know that God created us just as we are.  She/He created the the miracles of this universe and we are, each one of us, one of those miracles.

Christmas is not an easy holiday for many many people but perhaps it’s because the true meaning has been lost.  Christ is coming, God.  He comes again and again every year and I believe he remains with all those who choose to love, care and be of service to the world.  The Christ, the Savior is here in the hearts of all who know the importance of spreading the net of compassion and love over everyone whose lives they touch.  That miracle on 34th street is the miracle that can be ours should we choose to open our minds and our hearts to The Christ.

May you have a Blessed Holiday Season and a life filled with the awareness of God’s love.

  

Loving Mother Earth

Affirmation: I treasure Mother Earth.


The Light shines within each of us for we are the dwelling places of the Holy Spirit….it is not enough to know the Light is within.  We have come to earth as servers.  Our calling is to stand aside, let Spirit shine through our lives, and thereby to reach out and trigger the illuminating of the light in the lives of others.  And so we join together with kindred souls to let the light of peace, joy, love and truth flood over and transform the quality of life that is manifest on Planet Earth.


Paul Brecht Fenske from Spiritual Insights for Daily Living

The retreat day topic presented by Sisters Mary Margaret and Judy from A Place for Women to Gather was “Oh Earth I Cannot Hold You Close Enough.”  It revolved around a lovely painted image taken from The Cosmic Dance by Joyce Rupp.  The morning was devoted to quiet time and reflection time for us to attune to the beauty and bounty that the earth offers us with the final intention of finding ways we as individuals will support and care for our planet.

The Sixty Minute segment presented on Sunday November, 16th of this year, 2014 was about our water consumption throughout the world.  I live in Cary, North Carolina and we have had water restrictions for years, way before there was much of a visible issue and way before we even had any major problems with our water supply.  Right now I believe we are at a healthy water level for our area but we haven’t always been “safe” and our community does an excellent job of encouraging people to be conservative with their water usage.  They offer rebates for low flow toilettes, inexpensive rain barrels are for sale and watering for lawns and shrubs are on restricted days.  The Sixty Minute segment showed that small steps like ours are more important than I ever imagined but they are not enough to keep our planet green and healthy.  We are drilling for water like we do for oil and we are sucking the earth dry.

The folks who monitor our water levels have for years used the primitive method of simply measuring the water table with a long tape measurer lowered into holes throughout the world and they have seen a huge decrease in the water table, more so over the last decade than ever before.  Now, there is a satellite that takes photos of the whole world and whose sensitivity to moisture allows it to color the computer image based on how much water is present in the area.  Green is healthy, red is sick, black is death.  Over the last several years, the computer images show that many of our world’s major water tables have died.  I know this is a simplistic explanation of a very complex and serious issue.  It did however, cause me to be even more aware of a very serious issue of which our beautiful planet is suffering.
Once again I am faced with the question, “What can I do to affect a change in this world, me one tiny woman living in Cary, North Carolina?”  My first thought is to pray.  I’m praying for many world wide issues, especially for those who are suffering the most.  I know God knows who they are.  I am trusting She will hear my prayer and along with those of others, someone or even many will be comforted.  On NPR this week the head of the UN’s humanitarian services stated that there are now 59,000,000 displaced people in the Middle East.  Our world is in dire shape and I must say the media brings that news right into our homes and I am sure, into many of our hearts.  What more can I do to help the world?

As I write this, we are approaching Thanksgiving.  I am sitting comfortably in a warm home with all the comforts one can need, even enough water to bathe and to have a cup of tea.  I am grateful.  I do count my blessings.  My daughter, Ellen, has just arrived from England and my granddaughter, Isabelle, is spending the night.  My whole family will be here this week and especially on Thursday.  The turkey is in the fridge and I can’t wait to begin cooking.  I love to make the pies.  My husband loves to grill the turkey.  It fills my heart and soul to sit here and recognize my bounty.  I do not take for granted all I am blessed with and from that bounty I have taken measures to help others, besides my prayers, although I do fervently believe that my prayers are the first and most important step.  It’s been shown that when many pray together for the same outcome, things do change for the better, including the prayer.  

My church, St. Michael the Archangel is in the throws of putting together boxes and boxes of food to give away this week, thousands of them. We are but one of thousands of organizations who are doing the same thing.  We have a “Jesse Tree” in the foyer with paper ornaments with children’s names who need a present, usually clothing.  There are adopt-a-family notices in our bulletin.  We are a country with an abundance of resources and from what I can see here in my community, we want to share those with whomever needs help.  As a family, we aren’t ever generous enough.  It seems no matter how much we donate, or step up to assist others, we could always do more, more and more.  We aren’t called to be missionaries working in the really needy part of the world.  We are called, however, to be compassionate and that means not just thinking sad thoughts but actually stepping up and making a difference.  It means donating to the Thanksgiving Basket drive, taking at least one ornament off the Jesse tree, spending time in service.  It means recognizing our bounty and our blessings and making a difference.  We want to donate our time, treasure and talent to improve the condition of our world, even if it’s just our small part of the world.  

After my day retreat, I also realized I need to be more caring of our planet.  My first step was to realize I wasn’t taking enough time to “smell the roses.”  So much of my day is spent running around doing, that I’ve forgotten to embrace the beauty and appreciate the bounty of my planet.  Growing up amid the highways, sidewalks and brick buildings of a city was not the place to get in touch with nature.  I did spend my summers on Jones Beach and fell I love with the ocean.  I love the salt water and the waves and the sound but it took a move to North Carolina before I was stopped in my tracks by nature.  Perhaps too, it’s more about being older and getting closer to being reunited with the earth that has me paying more attention to its grandeur and miracles.  My first step, therefore, is to slow down and to daily savor the miracles that surround me.  Ah, another opportunity to meditate!  My second step is to find more ways to sustain our resources, even if it’s just me taking one small step: walk when I can, use less water less often, recycle even more fervently, don’t print something I can save on the computer, plan my errands all at once rather than heading out randomly.  

I am always looking for ways to be of more service to the world.  In this case, our day retreat has given me a greater awareness of the responsibility to literally give back to Mother Earth, that planet which so tenderly holds us here. I use to have the affirmation, “I treat Mother Earth gently” but now, with awareness I claim with more fervor, “I treasure Mother Earth.”  Therefore, on this Thanksgiving, 2014, I give thanks for ALL things but especially for the treasures of our miraculous world.  

The Holy Plan

Affirmation: I trust and rest in God’s Holy Plan.

What if we believed, truly believed with every fiber of our being, that we were here for a purpose, that we had a role to play in the creation of life? What if we knew that we were here on earth, living this life because a greater power needs us to serve His or Her mission for the betterment of mankind? How would that change what we do, what we think and what we say?

I would imagine that sounds like a sci-fi story. If not, it might sound crazy or irrational. If not that, perhaps it simply sounds like too much work and responsibility. I, however, have reached a stage in my life when I am ready to believe I am here for a purpose and I am ready to release myself to that purpose and let God take me where She wants me to go or perhaps, to stay.

My intention this year, as you may recall, has been to be “connected to the Divine.” Once again, I didn’t know what that meant but I loved the sound of it; I loved the feeling of it. It’s been at the top of my journal page everyday now since January 1st. I know it’s a mediation. I might feel connected or simply be aware of my intention for a short time or even just a moment, and then I leave. I head out into the “world” or even more often, simply into my world.

Recently, I read the phrase “Holy Plan.” As soon as I saw the words, I knew that was my next intention. For some reason those two worlds brought me great peace. I felt my whole body relax, I was breathing deeper and easier. I began to carry the phrase with me all day long. It’s there as I sit quietly wondering what and whom the day will invite and it’s been there as I roam around participating in the many activities of my life. I fully recognize this does not mean nothing difficult will enter into my life or the lives of my loved ones but I still feel peaceful. I have this sense that all will work to my good, even the “bad.” It’s so comforting to me. Joel Osteen says, “With faith, what man has meant for our bad, God will make good.” Maybe yes, maybe no but I sure feel better when I trust that Joel is right.

Other than a sense of calm and peace and even excitement, what results have I discovered from this new affirmation? I have been watching life more closely for opportunities to rest in the Lord and also to be His tool. I know that sounds a little weird and perhaps even obnoxious, believing that I can connect to The Divine and She will use me, me little Jean Anne Costa, to do some sort of life giving work for the world. Yes, there have been others who believed this and they were crazy! I don’t think, however, that I’ve “lost it.” Somehow, I feel I’ve found that for which I’ve been searching. I don’t have visions of grandeur. I simply want to walk though the day and my life, bringing hope, peace, love, joy, and compassion wherever I can and not add to the fear and pain that is so prevalent in our world today. Does that sound unreasonable? When I carry that hope with me into every day, won’t that make a positive difference?

I’ve been reading Mathew Kelly’s, Rediscovering Catholicism and finding it to be very supportive of my faith and my general spirituality. I had two copies at my home and as I left the house the other morning I decided to take the extra copy with me. I had the thought that maybe someone would like to have it. I couldn’t imagine who but I grabbed it and threw it in the back of the car. I had an appointment for a pedicure (Yea!) and before I headed into the shop I went to the trunk of the car to put on my flip-flops and there was the book. I already had the newspaper in my hand but I grabbed the book too. I didn’t get to it. I fell asleep but I had laid it on the table next to me. Another patron looked at it and began to ask me about it. She too was a Catholic and really struggling with her faith and asked me about it. I told her I knew this sounded weird but I had it with me because I felt I was supposed to give it away. Would she like it? Yes, she would love to read it. I was awed. I felt like I had closely listened. I felt well “used.” I felt Divinely used. I felt quite right. I knew that this was how I always wanted to feel and believed my 2014 intention had definitely clicked in. Wow, I thought, “I might actually be in the midst of the Holy Plan. How cool!”

No, the book episode has not been the only serendipitous event this year. There have been many and each one has left me feeling the same way, peaceful and awed. In an effort to increase my faith and strengthen my understanding and relationship with Jesus Christ, I developed an affirmation many years ago that is close to the top of my affirmation list. I know by meditating on Jesus throughout my day, I am in union with the Divine, miracles are created and without struggle my life is transformed in ways beyond my imagination. That’s how I feel about life today. I’m 68 years old and there’s a peace and a sense of excitement I can never before recall experiencing.

I share these affirmations and this revelation I’m in the midst of with you with the hope that a few of these sentences or words will resonate with you and you too, if you’re searching, will find this same sense of peace and exhilaration, at least for right now and perhaps

Being Catholic

Affirmation:  I love being a Catholic
During this month, October 2014, the Catholic Church has been front-page news.  It’s not unusual for the Church to be in the headlines.  It seems to me it’s an easy target for criticism, especially in this day and time.  This time the initial news being reported was more positive.  Pope Francis called a synod, a group of bishops from around the world, and the discussion that came from that meeting was highly publicized.  It’s unclear if everything that was written about the meeting was true but that’s nothing new for the media.  The initial bent of the stories would lead most people to believe that the Catholic Church has decided to become more liberal. 
At St. Benedict’s Church in Linville, NC Father Christopher Gober’s homily revolved around the procedures that are required before the Church, or what I would prefer to refer to as the hierarchy, makes any changes in Church doctrine.  “It will take years.”  Well, it doesn’t take a genius to figure that out.  The two thousand year old church has never been quick to make any changes.  It took them several hundred years to forgive Galileo who they excommunicated because he claimed the earth revolved around the sun.  With a history like that those of us, which includes me, who are ever hopeful that our church will become more open and accepting are not holding our breath.  But, there are some signs that our Church, the people who make up the foundation of our parishes may see a greater shift towards compassion and inclusion that hasn’t appeared to be the main focus until lately.
Before the synod ever began I was listening to a Tapestry podcast with Mary Hines called, Liars, Cheats and Sinners and the writer she was interviewing, described as a Roman Catholic thinker, Mary Gordon, said she didn’t expect anything would be discussed that would make a difference for the laity.  She, however, I am pleased to say, was wrong.  Even if the doctrines are the same and it takes years, if ever, to make changes, Pope Francis seems to bring a whole different flavor to the meaning of our faith.  When the leader of an institution calls for compassion and inclusion, when a leader in an institution is humble and deferential and when a leader of an institution leads by example and not simply with words, the institution will reflect those qualities and that, it seems to me is Pope Francis.
I may be grasping at straws here, hoping that he will bring our church to a place where many times people feel as if they simply can’t ever get it right, where many people just find it too difficult to be part of such a restrictive environment.  I know in many ways the Catholic Church is a liberal institution if you compare it to many other fundamental faiths of the world but in my opinion some of the stands it takes on issues which affect so many of it’s faithful are just wrong.  My hope is Pope Francis will lead these men to a place of compassion and openness so that the fastest growing religion in the United States today is not “former Catholics.”
Our Church has so much to offer and because of all the bad publicity some of which is very justified, we aren’t recognized for all our Church has done and continues to do to make this world a better place.  For example, the Catholic Church feeds, educates and tends to the health of tens of thousands of people a day.  The people they serve aren’t asked about their belief system or about their religion, they are simply helped.  Why isn’t that ever written about in the news? 
I once had someone tell me she was an Protestant because unlike Catholics she didn’t have to leave her brain at the church door.  I can’t even imagine why someone would think it was all right to say that to anyone but trust me that’s not true. I have carefully considered whether or not I want to continue to be a Catholic.  I’ve headed out many times; I’ve studied many faiths; I’ve read many different theologies.  I finally had to recognize that I was always called back to Catholicism. That’s my home.  Maybe, just by being who I am I can make a difference in the way the church responds to some of these controversial issuers.  Certainly, I have a better chance than if I walked away, if I simply quit. 
I had one very powerful experience of asking God in prayer what path I should follow.  I didn’t’ know how the answer would come but I believe in answered prayer and I did expect an answer.  The answer came in a dream.  Jesus floated down, He wasn’t very clear but I was pretty sure a white floating being was divine and He said, “Jean, I am the answer for you.”  I believed it then and I still believe it now.  I have a dear friend who has told me for years, “I don’t let the Church interfere with my relationship with God.”  That’s not good enough for me.  My Church needs practices and rituals that enhance and strengthen my relationship with God and with that, my relationships with my family, friends and even my enemies and it does provide those practices.  Unfortunately, the emphasis on Jesus’ message of love and compassion gets clouded and our beautiful faith gets tied up in the rules and regulations.  
I love the Catholic Church.  I love being a Catholic.  Yes, I know it has zits and dysfunction.  What family doesn’t?  I have chosen to stay in this family, this place where the people I interact with are more often than not, kind, generous, compassionate and loving. I’m still a Catholic because of my belief in the sanctity of the Eucharist and the rituals of the Mass and our seven sacraments and because it has led me to this relationship with Christ that sustains me in all things.

The last headline I saw about the synod before I wrote this said, “Pope Francis: ‘God is not afraid of new things.'”  Yes, I believe we are presently in the hands and heart of a loving, compassionate person who will bring our church to a place of more acceptance and kindness; who will help our parishes become places of refuge and hope; who will guide the hierarchy towards being less rule oriented and more people oriented.  I’m not too hopeful about changes with the perception of women’s roles but that’s a whole other blog.  I do believe, however, that our Pope Francis hasn’t left his brain or his heart at the door and I don’t believe he expects us to live our faith and our lives without deep thought and commitment. 

Affirmation:  I fully recognize and appreciate the gift of living in a free country and having the right to make my choices known.

“Our passions are the winds that propel our vessel. Our reason is the pilot that steers her. Without winds the vessel would not move and without a pilot she would be lost.“  Proverbs

Have you ever watched a political convention?   Politics is not my favorite subject, to say the least.  I am a moderate, a middle of the road citizen.  I can usually see both sides of an issue and that can leave me very confused about for whom I should vote.  I don’t have a very successful record either.  If a friend or family members favors someone for office they would be wise to encourage me to vote for the opponent.  I can’t ever remember voting for the winner in a major election.  But, I always vote.  I may not always be as well informed as I’d like to be, but I always go and cast my vote.  I try, I really do try to gather as much information as possible.  I read about the different people, sometimes I go to meet them but I’ve never been so impressed or enamored by a candidate that I was sure I was making the best decision.  The best decision for whom; for me, for my country, for the world?

When I vote I feel like that in itself is the best decision, the decision to exercise my right to vote.  When I read about and listen to the sacrifices our ancestors have made and the oppression that exists in so many countries today, I fully recognize the gift I have been given with the opportunity to choose those I want to represent me, my city, state and country.

I pray daily for wisdom for our world leaders.  There seems to be so many politicians whose only concern is their power and their prestige.  Perhaps, that’s why I’m not very passionate about politics.  I don’t have much faith in the people who chose to be politicians.  I can’t imagine what drives so many of them to put themselves so far out into the public’s eye.  I wonder, so often, if it’s not simply a grand ego trip.  I want to believe that a person who is running for office is more concerned about me, his or her constituent, than he or she is about themselves. 

When I watch the conventions, the men and women who present themselves with passion about their concerns and about their desires to uplift and empower us, their represented, I am almost relieved, relieved that someone comes across with what I think is a genuine spirit.  But, it’s the people, the audience with whom I am so fascinated.  I am sure there is a selection process for those attendees.  I’m sure some have been going for years; maybe it’s a family tradition.  I know in many ways it’s a fun experience.  I’ve been to several business conventions.  The energy generated by a group of people with a common goal is always palpable. 

In 2010 my husband, Sandy, was a keynote speaker for Toastmasters International in Las Vegas.  It’s an amazing organization and we were very excited to be there.  There were over 2000 people there from all over the world.  We met people from Africa, Asia, Australia and places that began with many other letters besides “A.”  It was 3 days of high energy, lots of stories and shared visions.  I would imagine being at a political convention would be similar.

Passion is the world that comes to mind when I watch the people in attendance.  Passion!  They must truly love and care about the process we have here in the United States to decide our own destiny and they must believe completely in that process.  They have devoted time, energy and talent to participate in the process.  I find it inspiring.  I believe we all need passion in our lives.

Passion is that quality of life that keeps our hearts beating and our spirits soaring.  I believe being passionate about our country, even with its zits, is a worthy pursuit, a just passion.  I am proud to be an American.  I am grateful to live in a land of peace and freedom.  I believe the United States is a place where dreams can come true.  I am grateful to be a woman living here in the United States rather than in some oppressive regime.  I believe in our compassion as a people and a nation.  I value the sacrifices so many Americans have made and continue to make to help others both here and throughout the world.

Vote?  For whom will I vote?  That’s not as important as if I will vote.  That choice, no that obligation, is one thing about which I am passionate.  There once was an article in USA Today stating that thousands of Americans don’t vote. They simply don’t care or they don’t believe it can make a difference.  Men and women have died, are dying, punished and even imprisoned because they want, they demand, the right to have a voice in their destiny.  Yes, I will not let this gift, this opportunity go unused, unappreciated, The United States of America is the greatest country in the world.  And, I for one, will exercise my privilege and hope and pray that I am casting a vote for someone with passion who will work and lead my country and perhaps our world towards the highest and best we can possibly be.  I hope you will join me.

Claiming Courage

Affirmations:  I am
courageous.


“I learned that courage is not the absence of fear,
but the triumph over it.  The brave man
is not the one who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
Nelson Mandela
It seems lately the topic of conversation has often turned to the
concept of courage.  Partly because my
Women of Faith study group is reading The Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To
by Anthony DeStephano. One of the prayers is, “God grant me
courage.”  I loved the chapter of
this topic.  I thought his presentation
was clear and comprehensive and for me, just what I needed to “hear”
at this time.
I know I have at least two positive affirmations that have
bolstered my confidence over the years. 
They are, I am a bold adventuress and I am audacious.  I say, “yes I can.”  They have worked quite well for
me.  Many times I’ve jumped into
situations, well OK maybe I simply walked into them, which I was not sure
about.  I’d usually come out the other
side excited about what had taken place and exhilarated that I’d overcome my
fear and anxiety.  It was always a very
empowering experience. 
While those affirmations have been good, most of my days are
fairly uneventful or at least not adventurous and yet I can carry with me a
sense of concern; concern about my finances, my health or that of my loved
ones, my relationships and especially about the future. 
Part of Anthony’s premise was that we need to practice being
courageous.  We need to pick up the
quality, the gift every day.  At first we
should start with small things and as our strength grows and our courage muscle
becomes stronger, we will be able to be courageous at more challenging
times.  They are a coming!  Or, perhaps they are already here.  The words were for me, filling a need.  His advice was exactly what I seemed to need
at this particular time in my life.
I believe I am still grieving the death of my mother and her
blessed but very difficult last several years of her life.  I know I will heal but for now the memory
lingers and weighs on me and leaves me wondering about my future, my old age
and my death. 
Think about the brave people you know?  Think about the brave people you have read
about?  The first group that always comes
to my mind are our service people.  I
know for some they discovered courage in situations they never imagined they
could endure.  Our veterans are some of
our most remarkable heroes.  Then, our
fire fighters come to mind.  My dad,
Frank Grolimund, was a captain with the New York City volunteer fire
fighters.  I vividly remember being with
him as he ran into a burning building to help with whatever was necessary.  I believe he was very brave, if not a little
crazy.  I think too of all the fire
fighters who ran towards the dangers of the World Trade Center on 911. The
memory still brings tears to my eyes. Then, there are all those people fighting
cancer or some other life threatening illness. 
I am here to tell you it takes an enormous amount of courage to continue
that fight and sometimes even more, to allow yourself or a loved one, to let
go.
The greatest example of courage for me, however, is that of Jesus
Christ.  When I mediate on his time in
the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46) I cannot imagine the courage it
must have taken for him to give himself completely over to His Father and get
up and walk out to what he knew, he knew in every excruciating detail what he
was to experience!  He must have asked
His Father for courage that evening and it was obviously granted. 
Now, I have learned that God will also grant me courage if I only
ask.  It will be one more answered prayer
and I don’t have to wait, I can claim it now. 
I can claim it daily in all things, small and with practice, large.  “God grant me courage.”  I am asking and I believe in answered prayer
and with that comes a new affirmation, I am courageous.
How about you? Want to overcome fear and become brave?  Want more courage?  Join me. 
Ask!

Being a Victim

Affirmation:  I rest in the inquiry. I stand in my
power
.
The young woman named Dina (She
was one of our tour directors.) was giving the description about Austria and
she was clever and quite funny.  She came
from Vienna and because of that I felt very comfortable when she described a
“typical” Austrian.  “We
are a people who always feel like we are being victimized.  Tell me a tale about one of your problems and
I will tell you one about myself that is worse than yours.  We have a black cloud always hovering above
us.  The good news is we don’t take
ourselves too seriously, so we can laugh at our problems.”  I was fascinated.  I wondered why the Austrian people had this
impression about their lives.  Was it
nature or nurture?  Certainly they had
been through some terrible times.  The
tales we heard about the experiences of the people of Eastern Europe were
beyond sad and extremely disturbing.  I
wondered if all the people in countries that had experienced horrible
historical eras had the same general sense of being victims?  What about Russia, Estonia, Slovakia, Hungary,
Poland, North Korea or Japan?  How about
Vietnam?  What about the mid-east or some
parts of Africa?  Do the people in all of
these areas of the world feel like victims. 
I don’t like to classify an entire
population into one category but certain characteristics do seem more prevalent
in some cultures than in others.  For
instance when my husband, Sandy and I traveled through Ireland, we discovered
the Irish people love to help lost travelers. 
They certainly loved helping us. 
We were always lost and they couldn’t do enough to get us back on the
right road.  We stopped to talk to one
fellow out in the county side who stopped mowing his lawn to give us directions
and just about invited us in for tea. 
I’m sure if I named a nationality, you would come up with an adjective
or two that you believe described them. 
How about the Italians, the Japanese, the Germans, or the Latinos?  Did a couple of words pop up for you?
There have been times in my life
when I could have felt like a victim.  I
remember people asking me if I wondered why I had developed breast cancer.  Did I rail at God, “Why me,
Lord?”  No, I did not.  It never occurred to me to even ask that
question. Dr. Mark Graham told me it wasn’t anything I did or did not do; it was a “random act of violence.”  That might have made me feel even more

vulnerable, but
for some reason it may have brought me a sense of peace. The thought came to me
after listening to our guide that I probably don’t have any Austrian blood in
me.  I couldn’t imagine living a life
where I always went around feeling victimized. 
How would that improve the quality of my life?  I think I’d be a real grump and a very
unhappy person.  It certainly wouldn’t
fit in with my concept of creating an intentional life, a life of peace and
love, joy, compassion and gratitude. However, upon more careful consideration,
I realized there have been many times in my life when I found myself feeling
powerless, small and insignificant.  At
those moments I did not step up and out. 
I did not claim my power and even in the midst of “random
acts” we still have choices.  We
still have the opportunity to decide how we perceive our situation and what we
are going to do or not do.   

I asked Dina, sometimes referred
to as “Dina Marie” and her coworker, Scott, whose home is in China, if
in their travels they had noticed this victimization attitude in other
countries where the people had experienced years of suffering and
repression.  They said they hadn’t really
thought about it.  The documentary The
Singing Revolution
takes place in Estonia. 
It was an excellent film depicting life in Estonia through the last
hundred years and it presented a people who even though they were suffering,
decided to continue their ancient tradition of a mass sing-along.  It presented a picture of hope and positive
behavior even during these more than difficult times.  
I’ve read and watched a lot of stories about
WW I and WW II and about man’s inhumanity towards man, especially about the
horrors committed against the Jewish people. 
As we traveled through Eastern Europe and listened to the guides
describe the situations which caused the deaths of so many people, thousands
upon thousands, or through which they lived, I began to understand why the
people in these countries would still feel a sense of travesty and
powerlessness. To be completely honest,

however, I know, with a capital
“K” that I have never experienced the repression and torment that so
many in the world have in the past or are presently experiencing.  I probably cannot even imagine the horrors
that are taking place.  On our last
evening of this trip, Scott, also affectionately know as “Scotty Boy”
left us all with this advice, “Now that you have traveled this part of the
world, maybe the next time you see or hear of something distressing that they
are experiencing, you will feel a deeper connection, a greater sense of
compassion.”  He mentioned that one
way to break down the barriers of prejudice and hatred is to be exposed to another’s
culture.  I am hoping that faced with such
struggle, I could muster enough strength perhaps because of my relationship
with my God, that I would not perceive my situation as hopeless.

The lesson here for me is that we
always have a choice about how we want to perceive our situation. The more I
thought about this feeling of being a victim, the more I realized it is not
unusual for people to perceive themselves as victims even if they have never
lived in a war torn country.  As far as
the people I know most have lived in the US and are part of the blessed
minority like myself who have not gone through the horrors of war and
oppression.  The people I’ve met who perceive
themselves as victims, are the people who believe that whatever happens to them
is totally beyond their control; there in nothing they can do about it.  They don’t or can’t recognize that even in
the most dire of situations we can choose to believe that we at some point can
affect change.  Our sense of purpose and
power lies within us, not beyond our control. 
Daily we are called up to look at our attitudes and to examine our
beliefs and then to rise up and to claim our power.  If we practice daily, in the smaller things
of life, perhaps if and when we are faced with the larger, more daunting events
we will be able to “rest in the inquiry and stand in our power.”

Choosing Your Words, Creating Your Thoughts

Affirmation:  The words I choose affect every aspect of my
life.  I choose mindfully.

The question I’ve been asking myself while preparing
for the September 9, 2014 Barnes and Noble signing has been, “What makes
you think you’re someone who can inspire or motivate another to live an
intentional life?”
Truth to tell, I am simply another human being
probably a lot like you who is trying to live a rich, giving, compassionate
life.  My mission statement for my life
is, “I live a Christ centered life of love, peace, joy, hope, gratitude
and compassion.”  And, everyday I
have to remind myself of it and of how I want to live.  I’ve written before of my desire to be loving,
forgiving, nonjudgmental, non-grasping and compassionate.  It’s a meditation.  It’s something I have to keep in mind
everyday, sometimes every moment.  Do
I?  Of course I don’t. 
I know I’m not an expert on human behavior.  I have studied it for many years and I’ve
worked with a lot of people in many different capacities.  One of my first loves is a study group.  I facilitated my first study group at Barnes
and Noble in Cary, NC around 20 years ago with another MSW, Jane Cook.  We presented the book The Artist’s Way
by Julia Cameron.  We had around 35
people participate for the twelve-week session. 
I’ve either facilitated or participated in hundreds of groups since
then.  From my observation I would
propose that most people are trying to find a way to live a more fulfilled
life.  What that takes is of course
different for different people so I don’t claim that I can offer everyone that
opportunity but there are some basic skills available to most of us and using
our words to shape our thoughts and therefore our lives, is a very powerful
one.
I recently had a women ask me if I’d read Ten
Percent Happier
.  I have not.  She explained to me that the author’s secret
to a happier life was meditation and he shared that approach in his book.  He felt he became at least 10% happier
because of his practice.  I believe
it.  He therefore, felt a desire to help
others find this same sense of well being. 
I think we can definitely improve the quality of our lives by meditating
but while it’s simple, it’s not easy. 
It’s takes practice.  It takes
discipline.  It’s no different than
exercising the body.  It’s exercising the
mind.  In fact it’s easier to exercise
the body than it is to quiet the mind. 
What I am proposing, however, is something that almost anyone can easily
put into practice.  I don’t mean for it
to be a substitute for meditation, certainly not a substitute for prayer, but
another tool to be utilized in the search for a better existence.

We are all talking to each other and ourselves all the
time. With just a little effort we can start carefully choosing the worlds we
use.  You know what I’m saying.  In fact, it’s probably easier to shape the
words we use to describe events and others than it is to shape those we use for
ourselves.  We can be our own worst enemies.  I have a long list that I’ve collected of
negative self-talk phrases.  Things I’ve
heard people say to themselves or perhaps I read somewhere.  For example: 
“I am so stupid!”  “I am such a
klutz!”   “I just never seem to get it
right.”  “I just can’t make any
friends.”  “I never have enough money,
time, energy, etc.”  “My right leg, arm, hip,
etc. is my bad one.”  The
list I’ve compiled has about one hundred negative phrases.  Two others that don’t sound negative but have
that effect are, “I am right!” and “I can do that
better.”  Those two statements may
be vey true but I’m here to tell you (and I know I’m right!) most people don’t
want to be around someone who has all the answers and who willingly will tell
them how to do something better, even if they’ve been asked. 
So, I’m not here to give you any answers.  I am here to propose questions and to tell
you what has worked for me with the same hope as the author of Ten Percent
Happier
.  I want to share the
practice and the words that have made my life better, not perfect, but
definitely better.  The positive
affirmations I have created for myself and that I write about here and in my
book, Creating Positive Affirmations, Living An Intentional Life, have improved
the quality of my relationships, my health, my work and perhaps, most
importantly, my faith.  They aren’t
designed to improve your life.  They
simply serve as an example of what has worked for me and in case your
searching, what may work for you.

My dear friend, Joanne Dawe shared her wisdom with me
many years ago when we spoke about using positive affirmations.  “They have to work,” she said,
“I’ve been using negative affirmations for years and they’ve always
worked.”

Following Your Destiny

Affirmation:  I am following
my destiny.
At 7:00 p.m. on September 9th of this year, 2014, at Barnes and Noble
in Cary, NC., I’m going to have a book signing of my book, Creating PositiveAffirmations, Living an Intentional Life
It’s my first event of this type and I’ve been asking others for advice
about what to say.  Most people tell me
to explain why I wrote the book.  The
book has developed from writing this blog, Creating Positive Affirmations.  Why did I begin writing a blog?  I didn’t know how to blog and to be honest
I’d never even read a blog but I understood the concept and I had found such
strength and peace by creating my affirmations, I wanted others to have that
same sense of well-being.  I began
writing with the hope that I would make a positive difference in other
lives.  I decided that even if my writing
only helped one other person, I would consider it a success.
Have you ever had the seed of an idea that you nurtured and then
saw it grow?  I believe we all have had
the experience of getting an idea and wondering if it’s worth investing
in.  I’m sure there have been both good
and bad ideas that people came up with and went ahead with.  Have you seen the movie or the play The
Producers
?  It revolves around two
men whose idea it is to produce a flop of a play in order to keep all the
investment money.  To them it seems like
a great idea and they go to all sorts of lengths to make sure the play will not
succeed.  They buy an offensive musical
script about Hitler, hire a terrible actor to play the lead and get a group of
inept performers for the chorus.  It’s so
bad, it’s funny and it becomes an immediate success.  Now, they are in trouble.  It’s one example of a bad idea.  Certainly, there are many other examples of bad idea especially those terrible ideas that
injure another in any way.   

There are, however, many many examples of good ideas.  Have you see the car commercial when they
show all the great businesses that began in a garage?  Amazon, Apple, Google, Disney, Hewlett
Packard, Mattel and Harley Davidson are just a few, not to mention all the
famous bands that began in garages.  I
find it inspirational that some people are willing to listen to those inner
urgings and follow through with creating something new and wonderful.   

I’ve had at least two obvious times in my
life, other than when I chose to marry Sandy, when I followed that inner voice,
or maybe God’s voice and seen something wonderful come about.  The first of these was the creation of the
Pink Ribbon Yoga Retreat.  At the time of
this entry we are just finishing our tenth retreat, thirty four women breast
cancer survivors attended for four days at the NC beach.  The seed of the idea was planted in me and it
must have been meant to be because once it began to take root, it grew and grew
until we now have this wonderful yearly event to benefit any woman who wants to
come who has been treated for breast cancer. 
It’s been miraculous. 
 

The second time was when I kept writing this blog until I had
enough entries to put together into a book. 
I’ve listened to many people share their desire to write a book.  I never had that desire.  While I love to sit and journal, that’s just
for me.  It’s my way of centering,
clearing and focusing.  I don’t concern
myself with the grammar or the punctuation. 
I just write.  I love the feel of
the ball point pen on the paper and watching the miracle of the words appearing
on the paper.  Writing for an audience
was never part of my plan but here I sit   Sometimes there are things we are simply supposed to do.  I am supposed to write about
affirmations.  I am supposed to share with
others my failings and fears and challenges and how I’ve come to not just
handle those imperfections, but how I am able to neutralize them or perhaps
even turn them into blessings.  I
consider myself to be a fairly normal average person and I believe if I can
make myself better off because I’ve found a way to perceive life from a
positive perspective, most people will also be able to accomplish that and if I
can be of service to even one person and maybe to many more, then that’s what
I’m supposed to do and so I write. This is my 185th blog post.

I write with the hope that I lift the spirits and the hopes of anyone who chooses
to take the time to read these pages, who chooses to read my book.  I write because I feel like it’s my
responsibility, my mission, my destiny. 
I know I cannot cure the world but I can offer what I have learned about hope and about the the tools
necessary to live a fuller, richer more blessed life.  May these words and stories do just that for
you.  May they give you the gifts of
peace and strength and make the world seem less onerous and more beautiful.  May these words empower you and may they help
bring you to a place of serenity and hope.