The Golden Rule May Not Always Be Best

The Golden Rule says we should treat others the way we’d want them to treat us. Jesus had an even stronger way of putting it. We should love others as ourselves, he said.

Most of us would agree this is good advice. It seems if everyone followed it, we’d all treat each other well, get along, and thrive. But I’ve notice something important. We often don’t do it. I’m not even sure we can.

While we’d like to think we’re treating others the way we’d like to be treated, what seems to happen more often is we treat others the way we treat ourselves. On the surface that would seem like semantics. Same thing, right?


The Golden Rule Must Include Being a Good Friend to You

Self-help gurus often point out that we tend to be nicer to other people than we are to ourselves. The idea of the Golden Rule then, would be that we want other people to treat us better than we treat ourselves. And presumably, we will do the same for them.

But for the most part, we can’t. And we don’t.

It’s also pretty well established in psychology that people who dislike themselves (and by extension aren’t very nice to themselves) have a hard time loving others. Few people debate this one either. Sure, they might be superficially friendly to avoid conflict, but that’s only possible from a distance.

So, you see, the Golden Rule can mislead us.

You may have noticed the people you’re closest to are the ones who hurt you the most. The people you spend a lot of time with—even if you’re not close—are also likely to hurt you more often than acquaintances or strangers.

Why does this happen?

It’s said that hurt people hurt people. And while hurt people may also prefer to avoid conflict, they may bottle up that conflict until a safe victim to treat badly comes along. We know this is how playground bullies work. Bullies in the workplace and political bullies work the same way.

And so, unfortunately, do people we love if they’re hurting enough.

Of course this doesn’t mean everyone close to you will treat you badly. The key is how well they treat themselves.

Taking Care of You is Taking Care of Others

I think we treat others as well as we treat ourselves, not better. While we might want to treat them the way we’d like to be treated, we may truly not know how. If we treat ourselves badly, that’s what we know best.

How this plays out depends on the way we take things out on ourselves. For instance, if we’re angry with ourselves, we get angry at others. If we have trouble facing our imperfections, we avoid others who aren’t perfect (in other words, everyone). If we believe we need to be perfect to be loved, we hide our true selves to please others.

We learned to do this by paying attention to how people around us treated us or others like us, often a long time ago.

So while the Golden Rule makes sense, unless we’ve learned to be kind to ourselves, we’ll probably struggle with it at least some of the time, and certainly with people we’re close to.

The Golden Rule May Not Account for Our Differences

Another issue with the Golden Rule is it doesn’t address the fact that while we all want others to treat us well, we don’t all need or want the same thing. The way we treat ourselves depends a lot on what we need and whether we’re getting what we need.

If we need a lot of attention and validation, we treat ourselves differently than we would if we needed to be needed, for example.

We all need something, but we don’t all necessarily need the same thing.

If we live with shame and the belief that we shouldn’t need anything at all, that will affect how we treat ourselves and others as well.

One person might be clingy, another may lose herself in the process of meeting others’ needs, and a third might become distant.

When we don’t get what we need, a sense of lack often creates a vicious circle. And don’t believe people who tell you a mentality of lack is all your head. It may be to certain extent, but we all have needs. Denying that will ensure we never get what we need.

When we’re angry, hurt, or afraid because we don’t have what we need, we may lash out at people we believe should both know what we need and be able to provide it.

If we’re not conscious of this dynamic, we can destroy the very connections we crave, the very connections we need.

Do You Need What Others Need?

So even if we follow the Golden Rule and treat others the way we’d like them to treat us, we may not treat them the way they’d like us to treat them.

For example, some people like advice. Others prefer to vent to a friend who will simply listen. Some people enjoy lots of conversation. Others thrive in comfortable silence. Some enjoy humor, while others are more serious. Some like help. Others don’t.

You get the point.

So maybe we need to rephrase the Golden Rule a bit so the goal is to understand people and develop true connections.

The point is when we look beyond our own ideas and needs and try to see others for who they are and what they need, we form truer connections that help us grow. In a sense we’re all the same, but in another sense, we’re not.

If we’re only giving people what we need, we miss out on interconnection. It’s our connection despite our differences that creates a more vibrant, amazing world. And it’s more likely to create a world where people treat each other well, if not always, at least more of the time.

What do you think?

Caring What Other People Think May Be More About What You Think

Recently, a friend and I were discussing the idea of caring what other people think. My friend pointed out that even though many of us say we don’t care, we do. I responded by saying for the most part I don’t care—or at least I care a lot less—what other people think.

I’m not sure my friend believed me, but that’s probably because I may not have meant the same thing she meant by “caring about what people think.” It’s complicated.

She asked for an example, but before I could think of one, she asked me a question. How, she wondered, could she stop caring what other people think about a specific issue in her life.

If I’d had as much time to answer as I took to write this post, I might have come up with something better than the only thing I could think of on the spot: “I don’t know.”

Caring What Other People Think Depends On What You Think

What I meant, though, is I don’t know how another person (in this case my friend) can stop caring what specific other people (in this case, apparently, most of the people she spends time with) think about a certain thing.

I can, though, explain how I stopped caring what certain people think about some things that pertain to me. What’s interesting is I didn’t have a plan to do this. I can only look back and see how it happened over time.

When I say I don’t care as much about what people think as I used to, I mean that in a broad, general sense. I don’t mean I don’t care what people close to me think about significant things.

It’s probably clear that I’m talking about being judged poorly by others, not their specific thoughts about me. For example, someone might think I ask a lot of questions. Whether they see that as a positive or a negative isn’t clear. However, if I see it as a negative, I might assume they’re judging me poorly. 

I began to notice caring less about what other people think over the last decade. It happened gradually in a number of ways.

Maybe some of these apply to you.

Try not to react immediately.

Maybe the person who’s coming across as mean or judgmental is having a bad day. Or maybe I am. So before I react, I ask myself why I care what they appear to think in that moment.

Think About Why You Care

The why is often revealing, because if I sit with it long enough, there’s almost always a reason I didn’t see at first. (I’ll come back to why that matters, even though it doesn’t change what the person in question thinks.)

In other words, have I internalized the same negative belief? If I have, I can explore it a bit and see if I can change it. That takes time. Again, it doesn’t change the judgment coming from another person. But, in my experience at least, it’s the most powerful way to stop caring, or to at least to care less, what other people think.

If there’s a pattern of judgment, I ask myself whether the (presumably negative) thing I believe the person thinks is truly negative.

While doing this, it’s important to recognize that internalized negative beliefs are not a simple matter of you judging yourself. They came from somewhere, often a larger societal perspective that the person who’s allegedly judging you might even deny. If they deny it, be glad. It may mean they’re open to a different perspective. But here’s the thing. You’ll need to change your own internalized belief first. No one will do it for you.

Find people who get it.

Even though no one will change an internalized negative belief for you, you also cannot change those beliefs on your own. This is critical because when we think poorly of ourselves, we tend to hide in the shadows, believing we have a shameful secret we need to hide.

It’s only when we find others who truly understand—which usually means they’ve been in our shoes or are extraordinarily empathetic—that we can begin to change how we see ourselves.

For example, as a woman without children (not by choice), I spent years hiding before I realized I was grieving and living with the belief that my life was less important than the lives of parents. It wasn’t until I connected with a friendship and support group for woman without children that I began to see things differently. The reality is society as a whole has clear negative beliefs about childless people, even if individuals claim to not have those points of view. I know because the first thing I had to do was challenge my ideas about myself.

Reconsidering What Other People Think

If you take the steps above and begin to think differently about yourself or what people (might) think, you’ll be ready to get back among them and see if things change. There are a few ways to do that.

After changing your own beliefs, check again.

See if you still feel like people are judging you about things you no longer buy into. Sometimes—maybe often—they are. But it will probably stop seeming like everyone feels the same way. You’ll begin to find out who your people are. And you’ll have an easier time with almost everyone else as well.

You have choices with judgmental people.

You can explain how their comments make you feel and offer another perspective, or you can distance yourself. If you choose to speak up, be prepared. Many people still won’t understand, and you’ll have to decide how much effort to make before giving up. In some cases you’ll know from the start there’s no point in even trying. Your decision will probably depend on how important the person is to you and whether there are ways you do connect.

You may need to step back from some people.

One of the hardest things about learning to love yourself more is it often means stepping back from people who make that difficult to do. When you begin to understand the importance of having people who “get it” in your life, you may have less room for those who don’t. This will also help you stop caring what other people think.

Keep in mind that self-love is just a stepping stone to being a loving person. So it’s not selfish. It’s imperative.

Sometimes You’ll Still Care

When people close to you—family in particular—don’t get you, decide if you can still have a cordial, more superficial relationship.

I don’t think I’ve met anyone who can completely stop caring what their family thinks. The tricky thing here is our internalized negative beliefs often come from our families in the first place. They are the people we spend the most time with during our formative years. Unless they change damaging beliefs along with you (a possibility), you may have to accept that you’ll always care what they think. You can compensate by sharing less of yourself so you don’t have to find out what they think all the time. You may also need to change some of your beliefs about them.

Don’t blame people who don’t understand.

Often, a person’s perspective is as ingrained in them as it was in you when their comments hurt more. If you’re a perfectionist and believe everyone should see life from your perspective, you’ll create more enemies than friends.

Accept that there’s nothing you can do about some people’s thinking.

Ideally, when you’re better at caring less about what people think, there will be few people left in your life whose thoughts about you matter. At least now you’ll feel better about you and have more good relationships than frustrating ones.

Consider thinking differently.

I mentioned this before, but it’s worth repeating. To truly connect with people you’re having difficulty with, both parties usually need to take a new approach.

Accept that people aren’t thinking about you.

That may seem like a strange way to end a discussion about caring what other people think. But even those who truly think the worst of you move on to other concerns when you’re not around. A good idea, then, is to stop being around. Focus on the people who matter most and the thoughts and experiences that connect you with others.  

Uplifting Essential Oils: Using Aromatherapy To Lift Your Mood

essential oils

I’ve been a fan of aromatherapy since I learned about essential oils in a workshop at my local yoga studio awhile back. I’d been using scented candles and those plug-in air fresheners to keep my home smelling good, but I wasn’t comfortable with the ingredients in those products.

Aromatherapy with pure essential oils soon replaced my candles and air fresheners. The benefits turned out to be more than I expected, especially when I discovered uplifting essential oils.

Diffusing essential oils does more than keep my home smelling great. Each oil has specific properties as well. I learned that aromas travel through the capillaries in our sinuses and trigger nerves that send direct signals to the brain. Many of these signals have to do with emotions.

A number of uplifting essential oils can boost mood and even alleviate depression. And you can go a step further to target specific kinds of depression.

For example, do you tend to feel tired when you’re feeling down? You can lift both your mood and your energy level with geranium, lavender, peppermint, basil, or rosemary. Anxiety can be calmed with clary sage, frankincense, patchouli, ylang ylang, or chamomile.

How to use uplifting essential oils to lift your mood 

There are many ways to use essential oils. Start by simply opening the bottle and inhaling the aroma! Some other great uses include:

Diffuse them. Place a few drops in a room diffuser and the aroma will last for hours. There are many types of room diffusers on the market. You can also make your own aromatherapy reed diffuser.

Bathe in them.  Add your favorite oil to warm bath water and soak your way to good mood. Scented water is extremely relaxing and very therapeutic.

Use them in lotions or bath products. You can make aromatherapy products yourself by adding essential oils to unscented bath products, or you can buy them already made.

Spray them in your room or car. Essential oils can be added to pure water in a spray bottle and sprayed anywhere to instantly fill your space with pleasing aromas.

Sleep with them. Put a few drops of essential oil on a tissue or piece of cotton that you slip under your pillow case. You can even put a drop of relaxing oil inside each nostril at bedtime. If you choose the latter, make sure to use oils that won’t irritate your skin. The labels on most essential oil bottles will tell you if you can use them directly on skin.

Use them for a relaxing massage. You can add essential oils to unscented massage oil. Another option is to buy aromatherapy massage oils infused with essential oils.

Once you discover the benefits of aromatherapy with essential oils, you may wonder how you ever lived without it!

Simple Ways to Reduce Stress Naturally

At times I feel very stressed. I know. It happens to everyone, even those of us with a generally calm demeanor. Life can throw a lot of little challenges at us, and unfortunately sometimes some bigger ones as well. Stress can add up, so managing it in small doses before symptoms spiral out of control is a smart thing to do.

With the holidays approaching, stress is an especially timely topic. People seem to get crazy around this time, but I don’t think it has to be this way. Some simple strategies can help you cope.

You do have time to manage stress

Maybe you’re thinking that adding a stress management strategy to your routine is just one more thing to do. And your to-do list is what’s causing the stress to begin with, right? But remember, a step in the right direction is better than taking no action at all. And once you take one step, you’re likely to take another.

You don’t have to have a perfect plan that guarantees you will never feel stressed, but the more strategies you have in place the better, even if you don’t use all of them all of the time.

So what are some simple ways to manage stress effectively (without a trip to your doctor for a prescription)?

Choose stress-relieving nutrients

Different foods affect your body and your stress response in different ways. The trick to managing stress with nutrition is choosing foods that are calming, nourishing and soothing over those that will give you a jolt or make your blood sugar sore. Three simple nutrients to start with are vitamin B6, potassium, and magnesium.

Vitamin B6 helps create serotonin, the “feel good” chemical that is quickly depleted when you’re stressed. You can increase the amount of B6 in your diet by eating leafy greens, seeds, beans, egg yolks, and fish.

Potassium and magnesium help relax muscles that tend to get tense when you feel frazzled. You can get potassium from whole grains, potatoes, and bananas, while spinach, nuts, beans, and chocolate are good sources of magnesium. (If you opt for chocolate, don’t overdo it; sugar counteracts the relaxing qualities of magnesium.)

Try some calming herbs

Calming herbs include chamomile, valerian, passionflower, and lemon balm. There are capsules and tinctures you can take as supplements, or you can brew a nice cup of herbal tea. Be sure to choose a high-quality product so you can truly experience the herb’s anti-stress properties.

Stay active

If you don’t exercise regularly, ask yourself why that’s the case. You will never regret finding time to get up and move your body. You don’t need to work out for an hour or spend a lot of money to do so. Ten minutes three times a day will do if that’s all the time you have.

If you have time for a coffee or internet break, you have time for a quick, brisk walk, some light weight lifting, or simple stretching. If you have more time, do more. Join a gym or sign up for tennis lessons. Or turn on some music and dance! Do whatever works for you as long as you’re moving.

Practice yoga and meditation

While yoga can come under the heading of exercise, it is really so much more. Combined with meditation, it’s the ultimate antidote to stress. The physical yoga postures help tone and strengthen the body and get blood flowing throughout your body, even to your brain, where you’ll need it to deal with all the things life throws your way. You can do all kinds of yoga, from the most passive, restorative poses, to all-out power yoga. Again, do whatever works for you.

No matter what kind of physical yoga practice you choose, keep in mind one of the most important goals of yoga is to prepare your body for meditation. If you can cultivate a regular meditation practice, whether for 5 minutes, 30 minutes or even an hour or more each day, you’ll be amazed at what a powerful stress-management tool it is. And it doesn’t have to be a formal meditation practice. Even paying attention to how you’re breathing while you scurry about doing all those tasks can count as meditation.

Surround yourself with relaxing aromas

Did you know your brain processes emotions and scents in the same area? That’s why aromatherapy is so effective. So, if you want to feel calm, fill the air with relaxing aromas from high quality essential oils. Some pacifying scents include sandalwood, lavender, geranium, cedarwood, jasmine, and lemongrass. Use a diffuser, or add essential oils to bath water or unscented body lotion.

Stress does not have to get the best of you

Chances are at least one of the tools on this list will work for you, so why not start there? If you need more, try another. As you get more skilled at stress management and develop your own set of strategies, you’ll uncover the power of calm.

What Are Your Values? And Why Does It Matter?


A friend of mine is writing a graduate school admissions essay. You know the kind. You look at your life and explain why you want to get the degree or certification or credential in question. When he told me about the essay, we started talking about our values and how they align with what we do every day.

I thought I knew my values, but I was surprised once I started listing them that I have more values than I realized. If someone had asked me how many values underlie the things I pursue or the way I behave, I might have said four or five.

Of course, I saw an opportunity to write, so I started listing and describing my values. I came up with sixteen before I decided to stop (for now). After all, how much can I expect you to read!

Aligning Values with Actions

I try to align with my values with my work (writing or helping others write), my yoga practice, my spiritual life, and my relationships.

I enjoy things that align with my values, like nature, animals, music, the arts in general, and baseball. I’m not exactly sure where baseball fits in, so I’ll put it with family. It’s a connection I’ve had with my dad since I was eight years old, and in the beginning of our relationship, my husband and I bonded over our love for the sport.

I share my list not because I think you care what my values are, but because you may recognize something that resonates with you. If you want to share your list with me, I’d be honored!

My values are…

Spirituality – I value seeking and staying on the path to God or enlightenment (same thing in my mind). I’m not sure if spirituality is a value. Maybe faith in something greater than me is what I should call it. Or knowing who I truly am. I’m not sure how to explain this, even though it has been my primary value for as long as I can remember!

Silence – I believe that except when we have something useful to say, it’s best to be silent. It’s in silence that we learn to recognize truth.

Kindness – No one likes meanness. If you’re with people and you’re not helping them feel better about themselves, you’re better off being silent. That said, I recognize it’s not always meanness that prevents others from feeling good. Some people cannot accept kindness. They are the same people not likely to be kind. So, again, if your kindness is not received, be silent. The value of kindness is probably obvious. If you’re not sure what’s valuable about it, be still and notice what you feel next time someone is kind to you.

Simplicity – I think the more we have and do, the more crowded our minds become and the lower our vibration becomes. If you’re a spiritual seeker, you know that vibrating at a higher frequency is the key to transcendence and enlightenment. So, I don’t want a lot of stuff or too many places to be or too many superficial relationships. I don’t want a house full of things or a closet full of clothes. I want the energy to flow, and that requires simplicity.

Being organized – Clutter and chaos slow the flow of energy as well. I was born with the ability to organize, so maybe this is more of a trait than a value. It’s also another reason I value simplicity. It’s easier to keep things in order when you don’t have a lot of them!

Discipline Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today tends to be my motto. In my case, it might even be don’t put off until noon what you can do at 8 am. I know this makes me unusual, but it’s who I am. I’ve never been able to procrastinate.

Listening – You will learn much more by listening than speaking. You will grow much more by listening than speaking. And interestingly, you will help more by listening than speaking. If you have ears to hear (as Jesus said), do so. Listen. Hear. Reflect. And then you will know what to do.

Gratitude If you want to be happy, be thankful. I learned about the power of gratitude gradually, mostly from my yoga teachers, who speak about it often. They do this for a good reason. Gratitude has the power to fill your life. The less you think you have, the more you’ll gain from being grateful. I’m serious.

Following through – If I say I’ll do something, I do it. And I do it by the time I say I’ll do it. In my work, I never miss a deadline. Of course, because I value being reliable in that way, I’m also careful not to commit (or appear to commit) to things I’m not sure I can do.

Learning – In the past, I would have said education. I come from a family of educators. I earned a master’s degree but didn’t think that was enough. I wanted a PhD. I now realize I wasted a lot of time in school meeting requirements when I could have been out there actually learning something. I don’t think I’ll ever stop wanting to learn.

Integrity – Integrity is a kind of honesty that isn’t so much about conveying facts versus fiction but honesty in intention and staying true to my values when I make choices about what to do or what to say.

Care of Creation – I try to value all of creation. It all deserves to be treated with awe and respect. This includes inanimate objects in my care, such as books, my home, and my yard.

Helping others – This is certainly a value, but I mention it with a caveat. We often think helping others means bending over backwards to do everything for anyone who asks, even things that don’t align with our natural gifts. Our natural gifts are ours for a reason. We have them to serve. When we align with them, helping others comes naturally too.

Animal rights – One of my favorite quotes is Gandhi’s quote about animals. The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated. The more I explore this idea, the more I see the truth in it. We can learn a lot about life from animals and a lot about compassion and kindness from people who treat them well. Unfortunately, we also learn a lot (mostly about greed and selfishness) from people who mistreat them.

Family –  Here, I expand the definition of family to anyone—whether related by blood or not—who you love and who loves you as close to unconditionally as humans are capable of and who is as committed to your well-being as you are to theirs. And by that definition, of course, biology is no guarantee that you are a family.

Health of body, mind, and spirit Here is another way my work aligns with my values. I should also say that my interest in health is mostly holistic. Mind, body, and spirit are intimately connected, and I’ve explored that from every angle for decades.

Humor – Without a sense of humor, life would be much more boring and difficult than it needs to be. I sometimes think talented comedians do the most good in this world.

Creativity – I don’t have a great way to explain why I value creativity, but if I value creation, then I guess it makes sense that I value creativity.

I encourage you to think about your own values, and maybe make a list (be prepared for it to keep growing). If you do this, you may be surprised by how much bigger your life feels and how much more sense it makes.

If you don’t feel that, it may be because you’re not living in alignment with what you value.

WHY (A Poem From My College Days)

Because stars twinkle on a clear summer night

And birds sing at the gentle break of dawn.

Because Jackson Browne sings at the Meadowlands

And Woody Allen makes me laugh.

Because I make people laugh.

Because a drive to the country is so different

from a drive to Manhattan.

Because great writers have written

And great singers have sung

And great painters have painted.

Because I haven’t done those things yet.

Because there are places and cultures and ideas.

Because the world is my birthday present

And so much hasn’t been discovered yet.

Because all the world’s a stage

And because people want to talk to me.

Because of the alpha and  the omega

And Nirvana

And  truth, knowledge and bliss.

Because bits of frustration are the seeds of growth.

Because a hug is not really a scary thing.

And drums have a powerful sound.

Because cool grass feels neat between my toes

And pastels are beautiful colors.

Because popcorn tastes good without butter

And  there’s orange juice in oranges.

Love is Never Having to Define Love

need self-love

After my mom passed away, I wondered: Can I still love her? After all, doesn’t love imply some type of action?

Well, that depends. Is love a verb?

As a child, I loved my mom by doing my chores, being a good girl, and doing my best to get along with my siblings. As an adult, I loved her through our conversations, trips to the mall when she didn’t want to go alone, and daily visits when she was ill.

No what can I do?

Thinking about this led me to consider the question no one can really answer: What is love? The word is probably the most over-used, misused, and possibly meaningless word in our lexicon.

Here are just a few of the ways I’ve seen the word love used:

Love is the opposite of fear.

God is love.

Love is a decision.

Love is extending oneself to nurturing one’s own or another person’s spiritual growth.

If you love someone, set them free.

Love is never having to say you’re sorry.

I’m in love with my husband.

I love coffee.

I love cats.

To love another person is to see the face of God.

Love hurts.

All you need is love.

Be love now.

Looking back over the list, I can see that some of the statements involve action (extending one’s self, deciding, setting someone free) while others are more states of being (God is love, or love is the opposite of fear). Still others involve feeling good in some way (about cats or drinking coffee). In one case, it even feels bad (love hurts).

So, what is love?

Part of the problem in defining love comes from the fact that it’s not a concrete thing. I can’t define love—or describe it even—the way I can tell you about a tree or a candle flame.

Is love an emotion? Is it a behavior? Is it a state of mind?

Maybe we need more than one word for love. Or maybe we should forget about the word entirely. We do have more than one adjective to use with it, as in agape love, romantic love, Divine love, etc. In each of these cases, though, we assume the word love refers to the same thing.

Another Definition of Love

A definition of love that works well for me is love is the driving force that propels beings toward union with their source. So, for me, God is love, be love now, and love is the opposite of fear are the most useful descriptions. If I live in union with God, I become love, and I am no longer afraid.

My behavior can change based on my ability to experience love. I can make decisions or extend myself or enjoy someone or something once I’m in tune with my true, higher Self.

For a while, I had no idea why anyone would make a statement like “love is never having to say you’re sorry.” Then I realized the beloved, not the lover, was the one who needn’t apologize. Love means forgiving our loved ones when they act in ways that are not so loving.

Love is Beyond Words

Love, like God really cannot be defined. No one knows for sure what it is, but most of us believe to some extent that it exists and that it matters.

Maybe there are as many ways to love as there are ways to describe it. Rather than settling on a single definition of love, I think I’ll just work on getting better at it.

The Trumpet Shall Sound: Daring to Live in Awe of Mystery

trumpet shall sound

In 1983, my dad took me to hear Handel’s Messiah at Carnegie Hall in New York City. It became a holiday tradition, and he and I have attended a performance of Handel’s masterpiece almost every year since. Many years, my mom came along as well, and when I met my husband, he also became part of the annual tradition.

This year we weren’t sure we’d get there. My mom was very ill as the holidays approached, so we put off buying tickets.

A few weeks after Mom went home to God, we decided we’d go ahead and attend the performance. I’m glad we did.

The Magic of Messiah

Handel composed the music for Messiah in an astonishing 24 days. If you’ve heard it, you know what an awesome feat that was! I’ve never doubted, as many who love this music agree, that the composition was divinely inspired.

A tuned-in listener can’t help but feel comforted, hopeful, and full of faith when experiencing Messiah. That same listener might also feel challenged in a way. It is, after all, the story of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, beginning with the prophets foretelling the birth of a Savior.

You’re probably familiar with at least a few of the choruses or arias (solos). Most people have heard the Hallelujah Chorus, for instance.

One aria has always held me captive, but this year it was especially significant. That solo is “The Trumpet Shall Sound.”

Toward the end of the performance, the music features passages from the Acts of the Apostles about the resurrection of the dead. The lyrics are taken from 1 Corinthians 15. The bass soloist sings a recitative:

Behold, I tell you a mystery.

We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye

At the last trumpet.

And then, the magnificent aria. If you haven’t heard “The Trumpet Shall Sound”—or even if you have—take a few minutes to listen to it here.

Then come back, and I’ll tell you my story.

Did I Really See That So Clearly?

As you might guess, the words were especially significant for me this year because we attended the performance only a month after my mom’s passing. And there’s just a little more to it than that.

As a multi-focal contact lens wearer of a certain age, I’m rarely able to make out details of performer’s faces or instruments when I attend a concert. That was the case at Messiah…until the trumpet sounded.

When the bass began to sing, I suddenly realized I could see him very clearly. I thought, Wow. Why can I see that so clearly?

And then I thought about what I had just thought.

Perhaps you think I’m grasping for meaning in a time of grief. Maybe I am, but that is what I experienced.

Living in Awe of Mystery

The story of the resurrection—not just the resurrection of Jesus but the idea that we too shall be changed—is hopeful and awe-inspiring for many. Many others doubt it or flat-out reject it. But no matter where you stand on the matter, can you find a way to live in awe of mystery? Do you believe only what you can explain, or do you accept there is something more?

Without belief and trust in what we cannot understand, we are small, pathetic creatures. But when we dare to take leaps of faith and connect with mystery—with the idea that there is a greater truth and a purpose for our existence—we embody the meaning of the Christmas season: The awesome became accessible to us if we choose to accept it.

A Sign From Mom: The Mourning Dove and the Cross

dove and cross

My mom loved to tell the story of a memory she had from when my nephew Matt was a toddler. Mom and my dad cared for Matt—in fact for all four of my sister’s kids—while my sister and brother-in-law were at work.  She had a favorite memory for each of them.

Her memory for Matt was of a day when a mourning dove was cooing in the yard. Mom pointed to the sky and told Matt to listen for the sound of “the owl.” (Eventually, she realized it was not an owl, but a dove.)

The dove cooed, and Matt asked, “Grammy, if I point to the sky will it do that?”

The night before my Mom passed away, Matt, now 19, had a dream about an owl. Or maybe about a dove. The next day, as our whole family sat with her during her final hours on Earth, my sister told Mom the dove would be our sign.

“Send us a sign,” she whispered in Mom’s ear.

Mom passed away peacefully with her husband, children, and older grandchildren by her side. We’re heartbroken, and as I write this, it’s hard to imagine the pain will go away. But I lean on the words of my dear friend who told me that despite the pain and stress, this experience would also bring us the key to a new kind of love. He is right.

Our Sign

After Mom’s funeral mass, as we left the church and got into our cars for the drive to the cemetery, my sister said aloud, “Mom, you were supposed to send a sign!”

At that moment, she looked up and saw a mourning dove in the sky, “sketched” from clouds.  (“Mom really couldn’t draw,” she joked, though later when she sent me a photo of a mourning dove in flight, I thought it wasn’t such a bad sketch after all.)

mourning dove in flight

A mourning dove in flight

And that wasn’t all. Next to the dove was a giant cross. It followed our cars all the way from the church to the cemetery. Another sign, we’ve decided to believe, that Mom is okay and with God.

Our Mom’s Christian faith was the cornerstone of her life along with her love for her family, friends, and students. So, it’s fitting she’d use the cross along with the dove as our sign. The days ahead will be difficult, but we choose to believe that not only is she with God, but that both she and God will always be with us.




How to Make Safe and Healthy Reed Diffusers with Essential Oils

Essential oil reed diffuser

I like my home to be filled with pleasing aromas, but I’m wary of the ingredients in air fresheners, scented candles and other common items people use to mask odors in their homes. So, I was excited to come across an easy way to make homemade reed diffusers from pure essential oils! All you need is mineral oil, vodka, the essential oil (or oils) of your choice, a small vase, and some diffuser reeds, which you can buy in any craft store.

Here’s what you do:

Pour ¼ cup mineral oil and 2-3 tablespoons of vodka into the vase. Then add a 15-ml bottle of essential oil (or a total of 15 ml of the the oils you decide to blend). I chose geranium and lemongrass in mine.

Stir everything with the reeds and then let it go to work. It’s that easy! You can flip the reeds every once in a while to diffuse the oil better.

The fragrance you’ll enjoy will not comprise your health! In fact, it will probably improve it since essential oils have so many wonderful properties and benefits.

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