Tag Archive | love

February Acts of Kindness Challenge

When I think of the month of February, the first thing that comes into my mind is Valentine’s Day.   And when I think of Valentine’s Day, I am reminded of love.  So, I thought it might be fun to challenge myself and my family to spread our love during the month by performing at least one act of kindness each day.

When I first suggested the idea to my family in 2014, they were all really excited. I’m sure their excitement probably had something to do with me mentioning a reward at the end if we were able to complete it, but the real reward turned out to be the experience in itself.  We have taken the challenge every year since, and I can see this tradition being one that we will continue for a long time to come!

I invite you to join us and many others in spreading love and kindness all month!  Feel free to make up your own rules, or follow our guidelines below.

Act of Kindness Aesop light

 

Act of Kindness Challenge Guidelines:

  1. Prepare.  Print out this February 2017 Acts of Kindness Log for each member of your family.  Use it to record your acts of kindness throughout the month.  Also keep track of the acts of kindness performed toward you each day.  You might be surprised to actually see how many nice things people do for each other each day. 🙂  We put ours on the refrigerator so it stays in view and is easy to remember.
  2. Identify a Reward to keep You Motivated.  If you are taking the challenge with others, take a vote to see how you want to reward yourselves once you have completed the challenge!  In the past, we have rewarded ourselves by going out to dinner together as a family (something we usually only reserve for birthdays or special occasions.)  Come up with something that works for you and your family and that will motivate you to complete the challenge.  Don’t skip this step.  This is the step that keeps my kids motivated to keep going throughout the challenge.
  3. Spread your love!  Each day in February, perform at least one act of kindness and write it down on the log.  Try to come up with something different each day.  My definition of an Act of Kindness is:  any action you take to brighten someone’s day without expecting anything in return.  Also, write down any acts of kindness others performed toward you.
  4. Encourage each other and keep each other accountable.  Each day, share your ideas with your family members or loved ones who are also participating in the challenge.  Talk about the acts of kindness you performed.  Also, feel free to share your ideas and inspiration in our February Acts of Kindness Challenge Facebook group so we can continue to support and encourage each other and keep each other accountable.
  5. When the month is over, share what you learned from the experience.  Feel free to join our February Acts of Kindness Challenge Facebook group and share your stories with us there as well!
  6. REWARD YOURSELF!!  Don’t skip this step, either.  For many of us, the real reward is the experience in itself, but make sure to recognize your accomplishment and follow through on the reward you set in step 2.

I invite you to join us in this challenge and spread your love. It only takes a small act to make a big impact. Let’s make a difference together! “Like” the Facebook page February Acts of Kindness Challenge for inspirational stories and quotes each day, or join the Facebook support group at February Acts of Kindness Challenge to share your ideas and inspiration. 🙂

Feel free to do more than one Act of Kindness a day.  Don’t be afraid to write them all down.  You may already do several acts of kindness each day without even realizing it.  The point here is to become aware of all the good things you already do and realize the impact it has on others.  You may also want to try to take it a step further and do some things you normally wouldn’t do.  When we make a small effort to brighten someone’s day out of love (not obligation), we are rewarded with happiness.  Anything done out of obligation is not an act of love and will only cause you to feel resentment.  It doesn’t matter whether your acts of kindness are random or intentional, but to honor your own self-care, please make sure they are performed out of love.

As you perform more acts of kindness, you may also notice yourself becoming the recipient of more acts of kindness.  Learn to accept these gifts with gratitude.  Many times it is more challenging for us to receive than it is to give.  We may resist acts of kindness toward us because we may feel like we will owe the other person, but when you let people do nice things for you, you are actually giving them a gift.  Learning how to let others help you might be just what you need to learn from this challenge…I know from previous years it was exactly what I needed to learn.kindness mark twain

RESOURCES

If you run out of ideas at any point during the challenge, this Random Acts of Kindness generator is fantastic!

Check out this link for some great Random Acts of Kindness ideas!

“Like” the Facebook Page The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation.

Check out the inspiring movie, The Letter Writer. It is a great reminder of the impact our actions have on others, and the difference one act of kindness can make.  If you have some suggestions for more inspiring movies about kindness, please let me know about them in the comments below.

Random Acts of Kindness week is a 7-day celebration of kindness.  This year it falls on February 10-16, 2017!

Check out this inspiring 5 minute video to see how one small act of kindness can make a big impact.  

Do YOU have any kindness ideas, quotes, videos, or inspiration you would like to share? Feel free to leave them in a comment below or share them on the February Acts of Kindness Challenge Facebook support group. Thank you! 🙂

Inspiration Friday: Jim Carrey’s Secret of Life

My friend sent this inspiring video to me last week, and I thought it was absolutely perfect!

Check it out!

Have a Happy Friday and a wonderful weekend, and remember to always choose LOVE!

Book Review: Tuesdays with Morrie

I would like to introduce you to my all-time favorite book.  I just finished reading it for the 3rd time.  It is filled with inspiration, wisdom, love, compassion, gratitude, and all things good.  I think everyone should read it at least once.

I am posting this review this week in an effort to aid in spreading ALS awareness.  As I write this, people all over the nation are dumping buckets of ice water over their heads for the ALS ice bucket challenge (which I also did earlier this week.)  For those who want to gain a better understanding of this horrible disease, I think this book provides just that.  For more information on ALS, or to donate, visit http://www.alsa.org/

And now, let me introduce my favorite book:

Tuesdays with Morrie

by Mitch Albom

August 12, 2014 060 crop

Why did I read it?

I rarely read books more than once, but this was my third time reading this book and I could read it over and over again. I was looking for a quick and easy read and as I walked by my bookshelf, this book was there and I just felt like I needed to read it again. And I’m so glad I did! Sometimes we all need a little reminder about what is really important in life, and this book does just that.  🙂

What did I think?

I LOVE this book! Tuesdays with Morrie IS my all-time favorite book! I love it because it is a very quick read, yet it is filled with so much wisdom and advice. It is a great reminder of what really matters in life – relationships, love, and compassion. Through his actions, Morrie shows us that gratitude is the key to happiness. He experiences so much loss as his body gradually withers away, yet he is happy because he chooses to focus on the things he is grateful for. I think this book is a gift to humanity, and I think everyone should read it at least once.  For those who are not into reading, the movie is very good as well!

Summary

Tuesdays with Morrie is a story of a wise old man named Morrie Schwartz who has ALS (a.k.a. Lou Gehrig’s disease). As his body slowly deteriorates, he shares his wisdom and advice on many different areas of life with his former student, Mitch Albom. They meet for 14 weeks, on Tuesdays, right up until Morrie’s death. The topics they discuss include: the world, feeling sorry for yourself, regrets, death, family, emotions, the fear of aging, money, how love goes on, marriage, our culture, forgiveness, and “The Perfect Day.” This book is a result of those interviews, and through their words and actions, Morrie and Mitch show us the real meaning and importance of love, compassion, and gratitude. Morrie wanted to be known as “A Teacher to the Last”, and that he was and still is through this book.  This book was Morrie’s gift to the world, and he and his teachings will continue to live on through it.

My Favorite Quotes from Morrie Schwartz

“The culture we have does not make people feel good about themselves. We’re teaching the wrong things. And you have to be strong enough to say if the culture doesn’t work, don’t buy it. Create your own.”

“The most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love, and to let it come in.”

“I give myself a good cry if I need it. But then I concentrate on all the good things still in my life.”

“It’s horrible to watch my body slowly wilt away to nothing. But it’s also wonderful because of all the time I get to say goodbye. Not everyone is so lucky.”

“Everyone knows they’re going to die, but nobody believes it. If we did, we would do things differently.”

“Once you learn how to die, you learn how to live.”

“If you don’t have the support and love and caring and concern that you get from a family, you don’t have much at all.”

“This is part of what a family is about, not just love, but letting others know there’s someone who is watching out for them. Nothing else will give you that. Not money. Not fame. Not work.”

“Learn to detach. Don’t cling to things, because everything is impermanent.”

“I embrace aging…if you’re always battling against getting older, you’re always going to be unhappy, because it will happen anyhow.”

“You have to find what’s good and true and beautiful in your life as it is now. Looking back makes you competitive. And, age is not a competitive issue.”

“The truth is, part of me is every age. I delight in being a child when it’s appropriate to be a child. I delight in being a wise old man when it’s appropriate to be a wise old man. Think of all I can be! I am every age, up to my own.”

“We put our values in the wrong things. And it leads to very disillusioned lives.”

“You can’t substitute material things for love or for gentleness or for tenderness or for a sense of comradeship.”

“You know what really gives you satisfaction? Offering others what you have to give.”

To find meaning in your life: “Devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.”

“Status will get you nowhere. Only an open heart will allow you to float equally between everyone.”

“Giving to other people is what makes me feel alive.”

“Love is how you stay alive, even after you are gone.”

“I believe in being fully present. That means you should be with the person you’re with.”

“People are only mean when they are threatened, and that’s what our culture does. And when you get threatened, you start looking out only for yourself.”

“Here’s what I mean by building your own little subculture. I don’t mean you disregard every rule of your community. The little things, I can obey. But the big things – how we think, what we value – those you must choose yourself. You can’t let anyone – or any society – determine those for you.”

“Every society has its own problems…You have to work at creating your own culture.”

“If we saw each other as more alike, we might be very eager to join in one big human family in this world, and to care about that family the way we care about our own.

“Invest in the human family. Invest in people. Build a little community of those you love and who love you.”

Be compassionate. And take responsibility for each other. If we only learned those lessons, this world would be so much better a place.”

“Forgive yourself before you die. Then forgive others.”

“As long as we can love each other, and remember the feeling of love we had, we can die without ever really going away. All the love you created is still there. All the memories are still there. You live on – in the hearts of everyone you have touched and nurtured while you were here.”

“Death ends a life; not a relationship.”

Other Quotes from the book

“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” ~Henry Adams

“Love each other or perish.” ~Auden

10 “Secrets” to Inner Peace

10-secrets-to-peace

As I was meditating on the 10 Commandments recently, I realized these life guidelines are a wonderful gift to us. In a perfect world, everyone would follow these commandments, suffering would be completely eliminated, and everyone would be full of love and free of worry. We would all be at peace with ourselves and wouldn’t be afraid to “be ourselves.” We would all be loved and accepted just as we are, with no pressure to conform to what society says is “right” and “wrong”, and our uniqueness would be appreciated. We would all know ourselves and be able to identify our gifts, we would know God, and we would know that underneath it all, we are pure LOVE. Everyone would lovingly share their natural God-given gifts and talents with each other to make the world a better place.

But we do not live in a perfect world. We have free will. While free will is generally a wonderful gift (without it, we would not be able to grow), unfortunately it allows for all of us to occasionally take some actions out of fear rather than love. Each action taken out of fear eventually causes suffering, either in our own life or someone else’s. That is exactly what the 10 Commandments are trying to prevent.

The 10 Commandments are not secrets at all.  They are widely known and accepted by various religions, but they are not always followed.  When reading the 10 Commandments in Exodus 20:1-17 of the bible (NIV), initially they seem very harsh and instill fear in me. After spending some time meditating on them, I see the reasons behind them and see that they are all based on LOVE. They are guidelines to help us avoid suffering.  Here is my attempt at a “loving” 2014 interpretation of the 10 Commandments:

 1. Make God (a.k.a. “LOVE”) the #1 priority in your life.

 Having complete faith and trust in God will allow you to let go of all your worries, give them up to God, and live in peace.  As one of my favorite sayings goes, “Let Go.  Let God.”

God is the one constant in your life. Everything and everyone else will come and go, but your creator will never leave you. During the difficult times in life, trust that everything is happening exactly as it should. I believe that everything happens for a reason and always for the greatest good, even though we may not understand the reasoning right away. I believe that there are no accidents in life, and every experience we encounter each day is a gift. My trust in God is what gets me through the difficult times, and those times have proven to be some of the greatest blessings in my life.  Remember that you are not the master planner of your life, and everything will always work out for the best in the end. When you are able to give all your worries up to God and let go of trying to be the master planner of your life, fear will be replaced with LOVE, and you will know peace.

So, how do you make God the #1 priority in your life?

It all starts with loving yourself.   When you make the time for self-care and you really take the time to get to know, love, and accept yourself exactly as you are, you will find God within you.   When you love yourself, you will respect your life and your body. You will want to feed your body healthy foods and feed your mind only healthy thoughts. You will want to spend more time on your personal growth, trying to better yourself each day so you can be the best person you can be.

Society tells us self-care is selfish. Society tells us to take care of everyone else first and put ourselves last. I believe this commandment is telling us the opposite. It is telling us to put God first. Since God is within you, the more time you focus on loving yourself, the more you will come to know Him. When you take the time to care for yourself, you will be better able to care for others. If you don’t love yourself, it is impossible to love others. God speaks to us in the silence, so if you don’t take time to be still, it is very difficult to hear God. Since God IS love, the more time you spend getting to know yourself and God, the more you will be filled with love. Eventually, you will be so full of love that the love will start to pour out onto others. Your actions will be done out of pure love rather than guilt or obligation, and you will be fulfilling your purpose on this earth.

If anyone or anything besides God is #1 in your life, it will take away your inner peace and cause suffering.  This includes money, addictions, power, possessions, etc.  Let go of your need for these things, and trust that God will provide whatever is needed in your life.

Do you feel at peace right now? If not, ask yourself what or who is the top priority in your life.

The 1st Commandment from Exodus 20:3 NIV states:

“You shall have no other gods before me.”

2. Focus your time and energy on relationships rather than possessions.

We all came into this life with no possessions and will leave this life with no possessions. Do not worship or get too attached to your possessions. All possessions come and go, and they don’t really belong to us anyway. Everything we have belongs to God and is a gift from God. Spending too much time and energy consumed with acquiring and maintaining possessions leads to an empty life. Remember, “The best things in life aren’t things.” At the end of your life, the shiny car you drove or the house you owned will not matter. The only things that will matter are the relationships you had: with God, with yourself, and with others. Take the time to nurture your relationships. LOVE comes first.

The 2nd Commandment from Exodus 20:4-6 NIV states:

“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.  You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

3. THINK before you speak. Is it:   True?  Helpful?  Inspiring?  Necessary?  Kind?   If not, keep it to yourself.  Everything you say should be done out of love.

 Speak only kind words about yourself, about God, and about others. Since God is within you and God created you, speaking negatively about yourself is the same as speaking negatively about God.

Speaking poorly about yourself, God, or others will destroy your inner peace, so do your best to keep your thoughts and words positive. Philippians 4:8 states: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”

There are many proverbs and verses in the bible that promote the idea of thinking before you speak.

Proverbs 29:20 states: “Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him. “

Proverbs 10:19 states: “The more talk, the less truth; the wise measure their words.”

James 1:19 states: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…”

Ecclesiastes 5:2 states: “Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few.”

The 3rd Commandment from Exodus 20:7 NIV states:

“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.”

4. Each week, take a full day off to recharge.

This is my favorite tip, and the one practice that has made the greatest impact in my life! Since following this advice, I have come to know myself better, I feel like I know God much better, I feel like I know what my true priorities are in life, and I feel relaxed, happier, less-stressed, and much more at peace.

Each week, set a day aside to rest. Do your best to plan all your work around that day each week. Spend the day enjoying your family and friends, and take the time to stop and truly appreciate all the blessings surrounding you. Allow spontaneity, especially if you follow a strict schedule the other 6 days of the week. Allow yourself to get bored once in a while and really get to know your true self. Be fully present wherever you are, and focus completely on what you are doing. Notice the little things, and try to spend the day in a state of gratitude. You may be surprised what a positive impact this will make on your life, and may find that allowing yourself the time to relax and recharge actually makes you more productive.

The 4th commandment is a blessing, and if more people followed this commandment and took the time to relax and recharge each week, I think people would have much less stress in their lives, much more peace, and families would be much stronger. It is personally my favorite day of the week!

The 4th Commandment from Exodus 20:8-11 NIV states:

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

5. Respect your elders, and take advice from those you admire.

When you are a child, those who care for you generally have your best interest at heart. If you listen to them, you will be safe, protected, and live a long life. If you ignore their advice, you will be putting yourself and your life in danger. Take advantage of the wisdom your elders have gained, and listen to them so you don’t have to learn things for yourself the hard way.

The 5th Commandment from Exodus 20:12 NIV states:

“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.”

6. Respect each other. Respect the environment and all the creatures of the earth. Do not intentionally harm anyone.

We are all one big family inhabiting this earth together. We need to love, respect, and accept each other. Every person and every thing we encounter each day is a gift. We need to recognize, appreciate, and respect all the gifts we have been given and treat them all with love.

The 6th Commandment from Exodus 20:13 NIV states:

“You shall not murder.”

 7. Keep your promises. Help others to keep their promises.

 Broken promises cause suffering. If you aren’t positive you can keep a promise, don’t make it. Select your words carefully. Instead of saying, “I will…” get into the habit of saying “I will try…” or “I might…” or “I’m planning to…” Sometimes unforeseen circumstances prevent you from doing what you say and promises are broken, causing disappointment. I rarely make promises, but when I do, I take them seriously and make sure I can fulfill the promise I made.

Also, do not interfere with a promise someone else has made, especially if it is a vow in marriage. Marriage is not something to be taken lightly. When two people love each other and take the vows of marriage, it is a promise they make to each other and to God. Everyone needs to respect this promise.

The 7th Commandment from Exodus 20:14 NIV states:

“You shall not commit adultery.”

 8. Respect the belongings of others.

Recognize that people work hard to earn everything they have. If you want something, you must also work hard to earn it. Do not take what doesn’t belong to you. Also, do not be afraid to ask if you need something. Matthew 7:7 NIV states: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” If you want something, work for it. If you need something, simply ask, but do not steal.

The 8th Commandment from Exodus 20:15 NIV states:

“You shall not steal.”

 9. Be honest with yourself and others, and treat everyone with love and respect.

 Be completely honest with yourself and others. Don’t say yes when you mean no. Doing things just to impress or please others doesn’t help anyone, and it will only cause you resentment in the long run. Make sure EVERYTHING you do is done out of love. Doing anything out of guilt or obligation is not an act of love.

Speak only kind words about others. If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say it at all. Do not gossip, spread rumors, or consume your precious time with the way others are living their lives. Rather, put your time and energy into improving your own life and helping others to do the same.

The 9th Commandment from Exodus 20:16 NIV states:

“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.”

 10. Be grateful for what you have.

I believe the attitude of gratitude will always bring happiness and peace. Focus on your blessings and give thanks rather than focusing on your wants. When you focus on your wants, you are focusing on the things you are lacking in your life, and that just puts you into a state of fear. On the other hand, being grateful puts the focus on love and abundance. Instead of always going after the latest model car, phone, etc., learn to be content with what you have. According to Buddha, craving and desire are two of the biggest causes of suffering.

The 10th Commandment from Exodus 20:17 NIV states:

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

 Conclusion

If everyone followed these 10 commandments all the time, I believe suffering would be nearly, if not completely eliminated, and we would all be at peace. But the reality is, we are all human. We all make mistakes and break some of these commandments from time to time. When that happens, we can guarantee that someone will pay the price for our mistakes. We may cause our own suffering, or we may cause the suffering of someone else. But the good news is, it is not the end of the world and we can be forgiven if we just ask for it. We can wake up the next morning, thank God for a brand new day, and start new.

Overall, I think Jesus summed up the 10 commandments perfectly in Mark 12:30-31 NIV

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

Also, you can never go wrong if you follow the golden rule:  “Treat others the way you would like to be treated.”

May your days be filled with love, peace and blessings!

Book Review: Dying to Be Me

Dying to Be Me:  My Journey from Cancer, to Near Death, to True Healing by Anita Moorjani

This is one of the best books I have ever read!  I have enjoyed reading about Anita’s life and learning all the life lessons her near-death experience taught her.

Summary

Anita battled cancer for almost 4 years.  When her body began shutting down, she entered a near death experience (NDE) where she discovered the cause of her disease.  She realized she was dying because of all of her fears.  She was afraid to express her true self, which caused her own energy to manifest as cancer.  When she chose to return to her body, she realized she had the power to heal herself.  She knew she would be healed quickly because the root cause of her disease was taken care of.

The book is divided into 3 parts.  Part 1 talks about Anita’s childhood and how she grew up at the intersection of multiple cultures that held contradictory beliefs.  She was exposed to different religious and cultural customs, some of which she did not agree with.  She had to deal with the disapproval of her family and her culture as she stayed true to herself and did not conform to some of their traditions.  Part 2 talks about her NDE, and Part 3 talks about the wisdom and new understandings she gained as a result of her NDE.  The experience completely changed her perspective on life.

My Favorite Quotes From the Book:anitamoorjanibeyourself

“I had the choice to come back…or not.  I chose to return when I realized that ‘heaven’ is a state, not a place…”

“I believe that the greatest truths of the universe don’t lie outside, in the study of the stars and the planets.  They lie deep within us, in the magnificence of our heart, mind, and soul.  Until we understand what is within, we can’t understand what is without.”

“In that state, I somehow knew that in some way, I was meant to inspire thousands…I just had to be myself and enjoy life, and to allow myself to be an instrument for something much greater to take place.”

“We all have our own way of recognizing that infinite space within us.  For some it may be prayer.  For others, it can be music, art, being in nature, or even pursuing knowledge and technology – whatever brings out our passion, creativity, and purpose for living.”

“To be me is to be love.”

“In sharing my experience and my insights, my only purpose is to ignite the spark of magnificence that lies within you.”

“When we know that we are love, we don’t need to work at being loving toward others.  Instead, we just have to be true to ourselves, and we become instruments of loving energy, which touches everyone we come into contact with.”

“For people to commit unloving acts, they must really be full of confusion, frustration, pain, and self-hatred.  They have to be diseased (like having cancer).  Treating them with contempt only allows the “cancer” to grow in our society.”

“Go out and live your life fearlessly.”

“We all have the capacity to heal ourselves as well as facilitate the healing of others.”

“When we get in touch with that infinite place within us where we are whole, then illness can’t remain in the body.  When we heal others, we also heal ourselves and the planet.  There’s no separation except in our own minds.”

“Our world at any time is a tapestry made up of all our thoughts, feelings, experiences, relationships, emotions, and events up to that point.”

“True joy and happiness can only be found by loving yourself, going inward, following your heart, and doing what brings you joy.”

“Religion is just a path for finding truth:  Religion is not truth.  It is just a path.  And different people follow different paths.” p.18

“I then understood that even if my physical body stopped, everything is still perfect in the greater tapestry of life, for we never truly die.” p.5

My Recommendation/What I Learned

I would absolutely recommend this book!  It is a quick read (only 189 pages) and I found it very interesting.

This book taught me the importance of being true to myself always.  It taught me that physical death is not something to fear, and it taught me the importance of letting go of all fears and enjoying life to the fullest…now!!  This book reinforces the belief that we are spiritual beings having a human experience and that we are all connected.

These are the main messages she is trying to relay:

1.  We are all one.

2.  We are love at our core.

3.  We are magnificent.

Anita is trying to let us know that we all need to love and accept ourselves just as we are.  She shared her story to remind us all of our own magnificence and the importance of being able to fully trust our inner guidance.

For more reviews, check out http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12291050-dying-to-be-me.

February Acts of Kindness Challenge

aesopactofkindness

When I think of the month of February, the first thing that comes into my mind is Valentine’s Day.  And when I think of Valentine’s Day, I am reminded of love.  So I thought it might be fun to challenge myself and my family to spread our love this month by performing at least one act of kindness each day.  When I suggested the idea to my family, they were all really excited.  I’m sure their excitement probably had something to do with me mentioning a reward at the end if we were able to complete it, but I know the real reward will be in the experience itself.

Act of Kindness Challenge Guidelines:

1.  I  have made this Acts of Kindness Log for each member of my family to record our acts of kindness throughout the month.  I printed it out for each family member and put it on the refrigerator.

2.  Each day, each member of our family will perform at least one act of kindness and write it down on the log.  My definition of an Act of Kindness is: any action you take to brighten someone’s day without expecting anything in return.

3.  Each night at dinner, my family will share our acts of kindness with each other so we can continue to support and encourage each other.

4.  When the month is over, we will share what we learned with each other and take a vote to see how we want to reward ourselves!

I invite you to join us in this challenge and spread your love.  It only takes a small act to make a big impact.  Let’s make a difference together!  “Like” the Facebook page February Random Acts of Kindness Challenge or join the Facebook support group at February Acts of Kindness Challenge to share your ideas and inspiration. 🙂

Feel free to do more than one Act of Kindness a day.  Don’t be afraid to write them all down.  You may already do several acts of kindness each day without even realizing it.  The point here is to become aware of all the good things you already do and realize the impact it has on others.  You may also want to try to take it a step further and do some things you normally wouldn’t do.  When we make a small effort to brighten someone’s day out of love (not obligation), we are rewarded with happiness.

As you perform more acts of kindness, you may notice more acts of kindness being performed toward you.  Learn to accept these gifts with gratitude.  Many times it is more challenging for us to receive than it is to give.  We may resist acts of kindness toward us because we may feel like we will owe the other person, but when you let people do nice things for you, you are giving them a gift.

RESOURCES

Check out this link for some great Random Acts of Kindness ideas!

Check out this inspiring 5 minute video to see how one small act of kindness can make a big impact.

Check out the inspiring movie, The Letter Writer.  It is a great reminder of the impact our actions have on others, and the difference one act of kindness can make.

QUOTES

rumikindnessscottadamskindness

mayaangelokindnessbe the reason someone smiles today

10 Things I Learned in 2013

2013 seasons

As 2013 comes to a close, I have been reflecting on the things I have learned this year and the new habits I have incorporated that have made a positive impact in my life.  Over the past year, I have taken a much deeper interest in living naturally and becoming aware of the foods and products I put into and on my body.  I dedicated a lot of my time learning about those topics, and I also put a lot of good advice into practice in the area of self care.  I have better learned how to honor my true self, and I spend much more time doing things I truly love.  I live a more authentic life because I stopped trying to please others.  I finally feel like I am following my passions and am living each day fulfilling God’s purpose for my life.  Each morning when I wake up, I am so grateful to have another day on this earth and to be able to enjoy all the wonderful blessings God has given me, and I am so excited to see what the day will bring and how I can use my natural gifts and talents to serve others.  Here are 10 things I learned in 2013 that have contributed to improving my overall wellness:

1.  Every person, every thing, and every experience we encounter each day is a gift from God.

There are no accidents or coincidences in life.  Every person we come into contact with and every experience that happens to us each day happens for a reason.  Even the seemingly bad experiences and encounters are a gift.  When something unfortunate happens in my life, I remind myself that it is a gift and it is happening because there is a lesson I need to learn from it.  If suffering didn’t exist in the world, we would not have the chance to grow.  Having the faith that there is a good reason behind everything brings me instant peace.  I try to recognize and appreciate all the gifts that come into my life each day because I have found that the biggest secret to happiness is the attitude of gratitude.  For more of my secrets to happiness, check out my blog post Secrets to Happiness.

2.  Eating REAL food makes a huge difference!

November 7, 2013 159 cropIn October, I took the October Unprocessed Challenge and spent the entire month eating only unprocessed foods.  It was a huge learning experience for me!  During the challenge, I felt terrific and full of energy all day long, I discovered some wonderful new foods and recipes, and I connected with a whole world of like-minded people committed to improving their health and supporting each other.  It became a lifestyle change for me and my family.  I found healthy replacements for a lot of the foods we ate, and I feel great about all the positive changes I have made to improve the health and wellness of my family.  To learn about ALL the benefits and challenges I encountered during this experience, check out my blog post here.

3.  How to Read Ingredient Labels

As part of the October Unprocessed Challenge, I learned how to read the labels of all those foods I had always bought out of habit without really knowing what was in them.  I realized the importance of knowing what ingredients I am putting into and on my body every day, as well as the source of these “foods” and products.  Many of the products we use every day are banned in other countries because they are dangerous to our health.  I came out of the October Unprocessed Challenge with a whole new awareness about foods, and I am committed to learning more in this area and helping to educate my family and others who are interested  in improving their health.

4.  Downtime is not wasted time.

This is something I have slowly learned over the years, but this year I really came to embrace it.  For most of my life, I was very focused on being busy and doing something productive at all times.  When I December 4, 2013 phone 059 cropbecame a mom 11 years ago, I was forced to slow down.  That was the biggest blessing I could have ever received!  I learned that life is about relationships, not productivity.  In the end, our relationships with God, others, and OURSELVES is all that really matters!

Stopping to be still and spend time with myself was difficult to do at first.  I felt guilty because I felt like I “should” be doing other things.  But I am so grateful that I ignored the “shoulds.”  Focusing on myself helped me to re-evaluate my priorities and get to know myself better so I can spend time doing things I really love to do and share my natural gifts and talents with the world.  This year I made it a priority to schedule “MY TIME” every week.  “MY TIME” consists of a block of 1-2 hours each week where I spend time alone and just let myself reflect on my life and write about whatever thoughts come into my head during that time.  I use the book “Life Makeovers” by Cheryl Richardson as a guide in evaluating the changes I am making or need to make in my life.  I have come to treasure that alone time each week.  It gives me time to recharge, and I feel I am better able to take care of my family and others if I take care of myself first and make that downtime a priority.  Because when mom is happy, then everyone is happy, right? 🙂

5.  Green Smoothies are Yummy!!

October 24, 2013 007 cropAt the beginning of the year, I had no desire to even try a green smoothie.  Now, I can’t imagine a day without one.  They can be absolutely delicious once you find a recipe that works for you (and even my 11-year-old daughter loves them).  I found that green smoothies are an easy way to get more veggies into my diet, they provide lots of nutrients, and they give me lots of energy.  Here is my favorite recipe, but substitute to your liking (really any fruits or vegetables you like will work):

1 orange fresh squeezed from the juicer (or use about 3/4  cup store-bought orange or apple juice, or even water)

3/4 cup organic baby spinach (or other greens…sometimes I use Kale)

1 frozen banana (I buy them from the reduced price section of the produce department…get them with brown spots, take them home, peel them, break in half, then immediately put into the freezer in a freezer bag.)

1/4 cup Plain Greek Yogurt

A handful of fresh pineapple

Blend in any blender.  Mine is over 12 years old, and still works great!  Be sure to blend the greens and liquid first until the greens are dissolved.  Then add the rest of the ingredients.

Check out simplegreensmoothies.com for more yummy smoothie recipes.

6.  The importance of saying NO.

This past year, I got really good at saying no.  I have learned how to set my priorities, guard my time better, and set boundaries.  It is so easy to say yes to all the little requests that people have of my time, but I have found that when I do that, I am left with no time left for me.  Sometimes we need to say no to people to say yes to God.  Saying NO was not an easy thing for me to do because I do want to help others and make their lives easier, but I learned that doing ANYTHING out of guilt or obligation is not an act of love.  I made a promise to myself at the beginning of the year to only do things out of love.  I learned that you can’t please everyone and there will always be people who don’t understand you or the decisions you make, but in committing to love myself more, I started to let go of my need to be accepted and I stopped caring about what anyone else thinks.  One of my favorite quotes is:  “It is none of my business what other people think of me.”  It felt really good to stand up for myself and be truly authentic by living according to my values rather than always following the crowd.  I also realized that the fewer commitments I have, the happier I am and the less stressed I am.  I re-evaluated my priorities, let go of commitments that I didn’t really love, and that freed up a lot of my precious time to spend on things I am passionate about so I can use my natural gifts and talents to help others.

7.  The many uses and benefits of coconut oil. 

Coconut oil has to be my greatest discovery of the year!  I love that stuff!  Before this year, I had never even heard of coconut oil, let alone use it in my daily diet and health and beauty routine.  It has many health benefits and is said to help with weight loss, diabetes, cholesterol, Alzheimers, and many other health conditions.  I can attest to it helping with cholesterol.  This year, I threw out my huge jug of canola oil and vowed to never bring that or any vegetable oils into my house again.  I now use coconut oil in place of butter and other oils in many recipes, and my “good” cholesterol went up and my “bad” went down. 🙂

Coconut oil has many uses for the skin and hair as well.  It is a popular ingredient in many homemade natural products.  I use it daily as a facial moisturizer (as an added bonus, it is naturally an SPF of 4).  I use it as a shave gel, lotion after shaving, and I use it in place of chapstick on myself and my daughters.  There are countless uses for it.  Check out 101 uses here, and check here for a short blog post I wrote about coconut oil containing additional links and more detailed information on the benefits and uses of this natural product.

8.  The answers are all within us.

I am passionate about learning about things I am interested in, but when I spend too much time listening to the “experts” instead of listening to my gut, I tend to get very stressed.  I am all for learning and taking advice from those I admire, but sometimes I need to just take a break from the book I am reading or lecture I am listening to and take the time to listen to my inner wisdom instead.  When I do start to feel stressed, I learned that the best thing for me to do is to stop everything I am doing, forget my to-do-list and all the projects I am working on, and spend my time writing instead.  Sometimes I feel like life is so exciting and there is so much to learn and do and there are not enough hours in a day, but I need to remind myself that I am not the master planner for my life.  Everything is happening exactly as it should and will happen in it’s own perfect timing.  Let Go and Let God lead the way…that is the way to peace.

9.  How to eliminate my shampoo and conditioner.

This one took a little while to get used to, but for about 7 months now, I have not used shampoo or conditioner on myself or my 6-year-old.  This is what I do instead:  I mix 1 Tablespoon of baking soda with 1 cup of water (I do this in the shower in a plastic 1-cup measuring cup) and pour it over my head for the shampoo.  I rub it in gently, and then rinse.  It doesn’t take long to rinse out because it does not suds up.  The thin consistency took some getting used to.  For conditioner, I mix 1 Tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar with 1 cup water, pour over my head, rub in gently, and rinse.  That’s it.  The Apple Cider Vinegar also took some getting used to.  I could not stand the smell at first, but now I am used to it and don’t even notice it.  When my hair dries, the vinegar smell is gone.

This idea was inspired by a blog post from The Art of Simple Blog.  Check it out for a more extensive description as well as reasons why you may want to try it.  It definitely is not for everyone, but it has worked for me and my 6-year-old daughter for over 7 months and has saved me a lot of money in shampoo and conditioner, and gives me peace of mind that we are not exposing our bodies to unnecessary dangerous chemicals.  Many hair products we use all the time in the US are very dangerous to our health.  The last time my daughter had a haircut (before we changed to the “no-poo” method), the hairdresser asked me what type of shampoo we used…I told her and she said to throw it away and don’t buy it again because it is banned in other countries (this is a shampoo I was using for MANY years.)  So many things are done out of habit…we just buy them because that is what we are used to, or we think it’s safe because everyone else uses it.  I think it is so important to become educated about everything we are putting into and on our bodies (this goes for our pets, too).  I’m still searching for a good “natural” shampoo that is inexpensive to use for my 9 and 11-year old daughters.  They could not get used to the consistency of the no-poo method.  As soon as I find a good one, I will post it here on my blog.

10.  Blogging

When 2013 began, I knew very little about blogging.  Having my own never even crossed my mind.  I discovered some blogs that interested me, but I never thought I could make one of my own.  I was very intimidated because I thought blogs were for “real” writers and authors, not for a regular person like me.  As a very private person, I couldn’t imagine everyone being able to read what I write.  But one day while writing in my journal, God opened my eyes and let me know that I need to share all these things I am learning.  So, I decided to listen and attempted to start my own blog.  It was very scary at first (and still is), but I am gradually gaining confidence with each post I write.  I still have so much more to learn about blogging, but it has been a fun experience so far.  I have discovered blogging to be a whole new world of opportunity and a wonderful community of like-minded individuals ready and willing to support each other, and a great way to share what I am learning.   Here are just a few of my favorite blogs:

http://wellnessmama.com/

http://theartofsimple.net/

http://www.diynatural.com/

http://www.eatingrules.com/

Looking Ahead to 2014

As 2014 approaches, I am very excited to continue on my journey to wellness in mind, body, and spirit.  I hope to discover many new unprocessed recipes, natural health care products, and tips to greater wellness.  I am grateful for the opportunity to share it all here on this blog.  I hope you will follow me on my journey and we can achieve better wellness together.  You can join me on my journey by following this blog and by following Journey to Complete Wellness on Facebook.  I wish you a happy, healthy, and blessed 2014!

What Really Matters

I came across this beautiful poem this week, and it really spoke to me:

“When I’ll be dead, your tears will flow, but I won’t know…Cry for me now instead!
You will send flowers, but I won’t see… Send them now instead!
You’ll say words of praise, but I won’t hear…Praise me now instead!
You’ll forget my faults, but I won’t know…Forget them now, instead!
You’ll miss me then, but I won’t feel… Miss me now, instead!
You’ll wish…you could have spent more time with me…Spend it now instead!!”  ~Author Unknown

I feel so blessed to have spent two days of this Thanksgiving holiday weekend with my 4-year-old niece, Mya.  I am thankful for having the opportunity to play with her, listen to her laugh and sing, and watch her run around like any other 4-year-old, for what might be the last time.  She reminded me of what really matters in life…

November 28, 2013 050 crop web

Mya was diagnosed with a brain tumor one year ago, in November 2012.  She survived 6 rounds of chemotherapy and was in stable condition as of June 2013.  She spent 100 days in isolation while she began to gain her strength back.  Her hair began to grow back, her appetite came back, and everything was looking great.  Tragically, on November 6 she went back for an MRI and it showed the tumor had spread to different parts of her brain as well as her spine, and it is now in a very aggressive state.  The doctors estimate she has 6-12 months to live.  You can imagine how devastating this news was to her parents.

Until this past week, Mya was feeling fine with no symptoms.  On Tuesday, she started to experience headaches.  While at my house on Thanksgiving, she was experiencing headaches, vomiting, dizziness, and loss of balance.  There was nothing she wanted more than to join in and play with her older cousins, but the pain was so bad she could not concentrate, even with the medication.  Mya spent Thanksgiving night and most of Friday in the hospital.

This was the first time I had ever witnessed her with any symptoms.  Living this experience was much more difficult than just hearing about it or reading about it.  I wanted to take away her pain so badly, but there was nothing I could do.  I can’t imagine what her parents have been going through for the past year, wanting to take away her pain, but feeling so helpless.

On Saturday, we saw Mya again at another family gathering.  This was a much better day!  She had no pain at all and spent the day laughing, singing, playing, and running around playing with her cousins.  Knowing this might be the last time I see her, I focused on being truly present with her and really paid attention and appreciated seeing all those beautiful smiles, hearing her sing and laugh, and watching her play with my kids.  Mya loves having her picture taken, and she loves being behind the camera.  It was great watching her run around the house with my camera taking pictures of everyone and everything.  I am thankful she had a good day and we were all able to see her in a good state.

November 30, 2013 100 cropweb

Right now I don’t understand why this is happening to Mya and her family, but I trust that God has a reason for this and over time people will be brought together and many good things will happen because of her existence.  I know God doesn’t make mistakes, and everything happens for a reason for the overall good, but that doesn’t make it easy to watch Mya and her family suffer.

My time with Mya this weekend reminded me of a few things.  We all have little day-to-day problems, but when we change our perspective, we realize we are beyond blessed to simply be here.  Every person and experience we encounter each day is a gift.  We take so many things and people for granted each day and waste so much time worrying about the little things.  In the end, the only thing that matters are our relationships– with ourselves, with God, and with others.  We need to spend our time on what really matters, make the most of each day, and be truly present in everything we do.

Please pray for Mya as she begins radiation in the coming weeks to give her a little more time, and especially pray for her family as they prepare for something no parent should ever have to prepare for.

For the most recent updates and to view her entire story, visit http://www.fightformya.org.  Thank you and God Bless!!

Secrets to Happiness on the Lifelong Journey to Complete Wellness

Our Journey to Complete Wellness is one we are on for our entire lives.  Since none of us are perfect, there is always room for improvement and growth in different areas of our lives.  Here are some secrets I have found to happiness during the past 38 years of my journey so far…

37-secrets-to-happiness

1.  The attitude of gratitude will ALWAYS bring you happiness.  Find something to be thankful for.  We are all constantly surrounded by so many gifts and blessings.

2.  View every encounter and experience as a gift.  Even the seemingly bad situations are a gift in the end.  Try to recognize and appreciate these gifts every day.

3.  Be kind to everyone, but spend the majority of your time with like-minded, positive people who are also committed to improving their personal and spiritual growth and are willing to support you on your journey.

4.  Fill your mind with only positive, inspirational and uplifting ideas and thoughts.  Turn off the news and leave the disturbing books at the library.  “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” ~ Philippians 4:8 (my favorite bible verse)

5.  Eat real food!! (It’s amazing how much energy you will have!)

6.  Do not multitask.  Do one thing at a time, give it your all, and be fully present in everything you do.  Heaven on Earth happens in the moments when you are fully present.

7.  Do not judge others.  You have no idea what anyone else is going through.  Everyone has reasons for their beliefs and actions.  We are all unique and just want to be allowed to be ourselves and be accepted for who we really are.  Only then can our true gifts shine through.  “If God is infinite, then nobody is wrong.” ~ Panache Desai

8.  Think before you speak.  Is it true, helpful, inspiring, necessary, or kind?  If not, keep it to yourself.

9.  Forgive.  Holding onto anger never hurts the other person.  It only hurts yourself.  Let it go and let God take it from there.

10.  Do not gossip or spend your time consumed with other people’s lives.  Put your time and energy into improving your own.

11.  Practice acceptance.  Everything happens for a reason, and always for the overall good.  Even the most tragic situations result in more good than bad over time.  Unfortunately, sometimes it may take years to see the good, but just trust that it is for a reason.  God doesn’t make mistakes.

12.  Go for a walk every day.  Outside!

13.  When you’re feeling stressed, go outside.  Take a deep breath, look up at the sky, admire it’s beauty, and say “Thank You!”  An instant moment of peace!!

14.  Spend some time alone every day.  God speaks to you in the silence.  “The morning breeze has secrets to tell you, do not go back to sleep”~ Rumi

15.  Do less.  Downtime is NEVER wasted time. (It took me a very long time to learn this!)

16.  Do something creative every day.  Write, draw, cook, paint, anything.  Just create!

17.  The answers are all within you.  Stop looking outside of yourself for them.

18.  Focus on cooperation rather than competition.  There is an infinite supply of love and abundance in the world.  Collaborate with those who have common goals rather than competing with them.  Working together will benefit everyone!

19.  Stop trying to mask your true self.  Learn to fully love and accept yourself as you are.  If you NEED makeup to feel good about yourself, or you NEED substances (like drugs, alcohol, coffee, or even sugar…yes, sugar is a drug) to keep you going or wake you up each day, those things need to be eliminated from your life.  Your passion for life should get you out of bed each morning, not coffee!

20.  Embrace who you are and stop worrying about what others think.  Once you do this, others who are like-minded will enter your life.  You are never alone. (Although you may feel like you are for a while…just hang in there.)

21.  Go on dates with those closest to you (your mom, your spouse, each of your children individually, etc.)  Let them know they are special and worthy of your time and undivided attention.  Remember that the best gift you can ever give anyone is your full, undivided attention.

22.  Remember, you do not set the master plan for your life.  Embrace distractions and view them as gifts.  Everything is happening in its own perfect time, so stop trying to rush everything.  Stop trying so hard and just let go and allow God to work through you.

23.  Don’t do anything out of guilt or obligation.  Only do things out of love.

24.  Have no expectations.  You will never be disappointed, and you will begin to view everything in your life as a gift and blessing.  Every day is full of wonderful surprises!

25.  Recognize that the best things in life are free!!

26.  Treat others the way you want to be treated.  We are all connected.  If you love yourself, that love will pour out onto others.  If you hurt yourself, you hurt others.  The opposite is true as well.

27.  Every action is a choice toward love or away from it.  Always choose the path toward love.

28.  Guard your time.  Only spend it on things that are truly important to you.  Don’t ever feel guilty for saying no.  Doing something out of guilt or obligation is not an act of love.

29.  Dedicate one day a week to rest and to be fully present with those you love.  Turn off the technology on this day and enjoy your time together creating, exploring God’s wonderful creations, and just enjoying life and making memories together. (For me, that day is Saturday and is ALWAYS my favorite day of the week and always filled with love, blessings, and gratitude!)

30.  Let go of your attachment to your possessions.  Nothing really belongs to you.  Rather, view everything you have as a temporary gift from God that can be taken away at any moment.  Stop to appreciate those gifts often.

31.  Don’t sweat the small stuff.  In the end, nothing really matters except your relationships…with yourself, with God, and with others.  Spend time on what really matters.

32.  Listen to music!  Dance!  Sing!

33.  Keep a journal.  Write in it as often as  you can.  You will be amazed at the wisdom inside you.

34.  Never stop learning.  Read, read, read!  And take advice from those you admire.

35.  Clear out the clutter in all areas of your life.  Clutter drains energy.

36.  Get adequate sleep so you wake up feeling fully rested each morning.

37.  You are not an accident.  You are here for a purpose.  Turn within, learn to love and accept who you are and identify the gifts within you.  Use those gifts to make the world a better place.  🙂

If this list resonates with you and you want to learn to implement some of these ideas in your life, check out my book, The 31-Day Self-Love Challenge.