Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Heed the Small Voice

To me, the week between Christmas and New Year’s is sort of a “bonus time” to play, connect with friends, even allow yourself to be just a little lazy (and read that new book for several hours instead of doing laundry). It’s a time to relax and enjoy yourself. It’s a time to reflect on the events of the last year, and prepare for the new. That’s exactly what I was doing last weekend when an interesting thing happened.

I woke up the Saturday after Christmas, still in bed, thinking my main goal would be to find the perfect robe at a fantastic “after holiday” price. Yep, that was my plan. My sister was busy, my daughter and son-in-law were visiting his family out of town, and my husband was working so the day was mine, and mine alone. “No problem,” I thought. “I’ll get in and get out of the stores quickly and be home to catch a SyFy movie and snuggle with the cat by the afternoon.”

Even before I got up, I had this thought, “Go to the garden center.” I didn’t need, or want, anything from there, so I quickly dismissed the thought like the fleeting shadow from a fading dream. As I fed the cat, took my shower and got ready to leave, the image of this specific garden center about 25 miles away kept appearing in my mind. “No robes there,” I laughed as I climbed in my car.

I listened to holiday music as I made my way to the shopping area where I was sure my soft and delightfully priced robe would be waiting for me. Still, I kept seeing the garden center and feeling as if it were calling to me. Now I’ve seen and heard some interesting stuff, but this intensity was new even to me. “Hmm, maybe I should swing by there before I go home,” I thought as I headed in that general direction. The center is just a couple miles past the shopping area I planned to visit.

“I’m right here at the store so I might as well stop here first,” I said out loud. My car didn’t stop. I drove right by and heard, “go to the garden center first.” OK, I can be a bit dense, but I know when I’m getting Divine direction. I eventually get it, at least.

Off to this huge garden center I went. I parked in front and walked in, curious to find the treasure I was sure must be waiting for me. After all, I’d been directed to come. I expected some unbelievable deal on a unique holiday ornament or maybe one of the table top water fountains I loved there. But I found nothing. I wandered every isle totally open to whatever Spirit was directing me to find. And then it happened.

“Diane!” I heard from behind me as a woman I know called my name. It was she who I needed to see. The details aren’t important. What is important is that I listened to the small voice inside that kept gently directing me to this meeting which we both benefited from. If I had stopped at the store first, I’d never have had this “chance” encounter. And this was a lovely way to connect with someone who lived out of the area who I didn’t usually see.

So who or what directed me? Angels? My guides? God? Source? I just know it was Divine. And when I look back at the last year, I can see how my life made miraculous turns when I heeded this small – but persistent – inner voice. I could also see how I struggled when I made choices that didn’t “feel right” or were opposite this guidance. For the coming year, I’ll be sure to pay more attention to this little voice and take the path that is presented to me. I’ll let this loving energy guide my actions. That’s the plan. I encourage you to find your own inner voice and notice the guidance you’re offered and see what happens. (Meditation is a quick and easy way to connect with this inner knowing!)

Oh, and I did find the perfect robe.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

My English Christmas Cracker Surprise

Last year, my good buddy Susanne Marie introduced me to “Christmas crackers.” She’s Australian and we enjoy comparing family traditions each holiday, but this was a new one on me. We were discussing what we needed to buy to get ready for Christmas, and she mentioned she had to get Christmas crackers. I asked, “Are they gluten free?”

With a chuckle, she explained she meant the English Christmas cracker and explained they were a sacred part of her holiday tradition. What’s a Christmas cracker you ask? According to Wikipedia:

Christmas crackers—also known as bon-bons—are part of Christmas celebrations primarily in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Commonwealth countries such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa. A cracker consists of a cardboard tube wrapped in a brightly decorated twist of paper, making it resemble an oversized sweet-wrapper. The cracker is pulled by two people, often with arms crossed, and, much in the manner of a wishbone, the cracker splits unevenly. The split is accompanied by a mild bang or snapping sound produced by the effect of friction on a shock-sensitive, chemically-impregnated card strip (similar to that used in a cap gun). One chemical used for the friction strip is silver fulminate, which is highly unstable…..Crackers are typically pulled at the Christmas dinner table or at parties…
Typically these contents are a colored paper hat; a small toy, small plastic model or other trinket and a motto, a joke, a riddle or piece of trivia on a small strip of paper. The paper hats, with the appearance of crowns, are usually worn when eating Christmas dinner.

Christmas 2013 was the first one without my dad, and I was determined to introduce some new holiday traditions, so I bought Christmas crackers for our family brunch. They were a huge hit and just the new twist we needed on a difficult day.

In early December, I traveled to London to attend a workshop and decided I’d surprise my family this year with “real” Christmas crackers from the famed Harrod’s department store. A quick internet search of their site helped me decide which cracker set I’d purchase. (Hint: the “luxury” box of six were nearly $800. I was looking at the “practical” set which was still three times what I’d pay in the USA, but hey, they were REAL English Christmas crackers from HARROD’S!)

On my first day in the city, I found Harrod’s, which I know refer to as “the wonderland of retail.” It was amazing. The holiday decorations, the thousands upon thousands of items, the proper English sales people and the building itself all put me in a bit of a frenzied shopping overload. This store is on a five acre site and has a million square feet of selling space in 330 departments. See how I could be a bit overwhelmed? I made my way to the Christmas area, located my crackers, and bought the two boxes I’d carry home to present to my family on Christmas morning. I was blissfully happy. And tired. It is a humongous store.

My ten days in London was quickly over, and it was time to fly home. As I carefully packed my English treasures, none were as precious as the crackers that would be a magical addition to our Christmas brunch. I arrived at Heathrow Airport ready for the long journey home when I encountered a glitch in my plan.

Standing in the line to check in my bag, the airline associate efficiently worked his way down the line asking the obligatory questions. He got to me. “Hello madam. Are you carrying any…” As he listed the prohibited items I heard myself saying “no, no, no” to “flammable liquids, firearms, live animals” until he said, “Christmas crackers.”

“No…what?” I asked as I perked up. “Did you say Christmas crackers? Yes, I have those packed here.”

“I’m sorry, Miss. You can’t take those on the plane,” he said. Quickly seeing my shock, he explained the powder used to make the “pop” can cause the crackers to explode in flight and can also trigger flight delays if detected by the bomb sniffing dogs. My mind raced. No, I didn’t want to cause an international incident, but I was confident a solution could be found. I quickly asked if they could be shipped, and was directed to the excess baggage area. Crisis averted I thought as I hurried across the airport.

Smiling as I was certain I’d found the perfect solution to my dilemma, I patiently waited in line until it was my turn to explain to the young man in charge what I wanted to do. As I spoke, a concerned looked crossed his face. “Miss, it will cost a fortune to ship these to America,” he said. “What’s a fortune?” I countered. He was right. Although I’d spent more than I wanted to on the crackers themselves, it didn’t make sense to spend this much more to ship them in time for Christmas. It was then I received a true Christmas gift from Spirit.

I looked at this young man and asked, “Do you know anyone who could use these?”

“Well…I…I could use them,” he said softly, his eyes wide with shock.

“Let me gift them to you,” I said with a smile. “Merry Christmas.” I handed the boxes, still in the Harrod’s bag, to the man and watched his jaw dropped as he accepted them. I turned to walk away and saw him stare into the bag in disbelief, as a long line of customers waited for him to solve their shipping issues.

Walking back to check my luggage, I felt a huge smile cross my face as I imagined his family enjoying a special treat on Christmas. I wasn’t upset, I wasn’t worried about the money. I wasn’t even disappointed about not having “real” English Christmas crackers for my own family. I was genuinely deeply grateful to have been part of a holiday surprise for this man. It was magical.

I’m sure I’ll enjoy the beautiful crackers I purchased in Virginia that I’ll share at our family Christmas Day brunch. My real joy will be knowing a family 4,000 miles away will have a special Harrod’s treat and I that was blessed to be a part of it.

“God bless us, everyone.” Tiny Tim from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

You Are A Unique Expression of Divine Love. Now Act Like It.

What if everyone acted like the unique expression of Divine Love that they really are at their core? Interesting thought. If this were the case, even for a day, what could our world look like?

Let’s think about this. Kindness would be the experience of the day as beautiful acts were shared around the planet. Patience and understanding would be practiced in situations where conflict and pain had ruled supreme. Hurt would be met with understanding, perceived injustice met with love and total forgiveness. Mother Earth would be respected, revered and restored. Harmony would be heard across the globe as we all sought to understand our oneness and then resolved issues from a place of love. People would seek balance in all areas of life, making daily choices based on loving themselves, their body, each other, the Earth and all we share her with.

Judgment would be replaced with discernment. Intolerance with an open mind. Guilt, anger, resentment, rejection all replaced with happiness, joy, peace and love.

The energy of love would engulf the planet and all here. Perhaps “Peace on Earth” would be here at last.

But how is this possible? We could all first recognize we are sparks of the same Universe, Source, Divine Love, God – whatever name you choose to call the intelligent, organized energy that created cosmos and all in it. We could understand this energy is what creates the life in each one of us and treat it as Divine. We could choose. We could choose to act “as if” we knew we were the unique expressions of Divine Love our hearts know us to be. We’d live our lives from that place of love, truth and Divine power. Our actions would originate from love. Let’s do it.

Each one of us who makes the conscious decision to live from love makes a difference for us all. Whether our families or neighbors choose to join us or not, make the choice. Live from love.

You are a unique expression of Divine Love. Now act like it.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Gift of Gratitude

My family came to our house for Thanksgiving this year and I wanted to make the day special. Certainly there’d be plenty of food, fun and football…but I wanted more. I wanted each person to take home a gift of gratitude. Here’s what I did.

As my unsuspecting family members arrived, they saw a table with small jars each tied with glittering ribbon and a tag with phrases like “Kudos for Kyle,” “Everyone Loves Evan” and “Thankful for Stephanie.” There was one jar for everyone in attendance, twelve in all. One by one, we each wrote a short personal note of gratitude to each individual person at the dinner and put the note in their jar. I’d love to be able to tell you that everyone embraced my plan and poured their heart out onto the little slips of colored paper I’d provided. Not the case.

I had to explain the concept several times as I endured a few deep sighs and weird looks. My family is used to me though.  As they stared at me with blank expressions, I again explained the notes were to express love, gratitude or appreciation and hopefully in a way that had never been expressed before. The consensus seemed to be I was making them work for their dinner. I was.

After a few more groans, the writing began. I heard some giggles and laughter soon followed. “Nobody has to do homework before dinner when they come to my house” my brother chuckled as he stuffed a note into my jar. Some notes were signed, some not. After a while, each jar was filled with notes of gratitude, appreciation and love.

Yes, we had turkey, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving. The vegetarians had a lovely quinoa salad and enjoyed the Brussel sprouts. We all had fun being together but the real magic of the day came when each person collected their gratitude jar and read the messages inside.

Want to make a lasting memory for your friends and family this holiday? Use your imagination and create your own gifts of gratitude.