A New Decade — Opportunity for Perspective and Moving Forward Powerfully

2020 20302020 – we are leaving the 2010s and beginning the 2020s! What does that mean to you? Perhaps not much. A year is a year, you may think. However, you might consider this an opportunity to do some reflection backward and anticipation forward on a broader scale than one year. Another decade, another 10 years of life is ending; another decade is beginning. I find that these mileposts can provide valuable chances to celebrate, learn, focus and refocus.

Looking Back on the 2010s

For some of us, the decade ending has a particular meaning. For example for me, the beginning of March 2020, marks the completion of 10 years living in Nashville, Tennessee. I am taking the opportunity to reflect on that decade of living in a location I had never imagined as my home. What has that meant to me and what does it mean going forward?

Do you have aspects of your life that coincide with the years 2010 to 2020? They may not be as obvious as mine; see if you can identify any. For all of us, taking a longer view backwards can be beneficial. Try to take an aerial view. Perhaps it’s from a helicopter, or a hot air balloon, or on the wings of an eagle.

Grab a pen and paper and start jotting things you remember as you look back on those years from that higher perspective. You might do this by category: successes, disappointments, family highlights, family struggles, illuminations or learnings. Add categories that resonate with you. If you have things to reference that will jog your memory, use them. For example, every year during this decade, I have included a list of highlights of the past year in my Christmas cards and they are a great memory booster in this process. Do you have something like this? Perhaps you journal or keep planners and calendars from past years – they can provide memory jogs.

NOTE: you may write these things in lists and other linear modes or use visual tools like mind mapping. If you’d like more information, go to: https://carolbrusegar.com/mindmapping-multi-faceted-tool/

Once you have written as much as you can think of for now, spend some time reviewing it. Pull out particularly significant things and translate them into learnings that can inform your looking toward a new decade. For example, after six years in Nashville I intended to follow my family who had moved back to California. I am still here (for multiple reasons) and digging into why is an important part of my consideration of the past decade.

Looking Forward

Now shift your perspective toward the coming decade. This time we will start at the end of the decade – 2030 (YIKES) – and create a picture of what we would like to have as our reality at that point. Think about family, financial status, location, relationships, career/job/business/activities. Add any other categories you choose. Take some time with this.

After you have some things recorded that you are excited about, you can jump back into your helicopter, hot air balloon or onto the wings of the eagle. From that aerial view, start jotting down some milestones along the way between your desired 2030 reality and where you are now in 2020. Exactly the kinds of things you include is your choice. It might be intermediate steps toward the outcome, resources needed, things you need to learn, people to involve in various ways, etc.

What we are creating is a background for more specific planning. Are you getting excited? I hope so!

After you have gleaned useable information from the past decade and have a stimulating vision with milestones for the coming decade, it’s time to look at the new year of 2020 in that context.

What do you want to create and develop that will move you into the new decade with power? Again, use linear or more visual tools, depending on what is most useful and inspiring for you.

Look at what you have recorded. Think of a word or phrase that can be your Word for the Year to help keep you focused and on track for this fabulous year. If you have not used a Word for the Year tool, you can learn more about its value here: https://carolbrusegar.com/choose-your-word-for-the-year/

To fully benefit from use of this practice, grab a copy of the book here:  One Word That Will Change Your Life

Watch for specific planning resources in future posts.

EXPANDING THE PARAMETERS OF YOUR DECEMBER HOLIDAY

Reaching OutAs I write this post, it is one week before Christmas. For many people, the entire focus of the past month has been on preparing for that day as the culmination of the season. Often they start the hustle and bustle the day after Thanksgiving – shopping, decorating social events, etc. Then by the day or so after Christmas or at least before New Year’s Eve, it’s all over. Decorations down, focus on recuperation and the coming “return to routine.”

I prefer to observe the 12 Days of Christmas which for centuries have been a time of celebration – starting with December 25 and ending on the evening of January 5. Others observe the pan-African holiday Kwanzaa from December 26 to January 1, celebrating family, community and culture.

The Jewish holiday, Hanukkah, follows a lunar calendar so the dates vary, but in 2019 it is from sundown on December 22 through sundown on December 30. This whole period of time includes a variety of celebrations that we can learn about and from, especially if they are from a different culture or group.

What if we extended whatever holiday we observe by planning to do some simple things that demonstrated care and love to others? The time after Christmas and especially after New Years Day is often a time of let-down, of sadness and loneliness for people – perhaps you and people you know. The energy and push of the previous month is over, the days are still short and winter weather prevails.

Here are a few suggestions for extending the spirit of the holiday season:

1. Engage with an elderly person. The holidays can be tough for bedridden and nursing home-bound individuals. Bring love to those who need it most. Show up with books or magazines, do a crossword or puzzle together, sing songs or even just sit quietly and be a good listener.

2. Share a cup of cheer. Here’s a simple gesture to offer – surprise someone you love with a hot beverage. Coffee, tea, cocoa or chai, whatever their pleasure. Invite them to you home or to meet at a restaurant or coffee shop for relaxed time together.

3. Help someone who is struggling. If you live where winter includes cold and snow, there are likely people near you who could use some help managing. It may be keeping sidewalks and driveways clear. Or perhaps the elements are keeping them inside and isolated. A visit and a treat – cookies, a loaf of sweet bread, etc. – can be a real boost.

4. Get together with grandparents. After the group gatherings of the holidays, January can be very lonely. Make a visit, take them out for lunch or a movie or some other activity that will be enjoyable and give you a quieter time to be together.

5. During these coldest times of the year, there are people in need of warm hats, scarves or mittens. Check with a school or homeless shelter. You could knit or crochet and item or two individually or have a gathering of a few friends to make some items. If you aren’t crafty or don’t have time to do that, find some cozy things at the store and share them.

6. Remember those who have had tough holidays because of a breakup, the loss of loved ones, family conflict or other factors. Making contact and perhaps spending a little time with them, even on the phone, can be a boost. It’s a reminder that people remember and care.

If you are one who experiences down time, even depression, after the holidays, doing one or more of these or similar things can give you a sense of purpose as well as help someone else. A win-win situation for sure!

Transforming Your Life With New Experiences, Part 3

Timothy's Gift in FloridaNOTE: In two earlier posts, Transforming Your Life With New Experiences and Transforming Your Life With New Experiences, Part 2,  I wrote about experiences in prison ministry with the Timothy’s Gift program. This post is about a more recent visit, this time to Florida prisons. The earliest post reflected a week-long tour to prisons in Ohio, the second to Arkansas.  I am part of the support team. This is a Christian ministry and that is reflected in the post.

In the days following a week-long Timothy’s Gift tour including 12 programs at nine different correctional institutions, I am generally fatigued. But my eyes are especially tired, feeling dry and hard to keep open. It is a physical reality, and there is also another level.

My eyes have seen, taken in, processed, remembered so much in the seven days. So much razor wire – layers of it enclosing each institution. So much blue – the color of the inmate clothing in Florida. So many varieties of men who are incarcerated – many nationalities and origins, ages from the twenties to the eighties, including the very old and infirm in wheelchairs. In one location, men who introduced themselves during the program included people from Mexico, Puerto Rico and multiple states far from Florida. There were some people who barely spoke English; I can’t imagine being unable to understand and communicate in that setting.

As we stood near the doors and greeted inmates as they came, I saw the range of excitement and openness to skepticism. Most had some kind of eye contact (or eye to face contact) as they shook our hands. Some certainly were there because it was an opportunity to do something different than the routine – anything would do.

My eyes saw and remember the variety of responses during the programs – a wide range from bubbling over with enthusiasm from the very beginning to stoic and staring, and everything in between. I saw how certain songs in the program elicited responses – laughter, smiles, sadness, tears – often subtle, sometimes not. One man sat motionless through much of the program, staring ahead to the side of the stage. At a couple of points, his eyes shifted to the person talking, but still no expression. There were a couple of tiny nods but little change in facial expression; no clapping or standing. But those nods indicated that some message was touching him. Will he be one of those who writes to us?

Seeing the lines of men in blue lining up for and receiving communion – hunks of bread broken of and placed in their outstretched hands with words of encouragement and blessing which they dipped into grape juice – was moving each time. Here was when most tears flowed. Quiet prevailed during this time as people pondered and prayed.

At the end of communion, an a cappella version of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” washed over them, followed by “The Prayer.” There is no way to describe the feelings that welled up throughout the room, particularly with the crescendo of emotion at the line, “we are all God’s Children.” It seemed like an invisible power brought people to their feet at the end. What a high point!

As we again shook hands and blessed them as they left, lots of gratitude was expressed along with blessings and wishes for a “Merry Christmas.” The messages of You are Loved, You Have Great Worth, God is With You, and You are Not Forgotten seem to have touched them. This has been verified powerfully in the letters received since we returned home. I am amazed at the impact they describe that lasts beyond the time we were together. The protective barriers which are a necessity in that environment truly have been breached and love and care reached them.

We also interact with a variety of staff members including the officers who direct the inmates into the room and into rows and take us through the security checks and locked compartments to our destination in the chapel. They stand alert on the sides and at the back of the room, often expressionless. There are also supervisors – sergeants, lieutenants, majors – the assistant wardens and wardens, and chaplains. Often it’s hard to assess what they are thinking or feeling. But as we are courteous, grateful and take time to talk with them, they warm up and open up. Everyone I talked to said they really enjoyed the program.

My heart also “saw”/recognized things, particularly this: a team of people whose hearts were open and who became instruments of love and acceptance. Perhaps one of the miracles of the week is this: the simple messages of You are Loved, You Have Great Worth, God is With You, and You are Not Forgotten transform those coming with the messages so that we embody them in ways that can’t be fully explained except to say “God With Us.”

For more information on this ministry, go to http://www.timothysgift.com