Relocation as a Transformational Experience

RelocationHow many times have you moved in your adult life? There is a roughly 50-50 chance that if you are middle aged or above, you do not live in the state in which you were born. Slightly more than one half of the population between 25 and 55 were born in their current state of residence. (Source: 2010 American Community Survey, U.S. Census Bureau) Have you thought of relocation as a transformational experience? One that you can maximize in its positive effect in your life?

There are many reasons that people relocate to different states and parts of the country: a job transfer, military assignment, a more desirable location to raise a family, etc. As we get into our fifties and beyond, more and more moves are to be near children, grandchildren, or parents. Or perhaps you would like to be in a more pleasing climate or just to have a major change of setting.

In this process, we all bring with us mindsets, lenses and attitudes toward our new locations – which greatly affect our experiences. If you move from city to suburbs, city to country, suburb to city – whatever the type of community – there are differences that we anticipate and things that may surprise us. If the move is to a different state, even to another part of the country, there can be cultural differences of various kinds, political climate changes and more.

When we relocate, we have the opportunity to allow and invite the experience to widen our perspectives and our future in profound ways. It may even transform us in ways we could not have anticipated.

The key to maximizing the positive effect of this experience is to approach the move with a sense of adventure and discovery. Although we may have chosen our new location with certain criteria in mind (climate, proximity to family, return to where we lived as a child, etc.), there are always aspects of the location that we will only discover once we are there. There will be a tension between creating a new comfort zone and being intentionally open to the nuances of the rhythm, norms, expectations and history of the new area.

At first, you will focus on getting a grasp of geography, transportation options, locations of stores, etc. to reestablish daily routines. Beyond that, I have experienced a unique time in the first months and years in a new location when I am most open to discovery and intentionally seek to understand the area in which I am. This is a time before everything becomes the new routine, the new normal – when it is so easy to go into autopilot.

If you are a photographer as I am, this is a prime time to take photos of things and places that are new, which often raises questions I want to explore. For example, early in my time in Nashville, I visited the oldest cemetery in the city where the moss and algae-covered old tombstones revealed peaks into the history of slavery and other unique parts of Nashville’s history. This ignited my curiosity and stimulated other visits, reading, and reflection on the history of the south and what it means today. As time went on, I became aware of how this area played a unique part in the civil rights era of the 1950s and 1960s. All of that profoundly affected my understanding of our history, since I had previously only lived in the north. It also provided insight into how that affects current attitudes and politics.

I have found that as a “new” person with a sense of exploration, I have discovered things that people who have lived in a location longer are not aware of. It is so easy to settle into a small geographic area and create a cocoon of sorts that we lose the opportunity to continually be stretched and challenged to grow. If you are considering or have recently relocated, try adopting this attitude and outlook.

You can get some of the benefits of relocation, and have some fun too, by pretending you are new in your location and look at things from that standpoint. Many of us have experienced a bit of this when we have out of town guests and are showing them around. We become aware of activities and places that we don’t ordinarily enjoy. Be intentional about exploring and reflecting on things that will broaden your thinking and ignite your curiosity to learn more or get involved.  An even simpler step is to do more walking or biking if you ordinarily drive a car most places. Slowing down your pace and intentionally paying attention can be illuminating.

By intentionally focusing on discovery and reflection, we can broaden our own understandings of history and our own place in it as well as what that means for what is happening today and in the future. It may inspire us to embark on formal or informal study on something we have discovered and explored. It may move us to get involved in an activity or cause. It may cause us to make different choices about specifically where we live and the groups and organizations with whom we affiliate. It can transform our experiences, outlook and indeed our future.

DECISIONS ABOUT KEEPING OR RELEASING MEMORABILIA

BoxesAre you a keeper/packrat/archivist? I am, especially of items related to my personal history. As I prepare for another move, one which will be into a smaller space, I am again going through things I have kept, moved, and stored over the years. Many of us downsize at some point and face decisions about what to keep and what to release. How do we make those decisions about keeping or releasing pieces of our history, the memorabilia that we have kept?

If you are in a great time crunch – the deadline for vacating an apartment or house before the next occupants arrive, a moving truck is scheduled soon, etc. – you may tend to go to the extremes. You might either grab boxes that are still packed and pledge to go through them when you arrive at the next destination or discard things without looking at what is there.

Ideally, you won’t be in that extreme a situation and can make some decisions that will serve you in the future. To help facilitate that, it can be helpful to take a little time to consider how you see your memorabilia and treasures being used in the future. If you have already organized things into scrapbooks, photo books, etc. This will be an easier process. If, however, you have boxes of memorabilia, files and photos that are simply organized by time period, it will take more thought and work.

There are a number of factors that you can consider. For example:

  • How do you anticipate using what you save in the future?
  • Will you be looking at these things yourself and showing them to others as a way to share highlights of your life?
  • Do you think you may be doing some reflecting and writing about your life – some type of memoir, or less formal remembrances – to pass on?
  • Might you organize a few key things that symbolize or illustrate key parts of your life legacy?
  • Are there things that other people would treasure if you are ready to let them go?

The type and volume of things you save can be affected by your answers to these and similar questions. You will probably hang on to more things if you will be using them to write and then be able to discard or distribute more.

Lest your eyes glaze over at tackling this process, I share a personal experience. I located a few things that were connected to key experiences in my life that I didn’t know I had or at least didn’t know where they were. They have given me information that will help me pursue contacts from my past that I have been hoping to make for a few years. The items were photos and a yearbook from my sophomore year in college and newspaper clippings about a 6-year old child from Mexico spending a school year with us in our one-room school in Wisconsin. Real treasures!

Laura H. Gilbert has written a book that you may find of interest as you embark on a downsizing or decluttering effort: The Stories We Leave Behind: a Legacy-Based Approach to Dealing with Stuff.

Looking Back: Impact of Experiences at Age 20

Listening Witness Team 1966

It is mid-summer in Nashville, TN.  It is hot and humid and has been since the beginning of May.  There have only been a handful of days since then with a high temperature below 90 degrees.  I remember another hot summer when I was almost 20 years old, living for 3 months with a group of 5 other college students in Chicago, Illinois and how the experiences of that summer transformed my thinking and my life.

I thought about that today after finding an article I wrote after that summer of 1966 that was published in my hometown church newsletter.  In the article to the people in that Lutheran Church in Stoughton, Wisconsin where I grew up, I tried to express the impact of that astounding experience in my life.  What is most striking to me as I read it is how it speaks to our realities in 2018 far more than I would have expected.  52 years later and the issues are sadly similar, even if the specifics have changed somewhat.  Here is what I wrote (I have not changed the language – this was considered proper usage in 1966):

FROM OUR YOUTH

Listening, really listening to other people, is hard work. Because of the multitude of sounds constantly pounding against our ear drums, we have all but lost the ability to really hear and understand what people are trying to tell us. This includes us in the church who have, especially in the urban areas, failed to listen to the needs, wants, loves, and fears which people are crying out to us.

 

In an attempt to correct this, the Youth Department of the ALC (American Lutheran Church) sends Listening Witness teams of between four and six ALC college students into various congregations for the summer to learn to listen and begin to teach members of the host congregation to make listening a way of life so that they can be part of a true servant church.

 

This past summer I and five other Luther College students were in a congregation on the southwest side of Chicago. We were an integrated team situated in an all-white, lower-middle class neighborhood and congregation, one block from the Negro neighborhood.

 

Although we often found it easier to see things that were taken for granted by the congregation, we also had to guard against fast misjudgments and rejecting people and ideas because they were different from our own before we understood the reasons behind them.

 

We encountered much blind prejudice, within and outside of the church. We were told that ‘nice’ girls would not be part of such an integrated team and it wasn’t ‘proper’ for us to walk down the street with Negro boys. We had to change residences because the Negro member of the team walked us to the house, and the residents feared their daughter’s reputation would be ruined. Several boys refused to take part in a communion service after our Negro team member did, although they treated him as a buddy otherwise.

 

As a result of the summer, I have a much clearer picture of what the Church of Christ is and what it can and should be today. If we learn to listen and serve and love all as the Lord of the Church did, that Church can create a brotherhood which glories in human diversity. If we remain self-centered, cling blindly to tradition, build barriers between people, and ignore individual humans by stereotyping groups, we will aid and encourage hate, discrimination, fear and everything contrary to the Gospel of love we claim to believe in.

 

This applies here in Stoughton as well as in Chicago or any large city – being a Listening Witness must be a Christian’s way of life. We must listen to what is said, not what we want to hear or think should be said, and then witness to the situation in Christian love, not self-righteous judgment.

 

— Carol Brusegar  ( From The Ambassador newsletter of Christ Lutheran Church, Stoughton, Wisconsin, December 1966)

 

What have the milestone experiences been in your life? You may find some treasure in them!

 

In 1966, a number of significant things occurred in the civil rights movement. A chapter of this book is specifically about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “going north” and specifically the events in Chicago that year.
The King Years: Historic Moments in the Civil Rights Movement

 

Multi-Tasking: Is It As Beneficial as We Imagine?


multi-tasking
Multi-tasking seems to be a fact of life for most of us these days. With all there is to do, learn, and manage, it seems necessary. But as with so many other things, there are plusses and minuses; and it benefits us to consider those factors and manage our use of multi-tasking accordingly.

Does multi-tasking affect your health? It may seem like it is increasing productivity and saving you time and energy, and many of us are proud of our multi-tasking abilities. However, ongoing research has confirmed that multi-tasking can have negative effects on levels of productivity and, in some cases, of our overall brain health.

Multi-tasking Is Safe Only If Different Stimuli Are Used

Experts agree that multi-tasking is safer if the tasks involved do not use the same stimuli, such as reading a message from the laptop while listening to music. Our brain is not designed to deal with the same stimulus challenge at the exact same time.

That is why driving a vehicle and texting on a phone at the same time is considered extremely dangerous. You are using the same visual stimulus. They are both competing for the same limited focus. Although it appears you are multi-tasking, you can only be actively engaged with one or the other.

So instead of doing two things at once, you are actually rapidly switching from one to the other, and back again. If your attention is attracted to the phone for a second too long, the job of consciously controlling the vehicle ceases, and catastrophe can follow.

Another example is when you are attempting to listen to multiple conversations around you. I know I have tried to do that. But it is impossible to really listen to two people who are talking to you simultaneously, because your auditory stimulus becomes overwhelmed.

Multi-tasking Can Harm Your Memory Ability

If you find yourself multi-tasking, each task in which your mind is engaged will drain a part of your mental energy. As your mental energy drains, you become more absent-minded. This is because your mind begins to drift.

Even if you could complete the two tasks successfully, you will quite probably not recall how you completed the tasks. This is because our brain does not have the ability to fully focus on two or several tasks at the same time.

Each time you multi-task, your mind becomes a juggling act. When you multitask, you are diluting your mind’s investment towards each task.

When Multi-taskers Think They Perform Better

A study headed by Zheng Wang of Ohio State University (Multi-Tasking Study, Ohio State University)showed that people who were text messaging while being asked to focus on the images displayed on a computer monitor had decreased levels of performance.

What makes this finding even more troubling is that those subjects who were asked to multi-task using the same visual stimulus, believed they performed better, although the results showed the opposite.

Their ability to focus on images displayed on their computer monitor plummeted up to 50% even though they thought they were performing perfectly. The same study participants were asked to multi-task using different stimuli, such as visual and auditory, and even then were found to have reduced levels of performance as much as 30%.

Professor Wang stated that performance level perception when multi-tasking is not the same, as the results proved. Researchers have also found that media multi-tasking increases your risks of developing impaired cognitive control.

The most current research is confirming that multi-tasking means “performing multiple tasks sub-optimally”. Unfortunately, in addition to productivity losses, there is a compounding, taxing burden placed on the mental and emotional faculties. This results in accumulated stress, which is already a very real problem for many, if not most, to some degree.

Although technology today makes it difficult for us to avoid multi-tasking, we can manage the effect on our performance of tasks and on our health. Awareness and trying to remove the overload on your mind as much as possible can be very helpful.

There many approaches to productivity; check out some of the books available about multitasking and productivity:

Multitasking and Productivity

Great Superfood Choices for Summer

Superfood - Cherries

Many of us eat differently in the summer, particularly when the temperatures are hottest.  We eat lighter, and often healthier.  We can make intentionally improve our nutrition by making great superfood choices.

Superfoods are foods that contain more nutrients than average: very high in vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, and more. Here are 13 that you can benefit from and enjoy during these summer months.

1. Cherries
Cherries have multiple amazing antioxidants. One of them is anthocyanin which provides easing of inflammation in your body and can help with joint pain. You can eat either fresh or frozen cherries.

2. Kiwi
Kiwi is sweet with a little tartness and includes many essential vitamins and minerals. It is a potassium powerhouse: a cup of sliced kiwi has the same amount of potassium as a cup of bananas. It also is lower in sugar and calories than many potassium-laden fruits and veggies with 7 grams of sugar – along with 5 grams of fiber – in a serving.

3. Bell Peppers
Choose all colors of bell peppers, such as green, yellow, orange, and red. In fact, using multiple colors adds vibrancy to your meals and often gives you a variance in the nutrients you get. Bell peppers contain vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium, and phytonutrients. Plus, they are very low in fat and calories.

4. Herbs
Most herbs are considered superfoods since they contain so many wonderful vitamins and minerals, but here are some of the best ones to find in the summer:
Basil – Nutrients in basil include vitamin A, vitamin K, manganese, vitamin C, omega=3 fatty acids, magnesium, iron, folate, and calcium.
Cilantro – Cilantro is extremely low in cholesterol, but it contains vitamins like C, E, A, and K. It also has dietary fiber, iron, potassium, magnesium, and calcium.
Parsley – Like many other herbs, it contains a good amount of folate, iron, vitamin A, vitamin K, and vitamin C.

5. Swiss Chard
Swiss Chard is another type of dark, leafy green vegetable just like spinach and kale, except it is a little more bitter. It is full of phytonutrients, especially in the red-purple stems and veins of this vegetable. That is where you get a lot of the nutrients. Swiss chard also contains potassium and magnesium, two nutrients that are essential for a healthy, well-balanced diet. Eat it raw or cooked; if you cook it, it will be less bitter.

6. Lemons
Lemons are loaded with vitamin C and antioxidants and also contain fiber and micronutrients, as well as being very low in calories. There are endless ways to use them, but here are a few ideas:
Infused Water – Add lemons to water (as well as other fruits you may choose). A simple sugar-free strawberry lemon water tastes like lemonade, without added sweeteners.
Lemon Ice Cubes – Just add lemon juice to an ice cube tray and cover with filtered water. Add these to every glass of water you drink for nutrients and flavor.
Garlic Lemon Sauces – Make a citrus sauce or dressing and use them in a casserole with chicken, over a light salad, on pasta, or even to coat veggies.

7. Spinach
Spinach is more nutrient-dense than romaine or iceberg lettuce and makes a healthy salad on its own or combined with other greens. The top nutrients in spinach include Vitamin K, Vitamin A, Vitamin B2, Iron, Folate, Copper, Vitamin B6, Vitamin E, Manganese and Magnesium.

8. Avocado
Avocado is actually a fruit, and often considered a “superfruit” – or a superfood fruit. You get a lot of great fiber in avocados, plus vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin E, vitamin K, beta-carotene, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, and potassium.

9. Watermelon
Watermelon is relatively low in calories, is fresh, sweet, and has a high water content so a little bit goes a long way. It is also loaded with nutrients including Vitamin C and Vitamin A, which help reduce inflammation, lower your blood pressure, and even protect your skin from UV rays thanks to the lycopene.

10. Strawberries
Strawberries have a higher-than-average amount of vitamin C. They are very antioxidant-rich to help fight illnesses and boost your immune system, and contain an excellent amount of manganese, a mineral that helps improve your health and vitality. Other important nutrients in this fruit are potassium and B vitamins.

11. Summer Squash
There are many different varieties of squash, from yellow squash to zucchini, but not all of them are available year-round. Summer squash have a good amount of vitamin C, as well as lutein and xeaxanthin. You can get help preventing a summer cold thanks to some squash in your diet. You can eat them raw, make a roasted veggie side dish with other veggies, saute with olive oil and seasonings, and include them in a pasta dish.

12. Peaches
Peaches not only have vitamin C, but peaches also contain potassium and fiber. Besides eating them fresh and whole, they can be added to salads, served over ice cream or yogurt, or grilled for a sidedish.

13. Blueberries
Blueberries contain vitamin C, fiber, vitamin K, and manganese. They are low in fat and calories as well. Enjoy your blueberries many different ways, such as on your salads, mixed in with yogurt or granola, as a side dish, or just a light snack.

Eat light and healthy with these Summer Superfoods!!

TRANSFORMATION THROUGH STRUCTURED LEARNING AND LIVE EVENTS

In a world that continues to change at a rapid pace, we all need to keep learning in all areas of our lives. That continual learning can be stimulating and refreshing, and it can become tiresome at points. Have you ever just wished things could plateau for a short time so we could just BE? I have. Sometimes a break is good. But as we look forward into the next part of our lives after age 50, transformation through structured learning can be powerful.

We all have particular attitudes and proclivities toward learning. I describe myself as a lifelong learner. I have always read a lot of books and magazines. Probably until the age of 50, I mostly consumed non-fiction of various kinds. Since then I have read both fiction and non-fiction. In addition, my entire adult life has been molded and shaped by a variety of structured learning experiences. Over time that has resulted in transformation of many aspects of life. After two years of college immediately following high school, I took lots of informal classes and also designed and completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Urban Liberal Studies, graduating a year before my daughter completed high school and started college.

I have engaged in a variety of workshops, community education classes, and in the past 15 or so years, online classes and webinars. It is truly amazing what is available to us electronically, a lot of it free of charge and much at a reasonable cost. Many people complete degree programs entirely online.

A combination of virtual and in-person learning is ideal. The online tools that offer face to face interaction are one step beyond listening to content or even webinars with primarily one-way communication. These options include Skype, Facebook Live, Zoom and others.

In-person learning like workshops, live events, conferences, conventions, etc. give the added benefits of interaction with presenters/teachers and with other participants. This is helpful immediately as well as over time if you cultivate relationships beyond the time you are physically together. You can get support and feedback from some of your new circle on shared interests or experiences. This is particularly true if the topic of the event you attended was on a shared topic related to personal development. The perspectives of people with whom you connected around the topic can be invaluable as you continue to make use of what you learned in your life. Such relationships can be transformative in very personal and profound ways.

If the topic of the live event was more business-related, you may have connected with people who in some way can help you enhance your business. For example, if you have or are developing an online or even an offline business, you may have met people with whom you can share prospects for each of your products or services. You can keep in touch and provide support as you each are applying what you learned to your business ventures. Sometimes one of you will think of an idea for the other that might benefit their business.

Transforming our lives after 50 into a time of discovery, joy and contribution is an exciting prospect. Structured and in person learning can be an important tool and process along the way.

 

PROCRASTINATION: IS IT HAMPERING YOUR TRANSFORMATION?

Now and laterAll of us procrastinate sometimes….don’t we? I surely do. In fact I am in a pressure situation right now because of my procrastination. I have continually put off a task that includes a learning curve to be able to use a software program. There are always plenty of things to do that I can just DO, regardless of their priority. In this case, the task is related to a part time job I have; in other cases I delay doing things I know will help me transform my life in one way or another.

I have allowed myself to think of much procrastination as benign, and in fact it can be useful. By procrastinating on some things, it may turn out that they weren’t necessary or important in the first place. That can be true; it can be a passive way to prioritize.

Timothy Pychyl, who has done much research on the topic, points out that “all procrastination is delay, but not all delay is procrastination.” Procrastination is a very special type of postponement.

The dictionary definitions of procrastination do not reflect the more benign approach. Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary calls it “To put off intentionally the doing of something that should be done.” Oxford English Dictionary defines procrastination as a postponement, “often with the sense of deferring though indecision, when early action would have been preferable,” or as “defer[ing] action, especially without good reason.”

This is causing me to look at how I think of my “delays” in doing things. I want to be more intention in sorting out things that are priority – important and important and urgent – from those that are not. That will allow the things I truly don’t need to do now, or perhaps ever, to be on a list but not nagging me as much. And those things I truly need to do sooner rather than later will be clear.
Of course that doesn’t mean that I will automatically stop procrastinating on those important tasks! So I found an article by Alexandra Sutcliffe that included these four suggestions for how to deal with procrastination:

  • “Write down you list of goals, breaking them into manageable chunks. Too big a goal and your eyes will gloss over it on the list, but broken into segments and you’ll feel more like tackling one at a time.
  • Set up a reward for later. Try disconnecting your laptop from the internet for a set period, after which you can relax and reconnect. This way you’re not denying yourself, you’re merely deferring the pleasure until you’ve got something done.
  • Attach one task to another, such as, a daily walk you enjoy, followed by the ten minutes of language study you keep putting off. Creating a routine will make any task feel more achievable.
  • If you constantly catch yourself admitting how you never get things done, it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Instead, use affirmations to spur yourself on. Remember, affirmations must always be positive, and in the present tense. Try, ‘I take charge and get things done. I seize the moment and take action’.”

Perhaps you will find these tips helpful, also. Here is the link to the entire article: Top Tips for Dealing With Procrastination

If you are interested in a good resource about this topic, I recommend
this concise book by Timothy A. Pychyl (quoted above):
Solving the Procrastination Puzzle: A Concise Guide to Strategies for Change 

Transforming Your Life With New Experiences, Part 2

razor wire

 

NOTE: In an earlier post, Transforming Your Life With New Experiences, I wrote about a particular experience in prison ministry with the Timothy’s Gift program. This post is about a more recent visit, this time to Arkansas prisons. This is a Christian ministry and that is reflected in the post.

 

REFLECTIONS ON THE TIMOTHY’S GIFT HOLY WEEK TOUR, MARCH 2018

During Holy Week, 2018, Timothy’s Gift had its spring tour with the theme “You’ve Got a Friend.” We observed those days leading up to Easter not with traditional church services on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday or Holy Saturday. Rather, we had 8 services/programs in 6 Arkansas prisons.

Our extraordinary team of 17 including musicians, speakers and support folks brought a 4-fold message – You are Loved, You Have Great Worth, God is With You, and You Are Not Forgotten. We communicated those messages through music (secular and fun, spiritual, and Christian), spoken messages, and other exercises and experiences. By weaving together these elements, we provided multiple ways to touch those who come to the program.

We had a Maundy Thursday experience as part of each service. As Jesus shared the bread and wine with his disciples on that day, we share the bread and juice with the inmates – looking directly into their eyes and speaking the words of the love of God. All of the team members participated in the serving of the communion at least once so they had that experience, which is truly profound.

And we had Good Friday during each service as the message spoke to the crucifixion: God in Jesus experiencing the worst that human life provides and demonstrating that God has always been with us and will always be with us. We reminded them that one thief also crucified that day spoke “remember me” – and that they too are remembered.

The person-to-person interaction was especially precious as we greeted people with handshakes and hugs as they entered and left, had conversations which included their stories, heard requests to pray for individuals, and gave encouragement. Often there were tears.

One of the 8 services was in a women’s facility; and as always, the women were more emotional and participatory than the men. As they were moved out quickly to get back to their dorm for count, right after communion and before the final words could be said or last 2 songs sung, every woman was crying in response to what they had just experienced. Several were pregnant and seemed particularly moved.

Each location had its own uniqueness, due to the level of security, the type of units participating, the chaplain’s style and focus, and the warden’s overall leadership. Overall, the prison officers and chaplains were friendly and helpful – though a few started out differently. One officer who had not been fully informed about what would be required of him for us to do our two programs in two parts of the facility started out resentful. But by the end, he was complimentary and said “God bless you all” with a warm smile. We had many affirmative responses from other officers as well.

At one location where we had two separate services, the prison’s excellent praise choir and band performed as the inmates came in and left. Before the inmates began arriving, our instrumentalists and theirs played together and shared music. This added a whole new dimension to the gathering.

In our last prison, the location of the chapel required us to walk through a corridor lined with inmate barracks on either side. Getting glimpses of the rows and rows of cots, a couple of feet from each other, with men sitting and standing in those large rooms was sobering and sad. As we trouped through the corridor – 17 people with cases of sound equipment, instruments, music stands, communion supplies and more – many stared, some waved; more waved if we first waved. One can only imagine the range of thoughts and attitudes about our group as we entered. We had to walk back after set-up to get to the canteen area, and then back through to the chapel for the program. And then at the end, back to the entrance with all of our gear again. It was a strange experience each time, knowing there were diverse attitudes toward us and wanting to not seem either aloof, or afraid, or naively cheerful.

At the end of every service, each person who attended was given a survey to return and invited to write to us. After just a week after the first visits, dozens of letters have already arrived. We will be reading them and responding to as many as we can.

Each of the institutions wants a return visit from Timothy’s Gift. The inmates all seemed eager for us to come back. And every team member who went – 7 of them for the first time – seem eager to do it again. It is truly a transformative experience each time we are able to participate. It is a unique and powerful way to live out and share the love of God with others.

This is an example of an experience that transforms all involved.  How can you have such experiences?

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

Benefits of Writing

Blogging - JournalingAre you a blogger or one who journals? Do you do any kind of regular writing? For some of us, it is a habit that started in our youth and is just part of our life. For others, we may write regularly for a while and then not for some time, and come back to it. It may be a habit that you don’t ever question. Or you may question the benefit of writing consistently. It’s possible you never have done this kind of writing.

I am a sporadic writer, although in the past months my blogging has become more regular and frequent on my business blog. I also do occasional posting on a personal blog.

There are various styles and purposes for journaling and for blogging. There can be benefit in trying out different styles and writing for different purposes at various stages of your life.

My mother didn’t journal as we think of it now, but she wrote in a diary every day for over 50 years. She usually used 5-year diaries that she purchased and which provided about 4 narrow lines per day. I have those diaries and they certainly provide a view into her daily life over the years. The emphasis was on what she did, what was going on with the family, and what the weather was. (Her diaries include high and low temperatures daily for those 50+ years in southern Wisconsin!) It is quite a treasure to have.

This is an example of very simple, regular writing that has value for the writer and those who read it later, if you choose to make it available.

Recently I read an article that listed seven ways that a habit of regular writing can improve our lives after age 50. Here they are:

• helps you clear the mind
• aids in the recovery of one’s memories
• you will be able to stockpile ideas
• improves your verbal and writing skills
• puts your life events into perspective
• you will feel like you have accomplished something
• it’s a great mental exercise

Author Eileen Williams summed up the benefits this way: “It is the best exercise for the brain. It enables the mind to relax, think freely with no stress. It keeps you fit and in good shape.” The entire article is on her blog, Feisty Side of Fifty: Benefits of Writing

Consider experimenting with different styles and purposes of blogs or journals if you already are a regular writer. If you are in a hiatus from a previous pattern of writing, give it another try – perhaps in a different style.

If you have never tried, write in some style for 30 consecutive days and see how you like it and if you begin seeing some of the benefits listed above. If you don’t know how to start, here’s a book that can give you ideas:  The Journaling Life: 21 Types Of Journals You Can Create To Express Yourself And Record Pieces Of Your Life

I would love to hear about your experiences!!