From the Publisher - November 2016

ElizabethMillen“If we have no peace, it is because
we have forgotten that we
belong to each other.”
—Mother Teresa

Every year as the holidays approach, my heart longs for meaning, connection and peace. Unfortunately, the holidays are usually a series of chores, hurriedly getting done in between deadlines and commitments. With my task-driven head, overruling my heart, the holidays never live up to the expectation of It’s a Wonderful Life.

Fortunately, each year brings another chance to mold the holidays into your heart’s longings. And this year has more meaning than ever before. Many will be entering this holiday season with the temporary loss of their homes, me included, and massive piles of debris still lining the streets. However, not all is lost because with the winds came a huge change of heart.

I have seen the desire to connect rise out of the destruction of Hurricane Matthew. We all had a hands-on reminder that stuff is just stuff. Many gladly came together to help each other in time of need. New friendships fluidly formed when we found ourselves serving together in the trenches for the same purpose. In the midst of destruction a community found itself resurrecting the age-old adage of love thy neighbor.

In moving into the holidays with a renewed spirit and open heart, I have come up with a formula for success. I will call it Operation Happy Holidays—a plan I will implement in continuing my deep sense of finding joy in connecting with loved ones, new and old friends and strangers, alike. Feel free to borrow it!

1. Tell someone you’re sorry. I’ve found that those who have to be right all the time are lonely, bitter people. There is no glory in being right, and admitting you’re wrong doesn’t lessen the person you are; it actually makes you more human, more approachable and more loveable. The need for having to be right has killed many relationships. Saying sorry is the only spark to ignite revival.

2. Forgive. I learned a long time ago that forgiving provides you way more inner peace and comfort than the wrongdoer. It doesn’t mean you think what the person did is OK. It means what they did no longer has the power to control or affect you. It means you are bigger than the wrongdoing and strong enough to put it behind you. Let bygones be bygones. Remember, things can change in a second and life is short.

3. Tell someone you love them. If you’re not a big fan of saying the words “I love you,” do it anyway. People need to know they are loved. It took my father 40-something years to tell me he loved me and he died soon after. What that left me with was doubt. Loving someone can be scary business, but if you love based only on your heart and not on expectations of reciprocity, it takes all the scariness away. Love like everyone is watching! The Bible confirms, “Faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love.” You have a heart…now put it to work. It loves overtime!

4. Hug. Go hug someone. Right now. I’ll wait… It is said we need at least eight hugs a day. (I think your dog counts!) Research shows that hugging (and laughing) is extremely effective at healing sickness, loneliness, depression, anxiety and stress. AND, holding a hug for an extended time lifts one’s serotonin levels—just like Prozac— elevating your mood and creating happiness. Need I say more?

5.Laugh. See above! Laughter is THE greatest gift to humans. It is my absolute favorite thing. Do yourself a favor, find someone who makes you laugh and make them an important part of your life. You’ll be glad you did! So will they. People who are funny need people to laugh at their humor. It’s as much fun for them as it is for you!

6.Don’t sweat the small stuff. Whatever you do don’t get caught up in the trivial. Try to stay big picture focused. If the turkey is still frozen after sitting in the oven for eight hours because you forgot to turn it on, just laugh. The small stuff doesn’t make an event. It’s the people, the laughter and connection that make a gathering memorable.

7.If you are going to do it, enjoy it. I hate it when people take over everything and then complain about it. I know someone who wants to do it all—all the cooking, decorating, planning herself—and then becomes a martyr because she had to do it all. If you’re going to offer to do something, do it with love and joy. If you’re going to complain, then don’t do it at all. Nobody wants to eat a cake that was a burden for you to make. Quite frankly, it’s just too hard to stomach.

8.Give thanks. It has been said if the only prayer you ever said was thank you, that would be enough. Being grateful is powerful and there is always something to be grateful for. I found so many blessings in the destruction of my home. If you think: I have to buy all these gifts, be thankful you have the means to do so. If you think: I have to have all these people over, remember you are blessed to not be lonely. Say thank you. Be thankful—truly feel it in your heart.

9.Do something for someone. Life is hard and asking for help is even harder. Try to make a difference in someone’s life without them even asking. Look around; everyone could use a little help. Take a moment to lighten someone’s load. You’ll be surprised how it lightens your spirit, as well.

Well, that is my plan for conscious holidaying and I’m sticking to it. I have never gone into the holidays with purpose beyond getting it all done, but this year is different. This year is about celebration, true connection and the true reason for the season—the best gift of all. In love and joy, I truly hope your holidays fill you.

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