Love is Christmas

“Love is who we are, and no season could contain it. Love would never fall for that.
Let Love lead us, Love is Christmas.” – Sara Bareilles

My favorite quote from A Christmas Carol (one of my favorite Christmas movies) is: “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach. Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone!”– The Genius Charles Dickens.

Christmas is my favorite holiday. And I know I’m not alone in this. I think we all love Christmas because it’s become more than just a day, a season or a reason to buy things. Christmas represents an emotion, a feeling, a belief. During a cold season, the idea of the warmth of things such as love, generosity, compassion on those in need stirs in us a passion to prioritize our lives. To make the things that matter, matter. To reach for a higher potential in the relational areas of our lives than perhaps we do all the year round.

Things like love, cheer, joy, peace all make their way to the forefront during this season. They are the stars of the Christmas pageant of our society. It all of a sudden becomes popular to be generous, give to charities, give to others, make amends with people we haven’t spoken to for a while, find the courage to express our feelings and our love for others. But then it seems that once the season ends, we wrap all of those things up like we do the ornaments on January 2nd and put them in boxes in our garage until next year. We start focusing on the things that don’t matter as much and worrying about our jobs, our appearance, our status in the world. And we wonder, what happened to Christmas?

This song by Sara B. is so beautiful to me in many ways. It speaks to the heart of Christmas, which is Love. And Love is a person who embodies the reason we celebrate. He was born in a manger and His name is Jesus and although this world has tried to remove Him from His own birthday (X-mas?) and tried to make us forget by saying that the things we feel during Christmas are “only Christmas feelings” and things we can only feel from December 1-December 25. Jesus has come so that we can have life “abundantly” All of life. Whether it be 365 days we are alive for 365,365 days. Every day can be Christmas because Jesus is the reason for the season but He cannot be contained in a season.

He is Love. And the reason we forget all of the things we love about Christmas once the new year rolls around is because we forget Him. And the reason He came. We can never know all of the beautiful things He brings without knowing Him for more than a little story we tell to kids in a Sunday School class. If you don’t know Jesus, you’re crashing His birthday by celebrating Christmas. You’re getting a little Christmas favor as you leave and some eggnog with cookies but never getting to live in the continual Christmas party of His Love. And you return home with a small and unsatisfying glimpse of a few hours with the advantages of knowing Him, but it does not last.

The only way to feel the Love of Christmas in your heart and keep it all the year round is to know the Reason for this season. And He is Love. Unending, unfailing Love. That cannot be contained by a season, a lifetime, a culture, a world. It is the free gift for everyone this year. Open it, share it with others and your life will be a celebration of Christmas that never ends.

The Garden of Beautiful People

“It can’t be possible, that the ran can fall
only when it’s over our heads”. – One Republic “All the Right Moves”

Have you ever felt like you’re the only person that can possible be going through what you’re going through or feeling what you’re feeling? There are so many people in the world, but so many ways to still feel alone. I’ve always thought it’s interesting that rain has become synonymous with “hard times” and sunshine with “happy times”. In some ways I agree, (I’m not the biggest fain of rain, like this morning when I was trying to get out of my car with my umbrella and my car door almost slammed the umbrella in my face… or when important papers fell out of my binder onto the wet concrete, yeah that was fun… I’m not bitter, promise. 😉 But rain is also essential. Especially essential to growth because without it… plants would never grow. It may not be our favorite thing, it may make a mess of things but we should not, “never” want rain. In the same way, we should never always want sunshine because with only sunshine… things die. Plants die, and parts of us die along with the earth.

I hope you see where I’m going with this analogy. Most of us never want to go through difficulties and would always prefer to be happy and feel the sun on our face and just get everything we ever want.. happily ever after, living the dream, etc. But the reality of it is, if we always experienced the good things, we would not have the character and growth to be beautiful in the experience of them The definition of getting everything you want is spoiled. And no one likes a spoiled kid because they aren’t learning anything. And the truth is you’re not going to get everything you want in life, which we all know. But the more important truth is that even if you did get everything you wanted it probably wouldn’t be everything you wanted anyway. You wouldn’t be who you thought you would be when you got the car, the dream job, the girl or boy, the house. Because the things we want are just representations of the reality of what we want, the material possessions just represent our human needs and desires. Getting a new job represents purpose and provision. Having a significant other represents love and freedom from loneliness. Getting that new sweater, purse, lipstick, face, body represents a deep desire we have to be loved, beautiful, noticed, worthy.

In the end all the material things we want never truly last or fulfill the deep longings of our heart. We must go to the the One who created us and knows what we want and exactly how to fulfill them. And we are never alone in our struggle. It feels like the rain is only falling on us, like we’re the only one with the broken heart, the failed dream, the unvalued beauty. But the truth is, you’re not alone. Look around you, see the garden of beautiful people. All growing, all living, all experiencing the rain and the change and the loss and the love.

The rain’s on us all but the sun will be too.

“I never said thank you for that, thought I might get one more chance… “

What would you think of me now,
so lucky, so strong so proud.
I never said thank you for that,
now I’ll never have the chance”– Jimmy Eat World “Hear You Me”

There are no words regretted like those left unsaid. This phrase and feeling has been repeated, rephrased and framed on the walls of the poetry/arts “hall of fame” since the formation of language. Usually, it’s in the context of not telling someone you love them, and then losing the chance. I read an article last week written by a nurse who had compiled the top 5 regrets of people on their death bed and number three was some variation of wishing they had the courage to express what they were feeling. I think I would include, wishing that they had seized the opportunity to express what they were feeling. I like to think of it as the most important time management of your life you will ever engage in. Isn’t the excuse for everything these days… “I’m too busy?” Too busy to write a kind note, leave a small voicemail, write a nice text, bake a tasty meal. We just don’t have the time.

For as many mean thoughts and words are created and expressed throughout the world, I think there are as many non-expressed kind thoughts and words that we are holding in or thinking “we don’t have time for”. If you disagree with me, think of your day today: How many times did you think “Wow, I love that girl’s smile” or “Thank you for letting my car go in front of yours in the bumper to bumper traffic” (A true rarity for us Los Angeleans). And yet, how many times do we actually say it to that person, or wave and express the gratitude to the car behind us? I would challenge you to think about all the kind thoughts you have, that you are hesitant to express. Or maybe too cynical to give a second thought to? We think, “Carl was really nice to me at work today” and before we can say the word kindness the automatic second thought is “I wonder what he wants”. Maybe we avoid saying thank you because we’re too busy judging motives.

Or maybe it’s because you don’t know the person and walking up to them and telling them they have beautiful eyes may (in some area codes) be sufficiently creepy and warrant a stalker arrest. But maybe you do have the opportunity, to say thank you to “Suzy” for ringing up your groceries (they do wear name tags for a reason by the way: use their names!) Yes it’s Suzy’s job, and yes you may have waited 15 extra minutes because she was chatting with Joe the bag-person the whole time but nevertheless: you and Suzy have interacted. You have connected in some way, and she has, as small of a role as it may be, affected change in your life. There is something to be thankful for to Suzy. There is something to be said.

After all, we are on this earth, living these lives together for a reason. No one is an island. We all can help and support each other and we all need help and support. And the more thankful we are for it, the more we will probably get. And the more we get the help, the more we give.

There is always something to be thankful for, so let’s vow to not live a life in which we can think back and say “I never said thank you for that, now I’ll never have the chance”. Because the truly scary thing is that if you don’t make it a habit to recognize and be thankful for the small things, you may be missing the big things. The big thank yous. The thank you for the parent who was on your side no matter what, even if you were wrong. The thank you for the friend whose shoulder you cried on and stained black with your mascara after the big break-up. The way your co-worker stood up for you instead of throwing you under the bus in front of your boss. To the ones who were there for you: in the heartache, pain, sweat, tears. That helped you grow into the “lucky, strong, and proud” person you are today.

Say thank you for that, you never know when you won’t have the chance.

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There is ALWAYS something to be thankful for.

This time of year is the best reminder that there is ALWAYS something to be thankful for. Thanksgiving really exists 365 days a year. It is an attitude, not a holiday. It is a decision to be like Louis and “think to myself, what a wonderful world.”

This week, try to find the wonderful in your world. It may be God’s creation, it may be a loved one who has really helped you in a time of need. It may be as simple as getting a green light, or a tasty lunch. We all have difficulties and struggles. Some days seem to give us everything BUT things to be thankful for. But as one of my mantras of life says: the reason we even suffer or feel pain is because we know the beauty of what it is not to feel pain. We live in a world where there is no rainbow without rain. We would not know true happiness if we did not experience the opposite. And the really amazing thing that we can do is be thankful for the things we didn’t even know we were saved from.

So tomorrow morning, and every day, let your first and every thought be, that it is really a wonderful world.

Girls, we run this.

“Reppin for the girls, who takin over the world

…How we’re smart enough to make these millions

Strong enough to bear the children

Then get back to business.”- Beyonce “Run the World (Girls)”

Happy International Girls’ Day! A wise person once said, “If you can be yourself, be yourself. But if you can be Beyonce, be Beyonce.” Needless to say, I love Beyonce and I love this jam. Beyonce writes and sings anthems. Songs that embody a movement, a belief, an ideology. And this song, certainly embodies the cause and belief in the power and strength of women. As a woman, who works primarily with women; I see strength, patience, love, and all good things pour out of many of the strong women that I am blessed to know. Many of them have faith beyond any person I’ve ever met, but you wouldn’t be able to guess just by looking at them. You can’t judge a woman by her cover!

Living in this world, and working with eating disorders; I’ve begun to reflect on the plight of women through a different lens. Our society has become increasingly (and disgustingly) objectifying of women. As every year passes, it seems we’re expected to be even more skinny, artificial and photo-shopped than the month, year, or day before. We begin to view standards and see images that make us feel less worthy, less beautiful, less “woman.” And it is a sad, sad truth only sadly (sometimes) reinforced by the men in our society. Instead of lifting us up and appreciating the beauty, brains and baby-making ladies we are (Beyonce paraphrase); they often feed into our insecurity and validate that because we are not big/small enough, smart/dumb enough, out-going/quiet enough than we are un-worthy.

At the risk of sounding like a complete bra-burning feminist, I have to say that ladies– we have to stick together and stand up for ourselves! It is one of my core beliefs that we all receive the respect that we give ourselves. Love who you are, and know what you deserve and don’t treat your body like an object, free to be “bought” for a cheap drink or bargained for a commitment. Your body is a temple to be honored, not an object to be perfected. It is sacred. It is “fearfully and wonderfully made” to be enjoyed through a life that is well lived, not hated and bashed and criticized for the way it looks different than the one next to it. Women, we need to stop comparing and putting beach other down and recognize the unique role that each woman plays in her life, her family, our world.

And if we come together and recognize and see the beauty in all women, whether or not they look like they belong on the cover of Vogue, we will each do our part in coloring this black and white world a rainbow of light. Because we all have different colors, we all have light within us, we all have deep, incomparable beauty and the sooner we begin to recognize it in each other; the sooner we begin to believe it for ourselves and act in a way that honors the beauty of us.

Because after all girls, we run this!

You step a little closer each day… 11.12.13

“You step a little closer each day
Still I can’t see what’s going on

Stones taught me to fly
Love taught me to cry
So come on courage!
Teach me to be shy

It’s not hard to grow
When you know that you just don’t know”. – Damien Rice “Cannonball”

Yesterday was 11-11, the day of Wishes, Dreams, Hopes and Prayers. Today is 11-12-13. The day of steps, progress, faith. The day that my hero Martin Luther King Jr. calls us to “take the next step without seeing the whole staircase”. One step at a time. 5 minutes at a time. That’s how we really live life. The problem is when we think that we know the future, we can predict the next step, the next moment, the next move.

As Damien shares with us through the tear-jerking ballad, “Cannonball”, everything he experienced in life that he was taught would teach him something specific or would surely produce a specific action; ended up having the opposite effect on him. Stones are meant to knock us down. Love is surely not supposed to make you cry. Courage is intended to keep you from being shy. Sometimes in the school of life, the teacher we thought would reveal to us one thing; ends up teaching us an unexpected, sometimes unwanted lesson. You show up to Social Studies and you end up studying math. You show up as the teacher, but end up the student. Learning from those who you should be teaching. Growing in places you should “have it together” already.

The beautiful and fascinating thing about life is that right when we believe we’ve learned a lesson enough times and we’ve finally “got it down”; we end up being challenged in a new way, we never would have guessed would occur. And that is the essence of growth. How can you grow in a place where you feel you have already reached your full potential, your full purpose, your full growth. Each of us has a purpose here in this moment, on this earth. If we didn’t, we would not be here any longer. Sometimes we know our purpose and feel a calling on our personal, professional, emotional and spiritual lives. And other times we don’t. But whether we do or don’t, the true growth occurs in the beauty of the unknown, the piercing mysteries of life that leave us not knowing, yet still growing. Living one day at a time. Counting one breath. Stepping 1, 2, 3, 11, 12, 13.

Aware that we are human. We are here. And we keep stepping closer each day, living life in the beautiful unknown, which is the true place of surrender. The place of Light and Truth.

11/11, 11:11

11/11, 11:11

“I always catch the clock it’s 11:11
And now you want to talk
It’s not hard to dream
You’ll always be my…” Konstantine, by Something Corporate

There’s a legend that when it turns 11:11: you are supposed to make a wish. And for the super passionate and adventurous ones of us: talk about all your dreams for a full minute. Right now, ready go….

Some may find this a difficult task. But like one of the most heart-wrenching songs I’ve ever heard , by one of the most incredible songwriters I have ever met (from whose concert I just returned), says: it’s not hard to dream when you know exactly what you want. When its been placed in your heart from long before. When your dream has become a part of your reality. You could talk about it for a minute, you could talk about it for an hour, you could talk about it for a lifetime.

Everyone has a dream. Some have a constant one that has either haunted them or motivated them for many years while they wait for it to come true. Some have a new dream, one that portrays hope with every fiber of its being. What we need to do more than anything is believe in the beauty of our dreams. In the beauty that, some day, if it’s best for us: that dream will become reality. Or if it’s not, it will morph or transform entirely into a new dream, even better than the one we initially hoped for. A new calling and vision. But whatever it is, speak your dream into life! Don’t hide it, in fear that it will never come true. Or in fear that someone will judge you for it. At the end of the day we all have the one thing that it will never be hard for us to continue believing and hoping for. And it’s worth your hope and words and faith and life and energy to dream, speak, and pursue into being.

Happy 11/11…11:11. Here’s to keeping the dream alive.

here today and gone tomorrow

But when October comes and goes in no time at all
I’ll begin to feel the chill of an early fall.

Oh how quick they slip away, here today and gone tomorrow.
Love and seasons never stay, bitter winds are sure to follow. — George Strait, “The Chill of An Early Fall”

In honor of the Country Music Awards, today’s lyric of the day quote is from the legendary George Strait. I love the double meaning of the word fall in this song. It’s a season and it’s a feeling. The season of fall is the predecessor of winter just like a feeling of fall in a relationship may be the beginning of goodbye.

A start of a relationship is a funny thing. In his book The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis writes: “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .”. In the beginning of any relationship, you meet someone and if you click, it feels like you’ve known them all your life. You share about yourselves, mostly similarities, and the time flies, because you’re having fun! But as Mr. Strait sings “when October comes and goes in no time at all… begin to feel the chill of early fall.” Although he’s clearly being a bit pessimistic, he captures a very interesting definition of love as a feeling that “doesn’t stay.” and “bitter winds being sure to follow”. In a way he is right, there is always a fall from grace in every relationship. That moment when you realize, that other person is as human and imperfect as you are. It’s a difficult moment but we all know that it is inevitable: that person you deemed the queen of summer, is soon to fall off her pedestal. That is just the nature of this world and human life in general. The fear of how far they will fall or how it will hurt us when we realize their humanness is sometimes worse than the actual act itself. It creeps up on us like cold weather in November. Mostly because it reflects the fear of how imperfect and “human” we can be. And the thing about it is, especially if you’re from southern california; if you have to experience the fall, the least that could happen is not having to experience it earlier than necessary! Most of us want to stay in the “honeymoon” period as long as possible. With no bitterness, all sweetness.

But, the reality is, as George says, we’re all “here today and gone tomorrow”. So why not embrace the human qualities of another person before it’s too late. Your love for someone once you realize they are not perfect, will bring much peace and freedom. And it will help you love yourself, and understand that you are loved in a deeper way: flaws and all. And if someone is not meant to be in your life, it is my firm belief that they will not stay. People are in our lives for a “reason, season or a lifetime” And if they’re meant to be, they will be. And if they’re meant to leave, they will leave with the winds of tomorrow.  And you will be okay.

Autumn Fallin, from trees. The snow is up to our knees… I believe, it was you. Who I wanted to be walkin next to.

And I believe we were friends
And I believe we will be again

If I knock on your door would you let me in?”- JayMay “Autumn Fallin'”

Best song. And in this video, it is performed in one of the best cities in the world. London is such a charming place. Besides all the history, literature and religion that was birthed in the Motherland; deep down, it is a city with a story. And how fitting that the gifted story-telling singer-songwriter, Jaymay chooses this city with a story as the backdrop to her autumn fairy-tale.

The thing I love about this song, and Jaymay as an artist, is like any good story-teller, she invites you into her story, her life. And she does it by setting up the scene. “Once upon a time, in a galaxy far away”… Okay, not that kind of story, I’m not going all geek squad on you, don’t worry, but by the first words “Autumn’s fallin…” she sets a beautiful scene. Autumn is falling from trees, and instantly in our minds we see Jaymay and ____ walking through the snow, walking through central park, getting rid of shoes, and a whole bunch of other fun things that this setting, this season may bring. Our imagination sets in as she tells the story. And we’re fully aware that this is her story until slowly but surely, her story becomes ours.

And we go from, man I wish I was walking with Jaymay in Central Park to… BAM. The picture of the one person I want to be walking next to. RIGHT THERE WITH ME. The “hero”, “prince charming” or “princess charming” in our story. Maybe someone comes to mind. Maybe a group of friends, maybe a long lost friend you’ve lost touch with, someone you couldn’t picture your life story without.
Whoever it is. Whatever it is. A good song brings the song-writer’s life experiences into your heart and your mind. It makes you reevaluate your life and ask yourself tough questions like “who do I want to be talking to, walking next to, spending forever next to?” What kind of stories and adventures do I want to tell? And who is in those stories that I don’t want there. And who is not in those stories that I do want? And then of course these thoughts and hopes, lead us to action. It leads us to following our dreams and believing our hopes will come true… “I believe we were friends. I believe we would be again.”

Autumn is falling. Let’s fall right with it, fall in love with the story of your life. 🙂