Gratitude Schmatitude! What really makes us happy?

Happiness Key On Keyboard Meaning Pleasure Delight Or Joy

Happiness is watching a cute movie on a chilly Saturday afternoon.

For the first time in a very long time, I found myself with an empty Saturday afternoon this past weekend. What a treat! And so yes, I could have gone to the gym or cleaned my house or done the laundry, but I didn’t. Instead I chose to plop down on the couch, wrap up in a blanket, and watch a movie. I’m so glad I did.

The movie I chose (or rather Netflix suggested) was Hector and the Search for Happiness. As my daughter says, it was a total Tracy movie. In this film, the main character Hector, a middle-aged English man, finds himself a bit bored with work and life. Being that he is a psychiatrist, Hector is concerned that since he himself is feeling out of sorts, perhaps he’s not serving his patients well.  So much to the dismay of his girlfriend, he decides to take off and travel the world for “research.” For the majority of the movie, we watch as Hector goes through a myriad of comical and scary adventures. All the while he is keeping a list of what does and does not make people happy.

Hector And The Search For Happiness

I enjoyed this movie because it was different and funny yet also meaningful. And it really got me thinking: what makes us happy, or more important personally, what makes me happy? I think it’s definitely a question we need to ask ourselves, for many reasons.

I am a Christian which also means I believe I’m designed to serve God and my fellow man.  One could easily argue that happiness should not be on my priority list.  However, I believe God wants us to be content (check out Ecclesiastes 3:12-13, Psalms 37:4, Proverbs 17:22 or 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ).  I also think we’re at our best when our own needs are met.  It is then that we can be more productive, kind, loving and giving toward others. It’s a win for the world.

So the question becomes, how does one achieve happiness?  Is it through attaining our goals? Acquiring the cool things we covet?  Spending time with loved ones?  Giving to others? Traveling more?  Though it’s a simple question, the answer must be elusive to many, as there are a myriad of books and psychological research on the topic.  This blog post could go in a million directions, but let’s stick with the movie for now.

The list Hector comes up with is a good one. And while I won’t spoil the movie for you by sharing it, I will say this: when it comes to being happy, think small. Through his experiences and the people he meets, Hector realizes happiness is not about possessions or accomplishments or money or looks or having found the love of your life even.  It is about the way you live, love and perceive the world around you.

Two weeks ago the pastor at my church suggested we keep a gratitude journal for two weeks (until Thanksgiving) and see how it makes a difference. Yawn. How often have we all heard this?  For about 5 seconds I smugly thought about how for years I’ve been writing down 5 things I’m thankful for each day. But that thought was quickly countered by another thought (um, thanks God, for the reality check).  I currently mark off the things I’m grateful for faster than I make out my grocery list. Lame!  So, I decided to challenge myself. I would not only write about the things I am thankful for, but also a few sentences about why I was thankful for those things.


I’m only a week in, and I can’t tell you what a difference it has made.  Writing about my blessings and why I’m grateful for them makes them come alive. I begin to feel excited about all the things I have. And trust me, I’m just your average person.  Today I wrote about how much I love a class I’m taking, how lucky I am to have my best friend, how cozy my house is when it’s cold and rainy out and how fuzzy socks rock.  Sounds silly, but it does the trick.  I believe this exercise is improving my mood (perhaps we should ask my husband to be sure…). I actually looking forward to the few minutes I spend on it each day.

Am I a Pollyanna you ask? Well, maybe.  I do try to focus on the good in life.  But it doesn’t mean I’m in denial. I’ve had my share of cruddy times.  Haven’t we all.  I could write an entire post of all the thing in my life that make me slightly batty.  But I don’t like focusing on such things. It downright sucks the energy right out of me.  So when I start down that path, I try to remember: When I choose to focus on what I’m grateful for (every day, not just during the holidays) I am rewarded.  My mood is lighter, my perspective changed, my heart a little healthier. I’m sure that I’m a little easier to live with.

We hear it all the time: be grateful.  In fact, we hear it so much we often tune out the message. We’ve long been reminded to focus on our blessings or keep a gratitude journal.  We’re all well aware that research proves gratitude is good for us.  In some ways, we’re kind of over the entire message.

But still. There it is: gratitude and happiness go hand in hand. It’s the simplest answer of all.





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50 Reasons I’m Okay with Turning 50


This weekend marks my 50th birthday.  I can’t believe I’ve been around for half a century, it doesn’t seem possible.  But as I ponder this getting older thing, I’ve decided: it’s not so bad.  In fact I can think of 50 reasons I’m okay with turning 50 and I’d like to share them with you.

1-I now qualify for discounts through AARP.

2-The older I get the more I realize every day is a gift. This brings with it a shift in my attitude (on most days).

3-I can remember life without a remote, cell phone or MTV.  There’s something to be said about a life without electronics.

3-50 years means lots of vacations! I’ve traveled to 34 states, 14 countries and 3 continents.

4-I now know what I like and what I don’t and I’m finally okay with ditching what I don’t like.

5-2 out of 3 of my kids are adults, and I really like who they have become. I also like the one that is still under my roof!

6-50 years means I’ve been through some really crappy times. I now know a) I will survive, and b) crappy times always end.

7-I can appreciate the miracle of birth and find joy in holding a baby, but I no longer have to get up for 4am feedings.

8-I’ve learned what it means to be a good friend. I know the importance of being one and having one.

9-I now understand money is just money. You can be happy with or without it.

10-I’ve been yelled at and ridiculed by many mean people over the years. It used to upset me. Now I know the problem is them, not me.

11-Because my youngest is a teen, we are beyond the pet stages: no more fish, hamster or hermit crabs. All that is left is the dog and the hedgehog. Thank God.

12-I can appreciate the not so exciting moments in life.  A night at home with nothing to do is a good night.

13- I feel like I can quit striving to look younger. I’m not going to fool anybody anyway!

14-I’m old enough to see the people I knew as they were born grow up, get married. and have kids. Pretty cool.

15-I’ve forgiven my body for not being perfect and have moved on to thanking it for continuing to work.

16-My husband’s family is now my family. They have been for 24 years, but after so much time you almost forget that there was a time you weren’t related.

17-I will never again have to work an elementary school carnival or deliver boatloads of Girl Scout cookies. Okay, I didn’t really mind working the carnival.

18-I have developed a strong faith in God. This helps me through everything.

19-I’ve seen beauty in hard times. People who’ve stepped up out of nowhere to hold me up when I thought I might fall apart. This is such a gift.

20-I can go out in public looking like a bum without worry-no one is looking at me anyway, and if they were I wouldn’t care!

21-I’ve picked up so many friends along the way: high school friends, college friends, work friends, new mama friends, church friends, volunteer friends, writer friends-the list goes on and on. I love them all.

22-I can finally afford the Sleep Number Bed.

23-30 of my 50 years have been spent with the coolest guy around (that would be my husband).

24-I no longer worry what the latest recent studies say. I know now most things considered “bad” for me will eventually regain their reputation (think coconut oil, eggs, milk…).

25- I’ve learned grudges aren’t worth it. Seriously. The grudge holder is the one who suffers the most.

Strawberry cake with white cream on wooden background

26-50 is the new 30.

27-I’m getting comfortable in my own skin. At least metaphorically…

28-I don’t get fired up over the little things.   Yes, the guy at Best Buy was a jerk, that woman cut me off in traffic, and I picked the world’s longest line in Target with a  cashier slower than molasses.  It happens.

29-I no longer have to make all those big life decisions: Where do I go to college? Should I take the job? Is he the one? How many kids should we have? Can we afford this house? Done.

30-I no longer get (too) depressed when I gain 5 lbs. I know I’ll eventually lose it, and then (sadly) gain it back again.

31-Done. With. Heels.

32-By now, I know my better half pretty well. I know his habits, his ways, his likes, dislikes, strengths and weaknesses. I used to think this would be boring-it’s not.

33-YOLO has a new meaning. It’s not an excuse to do something radical, but is a reminder me that life could change at any moment. I need to go after what I want now, no more waiting for a rainy day.

34-Retirement isn’t a gazillion years away. It’s in sight and I’m looking forward to it!

35-I’m more observant now, see things I previously took for granted. The beauty of birds. Sweetness of toddlers. Sunsets. Full moons. The hands of God as he works in others. You get the picture.

36-I’m much more forgiving. We’re all human. We all screw up. We’re all learning together.

37-I now have an excuse for losing my keys, my grocery list, my wallet, and my mind.

38-I have SO many photo albums. Old and fading photos of kids and vacations and holidays and birthdays and Father’s Days and Mother’s Days and school plays and orchestra concerts and Girl Scout camping trips and soccer games and Easter egg hunts. I’ve had a full 50 years.

39-I can afford to pay for my moisturizer without having to eat tuna for a month.

40-I’m much nicer to myself. I allow myself the grace to make mistakes.

41-I really got over this old age thing when I turned 49. That was a harder birthday than this one.

42-The 50’s are proven to be a good time of life. A recent study found 4 out of 10 people were more content in their 50’s than at any other age. How awesome is this?

43-With 3 kids, odds are good there are weddings and/or grandchildren to look forward to.

44-There’s no more peer pressure of any kind.

45-I’ve learned to trust my gut. Always.

46-I now find joy in the little things. Hot tea, quiet mornings, a fire in the fire pit, a good book or a Sunday afternoon nap.

47-Stories. I have so many stories and memories. I can’t wait to tell them over and over again to people who wish I’d shut up when I’m even older.

48-I now know when and how to pick my battles. I’m only going to fight the ones that matter.

49-I no longer feel guilty taking time for me.  I’m all about naps, reading on my porch or getting a good massage.

50-I’m still here. Living, breathing, talking, walking-the whole nine yards. Not everyone gets this many years. Happy birthday to me! And my brother, who turns 53 today, and my daughter who turns 19.



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I won, I won…

I was recently nominated for the Liebster Award from fellow blogger Pernnille who is from Denmark and writes a lovely travel blog.

Liebster Award

The Liebster Award
The Liebster Award is given by bloggers to fellow bloggers in order to support and encourage them in their blogging. The guidelines for receiving the award varies, however, the general rules are as follows:

– Post your award to your blog in a blog post
– Answer the 10 questions that were given to you by the fellow blogger who nominated you
– Nominate 3-10 other bloggers you have discovered with less than 3,000 followers
– Create 10 questions for your nominees to answer

Here are the questions Pernnille asked me to answer:

1-Why did you decide to create a blog?   I’ve been writing for years, some creative pieces, but mostly freelance articles for magazines and newspapers.  I’d wanted to create a blog for years, it just took me a while to go for it. 

2-What do you hope to achieve with your blog?  I truly hope people will enjoy my writing and that it will get them thinking about life, relationships and faith.  I guess I hope my words help to connect us and lead us to understand each other just a bit better. 

3-Which three words would you use to describe your blog?  Inspirational, positive and faithful.

4-Which three words would you use to describe yourself?  Thinker, traveler and reader.

5-What or whom inspires and motivates you in your life?  I am inspired by my  faith and my family.

6-What makes you happy?  My family, faith, and friends of course.  Beyond that I love to read, travel and write. 

7-What is your favorite place or destination in the world (your home excluded)?   I tend to love certain things about certain places so don’t really have a favorite destination.  Once, my family and I took a drive on Beartooth Highway in southern Montana.  The weather was perfect and the views on the drive were magnificent.  I remember thinking there was not a more beautiful place on earth. 

8-What or whom is your favorite song or music artist(s)?  Please don’t limit me to one!  I love all music with the exception or rap.  My ipod is full of old rock, country, Christian contemporary, jazz, piano, classical and more.

9-What are your hopes and dreams for your future?  I hope to write a second book and many more after that.  

10-When you have passed away, how would you hope people characterize you?  I hope people will say I was genuine and had a good heart.  I hope they’ll remember me for my strong faith in God and say that my life reflected that faith. 

My Nominees
I have chosen to nominate the following four bloggers due to their brilliance. I truly enjoy following these blogs:

Denise Rezsonya, Inspiring Teens and Families Through Faith

Lisanne, Quiet Confidence

Geralyn, Where My Feet Are

Sabra and David Penley, Simply One in Marriage


Congratulations, dear fellow bloggers!

Your questions are as follows:

1-What made you want to start a blog?

2-What have you learned by throwing yourself out into the blog-o-sphere?

3-What is something few people know about you?

4-When you were 7, what did you want to be when you grew up ?

5-Do you have a mentor?  If so, tell us about him/her.

6-If you could have anything in the world, just for a day, what would it be?

7-Tell us a favorite memory from your childhood.

8-What is your favorite kind of candy?

9-If you have to give up one of these 3 things-television, your phone or print books, which would it be?

10-What would a perfect day look like to you?


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Where’s Your Joy?

Tired student sleeping over textbooks
How I’ve felt lately.

Tell me I’m not the only one, that you have felt like this too:

Not quite yourself, a little irritated, restless and bored with the day-to-day drudgery. 

This has been me for the last few weeks.  All I’ve wanted to do is chuck my to-do list and take a nap (yes, I gave in to it a couple of days!). But last week I did one thing-one thing that changed everything.  And I want you to do it too.

I signed up for a writing class. And no, I’m not asking you to join my class, but instead I’d like you to do one thing.

Do one thing for yourself this week that brings you joy. Not just contentment, but joy. Do something that makes you glad to be alive.

No matter how many meetings you need to prepare for, how many sporting events you need to take your kids to, or how busy your week is: just do it. Do one thing.

Yes, I’m a writer so taking a writing class may not be so unusual.  So why did this one action make such a difference? Because I love to write and as an author whose book has just been released, guess what I haven’t had time for lately?  Writing, of course is the answer, something that brings me great joy.

When it comes to doing what we love, life gets in the way. But we need to take charge of our days or the days will take charge of us. 

I’m fairly certain if you surf the ‘net, you’ve at one point seen the story that talks about the professor who asks his class to fill a jar with sand and pebbles. When the class put the sand in first, they can’t fit in all of the pebbles. But when they put the pebbles in first, the sand fills in around them. Everything fits.

Obviously in this story, the sand represents our responsibilities and the pebbles represent items that are important to us. What’s important to you?  Do you make time for it?

I tend to want to finish my responsibilities before I do anything fun.  But life wasn’t meant to be a race, where I get as much done as possible and then at the end, stop for a rest.  Life was meant to be a walk where I take in the sights, the sounds, the tastes around me as I go through it.

Portrait of young sportsman running in the evening

Life is not meant to be a race to the finish.

Even so, there are only 24 hours a day and most of us have more on our plates than we’d like.  But time is just another form of currency: how are you spending yours?

Earlier this week,  I took a long bike ride with friends along the Monon Trail.  It took some cajoling for me to even commit to going.  My days are full and I always feel like I am behind.  But this week, I knew I’d been in a rut.  I needed to take care of me and take advantage of these last few days of great weather, so I agreed to go. And boy am I glad I did. The sun was shining, the wind was in my hair and my companions and I had a great talk (and lunch) along the way.

Did I get less work done that day? Yes.

Do I care?  No.

Here’s why:  It’s taken me a long time, but I’ve finally learned (though sometimes, like these last weeks, I forget) when I renew my spirit, I’m actually more productive. Backing away from my work helps me work more efficiently when I actually sit down to do so.

Checklist Clipboard Shows Test research Or Survey

I’m also a happier person (which my family will tell you makes me a little easier to live with!).  Filling my bucket or jar or whatever you want to call it, gives me the patience and strength to handle the rest of what life requires of me.

Friends, how we spend our days is how we spend our life.  How are you spending yours?  


I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and to do good as long as they live.”  -Ecclesuastes 3:12 (NLV). 


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The Power of Accepting Change


The first day of school, captured from afar. 

“Are you sure I can’t come?” I asked, “I know the other moms are coming…”

My daughter simply shook her head, “No, Mom,” she said, “You don’t need to be there.”

It was the first day of school and I’d been shunned from the bus stop.

Of course  my almost 13-year-old is old enough to get herself there; I’d just wanted to capture the moment with a photo. After all, my days of having anyone at a bus stop are numbered. But she wanted no part of my sentimentality.

Change is hard. Lately, I find I’ve been resisting it.

Just before school started, I ran into an old friend at the grocery store. Right there between the tomatoes and green peppers, we took a minute to catch up. My friend is younger, her children still in elementary school. We talked about how the summer was going.

My friend was knee deep in summer camp, swimming lessons and taking her kids to the summer concerts in the park. This summer they’d been to Kings Island, a water park and had spent a weekend camping.

“How about you?” she asked.

Um, not my summer.  

No swimming lessons.

No summer camp.

And for the first time, not one summer concert in the park.

At first I felt guilty. What kind of mother am I? Why hadn’t we done any thing fun and summer-y?

After we said our goodbyes and I had moved on to the freezer section, I quickly took an inventory of what we’d done with our summer.

I worked, a lot.

We took a family vacation (great fun!).

My 21-year-old worked and spent time with her friends each weekend.

My 18-year-old worked and spent time with her friends each weekend.

My youngest swam, spent time with her grandparents, played with friends, and honed her Minecraft skills.

What’s happening to my once close-knit family?  Why haven’t we done much together?

In a nutshell, my family dynamic is changing.

For years we did go  to the summer concerts in the park. We had picnics and pool days and swimming lessons and summer camp.  We typically hit the water park, an amusement park and spent at least one weekend at my parents’ lake house.

But my girls are not really ‘girls’ anymore. Two out of three are legal adults. They are busy with friends and work and doing what young adults do.  The youngest isn’t far behind. Her desire to hang out with me is waning, instead she’s all about being with her friends.  Movies and water balloon fights and shopping are first on her radar.

While do we still manage to have our moments of family fun together, the truth is, we don’t do as much together as we used to.  This is what I’ve been resisting.  I’ve finally realized I’ve spent that last few summers trying to do the things we’ve always done, to be the way we’ve always been. It’s a futile effort.

My family is not the family it once was. Times have changed, the kids have grown,  and our family patterns have shifted along with these changes.  I must face the truth:

                         I am no longer a mother of young children.

                         I am no longer in charge of my children’s social activities.

                         Gone are the days of family outings to the fair, the pool, the movies.





But replacing those days are moments.

Moments when everyone just happens to be home and we share a dinner filled with laughter.

Moments when my one of my three is around and somehow we end up having a really good, deep conversation-on the fly.

Moments when my husband and I discover all three girls are gone for the evening and we can have a date night.

Moments when I catch my three goofy girls having fun together.

IMG_3832 IMG_4711

As my girls mature and change, they are developing lives of their own. And when I can accept that I see how wonderful it is.  What lovely people they are becoming.  What cool experiences they are having.  How fun to to watch each girl spread her wings and create a beautiful life of her own. And how nice to think that I am just years away from entering a new kind of future with my husband as we empty our nest (bring on the travel!).

Life is full of phases, full of change.  It is the natural order of things. 

When I can embrace it, instead of fear it, I can see the good. I can be joyful in knowing there are more blessing to come, just in a different form.

My daughters are no longer relying so much on me, they no longer desire to spend all their time with me. Yet as they become more independent, they are becoming the women God intended them to be.

I may be shunned from the bus stop but I am still here, will always be here,  ready and willing to join them wherever they are in their journey.






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“Relax and Let God Love You”, An Interview with Regina Brett

Every once in a while you find a book or an author that strikes a cord with you.  You read the words they have carefully crafted and think, “Yes!  That’s it!  That’s exactly the way I feel, but I haven’t been able to put into words.” 

For me, that author is Regina Brett

Regina Brett

Brett is a New York Times bestselling author of three books, God Never Blinks: 50 Lessons for Life’s Little Detours, Be the Miracle: 50 Lessons for Making the Impossible Possible and her newest book, God Is Always Hiring: 50 Lessons for Finding Fulfilling Work. Her inspirational columns appear regularly in Ohio’s largest newspaper, The Plain Dealer, where she was a finalist in 2008 and 2009 for the Pulitzer Prize in Commentary.

I love Regina because she is so real; she writes from the heart and when you read her books you feel as if you know her.  In addition she is wise; she is a woman of faith who tries hard to get life right. When God is Always Hiring came out, I knew I had to buy it. I devoured it, just as I have her other books and knew I wanted to interview her for this blog. Lucky for me, she and her publicist agreed to the interview.  So without further ado, please meet one of my favorite inspiration authors, Regina Brett.

Interview with NYT bestselling author Regina Brett

Me-You grew up in a large family, were 1 of 11 children. Was your faith important to you as a child?  Did you have any spiritual role models?  In what ways did your childhood experiences affect your faith journey?

Regina-Faith and family were the pillars in our house. My parents were super-sized Catholics. We had a three-foot high crucifix over the TV set, a giant statue of Mary in their bedroom, a picture of the last supper in the dining room. It’s like a church exploded in the Brett house.

We read The Lives of the Saints, went to church every Sunday and holy day. My parents were my spiritual role models. I saw my dad on his knees next to his bed where he prayed every night. My mom still loves to say the rosary. They used to line us up along the couch to kneel and pray it.

Faith is the center of my life. A belief and a reliance on a power greater than me who loves me. What has changed is that love is the focus, not fear. Mercy, not judgment.

Me-In your books, you mention various jobs you’ve had (waiting tables, personal assistant, delivering bodies to the funeral home, etc.). What changed in your life to take you from doing odd jobs and dropping out of college, to becoming a college graduate who then became a news reporter, columnist and best selling book author?

Regina-I dropped out of college because I got pregnant at 21. I wasn’t married. At the time, I thought my life was over. It was just getting started. After my daughter was born, I took any job that could pay the rent. When she was 6, I decided to finish my college degree. I made a deal with God: I would finish my degree and go down to part-time work so I could get financial aid and have time to go to school; God would keep us healthy, because I had no health insurance for three years.

I graduated from Kent State at age 30 with a degree in journalism, and my life took off like a rocket.

Me-You’ve overcome a number of difficult personal circumstances in your life.  Confusing teen years, bad relationships, becoming a single mother and getting breast cancer to name a few.  At what point and in which circumstances did you learn to trust God with the details?

Regina-I have to constantly surrender my life over to God. So often I want to steer the bus, then realize, God’s in charge, not me. Life goes so much smoother that way. When I got pregnant at 21 and when I got cancer at 41, I had to walk out on the tightrope that is faith and trust that God would hold me up. Sometimes I tell God, I can’t hold onto You, so You hold onto me. So far it has worked.


Me-In what ways do you still personally struggle with faith and what do you do to overcome these struggles?

Regina-It’s not so much a struggle anymore, but I do need constant reminders to let go, relax and float on the River that is life and not struggle to go upstream against the current. God is in charge of the flow. My job is to float along like a leaf and let God’s love carry me to God’s perfect will for me.

Sometimes it’s the small stuff that trips me up, the speed bumps of life, not the giant Rocky Mountains. Life gives me ample opportunities to relax my grip and let God run the show.


Me-All of your books inspire me, and likely all readers, to both believe in myself and to trust God in that process.  Would you say that is your ultimate message?  If not, what do you want to get across to your readers?

Regina-Relax and let God love you. That love will take care of everything. Everything that happens to you is second to how much God loves you. Stop fighting life and love it unconditionally.


Me-Would you say writing inspirational books is what you are meant to do in this life?  If so, what led you to realize that?  What can those of us who are still figuring it out do to help us find our way?

Regina-After having breast cancer at 41, I got to turn 45 – something two of my aunts didn’t get to do. They both died of breast cancer that spread elsewhere. When I turned 45, I wrote down all the lessons life taught me, they just flowed out like a fountain from my soul. I turned them into a column and it became an internet sensation. That’s when I knew these life lessons were my gift to give the world.

Me-Your latest book, God is Always Hiring, 50 Lessons for Finding Fulfilling Work, encourages readers to find their purpose in life and go for it.  What would you say to those who are fearful of chasing their dreams?

Regina-You don’t need to chase your dreams. What works better is to relax into your dreams and flow toward them. Spend a little quiet time each morning just being at peace with being you and getting grounded. I call it getting into alignment with God and my best self. All else flows from that with ease. Action comes after alignment, because once you get aligned spiritually, you get the clarity on what action to take.


Me-Will there be more books from Regina Brett in the near future?

Regina-I’m already working on the next book. I’m most at peace when I’m writing. It’s like breathing to me.


Me-Anything else I didn’t ask that you’d like readers to know?

Regina-I want to thank all the readers who have read my books, written me emails, followed me on Facebook and Twitter and shared a bit of their lives with me.

You continually inspire me to keep writing. We’re all in this together. What a wonderful ride!

“Relax and let God love you” words to soothe a weary soul.  For more about Regina Brett, visit her website, at


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The Day the Homeless Fed Me


There was no audible voice, no specific directive, just a nudge on my heart.

But the nudge was strong; so strong I knew immediately what my answer would be:


It took a week to commit, to finally answer the email. But despite my reservations, my fears, my lack of free time, I indeed said yes.  I would be happy to help.

Because if I’ve learned anything in the last 10 years, it’s to follow the nudges God places on my heart.  So when I got the email request for summer volunteers, I knew in my heart this was something I needed to do.

And that is how I began working with the homeless women of Wheeler Mission this summer.

The program I volunteered with is called Building A Rainbow and it is through the Indiana Writers Center. Together teachers, interns and volunteers offer creative writing classes to at-risk kids, the elderly and now the homeless.

So okay, this is not so unusual. Lots of people work with the homeless, right? But here’s a secret:

For all the ways in which I’ve served, for all the volunteering I’ve done in my lifetime (which is a lot-just ask my friend Susie!), I’ve never before worked with the homeless. Ever. Why, you ask? Dare I admit, dare I tell you the real reason?

Here it is: Fear.

There is a part of me that has been fearful of homeless people. I honestly don’t know. I can only guess it’s because of my perceptions, of what I’ve been told by society.

The homeless are alcoholics.

The homeless are drug addicts.

The homeless are mentally ill.

And then there’s this one:

The homeless don’t want to be in a part of society, they choose this lifestyle.

There’s no doubt that there is some truth in (at least some of) these statements. Those who have lost their homes, have lost their way. For whatever reason, they have experienced hard times and  hit rock bottom, and not just financially. The lack of finances may likely be a consequence of other, bigger, problems.  Yet here’s something no one ever told me, a truth I learned when I finally stepped out of my comfortable world and into their not so comfortable one:

The homeless are people.

People who were once children.

People who once harbored dreams as big as my own.

People who have a family.

Who once had a job.

A home.


People who once had hope, but lost it in their fight to survive.

And when it all fell apart, by God’s grace some of them found their way to Wheeler Missions.

My task as a volunteer was to encourage the women to write. To help them share their stories so that others can understand the world in which they have lived. To assist in bridging the gap between those of us with, and those without.  A gap I most certainly have stood in the middle of.  The stories will be published in a book by INwords.

I’ll admit, I was a little terrified on day one.  First of all, I was lost and late as I left suburbia for this inner-city mission.  But as soon as we got started, I was all in.  These women were kind, intelligent and more than willing to share their stories.

I learned so much about them. Many of them had rough childhoods. Despite this, a number of them went on to college and became gainfully employed. But things like abuse, addiction (theirs or someone else’s) and a lack of support from family led them to spiral downward. It’s a lot easier to take the wrong path when it’s all you’ve ever seen or known.  But now they want more.  All of them want desperately to get back on their feet. To have a a job, a home, a garden; they want to leave a positive legacy for their children.

These women had stories to tell.

These women had experienced hardships I cannot begin to fathom.

These women could write, and write well.

I couldn’t help but realize that if had I been born into their circumstances, I might not be so strong. I too, might have lost my way.

One day I talked to the ladies about food. We write during their lunch and the food they serve at the mission isn’t much different from school cafeteria food.  We’d been bringing cookies for them, but lots of organizations donated sweets regularly and I wondered if we might bring something else.  And then an idea came to mind: fruit!


Fresh fruit is a daily staple in my household, but I recognize the expense, the labor it takes to prepare it and how unlikely it is that these women ever get it. So I asked one of our regulars, Ty, a poet with the most wonderful cadence, if she thought people would like to eat fruit.

“Yea, sure,” she said, “Fruit would be good.”

So I tucked the thought away in my brain. But life got busy and I never got around to buying, preparing and bringing fruit to our class. But guess what? It didn’t matter, because Ty did.

Ty, the homeless woman attempting to get back on her feet, Ty the woman with next to nothing, Ty who was once a chef, brought the most beautiful, fresh, glorious bowl of fruit to our class for all to share. Mangos and bananas and Kiwi and apple; lovingly sliced, lovingly served.

I learned that day that she works three jobs. That she is saving her money so she can pay her deposit on her apartment, her first month’s rent, get some furniture.  It takes a lot of money just to get started in life.

So yes, I answered the nudge and I am so grateful that I did.  I thought God wanted me to give of myself but instead I was the one on the receiving end.

The woman who has nothing gave me something. A gift. Not just in the form of fruit, but a gift from the heart.

From Ty I learned that even when I have nothing, I can give something.

From all the women I learned that when I let go of stereotypes and judgments, I can connect with another, despite our differences.

In this life, we each have struggles, hopes and dreams. And we often land in very different places, sometimes because of our choices, and sometimes despite them.  But beneath it all, beneath the color of our skin, the money in our bank account, the clothes on our back, we are all essentially the same.  We are human.

God’s nudges aren’t always about obedience or duty or adding a check mark to my list (never about this last one).  Sometimes his nudges are meant for us, to show us in a way we cannot ever predict just exactly what love is: giving of ourselves and receiving more than we can imagine.  And it starts with a yes.

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”  1 John 4:18

Posted in Faith, God, gratitude, inspiration, life lessons, love, trials, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments