‘IF’: Possibly the Biggest Small Word There is!

The thing that scares most people, is one of my favorite things about life. We do not know what’s around the next corner. Our entire lives can change in an instant, whether it be a visiting a new place, making a decision, new career or project, or a new person coming into our lives. Sure, tragedy and loss are also possible. Most of us are not strangers to some type of loss. Hopefully, we have gained more than we have lost. Even if we have lost more than we have gained, if we are still alive then we have a chance and the hope to gain. That brings me to the word ‘IF’. The word ‘if’ signals the change if you will allow it. ‘If’ is only found in silence.

I had the amazing privilege and honor to visit a dear friend at a cloistered Trappist monastery, St. Joseph’s Abbey, this past weekend. Amidst the noise and busy-ness of life I have more than once imagined a life of complete silence-for a minute or so, of course! 🙂 After all, I enjoy people and conversation. As I walked the halls of the Abbey, I noticed a sound that was distinct and vaguely familiar, but I could not place it. After standing in the library surrounded by the knowledge of books on endless bookshelves softly lit by the gentle rays of sunlight that peacefully fell through the large wooden windows, I identified the sound. It was silence. The deep, unhindered, powerful sound of silence. It was beautiful. We live in world that runs from silence. Even if we do manage to get some silence, the noise in our head keeps us from really understanding its significance. I stood there in the quiet for a few moments and my new favorite word ‘IF’ came to me.

Silence is full of possibilities if we are open to it. Silence asks two questions: Who do you listen to? What do you really want? The first question reminds me of Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God”. Imagine for a second you could believe there is a very personal God out there who loves you and wants to tell you something. Wouldn’t anyone want to listen? The next question addresses the noise in our lives. Our culture constantly tells us to get ahead, acquire more, gain more power, more money, more pleasure and entertainment. If we could break free from those ideals for a moment and ask ourselves what we really want, deep down I think most of us would want more love, happiness and peace. Possessing money and power will not attain these objectives. Pleasure can be a cheap counterfeit for what we sincerely seek. The world has confused sex and pleasure with love. At times love contains sex, but sex never contains love. We as a culture stay on the hamster wheel with distractions and noise, so we do not have see the emptiness of our vain pursuits. What if we could see silence as the place for wonderful possibilities, instead of the void where we see our disappointments? This is the secret that monks have discovered. Silence is the place where we can recharge, prioritize, and see possibilities beyond our greatest dreams if we are open to it.

‘IF’: Possibly the Biggest Small Word There is!

The thing that scares most people, is one of my favorite things about life. We do not know what’s around the next corner. Our entire lives can change in an instant, whether it be a visiting a new place, making a decision, new career or project, or a new person coming into our lives. Sure, tragedy and loss are also possible. Most of us are not strangers to some type of loss. Hopefully, we have gained more than we have lost. Even if we have lost more than we have gained, if we are still alive then we have a chance and the hope to gain. That brings me to the word ‘IF’. The word ‘if’ signals the change if you will allow it. ‘If’ is only found in silence.

I had the amazing privilege and honor to visit a dear friend at a cloistered Trappist monastery, St Joseph’s Abbey, this past weekend. Amidst the noise and busy-ness of life I have more than once imagined a life of complete silence-for a minute or so, of course! 🙂 After all I enjoy people and conversation. As I walked the halls of the Abbey, I noticed a sound that was distinct and vaguely familiar, but I could not place it. After standing in the library surrounded by the knowledge of books on endless bookshelves softly lit by the gentle rays of sunlight that peacefully fell through the large wooden windows, I identified the sound. It was silence. The deep, unhindered, powerful sound of silence. It was beautiful. We live in world that runs from silence. Even if we do manage to get some silence, the noise in our head keeps us from really understanding its significance. I stood there in the quiet for a few moments and my new favorite word ‘IF’ came to me.

Silence is full of possibilities if we are open to it. Silence asks two questions: Who do you listen to? What do you really want? The first question reminds me of Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God”. Imagine for a second you could believe there is a very personal God out there who loves you and wants to tell you something. Wouldn’t anyone want to listen? The next question addresses the noise in our lives. Our culture constantly tells us to get ahead, acquire more, gain more power, more money, more pleasure and entertainment. If we could break free from those ideals for a moment and ask ourselves what we really want, deep down I think most of us would want more love, happiness and peace. Possessing money and power will not attain these objectives. Pleasure can be a cheap counterfeit for what we sincerely seek. The world has confused sex and pleasure with love. At times love contains sex, but sex never contains love. We as a culture stay on the hamster wheel with distractions and noise, so we do not have see the emptiness of our vain pursuits. What if we could see silence as the place for wonderful possibilities, instead of the void where we see our disappointments? This is the secret that monks have discovered. Silence is the place where we can recharge, prioritize, and see possibilities beyond our greatest dreams if we are open to it.

IT’S A NEW DAWN, IT’S A NEW DAY! 5 Tips to Color Your Summer with Music

GUEST BLOGGER UNIVERSITY OF CONNECTICUT SOPHOMORE MADDIE BYER
Every year when summer is on its way, there is a unique energy in the air. We all feel it—it’s what makes us dream of palm branches swaying in the breeze, or cold margaritas condensing by the beach. Summer is a time to be upbeat and happy. It’s a time to discover new things about ourselves while things are a little slower, calmer, and less chaotic. This is the time to embrace lots of different levels of happy feelings. It’s my own personal belief that nothing quite sets the mood like good music. Music speaks to us in lots of different ways if we let it. Here are some tips on how to color your summer with music!
1. Step outside of your comfort zone. Summer marks the start of new adventures. That said, don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone when it comes to music. Go see a concert by a band that you’ve never heard of! Outdoor concerts especially can be amazing experiences. Support local musicians when they play at venues near you! This goes for genres as well. Always been a rock and roll kind of person? Maybe try mixing it up with some pop or electronic. Never listen to anything but dance music? You might be surprised by how appealing jazz can sound when you’re relaxing by the pool or reading a good book underneath a tree. Is there a genre that you’ve always hated? Maybe revisit it. Don’t be afraid to give new music a chance because there’s nothing more refreshing than discovering a new favorite song that’s unlike anything you’ve ever heard or liked before.
2. Mix up your genres. Speaking of refreshing, variety is always a good thing. There are lots of different moods associated with summer. Some days are chill and breezy, while others are wild and crazy. You can reflect this through music by switching up your genres. Taking a long drive through some country roads? Find some fun country music to listen to! Having lots of people over and serving up some drinks? Have a dance or hip-hop playlist ready! Feeling nostalgic about happy summer memories or spending some time alone outside? Turn on some of your favorite classics!
3. Listen to international music. If you only listen to Western music, you are seriously limiting yourself. I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all been thoroughly charmed by 2017 Latin pop on the charts, and good news! There’s lots more like this. Latino pop is a favorite among Americans, but it’s not just Latino music that can give off such a warm, summery vibe. There’s French, African, Chinese, you name it!
4. Happy lyrics will make you happier. Lyrics are a really important aspect of music. If you’re on your way to the beach and a break-up song comes on the radio, that may not be the best way to prep yourself for some summer fun. Find something that makes you feel cheerful and excited! Think of the classic lyric, “It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me. And I’m feeling good.” This is the kind of mood you want to be in during your relaxing months of summer.
5. Don’t just listen to music during big moments. Everyone listens to music while they go dancing at the bar, or when they go to a summer concert. These are great times to listen to music, but try to extend yourself beyond this. All the time is a great time to jam to some music. Listen to a fun song, like Thunder by Imagine Dragons, while you’re doing some cleaning or getting ready for an event. If you wake up in a bad mood, throw on some happy music! Find some upbeat music to listen to even during those boring car rides to work or the grocery store. You may just find yourself starting to feel happier overall!

Stuck For Ideas: 4 Steps to a Sensational Summer

About now, most of us are feeling the pressures that come with Summer planning. Work, trips, sports camps, music camps and family vacations circling in your mind. Which ones to choose? Summer is a time when we are supposed to be able to slow down and relax a little with family and friends. Don’t let anxiety rob you of memories that last a life time. The key to a good Summer is having a strategy. Here are 4 steps to help you plan for a sensational Summer.
1.Don’t Plan Too Big. If you’re like me, then you will buy your first bike and immediately begin dreaming of taking a trip cross country. Once I thought it through, I decided to enjoy a 10 mile ride before I would think of biking over 2000 miles. Don’t plan too much or too big. It will kill the moment. When it comes to our children, they do not need big or extended activities. One of my son’s best memories is when we picked up barbecue chicken dinners at a local church and had an impromptu picnic in the park, complete with playing on the playground. Look at your community website for small activities, such as movies in the park, special events in the library and festivals. There are memories to made everywhere, right here right now.
2.Involve Your Kids in the Planning Process. I have a checklist of places I would like to visit. Over the years I have checked many destinations off of my list. Summer is great time to travel. Naturally I enjoy bringing my children on my adventures with me. Choosing which destinations to cover this year has been weighing on my mind. Are we ready for the cross country drive or should we head north to Canada? Deciding to ask my children what they would like to do was a great decision. I discovered the place they really want to go is only two hours away. Easier than I thought. As children grow up, you can’t just take them with you wherever you go. They have ideas-and plans, of their own. Asking them is a win-win because there are places they want to go and they are happy you will take them there. You can enjoy your list on your own time. Everyone wants a vacation with no friction.
3.Look for Deals. Check out popular sites to find deals for your family or personal adventures. Subscribing to online market places can help you with ideas and savings. Activities range from hourly, daily or weeklong adventures in places you may have never thought of. Make sure you read the fine print before you purchase. Many offers have some limits you will need to consider before committing, though most of the fine print is reasonable.
4.Use Your Smartphone. In world where many are ranting about the overuse of smartphones, I need to express that the technology of a Smartphone is incredible. There is a reason they call it “smart”. It saves you time, takes you to some amazing places you may never find on your own AND allows you to capture the events with a high quality camera. On a recent trip to New York City, I employed my GPS Walking Directions to help me make my way across town. My Smartphone GPS took me on a route I would normally not take. This route allowed me to have a nice lunch at Grand Central Station, have the best coffee I’ve ever had in Greenwich Village and take the High Line, a walking park above New York City. Having a Smartphone also allows me to check in on work needs in an efficient and timely manner, while enjoying my time “on the go”. Don’t be afraid to say, “Siri, directions to the nearest museum or park!” on your next adventure. You will be surprised at what you will find.

Making Summer sensational is all about planning, good communication with your travel partners and bringing along the right tools to help you. Also, be flexible and include some last minute, short adventures when the opportunity arises. Nothing will take the place of simply enjoying the place and the moment you are in.

When Your Angel Goes to College: 5 Tips to Help in the College Process

Sending my two girls off to college within the last two years has given me a crash course in parent “collegology”. The college chapter is when the whole family is on a roller coaster that doesn’t get back to the place where you all got on. You and your college bound student are in the front car that speeds up at every twist and turn. The new goal is not only getting your young adult to college, but not derailing the whole family all together. Tensions are high, uncertainty is your daily bread. Days and even moments can go from your student counting down the days until they leave, to sadness about leaving everything they know “behind”. Hang in there parents. This ride will stop. Your job in the process is to get control of the ride. Here are 5 steps to help you do just that.
1. Lighten Up. We wonder why teens think college is a life or death situation. It’s because they see adults act like it is. For example, all through high school, schools and parents put a ton of pressure on kids to exceed, excel, do better, do more-oh and remember to join every club you can so you appear socially conscious to colleges. Whoa. That’s a tall order for a teen. Imagine as a parent at this time in life if this type of pressure were put on us. When we’re older life success does not depend on how we live for only 4 years. Do we ever tell our teens what will happen after the 4 years of college? Imagine the let down they will have when they find out that the 4 years doesn’t lead to happy ever after. Success is measured by character, effort, excellence and most importantly, constancy. It’s not like we do not get second chances or a Plan B. We grow, Our interests and needs change as we get older. Our goals change. So far, we live in a society that supports and encourages change and growth. How about we tell our teens to do their best every day, to look at the whole picture and teach them to be constant? On tough days, our best may not be as good as it is on our good days. Choosing a college is not the be all, end all. If it doesn’t work out, they can change their minds. Removing the pressure of blowing the “the most important decision of their lives” will do wonders for them. Give them a little room to grow and the process might even be enjoyable. If we want our teens to lighten up, we must lighten up first.
2. Visit Colleges Years Before it is Time for them to Fly (Apply). Visiting colleges can easily cost as much as a year’s tuition. It is also very timely. Start visiting EARLY, and at everyone’s liesure. Whenever you take a family vacation, try to visit a college in that area while you are already there. This can be easily done while taking trips to visit family in other parts of the country as well. Seeing colleges while everyone is enjoying relaxing vacation time takes pressure off and adds excitement for their future. It can also save you time and money.
3.Don’t Take Every College Tour Before You Show Your Student the College First. This seems counter-intuitive, but scheduled tours can take up to 4 hours. Usually, your young adult knows if he or she wants to go there within minutes. Taking a brief visit to a college before planning a scheduled tour can save you a lot of time, as the tours give you details you would only want to know if it were a serious consideration.
4. Remember This is About Them, Not You. This is tougher than you think. It is incredible how much showing your teens colleges will bring back your own college memories. We learned valuable information in our college experience. If we could only do it again, we would do it better or right this time. As we help our kids, this time we can do it right. Right? Wrong. It’s their turn. We’ve had our time and made our decisions. Our responsibility is to help and guide these young adults to make decisions that will help them discover God’s purpose for them and their own purpose in life. Inadvertently treating our children as if they are some extension of our purpose in life will cause tension in our relationships and may even get in the way of God’s plans for them. Of course, they need our help to some degree. As a first generation American, I did not have help applying to colleges. I had to figure it out by myself. Just knowing the process and guiding them through it is a tremendous help. Anything beyond that may cause resentment and stress in your relationship. Give them room to exercise the mind and personality that you helped them to discover. It is sad to know they don’t need us as much as they did. It is also happy because, we’ve done a good job to get them to this point. There is something very beautiful about watching them fly.
5. Keep Emotions Separate. Of course this is not entirely possible. If it is our goal though, it may keep emotions in check. I began my “grieving process” of letting go a few years before it was time to get to work on the college hunt. I like to be prepared and plan ahead! 🙂 I also didn’t want my emotions to get in the way of sound reasoning. The most threatening emotion can be fear. It will ruin your life if it goes unchecked. Yes, fear can keep you safe in a dangerous moment. However, most fear is about events that will never, ever happen. Ever. Creating memory boards can help in the process of letting go. It is a lot of fun to go back through the years and look through photos that are snapshots of the privilege you’ve had to be their parent. Even though you still see them as that cherub who fell asleep in the chair with her angel costume on, they don’t see themselves that way. They are fighting to be seen as the adults you have raised them to be. On the same subject of emotions, give your kids a break too. They can only handle so much at a time. So when your high school senior who has two weeks to choose a college tells you “I can’t talk about it now”, resist the urge to pull a “mama bear”. Try to gently remind them that they will have to think about it soon. I recommend taking deep breaths first, and often.

Having kids go to college is a confusing, emotional and wonderful time. Confusing because they want to go and you are not ready. Wonderful because they are on the next part of their journey. And sad because you cannot go on this next part of their journey with them. Don’t worry though, they will still need you. Just in a different and a little more distant way. My favorite texts form my adults are, “Mom, can I ask you a question…”