Because you are somebody special!

by Annette Bridges. ©2010. All rights reserved.

Since my trip to Italy, my husband and I have enjoyed a delicious breakfast routine that often includes French toast, fresh fruit and a yummy cup of cappuccino.

Breakfast has become not only good-tasting but a lovely beginning for each new day.

In Italy, food was delicious and a beautiful picture served on a plate. Since my return — especially at breakfast time — I get immense pleasure in arranging the food on our plates in some exquisite way. It’s amazing how taking the time to do this simple yet thoughtful gesture makes us enjoy our meal all the more, as well as sets the tone for a happy and satisfying day.

Today was one of the mornings when my husband takes his dad to have breakfast with some of his friends. And I thought to myself, “Why shouldn’t I fix myself a good breakfast?” So I did. I found myself taking the time to make my plate as lovely as I do when I’m serving both of us.

As I sat down to eat alone, I observed what I had done. My napkin and silverware were neatly in place on the table, and the arrangement of food on my plate and cappuccino served in an elegant cup and saucer were picture perfect. I thought to myself, “What a special breakfast I’m about to treat myself to.” I couldn’t help but also think, “And why not?”

Because I’m “precious in His sight” were the words that came to my mind!

And this, my friends, is also the reason you should do the same. You, too, are precious in His sight! In other words, you are somebody special!

Believing in our innate value and treating ourselves with care is imperative. If we don’t, we might be tempted to think we don’t matter, that our life doesn’t make a difference or is insignificant. These lies would fool us into believing we are not worthy, not good enough, not skinny enough or not capable enough. None of which is true, by the way!

You are special because you’re you! It is because we are different from one another that makes each of us special. We all have unique gifts and talents. So we can be what God meant us to be — ourselves!

Being special — or being ourselves — means we are exceptional, important, significant, unique, unusual, extraordinary, memorable and uncommon. We have a quality, character and identity that is distinguishable from everyone else. And I believe that each of us has been especially designed for a particular purpose. So my friends, each of us matters.

Many years ago I read a quote by Mother Teresa, “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But if that drop was not in the ocean, I think the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.”

This quote has often reminded me that my life does matter and is important in my world. And this thought has inspired and encouraged me all the more to want to reach whatever is my ultimate potential in this life.

Give your special self permission to be yourself. Don’t allow yourself, or anyone else, to limit your possibilities by saying what you should or should not do or what you can or cannot do. You must be “you” and whatever that entails!

Do what you love! If you love to write – write! If you love to sing – sing! If you love to farm – farm! If you love to teach – teach! There is a way to be whoever we have been especially created to be.

Being ourselves can require some nurturing and tender, loving care. So, I have found it important to be sure I’m investing in my physical, emotional and spiritual self each day. This includes blocking out time to ponder what is important to me and to consider how precious I am in God’s eyes.

Enjoying your own company by fixing yourself a fabulous meal and serving yourself with elegant stemware is another way to treat yourself with tender and loving care. Why should you do this? Because you are somebody special!


Eat, pray, love without criticism!

by Annette Bridges. ©2010. All rights reserved.

Not only have I usually been my toughest critic, I have also been one of those women who has been equally critical of other women. After reading some of the negative movie reviews of Eat, Pray, Love, I find there is no shortage of women who are harshly critical of other women.

I decided some time ago that I didn’t want to be this kind of woman anymore. And I wish more women would make the same decision.

The most common criticism of the movie and book heroine is that she whines too much or she is too self-absorbed. Some assert that she has no reason to be unhappy.

The book, Eat, Pray, Love, is not fiction. It is one woman’s real life journey to find herself. It could also be called a journey of self-healing or the quest to find balance in life and love.

I think the story resonated with me because of my own feelings that there must be more to life than what it has been so far. It’s not that I’ve been unhappy. For one thing, I’ve been very happily married for almost thirty years. But there have been career choices that I have regrets about. And now that I’m in my 50’s, I’m rather consumed with the desire to experience and see all the things that have been put off for someday in the future.

I was impressed by the courage and audacity of the author to set out on a journey to find answers to some of the same questions I have. I was a cheerleader in her corner as I read her book and was excited to follow her example as I watched the movie version of her story.

There are no villains in her journey, other than her own potential to self-destruct. I’ve been disturbed by those who have ridiculed her honest and sincere desire to be happy with her life with a fuller understanding of its purpose, potential and possibilities. I don’t understand why some have seen this as something worthy of ridicule.

Yet, I know I’ve done the same in the past. And in my case, I finally concluded that such behavior was narrow-minded and self-righteous. And I no longer wanted to be a woman who was holier-than-thou and smugly virtuous in my judgments of others. And believe me — sadly — this does describe some of my past judgments!

And like I said, I believe women are often women’s worst critics. We have a tendency to be intolerant of the opinions and behavior of other women.

We need more empathy, my friends!

It’s no easy undertaking to put oneself into another’s situation or position in an effort to better understand. In fact, it may be pretty much impossible to do that. And this point is probably something that women critical of other women should consider — or at least recognize.

We don’t know the whole story of our fellow women. All we know is what they tell us and what is in our sight. We do not know every detail of their situations or the depth of their feelings.

So when I say we need more empathy, dear women, this means we need to give more respect to other women. We need an appreciation of and compassion for their lives.

It doesn’t matter whether or not we think we agree with them or think we would never do the same. We don’t even have to agree to disagree.

Why do we feel the need to have any opinion about another’s life?

I admit it is a tall order to stop judging others. I have not mastered this desire entirely myself. But that doesn’t make my desire less sincere and genuine.

Jesus explained it best. “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged.” In other words, “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults — unless, you want the same treatment. Don’t condemn those who are down; that hardness can boomerang. Be easy on people; you’ll find life a lot easier.” (Luke 6:37)

And that is the truest fact of all. The less I judge, I find that life is not only easier, but happier and more satisfying.

We’re all on a life-long journey to discover ourselves. Undoubtedly, we have much to learn. My hope is that we can eat, pray and love without criticism of ourselves or of others. This is going to require a lot more loving and a lot less judging!

Were you somebody’s angel today?

by Annette Bridges. ©2010. All rights reserved.

Perhaps you remember the song by the country band, Alabama, titled “Angels among us.”

The song lyrics include lines such as “a kind word from a stranger to lend a helping hand” and “a phone call from a friend just to say I understand” as a couple of examples of what the angels among us look like.

Could it be that you and I have the potential to be somebody’s angel?

My mom called me one Sunday to tell me about all the angels who helped her that day. And since good deeds should not go unnoticed, it seemed appropriate to write about them.

Actually, she has two little angels who help her every Sunday. They eagerly wait for her arrival as they watch out their Sunday School window. When they see her car pull up and stop, these two little angels rush out to greet her and help her get out of the car and walk into the building — one angel on each side.

I wonder if they know they are her Sunday angels.

But this particular Sunday, she met another angel. When she and her companions were going to be seated at the restaurant they went to for lunch, the waiter offered his arm to walk her to their table. Then, when she stood up after her lunch to leave, this angel suddenly appeared to offer his arm again. And his help wasn’t limited to inside the restaurant. He walked her all the way to her car, helped her get in and then cranked it up to get the air conditioning cooling for her and her friends.

Did this waiter know he was being her angel?

His actions as well as those of her two little Sunday angels epitomize these words by Luciano de Crescenzo: “We are each of us angels with only one wing. And we can only fly embracing each other.”

My mom has many angels.

There’s the son who is always there for her and drives her wherever she needs to go.

There’s the husband who rubs her feet when they hurt and helps her in any way he can.

There’s the puppy who keeps her company.

There are the grandchildren and great-grandchildren who call her and lift her spirits and make her forget her pain for a little while.

And there have been many wonderful neighbors and friends along the way who have offered their assistance and companionship and who have given her many happy memories.

It doesn’t surprise me that my mom has always had an abundance of angels at her side. The old adage, “One good deed deserves another” is true. My mom has walked that extra mile for her friends, and she has done everything she could for her children. So I’m not surprised that angels come to her in her hours of need.

It’s also no surprise, my friends, that each of us is somebody’s angel. With the same Father-Mother God, we are all the reflection of God’s love. And this means that the things we do and say have the power to help, heal, inspire, comfort, guide, encourage, lift up and bring joy and laughter to everyone we meet.

Have you ever considered that you were somebody’s angel today?

Your smile meant more than you know, the kindness you showed by opening the door for someone, made that someone feel special, and the call you made to a friend was just what was needed.

Perhaps we should not take so lightly what we say or do — because it may be that we were somebody’s angel today!

How long do we wait?

by Annette Bridges. ©2010. All rights reserved.

Recently, I was listening to my mother read about the healing of the man by the pool of Bethesda. (John 5:1-9) I’ve read this account many times before. Perhaps you have as well. But it occurred to me as I heard his story yet again, that I’ve never given this man enough credit.

In fact, I’ve even ridiculed him for giving excuses when Jesus asked him if he wanted to be healed. I’ve thought, “Just say yes to the question, man! Jesus doesn’t want to hear all your complaints and excuses.”

If you’re not familiar with this story, many people believed that if you were the first person into this pool at a certain time, you would be healed of whatever your problem was. Apparently, this man had been ill for thirty-eight years. And he spent those thirty-eight years trying to be the first one in.

That’s when it hit me. He never gave up the wait. So maybe he was frustrated at times when others beat him into the water — thus his long answer to Jesus’ question. Still, his hope, his persistence, his effort, his expectation, didn’t disappear and diminish because of years of anguish. He was still waiting for his healing, even after thirty-eight years.

Undoubtedly, Jesus saw this man’s great faith, and he healed him. And the man learned he could be healed without getting into the pool!

I can’t even imagine what it would feel like to be faithfully waiting for something or someone for such a long time. How do you not become discouraged, downhearted or depressed? How do you not lose hope? How do you not give up and quit trying or waiting?

As I ponder this healing account, the answer seems fairly straight forward and could maybe even be described as simple – keep your faith.

It seems to me that the secret for maintaining hope is to keep our faith in reaching our goals and dreams strong and unwavering. I think the man by the pool of Bethesda would have waited another thirty-eight years if he had had to.

I would love to have that kind of faith! There have been many times when I didn’t get the answer I was hoping for quick enough, and I became disappointed and depressed and pretty much conceded defeat. I can’t help but wonder now what might have been if I had not given up.

My mother is like that man by the pool of Bethesda. At least she seems to have his kind of faith. No matter what kind of trouble her children get into or what kind of problems they have, her faith in them remains invincible. Nothing or no one could ever make her believe her children can’t overcome whatever it is that needs overcoming.

I suspect many — if not all — parents are like this. I certainly know I would never give up on my daughter and her dreams! I have no doubt whatsoever that she can accomplish whatever she sets her sights on. My faith in my daughter is also invincible.

I’ve seen dads giving encouragement to their child when it was their turn to bat. And I’ve seen moms confidently and courageously attend to their child’s injuries when they fell off their bike or got stung by a bee.

Parent’s faith in the well-being and success of their children would never diminish just because their children face a difficult struggle. No, that’s probably when the parent’s faith increases and grows even stronger and more resolute.

Perhaps we could all have more faith in ourselves. I admit I’ve reached a time in my life when I don’t have the same faith in my own goals and dreams as I once did.

One thing does seem very clear to me now. Disappointment and discouragement will lead us to defeat. So surely, the only way to success, healing and progress is confidence, persistence, courage and encouragement — faith.

We need to have the same confidence in ourselves that we have for our children. And we need to give ourselves the same encouragement as we give our children.

So how long do we wait — or have faith? The answer again seems simple. For as long as it takes!

Stop playing the blame game

by Annette Bridges. ©2010. All rights reserved.

Blame can be contagious — a conclusion reached by a recent study published in The Journal of Experimental Psychology. This was no surprise to me, since we live in a culture of blame and see “blame” played out in the news every day.

I dare say we’ve all pointed fingers at some point in time to a person, place or thing as an excuse for our misery or a problem. And whether or not you or I believe we were justified in that blame doesn’t matter.

In the book of Genesis, we read that Adam blamed Eve when the Lord confronted him about eating the fruit he had been told to stay away from. (Genesis 3:12) But did Eve cram the fruit in his mouth? Did she force him to eat it? At least Eve told the truth and owned up to her mistake. Adam made a choice as surely as Eve did!

If we are ever going to learn to be good problem solvers, then we need a shift from finding fault to taking responsibility.

Pointing a finger is a way to pass the buck in an attempt to protect our own self-image perhaps — another finding in the study. Yet blame becomes an excuse, a justification, a defense — a bad habit — and keeps focus away from making the effectual changes that solve a problem.

“The dog ate my homework” excuse doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do your homework. Whether the excuse is truth or lie is inconsequential. Either you get your homework completed and turned in for a grade or you get a zero. The consequence is going to be the result of the choice you make.

Noted Jewish-American trial lawyer, Louis Nizer once said, “When a man points a finger at someone else, he should remember that four of his fingers are pointing at himself.” We must sooner or later own up to our own mistakes and learn the lessons needed to not repeat them. Maybe the dog really did eat our homework, but maybe we left our homework on the floor in the first place.

But again, where the fault lies is not of immediate importance. What matters most — or at least first and foremost — is what we do to correct and resolve what needs fixing. We must get our homework done even if we have to start over from scratch!

Getting trapped in a cycle of blame distorts objectivity, clouds reason and almost always results in a power struggle. Problem solving demands respect for other viewpoints, along with a recognition that there is not just one way to reach a solution. So we must break the blame chain in order to make any needed changes.

We need to move beyond the “It’s not my fault” victim mentality and imbibe the humility, grace and courage to do whatever it takes to accomplish change, progress, and success. As long as we think of ourselves as victims, we remain so and accomplish little or nothing.

Parents often blame their child’s teachers, friends, television or music for a behavior problem or for a learning difficulty. And they often blame themselves and ruminate over what they have done wrong. Again, the problem with all the blaming is that it takes the attention and focus away from where it should be — on the child and meeting the child’s needs.

My approach to teaching as a public school teacher and as a homeschool teacher was the same. I believed that anything could be learned. If my children were failing or having difficulty mastering a skill or subject, then it was the teaching method that needed to be changed to better meet the child’s learning style and needs. It wasn’t that the children were dumb or incapable of learning. It wasn’t that I was a bad teacher. The solution was to adapt and continue to try a new approach until mastery was achieved.

Opportunities are available, and success can be reached. The road may appear easier or faster for some than for others. It may or may not be fair. Some may have more hurdles to overcome. So be it. I’ve often said and proven in my own life, difficult does not mean impossible.

There is much that needs fixing in our country and world today. My prayer is that we stop playing the blame game. Stop the excuse making and start problem solving. Nothing is so hard that it can’t be done. When we open our hearts and minds to believe that anything is possible, solvable and attainable, then it will be so.