When is the last time you tried something new? If it takes you a long time to answer, maybe it's time. For some, the thought of doing something new creates angst, fear, and/or uncertainty. Such thoughts are normal for many people. But for those who are looking to grow, the key is to refuse to allow such thoughts to paralyze you to the point of inaction. Many of us become complacent because we have our patterns, routines, way(s) of doing things, etc., and something new may change the landscape or shake things up. Depending upon your circumstances, that just might be a good thing.

I'm not talking about quitting your job and starting a new career--that is, unless you're prepared to do so. Doing something new might be as simple as taking a different route to or from work. Or it might be learning a new skill; volunteering; mentoring a child; learning another language; eating something you've never eaten; eating a healthy meal; exercising--even if it's just taking a walk; planning a trip to a state or country you're curious about; taking a free online course (see sources under Miscellaneous); inviting someone to dinner; paying for a stranger's coffee, meal, gas, groceries, etc. It needn't be anything big. Something small can make a large impact. Who knows, it just might lead to you realizing a dream.

I happen to think that once you try something new, you have everything to gain. Even if things don't work out as you hoped or expected, at least you tried. You took a step forward. And maybe that will give you the strength, courage, confidence, satisfaction, perspective, and enthusiasm to take another step, to try again, or to try something (else) new.

Are you willing to try something new?
When we're preparing for work, an event, a meeting, an interview, etc., we usually spend time considering what to wear. We want to be properly dressed. Have you ever gotten all gussied up and then found you weren't dressed for the occasion? Recently, I attended a life celebration/funeral that caused me to reflect on the necessity of being dressed for the occasion in a different context--that is, being ready when my time comes. You and I may differ on what it means to be dressed for that occasion, and I know this subject is morbid to some. But that time comes for us all. And whenever the call comes for me, I want to be ready to answer based on the condition of my soul and the life I've lived.

I live a joyful, textured life full of rich and diverse experiences. I'm living my purpose,  loving my journey (well, not all of it, but I gotta take the good and the bad), and I've been blessed beyond measure. But what's most important to me is trying to live a life pleasing to God. It's not about trying to be perfect, as that's impossible. We all have our struggles. Remember this "shining" example? We ALL have our struggles. And if you follow this blog, you know I'm big on self-examination, soul-cleansing, maintenance, and improvement. I routinely ask myself questions like: "am I who I say I am, am I doing the best I can do, giving the best I can give; would my colleagues and neighbors be surprised to find out I'm a Christian because of the way I carry myself on days other than Sunday; do only my Christian friends and church members know I'm a Christian?" My answer, no matter the question, is that I can always do better. I want to live a life where my words, deeds, and attitudes consistently reflect what I say I believe and what's most important to me. 'Cause when it's all said and done, I don't want to be all gussied up, but not dressed for the occasion.
Many of us are fortunate to be able to affirm ourselves, and have people in our lives who affirm us. But there are many who have no one to affirm them and, for whatever reason, are incapable of affirming themselves. Perhaps they feel lost, broken, wounded, rejected, dejected, worthless, hopeless, etc. Some don't even have the strength or ability to seek affirmation. They may fear rejection and/or embarrassment in doing so. What a difference we can make in the lives of others if we take a moment to affirm them. It can be as simple as offering a smile, saying hello, offering a hug, a compliment, a word of comfort or encouragement--letting people know they are seen, worthy of love, respect, support, compassion. Whether it's a stranger, a co-worker, an acquaintance, etc., we don't know what battles people are fighting on any given day. We often judge what we see, but the truth often lies in the unseen. We don't know who or what people go home to each day, assuming they have a home. We make assumptions based on limited knowledge, but we don't know. What will it cost us to affirm others? A little time and effort.

But what if we're presented with an opportunity to affirm someone we don't particularly like? What about someone we know doesn't like us? Or someone who has hurt us? Challenging, indeed. Will it cost us? Maybe. We may need to let down our guard, overlook our pride, our anger, our perceived need to hold on to a grudge or to be right, offer our time, effort, etc.--even if only temporarily. And there's always the possibility our efforts may be rebuffed, and we may suffer embarrassment. But if we are able to overcome those potential obstacles and make an attempt, we may find it is a salve not only for the person we affirm, but our own souls as well. And what if the person does rebuff our attempt to affirm them or continues with behavior we find offensive or unacceptable? As for me, if I've done what's in my heart, I'm learning to leave the rest to the person and God. That doesn't mean I won't have feelings about it, but I can only control my actions, not how others respond.

Whether affirming a stranger or someone we know, our act might just bring a ray of sunshine into the life of someone in need of a respite from life's rains. It could be the difference between someone holding on and giving up. While the gesture may seem small or inconsequential to us, it could change the course of someone's life.

Can you imagine your life without affirmation?

Living My Joy
Here are some of the lessons I've learned while living in Paris:

1) When we don't try to understand each other, any language--even our mother tongue--is a foreign language.

2) Common courtesy and respect will take you a long way.

3) It's easy to see beauty in the obvious, but heartwarming to see it in the not so obvious.

4) Different is not wrong or bad . . . it's just different.

5) Being set in your ways is bondage.

6) Curiosity and learning are necessary for growth.

7) You can make a friend anywhere. A person whose language you don't understand can become a friend if you use your heart to communicate.

8) You'll miss out on treasures if you're not willing to step outside your comfort zone.

9) Much of life is beyond our control, so it's important to make the most of what's within our control.

10) Allowing fear of the unknown to keep you from trying something new can block your blessings.

Universal, n'est ce pas?

I have observed through myself and others that many of us can identify the source of our scars--be they physical or emotional--no matter when they occurred. For example, someone 60 years old can probably tell you the scar on their arm resulted from falling off a swing at age 10. Presumably, a scar represents healing. But as we know, an external manifestation of healing does not always mean complete healing. And even when it does, we sometimes have a tendency to recount the pain and source of the scar more than any resulting lesson(s). That seems to be human nature.

I've been working on reframing my scars. It's something I started after my surgery. Because the surgery and my recovery were very difficult, I could easily look at my scar and see it as nothing more than a representation of surgery. But I can't look at my scar without seeing it as evidence that I'm alive . . . I'm still here . . . I'm still standing. Often, the pain a scar represents can be a great source of healing, learning, and inspiration. We have the ability to decide what our scars represent to us. That helps facilitate total healing. As for me, whether it's seeing the beauty of life from a surgical scar, or deciding an emotional scar will inspire me not to let anyone steal my dream(s), I'm choosing to reframe my scars.

How about you?