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February 2016

Hope Reflected: The Link Between Gratitude and Love

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In normal life we hardly realize how much more we receive than we give, and life cannot be rich without such gratitude. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

About this time last year, I wrote a column on the importance of practicing an attitude of gratitude. While it’s pretty easy to understand that thanksgiving and gratitude go hand in hand, all this talk of gratitude and expressing thanks has got me thinking – how closely linked are gratitude and love?

You know how when you’re thankful for a person or object, you express gratitude? Gratitude is a way of placing value on someone or something. This is similar to what you do when you love: You place value on whatever happens to be the object of your love.

I’m a huge believer that having an attitude of gratitude helps a person to be more joyful (if you don’t believe me, try it)! And, I’m also convinced that the more we learn to show our gratitude for the people and things around us; the more we open ourselves up to love.

Here are three tips if you’re looking to live with more love in your life:

  1. Keep a gratitude list. Or a journal, or a prayer book. Whatever you call your version, don’t forget to make notes on the people and things for which you’re thankful. It doesn’t have to be every day, but at least once a week make a gratitude note. It can be as simple as “I woke up this morning” (because let’s be honest, the gift of life each day and the ability to get out of bed is something we all take for granted).
  2. Pay it forward. Doesn’t have to be anything super-elaborate – even the simple act of buying coffee for the girl or guy behind you in the drive-thru lineup can make someone’s day! Send flowers to a friend or significant other on a day chosen at random (i.e., not their birthday, your anniversary, and not Valentine’s Day). Hand write a note of thanks to someone who’s recently impacted your life for the better.
  3. Take time to give thanks. This is a very difficult thing for many people, myself included. There is something so wonderful about taking time to just be. Having time to yourself, or time reserved for loved ones is an amazing, easy way to see and soak up life’s little blessings. Too often we get caught up in the fast-paced world around us, but I find for myself, it’s those moments – where I’m holding the hand of someone I love instead of my phone, making eye contact with my family and friends rather than staring at a cold computer screen, or putting my feet up and reading a book rather than running around doing work – when I slow down, that I actually have time to think. And when I think, I can’t help but be amazed at all of the blessings in my life. Might take some brain training, to focus on the positive instead of the next item on your to-do list, but trust me, it can be done.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that above items are all directly related to gratitude. Really, I don’t think we can properly love without sharing our gratitude.  Both virtues live in our hearts and it’s up to us to express them. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “In normal life we hardly realize how much more we receive than we give, and life cannot be rich without such gratitude.”


Originally published as “The Link Between Love and Gratitude”. Minto Express. February 11 2015: 5. Print.

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March 2015

Inspired By: Mother Teresa

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Mother Teresa Quote of the Day

She was an unexpected woman of influence, but from her flowed some incredibly elegant expressions, in word and deed. And while some wish to debate her authenticity and motives, one thing that’s for sure is that the Blessed Teresa of Calcutta has influenced generations.

Five truths we can learn from Mother Teresa:

  1. “Do small things with great love.”
  2. “It’s not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.”
  3. “Give the world your best, and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway, for you see, in the end it is between you and God.”
  4. “Be faithful in small things, because it is in them that your strength lies.”
  5. “…prayer changes us, and we change things.”
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March 2015

Hope, She Wrote: 3 Ways to Achieve Your Goals

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C.S.Lewis goals quote

It was C.S. Lewis who said, “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” Dreams and goals are great, but it’s important to remember that you’ve got to back them up with action. Remember back to New Year’s Eve, that magical evening just a couple of short months ago, when people were all pumped full of new energy (and some full of champagne), making biiig plans for 2015? Committing that this was going to be the year of big life changes — getting fit, pursuing new career goals, starting to volunteer, developing healthy eating habits, reading more books — and living your best life? Yeah!!! I remember New Year’s Eve, too.

So… how are your goals going? If you made resolutions, are you still on the right road? If you’ve strayed, or even if you’ve completely fallen off the wagon — whether it be fit/work/volunteer/food, — you’re not alone. Usually it’s about this time in the ‘new’ year when people start to lose track of their goals and their original focus.

If you’re someone who’s lost focus of your goals, here are three ways to help you achieve your goals and get motivated:

  1. Tell someone about it. One of the best ways to achieve your goals: Be accountable to someone. Whether it’s through your social network, a peer group, or on a more private scale with an individual pursuing a similar goal, making yourself accountable is a great way to help you maintain focus and stay on the right track.
  2. Be realistic, and be positive. Being real about your goals may require re-evaluation of your resolutions. The old adage, “Rome wasn’t built in a day” is true, especially when it comes to pursuing your goals. Yes, goals should be challenging; they shouldn’t be impossible. Pursuing goals takes patience, and hard work. If you slip up along the way or make a mistake, don’t beat yourself up. Everyone makes mistakes. Mistakes can be stepping-stones on the road to success, as long as you learn from them and use them to grow. Having a positive attitude will help you to remain focused.
  3. Set a due date. It’s easy at the start of a new year, or when you set a new goal to say, “I want to lose weight”, or, “I want to eat healthy”. But being generic and vague about your goals or resolutions is no way to actively pursue them. You’ve got to put some numbers to it. Make a timeline and pace yourself — where do you aim to be in three months? Six months? One year? How long will it realistically take to achieve your goals? Giving yourself a due date, or having a set of specific target steps in mind with a completion date, will help you successfully achieve your goals.

I love this quote by author and filmmaker Greg S. Reid: “A dream written down with a date becomes a goal. A goal broken down into steps becomes a plan. A plan backed by action makes your dreams come true.” Whatever goals and resolutions you’re pursuing in 2015, remember — achieving your goals is possible with the right attitude and actions!

 Originally published as “3 Ways to Achieve Your Goals”. Minto Express. 28 January 2015: 5. Print.
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February 2015

Robertson’s Reads: Nemesis by Agatha Christie

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Nemesis by Agatha Christie

Nemesis by Agatha Christie, a Miss Marple Mystery

“Nemesis…The word brought a picture before her eyes. Tropical palms—a blue Caribbean sea—and herself running through the warm fragrant night on the island of St. Honore to ask for help. To get help in time so that a life could be saved… Now she herself was being asked for help…”

Oh how I love the official Agatha Christie Book of the Month! Agatha Christie’s Nemesis (like most of her other novels) is an instant classic. The follow-up to A Caribbean Mystery, Nemesis centres around everyone’s favourite old aunt, Miss Marple, and though now deceased, her unlikely friendship with millionaire Jason Rafiel.

When Miss Marple receives a postcard from Mr. Rafiel (whom she met on St. Honore in A Caribbean Mystery), he is posthumously asking for her assisting in looking at an unspecified crime. If she’s able to solve the crime, she is set to inherit £20,000 (so who wouldn’t be interested at this point?!). Mr. Rafiel leaves Miss Marple clues along way, and she follows the arrangements he made previous to his death. First up is a tour of famous British homes and gardens (which green thumb Miss Marple would love), a tour which Miss Marple embarks on not alone, but in the company of fourteen other characters.

Among the characters on the tour are Miss Elizabeth Templeton (a retired headmistress who has connection to the individual involved in the crime), Miss Cooke (“planted” on the garden tour by Jason Rafiel before his death to help Miss Marple), Miss Barrow (also planted to assist Miss Marple), Professor Wanstead (one of the tourists, a psychiatrist who worked with Jason Rafiel’s son), Joanna Crawford (tourist), Emlyn Price (tourist), Lavinia Glynne (a widow who lives along the garden tour route, whom Jason Rafiel has made arrangements with for Miss Marple to stay at her cottage), Clotilde Bradbury-Scott (Lavinia’s sister), Anthea Bradbury-Scott (Lavinia and Clotilde’s sister), Michael Rafiel (Jason Rafiel’s son, who is accused of murder), Verity Hunt (Michael Rafiel’s fiancé, whom Michael is accused of murdering), Archdeacon Brabazon (Miss Temple’s friend, who as it turns out, was set to secretly marry Michael and Verity), Nora Broad (dead local person whose disfigured body made her almost impossible to identify).

The trip is quite tiring, and knowing this would be the case, before his death Mr. Rafiel, made arrangements for Miss Marple to stay at a local cottage for a few days. Whilst staying with Lavinia Glynne and her sisters, Miss Marple learns that Verity came to live with the Glynnes after her parents died, and became very attached to Lavinia’s sister Clotilde. Verity was engaged (secretly married, we later learn) to Jason’s son Michael, who is now in prison, accused of murdering his fiancé.

After a few days staying with the three sisters, Miss Marple rejoins the group only to learn that her friend Miss Temple has been seriously injured during a rockslide on the hike the day previous. Miss Marple and the rest of the group add an extra night to their tour as they want to be aware of Miss Temple’s condition in hospital. Professor Wanstead (who had given a psychiatric evaluation to Michael after he was incarcerated), takes Miss Marple to the hospital to visit Miss Temple. While she’s there, Miss Marple is able to speak with the comatose Miss Temple, who awakes only for a few moments, and tells Miss Marple to look for Verity Hunt. Miss Temple dies later that night.

Miss Marple makes the decision not to continue on the tour, and instead accepts an invitation from Lavinia Glynne and her sisters to stay with them. On her first night back with the sisters, Miss Marple learns more about Verity. She’s also visited by the Archdeacon Brabazon during an inquiry into the death of Miss Temple. The Archdeacon informs Miss Marple that he was set to marry Verity Hunt and Michael Rafiel in a secret ceremony, which he only agreed to because he could see how in love the two were. When neither showed up or gave word of their absence on the day he was to marry them, the Archdeacon was very surprised. After relaying the Archdeacon’s story with the sisters, Miss Marple’s new friends Miss Barrow and Miss Cooke stop by the house to speak with Miss Marple, and that evening they come back again for coffee.

Over coffee, the group also discusses the circumstances surrounding the death of Miss Temple. Miss Marple doesn’t have any of the coffee, but instead accepts a glass of warm milk made by sister Clotilde. She doesn’t drink the milk, and it’s a good thing as in the middle of the night when Clotilde enters Miss Marple’s room to kill her, Miss Marple surprises her by being awake, and accuses Clotilde of indeed being the murderer of Verity Hunt and also Nora Broad, and engineering the circumstances to frame Michael Rafiel. As Clotilde tries to silence Miss Marple, she is accosted by Miss Barrow and Miss Cooke, the bodyguards Jason Rafiel hired to protect Miss Marple. Clotilde drinks the poisoned milk herself.

After Michael Rafiel is set free, and once she’s satisfied that she’s solved the mystery, Miss Marple collects the inheritance left to her by Jason Rafiel.

While critics never claimed Nemesis to be one of Christie’s best — even though the novel is a mystery full of characters and plenty of twists and turns — it is a Christie classic that once again showcases sweet Miss Marple as the heroine detective.


Purchase Nemesis by Agatha Christie on Amazon

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February 2015

Charles Dickens Quotes

Written by , Posted in Quote of the Day, Robertson's Reads


Well my friends, were he still alive and writing, legendary British writer Charles Dickens would turn 203 on February 7.

In honour of my favourite author, — hey, I love Dickens so much I named my mini schnauzer after him! — I thought it’d be fun to share ten of my favourite Charles Dickens quotes:

  • “A loving heart is the truest wisdom.” (from David Copperfield)
  • “The most important thing in life is to stop saying ‘I wish’, and start saying ‘I will’. Consider nothing impossible, then treat possibilities as probabilities.” (from David Copperfield)
  • “Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has many – not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”
  • “Take nothing on its looks: Take everything on evidence. There’s no better rule.” (from Great Expectations)
  • “Happiness is a gift, and the trick is not to expect it, but to delight in it when it comes.” (from Nicholas Nickleby)
  • “Every heart is a profound mystery to the heart beating nearest it.”
  • “It is good to be children, and sometimes never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child Himself.” (from A Christmas Carol)
  • “We forge the chains we wear in life.” (from A Christmas Carol)
  • “Do all the good you can, and make as little fuss about it as possible.”
  • “I never could have done what I have done without the habits of punctuality, order, and diligence, without the determination to concentrate myself on one subject at a time.”

What are your favourite Dickens quotes? What’s your favourite novel by Charles Dickens?


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January 2015

Hope, She Wrote: 5 Characteristics of Generous People

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It was Charles Spurgeon who said, “giving is true loving”. Throughout the year, we as a society are inundated with ads all about buying “stuff”, gift giving, and finding “the perfect present”. Whether a holiday, birthday, or anniversary, giving isn’t just something that should be reserved for special occasions; true generosity is something that we should practice 365 days a year.

Did you know that people who are generous and who give freely are actually happier? According to a 2006 study by the National Institutes of Health, people who give activate the brain regions related to pleasure, reward, and trust.[1] If you’re looking to get in touch with your generous side, here are five characteristics of generous people and thoughtful givers:

  1. Generous people would rather give than receive. To some, this is a foreign concept, but it’s so true! Those of a generous spirit are more comfortable – and actually get more pleasure – giving than they do being on the receiving end of a gift or compliment. It may not come naturally, but the more you get in the practice of giving, the more you’ll understand how good it truly feels.
  2. Generous people plan ahead. Translation: Don’t procrastinate! Planning ahead is a marked characteristic of the thoughtful giver. They don’t leave things until the last minute, running out to the store on Christmas Eve or the night before a birthday. Instead, they’ve got others in mind the whole year through, keeping an eye open for items that will be of interest or suitable for the recipient’s personality or needs.
  3. Generous people care about personal connections. Generous people know the importance of building lasting relationships and finding common ground with others. Look at the friends who’ve been in your life the longest. Chances are, they’re some of the most selfless, caring, generous people in your world. There’s a reason for that.
  4. Generous people count their blessings. All of the generous people I know have at least one character trait in common: An attitude of gratitude. Recognizing all of the blessings in your own life can encourage you to be a blessing to others, as well. When you have a spirit of gratitude, it’s only natural to want to give thanks, and to share that gratitude with others.
  5. Generous people give more than just material gifts. Every person is put on this Earth for a purpose, and generous people recognize and appreciate the value in others. Generous people give more than just material “things”; they encourage, promote, and reassure others.

True generosity has nothing to do with how much money you have, how much you volunteer, or how much you give – true generosity has everything to do with what’s in your heart. Mother Teresa said it well: “It is not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.”


[1] Moll, Jorge, et all. (Sept 7, 2006). Human fronto-mesolimbic networks guide decisions about charitable donation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Vol. 103 (no. 42). Retrieved from http://www.pnas.org/content/103/42/15623.full


Originally published as “5 Characteristics of Generous People”. Minto Express 17 December 2014: 5. Print.
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January 2015

Hope, She Wrote: Three Factors of Friendship

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We’re less than one week into the new year, and already I’m counting several reasons to be thankful for my closest friends. If you’re someone who has ever struggled to fit in, then you’ll appreciate these three characteristics of true friends. Friends, thank you.

True friendship

Always one to look on the bright side, I sat down the other night and added some items to my gratitude list (taking a queue from Bing Crosby’s “Count Your Blessings”), and because many of my gratitude items are directly related to people, I really got thinking about all the incredible humans that I’m so blessed to call friends.

The word “friend” is defined as “a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection”. [FYI, the word “friend” is also listed as a verb, to “add (someone) to a list of contacts associated with a social networking website,” but we won’t even go into the disingenuous disposition of social networking at this time.]

When I was in middle school, I really struggled to fit in. (Shocking, right?) In high school, I made a couple of lifelong friends, and in college, my path crossed with another great group of people, who today remain some of my nearest and dearest (even though we’re all living in various countries throughout the world – literally). And since moving to small-town Clifford, I’ve been blessed to find what I’d call a few really solid, true-blue, best friends.

The thing about friendship is that in order to have friends, you’ve got to be a friend. It took me a while to learn this. It’s like the old adage, “Don’t wait for people to be friendly. Show them how.” Well, I’m no expert, but I’d venture to say that one of the key components of true friendship is that the street goes both ways. Friendship is one of those things for which we have to decide to make time. Family, work schedules, travel – all of these things take time. And friendship is no different.

A few columns ago, I wrote about nurturing the hearts of others, and part of that means savouring sweet moments with friends, and letting them know that you care. Here are three factors of friendship that I’m thankful for:

  1. Friendship that is based on genuine mutual interests and a listening ear. There’s something so powerful about a set of friends who truly care about each other not just on a personal level, but spiritually as well. These are friends who typically have best interests at heart. This is something I’m thankful for, as well friendships where listening is just as important as talking.
  2. Friendship that can span miles, and years, without changing. Ever had a friend, with whom you lost touch, only to reconnect with them a few years later, – or maybe even after a decade – and it’s as though nothing at all has changed (except maybe your laugh lines are deeper)? Yeah, I’m thankful for those friendships.
  3. Friendship without conditions. There will always be those people who want to connect and “be friends” for their own selfish benefit. But, as we all know, friendship requires a certain amount of selflessness (seems obvious, but srsly, some people…). You can’t be in it for your own benefit or based on your own conditions (otherwise it’s not true friendship). I’m thankful for friends who are my friends regardless of circumstances or what I can do for them (and vice versa). Charles Spurgeon once said, “you may judge of a man’s character by the persons whose affection he seeks. If you find a man seeking only the affection of those who are great, depend upon it he is ambitious and self-seeking; but when you observe that a man seeks the affection of those who can do nothing for him, but for whom he must do everything, you know that he is not seeking himself, but that pure benevolence sways his heart.”

What are the friendships that you’re thankful for? Don’t just keep your gratitude to yourself – share it with your friends!


Originally published as “Three Factors of Friendship”. Minto Express 22 October 2014: 5. Print.
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January 2015

Verses About Courage

Written by , Posted in Quote of the Day

Ah, the fresh energy that comes with the commencement of a new year! For many, January 1 marks a clean slate to commit to better living. January 1 can also be a time to reflect on everything — triumphs and tragedies, highs and lows, — we’ve been through the past year. There will always be unexpected life challenges and events that occur throughout the year in each of our lives, and in addition to excitement, facing the uncertainties and unknowns of a new year can also cause fear.

I’ve put together five of my favourite Bible verses about courage. Referenced more than 30 times in the Bible, courage is defined as “the ability to do something that frightens one,” and also “strength in the face of pain or grief”. Courage is an attribute that can strengthen hearts and help us successfully navigate life’s challenges.

I hope these verses are an encouragement to you as you embark on your journey through 2015. [All verses are taken from the King James Version, unless otherwise noted.]

Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” Moses speaks to Israel and tells them to be strong and of a good courage, to fear not. This verse serves as an awesome reminder that no matter what, God is with us.

Deuteronomy 31:6 (KJV)

Deuteronomy 31:6 (KJV)

Joshua 1:9 “Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” In Joshua chapter 1, the Lord commands Joshua to “be strong and of a good courage” three times in the first 10 verses!

Joshua 1:9

Joshua 1:9 (KJV)

Ezra 10:4 “Be of good courage, and do it.” Matter-of-fact and to-the-point.

Ezra 10:4 (KJV)

Ezra 10:4 (KJV)

Psalm 27:14 “Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.” I’ve had this verse highlighted in my Bible for years. It’s funny, because typically we wouldn’t think that ‘waiting’ or being patient would require much courage, but in reality, sometimes it requires the most courage of all. Not jumping to our own conclusions, not trying to force or our own will, but waiting patiently and working diligently for God’s best.

Psalm 27:14 (KJV)

Psalm 27:14 (KJV)

Psalm 31:24 “Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD.” This is the second time that David notes one of the benefits to being of courage: When you have courage, God will strengthen your heart.

Psalm 31:24 KJV

Psalm 31:24 (KJV)

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December 2014

Hope, She Wrote: 20 Life Lessons I Learned in 2014

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Psalm 90:12

Well, friends, another year has come and gone! The end of a year is always a great time to reflect on everything we’ve learned the past 365 days, and what we can apply to our lives for the next year ahead. 2014 provided some great growth opportunities for me, and I wanted to highlight some of my favourite life hacks from over the past year, that will really help make the most of 2015. Cheers!

  1. Practice an attitude of gratitude. When you catch yourself complaining or in less-than-pretty circumstances, remember to be grateful. Counting your blessings is one way of practicing an attitude of gratitude. Fact: There will always be waves in each of our worlds that we’d rather not ride – stay positive and don’t “get worked” (excuse my surfer slang).
  2. Make friends with patience and longsuffering. Though they’re two of the most annoying virtues and fruits of the spirit, patience and longsuffering are two keys to successfully navigating life. Practicing patience doesn’t mean you stop working hard – quite the contrary. Remember, it takes 6 months to build a Rolls-Royce, and only 13 hours to build a Toyota. Patience can mean the difference between good and great for your life. Don’t settle.
  3. Choose joy. This was my slogan for 2014 (I’ve even got the statement secured on my office door!) and I’m carrying my joy straight through in 2015. True joy comes from within, and when we consistently practice #1 on this list, choosing joy gets easier.
  4. Start living TODAY. While memories are marvelous and planning ahead is smart, it’s also important to embrace the here and now. The ever-quotable Earl Nightingale once said, “Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.” True story. How we live, work, and act today has a direct effect on our tomorrow. Live wisely.
  5. Encourage others. The most effective leaders are those who motivate and encourage others around them. To encourage means to inspire with courage, spirit, or hope. We’ve each got the ability inside us!
  6. Slow down. When will we understand that using the word “busy” and having more items on our schedules than hours in a day is not cool?! I’m quite confident that no one will ever look back at the end of his life and say, “I wish I’d spent more time at work.” Slow down, decompress, get more sleep. Make time to just be. (**This is a major “note to self” for me, as practicing slowness is a daily personal challenge.**)
  7. Develop discipline. Get into a healthy daily routine, challenge yourself to face your fears, and keep going. Remember, discipline is choosing between what you want now, and what you want most (see also #2 on this list).
  8. Do one thing each day that takes you out of your comfort zone. Step outside the box, grow some courage, and go for it – it’s like my favourite surfer Laird Hamilton says: “You have to be willing to subject yourself to failure, to be bad, to fall on your head and do it again, and try stuff that you’ve never done in order to be the best you can be.”
  9. Change is inevitable, so make the most of it. Wherever you’re at in life, and whatever changes you’re dealing with – birth, death, love, heartache, career change, retirement – chart your change. Keep a journal (even if it’s of few words), to focus on the positive aspects of change. If we let it, change can help each of us build character.
  10. Watch your mouth. Proverbs 17:28 (KJV) says “Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.”
  11. Don’t compare yourself to others. Theodore Roosevelt correctly said, “Comparison is the thief of joy”. You are the only you there will ever be. Learn to be content, gravitate to what inspires you, and be your best self. The only way to fulfill your life’s purpose is to be you.
  12. Influence is everywhere, so be careful with what and with whom you surround yourself. As long as we’re here on Earth, there will always be peer pressure (and jerks). Don’t lower your expectations or standards just because people don’t share the same values as you. And, be careful of your own actions, as you never know whom you could be influencing.
  13. Handwritten notes are powerful pieces of paper (and they’re also totally awesome). Texting might be easier, but there’s a saying about things that are easy…
  14. Take time to communicate. Make eye contact and speak thoughtfully! Like time, personal communication is a hot commodity. And unfortunately, with today’s technology, it seems as though few people know how to communicate effectively (see also #13 on this list). Remember, people have hearts; nurture them!
  15. Worry less. Worrying and fretting never serve to make a situation better; in fact, they can actually make things worse. That being said, as anyone with anxiety can attest to, the old adage “don’t worry” is easy to say and hard to practice. One way to help alleviate your worries is to serve others – look out rather than in.
  16. Get inspired! Break free of the daily grind and learn something new! Get outside for a walk; read a book; return to the hobbies you love. Make the time to get inspired.
  17. Authenticity is greater than approval. Better to be true to yourself than to betray your beliefs. Try as you might, you will never please every person. There will always be someone out there who thinks you’re a complete dork. Once you learn to not care what others think, personal authenticity becomes a whole lot easier.
  18. To have friends, you must be a friend. Even though it’s easy to get caught up in our own day-to-day lives, it is well worth making the effort to maintain friendships. I’m so thankful for friends who feel the same way.
  19. Being generous is a good habit to practice, especially when we learn to do it with love. “It is not how much we give,” as Mother Teresa said, “but how much love we put into giving.” When it comes to being generous, learn to plan ahead, to prefer giving rather than receiving, and to count your blessings so that you may be a blessing to someone else.
  20. Volunteering is a vital part of life. My life has been touched tremendously since I started volunteering. Maltbie Babcock once said, “the workshop of character is everyday life.” No matter your age, your career path, or your location, there are opportunities everywhere to give back.

Psalm 90:12 (KJV) says “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” Each day is a new opportunity for us to learn, to live, and to grow; and I hope these truths help you and encourage you, wherever you’re at in your walk today.


Originally published as “20 Life Lessons I Learned in 2014 – Parts 1 & 2” in The Minto Express. 
Robertson, Hope. “20 Life Lessons I Learned in 2014.” Minto Express 31 December 2014, 2 parts. Print.
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November 2014

Hope, She Wrote: How to Create Traditions and Make Memories

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Christmas season comes and goes so quickly each year that it can be hard to embrace the spirit of the season. In my November 19th column for The Minto Express, I share five ways to prepare your heart for the holidays.

Every year about this time, I find myself getting sentimental and feeling somewhat melancholic for days of yore. Maybe it’s all the Christmas decorations going up, or the first snowflakes falling, or the traditions that surface so faithfully year after year. Whatever the reason, these are times when I find myself reminiscing and wanting to make memories.

It seems these days that we’re so caught up in the commercialization of the Christmas season that we’ve lost sight of the true meaning of Christmas. In fact, it’s no longer politically correct to even say “Merry Christmas”. What is that?! Big box stores haul out the holiday goods right after Hallowe’en and somewhere between November 1st and December 25th society seems to miss the whole point of the season. Anyone else miss the days when we valued tradition, remembered our foundations, and celebrated our roots? Thought so.

While Christmas day may still be more than one month away, now is a great time to start preparing our hearts for this memorable time of year. Christmas is a time where we celebrate the greatest gift ever, and with that in mind, here are some suggestions for getting in the giving spirit (and maybe creating some new traditions along the way!):

  1. Support a local community cause. This doesn’t have to mean giving money; it could mean serving in a community kitchen to those less fortunate, donating non-perishable food items to your local food bank, or taking an hour or two to spend some time with a house-bound friend or aging relative.
  2. Start a gratitude list. In 2013, a friend of mine took time each day to write down one positive thing that happened in her life every day for most of the year. Then, near the end of year, she sat down and reviewed all of the awesomeness in her positivity jar. Whether you keep track with notes in a jar or a journal, take inventory of the positive things in your life.
  3. Be a thoughtful giver. It’s not about how much money you spend or who gives the coolest gift. Get creative in your gift giving; share your talents, and think outside the box.
  4. Share traditions with loved ones. My brother and sister-in-law do this every year, inviting family to help them trim the tree. Decorating for the holidays becomes less of a “to-do task” and more of an opportunity to create memories. Whether you’re setting up a tree or singing carols, or even baking cookies, spend some time with those you love.
  5. Remember the real reason for the season. Whatever your ‘religious’ beliefs or practice (or maybe lack thereof) throughout the year, the fact is, Christmas is a time to celebrate the greatest gift ever. True story.

“Today’s innovation is tomorrow’s tradition.” [Lidia Bastianich] Try something today to help create meaningful memories and traditions for yourself, your family, and your friends!

Robertson, Hope. “Tradition.” Minto Express 19 November 2014: 9. Print.
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