Rise and Shine: Woman with Arms Outstretched at Sunrise - Ready to Take on the Day

I am probably one of the world’s greatest fans of fireworks and have travelled the world to witness some of its  most magnificent displays.  Yet one that is closest to my heart is only 50 miles from my home.

As I sit in the predawn light, I think of you and me and wonder how often we miss the treasures in our own backyards.  We humans are fickle and tend to take the people and places we love for granted.  Why oh why do we do that?  I believe is it too much to do rather than a calloused soul that creates this tendency to overlook the precious.  Our ridiculously over scheduled lives leave only time to put out fires rather than cherish the simple gifts of love and togetherness.

My favorite Independence Day fireworks celebration always opens my eyes and heart as it bathes me in the innocence of love shared in a place still unspoiled by technology, overcrowding, and concrete.  My soul breathes in the light and sheds the burden of “too much to do in too little time”, and I am a child again.  I am a child who was blind but now can see…and innocent wonder and joy saves me once again.  Unfolding before me is a gift beyond imagining, a coming together of the best of God and man.  Yes, the fireworks are beautiful and exciting, but it is people loving one another and taking the time to share this time with one another that is the miracle.

This same miracle is offered to each of us every, single day, but we are too busy to see it.  And we are losing the best of ourselves bit by bit as we rush past the opportunity to love those who want to love us back.

I took oh so many pictures of this day.  See the miracle in the photographs.  Which photographs do you find the most beautiful?  What do you feel in your body as you look at them?  You are seeing one miracle after another — some created by man; some created by God.  You can have these same miracles in your life.  Are you, am I, going to continue to rush past love or embrace it?  CHOOSE!


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Rise and Shine: Woman with Arms Outstretched at Sunrise - Ready to Take on the Day

“I’m only passing through on my way home.  Heaven is the place where I belong.  More than an idea or just a dream, the land beyond the stars is calling me.  When my savior calls, I will go.”

I absolutely believe these words written by Jim and Melissa Brady.  We were created to spend eternity with our Creator.  That was the plan all along with Jesus as the key to our admission.


Spending eternity in Heaven is not our only goal.  We came to earth as spiritual beings on a human journey.  Our purpose was to grow to be the best we could be, and God gave us every gift we needed to accomplish this.  Imagine that!  Each of us was created by God, perfect in His sight, and blessed with talents that would enable each of us to have a positive impact on this world and all its residents.  As I type this, I am imagining a world inhabited by such enlightened beings.  Suddenly, I realize that I am talking about heaven on earth — a place where love and kindness and honor are commonplace, where we live in harmony with our Heavenly Father.

If that is God’s plan and He creates each of us with the ability to contribute to the fulfillment of that plan, what happened?  I’m certainly not living in Heaven on Earth, and I don’t think anybody else is either.  In fact, we seem to be moving in the direction of creating hell on earth rather than Heaven.  Wow!  This got to be very serious very quickly.

How did each of us go from being children of the light to being children of misery and doubt?  I think the answer is less complicated than we might want to believe.  Could it be as simple as the fact that each of us wants to be the Hero or the Heroine rather than the foot soldier or the archer?  Could it be a simple as the fact that we don’t value each of our roles as worthy and profoundly important to the creation of harmony?  What makes a surgeon more important than a teacher?  What makes a president more important than a mom or dad?  Again, the answer is fairly simple.  We measure worth on the scale of money and power rather than love and kindness.  We measure value according to the definition created by a toxic world rather than the definition created by a loving God.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to contribute to that dark reality even one more second.  I want to be a Warrior of the Light rather than a Servant of the Dark.  As I sit here, I wonder how I can find my way back to the path of light that God intended for me to walk.

Suddenly, my mind is filled with answers.  Can it really be that simple?  Yes, it really can be that simple.  The answer may not be easy, but it is simple.  I remember that I can choose.  I HAVE THE POWER TO CHOOSE!  The antidote to the dark always lies with the power of the one who is brave enough to stand for the light and fight for it.  The courage and power of the one who remembers he or she is the child of God and fights for the right to live as the child of God can ignite the passion of the many.  Courage is simply fear that has said its prayers.  As I drop to my knees and pray for the courage to be part of God’s solution, I pray that you will choose to join me.  Choose to be a Warrior of the Light.  SHINE…because our light can transform the world.



Her body is battered and broken by the cruelty of the owners of the puppy mill who chose to brutalize her for profit.  When she suffered an injury from continuous breeding and birthing litters of puppies, she could no longer produce income.  So, they threw her into a dark room to die in her own waste. but her story doesn’t end there.

Members of an organization that rescues French Bulldogs saved Maisie before the light of her amazing being flickered out.  Because her injury was not treated when it could have healed completely, tiny Maisie is a paraplegic, but that doesn’t define her.  What does define her is a contagious joy for living that shines out of her, touching and blessing everyone she meets.  She came into my life because my daughter loves her and chose to adopt her.

Many people only see Maisie’s handicaps rather than her miraculous gifts.  They only see that she can’t use her lifeless back legs or control her own bodily functions.  They somehow miss her powerful front legs and how fast and joyously she runs toward those she loves, and she loves almost everyone, especially my daughter, Laura.

What puzzles me the most is how anyone could miss the magic of Maisie.   It’s easy to miss, I guess, because it’s on the inside of her.  Although her legs shriveled, her heart did not.  It grew so big that I often wonder how it fits in her tiny body.  Her miraculous heart is big enough to love everyone and everything unconditionally and joyously.  Spending time with her inspires me to do the same.

I call her Mighty Maisie, the Wonder Dog, a small dog with a big message.  What is the message?  With her life, she shouts, “Don’t let fear and pain define you!”





Rise and Shine: Woman with Arms Outstretched at Sunrise - Ready to Take on the Day

HOW CAN I HELP?   This question contains only four tiny words but has the power to change my life, your life, and the world.  Who would we be if we offered the best parts of ourselves rather than the suspicious, fearful, and often angry parts?

Covid and its demands to isolate, to fear, and to surrender the joy of human connection wounded us in ways that were, and are, a challenge to our ability to believe that life can be good, that we can have hope of a better tomorrow.  We have to find an antidote to that bleak and dismal outlook.  It’s killing us, and it’s killing our world.

I am an optimist.  I continue to focus on the belief that people are good and that light can conquer the dark.  Honestly, I can tell you that often I experience very powerful reasons to abandon that optimism.  However, my heart and soul tell me that the cost of abandoning optimism and embracing cynicism would cost me more than I am willing to pay.

So, as the optimist, I am telling you that I believe we have the antidote that is so desperately needed, and it is a part of each and every one of us.  I can feel you asking, “How can I, a regular person, not a superman or superwoman, overcome the darkness that now fills our world with despair?”  The answer is simple; return to the center of your being which is love.  Offer hope and healing with the simple question “How can I help?”

How do you feel when someone offers to help?  I can tell you that I feel wonderful.  I can also tell you that I feel wonderful when help someone.

HOW CAN I HELP?  Let’s live it.



Rise and Shine: Woman with Arms Outstretched at Sunrise - Ready to Take on the Day

At 5:17 AM on Friday, January 2, 2023, I heard God talk to me…and it was loud, and it was strong.  His words exploded into my soul with a wonder and a light that filled it to bursting.  IT BROUGHT ME HOME to the realization that I could fulfill God’s plan for me in this earthly journey.

Long ago I answered God’s call to be one of His healing resources for His hurting children.  Yet, I have been haunted by an awareness that I have never quite understood or fulfilled that promise.  I kept trying, but I ran into wall after wall until I was often broken, bleeding, and exhausted.  For some reason, no matter how hard I tried, I was failing to keep my word.  Yet, this morning at 5:17 AM central time, I finally understood why.

The truth is I always had the answer.  That answer is a natural part of who I am, but I had lost it with the toxic struggle to be seen and heard in the material world.  I am a licensed professional counselor and a spiritual being on a God-ordained human journey.  With this simple question, I offer all that I am.



Rise and Shine: Woman with Arms Outstretched at Sunrise - Ready to Take on the Day

Writing about loneliness led me to consider family — what it means, what it looks like, what it gives to each member.  Interestingly, members of close families who continued to gather despite Covid seem to be experiencing less of the devastating effects of loneliness.  They simply never self-isolated and never encountered the emptiness that those of us who did self-isolate experienced.  That could mean that family is an incredible antidote to the feeling that I don’t matter, therefore I am alone.

So, how do those of us who do not have large families living near us overcome the toxic effects of feeling alone?  I think redefining family would be an excellent first step.  Rather than saying family are those with whom we share DNA, let’s try saying that family are those individuals that, because of love and shared experience, we have “adopted” into our family of the heart and soul.  As I type this, I can feel lightness beginning to fill my being, and I am aware that I now have a smile on my face.

Amazing!  A simple change to the definition of family has set me free to be me…to have the family I choose and to continue to “adopt” family members during each and every step of my journey in this world.   Love has always saved me; and it has saved me again.  God continues to lift me up to be more than I can be…and I am thankful.

Rise and Shine: Woman with Arms Outstretched at Sunrise - Ready to Take on the Day

The tiny girl clings tearfully to her mother as she refuses to go to school.  She desperately wants to go but fears that death lurks there among her friends.  In another part of town, an elegant senior citizen stares out her window, longing for the thing she fears most, a hug from her granddaughter.  Lastly, a brilliant and kind high school student sits in his therapist’s chair and whispers, “If this is all there is, I don’t want to live anymore.”  About now, you may be wondering, even hoping, that this is the theme of the latest science fiction movie.  Sadly, you would be wrong.  Each of these is an example of our current reality.

Covid exploded into our awareness with more than a threat of illness; it screamed ‘ISOLATE OR DIE!” and created the terror of connection with those we love.  So, we went inside, locked our doors, and lived without the warmth of human contact.  We forgot how to talk to the friendly checker at our neighborhood grocery store; we forgot how to gather with friends in the backyard just because it felt so good; we forgot the simple joy of sharing a moment with a friend.  We replaced community with the cold “safety” of function by electronics…and the loneliness is killing us.

Statistics indicate that 61% of Americans say they feel lonely.  Today 49% of Americans have 3 friends or fewer and 12% have 0 compared to 1990 when 27% had 3 friends or fewer and 3% had 0 friends.  Science indicates a strong connection between loneliness and depression, anxiety, obesity, and suicidal thoughts.  Human life expectancy is reduced more by loneliness than it is by heavy drinking or obesity, and lonely people are more prone to Alzheimer’s disease.  There seems to be a trend here, and it is definitely not a positive one.  Isolation is costing us more than we can pay, and we’re seeking destructive alternatives to feel connected.  “Opioids feel like love.  That’s why they’re deadly in tough times.” Maia Szalavitz.  In 1999, there were 8,000 opioid deaths; in 2021, that figure rose to 75,673.  Yes, you read that correctly; the death toll from opioid overdose skyrocketed to 75,673 in two years.

I’m writing this, dear friends, because I work with the people suffering from the lack of human connection and the inability to feel safe in the world.  We thought we had recovered from the destruction of the Covid pandemic, but we haven’t.  None of us has quite found a way to return to the belief that we are safe and life can be good.  We can’t find a way to reboot and thrive.   So, what’s the answer?

I strongly believe the following quote.  “The good life cannot be found in isolation.  It’s found through deep and meaningful relationships” Nate Hilgenkamp.  I can’t tell each of you what to do because I respect the fact that your life is yours to shape, but I can tell you how I began to rebuild my life and my loving community.  I sought the presence and guidance of the loving Creator of all and once again was reminded that He is always there.  Knowing that I’m never alone gave me the courage to begin again…and again and again if that’s what it takes.

Please know that I am very human and struggle just as each of you does.  As a shy introvert, I do not naturally and easily build human relationships.  So, building a new loving and safe world is a challenge, but one I welcome.  Closing my eyes in a quiet and peaceful space was my first small step toward the world of my hopes and dreams.  I could see more than a new world.  I could see more clearly who I am and what I believe.  I am a total and complete optimist and absolutely believe that God created me to fly.  I believe you were born to fly too.  How about it?  Come fly with me as we shine a light on this kind and brave new world we are creating.

Rise and Shine: Woman with Arms Outstretched at Sunrise - Ready to Take on the Day

We are meant to be whole.  We were never meant to be perfect. Yet we frantically chase any and every thing that might make us perfect.  We seek an impossible goal and destroy ourselves in the process.  We achieve destruction rather than perfection.  Why?  How?

A quote by C. S. Lewis provides a powerful clue.  “You don’t have a soul — you are a soul.  You have a body.”   In other words, we’re chasing all the wrong things and none of the right ones.   The hollow place in the center of our being is not shaped like a bottle, a cream puff, a new relationship, or the latest “I have to have it” thing.  The hollow place in the center of our being is shaped in the image of God. Our souls are crying out, ” We long to feel your presence, Lord.”

We long to feel your presence, Lord, and the Lord longs to be close to each of us.  The only distance between God and you or me is the distance we put there because we don’t believe we are enough.

How, please tell me how to feel God’s presence.  It’s actually very simple.  JUST ASK… He’s been waiting for you all along.



You Were Born to Shine

When did looking into the mirror become the emotional equivalent of jumping into a pool of water filled with great white sharks? When did the reflection we saw there become an enemy rather than a friend?

We are born to love and to be loved in return. From the moment of conception to the end of life, we each engage in a unique dance of connection. The success of this dance is so crucial that it can, literally, mean the difference between life and death. We can die from rejection and isolation. For infants, medical science calls it failure to thrive.

Profound need does not automatically equal profound fulfillment of that need. We humans are fickle and flawed. We can biologically become a mother or a father, but it takes deep love and commitment to be a mommy or a daddy. Babies are a great deal of work, and we sometimes need incentives to keep going after endless nights with no sleep. It’s no accident that babies draw our focus. Mother Nature equips them with special abilities – cuteness, smiling, and the ability to mimic facial expressions are three especially endearing ones that come to mind – to increase the odds of survival. Think about how you feel when you look into the big eyes of a small, vulnerable infant. We feel all warm and protective. It’s a unique emotion, one for which the English language has few words. We draw closer to the infant and are often rewarded with a heart-melting smile. If we could bottle the power of a baby’s smile, world peace just might be possible. It’s no coincidence that smiling is one of the earliest developmental milestones, usually about four to six weeks. Moments after birth babies can copy some facial expressions. If you stick out your tongue, your baby will stick out his or hers. Each of these abilities is a powerful incentive for a caregiver to want to interact with and to nurture an infant. One of the greatest tragedies of our world is that even the beauty and innocence of a newborn infant born to love is not enough to protect her or him from the harm that roams this planet.

Albert Einstein once said that “the most major and fundamental decision you have to make is this: Do I live in a friendly or a hostile universe?”

These dances of connection have a profound impact on our ability to choose how we see the world and on how we see ourselves. Some of us are blessed with healthy and loving individuals in our lives, and some of us are not. Whether or not we are blessed with loving interactions has absolutely nothing to do with who we are or what gifts we have. Sometimes it seems the result of a cruel and indifferent cosmic coin toss. Heads means you win love; tails means you lose the chance to experience the love and kindness you need. Children are especially vulnerable to the destructive effects of harsh and cruel individuals. They believe that bad things happen to them because they are bad. These experiences “blow holes in them”. They begin to see themselves as “less than”, as “undeserving”, as “unlovable”. Each time there is no loving interaction there is another hole and another and another until it seems there is nothing but tiny shreds of soul struggling to hold these gaping wounds together. These injuries don’t heal without help, and the child grows into a wounded adult who fears that the world will see how unworthy he or she is. Fear of discovery becomes a constant torment. The mirror just became the enemy.

What in the world do we do about that? Perhaps we need to stop judging ourselves by what the world says and does and see ourselves with better eyes. We do not come here as human beings on a spiritual journey. We come here as spiritual beings on a human journey. Our purpose is to grow to be the best that we can be, and we come equipped with everything we need to fulfill that purpose. God doesn’t make mistakes. He made us. We are His children, endowed with an Eternal Soul, and born perfect in His sight.

The journey to peace with the mirror begins with courage. I can imagine you thinking “how in the world am I supposed to act courageously? I’m not a soldier or a fighter or anyone with talents or training that put me in situations where courage is a necessary choice. I’m just a grandmother or a little boy or a school teacher or a parent or a person struggling with addiction or a person overwhelmed by divorce or loss. What in my life offers an opportunity to embrace courage? How do I step beyond my pain and be the best that I can be?”

Courage is simply fear that has said its prayers. Say your prayers and take the leap to healing.


…because your light will change the world, and you.

Love is the Key to a Happy Child


And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. ~ I Corinthians 13:13

 I Corinthians 13:13 has always been my favorite Bible verse.  Even as a child, I felt an incredible power that I didn’t fully understand any time and every time I heard it or read it.  It seemed to whisper and call to me to understand not just the words but the whole of the message that was held within those words.

I am now an adult, and God has led me to become a licensed professional counselor and a registered play therapist.  I can tell you that my experience as a psychotherapist has led me to believe that the message of I Corinthians 13:13 is the pathway to miraculous healing of mind, body, and spirit.  In fact, without love, a child will never achieve wellness of body, emotions, livelihood, intellect, environment, family/friends, or spirit/soul…that which enables him/her to be marvelously integrated and whole.  From the very beginning, love is the key to a child’s growing and thriving…..to becoming all that God intended.

God created us to love and to be connected to one another in meaningful relationships.  Our brains are literally “wired” for this.  Humankind would not have endured and cannot continue without the capacity to form rewarding, nurturing, and enduring relationships.  We survive because we can love.  And we love because we can empathize – that is, stand in another’s shoes and care about what it feels like to be there. (Szalavitz, 2010)   However, at birth, a child is neither fully loving nor empathetic.  The gifts of our biology are a potential, not a guarantee.  Babies don’t learn to care and connect without specific early experiences.

It all starts with the face. From the first moments of life, we have repeated and extensive exposure to faces.  Newborns find the human face interesting, actually preferable to other visual stimuli, and can quickly recognize their mother’s face on the basis of visual cues alone.  During bottle feeding or nursing, a mother and her baby (or a bottle-feeding father and his baby) spend hours gazing into one another’s eyes, and the “complex dance of the relationship” begins.   It is through this contact that they synchronize with each other, the mirror neuron producing imitation that both the mom and the baby then elaborate as they react to each other playfully. (See note below). Normally, this interaction is rhythmic and flexible.  Mom looks at baby, looks away, and moments later, reconnects with her gaze.  Baby looks at mom, hears a noise and turns, comes back.  But little breaks are essential – they are basically small experiences of minor stress and distancing, quickly ended by reconnection.  The stress response systems are shaped by these little breaks; the child ultimately learning to manage small repeated doses of stress activation without overreacting.  Normal parent/child interactions provide these small, manageable doses of stress in a pattern that creates resilience.  And, for all of this, the face is an essential source of information. (Szalavitz, 2010)

Though this “dance” between Mom and Baby seemed to be a simple act of loving playfulness, there were several very complex foundational events occurring:

  • Baby was copying, or mirroring, Mom’s facial expressions. This ability is one of the earliest precursors to empathy;
  • Mom and Baby were bonding on a more profound level as a result of reciprocal pleasure and safety;
  • Baby is developing a sense of the world through these interactions with Mom. Baby’s brain is changing.  These experiences literally serve as a template which shapes future responses to human contact…..to whether the world is seen as a safe and welcoming place or as a dangerous and sad place.  Albert Einstein once said that the most fundamental and major decision that you have to make it this: Do I live in a friendly or a hostile universe.  These mirroring experiences are literally creating the definition;
  • When Mom and Baby exchanged smiles, connections were made. Smiling produced a small neurochemical “reward”.
  • The interaction served as “exercise” for the stress response systems. This allows the baby to strengthen the stress response systems and to develop healthy self-regulation and ultimately resilience, critical components of a successful and fulfilling life;
  • Mom’s holding, cuddling, soothing, and touching Baby develop connections that are critical to Baby’s health. These nurturing actions are the difference between life and death. An infant must experience the physical reality of the caregiver’s love.  Without these concrete proofs of that love, the body senses that there is very little chance for survival and shuts down.  This is known as “failure to thrive”.

Writing this chapter, and reading what I just wrote, reminds me of how I felt when I held each of my babies in my arms.  I sat and held each one of them for hours just because of the love I felt…..the depth and complexity of which filled me with a wonder I had never known before.  I had no idea I was giving each of them the best chance to be a whole, fully integrated human being; I was just loving them and thanking God for the miracles He had given me.

Who knew that love was so powerful, such a critical component of wellness and harmony of mind, body, and spirit?  God did and does.  He created us to love and to be loved.  He created us to speak and act in love.  He created us to treat one another as we would like to be treated.  He gave each of us a body that knows, beneath the level of conscious awareness, what is good for it and what is bad for it.  The discipline of kinesiology has even provided a way for us to verify that concept through muscle testing.  Our systems remain strong when exposed to a healthy person, place, or thing, and our systems weaken when exposed to an unhealthy person, place, or thing.  There is an old nursery rhyme that declares

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but

Words will never hurt me.

 I find that rhyme to be woefully inaccurate.  Words can wound.  We weren’t created to do harm in any manner.  Scientific studies have provided evidence that our choices matter.  Our choices “teach” our system to focus on the positive or on the negative aspect of being, to be happy or to be sad, to be kind or to be cruel, to be healthy or to be sick (and we now know, due to mirror neurons, that our choices are effecting others). Yes, I said our choices teach our systems to be healthy or to be sick.  University of Utah researchers investigated effects of 6-minute conversations between married couples.  These conversations centered on sensitive subjects such as money.  The women who heard or made hostile comments were 30% more likely than other women to have hardened arteries.  For men, hearing or saying controlling phrases carried the same risk.  Research at Ohio State University indicated that harsh exchanges between spouses lowered immunity enough to slow wound healing by at least one day.

My work as a play therapist gives me ample evidence that children are certainly effected by harsh acts and words.  I work with children as young as one year of age in my therapeutic playroom.   Some have been brutalized in ways I could have never believed humanly possible until I saw their broken bodies, their broken hearts, and their wounded souls.  It is possible to break children beyond their ability to heal…..to wound them so profoundly that they can no longer be the people God created them to be.  (Tears are running down my checks as I type this and remember……)  However, with the most infinitesimally small sliver of chances, a child will find her way back.   She will fight for a chance to be whole, and she will fight with every ounce of strength and will for that chance.  Miraculously, it only takes one person, one moment in time to make a difference.  A child hearing “you matter”, “I care”, “I believe in you” can heal and go on to have a happy life, filled with healthy loving relationships.  I’ve seen it; I see it every day.  God is love, and that is the miracle.

Each and every child is a miracle.  We, as therapists, have the ability to be used by God as an instrument for healing for those who are wounded or as an instrument of wisdom for those who have wandered unto dangerous ground.  It is often as simple as offering unconditional positive regard and holding the therapeutic space so that person can find the strength and courage to heal.

You, as parents, can give your child the gift that is wanted above all others, the gift that is desperately needed by each and every child.  You can give them you and your time.  Every child wants to be loved.  Every child wants to be seen.  Every child wants to be heard.  Choosing to spend twenty minutes coloring with your child can change your relationship forever.  In those moments, you have given your child the most important messages she or he will ever hear:

  • I “see” you;
  • I love you;
  • I am here, and I understand;
  • You are so valuable and important to me that I am choosing to spend my time with you.

You have just made a profound contribution to your child’s being able to choose to have a healthy body and emotions, to be successful in school and all future endeavors, to develop and honor a healthy mind, to live in harmony with this earth that God created and to be a good steward of that gift, to connect with each and every child of God in a loving and honoring manner, and to develop and continually grow a loving and worshipping relationship with an ever-present, living, and loving Creator.

We have come full circle with this study of the power of love on the development and fulfillment of a human life.  In closing, I offer this:

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God,

and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.

He who does not love does not know God,

for God is love.

~ 1 John 4 7-8 NKJ


*Note: First discovered in the early 1990s, mirror neurons are a type of brain cell which responds equally to our performing an action or our watching another perform that same action.  The neuroscientist who discovered these neurons, Giacomo Rizzolatti, M.D., believes this could help explain how and why we “read” other people’s minds and feel empathy for them. (Waterman, October, 2005, Volume 36, No. 9).


Szalavitz, M. a. (2010). Born For Love. New York, New York: Harper Collins Publishers.

Waterman, L. (October, 2005, Volume 36, No. 9). “The Mind’s Mirror”. American Psychological Association, 48.