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

BOXES ARE FOR CEREAL, NOT PEOPLE                                                                                                                      Sandra Garton Breech


The above words blasted into my brain as I was once again wondering “what on earth is making this so impossible?”  That thought occurs to me often as I am usually trying to learn to do something far outside my comfort zone (or I am multitasking on a ridiculous level.  Example:  I just watered my flowerbed for over an hour because I started writing and forgot the time.  Luckily, in this heat, it is basically impossible to overwater anything. Yes, I am so very human.) But I digress.  Back to “Why am I usually trying to do something far outside my comfort zone?”

At this particular moment in time, I realize that I am trying to fit into a box that someone else has defined as the way to do things.  I am trying to do what the world says is the path to success.  Wow!  That’s a really foolish choice for someone whose sister has always told her, “You march to a different drummer.”  Then, why am I trying to cram myself into a box that hinders rather than helps me?  I think the answer is fairly simple, as it often is.  It’s the seeing the answer that is the hard part.  Because I am unfamiliar, uncomfortable, or both with what I am trying to do, I fall into the trap of “someone else knows how to do this, and I need to follow that path.”  What is brilliantly successful for someone else may never be helpful for me.  Why?  Because I am not that person; I am different, and that is okay.  Being uniquely myself is the whole point of this journey we take in life.

God created each of us to be a glorious one-of-a-kind masterpiece.  With that kind of God-given glory running through my veins, I choose to be totally and completely myself.  Why?  BECAUSE BOXES ARE FOR CEREAL, NOT PEOPLE NAMED SANDY, OR SHELBY, OR GRANT, OR LAURA, OR JANE, OR…


Your Were Born to Shine

As I sit at my computer in the hours before dawn, I am thinking of you and of me.  The first words that pop into my mind are from a piece from PETER PAN, a book by J. M. Barrie.  In the segment, a mom is reading to her two young children. Tinker Bell, the fairy who is Peter Pan’s constant friend and companion, is dying because no one believes in her.  Her light is growing dim…so very dim.  As the mother continues reading, she tells her children that Tinker Bell can be saved if enough people believe in her.  She suddenly drops her book and says, “We can save her!  IF YOU BELIEVE, CLAP YOUR HANDS!  CLAP YOUR HANDS”!

I frequently struggle with creating a global resource for God’s hurting children because the challenge seems beyond my abilities.  Coupled with those doubts is the fact that I often run into walls that appear out of no where.  The closer I get to fulfilling God’s wish for me the more impossible the obstacles are.  Then, as exhaustion sets in, the ghosts of uncertainly begin to materialize.  The voice in my head says: “I don’t know enough about technology to do this.  I don’t know what to say.  I need to be more like this person or that person.”

Praying banishes the ghosts and brings a sliver  of light back into the room.

I return to square one again and figure out what I know for sure.  I decided I know at least two things:

  • No one can beat me if I get up one more time than I get knocked down; and
  • I’m going to give this the best I’ve got.

With those two absolutes as my focus, things begin to happen.  Suddenly, I can see the possibilities rather than the limitations.  What created that transformation?  After all, I’m a person just like you, no better , no worse, but amazing things happen when a person decides to believe…and act on it.  Belief sparks a flame that becomes a fire that becomes a global resource for healing.  You don’t need someone else to ignite you and your dreams; you just need to believe in yourself.

Remember Tinker Bell and the children.  IF YOU BELIEVE, CLAP YOUR HANDS!


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

How do you mend a broken heart?  That is a question that has echoed through time since humans first existed on this earth.  I’m guessing that both Eve and Adam had broken hearts after they took a bite of the apple and found what that cost them.

None of us ever think of a broken heart until we have one, and then “how do you mend a broken heart” becomes the most important question in life.  It’s a plea for survival, coupled with the question “do I want to survive?”  It’s an anguished entreaty to God, “will I ever hope or trust again?”  First and foremost, it is a timid whisper emanating from an injured soul, “will I ever feel safe to love again?”

I’ve had a broken heart, and it almost killed me.  Every dream destroyed; every promise betrayed; every element of my life ravaged because the “game” was such fun.  Although the “game” was fun for him, it wasn’t for me.  It cost me my heart as it shattered into so many pieces that I couldn’t imagine ever finding them all, much less putting those pieces back together.  The pain as it broke was so excruciating that I was sure I was having a heart attack and needed to go to the emergency room.  BUT…I wasn’t. I was simply one of the broken who had to give up believing in the man I chose to be my forever, who had to grieve the death of a dream and find a way to come back.

Finding a way to come back, to beat again, has to be one of the greatest challenges of the human heart.  I once heard a renowned heart surgeon say that, despite all his years of experience and training, he still didn’t know why a transplanted heart “chose” to beat again.  My heart was dead, but I wasn’t a candidate for a transplant.  So, how was I supposed to “choose” to let it start to beat again?   Why would I ever even consider  that kind of agony a second time?     I felt so much safer inside the cozy fortress I had built around myself.  No one could hurt me in here as I withdrew from the world and chose to exist rather than live.

Honestly, allowing my heart to start beating again was monumentally difficult for me.  Only the horror of realizing I had built a prison around myself instead of a fortress was powerful enough to blast me out of my stupor and seek healing.  First, I had to find enough of the broken pieces to glue back into something resembling a living heart.  Then, I had to muster up the courage to dream a new dream that would inspire my damaged heart to face the hell of growing whole again.

I knew I wasn’t strong enough or brave enough to make the quantum leap to a gloriously healthy, loving heart.  I could only manage one small step at a time, and inch by inch I crawled my way out of a cold, living death.  The journey was not one I could have imagined from a place of love and safety.  It was not one I would have ever chosen voluntarily, but it was the one that ultimately defined me.

Today, I wake every morning and thank God that I am free.  To those of you who are members of the walking wounded, I say this.  Rise up and embrace the possibility of a life filled with love and wonder.  No one can take away your ability to dream unless you let them.  You are glorious beyond imagining because that is who God created you to be.  Face your fear and  shine; your light will transform the world…and YOU!


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

The Infinite Nature of Love

When I consider the infinite nature of love, I always think of my mom, a window, and a clothesline.  Those three things became a portal to a world of wonder, joy, and an understanding of the miraculous blessings of hearts open to loving all things great and small.  As I’m typing this, my eyes fill with tears as I remember…and give thanks.

We weren’t rich.  We lived in a simple house with a kitchen window and a yard with a clothesline.  My mother often stood at that window as she washed dishes, and yet no palace could have offered greater opportunities to grow a heart that loved unconditionally and a soul that expanded to embrace the light and joyously share it with all the world.  My childhood was spent in that light, and the Saga of Rudy and Rita began there.

Chili Beans and Cornbread

I’m not sure when this wondrous journey began, but I’m guessing that it began with chili and beans and cornbread.  Yes, dear born to shine friends, I did just type that, AND cornbread was one of the magical ingredients…as were the clothesline and the window.  My mom, a kind and gentle spirit, was standing at that window when she saw a pair of cardinals land on the clothesline.  The birds and my mom immediately connected, even though cardinals often spook at the sight of a being that could bring harm and death.  The three remained transfixed by the encounter and connected heart to heart by a love that embraced all living things.  My mom, being a true southern lady, immediately wanted to feed the birds, and, Ta Dah, here comes the common, yet magical in that moment, cornbread.  My mom walked outside and crumbled some cornbread where the cardinals could see it.  She stepped back as the birds flew to eat the gift Mama had offered.  In that moment, the three of them bridged that gap between species and began a trusting and unconditional relationship that would span generations of cardinals and most of my childhood.

The cardinals continued to come to the clothesline every, single day.  My mom began to call them Rudy and Rita, and they began to call her when they wanted some of her delicious cornbread — a single note signaled the beginning of another heart expanding visit that proved the possibility of a love that was unconditional and transforming.  Bird and human lived a hope for a tomorrow that had love enough for all — not just the ones that were defined as worthy.

Cardinals on the Clothesline

Rudy and Rita, Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal, included their children as their family grew, and their babies loved my mother just as they did.  I don’t know how many generations of these beautiful crimson-feathered creatures became a part of my family.  I only know that there were always cardinals on our clothesline, that they always voiced that single note to call to my mom, and that they always loved her and her cornbread.

Every word of this story is true, and my eyes are filling with tears as I realize, once again, how I was blessed, transformed, in those moments.  My eyes were opened to the spiritual sight that sees the miracles that exist all around us — the miracles that prove that love is big enough to share with everyone and everything and available to us through simple, everyday things like a mom, a window, and a clothesline.

Love Is the Answer

My wish for you this day is that some simple, everyday things will open a portal in your life, a portal that will fill you with the wonder and certainty that you are, and always will be, enough.

Love is the answer.  It always has been.




In order to see yourself with better eyes, it is important to realize that the filter you are using to evaluate your worth is toxic and flawed.  You are trying to mold yourself into a shape that the material world defines as valuable rather than using the eternal portrait that a loving Creator says accurately portrays the glorious potential and worth that is truly you.


Born to Shine Toolbelt Time

Today’s tool is an especially powerful one to combat anxiety…to find a state of calm.

  • Close your eyes.
  • Breathe in and out through your nose only.
  • Breathe in to the count of six and breathe out to the count of six.
  • Repeat for six or seven breath cycles.
  • Now breathe in to the count of six and breathe out to the count of nine.
  • Repeat for seven to 10 cycles.
  • Open you eyes.

Enjoy the peace you feel and the knowledge that you now have the power to choose to overcome your anxiety.


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.

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

I have never outgrown asking “why?”.  I have a brain that enjoys thinking and a heart that wishes to help.  I currently spend a great deal of time wondering why so many of us, born perfect in God’s sight, begin to believe that it isn’t safe or acceptable to be me.  Why are we haunted by the belief “I am not enough”?

Being continually curious often rewards me with information in unusual ways.  This weekend became a perfect example of that as I struggled to revive a personal flowerbed that was filled with dead or dying plants.  I hired a gentleman named Pete to aid me in that task since I often, as the owner of not one but two black thumbs, am the source of my plants’ distress.  As Pete began examining and carefully digging around each flower and bush, he made a surprising discovery; my plants were not dead!  Yes, they were dying, not because of freezing cold or blistering heat, but because of a near fatal lack of nutrients and room to grow.  The last “expert” I had hired apparently was no expert at all and had done all the worst possible things, unless he was trying to insure plant death.  I can remember wondering about how he was digging the holes but overrode my questions because I trusted him rather than myself.

Instantly, I had a flash of insight!  How many of us trust the “expert” rather than ourselves?   How does that simple choice affect our perception of ourselves?  I got very still as I realize how easy it has been for me to give away a piece of belief in myself…to label myself as a “black thumb with no ability to grow plants well” rather than as an intelligent woman who could learn to be a competent gardener.  That choice diminished me in my own sight and hindered my ability to believe I could grow into the person God created me to be.  Could it really be that easy to begin to see myself as “not enough”?  I can hear you saying, “Oh come on now!  That’s such a tiny thing.  Nothing that insignificant is going to have any effect on you.  You’re being ridiculous!”  Am I though?  I teach my clients to overcome traumas and heal “one tiny step at a time”.  IT WORKS!  What if the opposite is also true?  The smallest step in the wrong direction ends up being the biggest step of your life.  OH NO!  Suddenly you have joined me in that still place where I realized how easy it had been to give away a piece of my belief in myself.

What are we going to do with this new found wisdom?  It is profoundly important and could change our lives forever.  While we have no control over the devastatingly painful people/events that explode unexpectedly into our lives, shattering our belief in ourselves, we now have a way to avoid damaging our own self-esteem.  What shall we do now?

Lao Tzu once said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”.  It is time to take that all important step.  First, calm yourself with some breaths.  Breathe in and out through your nose.  Then walk to the mirror you’ve been avoiding for so long.  Look yourself straight in the eyes and say, “I BELIEVE IN YOU, AND FROM THIS MOMENT ON, I’M GOING TO TREAT YOU WITH LOVE AND RESPECT!”  Now walk into the world and act as though this is one of the most important decisions you will ever make in your entire life…because IT IS.

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.