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Monica Pickard spent twenty years of her adult life as a child care provider. During that time, with the help of her husband, she raised her son who has been diagnosed with Autism and Developmental Delay. She learned to navigate a world that was new to her – the world of Special Needs. She now shares these experiences and the wisdom they taught her, with love and heartfelt compassion for the human condition.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Gifts that Matter: Non-judgment and Compassion

Joshua, Christmas 2011

We are called to look for God’s light that is shining forth in every person’s life, especially in those lives where God’s light seems heavily disguised.”    
~ Rev. Ed Bacon

            This month I am writing about GIFTS THAT MATTER. I think it is fitting for December, with Christmas coming in a few weeks. I feel I must begin by talking about something that breaks our hearts. In a couple of weeks, it will be the first anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting. The world thought this would be the violent tragedy that changed America. It has not changed us. We became even more politically divided than ever and thousands more have died from gun violence. I have come to realize that politics and laws are not going to stop these tragedies from occurring. The only thing that will stop us from pointing guns at each other and pulling the trigger is love. Jesus Christ tries to teach us that love is the only answer to any problem, but we don’t understand it. If we did, these violent outbursts would stop.
            We have to start loving each other. I’m talking about the people we don’t know, the people we look down upon, the drunks, the drug addicts, the welfare moms, the gang members, the shooters, the bombers, the monsters. These are the people Jesus tells us to love. He does not say to love everyone except these types of people. He says to love everyone as your-self and he tells us not to judge lest we be judged. He says it many ways, through many parables. He even gives us examples through his own behavior. He shows us how gifts of non-judgment and compassion can transform the people to whom they are given. 
            The young man who ended the lives at Sandy Hook was loved by his family, but obviously that’s not enough. He needed to feel loved by society.  All of these people who commit these tragedies need to feel accepted and loved. Right after the shooting last year, I thought we might change when I saw the press conference called by the father of one of the children who were killed. This man, who had just lost his child in a senseless murder, told us we needed to show compassion for the shooter’s family. We ignored him. We ignored this man who spoke to us in his deepest grief. Why did we gravitate toward hatred, vilifying the shooter's parents in the media? We need to try to make sense of it all, but looking for fault is not the answer. We must look within ourselves and ask how we can stop the judgment of each other. What can I do to follow Jesus’ request of me? Can I stop and realize I don’t know these people? Can I understand that their mistakes are none of my business, and that Jesus wants me to love them all and have compassion for them all no matter what they have done? Most importantly of all, can I understand that blaming them and hating them will never change anything for the good and will only create more chaos in the world?
            If we, as a society, were to lay our judgments down and begin to treat all people with dignity and respect, no matter what their lifestyle, there could one day be peace in this world. It has been said by people of eastern religions that if every eight-year-old were to be taught how to meditate, there would be world peace within one generation. Imagine that. People will say this is a Pollyanna way of looking at things, but we will never truly know if it would happen if we never try.

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” 
~ Mahatma Gandhi

            It starts with you and it ends with you. Now, you might be thinking that just because you show dignity and respect to everyone does not mean everyone else will and you might be wondering how change can occur in the world if only some people change. I offer you three things –
1) It is not your business what others do,
2) You control yourself and no one else,
3) There is this powerful force called Karma. What you put out into the world comes back to you, just as Jesus said – your cup will run over. The way you treat people has a profound effect on them and how they will treat others. It might not happen right away, but the more people who are treated with dignity and shown loving kindness the more apt they will be to pass it on.
            There are people in the world with hateful attitudes. I know this. What if they were to be met out in the world with love? Even with their bad behavior, their swearing and aggressiveness and overall disregard for people around them, what if they were met with love anyway? Might not they see a different path? Might they become a little less aggressive? We don’t know because we don’t try. We just judge them and get away from them as fast as we can. We might even find ourselves chewing them out or being rude to them. I know because I have done it. I vow to never do it again. I can’t change my past behavior, but I can do better today than I did yesterday.



            I have felt the sting of judgment against my son and against me for the way I parent him. When Joshua was 4 or 5 years old and still in diapers I was judged by a cashier when I was buying diapers. She had no idea what our situation was. She saw a mom buying diapers for a child clearly old enough to be potty trained who looked like typical a child. Period. That was all she needed to know to make her judgment. Another time when Josh was around 6 or 7, we were in an elevator with a mom and her two kids, one of whom called Joshua a retard. I was very hurt and very angry with the mother because she did not correct him. She did have a look of horror on her face, though. I just ignored them, but a better response would have been to educate them both with kindness. A simple gift of non-judgment would have brought peace to me and maybe to them, as well.
            I did not know anything about ego back then and I was extremely hurt. Josh was not affected at all. He had no idea what had been said. All he knew was that kids were on the elevator with us and he was excited they were there. I was grateful he did not understand. I judged the little boy as an out of control brat and I judged his mother the same way I had been judged by the cashier, as a bad mom who was not parenting her child correctly. We had just come from Joshua’s neurologist’s office and I gave no consideration to the fact that they may have come from a doctor’s office, as well. Maybe the child had Tourette Syndrome. Maybe the mother was still trying to figure out how to cope with it, just as I was struggling to figure out my life with Joshua. You just never know. Ignoring them was not the worst thing to do, but my internal response could have been much better. I put a lot of negativity out into the world that day and on the day I was buying diapers. I thought up hundreds of nasty things I wished I had said to those people. All of those negative thoughts went out into the world whether I spoke them or not. I was not at peace and so the world around me could not be at peace, either.

“How someone treats me does not relieve me of my responsibility to treat them like the child of God that they are.” 
~ Rev. Gene Robinson

            We can start practicing non-judgment and compassion with our own families and work our way out from there. We just celebrated Thanksgiving and now we are focused on Christmas. It is a joyous time of year for most people. We look forward to sharing time with our families, especially those we don’t get to see very often. However, many people have family members they feel they must tolerate being around because it is the holiday season. We want to get together with some of our loved ones, but not certain other family members. There are multitudes of reasons why we don’t want to be around some people. Some of us have family we refuse to have anything to do with because of disagreements and fights we have had. Whoever it is, or whatever the issue is, it makes for a dreadful holiday.
            Why can’t we just take a break from the drama for the holidays? The answer is very simple. We all behave this way because we are not at peace. Every day I see people who are not at peace. I see them on Facebook, I see them out in public and I see them in my family. I witness the turmoil in their lives and I want to shake them and say,

You will never find peace in that bottle.
You will never find peace in blaming others for where you are in your life! This is a result of YOUR choices, no one else’s! You can make different choices.
You don’t need anyone or anything to change in order to have peace. All you have to do is claim it for yourself.
Accept what you cannot change (other people). Change the things you can (YOUR mind, YOUR heart, YOUR attitude). Once you have done this you have obtained the wisdom to know the difference!
Peace begins with your love and compassion for others!



            I want so much for them to understand that peace is not found outside of them. It is found within. But it looks like it is found outside of us. That is the problem. We believe that if so-and-so would stop behaving badly we could live peacefully. Those of you who have children and grandchildren know that there is nothing they could do that would make you stop loving them. Nothing. It is our mission to find that same love we have for our children and give it freely to every being. It is not easy sometimes to show love to our own family when they act out against us. As I am writing this post over the past few days, I have been tested and it is difficult to know how to respond, even if I should respond. My intuition tells me not to respond and I have learned to listen to it. A response would only keep them stuck in the ego drama. So my internal response is to pray for the ones who are in turmoil right now. I pray that everyone involved receives the peace they need, no matter what has been said, no matter what has been done. I pray for everyone to receive all the gifts I want for myself because I know my prayers will be answered. I don’t know how, I don’t know when, but I have faith because I have seen the results in my own life.
           I was in hell for many years and I acted out in hateful ways, so I understand why people lash out. They are not in their right mind. My past experience reminds me that the little devil ego in our minds wants the drama to continue so it can survive. Its survival means the death of the angle in our heart. People act in hateful ways because they have given all their power to the ego devil and their angel has faded almost to death. They don't even realize this is what they are doing. Sometimes the result is turmoil within a family and sometimes the result is shots fired into innocent bodies. 


“We need to decide if we are going to be disciples or admirers only, of Jesus. And can I just tell you, Jesus doesn't need any more admirers.”
~ Rev. Gene Robinson

            Our job, as children of God, is to give the gifts of non-judgment and compassion to those who we can clearly see are not at peace. We must look at their lives from their perspective as much as we can and try to understand why they behave the way they do. It may be difficult to see their reasons for it because, often times, we don’t know what they have been through. We must try. We can start by realizing that meanness does not happen overnight. We can give up our feelings of superiority and start acting like we truly believe Jesus’ message of love. And, we can begin to understand the reasons don’t even matter anyway. We must do this with our families and we must do this with strangers. We must take on the responsibility of being true Christian disciples of Jesus, because if we don’t we are nothing more than his admirers.


My love to you all!

Enjoy a sermon by Rev. Gene Robinson here.

I have a Facebook page called Love Button Worthy! It features photos, blogs, quotes, and other content full of positivity and inspiration. Click here to check it out. Please like the page if it suits you and don’t forget to invite your friends to like it, too.  

Check out my recommended reading list below the menu. I hope this blog helps you to create a more peaceful life. Keep in touch by the following methods: Use the links under the archive menu to subscribe or follow by e-mail. Help me get this message out by sharing it with your friends on social media! If you enjoyed it and were helped by it, they will, too! Comment by using the comment link below or write to me with your comments and questions at mindchange4all@gmail.com  I look forward to hearing from you!


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Miracles Revealed in Gratitude


As Thanksgiving gets closer we are focusing more on the things and people we are thankful for. Some of my Facebook friends are posting thirty days of gratitude in November and it is uplifting and inspiring to read what they post each day. It causes me to notice more beauty in my day and to give more attention to the miracles all around me disguised as little things that are easily overlooked.

            It is easy to overlook the little things when our lives take a turn we have not expected. We grow up with certain expectations of how our lives should progress and how things and people should or shouldn’t be in order for us to be at peace. As I said in my previous post, Gratitude, taking a good long look at my ingratitude towards our home led me to see my husband differently, but it also showed me that I was ignoring the miracles in another very important area of my life… my son, Joshua.

            I began to realize that I was not fully appreciating the miracle of Joshua. I would complain about how hard it was to figure out what he wanted. He is nonverbal and has little ability to express himself. There were also times when I complained about him not understanding potty training and not being able to put his clothes on. My mind was always consumed with how I thought things should be rather than accepting how they actually were. When I complained about those things my husband sometimes asked me, “Do you regret having Joshua?” Or he would ask something like, “If you knew then what you know now, would you still have a baby?” I always answered that I do not regret having him because there was so much more joy than frustration and I could not imagine my life without him. I love him so much! Still, these questions my husband asked me were not sinking into my understanding until he broke through my ego concerning our home. It was then that I began to wonder where I was placing Joshua’s value.

Was I placing it on his abilities? Was I placing it on the level of difficulty of parenting him?

             I had wanted a child terribly before he was born and there he was. However, I was not appreciating the fact that he exists because my expectation of the child I thought I would have was different from the child I had. Also, I had not been focused on what he brought into my life, but rather on the difficulties of parenting. There were too many times when my focus had been about what I wanted to change and what I wished was different. I allowed myself to wonder about how things would be if he were born without challenges, constantly reminding myself how things should be.


              Prior to Ray showing me my ingratitude, I had been learning about how to end suffering and obtain peace and happiness. I had learned to focus my attention on accepting the little things, like the weather. I knew there was nothing I could do about the weather, so why bother being upset if it was raining or too cold for my taste? I couldn’t change the weather. I also began to realize that other people’s opinions have nothing to do with me and I began to see that I could not control their opinions or their reactions to any situation. Accepting these things became easier and easier. I started to see I couldn’t change or control anything, but for some reason, it did not sink into my brain that I could accept everything, no matter how big or how small because I had no choice anyway. I read about people who had life-threatening diseases and they were grateful for it. What?! I did not see the point in accepting that, let alone being grateful for it! Especially if it meant I was supposed to be okay with Joshua having disabilities. Nobody wants to be ‘okay’ with their child having a disability; as if accepting it is going to ensure that it never goes away. It feels like we might be saying, ‘I don’t care that they have a disability.’ Even so, just like with the weather, the only choice is to continue suffering, or not.

            I couldn’t make Joshua talk or learn, or even want to do those things. It was out of my control. Joshua had showed me this in multiple ways already, with potty training and trying to get him to eat, but I did not realize it applied to every aspect of my life. I had no control of anything outside of myself. I had learned to finally accept that Joshua would always be disabled and I stopped trying to find a ‘cure,’ but I was still seeing his disabilities as flaws. Sure, I had finally accepted the disabilities and I knew there was nothing that could change him, but what I hadn’t understood up until then was that he did not need to be changed. He is perfect just the way he is. He is perfect simply because he lives. His life has a purpose even if I can’t see what it is.
           

         Refocusing my attention on what Joshua brought into my life showed me that he brought joy, unconditional love, laughter and a new perspective on life. He shows me the miracle in my abilities and reminds me to never take them for granted. It finally came to my awareness that he is the one who facilitated my learning about ego and mind chatter. Joshua led me to my awakening. If not for him, I would not have asked the important questions that brought me to this wisdom. Maybe I would have at some other time, for some other reason because God moves us in that direction even when we resist, but Joshua is the one who caused me to grow into who I am meant to be. Joshua, with his autism and mental challenges, brought out the fear and the anguish I had inside and forced me to deal with them. Joshua brought out all of the parts of me that needed to grow; the timidity, the low self-esteem and, most importantly, the part of me that did not know God. If not for this beautiful, silly, scary, exasperating, perfect human, I would not be the woman I am today. He taught me to live from my soul rather than my head, although I’m not always good at it. He gave me the awareness to live from a place of love when I am centered. These things he brings into my life are bonuses. I get to know him and experience his being plus I get to learn from him! How wonderful! 
           I am grateful to him and for him beyond measure and I would not change one thing about him. I can honestly say that I would not take back one moment of our lives. Even if I could go back in time and have him be born without his challenges, I would not do it. I never thought I would say that, but now I know why people are grateful for hardships. We have hardships to facilitate growth. It’s possible that changing me is Joshua’s purpose. It’s possible that all people with challenges are here to show us the duality of life. We can’t say for certain because it is not our place to decide or even to know what someone else’s purpose is, but if we look, we can see the positive impact they have on our lives. I know that my growth came out of my anguish and mourning the loss of a child I thought I should have, and that is where Joshua’s perfection shines through. If I could do for someone else what he has done for me, it would be an honor. 
             Now, it is up to me to continue to grow by being aware of my thoughts and questioning every one of them. My task now is to let things go, let things be the way they are and to remember that I don’t have to suffer if things are not the way I want them to be. I can accept it and know there is a reason beyond my understanding for the way things are and to search for that reason so that I can understand more about life. I must put this knowledge to use in every area of my life: financial issues, disliking the way some people behave, disagreements about religion, how I perceived people of other races, even politics. I must remember to sort out the things I can change from the things I can’t.


            All people can benefit from refocusing our conscious minds on the good in our lives because when we look for good we find it. Likewise, when we look for bad we find it. Gratitude is the easiest way to focus on the good. We must begin to see that without the bad we would not perceive the good. We must also come to see that the bad we perceive is really good in disguise. When we understand that, the miracles are revealed. Our human minds cannot conceive of the wonders of creation in our lives. We must wait for things to unfold before we get the full picture. I would have never thought 25 years ago or even 7 years ago that one day I would see some good in my precious child’s disabilities. I see it now. Our minds must be open to the possibilities in every situation because if we are not open we are denying the fullness of this life God has given us.




            If you find yourself complaining about anything, make it your cue to begin searching for the good. Search for the good in your bad situations by opening your mind and say THANK YOU for the creation that is unfolding. Allow your heart to open now in pure gratitude because something good is coming for you, but you will only notice it if you are looking for it, seeking it, asking for the answers. Until next time, I am grateful for you all taking the time to read what I have to say. 


I have a Facebook page called Love Button Worthy! It features photos, blogs, quotes, and other content full of positivity and inspiration. Click here to check it out. Please like the page if it suits you and don’t forget to invite your friends to like it, too.  

Check out my recommended reading list below the menu. I hope this blog helps you to create a more peaceful life. Keep in touch by the following methods: Use the links under the archive menu to subscribe or follow by e-mail. Help me get this message out by sharing it with your friends on social media! If you enjoyed it and were helped by it, they will, too! Comment by using the comment link below or write to me with your comments and questions at mindchange4all@gmail.com  I look forward to hearing from you!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Gratitude

“The miracle of gratitude is that it shifts your perception to such an extent that it changes the world you see.” ~ Dr. Robert Holden

       Gratitude is an extremely powerful force. It is important to our lives because it helps us focus our attention on what is important. As the opening quote says, it changes the world you see. In fact, it changes the world you experience. I believe that expressing gratitude is the most important prayer. It places your focus directly into your consciousness and moves your loving energy out into the universe. It tells God that you recognize what has been given to you and done for you simply because you exist. It is an acknowledgment of God’s love and it expresses your love for God. I have always considered myself a grateful person. It turned out, I didn’t truly understand gratitude.
       Several years ago I finally began to see that, while I was appreciative of all I had been given, there was a depth of gratitude that I had not reached. Prior to that, I did not know that to complain about something, even something I would not want to be without, was expressing ingratitude. My attitude was, ‘I’m thankful for_____, but...’ Since then, I have learned that the word ‘but’ means: Forget everything I just said, here’s what I really think. It was my husband who made me realize I was not fully grateful. He had told me this several times, but I couldn’t understand why he would think that about me.
Ray and Joshua in 1991
       I was constantly complaining about our house. It needed a lot of maintenance and it seemed like we were always behind in fixing things. My husband used to tell me that I didn’t appreciate what I had and that no matter where I lived, I wouldn’t be happy. I always argued back and said that I did appreciate what I had but that I just wished it were better. I can’t tell you how many times we had the same conversation. Then one day, after I learned about the human ego and how it affects our minds, I was complaining and my husband said it to me again.
       “You don’t appreciate anything you have. If you were to move to a brand new house eventually you would find something to complain about and it wouldn’t take long for you to become unhappy.”
       Once again I argued with him, but something was different. This time, I could not make my argument with sincerity. Something had clicked in my mind and I understood what he meant. I had been reading all these things about happiness and how to obtain it, and in that instant, I knew he was right. Give a big round of applause for Ray, everybody! I don’t tell him that often enough and here it is in writing!
“Appreciation is the highest form of prayer, for it acknowledges the presence of good wherever you shine the light of your thankful thoughts.” ~ Alan Cohen
       Ray had finally broken through my ego and made me understand that I could go deeper in my gratitude and appreciate our home on another level. I was not accepting things the way they were and I was not feeling the full appreciation for simply having a shelter. He made me see my own role in the way our home was maintained. This house was protecting me from the elements and that fact wasn’t even part of my awareness. Suddenly this house became so dear to me, flaws and all, it brings tears to my eyes when I think about it. I realized this house, which was built it 1900, had been a home for my family for most of my adult life. It had done its job regardless of my attitude. It did the same job for many people before us, as well. Seeing this house in a new way made me want to take better care of it than I had been. Now I truly was grateful for it and the gratitude I felt changed my world. The maintenance of this house moved up on my list of priorities and things began to change. I made a list of all the things I could do in the short term, without spending much money, to spruce the place up. Then I made a list of long term goals to save for. Slowly things started getting done. We fixed things long neglected and freshened it up inside and out. There are still a few things left to do, but we are getting there. Now, I am proud of this house, not just because of the changes but because, with or without the changes, it has served my family well.

Ray and Joshua on Joshua's 1st birthday

       Coming to this realization about our house I began to see that there was a ripple effect of not being deeply grateful. I had only been mildly grateful for the house and, therefore, I had not given full appreciation for the money it took to buy and maintain it, or for my husband’s efforts to provide for us. I began to remember what it had been like when I thought we would never be able to buy a house and I started to think of how far we had come over the years and my husband’s role in our success. My husband had gone to work every day, not only to provide shelter and food but to provide comforts in this home for his family. He had done it willingly because he knew I wanted it. It had never mattered to him if we owned a house. He always said that he could live quite easily and happily without it. He could have done any other less stressful job just to get by and provide the basics, but he stayed at the stressful job because the pay was better. He did it for me and for Joshua. His sacrifice gave me choices, specifically the choice to be at home with Joshua. I had a home daycare which enabled me to earn money from home. During the times when enrollment was down, I didn’t even have to consider getting a job outside the home and putting Josh in someone else’s care because of my husband and what he was willing to do for us.
       My heart is filled with thankfulness for my husband. I now realize that my complaining was a display of ingratitude for the house and for my husband. I began to see him in a new light, understanding that he was playing a role in my life, without acknowledgment and without being appreciated for it. My way of thinking had been that it was his role as a husband to do that for his family. The truth is, he had a choice not to do it, but he did it anyway. He was not being fulfilled in his job and he was under stress much of the time, but he did it anyway. He continues to do it anyway and I can never express how grateful I am for him. Some might say society pressures us to do certain things in life, like work at a job you may not like in order to support your family, but in the end, we all have choices to do what we do, or not. We shouldn’t overlook the choices of our loved ones just because society says it is their duty.

       Many of us tend to think that if people loved us they would do the things we want them to do and refrain from doing things we don’t want them to do. Women especially have this thought quite often. When someone does not live up to our expectation of the way we think they should love us we overlook the things they are doing to show their love. We take them for granted. The fact that my husband went to a stressful job every day was his way of showing us love. It is our task to look for the ways they do show it, not for the ways we want them to show it. We must appreciate everyone for who they are, not who we want them to be. That is unconditional love and it shows them and God our gratitude for all that is given.
       When we can be deeply and truly grateful for our possessions without becoming attached to them and placing them above our family, it puts everything in our world into perspective. We begin to see that our loved ones are what we can’t live without, not the possessions. Our loved ones are important in our lives. Our possessions are nice and comfortable, but not mandatory. This house is not mandatory, but my husband’s happiness and well-being are. I hope he knows how grateful I am for him and that my gratitude and love are not dependent upon how much money he makes or what he can do for me.
       I am grateful for your attention. See you next time!


I have a Facebook page called Love Button Worthy! It features photos, blogs, quotes, and other content full of positivity and inspiration. Click here to check it out. Please like the page if it suits you and don’t forget to invite your friends to like it, too.  


Check out my recommended reading list below the menu. I hope this blog helps you to create a more peaceful life. Keep in touch by the following methods: Use the links under the archive menu to subscribe or follow by e-mail. Help me get this message out by sharing it with your friends on social media! If you enjoyed it and were helped by it, they will, too! Comment by using the comment link below or write to me with your comments and questions at mindchange4all@gmail.com  I look forward to hearing from you!