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Hidden Treasure

If everything happens for a purpose then Mira Kirshenbaum offers a fifth reason– the ability to discover buried talents within ourselves which will change our lives for the better. She writes that when we look carefully at the bad things that happen to us, we oftentimes find that a “…talent exists just waiting to be discovered.”

I agree with Kirshenbaum, that is, sometimes, after suffering loss we do become aware of a hidden talent. It’s not the only way to have a special ability come to our attention but there does seem to be a connection between personal loss and the use of a new ability according to experts in the fields of sociology, health, and psychology seem to agree.

For example, the ARTC (pronounced artsy) is a program funded by the Franklin County Children and Families Community Resource Board in Wisconsin. The program offers creative art workshops and seminars to help those with drug addiction. In comparison, the Center for Grief Recovery and Creativity in Wisconsin quote Robert Fulghum, author and Unitarian minister, as one of their guiding principles to recovery. He writes: “I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief… that love is stronger than death.”

Further, the American Psychology Association (APA) found in a recent study that creativity and creative endeavors are part of sustaining a purposeful, wholesome, and balanced life. They also found that creative endeavors are a key or important part of recovery.

SeekLifeOne of the things that I’ve learned over the last 25 years of study about creative endeavors and children’s stories is that stories are powerful because they prepare our hearts to receive a truth. Life truths help us to make sense of things that are perplexing which is extremely valuable for healthy and wholesome living. For example, think of the story that Jesus told his disciples of a hidden treasure that a trespasser had stumbled upon in a field (Matthew 13:44).

In the hidden treasure story, we learn an important life truth: there are times that we feel emotionally, mentally, or spiritually like trespassers, interlopers, or uninvited guests. The familiarity and comforts of home are suddenly gone. Because of loss or grief, we find ourselves traveling through an unfamiliar place; we’ve lost that which is comforting like a family member, job, position, or anything else that had previously helped to define us and who we are; we feel like we are stumbling along without a plan or purpose.

Interestingly, what the hidden treasure story tells us, like Kirshenbaum, is that it is highly likely that despite the feelings of loss and anxiety there is secret wealth placed inside of you by God–waiting to be accidentally discovered. This treasure will redefine who you are (from trespasser to titleholder). And, perhaps most importantly, because it is not a mere distraction, your hidden treasure will redirect your life interests and activities toward recovery and life.

Living Life’s Way in 2014,



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The Power of Forgiveness

LoveWarmsHeartThere’s very few of us who have not thought a lot about some of the ways we’ve been hurt or disappointed. In fact, Mira Kirshenbaum, Everything Happens for a Reason, reveals that anger, guilt, envy, and not feeling safe are all signs that we carry a heavy burden of not being able to forgive—ourselves or others. But forgiveness does not always come easily or quickly because of two key reasons: shame and guilt. And both are the result of a basic need to point an accusing finger at ourselves or someone else.

Kirshenbaum sees our need to blame someone or something as part of our natural perspective in life. She writes: “Part of what can make it so hard for us to forgive is the automatic way we orient ourselves in life through blame. If anything goes wrong anywhere, the first thing anyone thinks about is who to blame… Blame is a very deep instinct because it makes us feel safe.” (p. 111) and, no one wants to feel as if they are constantly living under personal attack.

As I thought about Kirshenbaum’s examples she gives for Reason #4: To bring you to the place where you can feel forgiveness–or, perhaps said differently, to bring us to a place where we can accept the “…possibility there’s something else besides blame…” I found myself asking: What is there besides hate, fear, blame, and the inability to forgive? Are there legitimate reasons to forgive the cruelty of something or someone?

Mira Kirshenbaum offers her readers a spectrum of reasons for putting away finger pointing and accusations. She asks us to consider forgiveness when:

  1. The other person’s cruelty was because “he or she was sick, damaged, or limited somehow”;
  2. We see that the other person has “suffered enough…even if they haven’t suffered as much as we have”;
  3. We realize “we are safe now”;
  4. We recognize that “we don’t want to be the kind of person who doesn’t forgive”;
  5. We find that the other person makes up for what was done;
  6. We understand that “if we don’t forgive, we’re the ones who are hurt the most.”

Life is not perfect and neither am I.  There have been many things and people in my life that were incredibly cruel. There have been many times that my Christian values stood in conflict with my feelings.  As I remain open to God’s  leading, however, I’ve found that His amazing grace helps me to substitute finger pointing with the power to forgive. But forgiveness does not come cheap; it takes great inner strength and commitment. I’m reminded of what Gandhi said: “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”

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Life Without Fear

LifeDistress or anxiety that “…hijacks a life taking it in a direction we don’t want to go,” writes Mira Kirshenbaum, is not a life worth living. Some fears are “perfectly reasonable” but some are “terribly damaging” to the point of freezing us emotionally, physically, and spiritually. And so she explains (reason #3 of 10) that things happen in order to show us that we can let go of fear and live life wholeheartedly.

There was something in Kirshenbaum’s third reason that caught my attention. With all directness, she exposed the relationship between life and fear. Her writing suggested that we don’t always live and walk in the fullness of the life given to us; and it is fear that causes us to miss out.

Her writing brought back memories from many years ago, my community college days and my budding interest in photography. I had become hooked with black and white imaging and scrapped together the $25.00 for a new Pentax K-1000 camera body. Over a stretch of two years, I won almost every student photographic award and had my images published. Those were the days! However, as my work life and advanced studies demanded more of my time, the sound of my Pentax’s shutter release button slowed and then quietly faded away–until just last year.

I was invited to join a local photography club which met once-a-month. Oddly enough, I found myself making up excuses for why I shouldn’t go—too far away, night driving, cost of gas, and so on. But was it really the distance? Or time of day? I even found myself wrinkling my nose at the thought of getting out the new digital camera that had supplanted my old Pentax.

As the meeting time came–and with some emotional feet dragging, I set out to travel the 30 miles. The meeting went better, however, than what I had expected. The small group of members greeted me with genuine warmth. And, perhaps just as important, I found a group of individuals who held a similar fascination with the power of images to speak.

It wasn’t until later, as I thought about the meeting and club members,  that I realized how my  anxious feelings had taken  hold of me. I discovered that my reasons for not doing something that I had so enjoyed during my college years were actually holding me hostage. And, I found that my excuses were rather the voice of fear—a fear that was attempting to hijack my life–leading me in a direction that I didn’t want to go!

I’m glad for Kirshenbaum’s third explanation and insight for why things happen, that is, to show us that we can let go of fear. And, perhaps most importantly, I’m glad for the freedom that I can now push the button of my digital Minolta, letting me pick up where my trusty Pentax had left me.

Living life’s way in 2014


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The Case of a Dismissed Dog Lover

NOTE: (Client permission was received to discuss case details. However, names and places have been changed and a degree of dramatic exaggeration added to protect client identity).

Life coaching falls within the category of caring professional counseling services. A life coach focuses specifically on people, their purpose, and their mission. A good life coach intentionally provides a safe space and supporting activities in which a person’s strengths and potential are acknowledged, appreciated, and challenged toward greater self-awareness. A high-quality or well-seasoned coach handles a wide range of life’s challenges with humor, wisdom, much care, and insight.

In the process of developing my professional life coaching practice, I’ve learned that the range of life’s challenges can never be fully anicipated in any textbook or course handouts. Perhaps more importantly, I discovered that new methods and unique approaches must be carefully tested when interacting with clients concerns and their life’s situations. Selected coaching techniques must be thoughtfully employed when assisting a client in making sense of paradoxical situations. Recently, one such case, which tested my life coaching ability, involved the adoption of a rescue dog.

“ I don’t know what to do,” said Marscilla. Her aging eyes filled with painful, personal despair. “Dogs are suppose to be our best friends, right?”

My client knew her facts. According to some canine proponents such as the SPCA and small animal adoption centers, dogs provide important life services for the blind, police, children, old people, farmers, even, hunters. Moreover, dogs of various breeds, sizes, ages, and abilities have been known to display amazing premonitory abilities. Newspaper accounts abound describing how these animals sense coming danger, defy deathly circumstances, and save their human masters from harm. So, it didn’t surprise me when I felt a strong emotion of empathy rise quickly as I continued to listen to Marscilla‘s story.

“Bones is the dog for me, I just know it.” Her lips pursed with deep resolved belief.

Earlier during the conversation, I learned that Marscilla had just lost her devoted Jethro—an oversized 13-year-old pacifist Irish Wolf Hound. His passing was a topic she seldom talked about or let her emotions show. She had begun the process of dog adoption and visiting nearby rescue centers. It was at one of these centers that she found “Bones.” The sadness in her voice however remained–I knew how she felt. Two years prior, I had lost my beloved Australian Shepherd companion.

“And, I can’t believe that I was rejected!” She blurted angrily. I wondered if her change in pitch and volume weren’t a telling sign of misplaced priorities? Then she continued, “Do you think anyone would suspect me if Bones, ummm…turned up missing?”

Rejection as a potential dog-adopter can certainly challenge one’s core life values. From a communication perspective, the change in my client’s voice implied that a variety of heated negative emotions may have attached themselves to her desire for a new canine family member. The adoption center’s refusal of her application appeared to have resulted in a critical intrapersonal downward spiral. The inevitable had to be faced—how do I challenge Marscilla to a greater sense of self-awareness and a return to her traditional cherished values and good citizenry?

I decided to employ my new coaching technique using a direct interrogative approach, “Marscilla, may I ask you a question?”

Then thoughtfully, steadily, sometimes painfully, the next 45-minutes were spent re-discovering Marscilla’s values that had led her successfully through previous emotional trials and storms. She ended our coaching session acknowledging that dog nabbing was not a viable solution for her situation, and, perhaps more importantly, revenge was better left to–an independent and more objective–higher source. Marscilla also chose to write (but not send) several drafts of a letter to the rescue center expressing her concern, grief, and outrage. She thought the writings would help release her negative pent up emotions. She also hoped that sharing her story would make it easier for others who had experienced a similar plight.

CLOSING NOTE: Although Marscilla decided not to proceed with legally challenging the rescue center’s decision to reject her adoption application, she did locate and received approval to adopt a large hunting dog, Perseus, who last week ate the right shoe of her husband’s new $200 pair of cowboy boots–a follow up life coaching session is anticipated.

Living life in 2011,

Mary Buck, PhD
Executive Program Director, Wholeheartedly
A family literacy outreach program using storytelling, art, and life coaching
–where stories change the heart for life–

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