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Mother’s Day is just a few days away and if you’re anything like me, the thought of how to celebrate your mom when you can’t be together during a pandemic has been a little bit of a challenge. This year is going to look different. Travel plans have changed. Restaurants aren’t functioning at full capacity and her favorite stores are still in the middle of trying to open. Having the whole family come into town to celebrate is unlikely, so we must be creative.

Maybe you’re like me, and you’re miles away from your mom this Mother’s Day. If so, let’s find a way to make the special woman who always goes out of her way for you to feel celebrated.

Instead of guessing what my mom would like or settling for something an ad told me would be perfect for her, I got personal

I went to the source and had a conversation with my sweet momma, Suzette.

Earlier this week I asked her if I could interview her for a blog. She was excited to help from the get-go. What better way to show your mom you love her than by showing her you need her, value her words of wisdom and opinions? So, we hopped on FaceTime.

Me: What is your favorite way to be celebrated?

Suzette: There’s nothing I love more than family gatherings. Spending time together, having real conversations and talking just to get to know each other.

Me: With this pandemic keeping us from all getting together, what do you think we could do instead?

Suzette: Well, technology has made it easy to be all under one roof despite the circumstances. All I have to do is set my laptop on the kitchen table and you all will be sitting here with me. I think it’d be nice to share a meal at the same time together in different cities and change up what we talk about. Have fun conversations like, “Where do you want to travel to when this is over?” and “Is there anything you’ve discovered recently that keeps you up way later than you anticipated?”

(I think it’d be nice to go around the Zoom screen and say one thing we are grateful for or admire about our mom.)

Me: What do we do to make you feel loved when my sisters and I all live in different cities?

Suzette: Honestly, responding to my silly texts and watching the videos I send you all. Having longer conversationswhich quarantine has blessed me with you all having more time to talk because you all aren’t running around as much! Is there a way I can keep that? When you all were growing up [starts to laugh] I could just trap you all in the car and say we are going on an adventure and we’d have all the time to talk I wanted, and you all loved it!

Me: [Laughing and nodding] I mean this is true.

Suzette: I also love it when you all ask about my interests and want to get to know me as who I am now. Because it’s really different not having you three girls around and being a single mom. There’s no one here to encourage me with just a smile or by spending time together. I’ve always been my own woman, but nothing can beat the pride of being your mom.

Me: I know we can get busy and have a bad tendency to put off responding to a text or calling back or only talking when we have to. I’d love to encourage you in what you’re doing, you’ve always been very supportive of me!

Suzette: I would love that! You girls’ opinions mean more to me than anyone’s. I think I would feel celebrated and loved just by hearing you all interested in the things I love, like Scotland! It doesn’t take anything but effort. If I know you’ve spent time picking out and then writing me a letter or crafted something or set aside time to Facetime and see each other’s faces and see into each other’s daily lives, I feel loved. It’s pretty simple really.

Just from taking the time to interview my mom, she felt like a more valuable part of my life. She reminded me that kids are a mom’s most prized relationship and that there’s nothing she’s more proud of.

The bottom line is to talk to your mom before Mother’s Day. Ask her some of the questions I asked my mom. Enjoy learning about her (and getting the answer of what she wants for Mother’s Day) all in one call! It’s a win-win.

If you want to physically thank your mom for all she’s done, here are some gift ideas my mom gave me!

  1. Send a card. Take the time to write why you appreciate your mom.
  2. Make her something! She will love that you thought about her and took the time to follow through. Yes, go back to the artwork on the refrigerator days! I must confess, my drawings would not look much different now, so I would opt for making her a pair of earrings because that is something I’m good at.
  3. Send a bouquet of flowers. Ask what her favorites are. Add a note and tell her she’s been a big part of helping you bloom (everyone loves a good pun).
  4. Choose a book to read together. Not only would you be sending her a book, but you’d be inviting her into more time together. How’s that? By sharing thoughts on the book during and/or after you both finish it!
  5. Order a takeout delivery from her favorite restaurant. You all can plan to eat dinner together virtually if you usually take her out!

This Mother’s Day, let’s be intentional about how we celebrate our mothers despite the circumstances that may keep us apart. She always found a way to do the same for you—whether there were a million things on the schedule, money was tight, you were sick or plans were canceled. 

It is your turn to do the same.

Image from Unsplash.com

At the start of this year, there was no way anyone would have guessed school would be out, everyone would be quarantined, and spring break would be canceled. And yet, here we are. As a highschooler, how are you supposed to enjoy time off of school when you’re stuck at home either by yourself or with your family?

It all starts with your mind! No matter what, if you’re stuck in the mindset that you can’t have fun because your spring break plans are canceled, then there’s no possible way that you will enjoy the week off from school! BUT, if you choose to do some of these things to transition your mind to thinking positively, you’ve got a much higher chance of actually enjoying your spring break, even if you are stuck at home. Yes, some of these things might seem cliché, but we promise—they work!

To transition your mindset, try…

  • Writing a list of 20 things you’re thankful for. Go beyond your friends or a roof over your head. Dig deep and really think it through.
  • Feeling good about yourself. If that means dressing nicely, doing your hair, getting outside, or video chatting with some friends, do whatever you need to feel confident and content.
  • Closing your door for a second. Even if you can’t actually spend time by yourself (hello, younger siblings), spend a minute stepping away from your phone, Netflix, and/or any other distractions and just breathe for a minute.
  • Don’t blame your parents. Right now, everyone in the world is under a ton of stress and each person is dealing with it in their own way. Your parents are in the same boat, too! This is new and difficult for everyone.

Okay… Now that your mindset is right, here are some great ways you can choose to have fun on this year’s spring break!

  • “Travel” the world. Just because you can’t go anywhere doesn’t mean you can’t pretend you can! Recreate the most photographed places in the world out of things around your house. A paper towel roll can turn into the Leaning Tower of Pisa if you try hard enough!
  • Plan a family night. From dinner to games to questions to ask each other, take family night into your own hands! If everyone in your family can’t participate, put together a friend’s night via video call: eat dinner together, watch a movie together, and enjoy a little company.
  • Put together a tutorial. Love doing makeup? Play the guitar? Have a hidden talent (even if it’s making that whistling sound with grass)? Know a few tips for your favorite video game? Put together a tutorial video for your best skill, then share it with family and friends!
  • Plan next year’s spring break. Just because you can’t do it now doesn’t mean it can’t ever happen! Plan a trip with your family or friends to take for next year’s spring break, from where you want to stay to the best restaurants in the area.
  • Teach your favorite TikTok dance. Sure, your mom might not seem super into it. But maybe she’ll give it a try! Teach your parents or your siblings all your faves and then do a group video. Can’t convince them to join in? Have a dance-off with some friends over a video call!
  • Learn something new. Try making cookies you’ve never had before. Teach yourself how to sing (YouTube videos help!). Learn how to make homemade bread. Try a new way to exercise. Write a short story. PRO TIP: start a challenge with your friends to try something new every day, and maybe teach each other what you learned!
  • Break a world record. There are SO many world records out there, and some of them are honestly not that impressive. Try to break one of them, whether it’s the fastest time to put 24 cans in the fridge or the most t-shirts put on in one minute.

Even if your spring break isn’t looking like you had planned or got canceled altogether, you can still have fun! Use the time you have off from school to know yourself better, know your family better, and know your friends better, too! The opportunities we have right now are unique and once-in-a-lifetime. Don’t waste your spring break wishing your situation was different. Instead, you can choose to enjoy it to the best of your ability!

(Also, if you do end up doing one of these activities for your spring break, be sure to tag us at @relatableftf!)

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My wife Kristin reminded me last night that we have our wedding anniversary coming up next week! Let me be real with you – it would have snuck up on me anyway. However, with everything happening with working remotely, the kids being home, and the pressure to practice healthy social distancing, it honestly slipped my mind. Really – that’s my excuse! But not my wife, obviously. Nothing gets past her.

After nonchalantly acknowledging her reminder as if I knew it all along, she joked that we may be celebrating by eating fancy steak dinners in our car served from the curbside delivery that area restaurants are starting to offer – especially since they are closing their dining areas and only offering to-go orders. And then it hit me – we can’t celebrate like we really want to.

There are so many occasions, celebrations, and events that people have planned – that you have probably planned – that now we can’t go through with or do the way we originally wanted. Birthday parties, special trips, anniversaries, graduations, religious services, kids’ sports events – even enjoying the professional and college basketball seasons – all put on hold, canceled, changed.

I get it. In addition to our wedding anniversary, we’ve canceled our original plans for one daughter’s birthday party, a special trip to New York for me and our other daughter, a trip to Denver for my wife, and most of my daughter’s track meets for the season. It stinks. And it makes us sad, and maybe angry. Not to mention all the other emotions stirred up by the current circumstances. Maybe you’re feeling like you’re beginning to lose things – a sense of normalcy, the thrill of celebration, the expectancy of fun and new experiences. And all that time and energy (and possibly money) you’ve spent making plans. It’s disorienting. And it’s unfair.

When you lose something, you grieve. Right now, we’re grieving normalcy. We need to acknowledge that and call it what it is.

Among many other things, we are in a time of grief for plans that have gone down the drain. Let’s think about that for a moment. You’re grieving the loss of expectations and dreams of things you would be doing just like you’d grieve the death of a family member, or a pet, or the loss of a job.

Try not to think of grief as a single emotion like sadness or sorrow. Yes, it’s perfectly normal to have some strong feels when you know you can’t celebrate your child’s birthday like you were hoping. But it’s helpful to think of grief itself as a process that involves complex emotions. And contrary to what some may believe, grief is valuable and healthy. It reminds us of what we care about. Grief helps us come to terms with the loss we feel and the emotions that follow. Which is why it’s so important to talk – and give our family members the chance to talk – about what it is you’re grieving. Giving words to what you’re feeling about losing that trip or that party or that graduation ceremony is healing.

That being said – grief is not a place where we want to camp out. The grieving process should help us to move forward at a healthy pace. So what does moving forward look like for you as you grieve plans made and lost for these next few weeks?

Here are some ideas:

1. Don’t not celebrate.

(Ok, I know that was a double-negative.) On the contrary, replace the plans you had with something. Can’t go to the jump-park for your son’s birthday party with friends? Celebrate at home with the family and a Nerf gun war and serve some ice cream. Graduation ruined? Conduct your own graduation ceremony, complete with a “Pomp and Circumstance” processional, a commencement speech by a family member, the throwing of the cap and lots of pictures. Baseball games canceled? Two words: backyard kickball! Make the best of alternate plans with creativity and a shift in your attitude.

2. Be sure to take pictures and selfies of whatever you do.

Although the memories you expected to make aren’t happening, there will be a day you look back and remember this crazy time. Having the visuals of how your family persevered through this will provide strength for challenging times in the future. It’s a way of reinforcing the idea that “we came through that – and by golly, we even had some fun.”

3. Shift your focus from the plans you weren’t able to do and onto the people you are now with.

So you’re eating anniversary lobster from the front seat of your sedan rather than a candlelit restaurant table. Switch your attention to the person eating lobster in the passenger seat next to you, enjoy the moment and just have some great conversation. Don’t forget to wear your lobster bib.

4. Finally, have hope.

We know that times are uncertain, but I think it’s important to keep in the forefront of our minds that there is an “other side” to all this. Birthdays and anniversaries come around about once a year (from what I understand). The beach will be there after COVID-19 has run its course (I’m no doctor, but I do think it will run its course if we all do what we need to do and stay home). And let’s face it – we won’t have to watch professional bowling or darts on ESPN forever.

Share this hope with your family. You’re all grieving to some degree. Allow the grief process to move you forward, make memories, and focus on the ones you love rather than the plans that were lost.

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The past few days have been filled with change and upheaval for me and my family. In two days’ time, my husband and I drove 1600 miles in order to clean out our son’s dorm room prior to his campus shutting down. 

I remember when I first drove to campus to drop him off for orientation. It was so exciting. and I was greeted with a beautiful banner that said, “Welcome to Columbia.” But as we drove up Amsterdam Avenue for what may be the last time, I was hit with a stark contrast– no smiling people saying, “So glad to see you, Can we help get your things out of the car?” 

Instead, it was dark, isolated, and almost midnight, similar to how I was feeling on the inside. If I was honest, that was not how I imagined my final visit to Columbia would go. In my mind, our whole family would have traveled together to watch while my son’s name was called. 

I realize I am not alone in feeling this way. Many other graduates from all levels have had their graduation/commencement ceremonies postponed or even canceled. As family members who have supported them through the past 4 years, you, too, may be hoping for another outcome. 

The question for us now is, “How do we deal with the disappointment that we feel while also celebrating the accomplishments they have achieved?

Acknowledge your feelings. 

You may be angry. But if you look deeper, you may really be experiencing disappointment, sadness, or grieving the loss of a dream. Whatever you are feeling, let it come.  Bottling it up and/or acting like everything is normal (which it obviously isn’t) may only make things worse. It’s ok to talk about how you feel. Make sure to listen to how other family members and friends are feeling, too.

Celebrate anyway.

Because in today’s society, we have so few ceremonies that mark life’s transitions, find a way to commemorate the accomplishment – both now and later. If the school is providing some type of ceremony, think about participating even if it’s online. We are living in a different time now, so we have to be willing to change and adapt accordingly. But by all means, CELEBRATE!

Embrace the journey of the past and look forward to the future.

Whether you are graduating from high school, college, graduate school or technical school, you worked hard by studying. You made sacrifices of your time to be a successful student. Whether you’re the parent, guardian, friend or family member, you also sacrificed money and time to support them. No matter how exciting the graduations, formals, and other senior celebrations are, I am reminded that they mark the end of one phase of life while simultaneously signaling the beginning of another. It’s important to look back, learn from the past, and move toward the future. Know that everything has led you to this point in your life. 

I’m still hopeful that my son’s university will hold commencement exercises, and if they do, you can bet I will be there. (I mean, we earned it, you know!) In all seriousness, I’ve been in my feelings since I found out that what I expected to happen was not going to happen the way I thought it would happen. Some things are out of my control, but I’m trying to accept the things I can’t control, have the courage to change the things that I can, and have the wisdom to know the difference. I’m hopeful we can all find ways to make the most of a situation we never dreamed we would face.

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What are your goals for this holiday season? If you want to provide a time and place where people can relax, celebrate relationships, laugh, count their blessings, play, and help create warm memories, you may want to rethink how you’ve always done things and change things up a bit. As the old saying goes, simple is better… and it’s often a lot more fun for everyone involved. These ideas can help you celebrate with more focus and less fuss. 

  • Make a list of everything you plan to do. Divide it between must-do, would like to do and not really necessary. 

  • See what you can mark off your list. For example, maybe you won’t send holiday cards this year. Instead of throwing a holiday party now, put it off until July. 

  • Let each family member choose a few of their favorite decorations to put out and leave the rest in the closet. 

  • Participate in alternative gift-giving. Tell everybody that all gifts have to be homemade this year. Challenge your children to be creative and let them do it themselves.

  • Donate to the favorite charity of a family member or friend in their honor instead of spending hours at the mall purchasing a gift they don’t really need or want. 

  • Ask family members to bring a favorite dish to the family gathering instead of doing it all yourself. 

The key to feeling good about the way you spend your time and money during the holidays is to make a plan and stick to it. It is important to involve your family in the process, so share your goals with them and discuss ways you would like to simplify. Encourage them to find creative ways to celebrate. Then work your plan together.

Click here to read the entire article, which was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on November 25, 2018.

Do you remember the date of your wedding anniversary? If you didn’t cheat and look at the engraved date on your wedding band, give yourself some points.

How many years have you been married? If you had to think to figure it out, take away some points.

How did you celebrate your last anniversary? Did you remember without having to ask your spouse what you did?

If the answer is yes, give yourself a few more points. Add some points to your total if you did something fun as a couple. 

If you let it slide by with no real celebration because you didn’t have time or were too tired, take away a few points. 

If you completely forgot your wedding anniversary, you just lost ALL your points.

Couples marry and even a year or two into their marriage they are still planning crazy fun adventures to celebrate their love. But after a few years, things begin to settle down. Children come along and creativity often flies out the window. Who has time or even feels like planning to celebrate a silly anniversary?

We do a great job of celebrating birthdays and holidays, but lots of couples let their wedding anniversary slide by. Think about it – how many wedding anniversaries do you recall celebrating?

Birthdays and holidays are certainly things to celebrate. But, considering how much time, effort and energy it takes to make a marriage really hum, wedding anniversaries are cause for celebration. If your marriage faced exceptional challenges during the year, some anniversaries might deserve a huge celebration to acknowledge making it through the tough times.

When life is coming at you full speed ahead, you can easily take your marriage for granted. But doing this over the years is like watching a sinkhole form. Erosion is taking place underneath the surface. And while there may be a few signs things aren’t right, it may not appear to be anything major until the whole thing caves in and people are shocked.

Don’t take your marriage for granted. It’s up to both people in the marriage to intentionally make every anniversary something you won’t forget. Every time you make it another year, celebrate what you have and dream about your future together.

Whether your anniversary is this weekend or nine months from now, take the time to make it special. It doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Re-create your first date, plan a romantic evening, write a love letter to your spouse or plan a surprise getaway. Do married well!

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

It isn’t unusual for people to make time to attend training to increase their job productivity, improve their golf swing or even enhance their cooking or gardening skills, but when was the last time you took time away to work on your marriage relationship?

Imagine getting away for a week with your spouse and a few other couples with no worries about what time it is or who needs to be at what practice. No kids yelling, “Mommy” or bosses calling. No cell phones, computers, or television and no clue about the news of the day. In fact, you really have no need to know what day it is or what your next meal will be. The focus of the week is just to enjoy each other’s company and to spend time with your mate.

If you feel totally disconnected from your spouse, this could sound like torture or a total impossibility. Additionally, the thought of leaving technology behind can send chills up the spine. For others, this seems like something that would only happen in their dreams.

One group of couples took some friends up on the challenge of getting away for a week – on a sailboat. They were a bit apprehensive about how things would go but by day two, they loved not having a clue about what time it was, and it really didn’t matter.

At one point the couples were chatting after dinner. It was dark and people were yawning so everybody decided it must be very late. When they discovered it was only 8:30, everybody got a good laugh. A thoughtful discussion followed about how hard we live life and yet often forget to nurture the things that matter most to us because we are just too busy, stressed, selfish or just plain worn out.

Throughout the week people napped, read books, chatted about their children and other things that were just silly. They also soaked in the sun, played in the water, ate together and spent time learning from each another.

Here are a few lessons they learned while on the boat:

  • It’s good to get away. We think we can’t afford to take the time, but we really can’t afford not to take the time.
  • Play is a good thing. Laughter and playing hard rejuvenates the soul and relationships.
  • Fasting from technology and the news of the day can be a very good thing. Spending time away from it made them realize how much time can be wasted just sitting in front of the television or answering emails instead of focusing on their spouse and family.
  • The kids can survive without parents for a few days. Time away from the kids can be a beautiful thing for everyone!
  • You don’t have to spend a ton of money on a fancy vacation to reconnect with your spouse. Camping, sailing or even staying at home while the kids visit the grandparents will work.

At the end of the week no one was disappointed in their adventure. In fact, spouses felt closer to each other and re-energized.

Consider how you can reconnect with your spouse and be intentional about making it happen.

 ***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Christie and Jim celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday with both of their families. Just before the meal, Jim began to tell Christie how thankful he was for her and what he appreciated about her. A bit embarrassed, she asked him if he realized he was talking to her in front of their entire family. With a smile on his face, he responded, “Yes.”

After a few more moments of sharing, Jim asked Christie to marry him. She said yes, and everyone applauded.

According to WeddingWire, almost 33 percent of marriage proposals occur between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.

“There is something special about celebrating the big moment with family and friends who are gathered together during this special time,” says Dr. Greg Smalley, co-author of Before You Plan Your Wedding…Plan Your Marriage. “However, the memories of the ‘moment’ are often shoved to the backseat as many of these couples hurriedly launch into planning for a June wedding. Since they only have six months to get ready, they spend all their time planning for the ‘day’ instead of doing things that will help them stay married for a lifetime.”

Smalley contends that many couples mistakenly think they have all the answers for marital bliss. Then they find out they were wrong.

“We see so many couples who clearly want to have successful marriages,” Smalley says. “The good news is most of them can be successful as long as they get the right knowledge and skills. Research shows that couples who succeed gain the knowledge they need before they settle into destructive patterns that often lead to divorce.”

According to Dr. David Olson, studies indicate that 80 percent of couples who participate in premarital preparation report higher marital satisfaction. Additionally, studies show that couples who participate in premarital preparation are 31 percent less likely to divorce.

“Most newlywed couples are clueless that they are getting ready to face enormous adjustments like managing expectations, dealing with disagreement and disappointment, household issues, financial decisions, intimacy in their relationship, in-laws, how to spend free time, personality differences, re-orienting old friendships and more,” Smalley says. “The key to successfully navigating these adjustments is: A) attacking the problem and not each other, and B) feeling emotionally safe with your spouse.”

People who feel emotionally safe in their marriage are much more likely to reveal their deepest thoughts, feelings and desires because they know their partner will still love, accept and value them. When couples can share at this level, they’re much more likely to get to the heart of issues and work through them. Interestingly, communicating at this level actually increases marital intimacy. Couples learn these skills through premarital preparation.

“You can have a ‘perfect’ wedding day and a safe marriage relationship. It just takes some additional effort,” Smalley shares. “Building a safe relationship is key to a strong foundation for your marriage. Ideally, your marriage should feel like the safest place on earth.”

Are you planning for the day, or are you planning for a lifetime?

For more information on becoming a Newlywed, get our E-Book: “10 Things Every Newlywed Needs to Know” Download Here 

As Christmas approaches, some eagerly anticipate celebrating in the same way they always have. Others are ready to shake things up a bit and do something a little different.

The thought of buying presents for all of their children and grandchildren overwhelmed Terri and Bill, especially when nobody really needed anything. After several conversations about what to do, they finally decided to give their family a special gift of time and togetherness. They started planning mystery destination trips.

When the time came, they told their family what kind of clothes to pack. Then on the morning of departure, everybody learned where they were headed together. Sometimes they took a trip to the mountains for a weekend, and other years they did something more elaborate. These experiences helped create memories that will last far longer than many of the gifts they had given in the past.

If you’re ready to add some variety to your festivities, here are some things you might try:

  • Expand your knowledge and your palate. Some families like to learn how other cultures celebrate the holidays. Consider letting your children choose a country and create your Christmas celebration around those customs and traditions. You can even change up your usual dinner menu to include traditional dishes from that country. As a bonus, you might even get extra help from the kids in the kitchen.

  • Play games. How about starting a tradition of giving your family a new game that everybody plays for the first time at your Christmas gathering? Speak Out, Heads Up!, Apples to Apples, Family Feud and Catch Phrase are likely to create lively conversations without the drama.

  • Go offline. Maybe you could ditch the technology and ask everybody to come prepared to share a talent or a hobby as you gather together.

  • Be more active. Resurrect the annual family football game. There’s nothing like some healthy competition to work off the big meal and make room for the next. If you can’t do football, sack races, three-legged relays, a scavenger hunt or a hike will fill the bill!

  • Share family history. Many younger family members don’t know much about their family history, and the holidays are a great time to learn about it. Try having your guests bring a baby picture, then shuffle them up and guess who belongs with each photo. As you connect the pictures to each family member, that person can share a little-known fact about their family history.

  • Create together. Have a gingerbread house building competition. Purchase kits, but have some additional candies and supplies on hand. Divide up into teams and set a time limit for the creations. Then, designate a judge and let the fun begin!

  • Treat yourself (and someone else). If you don’t enjoy cooking the Christmas meal, eat out for a change! When going out though, remember that employees are working on a holiday instead of being with their own families. You might even show extra Christmas spirit and bless the wait staff with a large tip.

Finally, as you make plans, don’t forget those who work on Christmas Day. Some people are alone for the holidays, too. If you don’t celebrate with family, consider taking homemade breakfast or Christmas dinner to first responders. You might even take food to a hospital waiting room or to someone who can’t leave their home. Or, you can really brighten someone’s day by inviting them to celebrate with you, especially if you know they are lonely.

Have a wonderful holiday season!

When our daughter graduated from high school a few years ago, I asked a number of people in her life to write her a letter to congratulate her on this accomplishment. I asked them to include words of wisdom as she moved into her next phase of life.

I made a scrapbook with the letters and gave it to her as she headed off to college. In my mind, the purpose of the scrapbook was two-fold. In those moments when she struggled during this next phase, we wanted her to remember what she had already accomplished. We also wanted her to remember she was not walking the road alone; that she has lot of people in her court who believe in her.

Unquestionably, every day is a gift. However, certain days mark significant moments in our lives. Whether it’s a fifth grade, high school or college graduation, celebrate each milestone. Each of these moments in life marks a time of accomplishment and of moving forward to the next thing.

Author and speaker John Stahl-Wert says it is important to celebrate milestones for five reasons:

  • As humans we are called to grow. “Becoming more” is essential. We suffer when we don’t grow. Every milestone deserves notice. It is affirmation of an accomplishment.

  • Growth is nourished by encouragement. Celebrate even the small steps because “small is where big comes from.” We guide others toward bigness through encouragement.

  • Acknowledging milestones gives us the opportunity to reflect on where we have been, where we are now and what we can learn from this part of the journey. Our growing and achieving is for the greater purpose of our service to the world. Achievement, in and of itself, doesn’t fulfill, and without reflection, we are trapped by an insatiable avarice to fill a bottomless hole.

  • Nothing locks in learning like a party. It signifies that the accomplishment really matters.

  • Celebrating milestones reminds us to give thanks for everyday moments. When we pause to celebrate something that is noteworthy, the act of slowing down invites us to notice everything else.

It’s been several years since our daughter graduated from high school. Little did we know how impactful that scrapbook would be. It sits on her coffee table and when the going gets tough, it reminds her that people believe in her and that she has what it takes to keep on keeping on.

In a world where it seems like it’s all about the “big wins,” it might be helpful to remember that there is no such thing as a small victory or a wasted loss. Each experience helps prepare us for what lies ahead, so celebrate!

This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on May 28, 2017.