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Generous to a Fault: How I Get in the Way!



I tend not to cook on Sundays, or most other days for that matter! Preparing meals takes planning, creating a list, and getting groceries. Too often I get the groceries and am suddenly not in the mood for what I bought! Maybe because it would require cooking! Apparently though, I always have what I need to dish out advice . . . wanted or not!

One particular Sunday after church, our family headed to a favorite Chinese restaurant. While getting out of the car, I shared my thoughts with Alan regarding his choice of a parking space. A tilt of the head and sideways glance revealed his annoyance. Opening the door to the restaurant Alan said, “Maybe youcould find just the right table for us.” His sarcasm was stronger than the smell of soy sauce. Point taken . . . apology offered.

Following the meal, traditional fortune cookies were delivered along with our check. I cracked open the cookie, read the fortune, and oooohhh, I can’t wait for my turn to share! I am so excited about what is on my slip of paper! I am triumphantly saying to myself, “Yes, yes, I am!! How perfect!!! This is somy all-time favorite fortune cookie!”

My turn, my turn . . . “You are generous with your advice,”I proudly read aloud to Alan, Lynn, and Reily. Alan shakes his head, grins and says, “so that’s what they call it.” I do believe he had another term in mind.


I admit to possessing this special gift of verbal generosity.I also realize that this knack, in reality can become a flaw. I suppose it relates to my mouth . . . which operates at two times the speed of my brain. Thoughts and advice tend to roll out before fully cooked!


Even as words are spilling out, I’m thinking “what are you doing and why do you feel the need to say this?!” “I’m so sorry” gets old, both for me and to those on the receiving end!

Who knew a fortune cookie would lead me to self-reflection and growth?


I decided to make “holding my tongue” a spiritual practice. I am gradually learning to allow my brain extra time to process before I open my mouth. When I am able to hold back on my verbal generosity, space is created for discovery. As knowledgeable as I am, or think I am, wisdom is the real gift.

Advice can be the easy way out. Asking the right questions, exploring options, and sitting along-side allows a child, or anyone, to find their own answer. This certainly takes more patience than spouting off one’s own thoughts! (Speaking to myself here!) However, the benefits can prove fruitful.


The gift of who a person is already resides within them. The hardest path is giving a child the space to make choices, to explore, to fail, to grow at their own pace, and to claim their inner voice, the divine spirit that is within them.


I have come to trust my “inner voice,” my personal way of knowing. Don’t I want that for Lynn and Reily?

The parables of Jesus, the Buddhist suttas, and the Toa Te Ching are among the many writings that encourage self-reflection, seeking wisdom, and learning one’s place in the larger community of creation. Each lead to a life of compassion for self and others.


Lynn was eleven when we attended a program that included the Memphis Symphony Orchestra and the Rhodes Mastersingers. On our drive home I heard Lynn in the backseat softly crying. I asked, “Did something upsetting happened at school today.” Her reply was simply, “No, mom. It’s the music.” Wow! Just wow!

Her soul was deeply moved (and a career of orchestral conducting chosen) by hearing St. Paul Oratorio, by Felix Mendelssohn. This. Was. So. important. The only thing I felt move during those two hours were my eyelids!

A conversation ensued, wondering if music may be an avenue in which she experiences the Spirit and connects to others in a deeper way. When Lynn hears a symphony, she hears each element and each instrument’s contribution, and at the same time, experiences a oneness. We all experience that through different places and spaces.

It is humbling, difficult, and beautiful to be beside someone as they discover their own way of knowing. This knowing is “one’s personal truth revealed.” It may as simple as “this place does not feel comfortable to me.” One can listen and honor that knowing. Later one can examine why. But in the moment, trust that and take whatever action feels best.

This process of discovery can lead a person to their true, authentic self. I worked with a woman who was living sober for the first time since her teenage years. She revealed, “I don’t even know what music I like or what I think is funny. I have just gone along with others for so long.” What a gift just to recognize this. It was with both fear and bravery that she began a journey of self-discovery.

God, the Universal Spirit, the Creator, (add your own name for your Higher Power) seems essential in this adventure of ongoing discovery.


Depression and anxiety can make it more difficult to discover, hear, and finally trust that inner voice, again, the divine within. This is where my verbal generosity practices are really tested. Everything just seems to take longer for Reily. Coming to decisions, seeing things clearly, and the “what ifs” that overwhelm make it appear as it if she is moving in slow motion. I’m thinkingI know the answers!” Then I remind myself, they are my answers, not hers.


Have you ever told someone something and they “kind of” acknowledge it or just pretend they heard you? Then a week, a month, or a year later they come up and are so excited to share that exact same piece of information with you?

They read or hear it from somewhere or someone else. You’re like, “I already told you that! Why didn’t you hear me? Why did you need to hear it from someone/where else?” I’m guessing it is because a person can only be where they are. One can only absorb what one is ready to absorb or take in.

I can no more force my truths into Reily than I can my thighs into a pair of skinny jeans!

I’ve experienced this reality both in the store, and with Reily as she shrugged off suggestions of therapy. Or worse on my part, when I made therapy appointments that I knew she needed. If she went, they were unproductive. She hadn’t claimed the need or the ownership of the sessions.

Over time, Reily has recognizes what her needs are and searches a way to better meet them. She begins to take action. If and when Reily asks for our help it is her initiation. Her struggles are grasped byher personal insights. Not by me force feeding her!


Offering the gift self-discovery is one of the hardest things I try to do as a parent. I get tired of clenching my jaws to keep from speaking. To remedy this, I created an imaginary holding space. This space is two hands cupped together making a bowl. The “bowl” holds and keeps my thoughts safe until I can decide what to do with them.

Most often I float them away giving them gently to God. I imagine them wafting away into nothingness or sometimes being transformed into beautiful, positive energy. It is a form of prayer. I am not praying that God will send these messages to Lynn or Reily. I am simply releasing thoughts that weigh me down, keep me from living in the present, and create a false reality.

I rejoice, as bit by bit, Lynn and Reily claim their inner voice; as they come to know the unique way that they hear God's voice, the Spirit’s inspiration, God whispers, etc.

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