Hope Reflected

Encouragement and Hope from God's Word

lists Archive



November 2014

Hope, She Wrote: How to Create Traditions and Make Memories

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Christmas season comes and goes so quickly each year that it can be hard to embrace the spirit of the season. In my November 19th column for The Minto Express, I share five ways to prepare your heart for the holidays.

Every year about this time, I find myself getting sentimental and feeling somewhat melancholic for days of yore. Maybe it’s all the Christmas decorations going up, or the first snowflakes falling, or the traditions that surface so faithfully year after year. Whatever the reason, these are times when I find myself reminiscing and wanting to make memories.

It seems these days that we’re so caught up in the commercialization of the Christmas season that we’ve lost sight of the true meaning of Christmas. In fact, it’s no longer politically correct to even say “Merry Christmas”. What is that?! Big box stores haul out the holiday goods right after Hallowe’en and somewhere between November 1st and December 25th society seems to miss the whole point of the season. Anyone else miss the days when we valued tradition, remembered our foundations, and celebrated our roots? Thought so.

While Christmas day may still be more than one month away, now is a great time to start preparing our hearts for this memorable time of year. Christmas is a time where we celebrate the greatest gift ever, and with that in mind, here are some suggestions for getting in the giving spirit (and maybe creating some new traditions along the way!):

  1. Support a local community cause. This doesn’t have to mean giving money; it could mean serving in a community kitchen to those less fortunate, donating non-perishable food items to your local food bank, or taking an hour or two to spend some time with a house-bound friend or aging relative.
  2. Start a gratitude list. In 2013, a friend of mine took time each day to write down one positive thing that happened in her life every day for most of the year. Then, near the end of year, she sat down and reviewed all of the awesomeness in her positivity jar. Whether you keep track with notes in a jar or a journal, take inventory of the positive things in your life.
  3. Be a thoughtful giver. It’s not about how much money you spend or who gives the coolest gift. Get creative in your gift giving; share your talents, and think outside the box.
  4. Share traditions with loved ones. My brother and sister-in-law do this every year, inviting family to help them trim the tree. Decorating for the holidays becomes less of a “to-do task” and more of an opportunity to create memories. Whether you’re setting up a tree or singing carols, or even baking cookies, spend some time with those you love.
  5. Remember the real reason for the season. Whatever your ‘religious’ beliefs or practice (or maybe lack thereof) throughout the year, the fact is, Christmas is a time to celebrate the greatest gift ever. True story.

“Today’s innovation is tomorrow’s tradition.” [Lidia Bastianich] Try something today to help create meaningful memories and traditions for yourself, your family, and your friends!

Robertson, Hope. “Tradition.” Minto Express 19 November 2014: 9. Print.



October 2014

Hope, She Wrote: When It Comes to Comparison

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Comparison is not always a bad thing, but majority of the time, it’s just like Theodore Roosevelt wisely said: “Comparison is the thief of joy.” The sword of comparison is double-edged: Comparison can cause pride in our own lives, and on the flip-side, it can rob us of our contentment.

I’m not sure why it’s a big deal, but as several of my friends and I approach that momentous 30th birthday milestone, we’ve become very aware of time, accomplishments, and expectations in each of our lives. Perhaps it’s the fact that we’re no longer in our early twenties – we might feel like we are, but trust me, spend some time with those kids and it becomes glaringly obvious that we’re waaay past that stage of life –and we’re also not old and experienced enough to be without dreams and goals that we still want to achieve.

Reflection on one’s life has the tendency to tempt us to compare. It’s like there are certain expectations from society that when you turn thirty you’re supposed to have accomplished certain things in life – buying a house, getting married, having children, being established in your career path of choice, traveling the world – and if you aren’t doing these things, you’re not “normal” or “successful”. I beg to differ. Each of us was created unique, and we’re each here on Earth for a certain purpose. The timing for your life plan is different than mine, and we shouldn’t get caught up in comparison. Comparison is a bad habit that has several shortcomings.

Here are helpful things to remember when it comes to comparison:

  1. “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Teddy Roosevelt was right about that. Comparison actually causes resentment and jealousy, it can even cause pride – all traits that we should avoid. Comparison puts the focus on circumstances over which you have no control, and steals energy that you could be putting into being your best self.
  2. When you find yourself tempted to compare, practice gratitude. Being thankful and practicing an attitude of gratitude has a way of bringing to light the blessings that we already have. It also promotes contentment. Practicing gratitude also has this awesome way of helping us demonstrate other fruits of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
  3. Instead of competing with others, get inspired. When we compare ourselves to others, there’s often the temptation to compete – “keeping up with the Joneses”, if you will. Instead of comparing and competing, get inspired. Learning from the life experiences of others can be very beneficial, and if you see positive traits in another person that you genuinely admire, let that prompt real positive change in your own life.

Don’t let the world define “normal” or “successful” for you – you are the only you there will ever be. You are a completely unique creation. That’s a pretty big deal. As Judy Garland said, “Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.” Rather than wasting time on comparisons, learn the mindset of being content.

Robertson, Hope. “The Dangers of Comparison.” Minto Express 08 October 2014: 5. Print.



August 2014

Hope, She Wrote: Who Are Your Influences?

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My latest column for The Minto Express focuses on the subject of influence. Over the past few weeks, I’ve had some really insightful conversations with friends and family about the impact and importance of positive influences — I’m so thankful to know some pretty stellar souls who consistently inspire and exhort others around them.

The late Jim Rohn once shared this theory that we are all the average of the five people we spend the most time with. The first time I heard that statement, I questioned it’s validity, since the majority of my time is spent in an office (with some pretty cool people, but still). The friends we choose and the company we keep can have a major impact on us.

The people we choose to surround ourselves with, – like it or not, – have an influence in our lives, whether that’s good or bad. That’s a scary thought. Surround yourself with negative thinkers and pessimistic people, and chances are their attitudes will wear on you. Comparatively, surround yourself with motivated, positive, and genuine people, and eventually this could have a positive impact on you.

Not to say that we each don’t have the ability to choose our attitudes; it’s just that sometimes, (oftentimes without even being aware) we can be influenced by attitudes that directly affect our behavior. And we all know the truth: “It’s easier for others to bring you down than it is for you to lift them up.” Look at the lifestyles of your closest friends – what are their habits and traits? Are those habits and traits also present in your own life, and if so, is that a good thing? See also, “A man is known by the company he keeps”.

So how do we make sure the right things (and people) are influencing us?

Positive relationships support positive behaviours. Surround yourself with people who encourage you and inspire you to become your best self, and not the reverse. Also remember the importance of honesty. There’s this thing that Pastor Rick Warren talks about, called “sharing the truth in love” (sometimes known in professional circles as “constructive criticism”). True friends don’t sugar-coat or avoid life’s serious subject matter. They’re real about the heavy things in life, and they try to help you through.

Remember your influence. True friends are hard to find, so when you find them, nurture those relationships. Relationships are not a one-way street; they require “relating”, people! So sure, you want to surround yourself with people who positively influence you, however it’s just as important to remember that to someone, you may be their major influence. Guard your actions, and like the golden rule says, remember to cultivate that as you’d want someone to do for you.

Be true to you. One of the scary things about influence is that it often goes unnoticed until it’s pretty deeply engrained. Always remain true to who you are. Don’t lower your expectations or standards just because the people around you may not share the same values. Also, don’t get sucked in by the notion of peer pressure. Be the creation you were made to be – each one of us has a unique purpose here on this Earth.

Robertson, Hope. “Who Are Your Influences?” Minto Express 13 August 2014: 5. Print.




March 2014

Hope, She Wrote: Some Habits Are Actually Good

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When we talk about habits, we tend to talk about bad habits. That being said, there are some really good habits we should all get in to and start practicing. I talk about five good habits in my Minto Express column this week.

Something I’m thankful for is having a core set of friends who share the same foundational beliefs, who challenge and exhort each other to live fully and count life’s blessings. Recently, some of us have been making a more conscious effort to really jumpstart our joy. And it’s working a little bit like exercise: When you have an accountability partner (or partners) who are into making effective, positive life changes, the changes are that much easier – and sometimes even fun – to implement.

Here are some habits that we should all develop and green light to positively impact our lives:

  1. Be yourself. Judy Garland once said something along the lines of always being your best self, otherwise you’ll end up being a second-rate version of someone else, and you’ll never amount to your most truly awesome potential. I’m totally paraphrasing, but this is huge – not trying to be different on purpose, just being you.
  2. Accept failures. Very difficult to put into practice. If I counted all the times I’ve failed or made a mistake… well, let’s not go there. The point is, accept your failures, correct your actions, and continue to try. As Winston Churchill said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.” Also, “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”
  3. Compete with yourself, not with others. The game of comparison and covetousness is a dangerous one. Learning to compete with myself and trying to be my best self every day is one way to avoid this. What’s the old adage, “The grass isn’t greener on the other side; it’s greenest where you water it.” So start watering.
  4. Be real. A friend of mine shared this awesome calendar entry with me last week, which referred to speaking the truth in love. Wow. There are some difficult topics to discuss in this life, and addressing them with authenticity is key. Sure, authenticity can be arduous (and sometimes even awkward), but a few minutes of awkwardness is better than a lifetime of avoidance (or some other equally lame alternative)
  5. Start living. Take it from the 14th Dalai Lama: “There are only two days in the year that nothing can be done. One is called yesterday, and the other is called tomorrow. So today is the right day to love, believe, do, and mostly live.” BAM. That about sums it up. Don’t put off to the morrow what you can do today. Sure, there are seasons when we have to practice patience, but always remember: Patience and procrastination are entirely different.

Wondering how to develop these positive habits and incorporate them into your life? One small step at a time, every day. “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle.

Robertson, Hope. “Some Habits Are Actually Good.” Minto Express 12 March 2014: 5. Print.