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Brenda Levos Consulting & Design

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Of Thanksgiving & Hope

I am up early this Thanksgiving morning, reminiscing with prayers of blessings for all those who have impacted our lives. For it was on this day 18 years ago I, unexpectedly became a mother. Fighting for my own life, it was the day before Thanksgiving, and it was a day of HELLP & Hope.

Thankful for all of the doctors and nurses who sprung to action, who continued to care for both of us for the coming weeks and months. For friends, family, our faith and local community who came together to help us in a time of need. But, this Thanksgiving, more than ever, I am thankful, for Hope.

When you become a parent, you are consumed with all that you must teach your children, to care for them and help them grow into thoughtful and productive members of society. This morning, it isn't about what we have taught her, but what she has taught us throughout the past 18 years that I am thankful.

Believing in God, means believing in His timing. In the past 18 years, I have come to know and trust in Gods greater plan in my life. I have stubbornly pushed, trying to force things into my timeline, my schedule. In those times when I have trusted in the greater plan, trusted that the people in my life are there for a reason, that obstacles are there to teach me, it is in those times when I experienced the greatest growth. Growth that has made me who I am today. Your feet know the path, trust them and you will not fall.

Patience & presence. Growth happens over time, learning happens over time, have patience and be present in those times. Having a 15.6 ounce baby in the hospital for months on end gives you an ample amount of one thing, time. Savor every day, every breath, celebrate every accomplishment of growth. The outside world will distract you, but never lose sight that this is your life, show up for it.

Love & Compassion. Throughout the years, we have experienced plenty of ups and downs. Hope has a wonderful way of believing the best in people. She truly wants the best for others, secretly cheers them on in their successes. Remaining optimistic when I might have become cynical, freely granting forgiveness when I struggle to find it in my own heart. She is truly resilient, loving and compassionate and that perhaps has been the greatest lesson. Above all things, love.

Work hard & never give up. Things haven't always come easy, but the one thing we have heard repeatedly, Hope works hard. She works hard, but never really makes it seem like work. She is the one quietly grabbing the garbage and taking it out when it needs, picking something up, reminding me of groceries or just stopping to grab them on her way home without being asked. Quietly studying for hours on end, shooting baskets, or mastering a new word puzzle, she wants to do things better each day when many would roll into coast mode. Never, ever, ever give up.

Be You. When Hope was still just a baby, doctors told us she would never run and play like other kids, never go to a regular school, never a lot of things. At each turn, proving them wrong. At one point I asked her pediatrician if she would be able to do something and his response was, "Every time I try to make a prediction, she proves me wrong. When the books tell me she can't, she does. There is not a book that gets it right, that girl writes her own book." People will tell you that you can't, but remember YOU write your own book.

Trust in your own knowing. Hope has always had a strong knowing of what is right and wrong. A desire to understand the rules, to follow them and encourage others to do the same. A stubbornness for equality, a knowing of her own path, and a trust of her intuition. A strong internal compass guides her, reminding us to, do what is in your heart and all else will follow.

Smile. I came a cross a quote that reminds me of Hope, "Don't let someone dim your light, simply because it is shining in their eyes." In the face so many ups and downs, one thing has been constant, her smile. She keeps a positive attitude, and when so many are cynical, finds reason to smile. Be happy, truly happy.

Thank you, my dear Hope, for letting me walk this path with you, and for all you have taught me along the way! Here is to the many adventures that are yet to come. Happy Birthday!



Starting to Listen, really listen...

Like so many people around the nation and the world, I wrestle with trying to get my head around what could possibly compel someone to open fire on a classroom full of innocent teachers and children. My heart aches for their families.

As I sat waiting to pick up my daughters from school, I witnessed a young boy, about the age of those slain in Connecticut, racing with excitement into the arms his waiting parent. I remembered those days when my girls bounded toward me with open arms and bursting with love and excitement to share the adventures of their day with me. I thought of those parents who will never again feel the sweet exuberant embrace of their child in this world. It nearly brought me to tears.

As we await details of the investigation, praying for some sort of answers, in our hearts we know that no explanation could possibly ever really suffice. Yet, we can't help but hang on every word, even speculation, of what happened and why. Why?

Moving to blame, we search for solutions outside of ourselves. Do we need to regulate guns? Arm teachers? Provide access to better mental health care? Grasping for answers, we feel like something must change so that these children have not died in vain. There are no quick answers, and no answers that will bring those killed back to their families.

How do we move forward? I believe we start by learning to be better listeners. As we scurry through life, from one "should" to the next, we ask our children how their day was, but are we truly actively listening? Do we stand at the ready to advocate on their behalf, or the behalf of another child? Or do we turn a blind eye to bullying, abuse or need for medical intervention? Telling ourselves "kids will be kids" and they will get over it?

I am reminded of a quote that I often paraphrase for my girls:

“Hurt people hurt people ... People hurt others as a result of their own inner strife and pain. Avoid the reactive response of believeing they are bad; they already think so and are acting that way. They aren't bad; they are damaged and they deserve compassion. Note that compassion is an internal process, an understanding of the painful and troubled road trod by another.” ― Will Bowen

I have to believe that the shooter had to have been severely broken, yet that brokenness will never, never justify his actions, and compassion something that only time could possibly grant. But, the whole situation can serve as a reminder, to listen, really listen.

Listen to what seem to be trivial complaints, for in the world of a young person, without the perspective of years of life experience, they often seem paramount.

Listen to tales of misunderstandings, of bullying, and injustices and try to help them make sense of it all. Do we give them perspective, help them to try to find the compassion to grant forgiveness to others and move forward, even when we struggle with that ourselves.

Listen to them as make their own decisions, discover true friendships, and choose to walk away from situations or people who do not lift them up.

Listen to that little voice inside, telling you that a child needs someone to talk to, an encouraging word, a prayer or someone to step up and advocate for them.

Listen to their eyes when they don't echo what is pouring from their mouths.

For I believe that until we choose to Listen to the whispers of those who are hurting and in need of help, those whispers will grow louder and louder until the crescendo can, once again, no longer be ignored.

We are already hearing the shouts of so many proclaiming what/who is to blame and how they can fix it. But, are we asking the tough questions, the ones only a listener can ask? Have we opened our ears and our hearts in preparation for some potentially tough answers?

Are we Listening as though the lives of our children depend on it?