Authenticity means erasing the gap between what you firmly believe inside and what you reveal to the outside world. ~ Adam Grant

Being you, in an authentic manner, can be difficult when your world has been overturned.  When we are first in grief, our brains are overloaded, we stumble around in what has been described as “grief fog.” It is my prayer that, as you begin to develop the discipline of gratitude, being thankful for all your loved one has been to you and moving on to expressing thankfulness for good things that are happening in your life now, you’ve begun to be resilient, overcoming adversity.  This is a process that takes a bit of time.  Maybe you’ve thought about the roles you had in your loved one’s life, roles that are no longer relevant.  You’ve thought about who you are now, the priorities you now have, and the roles you now have.  There is one more step.

To consider who you will be in the future, and what roles you will fill in the future is the crux of authenticity.  You must clearly define what values are important to you, the values you desire to inculcate into the very fabric of your being.  So, how do you even begin?

This is what I did: First, I considered what things did I do that energized me, that made me feel as if I had a purpose, that didn’t drain me mentally or physically.  I love teaching and mentoring, especially when this teaching and mentoring is related to the Bible.  I find I’m invigorated when I encourage people, sharing my stories of overcoming and even thriving after adversity.  I’ve always been a curious person.  I’m the perpetual two-year-old, always asking, “Why?”  Research and learning are a way of life for me. My learning does not stop with facts.  I’m compelled to figure out how this new knowledge can be applied to my life and the life of others.  If I were to list my guiding values, they would look something like this: God; Curiosity; Investigation/Research; Relationships; Teaching/Mentoring.  That is the general order of priority in my life. 

As opportunities come up to be involved in a project, I go through this list of values.  If it doesn’t fit into any of those five categories, the chances are very slim that I’ll participate.  But if the opportunity fits in with those five categories, my question is, “Do I have the time and the resources?”  If an opportunity fits in with two or three of the categories, I think long and hard.  Sometimes the answer is yes, sometimes the answer is no. 

It is in defining my values and structuring most of my daily activities around those values that I live a life of authenticity and purpose. Of course, I still must make the bed, tidy the house, and do the dishes and laundry. But most of my life revolves around these five core values. 

How would you go about developing a list of a handful of the values that define you or you want to define you?  For me, this was where Google came in very useful.  You can google various lists: “personal values list” will give you about two million links instantaneously.

Or better, order Success On Purpose which has entire exercises to help you decide what you value most in life.

The reality of it is that you are spending the only life you have to live… you need to make sure you are investing your time and talent in those things that have maximum value to you.

The TWO Great Tragedies In Life…

It has been said that the two great tragedies in life are these: Not knowing your purpose—not knowing why you are here on Earth… and once you know your purpose—not LIVING it with passion and dedication… every single day you are alive.

Pastor Rick Warren, in his thought-provoking book, The Purpose-Driven Life, posed the question of the ages…

“What on Earth Am I Here For?”

However, once you know the answer to this question—once you understand the Divine reason for your existence—there’s an even bigger question to be answered…

“How in the world am I going to make this happen?!”

Just HOW can I live a life of passion and purpose? What, exactly, am I expected to do? How can I transform my life’s purpose into an unstoppable mission… and ultimately achieve the success I desire, personally and professionally?

Now the challenge: are you willing to take a bit of time and think about what values define you, what values you want to define you?  This is a huge step in going forward in personal authenticity, the place where your values and actions line up.

In the end, Authenticity is the critical Archstone in your bridge of Grace. You must find a way to become the person you are meant to be. Especially when you are moving from loss to the new you you must become.

God Bless,

Written by Cindy Bratton

Most people are never blessed to the degree that I have been. I’m a retired educator and a retired missionary now embarking on my third career: CEF (Chief Encouragement Officer) of the Live With Grace Initiative. You might ask, “A third career?” However, my question is, “How could I not?” Here’s a little of my story: On September 7, 2017, my husband, Dana, was diagnosed with Fronto-Temporal Dementia (think Bruce Willis). By the middle of 2018, I fully realized what this diagnosis meant – all dementia is terminal, and FTD is no exception. The illness can progress at various rates; seven years after diagnosis is the average life expectancy for FTD. I had to learn how to be an excellent caregiver. Over the course of the next 34 months, I would slowly lose my best friend, my lover, my ministry partner, and my “partner in crime.” 16 months after Dana’s diagnosis, I experienced my second significant loss. On December 31, 2018, our youngest son took his own life. This was a total shock to everyone. The grief was almost unbearable. By January 24, 2019, Dana began a series of hospitalizations due to the rapid progress of FTD, largely attributable to his rightful emotional response to our son’s death. In the spring of 2019, I began having several rounds of excruciating pain, which my Primary Care Physician (PCP) brushed off. However, to shut me up, he ordered blood testing which showed my Rheumatoid Factor nearly 34 times what is considered normal. By early December I was diagnosed with moderately severe Rheumatoid Disease (sometimes called Rheumatoid Arthritis). So, yet another loss in my life: this time it was my own health. Three losses in 27 months. By some miracle, my husband was discharged from long-term care on March 9, 2020, just days before everything shut down due to COVID-19. Yes, he was wheelchair-bound and needed 24/7/365 care, but he could make his own transfers from bed to wheelchair, to chair, to shower, and back again. On June 28th of that year, things had opened up a bit and we celebrated our 45th anniversary by renewing our vows at church. On July 9, 2020, Home Health came for their regular visit. Dana’s O2 Sat. was 78%, and it couldn’t be raised with deep breathing. The nurse got us an immediate appointment with his PCP. I was instructed to call the office when we got into the parking lot to confirm the office was empty, just in case Dana had COVID-19. The doctor was unable to get his O2 up with his resources and said he had to go to the Emergency Room. “OK,” I said, “I’ll take him there.” The doctor said he needed to be transported via ambulance, and the ambulance was called. Our hugs and kisses before Dana was loaded into the ambulance gave the EMTs great concern. Little did I know those would be the last hugs and kisses we would ever share. He got to the ER about 11:30 a.m.; at about 1:30 p.m. I got the call confirming the diagnosis of COVID-19. 13 days later his organs would completely shut down, I gave permission for him to have the ventilator removed, and he was gone. This was my fourth major loss within 34 months. In the prologue to the second edition of Grieve With Grace, Pastor Lee Strawhun speaks of grief upon grief, of compound grief. This is exactly what I had experienced in 34 short months: The loss of my husband’s health to FTD; the loss of our son’s life to suicide; the loss of my good health to degenerative Rheumatoid Disease; and the loss of my husband’s life to COVID-19. After my husband passed from FTD, which COVID-19 hastened, I found myself in the position of being able and desiring to facilitate my church’s grief recovery ministry. It was in that grief recovery program that I met Eric. He attended the support group after the death of his beloved Jan, and at one point gave me an early copy of Grieve With Grace long before it went into print. My reaction upon reading it was, “Wow! How did you take the way I processed my grief and so expertly turn it into an acronym?” The acronym of GRACE encompasses Gratitude, Resilience, Authenticity, Creativity, and Empathy. We came to the same conclusions by slightly different paths and using slightly different descriptors, but the conclusions were the same. From that point on, we became collaborators on this project, Grieve with Grace. I immediately decided it could be a seven-week follow-up to our original thirteen-week recovery program which brought participants to a place of accepting their loss. An additional seven weeks so those who are grieving can begin to move forward, pursuing a life of meaning and purpose, thus honoring their loved ones. I envision a future where Grieve With Grace will be used by grief counselors to guide thousands – no, millions – into lives full of meaning and purpose as they step forward with Gratitude, Resilience, Authenticity, Creativity, and Empathy. I am honored to share my thoughts with you all and please remember, I am always just one click away:) Cindy



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