Appreciate the Music in Life

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Pharrell Williams

 

“Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth…”

This past summer, I started experiencing constant ringing in my right ear. As a hearing-impaired individual, I have suffered from this all of my life.  However, this time was different.  It didn’t stop.

Feeling frustrated, I went to see my primary care physician who told me that my ear was inflamed and prescribed some antibiotic drops for 10 days. He insisted I would be fine and the ringing would subside; it didn’t.

Two months later, I went to see an ENT who checked my ears and told me that I had wax build up in my right ear. I was told to continue to use the drops that the other doctor had prescribed for another ten days.  He was certain the ringing would go away; it didn’t.

In November of last year, I went back to my primary care physician, still frustrated. He checked my ear again and told me that there was nothing wrong.  However, he prescribed stronger antibiotic drops just to see if it would make a difference.  I was told to use the drops for another 10 days.  Eventually, he said, the ringing will go away; it didn’t.

A friend of mine recently referred me to another specialist and this week (Tuesday) was my appointment. After an extensive examination by the doctor, I was given a hearing test.  Although there is a myriad of reasons why someone would experience ringing in the ears (tinnitus), the most common cause is hearing loss.  Although I was hopeful and honestly didn’t think my hearing had worsened, I was wrong; it did.

This was certainly not the news that I was hoping for. Not only has my hearing declined, I will likely suffer from the constant ringing for the rest of my life.  Those of you out there who have ever experienced this, know how nerve-racking this can be.

What’s more, despite all the technological improvements over the years, the audiologist admitted she’s not sure how much hearing aids would help in my case but still recommended I try them. I suffer from nerve deafness in both ears as a result of being born with cerebral palsy.

The doctor met me in the examination room after the hearing test and when he walked in, I said, “Yes, I know I failed.” He looked at me sombrely and agreed that it was bad explaining that my loss was considered severe.

We went on to discuss my options but he explained that there is nothing that can be done about the ringing. “You have to think positive,” he noted.  “When you do, it will help you to not notice the ringing.”

I smiled back at him, “Funny you should say that. I’m teaching a course on positive thinking that starts next week.”

The doctor looked at me surprised, “Really? Well, then you won’t have any problem.”  We then shared a laugh. He was trying to make me feel better and I appreciated that very much. But to tell you the truth, when I left my appointment and got back to my car, I cried.  Yes, I was feeling sorry for myself.  I couldn’t help but wonder if my hearing would continue to decline and if I would someday lose my hearing all together.

We all have those moments and we are entitled to them. As I have explained countless times, being happy doesn’t mean being happy 100 percent of the time.  It’s just not possible.  We get angry.  We all feel sad.  We get upset.  Things happen.

The trick, however, is to still choose the positive despite the bad. Yesterday morning I came down to my office and started listening to “Happy” by Pharrell Williams.  As I listened to the song, I was crying, smiling, clapping and dancing to the beat all at the same time.  They were not sad, but happy tears.

Although I’ve listened to Pharrell’s song countless times before. It suddenly had profound meaning to me.  For it was at that very moment that I realized how truly blessed I am to be able to hear the music.  The music never sounded so beautiful!

Maybe my hearing has gotten worse but the fact is I can still hear. It may not be perfect.  There are many sounds that I’m not even aware of, however, I can still hear.  However imperfect my hearing may be, I can still hear my husband say I love you.  I can still hear my daughters call me, “Mom.”  I can still hear the contagious sound of laughter.  I am truly blessed.

How truly lucky I am to be able to appreciate Pharrell’s beautiful words:

It might seem crazy what I’m about to say

Sunshine she’s here, you can take a break

I’m a hot air balloon that could go to space

With the air, like I don’t care baby by the way

Because I’m happy Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof

Because I’m happy Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth

Because I’m happy Clap along if you know what happiness is to you

Because I’m happy

Clap along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do

Here come bad news talking this and that, yeah,

Well, give me all you got, and don’t hold it back, yeah,

Well, I should probably warn you I’ll be just fine, yeah,

No offense to you, don’t waste your time

Here’s why

Because I’m happy

Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof

Because I’m happy

Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth

Because I’m happy

Clap along if you know what happiness is to you

Because I’m happy

Clap along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do

 

As I listened to the song, it was like Pharrell was singing directly to my very soul. Thank you, Pharrell.  Yes, happiness is the truth.  How truly amazing the seemingly simple things in life can be when we take the time to appreciate them.

Pharrell - The Voice

Pharrell – The Voice

BEING HAPPY IS YOUR CHOICE

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“Happy is a perception that, honestly, if you really want it, you can control it.”

Pharrell Williams

What does happiness mean to you? Answering this question may be as intangible as actually achieving happiness.  If you ask 100 people; you’ll likely get 100 different answers.  And you might say there is no right or wrong answer.

As a motivational speaker, I have asked many people this question and I have received various responses like:

*“Happiness is having a roof over my head and food on the table.”

*“Spending time with my grandchildren.”

*“Achieving my goals in life.”

*“My family and friends.”

*”Making a lot of money.”

On the surface, there’s nothing wrong with these answers. However, when you set goals in order to achieve happiness, you will never get there.  Once you achieve your goal and find that you are no happier, you will just set another goal and continue what I call the “I’ll be happy when” scenario.  If you truly want happiness, you have to be happy while you are working to achieve those goals.  In other words, you have to be happy in the moment.

To me, happiness is being mindful and thankful of the present moment. If we are constantly pursuing happiness, we will miss opportunities to just appreciate the here and now. If you really think about it, all we really ever have is the present moment.  None of us have any idea what’s going to happen from one minute to the next.  The only thing we know for sure is that we have right now.  It’s the only thing in life that’s guaranteed.

The key, therefore, is not to wait until the next “thing” to be happy. If you wait for it, your wait will get longer and longer and you will ultimately end up frustrated and no happier than you were before.

Next week, I am excited to be teaching an online course for Edgar Cayce’s A.R.E. entitled, “Rediscovering Happiness: Train Your Mind to Think Positive.”  (For more information or to register for the course, please visit:  http://www.edgarcayce.org/are/egroups.aspx?id=1441. Add “Happy$99” in the comments section of the registration form to receive a special $99 rate for the entire four-week course).

The four-week class (March 25 to April 21) will be divided into four topics:

  1. Week One: Acceptance
  2. Week Two: Appreciation
  3. Week Three: Forgiveness
  4. Week Four: Action

Acceptance is the most crucial step in positive thinking. Unless we truly accept what is, we will never be able to appreciate it.  And unless we appreciate what is, we will never truly experience the moment.

A recent study found that people spend almost half their time (46.7%) thinking about something other than what they are really doing. They concluded that people were less happy when they were not focused on the moment.MakeUpYourMind (6)

Most of us go from one day to next without ever noticing the beauty around us. The reason is simple:  we can’t appreciate something without giving it our attention.  We are so focused on what happened in the past or what we think is going to happen in the future that we lose the now.

The Dalai Lama tells us that happiness is our life’s purpose. Why then do so many spend a lifetime missing the mark? Part of the reason is we rely on other things and people to make us happy.  We place the responsibility for our happiness in someone else’s hands or we play the blame game when things go wrong.  But the truth is the only person who can make you happy is you.

I know I’ve said this probably 100 times in my previous blogs but happiness is not determined by outside circumstances or things. You might think that a nice shiny, new car will make you happy but things don’t make you happy; they bring you pleasure.  There’s a difference.

Happiness comes from within and can only be experienced when you truly appreciate and understand the value of the present moment. Only then will you understand that you already have everything that you need to be happy.  Happiness is your choice; no matter what the circumstances.  It’s a state of being.

I can hear many of you out there now saying, “But I don’t have a job. My child is sick.  My husband cheated on me.  My best friend hurt me, etc.”  Yes, these things are tough.  But they don’t bring us unhappiness; we do by choosing our reaction.

My mother once told me about a friend of hers whose daughter was dying of cancer. (We’ll call her Kathy).  Kathy was a young mother of three.  Despite her condition, she insisted on getting on a plane to visit her parents in Florida and while there took a turn for the worse.

As a result, her trip to her parent’s house was to be her last and family and friends came to say their goodbyes. As my mother told me about this young mother, I was moved to tears.  Knowing that her time here on this earth was coming to an end, Kathy refused to waste one moment.  Instead she spent her last days with a smile on her face and was grateful for every second she spent with her family and friends.  She took the time to appreciate and value each moment.

“She always had a smile on her face,” my mother told me. “She always seemed happy up until the end.  And that’s how I will always remember seeing her…with a smile on her face.” Unfortunately, too many of us don’t appreciate the value of the moment until we don’t have it anymore.  We don’t understand what we had until it’s too late.

There is no fancy secret to happiness. Again, no matter what the circumstances, happiness is a state of mind always within reach.  You need only live it.

Mysterious Voice Was a Visit From Heaven

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Lynn Jennifer Groesbeck and her daughter, Lily.

Yesterday, people across the globe were talking about a young Utah woman who died in a car accident sometime Friday night.  Nothing unusual; unfortunately fatal collisions happen all the time.  However, this one was different.

The mother, Lynn Jennifer Groesbeck, was found dead in her car nearly 14 hours later upside down in frigid water. Her 18-month daughter Lily was found unconscious but alive strapped in her car seat.  The fact that the baby was found alive is nothing short of miraculous but the story doesn’t end there.

When emergency personnel arrived at the scene, they say they heard a distinct voice coming from the car. They all heard it and say it did not sound like a child’s voice.  In fact, they said they heard a distinct woman’s voice calling for help.  They even responded back telling the “woman” to hang in there and that they were coming.

However, when they finally managed to turn the car around and get to the woman, they were shocked to find that she was dead. How is this possible?  The media is calling this voice a mystery and unexplainable.  But is it really unexplainable?

This incident is what I refer to as a visit from heaven. These are metaphysical experiences that occur when someone is either contacted directly or indirectly through a third party by someone who is deceased.  I coined the term when writing my book, “Visits from Heaven,” which contains experiences from around the world.  All of the experiences in the book are backed up by some sort of proof.

To give you some background, I wrote the book after my husband’s former boss, Rich, who died in the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, came to me in a vivid dream. I had never met Rich or his family, yet I knew it was him.  Rich came to me with a message for his wife which was later validated.

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Josie Varga, Author of Visits from Heaven & Divine Visits

The entire story is told in my book but to explain it briefly, Rich wanted me to tell his wife that “Boston is OK.” I had no idea what this meant but I was convinced that what I had experienced was real and that I needed to get this message to her.  When I did, I found out that his wife had a brother in Boston and was considering moving there.  But because her home was purchased with her husband before his untimely death, she felt guilty about selling the house and moving.

The message, “Boston is OK,” now made perfect sense. His message was meant to let his wife know that she need not feel guilty about moving as it was alright with him.  I did not realize it at the time but this experience would ultimately lead me on a spiritual quest which would later result in my book, Visits from Heaven, and others.

Having explained this, many people have been asking about my opinion regarding the recent incident in Utah. My opinion is that what happened is not as mysterious or explainable as some might think.  As I have explained many times, our loved ones can and do help us from the Other Side.

My experience with Rich was life-changing and proved to me that communication with the Other Side is beyond a doubt very real. Yes, there is physical death as we don’t have our bodies anymore when we cross over.  However, we are alive in spirit, which is our true essence.  As the great mystic Edgar Cayce once said, “”Death in the physical is the birth in the spiritual. Birth in the physical is death in the spiritual.”  In other words, when we die, we go back to the spiritual.

Our deceased loved ones communicate in several ways. For example:

 1. Through vivid dreams. This is the most common form of contact as it is easier for our loved ones to communicate when we are in a relaxed state.

2. Telepathic communication. This means mind to mind communication. We may have a thought suddenly pop into our mind or we may hear a voice. This voice can be heard with our inner ear or outer ear.

As in the case with Groesbeck, the officers and fire fighters heard a voice seemingly coming from the vehicle (outer ear). However, often the voice appears to come from within (inner ear).

3. Physical: These signs occur in a variety of ways. We may witness lights or televisions flickering on and off. We may find pennies and see actual apparitions. Other physical signs include butterflies and dragonflies.

4. Touch and Sensation: We may sense a presence in the room or actually feel a touch.

5. Music: A song may come on a radio. For example, you are thinking of your deceased husband and ask for a sign. Suddenly, your wedding song comes on the radio.

6. Photographic: Often the spirit of our loved ones appear as orbs in photographs. (These orbs are also sometime seen with the naked eye).

7. Synchronicity: These are what many call “Godincidences.” You are thinking of a loved one and all of a sudden you notice that the car in front of you has a license plate with his name on it. Many times what seems like a coincidence is actually a visit from heaven.

8. Third Party Signs: These are signs from a third party, for example, a psychic medium, etc. My experience with Rich, for instance, was a third party sign.

9. Smell: You may smell the cologne that your deceased husband used or if your friend was a smoker, you may suddenly smell cigarettes.

10. Interventions: As in the case with Jennifer Groesbeck, our loved ones often intervene to help us here on Earth.

According to a report by ABC News Reporter Susanna Kim, Spanish Fork Police officer Lt. Matt Johnson said the police don’t believe the voice came from Groesbeck. The report also noted that Johnson told ABC News, “Due to the trauma she sustained, we suspect she was deceased upon impact. I don’t believe she survived the impact of the car crash. There was massive trauma.”

In other words, they don’t believe the voice could have come from Lily’s mother because she was deceased and that is “not” possible. Only it is possible. Our loved ones do and can communicate with us from beyond. My book, Visits from Heaven, and many other books contain validated accounts proving just that. I also have a popular group on Facebook (Visits from Heaven) in which thousands have shared their experiences.

Again, this event is not as unexplainable as some may think. This was a visit from heaven or afterlife communication in which a deceased mother was able to help her daughter.  When we die, we merely change form and are very much alive.  As Edgar Cayce once said, “Death is only passing through God’s other door.”

My heart-felt condolences go out to the family and friends of Lynn Jennifer Groesbeck. May they find comfort in the knowledge that love never dies.  In fact, nothing is stronger than love, not even death.

For more information about Josie Varga or to contact the author, please visit www.josievarga.com.

How I Hate Valentine’s Day…Let Me Count the Ways

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“I don’t understand why Cupid was chosen to represent Valentine’s Day. When I think about romance, the last thing on my mind is a short, chubby toddler coming at me with a weapon.” ~Author Unknown

I’ll probably get some heat from some people about this post but here it goes nevertheless. I hate Valentine’s Day. My problem is not with expressing how I feel to the people that I love.  I have no issues with that whatsoever.  My problem is I don’t think that I should be forced to do so on February 14.  And if you don’t think we’re forced, think again.

Valentine’s Day has been transformed into a commercialized spectacle of “I love you, I love you not.” It is a day of price-gouging as we get slammed by florists, jewelry stores, and greeting card companies.  (About 25 percent of all cards sent each year are valentines). They are certainly not complaining I’m sure they are enjoying every minute of it.  And let’s not forget the pre-fixed over-priced restaurant dinners.

Most of us already know how inflated this day is yet we still get right back in line to get ripped off. Why?  If you’re in a relationship, Valentine’s Day forces ridiculous standards as you run amok struggling to satisfy your loved one’s expectations.  If you’re a man, you’re hoping she’ll be satisfied with roses and a fancy dinner.  If you’re a woman and you have your period, the day is ruined.  You get the point.

And let’s not forget if you’re single it’s a horrible reminder that you don’t have someone. I’ve been there and it’s not a good feeling.  Valentine’s Day makes you want to call your ex and throw a pity party for yourself.

When I was in high school, students were able to buy carnations on Valentine’s Day. A red carnation meant love and pink or white meant friendship.  Those with no red flowers (including myself) felt loveless and those who didn’t receive a lot of pink or white felt unpopular. There was pressure on both sides of the equation and no happy medium.

There are many theories of how Valentine’s Day came into being so let’s focus on the most popular account. It is said that February 14 was declared a day to honor St. Valentine by Pope Gelasius in 469.  As the story goes, Valentine was a bishop who held secret marriage ceremonies for soldiers during the time of the Roman Emperor Claudius II, who had forbidden his soldiers to marry feeling that it would make them emotionally attached and weak.

When Claudius eventually found out, Valentine was arrested and later executed. Although it’s hard to know for sure, he is believed to have been executed on February 14, 270 AD.

So how did a day dedicated to a Catholic Martyr become a blessing for the makers of stuffed animals and chocolate candy? I’m sure whoever sent out the first valentine had the best intentions.  Maybe it was an earnest attempt to bring people closer together and get them to profess their love for each other.  Good intentions, I’m sure but the fact is not all is good.

Here are just a few reasons why:

1. You feel the pressure whether you are in a relationship or not:

I was a bit surprised to read that the days leading up to Valentine’s Day are popular for proposals and long-term commitments while the days following Valentine’s Day are known for break ups.  This goes to show you that placing ultimatums are not good for any relationship.
If you’re in a relationship, we feel the pressure of having to “wow” our loved one and outdo everybody else.
If you’re not in a relationship, let’s face it, we hate hearing about Valentine’s Day.  Feelings of depression and loneliness are rampant on February 14. Why doesn’t that surprise me?

2. Love is NOT about the gifts. 

After the holidays, I walked into a Hallmark store at the local mall to see one worker boxing Christmas cards while another one stacked the shelves with Valentine’s Day cards and gifts.  I hate the feeling of going from one over-commercialized holiday to another.
I’m not saying I don’t like receiving gifts.  But as my mother always said, “You shouldn’t have to buy someone’s love.”  All the advertising and red-lace propaganda out there leads people to think that you have to buy that in order to receive this.  But it’s not about the gifts.  Genuine, heartfelt love goes beyond the gifts.  It’s expressed in ways that are in no way materialistic and in every way spiritual and nonphysical.

3. Romance that is forced is NOT Romance.

It’s supposed to be the most romantic day of the year yet it is anything but romantic.  In my opinion, in order for romance to be real and meaningful, it must be spontaneous and natural.  You shouldn’t profess your love to someone because some Hallmark card tells you to.
I am a hopeless romantic.  I love surprising my husband and I love when he does the same for me.  It makes me feel special and wanted.  But it has to be because we both want to and not because we feel like we have to.  It has to be genuine and heartfelt.

I recently read a blog which touted “…a dozen roses or a box of chocolates may be appreciated for a while, but if you really want your sweetheart to swoon, here are some Valentine’s Day gifts for all the loved ones on your list …” UGH! Let’s get real.  We all need to forget the V-Day hype and realize that it’s actually very little about the spa vouchers,  romantic weekend getaways,  the charms or tennis bracelets or even the monogramed cushions and towels and instead all about the loving.  But then again, you can do that any old day of the year.

Follow Your Passion with Style

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Lona Alia Duncan, founder & CEO of Style Lend

Successful entrepreneurs are givers and not takers of positive energy.  Anonymous

On January 1, many of us wake up with our long lists of New Year’s resolutions only to find that we never even accomplished one thing come December 31st.  Why the failure?  The number one reason we fail is not because we lack the money or the resources.  We fail because we never even take the first step. What motivates us then to take that first step?

Last week, I had the pleasure of meeting an amazing woman named Lona Alia Duncan.  Before our lunch meeting, I researched her background finding that she was a former model from Albania who had worked for well-known fashion empires like Guess, Versace and Levi’s.  She had lived a life of glamour as she walked down numerous runways and appeared in several popular magazines.

Knowing her background, I must admit I was still awestruck by her striking beauty when she walked in the door of Claudette, a restaurant in the West Village section of New York City.  One can’t help but be impressed with Lona’s beauty at first glance.  But as we chatted over lunch, I came to realize that there was so much more to this remarkable woman than what meets the eye. She may be a pretty face but her true beauty comes more from within.

Lona put her modeling career aside opting to study business and earn her BA from George Washington University.  She later went on to earn her MBA from Hult International Business School with the hopes of someday owning her own company.  While traveling light in Paris and several other countries with her husband, she thought it would be great if she could just borrow the clothes she needed for various events from other stylish women.  Hence, the idea for Style Lend was born.

lona and josieThe new company serves as a marketplace for both lending and renting high-end designer dresses.  Dresses are available for as low as $20 making it possible for women to look great without the hefty price tag.

As we chatted over lunch, I was immediately impressed with her contagious positive energy.  It was easy for me to see what led Lona to take the first step . . . her passion.  Her love for fashion is an obvious motivator as is her desire to help women of all ages feel self-confident and beautiful.

As we ring in the New Year, how then do we find what motivates us?  How then do we get past the fear and procrastination and take that initial step?

Here are four simple steps:

  1. DO WHAT YOU LOVE:

If your heart isn’t in it, you’ll think of every excuse not to do it.  You can’t do what you don’t care about.

  1. FOCUS ON WHAT YOU WANT:

We get back what we focus on in life.  Stay focused and positive throughout.  Once we let doubt and fear creep in, we’ll lose sight of our goal.

  1. WRITE IT DOWN:

I don’t know about you but if I don’t write it down, it very rarely gets done.  Writing it down makes it real and gives you a visual to focus on.  So write it down and pin it where you can see it.

  1. REDISCOVER YOUR MOTIVATION:

We get motivated when our goals resonate with our soul.  Our goals resonate with our soul when we truly believe in what we are doing.  So not only must you love what you’re doing, but you must also believe and trust wholeheartedly in your ability to do it.

Motivation is the energy that drives your perseverance.  It’s the trigger point inside you that says “YES” and provides the push you need to actually go into action mode.  Motivation lies within us ready and willing to come forward at any given moment.

… who you are is not defined by what you do or even what you’ve done, but rather by all that you are and all that you are capable of doing.

People are often defined by what they do.  But who you are is not defined by what you do or even what you’ve done,  but rather by all that you are and all that you are capable of doing.

And by the way, if you want to follow your passion, you need to be around “like mind and energy.”  In other words, stay away from negative people who drain you of your positive energy and don’t want to see you succeed.

Seek out the people who support you and motivate you to stay focused and keep going.  Seek out the people who perhaps see something greater in you than you may not even see yourself.  These are the people who will help to trigger the motivational energy within.

When you follow your passion, the possibilities are endless.  You need only believe.

Note:  If you would like more information about Lona Alia Duncan and Style Lend, please visit www.stylelend.com.  Thank you.

 

What does Christmas Mean to You?

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“Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time.”
Laura Ingalls Wilder

What does Christmas mean to you?

When I was a little girl, I remember looking forward to Christmas with such eager anticipation.  It was such a beautiful time of the year and still is.  Of course, as a kid, I loved the presents I would find under the tree on Christmas morning but it was far more than that.

My mother is a fantastic cook and since we had a large, finished basement and a big family, my aunts, uncles and cousins would often gather at our house.  Looking back, I don’t know how the adults managed a room filled with overexcited and anxious kids.

I remember how my dad used to dress up as Santa Claus on Christmas Eve for all the kids, including me.  One look into Santa’s eyes and I always knew it was my father but I never said a word.  Then one year my mom was feeling a bit left out and decided it was her turn to dress up as Santa!  We all laughed wholeheartedly, my mother’s “Ho. Ho. Ho,” gave her away.

My mother would make the traditional Italian fish dinner on Christmas Eve and a host of other Italian favorites on Christmas Day like homemade manicotti.  Those were such happy times.

Looking back what I miss most of all were all the beautiful memories I made with my family and friends.  When we are young and carefree we live more in the moment and don’t worry or think too much about the future.  But now that I’m in the future, I realize just how precious those times really were. You see my family has gotten much smaller since then.  Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends have passed on.  Although I know they will always be with me in spirit, I miss them in the flesh.

I only wish that I could have one more opportunity to share the laughter and those cherished happy times.  Oh, what I wouldn’t do for one more time.   One more hug.  One more chance to say “I love you.”

If I could go back in time, I would do so many things differently.  I would take more time hanging the decorations and trinkets on the tree with my family.  I would sit on my father’s lap a little longer and hug a little more. I would make more time.  More time for family.  More time for friends.  More time to be still and simply enjoy the moment.

Since my Godmother Lucy had no children, I was her “adopted” daughter.  I called her my second mother.  We did everything together.  She would help me write my letters to Santa and hang my stocking on Christmas Eve.  Lucy passed of a heart attack in February 2010.  I hope she knows how much she meant to me.  I hope she knows how precious those times were and how much I love her.  I only wish I had realized it sooner.    Maybe I would have told her I love her a thousand more times.

When my Uncle Angelo passed away, my cousin Vito stood up in church and made such a moving tribute to his father.  He looked at all of us sitting in the pews and reminded us that we all had the love we shared and no one, absolutely no one could ever take that away from us.  Absolutely true.

Some of my family members and friends may have passed on but the love is still very much alive.  As I so often say, love never, ever dies.  It is the one thing we take with us from this life into the next.  The love is still very much there.  In fact, the memories are there for me to unwrap anytime I need one.    And if you are one of the many missing a loved one this holiday season, do just that.  Reach within your heart and unwrap a precious memory.

Truthfully, I still look forward to Christmas with utter excitement.  It brings out the child forever inborn in me.  But I don’t look forward to the presents under the tree as much as I once did.  As I’ve aged and learned, I’ve realized that Christmas is less about the presents and more about the kisses under the mistletoe.  It’s less about that often regretted fruitcake and more about spending quality time with family and friends.

The other day my daughter Lia told me that she loves the Christmas season and asked, “Mom, what do you want for Christmas?” My response was, “Lia, I already have everything I want.  I just want to spend time with my family and friends.”  She responded with one of her priceless, million dollar hugs.

Someday I hope my two daughters will be able to look back at all the happy times. I hope their hearts will be filled with fond memories to warm them and comfort them for a lifetime.

What does Christmas mean to you?  These days it has become so commercialized that people seem to forget that we are actually celebrating the birth of Christ.

As you go through the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, take a moment to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas.  Take note of all the things you have to be grateful for.  Take a moment to appreciate the family and friends in your life and the love in your heart.  May you live in the moment and realize that every day is truly a gift.

To my family and friends, I love and cherish you and always will.  Wishing you all happy times, endearing memories and love.  Happy Holidays!

 

william fechter

This blog is dedicated in memory of a friend and contributor to my books, William Fechter.  Thank you for your unwavering support, William.  I am blessed to have called you my friend.  You will forever be remembered. 

Momma Bella and an Angel From Above

We are each of us angels with only one wing, and we can only fly by embracing one another.

–Luciano de Crescenzo

mommabellapic

One of the questions that I am often asked is if there is a God why hasn’t He answered my prayers?  It’s hard not to ask this during times of suffering and it’s, of course, natural to want God to answer our prayers.  But if you really think about it, it’s not possible for Him to answer every single prayer.

Why? When you were little and you asked your parents for something dangerous, their answer was, “No.”  And sometimes God’s answer is “No.”  As hard as this is for all of us to accept, there are times that we just can’t have what we pray for.  Other times, His answer is not now.  Soon, but not now. And, sometimes the answer is, of course, “Yes.”

God, Supreme Being, Higher Power or however you choose to refer to Him, sees the bigger picture at all times and has greater plans.  We all serve a purpose here on Earth and when that purpose is met, we go home.

Pain and suffering have caused me to question my faith on many occasions.  But it is due to anger.  Having to go through a tough time or a rough patch in life doesn’t change God.  He is still there just like before.  But at times He is not there the way that we would like.  We are here for spiritual growth through life lessons and God will not grant us things that will interfere with our purpose.

I always tell people that everything happens for a reason.  Sometimes we are put in someone’s path for a reason and other times we are the answer to their prayers and don’t even realize it.  Recently, I made reservations at a local Italian restaurant for my mom’s birthday.  The owner, Claire, had asked me to come to the restaurant several times and she was having Italian entertainment that evening and I knew my parents would enjoy it.

Less than two hours before our reservation time, my mom called me to cancel saying that my father wasn’t feeling well.  Although I was disappointed that my parents could not make it, I felt as though I could not cancel the reservation.  I told my husband, “I don’t know John.  I think we should still go.  We can take my parents out to dinner another night.”

As soon as I walked in, I was greeted by Claire.  We hugged and chatted briefly and then she told me that she wanted me to meet her mother in law.  I walked over to the table as she introduced us.  “This is Josie.  Her parents are from Italy, too.  She writes books.”

Claire then looked back at me and said, “My mother in law wrote a book, too.”  I smiled at her mother in-law extending my hand which she took in hers.  “Really?” she said softly with her unmistakable Italian accent.  “Come here.  Sit down.”

Claire left us to attend to other customers.  I was immediately touched by this woman’s warm demeanor yet I could see the pain of loss in her aging eyes.  “So tell me,” I asked.  “What is your book called?”  At first I thought I had misunderstood her when she answered, “An Angel From Above.”  The book, she explained, took years to finish as she had handwritten the book in Italian and it was later transcribed into English by her family.  Now, she really had my attention and I pressed her to tell what the book was about.

She looked up at me, “Maybe you won’t understand.  But I lost my son, Carmelo.  I have received signs from him.”  I smiled saying, “Oh, I do understand.  I’m Josie Varga, the author of Visits from Heaven. Please tell me what happened.”

What followed was a heartbreaking story about how this woman, Marfisa, lost her 15-year old son after he was hit in the head during football practice.  Her eyes watered as she recalled what happened.  She explained how she was so distraught after her son’s death that she no longer wanted to live.  She would stay in her room with the blinds shut and said she was skin and bones as she ate little just to please her family.

Her son, she told me, always called her Momma Bella which means beautiful mother in Italian.  Early one morning while lying in bed she heard a comforting voice say, “Momma, Momma.”

The following is the rest of the story as written in her book (An Angel From Above/Star Investment Strategies/pages 296-297):

I tried opening my eyes to see who was calling and heard it again. 

But this time it said, “Momma Bella, Momma Bella.  It’s me.  Your angel, Carmelo.” Quickly, I tried contemplating whether or not that comforting voice was truly his.

I swiftly responded, “Carmelo, beautiful angel, is that you? Is it really you?  Carmelo, my heart and life? It is you angel.  I can hear you.  Is this a dream? No, it’s not a dream. I’m awake. Wide awake.”

And in saying this, I heard his sweet voice again, “Yes, Momma Bella. It’s not a dream. It’s me. Your Carmelo, your angel.”

I sat up in bed and gazed upon him, seeing my loving son. His eyes shined like two stars. He hugged me tightly and I felt his arms around me. I firmly embraced him and didn’t want to let go.  I wanted to hold him close forever.  I heard his heart beating next to mine and could smell the scent of his skin. That familiar pleasant odor gave me the strength to live and filled me with joy.

I excitingly proclaimed, “Carmelo, my angel.  I can hear you.  I hear you inside my heart.  Is it really you, Carmelo?”

“Yes, Momma Bella. It’s me.  I hear you, too.  I’m alive.  I’m not dead.”

I felt his beautiful hands caressing me with sweetness. It was Easter, the resurrection of Jesus and God sent me my son. He continued caressing me like a mother caresses her young.  I didn’t want that joy and tenderness to ever end.  I wish I could’ve always been held by my son like that.

He stated, “I came to you, Momma Bella, because God sent me to tell you that I am alive with Jesus. I’m not dead.  You, Momma Bella, must be strong in the Lord. Get up from this bed and leave this room now.  Go to church with the others, because I’m alive with Jesus and glorify God.  I am not dead, I am alive.”

Marfisa was overcome with emotion as I reached for her hand to comfort her telling her that she was not alone.  I explained that her story reminded me of a similar story in my book, Visits from Heaven, in which a mother got to hug her deceased daughter.  Marfisa looked at me excitedly.  “Really?”  You have heard of similar stories?  Honestly, it is hard for me to accurately express the moment of joy that I then witnessed in her eyes as she realized that she was no alone in her experience.

She leaned forward to give me a warm embrace as she took my hands in hers, “Josie!” she enthusiastically exclaimed, “You are here for me tonight.  You are here for me, Josie!  I am so happy to have met you.”

I was so deeply touched by her words.  She went on to explain how she wasn’t even going to go to the restaurant that evening but something was telling her to go.  I then explained how my parents had canceled on me and how I felt compelled to come as well.

All the while my husband John and two daughters were sitting at another table wondering what the holdup was.  They actually sent our waitress over to me to take my order because I was so engrossed in my conversation with Marfisa.

Eventually, I made my way over to my family to eat my dinner.  A short time later, Marfisa came over to say goodbye to me as we exchanged phone numbers.  “Please keep in touch, Josie.  I am so happy to have met you.  I love you!  I love you!”

Returning her hug, I told her to remember that love never dies and promised to stay in touch.

Normally, to be honest, it would scare me to have a perfect stranger react to me in this way.  But this was different.  I realized that I had been put there that night for a reason.  I had given this beautiful, kind woman named Marfisa some comfort in knowing that she was not alone.  And I had given her confirmation that her experience was all too real.

I shall never forget that night.  While Marfisa may believe that I was there for her that night, I believe that she was there for me.  I’m grateful to have had the pleasure of meeting her. She touched my heart and reminded me to keep the faith and always remember that one way or another God does answer our prayers.

One week later I attended my nephew’s confirmation and was introduced to the pastor at my sister in-law’s Lutheran Church.  When the pastor heard that I had written a book called Divine Visits, she wanted to know all about it.

“What made you decide to write the book?” She questioned.

“Do you have like five hours?” I asked as we both shared a laugh. I went on to tell her how my husband’s deceased friend came to me with a message for his wife which was later validated.  I wasn’t sure how she felt about the idea of afterlife communication but she seemed to be very interested in my every word.

We chatted for a quite a while and I eventually told her about my recent experience with Marfisa.  Sometimes, I told the pastor, we are the answer to someone else’s prayers and don’t even know it as she nodded in agreement.

The pastor then went on to tell me how she had heard many similar experiences and even heard about another woman who got to hug her deceased loved one.  She then promised to buy Divine Visits saying that she was looking forward to reading it.

To be honest I wasn’t quite sure how the Lutheran Church viewed the idea of visits from heaven, so the pastor’s response brought a smile to my face.  I was happy to have had the pleasure of meeting her as I was yet again left with the feeling that our meeting was meant to be.

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