7 Lessons Learned That Can Make a Difference in Your Life

By nature, I’m a pretty content person. Well that is what I thought until I examined my words and actions.  After listening to a message on contentment, I realized that most of my life has been waiting for the next best thing.  In fact, I’m tearing up thinking about a lot of wasted space used up in my brain that could have been used to enjoy the now. I tend to be a forward thinker. How can we make this better? What needs to be changed? How can we improve our weaknesses? I’m not discounting self-improvement and healthy self-examination but with all things there is balance. You can think so forward you can’t live right now. After a few days off before launching into my next career, I’ve done a spiritual, physical, and mental overhaul. Everyday I’ve spent time in prayer and in God’s Word, attended my hot yoga sessions in which I prayed in solitude and deep concentration, and I shut my brain off. I did not worry about a mess, fret about a situation out of my control, nor did I force my agenda in the lives of those around me. I prayed for the Spirit to move and fill my heart and mind. During this time, I had a breakthrough.

1. Now is all you have (be all in)

With every ounce of your being, be in the present. Your present. What is in front of you? What does it look like, feel like, and smell like.  I have heard moms say beautiful things to their children, birds sing songs,  the smell of a cookout and honeysuckle, a candle flicker so bright it sparkled, and the roses in bloom. I’ve looked into the eyes of my daughter, and listened to her heart. I’ve marveled at how much my husband brings me joy.  I have cried with my sisters. Live now; live in peace.

2. Your body needs exercise

We all have our thing. You may enjoy a yoga DVD in the morning or a jog at night. For me, hot yoga for 90 minutes works every joint and ligament in my body, reminds me to breath and, in the quiet, I pray for healing.  At the end, they give us a cold, lavender towel to cool off. I place the towel on each section of my body and ask for God to heal and use this vessel for His glory.  Do your thing on a regular basis and make it a time of healing!

3. Stop judging yourself and others

This is more a concentrated practice.  I’m so very good at sizing up a situation and deeming it good or bad. If bad, then my mood or mindset changes.  If it’s good, then I’m good and you are good.  I’m surprised at my ability to judge a situation and go through a cycle that ultimately ends in guilt and shame. STOP. Each situation you encounter that challenges your day is just that–a situation.  You are not defined by the situation, and the situation does not define you or others. It simply is. Furthermore, in our corner is Jesus who is in all things. “For from Him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.” Romans 11:36 I don’t know about you but God has not finished with me yet. I will be working on something and getting more like Him until He calls me home. I’m assuming that is true for you, and I pray God helps me see you that way so I can be kind and merciful.

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4.  Seek your Creator daily

We may not have time to read a chapter in the Bible and write in a journal, but we do have time to talk to Him, listen to worship music on Pandora, and to discover times that we can dig deeper through podcasts, reading, and journaling.  Seeking Him has centered me spiritually and brought peace in the midst of chaos.

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5.  Remember yourself as an individual created by God

Psalm 139 tells you that you are fearfully and wonderfully made.  Before you claim yourself as a wife, mother, daughter, career person, role at church, etc., you are an individual created by God.  I’m all for mentoring and gathering advice from the experienced, but the greatest joy is knowing who you are in Christ Jesus! The greatest joy is celebrating you by spending time with yourself.  Go to your favorite place by yourself on a regular basis.  That may be your garden at home, a coffee shop, a bike ride, a run, or a park, but make sure you celebrate you.  In our time of fellowship with others, we are called to compromise and work together. When you spend time alone, you are able to unleash the you God created. This commitment means you will have to adjust your schedule and say no to others. Give yourself permission to say yes to you. You are worth it.  I love hot yoga, the rain on my face, a vegetarian dish, sitting at a coffee shop creating, and drinking a cup of coffee in the outdoors while doing absolutely nothing–being still. This recharges our mind and reminds us that it’s okay to love ourselves.  In fact JESUS said “love your neighbor as yourself”.  Glory–Holy Spirit moment here! Love your neighbor as YOU. Don’t try to be someone else or compare yourself to others. Get comfortable in your skin–be beautiful you. If I’m constantly changing my personality to suit others, I will live an exhausting and confusing existence.  My goal in relationships is to learn who YOU are and see how YOU and ME can enjoy each other. People will try to control the you that you are becoming, and not everyone will enjoy your company.  Not a problem. You continue to seek God’s will for your life and know He will never leave you nor forsake you. It’s an eternal promise.

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6. Stop wanting more

As humans we have a tendency to always desire the next best thing. I’m single, I want to be married.  I’m married, God change my spouse.  I want a house, I need someone to help me clean this house. I make this salary, I want a higher salary or promotion.  I have this many likes, I want more likes.  God encourages us to seek Him and to ask for the desires of our hearts. How do you live content in the waiting, or, in some cases, asking God to bless you as He deems necessary and according to His will? Enjoy the abundance you currently have and marvel at the reality that you have much to be grateful for even if your life situation is the worst it has ever been.

Lastly, if you are married, you have a choice to embrace the spouse that God has given you and all the many wonderful qualities they have, or you can spend the rest of your life wanting more from them.  It’s healthy to desire conversations around needs and change, but, honestly, you married a person that will not drastically change.  If you married an introvert, they may consider going to a few parties with you, but they will not become a bubbling extrovert.  If you married a person who has a tendency towards needing things spelled out and reminders, then a calendar and upfront discussions may help, but they are not going to turn into the Type A person you desire–a personal assistant or housekeeper. Enjoy them and stop wanting more. The flip-side to this is making it a life goal to give more. The story behind the picture below goes deep! I woke up early one morning and along my walk’s journey, I saw this yellow flower.  I was moved by it’s beauty in the midst of the rocks.  Later that day, my husband came inside with the flower as I was busy cleaning (feeling a little sorry for myself to be cleaning on Mother’s Day).  His unknowing connection and small gift filled me.  I had a choice to lament or embrace. I’m embarrassed to say I spent a little time lamenting, but looking back without judgment, God has spoken to my soul.  All worth it. I wanted more on Mother’s Day, and I can say that the wanting of more took my eyes off the abundance I have.

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7. Give more and be kind

Every day you can ask how can I cherish my spouse or loved one? Can I check the calendar? Can I send an encouraging message?

Be kind.

Kindness is totally free– a hug, a smile, an encouraging word, or silent mouth. Sometimes the greatest gift is your eye contact and ears listening.

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The Leadership Handbook: Book Study

We often think of leadership as supervising others or being in charge. The more I’ve studied leadership, I have found that all of us are leaders to some degree. Whether you are leading as a CEO, a parent, a student in a group project, a community organizer, or leading the way in the next family goal–you influence others. If you would like to follow along with me on a journey using John C. Maxwell’s book The Leadership Handbook: 26 Critical Lessons Every Leader Needs, I believe we can embark on a life changing adventure to improve how we lead, follow, and improve on those weaknesses we just can’t seem to move past. For example, how well do you receive criticism, and are you honest about strengths and weaknesses? Do you accept growth as a welcomed event, or drudgery? How do I lead myself?

Leadership is…

the willingness to put oneself at risk.

the passion to make a difference with others.

being dissatisfied with the current reality.

taking responsibility while others are making excuses.

seeing the possibilities in a situation while others are seeing the limitations.

the readiness to stand out in a crowd.

an open mind and an open heart.

the ability to submerge your ego for the sake of what is best.

evoking in others the capacity to dream.

inspiring others with a vision of what they can contribute.

the power of one harnessing the power of many.

your heart speaking to the hearts of others.

the integration of heart, head, and soul.

the capacity to care, and in caring, to liberate the ideas, energy, and capacities of others.

the dream made reality.

above all, courageous.

John Maxwell, page x

Can you imagine working in a workplace or living in a home in which these goals were foremost in the minds of everyone? If I’m trying my best to understand your heart and support your contribution and you are doing the same, I believe we would have the potential to make dreams a reality! What are your personal goals? Dreams?

Each chapter is a separate leadership topic with discussion questions. I’m hopeful to read a chapter and then answer the questions. When you get a post, you can answer in the comment section so others can learn from your experiences.

Discussion Question:

From the “Leadership is” list above, which one is as a leadership quality that comes easy to you, and which one from the list is challenging for you?

I find it naturally easy to connect with others and care for them. There is no greater joy than to help someone achieve a goal. This takes time as you build a trusting relationship, and the capacity to really listen–open your heart and mind to what they are sharing day-to-day. You may need to sacrifice your time and resources in order to support them.

I find it difficult in the moment when a meeting turns into a limitations discussion. It usually takes me time to process the negativity or potential attitudes in the room before getting to solutions. I think sometimes when you share direction as a staff, there needs to be a time for “Yes, and______” versus listing all the reasons the direction will not work. This “Yes, and_____” session may need to be at a separate time for folks to process and generate ideas.

I hope you will share your ideas in the comment section on the blog!

Order the book, and get started!

 

Say yes to interruptions

Many of you know that my home is a mixture of ages, seasons, and developmental stages. My husband and I are wrestling through being over the hill and journeying into the 50’s.  Also living in the home is a middle schooler, a soon to be sophomore in college, and my parents who are in their 80’s. My oldest visits often and brings our first grandbaby to snuggle with and play games. Her games consist of waving goodbye and giggles.

Yesterday I had a choice to make. Do I keep my schedule to go to yoga, or attend an event with my parents at church. In God’s providence and timing, I ended up at church singing hymns, listening to God’s word, and being filled with a generation of people who know how to love and be kind.  I’ve been in the working world for so long handling conflict, I was surprised by joy to find simple, loving conversation.  For every comment I made, they had words of wisdom that poured into my life. From nervous thoughts about my new job to a dirty house, they would gently smile and their eyes seemed to look far off to remember and encouraging words were shared.  I felt no judgment just continuous emotional hugs–sincere, authentic love.

One lady shared that she was 60 years old when she took a management job at a bank and that it made all the difference in the world for her financially and professionally.  Another person shared that if people come to your house to see what’s in it versus visiting with you then don’t worry about them.  I’m seriously overwhelmed by the boxes and clutter in my house from cleaning out three offices as a school social worker for 23 years.  So if you come over, you just might see a mess.  That needs to be okay.

Sitting across from me, a man shared how he had a wonderful dream about my husband and he had the sweetest smile. The lady sitting next to me shared her memories of doing Tai Chi in her backyard. I sprung to attention and shouted, “You are my soul sister!” I laughed and shared how I do yoga on the beach or outside and my children always say I’m embarrassing them. My long time mentor reminded me to not strive for more money, but more time with your family.  In the end it’s your family you cling to, not your money.   Over and over again folks would hug and share how much they love and enjoy each other.

It’s moments like these that brings your cynical mind to a place of purity and rest. Oh be careful not to let the world convince you that most are unkind, most are selfish, and that there is no time for the simple–singing, eating a meal, and speaking kindness into each other’s life.

Today I was able to do what I missed yesterday, and it seemed so right to do the activity today.  What man plans, God may change. There are times we need to stick to our schedule, and there are times to abandon and listen to your soul not logic. Time marches on. I will always remember sitting next to my mom and dad singing Amazing Grace.

Live now

Live spontaneously

Be kind

 

How do we move forward?

Facing change and adversity can be difficult.  I was drawn to read Nehemiah’s story again because I knew that he was called to a difficult task with support along with significant opposition.  A new adventure creates new rules, new people, and a new way of doing. Say goodbye to automaticity and hello to the learning curve.

Nehemiah was so drawn to the call that his passion carried him during the most difficult times. He faced accusations, ridicule, mockery, and threats to his physical safety. As many negatives that were reported in this book, there were also positives–hardworking people, supporters of the vision, and the right people at the right time to offer encouragement. How can we be that person in someone’s life? How can we respond with warm-heartedness? Nehemiah left his job as cupbearer to the king to rebuild Jerusalem. In an instant, he was a spiritual leader, administrator, construction foreman, and cheerleader.

Nehemiah 2

17 Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.” 18 I also told them about the gracious hand of my God on me and what the king had said to me.

They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work.

19 But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official and Geshem the Arab heard about it, they mocked and ridiculed us. “What is this you are doing?” they asked. “Are you rebelling against the king?”

20 I answered them by saying, “The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.”

As hard as the opposition can be, we must learn from Nehemiah. We move forward with confidence and courage in the God who called us to the task.

How do we deal with contempt?

I listened to a lecture on contempt versus anger by Arthur Brooks from Harvard Kennedy School. In our world today, we see and hear contempt–the feeling that person or a thing is beneath consideration, worthless, or deserving scorn.  Instead of solution focused discussions or considering our part, we dismiss with contempt.  If it’s not done our way or we are in a “bad place” we judge and project our hurt onto others. In this lecture, the solution to contempt was a warm-hearted response.

Hard to do but so freeing when we practice.

When you are in that hard place, and maybe you are rehearsing the contempt in your mind, remember not only authentic warm-heartedness responses but also

For He will conceal me there when troubles come; He will hide me in His sanctuary.  He will place me out of reach on a high rock.” Psalm 27:5

You may be in the thick of it, but imagine yourself anchored and out of reach in the arms of Jesus. Trust God to make the difference and to bring peace in His time.

In closing, I’d love to share a beautiful flower arrangement created from the rubble of my office clean out. I came home to my mother taking a bunch of flowers from the boxes and recreating something beautiful. The flowers represent my past, my present, and my future. My mother has always quoted, “Bloom where you are planted.” I’ve carried this advice with me throughout my journey. Where God calls, He provides. Bloom in the beauty of His provision, love, and peace.

Resilience: Spaces and Pauses

Pauses in life give us perspective.  When we fill our life pages to the point of no margins, we have no space to just be in the moment. A fire burns when there is just the right amount of logs, fuel, and space.

FIRE ~ Judy Brown

What makes a fire burn
is space between the logs,
a breathing space.
Too much of a good thing,
too many logs
packed in too tight
can douse the flames
almost as surely
as a pail of water would.

So building fires
requires attention
to the spaces in between,
as much as to the wood.

When we are able to build
open spaces
in the same way
we have learned
to pile on the logs,
then we can come to see how
it is fuel, and absence of the fuel
together, that make fire possible.

We only need to lay a log
lightly from time to time.

A fire
grows
simply because the space is there,
with openings
in which the flame
that knows just how it wants to burn
can find its way.

I believe that the space or the pause in life produces resilience and a growth mindset. Most of our fears and worries stem from reality on steroids. For example, we may procrastinate on something challenging because we view the task or change as insurmountable. However, when we view life challenges as an opportunity for growth and manageable we can gain a more healthy perspective of the situation. So many times in my life, I’ve prepared for a challenge or task only to be overwhelmed with “in the moment outcomes”. We prepare for the things we can control, but we accept the things we can’t control. Within this acceptance, growth occurs which embraces resilience.

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The American Psychological Association

The Road to Resilience

http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/road-resilience.aspx

Make connections. Good relationships with close family members, friends or others are important. Accepting help and support from those who care about you and will listen to you strengthens resilience. Some people find that being active in civic groups, faith-based organizations, or other local groups provides social support and can help with reclaiming hope. Assisting others in their time of need also can benefit the helper.

Avoid seeing crises as insurmountable problems. You can’t change the fact that highly stressful events happen, but you can change how you interpret and respond to these events. Try looking beyond the present to how future circumstances may be a little better. Note any subtle ways in which you might already feel somewhat better as you deal with difficult situations.

Accept that change is a part of living. Certain goals may no longer be attainable as a result of adverse situations. Accepting circumstances that cannot be changed can help you focus on circumstances that you can alter.

Move toward your goals. Develop some realistic goals. Do something regularly — even if it seems like a small accomplishment — that enables you to move toward your goals. Instead of focusing on tasks that seem unachievable, ask yourself, “What’s one thing I know I can accomplish today that helps me move in the direction I want to go?”

Take decisive actions. Act on adverse situations as much as you can. Take decisive actions, rather than detaching completely from problems and stresses and wishing they would just go away.

Look for opportunities for self-discovery. People often learn something about themselves and may find that they have grown in some respect as a result of their struggle with loss. Many people who have experienced tragedies and hardship have reported better relationships, a greater sense of strength even while feeling vulnerable, increased sense of self-worth, a more developed spirituality and heightened appreciation for life.

Nurture a positive view of yourself. Developing confidence in your ability to solve problems and trusting your instincts helps build resilience.

Keep things in perspective. Even when facing very painful events, try to consider the stressful situation in a broader context and keep a long-term perspective. Avoid blowing the event out of proportion.

Maintain a hopeful outlook. An optimistic outlook enables you to expect that good things will happen in your life. Try visualizing what you want, rather than worrying about what you fear.

Take care of yourself. Pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Engage in activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. Exercise regularly. Taking care of yourself helps to keep your mind and body primed to deal with situations that require resilience.

Additional ways of strengthening resilience may be helpful. For example, some people write about their deepest thoughts and feelings related to trauma or other stressful events in their life. Meditation and spiritual practices help some people build connections and restore hope.

The key is to identify ways that are likely to work well for you as part of your own personal strategy for fostering resilience.

The Passion

Passion defined:

  • intense, driving, or overmastering feeling or conviction
  • the sufferings of Christ between the night of the Last Supper and his death

On Thursday, God began to seek my heart to remember the cross.
Last night, on Good Friday, I took myself to a quiet place in the house to watch The Passion.  In the rush of the day, an intense, driving feeling or conviction washed over me to remember–truly remember what He did for us.  Over 2000 years later, somehow, as His daughter, I’m drawn to remember, and I would find myself worshipping with tears throughout the day.  I would pause, close my eyes, and the reality of why I’m really here on this Earth became overwhelming.

I look back to my younger years in the 60s and 70s and we were open about the sacrifice of Jesus. We did not shy away or dismiss because it was uncomfortable.  Discomfort is not popular unless you are seeking a goal, but to surrender to the author of salvation and His love seems a little old fashioned and outdated. As I watched what Jesus did for us on the Hill of Calvary, I wondered if I truly understood the magnitude of such a gift. He called us “friends”, and shared, “No greater love than for a friend to lay down His life for you”.

I am His friend.

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.  Isaiah 53:5

Any ounce of the following thwarts my thinking.

Shamed

Bruised

Denied

Abandoned

Mocked

…But God, in His mercy and love, took every sin and negativity and nailed it to the cross, so that I would not have to face this life without a perfect friend and Father. Every moment of my life, regardless of my circumstances, I can say, “It is well with my soul” even if all seems lost or hopeless. The Saturday after the cross has always been a reminder of the time we spend in the awaiting of Jesus’ second coming, and the new heaven and earth that will exist.  My youngest asked if Jesus was afraid.  We talked about how God gave us emotions.  We agreed that Jesus experienced so much emotion that His sweat, according to scripture, was mixed with blood. Jesus trusted the Father and took one step at a time in intense agony while also providing for His mother, offering forgiveness, and telling the thief, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Beautiful friend, every step you take is filled with the Glory of God–He is with you. In the waiting…

  • Provide for others and serve
  • Forgive
  • Share the love of Jesus

I pray you wake up tomorrow early and imagine yourself at the tomb. The stone has been rolled away, and Jesus walks with you in the garden.

He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee… Luke 24:6

Remember how He told you and rejoice!

Today is a great day for a new beginning…

Video to inspire you:

Click on the words, “a brand-new day”.

A Brand New Day from worshiphousemedia on GodTube.

In the Garden

One of my favorite hymns is In the Garden.

 I come to the garden alone….He walks with me; and He talks with me; and He tells me I am His own….

When we are feeling overwhelmed, we often go to our place of comfort and safety. Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray before He faced the cross.  After the last supper, He needed time in solitude. Although the disciples went with Him, He eventually secluded Himself for a time to only hear the voice of His Father.

Adam and Eve were in a perfect garden.  When they found themselves “naked and ashamed”, God asked them, “Where are you?” God walked in the Garden desiring to meet them in their distress and shame. Imagine yourself either physically or metaphorically in the Garden of your loss, worry, pain, joy, change, or….. Whatever brings you to the garden of your seeking and solitude, imagine God walking with you asking, “Where are you _____?” Put your name in the blank and say it out-loud, or imagine in your mind, God speaking to your heart.

Perfect Jesus asked God to remove the cup of suffering. It’s okay to have honest conversations. Closing our honesty with the words of Jesus, “Not my will, but Yours be done!”, allows us to release and acknowledge God’s sovereignty and purpose in our lives.

This week, leading up to resurrection Sunday, walk in the garden with Jesus.  Talk to Him.  Read Psalm 32:8. God has his loving eye on you.  He will instruct you.  On Good Friday nail your thoughts, conversations, and concerns to the cross. As you wait in anticipation of resurrection Sunday, fast and pray–listen and trust.  When Sunday comes put on your finest and rejoice!  He is risen!  I believe that God has redeemed! It is finished!

A great worship song for your garden experience!