BLESS THIS MESS
Learn to be thankful in your trials, because in order to get your breakthrough, you need a trial to break through.” ---Craig Williams
2nd Qtr, 2017
Over the years, I’ve come to rename the term, “life trials” to “life messes.” More times than not during difficult life events, I’ve felt as though I was in a real mess. And this is what I learned: I could easily make a mess of things during tough times. Why? Because I was making up my own rules. Rules to figure out how to get out of this difficulty. Wondering how in the world did I get into this situation in the first place? Why me? Soon a list of unknowing innocent people were centered upon my bulls-eye of blame. Then pity parties followed. The worse was that I began calling myself names: stupid, stupider and more stupider. This jagged list of rules became my direction to navigate through difficulty. The result: I created bigger messes.
Then one day while in my early 20s I read a book entitled, “Dare to Live on the Edge.” It was a faith-based book and it challenged its readers to understand that God doesn’t make junk. Once I understood I had a purpose in life, then I was able to find value in myself. I was better prepared to face the book’s other challenges: to think big, to expect good out of the unexpected, and to grow where I was planted. So I began cleaning up my messes, starting with the first tip in the Dare to Live on the Edge book:
God doesn’t make junk: Because I had suffered with tragedy in my young adult life, I figured God had given up on me. But Dare to Live on the Edge explained that I had a purpose and I was equipped to serve that purpose. That deep inside I was a diamond and God was at work to scissile away the crusty messes in my life. The book further explained that God’s responsibility was to develop me to become what I was destined to be. The book went on to say that he loves me unconditionally. There’s a powerful ingredient in love that I learned—the power of freedom—when you love someone, you free that person to become a better version of themselves. God was pouring out his love into me, thus giving me a huge sense of accountability for my own behavior. The result: I trashed my blame list and stopped calling myself names.
Think big! One of my favorite Bible verses is found in Matthew 19:26, “…with God all things are possible.” The only way I could wrap my thoughts around God-sized outcomes, was to think big! This is where faith and trust comes into full dimension, but sometimes we can be taken by surprise when life takes on its own euphoric components. I just published my first book, Uncharted Territory. Never in my wildest big thoughts did I ever think that BIG!
Expect good out of the unexpected: The easiest way to expect good out of the unexpected is to change your rules. Start every morning with, “Today is the day for breakthrough!” Sure, there were times when I had to make an effort to think positive, and when I did, a curtain arose in my hindsight and I could see the horizon for miles ahead. Whenever a life event bamboozled me, I’d lean my full weight into making a concerted effort to find the good out of the unexpected. There’s always a silver lining entwined in our mess—it’s tucked around the question: Why me?!
Grow where you’re planted: My mom loves to garden. Sometimes I’d go out and watch her till the soil. Never once did I see a carrot jump over to where the tomatoes were growing. Or a string bean slide over to the rows of corn. All of her vegetables grew where they were planted. No questions asked. So out went one of my favorite questions from my list of rules: How in the world did I get into this situation in the first place? The question isn’t” how” but “what”—what can I learn right where I’m planted. Planting and harvesting is for a season. Interpersonal growth lasts a life time.
You may have heard the old saying, “Turn your mess into your message. I just did. How about you?
If you’re never scared or embarrassed or hurt, it means you never take any changes. --- Julia Sorel, writer
1st Qtr, 2017
Daring to do the unexpected by stepping out of your own protective “boat” can be scary. Because what is resting at the bowel of your boat are thoughts about what you might lose rather than what you could gain. If we can take that risk, we may be surprised at what we accomplish! Risk, in and of itself, sees no limits, no negative thoughts, no hesitation. Are you ready? Go ahead! Try something new! Be unpredictable! Experiment! You don’t have to hazard huge things—even a small change can point you toward a fresh experience. Keep the following tips close at hand to remind yourself how invigorating it can be to take the road not yet traveled.
Tip #1: What You Value: Jeanette Winterson, writer, has said, “What you risk reveals what you value.” What do you value: a fulfilled dream? Advancing your career? Furthering your education? Choosing happiness? Take a close look at what you treasure. Seize your values. Whatever you value will be the fuel to move forward.
Tip #2: Strength to Venture into the Dark: Yikes! Venturing into the dark is like taking a risk without the benefit of experience, but consider the alternative. When we are brave enough to venture into the dark, we can be assured that personal growth awaits us at the end of our journey. Remember, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained!” How will we know what we’ll gain, until we step into the shadows that lurks outside our boat!
Tip #3: Accept the Fear of Failure. Let Yourself get Loose! Take a chance. Walk the line between the known and unknown and you’ll set yourself free! Give abandon to all those things that tend to keep you in your boat, run your fingers into the ripples of the massive ocean. And remember, you can only deal with the small amount of the vast ocean that fits into the palm of your hand. Always expect success! Expect to aspire to it! Expect to receive it! If fear holds you in this binding control, then ask yourself, “Who says I’m afraid? Who says I’m safer in my boat? Who says I shouldn’t venture out? If Fear is whispering in your ear, then tell it to hush! Tell Fear that you’re only open to positive thoughts that lead to success.
Tip #4: Set your Course and Sail Away from a Boring Life: We’ve all been entrapped in a routine where boredom settles in. If we’re not careful, it’ll become a way of life. Beware! Boredom will disguise itself as security and comfort in your life. That’s the lesson I learned from a friend, who’d take different routes to work so he wouldn’t get bored with his commute. I thought he was nuts! I always traveled the same roads and freeways during my forty-minute commute. But one day, after a particularly tough day, I decided I needed a change. This time I took a different route home. Wow! What a difference it made. I hadn’t realized how bored I was with driving over the same roads, waiting at the same stop lights! B-O-R-I-N-G!
Tip #5: Test Your Tenacity: Wallace Stevens, Pulitzer Prize recipient for Poetry, has said, “After the final ‘no’ there comes a ‘yes,’ and on that ‘yes’ the future world depends.” Never ever give up on your dream. To fully execute a dream, one must take a risk. One must put feet to their dream—a plan, a vision—or else it is just a vapor in your mind. Take a risk and follow your heart. Nothing anyone says can discourage you, because the dream belongs to you and no one else. So be tenacious! It will open doors that you never imagined. That’s what I did with my new book, Unchartered Territory! It has opened hearts, calmed fears, changed attitudes—all because some five years earlier I took a risk to keep on writing when most people told me to “give it up.” I quieted their voices by listening to my heart. Listening to my own convictions kept me tenacious to fulfill my dream!
Tip #6: Dare to be Yourself: Yes, take a risk and allow the best you to become a reality. This means we need to have the right attitude; to be brave enough to hush the fears; and to break bad habits that hold us back. Daring to be yourself allows you the freedom to live what I call the “you-phoria lifestyle.” That is to face the obstacles in your life, being determined enough to overcome them, to live large in your individuality. And don’t worry, because God will walk the path ahead of you. He will show you the potholes and give you a safer path around them. With God’s watchful eye, he’ll straighten the crooked pathways along your journey and make sure you are successful.
Let’s give a rigorous salute to anyone who has ever taken a leap! Hopped out of their secure boat! Stepped into the unknown! These brave people will tell you that they found taking a risk didn’t feel quite so risky.
Strategies for Relieving Stress
“In a year from now, you’ll barely remember how you felt about a problem, so why stress out today?”
4th Quater 2016
What are your strategies for reducing stress? There is a gamut of remedies from routine exercise to eating chocolate. Although we’d like nothing better than endless bites of chocolate and indulging in a quiet moment as the decadent medicinal chocolate melts in our mouths. But sadly its beneficial effects last as long as a blink of an eye. Let’s consider some strategies that have real “stick” power:
1. Meditation: I enjoy a regime of daily devotion time at the dining room table, where the morning sun streams through the sliding glass door. I use various tools to guide me: A Bible, several meditative reading materials and a mug of coffee. But during stressful times, I sometimes neglect the most important strategy in my day. And that’s the problem with stress, it is a distraction. We’re not at the top of our game. Everything under the sun seems BIG. I need to remember that meditation calms my inner-storm.
2. Exercise: If you’re not into exercise, but enjoy walking then here’s a strategy for you. Use each step to whisper a prayer, a positive thought. Try not to think about the stress, but allow your body and mind to release anxiety through exercise. By the end of the walk, you’ll notice your shoulders aren’t as tight as when you started walking. Your breathing flows easily. The sun shines brighter. And if you listen closely, you’ll hear birds serenading you.
3. Music: How long has it been since you listened to your favorite genre of music? I love the old western ballots, crank up the volume and sing along to “There’s an empty hanger in my closet since you took the shirt right off my back.” The louder the music, the louder I sing, the better I feel. What a stress reliever! Those country ballots tell tales of people who have worse problems than mine.
4. Illuminating thankfulness: Even in a difficult situation, if we search hard enough, a nugget of thankfulness can be found. You may be in a tough patch right now, but someone else would give anything to have your problem. Whatever my challenge, I try to think the opposite of that challenge. For example, during an extremely full day at work with deadlines looming, my editor says he’s traveling by Friday and wants to know if I can write a pitch (this is Wednesday night—for Pete’s sake)and by the way he says 300 words is good. I let out a loud, Grrrrr! Take a deep breath and think the opposite: “Thank God for my editor, who is doing an amazing job to get my book published and polished.” Now Mr. Last-Minute-Editor doesn’t seem like a creature with ten heads, and my stress is reduced. Why? Because the note of thanks has right-sized my stress.
5. Let Whatever You Do Today Be Enough: Be satisfied with your accomplishments today. Don’t put undue pressure upon yourself by stretching yourself to the point of over-achievement. Be realistic and don’t look for a Superman/woman cape at the end of the day. Don’t worry about tomorrow, either. It’ll be here before you know it. And really, who knows what’s in store when you’re able to let go and free your schedule to do something you enjoy?
In an Instant
“If we’re growing, we’re always going to be out of our comfort zone.” ― John C. Maxwell
3rd Quarter, 2016
Ah! Life is comfortable. What a wonderful place to be. No hassles, no drama. Maybe a touch of boring, but sometimes boring is good. Life is relaxed, happy, and secure. But be careful with the sameness in your life. Don’t get blindsided by hidden truths that beckon from the slippery slope of comfort. It can lead to a routine. Routine leads to a rut. A rut leads to a life dissatisfied, discontented, and disgruntled.
Life has abundance in store for you rather than boredom. True living strives to deliver all that you were meant to enjoy. So don’t be surprised when in an instant, an unexpected event propels you out of your comfort zone.
My husband, Al, our dog, Lulu and I had just returned from a wonderful two week camping vacation in the AZ desert. We were getting back to our normal routine, when in a twinkling of an eye, our lives changed. A day after returning home, Al sustained a hip injury and went to urgent care. A nurse took his vitals; found his heart rate had plummeted to the 40s. An ambulance immediately transported him to a hospital 20 miles away. Our quiet, comfortable lives hung from a tattered thread. All the “what-if” thoughts bombarded my mind: What if he dies? What if we don’t celebrate our wedding anniversary next week? What if…? What if…? After a gamut of lab work and x-rays, his heart was determined normal and his hip was just a strained muscle. Whew! Now, we can get back to our comfy life…finally!!!!
Actually, it was hard to find our way back there. And even if we could, we were changed. Somehow the old comfort zone was no longer appealing. In an instant our lives were shaken yet surprisingly, our character strengthened. We were “changed” and now seeing at our lives through a different lens.
Neals Donald Walzgh, American author for a series on “Conversation with God,” has said, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” There are times when we’re yanked from our comfort zone by a horrendous problem, where hope has been snatched from the core of our being. Where is our direction? Where are the answers? If we stay focused, our course will be revealed through divine intervention. This is where God promises to make a way where there is none. We’ll get answers that will eventually mend our brokenness.
The night in the ER, while my anxious mind tried to keep beat with erratic sounds from Al’s heart monitor, I realized nothing else mattered in my life: not organizing a busy work schedule, volunteering, planning our next camping trip. What really mattered was my husband’s health. Laughing together. Sitting around the campfire and watching the desert sun splash brilliant colors across the evening sky. Seeing his smile and the sparkle in his eyes. Talking at dinner about how blessed we are to have a great family. Counting his blessings for having a smart, beautiful, and funny wife! Ha-ha!! Just wanted to see if you were still reading. So where were we???
And now that we have been plucked from our comfort zones, we are filled with a type of joy unspeakable. There’s a staccato in our step. True living has come alive! We were hoisted from our comfort zone, because God intended for us to enjoy a richer life. As I drove home from the hospital, I glanced over to my husband, seeing his handsome silhouette against the moon sparkled night, thinking and almost giddily, “We get to celebrate our wedding anniversary next week!”
Burden or Blessing
2nd Quarter 2016
“What seems to us as bitter trails are often blessings in disguise.” ---Oscar Wilde
What kind of thinker are you? Someone who views a situation as half-full or half-empty? Life’s issues are better handled when we define how we think. How we think will define the right perspective for our situation: A burden or a blessing.