Who is the bigger man?

 

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Tonight Greg and I went on a date! So fun! We walked the River Trail and enjoyed the rush of the river, the crisp wind that cooled us down, and the greenery that made us feel in awe for God’s amazing creation.!

After our 4-mile walk Greg and I decided to grab a quick bite before heading into the movies to watch The Incredibles (don’t judge)

As we ordered a salad and Iced tea there was a disturbance that caught our attention very close to where we were sitting. An angry man and his pretty wife jumped up and moved to a table way alongside of us–cursing and angry about the loud children that had been seated at a table right behind them.

We hear angry responses from the father and mother of two rambunctious boys from the family behind this older couple, the father expressed that his kids didn’t come with a mute button! “ This is a family restaurant!! All of a sudden two angry men were bumping chests and hurling angry responses to each other! Once it died down—the father with his children beside him preceded to provoke further anger by calling out the antagonist challenging him to fight and calling him a coward!

Greg and I caught eyes. We were both sad. Adults should lead in the arena of civility and yet, two sweet young boys observed the anger in these two men that mirrored the anger so prevalent in our culture today!

God says that His people will be salt and light in and generation who has lost its way!

How can we shine a light? How can we be a different flavor than those who are pent up—angry. This is a remarkable season for those who follow Christ! Let’s seek him in this angry generation and bring hope, kindness, civility, and reconciliation!

I had a really bad rash~

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It started with a small spot here and there; a little break out I assumed. I awoke the following morning with multiple spots and some swelling on my face; now I was both concerned and confused! Was I allergic to something I’d put on my skin? Had I eaten something that could have caused this reaction? I was feeling my anxiety rise; what is happening to my face?

After 3 days of managing this on my own I did the unthinkable! Yes! I looked up all the possibilities on the Internet! Believe me, the information that bombarded my brain caused me to become anxious and overwhelmed! I don’t recommend this route to anyone. Ended up going to my dermatologist and found out I have Rosacea (who knew) and this was a Rosacea breakout caused by something unknown. I got some medicine that caused it to begin to heal within hours!

Though this was a total nuisance; both irritating and frustrating, it did reveal something about me and gave me a chance to grow.

While my face was highly imperfect I didn’t go out of the house, not even to go get the mail a block away. I didn’t celebrate Mother’s Day at a Brunch with my sisters or attend church on Mother’s Day. I was not going to be seen out and about looking this way!

While home I had time to think about my situation and also the situations of others. Earlier this year I was involved in an amazing retreat where the majority of attenders were women involved in chemo treatments or Cancer survivors. These beautiful women had hair in various stages: short cut hair, thinning hair, and some with no hair at all due to the chemo treatments.  These lovely women hadn’t let how they felt “looked” keep them from enjoying their life or an opportunity to connect with other courageous women.

I was challenged by the feeling I had inside that told me “if I didn’t look perfect then I’d better hide away at home!”   Every time I looked in the mirror I was convinced that I looked horrible; this certainly took a hit on my self-esteem.

Isn’t it so much easier to put on our happy face when entering social settings when we feel we measure up? Isn’t it more freeing to connect with others when we are at the top of our game; at out best? Sure it is! I had a very evident rash on my face that anyone passing by would have easily seen and probably acknowledged with a “ohhh, what happened?”   Ugh! I didn’t want anyone to know!  Isn’t it true that, in reality, sometimes we’ve got a “rash” on our soul that effects us the same way? Maybe it’s a hurt, a habit, or an experience that has left us feeling “imperfect. Due to this “rash” we isolate ourselves saying that “when it goes away” I will re-engage with those I love.

After 6 days home alone (with the exception of my very kind and patient husband) it felt so right to exercise again, walk outside, visit with friends and family; my cup felt full again. Every person I shared my experience with said “I wouldn’t have cared about an old rash; I care about you!”

Got a “rash” holding you back?

Reach out, re-enter and re-engage; isolation doesn’t make it heal any faster!

When Life is cut short~

Jeff was a loving Pastor. He was tall, athletic, and well loved. He was one of the good guys; always a smile on his face. With his loving family he had served the church and community with a heart that truly cared. I was shocked and grieved as I tried to wrap my brain around the news. He had taken his life

Michael was a talented man; a singer, handsome, very funny, and loving. By all accounts he had found a life that was joy-filled and purposeful. He had married his college sweetheart and they had built a beautiful loving family together. When I saw the news I was breathless, shocked, and so sad. He had taken his life.

Over the weekend I read about a hugely successful realtor who was married to the love of his life and spent limitless amounts of his time and money on making a difference in the lives of others. As I looked over his Facebook page I saw hundreds of beautiful pictures of he and his wife on exciting vacations, earning awards, and making incredible memories. I just couldn’t make sense of it; he had taken his life.

I don’t think this issue of suicide is easy to discuss or understand; I feel awkward and uncomfortable even writing about it. Yet, I don’t think there are always blaring warning signs beforehand. I do believe that everyone who has been impacted by the suicide of a loved one is left with a host of unanswered questions and grief.

When a life is cut short we ponder the “why?”. When a life is cut short we wonder if there was something we could have, should have done. Truth is, I don’t believe that we can always pinpoint a key reason or even make sense of it.

What I do believe is important is grace, healing, grieving, and forgiveness. Each of these elements matter as we walk through the process of loss. However, it is also important to celebrate ALL the memories we were able to make with our loved one and to acknowledge their valuable life in creative and meaningful ways.

We experience deep grief whenever we lose someone we love; no matter how they pass. But, the loss due to a suicide bears it’s own unique sadness; a different kind of groaning in our soul; we need God to bring comfort and grace. And He does; He’s good like that.

If you have had thoughts about suicide; reach out! Isolation is the worst choice when going through rough times, or are experiencing emotional instability. There are more people who love you than you realize!

If you have a sense that someone is experiencing deeper challenges and greater instability than at other seasons of their life; reach out to them! Enter into a courageous conversation, a messy conversation, in an effort to open up a dialogue about your concerns.

Suicides will and do happen and there is no one who should own the blame. However, with the rash of lives cut short I am left to ponder if there’s anyone I need to be watchful for and am I making good choices in my life to stay emotionally healthy and surrounded by a loving support system.

“Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly. The moment you’re ready to quit is usually the moment right before the miracle happens!   Don’t give up!”

What would I say to her? ~

 

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It is truly a pleasure to lead groups of women through a Life Plan Intensive; helping them to assess the season of life they are presently in and help them to move forward toward the life they truly desire.

In a recent event I asked the women in attendance to take 20 minutes to write a letter to their younger selves; how would they advise her? What council would they give their younger selves? What regrets would be expressed? What hopes? What celebrations? Certainly a daunting task.

The room got serious, very still as precious women took pen to paper. I could sense a myriad of different emotions being expressed as woman wrote feverishly throughout the room.

It was so meaningful as women began to share some of their personal thoughts with the other women in the room. I saw heads nodding in agreement as women verbalized their thoughts and regrets for their younger selves.

After a needed break, these same women began to write a letter to their 90-year-old selves. What could they share with her? What could they promise her? What would her legacy be? Almost immediately the atmosphere in the room lifted; I felt hope in the room; I could hear pockets of laughter.

I have been thinking a lot about this exercise lately. Writing a letter to our younger selves holds the potential of a quality assessment of the life we’ve lived. We learn a great deal about life from the many ups and downs we have all experienced. What if that experience empowers you to feel a fresh sense of hope as you enter into this fresh season of your life. Such important thoughts to capture.

Whether you are 20, 40, or 90 we are always learning and growing and there is always hope!

Let me challenge you! Take 90 minutes and write a letter to your 20-year-old self. Pay close attention to the thoughts and emotions that arise within you. Let yourself take notes on lessons learned. Then turn and write a letter to your classy 90-year-old self, tell her what you want the years ahead to look like. Make that wonderful lady some fresh promises and move forward in great hope.

 

May you come away even more kindness towards yourself;  love the woman you are today.

A Cancer Diagnosis~

 

 

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It was with both anticipation and anxiety that I boarded an early plane last Thursday heading to Tennessee to be a part of a meaningful Retreat named “Just Breath”. It was a non-profit called Compassion That Compels who had a vision for this event; I was honored to serve alongside their amazing team.

Entering the Ballroom at the resort I watched women from many different states, walks of life, married and unmarried, even rich and financially challenged gather together with incredible warmth, acceptance, kindness, and understanding. What did they share in common? A Cancer diagnosis.

In a world of heated competition where individuals scramble for first place in their companies, homes, and churches; I watched gracious women embrace one another without a thought of who mattered most. There was something that had evened their playing field~ A Cancer diagnosis.

I have been pondering this rich kindness in my heart with a little bit of wonderment. Does it take a “crisis” to make us show rich kindness? Why should it be easier to find acceptance post a crisis rather than following the words of Jesus “Love one another JUST as I have loved you?”

As I find myself, again, waiting in the airport for the next flight home, I know I am going to miss the kind of community I experienced in that Ballroom for two precious days. May I represent them well in the days ahead by being as incredibly inclusive, kind, and welcoming in my life every day! 🙂

Parenting Isn’t for Cowards~

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I had never loved like that before. I had nephews that I adored but I hadn’t experienced the emotion that would ignite when I looked into the eyes of my own little boys. I also hadn’t anticipated the weight of responsibility that I would also feel for these little lives. Would I do a good job? Would I teach them well? Would I be able to train them up to become kindhearted, confident adults? Or would I fail?

I am certain that every parent questions themselves as they ebb and flow through the different seasons of parenting. Some seasons are rich with laughter and fruitfulness while some seasons are full of discipline and challenge. It’s in those challenging seasons that we can question our parenting ability. It’s in those seasons that we can feel inadequate; I remember those times. I wish I had been given these four words of wisdom as I navigated the emotions I experienced in those moments:

It’s not personal

When my little boys would express disrespect, ungratefulness, and used hurtful comments~ it wasn’t personal, even though it hurt my feelings. They were misbehaving, for sure, but as children they’re actions were a reflection of their frustrations, emotions, and immaturity rather the deep heartfelt considerations of me. If I would have truly known that truth I would have spent less time responding to their behavior out of my hurt.

Even if you use all the best parenting models your child will misbehave

 Back when I was a young mother there weren’t as many “how to parent” books that there are now, today there are hundreds of books telling parent how to be an incredible parent; it can be overwhelming! Nevertheless, would read anything I could about how to parent boys. I was happy to implement the tools I learned along the way with the great anticipation that they would be incredibly fruitful and make for happy parenting. Even with the best intentions there would be seasons where I felt I wasn’t making any headway; failing at the plan. What I know today is that kids simply go through times when they just want to test the boundaries and it simply wasn’t a reflection on how well I was doing.  Behavioral challenges don’t necessarily reflect your parenting “know how”.

Use the “village ”around you

When I was in a challenging parenting season I would isolate. I didn’t want to burden anyone, and I found myself embarrassed by the fact that I was feeling like a failure at the time so I didn’t want to invite anyone else into the conversation. The problem with this was that I really needed to utilize the wisdom from someone older, the encouragement from another mama, and fresh voices that could speak into my child’s life during that time.   What you’ll learn is that every parent has faced challenges in parenting; you are not alone.

Celebrate the wins

When I experienced a hard season with my little ones I would find myself discouraged, so discouraged that I focused fully the difficulty; it’s all I could see. I had a wonderful mentor who encouraged me to keep a journal where I was to list 3 things my boys did right every day. I was shocked as how this simple task could change what I was looking for in their behavior, I discovered so many interesting and inspiring choices they were making that I simply may have missed. Celebrate those wins; it may very well change the way you respond to your child.

Dr. Dobson wrote a book called “Parenting isn’t For Cowards” and that is true, isn’t it? Yet, the rich love your pour into your little ones, the stories you tell, the topics you teach them, the experiences you give them, and your faithful care for them will bear rich fruit in the days ahead.

 

If you lead with love you are never a failure, chin up!

First Impression~ Wrong Assumption

This morning Greg and I managed to get to church early despite the snowy roads. We don’t get there early often but it’s always a treat to be able to visit with friends and grab a cup of tea before the service. While chatting with a leader in the coffee area I saw an elderly man trying to get around us to grab a little snack of fruit that had been put on platters for the taking. As this gentleman got closer I tapped on my husbands arm to alert him not to back up on this gentleman who was standing so close by.

From the corner of my eye I observed him; he looked a little out of place, a little awkward, and just a little disheveled perhaps. I wondered about him as I had not seen him there before. I wondered if he was alone, maybe homeless and I found myself putting him in a “category” based on my first impression.

Imagine my surprise when he walked right over to our conversation, stood there and said, “ I wanted to introduce myself; this is my first time attending Westside Church.” He then went on to share (in his European accent) that he was visiting from Silicon Valley; has two successful daughters who live in Bend.   We continued chatting and it became evident that he was a brilliant professional, well spoken, and kind. In fact, he was involved with a hefty robotics contract with Google in California.

As we all made our way into the service I was struck by my ability to make such hasty judgments about people! I was disappointed that I had made assumptions, incorrect assumptions about this dear man. Sad to confess but I don’t really know if we would have had such an engaging conversation if he hadn’t initiated it.

As I listened to the speaker share a powerful message from the stage of the power of loving people in “the way of Jesus” knowing that left to my own human nature I fall prey to internal judgments and assumptions that keep me from being “Jesus with skin on”.

I was reminded of a story I heard a long time ago:

Pastor Jeremiah Steepek  ( pictured below) transformed himself into a homeless person and went to the 10,000-member church that he was to be introduced as the head pastor at that morning. He walked around his soon to be church for 30 minutes while it was filling with people for service, only 3 people out of the 7-10,000 people said hello to him. He asked people for change to buy food – NO ONE in the church gave him change. He went into the sanctuary to sit down in the front of the church and was asked by the ushers if he would please sit n the back. He greeted people to be greeted back with stares and dirty looks, with people looking down on him and judging him.

As he sat in the back of the church, he listened to the church announcements and such. When all that was done, the elders went up and were excited to introduce the new pastor of the church to the congregation. “We would like to introduce to you Pastor Jeremiah Steepek.” The congregation looked around clapping with joy and anticipation. The homeless man sitting in the back stood up and started walking down the aisle. The clapping stopped with ALL eyes on him. He walked up the altar and took the microphone from the elders (who were in on this) and paused for a moment then he recited,

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

‘The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

After he recited this, he looked towards the congregation and told them all what he had experienced that morning. Many began to cry and many heads were bowed in shame. He then said, “Today I see a gathering of people, not a church of Jesus Christ. The world has enough people, but not enough disciples. When will YOU decide to become disciples?”

He then dismissed service until next week.

 

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Lord, may my biases and assumptions cease as I am filled more and more with Jesus. Amen.

 

What if ?

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Last summer Greg and I had the pleasure of sneaking off to Kauai for a little break before jumping into a very busy Fall. The news prior had been fairly disconcerting as there were headlines expressing that the Hawaiian Islands were an easy target for North Korean Missiles!! Greg and I even shared that we had some reservations about going.

The evening we arrive in the Princeville area we unloaded our groceries and proceeded to make a nice dinner to each on the lanai as the darkness began to settle in.   Fifteen minutes into our meal we say what we thought was a very big and very bright “falling star”. We both remarked how strange it appeared………..Five minutes later there was a quiet but huge explosion in the sky with white sparks flooding the sky right in front of us. Greg and I sat there frozen! Was this our worse fear? What had just happened? I quickly looked up the local news and there was nothing to be found. Had we just seen a missile?

The following morning it was announced that one of our military carriers had accomplished a “practice run” to see how prepared we were for any incoming missile. Whew!

Two weeks ago it was wrongly announced that there was an incoming missile and those on the island needed to find somewhere to go. Panic ensued. For 35 minutes there was no announcement that the alarm was sent out by mistake; for 35 minutes people rushed to connect with loved ones, pray, get inside “safer” buildings, and feel all the anxiety that someone might experience after realizing this could be their last day. Wow!

I only felt a fraction of that anxiety when I watched a missile explode in front of us during dinner; the idea that this could be our last day has definitely spurred on meaningful conversation between Greg and I.

Faced with the possibility that we would not have another day we have looked at the breadth of our lives and have begun making adjustments that we could have regretted missing; people, relationship with God, places we want to see, impact we want to have. As scary as that experience was we have used it as a catalyst for fresh growth and stronger priorities.

What if you had been in Hawaii two weeks ago? (I had 8 friends on the island at the time!!) What if you felt like you had a second chance after it was announced that the alarm was sent out by mistake? What would you regret? What would you change? Would your priorities look a little different? I encourage you not to wait until you are in harms way; make those adjustments this year because truly, none of us know when our last day will come. Live with no regrets!

I don’t want to get up!

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Our alarm “screams aloud” at 5:15 every weekday morning; this begins a process of decision-making for me. As I lay cozy in my bed I am more in love with my pillow than at any other point in the day and I am talking to myself. “ I could go to the gym later today”, “I worked out hard yesterday so I’m fine.” “I’ll just stay home and do stretches a little later.”   I laugh because I have this little dialogue so often knowing full well that if I don’t get up and go to the gym at the start of the day I probably won’t go at all!

My husband, on the other hand, has already made the decision that he IS going to the gym each morning. Greg recognizes the incredible value of self-care habits and is committed to taking good care of himself. I, too, know and experience the value of regular exercise. When I get up and head to the gym by 6am my day always feels better; I feel better!

So why is it that when I know something is so valuable to my life physically and emotionally I still have to “talk myself into that good decision”? It makes no logical sense! But isn’t that the way we can all be? I know taking time to be reflective each day; spending time in the Word and taking time to  journal is so cup filling. I know that eating well and exercising causes me to live with greater health and wellness. I know that taking the time to build quality relationships for challenge, accountability, and support is key to my experiencing community. Those are just a few things I KNOW.

I am committed to saying “Yes, I will” to all of the above truths in greater measure in 2018. How about you? What do you want to say, “Yes, I will “ to this New Year? What important intentions have been missing from your daily routines that IF you committed to them would make a big difference in your life?

How about it? Let’s start this year with a fresh focus, attitude, and willingness to say

“Yes, I will”!

What if this was your last Christmas?

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Can you believe another year is about to close?  It feels like I simply blinked and it was December again! How about you? However, if I take a little time to reflect over the year I realize that within that crazy, busy year there have been some monumental experiences that should not be overlooked; there were so many learning opportunities for me.

One of the biggest “stand out” experiences for me was, unfortunately, a horrific car accident in which my husband and I walked out with our lives and we are beyond grateful.   This unfortunate experience has given me many moments of reflection as I think about the brevity of life; it goes by so fast and sometimes it is stolen from us.

Our car accident has caused me to take a deeper look at my passions, my professional work, my personal life, my meaningful relationships, as well as my physical & emotional health. As I stepped out of the truck that day, badly shaken, my first thought was an overwhelming gratefulness that our lives had been spared but following that I experienced a very clear picture of what really matters in my life~ people.

As you walk through the holidays, how can you navigate the season so that the busyness does not steal from your connection with others? How can you slow the pace in order to share tender moments along the way? Christmas traditions can be so fun, baking and office parties can be invigorating; but taking the time to be certain that those you love know that they matter is really at the heart of Christmas.

What’s tugging at your heart this year? Is there a relationship that needs encouragement? A single mom struggling that needs your touch? Does your spouse need the festivities to slow down so that the two of you can remember what great friends you are; or perhaps work towards being again?

Our unexpected accident has only heightened my awareness that every day is a precious gift!  Truly, the 2016 Christmas season could have been our last! Every day is, indeed, a gift! Instead of chocolate indulge deeply in the relationships that surround and bless your life and in doing so you will have a very Merry Christmas.