We have choices to make~

 

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Can I be honest? There are a lot of sad and disruptive events taking place these days. There truly are concerns that have many people feeling unsettled and uncertain about their world, their leaders, and their futures. I have talked to many of them; they are feeling overwhelmed, feeling sad. There are days when I do as well.

Disheartening events impact us on every level: thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Violence inspires worry, fear, and anxiety. The anxiety created by current events is all-encompassing and can keep us from living fully. And that is my concern. Having such increased social media and television shows/Books that mirror the events in our world only make it more challenging to come up for air!

What steps can we take to help ourselves or those we care about to redirect their anxieties and use that energy in a fruitful, impacting way? Is there anything tangible that we can do? Well, what we know about fear and anxiety is that underneath it all is a lack of feeling a sense of control; being left at the effect of someone’s leadership choices, weather events, or other disruptive situations.

We cannot control all those factors but we can control a number of choices we make that would calm our concerns and build purpose in our lives. We can make some life changes that would give us peace in the midst of uncertain days.

First and foremost, find a place of worship.   Knowing that we have a God who is incredibly mindful of us, taking time to pray about the concerns in our hearts, and locking arms with others of strong faith will make an surprising and powerful difference in how you see the world.

Limit (I mean really limit) social media. By saying this I am not saying that we put our heads in the sand but seeing news stories over and over again is unhealthy. We know for sure that what the media reports is a steady diet of what is going wrong; we rarely hear a story of what’s going right. Do a daily “flyover” but try not to make social media a steady diet.

Keep a gratefulness journal each day. What went right? Where was kindness shown? Who did I help?  What made me laugh?  When we commit to looking for the good in each day it can literally change the way we see our circumstances.

Do something good for others. Give your time where you can impact your community in a positive way! No, we cannot change the whole world but we can make a difference in the community around us.

Always be sure to spend time with life-giving people; family and friends. Talk about things you can celebrate, appreciate, and enjoy. Try to stay out of a host of doomsday conversations; rather ignite hope and vision in one another.

Again, we cannot control all the elements in our world but we can take back control of how we choose to live and navigate our lives and behaviors!  Choose well, choose hope.

 

 I have told you these things so you may have peace in Me. In the world you will have much trouble. But take hope! I have power over the world!” John 16:33

 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:6-7

Winter Blues~

 

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After 6 long months of snow, ice, hail, wind, rain, and more snow; the sun has finally shown its face (at least for today). If I were a skier I am sure that I would be mourning the end of a great ski season; so sad to see it go. However, I am rejoicing in the prospect of long warm days ahead!

I hate to admit it but I think I may be one of those people who gets “emotionally blue” the longer winter continues. I get tired of trying to drive on snow, tired of wearing mittens, large jackets, snow boots, short days, and being mindful not to go out at night because of ice on the roads. To be truly dramatic sometimes I feel trapped by the winter season!!

I am a girl who was raised in Santa Cruz, California and only experienced mild temperatures and seasons for most of my young life; but life in the Northwest has been quite different! I am learning, sometimes unwillingly, about the impact of seasons as they change.

Life is a little bit like our seasons, isn’t it?  Sometimes we find ourselves in a season that feels like a bleak, cold winter; a season filled with challenge, uncertainty, and even pain.  In these times we might imagine that seasons will never change, never get brighter, never get warmer. Yet, just as spring follows the winter, our life seasons will change as well.

A few ways I “survive” the winter months are: binging on British shows on Netflix, good coffee, exercise, doing home projects, writing, and reading, and spending time with those that I love.  These are a few tools in my arsenal that get me through until I can bask in  the season of hiking, biking, long walks along the river, camping and basically everything outdoors!

In that same way, perhaps when we are in a “winter” season in our lives we truly need to find ways to navigate it carefully and intentionally; self-care, spending time with “life-giving” friends and family, prayer and meditation, exercise, etc. Then, when you least expect it ~ the sun will come out again. Don’t let the “winter season” of your life destroy your hope for a a brighter day!

“We all know that if the seasons were the same, there would be no growth. We know that without winter there would be no spring. We know that without frosts there would be no bulbs and without the monsoon there would be no rice harvest. In the same way, we also know that without sorrow there would be no joy. Without pain there would be no healing. I think that’s precisely where the beauty comes in. It comes in through the fruit of the seasons. He has indeed made everything beautiful in its time.” Naomi Reed ~ Author

The storms will come, but I presently love this sunny day! 🙂

For Women Only!

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If you have followed my blog for any length of time then you know that there are certain themes that I will write on time and time again; hopefully expressing thoughts in fresh ways. The “rule of seven” tells us that a person generally needs to hear a concept at least 7 times before really grabbing ahold of the concept and applying it to their lives.  So please indulge me as I take another stab at a truth that I know to be very, very important!

LADIES!  I give you permission today to take as good care of yourself as you do for all the others in your lives!

As a young woman, I was a pastor’s wife, friend, sister, daughter, church volunteer, school volunteer, house-keeper, cook, and mama to two active boys; how I wish I had been told how impacting it would have been if I had figured out some way to establish self care  in those days! So often I was exhausted, unhealthy, and even a bit isolated in my closest relationships….I was just so busy.

Let me explain Self-Care a little better:

“Self care includes any intentional action an individual takes to care for their physical, mental, relational, and emotional health.”
Good food, water, exercise, and good sleep patterns are  key to maintaining vibrant energy and outlook.
Life giving friends, healthy boundaries, quality support,  and cup-filling activities help to keep our emotional health strong.
Having proven ways to relax, taking time to journal thoughts and concerns, growing in the area of faith, listening to positive information rather than focusing on the negative, and learning to nap are all elements that support sustainable mental wellness.
Building good friendships, gathering with other women in your season of life, enjoying “girl time” where you can laugh deeply, and having a “posse” of women who you know have your back, strengthens our sense of connectedness and relational health.
Here’s an action step:
If you look at your calendar, personal and professional, and you don’t see yourself represented there on any given day–it’s time!
* a spa day
* a girl’s night out
* a nap
*time at the gym
* time with God
*time with a good book
*hiking in the great outdoors
*crafting
* and saying no to some good things to use your greatest energy for the BEST things.
10WaysToSayNo         ( just for you)
Permission Granted Again. ( you are worth it )
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Can we have an honest chat?

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Have you ever had a “down” day?  Have you ever felt “blue”?  I have and I’m sure you have too.  There are times when the challenges of life feel like they are crushing in on us, there are times when situations catch us so off guard that it sends us into a sad tailspin for days or even for a short season.  The ebb and flow of life can bring both sadness and joy.  Even King David had some “blue” days where he cried out to God “Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief. My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak” (Ps. 31:9-10).

However, what if you found it impossible to move past those “blue” feelings?  What if you’ve tried everything you know to be happy and positive but the heaviness you feel remains?   What if anxiety and depression have become and unwelcome guest on your life journey? Shouldn’t you be able to fix it with enough faith in God?  What’s wrong with you?

Peter Kramer in his article; It Can’t Be Depression, I’m a Christian tells us:

“Christians feel guilty about being depressed. They feel they should “know better.”  This leads to denial, which only makes matters worse. Well-meaning friends, and even pastors, who don’t understand what is going on, encourage them to “snap out of it,” and offer advice on “getting their Christian act back together.”

But clinical depression and anxiety isn’t something a person can “snap out of.”

What if your depression and anxiety required some form of wisely administered medication to assist you in regaining that needed chemical balance? This is where we get religion and physical health mixed up?  With every other physical challenge, thyroid issues, asthma, cancer, heart disease, etc, we find it completely acceptable to require medications to bring greater health and healing, yet historically  the church can get really uncomfortable when medications are required for greater mental health.

Carlos E. Whittaker, a pastor, in a recent article says;

Common myths in the church as it relates to mental illness are:
1. A person struggling with mental illness needs to have more faith.
My faith and my serotonin levels have nothing to do with each other.
2. A person struggling with mental illness should forgo medicine and pray harder.
You wouldn’t tell an asthmatic to pray harder during an asthma attack. You would tell them to suck on that inhaler.

If you are a person who struggles with regular anxiety and depression then you are probably nodding your head in agreement.

Years ago, as a very positive type of person,  I was shocked to find myself in the midst of postpartum depression! I loved my baby.  Why couldn’t I shake off these feelings? Didn’t I have enough faith?  I was ashamed to tell anyone about how I felt and I didn’t know how to make it stop!  Finally, I got some much-needed help and over time I re-gained my emotional balance.

God understands our dark feelings, our doubt, our discouragement, and yes, even our depression; and his desire is to help us. Sometimes, the help we need might include professional counseling and some form of medication. After all, God created the minds that created these medications, and it is not a sin to take them if you truly need them. Sometimes simply making better choices for food, rest, and relaxation rhythms can be all that’s required to move us to a healthier place. Sometimes we need greater intervention.

You may agree with me or disagree with me, and that’s okay. However, as a Pastor’s wife and a Coach for many years,  I have heard the shame in the voices of those who struggle with the depression and anxiety; this breaks my heart.   Add their need for medication  and the shame triples! I don’t believe they should feel any shame; I don’t believe they are faithless people.  I believe God cares deeply and wants His church to express His heart to hurting people in the midst of a very difficult struggle.  I know you do too.

If you struggle daily with depression or anxiety; please get the help you need. Find someone to talk to, get some medical support, and refuse to let shame or embarrassment keep you from living a life full of purpose, peace, and joy.

Romans 12:15  Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.

What are you trying to say?

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This past week I had the joy of babysitting one of my precious granddaughters, Scout Jubilee, 2 days in a row.  We had such fun together, however, we also faced a real challenge!  Scout is now a big talker, firmly expressing her thoughts about many different elements of her little life.  To her, she is speaking very clearly and certainly loud enough for her Mimi to fully understand what she is trying to convey.

Imagine her dismay when she looked into my very confused face and heard me say numerous times “Scout, Mimi doesn’t understand what you are saying.” Scout kept saying over and over “Ne Ne” and I kept asking her about different options to unlock the meaning of the words that clearly held a strong meaning for her!  After about and hour of trying to unlock the mystery I decided she was probably a little tired so I would kiss her and carry her upstairs for her afternoon nap.  The moment I headed up the stairs Scout started to say “Ne ne” all over again; but this time with her little head lying exhausted on my shoulder! And then it hit me, this little darling had been trying so hard to let me know she was very tired and wanted to go “night, night”!!

Because of my inability to clarify her words, I completely missed what she was longing to express! ( she slept for a little over 3 hours, by the way!)

I have pondered this experience with Scout and began to wonder how often we are all on the expressing side and the understanding side of a conversation.  I wonder how often we fail to express our heartfelt thoughts in a way the someone can truly understand what we are longing to say?  I wonder how often we fail to hear the real meaning of the words someone is trying to express to us?

Engaging in quality conversations can be a real art sometimes and I believe if we really want to understand someone else, if we really want to be able to respond in such a way as to make a difference, then we need to keep clarifying until we can see or hear that we have “got it”!! Are there any conversations in your relationships that are needing further clarification?  Are there questions needing to be asked for greater understanding?  The efforts to understand will make a big difference.

“The single biggest problem in a conversation is illusion that one has taken place!”  George Bernard Shaw

Oops!

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It’s going to happen.  It’s inevitable. At least once in your life you are going to fail at something.  Everybody has failed even if they refuse to admit it. Interestingly enough, some of the greatest success stories were born out of some form of failure: Steve Jobs, Walt Disney, even Oprah.  C. S. Lewis said it best “Failures are the finger posts on the road to achievement.”

Failure can be a real opportunity!

  1.  You can learn a great deal from failure IF you choose the to.  For all of us there is room for improvement; failures can bring those needed areas to light and give us the chance to grow!   Hindsight is, indeed, a great teacher. A failure can become a defining reference point when faced with a similar challenge or opportunity.
  2. Failure can make you stronger.  When some people fail they throw in the towel, give up.  Others fail and they seem to find a deep strength within to learn from it and do better next time.  Though it feels really bad in the moment but it shouldn’t stop or break you.  Getting through a challenging failure; in business, a relationship, or experience should help us to learn how really strong we are!
  3. A failure may lead to new opportunities.  Sometimes a failure can lead to a necessary ending; a new direction.  A failure can help us assess if we are on the best path for our lives. A failure, as painful as it can be, might lead you to considering fresh avenues for your life.
  4. Failures simply make the successes so much sweeter! To have grown and learned from a past failure and having  fresh success in a previously challenged area is the best feeling in the world!  The learning and hindsight gained somehow makes the challenge worth it.
“Success consists of going from failure to failure without the loss of enthusiasm”  Winston Churchill
“Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead-end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” – Denis Waitley
 
Learn from failures, forgive yourself, stand up tall and move forward with fresh resolve.

Some Relationships are Worth Extra Effort~

 

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Do you hate conflict? I sure do!! I used to run from it for many years; never expressing myself, wanting to please and appease! But I have learned two things:

1.  It’s so important to address challenges/disagreements in relationships.

2.  It’s so important to be willing to be humble to “not be right” in order to maintain relationships that DO matter.

In my life I am clearly aware that I have friendships/relationships that I want to, well, last forever.  There are times, even in those key relationships, that there may be disagreements.  How do we navigate some of those challenges without losing the friendship? Well, I am still learning.

There are times when it’s important to set boundaries on toxic or untrustworthy relationships…but there are also times when we might want to walk away from a relationship where there has been a challenge and yet, we know in our hearts we want them in our life!

Questions we can ask ourselves in these instances are these:

1. Though there may be a conflict right now, would I be saddened to lose my relationship because of our present challenge?

2.  Could there be a bridge built in our relationship if I humble myself and try to understand the heart and season of my friend?

3. Can I extend grace and am I willing to move forward?

Relationships are so important, take care, wisdom, and a humble heart to navigate~~ but they are worth it!!!

Proverbs 17:17A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity.

John 15:13“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.

Going the distance in your Marriage~

Two days ago I returned from a spectacular Anniversary celebration on the Island of Maui with my husband of 30 years ~ it is a trip I am very, very grateful for.  To be able to celebrate 30 years of marriage; to still enjoy time together, to laugh, to adventure, and to love, makes me feel so fortunate.

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Marriage takes work, relationships take work.  That being said, it’s not ALL work.  Marriage takes a whole lot of different elements to go the distance. Here’s what I’ve learned in my marriage “journey”.

1.  Communication~ It was lack of communication that almost caused an ending to our marriage almost 15 years ago.  Both of us spent our time reacting and talking over one another. We would  offend one another and one of us would always shut down.  Obviously this was not fruitful.  With the help of a wonderful counselor, Greg and I learned the art of active listening.  Learning to actually listen, hear, and learn empathy–even if we didn’t always agree–made all the difference.  We are still learners but we have come a long way!

2. Having a relationship with God and sharing it with one another~ In marriage you learn early on the your partner cannot meet every need in your life, fill every hole, fix every challenge. It’s simply impossible. To know that there is One, our Saviour, who knows you deeply, and loves you, absolutely makes such a difference in the area of expectations and personal confidence. Sharing that rich faith together helps to bind your hearts and values. Together you can take your needs, concerns, and difficulties to Him. A shared faith makes a huge difference.

3.  Laughter ~ Life can feel very serious; often time it IS serious.  It’s super important to remember to laugh. Allowing yourselves as a couple to grab times of light-hearted playfulness makes a huge difference.  Greg and I have learned to play games together, listen to 70’s music (singing along, oh my!), and many other activities that allow us to focus on simply being friends.

4.  Ask for help ~ over the years Greg and I faced challenging turning points that could have stolen our 30 year anniversary from us! There is a trail of amazing people who stood with us, encouraged us, challenged us, and walked us into greater relational health.  We are eternally grateful! We couldn’t have made the changes that were needed without the love and support of good people!

5. Making an effort to be the best version of yourself ~ None of us are perfect. However, I believe that if we are taking care of our health, emotional well-being, and spiritual depth, we will be a healthier life partner.  Challenges come in all of these areas without being invited, BUT if we are living a life where we are personally addressing these key areas we will walk through the uninvited challenges better.  Insecurity, exhaustion, and fearfulness can play a real negative role in our marriage relationships.

6.  Build a good posse of friends/family with strong marriages ~ Having couples around you who are growing in their marriages, who are honest about marriage challenges, and who value their spouses makes a big difference in your ability to go the distance in your marriage.  As couples we can learn from one another, stand with one another, pray for one another, and celebrate with one another through the season of life! This has been key for us!!

7. Dream together ~ if you can’t dream with one another WHO can you dream with?  It’s fun to think about the future, consider ideas that are “out of the box”, share your crazy ideas, and even take risks to make that dream come true! Life can feel awful dull without dreaming…….. 🙂

There are so many elements that go into a marriage that can stand the test of time; to go the distance.  I’m sure I’ve left some out.  But these are my thoughts as I ponder our 30 years of marriage.  I’d love to hear your ideas too!! 🙂 and perhaps you’ll celebrate YOUR anniversary look out at an amazing sunset just as Greg and I did last week! Best to you and YOUR marriage.

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Things we might regret~

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This past week I had the privilege of traveling with my mother and her sister on a road trip to see one of their lifelong friends a few hours away.  This would be a 3 day trip full of laughter, meaningful conversations, shared memories from days gone by, and lots of reminiscing.   I enjoyed the time I had with them all; each of them are so precious to me.  One of the comments was that “time has just gone by so very quickly”, I even see this in my own life as I am celebrating 30 years of marriage this week.  Life does indeed move forward quickly.

Since I returned from the road trip I have been looking at my own life and asking the question, “am I doing all I can to live this life well, with purpose and meaning?”  As I think about that question my answer is “yes, some of the time.” I could do better.

I began to ponder the question, “What might we all regret when we get into our twilight years?”  and I came up with a list of things to consider.

1.  Not stopping to appreciate the “moment”.  Living life so busy-minded that we miss so many amazing moments all around us.

2.  Not traveling when we could have.  Seeing and experiencing other cultures makes a huge difference in our world view and can create memories to last forever.

3.  Holding grudges.  How sad to live life as a hostage to hurt feelings! Gotta let it go!

4.  Not having taken time to get to know God~ to invite Him into our lives. He gave us the very breath we breathe; how amazing to have a life knowing and trusting in Him.

5.  Not having taken time to volunteer.  Life is so much richer when we take time to come alongside those wanting to make a difference!

6.  Not spending intentional time with loved ones.  It’s a sad truth to realize that we don’t know how long we get to have those we love in our lives.  It’s best not to put relationships off “till tomorrow”.

7.  Caring too much what others think.   We will never please everyone all the time.  As much as we may try, there will always be those who see us through a filter that we cannot control.  Care more about being the best YOU that you can be!

8.  Working too much.   Decide when then work day needs to be done.  Disengage and fill your life with life-giving activities and people.

9.  Never having taken risks to pursue a dream.   Do you have a dream in your heart? Are you playing it so safe that your dream will never be realized?

10. Worrying too much.   Life is complicated and uncertain.  All of us could focus on areas of concern and find ourselves consumed with fear and worry.  However, worry robs us of joy.  We will regret having spent our days burdened and concerned.

It was fun to hear of all the ways my mom and her sister intentionally built memories from childhood till now.  When life was hard for them; they created space for joy and laughter.  When life has been joy-filled they have intentionally celebrated those moments with gratefulness.  No matter what stage of life you may be in; ask yourself if there’s anything on my list that YOU may regret someday.  If there is there’s no time like the present to turn it around! 🙂

When Life Feels Uncertain~

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Our lives are full of uncertainty. Pick up a newspaper, watch your evening news!  There’s change and challenge all over the world.  Weather, finances, government policies, and global conflicts swirl around our lives every day. For some, uncertainty at this level has left them paralyzed with anxiety and fear of the future.   Uncertainty is so uncomfortable; our minds want clarity and good closure.  Certainty is almost always preferrable to the unknown!

Yet, we all experience uncertainty in our lives in a more personal way; health diagnosis, job changes, relational challenges, and financial transitions just to name a few.  Times of uncertainty are really challenging to navigate because our head and emotions tend to respond negatively to the discomfort; thus anxiety can set in and hold us captive.

So, how can we find a way to thrive amidst uncertainty?  Is it even possible?  In her blog on uncertainty, Katherine McHugh says “disorienting storms of life are not just about survival, they are about learning to thrive.  It is not in spite of daunting circumstances that we grow, but because of them.”

Scripture puts is this way:

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”
James 1:2

There are many moments of uncertainty in life. There always have been and there always will be. Sometimes things turn out the way you want them to, sometimes they don’t. Yet, accepting the uncertainty rather than trying to fight it, trusting God to guide and lead you, remembering that you cannot predict the outcomes, and watching for opportunities to grow and learn in the middle of uncertain times really helps.

My life has been full of seasons of uncertainty.  I’ve moved 11 times in my marriage, lived in 5 different cities, we pastored in 5 different churches, served 9 years in a non-profit organization, and have built our own Coaching Company from the ground up.  We have faced physical challenges, family changes, and relational transitions.  Many of these seasons of uncertainty left me anxious, fearful, and discouraged as I walked them out.  However, now that I’m older I am able to look back and see how all these situations have played a big part in who I am today.  Some situations turned out as I’d hoped, some disappointed me, and some were a complete surprise to me!

If I could speak into the life of my “younger self” amidst a season of uncertainty I would encourage her to catch her breath, spend time with God, look for the good that can be gleaned, spend time with life-giving people, and fight the urge to need to know NOW!  If I had consistently made those choices I can only imagine that my experience would have been a bit different!

Are you sitting in a season of uncertainty? If you are then it is my prayer that you will begin to walk in greater confidence that there will be a resolve and that there will be “nuggets of wisdom” to pocket in the days ahead.

Remember:

So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” Deuteronomy 31:6