Full Circle Relationships~

Full Circle Relationships~

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I hate conflict. I’ve always hated conflict. In fact, I believe I spent many of my “young adult” years avoiding conflict as much as possible, especially in my college years, and early in my role as a Pastor’s wife. Yet conflict is often inevitable. For me, the problem with being IN a conflict was that I felt I needed to fix the relationship as quickly as possible. My nature is to want to be friends and friendly with others to the best of my ability; conflict simply makes me anxious and sad.

Making peace, however, is not always resolving the conflict. Sweeping challenges under a rug is not helpful in sustaining long-term quality relationships. Nevertheless, I have been learning over the past 10 years that if I do what I can to bring resolve, even letting the relationship go for a season, it often comes around “full circle” where resolve and understanding are uniquely applied anew. I have been surprised by this many, many times. Watching this take place in my life both takes me by surprise and, frankly, makes me very happy.

I’ve gained a few insights as I’ve pondered all of this and I want to share just a few with you.

  1. In a conflict, especially in the heat of it, don’t say everything you are thinking. Emotions are interesting and can cause us to respond so defensively or angrily that what we say, in the moment, can cause greater harm than the conflict itself. The example of opening a feather pillow, letting the feathers fly out, and then trying to put them all back inside the pillow is a good picture of how the things we say can be impossible to retract. In a conflict it is better to cautious of what we say if we desire the relationship to have resolve one day.
  2. Be willing to let things go. In many of the full circle relationships I have experienced I have not been “justified” nor have the other parties necessarily apologized. When I look over all the goodness that has surrounded my life, all the blessings…it just doesn’t seem right for me to hang on to disagreements, necessary endings, or misunderstandings. I want to move on, beyond the conflict and be ready to forgive. Life is too short to harbor anger and resentment. Anger changes me; it doesn’t make me the best version of myself!
  3. Learn from the conflict. What was my part? What could I have done better? What should I have avoided? How can I grow from this challenge? My dad used to use the statement about finding a “pony in the poop”! J There is always something to gain from our challenges if we are willing to really dig for it! And, there are always two sides to a relational challenge.
  4. Use the conflict to grow in grace.   Conflicts are real, and sometimes, relational challenges can cause really deep hurts; real scars. And yet as I look at the grace I have been given over and over and over again; unmerited favor, I am challenged to practice grace with those around me. Some situations require more time on my knees but at the end of the day bitterness never wins.
  5. It’s okay to have boundaries in a challenging relationship. There are times when a relationship comes full circle and there is peace where there has been conflict. But~ the relationship may require more caution, even good boundaries in the days forward. Boundaries can be wise if they are applied with kindness and understanding. I have relationships that I know can be toxic; in those instances I will limit the amount of time I spend in connection with them.
  6. Last of all~ never slam the door shut on a relationship.   Honestly, life can be surprising. People Change. Time changes people. Challenges bring fresh understanding. We NEVER know what can and will happen in a relationship; keep the possibilities in front of you.

Reconciliation is at the very heart of God; starting with our reconciliation with Him. His heart is that His people would walk together in peace and understanding. However, this can prove to be a real challenge as we do life with others. In families, in the workplace, in the church, even in the community; conflict can happen. Hopefully you will see relational challenges in your life come full circle in the days ahead as you practice caution with your words, grace and forgiveness, and are willing to own your part! Dr. Phil always says “This situation needs a hero; will it be you?”

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

 

 

Could It Be Time For A Needed Break?

 

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More often than not, we finally take a break long after the need for it began to arise!  However, what would it look like if we would give ourselves permission to take a break BEFORE we needed it!  Well, perhaps it would be helpful to list some of the telling signs that show us that we are “spent”:

1.  Even upon rising in the morning we feel a sense of dread rather than hope and anticipation. We dread the tasks of the day;we just feel tired.

2.  We find ourselves having a shorter fuse than we normally have. We will react strongly to situations that we would have navigated better when we had greater life balance.

3.  We start to sabotage the “good systems” we have had in place~ excercise, rest, quiet time with the Lord, and “screen free” time. We make excuses saying that we just don’t feel like taking the time.

4.  Often our food choices start to waver.  We start eating foods we know make us feel bad. We tell ourselves “We’ll start eating better on Monday”.

5.  We can begin to feel apathetic.  We can waste our time surfing the web, watching mindless television, ignoring  phone calls, and even turning down invitations from friends.

These are just a few of the signs that we are in need of a break!

Now sometimes we need a break at a time when we cannot take a vacation; cannot disengage from our responsibilities. So, how can we find ways to re-group and catch our breath?  Here’s a few:

1.  Get offline.  If we are overwhelmed the last thing we need is to burden ourselves with media information, mindless games, and even an over-dose of Facebook.  We need to give ourself a chance to breathe!

2.  Take a “staycation”.  Use local attractions to your benefit; live music, picnic in a park, go to a Museum, take a hike, rent a Kayak, take a cooking class, simply take the opportunity to make a refreshing memory.  It’s amazing how activities like these lift our spirits and give us a fresh attitude.

3.  Read or watch something light-hearted~ something that causes rich laughter.

4.  Take a spiritual retreat.  Set aside a full day – somewhere private or peaceful where there would be time to rest, read inspirational thoughts, pray, journal, eat chocolate, a dream again.

5.  Grant permission to say “No.”    We are often exhausted by maintaining activities that have served their time.  Allowing yourself to re-think the activities that fill your weeks and to say “No” to create greater bandwidth is a gift you give yourself!

For all of us; learning when enough is enough will be key. Learning to recognize when our energy is expiring will help us to take that needed break BEFORE we need that break!!  🙂

4 Keys for a Joy-Filled Life~~

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Life is unpredictable.  Life has challenges.  Life can sometimes steal our joy; let’s just be honest about that.  We cannot control everything that comes our way, even if we wish we could! This is why we should be compelled to maintain some key elements in our lives that will help us keep our balance and joy even when faced with uncertainties.

Here are 4 keys that I believe to be essential to maintain a joy-filled life:

1.  LAUGHTER:   There’s just nothing like laughter to release the tension that builds up in our daily lives. A good belly laugh can turn our day completely around! Kathryn Hepburn was quoted as saying  “I love people who make me laugh. I honestly think it’s the thing I like most, to laugh. It cures a multitude of ills. It’s probably the most important thing in a person.”  I have to agree! Laughter takes our minds off our “to do” list, our sadness, or our anxieties and allows us to catch our breath!  Ignoring the need for laughter will cause us all to become very serious and introspective.  So plan to lighten up a couple of times a day~~LAUGH!

2.  FORGIVENESS: Martin Luther King said; Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.” This means forgiveness is a choice.  I “choose” to be unoffendable yet when I am offended I will seek to walk in forgiveness as a gift to myself! Walking in unforgiveness can change us.  Walking in unforgiveness is draining. Walking in unforgiveness steals our joy.  In an article written by Charles Stanly he said that  “It’s probably not surprising to hear that resentment impacts the mind and spirit, but you may not have realized what a physical toll it can also take on us. An attitude of bitterness ratchets up tension and anxiety, which can affect everything from muscles to chemical balance in the brain. Over time, that kind of mayhem weakens the body.”
Therefore If we seek reconciliation when we can and choose forgiveness always, we will stand a greater chance of experiencing a consistent joy-filled life.

3.  Quality Relationships:  Quality relationships are those that bring energy to you as a person.  I’m talking about the deep, unreserved relationships you have within the circle of family and friends that you have. Who are the people who know you and have weathered storms and joys alongside you?  Who are the people who love you unconditionally and call just to see how you’re doing?  Who are those who would never indict you but would have your back in any situation? Isolation is a joy stealer, we all need a handful of people who will lift our spirits when we are down, laugh with us when we need to unwind, and celebrate with us when we are experiencing even a small victory! These are the relationships that deserve to be placed on your calendar and nurtured!  Friendship is the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words.
George Eliot

4.  Times of Solitude:  Unplug.  Turn of your phone. Back away from the computer. Breathe.   Take some time to be silent.  To read or reflect. Take time to pray or journal.  Don’t see this as a waste of time, but as an integral part of your day. We all need periods of solitude, although temperamentally we probably differ in the amount of solitude we need. However, some solitude is essential; It gives us time to explore who we are and how we feel. Solitude gives us a chance to regain perspective. It renews us for the challenges of life. It allows us to get (back) into the position of driving our own lives, rather than having them run by schedules and demands from without. Times of solitude are also a time to connect with God, giving you time to listen to what He may be saying to you. Making times of solitude a priority in your life will help you to find joy; even in the midst of a busy, or challenging season of life.

Begin to practice these 4 Keys on a regular basis and you will begin to see how valuable they are right away!  I want you to live a life that is Joy-filled. THAT is my hope for you! 🙂

Would I be willing to Stretch?

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Over the weekend I attended a fabulous Woman’s Event where we were encouraged, even challenged, to stretch beyond our comfort zone to make a difference the world around us.  Our speaker told stories and gave statistics of the incredible needs abounding in the USA and abroad. As a passionate person I initially felt that I needed to make a difference, do something, in every area she expressed a need!  Then I started to feel overwhelmed!  I really can’t make a difference everywhere!  There’s just not enough of me to go around! So where does God want ME to focus my attention, finances, and time?

During our round table conversation we discussed the question:

  What is my unique calling?

The answers around the table were rich as each woman shared their area of passion and committment. One was called and heavily involved in the fight against Human trafficking, one was involved in reaching out and supporting widows, one was a speaker/ writer with a passion to help women become the “warriors of the faith” that God has called us to be, another was an art teacher who builds confidence in children and adults alike. There was a precious gal who felt called to focus on her family; pouring into the next generation, and for myself? I am presently called to invest in the hearts and lives of women in leadership to empower and support them to lead and influence well.  I loved the diversity at our table!  I loved that each woman was fully invested in what they felt God was calling them to do in this particular season! It’s really important to know our uniqueness as part of the Body of Christ.

But then there’s the challenge to stretch out of our comfort zone to create fresh impact along with our calling: mentoring troubled teens, funding woman across the globe to become independent and fruitful, working with a Pregnancy Resource Centers, or supporting those who are in the middle of the fight against Human trafficking! Would we be willing to ask the Lord if there might be something fresh that He wants us to step into along with our unique calling? Perhaps with our prayers, maybe our finances, or possibly our time.

You may have recently read a powerful book, listened to a moving podcast, or have attended an impacting Woman’s event like I have and have felt a stirring in your heart; maybe God is calling you and I to stretch our efforts to have greater impact on those in need. Would we be willing to ask?

Parker Palmer wrote a wonderful book called Let Your Life Speak that directs us to discover and live a life wherein our God-given design intersects with what the world needs. I think a life lived operating in the gifts God has given us—and mindful of meeting the needs of others—is a life that beautifully reflects the person of God. The world could use more people like that.

Let’s be those people! 🙂