Musings on Marriage~

299624_282276508469994_100000629411235_870705_1152925835_n

 

I am enjoying the privilege of leading a bible study with 6 precious young wives on the subject of marriage.  I am the leader of the study, yet I am a constant learner along with each one of them.  After almost 30 years of marriage I recognize that you never arrive at a PERFECT relationship.  Marriage is a process of growing and stretching through the many different seasons and changes in our lives.  Marriage is a committment to being a good friend~no matter what.

“Happily ever after is not a fairy tale. It’s a choice.”

In discussions about marriage some key issues continually come up:  communication, expectations, and forgiveness.  These areas can be where hurt and disconnect can be found. So, in light of this I wanted to offer a few thoughts that might serve to encourage you as you commit to building a rich, thriving marriage.

*   Active Listening:  taking the time to truly listen to your loved one, repeating back to them to see if you truly understood what they are trying to say, and them expressing how you imagine they might feel can bring clarity and empathy even if you don’t fully agree.  Everyone needs to have the freedom to express themselves; to be heard.  Practicing this kind of intentional listening will help build better communication and cause you to feel a greater connection to one another.

Balancing Expectations:  Have you ever thought through all the elements you may expect in your marriage?

  • To be able to talk everything through & find resolution
  • That we & our partner should never argue, fight or withdraw, always take care of each other & agree on everything
  • A wonderful sexual relationship, full of sexual passion
  • Each other to take their own responsibility for their own feelings, able to share love, rather than expect our partner to fill us up with their love
  • To have a lot of fun & easily laugh together
  • To have similar interests
  • Our partner to financially contribute
  • A certain level of contribution towards the household & childcare
  • Respect, admiration & deep trust
  • A relationship full of affection, holding, cuddling & kissing
  • To find each other infinitely interesting, look forward to being together & sharing ideas
  • Companionship
  • The same religious beliefs
  • Shared, common spiritual values

These elements are all good; however these areas can grow over time as the marriage matures, listening increases, and each individual grows deeper in their relationship with the Lord. Keep them as good goals but don’t expect perfection all the time.

“A great marriage is not when the ‘perfect couple’ comes together. It is when an imperfect couple learns to enjoy their differences.”

Forgiveness:   We all need forgiveness.  We all have a bad day, make mistakes, and respond improperly.  In my early years of marriage I would hold onto those things that hurt or frustrated me.  When I would do this I could easily find myself irritated by the smallest things simply because I had a stockpile of things I’d not yet forgiven. The older I get the more I recognize the huge value in keeping a short record of unforgivenes.  Fact is, I need to be forgiven often too.

“A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.”

As you celebrate Valentine’s Day this next week may you embark on the richest year of marriage ever!

How’s your EQ?

index

We are all familiar with the term IQ, right?  This term IQ (Intelligence Quotient) is a score derived from one of several standardized tests designed to access intelligence, a persons cognitive ability as compared to the general population.  The term “genius” is often used when talking about someone with a really high IQ. We might assume that someone with a high IQ would naturally become a success in all that they do, however there is another HUGE factor beyond IQ that can have a profound impact on success; personal or professional.  That factor is your EQ!

The term EQ (Emotional Intelligence) is the ability to identify, understand, and manage emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges, and diffuse conflict. The level of your EQ impacts many different aspects of our daily lives in both our homes and places of work.

Think about these 4 questions:

1.  How self-aware are you?   Do you recognize your own emotions and how they affect your thoughts and behaviours, your self-confidence, or your responses? Can you see how your emotions affect those around you?

2.  How well do you manage your emotions?  Are you able to control your impulsive feelings or behaviours, manage your emotions in a healthy way, take good initiative when needed, and follow through on your commitments?

3.  How high is your social awareness?  Can you understand the emotions, needs, and concerns of other people? Are you able to pick up emotional cues, and recognize key dynamics in a group or organization?  How well do you filter how you act or what you say?

4.  How well do you manage your relationships?  Do you know how to develop and maintain good relationships, communicate clearly, inspire and influence others, work well in a team, and manage team conflict? How about your personal relationships? Do you recognize the need for reciprocity or crucial conversations in order to maintain their health?

These questions are a really powerful filter to access your personal EQ.

So why is this even important?

We’ve all seen incredibly intelligent people fail miserably at life and relationships; we are often confounded by this because it would appear that their genius would almost solidify their success in every area….but it doesn’t!  It’s really not the smartest people who are the most successful or the most fulfilled in life.  A high IQ might help getting into a quality college but it will be a high EQ that will determine how someone manages dorm life, exams, and friendships!

To strengthen your EQ there are 5 things we can all intentionally participate in:

1. reducing stress ( guarding reactions) in the moment in a variety of personal and professional settings.

2.  paying attention to our emotions and finding creative outlets in an effort to keep them from overwhelming us.

3.  staying connected relationally and emotionally with others; asking for sincere feedback.

4.  allowing ourselves to use our sense of humor and creativity when faced with challenging situations.

5.  seeking to make intentional efforts to resolve conflicts positively and with confidence. Agreeing to disagree, compromise, and active listening.

“Emotional competence is the single most important personal quality that each of us must develop and assess to experience a breakthrough.  Only through managing our emotions can we access our intellect and our technical competence. An emotionally competent person performs better under pressure.” 

–Dave Lennick, Executive VP, American Express Financial Advisers

“What really matters for success, character, happiness and life long achievements is a definite set of emotional skills – your EQ – not just purely cognitive abilities that are measured by conventional IQ tests.” 

–Daniel Goleman, Ph.D.

In 2014~Let’s have the highest EQ in the room! 🙂

We all want to be liked……….

index

I DON’T LIKE YOU!!

Ugh, those are 4 words we hate to hear! We hate it when people don’t like us.  I believe we come by that naturally as we are wired up to want to be liked. The challenge is when we find ourselves compromising who we truly are trying to make others like us; admire us.

I read a wonderful statement this morning that got me thinking about this topic of “being liked”.  It expressed “Don’t stay so busy trying to be what you think others want you to be that you forget who you truly are!”  Joyce Meyer

How often do we turn ourselves inside-out to meet the approval of others only to find ourselves disappointed in ourselves? Been there? I have, and here are a few things I have been learning:

1. Not everyone will like me. Yet, truthfully, I don’t have a natural affinity for everyone either.  It’s ok.

2.  The strongest relationships are those where it’s okay to disagree; the shallowest relationships are the ones where we agree simply to stay in someones good graces.

3.  When I work hard to be the best “me” I can be, I am more confident and less affected by whether or not I am “liked”.

4.  When I am willing to be my true, authentic self I find that others who are authentic are drawn to me and our interactions are much more meaningful.

Perhaps asking yourself these questions can help you assess whether or not you are challenged in your need to be liked:

*Do you speak the truth (while still using care, wisdom, and respect) even if it’s unpopular to do so?

*Do you live a life consistent with your Core Values?

*Do you life a life of integrity to the best of your ability?

*Do you believe that your motives are good?

*Is it your goal to be a positive impact in the lives of those around you?

*Do you like who you are?

*Do you “disappear” when interacting with someone whose approval you long for?

Honestly access your answers to these questions.  Perhaps this year we can all learn to be more of our authentic selves in the home, workplace, churches, and communities.  In doing so, we may give others permission to do so as well!! 🙂

” It takes courage to grow up and turn out to be who you really are.”  E. E. Cummings

New Choices for 2014~

images

As I arose early this morning on one of the last days of 2013 I began to ponder just how quickly this year had passed!   Seems like I just blinked and another year had gone by. Delving even deeper into my thoughts, I asked myself if I felt I had used this year; the time I was given, to the best of my ability?  Was I a good steward with my time and priorities?

My assessment of myself? Not 100% perfect! However, I felt satisfied with the priority I had chosen as my main focus throughout the year. People! I have tried very hard this year to stay connected with the precious people God has allowed me to know and love.  Family, friends, colleagues, co-workers, and new relationships.

As I perused through my 2013 calendar, looking through the tasks/appointments that I set for myself I am satisfied that I gave ample time to my key priority of valuing people. Certainly I’ve not been perfect, wishing still that I’d have had more time with some that I only connected with occasionally!  Staying and being connected with others in this way is cup-filling for me; I pray it has brought value to those I care for as well.

Now, here’s the balance~ did my focus on my main goal of valuing people impact other priorities in my life? My devotions, exercise, study time, and housekeeping…….well, sometimes it did.  Because of this, I recognize the need to balance my priorities better in 2014!  Just a little tweaking here and there to my calendar and Ideal Week would create time to spend with others while making sure I am still being keenly responsible to the other areas of my life that deserve my attention!

As you look over your past year, are you pleased at how you used your time? chose your priorities? navigated your responsibilities?  Like me, are there some areas you need to shore up to find greater success when you arrive on the doorstep of 2015 (which will come in a blink)?

Now is a great time to think about the year ahead! calendar those priorities, create an Ideal Week to assist you in committing to how you will use your time ( contact me if you’d like an Ideal Week document to use), and give yourself permission to make needed changes for greater satisfaction in 2014! The new year is yet untouched~ make it your best!

Happy New fantastic year! 🙂

Even the best laid plans…………………

I love the leaders I serve, so when one of them invites me to join them in an event that’s meaningful to them and those they love~~ well, I’m IN!  Last week was one of those times!  Thursday I was up early, packed and ready to fly to Dallas, TX to be a part of a wonderful Christmas event in an amazing church in Keller, TX.

joy-20132

Weather reports showed that there “would be” a change in the weather; it would be cold. I was disappointed but knew I would be so involved with my leader and her event that I wouldn’t really notice that the weather had turned cold.  Then… the ICY SLEET fell upon the state of Texas and everything changed.  The moment the plane touched down in Texas I received a text letting me know that the event I was planning to attend was cancelled.

Hmmmm…….Lord, I have flown all the way here….You know everything……..Help me know your purposes in my stay here.

From my hotel window I watched car after car spin and crash into guardrails and other cars, heard the warnings from newscasters to just stay OFF the roads, and the continuing announcements that almost every flight out of Dallas was cancelled and would be cancelled for some time.

Lord, I am all by myself here. I wanted to be a blessing but now feel like I am a burden~~ah, the best laid plans!

images

Life throws us lots of twists and turns doesn’t it? Weather, finances, health, even relationships have elements that we simply cannot always control! Finding value, even in the challenge, is a choice we can make.

Let me be totally honest; there were moments this week when the tears were flowing at the thought that getting home would be nearly impossible, moments where I tried to make sense of the fact that I was sitting alone in a lovely hotel without a purpose to my stay….

However, amidst all the hysterics of roads and flights; I was able to get home at midnight last night! 🙂

This makes me wonder about God’s view of things;  was the unplanned conversation I had with a woman who had just lost her son to cancer meaningful?  Was spending time with a precious couple new to my church/community on the plane worth being stranded?  How about the young man who forged his way in the sleet to open the BUCKLE store he managed? we had a long conversation about his journey to find his faith in Christ; his father was a pastor? Did that conversation matter in God’s view of things?

In my desire to catch my 3:30 flight home out of Dallas, I went to the airport around 9:30…….Just to be diligent.  I had a 5 hour wait and needed to power up my phone a couple of times. One of those times there was a man sitting next to me who had been trying to get home for 3 days! He had waited hours and hours before being told his flight was cancelled.  Needless to say –He was tired. Sitting there he began talking about his family; especially his oldest daughter whose choices caused him heartache. Our conversation was meaningful and emotional for him.  Sadly – his flight was again cancelled, so I said that I thought we ought to go to my ticket counter and see if he could get on my flight! Amazingly, the airline employee smiled at him and said “I just had a cancellation, you can take that seat!”  He smiled at me and said to me ” you are either magic or blessed!” I told him blessed.  He was home that night!  Hmmmmm……..In God’s view of things, was that man important enough for there to be value in my “stranded” experience?

How about a surprise encounter with two people with whom I have not had reconciliation for a few years showing up for the same flight as me; getting a chance to talk, to show kindness?  Then the lovely older gentleman who was seated to my left on the final leg of my flight. Just a few years ago he had to file bankruptcy as he was a developer in our area when the market hit bottom; he spent a lot of time talking through his sadness about 3 of his colleagues who committed suicide due to feeling hopeless during that season in the economy. We we got off the plane he introduced me as his “new best friend” to his colleague!

Were these conversations of high trust God ordained or just a chance happening?  No, I can’t answer that…I’m asking you; the reader, what you think?  I am still pondering the possibilities…..sometimes I just wonder about those best laid plans…………………!

Psalm 139:16 says “All your days ordained for me are written in your book before one of them came to be.”  Yes, He knew.

Thanksgiving Thoughts~

dear-god

Thanksgiving is a time to savor and reflect on all that we are thankful for; an opportunity to gather with those we love to share our hearts and a meal too large for us all!!

I thought I would try to list the Top 10 things that I am Thankful for ( knowing that 10 things would never cover all that I cherish in my heart…but I will make a brave attempt!

MY TOP 10

1.  For God~His grace and mercy, favor and care, comfort and correction. Where would I be without the Lord in my life? Cannot imagine!

2.  For My wonderful Italian husband, Greg, without whom my life would not be nearly as interesting, fun, and love-filled. Together we have weathered many seasons and assignments, all of these experiences have made us a stronger, more loving team.

3.  My amazingly smart, talented, and kind sons.  Their ideas fascinate me, their questions challenge me, and their kindness warms my heart. Nate and Dave are two special men with whom I am incredibly proud.

4. My beautiful daughter in laws.  Oh my, I love them.  These ladies are thoughtful, creative, funny, and smart. When I watch them love on our sons, my heart swells. These girls are also my dear friends and I feel very lucky for their friendship!

5.  My precious parents whose consistent love and generosity continues to amaze me.  Their ability to love deeply, pray regularly, and creatively love on all of their children, grandchildren and great- grandchildren is an example I pray I will follow.  My parents legacy in my life cannot be expressed in words. I am so thankful for them.

6.  My “extended” family~  The word “extended” encompasses so many precious people:  my incredible sisters, creative and caring nieces and nephews, Aunts and Uncles that I adore, Cousins who I care deeply for, my mother and father in law whom I love, so many people who bless my life and heart!

7.  Dear loyal friends. So many amazing people who have walked alongside Greg and I for years and years; cheering us on, giving wise counsel, making memories, and weathering storms….If I named them one by one the list would go on and on……

8.  Our Coachwell Clients (leaders and friends)~I find it simply amazing that I have the incredible privilege to work with, care for, and be a cheerleader alongside so many world-changers!  These leaders bless me more than I could ever express…but I will never stop trying to let them know how much they mean to me!

9.  Our Coachwell team.  We work with a team with such great hearts; loving towards our clients, vendors, us, and one another.  We look forward to continuing the journey with them alongside us!

10. My Church.  Our spiritual family are a gathering of kind people.  We have enjoyed 4 years of growing alongside so many folks working hard to grow in Christ and make a difference in our community and beyond.  Whether it be a teaching, worship, small group, or a women’s events~ all of it has given me opportunity after opportunity to grow! I am thankful for them.

Well, when I started this list I wasn’t sure where it would end up.  However, One thing that I have realized is that PEOPLE are what I am grateful for!  So on this Thanksgiving Day I hope you find yourself somewhere in my LIST and know that I am very thankful for YOU this year!

Have a truly meaningful Thanksgiving this year. 🙂

Important Conversations!

” The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” George Bernard Shaw

images

I have heard this quote numerous times, I find it incredibly profound every time.  It is never easy to have a difficult conversation.   No one ever wakes up in the morning eager to jump into a discussion that could have an uncertain outcome. No one naturally wants to feel uncomfortable or to create possible conflict. If they do, frankly, then may have other personal issues that need to be dealt with. No~ no one really enjoys a “Crucial Conversation”.

In the Book “Crucial Conversations” the term in the title of the book would be defined as a discussion between two or more people where the stakes are high, opinions vary, and emotions run strong.

In order to navigate relationships in your family, workplace, community, or place of worship there will be times when the need to have a direct conversation will be clearly evident, left unaddressed gaps in relationships, teamwork, or productivity will be the result.

Have you ever gotten a phone call or email that you simply ignored because in order to move forward there would need to be a conversation? Have you ever walked “around” a teammates office so that you could avoid a tough conversation? Have you ever abandoned a friendship because having a hard conversation seemed too challenging?

I have to say YES to all of these situations. In trying to asses “WHY” I would have avoided challenging conversations I would have to discern that it was because I assumed I wouldn’t fare well; that I would cause more trouble.  But often these types of conversations can bring fresh understanding, resolve conflict, and relational rebuilding.

 In considering a crucial conversation we have 3 possibilities:

1.  We can simply avoid them.

2.  We can face them and handle them poorly.

3. We can face them and handle them well.

I feel that most of us would choose either #1 or #3.  Assuming  you have picked #3, I would l like to offer a few suggestions that I have learned in my years of being a Leadership Coach. (I am not an authority by any means; I continue to be a learner!)

Prepare yourself for  the conversation.  What is the end result you desire?  What is the temperament of the individual you need to address? Are you angry? Have you already indited this person?  Can you see your part in the challenge? What words will you use to clearly communicate? Are you prepared to listen?

Set a quality time/place for the conversation. Timing is key when addressing a challenging topic.  I always tell young brides that it is NEVER wise to address challenging topic with their spouse after 8:30-9:00!! Two tired people addressing conflict will rarely provide a positive result!  Does this conversation need to be in private? Do you need a 3rd party present for accountability?

Follow up within 24 hours. It is important be sure that your crucial conversation truly created the clarity needed between every individual involved. Do an understanding check as well as a relational check. Your conversation may not result in complete agreement but see if it has cleared away the intensity of emotion or misunderstanding.

Difficult conversations are necessary as we grow in every area of our lives and the results of having them successfully will empower us to be brave enough, kind enough, and wise enough to address them well.

Are the conversations you’ve been avoiding? Situations that need to be addressed? Relationships that need reconciling? Gaps on your team at work?  Instead of focusing on how negative a crucial conversation could be, consider how much fruitfulness is to be gained. 🙂

Airports~~

images

I’ve done a lot of airplane travel over the past year.  I remember as a kid the idea of flying on a plane caused me to much excitement that I could not sleep all night just thinking about my upcoming adventure.  Though I am thankful for the option of taking a flight rather than embarking on a LONG drive; I no longer find it thrilling.

One thing I find especially interesting is the magnitude of people; all walks of life, all ages, all religious beliefs, all occupations gathering in one place to get to and from business or family connections.  Does God have His eye on each one of them? Is He mindful of their lives?

As I look at each face I imagine what their life may be, where they are headed, or what their family may be like. Based on their clothes, accent, or age I come to my own conclusions about them.  Yet, I am quickly reminded that scripture is clear that ” man looks at the outer appearance, while God looks at the heart.”  Even if my conclusions are not in any way critical, I still don’t really know their story or the condition of their heart like God does.

Being at the airport reminds me again and again how big and broad God’s view of us is; my world and context is so small!  Being at the airport reminds me to try to see “other travelers” with Gods point of view and compassion.  Perhaps you have a place you frequent where people regularly gather; school, Starbucks, church, or even a park. When you look around at the faces, think about how God might see them. It will change your perspective as it has mine.

Just something to consider on this blustery Sunday. 🙂

Good Questions~

images

Powerful questions can challenge us, help us move forward, and give us the opportunity to assess our lives, motivations, helping us to understand how & why we sabotage ourselves and how & why we are motivated!!! As a Coach, questions are so incredibly important!!

Here are some good questions:

  • 1.  What do I want?
  • 2.  What is the difference between a wish and a goal?
  • 3.  What keeps me going?
  • 4.  What do I need in order to reach my goals?
  • 5.  What am I choosing this week?
  • 6.  If I were at my best, what would I do right now?
  • 7.  What is it to be exceptional?
  • 8.  How can I recharge my batteries
  • 9.  What am I grateful for?
  • 10. What have I learned about myself?

Ask these questions of yourself, ponder them. What is being revealed about YOU? What helpful truths have you recognized that could help you grow; move forward?

For me, answering these questions is both humbling and clarifying!  Good questions can create fresh understanding.  Ask yourself GREAT questions and watch yourself grow in fresh ways!!

images

Keys to key Relationships! (re-post)

Building  Amazing Relationships!

Business group showing teamwork

Relationships can bring us our greatest joys and our deepest wounds. We can’t control how others choose to respond in their relationships with us, but we can establish our own ground rules for having and maintaining quality relationships.

Below are some thoughts to consider as you navigate the relationships in your life:

1.  Surround yourself with positive people- finding like-minded, positive people will fill your cup. Spending the bulk of your time with those who suck the happiness out of you is unwise and unhealthy.

2. Accept people just the way they are – Save yourself the needless stress of trying to change people who don’t want to change. Fight the urge to engage in fruitless conversations, rather look for areas where you can agree and show support.

3. Forgive people and move forward –  holding anger or bitterness affects us much more than the individual we have been hurt by.  Forgiveness is not saying “What you did or said was okay.”  It is saying “I’m not going to let what you did ruin my happiness or steal my joy.” It doesn’t mean you forget it simply means that you choose to let go.

4.   Do little things for those in your life –  A card, a visit, a gift, an email, a text. Simply take opportunities to connect with and appreciate those your care about.  We all feel a little more valuable when we realize that someone has been thinking of us.

5.  Talk a little less, listen a little more –  Our relationships will grow if we move away from being the talker and take the time to listen! A listening ear is the greatest gift we could give to those we love.

6.  Be Loyal – be the kind of person that believes the best about those you love. Everyone needs to know that someone “has their back”. Be that person.

7.  Pick your battlegrounds – don’t pick petty arguments. We aren’t always “right”.  Focus on the things that truly matter and let the small stuff go!

8.  Encourage and cheer them on –  be excited for those you love! Spur them on! Don’t look at their opportunities or dreams with the lens of what it will cost you, rather keep them the priority.

9.  Remember that everyone has baggage –  we all enter relationship with a suitcase filled with past experiences; successes, disappointments, hurts, etc.  Sometimes that “baggage” effects the relationship and needs to be addressed. However, using grace and understanding will always be the most fruitful approach.

10. Let go of friendships that are no longer healthy – some relationships can run their course and a necessary ending needs to take place. To force relationships to continue when the season is over can be exhausting and eventually more harmful than good.  Be willing to appreciate the relationship for what it was, and then release it and move forward.

Relationships are our most valuable assets and worth the effort to keep them strong and healthy! Test these tips out and see if they help create healthier interactions in your relationships!!  Flourish in the days ahead!!