Thoughts for the New Year~

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Life can be so busy, right?  We run here and there getting through our list of tasks each day with barely a margin to catch our breath. At least I have found myself in this situation more often than I care to admit!

This year, while considering a meaningful New Years Resolution, I felt impressed to make a concerted effort to slow down, acknowledging and appreciating those who serve my life in so many ways:  Airline stewardesses, waiters, retail clerks, grocery baggers, gas station attendants, etc.

I have learned some interesting things in the process:

1.  It takes extra time and intentionality to slow down enough to look someone in the eye and ask how they are doing.

2.  People rarely hear a “thank you” in service work and are really taken aback ( in a good way) when they receive an expression of appreciation.

3.  It takes courage to be intentional and express appreciation.  Even when I feel grateful I might not verbally express it.  I get a little nervous, to be honest.

4.  When people feel you are sincere in asking about them, they will open up in really surprising ways.  In doing so I have learned so many stories of those with whom I have interacted. Really special.

5.  Once appreciation has been expressed, the interaction takes on a whole new feeling when we see one another again. 🙂

I have worked in the service industry in my life and know how it feels when my days were full of grumpy, busy, or entitled people.  It’s tough.

How about we all slow down a little bit in the coming year and encourage those who serve us in so many ways. How about we express our appreciation in creative and kind ways.  It’s amazing what we can learn about people, and ourselves!

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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! 🙂

We all want to be liked……….

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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

Being honest about Christmas~

It’s Christmastime with all the lights, gifts, celebrations, cards, and busy schedules.  All around us we are besieged by products adds, Christmas carols, and the reminder that “If we order today our gifts can STILL arrive by Christmas day!”  Hurry ~~ Hurry!

Let me be honest, I love the Christmas season as much as anybody, yet, as I pay attention to the people around me I am tenderized by the fact that there are many facing challenges and changes IN THE MIDST of this season. Not everyone is experiencing a Facebook Christmas full of photos of fun, food, and laughter.

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I am aware of folks facing incredible physical challenges, financial pressure, relational pain, loss, and loneliness. For them, the holidays present unique challenges. I see the commercials with the children missing their daddies serving in the military; it takes less than one second for my eyes to well up with tears. I watched a man suffering with Parkinson’s disease carefully taking steps down the aisle at the store slowly gathering up family gifts as his energy (not love) drained with every step; tears again.  I read a blog of a colleague whose son has just married and faced a painful surgery to remove an enormous tumor in his brain; my heart breaks for what this young couple is walking through.

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No, I don’t want to write a blog that brings you down! I don’t. Yet if we miss what is really true during this holiday season we will be unable to be ready to respond to the needs around us. I have simply chosen, in this season, to be very mindful of those who serve in customer care during the holidays; I’ve committed not to be too busy that I don’t forget to thank them by name, smile at them, and compliment them.  It has been remarkable how those soft touches have changed their countenance. This is a little thing!

We all face challenging situations; some seasons are harder than others yet these challenges can just seem more pronounced during a season. If you are in a season where you are experiencing health, peace, and joy then CELEBRATE IT! If you are facing a season that feels heavy and challenging, I encourage you to trust in the One who loves you more than you will ever know!  Deuteronomy 31:8 says ” It is the Lord who goes before you.  He will be with you, He will never leave you nor forsake you.  Do not fear or be dismayed.”   I just LOVE that!   That is what Christmas is truly all about!

Even as I write I am keenly aware that many of you are in a tough season, some of you have just passed though challenges, and there will be others whose lives feel incredibly easy at this time.  I wish all of you true joy in whatever situation you find yourself this year.

Perhaps this season, and all year through, we could find the good tension between celebrating our own lives and remaining mindful of those whose lives are facing great challenge.  Let’s be human.

Merry meaningful Christmas to you, my friends.