Scars~

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This week I have been pondering this insightful quote: “Never be ashamed of a scar, It simply means you were stronger than whatever tried to hurt you.” Zig Ziglar

None of us will go through this life without a few scars gained along the way. We can be scarred by people, hurtful situations, or physical harm.  We can allow our scars to keep us afraid, over-cautious, and even isolated. We can allow our scars to cause us to feel embarrassed, ashamed, or just simply uncomfortable with ourselves. Whether our scars are Internal ( wounded emotions) or External ( a physical challenge) – the impact can be very similar.

A year ago I met a beautiful young woman with a sweet spirit and bright eyes. As we sat together she proceeded to take off her sweater to get comfortable.  When her sweater was removed I noticed that her arms were covered with burn scars.  I asked her what had caused these scars and she told me the sad story about how her boyfriend, in a fit of despair had tried to commit suicide –dousing them both with gasoline and throwing a match! I was stunned to hear such a horrific story!  I had to ask~~”How had she managed to have such a sweet spirit after an experience like this?  How had she gotten comfortable, socially, with all these extremely noticeable scars?”

Her answers were profound.  She said that for her to walk in hurt and anger would have caused her to have the same despair she saw in her ex-boyfriend; she didn’t want that experience to ruin her.  She told me that she wasnt defined by the scars on her skin; she was fully alive inside and refused to stop living large!  Finally, she told me that she had gained incredible empathy and understanding for others who had experienced situations that caused deep scars externally and internally. Because of this, she was in the process of becoming a child psychologist!

As I think through that story I realize that we all have a choice in how we respond to the scars in our lives.  Do we let them define us or do we look to heal and overcome the situation that caused the harm? Can we learn from our scars and become richly empathetic to others around us?

“Scars are not signs of weakness, they are signs of survival and endurance.” Rodney A Winters

“My scars tell a story. They are a reminder of times when life tried to break me, but failed. They are markings of where the structure of my character was welded.” Steve Maroboli

“There is a big difference between a wound and a scar, Because a scar says, ‘I’ve been healed, and this is my story.’”  Belinda Elliott

Perhaps these thoughts can give you a fresh perspective on the scars you bear; knowing that God can and will redeem our hurts and give us victory.

Help! Help! Help!

 

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This has been a relationally rich summer. Greg and I have had the joy to host clients, family, and friends in our home every other week since the first of June!  What a privilege to share our lives and to engage in “shoulder to shoulder” activities with them all.  These sweet times truly enrich our lives and I believe, theirs as well!!

Recently, one of our visitors swam farther than they were equipped to swim.  We were at a mountain lake and he  challenged himself to swim across the lake to an area where he could rest upon a floating dock. However, the ladder to the dock had fallen deep to the bottom of the lake. uh oh!  After trying unsuccessfully to climb up on the floating dock he decided to swim back to shore.  Halfway back his legs cramped and shut down having been affected by the cold water and fatigue!    At first he said, “I need help” which quickly turned to a cry!  “HELP!”…..”HELP!”……”HELP!”

It was surreal to see our friend truly struggling to survive. His plea for help became more and more emphatic….he was sinking and he knew it.   My husband heard the cries of his friend and he knew he needed to make every effort to help his friend survive!! Before he sank under the water, Greg jumped in, swam to his friend, held him above the water  leading him to safety.  After resting along the shore, our friend regained his strength and went on to have a wonderful day. Nevertheless, witnessing this experience shook us all up and left me with a clearer understanding about some real live truths. Our friend did nothing wrong, yet LIFE happened uexpectantly and he was wise enough to have not been alone!

We were never meant to “do life” alone.  We weren’t created to depend only on ourselves.  We have been designed to walk through this life in community and with accountability.  The scenario at the lake would have ended differently if our friend had been there alone! Fortunately, he had not made that unwise choice.  We all need to have people around us that want us to survive and thrive! People who will jump in and carry us if needed when we cry out for help!

When we withdraw and silo ourselves from the support and safety of wise counselors we can tend to gravitate toward treacherous waters….to stinking thinking, compromised choices, and unhealthy commitments.  To be protected from these things we need quality people in our lives who can recognize the “danger” and help us to stay on the safe shore.

Ecclesiastes 4:12 says  “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.

Proverbs 15:22 says “Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisers bring success.

Proverbs 27:6 says The wounds of a friend are trustworthy, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.”

Think about your life today.  Do you have people around you who want to see you stay above water?  Do you have those who are willing to help when you feel like you are drowning in the challenges of life?  If you do then you are richly blessed.  If you do not I sincerely encourage you to be committed to creating a circle of connection in the days ahead.   Just like our friend on the lake…..if you are alone in a crisis, you need to have support.  We were meant to do life together! 🙂

Wonderfully Made~

Give yourself permission to pause and declare with the psalmist, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” Psalm 139:14

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Can you list the many gifts and talents God has placed within you?  Do you give yourself permission to appreciate those elements inside of you that make you unique; special?  Do you say to yourself “I can’t focus on who I am. It’s selfish.” Feeling appreciative for who we are feels wrong somehow.

BUT…….

The truth is that choosing to embrace our value, all of who we are, is very unselfish as it maximizes our ability to serve others; to have on-going impact.  When we recognize our strengths we can find a way to use them well.  If you are gifted to write there are unlimited ways for you to to help others, if you are gifted with a strong detail orientation you can bring great value to a team, if you are gifted with a great voice you can use your gift to encourage others through song, and if you are gifted as a counselor or listener you can be a safe place for others to land; you can help people heal.

Certainly, there are areas of challenge in our lives and frankly, many of us find it easier to list our challenges rather than our strengths. Why is that?  How about taking some time to simply list the gifts God has placed inside of you, list also the ways that they are or could be expressed in your life. Get excited about the fact that you are Wonderfully Made!

“God thank you for creating me with gifts. I’m grateful for the strengths that you’ve placed within me and the ways those are expressed as actions through my skills. I humbly acknowledge that I do have something to offer and that you have made me to make a difference. Amen”                                                                                                        (Opening the Door to your God-sized Dream ~Holly Gerth)

Just a little “Wacky”~~

Anyone who knows me, really knows me, would not be surprised if I said I was just a little “wacky”  🙂  I love all things bright , bold, and shiny.  I love a little bling on most of my clothes; even my workout sweatshirts!   I love my little red Volkswagen bug convertible, and I have entered contests for over 15 years ( and I win!). So, a tiny bit “wacky”~

My mother, embracing my personality, bought me a Calendar last Christmas called Dare to be Wacky…go figure!  As I read through the calendar I came to a few paragraphs that I loved and wanted to share them with you.

This is the year, and now is the moment. Rekindle your passions, and multiply your talents.  Embrace your inner wackiness and redefine your world.  Stand up for something worth fighting for, and confront the challenges that come your way …especially if they cause you to be afraid.  Make a difference in someone’s life, and in the process, you’ll change your own.  Don’t wait for a “better time”.  It’s your life and your story. So dare to be wacky…and truly live a life worth loving.!”

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Sending a little whimsy your way hoping to encourage you! 🙂

Important Conversations!

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

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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. 🙂

Newlyweds~

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Being on the Hawaiian Islands in the month of August can only mean one thing! We will be surrounded by honeymooners!  After encountering one or two, I soon realized that, of course, this was wedding month!

29 years ago it was “wedding month” for my husband and I!  In a church with orange pews and brown panel walls, I walked down the aisle in a white dress towards my teary bridesmaids all dressed in Pink ( or Mauve, as it was known in the 80’s)! My tall young husband smiled a crooked smile my way filled with both anticipation and anxiety about the huge step we were making! 29 years later he still has that cute crooked smile! 🙂

After an Anniversary holiday in the Hawaiian Islands, Greg and I climbed onto the plane enjoying the fact that we would be sitting in the Emergency Exit seats that provide lovely leg room! Greg on the aisle, and I took the window seat keenly aware that there would be a “random” individual between us.  When he came, smiling an impish grin, he slid into our row.  Joseph was a newlywed…..his sweet new bride was two rows behind us. He kept looking back at her longing to have her by his side…but the plane was taking off.

Joseph was outgoing, found out he had a rich faith in Christ; he was from a family of 12 children.  Learning we had been married for 29 years, he began asking questions to learn how to find success in marriage; asked good questions.  This young man was eager to live life as a newlywed forever…so cute!

Our advice?  Stay friends, forgive, pick your battlegrounds, pray together, continue to play, get away together, and fight the urge to fall into being partners in life~~stay pals, friends, and lovers!

Well, once I knew he had gleaned all he needed from me I was keenly aware that it was time to switch seats with his precious bride, to let them cuddle the rest of the flight.  Seeing them all snuggled in from my tight seat two rows behind made me so happy.  I turned to the little gal next to me and said “where are you headed?” She smiled and said “I am a newlywed”.  so ….we chatted……. 🙂

Sweet, unexpected moments! Sweet reminders of how precious marriage is!! 🙂

LIFE HAPPENS HERE!

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Growing up in the coastal farming town of Watsonville, California I had my days filled with school, bike/horseback riding, chores on our 54 acre apple ranch, church activities, sandy days at the beach, and time spent with my parents and 5 sisters.

From the time I was 6 to the ripe old age of 20 (when I headed off to college) we lived on the same property.  My life had a sense of consistency, regularity, and security.  I’m not sure if I ever really took the time to fully consider how my life would unfold in the years ahead.

I have had the privilege to live a truly wonderful, experience-filled life for which I am very, very grateful.  However, there have been changes and challenges that showed up unexpectedly leaving me completely overwhelmed.  From Marriage to parenting, numerous home/city moves, family challenges, occupational changes, and unexpected tragedies I have often felt caught off-guard and ill-prepared.

I have had amazing conversations with so many great women who have found themselves over-whelmed by the situations that have come into their lives as well. Like me, many have faced numerous unanticipated challenges and have often wondered if they have the strength to navigate the challenge well.

At 54, I have enough hindsight to understand that this is what life truly is.  Life is a mixed bag of joy and sadness, celebration and challenge. Every season is different and requires a few key elements to strengthen us along the way:

1.  Knowing and trusting that God will not leave us in the midst of an over-whelming season but rather He will give us strength, wisdom, and comfort.

2.  Being surrounded by people we love and trust: our spouses, healthy family members, and hand-picked friends whom we trust.  Facing challenges in isolation can be devastating. Fight the urge to withdraw; stay connected.

3.  Doing all we can to care for our health:  rest, good food, exercise, reading, time in nature~~ intentionally choosing cup-filling activities to keep our emotions above water.

4.  Taking time to Journal. We don’t always feel strong, We don’t always feel full of hope. Over the years my journals have been filled with prayers and thankfulness but they have also been full of honest questions, doubts, fears, and tears.  Simple honesty has helped to diffuse my emotions.

5. Keeping balanced in our perspectives.  Often times when challenges come we lose sight of all that is still good and right. We can find ourselves getting caught in fear and negativity. In hard times it helps if we can try to focus on the good growth we are experiencing.  I have never walked through a tough season without gaining greater empathy for others, being stretched in my faith, and having a chance to mature in my own character.

Consider your pattern when challenges come.  How do you respond?  How well have you navigated tough situations in the past?   I hope that this simple “conversation” gives you some fresh tools to stand strong when unexpected changes come!

I love this verse!

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you”   Deuteronomy 31:6

Please remember me!!!

“Your story is the greatest legacy that you will leave to your friends. It’s the longest-lasting legacy you will leave to your heirs.” ~ Steve Saint

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Have you ever thought about how you would like to be remembered?  We only get one chance to LIVE a life that will be remembered so considering HOW we want to be remembered is important!

I suppose it would be considered morbid to think about what you would like your obituary or gravestone to say. However, if we consider that now, I can only imagine our behavior could be shaped by it!

Do you want to be remembered ? for your kindness? Your creativity? Your leadership? How about your family?  When people think of you, how will they express who you were in their life?

A Legacy is built year upon year.  As you respond to the changes and challenges of your life; you are building your legacy! As you choose your priorities and expenditures; you are building your legacy!

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A great expression of how to build a legacy is this:

“To focus on leaving a legacy ultimately reminds us that life is short.  Whether you get 40 years or 95, it is your responsibility to do the most with what you have, and leave this world a better place than you found it.  To do this, you need to discover and cultivate your gifts, take care of yourself to ultimately take care of others, and seek to impact as many people positively as you can.  A great goal is to leave this world and the people in it with a little more than when you got here, and never to rest until you have fulfilled that task.”  Training for Warriors

What do I hope for?  I hope to be remembered as someone who loved her family and friends. A person who loved God and made every effort to seek peace.  I pray I will be remembered as a woman who was “real” and allowed others to be real also. I pray that I will be remembered as a woman who cared for the hearts of women, young and old, and  I also hope that I will be remembered as a girl with “blingy clothes” 🙂

( I just added that!!)

Fortunately I still have today to make choices to have a legacy that matters! What about you? How to you want to be remembered?  Think about it, pray about it–then make choices towards your desired legacy!

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My Aching Muscles~

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After 4 years of running, using the elliptical machine, and some free weights; it was time to “shake things up”.   I have access to a fantastic athletic club filled with great classes so it was about time that I utilized one of them.

I decided to take an Intervals class to begin to work on my core and gain new strength.  I was excited about my new adventure!  The class began as i had many items ( weights, step, mat, etc) in my personal space, the music started, and our teacher began to walk us through many moves that tested and challenged every muscle in our bodies.

As I crawled out of bed the next day I had a reaction from every one of those  muscles I had utilized in the class the day before. Just going up and down my stairs was a physical event!  MY MUSCLES WERE SCREAMING AT ME! 🙂 Some of my inner thoughts were “well, I must be too old for this”, I think I better not go to class again.”, I thought I was already healthy, maybe something is wrong…”

I have returned to class numerous times and surprisingly enough the more I have used those muscles the less grief they have caused me.  I was so surprised I had so many muscles I had left under utilized for so long; I am glad I am working on changing this.

I began to think about how this whole experience relates to life as well.  As I walk through the experiences, challenges, and opportunities of my life there are “muscles” that can remain under-utilized if I let them.  The challenge comes when I choose, or am forced, into a situation that requires me to dig really deep, using new emotional, occupational, spiritual, or relational muscles.  It can be painful and stretching.

Let’s imagine that “forgiveness” is a muscle.   If we have allowed ourselves to blame others, carry a grudge, & justify our un-forgiveness for a long period of time, then that “muscle” will probably be pretty weak and untested.  Stretching into becoming a more forgiving person is ultimately a fantastic choice in every way…..but getting there, choosing to regularly forgive, may be a painful road to pursue initially.

Trust, faith, joy, gratefulness, patience, and perseverance are important “muscles”.

Romans 5:3-4 says:      We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.”

Take an assessment today.  Are there any muscles you need to begin to intentionally work on so that they will be strong and effective this new year, do you need to “shake things up”?

Seize the day, my friend. 🙂

Can You Fly?

One day a man found a cocoon of a butterfly.   Soon a small opening appeared.  He sat & watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to squeeze its body through the tiny hole.  Then it stopped, as if it couldn’t go any further.

The man decided to help the butterfly so he took a pair of scissors & snipped of the remaining bits of the cocoon. The butterfly emerged quite easily but it had a swollen body and shriveled wings.

The man continued to watch it, expecting that at any minute the wings would enlarge & expand enough to support the whole body, neither happened! In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling.  It was NEVER able to fly.

The man in his kindness and haste did not understand:  The restricting cocoon and the struggle required by the butterfly to get through the opening was a way of forcing the fluid from the body into the wings.  By doing this the butterfly would be ready for flight!

You may have heard this story told over and over; but it’s good to hear it yet again! Character, patience, long-suffering; all the fruits of the Spirit are born out of challenge and adversity. Without those struggles, we wouldn’t grow or tap into our potential.

Certainly, a life without struggles sounds wonderful but we would not be “the best version of ourselves” without those struggles.

Today, you might be facing some real struggles and challenges. Let them make you strong!  Grow into a butterfly and FLY!!!

Galatians 5:22 says,

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness.”