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.

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

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. 🙂