Who are ” your people? “~

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Over the weekend I had the privilege to hear a profound speaker while attending Menlo Part Presbyterian church Sunday morning. The topic was about getting “Unstuck” and the theme was about adding the element of accountability/community to our ongoing spiritual health and growth.

How many of us have found ourselves at spiritual or emotional crossroads over the years?  Did you navigate these seasons in isolation or did you have individuals you trusted to help you find healthy and sustainable solutions?

Many people suffer in isolation, whether self – imposed orotherwise, and what we will find~every time~ is that those who live in isolation struggle greatly to have significant mental, spiritual, and emotional health!

Sunday, the Pastor shared a revealing study:

In a government study with rats, back in the 70’s, while in isolation, rats were given the options of water or cocaine from two separate spouts. Day in and day out they became more and more addicted to the cocaine; rarely if ever choosing to drink fresh water!  The finding here was that rats in isolation became addicted to the cocaine to the point of death every single time!

A professor by the name of Bruce Alexander  wanted another filter for this same experiment! He was concerned that the one consistant element in the study is that every rat was kept isolated for any others! The rats were in cages all alone. The rat has nothing to do but take the drugs. In isolation the rats never observed any alternate behaviours around them! What would happen, he wondered, if we tried this differently? So Professor Alexander built Rat Park. It it was a lush cage where the rats would have colored balls and the best rat-food and tunnels to scamper down, alternative activities, and plenty of friends: everything a rat about town could want. What, Alexander wanted to know, will happen then?

The rats with good lives didn’t like the drugged water. They mostly shunned it, consuming less than a quarter of the drugs the isolated rats used. None of them died. While all the rats who were alone and unhappy became heavy users, none of the rats who had a happy environment did!!

Hmmmm….what does that mean for us??

When we place ourselves amongst trusted friends and family, attend a regular small gathering of purpose minded people, check our thinking with those who are wise, and confess our challenges to individuals that have our best outcome in mind~ we will “choose better”!

God fully intended that we would go through the joys and challenges, sadness and loss, celebrations and surprises within “community”; never in isolation!

First Thessalonians 5: 11 says

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”

Galatians 6:2 says

“Therefore encourage Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”

Romans 12:10

“Therefore encourage Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.one another and build one another up, jus Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor as you are doing.”

Who are your people? What trusted individuals are in your posse? Where do you go to garner wisdom, balance, and encouragement? Or do you find yourself for the most part, basically alone?

My prayer for you is that if you are in some form of isolation, you will be intentional in the coming year to build a trusted team around your life!  For those with a posse, invite them in regularly so that you can soar above the challenges and temptations that would love to entangle you!  We do better TOGETHER!

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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! 🙂

What Happened to Sunday School?

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From the age of 5 to the ripe old age of 25 attending Sunday School was a regular part of my Sunday routine.  My family would head to church early Sunday morning, attend Sunday School, the regular church service, and after an afternoon break, we would head back to church for the Sunday night service.

Some of you can completely relate to that type of church schedule while others cannot imagine a Sunday schedule like that! Right?

The reason I have been thinking about Sunday School is that it represented a regular connection with a group of people.  My community.  My friends. Rich support through the seasons of life.   Sunday School, in most churches today, have been replaced by Bible Studies and Small groups, which is great IF the connections are consistent.

It’s so important, no matter who you are, that you have a sense of connectedness; of community.  Isolation never produces a rich life.  Are you connected to community in your life?  Do you regularly engage in quality conversations with like-minded people? Do you have people in your life who will go the distance with you?

Jen Waak does a good job of listing the Power of Community in a recent article.

The Power of Community

Here are 6 powerful reasons not to go it alone:

1. Collective wisdom. No one person ever has all of the answers, and regardless of the amount of Google-fu you may have, consulting with experts is always going to give you better information.

2. Pushing our limits. When working alone, it’s oftentimes too easy to give up when things get hard. By surrounding yourself with others working toward a similar goal or objective, you’ll get motivation, support, and friendly competition to push yourself just a bit further than you would have done on your own.

3. Support and belief. Some days those big goals just seem impossible. On those days when you most want to give up, you need to lean on your community the most. They believe in you—probably more than you belief in yourself.

4. New ideas. I truly believe that when you are working within a community of like-minded people that the wisdom of crowds is considerably greater than any one person working alone. Our divergent world views and lenses mean that we all approach the exact same problem slightly differently.

5. Borrowed motivation. Even on those days when your belief in yourself isn’t waning, doing what needs to get done can seem overwhelming. Look around your community and be inspired!

6. Accountability. If you’re an uber-responsible person, you may not want to admit to people you care about who are pulling for you that something didn’t get done. There’s nothing like having to be accountable to others to up your game.

In my early years Sunday School represented my community.  What represents your community? Do you need to be more intentional to create “community” in your life?  Life is always going to be richer when we do it together!

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Lessons From Misery Ridge~

As a Coach I meet so many wonderful people. Janelle is one of them. Janelle lives in  Canada and after a year of coaching she came to Bend to visit with me. I wanted our time to be full of fun, good conversation, and activity; yet also inspirational.

After pedicures, shopping, good food and laughter, it was time to venture out!

Misery Ridge!!

It was early as we loaded up with water bottles and headed to Smith Rock. I told Janelle the hike would be challenging yet the view from the top would be well worth the climb. I think she believed me until she actually saw Misery Ridge and recognized just how difficult it would be.

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When we stood at the base of the mountain I told Janelle that we would break this hike into thirds and that we would think about different life challenges we were facing as we headed toward our goal to reach the top; imagining ourselves successful in facing those challenges as we conquered each phase of our hike!

We started out at a fairly fast pace; excited about moving forward! It wasn’t long before the altitude began to labor our breath. I asked Janelle if she wanted to turn back; we had made some good progress but were still far from the top. Should we go on or turn back?

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We discussed the value of the ultimate goal of reaching the top yet we realized it was going to be a greater challenge as the path got steeper; the footing more unsure.  This second part of the hike would require us to pace ourselves, to take longer breaks to catch our breath, and to be intentional with where we placed our feet. Off we went! Partway through this phase of our hike a big snake slithers out onto the path catching us off guard! Do we turn back?

Finally we reached place where we would begin the third part of the climb; the steepest part! Janelle was amazed at how far we had come yet still feeling caution about where we needed to go. Do we continue? Do we turn back?  Was this view really worth this effort?  After some good discussion we committed to the goal of reaching the top and pressed on.

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During this last phase of our “journey” the altitude was making it hard to breath and the shale on the path caused us to feel our feet slipping. We realized that this last push would require extra sure footing, that we would need to hold each others arms to prevent us from falling and getting hurt. Slowly and intentionally we made our way up the switchbacks towards our goal. Closer and closer, steeper and steeper! With a final push we rounded the corner and gazed at the glorious view from the top! Amazing!!  The success was thrilling! We were seeing a view from the top that many people will never see! We did it!!

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Our lives are a lot like a hike up Misery Ridge.  You start out full of excitement, goals, dreams~ ready to take on the world!  You can imagine your goals, you can visualize  conquering your challenges. Yet life starts to get hard, to required more stamina, or make you feel uncomfortable and there is a desire to abandon the very goals that mean so much to you.

As challenges come it’s important to pace yourself; catch your breath. Often times we expect so much of ourselves not recognizing the impact of “climbing higher”. We forget to nourish and replenish ourselves so that we can press on….one foot in front of the other. Often times, just like our surprise snake, obstacles make come out of nowhere~~Do we abandon our goals because of them?

I wonder how many people get to the last third of the Misery Ridge hike and turn back because they are too tired or afraid to climb higher? Right before they have the joy of that unprecedented view!!  How many of us get so close to reaching our personal goals, facing life long challenges, creating healthy relationships, or stepping into fresh dreams, and abandon them because it just feels impossible, right before we see success?

As Janelle and I learned; as it gets closer to the top, as the challenges get harder; you need the support of your fellow “climbers” to keep you from losing your footing, to encourage you to keep climbing; to press on! I would never climb Misery Ridge alone for that very reason!

I have to say that the BEST part of the climb is the celebration at the top! The joy of reaching the goal and the satisfaction that we didn’t quit!  Every person I have led to the top of Misery Ridge has been so glad that they didn’t turn back before seeing the view from the top!

Do you have dreams, goals you want to attain, challenges you must face? Are you halfway there? Turning the last difficult corner? Or have you just begun? Remember these few lessons from the mountain:

Pace yourself, stay hydrated, place your feet carefully, catch your breath, stay committed to looking forward; not back, and surround yourself with fellow climbers (healthy support systems) who can hold your arm if you slip and celebrate your WIN at the top!

You’ll never know what you’ll miss if you are afraid to “climb”.

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Pink Shirts and Blue Caps~~

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As far as my eye could see, stretched out in every direction, I saw a sea of “pink”!  Pink shirts, hats, shoes, & even tutu’s!  Young children with the imprint of their pillows still showing on their faces, folks with dogs covered in pink bows, and senior citizens who were being brought to the starting gate in wheelchairs. Large and small company’s alike gathered with their co-workers after a long week of work on a day that could have been spent sleeping in, or some other rest-filled choice.

Why would they come?

I arrived on the scene at 6:30 in the morning only to find that there were volunteers already preparing to serve and care for all who would be attending. Blurry eyed individuals holding cups of Starbucks coffee as they kindly smiled at one another with anticipation for the morning ahead!

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Why would they come?

There are many fantastic fundraisers that take place every year in our town; they are well attended every time. 5k’s for Diabetes, ALS, and as in this case Breast Cancer. We could all simply write a check to raise the finances. But why do we come?

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I believe there are many reasons we volunteer to be a part of these events.

1. Relationships: We have people we love and some we have lost to these diseases. These events help us heal, help us remember, and help us do something tangible that we feel gives honor to those who have suffered bravely. 80% of the runners had a pink paper attached to their running numbers, this sheet was filled with the names of Friends and loved ones! It was incredibly moving to read the names and to think about the impact those lives had on each runner!

2. Legacy: We all want to be a part of a passionate group of people who want to make a difference in the world. It is incredibly inspiring to stand shoulder to shoulder with others who want to have impact on key issues and diseases in our world. It helps us to focus on the “bigger picture” and allows us time to get our eyes off our own challenges. It helps give us perspective.

3.  We DO want to raise finances for on-going research. We do hope that the next generation will suffer less as we find answers!!

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Right before our run began, the event creator (a breast cancer survivor) asked all who were also Cancer survivors and wearing the Blue caps to remain standing.  She asked that the rest of us would bend a knee to the ground to honor our brave sisters. It was very emotional to look around at the multitude of precious faces who had faced the uncertainty of what Cancer might mean for them; for their families.

We all have opportunities to be a part of those facing challenges. The events, create a collective opportunity and each day we have the opportunity to step out of our busy life and “volunteer” to stand with those in challenge.  We can do it out of relationship, for legacy, as well as help to create change!

Just do it!! 🙂 Your life will be richer for it!!

The Difficult In~Between.

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January is such a huge month for making resolutions for change.  Working at an athletic club I see the building swell with members starting January 1 and then watch a dramatic drop-off about the tail end of February. Why is this?

It is caused by the Difficult In~Between!!

So often we can recognize a need to make changes in our lives, we can imagine the goal accomplished; picture our success.  However, making a lasting change in behavior is rarely a simple process, and usually involves a substantial commitment of time, effort and emotion. The problem comes when we begin to challenge ourselves to take the needed steps toward the goal.

Whether the goal is weight loss, money management, becoming organized, a stronger marriage, or any other area we may find ourselves needing to grow; we still have to take regular “new” steps to reach our goal.

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For greater success in getting through the “Difficult In-Between” here are a few simple tricks:

1. Put your plan in writing. Place it somewhere that you can see it regularly.

2. Start with small do-able steps.  Break your goals down into small “manageable” wins!  As you gain success in the smaller steps you will be encouraged to continue.

3.  Work on one key goal at a time. Many times people run into problems when they try to change too much too fast.  As your new behaviors become a habit, try to add another goal that takes you closer to your overall change.

4.  Grab some accountability! Everything is better with a buddy.  Find a friend, family member, or co-worker to join you on your journey. Having someone with whom you can honestly share your struggles and successes makes the goal less intimidating. 🙂

5.  Celebrate every win!!  Take note of your successes; don’t skip over or minimize the fact that your efforts matter!

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Change can be hard~~ but so worth the effort!! 🙂

“Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.” 

~Jim Rohn

Tips to Successful Relationships~

Relationships matter!

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. AND–Happy Thanksgiving! 🙂