Archive for April, 2013

Stepping Stones      Once upon a time, I was subject to all sorts of stress and chaos.  That’s because for many years I was under the dominion of feelings, rather than acceptance of reality.  That’s not to say that feelings aren’t real or don’t count; they do.  I’m just saying it can’t be what guides you.

Thankfully wisdom eventually comes the longer one lives. So when I saw these rocks at a gift shop recently, and knowing nothing is a coincidence, a vision of truth settled over me.  It was as if a 12 step program (okay fourteen, but who’s counting?) for our emotions was suddenly available in summary form.   I thanked God for the instant wisdom and beauty He had provided.  So when you’re down and out, start by taking baby steps towards the power generated in just a few words worthy of being carved on rocks.  Meditate on them and then implement these action-steps and you will begin to leave drama behind and move towards peace, joy, and positive decisiveness.  Love is a decision, so take the steps necessary to love your life!

BreatheBefore you lash out or make a decision based on how you feel right now, just breathe.  It sounds simple, but it can be elusive when you’re hyperventilating on anger or extreme sadness.  Stop!  Get grounded.  Take a step back.  And just breathe.

ChangeThere are only two things you can change in life:  Your situation or your response.  It’s that simple.  If you can change your situation, by all means do.  Dump that toxic relationship, go back to school, decide to get out of debt,  get rid of that which is holding you back,  apply for that job you don’t think you’re qualified for anyway, go ahead and write that book you’ve been contemplating.

But what about the boss who chewed you out?  The spouse who abandoned you?  The grown child who never calls you?  And every other situation under the sun that falls under the category “unfair”?   There is only one thing you can do.  Change your attitude or response.  Besides you have to.  Why let what you can’t control destroy your well-being and sense of peace?   Acceptance of others and their flaws sets you free.  Putting up boundaries by saying, “I can’t talk to you until you calm down” or “I won’t allow you to speak to me like that” and then leaving a heated situation, shows that you are in control of your life and that you respect yourself to not allow others to disrespect you.  Remember you don’t have to be right all the time or have to convince others.  The goal is to be at peace!

ChoiceMy favorite advice on choice is this:  Choose your suffering.  Essentially that means don’t waste your suffering.  The Bible even states that “in this world, you will have trouble.”  And that is no lie!  You don’t get to the end without experiencing tragedy, abandonment, loss, hurt, sadness, anger, and unfairness.  Kind of like change, you have to make a decision.  Are you going to let that which you can’t control destroy you, or rest as the rock foundation that you build your testimony on, and become a source of inspiration to others, and even yourself.  You are stronger than you give yourself credit for.  Tap into that strength.

CourageDare to face the horrible truths in your life that you’d rather not:  You have a problem.  Deal with it.  Get help when necessary.  Tap into your faith.  Call on your friends.  Don’t go through the hard stuff alone.   As you get rid of toxic relationships outside of yourself, you’ll find it’s time once and for all to deal with the habits and hang-ups that keep you from reaching your full potential:  Insecurities, lack of confidence, bad or destructive habits, or fear of failure.    Attack each of these self-destroyers with all the tools in your toolbox:  Faith, family, friends, and above all a willingness to change.   Each step you take in the direction of courage builds momentum making each subsequent step a little bit easier than the one before.

Dance Put on the jamz and pump up the volume.  Life is too short to purposely not do things that can bring you happiness and joy.  Why settle for ho-hum washing the dishes and vacuuming the house when you can crank up your favorite music and dance the night away as you work!  As long as your multitasking, at least do it with joy.  Throw off those shoes and dance.  Grab a partner and surprise them with the joy of dance.

Dream Never give up your dreams.  Never!  What is that thing you’ve always longed to accomplish?  Write a song?  Start a new career in a totally different field?  Lose thirty pounds?  Then be like a Nike ad and just do it!  Start today!  You have to start sometime.  Don’t let excuses or lack of time be your reason why you didn’t fulfill your dreams.  A little today is better than none tomorrow and the day after that.  Slow progression is the key towards long-term results.  The key is to act with intent on your dreams.

Heal What is it you need in order to heal?  Professional help?  Spiritual guidance?  The compassion of a friend?  Then seek it and don’t be ashamed.  Perhaps you just need time.  That’s okay too.  Time doesn’t necessarily heal all wounds, but it allows us time to get our head together and weave that which hurt us into the fabric of our being, so that we can step out in courage anyway.  You wouldn’t let an infection on your skin fester and get worse.  It’s essential  that which troubles your heart or your mind be healed as well.  Don’t let pride stop you from getting the healing you need.

LaughGo ahead; lighten up!  Laugh at your mistakes, it’s okay.  Don’t be wound so tight, you can’t allow yourself to be human.  Go to a funny movie with a friend!  It’s good therapy.   Become mindful of joy and learn to laugh.  Laugh lines are more attractive than worry lines anyway!

Organize– Get rid of excess.  Everyday pick a room, a drawer, a box to organize.  Stop buying that which you don’t need.  Put things away as you use them.  Remember that it’s more fun to do and to be in life than it is to haveExcess of things don’t make us happy; relationships do.  We don’t get to take our things with us.  The only commodity we truly have in life is time.  Time to enjoy our life, but more importantly time to make a difference in the lives of others.  When you are organized, you have more time to see friends, volunteer, and get out in God’s beautiful world and enjoy all there is to see and do.

Play You work hard.  Don’t deny yourself this essential ingredient in life.  Get a hobby.  Play a sport.   Play with your kids and your pets every day if you have them.   When you play, you’re apt to laugh and that is good medicine for the soul.  Definitely find ways to play!

RelaxSimilar to just breathe, this is the mechanism you need to calm your soul and soothe your spirit.  It sounds easy, but how many times do we deny ourselves the opportunity to just relax because everything else seems essential?   Reading a good book or watching a great movie or just taking a nap on a Saturday afternoon can totally change our perspective when we’re stressed.  If you never have time to relax, than go back to organize.  What things, commitments, or excess people do you need to purge in order to enjoy the necessary stepping stone of relaxation?

RememberRemember others who are suffering and you can be a blessing to.  Remember the good things in life that God has blessed you with and choose to save some of them.  Take pictures of the good things.  Make a family scrapbook.  Have a treasure trunk where you keep mementoes of happy events.  Remembering that which brings us joy and leaving behind that which causes us pain is a great way to have a fulfilling and joyous life.

Rest We can’t organize, relax, remember, play, work, heal, dance, laugh, make necessary changes, or even dream if we don’t first get enough rest.  We were designed to rest for a reason.  When we allow our mind and body to recharge, we are taking the first step to complete all the others.   Get on a schedule and get the rest you need.

TeachTeach others life lessons you’ve learned so far.  Mentoring others is a great way to make a difference.  Also be willing to be taughtHaving a teachable spirit is also a key to wisdom.  Try not to take all advice, even when unsolicited, as a means to control you, but perhaps as a kernel of truth worth mining.  Having a teachable attitude means accepting that we don’t necessarily know everything.  And that’s okay.

Okay, so that’s 14 stepping stones to lead you to a better life.  But there is one that was left out intentionally.  All these stones, pale in comparison to the solid rock foundation they rest upon: 

FaithThe people I’ve known in life that have it the most together mentally, physically, financially, and spiritually have a deep faith that is the bedrock upon which all else is built.  Having faith means you personally don’t have to have all the answers or be in control.  That’s because when God is in control, someone bigger than you is in charge.   You don’t have to know everything or be responsible for every outcome.  Faith steps in when people step out.  Faith is believing in someone or something bigger than yourself.  Faith is prayer.  Faith is active.  Faith is forgiving.  Faith allows us to love.  Faith is a conduit to all that is good in life Faith is more than a positive attitude, it is an assurance of things hoped for and not yet seen.   Sharpen your faith, and live the good life.

All Things Are Connected

If there is one thing I know for sure in life, it is this:

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS COINCIDENCE

    Not a single moment, not a since chance meeting, not a single happenstance, not a single similarity, not a single bit.  It’s as if God weaves an invisible thread through time, space, geography, and lives tying events and people together, as He weaves together a grand tapestry too big for our eyes to fully grasp.

Yet like a jigsaw puzzle, we intuitively (well, those who are intuitively aware) know that something more is at work here.   Even disappointments in life are known as “divine appointments” if viewed through the lens of a different perspective, that is a mind that is higher than our own.

I personally know out of my deepest sorrows, the deepest joys were birthed.  In times of abandonment, I found connection simply by being aware of the God who created me and those He works through as he introduced them to me.  The core of who I most truly am started as a simple seed (that which my heart most truly desires).  It was planted and took root down low in the dirt. Then it was watered with tears.  Yet now it is shooting up and starting to bloom with buds that when opened bring me incredible joy and occasionally even others!

So I’ve learned some things as I’ve matured.  Nothing and no one God puts on your path is random.  We may not quite get the connection, but God does.   It’s up to us to seek God’s wisdom as we assimilate our experiences, to go with the flow, and hopefully not unravel or knot-tie what God has designs on.

Here’s a perfect example of how nothing is coincidence; all things are connected:  (And this happens to me repeatedly in life, I could write a dozen pages, but will refrain as our time is valuable.)

Tuesday I was at my friend Rebecca’s home.  On her refrigerator was a picture of a mom.  I said, “Hey, how do you know Julie?”  She replied, “That’s not Julie, that’s my cousin Rachel.”

Well she looks exactly like my friend Julie!  But I see now that it is not because there are different kids in the picture.  Well, everybody has a twin!” I say.

I think to myself, I should send a Facebook message to my friend Julie and tell her she has a twin on this earth, but I get busy that night so I don’t.  The next day, I kid you not, I run into Julie at the library. 

“Oh my gosh!” I tell her.  “I was just thinking of you last night!”  I tell Julie the story of my friend Rebecca who has a near carbon copy photo of her on her refrigerator.    She chuckles, and we talk about other things.  She tells me she may be moving to my neighborhood because that just so happens to be where Julie’s in laws live, and they may be combining homes due to aging parent concerns.

So we talk about that for a while.  Then she talks about her brother in law who sometimes gets a ride to church from a friend in my neighborhood named Dan.  She can’t remember his last name.  I tell her the only Dan I know is Dan Allen.   And she says, “Right!  That’s the same one.”

WHAT?!?!  I say in awe.  Well Dan Allen is the husband of my friend Rebecca (are you following me still?) who has the twin picture of Julie on her refrigerator.   “No way!”  Julie says.

      Not only is the world getting smaller, but it just shrunk twice, right before our very eyes.

By now our conversation has drifted with our walking out of the library and towards a playground where our kids can play together for a while.  She tells me that tomorrow she plans to take her kids to the zoo.  WHOA!  Wait a dog gone minute I say!  I had just made plans that morning to take my kid to the zoo tomorrow too!

Today I did go to the zoo.  I don’t know if Julie went as it rained so hard, it was basically a monsoon, but still the coincidences were so….well, connecting!

But wait there is more!  Julie used to have a neighbor named Rob.  Two years ago, Rob was giving away a stray cat he had become attached to but couldn’t keep.  So I met Rob through Julie due to a plea she made on Facebook while trying to help Rob who was desperate to find a home for his cat.   This is how I got my cat Toby who is now part of our family.

So a few months ago my mother-in-law breaks her leg.  She returns home from the hospital and needs intensive physical therapy.  She has a great therapist she tells us about as she learns new exercises each week.  Well, after eight weeks or so, as he wraps up his visits with her, he spots a photograph on her dresser.

“Is that Liz?” he asks her. On her dresser, Rob had spotted a photo of me taken almost 30 years ago when I married my husband.  (How did he even recognize me?)  “Yes it is,” she replies, “Liz is my daughter in law.”  “Well Liz adopted a cat of mine that I could no longer keep when I got married a year ago.”

And you could take it even further still.  Where did I meet Julie?  At our church.  About thirty years after we went to the same middle school together.

Maybe you chalk up these encounters as coincidence!  I do not.  I believe in “seeing thru a glass darkly.”  If we do not understand these connections that are good, friendly, or amusing, how much more can we not understand that which connects and binds us to one another in hurtful, disappointing, or destructive ways?

I am not excusing bad behavior or random acts of harm or disappointment that none of us are immune to.  I only know there is always more than meets the eye.  There is more to hear than our ears find audible.  There is more to grasp than our minds can understand.

We can’t make sense of our lives if we rely only on our own understanding.  But when we rely on God, the bigger picture becomes more in focus, the fine details are sharpened, and life becomes vivid, clearer, brighter, and yes–happier. 

        I believe we gain wisdom as we become more intuitive.  And we gain that intuition, as we deepen our faith.  In becoming wiser and more intuitive, we also learn to appreciate the people God introduces to us as well as circumstances and coincidences God allows to happen.  We start to realize they too have a place, a season, and a purpose in our life as well.    

      Why did you even read this far?   Maybe it was just coincidence.  Perhaps–or maybe it really was something more.

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. 1 Corinthians 13:12 (KJV)

As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.  Isaiah 55:9 (NIV)

As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man. Proverbs 27:19 (ESV)