Thursday, February 27, 2014

Make The Most Of Your Challenges

Challenges come in all shapes and sizes, some are good and some we could do without. Many challenges we bring on ourselves by the choices we make; new jobs, furthering our educations, and succeeding at a relationship. Others are thrown on us, often against our will - companies downsizing, accidents, and health scares.

Often we will look at people and situations as being challenging, but with every challenge there are still elements where we have input. We have the ability to make our own choices and manage our attitudes. There are those who will always see the glass as half empty, but I've never been part of that group. Like many, I've been dealt my share of challenges, but I've also overcome them. That doesn't mean it will always be easy, because that generally never happens. But lessons learned and growing stronger aren't things that can just be handed to us on a platter. We need to take ownership of them and work for them.

Try taking a different perspective. Don't look at a change or a challenge as necessarily being a bad thing. Look for the good that can come out of it, learn from the situation, and become stronger because of it. Years later you'll look back at the obstacles you overcame, the cancer that you beat, the skill that you mastered, and the lessons you learned as being good things.
What's been one of the biggest challenges you've learned from or overcome?

Sunday, February 23, 2014

What Have I Learned?

Today I am taking the afternoon off. Generally my Sundays consist of morning worship at my church, followed by lunch and either running errands or tackling some last minute projects at home before my work week begins. My daughter is home from college for her spring break so we don't need to drive her back to campus this evening. As usual I have a TO DO list, but this afternoon's only project is to decide on my devotion for tomorrow's staff meeting.

I'm currently spending some time at one of my favorite places ... the community library. As I'm sitting here perusing possible devotions and scanning some previous posts from my own blog the following post jumped out at me. It's ironic when it's your own words and ideas that help you regain perspective. I suppose it might be worth sharing again.

What's on Your 'To Do' List?
September 22, 2010

This week it was my turn in the rotation to give the devotion at our weekly staff meeting. So of course, I added ‘prepping my devotion’ to last week’s ‘TO DO’ list. Being the organized person that I am, I wanted to be sure to give myself enough time to read through a variety of devotions to see which one jumped out at me and seemed to be the perfect fit. I went to the church library and scanned the shelves a few times … such a variety to pick from. I finally decided to check out the book ‘Desktop Devotions for Working Women’ by Elsa Houtz. Each short chapter was a devotion that began with a scripture verse, a suggested list of a few items to ‘slow down & look at’, a worthy story, and ended with a prayer of how I might apply the lesson to my life. I don’t usually have a lot time to just sit down and read for pleasure because my self-imposed ‘TO DO’ list is so long. Apparently I have this problem that as long as I have something left on my list I have a difficult time allowing myself some free time. But because prepping my devotion was on my list, I read through most of the book over the weekend. How ironic … chapter 5 was titled ‘What’s a Woman to Do?’
It began with Luke 10:41-42 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Are you a list maker like me? After many, many years of working in offices I have learned that keeping a to-do list, both at work and at home, help me meet my deadlines and not forget things that I need to do. Sure, there are those usual things that I write on calendars (the one that I neatly hung on the side of my refrigerator) … things like birthdays, anniversaries, dentist appointments, vacation days, school concerts, etc. Then there are the grocery and errand lists that I can grab in a hurry so I can take care of them on my way home from work. There are my to-do lists at work (that’s right, I usually have more than one going at a time). I usually even go so far as to give myself a weekend to-do list. Fortunately I cut myself some slack and give myself ‘2’ whole days to get through that one.

We all have so much to do these days that I find it very easy to identify with the biblical Martha who, the bible tells us, became pretty stressed out about the fact that Jesus was coming to her house. I can only imagine that she had a to-do list a mile long. The Bible tells us she was “distracted by all the preparations that had to be made” (Luke 10:40). In fact, she felt so pressured by all of her household tasks that she actually asked Jesus to intercede when she saw that her sister Mary wasn’t helping at all. Mary was just sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening to Him. Jesus explained to Martha that Mary was doing exactly what she needed to do.

It can be easy to mistake busyness for godliness. We can feel that if we are wearing ourselves out trying to do many things for our friends and family because we love them, then we must be doing God’s will. We can feel that if we’re constantly working extra hours at work, showing how committed we are, we must be doing God’s will. It’s easy to convince ourselves that if we always say ‘yes’ to everyone when they ask, again we must be doing God’s will. But are we? I’m not so sure. Maybe we all have a little bit of Martha in us. Maybe we push Mary out of the way when she tries to slow us down. What do you think?

As long as I have my to-do lists I know I can’t just stop doing things. I have commitments and responsibilities - I’ll even go so far as to admit that I’m probably the one who put a lot of them in place. But if you are even a little like me, you may need to find a way to slow down and look at your to-do list. How much of it really needs to get done? Perhaps the one we should be pleasing is God. His to-do list is much simpler and not nearly as long.

Matthew 22: 37, 39
* Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
* Love your neighbor as yourself.

The Bible is full of inspirational and challenging to-do lists that could help us with our priorities … Deuteronomy 11:18-21, Psalm 15, and Romans 12:9-21.

Without adding it to a list, let’s try reading through some of God’s lists. Perhaps it will help us to gain some perspective about our priorities … about what is really important vs. what we let everyone tell us. I’m willing to give it a try. I know I could definitely do without as many distractions.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Words Can Be Both Good And Bad

Words are powerful and important; the dictionary is full of them. I once wrote a blog article about how the simplest combination of words can have the ability to build up and tear down. Everything from ‘I Love You’ reinforcing the passion you have for someone to ‘You suck!’ tearing down someone’s self-esteem in a matter of seconds.

There are some great words out there … love, understanding, confidence, patience, faith, strength, and supportive. There are also a lot of negative ones … hate, fat, ignorant, selfish, loser, and ugly. There is a 3 letter word I think is one of the worst, because when added to any others it has the unique ability to create doubt, confusion, and sadness. Want to know what the word is? The word is ‘BUT’. You can have the best language flow going and as soon as you add the word BUT the entire meaning and intention has been changed.

Here’s an example.
‘Your new hairstyle looks flattering, BUT I never really liked the way you were wearing it before.’ So … before when someone told you they thought you looked pretty they were just stringing you along waiting for the next best thing to come along?

Then there’s my favorite … ‘I don’t like to gossip, BUT …’ You can fill in the blank on that one. We’ve all heard it. It’s almost as if people use the word BUT as a disclaimer. Suddenly any words that follow it are somehow excusable.

What do you think? Which words do you consider good and bad? Is there a particular one that always makes you cringe? (Let’s forget any swear words, those are never good to use.)

Friday, February 14, 2014

Let It Make You Stronger

I watch my share of reality TV shows when I can, but they've got to be good to hold my interest. This season I've enjoyed watching the American Idol auditions; primarily because of their choice of judges. They give constructive criticism, but in a respectful way. This week they chose their top 30. 30 performers were relieved and elated and excited, while the rest were let down gently. One performer was clearly distraught and overwhelmed and heart broken, but as he came out to join his family Ryan Seacrest said, "Let it make you stronger." 5 simple words = 1 powerful message.

We all experience highs and lows, good times and bad. Many of us have felt grief or misfortune or illness. There are many things in our lives that we have absolutely no control over, yet the one thing we can control has the power to change  a lot. Our attitude and how we choose to deal with life ultimately shows our strengths and our character. We have the ability, even when feeling defeated, to take something positive from a situation. This year I am an 8 year cancer survivor. My treatment took a year of my life that I can never get back, but it was also a year that taught me to dig deep and not give up. I discovered I had more fight in me than I ever dreamed, I rethought a lot of my priorities, my goals, and my dreams. I took a lot of positives away from the experience.
Last weekend I gave my first public talk for the American Cancer Society as a 'Voice of Hope'. 8 years ago I never would have seen myself as a public speaker, not to mention having the passion that I do to share my story. If just one person heard something special that day and became proactive with their own health - then everything was worth it.
What's something you've overcome or experienced that made you stronger?

Friday, February 7, 2014

An Olympic Wardrobe

I'm sitting here watching the opening ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Olympics. I'm seemingly fascinated with the importance of the wardrobes. Each country has their moment in the spotlight as they march in as a group. It amazes me the number of athletes there are and the ratio of athletes vs. country population, but the wardrobes seem to be a big deal. Imagine being the solo athletes who are representing their countries as individuals, the pressure is really on them to wear it well.

Some countries choose to dress very plain and dignified, matching the colors of their country's flag. Others attempt to be a bit bolder in colors, and others seem to tell a story. For example, Mexico's uniform resembled a matador. Germany's was multi-colored stripes. The U.S. is presently doing their walk in. Their Christmas-style sweater has been getting a lot of attention on the Internet and as usual opinions will vary. I've read everything ranging from 'add some jingle bells and some ornaments and you've got a winning ugly Christmas sweater' to 'the pattern is like a quilt, symbolic and telling a story.'

So 'who' gets the all-important task of designing the wardrobes? I'm not sure if I would welcome that role or not. I don't think I could be that creative. What do you think? Yay or nay?

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Headlines: Do You Wish You Could Write Your Own?

Everyday we are bombarded with headlines; in the newspapers, in magazines, on electronic billboards, online, and on Facebook. Headlines can be tricky. They should be direct, catchy, and give you an immediate glimpse to the content. Often headlines can be misleading. They may tell you what the author wants you to think, but not necessarily the whole story or even the true story. Headlines try to draw the reader in with only a few select words. Headlines often determine whether or not the reader will even read the story.

In the last few days there have been a lot of unsettling headlines (and some useless ones in Justin Bieber's case) ... 'Body Parts Found in Trash Bags', 'Should Justin Bieber be Deported?', '6-8 Inches of Snow Expected', and 'Winter Olympics Unsafe for Athletes'. Then there are the interesting headlines like 'Chuck Gaidica Makes Big Announcement'. It's not as often that we hear about the good stuff, the people who have overcome obstacles, or the ones that make a real difference ... not unless the story can be told with a twist ... something that draws the reader in. It's a shame really, those are usually the really good stories because they're about real people. Guess that's why I enjoy blogging so much. I get to write about what I'd like to read about ... the inspiring stuff, the stuff that hopefully is relatable and makes a difference.

If you could write your own headline what would it say? What would you want to convey? Would it say, 'Young Couple Goes Into Debt To Buy Big House', 'Teenage Driver Texts While Driving', or 'Retired Couple Set To Travel The World', 'Local Guy Lands Dream Job', or 'Young Mom Beats Cancer For Second Time'? We all have highs and lows. Do we want to share that we want to be successful or that we want to be significant and make a difference? The headline is all yours and you get to write it. What will yours say?