Sunday, May 29, 2011

Making Memories on Purpose

All at once, I have had so many thoughts relating to the topic of how I am living my life. I have not finished the book (One Month to Live), but I HAVE made many efforts and changed things about my life. Living life purposefully matters.
That sounds like a no-brainer, but I have noticed that most people live their lives more nonchalantly than intentionally. Sure, people are doing important things, but sometimes not much thought goes into it. It is a simple “going through the motions” ritual.
The little things DO matter. Here’s the topic:
MAKING MEMORIES … The truth of the matter is that death is imminent, as depressing as that sounds. But, removing the dark cloud and getting to what is next is a great life insurance policy. Many of us have purchased a monetary life insurance policy and when we leave this earth, our loved ones will be financially set … or at least not have to pay for our funeral expenses. That is all fine and good and I do have mine in place; however, I have a more important concern. I want a life insurance policy that lasts longer than the evaporating mighty dollar. Money is not the mark I want to leave behind … The good news is that my policy is FREE!
I began thinking about the energy that radiates from me. Do I change the dynamics of my environment or leave it undisrupted? If I do cause a ripple in the water, is it pleasant and good or the opposite? I want to be like a fresh-baked chocolate chip cookie. It is easy to recognize that something good is going on from the first whiff of its scent … and a smile always appears.

Ultimately, MY main focus is who is answering those questions. It would be added icing on the cake for my extended family, friends, acquaintances and even strangers to give me a good review regarding their thoughts. However, there is only an audience of 2 that REALLY matter to me; my daughters.
I am always thinking through what I am doing with them and realizing the mark I am leaving. I intentionally etch the legacy of their mom, and us as a family, every opportunity I get. Here are some things I can think of off the top of my head:
·        When they were little, if I had to go out of town, I left a small paper bag for each day. One for each of them. I wrote the day of the week on each one and inside I left little treats and a note for the day. I didn’t spend a lot of $ on the gift, but for some reason they always liked the gum, socks, little earrings, chap stick or whatever was in that bag better than when I just gave it to them in a regular situation. I wrote a short little note for each day. I always left a written mark of love and then said some mom thing like, “Don’t forget to brush your teeth.” Or “You look so pretty today!” It helped all of us get through the separation anxiety … to the point that they WANTED me to leave so they could look forward to their bags! J I love that memory and so do they… {Thanks to my friend for giving me the idea years ago. You gave me and my children a little life insurance policy.}
·        Fruit snacks in a Tupperware bowl … in the bathtub. I have not done this regularly, but it was a happy, memory-etching thing for my youngest daughter just like it was for me. When I was little, my Nanny would prepare my bath water and put slices of fruit in a plastic bowl. It would float around in my bath water with me and I could snack like a little princess in the bathtub. I have done that for my little girl. My daughter loves knowing that I am doing something special for her like my grandmother did for me. Nanny passed away when I was pregnant with my youngest daughter. Somehow, that involves my Nanny with her great-grandchild who I know she would adore. I feel certain she smiles.
·        “Wonderful Wednesday.” We started doing this last fall and need to pick it back up because it was a win/win situation for all. Each week, we invited someone over for dinner on Wednesday night. The planning process was always great discussion for us. We asked our guests what THEY would like, we went to the store and got it and then learned how to prepare it TOGETHER. I cannot begin to explain the doors this opened. For us, we learned to try new foods, we formally sat at the table to eat, we learned about being a servant and catering to others wants besides our own and we made others feel special. The responses were shocking when we invited people because that doesn’t happen too much anymore. Most said, “Oh, well I will bring something or we can just order pizza.” We explained what we were doing and why. We WANTED to do it all and wanted to learn to make their favorite dish. My girls even loved that we gave the day a name, “Wonderful Wednesday.”
·        Travel: I wanted to introduce that exciting world to my kids and I did. They have not been able to do the 5 star traveling, but they have traveled. I made/make it a priority. I had never been on a plane until I was almost 30 and I could not believe the change in my perception of the world. God made more than Tennessee and I want to see it! I took each one of my daughters on their 1st plane rides before they were 10 and they have been to 2 foreign countries. (Hint: make friends in other countries and experience free travel for you and them when they visit your country.) We also travel to the beach/ocean each year, even if I can only afford 2 nights. It is worth the drive. They love waking up and hearing mom say, “Hey girls, how about us going to the beach today?!” Last minute deals are everywhere and those trips typically go smoother than the planned ones. My kids have only lived with spontaneity. We plan, but the spontaneous spice always flavors our life.
·        Glitter: This one is my signature mark. My children will ALWAYS relate glitter to their mom. I have taught them well about the power of glitter and they have seen its effects. No one could convince them that glitter is NOT great. They know EVERYTHING is better when glitter is involved. I cannot imagine anyone being disgusted by the sparkle of a diamond, and glitter is in that family.
·        White teeth: This is simply important.
·        We all 3 take instant, mutual notice of anyone in a wheelchair, or with any disability as seen by the world. We love elderly people … especially little old men with ironed jeans. Both of my girls have a soft, precious spot for the people I have taught them are ESPECIALLY important. We know, “The 1st shall be last and the last shall be 1st. The weak shall be strong and the strong shall be weak. The rich shall be poor and the poor shall be rich.” They have an innate sense to give honor to those the world overlooks. Though I do not mean to boast, that is one of my most treasured accomplishments. They have always seen me humbled before someone less fortunate and they naturally do the same. Both of my girls will be the one to reach out to the outcasts of the world that are rejected by their peers. They know, “Different is better.”
·        I try to make accomplishments that may seem out of reach. I do it not only for myself, but to give my daughters confidence. No matter what anyone says, we feel security by our parents’ success ... and by watching them overcome failure and adversity. We feel that if we came from success, we have a smoother paved road. Granted, sometimes we must pave our own roads, but other times we don’t. For example, I am not athletic, but because I knew my father had participated in many races and triathlons, I had the confidence and courage to enter a 5k race and my sister ran a marathon. We at least had the thought, “If Daddy can do it, then maybe I can too.”  We didn’t win, but we ran …..  Because I have owned and operated a business for over a decade and written a book, those types of things will seem less out of reach for my girls and possibly they may go beyond. My mother was not a coddler, but she made it clear that I needed to depend on myself and work hard for what I have. My dad always said to get into a profession I love and grow in my talents. He explained that my happiness in my occupation would surpass any paycheck. We spend too much time working to not enjoy what we do. I pass all of that along to my kids. They have learned that taking trash out and cleaning toilets must be done by someone and we are not too good for that someone to be us.

Hopefully, their minds will hold on to some good things and they will learn to make the negative memories positive for their children!     
Paying closer attention to memory making,

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Legacy of a Humble Millionaire

Once upon a time, there was a man who lived an average life. Actually, by the description of the world, he was a little below average. He did not come from money and only had an 8th grade education … but he was a smart man. He got his GED when he was in the service and went on to LIVE his life. He outdid himself. (His son is one of my friends.)
At the time of this man’s death, he had gained the title of a multi-millionaire … but you would never know it. He maintained a simple life and kept his focus on God and his family. His money was never used to overindulge himself or his children … though they did not do without. They were given more opportunities than “things.” He kept it all in perspective and they learned about hard, honest work. They took good care of their things and used them until they were no longer usable. That lesson still sticks for my friend and his children.
This man taught many people all across the world about the true meaning of living life and the message of his Creator. Every piece of his equipment had a logo, “Jesus Christ is Lord.” It was not an option for the buyer to receive his product without the logo. He loved God and Jesus with all of his heart. His legacy was even whispered to me and I never had the blessing or opportunity to meet him.
Through this man and his life, he taught countless lessons. As far as tithing, he gave his share personally … AND from the business. He had been the inventor of a machine that makes the little dots of glue on your cereal boxes and the glue used for baby diapers.
His passing devastated his entire family in an unusually difficult way. It was in a tragic accident that took his life and his wife’s. In a split second, a mom, dad and 2 wonderful grandparents left this earth. What was the most impactful, valuable thing they left behind? It was a powerful legacy that can be seen radiating through their children and grandchildren. There are now 4 grown men and several grandchildren who have memories of great people, who they are from, etched within them forever.
I have never met a man such as this man, but my soul smiles to know he existed. I love to hear his words echoed through his son and see his spirit shine through his son and grandchildren. I know their pain is beyond measure regarding their loss; but their pride, honor and respect surpass it.
It makes me think. If I achieved such a success, could I stay so grounded? Could I remember where my blessings and I came from and give credit where credit is due?
It is so tempting and easy to take credit for massive accomplishments. My hope is to live as this man lived. To leave the best part of me on this earth so others may aspire to do the same. He took nothing of this world with him and I am sure that his family would take him and his wife above any of the earthly things they left behind. Yet, look what treasure they DID leave behind. It is as glorious and powerful as the air we breathe, though we cannot see it. We must have it to survive.
   This man could not and did not take any of his worldly things with him, but I choose to believe he took something. The love and blessings he shared and spread to many lives surely soar with him and his wife. They heard the words, "Good job, My faithful servants." 
    We are surely here to touch other's lives as they did, we were not meant to simply touch our own life.

Life is about more than a dollar,

(The blog below was put up at the same time as this one …)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Just Some Thoughts ...

I will catch up on the days either later this afternoon or tomorrow. The site is not always accurate displaying my posts anyway …
The “One Month to Live” study is certainly a thought provoker and I cannot see where it would do anyone anything but good. For this entry, I am not going to blog about the book, but about things I have recognized.
I really cannot say I have FULLY been living as though I only had a month to live. TRYING to do that when life is going at its normal pace is virtually impossible. For example, last week my father discovered water in my yard. He looked under the water meter to see LOTS of water. I was unaware such a thing could happen, but I had a big problem. There was a leak in the pipe under the ground. L Because my bill is automatically drafted, I had not looked at it to notice it had been steadily rising for about 3 months. Now it is triple the normal amount and I had used 16,000 gallons of water instead of the normal 7,000. These things can put a kink in a no-regrets life, but I keep it in the back of my mind.
In my world, yesterday was a sad day for many people. It marked the 1 year anniversary of the passing of my hero, a 9 year old little boy who fought brain cancer. These types of days can also captivate our minds, but in a good way. I spent time this weekend focusing on him, his life and his family instead of blogging. His parents taught me a lot about living life to the fullest. (They were the inspiration for the No Regrets poem.) I missed class on Sunday night in order to make an arrangement for his parents to take to his grave. That seemed more important. I have no regrets regarding my decision.

          I have given some thought to another wonderful example of living life looking at the big picture. This lesson was taught to me by my aunt. She is the mother of many foster/adopted, special needs children.
Many years ago, she was faced with a difficult situation. The way she handled it really spoke volumes to me. She had an adopted daughter who suddenly got very sick. The little girl, Erin, was hospitalized in intensive care and we were not sure if she would make it. My aunt stayed with her daughter around the clock. My uncle and the aides took care of the other children at home. In the midst of my cousin’s sickness, another situation happened.
There was a little boy, Joey, who had lived with my aunt and uncle as a foster child for most of his life. He had parents, but they were unable to care for him due to his numerous problems. However, his father visited him on a regular basis. One weekend, while my aunt was at the hospital, this little boy unexpectedly passed away. Luckily, his dad was also with him, which gave him peace that nothing more could have been done.
The arrangements were made and we had his funeral. My aunt did not go. At first, I was perplexed, as I am sure many others were. I could not imagine not going to my child’s funeral. My aunt explained the facts to me.
She said, “I have given Joey love and taken care of him for his whole life. I have done all I could do for him. Now, he does not need me and will not even know I am there. God has him and will take even better care of him than I can. Going to the funeral will prove nothing and will not help; it would actually be a selfish act, and I have nothing to prove. I kissed him good-bye and told him I loved him before I left. I have closure. At this point, Erin needs me. She knows if I am here or not and she is very sick. I have to stay with her and be content with what I have done for Joey. I have no regrets with him or his life.”
Looking back, I realize that I would not have that maturity or such a clear, peaceful perspective. However, my aunt and uncle have lived a clear life and avoided regrets. I want to be more like them.

This study will most likely take me more than one month to complete … and that’s okay. I WILL complete it. I appreciate all of the visits and those who are also challenging themselves with me. It warms my heart to see the visiting audience, especially those in other countries. We are all so different; yet, we all are the same. We were born and we shall die.
As I look around, I can see guidance in the most unusual places … as far as living and enjoying this life. Even my little man, Swayze, teaches me. A puppy, a child or a person with special needs seem to hold the secret of a life lived to the fullest. They enjoy every minute. They do not stress over things they have no control over and they are happy just to be doing what they do. Even as I sit and type, my little companion simply enjoys being near me. I placed a pillow on my lap in front of the keyboard and he napped. He is happy and thoroughly enjoys his life. So sweet …

Taking notice of the small things,

Friday, May 13, 2011

DAY THIRTEEN: 30 Days to a No-Regrets Life

FYI: THE BLOGSPOT SITE HAS BEEN DOWN FOR 24 HRS FOR SOME REASON. IT DELETED 2 POSTS, SO I REPOSTED THEM. (Just letting you know in case you noticed something strange :)) Keep up with what day you are on in case it happens again.

DAY 13: Sandpaper. Smoothing the edges.
          It is easy to talk about resolving things with some people . . . then there are the sandpaper people. Sandpaper is used to smooth a surface, but it is not smooth when rubbed on our skin. Some people rub us that way. They irritate us. We are most likely all sandpaper to someone, like it or not. Sandpaper people are in God’s plan to smooth us. What interest would there be in life if everything went smooth and in harmony? Such bliss would rob us all of what we are intended to be.
These are the common types of people:
  • Measuring Tape people: These people let us know we don’t quite measure up. They judge by their own standards of righteousness.
  • Hammers: They are as subtle as a freight train, pushing their agendas on others and forcing their ways. They can be loud and demanding or subtle and manipulative, but they are stubbornly committed to using the force of their own will to get their way.
  • Skill Saws: They seem to be naturally gifted at cutting others down. They cut to the quick and leave others bleeding on the floor. They win verbal arguments every time- not because they are right, but because they know where to cut to weaken the other’s platform.
  • Vice grips: They get a grip and don’t know when to let go. They are extra needy and squeeze the life out of those around them, having no social or relational boundaries. They bounce from one crisis to another, needing support and encouragement.
  • Grinders: They have explosive personalities waiting to go off and send sparks flying.
  • Axes: They tend to be negative, complaining and always looking for ways to tear down the hopes and plans of others.
  • Hatchets: They take smaller chops than axes but hold on to past hurts and grudges longer. They don’t know how to “bury the hatchet.”
  • Putty People: (My pet peeve) They have no consistency, no backbone. They are so eager to please, always agreeable and change like a chameleon so you never really know who they are or what they really think. They always say yes. To me, they come across as dishonest.

          We are to look at ourselves before criticizing others. Jesus says in Matthew 7: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? First, take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
          Notice, He did not say to ignore the sawdust. Pointing it out is not judgmental. It is to be said in a helpful, healing way. “Hey, you know you’ve got some sawdust in your eye. Let me help you with that.” That’s good, unless we whack them over the head with our plank that is sticking out of our eye.
          As far as when someone else criticizes us, or tries to help get the sawdust out of our eye, we can take it in stride. We must be selective and not ABSORB all of the criticism, nor should we dismiss it. The author says to do with it just as a piece of gum. Chew on it awhile, get the flavor and then spit it out. Take the good 10% and get rid of the other 90%. Don’t swallow it whole.
          A good way to look at the hammer people is that maybe God has placed them so closely in your life to toughen you and stand up to them even though it makes you uncomfortable. {This reminds me of the mean girl in “SOUL SURFER.” The surfer who lost her arm to a shark attack appreciated the competitiveness of the mean girl. It challenged her and made her feel like she was still a threat and good competition.}
          Maybe the measuring tape people are there so you will learn to look to God for approval instead of people.

          Everyone is in your life for a reason, AND you are in their lives for a reason. Reveal goodness to them.

          Living life in this way is quite challenging, but it is a new perspective. I feel an evolution . . .

Evolving for 17 more days,

DAY TWELVE: 30 Days to a No-Regrets Life

DAY 12: THE BOXING RING … Resolving conflicts by fighting fair …

          I liked and really understood this chapter well. It was an awesome concept. Obviously, we WILL have conflicts with others, but few know how to productively resolve them and fight fair. It IS very tough to know when to hold your ground and when to throw in the towel. The comparison is to a boxing match, just as the 2 men are brought together in the center of the ring before the match begins. The referee man brings them together and makes sure they are both clear. (Maybe we need relationship referees!!)

Fighting Fair TIP #1: Stay in the ring and off the ropes. Keep a focus until a resolution has been reached.
Men seem to struggle here more than women. Typically, a man will go in his cave instead of talking it out. (Oh really??)

There are basically 5 primary styles of relationship fighting in the ring and most of us have embraced one of them.
  1. The Rope-a-Dope Fighter: Muhammad Ali invented this style. He would bounce against the ropes, hide behind his gloves and not throw any punches. In relationships, these people avoid conflict at all costs and retreat when things get tough. Though this fighting style seemingly produces peace, it undermines the relationship, keeping it shallow and fear based. If resolution cannot happen, the relationship stays at surface level and never develops the intimacy that comes from working through tough issues. (This would have been good information to have known 20 years ago …)
  2. The Knockout Artist: “IT’S MY WAY OR THE HIGHWAY.” These people are NOT going down. They fight until they win and the other person gives in. They usually do “win,” but the relationship goes down for the count because the other person has no voice and will usually quit trying.
  3. The Take-the-Fall Fighter: This person throws in the towel early, 1st to give in. They become doormats, roll over and play dead. It is a very false sense of peace because it creates tremendous bitterness in the person giving in and dangerous pride in the one who doesn’t.
  4. The One-Two Puncher: (now we are getting to the healthier techniques) This person is committed to give/take. You get a punch, I get a punch.
  5. The Sparring Partner: **BEST STYLE** Committed to being a teammate and helping their partner. They stay in the ring and off the ropes. They realize that the relationship is more important than the issue they are fighting over. They understand the truth, which is that the process is usually more vital than the outcome. HOW it is resolved is most important.

The authors challenge us to categorize ourselves, reflect back on our parents’ handled conflict and how their style influenced ours … good or bad.

GROUND RULES: These have to be set. They set the stage for the fight. Just as in a boxing ring, there are certain places that the fight is NOT allowed to go. For example, the men are going to hit the other men and it will physically hurt, BUT they are not allowed to strike or involve the manly jewels. Yes, that will hurt the opponent the most, but it takes everything to another level. We can’t hit people where it hurts that bad.
Relationship/verbal groin punches may be: the use of the words “divorce, hate” or profanity. Also, maybe the other person did something terrible in his/her past and it has already been dealt with by both parties. That incident may be tempting for the other person to bring up, so it needs to be off limits just like testicles. We’ve gotta fight fair.

·        Before a confrontation with a co-worker, remind the person that you are committed to find a solution together, not a scapegoat.
·        Before an attempt to resolve an issue with a dear friend, restate your commitment to them and to the friendship. The friend needs to know that you value the relationship and want to preserve it. You are willing to endure the unpleasant feelings in order to salvage the friendship.
·        Put your mouth guard in. Be aware what comes out of your mouth; the message needs to be of love, not cutting and the words need to be productive, not spicy. “It has been said that the real art of conversation is not only saying the right thing at the right time, but also learning to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment. (That’s a toughie) Poor choice of words only clogs the real communication that will get you through the conflict.
·        Don’t attack the person. Learn to attack the ISSUES without attacking each other. Do not say, “YOU did this, YOU___ …” Instead, simply own YOUR feelings. Express them without letting them consume the conflict.
·        Avoid a history lesson. The other person already knows the past issues, no need to keep studying them. This technique diverts attention from the conflict at hand. Decide to focus only on the immediate issue and stay until a resolution is reached. When you get historical, don’t be surprised if the other person gets hysterical.
Stay in the ring, face the fight in front of you and focus on fighting fair.

          Focus on reconciliation instead of resolution. There are some instances when 2 people simply cannot and will not come to an agreement. My example version is broccoli and green beans. They are both green vegetables and are both healthy. However, they taste very different. If I like broccoli and hate green beans, and you like green beans but hate broccoli . . . we will never convince the other that our favorite is best. We must disagree agreeably and eat carrots. Our relationship is more important than the vegetable.
THE KEY is respecting the other person’s view. We are not to dismiss the discussion in a “whatever” way to keep the peace and move on. Split decisions allow for and appreciate everyone’s unique perspective brought to the table. Part of the success is being understood.
For me, I do not necessarily want or need to be agreed with, but I strongly desire to simply be understood by those with whom I am closest.

The last point in this chapter is pretty important. It is about anger. I think in my head I have the idea that being angry is wrong and that I should not get angry. I am not sure where that came from, but I have also taught that unhealthy skill to my children. The truth is quite contrary. Anger is a healthy emotion and even Jesus got angry. When something wrongful happens involving something we deeply care about, we WILL get angry. It just needs to be channeled correctly.
          I think I may go pick a fight …
Just to practice doing it right!!
Getting off the ropes and in the ring J … 18 days to go,

DAY ELEVEN: 30 Days to a No-Regrets Life

DAY 11: In this chapter, the authors compare the study with mountains; like climbing Mt. Everest, persistence and different types of “mountains” in life. I am on the fence regarding how I feel about the perspective. Of course, I am influenced by personal experiences.
I know they are not wanting us to miss the point and focus on mountain climbers, but it brings a turd to the table. I am all about determination but I think sometimes people can go overboard. However, I cannot hear another person’s calling, so who am I to say that one should NOT try and accomplish a personal goal even if it causes pain to another or others?
The author speaks of his admiration for one who climbs Mt. Everest and “risks it all.” That’s the part where I get a little lost. If the climber is a single person with no family, then I agree. However, if he has a family at home … I’m not so sure I do. I see that in a different light. Since we are talking about what matters in life, I see this as a topic that matters. (Had a little personal experience to validate my argument, just give me a moment.)
Example: If a man or woman is in the military, then gets married, it was an understood situation that the other spouse will be on his/her own and the soldier will be leaving, risking his/her life and may not come back. That person has a commitment to the country and its safety. In the case of climbing a mountain (or something similar … pursuing other careers/personal goals) and all of the time the climber must invest, I am not following the big picture other than a self goal. Yes, I admire someone’s commitment and endurance, but somehow I see sadness in the family at home. The way I see it, is if you place something like that in front of your family, at the end of the day, what do you have? So many people sacrifice time with people who matter to accomplish goals that will not sustain them in later years. In other words, one must be happy with a title of success in the eyes of the world. If it was at the expense of his/her family, then that person will have to be fulfilled with holding awards, newspaper articles and such for the remainder of his/her days. Living off fumes of what he/she did. It has to be looked at closely to make sure it is “success” in the big picture. As I once heard the wife of an avid golfer (AKA: golfing widow) say, “He’s a very good golfer and he loves it … but we never see him. Sometimes, failure can be succeeding at something that does not matter.”
The wife and kids quietly smile and bite their tongues as the golfing world brags on what a good golfer the husband/father is. The silently think, “We are glad he is good at that …” (That can apply to countless things, not trying to pick on the golfers.) Perspective changes a lot.
Anyway, on to the lesson …
It says that there are 3 mountains in life that generally prevent unity in relationships.
1.       The mountain of misunderstanding. In the beginning of most relationships everything seems so positive … UNTIL we disagree. We THINK we share an entire view with a person because we had connected on something else. After conflict surfaces, we realize we don’t think alike AT ALL. We cannot read minds, but must expect differences of opinions.
2.     The “me 1st” attitude mountain. This leaves the other person in the dust of us. A prime example is a child calling ‘shotgun’ when its time to get in the car.
3.     The mountain of mistakes is the most deadly. We stack up all of the mistakes until they become a mountain that cannot be torn down or climbed.
Look at these mountains, know they exist and be ready to ascend even though it is a climb. We have to have willingness to pour ourselves into those we love, motivate them to stay on the trail with us and empower them to persevere after we are no longer with them.
“Relationships are not for wimps.”

The next parallel is about the rope a climber uses to secure him if he slips so he does not crash to the ground. We have to connect to the rope of acceptance. (**Personal struggle alert here for Kasi**)
“Accept one another as Christ accepted you in order to bring praise to God.” Romans 15:7
We are always trying to change people and make them agree with us or see things as we do. To accept others means stop trying to change them and start trying to understand them. We have to accept people the way they are, work on our own issues and trust God to deal with the other people.
The question my girls and I discussed was. “Do you tell others how you feel more than you show them, or do you show them more than you tell?” Psychologists say we tend to favor one over the other. We are challenged to try and do the opposite.
19 more days,

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

DAY NINE/TEN: 30 Days To a No-Regrets Life

This segment is called, “Love Completely.”
          This chapter is going to touch on a touchy subject. It speaks about relationships. Relationships are good, unless they are troubled. When we have friction with another person, we like to bury the issue and we distance ourselves from the person and the relationship. Sometimes, it is necessary, but other times, we need to swallow our pride and make amends. If the person is a key person in our lives, we do need to deal with it. Loose ends are never good when a person leaves this earth. We will lose the opportunity to mend a broken relationship if 1 of the 2 people is not here. Today is the day.
          Sometimes, this silently happens. Meaning, we work hard to provide things for our loved ones, but we do not give them the valuable part . . . our time and attention. Most people will choose love and concern over an item. Why do we wait until a funeral to send a person flowers?
          This chapter challenges us to ponder the important people. Do we need to be the bigger person and apologize? Do we need to assure someone how we feel about them or validate their importance? What is keeping us from spending the time, saying the words or taking the action?
          These troubled relationships can bleed over into other relationships if we do not address them. However, there is a fine line in this course of action. We discussed it in class Sunday night. Sometimes, we try to handle a relationship in the wrong way. Thought must be put into this process and a look at the big picture must be seen. Many of us have a tendency to think that because we want harmony, that should be enough and the other person should comply. That does not always happen. They key is within ourselves. We must give the gift without an expected response . . . let it go with no strings attached. Obviously, if we are dealing with a raged animal, we may get bitten. Just because we want to pet the lion does not mean he will not bite us. Maybe just throw him a steak and walk away. He will hopefully get the picture. You gave a peace offering with nothing expected in return. If he eats it or throws it back, you did what you needed to do. He may or may not recognize your effort, but you tried to speak his language.
          The ultimate point is that we were made for relationships; relationships with our Creator and with others He created. The truth is that PEOPLE will let us down and hurt us. God remains. Do the best you can with the people ones, but keep your eyes on the solid One. People leave by free will, they die and they simply move into another season of life. We cannot live with a sole connection to any one person. Not our parents, spouses, siblings, children or friends. This is a temporary home for all.
          The chapter then moves into a cringing place. I did not enjoy the challenge it presented. The point was that God gave His only son so that we may live. We all know the story well and take it as “the way it is.” BUT, how many of us put it into terms we can see? Selfless, painful, everyday people terms.
                      The human depiction was the story of a man who worked for the railroad and had the job of raising and lowering the bridge for the train to pass. His son often went to work with him. One day, an unexpected call came that a train full of passengers was coming and he needed to quickly lower the bridge. His little boy was playing in the spot where the bridge would lower and he could not hear the father’s call. You can see where this is going. I cannot allow my mind to go there. Truthfully, I would most likely spare my child’s life at the cost of the hundreds on the train. In this story, the man pulled the lever, fell to his knees and lost his son as the passengers happily rode over the bridge . . . dining and laughing with no clue that a little boy had died so they could live  . . . a decision made by his loving father. That hurts to think about. The father gave the gift of love at his own expense.
          A look at the bigger picture and relationships takes us all to an uncomfortable place. But it is reality . . .

          We are encouraged to look at God like the ocean. Both are very deep and offer more than a view or splashing around in the shallow part. We can go deeper and experience more.
As far as the message; Well, nobody wants to go here either. . . This chapter is about taking notice of the areas where you screwed up and need to be forgiven; whether that is by a person, God or both . . . YUCK. The truth is that these things don’t just go away. We either confess or suppress. Suppressing is like trying to hold a beach ball under water. Not easy or fun and is a constant effort and battle. Just let it pop up to the surface. The incentive and raw reality is that if we do NOT forgive, we will not BE forgiven. Matthew 6:9-15.
I liked the mentioning of The Lord’s Prayer. Most people know it and say it, but is that REALLY what we want?! To be forgiven as we have forgiven our debtors?! That look in the mirror is probably not very pretty for most. We all want to BE forgiven, yet FORGIVING is not as fun.
I think this gets tricky. It can be misunderstood and cause other issues such as CODEPENDENCY. Forgiveness does NOT mean letting people walk all over you at your expense, OVER AND OVER. It is almost a selfish act to let go of the negative, toxic emotional feelings we harbor. It is selfish (in a good way) because we do it for our own freedom. We break the chains that bind us by forgiving. Forgiveness is how to set a soul free. It is within.
The video that goes with this part showed a woman who lost her son to death . . . at the hands of a murderer. She had the chance to come face to face with the boy who took her son’s life. Needless to say, most of us would hope the boy did not have a body guard and then we would physically "handle" the situation. This mother looked at the bigger picture. Through her agony, she spoke to the young man. The pain was there, but she chose to forgive him because that is what God commands. We are all God’s children, even when we are bad. She said that though she had human feelings, she could see God standing behind her son’s murderer with His hand on the boy’s shoulder begging her to forgive him.
That is another tough pill to swallow. The shock factor hopefully made a difference and turned the boy’s life around. If he could have the path of his life changed and help others . . . possibly spare other lives, then her son’s death would not be in vain.
Another true story I know personally is similar. A mother lost her daughter in an automobile accident. Her child was the passenger. The mother often envisioned coming face to face with the driver. In her heart, the mom knew that she would console the girl, tell her it was not her fault and that she did not blame her for the death of her daughter. Sadly, one day, that day came. The driver approached the mother years later. This young lady had carried the guilt and denial for so long that she defensively lashed out about her innocence and placed some form of blame on the mom. The mom was emotionally taken down for a couple of days, as anyone would be, but she had to arrive back to a mental place of a second forgiveness. As Jesus said, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:24
To live a fulfilled life, forgiveness is not an option. The consequences of what we have suffered may linger, but our survival depends on forgiveness. Otherwise, we will drown in bitterness. We think if we hold on to hurt and bitterness that we are getting back at a person. In reality, we are not affecting them at all . . . we are only self-destructing.
To prevent the long term danger, we have to deal with these things daily. Just as a festering wound did not start out that way, neither does holding on to bitterness. It all starts as a little sore and grows into a raging infection if not dealt with properly. Hence, the scripture’s reasoning, “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” Ephesians 4:26-27
Realistically, there is NO WAY I could go to bed happy if someone murdered my child that day or did some other terrible thing . . . but I get the picture. I think this is what the book, “The Shack” touched on.
Mixed in with being mad at people, we do not want to admit the truth . . . Many times we are mad at God because He allowed something or didn’t stop something. We suppress those feelings because we feel we are not supposed to be angry with God . . . so we take it out on others. The funny truth is that if we are mad at Him, He knows it anyway. Confessing it won’t be a newsflash . . . it will just be a discussion owning and dealing with the truth and the relationship. He can handle anger. The prayer? “God, I’m angry. Help me, forgive me, heal me.”
When we must forgive another and we feel we cannot do it, we forgive them through His power. That is when we allow God to intercede. It will be too much for us alone.

The overall message I received was this: I have a tendency to wallow in shame and guilt. I do not forgive myself; therefore I do not allow myself to feel God’s forgiveness. I remain in the state as a prisoner of shame by my own with-holding. I assume He hashes it up everyday too. Since I will forgive another quicker than myself, I think I may be on to something here. We carry our past around like a heavy anchor and it slows us down. If we can learn and practice forgiveness of ourselves and others, we will happily, graciously RECEIVE the forgiveness awaiting us.
The book suggests a little activity. As my sister, Becca says, “There is a turd on the table and only one way to get it off. You have to touch the turd.”
Though the book does not word it in such a way, that’s what it is saying. It recommends writing God a letter and unloading the truth about how you really feel . . . with no holding back. Then, as you ask for help, rip it up and be done with it. I likey!

20 more days,

DAY SEVEN/EIGHT: 30 Days to a No-Regrets Life

This is one person’s personal journey through the challenge of living life as though it would end within a month. For me, I have really been doing a lot of thinking . . . obviously, not a lot of blogging. Its difficult to live in this mindset AND write about it . . . it takes time away from the living part! Sorry about that for those who are along for the ride with me. I will pick us up quickly and we will keep going. So, keep up! J
          As for me, the last week has been very busy. I worked a couple of 12 hour days, enjoyed my favorite out of the country guests, and then a couple of other things I added in on my own . . . like GETTING A PUPPY! It was a cure for ever wanting another baby, just in case that feeling happens as I am nearing the time for my kids to fly from our nest . . . AND it was time for a new man in my life. So, I got a non-shedding, low-key, adorable purse puppy that will not get over 10 lbs . . . and of course, I named him, “Swayze.” He is precious and has brought a lot of light back into our house. Not that it was dark, but he has changed the energy. For one thing, we go outside several times a day and I honestly cannot remember the last time I just hung out in my yard. My yard is really pretty . . .
Simply getting him got me out of the house and on a 10 hr road trip by myself, which is not common for me. But he was in Missouri, and I am in Tennessee. (That was another thought provoker as I drove through the flood devastation.) Anyway, he is doing well, we are all in love and he is the man of the house. He is small, black and cuter than anyone could imagine. That tempted me to change his name to “Usher,” but I decided to stick with my man, Swayze.
Little Swayze is going through all of his own transitions as he adapts to life without his furry mom and brothers. His new, human mom and sisters are good, but sometimes he still cries for the four-legged ones . . . I can tell.
That sums up why I am behind on my blogging. Now its time to catch up . . .
I will go through 2-3 days per entry. Hang on!!

Day SEVEN: Thawing out your frozen dreams . . .
This chapter had some great points about our dreams and desires. It parallels our dreams to a Dreamsicle/popsicle. It seems that they often melt away or stay in the back of the freezer until they have freezer burn. The interesting point is indeed puzzling . . . The question is how do we know WHICH dreams to chase? Which ones are planted for our overall purpose in life and which ones are selfish?
Well, if we do not believe in God, I suppose that question would not matter; but for those who are here to fulfill a higher calling, it REALLY matters. I want to be living the dreams that were meant to be a part of my legacy and my creation . . .
The authors say that the indication of God’s smile upon our dreams is that we will realize the dream is too big and we cannot do it on our own. If we can accomplish it ourselves with little effort and no faith, it’s not looking like “THE dream.” God’s dream makes a difference in the lives of others.
For example:
·        Make lots of $, retire early, live in luxury = not God’s dream.
·        Make lots of $ to help others, retire early to start a new career God has called you to do = sounds more God prompted.
     I can see where this is very confusing when a person feels a desire on his/her heart. It can become an obsession and FEEL like a calling. To me, the red light indicator is if the dream boosts the person into a “successful, spotlight” place. The green light is if it glorifies God. Selfish recognition and pride can be quite driving. In other words, if a person’s “dream” will destroy the quality of another, or other, lives . . . it is now a nightmare. God is not in the business of destroying families. If the dream does that, chances are high that God didn’t send the desire.
The flip side of that is for the person with the great desire who needs to restrain from pursuing it. That is a devastating, confusing loss. Why would we have such a strong desire for something/dream if it could be so devastating? It is a sad loss. The only solution is to wait and see what door God opens as He reveals our heart’s desires geared in an even better direction. He has a plan and it’s well thought out. That desire WILL be put to good use in His time. We must remember, “Good things come to those who wait.”
Waiting stinks, but instant gratification usually leaves as quickly as it came. If it is on our heart, we know it, believe it and keep an open eye for a God door to open in HIS time. There is a difference in burying/forgetting a dream and looking forward to a dream. Then, on the other hand . . . I really do not want all of my dreams to come true right now; they keep a fire burning within me! Leaving things in a dream-state keeps them perfect. There is a silent benefit there.
  That reminds me of a story I heard, but I am not certain it is true . . . There was a man who could not stop thinking about women's legs, though he was happily married. He tried to pull the good and meaning of such an odd obsession. As fate would have it, he would eventually be the creator of pantyhose! True or not, that's the idea.

Day EIGHT: Feeling overwhelmed and powerless is common. (Good to know . . .)
Our lives could be easier than we make them. The concept given in this chapter is a Motocross bike/race. We COULD walk beside the bike and PUSH it up and down the hills and turns. This will accomplish exhaustion and not have the best outcome, BUT, we “DID IT ALL BY OURSELVES!!!” Who wants that?! The point is that God’s power is just as available to us as kick starting that engine and going full speed ahead. We just think we need to do it all ourselves. It is only when we are too tired and exhausted to take one more step that we seek help. No need to wait that long . . . the help was there all along.
Then, sometimes there is a crash on the track . . . Possibly, this is why we all think we should push our bikes? The truth is that we WILL fail/crash. Success comes from learning to overcome failure. As Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that DON’T work.”
My #1 personal experience was a seemingly wonderful relationship that went bad. I stepped out and took a chance and it did not go well. After I recuperated, I wrote a book. I had never written over 20 consecutive pages; then, I wrote over 300. AND, I learned how NOT to make the same mistakes again. Failure is not final or fatal. There are 2nd chances. We have to get back on the bike and keep a humble spirit.

That’s the end of the first segment, “Living Passionately.”

22 more days,