Sunday, August 4, 2013

Knowing yourself

I have spent some time in recent posts on being honest with yourself about strengths and weaknesses as part of character.  Being honest with yourself and really knowing yourself aren't quite the same thing. Knowing yourself is key in accomplishing the purposes you were created for. 

If you know yourself, then you can head off big mistakes. When you know your own weaknesses and strengths you are better able to appraise a situation and make better decisions about the tasks you are facing. If you know that you aren't great at handling details then you will know in advance that you need to enlist a detail-oriented person to help you accomplish a task full of little pieces. Acknowledging the weakness enables you to recognize and avoid potential pitfalls to achieve a greater chance of success.

Knowing yourself enables you to protect yourself and others. I know that when I have been  in situations full of sensory stimulation and social interaction then I am going to reach a point of overload. When that happens I am more likely to become irritable and it becomes difficult for me to think clearly in situations that require my attention. I just don't have enough emotional energy left. I have learned to recognize when I am reaching my limits and to plan some quiet times for recharging. This puts me in a better frame of mind to handle the necessary intricacies of personal interactions and decision-making and protects others from the negative effects of my weakness. 

Knowing yourself enables you to make better choices and have a more effective impact. When you see your own strengths and weaknesses clearly, when you know what motivates you or triggers a meltdown, you can make choices that maximize your ability to accomplish God's purpose for your life. You will be able to put supports around your weaknesses- people to help you, guidelines to protect you- and make way for your strengths in a way that enables maximimum impact and effectiveness. It isn't a lack of faith to acknowledge and protect weakness. It is a recognition that God built us with weaknesses so that we would recognize our need for Him and His wisdom, and our need for others. We are designed for interconnection, with God and with people. 

Know yourself and maximize your God-given potential. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

How to Navigate Transition

Transition is a necessary part of moving forward in the purposes of God for your life. You must transition from the comfortable and familiar to the unfamiliar. In the beginning you began to imagine that life could be different. Now you begin to see it changing. How do you handle it?

Accept the mess. It’s just a fact of life. Times of transition are messy. Have you ever had your kitchen remodeled or even simply painted a room? Everything has to be moved out of order to make room for the new. We have to accept the temporary mess in order to enjoy the finished result.  The worst part is you may have to make the mess yourself in order to accomplish the transition! Don’t avoid disorder. It is a necessary part of creating a new order.

Keep your eyes on the goal. As you accept the mess as part of the process, it becomes easier to focus on the goal rather than the disorientation of disorganization. As you accept the discomfort of the disorder it becomes easier to envision the time when order is restored and you can appreciate the magnificent change that has happened in your life. Envision that new order as you journey through the transition. This is what you have worked toward. You are almost there!

Grace is available. One of the wisest statements I have ever heard was this, “God doesn't give us the grace to anticipate. He gives us the grace to go through it.” There is no grace for worry. Worry about the expected mess of transition might prevent you from moving forward in the purpose that you were created for. Do you really want to miss it?! Once you accept the mess and look toward the goal you will find that grace is available in abundance to walk the path of transition. The grace of God doesn't necessarily make the time of transition easier, but it makes the transition bearable so that the discomfort doesn't distract you from the desired end. Doesn't that make it worth the stress?

Hang in there, Friend! You are going to make it! Transition means you have almost arrived at what was once a dream. Don't give up now!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Semper Gumby

Let’s face it. Every single one of us thinks that we know the best way to do… everything! As we move into positions of leadership and responsibility we are going to find ourselves making more and more plans. The only problem is that the more responsibility we have the more the completion of our plans depends on other people! We have to learn to hold our plans loosely and bend when necessary.

Work with what you have not with what you don’t have. Now that you are the person in the captain’s chair you get to “boldly go where no one has gone before”, right? Only if your crew is prepared and willing to go with you. Accomplishing your plan requires the support and gifting of others. If they aren't ready, then it’s time for you to adjust, not whip them into shape. The people under your care are a much more valuable resource than you can ever know. Work toward helping them be ready to” boldly go” and eventually you will.

Be humble enough to accept someone else’s suggestion. You've thought it through, prayed about it and decided on what you believe is the best way to accomplish the task. You have made the plan and then…someone else makes a suggestion on how to do it differently. Deep down inside you know that their way is better, but you are finding it hard to actually say the words.  What’s most important? Doing things your way or accomplishing the task? Come on! Swallow your pride! You can do it!

Semper Gumby. Old folks like me remember Gumby from our childhood. I actually had a Gumby doll. Gumby was very flexible. You could bend him into all kinds of positions and he didn't break. I don’t know where the phrase originated, but the first time I heard someone say “Semper Gumby” I knew exactly what it meant:  Always be willing to bend. You can call it Murphy’s Law if you want, but things will usually not turn out exactly as planned. If you and I can accept that truth as we begin to put our plans into place we will be much more ready to bend when necessary. “Blessed are the flexible for they will not be bent out of shape!”

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Are YOU willing?

When the opportunity you've been hoping for arrives will you be ready and recognize it? "The secret to knowing the will of God is being willing to do whatever He says." I remember reading that years ago and it has stuck with me ever since. 

Sometimes life leads us down unexpected paths. We have been getting ourselves ready for new adventures, but if we aren't ready to accept that adventure in an unexpected package we may miss it. 

The truth is sometimes to accept that unexpected package we have to let go of something familiar and treasured. Learning to hold all things loosely is a necessary skill, but not an easy one. 

Today is one of those letting-go-in-order-to-receive days for me. I know that what lies ahead is exciting, glorious, even hoped for. But it means leaving behind people and a place that I have learned to love.

 I always knew my time there would be temporary, but temporary can mean years and years invested mean it can become difficult to leave.  Honestly, I wasn't willing to leave until I remembered that in order to really know what God is saying I have to be willing to do whatever He says. 

The most encouraging words I've heard in the past few letting-go days also came from an unexpected source. "God calls and you have to say 'yes'." That truly sums it up best. 

So, off I go outside my comfortable "box". Want to come along?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Character is Key

If you are in a time of transition, what is the one thing you most need to focus on? What area of your life will help you trough this transition more than anything else? Is it skill or organization? Planning and resources?  Nope. It's character.  Character is the area to focus on if you want to successfully navigate transition. 

Character is solid.  Character is the bedrock you build your life on. It is the one thing that comes with you in every situation. It is the part of you that causes others to find you trustworthy and reliable.  Your situation may change, but string character remains stable. 

Character is not unemotional, but not driven by emotion. Character is driven by truth. In the midst of difficult and trying situations a person of strong character does not allow emotion to direct their decisions. Especially in times of transition,  emotions can be very strong. A person of character steps back and does their best to evaluate the situation based on objective truth rather than feeling. This can be tremendously difficult, but once you are on the other side of the upheaval you will reap the fruit of it. 

Character uses words carefully. Mean what you say, say what you mean. Pressure can cause us to give a quick answer when we may need time to effectively evaluate a situation. Character doesn't make empty promises or threats. Think before you speak and then say only what is helpful for the person you are speaking to.  Do what you say you will do. Can you be counted on?

Character doesn't just happen. It takes effort and will take even more effort during a time of transition. If you make character your focus you will make it through successfully and be even stronger on the other side.  

Saturday, June 8, 2013

How to Be the Real Thing, Part 3: Honest with God

Are you really honest with God or do you tell Him what you think He wants to hear? That is a danger that many people fall into. They pray what they think they should pray instead of telling God how they really feel. If you want to be genuine and authentic, then honesty with God is absolutely essential.

Tell Him the truth. He already knows anyway. Why do we think we need to "butter God up" by telling Him what we think He wants to hear from us? I mean, really. He is God! Who do we think we are fooling? Our piously worded prayers when we are angry or dying inside lack authenticity and we know it. God does too. So why try to sound more spiritual and holy by the words we choose when we talk to God? The most holy and spiritual thing you and I can do is to tell God how we really feel. When we do that we acknowledge  that He really does know us and that He really is the God who sees.

He can handle how you really feel. In Psalm 142 David says "I pour out my complaint before Him. I declare my trouble before Him." (v. 2) David demonstrates that God doesn't only want to hear the good stuff from us. He wants it ALL. So whether you are up or down, you can tell God all about it. I mean ALL about it. Don't fix it up and make it sound pretty for God. He can handle the down and dirty and when you are honest with Him about it, you are giving Him permission to really help you with your feelings and your situation.

Being honest with God will make you more able to be honest with yourself and others. This is what happens when we are honest with God. In the process of being honest with Him, we have to be honest with ourselves and when we are honest with ourselves, we will be more honest with others. To be genuine and authentic, "the Real Thing" in all our relationships and in the place of influence we are stepping into, we have to be honest in every area of our lives. If we start by being honest with God, the rest will most definitely follow.

Monday, May 27, 2013

How to be the Real Thing, Part 2: Honest With Others

Complete and absolute honesty is the key to being the ”real thing”, We can never be truly effective or successful until we are real. It’s something we are all working on. Last time we talked about being honest with yourself. Here are a few more thoughts to help you in the process. In order to be genuine we must also be honest with others.

Always tell the truth as graciously as possible. We have all heard the phrase “a little white lie”. The implication is that a “white lie” is an acceptable lie, even a necessary one to spare someone’s feelings. But a lie is a lie is a lie. It’s never really okay.

I tend to be very aware of other people’s feelings and try really hard, sometimes too hard, to avoid hurting them. There was a particular time when I answered someone’s question in a way that was meant to spare the person’s feelings, yet I left the conversation feeling uneasy. In talking it out with my husband, he pointed out that I was feeling uneasy because I had lied. I had never thought of it that way and the revelation shocked me! It’s been very important to me to tell the truth and equally important not to hurt people’s feelings, but at that moment I realized that sometimes the two can fight for supremacy. In those cases the truth must win. It can be delivered in a gracious and loving way, but in order for us to be authentic we must tell the truth!

If you can't do it, say so. As we step out into new territory we are going to be asked to take on new responsibilities. It’s going to feel really good to be sought after and offered new opportunities. It is going to be tempting to say “yes” to every offer and every opportunity. In order to remain genuine you and I need to honestly evaluate each opportunity based on our actual abilities, schedule, etc. It can be really hard to say “no”. We can’t be concerned about the other person’s reaction. We need to be most concerned with being honest about our God-given capabilities and circumstances. It’s necessary in our quest to be the “real thing”.

People-pleasing causes dishonesty. This is a huge area of potential downfall for most of us, whether we realize it or not. We are often unaware when our responses are motivated by people-pleasing. We all want to be loved, appreciated, and affirmed. We want people to notice our good work, our strong character, our ability to face challenges. We will tend to tell the best about ourselves and leave out the faults. We will tend to say “yes” to people because we don’t want to make them upset with us.

In order to grow in being the “real thing”, authentic and genuine, we need to evaluate how much we are motivated by people-pleasing. The only way to overcome it is to begin to recognize it. When you get right down to the core there is really only One worth pleasing. He is more easily pleased than we think, and is most pleased when we are truthful since He is the Truth.

Don’t hesitate to be truthful with others. Be as gracious as you can. Make your goal to be authentic and genuine rather than to please people. Make your goal to please God instead. You will find it much more satisfying!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

How To Be "The Real Thing": Honest With Myself

At the heart of being "the real thing" is truth. In order to be "true", the genuine article, authentic, we have to become absolutely honest with ourselves, with others and with God. What does it look like to be absolutely honest? Let’s start by being honest with ourselves.

I admit my weaknesses as well as my strengths. It can be really hard to admit my weaknesses, but if I have a false view of humility I may have an equally difficult time admitting my strengths. Everyone who makes character a priority knows that humility is a quality to be desired. Many times in our efforts to portray ourselves as humble we avoid acknowledging our strengths, deflecting all praise. True humility does not mean that I focus only on my weaknesses and ignore my strengths. True humility means that I accurately appraise both my strengths and weaknesses. To deny my strengths is to deny the One who gave them to me. When I reject any praise for something I really am good at the result is a lack of truth. It’s okay to say “Thanks” and, actually, a more genuine and humble response.

I recognize that I can't do it all. Truth means that I am honest about what I can’t do. This may include a lack of ability or time, a personality ill-fitted to the required task or a family need that requires me to set aside a particular endeavor. I have to honestly evaluate myself and my situation. Determination is a great quality, but when determination causes me to overlook my real limitations, then it causes me to lack honesty. Proverbs 19:2 says “Enthusiasm without knowledge is no good...”

It can be painful to admit that I am honestly ill-equipped to accomplish something that I really want to do. A candid evaluation may help me discern that I am not ready now, but could, with some preparation, be ready in the future. But a truthful assessment may also tell me that my goal needs to be adjusted because what I am shooting for will always be out of my reach.

There are times when I have been limited because of artificial boundaries, but then there are the boundaries that are built into me. If I ignore those, then I ignore the One who built them into me. A favorite verse of mine is Psalm 16:6 “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places.” Part of being honest is accepting that not every opportunity available is the right opportunity for me. Sometimes I will need a lot of wisdom to discern correctly.

I accept that perfection in this life is not possible. For some reason, perfection was definitely a goal that I used to strive for. But I have learned the difference between a pursuit of perfection and a pursuit of excellence. Honesty demands that I accept the fact that perfection is simply not an attainable goal. There will always be some kind of flaw in me and, therefore a flaw in my efforts. However, excellence is possible.  Excellence means that I put forth my best effort in everything that I do. Recognizing my inability to achieve perfection allows me to be content with my efforts knowing that I have honestly done my best. This allows me to relax and enables my efforts to be more successful.

Take some time to honestly evaluate yourself. Don’t ignore your strengths. Admit your real weaknesses and limitations. Make a plan to work on improving what you can. Learn to shoot for excellence rather than perfection. There is freedom in that. Go for it! It’s within your reach!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Are You the Real Thing?

Since character is the most important resource on your journey, we are going to take some time talking about it. What is it and how do you get it?

A role model helps, but...... As a young woman with a newly-begun relationship with Christ I was in need of a role model, someone who demonstrated the kind of person I wanted to be. My pastor's wife was it. I watched what she did and tried really hard to be like her. That didn't go so well.

You can't fake character.  In my efforts to be like my pastor's wife it never occurred to me that what she did and how she responded went deeper than the surface. I really had no clue what character was and my efforts to be like her lacked any real depth. 
Finally, a friend who loved me enough to tell me the truth tried to help me understand. She told me that I was like a "spiritual doll". I didn't know what she meant at the time, but eventually I began to grasp it. I said all the right things, even did many of the right things, but my words and actions didn't ring true because I didn't have sufficient character to support what came out of my mouth. It was empty and arrogant and not helpful to those I thought that I was imparting words of "wisdom" to. 

The real thing takes time. Once I began to understand that wisdom and character take time and life experience I stopped easily dispensing "wisdom". I began to really listen to people and to genuinely care for them. As I've lived my life with my sights set toward developing  Christ-like character, I have learned more about life and God.  I hope that when I open my mouth or set fingers to a keyboard that my words ring true with the weight of life experience. That can't be bought, faked or rushed. Like a fine wine, it has to be "aged". 

Character is developed along the journey, but not without the effort of choice. Keep your eyes pointed in the right direction, make choices based on what you know to be right and true, and little by little you will develop character. You may not notice, but others will. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

What is the true foundation? Dare to be.

As you dare to dream, to imagine a life beyond artificial boundaries, and dare to do, to take action toward achieving your dream, there will be something else that you need to do. You will need to dare to be. Dare to be the person that you imagine you can be; a person with unquestionable character. Character is the most important thing that you can pack for your pioneer journey beyond your familiar borders.  But how do you add character to your list of resources needed to make the trip?

It’s developed over time. The truth is you can’t really pack character. Character is built and developed. It is like the formation of a diamond. It takes a long time and a great deal of pressure. Character is the foundation to build your dream on. It’s what enables you to support the new opportunities that await you as you step out. You can be working on your character every day, no matter what you are doing or what you are facing. It is a lifelong process that will continue throughout your entire journey.

It’s how you respond. Character is developed through the choices you make about how you respond to what is happening in your life. If you want a strong character, if as a Christian you want to demonstrate the character of Christ to the world around you, then you develop it through how you respond to the stresses and trials that you encounter in your everyday humdrum life. Stellar character can only be created through difficulty. That’s a fact that can’t be avoided. If you make character your priority, then every day is a new opportunity to build that foundation through the small annoyances and big stresses of life.

It determines the true success of every step you take.  Without character you will crumble under the pressure of new responsibilities and new temptations. This is also a fact that can’t be avoided. No one sets out on a trip intending to get lost or sidetracked. Those who are intent on making it to their destination in a timely manner take the time to prepare, to make sure they know where they are going and how to get there. It’s the preparation that helps them to succeed.

The development of your character is the single most important preparation to make before and during your boundary-exploring expedition. Without character you will damage your opportunities by not treating people well. You may succumb to temptations that lead you beyond the healthy borders established for relationships in God’s word. New opportunities bring temptations to compromise your integrity. Without character you will find yourself vulnerable and unable to stand in what you know is true and right.

Your character is the only thing that you will take with you when you leave this life for the next. Your character is what people will remember. Your character is the legacy that you leave, the example that you set. People may remember what you do, but if you have developed authentic character they will want to emulate who you are. That is the best kind of success. Dare to be a person of Christ-like character.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Absolute Starting Point

When we talk about this pioneer journey beyond what has become comfortable and familiar, we are ultimately talking about a journey of faith. But where do we place our faith as we leave what we can see to head toward the unseen future? There is only One strong enough to carry us through to the end. The absolute start of my journey began when I surrendered to Him.

I can't handle it myself. The moment of surrender came in January of my junior year of college. I was emotionally overwhelmed with a relationship situation. I kept telling myself and my friends that “I should be able to handle my own problems.” Yet, I felt unable to do just that. The old adage “God helps those who help themselves” would define my philosophy of life and God. I knew He was there, but didn’t feel like I should bother Him with my little problems.
One night I was walking back to the house where I rented a room. I was terrified by a thought that whizzed through my mind, “What would happen if I threw myself out in front of that car?” That made it absolutely clear to me that I was not handling my own problems well at all! As soon as I got back to my room I knelt by my bed and prayed, “God, I can’t handle it by myself anymore! I need your help!” The next day I made an appointment with a school counselor.

You usually can't see change while it’s happening. I think I saw the counselor twice. I talked a lot and don’t remember most of what I said, but the second time I saw him I remember telling him that I felt better able to handle all that was happening in my life. When he asked me why, I told him that my faith had really grown and I was aware that God was helping me.
My life was in the process of changing dramatically, but I didn't realize it at the time. Over a series of months, my relationship with God became the central point of my life. So much changed inside of me, but it wasn't until much later that I could point back to that prayer by my bed as the absolute starting point of the change.

I am responsible for how I respond to life. A few weeks after that walk across the street, the college choir I sang with took a trip and I experienced a major moment in that process of dramatic change.  I was sitting in the back of the bus crying about who-knows-what. As I cried I suddenly realized that I had been miserable for a long time and it had been my choice to be so. It was near Ash Wednesday and I decided that I was giving up being miserable for Lent.  I know it sounds silly, but I did it. I began to make response choices that kept me from being miserable. It became a habit that I don’t regret developing. There did come a point where I had to learn the balance between being honest about negative feelings and ignoring them, but the most important lesson was that my response is my choice.  

Dear friend, I challenge you to reach the absolute starting point and admit that you can’t handle life on your own. God is waiting to change your life in ways that you can’t imagine and won’t notice right away, but I can guarantee that you will never regret it. It’s your responsibility to respond. Are you up to the challenge?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

First Lady of Influence

Every day on my way to work I pass a national historic site. How many people can say that?! The site is Valkill, the home of Eleanor Roosevelt. It was several years before I actually visited the site that I pass every day. A few years ago I visited with a particular thought in mind: What could I learn from Eleanor as a woman of worldwide and enduring influence? I had watched a few television biographies about her, but I wanted to see what I could learn by visiting her home. I came home with two items from the bookstore, a copy of “The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt” (Roosevelt 1992) and a magnet with a quote from the very quotable Eleanor. As I read through her book and as I have thought of her since there are a few things I have learned from “The First Lady of the World” a name created by officials at Rhode Island University (Means 1963).

Live the life you have.  Eleanor’s life was never what she would have chosen. She was unloved by her mother, orphaned by age 10, raised by relatives, married to a distant cousin whose mother dominated their lives, lost one of her six children in infancy, endured her husband’s infidelity and crippling illness (Ashby 1995). She began as a shy and insecure young woman, but, through the trials she faced, chose to overcome her fears and disappointment to live the life she had, for her own benefit and the benefit of all those she could influence. It’s my conclusion that Eleanor began to find herself when she lost her husband’s intimate affection.  They were married in 1905, but after she confronted her husband’s affair with his secretary in 1918 (Ashby 1995), the marriage changed. It was their choice to remain married in the legal sense, but they ceased to function as a normal married couple. Over time they developed a very effective and affectionate partnership, but it was after the loss of the marriage that Eleanor developed her interest and activities outside the home. She became the woman of influence that she was because of her trials, not in spite of them.

Are you letting your trials and disappointments prevent you from moving forward? They will shape you no matter how you choose to face them. Allow them to propel you forward toward fulfilling your potential instead of holding you back. Disappointments and loss are not a reason to curl up and die. They are an invitation to envision life in a new way.

Take advantage of every opportunity. Eleanor Roosevelt worked within her husband’s places of influence to develop her own. She became her own public person both because of and separate from her husband’s place of influence. (Harness 2003) Eleanor had been developing her own involvement and her own public forum for years through political participation in women’s causes and social issues. She was concerned that becoming First Lady might end pursuit of her own political interests since at the time the role of First Lady was primarily that of Hostess-In-Chief. Instead, she forever altered our understanding of the First Lady’s role. Through her daily newspaper column, “My Day”, which she continued by typewriter and telephone from wherever she was in the world (Roosevelt 1992) she reached ordinary people with her thoughts and ideas.  Through radio broadcasts, global travel and speeches she championed social causes and called for societal reform. Throughout all of this she also represented her husband and influenced his decisions. One biographical article even called her “…a full partner in the task of the presidency, deeply involved in politics, in the operation of government agencies and in the conduct of public affairs.” (Means 1963)

The Eleanor quote on the magnet I bought at the Valkill gift shop says, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” I chose it because at the time I was becoming aware that fear was something that had put a limit on my ability to fulfill my God-given potential. I had already determined that I didn't want fear to be the reason that I didn't do something. Eleanor’s quote is a constant reminder to continue to look beyond the comfortable and be who I was created to be, to take advantage of the opportunities around me.

There are opportunities waiting for you to engage. Despite the idiom, opportunity will not knock on your door. Opportunities wait to be explored and discovered. They are all around you. What opportunities exist for you in the sphere where you are already living? Open your eyes. Pray. Look around. Find the place where you can begin to be a person of influence and get involved.

It’s not over till it’s over. It has been said that Eleanor Roosevelt is “the only First Lady who increased her own prestige and her efforts on behalf of mankind after her husband’s death.” (Means 1963)  She served as a delegate to the United Nations, appointed by her husband’s Vice President and successor President Harry Truman, and as chairman of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. (Means 1963)Through the adoption of Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1949 (Ashby 1995) she influenced the entire world. She continued to be active and involved globally. Her last official position came just a year before her death when she served in 1961 as chair of President Kennedy’s Commission on the Status of Women. (Ashby 1995) Since Eleanor Roosevelt’s death at the age of 78 in 1962 (the year I was born), we have had one First Lady become Secretary of State, yet none of her successors  has come close to the sweeping and lasting influence of Eleanor Roosevelt.

There were quite a few times in her life when Eleanor could have called it quits. She could have decided that she had done enough, or been hurt enough by life, and just retired to her little cottage called Valkill in Hyde Park, NY. But she never stopped, even as she neared 80 years old.  She spent her life for the benefit of others and used her influence to do as much good as she could.

You and I may not agree with Eleanor on everything that she fought for or stood for, but we can never fault her for letting disappointment or fear or age hold her back. She fully committed herself to live the life she had, taking advantage of every opportunity until the very end of life. Every one of us can do that! Go for it, my friend!

Works Cited

Ashby, Ruth. "Eleanor Roosevelt." In Herstory: Women Who Changed the World, by Ruth Ashby and Deborah Gore, 199-201. New York: Viking, 1995.
"Eleanor Roosevelt." In Rabble Rousers: 20 Women Who Made a Difference, by Cheryl Harness, 46-47. New York: Dutton Children's, 2003.
"Anna Eleanor Rooselvelt." In The Woman in the White House; the Lives, times and Influence of Twelve Notable First Ladies, by Marianne Means, 189-214. New York: Random House, 1963.
Roosevelt, Eleanor. "The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt." New York: DeCapo Press, 1992.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Public People, Private Pain

A few weeks ago I posted a blog entitled “Dollar Store Mentor” in which I shared how I had found a book in a dollar store by Kay Warren, wife of Pastor Rick Warren, and how she had become a mentor to me through that book. Since finding her book I have listened to messages by Kay and have recently been listening to the audiobook in Kay’s own voice of her most recent release “Choose Joy: Because Happiness Is Not Enough”. The news this weekend of the death of the Warren’s son by an apparent suicide becomes more personal to me because of my recent following of Kay. I have prayed for her, aware that everything she talks about in “Choose Joy” is now being put to the test through her personal tragedy. As I’ve thought about her, I have thought about how difficult it must be to go through such a personally devastating time knowing that their private pain is a news item.

As any of us step out of our comfort zones into new places of leadership, more of our private life becomes public. A school principal or teacher, a pastor or church leader, a performer or public official all live some measure of their life in the public eye. My husband has worked in radio or television for most of our married life and has also briefly served as a church pastor. We have been in leadership positions in churches we have attended. We know what it is like to live “in the fishbowl” on a local and regional level. Through Tom’s media positions we have sometimes had the opportunity to meet and get to know people who are well-known, both nationally and regionally, in secular as well as Christian spheres. There are some things I have learned about life in the public eye and people who live life in the public eye.

People are people. In our celebrity-driven culture, famous people are viewed as somehow special, as if they are not normal people. Occasionally, when someone meets my husband or one of his radio associates for the first time they take a step back and their jaw drops as if they are surprised that there isn’t some kind of aura emanating from this person. We have met people whose names you would know if I mentioned them and I can tell you, they are just like you. They have tension in their marriages, struggle to be good parents, occasionally make bad financial decisions and sometimes blow it big time. They get sick, tired, hungry and grouchy and they get their feelings hurt. If they happen to be Christians I can tell you they do not have a direct pipeline to God that enables them to live life on a higher spiritual plane than you do. Just because you have seen them on TV, heard them on the radio, or read a book that they have written does not mean that they have super powers. An American Idol is a human being. People are people. When you hear about a famous person going through a difficult time, imagine how you would feel if you were in their place. They are most likely feeling exactly the same way you would and need your compassion.

People are watching. Truth: We all live life in the public eye to some extent. Years ago my husband spent a year as an associate pastor on staff at a church. He was over the children’s ministry and we worked together with a team of people, training them to teach parts of the lesson during a children’s church presentation and giving them opportunities to grow as leaders and as people. Through a bout with depression, Tom ended up losing his position at the church. When we first faced the reality that Tom might lose his position we thought that we would have to leave the church, to stay would just be too painful. When the loss actually happened, we felt that leaving was not an option, so we stayed. It was an excruciatingly painful time for us. It was especially difficult at first, as the depression had not lifted and we were merely surviving from day to day. As time went on, the depression was healed and our life began to return to a measure of normalcy.

About a year later we were in a small group Bible study along with a couple who had been members of our Kids Church team. They were still working with the ministry. In a conversation at one of the meetings the wife told me about how the loss of Tom and me as leaders had created a painful time for them and other members of our team. They had continued with difficulty. She told me that if we had left the church, they would have left as well. We were so busy just trying to survive that we didn’t realize our response to the trial was having that kind of impact. Our decision to just keep on going helped them to keep on as well.

I am aware as I pray for Kay Warren that I am watching her, hoping that she will be able to live out all that she has professed, understanding just how difficult that will be. In your sphere of influence, people are watching you in the same way, and as you move beyond your comfortable borders your sphere of influence will widen. More people will be watching you. How will you handle it?

People need support, not criticism. In contrast to those who elevate a “famous” person are those who seem to forget that they are real people rather than nondescript entities. As they talk about the public person, they drop any attempts at respect and openly criticize decisions and actions in a way they would never talk about a fellow human, as if the public person gave up their right to be treated as a human when they stepped into a position of notice. It’s very easy to become an “armchair quarterback” or “armchair pastor” or “armchair president” or whatever, and declare your opinion about what a public person should be doing or should have done without feeling the responsibility of the position. No one knows what it’s like to be that person, to be in their position facing their decisions, except that person. You and I don’t have a right to speak disrespectfully about a leader, or a celebrity, just because their life is public. Let me just say that this kind of criticism has touched our family personally and I’ll leave it there.

The “Golden Rule” is a good guide. “Treat others as you would like to be treated”, even if they are a “famous” person. If you wouldn’t want someone to be talking that way about you, then you shouldn’t be talking that way about any other human being regardless of their position.

After a few days of silence the Warrens have begun posting to social media again. One of Kay’s most recent Twitter posts: “We are devastated but not destroyed. God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in time of trouble. Psalm 46:1.”

Can you tell the “real deal” from a distance? I think so. When people view my life from a distance I want them to see the “real deal”.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Warning! Change Is Hazardous To Your Comfort!

So, we've been talking and thinking about what it takes to make changes and move outside our comfort zone, our box. We've learned from pioneers and we've been inspired by courageous change. With those thoughts fresh in your mind maybe now you are ready. Maybe you've decided that it is time for you to take a step beyond the perimeter and begin to explore some unfamiliar territory. Before you do, you should be prepared for a few things.

You are going to be excited…and scared. Once you have decided to begin moving in an unfamiliar direction you are going to be excited about the prospect of a new aspect of your life. As you begin to ponder your new venture and imagine yourself actually doing it, you are going to be thrilled by the vision. However, at the same time you are going to have a LOT of questions. “What if I fall flat on my face?” “Can I really do this?” “What will those important to me think about it?” “Is this really going to be worth the sacrifice?”

I want to encourage you not to ignore the questions, but don’t be overwhelmed by them either.  Face the reality that there will be moments of failure as you make this journey outside the box. It is inevitable. But be sure to look at your failures as steps to learn on that will bring you closer to your goal. The most important thing is to keep moving toward fulfilling your God-given purpose.  Every step, even every failure, is part of the journey. Just keep stepping!

You are going to feel uncomfortable. None of us remember taking our first steps. Our brains just can’t hold on to a monumental moment that occurred when we were so small. However, all of us have seen a baby learning to walk. At first, she may be tentative about walking on her own and reach constantly for the hand of an adult. After a while, she lets go of the steadying hand, but stays nearby a comforting leg or a piece of furniture. It seems to me that toddlers pretty much skip actually walking once they get comfortable. After they've gained confidence, they don’t go anywhere without running!

Learn from the babies! You are going to feel unsteady as you take your first steps. It’s normal. It’s okay to lean on someone who has traveled the road you are just beginning. It’s wise, in fact. You are going to fall down. Get back up! I have never seen a baby fall down and decide that they are going to give up walking for good. They may crawl again for a bit. They may need a little comforting, but usually they are back on their feet lickety-split and running toward the next interesting thing their eye catches. When you stumble, evaluate where you went wrong, determine what you need to learn, get some comfort if necessary and GET BACK UP! And just for the record: Been there. Done that. I survived and so can you.

You are going to realize just how much you need to learn. Every failure is a learning opportunity. You can’t learn to swim unless you are actually in the water. It looks different once you jump in, but you learn pretty quickly how to keep afloat. Then you can develop some technique.

 In swimming, and so many other areas of life, you can only learn so much from watching someone else do it. You can learn some things, but once you have actually tried what you have only watched, you begin to watch differently. You begin to see what works and what doesn't  Not only that you begin to imagine yourself trying the things that work. Then next time you get an opportunity you will have more skills in your arsenal. The important thing is to remember that you will never arrive. You will always be learning. Once you accept that the journey takes on the continual joy of learning something new with every step.

Dear friend, you are going to find so much joy in your journey. Learning something new is exhilarating, once you get past feeling scared and insecure.  It’s the journey that is the important part. Success can be measured in actually taking the first step, not in how effective that first step turns out to be. There will be others, right? What are you waiting for? Step outside!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Courageous Change

Sometimes we are pushed outside our comfortable parameters by unforeseen circumstances or relationships. In 2009 our lives were gloriously and beautifully altered through an unforeseen relationship. Through that relationship we have become associated with a wonderful institution, The Walter Hoving Home in Garrison, NY.  It is a residential facility for women dedicated to the mission of “rebuilding lives shattered by drugs and alcohol”. We have had the opportunity to walk closely with a few of the ladies as they have gone through the process of rebuilding, but through the time we have spent there we have developed an affection and appreciation for every woman who has the courage to leave the familiar present, even if it is one controlled by addiction, and move to an unknown future. Here are a few lessons I've learned from these beautiful and courageous women about what it takes to truly change.

Courageous change begins with humility. The women we have encountered at the Home come from many walks of life, from pastors’ wives to former prostitutes, but they have one thing in common. Every woman who arrives at the Home has reached one of the lowest points in her life. Before she arrives she has to admit that her life has become unmanageable and that she is hopeless to change without help. The women who come to the home are broken and desperate, but that is exactly what enables them to embark on a journey of true change. Many of us never reach the place of being humble enough to admit our own weakness and need for change. As a result we never experience the exhilaration and refreshment of courageous change.

Are you and I ready to humbly admit our own faults and weaknesses and recognize our need of help in order to truly change?

Courageous change takes discipline. The Home has some pretty strict rules and, as Americans, really as humans, most of us have a hard time being told what to do and how to do it. There are reasons for every rule, meant to protect every woman who is in the 6-month to 12-month program. Sadly, many women refuse to abide by the rules and end up leaving, either by their own choice or by the request of the leadership. However, the women who submit to the discipline of conduct, schedule, responsibility and education gain the tools to live a new life when they leave the program. As they submit to discipline, their thinking changes.  As their thinking changes, their habits change, their character changes and their lives change. These are the women who will leave the program courageously changed and ready to successfully live a totally new life.

How often do I balk at the idea of doing something just because someone told me to do it? I would much rather come up with the idea myself, thank you! If I can choose to submit myself to the discipline imposed on me by my situation, might I change for the better?

Courageous Change needs the support of others. Each new arrival to the Home is paired with a Big Sister, a woman who has been there for a while and will help the new woman to get used to her unfamiliar surroundings. She may be terrified at this turn in her life and even more terrified of her uncertain future. The function of the Big Sister is to help her transition and become a part of the community in the Home so that she can begin the process of rebuilding her shattered life. Those first few days are critical in helping a woman to stay with the program.
 The women who succeed in the program recognize their need for each other. Although, like any place where groups of people live in close proximity with others, there are conflicts, at the heart of the experience at the Home is the sense of community. The women who stay in the program do become sisters. For many, they learn to feel the real pain of life for the first time without escaping into addiction and their sisters help them through that pain. They help each other in times of discouragement and weakness. They have fun and laugh. They share holidays and the joys of everyday life.

None of us were made to go through life alone. We all need others to help us when we face the trials that are inevitable in life. Just as Ecclesiastes says: “Two are better than one…If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10) Do you have a few trusted friends to encourage you and pick you up as you face your own courageous change?

Courageous change takes commitment. One heartbreaking truth about the Walter Hoving Home is that only the women who stay will be able to fully embrace courageous change. Many women choose not to stay for a variety of reasons. Some miss their families too much. Some miss their street friends too much. Some who leave end up in jail, or worse. Some who leave end up coming back and successfully completing the program. But in order to graduate from the Walter Hoving Home a woman must, not only complete the program, but successfully live for a period of time free from the constant supervision and discipline imposed within the Home.  Many women leave the Home between Day One and Graduation Day which is what make Graduation Day such a glorious celebration. The women who stay for the long haul have earned the respect and admiration of all who have the privilege to attend. They have humbled themselves, submitted to the discipline, and received the support of their sisters and others along the way. They have followed through on their commitment and, if they continue to walk out all they have learned, will receive the prize of a gloriously, courageously changed life that will last, not only through their life on earth but into eternity.

Ready to commit to a journey of courageous change? It’s worth it!

Hebrews 12:11 “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

For information visit .

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Dollar Store Mentor

 Have you ever picked up a book in the dollar store? While I was Christmas-stocking shopping for my family I saw a book that I decided to pick up and hand to my husband for my own stocking. (It’s weird, but, yeah, we do things like that!)  I figured for a dollar it was worth a curiosity read. The book was called “Dangerous Surrender” and was written by Kay Warren, wife of well-known pastor, Rick Warren, author of the best-seller “The Purpose-Driven Life” among other books.  I had read Rick Warren’s book, participated in several DVD bible studies by him and even heard him speak at a conference, but I had heard very little about Kay. I have greatly benefited from Rick’s ministry, so I was curious what Kay might be like. That book has turned out to be much more than a satisfaction of my curiosity.

Mentors aren't always people that we see face to face. A mentor can be anyone who instructs and inspires by their example. I have found a mentor in Kay Warren, a woman who has learned to come out of her box and experience a life beyond comfortable borders.

In “Dangerous Surrender” (updated and republished as “Say Yes to God” in 2010, thus the dollar store) Kay describes her journey from content pastor’s wife to passionate global HIV/AIDS advocate. Although up until that time her world was already bigger than most of us will ever experience, she was inside a “box” and content to be so. Then she heard a call she couldn't ignore. She shares how her eyes were opened to the global HIV/AIDS crisis and how she couldn't escape the burden that something had to be done and that she was the one to do it. She describes her life as “Before HIV/AIDS” and “After HIV/AIDS”. She has gone places, met people, done things and spoken about topics that did not show up on her radar before that moment. She has overcome obstacles, including two bouts with cancer, weathered criticism, and still stayed the course, never wavering in her objective to advocate for those with HIV/AIDS and the children orphaned as a result of the crisis.

So what have I learned from this new mentor I found in a dollar store? Many things and I expect to learn more as I observe her from a distance. But here are a few lessons.

Ordinary people can do extraordinary things. Kay shared her lifelong struggle with accepting herself as an ordinary person rather than someone extraordinary. Then she answered the call and realized that it didn't matter that she was ordinary. She could accomplish something extraordinary and God would get the glory for it.
You and I can definitely do that! When we answer the call and receive the empowerment that comes along with it, we can accomplish extraordinary things. It begins as I start to take the steps. Why not?

Genuine, committed concern for others causes me to move beyond my own comfort zones. Until the day Kay became fully aware of the HIV/AIDS crisis she was content to serve in ways that had become comfortable and familiar. When her heart was overwhelmed by compassion for those suffering with HIV/AIDS she began to move out of the comfortable in order to act on their behalf.
Motivation to move in an unanticipated direction comes as I respond to the call to act on behalf of someone else. You and I exist for the benefit of others, not to pursue our own comfort and pleasure. When we commit to that we will find ourselves on a new and satisfying path.

The deepest motivation to explore my own perimeters and take some pioneer action comes from a commitment to say “yes” to God no matter what the cost. I could relate to many of Kay’s struggles as she shared her journey, but what I could relate to most was her desire to follow God, to say “yes”, to honor Him no matter what. When I get right down to the bottom of it all that is my greatest desire and has been the greatest motivation to move beyond my own comfortable borders and explore my own pioneer territory.

Thanks, Kay.

Check out Kay's website to be instructed and inspired.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Pioneering is Risky Business

So, the idea of pioneering may seem exciting to you. If you've been a box-dweller who has just begun to explore your perimeter the land beyond may be starting to take on a glamorous glow. Not to take the wind out of your sails, but be prepared for the unexpected. You just don’t know what you’ll face, and although you may reach your planned destination, you may find some disappointments along the way. In addition, the reason why you choose to make the journey may not be the legacy you leave behind.  I've learned some of this from the story of an American pioneer woman named Narcissa Whitman.

I had never heard of Narcissa Whitman and her husband, Marcus, before I began delving deeper into my study of pioneers. She and her husband left Western New York State with another couple in 1836 to head for Oregon Territory as missionaries to the Cayuse tribe of Native Americans. They started a mission near what is now Walla Walla, Washington. Here are a few things I've learned from her story.

The most important reason to make the journey is in answer to the call. Both Marcus and Narcissa had committed their lives to following Christ and had individually volunteered for missionary service among the Native Americans of the western frontier. Though willing and able, Narcissa was not accepted as a missionary at first because she was a single woman. Marcus received his appointment as a missionary doctor and could have made the journey as a single man, but it was expected that missionaries be married. (Jeffrey 1999) The Whitman’s marriage was very likely a result of their individual callings and mutual commitment to following the missionary call rather than a romantic attachment. They started for the Pacific Northwest the day after their marriage. (Narcissa Whitman biography 2013)

We each have a calling. Part of discovering that calling is a willingness to do whatever it takes to fulfill that calling. How committed are you and I to answering the call?

Someone has got to be first. The Whitman’s successful arrival in Oregon Country proved to a skeptical society that women could actually make such a difficult journey. Narcissa and her companion, Eliza Spalding, were the first white women to cross the Rocky Mountains. As a result of her willingness to pursue a pioneer missionary calling, Narcissa had opportunities and experiences that would never have been open to her if she had remained in New York State. She taught, led worship services, studied the Nez Perce language, and ran the mission while her husband was away.

Because Narcissa Whitman made the journey, countless women after her traveled across the continent and settled in the Northwest and on the west coast. Are you and I willing to make the difficult journey into new territory so that others can benefit from our experiences?

The journey may cost more than you bargained for, but there is no going back. A cost for Narcissa Whitman was that from the moment she left home after her marriage she never saw her family again. Although she was able to correspond, the time in between receiving letters from home was long. Many of her letters were published after her death, leaving behind a very personal description of her experiences. She was often lonely, but found comfort in caring for her daughter, Alice. Tragically, another cost of her pioneer life was the loss of Alice, at the age of 2 to an accidental drowning.  

Although the Cayuse were initially friendly and curious in listening to the Whitman’s message, after eleven years not one converted to Christianity. (Jeffrey, Narcissa Prentiss Whitman 1999) Many Cayuse began to feel threatened and angry at the increasing presence of whites in their territory. The final cost for the Whitman’s was their death, with eleven others, on November 29, 1847 at the hands of several Cayuse who, in addition to feeling  threatened,  were angry that Dr. Whitman had not been able to prevent many Cayuse from dying after an outbreak of measles. (Biography of Marcus Whitman 2013)

Although some costs can be foreseen, others cannot. Are we willing to risk the unforeseen in order to venture beyond the comfortable into the unknown?

Making the journey is really more important than the success of the journey.  Although the Whitman Mission was not successful in converting the Cayuse to Christianity, the Mission became a welcome stop along the Oregon Trail for many a weary traveler. The Mission was often a wintering place for other pioneers before they headed to their ultimate destinations. The Whitman Mission is now a National Historic site and the Whitman’s legacy continues to be discussed. The Whitman’s are not remembered so much because of their missionary work, but because they made the journey across the continent and helped others to do the same.

When we begin our journey as pioneers we are not guaranteed success, but if are we willing to make the journey anyway, we just might open the way up for someone else. Wouldn't you consider that success?

Visit the National Parks Service website for more information on the Whitmans and the Whitman Mission National Historic Site.

Works Cited
Biography of Marcus Whitman. February 20, 2013. (accessed March 13, 2013).
Jeffrey, Julie Roy. "Marcus Whitman." In American National Biography.Vol.23, by John A., and Mark C. Carnes. Garraty, 278-281. New York: Oxford UP, 1999.
Jeffrey, Julie Roy. "Narcissa Prentiss Whitman." In American National Biography, Vol. 23, by John A., and Mark C. Carnes. Garraty, 279-281. New York: Oxford UP, 1999.
Narcissa Whitman biography. March 10, 2013. (accessed March 13, 2013).

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A Pioneer? Me?

God gets my attention in pictures. God knows me. He knows just the way to get my attention and give me an idea of what He is asking of me. There are times when I get a picture in my head that comes from nowhere and stays with me. At that point I begin to ask God if there is something that He is saying. He knows that I am a researcher and as I research I begin to uncover all that the picture means and the layers of what He is trying to tell me. More than ten years ago I had such an experience that continues to speak to me.

A what? It was during the ending prayer time at a church conference on discovering and using God-given gifts. Out of nowhere there was a picture in my head of a Conestoga wagon! How spiritual! But as I began to think about it, and to ask God about it, I realized that like those who loaded up those wagons so long ago, God was calling me to move out of my comfort zone and be willing to move to uncharted territory. To be a pioneer. The specifics of that calling weren't clear at the time, but I had some ideas and began to explore them, to explore the perimeter of my comfortable box and begin to imagine, to dream of new possibilities. Over time I began to actually move toward some of those dreams.

Another picture?! But here is the real kicker to that story. Just a few years ago my husband and I were able to visit Walt Disney World with our youngest daughter. One of the attractions we visited was the “American Adventure”, a journey through American history Disney-style. As an image flashed on the screen of a pioneer woman pushing a plow, I looked at her face and thought, “She looks like me!” The next moment my daughter leaned over and said, “She looks like you!” Yes, God can even speak to me on my vacation at Disney World. That image not only brought back everything associated with the Conestoga wagon, but brought clarity to decisions I had made since and helped me realize just how much farther along the road I had come since that time. My pioneer journey had not only begun, but was progressing. What an encouragement!

Some lessons from the pioneers. So, here are a few things to encourage you on your pioneer journey.
  1.       The journey starts with an idea. Before pioneers packed up and took off, they first had the idea to move. They considered actually making the journey and decided to go. Time to start considering!
  2.        The journey continues with preparation. Pioneers didn't decide one day and leave the next. There were many preparations that had to be made before they could actually leave. Supplies and transportation were procured. Perhaps they had to learn more about the place they were planning to move to or skills they would need when they arrived. Time to prepare!
  3.        The journey begins with good-bye. Traveling to a new life can really only start when we are willing to leave behind the familiar and comfortable. Pioneers left behind family, friends, everything they knew, in order to make the journey. They didn't know what to expect along the way and they didn't really know what to expect when they got there. They only knew that they had to go. Time to start saying good-bye!

It’s your turn to start your journey. Consider. Prepare. Say good-bye to the past and begin your adventure. “A pioneer? Me?” you say. Why not?!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Whose Box Is It Anyway?

As we talk about living “outside the box” there is an important question that each of us needs to answer:  “Whose box is it anyway?”  The short answer for each of us is, “It’s mine.” Whether I like it or not, as soon as I impose limits on myself that God didn't intend I have claimed those limits as my own. The box becomes mine.  We have to state that at the outset.
Who’s to blame? We all like to blame our problems on someone else. We know we shouldn't and will convince ourselves that we aren't blaming anyone, but we do. We learn a lot about what we think we can and can’t do from our family of origin. Since no family is perfect there are views that we learn that don’t line up with truth. We also learn to fit in with societal norms as we observe the way the world works. We often don’t evaluate what we learn. It just becomes part of us.  And there are cases where we have been directly taught that certain boundaries are appropriate when in fact they are never what God intended. Regardless of where boundaries have originated from, there is no one else to blame once I accept them.
Face it. I have claimed the territory. Once I have accepted the boundaries and begin to live inside them, then I have claimed that territory.  Over time I settle in to the prescribed expectations. I behave within the limits and I cease to explore options that exist outside those borders. Life becomes small and predictable.  No one else did that to me. I have claimed it for my own. I am the one who has built my life on it.
When I began to realize that God’s territory for me was so much larger than the life I had accepted, I had an overwhelming sense of grief and loss. I realized that all the time that had passed before could have been different. I felt like something had been stolen from me, kept from me. I wanted to blame those who had taught me that certain areas were not available to me because I am a woman. It didn't take long to come to the conclusion that to blame would be a waste of time and energy. I couldn't do anything to change the past, but I could make a decision to live differently in the future. I could begin to explore the perimeter of what I had previously accepted as my boundaries.
Time to explore the edges. What about you? Have you tried to blame others for your decision to live a life that is smaller than God intended for you? Have you begun to realize that you have claimed territory that limits your ability to fulfill your God-given purpose? I am encouraging you to begin to explore the perimeter of the parameters you have accepted. Begin to imagine what life might be like when you start to step outside. Radical change begins by taking small steps. It begins by exploring the possibilities that exist outside what I have accepted as normal. Radical change begins with daring to dream that life can be different.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Inside vs. Outside the Box

Before we begin to really discuss living “outside the box” we need to take a little time to define what it means to be “inside” or “outside” the box. If living “outside” the box is the goal, what makes living “inside” the box something to leave behind?
What is “inside”? What’s wrong with living “inside the box”? Well…nothing really, except there is a good possibility that if you are living inside the box you are living far below your potential, below God’s intended purpose for your life. To live “inside the box” is to live inside perceived or actual limitations imposed on us by ourselves or someone else. It’s a way of thinking and seeing the world. It’s a way of thinking and seeing ourselves. We may not even realize that we are living below our potential because living inside the box can be very safe and comfortable. We may feel content, but in actuality we may be living far below true satisfaction and God's highest plans for us.  Living inside the box can make my world so much smaller than it was ever intended to be. Believe me, I have been there living in that small world, and truthfully, I didn't want to leave.
What is “outside”? To live “outside the box” is to begin to see possibilities that you never dared to imagine for yourself and to begin to take the necessary steps to actually achieve them. When we start to take those steps, we begin to envision a life that is more fulfilling and satisfying. As each step takes us closer in pursuing what seemed an impossible dream, the dream begins to seem much less impossible.  With each baby step outside your perceived boundaries you begin to see yourself as capable of achieving the dreams that you have never uttered to another soul. What is really awesome is that on the road toward pursuing the first dream, other long-forgotten dreams begin to re-awaken and suddenly seem less impossible as well. And most awesome of all, you begin to taste the possibility of a totally different you.
What happens when I live inside the box? As a box-dweller, I was content, comfortable, but not satisfied. I knew God wanted more for me, but I didn't necessarily want it for myself. I accepted the limitations that were handed to me. I never thought of dreaming outside those limitations. As I journeyed on, I became aware that God had bigger dreams for me, outside those perceived boundaries. It was safe inside the box. I knew what was expected of me and I knew what to expect of life. I didn't want to leave my box, but I knew that if I wanted to fulfill God’s purpose for my life, then I needed to step outside.  It took a while, but eventually,  I began to dream, to do and to be more than I imagined possible.  
Are you “in” or “out”? So, what are the limitations you perceive? Are they real, or is there a world of possibility outside your box?  You may be content, but are you truly satisfied? Are you living God's purposes for you? Explore your possibilities.

Dare to dream. Dare to do. Dare to be.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Out of the Box

I have taken a pretty significant break from blogging. Not because I've been exceptionally busy. I’m always busy. I felt my blog needed to be more focused and purposeful. So I've waited until I felt I had a better handle on what to write about and why.
From here on out “Real Life Chats” is designed to encourage and inspire you to live “outside the box”, reach beyond your perceived boundaries and be all that you were intended to be, all that God created you to be. Even if I don’t say it specifically, I am sharing my journey with you.
Dare to dream. So what does it mean to live “outside the box”? First, it means that you dare to dream. Those little daydreams that you ignore…take a look at them. Inside those daydreams is the kernel of a real dream deep inside you. Many of us don’t allow ourselves to dream. It’s impractical. It’s dangerous. If we pay attention to our dreams we might begin to feel dissatisfied with life as it is and when we feel dissatisfied, we are uncomfortable. When we feel uncomfortable, all we want to do is get comfortable again.
As a fellow box lover, I understand. It’s scary out there, outside the box. The box is safe and comfortable. I know where the boundaries are. But outside the limits of the box is a fulfillment that is not possible inside it. Take the risk. Dare to dream.
Dare to do. The good thing about feeling uncomfortable is that you become motivated to do something. At first, you’ll probably try to go back to things the way they were, which is usually impossible. Then you are forced to try something new. Why wait until the circumstances force you to explore? Go for it! Start moving toward your dream. You make progress one step at a time. Before you know it you will be so far beyond the borders of your box that there will be no going back. Take a step. Dare to do.
Dare to be. What happens as you take your risks, step outside your box? You begin to change. Not only have you moved toward your dream and done some things you never thought were possible, you begin to see life differently. You begin to see yourself differently. When you see yourself differently, you begin to see life differently.
Are you ready?  Stepping outside the box starts with a decision. Your decision. Others can pull you out and you’ll experience some of the same feelings. However, it’s only by your own choice to step out that you will fully experience the freedom and fulfillment that is available. It’s the difference between choosing to dive into a cool, pool of water and being pushed. Make the choice. Dive in. Live outside the box.

Remember, I am sharing my journey with you. More details in the weeks ahead!

Dare to dream. Dare to do. Dare to be.