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Ten years ago I could barely walk, sleep, or carry my own purse. I could no longer drive. That’s how intense the pain had become. I’d been a runner for 28 years. My motto was, “Why walk when you can run.” Now I had no choice. It was nearing two years, and over ten health care providers, but no one could help me. On top of it, I became pregnant and couldn’t take enough medication to dull the pain. It seemed I was trapped in a hopeless situation. Read the rest of this entry »

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Right before the Canada Day long weekend, along with a sizeable crowd of hardcore people, I completed an exercise challenge called Rebellion. At the party to celebrate our achievement, I bought this t-shirt. The saying on the front resonates with me. The two obvious reasons are that it includes words from Canada’s national anthem (the country of which I officially became a citizen 33 years ago), and secondly, by working out and completing the challenge, I grew stronger and free from indulgences that might otherwise keep me off track. But a less obvious and deeper meaning for me began 29 years ago at age eighteen. Read the rest of this entry »

The-Art-of-Forgiveness

Last week, I wrote a few thoughts on surviving bitterness. My husband read it and, knowing me so well, commented that I neglected to give personal examples. I thought to revisit this subject and make it personal, so here we go! Read the rest of this entry »

Give-Forgiveness

It’s easy to have the mindset that if we withhold forgiveness, we are in control and somehow getting back at the person who hurt us. We think, if I forgive them, it lets them off the hook. But holding onto unforgiveness not only allows the offender to vicariously continue to hurt you, studies show it can also make you unwell. When you forgive, you release yourself from the bondage of bitterness. Forgiving not only frees you from hanging onto the offense, it frees you from the offender, and makes room for full spiritual, emotional, and even physical healing.

Read the rest of this entry »

Girl on swing

I needed a head shot for the back of my book. During the photo shoot, the photographer told me about the number of women in their 40’s and 50’s she has listened to bemoan their appearance. That same week, while visiting some friends, there was an exchange about aging and someone postulated that those who are considered beautiful have a harder time growing old because they have farther to fall.

I thought about these two conversations, about wrinkles, and the way we – both men and women – view the aging process. I remember that as a child I thought wrinkles were beautiful, especially the smile lines around aging eyes. It’s sad that something so natural and inevitable should be something we’re ashamed of. I wondered why so we often don’t feel beautiful – really at any age – and why we’re so desperately trying to appear young. I could think of 5 reasons:

1. We have a corrupt view of true beauty born from dissatisfaction. Marketing campaigns tell us that to be accepted we must look young, fit, and beautiful, wear the right clothes and expensive jewelry, drive the right car, and smell fantastic. And we’re busy chasing after all of that because we believe them. It has become all-important, and we have become more and more insecure and dissatisfied with ourselves. As a result, we’ve lost our ability to notice truly beautiful things, exchanging them instead for the fleeting and the superficial.

2. We compare ourselves to others. Dissatisfaction also seeps in when we play the comparison game. When we make a habit of comparing, we fail to celebrate the endless variety and forms of beauty found in ourselves and others, and end up feeling dissatisfied with ourselves or our lives. It’s this dissatisfaction that steals our peace. It drives us to want more and be more, instead of feeling comfortable in our own skin and enjoying the unique beauty found in every human being.

3. We struggle to love ourselves. Perhaps you were bullied, or told you were ugly, or worse. When we look in the mirror and think we look ugly, or are tempted to believe the lie that tells us we aren’t enough or are worthless, we need to fight back. Here’s the truth: true beauty far exceeds your exterior appearance, or any label or insult you were given. God has infused our lives with His love, and that love has made us so much more beautiful in the unseen places that any make-up, wrinkle cream, fancy clothes, or photoshopped image ever could.

The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.  ~ 1 Samuel 16:7

But there’s more. When we meet God, He changes us from the inside-out, and continues to do so until our last breath. He offers His healing and love to every area of our lives, both seen and unseen. We were made in His image and that makes us infinitely precious. When we accept that we are accepted, we can begin to love ourselves and grow in confidence far beyond appearances.

4. We have an identity crisis. When our identity in God is secure, it’s difficult to be insecure. It’s not a bad thing to wish to be attractive – and most of us make an effort to do so – or to notice beauty in another. It’s when our exterior becomes our primary focus and ultimate goal that it begins to tamper with our true identity, our true beauty, and the freedom we find in Christ. When we believe we are unconditionally loved by Him, and that His love isn’t based on anything we’ve done or failed to do, our identity grows secure in Him. The pomp of the world becomes a lot less shiny, and we care less and less about how others perceive us. We relate to others more openly and freely, seeing them instead as one of God’s walking, breathing masterpieces and His prized possessions. We come to see ourselves the same way. Paradoxically, the less anxious we are about our exterior, the more beautiful we become.

5. We forget to be thankful for the living, breathing, creative masterpieces that we are. That leaves us feeling empty, no matter the full bellies, full closets, or full wallets. All of the stuff fails to satisfy us. Until we begin to be grateful. Until we understand that we are loved by God and made with a purpose for a purpose. Then we begin to be made beautiful through and through.

Let’s choose to celebrate the beautiful, marvelous, miraculous, and unique human beings God has made us to be, use our resources (time, talents, and finances) to build up things that won’t fade but that last in eternity. Let’s choose to be so securely tucked in God’s unconditional love that true beauty can be seen in us and we can glimpse it in others.

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  1. What do you think it would take to make you feel more beautiful?
  2. Of the list above, which area do you most struggle with?
  3. Try to set aside daily time with God and let Him secure your identity and self-worth.
  4. Write a list of the beautiful things you are thankful for.

 

 

 

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Every so often, my 17-year-old daughter gives me a wake up call. She’ll say something like, “Mom, you need to stop…” and it can be anything from stressing, to some sort of negative thinking. We need people in our lives to keep us in check. I tend toward the melancholy and appreciate my extroverted, optimistic daughter who dreams big and pulls others along for the ride. In celebration of those who set us straight, I’ve put together a list of 12 things we can do right now to improve our outlook and our lives.

  1. Stop stressing. It’s easy to get caught up in fret, worrying about things that should take a back seat in your life. Instead, put them in their place, last in priority, and let the things that really matter be at the forefront. Don’t waste today worrying about things that may happen, but instead celebrate the gifts in front of you right now.
  2. Stop trying to please everyone. Being a people pleaser can make you lose yourself and your truth. You cannot please everyone. You will get misunderstood. Some may dislike you, some may get angry at you. You will be too much for some and not enough for others. Trying to meet another’s expectations is like running on an endless treadmill. Know who you are, whose you are, and rest in that.
  3. Stop trying to do it all. Being busy all the time will leave you physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually bankrupt. Don’t accept the lie that says you can’t slow down. Create some space in your life. Fight for it if you must. Make time to reflect, to breathe, to be. Take time to fully appreciate the moment you are in and that you are alive. Set aside time to be fully present for your loved ones.
  4. Stop trying to be perfect. Perfect is an illusion. Strive for excellence, improvement, to keep growing, to move forward – anything but perfection. You will occasionally mess up. Forgive yourself and keep going.
  5. Stop thinking that tomorrow, the next day, or the distant future will be better than now. Don’t wish away today, with its beauty and heartaches. While it’s great to be optimistic, let’s not throw away our moments. Many moments strung together make up a life. Live this moment to the fullest – aware of your future destination – without wasting what’s in front of you.
  6. Stop focusing on the negative. The good, the bad, and the ugly has shaped you this far – for better or for worse. Recognize the worse, don’t make it a curse. There will always be mountains to climb, but the view up there is fantastic! Beauty and blessings are all around you. Take note of the beauty and count your blessings.
  7. Stop berating yourself. What is your internal voice telling you? If you have a lovely British mum like mine, you know it’s impolite to brag. But a little internal gloating is acceptable. Celebrate the things you are good at, how far you’ve come, and that you’re not the same as you were last week or last year. Forgive yourself for your failings. Make a list of three things you like most about yourself. Look in the mirror and tell yourself, I love you.
  8. Stop thinking you can’t be replaced (hear me out on this one). Thinking that if you left a position there would be no one to fill your shoes can lead you to stay in a place longer that you should, stall you from moving forward in your purpose or calling, and prevent others from the blessing of filling that role. Your position is not your identity. It’s a way you get to help and serve for a time. Be wise to see when that season is over.
  9. Stop comparing yourself or your journey to others. It’s easy to compare your life to another’s when you’re in a tough place. You get to see the polished parts of another’s life. Remember, all that glitters isn’t gold. Everyone has struggles. Your trials are making you a stronger, more 3-dimensional person who can fully relate to others in their struggles. Despite how the rough patches make you feel, if you let them, they will make you more beautiful. You are unique, one-of-a-kind. Your gifts fit your purposes and the time you’ve been given on this earth. Passionately use your gifts and your life, without wishing for someone else’s, and you’ll find yourself so in love with what you’re doing that you wouldn’t trade it for another’s.
  10. Stop believing lies. The cants and the nevers should be out-of-the-question. The Accuser offers a steady diet of whispered lies to wear and tear you down. God’s corrective encouragement offers forgiveness, direction, and hope.
  11. Stop holding on to hurts. Release them and the people who inflicted them. Mercy and forgiveness is your path to freedom.
  12. Stop being afraid to love. Love lavishly, like you’ve never been hurt. Love fully without conditions or expectations. Love for the sheer sake of it. Tell your loved ones how much you love them.

What would you add to this list? I’d love to hear any of your ideas!

Encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

~ 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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  1. Which of the above do you most struggle to stop? Look for ways this week to face this area head on. Ask God for help to overcome it.
  2. Write down three things you like about yourself. Thank God for how He made you, and look for ways He can use those in your life and for His purposes.

Diamond heart

I’m just going to put it out there. You are valuable.

I don’t care how long it took you to finish your homework, that you failed grade ten math – twice, that you don’t have over 500 Instagram followers, a diploma or letters after your name, a lucrative job, or feel successful. None of that takes away from the fact that you are valuable.

It’s no accident that you find yourself on the earth at this particular period of history, or that you are alive at all for that matter. Despite what you may have been told or believed, you aren’t an accident. You were made to not only be alive at this point in time, but to also to be a difference maker.

You should also know that your worth isn’t composed of the things you have accomplished, or failed to accomplish. You are loved with a ‘just because’ kind of love that says I created you in my image and died to save you for eternity. Do you feel a little more valuable now?

Think about this: the Creator of the universe fashioned you in His likeness and wanted you to be with Him when your earthly days come to an end, so He made a way through His Son Jesus – because you matter that much to Him. That makes you valuable and LOVED.

Going back to the fact that you are living on the earth right now, as I mentioned, that’s not an accident. There are things here for you to do, that only you can do, in the way only you can do them. It doesn’t matter if you think those things aren’t all that spectacular. They matter both here and in eternity.

I imagine collective breaths held in heaven, soundless in anticipation of witnessing the working out of things only you can do, and then massive celebrations when you do them – from the seemingly insignificant to the prize-winning. The smallest brush stroke, to the celebrated masterpiece. The bridge-building handshake, to the freeing act of forgiveness. The belly laughter of a child, to the comedian’s crafted humour. The band-aid applied to a skinned knee, to the surgeon’s careful stitches. Reminding an Alzheimer’s sufferer of their name, to declaring the name of Jesus. All displays of wonder to be celebrated from here to heaven.

So don’t be afraid to do that thing you do. From barefoot dancing to belly dancing and beyond, do it in the way that only you can. And don’t wait to hear the human hand-clapping – the applause from heaven will be much sweeter. Just use your unique gifts while you still have breath, because it not only makes your Father in heaven smile, it might even make someone’s day.

You are valuable. You matter. You are uniquely gifted. You are loved. Out of the 7.6 billion people on earth, there is no another person out there who can do the things you do in precisely the way you do them. So get to it!

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.  ~ Matthew 10:29-31

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  1. Are you believing the lie that says you are worthless? Ask God to show you how He sees you, and let Him free you to be all He created you to be. Psalm 139 is a great reminder of how you are loved.
  2. What is something you have to offer this world. What gift or talent can you use to make a difference?
  3.  Champion others by encouraging the gifts and talents you see in them.

Body-Awareness

How much of your life are you willing to give away?

That’s a big question, but we do it daily – unthinkingly. Henry Thoreau said, “The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.” We exchange our thoughts, our energy, and our finances for various activities, stuff, or other people – often with little thought. Only those with limited time know how limited time is. We’re given only one life and twenty-four hours each day. The question is, how much of it are you willing to give away, and for what purpose or person?

Thought Exchange

How is your thought life? We have the choice to use our thinking on anxious, negative, self-depreciating thoughts, or peaceful, life-giving, mind-renewing thoughts. We have the choice to be jealous, envious, and wish our life were different, or be content, thankful, and celebrate with others in their success. We can tear others down, or build them up. We can be fearful and angry, or choose peace and trust. The trouble is, we’re prone to let our mind wander and go its own way instead of paying attention to our thoughts. The Bible suggests this exchange:

…demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. ~ 2 Corinthians 10:5 

Taking thoughts captive demonstrates that our thinking can be controlled. In captivity, we examine those thoughts and sort out if they are lies or truth. We throw out the lies and grapple with the truth. We can intentionally exchange fearful thoughts for faith-filled ones, destructive thoughts for edifying ones, and can choose peace and joy in any circumstance. Like clean eating, our thought life grows healthier by what we ingest, and this clean thinking has a positive effect on every area of our lives.

Energy Exchange

We can spend a lot of time doing things we aren’t necessarily meant to be doing, things we might not be naturally gifted at, things that distract and detract from our passion and purpose, things that take time away from our loved ones, and leave us feeling exhausted and empty.

We might be wearing ourselves out being a people-pleaser, running from this activity to the next hoping to hear human hand-clapping while missing the still, small voice of God. His wisdom guides us to use our hours wisely, giving purpose, direction, and enough strength for each day. He says,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. ~ Matt 11:28

Our greatest joy is found where our passion and God’s purpose collide.

Financial Exchange

Like our other resources, we can use our finances purposely and intentionally, or squander it unwisely. The way we expend our finances clearly displays our heart. The Bible says that,

…the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. ~ 1 Timothy 6:10

Note that it doesn’t say money itself is evil, but instead the love of money. We can exhaust much time attempting to gain more money. That money can be used to build a great many things and buy a great deal of stuff, but with thoughtful intention it can be used to invest in eternity.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. ~ Matt 6:19-21 

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. ~ Proverbs 4:23

Every day, we are offered an opportunity to spend some of our thoughts, energy, or finances to help and comfort others. If we’re too busy, too self-absorbed, too tired, or too greedy, we might overlook the needs around us, and even fail to prioritize our own needs. Taking time to care for others, especially those whom God has entrusted to us, speaks to the posture of our heart. Since God is love, and the source of our ability to love, He should be the person we spend a significant portion of time with. When we do, it becomes easier to discern the appropriate amount of life to exchange for everything else. With Him we can live on purpose with purpose.

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  1. What things in your life are worth expending your thoughts, energy, and finances on? Make a list of what you most value. Does your list and how you are using your life line up?
  2. Take a look around you? What do you see? What does it say about your heart?
  3. Do you think you need to make some changes? If so, make a plan and start taking some small steps.

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After home schooling my four children – the collective sum of eighteen years – my youngest recently decided she would like to go to school. We looked into schools in our area and chose one that seemed the best fit. The school required she take a placement test. If you’re a home school mom, you don’t need me to tell you how that feels.

While I waited for the day to arrive, waited as she wrote the test, and waited for the results of the test, all manner of fearful thoughts played in my mind. What if I hadn’t done enough? What if there were gaps in her learning? What if she writes the test and they tell me she can’t go into her grade? What if…

My husband and friends encouraged me. She’s fine, they said. You’ve done a great job. I tried to remind myself that there was much treasure in all that we had done, so much precious time together as a family and with grandparents, and opportunities for them to dig deep into their natural bent – so much that could never be measured in a test. But still it was there, that nagging voice whispering, You didn’t do enough.

I shouldn’t be surprised. That’s the world’s daily mail, isn’t it? You’re not good enough. Do more, be more, have more…more, more, more. And the frenzy is real. And it was real inside my head too. If my daughter failed the test, I would have failed. Would that mean all those years were wasted?

Einstein said, “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”

Such true words. True of our home school journey, and true of our lives too. If you are looking at where you’re at right now and wishing it were different, or thought you would be further along in your goals and dreams, or could have done better at this or that, know that there is much to be said for the things that may never be seen, praised, applauded, or awarded.

Because all those times you got up, showed up, and did your best when it was hard to do anything at all, mattered. The times you smiled when inside you were breaking. The times you chose to laugh when you wanted to cry. When you kept silent instead of using harsh words. When you retaliated with kindness. When you held it together even though you felt you were falling apart. All of those, though they may never be counted, COUNTED.

Because how on earth can you measure compassion, kindness, humility, sacrifice, grace, gentleness, tenacity, faith, hope, love, and all the brilliant, imperfect, fiercely beautiful moments in-between that fill our lives? You can’t, but that doesn’t mean they don’t count or that they remain fully unseen.

I think of Jesus’s life. For three years he ministered to crowds and individuals. He healed and told God’s message of love and salvation. Then he was brutally killed on a Roman cross. At that point it appeared as though his 33 years on earth were wasted and counted for nothing. But though his life’s work seemed a failure, that wasn’t the end. Three days later, he rose again, conquering death and making a way for us.

I can’t help but think we’ll be surprised at the end of our lives too. We don’t have to be the best, or perfect, or fully together for our lives to count. And here’s another truth, no matter how hard you try, you’ll never feel good enough or be good enough anyway. That’s meant to be reassuring! Here’s why: it’s not up to us! Jesus makes you good enough. His blood shed for you on the cross covers all your sin. Believing by faith this love offer makes you good enough. In fact, it makes you spotless in God’s eyes. He’s the one for whom all your unseen effort matters. He’s the purpose for your purposes. And one day, when you and I arrive in glory,  it will all make sense. We’ll see that even the smallest act wasn’t wasted.

I hope the voice we hear louder than the others is God’s who tells us: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  (2 Corinthians 12:9) That sounds vastly different from our daily dose of be better, be perfect, and you’re not enough, doesn’t it? Through Christ, we’re not only enough, we have all we need to fully live the life we’ve been gifted with.

It all turned out well. My daughter tested at grade level. But even if she hadn’t, I know she understands many beautiful things that test couldn’t possibly measure, things unseen that count all the same…maybe even more! The same is true in your life!

May you understand your true identity as a whole, fully loved child of God, and live out your purpose in the midst of His spacious love.

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  1. In what areas do you not feel good enough?
  2. How do you think God feels about those things and about you?
  3. Align your thinking to God’s in this area, and continue on in His strength and peace!
  4. Trust in Jesus and place your life, your purpose, your plans, in God’s care.

I don’t know what goals you made for the coming year, but whatever the pursuits, I hope we guard ourselves from what we’re conditioned is success. I hope we go against the flow and discover that true greatness isn’t found in the amount of material things we own. It’s found in both small and great, brave and beautiful, selfless and everyday acts of love. It’s there in the breaths in between the many activities that compete for our attention and masquerade as all-important.

At the end of your life, what you’ll most remember won’t be the countless hours of overtime you worked, how much money you saved, or how successful everyone said you were. What will matter most is that you loved.

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This year, let’s not wait until tomorrow to say “I love you” or “I’m sorry”, to play on the floor with your toddler or go out for lunch with your teen, to visit a friend or to use the good dishes you’ve been saving for a special occasion (every moment you’re alive is a special occasion), because in the end, the things that matter most, aren’t things at all.

How you loved will matter, and all the other “important things” will fade in significance. It will matter if you cherished your loved ones, spent time with the people who mean most to you, and made sure they knew (both in word and deed) that they were dearly loved. It will matter that you made a dent of difference in this weary world to some or several weary souls.

I hope this year we remember that all the money in the world can’t buy us time. I’m not saying money is bad, but how we use it – like time – will matter. Chasing hard after money or stuff may squander never-to-be-regained time that we could have used to fill a need or create precious memories that far outlast stuff.

A successful life may not appear as we’ve been told, and may not even be glimpsed upon by another human. Success doesn’t require a medal, a degree, or a certain position. It doesn’t mean perfection.

“Success means doing the best we can with what we have. Success is in the doing, not the getting – in the trying, not the triumph.”  ~Wynn Davis

No matter what point it’s at, a life lived with intention, purpose, commitment, contentment, compassion, and most of all love – is a successful one. This kind of quiet success is hidden amid the beautifully ordinary ways we give of ourselves to another and live life with arms wide open.

You’ll see a successful life tucked amid the mother’s nighttime vigil beside her sick child, the husband’s whispered prayer for his ailing wife, the tears shed alongside a friend, the meals served to one without a home, the band-aid applied to a child’s skinned knee, funds given to a stranger in need, or the dignity of care and repeated visits to an aging mother in a nursing home who has long forgotten who you are. It’s in all the many ways we show up and give our all without giving up. Success of this nature is a by-product of living life loving.

You’ll find the real deal hiding amid the everyday resilience and tenacity of the human spirit anytime we: rise above a fall, continue onward after a mistake, forgive, refuse to listen to the naysayers, muster courage to try hard things, decline herd mentality, live selflessly, or hang on to a dream. It’s in the stubborn refusal to release our hold on hope when others have long since let go, or staying the course when others are long gone. Surprisingly enough, you may even notice success in the giving up of a crowded life to make room for a more spacious one.

May this year be one filled with hope, joy, true success, time well spent, and most importantly – filled with love. And by all means, use the good dishes (and if not, give them away)!

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:13

 

 

 

 

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