Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Beautiful Gift

The holiday season has just passed and the new year is now upon us. I know that we all have different customs and traditions that we observed. Usually those involve family and friends. Sometimes it’s the only chance during the year that we see or hear from certain family or friends. This interaction or lack of interaction with family and friends can bring a variety of emotions. Sometimes it is joy and excitement; sometimes it is remembering the loss of someone; and sometimes it is feelings of anger or hurt.

It was also a season of gift giving. Did you get what you were hoping for or something wonderful? How about giving yourself a beautiful gift for the new year? We don’t usually think about giving gifts to ourselves. After all, we are taught “it is better to give than to receive”, but isn't it the most wonderful things in life that when given away, become a gift back to us? Love, a kind word, your smile… Forgiveness.

It is a universal concept discussed in psychology, philosophy, and many religions. Wikipedia actually has a great comprehensive definition of what forgiveness is and what forgiveness isn't.

Forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes
1)      A change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense
2)      Releasing negative emotions such as revenge, with an increased ability to wish the offender well
Forgiveness is not
1)      Condoning (failing to see the action as wrong and in need of forgiveness)
2)      Excusing (not holding the offender as responsible for the action)
3)      Officially Pardoning (granted by a representative of society, such as a judge)
4)      Forgetting (removing awareness of the offence from consciousness)
5)      Reconciliation (restoration of a relationship)

Did you ever have one of those fights with someone and you don’t remember how it started or what exactly it was about? You remember that you are mad at them and you feel like you have a good reason to be. However, when you run into each other at a store; you remember how much you miss them; say you are sorry; hug and that’s the end of it.

When Jesus forgives, our wrong doings are thrown into the Sea of Forgetfulness. We've all heard that phrase “forgive and forget”; however, as humans, we don’t always have that capability. Maya Angelou said, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

There are those situations that cause a deep and sometimes continual hurt inside of you. You may remember all too well what caused what you’re feeling and will never forget. Should you forgive that person? What if they don’t ask for forgiveness or feel that they have done nothing wrong? Perhaps the person has already passed away. Maybe you don’t really want to forgive them because you feel that it would justify or condone the wrong doing, but it doesn't. Forgiving them doesn't mean you have to let them back into or life and there may be reasons that you shouldn't let them back in.

There is a certain miracle that takes place with forgiveness. When you receive forgiveness, it frees you from the wrong doing; but when you give the gift of forgiveness, you receive the beautiful gift of freedom from the wrong done to you. It is often the beginning of the healing process.

I love the ending to “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” when he realizes that despite everything he’s done and taken, he’s not able to really steal Christmas from the people of Whoville. Then his heart grows three times its size. You may have some grinches in your life that have tried to destroy your happiness. Give yourself a beautiful gift this new year and forgive them.  I can’t guarantee that their heart will grow three times its size….   but perhaps yours will. 

Happy New Year!!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Simplify Life

We all live such busy, complicated lives. Many of us have jobs that take us away from the home for several hours a day. Those who work from home (for a job or your family) are just as busy. We have many responsibilities and people we are responsible to and responsible for. 

I’ve always been good with time management at work but this autumn I found myself busier than ever. In addition to my full time job and commute, I went back to college, started a drama ministry at a local coffeehouse, joined Toastmasters and a 9-week financial class. Did I mention that I have two teenagers? I realized that if I am going to do all this, I need to have very good time management for my life. Here are the steps I took to try and balance everything with some tips for you.

1    Prioritize! Make an all-inclusive list of everything you such as your work (and the commute if applicable), caring for your children, housework, yard maintenance, childcare, hygiene, exercise, prayer/meditation. Include all the various clubs, classes or other things that you are involved in. Don’t forget some “me time” in there. Perhaps you like reading, watching football, or geocaching. Take each into careful consideration and categorize them into a) must do, b) like to do, c) committed to and d) other.

2    Next, organize your time. Make up a week long or month long calendar. If you have more than two 'once a month' activities, it may be best to choose to work with a monthly calendar. You may want to use Outlook or another electronic template. Excel can be useful to design something for your specific needs. Others may want to use a regular paper wall calendar with erasable colored pencils. Next, beside each of your activities, write its frequency (monthly, weekly, daily, etc.) and its duration (minutes/hours). Then, start plugging things into your calendar starting with the most important. You may find it helpful to make all the “must do” one color, all the “like to do” another color and so forth.               

3    Finally, review and revise. Are you too busy? Do you find that you are exhausted every day and are overwhelmed by how your calendar looks? Look at some of those items that are of a lesser priority. Are there some things in your life that you can release? Perhaps you have been leading a Girl Scout troop for six years straight and someone else could take over. What about those things you enjoy? Maybe you could let go of one for now, the bowling league or the book club. Do one for a year and then switch to the other next year. Try utilizing your lunch hour as well. Pack a sandwich and run some errands. Or, if you have a very stressful job, use that time to find a quiet corner and read while you eat leisurely. Don’t forget to delegate when you can. Maybe it is about time that your twelve year old twins learn the fine art of dish washing.

Try to have some Plan B scenarios in place as well. For instance, I planned to post this today during my lunch hour. However, I never made it to work today. After spending two hours in standstill traffic on a major interstate due to an accident, my car decide to just die 1 ½ miles from the exit. Knowing what I normally have to do helped me not to stress out and think about what I could delegate and what things could be delayed. However, I could have done better job planning for my car to break down. So, that is something I will be working on next. 

I hope this helps you with all you do. Life Organizers is one of the sites that I like to visit every so often for some great tips. Leave some of your best tips in the comments to share with others. I’d love to hear from you!

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Holiday Opportunity

“Merry Christmas” – it is such a sweet sentiment but like all things can be used for good or evil.

I LOVE CHIRSTMAS!! It is definitely my favorite holiday and I think it is right and beautiful to celebrate the birth of the one who saved us. However, Christmas is an opportunity to remind friends and family that we love them and to reach out and love people in the name of Jesus. I think it is alright to say “Happy Holidays” at times. I’ve heard a lot of Christians lose their cool about how they are not going to say “Happy Holidays” – they want to get in people’s faces and say “Merry Christmas”. It can be a very passionate position for some to the point where they look like they want to kill somebody. To be honest, I used to feel the same way. Let’s keep Christ in Christmas, right? When has shoving Christ down someone’s throat actually won them over?

I have been privileged to live and work in very diverse situations over the past couple of decades and I enjoy learning about different cultures. As I genuinely show an interest in who they are as an individual and the things that are important to them, it affords me the opportunity to share the things that are important to me. Are we loving people or winning them to Christ by disrespecting who they are, their culture, and their celebrations? Do we not reach people more by loving them where they are at? The examples of Christ in the Bible are ones of those going to people where they are at and their lives being changed by His grace, mercy and love. He went and ate with the tax collector; He asked for water from a Samaritan; and he didn’t go turning the water into acai juice at the wedding!

To my fellow Christians, and especially to my Christian friends and family, I wish you all a Very Merry & Blessed Christmas! To those of you who may celebrate another holiday at this time of year, I hope it is a very special time for you – Happy Holidays!!

(revised 12/13)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Best Birthday Ever (an @donmilleris #storyline testimony)

I first heard about the Storyline Conference in January after following  Donald Miller’s blog in December. With his five books having had a profound effect on my faith and on my life, his conference intrigued me. In February and March, I started telling people about it and how much I wanted to go and adding it to all my friends’, families’ and my church’s prayer lists. Things started to fall into place as my sister agreed to watch my kids and I had a few vacation days left at work that had to be taken before July. By April, I just really felt like I was going but I still had no idea where the money was going to come from.

Then one time as I wrote a comment (to someone else’s comment) on Don’s blog about why I wanted to go and that I was trying to get my funds together. Long story short, total strangers ended up buying my plane ticket for me and I purchased my conference ticket with a little extra money I had left over from my tax return. All the arrangements just seem to fall into place effortlessly and the travel and accommodations were stress free.

The conference was on the same weekend as my birthday making it a double blessing as I hadn’t had a real vacation in soooo long. I was able to go a couple days ahead so I could explore the city of Portland, OR for the first time. I met and spent time with a wonderful lady named Lori Ventola and learned about the wonderful ministry that she started as a result of last year’s Storyline Conference. I visited the Imago Dei church, the Chinese Gardens, and the Portland Art Museum. Thanks to my Bank of America card, my entry to the Chinese Gardens and the Portland Art Museum were free!!! I ended the day by visiting the famous Powell’s bookstore.

The conference was of course amazing and concluded with a pre-screening of the Blue Like Jazz  movie. It was the best birthday I had ever had and felt like little winks from God (if you’re familiar with these) that He loves me and I am special. I hope you have a birthday like that some time!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Three Must Reads Before You Die

My life has gone through many twists and turns over the years and one of the major ones came last year. I was on the brink of losing my faith (or more like losing faith in my faith). I didn’t really stop believing in God, but I had become disgusted and disappointed with life and what I was expecting as a person who believed in God. But Jesus wouldn’t let me go and led me to the people, places, and BOOKS that I needed to get me through. Here they are...
I just finished reading “Permission to Speak Freely” by Anne Jackson. This is must read number one. It talks about what you are scared to talk about in religious circles. Having been one of those mask-wearing Stepford-like church goers, scared to confess anything was wrong with my life, this book was a refreshing and freeing experience. Although I had come to this realization and began living this way a few years ago, it was nice to see in print what every person should have – a safe place to express what’s wrong without fear of rejection. (I wasn’t just fearful of being embarrassed; I was fearful of not being part of the church – the forced misrepresentation that once you are saved, you don’t experience downfalls or sin ever again.) This is a short book but it took me a couple of weeks to read. I could only digest a couple pages at a time – some from relief, some with contemplation, and others with sheer weeping for those who I know need this so badly.

Must read number two is a book I read a few months ago, “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years” by Donald Miller. (His book “Searching for God Knows What” was pivotal in the new turn my life started taking a year ago.) From his own experience, he explains that you can look at your life and figure out if you’re living your life (your own personal story) in the way that you could or should. It’s not a self-help book; it’s more like a “wake up” book. Unlike Anne’s book, this one I read in one big gulp (over two days) which seems to be the general consensus of those who have read the book

Yes, they are both life changing books. So why this order? Because the first one will bring healing and the second one hope; you’ll do better with hope once you deal with your stuff and stuff that’s been thrown at you in your life. Which brings me to the third …
The Bible (of course)! After you read the first two, read the Bible. If you’ve never read it before, you may be pleasantly surprised as to what it says -- and doesn’t. If you’ve read it a thousand times, read it again after these two and I guarantee it will be different this time around. Does it matter what version? No, that is a personal preference. I know some diehard KJV lovers and there seems to be a new version out every year lately but you may want to consider one that has more plain modern English. My personal favorite is the NLT but I haven’t perused all of the newest ones. For those of you who want to read 5 translations all at once (as I sometimes do), I enjoy where you can look up a scripture or passage and flip back and forth between translations. It’s also a great way to get the Bible free online and all your devices!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

LIVE anyway

The name of my blog is inspired by a Martina McBride song. A few years ago, I came to the harsh reality that you don’t always get what you want, even when your motives are pure and you’ve tried your hardest. My faith was also greatly tested. I guess I started living my life (and still do) like the song. “God is great, but sometimes life ain’t good.” “When I pray, it doesn’t always turn out like I think it should, but I do it anyway.” The song also talks about chasing your dreams even though you may never get them; might lose them if you do; but it’s worth going for anyway. As “Anyway” was already taken I chose “LIVE Anyway” because that is what I intend to do -- despite what may or may not come my way. I encourage you to do so too!