Category Archives: Motivation and Encouragement

Insight

Do you ever wonder why your life turned out the way it has?  Do you think about what it would have been like had just one aspect been different?

I am a result of not only my history but also my response to that history.  What makes me tick, and what makes me sometimes explode or implode, are the consequences of events and circumstances in my life and how I chose to accept or reject the results.

Am I a successful person?  That depends on your definition of success.  Dictionary.com says that success is the accomplishment of one’s goals, the attainment of wealth, position, honors, or a performance or achievement that is marked by success (I dislike when a word is used in its own definition – it feels like cheating).  By those definitions, I am not.  Fannie Flagg had this to say:  “Being a successful person is not necessarily defined by what you have achieved, but by what you have overcome.”  By that definition, I am.

Success

You cannot be an overcomer without something to overcome, and that means hardship of some form.  A few things I have overcome (or continue to overcome daily):

  • Abuse – physical, verbal, emotional, sexual, neglect
  • Rape and molestation
  • Homelessness
  • Failed marriages and relationships
  • Depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Self-loathing and suicidal thoughts
  • Physical illness and difficulties

I hope you don’t take this as bragging, because it most definitely is not.  Since everything that happens to you is a part of who you become, it sometimes becomes necessary to share with others in order to make yourself understood.

I like to think that I am a better person than I used to be, not because of my experiences but in spite of them.

Never Too Late

As Kelly Clarkson said, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” and my survival rate thus far is 100%.  Let’s see where it goes from here.

Resolution Revolution

2014 has been a rollercoaster year, and my memories more easily tend to the downs instead of the ups.  Thirteen deaths of family and close friends, including the untimely death of my beloved son-in-law at the age of 26, have skewed my vision toward the difficult moments.

I am thankful that life is not always dark and dreary.  The birth of my seventh grandchild, a beautiful little girl, and my graduation from college (at age 47 years and 11 months!) have helped to balance the scales with joyful positives.  As time goes on the, the pain of the losses will become less sharp and the beauty of new life and new conquests will become the focus.

As in all circumstances, I can choose to become bitter because of heavy happenings, or I can choose to become better by learning from these experiences. My success at surviving life and its challenges thus far is pretty good, but I want to do more than just survive.  I want to make a valuable difference in my life, in the lives of those around me, and in as many lives as I can possibly touch in any way.  I can use the situations in my personal history to help others in their personal situations.  I must remember that I am stronger because of coming through times when I was very weak.

Against the current

Because I want to make a difference, I must become more intentional about how I live my life.  I have three simple resolutions this year, all directly from God’s instructions.  I am sharing these ideals for two reasons: by sharing my goals with others, I am held accountable for upholding my actions to these goals by many other people, creating a large support group, and by sharing my goals with others, maybe they will be spurred on to good deeds by my example.

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Goal one:  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. ” (from the passage found in Matthew 22:34-40).

Love God, love others.  How hard is that?  Apparently, not as easy as four little words should be.  When I pay more attention to my iPad than to my husband, am I loving others?  When I lose my temper because a volunteer musician waited until Saturday to look at the music for Sunday, therefore they did not practice a new song, am I loving others, or even loving God, whom I am supposed to be worshipping through those very songs?  When I am driving and another driver cuts me off so I start yelling at him or her, am I loving others?

Lord, help me love like You love, without any ifs, ands, or buts.  Make my love for others be unconditional and freely given.  Let my love for You shine through everything I do.

Love others

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Goal two:  “Do all things without complaining…” (from the passage found in Philippians 2:14).

I used to think that I did not complain much, that I was fairly easy-going, and went with the flow without much dispute.  I thought that way until my husband said to me one day, “You complain an awful lot.  Are you just unhappy or what?”  So I stepped back and listened to myself and my words.  I was surprised by just how much I grumbled when plans don’t go the way I think they should, and how critical and, yes, judgmental I could be.  This is a goal I have been working toward for quite a while, and who says a resolution has to be completely new?  If you still have not perfected a habit, why not keep practicing?

Lord, help me to remember that when I grumble and complain against others that I am grumbling and complaining about Your creation.  I want to see to see people and circumstances as You see them, as beautiful masterpieces and opportunities for growth.

attitude

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Goal three:  “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven…” (from the passage found in Ecclesiastes 3:1).

I am adopting this goal in connection with my personal calendar and activities.  I often find myself wasting my time on a game for hours, while the laundry and dishes need done, or a paper needs researched and written, or I should be sleeping.  I often find myself up against a deadline when I had plenty of time to complete the task.  I also find myself saying “no” when I should say “yes” to an invitation, and saying “yes” when I should really say “no.”

Lord, help me to make your priorities my priorities, and help me to remember that You created a day of rest for a reason.

urgent or important

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Finally, I would leave you with this thought:

Did I offer peace today

Self-Help Sermon

Instructions for Christian Living

Ephesians 4:17-24.  So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.  They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.  Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.

That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.  You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

 How do I do this?  

How do I put on a new self and put off the old?  

How am I created to be like God?

1 John 4:8.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

What does that mean, “God is love”?  

Replace the words “love” and “it” with the word “God” in the following passage.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8.  Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.

Since we are to be created to be like God, we must strive for these attributes.  

Now, replace the words “love” and “it” with your own name.  Does each description ring true for you?

  • Are you patient?  Then practice patience.
  • Are you kind?  Then practice kindness.
  • Do you envy?  Then practice thankfulness.
  • Do you boast?  Then practice modesty.
  • Are you proud?  Then practice humility.
  • Do you dishonor others?  Then practice respect.
  • Are you self-seeking (selfish)?  Then practice compassion.
  • Are you easily angered?  Then practice gentleness.
  • Do you keep a record of wrongs?  Then practice forgiveness.
  • Do you delight in evil or rejoice with the truth?
  • Do you protect others?
  • Do you trust others?
  • Are you hopeful?
  • Do you persevere?

You will fail.  You are not God. 

When you strive for these characteristics of God, you will still fail, but you will fail less and less as you practice more and more. 

When you do fail, ask wholeheartedly for forgiveness both from God and from others.

attitude

My conversation is the simplest place to begin this transformation.

Colossians 4:6.  Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

We need each other.  People were not meant to be alone, but to interact and care for each other.  When we connect, we should remember that our actions and words travel farther than the immediate surroundings.

Ephesians 4:29-32.  Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

...and perhaps, mostly importantly of all…

Proverbs 27:17.  As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.

…we need to hold each other accountable, build each other up into the likeness of God, and love each other unconditionally, no matter what.

Coming Clean

The first step in forgiveness is the willingness to forgive. – Marianne Williamson

 Forgiveness

If you could see me as I am writing this, you would be looking at a previous World Champion of Grudge-Holders.  Oh, I do come by it honestly.  You see, I am a human being, a person just like you, and as such, I tend to cling to complaints, seize slights, and take tabs on transgressions.  I have since become better (I think) at letting go of the perceived wrongdoings of others, but only after I came around to asking others to forgive me.  Yes, you read that right.  I had to first ask forgiveness for my own faults before I could truly begin to forgive those who had hurt me, whether these “crimes” against me were committed knowingly or unknowingly.

I have a wonderful friend, a very classy lady indeed.  At one time, early in our relationship, I developed a tremendous jealousy, not about her as a friend, but of her as a competitor.  She is absolutely beautiful, she can sing like an angel, she can dance with elegance, she can write songs, plays, and prose.  She has an adoring husband and a spectacular home.  She had the whole enchilada, and I had a cheese taco.  One day, and I cannot tell you the catalyst or cause, I knew that I needed to confess my feelings to her, and I needed to do it that day! After choir practice that evening at church, I ran to catch up to her in the parking lot.  I revealed my enviousness to her, and asked her to forgive me for my bitter attitude.  She replied that she had no idea that I ever felt anything like this resentment, and she forgave me.  She forgave me!  It was as if a mammoth millstone had been removed from my mind.  Today, we are even better friends.   She is still beautiful, graceful, and elegant, and I am still me – and I am forgiven.

Sometimes, we are called to forgive a wrong done to us knowingly by another.

Sometimes, we are called to forgive a wrong done to us of which the culprit is unaware.

Sometimes, we are called to ask for forgiveness for something we have done.

Sometimes, we are called to ask for forgiveness for something we have done of which the victim is unaware.

Sometimes, we are called to forgive ourselves.

Most of us need time to work through pain and loss. We can find all manner of reasons for postponing forgiveness. One of these reasons is waiting for the wrongdoers to repent before we forgive them. Yet such a delay causes us to forfeit the peace and happiness that could be ours. – James E. Faust

Your history is history.  How you react to it can make you better or it can make you bitter.  The future is up to you – what is your choice?

Because I Believe

Because I Believe…

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A recent college class assignment required me to write my philosophy of early childhood education.  That task is not as easy as it sounds.  Putting my beliefs and values on display for everyone to see and judge?  It is a pretty scary thought, and an even scarier undertaking.

Until…

…Until I realized that putting my beliefs and values on display for everyone to see and judge is something I do every day!   The people I hold most dear, the objects I attach value to, the opportunities I take or do not take advantage of – all of these factors tell about my beliefs.

And if they don’t, then I am living a lie.

My philosophy of early childhood education actually parallels my life beliefs very closely.  I am sharing my own project, and I encourage you to try this for yourself.  Think about those ideals, habits, objects, and relationships that are most important to you and that define who you are.  Then, see if you are living your beliefs out in your life.

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“Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words.  Keep your words positive because your words become your behavior.  Keep your behavior positive because your behavior becomes your habits.  Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values.  Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny.”                                    

-Mahatma Ghandi

Don’t be afraid to live out loud!

Bundle of Blessings

You probably need to read that title again.  “Bundle of Blessings”.

Did you notice?

As beautiful as a newborn baby is, there is something more beautiful.  A newborn mother is a beautiful bundle of blessings.

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Some parts of motherhood seem to flow easily into the being of every woman who is presented with a child to care for and raise.  The need to hold and comfort a child can be life-saving, as seen in this video.

Many parts are more difficult, such as healing hurts, calming chaos, and the perpetual picking-up of pocket-sized pieces.  There can be beauty in the bedlam, if one chooses to look.  Pop on over to Why Your Home Is Already Perfect for pointers.

I believe that a mother is the most beautiful creation in all the world.  I must admit, I have not always felt this way, especially when I was a young mother, struggling just to get by day after day.

Proverbs 31 describes the excellent woman, who includes motherhood as one of her many attributes.

Hymn to a Good Wife

A good woman is hard to find, and worth far more than diamonds.  Her husband trusts her without reserve, and never has reason to regret it.  Never spiteful, she treats him generously all her life long.  She shops around for the best yarns and cottons, and enjoys knitting and sewing.  She’s like a trading ship that sails to faraway places and brings back exotic surprises.  She’s up before dawn, preparing breakfast for her family and organizing her day.  She looks over a field and buys it, then, with money she’s put aside, plants a garden.  First thing in the morning, she dresses for work, rolls up her sleeves, eager to get started.  She senses the worth of her work, is in no hurry to call it quits for the day.  She’s skilled in the crafts of home and hearth, diligent in homemaking.  She’s quick to assist anyone in need, reaches out to help the poor.  She doesn’t worry about her family when it snows; their winter clothes are all mended and ready to wear.  She makes her own clothing, and dresses in colorful linens and silks.  Her husband is greatly respected when he deliberates with the city fathers.  She designs gowns and sells them, brings the sweaters she knits to the dress shops.  Her clothes are well-made and elegant, and she always faces tomorrow with a smile.  When she speaks she has something worthwhile to say, and she always says it kindly.  She keeps an eye on everyone in her household, and keeps them all busy and productive.  (The Message)

The mistake many mothers, myself included, is that of thinking that this woman does all of these things every day.  That would be impossible for me, especially considering that I don’t even know how to knit!  This is a lifetime of work, thoughtfulness, and care that encompasses this mother’s resume.

Remember verses 28-29:

Her children respect and bless her;
her husband joins in with words of praise:
“Many women have done wonderful things,
but you’ve outclassed them all!”

Second Chances

I made my bed this morning.

Not a big deal.  Anyone with a bed and a blanket and the ability can make up a bed.

As I was drinking a morning cup of coffee, I watched as a robin gathered strands and stems from my flower bed that I haven’t cleaned up yet.  That robin was making the bed, too.

It occurred to me, that very same robin likely worked this very same task last spring.  The nest was built, the eggs were hatched, the young fledglings took wing, the nest was abandoned, and the ravages of winter storms destroyed that small carefully constructed home.

Sometimes, it can feel as if this scenario is played out in our own lives as a dream we have cherished since childhood, so carefully constructed in our hearts and minds, skips the steps of being hatched and taking wing, and these dreams are simply abandoned and destroyed by life’s storms.

Thankfully, we get second chances.  Sometimes, we even have third or fourth chances.  Another chance to follow a dream, another chance to build a life, another chance to see fruition.  Every morning that we awake, we receive a new beginning of a new day.  This day is ours to do with as we please.  This day and every day is a second chance to make something beautiful happen.

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The way I see it, by making my bed, I am accepting that challenge to take hold of that second chance, to do what I can with what I am given to make that dream come true, each and every day.

So, how does your bed look?