Tuesday, September 30, 2014

This Person I've Become - Emotions

Change - it's inevitable. Fluctuations seem to be one of the constants of life. Apparently we fight against change in organizations, but as humans we're constantly changing. Interactions shape us, relationships move us, thoughts enlighten us.

I've become more emotional, and I remember when I first noticed it. It wasn't motherhood per se, because I've never been a sentimental, overly emotional, mushy mother. But I do remember feeling sad the first time one of my children relayed a story where they weren't treated favorably on the playground. I remember feeling deeply sad and that if I could clobber the offending party, I would. And then I thought - "Who is this person and when did this happen?"

Once I was listening to a song on a talk show, and I found tears in my eyes as I listened. It was a song about motherhood, and I remember asking my mother if she cried, to which she said, "Who me? cry? no." Again I thought, "Who is this person?"

I remember during a brother's wedding, I was so caught up in their love, happy tears rolled from my eyes. Everyone wanted to know what was wrong with me. Nothing was wrong I was just happy. And sometimes happiness shows up in the form of tears. But other emotions are also wrapped in tears: anger, hurt, disappointment, relief. Commercials make me cry as do movies. A good conversation can really move me. Seeing a child being respectful to their mother makes me want to jump for joy.

All of this emotion can't be chalked up to me being more in touch with my feelings, some of it may just be a function of physical changes in the body.

Either way this person I've become, has me perplexed; some days and all I can do is smile and cry.

Have you become more emotional?

Friday, September 26, 2014

You Are Not Your Mistakes

Have you ever kicked yourself for doing something so dumb? "How could you?" you say over and over again. You deal with it, you talk it out, and you do your best to learn from it and you move on. I've done some dumb things in my life - haven't we all? But that's no excuse because when I should have known better, I didn't do better and as a result I was humiliated. I'd venture to say that if I wasn't humiliated I might have continued not doing better.

I remember that humiliation.  Isn't it funny that no matter the passage of time, sometimes that mistake just rears its ugly head and all of a sudden it's hitting you square between the eyes.

What do you do?

At this point, I've learned to remember that I am not my mistake. The feelings may come to make me doubt where I am now, but I'm not that mistake - I'm not the person I was when I made that mistake. All of these thoughts take root in our minds and if we ruminate on them they can grow and produce undesirable fruit that is rotten.
Is this how you feel?

Instead, take every thought captive. When you capture something, you surround it and muffle it so that it is stifled and has no room to grow. Do that with your thoughts. Then replace the mistake with your growth from that point on. Don't marinate in the mistake, marinate on the growth.

While we may always wrestle with things that caused us pain, we don't have to let our minds stay there. We can remember that we have overcome and we are now better for having made that mistake.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 6-7

Guard your heart above all else,
for it determines the course of your life. Proverbs 4:23

If this is your struggle, remember you can overcome and you are not your mistakes.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Notes From My Daughter - The Temptation of Irresponsibility

Occasional notes from my 20 year old daughter. I never know what to expect when she writes, but it's usually a pleasant surprise.  Read on!

My daughter

While abroad it’s very easy to have a “I can do whatever I want” mindset but this is not always beneficial. Everything has a consequence and it’s important to live faithfully no matter where you are. Sometimes I want to put my guard down because I’m in this beautiful city and there are no worries but I’ve actually been there and done that before. It does not set up a good future, it does not build good habits, and does not bear good fruit. Studying abroad is not an escape from reality, it’s an opportunity to grow and to be prepared for whats ahead. Your choices matter no matter where you are.

Friday, September 12, 2014

National Day of Encouragement


I looked at my wall calendar and noted that today is: National Day of Encouragement. Per Wikipedia National Day of Encouragement was announced in 2007 and occurs every year on the 12th day of September.

“The National Day of Encouragement is about inspiring Americans to make deliberate words and acts of encouragement a part of this day first, and then a part of every day of their lives."
The U.S. Senate simple resolution that was passed goes even further:
Whereas negative images, stories, and influences in the day-to-day lives of the people of the United States can detrimentally affect their emotional well-being, interactions with others, and general demeanor;
Whereas a group of teenagers participating in a leadership forum at Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas, identified a lack of encouragement as one of the greatest problems facing young people today;
Whereas the youth of the United States need guidance, inspiration, and reassurance to counteract this negativity and to develop the qualities of character essential for future leadership in the United States;
Whereas a National Day of Encouragement would serve as a reminder to counterbalance and overcome negative influences, and would also provide much-needed encouragement and support to others;
Whereas, following the events of September 11, 2001, thousands of people made sacrifices in order to bring help and healing to the victims and their families, inspiring and encouraging the people of the United States; and
Whereas the renewed feelings of unity, hope, selflessness, and encouragement that began on September 12, 2001, are the same feelings that the National Day of Encouragement is meant to recapture and spread: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the Senate--
(1) designates September 12, 2011, as ‘National Day of Encouragement’;
(2) acknowledges the importance of encouragement and positive influences in the lives of all people; and
(3) urges the people of the United States to encourage others, whether through an act of service, a thoughtful letter, or words of kindness and inspiration, and by that encouragement to boost the morale of all people of the United States. (Source: http://www.chicagonow.com/going-for-gusto/2012/09/five-easy-ways-you-can-celebrate-national-day-of-encouragement-today/)

So I'm all about encouragement over here regardless of what's going on in your world. I recently wrote this post about encouragement.

In addition why not:

  • Tell your parents thank you
  • Show your appreciation for your job
  • Have a grateful spirit
  • Say hi to a random person on the street
  • Encourage yourself
  • Pay it forward

Be encouraged.

So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Instead, your assistant, Joshua son of Nun, will lead the people into the land. Encourage him, for he will lead Israel as they take possession of it. Deuteronomy 1:38

Jonathan went to find David and encouraged him to stay strong in his faith in God. 1 Samuel 23:16

The words of the godly encourage many, but fools are destroyed by their lack of common sense. Proverbs 10:21

How do you encourage others?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Catching Monkeys

It is said that the way to catch a monkey is to take a coconut, cut a hole in it and place a pebble inside the coconut.  The monkey will see the coconut, place his hand in the coconut and grab the pebble. But then the monkey can not leave because he now has to figure out what's important - the pebble or the coconut. And so in his distraction he becomes easy bait to be caught. (I don't know how true this is, as I've never ventured to catch monkeys, but the premise makes for worthwhile discussion.)

Sometimes, we are like those monkeys. We hold on to things that we think are important and forget the bigger picture. We get sucked in by wanting things and then those things take a hold of us. Things like: placing a premium on getting a dream job; sending our children to the best schools; buying a car or a house; or a relationship.

When we finally get these things we hold on to them so tightly, and before we know it, we are not enjoying life. We're also in a position to be distracted and to be caught. At this point, we hear and interpret things differently. For example what used to be, "education is important and we will do our best to ensure our kids receive the best with what we have to offer." now becomes, "education is the most important thing and nothing matters but sending my child to an ivy league school."  What used to be, "this job is the next step in my career because I really enjoy what I do," now becomes, "I'm here and I don't care what I have to do or who I have to hurt to keep this job." Our thinking becomes warped the longer we hold on to the pebble. The coconut has more value than the pebble. The coconut can be used to sustain us and help others. The coconut wasn't meant to trap you but the bait inside the coconut was, and so many of us take the bait.

How about we open our hands and let the pebble go; just let it go because it's not as important as you think it is and if you really want a pebble you can get it outside of the coconut. When you put things in their proper perspective, a pebble is just a pebble.

Monkeys like humans are smart, but sometimes we do things that are to our own detriment. We focus on things we want that are so little and inconsequential instead of focusing on bigger things.  For me the bigger things are always about increasing my faith by trusting in the One who made all things. When tempted to take the bait, He gives me the wisdom, the insight and the foresight to let go of the pebble. In that moment of letting go I know that I won't be bait for anyone and I won't be a monkey that gets caught. You can still enjoy all that God has for you without it becoming the priority in your life.

19 “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. 21 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. Matthew 6:19-21 (NLT)

Have you taken the bait? What are you holding on to?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Unforced Errors


Since I'm married to sports aficionado, I've learned the game of tennis and actually enjoy watching it. Of course once two women came on the scene who turned the tennis world upside down, I've watched it ever since.
Unforced error is tennis term that means: the ball you hit was not good - it went outside the line or in to the net. You did not score the point and the opponent did not cause the error - you did. Perhaps you double faulted or hit the ball wide. None of these are intentional.

The official definition is: Error in a service or return shot that cannot be attributed to any factor other than poor judgement and execution by the player [Source: Glossary of Tennis Terms ]. But poor judgement is entirely subjective. There is no mention of physical fatigue, tactical decision making, and mental game.  See more at: Tennis Game.

The thing about unforced errors is that they don't necessarily determine the outcome of the game. What really matters is your proportion of unforced errors to winners; typically if you have more winners you win.

An example of an unforced error is a double fault. In tennis a fault occurs when you do not serve the ball within the lines of the opposite box. This is the only space that a serve can land. A player has two chances to serve a decent serve. If you miss twice its called a double fault and it is also considered an unforced error. Now it takes a lot of effort and skill to place the serve in the box. Because you're playing against an opponent you think tactically and so you do things to the serve that make it difficult for the opponent to return - after all that's the point of the game; you're trying to win points. If the serve is not returned it's called an ace and the player who served wins the point. So you may serve with a high speed, or your placement is always on the line, or you may also spin the ball. As a player, you're always going to go for it, because the rewards outweigh the risks. It never looks effortless when an unforced error is committed.

Here's what Roger Federer - currently ranked #2 for men, has to say about unforced errors:

“I don’t care about unforced errors. The guys that love the statistics, they love those things. I don’t care if I make 20 or 60 unforced errors. I don’t care, as long as I’m doing the right things and staying true to my game plan and it makes sense. If I’m just making errors and I can’t hit a winner any more, then I’m in trouble, clearly."

Sports provides great analogies for our lives particularly our spiritual lives. So what's the point?

  • Sometimes you have to go for it.
  • No one is perfect - perfection is unattainable for imperfect human beings even for the #1 players.
  • You'll never know until you try,
  • Once you've made the error, put it behind you and move on to the next point. Don't get bogged down by your errors.
  • When you go for it, give it your best effort 
  • There are things out of your control like the wind, or the crowd.
  • In tennis it's about the win.

Tennis like life is complicated and requires some mastery. The only way we can master life is with God. Don't let the fear of failure prevent you from going after your goal. Even if you've failed, don't stop trying. Give every effort one hundred percent. Don't get stuck on your failures, but instead keep moving. We're not perfect, so all of us will make errors at some point, but with God's help we will succeed especially if what we are going after is what He has in store for us.

True humility and fear of the Lord lead to riches, honor, and long life. Proverbs 22:4 (NLT)

Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God,[a] for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan. Ephesians 1:11 (NLT)

Have you made any unforced errors lately? How did you recover?