It is what it is…

Months ago I admitted the fact that I am not fun. It was a conclusion I had come to after having the fact pointed out to me by my loving, albeit perhaps a bit too honest husband.

Last night we had a similar discussion where he told me I am too serious. It’s true – I am not going to be winning any prizes in the near future for being a fun-loving gal. I am serious and always have been.

Growing up I hated this about myself. I wished I was more like my quick-witted classmates, able to pull jokes out of thin air and laugh at myself. I also allowed myself to get stuck in blue moods. At the time (prior to graduate school) I hadn’t learned the tools and techniques to change negative thinking patterns and work through cognitive distortions. Either way, I tend to take myself and life in general quite seriously.

That’s probably why I was drawn to counseling. Sure, you get to a point where you have to laugh at some of the things you hear (because the only alternative is to cry)! However, for the most part, those of us who are drawn to the field tend to take a more serious approach to life. If we didn’t, I’m not sure we would be able to sit in a counseling session without giggling or making the client feel like the issues they’ve come in to discuss are unimportant.

All of this to say, I do agree with my insightful husband. I am not fun and I can take life way too seriously. But after some thought, we’ve concluded that these traits are not such a bad thing. Yes, it does make life difficult when a more playful kind of person is trying to get a more serious one to lighten up and they are so not in the mood (as was the case last night). But generally speaking, my more serious nature has come in handy.

For example, career choice, as I mentioned above. Being serious is an asset when one of the primary ways you spend your time is listening to people process some of life’s most stressful situations. Another positive thing about being a serious person is that I like to think deeply about life’s questions and mysteries. Ignorance is not bliss in my world. Very rarely do I settle for surface-level thinking. The downside of this is that I can get stuck in deep thoughts and have a hard time pulling myself out without the help of a more light-hearted companion. But that’s what my hubby is for! Finally, as one who craves writing as a means of getting my thoughts out, it’s helpful to be able to sit down long enough to seriously look at various issues and draw conclusions, analyze, ponder, consider etc. how they interact with my life and life in general. I have found that my writing seems to connect with others most when I am in a more serious and even melancholy frame of mind.

In a very serious frame of mind apparently

It may sound like I’m making excuses. Or maybe this all makes sense. I’m not sure but either way, I am who I am and my sweet hubby and I have both come appreciate the unique ways that God has made each of us.

Hope vs. Despair

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I discovered something a couple of years ago after experiencing the death of someone I loved. This was a new discovery for me even though conceptually I have always believed it to be true, just not deep down, like, really believed it.

What I discovered is: With the help of Jesus, you can experience great hope even in the midst of great suffering.

It is counter-intuitive. When you think of suffering you think of pain and heartache and deep, irreversible despair. Which is why I can’t attribute the hope and even joy I experienced during my own time of suffering to be anything less than the awesome power of Christ.

At church this weekend the conversation was all about hope and despair. The assertion was made that you can’t know hope without knowing despair.

Sure, we can all experience the kind of hope that exists when we want that front-row parking spot or the joy that comes from opening a gift from a loved one. But that’s not the kind I mean. I mean the real stuff. The deep in your heart and soul kind of stuff. The kind we don’t even know is there until something terrible happens and unbeknownst to us, out of our depths rises an odd yet comforting sense of hope. Peace too.

The Bible talks about peace that surpasses understanding. It even says we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. All things. Paul describes feeling hopeful despite being imprisoned.

I don’t understand any of this. Not really. And even though I have experienced it to some degree, I still forget how true it is when I am not in the midst of hope while suffering or joy when on paper I “shouldn’t” be feeling joyful. But just because I forget and doubt doesn’t make it any less true.

My prayer is that eventually I will believe this truth with conviction, 100% of the time. Until then, it’s messages like the one at church on Sunday that remind me. I am grateful for those.

When your dreams are bigger than your fears…

It has been so fun this past year watching my friend Tiffany Ashley, of Delightfully Chic, grow her blog and now launch the Delightfully Chic Shop, her brand new online store. All of her hard work over the past few months has paid off as she’s ramped up to this exciting new venture. In the first two days alone, she has already exceeded her expectations in sales. Tiffany is incredibly gifted in the area fashion and design and is now using these talents to live out a lifelong dream.

 

 

I got the opportunity to interview her today and want to share a few words of wisdom from this up-and-coming entreprenuer.

The goal you’ve been working toward for so long has not only been achieved, but you’ve already seen success! What is the most rewarding part for you so far?

Getting back to what I love to do. When you get to the point where your dreams are bigger than your fears, you have to just go for it. That’s what I’ve finally done and it’s so exciting!

What has been the most difficult part of the process?

Having to juggle many different responsibilities. The key is to stay focused and keep your eye on your dreams. Remember, they are always in reach. My favorite quote, and the thing I keep telling myself is, “If you can dream it, you can achieve it.”

What advice do you have for others who are trying to accomplish big goals in the midst of big responsibilities and… just life in general…?

Soul search and figure out what’s going to make you happy. Your dreams should be so big that they give you butterflies in your stomach. If they don’t, you’re not dreaming big enough!

Be sure to check out the Delightfully Chic Shop and stock up on fabulous prints and home decor. Perfect for you or to give away as gifts this Christmas! Happy shopping!

 

Day 21 – Pondering a few more points…

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this series. Unlike some of the others which I planned out thoroughly in advance, this one was more of a fly by the seat of my pants kind of thing. I intentionally gave myself the freedom to write about whatever happened to crop up in my life over the past month. But still. I hate not having a plan.

It shaped up to be pretty interesting though and has helped me to be present each day I’ve written and articulate my often rambling thoughts more clearly.

If you’re interesting in perusing this series, here’s the hodgepodge of posts I would recommend:

1) Into the Light – We all struggle. But most of us aren’t willing to admit it, let alone invite others in to help us heal. This is my attempt at getting it out in the open.

2) On Getting OlderOn Life’s Twists and Turns / Imagining the Worst / New Traditions / An Older Gentleman and a Prosthetic Leg – These are my odd and sometimes drawn out thoughts about life. If we don’t allow our mind to wander and reflect every so often we can become stagnant. Or is that just me justifying my wordiness?

3) How to Help Someone Who is Grieving / What Not to Say to Someone Who is Grieving – I have taught on the subject of grief a number of times and it is always a powerful subject to address with people. Many of us don’t know how to help people who are grieving the loss of someone/something they love. Here are a few tips that I hope will help.

4) Love Your Enemies / How to Love Those Who are Hard to Love – We all have those people in our lives that are hard to get along with. In fact just last night I vented (and that’s putting it nicely) to my husband about someone in my life right now that absolutely frustrates me constantly. He gently, and a bit firmly, reminded me that my attitude and perspective are up to me. And that this whole experience will grow my character. Grr. Why is he always right?

5) Why Everyone Should See a Life Coach / What is the Difference Between Therapy and Life Coaching? – Am I promoting my coaching business a bit? Of course. But that doesn’t mean what I wrote isn’t true. Check out the reasons life coaching is so beneficial as well as how it differs from traditional counseling.

And a fabulous guest post by Diana Antholis of Enter Adulthood called 5 Ways to Create Your Own Balance in Work and Life.

Enjoy the series and feel free to leave your comments. I always love to hear your feedback and opinions.

Day 20 – An older gentleman and a prosthetic leg

I am cheating on my favorite book, Bittersweet, with my new favorite book, Cold Tangerines. They are written by the same author so I don’t feel that bad. Yet again, Shauna Niequist has made me think. A lot.

This book is such a beautiful expression of life’s little moments, which more often than not, we take for granted or miss altogether. I’m reminded of how rarely I break from my busy schedule (and equally active thought process) to take in life’s treasures.

Take for example a newborn baby’s tiny smile. Although it doesn’t vary much from the expression they make when experiencing digestive issues, it means something totally different and if you look real close – there it is! I could stare at babies for hours. They marvel at the smallest things. Or what about the gift of nature? Red, gold, yellow and orange sprinkled throughout the typically green (or this time of year, bare) landscape, like a confetti-covering in the fall. Moments like these are meant to be noticed and are especially fun when shared with others.

Back when I was running a lot, I couldn’t help but notice the intricacies of the human body. Hours upon hours of pavement pounding have a way of showing you what you’re made of.

I ran the LA Marathon with my friend Courtney during our sophomore year of college. Talk about a long time to just think and take stuff in. (It was almost six hours to be exact. Clearly, the goal was to finish, not break records). Courtney and I hardly spoke. We listened to music on our walkmen (yes I did mean walkmen) and aside from trading off mix tapes (yes I did mean mix tapes), we stayed in our own little worlds. As I pushed my body farther that day than I ever had before or have since, it was the little things that sustained me.

Take for example, the elderly gentleman and the woman with the prosthetic leg. We traded off passing each other throughout the 26.2 miles. They would run ahead and then we would pass them. Then they would catch up to us and we would watch them from behind, in awe of what their bodies could handle. Running a marathon is no picnic for anyone but to do it at the age of 100?? (Okay, he may not have been 100 but the oldest marathon runner I could find on the internet was a hundred-year-old man who completed the Toronto Waterfront Marathon). And to do it with a prosthetic leg? Wow.

If we stay stuck in our own heads, in our own bubbles, we miss out on the sparkle and umph that can be found when we least expect it. While I was complaining about how heavy my legs felt and how I didn’t think I could make it another step, the older gentleman was trudging along with a smile on his face and the woman with the prosthetic leg had the focused determination of a professional athlete.

Thank you Shauna Niequist for the little treasures you have given the world! Your stories, your vulnerability, your reminders to celebrate small gifts amidst big bits of chaos and clutter. Our world is a crazy place sometimes but you’ve offered a much-needed breath of fresh air.

“The Little Things”… via Pinterest

Day 19 – Insecurities Be Gone!

I was trying to decide if I wanted to craft some inspiring Thanksgiving post but I stumbled upon something else that I’m quite confident is far better than anything I could have come up with today.

“Dear Fear-of-What-Others-Think…” is a genuine plea with that insecure part of us all that refuses to let the world see who we really are. Keeping up the facade is exhausting. Sprinkled with humor and plenty of deep insights, “Dear Fear-of-What-Others-Think” will make you smile and make you think.

“Dear Fear-of-What-Others-Think…”: An Open Letter to my Imaginary Audience

Jesse Rice

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I had never heard of The Church of Facebook before reading this guest post on Donald Miller’s blog. Naturally, I got curious and went straight to the source. The other posts I read by Jesse Rice were equally pleasurable and insightful.

I hope you’ll visit the site and read today’s post. Let the truth of it sink in. 

Be inspired today!

Day 18 – New traditions…

Like I said in my last post (Day 17 – Imagining the Worst), my dad has a blood clot in his leg. As a result, my family can’t make it to North Carolina for the week as planned. I find myself feeling a bit meloncholy and haven’t been able to pinpoint why. Maybe because they were supposed to be here right now? While I totally understand why they’re not and practically insisted they didn’t come anyway because flying is too big of a risk right now, I’m still disappointed. We had been planning our to-do list, collecting Thanksgiving meal ingrediants and preparing for weeks.

When I think of this upcoming weekend, I am not sure what it will look like. Thanksgiving has always been a family day. It feels weird not to have my family present.

I have been reflecting on this for the past few days and I finally had an “ah ha” moment.

Jake and I are family.

Marriage is a funny thing because while you love each other intensely on your wedding day you don’t automatically feel like family just because you said “I do.” You do become family that day. You vow to be there for each other no matter what. You publicly proclaim your commitment to your spouse. But you don’t necessarily feel like family.

We both lived close to our families our first year of marriage which perpetuated the myth that our true families were the ones we grew up with. They are our families – most certainly. But this new person who we have vowed to be with is our family too.

I am sad my parents and brother are not going to be here for Thanksgiving. Even though I told them not to come, I was pretty bummed when the clock struck six last night and we were supposed to be at the airport picking them up.

But it’s times like these that remind me that my husband is my family too. And after Thanksgiving, we will have one more memory to solidify this feeling. Not the reality, that we are in fact family, because that’s always there. I’m talking about the feeling, deep down inside.

Perhaps we’ll even make a new tradition. (Pecan and pumpkin pie for example)! And we will be in our new home. Our very own home that we bought together.

I’m not sure what the day will have in store but I do know that I am grateful to be spending it with my husband, my family, my love.

Day 17 – Imagining the worst

Last week I found out some news that really scared me.  My dad had been experiencing bruising and pain in his foot for several weeks and then woke up one day with a rock hard, swollen calf muscle. He had an ultrasound done and it revealed a blood clot.

I don’t claim to know much about the medical profession at all. However, oddly enough since we moved to North Carolina I have met a significant number of people who happen to work in healthcare. Nurses, doctors, the works!

So I went straight to them to find out how a blood clot forms, what the treatment entails and any and all other details about what has happening in my father’s body. I have since learned that one of the biggest risks is that the clot could become dislodged and travel up to his lungs or heart. Scary.

Daily my sweet family crosses my mind and I pray for my dad and the rest of my family way out in California dealing with doctor’s appointments and the stress that comes from health issues. It is hard not being nearby to just drop in for a family dinner, games or any other spontaneous “hang out” time.

As I processed this news over the weekend I immediately started imagining the worst. I found myself feeling distracted and blue for days.

And then it hit me.

The worst is not what’s happening. What’s happening is a challenging health issue that can be resolved if certain steps are taken. If my dad is consistent with his medication and follows the doctor’s orders the clot should eventually dissolve.

I think sometimes we falsely believe that focusing on the sad stuff, the “what ifs” proves somehow that we really do care. We feel guilty if we manage to smile amidst our sadness and worry.

Imagining the worst doesn’t solve anything. It only serves to depress us and keep us from moving forward.

Sure, feel sad when you first receive bad news. That’s natural. And feel free to allow your emotions to take their course. But don’t allow your imagination to take you places you don’t need to go. Because imagination, by very definition, is not based in reality.

My thought? Don’t waste your sadness on something that is not even really happening.

Be realistic. Be hopeful. Be grateful.

Remember that time is precious. And tell your friends and family you love them.

 

 

 

 

Day 16 – On life’s twists and turns…

Crazy story. Every other week I attend a large women’s small group. The first hour we all listen to a speaker present on the study topic and then the second hour we break off into smaller, table groups. I confess, it’s been about a month since I have attended so I don’t know the other women at my table very well (minus the friend I actually joined the bible study with).

So last night there were only four of us at the table, plus our leader. We really got a chance to get to know each other better and I couldn’t help but think that one of the girls looked so familiar. Yet, I just couldn’t place her. At the end of the night it finally hit me. She had interviewed me for a job once and needless to say, I did not get the position! Awkard.

The table discussion eventually ended and I was debating whether or not I should say anything. On the one hand, I had no idea what she thought of me seeing that I didn’t get the job. However I wasn’t sure if she recognized me and I did not want things to be weird in the future if she did.

Turns out, she did remember me.

Here’s the kicker: The first thing she said to me (after confirming that I was in fact the one she interviewed and didn’t choose!) was “Wow, God really protected you from a horrible environment!” She went on to tell me how dysfunctional the workplace was and how the other woman who interviewed me ended up getting fired shortly thereafter. The gal in my bible study no longer works there either (by choice).

I couldn’t help but think… we have no idea what’s really going on in a situation, outside of the small part we are involved in. It makes me think of a Where’s Waldo (or some other crowded picture like that), where your eyes are zoomed in on Waldo only. And then you slowly move the picture away from your face and gradually begin to see everything else that’s going on. Those pictures are chaotic and so is life sometimes.

There is so much more going on in our lives than the teeny, tiny area we live in. And the teeny, tiny circle of friends we associate with. There is so much more.

Here are my takeaways from this oddly comforting encounter last night:

  1. Remember the bigger picture. Don’t get stuck in the minute details of life.
  2. There are reasons for things that we don’t always understand. Sometimes we find out the reasons later and sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we have to make a decision to accept reality before we fully understand why our circumstances occured. Don’t get me wrong, this is hard! But it often brings about a sense of peace that is even more powerful than understanding.
  3. All of our lives are impacted by the lives of others. Say for example, you apply for a job and you don’t hear from the company for weeks. In your life, this job opportunity might feel like the most important thing going on. But for the employees of the company, there might be other meetings taking place and deadlines to meet. Making a decision about the job you applied for might not be the first priority on a long to-do list. Recognize that what’s most important to you might not be most important to others. It’s not that it isn’t important at all, just not most. Timing plays a part. The needs of the other people involved play a part. Be patient. Take a deep breath. Wait.

Life can be really confusing at times. And really hard. But it doesn’t always have to be as hard as we make it. And we can choose to accept the confusing stuff for what it is and keep pressing on.

So that’s my encouragement for you – press on!

Day 15 – Some Serious Inspiration

The gorgeous and fashion-savvy, Giuliana Rancic, reporter on E! Television,  promoted 31 Bits last night, an awesome organization benefiting internally displaced women in Northern Uganda. Rancic and many others have enjoyed the fabulous jewelry made by the talented Ugandan women. So many of us are searching for ways to partner with those in need, especially this time of year. Perhaps you’ll choose to join forces with this incredible organization.

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“Who knew recycled paper could be so stylish?”

– Giuliana Rancic

Here’s why I love 31 Bits:

  • The jewelry is made from recycled paper!
  • The mission is simple: Empower the Ugandan women to use their skills and rise out of poverty to purposeful and productive lives (my words, not theirs).
  • 31 Bits is not just about helping the women make money. Programs are offered to teach English, personal finance and foundational business skills. There are community support groups and HIV/AIDS education to provide holistic care to the women. By the time each women finishes the program they will have learned the skills necessary to provide and care for themselves on multiple levels.
  • The women make jewelry which is purchased monthly by 31 Bits to provide stable, consistent income.
  • The values of the company are solid. Loving and respecting the women is of utmost importance.

31 Bits has also been spotted by Delightfully Chic! Check out “I Spy” today and view some of the standout pieces! Delightfully Chic always has displays the latest and greatest in fashion!

To learn more about the organization’s mission or to go shopping click here:

31 Bits

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