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Words of Encouragement from an Unexpected Source

Today I was searching for a specific email from someone and I was scrolling through tons of old correspondence. Suddenly, one jumped out at me and hit me like a brick in the face. It was the last email from my mother-in-law, Betty. She passed away in October 2012, after a very brief battle with acute Leukemia. And yet seeing her email was like she had just walked through the door or called on the phone. It made her presence seem real once again.

Those who knew Betty, can attest that she always cared about others more than herself. And, when it came to her children or family, there was no question of her unending love and concern. It was very common to get a note in the mail, or a news clipping of an interesting or helpful story from her. Although she was seldom one to send email “forwards” – the message I found today included a quick message from her and a forward of some wonderful advice.

It was such a simple and yet profound list – and it came from such a precious source – that I wanted to share it here:

1) Pray.
2) Go to bed on time.
3) Get up on time so you can start the day unrushed.
4) Say “No” to projects that won’t fit into your time schedule, or that will compromise your mental health.
5) Simplify and unclutter your life.
6) Separate worries from concerns.
7) K.M.S. (Keep Mouth Shut).
7) Get enough rest.
8) Eat right.
9) Exercise several times a week for optimal health of your body and mind.
10) Write down thoughts and inspirations.
11) Remember that the shortest bridge between despair and hope is often a simple ‘Thank you GOD…’
12) Laugh.
13) Develop a forgiving attitude.
14) Be kind to unkind people (they probably need it the most).
15) Talk less; listen more.

These “words to live by” have inspired me today, like they did when I originally read them. And they caused me to think of the wonderful woman who first shared them with me. I hope you will receive some encouragement from them today as well.

When the Answer is…Wait

There’s really nothing easy in life. Whether it be losing 100 pounds or changing careers or choosing a new school for a child.

My family has been undergoing a lot of transitions recently. We’re faced with many important decisions. And we’ve really been seeking God for answers. And still, we wait. Do you ever find yourself in that position?

I’ve heard a lot of sayings over the years that should serve as some comfort. Things like, “waiting times are not wasted times” and “delayed blessings are not necessarily denied blessings.”

I guess it’s then when you really have to dig in deep to find your faith. Live your faith. And you have to trust that the God who created you is big enough, strong enough and capable enough to guide you in the right direction. Actually, it’s never God I doubt; it’s myself. It’s wonderful when He makes things so obviously clear that there’s no denying it’s His will.

When I was cast on The Biggest Loser up against hundreds of thousands of other applicants, it was obviously God’s will for my life. When I was able to work hard and lose the weight that had held me back for so much of my life—God’s will. When we were able to jump through so many hoops and cut effortlessly through red tape to execute the adoption of our precious little boy quickly and smoothly, it was obviously God’s hand at work.

So what about when things don’t fall so precisely into place? What then?

What if you have a weight-loss goal and the scale isn’t budging? You know it’s in God’s will to lose weight and get healthy and be a good steward of the body He gave you.

What if you have a goal to break a bad habit or make a positive personal change? But you can’t seem to conquer it and instead you are filled with anxiety and defeat.

It’s then that what we are truly made of comes through. I find scripture to be very enlightening and helpful during these times. God’s Word is more than just a little pat on the back and the utterance of a cliché from a well-meaning friend. If we can wrap our minds around the power and truth of scripture I think we can all draw great strength during these waiting, anxious times.

Here are two in particular that are blessing me at this crazy time in life. I share them with you in the hope that whatever struggle you may be facing will be made better by resting on these same promises from God.

  • “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
  • “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5)

As you read this, my wish is that you’ll be encouraged if you, too, happen to be going through some “waiting times.” Be sure that God has a wonderful plan for your life! Stay strong in your faith and it will come to pass.

A Spiritual Spin on Frankenstein

It used to be called “Sunday School” when I was growing up.  Nowdays, we call it “LIFE Group” at my church.  But you know what I’m talking about, right?  — The gathering on Sunday mornings to talk about real life issues and study the Bible and spiritual things.  I am blessed to have a great teacher.  He’s always spot on with the lessons.  So this week’s topic was a little…um…unusual to say the least.  It was – of all things – “Frankenstein.”

Now you may ask yourself (as I did), “What the heck can you derive spiritually from the story of Frankenstein?”  Ahhh, I am glad you asked.  Because as our teacher began to weave the intricacies of the legendary story, I actually had an “a ha moment.”

I must admit I wasn’t too familiar with the classic story.  I mean, truthfully my knowledge of Frankenstein is pretty limited to watching “The Munsters.”  And ironically, Mary Shelley who wrote the story was not a Christian, but there is a significant spiritual correlation.

Here’s the deal:  Dr. Frankenstein created his monster sort of on a whim.  Out of arrogance it seems, he wanted to see if he could do it.  So he combined parts from the morgue and the slaughter house (let that one really sink in for a minute).  With very little regard for making the creation much to look at – the end result was rather repulsive to the doctor.  As a result he was disgusted by the results of his efforts and abandoned the monster.  He spent much of his time either trying to hide from him, ignore him and even later on kill him.

The monster, on the other hand, longed for a relationship with his creator. He was lonely.  When he was abandoned by the doctor who created him, he rebelled and wreaked havoc on everyone and everything he could as a result…with disastrous consequences.

The point of sharing this story in a spiritual context is to say that we are so blessed that our “Creator” not only looks on us with love and compassion; but He took the time to make us perfectly and in His own image.  Fearfully and wonderfully, we are made.  He says we are the apple of His eye.  And He longs to communicate with us.

How awesome is that?

There is a lot of talk about Frankenstein-type stuff at this time of year.  So the lesson from this past week was timely.  And the contrast between the two creators (Dr. Frank and God) makes me extremely grateful to have been created by the latter.

The Connection Between Forgiveness and Weight Loss

There are a lot of contributing factors to why people are overweight. I think that prejudice against obesity is probably the last remaining “acceptable” prejudice in society today. That doesn’t make it right; but I know I certainly felt the sting of being treated differently because of my size.

Genetics plays a big part, no doubt. And poor choices regarding food and exercise obviously yield negative results. Of course there are some legitimate health issues that contribute too. But sometimes I think the source might be a little more subtle, as evidenced by a conversation I had with a friend not too long ago. The conversation was about—of all things—forgiveness.

She shared with me that she had been plagued recently about the nagging need to forgive a person from her past. This was someone who had said and done some very hurtful things to her. Things—until now—she hadn’t been able to (or willing to) let go of.

Yet ironically she didn’t consider that those things might have been part of what contributed to her increasing size over the years. It just never dawned on her.

Well, through the course of some events that some might call coincidence (I prefer to think of them as divinely orchestrated) this person just out of the blue contacted her. And the door to forgiveness was opened.

My friend said she felt like a new person afterwards. And ironically, this experience rejuvenated her desire to lose weight and get healthy and rebuke all the negative feelings and comments this person had placed on her years and years ago.

I’m sharing this story because I think it contains a valuable truth about weight loss and good health. Forgiveness can truly “set you free” from the things that are holding you back from achieving the life you have always wanted and deserve to live.

Maybe today is the day that you need to think about what you’ve been holding on to that may be holding you back from personal success.

I’ve said before that everything that “weighs us down” is not related to the number on a scale. But maybe they are interconnected. You owe it to yourself to take an introspective look and see what you might need to release in order to be figuratively and literally lighter.

Which Wolf Wins?

As school starts back and other activities continue to heat up I find prioritizing and focusing especially essential. You can probably relate. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have a busy life nowadays.

Priorities. Where my heart is. That’s what’s on my mind as I write today.

That topic reminds me of a story that a friend emailed me a while back that contained such wisdom. She didn’t know the origin of the story, and yet it’s apparently been around for years. Here’s my best paraphrase:

A wise Cherokee Indian was talking to his grandson. He described the battle that goes on inside of people and he compared it to two wolves. He said one wolf possesses the characteristics of anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, inferiority and ego.

The other wolf possesses the characteristics of joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, generosity, compassion, truth and faith.

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “In this battle, which wolf wins?”

To which his grandfather simply replied, “The one you feed.”

A simple story, but so powerful.

We may not be able to control our circumstances, but we can control our priorities. We can choose which desires of our heart to pursue and we can control “which wolf to feed.”

Whether it’s a personal struggle with your weight, or self-esteem or it’s a battle you have with another person—decide today which wolf you’ll feed. Decide what you want your priorities to be and what the true desire of your heart is.

I just heard a saying that I had never heard before but I absolutely love: “You will never possess what you do not pursue. Pursuit is the proof of your desire.”

A Lesson from Soap and $20

I while back Dove (the soap) sponsored something called “Dove Self-Esteem Workshops.” I thought it was a great idea, because let’s face it – we are ALL influenced by the media whether we like it or not. These workshops were part of a larger campaign the company established as an agent of change to inspire and motivate girls and young women to embrace a “wider definition of beauty and self esteem.”

After my life-long battle with my weight, I am very aware of the hits a young psyche can take in regard to these issues. And the truth is, it doesn’t necessarily get easier as you get older.

The Dove Campaign stands out in my memory because it was designed to create new ways to view beauty, body image and self esteem. I loved the concept, especially in today’s society that preaches that thin and airbrushed is the true mark of beauty. Covers of magazines can make us feel like normal isn’t good enough. But the concept of inner value superseding that of outer appearance isn’t new.

The whole thing reminds me of a story I heard a long time ago but continue to remember because of the impact it made on me. (You may have heard it too —but it’s worth repeating.)

A well known speaker started off his seminar by holding up a $20 bill. In the room of 200, he asked, “Who would like this $20 bill?”

Everyone started raising their hands. He said, “I am going to give this $20 to one of you but first, let me do this.” Then he proceeded to crumple the dollar bill up. Then he asked, “Ok, who still wants it?”  Still the hands went up in the air.  Next he dropped it on the ground and smashed it into the floor with his shoe. He picked it up, now it was all crumpled and dirty. He asked again, “Does anyone still want it?”  Still the hands went into the air.

He concluded the session with a valuable lesson. No matter what he did to the money, the people watching him still wanted it because it did not decrease in value. It was still worth $20.

Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled, and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way. Our struggles—whether it be with our weight, or relationships, or finances—or whatever make us feel as though we are worthless.

But no matter what has happened or what will happen, you will never lose your value in God’s eyes. To Him, dirty or clean, crumpled or finely creased, you are still priceless to Him.

In the Presence of the Father

We recently had a couple of little visitors stay the night with us. They are the children of some of our good friends. And on occasion, we (the parents) host a sleep over to give the other set of parents a night off. This was actually our first time to host the over-niter.

Our three-year-old, Jaxon, was so excited all day long about their visit. And they played hard the whole time they were here. They ran their little legs off outside and after their baths that night they chattered away until it was time for ‘lights out.’

We had decided to put all three boys in sleeping bags in the play room. They were all piled up with their blankets, stuffed animals and all the necessary supplies to get through the night when all of a sudden Jaxon had a meltdown. He said he was scared and wanted his daddy.

Try as I may, I couldn’t settle him down. There would be no substitute that night for his father.

So Mike came in the room and – at Jaxon’s request – lay on the floor with him. Jaxon nuzzled up close and in minutes was sound asleep. For whatever reason, he just wanted to be in the presence of his father.

Aren’t we all a little like that sometimes? There’s nothing that comforts or soothes our souls like being in the presence of our Father. And sometimes try as we may to fill that void with other things, we just can’t be at peace until we are nuzzled up against our Heavenly Father, spending time in His presence and enjoying the comfort of His company.

Using Our Gifts

 I recently heard of a lady who was leaving her church after many years as a member. At first I thought, “Well, that’s not always a bad thing. Sometimes God leads us to different places and different ministries throughout life. Change is good.”

But then I heard the reason she was leaving. Apparently, the choir she was a long-time member of had a tradition of singing grand “choir specials” each Sunday morning. I know exactly the type of musical number she’s talking about! Big, orchestra accompanied songs with a soloist and strong choir back up. I grew up in a church that had those and they are beautiful and certainly one way to sing praises to the Lord.

But this lady felt that since the choir wasn’t doing much of that any more that meant she could no longer “use her gifts” and therefore she was leaving the church she had called home for many years.

Now, I don’t know this lady. And I haven’t discussed this topic with her – so this is just my unsolicited opinion. But I believe I can use my gifts when I am in the car all alone singing to God on the way to the grocery store. I can use my gifts sitting on the back row of church with nobody looking as I raise my hands to praise God for what He’s doing in my life. I can use my gifts when I hold a baby in the nursery on the Sunday I signed up to help there.

If truly we are concerned with an Audience of One then it seems like it doesn’t matter how grand or visible the display of our gifts and talents are; our God sees them and it pleases His heart. And that’s the one I care the most about.

Dare to Dream!

I think one of the biggest challenges we all face is time management. It seems like we are busier than ever. But one thing I’ve found in my own life that I literally can’t afford to let go is my daily “communication” with God.

People call it different things. Some call it a quiet time. Some call it their daily devotional. As a busy wife and mom I have to carve out a time in my day to talk to God. And more importantly to listen to Him.

With this in mind I’ve just started reading Living God’s Dream for You, by Julie Clinton. What I love best about this book is that the daily readings are short; they contain scripture and a little prayer at the end of each entry. I don’t mean it should be used as a substitute for more in-depth prayer and scripture reading, but it’s a great way to start a busy day.

But what prompts me to write this week isn’t the book in general—but something I learned from it in particular.

With Julie Clinton at a recent Extraordinary Women Conference in Macon, GA.

In the early pages of the book I was taken by a quote from Dr. William R. Bright, which says,“Whatever we vividly envision, ardently desire, sincerely believe in, and enthusiastically act upon must inevitably come to pass, provided there is scriptural authority for it.”

Wow. That spoke to me in an amazing way.

Of course we can’t just whole-heartedly believe we are going to win the lottery and expect it to come to pass. God doesn’t work like that.

But if we have a dream, and it doesn’t contradict God’s will for our lives, then there is absolutely nothing wrong with aggressively and confidently pursuing it.

Julie Clinton writes, “You may think that circumstances determine whether you can live out your dreams, but I disagree. I’ve come to believe that there are two kinds of people in the world: those who sit back and resign themselves to the way life is, and those who refuse to give in. The second group chooses to live boldly despite the obstacles they encounter.”

I want to be part of that second group!

I was exhilarated to read the confirmation that the difference in those who live their dreams and those who don’t is not circumstances, it is attitude. Such a simple truth, but still life-changing if you believe it.

I’ve been blessed over the past few years to have had some amazing experiences. But I still have dreams! Big ones! And I am going to vividly envision these dreams…ardently desire them…sincerely believe in them…and enthusiastically act upon them as though they will come to pass.

My prayer for you is that you will grab hold of whatever your dream is—and live the same way!

Quiet, please.

The Power of Positive Thinking, by Guideposts founder Dr. Norman Vincent
, was published originally in 1953 and I recently read that it has sold
somewhere around 26 million copies worldwide.

It’s not surprising that it is filled with meaningful insight that is still relevant today.
I wanted to highlight one aspect of the book in particular this week because it has taken on
great meaning for me, especially in recent days. That concept is the daily
practice of having a time of nothing but quiet. The prescription Dr. Peale
recommends is for 15 minutes of absolutely no noise. Don’t try to organize your
thoughts. Don’t read. Don’t write. Just listen.

Silence is a precious commodity for me. The balancing act of wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend,
author and speaker—although all of those roles are precious to me—can leave me
tired and needing renewal. I am sure each of you can relate to the various
demands that fall on all of us. And I have begun to understand with a growing
appreciation the value of something as simple as quietness.

I have recently tried to implement this 15-minute rule in my own life. Some days I make
it, some days the quiet doesn’t come until I collapse into bed at the end of a
busy day. But on the days that I can snag a little piece of solitude early on, I
realize so many benefits. I can listen to God. And sometimes the silence reveals
the very greatest truths to our hearts and lives from Him.

I firmly believe this practice is making a difference in my energy levels, productivity
and patience throughout my day. Isaiah 30:15 says it best: “In quietness and
rest is my strength.” Make yourself a priority by treating yourself to 15
minutes of unscripted solitude. You’ll be amazed at the blessing you receive.