A Different Perspective on Re-Gifting

Chances are that this Christmas you will probably receive a gift you aren’t particularly thrilled with. I’ve received my share of less-than-usable gifts over the years and I have given plenty of them too.

I will never forget, for example, my grandmother’s inability to hide her unimpressed reaction upon opening a bird house I gave her a few years back. I laugh about it now, but surely we can all relate to this experience. So what do we do with the items we don’t have a particular use for? Well, we re-gift them of course.

People have vastly different opinions of the practice.  But we have probably all done it —the practice of re-wrapping and giving away what you have absolutely no use for.

This season I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of re-gifting. But not in the typical way you might think. I’ve been thinking about all I have been given that is worth giving away. This past year has come with many highs and lows like they all do. But God has certainly been gracious to me. I’ve been blessed with many opportunities and blessed by many people. It is those things that I will be re-gifting this coming year.

If you have received forgiveness; re-gift it. If you have received mercy; re-gift it. Likewise if you have been the recipient of any good thing: friendship, laughter, trust, patience, grace—why don’t you make a point to re-gift that in this coming year?

Christmas will be here in just a few days.  And my prayer for you this week is that you will have a wonderful time with family and friends and that you will spend some time remembering the real reason we celebrate at this time of year. And amidst all the gifts you receive this week, be thinking about the important things you can re-gift that can make a difference in someone else’s life.

Merry Christmas!


How do you know if a washcloth is clean?

Our kids really do provide us with so much joy and laughter.  There is never a dull moment at our house…and rarely ever a quiet one either.  Jaxon, who is three and a half, is such an outgoing, active, funny, wonderful kid.  We had a very “interesting” exchange this morning, that I thought was worth capturing in writing.

I was washing my face and he was in the bathroon with me.  Nothing unusual about that.

As I had my face all lathered up with soap, Jaxon said, “Mommy, I need your help.”

“Hold on a second, sweetie,” I replied.  With my eyes tightly shut to avoid the sting of getting soap in them I felt around the basin of the sink for my washcloth — but I couldn’t find it.

Suddenly a sweet little hand offered it up to me.  I took it and finished drying my face with it.

“Now,” I said afterwards, “What was it you needed my help with?”

“Oh, nothing now, Mommy.  I just used your washcloth to wipe my pee-pee off the toilet seat.”

I guess it’s true, in the job description for moms — you’ve gotta wear some pee, throw-up and a little bit of everything else to get the job done.  I just shook my head and  laughed outloud at Jaxon…

…and then washed my face thoroughly again.


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.”


Paper Hearts

I spent last week in Indiana.   I was invited to speak at three nights of “Planned Potential Rallies” for a group called a Positive Approach to Teen Health (P.A.T.H.), which is an incredible educational nonprofit organization committed to equipping, empowering and encouraging  teens to make healthy choices.

I’ll just be completely honest, although I was excited about the opportunity to talk to hundreds of kids in the NW Indiana area, just as much of me was a nervous wreck. I mean, seriously, do you know how tough a crowd a bunch of kids are? Even if they love you – you’d never know it by the expressions on their faces. (Fortunately, that was not my experience with the kids at the P.A.T.H. Rallies.) Everybody from the staff to the kids in the audience to their parents made me feel welcomed and appreciated and understood. But this experience was like so many others – I spoke to myself as much as those in the audience.

I once heard it said, “We teach BEST what we most need to LEARN.”

Isn’t that a great saying? I wish I had thought of it myself. But regardless of who came up with it originally, its truth rings loudly with me. My whole “platform” – for lack of a better word – over the past few years has become sharing about the WORTH we all possess. It’s something I struggled with all my life until just a few years ago. Even as a Child of God – I just couldn’t get it. I always thought God was mad at me for being fat. What I have since learned is that instead of mad, He is mad-LY in love with me! 

As I prepared in the weeks prior to my trip to Indiana about what I’d share with these kids, it was kind of a cathartic experience. Because I wanted to share my own experiences as a teenager and pre-teen. And…well…quite frankly, those were not the happiest, most “powerful” days of my life. In fact, it made me sad to think about some of the things I went through. But what made me the MOST sad was that all of the nasty, hurtful things people said to my face and behind my back…I believed. I let those people and their words determine my value and my worth.

I thought a lot about what I would most want to tell myself if I could go back to that time in my life. Because I have come to know that what you believe about yourself will not only impact your present, but it will determine your future.

On the first of the three nights I spoke, I was looking through my notes and I found this crumpled-up heart made out of construction paper. It was from Noah. The handwriting was hard to read and there were many misspelled words. It was obviously from years ago. And I have no idea how it got lodged in a stack of my current papers. I hadn’t seen it in a long, long time. But as I sat there before I spoke and handled the little paper heart made so lovingly by my oldest son, tears filled my eyes and my own heart just melted.

At that moment I wouldn’t have traded that little heart or the lesson it taught me for a sack of gold. Not because it had any intrinsic value in and of itself. But because I adore the one who made it for me. Because of the value I place on my son, this token of his love for me was…priceless.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

As I concluded my time with the kids at the rallies I showed them the paper heart. They were unimpressed. Not a single one offered me anything for it. They failed to see the value in what I considered precious. But after I explained to them where and who it came from…I could see the lights going off in their eyes.

I left them with the words that I leave with you in this blog: Don’t let anyone else determine your value. Only the one who created you and loves you unconditionally can do that. And He has already been VERY clear about how He feels about you. To Him, just like that little heart is to me, we’re priceless.


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.


Be Proud if You are a Pigeon

I love my kids.

I will be honest, sometimes their behavior can be frustrating, but they are also among the greatest joys of my life!  My husband and I often look at each other (as if to console ourselves) and say, “Life would be so boring without them.”

Today is a special day for our family because it is the culmination of my oldest son Noah’s Summer Drama and Music Camp.  And tonight will be the end-of-camp production of “Alice in Wonderland.”

Noah has been cast as the wildly popular, and very prominently-known role of “Pigeon.”

Now, I don’t know about you but when I think of the story of Alice, the first characters that usually pop into my mind are Alice, the Mad Hatter, and of course…the Pigeon.

NOT.

Noah is very familiar with the story.  Mostly the Disney version.  And he didn’t recall this role either.  He even scoured the Internet to see if he could “verify” the legitimacy of the Pigeon in the story.

But none the less, he has tackled this part with all the gusto and enthusiasm that I know has to rival the enthusiasm of the child with the lead.  He has run his lines over and over…in the car, at the dinner table, in the shower, before bed.  He has just exhibited such commitment to this.  In a role some might think not as important as some of the others, not only has he not seen that or bought into it but he has taken this responsibility and RUN with it!

And I am so proud of him, and actually, inspired by my 10-year-old.

It reminds me that we all should take the same attitude with our lives.  Even the simple, ordinary things that we do – should still be done with EXCELLENCE.

And you know what?  I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if he pulls it off tonight, if the next time he has a larger role.  You just never know what could happen through his hard work, determination and positive attitude.

“If you are faithful with the little things…you will be faithful with the large ones…” (Luke 16:10)


A Powerful Life Lesson…from a Couple of Dogs

You know it’s funny how simple things can really make an impact on you.  For example, I learned a valuable life lesson from a couple of dogs.

Marty, is a Miniature Schnauzer and Sam, is a yellow Labrador Retriever. They both belong to my pastor.  This story he shared in a sermon really made an impression on me.

When Sam was a puppy, Marty would exercise his dominance as the “alpha male” and eat his dog food and then go over and eat Sam’s too.

Now, many, many months have passed, and Sam outweighs Marty by almost four times his body weight. But guess what happens when Marty finishes his own food? He goes over to Sam’s bowl and Sam cowers down in fear as Marty proceeds to gobble up both bowls.

Sam reverts back to the mentality of a six-week-old puppy. Even though his size and strength far exceeds Marty’s now; he has a defeated mindset that he can’t overcome.

This illustrates to me the danger of living too much in the past. It can keep us focused on the wrong things. If we remember the bad things from our past—the mistakes and failures—it can freeze us in the present and hurt our prospects for the future. It causes us to say things like: “I’ll never…” or “I can’t…” or “I messed up too many times to…”

But there’s got to be a delicate balance in our thinking. The fact is the past isn’t all bad. I believe God wants to use the past. He wants to use the positive and negative to build us up and prepare us for the future.

I communicate with people almost every day that share stories about feeling defeated in their attempts to lose weight or make changes in their lives. They are scared of change, and they are defeated by their past. I try to encourage them to just take that first step to move beyond the past and into the future.

Whenever you begin to make changes in life, it may be scary but more than that it’s going to be exciting. Sometimes when you begin to make those changes things feel beyond your control. But when that happens, just remember that God is in control. And as the scripture tells us, His strength is made perfect in our weakness. Rest in that reality and make a change today that will impact all your tomorrows!


The Ant

I love the New Living Translation of the verse from Proverbs 6:6.

“Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones.  Learn from their ways and become wise!”

Now, I’m not talking about the fact that they can absolutely ruin a good picnic.  But other attributes in these little creatures can actually be inspirational.  A quick Google search turned up these interesting observations:

  • Ants can carry up to 50% of their own body weight.
  • If an obstacle lies before an ant, it finds a way around the obstacle.  Traveling over, under, through or around it.
  • An ant will never up until the destination is reached.
  • Determination is embedded in an ant’s personality.

How many times do we get discouraged by an obstacle that lies in our way?  So what is it so easy to do?  To just give up.

But if we exercised the tenacity of a little ant and made determination an embedded part of our personality, how much could we accomplish?

Let the simple things (like an ant) be your inspiration today.  There is plenty in God’s creation to inspire and motivate us all!