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Here's My Mess

April 4, 2011

I am trying to be completely honest. I am anxious, overwhelmed, and fed up. I am currently up to my eye balls in stuff. My office is an absolute disaster, and it took me a few minutes to clear a spot on the desk just so that I could type. My first thoughts were to make a pot of coffee, clean up, finish putting all the cds that are scattered around, into their spots (alphabetically), go through some of my inbox (at least half), and dust those last few shelves. Since we’re being so honest and open here, now is a great time for me to tell you how hard it was to ignore the piles of stuff, clear a path to the keyboard, and get writing. I knew I had to do it though. This is part of my problem…the perfectionist part. I can’t stand to do anything (that’s important) while sitting in a mess. I want everything perfect, all lined up, with my coffee, so that I’m inspired. I guess really, it’s because I don’t think I could write something of any depth, while being swallowed alive.


As I mentioned yesterday, it’s another one of those ‘clean slates’, or ‘restart’ buttons. I really wanted my desk to be clear before I could write. Now the one thing I did give in to, was the coffee….that one’s not negotiable just yet. I’m actually quite proud of myself at the moment. Here I sit with mounds of junk at my sides trying my best to type. The actual “a-ha” moment didn’t really come until I started writing. This is how it’s supposed to be written. Me in a mess, barely coping, and struggling to find a way to write in all honesty. I guess you could say it’s my raw footage.


Today’s Mess


Today didn’t start off that bad. I spent the morning with Hannah, and really enjoyed our time together. Of course, one thing that made the morning so comfortable was that we went to Tim Horton’s for coffee (apple juice) and a bagel. This is definitely one of those areas that needs an overhaul in my life, but we’ll get to that later. It wasn’t until I got home that I really started heading downhill. Depression took over for the remainder of the afternoon, and I hardly did anything.


Regular Messes


For the past few months (I’m embarrassed to say), I’ve been attempting to tackle the office. I don’t just mean dusting the shelves, either. I mean going through everything… I’ve really made it quite far, actually. I have gone through every file in the filing cabinet, figured out what we needed and what we didn’t, shredded, re-labeled and organized the whole two drawers. I guess the thing I should be proud of myself for, is that I am truly doing this job. I’m not just giving up half way like usual (by stuffing things back into boxes, drawers or nooks until its gone).


So now here I sit, with my coffee. What is it that I need to say? I guess it’s that I want to be clear about starting this process genuinely. I want to get across the fact that this is not like me to reveal my thoughts while in this kind of a mess. Except, unlike the controllable mess in the office, there is a lot more uncontrollable mess going on around me. It’s not the kind of mess that you want to jump in and clean up. It’s the kind of mess that wants to destroy you. It burns you out physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. I am starting this process on the bottom. Pretty much everything in my life is a mess right now – the bad kind. It’s strange, because although I felt paralyzed several times today as I sorted things out into piles, what I was really paralyzed with was the battle going on on the deeper level. The uncontrollable part. I’m in this mess, any way you look at it. If I am going to share this process with anyone, it’s going to be the raw footage.


I’ll share more about the areas of my life that are in ruins, just not today. Today, I want to focus on the office mess around me. I want to give myself a pat on the back for even attempting it. I want to leave this entry tonight knowing that I didn’t start from my clean slate. I started in the mess. That’s going to be the only way for me to get through this – is by actually drudging through it all.Instead of pretending it’s all cleaned up, I’m going to make myself deal with the mess openly. How do I expect healing and growth to take place when I know what is hiding in the drawers of my heart? The verse that comes to mind tonight, is “Come, as you are.” Here I am Lord. Here’s my mess…


Photo: Flickr by kelsey.p Starting Overjpg

Imperfect

January 16, 2012

So here I stand imperfect, baring all – what God is doing, where I’m going, and why. It’s the ups and downs, twists and turns, tumbles, falls, and going the wrong way. For so long, I have had the desire in my heart to write. Not just write anything, but to write about my life, and its lessons. I’ve never really known why I felt the need to share my story, but I trust that the reason is out there somewhere, waiting to be revealed. It’s never been easy to start to write, because I keep doing false starts. I will be the first one to admit I am a total perfectionist. I’m the kind of person that will waste an entire piece of paper, just because my handwriting wasn’t good enough, and I would start again, fresh, on a new sheet. The same thing with games on my phone – if I have a bad start, compared to what I know I could have achieved, I will hit ‘restart’. I mean, there is no point continuing in the game if I’m not going to beat my high score, right?


Well, this past year has been what I would consider one lousy game. I keep the ‘restart’ going again and again in my head, but somehow it’s not working. The sad thing is, as soon as I realize things are are not going well, I see how low I actually am. Almost like I’m on the bottom level of the game, and have so much ground to gain back just to get to where I once was. Why can’t each mountain we climb be the starting point of the next? Why is it that the mountains I’ve already conquered, are no where to be found? It’s a cruel lesson to learn to know that our lives are not meant to be climbed one rung at a time. Sometimes, after our biggest achievements, we fall a few feet down. We learn how to get up, and start climbing again. Could God be showing me that no matter where I start over from, there will always be a day, or month that could be worse? It’s not like my life is just going to get better and better each day I ‘play’ – in a way that always beats my high score! In the little wisdom I do have, I know that the game I play today, is probably much more mature, and skilled than the game played by the four year old. Just the same as I am sure my character at 36 years, will seem so childish when I’m an old woman looking back on my life.

Even though I will gradually grow in wisdom and maturity, it’s not just going to be the mountains that get me there. The valleys are the “trials in life that will develop our character so that we may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” as noted in the very first chapter of James. Right now, I’m in the valley. So I am guessing God wants to expose the part where my character is developing.


So, STARTING NOW: This is the point where I jump off and dive in. No matter how lousy tomorrow goes, or how pointless it’s going to seem writing about the events of my life – I know that I need to do this…now. This starting point is not a proud one. I think I would have to say the past year or two have been the worst of my life. I’ve had my share of starting over’s, but I never seem to get anywhere near my high score. I would describe my high score as a place where peace is present. A place where I am in a deep loving relationship with God, confident in whatever comes my way. The high points are the ones where I feel like I am a work of art, being used to speak into the lives of others. Those are the moments I am so proud to stand tall, and share the pains that have brought me through. After all, the trials I had faced made me a better woman. But what happens when you’re asked to be an example, and ‘bare all’ when you’re at the lowest point of your life? Somehow that does not seem fair. It’s a feeling like you’re going to be made a spectacle of. Like people are going to look at you, and what you have to offer the world, and they’re going to laugh. Why would anyone want to follow along with my life, when I seem to be failing? Aren’t those the times, you pull back, keep to yourself until you get your self together? Not only would no one care to know what I have to say through the low points, but why would I want to be so vulnerable? I’ll be humiliated.


This is it. This is the place in my life He wants to show. The ugly part. The part I try to keep hidden. I know why He wants me to reveal my pain – it’s to show His grace. He wants to take a broken, lost girl, and make her whole. He wants to speak to others though I am at the bottom. Why? I don’t really know. The neat thing is that it must be something pretty good that He’s going to do in me, if He wants me to share it. That should be reason enough to let this be the starting point, and the difference that it will make, is yet to be seen.


Image: Michelle Stam

Taking Inventory

May 1, 2013

Taking inventory is really the best place for us to start. Now that the site is launched, it’s time to move forward, so here we go! I cannot believe it is the beginning of May! After a long winter, spring is finally here. Time for growth! Usually I am so excited about change, growth, and development, but I’ll be honest, I’m kinda pooped out right now. The thought of challenging myself to be a better wife, mom, friend, etc. just sounds so exhausting! Maybe that is just because there is so much rebirth that needs to happen in my life (and that’s an understatement!). So for me, taking inventory will give me an idea of what work I really have ahead of me.


Taking Inventory…a Critical First Step


In order to arrive at any destination, taking inventory is a critical first step. We do have to start somewhere, and in order to start somewhere, we have to be honest. We have to get a good, real look at where we are before we can even consider moving forward. Start taking inventory. What is holding you back? Why? Who are you angry at right now? What are you afraid of? Questions like that may be hard to answer, but we also have to ask some easier ones. What do you want for your life? What makes you happy? What excites you? Once we start answering those questions, we will have a pretty good idea of our starting point.


So let’s start this journey together. Let’s begin taking inventory. Where are you starting from? Where do you want to go? Let’s share with each other. Let’s encourage each other. Let’s grow together! 

Image: Courtney Dirks

Who I Want to Be

May 6, 2013

Who I Want To Be Vs. Who I Am


Who am I? Sometimes I don’t think I even know the answer to that question. It’s funny that one of the biggest questions I’ve had in my life, is one about the very person I spend every moment with. You would think I would know that by now, right? Some days I am filled with optimism about who I am, and what I can offer. Other days, I either don’t have any idea of the person I represent each day, or worse, I can’t stand the person I see facing me in the mirror. The question to be asked is, How do I know who I am and who I want to be?


I saw a book with this title. “The Me I Want to Be.” It captured my heart at the core. I have always been a goal driven, risk taking chick that wants to ‘better myself’. But who is it that I am trying to become? I am forever thinking about who I want to be. Am I being moulded by the world around me, or by a God that has my best in mind? How do I become the woman I am meant to be? What if I missed the exit? Can I do a u-turn and go back? Of course! That’s what being a child of God is all about. I want to open up the discussion about how we can listen to God, and adapt our life to his purpose. Who is the You that You want to be? Is that the same as what God wants for you too?


Who I Want To Be Like Most – My Heros


When I was 5 years old, my mom and I had the amazing opportunity to have a missionary come live with us for a year. At that time, we had just lost my father, and my mom had just become a christian. Obviously, I was at a very impressionable age. That’s an understatement. I know that God had so much more in mind, when he had Carol Ann come live with us. Not only did she serve as a mentor for my mom’s baby steps as a christian, but she became all I wanted to be. To start with she had beautiful red hair like I did (or should I say I had red hair like she did?). Anyway, that was the very beginning of a little girl’s life, in the eyes of a Heavenly Father that loved her unconditionally. I cannot say how much this godly woman influenced me, except to tell you that she sang. So I sang. I sang my little heart out, from the age of 7, taking voice lessons, writing songs, and even went as far as travelling to over 30 countries in music ministry. Well, I am proud to say that she is still in my life, and I still look up to her so much. Heros aren’t always perfect, but in my eyes, Carol Ann was the greatest example of what I wanted to be. Non joke, that year when she first came to live with us….I even dressed up as a missionary for Halloween. Go figure. I wish so bad that my mom had taken a picture, as I am sure it was a sight to behold! 


Image: Michelle Stam

Who am I Now?

May 8, 2013

Who am I now? I know, most people just ask the simple, yet complicated question Who am I? But me, I’m asking that in a much more complicated way. Who am I NOW, asks about where I am on the road of life at this present time. When I think about who I am, I think about the main qualities and characteristics I have. You know, the things I’m good at, or not so good at, etc. But on this journey that we’re taking here, we’re gonna need to not only look at the who am I, but the Who am I now?.


Who Am I Now – The Good


Ok, so this part may be hard for some, and easy for others. How quickly could you write a list, jotting down the very best of what you have to offer? What are your strengths? What do people compliment you on? What do people ask for your help with? It’s probably not too hard to come up with at least a few things. Remember though, we are looking at the now, not who you impressed in Grade 5. The reason I want you to look at the good, is because we need to always remind ourselves of the positive side. If we are to grow, we need to draw strength from the areas we know we have a little more anchored, so to speak.


Who Am I Now – The Bad


Ok, so given the last paragraph, you had to know this one was coming, right? Well, let’s get serious here. What is going on in your life that is not so great right now? What is something that you have needed to go to someone else for help with? Is there anything you wish you just had a little more of, like confidence, or skills in a certain area? Not that I want you to spend too much time here, but jot down a couple things that are not so good about you right now. When I ask myself Who Am I Now….The Bad? I am thinking, I have been a little inconsistent lately. I’ve been a little moody, and short with people around me. Those are the first couple of thoughts that come to mind. So, no rocket science here – just a couple thoughts….ask youself, “Who am I now – the bad?”


Who Am I Now – The Ugly


Ha! Yes, you must be brilliant if you knew this was up my sleeve! Now be easy on yourself. The last thing I want is for anyone to dig up all the past garbage from their entire life. But, at the same time, let’s get real for a moment, shall we? What is the ugly right now? What is beyond the bad, and is starting to take a hold in a negative way in your life? Is there a behaviour you’ve been hanging onto for a little bit too long, and you know that it is hurting those around you? Is there a habit that you have known deep down that needs breaking, but you will not give it a second thought? Until we dig down and yes, take a good look at the ugly, there is no way for us to move forward in our lives. “Who am I now?”, is the question that really tells us where we are on the map to where we’re going.


Who Am I Now – The Map Who Am I Now? Compass


If you think about taking a road trip, you know that there is usually a lot of planning that goes into it. You need to have a destination in mind, of course. But that is what we discussed that last post (Challenge #3). You also need to have a starting place. Think about when you enter an address in your GPS. It asks you where you are starting from, right? It asks you to either enter the address you are leaving from – or your “current” location. This is what I am getting at. If it was only as simple as telling your GPS to track your current location, huh? But, no. We have to put a little bit more thought into it than that. If you had to think like a GPS, what would be the ‘current’ location you would pick up on your location in life? Once you have been able to calculate those coordinates, you should be able to ask yourself with confidence, Who am I now? All we are looking for is a starting point here. Just remember we all have a starting point, and we all have a destination. We also all have the good, the bad, and the ugly.


Image: Flickr by stoneylittleprincess change me

The Big Picture

May 10, 2013

Have you ever been going through something in your life, and had someone tell you to remember the “big picture”? I know, at the time you probably didn’t really appreciate the comment. Especially when you’re knee deep in a big mess. I am here to tell you that though! Although it can be hard, looking at the big picture keeps us a little more anchored. When we’re dealing with something that is overwhelming, it’s so normal to get lost in all the details of whatever the situation is. It’s like our focus is out of whack with all the little bits swarming us. However, looking at the big picture can be just what we need to regain our focus.


Step Back


Sometimes when we are going through something difficult, it is so easy to feel like you’re drowning in it. Because we get so overwhelmed, so quickly, it feels as if the issue at hand is the only thing going on. However, if we just stop being obsessed with the crisis at hand, we can get a look at the big picture around us.


When it seems like everything is swirling around you so fast, try taking a step back. There is nothing that will give you more perspective of the big picture, than taking a breath, stepping back, and looking at the situation as a whole. Start asking yourself questions that may bring the whole thing into clarity for you. What is it about this issue that bothers you the most? Why? What started things going wrong? Is this something you can change, or is it completely out of your control? See how just a few questions can make you realize you’re not drowning? Keep asking yourself questions, until you feel like you have a better perspective of the issue at hand. Once you realize you’re standing on the dock at the lake, instead of drowning in the lake.


Zoom Out!


The big picture includes so many aspects that we would normally miss, for looking so closely. When you look at the picture I posted for this post, what does it make you think of? I know for me, when I am having a difficult day, or when something is really bothering me, I feel like I’m just an ant on the trail. I’m getting stepped on, squashed, barely able to keep myself walking, let alone figure out how to solve my problems. But there is so much more to the picture than that. There is a path there. There are lots of things to see that are around you. Can you gain any understanding of your situation by looking around and not just at!?? Then look at the steep terrain…did you just come to the top of that hill, maybe? Is that why you’re exhausted? It looks to me (if you pretend for a second that you’re the guy in the photo), that you’ve just come up from below, and once you make a few little jaunts, you will have some downhill sections! See how just zooming out from being the little ant on the path, to examining your surroundings can help you see the big picture?


We Have A Guide


I love symbolism. I love interpreting stuff, and finding different meanings all around me. You’ll find that a lot in my writing! This picture says so much about what we live each day. Now that we’ve learned to step back, and zoom out, looking at the big picture shouldn’t really be that hard. But now think for a moment, that this picture was created by someone. A picture, created by an artist, that has a very specific plan in mind. That’s really what it comes down to now. There is the path that we mentioned before. Only we’re not walking alone. We have a guide to help us see the big picture. He wants us to grasp every single detail along the way. See, it’s in those details, that He wants to teach us something. Something about ourselves. Something about trust. Something about the whole reason we are here. It may not be a perfect cement sidewalk, or have perfect lighting. But the point is that we have a guide, who loves us and have the very best in mind for us.


See The Big Picture


So next time you feel like you’re drowning in a daily issue, whether it be a relationship, a financial hardship, or personal quest – remember that by taking a step back, and zooming out we are more likely to see so much more. But more important than anything else, remember that you are not alone. There is someone there to guide you and help you along the way. He has the big picture in mind always. He knows what the end of the day looks like. He knows what the end of the path looks like. He knows every struggle and success you will have along the way, and they are all to help you grow into the person you were made to be.


Image: https:[email protected]/6292389802/

5 Confidence Killers

May 13, 2013

Confidence Destroyers? Want to kill your self confidence? Do the following five things.

Confidence Killer #1 – Worry about what other people think.


One of the best ways to destroy any confidence you have in yourself, is to worry about what others think. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in other people’s opinions, especially when those opinions pertain to us, or our lives. I know for me, there are certain times that I happen to worry more than others about what people think about me. It’s kinda funny, actually. When I think of it, it’s usually the same type of people that I worry about, and they’re not usually people that matter to me. Go figure! Now if you must be concerned with anyone’s opinion, make sure it’s someone that you look up to, and definitely make sure it’s someone who loves you for who you are.


Confidence Killer #2 – Depend on others before yourself.


Another great way to lose self confidence, is to become more dependent on others than you are on yourself. The reason this is a dangerous area, is because all of us have within us a knowledge of who we are and what we’re good at. When we use the skills that we know we have, or when we act on the experience we have gained in life, it builds our confidence in ourselves. However, when we lose sight of the positive traits of our own, it can go down hill fast. When we start to depend on other people around us, for the very things we normally could offer, it’s a slippery slope. What happens next, is that we start to depend on other people more and on ourselves less. This just causes us to lose touch with ourselves and the strengths we knew we always had. For the unfortunate situations in our lives where we actually do have to depend on others a great deal, we just need to remind ourselves of the strengths we have, and not lose sight of them.


Confidence Killer #3 – Allow others to determine your actions.


Our self confidence will always go down if we allow other people to determine what we do. When we are confident in ourselves, we can usually trust our gut instincts. However, when we start to wait for the actions of others before we decide how to act, there is a problem. You see, if we really know ourselves well, and have confidence in who we are, we should be able to act the same way, no matter what others around us do. If we don’t want to destroy our confidence, we have to be sure not to wait upon others before we decide how to act.


Confidence Killer #4 – Wait around for affirmation from others.


Waiting around for someone to give us compliments, will always destroy our confidence. Of course, there are those times when we are hoping to receive the compliments we desperately need to hear, and we actually get them. And boy, does that ever feel good. But, the point I’m trying to make here, is that we cannot ever guarantee that someone is going to say something positive. If we are waiting for that affirmation before we can feel confident in ourselves, we’re risking losing confidence. Same as the #3 example, if we cannot rely on the affirmations we have of ourselves, how can we ever really know true confidence.


Confidence Killer #5 – Think of every possible moment of failure you’ve ever had.


Last but not least, if you want to destroy any possible chance of having self confidence, all you need to do is recall all your past failures. I don’t know about you, but I am pretty sure we all do it. You have a bad day, where everything goes wrong. You come home, and start to dwell on the terrible day you had. Before you know it, you are thinking about the bad day you had last week, the condescending way your boss spoke to you once when you really screwed up, and every single negative time that your memory can muster up. Why do we do this? Because once we start thinking a certain way, our brain automatically tries to match similar experiences. So my suggestion for when you have a really bad day?? Try to think of all the reasons why your day was incredible.


Image: Alyssa L. Miller

5 Confidence Boosters

May 15, 2013

Confidence Booster #1 – Believe the best, (not the worst) of what people tell you about you.


When someone pays you a compliment, do you shy away, and tell them they’re wrong? How about when someone says something really nice about you or something you’ve done? Do you believe them? I know sometimes it’s hard to believe the good things people say about us, but it’s a great way to build our confidence. When we look at ourselves, we often know the positive traits that make up who we are. However, sometimes we don’t give ourselves enough credit. sometimes it can take the perspective of someone else to really hear some good things about ourself. So next time someone pays you a compliment, add it to the many awesome things you already know about yourself! It’s a great confidence booster!


Confidence Booster #2 – Take action when it’s hardest.


When things get really difficult in life, it is so easy to just sit back and ride the wave. the last thing we want to do is make things any harder for ourselves, right? Well, just putting in a little more effort, especially when it’s hard can reap so many rewards where our self confidence is concerned. When we slow down, and lose momentum, it can knock the confidence out of us, and make us feel lousy. However, when we take action, no matter how hard it may be – it gives you a huge boost. It may not always turn the situation around, but knowing you took action on something that needed your attention will make you feel better. You will also feel more confident for doing it during a difficult time.


Confidence Booster #3 – Reach out and help others with their pain.


When we feel low, I cannot think of a better way to boost our confidence, than by reaching out and helping someone in need. When we can set aside our own problems for a while, and put someone else’s first, it can give us a feeling that is incredible. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing how your friendship can really lift someone out of a rut. It really makes you feel better that you took the time for someone you care about, and it gives you self confidence because it makes you feel good that you were able to help someone.


Confidence Booster #4 – Find out what makes you smile, then do more of it. What makes me smile?


If you ask me, no one smiles enough these days. You walk into a bank, and smile and say hi to the teller. She looks at you like you’re from another planet. Why? Because she’s not used to people smiling for no reason. Has this happened to you? Even at home, I know that if I come in the door and smile at my husband or kids, the first thing they would say is, ‘What?’. So what have you experienced when you smile? I am sure you will get a few smiles back, and it just makes you want to smile all the more.


Another thing about smiling, is that we so easily forget what makes us smile. All it takes is being aware of the times we crack a smile, and taking note of what it was. Then all we need to do is recall those thoughts, and think of them even more! What makes you smile? Jokes? A child’s innocence? Reading? Really put some thought into what it is that makes you smile, and use that to boost your confidence even higher.


Confidence Booster #5 – Celebrate every success you’ve had.


To have success in boosting your self confidence, you must let go of the failures we experience throughout life, and embrace the successes, no matter how small they are. I know that for myself, it is easy to look at the negatives in my life, and get down. However, even the very small successes I have, I have learned that I need to celebrate. When I focus on the things I haven’t done right, or the things I have completely messed up, I just feel like crap. But what will always boost my self confidence, is to recall and celebrate all the things I have done right.


Image: J3SSL33

Trying: Is This What it Looks Like?

May 17, 2013

Those that know me well, know that I almost always can look at two sides of the coin. I was thinking lately about the word ‘try’. It has so much meaning behind it. When we try, no matter what it is, there is something inside us that comes alive. I don’t necessarily mean something exciting, but something freeing. When we make efforts at anything (whether the motives are good or not), we are investing a part of ourselves into the outcome of a situation. If we are genuinely trying to achieve something, and we do accomplish that, the confidence in ourselves builds. On the downside, when we put that effort into trying, and it doesn’t happen, it can be absolutely devastating.

Just think of a time when you really tried to do something and were successful. Now think about how amazing it was to succeed in that effort. I know my next example might seem a bit off from where I am wanting to head with this idea, but stay with me. Trying. It makes me think of a really cheesy soap opera, where the actors are over-exaggerating every little bit they can for the sake of the character they’re playing. The creepy music starts. Enter the sneaky villain, who just got away with murder (yes, we all know it happens weekly on soaps), turns aside, looks off into space with a mischievous grin. Exactly! They’re thinking to themselves, “YES! I pulled it off! No one will ever mess with me again (as they raise their left eyebrow, still looking off into space).” That is just the kind of confidence I mean, that happens when we succeed at anything that we try. Now in my example, the villain is accomplishing something horrible, with really, really bad intentions. However, the point is that they succeeded in their efforts and it made them feel good! Now let’s turn the scenario around a bit. We now have the sweetest, prettiest, little goody-two-shoes stumble upon the crime scene as the villain is staring off into space (work with me here). She just happens to have the number to the police on speed dial, and calls it in, and in doing so they catch the murderer (who actually thought she had gotten away with murder), and everything is made right in the world again…or at least until tomorrow’s episode. Think of how satisfying it would be for the goody-goody to shed light on a crime that otherwise might have gone unpunished. It would feel pretty darn good. So let’s come back to reality for a minute here, shall we? What do you think? When you really make an honest effort at something – whether it’s morally good or bad, how does it feel when you succeed? It makes you feel really awesome.


…But I Tried So Hard!


So now to shed my opinion on the other side of the issue. What about the times when we don’t have success with something we put our effort into? I know from experience, that no matter how hard I try sometimes, the fact that I didn’t quite hit the target, can really hurt. Like the time we feel so sorry for ourself for the tireless efforts we have put into something, but no one noticed. We say, “I’m trying so hard!” or “Can’t they see I’m trying?”. What about the times when we were trying to do something that we really knew deep down was wrong? Often when we try at something, it can be for horrible reasons. How does it feel when you fail? Regardless of the intent, if we fail at something we were really trying to do, it feels pretty nasty. For the villain that was trying to seek revenge, the pain of what her friend did just hurts all the more. If we fail at something that had good motives behind it, it can be just as equally devastating knowing that your efforts weren’t good enough. I know for me, there have been so many times that I have had such a hard time understanding the outcome of a situation, just because I knew deep down that my intentions were good. If our intentions are well meaning, why can our efforts be misunderstood, or ignored? Because that is just the way life is. Just like the murderer really couldn’t care less that the goody-goody just wanted justice and peace in the world. If that isn’t good intentions on the part of Miss Goody, then what is?


Try, Try, Try Again


I really just wanted to dive into the thoughts surrounding the word ‘try’. It is a heavy word. Full of intention. Intentions for good. Intentions to be selfish. Intentions to help someone. Intentions to hurt someone. Intentions, intentions, intentions. Though the motive behind our trying matters, it amazes me how the success or failure of our efforts can build us, or knock us down.


Image: http://farm1.staticflickr.com/28/56184930_b29c8aa665.jpg

Starting Line

May 20, 2013

Calling All Runners to the Starting Line!


Starting line, everyone! On your marks! Get Set! Go! If you are reading this for the first time, we are on Day 1 of our 90 Day Challenge. We’re starting this Challenge that will touch all aspects of our lives. Although each of us will be running our own race, with our own goals in mind, we will be running it together. The purpose of these daily Challenges is to get us thinking about where our starting line is – and to keep the end in mind at all times.


Daily Challenges


The Daily Challenges (yes, 90 of them), will be there to guide you through some of the things we all need to think about when we’re making life changes. No matter how big or how small, we can’t just meet our goals with no effort involved. That just wouldn’t be changing, would it? There will be lots to think about, learn from, and comment about. Of course I can’t forget to mention there will be a whole bunch of fun (uh, and some not so fun) challenges! Right now, the thought of challenging myself to be a better me sounds so exhausting! Maybe that is just because there is so much rebirth that needs to happen in my life (and that’s an understatement!).


A Starting Line Means There’s a Finish Line!


So join me at this starting line. Let’s do this journey together. Let’s share with each other. Let’s encourage each other. Let’s grow together! The starting line is super important cause it’s where the magic begins. But if there’s something even more exciting than the starting line, it’s the FINISH line! But we have to start somewhere – so let’s go! I’m so excited to see our growth.


Image: Steven Depolo

Fresh Start

May 22, 2013

Fresh starts and I have a love-hate relationship. On one hand, I love the thought of starting something new. A clean slate. A blank page. There is something about fresh starts that give you hope again. It means that no matter what lies behind you, there is always something new at your doorstep, waiting for you to find it. On the other hand, I find there is always some sort of guilt with having a new start. It’s almost as if I know somewhere deep inside, that I don’t really deserve a new start, and I need to go back and clean up any old messes I made.


Is a fresh start what grace is all about?


Grace says that fresh starts are real. They sit on our doorstep every morning, whether we deserve them or not. The amazing thing about having the chance to start over, is that first moment. You know the moment I mean. It’s the split second when you think about the exciting possibilities of what could lie ahead. It’s so freeing to be in that moment, when you can just about imagine anything, and know it just may happen. After all, you’re starting over, right?


I’ve referred to it before, like playing a video game. You start a new game, and you’ve got all the ‘lives’ there, you still haven’t messed up, and you don’t plan to. Then, as if it’s a shock to us, we do mess up. We make a fatal error, and lose a guy…then the next guy….then the life of the last guy standing…..game over. Game over? No. We just hit Restart, and start fresh all over again. 3 lives, no errors…you get the point.


I’ve written about this topic so many times. I’ll explain why. It’s because I am addicted to starting over. Sometimes I just love the idea of a new start. Yet more often than not, I face the new start with a guilty heart. Do I really deserve a fresh start? Did I really give it my all? Or did I know that if I messed up, I could always go back and start over?


Well, if I really look at Grace – I have to recognize that there is no guilt and no shame in starting fresh. Sure, I can’t just go do whatever I want, knowing that there will be a new start waiting around the corner. I really have to make this new start be as if it were my last one. I have to try my best. Yet, even though I need to have my intentions in line when I hit that restart button, I still know deep down, that I don’t have to be perfect. That I am not expected to be perfect. That there will always be a fresh start if I really want to start again.


So with the coming year – of course it’s a fresh start. The new year always is. But so what if we mess up our diet by having that one cookie? What if being on time is just a little harder than we thought it would be this time round? I think GRACE says to keep at it…keep trying, don’t give up. So let’s make those goals count. Let’s really aim at achieving them. But let’s also remember that there is a restart button that always lets us try again.


Image: Stock Free Images

Pressure of Life

May 29, 2013

The pressure of life. How does it affect you? Does it make you bitter or better? Pressure. When you test something to it’s limits, quite often we don’t know those very limits until it’s too late. Once a balloon has popped, there is no blowing it up again. For us humans though, the pressure of life works a little differently. I mean, there are those times when life get so stressful for us that we ‘lose it’. Some people have nervous breakdowns, others have heart attacks. When we are not familiar with the limits within our own lives, it can be much like a balloon ready to pop. It doesn’t have to be that way though. We do not need to be damaged by the pressure of life.


Pressure of Life & Peer Pressure


The pressure of life can take on the form of peer pressure. The pressure of our friendships can influence us to behave certain ways. Sometimes in good ways, but quite often in bad ways. How does the pressure of life affect your peer relationships? Does it bring out the better qualities in you as a friend? Or does it cause you to cross a boundary line that you wouldn’t otherwise cross? Maybe the pressure of life causes you to take advantage of the friendships you have around you. How about how your peers react to the pressure of life? Does that change how you act? I’ve found with my health, there is a lot of peer pressure when it comes to food. I am sure you all can relate. When everyone in the house is on the same page, it’s great. Whoever gets the groceries, makes sure there are lots of veggies, and ingredients to make yummy shakes. We all ask each other what kind of shake we had that morning, and swap success stories. But it doesn’t take long before someone caves, and comes home with ice cream, or a bag of chips, or even worse, suggests we go out to eat a ‘quick’ dinner. Then it’s not so easy to stay focused, is it? When I see John munching some treats, it is so easy to think, ‘Well, he is cheating, so why can’t I just have a few?’ It’s almost worse than having temptations yourself, because it is so easy to blame the other person.


Pressure: Being Put On The Spot


How do you do when you’re put on the spot? Most people don’t like it. We get uncomfortable. Basically, it’s being forced to deal with something that we weren’t prepared to deal with. The thing is, we don’t know what we know until we’re tested. I remember studying back in university. You’d pay attention to the lecture, take great notes, and study. But for some reason, when trying to cram for an exam, all you really were sure of, was how much you didn’t know! Studying, studying, and more studying. Then you close the book and test yourself. Somehow, what you knew you knew just five minutes ago is gone! Why does that happen? Do we really not know the answers? I think we are just far to good at putting pressure on ourselves. I learned over many years, that the less pressure I put on myself, the better I perform. If I put in the effort, and then trusted myself, I was usually ok.


The Pressure of Life as a Pressure Cooker


So here’s picture for ya. If you were inside a pressure cooker (which is probably not that hard to imagine, as we put ourselves in that kind of stress everyday!), what would happen? Think of all the ingredients thrown in:


  • the bill that came in the mail today
  • the note that came home from the teacher
  • the voicemail you got from your boss saying you need to start at 5am tomorrow
  • your husband phoning to say he’ll be home late from work
  • getting into the car, already running late to where you’re going, and seeing the tank on empty
  • calling to say you’re going to be late, your phone dies, and the charger is in the other car
  • your little one saying she needs to bring cupcakes tomorrow
  • your bigger one saying he needs help on a big project that he forgot about – due tomorrow
  • you step on the dog, hurting yourself AND him.

and so on.

You get the picture. I know you do. Unfortunately in this day and age, this is probably a normal day for most people. I know your day would look a little different, with other stressors getting thrown into the pot. The point I want to get to though, is what happens after those ingredients (or pressure of life staples) are thrown into the pressure cooker? What about after the spicy sauce has been added, and salt and pepper to taste? Worse yet, what happens after you have been set on cook for a few hours, and all those ingredients are swarming around you?


We Always Have a Choice


How do we behave during hard times? There is nothing like pressure to bring out the worst in us. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. We could decide to let it bring out the good in us. We could choose to let the hurdles of the day shape us and mould us into better people. We could add humour to the situation at hand, and smile. There is nothing that dictates that we have to let is ruin or destroy us. It’s up to us how we handle the pressure. Going back to the pressure cooker, let’s let those ingredients and spices add to our flavour, and add character. Let’s let the dish turn out better as we mix all the stuff together. We always have a choice.


Image: Mark Scheffers

Measuring Diet Success

June 3, 2013

Diet Success? What does that mean?

Ok, so here is it – the end of my 90 Day Challenge. Would I say I was successful? I guess. It depends on what you mean by success! How do you measure diet success anyway? Most people would say if you lose a zillion pounds, and look great in a little black dress, you’ve been successful. But what is a real measure of diet success?


What does the scale say?


Obviously, the scale is one of the most commonly used ways of measuring diet success. If you’re like a most of the dieting world, you hop on the scale as many times as you pass by it. I know if I speak honestly here, I would have to admit that I do jump on the scale way too much. Does it help me any? No. Why do I do it then? Probably because there is always the hope that one of those times, you’ll all of a sudden see an incredibly low number, just magically appear. How dumb is that? Most of the time, it’s the same number that it was the previous two times, or has gone up. I’ve heard that one of the ways to measuring diet success (and not going insane), is to only weight yourself once a week or even less often. Maybe I should try that. Either way, diet success should not be measured by the scale alone. If it was, I’d have given up long before now!


What do your clothes say?


Well, if you ask me – this is one of the better ways of determining your diet success. There is nothing worse than trying to pull on a pair of jeans that just refuse to go. Or worse yet, painfully succeeding at pulling on the tight pair of jeans, only to not be able to move around, sit down, or even breathe. That has got to be one of the worst feelings of being overweight. Not to mention, the way your confidence drops when you happen to be in the presence of others while you are not able to breathe. But, let’s look at the other side here for a second. Gotta think of the ways to measure diet success here, not failure! How incredible does it feel to pull a pair of jeans on that are usually the ‘I-can’t-move-or-breathe’ kind, only to find that you slip right into them, curves in the right place, and voila!, you can actually do up the zipper without lying down on your bed!


I’ve heard it said before, in fashion articles, or on makeover shows how having the proper fitting clothes can make or break your fashion statement. Not that I am often trying to make a fashion statement. I think quite often, people dress a size or two down from what they should actually be wearing (either because they are either in denial about the size they really are, or because they have added some pounds and not had a chance to go shopping yet). It’s sad that we actually do this, because from what I’ve learned – it actually makes you, and your body look better to be wearing the correct size, regardless if it’s the size you want to be wearing. The reason I am saying this, is back to the way we measure diet success. If we have lost any inches (not necessarily pounds), and our clothes fit better, not only do we feel better, but we look better in those same clothes that once had us turning blue. So, is the scale the only way to measure our diet success? Absolutely not! The way our clothing fits us, is a great way to measure that success.


Measuring the Inches


One area that can be easily missed when we measure our diet success, is our actual measurements. I know the clothes fitting better are a good indication, but sometimes that is not even entirely accurate. Some of us lose inches in certain places before others, and it’s certainly possible to lose inches where our clothes don’t exactly show. I am kicking myself now, because I was going to measure myself just for that very reason. But I didn’t. I will be doing this on my next challenge though.


Bottom Line


Really, the bottom line is that there is not just one way to measure success of any sort, let alone diet success. There are so many ways to see progress that we have to remember not to get discouraged when we are just looking in one area for success. More than anything, I keep telling people that I am feeling so much better than I was, and for me that is the greatest way to measure my diet success out of all. I’ll take that any day over pounds, inches, or clothes fitting better. And that says a lot.


Image: FlickrDietSuccess

I Procrastinate Because...

June 11, 2013

Yes, I procrastinate. By definition, procrastination is the act, or habit of putting of or delaying, especially something requiring immediate attention.

Now if I had put a little more thought into yesterdays challenge, which was to do something I find hard to do, I could have added it to today’s challenge to it! Didn’t plan it that way, to be honest, but if you read yesterday’s post, you’ll now that Day 1 needed to be Day 1. Today is Day 2, and today I am meant to to another hard thing for me to do, and that is to quit procrastinating about something. I guess it’s a good follow up to yesterday, in that it’s continuing to build on the little realization I made yesterday about the fact that we sometimes just need to keep on trucking. So today, I needed to find a new area that I am putting off, or delaying, and according to the definition above, it was looking like it should be something that required my immediate attention!


So the long list in my mind started building. I’ll tell you there were a lot of things I could have dealt with today that would narrow my list of procrastination a lot. So how do you think I decided? I tried to think about each of the things I’ve been delaying or putting off ( or my definition: ignoring), and I put a little more thought into the ‘why’ about the reason I procrastinate. I learned a lot! So without further ado, let me tell you that one of the things I procrastinate on each month, is doing our family budget. Some of you will be thinking, What? That’s something important! You can’t put off doing that! But let me assure you – you can. Especially when funds are tight at the moment, and the numbers look like big mean numbers. If you know me, you know that I am not fond of numbers, finances, or mixing the two with mathematical functions, even if done on a calculator. So, I took the previous 3 months (yes I was that behind), and dug in. I got a new app on my ipad, for a cool looking calculator, and away I went. It was hard for me. I already have a hard enough time making the numbers be cooperative, but to top that off, my attention span these days is not the greatest. Regardless, I did it! And it felt awesome, once I was done of course!


Why Do I Procrastinate?


I came up with quite a few reasons why I procrastinate. I want to share them here, because it was coming up with these reasons, that gave me a bit more motivation to just get those budgets done today.


1) I Procrastinate because I’m afraid.


Being fearful of something that you are required to do can cause so much anxiety. First you have to realize what it is that you are really anxious about. Is it because someone is relying on you? Is it because you are a perfectionist, and you are worried about not doing your very best? Maybe you get really afraid because it is something you are either not familiar with, or it’s something you know nothing about. For me, like I mentioned above, I hate numbers. I hate math. I hate budgeting, so I procrastinate. Next time I feel anxiety about doing the budget, I am just going to remind myself that it’s simple math (that I can do), and it’s so rewarding once it’s done. Not to mention helping my family’s household expenses!


2) I Procrastinate because I am a perfectionist.


I don’t know about you, but if I have a chunk of time on my hands to start working on something that needs my attention, I pretty much run the other way. For some reason, the thought that comes to my head, is that I just don’t have the time to devote to that particular thing right now – even though that may not be the case. Some things we can break apart into smaller chunks and do them little bits at a time. My thinking, however, is incorrect. Instead, I am somehow thinking that I need to start, do a great job, double check my work, make it all look pretty, and then finish it up all in one sitting. No wonder I never have anything done! To be honest, today I didn’t even want to tackle the budgets because I was worried that I would just not have enough time. Sure enough I didn’t. I ran out of time mid budget for the last month. Did it bother me? Ya, it did. BUT, that tiny feeling of frustration was nothing compared to the feeling of relief that I had most of it done! If I had waited until I knew I had just enough time to finish it all in one sitting, I probably would never budget again! Valuable lesson learned? When I procrastinate because I think I need more time or quality in a task, it feels better just to get started – even if I don’t finish. Now tomorrow, the thought of finishing the budgets is not overwhelming at all! I am actually looking forward to getting them done.


3) I procrastinate because I am too hard on myself.


Yes, I am very hard on myself. I often take on a lot of things for other people without realizing what I am committing to. I want to help others, and I want to do my very best for them. So I don’t always recognize if my time is strapped. Sometimes, just saying no to something that someone is asking you to do, is all you need to stay away from procrastinating. And boy, if you combine #2 above of being a perfectionist, and #3 about not being able to say no to people – you get a really messy picture. Then I procrastinate because I don’t have time to devote to something for someone else, and I’m held back even further by being so picky on the job I am going to do.


4) I procrastinate when I am depressed.


I know. What person in this world does not procrastinate when they’re down in the dumps? For some of us though, who deal with a great amount of depression, anxiety, and possible other illnesses, it can be debilitating. Well I have to admit here that the same solution from #1 applies here. If you just do something – anything towards that task, you will automatically feel better. Sometimes life throws us horrible stuff that we have to drag ourselves through, but don’t you always feel better once it’s done!!?? Next time you’re depressed and wanting to ignore or delay dealing with something on your plate – remember what a fantastic feeling you will have when it’s done.


5) I procrastinate when I don’t like what’s happening.


This one is a little harder to explain, but I do it all the time. I procrastinate when there is something in my life that I don’t like, or resent. Sometimes it could be something as little as waiting for someone to act, or waiting for something in the scenario to change. In that case, it almost seems justifiable to hold off on something, you know, to wait for the “right” time. However, if there is something that need to be giving time to, it’s a pretty good chance that there is something you could do now – not just when something changes.


6) I procrastinate when I am having fun.


Ya, who doesn’t !?? However if we are always putting off the harder things in order to have fun, or get through the easy stuff, we are eventually going to hit a big brick wall hard! Having fun is nothing bad. I am not saying that. But, if you don’t mix in a little of the not so fun stuff here and there, it will accumulate, and make procrastinating even harder to get over. Try to remember that. Next time you are having a lot of fun – just keep in the back of your mind some of the harder things that you are going to deal with soon, and then make a plan to actually do it. Better yet, do the harder thing first and then reward yourself with the fun.


So there are some of the reasons I came up with today about how I procrastinate. I think they are fairly normal reasons. Thinking through them really helped me accomplish the budgets that I needed to be giving my attention to today. I am so glad that today was this topic. It really opened my eyes to how much I procrastinate, and also helped me think through some solutions and benefits of pulling those pots off the back burner and just get going!


Image: BK

Break The Habit

June 12, 2013

Whenever I hear the someone say they need to “break the habit”, smoking is the first thing to come to mind. I don’t know why really. Probably because when I think about the term “break the habit”, it sounds like something serious, that ‘someone’ needs so do some serious work on. Not very often do I think of myself, or any habit I might need to break. I don’t smoke after all. I never did.


Do I have a habit or two, or ten that need to be broken? Uh, yes, I would have to say I do. But for some reason I don’t think of them as bad habits, until I consider giving them up, or trying to change them. for the most part, I just keep on going, with my little habits, like they’re doing no one any wrong. So guess what? That is today’s challenge. I know I won’t tell you just yet, what my number #1 worst habit happens to be right now, cause you’ll probably laugh. It sounds lame. But it’s a real problem for me. I’ll get back to you on that.


Break The Habit Without Even Trying!


A few years ago I used to have a real problem with eating out, and buying coffee out. Like all the time – multiple times a day. I couldn’t avoid about 10 Tim Horton’s that were obviously strategically placed all the way along my commute to work. It didn’t matter if I was late for something (which is another challenge all together), I would have to get my coffee. If we were on the way to, let’s say *anywhere*, we would stop to get a coffee. Even on the way to church! If you looked back on some of the writing I did from back then, you would see that I knew it was a problem….a bad habit. I knew I needed to break the habit, but the problem was that I didn’t want to. It’s one thing to break the habit, but it’s a whole other ball game, when it’s a habit you like.


Fast forward to a few years later, and I can honestly tell you that I doubt I even go out to Tim Horton’s once a month. Somehow, at some time in the past few years, I gave up the addiction, and found a way to break the habit of the coffee buying! I can’t really tell you how I did. I do know that it was gradual. For financial reasons, we started buying Timmy’s coffee, and just brewing it at home. But now, from where I sit, I can’t believe it! I know how hard it was to even entertain the thought before. But somehow, I got past it. I was able to break the habit, without really even trying! So that makes me ask, what would happen if I actually put the effort into a way to break the habit of something else?


To Break The Habit, Make Small Changes.


If you know you need to break the habit, don’t be so hard on yourself. Cold turkey may work for some people, but not for most. Try gradual changes. Before you know it, you may be closer to getting rid of that habit than you even realized. Remember that if it’s a habit you don’t particularly want to give up, it may be even harder. So don’t be hard on yourself. It may take a while, and that’s ok.


The Habit I Need To Break Now:


So now that I’ve got the buying coffee thing under control, I need to focus on another area. As most of you know (next to the coffee addiction), I have a real problem with getting to bed. I just love being up at night, and can easily stay up into the wee hours of the morning. However, with fibromyalgia, rest is one of the most important things I need. I know for a fact, that when I don’t sleep well, or get only a few hours sleep, I am in a lot more pain than I would be having had a good night’s rest. My health needs me to get the rest I need. My body, husband, kids, and friends need me to get the proper amount of rest. So! Today’s goal is to break the habit of going to bed late. No, it’s not going to be conquered tonight, but it’s one of those little steps in the right direction, right?


I would write a little more on this exciting topic, but the news is on, and that means I need to be getting to bed! Yay!!! I will let you know how I feel after a few really solid night’s rest. I expect it should be a positive experience.


Image: Craig Dennis

Real Friendship

June 13, 2013

What’s The Difference Between A Friendship And A Real Friendship?

A little while back, I had a bit of a miscommunication with a good friend of mine. As far as I was concerned, it was not a big matter, but to my friend, it sure was. Are you following? Have you had the same kind of thing happen, where you don’t really know what you did wrong, but someone close to you was angry with you? It’s not fun. I can tell you that. Fortunately for us, it was just a day or two to get it cleared up, and it was all good. However, there was a previous time this happened with another friend, and it didn’t turn out so good.


The reason I thought I would write about true friends today, is because this has really been on my mind a lot lately. The most recent incident made me really wonder whether the friendship was strong enough to stand up to the storm. I am so glad it was, and I secretly knew deep down, that this was a real friendship. Having been through a tough storm, where the friendship didn’t fare very well in the end, made me worry a little though. I will have to admit that.


What’s A Real Friendship?


What is a real friendship anyway? How do we define what is a good friend, and what isn’t? Unfortunately, we usually find out when it’s too late to run for cover. Often, when a friendship hits a rough patch, it’s something that comes out of left field, and we weren’t really prepared for it. I still to this day, don’t know why my old (ex?) friend took something I said so personally, and never let me explain what I meant by it. I never had the chance to try to fix it, or say sorry, or ask forgiveness. I mean, I did – but it was only through email and facebook, which is the only way I could get a message to someone who refused to speak to me. Anyway, it hit me out of no where, this feeling of not understanding what happened. The feelings of loss, hurt and wondering why the friendship didn’t mean enough to her for her to reach out to my efforts to save the friendship. The funny thing is that I thought that was a real friendship. I thought real friendships meant that you could speak your heart to someone and they would care about what you had to share. I guess I shared a little too much, or shared something that she didn’t like, and poof!, the real friendship was no more. But was it ever a real friendship?


How are we supposed to know what are real friendships, and what ones will not stand up to weather the storms? I definitely have some real friendships that always stand the test of time, and they are friends that have stuck with me through thick and thin. I do know what it means to have a solid friend that knows me better than I know myself. But these two friends that I am referring to here were fairly new friends. I have to say though, that when my most recent friend was hurt by something I did…something I didn’t even mean to do – I wondered if I was going to lose another friend to something stupid.


The Difference…


The difference that I have learned here, is that one of these ‘friends’ offered a real friendship. A real friendship that meant more than just saving face, and being stubborn. It meant admitting something that was painful, and having the guts to talk about it, even though it was hard. A real friendship means doing some hard stuff along the way to maintain, repair and even save a friendship. I realize some friendships are easier than others, and some don’t even require a lot of work. Some are a lot of fun and games. But to me, a real friendship stands out, when there is a hard time, and yet the strength between the two people remains.


What was the difference for me? Well, I think I handled both situations the same. That’s what concerned me, with my second friend. What if the same thing happened, and I didn’t have a chance to talk to them ever again? I was more hurt the first time, like I had been wronged and misunderstood. I slowly dealt with the loss, and moved on. Yes, to this day I don’t know really what happened to end the friendship. But I do know that it was not a true, real friendship. The second friend though? To say that I was terrified to lose them would be an understatement. The thought of that person not being in my life made me feel horrible. Lastly, the thought that I could have caused any hurt to this friend was enough to bring me to tears. That is what was difference from my end. Quite a difference, huh?


So I guess, it’s not only how someone treats you that determines if it is a real friendship. It’s not just whether someone will give you the time to clear up a misunderstanding, or even forgive you. It’s about how you feel about having them in your life too. Think twice about the kind of effort you would put into your friendships, before you waste time putting effort into the wrong ones. And think twice about the real friendships you have, and make sure they know just how much you appreciate them.


Image: Flickr:RealFriendship

How to Find a Friend

June 14, 2013

I would have to say that I am so fortunate to be able to say I have a lot of friends. I don’t consider myself someone amazingly exceptional or anything, but I do know that there is something about me that allows me to have a lot of friends. I am open. I am someone who likes people, likes to talk to people, and likes to care about people. To me, that is a couple of the keys on how to find a friend.


I thought I would share a different kind of blog post, on the things that I have found to be successful in finding and developing good friendships over the years. Friendships do take a lot of work, and please note, that the ideas I am about to list below, go along hand in hand with a lot of effort.


How to Find A Friend In A Group Setting:


So many people think that finding a friend is just something that ‘happens’, and although this can seem real, there is almost always something that will bring you to a place where you can find a friend. It could be a support group, sports, parenting group, art class – anything! For me, many of my good friends were people that I met when I joined a music group that traveled all around Europe. I know that you all may not have the chance to have such a unique experience as that, but let me assure you, you can find a friend almost anywhere people go. So, the next time you’re around people – just say hi – you never know, you’re newest friend may be just around the corner.


How To Find A Friend You Get Along With:


This one sounds a little odd, I know. Who would try to find a friend that you don’t get along with, right? However, this happens a little more than we would like to admit. Sometimes, we start up a conversation with someone, or meet a person through another friend, and instantly let them into our lives. Although there is nothing wrong with that, we just need to be aware that not all people we meet and chat with, are really going to be good matches for us. You really need to know how to find a friend with whom you have something in common (more than just that other friend, I mean!). Sometimes it may take a while before you realize that someone you’ve been putting effort into getting to know, really has nothing in common with you, and it makes for some awkward times down the road – believe me. If you want my advice on how to find a friend that you get along with, find someone who shares similar interests as you.


How To Find A Friend That Is Trustworthy:


Most people think it’s not until someone breaks your trust that you know whether they are a good quality friend or not. I don’t believe this to be true. When you first get to know someone, you can tell a lot about their trustworthiness by how they talk about other friends in their life. If they gossip or can’t wait to tell you what So-and-So did last week, don’t take it as a compliment that they want to tell you! That should be a warning sign of what kind of things they may be saying about you to someone else. To find a friend that will keep confidences, and not tell all your secrets, all you need to do is watch for how they keep the confidences of those around them.


How To Find A Friend Who Is Mature:


By mature, I mean that they demonstrate maturity in their relationships. It’s not always fun and games in life, and to have a friend that can be there to help you through hard times is important. Of course, mature relationships mean both parties can be mature and wise. So how do you find a friend who is mature? You want to look for someone who is good at listening and giving you good advice. By good advice, I mean you should look for advice that always brings out the best in you, and makes you want to be a better person. An example of good advice, would be for them to advise you to tell your sister how you really feel about her borrowing your clothes, instead of just ignoring her. An example of bad advise, would be for them to tell you to just go into your sister’s closet the next time she borrows your clothes without asking, and hide her favourite things. See the difference? One way, pushes you to do the right thing, or the ‘better’ thing. The other, just says to take a short cut, and who cares what the outcome is.


It Goes Both Ways…


On the other hand, like I said above, maturity in friendships goes both ways. You need to know how to find a friend who is able to seek out your advice on things that matter too. All of us need help growing and maturing, right? We don’t just have all the answers. We need help too. So finding a friend that always throws you advice, but doesn’t take your advice on anything, may not be mature enough for you. Sometimes it’s hard to suggest something to a friend that may be hard for them to hear. Yet, it’s a great way to show them you care. In return, it’s the best feeling ever when you offer good advice, and they respect your opinion enough to follow it.


How To Find A Friend Who Is A Real Friend:


To be honest, I think the best way to find a friend who will be a good one, is to see how all their other relationships are. Are they always in the midst of arguments, or ‘not talking to someone’? Do they have a good relationship with their family? How are they with their kids (if they have any)? How do others speak of them? Positively, or negatively? Regardless of how long it takes, to really find a friend that is worth having, it’s worth the time and effort. Lastly, to find a friend that is going to be there when you need them, not talk behind your back, and help you become a better person, you’re going to have to be a good friend yourself.


Image: Eflon

Consider the Good

June 15, 2013

Watch this short video about Considering the Good...

https://youtu.be/HewDapAtj5o


Mirror Mirror

June 15, 2013

Mirror, Mirror On The Wall…

When was the last time you looked at yourself in the mirror? I mean really, really looked at yourself. If you’re like me, you don’t really enjoy looking in the mirror, and do it as little as possible. Or maybe you’re someone who does look in the mirror often. Either way, this post is for you. What is it that you truly see, when you look in the mirror? Do you like what you see? Are you impressed? Are you embarrassed? Do you accept yourself for what you see?


What Do You See?


When you look in the mirror, what is it that you really see? Whether we’re self conscious or vain, whether we hate what we see, or love our hair – what we see depends on what kind of mirror we look in. What is the perspective of your view? Are you even seeing a true reflection of yourself? How do you really know that what you are seeing is the truth? It all depends on what kind of mirror you are looking into.


Mirror, Mirror In The Mud…


Ever looked at yourself in the a mud puddle? To be honest, I can’t recall ever doing that. However, I think we actually do it all the time. If you picture a really muddy puddle, milky, murky, and gross. There is not a lot to be reflected out of it, is there? If you look at the picture of my dog, Oliver that I took a few years ago, you’ll see a good example of a mud puddle reflection.

A mud puddle mirror is usually the kind of mirror we decide to look into every day. Whether we’re self conscious, or lovin’ our hair, we are usually not having a very realistic picture of ourselves. When we look in a mud puddle mirror, what we’ll see is an inconsistent, untrue, tainted picture. A reflection in a mud puddle can actually be deceiving! What you see is blurred and clouded. That blemish that is on your face, will suddenly disappear, the colour in your face will look evenly shaded. But is that the true picture, that is really there? When you try to look into its depth, there is no way of knowing what lies there – leaving you guessing. What about the background? Is it a good reflection of your actual surroundings? I think not. The colour of the trees and sky are not there, and if they are there, they are not true to their true colours. How can we wisely look into that kind of mirror, knowing that it is not a true reflection? Think about it.


Mirror Mirror


What Does God Have To Say?

Psalm 34:5

“They looked to Him and were radiant.”

1 Samuel 16:7

“But the Lord said to Samuel,

“Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”


What A True Reflection Looks Like:


A true reflection of what God wants us to see, shows everything. Flaws, blemishes and all. When you look at your reflection in clear water, your mirror image is seen. We need to see this true image so we know the areas where we still need to grow and develop. They are also there to show us that God is there in His infinite Grace to accept us as we are. The clear water captures light and colour, and displays it in such a beautiful form. You can even see into the depth of clear waters, seeing what lies beneath, unlike muddy waters, that hide the unknown in its depth. Also, when you look into clear water, you see behind you. You see where you are, your surroundings. Full of life, the sky, trees, and all the nature speaks in unison around you when you look into the crystal waters of a beautiful lake. We need this to get a true picture of where we are and what situation we’re in. God can speak to us so much more easily, if we would just look into his light.


How much more would we believe in ourselves, and be able to accomplish, if only we would see ourselves in the mirror of his reflection?


Image: Michelle Stam

How to Trust God

June 18, 2013

Just Trust.


Ok, for me that just doesn’t work. It’s nearly impossible for me to ‘just’ trust. Yet we hear those words all around us. I’m honestly at a time in my life when I wish I could just trust God. I don’t trust anything right now, because everything seems to be a mess. It’s probably a mess because I didn’t ‘just’ trust. I have been a christian all my life, and I know better. I know that God has the best in mind for me, if I would just surrender. There’s that ‘just’ word again. It somehow makes it sound so simple…but it’s anything but. Why is it that trusting is so hard? I mean, it’s not like I think I have all the best answers or anything. Or do I? I know I act like I have all the answers, which is why I’m in a mess. Let’s break this down a little.


My Past:


My past = lots of pain. Lots of heartache. Lots of complications, lots of frustration, and lots of doing things my way. Hmm. My past is full of examples of times God was wanting to share something with me, and I just didn’t feel like listening. I either didn’t like what He was getting at in my heart, or I thought I had a better idea in mind. You’d think we’d understand that trusting God is necessary to succeed in anything. After all, every time we don’t trust Him and follow His direction for us, we end up in a mess, right? I can’t for the life of me think of one single time that I knew better than He did. Do we ever say, “Hey God! Remember when I knew what I was doing, and I had it all together? Let’s do it that way again, ok?” Ha! As if! Rather, by now, we should be saying something along the lines of, “God, every time I try to do things my way, no matter how right I think I may be – I always come to you and seek your guidance. Please help me get it right this time by coming to you in the first place.” If anything, I should be learning to make wise decisions based on past mistakes, right? Wow, I could be so smart if I would just do that! God has never let me down, when I’ve trusted him. So why is it so hard then?


Blind Next Steps


It’s hard to trust God over and over again, despite the peace we feel each and every time we truly trust Him. Why? I think one of the main reasons is because it usually involves walking blindly. If we knew what was the perfect path for ourselves, we would have it all lined up, in perfect order of what we wanted to do. But to trust God, means we have to walk blindly, and not really know what is coming next….just more trusting. That is hard for us humans. I mean, try walking down the hallway (somewhere safe) with your eyes closed. No peeking. I bet you, just like me would stub your toe. It’s not fun, even when we know what to expect. Being unfamiliar with what is coming is an uncomfortable place.


“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord.

Plans to prosper you and not to harm you.

Plans to give you a hope and a future”

Jeremiah 29:11


Surrender


My husband and I are in that place right now. We are desperately awaiting a decision about funding that would send my husband back to school, and us to another province. I’ve always been someone who embraces, even loves change, but this is ridiculous! This one decision that we are waiting for affects what schools my kids will go to, whether my son can play hockey next year, where we will live, what kind of income we have, what we have to do about our dog, not to mention my sanity! I don’t know if you noticed the calendar, but take a look. It’s summer. It’s summer now. I feel like screaming. I know that moving can be one of the most stressful times in someone’s life. Not knowing if you’re going to be moving, and if you are – where and how is something all together different. It’s a blind corner in front of us. Do I wish we could fast forward to September and just see where we ended up? Yes! But I can’t. I need to wait. I need to trust God’s timing and leading for our family.


Being Asked To Do Something Hard


Another reason it’s hard to trust God, is that it usually requires us to do something that is hard for us. Maybe God wants us to give up something we’ve grown really attached to. Maybe he wants us to change something in our character. Whatever it is, we can usually expect it will be something that requires something of us. Why? Because He loves us, and does not just want to leave us stuck in a rut. Sometimes it hurts or costs to take a step of faith and trust that God is leading us in a certain direction for a certain reason. Which leads me to my last point.


My Future:


There is a reason. A reason why I am being asked to wait…to trust. Unfortunately I don’t usually know it. God doesn’t always disclose His thoughts on where He’s leading. Our whole life we are taught to carefully plan for our futures. As kids, we are constantly asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” So of course it’s hard when we know there is a chance that God is leading us in a different direction. Throw in the disappointment when things don’t go the way we would have liked them to (or in my situation, when I wanted them to). It’s tough. Yet, what do I know about my future that He doesn’t? Talk about how I think my future is about me. It’s not! It’s about what God wants for me.


The good news is this: If we could JUST TRUST, we would find that our hopes and dreams for the future align with what He wanted all along. Not so neatly sometimes, but still – when we surrender our futures to God, there is nothing left but peace.


Image: Soumei Baba

Discouraged

June 18, 2013

Watch this short video on being discouraged.

https://youtu.be/cJM1cSJ-CGI


5 Ways to Reduce Stress for the Fall

September 1, 2013

Needing to reduce stress in your life this fall? I know we all can. Here are some ideas that can reduce stress, if not get rid of it! They are not all easy steps. Some are harder than others. I know for me, the best thing is to make myself aware of the kind of things that can be weighing me down. I’ve found these ways to reduce stress to really work well. Of course, there will always be hundreds of ways to reduce stress in our lives, but for now…here’s 5! See if these tips can help you too! Let me know…


#1: Avoid Excess


A long, long time ago, I spent several months on the road travelling with a music group in Europe. I received an award on one tour in particular for having the heaviest luggage. I don’t know how I got away with it (as in not having to pay some hefty fine), because it was heavy! What I remember most was that each night, after our concert, we would pack just enough things from our suitcases, into our carry-on bags, just to get through the night. Well, ‘just enough’ was a joke for me. I remember having to carry that heavy thing each night for months on end. Did I learn anything? Well. Decades later, it hit me. Delayed response, I realize. Don’t laugh – I can be slow that way. What could possibly have been in that bag that I needed each and every night? I am sure there was plenty that I could easily have done without. The strain, and the pain, I endured just to carry it all along with me – SO not worth it.


What excess do you have in your life right now? Is it worth carrying with you day in and day out? Usually we make resolutions in the new year, or we ‘spring’ clean. How about letting go of some things this fall? What bits could you get rid of here and there from your life that you don’t really need? Decide what is worth carrying. It adds up fast, believe me. Just think of how we could reduce stress just by reducing the excess.


#2: Get Rid of the Junk

This may sound a little like the last one: about excess. It is, in a way. However, in terms of junk, I am referring to the extra excess that we allow into our lives each day. To reduce stress where junk is concerned is a lot easier than you think. Do you know just how much ‘junk’ we allow into our lives each and every day? A LOT. I was just thinking the other day, how much the junk mail accumulates and takes up the little space we do have in our kitchen. I always feel like I need to get to them, and read them. What if I miss out on a good deal? Well, to be honest, there are a couple bits of junk mail that maybe I need to see. But…there are tons of flyers that I definitely don’t need to see. I don’t know about you, but I am not in the market for furniture, or new cars each week. Why make myself feel worse? One way I have found to help reduce stress, is to make a pile of mail or flyers that I need to see. The rest can get recycled right away. That’s the kind of junk I’m referring to.


How about emails? Did your heart just start racing thinking about how out of control your inbox is getting? Do you get the zillions of emails in your inbox each day that I do? It’s stressful! I find that if you are not getting to them within a few days, they are just not worth keeping. At the least, create yourself a folder that is for mail that you want to go through when you get a chance. Then, when you are waiting at the doctors office, you can open that folder and read away. Another idea that has worked for me in the past, is to create a secondary email that you use for entering contests, and at stores, etc. That way, you are not getting bombarded with emails just because you needed a coupon one day. One last hint: definitely don’t feel obligated to give out your email, if you would rather not (or don’t have the time to) read what they have to offer. To reduce stress, try getting rid of the junk that comes in – physically, and electronically. It really helps me!


#3: Create a Routine


Ya, ya. I know. This is probably the time of year that you hear this one the most. Especially if you have kids. This time of year can be difficult to adjust to if you don’t set up some routines. Consider the kids, who have just had a blast with summer, to all of a sudden have to get to bed early, wake up, go to school, do homework, etc! Creating a routine for them as well as yourself, is a sure fire way to have the best adjustment into the new school year. As far as reducing stress goes, this is the one that I need the most help with. Creating a routine. Structure and I don’t generally get along very well, but I do realize that in terms of reducing stress, I need to make some changes. Other than getting the kids ready for school routines again, what are some routines that would help you this fall? Are there any tasks that you dread, that would just be better to go ahead and ‘schedule in’ for the sake of getting it done!?? I will let you know how I keep up on this one. Please let me know if you have any ideas about creating routines as a mom/wife that have helped you reduce stress. I would love to hear of any new ideas!


#4: Don’t Start Anything You Can’t Finish


This is another tough one for me. I am a starter of many things, and a finisher of few. This is something that I really want to work on this fall. The problem with starting new things all the time, is that we leave little room for the things that we haven’t finished yet. Sometimes we will even start new things in order to distract ourselves from tasks that we don’t really like (yes, that is me too.) There is always some joy and excitement when we begin something new. But do we have the time to dedicate to the full completion right now? The reason I have this as #4 in my list of ways to reduce stress, is that this is something that I believe we all do. Whether you’ve thought about it before or not, there is a lot of stress that come to mind when we think of all the unfinished things that are all around us. We almost always feel guilty about incomplete projects, or things we ‘meant’ to get to. How much stress would it reduce to take a few months, and not take on anything new? Try completing a few things on that to-do list before adding to it! I am sure that we would not only reduce stress in our own lives, but probably for all those spouses that roll their eyes when we start something new!


#5: Busy Does NOT Mean Success


Ok. How many of us have to admit that when we are busy, we feel like we are accomplishing more. We all know that is not necessarily true though, don’t we? Sometimes, the busier the schedule, the more events we can stuff into our schedule the more successful we feel we are. My thoughts on this are that we are distracted by the pace. The craziness. The insanity. We are going at such a fast pace sometimes to even notice that what fills our days does not even amount to much. I am definitely not saying we should drop everything on our plates. I am also not saying that everything on the schedule is meaningless. What I am saying, is that we need to be careful to not confuse the word busy with the word success. Take some time to rethink your schedules this fall. Is there anything that you wouldn’t miss if you were to take it out? Are there any times in the week that your kids could benefit from just having a night in? Let’s try to remember that usually success stems from planning well, and working hard. Let’s be sure not to fill this fall with things that will interfere with the success in our lives.


I realize a lot of these suggestions revolve around reducing the excess around us. I think it is a great place to start when we’re unsure how to reduce stress. I would love to hear your thoughts! Please let me know how you intend to reduce your stress this fall. Let’s do this together! Please comment, or as always email me any time! 


Image: Michelle Stam


Are You a Blossom or a Bud?

June 17, 2014

Paralyzed. That would have to be the best word to describe how I’ve been feeling over the past year. It’s like the inside of me is alive with passion and ideas, and the rest of me is dead. Living with Fibromyalgia, depression and anxiety can leave anyone feeling this way. For some reason, until this past year, I have been able to somehow keep some of that passion streaming…growing. My last post was last October. That post took everything in me to write. This post, well, let’s just say it’s been a long time coming. Even now, as I sit here typing, it’s like my brain and my fingers will just not get along. Oh, I can type (usually), but my thoughts are stubbornly refusing to come out. I cannot describe the feeling of being bored on the inside, like there is a fire cracker waiting to go off. The outside of me (or I should say my body) is stuck. I literally wander around not knowing what to do with myself. I have ideas, then I can’t seem to put them into action.


Blossom or Bust


Having always been a perfectionist, I have an extremely high desire to achieve big things. Not little things. Not medium goals which will make me blossom into a better me. Nope. It’s go BIG or go home. Huge goals, such as “change the world”, or “become one of the most successful people ever”. Wrong expectations, I know. But somehow, that is the kind of thing I expect of myself. However, when I’m in my world of physical pain and depression each day, I feel like there is just no point in trying to achieve the impossible. So I don’t strive for anything at all. This is where I’ve been deceiving myself.

What Does it Mean to Blossom, Anyway?


I’m slowly (yes, slowly), realizing that a blossom doesn’t just appear. Here I am expecting myself to go from zero to perfect in a world where perfection is forever out of reach. Blossoming into the person God made me to be does not mean I need to get a doctorate in a matter of a couple of years. It means that I blossom. As I was lying in bed today, I was thinking about the term, ‘blossom’. We often think of ourselves as growing, developing, and learning. That is what blossoming is. But we don’t just wake up one day and become a full grown, beautiful blossom. We must start somewhere, and the process can be slow. The beginning to any blossom is nourishment. So I ask myself, What nourishment do I have in place in my life right now? Not too much. I’ve started reading again, which helps. I have wonderful friends all around me that can offer nourishment, but do I soak it in? I’m realizing that I need to pay much more attention to what I am feeding myself with in terms of positivity. I need to bask in the sunlight around me, soaking up the rays that are there to stimulate my growth. What else does a blossom need to grow? Time. It needs time to actually grow. You don’t just arrive at the end result all at once, you have to actually get there. It’s a journey, it’s meant to take a while.


Blossom or a Bud?

 Here is my conclusion. I am never going to be perfect. I am, however, always going to be a masterpiece in progress. Instead of seeing myself as a blossom that never blooms, I am going to start seeing myself as a bud that is waiting to blossom. There is nothing wrong with being someone who is on the way to becoming the me I am meant to be. It will take time. I won’t have an outcome right away. I may not be as pretty as I would like to be, but at least I am beautiful in my development. Not only does a bud become beautiful, it is beautiful already.

Life as a Bud


In my world of expectations, what does being a bud really look like? What about the high achiever that feels like a big fat failure every day? I need to see myself as just beginning. Beginning to be something. On my way to being better. Some days I may be able to achieve bigger things. Other days, just getting out of bed will be an accomplishment. I need to be ok with that. Allowing myself the freedom to be a bud, will give me the acceptance I need to remember that I am on a journey. This part of my journey might be hard. I may not have the exciting career I once had as an RCMP 911 Dispatcher. I may forget my daughters permission slip for a field trip. I may rely heavily on those around me to help around the house (thank you John). That is ok. I am still growing, and I am still one day going to blossom. It doesn’t have to be today. By granting myself that acceptance, it allows me to set my sights on becoming the most beautiful blossom I can be. In the meantime, I can grow, and develop at my own pace, as a beautiful bud.


Image: TANAKA


Destination Addiction

June 18, 2014

 “Are we there yet?” The classic phrase was coming from a voice in the back seat only 2 hours into our 16 hour drive. I was dreading the next gazillion hours that we had ahead of us. Not to mention wishing I had somehow found the perfect combination of toys, colouring books, and other fun stuff to do. It was going to be a long trip. There was no doubting that. The last post I wrote, about being a bud that’s not quite a blossom yet, has got me thinking. Why is it we are so consumed with the question, “Are we there yet?”? Why is it that our only goal is the end result without enjoying the process of actually getting there? Do we live life, only to get to the end? What then, what will have been the point? Back to the scenario of being on the road. When we travel, our main goal is to get to where it is that we’re heading. Ok, I get that. Yet, what about all the little things that we could miss along the way, if that was all we were focusing on? I’m talking the windy roads that leave us wondering what is coming up ahead, and the fog that gets our hearts racing just to be able to see right in front of us.  I was reading a book called Success Intelligence, by Robert Holden, PhD. 


This is what he has to say about Destination Addiction:

…sufferers believe that success is a destination…the future is where success is, happiness is, and heaven…the preoccupation that that happiness is somewhere else. Our goal is not enjoy the day, it’s to get through the day. We always have firmer ‘somewhere else’ first, before we can relax and savour the moment…but we never get there…we hope to catch up any day now, but it never comes.


What is God trying to show you as you get to where you’re going? Maybe there are some valuable lessons to be learned on the journey. Just like a bud that hasn’t become a blossom yet, there is something in the waiting. Something to be grasped. Next time you’re painfully wondering how long it will be to your destination, ask yourself what you’re willing to learn on the trip. You might be amazed to find that you take in far more scenery, and learn something amazing about where who you are in the present.




Destination Addiction

June 18, 2014

 “Are we there yet?” The classic phrase was coming from a voice in the back seat only 2 hours into our 16 hour drive. I was dreading the next gazillion hours that we had ahead of us. Not to mention wishing I had somehow found the perfect combination of toys, colouring books, and other fun stuff to do. It was going to be a long trip. There was no doubting that. The last post I wrote, about being a bud that’s not quite a blossom yet, has got me thinking. Why is it we are so consumed with the question, “Are we there yet?”? Why is it that our only goal is the end result without enjoying the process of actually getting there? Do we live life, only to get to the end? What then, what will have been the point? Back to the scenario of being on the road. When we travel, our main goal is to get to where it is that we’re heading. Ok, I get that. Yet, what about all the little things that we could miss along the way, if that was all we were focusing on? I’m talking the windy roads that leave us wondering what is coming up ahead, and the fog that gets our hearts racing just to be able to see right in front of us.  I was reading a book called Success Intelligence, by Robert Holden, PhD. 


This is what he has to say about Destination Addiction:

…sufferers believe that success is a destination…the future is where success is, happiness is, and heaven…the preoccupation that that happiness is somewhere else. Our goal is not enjoy the day, it’s to get through the day. We always have firmer ‘somewhere else’ first, before we can relax and savour the moment…but we never get there…we hope to catch up any day now, but it never comes.


What is God trying to show you as you get to where you’re going? Maybe there are some valuable lessons to be learned on the journey. Just like a bud that hasn’t become a blossom yet, there is something in the waiting. Something to be grasped. Next time you’re painfully wondering how long it will be to your destination, ask yourself what you’re willing to learn on the trip. You might be amazed to find that you take in far more scenery, and learn something amazing about where who you are in the present.




Choose Your Friends Wisely

June 22, 2014

 Here I go talking about journeys again. Have you ever been on a long trip with someone you don’t get along with? Pretty much anyone with a brother or sister knows exactly what I mean. At one time I lived on a bus, for months at a time. Thankfully, I seemed to get along with everyone I lived with. I cannot imagine what it would be like to have to endure someone who is so different from you, that it would seem impossible to get along. Usually, in life we have the choice of who we involve in our lives. If it’s someone we don’t particularly like (other than say family, sorry), we can decide to not spend extended amounts of time with them.


Bad companions


On a deeper level, we really need to be cautious of who we allow in our lives. Sometimes we make friends so quick, that we don’t even really know a lot about a person before we trust them with our hearts. We can easily fall into the thinking that a new friend is safe and caring, without really knowing how that person handles difficulty or stress. Many of us (myself included) have come to trust someone who was not really looking out for me. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of people in our lives that mean no harm. I am not talking about those people, I am meaning the ones who will step on you to get themselves ahead. We need to be extra careful who we hand our hearts to on this journey of life. Just like the image above, there are some kind of people who say one thing, but act another way all together. We need to choose wisely.


What To Watch For:


1) Stay clear of anyone who constantly has relationship issues. I’m not saying to not befriend this kind of person, rather be careful how much of yourself you allow to be vulnerable. Some people don’t do friendships well, and they can easily hurt you. If there is always strife in their life, that may suggest that they don’t have the skills or personality to handle a meaningful relationship.


2) Be wise about letting people into your life if all they do is put down others. Chances are, if they are talking about others behind their back, they’ll be talking about your private affairs behind yours. Be cautious about what kind of personal details you tell this kind of person. You can still be their friend, but don’t tell them your deepest, darkest secrets.


3) Protect your heart from the emotionally unavailable person. For whatever reason, this person seems out of reach no matter what you do to get close. It could be something from their past, or maybe they just lack the emotional skills to get close. Regardless, it can really hurt to try to get close to someone who isn’t feeling the same way. This is the kind of person it would be safer to have a casual friendship with.


4) Last, but not least, please be vary of anyone that will not talk to you about things. Misunderstandings are always made worse by someone who won’t tell you when they’re upset at you about something. Likewise, don’t choose someone to be a close friend if they are not someone you could also open up to. There is no point playing games, when you are looking for a good companion.


Wise Friend Choices


Some of us have really been blessed over the years with many meaningful friendships. I know that I can honestly say that I have several friends that I would call close. They are companions that have stood by me through thick and thin, and are friends that make me a better person. When we choose people to spend our time with, what better than to have someone who is always looking out for you? I know it is hard sometimes to make wise choices about the companions we journey with, but here are some suggestions.


What Companions to Keep:


1) Always choose the friend who is making wise choices in their own life. When you look up to someone who has their life ‘together’, it can really benefit the kind of choices you make too. Having a friend or companion on life’s journey that is mature and deals with their problems with a level head can only bring wisdom into your life as well.


2) All of us need a friend who can be completely honest with us. I’m talking about the kind of friend that will tell you when you are making poor decisions or need a smack in the head! The value of having someone who can speak the hard truths to us, is priceless. These are the kind of friends that help us grow in life.


3) Look for friends who have a lot of meaningful relationships in their life. Don’t be jealous of other people they may be close with, because them having other valuable people in their life makes them a better friend. Watch what kind of friends they have, and look for mature growth in their other friendships. If someone has a lot of good people in their life, chances are good they will be a pretty well rounded person too.


4) Choose people who make you feel amazing. People who believe in you and love you no matter what stupid things you do. Always make room for the friend who would be behind you through thick and thin. A good friend will bring light into your day, and make you feel like you can be yourself.


When we go through life, there are so many ups and downs it can leave us spinning. Why would we add to the chaos by having people surrounding us that have no business being there? I hope I have not offended anyone by writing this. I sure don’t mean to insult anyone who lacks relationship skills! Just the opposite! They too could use these suggestions on how to choose life companions wisely. When life it hard enough as it is, would you agree it is better to surround ourselves with positive, mature people to help us? I think so. One last point I want to mention. Be careful about what kind of friend you are too.


Image: Katie Tegtmeyer


Give Thanks?

June 28, 2014

 Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.


Father’s Day has always been hard for me. Growing up without a father, you could imagine the kind of feelings that day involved. I grew up in a very happy, healthy Christian home, raised by my single mother. However, there was one verse in particular that I always heard in church that always brought confusion to me. It was the verse above, from 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. Most of the verse made sense to me, but the part I just couldn’t swallow? Give thanks in all circumstances.


Giving Thanks in the Good Times


Almost anyone can give thanks for the good things in life. Even people who don’t believe in God have been known to give thanks when all is going well in their world. I have always found it easy to count blessings, and give the credit where it is due. My God has been so good to me, and I couldn’t even begin to name all the things He has accomplished in my life.


Giving Thanks in the Bad Times?

As a kid, I really couldn’t understand how to give thanks for losing my dad. Wait. Even as an adult, I had trouble with giving thanks for not having a dad. Does it just mean to not blame God for the negative situations we go through? No. It means, GIVE THANKS.


There’s a Purpose


I’ve learned over the past several years that God has a purpose for all the things he brings us through. In our minds, we can’t seem to wrap our heads around being thankful for the hard times. However, this verse (which has taken me years to understand) has spoken to me about a God that loves me. He has a purpose for all the little and big events in my life that have hurt me. I know for a fact that I wouldn’t have grown up fully knowing and understanding God as my heavenly Father. Most people have trouble relating to God as their father, because of poor relationships with their own dad, or something. Me, on the other hand, felt God’s presence in my life at such a young age, and I cannot even begin to describe how blessed, loved, protected, and cherished I have felt.


Give Thanks in All Circumstances


I can truly thank God for a situation as tragic as my father dying when I was young. I know my walk with Him has been strengthened because of it. More importantly, I have come to know that I can trust God with my life, and if He sees something that will be to my benefit, or will bring me closer to Him, then I can trust that. Therefore, I can be thankful for all things.

What negative life events can you be thankful for?


Image: Suika


No More Excuses

July 2, 2014

 I’ve always been one to think I am pretty tight with God. I envision myself on the mountaintop, arms stretched out. I think about Him all throughout my day, I pray constantly about people and situations that come to mind, and even give plenty of thought to what I do that pleases Him, and what doesn’t.

But I am just fooling myself if I am to believe that I have a good relationship with God. There is no more room for excuses. I need to come clean, and I need to admit to myself (and God) that there is a whole lot more I could be doing to develop our closeness. I’m not going to beat myself up for not being a ‘perfect’ Christian (we all know that is out of reach), but I am going to get real with myself and let go of the excuses. I need to live a more godly life, and that starts with my walk with Him. Nowhere else. Just with Him. Although I’m sure to Him it feels like I’m out of reach, and definitely nowhere near that mountain peak. I’m ashamed to say that I’ve distanced myself from the very one who never leaves my side.


Excuse #1: Everything Is Just Fine Between Us.


Ever had a close friend that you took for granted? I mean the kind of friendship that you just assume everything is as it should be? Oooh, that’s dangerous! Those are usually the times that some misunderstanding jumps out of nowhere, and the friend you once thought to be so close, is not all that close anymore. I’m sure you know what I mean. With friendships, especially dear ones, we have to be more aware than ever of what kind of things might not be fine. I’m not talking about being paranoid all the time. I mean being cautious, and not taking a good friend for granted. That’s the kind of thing I’ve done with someone who is supposed to be my best friend. I’ve assumed for far too long that everything is ‘all good’, when there is a distance there that needs to be closed.


Excuse #2: When…, I Will…


I am SO bad for this one. I cannot tell you how many times I think and say this one. I say it to myself, I say it to others, and I even say it to God. When I just get a certain thing done, I will spend some time in the word. When I feel a little bit better, I will have more energy to focus on praying. When I get some priorities straight in my life, I will……I will, I will. But that time never comes. I just keep getting caught in the intentions of my heart. Unfortunately, it’s the action that is needed behind the intention though. Instead of “I will”, I need to embrace the phrase, “I am. Now.”.


Excuse #3: I’m Not THAT Bad!

Oh, I could be the worst person out there. I could be a murderer, or a thief! I’m not THAT bad! I am a reasonably good girl, with a great heart and a lifestyle that pleases God, right? I mean, it could always be worse, right? Wrong. Wrong attitude. I could always be a far worse person than I am today, but that is not the point. I am here to be my best, and my God deserves my utmost in everything I do. Instead of settling for mediocrity, I should be striving to be the best me I can, and be humbled doing it. I owe Him my very best, and nothing less.


No More Excuses…


I am quite sure I could come up with a dozen more excuses. I am great at making them. The thing is, is that excuses keep us from living the best life we can. Excuses get in the way of us reaching the top of the mountain, where we can be closest to God. Let’s come together and make an effort to stop the excuses, and try living a life that is full to the brim with integrity and authenticity. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think we should need any excuses at all. We have Him, right in front of us, if we will just stop holding ourselves back, and step forward.


My goal today is to spend more time with Him. Period. No excuses.


Image: Antony Scott


How to Handle the Expectations of Others

July 3, 2014

 Have you ever wished you could just pray like that person in church who prays with such authority? How about trying so hard to spend the hour per day in the word that your friend seems to be able to do? We are constantly trying to compare our walk with God with what others do. What’s worse, is that we are also constantly trying to meet the expectations of those around us. We try to please people. All around us, we are forever trying to impress others and make people think good things about us. The scary thing is that we can easily get caught in a web of confusion by trying to meet those unrealistic expectations.


What Others Can Expect of Us:


People’s expectations of us can quite often be performance based. They have expectations on what kind of church involvement, and volunteering there should be. A ‘good’ Christian would be a Sunday school teacher, say. Do you know how many people feel like they ‘should’ do something because of the expectations of others?


Some people in our lives may assume we should follow their advice on how we should or shouldn’t have a relationship with God. They sometimes have the expectation that there are a certain type of devotions you should do in a week, or even for a specific amount of time each day! They base their knowledge on their own experience without leaving room for you to be who God designed you to be.


Expectations


What God Expects You to Know About the Expectations of Others:

God expects us to follow His voice, and His voice only.


“The sheep that are My own hear and are listening to My voice; and I know them, and they follow Me.”

John 10:27

God said we are not defined by the works we do. I believe He expects us to use the gifts He has given to us, and apply them where needed. We need to be ok with saying no sometimes, and be sure our motivation for ministry is at the right place. Am I primarily doing it for God, or for others?

God sent us the Holy Spirit to guide us in our daily lives.


“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive,

because it neither sees him nor knows him.

You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”

John 14:15-17

God is not limited by the kind of devotions we do, how many days a week or how long each day. 


I believe He wants our best effort as far as getting into the bible, etc., but remember, it’s not about the expectations of others. Ask God to speak to you about what HE expects of you each day.


“Come near to God and He will come near to you.”

James 4:8

WAIT!

Just in case some of you are thinking I’m making a blanket statement…I am not saying that God doesn’t use people in our lives to teach us and show us about having a closer walk with Him. He sure does. But we need to be extremely careful that we are living by God’s standards for ourselves, instead of trying to win the favour of others. They may very well have the best of intentions, however what God expects of them will not be the same as what He expects of you.


What to Expect:


It can just cause confusion and hurt when we try to live our Christian walks by other people’s standards. We are spiritual in our own ways, created individually by a God that surpasses ‘rules’. We are called to live holy, and be holy, and we are the ones that will one day be held responsible for our own walk with Him. As long as we surrender to the life that He calls us to, we don’t need to worry about what other people think. Just like Paul wanted to please God instead of people:


“Am I now trying to win human approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

Galatians 1:10


What have others expected of you in terms of your walk with the Lord? Compare that to what you feel God is saying to you. Is it the same? Ask God to help you hear His voice, and His alone.


Image: Gabe Austin


10 Reasons Why We Fear Change

July 6, 2014

For anything in our lives to change, someone has to start behaving in a different way. There is just no other way that change can happen in our lives. The problem I’ve been noticing, mostly in my own life, is that change is an extremely difficult thing for us to tackle. I’ve come up with the main reasons why we all fear change, hoping we can address some of these ways we prevent ourselves from being the best we can be.


Reasons we think change is a bad idea:


1) Comfort Zones:


I know some people would argue that life is rarely ‘comfortable’! However, what I am getting at here, is that we grow accustomed to our old familiar ways of doing things. We fall into regular habits of doing certain things, and when it comes time to change, we find it hard to change those habits. One verse that I got from the bible about this, really spoke to me. Usually when we fall into regular patterns of doing things, we tend to think it’s the ‘right’ way of doing it. Right? Well, take a look at this verse, and see what you think.


“Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial. Everything is beneficial, but not everything is constructive.”

 1 Corinthians 10:23


Here is what I take from that verse: that not everything we do is good, just because we’re accustomed to doing it that way! Another verse that speaks to this is about God being faithful and not letting us be tempted beyond what we can handle – this means those old habits that need changing:


“…and God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13

2) Fear of Failing:


I don’t think there are many people in the world that are not afraid of failing in some way. Of course there are the risk takers (like me) who are a lot more willing to chance it, but failing is something no one wants.What I would like to offer as an encouragement here, is that there is no chance of succeeding unless we are willing to try. That means we must take risks, and be willing to fail. We will always learn something valuable along the way.


3) Fear of Succeeding:


Fear of success? Really? Yes, really! More than we realize, this world is held back by the fear of succeeding. Like I mentioned above, failure is always something we have to risk when we change, but success is equally as big a fear. When we succeed at something, we raise the bar for ourselves, and the people around us may expect more from us as well. With success, comes the expectation to succeed again, and again. That is scary. Another fear is that by succeeding at something in our life, we will be even more fearful of failing, and losing it all.


4) Pride:


This one related a lot to the first reason, about getting too comfy in our comfort zones. When we get to familiar with a way of doing things, it is easy to believe that is the only way of doing things. Agree? The danger here, is that the longer we believe we’ve got it all figured out, the harder it will be to embrace change in our lives. The more difficult and painful it will be to make the changes necessary to be who God wants us to be – because it will be a long road!


5) Fear of What Others Will Think:


Aren’t we all to some extent worried about what others will think of us? That’s just on a regular, ordinary day! Throw in making some decent changes in your life, and then you increase the fear of what others will think. As I mentioned in a post last week, How to Handle the Expectations of Others, I wanted to get across that we will ultimately be held responsible for what efforts we made on our lives, and the lives of those around us. To be worried about what others will think just gets in the way of God doing some incredible things in us! I also want to mention that when others disagree with what change we are making in our lives, God will give us peace when we are seeking His wisdom. Changes that we make with the wrong intentions, such as trying to impress others will not last, and will likely hurt us. Remember though, that good change that is brought about in our life, will also influence and and bless those around us!


6) Laziness:


The reason I wanted to mention laziness in this list of reasons we fear change, is because so many of us are just that…lazy. We want all that God wants for us, but we expect Him to just lay in in our laps, and not have to chase it. The following verse, found in Hebrews, talks about spiritual laziness, and how we need to move beyond the basics if we want to have a mature walk with the Lord.


“Therefore, let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity…and God permitting, we will do so.” 

 Hebrews 6:1&3

God wants us to work hard at seeking Him and the changes we need to make in our lives – which brings me to my next point.


7) Changing is Hard Work:


I know this seems very related to the being lazy reason, but I think it is a little different. Many people are not lazy, but will still fear change in their life because of the hard work ahead of them. Here we need to be comparing the short term vs. the long term gain.


The hard work we put into changing our lives for His glory will be rewarded by a faithful God.


Through the Holy Spirit we have the power to change. We can’t change completely on our own strength, but with God’s help. When the going gets tough, just break it up into smaller adjustments at a time.


“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17


8) It Will Take Too Long:


Don’t be in a hurry for something awesome! Remember, good things come to those who wait? Big changes take time, and we are often wanting the simple way out. It takes time to change, and as far as I’m concerned it takes even more time to change for the better! We are living in an age where shortcuts are the norm. We want it all right away with as little effort as possible. A great example of this is fad diets, which promise results that are super quick! We all know that diets like this may be great for the short term, but not long term results.There is an old proverb that says, the longest distance between two points is the shortcut!


9) We Are Afraid:


Who wouldn’t be afraid of change? I know I am – even when I feel like taking risks! Change means new things – things that we may not like. It means growing pains, and leaving all we know behind. But when we get scared, God says that the Holy Spirit will lead us and put things in our lives to show us what to do.


“But when he, the spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” 

 John 16:13

He also tells us that He will give us direction if we seek it:


“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” 

Proverbs 3:5-6

10) We Are Not Equipped:


We think we don’t have what it takes to change. We either don’t have what it takes emotionally, spiritually or even physically. How wrong we are though! God promises to lead us and guide us if we remain close to Him. All we need to do is spend regular time in prayer and the word to learn what His will is for us. Reading God’s word is the best way to be equipped for any change that God wants to make in your life. I know it has encouraged me!


Reasons to NOT Fear Change:


To sum this up, I am going to use a scripture, that to me, gives me all the reason to not fear change, but embrace it. Read this, and be encouraged!


"Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong;

for like the grass they will soon wither,

like green plants they will soon die away.

Trust in the Lord and do good;

dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.

Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this:

He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn,

the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;

do not fret when men succeed in their ways,

when they carry out their wicked schemes.

Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;

do not fret – it only leads to evil.

For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.”

Psalm 37:1-9


Image:  Michelle Stam


Being Vulnerable: What God Wants

July 7, 2014

If you had asked me a year ago what being vulnerable was like, I would have broke down in tears. I was in a place where I didn’t know if I could honestly trust God or not. It seemed to me that we were getting forgotten somewhere in his big plan, and although I’ve only known God to be trusting and wise, I felt so alone and exposed. If you want to view my post from exactly one year ago, go here: "How To Trust God".


My husband, who had been a baker for around 20 years, decided one day that he just may go back to school. I won’t tell you exactly what I was thinking, but it was along the lines of a couple things: he was crazy, and we were doomed. It was late spring, and he was going through all the hoops to head back to school. When I say all the hoops, I mean changing career paths from being a baker (all he’s known), to being a heavy equipment mechanic! No joke – except I thought to myself, “At least he’s still working with his hands!”. The hoops that he had to go through to get into one of the best programs in the country were insane. I felt sorry for him that he had to do all sorts of testing, physicals, interviews, etc. However, each hoop that he had to jump through gave me a chance to breathe, and I would think to myself, that here was another chance he wouldn’t make it. How terrible of a wife am I, huh?


I was used to our life as we knew it. Things weren’t great for us – we have had a lot of financial struggle in the past several years, and to top it off I just went on permanent disability with my Fibromyalgia. Life was what I was comfortable with though. We had a great church, family near by, and amazing friends. Not to mention my husband had a career that he knew inside out.


Why Change Now?


I thought over and over again about how life would just be easier if we could just leave everything as it was. One thing that I should mention here somewhere is that my husband is not one to just ‘up and change plans’. He is the stable one, and I am usually the big risk taker. HA! Here was one point where he was actually stepping out of his own comfort zone – for once, and here I was faced with the change I usually seek, and was fighting it! Despite how proud I was of him for taking this risk, and for all the loops he was actually making it through, there were some things to worry about. We would have NO income, have to move to a new province, leave our church, our family and our friends. This was going to be a big problem for me.


Move to Where?


It was July when we finally found out that we would indeed be moving and John would be heading back to school. We had one month to do it. Now, if you are one of my American friends, I’ll try to explain our move from the South Coast of British Columbia to Northern Alberta as this: it compares to moving from a city outside of Vancouver, 14 hours (most of them north), across the Rocky Mountains, away to a small little farm town in the middle of nowhere in Northern Alberta. I’m talking NORTH, people! It is still light out at midnight in the summer here! More perspective? Our nearest Walmart and McDonalds are an hour away!


Leave What Behind?


If you had been there the very day we were moving, it would have been quite a sight. We had already overloaded our moving truck by several hundred pounds, and needed to either get a bigger truck (not possible), or get rid of some stuff. So here we were, long after dark, unloading and reloading the truck. What ended up getting left behind, was a big pile of stuff on our lawn. Trying not to get too emotional here – but another ‘thing’, or someone I was going to have to leave behind was my 12 year old son. He decided he didn’t want to move so far away, and chose to stay and live with his dad (my ex-husband) in Vancouver. I cannot tell you how hard it was to follow my husband, and support him with his new career, and leave behind my sweet boy. Despite the fear, and heartache (an understatement), I knew God had a plan. Even for Isaiah.


A Year Later…


Wow. Where do I even start? God is faithful, that’s where. I can trust him and I need to learn to be even more vulnerable. When the hard times hit, and we don’t want to trust where God is leading us, we need to allow ourselves to be vulnerable, and let him lead. If I had not trusted God last year, I would have had a lot more difficult of a start here. Yet, somehow, through God’s grace, I was able to rest knowing that we would be taken care of. John has done amazing things through his course this past year, and is near the top of the class! We have found an amazing church that has blessed us beyond belief, and have made wonderful, lifetime friends. Isaiah has come to live with us, and we now feel complete as a family. The only thing that has not really been better for us, is my health – but even in that God has used the time that I’ve had on my hands to minister to me through reading and prayer. Having been used to being a work-a-holic for years, it takes so much to be at home by myself all day. Anyway, even in that God has been good to me.


Being Vulnerable:


Vulnerability means to be exposed, or to not be guarded. That is hard to do in a world where we feel like we have to cover ourselves at every angle.

As far as I know, God will still do as he chooses in our lives, but the pain we endure is a choice!


The more guarded and cautious we are to what he wants for us, the more pain and tearing have to take place. Whereas, the more vulnerable we are to his leading – his guidance, the more doors we allow to open more easily. I wish I had remembered how faithful my God has always been to me, and I wish I had allowed myself to be more vulnerable to his leading. I think I would have seen some amazing miracles a whole lot sooner.


Image:  Anna Gutermuth


Teal & Lime Beginner Quilt

July 10, 2014

If someone had told me that I would one day make a quilt, I would have laughed in their face! There was no way that I was interested in sewing, much less quilting. However, with so much time on my hands since we’ve moved to Alberta, I wanted to look into a couple new hobbies. Ever since joining Pinterest, I’ve really been impressed with quilting, and thought I might, just might give it a try. Just how hard could a beginner quilt be?


Beginning…


I secretly picked up a magazine called, Easy Quilts. I didn’t want to broadcast it that I was thinking of making a beginner quilt, in case it was a big fail. However, I got the magazine and looked for the one that I liked the most. Of course, the one I liked the most looked to be the most complicated of them all!


Middle…


Next, I went to the fabric store, and bought waaaaay too much material, but what did I know, right? I went home and started what I now find the most difficult part of quilting…the measuring and cutting. I followed the directions in the magazine, and once I got going, it wasn’t that bad. I started sewing, and it was easy peasy! Now folks, I am saying here with all honesty that I have not even thought of sewing since the 7th grade! I cannot believe I could even handle the sewing machine (well, I did have to google how to thread the machine, shh).


In progress... For those of you who have not dared to try something new, it is so worth it to give a variety of things a shot. I never in a million years would have thought I would enjoy sewing, but I am finding I really think it’s awesome! I really enjoy picking the material, and I find the sewing time super relaxing. I couldn’t even believe that what I was sewing was actually coming together!


End!


Then came the time to do the finishing of the quilt – free motion. I still don’t fully understand how much you can really do with quilting, with this being my first quilt and all. However, did I ever have fun making swirls and shapes with the machine! Take a look at the finished product and see how easy it was!


Image:  Michelle Stam


I Belong

July 11, 2014

Most days, when I think about it, I am convinced you married a lemon. With all my health conditions, there is rarely a day that goes by that I don’t feel good in some way or another. But I belong.


You never make me feel like I am too sick to be loved. Instead, you make me feel like I am worth loving even more. You make me feel like I belong.

On the days when life gets the better of us, you always find a way to put the strife behind us. You still find a way to listen to my side, without being judgmental. You let me be heard, and make me feel like I belong.

When life is fun and games, full of moment of silliness, you make me smile and giggle. And I belong.


In times when our family is together, whether it’s just an ordinary day, or not. You bring me into the moment. The moment where I realize I have been blessed by this amazing family. You make me feel like I belong.


From the moment we met, and each day since, you make me feel so special. You treat me like I am the only woman in the world. You make me feel beautiful and loved, and respected, and you make me feel like I belong.

I belong. I belong with you. I belong with this family. Thank you for making me belong. I love you.


Image:  Michelle Stam


Goodbye Duchess

July 12, 2014

My Dearest Duchess,

I miss you more than words can say. I haven’t seen you in what seems like an eternity, and now that I long for a hug from you, I couldn’t get one no matter how much I needed it. Thank you for my birthday card today. It made me feel so special, and loved. You always had a way of making me feel like the most precious girl in the world. I hope you know that. I think you must know that, because you never fail to bring light into my life. Just the fact that you sent that birthday card, EARLY was your way of saying goodbye to JUST ME, your Princess. Your card said just that….PRINCESS, and I felt in an instant your love for me. I know I won’t be able to be there to say goodbye with everyone else, and that is unbearable. Yet, YOU have said goodbye to ME, by thinking of me, and sending your love with that card. Yes, my birthday is still weeks away, but for some reason you didn’t mail my card this year…..you sent it back with my mom. I knew I could always count on a card, or email from you on my birthday, with a picture I loved! It would have hurt so much to not have that this year. It was like you needed to say goodbye to only me. I know that was you….it was SO you. You were always good at being sneaky, and we had so many of ‘our own little secrets’. This is just one of them – one that I will hold onto (like so many others), that will make me feel close to you even though you’re gone. Thank you for being you. You were one of those people who so many people adored, and yet you had a special spot in your heart that was just for me. Thank you for all the fun and silly times, for all the times we nearly wet our pants laughing, and all the times we just threw up our hands in frustration, just trying to understand life. You have taught me so much, and I don’t think I ever told you that. You have inspired me in too many ways to count…one of them is learning how to look at life with a sense of humour. I just hope you know how much you were a blessing to me. I will miss you, and even as I type this, trying to see the screen through my tears, I can’t imagine not ever seeing you again. You are, and always will be one of those special people that God put in the world just to make people smile. Despite my tears, I am smiling as I think of you, and how precious you are. You are my Dutchess, and no one else’s. So, even though I won’t be there to say goodbye, I rest in knowing you’re safe – and loved. I will forever hold a special spot in my heart that is only for you. As the sun sets on your beautiful life, we’re all left with the beautiful colours that remind us of you.

I love you,

Princess

xoxo


Image:  Michelle Stam


Friends

July 12, 2014

I am so thankful for the people God has brought into my life. At various points, from the time I was young, to now (as I’m getting old!), precious friends have been there. I am amazed that God could allow me the privilege of knowing such beautiful people, and being part of their lives in some way or another. Some are friends that I have ministered with in remote parts of the world. Some are friends who have opened their hearts to my vulnerabilities. Some are people I never thought I would be close to – only to be guided into a strong, long lasting friendship with them. Some people I have lost touch with, yet they remain close to my heart. Some people have always been close.


Lately, I am truly AMAZED at the friendships I still have. I am speechless, as I become a new fan of Facebook! I cannot believe the amount of people that have touched my life in some way or another – who I can be in touch with again. From Tricia, my childhood best friend with such a contagious laugh that I can still hear – to Carol-Ann, my first Godly role model who brought music into my life, and a desire to use that music for God – to Stacey, whom I lost touch with for many years, only to continue right where we left off – to Lesley, a beautiful friend who is like a sister to me – to all the friends I have worked with, who encourage the development of my gifts – to Cheryl, who can make me look at something in a whole new way, who with Gail, Tim, and Colleen who helped me through the worst time of my life, and helped put my heart back together – to Tina and Roxy who I know believe in the power of prayer – to Pam, whom I share such a close bond with despite only catching up once a year, who just got married YESTERDAY! – to Janeen, my sweetest friend who listens from the heart, and always gives me hope – to Aimee, who I admire, and know will speak the truth to me – to Kathy, a new friend who understands the pain of loving a difficult person in your life – to all the friends I did not mention who have some kind of true connection with me…I AM TRULY BLESSED.


I had a conversation with someone recently, that really convicted me. This person doesn’t have many friends in their life. This person has every right to have as many friends as I do, as they are one of the sweetest, generous, supportive, fun people I have EVER known. Why have I been so blessed? Is it that I welcome people into my life? Or that I have been so many places, and done so many things?? Anyway, it made me think. I am so lucky that I have had the chance to get to know all the people in my life. There are some that I wish I could hear their voice, but don’t know where they are, or what they’re doing in life. I know I sound like a facebook promoter, but let me say this. As each and every ‘friend request’ comes in, I am brought to tears that I have the opportunity to be just a couple of keystrokes away from countless friends who have made such a difference to who I am today. To be able to see their faces, see what their kids look like, and what they do now, is INCREDIBLE. These are people that would otherwise have been tucked in the deep corners of my heart. Now they are within reach, and I couldn’t be more THANKFUL.


For all the friends who have EVER been in my life – I am thankful for you.


Image:  My Photo Journeys


My Priorities

July 12, 2014

Why is it so hard to remember where our primary focus should be? You would think it would be natural. I have had some situations come up in the past few weeks that really made me shake my head. I was shaking my head at someone who frustrates me to DEATH! However, the more I thought about the lack of priorities (healthy ones, anyway) in his life, the more I was forced to look at my own.


I must admit that sometimes I lose sight of what is important. Yet, when it really comes down to it, pretty much all I do in life is a result of where my priorities lie. When I really took time to consider this, I was actually quite pleased, knowing that I am doing a pretty good job.


I am seeking to grow, learn, and experience.

My love for God, inspires me, directs me, and sustains me.

My love for John, brings peace, shelter, and laughter.

My love for my kids brings hope, joy, and wonder.

My priorities are in line.


Image:  Michelle Stam


Fear Not

July 13, 2014

How is fear holding you back? Is there something in your life that God is asking of you, but you just can’t get past the fear? What exactly happens when you feel the fear? Do you try to talk about it with a spouse or close friend, or do you just try your hardest to ignore it?


In Mark 4:36-39, Jesus is in a boat with the disciples. When a storm comes and the waves come crashing into the boat, they all freak out and wake up Jesus, who was sleeping. They pretty much thought they were about to die, before Jesus tells the wind and waves to be calm. When the storm died down, Jesus asked them why they were so afraid, and why they did not have any faith.


What Fear Does to Us


Fear in our lives destroys us. It can cause all sorts of health problems. Fear limits us, and steals from us. When we allow fear to rule us, we are always missing out on something good for us. There are many different types of fear, that take on many different forms. One thing that they all hold in common though, is that they take away from the person God wants us to be. When we fear something, we need to ask ourselves, “What’s on the other side of this fear? What am I potentially missing out on?” Why would the enemy be attacking us with fear, unless God wanted to use it for His good? How do you handle the fear?


We are all going to feel fear at points in our lives, but it’s what we do with the fear that is crucial. Even though fear can usually paralyze us, we need to handle it differently. Basically when there is a storm, we need to act like there is no wind and waves all around us. We need to act like we trust in the God that will eventually calm the sea and turmoil. If we act like we are going to perish, like the disciples did, how can we really say we trust God? If you were in the boat with Jesus there, how do you think you would have reacted? Does your situation make you feel like Jesus is sleeping? Or would His presence have eased your anxiety?


Fear is something that we are always going to have to face. It does not just go away. We have to face it square in the face. Situations come into our lives that scare us, sometimes half to death. God doesn’t want us to feel that fear though. It is not from Him. Before we even have a problem, we need to remember that our God already has the solution for it. He wants us to go to Him, and to fear not.


“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”

1 Timothy 1:7

The moment we have fear, we need to smack it in the face. As soon as the moment creeps in, we need to take charge, and tell ourselves that the time is NOW. We need to face it, not fear it. Acting in a way that shows the fear we mean business, lets the enemy know there is no point even bothering you. It also allows God the chance to speak more confidence to us.


Ways that we can move past the fear:


Remember that God says that he is with us. He is more powerful than all of our fears put together.

Jot down some scriptures where God addresses fear. Some of them are: Philippians 4:6, Romans 8:38-39, John 14:1, Ephesians 3:17-19, Psalm 33:17-22, Psalm 34:18, Psalm 121:2-4, Matthew 6:31-33

Journal about a time in your life when you were afraid, and God came through.

Pray aloud, with authority, asking God to remind you that you have no need to fear.


Have a positive attitude, showing God that you trust him. Be careful how you choose your words, always speak in a positive manner. Don’t give the enemy power by talking like you are afraid.

Fill your house with worship music that glorifies the Lord. Remember that the Lord dwells in the praises of His people. It’s hard to fear, when you are praising God.


Go to God with your fears before you go tell others. Quite often we run to our friends to complain before leaving it at the feet of our Father.

Read the bible, and other sources that encourages you to deal with your fear in the best ways possible. One source that has helped me over the years, dealing with my own anxiety disorder is called, “Moving from Fear to Freedom” by Grace Fox.


Whenever you feel the fear taking over, change your thoughts right away, and don’t let it settle in your mind.

Have a friend hold you accountable.

Here is an encouraging excerpt from Grace Fox’s book,


“But feeding our minds with words of life and truth makes us strong and vibrant. Those words equip us for the struggle by reminding us who’s in charge. They give us hope by showing us that God sees the big picture, from beginning to end, and He has purposes that are much higher than our loftiest imaginings. They reveal God’s character and enable us to keep our thoughts on Him when we feel as though we’ve been thrust overboard without of life jacket.” – Grace Fox, “Moving from Fear to Freedom”


What We Can Look Forward To:


When we begin to learn how to master our fears, we grow stronger. Each time we face our fears, the enemy has less foothold in our lives. Sometimes, the fear of something gets so strong that it is actually worse than what we feared in the first place! Let’s not let the enemy own that much of our lives. Let’s conquer our fears, and learn to be at peace in that rockin’ boat! Fear Not!


Image: Kevin B 3


Feeling Trapped?

July 15, 2014

Have you ever found yourself tripping over one of those baby gates in the middle of the night? Who invented those things anyway? To get over those gates with any amount of grace, you need to have a degree in gymnastics. What about those poor little babies, that feel trapped, and can’t get past the gate to get into trouble? What a pain in the butt those gates can be to everyone involved.


Obviously, the sarcasm can only go so far. Those poor little babies that are trapped behind the baby gate are trapped there for a reason – their safety! If we didn’t have those around, I am positive the number of kids tumbling down the stairs, or getting into dangerous thing would skyrocket. The gate serves a purpose. It is meant to hold those precious babes back from a world of danger.


Ever feel like God has you behind one of these fences? I do. Especially in the past year or so. I used to be what you would call a work-aholic, and I loved it. Unfortunately, my health in the past few years has deteriorated so much that I am not able to work, and am on disability (Fibromyalgia). For someone that used to be a real ‘go-getter’, who used to set my sights really high, it’s a bit of a downer. I find that most days, I have more time than I know what to do with. Some days, I spend the day in bed, and on those days I am glad I am not working, because I couldn’t handle it. But on the other days, when I am up and around, I feel like my life is wasting away.


The World at Your Fingertips


I would say that in my younger years, I had the world at my fingertips. I have traveled all over the world singing, and I have had many life experiences that have blessed me so greatly. I have been so incredibly blessed with friends in my life. I have a family that I wouldn’t trade for the world, and a husband who supports anything I want to do. For someone who is so used to reaching for the stars, the limits are endless to what you can do with your life.


Trapped


When all that comes to a screeching halt, there is nothing left but to feel trapped and fenced in. Reaching for the stars is no longer an option for me. I’m lucky if I can reach for the coffee in the morning! On days where I feel good, I tend to overdo it, then I am in so much pain for the next few days. It is such a struggle to find balance. I just want to be used by Him! But I am left to wonder most days what God has for me. Why do I have to be paralyzed by my own body, to the point where I feel like my life is not worth anything? Because God has something for me. I just don’t fully know what it is yet. I guess you could say we are presently working out the details on that.


Safety Net


Sometimes, whether we understand it or not, we are fenced in for our own protection. Maybe there is a little too much world out there for me. Maybe I would have gotten into trouble, or taken a tumble down the stairs like a baby. God knows our strengths, but he also knows our limits. Far more than we do. He knows what I am capable of. He has dreams for me that are within my reach.


I just have to trust Him to show me the way. When I feel fenced in, I need to remember that my life is about Him ultimately. It is about bringing Him glory. And if that means I have to be house-bound in pain, then so be it. I am just going to pray that He guides me within the limits that He has fenced off for me. I will see this fence as a hedge of protection from a world I just can’t deal with right now. I will stop seeing myself as trapped, because I know I can trust how He can use me, and I will choose to be ok with that. I’m safe, and within the limits of his purpose for me.


Trapped Or Protected?


Do you feel like you’ve been fenced in? Do you wonder why God has limited your reach? Maybe take some time to ask Him what He wants from you. It could be that He has placed limits there for your protection. Trust Him to use you where you are.


Image: Scotty's Photography, adapted by Michelle Stam


God's Blessings Through Chronic Pain

July 17, 2014

I’ve been told that I don’t have enough faith. I’ve been told I need to try ‘this’ certain herbal treatment. I’ve been told I need to try ‘that’ latest diet craze. I am exhausted just from the advice alone! What anyone with chronic pain will tell you, is that they’ve probably tried it all. Including having enough faith.


Fibromyalgia


It has been 15 years since I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. I remember the day as if it were yesterday. The prodding of several points on my body was more excruciating than the 2 c-sections I’ve had. I remember the tears streaming down my face, just because I couldn’t bear the pain. Yet I left the specialist’s office that day with an answer. Even though there were absolutely no answers back then (and very few still today), I felt some sort of relief knowing I was not crazy. Chronic Pain is not anyone’s friend.


Depression


The depression I suffer from has been more recent. I had postpartum depression after my daughter was born, and remember feeling so alone. I was surrounded by love and support each and every day, yet I felt like no one understood the pain I was feeling on the inside. It took everything in me to just cope with each hour that went by, let alone days or weeks. I remember thinking what a special time it’s supposed to be, and worrying that I was going to miss out on the joy that a new child should bring. Even my journal entries were cries out to God. Chronic pain can lead to depression.


Holding Down a Job


I worked as a 911 Operator and Police Dispatcher. I loved what I did. It was an exciting and important job, and I was proud of it. It was really difficult though, and it seemed no matter how hard I tried, there was always criticism coming at me. It was a tough crowd to please, from the other dispatchers, to the members on the road, to the public. You either had someone yelling at you, or their life was in your hands (sometimes both!). I would go on breaks and just have to take deep breaths to calm the adrenaline. And would you believe that I am a strong gal?


Anxiety


Then one day, my family had received a double dose of bad news. My husband lost his job, and my mom was diagnosed with cancer. One day, at work, I remember running out, feeling like my body was going to explode. That was when the anxiety started. I took a few months medical leave to deal with the situations with my family. It didn’t seem to help. When it was time for me to consider going back to work, the anxiety that set in was so bad I would shake uncontrollably. The thought of my job alone was enough to make me hyperventilate. If it weren’t for the shaking, I would describe the feeling as paralyzed. I was paralyzed with fear about everything. Chronic pain can lead to anxiety.


Guilt

Finally making the decision to not return to work was inevitable. However, the guilt that came with that decision stuck to me with a vengeance. Guilt because of finances. Agony because I was giving up on a dream I worked so hard to accomplish. Sadness, because I loved it. I still believe I am grieving the decision to leave that job. The feelings of failure seemed to take years to ease. Chronic pain can leave you broken.


Medication?


Other than a short stint working again, I have been off since then. My family is back on it’s feet, for which I am thankful. For the past year, I have been heavily medicated, and strongly believe this has really helped me. I am not one for promoting meds, but I have an amazing doctor who believed it was necessary. I strongly believe it has taken me this past year, just to get on my feet and be free from the depression and anxiety. I know that some people really deal with guilt over having to take medication for their illnesses. I, on the other hand, believe that God has used those medications, and the wisdom of doctors to help me. That, and I have an incredibly supportive husband. I hope to be free from the medication one day, but for now I count it as a blessing.


Trapped or Free?


When I look back at how debilitating life was with chronic pain, I can only thank God for bringing me through. I still have days that are full of pain and exhaustion from the FM, and I still face depression and anxiety from time to time. I am now on permanent disability. Some people would think the freedom of not having to work would be a dream. I, on the other hand wish I was able to work. To be stuck home everyday, and not have the energy to do much, leaves me feeling like my brain is turning to mush. It can feel like my life is just a big waste.


God’s View


That’s not how God sees it though. To Him I am precious, and worth infinitely more than I could ever imagine. Just because I don’t have a career right now (and maybe not ever), doesn’t mean I don’t have so much to offer. I know that God has been using the time I have had. Time alone. With Him, and no one else. Some days it feels lonely, and I feel like I am missing out on an exciting life. Most days, however, I am reminded that the time I have on my hands is just as important. I have learned to spend that time reading, thinking, praying and writing. What an amazing opportunity that is! God has been drawing me near, and I have been able to really lean in and learn to trust Him. Does it mean I will be perfectly healthy one day? I don’t know. I am ok with not knowing the answer to that question. I just know that He is using where I am today – how I am today. Do I still have faith? Some days are easier than others, but yes, I still have faith. I have faith that He is able to do more than I ever hoped in my life. He can use me to encourage people and pray.


He can use me to bless others or whatever He wants. I am His, and I have worth. Whether I have chronic pain or not. 


Image: Steven Depolo


5 Choices Every Christian Should Consider

July 21, 2014

There are always suggestions coming at us from all sides, about what to do or not do with our lives. Some of those sources are great to listen to and others are not so good. I hope this will be one of those good sources you can listen to. I really felt God speaking to me about this during the week, and I thought (like usual), I should share it!


We are constantly asked to make choices in our lives. As christians, we are asked to surrender our lives to God, and live holy. That gets hard sometimes when the lines of the world are blurred all around us. There are so many controversial topics, even within our own churches. For example: some people think gambling is flat our wrong, and others think it is ok to dabble once in a while for fun. Many of us know that sex before marriage is not what the bible tells us, but some people go even further to not even kiss before marriage. The list goes on and on…and on.


This list of 5 Choices that I have come up with, are 5 choices I have had to make recently. They all affect my walk with God in a huge way, and that is why I wanted to share them. I hope as you read them, you will get to thinking about the kind of choices God would have you make in your life.


1) Choose Music Wisely:


Here I go with a major grey area, huh? Having a 13 year old son that hasn’t lived with me (or in a Christian home) for the past year opened up this topic in our house recently. He had lots of downloaded music that I, as a Christian didn’t feel good about. We had a discussion about some of the subjects that the artists were singing about, and he agreed. He got it. But wait a sec! How was I going to explain to him about the other songs that weren’t necessarily about ‘bad’ topics. For example, let’s say it’s a really popular song about love. Sounds innocent enough, doesn’t it? Well, I’ve been convicted even about those types of songs. Here’s why. Suppose my son were to purchase this ‘innocent’ song. What about the artist singing it? Or the band playing? Or the producers, etc, that will all get a piece (although very small) of the income from that sale. Is this an artist I want to support? Even though there is nothing wrong with this song, how do I draw the line when that artist sings a more questionable song? I would rather not support that artist altogether than have to split my decisions. What if a friend who doesn’t know God, knew that you listened to that artist? Would they not think you agree with what those songs are all saying? Just a thought for you to ponder.


“I have inclined my heart to perform Your statutes forever, even to the end. I hate the thoughts of undecided [in religion], double-minded people, but Your law do I love. You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in Your word.”

Psalm 119:112-114

2) What TV & Movies You Watch Matters:


Again, my son and I were chatting about this one. He wanted to watch a show on tv that is very popular – especially among his age group. I had no hesitation whatsoever telling him that he wasn’t allowed. My reasons? It was inappropriate. It had vulgar content, and very disturbing details of murders and assaults. The problem? It’s a show that I watch all the time. Ooooh, that one hurt. I thought at first, it was just that he was to young for it. Then I realized, if it was inappropriate…period…I shouldn’t be watching it either. More thoughts I had on this, were that even if I saw the show as innocent to watch, really, what better things could I be doing with my time. Reading something, spending time with my husband, writing? You get the idea. Another thought for you to ponder.


3) Choose Who You Spend Time With:


Another controversial one here. We are the salt of the world, and we are meant to be out there living godly lives, and being examples to people who do not know God. I am not talking about that here. I am also not talking about the friends and family we all have that do not follow God like we do. What I am talking about is the kind of people we spend true quality time with. Those are people that we will learn from. For example, when we have a real problem with our marriage, do we want to talk to someone who believes marriage is sanctified by God, or someone who will tell you to do a trial separation? The people we spend many hours with will effect how we think. It’s inevitable. We need to make wise choices about who we listen to, and spend time with. Ask yourself, how is this person bringing me closer to God? It’s important that we be careful. I would rather run to a godly friend with my issues, because we have a common thread in how we seek answers. What do you think? For more about this, see Choose Your Friends Wisely, Real Friendship, and how To Find A Friend.


4) Choose Who You Look Up To:


This one is a little like the last one, but a little different. In this day and age we are bombarded with media about all the famous people in the world. It seems they all have Twitter, and their own reality tv show. What are we really gaining by looking up to these people? Do we really want to have the life that they have? We need to ask ourselves what it is about this person that I truly admire. What qualities about this person do we wish we had in our own life? Even if it’s not someone rich and famous. What are you looking up to them for? Are there Christian role models you could replace them with who would set your sights higher?


5) Choose Your Day:


This one is a biggie. Suffering from physical pain each day, and battling depression, it can be hard to make good choices throughout my day. I don’t know about you, but just getting out of bed in the morning can take more effort than I’d like to admit (but I think I just did). 🙂 What choices can we each make in our day that choose a better day? I mean all the little things that when put together form the puzzle that makes up our day.

Want to have a good day? Choose to ignore the little petty things that normally bring you down.


Spend more time on the things that make you feel good. If something makes you feel happy, or closer to God – DO IT MORE. With lives as crazy as they are these days, there is no reason we can’t choose to make wiser choices about how we handle the day.


In closing, I think if you apply this verse whenever you’re in doubt, you will make the right decision. Praying about it always helps too!


Image: Michelle Stam


Do Your Enemies See Christ In You?

July 23, 2014

Ok, so I have an ex-husband. Let’s get right to the point. We were married for a short time, and have been divorced for what seems like an eternity. You may be wondering why I chose to write about enemies today. Some of you may not have any enemies. Which is great! I don’t really either, but my ex sure does come close.


How about we put it this way. We all have people in our lives that we don’t like. Maybe they don’t like us, or it could be that we just plain don’t get along with them. Sometimes they’re people from your past, when you were a different person, sometimes they’re the ones that change. Sometimes they are people that are in your life daily, such as a co-worker or boss. It can even be someone in your family that you have issues with.


The Good


I am not here to judge you, or your particular situation. Really. I am here to tell you what God showed me about my particular enemy, or should I say what God showed me about myself.


My ex-husband and I can get along when we choose to. However, there are many times that we simply cannot agree on something important, and we are stuck. This is the kind of time where the worst in me comes out. For example, we have been conflicting on custody arrangements for our 13 year old son – not an easy one, I know. This past year, things got super ugly because of our move from Vancouver to Northern Alberta (16 hours away). This meant one of us, as a parent, was going to miss out on raising our son. Not a good place to be I tell ya. Since he was born, I had custody of him full time. No question about where he should go then, right? He should definitely stay with his mom. Well! When my son decided he wanted to try living with his dad – that changed everything. No longer did I have such a big say. This was gonna be really, really hard.


The Bad


When things started not going so well for my son while he was at his dad’s, the arguing with my ex started. I felt so strongly that he needed to be with me, and that it would be for his best. My ex-husband disagreed. We clashed on every single issue you can think of from schooling, medical issues, rules, and teaching. We have completely different households. As a mom without her boy, I felt helpless. That’s when things got really ugly.


The Ugly


I’ve never really questioned how I treated my ex, probably because I’ve always felt like I had a right to treat him how ever I needed to. After all, he was my enemy, and I needed to protect myself and my son. I started trying to gather as much evidence as I could to get my son home. I argued and I put him down as a parent, and I put him down as a person. I yelled and swore and yelled, was sarcastic, rude, and yelled some more. I was a Mom ‘in charge’, and I was gonna get him back. Then God spoke to me. Yikes.


Then God Spoke


It was one night at a Revival service at our church. The speaker who was preaching that night just said one thing that stood out for me. “Do your enemies see Christ in you?” he asked. I felt the Holy Spirit speak to me deep inside. Later that night when I was praying about it, and asking God to forgive me for my attitude, He spoke to my heart and told me to write a letter of apology. To who, you ask? My ex. I thought I must have misheard.


Then God Spoke Louder


The next night of the Revival, was the story of David and Goliath. He talked about how big, mean and ugly Goliath was (referring to our enemies). He had strength, he had power, he had size. Then there was little David. He had nothing. No strength, no power, no secret plans up his sleeve. He had nothing but vulnerability, and GOD.


God wanted David to go on just God’s strength, power and might. Did he look stupid? He must have. I am sure everyone was thinking they should load him up with weapons, but he didn’t need that. He just needed His God.

Wow, did that ever speak to me about my situation. Here I was thinking I needed to have my back covered, and that to get anywhere I was going to have to play dirty.


When I really thought about it, God had been speaking to me. He did ask me to write that letter of apology. I ended up doing it over the phone instead, and boy was it hard. I was floored by the gentle response of thank-you I got from my ex. I said sorry for wanting to fight it out, I said sorry for being sarcastic. I said sorry for things I never thought I would have. But it was the right thing to do and God gave me the strength to do it.

This world tells us to fight our own battles; to do what it takes to win. God says differently.


He wants us to learn that He will fight our battles for us. He just wants us to trust Him with every detail of our lives. God knows the details of our battles. We don’t, even though we think we do.


The Awesome


As it would turn out, God did bring Isaiah back to live with us. Yay! It took a little longer than I would have liked, but God used that time to teach us both a few life lessons. I would have to admit now that trusting God, and allowing Him to fight my battles will still be hard to do. But I know it is the right thing to do. I have to trust he knows my enemy, and he knows the battle.


Image: Zyllan Fotografia, adapted by Michelle Stam


3 Ways to Heal When a Friendship Ends

July 28, 2014

When you make a new friend, you always have this secret hope that one day you’ll be really close. That’s how it was with my new friend Mandy. We seemed to really hit it off and ended up spending more and more time together. She was someone I really enjoyed being with, and I really thought she brought out the best in me. Never did I think that when a friendship ends there would be peace.


Mandy was struggling with many things – a broken marriage to be one of them. She was also working so hard to raise 2 young girls who hardly ever saw their father. Being a single mom was hard for Mandy, and so was all the loneliness of being alone.


I thought our friendship could help her with all that. I listened, I offered advice when I had some to share. I cared for her in the best way I knew how. Mandy was just a baby christian in a world full of sharks. She wanted to do what was right, but usually struggled to find out which was that was.


When a Friendship Ends:


One day, I really needed to share something with her that was on my mind. I really needed my friend to be there for me, but she wasn’t. I couldn’t figure out in my mind why I couldn’t rely on her shoulder when I needed it most. So I tried to talk to her about it. It only made matters worse. She pretty much stopped talking to me altogether. I didn’t know what to do. I was so upset that my friend wasn’t there for me.


The House on Kilarney Road


Helping my son with his paper route one day, I passed by the house on Kilarney Road that my friend Mandy used to live in. It brought such hurt and pain as I walked by it. Still not knowing what happened to our sweet friendship, I felt so alone as I watched it pass by on the route. I was so discouraged and sad that our friendship was just….gone.


1) Our Friendship Had a Purpose:


When a friendship ends, we need to realize there is a purpose. That day, as I was walking, something came over me. It was a beautiful day out, and I thought about what a purpose the friendship had had. I realized that we both needed each other for a while, and were able to provide the security of knowing someone was there. I also came to understand that maybe God had put me in her life to help her, not me. I realized she really was as good a friend to me that she could be, and somehow she must have needed to move on.


2) Our Friendship Had a Season:


When a friendship ends, we need to know that they have a specific season. I then thought about how God brings things and people into our lives at just the right moments. He knows what we need and when we need it. I thought more on that, and thought of the verse in 

Ecclesiastes 3:

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

2 a time to be born, and a time to die;

a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;

3 a time to kill, and a time to heal;

a time to break down, and a time to build up;

4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh;

a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

5 a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;

a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

6 a time to seek, and a time to lose;

a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

7 a time to tear, and a time to sew;

a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

8 a time to love, and a time to hate;

a time for war, and a time for peace.

I thought about Mandy, and how many balls she was juggling in that tough life of hers. I thought about how maybe God used me to be a friend to her in that season. I also thought about all the friends I had who were able to give me what she couldn’t, and I had to be thankful for them. I surely couldn’t complain about not having someone. She, on the other hand, didn’t have many people in her life that loved her, and I am so glad I had the opportunity to be there, even if for only a short time.


3) Praying For Mandy:


When a friendship ends, we need to pray. From that day on, whenever I passed that house on Kilarney Road, I prayed for Mandy. I learned what it was like to pray for someone else instead of myself. Instead of praying for answers to why she abandoned me, I prayed that wherever she was that God would draw her close to Him. Instead of demanding the right to have her as a friend, I prayed for the people in her life. That they would be what she needed right now, and would lead her heavenward. I also prayed that she would find peace in all the turmoil she had in her life, instead of worrying about my pride.


Peace:


When I made those realizations – knowing our friendship had a purpose and a season, I was able to pray for her without worrying about my end of the deal. When I prayed for her, each time I passed that house, I learned how much peace God could give me in a painful time. And

I understood how friendship can bless us even when it ends.


I thank God whom I worship with a pure conscience, in the spirit of my fathers, when without ceasing I remember you night and day in my prayers… 2 Timothy 1:3


Image: Wonderlane, adapted by Michelle Stam


Who Else is Lazy?

July 30, 2014

It was after midnight. I was so tired, and the my head fit perfectly into my pillow. The air was cool in the room, but I was nice and warm under my feather duvet. I was just drifting off to sleep when the dog started growling.

Me, in a whisper, “Shhhhhhh, Oliver.”

A minute or two later (I really don’t know because I was trying to fall asleep), the dog growled again. Then he let out a bark. Now I must let you know here that I have a big golden retriever, and his growl is loud, so you could imagine how loud his bark is.

“Oliver, shhhhh, it’s ok.”

My head finds it’s way back to the pillow, and I start to drift off again. This time Oliver barks 3 times. Loud.

“OLIVER, quiet!”

Feeling a little bit lazy, I put my head down again, this time wondering what he must be upset about. Not too worried, I close my eyes, and fall asleep. Barking again,and a few growls. This time, I was frustrated and dying to go to sleep. He growled again, and I continued to ignore him. A couple more quieter growls, and then he got the hint. I was NOT getting up to see what he wanted. I never did know what it was he was upset about.

Enter the Holy Spirit

Boy, did I ever have a wake up call this morning. No, it wasn’t the dog barking this time. It was God speaking to me about last night. He helped me to understand that what happened last night is exactly what happens when He tries to speak to me.

God: Hello? Are you there? I have something to tell you.

Me: Not now, I am tired.

God: Helllllloooo? I am really trying to share something important with you right now.

Me: But I am so comfy here right now, and I don’t want to get up.

God: You are missing out on something amazing, and I am trying to get your attention!!!!

Me: Not now, then I am silent.

Now God is silent too.

I just missed what He had for me because I was not listening to Him trying to get my attention. When I realized He was trying to get my attention, I decided I was better off doing what I was already doing – probably nothing important. When He continued to call to me, I got annoyed, thinking the timing was really bad, and maybe if I just ignore Him, He’ll stop bugging me. So He does. The Holy Spirit needs room to move in our lives. When He calls on us, we need to be listening and ready for what He has to say. He may want us to act in that very moment. Someone may need us, or something may be wrong. He is trying to get our attention for a reason, and we need to be more aware of how critical that moment is. Let’s be more aware of Him calling to us. Warning us. Speaking to us. Let’s listen with intent. Let’s not ignore any longer, the very One who knows each moment far beyond what we could ever comprehend.

Is the Holy Spirit speaking to you? Are you ready, and listening? Or are you being lazy?


Image: Seniju, adapted by Michelle Stam


Making Life Changing Decisions

August 5, 2014

I got a tattoo yesterday. It kinda got me thinking a little. It’s a pretty big deal to make a permanent change in your life. Getting a tattoo is permanent! Just like a tattoo, making a different kind of life changing decision can be overwhelming, but if you feel like it’s something God wants for you, you should go ahead and do it. Fortunately, we don’t have to make life changing decisions too often, but when we do, it can be hard or even painful. Here are a few things to consider when making them:


1) Don’t Put it Off:


Putting off, or delaying making a decision that you know you need to make, can just make things more hard. Especially if you know it is something God wants you to do. By waiting, you could miss out on an opportunity that is there right now. It could cost you more, or it could be harder by waiting. Don’t make the decision harder by putting it off, instead, be excited for the challenge in front of you, and take it.

“When there is a hill to climb, don’t think that

waiting will make it smaller.”

– unknown

“Procrastination is not faith, because true faith demands action. It is true that faith sometimes waits for God to work, but most of the time it must take action to be obedient when God speaks.” – Joyce Meyer


2) Be Decisive and Prepare:


Make sure you spend time in prayer and the word when making life changing decisions. Before you take any steps, to be sure you’re in line with what God wants. We need to also be decisive and have a plan to know where we’re headed, like a map. I didn’t just walk into the tattoo place and say I wanted a tattoo! A lot of research and thought went into my choice. It’s that way when we’re trying to make life changing decisions. Thought and planning need to go into the decision.


3) Have a Plan for the Pain:


I knew the tattoo was going to be a lot of pain. I had to prepare myself, and expect it, and think of a couple things that would help me through. One thing, was to think about how much I wanted the tattoo. It reminded me that this was something I had put a lot of thought into, and planned for a long time. It made me feel better during the pain. If we think about how badly we want a change in our lives (even if it’s hard), that helps to ease the pain. Sometimes just knowing we are doing what God wants us to can help.

Another thing that helped ease the pain was bringing along my husband. I knew he supported my decision, and was behind me all the way. That’s what we need too, when making a life changing decision, is someone who can come along on your journey. Someone who is like-minded, and believes you’re making a good choice.


4) Don’t Quit:


Many times when the pain was intense, I could have given up and walked away. But it wouldn’t have been a good choice to quit – I would have had half a tattoo! There would have been a cost to pay as well. Just like when you are making steps in the right direction, the pain could be at it’s worst right in the middle, but you can’t quit without there being a cost. To walk away when you are half way there would just be stupid. That’s when you have to remember why you’re there in the first place.

5) Trust the Artist:

I must say that I really did trust the tattoo artist that was working on me. She was very experienced and knew what she was doing. Just like God, who knows everything there is to know about anything that affects us. 


Proverbs 3:5&6 says,

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him,

and He will direct your paths.”

Worry can keep us from trusting God because worry means we are the ones trying to find the solution to our problem. There is no need to worry when God is in control of our life changing decisions. He is the Master. Remember that He is in control.


6) Count Your Blessings:


During a difficult time of making a life changing decision, you need to remember what your blessings are. By looking at the blessings, you are reminded of how good God is, and how much He is providing for you. Go ahead and make the life changing decision that you know He wants you to make, and be confident in making it. Be thrilled that you’ve made progress and ask God what he has next for you!


I realize getting a tattoo is not the perfect analogy, but it’s the same in that it’s a permanent decision. I hope you’ve been encouraged to make that life changing decision that’s been on your mind!


Image: Philippe Put, adapted by Michelle Stam


Getting Rid of the Garbage

August 10, 2014

Ever notice that ‘garage sale’ and ‘garbage sale’ are only one letter off?

One thing that has been weighing on me a little this week, is that we are getting ready to have a garage sale. Getting ready for one of those is not what I call fun. The emotions you have to go through just to prepare is crazy!


The Guilt…


First of all you are feeling so guilty for having so much crap to begin with. Seeing boxes of stuff that you really don’t need doesn’t exactly bring about feelings of peace. Then you have to deal with the fact that you shouldn’t have bought those things to begin with, and exactly how much money did you spend on it all? Yikes. But then, you have to go through it, bit by bit, piece by piece to price it all. Wouldn’t it just be easier to dump the box of stuff on the lawn, and tell people to donate money in a jar?


So today, it was that process. Each individual item is priced, clean and ready to be put for sale. I cannot describe the guilt I feel with all these things that have been taking up room in our house. It’s not a ridiculous amount, but enough that there is guilt over it.


With my Fibromyalgia flaring up today, I needed to go lie down. While I was lying there, still frustrated at all the garbage we seem to accumulate, I started thinking.


The Lesson…


It’s just like when we come to God with all our sin. We have loads and loads of garbage that need to be weeded through and sorted out before Him. Some pieces are bigger than others, but they all need to come clean, and get out of our lives.


I was thinking that God must love when we ‘clean house’, and come before him with all our garbage. We don’t need to feel the guilt, because His blood has already covered it all.


We just need to bring the garbage to Him, and leave it at His feet.


The Peace…


What comes next is the best part of all. We get to feel peace from all that garbage being gone! What’s even better than that, is that by creating room in our lives from getting rid of the garbage, we are able to create more room for the new things that God wants to do in us.


So next time you’re sorting through your odds and ends, remember to bring those inner odds and ends to the God who is waiting to help you clean up your life. He has big things in store for us, if we would just continue to get rid of the garbage, and make some room.


Image: Luke Jones, adapted by Michelle Stam


7 Ways to Be Content in a World of Perfect

August 18, 2014

Notice anything new? 10 points to the first person who guesses correctly! Just kidding, I’ll tell you what’s new. I changed the header of my site. Again. For the bazillionth time, actually. I cannot even keep track how many times it’s been changed, that’s how many. Why, you ask? Because I just can’t get it right.


I have this problem I need to confess. It’s called perfectionism. It’s something I’ve struggled with most of my life.


Here is the question though. What is perfect to a perfectionist? (Note: Any perfectionist will struggle to answer this question) You never get there. Ever. There is always something that could be just a little bit better. There is always a colour that could be a better shade. There is always…..always something.


Overcoming Perfectionism? Be Content.


How do we go from needing everything to be perfect, to accepting that we just need to do our best? Contentment. It’s that simple: Learning to just be content.


Less is More


If you’re someone like me, you’ll need this laid out a little better. Below are 7 ways to be content in a world of perfect. For me, these suggestions offer hope, and a reason to let go of trying to be perfect.


1) Establish Boundaries:


In a world where perfectionism is all the rage, we need to have boundaries so we can learn to be content. Boundaries are what protect us from harm. If we set regular boundaries, keeping in mind what is ok to expect from ourselves, we should be ok. Try to think of boundaries as protection and not a hinderance. Sometimes, when we go past the boundaries we’ve set (or God has set for us), we just get so lost in what is expected of us, that we go nuts. Boundaries = Learning to be content.


2) Be Cautious When Trying to Please Others:


When we’re trying to learn to be content in a world of perfect, we need to really be careful about how we try to please others. Some people are worse for this than others. I wrote a post on How To Handle the Expectations of Others here, so if you want to read more about that, please do. We need to know that God’s expectations of us are all that matters, and getting caught up in the expectations of others is a sure fire way to drown in trying to be perfect. The pressure the world puts on us to be perfect at nearly everything is not realistic, nor is it healthy. Which leads me to my next point…


3) Be Realistic in Your Expectations:


This is where I really struggle. My own expectations are where I get caught up every time. Why do we set such high expectations for ourselves? Sometimes, I believe that we need to give ourselves credit where credit is due, and move on! We strive to be so much more than even God expects of us! Like really, what kind of expectations have I set for the header of this website? Geesh! I set it so high, that I don’t even know what is realistic anymore. I guess what I’m trying to say is this: Keep it real. Will anyone even remember what you wore to that occasion, after you changed 37 times?


4) Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself:


One thing I’ve learned to do lately, is ask myself, “Is this something I would expect of someone else?”. More often than not, I realize that the pressure I am putting on myself is pointless. Why do we expect so much from ourselves? When we are trying to be content in our lives, and are fighting perfectionism, we need to let go of the times where we don’t feel we measure up. Quite often I get upset with myself for not being able (physically, and sometimes mentally) to keep up with the housework, or cooking, or the kids. I am very hard on myself, even though I have a husband who is so gracious. I instead need to realize that some things are needed of me, and the other stuff can wait until I am feeling better. Being hard on ourselves does nothing except bring us further down.


5) Don’t Make Things So Complicated:


Eeeek. Another one I need to hear. I am so often struggling with something that I want to be perfect, that I don’t even realize how complicated I am making it for myself. Life wasn’t meant to be as complex as we make it, I am sure of that! Society places such high demands that we do things the ‘right’ way, or else! When we slow down, and simplify our lives, the pressure to be perfect just melts away. Try it!


6) Choose Your Battles:


Here I go with the header again. If I didn’t spend so much time worrying and fretting that it be perfect, I could have spent quality time on other, more important things. For example, my kids! In trying to get over being perfect, we need to pick which battles we are going to throw more energy and effort into. There will always be things that we think could be better, or…perfect, but there will also always be areas in our life that could use more of our attention. Next time you’re caught up with how perfect you want something to be, remember that there are more important things that you could be putting your time and focus on.


7) Learn When Enough is Enough:


This header that I have now, will just have to be enough for me. At least until I have a moment that doesn’t require something else of me. We need to tell ourselves when enough is enough, and be firm about it. We all know somewhere deep down, when we are striving for perfect, that it’s not necessary. But we ignore that feeling, and just keep on striving. Let’s all (talking to the other perfectionists out there) learn to listen to that little voice inside that says when enough is enough.


For someone who trusts in God, being a perfectionist somehow doesn’t fit with the program. When I look at who I am on the inside, I need to realize it’s gonna look pretty yucky. I’m not, nor will I ever be perfect. That’s why it’s amazing that we serve a God who doesn’t require that we be perfect. He accepts us the way we are…now. Of course, he wants us to grow and develop, but He still loves us just the way we are.


So having read through those suggestions on how to be content in a world of perfect, I hope you found some tools that will help you if you struggle with this. I know I do. I will be learning to expect less of myself in terms of being perfect. Whether it’s something as little as the header of your site, to a personality trait, let’s together, learn to seek God, and ask Him what He wants from us, and strive for that.


Image: , adapted by Michelle Stam


27 Ways to Have Less Stress

Part One: Looking Inward

August 26, 2014

Welcome to the Series, “37 Ways to Have Less Stress”! I hope this will help you along your own road of stress. I figured this time of year (for parents especially) was one of the busiest. It is a crazy time of year for most people as events and meetings start back up to their regular schedule after the summer break.

Here is the breakdown:

Part One: Looking Inward

Part Two: Looking Outward

Part Three: Make a Plan

Part Four: Just Say No!

Part Five: Don’t Do This!

Part Six: Organize

Part Seven: Make Changes


This week, we will begin by “Looking Inward”. These are the areas where we can focus on first, since they will always help us gain focus during the busy times. Let’s do this!


1) Take Snapshot Moments:


When life hurries us along, sometimes all we do is get lost somewhere in the whirlwind. Before we know it, weeks, months and even years have flown by, and we wonder where all the time went.

A long time ago, on my wedding day, a friend came up to me and gave me some of the best advice I’ve ever been given. She told me to mentally take ‘snapshots’ of the day – moments that I wanted to remember. Usually brides are so overwhelmed and whisked through the day that they don’t remember the special moments. Well, I took those snapshots, and was so glad I did. I think life is the same thing. With the pace of life that we throw ourselves in, we have to stop long enough to grasp those special moments that we want to remember, and take a snapshot. I am in the middle of teaching my daughter to tie her shoelaces, and boy, what a snapshot that will be when I remember it down the road! Instead of letting life rush by you, remember to stop and take the snapshots of the moments that are precious.


2) Don’t Worry About Tomorrow:


When life is spinning, it can be so easy to get worked up about that tomorrow holds. We worry about things coming, and wonder whether we’re able to handle what’s coming at us. But God says: Do not be anxious about tomorrow.  Some people look at this and worry because there is more trouble coming tomorrow! But that’s not what it means. It is God telling us that today is all we are meant to handle today. Let tomorrow worry about itself. Why take on all of tomorrow’s stress when you have enough to keep you busy today? God didn’t create one big long day to do it all in. He created 7 days! Keep tomorrow’s stuff there. Deal with it when you get there. You’ll have less stress!


3) Letting Go of What Lies Behind:


Similarly to not worrying about tomorrow, we shouldn’t worry about what lies in the past either. We cannot change what has already taken place. We need to leave it there. This doesn’t mean we can’t go and make things right, if that’s what we need to do. However, it does mean that by holding onto past things that bring us down, we are only holding ourselves back from what God wants for us today. Maybe it’s a grudge that you’re holding from the past? Let it go. Maybe it’s guilt over something you did that hurt someone else? If you can still make it right, then do so, and then move on! No need to drag the pain and guilt of things around with you all day. Our lives are full enough as it is without the added pressure of things we need to let go of. Take on less stress by letting the past go.


4) Take Control of Your Thoughts:


Just like the picture below, in life we can get stuck going round and round and round. You know exactly what I mean. Not only do the mundane tasks start to feel old, but we can feel like we are on a merry-go-round! Our minds can do the same thing. We need to really be able to take control of our thoughts if we want to have less stress in our lives. The thoughts that churn, and leave us with worry, fear, and anxiousness are only going to make the stress feel that much worse. Instead, we need to fix our eyes on Jesus. He knows what we’re facing each day. He knows how much stress you’re under. He KNOWS. Instead of letting all those thoughts of dinner, getting this kid to that practise, and that kid to this event, get those thoughts under control. Sometimes all it takes is taking a big breath and reminding ourselves that it’s all going to be fine. Other times it takes a little more, like going to God, and surrendering our thoughts to Him. When we do, all that whirling will stop. I’ve suffered from anxiety long enough to know that when my thoughts are starting to overwhelm me, I just need to take that moment and pray.


5) Keep Your Conscience Clear:


There is nothing that can keep us from a life of peace than not dealing with our conscience. Our conscience can and will interfere with getting our stress under control. We need to keep our conscience clear in two ways. Both towards God, and towards others. I know that it is easy to ignore that ugly feeling when God is trying to deal with us about something, and I also know how freeing it can be to come clean before God. The same goes for others. Is there someone that you have hurt or offended that needs an apology? Often, these are the very people that we are close to, such as our spouse, kids, or friends. Again, it can be so easy to ignore those feelings of wanting to make things right. It’s easy to tell ourselves that it’s no big deal to leave it alone. But if we are wanting to clear all the stress in our lives, this is one place that we need to act to remedy the situation.


To reduce the stress of your life, make sure you go to God and those you may have offended.  You will feel free and be so glad you did.


6) Be Decisive:


This is something I have struggled with for years! Being decisive is something that can affect all sorts of people. It can be hard on the insecure person or even the perfectionist! Making decisions can be a task that is difficult for some people simply because they are afraid of making the wrong decision! So instead of just making a decision and living with it, they stay stuck, and live in fear. Another problem with indecisiveness, is that once some people make a decision, they fear it was the wrong one. This means that they never live in peace. When we’re striving to have less stress in our busy lives, we really need to learn to be decisive. When a decision comes your way, make it with the wisdom you have, and with right intentions. That is all God asks of us. If it’s a more important decision, it is always best to go to God about it, and pray for wisdom. There are times when we will seek the advice of others too. The point here, though, is during our crazy busy lives, don’t let indecision bring you down. Make decisions with the best that you have in you, and if it happens to be the wrong one, deal with the ramifications! That is far better than being trapped in fear about making a decision in the first place.

In summary, we really need to look inward when we are trying to get rid of the stress in our lives. With all the craziness going on, try to take snapshots of the moments that are precious to you, don’t worry about anything other than today, take control of your thoughts, and deal with your conscience. Lastly be decisive as you try to combat the stress. I hope this was a helpful post – please let me know your thoughts any time! Blessings!


Image: Michelle Stam


27 Ways to Have Less Stress

Part Two: Looking Outward

August 26, 2014

1) Get Your Mind Off Yourself:

This is always a hard one to talk about…I find at least. However, when we are stressed to the max, one of the first things we should consider is what we can get our minds off of, right? Well, here is the first place. So often, when we’re stressed out, we start worrying about pointless things. The problem is – we don’t even realize it! Picture getting ready for an occasion, and your family is running late, and you are supposed to bring your amazing chocolate chip cookies. How likely in this moment, are you to be worrying about what you’re wearing, what your hair looks like, and whether your kids have spilled chocolate milk down their shirts? My advice in these crazy stressful moments, is to calm yourself by remembering that you are wearing your favourite outfit, your hair never looks too bad, and your kids haven’t had chocolate milk yet. Sometimes we start worrying about what we will say to so-and-so, and what we will do when chatty Kathy starts gossiping to us. When we’re in that moment of stress, the last thing we need to worry about is the minute details that are fine left alone. It’s just that when the craziness hits, we tend to worry about it all. Next time you’re running late, try to trust yourself a little more, and put less focus on yourself. You look great!! Your evening will be fine without your lipstick being the right one!! You’ll handle that awkward situation as classy as you always do!


2) Mind Your Own Business:


When we are trying to have less stress in our lives, the last, and I mean the very last thing you should be worrying about is other people’s stuff. You know the stuff I mean. The business of others that really has nothing to do with you. I KNOW, believe me! It is so nice sometimes to get caught up in the failures and mistakes of others because, well, let’s admit it – it makes us feel better about our situation sometimes. However, not only is this ungodly, it is just disrespectful and rude. If I find myself poking around in other people’s business, I try to remind myself of what it would feel like if I overheard someone talking about my stuff. When you are stressed out enough, as it is, keep your eyes (and ears) on your own stuff. Believe me, talking and thinking about other people’s lives when you are stressed out, will just add to the anxiousness you have. To have less stress, don’t waste time on other people’s details. Spend that time on your own details.


3) Don’t Worry About What Others Think:


Ok, so this one can kinda be linked to the one above. Except this one, is more for the people who worry about what others think of them. If this is something you struggle with, I wrote a whole post about this, called, “How to Handle the Expectations of Others” (filled with scripture), and I hope you will find some more answers. Basically, the times when we are stressed out, is the time when that insecurity creeps in and takes over. We all know what that is like. We start worrying about what others will think, about all areas of our lives.  But living stress-free means not worrying about what others think. All it does is make us feel more insecure, and less confident. When you are caught up in the expectations of others, the best way to free yourself from the stress, is to just do your very best in all you do. Do it for God, and not others, and let Him be the one you are trying to please. Then, watch the stress disappear!!!


4) Don’t Try to Take Care of Everybody Else:


Ok Moms, don’t freak out here! We all know that parenting is exactly that: taking care of everybody else! However, when trying to reduce the stress in our lives, this is one way that will melt stress away. No matter what age your kids are (except maybe real little ones), there are ways that they can learn to do things for themselves. I am talking all those little things! “Johnny, can you go and get a warm sweater to wear at the bbq?”, instead of me juggling all the things I am carrying while trying to grab 4 extra sweaters all because little Johnny, and his siblings might get cold that evening. Helping your family learn to do some things for themselves will not only reduce your stress level, but will teach them about taking care of themselves!


It also means not trying to please everyone all of the time. Some people find that very hard. Instead of trying to please everyone, try to please the majority, and you’ve saved yourself from a few extra jobs. I know this is a hard one for moms everywhere to hear. Just bear with me, and try it when you are feeling super stressed out. I think you’ll thank me.


So, in summary…when stressed out try to remember to look outward by not focusing too much on yourself, minding your own business, not worrying about what other people think, and by not trying to take care of everybody. I know these suggestions are all hard, but if we try to implement them a little when the going gets tough, it will help.


I hope you’re enjoying the Series, stayed tuned for “Making a Plan” next week filled with more of the 37 tips to less stress. Have a wonderful, stress-free weekend everyone! If you missed “Part One: Looking Inward”, you can read it now!


Image: Michelle Stam


27 Ways to Have Less Stress

Part Three: Make a Plan

August 26, 2014

1) Stop Procrastinating!


Ha! The night before I want this post to be published, I am up at midnight, typing away! I have a feeling this post is going to teach me more than it does others! That’s ok! I am definitely not perfect, even though we all know how much of a perfectionist I am!


Well folks, if we want to have less stress in our lives (and more sleep), we need to stop procrastinating. I can think of many other things that I did today, that could have waited so I could get ahead on my upcoming posts. Yet, I kept putting it off. Don’t you just hate the feeling you have when you know you are putting off something that you have to do? It eats at you, and makes you feel anxiousness in your stomach. When we are trying to have less stress, we need to be aware of all the things that are required of us, and make sure there is time set aside to do those things. When we don’t plan properly, we just keep throwing it down to the bottom of the list, and before we know it, we are freaking out, and stressed beyond belief! Make sure to plan for those things that have to get done, that way, you’ll feel peace instead of stress.


2) Do One Thing at a Time:


Focusing on one thing at a time, releases us to be the best we can be while we are doing that one thing. It gives us the freedom to think clearly, and put focus on the task at hand. Don’t get me wrong, multitasking is a skill that we need to use frequently! However, when we’re trying to have less stress in our lives, multitasking can just create more chaos than it helps. Multitasking means our minds are pulled in all sorts of directions, and we really can’t put our all into something that may be important. So, when trying to reduce the stress, try doing one thing at a time, and then move on to the next task. You’ll feel at peace, and won’t feel like a scatterbrain!


3) Establish Boundaries:


Many people role their eyes when they hear the word boundaries. Probably because it’s so hard to set them. But boundaries are like imaginary fences that when put in place, are there to protect us. Think of it as keeping the bad things out, and keeping the good things in. We need to establish boundaries in our lives before the stress hits, so that we have protection from the stress. This time of year is a great time to get those boundaries set, as we enter a new school year. There are committees that need help, boards to be on, car pooling moms to help, and the list goes on. Boundaries are great to establish with our kids too, so that they know when enough is enough with us! It may be setting bed times, telling kids not to bother you while you’re working on the finances, or even setting boundaries around tv and video game times. Boundaries are always there to protect us, but we just have to set them first!

Remember: Boundaries = less stress!


4) Regularly Evaluate Priorities:


This one can be a hard one. It seems these days that everything and everyone are priorities. Before we know it, everything comes first, and we don’t know where we stand. To reduce stress, we need to regularly take a look at what priorities we have in our lives, and make adjustments. Priorities are always changing, and we need to keep up with those changes. The problem that occurs if we don’t keep re-evaluating those priorities, is that things that are no longer supposed to be on the top of the list, may keep getting the attention that something else needs now. Especially with this time of year, new things are being demanded of us, and we need to make room for them by dropping some other things off the list (or at least to the very bottom of the list).


5) Choose Your Battles:


I mentioned this one in the post, “7 Ways to Be Content in a World of Perfect”. Choosing our battles is a huge way we can reduce stress. When faced with something that is demanding our attention, we need to ask ourselves, “Is this something that needs my attention right now?”. By asking ourselves that, we are re-evaluating priorities (see above – we’re getting good at this!). When we’re faced with more than one demand on us, we can choose which thing is more important. Then, if possible, let go of the other. Honestly, I think at times, we get caught up in something that doesn’t really need our full attention. It’s then that we can ask ourselves, if there is something that needs more of us in that moment. Sometimes too, it’s realizing that something we’re doing, really isn’t worth the time we’re devoting to it. The example I used before, was changing my website header over and over (and over). There were many more things that could have used my attention far better than doing that. I should have asked myself if I was using my time in the best way I could. I would have realized I wasn’t, and then I could have done something far more important, like spend time with my kids. To reduce stress, always choose your battles.


6) Plan Ahead:


Wherever possible, plan ahead! I can’t say this enough. As humans, when stress gets the better of us, and we are running around like chickens with their heads cut off, it helps so much to have a plan. I know for me, when things get chaotic, it gives me great peace to see something that I’ve put down on paper to get me back on track. Making a plan is like giving ourselves a cheatsheet. When the going gets tough, having something to refer back to just brings things back into perspective. Actually making a plan can be the tricky part when times are busy. We usually put it off, thinking I’ll get to that later. However, you’ll thank yourself, when at the grocery store, you can actually pick up the things you need! Take some time today, and make a plan. Write it down. Make it pretty, use checkmarks or whatever it takes to encourage you to use it! To reduce stress, it works!


In summary, we’re learning all sorts of ways to reduce stress in our lives. This time of year especially, can be so hard on us. Try using today’s suggestions to reduce stress, and start living with some sort of plan. Whether you do one thing at a time, stop procrastinating, establish boundaries, regularly evaluate priorities, choose your battles, or plan ahead – any of these will help you gain control of the stress. If you can try all of them, then good for you (and let me know how you did it)! If you missed Part One: Looking Inward, or Part Two: Looking Outward, catch up now!


Image: Michelle Stam


27 Ways to Have Less Stress

Part Four: Just Say No

August 26, 2014

1) Stop Rushing!


When we are stressed out and trying to get everything done, we tend to rush. We think that the faster we go, the more we’ll get done. Although there are times that we need to pick up the pace a little, rushing is not the way to go. When we rush, we miss out on a lot of little things that may be important. One area that often goes unnoticed is how we treat other people when we are in a rush. Think of all the people that get the rotten side of us when we’re rushing. People like cashiers, friends, not to mention our spouse and kids. We can miss out on simple things like facial expressions, and subtle comments. We can hurt so many others by just being in a rush. Next time you find yourself rushing, take the time to stop and ask yourself how you are treating others around you, and ask yourself if you’re missing out on what’s going on around you.


2) Stop doing things you can’t do well!


When we do things we can’t do well, we open the door to all sorts of negative things. Not only do the tasks we can’t do well take up more of our precious time, but it takes up so much more effort too. I am not saying that we shouldn’t try new things, or that we should give up on anything we’re not super at, because that’s just not true! However, in light of this series, please hear me! When we are trying to have less stress in our lives, we need to not waste time doing things that we’re not good at. This could be a dish that you keep trying to perfect for your family that always goes wrong. When trying to have less stress, stick to the dishes that are your best ones….ones you could make with your eyes closed! Some suggestions for you are to swap tasks with a friend or family member. Each contribute something you’re great at, and they contribute something they’re great at. Have your girlfriend make up a spreadsheet for your family budget, while you do a batch of your famous cookies. You’ll both save time!


3) Count the Cost Before You Commit!


Don’t you just wish sometimes that you could turn the clock back, and take back all those moments you volunteered to do something that you had absolutely NO time to do?? I think that happens to all of us at some time or another. Our intentions get the better of us, and before we know it, we are committed up to our eyeballs in stuff that we had no business committing to. When we are trying to have less stress in our lives, we really need to get in the habit of counting the cost of something before we say we’ll take it on. A long time ago, when I used to get called last minute for shifts, I found myself just saying yes, before I really took a look at my day. So, something I ended up trying worked so great. As soon as I got the phone call to ask if I could come in for a shift, I would tell them I would think about it, and call them back. Then I would take no longer than 5 minutes, and actually breathe. I would think about my day, and whether I could really take on a shift or not. It was SO easy to come up with a realistic decision when I didn’t have my boss on the other end of the phone. So try something like that. When trying to have less stress, take a few minutes to yourself before committing to something you’ll end up regretting.


4) Learn How To Just Say NO!


This one goes well with so many other the other 37 Ways to have less stress. However, it needs a line of it’s own! We all need to learn how to say no to things without feeling the guilt that usually goes along with saying no. It is one thing to learn how to say no. It’s hard! We are always worrying about what others will think, and we don’t like letting people down. However, when we commit to something under those circumstances, we really are not giving our best anyway. When we really know deep down inside that we should be saying no to something, we need to lean in and trust our feelings. It could be that you already have too much on the go, or that you’re heart is really not in it. Whatever the case, please say no! You’ll be so glad that you did. Now, when you do say no to something, you have to, have to, HAVE to let go of the guilt that will try to follow. Trust your feelings, and your decision. If you say no to something, reward yourself with the feelings of doing the right thing!


5) Stop Expecting!


Our expectations get us in so much trouble! Why do we expect so much of ourselves? Why do we expect so much from those around us? In a world where perfect is the standard, it is so hard to get our expectations down to reasonable levels. If you missed my post on perfectionism, click here. When we are trying to have less stress in our lives, we need to lower our expectations drastically. It doesn’t mean we need to compromise, but it means setting the bar lower than what we normally would. Stressed out because your child isn’t eating healthy enough? Be glad when they eat a veggie or two, instead of expecting the whole plate. It’s making little exceptions here and there that will greatly reduce the stress. You’ll see!


6) Avoid People Who Talk Too Much!


Now I do not mean to be rude with this one. I am trying to make less stress for you. When you have someone in your life that talks too much, it can cause so much undue stress. Without putting down that person who has the gift of gab, try to see my point. Listening to someone go on and on with details that are not necessarily a must, can just cause our brains to go on overload. This could be details describing an event, a person, or whatever. Details are the last thing your head needs when you are trying to have less stress. Also, try real hard to stay clear of the gossiping person. Those are not images you have time for – you need to have a clear head for things that critical to YOUR day, not details of someone else’s life. To help you with this, just try to keep this in mind the next time you’re chatting with someone. If you don’t have time to go into great detail about the weather, just politely excuse yourself, then spend those few saved minutes on YOU!


So for Part Four, “Just Say No!”, remember that each time you say no, you are giving yourself a better chance at having less stress. Whether it be that you stop rushing, stop doing things that you don’t do well, whether you count the cost before you commit, learn to say no, or don’t listen to someone who talks too much – you will be learning to reduce the stress in your life. 


Once again, I would love to hear your comments on this post. If you missed the others in this series, you can find them below:


Image: Michelle Stam


27 Ways to Have Less Stress

Part Five: Don't Do This

August 26, 2014

1) Don’t Make Mountains out of Molehills!


When we are stressed out, one of the easiest things to do is to make a big deal out of anything. Once we start seeing things in that negative light, everything takes on that nasty attitude. Know what I mean? Just like when you’re rushing somewhere (already late), and you trip over that toy that you asked your daughter to pick up already 5 times that day. Tripping over that toy is just one more thing to add to the already crazy day your having. But isn’t it amazing how when we’re having a great day, we’ll just joyfully pick up that toy, and put it away ourselves? Now I’m not saying our kids don’t need to pick up their toys! They do! However, we need to keep in mind that when we’re really stressed out, we’re more likely to get stressed over anything that creeps onto our path. We need to have the perspective that we are already are stressed to the max. That way, we have in mind that we’re already stressed, and any new thing that pops up that can make things worse, will already be in mind. Then we’re not likely to freak out over every. single. thing. When we’re already dealing with stress, not making mountains out of molehills is just a little way to help things (even if it’s just preventing things from getting worse!).


2) Don’t Start What You Can’t Finish!


Ok, I am SO bad at this one. When I am stressed out and trying to balance everything, the easiest thing in the world is to add more onto the pile. The problem with this thinking, is that I tend to think, “Oh, ONE more thing won’t be that bad!”. Then before I know it, I am so overwhelmed with all the things I took on. We learned in previous parts not how to say no to more things. Here, what I want to stress though, is that we need to not only be careful not to take on more things during stressful times, but only take on what we know we can complete! For example, I have a bunch of vegetables that are sitting in my kitchen waiting to be cut up and canned. But I found these awesome old windows that I SO badly want to sand, paint, distress, and dress up for Christmas! Christmas you say?? Yes. So, somehow in my stressful week I found the time to go to the craft store to get some supplies, spend a few hours on Pinterest trying to get ideas, and then managed to start sanding the first window. All that was fine and dandy, until you see the veggies still sitting there in the kitchen. So then I feel guilty, start working on the veggies, then need to move all the window stuff I was doing to make room! IF I had just stuck to one thing at a time, I would have been able to complete one task, and then start something I knew I had the time to finish! By the way, I will be sharing the window project on some Feature Friday coming soon! But I first need to attend to the veggies…..


3) Don’t Be Overly Complicated!


Why do we make things so hard for ourselves??? I am so good at doing that too, which I shared previously about my problem being a perfectionist. This is such a great one to learn. When we are trying to have less stress in our lives, being complicated is one of the very first things that should go. I know. It’s easier said than done. But try this: The next time you are stressed out, and you are stressing over the details of something, just remind yourself that you can always come back to it later, when you have a moment. I know this won’t work for all things, but it will for a lot of things. I am the worst for this. I get so stuck on something, and it will be hours before I realize I am further behind than I already was. If I had just promised myself some time at the end of the day to spend on the details of that one thing, after all the needed things were done and out of the way, I would have solved the problem! Next time you’re trying to have less stress, think about the kind of time you’re spending on the complicated details. You’ll be so glad you did!


4) Don’t Let the Work Pile Up!


When we are aiming to have less stress, we really need to attend to the important things, so they don’t pile up! There is nothing more stressful than waking up to a stressful day, and walking into a ton of things that should have already been done. I know you know what I’m talking about here! Like the dishes that are from dinner last night. Sure, it was a great thought last night when you thought you would just do them in the morning. But now it’s morning, and you have even more on your to do list than you were thinking about last night! Now, those dishes are just something else you have to squeeze in to an already stressful morning. When trying to have less stress, attend to the things that you can in THAT moment. Don’t procrastinate! You’ll be so glad when you wake up tomorrow, and those dinner dishes are done!


5) Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself!


I know this is a hard one. It seems the very last thing on our minds during times of stress, is to be kind to ourselves. However, beating ourselves up is probably the worst thing we can do to ourselves during stress! I know you will agree with me that when you’re stressed out, and all seems to be going wrong, being hard on yourself comes quite naturally. But really, does it ever help? Does screaming at yourself in your head really help get the day going in the right direction? No. We need to give ourselves grace. Tough days are going to happen. And even if we could have prepared better, there is nothing that can be helped by being hard on yourself. Make a note for next time on what you could do better, or how you could do something differently, then get on with your day. No being hard on yourself if you want less stress! Got it? 🙂


So, in summary, for Part Five….(are we getting better at this yet?), let’s remember that in order to have less stress we need to think of things NOT to do. Like, DON’T make mountains of molehills, DON’T start what you can’t finish, DON’T make things overly complicated, DON’T let the work pile up, and DON’T BE TOO HARD ON YOURSELF!!! I hope you are all gaining some nuggets that will help you have less stress in your lives. Especially this busy fall season. I know I could be taking my own advice a lot better! 🙂


Image:  Michelle Stam