Friday, June 29, 2018

Optimum health requires attention

A women's organization, the Women of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, has long promoted a health initiative for women and girls. In it, they follow an ESP approach.

What's the ESP approach, you ask? The E stands for emotional health, the S for spiritual health, and the P for physical health.

What this initiative encourages is that each of us thinks about what unique things in each of those areas are necessary for us to work on. For example, what do you need for your best emotional health? Some people need to learn to chill out and relax more. Others need to let go of feeling responsible for everything and everyone. Still other folks can work on limiting their critical and judgmental nature. What do you need?

The same is true for your spiritual health: What do you need to work on to stay balanced and well-grounded?

How about your physical health? Do you exercise to the degree you're able? Are there some foods you need to avoid for optimum health? Do you need more laughter in your life? What lifestyle changes would make you healthier?

I like this approach and think it has a lot of merit. And I firmly believe in the importance of doing regular check-ups on ourselves to see what will move us to better health. We do regular maintenance on our cars, furnaces and air conditioners. Why not on ourselves?

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Glad to be here!

Have you ever had an experience that scared the living daylights out of you but that didn't fully affect you until much later? Perhaps it's quite normal.

Nearly a week ago while driving along a busy freeway at commute time, with semis and cars going 60 mph or more, I came way too close for comfort to being in a terrible accident. An SUV in the far left lane of three lanes of traffic suddenly veered 90 degrees across all lanes headed, full speed, toward me in the far right lane. I could see my trajectory, if I continued full speed, would bring him right about to my driver's side door. As soon as I saw him head toward me, I slammed on my brakes so hard that I could smell rubber on the road. I still thought he'd hit me but more on the front end of the car. Amazingly, he flew right by the front of my car, missing it by what must have been three or four inches as he flew, full speed, right off the road and into a field of trees beyond.

I was shaking like a leaf and slowly resumed my drive, exiting off the highway and to city streets just a few feet ahead, where I could calm down. I saw other cars and semis behind me stopping, so I knew someone would call police and ambulance. It took me a long time to settle down. But it wasn't until that night when I awoke after a couple hours of sleep that I began thinking of all the "What ifs" of that event. I'm amazed no one rear-ended me when I stopped so suddenly, especially with all the semis and cars behind me. I'm amazed the car didn't hit someone in the middle lane, causing a multi-car pile-up. And I still can't believe the SUV didn't even touch my car at all. I could have been killed, I know that. I could have been hospitalized with severe injuries. I could have been shoved off the road as the SUV flew off—and rolled over several times. So many different scenarios and very real possibilities have run through my mind ever since.

It's tough to forget this scene, and it comes to mind, uninvited, daily, with possibilities playing out again and again. One night I even awoke screaming, scaring the daylights out of my fiancé. I'm trying to let it all go but that doesn't seem easy.

One thing I don't want to lose, however, is that deep sense of gratitude I feel for being alive. At the same time, my heart hurts for whoever was in the SUV; and I can't seem to learn anything about what happened, but I know it could not have been good. Life: It's always good and bad all mixed together—gratitude for some things and sorrow for others.

Monday, June 25, 2018

The power of the moment

Some years ago, a friend gave me a printout titled "This powerful moment." The words went deep for me at the time I first read it, and I just came across it again the other day. The words still resonate!

The printout contained these words:

"There is enormous power in this moment. The more fully you experience what is here right now, the more that power is available to you.

"Are you angry or bitter, disappointed or resentful about what has happened in the past? Then much of the power of this moment will be out of your reach.

"Are you anxious and worried about something that may or may not happen in the future? The  you will miss out on the opportunity to create real and lasting value from this powerful moment you are in.

"Imagine that everything you are, everything you know, everything you care about, is focused into this very moment. And feel the enormous power of what you can, right here and now, do with it all.

"Rise above the murky fog of what could have been and what someday might or might not come to pass. Focus the whole of your being on what is, and on the overflowing abundant opportunities this moment presents to you.

"There is great and wonderful power in this very moment, in who you are, in where you are right now. See it, be it, and let yourself live it fully."

When I Googled some of the words of this inspiring message, I learned that it comes from an online blog written by Ralph S. Marston. Happily, I see he still is blogging; so I encourage you to check out his recent blogs, too. We all need all the inspiration we can get, especially these days!

Friday, June 22, 2018

Does discomfort lead to truth?

Recently I read a quote that really has me thinking. I haven't decided whether I fully agree with it or not. Let's see what you think.

This comes from M. Scott Peck, psychiatrist and author of The Road Less Traveled: "The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers."

I agree that ruts can be deadly and can, in fact, turn into dead-ends. I'm still unsure whether my finest moments are to be found in my discomfort or unhappiness. Perhaps I need to journal with this thought and see what comes up.

It's an intriguing thought and definitely caught my eye.

What do you think? Does this reflect your experience?

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

You are worthy & lovable

Have you ever had the thought: If people really knew who I am inside, they wouldn't love me? Or if my boss or work colleagues really knew how little I know, they wouldn't want me here on this job. Many people have these or similar thoughts. So much so, in fact, that there's a name for this. It's the Impostor Syndrome. It's a worry that someone will see through your masks to what's really inside and know that you're incompetent or unlovable. Or both. And they will reject you.

Even people with successful careers can deal with Impostor Syndrome. We know many entertainers and movie stars deal with it because we've all heard stories about how needy and insecure some of them are. However, you may not have realized that ordinary people such as you and me also deal with IS.

If you face this even just sometimes, find someone with whom you can talk it over—a trusted friend, a counselor or life coach. If it helps to identify any old voices or old "tapes" from which you drew these ideas of yourself, do so. And then, do whatever you can to turn off those voices and old tapes. Replace them with affirmations of yourself. One such affirmation might be: I choose not to place my self-esteem in the hands of another person. Or: I am connected to God and my own sense of wholeness. Others are: I am good, and I am loved—or I am competent and worthy.

I invite you to not let IS drag you down and steal your confidence and joy. Please contact me if you would like to discuss this.

Monday, June 18, 2018

What's your grounding level?

Are you feeling well grounded these days? On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 1 being extremely off balance and 10 being well grounded), where would you place yourself?

Is something going on in your life that has you feeling "off" lately? A person in your life whose behavior is getting to you? A situation that has temporarily robbed you of your serenity and equanimity?

If so, what will it take for you to feel centered and grounded again? You are the only one who knows what you need at such times. Do you need to connect with friends or loved ones? Or do you need solitude? Do you need some inspiration—as from a favorite poet or author? Do you need time in nature? Or do you need a new dream?

I encourage you to find whatever it is that will make you feel whole and grounded again. Further, I invite you to check in on yourself from time to time to see how you're doing in that department. It's easier to make a course correction if you haven't become completely undone.

Let's hear it for serenity and even sanguinity. It can be a challenge in this crazy world of ours, but it's always worth your time to tend to your grounding and balance.

Friday, June 15, 2018

'Pain as propane'

On Wednesday, we talked about how we respond to difficulty, using a quote from Winston Churchill. After I wrote that blog, I read about a man who'd had a tough childhood and also as an adult, experienced several losses before finally getting his life together.

He didn't let his childhood or the losses stop him in his tracks, however. He didn't give up or get derailed. What he has done instead, he says, is to use "his pain as propane." That struck me as a great way to use adversity in our lives. That definitely doesn't mean we ignore the pain, difficulties and losses. No, we deal with them in appropriate ways—and then move on. We do not allow the painful situations of our lives to define us nor to be the last (or only) word.

Rather, we let the pain fuel and empower us. We let it spur us on to fulfilling our dreams and to becoming the people we want to be. That in turn often pushes us to empower others and help them transform pain, too.

Pain as propane—yes, pain and suffering can be transformative. In fact, I have heard many people say that it was through their cancer (or other serious illness) that they really came to learn many of their life lessons, create new dreams and appreciate life and loved ones.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Gratitude & optimism

Winston Churchill once said, "The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."

Which are you? An optimist? Or a pessimist? Or do you vacillate?

These days with such incivility and partisanship reigning in our country, it can be a challenge to remain optimistic. Still, it is definitely worth trying to hang onto a positive outlook. It makes such a difference in how we comport ourselves, the decisions we make, the way we treat others, and the way we walk through each day.

If you are facing a difficult, life-changing event, this can be a stretch; but it's worth the effort: When you awaken in the morning, try letting your first thoughts be about at least two things for which you're grateful—even if it's simply that you're still alive and made it through the night. These days I awake to the sound of birds singing; and right there, I have something for which to be grateful. Then I think about my family and friends—people I love and who love me. Wow, how am I so blessed? And there's always more....

Gratitude is a good start down the road to optimism, to seeing the opportunity in difficulties. I know that some days, that's a stretch for me, too. But Churchill was right, and I do want to keep trying.

How about you?

Monday, June 11, 2018

Messy community means staying!

I am part of a group of women who just read and discussed the book A Bigger Table: Building Messy, Authentic, and Hopeful Spiritual Community by John Pavlovitz. We had deep and interesting discussions on the topic, sharing experiences from our lives and thinking about a different way of being in the world.

Being open to engage people who may look different from us or who may see the world from a different viewpoint than we do takes courage. Pavlovitz gave examples from his own life of situations where people discussed, debated and, yes, argued as they tried to make the table larger. He talked about the messiness of such a venture.

Here's what he said about that, "The bigger table isn't one you run from at the first sign of discord. It is based on the lost sacred art of staying." And further, he added, "Expanding the table isn't for the faint of heart or the impatient, which is why so few people actually attempt it, but there is something transformative on the other side of it. ... We need to stop talking and we need to walk shoulder to shoulder with people in real, messy, authentic community—until we all can see it for ourselves."

Yes! I believe he's right about the art of staying—staying in the relationship that would be easier to drop because you see the world so differently, talking about why you see it the way you do and listening to why the other person sees it the way they do, perhaps even learning a lot in the process! And we do need to stop talking and actually practice "real, messy, authentic community."

What might it take for you to do that? I'm pondering that myself these days—since I see the divide becoming greater and greater in our society. One thing is will take is courage, I'm certain of that.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Testing, testing, testing

I have a snarly road construction mess on the highway that goes right by my townhouse development. It is supposed to be done by November of this year; however, I'm pretty much thinking we'll have to live with this for the rest of the year.

Normally, this highway has two lanes going each direction. Now there's only one lane going each direction, and traffic is lined up way up and down the road. And the traffic pattern changes week to week, depending on what's being done. So getting in and out of our development is definitely a challenge. It's not a time to be timid, I'll tell you that. One has to get the car right up to the roadway rather than staying at the stop sign set back from the road—and hope someone will do the right thing and not block our ability to get out onto the road. Most people are kind and willing to share the roadway! Some, however.... well, you get the point.

I'm not proud to admit this, but I'm not the most patient person in the world, especially when it comes to driving. I think I got my father's genes there; I always said he had two speeds—fast or stopped. And I seem to have the same. Once I'm headed somewhere, I want to get there, and as quickly as possible. So this construction business is going to truly test me. It might be a good time for me to practice patience a bit more seriously than I've done before! Another life lesson for me to learn.

Do you have something that's being tested right now? What practice might help you?

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Endings and beginnings

We said farewell to our senior pastor last Sunday as we sent him off into retirement. In his last sermon he talked about endings and beginnings, and he reminded us that every "Hello" has a "Goodbye" in its back pocket. How true that is.

I've heard it said this way, too: Endings carry within them the seeds of new beginnings. No matter how you phrase the idea, it's good for us to remember this. Does it mean we don't mark and grieve endings? Not at all. It just means we keep in mind that beginnings will follow those endings. If you face a career change, a job loss, the death of someone you love, a move to another city or state, or any kind of transition or ending, you know that it will mean a switch to what will become a "new normal."

Such transitions aren't always easy. Sometimes they are extremely painful. And for some, these transitions can nearly bring life to a stop—they are that debilitating and painful!

It is at such times when we need to call on all our resources—our family and friends, our past experiences, our faith and yes, even our sense of humor—to get us through. Think about all the resources you have.

Are you facing any endings today? Or do you have loved ones who are? What do you need? Or what does that friend or family member need from you?

Monday, June 4, 2018

Step out of your comfort zone

In the last issue of The Magnolia Journal published by Joanna and Chip Gaines of HGTV fame, the topic was "curiosity."

Joanna admitted that Chip is the one who's most curious and playful in their relationship. She admits, "I think what's happened to me is that as I've gotten older I've felt less desire to do things that I'm not great at or don't fully understand. Instead, I've stayed in my lane and considered qualities like curiosity and playfulness to be ones that I simply didn't inherit.

"Even more, I believed they belonged only to certain personality types—people who are naturally extroverted and willing to take on new or uncertain experiences. And I do truly admire those people."

Further on in her writings about being playful, she urges us to "choose discovery" rather than sitting on the sidelines of life. Although I don't think I necessarily sit on the sidelines, I know there are more times than I like to admit when I prefer to stay in my comfort zone. So it was good for me to hear that she also does that—and that she urges us all toward discovery. It can be both/and. We can feel discomfort and we can still choose to jump into a new experience anyway. I can use that kind of encouragement.

At this stage of life, I know what my strengths are and where I'm comfortable. I also know my weaknesses and am not eager to display them! However, sometimes curiosity will lead us to look like fools for a while. It can also lead to some plain old fun—and to some learnings we'd not have otherwise.

What do you think? Are you ready to step outside of your lane for a while and try something new?

Friday, June 1, 2018

Inspirational tidbits for today

I subscribe to The Magnolia Journal, the magazine of "Inspiration for life and home" put together by Joanna and Chip Gaines of HGTV fame. Truthfully, I often find inspiration in its pages. So their motto holds true for me.

In the latest issue on "curiosity," the editors included what they call the "Magnolia Manifesto" on what they believe. The manifesto contained several items that I want to pass along because I think they're worth some reflection:

"We believe:
—that friends who feel like family are the best kind of friends and that nothing matters more than family.
—that today is a gift and that every day miracles are scattered about if only we have eyes to see them.
—that failure needn't be a negative thing; rather, we learn from our mistakes and fail smarter next time.
—in doing work that we love and, in choosing that, nudging others toward doing what they love.
...and of all heroic pursuits large or small, we believe there may be none greater than a life well loved."

So what do you think? Do those resonate with you, too? There were more, but these were some of my favorites. One could journal several pages on each of those items. Give them some thought and see whether they inspire you today. May your day be bright and filled with beauty!