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The Resurrection Tree

This lace bark elm stands reaching to the heavens in my backyard, but it was once just a sapling that we planted, and this is the story of how it survived the odds and came back from the “almost-dead”.

The Resurrection Tree – a lace bark elm in my backyard

This tree didn’t always have it easy as it began it’s life. We planted it in 2007, the year that my father-in-law passed, as a reminder of the beauty in celebrating a life well lived. In 2011 it was thriving as a young tree but had a bit of a crisis and almost didn’t make it beyond it’s 4th year. We had taken in a rescue dog that year who turned out to be pretty destructive. One day we came out to the backyard to discover that she had painstakingly peeled all the bark off the bottom half of our beautiful tree, most likely just because she found it something fun to do. She subjected our poor tree to great trauma, leaving it bare and exposed, without much hope of survival.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen my husband so mad over something destructive that has happened to our yard or home. Not even the hurricane damage that we have faced several times. This was HIS tree that he had worked so hard to nurture and grow for 4 years to that point. It was a symbol of life that had almost been destroyed. And to top it off, he is a dog lover and was trying to give this dog a loving home, but she had not been “loving” to our family in return. It was frustrating that she was so destructive and didn’t even understand the harm she had caused.

That’s a lot like life isn’t it? We may work so hard on something like trying to get a promotion, or achieve a goal, or nurture a relationship for YEARS and then one day we don’t get the promotion, we miss the goal deadline, or a relationship ends. The “bark” gets stripped away and all our effort seems lost. It feels like all that time has been wasted and we are starting over. It hurts even more when someone we care about is involved in causing the pain associated with these losses.

So what do we do when we are faced with loss and need to figure out how to move on, trying to find hope in the next morning?

Some would say, “It’s just a tree. Plant a new one!” Yes, in some cases of loss you could. You can definitely make new goals, set new deadlines, invest in new positive relationships, and even take baby steps as you learn to live life without what you once had. But that is not always easy to let go of the pain from the loss and sometimes we need to give wounds time to heal. And sometimes they don’t, and we need to find a way to live with the wounds on a new path.

Well, I can tell you that my husband put protective wire around this little survivor tree of ours and continued to nurture it and feed it and care for it. He continued to have hope that it would thrive and grow and reach it’s full potential. He was not willing to give up on it so easily.

Since then our lace bark elm has grown and thrived and amazed us with its resilience. It came back from the “almost-dead” and has brought beauty and joy to our yard, and our hearts. Plus, its branches, strong roots, and sturdy trunk are an example every day of how we can not only overcome the hard things in our past, but use what we have lost to gain greater strength.

This Holy Week I looked out at that tree and was inspired by its beauty. I looked up and was reminded of where we can find our strength when we feel like we have been stripped of everything and might be starting over. Our strength comes from strong roots. Our strength comes from a trunk and branches that help carry the weight. Our hope and encouragement to face starting over comes from others that might nurture our hearts when we are wounded.

Dear friends, this is the resurrection story.
For me, the strong roots are my faith in a God that I know loves each of us unconditionally. He loves us so much that He sent his son Jesus. Jesus is the strength in my life and the friend that I need when I feel that I am carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders, and especially when I feel at times that all has been stripped away. Jesus overcame DEATH with me and YOU in mind. He has already carried that weight for us in the cross. He took our place so we don’t have to give up an abundant life with HIM. He believes in our ability to survive whatever we are facing because He has already faced it FOR us.

Yes, it’s hard, and painful, and you might even feel like you have no idea how you are going to make it one more hour of this day, but you ARE. You ARE right now because it’s a CHOICE. You are surviving and you are going to make it because you can CHOOSE to look to Him and what He has already done. Don’t look at what you’ve lost right now or how hard it’s going to be. Just look at Him. You will look at what you’ve lost and back again and it will slowly get easier to look at Jesus more often and less at the pain of the past.

You might be starting over. You might feel that you are buried in the ashes. People might even be telling you “just plant a new tree” and you have no idea how you could ever replace the one you lost. I promise if you are willing to TRUST Jesus that He is enough to help you RISE again, because He has already done it. He is the proof that He can do it again in YOUR life.

The survival of this tree isn’t the end of our story. It’s a symbol for what’s possible though. We have lost much in the relationship we once had with our adopted daughter who is now an adult and struggling with who she wants her family to be. Regardless of any role I might play in her life, my prayer has always been that she would see that even though it may feel at times like all the bark has been stripped away from her life, and she’s barely hanging on, Jesus is the one that restores and He is the one that has the power to bring her up from the ashes.

He has done this for me when I have had trouble reconciling how to move forward without her in our day to day life. This was a painful loss I have had trouble accepting as a “new normal”. But I have not given up on the hope, and the redemption that God promises. I KNOW without a doubt that He will redeem HER story and use it for good…someday. She already has a huge heart of compassion so I hold onto hope that the roots that we planted in her life will sprout and grow her into her own version by her choosing of a beautiful “resurrection tree”.

I believe it and I claim it.

I am praying for YOU to have your own redemption story to celebrate and share. Use your voice and inspire someone, be kind, embrace beauty, and be sure that others in your life know your story. Happy Easter friends!

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Boundaries: Saying No

A couple weeks ago I did a live video on The Amateur Acorn Facebook page about setting boundaries and the power of saying no. I shared a story about a man who was a great leader and influence on my life, Dr. Gordon Anderson. He was the Superintendent of Spring ISD when I taught there from 1992-1999. I learned so much from him, but in particular he demonstrated amazing leadership by:

  1. knowing my name
  2. being an intentional encourager
  3. modeling servant leadership with his presence

Initially, what I thought I learned from him was to serve and to make sure people feel noticed. He kept a spoon in his front shirt pocket to show the students that it was a reminder that even leaders are servants.

But over the years as I have thought of the influence he had on me as a young teacher, I have come to realize that it’s not just about serving freely and willingly. Yes, we need to be available and open to having an attitude of service in our jobs, our families, and in our communities. We need to be teaching our children to take initiative by all means and the importance of work ethic. And it’s also deeper than that.

As leaders we must also set boundaries and have the courage to say no. I think this is most important when it comes to our most important relationships. I’m learning more and more as I approach my 50th birthday this year that life is fleeting and it is when we say YES to our children, to our spouse, our best friends, and to the most vulnerable that have no one else, that we truly become the influencers in the world.

It is in our ability to say no to the things that most probably can wait, even if they are good things, and yes to the BEST things, that we truly demonstrate the power to change our community, our culture, and our world.

I’ll give you one example of something YOU can do to set a boundary that will make a GINORMOUS impact…I’m talking HUGE! When you FIRST pick up your kids from school, get home from work, or pick them up from anywhere when you haven’t seen them for a few hours or more, you GREET them and make eye contact, and then be willing to just listen for the next 20-30 min. And I mean EYE contact (not on your phone, not doing the dishes, not doing stuff for work) and let them talk. If they don’t talk at first, ask questions.

I have done this with my kids for years. I’m not perfect at it. Sometimes it’s just not possible to give them my attention if something out of my control is going on so obviously you aren’t going to be perfect either. And many times I was driving so obviously they wouldn’t be getting full on eye contact, like staring. But I truly believe that this is one of the NUMBER ONE things that has helped me build a STRONG adult relationship with them. My adult boys talk to me…like almost every day. They text me and tell me what’s going on in the news that they thought was interesting, or share a funny meme, or whatever. The other night we sat down to eat dinner and it led to a 6 hour conversation with a wide variety of topics. It was a beautiful thing.

I attribute the strength in our relationship with the fact that I made a boundary and I wasn’t really even aware of it. I said no to other distractions when I first saw my kids each day to give them my attention and affirm that they are important. This is also probably why they are confident adults and are not only initiators, but servant leaders too. They are world changers I am very proud of and much of who they are comes from knowing that they are valued and loved.

Take the time to think about what boundary you need to set. Feel free to say No, just for the simple act of knowing you need to say YES to someone important.

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Boiling Point

Have you ever thought about what gets you to your “boiling point”? What sets you off? What gets you feeling like you are DONE? It’s interesting to me that water boils at EXACTLY 212 degrees. Not at 211. It’s 212. What is it that triggers your boiling point?

When I get to what I think is my boiling point, it’s usually because I’m overwhelmed when I’ve taken on too much, or I am emotionally exhausted with high maintenance people, or I am extremely frustrated because I feel out of control. I can convince myself that I can’t give any more. I was thinking about this last week and what’s interesting to me is that the boiling point of water is an exact number, and then the water really has power to burn and harm, OR it can do GOOD, like sterilize water for drinking and help you prepare something like a warm cup of coffee.

For us, just being human, any of us think of it as an ending point in that we say “I’m done” or “I’m going to explode!”, kind of like a finish line. But REALLY if we reverse it and think of it as a STARTING point it changes everything. It’s the starting point of being on fire, of being over the top, and maybe even a little “extra” in the BEST way.

Today on Motivation Monday I want you to think about you’re boiling point as a starting point. What I mean by that is when we’re looking at setting boundaries, healthy boundaries for ourselves, which is what I’m thinking about a lot lately, it becomes a motivation for how you can set boundaries for yourself and make REAL change in your life. You get to create the life that YOU want so don’t wait until you are boiling over but if you get there, USE it as fuel to GET THINGS DONE.

Perhaps you’re at your boiling point because you are overwhelmed, and taken on too much. Maybe you need to cut back and you need to take care of yourself, so that you can have the energy and the mental focus to take care of everyone else that is important in your life. Maybe there are bad habits out of control. Maybe you need to stop yelling at your kids for bad habits and take the time to build a stronger relationship or just stop to TEACH them the social skills and self-care skills that will make their life (and YOURS) easier, and more rewarding.

I also think that it’s important to look at mental and emotional stability. For me personally, I know that when I’ve been in a state where I was very depressed and sad it was from circumstances in my life that had gotten me there. It’s very natural to be in that state if you’re facing loss or grief, but I think it’s also important to look at how easy it is to stay there. We all need to be on our own timeline when overcoming the pain of loss of course, but we also need to challenge ourselves to move beyond and not get stuck. Maybe we don’t feel like we have the ability to do more then we are doing, so we decide or we convince ourselves that we’re not capable of more today. And maybe we’re not. But we must be honest with ourselves and start to look at what’s next.

I’m going to challenge you to think differently friend. If you are in that state where you are sad, have faced loss, or are facing hard things and really struggling because you have so many things and so many people depending on you then first get professional help if you need it. Then, I encourage you to look at what is your boiling point and just stop, take a breath, and give yourself some time to get perspective. Look at where you can make some changes: what can you cut out, or add in, or maybe you just need some time to take care of yourself and recharge. It’s ok to be falling apart temporarily. Then come back in for another round in the rink. You don’t have to stay there, you don’t have to feel like you’re going to explode or overflow, and you DO have the power, the capacity, and the ability to move BEYOND your boiling point. Look at it as a starting point to something better, then set boundaries for yourself friend!

Last week I did a live video on my “The Amateur Acorn” Facebook page on boundaries and the power in saying no. Even though I didn’t get deep into it, this is something I’m going to be writing and speaking about quite a bit in the coming days because it is what I am learning too. We need to feel free to say yes to the people in your life that are most important and NO to the things that just aren’t going to make it into your “front pocket” (watch my Live video on my FB page for more on this story). Give them your eye contact, your time, and your attention. That my friends, is what really matters.

As I always say (and I am learning), you can’t be a superhuman so you must, you MUST depend on God to help you because we can’t do it alone. Ask God to help you, look to your community, your tribe, your people around you that support you and ask for help when needed. You can do more than you think you can, it just is a matter of your mindset and deciding where your boundaries are, where your limits are, and embracing the power of saying no. Then use that as a starting point to be your best self. It’s not easy, but it is easier if you try.

One step at a time, friend. You got this πŸ™‚

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Read This: When “Less Desirables” Show Up At Church

This story in Relevant magazine got my attention and you need to read it. I want to be a part of a church where addicts, or the homeless, or troubled teens can show up and not be condemned. Sadly, I haven’t found that church because as much as many churches SAY they are accepting of real people, the PEOPLE that make up the church really are not that accepting.

It’s true. We ALL judge. We need to confess that. And as Christians, we especially need to go to rehab for our addiction to judging. Even the Presbyterians are judging the Baptists and the Baptists are judging the Methodists, and on and on about who has it “right” and is doing church “better”.

Appearances are what rules the world unfortunately and we are all guilty of judging someone by how they look, or what the have or don’t have. Social media has especially given rise I believe to the need for “likes” and “follows” and what you let people see. We often are not free to be ourselves, are we? I’m just as guilty, and as I write this I have regrets for the many times I was silent when I could have made someone feel more welcome at church, at my job, and in my community. I have judged parents coming into the school where I teach simply by how they look. I admit it. If they have too many tattoos or seem unorganized or even if they are dressed to the 9s. I even base judgement of the parents on the behavior of their kid! Perhaps it is a human flaw in all of us to elevate ourselves based on what we see around us? If we make ourselves “better” than others we feel good, but if we see ourselves as “less than”, our self-worth goes in the gutter.

Before we adopted our daughter through the foster care system, I admit that I was not always as compassionate as I could have been towards families in a crisis. If some mom showed up at church and looked like she didn’t have her act together, I would be nice to her of course but on the inside I was feeling sorry for her kids, thinking what a terrible mom she is. It is extremely embarrassing to even confess that, by the way. How terrible am I??? And did I do anything to HELP? No. Did I speak up to make her feel more welcome when I saw the condescending eyes all around. Nope. I looked on in silence with an awkward smile.

I actually grew up in a pretty compassionate family. My entire extended family on my Dad’s side have all been missionaries. Literally almost every single one of them, either short or long term. I was born in Taiwan, while my parents were in the mission field. I remember growing up surrounded by serving, giving, generous people who gave their time, sometimes limited resources, and LIVES to help others see and know God. My parents specifically taught me to not be racist against skin color and empowered me as a girl to know that I wasn’t limited to what society said I could do in this world. There was lots of helping out people that were less fortunate and even with as little money as we had at times, we knew we had to be thankful for what we were given because someone else had less.

Somewhere along the way, whether unintentional or not, I did learn that church was a place where you dressed up, you didn’t let people know you didn’t have your crap together, and most definitely never would let them know you might have good reason for them to confirm you were actually a “sinner”. Church (and extended family reunion weekends) were where you might confess that you were a sinner, but you didn’t get specific because for all they knew, you were actually walking the “straight and narrow”. You wouldn’t want anyone to know that you had been at a wild party the night before and didn’t have enough money to pay the water bill. After all, we’re not one of “those” families. So perhaps there was some subtle hints to the fact that we had to put on appearances and had firmly placed ourselves in a more elite category of individuals. I always thought of this as representing your best self before God…maybe it was actually a little too much pride, perhaps???

A lot has changed for me though, especially in the last 10 years. God has opened my eyes to a new way of SEEING people. I’m trying to see people for how God sees them, and who they are on the inside, not just their outer appearance. My family included. I’m still not perfect for sure and I still have to wrestle with those judgmental thoughts at times. But since we took that first step to open our hearts to fostering and adoption in 2009, it was God led, and God ordained that we would begin a journey to see what God sees…hurting people that need someone to LOVE them, simply because GOD does.

When we began the process to get licensed to foster/adopt, we began to see that parents that lose custody of their kids aren’t necessarily bad people. They are people that have not had the resources and support that others have had. I had loving parents who I never doubted cared about me. They were college educated and even with limited resources at times, have always done their best to provide a good life and help me be successful. Not every kid has that. Our daughter’s biological parents were high school drop outs with grandparents that were illegal immigrants. Drugs and alcohol were involved, which I’m sure were used as a way to cope with hard times. There were limited funds because of a lack of job skills. The kids stole food for survival due to neglect. There was abuse. Much of this is a result of generational “curses” that make it hard for families to break free from the cycle of poverty. Should we be judging or even condemning people for that? Maybe they don’t want to have a better life, but maybe they DO and just haven’t had anyone SHOW them that it’s possible. I know it’s true for our daughter, that even though we adopted her as a 15 year old, and poured as much love into her heart as we could for 4 years, at 23 she still struggles to escape a life she keeps running back to, where she doubts her potential because of where she “came from.” But does that mean we give up on her? I don’t think so.

People that don’t have money to pay the water bill and come to church with greasy hair might have messed up on money management but it doesn’t make them bad people. People that come to church because their rehab counselor suggested they get some “religion” are not worthy of being condemned. They just need support to LITERALLY stay clean one day at a time. And people that are trying to get their sh** together to keep their kids are not necessarily bad parents that should be shamed for saying a few cuss words. The world is hard on people. Maybe, WE the church should smile instead of stare and say we believe in them. Maybe we are more intentional about how we show God’s love and say we want to be their friend, and then MEAN it with our actions.

Church should truly be for everyone. And the Bible is clear, God’s Love IS for everyone. Do we believe and demonstrate what the scriptures actually say or are we stuck on the selective ones that give fuel to our judgmental fire? We have no problem pulling out the condemning ones to throw in people’s faces. But GOD’S overall message is clear, “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7
I think we can ALL work on being more INTENTIONAL to show it, don’t you?

https://relevantmagazine.com/god/when-cuss-words-addiction-and-shame-show-up-at-church/?fbclid=IwAR1j-0_pffIh2fCjZRI1RpBgtriHCOgIH1K4iO6KHNB1kTBponvIvJcicDs

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The Amateur Acorn

For the sake of transparency, I’m just gonna lay it all out there.

I’m a mess. Well, maybe I’m being dramatic. Just a little bit. I actually get myself to work on time almost every day and I’ve only forgotten my child at school one time. It’s good thing the baby has just moved on to college and I don’t have to deal with that whole school thing anymore. Oh wait. I’m a teacher.

I am quite frankly still a kid in my almost 50 year old heart, but I’m a girl who likes to get things done with an “it will work out” twist, and my husband is one-of-a-kind for putting up with me…a true rarity these days. However, I often suffer from that grave affliction of lots of confidence while still questioning my ability to actually do something A.Ma.Zing and wonder if you like me.

Good thing I don’t really have to wonder. I am actually qualified in a few things but really I’m perfectly NOT equipped for most things and God knows it. He said that He doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called. He also said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My Power is made perfect in weakness.” – 2 Cor. 12:9

So there is the magic in this new journey I’m calling “The Amateur Acorn”. He’s my secret weapon. I believe God has a plan and purpose for our lives when we start out as an acorn, and it is up to us to CHOOSE whether we will follow that plan and grow to become the “mighty oak” that He is creating. It sure won’t happen overnight, but it’s only going to happen if we confess that we are weak, but HE is strong, and we need His help. That’s a hard thing to do in this independent, fast paced, me-first society.

I’m no expert in this area and in fact, one of the things I have really struggled with in recent days is grief, heartache, and loss that have manifested themselves in feelings of inadequacy and wondering if I’m even qualified to share my voice.

The TRUTH I’ve been reminded of though is that I don’t need a Masters in English to be a writer. I don’t need a seminary degree to share what I’m learning as a student of the Bible. I don’t need to be a politician to advocate for the things that matter or share my opinion. And I definitely don’t need to be famous to be KNOWN.

I know with confidence that I am known and my value and worth come from the Lord. And I know that no one else is responsible for my happiness, except for ME. So I still have days that suck, but I’m choosing to find my happiness in Jesus, my faithful friend that pursues me every day and reminds me that I am loved. Sometimes it takes a lot to crack this nut. There might be tears occasionally. And a Hallmark movie.

I do hope though that you’ll be my friend and follow along with the little time you have in a day, and that I might inspire, motivate, and encourage you to be all that you were intended to be as well. Or not. Whatever. I’ve been told I’m supposed to be cool about it and let you decide. I promise I won’t stalk you or anything. (Please pick me πŸ™‚ )

Praying for opportunity, not control

It’s Fill up Friday!!! Thoughts to fill you up with what you need so you can go out and do something amazing.

First a story.
I am currently teaching my students how to square dance. Yes, it’s maybe old fashioned. Yes, many of the 5th graders hate it. Yes, I’ve had to speak to about a dozen parents this week because I’ve contacted them over kids telling me “no, I’m not going to do that” and other disrespectful comments. All because their partners hands “have germs”. And they probably do, but I have hand sanitizer.

So why torture myself you say? Someone asked me today in fact why I don’t just decide to NOT teach it anymore if the kids give me such a headache over it. Maybe there’s another way to teach the same skills. Well, honestly I have thought about it a lot. In fact, I think about it every year and have to justify to myself why it is worth it.

Here’s my answer: Similar to why we shouldn’t keep things the same just because that’s the way we’ve always done it, why change it just because we’ve been doing it a long time? Are we really just throwing away traditions because a new generation hasn’t bought into their importance yet?

Square dancing truly is a worthwhile activity and lots of fun once they learn it. In addition, I’m a firm believer that each person in society has to learn, yes HAS to, that there are just some things in life that we don’t want to do but they are beneficial and worth doing, and we can FIND the fun if we look for it. We need to understand how to work on a project with others we may not like or enjoy. We need to learn the skill of listening and responding to quick action. We need to honor others as people in a team work environment.

Here’s a great example: someday these kids will be asked by their boss to do whatever he/she asks them to do! They will have to work with people they don’t like. They will learn that one member of the team can’t do all the work and one team member that is slacking can bring everyone down, with immediate results.

There is so much more I could talk about but this isn’t about advocating for square dancing. Actually, it’s about what God is teaching ME and what I was reminded to pray for.

Three days ago I was frustrated. I was beyond fed up. I was ready to throw in the towel and yet I believe in the value of the activity. All my other classes were getting it and enjoying it so what is their PROBLEM, I said to myself. I am a positive attitude kind of teacher and definitely look to encourage but I was not feeling encouraging. I was feeling drained.

So I prayed. I need help. I feel like I have lost control. What do I need to do here, Lord help me??!!

He said, “ask me to show you the opportunity for positive influence.”

That was it. Just pray for opportunity and positive influence. So I did. And you know what.

God. Showed. Up.

Yesterday I saw the same class I was frustrated with on Tuesday and there was a little more humility. Maybe it’s because I emailed their parents, and maybe it’s because once they started getting it, they started having fun. Not everyone did. I mean, really, some are never going to enjoy it, and some of them are never going to admit they enjoy it.

I kept my cool and had an opportunity to affirm a few students that normally give me a hard time. I didn’t focus on trying to be in control of the chaos but I looked for opportunities to build them up.

One student in particular admitted to me that he acts silly because he feels like everyone is looking at him. Of course. I said that it was normal to feel this way. This is not my first rodeo.

But I got to look him in the eye and genuinely say I was proud of him for trying his best in spite of feeling self conscious. I raved about how well he listened and tried to focus today while having some fun. He smiled and I hope that complement will stay with him forever, really knowing that behind my smile and eye contact is a teacher that believes in his FULL potential, not just whether he can square dance.

How can you apply this to your life? Friends, sometimes we have to do hard things so let’s look for the fun. Sometimes we have to do activities that other people chose but it should be about being with the people, not always doing your favorite thing. I still have to be reminded of the lessons I’m teaching my students through square dancing. I need to remember to look for opportunities to honor others and build them up.

I hope that is what I have done for you today. Fill yourself up with good things, so you have enough to share with others. Pray and ask God to fill in the gaps where you feel depleted. He is faithful and will always come through. It might take time, but HE will never leave you. He provides a way, even if it’s just a mindset shift that is needed.

Look for opportunities to do the things that are tugging on your heart. God is faithful and will show them to you, if you ask.

Fill Up Friday – Fuel for Your Soul

It’s time to fill yourself up with hope and positivity. Today let’s look at some alternative facts. These are lies we tell ourselves.

I can’t do it.

It’s too hard.

Other people are keeping me from success.

My past makes it too emotional to make good choices or move forward.

We don’t necessarily say these things in those exact words and they take on many forms but these are the messages that we are telling ourselves.

We truly need to stop listening to the lies in our head, because the truth is we can do what we set our mind to. We are strong when we remember that these negative words are lies.

Here are some truths. Your mind decides what you can do. God is on our side. God heals. God redeems. God helps us overcome. God restores. Your past does not define you. These are words that I’m learning and trying to believe every single day. I still have days where I forget the truth and I have to remind myself. I have days where I have to learn it again. The power that comes in shifting my mind words, comes from a choice to not believe the lies. It comes from me telling myself that the alternative facts are false.

It sounds clichΓ© perhaps, but today let’s fill ourselves up with words that uplift. Words that empower. Words that encourage. Words that equip us for what we might face and the challenges that make us think we are weak or can’t accomplish our goals.

Our greatest weapon is our voice. Our words can both destroy and build up. This is true for others, and it’s true for yourself. The words don’t have to be spoken to have power. The words in your mind will control your actions today either positively or negatively, if you let them.

Today I choose the word “Strong.” I am strong in mind, body, and spirit. I may not be able to do all the things I want to do YET but I can take one step to build my strength and be confident in moving forward toward my goal. I can also use my voice to help others feel strong. I choose to use my voice for good.

What words will you choose for fuel to do the hard things? Who will you build up today?

An Endless Supply of Happiness

Did you know you can actually buy Happiness? Yep, I bought some at Bath and Body Works. It smells good too.

When I was grieving the loss of our relationship with our adopted daughter back in 2016 I started seeing a therapist. To be honest I was very angry in that stage and was crying every morning on my way to work, simply to get the feelings out so I could function and do my job. I really could have used Happiness in a bottle during that dark time. I had forgotten how to find it.

So I asked for help. I found a therapist and just talked through it. During that process I embraced a new mantra and I started saying it to my family.

I am the ONLY one responsible for my own happiness. YOU are not responsible for my happiness. And YOU, are not responsible for my happiness. And in fact, NO ONE is responsible for MY happiness.

Now, is it nice when my husband is a nice husband and tries to do nice things for me? Absolutely. Is it nice when my kids do what they are supposed to do and help out around the house? For sure. Is it nice when my kids call me, text me, and include me in their lives or we share good talks, belly laughs and fun together. You know it!

But when they don’t do any of those things, or when I feel lonely because I wasn’t invited to something, or someone I love hurts my feelings, I get to decide how that will affect my day to day choices. Yes, it hurts and it’s ok to be disappointed, and it’s 100% ok to remove yourself from an unhealthy relationship if needed, AND it’s positively OK to take the TIME to be in grief from loss and heartbreak. For a long time if needed. (please give yourself time on that if this is your situation!)

The bottom line is though, ultimately there really isn’t one person on this planet that is going to make me happy 100% of the time. We are all human and we all make mistakes so we are definitely going to make poor choices and let someone down at least once or twice. We are going to drop the ball at some point and we most certainly will screw up royally. I’ve done it. We’ve all done it.

So really, when I say that YOU are not responsible for MY happiness, what I’m really saying is that I am not responsible for YOUR happiness either because I am most likely going to fail at some point in my efforts to make you happy. I won’t get it right every time and I shouldn’t expect YOU to either.

We need to let each other off the hook MORE. Now hear me straight. DO NOT PUT UP WITH ABUSE. DO NOT PUT UP WITH NEGATIVITY. DO NOT KEEP UP BAD PATTERNS AND HABITS THAT HURT OTHERS. We need to change those situations by removing ourselves and/or getting help. BUT what I mean is we should also be forgiving of each other and of ourselves.

It’s time to embrace the possibility though of an endless supply of happiness because even as much as I am responsible for my own happiness, I have found that really I can’t do life on my own. I need people so I need to remember how to be replenished and “fill my cup” so that I don’t end up dependent and depleted again. We weren’t meant to do life alone so God is actually who equips ALL of us to be what others need.

Philippians 4:19 says, “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” Jesus is who fills me up. He knows my needs. He knows my hurts and my faults. He knows when I need to stop and breathe. He knows my heartache. He fills in all the cracks and crevices of pain, if I let him. Sometimes I forget. And then I just have to focus on the light. He’s the light in the darkness and it is impossible for the darkness to overcome it. Don’t believe me? Light a candle in the dark and see what happens. The light always wins.

Jesus was that small voice that whispered to me in the midst of my heartache that He was there. I knew I was not alone. I was reminded that the light has ALREADY won and I just have to take another step forward to get through the tunnel. I can’t see where I’m going most of the time but I know for a fact that all my needs will be met and there will be an endless supply of Happiness on the other side. (not in a bottle of course, but the actual, real kind that comes from the Lord, but the bottle comes in handy too).

Many times people do help me find my happiness but I’m working on not being dependent on it. God is who provides but WE are His hands and feet. I simply open my mouth to ask, and open my hand to receive. God provides. And when we are full of HIS happiness, then we have enough to share.