True Love, Marriage Advice and Wisdom of the Years

My nephew and niece's daughter (does that make her my grand niece?) is getting married this month and I was asked to provide some marriage advice for the newlyweds.

In my years as a counselor, teacher and married woman myself, I thought this would be good to pass on:

To The Groom: Remember to step up and speak up; it's important to say what's on your mind, whether that's how much you love her or how much something is bothering you. Both pay off in the long run! It's also important to keep doing the things which made her fall in love with you, so if you need to set a reminder on your calendar for 6 months or 6 years from now, you'll still be planning special occasions, or sending flowers or whatever it is you do!

To The Bride: For most women, we have to remember to shut up! Because of the way we're wired, we tend to look for what's wrong and what needs to be fixed and point that out -- and keep pointing it out! But men will begin to shut down and not talk about real things if they feel whatever they say will be criticized or whatever they do is never enough.

Here's wishing you will both experience many years of love, happiness, respect and honor.

#truelove #marriageadvice #wisdomofmanyyears

Compliments Guys Are Secretly Dying To Hear

Hello!
 

I got married in June many years ago and will be celebrating my anniversary later this month. So June becomes a Love Month - for me anyway!  In honor of that occasion, here's some wisdom I've learned over the years.
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Earlier this year I was featured in an article in "The List" talking about "Compliments Guys Are Secretly Dying To Hear" and thought you would enjoy this reminder of what guys really want to hear!
To read this, simply click on the link below.

For the married folks, a reminder to you wives; for the single folks, you can use this to catch a guy! :)  More secrets about the gals later!

Enjoy and please share with others, post on your facebook pages and send any comments my way. 

Thanks!  Barbra

: http://www.thelist.com/46326/compliments-guys-secretly-dying-hear/?utm_campaign=clip

Victim to victory - a safe place to heaL

Victim to victory - a safe place to heaL

 "Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm.  Nothing is too hard for you ......."   Jeremiah 32:17

            “I am stronger, I am more confident, and I am beginning to get my voice back.” 

Those triumphant words are declared today by Andrea, a sexual-abuse survivor and graduate of PHD’s Life Group, “Victim to Victory.”

Victim to Victory is a support group for women ages 13 and up, survivors of childhood sexual abuse, incest and rape.  In a time where sexual abuse is still often a shameful topic to address, The Potter’s House Church of Denver has stepped up to provide women a safe place to heal emotionally and spiritually.

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After completing this 13-week group, Andrea went on to say, “I have grown so much in such a short amount of time.  After taking this class, I can finally see how my abuse impacted other areas of my life.  I have a new mindset and my life has been changed forever!”

Those are indeed powerful words.  Even more exciting is that Andrea’s triumph is not just a singular incidence.  Other members of this dynamic group report similar victories:

  • ·         “I never realized how sexual abuse affected me, and I felt I was to blame, like I deserved it.  This class has helped me know that is not true.  I can receive healing and comfort, God is guiding me and I am growing in my faith.”                                                                                                                      
  • ·         “This is the first time I’ve ever attended a group like this.  I’ve been amazed at the ability to deeply identify truths from past occurrences I didn’t fully understand.  All the growth I experienced is because of the substance and tools I received in this class.” 

Such testimonies speak to this certainty:  people within the church body experience the same hurt and trauma as the population at large.  When we have spirit-filled trained believers willing to walk alongside such hurting individuals, the Church is truly an outreach to the unsaved, a hospital for the wounded, and a resource to the community.,  

Barbra Russell, MA, LPC - Director, Counseling Ministries

Transition and Stress

      Everyone will experience change, a transition, at one time or another.  

There is nothing so consistent as change

                During a time of transition, people normally experience stress because our brains and entire beings seek homeostasis, a survival mechanism.  We want things to stay the same.  here are some helpful tips to deal with transitions and the accompanying stress. 

                 We can help others – and us – by doing three things:

1.  Normalize This Time – People are not crazy; it’s normal to feel a whole range of emotions during this time.  From depression, anger, sadness, & disappointment to confusion and triggers which remind us of previous trauma and loss; it’s all normal

2.  Grieving The Loss – We all go through the stages of grief because in transition, we always lose something.  As in the death of a loved one, the stages apply here as well:  Shock and denial, anger and depression come and go as we grieve.  Just when we think we’ve successfully navigated one stage, we find ourselves back in the same feelings.  Again, that’s normal.  Grieving is crazy-making!  We eventuallymove to acceptance with sadness for the loss.

3.  Process The Feelings – It’s important that people don’t stuff all that grief and emotions but rather have opportunity to process, or talk about, the change in a healthy manner.  We can help by using the following skills:

  •  Create Safety – Provide confidentiality; knowing what they share with you won’t go any further.
  •  Listen without judgment – paraphrase the content and feeling; they will feel understood.  “i.e.,  “I hear you saying you feel pretty angry about this.” 
  • What NOT To say: 
     
    • Just trust God
    • Look on the bright side
    • I conquered it this way
    • Just read and pray more
    • Or any other “advice-giving” statements.  Unsolicited advice is like chopped liver – not appreciated. 

Adversity is Difficult but Good

I recently tweeted this:  "Adversity is difficult but good - it makes you develop muscles and resources you didn't know you had."

A reader commented:  "Yes.  My "muscles" are almost on bodybuilder level.  (smile) It's all working for my good though."

I thought that's an excellent way to look at this process -- because bodybuilders are tough, they're toned, they're usually preparing for a contest.  

We daily enter a contest we call life -- the more times we go through adversity and exclaim, "Whew!  Made it," we're usually a little wiser, a little tougher and more prepared for the next challenge in this experience we call life. 

 

We married, then started dating

We had our first real date on Valentine's Day, he proposed a month later, 3 months later got married then started dating😃😊😳💕❤. While I don't recommend that as a usual practice, it did set the stage for us to keep learning about each other and we were determined to make it! 2 helps? Learning about and respecting personalities and using gender communication humor- "that's my female brain talking" and "that's just my male brain that forgot." No sitting in rockers on the porch for us - nope, working, playing and making a difference- that's the Russell Plan. 

What are your helps to stay married?

What are you plans for your future? 

Would love to hear from you:  barb@barbrarussell.com

The Meltdown

            It was August, and an idea hit me, like lightning striking a lone tree on a hilltop.  I would put on a women’s conference!  And I’d do it in two months!   After all, as one of my favorite authors, Jim Rohn, said: “The time to act is when the idea is hot and the emotion is strong.”    

            I gathered a team around me and we set out to bring that idea to life. The “Highly Effective Women’s” conference was set for October and all worked feverishly to make sure it happened. 

            Chapter nine of my newly completed book, Yes! I Said No! clearly spelled out the steps to “Dream Big; Think Small.”  That was me, right?  If I wrote it, I’d better practice it!  This seminar would be a Joyce Myers, Christine Caine, Beth Moore event, all wrapped in one! 

It was the week before the conference when the meltdown happened. 

            Like hot lava spilling out from an erupting volcano, disturbing thoughts burned my mind, leaving tears and hopelessness in their wake.  “Who do you think you are to do this?  You are definitely not those famous women you admire; you’re just the Great Pretender.”   

            You can’t entertain such thoughts without suffering severe side effects and I spent the day wallowing in self-pity and despair.  The next day, however, the stern schoolmarm part of me stepped in, saying:  “Get a grip, Barbra!  You’re going to do this thing!”  And I set out to do it, to complete the job.  After the “Highly Effective Women’s Conference” was held in October, the participants, the team and I all declared it a success.

            Why do I tell you this story?  Because I bet I’m not the only one who has dreamed a dream that seemed too big to accomplish, not the only person who has doubted their ability to make it all the way to the goal line.  Perhaps you too have heard the echoes of doubters from your past wickedly whispering in your ear, “You never finish what you start, you quitter!”  I bet I’m not the only one who has ever felt those qualms of inadequacy; not the only one who has suffered a meltdown. 

            A few weeks after the conference, I was reflecting on what happened.  Why on earth did I experience that day of panic?  It had been a while since that happened, even though I remembered other times when such mind-attacks would put me in a depressive funk for weeks or maybe even months. 

            This truth then hit me – Even though I had had a bad day, I must be further from the volcano of self-doubt, insecurity and lack of confidence in myself.  Yes, only one day of feeling discouraged equals progress for me!

            When you encounter the inevitable setbacks, discouragement and doubts which beset purpose-driven people, instead of repeating a well-rehearsed mantra such as “well, I can’t do this,” look at the progress you’ve made.  All too often we assume an “all or nothing” attitude.  We look at things as black or white; success or failure.  We need to recognize the shades of gray which represent progress. 

            I imagine if today you carefully measured the distance from your particular volcano of obstacles, you’d see yourself further down the road than you were years ago, months ago or even weeks ago.  Because it’s a fact that if you keep getting up after you fall down, you are going to succeed.  If you keep trying, you will learn and grow.  And if in the process you have a meltdown, you will discover, as I did, that it wasn’t as bad and didn’t last as long as before.  Keep on dreaming those dreams; continue taking action when the idea is hot!   

meltdown.jpg

Barbra Russell, MA, LPC

Counselor/Writer/Speaker

www.BarbraRussell.com

             

"If Barbra can do it, I guess I can too"

Yes I Said No.JPG

           “Well, if Barbra can do it, I guess I can too!”  She was talking about my writing the book, Yes!  I Said No! which will be published soon.  It’s my first. I’m also leading my first-ever women’s conference and promoting a new web site, www.barbrarussell.com

            Whew!  When I stop to take a breath and think about those “firsts,” and her statement, I realize that’s what my life’s purpose is all about – encouraging, inspiring and challenging people to believe they can do more, have more and be more.  And maybe they’ll start by saying, “Well, if Barbra can do it, I guess I can too.”   

            But for a long time, Barbra didn’t do it.  Through the years I’ve parroted a line of excuses I called reasons to excuse my inaction.  “I’m not famous.”  “I’m too old to start something new.”  “I don’t have a gazillion contacts on social media.” 

            But after her comment, I realized something.  Wouldn’t it be terrible if I let those excuses stop me?  What if one day I hadn’t gulped and said, “even if….. Here we go.”  Perhaps there will be many people whose lives are helped and changed because they read my book.   

            And wouldn’t it be terrible if she let her own doubts stop her?  They sound like this:  “I don’t have a degree.”  “I don’t know if I could do that.”  But what if she leads a class or writes a book and someday hears those same words, “if you can do it, maybe I can do it too.”
            And wouldn’t it be terrible if you keep justifying why you don’t follow your own dream? 

            What small step could you take to start moving toward your passion?  Perhaps it’s finally saying out loud what you’ve been secretly imagining for a long time.  Maybe you could start researching what it would take to make your dream come true.  What would happen if you recorded a demo?  How much money would it really take to go back to school?  Could you qualify for a scholarship? 

            I don’t remember now what made me decide to start writing a blog.  That was my first step; I wasn’t thinking of writing a book; I wasn’t even sure I could write well, and I wasn’t sure what I’d write about after the first three articles, but somehow the ideas kept coming, and I kept writing. 

But one day, a thought crossed my mind.  “I could write a book if I expanded on some of those articles I’ve already written.”  That thought, combined with the next small step, (jotting down some possible chapter titles) was the beginning of a new adventure, the writing of Yes! I Said No!     

 And if I can help you start on a new journey, if one day you say, “Well, if Barbra can do it, I can do it,” we will both be winners!       

 Barbra Russell, MA, LPC   www.BarbraRussell.com

Counselor/Writer/Speaker

 

 

SOAKING IN A HOT TUB

Soaking In A Hot Tub

            “Is it ok to go to Barnes & Noble and look around sometimes?”  Brenda, a long-time counseling client, asked rather plaintively.  “Or maybe take a long soak in a hot tub?  When I do something just for me, it feels wrong.  There’s always so many other things I need to be doing.”       

            “Oh,” I responded, “you must have been raised like me – idleness makes you feel guilty and you’re not quite sure you’re worth some pampering.” 

She and I are not the only ones who feel this way, I know; many people struggle to take time for themselves.  In fact, in today’s culture, staying extremely busy is praised.  If you work overtime, chauffeur your kids around from dawn to dusk and go, go, go 24/7, you’re considered a winner.  Our world tells us: “Busy, stressed-out people are the ones who succeed.  Go and be like them.”

Of course, this message isn’t new; my parents replayed it as well.  The words may have been unspoken, but the principle was clear:  “Work hard!  Don’t play!”  It seemed like my parents worked all the time; I can’t remember their ever taking time for themselves.  I recall when they drove all the way from Oklahoma to Colorado to see us, and I was really looking forward to showing them around and just relaxing with mom and dad.

But you know what they did?  They brought bushels of apples with them and the next morning they got up bright and early to begin peeling and preparing those apples!  They spent their vacation making applesauce and canning apples for me.  I couldn’t believe it!  But I think it was one way they showed love; and it seems my parents’ work was their play.  I used to believe they worked so hard because they lived through the Great Depression, but now I’m beginning to wonder if that core value didn’t come over on the Mayflower!  It’s like “The American Way.”

I hasten to add it’s not bad to work hard, and citizens of the US are justifiably proud of our country and its work ethic.  However, rigidly adhering to a “work all the time” philosophy makes it hard to rest and relax.  And the Bible instructs us to take one day and keep it holy, a Sabbath day of rest.  That’s only 24 hours out of 56; yet often we fight to find one hour to break away, to relax, to do something just for us.  

Here’s what I told Brenda: “It’s not only ok to take time for yourself; it’s crucial!  That doesn’t mean you’re lazy, vegging out on the sofa, eating bon-bon’s or playing computer games all day.  No, it’s finding a healthy balance of work and play.  That’s Self-Care – simply taking care of yourself.  You’ll feel rested and relaxed, ready to do what needs to be done.  Go to Barnes & Noble; in fact, start jotting down things you enjoy.”     

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I’ve made such a list; on it is something I call “pedi-pals.”  My friends and I go together to have our feet pumiced and polished; we enjoy a pedicure while we visit. Then we might go to lunch while we’re out!  An afternoon with the girls is definitely one way for me to recharge.

Here’s something else to remember:  The busier you are, the more you need to schedule a break for yourself.  So here’s an assignment:  Take a pen and paper or go to the computer and start making a list of activities you enjoy.  Think of things to do when the weather is nice, other activities you’ll enjoy when you have to stay indoors, interests and hobbies, people and places you’d like to visit. 

Keep the list handy and pull it out when life seems a little crazy, when you have too much on your plate.  Pick something you like and voila!  You’re on your way to what psychologists call a “healthy self;” you know how to self-soothe. 

Join Brenda and me as we prepare for life’s busyness.  You’ll be better equipped to face challenges and stresses after you’ve planned for some down-time.  You might even schedule time to soak in a hot tub!     

      

 

 

Want to Live to be 100? Live in a House With Stairs!

  Barb on stairs Want to live to be 100?  Live in a house with stairs!

As you can see, I’m standing on the stairs of our house.  Well, I love our home and I’ve come to love our stairs.  But it wasn’t always that way.  When we were looking for a house, we weren’t looking for a house with stairs.  We were looking for a rancher!  We were thinking, “Oh, as we get older, we want things to be flat, on one level.  We don’t want any problems, and we certainly don’t want stairs!”

But before we came to look at this house, our realtor said, “Do you know what people who live to be 100 have in common?  They all live in houses with stairs!”  Hah!  Smart realtor, huh?

But that made me stop and think about it.  I said to myself: “Hey!  Let me look at this a little differently!  You know, I could maybe run up and down these stairs, or at least walk up them!  And if that keeps me in shape, I could go for living to be 100!”

And that’s when it hit me—that’s how we are in life.  We want no obstacles, no problems.  We want smooth sailing, we want ranchers!  But that’s not the way God made us to live, as evidenced by the fact that I bet not one of you has escaped having problems in your life!

Rather, when He made us, he designed us to grow, to become better today than we were yesterday.  The bad news, if you want to look at it that way, is this simple fact:  we need difficulties to overcome, we need fears to face and we need to figure out obstacles.  Because, as Romans 5:3-4 says:  “…..tribulation produces perseverance, and perseverance, character, and character, hope.”

I think the writer was basically saying, “yes, you’ll have problems, but it’s going to create some good things in you!”   So, from that point of view, it’s really good news, even though most of us don’t “consider it all joy when we face trials,” as James wrote.

However, as we tackle those difficulties, and we don’t give up in spite of being afraid or discouraged, little by little, we learn and we grow.  As a result, our faith and confidence grows.

Every time we learn something, every time we’ve grown a bit, we become more of who God has designed us to be.  And remember, we’re the ones who win when we become the person we’re designed to be!

So I encourage you today—don’t be afraid to take that opportunity just because it has challenges.  Don’t be afraid of the obstacles in your life; just look at them in a different way.  Say to yourself, “these are the stairs that are going to keep me going, that are going to help me in many ways.”

And hey!  Let’s live to be 100--We just have to look at stairs a different way!

“What Did You Mean By That?”

couple design over white background vector illustration
couple design over white background vector illustration

What did you mean by that?”  Bob’s question took Susan totally by surprise because he had never asked her that before.  But his tone was so respectful, with a genuine “I- really- want- to know” attitude that she quickly recovered and they began to discuss an earlier conversation.  As they talked, both realized he had misunderstood her meaning and intention.

It was a good thing he asked the question.

After a few minutes’ discussion, the confusion was resolved.  They both exclaimed, almost at the same time: “Hey!  This is way different from what we’ve done before! ”

That prompted Susan to inquire, “How did you think to ask me that, Bob?  It was so helpful.”

“I decided I’d do things in a healthy way, too” he answered, referring to her new-found skills discovered through counseling.  They discussed what they previously did when there was such miscommunication between them.  They’d either fight, or go to their respective “corners” and not talk at all for days, both reeling from hurt feelings and misperceived motives.

This interaction between them inspired Bob to try that phrase at work as well.  It wasn’t long before he had an opportunity to ask a co-worker, “What did you mean by that?”  They found a solution by first discussing the issue with his co-worker, then the supervisor.

Once again, a potentially ugly or explosive situation was resolved.  Bob just shook his head as he reflected on how things often happened at work.  Guys wound up leaving their jobs or remaining miserably unhappy and feeling trapped, all for the lack of using six words.  “What did you mean by that?”

I recently heard a respected speaker utter this well-known phrase:    [bctt tweet=" “I wouldn’t be divorced today had I known then what I know now.” " username="@BarbERuss"]

One of the things he said is that he, like Bob, needed to let his wife know when he was unhappy.  In that first marriage it seemed other things he tried never worked.  So, one day in hopeless despair, he left.  He had come to a lot of conclusions about the futility of things changing and didn’t know at that time how to even bring up the subject.

All too often, guys feel they must just “suck it up” when they are displeased with what’s going on, whether at home or at work.  They’re fearful of the confrontation that will likely follow.  And just as often, wives or bosses don’t make it safe to say anything when they look for what’s wrong and criticize more than they compliment.

We have a long history in the West of the strong, silent man.   For many years, guys have absorbed this mantra:  “Real men don’t eat quiche, they don’t ask for directions, and they certainly don’t ask for help!”

daniel boone
daniel boone

Daniel Boone declared, “I was never lost but I was powerfully bewildered once for three days.” As goes the Pioneering Western man, so goes the Modern man!"

So what are men and women to do?  I, of course, always suggest counseling to couples but often men don’t like that idea.  It doesn’t fit into the creed that “Real men don’t eat quiche, they don’t ask for directions, and they certainly don’t ask for help!”  One very creative approach is this web site:  http://mantherapy.org/ which talks about therapy done “the manly way.”  I laughed when I checked it out.  It’s definitely done with humor. Click on the link to see what you think.  Men do things a different way!

Bottom line: "Ask the question – “What did you mean by that?” It could save your marriage; it could save your job"

And gals, if you want a better relationship with your man, here's some things to think about. We women have a tendency to look for what’s wrong and we’re not usually hesitant to bring that up.  Plus, we also like to talk and talk!  So, sometimes we’ll take an opposite point of view with men just to keep a conversation going.  But that can quickly backfire when he feels disrespected and judged.

A common complaint I hear from married men is this:  “No matter how hard I try, I can never do anything right.”  If he helps with the dishes, she informs him they’re not put in the dishwasher correctly.  When he offers to do the laundry, she instructs him to divide the clothes differently.  Usually, she means to help, but he perceives those “orders” as critical complaints.  And perception is reality.  That’s why I say:  

"Compliment more than you complain!"   

and

"Appreciate more than you argue!"

When you make it safe for him, he won’t be afraid to ask:  “What did you mean by that?” 

Thank you for reading.  If you enjoyed this article, please subscribe, comment or follow me on Facebook.  Or follow me on Twitterhttps://twitter.com/BarbERuss

What Samuel and I learned from A Horse

    What 10-year old boy wouldn’t love to have a horse, or at least ride one?  Even in this day of video games and action figure heroes, most 10-year old children are mesmerized by dreams of riding a mighty steed! Young Samuel was no exception.  He imagined himself riding like the wind, one with the horse, like Kelly Reno’s character Alec in the movie “The Black Stallion.”

The major problem with that scenario?  He didn’t have a horse.

What he did have were some pretty troublesome issues.  Samuel had ADHD, many behavioral problems and was often the identified trouble-maker in school.  In spite of medication and regular visits to the school counselor, Samuel never seemed to improve. Equine therapy was recommended, probably seen as a last-resort effort to the adults around him, but to Samuel it meant he could be with a horse!

After hearing about Samuel, I was eager to learn more about Equine Therapy.  Here are some fascinating facts:

To protect themselves from predators, horses stay in herds and are very sensitive to their surroundings.  These enormous animals quickly pick up on a human’s emotions, so when Samuel first marched through the horse barn, with his racing thoughts, feelings and behaviors, you can imagine the jittery turmoil that created!

Despite his eagerness and impulsive wish to jump right on one of the massive animals, Samuel had some things to learn.  His first assignment was to stay outside the corral and observe.  He was to notice how the horses acted.  He was surprised to see some very human-like behavior.  He observed one who was clearly the leader and some horses seemed to protect others in the herd.

Next, before he could ever go inside the corral, Samuel was told he had to become very calm, so as not to spook the horses.  And, he was taught to calm himself by taking some deep breaths.  While most people can learn to become quiet and still after a few repetitions of breathing deeply through the nose and letting the breath out slowly through the mouth, it took Samuel about 15 sets to become relaxed.

Already, he had acquired a couple of skills which will help him navigate life with its stresses;

  • He learned to wait and first observe situations and
  • He learned how to calm himself.

Next up – matching a horse and client.  In Equine Assisted Therapy, the client does not choose the horse--the horse chooses the client.  This selection process comes after the client—Samuel in this case, calms himself then sits down with his back to the horses.  Frankly, that sounds scary to me, an adult!  I couldn’t begin to imagine what a hyper little kid might feel.  You are making yourself totally vulnerable to an animal that weighs over 1,000 pounds!  That process, however, produces a third skill:

  • Learning to Trust

Out in the meadow, a now-curious horse slowly ambles over.  And something beautiful happens.  It will gently nudge or snuffle the seated person in a process Equine Therapists call “joining.”  When the horse chooses the client, they connect and are “joined.”  Now additional work can begin with the two of them.

There are other competencies developed as the boy cared for the horse, such as building confidence and self esteem and over a period of six months, Samuel began to change.  He grew, matured and progressed so well that the big day came:  Samuel’s dream came true.  He became One With The Horse, and he rode like the wind!   Along the way he also began performing well at school and home because he was using all the skills he had learned with his own special horse.

Most of us won’t likely participate in Equine Therapy, but we can still benefit from Samuel’s experience.

  • While there are times we might need to act quickly, most of the time we will profit by Learning to wait and first observe situations.
  • Likewise, there are many times we need to calm ourselves. Most of the things we get so perturbed about turn out not nearly as catastrophic as we imagine!  Take a deep breath for 15 times in a row and see if you don’t think a bit more clearly!  Make a plan, take a walk or do whatever helps you calm down. 
  • Lastly, when I think of learning to trust, I contemplate learning to trust God. Often, that’s the hardest job.  We figuratively sit ourselves down in a meadow, make ourselves vulnerable and wait.  We’re not in control of how long it takes and often wonder whether He’ll come.

The good news is God has already chosen us; often He’s just waiting for us to wait, calm down and choose to trust! 

Even after an absence, Samuel’s horse remembered him.  God is the same way – He’ll always remember us and has promised to help when we ask, give us strength when we’re weary and make a way where there seems to be no way!

Samuel experienced a dream come true – he became One With The Horse.  What an awesome encounter we can have with God as we become One With Him. 

WHAT IF WE'D BEEN FIGHTING?

j&B in cafe
j&B in cafe

“You never know…… We have been going to the same restaurant for many years and a worker there often commented about being scared to be married. This morning, we were complemented to hear her say that because she had been watching us, she decided it was OK to get married. She announced her engagement to us today. You never know how you are going to impact someone's life, just by living your own.”

After I posted the above paragraph on Facebook, people posted some additional comments and scriptures which led to more reflection.

  • Matthew 5:16- “Let your light so shine before men, that they may…glorify your Father in Heaven.”
  • “Living your life out loud”
  • “People are watching how you live life. 1 Peter 2:16 – Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.”

Nobody said it, but I thought it:  What if We’d Been Fighting?  What if We'd Been Looking At Our Phones and Ignoring Each Other? What if We’d Been Calling Each Other Down and Acting Disrespectfully?

Like most couples, we’ve been guilty of those things in our marriage; I doubt there’s a perfect relationship on the face of the earth.  But, what if we had done those things in the restaurant?  Would that worker still have a bad feeling about marriage?  I bet she would have.  Would she have changed her perspective, then changed her plans for her own life?  Possibly.

Because here’s a truth I know -- every choice you make changes the road you are on and sets your direction.  And how often do our choices affect the choices made by others?  Probably more than we realize.  We won’t always be told that we’ve impacted someone’s life.  But we do.

My husband and I have been Christians most of our lives, and we even work in a church!  So we’re expected, and we expect of ourselves, to lead by exemplary example there.  It’s not just leaders, however who look good at church!   Most people have a “Sunday-go-to-meeting” outfit and a “Sunday-go-to-meeting” outlook.

Often, however, we don’t think about our behavior at the grocery store, a football game or at a local restaurant.

What if someone is watching us there?  What if what you do Monday through Friday is being observed by your co-workers?  You can bet it is!

We impact others’ lives, just by living our own. 

We Have Met The Enemy and He is Us!

pogo quoteWe Have Met The Enemy, and He Is Us! “If you’re going to be successful, you have to have thick skin! You know, that ability to withstand criticism and hurtful comments about who you are and what you do.”

That statement is from a blog I recently wrote called “Grow thick, armor-plated skin.” And I discussed ways to deal with the barbs, criticisms and judgments directed toward us from others.

However, I realized there’s another, perhaps even more important, truth related to growing thick, armor-plated skin. We need to protect us from us! Or, as the cartoon strip “Pogo” declared in 1970: “We Have Met the Enemy and He Is Us.”

We can be our own worst critics, thinking and often saying things like:

  • “I’m not smart enough, pretty enough, fit enough, talented enough, etc. Basically, “I’m not good enough.”
  • “It’s not going to happen for me, no use in trying.”

Examples of this type of thinking go all the way back to Biblical times. Moses was chosen by God for a special task—to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. And one of his first tasks was to confront Pharaoh. But Moses said, “since I speak with faltering lips, why would Pharaoh listen to me?....O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”  Basically, he was saying: “God I can’t do that. I don’t have what it takes.”

But Moses had a job to do and God wasn’t going to let him talk himself out of his assignment – he needed to speak up and lead the Israelites to the Promised Land!

We, like Moses, have something to do here on earth, a purpose for our lives. And we must not let those inner voices, fears or doubts stop us!

Lisa, a young lady in one of our counseling training classes, declared she was very shy and privately let me know that she could not speak up in class. She kept saying she had stage fright, she wasn’t good with people, etc. (She probably identified with Moses!) While I respected her wishes and did not call on her, it was interesting to see what began to happen. She came to every class, sat quietly and absorbed every word.

Gradually you could see her becoming more comfortable and then one day it happened! She raised her hand and made a comment!

From that day forward, she began to come out of her shell like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. She responded to the class challenge to “step out of your comfort zone” and today, she is teaching in a foreign country, a confident, well-spoken ambassador for God and the US. She has developed thick, armor-plated skin for herself!

Let me share some of the principles Lisa learned in class:

  • Stop Comparing Yourself With Others

Albert Einstein stated: “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

Steve Furtick, Christian author, puts it this way: “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”

When you compare yourself with others, you are indeed acting as your own worst enemy.

Instead, celebrate you and your unique assets, abilities, strengths and gifts. Write down five of them right now to get started! You can also study what God says about you in the Bible. I have a list of 38 scriptures declaring who you are. If you’d like a copy, send me a note.

  • Think and speak differently

Here are three declarations I make each morning:

“This is the day the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it!”

“I feel happy; I feel healthy; I feel terrific!”

“Every day in every way I’m getting better and better!”

  • Declare your progress, not your limitations

“When I read or hear something new that will help me, I write it down and practice it as soon as I can.”

“I’m developing networks in my field.”

“Maybe it didn’t work this time, but I’m going to keep trying.”

“God, I’m going to do the best job I can do, then leave the rest to you.”

When you (1) stop comparing yourself with others, (2) think and speak differently and (3) declare your progress, not your limitations, you will certainly develop thick, armor-plated skin for yourself.  As you do, it will change how you deal with adversity, set-backs and discouragement.  Instead of being “your own worst enemy” and feeling hopeless, helpless or worthless, you start becoming “your own best cheerleader!”

            Decide today that even if long ago someone made you feel “not good enough,” you are determined to meet the enemy and defeat him.  If Moses and Lisa can do it, so can you!!

Turn The Ship Around! Part II - Invest In Yourself

ship in storm“Turn The Ship Around”

If you looked in the dictionary under “angry man,” you would likely see a picture of the man in my office who sat across from me. His body was uptight, he wore an intense frown and with clipped words began to list all the reasons he was entitled to be angry.   “I have never been appreciated,” he announced. “I’m the one who’s always being blamed for things not my fault.” As he continued to catalog all the wrongs in his life, it was clear this man believes the world is against him and to say he has a negative mind-set is an understatement!

As he told his story of a troubled childhood, failed relationships and difficulties keeping a job, I could quickly see the impact of all that negativity on his life! As a counselor, I knew he needed to feel a little bit of hope! Therefore, before we started probing into the reasons for all that anger, I acknowledged he must feel like he’s all alone on a ship in the middle of a storm. However, I went on, “Even in the midst of a storm, you can turn the ship around!”

He quickly and loudly declared he wasn’t just in a storm; he was in the middle of a tsunami! And, he wasn’t so sure about his being able to turn anything around. He, like so many people, felt certain his circumstances needed to change; that others should treat him differently, etc. That belief, of course, left him feeling helpless and out of control. No wonder he was so angry!

I then shared some good news with him:

Many years ago, the philosopher James Allen penned these words: “Order your thoughts and you will order your life. Pour the oil of tranquility upon the turbulent waters of the passions and prejudices, and the tempests of misfortune will be powerless to wreck the ship of your soul.” In other words, this man’s life can be transformed by the renewing of his mind - Romans 12.

“Angry man” will surely benefit as well from the teaching found in Philippians 4:8: “…think on things which are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report. If there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy, meditate on these things.”

I was also able to inform him that medical science is now offering proof of these Biblical truths. Indeed, as Proverbs declares: “As a man thinketh, so is he.” As we think, we change the physical nature of our brain. Dr. Caroline Leaf talks about this process: “As you think, you choose and you cause genetic expression to happen in your brain. This means you make proteins, and these proteins form your thoughts. Thoughts are real, physical things that occupy mental real estate.”

Because I know the importance of these scriptural and medical truths, I asked him to think of two or three things he might be grateful for, even now.  As you might imagine, however, he struggled to come up with even one! His thoughts had for so long been ones of depression and disappointment, it was clear that changing their direction would be like turning a big ship around in the middle of the ocean!

While most people won’t likely sink to the level of despair as “angry man,” it is the rare person indeed who hasn’t struggled to follow the scriptural principle to renew your mind and think on things which are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report….If there is anything praiseworthy, think on these things.

Have you ever thought of turning off the TV as an empowering action for your mind? A way to “renew your mind?” In this age of constant broadcasts as close as your phone, rest assured you will most often hear what’s wrong with the world. It’s difficult to trust God for your healing when you’re regularly instructed to buy the latest pharmaceutical miracle medication because otherwise you will surely be struck with some horrific disease! There is certainly a place for modern medicine and medication, thank God! I’m just saying we can set ourselves up for all sorts of problems when we primarily hear about all the brokenness in the world and we neglect the renewing of our minds.  

When, however, we regularly invest in our minds, there are wonderful benefits! One excellent way to renew your mind is to practice gratitude. Psalms 118:24 instructs us to declare: “This is the day the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it!” Interestingly, as soon as you start to feel grateful for what you already have, more good things will come your way. That’s because our mindset begins to change. As we practice gratefulness, we train our brains to move in positive directions. And good things are found in positive directions!

Similar to the advantages experienced by breathing deeply for your body’s benefit, let’s look at the medical benefits of gratitude for your mind’s benefit.

  • Being grateful 15 minutes a day raises antibodies.
  • Grateful people are less vulnerable to clinical depression
  • Expressing appreciation instead of anger, frustration or worry improves blood and heart rate.

One woman expressed those benefits this way: “I began to put into practice the

idea of saying that this would be a good day the minute I woke up. And I can positively say that I have not had a bad or upsetting day since then. The amazing thing is that my days actually haven’t been any smoother or anymore free from petty annoyances than they were, but they just don’t seem to have the power to upset me anymore. Then every night I list all the things for which I am grateful, little things that happened during the day which added to my happiness. I know that this habit has geared my mind to pick out the nice things and forget the unpleasant ones. The fact that for six weeks I’ve not had a single bad day is really marvelous to me!”

I think she learned to turn the ship around! You can too! I challenge you to declare in the morning, “This is the day the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it!” Then, at the end of the day, think of at least three good things that happened that day. You will start to feel the difference, see the difference and you will find your mind on a different course – you’ve turned the ship around!

Try Something New To Take Care of You

"To Be Successful, You Must Invest In Yourself."   You've probably heard that before, but what does it really mean?   If you're going to accomplish all you were meant to do, enjoy a sense of purpose and "be all you can be," you must Invest In Yourself.  And your first investment should be taking care of your body.
Try Something New To Take Care Of You 

You don't have to look far to find diet plans, pills and supplements which promise to make your body better than ever!  And, every January you will find gyms and health clubs filled to capacity with determined overweight and out-of-shape new members!  Unfortunately, however, by May or June the crowds diminish and those New Year's Resolutions to have thinner, stronger, more flexible bodies are displaced by the busyness of every-day life.

Consistency Is The Key To Change

I have found the real key to making lasting change, whether that's taking care of your body, your mind, your finances, your career, or your relationships, is consistency.  And if you're going to be consistent, you need motivation but you also need to be realistic!  Just ask those January goal-setting, purpose-driven men and women who don't make it to December!

 Two Minutes A Day

Here's an example of something you can do for your body that requires only two minutes but reaps much more in benefits:  Deep Breathing.

Take two minutes every morning to breathe deeply, all the way down to your abdomen.   Fill your lungs with clean air, hold it, then exhale out completely.  Repeat.  After just a couple of minutes, you will feel a difference.  In addition, medical research has shown some proven benefits of regular deep breathing:

  • Releases toxins in your body
  • Releases tension
  • Relaxes mind/body and brings clarity
  • Oxygenation of the brain reduces excessive anxiety
  • Relieves pain
  • Strengthens immune system
  • Improves posture
  • Strengthens the lungs and makes the heart stronger
  • Helps with weight control

Wow!  Do you see how a two-minute investment such as deep breathing pays huge returns?  Instead of sleeping late, rushing to get ready and and then rushing off to work, try something new to take care of you.  Tell yourself, "This will only take two minutes.  I can spare two minutes!"   Then take some deep breaths and think about all the benefits you are giving your body.

After you've consistently practiced deep breathing for a few weeks, you will start to feel and see the difference.  Not only will your body thank you; your self-confidence will grow.  When you've exercised such self-discipline, pat yourself on the back (literally and/or figuratively) and feel proud of yourself!

As you do, you'll activate some new brain-wave patterns.  Because when you link an event (breathing deeply) with a strong emotion (feeling proud of yourself and dancing around the room in joy) those two get linked in your brain.  The positive association creates a desire to repeat that good experience.  (Think Pavlov's dogs!)  Fairly quickly, what you had to force yourself to accomplish through discipline will become almost automatic.

Try Something New To Take Care of You -- it's just two minutes! And with those two minutes, you've started  --- a pathway to success!

Think Small!

 Think Small            spam can

Let me give you two words which are the key to success -- THINK SMALL! I can just hear many of you now as you exclaim – Wait a minute! I thought we were supposed to think big and have bigger-than-life dreams and a gigantic vision! If you’ve read any of the ever-popular “how to succeed” books or heard many motivational speakers, that is, in fact, the message you will most often hear – Think Big!

Now, I must admit I believe there are really four words which lead to success – Dream Big; Think Small. You must indeed have a dream which requires you to stretch, grow and get out of your comfort zone.

I once heard a wonderful statement: “The greatest achievement was at first and for a time a dream…dreams are the seedlings of realities.” So yes, you must first spend some time visualizing, desiring and prayerfully asking for your dream to come true!

However, many people can get overwhelmed at the magnitude of a big dream. Let’s say you want to start your own business. That’s awesome! And it’s also a Big Dream. You can quickly become stuck in all the thoughts, doubts and questions which come rushing to your mind. “Do I have enough money?” “Will people actually buy what I’m selling?” “How will I plan and market?”

Often, the interns I supervise want to open a counseling practice after graduating with their Master’s Degree in Counseling. As soon as they’ve stated their goal, it seems they encounter such seemingly huge questions and obstacles very quickly.   From there, procrastinating quickly becomes very appealing! And before you know it, that dream has taken a back seat to daily living and finding a job just to make money.

So, I advise them to do what I’m encouraging you to look at here; think small - start with an action to be taken today or this week.

A good way to remember the steps involved in thinking small is to look at the acronym SPAM. Yes, looking at that can of potted meat can help you get started. Here’s what the letters stand for:

                                                                                      S = Small and Specific                 

                                                                                  P = Practical

                                                                                  A = Achievable

                                                                                  M = Measurablespam can

A counseling intern with the goal to start a counseling business can use this in the following way:

S = Small & Specific:   This week, I will talk to a therapist who’s already established a counseling practice.

P = Practical questions to answer include the well-known journalism questions: who, what, where, when, how?

  •  Who? Identify the counselor
  •  What? Set up an appointment to interview that person.
  •  Where? Will you take them to lunch? Or you could meet for coffee or come to the established counselor’s office.
  •  When? Determine the best time to meet, as well as the amount of time he or she has available.
  •   How? Write down questions you wish to have answered – come prepared!

A = Achievable = Knowing yourself as you do, is this goal achievable? If you have something else going on this week, it’s not – and you will need to come up with an alternative.

M = Measurable = At this time, you’ve moved beyond the “thinking” stage, and your action steps need to be measurable. You might want to enlist the help of someone to keep you accountable.

From that first week of action, the intern can set up the next goal to be achieved, step by step. The journey of a thousand steps just started, and the dream of becoming a practicing therapist is beginning to unfold!

No matter what you want to achieve, remember this:

Dream Big; Think Small and SPAM goals are a good way to get started!