Inspiration

Cancer Saved My Life

Dane at lake.JPG

Cancer Saved My Life

With a sense of wonder and awe, our son said, “I just realized that cancer saved my life.”

“That’s a strange statement, “I thought, but upon reflection, I had to admit it was true.  We had been reminiscing during the Thanksgiving season about the major physical challenges Dane has endured.

It all began when he was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.  As you can imagine, our family immediately experienced the fear, doubt and questions about why God let this happen.  Why did this healthy young man who had served God all his life be struck with cancer?  In spite of our prayers, the cancer didn’t miraculously disappear.   Unable, of course, to answer those unanswerable questions, Dane followed the doctor’s recommendation to have immediate surgery to remove the malignant organ.

Then, as if that bombshell wasn’t enough to deal with, the anesthesiologist found a problem with his heart. And that problem required open-heart surgery.

 Open heart surgery? Really, God? What’s up with this? Hasn’t he gone through enough?

Probably others facing such life-threatening news or continuing problems can fully understand the wide range of emotions we all rode like a wild carnival ride roller coaster. 

Once again, we prayed for a miracle.  We hoped for a miracle.  We believed for a miracle.  But nothing seemed to change.      

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  Dane still had to undergo two major surgeries and all the rehabilitation required afterward.   

We didn’t fully realize that a miracle had happened until years later.

 I believe that can happen to anyone. When you are going through struggles, especially ones that stick around, it’s hard to see that anything good is happening.  How many people despair after years of seemingly unanswered prayers?

  •        Are you still struggling with a health issue?

  •         Do you have a dream that God has not yet granted?

  •         Do you have other prayers that have not been answered?

You, like Dane, may not realize that God is working a miracle on your behalf. And this Thanksgiving that’s what Dane realized.  First, it was a miracle his thyroid cancer was even discovered. The doctor said usually this condition is not discovered until it’s too late.  Secondly, because he had to have surgery, the problem with his heart valve was discovered. Either one of those conditions was a silent killer, waiting to pounce suddenly, without warning.

            But a miracle did happen and, as Dane declared, “ cancer saved my life.”

            Don’t get discouraged when you think God has forgotten you; it may be years later that you look back and realize a miracle happened. It might even show up as cancer.

 Barbra Russell, MA, LPC                                                    

                                   

Lessons from Bees

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At the beginning of the year, Pastor Toure’ Roberts shared his vision for 2018 –

Thinking Big:

  • We are a big church

  • Focused on the big picture

  • Building big people

  • Making a big impact

Pastor Toure’, of course, was specifically referring to the Potter’s House, but we’re all here to make a difference in the kingdom of God, and there have been and will be many opportunities to do just that. 

I will always remember the woman who said, “I attended class on Tuesday, and I read your daily reflection. Last Sunday I wanted to end it all but I went to church instead.”   A life saved!  Now that’s a big impact!  And no matter where you are or what you’re doing, you influence those around you. 

That’s why we do what we do - and how we impact people’s lives in a big way. And maybe we’ll hear about some of those impactful things we do; others we may never hear about but we serve, and we plant, and we sow. In the end, we’ll be building those big people and making a big impact in our families, our city and our world.

  • Something I read the other day says it well, and I call it “learning from bees.” Every creature in a beehive, every single honey bee, has a purpose — a role it follows its entire life. Guard bees protect the hives, nurse bees take care of the babies, and architect bees build the hive’s hexagon structure, making it mathematically perfect in every way. There are even undertaker bees who remove the dead from the hive and fly 100 yards to dispose of the bodies.

  • Certainly, humans have purpose in their lives. But why are bees so single-minded and committed to that purpose? It isn’t just for the good of the queen. It’s for the good of each other, for their whole community. That’s us — we’re here for the good of each other, for the whole community.

You’re here to make a difference!

Mission To Mars

A Mission To Mars

[By Barbra Russell, MA, LPC, Director, PHD Counseling Ministry]

I remember when I saw the movie, “Hidden Figures,” about three African-American mathematicians who played an integral part in NASA’s space-race success.  It was amazing to learn about these phenomenally intelligent women making a difference at a time when women as a whole, much less, African American women, were not recognized for brilliance, much less for helping out in the space race!

            No, during the decades of the 1950’s and 1960’s, it was often said that “women’s brains aren’t made for mathematics and science.”   And I never heard the story of those “Hidden Figures” until the movie came out in this decade.  How many other women (and men) have remained unknown, unseen and unheard, yet have made a significant contribution, a difference, to society and to our lives?           

            Just think, you might be sitting next to someone at church who has such a story to tell.   Someone like Jessica from The Potter’s House Church of Denver:     

Jessica took part in PHD’s Life Groups lay counseling classes, completed leadership training and the emotionally healthy relationship groups where I had the chance to get acquainted with her.   She is also an ordained elder and obviously has a heart for God and for ministry and not only at church; Jessica is recognized as a leader in the community.  She recently participated in something special through her work and sent me the following note:

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            “I just spent the week working with women engineers on the Mars 2020 mission at NASA in Pasadena.

            It was amazing; leadership development for people who are already extremely cool.  God is amazing.  I shared some of my story with them, which included my core, core value of being a child of God, which drives my essential purpose and personality.

            Some of them came up to me after, thankful that I did, because talking about God is usually taboo.  Once I opened the door, they felt safe to set aside the norm and share their same beliefs with each other.  (secretly, of course, don’t tell the astronauts, ha ha!)  I love this gig!”  (signed) Jessica

             In 2020, I’ll think of those women engineers and how The Potter’s House of Denver is now connected to them because of Jessica and the impact she made on a mission to Mars.

            Has there been someone who’s made an impact on your life?  I’d love to hear from you and learn their story as well.  Contact me at:  barb@barbrarussell.com

 

 

             

It's Ok For Things To Go Fantastic!

IT’S OK FOR THINGS TO GO FANTASTIC!

            You know it’s not good news when the doctor says he needs to talk to you, and you might want to have your family with you.  Michelle Rackley, our niece, called to give a tearful report of what had just transpired in her hospital room.   

Special moment with niece Zion

Special moment with niece Zion

“You need to say your good-byes to your family and friends.  We’ve done all we can do.”

            “How long do I have, doctor?”

            “No more than two months.  I’m very sorry.”

            It was Easter, and this season which represents resurrection and new beginnings, instead looked like death and despair. 

            Unfortunately, it was all too understandable.  Michelle had struggled with medical issues for many years.  She had survived over 60 surgeries, lethal infections like the deadly MRSA virus, her body was crisscrossed with scar tissue like a patchwork quilt, and now there were blood clots scattered throughout her upper torso, inhibiting normal blood flow to her heart and preventing any corrective surgery.

It seemed even her strong will and unrelenting faith could go no further. 

Fortunately, when people like Michelle have gone as far as they can go, there are others who pick up the baton and continue running the race.  Prayer warriors, some who knew only her name and her critical condition, began to intercede in prayer on her behalf.  And, miraculous things began to happen.  Her body started healing.

I am pleased to tell you that nine months later, we celebrated Christmas with “Miracle Michelle,” enjoying the gourmet meals she prepared.  She’s an unashamed foodie and accomplished cook with a bucket list of places not yet seen and food not yet tried.

Michelle cooking.jpeg

We watched as she put her foot in the Pacific Ocean for the first time and gleefully accompanied her to yummy foodie stops in California.  What a celebration! 

First time at the ocean - getting ready to jump in

From Easter’s message, “Prepare to die” to a New Year’s promise of “It’s ok for things to go fantastic,” Michelle has a new theme for her life. 

If you find yourself in a hopeless situation, hear what she has to say about her experience, “I believe every prayer was an investment into me being whole!  I want people to know that God is still healing today.” 

In other words, IT’S OK FOR THINGS TO GO FANTASTIC! 

The one most powerful thing you can do for someone

Whether it's in a counseling setting, in your marriage, or if you're visiting with a friend, here's the one most powerful thing you can do for that person.  Check out this short video to find out:

https://www.facebook.com/barbra.e.russell/posts/10210790934112265

 

Brain Power!

For our brain, there's no difference between reality and imagination. Our brain reacts to every thought and cannot tell a fact from a fantasy. This is why people looking at the world through rose colored glasses feel happier, and this is why our body accepts a placebo as a real pharmaceutical product. 

Do you hang on to known misery rather than reach out for unknown happiness?

Do You Hang On To Known Misery Rather Than Reach Out For Unknown Happiness? 

                During July, I watched “The Sons of Liberty,” historical stories about a group of men fighting in the American Colonies for freedom.  It brought to life figures like John Adams, John Hancock, George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, those US founding fathers we usually see depicted as older, bewigged and solemn as they’re signing the Declaration of Independence.  

  This series, however, shows young, courageous and seemingly fearless men determined to break away from a far-away king’s rule, British corruption and “taxation without representation.”  They were called “The Sons of Liberty.”  

In the TV depiction Samuel Adams, cousin to the more well-known John Adams, is a hero who found his calling as colonial activist, motivating and inspiring others to rebel against the British.  While admiring his dashing acts of bravery, I was struck by this thought:  today, we might not be physically fighting for our freedom, but we often wage war in our minds.  We need freedom; we metaphorically cry: “give me liberty or give me death!”  We can relate to Samuel Adams and The Sons Of Liberty.

  •          Like us, I imagine Samuel Adams often thought, “I can’t,” “why me?” or “this isn’t fair!” 
  •         Samuel was unsuccessful as a businessman in colonial Boston.  Who among us hasn’t faced defeat in a business opportunity or lost a job?  At those times, we might mumble as perhaps Samuel did, “I tried it and it didn’t work.” 
  •         Samuel experienced dissatisfaction with his life in general.  Perhaps, like us, he woke up one morning to discover he had turned into the wrong person. 
  •         Samuel was driven by desperation – he was broke – when he took on the unpopular task of tax collector for the British.  Although it’s been almost 250 years since the Sons of Liberty spearheaded the cause for liberty, I think at one time or another we all find ourselves feeling desperate.  I know I have.  I remember times filled with hopelessness, anxiety and despair when I was ill and jobless or when I was facing a life without one of my legs.

However, something interesting happened as Samuel Adams reluctantly collected taxes; he began to see a clear pattern of British corruption that did not sit well with him!  That immense dissatisfaction and sense of outrage ultimately led to his playing a significant role in “The Boston Tea Party,” and “The American Revolution.” 

Almost 150 years later, Oswald Chambers penned words that Samuel Adams would undoubtedly have embraced and that we identify with today: “We lose interest and give up when we have no vision, no encouragement, and no improvement, but only experience our every-day life with its trivial tasks.”  Sometimes, like Samuel Adams, we just need a purpose.

In the war of our minds, we also experience times of overwhelming situations and wonder, “what on earth are you doing, God?”  We ask, “what possible good could come from such a horrible break-up, loss of a job, or devastating illness?”  If we’re honest, we get mad at God, upset with the world and are disappointed with ourselves for getting into such a mess. 

With the advantage of hindsight, we’ll later say things like, “Oh! That’s why I got so discouraged!”  Or, “Now I see what God had in mind; it was better for me to go through that situation.”   But usually, the first insight comes as we, like Samuel, start to dislike the way things are.  From that uncomfortable place, when we’ve had enough, we’re ready to do something different. 

That’s the beginning of the battle in our minds.  We long to step out of our comfort zone and react differently or try new things. But the part of our brain which seeks familiarity; which hangs on to known misery rather than seek unknown happiness, demands comfort, not challenge. 

      The first skirmish is the decisive one.  We struggle with how it’s always been, what we’ve always done and who we’ve always thought we were.  But when the pain of remaining the same becomes greater than the fear of change, we are ready to brawl. There may be more battles to face, more obstacles to conquer, but we’re on the way. 

And just as Samuel Adams and “The Sons of Liberty” brought freedom to our land, we can bring freedom to our minds. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

               

 

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

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 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!

What do you do when you don't know what to do? Steps 3-5

 

question marksWHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO?

 Step 3: Take A Risk

When the future is unknown, stepping out in faith can be a scary thing. (It was for me!) Even if you’ve identified gifts and applied what you know, you still have to face many unknowns! But stepping out of your comfort zone to try something new can lead to rewarding results!

“Susan” started working out at the gym as a way to deal with anxiety and stress. However, because of her anxiety, she was very uncomfortable around other people, and going to a gym was definitely stepping out of her comfort zone! However, she not only found it helped manage her worries, but stated she took to it “like a fish to water.” She also quickly discovered that when she focused on exercising, she didn’t think about her social phobia. She faced her fear, which led to her running a marathon, losing over 100# and ultimately teaching a class at that gym. Susan took a risk – and she was ecstatic that she did!

Step 4: Sometimes You’re Right; Sometimes You’re Not.

In life, when you take a chance, you might fail. Or you might quickly succeed. More than likely though, you, like most successful people, will experience some set-backs before you’re where you want to be. What do Henry Ford, Bill Gates and Walt Disney have in common? They failed many times before they succeeded!

It’s true there are no guarantees, but “nothing ventured, nothing gained,” as the old saying goes. Why, then, is “venturing” often so difficult?

Some people can’t stand the thought of being wrong and just get frozen with fear. Their imagination begins to work over-time and they foresee all sorts of dire consequences if they step out into the unknown.

To overcome such anxiety, it helps to think through the “worst-case scenario.” You ask yourself, “If the worst happened, what would I do? How would I react?” In Susan’s case, she came up with a back-up plan. “If I get to the gym and feel so anxious I can’t stay, I’ll go home.” Having a back-up plan gave her the confidence to keep going to the gym. And guess what? Susan never had to use her back-up plan!

Step 5: Find Your Way Step By Step

An exciting thing happens when you begin to see what God had planned for you all along!

Two years before moving to Denver, my husband and I began to feel change was in the air. My husband began to paint and prepare our house to sell, and I checked into joining a speaker’s bureau, as I was ready to branch out from my private counseling practice in Pueblo, and start giving workshops and seminars. We mentioned to our in-laws in Denver what we were feeling.

A few months later, my brother in law asked if I wanted to come to Denver to establish a counseling ministry at a church there. He told us, “If you hadn’t mentioned a possible move, I would never have asked you, as I thought you guys were firmly established in Pueblo.” We began to see that surely our steps were ordered by God, as small steps led to others!

And for me - this was something different – a risk, for sure! But I decided to take the challenge and I’m so glad I did!

As we look back now, we saw God’s hand moving us to Denver, step by step. We couldn’t see the end result, but God had a plan.

So what do you do when you don’t know what to do?

Let’s review the steps covered in these three blog postings:

  • Ask God to direct you
  • Start to use what you’ve been given (your gifts, talents and abilities. See Blog #1 to figure out how to discover your gifts)
  • Go with what you know – See Blog #2 to review personality traits
  • Take a Risk – Stepping out of your comfort zone can be scary but rewarding

When you don’t know what to do, you can start by following the guidelines in this series of blogs. In a year from now, you’ll be able to look back and say, “look how far I’ve come!”

What Do you Do? Go With What You Know - Step 2

What Do You Do When You Don’t Know What To Do?

question marks Step 2 – Go With What You Know

             What things do you know about yourself? Are you an extrovert or an introvert? Do you have a dominant personality and step right up to take charge? You might consider yourself an influential, inspiring person who can sell ice to Eskimos, as the saying goes! Perhaps your strength is being a team player or maybe you’re excellent with details!

Such personality traits can be discovered by a strengths assessment inventory, like the DISC. I enjoy using the DISC because it’s easy to associate the four major attributes of someone’s personality to the letters.

        D = Dominant, direct – these are “big picture” people

        I = Influence, inspiration – the “fun lovers” who love people

        S = Stability, security – they will listen and provide safety

        C = Conscientious, careful – great with details

        While there’s a lot involved in the thorough discovery of your particular make-up, here’s a couple of examples and general observations to help you go with what you know about you:

Since I know my two dominant DISC personality traits are “I” and “D,” I’ve learned that when I need to work with figures or get a research project done, I have to consciously make lists, set deadlines, or – my favorite choice – get someone who has an “S” or “C” personality to help me out!!

My husband is an “S” -“C” combination – of course! Haven’t you heard that opposites attract? We laughingly refer to his “S” characteristic as “The Saint”  because he can get along with almost anyone! And guess who handles the money in our household? My husband, of course! That’s one of his strong points.

        Knowing your primary personality strengths and weaknesses is key to really knowing you.  

         In addition, recognizing whether you’re an extrovert or an introvert can help when you’re trying to choose the right path.

An extroverted person is energized by being around a lot of people, noise and activity.   And, introverts recharge their batteries by spending time alone or taking a nap.

Think of times when you’ve used your strengths. Do you have a knack for working with kids? When you hang out with them, does a crowd gather? Perhaps you are a great listener and people just seem to tell you things they’ve never told another soul.   Is there a counselor inside you just waiting to be released?  Often, people realize they already know about addictions because of their own family dynamics.

And sometimes you’ll learn things through “the school of hard knocks.”  Have you ever said, “Well, that’s a mistake I’ll never make again!” You’ve learned something through that experience that adds to what you know and who you’ve become.

        What do you do when you don’t know what to do?

  1.   Start with what you’ve been given (see previous blog)
  2.   Go with what you know

Join me next time as I discuss step 3:

  1. Take a risk

What Do You Do When You Don't Know What To Do?

What Do You Do When You Don’t Know What To Do?

question marks

Have you ever felt stuck? Perhaps you don’t like your job and your job doesn’t like you! Maybe you have a dream or goal but don’t know the next step to take. And you’ve prayed for direction, but no answer appears. I think we’ve all been in such predicaments at some time or other—I know I have! It’s frustrating to say the least, and can really shake your faith at times. Let me share some of the experiences and guidelines I’ve found to be helpful:

  1. Start With What You’ve Been Given

I’ve always been a gal who talked a lot – but I never thought that was a gift! When people said, “You have a way with words,” I didn’t think that was anything special. However, that “way with words” provided an answer at a time when I asked: “What Do I Do now?”

As it turns out, God’s reply was to show me He has given me an ability, a talent, a gift –--- of talking! Go figure!

I started using that “way with words” when I began teaching my clients skills and techniques in the counseling office. The more I did this, the more my clients reported it was helpful. And the more I enjoyed it as well! I started with what I’d been given. Then I decided to put on a workshop. I didn’t know if anyone would show up or what might happen, but (gulp, gulp) I took a deep breath and scheduled one!

That first seminar demonstrated to me I could use my ability to connect with people publicly as well as in the privacy of the counseling office. They showed up!  They said it was helpful!  Yea!  I used what I'd been given!  Using that gift has led to speaking engagements, writing opportunities and leadership roles.

What gifts have you been given? What gifts are still unknown to you? Discovering and using those talents is one of the things that will help you succeed!

If you haven’t yet discovered your gifts or talents, ask people around you what they think you do well, then make a list of those things. Next, make a list of things you enjoy doing. Between those two inventories you’ll start to see the abilities God has given you!

Join me next time as I discuss step 2 -- Go With What You Know

Success Principle - Invest in Yourself

Success Principles - Or how to avoid being broke and stupid!  I hope you'll enjoy this video talking about "investing in yourself."  If you like it, please comment and share!  Thanks, Barbra https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xlesbBskGqk