Bold living inspiration (especially for “tweenior” women)  infusing faith, humor, and encouragement. From your identity, purpose and passions, to marriage and parenting to mental health and social issues and character: I speak with as much clarity and definition as time and research will allow. Reader input adds the illustrious punch, so I welcome all views.

Getting it all done and taking care of others often comes at huge personal expense. YOU matter to God. Your purpose and God-gifted passions should be used for his glory and your joy.

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Sounds Like Life

Reblogged from Words in High Def

Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the thick of what Christ experienced.” 1st Peter 4:12

Country music artist, Darryl Worley’s song really struck a chord in my heart. His message? In the most encouraging way imaginable he’s saying the same thing Don Henley sang in the 1994 Eagles’ tune “Get Over It.”

While Worley’s Sounds Like Life to Me is sweeter and more in the spirit of a pep talk, the Eagles’ words are bare-bones honest and a bit harsh. Both serve a purpose that seems to be in short supply; a reality check for complainers and malcontents.

Face it; life can be hard. Things don’t always go well and sometimes they get worse before they get better. This may seem like mercy isn’t my strongest gift (it’s not) but I think sometimes compassion’s best companion is tough love. If life isn’t all you’d hope it would be at this moment, be grateful for the blessings you have and stand firm in the knowledge that surely there is someone worse off than you. Maybe even someone who could use your help or encouragement.

Maybe you know someone like my friend Doug, who is a seasoned and talented journalist working in what he called a survival job. In a  note he said:

“The hours (10 p.m. to 6 a.m.), pay (less than half of what I used to make) and commute (25 mi one-way) are not good. But I’ve always seen my work as my gift back to God, so I bust it every night for them — and for Him. It’s an entry-level job being done by a 30-year journalist (me), and there isn’t much creative satisfaction in that. It’s paying the bills, barely. There are many people in similar situations these days, so I am hardly alone…I treat myself to an iced tea every afternoon, and that represents luxury in life. The thing right now is that I remain obedient to God and continue to listen for His direction (always a good policy!). So I’ve renewed my commitment to study and prayer, just being still in His presence.”

Then there’s Natalie, a 20-year-old girl who has suffered every day for more than three years with migraine headaches.

“Pain medication doesn’t help so I don’t take much of anything. Complaining doesn’t help so I try not to talk about it. I don’t like seeing other people feel so awful because they know I’m hurting so I’ve gotten good at hiding it most of the time. I know God loves me and has allowed this in my life for some reason. I trust Him to get me through each minute of each day and rely on Him to give me hope that one day my pain will end and I’ll get to have the kind of normal life other people have.”

When you begin to feel too hot, tired, or bored… when you become frustrated because you can’t take the vacation you’ve dreamed about or because your car is getting old; please pause and take another direction in your thinking before you speak it aloud because that Sounds Like Life To Me and complaining never leads to more contentment.

True or too harsh? Tell us what you think!
Diane Markins

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3 Foods to Add for Fitness Fuel

3 Foods to Add for Fitness Fuel

Good health is a huge piece of the contentment puzzle and being healthy requires at least a little food with nutritional value. You don’t have to give up your Sunday afternoon nachos or your Saturday evening vino, but remember guacamole isn’t considered healthy greens.

It’s actually simple math…what you ADD is tremendously more consequential than what you take away. So here are three foods to add for fitness fuel. Try just including one of these in your diet. You’re not giving anything up. You’re not taking medicine. But the health value is big. Joy will follow.

Riced Cauliflower

Anyone trying to get or keep their weight down knows that too many carbs are not a good idea. But carbs are awesome. It’s pretty amazing that you can replace traditional carb-a-licious rice with cauliflower and feel really satisfied. There are plenty of instructional videos on how to make it, and it’s not hard. But if time and convenience matter, you can buy it prepared, packaged and frozen for instant use. I found it at Trader Joe’s but there are other options. Heat it up, drip some low sodium soy sauce on it and whammo, no-carb, salty goodness.

You can also do a combo of brown rice with the cauli and it cuts carbs in half. Top it with chicken stir-fry or grilled steak medallions. I’m going to experiment using it for oatmeal substitute with some stevia and almond milk. We’ll see.

Kombucha

Com-who-cha? The name sounds exotic and when you find out what it is, you might say a fast No Thanks. Wickipedia says Kombucha is any of a variety of fermented, lightly effervescent sweetened black or green tea drinks that are commonly intended as functional beverages for their supposed health benefits. Kombucha is produced by fermenting tea using a “symbiotic ‘colony’ of bacteria and yeast.

Well that sounds tasty.

It might not be as good as a Yoo Hoo or a nice pino but many flavors and brands aren’t bad. Once again, you can DIY, which requires ordering some special stuff and a lot of patience to wait for it to ferment. Or you can buy it pre-made and individually bottled.

So why? Just why? Why would anyone volunteer to pay for and suck down a colony of bacteria and yeast?

Every health expert you talk to, especially those who are holistic, will tell you that ALL health begins with gut health. You need good gut health for your immune system and to fight inflammation. Kombucha is a major building block for gut health. Give it a shot. How bad can it be?

Greens

There can’t be a human living in America that hasn’t heard, “eat your greens.” From the time we’re little til we’re in the grave, people are pushing greens on us. Some people LOVE salad. They eat all the best ingredients with a little lemon spritzed on top.

You might be more like my husband who eats a token amount as a nod to health and not to offend the cook. Others go to a salad bar and load their plates with cheese and croutons and thick ranch dressing. The value of veggies just got diminished by the unhealthy additions.

All greens are not equal. Iceberg lettuce has about zero value, other than as a vehicle for gooey toppings. Kale is all the rage, but it’s an acquired taste.

Face it, while getting your greens is necessary for good health, it’s complicated.

Here are a few easy-peasy ways to make it happen.

  • Juice your greens. Do it yourself (which is best but time/labor-intensive and expensive) or buy it bottled (which is even more expensive).
  • Drink up. There are flavored, powdered greens you can add to all that healthy water you drink during the day.
  • Take a pill. There are simple greens put into capsules you choke down each day for the quick/easy route.

Whatever option you choose, you’ll spend cash but this is a worthy investment you can try making.

That’s all I’ve got for now. I hope you’ll try adding at least one of these to fuel your fitness, but if not, add something else. Math doesn’t lie and contentment requires better health. It all adds up.

*I’m not endorsing any of the linked products or videos, just wanted to give you a place to start looking.

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Training for Eternity

“The God who created us to do good works (Eph 2:10) will not cancel this purpose when he resurrects us to inhabit the new universe.” Randy Alcorn, Heaven

Each day we are in training. For those of us who believe that life doesn’t end when we take our final breath on earth, this is a fact. As we open our eyes in the morning we are presented with new opportunities to become stronger, wiser, kinder…better, and to fill ourselves with contentment.

Our time in this life is simply our practice field for eternity. It may seem like life is long and as we enter our senior years, we should be able to rest. But according to time on an everlasting scale, this life is only a blip. There is no point in time to assume we’re done or we’ve “arrived.” God has a purpose for each of us as long as we are drawing breath. He has created us with specific gifts and passions. If we aren’t cultivating, honing and applying them, we’re wasting precious time and resources.

According to the Bible, we aren’t going to be sitting around on cloud-covered furniture watching Angel TV in heaven. We’ll be working, in training for eternity. This was clearly established when God told Adam to pick up that first hoe. (There are a million jokes slamming around in my brain right now, but they’re too easy.)

Travel, recreation and fun times are all good things. We need refreshment for our weary spirits before we dig in again. Those peaceful or laughter-filled occassions can also be great because they enrich us and make us more complete.

But when we are lazy, complaining or passing the hours engaged in activities that we aren’t meant to be doing, we will be less prepared for the assignment we get tomorrow and tommorow and in heaven. If your heart’s desire is to be a farmer but you spend your days as a mailman, you may be missing the target.

Learning the uquique gifts you’ve been given is a good starting block. Looking for opportunities to enhance and use those spiritual gifts is the essential next step. God has a path layed out for us. It is filled with little growth assignments. If we stray, we don’t grow.

For those who are fulfilled and contented in how they spend their days, pray for those who aren’t. If you don’t feel like you’re training for your next assignment, visit your pastor or consider reading the Purpose Driven Life (or any number of other books on the topic).

Is your time well spent? How do you know? Love to hear your thoughts.
Diane Markins

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HELP! I Need Somebody

Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.
Helen Keller

I need help! This isn’t a desperate plea because I’ve fallen and can’t get up. This is a statement of fact in my life overall. I can’t “do” life alone and I think that’s true for all of us. Some folks tell themselves and others that they can handle things without assistance. They may even believe it, but the time will come when that lie is exposed and it won’t be pretty—especially for the self-deluded person telling it.

Am I incapable or incompetent? Far from it; I earned a college degree, help run a business, manage a household, do volunteer work and maintain many precious friendships…but I do none of those things without the help of others.

I rely on my accountant and banker to provide sound financial advice. My husband makes me feel beautiful but is also my business partner. We depend on each other as well as the wonderful group of people who work hard to ensure its success. My doctor takes great care of me and listens patiently every time I hear about some new cancer scare, asking if I need to be tested.

My two sisters (one is in-law), my mother-in-law and step-mom are my biggest cheerleaders. They help me believe I can keep going when I want to stop. My two daughters (one is in-law) let me know that I’m admired and will always lend a helping hand. My two dads (one is in-law)  and son have mastered the art of making me feel both respected as a capable woman and protected as their treasure.

Each of many friends plays a different in part in how successfully I “do” life on a given day. Some pray for me, some pray for my kids, some bring me laughter, some have all the answers, some know all the right people and some are full of inspiring words.Some have a stash of chocolate. All add value to my life. Without those elements, how would I manage to keep living life with a commitment to excellence? How would I have enough left to encourage, advise, inspire or equip someone else? The answer is simple. I wouldn’t.

God didn’t create us to be alone. He knew we’d need others to love, encourage and teach us. In Philippians 2:1-4 Paul talks about working together, sharing a common purpose. If my purpose is to encourage, help, love and support you and your purpose is the same toward me…we both win. We both have more peace, joy and contentment.

Are you the “independent” type or do you ask for help, giving back just as freely? Take stock of your life. I’ll bet anything you’ve accomplished that’s been supported by a loved one is more meaningful than those you believe you’ve done alone. Another Paul (McCartney) shared some pretty profound words when he sang with his fellow Beetles about needing HELP!….Help me get my feet back on the ground

What type of help seems most significant to you right now? Are you getting it? Have you asked?
Diane Markins

Compliment

Compliments & Criticism: The Art of Graceful Acceptance

“I can live for two months on a good compliment.”
Mark Twain

How well do you take a compliment? I think women are sometimes better at it than men, but I’ve seen women lose their poise when complimented too. Why is it difficult to accept a little praise sometimes? Possibly we are afraid of being perceived as prideful and in agreement with the flattery. My mom frequently reminded my sister and me not to deflect or brush off a compliment. “Just respond with ‘thank you, how nice of you to say so,’” was her advice.

That’s more difficult than it seems like it should be. When I was younger I habitually responded to compliments with a self-effacing joke. As I get older I’m getting better at saying a simple thank you, possibly adding, “I’m glad you liked it.”

Low self-esteem never enhances contentment. Neither does false humility.

To me it’s just as off-putting to get a sense of false humility as arrogance when I deliver a sincere compliment. Come on—just spit it out instead of gushing with a pretense of modesty, “I am really pretty, aren’t I?… and wow, can I sing!” At least it’s authentic and you know where they stand! (OK, maybe not.)

Deep down, I think most of us share a little of Mark Twain’s sentiment in the quote above. We enjoy hearing something nice about ourselves. There’s nothing wrong with that. When a person genuinely appreciates something about us, it’s encouraging and inspiring to hear it spoken out loud. Most of us get too little affirmation, causing us to lack momentum. If our efforts result in others’ enjoyment, a kind reminder of that can fuel us for what we have to do next.

The flip side of this is our ability to accept criticism. I’m a bit of a perfectionist in some areas (not housekeeping or cooking) and dislike failing. I also really hate to disappoint people. That combination makes it somewhat hard for me to accept criticism graciously. I don’t really want to know how poorly I did or listen to a lot of “tips” on how I could do better. I usually just need a bit of time to come to terms with my lack of success (real or imagined). When I’ve regained my emotional equilibrium I am better able to learn from my mistakes and ask for advice.

I deeply admire those who seem to sincerely appreciate “constructive” criticism delivered to them immediately after they’re finished with what they’ve done. When I fall on my face, the only constructive things I want coming my way are chocolate and hugs. I’ll look for ways to improve later.

So, to offer some constructive criticism, let me remind you to graciously accept a compliment and try to be equally gracious with helpful criticism. But remember, as author Elbert Hubbard said, “To escape criticism—do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.” You’re welcome.
Diane Markins

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True Romance in 21st Century Life

It’s Valentine’s week and women love romance. You only have to peruse best-sellers on Amazon to see the evidence. Considering that about 70% of books published don’t make a profit, publishers are very discerning about what they invest in…and romantic fiction is still thriving. The same is true for movies having a strong romantic component.

There is such an emotional connection as we follow a story of people finding their way to each other and ending up in a life-long love affair. Think of The Notebook. A young couple so obviously meant to be together, but complications break them up until they find their way back. We see the passion of youth and infatuation, the grief of separation and the abiding spirit of honest, selfless commitment. Even the painful parts are sweet and lovely.

Unfortunately life doesn’t typically follow the story line of a novel or the scripting of a movie. While real women have romantic relationships and marriages that likely include the stages of blind adoration, a smidge of discord and (hopefully) long-term commitment, there is also life outside the frame of the screen.

We battle our self-image issues, strive to stay fit and attractive, seek to find relevance, worry about our children, care for ill or aging loved ones, squeak out financial provision…and for most- all the while deeply desiring the absolute love of one man. We want him to tell us we’re beautiful…and make us believe he really thinks so. We want him to point out the ways we are significant, to reassure us about our children, to partner with us as we care for others and to work as hard as we do to provide. That’s romantic contentment.

That’s the way we’re wired and it’s no mistake because all those things are according to God’s model for romance and marriage. But in order to achieve this picture-perfect design, there is one major requirement: Two people who are willing to hold up their end of the equation. Many women don’t get that. They want the fabulous leading man but don’t see that instead of being the leading lady, they’re the lazy, sarcastic, self-absorbed side-kick. Or maybe they have good hearts but aren’t really putting in the time and energy it takes to keep their end of the teeter-totter off the ground.

We can’t expect to be regarded as a princess if we act like a commoner. As daughters of the King, our first priority should be to make sure our lives reflect the character of our Father. If so, we’re worthy of (and will attract) a man who wants to treat us accordingly.

Perhaps you are holding up your end but the guy at the other end is slacking. You’re the living definition of a wonderful woman but he takes you for granted, doesn’t help out and seldom seems to offer praise or compliments. If you’re not married to him, think about losing the dead weight and focusing on becoming the best you can be, trusting God to intersect your path with the right man as you walk on. If you are married, well–I suggest you touch base with a good counselor or coach (like me) to help you find equilibrium in your relationship, then perhaps the romance will emerge. Consider reading Sacred Influence by Gary Thomas and The Man Whisperer by Rick Johnson.

Whether you’re single or in a committed relationship do you feel that you’re lacking romance? Why is it important? What can you do today to add a little pizzazz to your life? Please share opinions and pass this post on to encourage others.

Diane Markins

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Fight for Focus

Fight for Focus

There is a battle going on and one of the prizes is your mind. (I’ll get to the second prize in a bit.) The war is cultural and the weapon is distraction. Why can’t you finish a thought, complete a project or track with a conversation? Because you are being lured away by a zillion other flashing options.

Be clear, I’m not talking about mental illness or brain health that might require medical care. I’m talking about the majority of people who struggle with the overload of information and entertainment slung at us every waking minute.

For instance, I can’t seem to simply relax and enjoy a bit of mindless TV like I did back in the day (pre-google). I want to check things out as I watch… Who is that actor married to? What was that old movie called? Where can I buy the top she’s wearing? I’m doing research instead of focusing on the silly story in front of my face. Distraction!

It only begins with TV viewing. It ramps up when we work online. You may have six windows open at once, toggling all around between social media, news updates, email and game scores. Forget productivity. Focus, HA!

I mentioned a second prize in this cultural war, and it is … your soul. In addition to the myriad of digital and real-time distractions fighting for your attention, there are emotional rewards attempting to distract you from what truly matters: Loved ones, serving others, being generous, good health and most importantly, God.

When you’re dedicated to winning the prize of the moment, your focus can be pulled from the One True God to all the little gods we erect in our lives. Things like wealth, fame, success, a glorious physique, an Honor Student bumper sticker. With the promise of fulfillment, any of those can win the war for your soul, at least for a time.

In his book, Gods at War, Kyle Idleman says we’re all wired for worship, and our choices are a strong indication of what “gods” we are worshiping. Below are some things he says reveal where your focus is landing and what matters most to you:

  • What I choose to do for a living.
  • How I choose to manage my money.
  • What I choose to watch on TV.
  • The people I choose to have as friends.
  • The websites I choose to visit.
  • The clothes I choose to wear.
  • The way I choose to spend my day off.
  • The food I choose to eat.
  • What I choose to think about.

If you’re nodding your head because you realize your focus is being pulled from what’s honestly significant to things that don’t have lasting value or add to your contentment, maybe it’s time to make some changes. Make a list of what distracts you most and identify two realistic things you can do to alter your course. You have to fight for focus or you’ll lose the battle.

Remember, I’m here to help!

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R E S P E C T

Reblogged from Words in High Def

Respect

“Respect for ourselves guides our morals; respect for others guides our manners.” ~Laurence Sterne

“He that respects himself is safe from others; he wears a coat of mail that none can pierce.” ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

In high school I can remember having more freedom and less rules than some of my friends. I don’t think I can ever remember being grounded. I wasn’t a perfect kid by any means but I didn’t get in trouble because I didn’t break a lot of rules.

The first (and only) time I ever ditched school (being coached by an older girl), I got caught. The disappointment on my mom’s face was so much worse than having to stay home that Friday night. She trusted me and I let her down. Trust was broken and respect was lost.

Seems like a million years ago, but that lesson stayed with me. I need respect. Can’t you just hear the words to Aretha Franklin’s legendary song playing in your head? We all need to feel respected. Respect equates to value. We want our stock to be high, but to be worth much we have to be a proven commodity. Respect isn’t something that comes automatically or in an instant. It is gained over time.

That high school experience was not my last bad choice or the last time I lost the respect of someone I love. When that happens, trust may be regained over time, but the level of respect never seems to be the same. Knowing that we are less esteemed—and rightly so—by someone we care about is deeply painful.

There are different ways of being respected, too. We can be respected for our beauty, our wealth, our family and our talents. While it is nice to be admired for those things, isn’t being truly respected for our character more meaningful and satisfying? Merriam-Webster’s defines respect as, “high or special regard.” If I’m going to be “held in high regard” I’d much prefer it be because I have integrity than because I have nice legs or can write a large check.

When I meet people and assess them (as we all do) respect is not something I bestow lightly. I may enjoy or appreciate—even admire them pretty quickly, but respect is something that has to evolve and prove the test of time and consistency.

Is your character worthy of respect? Are you slow to anger and quick to forgive? Are you generous, kind, tolerant and selfless? Are those things an act for certain times and special people or are you like that when you can’t be seen by another human being as well?

How do you measure respect…in yourself and others?
Diane Markins

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Leveling the Mountain; Don’t let One Bad Thing Define Your Life

Reblogged from Words in High Def

Don’t Let Mistakes Define You

“All men make mistakes, but only wise men learn from their mistakes.” Winston Churchill

Facing challenges and making mistakes is not optional in life. We have them, big and small, on a regular basis. If you see people who appear to float through life unscathed, look closer. Some people have a way of always looking fresh and cool, nothing ruffles them. More faith? Possibly. More blessings? Maybe. Better ability to suck it up and not let it show? Likely.

The challenges I’ve encountered in my life have varied from fighting for my kids (–sometimes fighting with my kids), a rough patch in my marriage, a time in my youth of near-poverty, loss of loved ones and a few hurtful moments with close friends. I find that the most difficult to recover from are those I’ve caused. And to be honest, I tend to usually point a finger at myself first, even when it may not be rightly deserved.

Moving on to the next “thing” in life can feel impossible when we are mired down with a challenge like the death of a loved one or an important relationship in crisis. I know some people who are standing in front of those giant stone walls and trying desperately to find a way forward right now. The courage and energy it takes to just keep going (and even breathing) is staggering.

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever gotten was from Pastor Michael Tucker (www.21stCenturyMinistries.org) years ago. He told me that I was making a particular challenge into the focal point of my existence; a “mountain” of which I was relating a timeline of my life…the way things were “before” and “after” this incident. Instead of the experiences of my life being on a straight line, there was this giant hump that stood out in bleak contrast. He told me to “Level the Mountain.” Stop making this one awful thing into such a defining point in my life and my future.

It takes time and deliberate action to survive some of the challenges in our lives. Keep moving forward if you are faced with a challenge right now. God will help you find a way around, over or through that fortress wall in front of you. In time, you will be on the other side, then you can focus on leveling it into just another one of the challenges you’ve overcome. Shift your focus from the mountain to the mountain mover.
Diane Markins