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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No Job Joy?

“The best way to appreciate your job is to imagine yourself without one.”
Oscar Wilde

Peering into a mouth filled with stained teeth and bleeding, puffy gums is high on the list of things I don’t want to do. Working at a slaughter house might be slightly above it, but singing in public and bookkeeping are only marginally below.

What some of us consider repulsive, dirty jobs, others find easy and often fulfilling. My friend Marilynn has been a dental hygienist for over 30 years and loves her work. She is skilled with those silver tools and cares deeply for her patients. The mere thought of her job sends shudders down my spine.

Another pal, Maggie, is an accountant. While tax season can be—well, taxing—she enjoys her profession immensely and wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Several friends love to sing and do it with joy at church or Karaoke night at the local bar and grill. They’d love to get paid to do it; you couldn’t pay me enough. I know people who would rather shovel manure than speak in public or write for publication. Hard for me to relate to that!

There is no “good” job or “bad” job from a universal perspective. When we are good at something we tend to enjoy it more than something we struggle to accomplish. Finishing the day with a job well-done powerfully impacts how we view our work. If we do it well and especially if our work is appreciated by others, the appeal of our profession can skyrocket. Contentment achieved!

Whether you’re a mortician or a movie star you don’t have to take much time to ponder about your level of job satisfaction. You know immediately when asked about it. If the thought of your job doesn’t bring a quick smile to your face maybe you should look at some other possibilities.

Things to consider:

  • Rate your job satisfaction from 1—10
  • What do you like most/least?
  • Is it the specific company, your boss/peers or the actual work you dislike?
  • Why have you remained for this long?
  • What sacrifices are you willing to make to find a job you like better?
  • Do your skills or your training/education qualify you for other types of work?
  • What would make a job more appealing than your current work?

After giving it some thought (if you decide that you’re ready to make a change) give yourself a list of small steps to take and a timeline. Dreading to get up in the morning is no way to live. But also remember that there is lawn work to be done on both sides of the fence, so don’t forget to look at the real picture before making any permanent changes.

If you’ve jumped ship, enjoyed a job others hated or are caught in the trap of a job you hate, share your thoughts here.

Diane Markins

 

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Aged to Perfection

Aged to Perfection (Nearly)

Do you love (or hate) birthdays… or do they not really matter much to you? I know people who start planning and thinking about their birthdays way in advance. Those are the people who often get tragically disappointed because their anticipation and imagination can’t possibly live up to what really happens.

If you’re one of these folks, step back and realize you are loved even if your birthday isn’t treated as a national holiday. Don’t set yourself up for grief by expecting too much.

Some people really hate their birthdays. They don’t like being the center of attention, the star of the show. Or, they hate to admit they’re getting older. They duck it and keep a low profile, staying busy on that day. They mumble quick, uncomfortable thank-yous when people acknowledge their special day.

If this is you, let me remind you that you are wonderful, unique and special. You deserve to be celebrated. Also, your age is an honest-to-goodness part of your life. It represents the pain, joy, trials, accomplishments and wisdom inside you. Let your lack of self-worth or your pride (two sides of the same coin) go and eat some cake.

Others, like my husband, really don’t think about it much at all. It’s nice when you’re remembered, but no harm done if friends forget. My husband really doesn’t like people “wasting their money on presents he doesn’t need.”

For these balanced, rare people, that’s just great. Except maybe you’re just too busy or preoccupied serving others to step into your own fantastic value for even one day. Also, you might want to control how other people spend their money, but that’s not your job. And, if they want to invest it in a gift for you, accept it and feel the love. Withhold the urge to cringe and judge.

Why all this birthday talk now? Well, we all have them and we all experience them differently. But also, this week I’m turning 60. Gulp. Cough. Sputter. Choke. Tears. Sniffles.

I’m typically in the segment that really loves birthdays…my own and everyone else’s. I love to celebrate with loved ones. I know God thinks we’re all worth (and in need of) a good party. I would notice if those closest to me forgot, but I don’t have ridiculous expectations. I don’t remember ever being disappointed.

But this year is different. I’m dealing with two warring emotions: Grief over the loss of youth and joy over the gain of my earned wisdom and experience.

As I’ve pressed in and asked God to show me what He wants me to know about moving closer to senior citizenship (again, gasp!– all these new yucky titles I have to own…), He’s been pretty generous in responding.

Want to know what He’s telling me?

He’s showing me that I have earned a spot at the table because of my experience. He wants me to own my gifts with total confidence. This doesn’t rob me of humility, it just elevates God’s power in me. (Be clear, I’m not talking about salvation-that can’t be earned!)

He wants me to accept what He’s been lovingly trying to show me for years: I am good enough. I have a lot to offer. I don’t need anyone’s permission or guidance except His when it comes to using my gifts. I AM the wise older woman, not the insecure kid seeking approval or direction from those around me.

Proverbs 16:31 says, “Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life.” I don’t plan to go gray any time soon, but I feel like I can wear that crown and rock it.

I’m sure I’ll still be grappling with the idea of heading into my golden years, but my confidence is certainly taking a terrific turn for the better. Contentment can’t be determined by your age. There is contentment to be had at any age! My gifts are appropriately seasoned and aged to perfection (nearly).

On your birthday, celebrate yourself and let others celebrate you too. Ask God to show you what He wants you to know about yourself and your gifts each year. He’ll give you the best gift you could imagine: love, insight, wisdom and confidence.

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Easter: It’s All About Me

What are your Easter memories and traditions? As a little girl I loved Easter. What’s not to love? My sister and I always got a new “Easter outfit” which included a frilly dress of our choosing, lacy socks, shiny new patent leather mary janes, a hat and even little white gloves. No, I’m not nearing 80, that’s just the way my mom wanted to do things.

Coloring enough eggs to exhaust a barnyard of chickens, we were artistic geniuses. The night before the big day we’d be filled with butterflies of anticipation for the beautiful, loaded basket that giant rabbit would drop off in exchange for the large carrot left as an offering of gratitude…and yes, we believed!

Up at dawn, we’d marvel at the lovely loot bestowed upon us and eat a few pieces of candy before breakfast. Church was fun because we got to show off our new clothes and find out how much the Big Bunny liked other kids.

Off to Grandma’s house for Easter egg hunts until the last adult finally said no more. Aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents sat down to a table laden with what we now call comfort food. Throughout the day we were depleting our stash as the marshmallow peeps, chocolate bunnies, jelly beans and malted milk eggs were consumed.

Um…and there was something about Jesus. Any of this sounding familiar?

I’m not one to condemn any tradition that results in family togetherness and forming sweet memories, but perhaps there’s a better way. I realize now that the Easter celebration I grew up with was all about me: my appearance, my stash of goodies, my fun day.

Honestly, it’s still all about me…at least that’s what Jesus would say. He lived in our challenging, abusive, hurt-filled world for me. He died a brutal death, at the hands of hateful people for me. He defeated death and lives on, for me. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

For those who love the fun family traditions like I grew up with, maybe there could be two days of Easter celebrations. Perhaps Good Friday or even on Saturday, we could spend a little time remembering this man who brought each of us so much more than a wicker basketful of colored sugar. We could deliberately try to relate to Jesus by recalling our own (comparably shallow) experiences of pain and sacrifice for others. We could spend some time being still, soaking in God’s eternal expression of love that encompassed the very first Easter.

“Oh, give thanks to the LORD! Call upon His name; Make known His deeds among the peoples! …” Psalm 105:1. We could write Him a sincere letter of thanks. We could teach our kids to draw a picture or use other artistic methods to create a gift expressing grateful hearts.

Our wonderful God doesn’t want us to throw away fun times or eliminate lasting traditions or replace them with a stiff, obligatory religious ritual. He loves to see us smile, hug and enjoy treats. But I believe He’d delight even more in the way our spirits would respond to an intentional interlude basking in His presence. Not for His sake because Easter is all about us, because what He did on the cross was certainly for each of us.

How do you separate the fun traditions and the true meaning of Easter? What was your Easter like growing up? Comment below.
Diane Markins

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Contemplating Past May Improve Future

Regret, remorse, misgiving; all denote a feeling of discontentment regarding events that have passed. Every adult on earth has experienced this at one time or another and knows it’s not a picnic. But what should we do with it when it comes?

Vacation (in most people’s minds) is a time of exploring new places and being actively engaged. According to this definition, my annual trip to the beach would not meet the criteria. There was very little running around, and most of our exploration time was done when the kids were younger. We spent our days in a pattern of reading, riding bikes, watching the waves and an occasional bout of boogie boarding. Throw in our “best burger on the beach” quest and this sums up my ocean-front tenure.

Suffice it to say that there was an abundance of quiet time to reflect. And I don’t know why I’m still surprised after all these years that I inevitably land in a place of nostalgic regret. Of course there are many more sweet, fun and crazy memories from my life than sad ones, but the missed opportunities, mistakes and bad choices seem to shout the loudest for my attention.

I lament that I wasn’t a better mother when the kids were small, because now they’re grown and I don’t have the chance to read to them for an extra few minutes or sit by the bed while they fall asleep.

I have heartache that I wasn’t a more attentive daughter, visiting more frequently—because now my mom’s gone and I can’t drop by to see her.

I rue actions earlier in my marriage that caused my husband pain. He forgave me and loves me more than ever, but I can’t undo those choices.

Sounds like a great time, huh? But self-reproach and condemnation are powerful tools. If we never pick them up, we may miss the lessons to be learned from close scrutiny and introspection. However if we over-use them, we do more harm than good to our own spirit, self-inflicting abuse and undeserved measures of pain.

As with most other factions of life, balance is the key to self-evaluation. Contentment comes with contemplation and dealing with the past. Here’s the challenge I’m issuing:

For those who run through life at warp speed; build in an annual pilgrimage that includes a slower pace, some solitude and a time of honest contemplation.

For those who are naturally more introspective; take a sincere look at the life you’ve lived, own up to mistakes, but then bathe yourself in grace. Self-flagellation is borne of self-absorption. Forgive yourself and move on with a lighter load.

For both types of people; make sure you garner every morsel of insight and work toward improvement so next year when you repeat this exercise you’ll have less to deal with

I know that now I can choose to stop whatever I’m doing to listen if my kids or grands want to talk. I can spend more quality time with my dad because he’s still here. And I can make kind, loving choices in my marriage every day.

Are there any places, times or activities that force you to evaluate your past? Do you have an intentional time (at least yearly) to do this? Tell us how it goes?

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Mean isn’t Funny

Mean isn’t Funny

Reblogged from Words in High Def

“I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t laugh.”
― Maya Angelou

There are countless comedians who drop F-bombs throughout their set and draw vivid images of things you’d rather not be forced to think about. Some of them sell out wherever they tour. What does this say about supply and demand of entertainment and comedy?

Comedian Kathy Griffin perfectly exemplifies the use of mean-spiritedness as entertainment. She slams everyone in the most hateful way imaginable. And still her popularity grows.

Do you have friends who think it’s funny to say rude, unflattering things about people? Even if it’s a celebrity or politician at the butt of the joke, it just feels wrong. You don’t have to be acquainted with the target of their humor (someone from their office or family) to fight the urge to cringe, right? Mean isn’t funny. Awkward.

In stark contrast to the use of this method is Sinbad, a comedian who doesn’t disparage anyone, uses no profanity and yet audiences roar with laugher. We saw him at the Tempe Improv and he captivated the full house. It takes tremendous creativity and hard work to be funny without referring to sex, naked body parts, graphic toilet experiences or spewing hate-filled sentiments about others. When it’s accomplished successfully it brings not only laughter but joy and refreshment to your spirit.

Jim Gaffigan is top-shelf when it comes to humor-without-hate. He talks about his family, his kids…life. You get it! But you don’t feel ashamed or remorseful for being in on the joke.

Funny stuff, laughing and making others laugh, enhances your joy and satisfaction. There’s nothing that brings more contentment than wiping your eyes after a long, hearty bout of guffaws.

What do you think is funny or entertaining? Do you think it’s more challenging to provide entertainment while not tearing down others or using profanity? Maybe I’m wrong…let me know why or why not below.
Diane Markins

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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