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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Who’s Loving the Leader?

Reblogged from Words in High Def

Who’s Loving the Leader?

You are a leader. You may be the CEO of a big corporation, the director of a ministry or the mom of a six-year-old, but you are surely leading someone. Leadership requires a specific skill set. When you are on duty in your leadership role, you are tapping into those skills full-throttle.

  • We know you must be positive and optimistic. Eeyore (the gloomy donkey from Winnie the Pooh) does not possess this quality…he also has no one following him.
  • You have to be able to go with the flow; yoga may help with flexibility in your body, but leadership requires a flexible mind-set.
  • Communicating what you expect and listening to what the concerns of others are is critical.
  • Control junkies are not good leaders. As Elsa says, “Let it go.” Learn to delegate.
  • Take the long view. Good leaders are committed and don’t give up easily.

That’s a heavy load unless you are channeling Mother Teresa. An often over-looked quality in leaders that last is self-nurturing. Only then will you finish the race and have full contentment. It is impossible to stay ahead of the team (physically, mentally and spiritually) if you are only focused on their needs and the shared objective.

True, it equips you to take webinars to enhance your skills or work with a coach to make you a more effective director. But that can also add to the depletion many leaders experience internally.

Leaders need love too.

Here’s the question to ask yourself: Who’s loving the leader? Who’s loving on you? If you aren’t first loving yourself, you are likely to completely omit this from your battle plan.

Here’s a little checklist quiz for leaders:

  • Are you able to stop talking and thinking about your leadership goals and be fully focused when you’re with the people who love you?
  • Do you seek out opportunities to be silly and laugh, maybe even look a little foolish?
  • Is it easy for you to switch gears to sit on the porch and watch the wind blow through the trees?
  • Does your back, neck or other parts of your anatomy feel loose and pain-free or like they are strung by piano wire?
  • When/if you take time to connect with God does your mind find its way back to the job at hand?
  • Can you fall asleep and stay asleep, feeling rested and filled with contentment in the morning?

There are no answers posted upside-down at the bottom of the page. The healthy answers are obvious; especially to a smart leader like you. If you are a little (or a lot) out of balance, apply the old adage, “physician heal thy self.” Leader, lead yourself!

Up the value and intention of loving yourself and embracing love and time with others. Learn to be still. Discipline your mind and spirit to take a break. Invite God to join you. He’s the ultimate leader and He knows how to love you best.

Those who rely on and follow you will benefit as thoroughly as you do and maybe they’ll follow this practice as they lead others.

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“As You Wish…”

Reblogged from Words in High Def

One of my all-time favorite movies is The Princess Bride. “As you wish” is something our hero, Wesley, says to his beloved Buttercup throughout the story. He wants to do everything in his power to make her wishes come true.

That’s a lovely story, but in reality, wishes don’t come true just because we wish them.

How often do you say, “I wish…”? I wish I had whiter teeth… I wish I could lose weight… I wish my marriage was better… I wish I had a better job… I wish I was making a difference for Christ…

“I wish” may be simply an expression, but at the core, it reveals a longing of your heart.

I want to challenge you (as I’ve recently challenged myself) to delete “I wish” from your spoken and thought vocabulary.

Wishing doesn’t change anything. Change requires intention and action. So first identify what you find yourself wishing (longing, dreaming) for, then begin to devise a plan to make some progress that will lead to contentment.

Here’s a suggestion of how to transform wishing (fantasy) into reality:
• Think of three little changes or steps you could take in a purposeful direction toward your goal.
Commit to doing these things in writing. Maybe even make it a prayer request to partner with God. It’s hard to make changes or progress without a little divine intervention!
• Recruit an accountability/prayer partner to keep you honest, encourage you and pray for you.
• After you’ve been successful and consistent with these little steps for a month or so, come up with three more and repeat the process. Pretty soon you’ll be a little (or a lot) closer to realizing your wish.

Wishing is a waste of time and energy. It also focuses on what we lack rather than what we already possess. Unfulfilled longing breeds discontentment, which robs us of our peace, contentment and joy. Not a very Christ-honoring way to live, is it?

If you aren’t willing to make changes, consider targeting your energy on contentment with your current status. Sometimes what we have is enough.

When our first desire is to love God and love others all our wishes will likely come true. Love never fails.

“May He grant you your heart’s desire and fulfill all your plans!” Psalm 20:4

Share what you’ve been wishing for.

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Live Like a Winner

Are you acting like a loser? Does a lot of your life include fear, doubt, worry and discouragement? All that loser-living adds up to discontentment. And it’s not the way God intends us to go through our days on earth.

Very few (if any?) people have such great and perfect lives that they walk around in a joy bubble all the time. Stuff happens and can really bring you down. Little things that just really aggravate and upset your routine … huge things that catch you by surprise and knock you off your feet … this life is full of crap like that, right?

I released my book, Contentment Connection, on Amazon’s Kindle and had irrational fears that only three people would buy it. Come on, Diane, where’s your faith? It was such a relief that it reached the #4 spot on the best-seller list the first day. A clear example of loser-thinking. Have you ever had a party and felt that awful dread that no one would show up? #loserthinking They always come! Free food and good company is a big draw.

How about something truly awful … discovering a lump in your breast, learning that your spouse is cheating, losing your job … any one of those (and many other things) can cause all your faith and winner-thinking to evaporate. But the truth is: God is behind you with all His love, power and ability, regardless of the circumstances.

I know people that frequently fear the worst … what if this and what if that happens. They’re living like it already has happened, not enjoying the reality that the Bad Thing hasn’t happened yet and might NEVER come to pass.

I’m not just spewing a pep talk about positive thinking. This is a message for people who claim they believe what God says in the Bible. He says we’re not losers, we are WINNERS.

Here are a few nuggets to remind you of the truth:

  • When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise— in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? Psalm 56:3-4
  • Blessed is he who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to him. Luke 1:45
  • This is my command — be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9
  • For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7
  • I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33
  • Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

Those aren’t just uplifting social media memes. They’re promises from Almighty God and words to live by.

If you’ve been feeling defeated, down or hopeless- read His word and embrace the victorious attitude that is ready and waiting for you. Live like a winner!

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SCUBA Lessons for Life

Reblogged from Words in High Def

After a 20 year break, I went scuba diving again. All those years ago I wasn’t a very capable or confident diver. I was also younger and stronger. But while we lose much through aging (muscle mass, hearing, vision, brain cells…) we can gain some things too. Wisdom. Patience. Peace. I drew heavily on those while under the deep blue sea.

SCUBA stands for self contained underwater breathing apparatus. When using this gear you are able to enter a world which would otherwise be impossible to access. Snorkeling is fun but you simply don’t have the same experience as remaining far below the surface for a sustained period of time. However, when you snorkel, you don’t risk having your lungs or brain explode.

After fighting back the nausea I always get when on a small boat in the ocean, getting that heavy tank on my back and flipping backwards over the side, I felt better physically. But immediately remembered why I quit this activity in the first place…it scares the crap out of me.

Determined to not only make the dives we planned but to enjoy them, I began to pray and recount my training.

SCUBA Lessons
There is much to learn and apply to life from scuba diving.

• The first rule is to keep breathing. NO MATTER WHAT. If your tank runs out of air and you have to go to the surface, you simply breathe OUT slowly, without stopping. Lungs expand on the way up so there is a big supply. If you don’t let it out, well, refer to my second paragraph.

So often when we are worried, fearful, exhausted, angry or sad we don’t breathe well. Our breath is shallow and infrequent. This limits circulation of oxygen and we don’t function well. There is such relief when we take a deep breath and release some of those emotions on the exhale.

• Another important rule is “don’t panic.” If you panic you may forget rule one and all the other rules…this can cause you to die in your wetsuit.

We all face unexpected difficulties; cheating spouses, cancer diagnoses, pregnant teens or job loss…they happen to people every day. People who panic, reacting by reflex, often cause more harm than good. When you get smacked with an unexpected challenge, first take some deep breaths, then pray. You may only be able to utter the name of God, but He hears you and will respond.

• Check your equipment. If your tank is low on air, your weights are incorrect or your regulator is leaking you will not have a safe dive.

Have you checked your equipment lately? Do you read your Bible or is it dust-covered? Have you “put on your armor” lately or is it rusty? Do you need GPS to find your way to church? These things will equip you when a crisis comes, or sustain you to enjoy the good times.

• Always dive with a buddy. Make sure you can see your buddy at all times. Review communication signals and what to do together in case of emergency. My husband dove with an assigned buddy once who left him caught and tangled in fishing line. He had to cut his way free.

It is hazardous and much less efficient to try going through life and difficult circumstances alone. Invest in friendships, learn to talk transparently and stand by your friends when they need you.

• Relax and enjoy the experience. As I was propelling along at 75 feet below the surface I had to continually fight the urge to launch to toward the sky. Irrational fears kept creeping in until I made a decision to trust and be fully present in my circumstance. I trusted my equipment, my training, my buddy and mostly my Lord.

It was spectacular. When I stopped “swimming” and began to calmly glide along, my body relaxed. When I quit focusing on the surface and looked around, I saw funny looking fish in my face, gorgeous coral and rock formations and colors that rival any artwork on earth. My husband and I made hand-signal jokes. It was effortless, fun and entirely peaceful. Absolute contentment.

But I almost missed it. If not for the decision to accept the gift of peace God offers us, we will miss the humor, the beauty and the lessons found in challenging times.

Keep breathing and don’t be afraid to go deep.

Have you missed any beautiful moments or valuable lessons because you were preoccupied or fearful? Share your experiences or comments below.

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Serving with All You’ve Got- Real Sacrifice

Reblogged from Words in High Def

Are you serving God with all you’ve got? Most of us have stress, worries and demands on our lives, but at the end of the day we go home to a decent meal and a soft pillow where we can forget the burdens for a while. But creature comforts don’t always equate to contentment. Janet and Mark Drez knew God was telling them this wasn’t enough.

 

“Life to the Full”

by Janet Drez

Many of us love to sing or pray the words, “Lord, break my heart for what breaks Yours.” If that’s you, I have two questions in light of that prayer. First, do you really want your heart broken? And second, if God breaks your heart, do you realize you can never go back?

For 12 years, my husband has been a junior high teacher in a diverse, low-economic school. He started a WyldLife club (a Christian outreach) at his school four years ago, and I joined his leader team two years later. Additionally, as women’s ministry director for a local church, I had opportunities to outreach and serve in this neighborhood with the women of my church.

Increasingly Mark and I found ourselves in this neighborhood. We were getting to know the teens and their families, spending time, sharing meals, hanging out, celebrating birthdays, praying. And God broke my heart – for the cycle of poverty, for the grip of drugs, for the fear of violence, for the sweet, amazing, precious families in the neighborhood who desperately need to know the abundant life of Jesus. And I couldn’t go back.

We put our 5 bedroom suburban house on the market. Bought a falling-down 1950’s 2 bedroom house in the ‘hood – that we promptly named Casa de Vida – House of Life as God imprinted His desire to give ‘life to the full’ indelibly on our hearts. I stepped down from my full-time ministry position and stepped up to obedience to the ministry of presence in my neighborhood. It has been an adventure! Scary, unknown, stretching, difficult…joyful, powerful, deepening and amazing. We have teens in our home at least three days a week. We have women of the neighborhood coming for Bible study. I volunteer in a kindergarten class at the nearby school to lavish these little ones with God’s love. We hosted a party in our backyard recently and had over 100 neighbors show up! This is life to the full!

 If you’d like to be a prayer partner, support or follow the work God is doing join “The Ministry of Casa de Vida/Mark and Janet Drez” on Facebook. Share your encouragement or story of being gloriously broken for Jesus in a comment below.

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A Mother’s Pursuit of Contentment

Reblogged from Words in High Def

Contentment can be an elusive state, but even more so for moms. For as long as I can remember I have preached to loved ones that contentment can’t be dependent upon circumstances, possessions or relationships. It is something we establish in our minds and spirits.

This sounds a little trite and maybe even kind of pious, but I believed it then and I believe it now. The problem is I recently came to realize that while I fully apply that principle to my life, I still struggle with contentment as a mom. And my kids are fully grown adults!

I don’t long for a fancier car, a bigger house, a different job or a better husband. I have every earthy thing I could ever want, and I think I show that. So, by Merriam-Webster’s definition, I am content. It says, “Feeling or showing satisfaction with one’s possessions, status or situation.” My lack of contentment is found in the definition in Easton’s Online Bible Dictionary:

A state of mind in which one’s desires are confined to his lot whatever it may be (1 Timothy 6:6; 2 Corinthians 9:8). It is opposed to envy (James 3:16), avarice (Hebrews 13:5), ambition (Proverbs 13:10), anxiety (Matthew 6:25, 34), and repining (1 Corinthians 10:10). It arises from the inward disposition, and is the offspring of humility, and of an intelligent consideration of the rectitude and benignity of divine providence (Psalm 96:1, 2; 145), the greatness of the divine promises (2 Peter 1:4), and our own unworthiness (Genesis 32:10); as well as from the view the gospel opens up to us of rest and peace hereafter (Romans 5:2).

I’m fine except for that one part about contentment being “opposed to anxiety.” In most areas of my life I’m at peace, but I allow anxiety to penetrate my peaceful existence as it concerns my children. I trust God with their futures, prosperity, relationships, health and especially their eternal life. The problem is I still feel what they are feeling. Mothers will always be connected to their children emotionally.

If you didn’t think I was nutty before, now you must really think I’m a wacko. When one of my kids is having a bad day, I’m right there with them experiencing the fear, pain, rejection, grief, anger or longing as though it belongs to me. Their emotions are my emotions. It’s as if my participation in their struggle will spread the pain or challenge around, making it easier for them to bear. Since I’ve realized this about myself, and even as I put it on paper, I see how ridiculous it is.

If parents are going to please God by our contentedness, we need to let our kids go through their “stuff” without us tagging along for the emotional ride. We can offer compassion and guidance, when asked, without feeling the weight of the problem on our shoulders.

I think our kids want us to listen and care deeply but I don’t think it helps them to know our peace is stripped away when they share a problem with us. I also believe that if we walk through life in peace and contentment, we model that behavior for our kids and others. Even in the midst of their worst circumstances we are a calm port in the storm, not participating in the frenzy of their emotional turmoil.

There is an old expression that goes, “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” I think it could also be said that “if Mama ain’t content, ain’t nobody content.” I’m going to increase my efforts toward contentment, even when one of my kids isn’t. How about you? Does your peace and joy depend on the emotional state of your kid?

Diane Markins

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Cultivating Patriotism

Cultivating Patriotism

Reblogged from Words in High Def

“My God!  How little do my countrymen know what precious blessings they are in possession of, and which no other people on earth enjoy!”  ~Thomas Jefferson

While visiting Boston last fall and touring the Freedom Trail, I saw some physical evidence—lasting remnants—of the history of our country. Reading history books and learning about the sacrifices it took to bring about a revolution doesn’t compare to standing near the graves of people who lived and died there.

The Declaration of Independence was approved on July 4th, 1776. It was, in fact, intended to be a long list of gripes and grievances against Britain. It made clear the demands of those who had lost property and lives to obtain liberation and rights. It was mostly about liberty and fairness. Issues like “taxation without representation” were prominent on the list.

All this can become terminally boring and irrelevant if we let it. It seems like a work of fiction from a far-off land. The fact is, it wasn’t really that long ago or far away. And it certainly isn’t fiction. Many brave people lost their considerable wealth, lost loved ones and even their own lives as they endeavored to set the standard of freedom for future generations.

As we grill burgers, watch elaborate fireworks shows and take a dip in the pool, perhaps it isn’t too much to sacrifice a moment to remember those who went before us. Share a little American Revolution trivia over the home-made ice cream. Say thank you to the God whom those brave men and women served, and who answered their prayers. This is clearly evidenced by the many freedoms each of us enjoys every day in the United States. God Bless America! I’m humbly and deeply grateful to be one of her truly free citizens.

Are you patriotic? Do you ever stop to think about the sacrifices others have made so that you can live life as you please? What can we do to help future generations of children understand, respect and appreciate their American history? How can being a patriot enhance your contentment? Comment below.

Diane Markins

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My Body, My Responsibility

Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon.”  ~Doug Larson

Physicians and other health care professionals are a necessary and tremendously valuable resource. The average Jane isn’t educated to distinguish pink eye from allergies or skin cancer from a hairy mole. We need those people. However, we also need to be our own advocates and do a bit of research about worrisome conditions. Those attending to our care are not infallible or omniscient. They are limited to treat and diagnose based upon A. The info we give them, B. What they observe and C. Their personal experience and training.

My mother-in-law had skin cancer removed from the back of her leg many years ago. There was a graft successfully in place for a long time but in the past couple years it’s been opening up. She had a surgical repair a year ago but it never quite healed, despite expert wound care. The plastic surgeon told her they needed to repeat the surgery. When my MIL asked about the value of hyperbaric chamber treatments he was very dismissive but said she could give it a try if she wanted to. She researched, scheduled and underwent a series of treatments. Everyone agreed that it might expedite healing in the upcoming procedure. The day of surgery came and when the doc saw her (before the IV was in place!), he announced that the wound was completely healed and there was no need for surgery. He was surprised and pleased, admitting doctors don’t always know best.

My husband had intensely sharp pains in his leg and after a couple days went to a physical therapist. He was evaluated and sent on to an MD. The doctor examined his leg, poking and prodding. He asked good questions to rule out serious conditions and decided that a round of prednisone would be the best place to start. He wanted to decrease inflammation then recheck. None too excited about this medication, my husband stopped by a chiropractor’s office. He was given an evaluation and treatment. The pain has not returned and steroids were not involved in his recovery.

I had numbness in my leg and after trying a few things the doc sent me to physical therapy but also wanted me to undergo a painful nerve study. The therapist respectfully disagreed, asking me to give his treatment time before taking that next step. It’s been weeks but the numbness is slowly receding and I’m getting correction for a back problem I had just learned to live with.

When my sister-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer, she researched every option and settled on a plan that incorporated traditional and natural treatments, not blindly following the advice of one person but insisting they work together for the best of both worlds. She remains cancer-free.

These are just a few personal examples of why we shouldn’t simply follow orders like sheep. While I know that researching conditions on the internet can “give us just enough info to make us dangerous” I also know that I’d rather know the right questions to ask. When painful, expensive or risky treatment is prescribed, a second opinion is always wise. This is your body. Health and contentment go hand-in-hand. You own it to yourself and God expects good stewardship. Qualified health care professionals appreciate it too.

Has there been a time you’ve not followed a doctor’s advice? (This isn’t doctor bashing time, this is self-responsibility and awareness stories…love ya docs!) Comment below.

Diane Markins

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God’s Grace is Huge in Harsh Places

God’s Grace is Huge in Harsh Places

Review of  Under a Desert Sky: Redefining Hope, Beauty, and Faith in the Hardest Places

When a respected friend (Joan C. Webb) asked if I’d review a book about a woman’s personal journey with cancer, I was less than enthusiastic. (Blah) But, she’d do it for me, so I sucked it up and agreed. (I’m such a lovely, generous martyr.)

To my utter amazement this book has been difficult…not to read, but to put down. I haven’t walked this horrible road, but my husband and his entire family (mom, dad and sister) are very familiar. I haven’t lost a very close loved one to cancer. Yet. So, I presumed Lynne Hartke’s story would be sad and moving, but not anything that was meant for me.

I was so mistaken. She writes like an artist paints…with stunning colors, images that are sometimes clear and other times intentionally murky. This is much less a memoir and more a brilliant love story. She is so transparent about her relationship with God on her unexpected and unwanted journey- doubt, fear, anger, crushing grief, pure faith, sweet adoration and a few laughs are all in the mix or her many stories.

Hartke takes the reader along for her travels as she shares interesting life experiences, like hiking the Grand Canyon, wrangling rattle snakes and far-away trips. You will learn a lot about the desert I live in because much of her story takes place in Arizona.

The lovely and surprising twist is that (spoiler alert) right after she begins dealing with her own cancer diagnosis, she learns that both her parents are about to embark on their separate battles with the ugly disease. The roller coaster ride of caring for sick, aging parents across the country only enhances the value of the story.

You get to see what the truest of love looks like. You get to be a fly on the wall as she receives wisdom from her dad and learns from her mom how to trust God with her whole heart. You get schooled on how to face a huge challenge- with faith.

This isn’t a “poor me” story at all. It’s a model for how to walk through an impossibly tough situation with grace, joy and contentment, regardless of the cards you’re dealt. It’s a reminder that God’s grace is huge in harsh places. Hartke doesn’t let her life be defined by her challenges. She wants to keep being a loving wife, an active mom and a caring daughter. So she does.

She looks for the Lord- and finds Him- in nature, in pain, in all of the nooks and crannies of life.

You, like me, might not be battling cancer or some other incredibly difficult circumstance (at the moment), but don’t kid yourself into believing this how-to manual isn’t right for you. If you’re in the midst of a trial, you’ll find encouragement. If not, your faith will be uplifted and you’ll pave the way for when it’s your turn… and it will be your turn.

Buy this book. Give one to a friend. Read it and write a review that will inspire others to do the same. I give it my highest endorsement, and I’m not easy to impress. At the very least, you will not be bored.

When you read it, let me know if you agree with my review!