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.

Love: How Do You Give it? Are You Getting Enough?

How do you show love? Do you demonstrate love to strangers or reserve it for only those you know well? I believe love is impossible to truly give away in and of ourselves…without God putting it in us. God sees things through a uniquely filtered lens. He loves us with, in spite of, and sometimes because of our peculiar (even malodorous) flaws. By ourselves, we tend to have “loving feelings” toward those who are nice to us, look OK and don’t smell too bad. Fortunately for all of us, the Lord doesn’t have those prerequisites.

I don’t have a problem showing my family and loved ones how much they mean to me (most of the time). I make it a point to demonstrate love to strangers by noticing something special and then mentioning it to them. “You have such pretty eyes” or “what good insight you have.” I’m always a little stunned by how deeply most people are moved and how much it builds them up to hear a positive word from an unexpected source. How many times have you noticed something admirable in a stranger but didn’t voice it?

A friend recently told me she makes it a point to compliment at least one total stranger every day. That is such an easy goal, but one that can truly enhance someone’s life. A kind word, based on intentionally kind thinking, changes things for the giver as well as the receiver.

There is a movie produced about 20 years ago called “Pay it Forward.” The idea being that when someone does something nice for you (especially when it isn’t earned or deserved) that instead of paying back the kindness, you pay it forward to another unsuspecting/undeserving person. What a wonderful way to show love.

The hardest time for any of us to let the love flow is when it’s directed at someone we don’t really like too much. Yeah, yeah, that’s not very nice of me, but if we’re honest we all have those people in our lives. The most we can do in our own power is to tolerate, not love, in that circumstance. When we tap into God’s pure love and attempt to give that away, our actions transcend toleration and become sacrificial acts of honest love. Again—there is great reward for both the giver and receiver. And it’s not optional. 1st John 4:8 says, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

Are you able to look for ways to show love? Do you wait for opportunities you happen on to or do you store it up and only lavish it on those that fit the emotional criteria? The way you give it is probably the way you receive it. So another way to measure this could be: Are you getting all the love you need in the fullest measure? Remember, it’s impossible to have contentment without love.

Cancer Lady is My New Identity

I’m Cancer Lady. What’s Your Current Identity?

Cheater. Brainiac. Quitter. Rich. Poor. Fitness Queen. Fatty. Cancer Lady. Lottery Winner. Janitor. Airline Pilot. Identity labels. 

Those are all words to describe someone for a thing they’ve done, the way they look, a choice they’ve made or something that’s happened to them. It isn’t WHO they are, yet often it may be how they’re known by people around them. “You know, Lazy Joe” or “Fat Linda, who always eats two pieces of cake.”

Most of my life people described me as the tall blond with long hair. I’ve had other AKAs like Jeff’s mom, Kimberly’s mom, Brad’s wife, Noah’s grandma, the neighbor with the roses. No one has ever called me the woman with the beautiful singing voice or the girl who can really do magic with crafts. #Truth

I’m finding myself with a new and clearly unwelcome identity: Cancer Lady. Diagnosed with breast cancer in August, bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction in September and the beginning of a year of chemo in October qualified me for this new title. I don’t like it. At all. I want to just be Brad’s wife or the tall blond again. But it’s not my choice. For now at least, Cancer Lady is a big part of the way people see me. If I lose my hair, this title will be a truly visible one. I keep wondering, Will I be bald for Christmas?

I can’t pretend it’s not valid. Even with hair, there’s no hiding the fact that I’m too exhausted to help others much, work or even go to social events sometimes. But even if I could do a cover-up, I actually need people to know; I need the constant flow of support that washes through my life to sustain me. People who love me want to help and if I hid my new identity from them they’d keep on with their busy lives and never know how much they could have blessed me.

Think of the paralyzed guy in John 5 who waited about 38 years for someone to help him into the healing water at the pool of Bethesda. Surely people knew him as “Paralyzed Guy” or “Dude Who Can’t Walk.” He must’ve hated being well-known for this. He was surrounded by other people with identities that revolved around their bad health. Maybe Eczema Eddie, Heart Attack Hannah and Wheezy Louise were his friends, also waiting desperately to be the first in the pool to get healed. None of them helped him because they had their own issues to deal with.

Then Jesus came along and took care of it- He was the friend that guy needed. Jesus didn’t see him as Paralyzed Guy. He just knew the man needed a bit of help and stepped in to fill the need.

Have you accomplished something fantastic, made a critical mistake, gotten seriously injured or even opted for a tragic choice in haircuts and now people crown you with that new title? It can be fun for a minute or it can scar you for a lifetime.

Two Things to Consider about Identity

  • Be intentional and thoughtful in the way you identify others…even in your mind. Try to avoid associating circumstances, accomplishments and appearances to define people. Change it up and look deeper. Let their characters define them. Instead of “Skinny Sue” think of her as “Selfless Sue.”
  • Realize that it’s human nature to put monikers on people and it’s not the True You. Forgive people for giving you a name you don’t like and confess you’ve probably done the same to other folks. (Even if it’s only in your mind. Come on…own it.) Don’t let a temporary title rob you for even a minute of who you really are. Remember God calls you Son or Daughter…My Favorite. Brilliant. Beautiful. Generous. Kind. Faithful.

I’ve accepted my temporary title of Cancer Lady. I have peace and contentment. For now. In a year or so I’ll be back to Lady with the Roses. I’m ridiculously blessed by all the people who’ve helped me into the healing waters with their generous support and encouragement. Mostly they see me as Diane, a Friend they care about who needs them.

For those who follow Christ, our identity is in Him. We need to remember to see others and ourselves the way He does.

1 Samuel 16:7 says, “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. A man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

*If you’d like to know more about my journey with cancer, please let me know and I’ll share with you. It remains to be determined whether I’ll be bald for Christmas. 🙂

**For a wonderful book to encourage cancer survivors, check out Under a Desert Sky.

Christmas Frame of Mind

Reblogged from Words in High Def 

You might just say that I’m a Christmas junkie. My parents got me hooked as a toddler and my addiction never subsided. Growing up, our little home was decorated to the fullest extent of its capacity with shiny, colorful ornaments. The anticipation for The Big Day was perpetuated by my mom, who loved Christmas as much as any little kid.

Admittedly, there was probably more focus on the secular “fun” side of this holy day than there should have been, but we never forgot the significance or the reason all this was happening.

When I became a mom, my husband and I continued the thrill of the season with our own kids. (I will confess that he mostly goes-along-to–get-along and doesn’t get the holiday high that I do.) When our kids were five and two, we bought a commercial swing set (like they use in public parks). My husband assembled the slide in our little living room. It was corner-to-corner, floor to ceiling. The kids marveled that Santa magically got it in our house. (He had to take it down and re-assemble in the back yard later that day.) The moment was worth all his effort…at least to me!

One year we got a kitten. Keeping her quiet in our bathroom all night was quite a task. We opened all our gifts, then announced there was one more we’d forgotten. He ran in the bathroom and put her in a wrapped box. The kids were overjoyed!

We go caroling around the neighborhood, bake cookies, and have a party with friends and neighbors. We video record opening gifts in the morning, then watch old family videos each Christmas Eve after church to remember … These traditions are evolving with our grandkids.

Jesus is clearly the reason for the season and we always have the kids read the Christmas story in Luke then sing Happy Birthday to Jesus. Before we eat, we invite everyone to share the ways God has been working in their lives the past year.

Sometimes we allow over-spending, over-committing and over-indulging to increase our stress and rob us of the peace that everyone talks about at this time of year. Contentment at Christmas: The choice is yours.

Personally, I don’t have any problem at all with the “fun” of Christmas. Children and adults are reminded that miracles happen, that generosity feels good, that hope and dreams should be nurtured and that relationships are important.

If it were up to me, we’d keep a “Christmas frame of mind” all year long! Wishing you a Bold, Merry Christmas.

Listen to my show where CBS teaching director, Joni Corby and I will talk about Christmas traditions, avoiding stress and making it meaningful (top of page). Tell us about what stresses you out and how you try to keep the season significant.

*If you’d like a truly wonderful book to read to your kids at Christmastime, I highly recommend God’s Precious Gift in a Manger, by Rebecca Ann Lamb. Because this book (with beautiful illustrations) begins with the creation story and ends with the resurrection, it is truly a valuable tool for teaching. It makes a great gift to give to children of friends (especially those who don’t know the Gospel) and to use for corporal reading in children’s church.

Gratitude Regardless of Circumstances

Gratitude Regardless of Circumstances

“When we focus on our gratitude, the tide of disappointment goes out and the tide of love rushes in.” Kristin Armstrong

As holidays approach we hear a lot about gratitude. Gratitude becomes a platitude. (See what I did there?)

How about taking an honest look at gratitude for a minute instead of reading sappy sentiments about “there’s always something to be thankful for” and blah, blah blah.

Have you had an easy, wonderful year? I hope you remember to incorporate gratitude into your consciousness and not just accept this as a given. “Easy” and “wonderful” aren’t the ways most people will describe their year. Most people are struggling – in one area or multiple ways.

This year I was drafted into a battle with breast cancer. I didn’t volunteer. Yet, without hesitation, when people ask how I’m feeling, my honest and overwhelming response is grateful.

Unexpected challenges, crises and loss aren’t often lumped together with being thankful. At first glance, nobody appreciates the awfulness of those things landing in their lap.

But God hasn’t been hiding from me during my roller coaster ride. He’s sitting next to me, shouting encouragement and reminders above the chaos. If I wasn’t looking for Him in that seat, I might miss all the insights and inspiration He’s got for me. When you’re going through a hard time, life can be a blur.

The biggest reveal has been that I’m a lucky, blessed lady.

Truth that makes me grateful:

  • I’ve already had a pretty fantastic life.
  • There are people who love me.
  • Those same people do nice things to help or just make me smile.
  • I’m upright. Today.
  • God has a massive track record of faithfulness – through history and in my life.

Gratitude is such a fluid thing, and intensely relative for most of us. Circumstances rule. The bummer about that is that when bad stuff happens and we lose a portion of gratitude, our joy drains away with it. Being thankful isn’t always our default setting. Regardless of the ever-changing onslaught of living, we can decide to think and say things that reflect gratitude. Gratitude regardless of circumstances.

I believe contentment and gratitude are inseparable and almost two sides of the same coin. When you are contented, you’re grateful. When you feel grateful, you experience contentment.

Whatever your life looks like at this very moment, set your intention on the many things you can be thankful for. The result will be a changed heart which will give you something else to appreciate.

Arguing Can Be Relationship Power Tool

Most people don’t think arguing is a great relationship component, but I disagree. Arguing can actually lead to contentment! How’s that again? In fact, I think arguments can be one of the most powerful tools we have to keep our relationships healthy. Having a good exchange of opposing ideas (with the goals of mutual respect and compromise) can be tremendously helpful. Of course there is a big difference between fighting and productive arguing. Lawyers do it every day.

Unfortunately, we don’t have the training and discipline lawyers do. Most of us let an issue go and grow before we address it. Then we have bad feelings backing up the “issue” giving it a twist. Instead of a useful argument we launch an attack. While the goals may vary from being right to punishment, they are far from helpful.

We all know by now, as revealed in books like Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus and Men are Like Waffles, Women are Like Spaghetti that the two genders have a gap in communicating styles. I’d like to write a book called Men are Meatheads and Women are Puddin’ Pies. Traditionally men are all about the meat; the solid substance, while women are more about the sweet, feel-good stuff. Not always, but that’s what science tells us. That’s why we have a hard time pursuing and surviving an argument with the opposite gender. When you throw deep emotional connection into the mix, it’s all the more challenging.

Arguing with style, grace and purpose can be like poking holes in a microwave dinner before you cook it. It releases the steam so there isn’t a messy explosion. Most people know some of the “rules” of healthy arguing but I’m offering my version as a reminder.

  • Never engage in name-calling (like meathead or puddin’ pie)
  • Don’t bring up past or unrelated issues (…you’re discussing his spending habits and sneak in a comment about what he DIDN’T buy you last Christmas)
  • Use “I” messages because your feelings are what validates the point (but don’t say “I think you’re a meathead” *see first item on list)
  • Keep your voice under control (the neighbors would rather not know)
  • Put the discussion on hold if you are angry or irrational
  • Seek to find common ground, not to win
  • Initiate and practice healthy arguing so that it becomes second nature and not unusual or difficult
  • Always hug it out at the end!

If you have a legendary argument story, dish it here! Also tips to add to the ones above.
Diane Markins

Rest is a Bold Choice

Reblogged from Words in High Def

The last few weeks have been so busy my head is buzzing and I’m pooped out. My mantra of Bold Living was starting to sound a little too ambitious, even for me. Then it occurred to me that bold doesn’t equate to busy. One of the essential components of making bold choices—and a chapter in my first book—focuses on Me Time. That can mean something different on any given day and certainly to each individual.

Sometimes the biggest challenge I have in grabbing some Me Time is determining what fun thing I want to do. Do I want to curl up with a good book while I pet my dog? Do I want to break a sweat at the gym? Do I want to watch a football game (Go Cardinals!) or see what my friends are up to on Facebook?

But if I’m truly honest, the most difficult and boldest choice for me is to simply be still and rest. Author Joan C. Webb reminds us that feeling guilty and not being productive only adds to the exhaustion and burnout we may be facing. And author Keri W. Kent writes about the importance of taking Sabbath rest.

If I’m going to continue sharing my Bold Living and Contentment messages, I’d better do it from a place of practice. It wouldn’t represent authenticity or integrity if I ask (tell) other people to live boldly but am not doing it myself.

So, to keep it real, I’m confessing my struggle here and will promise to be intentional about having more Me Time…and incorporating simple R &R in the mix.

Most people shove Me Time—especially resting—to the bottom of the list. Where is it on yours? Do you need to rearrange your priorities to include it? What’s ahead of it that you could bump down? Share your thoughts to encourage others battling this issue.

Bold Blessings,

Be an Uber Friend

Be an Uber Friend

Back in the day, people relied on each other. Friends didn’t just tag you on Instagram or send a tear-drop emoji to show how much they cared. They were there for you… up-close, in person. We learned it at church and practiced it in life.

When I was growing up my mom made meals for sick friends and took care of their kids if they needed a hand. That carried over to my life as a young mom and has been a way of life I’ve passed on to my grown kids.

If a neighbor needs a ride to the airport, I’ll be their Uber driver. They don’t have to pay me or even thank me. I’m blessed by knowing that I made things a little easier.

We’ve become accustomed to our independence. “I don’t need help…I don’t need anyone.” That attitude doesn’t line up with God’s design for His people. It’s based in pride and fosters isolation.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work; If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

True contentment requires relationship, love, kindness, serving and being served. Going it alone is, well, lonely.

Technology has made it so easy to DIY.

  • Who needs a friend to bring dinner when lots of restaurants deliver and now Amazon is a part of that game.
  • Visits and hugs have been replaced with texts and ecards.
  • Encouraging words come from memes and gifs.
  • Babysitters and elder care can be found on many websites…for a price.
  • Why bring fresh flowers from your garden when you can have an elegant arrangement sent with a click on your phone?
  • No need to share your heart and bare your soul to someone who knows you, see a therapist. They are paid to listen.

All the things that used to define acts of friendship can be yours without any true connection. There’s an app for that.

I’m dealing with a serious illness and feel so blessed that my friends get it. I have a bunch of people in my life that keep showing up to meet needs and let me see the love in their eyes and feel the warmth of their embrace.

If you’re relying on the App Friend model to have your needs met, consider reaching out to be an Uber friend to someone else. It starts with you and while it might be cliché, we truly reap what we sow.

More friendship always means more of a Contentment Connection.


Why It’s Impossible to Always be Nice

My five grandchildren are nearly perfect. They are polite and kind. They listen to me and knock off the arguing when I give them the look. They don’t complain and pick up after themselves. For me.

I often see/hear a different side of them with their parents. They’re still fantastic little monkeys but the bickering, griping and whining ramp up dramatically on occasion.

Being good for grandma is easy. Layla (they call me Layla -short for Abuela) doesn’t demand or expect too much. Layla plans in advance to make things special and fun. Layla isn’t spread thin, rushing or preoccupied.

Because Layla only has them for short bursts of time, of which they are the total center of my universe.

It wasn’t like that with my own kids. (Forgive me kids.) I was always on the go, busy and often tired. Parenting them was lumped in to all the rest of what was going on in any given day, it wasn’t the sole action item to accomplish. That’s real life.

It’s easy to be nice and patient and sweet to people who are bending over backwards to make us happy. But people typically are trying to load 29 hours of crap into a 24-hour day. They don’t pause and smile just because it’s YOU. They don’t quit what they’re doing so they can meet your needs and make your day a little better.

As purposeful women, it’s essential that we plan for delays and expect rudeness to come our way. The bakery will lose the order for your kid’s birthday cake. The hotel won’t have a record of your reservation. Your boss will forget to thank you. A neighbor will get ticked off because your sprinklers are watering their gravel.

The question is, are you prepared to respond with kindness and dignity? Or are you only able to be nice when things are going your way? I can cough up a few reasons for why it’s impossible to always be nice.

I’ll confess I struggle with this, especially in the business world. When I have to wait 45 minutes for a wedge salad or my cable company doesn’t seem to give a rip that the service isn’t working, I sometimes forget that grace and kindness should be applied as I respond. The selfish, whiney, arrogant part of me emerges in living color. Yuck.

Being a woman that God is pleased with can be really hard when you’re as imperfect as I am. Fortunately, He is much more concerned that I’m aware and care about it when I flop.

It’s easy to be good for Grandma, or anyone who makes your life easier and better. It’s a lot tougher to “be good” during the course of another hectic day. But I think a little attention and prayer of preparedness to start the day can make a big difference and help you with contentment in the rough spots.

What causes you to lose your cool and not “be good” to people?

Blessed Indignity of Modern Medicine

Reblogged from Words in High Def

Whether you squeeze it in before the new year or do it in January, the dreaded annual physical is a necessary indignity. We live in a time and place where health care is, by and large, accessible and scientifically advanced. Can you imagine living during a period in history when there was no cure for the common cold—wait, there’s still no cure for that—but maybe before they discovered aspirin for fever or headaches,or antibiotics for simple infections? We are truly blessed.

Yet when I embark on my annual journey of medical maintenance “blessed” contentment is not the first word that comes to mind. First, there is the visit to the dermatologist for my cancer screening. I get naked, lie on a table and let this woman look slowly over every inch of my flesh WITH A MAGNIFYING GLASS. She makes little noises indicating that things are OK, until the occasional, “hmmm” which usually results in a precise stream of sub-freezing nitrogen being shot onto various tiny areas from head to toe. She follows that with a few remarks about what a lousy job I’ve done of protecting my sun-damaged skin. I leave with a blistered face and a bruised ego.

Next I have my blood drawn. This has to be done while fasting, so I don’t eat. I read a magazine in the waiting room— stomach gurgling loudly, for three and a half hours (or maybe it was 15 minutes), then sit at a little desk where the nice lady ties a giant rubber band around my arm and inserts a needle. She wiggles the needle and shoves it sideways. I ask hopefully, “Almost done?” To which she always replies, “You have these veins that roll. I never get it on the first try with you!” She pokes many more times, my arm has now been tenderized like a piece of cheap meat, and she announces loudly that she needs “someone else to give it a shot.”

The mammogram is truly almost my favorite. Topless, I stand in a room kept at a comfortable 33 degrees Fahrenheit. The 22-year-old Yoga instructor smiles at me and tells me to step forward, hunch my back, point my toes toward the wall behind me, lift my chin and hold my breath while she molests me. (Maybe these contortions would be easier if I did more Yoga?) With both her permafrost hands she tugs, squeezes and stuffs my breast between two pieces of hard plastic boards. She moves away and begins pushing buttons that clamp it tighter and tighter and tighter…then she releases it and we do it all over again. About 60 times.

Naked once again, except for that awesome patient gown, I sit waiting for my gynecologist. He walks in and we exchange a few friendly comments before he sits on a stool in front of me. Suddenly: Go-Go-Gadget-Chair (anyone remember Inspector Gadget cartoon?)…the chair has converted into a table and I’m flat on my back with feet in the air. He keeps chatting about his recent vacation while he’s seeing stuff that I don’t even want to think about him seeing. My eyes are squeezed shut, teeth and knees clenched. The first two don’t affect this examination, but unless I unlock my knees we’ll be here all day, so with great effort I do and soon it’s over. I’m sitting up again, only to have a repeat of the aforementioned molestation above the waist.

My distance vision is 20/20 but not only do I need reading glasses, I am told to get bifocals. The top part for viewing the computer screen and the lower half with more magnification for reading print. Yay! Now I will truly look like someone’s granny.

The good news is that my hearing is perfect and I didn’t have to endure pain or humiliation to find that out. I am relieved to know that I have a clean bill of health, until next year when blessed indignity of modern medicine starts all over again.
Share your favorite doctor visit, medical test stories.
Diane Markins

*On a serious note, after being in parts of Africa where people don’t even know some of these tests exist, it fills me with joy and gratiitude that I live in a country where modern medicine is a given.