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.

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

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Waiting and Wondering or Reacting and Regretting

*Reblogged from Words in High Def

Beginning a new year is a great time to look at life as it is and consider some possibilities of how it could be. It’s easy to put this off and wait until later…but sometimes it seems that much of our life is spent waiting. In a small sense we wait in line for a vanilla latte, we wait for our car to fill up with gas, we wait for the cable guy to show up (between 8 and 12…ha! usually it’s 12:10).

In a bigger sense we wait to meet the man of our dreams, we wait nine months for our baby to be born, we wait for a job promotion or a pay increase. Waiting is a fact of life on earth.

But are you looking at your own life and weighing how much time you’ve spent waiting? Have you waited (maybe too long?) to make a change, chart a new course or accept an unchangeable situation?

The opposite is true as well. Sometimes we jump in and take action without spending much time or thought on the process or likely results. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m hoping some of you will relate to trying to “fix” a situation instead of allowing God or others to take care of it. Acting too quickly can lead to comedic and sometimes tragic results.

In either case there is an antidote and a way to prevent a repeat. Check in with God. A LOT! Talk to Him, read His word and get confirming wisdom from a spiritually mature friend. It would look something like this:

“Lord, I really hate my job but am grateful to have it. Thank you for provision. Please bring me clarity about when/if I should take any action to change my circumstance.”

•Then consider why God may have you there and the possibilities of making a change.
•Find a Believing buddy and ask for his/her prayers, insight and encouragement.
•Read in your Bible about people who’ve waited on the Lord and others who’ve taken obedient action. (Jesus has done both.)

When we wait on God’s timing, then take deliberate action, the outcome is likely to be refreshment and contentment. I hope your life is filled with intentional waiting while God strengthens you, then fruit-bearing action when the time is right. Your life story is legendary to its author!

Post a comment about changes you’ve been waiting to make and what’s holding you back or about times you’ve rushed to change without considering the consequences.
Diane Markins

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Give Grace

Get Right with God: Give Grace

“Get right with God!” I remember hearing that in so many sermons growing up. The topics of sin and repentance were the repeating headlines while the topics of love and grace came less often and with a whole lot less enthusiasm.

I will say right out of the starting gate, I agree. It is critical to do self-evaluation and deal with sin…asking God to forgive along the way. Mistakes are what make us human. But It’s impossible to be in step with God if we’re marching to our own tune, not giving a rip that we’re out of sync with His express desires or commandments. This is expected. Of Believers. People who have said yes and have agreed to follow Him. Soooo, that leaves a bunch of folks that don’t know much about this God stuff and are oblivious to being “out of step.”

I also know that few people are drawn to anyone or anything that starts out condemning and criticizing. I don’t often tell people how they’re messing up or what they need to do in order to be better. I tell them what I think God would say, “You’re going to be OK and remember that I think you’re awesome just the way you are.”

Sometimes I get a little boosted insight from the Lord and feel like I can sense when a person is struggling but they hold back on the “whys” and “whats” they’re dealing with. If I went right to the heart of the problem and said, “Well, first you have to stop drinking and sleeping with the mailman, then we can talk,” their eyes would glaze over and they’d freeze me out. (I’ve never actually encountered this specific combination. So glad.)

Instead, I try to convey my affection as well as concern for their heartache. I tell them what I believe is true: Nothing is impossible with God. I tell them that first they need to start to love and forgive themselves, then ask God what He wants to do in and through them; Let Him start the work.

My job is to offer kindness and hope through Jesus. Their option is to accept it. God’s job is to offer grace and prompt positive changes. The end.

I meet so many people who all filled with shame, guilt and self-loathing. They live with the heavy weight of regret and lack of hope. They can sit down and tell you in a lengthy conversation what’s wrong with them, but even under serious pressure can’t scrounge up a few words about what’s right with them.

As a Christ-follower, I want to be on the look-out for what’s right in each person I meet. I want to remember to tell them all the good I see and all the promise I know God has for their future.

I think if you “get right with God” you’ll want to do the same thing. To get right with God results in being full to overflowing with grace for His people.

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Overcoming Toxic Parenting

Better Parents Make a Better World

Not even one of us has had ideal parents. Neither have we been perfect parents. There is room for improvement and it’s never too late, according to author Rick Johnson.

His new book, Overcoming Toxic Parenting, helps readers identify what toxic parenting looks like, how they may have been a victim without realizing it (there is a lot of denial among abused children) and how to be better parents.

I felt a little guilty when I started reading this… if I took it out in public I’d have kept it in a brown paper wrapper. Why? Because I’d never want anyone to think I was claiming my parents were toxic. And I certainly didn’t want to be identified as a toxic mom.

“Toxic” is a little too strong for what some of us have experienced, but there are relatable nuggets for everyone throughout this book. For instance, I realize I had a “helicopter mom.” What’s worse is I became a bit of one myself. It’s so hard to let your kids fall flat on their kiesters, and sometimes I just swooped in before they hit the ground. Anyone with me? My kids are grown and I’m still working on this one.

I was never neglected or abused (and hopefully my kids would say the same), but a study Johnson cites reveals that nearly two-thirds of people surveyed had endured one or more adverse childhood experiences. That’s a lot of folks who have junk to overcome.

The majority of Overcoming Toxic Parenting deals with specific ways to heal, move forward and recover from a messed-up childhood as well as to not repeat those mistakes as a parent.

Steps to Overcome Toxic Parenting

Some of his guidance includes:

  • Dealing with grief and anger.
  • Learning to forgive (yourself and others).
  • When/how to confront abusers.
  • Identifying what children need to thrive.
  • Protecting kids from child molesters.
  • How to create a healthy parenting strategy.

I will admit I didn’t think this book was written for me, but when I started reading I was proved wrong. While my parents were not abusive or alcoholics, they did get divorced. That takes a toll that lasts forever. You may also gain bits of new understanding into your spouse as you read this. Unresolved issues from your past (big or small) will certainly rob your joy, now is the time to deal with it.

This book has solid research but is compelling and not dry. Read it to gain insight into your past, your spouse and yourself as a parent. Better parents make a better world. This book is a fabulous tool if you want to move in that direction. (Great resource for therapists, too.)

*Rick Johnson is a moving and talented speaker. (I’ve been in his audience a few times.) Book him for your event at this link.

 

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Is Obstinance Slowing You Down?

*Reblogged from Words in High Def

Stubbornness is the strength of the weak.Johann Kaspar Lavater

We all know them…those people who won’t budge unless it’s their idea. Have you ever tried to take a big dog for a walk when he didn’t want to go? It can be comical, but frustrating.

I was enjoying an exhilarating run on my horse years ago when suddenly she came to an instant halt. Needless to say, I didn’t. I continued my ride, but with no horse underneath. After I recovered my breath, if not my dignity, I walked 20 feet to where the mare stood waiting. I was furious and confused about why she would do this to me. I got back on and attempted to nudge her forward, but she wasn’t about to move. After a bit of investigating, I saw that there was a cluster of boxed beehives just ahead. I hadn’t been aware of the hazard but she was, and stubbornly kept us both safe.

On another occasion (with a different horse), I was riding my gelding (a neutered boy horse) with another person. We were on a trail heading up a mountain when I noticed that the mare wasn’t very happy about my horse’s nose getting so close to her rear end. (She was a lady, after all.) I reined him in and tried to keep him at a comfortable distance, but he strained closer. Shortly, she sent a strong back leg toward his amorous mug, but instead, connected with my shin. Imagine getting slammed in the leg with a baseball bat. I saw tweeting birds and bright lights for a while before I was able to continue back down the mountain.

People can be stubborn too…sometimes for prudent reasons and sometimes for ego or purely for pleasure. The next time you encounter a person who seems impossibly obstinate, examine what their motives are. Perhaps there is fear, insecurity or sincere caution keeping them from making a new move.

If you’re the stubborn one, begin to give more thought to why you insist on doing things your way. If it’s just habit or convenience, try opening your mind to fresh pathways. You’ll likely arrive at the same destination but people around you won’t feel like they’ve been kicked or thrown down. Old dogs (as well as horses and people) can learn new tricks if they’re willing to try.

Who’s the most stubborn person in your life? Why do you think they have this reputation and what is their motive? How’s all that obstinate behavior workin’ out?

Diane Markins