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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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!

 

 

 

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Are You Betting on Your Faith? Where’s Your Commitment?

Reblogged from Words in High Def

Faith and Commitment

Gambling has never held much appeal for me. I will be honest and confess that I have certainly visited Vegas and pulled a few slot handles (or pushed buttons now), played some black jack and thrown dice in the spirit of entertainment. But since I hate to lose and I value my money, it’s never long before I find the stores to window shop or just people-watch.

There is a term in poker that I love; all in. This refers to a point in betting in which a player wants to continue but doesn’t have the full amount to match the bet. He pushes all his chips forward, betting everything he has. If he wins, he will be paid accordingly. If he loses, he’s out of the game and leaves the table. Buh Bye Now!

It occurred to me that many of us handle our faith like a poker game. We sit at the table as one who is actively invested, but we hold back a little in case this isn’t really a winning hand.

Some of us give a small percent, others a majority of our lives to God. But if we hold back even one tiny portion, we aren’t fully committed. We don’t fully believe. The Bible says we are to give our time, treasures and talent to serving God. This doesn’t mean every waking minute or every cent of our paychecks, but it means these things have to fit into the equation of how we invest. Have you checked those things lately? How much time do you spend mentoring a fatherless child or serving at a homeless shelter? If you are a talented cook, do you prepare food for those in need or teach younger women how to improve? Are you giving generously to worthy causes that support God’s care of people?

We hold back in other ways as well. We are supposed to treat our bodies with respect but I just saw a survey that revealed a majority of Christians don’t believe smoking or obesity are sins. If you’re actively doing it you couldn’t very well admit to being wrong. It’s easier to hold back and rationalize. I’m sure my life has many of these areas as well, so I’m pointing the finger in my own direction as I write this.

There are also those who hold back in secret. They are fully invested in front of people, but in private they live in a way that is contrary to who they say they are.

Jesus gave everything; his time, treasures, talents, dignity and even his life. It was entirely up to him and he willingly gave it all.  Such joy and contentment come from being thoroughly invested in God’s promises. Commitment.

What about you? Are you betting on your faith? When it comes time for the payoff (blessings and salvation) what will your take be? Are you holding back or are you all in?

Diane Markins

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Your Turn for Tragedy

Is it Your Turn for Tragedy?

If you’ve lived on earth a while you have likely already experienced at least one tragedy or significant loss. Do you sometimes wonder, “When will my next turn come?” The answer is about as clear as a high smog day in Los Angeles. Only God knows.

Life (and death) are so unpredictable. Back in the day, people joked about how unpredictable the weather was but now your phone app tells you in seconds whether it will be raining next week or if you should stay indoors because of a heat advisory.

If only there was an app to clue us in on impending personal doom.

But really, would you live life differently? Here are some painful things I know people have endured… Just imagine:

  • You take your small child to the doctor for a sinus infection and find out she has rare cancer and likely weeks to live. She survives but only after extreme and painful treatments for years to come.
  • Your sweet dad sinks lower into the depths of dementia, often not knowing who you are.
  • Your son is about to start a dream career as a pro ball player and suddenly dies from an unknown illness.
  • You reach across the bed to give your spouse a morning hug and he’s cold to the touch…massive heart attack in the night.
  • You find out that you’ve been cheated by someone you trusted and your life savings has vanished.
  • Your college kid goes along with friends to a concert and is killed in a car crash on the way home.
  • Your friend walks into a store that’s being robbed and is shot. Wrong place/wrong time.
  • Your twins are two-years-old when you are diagnosed with late-stage cancer. Then your husband says adios.

This is just a tiny sampling of some I know about. I’m sure you are already mentally adding to the list because it’s unending. Tragedy, crisis and loss happen every single minute. It’s breath-taking and impossible to fathom how other people’s lives keep going when yours is smashed to pieces.

Tragedy is a far cry from some of the things that cause stress and rob contentment on a daily basis. (Kids behaving badly, traffic, pressure from the boss, a fight with your spouse, too little money…). Perhaps God allows true devastation in order for humans to gain back some authentic perspective?

While there isn’t an app to predict your upcoming crisis, there is a book that tells us to know it is coming. John 16:33 says, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” You may not know when it’s your turn for tragedy, but no one escapes this world without experiencing unexpected heartache.

All those people who joyfully went to see Ariana Grande’s concert in Manchester, England didn’t imagine or give a thought to being killed, maimed or in the eye of a terrorist’s storm. Neither did their loved ones.

The delayed point of all this downer/disaster talk is to be reminded that:

  1. Life is so precious and yet so fragile.
  2. Your turn for tragedy will come, but God will get you through it.
  3. Worrying is useless.
  4. You can’t prevent or predict pain and loss, but you can be intentional about finding joy and choosing contentment along the way.

Remind yourself every day to distinguish between routine stress (life in a first world country) and true catastrophe. You’ll be in a much better place to face the hard stuff ahead if you know and love God, serve others and value yourself. (Exactly what Contentment Connection teaches.)

I pray that you are feeling the comfort of the Lord if you are in the middle of a tragedy. I pray that you are actively embracing contentment if it’s not your turn yet.

July

Ponder and Pay Freedom Forward

Ponder and Pay Freedom Forward

Reblogged from Words in High Def

“You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.” Galations 5:13

Every American knows about the significance of Memorial Day. If we’re honest though, the first thing that comes to mind is, “Sweet, I get a day off work.” We plan our social calendar with pool parties, barbequed burgers and home-made ice cream. Patriotism, remembering those who’ve sacrificed and serving others isn’t at the forefront of our thoughts.

There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a vacation day and spending time with friends. There is something a little wrong with forgetting to celebrate our freedom. Just like other aspects of our grossly obese culture, we have become freedom-fat. We devour it and expect more. It is largely taken for granted.

I get letters from people around the world and in one from a pastor in Uganda recently I was reminded of our freedom to expect food and health care. In his country, people are starving by the thousands. Poverty is the norm. Many are also dropping dead from an AIDS epidemic, leaving desperate orphans to fend for themselves.

Listening to a pastor from Lebanon, I was reminded of another freedom we sometimes forget about; the freedom to live without grave danger and constant fear. In his country buildings are leveled and family members frequently don’t live to come back home because of the ever-present violence.

While I think it’s nice to mount a flag and listen to some patriotic songs, I’d like to suggest that you consider celebrating your freedom on Memorial Day in a new way: ponder and pay freedom forward. Here are a few suggestions:

• Take a minute to reflect on the value and abundance of specific freedoms in your life. Encourage your children to do the same.
• Show gratitude to anyone who has served in the military… buy them a burger or beer, write a note or just say thanks.
• Offer a little prayer of appreciation to God, because that’s a huge freedom many people don’t have.
• Remember the millions of people who aren’t enjoying a frosty beverage (because their water source is contaminated) or a roasted hotdog (because they have no means to buy food). Pray for God to provide for their needs on this day and bring them hope.
• Make a plan to “pay your freedom forward” and keep it as a family tradition on Memorial Day & July 4th. Choose a reputable organization that supports those who are suffering and donate in the name of Freedom.

What could be more liberating than showing gratitude and lifting someone else’s burden a tiny bit? You are free to ignore or embrace my suggestions…either way I wish you a fun and blessing-filled holiday. I’d love to hear what you appreciate most about the freedom in your life in a comment below.

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What’s New? Is Life Stagnant?

What’s New?

That’s a common, fairly meaningless greeting, but it sounds better than, “what’s old” or “what’s the same.” Absolutely no one cares about the same old stuff.

So, what’s new in your life? If things aren’t occasionally fresh and new, they get stagnant. (Think water in a standing pool…slimy, green and a mosquito magnet.) When you don’t add something different to your day-to-day, you begin to function on auto-pilot. There is very little fulfillment when boredom and lack of excitement pervades your life.

It may not be anything that creates big waves, like changing jobs or getting married. “New” just means to diverge from the routine. Familiar is easy. It doesn’t require much focus, attention or effort. Certainly no creativity is generated.

God wants us to always be updating and bringing in the new. He talks about “doing a new thing,” and “renewed strength” in Isaiah. The Bible tells us how, in Christ, “you are a new creation.” He wants you to continually sing a “new song” of praise, not letting your worship get predictable and ho-hum.

Don’t confuse contentment with complacent. Contentment is finding joy and satisfaction, regardless of your circumstances. Complacent is just not caring, being indifferent and maybe even giving up…settling.

The Lord wants to give you “the desires of your heart” and bless you with “more than you can ask or even imagine.” Does that in any way line up with stale, uninspired living? Nope. But you may need to step up and be deliberate about polishing the paint if life has lost that new car shine. Is life stagnant or predictable?

Here are a few things you might try to freshen up the same old:

  • Take a different route home, maybe the long way.
  • Eat someplace you’ve never been and venture out, trying octopus or rattlesnake nuggets.
  • Have a long conversation with a stranger.
  • Buy (and wear!) a shirt in a color you usually avoid.
  • Use a uniquely scented new shampoo or lotion.
  • Connect with God in an unusual way…use your imagination.

Shake up the routine and you will rev up your momentum, energy and joy. It’s also fun to see how others react to your out-of-the-box behavior. What’s new with you this week? The choice is yours.

 

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No Respect–Taught Early

No Respect

Reblogged from Words in High Def

The little guy at the grocery store held tight to the unopened can of soda. His mommy gently attempted to coax it out of his iron grip so the clerk could add it to the list. He was old enough to speak one word clearly; “No!” When mom finally took it from him he exploded into a shrieking, howling mess. Mom retrieved the can and returned it soothingly to the little tyrant as quick as lightening. Silence ensued because his “distress” was over.

Tantrums are a part of normal toddler development. They test even the hardiest of parents. Sadly, many parents fail the test and years later, the end result is a tantrum-throwing grownup. At the very least, they are people who demand their own way and have no respect for others. Know anyone like that? I sure do!

I see under-aged adolescents brazenly smoking cigarettes in public places, practically challenging anyone passing by to tell them to stop.

At sports events and movie theaters there’s almost always someone who cuts in line, talks loudly or shoves to move past you.

Recently at a restaurant, the man next to us was using vile language and telling very offensive stories in a booming voice. He simply didn’t care what anyone else thought.

How about the 18-year-old “woman” who laughed all the way through her sentencing in court, then flipped off the judge and followed up with the accompanying verbal message.

All these actions rob others of contentment.

In every case, the lack of respect started at an early age. Mature, healthy adults don’t suddenly unlearn how to be civil and decent. Respect, humility and good manners are taught at a slow, steady continual rate for many years…and the lesson sticks!

If you are a parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle follow the advice of the old Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young song: “Teach your children well.” Don’t be afraid of a little tantrum or even a hate-fest. Learning that the world doesn’t owe you anything and that you can’t always get what you want (I’m really dating myself with these ancient lyrics!) are far more valuable than math tutoring or tennis lessons.

A kid that learns respect may hate his parents for a minute, but he’ll love them for a lifetime. Being considerate, kind and respectful is much more satisfying and fills you with much more joy than being a self-important jerk.

Have you experienced a rude, disrespectful encounter? Can you think of a parenting story you can share? Comment below and post on Facebook. Maybe some of those people who haven’t learned this will get the message, or perhaps you’ll empower a parent who doesn’t want to “upset” their kid to stay strong.

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Don’t Beat the Dog!

Don’t Beat the Dog!

Reblogged from Words in High Def

Sitting in the truck while my husband was inside paying, at a gas station in Mexico, I was watching a very old, scruffy man. He sat on a rock by the side of the road. He looked tired and sad and lonely (that’s how my imagination viewed him at least).

Soon an old street dog walked gently up to him, tail wagging wildly. My heart sang as I felt grateful for a bit of mutual affection between these two displaced souls.

The fragile old guy began to beat the dog…. Over and over he hit this innocent creature. My mouth dropped open in horror and I almost blasted out of the vehicle, but it was over before I could react. The poor pooch dropped down and rolled over trying to avoid the open-handed smacks, but didn’t run.

She simply wanted to belong to someone at any cost. The man soon stopped, relaxed and seemed to forget about the animal nestled at his feet.

I’ve been on both sides of that equation–never physically–but emotionally beaten or beating. When we’re going through a really stressful, painful or fearful time our emotions can get out of control. Few of us (with a shred of sanity remaining) take this out on the credit card company, demanding boss, inconsiderate co-worker or even the presumptuous neighbor. We hold it in, stuff it down like buckshot in an old gun and unload—on the people who love us the most.

The arsenal is aimed at the wrong target, but at least the pressure is released for a bit. But at what cost?

If you’re feeling overly frustrated, angry, lost, confused, helpless, hopeless or hurt; pause for a minute and don’t beat the dog! God is strong enough to take every hit, then sweetly invite us to collapse into His comforting arms. That’s where contentment is restored.

On the other hand, allowing loved ones to injure us because we don’t want to lose them is as wrong as that big ol’ dog who stuck close to the side of her abuser. When we’re being treated unkindly by a loved one, it doesn’t benefit them to just “let it go.” The most loving thing we can do is call them out on it (when the explosive moment has passed) then set boundaries while offering to get them some help.

There is too much undeserved pain being spread around. Take it to God (and maybe a wise, compassionate pastor or counselor), but don’t beat the dog!

*Are you bold enough to share about a time you’ve experienced (or inflicted) mis-directed emotional pain? Comment and share this post!

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The Gift of Coaching

Give The Gift of Coaching

As we enter the season of graduations and weddings, gift-giving hits hard. Our budgets are tight and we want to get the biggest bang for our buck. While a new desk set might be nice, how many does any graduate need? Blenders and salt shakers are great but will they really enhance the lives and contentment of the happy couple?

Consider giving the gift of wisdom and support. As high school grads embark on a new journey, college grads open a business,  individuals  make a new life as a couple, or couples become parents-  they will undoubtedly encounter challenges. Wouldn’t it be great if you could wrap up a gift that would smooth those out and make the transition a little easier? The gift of coaching can do this.

Transition coaching does this. Unlike counseling, where “issues” from our past are dealt with and resolved, coaching helps healthy people move forward wisely. If you’re unfamiliar with coaching it can seem a little wacky, trendy or useless. But once you learn about the process it’s easy to recognize the value.

Paying for a session or two with a reputable coach will do a couple of things. First, it will introduce your loved one to the coaching experience and secondly it allows them to have a wise “guide” in place before a trial begins. They will have already begun a friendship with the coach and will likely feel comfortable going to him or her for help when they feel lost, frustrated or stuck in this new chapter of life.

“When I went away to college I felt alone and scared,” said Linda. “I had a really difficult first semester and finally quit and moved back home to attend community college. To help prevent this with my daughter, I gave her a few sessions with a transitional coach. What a different experience she’s had!”

When John and Cindy opened the envelope from her parents on their wedding day they felt a bit awkward as they read the card: “Our wedding gift to you is a year of life coaching sessions. We want to invest in your marriage and help make the transition easier.” Just to avoid hurting their feelings, they signed on with a coach and had a session to get acquainted. A few months passed and a serious conflict arose about money. They decided to give their coach a try. She helped them consider options, determine the best actions and get past the problem without causing any damage to their relationship.

The gift of coaching is a unique and generous one that can be given at a baby shower to equip the new mom, at a retirement party to help grandpa learn to feel productive and make new friends or for someone who hates their job and is considering a career change.Think it over, you can write a check that will be spent and forgotten or you can invest in a potentially life-altering gift.

Have you worked with a coach or known someone who has? Stories to share of tough transitions?

Diane Markins

Recommended Coaches:
Jerome Daley Dena Patton  Jory Fisher Regyna Cooper