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

Life is Fleeting

*Life is Fleeting is Reblogged from Words in High Def

As small children most of us begin by being dependent upon our parents. They are the central source of meeting our physical and emotional needs.

When we become teenagers, there is a distinct loss of memory about all that care as well as a loss of reason and respect for the care-givers. “Those idiots don’t know anything.”

As young adults we often regain a measure of our senses and realize that our parents did sacrifice a lot for our sorry butts and actually do have some wisdom to offer. We mature and become parents, relying on the ones who raised us to give help, encouragement and advice. At least this was my story.

The sad part in this cycle of life is that we often don’t appreciate our parents fully until we lose them. My mom died on December 6, 2004. I didn’t have the slightest idea how much I needed her until she was gone. That is a deep regret for me, and one I can’t correct.

My father-in-law (now 82) was in a serious accident on his Harley when he was 73. His injuries were extensive and we set a round-the-clock hospital schedule to attend to him. The first week his family “nurses” were limited to his wife, daughter and me. As we started to run out of steam, we broadened the circle to include my husband, son, daughter and daughter-in-law.

As each of us  spent hours in the quiet room helping him sit up, holding a cup for him to drink from or reading to him, we got a glimpse of his mortality. We are so fortunate he survived, but this strong, vital man is human and will not be with us on earth forever. I don’t know why it seems so shocking, but it was a true wake-up call.

We need him. We need to spend time with him and soak up his wisdom, encouragement and even dry wit. It won’t be available to us forever. None of our parents will be. They know we love and need them, but sometimes we don’t know just how much until it’s too late to take advantage of all they have to offer and to tell them. Are you overdue for a visit? I’m sure your mom or dad would rather have a few hours of meaningful conversation than a dumb present during the holidays, or any time.

10 Ways to Prepare for and Handle Hard Times

There is a poop storm raining down on my family right now. Health, careers, finances and relationships are struggling. The emotional energy and physical endurance required to get through a day are taking a massive toll. Can you relate?

My niece is fighting an unidentified and life-threatening infection. Her mom has been spending time away from work at the hospital, taking a bite out of her own energy reserves and putting a dent in her professional performance. As she headed home a few days ago, her car was smooshed between a big truck and an SUV. When it rains, it pours, don’t-cha-know.

My mother-in-law bumped her arm in an elevator and because she’s got thin skin, after three days she’s in the hospital with critical and systemic infection. The family is taking turns with her, so we can get doc updates.

My daughter was looking for a full-time job as a therapist for several weeks. It’s scary being out of work (even for a week), especially when you have a child to take care of.

I’m sharing the junk that’s hit the fan in our lives so you’ll see you’re not alone. Yeah, I’m hoping you’re in a peaceful season of life with rainbows and unicorns passing through each day. But if so… it won’t last forever.

Everyone goes through these times when you feel like you’re being hit from all sides with new, unexpected and painful stuff. So you’d better start building the bomb shelter now. Get prepared for how to handle the onslaught or you’ll be in too deep before you know what hits you.

10 ways to prepare for and handle hard times

  1. Pray. Even when you don’t have any faith left or you don’t want to hang out with an invisible God, just say His name and admit your lack of belief and strength. Your faith matters a lot less than His faithfulness.
  2. Save for a rainy day. If you earn ANY income, you can put a tiny portion away. It adds up and will be so much more meaningful in a crisis than adding it to the money you spend each week.
  3. Take care of your temple. This body you’ve been given is on loan and it has a manual. If you neglect it, it won’t function right. Eat some healthy food. Drink more water, move around instead of sitting and get enough sleep. Start there.
  4. When you face a health crisis, take a two-pronged approach. Treat the acute problem but also reach out to a naturopath to start improving your over-all health and immune system.
  5. If your relationship is coming apart, take a breather. Stop debating/arguing, complaining or trying to fix it. Step back and only focus on how you might be messing up. WHAT??? Yeah, you aren’t doing everything right, so there is some blame to share. If each of you are willing to do this, you might have a ground zero point to start humbly repairing some damage.
  6. If your job isn’t working out or you just hate it, DON’T quit until you find something else. If you’re already out of work, broaden your scope and lower your expectations. When you’re desperate, you don’t get to be choosy. It will certainly hurt to start working at a car wash if you have a master’s degree, but be reminded, dear one, that this isn’t a life sentence. You will be back on course pretty soon, but with less debt, more appreciation and a stronger character than if you hold out for a job that suits you.
  7. Be real and ask for help. Nobody likes to display their challenges and struggles to “outsiders.” But faking it, doesn’t usually fool anyone…particularly anyone that matters. People who love you will want to help, or at least pray and encourage you. People who don’t really care will probably know you’re faking sooner than you think. And haters are gonna hate. So just let your guard down and take an authentic breath.
  8. On the flip side, don’t over-share. Social media isn’t the place to bear all. While you should share hard times with people who love you, random strangers don’t need to know that your head hurts, you got fired or your boyfriend is cheating. Use wisdom and judgement when it comes to revealing yourself and your trials.
  9. Don’t waste too much energy trying to make sense when bad things happen. Looking for someone to blame or a reason why it happened to you won’t change anything. Accept where you’re at rather than playing the “what if” game.
  10. During an especially tough time, be kind to yourself. Don’t second guess things you’ve done- mistakes you’ve made. Forgive yourself and others. Find simple ways to bring back joy, peace and love to help overcome the anger, pain, fear or struggle you’re facing.

Nancy Alcorn

For those who know me, you are fully aware of how much there is to forgive. In my life, I’ve had to offer forgiveness to people even when they absolutely didn’t deserve it. Giving and getting forgiveness are mega-parts of life and God says they are significant on the path to living free. This guest post by Nancy Alcorn shows you what I mean.

Bold Living podcasts (on a wide variety of topics) are archived on my website. Diane Markins

Forgiving the Jerk Who Hurt Us

excerpt taken from Ditch the Baggage, Change Your Life by Nancy Alcorn

Trish was saved at age eight and grew up in church. She married a Christian boy and just knew they were moving in the same direction with God.

But one day her husband told her he had never loved her and that he was leaving. Trish did not see it coming, and it shocked everyone in their circle of friends. To make it worse, their daughter was fifteen months old when he left.

Trish soon realized that she had placed a great deal of confidence in her husband and marriage instead of in the Lord. She had made her husband and family an idol, looking to him to fix everything in her life and to supply all her emotional and spiritual needs. She repented of those things, but her heart was filled with grief. She had lived right, gone to church, attended premarital counseling, married a Christian, attended Bible studies, and planned to raise her kids in the church. Divorce was never on her radar. Pretty much every dream she had for her life lay shattered.

She found herself asking the Lord questions like, “Are You even real? Everything I feel I was standing on is gone.” There were many tears and much yelling at the Lord, but little by little, God revealed to her that He was real and trustworthy. He met her financial and emotional needs. He took care of her daughter’s needs. But it took time.

The hardest thing for Trish was forgiving her ex-husband and not allowing bitterness to take root. Like a gardener determined to keep the soil free of weeds, she dug up bitterness wherever it sprouted. She realized that forgiveness does not come naturally— she had to learn to forgive.

When someone hurts you, the enemy wants you to believe that forgiveness doesn’t make sense, that it’s dangerous, idealistic, and unfair. When I was a new believer it wasn’t even on my radar to forgive. I was happy about my relationship with God but there were still people I was mad at. Then one day I came across Matthew 6:14–15 where Jesus said, “For if you forgive men for their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men for their sins, neither will your Father forgive your sins.”

That sounded pretty ironclad to me. I certainly wanted God’s forgiveness, and to get it I had to forgive others. I knew He wouldn’t be making any exceptions for Nancy Alcorn. I had to learn how to forgive.

He won’t make exceptions for any of us. To walk in freedom we must become experts at forgiving others—not just benchwarmers but power sluggers. We want to be so good at forgiving that we make the Forgivers All-Star Team. I promise you it’s the only way to walk in total freedom and avoid falling into traps of bitterness.

 

For more on the Ditch the Baggage series, including book, study, and videos, visit www.MercyMultiplied.com/DitchTheBaggage.

“People Scare Me” Confessions of an Introvert

I’m a fully-growed (shades of Ellie May Clampett from my childhood), mature woman and in spite of my “Bold Living” mantra there are some things that stop me in my tracks. I’m not talking about snakes, scorpions, rats or other horrifying pests, I’m talking about human interaction. People scare me. Do people sometimes scare you too?

Recently I’ve learned that I just plain don’t like confrontation…even with the cable representative or my insurance company. I can’t explain this, to you or to myself. I dread and procrastinate making phone calls about invoices that need to be adjusted, asking meeting planners if they want to host an event or reminding someone of a commitment they made. I’ve found that I’m more of a closet introvert than I ever imagined when it comes to some circumstances.

When I shared this new-found inner insight with a friend she suggested that I spend some time in conversation with God about my irrational fears. She assured me there was something in my past that is bringing this about and that when I recognize it, I will be free.

This is going to be more than a quickie morning quiet time, so it hasn’t happened yet. Maybe I’m afraid of what I’ll find out?

What are the people-related stressors in your life? Those things you hate doing but can’t find anyone else to do for you? Maybe you feel fearful, maybe it seems like drudgery, maybe you’re afraid you’ll fail or you’ll be hurt. Maybe you think you’ll disappoint someone when there’s a show-down.

We all have things on our dread list of human interaction. Each person’s list is unique. My mother-in-law (who is 81 years old!) doesn’t blink an eye having confrontations with people or sorting out administrative problems. She gets to the bottom of things and doesn’t let anyone back her down.

Any kind of writing or public speaking is at the top of one of my best pal’s list. She’s so smart and does a great job, but she is severely uncomfortable with people possibly judging her communication short-comings.

One of my issues is that I can escalate quickly from nice to –well- not so nice when people don’t give me answers that make sense. And that happens often with customer service dealings. I’m a total failure at keeping my cool. Don’t poke the bear. I don’t like being the bear, so I avoid taking care of things that require confrontation.

While I think it’s a good idea to spend the majority of your time doing things you’re good at and that make you smile, I do think we all need to be purposeful about doing the yucky stuff too, especially when it comes to interpersonal interaction. The human factor and the unknown response; some fear this combo, some face it gracefully head-on.

If you’re picking up what I’m throwing down, I’ve thought of a couple things we might try.

  • Schedule those awful phone calls…put ‘em on your calendar so they don’t get ignored and routed to the bottom of the pile on your desk.
  • Imagine the worst possible outcome and what that will mean to your life. Probably not a huge deal most of the time.
  • Consider what your objective is and create some clear talking points to that end.
  • Remember that you have the opportunity to be the only kind and grace-filled voice that person may hear from today, so make it count. God will smile.

People can undo the best of us but human beings are always a part of our purpose, so if you struggle like I do, having a game plan might make it get easier.

Stop! Thief! Is Your Joy Being Robbed?

Stop! Thief! Is Your Joy Being Robbed?

It was a few days before Christmas and my husband, baby boy and I pulled into the driveway of our home to find the front door standing wide open. The interior was dark and silent but our hearts pounded wildly at the thought of dangerous intruders remaining inside.

The rotten culprits were long gone, along with all of our possessions that had any financial value. TV, sound system, a couple simple pieces of jewelry I loved…disappeared. They even opened all the wrapped presents under the tree and took the ones they like. For Pete’s sake, can you imagine. I wondered how to feel about the few rejects remaining in a heap on the floor.

We’ve always worked hard for our paychecks and this robbery represented many, many hours of labor. Things that we enjoyed were missing. Things we were excited to give to others, gone. It was a crummy feeling.

John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

Most of us have experienced theft of nonmaterial things as well as appliances, vehicles and money. We are robbed blind of joy, patience, contentment, laughter, faith, hope, love and peace.

It recently came to my attention that the thief isn’t always Satan (as most of us old-timer have believed). That pesky evil villain can come in lots of forms, especially if we’re not on high alert… and let’s be honest; who is?

The bandits can look like someone you’d want to hang out with, not some rude, smelly guy you want to run from. The perpetrators I’m referring to include TV, social media, the almighty dollar (greed), work (exhaustion/stress), excess of shiny stuff (and wanting more) and self-loathing disguised as humility- just to name a few.

The worse news is that we typically invite these devious distractions into our lives with full access…a welcome mat and a key to the door. I’ve sent invitations to all of the above throughout my life. By the time I recognized that I’d let the fox inside the henhouse I’d already let some of my favorite things be taken.

What have I lost to “thieves”? To name a few; kindness, patience, self-control, mercy, self-esteem, hope and peace. Those are priceless treasures that I pretty much handed over freely by spending too much time indulging in things that are not significant to God’s plan for my life.

Don’t get your panties in a knot because you’re feeling guilty. That’s not my intent. God is so good and fully able to transform any bad choice into something beautiful and worthwhile. Get ahold of that truth and be honest with yourself about the stinkin’ robbers you may have given easy access to your life. Once you’ve IDed the bad guys, slowly make them take up less real estate in your home and heart.

Reclaim and regain your stolen property.

When thieves broke in and messed up our lives a bit that Christmas, we saw them for what they were and made changes to prevent a repeat visit. Family and friends stood beside us and helped us get back on track.

Just be reminded that there are thieves lying in wait for each of us but with a little self-awareness we can avoid being robbed. Don’t let meaningless distractions steal what matters most.

Re-Remembering Memorial Day

Re-Remembering Memorial Day

When your think of the more than half a million Americans who have lost their lives in combat, is that just an obscure bit of trivia to you? It shouldn’t be. Each of those men and women chose to enter a circumstance whereby they knew they might die…just so you could continue to live as you please.

All soldiers are regular human beings with parents, siblings, spouses, kids and friends who love them. When one of them is killed it is an immense loss to all of those people. When you multiply the total number of casualties over history, that’s a whole bunch of people who have been devastated.

Memorial Day has become overlooked and underrated. It’s terrific to have a three-day weekend to BBQ, go to the lake or take a swim, but why not invest a few minutes to reflect on the sacrifices of all those (soldiers and families) who’ve given so much.

The Bible is full of verses that include reminders for us to memorialize important things. There are so many I can’t even list them all, but do a search for “memorial and Bible verses” to check it out. God doesn’t want us to forget sacrifices that have changed the course of our journey.

We get caught up in politics and policies, forgetting about all those brilliant folks who have stepped valiantly into harm’s way because they believed in freedom. You don’t have to agree with the tenets or decisions of war…you certainly don’t have to love the politicians who make them. Just remember and appreciate those who died to secure the liberties we become complacent about.

Read a story to little ones about the meaning of Memorial Day. Share a story of a fallen hero (I can’t think of a better one than Pat Tillman) with a teenager, to make it real. Lift a glass of your favorite frosty beverage in a toast and say a prayer of thanks  to God for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

 

 

Holding on to Courage

We don’t have to fight off wild beasts or do battle with opposing tribesmen (unless you count politics) but even in modern society we won’t get far without some hefty amounts of courage.

Recently I had my courage tested once again. My 16-year-old yorkie-poo has been showing all the signs of geriatric decline for the past few months… can’t hear himself pass gas, blind as a bat and most recently he doesn’t seem to remember where he is or what he’s doing. Doggie dementia- who knew? Plus, other than eating twice a day and doing his biz in the yard, he sleeps…22 ½ hours a day.

I’ve been aware for a while that the best thing for him would be to head off to Canine Canaan (witty, huh?). Second guessing has left me full of dread. After my second (or third, who’s counting) cancelled appointment my son gave me a needed boot to the butt, confirming that Rocky needed help to be on his way.

Some people don’t have a lot of trouble with assisting their pets into permanent sleep. My husband is not one of them. He is my rock in every other area, but this is not his strong suit. I’ve been the one to take every pet when their time came.

Without telling anyone (except my son who was away on business), I made the appointment and kept it. That took courage.

Worse yet, unlike all past experiences, my little guy didn’t slip quietly off into a peaceful farewell. He fought it. He was agitated, unable to settle down and they couldn’t get the whole dose injected so the doc gave him a sedative. He continued to be uncomfortable for several minutes and the vet finally called for a second tube of the goodbye juice. He said this had never happened before. Clutching Rocky and holding on to courage.

While I support those who want to say goodbye to their beloved pet and let the doctor handle the rest (because it’s so painful to see their life slip away before your eyes), I have a deep conviction that I want to be with them in their final moments. I want them to hear my voice and feel me loving on them as they take their last breath. I was actually glad to be alone because when it was over I didn’t have to keep it together for someone else. I pounded the steering wheel, wailed and sobbed. Courage.

Sometimes you’d rather be doing anything other than what’s been assigned to you, but you are the best person for the job. And just like physical muscles, courage needs to be worked out, practiced and built up. Immediately afterwards you are exhausted and depleted, but you also feel confident that you can handle tough stuff ahead.

Make no mistake, there will be stuff ahead that requires this much courage and a lot more. So when you know you are called to tackle a really, really hard thing, don’t run from it or avoid it or go looking for a substitute. Forge ahead and take it on, knowing that the One who has called you will equip you.

Rocky’s suffering is over and I will miss him, but I stood by him when he needed me, with courage. I didn’t do it all alone. I prayed throughout the night before taking Rocky in and on my drive there, “Holy Spirit give me courage and follow that with a big dose of comfort.” And He did. He will do the same for you, no matter what you’re facing.

 

Working with a Giving Attitude

We’ve all heard that, “it’s better to give than to receive.” The bible says that we’re to give our best (first fruits) to God. But is there a limit to giving? Are we required to serve without compensation in order to please God? I don’t think so.

I do believe we’re all called to give freely, of our “time, treasures and talents.” When we have a choice about how to spend some down time, invest our money or use our skills, there’s no doubt that we should look for ways to pour into the needs around us… without monetary compensation.

However, I don’t see that the Bible makes a distinction between “voluntary” service and “paid” service. Everything we do should glorify God. Whether we are the elephant pooper-scoopers at the circus for minimum wage, volunteering Saturday nights at a homeless shelter or a surgeon removing a brain tumor…it’s all for Him.

There is never room for giving less than our best if we’re doing what God tells us. That includes complaining about the job or boss, showing up late, goofing off or giving minimal effort. This applies equally to paid and unpaid commitments.

It’s really challenging to keep paid employees satisfied (I’m speaking as a co-owner of a business). No matter what benefits, perks and pay are provided; it seems that a lot of employees feel like it’s not enough. Managing volunteers is even more challenging. They sometimes have an attitude that, “I’m doing you a big favor for just showing up,” so anything more than that is a bonus. This attitude doesn’t reflect anything God talks about when work is discussed in the Bible.

On the flip side, it’s easy to be taken advantage of because misguided (and sometimes desperate) people will take and take and take if we keep giving. I believe that pastors are almost always under-paid for the jobs they do. I also believe that it should be the goal/plan of every church to work toward making women’s, children’s and youth ministry directors paid positions. Even if they are part-time, they need to be treated with respect and given fair compensation for the long hours, creativity and dedication these jobs demand.

I happen to believe this is true of writing and speaking as well. I spend hours each week doing both…and much more of it is done for free than for any payment. I love serving God and it thrills me to bring hope, encouragement or even a smile to people, but there is a stewardship issue to consider. I owe it to God and my husband to find a good balance of how much I give away for free and how much I expect to be compensated for to meet physical needs. Each of us must find this equilibrium in our work.

Have you ever felt taken advantage of as an employee or volunteer? Have you seen employees that give a minimal effort? Share below.

Diane Markins

Marnie Swedberg

This truly moving and inspirational guest post by Marnie Swedberg will rev your faith up. I encourage you to take two minutes to read it!

Bold Living airs on stations in various cities and for easy on-demand access, subscribe to the podcast on iTunes (search Diane Markins) from my website.  Diane Markins

God’s Vessel

by Marnie Swedberg

She was whispering, the stranger on the other end of the phone conversation. She was asking if we could meet somewhere. She sounded desperate.

I’d been minding my own business, tending to my children, when the phone rang that night. Within thirty minutes I found myself at a restaurant, with a total stranger, listening to a sad, scared, confused woman share her life story.

She’d gotten my name from a relative who knew of me online, and had called me from her bathroom, where she was hiding from her drunk and angry husband.

I had no idea what to say or how to help. All I could do was to listen to her while listening to God as He flowed words of comfort, instruction, and hope through me to her. Some of the words that came out of my mouth shocked me, and I remember walking out of her upside-down life, after two short hours, not knowing if she’d be OK or if I’d ever see or hear from her again. I just knew it was what I was supposed to do.

Over the next several days and weeks, whenever I wondered about her, I’d lift her up in prayer. It’s one of my habits: To think of you is to pray for you.

And then, one day, it happened. I was coming out of a building as she was walking in. We nearly collided. To my shock and amazement, her face lit up like the sun, she gave me a huge hug, and she said, “Oh! It’s you! I can’t believe I get to see you!”

She went on to tell me how things had totally turned around after our meeting. Her husband, who’d been a drunk on the couch for months, had gotten up, found a job, and was participating in the family again. She gushed gratitude as she ran off toward her next appointment.

Stuff like this happens to me all the time as I yield my availability, mind, and body to God as a flow through vessel.

God created us to be His flow through vessels, and the beauty of the process is that anything He wants to flow through you, He must flow to you first.

A stranger needs encouragement? He had flowed life experiences, faith, and encouragement to me first, so I could I share it with her. Someone needs money? Guess what? You can’t give money you don’t have. If God intends to flow anything good through you, He will flow it to you first.

God is far better than our finite minds can fathom and His plans exceed our greatest hopes and dreams. He wants to be our Source for everything and the way He established this possibility is to create us as flow through vessels.

Being God’s conduit—transferring His life, love, and provision from heaven to earth, is the greatest honor available to a human, and the benefits are awesome. They begin with the seed of a peace that passes understanding, blossom into joy that thrives through the harshest storms of life, and reach full bloom as the outcomes of that process are poured graciously into the lives of others.