That’ll Leave a Mark

*That’ll Leave a Mark is Reblogged from Words In High Def

Your car door swings open wide and thuds into the shiny new sports car next to it. You turn a corner too fast as you are walking down the hall and bump into your dresser. After just applying lipstick, you plant a big kiss on your child’s forehead. All these thinks leave a mark. None of them are desirable or will be particularly pretty.

But what kind of mark are you making each day as you live your life? I asked a man recently what his passion was and he replied that he didn’t think he had any passion. We had just finished talking about his growing business; the sense of responsibility he felt for his employees, the obligation he assumed of doing quality work for his clients, the long hours he and his wife invested…and he was very passionate. He just couldn’t think of anything else that struck that same kind of chord inside him. I believe there is something lurking deep within his sole that he hasn’t tapped into yet. Maybe because he doesn’t slow down long enough to recognized what it is, maybe because it’s not right on the surface, but I know it’s there somewhere for him and all of us.

It is my truest belief that each of us was created with a unique set of gifts and when taken as a whole, these gifts create a package. Each of us—because of our upbringing, our life experiences, our education, hobbies and relationships—have developed into a fully formed vessel that carries wonderful possibilities.

The Bucket List, with Morgan Freeman, caused quite a stir. I’ve heard several friends recite their remaining goals, aspirations and wild dreams yet to be realized. Some of these are crazy, unlikely and impractical, some are very do-able, some are for sheer joy, some are hugely meaningful.

It is easy to go through life doing what we must each day to fulfill that day’s requirements, to the exclusion of accomplishing things outside that parameter. Jumping out of an airplane, building a soup kitchen, developing a ministry that will change the lives of many with our mere (but unique) voice…these things get by us. Then one day we slow down long enough to think about life, time and how we’re spending it and it dawns on us that we’ve already missed lots of opportunities to complete some of our desires.

Passion is an elusive thing. It has to be pondered to be defined. I think we each have passion locked in us that can only be realized when we are actively using our one-of-a-kind gift package to do those things God wants each of us to do. “What God wants me to do”… that sounds kind of like work doesn’t it?

Think again! If you feel a burning desire to climb a tall mountain: Do it! Find your bliss! Just as long as while you are trekking up, you do it with integrity and after you reach the summit, you acknowledge that it was only with God’s grace.

Ponder and pursue your passions! There is a blank canvas awaiting your design. Don’t let life get in the way of using all that you are to make a lasting mark while you’re here. Tell me what you did this week that left a mark.

Honorable Role Models in Scarce Supply

 Honorable Role Models in Scarce Supply

Fun fact: Cheaters sometimes win. Take a look at the Russians getting to participate in the Olympics. Not very good for modeling sportsmanship to children, but parents are always having to explain bad stuff famous people say and do to their kids, right? So just add this to the list.

In addition to failing to represent good sportsmanship, it also undermined the message of “natural consequences” that parents expect their kids to learn from team sports. “If you cheat or lie, you’ll get caught and be kicked off the team.” And other things like, if you don’t do the work, you won’t likely finish well.

Steroids, doping and other means of gaining an unfair advantage (cough-deflate gate-cough) are more common than any parent would hope.

We’ve all learned to not EVER rely on stars (in music, film or sports) as role models for our little ones. Most are pretty lousy examples even for adults. They all seem to believe their own PR and that their pay checks and popularity give them golden privileges to say and do anything that crosses their minds. It doesn’t matter who’s watching or who will be imitating them.

Sleazy attire, X rated PDA, crude language, marital infidelity, hateful-snarky gossip on social media… those are common practices of celebrities, in addition to the lack of good sportsmanship that has left the building.

It’s very easy to start to slowly lower the bar of what you expect of kids, let alone what your own moral code is becoming. Sitcoms make us laugh at people being malicious to one another. Romantic comedies leave almost nothing to imagine when it comes to sex.

It sounds so admirable and lofty to say, “I’m unplugging the TV” or taking away your kid’s phone, but we all still live in this culture that is far less than pure. So what are some things you and I can do to detox and rise above the mess of bad role models?

  1. Read reliable reviews before seeing (or letting kids see) a movie. World Magazine is a great source.
  2. Look for ways to model integrity (let your kid know that when she turned six you had to start paying more for her ticket at the zoo…and NO, you won’t lie.)
  3. Find wonderful, positive role models and lift them up in front of your kids (and other adult friends). Watch for admirable behavior on and off the field (or stage).
  4. Don’t let yourself be seduced into admiring unholy people or indulging in unholy entertainment. This is for you, but also because your kids know more than you think, and you’re their most prominent role model.
  5. Watch movies and read books about athletes and other stars who have overcome great obstacles without cheating.
  6. Define honor and be purposeful to live an honorable life.

There may be a cesspool around you, but you (and your kids) don’t have to dive in the deep end. How do you do it?

Redecorating for the Seasons of Life

Redecorating for the Seasons of Life

My husband and I moved into our house 32 years ago with our toddler son. We felt like the richest, most grown-up people in the world. It wasn’t our first home. We lived in a “cute little cottage” for about a year prior. Unfortunately, we didn’t do much research about the neighborhood before buying.

We came home one night shortly before Christmas to find the door standing open and all our “valuables” missing. My husband wasn’t about to entrust his family to a dangerous area so there was a For Sale sign in the yard the next day.

This old house has been the stage for all the drama, excitement, loss and blessings of more than three decades…most of our adult life. It started with brown shag carpet and questionable “wood” paneling. Very disco 70s.

It included a room for a sweet little boy, then a couple years later a baby girl. Pepto bismo ads had nothing on her room.

Tile and wood flooring have gradually replaced all carpet. A room was added for the teen years, so kids could play pool and hang out in a safe place.

Six years ago, when our first grandchild was born, it became a preschool palace. The funhouse was meant to lure those little darlings away from other shiny, entertaining places. Cubbies brimming with toys, musical instruments and books line the walls. Each kid’s name is displayed in large wooden letters. Wild colors are a visual candy store.

This was especially useful when our (now five-year-old) granddaughter lived with us. She had plenty of space and tools to learn, have fun and be safe.

She and her mom moved out recently and I am feeling the need to reclaim my domain. As you go through changes of seasons in life, your house needs to make some adjustments too.

Does your house fit your life, purpose and personality? Have you had the same wall colors and flooring since Miami Vice was airing weekly? Were your curtains made in 1985? Do your chairs feel custom-made for your butt? (That’s not a good thing!)

Perhaps it’s time to freshen up your surroundings and make them more functional for your current life stage.

Where to start? Answer a few questions:

  • Which room do I love most?
  • Which room do I dislike the most?
  • Does the design carry through my house or is each room its own theme?
  • What styles do I like best?
  • What colors am I drawn to?
  • How do I spend most of my time at home?
  • Which room do other family members spend most time in?

Once you’ve pondered those questions, you’ll likely have a good idea of where to begin. Don’t forget to invite input from the people you live with. You don’t want to get rid of something they love (unless it’s really, really awful).

Here’s my disclaimer: I’m not a good decorator. I know what I like when I see it, but I don’t always know why. I also don’t have any confidence in my ability to change things up at home. That’s why (like the Bible says) I seek wise counsel. My sister and a few other friends are willing to tell me the truth and gently guide me away from mishmash design ideas or unattractive colors, let alone outdated accessories. (Gasp) Also, people go to college for this. If you can afford it, hire a designer. You’ll be blown away at what they’ll bring to the table for a relatively low cost.

Here are a few things I’ve started with in this brand new empty nest season of home décor:

  • Bulldoze the clutter. If it isn’t nailed down, it’s fair game to go to the Salvation Army. They need it more than you do.
  • Deep clean. Houses start to retain smells after years of occupancy. Not necessarily icky, but not fresh either. Maybe hire pros to clean your grout, wash walls, freshen drapes and chem dry rugs.
  • Rethink your colors. Do your colors reflect your current life and attitude? Do they make you smile and give you energy or peace? Paint is super cheap and you don’t need special skills to get by. Slap a new coat on and see how you feel. It’s easy to change if you hate it.
  • Move stuff around. Give rearranging a shot. Maybe even make your den your office or your TV room your gym. At the very least, put the couch on a different wall and live with it for a week.
  • Get a few new things. Don’t spaz out and max out your plastic, but a moving new piece of art can be had for cheap at stores like Kirklands. Even a chair can be purchased gently used for very few dollars. You’d be amazed at what a difference a new bedspread will make…it is the focal point and feels like the whole room has changed. A fresh set of towels practically remakes the bathroom.

I hope this inspires you to make your space functional and a place you love to be if you’ve been in a rut. If you have more tips or challenges, please share.

10 Ways to Adjust to an Empty Nest

Whoosh Whoosh Whoosh! That’s my version of the sound a boomerang makes. It’s what I’m hearing in my head right now. For the second (or third?) time my husband and I are officially empty nesters. They come and they go (occasionally coming back).

My sweet daughter moved back in with us not long after her baby was born nearly five years ago. Things didn’t work out with her ex and it just seemed to make sense. We rearranged the house so everyone had a room (my living room became my office) and fell into a nice rhythm.

But adults should not live with their parents forever and the time was right for them to jump ship- er- get their own place. With her master’s degree completed and a job doing what she loves, my grown up girl needs to have space and privacy to be a woman and mom in her own right.

Let’s be honest, my husband and I need some of that space too. Who are we kidding, the lack of privacy can translate to a shortage of intimacy time and opportunity.

So. It’s all good, right?

Well that’s what I’ve been telling myself for the past month leading up to the big day. The move was filled with work and driving and shopping, but it went well. They are settling in to a darling condo only 13 and a half (yeah, I’ve clocked it) minutes away. Whew! That’s done.

Then my husband and I came home from dinner to an empty house. (She even took her obnoxious cat!) There is a void we never imagined. With some of the furniture gone as well, there is a bit of echo. To be honest we both felt a little weepy. It came over us again when we got up to the same stillness in the morning. The usual knock on the bedroom door and jump on  bed for tickles and kisses from our granddaughter didn’t happen. Our Rottweiler gave it a try but it just isn’t the same.

I know, you’ve heard it all before (plenty from me) but change is hard, even when it’s right and necessary. Adjusting to a new normal sucks no matter how you spin it (yay, I can redecorate and no one will leave dirty dishes or apple remains sitting around). My nest is still empty.

Here are 10 ways to adjust to an empty nest that I’m using:

  1. From the moment I knew the move was coming I began to imagine what it would be like and how I’d feel, trying to begin processing early.
  2. I focus on the value my daughter and granddaughter will gain by this new independence and privacy.
  3. I’ve looked for ways to make things fun and newly romantic with my husband. (Guess)
  4. Since we won’t be grasping for private time we’ll have more time and energy for our other three grandkids than we’ve ever had before. We’ve missed out and so have they.
  5. I can reclaim my space. My house won’t look like it was decorated by a clown posse. Nearly every inch has been set up for little ones (the live-in and those who visit regularly). While I want it to be a fun place that they want to be, I am now going to also make it a fun place I want to be!
  6. New recipes will be tried. I don’t have to factor in the taste preferences of a four-year-old when planning meals.
  7. Reassessing personal goals and how to work toward them. #Dreambig
  8. More time to take care of myself. I don’t have excuses to skip workouts or reasons to eat bad food. With those little ones there is more incentive than ever to be healthy and live a long time.
  9. Travel plans are on the horizon. We don’t seem to have a big bank account these days but are blessed with welcoming friends in fun places as well as some great frequent flyer miles. So we’re gonna get up and go!
  10. Peace and quiet. No, I’m not used to it and it’s hurting my ears, heart and brain at the moment, but God says to “Be still and know that I am God.” It’s been a struggle to stay deeply connected to the Lord when there isn’t a moment of solitude or silence in a given day. He’s cleared the way and I’m excited to soak it in.

I hope this helps you if you’re experiencing any version of an empty nest. There are a ton of up-sides to this season, you just have to identify and embrace the opportunities. If this has encouraged you, let me know…that encourages me. And don’t forget to share with your friends. Do you have any additional wisdom or tips? Do tell.

Just Like Roses

When you envision a rose, most people don’t think of words like hardy, tough or resilient. But guess what folks…they are all those things.

I do love my roses. I have a row of 12 bushes lining a short wall in my front yard. My desk is in front of a window looking out at them. Many varieties and colors are proudly on display for me…uh and of course my neighbors.

While Phoenix is not known for extremely cold temperatures, it does reach that dreaded “freeze warning” point on occasion. On one such day I began to fear the worst for my beloved buds. Marching into the closest nursery, I asked about buying some cloths designed to cover them.

After seeing the price tag on those specialty items, I reassessed my belief that pink, green and striped sheets billowing over a large portion of my front yard would be tacky. Maybe we’ll just call it whimsical or unique.

Seeing the dilemma on my face, the nice man said, you need to talk to Fred. He’s our rose expert. Fred was very interested in my problem and sympathized with the debate of dead roses or a front lawn that looks like it belongs to a guest on the Jerry Springer show.

He kindly explained that, “ya nearly can’t kill them roses.” Huh?

“Them roses is hardy stock. It has to get well below 30 degrees and stay there for at least five hours for them to be affected.” He told me to water the ground before bedtime and they should be hunky dory.

For the next few days of cold weather I felt pretty pleased with my secret knowledge as my neighbors’ houses were littered with afore-mentioned tacky sheets.

My roses survived and are thriving in the warm February sun. I won’t even give it a thought next time there’s a dreaded freeze alert.

Not only did I love learning this freeing tidbit for my gardening use, I thought it was a pretty great fact about roses in general.

Roses are gasp-worthy and jealousy-inducing when they arrive at a women’s door. She’s been given something very special.

But roses aren’t only lovely, they are hardy and tough…they stand up for themselves. They don’t succumb to cold weather or wilt in the brutal desert heat. They were made to last, created by the One who understands that beauty without strength or substance is fairly useless and temporary.

I want to be just like roses. I hope people are attracted to me because I reflect God’s beauty on the outside, but more importantly, they know I’m made of tough stuff and won’t fold under pressure.

Does your inner strength match the beauty people can see? Substance is much more valuable than any amount of prettiness alone.

Your Gratitude Story

Reblogged from 2013

I’m a journalist and the first thing they teach you in J school is the “5 Ws.” Always make sure that the following questions are answered when you’re covering a story:

If you’re struggling with an attitude of gratitude this Thanksgiving, try applying this to your own story. Grab a pen or keyboard and get started answering these questions-

1. Who are you grateful for? Your list may be as long as you arm or only have two names, but if you ponder for a moment surely some people (past and present) come to mind. Perhaps it was your grandmother when you were a child; maybe a teacher who believed in you; a special friend who stood by your side when you were hurting; a spouse or child who loves you no matter what…

2. What are you grateful for? This might be the hardest one if you’re in physical or emotional pain, can’t make ends meet or are seriously ill, but take a moment to get past that struggle to think of how much worse it could be. Do you have a bed? Have you eaten today? I know it sounds trite, like your mom reminding you that there are starving kids in Africa, but it is a good way to gain perspective.

3. When are you grateful? A time frame in your life (childhood, a job you loved, etc.) or even a really wonderful day when something just blessed your socks off. This is an important and valid way to remind us of the good things.

4. Where are you grateful? Consider a place where you made the best memories. Focus on that place (use your senses: remember the smells, sounds, sights and textures) to revive those sweet memories. I bet you find yourself smiling.

5. Why are you grateful? Does your thankfulness center on material things, relationships, health, or success in ministry and work? The reasons and focal point of your gratitude will reveal much about your priorities. Maybe there needs to be a shift?

There is an added letter journalists factor in when appropriate; H. How?

How do you show gratitude? Do you remember to thank the clerk at Circle K and your server at McDonald’s? Do you acknowledge the hard work your spouse invests in their job or home? Do you tell your employer that you’re grateful for the paycheck? And most importantly, do you tell God how thankful you are for the countless ways He has blessed you?

I am grateful for the people who put up with me, especially you. Anything you want to say to me? 🙂 Happy Thanksgiving.

Be Who You Are

We’ve all done it… try on jeans or something that’s a little snug and suck in your gut while you check the mirror. You think, uh huh. I look pretty good. Then you walk away from the mirror and relax your trembling abs. You’re shocked later when you see pics of yourself at the party in those jeans. How could I have looked so different at home, you wonder.

You looked different at home because you were creating an illusion of being thinner than you really are… flattening a bulging belly temporarily. But when you relax, the true you is what people see.

The same thing goes for your character and faith journey.

I’ve known many people who say all the right words and appear to be doing the right things, but later I find out they were creating a false impression.

This happened on a trip we took with some friends. Promises were made about the experience and the cost that simply didn’t match up with what happened. I think that when we feel disillusioned by a friend’s behavior it hurts those who trust the most. Like me.

I consider myself to be fairly savvy and intuitive, but because I would never intentionally lie or make promises I didn’t intend to keep, it’s pretty hard for me to believe others will. When they do, I’m left with my mouth gaping open and my heart a little dented.

Certainly I’m not going to say I’ve never let people down or tried to put on a bit of a show to create a better impression. Most of us do it from time-to-time. (My husband is an exception to this!) Sometimes I want people to like me or think highly of me so I go to extra effort to assist the outcome and position myself in the best light.

The problem is, I’m not always in good lighting. I’m not always in a sweet mood. I’m not always praying passionately. I’m not always charitable and serving selflessly. And in the light of day, all this is revealed.

Be who you are and ask God to work in your life to constantly make that better… closer to what you want people to see.

As for those skinny jeans- wear them if you want to, but look in the mirror while you are completely relaxed and know that’s what others will be seeing too. Don’t kid yourself into thinking you’ll fool anyone.

Avoiding Financial Stupidity

While standing on the balcony of a nice hotel recently I overheard (come on, eavesdropped is a harsh word!) the following conversation between guys on two other balconies:

“How ya doin? Nice view, huh?”

“Yep, it’s pretty impressive.”

“Pricey, but the kids are having a great time so it’s worth the $400 per night they charge, right?”

“Yeah, that’s what they make charge cards for.”

“I guess we all do the same thing…enjoy life, charge it and wait for the parents to die to pay off debt.”

I nearly fell off my 15th floor seat. Dave Ramsey would have had a seizure.

I don’t want to sound like a lecturing old biddy, but that’s just wrong. My husband and I racked up a couple thousand in credit card charges early in our marriage, but we saw the endless hole we were digging and made a plan to get out of debt.

Spending money you don’t have is a cancer on living a healthy life.

It feels good in the moment but creates stress, grief, fear, dread and worry in the aftermath. This is a prison term people give themselves… and it often turns into a life sentence. Getting out of debt requires a lot of work and sacrifice. Many people aren’t up to the challenge so they continue adding to the pattern.

The younger you are when you actually grasp this concept, the less burdened you will be in your every-day life. Additionally, you will be financially free as you get older.

Media just reminded us that the Social Security disability fund will run out of money next year unless Congress takes action to put cash back in… the question is, where will it come from? Eventually there won’t be enough in Social Security for people to feed their cats, let alone themselves.

But, planning ahead for “old age” requires giving some things up now. Expensive vacations are replaced with camping trips. Pedicures are done at home. Eating out is the exception, not the rule. Whether it’s a small charge or a really big one…all output of dinero adds up.

I’ll confess, I wish we had avoided a few bad investments, spent a little less and saved more. We haven’t been as responsible or savvy with our income as we could have been, but we’ve been much more intentional in recent years.

Being money-wise also involves smart investing. Even a little bit will eventually grow into a lot more if it’s consistently invested well. There are people with integrity that can help with this.

And the last thing that contradicts what my fellow vacationers believe: not only do we need to spend less and save more, we should be budgeting a portion for God’s purposes. Giving to your church or a reputable charity is an investment in others but it’s also an investment in growing your own character. It builds discipline and helps prevent greed.

“Experts” are buzzing about another recession hitting soon. Are you prepared to act with financial wisdom? If you’re waiting for an inheritance from your parents, maybe you should rethink it. In fact, they might not have much left to leave you.

Need for Purpose Starts Early and Never Ends

When I take a load of laundry out of the dryer I throw all the hankies and hand towels in a laundry basket to save for later. I’m not just being lazy. Three little ones who are mastering the skill of folding will be very excited to find this container full of purpose and challenge.

I began teaching Zoe how to fold laundry a while ago. We lay a bandana on the bed and bring those corners together again and again until it is a neat little square. Watching her attempt this, sometimes getting frustrated, but typically just concentrating and doing it again- I see a couple of things we can all relate to.

For most of us, learning a new skill that others have mastered is challenging but also exciting. I have known adults who learned to swim or drive when they were in their 40s. It is a little embarrassing and a lot scary, but the accomplishment far outweighs those negative feelings.

Senior adults sometimes have a tough time keeping up with technology. (Cough-me too-cough) I’ve heard people say, “I don’t need to learn how to use a”… computer/iphone/email/fill in the blank. But that’s simply not true. If you aren’t at least marginally engaged in technology you will be left out of so much. When they finally grasp this and learn (from a patient, younger volunteer) how to create a new document, attach a file or post a photo on Facebook, they feel terrific.

The second thing my grandkids’ laundry endeavors have taught me is that the desire for purpose starts early and never ends. They feels such satisfaction and pride when they’ve completed an entire load and “helped” me finish my job. It’s not busy-work to them, it’s useful and purposeful.

Kids get bored and adults of all ages can feel a little lost or depressed when their lives don’t include purposeful pursuits; accomplishing something of value.

If your days are being consumed without the satisfied feeling of purpose, remember that there are endless opportunities to learn something new and put it to use serving others.

Your Next Big Purpose

Tent-Maker is an Honorable Profession

The Apostle Paul knew he couldn’t get by on his looks and preaching the Gospel to poor people, so he made tents to earn a living.  Do you think he asked, “Is making tents my calling?” or “Should I starve because I’m not willing to do anything except share the good news about Jesus?”

Most of us have spent at least a modicum of time trying to figure out what we were meant to do.  Additionally, the majority of us aren’t spending all our time doing it…even if we have figured it out.

You might know that you were called by God to be a nurse, an artist, a writer or a missionary but your day job is banking or grooming dogs or coloring hair. Is this wrong? Are you wasting your time or dishonoring God? I say absolutely not.

When my kids were young I really wanted them to discover what the Lord was calling them to do and be. My hope was that they would discover their purpose, take steps toward getting an education and experience, and finally land a job doing what they loved and that God had designed them to do.

Even if you have a parent with that kind of foresight and intention, life and human nature complicate things. While some folks have a certainty from childhood about what they are supposed to do with their lives, most flounder around searching for the answer.

Searching and wandering is often part of the journey of discovery and usually equips us to step into the role we’re meant to fill. I talk to women all the time who tell me they don’t know there purpose. They feel lost and a bit embarrassed at this confession.

The truth is that for those who are close to God there is no wasted time. He has us where He wants us for “such a time as this.” Caring for children, maintaining a home and marriage, working in a job they don’t love to feed the family… these are all honorable callings. But things change and when we find that those seasons have passed we get a yearning to hear from God about what’s next.

Whether you’ve spent many years as a tent-maker and are longing to fulfill your greater purpose, or if you’re realizing a need to make a few tents, you are completing your mission of the moment. Each moment adds up to a lifetime.

As you look back, do you see how your moments have led you to this place? When you ask God, “What do you have next for me?” what is His response?