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

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.

Widow’s Might

My friend Kim Knight lost her husband unexpectedly and, after getting back up from being knocked flat, she wrote this book to help others who are dealing with the challenges of being a widow(er). Check out this little post and excerpt. I bet you know someone who can use this!

I’m excited to share my first book with Diane’s readers! Widow’s Might; Embracing Life after the Loss of Your Spouse shares my experience along with the stories of many other widows and widowers who have traveled this road and prevailed. Topics include dealing with finances and other decisions that need to be made at a time when you’d rather get in bed and pull the covers over your head, living with the grief and guilt that come with surviving your spouse, wondering where God was during this time, deciding whether or not to stay in the home you shared with your husband, dating, and moving toward living life with renewed peace, purpose, and enthusiasm.  Hope reading Widow’s Might is as much a blessing to you as writing it was for me! Kim Knight

WIDOW’S MIGHT

Excerpt reprinted with permission from BroadStreet Publishing Group, LLC

We meet new people almost every day. Each new relationship nearly always starts with two questions: What do you do? And—after a time—are you married? Such simple questions with such complicated answers.

The “What do you do?” question may be easy for you. You’re a lawyer. You’re a stay-at-home mom. You teach school. You work for an insurance company. You’re retired. For all of our adult lives, we knew what we did. We knew who we were. We knew if we were married. We used to never even think about it when people asked. Now we do.

When people ask me what I do, I usually say, “I may be retired.” They laugh and we talk about what I used to do. But that generally leads to the fact I worked for my husband for twenty years which begs the question, “Are you married?” Whenever you say, “I’m a widow,” the response is always, “I’m so sorry.” What a sad place to begin.

My widowed friend Mary Jane recommends “just say you’re single.” I’ve tried that a few times and people always respond, “Divorced?” No . . . Golly.

I did have one great response to my “I’m a widow” remark. I was in a store purchasing a new paper towel holder with a decorative finial that had to be removed in order to put on a new roll. The store owner told me that men didn’t like to remove the finial, so—if I had a husband—I shouldn’t buy it. I said, “It’s okay. I’m a widow.” She replied, “Oh, that’s fantastic!!” She was mortified, but I laughed out loud. It felt normal and wonderful to have a happy memory attached to admitting I am—indeed—a widow.

When I first started thinking about moving to California, one of my primary reservations was that, if I move, no one there will know who Dale was. How ironic! While I needed to move away from Dale’s house, Dale’s street, Dale’s neighbors, I didn’t want him to fade away to nothing. Now I meet people who don’t even know he existed and I struggle with the very basics of who I am.

But you know what? It’s been amazing to analyze how I actually feel about Dale’s death. The wonderful people who have shared their stories have said the same thing. “I’m so glad I talked to you about this.” “I’ve totally reexamined who I am.” “I thought it would be sad, but it wasn’t.”

It’s possible to bury your real emotions beneath a load of activity. It’s possible to sit at home and never move on from the life you knew and loved. It’s possible to put your late husband on a “perfect late husband” pedestal and polish it while wearing your “perfect widow” crown until you, too, pass away. But having to figure this out in order to put my thoughts down on paper has been a tremendous opportunity for learning, for growth, for closure. My hope is that this book offers the beginning of some closure to you.

So, do we want to close this chapter? Maybe. What stops us from saying a resounding “Yes”? I’m not sure. It may have something to do with unresolved guilt about moving on. But this is what I do know: God willing, I may live for another 30 years and I refuse to be confined to the “perfect widow” box. I want to live my life in a manner that says to my children “I was not beaten by this. God showed me He has plans to give me hope and a future.”

 

“Hallelujah” from the Midst of Brokenness

Perfect people, especially Christians seem to be everywhere…particularly on Facebook and other social media. But when you look deeper, there is a lot of pain, loss and flaws. If you want a spiritual boost of the “real thing” read this guest post.

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

Excerpted from Broken Hallelujahs

by Beth Allen Slevcove

Hallelujah, initially understood in my forming lexicon to mean “Hooray!” was sung with gusto often accompanied by guitar and clapping. Ha-la-la-la-la-la-la-le-lu-jah came wafting out the bus windows as we wound our way up the mountain to summer camp, stretching the potent Hebrew holy word around our happy bursts of prepubescent excitement.

As life began gathering more sharps and flats and my internal melody shifted from the brighter, cheerier major chords to some darker minors, “Hooray!” was not always an accurate descriptor. I left the word hallelujah and the shallow theologies it seemed to embody on the shelf next to the stuffed animals and Sunday school loot acquired in memory verse contests. I was beginning to believe that this word, and to some degree its holy recipient, no longer spoke to the situations at hand.

“Just give it to God” was not working, so I tried to toughen up and pretend hurtful things did not hurt me, to “just get over” the painful parts of life. This, too, did not work.

I eventually figured out that grief was the way through.

Grieving allows us to live beyond the narrow sliver of existence, numb to both the lows of loss and the delight-filled gifts of grace.

I am beginning to recognize that my journeys of loss are not interruptions to life but essential vehicles to engage in life more deeply. As the adage reminds us, “What is in the way is the way.” Instead of thinking, if I can only get around this hurdle, I’ll be able to really start living, I’m learning to say yes to God in all that life brings. In doing so, I am not condoning the bad things that happen, but acknowledging that God is there too, in the midst of all of life, actively leading me home.

One of my favorite songs is Leonard Cohen’s perplexing and beautiful “Hallelujah.” In it, he gorgeously weaves raw stories of fallen human beings who cry out “Hallelujah” from the midst of brokenness. He calls it “a cold and broken Hallelujah.” Thanks to this song and an assortment of undesirable life experiences, hallelujah has become one of the most powerful words I know, a word capable of unapologetically lashing great pain and disillusionment to heartfelt praise, a seemingly impossible task. Yet this is our task. Living into the contradictory realities of brokenness and beauty is the spiritual journey. It’s not an easy journey, but the only one that allows us to fully engage in the sacred symphony of life.

 

Labor Day and Entitlement Checks

Labor Day in the United States is a holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September. It is a celebration of the American labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of their country. (Wikipedia)

This holiday was established in 1887 in a country whose citizens valued jobs and took pride in their work. A lot has changed in the last century.

Entitlement spending takes up about two-thirds of the federal budget, the highest in history. (Welfare- 11%, Social Security- 24%, Medicare, Medicaid and other health care programs- 25%)

When most of these programs were implemented, they were intended to meet the needs of those who were truly unable to take care of themselves, and often only for a short time until they could, “get back on their feet.”

Do you really believe that there is a higher percent of needy people or disabled citizens than ever before? Not so. The biggest difference now is the vast number of people who claim to have “chronic pain.” Headaches and back pain are almost impossible to prove or disprove so hundreds of thousands of questionable conditions allow people to collect a check without lifting a finger.

I’m not saying everyone who is getting a disability benefit due to chronic pain is being untruthful… in fact I know several people who would trade a day of hard work for the pain they endure in a New York minute. But there are many who realize this is their ticket to a free meal and housing, so they ride the gravy train.

There is a subculture in our society that celebrates gaming the system. Where there used to be a bit of shame at having to “accept charity” there is now pride in getting one over on the government. Very little thought is given to improving the strength, prosperity, and well-being of the country.

How can we help turn this mindset around? What can be done to re-instill a good work ethic in future generations? I don’t have the answers in the big picture, but I do know that what kids see modeled is what they become. It has to start with adults recognizing that an entitlement check might be free, but it does come at a cost and there is no freedom when you remain in poverty.

For those who are working, I salute you and celebrate this well- deserved day off with you. For those who are duping the system and taking money you shouldn’t get, I hope you’ll begin to realize that good work is to be admired and so is integrity.

Happy Labor Day.

 

ReDefining “Happy New Year”

Getting bad news is– well– BAD. Last year it seemed like just about every week I learned of something difficult a loved one was facing or painful losses others had endured. Ugh! Sometimes it feels like the best choice is to hide in the house and not answer the phone or turn on the internet. Unfortunately (like those big, dumb ostriches) trying to shut out the tragic and threatening events surrounding us does not work. Not knowing isn’t the same as making bad things unhappen.

A better approach is to acknowledge that we will be smacked with sadness, challenges and terrifying prospects again this year. Hope that didn’t burst your Happy New Year bubble, but as much as we may “wish for a great year” these things are simply a part of the package of life. It would be ridiculous (if not delusional) to actually begin 2015 believing or hoping otherwise.

Stay with me, this isn’t the downer message it appears at first glance. I’m heading up to the good news. Just because we will walk through the tough stuff again and again does not mean that this won’t be a good year. In fact, if you’re brutally honest, can you say (especially in retrospect) that any year has been so awful that you’d willingly erase it? When you take the time to recall what you learned, the relationship that deepened, the growth of character and the enhancement of faith, would you really give that painful or difficult year away?

The year my mom died was really painful. Learning to live without her in my life is a process I’m still working on  years later. But I got to spend more time with my sister than I had since we were kids. We talked, laughed, shared memories and mutually offered support. I also (by necessity) slowed down and put more time and intent into the relationship with my mom in her last few months. I am not willing to give those good things up, even though they came with a heavy price.

When my marriage was going through a precarious time, I was fearful and unhappy. It was like I was speaking Chinese and my husband was speaking Spanish. We were never quite on the same page, making sense or connecting. But when things turned around we forged a bond that will never be broken apart again. As a result, we are able to encourage other couples who are struggling. Difficult, but still I wouldn’t exchange it for something else.

As you ponder last year’s hurts and roadblocks, look past them to what God showed you or where you ended up. If you’re still traveling a painful journey, be assured that you will one day be able to see these positives as well.

Beginning a new year is an obvious time to look back as well as forward, but do so with Christ-filtered lenses. A “good year” doesn’t necessarily mean a cake walk, it means a year of God continuing to shape you into the person He knows you can be.

What good or bad things did you face in 2010? What are you hoping for in 2015?

Diane Markins

Getting Unstuck – Jamie George

Jamie George hit the nail (and me) squarely on the head in this post and my interview with him. We all need to be reminded that God can’t use us if we don’t take care of ourselves. Feeling stuck in a rut? Check out this post below and listen to this powerful interview. Don’t forget to comment to win his terrific book Love Well.

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 

 

The Blessing of Bread

by Jamie George 

Give us this day our daily bread. – Matthew 6:11

In order to steer this vessel toward His glory, we need navigation. 

In order to fuel this vehicle and keep it on mission we need nourishment.We start with the physical:  

“Give us this day our daily bread.”

I forget this.  Often.

My tendency is to help everyone else first.

I can make that an excuse, my willingness to “do the right thing.”

The responsible thing.

Unfortunately, in my willingness to sacrifice for others I am not being a steward of myself.  And if truly honest, not really sacrificing.

I am doing the EASIER and LAZY thing.

Serving myself takes a great deal of effort.

So to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” is to pray,

“Give me this day, the motivation to say no to certain foods.”

“Give me the motivation to break a sweat.”

“Give me the awareness that I need to eat the right kinds of food.”

“Give me this day my daily nourishment.”

“Give me this day the stamina to serve myself.”

Our daily need for food is meant to be a constant reminder.

We are not our own source of sustenance.

We are creatures in daily need.

It would not have been lost on Jesus’ hearers that their ancestors looked to God literally, each day for daily bread or something like it…

When the Israelites were wandering around in the dessert for 40 years after their refusal to trust God, He displayed His faithfulness by providing for them manna from heaven.  This manna was unusual.

It was like a bread source that could be used for various dishes in various ways, and provided daily nourishment.  Daily.

Whatever was not used that day went bad.

What was needed would then be provided the following day.

Jesus hearers would easily have made the connection.

Give us this day our daily bread is a declaration of dependence.

Some of us have trouble receiving.

We don’t like asking for help.  It makes us feel weak.

Praying this prayer…  Yep.  It is acknowledging that I am weak.

If you are fully self-sufficient then you have no need for love.

If, however, you are in need, you are in a place of receptivity. You are prepped for love.  Many of us are ambitious about giving love away, but have we learned to be just as ambitious in our desire to receive it?

love yourself – Jennifer Miller

Taking care of people, especially our families is what most women do best. What we don’t usually do so well is take care of ourselves. Learning to fall in love with “you” is a great place to begin. See what Jennifer Miller shares. Be sure to comment to win a copy of the book.

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 

Plunging Into Self-Care

by Jennifer Miller, MA, MAR, LPC

One of my favorite scenes from the movie The Notebook is when the group is swimming in a pond, using a tire swing to jump into the water. Allie is standing on the edge, holding onto the rope of the swing very tightly, wanting to swing out across the water, but utterly afraid. Her friends do everything they can to encourage and coax her into letting go and enjoying herself.

That image comes to mind when I think about how many of us feel about self-care. It’s not that we are afraid to take care of ourselves, just as Allie wasn’t afraid to get into the water. The fear is that we will swing too far and end up hurting ourselves or others. This fear causes us to cling to the shoreline, longing for that middle ground, wondering how others are able to do it.

We see that taking care of ourselves, doing things for ourselves, would feel really good or be really good for us. We know it. A part of us really wants it. But the fear keeps us firmly planted on one side because we are so afraid of the other side.

What are these sides? What side do we stand on and what side are we avoiding?

I propose that self-care lies on a continuum. On one side (the side we fear) is self-indulgence. We don’t like the idea of self-indulgence because it is inherently selfish. We judge the self-indulgent. They are inconsiderate and unloving. They are self-obsessed and neglect their responsibilities. They are a burden to the rest of us, negatively impacting others with their choices.

Who would want to be on that side of things? No decent human being and definitely no good Jesus-loving Christian!

And that is exactly the hyperbole that keeps us so afraid and so trapped. We are stuck on the opposite side, anchored safely away from the land of self-indulgence. Unfortunately, that means we reside on the side of self-neglect.

It’s true. We are so afraid to be indulgent, that we sacrifice ourselves, our needs, and our wants. Instead of taking an hour to care for ourselves, we set out to prove that we are uber responsible and considerate. We don’t want to be a burden, so we endeavor to take on everyone else’s burdens. And the thing is, we know better. We know it. We see that pond of self-care and we long for it. We know that it would be good for us to jump in, but we are so afraid of overshooting and landing on the other side, that we stay where we are. We are just like Allie, letting fear keep us from getting what we want, what we need.

I want to challenge you to take a step back, maybe even look at a friend instead of yourself, and try to objectively ascertain how much distance truly lies between the two shorelines. I believe that self-indulgence is a lot farther away than you think. Fear is lying to you so you will continue neglecting yourself.

I also want to challenge you to grab a friend and start encouraging each other to take care of yourselves. You can even do it together, if that makes it easier, because Allie did eventually ride that tire swing and jump into the pond. It just took a lot of encouragement from her friends, letting her know that it was okay, that she would be better for it, and that they wouldn’t let her swing too far.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

One way to take the leap into self-care is my upcoming “Live Love Yoga and Wellness Retreat” offered by The Center for Living Well, November 7-9, 2014, in Oracle, AZ. If you register before October 31st using discount code “Radio” you will receive $60 off! Register today because it’s time to take the plunge!

Jesus Loves Strippers

We sang “Jesus Love Me” when we were kids. It’s true and it means everyone. Jesus hung out with people that were considered pretty lowly…prostitutes and tax collectors (sorry IRS). He wants us to love people, not judge them. Laura Bonde works in JC Girls, a ministry that shows strippers how much God loves them. Check it out.

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 

 Jesus Loves Strippers

by Laura Bonde

This interview explains a lot of why God called me to lead JC’s Girls. It’s unbelievable what He’s doing now!
Many women are blessed by our bible study and come to be encouraged, guided, lifted up, and transformed. The room is always filled with transparency, and the Holy Ghost is always at work in everyone’s heart. Just last Saturday, a woman shredded her dancing license. We had another women walk out of prostitution. His Light will expose any darkness, and His Love covers all sin.
You’ve heard about how I was, so it’ll be interesting for you to hear what I walk in now. I have the deepest sense of purity than I’ve ever had. I see myself as a virgin because I know that’s how God sees me. I see myself as a good mother because I know how God sees me. I am holy, blameless, above reproach in His sight, and He sees me all the time. Those things are what I teach the girls and empower them to walk in. God is bigger than our past, passionate about our future, and present with us now.
When we go to the strip clubs and porn conventions, we want the girls to feel accepted and loved. We let them know God loves them 100% right where they’re at. He chases after them and will not stop. We do not judge them, only give them hope. We let them know that we are there and invite them into our lives.
We don’t have to talk about how bad it was to show how good we are now. God’s word is full of promises. I have learned how to grab hold of those promises and believe them for me. My identity is in the cross. We’re not ex-strippers, ex-prostitutes, ex-porn stars, etc. We are ministers of Jesus…here to reconcile hearts to the Father. We’ve been perfected in Him and keep allowing God to raise us from glory to glory. He’s such a good Daddy!!

Headaches – A Pain in the Neck?

Since 90% of the population has a headache (at least occasionally) this topic should be of interest to most people. Dr. Ajay Yeddu, president of Desert Interventional Spine Consultants is double board certified in anesthesiology and pain management.

He will join me on Bold Living to share some facts about headaches and treatment options you may not be aware of, but are readily available.

First, some facts you may not know. The most common types of headaches are tension, cluster and migraine. With 25% of women and 8% of men getting migraines sometime in their lifetime, this impacts life on many levels. Relationships, parenting and careers are deeply affected by chronic sufferers. Business owners are also interested in seeking help for employees because of the absentee rates.

Other headache types include temporal arteiitis, trigeminal neuralgia, concussion/SAH/tumor, occipital neuralgia, TMJ /dental issues/vision problem and cervicogenic headaches. Big, scary words that have little meaning unless you’ve had a diagnoses and are being treated for one of them.

When you have terrible headache pain that disables you, the first stop is often a neurologist. These docs are skilled and knowledgeable about all-things-brain. Unfortunately some headaches aren’t truly brain issues. Cervical facet joints often play a major role in headaches and this is a structural problem in the neck. In this case you may need a variety of treatments that some neuro docs overlook.

Dr. Yeddu specializes in treatment of facet disease and occipital neuralgia. It is so important to sufferers I’ve spoken with that someone understands how devastating chronic headaches can be and to be given hope. Dr. Yeddu believes that most headaches…even those elusive, persistent ones…can be treated effectively. Don’t give up!

*Share your comments or headache experiences below to give or receive encouragement. You are absolutely not alone!