What is growing?

It has been so dang hot that I haven’t gone out to work in my flower beds. The weeds are taking over! Before long, they will be strangling my perennials. As I’m looking at the forecast and contemplating when it may be a good time to do some weeding, I think I may need to do some weeding in my life, plucking out the things that are strangling my joy. I also need to be intentional about watering, nourishing, and pruning what I want to grow.

It is easy enough to let anger, jealousy, or hurt fester in my heart while dismissing how it is spreads and takes over my joy and contentment. These harmful feelings can hijack my satisfaction with life and can permeate every thought and decision. They will smother the good if I don’t take the time to work on my spiritual and emotional well-being. I need to eradicate the harmful thoughts and feelings by intentionally growing joy and finding the blessings in each situation. I will be more fruitful as I lean on God, who can weed and prune the garden of my heart.

It may get messy as I excavate old feelings, but as those are replaced by new growth, I will be healthier and stronger. Just remember that a beautiful garden takes time, patience, and effort. What weeds in your life need to be plucked right now? May joy overtake your heart just as the weeds are overtaking my flowers right now. Happy gardening, my friends!

“No one likes the process of pruning and the pain of loss, but fruit only grows on new wood.”–Leonard Sweet

How to Help Someone Become a Successful Writer, Musician, or Small Business Owner

exponent (n.) 

  1. A person or thing that is a representative, advocate, type, or symbol of something
  2. Someone who tries to persuade other people to support an idea, theory, plan, etc.

Synonyms: supporter, champion, proponent, promoter

If I tell 10 people how excellent a book, song, or small business is and those 10 people tell 10 people, then those 10 people tell 10 people (you get the idea), these people who are sharing this information are exponents. They are advocating for what they love while multiplying the visibility of the idea or commodity.

If you are a writer or business owner, exponents are the ones who support you and encourage others to support you, exponentially raising the awareness of your book or brand. We need to find our exponents! Besides having a well-done product, exponents are the primary way we will become beloved writers, musicians, or small business owners. Success in these areas is not an individual endeavor. People need proponents of their product or service. The world would not know about Harry Potter, Harry Styles, or even a favorite hair salon if the word didn’t get out.

Have you ever noticed that there is no advertising for books? We learn about them by word of mouth or through social media. If you are a writer who is lucky enough to have many presales, you can get on best sellers lists, but how do you get presales or any sales for that matter? People telling people. There aren’t commercials, billboards, or even Facebook ads about books being released. The cheapest and most effective method of success is through exponents’ word of mouth, posting on social media, and leaving reviews.

Please be exponents for those you wish to support. Whether you know it or not, you are part of the marketing team for what you love. Doesn’t it feel good to know that you are part of someone’s success story? It is because of you! Don’t think it isn’t true! Don’t dumb down your role. Because if each of you didn’t do your part, success would not happen. Period. The end. Every exponent is necessary and important! Thank you to all of the exponents in my life and in the world. You are appreciated! 

To All the Grapes Who Don’t Hang with the Bunch

I have a quirk, well, I have many quirks, but I’m going to share one with you today. When I buy a bunch of grapes, if any have fallen off of the vine and ended up in the bottom of the bag, I will not eat them. Why? I think those grapes can’t be as good as the rest, and there must be something wrong with them. But when I was thinking about that this week, I realized the grapes are a good metaphor for how we treat people.

We think that people who don’t follow the crowd or hang with the majority are odd or bizarre. Sometimes they get our side-eye as we walk by. Perhaps we think we wouldn’t have anything in common. Maybe we believe their non-conformity is a defect. Are we willing to open our minds and learn from all around us? Don’t brush misfits off immediately in our minds. Haven’t we learned from Rudolph that we are all misfits? Get to know people who aren’t like you. There are similarities under the apparent differences. Have meaningful and deep conversations with those who don’t look or act like you. What can we learn from each other? The world is a more beautiful place with various cultures and personalities.

To all of the grapes who don’t hang with the bunch,

I see you.

I’ve too quickly discarded you,

Disregarded you.

Thought you weren’t good enough.

I was wrong.

Continue to be original,

Create your own path.

You are valued and good.

Sameness is blandness.

It’s extraordinary not to be ordinary.

There is strength in diversity,

Excitement in variety.

Be uniquely you.

You don’t need to hang with the bunch.

Best Dog in the World?

“I have the best dog in the world.” “He is perfect!” My family and I have said similar things in the three years we’ve had Winston. But I realize you’ve probably said the same statement about your fur babies. So who is right? I believe we are all right because I think that God has given us the pet that is perfect for our family. 

When my daughter was about four years old, she started asking for a dog. It took about nine years for her to convince her dad that we should get a puppy. That timing led us to Winston and we feel so fortunate to have him. He is so cute, cuddly, and sweet. We’ve asked, “how did we get so lucky to get the best one?” God blessed us. And he blesses us by giving us things that are perfect for us, not anyone else: our spouse, home, job, friends, church, pets, and so much more. 

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17 NIV)

“And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8 NIV)

“The Lord will send a blessing on your barns and on everything you put your hand to. The Lord your God will bless you in the land he is giving you.” (Deuteronomy 28:8 NIV)

Maybe your Great Dane is perfect for you and our Shih Tzu wouldn’t be what your family needs. God knows your heart and his will for your life and he will lead you to what will bless you and your family, whether that is with your dog or any other aspect of your life. God is abundant in his love and goodness. We feel so grateful to have Winston. He is the best dog in the world, at least for us.

Winston

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

My mother-in-law recently got a new neighbor. She left some goodies for the lady, welcoming her to the neighborhood. It was such a sweet gesture! It has been a long time since I’ve taken a basket of cookies to a new neighbor. From my observation, this is becoming less and less common, but perhaps that is just in my neighborhood.

Why have I stopped reaching out to new neighbors? Am I a recluse or anti-social? No, I worry that the person may have food allergies or be on a special diet. I don’t bring non-food items because I’m afraid they want to keep to themselves and don’t want to be bothered. Also, do I have time to pick up a little gift at the store or make something homemade? Is it worth the effort? Can’t I simply wave as I see them pull into their driveway and maybe say hello at the mailbox? Is being friendly to the new neighbor worth the effort?

A neighbor is more than just someone who lives next door who you may borrow a cup of sugar from or a teaspoon of cream of tartar (right, Cathy?!). It is nice to look out for one another for things such as letting your neighbor know not to let their dog out because there is a coyote nearby or that they left their garage door open. It is good to be friendly even if these people aren’t going to be your best friends but, who knows, they may become just that. I’ve be fortunate enough to experience this (Wendy and Cathy).

I’m sure we’ve all had a rotten neighbor or two, making us not want to connect with someone new. I’ve had some bad neighbors through the years. Ones that don’t take care of their space or play loud music at all hours can be annoying and difficult. I can’t let the bad neighbors I’ve had prevent me from being a good neighbor now.

The house next door to us is empty and I expect that someone will be moving in soon. I should reach out and be a good neighbor. If they aren’t receptive, that’s on them, not me.

A good neighbor is a blessing and a bad neighbor is a lesson in how much you appreciate good neighbors. So be a good neighbor. Reach out. Connect. We build a community we love by creating connections and relationships. To have a good neighbor, start the trend by being a good neighbor. Kindness is never wrong.

Why Do I Keep Messing Up?

In my mind, I keep a running reel of mistakes I’ve made over my lifetime. It is not something I’ve intentionally done, but when I make a new mistake and feel bad about it, I see a “movie” of past errors flash in my head. I know to learn from my mistakes and move on, but these images still appear. I try to not let my missteps define me; however, this reel keeps playing, reminding me of times I’ve messed up before.

Why do I have this reel and how do I determine which mistakes are rehashed in this manner? No idea. Some of the errors I replay are big, while others are minor. Not sure why some mistakes make my reel and others don’t. Maybe it has to do with who called me out or how I was called out on my mistake or how awful or embarrassed I felt at the time about the error. I relive my physical reaction when I think about how I messed up. You know how your body reacts when an error ensues: you get a lump in your throat or gut, you stiffen, your body temperature rises and perhaps your face gets red. It feels terrible!  

God still loves us and his goodness abounds even when we fail ourselves, our friends, family, job, or Him. We are not blessed because of who we are but because of who He is. Casting Crowns sings in Who Am I? “Who am I, that the Lord of all the earth/Would care to know my name/Would care to feel my hurt/Who am I, that the Bright and Morning Star/Would choose to light the way/For my ever wandering heart/Not because of who I am/But because of what You’ve done/Not because of what I’ve done/But because of who You are”.

I am human. I am not perfect, so I will continue to make mistakes (dang it!). I am grateful that God doesn’t keep a list of how I mess up.  Ephesians 2:8-10 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” So I will try to erase my reel and offer myself some grace for my mistakes just as God releases me from my wrongs. If you have a similar reel, give yourself the gift of grace this holiday season by learning from your mistakes and not looking back.

Be Kind?

When I first saw “Be Kind” printed on shirts, I was saddened and annoyed that we live in a world where we have to remind others to be kind. How pathetic! But perhaps this is the state of the world we live in?

But I realize I am unkind. To whom? Myself! I wouldn’t speak the way I talk to myself to anyone else so why do I say such harsh, and perhaps reckless, words in my mind? We need to give ourselves some grace and extend kindness, even when we mess up. I mess up plenty but don’t extend grace enough. We are quick to judge ourselves and long on remembering all our mistakes. We look in the mirror and find faults and imperfections but don’t always find all that is wonderful about ourselves, inside and out.

What we say to ourselves and how we view ourselves can be destructive or helpful. “I hate my body.” “I’m not smart enough (or strong enough, thin enough, or good enough).” ”Nobody could love me.” You are enough! You are perfectly perfect just as you are because God made you YOU. 

When we loathe ourselves and have negative self-talk, are we hating God since he made us in his image and called his creation “good”? If the God of all the universe knows ALL about you (he sees the unedited, unfiltered you) and LOVES you completely and unconditionally, you need to follow suit. Be kind to yourself in words and deeds. Practice saying nice words to yourself that you would say to others. God loves you, so you need to love yourself. Be kind.

Psalm 139:13-16 ESV 

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. 

Accident Caused Gratitude

As I said in a previous blog post, my 18-year-old son and I have been butting heads for a while and I was ready for him to head to college. When the countdown was on, we were eager for him to move out. 

You guys know I am emotional and cry at everything sad, happy, or anything in between, but I had no tears for this day. I was content and pleased that the time had arrived. If you had told me a year ago that I would feel this way, I would have said you were crazy. I wanted my teary moment. I wanted to mourn my little boy growing up so fast. I wanted to relive the memories of my blonde-haired, blue-eyed, snuggly, exploring little guy. Instead, I was totally ready for the day he was heading to college with no tears threatening to leak out.

Moving him into his dorm room was quick and easy. We walked around campus a bit, but then he came back home with us. I wanted him to stay, but since his friends weren’t leaving for college yet and his orientation did not start for a few days, we allowed him to come back home after getting his room set up.  

One evening during this time, my son went fishing with one of his friends. I didn’t know where he was or exactly when he would be home. Sitting on the couch scrolling through social media, I saw a post about a bad accident in town. The post mentioned that there was a boy involved, it didn’t look good, and they hoped that everyone would be okay. I got on my Life360 app to check my son’s location and it showed that he was at the exact intersection described in the post and had been there for 50 minutes. My heart dropped into my stomach. I felt sick. I told my husband and daughter that I thought my son had been in an accident. I quickly explained why I thought that. My husband immediately called my son and luckily, he answered right away and said he was okay. A friend of his was in the accident and my son was there helping him; and fortunately, his friend only had minor injuries. Cue the tears. I cried for my son. I cried for his friend. I cried for my son for being such a good friend.  

As much as I have needed space from my son, I obviously don’t want anything bad to happen to him. The accident gave me gratitude amid the angst we had been experiencing at home. I am so grateful for my boy, his safety, health, and friendships. I may not like his attitude or demeanor all the time, but this accident reminded me of how much I love him. So as I took him back to college, I still did not have tears, but I had a heart of gratitude for him being healthy, safe, and able to spread his wings with the new adventures that lie ahead.  

Time to Get Mad?

When my daughter is playing in a soccer game and an opponent shoves her, knocks her down, or says something antagonizing, it fires her up. She gets mad and more aggressive on the field, which makes her a better player. She could choose to back down, be intimidated by the competition, and cower on the field, but she doesn’t. Her mindset determines her play. If she walks onto the field facing a team that is ranked high in league standings and thinks we will lose or it is going to be ugly,  her defeatist attitude will be seen in her body language and timid play. But if her team is facing a team that has a less-than-stellar record and she walks into the game with confidence thinking, we will win or let’s go kick some butt, they will likely do just that.

The attitude and mental outlook walking onto the field, in soccer or life, will often determine the outcome. If my daughter and her teammates are aware of their strong competitor and walk into the game with grit and determination, they will play better and have a greater chance of winning. You will find unexpected strength when you rise in your attitude, courage, and faith despite the opposition you are facing. Perhaps sometimes you can be the strongest, bravest version of yourself when you are in the midst of a struggle.

 In trials you encounter, search for unexpected benefits and blessings that come your way so you don’t get stuck in the muck and mire of heartache. Who knows what you will face in your life journey. You may get knocked on your butt, physically or metaphorically, but dig down to find the determination, strength, and resilience to get back up. There is hope in possibility and gratification in overcoming. We are changed by adversity, but God’s goodness and grace will also transform us in those battles. Because of that:

You can be brave. 

You can be strong. 

You can overcome challenges.

Brave? Heck No!

Everyone has their own definition of brave. Recently we traveled to Sedona, Arizona and hiked to Devil’s Bridge. I have known for a while that I have a fear of falling to my death, but I learned on this excursion that I also fear watching my loved ones fall to their death. There was no way that I could walk out on that narrow natural “bridge” and I would have preferred my family not go out there either. Even though everyone says that the bridge is wider than it looks, I just couldn’t. It’s not that I didn’t have faith in God keeping me safe; I just know myself very well. I am extremely clumsy. Walking out onto a six-foot wide strip of rock with no rails and no earth below for hundreds of feet is a “heck no!” for me. When my husband and daughter were in line to walk out there so I could take their picture, I watched others sit close to the edge. I got nauseous. My legs were like jello and my heart was racing. I had to look away. When it was my family’s turn to go out to the bridge, I had tears streaming down my cheeks as I reluctantly took pictures of them.

Devil’s Bridge, Sedona, Arizona

The next day, we started down a hiking trail into the Grand Canyon. It is a narrow path, again with no railing so that the area’s natural beauty remains intact but my fear paralyzed me in my tracks. This, too, was not my kind of brave. I couldn’t do it. I got a little dizzy when I looked out and down—REALLY. FAR. DOWN!  I turned around and went back up to the top. 

This got me thinking, am I not brave enough? Do I not have enough faith that God will take care of me? The answer is “no” to both of those questions. We each have to know ourselves well with what we physically, emotionally, and mentally can and can’t do. I wouldn’t try to be an Olympic gymnast because I’m not flexible. I wouldn’t try to be a physicist because I’m not that smart. I know my capabilities. God didn’t give me those skills. 

It is brave for me to call myself a writer and to have just finished my first book. I’m sure some people would say that they couldn’t be that kind of brave. What is your kind of brave? What could you see yourself doing and what is a “heck no” for you? Traveling the world solo? Running a marathon? Performing in front of a group of people? Going back to college or starting a new career? Walking away from a toxic relationship? Starting your own business? Skydiving? 

It is good to do some things outside of your comfort zone, but I believe you have to know your God-given abilities and limits. I have zero regrets about not walking out on Devil’s Bridge and not doing the hike down into the Grand Canyon. I was perfectly content to take in the view from the safe rim of the canyon. Your brave and my brave are not the same thing. Be your own kind of brave and don’t hesitate to say no to what doesn’t work for you.