Archive for December 29, 2008

Integrity

Have you ever opened your heart, trusted someone and then felt the horrific sting of betrayal? Have you ever dropped a wall in hopes that the reason for the wall itself was somehow all wrong from the start? That’s the stuff dreams are made of after all. The hope of something we never thought would happen or perhaps had convinced ourselves wasn’t really possible. I’ve been there. I’ve had the hope that came with breaking down a wall while asking God to reinforce that I was right in doing so. I’ve pushed through fear and pain in order to trust again and I’ve felt the joy that came with being open and vulnerable. But I’ve also felt the sting associated with dropping defenses only to experience betrayal. It hurts when you step out on a limb and later wonder if you really just exposed yourself to someone who was unworthy of that gift in the first place.

I have a theory about walls? We build them to protect ourselves, when in fact, we get hurt anyway. Life happens whether we are open or hidden from the world. The difference in getting hurt with walls up, is that we suffer alone when we’re too guarded to let others in. We determine never to let ourselves be hurt again, but the truth is, that we continue to get hurt in the same way over and over until we learn what it is about ourselves that keeps us in the cycle. Have you allowed another person to rob you of your joy? Have you allowed someone else’s actions to stagnate your growth? Have you begun living your life fearful of trusting or taking a risk? Are you missing out on the greatest joy’s in life by being too cautious?

Being willing to be vulnerable and open is one side of the coin, but I want to flip that thought around now and take you from being the injured to the injurer. If you are the betrayer, rather than the betrayed, you need to look at yourself and your patterns. Do you find yourself hurting those you love over and over? Do you tend to repeat the same offenses and mistakes? Do you receive feedback from people about something negative they see in you only to reject it over and over? Do you listen to others? Do you trust God to change you or have you surrendered to your failures? Have you allowed your failures to define you?

If you have been given trust from another person, you need to know that it is a GIFT. Those who trust us find value in who we are and they take a risk to expose themselves to potential harm. Trust means they would rather risk having you in their life (potentially getting hurt), than not having you at all.

I’m writing this entry because the New Year is coming. A fresh start is just around the corner and it is never too late to make a change.Change is a decision, not a process. When you determine that you WILL accomplish a transformation in yourself, then you will succeed. You will not succeed until you make the decision! True change requires integrity. Integrity is doing what is right even when you don’t have to or even when no one is watching. You may fail on occasion but if you have integrity in your decision, then you will win even when minor setbacks occur.

A friend of mine recently included a definition of integrity on his blog. I loved it and have adopted it as my own it is:
Integrity – when our values control our emotions.
Put in simple terms, Integrity is living your life like it was a television show and God was in the audience.

If you don’t change aspects of yourself, when you know you should, then you lack integrity. Integrity requires that you be your best. Integrity seeks accountability. Integrity makes no excuses for failure. It does not whine or manipulate logic. Integrity insists upon self control. Integrity creates concern for how you treat others, mostly those who you love and who love you. Integrity always honors vows, commitments, promises and integrity gives value to your “word”. Integrity accepts nothing less than God would provide for you or expect of you. Do your values control your emotions? Do your values dictate your actions? Are you a stand up person or one who hurts others and yourself and then gets mad at “LIFE” (or God or others) for the outcome?

You may need to change some things like: health issues, diet, controlling temper, getting up on time, owning mistakes, demonstrating love to others, going to church or working hard at what your job . You may need to change more serious things like addictions, smoking, speeding, breaking the law, drugs, pornography or unfaithfulness to your spouse. Whatever the case, you must hold your success up to your own translation of Integrity and accept full responsibility for anything short of success. Success begins when you stop blaming your circumstances, and just “own” your actions. Life is hard and adversity will come, but integrity will always win out, if you possess it.

I LOVE New Years! It is my favorite holiday of the year because it always brings about a fresh start. I always have a feeling of turning a page and opening a new chapter. As you reflect this week on your life, what goals do you need to set? What changes do you need to make? If you can look back and see a lack of integrity running through your life and actions, then you must start there. You can puff your chest out and hold your head up and declare that you are a person of extreme integrity but your actions will speak the truth and you’re not fooling anyone but yourself. What are some things you need to change about your life so that you can become a person of integrity? It’s not a part-time deal. Integrity either is or isn’t. As you start looking at your goals for next year, start there!

The Unexpected

This year, my husband coordinated with his father to spend the month of December with us so that he could have long awaited knee replacement surgery. We worked through the late summer and fall to get everything ready so that we could have a quiet December and my Father-in-law could have his new bionic knee put in. Surgery went great and within 3 days, he was sent home to recoup. Things were going well so I went out of town to hang out with my cousin and girlfriends for the weekend. When I returned on Sunday, my father in law began to take a turn for the worst. John and I took him to the hospital and he was readmitted with other heart and health issues that had gone undiscovered. Those issues have now resulted in a quadruple bypass.

Just a few weeks before that, a dear friend of ours had a triple bypass. His surgery too went fine and he was up rehabbing and suddenly something went wrong……the next day and had to be resuscitated.  He is now working through the additional rehabilitation needed to overcome both the surgery and issues created by the cardiac arrest.  He is working hard and doing well but his family was shocked at how dangerously close they came to losing him.

The week prior to that, another friend and employee of ours experienced sudden death in her family as the result of a car accident.  It was a shocking time for her and left a young girl without a daddy right at the start of the holiday season.

I’m writing about something we’ve all experienced in our lives and that is, the UNEXPECTED.  Life is unpredictable and full of surprises.  The picture I chose for this article depicts perfectly how unpredictability works.  We’re sitting back, calmly taking life in.  We never know when something will happen that will throw us off balance but we know eventually something will.  Most of us would like to control our lives and have it roll according to OUR plan.  It sounds like a good idea, doesn’t it?  John and I are both planners but no matter how much we plan, schedule or organize our lives, there is no way to anticipate what life will bring us or when.  When John’s dad took a turn for the worst, we were reminded of just how out of (our) control life really is.

Why does it take the unexpected to keep us centered? Well, my thought is that it is God’s way of reminding us who is really has control. It’s easy for us to think we have life by the tail and are responsible for all that happens but the truth is, GOD’S plan is the only thing that matters and we are part of a cosmic order that He alone controls.

I recently watched the movie, “Bruce Almighty” and while it’s humor is intended to make us laugh, its message made me think. Bruce decided that he could run things better than God so God gave him power and control to do just that. Soon, his head was swimming with prayers from people all over the world. When he made it rain in one place, he created a flood in another. Saving one person from death might result in the death of a patient waiting for a chance to live with the heart from a donor. Every good thing he did had a negative effect somewhere else. When he tried to make his life perfect, somehow, his good fortune resulted in someone else’s suffering. Bruce soon found out, being God wasn’t so easy.

Life is all about overcoming hardship and finding a way to grow from it.  How could we do that without loss? How can we help others who suffer if we ourselves lived in a perfectly controlled world?  I wouldn’t be the woman I am today without both my victories and tragedies.  If it were left up to us, who of us, would ever subject ourselves, family or friends to suffering?  None of us would.  Our protection and perfection would actually rob us of knowing great joy that comes only through experiencing some pain.

As people, we recognize the joy of surprises which is why we try to surprise one another when we celebrate. Christmas gifts are wrapped to create a surprise.  Marriage proposals, birthday parties or even the gender of a baby are all often held in great secrecy so that the surprise can be enjoyed when the time is right.  We love surprises, but we dislike the unexpected.  When the unexpected comes in the form of pain, loss or tragedy, it can often create anger at God.  We want him to bring the blessings, but we feel wounded and injured when we experience loss.

John and I are making a conscience effort to breath in every moment we have together with our family this season. We are pushing through exhaustion to relish the slightest joys in each day. We are not concerned with the holiday parties we’ve missed or the gifts we haven’t had a chance to buy. We recognize the true meaning of this season because the unexpected took us off balance and forced us to look at what was really important to us. I’m writing this entry to encourage those of you who like myself, are sleeping in hospital chairs or those who have experienced tragic loss.  I’m writing to those of you who are living in the unexpected circumstances of life.  My prayer for you is that whatever your facing you will take the time to cherish the moments of this season.  I pray you will know as we do, that God doesn’t make mistakes, His will is not punishment and we are always His precious children.

I remind myself each morning that as much as I love my husband, my kids, my family and my Father-in-law, God loves them more.  The simple small things that we so easily overlook when life is spinning perfectly are the very things that shape and mold our lives. Step outside your own family bubble this season and touch the life of someone who is living in the “unexpected”.  The smallest gestures mean the most.