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FAILING FORWARD


I love when a client comes into my office with an issue regarding failure because it is so freeing when they understand that every single area in which they have fallen short, is actually a step that is moving them closer to their goal! It’s all about perspective!

If you’re in sales, you know that it takes a certain number of “no’s” in order to get to that “yes” and close a sale. Those yes and no measurements are called the METRICS of sales. Everything in life has metrics. Whether it’s dating, interviewing for jobs or setting a goal of any kind. Whatever you can think of, it will seldom be accomplished, without failure and all success has its own set of metrics.

If you look around and see all of the useful things in our world, all of the inventions from ink pens to automobiles, none of them came into existence the first time the inventor attempted their idea. They failed many times! For REAL GO GETTER’S, FAILURE IS JUST PHASE ONE!

The real question you have to ask yourself is are you a go-getter or a quick-quitter?

If you feel defeated by failure, you’re missing the whole point of this process! Sit back, dust yourself off and analyze what just happened through your failure. What can you learn from it? How can you adapt your effort and try again? If you can learn from your experience and try again you are not failing, you’re GROWING!

THE ONLY TRUE FAILURE IN LIFE IS WHEN YOU’RE TOO AFRAID TO TRY, OR YOU GIVE UP AFTER YOUR ATTEMPT DOESN’T YIELD THE RESULT YOU HOPED FOR AND YOU QUIT!

Failure is only an experience to teach how NOT to do what you were attempting to do. It’s a lesson and if you will learn and grow from it, you will FAIL FORWARD and that my friends, means you grew and therefore you moved ahead.

By definition, failure means a lack of success, however; growth by definition means development! If you developed, then how can you call that a failure? Learn from your experience and keep growing! You’ll only fail when you give up!

Welcome

Welcome to the new format of my blog! “The Other End of the Couch” is my new format and is going to be filled with my own perspectives, articles, thoughts and views from my side of a VERY busy coaching practice! I am blessed to have coached thousands of clients over the years and hundreds of clients each year. I coach couples, individuals, adolescents, professionals, other coaches and counselors, all from various walks of life, in various stages of life and in varying stages of growth! I’ve had the joy of experiencing life with countless people as they seek to enrich their experience and strive toward becoming their best with me as their “wing-coach” through the journey!

On this site, I will share my own experiences of pain, loss and growth. I will also share about some of the many amazing people who have inspired me along the way; some who know it and many who don’t. I hope you too will be inspired as I share some of my own ah-ha moments and time tested techniques that I’ve discovered as I’ve partnered with my clients over almost 20 years. I don’t think I am so special as to have self-titled site and I pray that this blog isn’t viewed as my perception of great self-importance. I do however, hope that my journey will in some way inspire someone to believe that all of our experiences, even the most difficult ones, are meaningful and filled with purpose as I open the chapters of my life and share…….from the other end of the couch!

Champions

There is perhaps nowhere in the Country where football is a bigger deal than in Texas. We love our Pro teams, we love our College teams and we especially love our High School teams. The spirit of those Friday night lights is something that movies are made of, songs are written about and from which life time memories are formed.

Our son Thomas is 17, a junior and a Varsity football player in a Private Christian School in Dallas. I thought our excitement had peaked when Thomas played in the new Cowboy Stadium this year, but we now know there are even higher achievements. His team is headed to the State Championship this week and I can tell you that there has perhaps never been a more exciting time in our house! Thomas is tired from all the hard work but he is driven like never before. The only person who might be more excited than Thomas is my husband John. The night before the game each week, John has everything laid out for Thomas, he has our cooler packed, stadium seats loaded, camera charged and the anticipation of game day makes it hard for him to sleep. These are days that Thomas will never forget, and neither will we. We gleam each time Thomas comes on the field. We have a camera that looks like we’re with the National media and hundreds of photos from the season that would leave one to think he were a Super Bowl contender. Game after game, I sit fire off shot after shot on my camera while John watches each play with precision that I don’t pretend to understand. (I am awed at how dad’s can see so many boys running in so many directions at the same time, yet they all high five each other and know exactly who’s boy did what after each play. It’s perplexing for women.)

Ok, so all bragging aside….. When was the last time you felt like a champion? When was the last time you inspired someone, or helped someone else reach a goal? Have you ever been someone’s hero? I’ve reflected on my husband and son and have been truly inspired by their “sync” and enthusiasm. Watching this team of boys has reminded me how in my own mundane moments of life, I fail those people I should be inspiring. It’s not that hard to inspire the people we live with but what about others around us? I believe we were put on this earth to be our best, and in doing so, inspire someone else see the possibilities they too have. It’s an amazing time of year to remember this lesson and I’m proud of Thomas for being our Champion and it is my hope that just a drop of my enthusiasm will be paid forward to motivate you.

My wish for you as we launch a season of giving is that you will become an inspiration. That you will lift someone else up who needs help or encouragement. Give something of yourself away. Not just things or money, but yourself. Be an inspiration! Be a Champion!

Good luck this week “T”. Dad and I love you tremendously and we’re SO proud of you!

Getting on track

So my old faithful readers, I’ve been on a very long hiatus from blogging. I hope some of you are still out there!

Today is a slow start to a new commitment to start posting again. Life has been eventful in these past few months of silence. John and I are doing well and enjoying all the drama of having a teenager in the house. All four of our kids are thriving. The oldest, Kelsey, loves her life with her husband, cats and teaching career. Clint is now a 1st degree black belt and is a martial arts instructor. Thomas is living with us and loves his school and friends. His GPA is higher than mine ever was! He’s a brain! Lawson is doing great and excited to finally be an official teenager!

My business is going strong and I am inspired by my clients daily! In fact, I am considering expanding my business next year and have those plans in the works as we speak.

This year, is the first time in many years that I am already excited about the holidays. I’ve already begun my planning and shopping. I’m working on decor, recipes and I’m feeling like Martha Stewart. I’m sure I am not alone when I say that my life is going by so fast. Sometimes in fact, it feels so fast that I fail to see the things that I love so much right in front of me. During this fall season, I’ve set a goal to experience my life. I want to soak it in and savour it and see each wonderful moment.

I am changing the format of my blog a bit to share those moments. I hope my attempt to breathe in my life, will inspire others to do the same. In these past months, John and I have enjoyed watching high school football and are hoping for a Championship season for Thomas. We’ve also LOVED the arrival this year of our puppies, Dooley and Bella. I’ve taken up photography and am hoping to become reasonably proficient at using the amazing camera my husband got me. I will share photos when I post.

I am blessed. I love, adore and respect my husband more each day. Our life is filled with struggles and challenges but we have more blessings on any given day than trials! I am excited to travel this week with my daughter to New York and will share that in the coming days! Love to you all!

From “my island” to “The Road”

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Many years ago, before I experienced the Road Adventure Seminar, I had come to a place in my life, that had caused me to question my relationship with God.  I determined that I was better off out in the world on my own, rather than trusting in a God that I felt never showed up when I needed Him.

In complete hurt, disappointment and anger, I walked outside one night, looked up into the sky and said Goodbye to God.  I told him that, while I believed in Him, I just didn’t want to be in a relationship with Him anymore and that I would never call on Him again.

I describe my life at that time as being on an Island.  I’d recently gone through all the legal drama with my dad and his trial.  (see my story on “Mental Illness” and “My Brother Paul”)  I’d lived several years without my brother, but still hadn’t fully processed my grief so life for me felt very lonely and isolated.  Part of my personal makeup, is that I tend emotionally, to be very self contained.  Even my closest friends had little idea of the pain I was feeling at that time.  I’m not sure how I became so guarded with my feelings or why I have always been so reluctant to share my pain when I’m hurting but it is a trait I struggle with even now.

During that time, my friends and acquaintances came and went who needed my help, which I freely gave, but I never felt like there was anyone for me to lean on.  The few times I tried to reach out, I got hurt.  My way of coping, when a person asked how I was doing was, to be light hearted about it rather than dealing with my feelings. So, I stayed on my Island.  OH, and I blamed God for it.

I went along for a few weeks until a friend of mine encouraged me to go to The Road Adventure.  This program is much like the Boot Camp and was run by the same people.  I’d been asked to attend more than once by several friends but never made the time.  I decided that, so long as it wasn’t religious, I would attend and maybe get some tools for a positive way to live my new life without God.  I smile now as I write this because I sound like such a drama queen, but at the time, I was determined that God had let me down once too often and I was done with Him.

Then, I went through The Road Adventure. My life changed so dramatically that it is hard to explain. I was able to forgive God for “my perception” that he hadn’t been there for me.  I was able to truly forgive my brother, though I had done it several times before.  I forgave my dad, I forgave everyone!  I’ve never been the same.

During the seminar, there is a process where you write the new definition of YOU.  They’re called Contracts…….and I was stuck.  The Directors explained the benefits of forgiveness and that if we perceived hurt, then our story, whether real or merely perceived was our reality.  One of the things they explained was that forgiveness did not require a restored relationship with someone.  For example, I could forgive my ex, but not reconcile the relationship.  I was frustrated because while I knew I needed to forgive the abandonment that I “perceived” from God, I did not want to return to a relationship with him. But I couldn’t figure out how to define myself without God.

Jim Carroll stood across from me and role played God. I challenged him as to why forgiving God wasn’t enough?  Why did I have to reconcile the relationship when I already felt so much better by just forgiving Him?  God, (Jim) explained how He loved me and how He wouldn’t take away my free will by forcing His way into my life. Jim explained that because of the free will I had, the next step to take was mine and not His (God’s). You can’t imagine the fear in my entire body when He stood there with his arms out and asked me to trust, just one more time.  I knew in my heart I’d never really be where I needed or wanted to be in my life if I didn’t let God back in.  When I finally took that step, my heart broke, my fear dissolved and I again, I knew that God love me and that I needed Him.

I don’t pretend to claim that I understand God and His ways.  In fact, I’ve let Him know many times that I was outraged at an outcome that I didn’t think happened as it should have.  But as time goes by, I see his plan play out and I know he truly is working all things together for my good.  I know He must sit in Heaven wondering why He gave me so much stubbornness and independence; I wonder it myself sometimes.  Why is it so hard for me to trust?  Why is it so hard for me to let people get really close to me?

So began my journey off the Island.  The picture above should explain how it went for a while.  I’d take trips off the Island from time to time, but home and safety still meant isolation for me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a very social person and my calendar is always full, but emotionally, it has always been a battle to let people in. It is something I struggle with still. When I hurt, I swim against the current, until I’m exhausted, to get back out to my Island where I feel safe.   Some of my efforts to be “open” to others include things like directing seminars, sharing my life stories with others and even in writing this blog.

If you’re like me and you shut down or shut others out, I can tell you that you will only find the answers to life when you’re willing to be open!  Openness has been my theme since those days some 10 years ago.  Sometimes I forget and start swimming but I have learned that I won’t grow, if I’m on my Island.  Life is a risk.  Living sometimes means getting hurt.  So what?  Being alive and getting hurt can’t be any worse than living in emotional isolation with a full calendar.

So will you open your life up to others?   I always say that the dumb thing about putting up walls is that they don’t keep us from getting hurt they just make us hurt alone! If you have walls up, you know that you’re hurting anyway.

Take it from an A-number-1 Island girl…………get out there and live!  When you get hurt……GROW!

Do you choose your feelings?

Here’s a question that creates a lot of different reactions!  Are feelings a choice?  Think about the last time you were really angry.  How did you behave? Did you pout? Did you throw something? Did you punish the person you were upset with by ignoring them? What do you do with your feelings? This isn’t only about anger but about all normal human feelings.

After years of debate, I have come to the conclusion that we do NOT choose our feelings.  What we choose is our reaction to our feelings.  If I’m angry because someone takes something that belongs to me, I don’t have to choose anger, it just comes.  If someone I love moves away; I may feel lonely without them whether I want to or not. I will miss them and I can’t control that. How I express my feelings is another matter. I not only CAN choose how I respond, but should do so slowly and carefully.

I used to tell my kids and even my employees to imagine that they have a file drawer full of cards that were filed by FEELINGS.  If you flip to the section on Anger, you will find many cards to choose from. On the front of each card is a possible reaction to the feeling of Anger while the back of the card contained the consequence for the reaction. Imagine that you pull out a few cards to read and on them, you find some of these choices:

  • Find the person who hurt me and settle it myself.
  • Get revenge.
  • Tell everyone how I was wronged.
  • Let it go.
  • Take it out on my family.
  • Blame someone else.
  • Ignore it.

If those were real choices, which would you say you might take if you were angry? Now imagine taking those possible reactions. What do you think the consequence might be for them? Let’s assume someone steals something from you and decide to get revenge. What bad consequences might you face? You can apply the same principle to all “feelings”. You aren’t a victim of your feelings unless you make a choice to be. Sadly, many people go through life reacting to their emotions without stopping to think of the consequences.

It’s not always easy to choose correctly when we’re overwhelmed with feelings, but we do in fact have the ability to choose our reaction if only we slow down long enough to process the options.  Can you imagine what would happen to the crime statistics if people would learn to CHOOSE their reaction to their feelings rather than letting feelings dictate their actions?   Road rage, child abuse and murders might all be a thing of the past if only we could pause and choose our reactions.

Here are some examples you might have heard about.

When Amber Hagerman was murdered, there is no doubt her family grieved and experienced anger. In the course of their outrage, they channeled their energy into making sure no other parent suffered the same loss. They became activists and created what we now know as “The Amber Alert”.

John Walsh became involved in fighting crime after his 6-year-old son, Adam, was murdered in 1981. He created the concept for a show that has been on television now for more than 15 years and has aided law enforcement in capturing thousands of criminals nationwide. It’s called “America’s Most Wanted”.

Here is another story and I will let you draw the conclusion on this one; the Goldman Family waited for years to get satisfaction against OJ Simpson for the murder of their beloved Ron. Perhaps you recently saw them on television when he was arrested and tried. In contrast to the example of the Walsh’ and Hagerman’s, how do you think the Goldman’s did in converting their anger into something positive?

So what about you? Do you slow down long enough to think about your reactions or do you blow up when things don’t work out like you want?  When you feel sad, do you shut down? When you’re fearful, do you avoid things? Are you reactive or are you someone who “thinks” about your actions. Would you like having yourself as a spouse? A Parent? A boss? Do your reactions sometimes violate your own values? If you can control your reactions in certain settings and with certain people, you can control them all. It is a choice. If you are a walking breathing knee-jerk reaction always blowing up, shutting down or acting out, then you are emotionally immature and you can’t change it until you acknowledge it. There is no easy answer and you won’t always get it right, but if you begin to pay attention to how you react to your feelings, you can change your life and your relationships. Be quick to forgive, and slow to blow up. Take a breath, open the file cabinet in your mind and make an educated and calm choice about your reaction to your feelings. Drama queens and kings may like the attention they get by having volatile reactions but if you’re looking for a way to make your life drama-free, give it a try!

A tribute.

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John (Sam) Hamman – Rodeoing in his younger days! A proud moment as he rode to the end!

I’ve had so many calls and emails from you all wishing us well and praying for us. As many of you know, John’s father, after a courageous fight to recover from two surgeries, finally passed away on February 1. Needless to say, my articles came to a halt around New Years because we stayed at his side and writing was just not possible from the hospital. He went in for a simple, voluntary surgery but unfortunately suffered a mild heart attack that resulted in a quadruple bypass and ultimately pneumonia.

I mentioned in my last entry that I would write next about setting goals in the New Year but now I look at the calendar and realize we are half way through Q1 of 2009! Hopefully, most of you are well into your goals for the year. I’m a firm believer in setting out to improve myself and I don’t do resolutions, because they don’t work. Instead, I have found that by setting annual goals, I can focus on positive changes in my life. When I don’t plan to grow, I usually don’t. So, rather than talk about setting goals, I want to share some things I’ve learned in the past two months because I feel they are going to help me reach my goals. Perhaps they will help you too.

My father in law’s name was also John but the family calls him Sam. Because I adored Sam, it’s easy to look back at all the things he meant to me, but I learned some things from him that have really reinforced who I want to be and what I want my life to be about.

He demonstrated:

  1. Purpose – Living life to the fullest. The first thing I learned from Sam came when he wanted to have a knee replacement. He was having pain in his leg and it was limiting his activity. My father in law was very active in Texas Baptist Men which is a huge National organization that aids the victims of crisis’ like hurricanes, tornadoes or floods. He LOVED servingothers. He was not only willing but eager to undergo surgery so that he could serve more.
  2. Charity – Is more than throwing old clothes in the donation bin. I learned what it means to believe that even the smallest, weakest or poorest members of our society deserve the same as the strongest. In fact, the strongest have a responsibility to help others. My father in law LOVED helping people who wanted to help themselves and who needed a hand from someone who cared. He gave of his time, talents and money to be sure they got that hand.
  3. Humility – Always being surprised at what God can do with our inadequate selves. My father in law was the most humble man I know. He was always somehow surprised that he could make a difference. He was humbled at how God would use him simply because he was willing to be used. He was a quiet man who had to work HARD at stepping outside his own insecurities so that he could do something awesome! But he did.
  4. Tenacity – Never making excuses and never quitting when times are tough. When my father in law began having compounded medical problems, he never quit fighting. Over the two months that he was hospitalized, he would tell us he had to get home because he had another trip planned to some area of the country that needed help. He was adamant that God wasn’t done with him yet. He fought every step of the way and never once had a “poor me” attitude. He was funny, playful and though I have no doubt that he was scared at times, he was confident that he would fully recover.
  5. Selflessness – Putting aside my own problems. In 2005, my mother in law passed away. My father in law missed her so much that I know there were days he struggled to motivate himself to do anything! But he did! He seemed to understand that life brought struggles so that we would have to overcome. As human’s we only grow when we have to overcome something that pushes us to our limits. Whether he was sad, lonely, sick or in pain, he pushed himself to get up and keep giving.

John and I have talked about what a JOY it has been to serve dad and to be at his side for this long 2 months. Interestingly, we didn’t love it in the moment, we wanted him to recover and come home. We wanted to get life back to normal. We wanted to sleep at home in our own bed and we wanted him there recovering under our roof. We hated that he was sick and we felt powerless to help some days.

Which brings me to the last lesson I learned from Sam………It is this. Only when the storm passed could we look back and see what a gift we were given these past weeks. We had a chance to love Dad, talk to him and have every conversation we’d ever put off. He left this world with no regrets. It’s hard to see God’s purpose when the storm is raging, but if we will persevere, the rainbow on the other side is beautiful. He had an amazing attitude about life and though he had problems and struggles, as we all do,
he had learned to take action regardless of what he “felt” at the time. Though I miss him terribly I will not forget the lessons that I learned or the gift I received in serving him these past few weeks.

When your goals seem too difficult, when you want to quit or give up, I hope you’ll look back at these lessons from Sam. I hope you will learn to take action regardless of what you’re feeling and I hope you won’t give up when it seems that the storms are just too hard to face.

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.

Life Without Spam is Just Unrealistic

When I was a kid, my dad on occasion, would fix dinner for my brother and I. One of his favorites, aside from canned tamales and chilli, was Spam. Regardless of what he prepared, we cried and begged our mom to protect us from his culinary disasters. Not only were these three ingredients my dad’s favorites, but he loved finding new ways to combine them to stretch the servings. Thankfully, we had a DOG!

Today, the word spam has a whole new meaning. No doubt, the first thought that will come to mind is the spam you fight each day in your inbox. We all love email and we love our computers, but I don’t know a single person who enjoys the unexpected doses of spam that we are forced to consume. On this very website, I get spammed daily! Not just in emails, I get spammed in the “comment” section of this site that thankfully, I control. Each day, I get invitations to buy drugs, improve my virility and join causes. Who actually purchases this stuff?  I even get invitations to view other sites that contain nude photos of everyone from grandmas to school girls.  ……anyway, I take my time each day, to sort through the rubbish so that I can find the meaningful comments of my readers to actually publish. No matter how I try to block it, delete it or ignore it, it just keeps coming.

So let’s define spam. In my world, spam is more than just what happens on my computer screen, it is any unwanted and/or unexpected intrusion into my day. Life is full of spam.

Every single day, each one of us gets spam that takes us off track from the meaningful and productive parts of our day. We are defenseless to try to avoid it because it is just a part of life. My spam today has consisted of sorting through emails, dealing with a clients with unexpected needs, finding a lost file, schedule changes, kids needs, air conditioner maintenance at my office, changing the ink in my printer in the middle of a print job and a walk in solicitor………………its only noon! Even though many of these things are important, the timing of when they occurred was interrupting to my daily flow and routine. They happen without my input but they drain MY time.

This article is not intended to make you feel bad nor a serve as a place for me to vent my frustration but rather it is a place for me to see if I can solve the problem. Since I can’t stop or control the spam of life, I must embrace it. When I look back over my days to evaluate how I let spam impact my life, I find that I accomplish the things that are most important to me and I allow the spam to keep me from the things that I’d really rather not do anyway. Things like exercising or calling the bug man (to get the carpenter ants out of the wall in my bathroom so I can stop wiping away sawdust) or cleaning out my closet. I don’t enjoy those tasks so if I’m honest, I have to admit that I allow the spam monster to help me avoid them.

Last week, I finally cleaned my closet. Now to you, that may seem like no big deal. But I have allowed the spam monster to keep me from doing that task for 17 months! It was a mess! I had clothes that hadn’t been worn since shoulder pads were in style and I found things on shelves or in cubbies that I forgot I had. I couldn’t even see them much less use them. It took a trip to the Container Store and the better part of a day, but finally, I made the task a priority and no spam in the world interfered until I got the job done!

Now don’t get me wrong, there are lots of things that spam keeps me from that I really want and need to do but more often than not, if I look closely, I tend to put off the same things over and over when my time is zapped with distractions. The solution for me is to turn off my phone, walk away from my email and make a LIST! My husband is a PRO list maker. He is so efficient at his list making that he very seldom drops a ball. He became a list maker because of the spam in his life. He has so many hats to wear, that he’s learned to compensate by carefully tracking tasks each day. Of course, today’s spam is on tomorrow’s list, but if we are to learn to juggle all the balls that we all juggle these days, there is no way around it……..we must get organized, prioritize and make a list!

Ask yourself how many times a day you get spammed? Do you have a metaphorical “closet” in your life like mine? Do you carry around a dinosaur-sized task that you just dread and keep putting off? Do you often feel you started the day out with an agenda and never got it completed?

Start today………write them all down. Figure out the tasks that reoccur and start on your list! Don’t feel alone! We all struggle with this problem of spam! My list of daunting tasks range from working out, printing and reviewing my free credit report, writing articles for this site and cleaning my closet! Dealing with these tasks is never fun, but on the other side (speaking as a woman with a magnificently clean closet) it feels great! Today I can tell you that my gym bag is packed and in my car (a step closer to the gym than yesterday), my reports are printed, I’m about to publish this article and the bug guy comes on Saturday! I will not be ruled by SPAM! For now, I am reformed!

Will you join me?

Send me some of your great suggestions by clicking “comment” and I promise to sort through my spam file to publish them! Promise!