Are You for Real?

After reading The Velveteen Rabbit the other day, I started to think about what it means to be Real. The story describes Real as a coveted state of being, something all playthings wanted to become. Somehow the rabbit knew that to be Real was much preferred over being fake. He knew that with Real, came something special, but he didn’t know exactly what that something special was. He had heard about being Real from the Skin Horse and some of the other toys, but he didn’t know how to get there himself. The book tells the story about his journey to Real. Not the “Real” someone else wanted him to be, but his Real. Read more

2016 Word of the Year

What’s in a word?

Most people tend to agree that words are powerful. Words have the power to create or destroy; bless or curse. If it’s true that words are so powerful, it makes sense to harness that power in a positive way and use them to illuminate our path and influence our outlook. That’s the idea behind my previous blog post, “Finding Your 2016 Motto in Five Easy Steps”.  Read more

Finding Your 2016 Motto in 5 Easy Steps

I love January!

Like a brand new journal, January represents a fresh start or a clean slate. It’s a great time to reflect on what’s going well, what needs work, and to make changes if necessary.

One way to give our New Year a jump start is to choose a word that can help define or refine our direction. This word will be the theme, or motto, for the coming year.

You might already do this, but maybe you don’t! If not, I invite you to consider giving it a try! You might be surprised at how transformational adopting a word can be! Claiming a meaningful word as your motto can change the trajectory of your whole year.

Following are 5 steps to help you identify, claim and live your annual motto.

Step one:

Pray – The place we always begin – we go to God, we ask him for clarity and direction in choosing our word. Keep this intention a part of your prayer for a few days before moving on to the next step. Journal any lights or inspirations during this time.

Step two:

Write – With journal and pen in hand, begin writing words that come to your mind. Think of words that inspire you, words that attract your attention, and words that challenge you. Whatever comes to your mind during this step, write it down.

Step three:

Categorize – Using the words or phrases from the last step, look for common themes and sort them accordingly. The theme with the most words wins!

Step four:

Research – Using the winning theme from the previous exercise, look up synonyms for the words and, or theme. As you write these down you will see a pattern emerge. The pattern will point you to your word.

It’s possible that you won’t need all of these steps to identify your motto. God knows the word He wants for you, the one that will inspire you, challenge you, and help you stay the course. He may make your word clear as day during the first step of prayer, but then again, maybe not. Since these steps can be enlightening, and help us “buy into” our word, going through all five will be beneficial either way.

Some years my word is super obvious, some years I have to go through all the steps and then some! Other years, I just take the information gleaned from the method I described above, and simply make a choice based on what I think would bring the most personal and spiritual growth. I love the process of unlocking the deeper meaning of words, so I go through all the steps regardless of when my word shows up.

This year, two words showed up very quickly, and with equal clarity; POSITIVE and INTENTIONAL. The more I worked with them though, the more I discovered that being intentional is an important ingredient for maintaining a positive outlook. So, the word POSITIVE, is my motto for the year!

Step five:

Internalize – The final step in this process will help us internalize the motto; creating an acronym. Using your word as the foundation, create an acronym including words that further describe how you plan to live out your motto. As we create our acronym, we need to remember to include the means and attitudes that can help us nurture and grow our theme in all aspects of our lives; spiritual, personal, and professional.

Here is the acronym I came up with this year.

Prayer

Optimism

Silver lining

Insulate

Transparent

Intentional

Enthusiasm

Going through these five steps will help you choose a word as your motto for the year. It can help you define, or refine your direction, and act as a compass when you lose your way. Taking the time to discover your word or motto for this year might be just the element of change you’ve been looking for!

Watch for my next blog post as I unpack the ingredients of this P*O*S*I*T*I*V*E acronym and explore some of the important attitudes that help promote a positive outlook

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The Struggle is Part of Your Story

We all have a story. Your life is your story. If you are reading this, you are still living your story.

Just like any story, ours has a beginning, a middle and an end. That’s not enough though! To say only that a story has a beginning, middle and end, leaves us with a mediocre story. To write a story that is more than mediocre, we need to have all the right ingredients. An intriguing plot, an interesting setting, a dynamic protagonist, and a detestable antagonist are just a few of the essential ingredients necessary for creating a story that is better than good.

God has taken care of the plot and the setting for our story, hasn’t He? Just look back over your life to see what I mean!  And what of the protagonist? Well I must say, we are pretty dynamic aren’t we? And we make fabulous protagonists! As much as we might wish there was no antagonist at all, I will be willing to bet that we all have at least one detestable antagonist in our story. These components, plot, setting, protagonist, and antagonist, are important for any good story, including our own. However, to create more than just a good story, requires one more powerhouse ingredient. Conflict.

Conflict. It seems the most excellent stories have the most intense and dramatic conflict. From books to movies, or legends to historical accounts, the most captivating stories include a healthy dose of conflict. Out of all the stories told though, think of the ones that captured your attention and left a lasting impression. They are the life stories of real people aren’t they? Stories of how a real person has endured and managed their struggle well. It doesn’t matter if we know them personally or not. There is something in those stories that draws us in. Perhaps it’s the fact that we can relate in some way or another? Perhaps we need to see those triumphant successes to give us courage to conquer the conflict in our own story? Whatever it is, we love those stories; they encourages us to persevere in our own.

The conflict in our story is present in our own personal struggles. Struggles can include trials, tribulations, and temptations. It can be with a person or it can be the circumstances we are faced with. It can be the loss of a loved one, or financial ruin. Whatever the struggle it becomes part of our personal story. The conflict can be emotional, and even uncomfortable at times. We may spend a great deal of time and energy avoiding the pain caused by our struggle. Don’t! Instead of avoiding the conflict, lean into it. Remember, it’s the conflict, which makes for an excellent story. Don’t avoid the discomfort caused by the struggle, because it’s that very conflict that gives us, the protagonist, a chance to find out and prove what we are made of!

It’s through our struggles, and our conflicts, our sorrows, and our disappointments that we are tried, and tested; sometimes to our breaking point. Throughout the struggle we learn, and grow. Along the way, we have the opportunity to respond positively or negatively. We have the opportunity to learn and practice virtue, or resist and fall into sin.   When we patiently, and prayerfully endure the conflict in our story we become who God needs us to be. We have the opportunity to create a story that will inspire others and encourage them to persevere in their own story.

The most excellent stories we hear are the ones involving real people living through real struggles, demonstrating heroic virtue along the way. The real struggles in your real life are part of your real story – make it an excellent one.

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The Fourth Week of Advent – This is When We Pause, Ponder, Prepare

It’s hard to believe, but here we are! The fourth week of Advent! In just a few days we will be celebrating the birth of our savior!

If you are like me, you might be thinking that Advent has gone by way too quickly! You are probably looking back and wondering where the time went, and wishing you had a few more days!

Maybe you feel your Advent didn’t go as you had hoped. Maybe you wished you would have spent more time on your spiritual growth, or more time creating memories with your loved ones.  Let’s face it, even if we started with a well thought out, organized plan for our Advent,  with all the hustle and bustle during this time of year, it’s super easy to lose sight of what it was!

The good news, it’s not too late!  We can use these last few days to, “go away to a quiet place”, and reflect on Christ’s coming into our lives;  as our infant Savior,  at the end of time, and also how He comes into our lives each day. This fourth week of Advent is the perfect time to pause and reconnect with your hopes and desires for this Advent season.

I like to think of the fourth week as our Advent intermission. Not that we will step out of Advent at all, on the contrary, we will step back and take a breather from the world; entering more fully into the Advent experience. The fourth week of Advent is like an intermission, strategically inserted into an exciting theatrical production.

During the play, we get so caught up in the experience that we barely notice the time passing, sometimes we are even surprised to find that when  intermission arrives, we have been perched intently on the edge of our seat! The pause in the production is a welcome break. We look at it as an opportunity to stand up, stretch and refocus. We take advantage of the lull in the action, to reconnect with our companions, and talk about what we have just experienced. In addition, a well timed intermission gives the audience an opportunity to reflect on the first part of the story, rest, and prepare for the conclusion of the production.

If we choose to take advantage of the opportunity, the fourth week of Advent offers us that same opportunity to pause, ponder, and prepare. We can use the intermission to reflect on our experiences so far; perhaps discuss our thoughts with loved ones, and make some adjustments if we need to. Pausing during the fourth week of Advent can help fuel our fire, and prepare us for the coming Christmas celebration, that can last for twelve days!

This week, let’s press pause on the demands of the world, bring it all in and breathe. Take the time to review the past three weeks. How did it go? Are there any unmet human or spiritual goals that you’d like to focus on this week?  If so, what are they and how will you accomplish them?

If a stranger came into our homes this week, would he know what we are preparing for?

By inserting an Advent intermission, we can pause, and reflect on where we have come from and how we can finish this Advent and Christmas season well.

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