Category Archives: Personal Growth

cause I’m a person and I choose to grow

Stand, Ask, Deliver

A friend on Facebook shared this video of a guy who got to play piano with Billy Joel. In the video, I noticed some great stuff than any writer will appreciate. This student apparently loves Billy Joel songs, specifically New York State of Mind.

Maybe he plays them on public pianos whenever he goes somewhere.  He probably has accompanied many people, singers at his school perhaps.  He’s definitely practiced like crazy.  I know because we can’t just do stuff.  We all need practice.

Billy Joel came to his school, Vanderbilt University, and invited people to ask him questions. Michael Pollack’s friends all pointed toward him. As he speaks, you can hear the fear trembling through his vocal chords, but when Billy calls on him he stands up.

Michael then asks the question he’s probably thought about asking ever since he heard that Billy Joel would visit his school.  “I was wondering if I could play it (New York State of Mind) with you?”

What a gutsy guy! How many of us have wanted to ask something like this, but never even stood up to make the ask? We often psyche ourselves out before anyone could point the finger our way.

If you keep watching the video, you’ll see something else.  Billy Joel says, “Ok.”

That’s generous.  He has no idea what kind of skills this guy has. Most singers prefer accompanists who make them look good.

Then, Billy opens his book and lets Michael see his score. At this point, our jaws drop open.

Michael’s fingers tickle the tops of the keys adeptly, and Billy let’s him take the show.  While they don’t have the seasoned sound of people who tour together for months on end, Michael holds up his part of the song with strength and ease.

He was gutsy enough to stand and ask, but smart and thorough enough to have practiced well for this day.  Bravo Michael.  Thanks for the inspiration.

It’s time to get back to proofing my book.  I want to be ready to follow through when it’s my time to stand and make the ask.

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Connecting with people: lessons from the photoshoot

Photographer
Image via Wikipedia

I joined my friend Jessica Beebe from Remembrancer Photography for a photo shoot today.  We’re getting some photos ready for a new blog I’m developing.  (I’ll keep you in the loop as launch day arrives.)

I posed and pretended to be America’s Next Top Model.  We laughed and strutted down the hallway of our beautiful church building.  As she shot moment after moment, I learned some things about connecting with people.

1.  Lean in :

     It physically shows your interest.  You become engaging and open to the conversation or event before you. 

2.  Lean back:

     It physically shows a lack of interest, an aloofness, even a superiority.

This caused me to wonder if the same holds true in one-on-one conversations.  Sometimes, I sit back to listen to someone because I’m more comfortable.  Do I seem aloof or uninterested?  That’s not my wish.

With my children, I occasionally stand over them and dictate the days events.  Granted, as a parent a certain amount of superiority helps move things along, but if I want them to know I’m really interested in what they say and what they think, will the simple act of leaning in convey my inner thoughts?

This will require investigation. 

Have you noticed other types of body language cues that help you connect better with others?

My choice today:

Lean in to the conversations which really matter.

 

 

Do you fear going splat on the rocks of life?

by freedigitalphotos.net

Visualize this.

A fourteen year old girl goes hiking with her friends.  They explore parts of northern Arizona and discover a creek with a box canyon.  You know the type, where water gathers in various spaces to make swimming holes for adventurous teens.

Once they discover the canyon, kids begin crawling and jumping into its small 9 x 9 foot pool of water. For safety, one person does a test dive to decide its depth, easily 10 feet or more.

They begin jumping off an 8 foot cliff into the pool and shouting their enthusiasm.  Soon, this minor adrenaline moment doesn’t satisfy.  What next?

Eyes venture higher.  A twenty-foot cliff.  One by one the teens burst off the higher rock into the chilly pool below.  They invite others to join.  “Come on!” they say, “You can do it!”

Eventually the teens all venture up to higher ground.  But what about that one 14-year-old girl?

The whole time, she timidly explored her personal unknown.  She has no hiking experience.  She internally grins at her moments of bravery, no one knowing her challenge.

She wears contacts.  For this journey, she knew it would be unwise to wear them. However, insecurity required her to leave the glasses at home.  She can barely see. 

Everything dances before her in shapes and shadows.  She checks out the pool for herself, holding her breath and forcing her body down as far as possible, to find its depth.  She doesn’t touch bottom.  It’s deep.

After an hour of hearing the laughter and splashes, she slowly creeps to the low cliff, which is already higher than she’s ever jumped.  Blindly trusting friends and water, she leaps.  Yes!

It’s all she ever hoped for!  The thrill of the leap, the cool of the water, the enjoyment of her friends.  She contentedly remains at the lower cliff exalting in her moments of courage.  But then she hears the call.

“Come on!” they say, “You can do it!”

Are they crazy?  This has already been the biggest adventure of her life, why mess with that?  Why risk more?

Her friends tell her she’d feel bad if she left and never accomplished this goal.  She doubts them.

She cannot even see the cliff from which they’ve jumped.  Though it stands only a few feet from her current location, her cloudy eyes mask its location.  She hears the shouts and looks up knowing it’s much more than she’s ever done.  But she has no image to grasp.

Because of peer pressure and the clear enjoyment of  others, she decides to hike to the other side of the cliff, to move upward.  She’ll think about leaping.  Maybe.

She crosses the creek and climbs up the trail to the higher cliff site.  The air feels different.  The breeze pushes more.  She steps out to look over this daunting precipice.  Her heart thunders in her chest. She feel exposed and vulnerable.

She cannot see the pool.  To her eyes, it’s a giant, fuzzy, open space.  Her brain knows the water would catch her as it caught her friends, but her eyes don’t believe.  She shakes.

The teens encourage their fearful friend, they remind her of their success.  She remains frozen glaring into emptiness, dreaming of success but nailed to the ground with fear.  What if she’s the one who misses the pool?  What if she simply goes splat on the rocks?

When people speak of a leap of faith, they forget the reason we don’t easily leap.  They fail to remember our fear of going splat. Trusting in the unseen God of the Bible can feel like jumping off a cliff into the unknown, but He has proved Himself over and over, and like the water below, His depth is capable of catching us when we imagine our rocky doom.

What happened to that young teen?

After an hour of staring, imagining and fearing, she moved forward. Into the air blindly, she left the safety of the cliff. Less like a leap and more like a step, she found herself midair, falling.  As she flew through the air, still the fears grabbed at her heart, but the water caught her as smoothly as a catcher at home plate. She did it!

And so can you.

Whatever your leap is, whatever splat you fear, the Living Water wants to catch, comfort and refresh you.  May you know His comfort and care in the midst of your struggle.

“Guard my life, for I am faithful to you; save your servant who trusts in you. You are my God;” Psalm 86:2

I wrote a guest post on this topic in seven short sentences, click here to read for yourself. 

My choice today:

Jump into the arms of Jesus when fear attempts to capture my heart.

Related articles:

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Don’t simplify, ever

Greyhound Racing
Image by Mamboman1 via Flickr

Have you ever sat down with a friend for conversation and that friend just kept talking and talking and talking? Whenever they pause, you attempt to speak but discover your mistake, because they quickly stomp over your idea to insert their idea again and again.

Phew!

You find yourself wishing for a polite way to say, “Haven’t you heard, less is more?”

In the world of blogs, Geoff Talbot cuts to the chase better than a greyhound hunting down a rabbit on an Arizona track. He created a short and sweet blog presence called, www.sevensentences.com .

Each post limits itself to seven sentences worth of content. The topics include creativity, filmmaking, social media, holy filth, writing and poetry.

Tomorrow, he adds a certain choice chicka to his blogging collection of friends.

That’s right. I decided to simplify.

When he asked for guest bloggers, I accepted the challenge to succinctly communicate within his seven sentence boundary. The result is a guest post entitled, “Think, blink then leap“.

He’ll put it on his site tomorrow.  Here’s the link: http://sevensentences.com/2011/08/20/think-blink-then-leap.

Be sure to visit and comment profusely.  Tell your friends, neighbors and family to check out this short and tasty nugget of inspiration.  I plan on hanging out over there and responding to anyone who wants to chat.

My choice today:

Share short thoughts with long meanings.

 

 

Dance shirtless on a hill

A man and a woman performing a modern dance.
Image via Wikipedia

For many of us,  school has begun.  Today, I prayed as I stood beside my kids and they prepared to enter the classroom.  I prayed for them and their ability to make wise choices.  I prayed for their teachers.  I prayed for the school and district leadership.  This is but the beginning, the prayers will continue all year because God directs me to do so.

I’ll offer guidance and struggle with them as they face life issues in this compact environment.  But my inabilities shout their presence within my mind.  I can’t open their eyes and enable them to pick their friends wisely.  I can’t sit in the room every day seeking understanding of how to better strengthen their minds.  I can’t whisper in their ears calming thoughts in anxious moments.

God can.

Because I believe in His strength and fortitude no matter what the circumstance, I hand off my precious people into the arms of others.  Some whom I know and some I don’t.  But God’s guidance remains within me and my husband.  His directions enable my children.  I trust Him.

In the midst of prepubescance and angst ridden second graders, my hope is this:

they will feel so confident in their faith, they will be capable of dancing shirtless on a hill. 

But, what does that mean?

I’ve provided a link to a 3 minute TED talk given by Derek Sivers.  His talk encourages and guides leaders, but I saw something else.  I saw one kid.  A boy whose passion for music and love of life burst out and became contagious to everyone around.

The kid’s gutsy and energizing wish to move inspired and brought others along for the ride.  That’s what I hope for my kids. 

Watch it here. 

May my children love the Lord and trust Him enough to stand out and dance, even if it seems like they stand alone.   The Lord wants our joy to overflow in such a way that we dance (literally or figuratively) before Him.

“Then young women will dance and be glad,
   young men and old as well.
I will turn their mourning into gladness;
   I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow. ”  Jeremiah 31:13

If we know this is true for our children, maybe we’ll be capable of living within that truth ourselves.

My choice today:

Dance shirtless on a hill.  (Okay, as a chick, I’ll wear a shirt.  But you get the imagery, right.)

Do children ever inspire you?  What have you seen or heard that makes you want to become better?

 

Last day of summer break: things to do

An orange check mark.
Image via Wikipedia

1.  Sleep in one last time, check.

2. Watch a favorite T.V. show together, check.

3. Take that bike ride you talked about for the past few months, check.

4. Organize backpacks and supplies, check.

5. Return books and videos to the library (otherwise I’ll forget and build up fees), check.

6. Look in their eyes long and hard, check.

7. Talk about the summer and all we did, check.

8. Sort through at all those pictures, check.

9. Plan the clothes and food for tomorrow, check.

10.  Give solid and squishy hugs off and on all day, check……

 

No regrets, no take backs or do overs.  This summer’s a wrap.

My choice today:

Wrap up this summer with God’s blessing, and pray for the teachers and this next school year. 

Boredom busters, who needs them?

Science Jamboree
Image by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center via Flickr

Do you remember the amazing things you did with boredom?  You learned to shuffle cards.  You rode a bike with no hands.  You built models or wrote stories.  What a treasured life we lived!

Now, we have so many activities designed to occupy our time or our kids time.  We can go to the public pool, the park, play sports, take classes, play video games, watch television, or surf the internet.  We pack our moments so full, there’s little space for other experiences.

We do it because it’s expected.  We fear making poor choices, and we don’t want boredom.  What’s the thrill of boredom?

On its surface, boredom causes lethargy and decay, but if guided by caring parents who see a plus within a boredom experience much more occurs.

Let’s imagine…

  • a future musician minus boredom….no intrigue, no musical development, no passion.
  • a future artist minus boredom…no mistaken sketches aiding future development, no creative color blending, no mixing of mediums. 
  • a future computer tech minus boredom….no knowledge of deeper computer reasoning, no understanding of why people sit there in the first place, no ideas for improvement.
  • a future magician minus boredom….no finger dexterity, no ability to shuffle a card deck, no show.
  • a future mom minus boredom…no doll games, no babysitting, no practice, no skill.

Many great and small feats begin with a little undirected free time.  At first it flusters the mind and body, not knowing what to do.  But with a little elbow room and a touch of guidance from a mom or dad who cares, kids venture outdoors, pick up paintbrush or pen, read, write, examine, experiment or build.

Maybe that’s why God wants us to honor a sabbath.  From rest comes creativity.  His creative juices will never be topped, and He rested.

My choice today:

Allow a little boredom and keep eyes open to offer needed direction.

Who has the power?

Television remote control
Image via Wikipedia

In our house, whoever holds the television remote control, “has the power”, as we define it.

As we seek to make faithful choices, we need to realize who has the power.

Jesus spoke here: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.”  John 15:16

My choice today:

Put down the remote.

5 steps to better bonding with your kids

by freedigitalphotos.net

We adore them, those worming, squirming, strong-minded kiddos of ours.  But that doesn’t mean we get them.  Closeness to them matters more than job security and a good credit line, combined.  Yet, try as we might our ownership manual never arrived in the mail.

We must push their buttons and coax their minds in the hope that we will parentally succeed where others have failed.  What can we do?

5 steps to better bonding with the most complex gadgets we have, our children:

1.  Ask questions. 

Not inquisition style, but inquisitive style.  We ask because we care.  Their thoughts are way more fascinating than TMZ.  Even silly questions build foundations.

I enjoy ones like, “If you could bring any toy with you on a long plane ride, what would it be?”  Remember, when they answer, they share their opinion.  Opinions aren’t wrong.

2.  Think ahead and make the questions complex. 

Remember the good ‘ol days, when your family asked you questions, and you responded with the standard one-word response? Conversation didn’t get very far.

Solid questions require thought.  If you were answering, could you respond quickly in one word or with detail.  Kid convos which include details grow the conversation, lack of details kill it, and not in a good way.

3.  Answer questions.

If our children know they can approach us on any topic, and they won’t be chastised or criticized, the likelihood they’ll return for more questions increases.  I knew a teacher who had a poster in her class which stated, “The only stupid question is the one you never ask.”  If we stick to that attitude, our kids know it and welcome our involvement in their lives.

We will have to let them know we’re open to their questions, though….especially if we have older children.  A simple statement like, “Do you have any questions for me?” opens the conversational door to our lives.  We will have to repeat the phrase often before we hear strong content questions, but silly ones still help them trust us.

4.  Make eye contact.

Ever have someone talk with you who doesn’t look at you?  It’s disconcerting.  This happens to children constantly.  We often need to stoop down to make eye contact, and this small workout pays off more than regular trips to the gym.  It shows how valuable we feel they are.

5.  Plan play times.

Not play-dates with friends, but family play time.  Make sure it suits your family’s personality.  Play could involve word games or rhyming.  It includes video games or Twister.  Play can be as detailed as a full-fledged family baseball game or as simple as a round of Angry Birds in the doctor’s office waiting room.

As parents ,we often tell our kids what to do and not to do, but play enables us to simply enjoy being together, because we like one another.  You could sign up for every movement activity in town and join team after team, but if your family doesn’t enjoy time together, you’ll miss valuable connections which last a lifetime.

My choice today:

Make the effort to build bonds with my kids.

 

In comments, share ways you strive to build better bonds with your kids.

How does God fit a pair of jeans on a lily? (part 2)

In my earlier post, I mentioned how I struggle with certain Bible verses.  Matthew 6:28-30 bothers me because I cannot imagine how God supplies clothes.  But because God invites us to test Him in the arena of money in Malachi 3:10, my husband and I decided to let the testing begin. Many people I know don’t test Him with their money though, why is that?

Why don’t we test Him?

I’d like to say it’s because we’re so capable, and we don’t really need His help.  But in truth, we doubt He’d really come through.  It comes back to my question above, “How does God fit a pair of jeans on a lily?”

What would we do if He did flood us?

Maybe we’d drop our lower jaw so far down, it could pick up dust bunnies.  Our sense of awe would be monumental.  We’d want to tell other people to test Him too,  because the pluses are that great.  We might even feel embarrassed at how inept we really are and appreciative at how completely apt He is.

Our knees might buckle, and we’d find ourselves on the floor looking up at His immense aptitude wondering why we didn’t do this earlier.

The test

Years ago, my husband and I decided to call God’s bluff.  We put our money where our faith was and watched intently to see what would happen.  It wasn’t some grandiose university study, but we took it seriously.  On pay-day, the first 10% of moneys brought in went directly to our church.  Occasionally, we gave more if a special need came up, but always 10%.

I was skeptical and nervous but viewed it like a weight loss regimen.  Instant results might not show the depth of long-term gains.

We’ve seen results we never imagined.

The results

Some results appear subtly, like a connected relationship that keeps growing stronger between us and God as well as between each other.  Other things jump out,  like checks showing up in the mail a day before a major payment comes due.

Many friends have made the blessings possible because of their generosity, but over time, when it happens again and again, we’d be deceiving ourselves if we didn’t give God the credit.

Cars last longer than they should, clothes show up at our door step (nice clothes), and much-needed dryers and lawnmowers get donated out of the blue (thanks John and Kelly).

The picture attached shows how the flood gates of heaven pour out on my kids, and I’m humbled to be along for the downpour.

How can you receive these blessings?

I can’t say I totally know, because I don’t decide the gift, but I trust the Giver.  Here are choices our family makes, and we see God’s blessings in the midst:

1.  The tithe thing works.  We give to God our tithe and offering (aka 10% of our money), because He gave us the ability to earn it.  It’s our expression of gratitude.

2.  We accept any gift with a smile and a hug.  Pride jumped out the window years ago and we found the blessings of a prideless life. Sometimes we don’t need an item someone gives, but we search for its proper recipient.

3.  We don’t attempt to control what gift we receive. (as if that were possible) We trust God to supply, even if that means we don’t get to see a cool movie or go to restaurants all the time.

4.  We always say thank you to the person who gives and the God who inspired them.

What about the lilies?

Now I begin to understand the meaning of this verse.  If God so chooses, He could clothe us all.  He could give however He chooses to give. If our eyes are open to His actions, we’d be stupid to claim any credit for the deal.

My two little lilies find themselves fully clothed for fall and school without a single store visit.  For that I say, thanks to my amazingly generous friends.  But I also say, “Praise God, thank You!” to the King of my life.

My choice today:

Recognize how much more God can and will do, when I surrender my skills and power to Him.