A Spring Day in the Pacific Northwest

Shh!  Don’t tell anyone, but a spring day in the Pacific Northwest can be glorious.  I am fortunate that I happen to be at home on a vacation day with my husband.

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He didn’t have anything planned for his morning, so he accompanied me on my morning walk with the dogs.  It was so nice to stroll along holding hands with my high-school sweetheart by my side.

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Usually, we head our separate ways each morning.  Dan likes to run errands and get the mail each day.  I walk the dogs and then head upstairs to the computer to try to get some work done.  Today was different.  Since we don’t have to head off to work this afternoon, we took the time to enjoy the day together.

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Rather than struggling to control two dogs, I was able to relax on the walk and snap a few pictures of the beauty around us. Sometimes I am so busy rushing through my day that I don’t even take time to notice the world around me.

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Look what I have been missing!  My prayer is that each day I will take the time to look, really look, at the world and the people around me.  All creation declares the glory of God.  Today I’m thankful for the beauty of creation. Nothing shouts the glory of God louder to me than all the wonders of His creation.

10 Tips To Becoming An Indispensable Employee

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In today’s economy, a good job can be hard to come by.  Finding a job that pays a living wage and has benefits takes a lot of effort.  Once you land that great job, here are some tips to make yourself a valuable asset to your employer.  If you follow these simple tips, you shouldn’t have to worry about being laid off, or worse, fired.

Show up to work on time.  It amazes me how many people make a habit out of being late.  You may get away with that in your personal life, but at work make an effort to be on time, or better yet, a few minutes early.  Your boss and co-workers will appreciate it when you are ready to start work on time.

Dress for the job.  If you work in an office, dress appropriately.  Clothing should be clean, neat and in good repair. Personal hygiene is non-negotiable.

Have a good attitude.  We all have days where we just don’t feel like going to work, or the job has gotten us down.  You can choose to be thankful for your job and the regular paycheck it provides.   Tomorrow will be a better day.

Leave your personal problems at home.  Minor problems at home should not color your work day.

Pay attention to detail.  Employers love employees who care about the details of their work and the good of the company.

Keep personal phone calls to a minimum.  Everyone gets a phone call or text message now and then, just don’t make a habit out of having long personal phone conversations at work, other than on your break.

Have a good work ethic.  Make good use of your time.  Complete projects on time.  Be dependable.

Seek additional training to improve your job performance.  Asking for more training from your employer, or seeking out additional training on your own is a sure way to impress your superiors.

If you see something that needs doing, do it!  Don’t leave it for someone else.  Take the initiative and get things done. Your efforts will not go unnoticed.

Don’t just be a complainer.  If you see a problem, think of a way to fix it.  Go to your supervisor with a solution to the problem.  Employers love it when employees provide suggestions and improvements rather than just complain about problems.

By following these few suggestions you can become an invaluable employee.

I would love to hear what suggestions you have for new employees.  What advice would you give? 

Are you searching for a life changing book?

I am a voracious reader. I seldom go anywhere without a book in my hand. I am constantly scanning best-seller lists looking for new authors to read.

A few months ago a friend loaned me a copy of just such a book…new author (to me, anyway), New York Times best-seller list, tantalizing cover and back copy, lots of good reviews on Amazon, and these intriguing words on the cover “the kind of book that can be life changing“. Wow! This looks really good!

I usually can read a book in a day or so, but I had a hard time getting into this story. I think it was the unusual narrative style. When I finally got past the first few chapters, I found it was a well-written story and I enjoyed it.  (In this rare instance, the eventual movie was much better than the book.)

When I returned the book to my friend, she asked how I liked it.  I told her I had enjoyed the story, but contrary to the bold promise on the cover, I did not find it a “life changing” book.  It was just a good read, not even a book I would read again.

It is no exaggeration to say that the only truly “life changing” book I have ever read is the Bible.  The best-seller of all time.  My life has been transformed by the fixed and immutable message within its pages.  The Bible contains the Word of God written for all mankind.  It is the best kind of love story.  A story of sin (failure) and redemption.  It is the story of a Creator who so loved His creation that He gave us the freedom to choose whether to love and worship Him.  And when we inevitably sin and turn away from God, His love compels Him to wait patiently for our return.  He not only gives us the freedom to choose, He provided the Way to return to right relationship by sending Jesus to die on the cross and take the punishment for our sins. Once I understood from the pages of the Bible, the depths of God’s love for me and the sacrifice He made by sending Jesus to die on the cross for my sins and accepted this sacrifice on my behalf, my life was forever transformed.

My life would be completely different today without the wisdom of God’s Word.   I would be lost and lonely, angry and bitter. My life would be without purpose.

If you are searching for a “life changing” book, search no further.  This book has changed millions of lives throughout history. I encourage you to find a modern translation of the Bible and begin with the book of John in the New Testament.  Let God speak to your heart.  Ask Him for understanding as you read.  Welcome home.

Seven Favorite Films About Family

Bring on the popcorn!  Today, in honor of the Oscars, I am sharing a list of some of my favorite movies of all time.  If you are like me and enjoy a movie with an endearing story about family or community, then these are films that you would enjoy.

1.  A wonderful film about a family of Norwegian immigrants.  I love that mama protects her children from the financial worries they face.  I love the sacrifices she makes for her family.  Mama can fix anything!  Great cast.  (Irene Dunne as the Mama)  Unforgettable story.

I Remember Mama

2.  A sweet film about a little girl and life on a farm with her Norwegian parents.  I especially love her relationship with her father.  This is a wonderful film with a great cast.  (Edward G. Robinson in a change of pace role for him.)

Our Vines Have Tender Grapes

3.  A great film (and book) about a family in Brooklyn at the turn of the century.  Their struggle to survive is made more difficult by the alcoholic father.  The connection between the father and daughter is touching.  The mother, by necessity, has become tough and strong as she fights for her family to survive.   Excellent cast of characters.

A Tree Grows In Brooklyn

4.  Giving fathers equal time, this film of family life in Victorian times always makes me laugh.  “Gads!”    William Powell is great as the father.  I love Irene Dunne as the mother and her dizzy reasoning.

Life With Father

5.  Based on a great book this film is the true story about a family with twelve children.  I just love the chaos of the big family and the eccentric parenting ideas of the father.  The original movie is much better than the more recent version.

Cheaper By The Dozen

6.  The story of a family’s life in a Welsh mining town.  Roddy McDowall, Donald Crisp and Maureen O’Hara are outstanding.

How Green Was My Valley

7.  Another film about a large, loving family.  I could watch this film over and over.  Henry Fonda as the hard-working, loving father and Maureen O’Hara as his wife.  This movie was based on the novel that later inspired the television series, The Waltons.

Spencer's Mountain

There you go!  Grab the popcorn and settle in for a good family film.

Do you have a favorite family film?

Put a Stop to Negative Self-Talk

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One aspect of anxiety that plagued me for years was the negative self-talk that played non-stop in my head.  Almost anything could trigger a memory of a past failure or embarrassment and the incriminating tapes would begin to play in my head.  “That was stupid.”  “I can’t believe I am so dumb!” “What an idiot!” Or, the voice of the one I longed to please the most saying, “What did you want to go and do something stupid like that for?”  Ouch!

It takes some work, but you can have victory over negative self-talk.  Here are a few steps that have helped me tremendously in overcoming this toxic habit.  I hope they can help you, too.

1.  At the first negative thought, Stop!  Recognize these thoughts as poisonous and reject them from your mind.  God tells us that He takes our sins and buries them in the deepest sea, Micah 7:19.  He never brings them up again to taunt us.  These negative thoughts are not from God. One of my favorite Corrie Ten Boom quotes is, “God takes our sins and buries them in the deepest sea.  Then He puts up a sign, “No Fishing Allowed”.

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2.  Remind yourself that no one else remembers your mistakes from the past.  Thoughts of an embarrassing mistake I made in the fifth grade used to torment me.  It sounds silly now, but this memory would pop into my head and I would feel such shame over it even all these years later.  I thought everyone who was there at the time must remember it, too.  I mistakenly thought this was a sign of low self-esteem.  Finally one day I heard someone explain how prideful it was of me to think that other people spent so much time thinking about me.  I am just not that important!  What a relief to be able to let go of those past failures.  That knowledge really set me free.

3.  Replace the negative thoughts with God’s Word.  Read God’s Word and find out what He has to say about you.  God is always thinking good thoughts toward us.  Psalm 139:14 says, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;  your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”  Reading and memorizing God’s Word is the best way to change your thought patterns.  Study and meditate on the Word of God each day.  Jeremiah 29:11 says “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

4.  Remember, God’s grace covers all our sins.  We don’t have to carry them around with us anymore.  Let it go.

“I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.”  John Newton, Amazing Grace.

5 Resources for True Intimacy in Marriage

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If you want true intimacy and lasting fulfillment in your marriage, don’t look to books like Fifty Shades of Grey or sexually explicit novels.  They only work to distort and destroy God’s plan for sexual fulfillment in marriage.  Here is a resource list of books to help you find the lifelong love and fulfillment God designed for your marriage.

Intended for Pleasure by Ed Wheat, M.D.  –  “This book has helped more than a million people understand and enjoy the gift God intended for pleasure.”

Lifelong LOVE AFFAIR, How to Have a Passionate and Deeply Rewarding Marriage by Jimmy Evans – “God didn’t create marriage to frustrate men and women or make them feel inadequate. He created this covenant relationship to meet our deepest needs and desires. He created marriage to be filled with passion, purpose and excitement. Even better, God created marriage to last a lifetime…learn how to embrace God’s dream for your marriage, how to cultivate romance and fun, and how to fulfill your spouse’s spiritual, emotional, and sexual needs. Transform your marriage into a lifelong love affair!”

the key to sexual fulfillment in marriage, creating an atmosphere of sexual pleasure in your marriage  by Jimmy Evans – “God intends for married couples to enjoy sex! In fact, He designed this experience to bring tremendous pleasure and fulfillment to marriage…Jimmy Evans shatters the lies of the media where sex is concerned. And he reveals the powerful truths of God’s perfect plan for sex within marriage. Your sex life will dramatically improve as you and your spouse: Understand the Sexual Differences Between Men and Women; Eliminate the Common Enemies of Sexual Fulfillment; and Work to Create an Atmosphere of Sexual Pleasure.”

Sexual Intimacy in Marriage by Sandra Glahn, ThM and William Cutrer, M.D. – “Every couple has those questions they don’t know how or whom to ask! Sexual Intimacy in Marriagediscusses the basics, like the definition of marriage, and the not-so-basic topics, such as achieving sexual pleasure and biblically “OK” sexual activity. This highly acclaimed, medically and biblically accurate book covers all the bases about sex in marriage with a sensitivity and frankness that every couple will appreciate.”

God on Sex: The Creator’s Idea About Love by Daniel Akin –  ” Having lead over 300 marriage seminars across the United States, he is in touch with the distorted contemporary perceptions of sex. But the Bible is not silent on this subject. As a matter of fact it has much to say. As the creator of sex, God makes clear the conditions for sex at its best . Akin sets the many and varied misconceptions about sex alongside God’s design to reveal His intention and blessing for this vital dimension of life.”

Now for three resources that warn of the dangers of seeking sexual fulfillment outside of God’s design for marriage.

The Fantasy Fallacy – Exposing the Deeper Meaning Behind Sexual Thoughts by Shannon Ethridge –   “Many are looking to sexual and emotional fantasies as avenues to fulfillment.  Our fantasies, however, are not reliable guides into the future—they are actually rocky road maps from our past. Best-selling author Shannon Ethridge theorizes, “Fantasies are simply the brain’s way of trying to heal itself from unresolved tragedies and traumas. We mentally compartmentalize our pain to make room for pleasure.”

Every Man’s Battle: Winning the War on Sexual Temptation One Victory at a Time by Stephen Arterburn – “Shattering the perception that men are unable to control their thought lives and roving eyes, Every Man’s Battle shares the stories of dozens who have escaped the trap of sexual immorality and presents a practical, detailed plan for any man who desires sexual purity-perfect for men who have fallen in the past, those who want to remain strong today, and all who want to overcome temptation in the future.”

Every Woman’s Battle: Discovering God’s Plan for Sexual and Emotional Fulfillment by Shannon Ethridge and Stephen Arterburn  “When does an affair begin? Not with the first forbidden touch…but with the first forbidden thought. Unexpectedly, you find yourself enjoying a powerful emotional bond with another man. You feel like you matter to someone again. And the door you thought was locked so firmly–the door to sexual infidelity–is suddenly ajar.  The only way women can survive the intense struggle for sexual integrity is by guarding not just your body, but your mind and heart as well.”

Why Fifty Shades of Grey Destroys True Intimacy

Every day at my job I see the destructive influence of pornography and violence on women and children.  I see it in the police reports and protection orders that come across my desk daily.  Real people.  Real faces.  Real lives destroyed by someone else’s desire for sexual gratification through violence and intimidation.

I am here to tell you that true intimacy does not bring pain.

True intimacy does not bring shame or guilt.

True intimacy is not selfish, but places the well-being and pleasure of your partner above your own.

God designed sexual pleasure and intimacy to be fulfilled in marriage between one man and one woman.  It is a picture of the spiritual intimacy and oneness that God wants to have with each one of us.  This intimacy is tender and imparts great value on the other person, never degradation or unworthiness.

Sexual violence in any form destroys women and will destroy your marriage and family.

Sexual fantasy and pornography lead to lust.  There is a huge difference between lust and true intimacy.

Pornography and sexual fantasy are like heroin.  You start using a small amount and tell yourself you have your habit under control.  This is a lie from hell.  Like an addict your brain needs more and more erotic stimulation, degradation and violence to be satisfied.   This destructive cycle leads to heartbreak and ruined lives.

You may have been told that Fifty Shades of Grey is harmless and will spice up your love life.  I caution you that in reality you are exposing your mind and heart to destructive fantasy that is degrading to women and will destroy the intimacy of your marriage.

Please do not bring this book or movie into your home.  As with any book or movie, ask yourself, “Would I want my son or daughter to have access to this material?”  More importantly, would you want your daughter to experience this kind of sexual violence?  Would you want your son to inflict pain and violence on his partner?

God’s design for sexual intimacy in marriage is a beautiful thing.  It is designed for pleasure and oneness.  In my next post I will provide a list of books that will help you find true intimacy and fulfillment in your marriage.

Slaying the Dragon of Anxiety and Depression Part 2

My life has been colored by anxiety and depression.

It took years of struggle and cumulative growth for me to overcome not only the anxiety, but also the critical and negative spirit that I learned while growing up. While every person is different, I believe the lessons I learned along the way can help others win over anxiety and depression, too.

The first step toward healing came when I accepted Christ as my Savior at the age of seventeen. I do not exaggerate when I say that all the bottled up anger and unforgiveness in my heart was lifted that day. In its place, God filled my heart with such love for each member of my family. If God could forgive me of all my sins, I could no longer refuse to forgive others. I was able to let go of past wrongs, real or imagined. When I look back on my life some forty years later, I know that without Christ’s transforming power in my life I would have become a bitter, lonely person. My life would have been a shadow of what it is today.

Marriage to my high school sweetheart brought all the typical challenges newlyweds face, and more. Those first years were rough as my high expectations and unwillingness to compromise made it especially difficult for my husband. Opposites do attract, and he was as easy-going as I was uptight and anxious. I thank God every day for bringing my husband into my life. His gentle spirit and unconditional love covered me even when I was at my most unlovable. Our marriage is a testament to God’s grace in our lives. The lessons learned from my husband are many: unconditional love; no one is perfect; value each person for their unique traits; say “I love you” every day; don’t be so hard on yourself and others; forgive, forgive and forgive some more.

The birth of our first child brought me outside of myself in a way that nothing else ever had. For the first time I had someone else totally dependent on me. It caused me to quit worrying about myself and put someone else first. One of the hard truths of anxiety is that you are wrapped up in thinking about yourself all the time. Having children caused me to set aside my own selfish worries and care for the needs of my children. I learned life wasn’t all about me. It caused me to grow up. I purposed in my heart that I would learn to parent my children without the negative and critical nature that came so easily to me. I wanted to be a better person for my children.

In the years that followed, we were blessed to attend several churches with wonderful pastors and teachers. As I grew in my relationship with Christ, God began to change my heart and my thought patterns. We listened to Christian radio and read many books on parenting and marriage. We prayed individually, as a couple and as a family.

Medication became a part of the healing process after a devastating loss that I could not seem to recover from on my own. I was hesitant to take medication (a typical response for someone who suffers from anxiety), but my doctor explained that my brain was not producing a chemical it needed. She advised my need for the anti-depressant medication was no different than a diabetic needing insulin. I took the medication for a year or so and saw improvement in my ability to deal with the stress and anxiety of life.  Again, as typical of someone with anxiety, I wanted to quit taking the medication as soon as I saw improvement.  When I asked my family if they thought that was a good idea, I got a resounding “No!”.  ( I love my family for being honest with me.)  I continue to take the medication today.

I made lots of mistakes, but I learned to ask forgiveness and move on. I didn’t have to try to be perfect anymore. I even learned to laugh at myself, which is a sign of true healing from perfectionism. And, something amazing began to happen.

When I no longer had to be perfect, I began to be able to express my creative side.  The shy, introverted person who at one point couldn’t look people in the eye began to reach out to others in social situations.  It wasn’t anything I did, it was all a response to the great love God showed to me and compelled me to show to others.

I try not to look back and think of all the opportunities that passed me by while I let those destructive emotions rule my heart.  There is no sense in fretting over something that you can’t change.  My goal is simply to live life to the fullest.

If you are struggling with anxiety and depression, don’t give up!  You can win the battle.

I would love to hear from anyone who has struggled with anxiety and/or depression and what has worked for you.

Slaying the Dragon of Anxiety and Depression

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I have struggled with anxiety and depression all my life.  You might say it’s in my DNA.  Growing up, I watched my dad wrestle with it, although at the time I didn’t know what it was called.  We didn’t talk about it.  Men of his generation would never admit to suffering with anxiety and paralyzing fear.

I had a front row seat to see how it limited my dad’s life and how his world shrunk smaller and smaller as he got older.  As parents do, he passed on his predisposition to anxiety to his children.  “Don’t do that!  The neighbors will laugh at you!”  “You don’t know how to do that!”  “Don’t do something unless you can do it right!”  “Close the drapes!  Someone might look in the house.”  The mantra he spoke over us imprinted deep on our souls.

We grew up afraid to try anything for fear that someone would laugh at us.  We never thought we were good enough.  Because he was a perfectionist, we could never do anything right or please him in any way.   The sad thing was that dad was always hardest on himself.  He never thought he was good enough.  He thought people looked down on him.  He bristled at imaginary slights.  He thought people were watching him in anticipation of his failure.

The man was a genius mechanic and could literally fix or build anything.  He had a patent for an invention he called an “Energy Conversion Apparatus”.   The tragic thing is that his intolerance for imperfection and unrealistically high expectations prevented him from passing any of those skills on to his children or grandchildren.  What a loss.

As kids we didn’t understand that he was suffering.  We only knew that we could never measure up. It created a tremendous sense of insecurity in all of us, along with deep-seated feelings of unworthiness and shame.

It wasn’t until many years later, through the lens of God’s grace that I was able to see my dad as a human being tormented by feelings of inadequacy and fear of failure.  God gave me such love and acceptance for my dad.  The last ten years of his life I was blessed to be able to make the 160 mile round trip to visit with my parents every other weekend.  God allowed me to speak words of affirmation and acceptance into his battered heart.  I sat and listened to him tell his story.  I spoke of God’s grace and forgiveness.  I boldly told him I loved him.  I held his hand.

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Even today my eyes fill with tears at the thought of holding his hand.

My dad was a wonderful, complex human being who fought a daily battle with a fierce enemy that he felt helpless to overcome.  Maybe some of you are fighting that same battle.  I fought it myself for many years.

There is victory.  Your life doesn’t have to be limited by your insecurities and fears.  Anxiety does not have to rule your life.  In my next post I will share with you how God transformed my life from one of insecurity and anxiety to freedom and peace.

Is This Poison in Your Home?

ID-10098849Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Most parents are diligent about keeping poisons out of their home and away from young children.  When they think of poison, they think in terms of harmful substances like household cleaners or pesticides.

That is all well and good, but there is another more insidious poison that requires extra vigilance to keep away from our loved ones.  It is highly infectious and just a tiny amount can spread quickly from one person to another and destroy your family.

I’m talking about attitude.  Have you noticed how one person’s bad attitude can infect a whole group of people?  Mom gets mad and yells at Dad.  Dad yells at the kids.  The kids fight with one another, and on it goes.  If you don’t nip it in the bud, the atmosphere of your home becomes toxic.

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As parents, our job is to set the tone for our home.  Our attitude towards life and our reaction to the things that happen throughout our day is imprinted on our children’s psyche.  Do you get angry easily over little things?  Do you over-react?  Are you unable to adjust when the unexpected happens or things don’t go your way?  Are you unforgiving and unloving?  Do unkind words, foul language or inappropriate jokes color your speech?  Do you serve your family with love, or does resentment color everything you do?

Your children are watching everything you say and do.  As adults, our job is to protect the children in our lives from the toxic effects of bad attitudes.  That begins by controlling our own attitude and monitoring those of our children.  Gently correcting a bad attitude and instructing a child in how to maintain a good attitude is part of our job description as parents.  If children are allowed to have a bad attitude or moody personality, they will have few friends and will struggle through life.

Model the behavior you want to see in your children.  If you haven’t in the past, it isn’t too late to begin now.

How do you handle a bad attitude in one of your loved ones?