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Saturday, July 2, 2016

Power of Perspective

Some times you get the gift of spending time with a person who changes your perspective on life events. I have a wonderful aunt who lives in Oregon. In my life I have not gotten much time with her but thanks to my husband working for Delta we could fly to her for free. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to get to know her more and see a part of the world I haven't seen yet. Fortunately she welcomed me and my two boys with open arms.

Flying stand-by demands a certain amount of flexibility. We were suppose to land 1 hr from my aunt's house. Instead we got booted off that flight and landed 4 hrs away in Portland Oregon. Did this stress my Aunt out? No, her and her partner were excited about the different things we could explore and see up there. This change of plans and added inconvenience was no apparent problem to them. They just turned it into an adventure.

The entire week with them included responses like this. I was so excited to see sea lions and they had a solid plan to show me sea lions up close. Well, turned out sea lions don't hang out there in the end of June. No sea lions. Did this bum my aunt and her partner out? Nope. Just means a new fun plan to them!

They are living evidence that our perspective is so powerful.

Going to Portland could have ended the trip if they had not see the silver lining. Every wrong turn, turned into a new exciting exploration. My kids and I got to see Mount Hood and climb to the near top! It was amazing and I will never forget it. We went on to see the coast, sand dunes, gorges, and more. They always were looking at the silver lining and turning disappointing situations into new adventures.

I hope to live my life more like them. I hope you do too because joy can be found in this way of living!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Take a deep breath, swallow your pride, forget about fair and say sorry.

I am just going to be honest. My husband and I got in a big fight tonight. I was condescending, and rude. Marriage is messy. People are broken, and damaged. People are soo mean to each other at times.

There is no one on this earth that I love more than my husband. Yet no one on this earth have I treated as poorly.  I don't want to lose the man that I love so much. He has helped me get to were I am today. We have had 10 happy years of marriage. I have shared so many laughs with him, and cried with him in my darkest moments. I cannot let a fight steal our depth. I need to suck it up and say sorry.

Let quit pretending the people we respect are perfect. No one is. I surely am not. That is the key in marriage. We need to accept that we will screw up and own it. Say sorry. Put your pride behind you.  I don't care what they did. Just say sorry. Win the relationship not the argument.

Win the relationship not the argument. 

So often we are so in the moment that we forget we are talking to the person who means more to us than anything. Take a deep breath, swallow your pride, forget about fair and say sorry. Win the relationship. No one is perfect.  

A relationship will grow if there is acceptance, growth and humility. It will die if it is based on pride, and selfishness. We have to be able to let go of what our spouse did wrong.


We need to get so good at forgiveness. Lets face it. We will screw up. It's a two way street. If you both get good at forgiving there is so much room for growth. My mother in law once said to me, "I hope to get sweeter with each passing year." I hope this is true for me too.

If I own my stuff and truly work on it, each year I should be a better wife. I should be more patient, kind and forgiving. I want to be that person but I wont get there if I am stuck in the moment. I need to take a step back and say I want to win the relationship not the argument. I want to be a silly old couple in love but I wont get there unless I am willing to look at myself and take ownership.

Today look at yourself. Quick blaming your spouse. What can you do to improve your marriage? Win the relationship not the argument. Be that silly old couple someday that inspires people.
We can do this.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Key to Being Happy

Life is full of irony and the key to happiness is one of those things. I will give it to you straight. To be happy you must not try to be happy all the time. Happiness, success and beauty cannot be your goal. If those things are your number one priority you will not find happiness for very long.  The pursuit of happiness in that way leads to emptiness.

As a counselor you get the privilege of hearing people's stories. Over the years my case load has including people making six figure salaries and homeless people with literally no income at all. Their success or the number in their bank account did not always reflect their happiness. One man quoted King Louie from the Jungle Book.

 "I made it to the top and had to stop and that's what's bothering me."  

He said "I thought once I was successful enough I would be happy. Now I made it to the top and I feel just as empty as when I started."

On the flip side one of my homeless clients came to every session with joy and enthusiasm for life. He would tell stories of how he had helped people and how great he felt about the people in his life. One session he shared how blessed he felt because he got two meals instead of one on that particular day.

So why did my six figure client feel empty and my homeless client carry joy with him?  It had to do with their goals. My six figure client thought the key to happiness in life was in status and things. He sacrificed relationships to get to the top as fast as he could. My homeless client pursued relationships and meaning.

My homeless client said one session, "As long as I have people I love and love me back in my life, and I feel like I have a positive impact on the world there is no circumstance that can get me down."

Johnny Cash did a cover of Nine Inch Nail's song "Hurt" with that same basic message near the end of his life.
One of the lines in the song is:
"You could have it all. My empire of dirt."

He would give all his wealth away. It meant so little to him because of the emptiness he felt. The song talks of regret for not doing relationships well and how the wealth means nothing. It's a pile of dirt to him. There is a void because success without relationships and impact means nothing in the end.

When people age and are near their death bed it is natural to look back on your life and evaluate if you lived a good life. People tend to ask themselves questions like:
1. Did I make the world a better place?
2. Was I good to my family?
3. Did I love well?
I imagine this is exactly why Johnny Cash covered that song. He asked himself those questions and didn't like his answers. People who can answer these questions with a strong yes feel satisfied and fulfilled. People who answers those questions with a no feel a deep void and emptiness.

So you want to be happy? Follow these directions:
1. Find a way to make the world a better place every day. Even if that is something small like making some one smile or cleaning up some trash in the park.
2. Be a good friend. Respect people. Be trustworthy. Make relationships a priority and NEVER betray them. In the end relationships matter more than anything else. Never take them for granted.

Remember some times to be happy we have to do hard things. We have to not be selfish at times and put others first. This is the simplistic yet powerful answer to happiness.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

What to Tell Your Children About Tragedy

On May 3rd a man who must have been harboring a great deal of pain himself shot and killed four people (including himself) and wounded one. Included in the people he shot was a father, an 11 year old daughter, a single man, and a mother. These people were innocent just enjoying a walk as on a beautiful bridge that goes over the water. How do you possibly explain this to your children? Do you hide it from them so they don't develop anxiety from it?

Fortunately there was a lot we can focus on in this situation that can be inspiring. There is a lot our kids can learn from this situation.

1. There is a lot of pain in the world. That is why it is soooo important to be kind to all people. You never know what you are preventing in an act of kindness. Hurt people, hurt people. Teach your kids to look for little ways to spread kindness.

2. Kids can be super heroes too. The 5 and 7 year old kids who's parents and sister were shot did not crumble and refuse to function. They bravely got off the bridge and helped others too. Teach your child what to do in a crisis, where to go for help, and what to avoid. If you explain it in the context of being a super hero it will be less scary for younger children. Most kids get the idea of good guys and bad guys so teaching how to respond if a bad guy is around can reduce their anxiety.

3. Even though there are bad guys in the world there a lot of good guys. In response to this horrific event thousands of people have donated money, gone to prayer vigils, and offered help to the families. Horrific events often times brings communities together.

4. Life is fragile and we need to remember to appreciate every moment. Life is not about stuff. It's about relationships. Make sure the people in your life are a priority. Make sure they know how much you care about them.

5. Forgive no matter how horrible it was. The dad who died asked his family to forgive the shooter as his last words because he knew not forgiving could only hurt his family. Forgiveness doesn't mean you think what happened was ok. It just means you are not going to hold that anger in your heart and wish bad things on someone.

Monday, February 2, 2015

What We Can Learn From a Homeless Man

Many people are quick to judge when they see homelessness.

"He's just lazy."

"She must be a drug addict."

"They are just mooching off of the government and everyone else."

The church I attend puts a lot of effort into homeless outreach. The goal of the ministry is simply to earn the privilege of hearing people's stories. We are discouraged from preaching, judging or anything else that would push people away. Through this ministry I got to know a guy named Greg. Greg came with a recognizable smell, dirty clothes, and shaggy hair. If I am honest, I would have would have been intimidated by his appearance and avoided him in previous years.

Lucky for me I didn't avoid him this time. I got to know Greg. I got to know his story. Greg had experienced more than his fair share of pain, rejection, and plain bad luck. Greg wasn't perfect but the thing about him was he seemed to understand something most of the world cannot seem to grasp.

Greg had contagious joy.

Greg had every excuse in the book to not have joy. Greg suffered from serious health conditions. He had seizures that would spontaneously come on and cause serious injuries. He couldn't be employed because of the frequency of this but it took him a long time to get on disability. While he waited he was homeless. He didn't have family in the area so he lived on the streets or in shelters.

Greg needed to walk with a walker and experienced debilitating pain. Yet he got connected at the Mission Church. He said that people there respected him and made him feel like he mattered. Because of this Greg would walk in pain with his walker across town to attend our church.

We were lucky he did.

When Greg finally got on disability he was able to get an apartment. It was run down. There were stains and it had a smell almost as strong as Greg's but he was ELATED!!!! He had nothing. His belongings fit into a back pack but now he had an apartment. When it rained he was going to stay dry. When it was freezing he could stay inside. Did he have a couch or a bed or a TV? No. Greg felt like the luckiest man alive.

Years went by and Greg accumulated a few more things. He felt very fancy with his stained, run down chair. He invited people over all the time because he felt like he had soo much to share. He felt like he had so much wealth.

Greg passed away this weekend due to his health conditions. I will truly miss this man. I couldn't help but smile or laugh when I was with him. He loved authentically. He knew how to appreciate life and not compare himself to others. He considered himself blessed.

His way of looking at life often convicted me. He got it. It wasn't about stuff. When will we get this!!! Stuff doesn't make us happy. If you struggle with depression stuff cannot fix that! Greg had joy and to US standards he had nothing and the nothing that he had most people would consider smelly junk.

I hope that in his death people can learn from him. I hope I can learn from him. This is a lesson I too quickly forget. It's all about perspective. He didn't have health. He didn't have money but he had relationships. Therefore in his mind, he had everything.

Joy cannot be found in stuff.

R.I.P. Greg.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Emotions Coming at the Speed of Light & the Ghosts of Relationships Past


While working with a relationship retreat guest recently, I had a funny realization. You know how astronomers tell us that the light we see coming from the stars above at night is really from a long, long time ago? And in fact, the starlight we are “seeing” is really a window to the past as the star may not even be in existence anymore by the time we see it.
I suddenly realized that our emotions are often the very same way.
Emotions show up in moments and in relationships that may have very little, if anything, to do with the original source of the emotion. In actuality, if we aren’t mindful, many of our displayed emotions are reactions to situations that have long since passed or stories we made up that are not even true.
Our emotions can travel through time revealing themselves at some pretty inopportune moments. But, just like the stars, we seem to think they are revealed in real time, rather than something from the past.
This “aha” came about because I was talking with a group of friends about how someone who is “authentic” displays many of the same positive qualities of small children — before they have learned to be otherwise. They are confident, loving, enthusiastic, honest and creative, to name a few.
I then pointed out that they are also “present to their emotions,” meaning that their emotions play in “real time.” When they are sad it is because of something that just happened, and that sadness can easily be replaced with happiness when the problem is solved or a new situation presents itself.
Little kids aren’t sitting around lamenting what happened three weeks ago or even yesterday. They are all about now. Of course, there are exceptions in very difficult situations. And eventually this changes, but generally speaking, the first four or five years are a great example of authenticity and the ability to live in present time.
We adults, however, have the capacity to stay upset for months or years about things people said and did or events that took place in our lives. That was when the realization struck — the emotions we are feeling now are often over circumstances that aren’t even in existence any more.
So, how do we combat this? I suggest self-observation, self-awareness, self-inquiry and practice.
When we are self-observant of what we are thinking and feeling, it allows us to become self-aware. Self-awareness allows us to make decisions and choices make us powerful. When we are aware, we can see what we are doing. This is when we become capable of self-inquiry — looking a little deeper to analyze our thoughts and behaviors.
It is then that we are able to take a step back and see when we are reacting to the new boyfriend or girlfriend because of what the oldone did. Or we see that the innocent comment a co-worker made plugged us into the emotions of something that was said intentionally to harm us when we were kids. Then, when something is real in the moment that needs attending to, we are more capable of addressing it without the charge from the past.
What is necessary is that we start paying attention. Being mindful of what we are feeling, thinking (the stories we are making up), and what we are reacting to, can allow us to bring our emotions into “real time.”
This is where we truly shine and truly connect with each other, authentically.

This article courtesy of Spirituality and Health.