Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Quiet, please.

The Power of Positive Thinking, by Guideposts founder Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, was published originally in 1953 and I recently read that it has sold somewhere around 26 million copies worldwide.

It's not surprising that it is filled with meaningful insight that is still relevant today.
I wanted to highlight one aspect of the book in particular this week because it has taken on great meaning for me, especially in recent days. That concept is the daily practice of having a time of nothing but quiet. The prescription Dr. Peale recommends is for 15 minutes of absolutely no noise. Don't try to organize your thoughts. Don't read. Don't write. Just listen.

Silence is a precious commodity for me. The balancing act of wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, author and speaker—although all of those roles are precious to me—can leave me tired and needing renewal. I am sure each of you can relate to the various demands that fall on all of us. And I have begun to understand with a growing appreciation the value of something as simple as quietness.

I have recently tried to implement this 15-minute rule in my own life. Some days I make it, some days the quiet doesn't come until I collapse into bed at the end of a busy day. But on the days that I can snag a little piece of solitude early on, I realize so many benefits. I can listen to God. And sometimes the silence reveals the very greatest truths to our hearts and lives from Him.

I firmly believe this practice is making a difference in my energy levels, productivity and patience throughout my day. Isaiah 30:15 says it best: “In quietness and rest is my strength.” Make yourself a priority by treating yourself to 15 minutes of unscripted solitude. You'll be amazed at the blessing you receive.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

It's time to say, "Yes, I Can!"

I just returned from speaking at an event for an organization called Yes, I Can, Inc. At 39, I was on a slate of speakers with a bunch of 20'ish Hollywood actors, and it really made me nervous. The audience, too, was younger than those I normally address.

Without even realizing it, I began the old, negative self-talk. I asked myself, “What do I have to offer this group? I’m an old lady compared to the rest of them. They couldn’t possibly want to listen to what I have to say.”

It was like I was transported back in time to when I was their age. And that wasn’t a very empowered, confident time in my life.

But fortunately I have learned a thing or two on this journey I have been on for the past few years. And I know better than to give into that kind of negativity. I believed I was there for a purpose. All I could do was share my heart and my story.

In the end, I got great feedback from the very same kids I was so nervous about. I got a chance to talk one-on-one with several of them; they said they got inspiration and motivation from my story of transformation, a fact that still humbles and amazes me to this day.

The experience reinforced some things for me, things that closely mirror the mission of the organization I was working for:

What if I don’t listen to the voices of fear, uncertainty or doubt?
I can choose. I can change. I can persevere. I can do it.
In a world that is telling me I cannot, it’s time to stand and say, “Yes, I can!”

So I leave you with those same encouraging words today. Whatever the obstacle you are facing, remember: Only you can choose your path—whether it be a path to success or failure. If you want to lose weight, or get an education, or change careers, or build better relationships, you can do whatever you want to do.

And no matter what the world says, it’s time for you to say, “Yes, I can!”

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Keep Movin'

I hate the process of moving. It’s really no fun. But sometimes it’s a necessary evil to get where we need to go. Sound familiar?

There are so many things in life that are really no fun, but after all the hard work is done we can truly appreciate where we’ve been and where we are now. The past two weeks have been a confirmation of that for me, as my family moved…again! (But for what I hope will be the last time for a long, long while.)

It seems I’ve been swimming in an endless stream of boxes and Bubble Wrap; forced to clean out drawers and make “keep-it-or-ditch-it” decisions on items that I swore the last time we moved I’d never take to another house.

Sometimes I don’t think we even realize how much unnecessary “stuff” we accumulate until we are actually forced to face it. As I sorted through still-unpacked boxes from our last move, I realized, If I haven’t used it—or missed it—in a year, I probably don’t need it. There were old clothes I’ll never wear again. I came across toys that my kids just had to have that have gone un-played with since before I can remember. There were lots of things that at one time really seemed important that I realized I don’t need to keep after all.

It actually made me think about many things we don’t need to keep but that, in our human nature, we tend to hold on to.

Maybe you have been holding on to a grudge over something that you can’t even really remember the origin of now, but it seemed important at one time. Or maybe there is bitterness that you’ve packed away that you didn’t have any intention of getting rid of. Is it jealousy? Unforgivenness? Hurt?

I’ve come to the conclusion that sometimes it’s good to unpack your life—both literally and figuratively. Moving forces us to do that. And moving on forces us to do that too. Both are hard, but both are good for us. Both really help us to live a cleaner, less complicated, more peaceful existence.

I think at this time of year, we can all benefit from a good spring cleaning…not just in our homes, but in our hearts and lives as well.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Take Action to Achieve Your Goals

Recently a friend recommended that I read The Principle of the Path: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be, by Andy Stanley. The book's main message really spoke to me and I wanted to share my perspective.

I think we can all agree that we have hopes, dreams and plans for our lives. And most of us probably have pretty good intentions when it comes to seeing those things happen. But what are we really doing about them?

Chances are, if your plan is to live a long, healthy life, sitting on the couch and just thinking about exercising isn’t the road that will lead you there.

In other words, if you want to end up someplace, you must take deliberate steps to get there. Good intentions are fine, but they aren’t a substitute for action. You need to be on a path to your destination, both literally and figuratively.

If there are disconnects in your life and discrepancies between what you desire in your heart and what you are doing in your life, then let today be the start to changing that.

If you have a destination you are trying to reach (and I believe we all do), remember: Your direction — not your intention — determines that destination.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

There's Worth in Imperfection

I’m so grateful that life is full of teachable moments and that God is constantly reaffirming to me the enormous value and worth He places on all of us as His children.

This point was reinforced before my very eyes yet again this past week.

Several months ago, a new family came to our church and we immediately hit it off. They were warm and friendly; just a great family. Not long after we met, the father shared the story of one of their daughters, whom they'd adopted. (I’ll call her Elizabeth for the purposes of sharing this story.)

He told of how she was born with a cleft palate and her biological parents abandoned her at birth. Whether it was because they felt they couldn't financially care for an infant with health needs or some other reason, this precious baby was given up.

With no hesitation at all, our friends adopted her and welcomed her into their family. They loved her unconditionally and poured themselves into that little life. Years — and many surgeries — later, she is a lovely young woman. But more obvious than her physical attributes is her beautiful heart. She is sweet, loving, funny and kind; a woman who loves God and people. It’s a blessing to know her.

Still, there’s no doubt that she is aware of the circumstances surrounding the early days of her life. She knows the story of her birth parents’ decision. She must remember the medical procedures she underwent to have brought her to where she is today.

Flash forward to a kennel of beautiful Labrador Retriever puppies for sale by another family in our church.

They were all adorable! Some white, some yellow, some black. All playful and energetic. Except for one. (I’ll call her Molly.) She was born without a tail and her back legs don’t work. The American Kennel Club wouldn’t grant a registration for this puppy because she wasn’t perfect. When potential buyers came to look at the litter, they overlooked the smallest, least lovely one.
And yet when Elizabeth first laid eyes on her, she fell in love. In fact, she wouldn't even consider any of the other puppies. Nothing would do until she could make Molly her own. The least likely to be chosen was the one she chose. She realized that the value and the worth of this little pup had nothing to with her exterior. This dog was just as valuable to Elizabeth — maybe more so — because she was not... perfect.

As I watched this story unfold over the course of a few days, I couldn’t help but be reminded again of the incredible worth our loving God places on us. We don’t have to be the most pristine, or the most beautiful. We don’t have to be the most desirable pup in the litter. It doesn’t matter what the world says or doesn’t say about us. And it doesn’t matter where we come from. Our worth is based solely on the fact that the Creator of the Universe says we are worthy! There is no greater source of comfort and strength for me than to know that. And I hope the story of Elizabeth and Molly will remind you of your incredible worth too.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Cherry Blossom Reminders

As a Florida girl for most of my life, I was accustomed to beautiful beaches and outdoor scenery. But since I moved to Georgia earlier this year I’ve been treated to all sorts of differences in climate and nature!

One of the most gorgeous sights I’ve seen in recent days has been the blooming cherry blossoms. You don’t see those in Florida! The trees don’t even look real; each flower is so beautiful—only God could be the creator of them.

As we were driving my 10-year-old, Noah, to school not long ago, my husband and I were commenting on this especially striking tree. We had passed it every day for months and never noticed it until all of a sudden it seemed that the blossoms just burst magically overnight.

We continued to admire it for a few days on our trips to and from school, when Noah noticed that in a very short amount of time, many of the blossoms had already fallen to the ground.

Now only two weeks later the branches are looking sparse. There are only a very few pretty blooms left. In what seems like an incredibly short amount of time the once thriving splendor of the flowers is gone. One can only imagine that in another week, it will look completely barren and unassuming as it had all those many months we completely ignored it.

And it happened so quickly.

I researched the average lifespan of a cherry blossom, and found out that there were several variables that could affect it, but generally a healthy tree should bloom for 2-3 weeks. So truly there is a very small window of opportunity to relish the beauty of the cherry blossom trees.
It reminds me of many things in life, and brought to mind the urgency to really soak in all the many blessings God gives us every day. When I get frustrated with the rowdy behavior of my sons, I need only to remember that just yesterday my 10-year-old was a toddler just learning to walk and talk. I blink my eyes and my three-year-old isn’t a baby anymore; but now a self-professed “big boy” who is about to start soccer practice in a month.

The only thing that is consistent in this life is change. Fortunately, the cherry blossoms are still blooming in many places around town. And for however long they last, I intend to soak in the sight of them and enjoy the beauty of this specific part of God’s creation.

I also intend to let them serve as a reminder to appreciate all the blessings in my life—all the precious relationships, experiences and opportunities that come my way each day.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Guideposts.com - Advice from a Loser - "Acknowledging the Source of Your Strength"

There is a song that we sometimes sing at our church called "I Will Lift My Eyes." It’s by a talented writer named Bebo Norman. It’s a beautiful, reflective song. Every time we sing it I look over at my husband and see tears in his eyes. (He would probably hate that I am sharing this with you but he can just deal with it because it’s true.)

So I finally just broke down recently and asked, "Mike what is it about that song that moves you so much every time you hear it?" His response was very touching and so I want to share it with you.

As background, some of you may not know that when I was cast as part of The Biggest Loser my interaction with my family was completely limited for months. I didn’t get to call home. No letters at first. No e-mails. No nothing.

In fact, no one even knew specifically where I was. Mike only knew I was in California somewhere. And that there was a hotline he could call in case of emergency. It is an essential part of the experience for contestants so that we can really focus on the task at hand: losing a massive amount of weight—getting healthy—and changing our lives. I understand the reason for the mandated separation now.

Well, as my husband was holding down the fort without me—with our then 6-year-old son who didn’t really know where mommy was—he would go to church every week. And during that time they introduced the song "I Will Lift My Eyes" to the congregation.

The first line of the chorus says, "I will lift my eyes to the Maker of the mountains I can’t climb. I will lift my eyes to the Calmer of the oceans raging wild. I will lift my eyes to the Healer of the hurt I hold inside. I will lift my eyes, lift my eyes to You."
Well, those lyrics obviously spoke to him in a very personal way. And as he explained them to me I began to tear up myself.

He said that the wife that he put on a plane to Los Angeles was morbidly obese. Walking up a flight of stairs was more than I could physically do. And he knew I would be forced to "climb mountains" and run races and exert myself physically far beyond what I was capable of doing in my own strength.

He knew that from watching the show that sometimes there was drama and game playing and that there was bound to be some "turbulence" somewhere a long the way and he suspected I would fight against "oceans raging wild" in a number of different areas.

And finally, he knew that this would be a process of soul searching and diving deep into some of the emotional hurts of my life. Eventually examining the reason I allowed myself to get in the unhealthy condition I was in. Because as I have come to believe, excessive weight is not always connected to a number on a scale—many times it’s emotional in origin and requires healing.

So this song covered all of the things that he knew I’d be facing. And it offered the hope that there is One who could meet all those needs.

Once he explained it, I understood. And now I won’t ever be able to hear that song without sharing the same emotional reaction.

So I encourage you today to determine the source of your strength. Tap into that strength and let it give you peace for your daily life. No matter what struggles, turbulence or hurt you may experience—you can "lift your eyes" and find hope to meet you at the point of your need.