This is YOUR life – SHINE

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.  – Matthew 5:14-16

This is YOUR life…do what you LOVE and do it often – SHINE. Live your DREAM and SHARE your passion – SHINE.
This is your life

Sometime last year a friend spotted this picture and sent it may way. I immediately ordered the poster and have used it every day since as a guide to live by. Easier said than done! And I  read on…LIFE IS SIMPLE. This poster provides advice that shows us how simple the answers to our struggles are. But simple does not equate to easy.

I certainly don’t think that life should be easy. I do often wonder why it has to be so hard. For example, I didn’t like my job, so I quit…and I started doing the things I love. Overall, my life has drastically improved. I reclaimed my soul from the corporate world’s firm grip. I share what I love and I SHINE every day. But there is still something missing. If I were a five-point star, I think that only four points would be glowing bright. Reading the poster, I think that my next lesson is to stop over analyzing. If I could master that one I think I might be just fine!!

Step by step, I am moving towards my dream – sometimes little steps and other times big steps. SHINE-ing. And it creeps into my mind, is my dream the same as God’s dream for me? I am pursuing my passion, and using my talents for the greater good? I SHINE…

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive and inheritance from the Lord as a reward. – Colossians 3:23

Do you SHINE?

He is glorified when we allow ourselves to be His vessel to reach others and we are blessed for our obedience – Genesis 22:18

Training for life

Training is a lifestyle. It's not a duty.I walked into a gym recently…not needing much other than a place to pick up heavy things and put them down. It’s a small place – cardio equipment; strength – machines, free weights, kettlebells, etc.; and  small group fitness room. I much prefer to workout in the small room. In the dark. Alone. – Perhaps not a surprise to those who know me and my workout regimen.

It didn’t take long for one of the front desk staff to ask, “Are you training for something specific?” My response, “Nope, just training for life.” Staff, “Wow, well you look amazing. (awkward pause) It’s inspiring to see a woman who can wear muscle.” Me, “Thank you, I work hard.” I walked out of the gym that day giggling a little and feeling good about the compliment. In retrospect, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to my response, “Just training for life.” Do I need to be training for anything more?

Read any personal training, exercise psychology, or wellness coaching book and it will state in laborious detail that individuals need concrete goals to work towards. I think about this, and my training for life isn’t very concrete. Nor is it measurable (survival?)…so is it attainable? But truly most important, is it motivating? What am I working towards? I feel that as a trainer and coach I should be a role model. In turn, I feel like I should be training for something, for a goal.

I’ve trained for specific events and achievements in the past – half marathons, Chicago Urbanathlon, to squat 300 lb., etc. How I miss training on these monkey bars….

At the given time, am considering a new challenge – giving myself something to train for. I have already set the extremely ambiguous goal of being in the best shape of my life for 30th birthday – May 2013. I’ve been working to conceptualize what this looks like – thus far coming up empty. The idea of doing a figure or bodybuilding competition has been creeping in and out of my head for a couple of years now. The physical training does not deter me; however, the dietary discipline makes me cringe! Now it sounds like I have something to think about, doesn’t it?

What do you train for? Are you training for life? And maybe more? I will always be training for life!

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Letting go is NOT giving up

Many of us have great difficulty letting go. Letting go closely resembles quitting or giving up, yet these are not synonymous. Unfortunately, knowing this doesn’t free our thoughts and feelings from relating them. I, for one, am terrible at letting go of things I love and value. I don’t want to let go of things that give me comfort or allow me to experience that feel good feeling. But how often are the things in life that we love and value actually harmful? How many of us love someone who often hurts us? How many of us find comfort in our daily routines, afraid to step out into something different? Yet sometimes we easily give up – for example on diets, exercise regimes, Bible studies, school, jobs, etc. It is almost as if we hold onto what is easy and give up on what we perceive as hard…and then often finding ourselves needing to start over.

If you're tired of starting over, stop giving up.

I think that something can be said about allowing something other than God to have too much control or power over our feelings of happiness and comfort. With all the significant change I have been going through recently, it often feels like I’m quitting time and time again. I am one who sticks to commitments through the dire end. But I have been in a few situations that have challenged my morality and integrity – both as a professional and as a woman – and in which I have had to strongly consider letting go of those commitments. How do we know for ourselves when we are letting go rather than giving up? One way of thinking about this is to think of letting go as an act of giving it to God. I’ve had a couple of relationships that I have had to let go of this past year. I can honestly say that I let go, because I implemented some healthy boundaries and I put the next steps in those relationships into God’s hands. I also equate giving up to being easy to do and letting go to being more difficult. Lastly, I would say that giving up leaves me feeling uneasy, whereas letting go provides a sense of relief.

What are some of the reasons we quit or give up? I am known to quit when I think that I am not good at something, feel like I’m not perfect and as a result will fail. I tend to quit, kidding myself that when it is my choice it is easier to cope with the failure. The truth is, it’s not easier. Another truth is, I am more than likely NOT failing at whatever it may be.

So how do you know you are letting go versus giving up? I think we all need some assistance clarifying the difference.

Isaiah 55: 9 “For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”

The Story of People

As many know, I can have strong opinions. Some would say conservative opinions. Sometimes I can tell you were the opinion came from, providing facts and figures of support. Other times, it simply is – this is one of those times. I hate the word people. I find it condescending, degrading, and disrespectful. And now, I am trying to determine why.

  1. Human beings in general or considered collectively.
  2. The citizens of a country, esp. when considered in relation to those who govern them.

So…general or collective. I am going to talk about a group of individuals in a general sense…or am I going to talk about people? This word is at the forefront of my mind right now because I recently drove from Texas to Minnesota and passed several Wal-Mart distribution centers with their tagline: Our PEOPLE make the difference. Ahhhh! It grates my skin.

I often hear others begin comments with “These people” or “Those people“…does that mean they are talking about a group of individuals of which they (or we) are not a part. I often perceive these comments as condescending and negative. Does this individual feel as though they rank above the group they are speaking of? I cannot say that I have ever been the subject of one’s such reference to people, but it bothers me a great deal. For example, I have had coworkers who have referred these people, as in our clients who are overweight or unhealthy, and implying that they are helpless, needy, annoying, unintelligent, etc. An individual who is overweight is not less of a person…so why would I speak of the population in such a degrading manner? Perhaps it affects me because I have been overweight and one of those people and I remember what if feels like to feel like you are treated as less of a person as a result. Further, I know I use this hypervigilance, being careful not to marginalize or degrade any population or group with my word choices.

As an over-analyzer  I try to determine where my perception begins. I’m brought back to 2004, in a class with Dr. Ruth Cronje…she told us that use of the word people should be avoided due to the resulting negative connotation. The birth of my perception that people is a negative word! So is this accurate? In my world it is. Then again…this is the same professor whose class 80% of us had to retake…

Back to people. “We the people…” begins the Constitution of the United States. This introductory clause is contradictory to me (based on my perceptions). Here is why: We is indicative of the speaker being a member of the group. As noted by Mr. Fred Rogers, using the collective pronoun ‘we’ when referring to oneself is representative of an individual who is others-centered rather than self-centered. However, we is quickly followed by people. And yet, I do not perceive this to be condescending – whether within the Constitution or independent of it.

I think that I’m getting somewhere with this…let’s take a look at the chorus lyrics of John Legend’s song, Ordinary People:

We’re just ordinary people
We don’t know which way to go
Cuz we’re ordinary people

Again, use of we in association with peopleimplying that the author is a member of the group – which he in fact is in this song. Therefore, use of the word people is not perceived (by me) as condescending. 

Final thought: As one would predict, the perception of whether use of the word people is condescending is dependent upon the context – both environmentally and rhetorically. I still don’t like the word and you will rarely hear me use it…although as I think about this, one of my favorite pastimes is drawing stick people that represent others in my life…

So how does people make you feel? What is your initial reaction to the word?

Those RED Shoes

I’m drawn to shoes. My mother tells a story about how she lost me in a department store when I was a toddler. Where did a store associate find me? The shoe department. I guess I was destined to be a shoe lover. And I am mesmerized by red shoes

Oooh la la…my latest pair!

Red shoes make me feel feminine, pretty, and a little risque. I think that wearing red shoes gives the perception of confidence. The right heel on the shoe says don’t mess with me. Christmas Eve 2011 I attended church service with a family I hold near and dear to my heart…charcoal gray wool skirt, red sweater, and metallic red Nine West pumps. The reaction to the shoes from the entire family when I walked in the door was pleasant and positive. I felt good!! Over a pair of shoes? Granted…everyone was used to seeing me in sneakers at the gym, so…

When I’m having a bad day, I like to curl my hair and put on my red shoes. For the girl who dresses for the gym 90% of the time, this can throw people for a loop. But I like to feel pretty. And don’t most women desire beauty? When I put on my red shoes, it almost as if I’m empowered. I’m unstoppable. I know, an object doesn’t have that kind of power, but I have given it that power and I am okay with that. And I often remind myself of 1 Peter 3:3-4:

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.

This does not mean it’s wrong for me to wear my red shoes. The verse was written to warn women not to follow the customs of some women who spent hours working on themselves. God would rather see women work on inner beauty, which I do every day. Do you? This is the kind of beauty that lasts forever, regardless of whether I have my red shoes on.

P.S. I wouldn’t say that I collect red shoes…I don’t buy every pair that I see. But I sure do have quite the selection. I’m still on the search for the right pair of ballet-type flats.

More often than not, life transitions suck

Life transitions are stressful. Moving and job changes rank in the realms of the loss of a loved one. With that in mind, I might be a stress (adrenaline?) junkie. As we near the end of 2012, I can say I have experienced a lot of change in the past two years:

  1. Began graduate school, initially part-time, while working a full-time plus and a part-time job.
  2. 4 months later – quit my stable and secure full-time job in favor of a more risky position that would provide me more flexibility for school and the ability to work from home.
  3. 1 month later – complete meltdown from at-home work. Quit full-time job, began full-time graduate school, picked up hours at part-time job (which quickly became full-time).
  4. 3 months later – left independent living to begin renting from an acquaintance – ROOMMATE!!!
  5. 1 year 7 months later – pack up everything for storage or my road trip to NY for a 3 month position. Live in a hotel…21-year-old roommate…
  6. 4 months later – drive to San Antonio, briefly live in a 2-bedroom apartment with 3 other people, work in a resort, and FAIL.

I can laugh about it now, because it is one of those laugh or cry type of situations. While I have a plethora of options, none are all that appealing. And as I look for work the biggest decision of all is what to do in the meantime. Stay in Texas..back to New York…home to Wisconsin…or none of the above. The positive is that I am the only one depending on me. But that sure is overwhelming. And stressful.

How do I cope? How do I find direction and clarity in a time of such uncertainty? I have the song lyrics in my head, should I stay or should I go now… because I just don’t know what to do. For most decisions in my life, I’ve made a list of pros and cons for the options. Any day could be the day that I move and have a place to go…until then, I am quite tempted to get a job at Starbucks…coffee makes me happy! But I am ready to settle. I am ready to have a place to call home and make mine. Because transitioning from one place to the other, living in other people’s homes, really sucks.

Packing up life and shoving it into a car

Packing. It can be an art. Or it can be haphazard. And it can definitely be a skill. And this skill, is definitely one I acquired from my mother – who had to pack 7 people into a station wagon for trips to our grandparents’ house.

This past May I decided to pack up my life and shove it into my car. I was leaving Wisconsin and headed to New York for 3 months, but prepared to perhaps never return to Wisconsin. Sure, that big picture is a little scary, but let’s focus on the packing my life in my car temporarily and for current purposes. And why the word shove? Because I shoved as much as possible into the trunk to be out of sight during travel.

I allowed myself 2 suitcases for clothes – one of which became half shoes. I also had a bag with a weekend’s worth of clothes for the road trip. That part of the packing was EASY!! Books – now packing books was hard. I have a library of resources and a queue of 20+ books that I have yet to read. Which would I need and want? (Every time that I move my brother jokes with me that I have too many boxes of rocks labeled ‘books’ and I ought to do something with them.) I spent days packing and sorting, changing my mind on books and repacking, finally settling the chosen books (including 3 Bibles) into a plastic container and placing it in the trunk. I also created a box of ‘runnerups’ for storage labeled “Books Most Wanted” in case I decided I needed them shipped to me.

I had great difficulty leaving my stuff behind. I might want my photo albums, my sewing box, my lamps, or my food scale. I might want my markers for a project. My Post-It notes, highlighters, binders…oh what if?And my hats, one green, brown, white, black… It goes on and on. And when it came down to it, I wound up with a lot of stuff in my car, but I put a lot more of it into storage and I haven’t been left for want.

I look at some of what I did make room for in my car. My personal label maker. Don’t leave home without it! This is symbolic of my need for organization and structure. My memory box, with running medals and old journals. This gives me something from which to draw positive energy. I packed my pillows, a soft blanket, and a stuffed hippo – indicative of my need for comfort and warmth. Three travel coffee mugs. Perhaps I’m an addict? I packed a back up cell phone, a spare car key, and petty cash. Do I have to say that I am a proactive thinker who is prepared for the worst? I also packed a ton of starfish – I always have starfish on hand in case I need one…

Now…let’s look a little at what I don’t have. I didn’t make a list of emergency contacts – numbers are in my phone or no where at all. I didn’t pack my diplomas or certifications. I didn’t pack any photos or frames. I didn’t pack any pumps – or closed-toe shoes of any kind for that matter. And a bunch of THINGS that I don’t remember that I have.

What would you pack if you had to pack your entire life into a car? What, if anything, does this say about you?