Moving Forward to September

As we transition from this month to a new one (can you believe it?!) it has me thinking a bit about a topic that we talk about often: being thankful. Maybe you’ve had the kind of month that you’re really thankful to be getting out of it. Maybe it has taken all of your patience this month to deal with it and the people in it.  Maybe you’re sorry to see the month go for the usual reason, the end of summer, even if it wasn’t a great month for you.  Maybe you’re glad to see it go because it means the kids are finally out of your hair and back to school.  Or maybe you’re thankful for the end of this month because it means that you’ve enjoyed another month of life and are heading into a new month of opportunities and hope.  I’m not really sure where August went, but we can’t get it back.  The only thing we can do is move forward.

Move forward with patience: this month we’ve talked about patience, and I think what I’ve learned most of all is that even though I’m a patient person things have been taking way longer than I want them to.  It’s frustrating to know that I didn’t get half of what I wanted to done this month (again).  But there have been some good reminders and I’ve learned how to apply patience in each day.  I’m learning to double check things before I send them, go with my gut when it tells me to wait or to move, give people enough time to deal with the stuff in their lives while waiting for them to get back to me and understand that a month is a very short time in the scheme of things and I can pursue my dreams anew this next month.

Move forward with wisdom: one of the things I’ve been hearing over and over this month is about the important role that mentors have played in people’s lives.  I’m thankful that more people are finally jumping on board and admitting that they don’t know everything and they need help.  There’s no shame in admitting you don’t know everything, shame plays a role when you’re too stubborn or arrogant to admit that you need the help.  Who are the people and organizations you learn from and turn to on a regular basis?

Move forward because life is a gift:  I was passing by the TV and heard them talking about a man who passed away at 72 who was the picture of health and had always joked about living to 100.  You don’t know how long you have, each day could be your last.  Is it really worth it to spew that hate or write off that family member?  I don’t think so.  I think we should be making choices in our lives, relationships, careers and futures that are healthy, whole, sustaining and fulfilling.  There’s no point to wasting today if you don’t know you have tomorrow.

What do you hope September holds for you?

Waiting for God

We’re in the last few days of this month and our talk about the topic of patience.  One of the most challenging topics when thinking about patience is waiting for God.  Being how all-powerful, all-knowing, all-seeing, all-doing God is, it’s hard to understand why He wouldn’t rather resolve things sooner rather than later.  Sure you can talk about the lessons we learn and timing not being right, but the longer things take to happen the more we worry that God didn’t hear us or that His answer is that He’s not going to do anything.  Of course as I was thinking about how the month is ending it reminded me of our patience running out and what happens when we get there.

Sometimes when our patience runs out we act without thinking or do things that we’ve been thinking about for a while but haven’t decided to act on because we aren’t sure they’re the right thing to do.  Sometimes we do the thing that we should have done all along and just didn’t have faith in ourselves to know what was really right, so it took reaching the end of our patience to make it happen.  Other times reaching the end of our patience means we didn’t trust God’s timing and will enough to wait for Him to act.  Knowing the difference and which one is right for your current situation isn’t easy.

As I was thinking about this I read 1 Thessalonians 5:24 which says “He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it.” So what’s the answer?  The answer is to constantly work on your relationship with God so that you’re always ready to hear His guidance in when He’s telling you to act and when to wait.  It may sound simple, but you know it’s not always easy to devote the time and attention to that relationship with everything else going on in your life.  It means not just praying about the patience-related situation, but about other things that you and God are working on.  It means reading passages from the whole Bible, while still returning to the one giving you peace, hope and encouragement right now.  It means attending meetings, seminars and classes and services about more than just your current topic of struggle.  It means reaching out and supporting others who are in need, not just focusing on your situation.  What is God working on with you in your life and are you truly able to receive His leading?

Reality Reflection: Times are Changing

September is just around the corner, can you believe it?  Many states have already gone back to school and the rest will start soon.  School is something I alternately dreaded and looked forward to.  I believe there’s a lot we can improve on with regards to school, but that’s really a conversation for another day.  Today I want to talk about what a new school year is all about.  With a new school year comes chances to reinvent yourself, chances to change, changes whether we want them or not and opportunities for learning.  All of these things are opportunities we have as adults at any time, but times like the new school year, new year and changes of seasons are all times that we’re reminded of or feel a desire to make changes.  Yes, these can be scary or intimidating moments, but there are several things that have helped me through them.

First, the fact that we may not have an option.  The fact is there are always things that are new and different with a new school year.  It doesn’t stay the same, and even if you were to repeat a grade things would be taught different, the classroom may be different, there may be different teachers and homework may be different.  Very few things stay exactly the same all of the time.  So rather than fight to keep things perfectly same, maybe it’s time to learn to go with the flow of change.

Second, get creative.  You remember what it was like thinking about Halloween as a kid and contemplating who you wanted to dress up as.  As an adult you may dream about what it would like to be someone else or live life in a different way.  In this day and age there are very few things that say you can’t try new things or go new places or be someone different.  It’s easier than ever to start a business or learn a new skill or work in a career you never thought you could get into or place you could do the work in.  If you’re really serious about that dream, I believe you can get creative to make it happen.  There are more resources than ever and more ways you can make your dreams a reality if you’re willing to get a little creative at how you accomplish them.

Finally, reinventing yourself and change can be fun.  Whoever said change is bad and has to hurt was wrong.  Yes, there are usually some growing pains, but your attitude towards the changes can play a big role in how those changes ultimately go.  Many people have turned what could be painful changes into a game to make them more fun and easier to get through.  When you’re playing a game you’re thinking about winning big and crossing the finish line, not focusing on the fact that you might lose a turn, go back a few spots, lose some (play) money or lose a round.  You’re also celebrating the little wins that you hope and think will get you to the big win.

It may not seem like change is the best or easiest option, and sometimes it isn’t.  But all too often we put too much pressure on ourselves and as a result the change is a lot more difficult than it had to be.

Putting Patience into Practice

A couple weeks ago I shared a blog post with some quotes about the topic of this month: patience. Today I’m going to unpack a few of those quotes and share some more insights on patience as we head towards the end of this month.

“Why is patience so important? Because it makes us pay attention.” Paulo Coelho

I love this quote because it speaks to something that many people struggle with: paying attention. Yes, there are real medical conditions that cause people to struggle with their attention, but there are countless more of us who struggle not because of a medical condition, but because we’re too busy to pay attention or don’t care enough to pay attention. When patience is a skill that we live our lives with, not only are we more intentional about what we do, we’re also able to get the full picture quicker and better because we’re paying attention and not letting ourselves get sucked in by the distractions around us.

“Trying to understand is like straining through muddy water. Have the patience to wait! Be still and allow the mud to settle.” Lao Tzu

In the first quote we talked about not paying attention, and this quote speaks to something right in line with that: not seeing the truth about reality. Yes, the truth is that in the quote the water is muddy. But the truth that can be revealed after the water settles could be much more important than the fact that when water mixes around it gets muddy, for example when hunting for gold.   Are you rushing to see things and settle for the muddy water revelations, or willing to wait for true clarity?

“Patience gives your spouse permission to be human. It understands that everyone fails. When a mistake is made, it chooses to give them more time that they deserve to correct it. It gives you the ability to hold on during the rough times in your relationship rather than bailing out under the pressure. Stephen Kendrick

Sometimes I think we do forget and live a double standard, expecting leniency for ourselves but holding others to a much higher standard.  If anything it should be reversed.  But one of the most challenging and important relationships we can have is that of our romantic relationships. If you really want a satisfying relationship learn the skills of patience and forgiveness.  Yes, everyone should have limits and boundaries, but if you are really committed to the relationship you should be able to work through things before they get to the point of hitting the limit.

What great insights about patience do you have or have you read lately?

When God Takes Too Long

This month one of the topics we’ve been talking about is patience. The big question around patience is always “but what if things are taking too long?”  I agree, sometimes it seems like things are taking too long, especially in our fast paced, fast food, high speed internet world.  While I think by far and large we can slow down with most things, some things definitely benefit from being attended to as quickly as things can be in this day and age, like national disasters, missing people and health issues like Zika.  But waiting 30 minutes to get quality food, especially if you don’t have to cook or grow it yourself seems to seriously pain some people.  I understand we all have things going on in our lives, but sometimes the only thing that can be done is to wait and see.

One of the biggest challenges around waiting is when we’re waiting on God for something.  It can seem like God is taking forever to respond to our prayers, especially since He hears them instantly.  Sometimes God is waiting for us to do something, but all too often it’s just not time.  It’s not easy to wait, especially if you think the answer God is sending is that He’s not sending that miracle cure/job/person/child/freedom or whatever it is you’re praying for or would be an answer to your prayers.  Sometimes the answer is “no.”  Hearing the “no” is almost easier than hearing “wait” because it means we’ve been given an answer and aren’t waiting for things to happen or work in perfect order.

Fortunately or unfortunately, more often it seems like the answer is to wait.  Yes, that gives us hope that a solution is coming, but still challenges us to work on our patience and do what God has called us to do in the meantime.  If you’re in a waiting period, find comfort and hope in the words of Isaiah 60:22: “When the time is right, I, the Lord, will come quickly. I will make these things happen.”  You’ve probably experienced it at least once, that when God gets going, things really move. Sometimes things are revealed over time, other times it’s so fast you almost can’t see it happen.  So if you’re praying and waiting today I encourage you to continue to live your life and to be prepared for things to happen when God’s time is right.  Don’t be discouraged by the “wait”, instead, prepare for what is coming.

Reality Reflection: Time for Healing

It’s been a busy week for me, I’ve been doing lots of thinking and discovering.  Of course with that typically comes up a lot of the feelings, thoughts, and memories that you wish could stay buried forever.  While some can be reburied immediately (or as soon as possible), others need to be considered and dealt with, typically because they haven’t been dealt with in the past.  It’s not bad to have these things come back up, and honestly, the sooner they do, the better.  Because it’s not until you’ve dealt with them truly that you can really move forward.  Even if you didn’t remember the pain, fear, anger, frustration, hurt or other painful emotions from the past and the memories that they’re connected to, they could be holding you back.  While I’m not a big believer in digging up as much dirt and the past as possible over and over, sometimes it’s necessary to work through what happened and how you felt in the past because it will help you navigate the current change you’re going through in a better way and free you to see the world in a new light.

Whether you’re reinventing yourself, bringing things back to life, looking at things from a new perspective, creating something new, or making changes, you will have to deal with some challenging emotions, including those of failure.  While I don’t expect that you will fail in your process (I hope you don’t!) many people do experience some failures when they’re working through the change process.  Why? Because when things change we typically run into things we haven’t experienced before, or we’ll hit our personal stumbling blocks (including those we haven’t dealt with from the past) and we’ll trip and fall or not get it right on the first try because it’s new to us.   And again, while it’s not fun to fail, no one is perfect and few of us get things right on the first try.

So if you’re going through a time of transition like me, don’t hide or run from the past or the emotions and challenges that you face as you transition, change, think, grow, create or discover.  Know that they are part of the journey and could teach you valuable lessons to apply to your future.  And even if they don’t apply to your future, finally working through them can free you from baggage you didn’t even know you had holding you down.

Following the Flow of Life

I’ve been taking a lot of time to consider life and the future for the past few weeks.  I’ve been taking some downtime and trying to regain perspective on what life means to me and what my place is in it.  I’ve been reminded that everyone gets tired at points throughout their life.  Sometimes we get tired because we’ve been trying to fight the current and go against the grain.  While sometimes it’s the thing to do to get through to the bigger victory, other times fighting and resisting the natural flow of things really hurts you and keeps you from moving forward.

I’ve always been a path-less-traveled type of person, but the past few weeks have got me thinking about whether I’m on the right path or if I’ve been resisting the path.  Because even when we’re talking about “the path less traveled”, there’s still a path of some kind to follow.  One of the conclusions I came to is that when you’re busy fighting against the flow (or just trying to stay afloat) you can miss the path or get distracted and forget that you’re on a path.  Sometimes life does throw big blocks into your life like big health crisis or moving from one side of the country to another.  One challenge we have is staying on point as we navigate over/through/around those blocks.  Most of us get through OK, but not without a few scratches.

If you’re feeling tired this week I encourage you to take a look around and make sure that you’re not uselessly fighting against the current.  Make sure that you’re aware of your surroundings, the pressures in your life and have the support to work through what’s in your life.  If you are being blocked or fighting the current, learn the lesson you’re there to learn and get back on track as soon as possible.  You never know how much life you have left, so make sure to care for the life you have.

“It is always what I have already said: always the wish that you may find patience enough in yourself to endure, and simplicity enough to believe; that you may acquire more and more confidence in that which is difficult, and in your solitude among others. And for the rest, let life happen to you. Believe me: life is right, in any case.”  Rainer Maria Rilke

Making Time for Prayer

Lately a topic that I’ve been thinking about a lot is prayer.  Prayer is this unique communication tool that can bring all different kinds of people together.  It’s been something done by just about every religion throughout history, from the Israelites and Egyptians on to Christians and Muslims today.  I thought I’d start off by sharing a few thoughts on prayer from others:

“Express to God the deep desires of your heart and your real emotions. Tell God of your trouble, even if you have had a hand in bringing it about. Honest prayer is a mark of intimacy. It is a characteristic of a relationship that is authentic and real.”  Br. David Vryhof

“[Church is] where you learn how to pray. Of course, prayer is continued and has alternate forms when you’re by yourself. But the American experience has the order reversed. In the long history of Christian spirituality, community prayer is most important, then individual prayer.”  Eugene Peterson

“When you pray for anyone, you tend to modify your personal attitude toward them.” Norman Vincent Peale

“Always be joyful.  Never stop praying.  Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Prayer is a gift, an opportunity and a challenge.  It can be done in groups or by ourselves.  Prayer can be vocal and it can be silent.  Prayer can be about praising, reflecting or supplication.  We can pray about ourselves and others.  But perhaps most importantly, like any other tool, it must be used to have any effect.  You can’t put it on a shelf, you can’t take it out once a year, you can’t rely on others to do it.  It’s something you need to be doing on a regular basis if you want to see results or be able to call yourself someone who prays.

This week I encourage you to make time for prayer, for focused and specific prayer.  You can continue doing the “popcorn prayers” and other brief thoughts, but set aside time to really work on your prayer life and establishing that relationship between you and God and you, others and God.

Reality Reflections: Failure and Loss

This week in the news we’ve been hearing lots about the Olympics.  I’ve shared some thoughts on how awesome the concept of the Olympics is (bringing people together to celebrate talents and victories we can have), but today I want to talk about the darker side of the Olympics, and I’m not talking about what happens after the games end and everyone goes home.  What I’m talking about are the countless athletes who don’t get the medals and glory for their country.  We go through a similar experience when we don’t get the job, when we don’t get the house or when we don’t get the person, so this type of loss isn’t something that is reserved for only those on a world stage.

The reality is that there are lots of talented people on this planet.  Sometimes it will be the right thing for someone else to get the victory.  Maybe you were having an off day or they were better qualified in certain ways.  Other times the other person has an unfair advantage.  Maybe the boss is sexist, maybe someone decided to point and shoot to make their decision, or maybe you just got screwed.  I would like to believe that more often than not the right person is the one who wins, but we all know that the right person doesn’t always win because most of us can think of at least one situation where you were the person who “should” win but didn’t.

So what’s the answer?  I say you should always do your very best, try your hardest and practice mentally and physically so that you have the very best chance to win or be on top.  But don’t pretend that there isn’t anyone else who could come out on top, even if you think there’s no one else in the field.  If it happens that you don’t win, figure out how you can do better next time.  Or if it happens that the loss is not talent related, congratulate them and move on to your next goal.

Parts of Patience

As I’ve been finding quotes to share on social media and thoughts to inspire posts here on the blog I’ve found lots of quotes about our topic of this month, patience, too many to share in other ways, so I thought I’d do a post of great quotes to get you thinking about what patience could be for you.

“Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.”  A.A. Milne

“The two hardest tests on the spiritual road are the patience to wait for the right moment and the courage not to be disappointed with what we encounter.”  Paulo Coelho

“Patience is a conquering virtue.”  Geoffrey Chaucer

“Patience is power.  Patience is not an absence of action; rather it is “timing” it waits on the right time to act, for the right principles and in the right way.”   Fulton J. Sheen

“Why is patience so important? Because it makes us pay attention.”  Paulo Coelho

“A waiting person is a patient person. The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us.”  Henri J.M. Nouwen

“Make your ego porous. Will is of little importance, complaining is nothing, fame is nothing. Openness, patience, receptivity, solitude is everything.”  Rainer Maria Rilke

“Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language.  Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day.”  Rainer Maria Rilke

“Patience gives your spouse permission to be human. It understands that everyone fails. When a mistake is made, it chooses to give them more time that they deserve to correct it. It gives you the ability to hold on during the rough times in your relationship rather than bailing out under the pressure.  Stephen Kendrick

“Above all, trust in the slow work of God.  We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay.  We should like to skip the intermediate stages.  We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new.  And yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability—and that it may take a very long time.”  Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

“The world gives us PLENTY of opportunities to strengthen our patience. While this truth can definitely be challenging, this is a good thing. Patience is a key that unlocks the door to a more fulfilling life. It is through a cultivation of patience that we become better parents, powerful teachers, great businessmen, good friends, and a live a happier life.”  Steve Maraboli

“Inner peace is impossible without patience. Wisdom requires patience. Spiritual growth implies the mastery of patience. Patience allows the unfolding of destiny to proceed at its won unhurried pace.”   Brian L. Weiss

“Trying to understand is like straining through muddy water. Have the patience to wait! Be still and allow the mud to settle.”  Lao Tzu

What wise words have you heard recently about patience?