Reality Reflection: Strength and Beauty

This past week in the UK there was another royal wedding, Princess Eugenie married Jack Brooksbank. One of the big stories of this event was, unsurprisingly, about her dress, but not for reasons that people typically discuss it. Her dress made a point of showing her back scars from her surgery as a child.  You would have to be close to see the scar, it’s not something that’s noticeable from a distance, but it’s certainly there to see if you’re standing close to her.

Yes, it’s brave and makes a clear statement for all children who have surgery or deal with an illness. It shows them that it doesn’t matter who you are, anyone can have to deal with physical challenges, and anyone can overcome them to live a happy life and get married or be in healthy, committed relationships.  But it also shows a huge measure of confidence and self acceptance she has for herself and her body, something that many people who don’t have visible scars struggle with.

I don’t know what I would do in her situation, whether I would want to go with something that covered it or show it proudly to the world.  I might want to cover it not because I was ashamed of it but because I wouldn’t feel the need to show it off.  But at the same time it would be a part of who I am and my life story, so it might be something I would want to show, like someone would pick a dress that would show their tattoos.

Ultimately, it’s a celebration of two people committing to spend their lives together, and the outfit choices are strictly their choice and should be whatever makes them feel most comfortable and look their best on their special day.  It’s our job to celebrate with them, and love them for the people that they are.

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Appreciating Your People

This month we’ve been talking about some of the simpler things in life, and over the past week again I’ve been reminded how important the very simplest thing is to appreciate: each other. We’re surrounded on a daily basis with people whether we’re watching TV, going to work, on the internet or doing countless other things. Sometimes we take retreats and separate ourselves from others, but it’s really hard to get away from the other people who share this world with us. Which I think can be a good thing and a bad thing.

The reason I want to talk about today is the idea that because we’re so surrounded with others we don’t often appreciate them. Last week the world lost two great souls, Aretha Franklin and Kofi Annan, and this summer quite a few well-known individuals passed away as well including Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade. You don’t know when life will reach an end, when you won’t get to see someone again or talk to them again, or make memories again with them.

I know that it’s cool and fun and exciting to do new things, go new places, try new foods and meet new people, and it’s healthy to do so because we do need variety in our lives, and we do need to work our brains in different ways to keep it healthy. But sometimes we’re so focused on the new and different that we don’t take the time to appreciate what we already have, and the people who are already in our lives. I think this is one of the reasons that our romantic relationships fall apart; we’re so busy trying to keep up with life that we don’t take the time to nurture and love on what we already have.

With these last few weeks of summer upon us, I encourage you to take time to rebuild some of the relationships that you may have let fall by the wayside to do other things in your life. Start with taking a really good look at how healthy your relationships are, and consider if they’re in the condition you want them to be in, or if it’s time to work on them before they’re too damaged or distant to fix. If you’ve got great relationships, now’s the time to let the people in your life know how much you appreciate and enjoy them.

“Sometimes, what you’re looking for is already there.” Aretha Franklin

The Summer of Simple Relationships

It’s summer so many of us are living slower, simpler lives. We don’t feel like eating heavy meals, we do less, we take time off and we do more of what we enjoy. All of this got me thinking about relationships and applying slower, simpler summer principles to our relationships.

It starts with the why. Why do we live in miserable or less-than-awesome relationships? Sometimes it follows the ‘boiling frog’ concept, that it snuck up on us and now it seems like it’s too late (it is too late for the frog but not necessarily your relationship). Sometimes it’s a situation of you never really being right for each other but trying hard anyway. Sometimes it’s a case of poor communication or mis-matched expectations. But really, if there are simple things we can do to fix or improve our relationships why don’t we do them?

Why do we resist doing what our partner has asked? Maybe we forget, maybe we don’t want to do it or maybe we just can’t stand that they asked us to do it the way they did. If you or your partner honestly forgets, it’s time to implement a visual to-do list, whether it’s a text, app or piece of paper. If your partner doesn’t want to do what you asked them to do but you physically can’t do what you need done, and you’ve explained why you need them to do it and they still won’t, it may be time to hire someone for that task. If you/your partner doesn’t want to do what you/they asked, see if there’s something you can trade from the other person’s to-do list so you’re both doing work but not something you don’t enjoy doing.

If you can’t stand how your partner asks you to do something it may be indicative of a larger communication issue, one that may be resolved with some dialogue regarding how you communicate with each other, how that communication (including method and tone) makes each of you feel, what’s working and not working, and what you can do to improve your communication and thus your relationship. Communication is a great topic to work with a life coach or relationship coach on, they can help the conversation go in the directions it needs to go and help keep the peace.

Getting back to the topic of simple summers, what if you just did what your partner asked you to do? What if you told them you didn’t want to do something or physically couldn’t do something instead of just letting it go? What if you took time to communicate with each other throughout the day with texts, emails, calls and in-person time? What if you talked about expectations, goals, needs and challenges on a regular (at least yearly) basis? What if we took off some of the requirements that are hurting your relationship instead of helping like they’re supposed to? What if you worked more frequently on love and forgiveness instead of stress?

Making one simple change or adjustment each day can put you on the path to a healthier and happier relationship, what will you do today?

Building Relationships with Respect

With yesterday being Mother’s Day here in the US, I’ve been reflecting on families and relationships. Every day in the news there are stories of relationships gone wrong, of people letting others down, of people hurting other people and ways that people are destroying our world. But at the same time you can’t ignore the fact that some of those people are bad people. They’re not people you want in your life or around your kids, and they can’t be “fixed” unless there’s an Act of God. But fortunately, there aren’t as many of those people as the news makes it out to be. Most of us just have issues, quirks and traits that may or may not mesh with the people around us.

I do believe that we can learn to get along with just about everyone, whether it’s having a civil conversation or actually developing a friendship with them. But that does take a lot of work, typically from both parties. For some reason some people choose to hold grudges or make snap judgments about some people, and aren’t open in the future to changing those opinions, despite how they or the other person may have changed over the years. And no matter how kind or polite you may be to them, they’re just nasty. I’m not suggesting that you need to be best friends with everyone, but I don’t think we need to have the poor interactions and relationships many people have.

Does it take superhuman effort in some cases to get to that point? Yes, but that’s part of what God can help you with. Yes, the Bible talks about loving everyone, but for some of us loving is a big stretch. So let’s start with two things that are a lot simpler: treating others as you want to be treated and respecting others. God made them just like He made you and I, and I haven’t known God to make anything that was wrong or without purpose. So if for no other reason, choose to respect and treat them based on how you want to be treated, because God loves them. Not all moms are perfect examples, but many moms can run circles around us when it comes to loving and accepting their kids in a way that we struggle to accept and understand others.

This week I encourage you to think about your attitude and how you treat and interact with others, and spend time in prayer with God asking for His strength and guidance in how you can build more relationships and have more interactions that will honor Him.

“Respect everyone, and love your Christian brothers and sisters. Fear God, and respect the king.” 1 Peter 2:17

Are You Memorable?

Most of us spend a good portion of our days with other people, whether we’re talking with them thanks to technology or interacting with them in a more physical way like driving the same road, shopping in the same store, working in an office or living in the same house together. It’s both a blessing and a challenge that we’re so connected and have so many people in our lives. Some of the people that you’ll spend time with you may never really know or ever see again after that one interaction, while other people you’ll see again and again throughout your life journey. Most of us meet so many people that we don’t fully remember them, what they said, who they were, their name or where we know them from when we first met them, but if we meet up with them again we may remember them for two reasons: how they acted and how they made us feel.

Some people are just memorable people. Maybe it’s because of how they dress or the accent they have or the funny/tragic/bizarre story of how you two met. Sometimes many years later we’ll still tell the story of meeting that person and what went on even if we don’t ever see them again or know their name. But for most of us the people who seem memorable in the moment quickly become a memory. We move on and meet other memorable people, people who do add to our life journey, experience and lesson in their own way, even if we don’t really remember them.

The people we remember in crystal clarity even decades later are those who made us feel stand-out special or like dirt. Maybe it’s the school teacher who showed such love, grace and compassion on all the students in your class, and you knew that you’d always see a welcome smile on their face and cheery welcome, even if the rest of your life wasn’t great. Maybe it’s the boss who consistently talks down to you, has a nasty attitude towards you and doesn’t accept your ideas even when they asked for suggestions. Both of these situations are such that you have repeated interactions with the person and really get a good idea of who they are, not just the snapshot you get when you meet someone once. But sometimes you will only meet someone once and it’s a lifetime experience, like meeting the CEO of the really big company you work for and they make you feel like you’re not just one of thousands, but that you personally make a valuable contribution to the company.  Or you meet the person who’s been your hero from afar (sports stars, celebrities, leaders etc.) only to be completely dismissed by them.

How do you treat people? How do they feel after interacting with you? What will they remember you for? I know I would rather bring a little sunshine to someone than ruin their day, what about you?

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou

Have a Little Respect

Over the past week we’ve been hearing stories of #metoo, of primarily women who had unwanted attention showered on them by bosses, people of authority and other guys in general. It’s actually a campaign that’s more than 10 years old, but you and I most likely heard about it really over the past week and weekend with the news breaking from Hollywood. Many of my blog posts are about relationships. We’re all in relationships, whether of the sexual kind or the friend/coworker kind. That’s how our world runs. But not everyone is sensitive to or aware of, or caring how damaging seemingly simple things can be to a person and a relationship, not to mention the big issues like rape and domestic abuse.

As far as romantic relationships I fully support working with a counselor or therapist and trying to work things out when you and your partner hit a rough patch.  We all change as we grow up and grow older, and adding kids to the mix changes the dynamic between the two of you as well. Not to mention all the exterior challenges like work and health and other people that can be like a baseball or tennis ball automatic thrower that just keeps beating at your relationship. But sometimes the best thing to do is to walk away. It’s not always the easy thing and it’s not always the popular thing. And depending on the situation, even if it is the right thing to do you or your partner may have a season of hurting and healing ahead as you deal with the cause of the fallout and the subsequent separation.

I don’t believe that anyone should be in a relationship of any kind with someone who’s violent or demeaning. But as we’ve talked about here and overall as a nation and world, there’s a lot of growing and changing that has to happen with regards to race, violence and women, beyond all that we’ve already done to work on those issues. This most recent discussion won’t solve all the problems, but if anything, I hope it gives a few more women the strength and courage they need to stand up and get out of the not healthy situation they’re in. The violence may be all they (or you) know, all they grew up with or the only way they know men to behave.  I may not have the horrific stories that other women do, but I’ve experienced more than one uncomfortable situation with a guy.  I know that there is something on the other side of that wall. I know that each and every woman is capable of saying no, of having a say in how they’re treated and has something amazing to contribute to society other than, or in addition to, their physical capabilities as a woman and mother.

It starts with all of us women standing up and saying that it’s not right for anyone to be treated disrespectfully and doing something about it.  But nothing can happen if the men of the world won’t stand up as well and say that they’re going to treat women better and follow through on that promise.  Danny Brown shared a powerful blog post recently on the subject from a guy’s point of view and I would encourage you to check it out as well.  Let’s work together to make sure there are fewer ‘me too’ stories in the future.

Asking for Help

This month our topic is one that can be challenging for some, the topic of help. I know it’s not always easy asking for help, and we don’t always like the answer or help we get when we ask for help. But that shouldn’t scare us away from asking for help. There are a few things to consider with regards to asking for help. First, you’re asking for the help, that means you’ve come to a point that you really can’t do it alone anymore and need another person or need advice. Second, just because you ask, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to take that advice. Third, asking for help should not be seen as a weakness or point of humiliation or something wrong.

But in many situations it’s simply too much for us to do alone, for example the rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Harvey and Irma. There’s no way that anyone truly plans to recover from a natural disaster like this, but they happen. There’s also no way to plan for the death of a partner or child, no matter how long you’ve known about their condition, you’ll still have to go through the grieving process. And, there’s no way one person can lift a king sized mattress or move an extra large bookcase, you need at least 2 people. Sometimes you’re just admitting that you’re human and it’s easier with more than one person, and there’s a reason we’re all here together.

If you’ve been here for a while you know that I’m a big believer in not being everything for everyone. I know it can be tempting to try, but there’s really no reason to be everything when there are people who can do things far better or more efficiently than you can or have more knowledge than you do. I love celebrating the expertise of others and giving them the opportunity to shine at what they do best.

So today I would challenge you to go ahead and ask for help. Maybe it will be something small like asking someone to hold the door open. Maybe it will be something bigger like asking someone to look over a proposal you’ve received. Maybe you’ll be extra brave and talk with your partner about one of the things that’s challenging you in your relationship or ask how you can better fulfill their needs in your relationship. Start small or go big, but make the choice to ask for help today.