STSS: Bleed For It

My cousin cried next to me but I screamed, “Hit him, Daddy! Hit him!”

My dad was a boxer.

And I was a blood-thirsty, little girl.

I wouldn’t be too interested in watching two men beat each other up now, but there is something inspiring about people who push themselves to the limit, something captivating about rooting for someone who overcomes impossible odds and achieves victory.

This is why movies like Rocky, The Hunger Games, and Remember the Titans appeal to us.

We love to see underdogs succeed. The higher the stakes, the better. The more our heroes have to bleed, sweat and sacrifice the more in awe we are.

But when it comes to our blood, sweat & sacrifice, we’re not inspired at all.

We quit.

We give up.

And we like it.

Simple Truths from Simple Stuff newSimple Truth: We’d rather bow out when things get tough (temptation, trials, goals), but if we’d push through, our victory would make us stronger & inspire others!

Have you ever completed such an intense workout that you seriously felt like you were going to die, or at least be very, very sick? It hurts, but when you finish, you feel good and strong.

The sweat dripping off you, the cramping in your side, the tenderness of your muscles – they’re no longer negatives. You are proud to say, “I went through all this pain, and I came out stronger because of it.”

The same principle applies to life.

God has promised He will never leave or forsake us. He said He will give us what we need. He called us “more than conquerors.”

So there is no question about whether you can overcome these obstacles.

The question is will you push through? Or will you give up?

One way to increase your odds of victory:

Your mind is powerful, so visualize your life as a great movie. You’re the star. You’ve got to come out on top. When you’re struggling and feeling like you’re going to fall flat on your face, play that Rocky theme song and pump your fist. When you have too many tasks to get done, pretend the fate of the world is in your hands, and you have super speed. If temptation is pulling at you, imagine you’re at the climactic moment of your life movie, and of course, you’re going to win!

Your turn to talk: Any struggles out there we can pray for? How do you keep fighting when you want to give up?

STSS: I Was Suffering & No One Knew

On the outside, I looked normal, but inside, I felt horrible.

After several days of being so sick I couldn’t get out of bed, I decided to work a couple of hours AND make a trip to the grocery store even though my loving and apparently very wise husband urged me to skip the store.

By the time I reached Kroger, I already felt tired and clammy.  I moved past the sliding doors, and the sound of groceries being swiped across the bar code scanner filled my ear. Each high-pitched beep sent a little stab of pain in my head. I hurried to the back of the store, but I kid you not, the sound stayed in my ear, echoing over and over.

My currently out-of-whack ear made it hard to hear normal conversation but amplified loud or high-pitched noises, and to me, the store sounded like a bunch of pre-teen girls at a One Direction concert. I sagged against my basket, gathering the items on my list and avoiding overly loud people, including a happy baby who squealed and shrieked like a demon feasting on souls.

My cashier told me jokes I could not hear. I nodded and smiled. At the register next to mine, a familiar, giggly scream made me wince. The demon baby had returned! Her mom smiled at me, and I smiled back before I even realized it.

To everyone around me, I seemed perfectly fine, and that’s when it occurred to me:

On average, we don’t know what’s happening in the lives of the people around us, and we’re usually too busy, too oblivious or too selfish to care.

Simple Truths from Simple Stuff newSimple Truth: People who are hurting and need love aren’t always going to make it obvious for you.

Ask God to give you His perspective, and be on the lookout for people who need encouragement and love. This requires an attitude that looks outwardly rather than focusing on self. Start every day by praying for a heart for others.

You can also pray for people as you see them. You don’t know what they need, but God does. A short prayer like, “Please bless that woman and give her the strength to overcome the problems she’s facing today” could make a huge difference in her day!

To sum it up short, sweet & ready to tweet:

Look for people who are hiding their hurt & love them.

Become A Better Person

I am burning up right now.

Not because I’m still sick, but because I’m on fire for God.

 

God is a consuming fire

No worries. This is actually a sunset, not the world on fire.

Especially after conferences, amazing concerts or mission trips, we can get a spiritual high we hope will last forever. Unfortunately, it never does.

But those times of closer communion with God are so uplifting and make our spiritual life and daily life vastly improved that it makes sense to replenish our spiritual well as often as possible.

Every month I have a “date” with God, and this helps realign my spiritual focus back on Christ. It helps me be a nice person when I really want to channel my dad’s boxing skills on mean people. It helps me remember to stop and pray during my day. It keeps my disposition sunny when things are looking gray.

I’ve mentioned my God Dates before but over time, I’ve developed a specific routine that I think works really well, and I wanted to share with you.

 

1. Worship song – Pick a song, turn it up & just worship. Music moves our hearts. It can radically change our moods. When you take time to really listen to a worship song, your spirit is going to start moving into alignment with God’s. Don’t stress over which song to choose. When you’re in the mood for an old favorite, pick that. When you want to hear something new, go for it.

 

2. Prayer of adoration - If you think about it, many, many of our prayers are asking for what we need/want. We need to turn that around, and after a great, Jesus-praising song is a perfect time to pour out some verbal love on God. You will naturally be in a praise-oriented mood, and you can expand upon some of the lyrics of the song when you struggle with what to say. Ex) The song says, “The God of angel armies is always by my side.” You say something like, “God, you are powerful and mighty, commander of an angel army. Knowing that you are with me fills me with hope and strength and pride. God, you are greater than any other, and I will stand for you, confident in your power.”

 

3. Bible reading/prayer - Crack open your Bible. You can let the Spirit lead you, pick up where you last left off or fall back on something like Psalms or Proverbs. As you read, pray over the verses and praise God for the things He’s done/can do, ask God for understanding and for help applying them to your life. No specific time limit on this: 5 minutes, 10 minutes, as you grow closer to God and desire Him more, maybe an hour!

 

4. Worship song - Listen to another worship song. I really like music and singing. I usually pick something upbeat because by this time I’m in a really good mood, and I want to jump around and shout about how great God is. Substitute this for something tailored to you if you’d like. Maybe you prefer writing out poems about God, painting or composing an opera.

 

5. Closing prayer - Thank God for this time you’ve had to renew. Ask Him to remain with you throughout the day (Spoiler: He will!) and help you keep your great attitude.

 

6. Meditation - Close your eyes. Breathe in slowly for a 5 count. Pause. Exhale for a 5 count. Pause. Repeat the breathing, and clear your mind. To help you focus, you can pick a short phrase that encapsulates your “theme” for this particular God date. Maybe you read a verse about letting go of fear, and that’s what you want to take from the experience. You might think, “I will trust God and not fear.” Time the phrase with your breathing, and you will (hopefully) be able to really concentrate on only that, letting all distractions and worries disappear. When other thoughts come to you, acknowledge them. If you try to ignore, they tend to get noisy! But after acknowledging them, think, “I’ll think about that later,” or “I won’t worry about that,” etc. You can imagine locking them away in a chest if it helps. Once again, no specific time on this. The more you do it, the easier it becomes and the longer you will probably want to do it.

 

What do you think about this routine? What would you add?

Be Productive Even When You’re Sick

I’m alive!

I’ve been out of the blogging world (heck, even the real world) for two weeks with a horrible case of strep. Now if you know me, you know that few things can keep me from being productive, and strep would not be one of those.

But a case of strep so bad that it blocks off my ear drainage tube resulting in throbbing brain pain – yes, that apparently does it.

IMG_4930

And while I was lying in bed, drugged up on painkillers, drifting in and out of consciousness, I thought of 3 ways to keep a productive attitude even when you’re sick.

Of course, they didn’t work for me … but if you’re not spending half your time freaking out about a giant cloud of pressure in your ear and the other half unconscious, give them a try:

 

1) Keep a positive perspective – remind yourself that this is just a season, and yeah, it stinks to feel bad AND fall behind on your goals, but it will eventually be over. This helps you feel better mentally & physically, plus keeps you ready to jump in strong when you’re ready rather than mope about depressed about how far behind you are.

2) Delegate – there are certain times in life that people will give you a lot of attention and help: when you get graduate from school, get married, have a baby … and when you’re sick. Don’t take advantage of people, but do take this opportunity to get some help. In fact, if you have struggled to get your team/coworkers/family to do tasks you’ve asked them about multiple times in the past, this is your moment to really guilt them into it ;)

3) Complete easy goals – Think about the things you usually put off. This is a great time to finish them. For example, you may feel too bad and be too contagious to go out and recruit volunteers, but you can probably huddle in bed and create a great “Welcome to the Team” email. There are lots of small, easy things you can accomplish if you get creative: catch up with friends through text, clean out your purse or wallet, read through useful blogs, and so on!

 

What other ideas do you have for being productive when you’re sick?

 

Be Slow To Accomplish Your Goals

Being slow … a good thing?

Florida Box Turtle Digon3 re-edited.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

When I spent three weeks in Zambia, Africa, the slow-paced lifestyle shocked me. I intended to start working at a school on my 1st day, but ended up sight-seeing for 3 days because some scheduled construction at the school kept getting put off. And the construction workers didn’t even contact the school. They just kept not showing up!

Especially in America, being slow is not considered good.

But as much as we may dislike it, God’s perfect timing is sometimes slower than we like, and that’s a good thing.

Why?

Waiting can purify motives & clarity.

 

When I was in high school, I wanted to drop out of school, move to California and be on the Disney Channel ASAP!

As I adult, I still like performing but I’ve realized I like writing way more, I liked the thought of being famous probably too much and that being in the Hollywood environment so young would not have been good.

My dreams of acting now are better dreams: I want to act because I like to perform, be creative and bring to life imaginary worlds. I want to work with other Christians to create quality, family friendly TV. I want to voice a Disney Princess and bring joy to little girls like Ariel and Belle did for me.

I am not encouraging you to slack off or be lazy. Don’t sit around and claim you are waiting for God’s perfect timing. Better motives and clarity can also come from trying and failing and learning as you go.

But this is a reminder not to tear yourself down if you are “behind” on your dreams.

 

God has a good plan for you, and while you are waiting for it, dream a better dream.

STSS: Does God Like How You Smell?

Ever have to track down something with your nose?

If you have kids or pets, you definitely have done this.

You get a whiff of something mysterious (or horrifying) and sniff around the house until you find a kid covered in peanut butter, the tub filled with expensive body wash instead of bubble bath, a dog or kid who has clearly forgotten their potty-training skills or worse.

Sometimes you can’t find the source of the smell, but your nose knows … it’s out there somewhere.

I had a friend over during the Christmas holidays and while we were watching TV, she said, “I keep smelling something really sweet.”

“The plug-in air freshener is right beside you,” Eric answered.

“Oh, I’m glad you can smell it. I’ve gotten used to it,” I said while thinking that my plan to sit her by the air freshener so she’d think I’m an excellent homemaker paid off. Mwa ha ha! (That’s an evil laugh, btw.)

Although she couldn’t identify the source, she knew there was something that smelled great in the house. Did you know that Christians can give off a great scent as well?

And no, I’m not marketing a new perfume for Christians!

shareasimage (1)

 

Ephesians 5:2 says, “Live in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” When we live in love, we are a good smell to God which means if we’re not living in love …

We stink.

Simple Truths from Simple Stuff new

Simple Truth: Our actions are like fragrances. They either entice or repel the people around us. 

 

Hearts are won and minds change when God’s radical love is evident in our everyday lives. People may not be able to point a word to it, but they will be drawn to it just like their nose leads them to the funnel cake stand at the fair. When we are judgmental and self-righteous, people will keep a wide berth from us and our God just like they detour around a dumpster. If we are apathetic and self-absorbed, we lack any sort of fragrance and impact.

Consider the fragrance of your life. Are you the beautiful rose enticing people to search for the source of goodness in our lives, a reeking trash can or empty of fragrance?

To sum it up short, sweet & ready to tweet:

Make sure your actions don’t stink up Christ’s name!

 

How To Accomplish It All

I don’t have a Bucket List, but I do have a Live Life to the Fullest List. Some of the items on there?

Disney Castle

Did that & about to do it again in May!

  • Swim with dolphins
  • Host a birthday party for my cat 
Card Carrying Cat Lady

Yep, I’m a card-carrying cat lady

  • Host a murder mystery dinner party
  • Skydive
  • Own an awesome mermaid tail (Did you know we can learn a lot about following Jesus from the Little Mermaid?)

Plus more. Sometimes I am confident I will accomplish all my goals and these fun items on my list, but other times, I think there’s just no way.

There are so many responsibilities sucking up our time, so many goals we hope to accomplish, yet so little time. So what do we do when we believe we’ll never get it all done?

 

Three things.

One) Remind yourself that life is made of seasons. You can’t do it all in this one season of life, but if you use your time wisely, you can do a lot within your entire life span. Maybe traveling the world will have to wait until retirement, but joining an art class can happen now. Or if you’re young and single, you could travel now while you have less responsibilities but put off learning to sew until you’re older. Choose what you want/can do now and don’t stress yourself about the rest.

 

Two) Laser focus on one thing at a time. Lasers are powerful because of their extremely concentrated intensity. If you can adopt the mindset of setting your sights on one task and concentrating on it until it’s complete, you’ll be amazed what you can get done. It’s hard to laser focus because it feels like we are slacking on other important things. But think of it this way: most of us have multiple partially completed projects and plans cluttering up our desks and minds. It takes us several weeks to do a bit on this and a little on that. Why not take one week and completely knock a job out? Then move to the next project. You’ll spend the same amount of time on the projects overall, but you’ll actually be finishing them.

 

Three) Learn to differentiate between important tasks and urgent tasks. We tend to put urgent tasks first because, duh, they need to get done urgently. Important tasks tend to make more of a real difference though. An example from me is that I gather Bible class materials as the first project in my work day because class is always coming up, but that means I leave things like planning for future big events or strategizing for later … and later … and later until suddenly it’s become an urgent task. Instead, I should spend an hour planning and then work on gathering materials. Do important things first.

 

Implement these three tips into your life today and you will feel less overwhelmed plus get more done!

STSS: Naked Squirrels & Giving Responsibility Away

Last week I had a horrible headache while at work. I normally don’t have headaches and was unprepared, so I went to my mother’s house searching for painkiller.

When I stepped out of my car, I immediately spied a small, pale, fleshy thing on the ground. My first thought was a feral cat had miscarried. The reason I know what kitten fetuses look like is a whole other story involving a young cat and my bedroom closet. But I had made certain that all the feral cats around my parents’ property were neutered.

Then I realized it was a very tiny baby squirrel, still hairless, eyes closed.

Image from: http://valleywildlife.org/Valley_Wildlife_Care_of_Virginia/ Found_wildlife.html Because I didn’t think to take a picture of the actual squirrel I found :/

When I picked it up, it squeaked and nuzzled my hand. I saw another baby about a foot away, but it was dead. These were way too small to have been hopping around and accidentally fall out of the nest. Something had probably happened to the mom and the hungry babies wriggled out of the nest looking for food.

I forgot all about my headache and went into rescue mode: “I need a heating pad, tiny blanket, shoe box, formula. I’ll have to go to Tractor Supply for the formula. I think I still have mini bottles here.”

Then I stopped. Having raised a three-day old kitten before, I knew how time-consuming this would be, and I knew I didn’t have the time. In addition, I was pretty darn good with kittens, but had no experience with squirrels.

I realized there was probably someone (hopefully close by) that would be better at this than me. 

Simple Truths from Simple Stuff newSimple Truth: You are not best at everything and you don’t have time to do everything. Do what you’re best at and don’t hesitate to enlist the help of others for everything else.

Delegating can be super hard, especially for people who naturally have leadership tendencies … and annoying busy-body people who like to be in everything, but that’s a different point. Despite the difficulty, delegating is such a smart skill to develop.

Romans 12:4-6 says, “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us …”

I don’t think any of us would want our pancreas doing our heart’s job, right?

In the same way, we should each focus on our strengths and let the other things go.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You can get amazing results if you are willing to bring other people in on your projects and have them lend their expertise.

Like with the baby squirrel, for example. I found out that Walker County had one wildlife rehabber and gave her a call. She was driving near-by and came quickly. She checked between the squirrel’s legs and said, “Congrats, you have a girl.” Then she told me a bunch of stuff about squirrels and how this one was bigger than some in the past she’s successfully rehabbed.

Yep, it sounded like I had made the best decision by giving that responsibility to someone else.

And I just want to take a second to say, isn’t God great? The Bible tells us that even the birds are under His watch and apparently so are squirrels. What are the chances I would get a headache, go home and find a baby squirrel in need of rescue? Like my mom said, “If there’s an animal nearby that needs help, somehow Tiffany finds it.”

Thanks for always leading me in the right direction, God :)

To sum it up short, sweet & ready to tweet:

You can’t be the best at everything so save your time & ask for help! 

(Click to tweet)

Your turn to talk: What are some of the talents God has given you? What are you best at? What do you need to delegate?

Improve Your Communication In One Easy Step

Are you ready? Here it goes, something super important you need to know …

Māo bǐ gǒu gèng hǎo

Of course you can only understand it if you speak Chinese.

Oh, OK, I’ll tell you in English:

Cats are better than dogs.

image

Image from http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/ 18.395450-Poll-Cats-Rule-Dogs-Drool

So all joking aside (although cats are clearly superior), my message wasn’t that important, but just imagine if it had been. You would have missed out because I made the bad decision to communicate in a language my audience probably wouldn’t speak.

But this isn’t about my communication skills. It’s about yours. How good of a communicator are you?

Most of us at least speak in the language our listeners know, but that doesn’t mean we do a good job communicating.

If you can’t communicate well, you’ll struggle with:

 

  • Recruiting people to help you with your goals & dreams

 

  • Leading a team of volunteers or employees

 

  • Presenting your projects

 

  • Even daily life with your spouse, family & friends

Not very conducive for accomplishing those goals & glorifying God! So here’s a tip for improving communication:

Say & ask exactly what you mean

A lot of times we tiptoe around what we really mean which only leads to problems. For example, last week Eric and I went to Chipotle. He asked me how I wanted to pay. What he really meant was, “Is it OK if I don’t use my gift card?”

I answered his unspoken question and said, “If you want to save your gift card for later, that’s fine. We can take this out of our regular restaurant budget.”

But if I hadn’t realized what he was asking,  I might have answered, “Well, we have a gift card.” He might go ahead and use it without explaining his reasoning for saving it because he would assume I had answered knowing he wanted to save the gift card. Then he might be upset with me, and I’d have no idea why.

Although there are times you shouldn’t say exactly what you mean (i.e., “Please give me a raise because I hate this job but really need more income.”), more direct communication often improves conversations.

Think about what you really want out of a situation and frame your question/statement around that.

For example, if you want your spouse to take you to your favorite restaurant this weekend, say, “Hey, can we go to {someplace delicious} Friday?” Don’t say, “I don’t really feel like cooking Friday.” That could lead to eating at your spouse’s favorite restaurant!

This concept becomes even more important when you’re working to accomplish your goals. Imagine which person would get a better response:

“I want to accomplish this goal by the end of the year. I think it will be easier with a good team if anyone’s interested.”

OR

“I am looking for five people to help me with A, B and C. I think you would be good at this because {something awesome about that person}, and it would be great to have on your resume/help you improve a skill/connect you with some great people, etc.”

I challenge you to start saying & asking exactly what you mean this week. Pay attention to the difference it makes in how people communicate with you.

Your turn to talk: Are you the type who says what you mean too much or do you need to be more upfront? And most importantly, do you think cats or dogs are better, and why? ;)

STSS: Mug Shots & Long-Lasting Consequences

During one of my dad’s internet binges, he stumbled across an article about a woman from our hometown trying to start a singing career. The next time I visited, he said, “Hey, I think you went to school with this girl. Come see.”

He googled her name, and a picture of her, all smiley and with really great hair, popped up. I didn’t recognize her, but that’s not the direction this story is going in.

Another picture/article combo appeared below the first: a rather unflattering mug shot from her drunk driving arrest.

“Ouch,” I said. “That’s gotta be bad for publicity.”

She may have been making a new start for herself, but she couldn’t escape the consequences of the past.

Simple Truths from Simple Stuff new

Simple Truth: Think before you act because although God forgives, consequences aren’t always so forgiving.

We’ve all done dumb things we regret, and we are so blessed to have a God who loves and forgives us.

But what about those real life consequences? Sometimes they’re pretty costly.

It would be great if we could just always do the right thing, but life doesn’t work that way.

I’m going to give you a little tip that makes it easier to do the right thing. This tip works because humans tend to be naturally selfish and this method is all about protecting yourself in the future, which our minds love. In a moment of extreme temptation, we may not have the will power to do what’s right, but just get our survival instincts going, and our brains will shout, “Wait! This could be bad for us.” Suddenly, we have more reservations about carrying on.

So rather than living life as if it is all about now, think about your future. “Hmm, will this negatively affect my future?” should be the question in your mind every time …

  • You want to scream at your spouse instead of put in the work to communicate well
  • You’d rather stuff your face with doughnuts than stick to your healthy eating plan
  • You feel pressured to join your co-workers in bad-mouthing your boss
  • You feel the siren song of an old addiction
  • And so on

I love the way Taylor Swift thinks about it in her 2014 interview with Time:

“It’s the same thing as living your life based on what your grand-kids will say one day. I’m sure there will be things that my grand-kids make fun of me for no matter what, but I’d really rather it be, ‘Look how awkward your dancing was in the ‘Shake It Off’ video! You look so weird, Grandma!’ rather than ‘Grandma, is that your nipple?'”

Yep, that’s pretty good incentive for thinking ahead!

So to sum it up short, sweet & ready to tweet:

Consequences can have far-reaching effects. Think about those before you act.

Your turn to talk: Have you ever had to deal with some nasty consequences? How did you handle it? Any tips besides thinking about consequences for making better choices?