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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Lead the Way

There is one particular phrase that I’ve said countless times in my life and that is – Lead the way!  The main reason those words come out of my mouth so freely is that I’m hopelessly inept when it comes to directions.  I mean, I can whip out a recipe while following directions and I can eventually figure out how to fold a complex paper airplane using directions.  BUT!  Driving directions?  Foh-get about it!  You won’t ever see me in the front of any caravan saying, “Follow me!”

Prime example – just the other day, I told my husband that I needed to run an errand thirty minutes from the house.  He asked (as he always graciously does), “Do you need me to draw you a map?”  “Nope,” I confidently replied, “I got this.”

Now, I’m also desperately old-fashioned in many ways and I don’t own a GPS or smart phone or any other technology gizmo, doodad, thingamajig, or doohickey that could help me along the way, say, IF, I got turned around.  I do have a flip-phone (but, no texting…).  So cool, I know, but please don’t be jealous – ha ha!

So, recalling the one time I had been to this place, I dug down deep to remember the way.  Of course, I got turned around (because there were TWO roads with the exact same name – go figure!) and I took the one on the left instead of the one on the right.  Two roads diverged in a yellow wood and my ever so dependable coin flip failed me – hee hee!

I will have you know that I sensed I was not headed in the right direction since nothing looked familiar.  So, before I was in another state, I turned around and headed down the other road choice.  My hubby was extremely proud of me for this realization.  Typically, NOTHING clicks in the directions department.  I don’t normally “sense” anything.  I’m makin’ progress, people.  Makin’ progress.  There’s hope.

I kid you not, two days later, an elderly man was stopped in the middle of a country road and was waving his hands for help.  I didn’t know what he needed, so I slowed down a bit and hollered, “Can I help you?”  He said, “Yeah, I think I’m lost (join the club!), can you tell me where the nearest town is?”  I chuckled to myself (if he ONLY knew who he was asking directions from!).  I helped him with a few, simple directions and he was incredibly grateful.  Proud moment for me.

I may never be the “go-to-gal” when it comes to directions, but I promise to keep trying.  Of course, there is always one dependable source in which I continually ask for direction.  My prayer begins with “Lead the way, Lord.”  I received an e-mail reflection about guidance the other day that was certainly a keeper:

Whether I invite a particular change or it seems thrust on me, change is unsettling.  “What should I do?” “What can I do?” I may ask.  While advice from others may be helpful, it might also lead me to overthink, until I am even more confused.

I will turn within to shed divine light on the subject.  Going deeper than surface appearances, I become receptive to infinite wisdom.  I quiet my thinking mind, and in the stillness, I allow my intuition to be awakened.  I know the answers are within me, and I wait for them to unfold.  With clarity and calm, I summon the courage to act on the divine guidance I receive.  I am thankful for a greater good unfolding through me.

That little prayer brings me peace, especially when I’m in decision-making mode.  When I knock on God’s door so often throughout the day, there are times I get a mighty “YES.”  But, aren’t there times when we get a loving “NO?”  Here is an e-mail I received from Aunt Irene that puts some things into perspective for me when I ask for quick fixes and God knows there is a better way:

I asked God to take away my habit.  God said, “No.  It is not for me to take away, but for you to give it up.”

I asked God to grant me patience.  God said, “No.  Patience is a byproduct of tribulations.  It isn’t granted.  It is learned.”

I asked God to give me happiness.  God said, “No.  I give you blessings.  Happiness is up to you.”

I asked God to spare me pain.  God said, “No.  Suffering draws you apart from worldly cares and brings you closer to Me.”

I asked God to make my spirit grow.  God said, “No.  You must grow on your own, but I will prune you to make you fruitful.”

I asked God for all things so that I might enjoy life.  God said, “No.  I will give you life so that you may enjoy all things.”

I asked God to help me love others as much as He loves me.  God said, “Ahhh…finally you have the idea.”

Lead the way.

As my family and I wrapped up a wonderful Memorial Day weekend, we made it a point to pray for and remember all of those special men and women who have fought and fallen for our many freedoms.  As a part of our celebrations, we went to an amazing sand sculpture that was crafted in honor and in memory of our country’s heroes.  As one sculptor put it, “True heroes wear dog tags, not capes.”

While we were visiting, we heard a story that will not soon be forgotten.  It was yet another reminder of the importance of listening to the Holy Spirit’s nudges.  A woman shared a story of how a soldier etched his best friend’s name in one of the sand sculptures.  He then wept as he remembered his fallen friend.  As he pointed to his friend’s name, he cried, “He was my very best friend.”  While he said this, a couple stood nearby and overheard his cries.  They said, “Which name are you pointing to?  Who was your best friend?”  The soldier pointed to the name and the couple embraced the man.  “He was our son.”  And so, a new chapter begins.

One minute sooner or one minute later and this timely meeting might not have taken place.  Did the Holy Spirit nudge the young soldier and the fallen soldier’s parents to be at the Wounded Warrior’s sand sculpture at just that moment?  I think so.

When the Spirit nudges, we should always respond with, “Lead the way.”

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

What if I Can?

Photo Credit:  Karpati Gabor at

I’m not always the best at positive thinking, but I do try to work at it.  Hard.  Instead of asking myself questions like, “What if I don’t?  What if I won’t?  What if I can’t?” – I try to remind myself to ask, “What if I DO?  What if I WILL?  What if I CAN?”

There is something to be said about being positive.  It makes the impossible come within our grasp.  It makes us optimistic, happier, easier to be around, and more attractive overall, really.  Instead of being desperately life-draining to others and ourselves, we become more life-giving when we look for the positive.  I read a perfect example of an upbeat attitude just the other day (from Mikey’s Funnies):

A confident little boy was practicing baseball.  He said: "I'm going to be the greatest baseball player in the world!"  Then he threw the ball up, made a huge swing, and missed.

He picked up the ball another time, said, "I'm going to be the greatest baseball player in the world!" threw the ball up, took a great big swing, and missed again.

Once more, he said, "I'm going to be the greatest baseball player in the world!" threw the ball in the air, made his biggest swing yet, and missed the ball a third time.

He dropped his bat, raised both his arms to the sky, and cheered wildly, "Hooray! Hooray!  I'm the greatest pitcher in the whole wide world!!"

Positive thinking.

My son and I had a discussion recently.  We were talking about all of the sources of energy that a car could run on (in the past, present, and future) – wood, gas, diesel, solar, electricity, compressed air, hydrogen, steam, etc.  Then, I said, “Hey, what if our cars could run on positive energy?”  He looked at me kinda funny because we had recently had a conversation about being more positive and looking for the pluses instead of all the minuses.

I said, “Wouldn’t that be something?  What if the only cars on the road were folks who were sending out positive vibes?  What if our cars came to a screeching halt the moment our thoughts and words veered down a negative path?”  (Food for thought anyhow.)  I’m wondering how often my car would be pulled over in a ditch somewhere until I got myself back on the right track in my thinking?  Hmmm…

The “I can” attitude will get us so much further than the “I can’t” one.  Someone in particular comes to mind after reading his autobiography.  He said, “Just look at me:  I’m five foot ten and a hundred fifty-two pounds.  I wear glasses, speak with a lisp, and have a physique that makes it appear I’ve been afflicted with scurvy most of my life.  I ranked low in my graduating class of two seventy-eight coming out of high school.  And here I am, a head football coach at Notre Dame.”

This once rail-thin kiddo with a pronounced speech impediment set his sights on being significant.  He said that, “Coaching gives one a chance to be successful as well as significant.  The difference between those two is that when you die, your success comes to an end.  When you are significant, you continue to help others be successful long after you are gone.  Significance lasts many lifetimes.  That is why people teach, why people lead, and why people coach.”

His positive energy is contagious and his name is Lou Holtz.  He is the winner of three national Coach of the Year honors, the only coach ever to lead six different schools to season-ending bowl games, the ninth-winningest college football coach and ultimately one of the most sought-after motivational speakers in history.

My husband and son had the amazing, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to attend a fundraising event where Lou Holtz was the speaker (a BIG thank you to my awesome sister-in-law, Kerri!!).  Without a doubt, that evening will be forever etched in their memories.  They took a picture with Mr. Holtz and he even especially autographed his book for my son – “Hope this book inspires you as much as I inspired Peggy.”  I can’t tell you how many times we’ve watched the Discover Card Peggy commercials on YouTube, so this was a pretty big deal for my little man.

My son so graciously let me read his prized book, “Wins, Losses, and Lessons,” and I wanted to share a few pieces of wisdom that stood out for me.  These quotes are taken from a speech that Holtz gave his struggling Notre Dame team when he approached them for the first time as their head coach:

“I ask each of you to follow three basic rules:  Do what is right.  Do your very best.  Treat others like you’d like to be treated.  Those rules answer the three basic questions I’m going to ask of each of you, and I expect you to ask me and the other coaches.  The questions are:  Can I trust you?  Are you committed?  And do you care about me?  This is what I believe and practice.”

He went on to say, “These three rules are all you need, whether you are a coach, a player, a parent, a child, an employer, or an employee.  Everyone you meet asks three questions mentally:  Can I trust you?  Are you committed to excellence?  Do you care about me?  The three rules answer these three questions positively.  If you can trust someone, know he is committed to excellence, and cares about you, hug him and never let him go, because he is a winner.”

Holtz wrapped it up with an example that I feel can be applied to life in general:  “We’re not going to win football games because I’m here any more than someone can fix a flat tire by changing the person driving the car.  If we’re going to be successful, we have to get rid of excuses for why we can’t win.”

Love that attitude, don’t you?  I’m sure Lou Holtz did not get where he is today by saying, “What if I can’t?”  I’m certain that he got there by saying, “What if I CAN?”

But, Mr. Holtz doesn’t want to be known for the successes he had as a coach or even as a public speaker, because success dies.  He wants to be known for being significant - for helping others to better their lives through word and deed.  Holtz says that significance is forever.

Thank you, Coach, for the motivation to be better…to do better…to impact lives…to be… significant.  I will always remember to ask, “What if I CAN?”

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

That's the Truth

Photo Credit:  corena at

I’ve found that honesty can be much like bike riding on a windy day.  Telling the truth is like riding with the wind at your back, pushing you along and helping you take the curvy roads of life a whole lot easier.  Being dishonest is more like riding into the wind, as it presses against you, making you struggle every inch of the way.  And, each curve that “lies” ahead seems that much harder to face with the fatigue of dealing with the one before it.

If we can’t tell the truth about ourselves, I’m thinking it will be much more difficult to tell the truth about others.  Thomas Jefferson said, “Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.”  And, Albert Einstein stated that, “Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.”

I love the honesty of children.  I once heard that if you want honesty, just ask a child or someone who’s had one too many (drinks…not children – ha ha!).  Just sayin’.  I love what my six-year-old daughter wrote on a Mother’s Day project at school.  She wrote, “I love my mom because she loves me.”  It’s nothing I did.  Nothing I said.  Nothing I gave her.  She loves me because I love her…and I love that.  It certainly beats an answer from last year on her Mother’s Day project.  The teacher asked, “When is your mom funny?”  My daughter replied, “Well, she is never funny.”  How ‘bout that.

And, since we’re being honest, there was a humorous little e-mail I got from Mikey’s Funnies that I thought you’d enjoy:

In my next life, I wanna be a female bear.  If you're a bear, you get to hibernate. You do nothing but sleep for six months.  I could deal with that.

Before you hibernate, you're supposed to eat yourself silly.  I could deal with that, too.  If you're a bear, you birth your children (who are the size of walnuts) while you're sleeping and wake to partially grown, cute, and cuddly cubs.  I could definitely deal with that.

If you're a mama bear, everyone knows you mean business.  You swat anyone who bothers your cubs.  If your cubs get out of line, you swat them, too.  And I could deal with that.

If you're a bear, your mate EXPECTS you to wake up growling.  He EXPECTS that you will have hairy legs and excess body fat.

Yup...I wanna be a bear.  Are ya with me?!

Okay, mama bears, now let’s be serious for a second.  I also got another e-mail from my cousin, Donna, that was very thought-provoking and I’m sure you will benefit from reading it as much as I did.

A successful business man was growing old and knew it was time to choose a successor to take over the business.  Instead of choosing one of his Directors or his children, he decided to do something different.  He called all of the young executives in his company together.

He said, "It’s time for me to step down and choose the next CEO.  I have decided to choose one of you.”  The young executives were shocked, but the boss continued, “I am going to give each one of you a seed today - one very special seed.  I want you to plant the seed, water it, and come back here one year from today with what you have grown from the seed I have given you.  I will then judge the plants that you bring, and the one I choose will be the next CEO."

One man, named Jim, was there that day and he, like the others, received a seed.  He went home and excitedly told his wife the story.  She helped him get a pot, soil, and compost, and he planted the seed.  Everyday, he would water it and watch to see if it had grown.  After about three weeks, some of the other executives began to talk about their seeds and the plants that were beginning to grow.

Jim kept checking his seed, but nothing ever grew.  Three weeks…four weeks…five weeks went by and still nothing.  By now, others were talking about their plants.  Jim didn't have a plant and he felt like a failure.

Six months went by and still nothing in Jim's pot.  He just knew he had killed his seed.  Everyone else had trees and tall plants, but he had nothing.  Jim didn't say anything to his colleagues, however, he just kept watering and fertilizing the soil - he so wanted the seed to grow.

A year finally went by and all the young executives of the company brought their plants to the CEO for inspection.  Jim told his wife that he wasn't going to take an empty pot, but she encouraged him to be honest about what happened.

Jim felt sick to his stomach.  It was going to be the most embarrassing moment of his life, but he knew his wife was right.  He took his empty pot to the board room.  When Jim arrived, he was amazed at the variety of plants grown by the other executives. The plants were beautiful - in all shapes and sizes.  Jim put his empty pot on the floor and many of his colleagues laughed.  A few felt sorry for him.

When the CEO arrived, he surveyed the room and greeted his young executives.  Jim just tried to hide in the back.  "My, what great plants, trees, and flowers you have grown," said the CEO.  "Today one of you will be appointed the next CEO!"

All of a sudden, the CEO spotted Jim at the back of the room with his empty pot.  He ordered the Financial Director to bring him to the front.  Jim was terrified.  He thought, "The CEO knows I'm a failure!  Maybe he will even have me fired!"

When Jim got to the front, the CEO asked him what had happened to his seed and Jim told him the story.  The CEO asked everyone to sit down, except for Jim.  He looked at Jim, and then announced to the young executives, "This is your next Chief Executive Officer.  His name is Jim."

Jim couldn't believe it.  Jim couldn't even grow his seed.  "How could he be the new CEO?" the others asked.

Then the CEO said, "One year ago today, I gave everyone in this room a seed.  I told you to take the seed, plant it, water it, and bring it back to me today.  But, I gave you all boiled seeds.  They were dead.  It wasn’t possible for them to grow.  All of you, except Jim, have brought me trees and plants and flowers.  When you found that the seed would not grow, you substituted another seed for the one I gave you.  Jim was the only one with the courage and honesty to bring me a pot with my seed in it.  Therefore, he is the one who will be the new Chief Executive Officer!"

WHAT a story, huh?!

If we plant honesty, we will reap trust.  So, let’s be careful what we plant now; it will determine what we will reap later.  Plant honesty. 

Sometimes, the truth does hurt, but not near as long as the pain of dishonesty.  And that’s…the truth.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A Decision to Love

Photo Credit:  Penywise at

The other day, my youngest daughter and I went for a walk (she’s 3 months shy of 4 years old, but she asks questions like she’s 14!).  I pushed her in the stroller while she ate snacks and asked me random questions.  This is how the conversation went:

“How long do you think you’ll live, Mom?”  (gulp)
“I’m not sure, but I guess it’s up to Jesus,” I replied.
“Well…Jesus lives in our heart, so lemme ask Him,” she said.
Then, as I peeked down through the clear plastic window at the top of the stroller shade, I saw her tilting her head down toward the left side of her chest.
She whispered, “So, what do you think, Jesus?”
I hope like heck He replied with, “A LONG, LONG time, my child.  Your momma will be around for a LONG, LONG time.”  (As I wipe the anxious sweat off my brow…ha ha!)

It must have been the week for deep thinking because she and I also had another equally as interesting conversation:

“Jesus is gooder because He gives us life, “she told me over lunch.
“Yes, that is so right, little girl, so, so right,” I replied.
“So, how many lives do we have, Mom?” she asked (obviously influenced by a Wii game).
“Just one, baby, so we have to make it count,” I answered.
“ONE?  Just ONE?!  I can’t believe it!” she responded, extremely perplexed.
“Can’t Jesus just give us more power if we die,” she inquired (another Wii game influence and she doesn't even play that often!)
“Yes, honey, He does give us more power, but that comes when we get to heaven,” I said.
“Hmmmm…I do love heaven.  We can eat all the candy we want there and we also get our wings.  I hope my wings are pink,” she innocently replied.
“Me, too, sweetheart, me too,” I responded.

I love these intimate little conversations with my children.  I love that they talk to me.  I love that these moments sprinkle my days so I don’t focus and dwell on the negative things.  I hope my children always know that they can talk to me about anything and that I will always be there for them.  I hope they know how completely I love them.

As Matthew Kelly reminds me in his book, The Seven Levels of Intimacy, “Don’t just hope…decide!  Great relationships don’t come to those who hope for them.  Hope is worthless unless coupled with real effort.  Great relationships belong to those who decide to put in the effort and make them a priority.”  I think this goes for all relationships in our lives.  So, instead of hoping that my family knows I love them, I can decide to show them and make it happen…everyday.

I finished Kelly’s book recently and walked away with some wonderful insight into intimacy and relationships.  Kelly says, “There is a great deal more to intimacy than the miracle of physical love.  Intimacy is the most enchanting of adventures, at once both exhilarating and frightening.  Intimacy consists of knowing and understanding ourselves and the people we love.  When knowing and understanding evade us, intimacy consists simply in accepting ourselves and others for who we are and where we are in the journey, right now, today.”

I can’t think of many things in life that are more energizing than love.  It animates us and breathes new life into our lives.  As Kelly suggests, “The greatest power we possess is our ability to make people feel loved, and yet it is among the least used of human abilities.  We know how to love, we know how to put others before ourselves, we know how to bring happiness to the lives of other people, and when we focus on loving people, we have a certain glow; we feel better about ourselves and better about our lives.”  (Why on earth wouldn't we tap into this on a daily basis?!)

I want my husband and my children to know that I love them.  Kelly says that the greatest expression of love for others is to assist them in becoming the best-version-of-themselves®.  I’m in.  We know deep down inside what will make our spouse and children feel completely loved.  Are we doing those things day in and day out?  If we are…wonderful!  If we aren't, why not?  While I often fall short, I am thankful for reminders found in books like his.  Kelly raises great questions – ones that I will definitely take to heart. 

Kelly states, “Love is the only true currency in our often bankrupt world.  In the end, love is all that matters, love is all that you can take with you, and love is all that cannot be taken from you.”

Here is a love story I received in an e-mail that will hopefully touch you like it touched me:

“It was approximately 8:30 a.m. on a busy morning when an elderly gentleman in his eighties arrived to have stitches removed from his thumb.  He stated that he was in a hurry, as he had an appointment at 9:00 a.m.

I took his vital signs and had him take a seat.  I knew it would take more than an hour before someone would be able to tend to him.  I saw him check his watch anxiously and so I decided to evaluate his wound since I wasn't busy with another patient.

On examination, the wound was well healed.  Hence, I talked to one of the doctors to get the supplies to remove his sutures and redress his wound.  We began to engage in a conversation while I was taking care of him.  I asked him if he had another doctor's appointment later, as he was in such a hurry.  The gentleman told me no, but said that he needed to go to the nursing home to have breakfast with his wife.

I inquired about her health.  He told me that she had been in the nursing home for awhile as she was a victim of Alzheimer's disease.  I probed further and asked if she would be upset if he was slightly late.  He replied that she no longer knew who he was and she had not been able to recognize him since five years ago.

I asked him in surprise, ‘And you still go every morning, even though she doesn't know who you are?’  He smiled as he patted my hand and said, ‘She doesn't know me, but I still know who she is.’

I had to hold back my tears as he left.  I had goose bumps on my arm, and I thought, ‘That is the kind of love I want in my life.’”

Man, I LOVE that story!  I get goose bumps, too, for several reasons.  For one, I thank God for my loving husband – one of the greatest gifts that He’s ever given me.  Secondly, I pray that my children know that kind of love if or when they marry one day.   And finally, I get chills knowing that that IS the kind of love that God has for us, right now, right here…today.  We may not always recognize Him, but He knows who we are.

Thank you, Lord, that love is not just a feeling, because our feelings can change with the tides.  I am forever thankful for God’s Almighty wisdom in allowing love to be a decision.  We can’t just continue to hope that our family and friends know that we love them.  We have to decide.  We have to decide to tell them and show them.  Every.  Single.  Day.