Celebrate Freedom!

This weekend we in the United States are celebrating Memorial Day. Many will be consumed with having parties, cookouts, going to the beach, or just enjoying an extra day off work.

How many, I wonder, will pause to reflect on why we have a holiday in the first place? Memorial Day is a day that is commemorated to all those who have given their lives in service to our country to preserve our freedom.

Freedom is not free. There is a price to pay. Thousands of American men and women have given their time and often their lives as a sacrifice to preserve the precious gift we here in the United States enjoy.

I am free in so many ways. I am free to dress as I choose, worship where and how I choose, speak my opinion and thoughts through this blog, and vote, to name a few. I am especially grateful as a woman when I see how women in third world countries are treated or rather, mistreated. Many still wear hoods and cover their heads and cannot worship in the same place as the men.

What will you do this holiday weekend to honor those who have given themselves for our freedom? More importantly, what will you do to help others be free? Will you speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves? Will you stand up for liberty and justice for all? Will you write and share with me?

As we celebrate Memorial Day tomorrow, let us pause to reflect and give thanks for our many blessings in this country and also commit to taking action to helping others be free as well.

Until next time, keep looking up!

What’s Stealing Your Joy?

Having a tough week? Job stress, no time to exercise or perhaps you had a run in with a loved one? Maybe your favorite celeb didn’t win on “Dancing with the Stars”.

So many things can happen in the course of a day that can steal my joy, if I allow them to. This week has been particularly challenging. Without going into the gory details, let’s just say I felt like everything was coming at me at once. “It looks like it’s going to be another one of those days” I remember saying to myself on monday. Well, tuesday and wednesday have had their challenges as well.

But, I’m still smiling. Yesterday, I went for a massage and relaxed. Today, I took a walk at lunch and enjoyed the chirping of the birds outside as I took a different route. Later in the afternoon, I turned on the radio for a bit, and one of my favorite songs came on – “Love you like a love song” by Selena Gomez. I started dancing around my living room right smack in the middle of the day!

Sometimes just stepping away from it all helps break the pattern of stress. Taking a walk, listening to music, making a nice dinner; all these help me keep my joy.

I also talk to myself. I remind myself of the truths I believe in. “Lord, you are in control of everything in my life. This might not look like a good thing to me, but I know you can work it out for my good. I will take responsibility for my decisions and actions. I will trust you and be glad today.” I will forget what happened at work this afternoon, what happened on monday, and I will live in the present moment. I will enjoy taking a warm shower and sitting out on my balcony with my cup of hot tea.

Joy is an indispensable commodity, as far as I’m concerned. Life just isn’t worth living if I can’t be joyful most of the time. Yes, we are all going through difficult situations and I’m not minimizing what some of you are going through right now. But, I have learned that the tough stuff will keep on coming. It is up to me to decide how each situation will affect me and how I will respond to it. The quicker I can let go of unhappy, negative thoughts, the more I can enjoy my life.

How about you? Is there something you are dwelling on that is making you miserable? Can you step outside of your situation and believe that perhaps there may be a silver lining to it in the long run? I can almost guarantee that there is.

Don’t let life steal your joy. Make a decision to be happy and enjoy each day for the gift it is. That’s why they call it “the present”. Until next time, keep smiling and keep looking up!

You’re Not Alone

Ever feel like you’re all alone? Like no one understands and no one cares? Like you have to figure everything out yourself? Well, guess what? It just isn’t true!

Another step to facing my fears and anxieties is realizing I am NOT ALONE! When I pick up the phone to call a friend or loved one and share what is going on in my life, I am comforted (2 Cor 1:4) I receive advice and information. When I put aside my shame and guilt and get the courage to talk about my situation, light dispels the darkness and I can see more clearly what needs to be done.

It really is amazing. I recently had a health issue, yes, another one, (and I know I’m not alone in that either), that I was kind of embarrassed to talk about. But I knew I had to get over the fear of “What will people think?” As author Wayne Dyer puts it “Who cares what other people think?” By not speaking up and talking about the issue, I perpetuate the anxiety and fearful feelings and prevent myself from finding a solution to my problem.

It is important to get wise counsel and as much information as possible when facing issues. My decisions may have long term consequences and the longer I put off making a decision, I prolong the pain.

What is it you are facing today that you are afraid to talk about? A relationship issue? A health or job issue? Whatever it is, find a wise friend or just talk to God about it. He always listens and always has time for us. And he always has the right answer.

Facing my fears has enormous impact on how joyful I feel at any given moment. When the burden of my problem is lifted, joy can bubble up inside once again.

Until next time, remember you are not alone. Feel free to drop me a note any time as as always, keep looking up!

Be Courageous

What is it that you are facing today that is causing anxiety? A job issue? Health concern? Relationship troubles? Finances? Everyone is facing battles, but some people don’t seem to be as bothered by them. Why is that?

As author Joyce Meyer states, “The battlefield is the mind” and that is so true. Our thought life is where our battles actually begin. Fears and anxieties are stored deep in our subconscious minds.

I remember raising my two sons as a single parent and life was so overwhelming. I remember crying out to God in my moments of weakness and despair, pleading “I can’t handle this anymore.” We all have these moments but what is actually happening? In my case, I was reliving a chaotic and fearful childhood with an alcoholic father. The same feelings I felt as a child were resurfacing in the present.

Something happened in our past that we may or may not remember that caused a short-circuit shall we say. Whenever a situation occurs in the present that is similiar in some way, the wire is tripped and our unconscious mind triggers the fear response which in turn triggers some anxious behavior. It’s a cycle that must and can be broken. The wiring can be fixed. But it takes courage.

We are never really alone in our battles, because God is always with us and for us. No matter how alone, overwhelmed or helpless we may “feel”, the truth is that God promises to answer our cries (Isaiah 58:9).

Romans 8:31 says “If God is for us, who can stand against us?”. Isn’t that great news? God is on your side, dear one. You have the power of Almighty God fighting your battles with you. So when you are down and out, remember the words of the Apostle Paul: “for when I am weak then He is strong” (2 Cor 12:10) and also in the book of Joel 3 which says “let the weakling say I am strong”. By focusing on the truth in the word of God, we reprogram our minds. Instead of thinking, “This is overwhelming”, I can think “God is going to help me through this” and “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Slowly but surely the wiring will be repaired and situations that used to cause anxiety will no longer do so.

I encourage you to be courageous and stand up to your fears from the past. Do we want to live a life of fear and anxiety? The choice is up to us. When you have done all you know to do, then rest, pray, and trust. “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). Until next time, keep looking up!

Work In Progress

Just like the highways around here, I’m a work in progress. How about you? Seems like there is always something to repair, reconstruct, or rebuild. Every time I go through a tough phase, I learn there is something I need to change.

I was talking about our fears and anxieties last time. We all have them, right? But they affect us in different ways. Some of us overeat. Some drink, gamble, work to excess, are afraid to commit to a relationship, or have some addictive habit or behavior to name a few. Others of us are into pleasing, performing, and perfectionism. Many have a problem with responsibility and authority. Sound familiar at all?

Now, don’t get down on yourself. It’s a good thing when we become aware of the negative behaviors and thought patterns that control us. Awareness is the first step to change. When we shine the light of truth on ourselves, we are able to see ourselves and the problem more clearly.

The first thing we can do to break out of any bondage we may be in is to become aware. This involves slowing down enough to focus on my behavior patterns and the thoughts and feelings that accompany them.

Let’s look at over-eating for example. I know I still struggle with it at times. When do I over-eat? How do I feel? What are the thoughts in my mind? What is going on in my life at the time? What am I afraid of? All of these are indicators like warning signs along the road of spiritual and personal growth to guide me along my journey to healing, wholeness, and harmony.

What are you struggling with today, dear one? Fret not, and don’t think you have to lean on your own will-power. Instead, lean on God. It is by his grace and through his power that we are able to overcome the obstacles in our path. 2 Corinthians 12:19 says “My grace is sufficient for you”. Hang on to that promise and you will be victorious no matter what you are facing. God always keeps his promises.

Until next time, keep the faith and keep looking up!

When the Student is Ready

You’ve heard the phrase “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear” haven’t you?

About a month ago, I had a very stressful situation at work. I’m sure you can relate. My boss and I were just not on the same page and it was a difficult time.

As I pondered the situation, I realized that the incident had resuscitated some old anxieties I thought were long overcome. As I talk about in my new book, “The Power of Faith”, one of the steps to faith is facing our fears. I realized I still had some insecurities about rejection and pleasing that needed to be dealt with.

It is odd how some of our fears from childhood can still rear their ugly heads when a situation in the present in some way, shape, or form reminds us of something that happened long ago. It is like our minds have no concept of time.

Now I don’t want to get too deep on you here, but this is what I’m thinking. Our minds are like computer memory chips – they get imprinted with all sorts of errors and then have to be reprogrammed. When we have these over-reactions to current day situations, that is a sign that there is an issue that needs to be addressed. Buddhist philosophy calls these imprints in our subconscious minds “samskaras” which color many facets of our lives.

Scripture tells us to be “transformed daily by the renewing of our minds” (Romans 12:2). It is only by replacing error with truth that we can be truly healed and move forward in life away from our fears and towards our dreams.

What fears or anxieties do you still have? What caused them in the first place? Next time I’ll talk about what to do to handle these fears. Until next time, keep the faith!