Archive for the ‘Decisions’ Category

I have a friend who is doing the 40-day love challenge, which is based off of the movie “Fireproof”. Today’s posting was about love being a choice. It says:

“Love is Faithful (Hosea 2:20). Love is a choice, not a feeling. It is an initiated action, not a knee-jerk reaction. Choose today to be committed to love even if your spouse has lost most of their interest in receiving it. Say to them today in words similar to these, ‘I love you. Period. I choose to love you even if you don’t love me in return.’” (The Love Dare by Stephen and Alex Kendrick)

I really like this definition of what love is. It’s a choice. And the great thing about it is, while this is written specifically for married couples, this principle applies in any relationship, whether it’s with a friend, colleague, child, or even an enemy. Love is a choice. It means, even if I don’t particularly like someone, I still treat them well. It means, even when my child says she hates me, I tell her “I love you” in return.

When I look at love as a choice rather than a feeling, it puts a whole new perspective on things. Feelings are not something you can really control. Feelings can change. Feelings lie. But, when I make a choice to show love, I am doing that whether I feel like loving or not. I do it whether I like someone or not. Love is a choice.  1 John 4:7&8 says,

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (NASB).

We are commanded to love one another. God’s Word doesn’t say love each other if you feel like loving each other. It doesn’t say love each other if they treat you well. It says love one another. Why? Because God loves us. This verse is specifically talking to Christians loving each other, but what about those who are not considered brothers and sisters in Christ? What about those who are doing things that God’s Word indicates are wrong? What does God say about that? Are we to hate them? Are we to be vindictive?

I think most of us would know that the answer to those questions is “no.” We’re not to hate them. In fact in Matthew 5, Jesus says,

“You have heard that it was said, ‘ You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” (vss 43-46, NASB)

In a parallel passage in Luke 6, Jesus says,

“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (vss 27-36, NASB)

We are not only commanded to love those who are lovable, but to love those who are easy to hate – those who hurt us and use us. That’s so hard. My first instinct is not to show people like that love. But we are commanded to love. So, love is a choice. I can choose to be kind, or I can choose to be unkind. I can choose to react out of anger, or I can choose to calmly respond with kindness. I can love or I can hate. Today, I choose love.

Your turn! What is your opinion about love? Is it a choice or is it something you have no control over?  How do you show love when others are not?  I would love to hear from you!

~Until Next Time,

Karen Signature

 

Photo Credit: cellar_door_films via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: cellar_door_films via Compfight cc

Have you ever been in a situation where you feel like you’re a failure no matter what you do? Or how about one where you walk away defeated every time a certain person speaks to you? Or maybe you’ve been in one where you feel like you’re just hanging on for dear life and are afraid to let go for fear that you will fall further than you can get back from. I can honestly say I’ve been there. In fact, I can think of at least one situation in my life right now where I feel like that.

The question I have at times like this is, do I give up or do I hang on? The reality is, I could do either one. And either could turn out for my good because there are good and bad to both decisions. Currently, I have a situation whereby I have to decide if I need to stay where I am at or look for a change. That’s difficult for me because I have invested a lot of time and effort into this situation. I have worked hard and have had a lot of successes. There was a point when I woke up wanting to be a part of this situation.

Those days have passed. So now, I have to ask myself, do I stay or do I go? Do I survive or do I live? Do I give up or do I let go? That last question might seem like I’m asking the same question twice. But I’m not. Giving up means I stop trying. I just give up and let things fall as they will. Letting go means, I make a choice to walk away. I’m not giving up; I’m choosing a different path. Giving up means I probably stay in the situation that is defeating me. Letting go means I look for an opportunity to learn and grow and change – and hopefully be built up.

Right now, I feel sometimes like all I do is survive. I do what I have always done because it’s what has worked for me in the past. I’ve probably mentioned I like to stay in my comfort zone. That’s because I know it works for me. The problem is, I think I’ve become stagnant. And that is probably part of the reason I feel frustrated and defeated all the time. I’m tired of doing the same thing, expecting a different outcome. That never works for me (duh!). Instead of things getting better, I fall further and further into defeat until eventually, I either am forced to get out, or I fall so far I can’t get myself out.

I no longer want to survive. I want to live. I want to grow. I want to be built up and build others up. I do not want to stay stuck in a place where there never seems to be a win any longer. I no longer want to be in a place where I feel like I’m a failure every single day of my life. I no longer want to listen to all the things I’m doing wrong (and believe me there are lots of them). I want to hear what I’m doing right once in a while. I’m tired of dwelling on the negative. I want to hear and see the positive.

So, the question I pose to myself today is: “Are you going to give up or are you going to let go?”

Your turn! Have you ever been in a situation where you spent each day feeling defeated? What did you do (or are you doing) to better that situation? Do you think there’s a difference between giving up and letting go? I’d love to hear from you!

~Until Next Time,

Karen Signature

Photo Credit: Photos by Mavis via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Photos by Mavis via Compfight cc

In this life there are always going to be problems. After all, as I have been reminded of time and time again, we live in a broken world full of broken people. And broken people hurt each other – sometimes on purpose and sometimes by accident. The bottom line is, everyone gets hurt at some point. And I’d venture to guess if someone insists they have never been hurt, they were probably either the ones inflicting the pain, or they are lying to themselves. I suppose there could be the rare case that it’s actually true, but if it is, then it truly is a rare case indeed. It would be nice to be able to say that the cause of all my problems rests squarely on the shoulders of others, but unfortunately for me, often I am the cause of my own problems.

So, if I am the problem, what can I do to fix it? And shouldn’t that make things easier to fix? I mean, the only person I can really do anything about is myself, right? Alas, it’s not that simple. It’s actually easier to see the problems in someone else’s life because I’m not part of that life, and it has no bearing on me. I’m a neutral party. But the reality is, it’s not my job to see everyone else’s problems. It’s my job to work on me. So, how what does that mean for me?

First things first. Before I can begin to fix a problem in me, I have to actually know that there is a problem. My experience has been that I don’t really see my own problems. I’m too close to the issue. That’s where friends come in and help. I am blessed to have at least 2-3 good friends who are willing to point out to me when I have a flaw in my thinking or if I am overstepping my bounds. I trust these friends with pretty much every aspect of my life – which is saying something because I don’t really trust people easily. But because I trust these friends, I know that if they are taking the time to tell me I have an issue, I listen. I don’t like it. But I listen. I might get angry at first. But I listen. I listen because I don’t want to be one of those people who refuses to see the issues in my life and stay in the same unhealthy patterns. But what do I do once I have seen or someone has pointed out to me that there is a problem?

I think there are three things I need to do in this situation. After all, God gave me a brain, and He gives me the tools necessary to learn and grow.

1) I need to review what has been pointed out to me or what I suspect, to determine the truth in the situation. Sometimes a perceived problem, isn’t truly a problem. But often it is. So, first, I need to examine the facts. Who is telling me I have an issue? Is it someone I trust or someone I just happen to know? Is it someone who tends to find problems in everyone or someone who usually thinks well of people? Am I just feeling insecure, or do I have facts that back up my suspicions? This could mean that I need to ask for honest feedback. It definitely means I need to get into God’s Word to see what He says. The main point here is that I need to be willing to take an honest look at what has either been pointed out to me, or I have a suspicion about.

2) Once I have determined that there is actually an issue, I need to be willing to admit that there is a problem. Admitting the problem means that I recognize the issue, and now I want to do something about it. I don’t want to be one of those people who says “Oh yes, I have a problem, but that’s just who I am.” That’s not a healthy outlook. If I have a true issue, then it is something that can be remedied and worked on. Yes, I have a personality, and that personality makes me who I am, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. But if I allow myself to be ruled by my personality, then I am not looking out for the best interests of others. And as a child of God, I am called to care about other people. Philippians 2:1-4 says:

“Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (NASB).

I don’t have the luxury of thinking only of myself. I have a responsibility to look out for the interests of others. So, if I have an issue, I need to admit to the issue. It doesn’t mean an overnight change necessarily, but it does mean I need to admit there is a problem.

3) Finally, I need to address the issue. I need to take steps to improve in that area. Sometimes that’s difficult to do because perhaps the action or thought has been so deeply ingrained that it takes a long time to make the change. Making the change quickly isn’t required. Committing to making the change and then acting on that commitment is. Some things I can do to help me with that is to ask someone to help hold me accountable. Knowing someone is going to be asking me about my progress means I am more likely to take action. Another thing I can do is get into God’s Word and see what He says about that issue, and also memorize Scriptures that can help me stick to my commitment. I can also keep a journal to track my progress.

I do need to remember, though, that making progress isn’t necessarily overnight. I am going to have times when I fail. At those times, I need to remember that this is a process, and instead of giving up, I need to get up and keep moving forward. My experience has been, when I have actually done this, I have walked away feeling better about myself and have been better able to help others in the process. And really, isn’t that what I’m here for – to help others?

What about you? Do you have other ideas for how to make changes in your life? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear them!

~Until Next Time,

Karen Signature

Photo Credit:  By Martin Wessely  (Unsplash.com)

Photo Credit: By Martin Wessely (Unsplash.com)

I am not one to try a lot of new things. I prefer to stick with the things I know and like, rather than try something that I might not like. However, lately, it’s been getting to the point where I am tired of the same old thing. I feel like I am trapped in a room, looking out at the world and seeing everything I wish I had the guts to do pass me by. A lot of that has to do with the fear of trying something new and not liking it or maybe even failing at it. I think for me, failure is the biggest fear I have. I think somehow, deep inside, I think it means that somehow I am lacking – that somehow I’m not good enough.

Much of my fear has to do with the fact that I have done so many stupid things in my past. I have a litany of events in my life that would illustrate the extent of how stupid I can really be. And for the past few years, I think I’ve done all I can to distance myself from that failure and make myself out to be this person who seldom messes up. It’s all about the image because if anyone saw who I really had been, they would perhaps not like me quite so much. Forget the fact that my past has taught me so many things. To let others see me as I really am might mean rejection. And I have faced enough of that in my life – at least that’s what I tell myself.

The reality is, my past is my past. I can’t change it, but I can look back on it and see how far I have come. Or rather, I can look back and see how far God has brought me. He took a scared, stupid, insecure little girl and He has grown me into someone who, while still scared, and still able to do stupid things, and often insecure, is also learning to be courageous and strong and to depend on Him. As a result, recently I have started to do things I never really expected I’d be able to do. For example, I went back to New York, where my roots are a few weeks ago. To say that was a step out of my comfort zone is an understatement. I was terrified. But I did it. That’s just one example, but I have others that I can point to. Except, that’s not the point today.

When I refuse to step out and take a risk – whether it be failure, rejection or something else unpleasant – I do myself a disservice. I put myself in a cage. I lock myself up into a tiny little box and instead of growing, I shrink. I go deep into myself and I lock everyone else out. And that’s a lonely life.

Paul says in Philippians 3:13-14, “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it (perfection) yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (NASB). Paul had a lot to be ashamed of in his past. After all, he persecuted, imprisoned and caused the death of many followers of Christ before he went through is own conversion experience. He could have chosen to hate himself, belittle himself, or lock himself away from other believers. Instead, he chose to do the opposite and as a result started many different churches, not to mention the prevalence of his letters being included in the New Testament.

Paul went on to say in verses 15-16, “Let us therefore, as many as are perfect (or mature), have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained” (NASB). In other words, live up to who you are. I am a child of God. As a result that means I am sanctified, redeemed, and can rest in God. I don’t have to keep looking back in shame at my past. I can use it as a learning experience, but my life isn’t in the past. I am to be embracing what God has for me in the future, and that is that I am going to get to be with Him someday. And if that’s the case, then what do I have to be afraid of here? What am I avoiding?

With that in mind, I have a few “bucket list” items I am planning on this year, such as kayaking, driving to New York with my kids this summer, taking a chance and entering a couple of writing contests this year, and so much more. And I can do those things because I am free. Yes, I might fail. Yes, things can go wrong. Yes, I can get hurt and it’s going to be a risk. But, in the end, I am going to grow and learn, and most of all, I am going to escape from that cage I have locked myself into.

What about you? Have you locked yourself in a cage too? Are you avoiding certain things out of fear of failure or rejection? What do you do to get past those feelings and live the life God has called you to?

~Until Next Time,

Karen Signature

Photo Credit: celebdu via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: celebdu via Compfight cc

Sometimes God hands me the unexpected. I don’t generally like the unexpected because it’s, well, unexpected. Those who know me, know I like to plan things and when I plan, I try to control pretty much any aspect I can control. So, when the unexpected happens, there goes my plan, and there goes my equilibrium. I’ve been known to fall apart at the unexpected. But I’m getting better at learning to embrace the unexpected.

Just before my trip to New York a couple of weeks ago, I was approached by my daughter. She asked me if I could help her get in touch with her biological father. To say this was unexpected would be lying. To say it was unexpected at that moment in time, is not lying. I knew she was going to come sooner or later, but I had kind of hoped it would be later. But, it wasn’t, and she asked. As difficult as it was for me to say, and as much as I hated that it came at an unexpected time, I told her that I would help her, but that she needed to give me until I came back to do so, in order for me to have time to think about it, pray about it and basically prepare myself for the task. Without going into any detail because 16 years is too long to hold a grudge, suffice it to say, the situation with the father of my children was not a good one. There was a lot of grief and hurt and pain for me in that relationship, and to set that aside for the sake of my daughter was not an easy task.

Fast forward to a couple of days ago, when I finally got up the courage to reach out. It was not easy for me. It was extremely difficult. I didn’t want to do it because I didn’t want to reopen old wounds. I was terrified of what the response would be. I was worried that my daughter would be hurt in the process. So, imagine my surprise when the unexpected happened yet again. The first message was hard, but the kind response I received in return has made it that much easier. There was no judgment or unkind words. There was no accusation or denial. There was, however, acceptance and joy that after all these years, my daughter wanted to know her father. I don’t really know exactly what I expected, but I do know it wasn’t that.

I would love to say that it’s all “peaches and cream,” and that things are going to go well. It’s a little too early to know that at the moment. But, what I can say is that I am encouraged by the response I received. I am hopeful that things will continue to go well. But, one thing I’m starting to learn about the unexpected – bad or good – there is always a learning opportunity. There is always a chance to take the lessons and apply them. There is always room to grow – and without the unexpected, those opportunities might not exist.

Your turn. Have you been handed the unexpected? Do you embrace it or try to avoid it? What do you do when the unexpected comes your way?

~Until Next Time,

Karen Signature

Photo Credit: vandan desai via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: vandan desai via Compfight cc

“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” – Lao Tzu

So, today you’re getting a “special edition” blog posting because my schedule was off yesterday due to traveling. Today, I am writing from the comfort of my hotel room in Rochester, NY. It’s a balmy 25 degrees here on this beautiful, sunny day. I am a little surprised at how calm I am, to be quite honest. I tend to be a nervous traveler, but today, I am just feeling calm and relaxed. I guess that’s a good thing. Anyway, while I’ve been traveling, I’ve been considering how different I am seeing things these days – especially as it relates to doing things out of the ordinary.

A year ago, I would not have traveled any distance alone just because I felt like it. I would have wanted to go, but I wouldn’t have had the courage to take any action (and in fact, didn’t). For so many years, I have made excuses about why I couldn’t come back to NY. It was always something like, “I don’t have the money right now” or “I just don’t have time to go.” And while those things were somewhat true, I do believe that I could have figured out a way, had I possessed even a small amount of courage.

That’s why this trip is such a big deal to me. I think in a way, it’s proof to myself that I have changed. I have grown, matured, and become more adventurous than I have been for so many years. It’s like there was a part of me buried inside that I had hidden away because I thought I could never be that person again. And over the past few years, and especially in the past year, I have slowly begun to dig that part of me back out.

See, when I was younger, I wasn’t this scared person who was unwilling to try anything new. I was actually quite outgoing and loved to go new places, meet new people and do new things. Somewhere along the way, what with the hurts and the disappointments, that person disappeared, and only a shell of her was left. The longing inside of myself was buried so deeply, I couldn’t see it. But lately, staying in the same patterns, doing the same things day in and day out, has become monotonous and is no longer palatable to me. I have started to feel the pull of getting outside of my normal and being more spontaneous.

So, on this trip, I haven’t really done a lot of planning of what or who I will see and when. I have only made a few plans, and the rest of the time, I intend to take things as they come. I want to fully experience this trip in a way that I haven’t before. I want to go home feeling like I have been renewed and have a new outlook. This is the biggest thing I have done in so many years, and I am excited to see where my “adventure” takes me. So, with that, I’m off to enjoy myself on this journey I have undertaken.

Your turn! Do you have things that you’ve wanted to do, but you’ve made excuses about why you can’t? What can you do now to take even a “small” step toward that dream, goal, or desire?

~Until Next Time,

Karen Signature

Image courtesy of rattigon / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Image courtesy of rattigon / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

I’m a person who has many acquaintances, but only a small amount of people that I actually call friends. And I’ve an even smaller “inner circle” of friends that I’d call my close friends. It’s only in the past couple of years that I’ve realized just how important having those friends is to my well-being. It’s not that I didn’t know having friends was important, but I think for a long time I just felt like it was easier to be off by myself. I wanted friends. I’d complain that I had no friends. But I wasn’t doing anything to actually be a friend.

One of the things I’ve learned is that in order to have friends, I have to be willing to be a friend. That means, that I need to be willing to listen, give, learn from, and be there for someone else. And those are all things I’ve actually always understood and tried to do. But there is one thing I left off that list. Being a friend means I have to trust. I have to be willing to take a risk. And that’s hard for me. I’m not known for my risk-taking ability. I’m more of a “stay in my comfort zone” kind of person. But the only thing staying in my comfort zone has netted me is a boring life of loneliness. And who wants that?

I was recently contacted by someone from my past from whom I never expected to hear. At first I was a little skeptical. I mean, it had been a really long time. But, I’d been curious about this person for a while, so I decided to respond. And then after a little while, I took it a step further and decided to trust this person. I don’t even really know why I felt like I could or even should. I think I just got tired of always having to be wary and careful not to let too much of myself be seen. Or maybe it was the inherent lack of judgment I felt from this person. Whatever the case, I chose to trust. All I can say is I’m so glad that I chose to do that. For one thing, a very good friendship has grown from that decision. I have someone I know I can talk to, and I don’t have to hold back information for fear that I’m going to be rejected.

But there is another benefit that I have started to see from this friendship. My other friendships have started to become more open as well. I’ve started to become more outgoing. I’ve also started to be more willing to be vulnerable with my friends. I am sharing more of me, and as a result, I am finding these friendships to be more rewarding and fun. It makes me think that maybe my lack of trust because of past issues was unfounded. True there are some people who can’t be trusted. But are they really the majority? Have I been allowing myself to miss out on wonderful friendships because I was too scared to trust?

I don’t want to do that anymore, so I’m making a commitment to myself to be willing to put myself out there more. I’ll trust that even though I might be rejected by some, there are others who will accept me for who I am. I think as time passes, I’ll find that because I was willing to be vulnerable with others, I’ll have a fuller, richer, more fulfilling life. And that’s not bad.

What about you? Do you have issues with trusting others too? Or are you the type of person who is able to be who you are, no matter who is watching? What are your thoughts about trust, risk taking and friendship?

~Until Next Time

Karen Signature