How can I get Confidence and Avoid Anxiety or Depression?

Anxiety and depression do not have to be our only option. We have another choice. But the truth is

Stress and suffering are inevitable.

We hate to hear it, and the truth hurts sometimes. But that doesn’t change the fact that we can’t be removed from stress and suffering forever. No matter how much we try to avoid it, it will catch us now and then.

The game changer, the tipping point, or the deal breaker is found in how we react to it. What we do with it when it comes our way? Lately, I’ve had some eye-opening examples of stress from my chicken coop.

Egg Full of Life

When a chicken lays an egg, that hen squawks and squawks, carrying on like there’s a skunk in the coop. The sound is quite alarming. To the novice listener, an eminent danger must be threatening the chickens. “It’s just a hen laying an egg,” I’ll explain. But it is stressful for the hen. On a few occasions, a hen will leave some blood spots on the eggshell as she delivers.

Any woman who’s delivered a baby can relate to the stress and suffering of a hen as she lays an egg.

I know.

I did it . . .

three times . . .

naturally.

In the middle of each one, I said, “I’m never going to do this again.”

The only reason I can figure out why I did it 3 times is . . . God.

God gave me forgetfulness.

That has to be it. No one in their right mind would volunteer for that kind of stress and suffering over and over. God had to make me forget it . . . because I’m really not the masochistic kind.

Wind Egg

Nevertheless, late one morning I went out to feed the chickens and gather the eggs. That’s when I found something strange. I was puzzled about how it happened. How it got in the coop? What was it exactly? I found this strange diminutive egg in with the others. Take a look for yourself. It is pictured here with regular eggs.

Wind Egg

I brought it in the house with the others, washed it in the sink, and placed it in a bowl on top of the others (I didn’t want to lose it under the big ones). For days I walked by the bowl wondering about that egg, even asking God about it. “What’s up with that egg?”

Then one day after asking God one more time, a revelational thought occurred. Why not Google it?

So into the Google space I typed, “Why does a hen lay a little egg?” And the answer popped up (Side note: a cool video of a “miracle chicken” that lays ginormous eggs also came up).

This tiny egg is called a wind egg. It’s sort of a real egg, in that a regular laying hen laid it and not some strange mysterious bird. It has a real shell and a real white. But there is a big flaw. There is no yolk. It is void of that which produces real life. I read that a hen lays wind eggs because they are stressed. Here are three of the most common wind egg situations:

  • A young hen under the stress of change may lay her first egg as a wind egg.
  • An older hen may lay a wind egg due to the stress of being older.
  • And a stressed laying hen may occasionally lay a wind egg.

As in the case with eggs, stress and suffering is inevitable.

Two different outcomes come from stress and suffering.

  1. They can bring forth life and purpose or
  2. They can produce a shriveled, shrunk existence that is far short of really living.

Yet, the outcome is our choice.

  1. Do we deal poorly with suffering, becoming bitter, complaining, empty shells of who we were meant to be?
  2. Or do we handle suffering with faith–trusting God for the adventure that is our life–and really live?

The choice is ours. Will we be a wind egg? Or will we be an egg full of life?

How do you deal with stress and suffering? How do you avoid becoming bitter? And How do you find purpose in suffering and gain a richer life?

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How to Prepare Kids for Easter: Thriving Family Excerpt

“I don’t like Nana’s church because they’re mean to Jesus!” My 4-year-old bee lined for the door of my mother-in-law’s church. The Easter drama had just finished as big hot, angry tears hung in his eyes. And . . .

Cross

Well, It’s spring again. Easter is coming quickly and I thought I’d share with you some ways to help the children in your life. Many people. kids especially, need to deal with and understand Easter better (tweet).

I wrote a feature on this topic for Focus on the Family’s Thriving Family magazine. Here are some of the learning activities:

Dinner with Jesus
Set a blanket on the floor to eat your evening meal together as a family. Talk about what happened during the last meal that Jesus shared with His friends (Matthew 26:17). Consider preparing an authentic Passover meal. You can find instructions at ThrivingFamily.com. Search for “Passover Lamb.”

The Cross
Place a light landscaping timber in your yard that’s about your child’s height. Ask your child to drag it from one side of the yard to another, then help him try to hammer a nail into it. Discuss what it may have felt like for Jesus to have His hand under the nail. Explain that being nailed to the Cross would have been painful, but it was more painful for Jesus to carry the sin of the whole world.

You can read more ideas for Easter and children activities to help a child at A Journey to Easter online, the full feature with many more playful activities demonstrating Easter in tangible fun.

And to update you, my son didn’t turn his back on church in the end. With many conversations and training, he was better prepared and able to understand the implications of the Easter story.

Do you have children in your life, neighborhood, or church that need a better understanding of Easter? What stories, ideas and traditions do you use? Share in the comments.

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2 Statements that Shape the Success of Your Work, Ministry and Life

I stood at the door watching a nervously busy woman get slides ready and scanned the empty rows of chairs.

Do I really want to attend a seminar titled “How to Create a Mission Statement”?

Empty Chairs

Not only did the topic seem boring, but the instructor . . . well, she didn’t seem to have her stuff together and, by the looks of it, her presentation would be uninspiring as well.

But since I didn’t have much else to do, I went in and took a seat. The room filled and by the time the session began, she was so nervous she hardly had a voice.

I nailed this one with my first instinct, or so I thought.

Boy was I wrong, not about her nervousness or the dry topic, but about the inspiring part.

Her shoulders straightened and her voice strengthened somewhat as she said, “I’m going to show you how a mission statement can help you follow God and make you more effective and focused in your work. You’ll be able to achieve your goals—and God’s plans—much quicker (Tweet that).”

I was blown away. That’s exactly what I wanted to know. How to be more effective and achieve more. So, I leaned in . . .

With what I discovered in that class, I created both a vision statement and a mission statement.

What is a Mission Statement and a Vision Statement

  • A mission statement is a couple of sentences that summarize what we do. If you will, it is our current calling that keeps us focused on our mission.
  • A vision statement is a list of our dreams we want to accomplish. It is our future-self looking back and saying, “I had a dream to (fill in the blank) and with God’s help, I did it.”

As I went through the exercises to create these statements, I felt like I discovered myself. My passion for the work I wanted to do was written down and it held some wonderful power over me. I was empowered to do the hard work of creating it.

Creating the 2 Statements

Because I’m a dreamer of awesome possibilities, I found it easy to create the vision statement. I dreamed of what I wanted to accomplish and wrote it down. Not the random stuff of a bucket list, but the grand stuff of what I’d do or create if I had no limitations. These what-if dreams become more concrete when written down.

But the mission statement was more difficult. I had to think about the actions I would do in working within my vision then answer these questions:

  1. What three verbs encapsulate what I did?
  2. Who did I do it for?
  3. And what was my purpose in doing it?

After finding the answers, I strung them together, made a sentence or two, and called it my mission statement.

These two statements gave me both freedom and direction. They guide my daily work and keep me accountable to finishing God’s plan for my life.

If you want to read up some more about mission statements, check out Laurie Beth Jones’ The Path: Creating Your Mission Statement for Work and Life (affiliate link).

What about you? Do you have personal statements like these? If so, how do they help you be a finisher?

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Christmas Prayer from Max Lucado

Sometimes a good prayer comforts us (Tweet this). I read a Max Lucado prayer on the Exponential church growth blog and wanted to share it with you. Be encouraged and know the closeness of God this Christmas.

20121220-091243.jpgDear Jesus,

It’s a good thing you were born at night. This world sure seems dark. I have a good eye for silver linings. But they seem dimmer lately.

These killings, Lord. These children, Lord. Innocence violated. Raw evil demonstrated.

The whole world seems on edge. Trigger-happy. Ticked off. We hear threats of chemical weapons and nuclear bombs. Are we one button-push away from annihilation?

Your world seems a bit darker this Christmas. But you were born in the dark, right? You came at night. The shepherds were nightshift workers. The Wise Men followed a star. Your first cries were heard in the shadows. To see your face, Mary and Joseph needed a candle flame. It was dark. Dark with Herod’s jealousy. Dark with Roman oppression. Dark with poverty. Dark with violence.

Herod went on a rampage, killing babies. Joseph took you and your mom into Egypt. You were an immigrant before you were a Nazarene.

Oh, Lord Jesus, you entered the dark world of your day. Won’t you enter ours? We are weary of bloodshed. We, like the wise men, are looking for a star. We, like the shepherds, are kneeling at a manger.

This Christmas, we ask you, heal us, help us, be born anew in us.

Hopefully,

Your Children

Prayer gives relief from much trouble and grief in our world. May you know the depth of friendship, hope of the future, and the love of God this Christmas!!

What gives you comfort in dark days and days when nothing goes right? How do you keep courage?

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9 Gift Christmas List and a Seussical Solution

Tis the season to be stressed, depressed and obsessed.

Sometimes when I doodle, words come very Seussical. It’s loads of fun writing; hope it’s as much fun reading.

SeussTree

(The Dr. Seuss Christmas trees picture is courtesy of I am only 1 woman blog and she has instructions to create this kid-friendly craft. Check it out!)

Seussical Christmas Solution

What gift will we bring?

How will we pay for the thing?

Who will we see, or not see, at the fling?

Christmas is stressful.

And at times very depressful. (Tweet that if you want.)

We miss those we love,

because of distance

or living above,

Or relationships turn sour

‘till happiness isn’t ours,

Or schedules are too busy

to sit back, and take Christmas easy.

But when we do—

take time for reflection,

we find this season is for being . . . well, Christian. (Tweet it)

Giving the gift that cost us most,

The gift of love from coast to coast,

Taking our gift to the unlikely, or unlovable, host.

Say goodbye to the mall,

the stress,

the sadness

And say hello to all,

the goodness,

the fullness,

The Christmas.

That’s my Seussical Christmas solution. Should it be a book in production? Well, here you have it for free. My gift to you for eternity. I really have got to stop this. Instead, I’ll show you my Christmas list.

My Grown-up Christmas List

I want these for myself, for you and everyone else.

  1. Peace
  2. Thankfulness
  3. Rest
  4. Health
  5. Good relationships
  6. Opportunities
  7. Reflection
  8. Renewed thoughts
  9. Passion for God

What would you add? What do you want on your grown-up list? For yourself? For others?

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How to Painstakingly Avoid Hope that Fails

New Hope

This sign is posted on the road to my house. The arrow seems to point down a dirt road. I have no idea what is down there, but it must be a new hope of some kind.

Same Old Hope

Seeing that sign made me want to build a similar one: “Same Old Hope” with an arrow pointing the other way, for no other reason than that I live on the other side of the road.

Why would I want to post a sign like that?

Because I think it would be funny for the drivers along the road. I love to find humor in life. Laughing is my favorite sport. And on top of that, I’m sort of a smart-aleck.

But I do have another, more thoughtful reason.

Strong Desires

I first saw the New Hope sign on the Friday after our nation’s election. I don’t think the sign relates to anything about the election. Nevertheless, we had hopes for it. It didn’t matter how the vote went or who we supported, we all had some hopes related to the election.

We also have hope in other things. We hope our finances will work out, that we’ll get a raise or an awesome job. We hope our relationships will be great or get better. We hope our kids turn out right. We hope we stay healthy or get healthier. We hope we have enough money to retire. We hope to take a vacation and do some awesome bucket list kinds of things. We hope that one day, we’ll wake up and everything about life will be just as we want it.

All of these are hopes for something new, a wish that things were—well, different. It’s a new hope. And I’ve had those just like the rest of us. But these hopeful wishes aren’t a sustaining hope.

Real hope is …

my Same Old Hope. It’s living. It’s consistent. It’s always solid and never wishy-washy. In the face of marital ruin and troubles with kids, Same Old Hope was there for me. When struggling with health issues, Same Old Hope had my back. During times when the bills outpaced the money, Same Old Hope held my sanity. No matter what earth shattering circumstances or joy filled situations, my Same Old Hope has remained steadfast.

My Same Old Hope has been mine since I was a kid. It is my hope in Jesus. Even though my body fades or my plans fail, Jesus has a purpose for me that never fades and never fails. I have confidence that Jesus will prevail and give me that place of peace and purpose: a heavenly presence. My Same Old Hope gives meaning to life and purpose when the “new hopes” fall flat.

Real hope is living, consistent and divine. (Go ahead. Tweet that if you wish.)

Jesus is our Same Old Hope. (Tweet that.)

How to Painstakingly Avoid Hope that Fails (Tweet that.)

Have you ever been disappointed by hopes denied? Ever found that Jesus was the only hope that remained steady? How do you balance hope on lasting things when comforts of life are what we crave?

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2 Lies We Like to Believe and an Underground Answer

Our culture has not only accepted lies, but when it comes to chicken it has engaged Newton’s 3rd Law.

Newton's 3rd Law of Motion

Newton’s 3rd law of motion: To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction.

The Chick-Fil-A affair involves a lot of religious, political and business pushing and shoving. What started out as everyone’s right to an opinion became the flame igniting a Newton’s law response. It kept snowballing into a storm of negative reactions, one right after another.

Anger.

Hurt.

Everybody’s effected.

It is plain that our culture has a problem.

Rick Warren is quoted on Facebook saying,

“Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear them or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.” ~Rick Warren

That quote resonates strongly with me. While I understand our culture has a problem, I still have to come to grips with the part I am to play. As I mentioned in How Safe are Your Loved Ones from Tattling, Stalking and Shooting, I don’t want to take part it the hoopla.

This week I read Jen Hatmaker’s take on it. She wrote with passion, wisdom and knowledge on the issue. She concludes with an invitation to leave the messy storm and go underground with the gospel.

That’s it.

I had already made the decision to keep sharing, mentoring and loving people while allowing God to change hearts.

I’m not responsible to convince anyone to believe. My part in God’s plan is to tell what God’s done for me and to lovingly share what I’ve learned from God’s word.

That’s it.

Nothing more.

God is responsible for the results.

I was already underground with Jen and down here the Chick-Fil-A nugget tray is delicious.

Here’s a small part of her post:

Sure, the storm will rage on up there. But you can find refuge just down the stairs. We have a whole thing going on underground. Gay friends and family, you are welcome down here. Marginalized women, come on down. Isolated and confused by organized religion, afraid your questions aren’t welcomed? Join us. Activists and bleeding hearts, you are our heartbeat. Plain, old, ordinary sinners saved by grace, you belong here. Misfits, ragamuffins, and rebels, bring the party. Reformed legalists, you are my people. Pastors contending for God’s glory and people, help lead us. Dissenters, dreamers, visionaries, we need you.

Come on down to the basement. I ordered a Chick-Fil-A nugget platter.

 

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“Let’s go underground with the gospel and be personable.” – Click to Tweet

 

Click through to read Jen’s In the Basement and join us underground.

What should you do when there’s so much pushing and shoving? Please don’t use the comments to rant, push or shove. I won’t argue issues. Only Jesus can change hearts. Why would you want to go underground?

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How Safe are Your Loved Ones from Tattling, Stalking and Shooting?

What do tattling, stalking and shooting have in common?

They are part of our society because people make up society. And people can be different, weird, loud, whiny, and some are downright crazy nuts.

I’ve been more reflective than vocal about the Colorado shooting, the Chick-Fil-A boycott and a predator-type stalking single young women that I minister to.

But now, I think it’s time to speak up.

Elephant Mom's ProtectionNa-na na-na boo-boo, my mommy’s bigger than you.

Just so you know where I’m coming from. I’m a mom charged with a natural instinct to protect those I love from any threat. And it’s with this outlook that I’m trying to sort out what to think about this week’s happenings. And I believe that I am one of the “we” that is responsible for, not just the beneficiary of:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” ~Constitution

 

As part of the “we” and as a mom, I hate tattling.

Maybe the tattler thinks he’s helping the leader/parent stay informed, but most often it comes across as whining and trying to get others in trouble.

When my kids were little, I gave the tattler a talk-to-the-hand motion and said, “If there’s no blood, no foul, no one hurt, no life threatening situation, then I don’t want to hear any tattle tales.” Then I’d take my hand down, smile and ask if they had anything they’d like to say.

So when do you pull the trigger and rat out somebody? Hence this week’s struggle and reflection.

What to do about a stalker?

In the case of the predator, I coached the girls to cut off all communication, Facebook, etc, but the guy still kept at it. So, I called in the militia. I ranted about the situation with my husband and we decided to bring in another authority.

There you have it. I tattled.

I just could not stand the idea of the guy possibly following one of my young women home! Mom instincts, intact.

We the people… establish justice.

What to do about a shooter?

I also gave much thought about the wave of talk after the Colorado shooting.

No one can predict with certainty what they’d do in such a horrific situation, but I’m sure my first reaction would be to drop to the floor and scream like a girl. While on the floor, I’m sure my mom instinct would rise up. But what could I do to stop the perpetrator of such senseless evil?

When my husband and I first heard the news he said, “It’s time to become a licensed handgun carrier just to protect ourselves against crazies.”

The thought made sense. And I felt compelled not only to become licensed but also to become a marksman.

That way if I ever was in such a situation with my mom instinct on overdrive, I imagine that I’d get up off the floor place a little red dot on the perps shooting arm and blast away. Anything to knock him off his perfectly scheduled attack and allow the good people to take control of the situation.

I’m not saying I’d be the Lone Rangerette saving the day, but maybe an army of trained moms could. Mom instinct with a plan.

We the people… have the right to bear arms.

What to do about opinions

Now when it comes to the opinions thrown around about boycotts and Chick-Fil-A, I like everyone, have one. And we are entitled to our opinions.

“A free society can remain free only so long as dissent is tolerated…as opinions and ideas can be debated freely…” -Eric Metaxas

But here’s the rub. I fail to see any immediate danger, no blood, no one hurt, no life-threatening situation. Really people. One would think that Chick-Fil-A took teargas and machine guns and blasted at their customers and mall shoppers. There doesn’t seem to be anyone in need of protection. And I feel free to eat wherever I want.

So I tire of the tattling.

Talk to the hand.

I know the issues are deep and strike lots of emotion, but what do you think “we” should do? Make a comment please.

When is it right to tattle? Or to be the person who stops the tattling, stalking and shooting? What is right? Where’s the balance?

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3 Steps to Teach Those who Hunger to Know God with Frank Viola

Teaching those that hunger to know more about God and spiritual matters is a rush for me.

I don’t mean those that have always been in church and know all the right answers even though they don’t live like they do. John Maxwell called these spiritually fat.

“Christians are educated way beyond their obedience” ~John Maxwell

Bible earbuds

I love engaging those who really want to know about God. Their approach to spiritual matters is fresh and new. That’s why this synchroblog of Frank Viola intrigued me. Read the scenario and tell us how you’d address the problem.

Tweetable
“It’s a rush to teach those that hunger to know God.” – Click to Tweet

 

Frank Viola’s Scenario

The following exercise is from the synchroblog at http://frankviola.org/2012/07/09/gospelforthemiddle

Fielding Melish and his wife Felicia have two children, ages 10 and 6. They live in a very remote part of Maine, USA. They are surrounded by extended family, none of whom are Christians. The nearest churches are one hour away, and by all evangelical standards, none of them are good. These churches are either highly legalistic, highly libertine, or just flat-out flaky.

One of Fielding’s cousins is a practicing Christian. They see each other once a year. Fielding’s cousin has shared Christ with Fielding many times over the years. Whenever they’ve talked about spiritual things, Fielding shows interest.

Felicia grew up in a Christian home. She’s received Christ, but she isn’t evangelistic and is overwhelmed with working long hours and raising two small children. She would love to find a church nearby for the spiritual support and instruction, but none exist.

Fielding has no college education. While he is capable of reading, he is not a reader. He doesn’t use the Web either. He’s a man who works with his hands, both for his career and for recreation. He’s an “outdoorsman.” He hunts, he builds, he does manual labor, etc. In his spare time, he helps his elderly parents with various building projects.

Fielding is not an atheist. Neither is he an agnostic. He believes in God. He believes Jesus is the Savior of the world who died for our sins and rose again from the dead. He hasn’t fully surrendered his life to Christ, but he is not sure what that looks like exactly. His children know a little about the Lord, mostly because of what their mother has taught them.

Recently Fielding asked this question:

When I’m with my cousin once a year, I want to learn more about God. But when I come back home, and I’m around everyone else, my mind is off of God, and I am back to working, raising my kids, and helping my parents. Someone needs to come up with a solution for people like me . . . people who are in the middle. (By “in the middle,” Fielding means someone who believes in Jesus, but who isn’t fully absorbed in the faith yet either. They simply don’t know enough nor do they have any spiritual support system around them.)

Relocating is not an option for Fielding and his wife. Even if they wanted to relocate, they don’t see a way they could do it financially.

Remember: Fielding and his wife don’t personally know any Christians. None of their extended family or coworkers are believers either. And the nearest churches (which are an hour away) aren’t recommended.

Question: If you were Fielding’s cousin, how would you instruct him and his wife the next time you saw them?

A few things I would try

This scenario excites me. A fresh slate to begin teaching about God’s love, his ways and his word. I see three maybe four steps that can be engaged to help Fielding and his family.

  • If I were Fielding’s cousin, I would address Fielding’ desire to learn more first. We could build our relationship and interact through skype mentoring and/or video teaching at least once a week.
  • Through the ongoing discussion, I’d bring Fielding to a decision point. I’d ask if he was ready to be fully engaged with God by talking with him and ingesting his Word (audio Bible). Based upon Fielding’s description, I believe he would want to make that decision if I helped him along.
  • After he affirmed that personal decision in prayer, I’d begin to include his family in some of the video teachings. Let’s call this a personal house church with a distant pastor.
  • With prayer and God’s timing, Fielding would grow confident enough to invite others into the house gathering so others can learn as well. At this point it might be considered a house church where Bible reading and discussion could take place.

Those are some of the things I would try to do. I’m sure there are many other things that could be done. How would you instruct Fielding and his wife?

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Want to Create Dreams, But Don’t Know Where to Start

I knew for a long time that I was meant to speak and write, but I sat.

I waited.

For what, I don’t know.

It was a long time, years even, that I did nothing about what I felt I should be doing. As I continued sitting on it, I took a group of ladies from our church to a Women of Faith Conference and that’s when things changed.

God got my attention.

Sitting Girl

I had to tell somebody about this undefined desire, whatever it was.

Fact: No one is touched when creative dreamers dream, then wait for God to make the dream happen (read “do nothing”) .

Closet creatives, like I was, won’t even tell their spouse or closest friends, much less talk with God about it. They have the wish to create something of value, but just wait, as if one day,

automagically,

they’ll have finished their creative bucket list.

Creative dreams need a voice and a plan to become a reality.

 

Tweetable
“Creative dreams need a voice and a plan to become a reality.”
Click to Tweet

 

My next step to fulfill the dream of speaking and writing was to try to put it into words.

Afterward, I had to tell my best friend Lou in the stadium seat next to me. Then I had to call my husband as soon as I could.

By telling these important people in my life,

I defined,

put words to and

gave voice to this vision and inner calling.

What about you? Is there something niggling at you? Something you need to create? Something you need to put words to and tell somebody?

Tell us in the comments.

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“Deep down, what do you want to create?” – Click to Tweet

 

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