Thursday, February 28, 2019

Amassing the Riches of Relationships Done Right

As recently posted in the Emma Joy Weekly Newsletter

An Essential Undertaking

Happy February, everyone.

Each month (or day) we're alive is reason to celebrate.

At the beginning of 2019, I put together a document of monthly newsletter and blog post themes I would like to address this year and this month it is the topic of Relationships. My blog post theme for February is on the topic of Goal Setting which can be read here.

Differing wills can make any relationship feel more like work than play. But like anything in life, hard work always precedes play. We work to gain money, we exercise to be healthy, we study to grow as a person, we deny ourselves and take up our cross daily to do our part in the sanctification process!

If we want our relationships to thrive instead of barely survive, the following must be pursued by each party and lived out intentionally:

  • Humility
  • A willingness to admit fault
  • An eagerness to own up to your part of the problem
  • A respect for the other person's separateness and an awareness of how to navigate each of your roles
  • Learning each other's love language, apology language, and communication style
  • 100% honesty
  • Transparency (as discretion and discernment see fit depending on the level of intimacy and depth of relationship with each person)
  • Diligence in working on one's own flaws
  • A desire to apologize and make amends where need be
  • Handling each argument, disagreement, or conflict honorably (and learning the skills for this, as it does not come naturally to the sinful, prideful heart in any of us)
  • Total upheaval of bad attitudes, cruel words, and immaturity
  • Removal of all toxic, unsafe, and unhealthy relationships for one's own good
  • Involving an outside party for accountability and the pursuit of wise counsel
  • Making God, His word, and prayer your highest priority regarding all your affairs in life

It is only when these things are adhered to with deliberateness that relationships begin to blossom. Such choices will only make your life better. Will it be easy? Nothing worthwhile is. But don't let pride, stubbornness, or blame shifting get in the way of making changes that will yield a bountiful return.

What else would you add to this list?

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Specifics of Goal Setting

Happy Thursday, everyone!

At the beginning of 2019, I put together a list of themes I'd like to address each month this year. The topic of this month's blog post is Goal Setting.

I once read a quote that posed the question, "How do you eat an elephant?" The answer was simply one bite at a time.

The same applies to the overall endeavor of setting goals. If we are to succeed at anything, we must have numerous steps in place. It is best to make your goals specific, measurable, attainable, trackable, actionable, rewarding, and realistic.

If you would like to lose weight now that it is a new year, focus on becoming healthy and strong through making it a lifestyle. Your weight will take care of itself if health becomes a priority above weight loss (otherwise it is sure to fluctuate based upon stress and circumstance). Find a form of exercise you love engaging in so it is a delight instead of a burden or chore. Instead of buying processed foods, prepare meals yourself with natural ingredients. Add organic lemon slices to water for natural flavor and to make drinking plenty bearable and even enjoyable. Stretch for ten minutes every morning and night. Take a walk for thirty minutes a day.

Whether we are seeking to heal from a past trauma, just want to make exercise a consistent part of our routine, realize we need to overcome a bad habit or sin, or want to get our homes or relationships in order, it all requires a plan.

You also want to implement accountability. If someone else knows about your goals and regularly asks you about the progress you're making (and helps you think of a plan), you're more likely to accomplish what you set out to do than if you tried doing so alone.

Here are a list of categories in which you might want to set goals and some helpful ideas for each one:

1. Health

- What type of exercise? How often? Where at? What time? With whom?
- What sort of diet? When will you meal plan? When will you meal prep? How much money will you allot for restaurants? What restaurants will you stop going to altogether? How much water to drink daily? What vitamins will you take?
- How much sleep does your body need? What do you need to purchase for better sleep (i.e. light blocking curtains, a fan to drown out noise, a diffuser with essential oils for a calming atmosphere)?
- How much of your self-talk and thinking is defeating, negative, or not based on the biblical model of Philippians 4:8?
- What coping mechanisms do you have in place for life's unpredictability and myriad stressors?

2. Spiritual growth

- Do you read the Bible every day? When? Where? How much?
- Do you pray regularly? About everything?
- Have you fully surrendered your past, present, and future to God?
- Do you frequently read articles and books that enable spiritual maturity?

3. Relational harmony

- Are you humble?
- Are you teachable?
- Are you generous?
- Are you intentional about self-improvement?

4. The pursuit of knowledge

- Is gaining knowledge important to you? Do you see it as a necessity or an option?
- How can you practically live out what you learn?

5. Annual reading list

- Do you spend more time watching television, being on the Internet, or reading?
- How many books would you like to read this year? What subjects? How many chapters per day? When? Where?

6. Learning a trade or skill

- Expand your horizons
- Become useful in many fields
- Learn to contribute value
- Look for opportunities to be compensated for the help you offer

7. Time management

- Set timers for everything
- Time block
- Follow a schedule and have a routine for everything
- Block out distractions
- Schedule in breaks and times of doing nothing
- Create a daily plan
- Allot extra time to make room for the unexpected
- Arrive everywhere at least 15 minutes early

8. Life management

- Prioritize
- Write everything down
- Learn to say no
- Declutter your entire home
- Identify when you are most productive
- Find a mentor for every aspect of life
- Do not multitask (give 100% to each task instead of a small percentage to several tasks at once)
- Be proactive
- Get Life Insurance for the sake of anyone who is dependent upon your income in the case of your untimely passing

9. Stress management

- Do not bring unhealthy food into the house
- Avoid rushing at all costs
- Do not neglect your responsibilities
- Learn to set boundaries
- Do not agree to anything you don't have time, energy, or resources for
- Exercise immediately or go for a walk or drive instead of turning to media
- Have structure for every aspect of life (I cannot overemphasize how important this is!)
- Do a daily, weekly, and monthly inventory of your life to see where you are contributing stress
- Write a daily gratitude list
- Laugh often
- Identify simple stressors and attend to them as soon as possible: get a car wash or oil change, fix a broken light bulb, fill gas tank every time it hits halfway point, keep up with laundry and dishes so everything is always clean, cancel the subscriptions you aren't using, make the quick phone call or appointment you've been putting off
- Identify complex stressors and pursue biblical counsel to learn the best way to navigate them in a thorough manner

10. Money management

- Budget every dollar
- Save 10-20% percent from every form of income (including birthday and Christmas money)

Your goal should be, within a specific amount of time, to look back and say, "This is how I used to live, and this is my new reality." If you aren't setting goals regularly, do not be surprised or upset when you're living the same reality tomorrow that you have been already.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Prioritizing Self-Care

As recently posted in the Emma Joy Weekly Newsletter

Avoiding Burnout Requires Routine Rest

Good day, everyone!

If you are anything like me, you find it difficult to relax. You feel almost guilty for taking the time to wind down, or simply don't know what it means to do nothing. For years now, unless I am cleaning, cooking, reading, writing, exercising, or having a profound conversation with someone, I have almost felt like I was doing something wrong. Like I couldn't just be still and always had to be productive in some way, always had to be contributing value in some way, always had to be striving to make a difference.

Something I have learned over the past several months is that self-care (that is, making time to slow down, schedule in times of doing nothing at all, and accepting the fact that God gave us the capacity for rest and we would all be wise to do so regularly) is undeniably needed for us to remain healthy physically, mentally, and emotionally.

We need to schedule in leisure time, just like we need to schedule in exercise and drinking plenty of water daily and getting adequate sleep.

Whatever is going on in your life, whatever stressors you are facing and burdens you are carrying, by all means, please add taking naps, drinking tea, taking walks, sitting in the sunshine, driving without the radio on (as silence is golden and healing), and hobbies to your regular routine. If you enjoy playing an instrument, make this part of your schedule. If you enjoy watching or playing sports, write the days and times you will do so on your wall calendar or in your planner. If you enjoy going to the library, or the park, or being a homebody despite the busyness of so many people around you, add it to your week or month.

I am learning that a person can be productive and keep up with chores, friendships, family, work, and school even while making time for oneself in order to recuperate, recharge, and simply rest on an ongoing basis.

You may even want to unplug from all social media, cable TV, social events that aren't absolutely mandatory, and learn to set boundaries so your time isn't dictated by the overwhelming expectations of others. I haven't had cable TV for several years and deactivated all my social media accounts early 2018 and I am not planning on ever going back. I have even stopped looking at all social media except for a few beneficial YouTube channels and highly encourage you to not feel the need to be in the know as the culture would have you believe is necessary.

I wish each of you well at the start of this new year and would enjoy hearing about any changes you have implemented over the last few months or changes you are in the midst of making in order to increase your well-being and add to your quality of life.

Our choices matter and every single one counts because it is leading us somewhere. But let us also keep this encouraging quote in mind:

"Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering 'it will be happier.'" Alfred Lord Tennyson

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Setting the Proper Foundation for the New Year

As recently posted in the Emma Joy Weekly Newsletter

Hello, everyone!

A new year is upon us and I am determined to make significant changes in any way needed so the wise choices of last year continue and the poor choices of 2018 are uprooted to the best of my ability.

As you reminisce over the previous year, what does it evoke in you? Who or what helped strengthen your walk with our great King? Who or what caused you to waver in your commitment to Christ? What choices increased your overall well-being? What decisions ultimately brought you more harm than good?

A word I have chosen for the theme of my 2019 is purge. It's a strong word with a powerful meaning. Merriam-Webster defines it as: to free from moral defilement, to cause evacuation from, to make free of something unwanted.

This can apply to toxic relationships, unbiblical beliefs about oneself or the world, stubbornness, pride, rebellion, cussing, squandering time or money, and any stumbling block that serves to keep you complacent, stagnant, unhealthy, or halfhearted in your roles and responsibilities.

"Life only changes when you do." What a brilliant concept that is often missed by the majority. It isn't all about stopping bad behavior as it is about becoming a person who grows in Christ-likeness and from that flows very real positive change. When we grow in character, we are better equipped for the unexpected changes that life brings to every person. When we do not take character growth or our relationship with the LORD seriously, life will knock us down and cause us to feel like we are drowning with little hope in sight.

I'd like to ask: How often do you read the Bible? How often do you use the Internet or watch television? Why do you only read the Bible that often? How do you justify using the Internet or watching television that often? You see, often the great disconnect between transformation and remaining the same person (or even getting worse) is that we give countless hours per week to entertainment or social media and very few hours to consuming the word of God.

I challenge you to try this assignment: Buy a wall calendar, planner, or even 25 cent notebook and start with tomorrow's date. For two weeks straight (marking each day off), read the Bible for the amount of time you currently use the Internet or watch television daily and watch television and use the Internet for the current amount of time you read the Bible daily. It is a surefire way to bring to light just how much time we as humans tend to squander on leisure, and just how little time we give to seeking our Creator and King. In two weeks, I'd like each of you who are willing to do this challenge (beginning tomorrow) to send me an email with the significant changes that took place in your life through this simple (yet difficult to be sure) exercise.

You will discover a newfound desire to please the LORD like never before since I presume you will be reading a lot of the Bible daily, as well as a significant decrease in your struggle with sin since your intake of TV and the Internet will be so little.

I am praying for each of you as you give up a mere two weeks of your time to give God the best of your hours. You just might want to continue this exercise indefinitely!

Friday, November 16, 2018

10 Tips Exceptional Parents Know

Originally posted on

Parents – Raising Kids is Hard. But all Good Things are Difficult.

“Parenting is hard, but there are few things in life that rise to this level of importance. God has chosen parents to be primary instruments in the shaping of a human soul.” –Paul Tripp

An honest assessment and probing of society shows the results of how every person was parented. Apparently, we need help in this department. Here are ten things exceptional parents know and live by.

1. Intentionality is a prerequisite for healthy children.

“So much of where we end up results from the way we were pushed at the start, and the direction our lives took from the beginning. And that’s where ethics come in. Call them values, or convictions, or worldview or whatever you want, but the fact remains that the trajectory of our lives generally is set by the things we either accept or reject in our formative years.” –David W. Hegg

Many can see that success in terms of finances only happens when you strive for excellence in your particular field of work. To be halfhearted or not take your job seriously is to risk financial woe. The quality of your material possessions and ability to have financial freedom depends on the amount of effort and time you invest in your job. So too, in raising children, it must be remembered that you are responsible for another person’s life. The quality of their existence long-term is largely dependent upon the foundations set in childhood.

Read the rest of my guest post for the Covenant Eyes blog here

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Got Porn on the Brain? Here Are 3 Ways a New Hobby Can Improve Your Quality of Life

Originally posted on

“We should treat our brains and souls with the same respect, at least, that we give a kitchen sponge. You wouldn’t put your sponge in the toilet and then use it to clean your dinner plate. So why would we let our brains absorb hours of filth every day; filth and violence and sex and everything, and then think that we can turn around and use those same minds to be decent, virtuous people in real life? It’s very hard to do.” –Matt Walsh

Our hobbies, habits, and interests make up, in part, the pie chart of our existence and are interwoven with where our focus lies. Our focus stems from our issues and experiences beginning in childhood. There is a direct correlation between our thoughts and our actions, between whom we associate with and the entertainment we watch, read, and listen to.

A more wholesome existence is attainable simply by shifting our focus from one thing to another. Hobbies serve us well in this regard, as they cement our focus on something outside ourselves and help free us from being bound to the patterns of thought and action we’ve become so accustomed to over the years.

Life has taught us that every day is filled with the ordinary, the unexpected, the difficult, the mundane, and numerous responsibilities and roles unique to each person. Every decision we make either fuels or starves jealousy, rage, joy, freedom, peace, or euphoria.

Many who have given up porn as a primary hobby experience a new, better quality of life afterwards. Here are three ways a new hobby can help you change your focus away from porn and improve your quality of life:

Read the rest of my guest post for the Covenant Eyes blog here

Friday, March 30, 2018

Forty Practical Tips to Help You Quit Porn

Originally posted on

“The power of porn may not just be its explicit content. It may also be its capacity to take the viewer into another world. Porn is a place where bodies and people are perfect, where imaginary lovers comply with every wish, and where the scene created perfectly matches the deepest desires of the viewer. It’s a perfect and perfectly destructive world, and it’s the stuff both horror and heartbreak are made of.” –Joe Dallas

Similar to a kaleidoscope, pornography can fascinate or intrigue us. Unlike a kaleidoscope, however, the endless variety of “patterns” we see in porn can engulf us to the point we are bound. If this is how you feel, please consider the following 40 tips to quit porn and gain freedom:

Read the rest of my guest post for the Covenant Eyes blog here

Friday, February 9, 2018

Five Motivations to Resist the Click

Originally posted on

“When you guard your purity, you’re protecting a treasure, so apply yourself to its longevity the way you’d protect anything valuable. Recognize its worth. Work hard to keep it, and reject anything which threatens it.” –Joe Dallas

To successfully resist the click, it is necessary to have more in place than mere willpower. We must be steadfast with putting in the laborious work of figuring out why we’re using porn to begin with and then have a feasible plan to derail the train of lust before it starts down the tracks.

A warrior is strategic in his approach to conquering what is out to destroy him. A sailor calculates the threat of the sea before embarking on troubled waters. A speaker prepares for difficult questions in advance. Becoming debt-free demands we stay on a strict budget and designate the extra money accordingly. Keeping the home in order is maintained through structure and routine. Gaining self-control requires no less of a plan.

Read the rest of my guest post for the Covenant Eyes blog here

Monday, October 16, 2017

Healing from Sexual Brokenness

As an adolescent, I was homeschooled part of the time. My mother worked about 30 minutes away from home where my younger brother attended school (not returning home until early evening) and my sister was often at her best friend's house, also homeschooled, about an hour and a half away, so that meant I had a lot of time at home to myself. Cable TV became a great friend through its constant companionship. It wasn't only music videos I adored. I also consumed shows/movies on HBO and other channels that were filled with sexual deviancy. All I did with my time was watch, listen to, think about, and act on perversion. When I wasn't feeding lust in the home, I was acting on lust outside of it. Sex can become a symbol of one's identity and affect every area of life.

Looking back I can clearly see how those choices groomed me for future porn use and a monstrous mindset. I heard one porn star say that so much in her life has been ruined because of sex and unfortunately I find this statement all too accurate. To live for sex and sex only (in all its various forms and outlets) is to gut your life of a special meaning and purpose that can only result when you are in right standing with God and thus in right standing with yourself and others. If sex is your first priority, you will end up making choices that may have disastrous repercussions (not just in terms of your health, but your spiritual vitality, emotional well-being, maturity level, and thought life as well). It will change your life (or maybe a better way of wording it is to say it will take away from your existence).

So much time has been wasted. Hours and months and years just thrown down the drain simply because I lacked accountability, wisdom, healthy friendships, and a real relationship with God.

Please get super serious about your choices and take the time to ponder where your decisions are leading you. Who or what needs your attention that you have been neglecting in order to cater to your sexual fix (daily or hourly)? Do understand and pay attention to the warnings of Scripture regarding unrestrained living. Do make yourself accountable and pursue healing through biblical counseling. Do not delay with examining your heart and do not run away in shame from what you find dwelling there.

Change can happen. Recovery and transformation are real possibilities that many before you have already experienced. My life is proof that there is a God who saves, a Redeemer who rescues, a King who laid down His life for the sake of broken sinners and whose word grants us all we need to live rightly. The Lord has done a mighty work in my life, yet it hasn't been painless, nor consequence-free. Jesus has brought restoration to me in ways I never thought possible, yet the positive changes that have taken place have only occurred in the context of deliberate attention to my brokenness and then enlisting the help of others to help me heal.

"STEP 1.
ADMIT I have a struggle I cannot overcome without God.
ACKNOWLEDGE the breadth and impact of my sin.
UNDERSTAND the origin, motive, and history of my sin." Brad Hambrick

I still battle the temptation at times to return to my old ways as I remember what a quick fix sexual sin affords its victims. The fine print I am ignoring in those moments is that ungodliness has a price tag, and its cost can be high.

Be wise and learn from the mistakes of others. It would be foolish and illogical to think it's possible to outsmart the law of sowing and reaping. It isn't, my friends. If you all only knew the tears I've cried, the painful ulcer I've had off and on due to the heaviness of guilt and the secrets I've carried, and the countless conversations I've had with my now young adult brother about choices, consequences, living honorably, and taking God's word seriously. If you all only knew everything you are guaranteed to lose when you embark on the self-serving journey of unbridled indulgence! Please take it from me: get help! Confess your sinful choices to the Lord and ask Him to do whatever it takes to intervene in your life and make you a new creation in Him. It is through Jesus alone that your life can head down a totally new path, one that is only possible through an ongoing relationship with Him and the regular application of His word.

Despite the shame you feel and regardless of the humiliation that could result from dealing with the root issues of your sin, do not delay. Do not delay!

True change is possible. I am a work in progress, yet how different is the person I am today from who I once was! The cringe, the horror, really, is how I see the places I've been and the person I became over the course of time when pleasure was my god. Now I serve the true and living God. And even though my sex drive hasn't died and my insecurities sometimes threaten to overtake me, I continue to turn to the Lord and His word for wisdom, guidance, and strength. I continue to choose, day by day, to make myself accountable to the trusted few in my life who never fail to point me to God and His truth, telling me what I need to hear and not what I want to hear.

We'd all love to believe that living in a fallen world with endless opportunities to give in to temptation means that we will always "struggle" -- but the word struggle implies a fight, and if each of us were totally honest with ourselves, we too often immediately surrender to the lures around us instead of putting up any sort of fight. We don't even try to have self-control and don't make seeking after God or hourly reading His word a priority. Then we wonder why our lives and minds are filled with wickedness and corruption, despite our want for change."You are only as sick as your secrets", as one quote says. And you will only continue to become worse if you do not actively choose, despite your feelings, to plead with God to bring along everything needed for you to repent and be changed from the inside out.

By committing your life fully to Jesus and making His word your "holy addiction" as someone once said, you are starting the path to true freedom and recovery. A life that is more fulfilling than the passing pleasures of deviant sin. But it is only through Jesus and His word that you will begin to see life, yourself, and sin for what it is. It is only through Jesus and His word that who we are on the inside can truly be refined. Not behavior modification without inward change, but tangible transformation of the mind, heart, affections, and even warped attractions/desires.

God exists. Jesus is worth it. Eternity is real. Our choices matter. Repentance is possible.

Please reach out for help. You can even write to me at or through the contact form on my blog so we can dialogue about these important matters and I can hopefully offer more practical counsel. Any questions are welcome. And if I don't have the answer, I can at least pray for you, point you to Christ and His word, and offer a list of resources that can aid in your particular struggles.

May you find new life through Jesus and discover the riches of a close walk with Him. A relationship, in fact, that will be the wisest use of your time, the most rewarding call on your life, the most impactful relationship you'll ever experience, and the way to order, beauty, and peace where there was once only chaos, filth, and turmoil.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

How to Steer Clear of Pornography When Intimacy Is Lacking

Originally posted on

"The ultimate pleasure you and I seek is intimacy, and the ultimate intimacy is with God." –Ravi Zacharias

A great need of the human heart is connection. We long to belong, to rest in the fact that we are wanted and appreciated, to bear our hearts to another and still be readily acknowledged.

We may dance in circles, looking for the next thrilling experience in hopes of feeling alive, while settling for what eludes us. We move forward with little direction, often clueless as to what to look for and what to avoid, and in the process, bypass the only true source of acceptance and love (a relationship with the Lord).

We look to sexual gratification (regardless of how illegitimate or dangerous the source), disregard sound judgment and reason, allow our conscience to become seared, turn a deaf ear and blind eye to what is healthy and wholesome, and ignore both the warnings and promises found in God’s word because we wish to pacify our longings in ways we are unfortunately sure to discover will not last or deliver as promised.

Read the rest of my guest post for the Covenant Eyes blog here

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Why Wishing You Were Someone Else Is Futile

We all have days where we wish we were somebody else. Sometimes the stresses, losses, and unexpected trials of life blindside us and we find ourselves wanting to live someone else's life. This is a dangerous and illogical stance though because there is no telling what is happening in the behind-the-scenes of another person's life. For all you know, others might be wishing they could trade lives with you (despite how tedious your life seems in your own sight).

I've discovered through getting to know at least a handful of people very well that what they often portray on social media, out on the soccer field, or in passing conversation with fellow employees at work is not an accurate or full picture of the entirety of their existence. So much is left out. For example:

  • When you see pictures of a family on vacation, you don't see the terrible argument they got into on the drive to the airport, the health problems in the parents' lives that recently have become much more of a concern, or the pain in each family member's heart as they recall the loss of a beloved grandparent just weeks before. You don't see the father's workaholic ways or the mother's crippling fear of the unknown. All you see is smiling faces and beautiful scenery which stirs up envy in your heart and causes you to believe their lives are more enjoyable than they actually are.

  • When you observe a group of people laughing and having a good time, you don't see the addictions they secretly battle, the childhood trauma still fresh in their minds, or their current circumstances. This could be one of the first times they've laughed heartily in months!

  • When you wonder how that one guy at work always seems to be in a good mood and you envy his ability to make others laugh, you don't see the time years ago that he purposed to begin using humor as a way of coping with a home-life filled with the unexpected due to a family member's mental illness or physical disability.

  • When you notice a woman whose appearance and house are always well-kept, you're not aware that her past was filled with disorder and the lack of beauty and structure during her formative years has greatly influenced her perfectionist ways.

  • When you watch viral videos by well-known YouTubers who have millions of subscribers and a few book deals, you might not think that sometimes he or she wishes they could go back to the safety of anonymity and obscurity when leaving the house for a day of fun and errands brought a sense of freedom and independence instead of their every move being recorded and speculated about on a grand scale through gossip magazines and the array of social media platforms available online.

  • This holiday season, when you see an SUV ahead of you at the intersection with a beautiful Christmas tree hoisted on top (something you could not currently afford), what you don't see is the previous living circumstances and financial strain that prevented them from purchasing a tree for the last five years (even though they really wanted to).

  • ...and lest you conclude that someone else has a more fulfilling life because they have money or travel often, what you don't see is that despite their apparent financial security and opportunity to shop or visit landmarks around the world, they might be utterly devoid of maturity, good character, and rich friendships. They might be insecure or have terrible non-existent relationships with their family. They might be trying to make a name for themselves through impressing others because they don't know their worth through Jesus or find their security and identity in Christ alone.

We are all complicated and complex creatures who have experiences, thoughts, emotions, and feelings others are largely unaware of. Evidence of this is the suicide of someone whom people would never guess struggled with anything life-threatening. Just spending time observing a person's bank account, internet history, or refrigerator will give you glimpses into the sort of person they are that apart from such knowledge, you'd have not a clue of these habits and interests of theirs.

Please don't think that other people are better than you. Sure, they might be better off, but that doesn't mean that this season of life will continue indefinitely in their lives (or yours).

There are things in my own life that I experienced as a child or teen that I am not open about with others. There are sins I have committed, places I have gone, people I have known, hurts that I still carry, and disappointments that sometimes flood my mind with waves of sadness that even those closest to me aren't aware of. I know for certain that my dad and grandmother think highly of me and sometimes I shake my head in disbelief or cringe inside over who I have been and who I am still capable of becoming that would bring them great pain if they only knew. This is proof that who someone is today (and what they have today) isn't a full picture of their life story (past or future). I'd venture to say that what we see on the surface in most people's lives is an edited version of their actual reality. It is the putting of their best foot forward, accentuating the glamorous and hiding the struggles. Shining a spotlight on the few fun or interesting aspects of life while keeping in the dark what is mundane and draining. I say this often but it is worth repeating: You don't know where someone has been or where they are headed. Life can change at anytime. Loss is a guarantee in this fallen world (to one degree or another, to one extent or another).

Our best option is to take responsibility for our own lives, make sure we are in right standing with God and others, build healthy and good habits, set short and long-term goals with action steps we can begin applying immediately, and take care of ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally, and relationally through the right means and setting needed and appropriate boundaries. If we are ever seeking to better ourselves and honor God in every facet of our existence, we need not be concerned with the paths of others. We should feel led to pray for the less fortunate and for those who have more...because possessions, prestige, and privilege don't always guarantee a desirable life.

"If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd quickly grab ours back." Unknown

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Importance of Letting Others Know How We Feel About Them

"Hearts are often broken by words left unspoken." Unknown

Relationships come and go in our lives. Some are for a season, while others endure for several. Yet what we say and leave unsaid in those friendships can affect people for years to come.

If there is a person in your life whom you care about, tell them. Let them know you think about them, are concerned for them, enjoy their company, and appreciate their influence in your life. If there are people you are currently missing, send them a note or call them. We'd all love to be the recipient of such acknowledgment, and it won't do any good to leave our concern, respect, or love for another person unknown. It could be just what they've been needing to hear and can propel their day forward with a heightened sense of joy and thankfulness. Who knows what they are going through after all?

"It's a shame to waste an encouraging thought by failing to turn it into an encouraging word." Gaston

It saddens me to think of all the words left unspoken that were they to be said out loud, people could actually heal. A part of them would be restored to health because the truth of how another person sees them was brought to light instead of being left to curiosity, assumption, or hearsay. It's sort of like the concept of telling a person while they are still alive all that we admire, respect, and adore about them instead of saying it to an audience of strangers at their memorial service.

I can't help but think of how much easier the moving-on process would be for both people were they to set time aside for civil dialogue where they acknowledge that despite each person's faults and regardless of the way the situation turned out, there were many good times and each person possessed certain qualities that were drawing and impactful to one degree or another. In dealing with broken relationships, if we were all to say, "Thank you for the lessons learned. I wish you well..." instead of becoming bitter at the person's departure and wishing misery upon them, both parties would walk away with a sense of peace for having handled the conversation in a mature manner.

We are all broken people and sadly remain broken because we aren't proactive and consistent in our pursuit of healing. One way we can heal from relationship troubles is to cultivate good character, own up to our mistakes, and have an attitude of humility. If we are willing to be direct and honest with our words, so much could be accomplished. There wouldn't be anything left to question or assume. You would know exactly what the other person is thinking regarding you and the situation you're both in. And you could therefore use that info in seeking counsel from older, wiser mentors on how you should proceed.

Don't leave important words left unsaid. If you are sorry, apologize. If you miss someone, let them know. If you care about, respect, or love a person, tell them. Honesty and transparency yield a connection that can pave the way to intimacy. And how our lives could change for the better were only we to make our feelings known!

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