discover and develop your strengths

coreclaritybannerI have a new passion. No doubt about it. I love coaching people through discovery of their talents and strengths. Absolutely love it.

Successful people
understand
their talents and strengths
and build their lives upon them.

My husband and I attended a CoreClarity training last spring. That week prepared us to explain Gallup StrengthsFinder results for individuals and groups. This summer, we had numerous opportunities to coach family members, individuals, and couples.

Every time we talked through top talents with people, I watched eyes open wide in recognition, hearts soften with greater understanding, burdens of frustration and self-condemnation wash away, and hope reappear in the soul. 

It was amazing actually.

It is an encouraging experience to grow in self-awareness and self-acceptance, but it is even more powerful to grow in understanding and appreciating the important people in our lives. 

Successful marriages (or teams)
dont just accommodate differences in each other,
they capitalize on them.

If you have never done the StrengthsFinder assessment, I highly recommend it. There are specific assessments you can choose for adults, college and highschool students and even middle school students. After you receive your top five results, find someone trained in CoreClarity to review your results with you. You can do this for yourself, as a couple, for your family, or in a seminar format for your whole team.

You will learn :

  • why it is more important to develop your strengths, rather than focus on improving your weaknesses
  • how to develop your talents into strengths
  • to correct the myths that everyone thinks the same way we do or that everyone has the same talents we do plus what we see in them that we do not have
  • how your top talents affect each other and how your combination creates the unique you
  • how different talents intensify, combine, or collide with other talents
  • how talents understanding helps build and repair relationships, improves problem solving and teamwork
  • how to use your talents to enhance your career

You might also want to attend a facilitator training so you can coach others!

Do you already know your top talents? How have you applied that knowledge to your life and relationships?

Please leave me a comment if you have any questions about CoreClarity or StrengthsFinder. I’ll be glad to help in any way that I can!

one day at a time

calendar file000786402730I am scheduling my calendar from now until Christmas. Lots of routine, plus two special family get-together events, which are a big deal because we all live spread out across the country. Getting us all to the same place requires a bit of advance planning… and a more-than-a-bit of money.

I am also working on my final project to complete my MA. The last hurrah to a three-year long endeavor. There are assignment deadlines. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it is still a long tunnel.

Work is ever-present, but less settled right now. Since my team focuses on serving others around the world, it is hard to commit very far ahead, and crisis like Ebola, ISIS, and international conflicts change the best of intentions.

On top of these things, my mom has decided to end her chemo treatments and begin hospice care. She is very tired and fragile, but is still mobile and mentally sharp. No one knows how much time she will have.

I have to live one day at a time.

I am keenly aware that I have to hold all the plans I make with a loosely open hand. There is no certainty that they will occur. No guarantees. Because of my mom’s condition, at any moment this Fall could easily take on a very different personality.

The truth is every day is the same – I don’t control them and they could be very different in an instant.

Only my level of awareness has changed. And my attitude.

I am more grateful for what I do receive each day – a long phone call with one of my children, fun times with friends, a walk or bike ride with my husband, a deep conversation with my mom.

I worry less on the front end, and I am more at peace with those plans that don’t turn out. I can often reschedule, plan something else, or just enjoy some time to rest rather than keep up the pace I thought I wanted.

I actually plan better and more. Because of my recognition that each day is a gift, I want to fill them well. I crave valuable experiences, efforts, communication, and relationships.

I don’t want to waste a single moment.

I am learning to more quickly let go of the anger and forgive the offense. I am trying to take the initiative to clarify misunderstandings and express appreciation and love. I want to listen well to others and encourage and empower. I am attempting to criticize less and give more generously of myself.

Isn’t it ironic that the awareness of death gives greater meaning to life? 

How are you living each day?

rest is a four letter word

bedroom I grew up with a hard-driving military father. We had jobs to do in the house, yard, garden, or apple orchard. Five children meant there was always plenty of work to do. My dad liked sports and outdoor activities, so we often woke up early to go hiking or skiing or play tennis. The only time we could lay around on the couch or watch TV was if we were sick – really sick.

It is no wonder that I continue to work hard today and have often felt guilty about rest. I’m not busy with yard work or gardening or housework these days, but I enjoy my job, and I like to stay active. I don’t particularly like to sleep, and I rarely watch any television… but I am learning how to rest.

Rest is not just sleep or no physical activity, although it certainly can involve that. Dictionaries say that rest includes relaxation, refreshment, and recovering strength. One definition includes a peace of mind or spirit and to be free from anxiety or disturbance. Another definition mentions a period or interval of repose, solitude, or tranquillity

No matter how much we love what we do, or how much work we think we have to do, rest is powerful… and necessary. I read a good post by Michael Hyatt this week about rest, and it helped me reflect on some good reasons for rest:

Rest builds physical strength. Athletes and trainers know that after a challenging workout, the body needs rest to recover, prevent injuries and increase endurance. Sleep, stretching, hydration and nutrition are all important. As I get older, I recognize this more and more.

Rest deepens relationships. Relaxing times with family and friends give me time for full engagement and quality interaction. Play, long conversations, stories, and laughter help me feel refreshed and provide me with healthy connections and community. When I am well rested, I have more to offer others.

Rest invigorates the mind. If I go too long without rest for my mind, my brain feels like scrambled eggs, and I struggle to sort out my thoughts and feelings. When I get away from the daily “to-do” list and anxieties to daydream and let my mind wander, I find that I can think clearly about the less urgent but very important issues like future plans, past reflections, and creativity.

Rest rejuvenates the soul. According to the Bible, even God rested! 🙂 To “let go” of my responsibilities for a bit reminds me of the truth that I am not all-important. Time to breathe deeply, pray, and listen calmly encourages me to find right perspective and contentment.

Rest is often used as a noun for a support, like an arm rest or a chin rest. This reminds me that I often need other people to help me rest. I am so grateful for those in my life who rest well, and they encourage me to rest also.

Well, now that I have this post finished, I am off to rest while watching a World Cup game!

Do you struggle with taking time to rest? Or are you someone who helps other people get away to relax? What are some of your favorite ways to rest well?

____

You might also like to read: a rhythm of rest

how do you want to be remembered?

Bob Morgan memorialHow do I want to be remembered when I die? Not something I think about very often… or want to.

However, attending a memorial service this past weekend caused me to think about things that I am often too busy to consider.

My father-in-law died a few weeks ago (about one year after his beloved wife, Nancy) and we gathered for a very special time with family and friends to share stories, hugs, tears, and time together. Meals, music, and memories filled the days. We remembered Bob as family, friend, coach, and faithful husband.

Bob’s life did not begin easily. His father deserted the family when Bob was young, and Bob ran the streets unsupervised with his “river rats” pals. There are plenty of stories about their escapades and mischief… and probably some that still remain untold! Bob
credited the Marines and basketball for turning his life around, teaching him the discipline, values, and commitments that characterized his later life.

At Bob’s memorial, we looked at picture boards and video presentations and listened to some of his favorite songs and people share about his life. Over 80+ years, Bob left a lasting legacy.

PERSONALLY – Bob invested his life with passion into those things he loved and enjoyed. Bob served bravely and proudly in the Marines. After his tour of duty, Bob dedicated his life to his love of basketball. He played in college, and then coached for many years, winning the 1971 Wisconsin State Championship for high school boys’ basketball… and many years later, he came out of retirement to coach a win-less, small-town, girls’ team to their only winning season. Bob loved the “lake”: fishing, pontoon rides, and the spectacular seasonal views from his front porch. He also loved all kinds of music and enthusiastically sang and played with family and friends through the years. He was famous for his Louis Armstrong karaoke version of “What a Wonderful World”, and we sang it at his service.

What are you passionate about?
Are you investing your time, abilities, 
energy and resources there?

RELATIONSHIPS – Even without early strong role models, Bob left a legacy of strong family bonds and loyalty. Bob adored his wife Nancy; it was obvious to all who knew them. His family laughed together, cried together, disagreed, and forgave each other… always staying close and enjoying time together. Bob also developed long-term friends from all walks of life. He was friendly and witty, and had a special place in his heart for the underdog. The Morgan campfire always warmly welcomed family and loved-like-family friends.

How are your relationships? Are they committed, loving, loyal, deep?

FINANCIALLY – Bob was a high school teacher and coach… not highly paid professions. Yet, Bob and Nancy were excellent stewards of their resources. In life, they were thoughtful gift-givers and traveled frequently to visit family. They opened their home and hearts to many, some for short visits, others for long-term care. They wintered in South Padre, TX for many years, enjoying warm weather and dear friends. When they died, they left an inheritance to their children. They were generous in life and in death.

Are you a good steward of what you have earned/received?
Are you generous to others?

FAITH – Bob and Nancy both demonstrated a personal faith and encouraged it in others. They faithfully attended church through the years, although the particular denomination was not important. Personally, I am grateful for how they encouraged our missionary family and prayed for us, even when they knew that our faith choices meant our family would never live near to them. Both Bob and Nancy understood God’s gift of
forgiveness and were at peace when they died.

Where are you on your faith journey?
Would you be at peace with God if 
you were to die today?

Bob and Nancy have helped me reflect on my own “wonderful world” and the legacy I want to leave behind… How about you? How do you want to be remembered?

bitter is not better

dark chocBitter may be OK for dark chocolate, herbs, or ales, but it is not good for people.

Bitterness is so ugly.
Amy Heckerling

The last few weeks, I heard numerous times about the need to fight against becoming a bitter person. I’m not sure if people were seeing the tendency in me, but I have decided to take the counsel seriously. We all have the ability to become bitter people; life is hard, but we choose how we will respond to the hits that life brings our way.

We start out life very naive and optimistic. We believe that we can do anything if we work hard enough, and we live our days with a (false) sense of immortality and invincibility. We erroneously think we can easily choose our career path, change our spouse, and control our children.

Somewhere between 30-50 years old, we discover that life did not turn out like we thought it would. Individuals and families struggle with terminal illness, unemployment, prodigal children, tragic accidents, incurable medical disorders, loved one’s early deaths, long-term singleness, separation and divorce… unexpected, unplanned, and unavoidable chips to our perfectly manicured world. We get hurt in relationships that cause conflict, under-appreciate and undervalue our work, misunderstand and overlook our contributions. Life is hard – really hard.

It is a simple but sometimes forgotten truth
that the greatest enemy
to present joy and high hopes
is the cultivation of retrospective bitterness.

Robert Menzies

If we focus on negative circumstances, compare our life with others’, or refuse to forgive wrongs, we harden our heart and pave a path toward bitterness. We find ourselves critical, complaining, angry and discouraged with life. It is natural and easy to do.

On the other hand, if we practice gratitude, contentment, and peace with others – even during the hard times – we can pass through our struggles singed by real life, but not burned and destroyed. The pain is real, but it does not have to define us.

Bitterness imprisons life; love releases it.
Bitterness paralyzes life; love empowers it.
Bitterness sours life; love sweetens it.
Bitterness sickens life; love heals it.
Bitterness blinds life; love anoints its eyes.

Harry Emerson Fosdick

I do not want bitterness to control my life. I am praying and asking others to help me process the hard experiences in my life so that I respond with love instead.

How do you fight bitterness? Do you need to ask someone for help?

appreciating (real) family

family real compfight
I spoke twice this week about my heritage and my family. I am also enjoying a great visit from my sister with her husband and daughter. These two experiences have caused me to reflect on the many ways that my family has formed my identity.

PAST

My family was not and is not perfect. There are difficult aspects of the past that left emotional and relational scars, over-compensating behaviors, and “hot buttons” that ignite in some expected and some not-so-expected circumstances. Thankfully, I have learned to remember the positive and character building moments… and to leave the negative and hurtful memories behind. I am so grateful for faith, friends, an awesome husband, and a few great counselors, who have helped me to move forward, acknowledging the past’s influence but freeing me from its potential limitations on my future.

PRESENT

These days I am gaining a greater appreciation for my sisters and my brother as we enter the new stage of caring for our elderly parents. It is not an easy time for us; we have to work very hard at integrating many different viewpoints, opinions, geographical availability, ideas, and personalities into choices and decisions. Although we are older, childhood attitudes and reactions resurface. My siblings are teaching me new ways to love and yield my own interests – this is good growth for me.

FUTURE

The real challenges faced in my marriage and in raising my (amazing!) children have helped to keep me humble and honest about my inadequacies, my insufficiency… and have engraved on my heart the incredibly powerful truth and grace that we received over the years. I am very grateful for the authentic and loving relationships that we have because of how we have worked through difficulties and pain together. I did not anticipate or enjoy the struggles – if I could have, I would have chosen to avoid them – but I am eternally thankful for the redeeming hope that we have experienced. I look forward to whatever the future might hold for us.

I’ve heard that sites like Facebook can cause depression when people compare their real lives with the unrealistic “perfect” lives that we assume from superficial statuses and photographs. I know, from experience, that everyone has a real story behind the smiles; the real story is full of tears and hurt… and forgiveness and reconciliation… and healing and hope. Real is rich.

What do you appreciate about your family?
How are you handling “real” life together?

family tension

rope
I spent this past holiday with my children, my brother and sisters, my mom (and her husband of 25+ years) and my dad. There were some fun, laughter-filled, memory-building times together. There were also some conflicts, differences of opinion, and hurt feelings.

There was tension.

Dictionaries define tension as being stretched, strained or stressed, mentally or emotionally. It can involve uneasiness, nervousness, anxiety or a strained relationship. It results in “walking on eggshells”, or it can reach a level of hostility.

Tension can also serve a positive purpose. Tension is necessary for a sewing machine to weave the threads together well, for a bow to launch the arrow to its target, for the sailor’s knot to hold tight. High-tension wires carry electrical power over long distances. Tension is something we desire on car alternator, air conditioner and vacuum cleaner belts. According to Fretag’s Pyramid, we intentionally build tension when writing a successful fiction novel. Arterial tension maintains blood pressure in an artery; surface tension preserves the integrity of a surface, and tissue tension enables a state of equilibrium between tissues and cells. Sexual tension can lead to great enjoyment between a husband and wife.

All that to clarify…

not all tension is bad.

One of the tensions I experienced was between “my” family traditions and the extended family traditions. There is not one right way and one wrong way to celebrate holidays; it much more complex than that. So when I travel to spend Christmas or Thanksgiving or any other key event with other family members, I yield a bit of my preferences… and I miss a bit of how I like to do things. On the other hand, I gain the richness of new experiences and family times. The tension is not necessarily bad; but it is helpful to acknowledge and process it.

How do you deal with tension over family traditions? 

Another tension I had to deal with were the relationship tensions due to different personalities, expectations, communication styles, and conflict resolution strategies. My sisters and I are all very different. We are facing challenges and big decisions regarding our aging parents; we have different opinions about the options, and we use different communication methods to express those opinions. I’m not always sure whether to push for an open discussion or whether to give a sister space and time. Intellectually I know that our differing approaches, respectfully considered, will lead us to better solutions in the end. Emotionally I am learning to accept – and not fear – the tension.

How do you handle family relationship tensions?

A last tension occurred as I interacted with my children. As they have grown and matured, I have wrestled with when to “circle the wagons” to restrict and protect… and when to trust and let go. Now that they are older, I still struggle with when to offer my advice and “coaching”… and when to just give grace, believe the best, and trust them to make their own decisions. As parents, we have taught them our heart passions and values; now they will choose their own way. Sometimes I worry. Sometimes we have deep talks. Sometimes I pray and find peace. Either way, I recognize that this tension is good – it means we are all growing and changing.

How do you manage the “what’s my role?” tensions?

Life’s tensions are stretching me. I am recognizing my selfish, inappropriate and inadequate reactions, and I hope to grow to better handle the tension. Tension is here to stay; I want to embrace the tension and the benefits that it can bring to life.

_________________

It is a privilege for me to write for Missional Women. This post was originally published there. You may want to check out their other great content!

missional women button

courage – a word for 2013

Courage File Drawer Label Isolated on a White Background.

Do you ever need courage?

I have chosen courage as my word for 2013.

Last year I picked the word authentic; I have tried to be authentic with my fears, emotions, needs… and also with what I wrote here on this blog.

This year I know I am going to need courage…

My family is facing my mom’s terminal cancer diagnosis. We will need courage to face death bravely so that we are thoughtful and thorough in our help and preparations. A lot of people are afraid of dying… and afraid of pain… and afraid of loss. My mom and family will face those fears; I don’t want my fears to make it any worse for them… I will need courage to face the crisis and challenges this year brings. 

Crisis can cause a lot of stress in the relationships for those involved. When there is stress in my life, I often react with impatience and criticism of my husband, my family and my friends. I sometimes pull away and isolate myself with an “I’m the only one who______” attitude. I am often too tired emotionally to make the effort to face conflict for fear of getting hurt or making things worse. I will need courage in my relationships.

This next year will bring a lot of change for me. We will move again and change jobs, since our assignment this year is a temporary situation. This may involve a trip across town and a new desk, or it might mean a different state or even a different country. It will certainly mean more work, some sad good-bye’s, meeting new people and learning new things. I will need courage to accept and adjust to the changes.

Finally, I think about me – my character, my personality, my strengths and weaknesses, my faith. A times, the scariest thing of all is doing a good, deep look inside and evaluating what I see. It is easier to stay busy running from one thing to another and miss time to reflect on: Who am I? Am I satisfied with who I am now? What do I need to change? Where do I need to grow? I am going to intentionally slow down this year and leave some time for this kind of reflection. I will need courage to grow personally.

So courage is my word for 2013.  Please follow along and see how this word gets worked out in 2013!

And for you? Have you taken some time to think about what you need or want for 2013? What is your word?

life and death

Nothing like death to make me think about life. It is so easy to run from one thing to another without reflection… until running is no longer an option… until there are no options at all… until life is done and there is suddenly all kinds of quiet, emptiness, solitude, and time to think. Too much time. Not enough time.

My husband’s mom passed away last week. We had just spent a wonderful week as a family with her and all his relatives – something we don’t get to do but every five to ten years. His mom looked good; she was apparently winning the ugly cancer fight; we enjoyed precious time together… and then two days later she was gone. An unexpected aneurysm leak took her life in just a few hours.

“Nanny” was a sweet lady – I felt very loved by her. I am struggling with how life, vacation gatherings, and family communication will change without her. She had a warm, inviting, accepting character that attracted people instantly and bonded them to her life-long. (please see my husband’s tribute to her) She entered eternity with a grace, calm and peace that I hope to have…

I am so grateful for the relationship we had with “Nanny”. Although we lived at great geographical distance all of our married life, we worked hard to stay close. Phone calls, cards and letters (past), Facebook (present), and vacation get-togethers allowed my children to really know and love Nanny. Sometimes it required extra expense or a very long drive, but it was so worth the effort. I do not regret investing during her lifetime, and we have no regrets at her death.

I wonder if I can say that about all of my relationships? Am I investing today, so that if they were gone tomorrow I would have no regrets? Have I made the effort? Have I told them I love them? Have I reconciled our conflicts? Have I given them my time, my energy, my focused attention? Is there anything still undone… anything that I need to say?

Life is so fragile and uncertain. Death comes without warning. I don’t want death to catch me unprepared. I want to be ready.

Are you ready? If death visits you or a loved one tomorrow… what do you need to do today?

who are you?

The last few weeks have been full of farewell gatherings  – special times to say good-bye after 17+ years here in Mexico. People attended that I met on our arrival here and others who have only recently come into my life. So many different personalities, abilities, and shared activities that have shaped my experience.

A bit of reflection caused me to remember something I learned a long time ago about the different people who pass through our lives… here is my version of a few of them:

VTP (very treasured people)

These people are one-of-a-kind-awesome. Family. Close friends. Mentors. Encouragers. These are the ones who I miss when I’m not with them, whose e-mail I open immediately when it comes through, whose call I run to take.  These are the ones that really care about me; they are well aware that I’m not perfect, but they accept me, forgive me, love me, pray for me, and believe in me. In most cases, this relationship is reciprocal – I am also a VTP for them.  This is an elite group, and these very treasured people are the ones that have caused my eyes to overfill with tears and who I have hugged tightly because I don’t want to ever let go.

VIP (very important people)

I may not be as close with these people, but they are still special to me. I always enjoy being with them; I love hearing about their lives and families; I often wish we could get more time together.  These people are givers, not takers.  They add to my life.  They are dreamers, learners, doers.  They motivate me by their hearts and their actions. They are positive, authentic and growing. They have challenged my opinions; bettered my ideas; confronted me, and worked out our conflicts face to face. Very important people put a smile on my face when we are together, and I look forward to being with them again. I am grateful to have so many of these people in my life. My life is rich because of them.

VDP (very draining people)

I wish this was not a category, but VDP’s are part of my life too. Thankfully, they are not a big group. Some of these people are basically “nice; they just happen to be “needy”… takers instead of givers. They only seek me out when they want something from me.  On the other hand, some of these people are not so nice… they are negative, critical, and usually complaining about something. They talk behind my back rather than clarify with me; they criticize instead of helping; they have hurt those I care about. These have worn me down and worn me out. These are the ones who offer the superficial, obligatory handshake or kiss on the cheek, but hardly make eye contact.  I honestly won’t miss them…

Each person who touches my life helps form my character, as I do for others. The VDP’s (very draining people) in my life have actually taught me important lessons about finding my true identity, setting up helpful boundaries, and what I don’t want to do to others. I need to limit the amount of time I spend with people who drain me. Mark Twain said,  “Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.” I hope and pray, as I learn and grow, that I will appear very infrequently on others’ VDP lists.

On the other hand, I would like to be a VIP (very important people) for many – I want to add to their life: a hug, a laugh, a resource, a listening ear… and I consider it an incredible blessing to be a VTP (very treasured people) for a few. I need to make sure I get lots of time with these people!

How about you? Do you know who are the VTP, VIP, and VDP in your life? Are you getting the right amount of time with each group?  … And who are you for others?