Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!  I wish you all a treat-filled day of fun and autumnal festivities!

Halloween will forevermore be known in my mind as the anniversary-of-the-day-I-first-went-into-labor.  Here we are, three full years later, and I can still picture that entire day with pristine clarity.  I suppose you never forget the day that, for the first time in your life, you reach maximum capacity in your pregnancy.  (It probably also added to the drama to have my water break in the middle of watching Dracula!  That is definitely something you never forget!)

My firstborn daughter, Matilda, will turn 3 tomorrow on November 1st.  I just can't believe it.  THREE.  Actual kid-dom.  For real little-girl-ness.  Absolute, walking, adorable energy balled up into one little being who has as much spunk as she does splendor, as much curiosity as she does cuteness, and as much fervor as she does favor.  I love her to pieces, and can hardly remember life before her existence.

There is something about the firstborn child that just makes my heart sing and cry out for her.  On one hand, I think that I will extend to her opportunities that my second-born (and not-yet-conceived-subsequent-children-of-the-future) may miss out on.  I think I will experiment the most in my parenting methods with her.  I think that I will challenge her more than the others, seeing how far she will push the boundaries or how far my limitations will be tested.  It's hard to tell.

On the other hand, I really feel for her.  She is the "pioneer" of our children.  The first to have us as parents.  The first to be wholly under our supervision and influence, and I gotta say - that can't be easy! Sometimes I wonder if she already realizes she is the guinea pig or not.  Sometimes I worry whether she can tell we are just winging it as we go or if she knows how much I tweet about her strong will!

Matilda is stubborn, willful, and delightfully spirited.  She knows what she likes (or as she says "I yike dat!") and will throw a dramatic fit just to clarify when she detests something.  She plays hard and loves even harder.  She will strangle perfect strangers in bear hugs if they smile at her and gleefully wave at passersby just to make her enthusiasm towards life that much more contagious.

What I have come to know (and gradually, daily, strive to fall in love with) is that toddlers are irrational, honest, unashamedly-answer-seeking individuals who just want to be in charge.  Picture an angry lunatic running a big corporation and then yelling at his employees to tell him what's going on, and you'll have some clue as to the confusing day-in-the-life that it is to be a toddler.  Their world just makes no sense to them, but they know there are answers out there to be had.  Not having the answers, however, doesn't limit them from exacerbating themselves by throwing unwarranted demands around like they are stuffed animals (and sometimes, they are stuffed animals).

I have a feeling that 3 is going to be an amazing age for Matilda.  I sense great rises in things like intellect and vocabulary (yikes) and hefty depths of character sinking into her mind and soul.  Already she talks about angels, God, Jesus, and asks questions about feelings and how others are doing (like, really doing - like, empathizing better than many parents I've met).  Its kind of like living with a resident-psychologist, someone always making you question your ideals or motives (why? why?) but still withholding judgment.

As we approach the threshold of her birthday, it got me thinking about who this little warrior will be when she grows up.  What do I want for her?  Who do I hope her to be?  How will I relate to her?  What if she turns out differently than I hope?  Certainly, she will turn out differently than I hope...not necessarily better or worse, but she will be her own self, and how do I parent something, unknown?

But, this led me to two thoughts:

1.  There is no more unknown today than there was yesterday than there will be tomorrow.
There is always the same amount of unknown about our future, it's just that we usually get to comfortably live under the illusion and within the security of our predictions coming true.
Matthew 6:34  Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own. (NIV)

2.  I need to model my life according to who I hope my child grows up to be.
I all too often find myself taking the easy road when it comes to living up to the standards I idealize.  But, when I picture walking into my life as if it were my child's - am I disappointed?  am I proud?  would I try to fix her?  would I encourage her?   If I picture my current life as my child's future, how would I live differently?  I find this much more motivating than simply longing for something better or settling for disappointing myself.

I hope so much for my Matilda.  I fervently pray that God will take the passion in this crazy/sweet child and turn it into a Christ-centered calling that only this spit-fired, pistol-blazing, mighty, little whipper-snapper could fulfill.  I'm so grateful to belong in the journey of her story.

Have a happy birthday, Matilda.  You inspire me.

Oprah pt. 5 - The Grand Finale!

Friday, October 26, 2012

1 Corinthians 1:27-29

27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him.

Check out Part One!
Check out Part Two!
Check out Part Three!
Check out Part Four! 

From the second I arrived at O YOU! I knew I was in for a memorable experience.  I arrived about 6:30am (doors opened at 7, but the actual first session didn't start until 9!) and there was already about 500+ people in line.  Rumor had it that there had been women camped out since midnight the night before just so they could get dibs on good seats.  Whoa.

As I made my way down, down, down (does this line end?) down the line, it suddenly struck me how incredibly diverse the audience was.  Ages 16 - 86, mostly women but some men, every race, every religion, every sexual orientation, everyone looking way too fabulous for it still being dark outside.  Everyone there because of one person and one reason:  To see Oprah and improve our lives.

I quickly befriended a few gals in line and started chatting with them about how interesting it was to me that we were all here for the same reason, and yet here for completely different and individual reasons all at the same time.  "That's true," one lady said, "I guess we all have something we need to work on!"

I wasn't exactly sure what I wanted out of the day.  I knew I was just going to enjoy an entire day on my own agenda, not having to worry about the needs of my little girls (for the most part) and ready to engage in this culture that was inviting, intellectual, and interested in who I was.  I mean, after all, the day was called O YOU! it was blatantly branded as brightly colored validation and felt special to be welcomed as if we were the celebrities getting the notice, and not the other way around.

Even standing in line became a treat as the Oprah Staff handed out free breakfast sandwiches and smiled at you as if you had just accidentally tipped them too much.  As I entered the foyer of the convention center, it became apparent that this level of stardom brought with it a bandwagon of brand management that I had never witnessed before.  The LA Convention Center had become "Oprahland" overnight.  Signs and giant "O's" were everywhere.  Every column or wall was somehow signified by her enterprise.  It was seamless and beautiful, and if I didn't know any better I would have thought this was Oprah's very own event coliseum that had always been hers and this event had always been there and always would be.  This is the best of the best, I thought.  And there is something spectacular in witnessing and appreciating the effort behind such a feat.

As you have read through the week, you now are familiar with all of the sessions I attended throughout the day.  The "experts" I encountered truly were just that - experts in their field.  Each one of them held captive an audience of 5,000+ as if they were talking to their family around the dinner table.  Each one of them spoke so freely, so confidently, so fluidly that it made me look behind myself to see if there was a teleprompter stationed somewhere I couldn't see.  There wasn't.  They held no notecards.  They needed no pause.  They owned that auditorium and knew it.  And the (I'll just say "women" since truly the audience only held about 1% men) women they spoke to ATE. UP. EVERY. SINGLE. WORD.

Myself included.

I had invested money in the day.  I had invested time.  I had invested thought and energy and deliberation to absolutely sponge as much "expertise" out of these individuals (and the experience as a whole) as I possibly could.  I had already assigned value to the task from the moment I bought the ticket, so now was the time to cash in on the life lessons I was promised.

And boy-oh-boy, did those speakers make some serious promises.  Even reading the session topics or the list of sponsors that was there gave you hopes of walking away as a completely organized, fully energized, highly motivated, intellectually stimulating, emotionally enriched, vibrant woman who would walk out the door with her head held high and surely be mistaken for Halle Berry shooting a Loreal commercial!  It was invigorating, to say the least.

By the time I was waiting in line to see Oprah in the final session (did I mention I was in line 2 HOURS prior to schedule...though, I did get in the 12 row, center stage!) I was bursting with information.  My brain was on overload with the intake of tips, advice, how-to's, to-do's, and what-not's.  I was tired of the stubborn women and exhausted by enthusiastic ones.  I just wanted to see my Oprah, get an emotional hug from afar, and go home and get in my jammies.

It was in the middle of this dreamy thought (as my feet were gaining numbness from standing for so long) that a Security Guard informed us that our line ("Group A") was going to need to calmly and efficiently move around to a different area before entering the arena.  A collective "Ohhhh hellll no" erupted from the crowd.  I sort of shrugged it off, just glad that someone around here evidently knew where we were supposed to go, and I was happy to be cattle-corralled into the correct location as long as Oprah was at the end of it all (Oprah and a seat for my tired feet, please).

But, hell hath no fury like a woman scorning a security guard for coming between her and her Oprah.  Whoa.  Let me tell you, I've never witnessed angrier, lunatic, irrational women outside from watching a clip from a Jerry Springer show.  It was ugly.  And, believe it or not, most of those terrible loud-mouths got their way and were let in line in front of the rest of us (the squeaky wheel got the grease that day, evidently).  It was sad.  It was gross.  And it made me take pause and see how passionate these women were about learning ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

Witnessing this debacle, I leaned over next to the person next to me in line and said "Wouldn't it be so great if that security guard just "Mission-Impossibled" the crowd and pulled off his face like a mask and it ended up really being Oprah???"  We had a good laugh, thinking about how Oprah would surely laser-vision-destroy those line-cutters with her glare of shame.  Some people just never learn, no matter what it is.

I finally got seated.  The room is buzzing.  Music is blaring and the rhythm makes you question whether we are at an information session or a nightclub, it is so intense.  There are giant screens on either side of the stage with quotes from each of the day's speakers.  It's the final session and you could cut the enthusiasm in the room with a knife, it was so thick.

Before this day, I had never been to anything so emotionally charged, so spiritually uplifting, so energetically palpable that didn't have anything to do with Jesus.  That is, having been to women's retreats or various ministry conferences, it felt strange to feel so connected with strangers and understood by people I'd just met, that didn't necessarily worship the same God I did.  (If you've ever been to a ministry conference, Christian camp, concert, or retreat, you probably know what I'm talking about.)

I looked out into this sea of women, their arms raised high, their voices shouting out with happiness and confidence, and I had the strangest sensation come over me.  I teared up as I felt God revealing to me exactly what I was looking at...orphans.

These women, this "Oprah culture" if you will, was a crowd of wandering, wondering, parentless children.  They were in desperate search for a parent.  Not only someone to look after them, love them unconditionally, or validate their feelings...but someone who would guide them, instruct them, set limits, give them boundaries, and model our ideal of who we truly want to be.

My heart broke right then and there for them.  Such desperation, such hope and expectation, all placed on a single woman's words, kind eyes, and ideals.  How could Oprah possibly adopt them all?  How could Oprah lead them?  How could Oprah fix them, guide them, teach them?  How could she...after all, isn't she an orphan herself?

What Oprah had to say that day was nothing short of magical.  It was lovely and encouraging and some of it even felt prophetic or divine.  That might sound sacrilegious to some of you or just plain exaggerated, but let me tell you - when someone is the best at something, you feel affected by it, and right or wrong in content, Oprah is one of the best communicators on the planet and that's a fact.  It was like watching an Olympian perfectly and easily demonstrate their sport, as she gracefully paced the stage and spoke with such genuine authority.  It was eerie and serendipitous all at the same time.  I've never seen anything like it (of course, it doesn't hurt that I highly and deeply value the art of communication, so I was rather in awe of her mastering of the craft).

But, Oprah's message (the basis for the entirety of the day) has one consistent and critical flaw.  Her main idea is this:  "You can fix you." 

And, my dear friends, I'm here to tell you, can't.

You can't fix yourself.  No matter the degree, no matter the method, no matter the strength.  You, I'm sorry to say, are not your answer to your problems.  The sad part about this news, is that the harder you work to improve yourself, change yourself, or alter yourself, the more and more futile your efforts become.  You will lose time, energy, money, and most likely a lot of sanity as you attempt to change more and more things by doing the same exactly wrong method towards self-improvement over and over and over again.  This is why all these women, this "Oprah culture", these orphans, are caught in a cycle of coming back for more.  Nothing ever changes.

There's a reason we call God our Father.  There's a reason Jesus came to earth to be a lowly human being and show us finally and for once how to live.  There's a reason we can live securely and contently as weak failures day in and day out.  Hallelujah - the good news is this - You can't fix you!  

That's right.  The same exact sad news as before turns out to actually be the absolute BEST news you could ever learn.  Think about it for a while and just consider how this looks in real life.  I mean, religious skepticism aside - why in the world would you actually turn to your broken self to fix yourself?  Why do you think you are equipped to handle what life has given you?  What makes you the expert on yourself, exactly?

Maybe think about it in this way - if your car broke down tomorrow, would you ask your toddler to fix it?  I mean, she's ridden around in the car for a few years, she has opinions about comfort and style.  She might even be able to turn the radio on by herself or buckle herself in or something.  Ridiculous though, right?  Obviously you wouldn't ask your toddler to fix your would maybe take it to a trained mechanic; but ideally, you would go directly to the manufacturer to find out what the heck went wrong.

So then, why is it so different to consider going to our Creator, for our answers about ourselves?  Why wouldn't we turn to God about things like depression, anxiety, marriage, children, direction, motivation, etc....anything!  Certainly, we should read the manual.  Definitely, we should call on professionals at times.  But, all this to say - you are broken.  We are all broken.  Just like that lady in line next to me at the very beginning said, "We all have something to work on."

I know, I know, I know.  It can sound too good to be true.  It can sound hokey and boring and ridiculous.  But, we are all in need of that "parent".  We all long for boundaries and rules to run up against and test the limits just so we can acknowledge the fact that there is a love that exists to protect us and keep us safe.

It's just not about "us" at all.  This game we play with ourselves that we just need more "me time" or we just need to learn more about ourselves (and, I'm all for rational, quality time to be alone and seek guidance, don't get me wrong) but, it is an illusion if you believe that is what will bring you answers to your deepest longings.  Our weaknesses do not exist to limit our possibilities - our weaknesses exist to allow the impossible.  Jesus is our impossibility.  Jesus is our strength.  Jesus is ours.

It was by no coincidence that the very next day after O YOU! I was sitting in church listening to a sermon on exactly this.  Our newly appointed pastor, Mike Erre, has changed they way I feel about sitting in church in only the couple months he's been speaking at EV Free Fullerton.  I had just been in the presence of "greatness" the day before - sat merely feet away from one of the world's most prolific speakers in history - and here I was, sitting in the far back pew of my church welling up with more inspiration than my soul knew what to do with.

That, my friends, is the power of truth.  That is the power of the Holy Spirit.  That is the power of the Almighty.  No branding, no sponsors, no flashy programs to make you feel comfortable about the fact that you are not in control of your being.  Just raw, beautiful truth that will change you, fix you, and adhere you forever to the road you are meant to travel.

Orphan no more, oh you.

I invite you to listen to the sermon I heard last Sunday morning.  Follow this link to listen to the audio now, or visit HERE to watch the video or subscribe to the podcast.  The sermon that day was titled "Weakness in an Age of Self-Sufficiency"

Oprah pt. 4

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Check out Part One!
Check out Part Two!
Check out Part Three!

Today's post will be a bit shortened for a few reasons.  1) It's like 11pm and it's been a taxing day. 2) I didn't take handwritten notes at either of these sessions.  It was the final session time of the day and I really wanted to appreciate, enjoy, and absorb all that was being offered.  So, I observed and soaked up as much as I could.  Direct quotes are taken either from video that I sneakily recorded at the time or from the O Magazine twitter feed.  3) I want to keep you all interested enough to come back for Friday's major post.

Thanks for sticking with me through this week!  It's been a doozy!

Who spoke?  Iyanla Vanzant
Iyanla Vanzant, accomplished author, inspirational speaker, talk-show host, and living testament to the value in life's valleys and the power of acting on faith, goes behind closed doors and deep inside people's lives for emotional, riveting conversations.  Iyanla has had a unique life filled with many personal struggles, which she has overcome and used in order to help herself become stronger.  Now, she's back, hosting Iyanla: Fix My Life, a new series on OWN.  Iyanla is helping people fix their lives, using her past to help others' futures - she puts the real  in reality. [Official bio from the O YOU! program]

About what?
Iyanla burst onto the stage with the energy of a young preacher hosting a revival!  As the entire day was centered around "O YOU!" she began a series of comments starting with the phrase...

"Oh you!...who's yadda yadda yadda..".  This wavered from the incidental (Oh you who is here today) to the profound (Oh you who has already made it) to the revelatory (Oh you who needed it yesterday).

It went on for several minutes, cleverly, and honestly I couldn't tell whether she was making it up as she went along by pure inspiration or if she had memorized it all ahead of time.  It really fired up the crowd and kept us all nodding and smiling.

She took off her uncomfortable shoes and just carried them over her shoulder as she paced the stage back and forth.  Cute and a little kooky.

"I am the part of you that's willing to stand up, not worrying about what other people are about to say."

She gave an illustration about sports and life.  She said she really didn't know anything about sports, but she knew enough that she knew when a player was on the court/field/diamond/rink that they didn't worry about the trash around them...the trash from the crowd in the stands.  She knew that (let's use football, for example) if that football player was headed toward a goal, he didn't stop along the way to pick up a wrapper from food that got in the way.  It wasn't his trash to deal with.  It was just an obstacle, a distraction maybe, but it had nothing to do with getting to his true destination.

She said this was like life.  You gotta just keep going forward.  She said life isn't in a straight line where you can see everything ahead perfectly.  Life is a curved road.

"The road curves because if God showed us the distance from where we are to where we want to go, we'd think it was too far."

What did I think?
I think the women in that arena were so fired up to see Oprah (who was coming next) that they would have applauded like mad no matter who was on the stage.  However, Iyanla has such a striking voice, such charisma to her demeanor, that you simply couldn't ignore the words she spoke.  She was wholly motivating.  And the way she spoke so definitively about any subject, you just believed what she was saying.  You didn't want to argue with her.  You just wanted to yell out "AMEN!" or give a little "woot woot!" from your seat and maybe high-five your neighbor.

I wasn't sure if I was listening to poetry or a sermon or a coach's speech at half-time.  It was confusing and invigorating all the same, and yet, I almost couldn't keep up with how simple it all was.  I know this sounds as clear as mud to you, but I don't really know another way to put it.  She gave simple analogies (life is like sports, okay) but then threw out these lines of conclusion that seemingly wrapped it all up in this nice little didn't-you-just-have-an-epiphany feeling, yet left me feeling like "Wait a second, is that right?  Does that make sense?  Is that true?"

Iyanla is a motivator.  She is gifted and inspiring and you feel like you are being hit in the head with little cross-stitched pillows when you listen to her.  You know, those little pillows that look lovely from afar, filling a gap in the middle of a comfortable chair because you just aren't really sure what else to do with it, so you let it fill a void for the time being.  Little pillows that have sayings stitched into them that sound lovely and ideal and clever and yet lose all intention and true meaning because you have no idea how it would apply to your real life in the middle of a real crisis dealing with real people.  Little pillows that are soft and comforting and cover up stains on cushions you don't know what to do with otherwise.

Huh.  Maybe Iyanla's not the only one with some analogies up her sleeve after all.  (Haha.)  I only wish I could have gotten a some concrete follow-through on her steps of motivation.  I had the energy, I just wanted the application!  That is to say, I really liked listening to Iyanla, but I was left with emotion, not action.  Don't just accept good feeling "advice" to fill a void with an answer just because you can't tolerate the unknown.


Who spoke? Oprah Winfrey
She needs no bio.  If you don't know who Oprah is you shouldn't be reading this blog - go wiki Oprah and get back to me.  (This video was already after a few minutes of cheering, by the way!)

About what?
Oprah's entrance was incredible.  To say the crowd went insane would be the understatement of the century.  Everyone must have cheered for five solid minutes.  Not only did she do an adorable little shuffle-step-dance as she waved and smiled; but, she also shot the cover of a spring edition of O Magazine on stage, live!

Oprah graced the stage radiantly in a lovely mint green dress, and opened with a short-background (as if we'd never heard it before) about being conceived by accident by two underprivileged, uneducated parents who didn't want her.  She was raised by her grandmother and always felt as if she was meant for something great, but didn't know what.  She said as she grew up being taken to church by her grandma that she was the child in the front pew, listening to the preacher, who genuinely and whole-heartedly believed there was a calling on her life.

Of course, we pretty much know the rest of the story, and she unexpectedly rose to fame by climbing a surprising ladder of terrible news anchoring jobs to then talk show host where she really found her purpose on the planet.  She mostly breezed through this part of her story as we in the audience were familiar with it already.  Still, astounding.

She quoted Joseph Campbell, "The privilege of a lifetime is to be who you are."

She said the following (and this is verbatim, transcribed from audio I recorded on my phone):

"What I know for sure is that there is a calling on every life today.  Be the star of your own life.  To recognize that every morning when you wake up that there is breath in your lungs, and you can claim the day, you can claim the day, you can claim the victory of the day, understanding that there is something at work and at will in your life as it is in all of our lives.  I feel so, so blessed to have been able to have led a life that I'm allowed to stand before you and speak to you and share the wisdom that God has put inside myself.  To offer that on multi-platforms. ...I don't care about what the form is, what I care about is what the message is.  What I care about is being able to speak to an audience, to speak to you in such a way that you understand that your life matters.  Who you are matters.  What you do with your life matters. What you take upon yourself and how you show the world every day and present yourself matters.  That your calling into space, into this earthly plane, matters.  And that the real to understand...the real reason you are here is that the power of the Creator blew into you the breath of life.  That breath of life comes with enormous responsibility.  To honor the privilege that is you.  The privilege that is you, when you think about that, the privilege of a lifetime is to be who you are."

She then told a short, recent story of how she had felt a lump in her breast (everything is fine, she later revealed).  But, when she was seeing the doctor and laying on the table with uncertainty as they brought in other doctors to come and speak with her, she was feeling overwhelmed with the unknown.

She said "As I was lying there on the table, I felt the greatest calm...and you know what my prayer was?  'In God, I move, and breath, and have my being.  In God, I move, and breath, and have my being. And no matter what, in God, I move, and breath, and have my being,' and it's going to be all right."

She ended with, "The work that needs to be done, right where you are right now, starting today from this moment, to use all of this information to be you, this privilege, when you do that, you honor the fullness of your creation.  Bless you."

What did I think?
I think you'll have to wait until Friday to really find out.

Oprah pt. 3

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Check out Part One!
Check out Part Two!

Today's post covers Peter Walsh (organization) and Dr. Laura Berman (sex & relationships). 

Who spoke? Peter Walsh
Peter Walsh is a noted international organization expert, New York Times best-selling author, and television host who describes himself as part contractor, part therapist.  Peter is currently a regular on The Rachael Ray Show.  While a regular guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show, he was dubbed "the 'Get Your Whole-Life Organized' Guy."  Peter has organized thousands of homes between his hit series on TLC and OWN, and through his column in O, The Oprah Magazine.  Peter's aim is to help families declutter their homes and help them live to their full potential.  Born in Australia, Peter now lives in Los Angeles clutter-free and travels extensively, helping homeowners and corporations organize their living and work spaces for optimal efficiency and liberated living. [Official bio from the O YOU! program]

About what?
Peter Walsh says there are "Four Types of Clutterers":
1. The "Behind Closed Doors" Clutterer:
This person is usually a perfectionist of sorts - that it's either "all or nothing" when it comes to cleaning.
One room may be spotless, while another might be completely a mess, but you shut the door to it instead of dealing with it and it "goes away".  This person thinks that either "if I can't do it perfectly then I won't do it at all" OR "it's just not worth it".
Peter said that in reality, you give TIME to what you believe is important.
He said "The GREAT is a huge enemy of the GOOD".  It doesn't have to be all or nothing, in other words.  Stop worrying about being great/perfect and just be good, do good, allow good.
He suggested that if you have a difficult time getting started with de-cluttering a problem area, then get a friend to help.  Team up with someone NOT in your family so that they can help you make the hard decisions about what to throw away...then, help her the next day/week to clean up an area of her home she struggles with de-cluttering.  Start with a manageable task.  "Small victories yield huge results."

2. The "Knowledge" Clutterer:
This person tends to collect things.  Magazines, newspapers, books, albums, even clippings that are usually meant for wonderful intentions at a later date.  This kind of clutterer loves the idea of something - perhaps they clipped a recipe from a magazine hoping to cook that for dinner but never did...ever...but still hang on to the recipe because "maybe they will someday".  Or maybe this person has a bulk of fabric and a box of craft supplies because "sometime" they will make that Halloween costume for their kid (that is now too old to wear it anyway).  Full of good intentions, but never follow through, but still can't part with the idea of it all.
Peter basically suggests throwing it all away - or bringing in a friend to help you throw it all away.  You should only keep magazines back two issues and no more.  If you haven't read it in two months, you never will.  If you only have a book shelf that holds 52 books, when you get a new book, you choose one to part with and give it away or loan it out or donate it, so that you never exceed what fits in your shelf.

3.  The "Sentimental" Clutterer:
This person can't part with anything that holds memories.  Kids' art, photos, memorabilia, etc. He told a story of a dad who had now-22-year-old twin sons who (no lie) kept every single piece of their school work they had ever done.  Every test, ever science project, every artwork, everything.  It took over his house.
Peter also told the story of a man who had lost his mother.  He had inherited everything of hers and it was a LOT of stuff.  The man just couldn't part with any of it.  He was having an awful time dealing with the loss and just couldn't bring himself to get rid of any of her things.  When Peter asked him how long it had been since his mother passed, the man replied "Two years."  Then, the man's wife calmly interrupted and said, "No, dear.  It's been 8 years."
Peter is sympathetic that items can bring up memories.  We can look at an object and get flushed with emotions and recall a moment or person that was dear to us.  But, Peter says in order to move on and be happy and fulfilled in life you need to "shift your mindset".  Those people want you to treasure those memories and live a happy life, not be burdened by "all this stuff" around.
He suggested that for family that passes, you choose key items that truly allow you to "treasure" who that person was to you.  Select a very few special things to keep, display, or use so that you can be reminded of how special they were.  Then, take photos of the other items, maybe make a scrapbook or photo book of those things, and part with them.  Donate them, trash them, repurpose them if you can.  For kids' items that tend to pile up, he suggested getting each kid a "bin" of their own.  Each year select an item or two that helps capture a highlight from that year and keep it.  Take photos of the rest, make a book, and throw it away.
He emphasized that for children, this also is a teaching opportunity for you to take time and help your kids learn the value of things.  That what they have matters, but it is still just "things" - and lessons in how to donate, how to clean, how to repurpose, how to focus on what is really important.

4. The "Bargain Shopper" Clutterer:
Peter asked how many women are "really good shoppers"?  Several women pride themselves in being great at finding bargains.  But, he says you shouldn't just shop for recreation or out of boredom, or to just feel better.  You should pay attention to the "QUALITY of your life more than the QUANTITY of your stuff".
"If PRICE is the best things about something - you should NOT buy it EVER."  He said "If you focus on the STUFF, you will never get organized." He told a story of how a mom was a great bargain shopper but storing toilet paper in bulk under her children's beds.  He said the secret to organizing is that you have to have a VISION for the LIFE that you want.
When you look at a room, you need to have a vision for it - "What do I want from this place? Do these things, does this clutter, give you that vision?"
Things either create vision or get rid of it.  Organization and happiness are not accidents.

So - where do you start with good organization?  Grab 2 trash bags and do the "trash bag tango"!  One trash bag is for TRASH, the other is for DONATIONS.  He suggests at the end of each day, everyone in the house grabs two trash bags and takes 15 minutes and goes around the home filling up the bags as best they can (even if you take 5 minutes, it works) and by the end of the week you will see a drastic change.

You need to model behavior now for young children to develop these skills early and to help give them the concept that there are LIMITS.  For example, when your toy bin is full and you get a new toy, you need to part with a toy.  Teach them about giving to others.  Teach them about parting with things when there is no longer use for them.  Establish ROUTINE.  Teach contributing to a home, respecting things, taking responsibility.

Finally, he suggests that you should only have three kinds of clothes in your closet:  Those that 1. Fit well 2. Feel great 3. Get compliments from others!  A good tip is that if you turn your hangers around in your closet (so they are hung up from the backside of the closet out) and as you wear something, you turn the hanger around, then at the end of six months you will be able to see what you haven't worn and can part with it (barring it wasn't seasonal).  This will keep you from hanging on to "dream jeans" or "fat pants"and keep you looking and feeling good in the present.

What did I think?
I love this topic.  It's not that I'm so great at it - I have a dining table that is used for storage more than eating and a junk drawer that resembles a miniature recreation of Chernobyl - but, the ideals are so enticing that it feels great to hear how clean and polished my surroundings have the potential to be.  Listening to Peter talk (that Aussie accent doesn't hurt) was like roaming the aisles of The Container Store.  He gave you hope and ideas and solutions that seemed so effortless, it was daydreaming a team of makeover specialists were waving their wands over my cluttered counter and Voila! everything in my home suddenly had the potential of being perfectly labeled, color coded, and placed with magazine-photo-op purpose.

I don't really know if anyone besides Peter Walsh actually lives like Peter Walsh.  As much as it was lovely to listen to and envision and dream about, part of me wanted to secretly sneak my 1 and 2-year-old daughters into his home when he is away for an hour and let him come back to see what us moms are TRULY dealing with on a daily basis.  Does he really get it?  Does he understand that a "clean and successful" day in my home can simply mean the difference between getting the play-doh out of my carpet or not?

But, I do believe this man has seen it all.  I mean, the tales that he told were pretty unreal.  And, being a fairly normal, rational, boring human being, it mostly just made me sit up straight and think "Whoa, there's a lot of crazies out there!"  But, that's what really got me thinking.  Peter's not just about grabbing two trash bags and going to town on your staircase-size collection of old Cat Fancy Magazines.  He's not just about chucking the 60 pairs of Doc Martens you don't need.  He's about the crazies.  He's about life.  He's about healing.

Hmm.  Peter is a great guy and all.  I'm sure he's a quick draw on the ole label maker and can clean up a pantry like nobody's business.  But, is he the best we can turn to when a man is so debilitatingly paused in life that his mother's death stopped his life from moving forward????  Of course you know where I'm going with this...of course Peter Walsh and his label maker are not the answer.

C'mon, Church, we can bridge this gap.  God gave unbelievable examples of organization in creation from the very beginning.  Yet, how many times have you been in a church service where someone stood up and gave testimony to how "Yeah, I was a hoarder until I met Jesus."  Um, never.  Seriously.  Never.

Why aren't we the ones coming up with awesome ideas like "get together with a friend and help de-clutter each other's closets/garages/lives"?  Isn't that an amazing example of fellowship, giving way to numerous opportunities for building trust, reflecting compassion, and initiating creative generosity?

I thought Peter gave great suggestions to help organize one's home and teaching value to your children. I'm only a little sad that I've never ever heard about these ideas from the Christian community - at least, not in the way that is proactive and engaging and practical and honest.  Sure, we all can help with the food drive our Sunday school class is doing, or give coats to the local Mission...but, how about taking it a step further?

How about getting into each others CUPBOARDS and PANTRIES and GARAGES and exposing our clutter for all to see?  How about asking for HELP and HELPING OTHERS and then creatively coming up with ways to repurpose (does your local shelter need that sewing machine you never use?) or reinvent (could the youth group meet in your basement that is full of newspapers and other junk you don't need?) or reach out (could you hold a community garage sale and give the money to a non-profit?)

This stuff doesn't have to be heavy or guilt-ridden.  Organizing life can start with small steps like Peter talked about.  But, it doesn't mean we have to take these steps alone, or in fear, or with embarrassment or any of that.  I think we can have FUN and live in FREEDOM and enjoy our surroundings and support each other in these efforts.

I don't want you to think every little thing we do has to be turned into a "God thing".  Nope.  SCRATCH THAT.  Yes, I do want you to think that.  Yes.  Think that!  EVERYTHING WE DO can be turned into a God thing!  That's the whole point, in fact!  So what if someone thinks you are a little crazy for inviting them over for a "cleaning party" (I mean, maybe offer refreshments and a helping hand in return) a transparent life is not going to get any prettier than it is right now.  But, we worship a DIVINE DESIGNER, the ULTIMATE ORGANIZER, if you will.  It might not get play-doh out of my carpet any sooner...but, it certainly helps me remember what I truly envision for my home.


Who spoke? Dr. Laura Berman
Dr. Laura Berman is a world-renowned sex and relationship expert.  As a researcher, and a therapist for more than 20 years, she has helped countless couples build stronger relationships, improve their sex lives, and achieve a heightened level of intimacy.  Dr. Berman is a New York Times best-selling author, and a weekly columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times.  Dr. Berman has appeared on numerous news shows; her new television show In the Bedroom with Dr. Laura Berman, appears on OWN as she continues to provide general and sex therapy to help couples build stronger relationships.  Dr. Berman is a wife and the mother of three boys.

About what?
Dr. Laura says that the three keys to a satisfying sex life are having a 
1. Healthy Body 
2. Creative Spirit
3. Open Heart

She said dark chocolate can raise your libido.  Age and stress affect hormones differently and hormones can affect your health dramatically in various ways.  Hormones and muscle strength (i.e. practicing kegals for your pelvic floor muscles) are the "health" side to keeping sexually "fit".   

Creative spirit inspires action.  She talked about how the phenomenon of "Fifty Shades of Grey" intrigued her as to why it was so popular, and in her discovery it was because so many women don't know how to surrender or give up control in a healthy way - so they read a book like that and are filled with new inspiration.  Women don't know how to give up control to their husbands in general.  Oftentimes husbands can just be "one more thing for us to control", especially after kids come along - it can seem as if the husband is just one more task for us to deal with.  

But, men like to feel like they are doing a good job in the relationship.  Basically put, men want to have sex and make sure you are happy, and that will make them happy.  He knows what he's doing, he wants what's best for you, he may even want to take control of some situations, but often as women we don't allow them that control. 

Dr. Laura suggests trying a "Surrender Date".  Let the man come up with everything and plan it all.  Have him pick out what you wear, where you go, even order for you off the menu.  You don't get to make any decisions all night long.  Many times, men will rise to the occasion and we will be delighted at them taking the reigns.  Men are more capable of stepping up if we just give them the chance. 

Another creative suggestion Dr. Laura gave was to make a "Fantasy Box".  Each of you write down creative/sexy/fun things you want to try (this could be a date, this could be in bed, whatever) and you review each other's list without judgment and agree upon what you would like/be willing to try.  Then, you put the ideas in the "Fantasy Box" and when you are needing a little spice, pull out an idea and use it that night.  

Dr. Laura said that women over 40 need more stimulation to have fulfilling sex.  However, she said the woman's brain, the context of the situation, and the closeness of the relationship is the biggest stimulating factors overall.

Having an "open heart" is like having an untethered soul.  That there is unfinished energy everywhere that needs to go somewhere.  Every feeling comes from a thought - and, all thoughts are arguable.  We tend to partner with people that we want to learn from.  When you get stressed by your partner, stop and picture your heart opening up, like a light of compassion is bursting forth from it, and you can almost recapture that true feeling about how you really feel about that person.  You have a choice to see the bigger picture. 

Try to speak your partner's love language.  We tend to act and love the way WE want to be loved, but try to think about how your partner communicates.  Dr. Laura says that it is a fact men who do more housework get more sex.  She says this is simply because "he gets it" and we feel understood and helped out/loved by them.  His help opens her heart.  

But, he needs sex in the same way (the housework sort of way) in order to feel understood and feel close to you.  What truly makes your man feel loved?

Dr. Laura gave "homework" for the next 2 weeks:
1.  Give your partner 3 genuine appreciations every single day.  Tell them what you appreciate about them and why.
2.  Make an appointment 2 times a week for 15 min to JUST talk, kiss, and make out.  Take sex OFF the table.  No pressure, just kiss.  
3.  Have sex at least twice a week or more.  And never, ever let your partner go more than 2 weeks without sex.  Ideally, never more than a week, barring extenuating circumstances.

She also answered a few questions from the audience I thought were worth including:
What should we talk about when we set that time aside?
Dr. Laura suggested talking about a future vacation/dream vacation that you'd still like to take together someday.  Talk about where you might see your family in 10 years.  Talk about things that he does that make you feel loved.  DON'T talk logistics or about kids.  Talk about how to kiss - "I'm going to kiss you the way I like to be kissed for a minute, then you do the same to me."  Allow the sexual energy to build.  Try to let go of the pressure, believe him, trust him.

How do I talk to my children about a healthy sex life?
Dr. Laura suggested starting at an appropriate yet early age.  Call the body parts the real names.  Teach them the real words.  Send them the message that you are a safe and reliable source for this information.  As difficult as it sounds, think about what you would hope for them to be their perfect first sexual experience, and when talking to them about sex, set it in that context.  In other words, if you hope they don't have sex until marriage, any time they come to you with a question you would simply start your answer with, "Well, after you are married..." or "On your wedding night..." etc.  They will naturally assign that value to it, because you are naturally instilling in them expectations and maintaining that "sex is a gift".  

Yes, there were a few other graphic questions I'll be withholding from this blog for obvious reasons.  Though, as you read my evaluation that follows, it is important for you to know that much.

What did I think?
SEX!  Okay.  I admit it, I was a bit nervous to go to this session.  I had seen Dr. Laura on The Oprah Winfrey Show before, but I'm pretty sure almost every time she was on I ended up changing the channel at some point either because I found it irrelevant, uncomfortable, or just plain icky.  Now, I don't want you to think I'm a prude (you don't think that, do you?) but, all that to say I wasn't sure what to expect from this lecture.  I mean, I figured she wasn't going to be preaching abstinence from the stage, but was she going to just start tossing around sex tips like the cover of Cosmo???  I wasn't sure.

I was amazed at how Dr. Laura quickly and easily put the entire audience at ease.  You'd have thought we were all there for a cooking demonstration by the way everyone's heads were bobbing in agreement and interest.  The audience was diverse (the few that there were), and women, of every age, race, orientation, and religion...all nodding with attention fully on what she said.  Why?  Because, come on people, this is SEX we are talking about.  You are either getting it, or you want to get it, or you want to want to get it.  Get it?

We are sexual beings, and God created us that way.  Oh, and God created, if I'm starting to make you uncomfortable (and you start looking over your shoulder to see if someone is catching you reading a blog mentioning the word SEX too many times) then let's all remember that sex as God created it is an amazingly holy, totally beautiful, perfect gift that actually offers praise and honor to His name (again, when held in the context of His intention - that is, monogamous, heterosexual, marriage).  

Yes, I am getting bolder by the moment.  Yes, I may have just lost a few readers right there.  (Don't go - just ask me more questions!  Let's talk!)

And, you know what, I gotta say, the main thing I took away from Dr. Laura is this:  people want and need a safe place to talk about sex.  

C'mon, Christians, let's do this.  We can do this!  The Christian community has come a long way in overcoming the taboo of talking about s-e-x.  But, it seems to me that people are still reserving their judgment and advice for sexual sin or marriage advice.  That is, you don't get a lot of married folk out there finding a safe, Christian environment to throw around crazy questions and get the scoop on where  to go after the wedding night.

I'm blessed to have a women's Bible Study that tackles some crazy issues in marriage...but, I know it is a rarity.  Even within that Bible Study I have seen uncomfortability and reservations about some topics. I get it - it is SUPER AWKWARD.  But, hearing a sex therapist dish it out to a crowd of thousands made me realize how ridiculous we are being.  


We need to offer each other the chance for this awkwardness to subside.  We need to cut through the embarrassment and fear of judgment and just get it out there to deal with and go to GOD (don't make me say...okay, I'll say it...the ULTIMATE SEX THERAPIST) and get a grip with these questions.  

Questions like "How does my body change after menopause and how does that affect sex?"  "How can we spice things up after 5, 10, 30, 50 years of marriage?"  "How do I talk to my kid about masturbation?"  "What do I do if I no longer feel attracted to my husband?" and the list goes on and on and on.

Look, I know that this door isn't going to just come crashing down overnight.  I know that we can't just invite all our married pals over to have a pow-wow over keeping marriage sexy.  But, we can start with just being honest.  Just being normal.  Just being unashamed that heck YES we have awesome sex lives as Christians because that is exactly what God hopes for our lives and marriages.  

Whew.  Okay.  Now, go kiss your husband.

Oprah pt. 2

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Find out what's up with this week in Part One.

Today's post cover's Suze Orman and Dr. Phil.  I'll warn you, it's a lengthy post, but probably as long as it will get for the week - so hang with me!

Who spoke?  Suze Orman
Two-time Emmy Award winner Suze Orman has been called "a force in the world of personal finance," and has been O, The Oprah Magazine's go-to gal since the first issue.  For 11 years, Suze has hosted the award-winning Suze Orman Show on CNBC and is nine-time consecutive New York Times best-selling author.  Suze was twice named by Time magazine as one of the most influential people in the world today.  She has garnered an unprecedented seven Gracie awards, which recognize the nation's best programming for, by and about women.  Orman grew up on the South Side of Chicago, earned a bachelor's degree in social work at the University of Illinois, and at the age of 30 was still a waitress making $400 a month.  Suze appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show 26 times, produced The Money Class series for OWN, and is the host of The Suze Orman Show on CNBC. [official bio from the O YOU! program]

About what?
No doubt Suze Orman is a financial wizard.  Not only that, but she is a woman and 61 years old.  She emphasized the importance of women learning about their financial standings straight from the get-go.  Women tend to not necessarily pay attention to their finances as closely as they ought simply because they are often preoccupied with placing their attention elsewhere, namely others.  "We [women] know how to take care of everybody so well, but the one person we've taken out of the equation is us."

She then told her own journey to fame and fortune.  She grew up under adverse and troubling circumstances, as a minority in South Chicago and quite poor.  While working as a waitress in a small bakery, making $400 a month at the age of 30, she didn't have her sights set on grand goals for her future.  An elderly customer gave her a gift totaling $50,000 to go and change her life and pay him back if and when she could.  She brought the money to Merrill Lynch where it was lost through a crooked investor within a few months.  She then went to work for them, sued them, and got her money back.  This loss of $50,000, though terrifying at the time, ended up being the "gift" that eventually led her to where she is today.

"Be where you are in the moment you are there, and that path will lead you exactly where you want to be."
"Every NO leads you closer to a YES."
"The six greatest words you could say are 'I admit that I was wrong'."
"God shows you who you are meant to be by showing you how strong you are."
"Choose the RIGHT thing to do, not the EASY thing."
"God allows U-Turns."

Those are just a few of the quotes Suze threw in throughout her personal tale of rags to riches.  She said that FEAR was the greatest internal obstacle to wealth and that you need to not be afraid to say NO to others.  She said your actions, thoughts, and words need to be unified/one and that "Your thoughts create your destiny."

Suze was very big on the power that thought has in one's life.  She said you should think great thoughts.  That thoughts need to be kind, necessary, and true and that you should forget anything else that isn't those things, just get rid of those other thoughts because thoughts are what turn into actions and actions into habits and habits into destiny.

She was able to repay her $50,000 debt to her elderly customer friend, and after a couple years went by she finally heard from him.  He sent her a letter that said he was sorry for the delay but he had suffered a stroke and her money had come at the perfect time.  He thanked her for the privilege of helping her, and that's when it struck her that the true gift is in the giving.

Women give too much and take too little.  You need to realize that you are in debt to the people you GIVE to.

"Power attracts money and powerlessness repels it.  Money has no power on its own."  Suze went on to say that we have a choice to use money to either invest, save, or waste as we deem fit.  That power attracts people and people attract money, and therefore power attracts money.  But, debt is bondage.  Debt is powerlessness.  You must stop debt and regain your power.

Suze asked who had debt and meant it as a rhetorical question, but one brave woman stood up.  Then, she laughed a little and said well, why don't we go ahead and stand up if we have credit card debt!  Several women stood.  Then she asked those people to stand who had any kind of debt:  mortgage, cars, student loans, anything.  Then she said "Tell the person next to you how much debt you have."

There seemed to be a collective sigh of compassion across the room.  Nobody gasped in judgement.  Nobody scoffed or mocked.  She offered total acceptance, yet went on to emphasize the brutal importance of ridding yourself of that bondage.  Suze is deliberate in her priorities, however, always reminding the audience that the order of importance in life is/should be:  People, then money, then things.

"You can't solve a money problem with money," she said.  "You are already perfect with or without money." But, she offered 3 Money Laws to change where you are today into taking a step towards your best life:

1. Get as much pleasure out of saving as spending.
2. Live BELOW your means but within your NEEDS.
3. Before you purchase anything, decide whether it is a WANT or a NEED.

She added that you should say no to WANTS out of love for yourself.

Suze closed with what she calls her "Five Laws of Life":
1. May every thought you think be etched in fire in the sky for the whole world to see, for in fact it is.
2. May every word that you say be said as if everyone in the world could hear it, for in fact they can.
3. May every deed that you do recoil on top of your head, for in fact it will.
4. May every wish that you wish another be a wish that you wish for yourself, because in fact it is.
5. May everything you do be done as if God Herself is doing it, for in fact She is.

What did I think?
I gotta say, I liked Suze Orman a lot more than I anticipated.  Having seen her on Oprah's show in the past, I knew that she could be a rather in-your-face, abrasive, tell-it-like-it-is-whether-you-like-it-or-not kind of expert.  But, I also knew that she sure knew a heck of a whole lot more about money than I did, and as we are chipping our way through bondage (er, I mean, debt) I figured this was a great opportunity to listen up and learn something.

Her story is pretty remarkable.  Obviously anyone who can go from earning $400 a month and thinking that was pretty great to then making the NYTimes Best Seller list (and the accolades go on and on) is nothing short of extraordinary.  That's just crazy-business, really!  Impressive, yes.

And, let's be honest here, she's got some things RIGHT ON.  I am familiar with Dave Ramsey and have been through Crown Financial Ministries myself, so I do have an understanding when it comes to what is being taught about "stewardship" in the Christian community today.  That is to say, the Church has come a long way (no doubt the recession has prompted more and more need for these financial ministries) when it comes to talking about money as Christians.  But, I'd like to challenge us to take it a step further, and Suze is what got me thinking about this.

Empowering women to understand their own finances and the financial needs of their family specifically is a great idea.  Many Christian households have one bread-winner, typically the male, and many times that male is the financial advisor of the home.  Not only that, but let's just call a turkey a turkey and put it out there:  a lot of women don't know crap when it comes to their money.  Boom.  That's the truth.

Can you tell the person next to you exactly how much debt you have?  Do you know the interest rate on your student loan? Do you have a living trust for your children in case something happens to you?  Can you tell me what an IRA is?  (No, seriously, can you tell me because I still don't understand exactly?)

Money for women is often intimidating, burdensome, and even boring.  It's one of those topics we are happy to hand the reigns over to the man just so we don't have to calculate how much we can spend on groceries this week.  Just give me the credit card or the cash and let me worry about the coupons and do the best I can.  Done.

Lots of couples avoid the topic of money all together, until it becomes a volatile discussion or worse.  This isn't to say that every man out there already knows or understands all of this either, but then that is an even scarier thought for us women in the unknown - handing over reigns to an intimidating topic we aren't willing to learn about ourselves and just hoping he knows what he's doing.  But, what's to happen if there is a divorce or a death?  It's not fun to think about, but it is reality.

All this to say, the Church could bridge this gap more closely.  The Bible has a LOT to say about money, and while we are tackling subjects like tithing and stewardship, it wouldn't hurt to take the gals of the congregation aside and explain some simple money subjects that they can learn for the health and protection of their family.  Couple communication about finances should be greatly encouraged.  Honesty and trust should be partnered and revered when discussing such sensitive topics.

But, Suze (no shock here) didn't get everything right, in my opinion.  It's funny to me how she so easily and dynamically slipped in "self-help" topics between her financial tips.  She would be the first to say that they go hand-in-hand and you simply have to deal with who you are and what your purpose and value are as a human before you even start to evaluate your things or money.  But, when she mentions how "thoughts create destiny" and how "God shows you who you are meant to be by showing you how strong you are" I just can't agree.

You have purpose from the very beginning.  Your value in God's eyes never changes.  But, God already knows who you are, there's nothing new to be revealed to Him.  Ever.  We may be in constant discovery of who we envision ourselves to be, but it's not by being shown how strong or weak we are. We only discover ourself by being shown how strong God is.  His strength, not ours, is our goal.  His thoughts, not ours, is our ambition.  His identity, not ours, is the ultimate objective.

You can bank on that.  Pun intended.


Who spoke?  Dr. Phil McGraw
Dr. Phil has motivated millions to create more positive lives.  That's why he is one of the hosts of Ask Oprah's All Stars and a regular contributor to O, The Oprah Magazine.  His own show, Dr. Phil, has made psychology accessible and understandable to the general public by addressing important personal and social issues.  He takes on critical issues and educates viewers about the best treatment options for the most challenging of problems facing people today.  Dr Phil is the author of six top New York Times best-sellers and is a regular on news programs such as The Today Show and  Good Morning America.  Dr. Phil lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Robin.  The couple have two sons, Jay and Jordan, and two grandchildren from son Jay and his wife, Erica. [official bio from the O YOU! program]

About what?
Life is made up of choices and patterns.  All choices have consequences.  Dr. Phil guaranteed one thing:  that absolutely one year from this very would either be better or be worse that today. (Ha!)  No matter what, you will not be the same one year from now (and on, and on). Your choices will have consequences and that is what life is made up, what are you doing to determine this outcome?

You can either live the life CHOSEN or the life ASSIGNED...but, you can't not choose.  You must participate.  You must make choices.  You should make choices consciously - choose truth, choose joy, choose peace, and claim what you want for your life.

In Dr. Phil's book Life Strategies he talks about a "Law of Life" and "You either GET IT or you don't".  Some people just don't get it.  He told a very animated and hilarious tale recounting a time when he was 16 and foolish.  He and some friends got caught drag racing, were pulled over by a cop, and one of the kids mouthed off to the cop and got his chops busted.  That kid just didn't get it.

We live in a changing world.  Experts say that our entire world's knowledge base is now doubling every 4 years.  Whoa.

"You truly determine what happens in your life, and your personal truth (that is, what you believe about yourself when no one is looking) generates results you believe you deserve."  When you compare your personal truth to other people's social mask, you basically undermine your best life.

You need to learn how to take care of yourself and your family - and you must understand that it is "NOT SELFISH TO PUT YOURSELF #1 ON YOUR LIST"

"You can't give away what you don't have."
"We don't need martyrs - we need mothers."

He recounted a story with his father shortly before his father passed away.  He said that in his terminal state, his father could look back on his life - the whole of it - and see milestones rising out of the timeline of his life.  He could see this vision of what was really important, and moments that truly became turning points in his life that clearly altered the direction his life took.

We need to try and learn to recognize these milestones/turning points in the present.  We need to pay attention and try to understand the ramifications of what we are really doing/saying/modeling.

93% of communication is non-verbal.  What are you really telling others?  What are you really modeling for your kids?  YOU make a statement - know what it is and OWN it.  Let that statement motivate you.

Success throughout history leaves clues for us.  Dr. Phil has always studied success/successful people, even from an early age, and has seen specific patterns in successful people that has determined how success doesn't just happen by accident.  YOU can be successful too.

Clues of Success:
1.  People see what success is, they can see exactly what they want - you have to name it to claim it!
2. Successful people have a strategy.  The only difference between goals and dreams is a TIMELINE.  Every day, you should work for what you WANT and not what you don't want.
3. The universe rewards ACTION.  Successful people take action towards a known outcome.  BEHAVE your way to success.  Winners do things losers don't want to do.
4. Successful people are willing to take a RISK.
5. Deal with the TRUTH.  Deal with reality/truth and work the problem.  Be proactive.
6. Every successful person has supporters - they built a system that believed in them.  A system that wants you to succeed.
7. Successful people have passion.  They live through their heart, not their ideas, and are driven.  People bond heart to heart, not head to head.  That is, supporters are won over because of your passion.  You need to believe in what you do and your "support nucleus" needs to believe in  you.  Get excited about it - model this for your kids.

What did I think?
Or should I say, "How's that workin for me?"  (A little humor for the Dr. Phil fans out there, right?)  Well, I've always liked Dr. Phil.  He's a sharp-shooter and a former Texan (or is it once a Texan, always a Texan?), and I like his candor.  I like how he calls it like he sees it, and oftentimes he tells people exactly what we want him to tell them but don't know how to put it into words (or at least, in cool phrases that somehow include analogies to opossums or guns or something).

I like that Dr. Phil motivates with psychology.  Even his bio clarifies how he has made "psychology understandable" for many, and I love that about him.  He doesn't offer much advice that is easy to argue with.  He speaks in solid phrases that are simple and powerful, and very very often true.  His bumbling barbarism is adorably contrasted by the wisdom out of his mouth, and there is something very is-this-bear-going-to-hug-me-or-eat-me about him that keeps us all on the edge of our seats.

I think you can take the majority of what Dr. Phil says to heart.  Much of it is easily applicable to every day life, and when you put it into action I believe you can witness results.  (Can you feel the "however" coming?)

However, there is a fundamental flaw in his advice.  The fact that he defines "personal truth" again and again as "what you believe about yourself when no one is looking" and how that determines your life by generating results you believe you deserve.  That, we wear these "social masks" and then take them off only when we are alone, and therefore we project what we think we deserve for our life and destiny follows suit.

This just doesn't hold up.  It sounds logical at first, but think about it for a while.  There's a lot of really terrible people out there living happy lives.  There's a lot of selfless people living in poverty.  There's a lot of arrogant people failing.  There's a lot of losers out there raking it in.

Sure, I do think that there are many people who have been hurt by people who then unconsciously seek out relationships that take advantage of them simply because they feel that's as far as their value takes them.  I get that he's addressing these people and these kinds of situations, and that's true sometimes.  But, if we truly are our true truest self when no one is looking...and yet, the goal is to become "successful" by building a supportive nucleus of "believers-in-us" around ourselves...then, what difference does it make who we really are?  You can't have it both ways.

If that were true, then either what YOU believe about yourself determines what happens in your life, or what OTHERS believe about yourself determines what happens in your life.  And, in fact, I would argue to say that it is neither of these options.

Here's the truth.  YOU are an OTHER.  There is us, and there is God.  There are lies, and there is truth.  There is darkness, and there is light.  And, reaching your highest potential (i.e. your greatest success) isn't dependent upon your belief in yourself, what others think of you, or even the actions you take.  Your "success" is wholly determined in your dependence upon God.  By increasing your dependence on God, you decrease your need for independence.  By decreasing your need for independence, your definition of true success becomes solely focused on pleasing Him (obedience), praising Him (gratitude), and practicing His ways (service to others).  Either you are going to trust Him or not.  Either you are going to accept that He wants what is best for you, or you aren't.

It sounds magical and lovely to think about sitting in the present and being able to grasp and recognize the full potential and impact of every moment, every ramification of our actions and therefore be able to completely alter our future based upon our evaluation of our current circumstances.  But, it's kind of bologna.  Beautiful, magical, lovely bologna...but, bologna.

But, there's good news!  We have a God who is OMNISCIENT so we don't have to be!  Hallelujah!

You don't have to worry why your projected personal truth didn't get you that job promotion you were so sure you already have a Savior with a plan who can see that staying in your current position will keep you from being fired a year from now.

You don't have to be concerned with why your belief in yourself didn't pan out in your not getting pregnant on the first try (or second or third...or twentieth) when you have a Lord who has a sweet baby waiting to be adopted just by you.

And you don't have to hide when your social mask can't cover up your tears any longer when your sin becomes unbearable and your strength is's never too much for the only support nucleus you'll ever really need in your Jesus who is waiting for you, forever and always.

Now, that's what I call living your best life.

OPRAH pt. 1

Monday, October 22, 2012

This week is going to be unlike any other in my blogging history.  I'm taking on a FULL week of writing, with a NEW post every single day, totally devoted to one topic:  Oprah.

Now, before you close your web browser (wait!) or write me off for good (hold on!) keep reading (I promise, there's a method to the madness!)    Here's the scoop:  this weekend I went to a pretty crazy yet completely inviting conference in LA called "O YOU!" that The Oprah Magazine held to showcase their top speakers/writers/life-changers featuring the likes of Gayle King, Suze Orman, Dr. Phil, Dr. Laura Berman, Peter Walsh, Iyanla Vanzant, and of course, the queen of talk herself, Oprah Winfrey.

I'm gonna break this down nice and easy for you so you can quickly decide for yourself whether you'll stick with me through this week or quit rolling your eyes any time soon.

Why did I go?
I realize that many of you might not like Oprah at all.  I realize many of you might be offended at the idea of her, what she stands for, who she votes for, or what you may have heard her (or someone on her show) say in the past.  I realize that some of you might think she is just fluff and a billionaire completely out of touch with the real world.  Fair enough, we are all entitled to our opinions.

However, no matter what you think of her, you can not deny the fact that Oprah (and the other speakers endorsed by her) influence millions.  Think about that for a second.  What she says, believes, teaches, passes on, challenges, or promotes has incredible power in our culture and in societies all over the world.  If that's not something to stop and notice, I don't know what is.  She is a living legend and an icon, no doubt.  She and her fellow influencers have altered history and changed the lives of millions, many of which are women.

I'll put it out there right now:  I like Oprah.  Obviously, this comes as no surprise since it would have been an unbearable feat to go to something so "pro-Oprah"had I been smug about her.  I grew up watching her, and from my earliest memories I can recall sitting at the kitchen table helping my mother fold laundry and watching Oprah at 3pm nearly every day.  My mom and I would bond through the years to come, always watching Oprah and taking in her latest interviews, makeovers, revelations, and advice.  As I moved out of the house, went to college, got married, had babies, I could always turn on Oprah in the afternoon and feel like I was that small country girl just folding laundry and wondering what glimpse into culture I would get that day.  It might sound silly, but it became quite sentimental in my routine, and I'll admit I shed more than one tear when Oprah aired her final show back in May 2011.

I had always wanted the chance to go see Oprah's show in Chicago, and never did.  So, when I was flipping through the pages of O Magazine a few months back and saw the ad for O YOU! coming to the Los Angeles Convention Center...well, I wasn't going to let this opportunity slip through my fingers.  1) A day all to myself with no kids 2) A day full of lectures, advice, tips, self-help, life-improvement, and motivation 3) A chance to see Oprah speak live.  I figured, if nothing else, I could squeeze out a good blog or two out of the, here we are...and I've got a lot more than that in store for you all.

What's in store?
I won't say that O YOU! changed my life.  It didn't.  But, it did change my perspective on a lot of things and opened my eyes to some truths that I never expected.  Above all, (and if this doesn't hook you into reading through the week, I don't know what will) it brought me closer to Jesus...but, not at all in the way you might think.  That is to say, Oprah did not bring me closer to Jesus.  Jesus brought me closer to Jesus, but you'll have to wait until the end of the week to find out how.

I was glad I attended O YOU! by myself.  It was daunting at first (How many freeways to the LACC?) and a little inconvenient at times (Excuse me, would you hold my seat while I run to the restroom to breast pump?) but, it gave me the chance to completely soak up all the information I was given, interpret it for myself, and totally analyze it within my discretion.  But, I wish for sake of discussion that all of you could have been there too, just so we could be on the same page when it comes to my final evaluation.'s the best I can do...

Over the next three days, I'm going to break down the entire day for you.  Being a writer, I purposefully took intricate notes of every session I was in, and want to give you as best a rundown of these lectures as I can recreate.  Granted, they won't be verbatim.  Granted, I'm a Christian and a mother and in my early thirties, so you'll be getting my perspective of what was important to me through what I heard them speak about, nothing more.  I'll be including the official O YOU! program's bio of each speaker, so that those of you who might be unfamiliar with the person can get a little context of who that person is or why we should even care.

I want to give you context, background, the gist of their talk, and a short synopsis of what I took away from their session.  I do not necessarily (read that again if you must) endorse, agree with, or support everything that they talk about.  Nor do I necessarily disagree with it all.  This is why I'll be giving my own "take away" after each.  I'll be covering two speakers per day, so there is bound to be a topic of interest to you somewhere in that mix, I promise.

Then what?
If you're as good at math as I am (haha) then you realize that leaves one more day in this 5-part series.  On Friday (and you're not gonna wanna miss this) I'm getting freaking real with you about all this.  I'm not just talking about "Did I end up liking Oprah or not?" or "Was I glad I went?"  No, no, no.  I'm talking about why it matters to us as humans, as women, as Christians when 5,000 women stand up crying and shouting and worshipping  when it has nothing to do with Jesus.  Or doesn't it?

On Friday I'll be rolling out the truth behind why I think it makes a difference to stop and take notice at influencers like Oprah, and how that can affect our own spiritual life for better or for worse.  And finally, I'll be examining the culture of these insane Oprah-fanatics and telling you a couple of scary get-out-of-my-way-lady tales when someone comes between a fan and her Oprah.  Yikes.

I hope you stick with me this week.  It's gonna be unique, surprising, and hopefully make you think through some preconceptions you might already be wrestling with.  I encourage you to read through the  entire week to understand and appreciate everything I have in store for Friday.  I can't promise you it will be "worth it", but it will probably make a lot more sense and keep you from leaving some confusing comment on my blog that you'll have to regret later.  Or maybe not.

Ok, kids, it's gonna get a little crazy in here.  Are you ready?  I mean, are you READY?  Get it comes....


Thursday, October 18, 2012

I am mighty proud to have my Pardy Man guest blog this week!  Josh Pardy is more than just a handsome hubby and devoted daddy...he's also a pretty kick-butt writer.  Check out his last guest-blog here, and enjoy this week's latest lesson in his life...

Sometimes a guy just needs a reminder. And though it may sound and look trite, I can’t tell you how many times that simple alert has saved me…and more importantly, my wife and kids.  Owning a GPS-ed, WiFi-ed, podcasting, text-receiving smart phone is just the best thing ever.  Sure I had to learn to limit myself when I discovered the likes of Angry Birds and Grantland, but the technology that is forevermore in my pocket functions as not just a great time-waster (though it certainly is that), but a powerful tool to help remind me of what’s truly important.

 It all started when I upgraded my phone and discovered a little thing called “proximity reminders”.  It’s actually pretty simple, you add a reminder to your phone, and rather than have it alert you at a certain time, you set the alert for when you get close to a pre-determined place.  As long as you don’t ever check the box next to the reminder, it will alert you (ad infinitum) as you approach your destination, day in, day out.  Ok, so maybe not so simple. 

In my case, I have the reminder “Be A Good Dad/Husband” set to alert me when I arrive at destination: Home.  Unless my phone is dead, it literally never fails.  As I come driving up to our apartment, the GPS senses that I am close to “Home,” and sends me a quick little ping: “Be A Good Dad/Husband.” 
“Be A Good Dad/Husband.”  Gee, certainly easier iReminded than done.  As a man, I take the responsibility of providing for my family very seriously.  I work hard, I get exhausted and elated, I can feel frustrated and sometimes just straight down-in-the-dumps.  And though I would love to say that simply seeing my girls causes all of that tension to just melt away, the fact of the matter is, it doesn’t.  

waiting for daddy
This Dad/Husband needs himself a reminder because he can carry around all of those raw emotions and totally miss the sweet simple joy that seeing his family can bring him after a long day at the office.   
And let me tell you, if I am willing to pay attention to it, this little reminder works!  Even after my most intense or draining days, somehow (God’s grace, most likely) seeing that little ping helps me reframe my mind, marshals energy from an unknown source, and readies me for whatever I may find when I open that door to the house.  

Probably the best part about it is, I set the reminder because I know it’s important.  Therefore, I am communicating my own desires to my own self in a way that won’t drive myself totally crazy.  I have only myself and my silly iPhone 4 to blame if I begin to feel nagged.

In the beginning, it was actually sort of embarrassing.  What kind of freako needs a proximity-based reminder to alert him of the fact that his kids need a hug, his wife needs a kiss, and everyone will need a healthy amount of attention before the night is over?  Well, truly, this freako needs it!  So I would make sure to dismiss the alert from my phones notification screen prior to walking in the door.  The alert would serve its purpose, and I would walk in ready to be the best Dad/Husband ever and no one would be the wiser to my little iParenting life-hack.  

But, one day I forgot to clear the screen.  I came in, threw my iPhone on the coffee table, plopped down and began to hear about my girls’ respective days when wouldn’t you know it, Emily went to hand me my phone and discovered the secret of my success. “Be A Good Dad/Husband” right there on the screen.  I mean really, how do you explain that?

“What’s this?” She asked.  “Oh, uh.  It’s just, like… a little something that I do…”  I stammered back. Then I copped to it and told the whole story.

Thankfully Emily thought it was sweet and not at all freakish.  But, I won’t lie, it was embarrassing! It was then that she affirmed to me that with or without the alert, I was doing a great job as a Dad and Husband.  We had a good laugh about it, but even still, most days I still need that reminder.    

Now I consider my proximity alert something of a merit badge that I will forevermore be pursuing.  It pings, I unashamedly take in its simple, yet profound message, I walk in the door and try to be a good a Dad/Husband.  That is one reminder box that I have never checked, and never will, because the work of a good Dad/Husband is never done. 
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