Spiral Up or Spiral Down?

IMG_6114The mind is a powerful tool that can work for us or against us. I am working through the book 40 Days to a Joy-Filled Life, and I am continually struck by how important it is to be proactive when it comes to the mind.

Our thoughts spiral. Negative thoughts go on a downward spiral, feeding off of each other, and producing more negative thoughts and emotions. These thoughts turn into emotions, then into words, and finally into actions. The spiral happens instantly as well as over time. The same is true of positive thoughts. They spiral upward, producing more and more positive thoughts, taking our emotions, ideas, words, and actions in a positive direction.

When I hear negative words coming out of my mouth or feel negative emotions going on inside I try to correct them. I attempt to make myself feel better.

I use things like ice cream (or any sugary sweetness!), food (drive-through, overeating anything), screens (iPad games, Netflix), or sleep.
What do you try when you want to eliminate negative feelings?
Some common ones are food, drugs (over-the-counter ones too!), alcohol, sleep, TV, movies, busyness, exercise.

The reality is that none of these things make negative emotions go away. They may take away the sting of the emotions, but only temporarily. It’s kind of like a really bad burn. Unfortunately, I have had a few bad sunburns in my day, so this comes from first-hand experience. Hanging out in the sun for hours and hours feels amazing and usually the awareness and pain of the sunburn don’t come until after the sun goes down. Then, great pain occurs. We put an awesome, medicated spray on sunburns and it feels amazingly cool. But the coolness doesn’t last. After a little while more spray must be applied, and a little while later more spray must be applied.

Band-aids and medicated sprays are awesome, but they don’t work on negative emotions. We must deal with these emotions at their source. This is where the principles of the Joy-Filled Life book come in. In order to combat negative emotions, words, and actions, we must work on the source – our thoughts!

This is a tough one. Some of those negative (and untrue) thoughts have been running through my mind for years. Weeding those out take time and effort. I must really want to change in order to do the work required.

Do you have negative thoughts, feelings, words or actions that creep into your life on a regular basis?
Do you want to create a different story and a different pattern? A pattern that is filled with positive, upward spirals?
If you answered yes to these questions, then please click the “follow me” button at the top of the page so you can receive notifications of future posts. As I work though this process of rooting out negative thinking, I want to share the journey with you.

The extraordinary journey is not just about our actions and accomplishments, it begins with our thoughts.

Don’t just “Do”, Be Extraordinary!

An Extra Hour of Life

carribou“Life is getting up an hour early to live an hour more.” -Caribou Coffee

I am generally not a morning person so my personal life motto would read more like this: Life is sleeping in an hour later because you can.

When I read the Caribou coffee-cup quote at an airport recently, I realized that my thinking about life and time are very selfish. I work for myself so I can use my time how I choose. I love that I don’t have to answer to a boss or request a boss’s permission in order to chaperone a field trip, take off for the day with my husband, or grab a long lunch with a girlfriend. These are all good things – freedom!

I wonder whether, because of this freedom I have, am I living the hours I do have in an extraordinary way? Do I hunger for this life and time, and for the difference I can make? An extraordinary life is one lived with hunger, fire, and passion. There must be purpose and vision. There must be direction and drive.

I shared in a previous post how I went through a season recently where life was marked by the “mere passing of time”. Rediscovering my passion and purpose was a process. Reengaging life with hunger and drive took time. But, finding the reason and desire to live more each day is vitally important.

Wherever you are on the journey, may you put more into life and get more out of life in the days, weeks, and months to come.

Are you hungry to get up and live another day?
Are you living your life with purpose?
Does that purpose drive you to get up and get more out (put more in) to your day?

Be Extraordinary!

Do You Inspire Others?

Extraordinary kidsOne night the kids and I were hanging out in the living room. I was on the couch with Celina snuggled on my lap. She is 8 years old, but I think she will always find a way to snuggle on my lap! BJ was in the chair working on a drawing and AJ was standing near us. I don’t remember exactly what he was doing, but probably tossing a ball in the air as he is often found with a ball in his hands.

The topic of conversation moved to BJ and her desire to be a fashion designer. She loves fashion, style, and music. AJ asked her a question or two and BJ’s response indicated that her belief about the fashion designing dreams were mere fantasies – she didn’t really believe they could become reality. AJ jumped on this disbelief quickly and reminded her of her passion, talent, and skills. He said in a number of words and number of ways, “You can do it!”

At this moment Celina piped in with a statement that added fuel to the energy building in the room. She said,

“AJ, you always say stuff that makes us feel like our dreams can come true.”

AJ quoteIn the hour that followed papers were pulled out, drafts of ideas were made, and brainstorm lists were created. BJ created outfit designs. Celina had a list of her dreams consisting of a big red barn, farmhouse, and all the animals that we would find there. AJ has plenty of dreams of his own. He plans to be a wise and godly business man – first with USANA and then owning his own store by the time he is 30.

The greatest thing about all of this was the belief that I saw well up in each child. There was great excitement, energy, and bonding between the kids. They were helping each other and even discussing how each one would help the other in the achievement of their dreams.

Without even realizing it, AJ showed leadership that night. He inspired greatness in his younger sisters. He uncovered and stoked their belief.

When you are in the room, what do you inspire in others? What conversations are created because of your questions? Is there energy, positivity, and belief in your presense? I think we all can learn a valuable lesson about the extraordinary life from AJ’s example – I know that I can!

Be Extraordinary!

Do You Need an Achilles’ Tendon Rupture?

achillesAchilles’ heel: a fault or weakness that causes or could cause someone or something to fail
i.e. I am trying to lose weight, but ice cream is my Achilles’ heel.

It took the rupture of my Achilles’ tendon to make me aware of an Achilles’ heel in my life.

In August of 2002, Joe and I had been married for nearly 6 years. AJ was 14 months old. I was 10 days shy of being 6 months pregnant with BJ. I was coaching middle school volleyball. I was the janitor for our church. Joe was a full-time youth pastor. Life was full and challenging, or so I thought.

On August 27, towards the end of volleyball practice, the other middle school coach and myself were playing a little 2-on-2 with our girls (yes, I was 5 1/2 months pregnant and felt great!) I bent to pass a ball and felt the fateful snap as though someone had hit me in the back of the leg. I waddled (yes, waddled) to the ball cart and wrapped up practice immediately. I then went and sat on the sideline and wondered if it was my Achilles. (I considered this because my brother-in-law, Dan, had ruptured his Achilles just 6 months earlier with a similar story.)

Our only car was a stick-shift and so I had one of the moms drive me home, and then Joe took me to Urgent Care. It was on that table in Urgent Care that I heard those awful words: You’re Achilles’ tendon is ruptured. Knowing what Dan had gone through (4 months of on-the-couch recovery) made the news so real. A thousand questions rattled in my mind, like “How in the world are Joe and I going to manage our busy little life now?” I was benched!

Ten days later (the doctors wanted to wait until I was a full 6 months pregnant), I had surgery. I spent a good part of two months with my leg elevated above my heart. Pain was intense and there was little I could do without help.

The rupture of my Achilles’ heel revealed my personal Achilles’ heel: I preferred to tackle life without help. I was a Lone Ranger. I thought I was stronger if I did things by myself.

The list of things I needed help with and the numbers of people who stepped in are countless, but I am going to recount a few because it was through this humbling process that I realized how much I need other people in my life.

* Joe coached girls volleyball (girls anything) for the first and last time. Those girls still call out, “Coach Joe!” when they see him around town.
* Joe did my janitorial job at the church.
* Debbie offered to watch AJ and her son, Josh, would come pick him up. This began a great relationship and all of our kids ended up spending time at Debbie’s Daycare over the years.
* Janice cleaned my bathroom. It was disgusting and she did it without complaint, without question, and with tons of joy.
* Meal after meal after meal came to our door by loving people from our church.
* Taking a bath and washing my hair. Yes, I needed help with these tasks too. Getting around on crutches at 6, 7, and 8 months pregnant was no easy feat, let alone getting into a bathtub while trying to keep my casted leg out of the water.

Life is best lived in the companionship and company of others. In fact, this is how we were created. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 sums it up well.
Two better than one“Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their work:
If one falls down,
his friend can help him up.
But pity the man who falls
and has no one to help him up!”

What is your Achilles’ heel in life? Are you willing to acknowledge it and take action to make changes? Hopefully it won’t take the rupture of an Achilles’ heel to get your Achilles’ heel in check.

Be Extraordinary!

Birthday Ice Cream . . Yummm

starbucksThe extraordinary journey doesn’t always seem all that . . extraordinary. Sometimes it lacks the intense feelings and emotions that are experienced in other moments. I had one of these experiences on my birthday.

No, my whole birthday was not one of those experiences. The day was filled with peace, fun, laughter, new friends, old friends, hugs, cards, texts, Facebook messages, phone calls, and free coffee from Starbucks. It was a wonderful day and I knew (as I know now) that I was loved, appreciated, and cared for by many.

But I did have one little moment.

birthday moomersI honestly thought my trip to Moomer’s (America’s best ice cream and only 15 minutes from my home) would be an emotional and inspiring experience. That sounds so silly even as I write it, but I really believed that would be the case. After all, I had gone more than eight months without eating ice cream even though I have been to Moomer’s well over ten times in those 8 months.

I love ice cream! I worked at Baskin Robbins for several years in college and did not grow tired of it, but only found more flavors to love and enjoy.

And yet, in spite of this love, I held to my commitment of no sweets, treats, or ice cream for more than eight months. Because of this “ice cream fast” I thought that eating the ice cream would be an amazing, thrilling, and emotional experience. I pictured a “What About Bob?” moment when he is eating dinner with Dr. Marvin’s family and truly enjoying his mashed potatoes and hand-shucked corn. There were so many moans, yums, and looks of pleasure on Bob’s face.

My chocolate peanut butter and peppermint stick in a cup was just ice cream – really great ice cream – but just ice cream. I enjoyed every bite, but it was still just yummy ice cream. In fact, the anticipation of the ice cream was so much greater and even more fun than the eating of the ice cream.

This may sound silly, but I have a feeling some of you understand.

This was a victory. Food, especially sweet food, has had a grip on my life for years. To simply enjoy something, without obsession, is amazing and I am so grateful I was able to experience ice cream in that way.

Darren Hardy talks about fasting from things (movies, wine, ice cream, spending money) that potentially have a grip in his life. The only way to really know if something is controlling you versus you have control over it, is to fast and take great notice to your response. Hardy does a 30 day fast of some sort every few months just to make sure he is still the master.

Is there a ‘master’ in your life that needs to be put in its proper place? What do you need to fast from in order to regain control?
Be specific. How long and from what specifically will you fast?
Be accountable. Now share what you are going to do so you can receive support and greatly increase your chances of success. The comment box is open.

Be Extraordinary!

#13.1 Life Lessons

we did it halfSunday, October 5, Joe and I completed the Sleeping Bear Dunes Half Marathon. Because of my foot injury I had only run one time in the previous three weeks without pain. That run was five days before the race and a distance of 3.5 miles. Also, the longest distance I had run before the race was 8.02 miles and 8.5 miles for Joe.

Race day was filled with many firsts, personal records, and (of course!) life lessons.

1. I can do hard things.
When I make a decision and commit to that decision – regardless of how difficult the task is – I am capable. Often I don’t commit to things because I question my capacity. I discovered in the training and the race that I am capable of much more than I believe.

2. The journey is easier (and made possible) with a buddy (Joe).
I honestly could not, or would not, have completed this journey without Joe by my side. Joe’s questions, encouragement, persistence, and sometimes being a pain in the butt were all for my good. I needed every bit of prodding Joe offered.

3. Having people who are further in the journey (Clay, Lisa, Evey) is crucial to my success.
I received good, sound, positive, encouraging advice and help from runners who had already run 13.1 miles. The words they gave were a big part of being prepared race day.

4. Without training there is no chance for victory.
If I had never trained I could not have finished. The training was not only physical, but there were many mental barriers conquered during the months of training before the race.

5. The best way to finish is to keep moving.
When we came to the “12 mile” sign everything below my waist was in agony. We slowed to a walk, but I knew if I stopped the motion, or sat for a minute, starting again would have been nearly impossible. It was so important to keep moving.

6. Quitting is not an option.
Joe and I had two goals for the half: start and finish. “Quit” was not a word in our vocabulary. As we ran mile after mile we talked of finishing – we never talked about stopping. I had seen the piles of cut oranges before we started and in the latter miles I had my eyes and tastebuds on that prize too!

7. The goal for the race is personal.
Every runner out on the course had a different objective. Some set out to win. Some set out for friendship and fun. Joe and I ran as a metaphor for the life we are living in 2014. We are “running the race” of life and all we faced in the training and running of a half marathon has lessons for our personal journey too.

8. Remember how far you have come.
When I began training I could barely run one mile. It was fun and rewarding as we ran 13.1 miles to recount along the way just how far we had come.
“Remember the first time we ran a 5k?”
“I remember finishing my first 4 mile run. I was exhausted, but it felt so good.”
And then at 9 miles we had run the most consecutive miles we had ever run. We had so many memories to relish as we kind of applauded ourselves for how far we had come.

9. Injuries and obstacles are bound to happen.
Early in my training I suffered a lower back injury that halted my training for nearly four weeks. And in the final three weeks of training I injured my foot. This prevented me from getting in the 10 mile run I had hoped for before race day and limited my training to one 3.5 mile run in those final three weeks. I discovered that my attitude was key during those times. It would have been easy to quit at that point, but I was able to wait patiently and still complete the half marathon goal.

10. My mind and my self talk is powerful.
It is easy to speak lies to myself. It is easy to tell myself that it is too hard or I can’t do it. 13.1 miles showed me how crucial, valuable, and powerful positive self-talk is. When I speak positive truth it has great impact – my thoughts are powerful!

half medal11. Utilize the aid stations.
Water, gatorade, goo, and grapes were necessary parts of the journey. I suppose one could think they are stronger for not needing any of those things along the way, but I would say they are foolish. We can not complete any journey without nourishment. In fact, I unashamedly downed 12 orange quarters at the end of the race!

12. Know the limits and push them.
If I had never pushed the limits in training, I probably wouldn’t have run further than three miles. Mileage beyond that was hard and a 5k was the furthest I had run all at once up until that point. Pushing the limits helped reveal unknown strength.

13. There is always a wall.
“There are no shortcuts to anywhere worth going.” – author unknown
In everything worth pursuing my experience has been that there are walls. The question is, “what will we do when we hit the wall?” Many turn around, stop, or hope it goes away. If knowing the limits and pushing them reveals our ability, then busting through a wall shows the depth of our character, will, and desire. Every big desire we have is on the other side of a wall.

.1 Just a little bit more.
This is not only about the distance, but going “just a little bit more” requires digging deep and finding the reservoirs of inner strength.
What area of your life needs “just a little bit more”?
You are spending time with your kids. What would it look like to spend just a little bit more?
You are working your business. What would it look like to work just a little bit more?
You are loving your spouse. What would it look like to love just a little bit more?

The extraordinary journey is often long, difficult, and tiring, but it is also so worth it!

Be Extraordinary!

Read Joe’s Half Marathon thoughts by clicking here.

Read my half marathon training post by clicking here.

Girlfriend

In March of 2013 our family made a big move across the country, from suburban Oregon to rural northern Michigan. We left family, friends, church, job, and schools we loved to pursue the next step in our extraordinary life journey. One of my biggest struggles was finding girlfriends. I honestly didn’t realize how much I needed them or missed them until Joe and I attended Ultimate Leadership, a seminar in California earlier this year. At that seminar I came face to face with my resistance to and need for deep and serious — as well as fun and silly — girlfriend relationships.

girlfriendLesson #1: I need girlfriends.

It is easy for me to be the Lone Ranger. I am strong and able to figure things out on my own. Making friends in the area we now live was not particularly easy, so staying strong on my own seemed a good enough solution. However, I have come to realize the great need in my soul for connection. My connection with my husband is awesome and I am grateful for such a strong relationship, but I also need girlfriends. Finding girlfriends wasn’t as easy as I thought it should be, but avoiding those relationships didn’t make life any easier either.

Lesson #2: Finding girlfriends requires personal initiative.

It has been a number of years since I have been “the new girl” in town. No one in the area (kids’ school, church, etc.) was waiting with open arms to welcome me into their 20-years-in-the-making circle of friends. I actually had to take the initiative over and over again. I chose (most of the time) to let go of my care for what others think of me, be courageous, and invite myself into friendship with others. It was difficult and even painful at times, yet so worth it!

Lesson #3: Girlfriends understand you in ways that men cannot.

Joe and I faced a challenging situation recently. It was a private matter in our home and it was emotionally draining for both of us. There were many decisions to be made and challenges to be faced each day. Joe and I leaned on God and each other during this time. I also need the connection and care that can only come from a girlfriend. I am thankful that I took time to work on some of these girlfriend relationships so that I had a friend to call. We, women are very . . complicated . . and there are some ways that our souls can only be fed by another female.

 

Women: How are your girlfriend relationships? Are your girlfriends encouraging you to live an extraordinary life and have an extraordinary marriage? Are you contributing positively to the lives of other women?

Are you encouraging your husband to enjoy friendships, man nights, and man-cave time with his friends too? I am so grateful for the close guy friends that invest in my husband on a regular basis. It actually enhances our marriage in big ways.

Men: How about your man-relationships? Are you investing in and learning from other men in your life? Are you spending your man time building each other up and motivating each other to live extraordinary lives? Are you encouraging your wife to have girlfriends and invest in those relationships too?

The extraordinary life is not lived alone, but in the company of great friends.

Be Extraordinary!