Thanksgiving Blog-Venture Day 1

Thanksgiving is right around the corner. Are you naturally producing joy and thankfulness?

Philippians 4:8, in the Bible, states:

Ph48Whatever is true,
whatever is honorable,
whatever is just,
whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely,
whatever is commendable,
if there is any excellence,
if there is anything worthy of praise,
Think About These Things!

Often I hear people (myself included) talk about “trying harder to be joyful or thankful.” Forcing a good attitude or smile on our faces isn’t fooling anybody, especially ourselves. The answer – the secret solution – to lasting joy is found in the final line of the above verse. “Think about these things” . . . think. It does not say to “feel” these things or to “do” these things or to “say” these things. We are supposed to think about these things.

In so many areas it is easy to put the focus on the external, the feeling, doing, or saying. With focus on the behavior we will see immediate results but we don’t always see lasting results. It takes work to change the patterns of our thoughts. Our thoughts are always on – we produce tens of thousands of them a day. We have thoughts while we do anything and everything, including sleep. These thoughts are products of thought patterns formed throughout our lifetime. The subconscious thoughts that go through our minds today are results of hours, days, and years of thought practice.

This is a good thing, right?

It is a good thing if the thoughts we think are true, honorable, just, pure, etc. But many of us have thought practices that build negative thought patterns.

Thoughts of fear and scarcity.
Thoughts of loneliness and abandonment.
Thoughts of sickness and death.
Thoughts of disappointment and failure.

If these are our thought patterns, what do you suppose the resulting feelings, words, and actions will be?
Will these negative thought patterns allow you to be genuinely joyful and thankful?

What would it look like to take gratitude, thanksgiving, and joy and make them year-long characteristics of our lives rather than seasonal ones?

If this was natural then everyone would be full of gratitude and joy. So, if you really want this for yourself, your family, your co-workers, and anyone else you influence, then you will need a proactive action plan.

What will you do this year to produce more gratitude, thanksgiving, and joy?

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

50 things1. Give Thanks Jar.

Write things you are thankful for throughout the year on slips of paper and put them in the jar. On Thanksgiving, read through the papers. I love the detail and stories that could be recorded in this jar. I got this idea from Becca’s blog.

2. I’m Thankful for You.

This is something you would do for a specific person. Write out what you love about that person. In Darren Hardy’s book, The Compound Effect, he talks about filling up a notebook for his wife for a whole year and then gave it to her as a gift for Thanksgiving. I used a pack of spiral bound 3×5 cards and did a similar concept over a shorter timeframe for my husband, Joe.

gratitude tree3. Gratitude Tree.

I see many families post photos of their gratitude trees during November. What about leaving the tree trunk up all year and putting up different colored leaves during different seasons? Christmas – red and green; Valentines – red, pink, and white; March – green; May – spring colors; July – red, white, and blue (for my American friends). I found a fall tree as an example on this blog link.

Whatever idea you use, please do something to promote gratitude in your own heart and for those around you. Please share your ideas below so we can encourage each other as we grow in gratitude.

Be Extraordinary!

(I’m Traci, the “Be Extraordinary!” blogger. I share insights that challenge and encourage moms to be the best version of themselves. To me, that’s an extraordinary life! Click HERE to receive blog updates and a free newsletter.)

Ultimate Responsibility

Blame is kind of like a drink that tastes good initially, but leaves an awful aftertaste in your mouth.

Blame is easy and even causes me to feel better for a little while, but then it leaves me with the awful taste of bitterness and bondage.

I faced a challenge recently in which another person was at fault in many ways. It was easy, natural, and even justified to blame my hurt on this individual. However, this blame left me feeling more hurt and bitter rather than free from the situation.

This is where “ultimate responsibility” comes in. I must find all the ways and all the places where I am responsible – where I had, and made, a choice. There are some big ones. Once I speak the words, “I chose to . . . ” then I begin to experience freedom and I can begin to move past the place of hurt where I so easily get stuck.

dff4d7f632fbb924dae6656f5174c82aIt is amazing what pressure is released and what freedom is experienced, when we begin to own our actions and our decisions.

There is another layer of ownership. We say a phrase in our house all the time (my kids could quote it for you!): My response is my responsibility. Sometimes I don’t choose what happens – I didn’t make the actions, decisions, or cause the events – but I still must live with the consequences. This is where I do have a choice. This is where my response to life is totally up to me – my responsibility.

Taxes are a part of life for most people. We don’t get much of a choice as to whether we will be charged tax or need to file taxes each spring, but we can choose our response and our perspective on paying taxes. Check out this video that illustrates how we can choose our perspective on something as mundane as taxes:

Watch now.

What unpleasant circumstances, events, or situations are coming your way? What is your response? Are you busy blaming people, circumstances, or the government? Or are you choosing to see the joy, blessing, or growth opportunity in your situation?

We all have a choice. We can blame, resulting in bitterness and bondage or we can take responsibility, resulting in an extraordinary life of freedom and growth.

The choice is up to you!

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!

#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.

My Job: Deliver the Pizza

Results“Results. Often harsh, but always fair.” This is a great quote by Brian Klemmer. In so many aspects of life this is true.
* Look at your income, your net worth, or the growth of your company. Those numbers are a result of your choices.
* Get on the scale. The number that appears is a result of your choices.
* Is your house clean or does it look like a tornado came through? However it looks is a result of your choices. (If the mess was caused by your kids, remember that you chose to have those kids and therefore the mess is a result of your choices!)

This is one side of the coin and I have measured most everything in my life according to MY choices and MY responsibilities. However, there is another side of the coin where we have no control over the results, because the choices belong to someone else.

Here are a few examples:

Pizza. When delivering pizza, my job is to get the pizza from the pizza parlor to the house that ordered the pizza. That’s it!
I am not responsible for what happens to the pizza – if it is eaten, fed to the dog, or thrown out.

Kidney. When donating a kidney, my job is to be willing and go through testing, surgery, and recovery. That’s it!
I can not control how well the recipient’s body receives the kidney, or if the body rejects the kidney one, two, or ten years down the road.

Kids. When raising kids, my job is to teach, train, and love my kids to the best of my knowledge and ability. That’s it!
I can not control the outcomes or results. My kids may reject my input and want to walk in their own rebellious ways as teenagers or adults. I am not responsible for their choices – I am only responsible for mine.

DeliverPizzaThere are plenty of choices we make in each of these scenarios. For example, if I deliver pizza. I chose to take the job, or start the business. I chose to accept the order. I chose to drive the pizza to the customer’s house. I chose to take their money and give them the pizza. I chose to drive away. There is no place for me to own (through guilt or pride or disgust) what happens with the pizza next. This sounds kind of silly, but it is so easy to own things that are not ours . . . as easy as it is to not own things that are our responsibility.

We cannot mix up our responsibilities. We must – in full ownership – accept our choices and we must also fully release the choices that belong to someone else.

I have been wrestling with guilt over someone else’s choices lately. I did my part, but instead of releasing the rest I have been holding on to it and it has made me miserable. Then my coach talked to me about pizza delivery and my pastor talked to me about kidney donation and I am reminded of where my responsibilities end. Keeping this line – or these sides of the coin – straight brings freedom. Only in freedom can we live a truly extraordinary life.

What about you? Are you holding the guilt or grief of another’s choices and making it your own? It’s time to own your choices completely and release the rest. Deliver the pizza and clock out.
Would love to hear your thoughts.

Be Extraordinary!

The Chicken or The Egg?

chickenOReggIn 2010 my husband, Joe, began the official journey of writing his first book. He was writing for a daily devotional site and one particular week he wrote a series on the life of Joseph. The readers gave tremendous feedback and wanted to read and learn more. This was the inspiration Joe needed to get his dream of writing a book off the ground.

So, what came first – the inspiration or the writing?

Think about the question this way: What if Joe had simply been waiting for inspiration (the right thoughts, ideas, audience, a publishing company to offer him a book deal)? Would the book be written?

I venture to say that he would not have been writing for the devotional site in the first place if he was waiting for inspiration, waiting for the invite, waiting for the phone call, or waiting for the eager audience to emerge.

The writing came first.

ProjectJosephWriting daily was just the beginning. This daily habit and desire to share with others caused Joe to pursue writing for the daily devotional site. He was not invited. Well, it was a very loose invitation and it required initial action on Joe’s part. After several months of writing, the devotional series on Joseph emerged and was ultimately the catalyst for putting those initial thoughts into the pages of a book. Project Joseph is an amazing tool for dealing with past pain and gaining a new, life-changing perspective.

Are you waiting for inspiration before you take action on your dreams? What action do you need to take or what habit must become part of your daily life so that you are in a place where inspiration can appear.

When inspiration comes, will you be ready to receive and act on it? I hope so!

Be Extraordinary!

Bulbs Bulbs Bulbs

daff bulbsOne thing I learned after making it through the long Northern Michigan winter of 2012-2013 was how much I crave color come spring. “Spring” is a loose term here. We experienced snow on the ground from November until May, and my craving for color showed up sometime in early April. Perhaps it was all of the Facebook photos of blossoms and green grass from my friends in the lush Oregon valley. Or perhaps it was because white was the only “color” I had seen outside in more than five months (not even gray pavement).

When “spring” arrived in early May the snow was melting and my tulip bulbs were peeking through the snow-covered flower beds. I have about fifteen tulip bulbs that come through and ten that bloom. These tulips are here from the previous occupant of our home. I had intended to fill up the flower bed last fall but never really got around to it. In this part of the country, if you don’t get the bulbs planted by early October then it probably isn’t going to happen. That was the case for me last year, but not this year!

sm bulbI enjoyed a beautiful Sunday afternoon of bulb planting in early September. As I held the bulbs, dug the holes, and breathed in the wonderful scents of the outdoors, I thought about and envisioned what “fruit” all my labor would produce. I was dreamed about spring (while taking in as many warm days of fall as I could).

The seeds and bulbs don’t look like much – they are not beautiful – and they aren’t even colorful. The work was tedious and a little tiresome (I planted 44 bulbs!) I don’t even have anything to show for my labor except some fluffed up dirt in the flower bed. In fact, come December, February, and even April I will likely have no signs of color. I don’t even have a guarantee that they are going to emerge from the dirt or bloom into color.

BUT I have hope. I did the work. I made the investment. And, with hope, I trust that the results with come.

bulbs in handSo often (almost everyday) I want to see the results of my efforts now. Instant gratification does not usually bring about the real and lasting results I really desire. Because the results I desire don’t come fast enough, sometimes I slack on the effort and investment I make today. It doesn’t seem like it will make that big of difference, but six months from now when there are no flowers in the flowerbed, vacations taken, work promotions, or meaningful relationships, I will know why.

What about you? Is there an area of your life where some bulbs need to be planted so that in the season(s) to come you will have fruit? Please share your thoughts in the the comment box; let’s see if we can encourage each other to make the investments and plant the bulbs now that will lead to an extraordinary life. I will go first.

Be Extraordinary!