Why I'm (still) proud to be an American read that title correctly. I'm (still) proud to be an American.

The world is not my "home"...but right now I live here.
And I care deeply about where our country is going.

Do I believe that we have major problems? 

But despite all the crazy stuff going on, I'm (still) proud to be an American.
For some reason, a person gets persecuted these days for saying that.

As a person of faith, I know that all the people of the world are on the same level at the foot of the cross. We are all deeply loved by our Creator- no matter where we live.

Still, I love my country.

I still get tears in my eyes when the National Anthem is played or sung. I can't help it.

I'm moved by the countless people who have given their lives to protect my freedom.

I still put my hand on my heart when reciting the pledge of allegiance. I must.

Fighting for what we feel is right- is right- 
especially when it concerns things we hold sacred, timeless and true.

Worshiping without fear is priceless.

Although we don't all agree, freedom is worth the sting of the debate.

Diversity is beautiful.

I can speak my mind and practice free speech... for now.

We can choose to agree- and disagree.

I have a voice. I can make a difference.

I have grave concerns about this country I love.
There are areas that cause me to fear for her future.

Some days I have to squint to recognize her.

But I still thank God for America- without apology. 
And pray for her and her people- fervently.


Gratefulness-It's not just for dinner anymore.

It's been approximately 60 days into my experiment.  Although I haven't written a lot in detail on this blog, I have been reflecting on the last two months a lot lately.  
I thought I'd share my reflections with you.

Ten things I've learned (or have been reminded of) in my journey so far:
  1. This is not an experiment for sissies. It takes determination and perseverance- every day- every week- every month.
  2. It's a lesson in perspective. The more grateful I am, the more I find a higher perspective in my every day life. The bigger picture wins out.
  3. Gratefulness breeds humility, knowing that I receive more than I ever deserve.
  4. I can choose gratefulness. I can also choose entitlement. It's a choice.
  5. The more I practice thankfulness, the more my circumstances don't dictate my frame of mind.  What I think about and dwell on overcomes negativity and fear.
  6. Selfishness is easy and natural as breathing. Gratefulness is difficult to maintain. 
  7. Gratefulness bears fruit that resembles love, kindness and joy. We plant the seeds and the good fruit grows and impacts others- and comes back to us.
  8. But for the grace of God, I could not do this. I am weak. He's bigger than me.
  9. Gratefulness lifts my spirit and encourages my soul.
  10. Choosing to be thankful, even when it's hard, is discipline. It serves to remind me that I'm not always in control- or have to be. There are higher purposes at work.

So, 30 days to go. 
I'm up to my shoulders in the water now and it's feeling good.
How is your journey going? 


There's this thing called life. It happens.

You know what I'm talking about. 
You go along day by day thinking things are going okay.
Oh sure, we all have our ups and downs.  But generally speaking it's "okay."
And then when you least expect it.

Why are we so surprised by this?

Each time we are whammed in the head, somehow we think that if we survive that hit it'll be awhile until we are smacked again. A breather. A break. Whew.

Why do we think this?

I got some bad news the other day about someone I care about.
When one is in ministry, this tends to happen. Often. 
You might be surprised how often. 

But this one I did not see coming.

The Truth?
We make choices in life.  And choices have consequences. We are human.
Our God is not bothered by our honest questions. He can take it.
We are not somehow immune to hurt, pain and disappointment.- none of us are.

But this I know:
We can have a hope that surpasses our unanswered questions. 
We can have a peace that calms our "why me or why them." 
We can choose to believe, despite our hurt.

He has a way of redeeming the pain.


The Western Burger

So I'm at the burger king treating my son and his date to a pre-movie meal.  
I see there's a new burger on the menu- something like a western burger.  So I cheerfully approach the gal behind the register.

Below is our short, yet revealing, exchange.

Me:  Hi! So how's the new burger? 
Her:  Um, what burger.
Me:  The new one. The one with "new" next to it...
Her:  Oh, the Western Burger.
Me:  Yep.
Her:  What again? 
Me:  How is it...the burger. 
Her:  I don't eat here. 
Me:  What? 
Her: I don't eat here. 
Me:  Okkaayyy.  Why? 
Her:  I'm a vegetarian. 
Me: (smirk) really? (pause) 
Me:  You do realize you work at Burger King.
I just had to tell this story at a workshop on leadership and team development I taught last week.  It was the perfect example of a person that was put in the "wrong seat of the bus"...and I would dare say she might have been on the wrong "bus" altogether!  It was a great reminder that for those we lead- and we all influence someone- will only be at their best if they are on the "right seat on the bus."  If their gifts/skills, knowledge, passion match the job they're given... it's a win-win.

I hope the gal at burger king finds her seat.



Beginning With the End

It's everything.  My Dad used to say "youth is wasted on the young." Now that I'm getting older, I'm starting to really get it.
Think about it. Time and experience give us perspective.  How many of us would do things a little differently if we could go back with the wisdom, self-confidence and hindsight we have now?

How are we doing with our clearer "perspective"?

Check out this quote by a well-known leader in the business world:
If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster.  We may be very busy, we may be very efficient, but we will also be truly effective only when we begin with the end in mind.  How different our lives are when we really know what is deeply important to us, and keeping that picture in mind, we manage ourselves each day to be and to do what really matters most. 

I like that ladder analogy. It's our choice where to place our "ladder" in order to achieve the life we desire to live- mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually and in our life pursuits.
Beginning (and living) with the end in mind.

The ultimate in perspective. When considering this in the big picture, it casts a whole new light on our lives, what we do with our time and our eternal future. The good news is that we can begin...every day.

Managing ourselves each day.

We might be great managers of other people, but lousy managers of ourselves. We have choices to make every day about our lives and how we live them in relation to ourselves and others.
Perspective.  Let's live well.



Up to My Waist- Experiments in Gratitude

When getting into a lake, some people like to dive in head first.

Not me.

I have this need to slowly torture myself by getting in a couple inches at a time. 

I am now 30 days into the "experiment" and am now up to my waist. When I finally accomplish waist level, I feel like I've overcome the hardest part. 
In reality, I dove in head first...but the discipline of the action can be very different from the emotional, mental and spiritual growth. Yes, I'm up to my waist.

It's not been easy. Any of you doing this with me know that to be true.
But I also know this: developing a new habit- a potentially life altering habit- is never easy. 

It takes intention.
It takes energy.
It takes commitment.
It takes a vision.

A few impressions in the past 30 days:
  • I am blessed. You are blessed.
  • When bad things happen, God is still good. Truly.
  • Doors are closed, but others eventually open. They usually have a different shape and color than we expect.
  • Peace in every circumstance is priceless.
  • Real life is generally difficult.  A person that says otherwise is a liar.
  • Real life is beautiful in simple ways. The trick is to look for the beauty- daily.
  • Keeping my mind on higher things is hard, but changing my perspective.

Don't give up!  Let's see where the next 30 days take us.  
With a 90 day challenge, who knows?  
By 60 days, I might just be up to my shoulders!  


Week 1- Experiments in Gratitude

Thankfulness.  Gratefulness.  (Adj.)
The realization that we are blessed.  In more ways- each day- than we realize. 

It's been an interesting experiment so far. It seems the minute I choose something and begin to "practice" thanksgiving throughout the day, I am suddenly in deep testing mode.  It's not been easy doing this for even a week.

This was a surprise to me.

For some reason I thought practicing thankfulness would be a breeze- natural- like breathing.  I had another thing coming.  I guess this thing that came was called "life."  As in the first day when I chose to practice gratitude for my job... it was the worst day on that job I've ever had.  I'm not kidding.

A sampling of what I practiced this week:

  • job(s)
  • my beautiful house
  • moments of silence
  • good health
  • that we can choose growth, not apathy
  • that we can pursue our calling in life
  • the helper that brings peace, comfort and wisdom to my life
Now, please understand that my list is not a reflection of my priorities- what's number 1 or number 783 on my list of important things.  (Case in point: the morning I woke up with "The Bunny Song" in my head and just about went crazy trying to get it out!)  Rather, the topic comes to me in the first hour or two of my day...and I go with it.

I've come to the conclusion that these things, although they proven challenging, were meant to be an exercise in growth, perspective and trust.

I believe that God is the source of all good things.  Even things that don't seem "good" at the time, I choose to believe there is a greater purpose in it.

I hope you've joined me in my journey.  I'd love to hear how it's going for you and what you are learning from it.  Keep practicing my friends...perhaps over time it will indeed become much more like breathing.


Experiments in Gratitude- The Beginning.

I had this idea the other day.  It came on a particularly bad day too.

It must be that little voice in my head again.

In fact, this idea was inspired by the very notion that sometimes...okay many isn't easy to focus on the positive. My gut tells me that it's more like human nature to dwell on the negative. Whether it be fear, doubt, worry, negative circumstances, the past, some annoying co-worker or a miriad of other emotions that crop up- let's face it- they can get the best of us.

I feel like I used to be more of a positive thinker when I was younger. Sometimes life has a way of wearing a person down.  In those times, it takes purpose and conviction to change the mind, and with God's help, the heart will follow.

My idea was this: What if, for 90 days, I purpose to focus on gratitude? How would it change me, my outlook, my relationships and every day

Here's the plan:
  1. Each morning I choose one thing to be grateful for. I write it down and remember it.
  2. All day, I purpose to focus on, pray on and live out that specific thing- always keeping it in the forefront of my mind. 
  3. At the end of the day, I will reflect on that one thing and record my thoughts in a journal.

I invite you to take the journey with me. I will share some reflections with you along the way. Maybe you'll be able to identify and be encouraged. Maybe you'll just think I'm a bit nuts. Either way, what can it hurt? When the wall is broken down, we can see hope. 

None of us are the kings and queens of thankfulness I'm guessing.
The road may not be easy, but some baggage may be ditched along the way. Our head might be lifted and our breathing a little lighter.  Now wouldn't that feel good?

The mind can be a true battlefield.  Let's put on that fancy helmet, grab our shield and get on the field.  It might be messy, but it might have a really good ending.


Sighting of the Strange Kind

I have to tell you about something I saw on vacation.

So we're driving down the road towards our destination- an afternoon of zip-line action. 

Yes, this is my husband. The zip line guru. Upside-down.

We're enjoying the view, warm air in our face and sound of the waves hitting the shores of lake Michigan.  No job, no stress, no reality really.

Like the screeching of a record (yes, I remember what those are), the scene in front of my eyes broke my serene state of mind.  I turned to my husband and asked "did you just see what I just saw?" 

Right in front of us was- what looked like- the world's largest seagull gulping down an entire squirrel.  I am not kidding.  Head first, down it went until the tail was completely gone. We sat there with our mouths hanging open.

It's not like I ever thought those scavenger birds were cute or anything, but a whole squirrel?  That's just too much nature in one viewing!  I've never been the type to love those nature shows that expose the "circle of life."  I just don't want to know about such things.

Of course, my mind just couldn't leave that image alone. The very bird that was waiting around patiently while my son threw him the little fish he was catching on the docks...just shocking!
Sammy...he must have caught 50 of these things.

How could this bird be so savage?
And of course if my mind can't let go of certain experiences, my mind starts to think about things that relate.

Have you ever had an experience with a person that was like this bird? Pretty, graceful and seemingly friendly on the outside, but savagely vicious on the inside...especially when exposed? Not a pretty picture is it.  Yet, that is the bulk of reality TV these days.  Odd that we're so fascinated by it.  Kind of like those nature shows...

So then my mind has to take it a step further...

Are there times in our lives when we are the "squirrel"- so to speak- and we feel like we're being devoured by the "seagull?" I know there have been times in my life like that. How do we respond?  How should we respond?

Well, one good option is to keep driving and find the zip-line.


The Person in Front of You

Gift Shop Revelation

I was thinking recently about a little wall hanger I saw recently in a gift shop.  It read "appreciate the person in front of you."  I went on to the next thing, but then slowly walked caused me to pause...

...and I love words and phrases that cause me to pause. 

I stood in front of that little wall hanging so long that the sales person asked me twice if I wanted her to take it down for me to buy.  I'm not an impulse buyer.  I have to weigh all my options before I settle on my final purchase.  So I politely said "no thanks, just looking."  She was probably wondering if I'd ever leave that store.  She kept looking at me.  That made me nervous.

Anyway.  That little voice inside asked me if I really do that- you know- appreciate the person in front of me.  Sometimes that little voice makes me antsy.  And uncomfortable.

I had to admit that I, many times, don't.  I mean, people have told me I'm a great listener and should really think about going into professional counseling (and some that I should SEEK professional counseling!), but to be honest, sometimes I don't appreciate.

Pondering that word appreciate, took some time.  I had to define it further...hence the long time staring at the wall.

Have you ever been answering someone's question or in the middle of a deeper conversation, only to have that person get distracted by someone walking by, the cute baby at the next table, a cell phone ringing or another person they want to talk to?  Demeaning isn't it?  That happened to me just this morning.  I was bearing a part of myself to someone and right in the middle of my sentence they turned to say something to someone walking by.  I felt very insignificant and my words were just puffs of smoke that didn't matter...that I didn't really matter.  I walked away and they didn't even notice.  Am I really that boring? I asked myself.  I really felt...well, dismissed.

The little wall hanging came back to me instantly.

So I had to question- while staring at that wall last week- do I do this?  Do I appreciate the person in front of me?  How do I go about making a better effort at not only listening, but appreciating?  After all, I'm only human.  But I sure don't want to make other people feel the way I did this morning.  That little voice kicked in again.  I braced myself.  It told me that all people are made in the image of God and that God's love is vast for each one the same.   

Appreciate them like I they are the only ones in the room at that moment.  Look into their eyes and focus on just them.  Love as if you were Me, because in that moment, you are. 

No, I didn't buy the wall hanging.  But it left a mark far more powerful than something on my wall.  It left an impression on my heart.  You get me?


Things I never knew before moving to rural Minnesota- Part I

If you know me, you know that in my life I've lived in a variety of environments- especially since I've been a professional.  I've gone from living the urban life, to a suburban life and recently a rural life.  Very rural.  Very very rural.

I've learned a lot about myself in this process, but in the past 2.5 years of living in rural Northwestern Minnesota, I've also learned some new words, more than I ever wanted to know about farm animals and other things I may have never learned in the city.  

This will be the first installment of "things I never knew."  So grab your favorite latte, sit back and enjoy.  Who may just learn something too.

  • oh fer is a phrase that can occur before a variety of words. I had never heard of this incredibly flexible two word phraseology before. In order to use it correctly however, you have to have the inflection of voice in just the right places.  For example:
    • "Look at that puppy... oh fer cute!"
    • "The large mouth bass pulled you into the frigid water of lake March?...oh fer funny!"
    • "Did you see that palm tree growing north of town? Oh fer strange!"
    • "Oh fer gross!  Is that actually a deer carcus hanging from that tree?"
    • "You brought your tapioca pudding to the potluck didn't 'cha? Oh fer nice!"
  •  Nordagully.  This term actually means "north of gully" (a town close by). Go figure.
  • Saw this on the way to Fargo:
  • Supposedly this is an animal tracker. Still not sure what the tin hat the guy was wearing was for.

  • Potato Klub.  If you would get clubbed over the head with this stuff, you might just be knocked out. Apparently, this is an interesting mix of flour, water and maybe other stuff rolled up into a big ball.  It's solid.  It's white. And you eat it. Um, yeah.
Not sure what the mystery meat is on this either.

  • Cows will lay down and squirt milk all over the place.  I'm totally serious. This happened to a friend of mine last week. No lie.  I couldn't stop laughing.  The visual image I have in my head still makes me smile.

And oh, there's so much more friends... installment #2 coming soon!



We Are All Neighbors

Sometimes it still shocks me when I'm talking with someone about 9/11.

I remember being in conversation with a good friend over coffee a few weeks after Sept. 11th, 2001.  Most people I knew were still in shock over the whole thing, recounting where they were when it happened and how they felt about it all.  Even to this day I can recall seeing it on FOX news as it was happening thinking, "we are under attack" even before that concept was even mentioned over the mainstream media.  But I digress...

So in this conversation over ten years ago, I vividly remember my friend saying something I'll never forget- "I don't feel much over this. Why do I care? I don't live in New York.  It hasn't impacted me."  WOW.

All I could do is sit and stare at this person whom I called friend, but yet suddenly feeling like I was sitting with a stranger.  We had such different points of view!  I was speechless.

I've recalled that conversation many times since and wondered how we, as a society, have become so numb to other people's suffering.  Never mind the fact that we may not all live in the same neighborhood, but in the bigger picture of things we- in fact- do.  What impacts you impacts me, because we live in the same "nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."  We are one another's neighbor.

  A man grieves his son at the 9/11 memorial in 2011.

When some 5,000 people lose their lives on our soil, should it move me?  Grieve me?  When I hear of other people's kids going hungry in another U.S. city, shouldn't I be concerned? When someone loses their beloved child to senseless violence, should I not be angered?

Have we become so self-centered that we don't feel other's pain, grief or desperate cries for help?  Are we so enveloped by our own hardships that we can't see or feel what impacts our brother or sister down the street?  We sometimes feel...then forget rather quickly.

This is not a political statement.  Rather, it is a plea to open our hearts to others and when we see a need, well, decide to just do something.  Anything. 

Even if at first it's just to feel. That's a start.


That There Girl

A simple moment.  The name stuck.

I was in college.  Sitting in the living room adorned with lace doilies and floral upholstery, tea and cookies were enjoyed by all.  Casual conversation felt comfortable, like the hand crafted quilt spread across the overstuffed chair I was sitting in.

Our elderly friends were full of interesting stories and lots of laughter.  

Suddenly a male voice pipes up above the others and declares rather loudly, "when is that piano girl going to play us that there piano?"  His wife looked at him and said, "She has a name ya know!" which he responded "Well, she IS the girl that plays piano ain't she?"

I smiled.  I played.  And the name was born.