Barefoot and Unprepared

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These past few weeks has been a bit interesting … this coronavirus is scary.  Everyone is asking “Are you prepared?”

To start off I’m going to tell you one of my sister Cathy’s favorite story.  She was a lover of sports.  She would not be happy today with all the canceled sporting events  … especially the basketball tournaments.  When she heard this story given by Howard W. Hunter at a conference … she fell in love with it and told it often.  The story tells of a quarterback on the football team of a small, rural high school. This young man managed to make the team, but it was clear that he was not going to be all-state or all-American. In fact, he was the fourth of four quarterbacks.  By the last game of the season, he had never been called into a game, and he had given up all hope of playing. During the final game of the year he decided to relax and enjoy himself, so he pulled off his shoes, wrapped himself in a blanket, and settled down on the bench to watch his buddies play.

Midway through the game he heard the coach shout his name. He was startled and wondered if he had been mistaken. Then the coach called again, “Hey, you! Get in there and move the ball!”  What should he do? He wanted to say, “Wait, coach, while I put on my shoes.” But instead, he made straight for the huddle, his stocking feet conspicuous to the players, the spectators, and the coach.

Being called into the game made him very nervous and he was confused as he called his first play, and by the time he took the snap from center, he had forgotten which play he had called. While his teammates moved to the right, he went left, where he was swallowed up in the snarl of onrushing linemen.  No one expected him to make a touchdown. Even running the wrong way was understandable. But there was no excuse for a quarterback without shoes. No excuse for a quarterback not ready to help his team to success!

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Are you prepared?  Are you prepared to help yourself? But the bigger question is:  Are you prepared to help others?  Are you ready to pass the ball of life and make a difference?  Recently I have been thinking about my life and the things I have done, things I have not done, things I’m prepared for and the things I am not prepared for.  Am I prepared?  I have decided that when I finally depart from this life and I arrive at the pearly gates that  I don’t want to drive up to the pearly gates in a shiny sports car, wearing beautiful tailored clothes with my hair expertly set and with long perfectly manicured fingernails. That is definitely NOT me!  I want to pedal up to the pearly gates on a beat up three-wheel old bicycle (not sure I can balance myself on two wheels anymore), with a basket of things to share with others.  I want to be wearing a pair of grass stained worn-out shoes from playing with my great-grand kids on their swing set.  I want there to be a smudge of peanut butter on my shirt from making sandwiches for a sick neighbors children.  I want there to be a little dirt under my fingernails from helping my family plant a garden.  I want there to be children’s sticky kisses on my cheeks and the tears of family and friends on my shoulders.  I want my Heavenly Father to know that I was really here and that I really lived. I want to be wearing my life’s shoes! Each one of us has to realize that if we are going to really be here and make a different in this world and really live, it is absolute essential that we do not lose hope and we look to our Heavenly Father for support, guidance and love.  That means … Not losing hope…. Not getting discouraged…. Not giving up!  Keeping our shoes on so we are prepared! And … Serving others!

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This is one of my favorite paintings. The artist is James Christensen who titled this painting “Hold to the Rod.”  The man in this painting is trying to hold onto so many worldly possessions that he cannot let go and grab hold of the rod for fear of losing something. The rod represents divine guidance. He is looking at the rod, but doesn’t have the belief and faith to let go of those material things and be guided to the more important things.

I have found that while riding on the bike that we call life, we tend to collect things that make us feel safer and better about ourselves … comfortable enough that we walk around barefooted.  Even though these things are mere material possessions, they tend to give us a superficial sense of security.  It is only by holding fast to our own beliefs that we can navigate our life with confidence and be prepared for whatever is placed before us.

I am reminded of a speech that I heard presented by Dieter F. Uchtdorf. He began the speech recounting an experience he once had moving a grand piano from one room to another.  He related how a group of men were trying to move a grand piano from a church chapel to an adjoining cultural hall for a musical event. None were professional movers and the task of getting that very heavy piano through the chapel and into the cultural hall seemed nearly impossible. Everybody knew that this task required not only physical strength but also careful coordination. Each man had his own idea of how the piano should be move, but not one could keep the piano balanced correctly. They re-positioned the men several times by strength, height, and age — but nothing worked.  As they stood around the piano, uncertain of what to do next, one of the men spoke up. He said, “Stand close together and lift where you stand.” Together they lifted that piano and moved it successfully. The dictionary defines the word “lift” as “to raise to a higher position or level.”

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At the present, we live in a world full of scary things.  I’m terrified about getting this coronavirus … I am definitely a prime candidate to die from this virus.  I keep asking myself if I have prepared enough.  Thankfully I belong to a church that has all ways taught its members to be prepared.  Yes … I have plenty of “toilet paper”, meds and food! I even have a supply of hospital masks left over from chemo.   In Dexter (my Tahoe) I have my 72 hour backpack that has 50 items to help in any type of emergency.  I use items from it all the time to help myself or others. Need a band-aid … I got it!  Need a rope … I got it!  Need a flashlight … I got it!  Need a hatchet … yep … got that too!  There was this Pilot Club member from the western part of the state who also had a 72 hour pack in her car.  We used to sit with each other and try to out-do each other with new items.  I learned a lot from her … a real survivalist.

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I love this photo … even very strong sturdy trees help each other!  So let me ask:  Are you prepared to help yourself and to help others.  Can you lift yourself and then lift others.  Life is what we make of it and it sure is better with “lifters” around to pitch in and help!  Lifters with shoes on … ready to help our team of family and friends.  I challenge you to take the “7 Minutes to Lift 7 People up This Week” challenge.  You may have to let go of some of those things holding you back … but it will bless you and give you so much happiness this week.  Each day this week, reach out to someone you know who needs a little lift to win this game of life … family, friends, co-workers, peers.  Make the commitment with me to make a difference in someone else’s life and then watch what happens in your own life.  You and whomever you reach out to will feel much better and be lifted up!

Remember “be prepared, keep those shoes on” so you will be ready to “lift where you stand!”

Just saying ….

Choices Matter

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“The decisions we make, individually and personally, become the fabric of our lives. That fabric will be beautiful or ugly according to the threads of which it is woven.”  ~Gordon B. Hinckley

 

There is a true story about a man named Joseph Henry.  I read it once, can’t remember where, but jotted notes down in my journal to use later.  It’s a rather strange story about his childhood.  His grandmother paid a cobbler to make him a pair of shoes.  The cobbler measured his feet and told Joseph that he could choose between two styles:  a rounded toe or a square toe.  Little Joseph could not decide which one he liked better.  It seemed to be such a huge decision to him because they would be his only pair of shoes for a long time.  The cobbler allowed him to take a couple of days to make up his mind.  Day after day, Joseph went into the shop … sometimes three or four time a day!  Each time he looked over the cobbler’s shoes and tried to decide.  He continued to procrastinate.  He wanted to make up his mind, but he just couldn’t decide.  Finally, one day he went into the shop and the cobbler handed him a parcel wrapped in brown paper.  His new shoes!  He raced home.  He tore off the wrapping and found a beautiful pair of leather shoes … one with a rounded toe and the other with a square tow!

We are all made up from the choices we make!  Joseph Henry learned a difficult lesson about decisions:  If we don’t make them ourselves, others will make them for us.  A wise man named Quentin Cook said that “many choices are not inherently evil, but if they absorb all of our time and keep us from the best choices, then they become insidious.”  Either of Joseph Henry’s choices would not have been wrong … but the fact that he couldn’t make up his mind and letting someone else decide was wrong.  The choices you make and the decisions you make have a long lasting impact on your life. They make you special and different from others, they make a distinction between you and everyone else. 

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Here’s another short story on choosing whether to decide or give up.  Its a kid’s fable and I’m not sure where it came from, but I love the moral of the story. One hot day, a thirsty crow flew all over the fields looking for water. For a long time, he could not find any. He began feeling very weak, and almost lost all hope. Suddenly, he saw a water jug sitting below the tree. He flew straight down to see if there was any water inside. Yes, he could see some water inside the jug! The crow tried to push his head into the jug. Sadly, he found that the neck of the jug was too narrow. Then he tried to push the jug over to tilt for the water to flow out, but the jug was too heavy. The crow thought hard for a while. Then, looking around it, he saw some pebbles. Suddenly he had a good idea. He started picking up the pebbles one by one, dropping each one into the jug. As more and more pebbles filled the jug, the water level kept rising. Soon it was high enough for the crow to drink. His plan had worked because he did not give up!

If we think and work hard enough, we can find solutions to any situation or problem that we might be facing. The crow didn’t give up on his problem and neither should we.  He pondered it and came up with a plan, and then carried that plan out. Your life is a series of choices you have made so far. You will live with those choices for the rest of your life — and believe me when I say this, the rest of your life can be a pretty long period. Whether you feel it immediately or not, your life is being shaped by the choices you are making right now … today and tomorrow. We can’t undo the past, but we can always learn from it. Our choices are the building blocks of our lives and despite all the mistakes we make, a new day brings with itself new opportunities and a whole new world of choices. 

We all have goals and dreams. I probably have way too many!  We all want something we don’t currently have. If we want to achieve our goals, we need to grab our lives by the horns and make the tough decisions to get what we want. These decisions and choices will allow us to achieve our goals.

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Next time you have to make a decision … no matter how big or small it is, make a choice. Let me shout that again … MAKE A CHOICE! Choose the option that puts you one step closer to achieving your dreams and the future you want to build. Quoting Stephen Covey from his book “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”:  “We are the creative force of our life, and through our own decisions rather than our conditions, if we carefully learn to do certain things, we can accomplish those goals.”

I have had to make some really big decisions in my own lifetime.  I am sorry to say that many of my choices were not too smart.  I am happy to say that when I used the right powers for help in my decisions,  I always made the right choice.  Study … prayer … then decide.  My hubby Ken used to tell me that in making important choices and decisions to use that method.  To study it out, to pray about your decision and then decide to do it.  He would say that if the decision was right I would know it in my heart … I would feel peace.  If I kept doubting my decision, then I would know that I had made the wrong decision and to back up and start again.  This has always worked for me.  I always followed his three steps and if my heart kept debating, then I began my decision making again. This important lesson and wisdom sure kept me from making some really stupid choices and bad decisions!

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For instances, some of my decisions were: Getting married and having children … That was an easy one.  Working mom or stay at home mom … a harder choice because of finances but staying home was the right decision.  Moving Ken’s business from downtown to our backyard building … also a tough decision knowing clients would be coming to our home … but a right financial decision to move to our own building.  Going to work after Ken passed away … Opps, the kids made that decision for me and made me go to work.  Actually it was the best decision for my health and emotional well being.  Thanks kids.  My decision between being treated for cancer in Tarboro or Duke Cancer Center … I chose Duke because of the aggressive cancer type I had and their world class doctors.  Proof of the right decision … I defied the odds and am still here going on 8 years after diagnosis.  These are some of the choices I have had to made.  I’m not going to list all the wrong decisions because I don’t want you to laugh at all my dumb choices.  I do want you to see that by making your own choices you can effect your life for the good.  You just need to figure out what’s best and then do it.  Isn’t that what Nike says … Just Do It! … great advice.

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I love this quote by Thomas S. Monson:  “It has been said by one, years ago, that history turns on small hinges, and so do people’s lives.  Our lives will depend upon the decisions which we make – for decisions determine our destiny.”  WOW … yes our choices do determine our destiny … strong thoughts!

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Now for one of my favorite stories. Its Aesop Fable, “The Man, the Boy, and the Donkey.” A father and were to journey to the city marketplace and sell a donkey for winter provisions. As they started to town, the father rode the donkey. In the first village, the villagers said, “What an inconsiderate man, riding the donkey and making his son walk!” So the father got off the donkey and let his son ride.  In the next town, the people whispered, “What an inconsiderate boy, riding the donkey and making his father walk!”

In frustration, the father climbed on the donkey; and father and son rode the donkey, only to have the people in the next town declare, “How inconsiderate of the man and the boy to overload their beast of burden and treat him in such an inhumane manner!” In compliance with the dissident voices and mocking fingers, the father and son both got off the donkey to relieve the animal’s burden, only to have the next group of onlookers say, “Can you imagine a man and a boy being so stupid as to not even use their beast of burden for what it was created!”

Then, in anger and total desperation, having tried to please all those who offered advice, the father and son both rode the donkey until it collapsed. The donkey had to be carried to the marketplace and could not be sold. The people in the marketplace scoffed, “Who wants a worthless donkey that can’t even walk into the city!”

The father and son had failed in their goal of selling the donkey and had no money to buy the winter provisions they needed in order to survive.  Think about it for a moment … how much different the outcome would have been if the father and son had had a plan to follow and then made to choice to follow that plan.  The choice would have been so easy.

At times, making the right choices can be simple. At other times, it is truly a big struggle. But through it all, you can find comfort in knowing that you can summon support and comfort from a loving Heavenly Father to help you in making your decisions. He is intimately concerned with your welfare, and He seeks to give you blessings overflowing with guidance to make the right choices.

Just do it!  Just saying …

Baloney Sandwiches Again!

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You can be wise and happy …. or stupid and miserableThe choice is yours!”   ~Gordon B. Hinckley

Let me start by relating a story I once heard … I do not know who wrote it or told it … but I love this story and it’s wisdom!  To begin … Yes, I love fried baloney sandwiches … especially at the beach … Thinking about them brings back memories of growing up and having to take my lunch to school each day! I actually hated baloney sandwiches then.

The Story:  Two construction workers were taking a lunch break and opened up their lunch boxes. One of them looked inside his box and said, “Not baloney sandwiches again! I can’t believe it. I hate baloney.  This is the third time this week I’ve had a baloney sandwich. I can’t stand baloney!”  The other construction worker looked at the co-worker and said, “Why don’t you just ask your wife to make you something different?”  He replied, “I don’t have a wife. I made these baloney sandwiches myself.”

Why is it that the very things that we complain about the most or don’t like about our lives are the things that we put there ourselves.  I know that I do.  I complain about having a messy over-loaded closet … when the remedy is to organize it myself. I complain about no snacks in the house … when I am free to go to the grocery store.  I complain about working every day …. oh … no … I don’t complain about that because I’m so thankful to have something that gets me up and out each day!  Really I love my job.  OK… back to baloney and complaining!  I complain about not seeing my kids enough … when I know it’s a two way street and I can get in my car and drive to visit them.  We complain about many things that we can control.  This is especially true about our attitudes … something that we also have the capacity to control, but so often choose not to.

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We all understand the need to be more positive and have a happier attitude … there are a gazillion books written on the subject.  We even have bible scriptures that teaches and encourages us “to be made new in the attitude of your minds.”  (Ephesians 4:23)  So why do we so often choose to carry around the same old attitudes that have let us down over the years. 

The solution really is simple … We CAN stop packing baloney sandwiches for ourselves and start the process of developing new attitudes that will assist us in our daily lives … to develop attitudes that do not hold us back.  Our attitude can either be our best friends or it can be our worst enemy. I believe my attitude is the biggest determinant to my quality of life … a happy life.  It’s about making the mental shift in attitude that will allow you to power through whatever life throws at you.  Think about it … if you are in a bad mood and something annoying happens … it puts you in what I call the “watch out explosion coming” category.  But if you try your best to be happy .. and something annoying happens … it’s much easier to deal with.  Check out this cartoon … It’s so true … look for the positive … sit in the good seats.

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I’m in no way trying to trivialize life’s tribulations. Let’s face it; some of us have a great deal of pain to deal with. I sure have had plenty to deal with in my short lifetime (yes I consider myself young).   However, it is essential for your well-being that you understand that these circumstances, events or situations are not the final word on your quality of life … no matter how bad it appears. It’s how you respond to them and the fear and other negative emotions they produce that make the difference. And more than anything, it’s about a shift in attitude that will allow you to power through whatever life throws at you. In fact, it’s all about attitude. It’s always been about attitude. And always will be about attitude.

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I love this photo of my great-grandson Henry and the difference in what attitude means. These photos were taken about a minutes apart.  Some days I bet photos resembling these could be taken of me!  Unlike my Henry (who really doesn’t understand life yet) … we are in control of our attitude.

You know what kind of attitude I’m talking about? The kind that no matter the severity of the situation, you not only bounce back, but you thrive with a determination and confidence that defy the odds against you.

Do you want to know how to acquire that kind of attitude? Here’s an analogy that I read from a book by Steve Rizzo using cats as a teaching point.  Observe a cat, any cat. Our family has a cat … it’s actually belongs and lives with my granddaughter Maggie … but we all consider it our cat.  His name is Asha.  OK back to the cat story.  Go ahead observe your cat. Just watch them. They strut around the house, as if they’re God’s gift to the animal kingdom. I swear, if cats could talk, we would hear, “Meow! Meow! Ba-Da-Bing! Meow!”   Our Asha sleeps anywhere he wants and dares us to move him. Yep … Meow! Meow! Ba-Da-Bing! Meow! If you fold clothes on the bed and walk away for five minutes … when you go back Asha has made that nice pile of folded clothes his comfy bed.  Ba-Da-Bing!

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Have you ever wondered why it is said that cats have nine lives? Because they have resilience; they bounce back. Nothing seems to affect them. Once I was brushing Asha (he didn’t like it) and he actually fell off the counter trying to avoid me.  He land on his feet and look at me as if to say, “What? I meant to do that!” and then walk away. “Ba-Da-Bing! Meow!”  Resilience!  Bounced back!

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My family are definitely dog lovers … we have about eight dogs between all family members.  Of course my favorite is my dog “Captain Jack” (he will be 15 years old this year) … he definitely has my heart.  Think about it … have you ever told a cat to go fetch something? It just sits there and gives you another one of those looks. “Hey, let’s get something straight. I don’t do fetch. You want something, you tell your best friend Jack (my dog) to get it. I’m busy. The bottom line is this: Cats live on their own terms. Nobody tells them what to do. They defy the odds. All of us could use that same kind of attitude!  Resilience!  Bouncing back!

There’s a story about two brothers who appeared on a talk show. Again I don’t know what show or when … just read it on the internet.  The first brother came out and told his story. He was divorced, broke, unemployed, angry about life, unable to control his emotions and had problems with alcohol abuse. When asked why he thought he was this way he responded, “What choice do I have?  My father was an abusive alcoholic and I was destined to turn out like this, it’s all his fault!”

Then the second brother came out. He was a successful businessman with a happy marriage and smiling kids.  He lived in a beautiful house, was well-respected in his local church and was a fun guy to be around. When asked why he thought he was this way he responded, “What choice do I have?  My father was an abusive alcoholic and I didn’t want to turn out like him, so I focused on improving myself and becoming the best person I could be.”

I grew up with a very dysfunctional family.  My father committed suicide when I was 11 years old … which turned my family upside down.  After that my family had so many ups and downs.  Many extended family considered us not family anymore.  At some point in my growing up I decided that my family would not define me, my future family, or the choices I made.  I wanted better than I had.  I began to understand that we were not meant to be defined by our circumstances but by our choices regarding these circumstances.  No matter how hard we try, we can’t control what happens to us, but we can choose our attitude and our emotions.  We’ve always have the power to choose, we just need to exercise that choice.  Sometimes those choices are hard … but so worthwhile!

Life is difficult … I can’t lie about that. But if you are like me, sometimes you make it more difficult by focusing only on the burdens.  But life is not all sorrow.  We just need to focus on all of life’s blessings that surround us.  I have found so many blessings to be thankful even in the worst parts of my life.  Remember that with every burden comes the hope of happiness. If we realize that life includes the good and the bad, enjoyment and heartache, pleasure and pain, we might be less likely to feel disheartened when all is not ideal.

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Every morning I remind myself of how blessed I am … to pull my head out of my behind and look around at the beauty that this world has to offer me. Things are never perfect. I accept that.  But that doesn’t mean that I can’t find joy and appreciate what I do have. I do have plenty to be thankful for.  As I struggle to carry my own burdens, I try to focus on living with hope … which is a very powerful trait. Realizing that our loving Heavenly Father will not send us more than we can handle.  Life if a test!  It is accepting the fact that all is not perfect but having the strength to show the world that it will not rob me of my joy or my happiness.  No more baloney sandwiches for me!

Just saying …

 

Be a Happifier!

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“The happiest people I know are NOT those who find their golden ticket; they are those who, while in the pursuit of worthy goals, discover and treasure the beauty and sweetness of the everyday moments.”     ~Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Sometimes we are so busy we do not take time to be grateful and be happy.

It is easy to be thankful for sunshine, for laughter, for colorful flowers, and even rain.  Too many times, we fail to think past the obvious.  We are so caught up in our busy schedules and we feel over-whelmed by our sometimes failures that we forget just how much there is in life to be grateful for and to be happy about.

My sister Cathy was known to be a “happifier” … that was her motto!  She loved making people happy.  If you did something for her … you could depend on her doing something to make you happy and show you how grateful she was.  Her funeral was highlighted with many stories of her efforts to make her family and friends happy.  It didn’t stop there … she wanted to make every man or woman on the street that she didn’t know happy too! Her legacy is so positive.  Her grand-children have tattoos to remember Cathy and her legacy of being and making others happy. What an awesome reminder to be happy, make others happy, and to remember my sister!

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Who DOESN’T want to live a healthy and happy life … I think the answer just might be “nobody.” So what are the differences between happy and unhappy people? What is the secret to a happy life? Is it love? Is it money? Is it a big house and fancy car? Is it a important career? Well guess what … I believe simply put, your thoughts have a more powerful effect on your happiness than you might think.

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To illustrate my thoughts … would each of you look around the room you are in and find all the things you can that are blue. Now everyone close your eyes … no cheating.  Now think of the things you saw that were reddish. If you could not think of anything you saw that was reddish was it because you were intent on looking for blue that you did not even notice the beautiful reddish things.

Happiness works much the same way.  When we focus on what we do not have or our problems, soon that is all we can see.  What does this lead to: discontentment, being whiny, unsatisfied and definitely unhappy.  When we focus on our many beautiful reddish things too … the smaller amazing blessings, we become more and more aware of them.  This leads to be more content, grateful and happier.

Life is definitely too short to sit around and wait naively for perfect moments.  Thinking that happiness is going to fall right out of the sky, or walk into our lives is just NOT going to happen.  Being happy is a daily decision and requires commitment.  We must stop looking for happiness and start living happiness.

So today I have a two simple tips for you, for living a happier and healthier life.  It’s about first, choosing to be happy … then thinking about how to be happy!

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#1 Stop Negative Thinking.  A negative mind will never give you a positive life. Stop thoughts that are limiting and self-defeating like “I can’t do that“ or “I’m not good enough.” Don’t believe everything that you think. Negative thinking is unhelpful and will hold you back from achieving your goals and greater self-confidence. Replace negative thoughts with words that are positive and motivating. In the beginning, it may be difficult, but the more you repeatedly send positive messages to yourself, the better and happier you will feel.  I love the quote from Lisa Hayes:  “Be careful how you are talking to yourself because you are listening.”  Stop that half-empty things right now!

#2 Be Grateful.  Gratitude is an attitude and a way of living that has been shown to have many benefits in terms of health and happiness. Feeling and expressing gratitude, instead of wanting more and more, turns our mental focus to the good and happy things in life. Which will create more things to be grateful for. I have a “Gratitude Journal” that I try to write in daily.  I only write positive things.  When I feeling down or sad, I go back and read my journal and realized how blessed I am even with daily trials and problems.  As you awake each morning, give thanks for your blessings and the life that you do have. Life is a gift, never forget that.

The best quote ever by an unknown author:  “The happiest people don’t have the best of everything … they just make the best of everything they have.”  OK … become a happifier too!

Just saying …

Charlie Brown Inspired

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“Never jump into a pile of leaves with a wet sucker!” … Charlie Brown  

Several weeks ago during one of our church services, a tidbit of wisdom struck my thoughts. OK, maybe I wasn’t paying attention as I should have been.  But it occurred to me that if we were to slow down our lives, we would be able see Heavenly Father’s purpose for our life more clearly. I don’t know about you, but many time I find myself speeding through life only trying to “eat, drink and be merry”! My true belief is that the purpose of my life is not just to be happy (which sometimes can in itself be hard)  … life is to be useful, to be compassionate, to be honorable and to be of service to other. The scriptures tell me and my Savior instructs me to strive for a life that makes a difference in not only my life but others as well … that I lived and lived well according to his words!

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My post today comes from the daily comic strip ‘Peanuts’ … which if we pay attention to, can often teach us. Every day, the whole Charlie Brown gang provides laugh-out-loud moments while at the same time offering daily inspiration and lessons on life. Let me share today with you two of the leadership lessons I have found from Good Ole Charlie.

  1. Persistence wins out. Charlie Brown often loses … he fails at much, but he never gives up. For instances, even though he knew Lucy was going to pull the football away before he could kick it…. Even though he knew the tree was going to eat his kite… Even though he knew his team would lose the ball game … he always kept on trying. I know it’s hard to be rejected … it’s hard to feel you don’t matter. We MUST keep knocking on doors of opportunity no matter how many are slammed shut.

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I love this photo.  Even though the tree had fallen … it persisted and continued to thrive!  We too can do this!

I know that I have mentioned this several times over the years, but Jeffrey R. Holland’s short video gives me more hope on NOT giving up.  Here’s part of his words.  “Don’t give up … Don’t you quit. You keep walking. You keep trying. There is help and happiness ahead—a lot of it. You keep your chin up. It will be all right in the end. Trust God and believe in good things to come.”  When I feeling a bit down or out of sorts, I always go to this video … it gives me hope and peace.  In case you want to watch it, you can find it at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8nczw6xHJ0I   It’s worth the 4 plus minutes of your time.

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I can’t leave my persistence part without mentioning past N.C. State Coach Jim Valvano! That’s me standing by his statue on NC State’s Campus.  I will never forget the speech he gave at the ESPY awards ceremony when he was honored by being awarded the Arthur Ashe Courage Award on March 4, 1993.  Quoting Coach Valvano:  “There are 86,400 seconds in a day. It’s up to you to decide what to do with them. Don’t give up, don’t ever give up. Never give up! Failure and rejection are only the first step to succeeding.”

If you give up on your hopes and dreams, you will not live the unique life you were meant to live … a life that Heavenly Father created you for. If you believe that you can succeed, and do not listen to those who says otherwise, with persistence, discipline and faith in yourself you will reach and travel far in this life. Quoting Dr. Seuss: “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”  Let try to be more like Charlie Brown!

  1. It’s what you think of yourself that matters most. You know that Linus has carried a security blanket for years and his friends laugh at him. They also laugh at him because he believed in the ‘Great Pumpkin.’ Pigpen was a walking cloud of dust and dirt and was often regarded as unkindly. Both characters, however, were always proud of themselves and believed they were as good as anybody else — and they were right.

Lucille Ball said it best:  “Love yourself and everything falls in line.”  So how do we accomplish this?  The first thing we need to do is let go of what we can’t control.  That’s a mouthful and is really hard to do.  Everyone wants everyone to like us.  Too many times we fall into the trap of believing that if I could just do and say all the right things, then people would like me.  Why do we put this pressure on ourselves?  The thing is, we can’t control what others think of us or how they experience life.  We … I repeat … we are responsible for our own actions and intentions.  I myself am trying really hard to focus more of my time and energy on living in a way that reflects my own personal values instead of trying to control what other people think of me.  The only person we really should be trying to impress is our Heavenly Father and he has given us plenty of instructions on how to live!

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Quoting Diane Von Furstenberg:  “You’re always with yourself, so you might as well enjoy the company.”  Loving our self and taking care of our self, can bring miracles into our lives!  Let’s learn to love our self. Let’s think of our self enough to take the actions required for our happiness. Who in the world needs our drama-filled past? Let’s love our self enough to move on, remember that we too matter, and be happy. Have an unshakable faith in yourself to become everything you want to be.”  In other words:  Stand tall, walk tall … you are a child of a loving Heavenly Father! You are meant to be right where you are at this moment in time!

I follow the blog of Greg Trimble, from California … he is one of my favorite bloggers.  In his latest blog posting he said: “The only thing we can do is try to be our best selves and let others think what they may. But… when we’re being our best self, we need to be our best self for ourselves and not because we want others to be impressed by our best self.”  Very profound statement!

I have a wonderful idea … Let’s be more like Charlie Brown …being persistent and loving our self!

Just saying ….

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Life Without Weeds

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Ken and I used to have a big garden behind my mother’s home.  We raised plenty of vegetables for our little family to either eat immediately or to can for later enjoyment.  The part about gardening I disliked the most was definitely weeding.  Weeds grow pretty fast in our North Carolina climate.  Weeding always made me feel a little discouraged as we had invested our time and attention into something that was easily overgrown if full attention was given … I also felt a little frustrated.

I can hear Ken’s words telling me to be sure and dig down to the root otherwise the weeds would just come back and he would have to pull it again later. One of my mother’s favorite sayings when I was growing up was “a job worth doing is worth doing right the first time.”  I guess these wise words are for weeding too.  I sure didn’t want Ken to catch me hastily pulling what was visible so that I could give him the appearance of a job well-done … hurrying so I could go do things that I thought was more important.

I could also sense a little bit of pride and hope as I did pull those large weeds free from the soil. I knew our little garden would be so much better off without these large weed stealing valuable nutrients and water from the veggies we were trying to grow … veggies we had watered and weeded continually.

I still remember a couple of things about gardening with Ken. First, weeds always start out small, but if ignored they grow into something huge and hard to uproot.  Take Kudzu for an example.  Like most invasive species, the Kudzu has no natural enemies, which allows it to grow relatively unhindered. This is particularly bad because the Kudzu vine is one of the fastest growing plants in the world, sometimes averaging feet a day. In fact, the Kudzu has devoured so many forests in the southern United States that it’s been given the nickname “The Vine That Ate the South”. Ken hated Kudzu … it hindered plenty of his surveying work.  He always said it was one gigantic super-weed.  But it does start out small like all weeds if left unattended.  Secondly, and importantly, weeds will always grow back.

Jimmie has been getting his and Kimbo’s garden ready.  This has brought back these memories of my gardening days.  I immediately remembered how I hated pulling out weeds. There is this thing that Kimbo and I always try to do … look for a spiritual analogy by searching for positive thoughts and any learning principles I could gather.  I began to think of spiritual analogies of pulling weeds and weeding my life.

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This led to my asking myself:  How many weeds have taken root in my life? How many things have I let slide or not given my time and attention into that are choking out the Spiritual plants I am trying to grow? How can I tell the difference between a weed and plant when it is so easy to mistake one for the other? Am I watering weeds as I water my plants?

We can choose what seeds we plant in our garden.  We can plant seeds of being positive, of love and abundance.  We also can plant seeds of negativity, fear and lack.  Some of us will even spend time trying to take care of everyone else’s garden.  We need to let our work be on making ours garden beautiful and attract other beautiful people.

I love the words from President Gordon B. Hinckley:  “Without hard work .. nothing grows but weeds!”

If what we are investing our time and energy into isn’t growing crops of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, then we definitely need to look closely to be sure it isn’t a bunch of overgrown weeds we have grown. If it is a weed, we have to be willing to reach down into the dirt and pull it out before it grows and starts choking out the important things we are working so hard to grow.

Just like the weeds that I ended up watering along with my plants, the weeds we let grow will begin to choke out the crops in our garden that we want to grow in our lives. I have let some weeds grow in my garden and in my life that need to be effectively dealt with … immediately.

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Spiritual weeds don’t start out looking like weeds! When they begin stealing the time and attention away from the Plan of Happiness that our Heavenly Father has for our lives, it becomes easier to see them for the weeds that they are. Sadly, it doesn’t take much for Satan to plant his weeds in our minds. He knows our weaknesses and sends out small thoughts or attitudes for us to deal with.  I think we all could benefit from being a little more aware of what we are watering and tending in our lives.

In Matthew 13 Jesus tells his disciples the Parable of the Sower, and uses the image of weeds to explain how daily life can interrupt our faith.

“The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” – Matthew 13:22

If we let daily weed problems overwhelm us, our faith will wither and die, or if we allow ourselves to get too comfortable in our faith, we’ll end up stunting our growth.

So this week I challenge you to do two things: First take an inventory of the weeds in your lives. Secondly, you must perform a “weedectomy” on them. No two of us have exactly the same weeds. For some people, things are weeds that barely bother others. However, we all have weeds in the garden of our heart that can and will crush out faith and spiritual welfare if we let them grow. If we want to be the disciples Heavenly Father calls us to be, one of the first things we must do is cut the weeds out of our lives or burn them to the ground so that they no longer choke our faith.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have some weeding and watering that I need to do in my own garden. I waste my time on too many unimportant things and have many different kind and size weeds.  I want a good harvest.  Would you like to join me?

 

Laughter Heals!

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What! Laugh!  Laugh Often!  Too many folks believe that there is not anything funny about life or the life they are living … especially if you are sick.  While I was going through cancer treatment I found that laughing was one of the best healing resources that I had access to.  It is during the one time in your life when you think there isn’t a darn thing to laugh about that you need to laugh the most.  Believe me when I say that humor helps to keep you from falling into the biggest danger pit … depression.  Too survive, choose to enjoy the moments of laughter.

I am beginning to believe that my new reputation is that of a crazy lady because of the humor I post on Facebook daily.  I choose to do this because I really do believe that a person needs to laugh at least once a day.  It’s my little way of helping out my friends in a small way to enjoy life.  I hope that everyone enjoys my posts and are laughing! Besides there is way too much negative and hateful stuff on Facebook that is meant to bring us down!

I love true stories that teach us lessons we need to hear.  I have a notebook full of great stories.  So here goes a good one.  Many years ago, American author Norman Cousins was diagnosed as “terminally ill”. He was actually given six months to live. He could see that worry, depression and anger in his life was contributing to his ill health, and perhaps helped cause, his disease. He wondered, “If illness can be caused by negativity, can wellness be created by positivity?” He decided to make an experiment of himself. Laughter was one of the most positive activities he knew so he began to rent all the funny movies he could and read funny stories. One of his favorite TV shows was “Candid Camera.”  His pain was so great that many nights he could not sleep. Then he discovered that laughing for 10 solid minutes relieved the pain for several hours so he could sleep. He fully recovered from his illness and lived another 20 happy, healthy and productive years. He wrote a book about his experiment entitled “Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient: Reflections on Healing.” He fully credits laughter for his recovery.

Like Norman Cousins, I too believe that laughter and being positive just might be the reason that I’m still handing around in pretty decent health.  My own cancer diagnosis of one of the most aggressive cancers, could have definitely brought me down.  But we, as a family, chose to be positive at all stages of the game and use laughter as a coping mechanism.  I’m sure that the folks at Duke University Cancer Center thinks the Talbot Clan is a bit strange from all the laughter, singing and noises coming out of my examination rooms while we waited for the doctors!  I’m not saying that laughter cured me (because TNBC is really not curable), but it definitely has been an overall positive effect on my health.

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Too many people think that laughter is a waste of time. They say it is a luxury, a frivolity, something to indulge in only every so often. Nothing could be further from the truth. Laughter is essential to our well-being, to our aliveness, to bringing us joy. If we are not well, laughter can help us get well. If we are well, laughter helps us stay that way.   I’m not saying you should start creepily chuckling whenever life gets tough and ignore the tragedy or sadness completely (but creepy laughing is fun) — but the balance you choose can be the difference between victory and defeat … positive or negative outcomes. In times of pain and struggles, remember that humor is your friend.  Even the Savior said “that man is that he might have joy!”  Laughter does brings joy!

So my medical advice to you today using my Doctorate Degree from Google University  …  add laughter to your day!  It’s the best therapy ever and truly good for the soul. It costs nothing to laugh and it has so many benefits to your health and attitude about life. To gain these benefits, I try to make it a point to laugh each day.

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Let me share with you my favorite illustration of laughter.  I’m showing my age but do you remember the classic episode of the Mary Tyler Moore Show, “Chuckles Bites the Dust.”  In that episode, Mary and her WJM-TV coworkers attend the funeral of Chuckles the Clown.  Chuckles is a character on the station who unexpectedly dies after grand marshaling a circus parade dressed as a peanut. Mary spends most of the episode chastising her coworkers for making jokes about the situation. But during Chuckles’ funeral, Mary starts laughing and can’t stop. When the preacher delivering the eulogy sees Mary, he tells her, “Don’t try to hold it back. Laugh for Chuckles!” At that point, Mary bursts into hysterical sobbing. I believe it is one of the best TV episodes of all time for more than its humor; it points out an irony of life … when faced with stress or sadness, we can laugh and we can cry.

In the words that my granddaughter Katie would use … “Mammie (that’s what my grandchildren call me), laughter has been scientifically proven as a very powerful force. When we laugh, our bodies release endorphins and dopamine … you know: nature’s feel-good chemicals. And … We can better cope with stress, find hope, and see problems in new ways.”  I love to kid with that girl … she’s so darn smart!

My advice is to always surround yourself with happy positive people and those who also make you laugh with them, at them or at yourself. My mother used to say that if you can’t laugh at yourself, who can you laugh at?

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Charlie Chaplin wisely observed that “A day without laughter is a day wasted!” Good Ole Charlie knew what he was talking about.  His life was punctuated with so many struggles and losses, yet he managed to be remarkably strong and made a career as a brilliant comedy actor.  I have a picture in my bedroom that reminds me of this every morning! The photo has the words “The MOST wasted of all Days is ONE without LAUGHTER!”

I am so very thankful that my Heavenly Father gave me a good sense of humor.  It has sure gotten me through so many times when life could have held me back in a deep hole.  Right before my sister passed away, she helped those of us sitting around the Hospice room with laughter so many times.  I can still hear her answer the nurse’s question of “how’s your pain?”  My sister would look at me and answer … “I don’t know … ask her … she sitting over there (as she always pointed at me)!”  Cathy was one of the biggest “happifier” that I ever met!  I love and miss her dearly! 

One of my very favorite quotes that reminds me to laugh and to seek joy in my life came from Jimmy Valvano in what I call his “Don’t Ever Give Up” speech.  Here’s the quote:  “To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think! You should spend some time in thought. And number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.”  These words have always inspired me!

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A friend sent me this cartoon last week.  I thought it was so funny … and so true.  Priorities … each day make laughter  a priority too!  Each day can bring hope and joy … it’s really up to you and your attitude!  I choose to laugh often!  Just saying…