Category Archives: Improving Every Day Living

Nothing Else in the World

I never questioned her loyalty until that day. Since the time I purchased her, Lily, my German Shepherd, had developed endearing qualities to proclaim her loyalty. One of my favorites always remains the time she and my husband, Richard, were walking through our neighborhood. Driving past them on my way home from the grocery store, I stopped for a second to call out a hello. With that accomplished, I resumed driving home until in my rearview mirror, I noticed Lily hated my departure. She was pulling my husband up the hill in attempt to catch up with me. In order to prevent Richard from having a heart attack, I stopped and waited until both were in the car.

On that day at the doggie park, Lily wasn’t showing any loyalty. It was her favorite spot on earth, and she did not want to leave. So instead of obeying my command to come, she bolted away. For over 15 minutes, I pleaded with her to obey or at least get close enough for me to grab her collar. She was so disobedient that even went I left her alone in the park, she wouldn’t come to the gate so we could go home.

I sometimes can see myself in Lily’s behavior. I have a tendency to want my own way, to be disloyal to my friends when it suits me. Which isn’t to say I’m a back-stabbing traitor. No, it means sometimes I miss out on the joys of being a reliable friend.

Lily and I have a strong bond, yet she hurt me. I wanted her close by me, to listen to what I said, to enjoy following me. That’s what friends do. You stick close by, you listen to what your friend says, you laugh when they laugh and cry when they cry. Being a loyal friend means your relationship makes you stronger than you would be without it. You love harder, laugh louder, live richer and become more together than you could ever be by yourselves.

This isn’t for the faint of heart, much like trying to train a dog – which I sadly found out that day. Life is full of twists and turns and staying in step with someone else is not easy. We struggle to be vulnerable to another especially when the way we want to go isn’t the same as our friends. We battle with ways of feeling safe, secure and significant with another all the while trying to get our own needs met. We tend to want our hurts to be addressed rather than helping others through theirs. It is so difficult to lay your heart into someone’s hands and say, “I trust you with all of this,” and have that person do the same.

There are times in our friendships when we must heed to the other person’s instructions. Lily lacked the perspective I did. A treat was awaiting her at home, along with her dinner and an evening of warm snuggles. It was time to leave the park to enjoy some of these other delights.

Proverbs 18: 24 tells us, “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Friendships never just happen – they are forged. They are knit together by leaning into each other, by staying close, by experiencing life’s bitter and sweet moments together. And it means standing by one another even when disappointment sets in.

I eventually got a leash on Lily and we went home to an enjoyable evening. Despite her unfaithfulness, I remained loyal to her, but I learned to create a fulfilling friendship, sometimes you have to work at it – sometimes you have to chase after it. It’s worth it, because being close to another human being matters like nothing else in the world.

Overcoming the Winter Blues

I dread winter – even living in southern California. Oh, I know my situation has changed dramatically since moving from the harshness of the season in the upper Midwest, yet I still hate being cold.

How I wish I could return to the love of winter I felt as a youngster. I’d eagerly anticipate its arrival mostly because I loved ice skating on the outdoor rink created on a nearby park’s frozen football field. I’d love when fresh snow fell and the world seemed subdued, quieter, more unhurried somehow. As a child, when we drove a long distance in the car, my father always gave my sister, brother and I a blanket to snuggle under. Those things were heaven on earth when I was in grammar school.

Now when the skies turn gray and the temperatures dip, I feel everything becomes too slow and too burdensome. I don’t want rise in the morning, to free myself from the cozy cocoon under my electric blanket to launch myself into my cold bedroom. On some days, it takes all the strength I can muster to get dressed. Even here in California, I suffer with the winter blues – a general lack of motivation and direction. And I start to envy those bears that hibernate all winter.

You feel it, also, don’t you? So many of you have shared similar feelings how the dreary, chilly weather gets you down.  Trying some new things – and some older things – have helped me become more proactive when the winter blues attempt to pull me down.

Here’s a few fun ideas to put a smile back on your face despite the bone-chilling cold:

  • Select your favorite song, turn the stereo up and dance!
  • Go to youtube, download a new workout app and get your blood pumping a little faster.
  • Read an inspirational book.
  • Dust off your journal and spend some time each day writing about pleasant memories that bring you joy.
  • Take a hot shower and loudly sing your favorite worship song. Who cares if the neighbors can hear you?
  • Snuggle up to a fireplace. If you don’t have one in your home, you can find them in some restaurants, libraries and hotels.
  • Do something kind to someone else – especially if you know someone whose heart is still broken over a recent loss.
  • Visit your favorite museum or art gallery.
  • Plan your next vacation. Research the destination online or through travel books from your local library.
  • Try a new recipe. If you like it, share it with your friends.
  • Visit an indoor conservatory and marvel at the landscape under glass.
  • Make yourself a cup of hot chocolate – don’t spare the whipped cream. Then call a friend you haven’t connected with in a long time.

This is not an exhaustive list by any means. If you go to God in prayer, He has ideas perfectly suited to you and your personality. If you spend some time with Him this week, I’m sure He’ll whisper several suggestions into your ear. Remember Psalm 34:17 tell us: “The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles.”

 Did you hear that – all their troubles? Yes, that includes those nasty winter blues!

The Opera Singer

When I was growing up, my dream was to be an opera star. I had musical talent and could hit all the right notes, so my dream wasn’t that far-fetched.

These days, though, I use my creative abilities in writing. My goal is to increase the joy, peace and happiness in the world, which is probably a bigger dream than becoming an opera star!

All the lessons learned while developing my voice have helped me throughout my life. It isn’t easy putting your best out there and having your voice coach criticize it. While the goal was always excellence and becoming a little better each week, the criticism still hurt. I wish I could say the switch to writing has changed all that, but it hasn’t. It is defeating to polish a piece and then have my critique group or an editor cut it to shreds.

No matter what your dream, here are some of the things I’ve learned while pursuing mine.

Criticism is a given. To get better, you have to accept risking failure. Gather a tribe of people who support your dream and listen to them. As both a singer and a writer, I’ve had to manage my self-talk, otherwise I would have abandoned all my dreams along the way. When someone outside of my inner circle offers criticism, I have to ask, “Is it valid?” If it is, I fix it! If it isn’t, I forget it. Don’t let someone else’s opinion of yourself keep you from fulfilling your dream.

Dreaming means risking failure. There were times in my singing when the notes weren’t always on key, or I mispronounced a word while singing in a foreign language or when I just didn’t have the right breath control. But to succeed means you must look failure right in the eye and tell it, “You will not have my dream!” Don’t let the fear of failure stop you in your tracks. God gave you this dream and if you let the fear of it hold you back, you’ll miss the fabulous adventure God has created just for you.

Some dreams might not come true. The hardest part of working towards a dream is knowing it might not come true. Sometimes our lives change so radically our dream evaporates or our dreams vanish because God has a much better one in mind. I’m not saying the death of our dreams doesn’t hurt. It does! However, if you hold onto a dream when God is directing you elsewhere, you’ll miss the shining new opportunity God has in store for you.

Always remember, God has something better coming for you.

Any age is just right for a dream. It’s easy to say I’m too young or I’m too old to live my dream. But those are lies.

Esther was probably just a teenager when she became a queen. Yet, she saved her people from destruction. Joshua was approximately 70 years old when he became the leader of the Israelites and led them into the Promised Land.

No matter what your age, you are never too old or too young to pursue whatever dream God sets in your heart. Who knows – maybe this your such a time as this (Esther 4:14) moment?

If you have a God-given dream in your heart, keep going. Passionately pursue it. The journey will have times when the going isn’t easy and sometimes your dream may have to change before you reach the end of your trek.

But I promise, in the end, it is always worth it.