Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls…

This is the beginning of a quote by Kahlil Gibran, philosopher.  The whole quote goes like this, “Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls.  The most massive characters are seared with scars.”  It’s my favorite quote these days.  Actually, I think it’ll be in my top five forever.

I think it’s a safe bet that all of us have had our challenges with this economy.  Even millionaires have a lifestyle to which they’ve become accustomed and which they must also fund.  So having money doesn’t mean, necessarily, that you’re immune to economic downturns.  And we won’t even talk about the ones of us whose budget is so tight it squeals!  But even aside from the economic issues, we still also face the usual suspects in our lives: Relationship issues, job issues, trying to FIND a job and having no success, sick loved ones, sick pets, getting fat, losing too much weight (yeah right),being lonely, losing loved ones, unethical people setting out to do us deliberate harm (yeah, that happens)…the list goes on and on, doesn’t it?  We have enough in day-to-day life to keep us challenged, without putting economic woes on top of it.  So what can we do about any of this?

Well we probably want to fix the stuff we can fix, right, or at least try? There are some things we can do to stay centered, not the least of which is surrounding ourselves with people who are just plain good.  Bring people into your life who have depth of character, immutable integrity, joy and laughter in their lives, and a strong faith.  Throw the rest out on their ear!  🙂  That’s the place to start, job one.  Build a good foundation from which to venture out every day and have some friends who have your back when you feel attacked…and you will sometimes.  If you pick your friends well, they WILL have your back.  You need them there! 

Second, believe that there is a plan for you, and look for evidence that the plan is playing out.  For example….I’ve been through two years of tragedy in my life, of the kind I didn’t think I’d survive.  Sometimes I didn’t want to, really. After all, who would want to live the life I’ve lived lately?  I can smile when I say that now, but for a while, there were no smiles in me.  Today I can look back at the trail behind me and see the faces of people whose paths I crossed on this terrible journey, and I see so clearly why they were there and why I needed to encounter them.  Without this tragedy, I’d have never met them.  They are such blessings to me now and so important to my present and my future!  I don’t want to imagine my life without them in it.  Don’t get me wrong; given a choice, I’d do without the tragedy every time.  But there is a plan for me and I guess this tumultuous time was part of it.  

Third, look inward and see what you can learn from the hard times, because trust me, you will be able to pass along what you learn to someone else in need.   What goes around, really comes around.  I had a conversation with a dear friend last weekend about this:  He asked me how in the world can you ever change your deepest behaviors, even when you know they are not good ones.  Well that’s very possibly the hardest thing you’ll ever do…AND the most rewarding.  Nothing feels quite as good as throwing out the garbage.  It is hard and you will feel like giving up and… the bad stuff just gets to feeling comfortable.  Listen up: clinging to the bad stuff makes you choose bad partners!  That should motivate you if nothing else does 🙂  Oh and by the way, the job is never done.  Why?  Because your value system changes with roughly every decade of your life.  Just to keep things interesting!

Socrates said that the unexamined life is not worth living.  I whole heartedly agree with that sentiment!  But you can’t stop at examination.  Once you open the attic of your psyche, the next step is to clean it out, throw away the bad stuff and organize what you keep.  It’s a test of your diligence, your discipline and your will to improve yourself, once you step into the world of your own psyche.   If you couple this kind of self work with faith, if you succeed in the examination and purging, then bad times really can’t touch you.  Oh, they’ll still be bad, but your reaction to them will be vastly different. Can you wobble off the path and start collecting garbage again? Ohhhh yes.  Here’s a secret: Don’t do that.

We get comfortable with our tendencies and our feelings, even if they’re not necessarily good for us.  So…if you meet someone and instantly feel ‘comfortable’ with them?  Maybe that means you need to run like all get-out!  🙂  Depends on what is in that attic we talked about!  Sometimes, comfortable is merely a sign of one of those big old boxes of garbage we threw out years ago…trying to creeeeep back in!  Be careful!

The important thing is this: Life is hard enough without bringing in briars and thorns and weights to drown us in the flood of life.  The Bible says we should be equally yoked.   Well whether or not you believe the Bible…and I do…equal yoke means half the burden.  That’s irrefutable, straight scoop, can’t be denied. 

Summary: Don’t BE a knucklehead; don’t COLLECT knuckleheads; be the best you can be (examine yourself); and don’t miss the joy, even in the midst of a poop storm! 🙂  And yes there can be joy in a poop storm. Ya gotta look for it, though.

Have a wonderful, safe and happy holiday!

An amazing study of the book of Daniel

If you haven’t heard an amazing study of Daniel, you really need to come join us at Richland Creek Community Church this Sunday.  We’re in the middle of a study of Daniel, and Pastor Sims is doing a wonderful job of teaching this book.  He makes so much sense, you can’t help but learn and he injects humor into his lesson…so you remember it.

I go to the 9 o’clock service (there are three others from which to choose), which is a blended service.  The music is wonderful (almost as good as the sermon) and the people are welcoming and genuinely nice people.  Dress casually if you like, or dress up.  Your choice.  And you can get a cup of Starbucks coffee, on the house, on your way in.

If you can’t make it, catch the sermon online, at www.Richlandcreek.com .  You can listen to our Wednesday night Bible study here, too.  Would love to have you join me.  You’ll love it!

The Age of Gloom and Doom…

I have to tell you, it’s getting painful to watch the news…even the financial networks, which are my favorite places to park…are stressful.  I never feel more like jumping into bed and putting a pillow over my head, than after I listen to the news!  But here’s the truth:  It isn’t NEWS in our society unless it’s BAD NEWS.  We all should remember that when we foolishly elect  to watch a steady diet of the news.  I never thought I’d see the day we’d have to ‘talk ourselves down’ from a 15 minute break watching the news.  Does it make you hyperventilate??  It does me sometimes…so I switch to National Geographic.  God forbid there are animals killing animals when I do that..:-)

Everybody has an opinion about the economic future, and some are based more in a need to make ‘news’ than to put forth reality.  Yes, even the guys in suits on TV are giving an opinion, not gospel.  Hey, there’s a good chance they are wrong.  So why risk the pillow over the head.  Put the stock ticker on and turn down the volume.  That’s the best bet.  And remember that our market is still strong and people still need to buy homes AND sell them. 

The truth is: Interest rates are the lowest we’re likely to EVER see them again.  Folks, it’s the strongest BUYER market we’re likely to experience again in DECADES!  It’s very likely the best time to buy a home you’re ever going to see!  And real estate is still a good investment.  Did you see what happened to gold prices when George Soros dumped his shares? 

For sellers, yes, there is a lot of competition out there. But if you are willing to make your home sale worthy, you can still sell your home!  The trick is to beat out your competition with regard to price and appearance.  Remember, if you don’t do what you need to do to compete in this BUYER market, your prospects have lots of other homes from which to choose…and they’ll go there, by the way.

If you can paint, paint.  If you can replace worn carpet, do that.  If you have bad smells in the house, please fix that immediately.  If you can upgrade to granite countertops, do that.  Your realtor’s not just saying that to make noise come out of her head.  She’s telling you what the market says you have to do to compete.  Did you know that some homes in the $120,000 price range now have granite countertops and stainless appliances?  Some builders are doing that! 

I still say that you’re either going to catch or repel your buyer the minute they walk in the door.  If it FEELS good, smells good, looks good, the temperature is comfortable, you have a shot.  If not, I have seen buyers turn around in the foyer and leave.  Yep, that happens. So here are some of the most common complaints:

1) Bad smell; 2) brass fixtures date the house; 3) yard looks terrible; 4) bedrooms too small; Oh, here’s a big one, 5) too cluttered; and the grand finale: 6) price too high!  By the way, if the complaint is that the room is too small, all you can do is eliminate as much clutter/furniture as possible…as in, make the room LOOK bigger.

No, you can’t deliberately price to high and hope for a lower offer.  People won’t even come SEE your house.   Pricing is the first, most significant hurdle you face. You USED to be able to price too high; not now.

You can’t sell clutter.  There are 8 houses near you that look perfect inside.  No, you can’t offer carpet allowance; buyers can find 6 other homes where the seller has put in new carpet AND painted.  I know!  But it’s true!

We can’t all afford to do expensive upgrades, but the bottom line is this: The days of selling whatever we put out there are on hold for now.  You have to compete, and compete strongly in this market.  Want to know what to do to get started?  Let’s talk! 

Women over fifty…

You’d be surprised if you knew how many women over fifty I’ve met who find themselves alone in their later years, like me.  We didn’t choose our path, but isn’t it funny how things work out sometimes?  Well okay, funny isn’t exactly the right word.  I’ll say ‘interesting’. But I’ve enjoyed connecting with these women and putting them in contact with others like us.  It’s like weaving a hand-holding bridge across the loneliness….or like weaving a tapestry.  Every woman is different, each with her own story, each with some pain and some glory in her past.  Like our pastor said, if we look at the back of the tapestry (or from below as in his analogy), we see all of the hanging threads and crisscrossing chaos of colors.  But the whole of it, from above is beautiful:  You can see the picture, how it’s all supposed to come together.  He was talking about our perspective of our lives versus that of God; but if I apply that analogy to my golden girlfriends, it fits.  Each of us has a mess of crisscrossing threads, jumbled together and in no way resembling a picture at all. Threads of love, threads of joy, threads of pain, of fun and laughter, of tears, of life…we all have them all.  But our group picture, viewed head on, and as a whole, is quite beautiful.  This is one way to turn something painful into something wonderful: Reach out and touch others along the same journey.  I’ve been absolutely amazed at the depth of love and compassion I have encountered and isn’t that what we all seek on this earth? Isn’t that one of God’s greatest gifts to us? Each of these women has wisdom, love, spiritual gifts, knows the face of real pain, and has an idea of how to survive against all odds.  Amazing how all of us tell much the same story…with a common thread of God woven throughout.

Mothers’ Day

There are all kinds of mothers out there.  I wonder how many of us feel like we did things right.  I’d be willing to bet the thinking moms wonder…could I have done things better?

I realized one day that no baby is born with an instruction book.  I realized this when I was analyzing, maybe criticizing, my mother’s way of doing things.  Don’t we all think we’ll do things differently?  Don’t we all think we’ll make up for all of the shortcomings when we have our own children?  After a lot of prayer and meditation, I realized that my parents were raised by THEIR parents, and so on and so on, and none of my family records or stories say ANYTHING about instruction books popping out with the babies!  Parenting is largely trial and error, or going on what someone else’s mother tells us we ought to do.

In other words, our parents did the best they could, even if we don’t always approve.  And oh, by the way, OUR children have logged OUR shortcomings too.  In other words, it’s time to chill out and realize that there are NO perfect mothers, but I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll never find truer love than that of a mother toward her children…even if she’s not perfect in the expression of it.

So happy Mother’s Day, moms of the world.  I think you did a great job of being a mom…in fact, I’m pretty sure you did!

For the birds….

I found a really neat bird feeder/bird bath/planter combo thingy…well it was a COUPON for it.  It had these things you could put around the feeders, sort of like a modified cage.  It let the LITTLE birds in but kept out big birds and squirrels (yeah, right).  I felt so guilty about excluding the big birds….I gave up on the whole idea.    I know….I know….