Why I Hate Resolutions

I also posted on hating Christmas, and it earned me a phone call from the Ricki Lake Show.  I must not have hated Christmas enough, though, because I didn’t win the golden ticket to be a guest on their show.

I’m crushed.

During the New Year social media buzzed about resolutions, goals, and one word descriptions for 2013.  This stresses me out.  I can’t think of a word for 2013 because I’m exhausted from 2012.  Vacation would be my word for 2013, but my principal and husband probably wouldn’t like that.MP900309664

Resolutions and goals are good.  As a counselor in a school, in private practice, and as a service provider to the community, I assist people in achieving goals all the time.  But I’ll share a secret with you:

{there’s nothing magical about January 1}

Sometimes, I just have to be blunt.  Call me the Geico therapist.

Changes are hard.  And yet they’re not.  We can psych ourselves into thinking we have to achieve epiphany moments for change to happen.  This isn’t so.  Significant change happens over time.  Slow and steady wins the race.  You may plan for change on January 1, but if you don’t start until July 23, you’ll still get the same results.

Just Do It.  

What changes do you need to make?  Resolutions sound epic.  Change really is mundane and simple. Just don’t eat that carrot cake with cream cheese frosting.  Don’t drive by that bar on the way home from work.  Don’t type that URL into your computer.  Walk away from that challenging preschooler and lock the door behind you until you calm down.

Just Do It.

MP900289488In your plan for change, know you’ll mess up.  Sorry to burst your bubble, but setting realistic expectations is important.  Change is a process.  Small moments are crucial.  You take one step forward.  Your next step might be forward, standing still, or taking a step backwards.  The goal is to MOVE FORWARD.

When I made the decision to tackle a seven-year-old eating disorder, it didn’t happen over night.  I made a resolution not to take the messed-up addiction into my marriage.  Unfortunately, it didn’t go away once I walked down the aisle.  I had to work at it.  Every day.  Every hour of every day for several years.  But the more I said “No” to the  learned patterns, the easier it became to change the behavior.  The more victorious steps I took, the healthier and stronger I became.

There were steps backward.  In those moments, it was easy to think, “Why try?  I failed, again.”  But that’s when I had to look at the victories I already achieved.  Even when I took a backward steps, I was at a different place than when I started.

The same is true for you, this day in January that’s not January 1.  If you have not yet started towards your goals for the year, then get out of your rut and start moving.  Take one step today.  That’s all.  And celebrate it.  Make a big deal about it, at least between you and God.  No one may ever see the progress you make in your goals but Him.  And He’s cheering for you.

But you have to make the steps, first.  We have a gracious God, full of power for any insurmountable feat, but He requires that we do our part of the work.

Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.”   James 4:8

Notice this promise comes with initial action on our part.  We have to move towards Him, and He will move towards us.  It’s the same with reaching goals.  We have to move towards the goal.  We have to invite God into our journey for His power to be manifest.  For years I prayed that God would take away the vicious cycle I was in as a teenager with an eating disorder.  It was only until I resolved within myself to surrender the struggle and walk towards victory that God’s power was made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Change is hard because it requires us to give up the payoff, even when it’s not healthy.  Once you have tasted newness, it’s easier to give up the garbage of the past.

If I could offer you one word for 2013, it would be Forward.  No matter where you are, and whatever goals you’ve set for yourself,  Just. Walk. Forward.

Don’t get stuck with your behind in your past. (Pumbaa, Lion King).

Forward 2013. 

The Gift of Contentment

Two conversations this week had a striking theme.

Question to forty-something co-workers, “What do you want for Christmas?”Business Colleagues Working Together

Answer, “Nothing, really, just time with my family.  I don’t really need or want anything.

I heard this in two different settings.

There are some perks to this forty-something stuff.

I noted the conversations because it’s where I’ve been the last several years.  Gift giving is my least ranking love language, so I’m not really all-about-Christmas.  This week, I noted the gift others my age already have received – contentment.

Contentment: a state of happiness and satisfaction

I’ve wondered, what is about now that brings contentment?  In my parent’s generation, forties were about wanting more or grasping for something.  The dreaded “Mid-Life-Crisis.  Has my generation become more enlightened or have we experienced enough in life already that intrinsic things bring happiness and satisfaction?

For I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. Philippians 4:11 (NIV)

When did it happen, this happy and satisfied feeling?  What have I and other forty-somethings learned that we’ve received this gift for Christmas?  These are some things I’ve learned so far that have purchased this priceless gift for me.

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  1. Hearing my kids laugh, get along, interact with each without my prompting makes me the happiest.
  2. Letting little things roll off is much better than making them a point of contention.
  3. Making time for things I enjoy makes me a happier woman, wife, and mother.
  4. Prioritizing what is most important now is better than doing everything others think I should do.   There will be time for certain things, later.  My children are only in my home now.  I’m over being stretched too thin.
  5. Balancing kid’s activities in relation to overall family health is important.  Kids don’t have to be in every sport at every age to be a success.  Saying no to certain things so we could say yes to others has paid off.
  6. Spending time in God’s word and with Him regularly fills parts of me that nothing else can.
  7. Spending money on the few things I really like to wear or have in my home is worthwhile because then I don’t need or want other things.
  8. Saying “no” or “not now” is an investment in contentment.
  9. Walking alongside my husband rather than trying to make him lead or follow is a good place to be.
  10. Wishing for tomorrow or “next” or “then” wastes precious time Today.

I’m not sure what the lists of my colleagues would be who’ve also received the gift of Contentment.  I’m sure it would be rich with life lessons.  What is your list?  What brings you contentment?  What have you learned in life or from God that has brought you happiness and satisfaction?  I really don’t think you have to be forty-something to achieve this.  For my readers of any age or stage, where have you received contentment this holiday?  We’d love to hear.

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And if you’ve received the gift, pass it on!

Thank you, Lord Jesus, that You are the source of all joy.

Relationship Survival During the Holidays

I received this poem in a Christmas letter from a high school friend in 2005. I’ve kept it all these years. When I was teaching, it was in my classroom. Now, it’s a wall hanging in my counseling office. It makes me strong.photo (14)

These truths are essential for the holidays as you gather with people who put you down, question your life decisions, give you that “You’ll never change” look or jabbing comment. The words provide strength as you contemplate making changes or reaching goals in the New Year.

I appreciate Mother Teresa’s wisdom because it’s REAL. It’s not a Pinterest photo with a cute cat giving warm fuzzies. It gives the real deal how-to’s for dealing with adversities in life, for dealing with people and situations I encounter every day.

  • Those people who are unreasonable, illogical and self-centered? Forgive them, anyway. Thank you for acknowledging that forgiveness does not mean their nature changes. It just makes me easier to relate to them.
  • If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Been there, done that. Why do people have to gossip and makes assumptions? Be kind anyway.
  • If you are frank and honest, people may cheat you. Or they might hold grudges, get back at you, lie to you, or stonewall you. Be frank and honest anyway.
  • What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight. Build it anyway. Don’t be afraid to take chances. When we step out in risk, God has the opportunity to work. Being comfortable isn’t always godly.
  • If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous. Why is that? Why can’t we truly be happy for one another? Be happy anyway.
  • The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow. Do good anyway. The most significant moments in heaven and on earth are the simplest moments in living. Build up treasures in heaven.
  • Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. We’ve always told our kids as long as they’ve done their best, that’s all that matters. Give the best you have anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it’s between you and God.

It was never between you and them, anyway.

Amen. May these words give you courage and balance this holiday season as you interact with others who are the “they’s” and the “them’s.” You’ll probably be in gatherings where people will expect more from you, be jealous of you, be unreasonable, may accuse you or forget the kindness you’ve shown in the last year.

Take a deep breath, remember whose you are, and whom you answer to. Smile, ask how they’ve been, and listen.

You’re building treasures in heaven.

So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you; compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as your Father forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it. Colossians 3:12-14, The Message.

Food, Hunger, and God

Satisfy: to gratify the expectations, needs or desires of. To fulfill a need or desire. To free from doubt or question.

As a recovered anorexic and bulimic, I pay attention to my body in order to live a healthy lifestyle without struggle or relapse. I take care of my emotional and spiritual health so I don’t use unhealthy behaviors to satisfy longings in my spirit when things are out of whack. Hunger, food, and physical activity need to be kept in delicate balance in my life.  Therefore, I listen to my body.

Macro of bamboo fountainOne side affect of being bulimic for many years is excessive thirst. When I’m not hydrated properly with water and other life-giving fluids, thirst distracts me from tasks at hand. I crave water and am not satisfied until I receive the replenishment it gives me.

That thirst is satisfied only with good things.

It’s the same with food. I eat minimal fried or processed foods and my body receives that well. Over the holidays, it’s harder to eat pristinely when eating out more and attending gatherings with a plethora of fat-induced foods. The other night I felt sick to my stomach from eating foods I normally stay away from. I was full but not satisfied.

Unwholesome foods did not satisfy, though they looked and tasted fabulous.

I’ve thought about our spiritual condition recently in instances of being thirsty and full with food, but not satisfied. How often are we hungry and thirsty for God but replace it with other things that aren’t good for us? We get our fill of them, but they don’t satisfy.

What do you satisfy your emotional and spiritual hungers with? For a period in my life it was food. Is it relationships? Success? Your partner? Control? Your kids? Material things? Technology? Beauty? Sports? A good reputation? Jobs well done? Enabling others? Food? Alcohol? Sex? Self-harm? Medication?

In my quest to live a healthy life physically, spiritually and emotionally, I’ve learned only an imitate relationship with the God who knows everything about me satisfies. Psalm 103 says He satisfies our desires with good things. I know this. He has taken the inner parts of my life and has filled them with himself in ways that draws me back to Him, His word, and His presence.

Nothing compares to Him and the way He satisfies.

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This hasn’t happened overnight. It took years of slowly releasing things to Him. But as I’ve traded insecurity, selfishness, fear and hurt with trust and obedience, old patterns have become like a Diet Coke to a parched mouth.

As much as it momentarily satisfies, it doesn’t quench, doesn’t replenish, doesn’t satisfy.

As you take time to reflect this holiday season, and approach a new year, will you reflect on your present hunger for God? Are there things in your life that satisfy more than Him? What do you run to when you are needy? What do you fill your mind, body, and spirit with that pulls you away from the goodness God wants to satisfy you with?

Receive this element of God’s character today as His gift to you. He wants to satisfy your soul with good things.

Try it. You’ll like it.

Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Psalm 103:1-5 NIV

Christmas Survival Tools


I have to admit, my hometown is beautiful at Christmas.  Twinkling lights and picturesque decorations. It mirrors the image most of us have of Christmas.  A season of great expectations.

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But expectations can be disappointing.  How many children each year are disappointed because the expected toy is not under the Christmas tree?  Family members are disappointed because relationships aren’t what they would hope they would be.  The iconic family sitting around the fire singing Christmas carols is an unspoken expectation of relationships during the holidays.  Often family scenes are different than that.  Expectation of the ideal brings disappointment, frustration, sadness, even anger.

Heading into the holidays, checking expectation levels is important.  Expectations most often revolve around people and relationships.  Strained relationships usually don’t dissolve at Christmas time if they are not addressed at other times of the year.  Having realistic expectations about relationships can help overall emotional health of individuals going into family gatherings.  Realistic expectations don’t mean expecting more than what people can give, but it also doesn’t mean expecting the worse in a situation.  If we look for the worse in a person or situation we will probably find it.  Realistic expectations mean accepting things or people for where they are and what they can offer.  It means acknowledging this principle:

“It is what it is”

Applying this principle in life situations and relationships gives each of us accurate expectations. But it also gives us the ability to change things we have control to change.  If there are unhealthy or toxic people in our lives, it gives us the ability to decide how we are going to let them affect us, what boundaries we need to establish with them, and what changes, if any, we need to implement for healthy living.  Unfortunately, not all relationships in our lives may be healthy.  Assessing the situation realistically allows us to either adjust our expectations so we are not racked with disappointment, or it gives us the choice of what we can control in the situation.

“It is what it is, so what am I going to do about it?” Ask yourself this question when assessing expectations.  Perhaps not everyone can be together on Christmas Day.  Instead of being disappointed, what are creative ways to celebrate when everyone is together?  Perhaps you are experiencing ongoing strife in a relationship.  Have you sought out counseling or help from a pastor, mentor, or friend?  Are your finances are not what you hoped for this holiday?  Can you make meaningful celebrations that are rich in activity and conversation rather than in material things?  Are you emotionally stuck in bitterness or anger?  What do you need to change to get unstuck?

This holiday season, make an effort to set realistic expectations for relationships and holiday hoopla, acknowledging, “It is want it is.”  Then, change or readjust what you can control to walk through the holidays in good physical, spiritual, and mental health.  That’s the best gift you can give to yourself and those around you.

I recently wrote this for the December issue of The Hometown Treasurer.

Why I’m not a Salesman (God’s Gift in Disguise)

Attempting to blog during the Holidays is like putting another ad flyer in an already stuffed newspaper.  Lots of good ideas, but there’s too much out there already.

Now you know why I’m not a salesman.

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In the busyness and too muchness of everything this season, Life Beyond the Picket Fence is going to focus on the gift of God’s character over the next several weeks.  As we sat around our Thanksgiving table, my kids played the “do what Mom says” game by each sharing what they’re thankful for in the last year.  Then, being the dorky Mom I am, we played Round Two, with each of us sharing one character of God we are thankful for.

I want my kids to have an awareness of His character because it’s the only gift that is true, steadfast, and standing when everything is stripped away.

The holidays bring a plethora of moods, expectations, and reflections. In all of our experiences, there’s one constant  – God’s character. It doesn’t change.

It’s the only thing I held on to when our family’s world came crashing down several years ago. I could literally hear glass shatter in my head in the moment I realized the joy of our Imageentire world and way of life was gone. Everything I thought about life and faith was gone in that moment.  I stood there screaming inside, “Lord, I don’t know what you’re doing!”

The only peace came from the next thought, “But I know your character, and in this moment, it’s still the same.”

Over the course of the next several months and years, I studied scripture and questioned everything I knew about faith, God, and life. One thing I continually returned to was God’s character.

I’ve learned when life doesn’t make sense, God’s character doesn’t change. He’s the same God today as he was to Job, David, Peter, Daniel, Ruth and Esther.  And He’s the same God to you and me.  He doesn’t waiver.

In this holiday season, let’s recieve the gift of God’s character.  Together, may we rest in the knowledge, peace and stability of His character. Perhaps the craziness around us will seem less crazy.  The rush may seem less rushing.  The expectations less overwhelming.

May the peace of Christ in the manger sink deep into our minds, bodies, and spirits, bringing joy of who He is each day.

“The Lord so gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.” Psalm 145:8

Do you need to receive God’s grace?  His compassion?

 His patience with you, or His love that abounds?  I do, every day.

Thank you, Holy God, for your gift of your character.

It’s His gift to you today.

Why I Love (H-A-T-E) the Holidays

I have a love-hate relationship with the holidays.  It’s the expectations and the hoopla.  I shy away from events full of expectations and hoopla because there’s so much time and energy put into it, and in a moment, it’s over.  Election Day?  It’s over and we go on with our lives.  Black Friday is almost as big as the holiday itself.  Is it just me, or do things seem crazy?

Other than twinkly lights, vacation from school, kids all home, and Bing Crosby, the holidays give me angst.  Gift-giving is my least favorite love language, and cooking is my least favorite domestic task. These things cause stress for me at holiday time.

Decorating and quality time?  I’m all about that.  But my kids aren’t too hip on sitting in the midst of sparkly lights and sharing the depth of their hearts while singing Christmas carols Bing style on Christmas morning.

And My husband told me not doing Christmas a few years ago was not an option.  Scrooge.

The holidays are the best and the worst rolled into one.  It’s some of the best human behavior on display, acknowledging intrinsic value of others and life.  People helping people, etc.  Memories being made, traditions bringing joy. For a few minutes, there’s peace.

Then there’s the reality check.  After the hoopla, life still goes on.  Cancer is still cancer, emptiness is still emptiness, and broken relationships are still broken.  Baby Jesus is still the Savior and still will be accepted or rejected.

This morning, as I stand on the brink of the holiday season, I look around and my children Imagehave everything.  More shirts, video games, or electronics will not make them happier than they are today. I hate having to come up with things to buy them just to put something under the tree.  Really, I hate this part of the holidays.

My oldest spent Christmas Day in a Mexican orphanage five years ago.  It impacted her deeply.  She spent the summer in an orphanage in Guatemala and on December 29, she’ll be returning.  Only this time, she’ll be going to the jungle to translate for medical teams assisting babies dying of malnutrition.  She asked if we could buy shoes to take along to two little boys in the orphanage.

You bet. I like the way this girl thinks.

I hate the slogan “Jesus is the reason for the season,” because He’s the reason for every day, for every living breath.  He’s the reason a mother can watch her child fight for their life when cancer overtakes their body.  He’s the reason a father can cook dinner for his children when their mother has chosen meth over their family.   He’s the reason a person can change their behavior because it causes havoc for those around them.

No matter how we dress it up, life is a choice with or without Christ every day.

More than people need Pinterest for the next recipe, they need the power, the truth, and compassion of Jesus who is not just a baby, but a King.

I’m challenged at how to give Christ as a gift this holiday season.   When I die, boxes of trinkets and Christmas ornaments won’t mean a thing those left behind.  So how can I make Christmas a daily experience of joy, giving the gift of Christ to others every day of the week?

I’ll be thinking about this as I listen to Bing inspire me to hang up the winter decorations this weekend.  But I want to hear your ideas, too.  How do you give the gift of Christ beyond Christmas, on the other 364 days of the year?