Don’t Rush Me Lady

Grocery

Half of my groceries are in my cart, but the lady behind me grabs a divider and slams her items on the belt. I squeeze between our carts, silently daring her to move even one inch closer. I’ve just had a pleasant shopping experience, having met smiles around every corner. Why is it that when I get to check-out peoples’ patience and friendliness diminish? I think it has a lot to do with the cash register or maybe some people are just hangry. I wonder how many cases of road rage occur amongst people who just left the store? She replied to the cashier nicely. I probably misinterpreted her, or maybe she was glad I was out of her way.

I’m not slow. I just don’t always move as fast as some people would like. I’m highly aware when people pressure me. Sometimes I answer out of consideration. Sometimes I’m guilty of driving below the speed limit to further irritate tailgaters. Most of the time, I focus on me, remembering the guy in my rearview mirror, swatting his hands at me to go faster, is not going to pay my speeding ticket.

I arrive at the gas station to the pump closest to the exit. I’ll be in and out in a jiffy. My gas pump clicks off, the truck at the pump in front of me pulls away, and a woman waits in her car behind me, but I’m not finished cleaning my windows. Lady, just pull around. There’s plenty of room. She just sat there, staring at me. I heard my parents’ words from long ago: Always move out of the way when you’re finished at the pump. How inconvenient. Still, I hopped in and pulled up, a decision that probably cost me six more minutes than I previously planned. Something told me I needed to change my attitude. I glanced back. She was still sitting in her car, smiling now. Oh, she’s an older lady. Okay, God, forgive me. I headed over to my passenger-side windshield, mostly out of embarrassment.

Then she emerged from between our cars, bracing half her weight against a cane. Immediately, I regretted my previous thoughts. They sizzled in my mind like a cracked egg on a hot skillet. I let them scorch. I wanted to throw them away. “I just want to tell you that was a beautiful thing you did,” she said. “I’m seeing less and less of that in the world these days, and I just want to let you know I appreciate it.” I stuttered “God bless you,” the kind of God bless you that means thank you for being such a fine human being because I feel like such a butt right now. I love receiving these kinds of lessons. They come down upon me like the lady at the store, slamming her case of Coke onto the belt, startling and irritating me initially then forcing me forward, thinking.

I’m not sure why the woman at the gas station didn’t pull around. Maybe it would’ve been too much maneuvering for the pain in her body. She only focused forward, searching for the good that encouraged her to keep moving one foot, then the other. I appreciated her staying behind me because she helped push me forward. It only hurts to move a little faster for people when we, ourselves, employ frustration and impatience. Sometimes it’s better to answer the pressure kindly and get out of the way. And it never hurts to put some gentle pressure on each other either.

 

Teenage Jesus

Boy

Have you ever wondered about the life of Jesus as a teenager? Who were his friends? Did Mary and Joseph worry if he stayed out after dark? Was he charismatic like a star quarterback, like everyone’s friend, the class favorite? Did he have awkward moments? Did he feel insecure? Was he bullied in the shadowy corners of the temple? Did a brute of a boy hassle him or a mean girl spread rumors? For what was he envied? Did he ever run home crying? Did he fight back before he learned how to turn the other cheek? Were the people who criticized his ministry some of the same people who, in youth, gave him a hard time in the neighborhood?

Through Jesus, God came to earth to know exactly what it is like to be us and to save us from ourselves. Let him be the hurt teenager you were, the wounded adult you became. Remember, “There was not one person who was reluctant to approach him for fear of being rejected.” Walk the bridge he built for you. Run into his arms.

Suggested reading: God Came Near by Max Lucado

It’s My Fault

EO

My husband graciously carries his laundry basket to the washer, but I beg him to let me do the work because I like to clean. Yeah, that’s right. I like to do laundry. A pile of clothes reminds me we live life fully, and washing and organizing make me feel productive.

Later I hear the clink-clinking of the dryer, and I purse my lips.

“Did you leave a jump drive in your pocket again? How many times have I told you…”

“I’m sorry,” my husband says. “It’s my fault.”

He’s always quick to apologize. I take a breath and clench my teeth, reminded that leaving chapstick and quarters in the pockets of his Levi’s is just something he does. If they’re in my dryer it isn’t anyone’s fault but my own.

Admitting my failures, taking ownership of things in which others play a role, and apologizing doesn’t feel natural. It makes me rotate my shoulders as if to move the little pride monkey off my back. But accepting responsibility for small stuff keeps my emotions in check, which empowers me to adapt. I’d rather not waste time blaming others, and, in turn, stall productivity. Blaming others is one reason bullying wrecked my adolescence. I focused more on my bullies’ words and actions and less on my circumstances being temporary and controlling my reactions. Living in the moment is a habit I’ve carried into adulthood. It can be a gift and a crutch. If I get absorbed in the details of now and fail to see the bigger picture ahead, the results I desire, it’s easy for me to blame other people, like a training client who doesn’t follow instructions. Over the years, I’ve realized it’s less likely that she’s disrespectful and uncoachable and more likely that she’s a visual learner. It’s my responsibility to take her to the mirror or film her to show her the mistake and help her improve. Other times, taking ownership isn’t about getting someone to do what I want as much as it is about freeing myself of controlling others and seeking peace.

Have you listened to your words lately? Are your frustrations doing anyone good? If it’s always someone else’s fault, chances are it’s your fault. People expect criticism and reprimand, and maybe they deserve a kick in the rear, but when we first take responsibility, others are more likely to consider self-improvement. We can pass the buck, which might work to some extent, but, sooner or later, we’ll end up with quarters clink-clinking in our dryers, reminding us to check our own pockets.

“We have to own everything in our world. That’s what Extreme Ownership is all about.” -Jocko Willink

What is one small thing for which you can practice taking ownership?

Recommended reading: Extreme Ownership: How Navy Seals Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

Kids These Days

Kids

“I’m gonna miss practice. I have a hair appointment.”

My friend and I stared at each other in disbelief over her player’s text.

“Can you believe that?” said my friend who coaches high school girls.

“I can’t imagine telling my coach that,” I said. “I would’ve run laps for days.”

“And the thing is her mom is taking her.”

I empathized with my friend’s quandary. For 13 years, my husband and I have trained kids in sports performance. We’ve worked with parents who bring their child to us for two hours per week and expect us to kick little Billy’s butt so hard he sheds his baby weight two weeks before the season and magically gains fast feet and the stamina to pitch six games every weekend. Chances are little Billy will come to training having eaten a Toaster Strudel, cookies and fries for lunch and a cup of tomato soup after school. After his 10-minute warm-up, he’ll spend the remainder of workout bent over a waste basket. He leaves, and his parents will feed him a 1,500-calorie, high-fat, fast food dinner because it’s quick and convenient. We do our best to encourage Billy for the next few weeks, but when we talk to his parents about proper nutrition, they blame Billy and stop bringing him to workouts. It’s easy enough to find another trainer who will take their money without forcing them to examine how their decisions contribute to Billy’s performance.

On the flipside, I cannot count the times we have helped mom and/or dad lose weight through healthy eating yet when it comes to feeding their children, mom and dad settle for the same high-calorie, bad carbohydrate, high-fat foods they are eliminating. Why?

“We’re busy. It’s easier.”

“They’re picky.”

“They’re kids. It doesn’t affect them.”

Who is the adult? Who are the decision-makers? Kids eat foods and drink drinks adults purchase. Kids model our behaviors in every area of life. If we don’t show up for appointments, if we waste peoples’ time and consistently cancel at the last minute, when we don’t do what we don’t feel like doing, when we gossip, when our heads are buried in our phones, why would we expect kids to act any differently?

How is our lack of extreme ownership of disservice to kids? The next time you catch yourself saying, “Kids these days,” take a hard look at what you encourage them to get away with.

 

Books and Bingo

GB

I hadn’t planned on quitting that day. When the company’s vice-president found out about my job searching, he immediately escorted me to the boss’s office.

“Tami has something to tell you.” Oh, I do, do I? I would’ve liked to deliver my 2-week notice on my timing, but sometimes God has different plans.

My boss squinted. He shifted and tilted back in his chair like my high school principal had before he suspended me.

“Well, do you have another job lined up?”

“Not exactly.”

“That’s not very smart. Why wouldn’t you want to stay here and earn the kind of money Cassie’s earning?”

“Because I’m not Cassie, and I’m not happy doing this.”

We stared at each other for a few seconds. A corner of his mouth rose as did my temperature.

“What do you want to do with your life? What are your dreams?” he said.

“I’m almost finished with my manuscript. I want to get it published. And I’m starting a non-profit to help other girls who are bullied.”

As soon as the words left my mouth, I knew I had shared more than he deserved to know.

“What makes you think you’re gonna get published? How are you gonna start a non-profit? Where you gonna to get the money?”

All legitimate questions I had already answered for myself. I studied English and Journalism in college, so there was that. No guarantees but it was a start. I had a story and a purpose, and I was determined to find a way to use it for good. Growing up, I watched my dad work to help charities fundraise through bingo. My boss knew of my dad’s work because both businesses were in the same community. I didn’t feel like my strategies were my boss’s business, but I answered respectfully.

 “I’m applying for a bingo license, so I can raise money for programming.”

He scowled. Although he knew of the bingo company, he, like many people in our community, misunderstood how it helped schools purchase playground equipment, fire departments replace ambulances, soup kitchens feed homeless, and animal shelters spay and neuter.

“Bingo, huh? That’s not very Christian.”

I didn’t like his judgment, but I needed it. I stood over him and extended my hand. He hesitated. “Thanks for the opportunity. Now I can go do what’s important to me.”

I wrote (and am re-writing) a book that may never be picked up by a mainstream publisher. I’ve made peace with that. My charity was small and local. I raised a few thousand dollars through bingo to conduct programming that maybe, just maybe, saved one girl from wanting to go home after school to lay down and die. Books and bingo didn’t make sense to my boss, but I didn’t need him to understand. His judgment didn’t feel good, but it served as fuel to power my walk.

“Not everyone will understand your journey. They don’t need to, it’s not for them.” 

Fuel

How to get a Bully to Apologize

For

A few years after college, one of the meanest girls from high school apologized to me. Throughout school, she said sorry because adults asked her. Maybe she regretted her mistakes, but her apologies never took effect because she continued her actions. It wasn’t until now her words carried weight because she appeared to recognize the difference between mistakes and choices.

What else motivated her? Distance, timing and her life experiences played a factor. I also believe I made it easier for her to say sorry. When I surrendered my desire for apologies to God, he gifted me peace. I no longer reacted to my bullies, and I became approachable.

Now, as she requested my attention, I simply looked her in the eye, listened, and received whatever she expressed. She was straightforward. She didn’t use words like “but” or “if.” She took complete ownership of her actions and complimented my efforts to help other girls. She allowed me to accept or reject her apology. I accepted and apologized to her for my reactions. It was one of the best things to come from my being bullied. It was proof my forgiveness was real, my bullies could change, and I could think differently of them.

How do you get a bully to apologize? It isn’t easy for people to say sorry. Do you make it harder? Would you want to apologize to you? Accept the possibility that you may never receive an apology. Relinquish control to God. He will clear space in your heart and mind to walk in peace. You never know, your growth might make way for your bully to apologize one day too.

Inserting Dialogue

type

An update on my memoir:

At this point, writing dialogue is easy. I’ve already written the words. I just have to relinquish control of them. Some of my words can no longer remain my words but must be returned to their character, as I heard them spoken. Inserting more dialogue adds dimension and further brings my story to life. I strive to put my readers first. Fine tuning the voices within my text will allow my characters to become my readers’ characters. And that’s the whole point. My story belongs to others, and I need to gift it to others in ways that best serve them. I believe this minor modification will create value.

The Story of the Dome Light

door_knocker

Larry lived alone, two doors down from us in our complex. He was quiet but friendly. I didn’t know much about him other than he had elderly parents who visited occasionally and that he worked for a major car manufacturer. I could count on seeing him outside on a sunny day, detailing his sporty coupe. His car was his baby. So, I found it out of the ordinary when he kept leaving his dome light on over the course of a week. Concerned it would run down his battery, I knocked on his door to tell him, but he never answered.

A few days later, my husband and I were settling in for the evening when we heard a loud, indistinguishable noise. Next door, between us and Larry, lived an unruly teenager. “What is that kid doing now?” I asked. Something about that noise left me unsettled and inclined to keep looking out our windows. My husband thought I might be paranoid until he saw S.W.A.T. officers using his vehicle as a shield, cautiously approaching Larry’s door with their guns drawn. Larry had barricaded himself in his loft and supposedly had hostages. “No, not Larry,” I thought. “He wouldn’t hurt anyone.” But he had. The last time I ever saw him was the last time we would ever see Larry again.

To the day we moved, I couldn’t bear looking at his place. It had been renovated and rented quickly, but it was still upsetting to think I had stood on his doorstep just days before he ended his life, wanting to help but couldn’t. I believe that dim dome light was one of his final flares for help.

Are you sending subtle signals for help but still believe no one cares and no one notices? I can assure you Jesus is always in your corner. He’s in the neighbor two doors down. He’s in the co-worker you see five days a week. He’s in the pastor at the church you pass every day on your way home. And he’s with you in your most troubled moments. Jesus has already fought for your life and won, but when he knocks on the door of your heart, will you answer?

Who You See in the Mirror

 

 

dt1

This is the mirror in my fitness training studio. I use it to instruct and improve peoples’ form. Eighty percent of training clients are women so you can imagine how that usually goes. Rarely do they look in the mirror and willingly comply. Almost always they grumble, “I hate looking at myself in the mirror,” and “I hate this mirror.” Some even refuse to look. They would rather risk injury than face the truth, adjust, and perform the movement correctly.

It goes deeper than lunges. I get it. When I look in the mirror, I can criticize myself with the best of you. Recently, I assured two people, on separate occasions, that I look hideous in patterned leggings. “Oh, you could wear anything!” they said. Um no. If only they saw what I had in that dressing room mirror. Eek.

We are our own worst critics, and we all have our reasons. Often, those ideas stem from insecurity, comparison, or something someone said. Like when I posted a before-and-after photo that documented my body fat loss. A woman dissed me for not being secure enough to accept myself as I was in my before picture and for having man arms in my after picture. It ticked me off at the moment. Before and after, I felt secure enough to share my results in hopes of encouraging others, but she didn’t know that and presented no desire to understand. Now, when I look in the mirror, I occasionally have to swat down the thought of “man arms” and I remind myself that at 5’2″ 125 pounds, I’m a far cry from a man. I’m exactly who God made me.

Actually, I like to look at myself in the mirror most of the time. It has much less to do with appearance and more to do with allowing myself to see myself created in the image of God. Working out is spiritual. Often, I lift reps I didn’t think I was capable of lifting, I run extra laps when I’d rather stop, I feel lighter and stronger, and I know exactly why. My strength, power, energy and focus come from the Lord, not from my own effort. When I accomplish hard work, I look into the mirror, and I see His glory. I see His Spirit dwelling within me. It’s why I like my arms and I will shamelessly flex my biceps. Proverbs 31:17 says, “She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.” I like my sweaty glow, my makeup-less, sometimes pale, pimply face because “those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame” (Psalm 34:5). I like who I see in the mirror because my reflection represents the Creator who molds me into my beautiful, confident, unique self.

We are all different, but we are all made in his image and likeness (Genesis 1:27). We should embrace that to the fullest. You can change who you see in the mirror when you start seeing God within you.

 

 

 

Transitions

 

 

leave

My husband and I spent the last three years passing by our community on our way to our business in the big city. In November, we relocated closer to home. Since then, we’ve been working on connecting and rebuilding. It’s both revitalizing and taxing—just the way I like it. To feel pressed and stretched alongside my husband assures me we’re living life abundantly and trusting God faithfully. We have a plan and know what we need to do to execute that plan. While it has momentarily taken my focus away from my writing, I stay sane remembering change is necessary for growth and for gaining flexibility to write more. The pressure and excitement that accompany this transition remind me of how far I’ve come since the days of school when during and after breaks, friendships would occasionally change and conflicts flared up. Back then that kind of stuff hit me hard. I’d never see it coming.

One of my most glaring transitional lessons occurred my sophomore year of college over Christmas break. One of my roommates called me and told me my suitemate, Katie, had failed out and moved out. I was shocked. I had no idea she was anywhere near failing out. She struggled in stats, but who didn’t? It was one of the hardest classes. Katie was one of my best friends. Why hadn’t she told me? Why didn’t she call me? She couldn’t leave now.

After Katie moved out, she wouldn’t return my calls, e-mails or messages. I was upset and hurt. I’m sure the whole thing was embarrassing for her, but why did our friendship have to go down the stinker too? Eventually, her mom and I connected. I told her I should’ve been more concerned. I should’ve taken better care of Katie. Before break, she had been dating six different guys. Sometimes she stayed out all night. We wouldn’t know her whereabouts, and none of us could reach her. I cared about her safety. I should’ve addressed my concern earlier. However, Katie wasn’t in a place to accept help. The only sense I would eventually make from her abrupt discontinuation of our friendship was that, on top of her embarrassment, she resented me for airing my concerns to her mother. I never heard from Katie again.

That transition was painful and confusing. It was the kind of lesson that prepared me to respond better to the challenges I may or may not see coming in business, relationships, and life. It helped me see that sometimes things change for no apparent reason, that we cannot control others’ actions, only our reactions. And sometimes things must change for apparent reasons and it’s our responsibility to make those changes. It is when we accept transitioning that we begin to gain a clearer understanding of where we’re meant to be and what we’re meant to do in this world.

This year, our business is taking off. We will meet new personalities and continue to help people in the ways God has called us. We cannot prepare for everything, but we’re as prepared as we can be. No matter what this new endeavor brings our way, with time, we will expand our perspective and write new stories that further connect our path of past transitions.