Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Letter

Dear family and friends,

2013 has been an amazing year for the McQuades! We've strengthened our marriage and had a record year in our business! We had our share of challenges, but each one served to make us stronger and better as people and we have had so much fun in the process. We've been abundantly blessed to donate over $10,000 to charity and we've set the wheels in motion to update our website and photos. Overall, it's been an amazing year.

Which brings us to 2014. I'm really excited about 2014!

2014 brings us great things from the start, kicking off with an amazing 90-day fitness challenge. I'm excited about this challenge because Nutrilite and BodyKey have really kicked it up a notch with this one! They've improved the starter kit, adding new and better products and even more amazing prizes and incentives. Plus, my awesome husband will be doing the challenge with me this time and in my opinion that makes every activity better!

We're improving our social lives by working to schedule at least one activity (but preferably more) for at least one of us (but preferably both) on every single day of the new year. I'm already off to an excellent start, scheduled all the way through next Wednesday! I'm excited about this because I always love the opportunity to meet new people. This also has the additional challenge and benefit of finding new things to do and enjoy, which is always super exciting.

I have a personal goal of reading 34 books in 2014. I've got the plan all mapped out, and I'm really excited about everything I'm going to learn! From leadership to marriage, self awareness and improvement to how to uplift and encourage others, there's lots of topics and I'm looking forward to it. I'm also starting a journaling project. The plan is to write in the journal every day (partially inspired by Brad Paisley's quote about the next year being a 365-page book). I don't know what I'll write or what it will be used for, but I'm excited to see how it will turn out.

And that's not even the half of it!

2014 is going to be so amazing, and we're both looking forward to it!



Thursday, December 19, 2013

Christmas 2013

Usually this is the time of year when I do my Christmas post about how much I love Christmas and my favorite Christmas traditions and so on. I spend a lot of time reflecting on the past, on Christmas with my parents and how different it is now. In fact, this is the time of year where I start really feeling like the point of the whole year is about to be accomplished! But this year, for the first year ever, I'm at this time of year and I feel like life is so much more than Christmas.

Maybe that's weird to say.

Growing up, Christmas was what it was about. Life was life...and then there was Christmas. We all tried harder at Christmas; we were more organized, more patient, more kind. It's like the magic of Christmas swept into the house and straightened us up. The rest of the year was just stuff, and Christmas was special.

This year has been amazing. I'll post more about that later. But all of the year-round amazingness has changed my perspective on Christmas. It's not really the highlight of the year anymore. It's kindof just another day. We get to hang out with family and take a few extra days off, but that's the only real difference. Part of me is sad about losing the magic feeling, but I'm way happier to have such an amazing life that Christmas dims in comparison!

This year we've been fortunate in that we've gotten to just relax for most of the Christmas season. While others have hosted large parties for family and friends we've sat back and spent time with each other, talking about our goals and plans for next year and how wonderful this year has been. Our Christmas season actually doesn't even start until the 21st, and I think I like it that way!


We're kicking everything off with a gorgeous black tie optional party one of our clients has invited us to. We were invited last year as well and it was a truly spectacular night, so I'm really looking forward to it! Plus, I get to wear one of my fancy dresses for the first time since last Christmas, and I've lost about half a dress size since then!

The next day we're joining my husband's side of the family for a movie and dinner to celebrate his grandmother's birthday, which I'm pretty excited about not only because it's his grandma's birthday but also because we're going to see a movie I've been wanting to see and the restaurant they picked is one of my favorites....it's like a Christmas present to me from the whole family (haha). Then on Monday we're going over to my mother in law's house to help her with my favorite part of Christmas preparations - wrapping presents! And after that we're driving down to Longview to see my father in law and his awesome wife. After that it's Christmas Eve and we don't have any plans solidified for that yet but we'll probably just chill with all the corny Christmas movies on Netflix. Then it's Christmas!

Christmas is crazy for us as a couple in a way that it never was for me growing up. You see, my husband's other grandma had nine kids (his dad's generation), and all of those kids had kids (his generation), and most of those kids have had kids as well (our kids' generation). And almost all of them pack into Grandma's house for Christmas! There's only enough seats for everyone because there's a floor and I'm sure some of the aunts spend the whole time standing up and working (cooking, cleaning, etc). We're all crammed in like sardines and it's noisy and disorganized ... and yet, somehow, we all have an excellent time.

After Christmas we take a day to recover. It's just got to happen. With that much food, there's no way around it. We sleep for most of the day and it's amazing.

Then we start in on New Year stuff. We write out our goals and plans, get things organized, make more plans, and post our goals and affirmations around the house. We conference with our mentors to share our goals and plans with them, and to get input from them on where things may need to be adjusted. We get all of our accounting things in order so we can send them off to our awesome accountant at the beginning of the year, and before we know it December 31st has arrived!

It's a whirlwind, to be sure, but it's so much fun.

I'm especially excited for the new year. There's so much happening! But that's another post. Merry Christmas everyone.

Monday, November 11, 2013

A picture's worth a thousand words...

There are some moments you notice, and you just can't help loving them and wanting to hold on to them forever. This is one of those moments. It may look like a normal, slightly cluttered living/dining area, but traces of the day are there. It's all of our moments wrapped up together. I'm sitting here, on the couch with my tea and my book to close my night, and I can't help smiling. I look up, and I see this one, beautiful moment that is so representative of all of the other amazing, beautiful moments of today. It almost makes me want to cry with gratitude and an overwhelming sense of how blessed I am.

Let me show you what I mean.

Just out of your line of sight in this picture, there's my bookcase and my little breakfast bar. The bookcase is jam-packed, full of books and notebooks and binders and journals. It's time to clean up my collection again, and get rid of some things I just don't use. I love books. Three years ago I didn't own a single one. Today, I'm thinking about buying a bigger bookcase!

Only two of the books in that case are fiction, Monarch and The Breakaway, they were written by a friend of mine. I don't know her very well, and I don't speak to her very often, but when I was in a really tough spot in life she gave me a lot of guidance. She was one of the few people willing to go on a limb for me, to try her very best to help me in that particular time in life. For that I will always be grateful, I will always consider her a dear friend, and I will never get rid of her books.

The rest of my books are nonfiction. There's three bibles and a whole lot of resources about business, marriage, family, leadership, and similar topics. Three years ago I didn't own a single book, now I need a bigger bookcase because I'm constantly buying new ones. I'm learning so much, all the time! I can barely believe that the person I am today even came from the person I was three years ago, but I'm here. I treasure those books, especially the personally signed copy of Get Married, Stay Married by Paul and Billie Kaye Tsika. That book saved our marriage before it had even started. It began the transformation in my husband and I that got us back into church, and onto the right path.

Just past the bookcase is my breakfast bar. I think that's what they call it, anyway. There's candles there. Jared doesn't much like candles, but he lets me keep them around because he knows how much I love them. Especially these ones. It's really hard to find this scent except after Halloween, but for me it's always been the smell of happy times. All of my favorite childhood memories happened when the house smelled like this. It's the perfect blend of apples and cinnamon, the smell of my favorite tea. In this moment, the smell of those candles brings me not only the joy of all those wonderful memories, but also of knowing that my husband probably really hates those candles and he doesn't say a word because he loves me and he likes how happy the candles help me be.

He's amazing like that.

In the corner are the boxes and packing materials from today's product delivery. I love product day. I get to spend at least an hour unpacking, sorting, recording, and putting away my favorite everyday products! It makes me feel productive, and busy, yet somehow so at peace. Every product day means I'm one month closer to everything I've been working toward for the past three years.

On the wall, above and next to the door, are my inspiration reminders. I have our first son's name, printed in big letters, to remind me why I'm learning self discipline. I have pictures of places that we want to visit: Ireland, Italy, Germany, Peter Island, and Victoria BC, to remind me that the world is bigger than just what I can see right now. I have a picture of an old car driving down a road lined with cherry trees, to remind me to enjoy the journey. I have 70 personal affirmations, six inspirational quotes, and six pictures of the most gorgeous shoes I've seen yet...all to help me keep developing myself.

When I'm feeling discouraged, or sad, or put-down, when something hasn't gone the way I anticipated or wanted, I look at this wall. I remind myself of my son and all of his siblings, of the wonderful places we'll be able to go, of why this is all so worth it. I stand in front of this wall and read off the 70 affirmations until I believe in myself again. I often glance over at the inspirational quotes to give me a mini-lift when I need one. And the shoes? They're to remind myself to take everything one single, beautiful, careful step at a time.

Truthfully, I'm sure this wall drives my husband crazy too. He doesn't learn the same way I do and so the wall probably just looks like a bunch of printer paper and thumbtacks to him. But he knows that it helps me, and so out of love he lets me do as I please. He's pretty awesome.

The table makes me smile today, because Jared was sitting right there this afternoon when he told me that I'd gotten the pancakes right. It's a small thing, sortof. For me it's a really big deal. I've been struggling with learning (and re learning) how to cook even the simplest things. His affirmation meant a lot to me. And he was right! They were excellent pancakes!

Him taking the time to say it is also very important to me. It wasn't always this way. Not because he was a bad person or a bad husband, we just weren't there yet. There was a period of time when we barely even liked each other, much less complemented each other! Having gone through that, hearing even a small praise like "good job on the pancakes" means a lot more.

Also at that table, there's our jackets hung side by side on chairs. We spent the whole day together again. Almost two years ago we started our own company. It's only by God's grace that both the company and the marriage survived, because we started up smack in the middle of that not liking each other time. Spending a day together used to be something I wished we could enjoy. Now, just barely two years later, it is. Every day is a giant bonding experience, and I love it!

Some people have said that will go away but I don't think it will. We get so much time to talk, to really get to know each other more and really be there for each other. Sometimes we talk about stupid things, just sharing our opinion on the colors of the cars around us or the transition from chorus to bridge in a song we just heard. Sometimes we talk about serious things, like our pasts and our future. Whatever we talk about, we grow closer every day. I wouldn't trade our time together for anything, and I'm so glad that God opened a door for us to be together so much.

In the corner there's the rocking chair. I only keep it because my mother in law likes it so much and I love to make her happy. When she's not here, the chair is just a storage space for purses and unused blankets. But when she's here, we pull it away from the wall so she can sit and rock. Maybe it's so many years of being a great mom to her own kids and then the kids she "adopted," but she really loves that chair. I'm looking forward to seeing her there, rocking and holding my babies, maybe singing or telling them a story. She's going to make a wonderful grandma.

The office chair is so far away from the desk because Jared and I wanted to watch one of our favorite shows with dinner. I was sitting there, until he said I was too far away and asked me to sit on the couch with him. It's another evidence of how far we've come, and it lit up my evening.

If you look closely you can also see my weights stashed under the end table. I've been working really hard on staying consistent with my workout habit. I'm having some medication conflicts right now that are making progress difficult, but I'm determined to build the habit anyway. Once I started thinking seriously about my future, and especially about my kids, exercising got really important to me. I never want my kids to be bored or lonely because I'm too fat to chase them around the playground, and I never want them to have to worry over the health problems that are caused by being overweight. I want to be my best for them, and set a good example for them, and that means building the habit now. I keep my weights there so I have to see them every day, because if I skip a workout then seeing those weights just sitting there under the table will drive me crazy enough to pick them up.

All of that, and it's just a snapshot. Just what I see when I glance up from my book. One glance carries so much blessing, so much abundance, so much change, growth, and happiness. So much, in just that one moment. I never want to forget just how thankful and blessed I feel right now.



Thursday, November 7, 2013

Advice from my personal experience: Give.

When you're struggling in an area, it gets particularly difficult to give. Your survival instincts kick in and start to say things like "That money is needed for our family budget, I can't tithe." or "There's barely enough food for us, I can't invite someone to dinner or donate to the food drive."

This is an especially easy thought trap for women to fall into, because we are naturally wired to be protectors of what we already have. Men are wired to expand, women are wired to preserve and manage. But that doesn't mean that you're immune if you're male.

The reality of the matter is that lack of any kind creates in us faulty humans a greediness that is hard to defeat. We sit like Scrooge McDuck and count our pennies, all the while wondering why we have no friends, why no one is offering to help. We aren't willing to look around and see how our pennies can be used to help someone else because we're so busy keeping them to ourselves. After all, we barely have enough. Let the rich do the charity donating.

The only cure to lack is generosity. If you want to start doing better in life, you have to give. Not because there's some cosmic law of the universe that says if you give you'll receive (which there is, but it comes with a caveat: your attitude has to be in the right place), but because giving what little you have to someone else is an act of faith. When you put that extra dollar or ten dollars or hundred dollars into the offering plate at church, or when you invite someone you know is also struggling to come share your family dinner, you're stepping into God's jurisdiction and saying "I'm going to trust that you'll take care of me."

Remember, it's about the heart attitude. Giving is so important because of the heart attitude it creates. You can't give with a heart attitude of "God, I'm putting this ten bucks in the plate and now it's your job to bring me more money." God doesn't honor a selfish heart that gives only to bribe a response.

Two years ago, my husband and I had hit a really rough spot. We were relying on the good graces of a friend for shelter and some nights we couldn't even afford the 15 cent packet of ramen noodles for dinner. Both of us are fairly unemployable, having between us just one GED in a world where Starbucks can choose from doctorates, and so we were trying to start a business that could support us financially. We put every spare penny into getting gas for the car. We were getting barely a quarter of his previous pay from unemployment and that amount put us in an income bracket that disqualified us for government assistance with food and other bills. It was an incredibly difficult position to be in, especially after the year we'd had.

In this time, my husband made an amazing decision. Before he'd lost his job he'd promised a certain amount - roughly a tenth of our income - to a charity on a monthly basis. I found out that first month that losing his job hadn't changed that decision. Before he paid any other bills, before we went grocery shopping, he wrote a check to that charity. In his mind it wasn't even a question. He'd made a promise, and he knew that God could handle taking care of us whether he kept his promise or not. His integrity demanded that he follow through and his faith promised it would work out.

I was furious. I'm not proud to admit that, but I was. I was in full on McDuck mode, thinking only about how that money could have benefited us. When my husband later continued to give what small amounts we could to those in need around us, I got angrier. It created a crossroads in my life where I had to decide whether I was going to trust God and submit to my husband, or become a nuisance and try to control things.

Fortunately, I'd already been under mentorship for a while and I'd learned to think more in terms of who I wanted to become. I wanted to be someone who trusted my husband, who trusted God, and who walked in faith. So I made the decision to do so. When the nagging thoughts in the back of my head wouldn't go away I approached my husband with humility and explained my concerns. I talked to him about how I was worried that with us doing so much giving to others, there wouldn't be enough for us. That's when he explained his faith and that he already knew God was going to get us out of this, so it was easy for him to be generous with others. He explained that God had given us an opportunity to see what he could do, and so our job was just to trust him and to put our time and what money we did have to work in faith. We did a lot of volunteer work in that time, and we never missed one of those payments we'd promised to make.

I couldn't understand it at the time, but I stuck with my decision to trust God like he did. I prayed that God would prove my husband's faith and strengthen mine. It was an agonizing few days, waiting for a miracle. Finally, something did happen - and I almost didn't see it. We paid all of our bills for that month, even paying rent to our friend who was helping us. To this day I don't know where the money came from. After that, people started inviting us over for dinner, just to hang out. With no idea of our struggle (we kept a good front because we didn't want to draw attention to ourselves), people started being used by God to feed us. For the first few months, before business picked up for us, God fed us at the tables of people we had only just met and he somehow kept our bills paid. Then business slowly started to escalate.

Today, we are abundantly blessed. Our income has tripled from what it was while my husband was working at his job, and we've been put in a position to be able to bless others. I don't say this to boast! I want you to know that God is capable of taking care of us in ways we would have never imagined. But it all starts with faith. It all starts with that one step into what we don't know, trusting that God is going to make it work. And when you have very little in life, that process starts in your heart because of your decision to have faith -which is backed up by actions like giving.

Give to prove your faith, and to increase it. This will create in you a generous spirit, and only the generous spirit can receive all that God has for us.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Halloween

Someone asked me recently how, and why, I can bring myself to participate in Halloween festivities when my mother is so adamantly against it. This person seemed very upset that I would turn from my mother's teachings so easily and I could sense that they really wanted an answer more involved than "I just do."

I didn't have a good answer at the time, but I've thought about it, and now I do.

When I left home, I stepped blindly into a world I knew nothing about. I was instantly confronted with so many views about so many things that were opposite to what I'd been taught, and I wasn't sure what the truth really was. I began, as I imagine any young person on their own for the first time does, to try things out for myself. I couldn't make heads or tails of what everyone was telling me, of what I'd been told my whole life, so I had to have some experiences of my own. I needed to form my own judgments about things, weigh each decision in my own heart and against my own understanding of what God wants from and for me. I came to a lot of conclusions that were different from my mother's, and I think that's alright. That is, after all, the point of growing up.

You see, the reality is that my mother and I have very different experiences in life - particularly in this issue. For my mom, Halloween is a throwback to a religious past she doesn't want to repeat. She's seen a lot of awful things happen in correlation to Halloween, and between that and her current convictions she's decided that it's simply not something she's going to participate in. That's okay. It's her choice and there's nothing wrong with it.

For me, the experience is entirely different. When I decided to try out Halloween shortly after leaving home, I didn't walk in blind. I knew what I'd been told, what I'd been taught my whole life about this pagan holy day. Quite honestly, I was terrified. I'd been raised with the Christian equivalent of ghost stories, fears passed down from perfectly well meaning parents and church leaders about sacrifices, possessions, curses, spells, and demonic strongholds. From a very young age these stories had been the majority of conversation throughout October and into November, and these stories had created in me a spirit of fear. I half believed I would become demon possessed just by walking out of my house that day! Every drunk person became, in my mind, a witch putting a curse on my family line. Every shadow was a demon waiting to devour me and place me irrevocably on the path to hell. Every kid in a costume was a satanist with plans to sacrifice cats and virgins.

For me, that was the breaking point.

I can't reach people if I'm scared. How can I possibly tell people about the all-powerful God that I serve and how he makes it so much easier to get through the challenges of life because of his strength and protection when I really believed that some demonic minion could take over the soul I was claiming God protected? I had to decide in that moment and for myself whether I was going to have faith in God's strength or in the strength of the dark forces around me.

I chose God. It was an easy choice, really. Something in my soul just knows that God is stronger, greater, and more powerful than any enemy I could have. I decided, that day, to be done with my fear.

Do these things still happen? Yes, absolutely. It's unfortunate, but some people really do call on demonic powers in rituals that to me seem strange and a bit frightening. Halloween isn't special here. Darkness and evil will get their feet in whenever and wherever possible. There are still very real demonic strongholds in life that people need serious spiritual warfare to break. The difference is just that now I'm not afraid of those things, and I'm certainly not going to let them ruin my chance to have a little fun.

So now I celebrate a lighthearted Halloween, a day to stay out after dark dressed in  some (probably ridiculous) costume, munching on tootsie rolls and smiling at the little princesses and superheroes in my neighborhood. I've decided to use it as a day to have fun, to get out among my neighbors and mingle, and to admire the creativity all around me. It's one day (plus maybe one more of preparation) to just take a chance to be silly. I like being silly.

I celebrate on Halloween, despite my mother's beliefs, because I'm just different than she is. We each choose to accept or avoid things based on our personal experiences and how those things affect us. My mom doesn't celebrate Halloween for her reasons, and I enjoy it as a day of ridiculous fun and a chance to take a break. I don't see it, as the person asking the question seemed to, as an assault on my mom or what she believes in. In fact, I've done exactly what she's taught me to do. I took an objective look at all of the facts available, took my faith into account, took stock of my personal convictions, and made a decision.

Now, if only deciding what costume to buy was that easy! ;-)


Friday, September 20, 2013

Intolerable Grace

My breakthrough came because of my son, who is still only a promise for the future.

Since he is the only child we have a name picked out for, he is the one I think about the most. I think about the kind of mom I want to be, the kinds of things I want to teach him, and what I need to learn or change before he gets here so I can be the best mom to him that I am capable of being.

I was sitting at my desk one morning, half asleep, thinking about these things. It's funny, but sometimes I think God waits to talk to me until that still of the morning time, when I'm awake because I'm developing habits but my brain hasn't caught up with the game plan yet. I think he waits because he knows I'm more likely to really hear him without my own brain in the way. When I get a question out of nowhere in this time, I take it to mean that God is trying to tell me something. He likes to ask me questions, and make me realize things for myself.

So here I was, staring at the beauty of a world just beginning to wake up, thinking about my son, when a question came to me:

How will you teach him to be strong in himself, to be strong in God, to have a knowledge of who he is and where he comes from that is rooted in God's purpose for him, if you refuse to do the same? 

God had a point. Kids do what they see you doing, believe what they see you believing, regardless of what you're saying to them. So how could I expect to teach my son confidence when I hated myself? How could I teach him about forgiveness when I wouldn't even forgive myself? How could I tell him about a loving God who accepts everyone and has such an amazing purpose for us if we will only listen - if I wouldn't allow God anywhere near my heart?

You see, for as long as I can remember I've struggled with not feeling good enough. In my mind and my heart, everything that went badly in my life was my fault because it wouldn't have happened if I was good enough. My parents wouldn't struggle financially if I was good enough, my mom wouldn't have heart problems if I was good enough, my best friend wouldn't have shot himself if I was good enough, I wouldn't have been another domestic violence and sex trafficking statistic if I had been good enough. Throughout my life, everything that ever happened, I took the blame for. If only I was good enough, these things wouldn't have been a problem. When I started lashing out and hurting other people because of my own pain, it was just more evidence that I wasn't good enough - after all, people who are good enough don't hurt this way, and they don't hurt the people around them.

I was living a delusion built on pride and I didn't even know it.

Trapped by feelings of inferiority, burdened by my pain and unforgiveness, I was on the outside when it came to anything about God. I'd been raised Christian, so I knew beyond doubt that God accepted me. And I resented him for it. How could he accept me? Hurt, broken, screwup me?

I didn't want to bring all of that pain to someone who would actually accept me. I didn't want someone to see everything that was wrong with me and still accept and love me. It wasn't how my mind thought the world should work. It wasn't comfortable to be forgiven without paying a penance that is even with the sin. It wasn't comfortable to be loved even though I knew - and so did he - that I was a complete mess.

I simply couldn't tolerate the idea of grace. Not for me. I didn't feel that I deserved to be accepted. It was uncomfortable to belong. I felt more comfortable - safer - on the outside where I could blame any failure on myself and where only I controlled the outcome of everything. It wasn't a happy life, but it was what I used to, and it was all that I thought I deserved. And so I stood on the outside, constantly pushing God away, refusing to be accepted. I built a wall between myself and God, I wasn't perfect enough to be loved and he was just going to have to accept that!

See the pride? That same thinking almost ruined my relationship with my husband too.

How could I teach my son that I would always love and accept him no matter what, if I wasn't even willing to let God do the same for me?

That was the moment, the breakthrough. I couldn't let myself hurt my son the way I was hurting myself.

I spent the next few days wrestling with myself. Everything in me bucked against the idea that I should let God love me. I was too broken, too messed up. Everything in me hated the idea that I didn't have to pay for the things I'd messed up, that God wasn't even going to hold it against me. I wasn't on probation with God. My record with him wasn't full of black marks for bad behavior. I wrestled with that. It was so hard to fathom that I could have a love and acceptance that I didn't deserve, that it wouldn't be conditional to my paying the price for my sins. Everything was just new and forgiven. I was just accepted.

I had to decide to accept it. And then I had to walk in that decision. I have to remind myself that I'm not holding on to this stuff anymore, not keeping people at a distance anymore. Sometimes, I have to mentally sit myself down and have a talk about it. "Don't you remember? This is what we decided. God isn't holding this against me and neither are you."

It was the breakthrough I've needed the most for many years.

Without that breakthrough, nothing would have changed. I would have kept fighting my husband's love and acceptance as hard as I was fighting God. I would have kept hating myself. I would have kept pushing everything and everyone good out of my life.

Instead, I'm happy.

Happy is a strange feeling for me, it's still very new. I'm still not perfect, and the wounds of the past are still healing, but I'm happy. I'm losing weight because I finally love myself enough to do something about the things that make me hate myself - and because my son deserves a mom who can play with him. I fight with my husband much less because I can accept that he loves me, and so he doesn't feel constantly rejected. I'm making friends because my confidence is through the roof. And finally, for once in my life, I'm not so terrified of my dreams coming true.



Tuesday, September 17, 2013

On the Bench

The term "Bench Player" has a lot of connotations. John Maxwell talks about it as a good thing. If you're on the bench then you're the supporting team. You're the one they'll call on when something needs to change or when the score needs to be made without the star player on the field. He advises coaches in all areas of life to have a strong "bench" - a large group of backup players who can be counted on to help them toward their goals.


Most of us understand the bench to be a bad thing. We know that if you're sitting on the bench for the whole game, that means you didn't play. You didn't get to actively participate in the victory. Sure, everyone on the team won - and when we're talking about teams that's what matters.

But nobody looks at the stats card of a lifetime bencher and says "Jerry, this guy is amazing, truly amazing! He's spent his entire life sitting on that bench!"

We know this, and so when we're on the team it takes a lot of patience and self control not to try to force our way off the bench and into the game. I've seen high school players get violent over it. "Let me play, coach! Just let me play!" They'll scream about it. They'll work harder in practice for it. They'll get into brawls with each other over it. Something inside them instinctively screams "I have a stake here, let me do something about it!"

Yet, in the game of life, so many of us are content to just sit on the bench. In fact, many of us aren't even geared up. We aren't ready to be called off the bench! We're making ourselves permanent backseat players in our own lives.

Remember when you were a kid and you had an idea of what being a grownup was going to be like? Remember the kind of house you thought you'd live in, the kind of person you thought you'd marry, the kind of life you thought you'd live?

Let me ask you a personal question:

Today, do you live in that house? Did you marry that person? Do you live that life?

I'm betting the answer to at least one of those is no.

For most of the population, the answer isn't just no. The reality is so far from where we thought we'd be that we have to follow the no with excuses. "No, but y'know, times are tough." "No, but I didn't understand the world back then."

If you have to say no, and if you have to follow that no with an excuse, you're a bench player in your own life. You put on the jersey of someone else's team and spend your day taking a beating in their game, then you come home and sit on the couch and watch TV. Sometimes you spend the weekend with a different team jersey on, but it's still not yours.

You're not looking at the score in your own game, you don't know who your teammates are, you probably don't even know what your gear looks like anymore.

As a result, you're losing your game.

What does that look like for you? Do you live in a worse neighborhood than your family deserves? Maybe your house is smaller than you always thought it would be. Maybe you're ignoring the fact that the food you eat isn't good for you, might even be killing you, but you eat it because it's what you can afford. If you're like most Americans, the vacations you take - if you take vacation at all - are disappointing, more of an exercise in playing pretend than a vacation.

Whatever it looks like, I'm betting that all in all your life has gone in a different direction from where you thought you'd be.

And I'm betting you don't know what to do about it. Most of us don't. We look around at 20 or 30 or 40 and say "How did I get here?"

The answer, my friend, is that you've been benching in your own life. You're supposed to be the star player, but you've been sitting down, sitting out.

But there's good news!

This is still your game, it's still your life, and your destiny is still to get out there and be the star player. It won't be easy. You've got to train, to rebuild the muscles you've allowed to atrophy. But you can do it. You can get off the bench and start making a difference in your own life. Start taking hold of your own victory.

If we were talking about sports, you probably wouldn't be content to spend season after season on the team but never getting to play the game. So don't be content to do so in your life.

It's your life. You have every right to win! You just have to go out there and earn it.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Fear

Most fears are silly.

Founded or unfounded, our fears are rooted in a desire not to feel pain. These desires tend to create patterns in our mind - fear patterns - that hold us back.

When confronted by our fears, it's important to let our reality mind - and our faith in God - take hold. I can be afraid of all people I don't already know and refuse to go anywhere without my husband because a girl my age in my area was killed by a stranger, or I can realize that statistically it's improbable that I will run into the same situation, and choose to have faith that God has a greater purpose for my life.

Don't misunderstand me. I'm still careful when I'm out alone. I don't go whistling into dark alleyways just because God has a greater purpose for me.


Really, most fears aren't any more of a problem by themselves than spiders are. It's our brains and our choices of what to do with those fears that makes them road blocks.

Right now I have a lot of spiders around my house. They've crawled up from the forest behind my yard and made homes for themselves on the windows and railings around the outside. Some of them have even made massive webs stretching from the side of the house to our cars! And, as is always the case, some of them have found their way into the house as well.

I hate spiders. They freak me out. I think they're gross and I'm afraid of one biting me because I've heard of some awful situations where people have died from spider bites.

Do I know this is an unreasonable fear? Yes. I'm much bigger than the spider, and the chances of it actually being able to get through my flesh far enough to get poison into my blood stream is very, very low. Even then, I know that most spiders don't have venom strong enough to actually kill an adult human anyway. There may be a little bit of sickness or inflammation, but overall the chances of me dying from a spider bite are incredibly small. So it's silly for me to be afraid of spiders.

And yet, something in my nature just causes my whole body to cringe when I see one near me, and I tend to stay as far away from them as possible. They can live in the window frames on the outside, and I'm ok with that, but I don't want them in the house or near where I'm going to be walking.

Recently, a particularly ambitious pair of spiders has taken residence in the corner of the frame on the sliding glass door I use to get in and out of the house. For a few days I just ducked my head slightly to avoid the web and didn't bother with the spider. It was keeping the moths out, after all. But this morning I opened the door and the webs they had made were impossible not to walk through. It's almost like they were trying to catch me! Did I shut the door and stay in the house? No! That would be silly! I got the broom and removed the webs, and then went about my business, as anyone else would do.

So why don't we do the same with other fears?

That's not to say that there aren't reasonable fears and things we all ought to be careful about. But there is a balance to be found between exercising due caution and letting our fears control us. Picking up hitchhikers isn't safe anymore, and especially should be avoided if you're a woman driving alone. But you would probably think it silly if one of your friends told you that they would not get into a car anymore because they might be in a car accident sometime.

Some things are risky, and have potential of pain, but the payoff is worth whatever the potential failure is. For example, it was risky and frightening when my husband and I took our lives into our own hands and started a business. We had no money, and there was huge potential for massive struggle and even failure. There was a potential that things wouldn't take off, and by the time we realized the venture was lost we would have even less than we started with. But there was also potential that we could make it work, and we could support ourselves on our own business and even live comfortably. So we took the chance, and today we're glad we did.

Today I'd like to encourage you to face your fear. Look it in the eyes and say "I'm going to do it anyway. You can't stop me."

And remember, fear isn't from God. God gave you a spirit full of love and power, and a mind that is meant to be a tool of strength for you. Use that tool, be strong and courageous, and go take your victory!




Wednesday, September 11, 2013

"Ohana" means "Family"

My husband and I talk a lot about the future, especially where it involves our future children. We know that we both come from different families and were raised very differently in many ways. We also come from separate parts of the generation - far enough apart and different enough that some sociologists are even separating my part of the generation from his when they talk about how we will be affecting the world in the next 30 years. Despite all of our similarities, we're very different, and so we know that it's important for us to talk and come to common ground on things - before they come up.

We also both come from broken families. Our parents did their best, but because our families were broken there are a lot of things about our childhood, our lives in general, that we want to engineer differently for our own children. And so we talk.

In fact, our children are probably the topic of at least 70% of our conversation. We talk about how we'll raise them, about what we want them to believe about the world and themselves and God and how we're going to teach them these things. We talk about the mindsets we want to teach them, the ways we want them to learn to handle the challenges of life, and how we'll foster a sense of trust in us without promoting weak character.

We ask ourselves a lot of questions. How do we pass on our belief that they are filled with amazing potential but avoid creating a sense that their potential entitles them to things they haven't earned? How do we balance teaching them to march to the beat of a different drum, to not just go with the crowd, but still foster a sense of respect and trust for authority and for those who have walked the path ahead of them? What do we do to teach them an entrepreneurial mindset that will help them create for themselves the best opportunities?

Will they be sports kids? Music kids?

One of the topics that comes up a lot in relation to our children is family. We've done a lot of talking around the questions of what it really means - to us - to be a family, and how we'll teach that to our kids.

The interesting thing, is that we both agree 100% with no compromise or changed perspectives, on what kind of family we want to be. Perhaps even more interesting is that it's not the kind of family either of us grew up in.

I watched Lilo and Stitch the other day - you know, that Disney movie about the alien. It's a story of family, threaded with examples of how - no matter how difficult it may be sometimes - family stands up for each other. In this movie you see over and over how the little family, broken as they are, finds a way to overcome things together.

Togetherness is a big part of family.

To us, family is more than just the people you share your home with. It's more than the people you shared your childhood with, or who is related to you by bloodlines. To us family is a team, sometimes a war machine, sometimes the most enthusiastic cheering section in existence. They're the people you can trust to be on your side and at your back no matter what.

Family is who you turn to with your victories, knowing they will always celebrate you. They are also who you turn to with your challenges and even your defeats, knowing they will help and uplift you. Family sticks together, stands up for each other, supports each other, and shares the load. We help each other be stronger and better. We protect each other. We're a personal army, always ready to stand and defend each other.

We know that sometimes this will mean we'll be in the Principal's office with one of our children, who started whaling on the kid who upset their sibling. After all, teaching a little one that they're part of a unit who defends and protects each other means that sometimes they will go a little overboard. But that's the kind of family we want to build.

Family believes in you, and your dreams, even if they don't agree with you. For example, my husband hates sports and I'm no good at them. But we know that if we have a child who somehow falls in love with Basketball, we'll be in the driveway or at the gym with that child every day helping them to practice. We'll hire someone who can teach what we can't, which will be just about everything. We'll do everything in our power to help that kid be the best they can be in their area of passion - even if we inwardly think it's pretty stupid. And if the best way we can help that kid achieve his or her goals is to make sure they always have a drill partner, then the family will take turns doing drills together. Because that's what family does.

As in everything, there's a balance in family. Family always supports you, and they're always the ones you can rely on to go to the craziest lengths for you. But the flip side of that, is that family will never ask you to sacrifice your dreams and potential for them. Family are the ones you can count on to cross the world to help you out or support you, but the other side of that is that as family you never demand of each other something that conflicts with their life goals or puts their smaller family unit in danger. You ask for the support, because you know your most trustworthy and reliable teammates are going to come from your family. But you don't make them feel badly if they aren't able to do what you're asking.

However, even if they can't help in the way you ask for, family always finds a way to help.

Together we're stronger. That's family.
In hard times or when something needs to get done, family is the team you rely on. They pull together and pull through. Each person's talents are unique and important. We are all better because of each member of our family. We all do better, go farther, and achieve more when family is on our side.

In the good times  family is the group you celebrate with, train with, study with. They're your running mates, your biggest supporters, the first ones to tell you when you've done a good job.

Family is where you want to be because you know that you belong there, because they've made room for you, because you're a part of their team and they're a part of yours.

Family backs you, takes risks for you, stretches farther for you, and you do the same for them.

Family will throw you the biggest victory parties, and will always be proud that you're a member of the family.

Family is your mastermind group, your inner circle, your training team. And you are theirs. Members of a family know they can count on each other, can trust each other. You're always safe in your family, always wanted and accepted, always loved. There's not a question. It just is.

Every member of the family is vitally important to the success of the family and of it's individual members. It's simple when you think about it. It's family.



Sunday, August 25, 2013

The secret our society could afford to learn

I'm going to tell you a story. It's my story, and it is a perfect demonstration of why the feminist agenda with its bumper-sticker philosophies boils my blood. My opinion is not popular opinion, so you may not agree with me.

I think that we, as a culture, need to stop idolizing women and demonizing men. I think that we need to bring back the culture from the 40s and 50s, where men were allowed to be the heads of their homes, where women actually respected the men in their lives and the rewards for that respect were security, love, and
success.

I love my life. Today I'm a happy housewife and carpool-companion. My husband is a great man, who works hard through the good times and even harder in the bad ones. He's built a company literally out of nothing - when we started our computer company he didn't even own a screwdriver! Just a year and a half after that we're more profitable than we imagined we would be and we know that blessing is going to increase. My husband is also helping me to build a second company, through our Amway business, into an asset that will take care of us and our family through retirement. He's a strong man, a wise man who has been my counselor and my strength many times. He's a man who never gives up, never even thinks about it.

I respect my husband immensely, and my respect for him is a big part of the reason that we are where we are today.

Now, that may sound prideful, but I'm not boasting. I know for a fact that if I didn't respect him, he wouldn't be able to be so amazing. We wouldn't have a successful and profitable company, we wouldn't be building an asset that will take care of us in the future, and life would not be as happy as it is today. I know this because there was a time when I didn't respect him.

You see, I was raised in The United States of America, land of the free, home of the brave, and the country where girls are taught from a very young age that men are worthless.

Don't believe me? Take a look at your 5 year old's television shows. In vast majority, the male characters are fools. If they do manage to accomplish anything it's by accident or with the help of a stronger, smarter female character. Take a look at facebook, where there are floods of bumper-sticker philosophies about how amazing and wonderful women are and how lucky men are to have us around, but there is a striking absence of these same posts about how incredible the men in our lives truly are.

I grew up thinking that men, by and large, were stupid. They were brutes with physical strength amd steel stomachs, good enough to accomplish the things that I as a girl did not want to do, but that was their only redeeming trait. Otherwise, they might as well be cavemen or primordial ooze. They caused trouble, interfered with the goals that I as a strong and independent woman should have, and were mostly just in the way.

Then I became a teenager. I started reading romance novels and murder mystery novels and there was a theme. Women were the heroes. They were smart, sexy, cunning, and irresistible. They could get anyone to do anything they wanted. But because they were such conquerors, their lives were boring. Enter the "hero" of the story: A dashing, muscular brute who drags trouble into our heroine's life that she then has to use her own balls of steel to overcome - in the end, rescuing him but falling madly in love with him anyway.

Despite being raised this way (by no real fault of my mother, who tried to teach me that everyone is equal to everyone else), the feminist agenda didn't sit well with me. What if I wanted to stay at home and bake cookies for the rest of my life instead of being the Head B In Charge at some corporate office? What if I wanted to be loved and protected, instead of just feared and respected? I was confused because something in my natural wiring didn't agree with the messages I was being fed. I was taught that women were better than men, but men had been keeping us down for centuries and it was time to prove that we were smarter, faster, stronger, and more capable in general. But in my heart, I wanted a Prince Charming to vanquish the dragons while I stayed a safe distance away shouting "good job, honey!"

This confusion led me into a very bad relationship. In my search for a man who was the opposite of what I'd been taught men were, I found one of the brutes we are so often warned against. He talked of taking care of me the way I'd always craved. The only trade off was that I would be absolutely subject to him. Naive, confused, and searching for something other than the only thing I was ever taught I could have, I agreed. I spent the next year in a very abusive relationship, as a domestic slave to a man who took great pleasure from beating me until I passed out, in the name of an off-beat set of sexual desires. The year-long relationship did more damage to me mentally and emotionally than all of the trials, hardships, and even traumas of the other 21 years of my life combined. Four years later, memories of that relationship still bring me nightmares, tears, and waves of deep depression that take all of my strength to push through.

At some other point, I will tell this part of my story, and why it breaks my heart that so many reach out to Bulgaria, Romania, and other countries to stop human trafficking there, but never think about offering to help the teenager in the apartment next door. We as a country are so consumed with sending our good deeds overseas that we completely forget to look to our own shores where there are frightened and broken people being subject to the exact same levels of mistreatment.
After this relationship, I saw myself as having one option. I had to grow into the balls of steel woman I had been taught to emulate - the one I didn't want to be. I prayed that day, for the first time in three years. I prayed desperately and told God that if he had any heart at all, he would find some sort of brutal, painful death for me. I figured the pain would make up for the mistakes I'd made in the past year, and I desperately wanted to die. I didn't want to live in a world where I would never be truly loved and protected, and I would have to spend the rest of my life as the hardened corporate woman. And I saw my experiences with that man as proof that there were no good men in the world. They were all either weak or abusive.

When I started dating my husband, I found myself with a man who wasn't abusive. In my mind that meant he was weak. I had no respect for him. I was constantly belittling him, second guessing him, and counter-acting him. I would roll my eyes at his jokes and his silly antics, snap at him for trying to help me with anything, and I expected him to be at my beck and call. He lived in a very small cage, which I had constructed around him with my criticisms. His self image, already low from a decade and a half of working in a job where he received the same treatment, spiraled downward. He began to have terrible health problems, and I started to resent him for them because he was being a burden on me. We were fighting all the time. Not little fights either. No, these were screaming matches, in each other's faces, screaming our voices raw. They always ended with him leaving the house just to escape me, and me so frustrated and angry that I was pounding my fists into the floor until my hands were so bruised I could barely move them. There was so much anger, resentment, and frustration on both sides.

But it didn't stop there. I didn't think I should have to respect him, because the only examples I had in my life of men who were "respected" were men like my abusive ex. In my mind, respect was a filthy word, used to guilt women into being doormats. It meant that I was expected to sit down, shut up, take whatever abuse was dealt me and make do with whatever lack came from that abuse.

Our relationship got worse and worse, and our living situation spiraled with it. The health problems progressed, turning into a year of him being on narcotics that completely took his mind away - which I also resented him for. Our financial situation decreased, ending in us losing our home to foreclosure and being sued by hospitals and a credit card company. Eventually, the company he was working for was sold and he was not strong enough to make a case for himself to be hired at the new company without a significant pay cut, so he lost his job.

Are all of these things entirely my fault? No. But they could have been made so much better if I knew what respect was, and if I had respected my husband.

A year and a half ago, I found myself faced with a very difficult choice. Desperate for something to change in the insane cycle of fighting, I had spent the year before that devouring marriage and relationship books and begging my new mentors for every and any insight they had. It all came down to one word: Respect.

Men inherently need respect. Just like women are wired for love and security, men need respect and trust. I had learned that respect didn't mean what I thought it meant. It wasn't giving someone else permission to treat you like nothing. Instead, it was acknowledging the other person's strength and - in the case of my husband and myself - allowing him to take the lead. It was trusting that he was capable, believing he was strong enough and smart enough, and keeping myself from criticising when I thought he wasn't doing something right, or rubbing his nose in whatever failures he might have.

A year and a half ago, I came home from a women's bible study, and the air was tense. My husband looked at me and told me that he was going to push for a higher salary with the new company, and that might mean he would lose his job. We were already struggling financially. We had lost our home, been forced to give away our dog, and were living on a credit card and the grace of what few friends we had. Just that morning I had made a commitment to God that I was going to start trusting my husband, since trust is the gateway to respect. So when he told me this, I went into the bathroom and had a serious conversation with God.

I had a choice. I could go back on my promise and start second guessing my husband. It would be easy enough. We were barely making it with what money we had and if he lost his job we would likely join the ranks of those who draw on welfare just to survive. I could go back into the living room, tell him how I thought this was a bad decision and I wasn't going to support him in it. I could spend the next few days belittling his ability and convincing him that he didn't deserve a raise.

Or, I could trust him. Something in my spirit knew that trusting him, in that moment, was the only way that anything was ever going to change. And so I trusted him, and he lost his job, and we started a company. We spent the first six months so broke that we occasionally had to show up at customers' offices and ask them to pay us earlier than they had planned to, just so we could buy groceries or put gas in the car. I spent that next year really struggling with having respect toward my husband. Each time I would fall back on my old habits, profitability would be lost. We would go backwards financially, business would come to a screeching halt, and I would have an argument with God.

Today, I've learned to trust my husband wholeheartedly. I know that, whatever comes our way, he's smart enough and strong enough to get us through it. He trusts and follows God, and God has blessed him with an amazing intuition. It's my respect for him, my awe of his abilities and appreciation for his work ethic, that allows me to keep smiling and stay at peace when he makes a risky decision. I know that he's probably being guided by that intuition of his. And on the rare occasion that he's wrong, he's pretty awesome at fixing it.

I'm immeasurably blessed in my life, because of the respect I have for my husband. He's stronger because that core need of his is being met, and that leads him to work harder and stretch farther and sometimes take bigger risks. All of this turns around to bless me even more, with a happy husband who showers me with attention, with the funds to relax and have fun, with two businesses that are thriving and keeping me busy and entertained. All because I made the decision to have respect for my husband and stop treating him like he was less than me.

There's a principle of the universe that John Maxwell teaches about. As he says it, "When you're winning, nothing hurts." He points out that in sports, a team that's winning will frequently end the game and then discover that some of their players were playing with bones that had been broken during the game. They kept playing, hadn't even really felt the pain, because they were winning. And the fact that they kept at it just as hard is why they ended the game having won.

In life, it's the same way. When you're winning, a setback doesn't hurt as much. What we as women need to realize is that we can give our husbands that sense of winning. If we respect them, and treat them with the honor and trust they as men need, they'll always feel like they're winning. Then, they'll go out into the world and win even more - and we will reap the benefits of those victories!

In fact, many of the common problems in marriages can be alleviated almost entirely by a wife's respect. Men who are respected at home work harder, take bigger risks that pay off better, and take the incentive more frequently. Studies have also shown that one of the biggest reasons men have for cheating is that they don't feel respected at home, and the woman they cheated with gave them that feeling they were craving. That sense of being a champion is so very important to our men. With that, they can do anything. Without it they are unlikely to do anything good.

If we, as a society, can change our view just a little bit, a lot of our problems would go away. If we would stop treating men like they're worthless just because they're male and women like they're goddesses just because they're female, our world would be a whole lot better. Sure, there'd still be the guys who are just bums, or the guys who just can't keep their hands to themselves. But the other guys, the guys who are honestly good men, would be more likely to stay faithful to their relationships, and to do the things that would bring them lasting success in whatever venue they're in. So let's put down our one-liners like "real men don't cheat" or "If you can't treat me like a princess you're not worth my time." Let's realize that we're all human here, and we all have needs that will drive us to strange and desperate things if they're not met.

And ladies, let's start doing our part. We are amazing, and powerful. We are the secret to whether our husbands fail or succeed because we are the ones they care about the most. We are the most capable of crippling them, or of making them feel like Superman. And let me tell you from personal experience: Life is a lot better when your husband feels like Superman!







Thursday, August 15, 2013

Yes, Mother.

There are things that moms say. Your mom said it, my mom said it, as moms we'll probably say it, and I bet for the last hundred years we can look back and see moms through history saying pretty much the exact same things:

Brush your teeth

Take your vitamins

Wash your face

And for goodness' sake, clean this room!


Maybe your mom didn't have to belabor her points as much as my mom did. I'm stubborn. But all of our moms have said these things at one point or another in their lives and I think most of us didn't listen. I know I didn't! Instead of brushing my teeth two to three times a day, I fell into a habit of once a day...unless I forgot. Instead of taking my vitamins as the bottle says to every day, I fell into every other day...maybe...because I usually forgot. And instead of cleaning I fell into a habit of saying "it's not that bad." And then when it did get bad it still got put off, because I would forget.

The fact is that it just wasn't important enough to me. For some reason, in the midst of all the warnings about not getting gingivitis and not getting sick, I just tuned out. Brushing my teeth became a courtesy to other people thing but otherwise wasn't important to me. Taking vitamins became a fun thing to boast about now and then - nobody had to know I wasn't taking them every day.

I didn't realize it was related at the time, but my life was also a wreck. I was always stressed out, always sick, always feeling poorly about myself, and always caught at the end of the day wishing there was more to life - by which I mostly meant more time and relaxation!

A few years ago I started partnering with Nutrilite, and that's what finally made me develop a vitamins habit. I figured, I'm partnered with the biggest and best supplement company in the world...I should start taking supplements. My life hasn't been the same since!

Now, I rarely get sick - when I do it's usually because I did something stupid like go out in the cold with wet hair and no coat. I have a busy lifestyle and I sometimes eat like a four year old but I haven't dealt with any malnutrition issues. At worst I'll sometimes have an iron deficiency (I inherited a touch of anemia from my mom) but I've got a supplement for that too! I'm feeling better and more alive than I remember ever feeling, even as a kid!

My partnerships are actually the reason I started taking care of my skin, too. Before partnering with Artistry, I didn't give a hoot about my skin. I thought it was a genetic game of chance: Some people had good skin and some people didn't. I didn't.

But then I started working with Artistry and learning the truth about skin, and how to take care of mine, and what kind of a difference that really makes. I started taking care of my skin and wearing makeup for much the same reason that I had started taking vitamins: I was partnered with one of the top companies in the world in this industry, why not start using the products? And it's another set of products that completely changed my life. With my face taken care of, I've been able to work on my self confidence. Starting from a base founded in my faith ("God values me and has destined me for greatness") and adding just the smallest touch of deserved vanity ("And whoa baby, do I look the part!"). This self confidence, combined with the fact that I do actually look healthier now, has helped us to meet with success in our businesses and we've begun to create an amazing life for ourselves because of the doors of opportunity that we've been able to reach out and open for ourselves.

The truth is that there's a lot of truth in the things our moms used to pester us about.

You do need to brush your teeth - and floss and use mouthwash! - to avoid mouth diseases that can actually disrupt more than just your teeth and gums. A lot of stomach and digestive problems can be linked to too much bad bacteria in your digestive tract (everyone needs a little bit of the good bacteria to help break stuff down). The number one place we get that bad bacteria from is actually our own mouths! Bacteria builds up and becomes a problem in our mouth, and the whole time we're swallowing and eating and drinking things, getting that bacteria from our teeth and gum further and further into our system - where it can cause some pretty big problems! Not to mention that even if you catch it early, problems like gum disease can cost thousands of dollars and a lot of time and pain to correct.

You do need to take care of your skin - whether you're a man or a woman - to prevent the signs of aging like wrinkles and dull skin. And you may just think this is a vanity thing, but it's also important for your health. Nobody wants extra bacteria in their skin, but an epidermis that is rough and wrinkled (which are actually both signs of some pretty serious damage) can become even dryer and more wrinkled, which could lead to cracking and bleeding skin on your face! Also, skin gets rough because the epidermis - which is a collections of dead skin cells that protects the live ones - has too much dead skin there. Some of that top layer needs to be taken off (as it is in regular proper skin care) so it doesn't harbor bacteria and it can continue to protect the healthy, live cells underneath.

You do need to take your vitamins because our food doesn't possess the nutrients it once did and many health problems can be linked to a plain and simple lack of essential vitamins and minerals. You can't possibly eat all the food it would take to get the level of nutrition your body needs, so pills and other supplements are a godsend to keep you healthy and living happily for a long time.

You do need to clean your living space because a cleaner living space has less of a terrorist-like threat potential. Our bodies aren't prepared to handle the bacteria and viruses that get into dirty places, and our minds aren't capable of efficiently doing away with the stress of clutter. Studies even show that people who live in clutter and disorder at home don't live as long as people who keep their homes neat and clean!

And, just as our moms suggested, when you do these things all together you can reach an emotional state of peace that you just can't get all the time otherwise.

I may have a busy schedule and some days may be so busy I barely have time to think! But if I make time for the things that are going to benefit me in the long run, I can handle anything! I have find time to finish cleaning last night's dishes, to make the bed before we leave, to wash my face and set out my task list for the morning before I go to sleep. And when I do everything just seems to go more smoothly. Even traffic doesn't bother me when I know that I don't have a mess to come home to. I get to spend a wonderful, whirlwind day taking care of our businesses with my husband, and then come home to a clean and peaceful environment so I can rest. I walk in my door and I can't help but take a deep breath and smile.

And with my body being properly taken care of - from my skin to my physical inner workings to my mental health - I'm more capable of handling what stress may come our way. And in a life like ours that's important because the unexpected is always just around the corner!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Overwhelmed with Gratitude

Never underestimate how you can impact someone else's life.

Last weekend I was at a training and motivation conference for our Amway business. It was absolutely phenomenal! Aside from the thing that make all of these conferences amazing - the road trip, the awesome speakers, the time with my amazing husband - this one was special. This year I took some time to compare myself as I am now, to myself as I was a year ago. What a difference!

At this same conference last year, my husband and I fought the whole time and for a week after. Why? Because I wasn't handling myself. The stress of traffic on the way to Portland got to me, and I found something to fight with him about. At the hotel, the stress of feeling like we hadn't met our goals or even made progress got to me, and I found something to fight with him about. On the drive to the conference arena the stress of driving in Portland (why does heading west to go east even begin to make sense?) got to me and I found something to fight with him about...and that's how our whole weekend went! We lost 90% of the value of that conference because I was too busy distracting us with our fights!

This year was much much different.

Sure, we hit challenges. Traffic to Portland is always bad, the hotel booked our reservation wrong and we had to sort it out, I forgot to pack some of the things we needed, traffic in Portland is always bad...that kind of thing. We even had a fairly major incident when I turned the wrong way on a one-way road and there were headlights coming at us! But despite all of this, we didn't fight. Not once. I handled the things that came at us and moved on, re-aligning my attitude as necessary. Even realigning my attitude wasn't very difficult for me, because none of it really seemed like a big deal.

I'm not saying this to boast or say that I'm awesome. Although, I am. (lol). I'm saying this because this week as I reflected on the difference between this year's conference and last year's conference, I found myself a little bit awestruck. I've grown so much, become so much more well-adjusted and so much better able to handle life. I've come so much closer to being ready to be a leader, and a mom - my two biggest aspirations in life. And all of it is thanks to the amazing mentorship I have. Without the men and women who mentor me - both directly in counseling sessions and through phone calls, and indirectly through books and CDs - I wouldn't be who I am today. I'd still be a kid, bouncing from job to job and relationship to relationship, stacking up emotional damage and never being able to handle normal life.

I'm so overwhelmed with gratitude.

What's the message here? What can you take away from this?

Never, ever, suppose that your influence on someone's life doesn't matter. I'm connected to my mentors because of one person who came through the drive through at Jack in the Box in the wee hours of the morning almost three years ago. He and his wife aren't in our lives anymore. They've quit working with Amway and with our mentors. But they helped bridge the connection between me - a brokenhearted, emotionally unstable kid in desperate need of guidance and growth - and my mentors. And that connection changed my destiny. That connection, that introduction, completely redirected the course of my life.

Never underestimate what you're doing for someone, how you're impacting their life, just by using the resources you have to help them how you can. And never stop working to increase those resources so you can help more people. Unfortunately, the couple who initially introduced me to my mentors chose to stop expanding their resources. They chose to go their own way, and live for themselves instead of other people. But because they reached out to me, and because my vision is bigger than that, my life is forever changed. And not just mine, but my children's and grandchildren's lives as well. I'm going to be able to impact hundreds of thousands of destinies the way that I was impacted...all because one person was willing to think outside of himself for long enough to help me.

And that, my friends, is what it's all about. That's why I do what I do.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Don't Quit!

 One of the things many of our parents tried to teach us is how to know when to quit. We learned as children that it was important to know when we were in over our heads. Say no to that extracurricular, that kind of thing. It was important for our parents to teach us this, because we need to know when our limits have been reached. As adults we need to know not to take on too much, not to overwork ourselves. It's easy to bite off more than we can chew! Especially once we start working a job and our competitive natures kick in.
But do we often quit too soon? 

I think so. We stop asking for that raise, stop working hard to earn the promotion, stop trying to lose the weight or beat the addiction, stop looking for the opportunity that's going to help our dreams come true. We even stop praying for healing, or favor, or guidance, somehow believing that God doesn't want to give it to us. 

In the Bible, Jesus talks about the importance of persistence in getting what we're after. He tells the story of a widow who was treated unjustly and came to a judge to have the problem handled. He wouldn't listen to her, he didn't have time for her and he tossed her case aside. But she wouldn't leave him alone. She went to him every day to plead her case. After a while, he just couldn't take it anymore! Just to get her out of his face, he took care of her problem. 

What if, on that last day, she gave up? What if she stayed in bed, thinking to herself "It's been six months. He's not going to listen to me. I might as well stop wasting my time. I spend every day at that courthouse when I could be spending it gleaning in the fields so I have food at home. I'm just not going to go anymore." Well, she wouldn't have her answer. She wouldn't get her justice. She would have gone through the rest of her life without this situation - whatever it was - fixed. 

Too many times in life, we give up just a little too soon. Our answer is just around the corner and we stop walking. It's too hard. It's taken too long. So we stop, we turn around, and we walk away in defeat. 

I've experienced both sides of this one. When I first moved to Seattle I had no identification. No state ID, no drivers license, not even my social security card. I hadn't needed all of those things before moving here, a school issued ID was enough for everything I needed. Unfortunately, without parents around, to get a job at 18 you need a state ID or a driver's license. To get a state ID or driver's license, you need a social security card. To get a copy of your social security card, you need a state ID or drivers license. 
It took me nine months. I went to the DOL every day. I talked to the people working there every day. I explained my situation over and over and over again, begging again and again for just a little bit of grace, a little bit of leniency. 

And, eventually, I got it. 

I've also given up too soon though. Many, many times. I am part of a mentorship organization, and there are various meetings once a month. Sometimes, although I shouldn't, I get distracted. And then I get bored. And then I want to leave. Too many times I have. I've quit too soon only to hear about it later from someone else who was there - and usually the part I missed is exactly what I needed to hear, because it dealt with what I struggled with. 

Your answer is just around the corner. It may be a two day corner, or a nine month corner, or - as in the case of my husband's health problems - a two and a half year corner. It could even be longer. But it's a corner. And if you give up you'll never, ever, see the reward you're after. 

Sure, we all need to know when to stop. We all need to know when to say "I just can't take on any more right now." But let's not get ourselves confused! Let's remember that persistence is the key, and two words can make all the difference in our lives:



Monday, June 17, 2013

When God Gets Involved

I had a crappy morning today, and I must admit it was pretty much all my fault. Really. I won't belabor the details but I've got some family stuff going on and some friend stuff going on and it was really getting to me! I was having a pity party, to be honest. I was crying and feeling sorry for myself (and trying to get my husband to feel sorry for me too) because I felt in those early morning hours that nothing was really going my way and nobody loves me. We give and give, I thought, and nobody cares.

I think we all have these moments, these poor me sessions. We look at one or two situations that have jumped up into our faces, or the unpleasant phone call or text message we had to wake up to, and we think: Gosh, life sucks. It doesn't matter if that's the reality of the situation, because it's our reality. And we're going to sit in it feeling sorry for ourselves, damn the consequences (or truth)!

So here I am, feeling crappy about myself and my life and everyone and everything, and my husband wants me to go with him on the days customer run. There were a couple of people who needed our attention for one reason or another and he wanted me with him. I almost said no. But something inside of me pointed out that I was probably better off going with him. After all, it wasn't like sitting at home in my pajamas was going to do any good. And in my attitude state at the time, I wasn't going to go anywhere without him.

Thanks, Holy Spirit.

So I got dressed and put on makeup and went with him. Grouchy.

Now, at the end of the day I look back and try to imagine what God was doing during my pity party. I bet he was sitting up there, looking at me like I'm some kind of fool. "Really, kiddo?" he says, "Nobody loves you? Nothing's going right in your life? Nobody cares? Oh really?" Then, I imagine him leaning back, pointing me in the right direction (going out with my husband instead of staying at home) and saying "Watch this."

So out we went. And the whole day turned around.

We had an awesome visit with my mentor, who advised me on some of the things going on and helped me reach a sense of peace about a couple of really negative situations in my life. Then he gave us one of the new flavor of energy drinks (THEY TASTE AMAZING!) that just launched a day or two ago. Strawberry goodness packed with extra b-vitamin energy, plus a blend of ingredients that helps you burn calories, all with no sugar or carbs or artificial flavorings. YUMMO!

As a side note, the can does actually look like this, minus the flames and flaming strawberries. Cool, right? I love it when a new product launches and getting to experience this one before we were very far into it's first week was pretty awesome. Plus, I had energy all day long even though I've had a massive energy-sapping cold for a day or two!

Then, a very dear friend of mine tells me that they've gotten new dishes and want to give away their old, very expensive ones that were a wedding present. Would I like them, she asks? Yes! So I now have new (to me) dishes that are gorgeous and high quality and have an excellent back story - way better than "They're just from Target, my husband had them when I moved in."

Which, by the way, is an answer to prayer. I've been wanting new dishes but I have very expensive tastes and I was wrestling with the conflict between my desire for new dishes that are actually ours and not just leftovers from before me, and the fact that dropping a lot of money on dishes wouldn't be very responsible right now unless we didn't have any dishes to eat off of.

Then, a project took longer than I thought it would and we ended up being late to another customer's home. We walked in and saw two plates of food on the table, and I felt so bad! We had interrupted their dinner! I started apologizing profusely for that and was about to offer that we could come back in 30 minutes. They just laughed. "We already ate," they said "This is your dinner!"

And boy, was it the best dinner I've had in a while! The guy's wife is from Germany and she made the most delicious schnitzel, plus mashed white and purple potatoes and roasted cauliflower. Then she gave us some beautiful organic berries for dessert. I was so stricken with gratitude that they'd thought of us, and the fact that we were having a longer day than anticipated, and decided to make extra dinner so we could have some.

God, not discouraged by my pity party, used today to show me just how loved and supported we really are. I am so blessed to have such wonderful people in my life.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Progress

Not my mom, just a stock pic off Google
Let me preface this by saying that I'm really out of shape. REALLY out of shape. My mom is out of shape and at her height and half her age I'm 50ish pounds heavier.

REALLY out of shape.

However, my company came out with an amazing weight loss system designed around your genetic code. You've heard me talk about it before. You get the kit, send in your cheek swab, and they test it to find your genetically programmed needs.

I'm a carb reducer and a high intensity exerciser. Go figure, right? My favorite foods in the world are carbs and my least favorite activities are high intensity cardio. But my body needs me to cut down on carbs and ramp up my heart rate on a regular basis, so that's what I'm doing.

Sort of. I am still working on self discipline, so I haven't been nearly as good about consistently doing what I need to do in this area. Getting better though!

Sean Foy
My company also has a nutrition/fitness expert on staff, Sean Foy, designer of the 10-minute total body breakthrough and the 4-3-2-1 workout program.

I've been using these series of tools in conjunction. I use the diet and supplementation tools from the BodyKey weight loss system and the 4-3-2-1 workout program and - when I'm using it consistently - I've seen amazing results!

A radio host on the local Christian Alternative station was talking about weight loss yesterday and he pointed out that it's important to have big things to mark your progress because otherwise you might not see it. He was saying that he's lost 110 pounds, and there are pictures to prove the difference, but he looks himself in the mirror every morning and so he doesn't always see it. He needs those pictures to remind him that, yes, progress has been made.

I'm not at the point of literally seeing the progress yet. Because I'm so out of shape, there's a lot of internal progress that needs to be made before I can really start shedding the sizes. I have seen a small amount of difference there, but not much.

Honestly, I was starting to get discouraged. Here I am trying to find the balance between never eating pizza or pasta again and always being a fatso, and it's looking like there is none. Yesterday I posted a quote from Muhammad Ali that really gave me some morale boost:

"I hated every moment of training, but I said, 'Don't quit. Suffer now, and live your life as a champion.' "

With this motivation, I decided to keep at it. Suffer now, and live my life thin!

(Disclaimer: if you don't want to be thin, that's ok. I'm not judging you. I want to be thin.)

In this spirit, I graduated my workout a little bit. On the 4-3-2-1 workout DVD I have there are 6 workouts. So far I've been sticking to workout one, for two reasons: First, the last time I tried workout 2, I felt like I was dying. My cardio could not handle it and I think I had an asthma attack. Second, my arms are way stronger than my legs. Workout one is arm- and core-focused, workout 2 is definitely leg focused. So I tried it once and had been shying away from it ever since.

Today, girded with the motivation from Muhammad Ali (I was so glad to find out that guy didn't just super love his training regimen), I gave workout 2 another shot.

And guess what? I didn't die!

I'm still out of shape, and way too out of shape to try workout 2 every day just yet. But my breathing and heart rate got to the high intensity level without going into asthma attack mode. THAT'S PROGRESS! Nevermind that my calves hate me right now and made it evident with crippling spasms throughout the workout. I can work on that and they'll be more cooperative later. I made it through. I finished the workout that last time I had to quit because I couldn't breathe.

I'm taking baby steps, fighting and uphill battle. And that's very frustrating sometimes. It's frustrating to look in the mirror and still see the out-of-shape-ness of my body, to still be kinda winded at the top of a flight of stairs, to still not be skinny enough to try on dresses at the mall. But I'm making progress, and I'm excited about that. It looks like there is a balance that can be achieved - and maybe that balance is on the side of less pizza and pasta than I'd like to get away with, but I don't have to give up my carbs completely just to make progress. Even with the small changes I've made, the small every day habits I've started to develop, there's progress.

So I'm going to start doing workout 2 every three days or so. It's exciting to add to my regular routine a workout that I couldn't even complete a month and a half ago! In no time, workout 2 will be my normal everyday workout and I'll be facing another challenge - workout 3. I'm excited to know that I'm getting healthier. And though it may be a slow, uphill, baby step climb for a while, I'm glad to be working on it because I know the glory at the top of the mountain is so worth the fight on the way up.

"Don't quit. Suffer now and live your life as a champion."