Do You Underestimate the Power of Your Influence?

Do you have any idea how many people you influence daily? This, a question we don’t often ponder, and when we do, we tend to drastically underestimate the answer. The truth is, our actions and words have a far greater reach than what we realize.

I had a humbling reminder of this recently. Greg and I just celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary. It’s incredible to look at the depth and significance of the events that have occurred in our lives over the last ten years. One of the most important journeys we’ve walked together in our marriage has been our spiritual one.

Greg and I both had a phase in our lives where we drifted away from our faith; questioning what we were taught in our youth when life’s twists and turns seemed to conflict so drastically. For me, one of the main aversions to attending church was the continued hypocrisy within the church community. People would act one way on a Sunday, and the rest of the week they were someone else. The judgmental behavior and proverbial moral pedestal so many seemed to stand on became too much for me to handle, so I left.

It was many years later, only after serving in the United States Air Force in Afghanistan and experiencing profound trauma, did I begin to find my way back. I came back from war broken; a shell of who I was. In all my pain and sadness, I felt a longing for a deeper relationship with God. Greg and I talked, tried a few churches, and eventually ended up finding one that fit.

We had many doubts, and quite a few questions that gradually over time, were answered. We grew into our church and joined a couple of small groups. We began to actually read our bibles and study what we didn’t understand before. The more we studied, the more questions we had. The more questions we had, the more we talked. The more we talked, the closer we became. Before we knew it, we’d reached a whole new level of intimacy in our marriage that rocked our world.

If I’m being completely honest, there was a period of time where we were both so self-absorbed in our own worlds that we struggled to find a place where we could meet in the middle and actually identify with each other. It was through our spiritual journey that that we really connected with each other again, only this time it was much deeper than ever before.

When we left Florida, we felt a sense of loss leaving our church family behind. We had concern we wouldn’t be able to find and connect with another church the way we had in Florida. I was sad to say goodbye to our small group, and the amazing discussions we had that fed into so many more for Greg and me. Thankfully, we found a new church home in Texas and we’ve continued this incredible journey of personal sanctification together. We’ve continued to pursue God individually and as a couple.

baptism2016Ten years of marriage are now behind us, and thankfully in those ten years, we’ve grown even closer to each other. As part of our celebration, we chose to renew our vows to each other. We agreed it was important for us to have an outward expression of our faith and also made the decision to renew our “vows in our faith” and were baptized together.  Greg was baptized first, and then he helped baptize me, which was an incredible honor for us both.

It was a special moment for us, but we had no idea it would touch other lives. The next day I got a text from a friend of mine, and she told me she’d just finished watching the video of our baptism and was moved to tears. She said she and her husband were thinking about doing it together for a long time, but never did. After watching ours, they were so inspired that they decided to do it themselves.

I was so humbled by her words. Our baptism was such an intimate moment for us and our intentions were so personal, that I never even gave any thought to it being influential to anyone else. Of course, I then began to ponder the magnitude of individual influence. I wonder how it would impact our decisions if we knew how many people would be impacted by them.

I’ve said many times in the past, and will continue to do so in the future; that the impact we have on each other is far greater than we realize. Community, fellowship, and connection are all such vital facets of our world. We each bring such unique gifts and perspective to others.

While it’s impossible to know for sure just how many people are influenced by what we say and do; perhaps we should take the posture of assuming that the number is substantial. If that’s the case, then what an opportunity for us all to ensure that our actions align with our intentions.

What a beautiful messy piece of art God created when he put us all together to learn and grow from each other. And even more incredible is that he gave us each a paintbrush to add to the canvas.  What are you going to paint?

 

 

I’m BACK…to Center!

That’s right!! I’m BACK! And so very glad to be!!! I must say….Wow!! My blog typing fingers are feeling pretty rusty! I suppose I could blame that on the fact that I’ve been on quite the hiatus from blogging recently. I’ve had many people checking in with me on a regular basis, wondering when I would get back into the blog. I am so pleased to say I’m finally ready!

jenn back to blogging

I appreciate all your patience and words of encouragement as I, and my family, transitioned through a very difficult move. I posted a couple of times since my relocation, but I just couldn’t get into my zone to do it as I had before the move. I feel it only right to offer an explanation to my readers for why it was such a long absence. Here comes the brutally honest truth:

The pause was very Intentional.

What I realized is that our move to Texas was not only a change for our physical location, but also an opportunity to push the “Refresh” button for a lot of different aspects of my life. One of those aspects, has been this blog, and my dream of Back to Center.

When I originally started this blog almost two years ago, it was right after my book 166 Days was newly published. I was on fire with energy and motivation to grow Back to Center into something great. As awesome as it felt, there was one major problem….I wasn’t really clear on what that “something” was.

I found the more time went on, the more I lost focus on what it was I was really trying to accomplish. I began to feel the energy draining from my project, instead being replaced with frustration and distraction.

This scenario I personally went through, is something that can occur all too often in life. You may even be able to relate to this through some of your own experiences…

As I dealt with (more like denied) the frustrations, I would literally sit down in front of the computer to write, but something kept preventing me from typing. Then it finally sunk in to my thick skull that the reason I couldn’t write anything was because I wasn’t ready to!

Through much thought and prayer I realized what was happening. God was delivering a very tender “nudge” to help me see that I needed to be ok with taking a break. It was necessary to embrace the time I had for what I needed, and for what was needed of me. I needed to focus on what was most important. Life slowed down just enough to help me see the beautiful things right in front of me that I had missed in all the hustle and bustle before. I began to appreciate and cherish my role as a mother and wife in a much more meaningful and effective way than I ever had in the past.

I also began to take stock on what I was feeling about the blog; I needed a clear definition of what it was I was doing and why. What I needed was Clarity.

Unfortunately, as you may well know from your own experiences…clarity is not something that comes easily, or quickly for that matter.  Thankfully, although it took its sweet time, with many detours and stops along the way, clarity did in fact arrive into my purview!

All of that to say, I am so pleased to re-introduce you to something so very important to me…my blog. Back to Center, a weekly blog focused solely on telling stories that help inspire and motivate people to heal from the inside out. As many people know, healing is my passion, expressed through my profession as a Physician Assistant, and also through my gift of writing.

My goal with this blog is to share my own stories, the stories of people I meet, and even people I haven’t met, that give you a fresh, uplifting start to your week. My hope is that what you read here will arm you with the strength and courage to find the joy in your life no matter how challenging your circumstances may be. I welcome your love and feedback, and even more importantly, I welcome your stories.

In fact, I’ve created a new page called Share Your Inspiration on the site for you to communicate directly with me about your own moments of joy or perseverance in obstacles you’ve overcome, or if you’ve found someone else’s experience inspiring and feel it can help others. I want you to feel this is a place for those stories to be heard and even more importantly…shared!

I am beyond blessed to be doing something that fills my soul with purpose and I so look forward to sharing it with you. So!! Ladies and gentlemen…it is my honor to welcome you Back to Center!!!

 

 

Do You Know the Most Important Things to Include in a Difficult Conversation?

If you told me three months ago I’d be putting in my two weeks notice at a job that I completely uprooted my family to accept, I probably would have thought you were crazy. But, unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened to me recently.

Once I started working, it didn’t take long for me to recognize legitimate concerns. I’ll spare you the details, but in a nutshell, there were way too many red flags flying around for me not to notice. I spent many days feeling sick to my stomach, and even more sleepless nights as things began to unfold.

It felt like I literally went through the five stages of grieving at warp speed:

  1. Denial: For several weeks I tried to “un-see” the things happening around me and convince myself there was a logical explanation.
  2. Anger: Then, I realized it was indeed what I thought and I became angry. I mean really! I moved half way across the country, separated our family temporarily, left a great job and great friends for this?!
  3. Bargaining: Once the anger calmed down, I tried to rationalize through it. Maybe I could just stick it out until something better comes along. Maybe I could just keep my head down, do the right thing, and just stick it out.
  4. Depression: The more time passed, the more I saw, and the worse it got. My plan to stick it out became more and more unfeasible with each day. It hurt. I felt like I made a horrible mistake and ultimately let my family down.
  5. Acceptance: Then, through much prayer and discussion with my husband, I began to realize what I had to do; I had to take a leap of faith, as scary as it was, and remove myself from the situation.

Then it came to the hard part….the conversation with the boss. I had to find a way to address my concerns and inform him I would no longer continue to work there. It was extremely difficult; he is a very charismatic individual, and there are parts of you that can’t help but like him. As I raised my concerns and listened to him lie his way through them, I felt the conviction I needed to give my notice. He tried to convince me to stay, and as much as I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt, I knew I couldn’t. I worked through my two weeks and have since left the company.

It has been a whirlwind of emotion as I made yet another transition so quickly after leaving Florida, but it has given me a profound perspective and lesson in faith that I’m so blessed to be able to share.

We’ve all been faced with difficult decisions, which can often lead to the dreaded difficult conversation. No one wants to have a discussion with someone else about something unpleasant, but there comes a time when it becomes necessary. Through my recent experience, I want to share with you what I feel are the two most important things to include in that conversation the next time you are faced with one.

truth and grace

That’s it. Truth and Grace. I can’t take complete credit for this. Anyone who has spent much time talking with me knows that one of my favorite influential people is Pastor Andy Stanley. His sermons are my favorite podcast to listen to. Recently, I listened to one talking about how we are to love one another as Christ loved us. He went on to explain how difficult that is to do, because Christ’s love for us is messy. It’s messy because often times it can seem unfair, and hard to explain. But when you understand that his love is filled with truth and grace, it begins to make sense.

The Two Most Important Parts to Include in A Difficult Conversation

Truth

Truth is where every conversation, especially the difficult ones, should come from. When we allow ourselves or others to escape from the reality of the situation by making excuses, or telling lies we are actually committing a huge disservice to that individual.

In my situation specifically, as I said, he was a very likeable person, and as I listened to him make up lies and excuses for what I knew to be true, I felt myself wanting to believe him, wanting to take the easy road and say “it’s ok” and pretend like I didn’t know better. But, I will tell you the honest truth, as that feeling of giving in began to surface inside my heart, a much bigger one came in and took over. I thought of that sermon, and how we are meant to be held accountable for our actions. Truth. If I were to let him hide behind lies, I wouldn’t be doing anything for him other than feeding the beast. How much of an impact me leaving had on him and his company may or may not be significant in the grand scheme of things. But, I know I made a difference in his life that day, no matter how small, it mattered.

Grace

One of the most beautiful things that we experience in Christ’s love is his grace. The fact that no matter how far we stray or how wrong we may be, we are forgiven, we are loved. Grace. Such a powerful thing. When grace is extended towards us, we feel as if we have a second chance. When we are able to extend grace to others, not only do we help them, but we help ourselves.

As I closed the conversation with my former boss, he apologized to me for all the pain I endured from working there. Without a second thought, I quickly told him I had no resentment towards him, and I genuinely  hope he takes from this experience what he and his company need to be successful in the future.

To forgive, to let go, is one of the most powerful things we can do. When you let resentment and anger remain, you allow that person and their wrong doing to hang over you and keep you captive. If you have a difficult conversation, come from a place of forgiveness as you enter into it. When you do, you allow yourself to leave the moment with a sense of peace as you let go of the burden you’ve been carrying up until that moment.

No one wants to have those difficult conversations, but when you’re faced with them I hope you remember to equip yourself with the power of truth and grace. Through adversity we gain so much growth. At the end of the day, the most important thing we can do in life is love others as we would want to be loved.

What is the most difficult conversation you’ve had? Did it consist of truth and grace?

 

 

4 Tell-Tale Signs That You’ve Become Your Own Worst Enemy

I’m afraid I’ve created a monster when it comes to the dinner table. Allow me to elaborate…my childhood habits and the genetics I’ve passed on to my child have come back to bite me! When I was a small child, my mother and I battled every single night; the source of our epic conflict? Me….completing the daunting task of eating the food on my plate. Such a simple thing to ask a child right? Wrong….not when that child was me. I would sit at the table for hours in front of my plate full of food, while my poor mother tried everything in her power to convince her stubborn child to eat. I pulled out all the stops; scooting all the food to one side of the plate, hiding it in my napkin and under the placemat, even taking a bite and going to the “bathroom” where I would throw it away in the trash can.

Dylan at the Dinner Table 2015Fast-forward thirty years; except this time I’m the frustrated mom trying to convince my sweet three year old son to at least eat two bites of his dinner. I mean really! I’m not even asking him to finish his plate!  I just want him to swallow his food!

Much to my dismay, the child would rather sit at the table for an hour with his food stuffed in one cheek, with tears streaming down his face, instead of chewing it up, swallowing it, and being done with it. Hmmm….he gets his stubborn disposition from someone….I wonder who…..

As I watched my little guy torture himself in our most recent dinner table confrontation,  by refusing to chew his food, making his predicament so much more painful than it needed to be,  I couldn’t help but relate his struggle to the ones we can all face from time to time in our lives.

The struggle I am referring to is the one we seem to have with the person who can be our biggest, most powerful nemesis….ourselves.

Have you ever known someone who is struggling in a situation in their life, and you, being the “objective party” can see clearly that they are their own worst enemy. Their habits, their mindset, or even their actions are working against the end-goal, but there’s no way to reason with them.

No doubt, this is a horrible situation to be in….but have you ever taken the time to take the astute observations you made with someone else, and apply them to yourself? Have you ever taken the time to look at your own circumstances and see if you could potentially be doing the same thing to yourself?

We’re all human, which means we all struggle in life from time to time, and it also means we have the potential to become our own worst enemy and make situations much harder than what they need to be. Not sure how to tell?  Here are some signs to look for.

4 Tell-Tale Signs That You’ve Become Your Own Worst Enemy

1.  You Constantly Find Yourself Hiding Behind Excuses When Things Don’t Go Your Way

Intuitively, it may make sense to us  to make excuses for why we fail, or things don’t work out the way we’d hoped, or why mistakes were made. It’s self preservation at its finest…right? Wrong. By hiding behind excuses, we allow ourselves to escape the accountability that is so necessary for us to move on and grow from the circumstances we experience.

The next time you find yourself in an unfavorable situation, instead of making excuses for why things happened the way they did, look for the real reason things went south and address it head on. Face the demons so to speak. When you can be real with yourself, you can make real progress in moving forward.

2.  You Notoriously Blame Others for Your Misfortunes

It’s so easy and convenient to point the finger at everyone else around you instead of owning your own responsibility in a situation. No matter how much wrong someone else may have done, there is always an opportunity to own your role in things. If we don’t, we develop a toxic state of mind called “victim mentality.”

The bottom line is simple. No matter what external forces are working against us, the person ultimately responsible for how all of them influence your thoughts, actions, and beliefs is you.

3.  You Fill Your Vocabulary with “If Only’s”

Two words that can ultimately be the catalyst to your demise. Life is never perfect, there is always going to be a better option, an easier path, or a more feasible way. “If only” never goes away, because things could always be potentially better when those two words consume your vocabulary. So, get rid of them. Learn the value of adapting and overcoming with what you have. Trust that the resources that are available to you are exactly what you need to make it work. The bigger purpose to things may not present itself right away…but eventually it will, as long as you don’t clutter your perspective with those two little words…

4.  You’re Habitually Overly Critical of Yourself

Being transparent, this is where I personally struggle the most. If I’m not careful, I can easily become my own worst critic. This is a slippery slope; while it’s healthy to be open to ways to improve, if you’re so critical of your actions that you don’t recognize growth and achievement, then you never  allow yourself to be “good enough.” The danger in this is stealing your own joy. It’s impossible to be perfect, so why hold yourself to an impossible standard? Strive for excellence, and be happy with your very best, even when it falls short of perfection.

Life is filled with many opportunities to go to battle with the all-powerful worst enemy named “Self.” You will surely meet this infamous villain once or twice along the way, and when you do, remember to arm yourself with the tools to recognize the biggest weapons he or she may use against you. When you do, you’ll walk away the champion of one of the most difficult battles to fight.

Is there a time in your life when you recognized you were your own worst enemy?

3 Resources to Help You Through Challenging Times

With two weeks of being a Texan under my belt, I can personally confirm that everything in Texas in indeed much bigger! What a whirlwind this move has been. Leaving the comfort of the familiar, and having to acclimate to the ways of a big city has certainly been a challenge.

It’s been much harder than I imagined, leaving my close friends and family, my home, and my life in Florida; but it didn’t hit me just how hard it was until my husband had to return to Florida. My job started first, so I had to go first. I was lucky to have Greg here with me for the first week while I got settled in, but when he left, it opened the floodgates of all the emotion that was building up.

Being separated is never fun, but unfortunately it’s our reality for the next several months. Even though we’ve been separated several times before, I’ve become rather spoiled having a partner in crime readily available for all life throws at me. While he’s still only a phone call away, and still ever present at heart, it’s a lot different not having him here.

This situation has been hard, and I’ve had moments where I’ve felt so alone, despite the love and support of my family and friends. Have you ever been there? Feeling like it was you against the world? Sometimes life leads us to these moments that force us into reflection. Those moments, as challenging as they are, can often bring us priceless insight.peir

Perhaps you’re in a similar situation, or you know someone that is. If that’s the case, don’t let the discouragement take over. Instead, focus on the value you can gain from the experience.

3  Resources to Help You Through Challenging Times

The Value of You

While clearly not my ideal scenario, this situation has forced me to focus more on someone I notoriously neglect….myself.  We all know how important it is to take care of ourselves; yet we often make that our last priority after everyone and everything else.

As a mom, wife, career woman…you can call me “guilty as charged” in this case. Now, I have a lot more time available to fill. I could sit around and feel sorry for myself (which I admit I did initially) or I can use it to my advantage. I’ve gotten back on track with some personal goals that I’ve let slide for a long time. It’s been a healthy reminder of how beneficial spending some time on yourself is.

The Value of Where You’ve Been

Being in a completely new situation, I am constantly reminded of the value of where I’ve been. The experience I’ve gained and the people I’ve known have been such an integral part of who I am today. Sometimes we don’t realize how much our past prepares us for our present. The life experience, invaluable friendships, and special memories are something you carry with you forever.

Those things serve as a compass of sorts when it comes to what’s next. Lessons learned are some of the most valuable tools we have for shaping our future.

The Value of Where You’re Going

Change is incredibly scary sometimes. The fear of the unknown can often overwhelm us. What if, instead of looking at it like a big scary open space of unknown, you see an enormous blank canvas in front of you instead? Black hole of doubt and uncertainty….or a canvas of opportunity? I know which one I choose!

The point is,  don’t forget to see the amazing opportunity that comes with change. You get to paint the future with new memories and experiences. Why not do everything you can to make it the most beautiful piece of art?

Remember, every day is a gift, even the challenging ones. When you have those days, remember the valuable things that can help keep you focused on what’s important.

Today’s Challenge: Make every moment count…especially the challenging ones!

The 3 Essential G’s that Make a “Good” Goodbye

The world is round and the place which may seem like the end may also be the beginning.”~Ivy Baker Priest

saying goodbye to floridaAfter eight years filled with some of the most significant moments of my life, it’s time for me to say goodbye to Panama City, Florida. Over the last several weeks, I’ve found myself in many moments of deep reflection of the times I’ve had here. It’s where my husband Greg and I started our marriage, where we bought our first house, where I started my career as a Physician Assistant, and where our children were born. It’s been our home; a place where some incredible people have crossed my path and had such profound impact on my life.

Saying goodbye; moving on to the next chapter, has been far from easy. To be frank, it’s been an emotional rollercoaster. Often times we don’t realize the significance others bring to our lives, or even the influence we have on theirs…until we face that moment when we part ways.

When it comes to goodbyes, there is one thing that is certain; we all have to deal with them at some time. Whether it be due to a relocation or the loss of a loved one, we all face  it.

As I deal with it myself in this particular time in my life, sure it’s painful, but I’ve found comfort in knowing three essential things that should come with every goodbye.

The 3 Essential G’s that Make a “Good” Goodbye

1. Grace

To have grace is to love, to forgive, and to extend kindness. There are some times when perhaps we actually welcome saying goodbye. It’s something to look forward to because it means you no longer have to exist in your current situation, or you no longer have to deal with difficult individuals or stressful circumstances. In this case, the change is a great thing; however, that doesn’t mean you should leave on a bad note. Leave with grace. Remember the Golden Rule: Matthew 7:12 – “So in everything, do unto others what you would have them do to you.”

No matter what the circumstance may be, extend grace. End it on a good note. Forgive. Let go. Move on. By doing so, your heart becomes lighter. The pain of a bad experience isn’t nearly as heavy, and you prepare yourself to be in the right state of mind for whatever comes along next.

2. Gratitude

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”~Carol Sobieski and Thomas Meehan, Annie

Such a powerful thought isn’t it? When it’s time to say goodbye to a part of your life, take the time to be grateful for the value it’s brought to you. Be grateful for the people you met, the connections you made, the influences you benefited from, the experiences you endured and the memories you made. All of these things have played an important role in a part of your life.

To acknowledge the blessings despite the pain of letting go helps ease the transition. Allow yourself to feel grateful; let the joy outshine the sadness.

3. Growth

Every moment of life is an opportunity to grow. Every failure, every victory, every smile, every tear, and every goodbye brings us the precious gift of growth. We have an opportunity to become the best version of ourselves through all that we experience.   Take with you the knowing that goodbye brings with it the chance to not only reflect on the lessons learned through those experiences, but also to apply it.

As we start the next chapters of our lives in Texas, I want to extend the most genuine and heartfelt thanks to our friends and family in Florida. You have made our time here the most memorable and important years of my life. You will always have a special place in my heart and your impact will never be forgotten. I look forward to sharing a new Texas perspective with each and every one of you. What a blessing to have such incredible people to miss. Until we meet again my friends….

How has “goodbye” impacted your life?

Have an amazing day and please feel free to share!

3 Critical Areas for Healthy Habits

Delilah and Cone of Shame 2015Meet my pug Delilah. Yes, I do realize she has a very large, ridiculous, blue inflatable device around her neck. Believe me, that thing is pretty unavoidable. We’ve lovingly dubbed it her “cone of shame,” courtesy of the Disney movie “Up.”

The most logical next question bouncing around in your head has got to be; “Why?”

Well, allow me to explain. My sweet little pug Delilah has apparently developed allergies over the last several years, which cause her skin to get irritated and itchy. When she has a flare up she will lick, scratch, and bite her paws until they bleed.

After a course of oral steroids, antibiotics, topical anti-allergy shampoo and lotion, and a hefty vet bill, we can get her skin under control. Here’s the problem; over time, flare up or not, her licking and biting has become a habit. The minute her “cone of shame” comes off, she starts going at it; the right paw being her most frequent target.

As silly as she looks, we know without the cone she would continue to hurt herself. So, there you have it; a pug with a beautiful, and permanent new accessory. Believe me, settling on the blue thing was no easy decision. She literally chew threw and broke about five previous cones. Thankfully, we seem to have found one that works….at least for now.

Delilah, her cone, and her harmful habit got me thinking; perhaps we humans could benefit from such a protective device? Think about all the self-destructive habits we seem to acquire over the years. Could you imagine us all walking around with big blue inflatable “cones” to protect us from ourselves?

Ok….maybe not such a good idea, but it certainly argues a good point. Since a cone is out of the question, perhaps awareness of three areas in our lives we need to be protective of our habits will have to suffice.

3 Critical Areas for Healthy Habits

Your Influences

Influence manifests through many different resources; the material you read, the television you watch, the people you surround yourself with to name a few. Our influences can shape our opinions and thoughts which in turn shape our actions.

Be protective of what you expose yourself to. Remember the importance of being selective with who and what you decide to let influence you. Ensure the people you invest the most of yourself with are those that bring value to your life, and you to theirs. Surround yourself with things that motivate you to be awesome.

How You Spend Your Time

How many times have we all been reminded by our elders just how precious our time is? As we age, we all recognize how true that really is, yet we still tend to forget to heed the advice of those much wiser than us. We can waste the precious hours of the day so easily by spending it doing things that have no value or purpose.

Don’t get me wrong, we all need our “down time,” but the point is to be intentional about it. Don’t waste a day in front of the television or video games when you could be enjoying the beautiful outdoors, or having a great conversation with someone you love. Don’t spend your time feeling sorry for yourself for all the unfortunate things in your life, instead, spend it trying to make positive change.

The one thing we all have an equal amount of is time. Make yours something you’ve spent wisely.

What You Put Into and Do to Your Body

Maintaining healthy habits when it comes to our bodies can be incredibly difficult. We are a society that likes instant gratification, which means we don’t always make good decisions on what we consume. We do things like smoke cigarettes, drink too much alcohol, and eat unhealthy foods. Sometimes, we ingest even worse things.

In addition to the bad things we like to consume, we can easily fall into a rut when it comes to our physical health. We stop taking care of our bodies by not exercising, poor posture, not watching our weight, or not taking the necessary preventative measures to avoid long term health problems.

Here’s the thing; your body is your vessel. The better you take care of it, the more farther it can take you. If you remember to get the oil in your car changed every 3,000 miles, then there are no excuses why you can’t invest in some healthy habits to maintain your physical health.

Habits shape who we’ve been, who we are now, and who we become tomorrow. Make sure you’re developing and nurturing the ones that will help you be the best version of you. Be protective of your influences, how you spend your time, and how you take care of your body.

How are your habits impacting your life?

Know someone who would enjoy reading this? Please share!

2 Insights to Help Us Have Faith in the Bigger Purpose

Tera and Jenn Conference June 2015In 2009 I was in a very dark place. I’d returned from a deployment to Afghanistan that left me broken;  questioning everything about who I thought I was. After enduring six months of the horrible realities of war,  I felt like a shell of who I used to be.

I lived in a state of denial for over a year after I came home, but eventually my efforts to avoid facing the truth were no longer effective. I felt like I was drowning in an endless abyss of the anger, sadness, rage, and emptiness inside of me.

Eventually, I sought help, and was then diagnosed with PTSD. After the diagnosis was made, I began the long and painful road to recovery. If you’d told me then, that there was a much bigger purpose to my pain, I’m fairly confident I would’ve rolled my eyes in disbelief and promptly removed myself from the conversation.

I was recently reminded of that stage in my life, when I spoke in Alabama with the very special lady sitting next to me in this picture. Allow me to introduce you to Tera, a psychologist, and dear friend.

I’ve often referred to her as my “flashlight” during that painful time of my life.  In fact, if you’ve read my book 166 Days My Journey Through the Darkness, you’ve seen a special dedication to her on the first page. Tera helped me through my struggles with PTSD and equipped me with the tools I needed to find myself again.

Since my recovery, I’ve done quite a bit of speaking about my experience.  I’ve shared my story with thousands of people, and in doing so, I’ve been able to re-purpose all of the pain into helping others. This particular speaking event was extra special for me; because I was doing it with Tera. As I sat on stage with my friend, and we prepared to deliver our message, I found myself overwhelmed with a profound sense of gratitude.  It was amazing, and quite humbling, to be able to impact the lives of others with the person at my side who helped me through such a horrible time in my own life.

That deployment, dealing with PTSD, and many more struggles in my life, have taught me to have faith in the bigger purpose. Life can throw some big curve balls which can leave us searching desperately for a way to understand why things happen the way they do.  Often, the answer doesn’t appear as quickly as we’d like it to. But, when we can trust that there is a reason, a purpose to what we go through, we gain peace.

When you question life’s happenings, here are two insights to serve as a reminder that there’s a much bigger purpose:

The Power of Influence

The interactions that we have with each other are so powerful. Even the smallest moments we share in passing can have an incredible influence. Have you ever met someone who left a lasting impression on you? Has someone ever touched your life in way that prompted you to make a big change for the better?

To realize that our relationships have such an impact is quite humbling. Knowing this, imagine what a difference your experiences can make for someone else. The impact your story can have on another person can be profound. Use your experiences to mentor and grow others around you. When you do, you realize how much bigger than you that experience was.

Growth in Strength and Character

Growth does not occur from status quo, it requires a catalyst. Just like a plant will not grow without water, a person does not develop strength and character without challenges and adversity. In the midst of our struggles it can be almost impossible to see this, but when you can look back on them, and how we come through them,we  can appreciate the value they bring. When we can grow into better people from the circumstances we face, we can have a much bigger impact on the world around us.

 

Life is a gift. Trust that your experiences are about something much bigger that what we may be able to comprehend in the moment.

Have you had challenging moments in your life that have served a bigger purpose?

Valuable Insight On How To Approach Life’s Flat Tires

Yesterday on my way out the door from work I gave my husband Greg a quick call letting him know I was on my way home. His voice sounded frustrated, and as he spoke I quickly learned why. He’d been out training for an upcoming triathlon and was stuck on the side of the road with his bike changing a flat tire. I instantly offered to come and pick him up but he declined the offer stating “Nope, I’ve almost got it.”

About an hour went by and I finally got a call from him letting me know he was on his way home. I was relieved to know he was safe, but at the same time I wondered which version of my husband would be walking through that door. Greg is an amazing guy who openly admits sometimes his Irish temper can get the best of him. I braced myself for an earful of his frustrations as I heard the car pull into the garage. He walked into the house a few minutes later covered in sweat and dirt.  He looked exhausted and I chose my words carefully.

“Hi honey, how are you?”

He looked up and said simply “I’m better now, thanks.” He washed up and sat down at the table with the rest of the family and ate dinner, his mood was surprisingly pleasant. He laughed as he told me of his two hour struggle with learning how not to change a bike tire. He had been riding for just over 30 miles when his rear tire went out. He’d never had to change the rear tire before and couldn’t for the life of him figure out how to detach the wheel from the chains. He struggled for over an hour before he finally resorted to YouTube.

“Thank God for iPhones!” he joked, “The lady on the video made it so easy! The bright side is,  I know now I won’t be joining any Nascar pit crews anytime soon.” He went on to tell me of his frustrations at the time, but how he was able to move past them. He reminded himself throughout the situation to focus on the positive.  “It could’ve always been worse. I was only three miles from the car, it could’ve been farther. I wasn’t hurt, and while I didn’t ride as much as I intended, I was still productive with my workout. And hey! Now I know how to change a rear tire!”

greg bike

I was so proud as I listened to his insights. He reminded me of how life constantly throws unexpected challenges at us, often leaving us feeling frustrated and disheartened. So much of what happens in life is out of our control; but how we choose to handle those challenges is an incredible gift. We get to decide how we move forward and grow from it. There’s always a reason, a lesson, an opportunity for growth. If we are intentional about finding it, life becomes filled with purpose.

How can you make lemonade out of lemons?

Do You Know the 5 Types of Negativity That Can Steal Your Happy?

Griff and Jenn cleaning the poolThe past several weekends, my stepson Griffen and I have been working on a very tedious task. We have a saltwater pool, and it has developed quite a bit of calcium build up along the tiles. The only way to really get that stuff off is to scrape it with a putty knife. Not too big of a deal, until it came to the tiles on the bottom of the pool. Diving down to the bottom, scraping, coming up for air, and diving down again for several hours can get really old.

The more we scraped, the harder it seemed to become. And then, once we completed the bottom tiles, we moved on to the never-ending ones along the sides. Once they were all completely scraped, all the calcium we’d scraped collected on the bottom of the pool, making it look even worse than when we started. So, then I had to sweep it all up and finally get rid of it once and for all by vacuuming.

Needless to say, we did it; but it took us several days filled with several exhausting hours to complete the task. Despite the pain, once it was finally complete, it felt great to have accomplished what we did. As hard as it was, it’s nice to start the new pool season with a nice clean slate.

My pool tile maintenance adventure is not that different than the many aspects of our lives we have to maintain. Negativity can build up in our worlds just like the calcium can build up on the tiles.

If we let it continue to build, eventually it can take over and begin to consume our thoughts, actions and words. If we’re not careful, as we move into new seasons of our lives, we’ll carry all the negativity with us. To avoid this, we must maintain our hearts similarly to the way I had to maintain my pool. We have to learn to scrape off the build up of negativity and prevent it from weighing us down.

Talk about a daunting and tedious task! This chore makes  scraping the tiles of my pool look easy! And yes, it can be even messier. But, we have to find a way to let go of the things that muddy up the waters of our livelihood.

Pastor Andy Stanley has a similar comparison; he uses the analogy of re-painting a car or furniture. We all know what happens if you just add a new coat of paint on top of the old, peeling and cracked surface. So, as much as we don’t want to, we have to do the work of sanding it down, accepting that it will look a whole lot worse before it gets better. We know that if we don’t, we won’t get the outcome we desire.

Let’s look at the key areas we need to avoid excessive build up in.

The 5 Types of Negativity That Can Steal Your Happy

 1. Guilt

Guilt is one of those things that can eat away at the soul. When things don’t turn out as we plan, we immediately think of all the should’ve, would’ve, could’ve scenarios. This, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. Looking at a situation retrospectively and evaluating how it could have been handled differently is healthy. But, when you let these things make you feel like a failure, and you alone begin to bear all the weight of a bad outcome,  it will bring you down to a place you don’t want to go. Instead, own and learn from your mistakes and let them go.

2. Resentment

To forgive is one of the hardest things we have to do. But, it’s also one of the most necessary. When we harbor resentment for someone who has hurt us, in a sense we let them win. If we continue to carry the pain of a wrong doing with us, we surrender to it.  To forgive allows you freedom to move on. It allows you to be purposeful with the pain you’ve endured.

3. Disappointment

If you ask any person of sound mind whether or not we should expect to experience disappointment at some point in our lives, every one of them will answer with a “Yes.” Yet, disappointment seems to continue to catch us off guard and has a tendency to steal our motivation. We try, fail, and often times because the disappointment can be so overwhelming, we quit. Don’t let disappointment make you stop, let it be your fuel to keep moving forward. To try and fail, no matter how painful, is still a step in the right direction. Regroup, and keep moving forward.  That may mean you take a detour, but don’t let it make you quit.

4. Bad Relationships

The influence people have on one another is profound. We see it so clearly in our children, especially as they enter into the teenage years and “peer pressure” begins to be on the forefront of discussions between parents and teens. Yet, sometimes as adults we lose sight of how dangerous bad relationships are in our lives. A bad influence can steal your happiness like nothing else. Be protective of who you let in your heart. Don’t be afraid to keep people at a distance. That doesn’t mean you aren’t kind and generous, but it means you don’t let them have an advantage point when it comes to your wellbeing.

5. Unhealthy Habits

We are indeed creatures of habit. When we develop unhealthy ones, it can become a catalyst to one bad decision after another. Be intentional with how you spend your time. We all have that little voice deep inside telling us if something doesn’t feel right. Listen to it. Your body, your mind, your soul, are the only ones you’ve got. Take care of them like they are the most precious thing you own…..because they are.

We all need to perform maintenance on the things that mean the most to us. Today, and everyday after, I hope you learn to recognize these areas where negativity can come in and steal your happy. When you do, you identify the areas you need to scrape away at the build up. Yes, the process can be tedious and even messy, but the being able to free yourself from what’s weighing you down makes it all worth it.

How does the negativity in your life influence you?

Thanks for reading! Have an amazing day and please share!