How do we handle regret?

Recently I was reminded the difference between disappointment and regret. Disappointment has to do with expectations. Our expectations can be dependent on our own actions, the actions of others, circumstances beyond our control or a combination of any of these.

Regret, however, has to do with choices.  Choices that we have made. Hindsight is 20/20 they say. And it can be riddled with regret. We all have regrets we have to deal with and some are harder to get past than others. Regret can be paralyzing.  It doesn’t allow us to move forward in that area because we are always revisiting the moment we made,  what we think is, the wrong decision. So how do we get past regret?

1.  Learn from it
On this side of regret, it doesn’t matter why we made the choice we made. At the time, for whatever reason, we made that particular choice and there’s no way to go back a choose differently.  What we can do is learn from our mistakes. What drove us to make that decision? Was it fear? Pressure from others? Time constraints? Lack of information?  Lapse in judgment?  Knowing what motivated us can help us not make the same mistake again.

2.  Guard your heart from what if’s.
The truth is that hindsight is not 20/20. In fact, it’s quite distorted. Since our present situation is not what we wanted, we live in the “what if” world where the other choice would have been better. The problem with that is that there is no way of knowing how accurate we are in our belief that we would have been better off with that situation.  Too many variables! Of course we think that would have been better! Yes, it might have been better in some ways, but it would have brought it’s own challenges. Because that is life. There is no such thing as an easy or perfect way. Every scenario has its own challenges. And there’s no guarantee that had we made that choice, we wouldn’t be sitting there regretting not having made this one! There’s simply no way of knowing, yet we spend a ton of energy envisioning what might have been instead of making the best of what is.

3. God works everything for good. Our God is a resourceful God. Some of the greatest stories I’ve heard have been the ones where God took the worst decisions and turned them around. He makes no exceptions. He will do that for anyone who takes their mistakes and hands them over to Him to fix.

Regret is painful. It’s paralyzing.  It focuses on the past, wasting our present and stealing our future. While it is true that our bad choices can lead to bad situation,  there is no reason to dwell on it. It is done. All we can do now is learn from it, guard our hearts from the what if’s and remember that God can turn anything around. Move forward. There is more to be done. And with your experience, you’re just the one for the job.

Focus your energy on those things that ONLY you can do.

Having six kids to home school while managing a home, volunteering at church and all the “little” things that take up so much time brought me a desire early on to read a lot of books on time management. One thing I always took away from these great books was to focus on what is truly important first, then squeeze in those other non-essentials.

Recently, this has gotten me thinking of another principle I have to continually put in check. Focusing my energy on those things that ONLY I can do.

I need to catergorize the things I do and ask myself,, “Could I pay someone to do this and  get the same or even better results?” If the answer is yes, then that is not something ONLY I can do. However, if the answer is no, then that is where most of my energy and resources should be going.

Here are some things that only I can do.

  1.  Provide a loving environment for my family.
  2. Nurture my relationship with my husband
  3. Create a safe environment for communication and positive influence in my home.
  4. Prepare my kids for adulthood.
  5. Be an example of godly character
  6. Study my children to see how they learn best and provide the tools for them to do so.

Most of these things are done in the midst of the mundane. We may not do them perfectly, but if we are not present, we won’t get to do them at all.  I have to constantly remind myself that every time I say yes to one thing, I’m saying no to another.  The challenge is to remember which is which.

My best investment, my best resources, my best effort should be put in those things that only I can do. That is where the battle is won or lost. That is where the greatest gain will be.



Three life hacks I learned by downsizing

Our family recently moved to a smaller place.  We no longer need a big place, since many of our children no longer live at home. I have personally found it challenging to make the change, but in the midst of it all I have learned a few hacks that are good to remember on a bigger scale.

1.  You can’t take it all with you.
The best news I received came when I discovered that spring cleaning in our town would be 2 days after we moved! This meant that we could leave whatever we didn’t want or need on the curb and Monday morning, the town would pick it up! Couches, broken tables and appliances, pieces of wood,  you name it, it could all go on the curb.

It was a bitter sweet experience to tag what would go to our new house and what we either had to give away or put on the curb. The reality was that the house we were moving into was much smaller. Having a big house meant you could just keep piling in without having to make that kind of choice. But needing to have a place for everything and have everything in its place pushed us to be intentional about what we took with us.

Similarly,  when we decide to be intentional about our future,  we find we have to make a list of what we can take with us and what we need to let go of. It is both freeing and scary.

When I went back to school I found that I had pockets of time that I wasted on an episode of a tv show or sitting doing nothing productive, or making several trips just because I hadn’t organized a time to do errands. Having homework to do in the the midst of an already busy schedule made me take a hard look at those pockets of time and use them more productively.

It can be scary to break a routine we’ve had for a long time or let go of something that is familiar to us. But sometimes, all that is left worth saving is the memory of how it used to work. Now it’s just one more thing to manage or one more waste of time. Perhaps you’re at a different season and you can be doing something more productive or more conducive to who you are now. Don’t be afraid to put that on the curb.

2.  You don’t need as much as you think.
When my kids were little, I used to try to be prepared for every possible thing that could go wrong when we went out. Hunger, pain, cuts, soiled clothes, drawing opportunities,  reading opportunities,  hunger again, thirst, the list was never ending. The result was a very heavy bag and a lot of preparation time. The fact is that I never needed everything I had. Recently, some of my kids and I decided to go to the zoo. I quickly started to make a mental list of everything we needed. One of my kids stopped me and said, “Mom! We’re all grown up and we all have jobs! You don’t need to make sandwiches and we certainly don’t need the wagon! We can all pay for our own lunch. Let’s just go!”

Again, bitter sweet. But what a great time! It was freeing to not have to carry anything and just enjoy the day.

Most of us are carrying way too much emotional and/or physical baggage, while others  are convinced that they’re stuck because they don’t have what they need to move forward. The truth is, you don’t need as much as you think.

3. Creativity flourishes when needed.
My kitchen is small. It’s my least favorite thing about our new house, probably because of the amount of time I’m in it! Getting everything in its place is a work in progress. But I find that I’m enjoying looking for creative ways to fit everything that I need.

We all have creativity. But for most of us, it doesn’t really take off until we need to become resourceful. Not having everything we would like in place in order to move forward might be frustrating, but it is also an opportunity to be more resourceful; to use creativity to get to where we want to go and not give up.

Just like looking for the perfect house that doesn’t exist, we will never have the perfect environment to move forward or make the changes we need to make. Growing, overcoming bad habits, changing seasons, these all require a reevaluation of where we are and where we want to be.

Am I trying to bring everything with me even though it doesn’t fit anymore or it doesn’t even work? Do I need to get creative with what I have?  If so, what an opportunity to downsize!

Thanks, mom. Miss you.

My mom was my best friend. I’d call her at 4:30 every day and give her an update of the day and listened to her talk about hers. If I missed the 4:30 mark and called later, she would answer and say, “Who’s this?….My daughter?  No, my daughter calls at 4:30!” It might have sounded a little passive aggressive, but it was in good fun….really.

Even now I find myself occasionally thinking at 4:30, I have to call my mom. Or sometimes I have big news and think, “My mom would enjoy this.”

Selfishly, I think what I miss most about my mom is how much she spoiled me. How she made my favorite food for my birthday, how she loved my kids, how she enjoyed having us over. How she worked hard to keep us together.

My mom’s passing was a catalyst for me to start thinking about my own life.  My personal decisions, life choices and how I would choose to spend the rest of my life. There were many things my mom enjoyed doing,  most of which she did not get to do.

She loved photography, but never pursued it. She loved to draw, but didnt have time to cultivate it. She was a good writer, but there are only a few pages here and there as evidence. She always wanted to open a craft business and never got the chance. When I miss my mom, I don’t only miss who she was, but who she didn’t get the chance to become.

In honor of her, I have chosen to intentionally seize the day. To explore my gifts and talents. I chose to go back to school and finish my degree.  I chose to go on a missions trip to Haiti with my daughter.  I say yes to speaking engagements whether it’s for 3 people or 800. I encourage my kids to pursue their interests.  I work hard to overcome obstacles. I want to become the person God intended me to be when He created me. I want to move forward from where my mom left off. She is my inspiration. Thanks mom. Miss you.

Four lies about money that can break up a marriage

There are many helpful tools out there that can help us manage money. But whether we are managing money well or not, it can be the cause of much strife in a marriage. Whether there’s an abundance of  money or there never seems to be enough, who gets to decide how it will be spent? What are the priorities?  What gets paid first? Who’s money is it?  The answers to these questions and others like them, can uncover deeper causes of strife and insecurity. Here are four lies about money that break up marriages.

1.  If I had more money, I’d be happier. The truth is, money just magnifies who we already are. Thinking that money will make us happy adds more pressure to the marriage. We feel we need to work harder. We need to spend less. We need to save more. We follow quick rich schemes, lose money and have arguments with our spouse over it. Realizing that money is not the source of our happiness will help us concentrate on those things that do. Our relationships. Our relationship with God, with our spouse, with our kids, with our community.

2. I need to keep up appearance.  Issues with money are some of the biggest secrets. Just because your neighbor is driving an expensive car doesn’t mean he has the money to pay for it. Just because your friend has a big house doesn’t mean they aren’t struggling to make the payments. Of course, not everyone is in debt up to their eyeballs, but according to our economy, more than we think. Those appearances pressure us into thinking that we need to get us some of that expensive stuff too! But that kind of thinking can bring real problems in the marriage when the pressure is on to make payments on all that stuff. My pastor has shared a nugget that I repeat to my family every time we see something we like that isn’t in the budget. “I can admire it, without having to acquire it.” Next time you’re tempted to spend money to keep appearances, think about what it will really cost you to, as Dave Ramsey says, “buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.”

3.  I earned it, it’s mine, and I can spend it however I want. We may not say it that way, but our actions speak louder than words. When we don’t respect our spouse in the decision process and just spend however we want without consulting them, this is essentially what we’re saying. Sometimes we act like children when we should be behaving like adults. The best definition I’ve heard for adult is, “doing what has to be done when it has to be done, whether I feel like it or not.” Every couple should have a budget, created by both parties, and followed by both parties.

4.  I’m afraid we won’t make it. As our economy has shown us in the last decade, there’s no such thing as security. The days of working at a job for 30 years and retiring with a nice pension have all but disappeared. The average 30 year old will have several jobs before age 65, and many 50 year olds are having to reinvent themselves. Fear can make us do crazy and unreasonable things. And crazy and unreasonable things can cause a lot of damage to a marriage. Don’t let fear motivate you in decisions regarding money. Make decisions together as a couple and work together to get ahead.

Money is a tool. It should be used to help us meet our goals as a couple and move us forward in our journey together. It doesn’t make us better or worse than we were before, it just brings out what’s already inside of us. So work on yourself. Think about what money means to you. Do you think it’s your answer to happiness? Do feel pressure to keep up with the Jones’? Do you have a hard time letting it go and being generous because it’s yours? Is fear keeping you from making changes in your life or robbing you of peace? Be honest with yourself and reconsider your position on money. It might help you have a better relationship with it and with your spouse as well.

The greatest gift I can give my kids

No matter what else I do in life, I know that my greatest responsibility,  my greatest privilege and my greatest opportunity for impact will be the raising of my children. So it will be for every parent. So the question I have had to ask myself is, “What is the most important gift I can give my kids?”

For me, the most important thing is for them to know God and have a relationship with Him. I have many desires for my kids, and knowing God in every one of those desires will make them that much better. For example:

I want them to have a good marriage. If they know God and have a relationship with Him, they will pray for His direction in their relationships. They will not get their identity from their relationships or seek someone who will make them happy or take away the loneliness.  Their identity will be in Christ. They will know not to tolerate abuse for that is not God’s will for them. They will seek someone who is like minded. They will learn to love with God’s love,  rather than what the world teaches is love.

I want them to make the best of their one and only life. If they know God, they will discover the gifts and talents that God has given them. They will find that it really is better to give than to receive and that great joy comes from helping others.

I want them to be financially stable. If they know God, they will glorify Him in the way they use their money. They will use God’s principles to work hard and make an honest living. They will trust God to provide and not love money.

So the most important thing I can leave my kids is to teach them about God, to expose them to others who know and love God and to be a godly example of what God can do in the life of someone who trusts Him. Everything else will fall into place if we keep the most important thing first.

A Post Easter Reflection

Today, as I went to the Easter service, I remembered the year that Easter took a whole new meaning in my life.

I was driving to the hospital. We lived an hour and a half away. Still had some forty-five minutes to go when I got the phone call. “Your mom didn’t make it. I’m so sorry.” Out of my mouth came a sound I didn’t recognize as my own. I screamed in anguish. I tried to contain myself as I drove trying to get there as quickly as I could, knowing it was already too late. My son was sitting next to me. I felt so bad for him. I knew I was making it worse for him as he sat there crying. But I could not control my pain. And I was desperate to get there. How could this happen? We were only supposed to go visit and spend the night with her. We would laugh, watch a movie, talk.  Now everything had changed. It took one phone call to realize that nothing would ever be the same.

Even if they wouldn’t have told me, I would have known as I walked into the room. Death is so empty. Looking at her lifeless body, the question that came to me was immediate.  “Do you believe?” “All these years you have celebrated the event. Now, here, one week before Easter, do you believe in the resurrection?”

That was ten years ago. Easter has had new meaning for me ever since. It means that I can have the hope of not only having eternal life, but that there on that hospital bed that day, lay just a shell. She was not there. She is in the presence of her Savior. She believed and accepted His mercy on her. And because of that, I will see her again.

This is the true meaning of Easter for me. That those who have trusted in Jesus to pay the price we cannot pay, will live for eternity in His presence. And while the day to day living in a relationship with Him is so amazing, being face to face with death, there is no greater comfort.  And for that, I am grateful.

Resolving conflict when it’s not your fault

Listening is an art. You’ve heard that before. But did you know that speaking is an art as well? It’s hard for me to listen to someone who is accusing me or who hits a sore subject that I may not be ready to talk about. Interruptions are huge for me, too. If you interrupt me one too many times, I shut down and assume you do not want to listen. Even when someone interrupts for clarity. Why can’t they just wait until I’m finished? Clarity might come if you listen to the whole story without interrupting!  Because I’m so picky, I know that when and how we speak can really make a difference in getting others to listen.

Here are 6 points to remember when trying to resolve conflict.

  • Pick the right time. On the top of my list is timing. It seems logical that it may not be a good idea to bring up a major topic in the middle of the mall or as we are driving to church with the kids or at the dinner table, or as soon as our spouse walks through the door after a long day at work. And yet, it happens. When something’s been bottled up inside for a while, any little thing can set it off. But if we really want the best possible outcome, we need to find the best possible time. Relaxed and rested with time specifically set apart for the conversation is the best option. Others will be more likely to listen to what you have to say and you will be more prone to say it in a more constructive way.
  • Find the right place. Equally important is the place the conversation will take place. If we pick a public place and one of us is a people watcher or easily distracted, it can become a problem. Pick a place and time when there will be no interruptions. No phones, no kids, no traffic. Even if it’s just a few minutes of conversation, it will be uninterrupted and more productive than a conversation that is trying to take place in the midst of chaos.
  • Have the right motive. When we don’t solve problems as they happen, they build up. Topics that could have been solved easily become less manageable and resentment starts to build up. That resentment comes out in our tone, our expressions, our sarcasm and our intentions. And again, no one likes to be attacked. If we aim to understand instead of wanting to be understood, we might make more progress. As much as possible, our desire should be to come to a mutual understanding in which we both win instead of a win/lose mentality.
  • Get to the point. Give some thought to what you want to accomplish before you get into the conversation. Understand what you want, why you want it and how flexible you are to it not going exactly as you’d like. Knowing exactly what point you want to get across will help you make sure you communicate it well. If you took the time, found the place and checked your motive, you’ll want to make the most of this opportunity and not get sidetracked.
  • Evaluate your expectations. Sometimes our expectations are either too high and we want more from the other person than they can give, or they are too low and we don’t expect enough. Either extreme can lead to major disappointment for both parties. Treating others the way we want to be treated is a great way to find that respectful and considerate in-between that can get us the best results.
  • Make sure perception equals reality. If you’ve been around any human beings, you’ve already been the executor and the receiver of false perception.   As time goes on, we get hurt, our perception of what the other person is saying can get distorted. We assume things that may not be true. When discussing points with others, give them the benefit of the doubt. Take time to summarize what the other person said to make sure you understood correctly and encourage him/her to do the same. In this way you will know they understood what you were trying to say and you did too.

Communication is hard work. It can be tempting to just go about our daily routine without ever opening up and communicating what we want. However, true intimacy only comes through genuine communication and openness. In their book, Boundaries in Marriage, Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend write about the responsibility to take action:

Responsibility involves action. If something is going to happen, it’s going to happen because we take action. We need to change some attitudes, or behaviors, or reactions, or choices. We must actively participate in the resolution of whatever relational problem we might have, even if it is not our fault.

Taking steps to improve communication will lead to a better relationship in which we can talk and listen to each other, leading to personal fulfillment for both spouses and a strong marriage.



3 rules to keep young moms sane

grocery shoppingYou’re at the store with a preschooler, a toddler and an infant (sounds like the beginning of a joke, except it’s not funny). Your preschooler is insisting to go to the toy section, your toddler wants out of the cart, and the infant is already showing signs that you will have to nurse soon. All in a day’s work, right? Well, that’s part of the problem. You feel like you’re dealing with this level of stress everyday!  How do you survive?

When my six kids were little, I had three rules I tried to live by in order to keep my sanity and enjoy my kids more.

  1. Never go to crowded places. Christmas shopping, grocery shopping on the weekend, any special event where there were going to be lots of people, these were all a big no, no. I knew that if I took all my kids to these places I was inviting unnecessary stress, not only for me, but for my kids. Grocery shopping was done either alone late at night when my husband was home and could take care of the kids, or during the day with the kids when the stores were less crowded. Carnivals, amusement parks and museums can be a lot of fun, but only if you can apply rule #2.
  2. Never be in a hurry. When my oldest was around four years old, we were walking in the mall and I was rushing to get to the next store. I turned around and said to him, “Come on, let’s go. We need to hurry up.” Instantly I heard a voice in my head say, “Where are you going? What’s the rush?” I realized then, that there was no real reason why I was rushing him, other than my personal habit of running from one place to another. I started to take steps to give myself enough cushion anytime I took my kids anywhere so that I wouldn’t need to rush them and we could just take our time. I knew I had redeemed myself a few years ago, when a friend of mine took her daughter and mine for a walk. When they returned, my friend said, “She (my daughter) really does take her time to smell the roses, doesn’t she?” Ha! Mission accomplished.
  3. Never lose focus.  I figured out a long time ago that my kids were only in the way when I rather be somewhere else. Whenever I rather be by myself, whenever I wanted to be out, or do something different, I would start to feel unsatisfied with my role as a mom of little ones. One way I used to stay focused was to take care of my “me time.”  For several years, Monday evenings were just for me. My husband would get home from work and I would leave minutes after. It was just for a few hours, but it was all mine. I went to the library to read, I went to the park for a walk, window shopping, have coffee with a friend, join a Bible study (not too intense and no homework), and sometimes I even went to the movies by myself. It filled me enough so that I could stay focused and enjoy the present.

Being a mom is hard work. There’s no need to make it harder by planning an outing where there are going to be lots of people or by stretching yourself so thin that you are always rushing. Moms are sacrificial to a fault.You need to make some time for yourself. It is healthy for your kids to see that being a mom doesn’t mean you stop being a person with needs and wants. Re-energizing helps you get back in the game and focusing on the present. It might be just what you need to not only keep sane, but to enjoy that season with your kids.

Can I have a do over of my life?

Confession time. My husband and I like to sit and watch a t.v. show together through all its seasons and then watch it all over again. It gets to the point where we know exactly what the episode is about in the first minute. My kids think this is really sad, but we rather enjoy knowing what’s going to happen. And everything gets solved in 45 mins, because there are no commercials.

old fashion televisionSometimes I wish my life was like that. I have momentary flash backs of good times and memories of situations I could have handled better. I would benefit from doing both over again. I would get to enjoy the good times again and would have better solutions for the bad.

If we are not careful, we can spend too much time living in the past wondering what we could have done better or missing the good old days and wishing we could start over.

We may not be able to go back to the beginning, but there are at least three ways to redeem the time and take advantage of the present.

  1.  Write it down. Putting journals together, writing down the stories, putting together the pictures can be a great way to relive fond memories over and over again.
  2. Be present. Dwelling in the past robs us of the present. This is the place where we can make a difference. So be intentional and make it count.
  3. Start where you are. If there are things you regret, make changes now. Whatever age you are, it is never too late to make changes. That’s what growing is all about. And what a great way to show your loved ones that we never stop learning from our mistakes.

Reruns are fun to watch, but they’re never as fun and exciting  as when we watched them the first time. So treasure the good memories, learn from the bad, and start a whole new episode in the present.