RSS

Tag Archives: personal growth

10 Ways to Recognize Safe Counsel

10 Ways to Recognize Safe CounselThere are people in my life who have earned the right to be blunt, honest, offering constructive criticism and feedback, and I receive it because of history, trust, love, and mutual understanding.

On the other hand, there are other folks who regularly cross that line and yet have not earned that place in my life or space in my head. I may love them deeply, but they speak from insecurity, negativity, and/or a lack of self-control. They are not voices God wants me to let in.

Along those lines, I frequently tell my children:

“People who put you down do not deserve space in your head and heart. Be kind but don’t engage. You are worth more than the voices of insecure speakers in your life—and I am too.” 

It’s a hard call at times, isn’t it? We should be open to feedback, but some folks are not healthy enough to offer it safely.

Know what I mean?

As I “grow up” in Christ, I am learning more and more that there are some voices I need to shut out and others that should be let in. I am growing in the discipline of asking God first: “Lord, she is saying this. Is this true? Is it from You? Should I take heed or put through Your filter and discard?”

God loves us so incredibly as a parent that He wants us to hear correction safely, gently, and with grace. And voices that don’t reflect His tender care need to be checked in with Him. For that matter, all voices do. Sometimes I have been caught in the web of someone’s honey offering when really they were simply waiting to build trust so they could crush it with unkindness.

Because we lack the ability to see other people’s motives, we must consult God and trust in His protection.

One of my favorite Proverbs on this topic is the entirety of Proverbs 4, a beautiful message written from King Solomon (son of King David) to his sons. Consider the wisdom here. There are at least 10 amazing guiding principles in the way the father counsels his children. Read the rest of this entry »

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

5 Ways to Defeat an Insecurity Problem

5 Ways to Defeat an Insecurity ProblemIf you ever want to know what insecurities are on a magnified level, spend one day sitting at a middle school lunch table. The cattiness, the put-down behavior, the one-upmanship: It’s a hot mess of growing humans who aren’t fully sure of their identities yet, and, feeling under a microscope as if the entire world is looking, they lash out at everything and everyone to find their place in the pecking order. It’s human sorting on steroids. Where do I fit in? Who are my friends?

Don’t get me wrong. I love middle school students. My husband and I teach the middle school and early high school crowd in Sunday School. They can be deep thinkers and amazing communicators—but we see them in a safe setting where they can be themselves and share from their hearts.

I know several of them face open hostility and negativity Monday through Friday from the minute they get to their bus stops to the minute they arrive home. While there are amazing growth points in middle school, I have always said that if you can survive middle school mostly intact, you can get through almost anything.

Personally, I’m delighted to have two children already through the murky, turbulent waters of middle school. I hold my breath as one more child goes through. And while middle schoolers get a bad rap from this kind of behavior, the truth is: Some folks struggle with this into adulthood. Insecurities can be slithery snakes that chokehold us from experiencing joy and hope for the future.

Let’s take a brief look at the damage our own insecurities can do. They can lead us to: Read the rest of this entry »

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Strong Enough to Jump

Many of God’s creatures like to create life in my aboveground pool. We’ve had tadpole rescue sessions (before the pool was shocked for the summer), and a few months ago, I discovered many eggs (larvae?) half-hatching from what looked to be flying ants. Yeah, so fun. Welcome to mating season. Come one, come all to what has been mistaken as a “love pond” in my backyard.

I was having such a lovely float around my pool one day for a good half hour. Slowly I drifted round and round to the steady pulse of the pool pump. I stared at the tall trees, prayed for dear ones, and marveled at the fact that my children are no longer the ages I am interrupted every few minutes. It was glorious. GLORIOUS!

When my youngest son came out with goggles on and the jumping-in-pool determination of an 11 year old set on a good swim, he made it through one quick pool-bottom-floor lap before surfacing with a shout:

“Ew! A dead frog! There is a dead frog on the bottom of the pool!”

Still not wanting my peace disturbed, I replied: “Are you sure he’s dead?”

My son, lover of all animal life and greatly saddened that an amphibian friend met its demise in our pool, exclaimed: “It was belly-up, Mom. And not moving.”

With that, we both scrambled out of the pool in search of a net to extract the remains to give it a proper burial (before my dogs thought it made a nice chew toy).

My son, Little Man, completed Operation Dead Frog Retrieval and put him down on the grass at my feet. Yup. Dead. Froggy had suffered his last supper with a side dish of chlorine.

He simply couldn’t jump out. His legs could only take him so far. He never made it out of the solar cover and over the side of the pool into the bushes.

I then thought about the five tadpoles we had rescued a few weeks before Read the rest of this entry »

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What’s Growing in Your Soil?

What Is He Planting in Your Soil?-2There is truly nothing about me that has a green thumb. I’m really proud of myself if I can keep a few hanging baskets alive two-thirds of the way through the summer. I’m not outdoorsy garden girl by any stretch of the imagination. I take my Vitamin D in a pill and sit outside only when I have to watch my kids in the pool. Summer sunlight does horrible things to my fair skin (trust me, I used to live in the South Pacific!), and pollen makes a beeline for the inside of my nose as soon as I exit my house to walk the dogs.

This is why it made absolutely no sense to me when a few weeks ago I felt a strong prompting to buy some pots, potting soil, and various seeds. I had no idea why I drove to Walmart one day with those items on my list, but I felt compelled to have them, as if someday in the near future, God would fill in the blanks for this assignment.

I went about my usual business for weeks, not doing anything about those pots—wishing I suddenly became Grow-It Jane but knowing I really was Read-and-Drink-Lattes Bonnie. Even my husband and children were puzzled when they saw the potting soil, but they know me well enough by now to just nod and move on with their day.

You would think that I would have learned how much I do not actually know after last year’s sunflower seed episode.

(After I finished rolling my eyes up in my head that my son came home with a sunflower seed to plant on the last day of first grade, we watched that 6-footer grow all summer—trusting it was more than a weed but not really sure for about 9 weeks. Know when it bloomed? First day of second grade. Yeah, it took a lot of trust not to toss that thing from its pot into the woods and assume it was another loss before it actually gave us beauty.)

God’s promises are just that: Ones we can’t see fully until they bloom. They are there, climbing toward heaven as if to give a holy nod to the Big Guy in the Sky until they reveal themselves to us.

Sometimes it feels like we go on blind trust, doesn’t it?

Read the rest of this entry »

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Any of Us – (Feedback + Constructive Criticism) = No Growth

 

IMG_6443

Feedback and constructive criticism.

Hmmm.

I’ve been tossing this subject around in my head for a while now—from all different angles, actually. As a writer/blogger, I face this issue frequently, especially on social media. A friend from high school and I recently had a good back-and-forth on this one. I always find it helpful to have others voice their thoughts or responses, even if I don’t fully agree with all of what they have to say. But sometimes, with a few days to chew on it, I find I either learned something significant from the feedback, or I remain strong in my resolve that I don’t agree. Either way, feedback and constructive criticism should not be something that we fear. In this case, it was helpful to hear another perspective on the use of social media (our particular topic). I won’t likely change my use of it based on this feedback, but I will be far more aware of how others use it differently, and that opens up my understanding of other people, if nothing else. And isn’t that a good thing?

I also have been thinking about feedback and constructive criticism from the perspective of someone who has offered it. Sometimes, people consider what we have to say, and sometimes, they get defensive, shut down, and quickly discard it simply because it’s inconvenient to hear or deal with. It’s amazing to me when I see several different people offer the same consistent feedback, and still, the input is quickly shoved away. Being defensive can sometimes simply mean we just had a bad day, but more often, it reveals a lack of maturity in us and a place where our growth is perhaps stunted at the moment. I have a few of those places in my life where I shove feedback out as fast as it is being offered. Those are places I can still choose to open myself up and grow. It’s never too late, really.

Now, when we offer feedback, to be fair, it’s not always going to be received and implemented. We can’t expect every person on this planet to see it our way, but when the same problems keep coming, and several people offer solutions that aren’t taken—or even considered—the result is simple: no growth.

Proverbs 23:9, Solomon speaking
Do not speak to fools, for they will scorn your prudent words.

It doesn’t matter what it is we do: spouse, parent, soccer coach, small or large business owner, administrative assistant, donut maker, teacher, truck driver, writer. It’s universal. If we want to get better at what we do, we have to listen to what people say. We don’t have to change everything about ourselves or how we do things, but we will never grow at all if we do life, our job, or even our families in a vacuum. We should be wary of surrounding ourselves only with people who flatter us and tell us what we want to hear. We should constantly tap into the strengths, experience, and wisdom of others.

Proverbs 13:10, Solomon speaking
Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.

Proverbs 13:20, Solomon speaking
Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.

As excited as I am to be publishing my first book (in just days!), hands down, the hardest part was the title. I test-marketed on social media, talked to my sister, consulted my pastor, and of course discussed with my editors. How do you choose something eye-catching for the shelves, easy-to-remember, not-too-long, but capturing the essence of the message and theme so that readers/buyers are neither misled nor disappointed? I would hate to think a reader would get to the end, or even the first few pages, and think: “That was it? I thought it was something altogether different.”

I think before all was said and done, 30 titles made the short list. The one I started out with was too edgy, even though it captured well where I was coming from: “Not Just Sucking in Air: Finding God’s Purpose in Each New Day.” I guess you can’t say “sucking” to a lot of people. I guess it’s off-putting. I get it on some level; I really do. Perhaps it is a degree short of palatable to word people. To me, this writing journey started at a place where sucking in air was all I thought I was capable of—and that, just barely. I had to write when I discovered joy again, when I realized God had so much more for me than just taking in oxygen every day, but on the days I only managed breathing, He was still there, not considering me a failure, cheering me on to greater purposes.

So when I opened this title question up to others, it was extremely vulnerable for me, considering what the original title signified for me. I received amazing amounts of good feedback. I learned that people enjoy being part of the process and weighing in. And it was very helpful, but it also tossed the book in about five different possible directions, each accurate in its own way. Some folks said, “shorter,” while others said, “longer.” Some wanted more narrowing in, while I wanted to open it up a bit wider without being too general. And what I discovered was that this writing thing is not an island. People are willing to help.

I also figured out that asking for help is a good exercise. Listening to constructive criticism is incredibly valuable. And humbling oneself is a way of simplifying the complicated.

Think about that for a second.

When our face is to the floor in humility and we are at our most open, there is tremendous clarity. When we hide behind our wall of pride, our view is greatly blocked.

Proverbs 11:2, Solomon speaking
When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.

And I loved seeing the hearts inside the people contributing their voices to the title. Knowing so many of them personally, it was sweet to see how their offered words matched who they were at the very heart.

So while I made myself a little crazy contemplating each word, its position in the title, the nuance, the possible connotations (depending on where people are coming from), and the effect on different possible readership, it helped me zone in on what is really important and who my audience truly is. Why should they listen, if I can’t?

I grow so much as a writer and as a person each time I ask outside myself. I’m so grateful for others who participate in life with me, even when they have something challenging or hard to say (or for me to hear). God gifts us with so many people to speak into our lives. I love it when I remember to tap into that amazing, overflowing resource. I would have missed out greatly on the beauty of what others had to say had I not done this.

May our hearts remain teachable, grabbing wisdom from those who have gone before us and drawing on the riches of other perspectives. It can be very personal to open ourselves up in this way, but the greatest growth happens deep inside of us; it often starts in the place where someone says to us: “You might want to consider this__________.”

If we can’t even let them finish that sentence without getting defensive, or we are already formulating a response in our heads to counter it, we might have a growth problem.

Proverbs 18:12-13, Solomon speaking
Before a downfall the heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor.
To answer before listening-—that is folly and shame.

 

 

 

 
1 Comment

Posted by on September 27, 2014 in Renewing Our Minds

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: