Tuesday, December 27, 2011

New Year. New Changes.

This week, many of us will be thinking about New Year’s Resolutions, or personal changes that we would like to make in our lives.  In fact, it is estimated that nearly 50 percent of Americans will resolve to make at least one important change in their lives, but a mere eight percent will be successful in keeping such resolutions. 

As I consider that statistic, I must admit that I am not surprised to hear that most of us do not stick to the resolutions that we make at the beginning of each year.  So many of us value change and progression, yet we struggle to achieve the goals that we set for ourselves.  Why is that?  Why is it so hard to make personal changes, particularly when they are important, meaningful, and beneficial?  What is so hard about doing what is best for us and achieving what we really want? 

In truth, I think that the answers to questions such as these are quite complex, yet simplistic at the very same time.  Change is hard.  It takes commitment, perseverance, and even courage.  Taking matters of life into our own hands involves responsibility, accountability, and the overcoming of obstacles that we would rather not face.  Additionally, as we make lasting changes in our lives, we may be put in a position that requires the help of others.  We may encounter uncertainty.  And we may have to rely on new processes such as insight, self-awareness, and discovery rather than older processes that we were once so comfortable with.       

Simply said, change can be hard.  Change can be scary.  Change can be confusing.  And sometimes, change is none of these things and it is unexpected or unintentional.  It might even be exciting, or simply the result of something natural or evolutionary.  Regardless of what change feels like, though, it is quite often necessary.  It is necessary in life because change leads to progression.  To growth.  To the betterment of one’s self and one’s life. 

As most of us well know, the journey of life does not happen in our comfort zone.  There are times in our lives that we must venture out to unknown territory and test our limits.  There are times in our lives that we must be a bit uncomfortable.  That we must do something a bit differently and make a change that is important, meaningful, and for the better in the long run.  This is important, no matter how comfortable or uncomfortable, for it is during these times that we learn what we are made of, discovering who we really are, what we really want in life, and what incredible feats we are really capable of. 

So if you are anything like those of us that are considering New Year’s Resolutions this week, I encourage you to make the most of it.  Venture out of your comfort zone and into new territory.  Challenge yourself, and attempt to do something differently.  And remember that most of the beautiful rewards in life would never had been achieved had a change not been made. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011


Merry Christmas everyone ~♥~Sara

I pray you enough sun to keep your attitude bright.

I pray you enough rain to appreciate the sun more.

I pray you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive.

I pray you enough pain so that the smallest joys in life appear much bigger.

I pray you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.

I pray you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.

I pray you enough "Hellos" to get you through the final "Good-bye"

Unknown Author

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Be bold, be bold, be bold.

"Freedom lies in being bold." -Robert Frost

Before you read any further, take just a moment and reflect on what that means to you.  Consider your idea of fortune and what that might look like in your life. Similarly, ask yourself what being bold mean to you.  When you think of living a bold life, what do you think of? Do you think of living a life that is free of fear, doubt, and apprehension? A life that is full of adventure, that is action-packed? Do you think of living life only for yourself, without any regard for others? Perhaps you think of living life as an outsider, as a rebel, a rogue.

Or perhaps living boldly means none of these things to you. Perhaps, when you think of living a bold life, you do not think of danger, adrenaline, and rebellion. Perhaps instead, you think of doing what you love, making time for play and self-care, and prioritizing your loved ones. Perhaps you think of having sound values, beliefs, and conviction. Of standing up for yourself, for others, and for what you believe in. Maybe living boldly to you means living with integrity, capability, perseverance, and grit. Of speaking your mind, expressing your feelings, and saying exactly what you mean, and meaning exactly what you say. Perhaps it means fostering meaningful relationships, with yourself and with others. It could even involve refraining from judgment, pessimism, and encouraging compassion, forgiveness, and lovingkindness. A life that keeps your heart and your mind open to new ideas, growth, awareness, and insight. Of realizing your goals and chasing your dreams. Perhaps a bold life is one that is liberated, courageous, and genuine. A life that allows you to be free to be exactly who you want to be.

Today, I encourage you to consider what it means to you to live boldly. Reflect on who you are and how you express yourself to the world through word and deed. Think, for a moment, about how true you are to yourself. Ask yourself what it would take for someone to water you down. How easily you can be reined in. How boldly and intentionally you live your life, trusting in yourself that the life you are living is the life that is for you.

No matter what this bold and brazen life looks like to you, however, I ask you to indulge yourself. Go ahead and live the life of your dreams, and do so with courage and valor of heart. Do not apologize or excuse the person you are or who you are not. Instead, revel in your unique beauty and enjoy exactly who you are at this moment, in this lifetime.

Live boldly today, for any other option is not truly living. Spread your wings as you embrace yourself. Chase your dreams, be true to yourself, and live.  Boldly.

Friday, December 16, 2011

...look up, get lost. :)

"We look not to the things that are seen

but to the things that are unseen;

for the things that are seen are transient,

but the things that are unseen are eternal."

-Corinthians 4:18



Thursday, December 15, 2011

I quickly changed the subject.

I read recently that "we are likened to a clay jars that hold the treasure." It went something like... Want to go on a treasure hunt? Look in the mirror. The person looking back at you is full of value and hides a treasure. In a time long ago the clay jar or pot were valuable to their owners. The pots may not have been as beautiful as a jeweled container, but the clay pots were useful and lasted long. They were ordinary, but they were invaluable for the tasks needed in the household.

Like a clay pot or jar, we are an ordinary tool. An everyday person.

A while back I was asked a question that I found peculiar. Well peculiar because...You just don't come out and ask someone..."so... when you're alone, do you like yourself?" Maybe I'm the odd ball but I found it to be a question I never thought to ask myself much less to be asked it by another person. I don't recall me answering and I'm sure I quickly changed the subject.

I've reflected back on that question a lot and I've come to think it is maybe that simple... working on a "yes" for that little question can do a lot for one's inner self. Life can seem so large and crushing. If only we can choose to chew on one small manageable piece at a time.

"We shape clay into a pot, but it is the emptiness inside that holds whatever we want." What do you fill your pot with? Worry, fear, sadness and resentment? Or grace, comfort, gratefulness and peace...!

The Potter's House~"Sometimes saying goodbye to certain people, habits or things helps us to transition for God’s divine purpose. For many of us, change is traumatic. Others crave change. To be used for your highest, you must be a forward thinker and plan your life with change in mind."

I've come to do whatever I can...pray, read, talk, express, whatever I can do to learn how to honestly answer YES to my little question. "When I'm by myself, do I like myself?" Yes YES yes!

The story of the clay pot was written by Paul in Corinthians 4:7 "We have this treasure from God, but we are like clay jars that hold the treasure. This shows that the great power is from God, not from us."

The treasure Paul is talking about is Jesus.

If you ever feel as boring as a clay jar, be glad. God chose to live in you and use you. It isn't what is on your outside that counts, but who is on your inside. Embracing this truth has me understanding that I am never truly alone. The feelings of loneliness and solitude CAN be feelings of companionship and peace if I choose it.

We deserve to be honored, not by others but by ourselves... next time you find yourself alone, celebrate the clay pot you are likened to.

Our prayer for this week is: God, In our grief, be with us and change our heart. In our anger, be with us and change our heart. In our pain, be with us and change our heart. In our doubt, be with us and change our heart. It is not that we do not have, but rather that which we do have has a hold on us. Lord, teach us the true meaning of thankfulness, otherwise we shall be led away by the lie of riches. As you have said yourself, “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his soul”? We pray this in Jesus’ name. ~Amen.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Lookie See

Can you imagine what it would belike if we had the ability to see into the lives of the people we encounter eachday?   What would it be like to discoverthat each person we encounter has something going on that we would otherwise nothave known about: Fear or pain, feelings ofdiscontent or a lack of purpose, addiction, loneliness, grief or loss,or an unmet need.  Can youimagine what it would be like to see people in such a way?  To see that the people we are surrounded byare not just "other people" and see them for who they really are, not what we assume them to be.  To see that they, just like you and I, havetriumphs and struggles. 

If we were ableto see these things about people, we would discover that we certainly cannotjudge a book by its cover.  That eachperson we meet is worthy of love, compassion, and empathy.  That we really must walk a mile in anotherman's shoes before we can truly understand him.

If you can imagine what it wouldlike to see people in such a way, can you imagine what it would be like to be those people?  What would it be like to grieve the death ofyour best friend?  To run away from homeat a young age?  To be bullied?  To go bankrupt?  To feel alone?  What might it feel like to live through tragedy,heartbreak, loss?  What might it feellike to know pain?

If we could see people in such anlight, and have compassion and empathy for them, we discover that we really arenot as different as may first think.  Wehave all known pain or faced some hardship at some point in our lives.  Yet, we seem to forget that about oneanother.  We know that we must treat oneanother with kindness, that we must refrain from judgment, that we must be patient with them and ourselves.  But so often, weforget this and treat people unjustly, harbor ill will towards them, or take their experiences for granted.  So often, weignore the experience of others and assume that we have them all figuredout. 

So often, we let the chance toshow someone love slip through our fingertips.

So what can we do aboutthis?  What is the solution to thisproblem?  The solution iscompassion.  It is empathy.  It is lovingkindness.  It is doing good for others and doing goodfor ourselves.  It is remembering that weare all in this together, that we are all interconnected and interdependentupon one another. 

I encourage you to take a different kind of lookaround you today.  Open your mind, take a deeper look, andtry to see what does not meet the eye. Have compassion for other people and show them how good you are.  How good you know that they are.  And if you cannot do this, at least do themno harm.  Instead, take the time to reach out andtouch the hearts of those surrounding your, and in turn, allow your heart to betouched by theirs. 


Thursday, December 8, 2011

it's yours. follow it.

"....the moment you feel someone should THINK like you THINK, BELIEVE what you BELIEVE, hold TRUE what you hold TRUE, is the moment you have lost your way....your path is for YOU to follow - and in the end is a great big gathering of HEARTS with their OWN story to tell."

 ♥ ♥ 

make it a good one!


Our Words.

This week to say the least has been awe-inspiring.

On one hand I have been lifted in God's work. I was blessed with kind words from those that heard "A sacrifice of Thanksgiving" in church. I'm excited about the new connections that have been made for Wings of Hope and I’m grateful for the work being done in the little grief group I attend. Along with a few other events and messages received this week that has me inspired to keep sharing and caring, to keep spreading hope and love.

But on the other hand is why the "Awe" needs to be in front of my "Inspiring" week. As I shared my feelings last week of insecurity and expressed how my grief has me humbled. I've found that one person very near and dear to my heart has not been experiencing me in this light. I'm not sure why or when this happened but I learned of this after I too easily shared my opinion. Alot of something that boiled down to just because we think it, doesn’t mean that we have to say it and this has fractured our relationship. When I spoke up, I knew that my opinion was going to sting but I also knew that WE’VE been doing that "slap of reality" FOR each other all our lives. With me now being seen differently in their eyes... I had no chance of contributing our “old way”. In fact I've been left dazed and confused with... is there a "new" way or is it now "no" way? I'd like to start a new paragraph and tell everyone how I have a happy ending to my story but I can’t. Besides, because this person is so important to me I would never long for an ending. All I can say is I'm sorry that you feel this way, nothing can or will affect the way I feel for you and I'm on my knees praying for God’s continued guidance.

The following is a message from Pastor Paul.
The Word for this week is: “our words”. Seems fitting for the spot I find myself.

Our prayer for this week is that we will think before we speak, and speak with wisdom when we do. Blessed is the Lord who beckons us to prayer. In Jesus name ~ Amen.


Scripture Text: Isaiah 50:4 Living Bible
“The Lord God has given me His words of wisdom so that I may know what to say.”

Imagine a world without words! They are so necessary for communication, essential for instruction, correction and coordination. They have an incredible, almost unequalled potential to heal or hurt. “The power of life and death is in the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21).

Could we ever imagine a world without unkind and unwise words? Wouldn’t that be a good change? Ever said something that later was wished would never have happened? Friends do that. Spouses do that. Brothers and sisters do that. Sons and daughters do that. Parents do that, and pastors and church people do that. We all can remember so many times that we have done just that, and regret every time we allowed ourselves to do so. Foolish words. In the heat of the moment. Out of frustration. Words of anger. Without thinking. Someone described it this way, “having their mouth in gear while their brain was still in neutral.” That is definitely not a good thing – for us or anyone else for that matter.

The Apostle Paul encouraged the believers at Ephesus to not only speak the truth, but to always “speak the truth in love . . . let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them” (Ephesians 4:15, 29). How can anyone successfully achieve that without depending on God to give them wisdom with their words? It is not only saying the right thing, but also saying it in the right way. Even at the right time. “A word fitly spoken . . .” (Proverbs 25:11).

“If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to control the whole body” (James 3:2) Mastering our words is a key to mastery in other areas of our personal lives. Wisdom is a filter through which we choose our words. Love is a filter through which we check our words. Consideration of others is a filter for our words. Just because we think it, doesn’t mean that we have to say it.

The best filters are these: will our words glorify God (Romans 15:6). Will our words edify the hearer (Philippians 4:6). Will our words testify of Jesus’ love and grace (Colossians 3:17). If our words can pass those tests, then we can be assured that “The God has given words of wisdom that we may know what to say.”

Final thoughts:

(*) When having a bad time with our tongue, repent, asking God and the one damaged to forgive us.
- Get back on track with a clean heart and spirit.
- Slow down. -- Think and pray over what a better way of expressing the concern might be, even postpone talking about the matter until a better understood wisdom and God’s heart in what needs to be said is found.
- Learn to put on the brakes in any situation immediately when the red light of the Spirit’s conviction starts to alert us of the unsettling danger that is most likely ahead. – A scheduled time to prepare for a difficult conversation is found to be very helpful.
- Learn the wisdom of not talking.
… Keep confidences, protect relationships, and walk in the freeing humility and clear spirit of a tongue in check.
… The Apostle Paul wrote to the church these words: “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:6). -- “Seasoned with salt”, timely, balanced, life-giving, preserving, nourishing, desirable, relationship-building.
(*) Of Jesus they said: “No one ever spoke the way this man does” (John 7:46). -- May our patterns of speech emulate that of our Lord’s.

For those interested in receiving Pastor Paul's messages, please e-mail Pastor Paul (pastorpaul@willmarag.org) and mention you would like to be included.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


I LOVE this time of year...picking out the tree...decorating the tree...creating a HUGE mess while making Christmas cookies...wrapping presents and watching the kids snoop under the tree...lights...garlin...stockings...and the spirit of BELIEVING!

I'm sure many of you heard the saying this time of year, "If you don't believe, you don't receive."  I heard someone say that the other day, and I thought to myself..."That is SO true for my life."  I've lived the majority of my life not believing...not believing in MYSELF!  I was never pretty enough, never skinny enough, never fast enough, never strong enough, never tall enough, never smart enough...I spent alot of my life disliking myself...full of guilt...full of shame...full of resentment...full of jealousy...and always wanting what I didn't have.  I was never just happy with what I had right in front of me, and I began to chase happiness.  "Once I have _______, I will be happy."  "Once I do _______, I will be happy."  I blamed others around me for my lack of happiness because I was counting on them to make me happy...my life spiraled downward and I had no choice but to find my happiness.  This was VERY hard for me because it wasn't something I was used to.  There was pain, there was hurt, there were tears, there were times I wanted my life to end...and then, my happiness seemed to sneak right in the door that I didn't know I left open.  My happiness came to me when I started living my life for ME...working hard to heal old wounds...turning it all over to GOD...and most of all, when I started to BELIEVE in MYSELF!

So my friends, I ask you what is in the way of YOUR believing?  I've learned that life is not easy...but it's what you make of it.  Don't stop believing...don't shut the door on something you don't think is possible to have anymore...don't give up HOPE.  Believe and you shall RECEIVE!

Angie Rudningen

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Just. Be. You.

Do you know what makes you tick?  What makes you happy and upset?  Can you admit to and face your fears?  Do you know what your gifts are and have a desire to share them?

…If you have answers to these questions, that is fabulous! You are on your way to satisfying your most basic and very unique intrinsic needs.

Do you have the ability to gauge both your strengths and your weaknesses?  Do you follow your gut instincts?  Are you able to set realistic goals for yourself that are also challenging?  Are you capable of engaging in self-reflection objectively, without making excuses for your perceived flaws?

…If you are able to provide answers to these questions, again, that is wonderful! Being able to look at yourself with objectivity suggests that you are self-aware and in tune with who you are. 

Do you have a willingness and an ability to act in accordance with your values?  Do you stand up for what you believe in, even if it may be uncomfortable to do so?  Are you able to reconcile the conflicting sides of yourself, tending to what seems most pertinent at the time?

…Again, if you are able to answer these questions, good for you, as it is rather likely that your actions are well-aligned with your core values.

Finally, are you able to foster honest and sincere relationships with the people in your life?  Are you comfortable revealing all sides of yourself, in some way or another, even though doing so may feel vulnerable?  Are you in touch with your emotions enough to express them to other people?

…Answering “yes” to these questions suggests that you allow yourself to be known by others because you know and are more or less comfortable with who you are.  Consequently, it is likely that you encourage others to reveal themselves to you as well.

Each one of these categories of questions addresses the four most basic facets of authenticity.  Authenticity means that you know and trust yourself well enough to let your guard down and reveal your most true self to yourself and others.  Being authentic means that you recognize that the self is complex, dynamic, and evolving and you are willing to adapt to life as you know it and accept yourself, for better or worse.  Essentially, it means that you prefer to just be you.   

Think for a moment about how authentically you live your life.  How comfortable you are in your own skin.  How in touch you are with your values and belief systems.  How accurately you can assess not only your strengths, but your weaknesses as well.  How easily you can expose your true heart and soul to other people, as well as yourself.

How genuinely do you live your life?   If you feel that you are an authentic individual, my heart smiles for you.  Because if you feel that you are true to yourself, you are so much more likely to feel happy.  To feel fulfilled and rewarded in this life.   You are much more likely to live freely, because you feel free to be yourself.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Losing Adam has not only...

G.R.I.E.F- over whelming hurt, pain, sorrow, anguish, a true meaning of heartache.

Grieving a loss- yearning for someone that once was. A longing for something that was anticipated.

I have for the past 11 months been sharing what Adam did to put forward what it feels like for me. To plead with anyone that is thinking about taking their own life to comprehend the pain it causes. The new heartache that I'm now discovering is it's not only the feelings that I'm left with but what it's been doing to me and those around me. It is a painful truth that I need to express! Knowing my brother... he knew this was going to hurt and for some he thought "good, let them hurt" for the others he felt bad but that we'd all get over it in time. WRONG ADAM...we will never get over it, moving on has been forced and our lives will always have holes.

Losing Adam has not only left me feeling the emotions of grief. The sadness, the guilt and the anger that comes and goes in waves but I'm also feeling the absents of my brother. This has left me with feeling misplaced myself. It was normal that I had embraced a false truth. Normal that I had thought Adam would always be in my life and I in his. Natural that the picture I had painted of my future included Adam, always. Now that life has been completely turned upside down, I've been forced to see that the picture I painted is incomplete and without him the rest feels unbalanced. Without him the other pieces look and feel unstable. This is uncomfortable for me yes, but how very uncomfortable for the others still here with me. I can see the pain, anger and uneasiness that is being caused to those around me, those that are still in this painting I described above. How terrible it must feel for the "other pieces" still remaining. Where and how do they now fit? Not only am I giving off the feeling of no longer being whole but to hear that our future picture is unstable...how distressing that must be. Adam's decision had left me feeling insecure. A feeling my family and friends were not use to me having and a feeling I refused to except.

I have found hope through my suffering. This is my testimony ♥...I had faith, I had my belief in the Lord's promise. But it's at the deepest of my suffering that I met Jesus and began my relationship with the Holy Spirit.

With the help of some wonderful people, I've turned my troubles and sorrows to the Lord and I trust Jesus in helping the rest of my family. See I put a lot of the blame for Adam on myself and then felt it was my job to take away the blame everyone else is feeling. I still have days that the guilt comes rushing back, this is always going to be a scar for me. But I know that I LOVED Adam and all that LOVE could do had been DONE!

I have also learned through my grief that we are not put here to do what it is we want to do with our lives but to do what God has planned for our lives. Planning for our future is good... preparation for eternity is essential. ‎... there is so much more than this world.

Romans 15:13... May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

For me Hope was produced by my endurance through my suffering. With God in my heart, Jesus by my side and the Holy Spirit as my guide I'm now very active in helping others. I can and have the opportunity to help others going through some of the same things I have and for this blessing I am very thankful. See I use to say, a lot, that God only gives you what you can handle. Now it's my belief that we can handle what we have been given with God.

Bitterness is a toxin that binds us to the past. Do you find yourself today with a “wad of paper” called guilt, bitterness, grief or resentment? Listen to the lyrics of the song “Amazing Grace” which talks about letting go of guilt, bitterness and grief:
AMAZING GRACE how sweet the sound, That saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found, Was blind but now I see.
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, And grace my fears relieved; How precious did that grace appear The hour I first believed!
Thro’ many dangers toils and snares, I have already come; ‘Tis grace hath bro’t me safe thus far And grace will lead me home.
When we’ve been there ten thousand years, Bright shining as the sun, We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise Than when we first begun. (“Amazing Grace” by John Newton, 1725-1807)

Our prayer this week: Lord, when our emotions surprise and confuse us, may we rest in Your constant presence of grace, mercy and peace in abundance. We pray this in Jesus’ name ~Amen.


Wednesday, November 30, 2011


As you read this, I would like you to ask yourself what kind of needs you have that tend to go unmet. Maybe you are in need of more balance, alone time, or the opportunity to pursue a personal interest.  Perhaps you need more time with your significant other, intimacy, or stimulating conversation with a friend.  Maybe your body is craving some attention or your health needs tending to.  Or, perhaps you are in a time of hardship, limbo, or transition and you need to turn the page.  Maybe you are currently fulfilling some roles that just aren't fulfilling you.  Perhaps it is none of these things and your soul just needs some stirring, making your needs a bit more abstract.  Or, perhaps instead they are really quite simple.

No matter what your specific needs are, though, you have them.  We all do.  Some of which we can meet on our own, and some that we simply cannot meet without the help of others.

As you reflect on what your needs are, take a moment to think about what it would be like to tell someone about them.  I am willing to bet that doing so feels a bit risky or uncomfortable.  Maybe even a bit vulnerable.  Admitting our needs to other people, especially when those needs have an effect on our loved ones, can be really difficult.  It can even feel somewhat foreign or scary as we expose parts of ourselves to others by admitting to our needs and acknowledging that we cannot always meet them on our own. 

This can be scary, because we cannot be entirely sure what will happen.  What if the person that we are opening up to doesn't receive it well?  What if they get mad?  What if they judge you or don't understand?  What if it hurts their feelings?  What if they turn the tables and they make it about themselves?  What if the person you have opened up to just does not respond at all?

Or, what if it goes really well?  What if none of those scary things happen, and the person you have opened up to takes your heart gently into their hands and says, "I understand.  I love you.  And I am here to support you"?  How wonderfully comforting would that be?  How good would you feel as you are finally able to have your needs acknowledged?  How satisfied would you feel when some of your needs are finally fulfilled? 

As you take this time to reflect on your needs, also take a moment to imagine the contentment you might feel should they be accepted and met.  Weigh the benefits against the disadvantages of pursuing those needs.  Similarly, consider the positive and negative consequences should you choose to not tend to that side of yourself.  And finally, as you wrap your head and your heart around each of these alternatives, consider how you might move forward from here and bravely take that first step. 


Friday, November 25, 2011

....doing it anyway.

don't ya just feel that way sometimes?
just plain ready to give up rather than dig in again and "get through it"

i have the notion to go get another tattoo that says the following:

"she did it anyway."

because we do.
we have.
and we continue to just keep on keepin' on.
we dig deep and from somewhere inside us we find yet another bundle of energy to push us through.
or perhaps it is somewhere above us....or someONE right beside us that gives us that extra bit of courage and strength.

whatever way you get through those "feelings" , my hope is that the next time you feel as though you "can't do it anymore"...
YOU tell yourself you CAN, you WILL and you DO.
because LIFE is worth it. 
those you LOVE are worth it.
and most of all - my beautiful - never before created,  unique and amazing individual soul.....
YOU are worth it.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tis the Season

Tis the season!  Or so they say.  While the holiday season is full of excitement and cheer for many, there are many of us who struggle with difficult feelings that seem to intensify as the holidays approach.  For some of us, it is the hustle and bustle or the added financial demands that we find overwhelming.  Others may find themselves worried about family dynamics, relationship issues, or tension of another sort.  Still others may feel a sense of grief, loneliness, turmoil, or a bittersweet sadness that seems to accompany the holiday season.

If the holidays tend to take an emotional toll on you, know that you are not alone.  If this sounds at all familiar to you, do not add any undue pressure or stress to your life because you are feeling this way.  Perhaps, it might serve you well to approach the holidays a bit differently this year.  Perhaps, instead of getting caught up in the stress or forcing a process that you are uncomfortable with, you might consider doing something for yourself.  This year, I encourage you to put yourself on your Christmas list and engage in a little extra self-care. 

While it is not always easy to take time for ourselves, particularly during this time of year, it is certainly worth the investment.  Take a moment to acknowledge your feelings, whatever they are, and consider what it is that you need.  Perhaps you might benefit from a little extra compassion, patience, and self-reflection.  Maybe it is alone time you crave, social support, or a much-needed break from the demands of your life.  Or, it may be that you could benefit from reminding yourself to be realistic with the expectations you place on yourself, that it is okay to say no, assert yourself, or set aside differences.      Perhaps budgeting, planning ahead, and maintaining healthy habits is what you need.  Or, maybe it is something entirely different that you are looking for this season.   

Whatever it is that you need most this year, do not be afraid to give yourself that gift.  Give yourself permission to make yourself a priority and take care of yourself just as well as you take care of everyone else on your Christmas list.  Think of positive ways that you might transform your holiday traditions this year, even if it is just a bit, and allow yourself the freedom to make those changes.  As you reflect on what you are needing in the here-and-now, consider how you can be most present and content with where you are at.  Similarly, take a moment to smile upon your past while also asking yourself what you have to look forward to in the coming year.   

As you reflect on your feelings surrounding the holiday season and discover what it is that you need this time of year, I hope that you are able to find a way to incorporate such things into your holiday celebration.  Most importantly, I hope that you are able to find a holiday cheer that is most peaceful and meaningful to you. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

What were we thinking?

Ten Myths for Grieving the Loss of a Loved One to Suicide

1. You will get over it in a month or two.
2. You will handle it like everyone else.
3. You will grieve in the same way as your spouse, your children, or others close to the deceased.
4. You won’t be angry at the deceased.
5. You shouldn’t cry.
6. You shouldn’t talk about your loss.
7. Your marriage, inevitably, will fail.
8. You won’t have suicidal thoughts.
9. Your life will never have meaning again.
10. The experience will be a straight-line process through the stages of grief and beyond acceptance to joy again, and the pain will never return.

As I sit here typing these ten myths, Adam’s 10 year old step-daughter asked me how I planned on helping her friend’s parents. Come to find out she goes to school with a young man that was at the funeral this last Tuesday. I read to her the ten un-truths above.

She said “those are not right at all.” “You get scared, and sad, and mad… then maybe try to act like nothing is wrong but that doesn’t work so you get scared again and cry a lot.” “A lot of people say it’s best to just try and fake your way through your day but it’s not!” “Because you start putting too much pressure on yourself and it just comes out anyways but all at once.” I believe she told me this all in one breath.

I asked her what it’s like to be a kid and learn that Adam took his own life. She said (and this broke my heart) that when she was first told, "everyone just kept saying he was sick and she thought he died because he was sick.” It was from hearing others talk about Adam committing suicide that she learned bits and pieces of the truth. That’s what made my heart ache so, here’s at the time, a 9 year old, 5 year old and 2 year old thinking Adam was ill and just didn’t wake up. What were we thinking? No wonder the younger ones are afraid to go to bed! They all had to be afraid they could get sick, or mommy could, or wonder who could get sick next.

This little niece of mine also has that fire side, as I describe it, to help those just now going through what she’s gone through these last few months. As we said her prayers tonight… she said “everyone will have bad days, I’m just glad to be having more good days.” I’m glad for her too.

Sadly it’s now really have an effect on Adam’s sons and this is brings up a whole mess of feelings for us all. I pray that God will guide us to what will be the best way to help them with their grieving. John 15:7…but if you stay joined to me and my words remain in you, you may ask any request you like, and it will be granted!

Did you know that there are seven suicides recorded in the bible?

Our Prayer for this week: Give us insight this day, Lord our God, to understand your ways, and consecrate our hearts to reverence you. From our sins redeem us with forgiveness; from pain and sorrow give us spiritual insight. Let us rejoice in the understanding of our redemption. Blessed is the Lord who beckons us to prayer. In Jesus name we pray ~ Amen.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Stuffing is for Turkeys

Do you, or anyone else in your life, have the habit of “stuffing”?  Do you ever stuff something away to spare someone else’s feelings at the expense of your own?  Do you ever avoid a sensitive issue because of the discomfort it may cause you or a loved one?  Do you ever worry that you cannot talk to someone about something important to you because of how they might respond, or that you may not be able to accurately express yourself?  Do you minimize the importance of your concerns for the benefit of someone else?  Is talking about yourself, your thoughts, and your feelings ever just plain old uncomfortable for you?

Although there are times that it is better to hold our tongues, stuffing can be problematic.  It is hard on the stuffer, because it is taxing to keep issues bottled up without adequately acknowledging them.  It does a disservice to the potential listener by not affording them a chance to improve upon or defend themselves, nor does it allow them a chance to offer support to the stuffer.  It is also harmful to a relationship, as it denies the opportunity for better communication, it does not allow issues to be worked out, and it often creates whole new problems that disproportionate to the original concern.  And then things get messy. 

So what do we do about stuffing?  Do we dump our verbal spewage everywhere?  Do we blurt out our feelings with every little irritation we experience?  Do we say everything we feel, all the time, without considering the impact we have on others?  Should we always be completely transparent?  Perhaps not.

Perhaps there a middle ground.  Perhaps we should make a concerted effort to be selective about what we share and use self-reflection to help us better package and deliver our messages.  Perhaps considering how our listeners will perceive our message will help them receive what we have to say and encourage us to speak up.  Perhaps our loved ones may need some coaching to better support us as we expose our feelings to them.  Perhaps these conversations that are so uncomfortable can also be really important, and really good.   

Communication takes practice, it takes patience, and it takes courage.  It takes a lot to be effective communicators and to openly listen to our loved ones.  Sometimes we have to say things we would rather not.  Sometimes we have to say or hear truths that hurt.  And sometimes, the most important truths are uncomfortable.  But when we accept those truths, talk about them, and work through them, we are able to move forward.  We become closer to the people that we love, more in tune with ourselves, and better able to foster more fulfilling relationships.  Ultimately, when we communicate more freely, we become more authentic and real, both to ourselves and to others.

Take the risk and consider opening up today.  Venture out of your comfort zone and express yourself.    

Monday, November 14, 2011

Have I Told You Lately...

"Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal."
~From a headstone in Ireland.
Today I am reminded how very precious life.   So I am going to keep it very simple.
Remember to tell the ones you love how very much they mean to you, even if you think they already know. Even if sometimes it’s just hard to say, “I love you” say it anyway. Write a letter, send a text, or call them on the phone. Leave a memory of love that time cannot steal.
Find the words, find the time and share your love.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Silence about suicide is toxic

That’s what we ask.
The truth is, we may never be able to know for sure why.
But we do know that there is no single “should have done” or “could have done” or “did” or “didn’t do” that would have changed that why.
All that love could do was done.

Our thoughts are with those that lost a son, brother, friend... along with the police, EMT, bystanders... the list goes on, so many affected!

I and many others are praying hard today and will continue to. Suicide will not go away with silence. Hug your loved ones extra tight and have a conversation. We need to use our voices, watch our tongues and speak with truth.


Our Prayer for this week: God of power and mercy, you have made death itself the gateway to eternal life. Look with love on our dying brother, and make him one with Your Son in His suffering and death, that, sealed with the blood of Christ, he may come before you free from sin. God, lover of souls, You hold dear what You have made and spare all things, for they are Yours. Look gently upon Your servant, and by the Blood of the corss forgive his sins and failings. Remember the faith of those who mourn and satisfy their longing for that day when all will be made new again in Christ, our risen Lord, who lives and reigns with You forever and ever.~Amen.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

If At First You Dont Succeed...

Fail[fayl]: to be unsuccessful in trying to do something.

Impressive, are they not? Famous actresses. Exceptional athletes. Unprecedented presidents. Life-changing inventions. These people are amazing. Extraordinary, even.

But that is not what this video is really about. While these people really were phenomenal, it was not about their accomplishments.

This video is not about failure, either.

This video is about trying, no matter how big or small your goals. It is about effort. It is about guts. And grit. About having the courage to give something a try. To give it your all. Over and over and over again. It is about taking a risk and doing something you are passionate about.

Maybe you will fail. Or perhaps you will succeed.

But how will you know if you never try?

And that is the thing. That is the keyword in the definition above. It is not about being unsuccessful. It is about trying, no matter what the outcome. Just try. You cannot possibly fail if you do not try. Yet, if you never try, you will never excel either, will you?

And if you never try, if you never take that risk, you will never really live.

Tonight, my birds, just try. Do not focus on the outcome. Rather, focus on your efforts. On your courage. Your guts, your grit, your passion. Focus on yourself, and what you know to be true. Do not worry yourself with what other people say. Do not allow yourself to be dismissed. Do not be bothered by doubt. Have faith in yourself and know that if you try, if you take that risk, you will live. And as you live, you shall fly. 


Thursday, November 3, 2011

what? i have a CHOICE?

.... a universal paradox. 
consequence of choice.
thinking about that one....
free to choose, but not FREE from the consequence of your choice.
really, would you want to be free of the consequences? 
i wouldn't.  
pretty please.

years and years of CHOICES make us! 
choices SHAPE the individuals that we are.

we CHOSE {past}, we CHOOSE {present}, and we WILL always be MAKING CHOICES {future}
...and then we experience.

....consequence seems like a harsh word.
it's not.
it is SIMPLY the experience we have to the decisions we make.
good & bad.

i think if i could re-write the above....if i were going to pass something down to my boys - it would read the following.

YOU are FREE to choose.
YOU are FREE to your own perspective on the results of your choice.

YOUR CHOICES and the PERSPECTIVE of the results of your choices 
THAT is what MAKES YOU.... you.
...always has, always will.
Make YOUR CHOICE worth it.
then own it.

life is ONE great big BEAUTIFUL MAZE of choices.
i have watched  people in MY LIFE make choices, so selfless it brings me to my knees with pride.
i have watched choices come full circle and connect with immeasurable love.
from our choices come OUR STORIES.
chapters of our lives.
we  make choices that put our souls in a holding place, 
 ...cause hearts to shatter into a million pieces.

we make choices that are tucked deep down, under lock and key that only we will draw and grow from.
but through it all.....
we should always OWN them, treasure them, grow from them.
and continue to do so all our lives.
don't let your choices BREAK YOU let them MAKE you.
no matter what.

when you OWN something it is yours.
yours to understand, yours to learn from, yours to be proud of. 


LOVE em'.
choose. with. passion. and persistence.

xoxo, ang.

The Heart of it All

Happy Thursday everyone! I hope this finds you well and open to the words of Pastor Paul. I just love receiving his emails and I'm truly blessed to have him in my life. My husband Chris has this way of explaining the special people in our lives as "living angels" and after Adam left I have been blessed with many. Pastor Paul would say that I've been receiving angels all my life, it just wasn't until I hit rock bottom and ask for help that I could feel them. So I want to thank all my angels, past and present! Thank you for helping me, guiding me, caring for me and excepting me. Love to you all. ~Sara

A Few Minutes in the Word of God with Pastor Paul
“Biblical prescriptions for a better life”

Today’s Focus:
We live in a world that’s fascinated with the heart. – We hear often about “Heart Smart Days” or “How to Stay Young At Heart, with Heart Healthy Recipes.”
- Nutritionists tell us about the right kind of foods which promote a healthy heart.
- It doesn’t make any difference whether our favorite exercise is walking, running, cycling or swimming, consistent exercise is crucial for a healthy heart.

When God talks about the heart, He’s not usually referring to the blood-pumping vessel that keeps our bodies alive.
- When God talks about the heart, He’s referring to the very core of who we are.
- The Bible uses the word “heart” to describe the bundle of desires and hopes and dreams we have deep inside us.

Today, we want to talk about three insights that will help us live in such a way so we experience the desires of our heart.

Message: “The Heart of it All”

Scripture: Psalm 37:4
“Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

Our Main Points:
The significance of our hearts.
- The Bible uses the word “heart” to describe our deepest longings and dreams and ambitions... the things we care about most and love to do.
... Proverbs 27:19 says: “Just as water mirrors your face, so your face mirrors your heart” (The Message).
... In other words, our heart is what makes us!
- The Bible says our hearts determine three things.
... Why we say the things we do – Jesus said it like this: “Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34).
... Why we feel the way we do – Hebrews 4:12 says: “God’s word judges the thoughts and the attitudes of the heart.”
... Why we act the way we do – Proverbs 4:27 says: “Above all else, guard your heart for it’s the wellspring of life.”

- Our hearts are what motivates us to do the things we do and God wants us to do what we do with all of our heart. – Colossians 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord.”
Signs that we’re experiencing life with all our heart:
- God wants us to do what we do out of the motivations He puts within us.
... How do we know if we’re doing that?
... How do we know if we’re living with all our heart?
- There are three evidences of that above is happening.
... Enthusiasm – Ecclesiastes 2:10 says, “My heart took delight in all my work.”
... Effectiveness – That’s what the Apostle Paul talked about in Romans 15:20, when he said, “It has always been my ambition to preach the Gospel where Christ was not known¼”
... Excellence – The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Run in such a way as to get the prize” (I Corinthians 9:27a).
- One of the great tragedies of life is that so few people live life with all their heart.

Steps to living with all our heart?
- The Scriptures warn us about the deceitfulness of our hearts?”
... Jeremiah 17:9 says, ““The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”
... On the one hand, God wants to give us the desires of our hearts; but on the other hand, our heart is deceitful and beyond cure.
- What are we supposed to do about this mentioned above and how can we protect the integrity of those most basic desires of our hearts? – Here’s what we need to do:
... Surrender our lives to Christ. – “Seek your happiness in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desire. Give yourself to the Lord, trust in Him, and He will help you” (Psalm 37:4,5).
... Search out our interests. – Paul said it like this: “Everyone should examine his own conduct, then he will be able to take the measure of his own worth, no need to compare himself to others” (Galatians 6:4).
... Seek out our options. – Proverbs 23:23 says, “... get wisdom, discipline and understanding.”
... Step out in faith.
+ “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
+ “[Not in your own strength] for it is God Who is all the while effectually at work in you [energizing and creating in you the power and desire], both to will and to work for His good pleasure and satisfaction and delight” (Philippians 2:13, Amplified Version).

Our Final Thoughts:
The secret of a fulfilled life? – “Find out what we love to do, and God made us to do, and do it for His glory!”
- Don’t drift along in life.
- Find out how we can best use who He’s made us to be (at any age) and use our gifts and our passion for His glory.
If not already, are we willing to ask God to enrich our lives more so in this way?

Our Prayer for the week: “So often, O Lord, we try to analyze and figure things out from an earthly perspective here and now in the middle of our situations. We ask, “Why did You let that happen to us?” But the answer only comes in knowing and understanding Your love; and You reveal it to us through Your Son Jesus, the language of life. What a privilege it is for us to approach You this evening. We are coming to receive Your love and reassurance so that we can stand strong and walk in faith and know Your Word, that Your will might be done, that Your kingdom might come right here to our part of the earth, as you in love have planned it there in heaven ~Amen.”

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Do It Anyway

Have you ever forgiven someone despite being hurt by them?  Has there ever been a time where something you did was misjudged, misunderstood, or misconstrued by others?  Have you ever felt that someone has taken advantage of your honesty or loving-kindness?  Or perhaps you have felt that you were an unfair target of criticism, jealousy, or cattiness.  Or maybe, good deeds you have done were punished, you were short-changed in some way, or you have felt that you just couldn’t measure up for some reason or another. 
If you have felt something similar to what I just described, you might also relate to the following quote by Mother Teresa:
“People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway. If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway. The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway. Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway.”
I love this quote because it reminds us that even while we may not always get the response we are expecting or hoping for, we should still do what we love.  That we should still act in accordance with our values and beliefs, no matter what the reaction we may elicit from others.  I love this quote because it serves as a reminder that there is nothing in this world that will ever get one-hundred percent approval and we should be true to ourselves despite that fact.  I love the permission and the encouragement she gives us as she reminds us to “do it anyway”.
Imagine, for just a moment, what our world would look like today had people in history not followed Mother Teresa’s advice.  What would have happened had they not “done it anyway”?  Where would we be today if people did not promote their ideas, act on their values and their convictions, no matter how radical? What if our ancestors had not found their voice and had the courage to speak out?  Had they not done it “anyway”, there would have been no evolution, no betterment, or change. 
So in light of this quote, I too encourage you to “do it anyway”, whatever your “it” may be.  Put your best foot forward and take a stand for what you believe in.  Raise your voice to speak up and be a catalyst for change.  Offer loving-kindness to those you encounter, forgive those who have hurt you, and live an honest and happy life.  Do good, have an impact, and show the world the absolute best that you have to offer.  Promote progress.  Ignite the fire in others that leads to positive change. Have the courage to do these things, whether or not they are met with approval from everyone.  And remember that when you meet resistance from people, it was never between you and them anyway.

Friday, October 28, 2011

just a thought.

"We find greatest joy, not in getting, but in expressing what we are... Men do not really live for honors or for pay; their gladness is not the taking and holding, but in doing, the striving, the building, the living. It is a higher joy to teach than to be taught. It is good to get justice, but better to do it; fun to have things but more to make them. The happy man is he who lives the life of love, not for the honors it may bring, but for the life itself."
R.J. Baughan

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Where's Joy?

“If you don’t find JOY in doing something, don’t do it” or how about “I quit because I didn’t find JOY in it anymore.”

I think it’s safe to say everyone has, in at least one situation or another, been told this or heard someone say this about themselves. I know I have. But I’m not sure if I neither understand nor agree with this way of thinking. If something is meant for us there will be JOY in it…sure, at times there will be JOY but can we expect it? Can we feel at ease in quitting by simple saying the JOY ran out?

The word JOY, feelings of JOY means many things. Pleasure, satisfaction, enjoyment, delight…. The definition that pulls on my heart strings the most is feelings of great happiness or pleasure, especially of an elevated or spiritual kind. I like that, I want that. But am I to expect that the things that I am doing or have committed myself to are to GIVE me that?

There are many things in life that we must do that this ‘find joy’ does not apply too, I’m pretty sure that most of us would agree to this. For some that would be work or visiting our in-laws or mowing our lawns or doing laundry. Not everyone finds JOY in those things but these things still need to be done.

I don’t think it’s ok to stop or quit anything until it’s finished or until I have worked in an exit plan. Do we think well of an athlete that quit during a game or before the season has ended? Is it ok for a parent to advise their child to quit or simply stop involving themselves in something they signed up for? Wouldn’t a group of friends be bothered if one of them said “yes, I'll do it” and then just let it slip by? With all three of these cases I’m still not seeing where the “if you don’t find joy, don’t do it” approach applies. When things get tough the tough get going, is what comes to my mind. And finish what you started. And when you make a commitment follow through and ask for help when it's need. Be fair to the rest of the “team."

I do understand that there are always changes in life. Situations change, believe me, I know the word CHANGE all too well these past months. As things change, there are always some things that must come to an end and if something is causing grief or sorrow a change could be needed and maybe over due. But don’t just quit or leave things unfinished. I hope whatever I would decide it is done so with everyone who is affected in mind. If that isn't accomplished, in those situations I can’t be surprised if someone affected has hurt feelings or is disappointed because it was my actions that affected that person anyways.

Most people would answer that the opposite of joy is grief or sorrow. But is that correct? If we look up 1 Peter 1:6 in the Bible, we read, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials.” Here we see that grief and joy can be present in a person simultaneously, without problem. The sorrow in itself doesn’t need to spoil the joy. This is where I would like to say, “Nothing worth doing is easily done.” Joy comes from within one’s self, a satisfaction of doing and accomplishing something good.

If you are being weighed down by trials then please do yourself a favor and make a change. Whether that be a change in the things that you’re doing or the way you’re looking at these things. It is alright to make a change. It could be as simple as a change in perspective.

Welcome to a brand new week never lived in before w/ Pastor Paul

May we be found today gathering from our weekday routines and responsibilities, entering into a “restful few moments” where we prayerfully synchronize our walk with our Heavenly Father's heartbeat by studying His Word. May we enter into His presence, sharing in His love, learning His Word, doing His service, and resting in His fellowship. Blessings on you —Pastor Paul

Our Word for this week is: “good stewards”

Scripture Text: I Corinthians 4:7 (NAS)
“What do you have that you did not receive?”

Our Focus:
Our text today asks a good question: “What do we have that we did not receive?” Take honest inventory for a moment. What is original with us? Everything we have done and everything that we have came in some measure from someone’s grace and kindness. “What is good and perfect comes to us from God above” (James 1:17 NLT). If what we have was received from another’s kindness or generosity, then we have some obligation as well as accountability for what we do with it, and should evidence a genuine humility and gratitude about it.

It is easy to be confused about stewardship and ownership. It is easy and tempting to begin to think that what we have is ours, rightly earned and belonging only to us. We are owners of little, if anything at all. But we are stewards always of all that has been entrusted to us.

Jesus told several stories about stewardship, both good and bad examples. He told of a man who committed part of his wealth to his servants, and upon his return asked for an honest accounting of their stewardship on his behalf. They were rewarded according to their faithfulness and fruitfulness as stewards of what belonged to another. “To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who are unfaithful, even what little they have will be taken away” (Matthew 25:14-29).

Biblically speaking and by our experience as well, we learn that our lives are really just the product of the unmerited grace of God, and the graciousness of people. Anything that we have ever done was accomplished because of an opportunity that was given to us, or with the advantage of those who shared their knowledge and experience with us, or with the enabling assistance of those who gave a helping hand. We do not own even the success that we have enjoyed.

Job of the Bible seemed to understand this when he confessed, “I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I will be stripped of everything when I die. The Lord gave me everything I had . . . praise the Name of the Lord” (Job 1:23).

The Bible teaches that every man is a steward of the grace and goodness of God, and will ultimately account to God for how they have used their gifts for the Lord’s purpose and glory. “Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. It is required of a steward that one be found faithful” (I Corinthians 4:1-2). Stewardship is not an option; it is required and unavoidable both now and in eternity. Ownership is not a possibility; “The earth is the Lord and the fullness thereof, the world and they that dwell therein.” Psalm 24:1.

Live every day in full knowledge of the day when we will “give an account to God . . . with reason to do this joyfully and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for [our] benefit” (Hebrews 13:17).

For those interested in receiving Pastor Paul's messages, please e-mail Pastor Paul (pastorpaul@willmarag.org) and mention you would like to be included.

Our prayer this week is that we use our gifts well and wisely, always serving. In Jesus name we pray. ~Amen