Gentle to the max…

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A few years ago, I had a rescue dog named Max. He did not have the best life for his first 5 years, having been owned by an alcoholic and kept tethered outside. He was sometimes beaten, and his body bore the scars.

He would invariably figure out a way to slip through his collar and make a run for it but also invariably be picked up and taken back to his owner.

Except for the last time.

In the fall of 2009, he found himself at a rescue shelter, where he was adopted out and brought back… three times in short order. The note on the door to his enclosure simply said ‘too much to handle’.

Out of chances, he was scheduled to be put down the first week of January 2010. I came to the shelter the last week of December 2009.

I hadn’t planned to adopt a dog that Christmas. But, when I set eyes on Max, he was sitting quietly against the back wall of his enclosure with his ears back and a green stuffed toy in his mouth. I could sense his anxiety. I could also sense a kind and gentle soul. I could feel my heart tugging in his direction.

I decided to think about it for a couple of days. But, as I walked back to the car, a dog appeared and ran to the end of the fenced-in area to quietly but expectantly wait for me. Realizing it was Max, I bent down and put a couple of fingers through the fence. He immediately dropped to the ground and started gently licking my fingers.

Within the hour, I left the shelter with my new dog.

I can’t claim that it was an easy transition. He not only had to adjust to being an indoor dog, he had never been walked on a leash before, and he was a husky lab shepherd mix who needed a ton of exercise. He also had anxiety issues. Complicating matters was the fact that his previous owner was French, and so Max didn’t even understand English (something I didn’t find out for over a year… and it explained a lot!!). He was also seriously underweight, at only 45 pounds.

But, slowly but surely, we both adjusted. His anxiety lessened, his weight increased (to 78 pounds), and we fell into a routine of 3 one hour walks each day. His kind, funny and quirky nature overshadowed his occasional displays of stubbornness.

The one thing that consistently impressed me was his gentleness. In the beginning, he was so hungry that he would go crazy at the mere thought of food. But, even then, he would always take any treat ever so gently between his teeth, always being careful never to bite down on my fingers.

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The best illustration of his gentleness had to do with boiled eggs, his absolute favorite treat. He would gently take the egg into his mouth and then run down to the mat in front of the patio doors. Sometimes he would come and sit beside me, and we would both consider the egg as it lay there on the mat. Other times, he would just lay beside it, as if standing guard.

When he was finally ready, he would take the egg into his mouth and roll it gently around until, seconds later, he would deposit the yolk – fully intact – back onto the mat. He always made sure that I noticed and then, and only then, would he eat it.

Personally, I think he liked to prolong the experience. Savor the moment. Save the best for last.

I called it his party trick. He never got tired of doing it, and I never got tired of watching.

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Just over 2 years after adopting him, Max suddenly took very ill on Good Friday. By Easter Monday, he was gone. A massive intestinal tumor. Ironically, he’d been given a clean bill of health not even three months before. Just before he was put down, they brought him into a private room where he climbed into my lap and started gently licking my fingers as I wept.

He was gentle in life, gentle in illness, and gentle in death.

I marvel that a dog who had experienced so much hardship could be so gentle. It’s a lesson to us all that, no matter what we’ve experienced in life, it’s up to us what kind of person we will become. We can choose to rise above our circumstances and write a different ending.

Be better instead of bitter. Be gentle instead of harsh.

The moral of the story?

Gently, please…

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What a gift…

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Several weeks ago, my husband and I gifted an acquaintance of mine with a practical item they very much needed. It cost us several hundred dollars but we felt it was an important gift because this person had just gone through an extended time of unemployment and financial difficulty. We wanted to bless them.

The person was initially very appreciative but, almost immediately, problems arose. They had complaints about the gift, and they kept trying to trade it in for something better. And in their interactions with the company, they were demanding and difficult.

My husband and I actively tried to move the situation to a favorable outcome. But, four weeks later, a continuing litany of text messages made it painfully evident that our efforts had been in vain. So we decided it was wisest for extricate ourselves and let this person handle things themselves.

Their response?

They declined the gift.

The old proverb “never look a gift horse in the mouth” came to mind.  Since horses’ teeth grow over time, checking their length is a way of gauging old age, and therefore a sign of mistrust towards the giver. So, in a nutshell, the proverb conveys that, when receiving a gift, be grateful for what it is and don’t imply you wished for more by assessing its value.

It made me think about the greatest gift of all… the gift of salvation. About how many don’t see it as a gift at all. Oh, they may accept it for a period of time but they’re never really very happy with it. They want it to be something else. Or they feel it can be improved upon. Or they have difficulty accepting that it’s free.

They would feel better if they had paid something towards it or had done something to earn it because then the gift would be on their terms.

And so, they ultimately reject the gift.

It was such a terrible feeling when our gift was rejected that it pains me to think of how God must feel when literally millions of people have rejected His gift throughout history. And yet He has never withheld the gift because so many have rejected it. He still graciously and generously continues to offer the gift to everyone… without exception… in the hopes that even a few will accept it.

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It reminds me how it important it is to keep giving, no matter what. We’re not responsible for the outcome, only the opportunity.

I’ll leave you with another proverb…

“If you receive a gift, don’t measure it.”

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Power in patience

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I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s power in patience.

Consider anyone you know who seems especially patient, and you’ll see a person who is in control. I don’t mean in control of their circumstances or in control of their life but in control of themselves.

Patient people tend to be relatively measured and calm. They have perspective. They don’t miss the forest for the trees. They’re fully present in the moment, and they don’t let frustrations derail them. They have self-control.

In fact, they can sometimes make patience seem easy… even effortless. But, make no mistake, it’s just as hard for them as it for the next person. The difference is in the practicing.

Practice makes permanent. Practice makes patience.

Patience recognizes that, while we often can’t control an outcome or timing or circumstances or people, we can always choose to control our response.

In fact, patience is like a diet. Most diets operate under the premise that you need to eat a certain way for a certain amount of time so you can achieve the results you want, and then life can continue as it did before. Only, all too often people end up gaining back all the weight – and then some – because the diet wasn’t sustainable.

The truly sustainable diet isn’t a diet at all… it’s making a change in eating habits that’s practical for the long haul. It’s only once we accept that there’s no magic formula… just a new way of life and a new way of eating – one bite at a time – that real change happens.

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The same is true with patience. We will become more patient once we come to the realization that patience isn’t a quick fix, but a change of mind. It’s changing how we react to disappointments, waiting, anger, frustration, things not happening that we wanted, or things happening that we didn’t want. Or things happening in a different way or a different timing than we’d hoped for. Step by step, patience is developing a determination to change the things we can change – ourselves… our actions and our reactions – and turning the things we can’t change over to God.

But, what if you’re like me, doing reasonably well with patience in many ways but feeling like you’re fighting a losing battle in certain situations?

Well, the Bible has the answer for that.

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When I come to the end of myself (which is often…), Jesus is always there to fill up my weakness with his strength. And, what He’ll do for me, He can do for you.

Can’t do it on your own?

Power up…

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Anti-peace

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True confessions…

I’m stressed out. Tired and stressed out, to be precise.

Earlier today, I looked up the definition of stress, and this is what I found:

“A state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.”

So, I looked up the definition of peace (seeing as it’s the topic for May), and it gave two definitions, both of which started with the words:

“Freedom from…”

Freedom from…

Those two words stopped me in my tracks and highlighted the fact that I’ve been feeling the opposite of peace.

The truth is I haven’t been feeling freedom from anything.

But, I’ve started taking steps to figure out how I can keep stress from dominating my life. Especially since the “adverse and demanding circumstances” that contributed to me becoming so stressed are probably not going to go away anytime soon.

What’s a girl to do?

Well, my hubby and I are going on vacation just 4 short days from now, and I’m pretty sure that 8 days in Puerto Vallarta will go a long way to helping my stress. But, that will only be a brief respite, after which life will resume and, no doubt, my stressful circumstances.

It was recently suggested that I need to regularly spend time with a trusted friend or two who I can confide in, and who appreciates me for the person I am. I do have those people in my life but they mostly live somewhere else, which is the downside of having moved around a lot. But, there are a couple of friends where I live who have the potential to become close relationships. So, one of my goals is to become more intentional about deepening those friendships.

The closer your support system, the better.

It was also suggested that I be kinder to myself, and regularly indulge in some of the things I most enjoy. Things like going for a massage, taking a brisk walk, baking, reading, blogging, having date nights with my hubby, getting together with a friend for coffee, watching a movie, etc. These ideas seem somewhat simplistic on the surface but I do enjoy them, and they’ve been falling through the cracks in direct proportion to how stressed I’ve been feeling. Basically, I need to work smarter, not harder.

The goal is to manage my stress rather than have my stress manage me.

I’ve done a few of the things I enjoy this week but, to be honest, I still don’t feel much better. I do think our vacation will help jumpstart the process, and I’m very thankful for the timing. From the moment we leave the driveway until we return 8 days later, nothing but rest and relaxation will be on the agenda. I plan on taking full advantage of being out of the country… spending lots of quality time with my hubby, sunbathing, swimming, snorkelling, eating, reading, sightseeing, and sleeping.

I just need to remember that I didn’t get this stressed overnight so I won’t get unstressed overnight either. But, simply having a plan makes me think that peace is at least possible.

I especially need to remember that God is bigger than anyone or anything that’s been causing me stress. It’s easier said that done but committing my circumstances to Him, and trusting that He will intervene in the right way and at the right time will go a long way to being able to feel peace in the midst of the storm. I’ve been praying a lot but maybe I need to be still and listen more too.

It’s hard to hear that still small voice when I’m doing all the talking.

I decided to combine the definitions of peace and stress to come up with a new definition for peace that goes like this…

Freedom from a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.”

I like it.

I’m actively in pursuit of peace… my own version of “freedom from”, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it increases my joy.

But, it’s a journey, not a destination. So it’s to be continued…

Peace out.

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For the love of…

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The past couple of weeks have been really good in some respects but really tough in others. Tough enough that my last post for April is only happening on the first day of May.

The details are unimportant but, for more than a year, I’ve had an ongoing challenge with certain people who don’t love me. I’m pretty sure they don’t even like me. My recent discouragement has come from thinking that the tide had finally turned only to discover than I’m somehow farther from shore than ever before.

If I could avoid them, I would but, in this case, it’s neither practical nor possible. So, I have to deal with being actively disliked pretty much every day, and to say it’s not easy is an understatement. I pray a lot that the situation will change but only God knows if it will.

So far, He isn’t saying.

There’s a cost to love… even when it’s reciprocated. It costs us time, energy, commitment, and sacrifice. It costs the same things when it isn’t reciprocated.

It just feels worse.

But, if I consider the alternative, history shows that hate comes at the highest cost of all… our souls. Hate breeds nothing but more hate. If you don’t believe me, just check the news everyday. You’ll find far more reports about hate than about love because love is hard and it doesn’t come naturally. It’s no coincidence that when people choose to love instead of hate, they often end up on Oprah because that reaction is not our human nature.

My own situation alternately upsets, frustrates, discourages, and angers me. It depends on the day, and sometimes the moment. But, I continually remind myself that I can’t live there. I need to choose to rise above my emotions, and be loving.

No matter what.

Period.

That means extending kindness, showing an interest in them, praying for them, and treating them like I treat everyone else. Treating them the same as I would if they were being lovable.

But, let me be clear about one thing… loving others doesn’t mean being a pushover or a doormat. It doesn’t mean putting ourselves in harm’s way or living with abuse. It’s important to set boundaries for another’s behaviour towards us. When those boundaries aren’t respected, sometimes we have to put distance between us and them… both physically and emotionally. Sometimes for awhile and sometimes for forever.

I wish I had this ‘love’ thing down pat but the past couple of weeks have shown me that I have a lot of room to grow. Truth be told, I will always have a lot of room to grow but I sincerely hope the learning curve won’t always be quite so steep.

I know I’ve only been on The Joy Journey since the beginning of April but focusing on love these past few weeks – both the successes and the challenges – has helped me feel more joyful in general.

So, gotta love that…

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Loving-kindness…

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A number of years ago, I attended a motivational business seminar where I had the opportunity to participate in the following exercise. The room divided into groups of three, one of whom was chosen to be ‘the tree’… standing with their arms extended out to the side, like branches. When the seminar leader gave the cue, the remaining two members of each group took an arm and tried to push it down to the person’s side as they made positive statements about them.

You’re a great person. You’re really nice. You’re a hard worker. You make people happy. You have a great sense of humor. You’re kind.

When the seminar leader instructed everyone to stop, we discovered that not one group had been able to push down the arms of the people with their arms extended.

The second part of the exercise was identical, with the exception of the statements verbalized. As group members tried to push down the arms of the other member in their group, they instead made negative statements about them.

You did a terrible job. You never do anything right. No one likes you. You’ll never be able to do that. We don’t want you in our group.

The result was surprising. Everyone’s arms folded like a deck of cards. Not one person was able to keep their arms extended in the face of negative input.

The people and the methods were the same in both exercises. The only thing that varied was the words that were spoken. The lesson was unmistakeable. Our words have the power to either build others up or to tear them down.

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I thought of that exercise again recently with the challenge I’ve been having trying to incorporate one 35 minute daily walk into Charlie’s life (our 19 month old purebred British bulldog). The main challenge has been that Charlie doesn’t want to walk. He doesn’t even want to leave the property. If he could talk, I’m sure he would point out that British bulldogs are physically built to excel at naps, not walks. And I don’t think he appreciates my rationale that one short walk a day still leaves him with 23 1/2 hours a day for napping.

So, each walk has started like this. I put Charlie on the leash… we go out the door and down the steps. Charlie thinks he’s going for a pee but then, at some point, realizes that was only ‘Phase 1’ of the outing. I start walking toward the end of the driveway but then Charlie puts the brakes on… basically plants his feet and becomes a 49 pound stone. So, I brace the leash across the front of my legs while continuing to slowly walk forward until he eventually has no choice but to follow. This pattern continues for many blocks until Charlie suddenly shakes off his protestations, and inexplicably walks beautifully beside me for the rest of the walk.

I can attest to the fact that I’ve tried everything to get Charlie to be less resistant for the first part of his walk. My theory that he would remember his walk from the previous day, and that it would motivate him to eventually walk willingly right from the beginning never took flight. Instead, each day was like Groundhog Day, with practice becoming permanent.

But I recently came up with the idea to praise Charlie the minute he walked – particularly near the beginning of our outing when the walking didn’t tend to go so well. Now, even if Charlie drags his feet, as long as he’s walking, it counts as walking… and I instantly praise him. Good boy, Charlie. If he plants his feet the next moment, I say nothing except ‘Come’ and just keep moving ahead until he has no choice but to follow. I’ve wanted Charlie to associate praise with the action of walking, and have hoped it would prove to be motivating.

Guess what? It’s working!

Until I tried this little experiment, I never said anything positive OR negative to Charlie on our walks… just mostly things like ‘Come’ or ‘Yes, you’re going to walk’ (the latter quite possibly through gritted teeth). But, something as simple as giving words of praise for something that genuinely merits praise has made all the difference.

I can’t say that Charlie is 100% onboard with his walks just yet. He still plants his feet in the driveway when he realizes that we plan to actually leave the property but his resistance doesn’t continue too far beyond that anymore when, not so long ago, it was a battle of wills for literally many blocks.

It made me think of the word ‘loving-kindness’… meaning tenderness and consideration toward others. I think there are many ways we can show loving-kindness to those around us – including the Charlie’s in our lives – but one of the most powerful ways is through our words. Of course, extending loving-kindness through our words means nothing unless our actions back them up but I truly believe there’s nothing quite like our words to build others up in a way that few other things can.

Don’t let on to Charlie but I think our daily walk has become the highlight of his day. I know it’s become the highlight of mine…

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Less for 2014…

blogTomorrow is New Year’s Eve.  Just 2 days until 2014.

It’s emotional for me to look back at where I was this time last year and where I am today.

At the end of 2012, I was unemployed and had no fixed address or social life to speak of.  In fact, from just before Christmas until the first of March 2013, I wasn’t even living in Calgary but staying with a friend 90 minutes away.  I was also single.

But, now, at the end of 2013, I have a great new job, and rent a basement suite in a good location in the heart of Calgary.  I go to a great church, and have a social life and friends.  And, one week from today, I’ll have been dating a terrific guy for a year.

What a difference a year makes.

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I looked back at my blog post this time last year to see what I’d written about resolutions for 2013.  My focus at the time was on things I wanted to do more of.  When I re-read the post, I was struck by how important it is to carry those resolutions through to each and every year.

https://thejoyjourney61.wordpress.com/2012/12/14/life-resolutions-for-2013/

For 2014, I’m decided I’m going to focus on the things I want to do less.

Things like:

1. Drink Diet Coke less.  I don’t drink coffee or tea so my caffeine of choice every morning has been Diet Coke.  I’ve justified it by saying it’s only one a day since, at one time in my life, I drank it almost compulsively.  But, I think it’s time for me to stop drinking it every morning and to not even keep it in the house.  A Diet Coke now and then would not be the end of the world but I don’t want it to control my life any more than it has already.  Less control… more freedom…

blog2. Worry less.  I’ve been working on this one a lot this year.  I’ve struggled with worrying about the financial shortfalls that came from jobs that either paid too little and/or from gaps in pay from leaving one job and starting another.  Now that I have a great new job, in another month or so, I should be able to finally start working to get back on track but, with losing three weeks pay in December/January, I’m continuing to cope with expenses that are greater than my income.  But, I am determined that worry will not control my life now or in 2014.  I want this to be a life change.  I’m aiming to be a prayer warrior, not a prayer worrier.  Less fear, more faith…

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3. Be less “self” focused. I did some volunteer work throughout 2013 but not nearly as much as I hope to in 2014.  There is great merit in giving time, energy, and resources to come alongside others and to let them know that someone cares.  I want to be a blessing in other people’s lives, to give them a hand up, to stand alongside them, to listen, to encourage, and to care.  Most importantly, when I’m focused on others, I tend to forget about myself, and heaven only knows that I think about myself far too much already.  Less of me, more of others…

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4.  Say less.  No one ever learned from anything they said themselves.  We learn more from listening than we do from speaking, not to mention that, the more we say, the more apt we are to say something that we’ll regret.  Or become “that person” who always talks too much.  When I do speak, I want what I say to be intentional.  I’ve made some strides in this area but there’s always room for improvement.  My goal is to ascribe to TLSThink more. Listen more. Say less.  ‘Nough said…

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5. Judge less. There are endless reasons to judge people and, boy, do we ever.  I’ve been judged a lot in my life, and it never gets easier.  It’s easy for people to pass judgement.  Point your finger.  Gossip.  Cast aspersions.  Be sanctimonious.

We may think we’re not judgmental but just because we don’t speak judgement doesn’t mean we don’t think judgement.

As much as I know the pain of being judged, judgmental thoughts pop into my head from time to time. I don’t want to be that person, even a little bit.  Whenever I’m tempted to judge, I remind myself that I don’t know the whole story but, the rare times that I do, it’s still not my place.  That doesn’t mean I agree with everything – far from it.  But, ultimately, I am only responsible for how I live my own life, and answerable to God about that.  Our lives, choices, decisions, mistakes, and regrets are ours and ours alone.

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It’s been a privilege to ring in 52 new years so far in my life.  I am so thankful and grateful for all the blessings in my life in 2013.  And I appreciate the blessings all the more for all the struggles I’ve had to overcome.

But, above all else, my hope and prayer is that somehow, someway, the world will be a better place in 2014 because of me.  Even the smallest of stones can make beautiful ripples in the water.  Less judging… more loving…

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I hope 2014 will be your best year yet.  Dare to hope and don’t forget to enjoy the journey!

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Getting to know me…

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One of the blogs I follow recently posted questions and answers designed to help the readers get to know her.  I admire her honesty and transparency in doing such an exercise – http://jennadee222.wordpress.com/2013/12/09/getting-to-know-you/, and thought I would follow in her footsteps by answering the same questions here.

What is your real name and where do you live?

My real name is Joy.  When I was born, I was given the name Alda Joy, with Alda being my maternal grandmothers first name.  I was called Joy from birth but, after 9/11, the province I was living in wanted everyone to officially use their first name, for security purposes.  Rather than be forced to start using my first name, I chose to legally drop it.  So, my birth certificate simply reads “Joy”.  As for where I live, I’m a Canadian who currently lives in Calgary, Alberta.

What makes you sad?

Insensitivity. Suffering. Unkindness.

What are your major mistakes?

I’ve made some epic mistakes in my life – enough to fill a book – but my major mistake in recent history was my last marriage. I knew it was a terrible mistake just two days in but I stuck with it for 11 years and 3 weeks, hoping it would change for the better.

But, the thing about mistakes is that we all make them.  I am a different person – much stronger and wiser – for having made my mistakes.  Instead of being defeated by them, I have chosen to use them as stepping stones.

When was the last time you cried?

Yesterday.  I am an emotional person, and things like kindness and happiness can bring tears as much as sadness and disappointment.  But, the saddest I’ve been in a very long time was Easter Monday 2012 when my beloved dog, Max, had to be put down just 3 days after getting terribly sick (the tests showed he had a massive intestinal tumor).  He was only 7 years old.  For a number of reasons, he was my guardian angel and will always have a very special place in my heart.

What makes you angry?

I’m more apt to get upset than angry.  But, something relatively simple like people driving erratically, impatiently, or dangerously in traffic has the ability to get to me like few other things.  I’m working on it though!

What is your most recent happiest memory?

It happened just last Friday when I was offered THE ultimate job.  It was the culmination of several years of job uncertainty interspersed with bouts of unemployment.  To say I am thankful is an understatement!!!

When were you most scared?

Many years ago, my youngest brother, my son, and I climbed Mount Katahdin, the highest mountain in Maine (U.S.) at 5,269 feet.  I have a strong fear of heights so it took an act of will to make this climb, which involved not only going up and down the mountain but across ‘Knife’s Edge’ at the top of the mountain.  Mount Katahdin has claimed 19 lives since 1963, with a number of those being from falls from ‘Knife’s  Edge’, which narrows to 3 feet wide for about 3/10 of a mile.

It’s worthwhile mentioning that the climb was done without ropes or any special gear, just using handholds and footholds, with blue paint strategically spattered on the rocks to guide us.  It’s also worthwhile mentioning that overcoming my fear of heights in such a dramatic fashion inspired elation afterward like no other.  It was a life changing accomplishment.

When were you most brave?

I could answer this by saying climbing Mount Katahdin but I think I was most brave the day I fled my marriage with only what I could fit in my small car, and drove 3 provinces to start a new life in a new city with no place to live, no job, and knowing only 2 people.  The journey from then to today has not been easy but I have never regretted taking that leap of faith.

What haven’t you done that you wished you had done?

My goal is to see more of the world.  I am relatively well travelled but the majority of my experiences are more than 20 years ago so I would like to pick up where I left off.

What makes you different from most people?

I have experienced the lowest of the lows in many aspects of my life, and my life has also not followed any kind of predictable course.  But, we all have a different story of our lives, and that’s what makes us unique and interesting.  I hope others will appreciate my differences as much as I try to appreciate theirs.

Who has influenced your life?

My relationship with Jesus Christ is the single greatest influence of my life since 1996.  My grandparents were also tremendous influences in my life… my maternal grandfather, in particular.  I learned invaluable lessons like kindness, giving, doing the right thing, humor, wisdom, staying young at heart, and being an inspiration to others just from watching how he lived his life.  I still miss him.

What is the greatest lesson you have learned?

I’ve learned that no mistake is an end, in and of itself, as long as you resolve not to let it be.  And, that doing the right thing, staying true to what you believe, and being a person of character and integrity is always, always, always worth it.  Even and especially when it means taking the tougher road (which it usually does…).

YES

No mistake about it…

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Mistakes.

I don’t know about you but I make them all too regularly, and often while consciously trying not to.

The dictionary defines a mistake as “an error or fault resulting from defective judgement, deficient knowledge, or carelessness”.

Yup, that pretty much sums it up.

I’ve made more than my fair share.  And far too many this past week alone.  Quite honestly, it gets a bit discouraging.

I’ve never once started my day thinking wow, I hope I only make a dozen mistakes today.  In fact, I usually don’t start the day thinking about any of the mistakes I’ll probably make.  I tend to assume the best of myself… at least while the day’s still young.  Until reality hits.

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So, what kind of mistakes am I talking about?  Well, things like I’ll realize I’m driving over the speed limit (either because I’m daydreaming or distracted) or I”ll inadvertently call somebody by the wrong name (it doesn’t help if they both start with a “G” and have 4 letters…) or I’ll miss an important detail at work (which is full of important details) or I’ll let things get to me that turn out to be much ado about nothing.  You know what I’m talking about.

I tend to be far too hard on myself about making mistakes when the fact is I’m going to make mistakes whether I like it or not.  I’m human and I can’t change that.  Of course, I’d like to make as few mistakes as possible but I’m learning they can be a catalyst for growth and for change.

I tend to learn a lot more from what I do wrong than what I do right.

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Mistakes can also be encouraging, oddly enough.  When I realize I’m making the same mistakes far less often than I used to, it makes me feel like I’m at least moving in the right direction.  But, before I can even potentially be encouraged, I have to stop and put my mistakes in perspective, not just automatically beat myself up about them.

I find it interesting that, in the film industry, they don’t call multiple takes mistakes.  They call them, take one, take two, take three… take forty four.  Basically, however many takes that it takes is what they take.

I like that.

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It’s not that I want to minimize my mistakes.  But, putting a more positive spin on them will hopefully help me keep a balanced perspective.

You may be thinking that I’m mistaken about this whole thing.  You could be right.  But, if so, no worries… I’ll just take two.  Or take three. Basically, however many takes that it takes to get it right.

Make no mistake about it…

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One step at a time…

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I recently found myself in bumper to bumper traffic, something that is a semi-regular occurrence for me.  I was inching along when a full-sized pick-up truck squeezed in front of my relatively small car.  I instantly felt annoyed, a reaction that I recognized as not being completely rational.  After all, it’s not like I was going anywhere fast.  One vehicle cutting in front of me wasn’t exactly going to slow me down.

After a few minutes, I realized it wasn’t so much that a vehicle had pulled in front of me, it was that a big vehicle had pulled in front of me.  The truck was blocking my view.  I wanted to be able to see down the road, not just to the end of my bumper.  Hence my feelings of agitation…

It struck me how similar that scenario is to our perception of life.  We don’t want any obstacles blocking our view.  We want to be able to see down the road unobstructed.  And we expend a whole lot of energy being impatient with anything that stands between us and that view.

The truck eventually moved into a different lane, and I instantly felt relief.  Nothing had changed about the traffic except that I could see down the road again.  The irony is that I still didn’t know a single thing about what was ahead than I’d known when the truck was blocking my view.

Visibility doesn’t always bring clarity.

A short time later, the traffic cleared just as suddenly as it had gridlocked.  I’ll never know the reason for the delay but, even if I did, it wouldn’t have changed one inescapable fact…

I would have had to wait regardless.

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Life is like that.  You can think you have a clear enough view of the future to know what’s going to happen down the road but, once you get there, you realize it was just an illusion.  Things might turn out differently than you’d thought – either for better or for worse – and you may never know the reason why.  But, regardless, the journey will still most likely take the same amount of time.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that it seems to me that we spend far too much energy living in the future.  I think it would be foolish not to give it any consideration.  But, it would be equally foolish to live there.

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As the Bible says, “sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” (Matthew 6:34b).

Huh?

Basically, every day has enough trouble of its own.  So, why not just take it one step at a time?

After all – like it or not – no one has ever been able to do anything but…

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