Help You? Help Me?

Is it always better to give than to receive?

A young girl and a young woman helping each other across the stream

Four times in the past two weeks I’ve come face to face with the topic of helping. Do you ask for or accept help when you need it?

My friend, Molly, is a pretty independent woman. She told me recently about how she experienced debilitating illness several years ago. Debilitating to the point that she could not remain independent. Debilitating to the extent that if she didn’t ask for help, she might not eat. Or work. Or even get out of bed. It was in this time of her life that Molly learned the importance of relying on, depending on, and needing others. It was a hard lesson to learn.

Sometimes it takes a hard hit to be convinced that we actually do need people.

Larry Crabb, author of the book Shattered Dreams: God’s Unexpected Path to Joy addresses this very concept. He starts with the following verse: “Anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” ~ Luke 18:17

In application, Crabb suggests that Jesus meant something like the following, “‘Nobody is more needy and has less to give than an infant…they are takers through and through, not only because they are selfish (though they are) but because they are helpless. Be like that! You are helpless, so admit it. Learn to receive what you cannot provide for yourself.'” He goes on to write, “The truth is we don’t much like being dependent. We don’t enjoy admitting how desperately we long for someone’s kindness and involvement.” Why is that?

Sometimes it’s about fear. The fear that if I ask, I will be rejected. And most of us don’t think that we can handle that. Or maybe it’s about perfectionism. We believe that others won’t complete the task to our standards. We elevate perfection above need. Or perhaps we don’t want to impose. We decide for others what they can and want to give. Centrally, we believe that we don’t deserve their help. Hmm.

Somewhere along the way we have been taught to believe that to need is weakness. And to be strong means we can do it all on our own. So much so, that we have developed a new word for it: “needy” – to be weak, pathetic, and less than.  I’m not sure where this came from, but I think we have it backwards. What if another reason we struggle to ask for or accept offered help has to do with vulnerability and consequently, humility?

When we accept that we are not designed to meet all of our own needs, we can embrace our limitations. We realize in the depth of our soul that we will never be enough. That we must rely on another, actually, many others, to survive in this difficult world. And on a soul level, to experience our deepest needs has the ability to point us to the only ONE who can meet them.

Crabb says, “we DESPERATELY LONG for someone’s kindness and involvement.” Sigh. I believe that is true. The cry of our heart is to be loved. And yet we are afraid to make that known. But the Good News is that choosing to have the courage to ask for what we need can bring us the blessings we hope for in this life.

In Philippians 4:6-7 Paul writes, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Ah, the courage and the blessing.

Do you love to help others? Do you find pleasure in doing for little ones, disabled ones and old ones what they cannot do for themselves? Do you experience joy in using your talents to help someone who struggles? If so, consider that you are depriving someone else of that same joy by not making your own needs known.

And my friend Molly? All these years later, Molly looks for people like her – those who need help and don’t ask. She finds great joy in giving because she knows the blessing of receiving. Last month Molly’s friend called and thanked her for babysitting when she went through a terrible divorce – seven years earlier. There’s no statute of limitations on gratitude. Molly knows the depth of it.

Like the little child, we are all helpless.

What keeps you from asking for help? Do you have another reason other than what is written here? Have you learned how to ask for and graciously receive help?

Envision Yourself Accomplishing It

How to Turn None Into Done

Woman in Ski Goggles Dreaming

Brian Tracy, best-selling author and world class speaker, wrote in his book, Eat That Frog: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time, “Mark Twain once said that if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long.” Tracy goes on to say, “Your ‘frog’ is your biggest, most important task, the one you are most likely to procrastinate on if you don’t do something about it. It is also the one task that can have the greatest positive impact on your life and results at the moment.”

I love this analogy. And I love Tracy’s book on productivity. BUT, loving something, understanding it, resonating with a concept, does not success create. What moves us from intention to fulfillment is action. So, the question remains, “But how? I don’t like frogs. Bleh! It’s too hard. I don’t have what it takes. I’m tired…” The list goes to infinity and beyond.

What moves us from intention to fulfillment is action. ~ Erin K. Robison Click To Tweet

Long before I knew who Brian Tracy was, I learned a lesson that helps me take that first scary step toward finishing the FROG.

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Six Things Single Women Can STOP Waiting For

Live Your Fullest Life Now!

Woman Standing on the Train Platform Waiting

With Valentine’s Day upon us, many singles are beginning to feel a familiar longing for that special someone. In the meantime, we sometimes find ourselves waiting. And not just for that person, but to start living. We have put life on hold, thinking that it will begin when a particular milestone is reached. Well, here are six things that you CAN stop waiting for. And start living now!

1. Marriage – I personally believe we are designed to share our lives with another in the covenant of marriage. But waiting around for it in order to be alive is like Rudy waiting for four years to play THE LAST PLAY IN THE LAST GAME of his college career. Who knows what great things he could have been doing in the meantime?!? And as my sister says, “Better to be single and wish you were married, than married and wish you weren’t.” Be awesome where you are!!

2. The Perfect Man – He doesn’t exist. And he never will. Sometimes we miss out on wonderful opportunities because we are waiting for perfection. Be honest about what your must-haves are and then allow yourself to be open to the BEST man, not the fairy tale prince who exists only in stories.

Woman walking on the trail3. The Perfect Body – Not everyone can grow beautiful locks like Jennifer Aniston. And only a few of us are paid to spend our days developing the perfect body like Sandra Bullock. What’s true is that we are just regular girls, who should be excited about regular guys, who will definitely be thrilled with regular girls. So let yourself off the hook. Eat well, move your muscles and get enough sleep so that you can be your BEST you!

4. More Time – Face it, it is a scientific, inarguable fact that each person living on this planet has 24 hours in one day, seven days in one week and 52 weeks in one year, with an undetermined number of years on this planet. It is true that single women have to do everything in their lives without the benefit of a partner to share the load. The solution? Love each other. Help each other. Share the burdens. Be in community. Trade services. And most importantly, create margin in your life for all the unexpected and fun things that come up. Enjoy the surprises!

A woman climbing onto a horse. 5. The Knight in Shining Armor – What woman hasn’t wished, at some sad, lonely or hard time in her life for a man to ride up on his White Horse and carry her off into the sunset? To a palace where she doesn’t have to work or worry or fret another day in her life. Remember the fairy tales? They are not true. What IS true is the only one who will ever rescue you from this world is your Heavenly Father. And as your Knight, He will be with you in the MIDST of the hard times. Look for Him and the people He has put in your life to support you when things get tough. And then get out your riding boots and go in search of others who need your help.

6. Children – Many, many women long for children of their own. We are created to nurture and care for those who cannot do for themselves. Children are a blessing from Him. But don’t forget the responsibility and energy they require. It’s not all rainbows and unicorns. So, rather than sit around and bemoan the fact that you don’t have your own, be a blessing to a child whose mom needs a little help loving them well – even if just for that day. Find the nieces, nephews, students, Little Sisters, CASA kids, nursery babies, Sunday school children, and foster kids who just need someone to pinch hit. Use the gifts and talents you have and the freedom in your not-tied-down schedule to love THESE kids well. Both of you will be blessed beyond measure.

Don’t let a day on the calendar steal your joy! Make your own special days, doing fun things and sharing the gifts that only you can!!

The Glory of God is man fully alive. ~ St. Irenaeus

 

What have you learned to stop waiting for? How has this been a blessing in your life? What will you do to celebrate special days in fun and different ways? Oh, and…

Don't Forget to be AWESOME

Energy Wasters

Ready To Go Green?

Several years ago, when I was working in the schools, I stopped by a friend’s classroom at the end of the day to catch up. As we were chatting, he was moving around the room cleaning up. At one point, he stopped, picked up a spoon and said, “This is an energy waster. Out it goes.” and dropped it in the trash. I about fell over. It was a real spoon. Why would he throw it away? And what was an energy waster??

I asked. He answered. “An energy waster is that thing that every time you see it you think, ‘I need to do something about that’, but you never do. So it just uses your mental and emotional energy over and over again.” Hmmm. Quite a concept.

Can you think of things in your life that continue to use your energy with no payoff? For my friend, he had been looking at that spoon for weeks, always thinking that he needed to return it to it’s rightful location – which was not his classroom. And after all that time, he decided that spoon wasn’t worth the energy he was spending thinking about it OR the energy it would take to return it and so into the trash it went.

This concept has revolutionized my life. There is great freedom to be found when you can see something as a waste of energy and then eliminate it. That paintbrush that’s been sitting on the counter for weeks. The one screw that needs to be put away. The shirt that just needs the button sewed on. The broken vase that actually won’t be easy to fix. The email flooding your inbox. When the light bulb goes off and you can call a spade a spade, you are able to commit to get it done! Whatever it might be. #maybeaspoonSilver spoon over white.

It’s definitely hard for me sometimes, don’t be fooled. I grew up with a deeply bred value of not wasting anything. So throwing away something that could actually be repaired or repurposed feels wasteful. The irony is that in trying NOT to be wasteful, I’ve been wasting MY OWN ENERGY. Sheesh! Time to end the cycle, don’t you think?

In the meantime, I have come to accept that some things really are trash. So, out they go!! Hurray!! And allowed others to be donated to someone who does want to spend the energy doing the refurbish. The best part is that all the keepers – those little things that sit out waiting to be put away or the tasks that just need a little finishing – get done a lot faster now. Energy efficiency at its finest.

I was able to share the energy waster concept with a client recently. She had a broken picture frame to be returned to the store. It had been sitting on her table for weeks. And every time she saw it she felt stressed, annoyed and ashamed. “I really need to exchange that. What a pain. I should have returned it weeks ago.” What a waste of good energy!

Mountain Top HurrayFor her, this was equally freeing. In fact, she immediately announced, “I don’t need to hear anything else today. This is a game changer!” I could see the wheels turning as she thought about all the things in her life that were energy wasters. Her excitement to eliminate unnecessary output was contagious. Score!

Game changer indeed. Each time I recognize those little zappers, I’m thankful for the wisdom of my friend. 🙂

What are the energy wasting spoons in your life? What other bits of wisdom have you been given that have been your game changers?

What Does It Mean to Be An Encourager?

Five Ways to Champion Your People

A man helping another up the mountain

Sometime in my twenties, I started thinking about encouragement. My guess is that it was the result of a bible study I was part of. Regardless, I remember a time when I did not think about encouragement and a time when I began to. I think the question that started it all was something like this, “who encourages you?” or maybe, “where do you find encouragement?” or even, “how do you encourage others?”

The question has remained with me for the last 20 years. #cough #iliketothinkilookyounger As a result of my pondering, I came to the realization that 1. I am not a particularly encouraging person and 2. I have friends who are natural born encouragers. Discovering that about myself and recognizing the characteristic in others was a pivotal moment in my life. I recognized just how meaningful this gift was when I was the recipient and determined that I could learn how to do it better.

As a school counselor, I would teach my students about the importance of encouragement. I would say, “to encourage others means to fill them with courage, so that they can do what it is they might fear.” This resonates with children. They want to love each other and they certainly understand fear. And for me. To just say those words creates an energy in me that is in itself uplifting. Because things scare me. And I need help to be brave.

To encourage others means to fill them with courage, so that they can do what it is they fear. Click To Tweet

In writing this post, I decided to see what the dictionary has to say about encouragement. Here are some of the synonyms I found: hearten, cheer, buoy up, uplift, inspire, motivate, spur on, fire up, stimulate, invigorate, vitalize, embolden, fortify, rally, support, help, champion, promote, further, foster, nurture, cultivate, strengthen, boost, fuel, persuade, coax, urge, influence. Don’t you just love those words!?! Do they fire you up like they do me?

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”                          ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:11

I don’t think one person would disagree that to encourage others is a necessary and good thing. So, if you are like me, and you have to learn how to do this better, where do you start?

It seems as if encouragement often shows up as the friend who knows you are going through a hard time and calls to check on you, the sibling who answers your midnight phone call and talks you down off the proverbial ledge, the colleague who notices the effort that went into your presentation and commends you for it, the parent who recognizes how much you improved even if you didn’t win, or maybe the sweetheart who reminds you of why they chose you when rejection looms. Do any of these sound familiar? Are you thinking of a thousand more examples?

Although I can and do do these kinds of things for others, I realized that a true encourager does them without effort. There is a giving of their heart that seems to focus only on the pain you are suffering or joy you feel and not their own agenda. The hurdle I strive to overcome is that of realist, or fixer. I find that I get distracted by looking forward instead of staying in the present. In counseling or parenting or relationship building we call that attunement. To be attuned to the feelings and affect of others gives us opportunity to connect on a deep level, to offer comfort, to love well.

Think for a minute about the people in your life. Who do you turn to when the world goes topsy-turvy? Who would you ask to be with you in a crisis? What is it about them that is so comforting? Are they an encourager? What qualities do they have that we can practice?

Here are five things my own encourager role models do that we can all learn.

1. Listen well. Encouragers listen to discover what it is their friend is experiencing. Then they speak to that feeling or experience, hurt or need.
2. Focus on your friend. People who are encouraging have learned how to set aside their own agenda. They stay in the moment, attuning to the person with whom they want to connect and hearten. #lovethatword
3. Notice people. Encouragers have a special knack for noticing people. But this is something we can all learn. It is about paying attention and making a point to remember things about others so that we can speak to who they are. Encouragers have a way of saying “I see you!” This is powerful!! Here are a few more ideas on noticing.
4. Be intentional. Making a decision to communicate hope and courage to others is a wonderful first step in encouraging. Commit to find one person every day who can be encouraged by your words and attention to them.
5. Don’t discriminate. Encouragement isn’t just for people who are struggling. Remember to offer words and gestures that inspire, spur on, embolden, fortify, champion and nurture people when they are up, down or somewhere in the middle. Fill them with the courage they need to continue down the path.

If you have been blessed by encouraging friends and family, or maybe you have experienced a lack of encouragement in hard times, how has that impacted you? What have you been told was an encouragement to someone else? What is one example of how you have been encouraged by another? I’d love to hear your thoughts on how this plays out in your own life.

#thankyouJulesandMelforalltheencouragement

The Conspiracy of Kindness…

Kindness Quote by Aesop

Close to 20 years ago, I read a book entitled, Conspiracy of Kindness, by Steve Sjogren. It has stayed with me ever since. The author’s premise is that we share the love of Christ and evangelize the world through our intentional kindness to others.

Kindness. Why does it stand out? What makes it different from general niceness? The dictionary defines kind as: mild, benign, gentle, tender, compassionate. Kind, gracious, kindhearted, kindly imply a sympathetic attitude toward others, and a willingness to do good or give pleasure. Kind implies a deep-seated characteristic shown either habitually or on occasion by considerate behavior.

Toby Mac, the Christian singer/songwriter, says, “We don’t have to agree on anything to be kind to one another.” There is so much power and beauty in that statement.

Think about the people you are most drawn to. Are they kind? Do they have a generosity and graciousness about them that puts others first? A sincerity that is deeply felt? A deep-seated characteristic of compassion? Many years ago, I came to understand that this is what kindness looks like. As to man, kindness draws others to God. And thus, Steve Sjogren’s book invaded my heart and mind, caught hold and never let go.

I wish I could say that I am always kind. That Sjogren’s words and those of the gospel have made me perfect in this regard. What is true is that I deeply hold to the value of and mission to be kind to others, but I also deeply hold to my own agenda – self preservation. And thus the two are in constant battle.

However, there are moments when my heart is at rest and I am willing to hear the voice of the Author of kindness call me forth to take up His agenda.

TrafficMuch of the time this battle rages in my car. As I am in a perpetual rush to get from point A to point B, fighting traffic and wondering if driver’s licenses are mail-order only, my agenda is in full force. Overdrive, if you will. And yet, it is in my car that I find myself face to face with humanity. And people who need kindness.

Every street corner in the city is home to someone begging for enough something to get through the day. Although I know that many of these people are there because of their choices and remain so because of more choices, my heart continually goes out to them. I think, this is what they have become? This is the only option? What is it that happened in their life to bring them here? How hard must that reality be. And I seek to be kind. What can I offer that will make a lasting difference? What can I do to point them to the One who can redeem them in this hard life?

Recently, I had a new encounter. A new opportunity to wonder about what kindness looks like.

I was driving to work, making my way through traffic and around potholes, excitedly heading for the green light. For some reason, the cars in front of me were backed up into the intersection. They seemed to be going around something in the crosswalk. I could see a man standing on the corner and assumed it was a new sinkhole in the street they were avoiding. Both lanes of traffic were stopped to accommodate the cars in front of me that were changing lanes. As the car directly in front of me cleared the intersection, I saw what it was they were driving around.

Green Walk SignalThe man I had thought was standing on the corner, was in fact, in the middle of the crosswalk. My perspective from down the street had been wrong. Why was he in the crosswalk? Was he drunk? Crazy? Uncaring? People with all of those reasons often walk in front of traffic here. No. One look at this man, and it was apparent – he must have been in his late 70’s, although life could have aged a much younger man to look as old. The left side of his body was clearly affected by a severe stroke, as evidenced by his twisted left hand, the cane in his right and his painstakingly slow shuffles across the street. This man was in the crosswalk because he was not physically able to cross the street in the time allowed by the lights. And the people in front of me? Instead of waiting, they perpetuated the problem by driving in front of him to get to work on time. He was stuck.

Oh. Kindness. What does it look like? Here I was, idling in the middle of the intersection. In the medical center. Where emergency vehicles often race lights and sirens to get to the ERs. But how could I not let that man cross? If I would wait and give him the go-ahead to walk just a few more steps, he would be in front of the vehicle waiting next to me and I could clear the street. This was no skin off my nose. In my opinion, it was the only choice. My heart had broken to find him here, in this dangerous predicament, with others who would not wait.

As I made my way down the street, I wondered at his story. Why was he there? What was around for him to be making his way? This was not a common crossing area at such a busy intersection during rush-hour traffic. And it hit me. He was wearing a veterans baseball cap. And making his way to the VA across the street! Where he came from I do not know, but I now knew where he was heading.

I often pass people in need that I would love to pick up and take someplace safe, but I do not. I have to consider the risks. This time I weighed them, turned my car around and drove back to the intersection. I reasoned that this man, elderly and disabled, crossing to the VA at 8:30 on a busy Wednesday morning would be worth the risk of offering him a ride. As I pulled up to the red light, he was stopped in the middle of the median, too far for me to speak to without yelling. So I called to him. I asked where he was going. He pointed to the VA. I asked if he wanted a ride. He shook his head no. And I went on my way.

I left him, wondering if I had done the right thing. If there was something more I should have done. But I knew that I had done all that I could in that moment. That I hadn’t let the opportunity pass me by, as I have so many times before.

Today, I heard a former Muslim speak at church. Nabeel Qureshi was raised a devout believer of Islam. Today, as a believer in Christ, he recounted the story of a time when a high school peer shared the gospel with him. Although the encounter did not result in his conversion, it impacted him greatly. Betsy shared her faith with him and he refuted it. But it was the dozens of other Christians who were silent that left him pause. He said, “if it is true that Christians believe the only way to heaven is by Jesus Christ and anyone who does not know Him will go to hell, why would they not tell others about him? I concluded it must be one of two reasons 1. they do not really believe that it is true or 2. they do not care if I go to hell.”

Holding HandsIf I believe that Jesus Christ is the only answer to a hurting and dying world, why do I not share the gospel with others? If I really believe Matthew 22:39, “Love your neighbor as yourself”, how do I do that? I have come to know that when I offer kindness to others, I do that very thing. I am grateful for the times I hear the Voice and am willing to respond. I wish I could say those stars aligned more frequently.

I am always looking for new ways to be kind. I need to have ideas on hand for those unexpected opportunities. What kind things do you do for others? Would you have done something differently for the man in the street? What have others done for you that has made a lasting impression? How do you share the love and kindness of Christ with friends and strangers alike?

Quiet

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (New York: Random House, Inc., 2012)

Guest Book Review: by Colleen Robison @ www.colleenrobison.com

Back in February 2015, I had the opportunity to attend a week-long Caribbean cruise with a business group of close to 90 people, making up a small portion of the close to 2,000 total people on the ship. Unfortunately, halfway through the wonderful time that I was having I began to feel trapped, uncomfortable in my own skin and on the verge of a full body panic attack. The beautiful scenery, the wonderful people and the delicious (and abundant) food were not able to soothe my soul.

I am an introvert. A quiet, thoughtful introvert. An introvert who dislikes crowds, strangers, and small talk. An introvert who had willingly and excitedly signed up for a week long vacation of crowds, strangers and small talk.

Thankfully, I was also surrounded by understanding strangers, one of whom recommended the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain.

In a world that is loud, crazy and of the opinion that you too must be loud and crazy to succeed, Cain shows proof through her storytelling that there is a place and a need for the quiet, thoughtful, introverts of the world. She weaves fact and research through stories of introverts like Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Moses, Rosa Parks, Theodor Geisel a.k.a. Dr. Seuss, Charles Darwin, Einstein and Gandhi, just to name a few. She helps guide the introvert living in the extrovert world. She explains why you might struggle and stutter and flub an impromptu presentation, but if given a little time to prepare, you will rock the audiences’ socks off. She gives tips on how to get through a dinner party with your sanity intact and maybe even leave the party having made a new connection instead of having spent the whole time hiding in the bathroom (if you even got out of your car at all). Quiet explains the differences between the extroverts and introverts and provides proof that the world needs both.

I began reading Quiet as soon as I set foot off the cruise ship. By the end, I walked away with a deeper understanding of who I am and an acceptance that it’s okay to be who I am. I also walked away with skills to adopt an extrovert mask when necessary without being deceitful of my true, quiet self.

P.S. I salvaged that last half of the cruise by taking a little quiet time to myself everyday to recharge and had the most wonderful time! Just in case you were wondering!

“’Introverts are drawn to the inner world of thought and feeling’, said Jung, ‘extroverts to the external life of people and activities. Introverts focus on the meaning they make of the events swirling around them; extroverts plunge into the events themselves. Introverts recharge their batteries by being alone; extroverts need to recharge when they don’t socialize enough.’” – Susan Cain

“Introverts, in contrast, may have strong social skills and enjoy parties and business meetings, but after a while wish they were home in their pajamas. They prefer to devote their social energies to close friends, colleagues, and family. They listen more than they talk, think before they speak, and often feel as if they express themselves better in writing than in conversation. They tend to dislike conflict. Many have a horror of small talk, but enjoy deep discussions.” – Susan Cain