Thursday, June 26, 2014

3 Ways To Increase Your Quality of Life By Decreasing Your Stress!!!

Few things can adversely affect your life more than stress, and that’s a bad thing because stress is everywhere. Stress can come from both good and bad events in life. There’s the obvious stress of losing a job or having a very tight personal budget, but good events can be just as stressful. When someone brings home a new baby or finally gets that promotion at work, brand new expectations and demands bring with them a great deal of stress. Consequences of prolonged periods of stress can be headaches, stomach issues, and physical fatigue just to mention of a few. If stress is not dealt with properly it can also lead to burnout or long-term physical impairment. On top of all of that, handling stress well is one of the primary keys to increasing your quality of life. So, with that in mind, here are three things that will help you begin managing your stress more effectively today:

Find a Physical Outlet

Lots of stress comes from thinking, re-thinking, and thinking again about the problem at hand. It can feel like a Category 5 hurricane is churning around inside of you. Exerting physical energy can begin to unlock some of the knots that are forming in your stomach. Head to the gym, go for a walk or a swim, or see how far you can throw your neighbor’s cat and still have it land on its feet (word of caution: this sort of exercise is best attempted when your neighbor is not at home). Anything that expends energy and possibly creates a bit of sweat will help!

Get Lost in Something You Love

I know your day is extremely busy, and I know that you have 73 more things to check off of your to-do list before bed, but making time for things you enjoy is crucial. In fact, cutting out at least 30 minutes a day to do something you love will make you more productive when you go back to the 73 things on your  to-do list. Read a book, listen to music, head to the museum, or catch up on your favorite tv show. Your mind and body respond better when you can turn your internal motor on and off during the day, rather than turning it up to level 10 when you wake up and grinding it out until you fall into bed exhausted at midnight. Also, it’s easier to attack a difficult task when you know that later in the day you are going to get some time off to enjoy yourself.

Change Your Environment

When you have found that stress has driven you into a rut and you can’t think clearly, sometimes the best option is a change of scenery. It doesn’t have to be a dramatic change, sometimes 20 minutes in your favorite coffee shop or a quick walk around the block will do the trick. You need new sights, sounds, and smells to snap out you of your rut. Everybody is different, so play around with different options to see what works best for you!

Stress is an inevitable part of life, but it doesn’t have to destroy your quality of life. Employing the tips listed above can go a long way into making the stress in your life manageable, so that you can enjoy this journey for all it’s worth!

Photo Courtesy of Death To Stock Photo

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Lessons I've Learned as a Dance Dad

This past weekend marked the end of another dance season for my beautiful daughter.  The girls and instructors from our studio, Prestige Dance Institute were amazing! After the competition, as we packed numerous outfits, crates of make-up, and buckets of hair products into the car one last time before taking the summer off, I thought back to all of the things that her time in dance has taught me. Even if you are not a dance dad, I hope you’ll find these lessons helpful. Here goes….

Lesson 1:  Gold Is Not Best After All

It turns out the Olympics have been lying to us all. Every four years athletes from all over the world gather for competition. They have endured countless hours of training, and have poured out their blood, sweat, and tears, all in hopes of winning the one thing that will make all of their sacrifice worth it, a gold medal. Little do they know that everyone in the dance world gets gold.  Everyone.  A one-legged clogger with a banjo would get gold at a dance competition. The Olympics taught me that nothing was better than gold, but they were wrong. In the dance world, Gold is just the beginning. Gold is nice, but if your timing is a bit better and your moves are more clean, you could win High Gold, or Platinum. Some truly gifted dancers, like many of the girls at Prestige (sorry for bragging, I’m just really proud), can even land High Platinum or Diamond honors for their performances. So, I think it’s about time that the Olympics got their act together! When Jamaica’s Usain Bolt, wins another 100m dash at the next Olympics, he should get the prize he deserves:  a Super Mega Elite Platinum medal and a trophy the size of a lumberjack.

Lesson 2: Glitter Gets Everywhere And Never Goes Away

Seriously, never.  I found some glitter on my shoulder last week from a dance competition back in 2009. You may think you’ve washed it all off, but give it a couple of days, and it’ll be back. Once you touch glitter, it’s yours for life, and in the dance world, glitter is everywhere! It’s on the costumes, the props, the chairs, and I’m pretty sure they blow out of the air vents. The Glitter Industry should say a silent prayer of thanks for the dancers of the world. So, after your daughter’s next dance competition you should probably be ready to hear something like this the following week at work: “Hey Frank, you look a little sparkly today….”

Lesson 3: Always Say Yes When Asked To Help Carry Props

Yes, this lesson will expose you to a dangerous amount of the glitter referred to in the previous lesson, but carrying props helps you address a much larger issue. It’s a scientifically proven fact that hearing Britney Spear’s “Ooh La La” 7 times in one day depletes your body of 94% of all of its testosterone. It is essential that you find something masculine to do to combat those effects. Carrying wooden risers, steps, and chairs on and off stage does nicely. If your dance studio doesn’t use props, you will need to look at other, more extreme options:

-bring your chainsaw along and thin out any trees that may 
be too close to the auditorium.

-Start a fight club with other Dance Dads in the basement 
of the auditorium. (Remember, the first rule of Dance Dad
 Fight Club is to never talk about Dance Dad Fight Club)

-Weld something. (it doesn’t really matter what)

Lesson 4: Don’t Miss The Moments

Remember that every drive to practice, every dinner after competition, and every frantic last minute search for hair pins is a chance to be amazed at how much your beautiful daughter has grown, and how that in spite of all that you don’t know about being a Dad, she is becoming an incredible person.  Absorb every second of it you can because there will come a day when you would give anything to see your little girl wearing her great big smile as she dances her heart out on stage. Also, don’t forget to tell her that she is beautiful before, during, and after each competition, she needs to be reminded.

Lastly, a word of advice to all of the Dad’s out there. If you aren’t a Dance Dad, be a Soccer Dad, or Band Dad, or Spelling Bee Dad. Jump into whatever world your child is involved in. I know you’re busy and I know it’s hard, but these moments in life are rare, and once you miss them, you can’t get them back. So dive in and enjoy every second of your child’s journey, and if you find a way to permanently remove glitter give me a call. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Travelling Into The Unknown

Today is my last day speaking and sharing with an amazing group of students in Savannah, GA. These incredible students have braved the insane heat and humidity while working on roofs all week for families who could not normally afford repairs to their home. We’ve talked about the following prayer written by Trappist monk, Thomas Merton this week, and it applies to me directly today. I hope it connects with you as well!

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following 
Your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please You does in fact please You.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that, if I do this, You will lead me by the right road, 
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore I will trust You always though I may seem to be 
lost in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for You are ever with me, 
and You will never leave me to face my perils alone.

As you travel down your unknown paths in life, I hope that you will find comfort in knowing that you never travel alone!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Even Better Than Answers

Will God be ok with me getting a divorce?

 Is it ok for women to be pastors? 

What do we do with the whole gay marriage thing?

 Once I’m a Christian are there things I can do that will get me kicked out of being a Christian?

And on and on and on and on….

These questions are thrown around endlessly, with several different answers being offered up. But when it comes to God and His plans for our life, these questions aren’t really the point. What God wants most is to have a relationship with you, and for you to have meaningful relationships with other people. We are to approach our relationships with others the same way that God approaches His relationship with us (love, mercy, honesty, grace, etc…), not by drawing lines in the sand to separate us based on the way we answer the questions listed above. God's plan for us isn't that we will simply have good answers to really hard questions. There is nothing wrong with wrestling with really tough questions, and even with disagreeing about what those answers may possibly be, but if answering those questions cause me to stop relating courageously to God and to others, then those questions and answers have become a problem.  Engaging difficult and often times controversial questions is never an excuse to ignore our true purpose in life: “Love God with all you heart, mind, soul, and strength and your neighbor as yourself”. God gives us something better than answers, He gives us Himself. Relationships are not always easy. Relating to others isn't always as black and white as an answer to a question. Relationship requires humility and mercy for myself and for those I am attempting to relate to. So wherever you fall with regards to the questions listed above, I hope that you are also falling more deeply in love with God and the people around you. 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Friday Finds - June 13

In hopes of making your Friday the 13th better, here's some stuff you might like to check out.....

This is a pic of an ultimate frisbee game I was in last summer. I don't know why I added this, but here it is.... (and yes, of course we won.)

Did you know that there are two kinds of busy? Did you also know that the kind of busy you choose can affect your efficiency and quality of life? This is what leadership guru Seth Godin had to say about it….

Did you know that when you are going through painful experiences your fear and tension can actually make your pain worse? A brilliant video from the brilliant Sarah Bessey…

And finally, let’s put some chocolate myths to rest... 

I hope your weekend includes lots of frisbees and chocolate!!!!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Letting It Go And Laying It Down

I’ve given a couple of talks about forgiveness lately, so the topic has been on my mind a lot, how hard it is to do and how great it is to finally let something go and be free. Money will never change the world, neither will power. Forgiveness, on the other hand, opens doors that money and power will never touch. I stumbled upon David Crowder’s new album Neon Steeple today and have been listening and re-listening to the track Come As You Are. “Lay down your burdens, lay down your shame….earth has no sorrow that heaven can’t heal…”  It’s hitting home, click on the link below and give it a listen!..... And remember, every ounce of our past that we can let go of makes our present more peaceful and our future more bright!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Inspiration (Part XIII)

"Fight one more round. When your feet are so tired that you have to shuffle back to the center of the ring, fight one more round. When your arms are so tired that you can hardly lift your hands to come on guard, fight one more round. When your nose is bleeding and your eyes are black and you are so tired you wish your opponent would crack you one on the jaw and put you to sleep, fight one more round - remembering that the man who always fights one more round is never whipped."     -James Corbett (Heavyweight Boxing Champion, 1892)  

Some days are a grind from sun up til sundown. If today is one of those days for you, I hope you will find the courage to fight one more round! Hang in there! When everything else breaks down, persistence wins!

Monday, June 9, 2014

2 Ways To Battle Your Fear of Intimacy

The one thing that most limits your relationships may be something you’ve completely overlooked. You may fear that you are not funny enough, or attractive enough, or intelligent enough. You may doubt your abilities to carry on conversations. But these things pale in comparison to the number one killer of relationships: fear of intimacy.

Fear of intimacy drives us to avoid connecting deeply with other people. We are afraid of the thought of people knowing us too deeply, perhaps because we fear people won’t like us if they know us that well. This fear can affect our romantic relationships, our family relationships, and even relationships at work and with friends. If you find yourself backing away from people that you know you should be able to trust, here are a couple of things to think about….

Intimacy isn’t bad, but people sometimes can be.

It may be that you’ve been hurt before (most of us have), and you may have come to believe that the reason you were hurt is that you allowed yourself to open up to someone else. It’s possible that you were simply trying to continue to grow in the relationship, but when you opened up, someone used what you shared against you.  Relationships won’t grow without trust and intimacy. Intimacy is not bad in and of itself. People on the other hand, can act in very bad ways, and many times they can use your attempts to relate, to hurt or betray you.  It may be that your problem isn’t intimacy, but the people you’ve chosen to try to relate with. Although opening up again to someone in the future may be scary, it’s a necessary step if you want to have a healthy and satisfying life. Don’t let bad past experiences distort your present choices!

Intimacy isn’t bad, but too much of it too soon can be.

Intimacy, like a brick wall, must be built one brick at a time. Trust grows over time, and so does closeness in relationships. Opening up too much and moving too quickly can put you in a dangerous place. It will either overwhelm the person you are trying to relate to, or it will de-value what you are sharing (sometimes both). Remember, even small things can build a relationship. Every talk doesn’t need to be an earth-shattering, heart-exploding, share-everything sort of talk. Take your time and share the small stuff. You need to be patient as you open up, and the person you are relating to needs to prove themselves worthy of your trust.

So, if you find yourself lonely, hurt, or both, don’t just shut down and try to live off surface-level, empty relationships. It won’t be satisfying!  Intimacy is good even though it’s risky. So, take your time and allow people to earn your trust. The fears you’ve accumulated over the years will lessen, and you’ll find quality relationships emerging in your world. 

Friday, June 6, 2014

Friday Finds - June 6

Looking for something good to check out online this weekend? Forget searching around and start here instead:

Finally a post that is both inspiring and helpful, a guide to napping…

Know who you probably don’t want to quote on a giant billboard to support your children’s ministry??….Adolf Hitler. Yeah, this is real.

Next to llamas squirrels are nature’s most courteous animal…. I can’t stop watching this!

Turns out not everyone is putting up a metal building with functional chairs and huge speakers to be their church….(Diary of an Arts Pastor is a brilliant blog to follow)

I’ve always loved the White Stripes, and I love Jack White. I think he’s brilliant…or insane…those aren’t incredibly far apart sometimes. Check out his new album Lazaretto….

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Best Ever: Chocolate

Almost everyone enjoys chocolate (Everyone except the spies that the aliens sent here to find out our secret weaknesses so as to prepare our planet for destruction). If you are looking for the best place on our planet for chocolate, look no further than the French Broad Chocolate Lounge. Asheville, NC is busting at the seams with amazing food options. Wherever you choose to eat the next time you are in Asheville save a little room for dessert at French Broad. Their hot chocolate (made from real chocolate) is so good that the government will likely be instituting restrictions against it in the near future.  Milk Chocolate and Dark Chocolate are standard hot chocolate options, but my favorite is the Maple and Sea Salt, with the Cayenne and Cinnamon running a close second. You can choose from brownies and flourless chocolate torts, or grab some individual chocolates and cheesecake. There is really no way to go wrong. I highly recommend adding a French Almond Macaron to whatever you buy. I don’t want to over-hype it, but I think it is the Mona Lisa of pastries. So, make a point to drop in to French Broad Chocolate Lounge when you can, and don’t forget to bring me back a Macaron!

What or where is your best chocolate ever????  Let us know what you think either by responding here on the blog or on Facebook!!!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

How To Find Peaceful Sleep

Few things are more important to your overall well-being than sleep. Sleep impacts you physically, mentally, and emotionally. In fact, if you review your past a bit, chances are you’ll find that a great number of the bad decisions you’ve made in the past came either late at night, or after a lack of quality sleep. Even though sleep is critical to our health, many of us ignore its importance and have too many nights when we either sleep fitfully or not at all. I have a quote by Victor Hugo (see above) pinned above my desk to serve as inspiration and a reminder. Launching off of that quote, here are a couple of things you can do to improve your sleep and thereby improve your life:

Stay Courageous (Have courage for the great sorrows of life…)

Courage is not a lack of fear. It’s continuing to move your feet in the presence of fear. There will be moments in your life that will break your heart and cause you to fear, it’s inevitable. Sorrows are a part of life. Even though you will experience fear, you do not have to allow that fear to control you. Courage is what happens when you continue to push forward in life when everything inside of you wants to quit or give up. Over time that sort of courage will actually cause our fear to diminish, so stay courageous!

 Stay Patient (…and patience for the small ones…)

There are times when it feels that you will never get where you want to go. A thousand things seem to get in your way, slow you down, and cause you to doubt yourself. Obsessing over all of the little challenges in life (which don’t always feel so little) will keep your brain in constant, futile motion, and will rob you of sleep. So, stay patient and stay the course. Keep doing what you believe in. Keep dreaming. When your mind is filled with hopes for tomorrow instead of dread, sleep comes more easily.

Work Hard (…and when you have laboriously…)

Nothing in life comes easy, so whatever you are looking to accomplish or achieve will likely require a great deal from you. Investing your blood, sweat, and tears in something you believe in is exhausting, but it’s the sort of exhausting that leads to restful sleep. So work hard at whatever is in front of you, and when it comes time to rest, you’ll be glad you did.

Stay in today (…accomplished your daily task…)

This may be the toughest of the four things mentioned so far. We all have daily tasks and responsibilities, and looking ahead to plan for the future is a not a bad thing. Living in the future, however, is another thing entirely. As much as we would like to, we cannot go back and change our past. Also, we cannot zoom ahead to next Thursday to see what problems might be lurking for us there. All that we can control is the moments that we have in the present. When we stay present to our current place and time, life feels more manageable. There is a clear place to begin, and when it’s time for bed, a clear time to stop. As you crawl into bed, give yourself permission to sleep, reminding yourself that you can’t crawl into tomorrow until tomorrow comes. 

If life feels chaotic and your head feels cloudy, sleep is the first suspect to investigate. I hope these thoughts help you find peaceful sleep and much needed rest.