Wednesday, February 03, 2016

5 Steps to Take When It Doesn't Get Any Better



Reality check: some things don’t get better. That doesn’t mean nothing gets better, but it means some situations won’t. There are adversities in life that are managed – not cured. For instance, you may have diabetes and while it may not be cured it can be managed. There are also relationships that may not experience the improvement desired, but you can navigate them with God's help.

I am a person who lives in the supernatural as well as the natural, and know that God does the impossible. And at the same time, as many miracles as I’ve seen (and there have been a lot) there have been just as many times that what I or others prayed for didn’t happen.

What do you do at that point when something you live with daily is clearly not improving and you need help, STAT? 

Realize YOU Can Get Better Even if This Doesn’t 

Just because one aspect of your life isn’t going well, doesn’t mean everything in your life has to be the same way. The challenge you face may be a big area of your life, but it’s still not your entire life. So first, remember that the totality of your life is greater than this obstacle. Although you can’t change other people and there are situations you don’t have control of, there is one person you can change and that is YOU. So with God’s help and empowerment, change yourself for the better in whatever way you can.  

Develop a Support System 

Whatever you are walking through – don’t walk through it alone. You don’t have to and you weren’t designed to. If you believe you have to go it alone – you’ve believed a lie. Find people you can trust who will be there to listen, to give wisdom and to uphold you in prayer not just during the particularly difficult times but on a regular basis. God never intended any of us to bear the trials of life alone. 

Practice Self-Care 

Dealing with situations that don’t get better – or get worse, is hard work. It drains your energy like nothing else. And while we need to practice good self-care as a general rule, being faithful to do it in the midst of  long-term stress is particularly critical for overall well-being. Whatever you need to do to physically and emotionally invest in yourself – do that. For me this may be taking 15 minutes to do nothing but deeply breathe – to dabbing on essential oils or taking a bath and using my favorite scrubs, to getting the occasional massage. 

Practice Solitude 

Strength for the journey usually isn’t acquired in an atmosphere of noise. When circumstances are at their roughest, I try to get to a quiet place as quickly as possible and recharge. Some of that is because I’m an introvert who requires alone time to replenish. But I believe there is value in this for extroverts too. You don’t build a reservoir of strength in a cacophonous environment. 

Keep Growing In Your Walk With God 

As I’ve already mentioned, handling things that don’t get better is draining. I don’t know how people cope when they don’t have a relationship with God. I talk to God in my head about these issues, sometimes all day long. And He speaks back, giving me wisdom to not only survive but thrive. In times like this more than ever – I need Him. I see that as time goes on, challenges can sometimes worsen and I need to not only maintain my walk with Him but grow to a deeper level where there is a deeper well to draw from.

Pastor Steven Furtick says that we don’t get to choose whether we will be shaken. We only get to choose what we stand on. Without exception the foundation of my relationship in Christ helps me stand in times when things don’t get any better and for a time, may further decline. 

My prayers are with everyone reading this today, as you face whatever trial is bearing down on you. You are not alone.





Photo by Deanna Doss Shrodes

Monday, November 23, 2015

5 Ways to Avoid Posting Things You'll Regret on Social Media



Popping off online with a sarcastic quip when I’m unhappy about something  is one of my biggest temptations. I know I’m not alone in this because I see a lot of people do it, even leaders. The times I engage in this are extremely rare to non-existent however I am sorely tempted many times. I know it's important to have this under control. If I'm going to be effective, there's no question I have to be extremely careful with what I post. My boss and I were talking about leadership one day and he made the remark that the higher we go in leadership the less freedom we have. I couldn't agree more.

Let's say as a pastor, I had a terrible experience in a Sunday morning service where everything went wrong. The sound. The media. Evvvvvverything.  It is tempting for me to go online right afterwards and post, "Why couldn't the rapture have come at exactly 10:45?"  or, "Some Sunday mornings require Xanax." Yeah, I have totally posted stuff like that before. And I know it’s not good. So I try my best to avoid it. Sometimes this requires a Hershey bar. With almonds. And a latte. 

Just because I have a legitimate reason to be upset at times doesn’t mean it’s wise or appropriate to post about it. Usually deep regret follows but it’s too late. Darn screen shotting.

My assistant Erika tells me there are times she is upset and realizes she must avoid all social media until the moment passes. I believe this is wisdom. 

Here are five tried and true ways to avoid media post regret. In addition to avoiding social media until the moment passes, before you post: 


Phone a friend 

Some things I want to rant about on social media are appropriate for a private conversation with a friend but not for public consumption. A friend knows my heart and isn’t going to judge because of what I've said while venting . However, scores of people on social media who don’t know my heart at all would judge. And rightfully so.  Although it doesn’t help to be judged it helps greatly to hear the wisdom of a Godly friend. And most of the time that’s what I receive after I’ve vented, which is valuable.

Breathe Deeply 

Take deep breaths and slowly exhale through your mouth. You can do this anytime - anywhere. The other day I was troubled about something and unfortunately at the time I was in a public setting. I inconspicuously took some deep breaths, exhaled and employed some positive self-talk. "This is small in the grand scheme of things..." I told myself. "In a few weeks this won't even matter..." I thought. "Let it go..." I said to myself. It worked.

Take a Stretch

When something stresses me, I usually feel it in my body. My neck and shoulders become tense and achy.  Rather than pop off with a sarcastic post, I stand up, and stretch my hands up as high as I can and back down again. I tilt my neck from side to side and gently rub the back of it with my hands.  Sometimes I add a dab of essential oil, my favorite being, “Past Tense” by DoTerra.    

Take a walk 

A walk sometimes brings a perspective shift for me. At other times, my feelings about the situation don’t change but I feel more relaxed after I’ve walked it out. Either way, the tempting moment to post something snarky has passed -- and that's what matters. Any time you avoid snark, be proud of yourself. It's part of developing the fruit of the spirit in your life.

Journal it Out

Journaling accomplishes many purposes and for this issue, it provides another outlet for the emotions at hand. It’s a safe and proper place to release whatever is inside. Many times I journal such things as prayers. 

Depending on the severity of whatever has me down, I may do all of these things on the same day. And that’s alright. It’s much preferable to posting something I will later regret. God is so faithful to help me in moments of weakness. He will help you, too.



Photo Credit: freedigitalphotos.net

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

God Told Me I'm Supposed to Be Your Best Friend

Recently I taught a workshop for pastor’s wives and I asked the question, “How many of you have had someone in the church approach you and say, “God told me we’re supposed to be best friends...?"Laughter immediately erupted and lots of heads were nodding and hands raised. 

I went on to say that this pressure comes in various forms – not always the same verbiage – and can be anything from…

“God told me we’re supposed to be best friends…”  to

“I really want to know you more and get closer to you...”  to

“God laid you on my heart and said we're supposed to be close friends...”

Sometimes it comes in the form of someone relentlessly asking for private coffee/lunch times for the purpose of pursuing those things. (Note: there's a difference between spending time such as this for mentoring, discipleship, etc. and developing a close friendship.)

I asked the pastor’s wives gathered in that class if they had experienced anyone actually leaving the church because they didn’t get what they wanted in the way of a close personal friendship with them. As I looked around, most every head was nodding or there was a hand raised.

Years ago there was another female pastor/pastor’s wife who contacted me and told me we had a whole lot in common and they felt we were supposed to be good friends.  I was kind of freaked out by it because of my experience as a pastor’s wife in being pressured at times in the church by those who wanted to be my "best friend."  I never responded to  this person’s repeated attempts to get to know me. Then one day I came across an article online and it was as if I had written it myself. I couldn’t believe how much the author sounded like me. I was even thinking for a moment that it might have been one of my writings that I simply forgot I had submitted for publication. Intrigued by this, I kept reading and at the end of the article noticed that it was this same person who had been contacting me for quite some time. It was then that I realized that this gal and I truly eat out of the same box of Cheerios. I contacted her and said, “I think you might be right. Let's get to know each other a bit more...” We ended up becoming really good friends. What began as an online friendship blossomed into meeting in person and writing together and teaching at some of the same conferences. But, my point is -- I initially resisted all of her attempts to get to know her due to my experiences as a pastor's wife, with people pressuring to “be my best friend” and getting upset when that didn't happen. 

I don’t have the answer to this issue, as far as ways to get it to stop. I don’t believe it will. I believe pastoral leaders will always face pressure like this to some degree. But I do have advice for church people who want to act in wisdom. 

This is for those of you out there who are ready to grow up and be mature in Christ. I say this to people who want to be a church member your pastor or pastor's wife has trust in and feels at ease around. Because you see, when a leader feels someone pressuring them for something they are not comfortable with, they tend to be on guard more around that person. They trust them with less. And even the normal level they go to with trusted church members, they will probably not go to with a person who pressures and feel they need to have a greater formality and boundaries with that person.

Those who are wise will place no expectation of close friendship on the pastor or pastors’ wife. They are your leader first and foremost, not your pal or friend.  They have been called by God and placed there not to be your buddy but to serve as your spiritual leader. 

Whether any relationship develops aside from pastor/congregant  is determined largely by the comfort zone of the pastor or pastor's spouse and the leading of the Lord in their life. There are different levels of relationship, as well.  I may have coffee or go shopping but there is a vast difference in that and sharing intimate details about home or situations in the church. There have always been those who inquire, and pressure me to go to that level, over the years and share personal things about my marriage or things behind the scenes in the church.   

Sometimes people get angry when they cannot have that depth of closeness and they become negative, or leave the church– which is unfortunate.  While is wisdom for a church member to guard against pressuring their pastor or spouse in this way, it’s a wise leader that doesn’t give in to pressure simply to keep someone happy. 

Anything formed out of pressure will one day implode.


 

Photo Credit: Freedigitalphotos.net

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

When Relationships Break and You Desperately Want to Be Whole Again


Have your hopes been dashed into pieces when you tried to make a relationship work and the other person didn’t respond as you wished?

Have you asked someone to forgive you, but  he or she didn’t respond as you desired?

Have you prayed for healing in a relationship, but your prayers haven’t been answered?   

I understand these overwhelming disappointments all too well, as one of the most important relationships in my life was lost. 

I am offering insights from the journey of that devastating experience to help not only those who have faced similar circumstances, but … 

Restored brings a message of hope to everyone that you can be restored, even when a relationship isn’t. 

YOU can be restored, even if the other person doesn’t respond as you wished.
YOU can be restored, even if your spouse leaves you.
YOU can be restored, even if your parent rejects you.
YOU can be restored, even if a friend betrays you.
YOU can be restored, even if you lose the job you love.
YOU can be restored no matter what!

And it doesn’t always involve the cooperation of another. 

Restored brings forward the important truth that no matter what another person chooses to do, we as individuals can be restored, if we put ourselves in position to be. 

Restored isn’t merely my experience of restoration, but rather a spiritual template and a purposeful guide designed to help readers journey through their own restoration process.

Within the pages of this uplifting and insightful story, you will find healing if you will pursue it with your whole heart.  

Available on Amazon Kindle and Paperback, November 2. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

When You Shouldn't Invite A Leader to Lunch


If you're going to discuss something that's stressful in the least, don't invite a leader out for a meal to do it.  Even if it's not stressful to you...if you have any inkling -- any feeling at all that the conversation will be such for them, don't ask to meet over a meal. Call them to discuss it, or set a meeting at their office.

Over the years, I've had people invite me to join them for a meal to tell me that they are resigning, stepping down from a ministry, leaving the church, or to pitch a project to me they are doubtful I will support. Perhaps they want to press me for a position or a decision on something they already know I'm not too keen on. If I sense that any of these things are the case, I try to get them to set a meeting that doesn't include mealtimes.

It’s a proven fact that stress affects our digestive system.  

When these types of conversations happen over a meal, I feel pain sometimes as my food is digesting. Meals are meant to be shared in an atmosphere of peace and when it's not so, our health can be affected. 

Maybe people believe sharing a meal together will set an atmosphere to pave the way to my heart. Or if they are asking for something I'm probably not going to say yes to, translation: give them what they want, they believe food will be a good runway to launch their request. Reality is, if they are telling me something I'm not going to be happy about, a soup and salad -- or even chocolate -- aren't going to help the situation. And if they are asking me to do something they sense I'm not comfortable with, I’m going to go the direction God speaks to my heart to go in -- even if I'm in the middle of taking a bite of cake. This is because I live on principle, not by feelings. If I don't believe God wants me to do something, even triple chocolate cake is not going to change anything.

I used to try to finish my meal during one of these stressful times, but I've learned the better option is to take better care of myself. When these occasions come, I leave it sitting there, untouched. And, I wait to eat again when I'm in a peaceful space.

I wondered if I was alone in dealing with this so one day I asked my assistant if she noticed that people invite leaders out to meals to talk about things that will be unpleasant. She remarked that it is common. Her exact words were, “It happens all the time!”  Okay, so I'm not crazy. 

I used to feel utterly trapped when people did this to me, but then I found myself asking why. Why was I the one who was feeling anxiety? Was it because I cared more about the other person's feelings that I continue with the meal? Could it be because at times, they were paying for the meal and I didn't want to seem ungrateful or disappoint?  

So often we damage our health for fear of what others will think, say or do.

Seeking peace comes in different forms and this is one, for me. 

Photo credit: freedigitalphotos.net
 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

For All The People Who Doubt That God Is In the Details...




The finances of our home have something in common with how I lead PF Women. If we don't have the money, we don't do it. Larry and I only have two things on credit -- our home, and our car. Aside from that we don't have any debt that isn't paid off at the end of each month. And, we're tithers who give generously on top of that. We have always been faithful in our giving, and have grown wiser with finances as our marriage has progressed.We are grateful to God for His provision and blessing. So, with these things established:

I wanted to do a project in our yard. It wouldn't be a do-it-yourself project but one that we'd have to hire out. It would include a lot of things that are meaningful to me including multiple larger (more mature) dark pink crepe myrtle trees, rose bushes, hydrangeas, and a lot more. Plans were drawn up and we received an estimate. It would take at least six months to save up for the project. My favorite thing would be the area that would be created in our back yard that would include the crepe myrtle trees which have lots of meaning for me. 

Larry wasn't particularly enthused about any of this but he went along with it because it was important to me. In May, the saving began. I hoped to have all funds needed by the end of October and would not start the project until every penny of it was in savings.

 I let Chris, the landscaper, know the goal was to schedule the work to be done at the end of October. However, during the summer I developed a much stronger desire to get the project done. I knew we would never put any of it on credit, but I considered other possibilities. What could I cut back on, to make getting there quicker a reality? I knew Larry wouldn't want to personally sacrifice anything to make it happen faster because he didn't really care about it like I did.

The idea came to me that I could give up Dunkin Donuts lattes (latte light's with no sugar added, to be exact) until the project was over.   I drink them on the road more than anywhere, partly to stay awake and partly because I like them. Needless to say, I'm on the road a lot and I drink a lot of coffee. It was in the middle of the PF Women Couch Tour that I decided to start going without them entirely and save the money. I said nothing to anyone but Larry. And, he didn't speak to anyone about it.

 A few days later I headed to my next speaking engagement minus my usual latte and much to my surprise when I finished ministering at the church there was a Dunkin Donuts gift card for me tucked inside an envelope. Not only that but - this started happening often! And, although it was remarkable, I never told anyone but Larry, until my season of giving up spending my own money on lattes was over.

 The reason I kept it to myself was because I felt to tell anyone about what I was giving up or that people were suddenly blessing me with Dunkin Donuts gift cards might be perceived as a subtle or a not-so-subtle hint that I wanted to receive even more. I felt it would be dropping it into people's minds that I could use more cards, or they might even want to give something toward my project. If that were to happen naturally it would be one thing, but for me to have anything to do with putting the idea in their minds, I have issue with. I consider it manipulative, actually. So I refrain from anything like this. I believe it's wisdom to keep these things to oneself and let the Lord take care of it.
 
I continued to be surprised all summer. Despite my secret, it seemed the rest of the world had been clued in by God that this director runs on Dunkin. I ministered at Bellview Church on the Hill one Saturday and drove home. I got settled in my room for bed and opened my Bible to read it before sleep. An envelope fell out that had been tucked inside. When I finished preaching that morning I had placed the Bible on the front row and I realized someone must have tucked it inside during that time when I wasn't paying attention. There was a kind note from one of the leaders of the church and a Dunkin Donuts gift card.

Yes, I know this is a first-world issue but... I never ended up having to give up any lattes because I had more than enough gift cards for the next few months to cover them.  Not only that but we had the funds for the project in five months, not six. 

I called Chris and told him I wanted to get started right away. He said it would be several weeks as he was completely booked. However, he did come by and mark the yard and kill the grass in certain spots to create a new bed in the back yard where the trees would be.

 A week later on Wednesday evening, our sweet dog Maddie tragically and unexpectedly died. She passed away at midnight and we tearfully finished burying her in the yard by 4 am. Thankfully, we knew exactly where we should dig the grave since Chris had clearly marked the yard as to where all the trees and plants were going in. The next day, Chris called to say time had unexpectedly opened up for him and he was sending a crew the next morning to do the work. Within 24 hours of Maddie's death, the project was completed in our yard including the beautiful trees, rosebushes and hydrangeas that now overlook her grave. In a matter of a day a memorial was erected. A project my husband once cared nothing about is now incredibly special and valued -- not just to me, but to him.
 
God is a good God who gives good gifts to His children. He cares about every   detail of our lives. And now...photos of our project.

I am not showing the actual finished product here, but the plans. The reason is, none of this is flowering yet, so none of the beautiful colors can be seen yet, but come spring our yard will bloom like crazy! I would like to show here how it's actually going to look once things are blooming. Note that the crepe myrtles will not be white, but dark pink. Click any photo to enlarge.


Back yard with crepe myrtles that will be dark pink

Our new front yard!

Walkway in front yard
 
Left of driveway

 And there is our new latest home project with tons of sentimental value, and a and thanks to our right-on-time God.

p.s. Please do not send me any Dunkin Donuts gift cards. I can pay for my own coffee and will probably start purchasing and giving others some cards now that the project is done. :) 


Monday, October 05, 2015

Why Losing a Pet is So Hard



 "Dogs are not our whole lives, but they make our lives whole." ~ Roger Caras

Five days have passed since Maddie died and it’s still so hard. (Please don’t give me the advice, “Time for a puppy!” We don’t want another puppy and besides that, we have our beloved Max.)


Maddie wasn’t just an animal. She was family. I came across this article about how the death of a pet can hurt as much as the loss of a relative. People who haven’t ever have “fur kids” as many call them, will never understand that or much else about our relationship with them. 

I have thought about why the bond between people and their pets is so strong and there are a myriad of reasons. The first that most people mention is unconditional love. That's true. I also believe the loss of a pet is so traumatic because no one else is in your personal space so much, except a spouse. 

Max and Maddie (and now just Max) sit faithfully alongside while I put my make up on and blow dry my hair. They are there when I’m just walking around my room in my underwear.  They see me as no one else does except my husband. And, they listen for hours on end and provide endless affection. Rarely if ever do I take a nap without one of them nuzzled beside me.  


I miss so many things about Maddie and can’t wrap my head around the fact that she’s gone. Colder weather is coming and she always warmed up my feet before I went to sleep, laying at the bottom of the bed. Larry has always drawn the line at them sleeping with us, so they had to go to their own space while we sleep, BUT (and this is a big but!) they know when morning arrives even if it's not daylight yet. At five or six in the morning, they will whine to ask if they can hop up. Maddie was deaf from birth but one notable thing about her was her manners. She would always quietly whimper at the side of the bed, waiting for Larry or me to wave and let her know it was okay to jump up. She absolutely would not come up with us unless we waved to her that it was okay.  

When Larry went away by himself overnight to a men's conference or something, I would always tell the dogs, "tonight we get to break the rules!!" and I would sleep sandwiched between the both of them.


Our family has so many memories with Maddie including pulling together to nurse her back to health, 24/7 after her accident. She was loved by so many people not just our family, but people everywhere.

Maddie nuzzled against my thigh on a chair while I wrote countless articles and books. In addition to being deaf, she experienced a near fatal accident but rose above her challenges with the sweetest spirit. She was always an example to me in that regard. I would often tell myself that if she could rise above her obstacles, I could too. I have long said that my dogs have more fruit of the spirit than many Christians.

The price of love is grief.

I will grieve for a long time, missing our Maddie girl.
    

Saturday, August 29, 2015

400 Church Leaders Are Resigning This Weekend
(The Case for a Skeleton-Free Closet)



Approximately 400 church leaders are reportedly resigning this weekend  because their names surfaced in the Ashley Madison hack.

That’s sad and at the same time it’s a relatively small number compared to the 37 million people who had Ashley Madison accounts. Still, even one church leader is too many.

"Life is short. Have an affair." It's the slogan of Ashley Madison, the site that reportedly has more than 124 million visits per month, and is ranked number 18 among adult sites on the web. Their 37 million users had an expectation of privacy, but this hack is just one more example of the fact that nothing is absolutely airtight.

The church has yet to realize how damaging secrets are.  We need to deal with sin, and we also need to address the issue of secrets. There are those who believe they can actually get away with sinful behavior. And then there are others who believe secrets are warranted at times.

Unfortunately I run into a lot of the latter, even among Christians. 

What purpose do secrets serve at all? No good one.

One of the best pieces of wisdom I ever received was from a Christian counselor who said that family secrets are among the most damaging things ever. "Avoid them at all cost," he said. I'm sensitive to secrets for many reasons, two of the biggest being that both of my families, [natural and adoptive] were destroyed by secrets. Yes, there were other issues, but secrets were a big part of it -- and unfortunately, continue to be.

One of my personal core values is to live without secrets. No matter what comes up, I want to be transparent about it. Admittedly this personal core value makes me stop and think very hard before I do things. With my wins and losses, successes and failures, good choices or sinful ones -- I'm determined to own up to it and live transparently. And I've noticed that people who also live transparently don't mind a bit that I do. [Side note: When someone gets angry that you choose to live transparently, that should be an alarm bell. Just saying.]

Secrets lose their power when brought to the light. A person once said to me, "But Deanna, we all have skeletons in our closet." No. No we don't. Some people do. Okay, many people do. But there are those who choose to live transparently.  It's a wise choice. It's said, "You're only as sick as your secrets."  The Bible says those who conceal or cover their sins do not prosper. I’m a firm believer in a skeleton-free closet. We need all the room we can get for shoes and purses.

The Bible says that everything hidden will be brought to light eventually. Why not be honest about it now, before it is exposed? It’s all going to be shouted from the rooftops eventually. That’s what God says. It WILL come out. If you live a transparent life you don’t have to worry about anything coming to light or being shouted from a rooftop.

 If it's not something you want everybody finding out, don’t do it. And if you did it –come clean about it – sooner rather than later.   

There’s so much to be said for living in the light, openly and real.