No Story but Your Own

Have you ever felt like things are going swimmingly in everyone’s life around you, meanwhile you’re drowning? Do you ever get stuck in your own stuff?

Ya, me too.

I love the power of a good story. This summer I’ve been reading through The Chronicles of Narnia with my kids. We started with The Magician’s Nephew and have almost completed A Horse and His Boy. The only book in the series I read as a child was The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, so this is a special treat for me.

In C.S. Lewis’ famous series, he brilliantly provides several illustrations of God’s love for us. As the Christian allegory goes, Lewis uses the character Aslan (a lion) to represent Jesus.

Last night’s chapter struck me. We often seek to understand why bad things happen, in our own journey and in the lives of others. It is in times of walking alone in darkness that we realize God is there. He has been there the whole time, waiting for us to speak.

Shasta (the “boy” in A Horse and His Boy) was lost. He was wandering in the dark on a lonely road, dwelling on his misfortune. It was in this dark place that he met Aslan for the first time.

“I do think, said Shasta, “that I must be the most unfortunate boy that ever lived in the whole world. Everything goes right for everyone except me.”

His mind was racing and he was drowning in his circumstances. Can you relate? His thoughts were consumed with all the bad things that had happened to him. He can no longer rely on his own strength. It is in this moment of complete emptiness when he realizes Aslan’s presence.

“And being very tired and having nothing inside him, he felt so sorry for himself that the tears rolled down his cheeks. What put a stop to all this was a sudden fright. Shasta discovered that someone or somebody was walking beside him. It was pitch dark and he could see nothing.”

Have you ever walked Shasta’s road? Have you walked along in darkness? Felt completely alone, yet realized you weren’t alone?

“Who are you?” Shasta said, scarcely above a whisper.
“One who has waited long for you to speak,” said the Thing. Its voice was not loud, but very large and deep. “Tell me your sorrows.”

Wow. I forgot. God wants to hear my sorrows. My tendency is to try and suck it up and stay positive. To not complain. To rely on  my own strength. God wants to hear your sorrows.

Shasta told now how he had never known his real father or mother and had been brought up sternly by the fisherman. And then he told the story of his escape and how they were chased by lions and forced to swim for their lives; and of all their dangers in Tashbaan and about his night among the tombs and how the beasts howled at him out of the desert. And he told about the heat and thirst of their desert journey and they were almost at their goal when another lion chased them and wounded Aravis. And also, how very long it was since he had had anything to eat.

God’s response to your sorrows is to tell you your story.

“I do not call you unfortunate,” said the Large Voice.
“Don’t you think it was bad luck to meet so many lions?” said Shasta.
“There was only one lion,” said the Voice.
“What on earth do you mean? I’ve just told you there were at least two the first night, and—

“There was only one, but he was swift of foot.”
“How do you know?”
“I was the lion.” And as Shasta gaped with open mouth and said nothing, the Voice continued. “I was the the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept…”

God not only knows your story, he is an integral part of it.

“Then it was you who wounded Aravis?”
“It was I.”
“But what for?”
“Child,” said the Voice, ” I am telling you your story, not hers. I tell no one any story but his own.”

He tells no one any story but his own.

I have struggled while I watch friends suffer. Children get cancer. Spouses leave. Breadwinners lose jobs. Why? I’m not told any story but my own.

In my own story, I’ve walked some dark roads. I’ve felt sorry for myself. I’ve lamented the attack of several lions.

I’ve felt like everyone around me is happily married while I’m going through the pain of divorce. Like all the girls at the ballet studio are gleefully dancing while my daughter cries in the corner. Like I gave up my career for over a decade and there’s no way I can get it back. Like all my friends carry their designer handbags and drive carpool and complain when their husbands are out of town for a week while I take out the trash at midnight…again.

But God longs for me to speak. He wants me to share my sorrows. And in conversing with him, I’m reminded he is with me and an integral part of my story.

There is only one Lion.

Does this allegory speak to you? When are some times you’ve realized God is telling you your story?


When Hurt People Hurt Other People

Another tragic hate crime. It’s almost too much to take.

In response to the Charleston shooting, I’ve seen people cast blame, lament racism, talk in circles about guns, and spew more hatred. It’s the easy thing to do.

I haven’t heard anyone say what they, as an individual, plan to do about it in a positive way. It’s impossible to make sense of such a horrific act. We overanalyze. We try to solve the global problem with sweeping statements, generalizations, and vague criticisms. How does this approach translate to solutions? Or real impact?

The individual often feels helpless. Talking heads look for someone else to make things better. Someone with more power or influence must change things.

The solution starts with you and me. The problem is complex and seems overwhelming. Still, I believe as individuals we have the ability to make an impact, no matter how close or how far we are from the actual tragedy.

[Read more…]


The Difference Between a Resolution and Resolve

Millions of Americans made New Year’s Resolutions this week. Most are related to improvements in health, family, career, or personal growth. Does the tradition of setting out to make positive change this way work? Research shows that less than 8% of us are actually successful.


Don’t be discouraged by this dismal statistic.

Do you want to make this year different by turning your resolutions into habits and lasting change? You can. The key is understanding the subtle difference between a resolution and resolve.

RESOLUTION is defined as a decision to do or not to do something.

RESOLVE is defined as firm determination to do something.

Notice the difference? One is wishful thinking. A fleeting moment in time. The other involves ongoing action with a fixed purpose.

Anyone can make a resolution. Not everyone has resolve.

How do you get it? Some people are born with it, but resolve can be learned. Here are four ways to improve your resolve:

  1. Make a plan. It’s easy to think of a resolution, but it requires time and deliberation to craft a plan. The process of getting to the goal is critical. Write it down, step by step. Be specific. Include details about what you need to do to get there.
  2. Secure an accountability partner. Research shows this is key. Want to exercise more? Find a friend who has the same goal and hold each other accountable. Check in weekly to see how it’s going.
  3. Set reminders. You’ve set a plan and have a partner in crime. But old habits die hard. It takes a while to get into the swing of things and make lasting changes. Your plan includes detailed actions. Put them on your calendar. Set alerts on your phone. Dust off your sticky notes.
  4. Celebrate milestones. You won’t accomplish the change you want to make in your life overnight. Improvement worth making requires endurance. You may get discouraged along the way and be tempted to quit. Don’t wait until you reach the end goal to celebrate ultimate success. Revel in the small victories along the way. Want to lose 20 pounds? Throw a party when you’ve shed the first five.

Don’t make useless resolutions you won’t keep this year. Instead, find the resolve to make lasting changes in your life.

Wishing you a Happy New Year, full of abiding love, friendship and joy!


A Placid Plan Pleases Provoked People (5 Steps for Dealing with Angry Clients)

It doesn’t matter whether your office is a boardroom, classroom, or laundry room, inevitably your clients will get upset. Regardless of how hard you work, the services you provide fall short sometimes. I’ve learned to apply a prescriptive process that calms down the angriest of customers and gets the relationship back on track.

Last week I received a scathing email from a student’s father. He heard an incomplete account of an event, assumed I had ill intentions, and copied the principal on his angry rant.

kettle with boiling water

My initial reaction was defensive. Didn’t this guy realize how much I care about his child and how hard I had worked to meet his son’s needs that day? What was his intention in copying the principal? Why didn’t he pick up the phone to address his concern with me in a respectful manner? As I re-read the email, I felt my frustration heating up like a boiling kettle about to blow.

When emotionally charged tension occurs in any relationship, it’s important to respond rather than react. Take time to thoughtfully craft a positive way to address the issue. Resist the urge to lash back, and take a break from the heat of the moment. A walk around the building, a diet coke, and your favorite junk food from the vending machine never hurt either.

Use these 5 steps for dealing with an angry client:

  1. Apologize right out of the gate. It doesn’t matter whether the client has a legitimate reason to be upset or not, in your opinion. Something went wrong. They’re not happy and their feelings must be acknowledged. A simple “I sincerely apologize that my discussion with So-and-So upset What’s-His-Name,” goes a long way.
  2. State the facts. After their feelings are validated, the client is more likely open to hearing facts surrounding the issue. Make detailed statements about events, the efforts of team members, and what you know about the situation causing the problem. Keep emotion out of it.
  3. Reassure and encourage. Tell the client everything you’ve been doing to meet their needs. Point out some really positive things related to their concern. What has been going well? What can be celebrated?
  4. Propose a plan. If you don’t have a plan in place to address their concerns, let them know you are working on one and when they can expect to have it in place. Remember: A placid plan pleases provoked people.
  5. Appreciate the communication. Rude ranting and spewing aside, thank the client for their communication with you. It’s better to know they’re upset than not know. “Thank you for expressing your concerns with me” demonstrates your commitment to building a good working relationship going forward.

This formula works. In the particular case mentioned above, my approach resulted in a satisfied parent, an encouraged child, and a principal thanking me for handling the issue so well that she didn’t have to get involved.

What approaches have you used to soothe an angry client?