Clear the Deck First

Each morning I receive a quick read in my Google Reader from

Today's Stress Tip


some tidbit of wisdom to apply to my busy life.  I don't


agree with the advice, as was the case

last week

.  But for the most part, I usually come away with


I can use to transform my daily life.

Then there are tips like the one posted this morning, that seem so

common sense

until I read it over a couple of times, and realize ~

This is so much more that just

surface talk


Before you begin a project, first clear your desk, kitchen counter or work area of the clutter that will surely get in the way. Then take out and organize the implements you'll need to get the job done, leaving yourself ample room to maneuver. That's it. The minute or two it takes to do this will save you a considerable time and aggravation over the course of the project. Clear the deck first.

Pretty much common sense here ~ clean off your work space, make sure you have all the ingredients before you start, and plan your time so you can finish what you begin!  Got it!

But are there areas of life where we tend to


apply this common sense?  As a mediator and conflict coach, my mind takes this tip ~ from the desk, kitchen counter or work area ~ to our relationships.

When it comes to relationships, it seems we tend to

clear the deck

with a broad stroke ~ quite literally sweeping away problem people in our lives.  The trend we see in our

mediation center

is to simply dispose of individuals who cause us conflict, avoid people who hurt us, and begin again with a new set of friends, a new spouse, a new family, even a new faith community.

What if we took this common sense tip and applied it to our personal relationships?  How would we live it out?

Before you begin a new relationship, first reconcile the ‘clutter’ in your heart and mind from past relationships that will surely get in the way of making new relationships. Then take out and organize the interpersonal skills you'll need to establish a lasting relationship, leaving yourself ample time to put these skills into practice. That's it. The time it takes to do this will save you considerable hurt and aggravation over the course of the new relationship. Clear the decks first.

I know it is never



But here is the bottom line: if we don’t deal with the brokenness in our old relationships, we carry it into our new ones.  Many people call it baggage.  I call it our default response to things that confront us ~ our usual reaction to conflict, pain and loss.  It is what we bring into each new relationship, learned from our family of origin and past experiences.

When the pain and hurt is not addressed; when the broken relationships are not reconciled, we simply bring all that


into new relationships, hoping each one will be better than the last.  Take today’s tip and think about how to clear the deck in our personal lives.  Not with a broad sweep of the arm that pushes all the hurtful people out of our lives, but with a purposeful act to restore relationships that are sure to get in the way as we creating relationships in the future.

Love That Does Not Disappoint

Yesterday I read a


on how to reduce stress in my life.

Don't believe for a minute . . . you'll get the number of servings the recipe says you will . . . you can perform a complex computer task with a single click of the mouse . . . your call is important to them . . . the "push here on red" button will get you across the street any faster . . . you're indispensable to your company . . . your cake will look anything like the one illustrated on the box . . . the battery will last anywhere near what they claim. Get smart. Lower your expectations.

That's right! I can

reduce my stress

in life if I don't believe the claims, think of myself as dispensable, lower my


, and basically, just

plan to be disappointed


Know what? I am not only


by that tip-of-the-day, I am


Lower my expectations? Settle for less?

Don't take me wrong. I know I can’t believe all of the claims I hear.  I agree there are times when I do trust them and find myself stressed. Like when I spend two hours assembling something that clearly states on the box can be assembled in

five easy steps


I began thinking about Valentine's Day in light of this stress-reducing tip. Many people have high expectations of how they will feel loved today. Many have a little jingle playing in their heads ~

every kiss begins with Kay

~ and dream of a small velvet box filled with something that sparkles! Many envision how the events of the day will fall into place to create the ultimate romantic evening. And, I predict, many will be stressed out if their valentines do not live up to their hopes and expectations.


my valentine

is not feeling so good. In fact,

my valentine

is asleep on the couch hoping the combination of decongestants, antihistamines and cough suppressants work its


to help him feel better.

The sight of

my valentine

lying there in his sweats could be cause for disappointment. I mean ~ nobody is receiving breakfast in bed this morning and there won't be much hugging and kissing going on. It is just not going to be that kind of day!

When we base our view of love on what the world claims, we are in for disappointment!

I am thankful that there is a love that

does not disappoint

; not based on circumstances or the actions of others. A love that is as much an act of the will as it is a response of the heart . . . that seeks the highest good of another . . . with claims that are trustworthy and believable. It is a love that


circumstances that seeks to disappoint.

Love is patient; love is kind and is not jealous;
Love does not brag and is not arrogant,
Does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own,
Is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,
Does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;Bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
I Corinthians 13:4-7

Here is a new


for Valentine’s Day ~

Don't believe in what the world calls love . . . you will get what you deserve . . . it is all about you . . . love comes in small velvet boxes . . . it is alright if he yells at you ~ at least he comes home at night . . . she better look great . . . if it doesn’t feel right, find someone new . . . Get smart. Raise your expectations.

Decide today to embrace

a love that does not disappoint . . . 

and expect your relationship to be transformed.

What If I Knew . . .

What if I knew today would be the last day I had with my child?
Would it transform the words we exchanged?

Would it alter the non-verbal messages I expressed?

Would I focus less energy on the chores left undone?

Would I linger a little longer as we hugged goodbye?
The morning of February 5th, 1996 began like any other in our home. There was no forewarning that it would be my last day at home with our precious son, Scott. But at 11:36 a.m., I received the phone call all parents dreads. Your son has been in an accidentScott was declared brain dead on February 6, 1996.

As I reflect on our last days together . . .
I am grateful for Scott’s humble spirit on February 4th that caused him to seek reconciliation and forgiveness.

I am grateful for our loving and fun conversation that morning.

I am grateful I took time ~ on that particularly hectic day of school for me ~ to say Goodbye and I love you.
Psalm 90:12 reads ~
Teach us to use wisely all the time we have. 

Oh that His Wisdom, His Grace, and His Love would transform relationships in our hearts and homes.