Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Hoping Is Not A Hopeless Endeavor

Happy Easter! Christ is Risen Indeed!
Years ago, I did not know how I could ever repair my marriage with James while we kept on arguing who had the right way of raising our 5-years-old son. Today, I have the privilege, honor and pleasure to hold our fifth grandbaby, and to read to and play with four older grandkids. Who could have imagined?
Thank God for giving me hope when I felt so hopeless! And that's why I believe in Hope!
"Hope sees the invisible, feels the intangible and achieves the impossible." - Anonymous
Having a healthy dose of hope can be motivating and inspiring. It keeps people focused on what's ahead instead of what's in the past. It can also help keep the focus on possibilities, and reframe obstacles as opportunities.
For some, however, being hopeful goes hand-in-hand with feeling naive or foolish when things don't work out as planned. They would rather not have hope at all if it means later disappointment.
But for others, having hope doesn't mean living in denial of life's difficulties; it simply reminds them there are better times ahead.
The Benefits of Hope
Research indicates that it's more beneficial to have hope than not. Hopeful people tend to show more resilience when faced with difficulties. They have healthier lifestyle habits and, on the whole, are more successful, personally and professionally.
According to the Mayo Clinic, having a hopeful, positive attitude has health benefits as well. These include:
  • Increased life span
  • Reduced depression
  • Lowered levels of distress
  • Increased resistance to the common cold
  • Greater emotional and psychological well-being
  • Decreased risk of death from cardiovascular disease
  • Improved coping skills during difficulties/stress
In addition, people with hope typically have:
  • Meaningful long- and short-term goals
  • A plan to achieve those goals
  • Flexibility to find alternate ways to achieve goals when faced with obstacles
  • Positive self-talk
We human beings are sometimes too inventive for our own good -- we can envision a future course of action along with every potential catastrophe that could occur along the way. Being aware of everything that can go wrong often makes doing nothing -- in an attempt to avoid failure or pain -- seem like a viable option.
Cultivating hope, on the other hand, helps activate creativity and inventiveness and prompts us to solve the predicaments we face by taking action in spite of our fears.
Hope brings with it the belief that things can change for the better. Regardless of how dire things may seem, there is potential for a positive outcome.
Is It Possible to Be Too Hopeful?
It could be said that optimists have a healthy dose of hope while "extreme optimists" suffer from blinding hope. They want nothing to do with bad news.
Researchers at Duke University found that extreme optimists (you could call them "high-hopers") don't save money, don't pay off credit cards and don't make long-term plans, but they are more likely to remarry if divorced.
Moderation, as usual, is the key. The researchers also found that "moderate optimists" tend to:
  • Work harder
  • Work longer hours
  • Make more money
  • Save more money
  • Pay off credit cards
Being a moderate high-hoper doesn't mean keeping your head in the sand when it comes to life's occasional unpleasant circumstances. It just means keeping a positive attitude -- believing the best will happen, not the worst.
In other words, whether you expect the best or the worst from life, chances are that's what you'll get.
Studies seem to suggest that being hopeful is a skill that can be learned. So whether you're an extreme optimist, an extreme pessimist or somewhere in between, there is hope for us all.
A Different Kind of Hope in Christ
I came to know a different kind of hope in 1989 when I entrusted my life to Christ. Ultimately, hope does not disappoint the followers of Christ, not because Christians are "moderate high-hopers," but because Christian hope is grounded in the promises of God. Consider Abraham's story:
"He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform." (Romans 4:20-21)
What are you hoping for? Are you in a seemingly hopeless situation? You are not alone!
As a counselor, I try to understand your pains and suffering although I can never completely understand you. As a workshop leader, teacher, coach and writer, I try to share what I have learned. We all have to face problems on earth; but the Risen Christ already has victory over sin and death. I am called to be a Marriage & Family therapist and a pastor's wife because I believe there is Real Hope in Christ.
"If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied." (1 Corinthians 15:19)
Life is not easy. Are you hurt, disappointed and angry today? Please share a prayer request with me. I may not have time to write back but I will take time to pray for you and with you. I will keep things confidential. I know it is between you and God but you might want someone to pray with you.
"Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful." (Hebrews 10:23)
May our Risen Lord Jesus Christ give you peace and hope!

Author's content used with permission, © Claire Communications

Friday, April 12, 2019

Making Sleep a Priority

Over the last half a century, we have shaved off an average of two (precious) hours of sleep a night. According to a National Sleep Foundation poll a few years ago, 40 percent of adults say they get less than seven hours of sleep on a weeknight, compared with the seven to nine hours that are recommended.
Of course, most of us know this. We burn the midnight oil, we get up way before the kids just to get things done. Our days are go, go, go! And it’s often hard to stay asleep once we get there.
And while most of us know that too little sleep makes us cranky, less focused and less available to those who need us, did you know this?
• Bodies deprived of sleep produce less leptin, an appetite-regulating hormone; this increases our craving for sweets and salty carbohydrates.
• Shortened sleep produces metabolic changes. These may lead to diabetes or may alter the nervous system in a way that could contribute to high blood pressure and heart-rhythm irregularities.
• Insomnia substantially increases the risk of developing depression.
In short, not getting enough rest can affect both our mental and physical health much more than we thought. Here are some DOs and DON’Ts that will help you get healthful, renewing sleep more often.
DO structure your sleep. Try to go to bed and arise at the same times every day. Irregular hours can throw off the internal biological clock.
DO create a soothing bedtime routine. Watching the news or reading the latest page-turner are not good sleepinducers. Meditation or soothing music helps to end the day.
DON’T work, eat or watch TV in bed. Keep your bedroom for sleep. DO keep it quiet, dark and cool, and your feet warm. However, within five minutes of waking, expose yourself to bright light.
DON’T exercise or eat heavily within several hours of bedtime. Both energize the body. However, DO exercise in the late afternoon or early evening. This reduces tension and makes falling asleep easier.
DO avoid stimulants and alcohol late in the day. Caffeine, nicotine, sugary snacks and alcohol all can cause wakefulness.
DO head off potential anxieties at the bedroom door. Make lists of chores or tasks for the next day, and/or gather things you will need. (It’s like laying out your kid's school clothes!) If worries keep you awake, write your concerns down and list possible solutions already swimming in your head without analyzing them.
DON’T look at your clock if you wake up in the night. Figuring how much sleep you’re missing intensifies the wee-hours stress of insomnia. Cover your clock, if you need to.
Sleep is important for human beings. When Jesus came to earth, the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. During His physical stay on earth, Jesus slept, ate, grew, moved around, talked, served ... and prayed ... I love this story in Bible:
A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. (Mark 4:37-39)
Do you have a habit of staying up late and waking up early to do things on your own? How do you feel when nobody around you seems to care?
If you feel stressed, anxious, frustrated, lonely and terrified, you are not alone!
I felt the same until I found real safety and security in Christ. We all face pressure and challenges of life; but I trust that Jesus loves me and will never leave me nor abandon me. By nature we all want to fix problems and make things better on our own. But who is really in control?
"In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety." (Psalm 4:8)

Author's content used with permission, © Claire Communications