Colorado Life Coach: No More Wimpy Prayers!

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Big prayers!

I’ve always dreamed and prayed big…until life slows down, and it doesn’t seem like my prayers are being heard.

At times, I’ve felt this burning deep inside that says, “Go for it! Ask me anything! Have courage! Dream Big!”

At other times, I feel like a nobody who’s prayers just bounce off the ceiling as I sit all alone.

I just started reading the book, The Circle Maker, by Mark Batterson. It’s about praying big prayers. In fact, he says that God doesn’t answer vague prayers. That hit me. Do you find yourself just praying to get through the day? Praying that your family would just get along? That you’d just have enough money to make it through the week?

God is huge!!! He does more than we could ever even think to ask or imagine. He’s powerful and he likes to show it! He is Almighty! He’s the King of the Universe!

When the only prayers we ask him are things that will probably work out alright anyway, or that don’t really change anything, we’re limiting him from doing what he loves to do.

What if we believed that he really could do those things our hearts have longed for most of our lives? What if he actually put those longings there in the first place? What if we spent a little time and thought through all the areas of our lives, and asked God what he’d like to do in those areas? What if we listened? Then what if we actually prayed that he would do all of that and more?

Our lives would change!!

I actually drew circles in my journal yesterday, with each family member, and all the issues in my life in different circles. As I prayed through them, I started to feel something stirring deep inside me. It’s hard to describe, but I know God was pushing me to pray harder, to ask for more, to go for it. I felt like he was urging me on to ask him for everything I’ve been too afraid to ask, or too afraid he wouldn’t answer. It really was amazing. I started writing in my journal and the words poured out. I asked and asked! I reminded God that he was the one who put those dreams there all those years ago. I got more and more specific.

I know God doesn’t always answer prayer in the way we want him to. Bad things happen: people don’t always recover, marriages don’t always work out, we don’t always have the money for everything we need, abuse and pain are real.

But, what if we got on board with God’s plan? What if we asked what he wanted for our lives, and then started praying for those things? What if it set our hearts on fire to the point where we couldn’t NOT pray?

That’s where I’m at! I have to pray for these things. I have to pray for healing, for reconciliation, for growth, for restoration!

I’m tired of praying that God will bless my meal, and protect me each day.

No more wimpy prayers!! I’m going Big!

Won’t you join me?

This post written by Colorado Life Coach, Carrie O’Toole, M.A.

Colorado Life Coach: Guest Blog!! Stacy Voss, Savoring Christmas

Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 9.46.05 AMThis is my friend, Stacy Voss! She’s just written a book called, Savoring Christmas, and I was to share it with you! Here’s Stacy answering questions about her book!

Stacy, could you tell us a bit about your book?

Sure. It’s called Savoring Christmas—the very thing I think most of want to do, yet have the hardest time figuring out how to actually make happen. We typically get so busy in December that we just can’t wait for it to be over, but there’s been this thought that keeps riveting me, challenging me to my core. What if we actually savored Christmas? Not just stopped grumbling about the many activities, or streamlined the things we have to get done, but actually cherished this most incredible event and reveled in Christ’s birth as if it were the first time we’d heard of it.

Can you give us an example of what it means to you to savor something rather than rushing through it?

I had my book launch last week. It was so very exciting, yet it also fell on the same week as some other things that took a lot of time and energy. Someone made the comment that they bet I couldn’t wait for my launch party to be over (they said this days before the party).  I just had to laugh since the whole party was about savoring, yet here was someone encouraging me to rush it away. They weren’t wrong, it’s just how we’ve come to do things here. Let me tell you: my party was so incredibly rich. It was a chance to celebrate what God is doing, as well as an amazing time for me to tell some of my friends how much I cherish them. I’m so glad I didn’t wish any of that away.

That philosophy of savoring versus rushing sounds great, but is it actually doable?

I’ll be the first to admit it isn’t easy. It is a challenge that goes against the culture, but when we stop and think about how much love went into forfeiting the beauty, safety and grandeur of heaven for our sakes, well, it seems so very worth stopping for a bit and truly reflecting on that. Besides, I try to give practical, easy-to-do things in my book that help us all savor Christmas like never before.

Care to share one?

Absolutely! I suggest we create treasure boxes this Christmas, just like Mary “treasured all of these things up in her heart.” We can jot down something amazing that happens each day during advent, or write out something unexpected that helped reveal the meaning of Christmas. Whatever it is, what if we set out to fill up our treasure boxes and therefore trained our hearts to focus more on Christmas?

I just have to ask. Your book has 31 devotions in it, but it starts December 1st. What’s that all about?

Great question! I toyed with starting the devotions the day after Thanksgiving and having them end on Christmas, but I couldn’t just stop on Christmas Day, especially because one of my most popular blog posts is entitled “The Meaning of Christmas: Disappointment.”

Let’s be real. The 26th rolls around and so many of us feel let down. The kids didn’t like the presents as much as we’d hoped, we didn’t receive that thing we wanted, the turkey didn’t cook well, or whatever. It happens. It’s just as real today as it was when people were disappointed that the majestic king they’d hoped for was born in a stinky stable.

The last part of the book wraps up the Christmas season and then turns into a time to prepare ourselves for the upcoming year. After all, why spend a month getting ready for the Messiah and not prepare to let Him guide and direct us in the days to come?

Great point. Would you be willing to give us a teaser, and where could people get a copy if they’re interested?

You can read the first 4 days on Amazon (http://tinyurl.com/mawz9m9). It’s also for sale on my site at www.stacyvoss.com/store.

Well, Stacy, thanks so much for guest blogging here today.

Thank you! It’s my pleasure!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Colorado Life Coach: Becoming The Least Of These

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“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!” (Matthew 25:40)

Maybe you’ve heard this verse before. Maybe you’ve thought about helping someone “less fortunate” than you.

This is good! Don’t get me wrong! As humans, we need to help each other. We all need help at some point, and when we’re doing well, it’s good to help those who are struggling.

I believed I had something to offer others, so I set out to do that. In the process, I became the one who needed help. Can you relate?

When I was seven, we adopted my brother from Vietnam. Adoption was normal to my family. I didn’t understand why some people questioned us about it. “Is it weird having an adopted brother?” “What made you want to do that?” To me, it was weird that more people didn’t adopt. I mean, if there are kids out there who don’t have parents, and you have an extra bed, can’t you bring one of them home? This was my seven year old thinking.

Fast-forward twenty years. My husband and I wanted to have children, but struggled with infertility and miscarriage. We adopted our son Brendan at birth, and then had our biological daughter Katie, 15 months later. When they were seven and eight, we decided to adopt again. I remember thinking that we had enough room, enough money, and enough love to share with at least one more child. Maybe we could bring in a child who didn’t have a family. That’s adoption, right?

I love adoption! I think it is a wonderful option when biological parents, for whatever reason, can’t take care of their child.

What I didn’t understand before, is that adoption is only possible because of loss. Maybe I sensed this, but no one talked about it. We all hear about how wonderful it is to offer a child a home. What we mean is, “We’re happy that we get to add to our family, and can’t wait for this little child to love us in return.”

Here’s the problem. Many children placed for adoption are traumatized. They didn’t have a choice in this whole situation. Maybe we think we are helping some poor child, but have we thought about what their life has been like until now?

We adopted our son, Sam from a Vietnamese orphanage when he was 3 1/2. It was the only world he’d ever known. He had never been outside the gates before we took him away from everything familiar: his friends, his home, his bed, his caregivers, his food, his language, his history, his culture. We brought him home because he was “the least of these,” and we had something to give.

Over the years, the toll of parenting a traumatized child with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) became more than I could handle. I remember the day I thought, “I started out with the intention to help ‘the least of these,’ but now I am ‘the least of these.'” I couldn’t do it anymore. My body was falling apart. My emotions were falling apart. My mental health was falling apart. My family was falling apart. I couldn’t heal my son. I couldn’t help him trust me, or attach to me, or want to be part of our family. I couldn’t do it.

I was now the “least of these.”

And I was alone.

We made the heartbreaking decision to place our son with another family from our church. He seemed to do better there. He was less anxious. He was oldest, and didn’t feel the need to fight for position. It’s actually way more complicated than this, but I don’t have room to expand in this blog. If you’d like the full account, please read my book, Relinquished: When Love Means Letting Go.

The loneliness was physically painful. Have you ever made a choice that was not socially acceptable? If so, you may have a glimpse of what I’m talking about. We lost our child. I lost my son. Our family went from five to four. It felt like cutting off a limb, and trying to continue living.

My family grieved differently, and it was ugly. We didn’t have a funeral for the loss of our child. There is no “Relinquishment Day” when we post pictures of the children we used to call ours, but now live with other families, or in group homes, or therapeutic foster homes. We lost our small group, our church, many friends and family members because of our decision. I’ve been called a monster online.

It’s been 5 1/2 years since I’ve seen my son.

In that time I’ve done a lot of healing, had lots of counseling, earned my master’s degree from Liberty University, and founded Carrie O’Toole Ministries.

I learned along the way, that we’re all “the least of these” at some point, and it’s arrogant to think otherwise. My hope and prayer is to help others understand the importance of attachment and the effects of trauma on children. I desire to bring awareness to the adoption and foster care communities, because it does not help a child, when he enters a home unprepared to deal with his trauma, and the family falls apart. I’d love to help counselors understand the nuances of treating families raising children with RAD. Ultimately, I want to bring awareness to the societal need for early intervention with childhood trauma and attachment.

People’s lives are at stake!

~Certainly the children, who will need to overcome so much to be able to have healthy relationships.

~Definitely the families who love them.

~The counselors, therapists, teachers, coaches, pastors, and all who love these children.

~Our society. When children grow up without learning to trust, without learning cause and effect thinking, without consciences, and without empathy, society is in trouble.

Carrie O’Toole, M.A. is an Attachment-Based Intervention Specialist and founder of Carrie O’Toole Ministries. She serves on the board for the Institute For Attachment and Child Development in Littleton, Colorado. Carrie uses her coaching, writing, speaking and podcasting to help others overcome relationship difficulties. She is the author of Relinquished: When Love Means Letting Go and a Board Certified Christian Life Coach. Carrie and her son Brendan are producing their first documentary on adoption.

 

Colorado Life Coach: 0-60

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Do you ever feel your life is at a total standstill?

You’re working on things, but nothing seems to happen.

Maybe your job is going nowhere, or your marriage is in a rut. Maybe you’ve tried for years to lose weight, but can’t get motivated to do it.

Whatever it is, life seems to be on hold.

Have you been there?

I know I have many times!

I had a busy spring, but when summer hit, it felt like everything just stopped. In some ways I was thankful! My daughter moved home from school and I enjoyed time off with my kids. I was tired after publishing my book, and a consistent schedule of podcasts and coaching clients. But over the summer everything slowed down. We had several podcasts that still needed to be posted, so it didn’t matter that we weren’t producing more. My client base slowed down, but I was thankful for the time off.

As fall approached, I began wondering what was next. Don’t we all go through seasons of life where things begin to look different?

Well, this ministry is no longer resting through the summer–things are speeding up!

There are so many amazing things I’d love to share with you, and ask you to pray for:

1. I’ve been asked to join the board of directors for the Institute For Attachment and Child Development. I love this place! They help the traumatized children no one else can help. They save families. They bring hope and healing to families who have been through the ringer in ways most people will never understand. I’m so thankful for this non-profit organization, and I’m excited to use my ministry to bring attention, and hopefully donors their way.

2. My son Brendan and I began filming our first documentary together! We begin with the question, “What is adoption?” We are focusing on all aspects of adoption, and trying to shed light on areas that aren’t talked about openly. Our hope is to better prepare adoptive families, provide better services after the adoption is finalized, train up a new generation of therapists who can help traumatized children attach to their parents, and bring awareness to the issues impacting our schools, churches, and society as a whole.

3. We’re filming a shorter documentary focusing on 3 families who adopted from the same agency, at the same time, from the same orphanage in Vietnam. None of these adoptions worked out, and these children all live in other locations today. Each of these families felt they were the only ones, yet there were so many similarities. This is an amazing story that needs to be told.

4. I attended the national conference for the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC) a few weeks ago, and was certified as an “Attachment-Based Intervention Specialist.” At this conference, I met the president of AACC and he asked me to be a guest on their webinar.

5. In January I’ll be the guest on the training webinar for the AACC. During my time in Virginia, I’ll have the opportunity to speak to the student organization of the AACC, the psychology and counseling faculty at Liberty University, to record a counseltalk CD with AACC President, Tim Clinton, and to lead the 2 hour webinar, offered to 50,000 Christian counselors worldwide. This is an amazing opportunity to share my experiences of parenting a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder, as well as what I’ve learned about treating these children and their families, with the next generation of counselors.

Like I said, 0-60!

Here’s the thing–I’m not that scared! I’m a little nervous, because I take these opportunities seriously. People are hurting, and I feel I’ve been given an opportunity to change things and help them.

God has been preparing me for this my whole life.

For months, I’ve been sensing him say, “Get ready!” “It’s coming!” “Hold on!” “I’ve prepared you for this, you don’t need to be afraid!”

It’s so amazing that I can just do my job and enjoy the ride!

Can you relate? Share your comments below!

This post written by Colorado Life Coach, Carrie O’Toole, M.A.

 

 

 

Colorado Life Coach: Heading Into A Hurricane

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We got out a week ago today.

I’ve been thinking of writing about my experiences, but it’s been difficult to know where to start, or what to focus on. How do you put into words, something that was so significant, yet went almost unnoticed in the United States?

I decided to just write my story. Here it is:

I didn’t sleep very well this summer. For about a month, I didn’t sleep much at all. I finally went back to the psychiatrist and asked for sleep meds. They help, but I’m bummed that I need them again, and I don’t like the drugged feeling I live with most days.

I absolutely love summer! I like to be warm, or even hot! I love flip-flops, and no jackets, and bike rides, and eating outside. Because of the sleep issues, and the extra rain this summer, I started looking for a way to extend the season.

Several friends posted pictures of their vacations in Cabo San Lucas, and they were stunning. I wanted to go!

~There is no time change! I wouldn’t have to worry about jet lag further messing with my sleep!

~There’s a direct flight from Denver-only 2 1/2 hrs.

~It’s in the safe part of Mexico.

I tossed the idea around in my brain for several weeks. I prayed about it. I talked to my husband. There were 2 weeks that were possibilities, but I just didn’t feel I could make the decision. It’s not that I couldn’t decide, for you praying folks-you’ll get this: I didn’t feel I should decide yet. It wasn’t right. It wasn’t time. I don’t know-I just didn’t feel right doing it through most of August.

At the beginning of September, I looked at my calendar and the week of the 13th was totally clear. Nothing. Nada. No appointments. No clients. No podcasts. Nothing. I prayed about it, and felt OK to book it.

We have a timeshare available to trade, so the next piece of this puzzle was to find a place to stay. The most beautiful place, Grand Solmar at Land’s End Resort and Spa was available. We could get a 1 bedroom with a full kitchen, right on the beach.

All I had to do was push the button. I pushed it!

I booked our flights and we were set to go in 2 weeks! My biggest relief with the timing is that my daughter Katie’s 21st birthday was September 21. I asked her if she was OK with us coming home on the 20th. She was fine with that and the plans just fell into place. We had no headaches booking this trip.

My prayer for the trip: “God, please just let me rest. I’ve been so tired. Sleep hasn’t been easy or restful. My body is tired. My mind is tired. My spirit is tired. Please let me enjoy your beautiful creation! Show me the ocean, and let me walk barefoot in the waves. Let me lay in the sun, boogie board, snorkel, and maybe go out on a boat at sunset. Thank you for the ability to just go like this. Thank you for the time-share to trade, and the money to pay for the plane ticket. Thank you for the time-off. Thank you thank you thank you.”

I’ve sensed a change coming in my ministry for several months, since the release of my book. I called my web designer and told him I’d like to update my site. I’ve been working with a coach to update my relationship intensives (now to be called retreats). My main goal for Cabo was to rest, but when I rest, my brain gets excited. I knew I’d have lots of inspiration from the ocean and palm trees, so I took my computer to begin the process of these updates.

I was so excited.

Can anyone relate? Have you ever looked forward to something so much, and felt it was so needed, and even blessed by God? Share your story in the comment section below!

Obviously, this is just the beginning of the story. I’ll write part 2 soon!

This post written by Colorado Life Coach, Carrie O’Toole, M.A.

Colorado Life Coach: For The Emotionally Messy

Screen Shot 2014-06-19 at 5.32.55 PMI’m a wreck today.

I used to be a wreck a lot more often, so when the weepiness starts now, I find myself baffled. What happened? Why am I so emotional? No, it’s not hormones.

It’s the trauma…again.

I’ve lived through some traumatic circumstances that lasted for several years. The counselor calls it “Secondary PTSD” (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder).

I call it hell.

I’m a pretty smart person-even though I’ve struggled to believe it most of my life. I know a lot about emotions, relationships, communication, growth, spirituality, boundaries, and living a healthy life. People come to me for help.

And yet, I still get triggered by seemingly little things, and here’s what happens:

~My brain shuts down. I can’t think of how to get myself out of the situation. Even though I could talk someone else going through a similar situation, when it happens to me, I can’t think. I can’t remember details. If you ask what happened, you’ll get a blank look.

~My heart starts racing, and I feel unsafe. It doesn’t matter that I know logically that I’m not in danger. I am afraid.

~I feel horribly discouraged. It’s as if all the work I’ve done (and believe me, I’ve done years of work) doesn’t matter. I’m right back there feeling helpless, scared, and totally unprepared to change my circumstances.

I’m powerless.

Understand, I know in my head that I’m not powerless. I have the degree! I wrote the book! I teach the class! I coach the clients! I get it!

But in that moment, I’m powerless. None of the head knowledge matters. My body just knows the trauma.

It happens in less than a second.

Have any of you experienced the RUUUSH up your chest? The sweaty palms? The brain fog? The terror? The memory loss? The panic?

So, after years of counseling (decades, really), EMDR, Neurofeedback, Theophostic Prayer, Journaling, degrees, certifications, trainings, intensives, etc. Here I am.

I’ve been weepy today, but it’s not easy when I don’t have a place to be weepy. It leaks out in the car.

And so I prayed, “Daddy, help me!” “Help me Jesus!” “I’m so tired, I’m scared, I don’t know what to do.”

Through my tears I hear, “I know my sweet baby girl. I know how much it hurts. I know you’re scared. I’ve got you. It’s going to be OK. I’m not done with you. I have so much planned for you. It’s OK. You’re alright. I’m right here with you and you’re safe.”

So, the tears continue, but now out of relief. The kindness overwhelms me once again. I’m not alone in this. I don’t know how I’d make it if I didn’t have God. I truly wish he would just fix this once and for all. But until he does, I’m so thankful for his reassurance, his tenderness to my wounded heart, and his presence in my loneliness.

Do any of you suffer from PTSD? What’s been the most helpful thing in your healing? Please share with me and others here!

This post written by Colorado Life Coach, Carrie O’Toole.

Colorado Life Coach: Do Christians Eat Their Own?

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Have you read all the blogs on people who don’t go to church very often, or have quit altogether?

The reasons are varied, but most often include:

~Hurt by pastors or church teachings

~Don’t feel challenged

~Don’t enjoy worship time

~Feel like they’ve outgrown it

The responses have been varied as well:

~You should go to church because it’s not about you, it’s about God and being in fellowship, being held accountable, being of service

~God never lets people down, but people do. Don’t put your trust in people, but in God.

I get both sides. I’ve been on both sides. What keeps going through my head (like with most issues that cause controversy) is WHY. What happened to the people who don’t want to go to church? What happened to the people criticizing those who don’t want to go to church? Where is the grace for those who have been hurt? Why aren’t those in church reaching out, instead of judging?

Donald Miller wrote one blog on this subject, received hundreds of comments, wrote a 2nd blog, and received hundreds more.

Some comments were supportive: “Thank you for speaking what so many of us feel, but don’t have the courage to admit.” “The church isn’t a building, and we can worship God everyday of the week.” “I struggle attending church, and find God intimately outside the church walls.” “I’m a pastor and love the church, but don’t judge people who don’t attend.”

Many were negative: “You’re arrogant to think you’ve graduated from church.” “The Bible is clear that we must attend a local church regularly.” “Where does Don tithe?”

My heart has been struggling with this topic for several years. I run a ministry, but I’m not under the umbrella of a local church. I don’t like talking about it. I speak for several different ministries. On the comment card, they ask where I attend church regularly. I leave it blank, and hope they don’t bring it up. Friends from my old church keep asking where I attend now. I’m actually pausing with each word I write in this post, wondering whether I’ll dump it, or post it. I don’t know, yet.

When someone has been hurt, or just doesn’t fit in with the local church (they don’t like the music, sermon style, programmatic feel, etc), where do they turn? Sometimes they get loaded down with a bunch of “shoulds.” You should want to go to church. You should want to serve because it’s not about you, you’re selfish. Stop being a baby and get over yourself. You should be over the hurt by now.

My entire family was seriously hurt by members and staff of the church we attended for 7 year. I taught women’s bible studies, attended others, tithed, supported and taught at the school connected to our church, enrolled our children in youth group (one child attended the school) and encouraged them to volunteer. We attended regularly. It was our family…until our family fell apart. I look back and still don’t know exactly what happened. I needed my church family so desperately, but felt we kept getting passed to someone else. No one really wanted to deal with us. The lead pastor told us to take it to our small group. The small group leader told us we needed to take it somewhere else.

We felt like we were in the spiritual ICU, and few came to visit. I know many people who have experienced similar things. They’ve been hurt, but members rally around the leader, leaving them on their own. I read an article on Crosswalk.com titled, “Is Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome Real?” It states,

PTCS is “a severe, negative — almost allergic — reaction to inflexible doctrine, outright abuse of spiritual power, dogma and (often) praise bands and preachers.” She lists both emotional and physical symptoms, such as withdrawal from all things religious, failure to believe in anything, depression, anxiety, loss or desire to walk into a place of worship. Physically, sufferers of PTCS may have sweats, nausea, heart palpitations—as she notes, “the symptoms are as varied as the people who suffer them.”

I don’t know whether this is a real syndrome, but I have felt the symptoms.

We heard the gossip, and felt the judgment. We had served. We had given. We loved. Now it was our turn to ask for help, but we were denied.

We stopped attending because the anxiety about walking in the door to our own church became too much to deal with. Life was so difficult through the week, and the added tension on Sunday became too much to handle. God met us at home, through friends, through recovery groups, counselors, books, Christian radio, music, camping, bike rides, etc.

After about a year, I made an appointment with a different pastor. He apologized for how the church handled our situation. I felt such relief…until he told me we’d be welcome back at any time, “But it would be a tough road for you.” I still don’t understand. Why? Why wouldn’t he help us walk through that? Why would it be so difficult for a broken, but recovering family to make it in a church that claims to meet people where they are? Why?

I am a Board Certified Christian Life Coach (BCCLC) with training from the American Association of Christian Counselors and a masters degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. Many of my clients have been horribly hurt through experiences in church (spiritual abuse, guilt, opening up and having their vulnerability used against them, pastors who didn’t deal with their own emotional, spiritual, or relational growth). If I talk to them about church, they get quiet and defensive. If I talk about God the Father, some won’t come back, because their own earthly fathers were abusive, and they haven’t worked through the pain, yet. It doesn’t mean they won’t, they just haven’t been able to, yet.

Back to my point: Could we have compassion for hurting people, instead of piling on guilt and judgment? Could we ask “WHY,” and try to become part of a solution? Could Christians who attend church regularly love those who don’t unconditionally? We’re all the church anyway. Could we act like it?

This post written, and maybe posted, or maybe tossed in the trash, by Colorado Life Coach, Carrie O’Toole, M.A.

 

 

 

 

 

Colorado Life Coach: I Don’t Want To Settle

Screen Shot 2014-03-12 at 12.01.28 PMWhy can’t you just be happy?

Isn’t it ever good enough?

Do you ever struggle with these questions? I sure do!

Whether it’s a relationship, a career, health issues, friendships, or my family, I find myself longing for more. It’s not an ego thing. I just happen to believe Jesus when he said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)

So here’s the question: Did Jesus mean it? Does it still happen today? Is he talking about heaven or here on earth? Ok, that’s 3 questions.

From the time I can remember, I’ve always had big dreams. This was before I developed too much in the way of arrogance, or wanting to show off. I was just a kid, and I believed life was full of huge, wonderful opportunities. I could do anything I wanted, if I tried hard enough. And I did, throughout my childhood.

I had the occasional disappointment, but life pretty much went as I hoped.

Until I grew up.

Then life got really hard. I found that many times I didn’t have the tools I needed to navigate difficulties. I didn’t have good boundaries. I didn’t know where I ended, and someone else began. I lost my sense of who I was. Life rolled me over, and I lost…big time.

Can you relate?

Maybe your childhood was much rougher than mine. Maybe you came from an abusive, addictive, or neglectful home. Maybe you only had one parent, or grew up in foster care. Maybe you suffered horrible loss early on.

Whatever the case, don’t we all, at some point or another, begin to settle.

Maybe this is all there is.

What if my health, family, marriage, weight (fill in the blank) NEVER gets better?

Why even hope anymore?

Here’s the rub: I want to be a fairly happy person, even in the midst of difficulties. I don’t think it’s normal to walk around singing after horrible news. That’s not what I mean. I just don’t want to be depressed, cranky, and horrible to live with. But I also desire more.

So, how do we walk that fence? How do we accept life as it is, and still hold out hope for more?

I actually believe Jesus meant we could have the abundant life here and in this life.

I’m not talking about money, although I do believe that we can use money for great purposes for ourselves and others. I love the opportunity to travel with my family, and I see God’s blessing all over that.

I know that some people have disabilities or injuries that will not be healed in their lifetime.

And, I still believe Jesus when he said we would have abundant life. I believe him so much so, that I used to yell at him, “This is not abundant life! You promised! I’m holding you to it. I’m not going to stop bugging you, until you honor your promise!” I’m holding on for abundant life.

My definition of abundance has changed over the years, and through the turbulent times of life. I’ve learned that I feel overwhelmingly blessed when I share something intimate with God.

~When I write in my journal and ask him questions, and I just sense him smiling, or I actually feel an answer to my question, I feel abundantly grateful.

~When everywhere I go, I run into little “coincidences” that could never happen if God didn’t arrange for it to happen, I feel abundantly loved.

~When things I’ve hoped for and dreamed about my whole life start finally happening, I feel abundantly happy!

It’s not all the time, or in every area of life, but I am living an abundant life. And in the areas I still hope for more I refuse to settle, not because I’m entitled, but because God loves me.

And he promised.

This post written by Colorado Life Coach, Carrie O’Toole.

Colorado Life Coach: Hopeless

Image Created by Eric Phillip Einarsen on a Canon EOS Rebel T2i

What a horrible word!

Hopeless…

No hope

Despair

Giving up

This word brings death. They are the words of someone without a future, without a promise, without a reason.

Have you ever felt it? Have you known someone who’s felt it?

It sucks the life right out of your lungs. It covers your head with defeat. It knocks the life out of your soul.

Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” I’ve known this heart sickness. When you have hope for a long, long time, but the desire of your heart does not come to pass. It hurts, a deep hurt.

Ask anyone who’s struggled with depression, or abuse, or addiction, or sleeplessness, or chronic pain, or grief, or…

So we know what causes hopelessness, lack of hope. You try and try and try and nothing changes. Maybe you’ve asked for help, sought relief, gone to doctors or therapists, and nothing’s worked. Maybe you just wallow in it. Maybe you’re somewhere in between.

Whatever the case, here you find yourself: hopeless.

Is there anything you can do?

Romans 5:3-5 says, “we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

I sometimes share this verse with clients who are really struggling–not at the beginning! I just listen and really hear their heart and their struggle. When they’ve felt heard and understood, and want to explore how to move out of hopelessness, I share this verse.

At first glance, it seems totally stupid. We rejoice in our sufferings? What in the world? Who rejoices when they suffer? Hallelujah, I’ve got cancer. That’s ridiculous.

We have to keep reading. We rejoice in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance. At least that doesn’t sound sadistic. It’s still not great, but I can understand that perseverance is a good thing.

Keep going. “Suffering produces perseverance, and perseverance, character. I understand that I need better character. Mine really stinks sometimes. I want great character, and I’m starting to understand that it comes from perseverance. And perseverance comes from suffering.

On to the hope. “We rejoice in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance, and perseverance, character, and character, hope.” There it is. Finally. I thought I’d never see it again. I thought I’d never feel it again.

After the suffering, I learn that I can survive. I learn that I can get through it. I learn I’m stronger than I thought. Maybe I just realize that everyone suffers and I can relate to others who have suffered.

I begin to understand that I made it. I persevered. I did it.

My character begins to change. I’m not so short-tempered. I am more honest. I am more sensitive to others. I’m not so judgmental. I’m becoming a better person.

And finally, I hope.

I begin to see the patterns in life. It goes along well for a season, but there will always be difficult seasons to work through. I’ve done it before, and I can do it again.

Please don’t give up hope. That’s where the life is! If you can’t find your way back, please seek help.

This post written by Colorado Life Coach, Carrie O’Toole.

Colorado Life Coach: God Sent Me To Hooters

Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 5.08.15 PMhttp://www.flickr.com/x/t/0092002/photos/113657384@N04/.

My son told a funny story that prompted this blog.

He was driving home from school last year and the roads were super icy. He started to spin and just held on until he stopped…in the parking lot of a Hooters restaurant!

We joked about how God must have wanted him to go to Hooters cause that’s where his car stopped.

Don’t we all have this kind of thinking sometimes? We don’t really want to take responsibility for our desires, our lack of motivation, our refusal to take action or grow up, our decision to remain in unhealthy relationships or jobs or behaviors, so we blame God.

We may not blame him directly. Rarely do we actually hear someone say, “God sent me to Hooters!”

But our actions speak loudly.

  • The man or woman who won’t get a job or go back to school to improve themselves says, “Well, I guess God doesn’t want me to work.”
  • The mom who’s son is struggling and angry at God says, “God must be putting us through this trial” instead of listening to the heart of her son.
  • The young woman who is lonely and would like to be in a relationship, but won’t go out and meet any young men believes, “I’ll wait for God to bring someone to me.”
  • The husband who won’t acknowledge his character defects and blames everyone around him for his misery, starts to believe God must want him to leave his wife and children and move on to someone who will “make him happy.”
  • The young woman who’s scared to death of commitment, so she blames the relationship problems on her boyfriend. She wonders why God doesn’t ever come through for her.

We live in a culture that blames. We’re all victims. It’s never our fault. We don’t know how to apologize or take responsibility.

It’s hard work. And we want fast and easy.

Why do we do it?

If we put the issue on God’s shoulders, we don’t have to do anything differently. We sound holy. Who can argue with us? If it’s God’s doing, then I don’t have any control.

Have you seen the hilarious video featuring Bob Newhart as a therapist? A woman comes into his office because she’s afraid of being buried alive in a box. His advice? “STOP IT!”

That’s not usually how I treat my Life Coaching clients, but once in awhile I get so frustrated at someone’s absolute refusal to look at themselves and take responsibility, I want to scream, “STOP IT!”

Here’s the deal: If it’s God’s fault, you can’t change it. If it’s your responsibility, you can.

We can complain all we want about our circumstances, but until we decide to change, we won’t.

God loves us absolutely. He sent Jesus to die for us, that’s how much he loves us. He’ll do anything for us, and he has! But he won’t take away our freedom. He won’t push himself on us. He won’t make us:

  • Go to Hooters
  • Make a better living
  • Put us through trials without a way out
  • Cause a young man to ring your doorbell and say “Here I am!” (well, usually he doesn’t, but he could)
  • Tell a man or woman to leave their family so they can be happy (unless there is abuse, etc, but that’s not the case here)
  • Stop you from blaming others, even though it makes you feel far away from him

That’s not God. He’s not a controlling bully, like some of us (I get it, I’ve done it, and sometimes still do).

Go ahead and eat at Hooters, just take responsibility and say you wanted to do it!

Keep your financial situation the same, just don’t complain about it.

Stay single, and acknowledge you’re not willing to do what it would take to find a suitable partner.

Stay distant from your kids, but admit you don’t want to put in the time it would take to change it.

Do whatever you want, just please take responsibility for it.

This post written by Colorado Life Coach, Carrie O’Toole.

 


Contact Carrie O’Toole to schedule a confidential telephone call or appointment for coaching.