Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Well-Being with Whitney: A Tulip Tale

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

How much are you worth? What are you basing your value on, and why?

Looking at thousands of blooming tulips recently at the Philadelphia Flower Show, I was amazed at the diverse beauty surrounding me: white and yellow Angel’s Dream tulips with smooth wing-like petals, purplish Blue Parrot tulips with rippled petals, bright orange Ballerina tulips with petals that looked like dancers’ arms elegantly reaching upward. A new tulip variety that botanists developed just for the show made its debut: the Philly Belle, a deep red flower with fringed edges.

The tulips at the flower show — America’s largest and oldest (since 1829) — were prized. They were carefully arranged by professional florists into creative designs, and then admired by thousands of visitors. These were celebrity flowers that were photographed and talked about widely.

I couldn’t help but wonder: What about the tulips growing in places that were out of the spotlight, like those tucked away in the corner of a neglected backyard, or those blooming in the wild? Just because those tulips are noticed less, does that make them less valuable?

Then I thought about the “Tulip Mania” in the Netherlands during the 1600s. After the Dutch brought tulip bulbs from Turkey to the Netherlands, the exotic tulip flowers became status symbols. Their financial value skyrocketed so high during the 1630s that the price of a single bulb for a rare tulip variety cost as much as an entire house. Men in love paid marriage dowries with tulips — just one bulb was enough for a father to give his permission for a daughter to wed. One unfortunate man mistook a tulip bulb for an onion and ate it. People were so outraged about that mistake that they sent him to jail.

By 1637, however, the tulip bubble burst. Doubts crept into people’s minds about how much more tulip prizes could rise. Those doubts led to tulip prices plummeting. As a result, many Dutch families who had mortgaged their homes to buy tulips and resell them lost their fortunes and ended up in poverty.

All through the dramatic financial changes, however, the tulips themselves remained the same. Their beauty was unchanged. So how much were they really worth?

When it comes to the issue of confidence, we can learn a lot from tulips. Different people assign differing amounts of value to us. We set a certain value on ourselves, depending on our self-esteem. Just like what happened to flowers during Tulip Mania, our perceived worth can either skyrocket or plummet. But the fact remains that our real worth — our intrinsic value — remains unchanged.

Who  knows best what our true value is? I believe it’s the one who created us: God. As Creator of both humans and tulips — as well as a lot of other awesome living things — God says that we’re all valuable and worthy of love, no matter what. It’s not the circumstances around us or the opinions of others that determine our value. It’s simply the fact that the One who made us loves us. In fact, God loves us so much — completely and unconditionally — that our value is so high it’s actually unlimited.

If we believe that, then it’s clear that we’re worth taking good care of, so we should always invest in our own well-being. Just like tulips sprout up through soil, absorb rainwater, and open themselves to the sun, we too should nurture ourselves with confidence. We have great intrinsic value. So let’s bloom and flourish!



Well-Being with Whitney: Saint Patrick as a Role Model

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

This week people all around the world will celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, which was inspired by the life of Saint Patrick, one of the world’s most beloved saints. I have Irish heritage (from the Shannon clan), so I naturally love St. Patrick, but I also admire his wisdom on well-being.

Patrick was a man of great faith who relied on God for the wisdom to live well. Check out my new article “5 Ways St. Patrick’s Life Shows the Power of Prayer.”

Patrick was also a person who noticed and appreciated the wonder of life. Read more in my new Thrive Global article “5 Lessons on Wonder from St. Patrick.”

Praying and celebrating are two vital aspects of well-being that we can pursue any day of the year!

Well-Being with Whitney: Beyond Limits with Thomas Edison

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

One of the most famous inventors in history, Thomas Edison, made a myriad of important discoveries because of his determination to push past the limits of what others thought was possible. Edison patented more than 1,000 inventions — including the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and the first practical electric light bulb — during his lifetime (1847-1931). His work exploring physical science like chemistry, electricity, and machinery is well known. But Edison also worked to investigate the spiritual world by testing what the human mind can perceive beyond the boundaries of the physical senses. Edison was fascinated by extrasensory perception (ESP) and explored that phenomenon in various ways. His work with ESP is a a great lesson in the importance of creativity.

“If we all did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves,” Edison once remarked.

Telepathy Experiments

Telepathy (mind to mind communication) was the subject of a series of experiments that Edison and some of his laboratory employees conducted in the early 1900s with Bert Reese, a man who was famous for his intuitive abilities. The experiments, which Edison recorded in his notebooks, involved Edison and his coworkers writing information down on pieces of paper while Reese was in another room and testing to see if Reese could perceive what they’d written without looking at the papers — only by reading their minds as they thought about the information.

Edison observed the experiments with Reese and his employees. Then Edison participated himself in several experiments, including one in which he wrote: “Is there anything better than hydroxide of nickel for an alkaline battery?” (a question he was wondering about because he was trying to develop a strong alkaline storage battery at the time).

Reese’s responses in all of the experiments showed that he apparently could perceive the written information while in another location where he couldn’t read the papers. In response to Edison’s question about the battery, Reese told him, “There is nothing better than hydroxide of nickel for an alkaline battery” when Edison returned to the room where he was waiting.

But Reese’s work was controversial, and some people said that his apparent telepathic ESP ability was a hoax. Still, Edison believed that Reese was truly about to read people’s minds. Edison said, “I am certain that Reese was neither a medium nor a fake. I saw him several times and on each occasion I wrote something on a piece of paper when Reese was not near … In no single case was one of these papers handled by Reese … yet he recited correctly the contents of each paper.”

Afterward, Edison conducted some telepathy experiments without Reese. Edison had electrical machines built for four of his employees to wear on their heads in a series of experiments where they tried to read each other’s thoughts telepathically. But these experiments failed to produce any clear results of telepathic ESP at work.

Psychokinesis Experiments

Edison was also fascinated with psychokinesis (the ability to move physical objects using only mental energy). In his notebooks, Edison recorded how he tried to move objects with his mind. After failing to do so in several experiments, however, Edison turned his attention to other experiments.

In an interview about his fascination with ESP experiments, Edison told The New York Times in 1910 that, even though his work was inconclusive, “There are bigger things remaining for discovery than any of the big things we have yet discovered.”

An Afterlife Communication Machine

Perhaps the most startling way in which Edison explored ESP was by contemplating how to build a machine to communicate with people who had died. This device would be able to send messages back and forth from the earthly dimension to the afterlife, Edison explained in some interviews he gave during the 1920s that elicited some people’s curiosity and other people’s ridicule.

“If our personality survives, then it is strictly logical and scientific to assume that it retains memory, intellect, and other faculties and knowledge that we acquire on this earth,” Edison said in article published in Scientific American magazine’s October 1920 issue. “Therefore, if personality exists after what we call death, it’s reasonable to conclude that those who leave this earth would like to communicate with those they have left here. … If we can evolve an instrument so delicate as to be affected, or moved, or manipulated by our personality as it survives in the next life, such an instrument, when made available, ought to record something.”

Since no evidence survives of such a machine or even a prototype for it, Edison likely never actually built the machine he had contemplated. But one of Edison’s employees, Dr. Miller Hutchinson, said that he worked with Edison on plans for the machine. In his diary, Hutchinson expressed enthusiasm for scientific research into the spiritual realm. He wrote: “Edison and I are convinced that in the fields of psychic research will yet be discovered facts that will prove of greater significance to the thinking of the human race than all the inventions we have ever made in the field of electricity.”

Still Experimenting When He Died?

Throughout his life, Edison had been fascinated with energy, and some people believe that Edison was experimenting with the electromagnetic energy of the spiritual realm when he died on October 18, 1931. Edison had reportedly told some of his employees that he would try to stop clocks after his death, as he was leaving the earthly dimension for the afterlife.

Three of Edison’s employees had their clocks inexplicably stop at 3:24 a.m. on October 18, 1931: the exact time that Edison passed away. Just three minutes later, at 3:27 a.m., the large clock in the office and research library of Edison’s West Orange, New Jersey laboratory stopped without any physical explanation, as well — and still remains stopped at that time. Believers say that Edison’s soul was giving people a miraculous sign that he had discovered there really is life after death.

Well-Being with Whitney: Lent and the Beauty of Ugly Scars

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

Today I observed a cherished Ash Wednesday tradition: Getting my forehead smeared with ashes at a church service, as a reminder of my mortality and dependence on God. Year after year, the experience is humbling. “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” the person who smears the ashes says to each of us who receives the burnt dust on our faces. At Lent, we come face to face with God’s unconditional love. All of the scars from the pain we’ve gone through — no matter how deep — can’t separate us from God’s great love. God takes our ugliness and transforms it into beauty.

Your scars are marks of God’s work in your life – evidence that you’ve gone through a struggle and emerged victorious with God’s help. In all of their ugliness, they can actually be beautiful.

Jesus Christ could have easily eliminated the scars from his crucifixion after he was resurrected. But he chose instead to display the scars in his glorified body.  He even invited the apostle Thomas to touch his wounds, saying in John 20:27: “… ‘Put your finger here; see my hands.  Reach out your hand and put it into my side.  Stop doubting and believe.’”  Jesus’ scars were powerful.  As Isaiah 53:5 prophesied, “… by his wounds we are healed.” His choice to keep his crucifixion scars still visible after his resurrection emphasize the value in brokenness and redemption.

Scars may be external, like a scarred knee that reminds you of a bad fall or a line that marks where you had surgery. Or they may be emotional, like the jagged memories of betrayal or abuse that make it hard for you to trust people now. We’re all carrying scars of some kind around with us. Looking at the scars on your body or feeling their pain in your soul may not be something you want to do. After all, scars are ugly. But if you consider the stories behind them, scars can communicate beautiful lessons to you.

No matter what kind of scars you have, our society will pressure you to try to hide them. More than 12.7 million cosmetic surgical and nonsurgical procedures were performed in the United States in 2015, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, and Americans spent almost $13.5 billion on those procedures.  That’s a lot of effort and cost to try to fight external imperfections, like scars. An AP-Ipsos poll from 2006 showed that Americans have trouble showing people their internal scars. It revealed that about 4 in 10 people think it’s sometimes justified to lie to others rather than honestly acknowledging the truth about something embarrassing in their lives.

But every scar tells a valuable story – the story of how you were wounded, and what has happened so far as a result. If you look at your scars from God’s perspective, you’ll start to see that there’s more to their stories than just suffering. Within each story lies the potential for redemption.

When you allow the ugliness of your scars – both external and internal – to disturb you, you can turn away from pride and toward humility, which makes you more beautiful in God’s sight.  As Psalm 51:17 declares, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

So don’t be afraid to reveal your scars and take an honest look at them.  Here are 5 questions you can ask yourself to discover beautiful messages hidden inside your scars:

  1. What different kinds of scars are you carrying?
  2. How did you get each of them?
  3. What can you learn from the experiences that gave you those scars?
  4. How can you gain confidence and courage from the process of recovering from those experiences?
  5. What positive choices can you make that will help you heal from your wounds?  Possibilities include: talking with a counselor or trusted friend about your scars, pursuing forgiveness and reconciliation, and letting old dreams go so you can dream new ones.

The next time you encounter the ugliness of your scars, let it lead you to the beauty of Christ.  Remember his promise in 2 Corinthians 12:9: “… My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Then you’ll discover why the apostle Paul declares in the next verse: “For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Well-Being with Whitney: Facebook or Face to Face?

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017

Today’s communications technologies make it possible to stay in frequent contact with many people who aren’t physically present with us. Satellites beam webcam videos of soldiers deployed across the globe back to their families at home. Employees on business trips stay in touch with their coworkers through frequent cell phone conversations. Millions of Americans reach out to friends through social networking sites such as Facebook. We’re constantly plugged in to communicate with each other.

But while it’s now possible to contact people anywhere at any time, ironically, it’s often more difficult to truly connect with them. Contact doesn’t necessarily equal connection. That’s because we need to spend time with people in person — face to face — to be able to connect with them in the ways that build meaningful relationships.

Approximately 80 percent of all communication is nonverbal: cues like facial expressions, hand gestures, and body language. That means that, even when we can hear someone’s tone of voice over a phone, we’re still getting only about 20 percent of what he or she is trying to tell us. And some means of communicating — like texting or e-mailing — limits our messages even more.

Even those who regularly contact many people on a regular basis can still be lonely. Despite hundreds of “friends” on online buddy lists and cell phones packed with phone numbers, they won’t enjoy close relationships if they don’t spend enough time with others face to face.

God himself modeled the importance of face-to-face relationships when he chose to come to Earth as Jesus rather than communicate with humans from afar forever.  As John 1:14 says: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”  Jesus didn’t just send people messages; he left heaven to enter time and space in the middle of this fallen world and looked into the faces of those he had created. He made himself available to communicate in person and build real relationships.

So what about you?  How much face-to-face time do you spend with the people in your life?  Some of them may actually be quite lonely, despite how plugged in they seem to be. Ask God to reveal who those people are. Then pray for God to give you more love for them – love that compels you to reach out to them in person.

People need the encouragement, support, and accountability that can only come in deep ways through face-to-face relationships.  Online or over the phone, people can talk and talk, yet never move beyond superficial discussions.  Or worse, they can pretend to be someone they aren’t and deceive others.  But when people come face to face with other people, they’re compelled to be real with each other and reach out in deeper ways.  When you’re willing to share space – not just electronic messages – with others, you can develop the kind of relationships that God will use to help you all grow.

It’s simple to increase the amount of face-to-face time you spend with people you already know. The next time you want to contact a friend, get together for a fun outing rather than just chatting through instant messages. Instead of having your family members eat meals on separate schedules, schedule shared mealtimes at your kitchen or dining room table as often as possible, and talk while you eat. Invite people from your church or workplace over to your house to get to know them better; invite kids that your kids know from school to come over for play dates.

Reaching out to people you haven’t yet met but who don’t get much face-to-face time with others is simple, too.  You can volunteer a bit of time at your local nursing home, hospital, or prison to bring much-needed encouragement to the people there.

Yes, spending time with people face-to-face can be inconvenient.  It takes much more time and energy than just sending an e-mail or making a phone call.  And yes, face-to-face relationships can be messy, because they draw you much deeper into other people’s lives than simply sending electronic greetings.  But Jesus was willing to sacrifice everything – even his life – for relationships, and he calls you to make sacrifices, too, so that his love can flow through you into other people’s lives.

Engaging with people face to face does even more than inviting God’s love into you and others’ lives. It prepares you for that wonderful day when you’ll arrive in heaven. The more you let God’s love flow through you, the more you’ll learn about him, until you’ll finally be in a place with no more sin and be able to see others and even God himself face to face. As 1 Corinthians 13:12 reveals: “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.”

Well-Being with Whitney: George and Martha Washington, Resiliency Role Models

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

On President’s Day, Americans think about our nation’s first president — George Washington — whose birthday inspired the holiday. We see his face on ads for President’s Day sales, and may be inspired enough to look up some fun facts about him or his wife, Martha Washington (the first First Lady). But how often do we really pay attention to how their long-ago relationship can give us wisdom today?

George and Martha Washington deserve a closer look. They’re excellent examples of how strong well-being is connected with strong leadership. It was because of how well they took care of each other that they were able to lead others well.

Making Time to be Together Often

George and Martha made their marriage a top priority in their busy schedules. They chose to be in each other’s company whenever doing so was possible.

At home at Mount Vernon in Virginia, they ran the plantation as a team during the days and enjoyed rich conversations in the evenings. They often hosted friends and family members for suppers and balls, where they loved to dance together.

When George’s public service as a Revolutionary War general and first U.S. president required travel, Martha did her best to be present with him. She visited battlefields, moved to new homes, and went anywhere else she had to go — during a time when few roads or bridges had been built and travel was dangerous. People routinely got thrown off horses, robbed in stagecoaches, or caught on sinking ferry boats. But George made elaborate plans for Martha’s travels, sending friends to accompany and protect her every step of the way.

Sometimes the first couple couldn’t avoid being apart. Yet they still made time to reach out to each other through letters, pouring out their thoughts and feelings on paper to stay connected. Every week, they made time to stay in touch by writing.

Sharing Joy and Sorrow

When they had something to celebrate, they did so together. The Washingtons often took advantage of opportunities to host parties, surrounding themselves with people they loved. During George’s presidency, they invited people in their vast social network to supper feasts every Thursday at their home in New York. At Mount Vernon, they regularly welcomed guests for celebrations. They ate, laughed, danced, played cards, and held hands — enjoying each happy moment to the fullest, whenever they could.

When they were struggling with sorrow, they helped each other carry their burdens. George and Martha had to endure a crushing burden of grief together, dealing with the deaths of scores of family members — including children from Martha’s first marriage whom George had adopted. The first couple also faced the relentless pressures of developing a new nation. That stress took a toll on their health, causing illness that led to more sorrow.

The key to their well-being through it all was their commitment to support each other emotionally in any type of circumstances. George and Martha made a habit of checking in with each other about their feelings and sharing those emotions with each other honestly. Then they urged each other to nurture well-being practices in their lives. George sent people to visit Martha when she felt lonely, while Martha urged George to control his temper in stressful situations.

Encouraging Each Other to be Resilient

Building resilience skills was a top priority for the first couple, who faced many crises and challenges while working to build the United States and had to persevere in the face of all sorts of uncertainty about how their work would turn out.

Martha once wrote about resilience: “I am still determined to be cheerful and to be happy in whatever situation I may be, for I have also learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances; we carry the seeds of the one or the other about with us, in our minds, wherever we go.”

George and Martha were both wholeheartedly devoted to their faith, which fueled their resilience. Throughout their lives, they each spent significant amounts of time in prayer every day, and they worshiped God and served people often in their church communities.

They came to trust God so strongly that they could look beyond their circumstances to him in any situation — and rely on his strength to flow through them as they followed his guidance day by day. “Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair; the rest is in the hands of God,” George said.

So this President’s Day when you’re reminded of America’s founding couple, let their lives inspire you to do something to take care of your own well-being. Then reach out to someone else you care about, encouraging them to do the same. In the process, you’ll lead the way to something good, just like George and Martha did.

Well-Being with Whitney: Using Anger for Good

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

Destructive anger erupts around us so often that it’s easy to forget that anger itself isn’t right or wrong; it’s simply an emotion that God has designed to direct our attention to important issues we should consider. We don’t have to react to angry feelings destructively. We can respond to anger constructively. Through wise anger management, we can not only strengthen our well-being, but use the tremendous energy of anger for good purposes — like solving the problems that are making us angry and changing our lives for the better.

My recent trip to Boston to learn about the American Revolution showed how significant anger is in the process of change.

When people just reacted to their angry feelings without much thought or prayer, the anger quickly turned into destructive rage. Unfortunately, examples of that happening abound. One instance is the tragic Boston Massacre, which started with just a trivial annoyance (a few boys throwing snowballs at a solider on duty in front of the local customhouse) and escalated into the murder of five souls when tensions rose between colonists and British soldiers crowding around the area. Rather than trying to defuse the situation, those in the crowd traded insults back and forth, until some soldiers shot colonists without official orders and with no warning.

Another sad example was the arson by a mob of angry colonists that destroyed innocent people’s homes in Boston. They reacted to their anger over the Stamp Act law (which created new taxes) by setting fire to the houses of those who they associated with the law — without bothering to investigate whether or not those people actually had anything to do with enacting the Stamp Act. After the mob burned down the home of Thomas Hutchinson, the colony’s chief justice (and later governor), they learned that he had not supported the Stamp Act. In fact, he had written to his superiors in Britain trying to prevent them from passing the law, warning them, “It cannot be good to tax the Americans” and that “You will lose more than you gain.” Hutchinson spoke in court the day after he lost his home to warn colonists about the destruction that rage can cause. “This destroying all peace and order of the community — all will feel its effects … I pray God will give us better hearts!” he exclaimed.

In contrast, when people sought wisdom from God and carefully considered their actions, their anger became a positive force that propelled them closer to achieving their goals.

The role that George Washington (commander of the colonists’ Continental Army and later the first U.S. president) played in the Siege of Boston showed the power of constructive anger in action. Washington, who was known for his strong faith and character, made a habit of seeking wisdom rather than reacting impulsively in conflicts. Rather than unleashing an uncontrolled fury on British soldiers in the area, Washington studied the Battle of Bunker Hill, learning why the British had suffered so many casualties (nearly half of their men killed or wounded) despite winning that battle. Then he carefully devised a strategic plan for how to proceed in the future. Part of that plan was fortifying the Dorchester Heights hills overlooking Boston Harbor) in well thought-out ways that surprised British soldiers, cut off their supply lines, and led to them peacefully evacuating Boston. Washington used his anger to come up with a plan that ended up solving a major problem for the colonists.

Another famous patriot, Samuel Adams, was angry about injustices under British rule but controlled how he expressed that anger. Instead of just raging against the problems, he used the energy of his anger to motivate him to find solutions. Adams often spoke eloquently in town meetings about the issues leading to the American Revolution. He directed his anger toward motivating others to think about the issues and figure out ways to make change happen. A great example of a female patriot who used anger to solve problems well was Mercy Otis Warren, who wrote poems and plays about the issues that inspired readers and audiences to respond thoughtfully.

I confess that I’ve been guilty of reacting to anger more times than I’d like. In the process, I’ve learned that arguments don’t solve problems well. Now when I feel angry about something, I try to pray about it to get a clear perspective on the situation, and to seek God’s wisdom about how to respond well.

What are you angry about right now? How could you channel the energy of that anger to accomplish a good purpose — like bringing a revolution of change to something in your life?

Well-Being with Whitney: Guarding Your Heart in Romance

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017

Valentine’s Day is around the corner again, so our culture’s confusing messages about romance are in full swing right now. In the midst of the onslaught, it’s vital to remember this wisdom from Proverbs 4:23: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

Guarding our hearts is essential, because our hearts are valuable and sensitive, and because love is the greatest force in the universe. What we decide to do with our hearts has powerful consequences — either good or bad.

That’s why I’ve been careful about romance in my life. As a girl, I experienced the damage that happens when romance goes bad by watching my parents divorce and living with the stress that resulted from it.  As a teen, I came to faith in Jesus Christ and chose to make him my number one guy, because no one offers a greater love than him. As a college student, I cautiously began dating, and was shocked to discover how many guys devalued their hearts and mine by trying to seduce me into casual sex. As a married woman, I was grateful to begin the journey as a virgin on my wedding night. Later on, I was grateful for God’s help to resist the many temptations that came when my husband couldn’t be there for me due to frequent business trips or serious illness, some other men I was attracted to flirted with me, and pornography called from my computer. I absolutely love sex! It’s one of my favorite activities. But only healthy sex will do. Thanks to my commitment to guard my heart and God’s grace to help me do so, I haven’t given in to affairs or became hooked on porn.

Even after all I’ve done to guard my heart, however, it’s still a daily struggle to do that living in a culture that devalues people’s hearts so much. The key, I think, is confidence. God — our true beloved — has confidence in us. Yet, too often, we lack confidence in ourselves. The reason why I’ve been able to enjoy a healthy romantic life is because I’ve been a confident person. Yet my heart breaks when I reflect on the many women I’ve known who simply don’t love themselves the way I do — and most importantly, the way God does.

Here are some ways to guard your heart in romance:

  • Understand the differences between healthy and unhealthy love: Healthy love: is reality-based, completes another, finds a friend, sacrifices, is patient, is kind, is forgiving, doesn’t hold grudges, is born out of security, is vulnerable, is allowed to develop, is gentle, is honest, and is satisfied. In contrast, unhealthy love: is fantasy-based, seeks to be completed, seeks a victim, demands sacrifice, is impatient, is rude, is resentful, seeks revenge, is born out of fear, is defensive, is pressed to perform, is combative, is deceitful, and is restless.
  • Shift your focus from receiving to giving: Understand that, as much as you desire intimacy, you can’t achieve it if you continue to focus on your feelings and how to try to gratify yourself. Replace unhealthy dependency on other people with healthy devotion to God, who can truly fulfill you. Ask God to help you shift your focus from your own desires, needs, and hurts to those of other people. Look beyond yourself and your own life toward God and other people. Focus yourself outwardly to gain genuine love for them.
  • Understand how your background has affected you: Think and pray about your childhood and other past experiences that may have contributed to you developing unhealthy attitudes about romance and unhealthy behaviors that sabotage your relationships with others. Consider whether you learned poor communication patterns that encouraged you to keep secrets, whether your feelings were acknowledged or denied when you tried to express them, and whether you learned how to trust other people. Once you understand how your background has affected you, use that knowledge to equip you to do think and act better in the future. Don’t blame your current problems on your past or believe that there’s nothing you can do to change your situation. Instead, once you uncover the sources of your problems, decide to deal with them head-on, with help from God.
  • Confess sins that are hindering you from giving and receiving love: Rob your secrets of their destructive power by bringing them out into the open. Confess each of your sins to God. Confess your sins to others you may have hurt, and humbly ask for their forgiveness. Join a support group or build friendships with a few others who are struggling to recover from the same issues you are, so you can hold each other accountable and encourage each other.
  • Embrace forgiveness: Forgiveness will help you resolve the past and clear the path toward a better future. Accept the forgiveness that God offers you after you confess your sins. Ask God to empower you to forgive people who have hurt you (such as through betrayal) by relinquishing any plans for revenge and inviting God to heal your heart toward them. Trust that you can live with confidence in your romantic relationship once you know you’ve given and received forgiveness.
  • Be accountable: Ask God to help you unlearn destructive ways of relating to people and learn how to relate to them in new, healthy ways. Take concrete action to make amends for past wrongs whenever you can.
  • Be patient with yourself: Realize that you can’t take shortcuts in recovery; the process demands plenty of time. Be aware that hunger, anger, loneliness, or fatigue can trigger a relapse into unhealthy romantic behavior. Don’t expect too much too soon. Instead, simply ask yourself each day what you can do now to become the person you want to be tomorrow.
  • Ground yourself in reality: Give up the fantasy high of immediate gratification to the strenuous yet rewarding task of building authentic relationships. Stop trying to take what you want in relationships and start making sacrifices for those you love. In the process, you’ll discover more fulfillment than you ever could have previously enjoyed.

Above all, remember: You are deeply and unconditionally loved by the source of love itself — God — and the heart he gave you is a treasure that’s worthy of protecting!

Well-Being with Whitney: How to Show Respect without Agreeing (President Trump)

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017

Now we have President Trump here in the USA — and I’m not thrilled about it, but I accept it with grace. My concerns have to do with Trump’s character, which seems far from presidential. Trump often speaks (and tweets) mean-spirited comments about other people. He has been involved in all sorts of scandals, from financial lawsuits to sexual harassment cases. I didn’t vote for him and can’t imagine doing so.  However, despite how I feel about Trump, I’m committed to learning how to show respect for him. Why? Because all people are worthy of respect (because God made them) and our national leader is worthy of respect (because of the dignity of the office).

Trump has made plenty of mistakes, but his bad choices don’t make him a bad person. He’s still a valuable soul who is one of God’s children — no matter how much I (or anyone else) disagrees with his decisions. The “hate the sin but love the sinner” adage definitely applies here. Learning to respect all people is a vital part of our well-being.

Many people seem to enjoy bashing Trump and just leaving it at that. But where does that get us as a country? We’re already so polarized that fear and anger have become the default ways of communicating about our political issues. We can keep shouting at each other forever, but still not make any progress toward solving our nation’s problems.

Or, we can be graceful with each other, as God is with us. We can learn how to respect each other, and actually learn from each other, and move forward as a nation to accomplish good goals together. Maybe it takes an experience like electing a firebrand president to motivate us to do that.

One of the qualities I most appreciate about a person is his or her ability to listen. Others have told me that I’m a good listener, too. I think listening more than talking is like a spiritual workout that strengthens our respect muscles. We might hear a lot that we disagree with — but we all can learn valuable lessons from each other.

So when President Trump’s outrageous behavior bothers us, let’s think about what better choices we can make in our lives that are more respectful. Instead of letting our anger trigger us only to complain, let’s use the energy of our anger to do whatever we can to understand each other better and work together on solving problems.

Well-Being with Whitney: Stress and Broken Hearts

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

The recent deaths of Hollywood mother and daughter Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher just one day apart spotlight the powerful connections between the body and soul. Overcome with grief after Fisher died from a heart attack, Reynolds had a stroke after telling her son Todd that she wanted to be with Carrie. The two famous women shared a close bond, and the stress of Fisher’s passing was apparently too much for Reynolds to bear. Just like longtime married couples who pass away close together, this mother-daughter duo also showed how powerfully the emotional can affect the physical. While Reynolds had a stroke, others who are dealing with emotional stress may suffer a medical condition called broken heart syndrome, in which a surge of stress hormones can cause heart enlargement and damage.

“It’s horrible, it’s beautiful, it’s magical they are together; it’s beyond words,” Todd Fisher said in a television interview about the deaths of his mother and sister. “It’s beyond understanding.”

Part of the mystery surrounding the effect of stress on our hearts is the fact that we can’t see what’s going on inside our bodies when we go through stress. But we can measure the electromagnetic energy that our hearts and brains both emit through magnetic fields. That energy vibrates to frequencies that reflect the current state of our health — both body and soul. We can sense and respond to those vibrations from others, as well.

I used to struggle with anxiety before learning techniques for overcoming it (turning worries into prayers and practicing mindfulness meditation). Every time anxious emotions flooded my mind, my heart began racing wildly. Sometimes my heart would beat so fast that I had to sit down and breathe deeply to try to avoid fainting. One of the last conversations I had with my mother before she passed away involved her cautioning me about getting too stressed about her illness. “Relax, Whitney,” she told me. “Stress will hurt your heart.”

Finally, I’ve come to understand how important it is for all of us to protect our hearts from the damage by managing our stress well. We can’t prevent stressful circumstances from entering our lives, but we can choose how to respond to those situations carefully. Here are some basic ways we can do so:

  • Stay connected to a strong support system: When stress shocks our systems, loving relationships with God and other people act as shock absorbers. They give us the guidance we need to see the crisis from a clear perspective and navigate through it wisely. They also give us the support and encouragement we need to remain confident. Keep communicating with God through prayer and with loving people through conversations.
  • Express thoughts and emotions freely. Rather than denying or suppressing difficult things we think or feel, we can let them out so they don’t build up in our systems. Instead of numbing ourselves against the pain of uncomfortable thoughts and emotions (through addictions or other forms of escapism), we can face them and learn from them. We can find whatever method of expression works best for us: writing in a journal, talking to a trusted friend, reflecting on what’s on our minds while walking or running, or something else that helps us release challenging thoughts and emotions.
  • Make time for nurturing activities. Building our resilience by taking good care of ourselves on a regular basis will help us deal with the stress of crises when they occur. We can do that by getting enough sleep and exercise, eating well, and doing what we most enjoy whenever we can — from listening to music to taking trips.

Our hearts are sensitive organs that do much more than just pump blood through our bodies. They reflect what’s happening in our souls. So let’s pay attention, and respond to what they tell us with as much love and wisdom as we can.