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A Gift to Remember


A few years ago, I visited my grandmother one afternoon after she had taken a weekend trip to New York. After asking her how her trip had been, hearing about how my family was doing in that neck of the woods, and just an overall report on New York itself, she  proceeded to reach over to her night stand and handed me a small container, about the size of my palm and in the shape of a guitar. Elvis’s face was painted on and Hard Rock Café’s logo was scrawled across the front. “Do you like this?” she asked me. I nodded and held my hand out to receive her gift. A pack of mints. That pack of mints still sits on my bedside table, plastic sealing still in tact to this day. Boy, did I hold on to those mints like they were diamonds.

Isn’t it special when someone gives you a gift? There’s even a specific love language for it: receiving gifts. But people whose love language it is to receive gifts are getting a bad rep. Sometimes others think that they’re being superficial and materialistic. But the gifts that this group receives aren’t really about the item itself. It’s not that I’m holding on to those mints for a special occasion or I think there’s a hidden prize inside, but that simple item had so much meaning behind it. My grandmother has over 20 grandchildren, but only 1 pack of mints, and she gave it to me. To ME!

When you come across someone whose love language is receiving gifts there’s one important thing to remember: be thoughtful. Have joy when you are giving this person a gift and they will have joy upon receiving it. After all, they have just as much joy giving as well. A tangible sign of “I love you” goes a long way, even if it’s something like a flower picked off the ground. They see it and they know, “this is mine because you loved me enough to give it to me.”

See, people who enjoy receiving gifts aren’t looking for expensive jewelry or an outrageous car; they are looking to see the heartfelt action. They need to see things to know you care. Having that tangible item in their possession, that tangible sign of your affection,  will give them a feeling that will last for years to come.

So if you see something across your path today that reminds you of your loved one, if it brings you as much joy as your loved one does, give it to them. You never know what kind of impact it can make.

Learn more on Advice4Life by clicking here.

You Get What You Pay For


Everyone says they want quality. Everyone wants to get quality. But does everyone know how and what to do to achieve quality? When you go to a show, you take time to scour a seating map to get the best view. When you buy a product online, you take time to read the reviews to make sure the product will meet all of your expectations. When you buy a house, you take time to tour and ask questions to ensure you’re making the best possible investment.

So what do you do when you want a quality relationship? You spend quality time.

There’s a certain amount of investment that you have to do when you want something of quality and our relationships are no different. While that investment may not be monetary, we make this exchange in the form of time and our effort. In other words, the best way to measure if your time is quality is if you  can come out of it being able to answer a few questions: How is that person’s heart? How is their mind? What do they need? What is this person made of? When you are investing time in a person, you are ensuring that you get the best of them… it only makes sense since you’re giving the best of you – your time, your attention, and your effort.

When you pay only half of your attention, you can’t expect to glean the most of a quality time situation. You can’t expect to get to know someone’s true self or become any closer if you aren’t willing to make the best investment. So today, think about getting what you pay for… and think about what you’re willing to pay for the best.

Watch past Advice4Life sessions on your new YouTube page here.

Great Expectations


We all have them… expectations.

As a public relations professional, I’ve been trained to deal a lot with images. So let’s think about the images we have of certain people. What’s the ideal image for a mother? What’s the ideal image for a husband? What’s the ideal image for ourselves?

While we conjure these thoughts in our heads, something’s occurred that we may not have even noticed. We’ve created expectations. Now it’s up to us to decipher if they’re realistic or not. Realistic expectations start with you taking those images of those individuals… and throwing them away. While there is nothing wrong with having expectations, we mustn’t live our lives being “expect-ors”.  That is, if we go through our lives expecting things from people… friends, family, coworkers… we’re in for a lot of disappointment. But not because people are awful… it’s because people are HUMAN. We fall short! Instead, cut right down to the very core of the person, so that we may see someone as who they really are – not what we want, hope, or expect them to be.

Now what do you want for that person and for your relationship with them? How can you help facilitate what you are expecting? When you find yourself in a situation where you’re expecting something from another person, turn that into INspection. What is going on within YOU? What are your needs? What are your own capabilities? Can you do what you’re expecting another person to do, yourself? This time of inspection leads to a more realistic point of view… a more realistic expectation.

Realistic expectations are born from healthy communication and clear vision. Once we put aside false ideals and start living in reality, our expectations of others will follow suit. So before you start thinking your partner should be able to read your mind, or before you start thinking that your partner should automatically do this or that, or before you start thinking that your mother and father should be this way or that… take some time to review and figure out if what your expecting is coming from reality or pure imagination.

Listen to the Advice4Life podcast here.

Relationships Aren’t Always 50/50… and That’s Okay!


How many of us heard that relationships are 50/50? That’s what makes a relationship successful, right? But what if I told you that that’s not the case. When we are in a relationship with another person, we are called to love as God loves… not just 50/50, but wholly. Not just on some days, but every day. Not just when you are in love, but on the days when it feels like you can’t even look at one another. That is how God loves us, and that’s how we must love others.

If you want your relationship to be 50/50… that means someone’s counting. And if someone’s counting, you’re not giving yourself freely. Will you only be kind when you’re met with kindness? Will you only be generous when you’re met with generosity? If that’s what your aiming to do, what credit is that to you?

What thankfulness or humility do you gain from being nice to the people who are nice to you, to love those who love you. What strength does it take for you to respond to that person in that way? It takes a certain amount of character and power to emit love in times when it’s the hardest. It takes character and power to hold your tongue and be humble in arguments. It takes character and power to sow patience in times of struggle.

But remember this: every time we are faced with a difficult situation, especially with our partner, it is God grooming us to be in His image. Because if we can’t love who’s right in front of us, how can we love someone we can’t even see? If we give ourselves fully to another person, despite the selfishness or fear that is naturally in our hearts, we are taking the necessary steps to get closer to God.

So let’s practice giving our whole selves into our relationship. Our whole time. Our whole attention. Our whole trust. And our whole heart.

Listen to the podcast here.

Learn more about Advice4Life here.



Wants Vs. Needs


I recently happened upon an article in the Baltimore Sun that hit so close to home, my hand was pretty much on the front door knob. The article told the story of two photographers – a Baltimore couple, Liz and Ryan Bower – who spent years photographing brides’ and grooms’ special days, but then realized… there wasn’t much emphasis or excitement surrounding their lives after the wedding. So they set out across country to gather married couples’ stories and compiling them in a book entitled, “Amazing Life Together”. While reading this article, I couldn’t help but call to mind last Tuesday’s #Advice4Life session focusing on the difference between what we want and what we actually need.

A couple’s wedding day is a prime example of wants vs. needs. Over the years, the Bowers were in the full mix of couples’ wedding planning. Details planned to a tee – the flavor cake, the color of the flowers, what time the hair stylist would arrive… those were the important things, those are what was needed. …Or at least you thought. A wedding day is the first day of the rest of your life and you can’t be blamed for wanting it to be perfect… and if you’re anything like me, you’ve thought about this day ever since you were tall enough to place your mother’s white lace curtains over your head and hum the wedding march.

But so often amidst the planning of the details and the focus on making the day what you always dreamed it would be, we lose sight of what we really wanted in the first place. Now if what you really wanted was your suit and tie to be an exact match of the color swatch… then you might want to reconsider why you’re getting married. But for most of us, our true desire to be married comes from the desire of wanting to be in companionship with another person for the rest of our lives. For the next 50 or so years, we want to spend our precious moments by our loved one’s side, experiencing life right their next to them. Not to mention, we choose to get married because we want to spend the rest of our lives living in love.

So why do we place things like the type of linens being used above that? Because we are unable to distinguish our wants from our needs. Our true needs get lost in a sea of wants. Yes, we want the perfect dress. Yes, we want the perfect pictures. Yes, we want the perfect music. Yes, we want the perfect venue. But do we really need those to have a happy marriage? Absolutely not! Couples find themselves in trouble a lot due to the fact that they have mistaken their wants for their needs.  We spend so much time trying to fulfill a need that we don’t really even have. All of our focus and attention is put into what we think we need and when a basic need is being unmet, we get upset and defensive. Ultimately you find yourself in a frustrating position when you finally get what you thought you wanted.. and it wasn’t what you wanted at all.

When you find yourself in this predicament, it’ll be helpful to be in tune with yourself and what you need. If it’s companionship… move from there. If it’s friendship… move from there. If it’s friendship… move from there. Your true wants become your intentions and once you know what your intentions are, the clearer your path will be for your thoughts and actions. Think of your life 10 years from now… what do you see? Take some time today to figure out what’s really important to you.

Visit the Advice4Life website here.


Can You Handle the Truth?


“You can’t handle the truth!”

I’ll be the first one to put my hands up and say, “Welp, I’m not going to argue with that!”

Hearing the truth can be extremely difficult for us as human beings, especially if it’s the truth about ourselves. What can make it almost unbearable is hearing it from people we love. We’re supposed to be perfect in the eyes of those who love us, right? I mean, that’s what I signed up for.

We want so badly to protect ourselves, we want so badly to be good, we want so badly to be seen as good. But what does life tell us? That sometimes we will fall short. The reality is, hearing and knowing the truth can bring us light and life. The second someone sows into our life, we have the chance and the opportunity to make ourselves better – mentally, spiritually and physically.

There are two parts to truth – receiving it and giving it. Advice4Life talked about how to do both.

Just imagine it, you’re sitting down with your partner and BAM… they tell you, seemingly out of nowhere, about something you could improve about yourself. Does it surprise you? Yes. Does it cut you? Yes. Does it ruin you? It shouldn’t. When a loved one brings you something like that, regardless of how they said it (let’s be real, that can affect the message too) it’s important to remember that God is always wanting to give us truth. He is always wanting to set us free. And what does the truth do? … You got it!

God gives us certain people in our lives to give us these truths. He sends them to speak and sow into our lives. All we have to do is LET them. Yes, it’s uncomfortable. Yes, it’s disconcerting. But it is NECESSARY. Knowing how others perceive you can be essential in growing to be the person God wants and call you to be. Remember this any time your partner wants to tell you “about yourself”. It’ll be awkward, it’ll be tense… but as long as their intention is for you, it’ll be okay.

Now, flip that on its side. What do you do when it is time for YOU to give truth. Ask yourself, am I doing this for me or will this truly help the other person? The second you recognize that you’re about to spill “truth” for your own purpose and not to help improve your partner then stop right there! You shouldn’t want to change or mold your partner into what YOU want. If that’s your intention then mission can be aborted right then and there because the other person will be able to sense that, will feel the need to defend themselves, and then you’ll have full fledged argument on your hands.

When it’s your turn to bring truth into someone’s life, do it because you truly feel your partner can benefit from it in the future. At that point, you can approach the conversation by first celebrating your partner on what he or she does well. Tell them what you truly love about them, re-iterate what you appreciate about them, magnify what you value in them. This way, your partner knows where they stand with you and understand you aren’t coming from a harmful place.

When you are in a relationship with another person, never stop having your intentions be for each other. Tough conversations like this can get tricky, messy and awkward. But once you understand that both of you are coming from a place of love, you’ll be able to grow together for the better.

Listen to the podcast here.

Are You Happy?


What do you do when you’re not happy with something? Let’s say you bought an appliance from the store, took it home and found that it doesn’t quite operate the way you expected it to. You’re not happy with it so what do you do? You probably returned it, right? Let’s say you have a picture frame hanging from the wall and it falls to the floor, its corner broken and unable to hold any more pictures. You’re super unhappy so what did you do? You probably threw it out. These days we are so conditioned to throw out the broken. We so easily give in to our disappointment that we give up without giving things a real shot. We’ve focused so much on thinking “I’m not happy” than figuring out what would make us happy and acting on what will make us happy.

Happiness is paramount in any relationship. And in many relationships, you look to your partner as a source of happiness. But what if I said that happiness can only come from you? What if I said happiness is only aligned with your own mindset. Well it’s true. YOU are responsible for your happiness. YOU choose whether or not to be content in a relationship. That feeling is generated in ourselves and doesn’t come from anyone else.

In this day and time, we have become so addicted to blaming other people. We see other people as the source of our own pain that we often fail to realize that we are responsible for our own selves. Family Strengthening teaches us that we must live up to the power of our own choices, meaning that whatever situation we find ourselves is solely because of us. When things are bad in a relationship, we are so quick to blame the other person (and maybe rightfully so!) but if we can’t accept that some of the blame could be on us then there’s no chance of healing. Instead of being ready to throw your hands in the air and walk away when things look bleak in a relationship, see that as a time of building.

It’s hard to not blame someone else when you’re unhappy, but it’s powerful to find yourself in a place that you’re able to say, “I don’t blame you. I blame my expectations.” Think about it, every time you’ve found yourself disappointed, it’s probably because your partner didn’t meet an expectation that you had. But did you share that expectation with them? Was it a realistic expectation? Comparison often leads to discontent and once we are able to rid ourselves of unrealistic expectations and false comparisons, we’re able to move on a lot quicker. We all need to find ourselves in a position to want to change. If your partner seems abstinent to change, see that as your time to shine.

Listen to the podcast here.


Listen to the music…


I took a music appreciation class in college once in which we were studying a unique musical piece. Needless to say the chords didn’t strike well and weren’t flowing as one would think music should. After playing about 1 minute of what sounded like cats being subjected to a torturous murder, my professor turned it off and asked us what we thought. As each of my classmates looked back and forth from one another back to the teacher, we all wondered whether or not to be honest…or to be polite and say we loved it. That’s when my professor said something profound, “To look at something and only think of what it’s not doing for you… that’s a destructive way of thinking.”

It’s so easy to point a finger and to place blame. It’s human nature. It’s easiest to look at something or someone and say how it’s offending you or throwing you off. How many of us would have listened to the displeasing aria and went “That’s not striking a good chord with me, but that might be because I’m not being very appreciative of the basic beauty of music.”  It’s the very same in our relationships. Looking at your partner and only thinking of what they’re not doing, how they’ve hurt you, how they’re not contributing… THAT’S how you can count on destroying your relationship. By having that mindset, you are slowly but surely taking down every brick you’ve laid down to build a strong foundation for you and your partner. You’re diminishing hard work, and most of all, you’re erasing love.

Seeking and finding fault is one of the most destructive   things you can do while in a relationship. You’re basically playing negative thoughts in your head over and over and over again. Sooner than later, you become consumed with annoyance, regret, resentment, or even hate. Although it takes a lot more work, especially when you’re upset, remind yourself how much you love the other person and what it actually is that you love about them. Fill yourself with love and positivity and it will show through your words and your actions. In dark times with your partner, the ultimate goal for you both is to reach a place of light. So you be the one. Be the one to remind one another how much there is to love about each other.

Listen to the podcast here.

The Famous “I’m Fine”

fence“How are you feeling?”

“I’m fine.”

This incredibly brief conversation has been ingrained in us since we could probably speak. It’s a classic call and response that seems to be so automatic that we don’t give it a second thought. Does that sound accurate? We don’t give our feelings a second thought?

The “I’m fine,” response indicates two things: you have not really considered what you’re feeling OR you’re hiding what you really feel. But why are feelings so hard to connect with? Why do we shy away from sharing them with another person?

We find ourselves in denial A LOT. Maybe we’re embarrassed about what we feel. Or maybe we’re too unwilling to own up to how we contributed to a situation. It’s tough to really reach into ourselves and pull out something we don’t want to see. A lot of the times, it’s “the truth.” If you’re anything like me, it’ll take a scapula, a shovel, maybe even a dump truck to get a simple feeling word out of me. We’ve been so conditioned to be “strong” that we no longer know what feeling words are and what their power really is. We don’t want to admit that we’re hurt. We don’t want to admit that we’re a part of the blame. But just like an denial situation, the quicker you’re able to accept what you feel, the quicker you’re able to do something about it.

So if no one’s told you yet. Let me say it: “It’s okay to feel what you’re feeling.”

This is probably the only situation in which one word answers are acceptable. Take some time to assess the situation. Can you answer how you feel? Take another minute to separate your thoughts and your feelings. Can you answer how you feel now? Take an extra second to extract one word that will inevitably pop up. There it is. That is how you feel. Now say it.

Whatever comes next will be what begins your healing process.

So let me ask you again, “How are you feeling?”

Listen to the podcast here.

You Choose.

fight-or-flight“I’m done.” Why are these two words the most likely to come out of our mouths when we’re angry? And if anger is supposed to be such a strong emotion, why does it makes us so ready to give up? We have a choice in every decision we make. Common misconception is that in times of struggle, our only two choices are fight or flight. But really, our choices are fight, flight… or stay. What are you more likely to choose?

Often times when someone has struck a nerve in us, we act out in anger. That’s completely understandable, anger is the go to emotion for a lot of us. But what if we don’t even realize that we’re angry? What if we’re just saying and doing things mindlessly and 10 minutes later you’re at each other’s throats and just when you’re stopping to catch your breath you think, “How did we get here?” See, that’s the problem with being unable to track our feelings. We just say and do, not really thinking about it, and then all of a sudden we get lost. No one wants to be lost. That’s why most people choose to fly away… or in other words, throw their hands up in the air with a simple, “I’m done.”

But there’s another option. There’s the option to stay right where you are, identify what you are feeling, identify how your partner is feeling and seeing where it goes from there. A lot of us think that staying will inevitably result in the tiresome exchange of screaming and crying and… well, who knows what. But this is what you do: you, yourself need to be the instrument of peace. When your partner is completely losing it on you, pray for the strength to just stop what you are going to do, and manifest peace. When someone is acting out toward you in anger, instead of returning it with a negative reaction, stop. Get up. Say something nice. Reach out to touch their hand. Or even make them a snack! A kind gesture amidst anger can surprising be very disarming. Examine your choices, make the choice to change.

Listen to the podcast here.