Are you thriving? Got health?

When scientists study people who are thriving or experiencing a strong sense of well-being they learn that some of the factors those folks have in common is that they are grateful, content, have a strong sense of purpose, build healthy, authentic relationships and … they are healthy. But it’s more than just physical health, they are also mentally and spiritually healthy.

There is one culprit that can have a negative impact on physical, mental and spiritual health - stress.

What are the things that cause stress in your life? Chances are the things that are causing you stress are things or people that you feel you have a lack of control over.

Stress is often a perception of lack of control.

Some people do not find it stressful to jump out of perfectly good airplanes; others find that very stressful.
Some people intentionally swim with sharks; others would be terrified of the thought.
Some people are very stressed by technology; others love working with it.

A sense of control makes all the difference in how we perceive things.

What feels out of your control? Is it managing your time, your health, your wealth, another person?

There are some things we are not in control of and never will be. But we have a personal relationship with the one who is in control of all things.

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions?...On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone – while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy? …Have you ever given orders to the morning or shown the dawn it’s place?...Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea or walked in the recesses of the deep? Have the gates of death been shown to you? Do you send the lightning bolts on their way? Do they report to you?”
— Selected verses from Job 38
Image of Rainbow.jpg

The God who created you controls everything. He is in charge - not us. We do not have to be in control. We do not need to be stressed.

Relax, take a deep breath; know that the world has a Savior…and it’s not you.

Rest in the peace of the One who controls everything and has promised He will provide and take care of your every need. 

Are you thriving? Got purpose?

Many of the memories of my childhood involve tagging along behind my older brother of four years. Our summers in Arizona were spent riding bikes, playing football, building forts, mowing lawns, and delivering papers to earn money to buy a mini-bike. I was a steadfast tomboy and if Aron was doing something, I wanted to do it, too!

One evening when I was about seven, we had family and friends over. The adults were playing cards in the living room and the kids were in the bedrooms.My sister Rachel and I shared a bedroom.Rachel is six years older, and her friends were in our room talking about high school things, which didn’t appeal too much to me at the time. I was hanging with the guys in my brother’s bedroom when Aron walks out to the living room and proclaims, “Mom, can you tell Rhoda to get out of my room, she is just taking up space!”

Imagine my shock – that is what I always did! My wise Aunt Eldora who just went to be with Jesus at the age of 102 fondly recalled that story up until her final year, and she would always add, “those boys must have been up to no good!”

Extra_Foosball

Extra_Foosball

Please believe me when I tell you, you are not here to take up space – God has a purpose for you! And even better, He has uniquely designed you for that purpose. In fact, don’t just believe me, believe these Divine Words,

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10

King David understood this when he proclaimed,

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. Psalm 139: 13-16

God could have placed you on any continent, in any century in history, amidst any family…and He chose to have you here, at this time, surrounded by these people. That is not an accident or coincidence.

He has a plan or purpose for you, but how do you know what it is? You can begin by asking this question: How do I faithfully use the gifts He has given me to serve Him, by serving the people He has placed around me?

Your vocation, or your calling is your invitation to participate in the work God is doing around you.It consists of the things you do, and the people you interact with as you use your God-given gifts for God’s glory, in gratitude to Him! You may receive a paycheck for this work, and you may not.

What do you find fulfilling? What are the things you do that leave you excited and content?

I once heard that your vocation is the intersection where your unique gifts meet the world’s great need.

You have different gifts than those around you. You may feel a sense of joy from what others may dread doing. For example, I love high school and college age kids, I’ve spent my career surrounded by them. I have friends who say “How can you do that?” They are usually my friends who teach early childhood, to which I reply, “And I don’t understand how you do that!” We have each been given different gifts. I so admire nurses and those who care for others when they are not feeling well. I might be able to do it for a time, for someone I love, but I would certainly not find it energizing or uplifting. This is a pretty good indicator to me that the medical field is not my purpose or His plan for my life.

Please understand that not every calling is fulfilling in every way. Most areas of vocation have aspects we don’t enjoy or get excited about. I don’t know many parents that get excited to change a diaper, but it comes with the territory they love.

What fulfills you? What drains you? These are good places to begin exploring and discovering your purpose.

Over the past few months we have been talking about thriving. We have learned that gratitude and contentment are both characteristics of people who are thriving. A sense of purpose is also a strong characteristic. 

I encourage you over the next month to ponder those times when you feel very fulfilled and content, what do they have in common?

I also encourage you to pray for discernment, ask God to help you better understand your unique gifts and how you can use them in service to others, out of gratitude to Him.

He has a plan and you have a purpose!

Rhoda Signature

Rhoda Signature

Dr. Rhoda Wolle is an educational psychologist who serves as the Dean of Student Success and Associate Professor of Education at Wisconsin Lutheran College in Milwaukee, WI. She is an international speaker on the topic of student success and thriving. She also enjoys travel, music, sports, and walks with her dog, Kipper. Her life purpose is to celebrate Jesus and encourage others in using their God-given gifts!

Are you thriving? Got gratitude?

For decades the field of psychology focused its efforts on people who were struggling emotionally and/or mentally. Recently, a science has emerged that studies people who are doing well. This is often referred to as ‘wellness research’. Within this field, psychologists study people who are emotionally and mentally healthy and look to replicate those factors in others to increase their level of well-being or thriving.  

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So how does this impact me, as a Christian?

In John 10:10 Jesus tells us he has come that we may have life, and have it to the full. I am confident he is referring to eternal life in heaven, but I believe he also longs for us to be filled with gratitude, peace, and joy on our journey toward heaven, as well.

The Bible speaks of joy 442 times! Many of those times it is in the context of this life. Due to sin we know that we will not always be happy. Pain, sorrow, and fear are real challenges that we share. However, through these trials we can remain filled with joy, peace, and gratitude – that is real well-being.

Furthermore, when we look at what the secular science says about well-being, we see it mirrors what the Bible tells us!

There are numerous characteristics people who are doing well have in common. Study after study suggests that one common characteristic of those who are thriving in life is gratitude.

Being grateful…counting your blessings is one of the most important things you can do to increase your level of well-being…and it’s fun!

Each day, reflect on the blessings in your life.

If you are reading this, you have access to electricity today – not everyone in our world does.

If you have electricity today that probably means you have access to clean running water in your house – what a blessing that is so easily taken for granted.

If you are reading this blog it means you know how to read – many people can’t.

Where you able to get out of bed and walk this morning? Not everyone was.

Someone right now is probably praying for something that I take for granted. 

Lunch in Zambia

Lunch in Zambia

Research suggests that being grateful often, and for all of the little things, contributes to our thriving far more than being grateful for a few huge momentous events. What is important is being aware of all the little things as we move through our day.

As followers of Jesus you and I have the greatest gift ever! We know that Jesus paid our debt and because of that we can have true peace in this life and the next! We can be filled with gratitude, regardless of our earthly situation.

Thank you, God…I am grateful!

Rhoda Signature

Rhoda Signature

Dr. Rhoda Wolle is an educational psychologist who serves as the Dean of Student Success and Associate Professor of Education at Wisconsin Lutheran College in Milwaukee, WI. She is an international speaker on the topic of student success and thriving. She also enjoys travel, music, sports, and walks with her dog, Kipper. Her life purpose is to celebrate Jesus and encourage others in using their God-given gifts!