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. I didn’t expect my bravery to come from unmasking my motivations for being nice: people pleasing, conflict-avoidance, and brownie-points-to-better-seat-in-Heaven performance. Ouch.
Here’s the top ten things I learned this year:
- Nice is not in the Bible. Look it up. Not there. There are no commands to be “nice.” Love. Yes. Fear God. Yes. Fear people. No.
- Nice martyrs” (You know the ones: “You take it. I don’t need it anyway. Really.”) are hard to live with. True saints and martyrs live and die for a cause greater than looking good and making others feel bad.
- Not being nice means “never having to say you’re sorry” auto-apologizing for things you didn’t do. It’s a hard habit to break. Sorry.
- In the game of “no, you go ahead,” let yourself go first sometimes. Take the hot-air balloon ride meant for you.
- If you don’t let people know what you want for your birthday, don’t be disappointed when you get a weed eater.
- Have the courage to be honest with people and with God. Even if you don’t get what you want. “Don’t bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This isn’t a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we’re in. If your child asks for bread, do you trick him with sawdust? If he asks for fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? As bad as you are, you wouldn’t think of such a thing. You’re at least decent to your own children. So don’t you think the God who conceived you in love will be even better?” Matthew 7:7-11 The Message
- You can survive when the whole world knows you didn’t get what you wanted. It’s not failure. It’s vulnerability, courage, and resilience. Brené would be proud.
- Bobble heads belong on your shelf, not on your neck. (Bobble-heading is the smiling and nodding mask nice people put on while shutting down when being dissed by confident, confrontational people with lots of words.) Instead breathe, pause, stand firm, and speak up.
- Standing firm and speaking up is hard. But it’s worth it.
- You don’t have to be nice to be loved. There’s no checklist or competition to get God’s attention or win his favor. We are all his favorite children, no matter if we’ve blatantly blown it like the prodigal son or bitterly behaved like the elder brother. That’s what his grace (favor) is all about.
This journey I’ve been on this Year of Not Being Nice has led to empowerment, just not my own. It’s a power that comes from the One who died and was raised for all the “awfully nice” people like me who realize they can’t “nice” their way into Heaven.
So what is the theme of my next year?
After twelve months of “nice” navel-gazing, it’s time to forget myself and live like the free and forgiven woman I am.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1
Instead of trying to be nice for all the wrong reasons, I’ll refocus that wasted energy into a year of showing intentional (not “random,” but that’s for another post) kindness to others and myself. I’m calling it the Year of Jubilee, the year God mandated every 50 years that all prisoners and slaves be set free, property returned, land allowed to rest, and all debts forgiven. It’ll be a year of resting, forgiving myself and others, and enjoying being free. Wahoo!
So be content with who you are, and don’t put on airs. God’s strong hand is on you; he’ll promote you at the right time. Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you. 1 Peter 5:6-7 The Message
Posted on February 8, 2017
Awfully Nice or Why Nice People Won’t Be in Heaven
This Year of Not Being Nice was meant to free and empower me, not expose me. To change how others treat me, not how I treat myself and others. But discovering my not-so-noble motivations for being “oh-so-nice” has forced me to ask myself, “Is niceness my prison, not part of my personality? Is being nice an overflow of kindness and love? Or is niceness my addiction to avoid conflict and gain brownie points to Heaven? If I’m not nice, what choice do I have? To be nasty?”
As these questions multiplied, I read this from the late Archbishop Fulton Sheen:
The nice people think they are good; the awful people know they are not. The nice people never believe they do wrong, or break a commandment, or are guilty of any infraction of the moral law. If they do anything that reason would call wrong, they have various ways of explaining it away. Goodness is always their own, but badness is due to something outside of themselves. . . The awful people, on the contrary . . . think themselves just plain bad. . .
The nice people do not find God, because, denying personal guilt, they have no need of a Redeemer. The awful people, who are passionate, sensual, warped, lonely, weak, but who nevertheless make an attempt at goodness, are quick to realize that they need another help than their own; that they cannot lift themselves by their own bootstraps. Their sins create an emptiness. From that point on, like the woman taken in sin, it is “Christ or nothing.”
What surprises there will be on the Last Day when the awful people are found in the Kingdom of Heaven: “The harlots and the publicans will enter the Kingdom of Heaven before the Scribes and the Pharisees.”
The surprises will be threefold: first, because we are going to see a number of people there whom we never expected to see. Of some of them will we say, “How did he get here? Glory be to God, look at her!” The second surprise will be not seeing a number of the nice people whom we expected to see. But these surprises will be mild compared with the third and greatest surprise of all, and that surprise will be that we are there.
Excerpted from Life Is Worth Living (Second Series) by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen
So it’s not a choice between being awful or nice, but recognizing God’s grace in my awfulness and not hiding behind a mask of niceness
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. It makes me think of another “nice” person who embraced his awfulness, John Newton, the slave trader who wrote the hymn Amazing Grace. As he faded into dementia, one of his final comments was,
“Although my memory’s fading, I remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.”
This journey I’ve been on this Year of Not Being Nice has led to power, just not my own. A power that comes from the One who died and was raised for all the “awfully nice” people who recognize they can’t nice their way into Heaven.
My choice is neither nasty nor nice. I choose grace. Amazing grace.
Lyrics by John Newton
Amazing grace, How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now I am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved.
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.
Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come,
‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far
And grace will lead me home.
The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.
When we’ve been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’ve first begun.
Updated on January 23, 2017
This Zits cartoon describes the ups and downs of The Year of Not Being Nice. Standing up and breathing in the fresh air of freedom from lifelong habits of people pleasing. Then, weighed down again by fears of failure and rejection, pulled back by the opinion of people who don’t count and don’t care.
I feel like one of those foolish Galatians Paul scolded for grabbing back the laws and yielding to peer pressure instead of living out the freedom Christ died to give them.
Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you. Galatians 5:1 The Message
When someone tries to re-harness me to my need-to-be-nice backpack or when I grab back the religious laws and expectations that enslave me, I need to hear Paul’s challenge to break free of backpack Christianity:
Answer this question: Does the God who lavishly provides you with his own presence, his Holy Spirit, working things in your lives you could never do for yourselves, does he do these things because of your strenuous moral striving or because you trust him to do them in you? Galatians 3:5 The Message
This Year of Not Being Nice has forced me to unzip my stupid backpack and look inside
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. Mine is weighed down with those “moral strivings,” filled with fears of making people angry, loaded with guilt at never being enough, and riddled with resentment when no one notices my niceties.
What’s in your backpack?
People think that this year has been an exercise for a hunched-over, sniveling nice-addict to finally stand up for herself. No. It’s remembering Someone else stands for me.
It’s breaking the habit of bearing a weight that’s no longer mine, looking up, and again and again handing that backpack of laws and burdens to Jesus Christ who stood up for me at the Cross so I can stand in a faith that frees me from myself.
By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us—set us right with him, make us fit for him—we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that’s not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise. Romans 5:1-2 The Message
What an unexpected gift it’s been to be free of a weight I could never carry and stand in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory. But out there with head up and arms outstretched, breathing the fresh, free air. . . .I still hear that familiar voice, “Dude, forget something?” and my shoulders start to slump and I have to fight not to grab back that familiar, stupid backpack.
Zits cartoon has been used by permission of King Features Syndicate. Bold highlights to Scripture added by author.
Updated on December 9, 2016
The Year of Not Being Nice has been harder than I thought. It is much easier to be nice—no conflicts, no controversy, no rocking the boat. It’s easier to be a bobble head.
Some people have challenged me, “Really? I thought Christians should be nice.”
First, when you hear “should,” it usually means the focus is shifting from pleasing Christ to pleasing people. Second, let me repeat this from an earlier post:
Nice is not in the Bible.
Look it up for yourself
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You’ll find lots of references to good, kind, faithful, gentle, courageous, perfect, holy.
But not nice.
During Advent, I’ve been meditating on the miracle of Emmanuel, God-With-Us. Why would the King of the Universe come to our dirty, broken, rebellious world? As a vulnerable, impoverished infant? To live a sinless life, to die a criminal’s death, to be raised from the grave and seated at the right hand of the Father?
Jesus did not come and die to make me “nice.”
And I’m sorry, he didn’t come to make you nice, either.
Consider wrapping these Scriptures and putting them as truth gifts under your tree to remember why Jesus came.
He came and died to make us free.
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Gal 5:1
He came and died to make us adopted, redeemed, beloved children of God the Father.
In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight. Ephesians 1:5-8
He came and died to fulfill God’s purposes and glorify him.
. . . making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:9-12
He came and died to raise us to life with him, make us his masterpieces, and empower us for good works.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:5-10
He came and died to reconcile us and give us the ministry of reconciliation.
But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. Romans 5:8-10
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. II Cor 5:18-21
So if you’re thinking that God’s making a list and checking it twice and you’d better get busy being nice, STOP.
Jesus came and died for all the naughty and nice who are humble enough to open and receive the gift of the grace of salvation through him.
Posted on November 2, 2016
This “Year of Not Being Nice” has been good and bad.
Good in that I’m learning to stand up, speak truth in love, and break my auto-apologizing habit. Family and friends see less of Saint Nancy the Nice and more of the three-dimensional girl behind the Flat-Stanley cutout.
Bad because of what I see when I peer into my “nice” mirror.
I envisioned this year ending in applause for my courage and growth. What it’s becoming is people nodding in agreement as I discover the underbelly of my niceness—that the motivation below the surface of my niceness has less to do with being kind and loving and more to do with pleasing people and avoiding rejection and anger.
I’ve finished reading Henri Nouwen’s The Return of the Prodigal Son for the fourth time. In Jesus’ parable, I’ve always identified with the younger impulsive, needy brother. Now I’m seeing I’m also the older brother, waiting in the shadows to be seen and appreciated, disappointed that no one’s throwing a party for all my niceness.
“The lostness of the resentful ‘saint’ is so hard to reach precisely because it is so closely wedded to the desire to be good and virtuous. I know, from my own life, how diligently I have tried to be good, acceptable, likeable, and a worthy example for others,” writes Nouwen. (Did he read my niceness journal?) “But with all this, I became less free, less spontaneous, less playful, and others came to see me more and more as a somewhat ‘heavy’ person.”(p. 71-72)
There’s nothing like being described as “heavy” to give me incentive to step on the nice scale to see what’s weighing me down: the fear of disappointing others, the longing to look good, the striving for brownie points, the exhaustion of others’ expectations.
Nouwen writes, “The world in which I have grown up is a world so full of grades, scores, and statistics that, consciously or unconsciously, I always try to take my measure against all the others. Much sadness and gladness in my life flows directly from my comparing, and most, if not all, of this comparing is useless and a terrible waste of time and energy.” (p. 102)
In Rembrandt’s painting of The Return of the Prodigal, the elder brother stands on the sidelines with his hands folded in front of him. I wonder if he’s clinging to his almost-perfect score card.
That’s the frustrating thing about the gospel of grace. It leaves those of us who’ve worked so hard—been so nice—with a decision. Will we let go of our nearly completed check list? Our good-character comparison sheet?
If we don’t, we’ll end up more lost than the younger brother
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“Resentment and gratitude cannot co-exist, since resentment blocks the perception and experience of life as a gift. My resentment tells me that I don’t receive what I deserve. It always manifests itself in envy. . . Gratitude however goes beyond the mine and thine and claims the truth that all of life is a pure gift.” (p. 103)
Believing I Don’t Have to Be “Nice” to Be Loved
Nice people, put down your performance evaluation. We’re not in a competition to win God’s favor. In a way that only God understands, we are all his favorite children, no matter if we’ve blatantly blown it or bitterly behaved. That’s what his grace (favor) is all about. Whether we’re running away, wallowing in self-pity, or beating ourselves up for not being good enough, he waits for us, runs to us, and embraces us with kisses, new clothes, and feasting. He wants his sons and daughters home safe and loved.
That’s the amazing thing about the gospel of grace. It means God loves me whether I’m nice or not. And that amazing “unlimited unconditional love melts away all resentments and anger and makes me free to love beyond the need to please or find approval.” (p. 83)
So, I end up being “nice” but in a free and self-forgetful and no-expectations way. Crazy, right?
My goal for this not-nice year is to step on the scales and see how much “weight” I have lost. I want to freely love, give, invite, and wait for all my older and younger brothers and sisters to come home without keeping score because the Father has seen me at my wanton worst and bitter best and still wants to be with me.
But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. . . ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.’ Luke 15:20, 31
Nouwen, Henri J. M. The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming. New York: Doubleday, 1994.
Posted on October 4, 2016
Or what happens when the Tennessee Titan Cheerleader Tryouts,
the Junior League of Nashville, and the Tennessee Red Hat Society
end up at the Grand Ole’ Opry Hotel at the same time?
The Grand Ole Opry convention planner who booked the Tennessee Titan cheerleader tryouts, Junior League of Nashville, and the Tennessee Red Hat Society on the same weekend must have had a wicked sense of humor or someone paid her to create a sociology experiment on the evolution of females. At the time, my age disqualified me to join any of these groups so I sat back, took notes, and waited for the cross-cultural interactions to begin.
There ended up being no Clash of the Women Conventioneers. Their orbits never intersected.
The 20-something Barbie-bodied bumped obliviously into the 20-30’s Junior Leaguers who in turn ignored the 50-plus burnt-out nice women, many of whom weren’t seeing anything clearly soon after registration.
The beauties with the buffed bodies and bleached teeth and hair practiced dance routines in various convention hallways and checked themselves in available mirrors. “Seasoned” cheerleaders (probably in their early 30s) inspected the new crop with critical eyes, knowing they would soon be out of “season.”
The Junior Leaguers never saw the cheerleaders. They had places to go and people to see. Their attire was much more subtle and tasteful. They even smelled “significant.”
The Red Hat Ladies wobbled through these other two groups with drinks in hand and purple boas hiding their necks. I asked one of them what the purpose of their group was. She rolled her eyes, and said, “Honey, our whole purpose is to have no purpose but fun. We’ve worked way too hard way too long and been way too nice to everybody else and now it’s time to be nice to ourselves.”
Her comment has haunted me for ten years. Was a red hat the inevitable reward to a “nice” life?
How do we break the downward spiral of trying-too-hard to too-tired-to-try anymore? Of pleasing everyone to pleasing no one but ourselves? Is this “Year of Not Being Nice” experiment just a way to join the growing club of “No More Mr./Ms.Nice” people?
The Apostle Paul could have been taking notes at the Grand Ole Opry that weekend as he wrote to the Galatian bobbleheads (see previous post) who had gotten off the gospel track, either back to the hamster wheel of performance or onto the lounge chair of disillusionment.
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value.
The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
You were running a good race.
Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth?
Galatians 5:6-7 NIV emphasis added
Neither performing to please others nor being nice (or not nice) matters. What counts is why you do what you do, be it cheerleading, service organizations, or community fun groups.
My question this Not-Nice Year is how do I live with freedom, intention, kindness, and joy for a lifetime? And how do I steer clear of bitterness, exhaustion, or giving up? When I start feeling resentful or disappointed, I’ve begun asking myself “Is this faith expressing itself through love?” Or was what I did, joined, or gave motivated out of fear, guilt, or just because I couldn’t say no?
Being nice to be noticed, rewarded, or to pave the way to Heaven ends in despair and exhaustion, and for some, a red hat. Believing, because of Christ, we’re loved no matter our age, what we look like, how much we do (or don’t do), or how nice or nasty we are, fuels us to love without agenda or payback, but with faith and gratitude
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So, which convention would you want to attend? What will help you stay in your “ good race” until the end?
Grand Ole Opry photo by Ron Cogwell
Posted on September 7, 2016
Niceness Recovery Step 4: Break the Nod-and-Smile Habit
Have you ever found yourself nodding non-stop with a fixed smile on your face while someone is berating or belittling you, fast-talking you to do something you don’t want to do, or having fun at your expense?
I call it “bobbleheading.”
Bobbleheads are those little statues with big heads moving up and down on top of their little bodies. They’re often caricatures of famous people. You’ve probably seen some of them this election season.
Bobbleheading is often a nice person’s first reaction to uncomfortable social situations with not-nice people. Nice folks go beyond the “fight or flight” response to “freeze and fawn.” If you paint on a plastic smile, nod, and act pleasant, the conflict will go away and life will be filled with harmony and happiness, right?
Not really. it just reinforces you’re still playing “N.I.C.E.” (Remember the acronym from an earlier post: nodding, invisible, compliant, exhausted.) It’s time to proceed to Niceness Recovery Step #4: Break the nod-and-smile habit. (For the first three steps in Niceness Recovery, read this earlier post.)
I faced my bobbleheading when a friend sideswiped me with unwarranted criticism. I started nodding and planning my escape. But this person was too important to freeze out and place on my “not-safe” list. Which meant scheduling a face-to-face to find out what the heck happened and to express the feelings hidden behind my nod-and-smile mask. I had to write it all down, pray, and practice. When we met, I stuttered and turned to my “cheat” sheet, but I expressed honestly how she’d impacted me. She heard me, asked good questions, and apologized. It was hard but worth it.
I’m trying to break my bobblehead habit. I still brain-freeze when cornered by confident, confrontational people with lots of words. But at least I try not to look like I agree with them. I have to give myself time to pause, process, and pray but, instead of shutting down, I’m learning to stand firm and speak up.
It’s still hard. It’s still worth it.
Because I don’t want end up a caricature of myself, a nodding mask of blandness. I want to be real. I want to be known. The goal of this not-nice yearlong adventure is not to turn nasty but to embrace courage and freedom
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In Galatians, Paul writes to Christians, who out of fear and confusion and peer pressure, were retreating to unneeded religious rules. Paul writes to my fellow bobbleheads:
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1
If I allow the opinion of others to enslave me, Christ’s hard-won gift of freedom is squandered. (The Message) The only yoke I need is the one Christ promises is easy and light. A gentle neck brace reminding a recovering bobblehead to nod no longer.
As I wrote this, I thought, what if I’m the only bobbleheader out there? That’d be embarrassing. If you have ever bobbleheaded, how did you stop? I can use all the ideas out there.
Updated on August 8, 2016
Are you willing to make a decision which would cost someone else?
Bill, my husband, and I are opposites on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® except for one: we’re both perceivers. We never stop seeking more options and hate coming to closure. It’s a “nice” way to say we stink at decision-making. Behind it is a deep desire to find and do God’s will and a deeper fear of “choosing poorly” as is emblazoned on our minds after seeing Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
We’d prefer God to write the “right” choice in the sky instead of following his guidebook where he says he is pleased by a faith which acts without seeing concrete answers in cloud formations.
This year as we faced a major life choice, we started having flashbacks to former torturously long decision-making seasons. So we chose (wisely) a patient counselor who listened to the endless possibilities we generated for this next life step. He asked Bill a few questions.
Then he turned to me and hit the bull’s eye of my Nice Nancy people-pleaser dartboard.
He asked, “Are you willing to make a decision which would cost someone else?”
Say that again.
“Are you willing to make a decision which could cost someone else?”
I knew exactly what he was asking. I was merely using my well-honed delay techniques to find the nearest exit. To make a decision that someone wouldn’t like, that would make them sacrifice, or do something they didn’t want to do made every fiber in my being say NO. It wasn’t from a godly sense of self-forgetfulness and selflessness but from a deep-seated dread of disappointing or angering them.
I am the queen of adaptability and flexibility. My niceness-neurons read the body language of those around me, sniffing out what I think will make them happy—or at least not miffed at me. My answer to “What would you like to do?” has always been, “Oh, it doesn’t matter. Whatever makes you happy.”
The counselor wouldn’t let me go autopilot as he asked me, “So, what would you like to do?” Bill wanted to know, also.
I’ve adapted to those around me so long that my true desires are buried below layers of a “whatever makes you happy makes me happy” façade. I’ve spent The Year of Not Being Nice digging down to my real desires.
Knowing what I want and learning to ask for it without manipulation or expectation has been an amazing side benefit of this “not-nice” experiment. I’ve found I can survive when the whole world knows I didn’t get what I wanted. I’ve redefined it from failure to vulnerability, courage, and resilience. (Thanks, Brene!)
But this next step to allow someone to sacrifice their desires for mine is harder
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In this decision, what I want means Bill has to die to one of his dreams. The humbling thing is that he is willing (and even delighted) to sacrifice to give me my desires as well as my needs. It takes me back to one of the key verses for our marriage and my relationship with God.
“Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4 ESV
The question “Are you willing to make a decision which will cost someone else?” nailed my need to be nice.
Can I trust that someone will love me enough to yield their desires for mine? That I am worth it, even if I’m not nice? If I can’t accept this sacrifice from Bill, how can I accept the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross?
It cost Jesus everything to save me and he delighted to do it.
I have to accept that I am loved that much.
Am I worthy? No.
Am I worth it? Jesus said, “Yes.”
I am delighted that, for my sake, Jesus “chose wisely.”
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. II Corinthians 8:9 ESV (bold added)
So, how would you answer the question:
“Are you willing to make a decision which will cost someone else?”
P. S. Another side benefit from this not-nice year? I’m learning (very slowly) the difference between laying down my desires and dreams out of love instead of fear. But I’ll leave that for another post.
Posted on July 11, 2016
Confession: I recently suffered a niceness relapse. I fell off the buck-up-and-be-brave-wagon and scrambled back on the “niceness” hamster wheel which doesn’t take me anywhere but to self pity and exhaustion.
Let’s say (hypothetically of course) that an unnamed person treated me “not nice”—as in I became the garbage dump for their frustrations even after I rearranged my schedule to help them in a minor crisis. Not-Nice Nancy would have dealt with it quickly and directly. She would have “nipped it in the bud” as Barney Fife would say. But Nice Nancy got all Aunt Bee flustered and let the resentment simmer. And then (hypothetically of course) she may have whined to her husband who being in the no-win situation of “does she want me to just listen or does she want me to do something?” decided to do something and instruct this hypothetical person to apologize. And that person hypothetically got angry . . . at me, the nice one! And I then may have hypothetically gotten angry at my husband for choosing the wrong option. He gave me that Sheriff Andy Taylor hound-dog look as he grabbed his fishing pole and left the house. Even back in Andy Griffith’s days (check YouTube if you’ve never seen this classic), being nice can get you in trouble.
It was time to break this hamster wheel cycle of martyrdom and hurt feelings so I took my courage pill (it looked like a triple fudge brownie with coffee ice cream) and did my Warrior One Pose from beginner yoga to prepare myself for the battle (although I did shave first).
I told this hypothetical person how I felt and listed clear boundaries of how I wanted to be treated. I even said it without waffling, apologizing, or agonizing that it was probably all my fault.
Did it go well? Not at the moment. But I was heard, there was a short apology, and it was over. And when said hypothetical person tested the “dump site,” I stopped them with my Warrior Two yoga pose, finger pointed at their chest. They stopped and we laughed.
I confess one more niceness relapse, this time falling off the other side of the brave wagon when I second-guessed my new straight-talking approach. After a hard discussion with a different hypothetical person on an importance issue we disagreed on, I started replaying my words and worrying. So I did what I said I wouldn’t do this year. I said I was sorry. But I received an unexpected gift from this hypothetical person who stopped me in mid-apology with, “What do you mean? It was a great talk. I appreciated your honesty.” I had just survived the nice person’s top-two fears of anger and rejection.
As I repent of my recent nice relapses, I’m grateful Christ chose not to be a “nice” person
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. He spoke the truth in love and received the full wrath and rejection I deserve so God will never reject or be angry at me. I’m forgiven and free from fear. Now that’s good news for a recovering “awfully” nice person. As Gomer Pyle would say, “Shazaam!”
Now that we are set right with God by means of this sacrificial death, the consummate blood sacrifice, there is no longer a question of being at odds with God in any way. If, when we were at our worst (or “nicest”), we were put on friendly terms with God by the sacrificial death of his Son, now that we’re at our best, just think of how our lives will expand and deepen by means of his resurrection life! Now that we have actually received this amazing friendship with God, we are no longer content to simply say it in plodding prose. We sing and shout our praises to God through Jesus, the Messiah! Romans 5:9-11 The Message
Updated on June 1, 2016
In this Year of Not Being Nice, I’m compiling a list of role models in courage and conviction, men and women who take their place instead of being put into someone else’s place for them. These are people who could have painted a pity-party picture of their lives or hidden behind a net of “niceness” (see the real definition of nice from a previous post). But they chose the challenge to change. Here are two entries in my Not-Nice Hall of Fame.
This recent photo and story on Humans of New York’s Instagram account caught my attention:
“I grew up in India where a woman got married, settled down, and kept a house. I never thought I’d do anything different. I lived a very sheltered existence. I went to a British school, then a women’s college, and then I met my husband. I assumed that I’d be taken care of for the rest of my life. But shortly after we came to America, my husband slipped into a coma and lingered for another fifteen years. We had a small child at the time. I’d never worked before, except for a part-time job in the bookshop at the Met. I was a very quiet person. And suddenly I had to make all of the decisions
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. I had to get a full time job. It was empowering. I learned that I could be fearless, I could be angry, and I could fight. These were three things that I’d never had to do before. I was thinking recently, that if my husband had lived, he might not have liked who I’ve become.”
Here’s a woman thrust into a foreign culture with a young child, comatose husband, and no work experience. An Indian woman raised with certain expectations and restrictions. What would I have done in her situation? She braved it and became a person who could fight, get angry, and be fearless. Someone seen, not invisible.
Being seen can be scary. Changing can upset people. And nice people hate upsetting folks.
“These days when somebody says they miss the old Don, I get it. I understand. He was a super nice guy. But he really wanted to please people because he believed if he took a stand people would leave him. As much as I love the old Don, I don’t miss him.”
I must be changing because I’ve also gotten pushback (mostly people wondering what unpredictable not-nice thing I may do). Thank the Lord my husband still likes me and Jesus loves me. That’s enough.
“Ten years from now, may we all look back and love who we were while hardly recognizing them.” Donald Miller
I wonder who this reallylatebloomer will become in ten years (besides a decade older)?