Turning Breakdowns into Breakthroughs

Often, the most difficult part of significant relationships is when an offense makes its way into our flow of living. A good example of the rare times an irritant can bring something good, is when a grain of sand that seeps into an oyster gets layered with nacre, the substance that transforms the sand to a pearl.

Working to resolve “irritants” in our relationships can allow the climate where we live or work to be more pleasant. Overlooked, it can fester and begin to have a negative impact mentally, emotionally and physically. These situations are often based on assumptions made by one party about the other. These assumptions can be “birthed” by idle chitchat from a third party and can make the normal routine very tense. Taking steps to overcome the grievance can restore peace to the relationship. Avoiding the effort to resolve them, can widen the gap.

Confront in a kind and loving way when necessary. It is normal to have a certain hesitancy around addressing an issue. Fear of things beyond our control is common. The fact that fear is present doesn’t mean the confrontation should be avoided. Calmly communicate what you are sensing and inquire as to what their thoughts are concerning the issue. Regardless of the response you receive, it will be more liberating to get it out in the open than to continue to fret about it. While it may not immediately bring the desired response, being proactive will pave the way for restoration.

Taking ownership of personal contribution in the breakdown can be empowering. Not every difficult issue we face is our fault. Some issues may have been created in the mind of another. Sorting out our feelings and determining what we are responsible for in the situation can create the environment for a more productive meeting. We can then be empowered to confront the other person in a manner that will be less hostile and diffuse the temptation to become defensive.

Journaling allows you to organize your thoughts and feelings and work through emotions before addressing the issue. This may help avoid derailing the process by anger.  Recounting the issue to a third party runs the risk of greater offense and more damage to the relationship. The smaller the ripple, the easier to get a handle on it. If you must talk with someone, consider an objective, spiritually mature person, such as a mentor.

A right motive is one that seeks to clear the air and restore peace. It will require actively listening to the other person as they share their thoughts and feelings. This is especially true if you disagree with what they are saying. Listening is demonstrating respect; it does not mean agreement. A good rule here is to consider how you would desire to be listened to in a situation that may be difficult for you to express.

I often find that when a person is truly acknowledged, listened to and heard, they feel safe and are willing to share and work through the process. It often takes the breakdown to bring the breakthrough. We may be working to achieve a higher level of relating than we could ever have imagined by allowing ourselves to grow in the process. Gaining a deeper understanding, may create a stronger bond in the relationship.

Consider, too, that the comeback will be better than the set back. And the restored peace that you experience can be priceless!

The Freedom of Letting Go….

If there is one thing to be discovered about the root of most of our problems / issues / concerns / anxiety / struggles / failures, I would say it rests somewhere in the midst of an inability to let go of things that we believe ‘should’ bring a particular outcome.

I hope you will stay with me here. Learning the grace of holding to what is important and relinquishing what isn’t working is a tremendous game changer.

Consider the morning flight of an eagle… he lives in the moment, totally focused on his flight, likely sharply focused on a search for food. He’s not thinking about how unpleasant the weather is, what other birds think of him, will his next nest building be successful, or why he doesn’t have feathers as cheerfully-colored as the cardinal. He doesn’t have the anxiety that is associated with all of this comparison and desire to have things a certain way.

Our brains are bigger that the majestic eagle, which gives us the ability to solve problems, write poetry, build bridges and unfortunately, the ability, to create many issues or problems that we would be better off not having to deal with. We can easily step into feeling anxious, frustrated, depressed or angry over things that happen or might happen to us, then turn this feeling into an over-thinking session.

If we choose to relinquish what we cannot control (if we can’t control it, what’s the point of holding on anyway?), we are quickly able to reduce our stress and our propensity to procrastinate, improve our relationships, learn to embrace change, let go of difficult habits and become more present and intentional in our lives. This would certainly provide some freedom, right?

Stress and anxiety often come from wanting things to be or work out in a certain way when they can’t or won’t. A longing or a desire to avoid failure, difficult tasks, confusion or discomfort, often leads us to procrastinate. If we choose (and, it is a choice), to let go of the way we want or expect things to be, we can learn to accept and appreciate things as they are, allowing us to enjoy peace over chaos. This requires us to focus on the fact that God is Sovereign and it is all in His hands and under His control.

When we experience significant loss, such as a divorce, death of a loved one, or loss of a job, there is a grieving period that we will face… it’s best to step in and allow the grief to come as you feel the pain or loss. Pain is inevitable but suffering is a choice that we make when we choose to hold onto or obsess over things we cannot change. When we choose to release it, we can allow the process to grow us. This often requires a moment-by-moment choice in the early phases. If we are willing to ask God to be with us and to strengthen us, He will help us learn the things He wants to teach us during this season of our lives.

Fear is often the deep root of our unwillingness to let go of things we cannot change or control. When we want (or feel we deserve) things to be a certain way, we can become immobilized in starting our own business, losing weight or anything that requires us to step out of our comfort zone.

Things that don’t align with our ideal are often the very things that help us to grow or experience things beyond anything we ever imagined. The fantasy in our ideals is that they whisper (or yell) that our life will be “easy”, that we must ‘know’ what we are doing at all times and ‘feel’ totally competent and successful. We tell ourselves that if all of these ‘ideals’ do not align, we will avoid them and refuse to move forward.

It is God who is the initiator of all change in our lives, and He offers us the ability to let go of what isn’t working for us so we can pursue our desire to grow, build, create, and truly experience the best of our lives. The pathway to achieving anything of value is growing through the processes of our lives. When we attempt things we don’t know, we learn new things, new skills, and with practice, we can get really good at doing them. My husband, Jeff, says, “When we learn better, we do better!”.

We can learn to be thankful for the challenges that lead to achievement, the discomfort that leads to growth, and the uncertainly that leads to learning.

It is all a choice!

I just lost

What is the Potential in Your Promised Land?

What are the circumstances you are struggling with just now?  Are you trusting God in this circumstance?  Is your faith for the small things or is it big enough to believe the Lord for the bigger concerns in your life?

Do you see God as big enough?  If not, problems may seem too big, and your failures may seem insurmountable, and your peace may be adversely affected by your trials. It’s time to remember that God is the same God who delivered the Israelites from Egypt, kept Daniel safe in the lion’s den and was present with the three Hebrew children in the fiery furnace. Do not allow your inability to comprehend how big God is to limit the plan He has for your life.

If we are continually comparing ourselves to others and feeling as if we don’t measure up, we will be powerless to use our gifts and talents to glorify Him and bring the joy we long for in our lives..

 In Numbers 13, a scout team had been sent into the Promised Land and reported that it was flowing with milk and honey.  However, in addition to their positive report, they add a but… The downside is that in this land of promise there are giants.   Men so large are reported that the scouting team is made to feel like grasshoppers. They momentarily forgot God’s provision and guidance to the nation of Israel in times past.   They neglected the fact that He had always kept His promises.  Instead of seeing the potential, they concentrated on the problems in the promised land.

God came to give us a full and joyful life, not a life lived from crisis to crisis.   He never promised a life free of problems but He did promise a life never free of His presence.

Someone once said that,  “The problem with Christianity isn’t that it has been tried and found wanting; but rather that is has been found difficult and left untried.”   Are we giving up in our darkest hour, because we aren’t taking God at His Word and living in the light of His promises?

Are we prepared to face life’s ups and downs? Or are we exerting too much energy on things that distract us from going deeper with God? The storms of life will come. It’s not a matter of if, but when!. It may be time to step out of our comfort zone and into God’s capable hands and allow Him to fulfill the work He wants to do in us.

We truly recognize the potential in our promised land, when we realize that God is at work in us and through us and that He specifically gave us the talents we possess to be used for His glory. His design for us is unique and special, and He reveals His plan for us step by step. His expectation of us is simple obedience.

William Hulme said, “Because I know the WHO, I can handle the WHAT, even without knowing WHY.”   If we are unwilling to believe this, we will probably see more problems than potential in our promised land. The Giants will make us feel like a grasshopper and will crowd out the view of our land of milk and honey.

God’s plan and His timing are perfect. The wisdom of His plan is that He wants to lead us into the promised land. He will do so if we hold on to His promises and rely on His Word.   Follow in His footsteps.  Celebrate the wonderful creation you are – and use and enjoy the talents that you have been given.  Be an inspiration to others, rather than murmuring because you do not do the things they do. Allow God is help you discover the things you do well and do them with all your might as unto the Lord! (Hint: The passion God may reveal in Your Life, may be in the places where He has allowed you to be wounded the greatest!)

The Gift of Being Present

In God’s creation, we (humans) are the most unique. For the most part, most every other living thing, animals or plants, (squirrels do like to store up nuts), live entirely in the moment. They don’t consider tomorrow’s weather; or worry about who they’re going to meet with this week; they are certainly not concerned whether they will be respected by others; or whether they’ll be successful in their lives. They simply live.

This unique ability may actually be one of our biggest challenges, often creating a fundamental source of unhappiness when allowed to roam. Could it be that the ability to ponder the future creates both worry and discontentment for many? How often does God admonish us in His Word to be still and wait on Him? If we focus too much on our regrets from the past or our fears for the future, we miss out on living in the moment… a huge piece of calm and contentment.

What if we were to reflect for a minute, on what it might be like to live as other beings of God’s creation…. the birds and the bees, the flowers and the trees?

  • They live in the moment – observing their surroundings and God’s gift of nature. They don’t think about much of anything or anyone until it intersects their daily path.
  • They don’t worry – at all; although they may have to react to a predator occasionally. Yet, they do not waste today worrying about the future.
  • They don’t spend time thinking about what others think of them. They live content in who they are because that’s exactly how God designed them to live.
  • They know how to rest. Just observe your fur baby who lives peacefully with no guilt, no troubles and no fear, worry or doubt. We, on the other hand, tend to view “busyness” as the mark of worth or value.
  • They are free and unencumbered to focus their time and energy doing what it is that God designed them to do – being a beautiful flower for the benefit of nature or a family pet providing love and affection to their humans.

We may all benefit from cultivating the art of rest and contentment, thereby, experiencing the freedom of not frantically pursuing the next shiny object that often leaves us empty and unfulfilled. Being mindful of this, may help us to enjoy life by design, which translates to mean being present in the moment and enjoy the times of our lives!

The memories we create by being fully present are the moments we’ll remember all our lives!

Growing Wise: My Child, My Teacher, My Friend…

This is a special tribute to my three amazing daughters on the birthday of my middle daughter, AnnaLynne!

Dear Angel, AnnaLynne & Rachel

From the moment I first saw your face, you gazing with eyes not yet focused, me gazing with eyes filled with wonder…until the moment when I watched you fly from the next to meet your appointments with life, I am certain that being your mom has been the most rewarding, fearful and joyful experience I could ever hope to have. I am convinced that it is you who has been the teacher, and I have been the student.

You begin making sentences, with “Why, Mama?” Later in your teen years, you said “Why not, Mom?” Your stream of endless questions kept your thirst for life as a continual quest. You never tired of learning and growing and exploring and dreaming and creating. All I had to do was comment that I wasn’t sure how or if a particular thing could work to set you in motion. You put your heart into the things you are passionate about. This is one of many big lessons I have learned from you. Be passionate about what and who you love!

Even before you could speak, your eyes asked questions and your tiny hands reached to touch, learn, taste and see. I would stop to teach you numbers, letters, animals, colors, textures, foods, shapes, trees, flowers, stars, and clouds. We read books and you became the much-loved characters. Your imagination was infinite. You would lead, and I would follow. I grew so much more aware of the world around me through the wonder in your eyes.

You taught me trust, delight, and hope. You gave my life meaning and purpose. You held a mirror before each of my attitudes and you role-played all my reactions. You became the reason for me to make better choices, to mean what I said, to live what I believe, and to internalize all that is good in my life. It is you, who connected the dots for me. In a sense, I grew up right along with you. I wanted to be more like you. I still do!

I understood why God said that to get into heaven, I would need to become as a little child. I learned that your spontaneous way of doing life was so much more freeing than the legalistic and controlled way I had attempted to live it. You wiped away the dust from my daily routine and colored the common things with fresh ideas and showered me with delight to hear your giggles and laughter. You made things new and gave me a reason to be myself again, to live authentically.

You gave me eyes to appreciate and see the value in people, whether they were aged or from different cultures. You saw the beauty in the plain and creativity in those timid or challenged.

And in this season of our lives, I can simply be there for you….  because you have grown into the most beautiful young woman, not so much my children, but now, my friends.

You taught me that love is my commitment to the welfare of another. You are the reason that it all makes sense for me now. I love you!

Your Forever Fan, Mommy =)

Sheri 

Being in Control ~ Real or Illusion

Letting go of the need for control is one of the (many) things I have to consistently work on to achieve positive results.

My default setting is that I want to feel in control of how things will turn out — control of a trip that I’m on, of a project I’m handling, how a conversation will go or even getting my dogs to “go” in a timely manner..

Often, it becomes more frustrating than the way I had imagined it could be ~ IF I were truly in control.

For starters, I don’t think we can ever really control how things will turn out. We might think we do, but how often do things actually turn out exactly the way we’ve planned?

I know my life has been a series of unexpected outcomes, despite my best intentions to get to certain goals. Even the goals that I reach turn out to be much different once I achieve them than I had originally planned.

Through my personal life journey, I’ve found that when I want to control the outcome of things, I become more anxious and tense. I’m less happy with how other people do things, less happy with myself, and less relaxed in the moments that I ordinarily would be able to enjoy. My relationships and responsibilities suffer because I am preoccupied with how I “think” things ought to be or how they turn out.

So how do I deal with this reoccurring struggle? What I am discovering is that I am unable to stop myself from wanting to control things. I can’t even stop the urge to control outcomes from coming up in me. So I have to just notice the desire to control things, and let the urge happen. I have learned that I don’t have to act on urges (emotions) that rise up in me, especially if they are truly not the best for me or others.

I’ve found this to be easier said, than done. My goal is to remind myself to see the urge, not as a command that I am required to follow, but simply a suggestion from the child within me. I can then be aware to look for the good things that can come from the situation, even if it’s uncontrolled. I don’t need to control things to enjoy them, I can just let them happen.

That said, I still take action. There are things I can control that have a positive effect on me and hopefully, on those important to me. I can look up information regarding a trip I’ll be taking simply because I’m curious and can then be aware of what opportunities may be available to me on a new adventure. I can be free to let conversations flow naturally. And my furry friends can take their leisure in enjoying being outside without me pressuring them to “hurry up”. These are all simply stress-management exercises from which I can greatly benefit.

I can experience the freedom of letting go when I realize I have a choice: I can choose to try to control the outcome, or I can trust in the moment.

I choose to trust as often as possible…..

Sheri 

A Season for Renewal

I’ve been in a season of rest – something I needed but it didn’t happen until I was required to have an emergency surgery.  This has been a time of renewal for me, something I would never have considered.

It is easy to become discouraged in the times when things do not go as I plan or hope they will, because I need this time to unplug. Discouragement is a normal experience, but the key is to accept all of the seasons God allows in my life.

A preoccupation with gratifying my desire for comfort, convenience or everything to work out on my time schedule  can cause my reactions to life issues to be disappointing and frustrating.  Pursuing these paths may throw me into chaos and rob me of peace and joy.

My focus, by contrast, can be to value the things God values: self-control, waiting on Him, trusting Him with things I don’t know, can’t see or blindside me.

Developing a heart of trusting God and believing He works all things together for my good, allows me to use my seasons of waiting as times of growth and refreshment. Sometimes, I find I need to hit the ‘reset’ button. And, I am finding that these things usually work out for the best, IF, I am willing to make the best of the way they are working out.

In this season and time of renewal, I have come to believe that I do not need to worry about what I “need” to be doing or what I might be “missing”. I simply need to avail myself today and each day to God, who has a path that I am to walk. His plans for me are not “cut and dried”, they are fresh and new every day.

Each day can host it’s own adventures, if I allow it to. If I relinquish any fear and / or control over how my day will play out, I am then free to operate according to God’s agenda, seek to do what honors Him and give it my best. And have the simple joy of knowing He accepts me.

I want to keep learning this pace of life and remain in a season of rest and renewal.

Do you need a season to come unplugged? Come on in, the water’s great!

Sheri 

Life: A Balancing Act?

Sometimes it seems that life balance means simply juggling plates and successfully keeping them all up in the air. Consider what balance means in other processes. In accounting, things must add up. In physics, what goes up, must come down. In life, we can’t live like a gazelle being chased by a cheetah all the time — we’d be a code red, high adrenaline, super stress, possible heart attack or stroke waiting for a place to happen.

Balance is more about a calm and stable mindset that allows us to make decisions based on personal values helping us learn to be intentional in the moment. Life balance may best be defined as the calmness and security of being able to manage the things we treasure, i.e. feelings, thoughts, talents, attitudes, behavior, personal well-being, etc. so in effect, we are able to assertively confront issues in life without an ongoing feeling of being overwhelmed.

A consistent balance allows our lives to continually improve, not necessarily with more money or more stuff, but by simply having an awareness that every day holds challenges and successes, and that truly what we look for is what we will find, be it good or bad.

As for me, I choose to live with the mantra, that indeed, Life is Good and, I’ve got the tee shirt to prove it! 

What does your t-shirt for the way you do / have done life read?

Sheri 

Begin with the End in Mind

How often do we neglect developing new habits because we think a positive outcome will take too much effort? Or maybe we start to improve our lifestyle only to give up prematurely because we don’t get what we want fast enough. It’s easy to allow today’s challenges to become tomorrow’s excuses.

Have you wondered how you became  a member of the Start-Big-Finish-Small-if-at-All-Club? Perhaps, you’ve set targets that are difficult to reach. Often, the pain of disappointment may leave you feeling burned out with little desire to follow through. Remember, you do have options. The breakthrough you’ve needed could be to practice thinking small to help you transform your life.

Often, we may be full of ideas and eager to establish a new plan. We may soon realize it’s easy to bite off more than we can chew. We want rapid success and no hitches. The size of the task and the time it takes to get there may make it tempting to throw in the towel. By focusing on the here and now, it is easier to find a steady pace.  Besides, slow and steady worked for the tortoise!

Whatever you hope to gain in your endeavors, you need to decide precisely what it is you want, and be specific as you define what exactly it is you hope to achieve. Reflect in why you desire this outcome. Goals are often more “real” if they are written. Decide what is a reasonable length of time to realize your desire and be realistic. Make it measurable so you will have a target at which to aim. Once you have a clearly defined idea of the what, why and how long to reach your goal, you can break down the entire process.

Here are a few tips for breaking it down into bite-size pieces:

1. Brainstorm all of your options and determine what can be divided into smaller, detailed steps. Each task is a stepping stone towards achieving your end result.

2. Simplify the action plan. Think of the steps as actions. When you understand what actions are needed to achieve your desired result, you can pull these together into a plan.

3. Establish daily and weekly tasks. When you create your action plan, work out a series of targets that you believe are possible to reach on the way to your goal. Keep it simple with many small victories to keep the momentum.

4. Keep on track. The small-scale approach is flexible and allows for instant changes.  Continue tweaking and completing the simple tasks so the end result will be well within your grasp.

5. Focus on your daily actions plans and not so much on the end date. Like the tortoise, concentrate on one small step and repeat consistently.

6. Master the art of delaying gratification. Though you may be tempted, avoid trying to rush things and bite off more than you can chew. Refer to the reasons why you want the desired goal. Concentrate on where you are in the journey, and not on what’s next. Reflect on how far you’ve come and what a waste it would be to throw in the towel.

In order for us to grow, we will need to allow ourselves to be stretched at times. In most endeavors, if we don’t grow, our plans and goals won’t either. Long-lasting lifestyle change requires an investment of your time and effort, as well as some patience. The road to achieving great things is much less intimidating when you break down the end result into smaller steps.

And absolutely nothing can compare to how you will feel when you finally make it to the place you wanted to be.

If this encourages you, share it with a Friend!

Sheri 

Simplicity: How Less Becomes More

One of the greatest freedoms I’ve come to experience is trading off the complicated for the simplistic. I’ve read that to the one who is given much, there will be much required. Living a life of simplicity became a pursuit for me to embrace that “less is more”.

My reasoning on this is that I can adopt the philosophy of Chickfila Restaurants. They do one thing, chicken, and they do it well! Sure they’ve added condiments and two ways to cook it and great lemonade and tea, and don’t forget the brownies. But they have focused on one task and have mastered it. It’s simple and delicious!

I’ve realized through this and other models that the times in my life when I get away or take a walk or escape in a great book, I am enjoying the beauty of simplicity.

By simplicity, I am not implying that everyone should downsize to a two room cabin and live off the land, although some of you would probably find that to be a cool idea.

For me, simplicity is managing my life. There is lots of freedom in: Letting people handle their business. Inviting and including family and friends and not holding the proverbial gun to their head if their plans aren’t an extension of mine.It’s packing light, in luggage and baggage. It’s having enough fluff in my schedule to be spontaneous if I choose to be. It’s having less for me to dust and more time to enjoy the things I love.

In my life personally as well as others, I have found a common link between having cluttered lives, disordered hearts and higher maintenance lives to be the enemy of creativity and motivation. I have also observed that it is a primary instigator in creating more stress.

I value time for fireside chats, walks, catching sunsets, reading, and a host of other activities that require no carry on bags, except maybe a cup of tea or coffee. While every moment and every day cannot be filled with leisure, simple and often pleasures keep me balanced and having the ability to manage my routine.

Simple living has afforded me the extravagant pleasure of being intentional in the moment with the people I choose to invest my life in. I feel that I can afford the time to really listen and learn. I can sincerely rejoice or weep in the moments that are defining in the lives of others.

I have learned through my experience that the best time I spend each day is praying that God directs each decision and encounter I will face today. I feel better equipped to show up and get into the game. I am alerted to little moments of cool happenings that I may have otherwise overlooked.

What are the little whispers you hear as you allow quiet times to refresh you?

Sheri