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!

Going the Distance When Life is Tough …

Each of us as believers will have a common struggle at some point in our faith journey, and that is truly accepting that God loves us deeply and eternally.

Remember Satan is quite crafty at his tactics — that is why we call him the enemy.  He will allow us to go to church and be involved in the things that make us feel that we belong to the body of Christ, but his greatest attack is waged against us when we are feeling the press of God to go deeper in Christ and develop a level of intimacy that will allow us to go the distance when life is the most trying.

Think on Matt 6:33 where Jesus says that if we seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, then all these “things” will be added.  He is actually referring to our basic needs in this life.  The important point here is that in reality, until we have developed intimacy to truly know God, it is quite difficult to believe that everything God is doing in our lives is for our good.

Our natural heart must first be satisfied by God’s love before we have what we need to give of ourselves to a spouse, friend, mission etc. The reason is because until we learn to accept and believe that God’s love for us is real and true the little child within, complete with all of his/her leftover childhood needs, comes out crying to be placated. This can create incredible stress in our lives and relationships.

The way to know God’s love intimately and deeply is to spend time everyday in His presence. This can be with your Bible, a journal, an inspirational book or devotional or just resting in a favorite spot with coffee or tea.  In this time, we simply ask God to meet us here. No agendas except to get to know Him and ourselves better.

Relationships, career, parenting, and wholehearted living  requires a lot of work and this discipline is the best readiness that I know to prepare us for listening, loving, supporting and encouraging a spouse or significant relationship, child, friend, co-worker or one who is seeking to know God. This time will also help us overcome any loneliness we may feel.

When the Holy Spirit is our regular and constant Guide, we are able to look at our circumstances as a step in God’s purpose for us, coming to a deeper trust that He will work all things together for our good. Just as any success or achievement we’ve experienced didn’t happen overnight and required preparation, God knows exactly what we need and He allows for adequate time in this process.  Each lesson God brings benefits us in many dimensions and as He reveals His plans and purposes we need to be able to recognize that He is always working for our best.

Prayer and personal time with God provide a higher alert status that He is present and active in our day-to-day lives and in each encounter and every decision.  He uses this opportunity to smooth down the rough edges in our lives and then replaces them with the ability to surrender our heart at deeper levels and a desire to pray His will over our own.

His will is ALWAYS best, regardless of what it feels like. This is an important truth to grasp. He only asks that we invite Him to give us the “more” of the abundant life that He purchased for us.  He will lead as we go. His Word and guidelines are out of a heart of love for us to learn to accept His ways and avoid the enemy’s darts.

The next important step is to cultivate significant relationships with friends where we can be ourselves and be loved and accepted.  We can ask Him to help us find those with whom we need to be connected.  It is amazing how sweet life can be, when we invite God to enter into even the smallest of choices.

With God’s presence it’s like taking our lives off of battery power and plugging into His direct current =)

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

How to Win Over Disappointments

Reflect on all the expectations you have for yourself, your life, your spouse, your kids, your coworkers, your job, the world. Embrace them and, then, toss them. Let them go.  Think about the little song we sang as children, “Row, row, row, your boat gently down the stream, merrily, merrily, merrily life is but a dream”.  In order to have life to be as we might hope or dream, we need to relinquish things we cannot control – other people, their choices and their circumstances.

We are then, better able to navigate life more peacefully and merrily.  When we allow our life to include only minimal expectations, we are able to accept reality as it is, without trying to force people into the boxes we think they would best fit in. We allow ourselves to see things as they are. Amazingly, life seems to work out best for those who make the best out of the way things work out.

We are able to have more of a positive influence if we avoid having expectations of how others will or should respond to our choices.  It is sort of like dancing as though no one is watching. When we live and do and be based on what we think others will think or say or approve of, we gradually move ourselves into a place of expecting our significance to come from other people. They can’t provide that for us.

Significance comes from recognizing that we can live a life of meaning and purpose by reaching beyond ourselves to be a part of something bigger without expecting praise or appreciation. Simply doing and accomplishing something that is worthwhile is the highest level of growing our feelings of self-worth. If we become dependent on others’ approval, we may miss the enjoyment of the task we accomplished, because we subject ourselves to view ourselves through the eyes of someone else and what they think. And, what if that person is having a bad day? I’m just saying …

Release the expectations of reward and praise. Find fulfillment in the doing the things that you value. Do good because you love doing good, and expect nothing beyond that. Pay attention to the thoughts you entertain. Your thoughts will rule your life and you will enjoy or limit yourself accordingly.

Don’t beat yourself up if you have expectations.  Pay attention if you start to wish things weren’t the way they are or that someone else would do something the way you would recommend.  Accept things as they are, if there’s anything you can impact in a positive way, go for it! And then, move on. In time, everything eventually works out.

Learn to travel light (free of expectations that are dependent on the actions of another) in a world that is already wonderful without us painting it they way we think it should be.

The life you impact most, may be your own 🙂

Sheri 

What is the Value of Living Simply?

I don’t know exactly when I fully realized that what I really enjoy is a small, slow, simple life!

It’s here where I recognize that truly special days can be a rainy afternoon and a good book, or a lingering lunch with a friend or loved one where we reminisce about the goodness of God or share the ups and downs of life.

Enjoying simple things allows me to manage my stress and reserve my energy for the unplanned and unexpected times and be prepared to respond in a manner that will not bring regret.

If I allow it, life can be a noisy place with loud voices pushing or driving for me to hustle, to improve, build, strive, yearn, acquire, compete, and grasp for more. All the striving can leave me drained of joy and wondering if I am simply not enough.

When I stop spinning, I can listen for God’s still, small voice whispering for me to know that He is in control.

What if I never really achieve accolades beyond the people who are my primary circle of impact? What if life as I have chosen it is good, even amazing, in light of the fact that my heart is fully engaged?

Since leaving the frantic pace of life and learning to not keep up, I have found that I truly enjoy solitude and calm, an abundance of rest, and swaths of unscheduled time in order to be healthy.

I have found great delight in sharing my deeply rooted faith, doubts and insecurities, in quiet ways and through genuine relationship with some very special women in my life who have invested in me.

We haven’t had a fairy tale romance and I follow hard after God to be the wife that will always be for Jeff’s best. This keeps me humble and I need it!

I am a mom who delights in her girls and in knowing they are free to choose their appointments with life. I consider it a special privilege to affirm and support them in their passions!

I seek the Lord often to learn to embrace my limitations and stop railing against them. I am at peace with who I am and what I need and believe it to be an amazing gift of God to walk in this knowledge.

I enjoy a simplified life. A beautiful, quiet, gentle life. And for me, it is enough!

Sheri

How Can I Live a Life of Passion?

How Would You Describe the Speed in which YOU Do Life?  Life balance isn’t about having it all or how many plates you can juggle, but more about relinquishing what doesn’t work for you so that you can be rightly aligned and fully intentional with what does.

Resisting the Hindrance of Resistance…Growth requires becoming an expert at navigating inevitable life change by learning to accept what you cannot change and eliminating excuses for not changing the things you can. Reflecting on where you and how you are impacted by things outside of your control is an excellent exercise for some super new habits!

You Are What’s Eating You… How much sleep are you losing, or how many ways are you indulging yourself over unresolved issues, relationships or projects? The more baggage we carry, the sooner we show signs of aging. So travel light to find the fountain of youth.

Live Free… Give of your resources generously. The level of your ability to freely give is directly proportionate to how ‘free’ you truly are. We can’t do everything, but we can do something. Avoid the temptation to clutter your life or schedule with unnecessary weight. To the one who has much, much will be required.

Live Out Your Passion… Find ways to do what you love and share it with others. Express love as often as you are able. Do all that you do as if God were your employer.

Be intentional… All work and no play dulls our senses to the beauty all around us in the people love and the things we enjoy. Learn to adjust your speed of life to take time to smell the roses, experience the beauty of a sunset or the warm hug of a dear friend. The day may come, that you will be very glad that you made the effort!

Sheri

How can I let go of my fear of what others think of me?

Choosing to do something or not do something based on what we “think” others would say about our choice prevents us from having the freedom to make the best choices. Having to first “check in” with a panel of judges, internal or external adds confusion to the decision-making process.

Accountability and support are extremely important. And the folks in our life, who are committed to our well-being without attempting to control us, can provide excellent guidance for us. Having listened to our hearts and shared in our joys and sorrows, they are in the best position to offer objective advice.

A good indicator of these supportive relationships is that we feel valued and not judged, when sharing our thoughts, feelings, hopes and dreams with them. When we are making choices that align with our overall direction in life, those who support us are willing to cheerlead and urge us on. And, if we are considering a choice that may not appear to be the best for us, they have the courage and our permission to remind us of our values and question us on the choices we may be considering.

The key difference in someone who believes in us, respects our choices and our right to make them, is that they will ASK questions as opposed to TELLING us what they think we should do.

To get over believing what other people think about us, it is wise to remember that their opinions of us are really none of our business.

A possible reason for listening to the panel of judges is a fear of failure. However, consider the fact that we never truly “fail” unless we quit trying to find a way that satisfies the pursuit we are on.

An effective way to face the fear of failure is to visualize the worst case scenario and ask ourselves what would we do if it were to happen?

My grandmother always said, “when people are talking about ‘you’ they’re leaving someone else alone”.

Yet, the truth is that people will always be talking; they will always be judging. This is something we have no power to change. But we do have the power to choose what we believe is best for ourselves!

Sheri