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 Journey to Knowing ‘I am Enough’.

Several years ago, I had laser surgery on both eyes as a preventative measure against narrow angle closure glaucoma. During the weeks of my procedure and healing, I had to wear my glasses during my waking hours and not use my contact lenses. Not so bad, right?

Well, not anymore. But, it wasn’t always that way … At age 11, my already coca-cola bottle thick glasses were upgraded to bifocals. Pretty tall order for a little girl who weighed just over 50 pounds. Not the accessory that I wanted to add to my daily wardrobe. It didn’t matter how pretty my frames were, no one could see them for looking at two eyes that appeared to be a “uni-eye”.

The fun really started when I wanted to start wearing makeup. Guess what makeup does — it enhances your eyes so they can look larger. I tried every way possible to get mine to look smaller. I prayed often for my eyes to be healed.  If that wasn’t enough, I had overactive sebaceous glands and large pores.  So add acne to my list of “how do you see me now” wonderment and you get the idea of what middle school and high school were like for me. I was blessed to have cool, name brand clothes. But, no matter how I wrapped it, the package that I presented caused people to stare and whisper.

There were many times that I came home in tears wishing I never had to go to school again. (I homeschooled my girls, probably, in part, to feelings that I carried from this point in my life). Fast forward to age 17 – I discovered benzoyl peroxide, got my braces off and found a doctor that would fit me for contact lenses. With an overall improvement in my appearance, and starting college, I was moving up from stay-to-myself-shy to Sheri-the-social-butterfly. Suffice to say, my life in college was much different than high school.

While pregnant with my oldest daughter, I prayed daily that she would have perfect eyesight, straight teeth, and clear skin. (I did pray for my middle and youngest daughters as well… God has abundantly blessed!)

Over the course of time, I learned that my self-confidence, self-esteem and self-worth were not necessarily better because I had evolved from my moth stage to the butterfly phase. Regardless of the outward changes, inside I still felt empty, unlovely and unlovable. I equated outward appearance with love and acceptance. What a disappointment to find this wasn’t the case at all. What a joy to find that the more I learned to lean on God, the more my mindset began to change.

At 22, after having grown up in church and spending some years being the prodigal, I got my business straight with God.   At 39, I began doing a faith-based weight loss program, and during this season in my life I learned that God had been with me for all those years and was teaching me how to lean into Him to learn to do life well. Having lost my dad in a car accident at age 9, I missed out on the valuable male insight he may have provided about guys, dating, not compromising my values to feel loved, marriage, car repair, career paths etc.

I began to ask God for the abundant life His Word promises. This would take me on a journey that led me to value people without being driven by my desire for love and acceptance from them.  I began to see myself as He sees me. I saw that I am beautiful and that every struggle I have faced has served to draw me closer to Him and to the understanding that He has seen me at my best and my worst and loves me unconditionally.

All the while, He was patiently teaching me to love myself. He sent little messengers along the way, like the little four year old girl who put her hands on my face and told me that I was pretty, that Jesus loves me, and when I get to heaven He would heal all the “holes” (acne scars) on my face. 

So today, I can wear my glasses without feeling embarrassed. I smile when I touch my skin and find that as my daughter Rachel suggested, by eliminating foundation makeup and simply using a concealer as needed has caused my skin to actually improve.

Sometimes, I still ask God to heal my skin and eyes, because He is able to do so, if that is His best for me. Regardless, I am now happy behind my peepers, when I choose to wear them, and in my own skin. It probably helps me to be more intentional in my actions so that my inner beauty, the work that Christ has done in me, can shine through..

I am incredibly thankful for the ‘journeys’ that God has orchestrated to help me learn to see myself through His eyes and understand that His plan was for me to recognize that with Him, I am Enough!!

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!)

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 

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 

Who’s Cheering for YOU?

Several years ago, I walked in the Atlanta Peachtree Road Race held annually on July 4. For me, it’s more about hanging out with friends and family who walk along together.

I’m not a runner. Not even a sprint walker — but I am a finisher. Mama taught me that the difference between winners and losers is that winners don’t quit. They may have to find 1001 ways to keep trying but the simply DO NOT quit!  I finished the race and it’s a cool feeling. I had some side effects from the heat and needed some extra R and R, but it’s all good.

What was incredible to me was how much benefit I received from people who showed up to sit on the sidelines and simply cheer us on.  The longer I walked toward my 6.1 mile goal, the more I felt the momentum to not only finish but enjoy it.  These people had come to sit outside in 90+ degree temps to cheer their friends / family and some complete strangers on toward their goal. Totally cool folks!

We had a group of 15 and some had race numbers and some did not. Some ran, some sprint walked, and some like me, strolled for the fun of hanging together. We were practically the last group going in. They were rolling up the wire fencing behind us at the starting line.

All along the way, as our group, The Tortoise Team 🙂 was strolling along, and most people from the sidelines had left to join their family and friends at the finish line or headed home, I was amazed that many had stayed behind to cheer for us. We were bringing up the rear and I didn’t know them, people on chairs and in wheelchairs, policeman, fireman, moms and dads with little ones in strollers, EMS teams, people singing, folks handing out water.

As I trudged along, I thought how much I appreciated these people for staying there to clap for me and whistle and say, “You can do this! Good job!” “Don’t give up, don’t give in, keep the faith!” The more I heard it, the more magical it seemed. These people just seemed to enjoy encouraging people to continue toward their goal, the finish line and the opportunity to rest and high five their peeps. I thought what great parents and coaches these people must be, if they cheer their kids on in such a positive way.

I thought how good it must make them feel to show up and support people they don’t know and watch them change from putting one foot in front of the other to dance with enthusiasm at the sound of someone cheering them to their own personal victory.

More importantly, I thought, this is the kind of person I want to be in the lives of others. I want to be the one who is known to cheer my hubby, kids, grandkids, family and friends, to their own personal victories. I want them to know that I believe in them.

How about you? Who are you standing or sitting on the sidelines to support and cheer on toward their goal? If no one has noticed, let me be the first to say, thanks for standing for your team! They couldn’t do it without you! We appreciate you. We need you. We don’t give up because of you!

Hang in there! Happy Trails … wherever they lead!

Sheri 

How can I build trust in a relationship?

In a Word (or two)… Be Consistent

My mom gave me one piece of advice concerning parenting when my older daughter, was born. “Be consistent. Say what you mean and deliver what you promise.”

Consistency builds confidence in relationships. Trust comes when we establish a history of saying what we mean and meaning what we say.  It is not an easy task, but one we often look for in others.

Observe a young child at play and watch how they routinely do things.  If they drop their cup and it’s picked up, they learn the game really quick. It’s fun to have someone’s undivided attention. Consistently in life equates to a secure feeling. It’s  just plain comfortable. Consistency makes us feel safe.

People learn to trust when they experience people who do what they say.

Sheri 

Where Is This Drive Taking You?

Often, we get caught up in the drive to do more, make more, have more. We are resistant to relax and enjoy what we have, feeling somehow, like a Vegas high roller, that if we just focus all our time, effort and poker chips in forward motion we will one day hit the jackpot of having it all.

What is “all”? And does having it make life better? Consider that from the one who has much, much will be required.. When you get the promotion at work, they don’t just give you more money because you smile so bright. They add responsibility to your plate as well.

If you have a job that puts your name in lights or on the door, what happens when you are searching to find the dimmer switch to set your life back on “normal”? Sort of hard to turn it down, right?

What about travel? Those beautiful brochures do not highlight airport delays and lost luggage, but if you fly much at all, you will probably experience the frustration and stress of the not-so-pleasant side of travel.

My point in all of this, is that we often perceive many opportunities to be flawless and perfect and we enter into them thinking we’ve finally arrived at the place we want to be. We buy the big house and the cabinets in the kitchen are high enough that we need a step ladder to actually reach them. The reality is that our dream house, the one we chose or designed, still has areas that frustrate us.

The biggest stress can be that we are just resistant to change the way we look at things. We keep on doing the same things and continue to receive the same results. It’s pretty disappointing. So, why are we so opposed to making a few changes in the way we think? We want to date the issue but not marry it. We want the euphoria of life being a beach party that we won’t have to wake up from and go back to our real lives.

The good news is, we have options! We can change our minds and our focus. A little reminder to help us get motivated is that our life, relationships, health, business, finances etc. will not change until we do. That’s pretty cool, if you already have the ideal life. However, if you are like most, you are mentally doing your weekly routine, but living for the weekend.

So how much will you put up with? What will it take? Consider where all of what you are driving at or striving to be or do will take you? And what will you have or be able to attain once you get there? One last point to ponder, is it worth what it will cost you?

When I’m striving for more than God has designed for me, I get nowhere. I only end up feeling frustrated, angry, and depressed. A little reminder, “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10) The Lord doesn’t want us to be driven; He wants us to be led–by His Spirit. (Romans 8:14) If we will let God be God in our lives, and yield to His divine plans for us, we will experience the abundant, victorious life that Jesus died for us to have.

Whenever I face disappointment or difficulty of any kind, one of the first things I want to remember is God’s promise that says, “The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me.” (Psalm 138:8) Regardless of obstacles that come my way, God is in control, and He will move heaven and earth to perfect His plans for me. When it is God’s timing, nothing will be able to stop His blessings and rewards from reaching us. We don’t have to threaten, scheme, or give in to greed.

We can rest in Him, knowing that He has a bright and beautiful future for us that far exceeds our wildest dreams!

Sheri 

Simplicity is the Key to Establishing Better Habits

Getting started on a new plan, venture, habit, exercise program, reading plan etc is not always the biggest obstacle. It’s the sticking-to-it that’s difficult.

The acronym K.I.S.S. can be a good fit here, reminding us to “keep it simple”.  Many times we are fearful to start something because we are afraid we won’t finish it. And we are right; if we don’t start it, we will NOT finish it. So the process to begin should be easy.

Do you have a treadmill or maybe a plan to walk every day? Have you been toying with it in your mind but so far no action has been taken? Consider giving up the approach of 30 minutes a day and make the earnest effort to do 5 minutes. You may be surprised how easily you can form the new habit if it isn’t overwhelming. Also, ask yourself, how likely am I to start big (walk for 30 minutes) and stay the course? What if I start small (treadmill for 5 minutes) and build from there, or simply incorporate the freedom that some days I will have 5 minutes to spend on it and other days I will have the flexibility to go for 30 minutes.

Often if we start with the 30 minute plan and the day comes when it doesn’t work out, we are tempted to quit altogether because we feel like a failure. Think about the fact that even 5 minutes on a walk each day is better than sitting home and beating yourself up for not doing 30 minutes. It is all in how you look at it.

It’s the same with saving money. You may not have $1000 to commit to a savings plan, but what about $100 or $10. The hardest part of any journey or new habit is the very first step.
 
And whether it is exercising or starting a savings plan, if you start simple, you will like it, love it, and then want more of it. It becomes a bit of an addiction ~ a healthy one, I will add!

Your tendency, as mine, may be that you want to do much more, because you’re excited. I still will encourage you to start as simply as possible. Staying with the program is much easier if you are changing or adding only a simple task to your regular routine.

So make it so incredibly simple that you cannot fail. After you have established that wonderful adrenaline rush from doing your new habit, you can build it to whatever level you desire.

Life is good ~ work, saving, exercising, living and loving doesn’t have to be difficult – set yourself up for success. Don’t allow failure to be an option!

My mom always tells me that “Winners are the ones who won’t quit”!  

Go on, get out there, you can do it! 

Sheri