Transforming My Life

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When Our Kids Mess Up

stressed-out-womenMost of us work very hard to not make mistakes.

I hate making mistakes.   Almost every humiliating mistake I have made is chiseled in my memory – the Sunday in 8th grade when I tripped and fell down the stairs  as an acolyte and the congregation gasped like they were watching fireworks on the 4th of July (I still remember how I ripped my panty hose, broke a toe nail and almost lit my dress on fire); or the time I was beside myself leaving a note on the windshield of a car that I had just side swiped in a parking lot.  Sadly, the list doesn’t stop there.  I could go on and on, but I can’t stand thinking about it.   The panicky feelings, the blood rushing to my face, the mental-flagellation of what an idiot I am,  “Who does this?  What a clod!  You always do this kind of stupid stuff.” ( you know you’re in shame territory when you use the word always).

Obviously, some mistakes are more costly than others.  This is what we are terrified of when it comes to our children making mistakes.  And let’s face it, some of us have kids that push the envelope and have to learn the hard way.  This can leave us constantly on edge, anxious every time the phone rings, or waiting for the next shoe to drop.  Mistakes can be small, like falling down the church stairs and suffering some embarrassment, or they can be much more devastating.

I think most of us would agree that we want our children to grow up, move out, and be happy, healthy and thriving adults.

In order for this to happen we must learn to let go and give our children the space and grace to make mistakes.  Making mistakes are a part of the process of becoming a mature adult.  We all recognize even grown ups make mistakes.

Here are a few principles to reflect on when it comes to allowing our children to make mistakes:

1.  It is not a reflection on you.  

Mistakes are loaded with self-condemnation and judgements.  So many moms I work with (myself included) fight so much shame when it comes to their children’s mistakes. Could it be we fear their mistakes are a reflection on us?  My answer -“You betcha”.   Oftentimes, rather than admit our child’s shortcomings, we defend them or prefer to be in denial.  On a deeper level, we blame ourselves.

2.  Don’t allow your emotions to short change your chid’s learning process by protecting them from making mistakes.

To sooth our own anxiety, often we over-function for our kids. 

At the core, I believe we confuse fear with love.  We fear our child’s ability to handle situations in life, such things as homework, stressful situations, or being responsible with a multitude of things.  When we find ourselves in this uncomfortable, anxious place, we tend to want to alleviate our own stress and take matters into our own hands. It might feel like we are loving them in that moment, but the truth is we are enabling them.  We are keeping them young, and weak.

Just like a butterfly needs to fight its way out of a cocoon to survive, the same goes for our kids.  If you cut the cocoon open, the butterfly will not fly,  

Its wings never developing the strength it takes to soar.

Love allows our children to struggle and learn from the natural consequences of their choices. Natural consequences have a way of being better teachers than we ever could. As parents this can feel  scary, out of control, and be painful to watch.  We must “bite the bullet” and resist rescuing no matter how brutal this feels. If we rescue them today, it is only a matter of time we will have to do it again.

3.  Believe that your child is capable of figuring out their own problems.

We need to orient to the principle of responsibility when we feel unsure and tempted to give in and rescue our child. The principle of responsibility is allowing our child to become a mature, responsible adult, capable of figuring out what they need to do in any given situation. Rather than jumping in and solving their problems, we can coach and guide them. We need to listen and ask questions that reflect our belief in their ability to solve the issues they face.  When we hold our children with positive regard, the likelihood that they will rise to the occasion increases ten-fold.

4.  Treat yourself with grace and compassion when you make mistakes. 

When we learn to love and accept ourselves, mistakes and all, we become a safe oasis for our children to come home to. Permission is granted to be human, authentic and honest. Each of us is valuable and worthy of being loved, regardless of the mistakes we have made.  When we let go of the image we envisioned of how our child’s life “should” look, we reflect the kind of love that we all yearn for – a love that is unconditional, full of mercy and grace.  When our children experience a love like this, they feel free to be who they are, rather than who they think they need to be in order to feel loved and accepted.  I don’t really believe this has much to do with our children.  I believe it has to do with us.  The greater our capacity to love and accept ourselves with all our quirks, flaws and failures, the greater our capacity to give the same gift to our children.

So when our children “mess up”,  let us view this as an opportunity, not only for their own growth and development, but for ours as well.  We will all be the better for it.

Grace and peace,

Sheryl


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Returning Home to Yourself This Christmas

Christmes-Scene-Animated-christmas-16186036-640-480My house is a mess.  Only half of my Christmas shopping is done and I haven’t  baked any cookies yet.

And since my son got home this week from college, it seems like all we have done is watch a whole lot of tv (and for me, eat a whole lot of store bought cookies!).

This morning as I write this, I find myself feeling panicky, guilty even.  This isn’t what “it” is suppose to look like.  I better snap to!  Get out the Monopoly game!

These are the gremlin voices that tell me I am blowing it, my kids are going to grow up disappointed, what’s wrong with me and why am I not doing a better job?  I’m blowing Christmas!

Then there is another voice.  One I often ignore.  This voice whispers quietly to me, so softly I must take the time to slow down and listen.  This is the voice I long to hear, it is loving, kind, reassuring and compassionate.  It reminds me what is truly important this time of year.

It whispers words of peace and kindness to me.

This is the voice that accepts where others are at, rather than, asserting my will over them.

I am invited into the moment with whomever I am with.  My “to do” list is still there but it has lost it’s power over me.

I am reassured it will get done.  There is abundance rather than scarcity.

I love the words of Brené Brown around this very subject,

The holidays she likens to a holiday circus, where we are the ringmasters, where life can easily become pageantry if we allow it to.

“The best performers make it look balletic and effortless. Of course, there’s no such thing as an effortless holiday show. If you sneak a peek behind most people’s red velvet curtains at holiday time, you’ll often see houses brimming with anxiety, maxed-out credit cards, crying children, and marriages that make the cold war look warm and fuzzy.

I’m convinced that the only way out of this is by cancelling the show. Not canceling the holiday, but giving up the show.”(http://brenebrown.com/my-blog/)

I love this analogy.  Rather than the ringmaster, I picture myself as the lion.  The ringmaster has a whip and is yelling at me to perform.

This causes me pause….Why the lion, and who am I performing for?

My family?  My friends?  Others?  This makes me laugh.  Most of us are too busy performing in our own shows to even notice.

The lion is the victim – no wonder I can become so resentful this time of year.

Could I possibly be performing for a ringmaster of my own making?

Need I forget that a lion can swallow that ringmaster whole?

We are all the ringmasters of our own show.  And we can choose to put down the whip and go home.

Those performance based voices grow fainter as I choose to leave them behind.

When I do, I return home to myself.

Home is where there is acceptance, kindness and peace.  Self-compassion that radiates outward to others.

Home beckons me to come and be.  To sit awhile.  To invite others in where it is safe and warm.

Rather than rush off to the store to get one more present, can I possibly create one, not from a place of performance, but stillness and calm?

To be in the moment and enjoy it.

No rushing around.  No panic.  It’s okay if the shopping isn’t done.  It will get done.  I can ask for help if I need to.

This is the voice that reassures me that my family does not need me trying to control and force them to do the things that I think the “perfect” families do.

Monopoly would be nice.  I can ask for that.  And it’s okay if they don’t want to play, no worries.  I am open to other possibilities.

For today, I am going to make myself at home.  To bask in the warmth and abundance.

What will feel good to me today?  What makes Christmas meaningful to me?

Today I will choose what really matters.  I will be.  Connect.  Accept. And enjoy the moment.

Grace and Peace,

Sheryl

 

 

 

 


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Growing our Souls through Loss

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“Loss.  It’s a word that many of us fear and few of us can evade.  The experience of loss does not have to be the defining moment of our lives.  Instead, the defining moment can be our response to the loss.  It is not what happens to us that matters so much as what happens in us.”  Jerry Sittser

All of us have suffered loss at one time or another.  The loss of spouse, children, parents, job, health, marriage, childhood or any other kind  impacts us in ways that we never could have imagined. Many of us are living with the after-effects of profound trauma or the loss of innocence that has left our lives forever changed.  The world can look dark and without hope.  I experienced the loss of my Father at the age of ten.  In the blink of an eye, a tragic accident claimed my Dad’s life with my entire family in the car.  It not only changed my family, but how I viewed everything.  Tragedy forced me to grow up overnight.  No longer a carefree kid, I  faced the reality that bad things can happen in an instant.  While I can still struggle with the fear of bad things happening everyday, I also believe that out of  grief and loss, we can experience incredible healing and transformation.  I am loving the book, A Grace Disguised, by Jerry Sittser. It has touched me profoundly and is unlike any other book on grief that I have read.  It addresses the topic of how a soul can grow through loss and pain and begin a new life – “a life marked by spiritual depth, joy and compassion and a deeper appreciation of simple blessings..”

“Many people are destroyed by loss because, learning what could have been but failed to be, they choose to wallow in guilt and regret, to become bitter in spirit, or to fall into despair.  While nothing they can do will reverse the loss, it is not true that there is nothing they can do to change.  The difference between despair and hope, bitterness and forgiveness, hatred and love, and stagnation and vitality lies in the decision we make about what to do in the face of regrets over an unchangeable and painful past.  We cannot change the situation but we can allow the situation to change us.  We exacerbate our suffering needlessly when we allow one loss to lead to another.  That causes gradual destruction of the soul.”

“God’s forgiveness will show us that he wants to take our losses and somehow bring them back upon us in the form of a blessing.  This work of grace will not erase the loss or alter its consequences.  Grace cannot change the moral order.  What is bad will always be bad.  But grace will bring good out of a bad situation; it will take an evil and somehow turn it into something that results in good.  That is what God accomplished through the crucifixion.  He turned the evil of an unjust murder into the good of salvation.  God can do the same for us as well.  We will not be delivered from suffering, but with God’s help we can be transformed by it.”

Grace and Peace,

Sheryl


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No Shame On You

beautiful_nature_wallpaper_1920x1200“Love is patient” 1 Corinthians 13:4

 “Love never gives up” The Message Version

Most of us are familiar with the passage on love from 1 Corinthians Chapter 13.  We hear it used at weddings, funerals, and in sermons.  We see these sentiments on plaques and anniversary cards.  These words can be so cliché that we don’t take the time to ponder the impact they can have on how we relate to others and ourselves.

I was reminded the other day how impatient I can be with myself.  Arriving at a school field trip to the Des Plaines River with my 7th grade daughter,  I had not realized I needed to wear boots and jeans.  I began to beat myself up as they were sharing how muddy it was, that we needed to douse ourselves with insect repellant and to make sure to check for ticks.  When they began to tell us to look out for the poison ivy and oak,  my face felt flushed and my heart began to sink.  I looked at the other Mom’s as they turned and looked concerned at my athletic skirt and cute, new sporty shoes I had just purchased last week!   I was so embarrassed.  I was reading their minds, “Doesn’t she read the parents page?  What an air head!  What was she thinking? How irresponsible!  Wow, and I thought I was disorganized!”  All these critical voices were shouting at me.  I had to remind myself to fight the shame.  Thankfully my daughter’s friend’s Mom(I have always liked her and now I really like her!) ran me by her house to loan me a pair of boots and jeans.  I was so grateful I could have cried.  I was tempted to beat myself up and try to save face by repeating how stupid I felt, but I didn’t.  I reminded myself to be patient with my shortcomings, to practice self-love and acceptance.  I gave myself the grace to make mistakes and learn from them.

Shame is toxic and we are no match for shame on our own.  We need safe, compassionate others to be patient with us on this journey.  We need to give ourselves the love and grace we desperately need when we feel shame rearing its ugly head.  Those of us who grew up being held to a standard of perfection, where criticism lurked when we made mistakes, are especially vulnerable to these shaming messages.  I often have to remind myself to be conscious as I parent my own children to not shame them when I am tempted to do just that.

Today I will choose to be patient with myself,

To love myself,

 To accept myself,

Right where I am today,

I will give myself the freedom to make mistakes,

to make things right when I am wrong,

I will choose to love myself apart from the approval of others,

and commit to giving and receiving the gift of patience and grace towards my shortcomings,

imperfections and inadequacies, knowing who I am is more than enough.

Today I will be tender with myself.

Today I will give myself the grace, compassion and self-love that I deserve.

For I am a child of God and

I am loved.

Grace and Peace,

Sheryl

 

 


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The Power of Relationships

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I love this picture!  I feel happy just looking at it.  Here we are in Wisconsin at the Door County Half Marathon and 5K just a week ago.  I am  in the front row in the pick jacket with the hat with the braids hanging down. You would never know how cold it is because everyone has their jackets off to display our Center for Christian Life t- shirts from our race in December.  I however, was freezing my buns off and wasn’t about to take off my jacket!

When I think about how much I love being a part of this group, it is hard for me to believe how resistant I was to joining. Friends kept at me to come but it took me several years to even consider the idea.   I historically have thought of myself as someone who has a lot of people in my life.  I have been in many groups over the years – growth groups and a Mom’s group.  I have led groups, been in Bible study groups, church groups, and school groups.  This group was different.   I was scared to join this group.  Running brings up a lot for me – insecurities, negative voices and middle school gym class baggage.

I ran my first half marathon about 8 years ago.  I totally trained alone. I didn’t even plan on running it with anyone.  Thankfully I ran into a woman I knew moments before the race started.  Agreeing we would go ahead if one of us felt stronger, I ran the last 3 miles by myself.  Faced with the prospect of joining a running group meant I needed to allow myself to be vulnerable.  What if I couldn’t keep up?  What if I was the last one running way behind?  When running alone, I was able to avoid these questions.  I would need to be open to facing my limiting voices and pushing through the fear to be with others in an area that I did not feel strong.  I also needed to be willing to be last, if that was where I was.  My value and worth is not in how fast or strong I am.  What matters is that I am in the race to learn, grow and challenge myself to dig deeper.

Running is a perfect metaphor for how I live in my life.  I am choosing to believe I am able to do more than I think I can.   Rather than finding I can’t keep up with the other women, I have found that I can keep up with most of the women.  Running with others helps me run faster than when I run alone.  When I am slower, I can ask for others to run with me.  Much to my surprise, I have discovered that others who are faster than me actually want to run with me, just to be with me.  I am stronger than I think I am.  When those voices are yelling at me, “You are weak. You can’t do it!”  I am learning that with others encouraging me, I can press on to do above and beyond what I think I can.  When those voices are shouting, “Quit!  Your knee hurts. Your back aches!”  or “You are not as young as you use to be!”  I am learning to tell the difference between pain where I need to stop and listen to my body and pain that I need to feel and keep going because that is the pain that will stretch and grow me.

486805_10200885304997958_1447418013_nHere is a picture of me at the 6-mile marker.  I am elated!  You would never know by the look on my face that my knee and back are hurting.  The pain is so much sweeter when I have others standing on the sidelines cheering me on, silencing those inner voices that tell me that I am alone.  You would never know that a mile later I would be crying.  The good kind of crying – grateful for my life, my family and the gift to run and push through my limiting voices.

I am so thankful that I pushed through my resistance and decided to become a part of this community.   A community that encourages and supports each other to grow and become stronger, to fight through limiting beliefs and become more than you ever thought you could be.  Running is indeed a great metaphor for my life.  I need relationships that are life giving.  I need to have others who are for me,  on the sidelines cheering, because with others I can accomplish so much more than I think I can.  With others, I can live the abundant life that I desire and was meant to live.

Grace and Peace,

Sheryl


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The Greatest Gift We Can Give

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I just left a friend after pouring my heart out about doubts and insecurities with my own value and self-worth.   I am so grateful for her willingness to simply listen without criticism and judgment.  I didn’t need her to “fix it” or tell me how valuable I was.  I just needed a safe friend to hold space for me in a time of discouragement.  I needed to feel heard and understood.

 I believe this is the most loving gift I can give to others and to myself.   A listening ear and the freedom to express feelings is a priceless offering I want to give to my children, my husband, and to others.  This can be uncomfortable and unfamiliar when I find myself unwilling to accept my own feelings.  I often judge and condemn my feelings or pretend they are not there.  I need to remind myself that there is no right or wrong with feelings.  They are what they are. The gift I can give to myself is the courage to risk opening up and sharing those parts of myself that I want to hide when they are screaming to be heard.  I need grace and compassion from others when I am unable to give it to myself.  I don’t need to be criticized or shamed.  I can do a good enough job with that on my own.  I often just need to get clear around what I am feeling.  At times like these, my thoughts get all jumbled up and I feel like I make no sense.  In these moments I tend to catastrophize.  Sometimes I need to yell and cry.

I love how Brene Brown says it in her book, Daring Greatly, “Empathy is a strange and powerful thing.  There is no script.  There is no right way or wrong way to do it.  It’s simply listening, holding space, with-holding judgment, emotionally connecting, and communicating that incredibly healing message of  ‘You’re not alone’.”

Empathy and understanding is what my family needs most from me.  They need to know I am a safe refuge for them to share themselves vulnerably.  Unfortunately, I have not always done a good job at this.  The more I am willing to be vulnerable with my deep flaws and accept and love myself, the easier it is to accept and love others.    The path of vulnerability is the place where I am learning to heal and find wholeness. When I love and speak truth to these parts of myself  I silence the Critic that lives inside of me.  If I can be a voice of love, acceptance and encouragement to my children when they are feeling ugly, messy and discouraged it will change the course of their lives.

Today when I left my friend, I had a huge weight lifted that was holding me down.  Life no longer feels all doom and gloom.  I am connected to myself again.  My thoughts are no longer all jumbled and I make sense.  Each day I am committed to loving and accepting myself for who I am because that is valuable and I am worth it.  You are too.

Love and Grace,

Sheryl


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If we were to change the world….

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If we will awaken to the possibilities of new life, we will open our hearts to a greater understanding of who we are.

If we will open our hearts to a greater understanding of who we are, we will experience the false self we are up against.

If we are willing to experience the false self we are up against, we will choose to take the journey towards humility or not.

If we choose to take the journey towards humility, we will hunger for grace and truth.

If we hunger for grace and truth, we will learn to love ourselves.

If we will learn to love ourselves, we will be willing to surrender to all that holds us captive.

If we are willing to surrender to all that holds us captive, we will be willing to release our fears of abandonment and trauma.

If we are willing to release our fears of abandonment and trauma, we will experience a peace that surpasses all understanding.

If we experience a peace that surpasses all understanding, we will  be touched by God.

If we are touched by God, we will realize we are not alone.

If we will realize we are not alone, we will learn to love.

If we will learn to love, we will desire God’s will.

If we desire God’s will, we will be transformed.

If we are transformed, we will change the world.

If we change the world, the world will return to God.

May we all have the courage.

Grace and Peace.

Sheryl

Concept of this poem taken from the book, The Wisdom of the Enneagram, written by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson.  I changed the words to fit for me based on the poem, The Stages of the Work.


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The Pharisee in Me

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Jesus came that we may have life and have it abundantly. John 10:10

It is time to stop believing that God loves us for what we do, rather than for who we are. We do not need to be somebody different or get our lives all together in order to be lovable, accepted and matter to God.

I want to be like Jesus, not like a Pharisee.  The definition of a Pharisee is a self-righteous person; a hypocrite. And I know a lot about being a Pharisee.

When I came to Christ(as the saying goes), I would sit in church and think about how good I had become.  I was doing the Christian life “right”.  I cringe to think about my self-righteousness, superiority and how judgmental I can be (I wanted to say was but I had to cross it out).   I am aware that I can have this unspoken agreement with God that if I do everything “right” He will bless me.

Over time, God has gotten my attention in some pretty painful ways and I have been forced to realize how truly broken I am. It is here that I have experienced His mercy and grace. It is from a place of brokenness where I have surprisingly found myself blessed. As I experience His unconditional love and acceptance I am learning what it really means to love others.  This is what I believe it means to be a grace giver, the more I am able to have grace for myself, the more I am able to show grace to others. I am learning that I am lovable with all my flaws, mistakes and failures.  It is here that I become deeply human and loved by God.

I don’t want to miss out on the freedom Jesus brings and the relationship He wants to have with me.  It doesn’t matter what we have done or not done.  Jesus invites each of us to come out of hiding and embrace the life He has to offer. From this place, we are free to share our pain, hurts, and shame.  If we are courageous enough to find others who are on the same path, we begin to discover we are not alone.  We begin to open up and share the shame deep within us that feels flawed, less than, and unlovable.   It is here that we realize Jesus will meet us right where we are.  It is here we are set free to experience the abundant life that He came to give us.

Grace and Peace,

Sheryl