Transforming My Life

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The Best Gifts to Say I Love You

IMG_0698Well, Valentine’s Day is only a few days away.  Every time I walk into a grocery store, I am tempted to buy roses or go down the chocolate aisle.   I love chocolate hearts –  I can’t resist buying those pretty little ones all wrapped in the silver, pink and red foil.  The Dove dark chocolate ones with the antioxidants make me feel like I’m eating something semi-healthy – or at least that’s what I try to tell myself.

Roses, candy hearts, love letters, gifts ….

All lead me to think about love.

“Love” is a word we carelessly throw around all the time, not consciously thinking about what it really means to us, let alone defining how we want to live, give, and receive love.

Learning what it means to love others really is a big deal.  We need to give this subject the attention it deserves.  Love is at the core of everything good in life.  It is our greatest need.  It is what connects us.  Each one of us longs to know we are loved.  When we take the time to look around, every creation is soaked in love.

Which leads me to a question you may want to think about, especially this Valentine’s Day, and everyday –

If you were to pick three ways to show someone you love them, what would they be?

If you are wondering why you lack that loving feeling, I challenge you to begin to change one vital thing –

Make some changes in the way you listen.

I know!  It seems pretty simple doesn’t it?  Contrary to how easy it seems, learning to really listen is like learning a new language.  It is not easy to do.

Learning how to listen to someone you love, is the greatest gift you can possibly give –  whether it be your spouse, your children or another significant someone in your life.

We all yearn to matter, to be heard, understood, valued, and accepted.  And yet, we often fail in our attempts to love others for who they are.  Instead, it becomes about us.  Rather than the conversations drawing us closer together they can become divisive.  When people say something we don’t like, conversations can become about who is right and who is wrong.  Before you know it we are yelling or off in separate parts of the house stewing over what is wrong with our parenting, or wishing we hadn’t married this person.  We desperately want to change or fix them.  And sadly, we miss out, because we didn’t take the time to get outside of ourselves enough to listen to what the other person was trying to say to us.

If you desire to radically transform a relationship with someone who matters to you, go to school on how to listen.

Here are three powerful ways to listen, that says,  “I love you”. 

1.  Listening with Words of Understanding.

I say I love you when I seek to understand where someone else is coming from.  Another way I think of this, is to practice being curious about someone else.

Being curious in order to better understand, says, “Tell me more.”  Seeking to understand reflects back what it hears.  “Wow, I hear you had a bad day.”  “That must have hurt.”

I don’t assume I know what you are saying.  I don’t jump in to give you advice, at least not yet.

I seek to understand first by creating a listening space for you and I keep my mouth shut.

Listening with understanding requires I slow down, am open-minded, rather than assuming I have the answer.

When I seek to understand you, I put my own opinions, beliefs and judgements on hold, and I fully accept you as you are.

I accept where you are in that moment.  If you are upset, I allow you to be upset.  I listen to what your upset is about.  This is not easy to do when I want someone to feel better.

When I listen and accept you as you are, you feel safe, and you will want to share more of yourself with me.

2.  Listening with Words of Empathy.

Saying I love you means I am empathetic.

Empathy says, “How you feel matters to me”, “Go ahead and cry.”  “Tell me about it.”  “I hear what you are saying” “You make sense.”  “I get it.”  “I have been there too.”

Empathy does not say, “What do you have to be sad about?”  “Get over it.”  “Don’t cry.” or “Enough already!”

Empathy is not dismissive, but instead takes the time to sit with you, where you’re at in that moment.

Empathy is patient, and kind.

Empathy does not try to “fix it” or give advice unless advice is asked for.

3.  Listen in Ways that Validate Feelings.

When someone listens with understanding and empathy, we feel validated, and in turn, cared for.

When we are “in the pit,” discouraged, or disheartened, understanding and empathy  validates our experience.

This creates a feeling of acceptance, comfort and calm within.

We feel less alone. Hope is created and somehow our problems do not seem as overwhelming.

Validation comes when a person is willing to just listen without judgment or offering advice.

Listening with words of understanding, empathy, and validation are foundational ingredients that connection, intimacy and healthy relationships are made of.  The next time I’m with someone I love, I am going to ask myself the question, “Am I listening in a way that shows this person they matter to me?”  

I have found in my life, when I feel disconnected from my husband or someone close to me, I am usually unwilling to connect with them in ways that require me to really listen.

Today, I am choosing to set my intention on cultivating love by practicing this language of listening, seeking to understand, show empathy, and validate how they are feeling.  No advice, or fixing allowed.  I am choosing to step aside and trust their process.  Now that calls for another blog post!

And if you ask me, speaking this new language of love is more rewarding (albeit a little more challenging) and meaningful than a dozen roses or a box of chocolates.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyday,

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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The Second Week of Advent – A God of Peace

319510714_6aa4f536cc_z-2Do you have something that you are facing now that is creating anxiety for you?  A situation, a conversation you need to have, unfinished business in your life, or something that you can’t control and you don’t know what to do?  Are you unclear which way to go, how to respond, trying to figure out what is the “right way”, the “wrong way” and afraid you will miss the signs or mess things up?  Me too.

I wanted to share a few quotes that really spoke to me from a newsletter I received from Rick Warren, (http://rickwarren.org)  pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California and author of numerous books,  the most popular one, The Purpose Driven Life.

I need to remember these truths, take them in, and meditate on them.  I need to remember to take one day at a time with God and trust he will guide me.  We don’t need to work SO hard to figure things out.  

Rest in Him.  Peace in Him.  Be with Him.  

Hope you find these quotes as comforting as I do.  

From Daily Hope with Rick Warren….

Peter Lord used to say, “Ninety percent of what God wants to say to you is encouragement.” If all you ever hear from God is negative messages, something’s wrong. The wires have been crossed.  

If you feel overwhelmed or confused about a decision that you’re trying to make, you’re probably caught up in yourself and not God’s voice. The Bible says, “God is not a God of disorder but of peace” (1 Corinthians 14:33a NIV). He is not the author of confusion. So if you’re feeling confused, guess what? It’s not God’s voice speaking in your life.

Satan wants to drive us compulsively, but God wants to draw us compassionately. Satan wants to take advantage of our compulsions and use them to drive our lives. But God is our Good Shepherd. He wants to draw us in toward himself and peace.

If you feel like God’s told you to do something but you have increasing anxiety because of it, then the wires are crossed. Something’s not right.

The Bible us, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7 NLT).

Peace, Grace and Happy and Holy Advent Season!!

Sheryl


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How to “Make it Through” Thanksgiving Truly Thankful


Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving

If your Thanksgiving is not a Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving, well, welcome.  You are in the right place.

For many of us, we dread the holidays.  They can be tons of fun and they can be tough.  Holidays have a way of reminding us that things are not what we want them to be.

Relationships are strained.  Our Mother-in law irritates us.  Uncle Al, scares the kids, and to be honest, well, he is creepy.

If you have young kids, they  tend to be unedited and honest about these things.

” Aunt Eleanor’s food always tastes bad. And her eye looks funny.”

We want to hush them up, especially if they are really little and say what they are thinking out loud.

Have you ever experienced the discomfort of a relative wanting to hug and kiss your child?  They come in with arms wide open and bend down, only to have your three-year old run away and say,

“No, no, I don’t want you to hug me!”  And then they add why, or they make a bad face and push them away.  Embarrassing!

As adults we can feel the same way, only we don’t say it out loud.  Let’s just admit it so we stop making our kids bad for telling the truth.

We want to be grateful.  We really do!  I mean, we all know that being grateful is highly rated.

We have the evidence.  The studies have been done.  It even changes our brains for crying out loud!

Most of us listen to Oprah.  Some of us even have gratitude journals.

For those of us who are God fearing, …isn’t it a sin to not be thankful?  Even ungrateful?

If you are reading this and your family is awesome, I am a little jealous, well maybe a lot jealous, and that is a good thing.  You are blessed.  And so are those of us who are in the other camp, the camp of “making it through”.  Or do we?  Do we really just have to “survive” it?  Isn’t there a better way?

We are responsible for our lives.  We have no one else to blame if we are unhappy during the holidays, not our Mother-in-law, not Uncle George, or the mean cousin.  We create our own happiness and our own experiences.

Some of us just need to work a little harder about how we navigate through the holidays.  And the choice is ours.  Will we be miserable or will we choose to create the Thanksgiving we want?(no guilt intended.)

I want to share with you strategies that I have learned to use in my life while navigating through the holidays.  I was tempted to call them survival strategies but that is a defensive statement.  Let’s instead live on the offense.  Instead of reacting, let’s have intention to create what we want.

These are life-giving practices we can all learn to cultivate in order to have greater satisfaction, joy and peace not only during the holidays but on a daily basis.

1.  Be proactive.  Take the time to be intentional to think and plan ahead of time.

What do you want your Thanksgiving to look like? ( no matter what the circumstances may be at the present moment).

Write it out.  Be specific.  If this is tough, sometimes it is easier when we think about what we don’t want.

Are you tired of “doing it all?”  Ask for help.  Have others bring something.  Buy some food dishes already made.  Do you want help setting the table?  Do you like to have someone in the kitchen with you to keep you company?  Play some music.  Music has a powerful way of changing our environment and creating fun and joy.  Take time to ponder those things that bring you joy.  One of the activities that brings my husband and I joy is to take a walk in the morning together and to play a game as a family.  Whatever it is, be intentional and set yourself up for success.

If you are going to someone else’s house, what are some situations that might arise that can trip you up?  Do you have an irritating relative that really gets on your nerves? How can you take care of yourself?

2. If you are married, have a conversation with your husband.  How can you support one another? If you’re not married think of someone else that is supportive.  One year, my husband and I had family over for the holidays and we switched roles.  Historically, he was the one who was in the corner grumpy.(I hate that) I was the one who would plaster a smile on and try to make up for his grumpiness. (Also known as “over-functioning”.  It is exhausting and  a great set-up for being resentful!)

Which leads me to my next life changing practice…

3.  Change it up.  Do something different.  As we reflected on the usual roles we play in  our families, we decided to do it differently.  We talked about how I  wouldn’t over-function and be “phony” as my husband called it, and he would stop being a “jerk” as I called it.  (And by the way, we have not over-come this, we have to regroup at every family event.)  We decided to make a game of it.  He focused on being more cheerful and I fought the urge to over-function.  Strategize on those things that are not working  in your family.  If your husband isn’t open, look at what you can do to more effectively engage with others.

4.  Have compassion. Understand where others are coming from.

I don’t mean to tolerate unacceptable behavior.  I am talking about looking at other’s behavior through a different lens.  Why does Aunt “So and So” go on and on talking about meaningless things?  Could it be she is hungry for attention or affirmation?  Why is a family member grumpy in the corner?  Maybe this is how they learned to protect themselves in the family.  I am not wanting to make excuses here, but realize that most of the time it doesn’t have to do with you.  Don’t take it personally. If you find yourself taking it personally, think about what you want or need to do about it and then work on letting it go.

5.  When you find yourself criticizing others, ask yourself, “Where is the log in my eye?”

Take full responsibility for how you play a role in whatever dynamics there are in your relationships.  You are not a victim.  Think about this one.  What could you do different in the way you respond to others?

Live a life free of blame.   How would you respond if you could not blame the other person. Believe me, this is hard to do.

6.  Allow other people to have their reactions.  They are only reactions.

Just like we desire to have our own opinions and reactions, allow others the same respect.  Does your Mom think your kids are out of control or makes comments under her breath?  What is true about it?  Fight the urge to be defensive.  Stand back objectively.  “Hmm…maybe she is right.  The kids are a little wild.  They are excited, and I don’t agree with my mom on how to discipline.  That is okay.  She can have her opinion and I can have mine.”  Once I started seeing the truth in what my mom said, and quit defending (well, half of the time), it lessened the tension.

It went something like this, “The kids don’t help you around here.  You are doing everything.”  Me – “You know what Mom?  You are right.  I don’t ask them to do enough.  I need to work on that.”  BAM!

7.  Have a sense of humor.  Lighten up and hold things loosely.

Humor keeps us from feeling like something is happening to us (victimhood).  Humor helps us to accept what is.  Humor lightens the load and the desire to control those things we can’t.

8.  Accept the present reality.

This is probably the hardest for me and the most painful.  Acceptance requires I sit in the discomfort of “what is”.

Hurt.  Anger.  Disappointment. Loss.  Sorrow.  Grief.

But, this is the place where we can learn and grow by practicing gratitude. (This calls for another blog entry).  Without struggles, conflict, pain or plain irritation, we wouldn’t need to grow.

Thanksgiving and practicing gratitude requires we look outside of our circumstances, and look to how we can be transformed from them.  

All of us are in the process of becoming…through our circumstances, whatever they may be…

Who will we choose to become?

Grace and peace,

Sheryl