Transforming My Life

one day at a time


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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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Meditative Prayer for Our Relationships

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May we open our eyes, ears and hearts to the relationships that are all around us.

What Jesus modeled and the central message of the Bible is how to live in relationship with God and with one another.

In God’s Word we are given many “one another” verses found in the teachings of the New Testament – love one another, forgive one another……

Prayerfully take some time to meditate on these “one another’s”.

 Allow these words to soak in. Consider what it would feel like to bring these “one-another’s” together into all your relationships. How would you live differently?  Imagine what would change in our hearts and the hearts of those we come in contact with daily if we lived these out.  What would that look like?  Can you think of any of these that you need to give to yourself or someone else in your life? 

  • Love one another.
  • Have peace and accept one another.
  • Be humble and do not judge one another.
  • Be like-minded and have the same care toward one another.
  • Instruct and teach one another.
  • Encourage one another.
  • Minister to one another.
  • Serve one another.
  • Bear with one another.
  • Be patient with one another.
  • Be kind to one another.
  • Do not lie to one another and forgive one another.
  • Comfort one another.
  • Confess your trespasses to one another and pray for one another.
  • Have compassion and minister to one another.
  • Be submissive to one another.
  • Have fellowship with one another.
  • Spur one another on to love and good deeds.  Love one another deeply from the heart.

God’s Word is so amazing.  These “one anothers” that God gives to us are so intricately woven together that one cannot exist apart from the others.  In order to stand on their own they must stand together. 

 However we mix them we cannot have one without another. In order to really love one another we must be compassionate towards one another. In order to truly honor someone we must be humble towards that person.  If we are to be patient we must bear with one another.  When we minister to one another we show we care.  To instruct and teach with wisdom and encouragement makes all the difference doesn’t’ it?  As we serve others we need to seek to be humble.  How are we to accept and build another up when we are passing judgment? As we show kindness, pray for, and encourage another they feel cared for and loved.   What a difference this would make not only in all of our relational encounters but also in our own hearts as well. Jesus modeled this perfectly for us in all of his relationships.  .

May we not live with judgement or condemnation but rather seek to live out what it means to love one another, God  and ourselves moment by moment….. one day at a time.

Peace and Grace,

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