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

 

 

 


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Letting Go of Trying to Control

I am struggling.  I am angry and I am sad.


I am in that  place again, between wanting to scream, pull my hair out and cry and then, shaming myself because I don’t want to feel the way I feel because the truth of how I feel isn’t how I think I “should” feel.  Making sense yet? 🙂  Well, if you have been in this place you know what I am talking about.

This is the place I go when I want to control someone else and I can’t.

Wanting to change another person never works.  Never.  So why do we think today would be any different?.

Focusing on someone else is always a distraction to changing me.

You know that whole speck and log in the eye thing?  What is the log that I am ignoring in my own eye?

What  am I wanting to avoid in my life that I am focused on someone else?  This is a great question to ask ourselves.

I can only control myself (this is difficult enough! Breaking old patterns takes commitment and humility).

If we could change those around us, we would never need to change ourselves.   And this is good news because this is how we develop character.

And when we stop trying to change someone else and want to develop our character we will….

You ready?  

We will…..

Take 100% Responsibility for our own life.

Taking 100% responsibility means that you own the fact that you have choices.  You may not be able to change the choices you have made in the past but you can choose how you will respond and what you will do with your future.  If you are unhappy change it.  This means you give up blaming and complaining and take 100% responsibility for you.

“But…”

“But…”

I know, it is easier to make excuses and blame others but this keeps us stuck.  You are not a victim.  I am not a victim.

We may be powerless over someone else,

But

We have the power to change ourselves and to create the life, the relationships and the joy and peace we desire.

But…

We must choose.

 

Until next time….

Grace and Peace,

Sheryl

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What kind of Parent are you?

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In Jennifer Wyatt’s book, Getting to Calm –  Cool -Headed Strategies for Parenting Tweens and Teens, she describes four parenting styles that can help us on the journey to creating healthier relationships with our teens.

Are you a kibosher?

This style is heavy on control, power struggles, and about who is more “right”.  This can result in guilt tripping, shaming, and lecturing.

*Do you tend to find yourself making heavy-handed attempts to control your teen?

*Do you find yourself making statements like, “You are grounded for a month.”  “How dare you talk to me like that!”

*Do feel responsible to put an end to your teen’s rudeness right then and there by coming down too hard?

*Do you find yourself trying to manage your teen’s behavior and their thoughts and feelings, too?

*Do you tend to lean towards “right” and “wrong”, “black or white” thinking?

By the time a teen reaches the teen years, a parent that is intent on pure control of rudeness and bad attitude can be in for a nonstop power struggle.  Constantly focusing on and trying to control your teen’s bad attitude, and trying to get it to change can bring a lot of strife and struggle.

This style of parenting damages the relationship with your child.

“Children reared by intrusive parents who demonstrate this kind of ‘Psychological control’ are more likely to show patterns of guilt, dependency, aggression, alienation, social withdrawal, low self-esteem, and depressed feelings.”  The paradox is that this style of parenting leads to exactly what no one wants – loss of control.

The Romantics –

This style of parenting swings to the opposite extreme of the kibosher’s.

*Are you excessively indulgent and permissive, without adequate authority?

*Do you have idealized notions of trying to be the perfect parent?

*Do you hover and find yourself trying too hard to stay close to your children?

*If you are honest about it, do you find yourself feeling needy to be liked by your teen?

If you fall into this category of parenting style you will find yourself struggling to hold your ground against your mouthy and moody teen.

“Rules and consistency – ingredients of good parenting – fall by the wayside.”

The Bouncers – 

This parenting style is a combination of the kibosh and the romantic.   These parents often guilt trip and shame only to find themselves feeling guilty and then caving in.

*Do you find yourself swinging between ruling with an iron fist one day and permissiveness the next?

*Do you find yourself overcome with outrage at your teen’s obnoxious ways and rush in to ground him for life?

*At other times do you find yourself too tired to take on your teen and give in and let it go?

The Shrewd Choosers –  

This is the most effective parenting style.

These parents are clear in their authority and at the same time there is ongoing give and take with their teen.  They pick their battles, based on parenting rule number one:  Keep a mostly positive relationship.

A useful standard is five to one.  Each negative interaction needs to be balanced with five positive ones.

“Teens are moody by nature, and shrewd choosers accept that their children might have negative feelings about them, particularly during this “individuation” phase of life – and especially when teens don’t get what they want.”  Expect teens to express their upset.  Whether dealing with a smart mouth or making a parenting judgment call, these moms and dads walk a fine line – they hold the standards and values they put into place while being open to negotiate new privileges when appropriate.

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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

Choose Beauty

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Look around you, no matter where you are there is something beautiful there.  Sometimes just by choosing to slow down when you are tired, stressed or upset changes how you perceive the world around you.

Allow yourself to sit down, to close your eyes, to breathe deeply.  Take 5 minutes, a half an hour or a half-day to rest.  No matter if it is a moment or an hour, give yourself the time you need to let go and breathe in the peace and replenishment that you need.  Ask for eyes to see and ears to hear, allowing your thoughts, prayers, and your whole being to choose, that, which is good.

Jesus asked the man, “What do you want me to do for you?” Mark 10:51-52

If we desire to live with full hearts, we must learn to be still and pay attention to what our hearts need. We cannot be expected to give and give and give.  We will only find ourselves burned out, stressed out and resentful.  In order to give we must allow ourselves to receive.

Try practicing this palms up, palms down exercise from Jan Johnson’s book, Practicing The Presence of God.  (Meditation written by me).

Find a quiet place and make yourself comfortable.  Begin to become aware of your breath.  You can close your eyes if you like.  Sit with you palms down and as you breathe, reflect on what it is that you need to surrender today.  Are you tired?  Discouraged?  Do you find yourself weary and overwhelmed, not knowing how you are going to get everything done?  Maybe there an upsetting situation that you find yourself in, something out of your control?  As you continue to breathe imagine yourself releasing these burdens and worries to God, whatever they may be.  As you do this begin to turn your palms up and imagine releasing these to God.

Now, with palms up, allow yourself to breathe in what  you need in this moment from God.

Could it be trust, faith, or a willingness to let go of something you are holding so tightly?  Imagine God lovely standing beside you taking your clenched fist, softly touching your hand and telling you,  “What is it you want me to do for you?”

Picture yourself receiving from God.  Imagine yourself receiving an overflow until your palms can’t contain it!

 “God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.” Ephesians 3:20-12 The Message

 May we choose beauty for this day, in this moment.

Grace and Peace,

Sheryl

Please share with me if these meditations have spoken to you in any way. I would love to hear from you.


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A Thirsty Soul

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“Come, all you who are thirsty, 
 come to the waters; 
and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! 
Come, buy wine and milk 
without money and without cost.

 Why spend money on what is not bread, 
and your labor on what does not satisfy? 
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, 
and you will delight in the richest of fare. (Isaiah 55:1-3)

In this moment I am SO thirsty.  I’m not talking about the panicky, “got to get a drink or I’ll pass out” thirsty (although, I  just filled up my glass for the third time because I’ve been running around all day not taking the time to take a drink) but rather the more subtle, whisper beckoning me to come, slow down and fill up my parched and weary soul.

I can be so aware of my need for water but ignore the signs of my thirsty soul.  When I say a thirsty soul I mean the parts of ourselves that need attention, care and filling up.  The parts of ourselves that are exhausted, weary and crying out that we have nothing left to give.

Dallas Willard put it well when he said, “Our soul is like the silent, invisible yet necessary Central Processing Unit (CPU) of our person.  Our soul and thus our soul’s health, is the driving force behind everything that matters.”

In the next series of blog posts I am going to be exploring this topic of caring for our soul.  Caring for your soul matters.  It affects how you feel, how you relate to others and the amount of joy and satisfaction you are going to experience in all areas of your life.  If we can become more aware of our soul’s cries, we can begin to give it more of what it needs.  We can choose to experience the richest of fare by having a deeper connection with ourselves, God and in our relationships.

I would love to hear what feeds your soul.

Grace and Peace,

Sheryl


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Growing our Souls through Loss

Lone Maple Tree

“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