Transforming My Life

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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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Meditative Prayer for Our Relationships

flowers-13

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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A Thirsty Soul

Tunnel Wave

“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