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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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

motivational-wallpaper-16-22

 

 

 


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Stop Trying So Hard

poohquote1Stop what you’re doing.  Take a deep breath and then another.  Relax.  Take the time now to check in with yourself.  What are you feeling?  Where is your tension?  What are you telling yourself is going to happen?  Are you catastrophizing?   Stop.  It is all going to be okay. You have been running around too much today, your mind somewhere else. You do not need to take responsibility for so many things when they do not belong to you.  The fear and anxiety of what will happen if you lay them down.  I know.  It’s scary.  You can do it.  Turn them over.  That’s right, release them.  Surrender.

Matthew 11:28-30 “Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (NLT)

All of these burdens are like boulders in our backpacks that we need to lay down.   Many of them have names.

Fear, Hurt, Anger, Disappointment, Shame, Betrayal, Scarcity…..

If we let them go, then what?  We may not get what we want, but maybe we will get what we need.  Can that be okay?   Maybe there is some plan or purpose we are unable to see.  The less we try to force our way, and our will, the more natural life flows and can fall gently into place.  If we will just allow it to.

It may feel like God has abandoned us.  He hasn’t.  He has been here all along.  He is working it out, in His way, in His time.  He knows.  He hears.  He cares.  So relax.  Take a deep breath.  And know….God wants you.

God, help me to trust enough to let go of the things that I am trying to control and bring my “boulders” and burdens to you.  Help me to believe and know that you love me more than I can imagine and you have me and my concerns in the palm of your hand. 

Grace and Peace,

Sheryl

God-Doesnt-Want-Something-From-Us


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Celebrate Surrender

copy-th3-e1393117170985.jpegLet’s choose to celebrate today.  Surrender this day.  Let’s just try it.  Quit the striving. Believe we are enough.  That there is enough.  Enough time.  Enough of us to do what we need to do.  Enough of God’s loving care to help us through whatever we are facing and going through.

Rest.  

Trust.  

Let go.  Believing God longs to show us compassion and is abounding in love.  If we choose to believe this, maybe we can relinquish some of the control we so desperately hold on to. Worry.  What are we worried about?  “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?”  (Matthew 6:26)  If God takes care of the birds, will He surely not take care of us?  How often I miss the feast because I am too busy making mud pies. (C.S. Lewis said something similar but way better)  We all need a little grace today. Let’s choose grace.  Believe in it.  Live it.  Radiate it.   

Live Abundantly.

Believe there is enough.

You are enough.

Just the way you are.

 

Fix your eyes on what is true, noble and good.

Imagine….

Letting go of who you think you need to be

Embracing who you are.

 

You are worthy of love, belonging and joy.

Stop struggling and striving.

No more perfecting, and performing.

 

Honor vulnerability.

Be.  Where you are now.

Give yourself permission to be imperfect.

Let in the love.  Let in the compassion.

The grace in all that is good.

 

Courage to…

Feel, to

Throw off the mask, to live

Free from the expectations of others,

to say no, to say yes, to be true to yourself.

 

Celebrate

who you are.

your children, your spouse.

Picture each of them.

Acceptance, freedom

to be imperfect, flawed,

Permission to be yourselves.

No matter what, you belong.

 

Unique.

Each of us.

Beautiful

Just as we are.

 

Let in the love.  Let in the compassion.

Love with your whole heart truly, deeply,  

And Dare Greatly.

The themes of my poem,  I took from Brene Brown’s book, Daring Greatly, which I love and highly recommend!

Grace and Peace,

Sheryl

treeoflife


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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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If we were to change the world….

Blue-Nature-wallpaper

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 Power of Gratitude

green-nature-dual-monitor

“Say thank you, until you mean it.  Thank God, and the universe for everyone and everything sent your way.  Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.  It turns what we have into enough, and more.  It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.”  Melody Beattie, The Language of Letting Go

I am working on practicing gratitude in my life.  It is easy for me to get focused on what is not right in my life, what needs “fixing”.   I  wring my hands and think, oh if only this was different, if only I was better at…., if only they would change.   I can look at my own life and be disappointed and disillusioned with choices I have made, messy and broken relationships and what is not the way I want it to be.

Then I remind myself, oh yes, gratitude….Really?  Do I have to be grateful for this?  Ugh.  I don’t want to.  Misery can feel so comforting to me at times.  I can feel so helpless and powerful all at the same time when I am stuck in this place of self pity.  But it is not kind.  I am learning to be kind to myself.  Gentle with myself.  To show myself grace and compassion.  Trust.  Let go.  Learn.  Grow.  Make the changes I need to make for myself.   And stop looking to change someone else in order to feel okay.  This is a process.  This process takes time.  One day at a time.  One moment at a time.   I can choose to accept and love myself  just the way I am.  I am beautiful, just the way I am.  Being real and broken is a beautiful thing.  The lessons God wants to teach me I am convinced I would not learn any other way.  And if I could choose another path I am not so sure I would  like that way either.

I choose today to be grateful.  To live this one day to the best of my ability.  To love, accept and be kind to myself and to practice extending the same grace to others.  To change what I can and trust God for the rest.  Embrace today, be grateful today, and love.

God, grant me the Serenity
To accept the things I cannot change…
Courage to change the things I can,
And Wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as the pathway to peace.
Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it.
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His will.
That I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with Him forever in the next.
Amen.


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what it means to care

The friend who can be

silent with us

in a moment of despair

or confusion,

who can stay with us

in an hour of grief

and bereavement,

who can tolerate 

not knowing, not curing,

not healing,

and face with us 

the reality of our

powerlessness,

that is the friend 

who cares.


HENRI NOUWEN

Out of Solitude

God, I need so much help in this area.  I realize how often I would rather have the answers and make it all better for someone else or tell them what they need to do rather than really listen to their heart.  I know my family would especially attest to this.  Who do I think I am to know better than you or the other person what they need?  Help me to trust the path that you have each person on and to know that each of us has the answers we need within ourselves if we are willing to find them.   Help me to let go and let you be God.  Help me to be the kind of person who is less about me and more about knowing what it means to really listen and to “be” for someone else.  Help me to get comfortable just BEING and not needing to fix it or make it better.  There is nothing more powerful than someone who has been willing to sit with me and allow me to FEEL what I am feeling and have where I am be okay.  In  your name and your power  I pray.  Amen


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Loving Ourselves Unconditionally

I woke up this morning with those familiar critical voices playing in my head. I was on a retreat this weekend where we talked about learning to better love and accept ourselves.  One of the things I learned is I am always a choice away from becoming more of  the magnificent self that I was created to be.  I can choose to love myself.  I realized that criticizing myself  and comparing myself to others is more familiar.  It also keeps me small and holds me back.   I love this quote from Marianne Williamson because it challenges me.  Maybe it is not that I love beating myself up, maybe it is that I fear living a bigger and more abundant life…..

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” Marianne Williamson

What would my life look like if I believed I was loved and lovable and began to daily practice living it?

Love yourself into health and a good life of your own.  Love yourself into relationships that work for you and the other person.  Love yourself into peace, happiness, joy, success, and contentment.  Love yourself into all that you always wanted.  If we have learned to see ourselves critically, conditionally, and in a diminishing and punishing way, it’s time to stop.”

“How do we love ourselves?  By forcing it at first.  By faking it if necessary.  By “acting as if”.  By working as hard at loving and liking ourselves as we have at not liking ourselves.” Melody Beattie

Do things for yourself that are nurturing and compassionate towards yourself.  Love and accept all of yourself – past, present, future.

When you find yourself beating yourself up, show yourself kindness, gentleness and grace.  Be a friend to yourself.

Tell yourself good things about yourself – affirm yourself.  Forgive yourself quickly and often.  Encourage yourself.

Don’t treat yourself like a pack mule, always pushing and driving harder.  

Do not unnecessarily deprive yourself.  Sometimes, give yourself what you want, just because you want it.

Stop explaining and justifying yourself.  When you make mistakes, let them go.  We learn and grow, and we learn some more.  And through it all, love yourself. (Thoughts and ideas taken from Melody Beattie).

Choosing to love myself one day at a time,

Grace and peace, 

Sheryl