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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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


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The Greatest Gift We Can Give

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I just left a friend after pouring my heart out about doubts and insecurities with my own value and self-worth.   I am so grateful for her willingness to simply listen without criticism and judgment.  I didn’t need her to “fix it” or tell me how valuable I was.  I just needed a safe friend to hold space for me in a time of discouragement.  I needed to feel heard and understood.

 I believe this is the most loving gift I can give to others and to myself.   A listening ear and the freedom to express feelings is a priceless offering I want to give to my children, my husband, and to others.  This can be uncomfortable and unfamiliar when I find myself unwilling to accept my own feelings.  I often judge and condemn my feelings or pretend they are not there.  I need to remind myself that there is no right or wrong with feelings.  They are what they are. The gift I can give to myself is the courage to risk opening up and sharing those parts of myself that I want to hide when they are screaming to be heard.  I need grace and compassion from others when I am unable to give it to myself.  I don’t need to be criticized or shamed.  I can do a good enough job with that on my own.  I often just need to get clear around what I am feeling.  At times like these, my thoughts get all jumbled up and I feel like I make no sense.  In these moments I tend to catastrophize.  Sometimes I need to yell and cry.

I love how Brene Brown says it in her book, Daring Greatly, “Empathy is a strange and powerful thing.  There is no script.  There is no right way or wrong way to do it.  It’s simply listening, holding space, with-holding judgment, emotionally connecting, and communicating that incredibly healing message of  ‘You’re not alone’.”

Empathy and understanding is what my family needs most from me.  They need to know I am a safe refuge for them to share themselves vulnerably.  Unfortunately, I have not always done a good job at this.  The more I am willing to be vulnerable with my deep flaws and accept and love myself, the easier it is to accept and love others.    The path of vulnerability is the place where I am learning to heal and find wholeness. When I love and speak truth to these parts of myself  I silence the Critic that lives inside of me.  If I can be a voice of love, acceptance and encouragement to my children when they are feeling ugly, messy and discouraged it will change the course of their lives.

Today when I left my friend, I had a huge weight lifted that was holding me down.  Life no longer feels all doom and gloom.  I am connected to myself again.  My thoughts are no longer all jumbled and I make sense.  Each day I am committed to loving and accepting myself for who I am because that is valuable and I am worth it.  You are too.

Love and Grace,

Sheryl


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The Hamster in Your Head

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We all have them!  Thinking patterns that spin around in our heads, sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously.  They keep us stuck and limit our happiness whether we recognize them or not.    Usually, these “hamsters”  strike most often when we are feeling vulnerable and exposed.  We might come upon situations in our lives that trigger fear, uncertainty, and feelings of rejection.  It is comforting when a friend reminds me, “It sounds like that hamster is in your head today spinning on his wheel!”   Sometimes it’s nice to know I’m not the only one.

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  Human beings all struggle with thinking that keeps them from fulfilling their potential.  These distorted beliefs hold us back from being successful and connecting with others.  These thoughts attack all areas of our life, social situations, taking healthy risks, and stepping out of our comfort zone .  This sucks our joy and keeps us from deeper relationships.

Let’s identify a few of these limiting beliefs and see if you see yourself in any of these:

“If only I was better looking, thinner, made more money, then……(fill in the blank)

 I am not enough.

If you really knew who I was you wouldn’t like or accept me.

I am not smart enough.  I am not good enough.

I am not lovable because…..(fill in the blank)

This relationship will never get better.

It is no use trying.  Nothing will change.

We all suffer from mistaken beliefs.  If we are willing to have courage to identify them, face them and do the work that we need to do, we can transform the way we think, one day at a time.  As the saying goes, “How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.”  This is a process that we must commit to if we desire lasting change in our lives.

elephant-21 A Certified Life Coach can help you to begin to change your thinking.  Here are a few steps to get you started.

1.  Log your thoughts.  In order to change your thoughts you need to able to recognize what is limiting you.  Keep a journal of what you are thinking and feeling. Note what you think is holding you back, i.e. from reaching out, taking risks  or engaging with others.  What do you believe will happen?  What are you afraid of?

2. Write down a column of your beliefs and another column of new beliefs to replace the lies. Many of our thoughts have to do with what we heard growing up and are simply not true.  We have to work through what we were taught and learn to replace these thoughts with new beliefs.

3.  Modeling –  If you want to lose weight, join Weight Watchers, if you want to run a marathon, join a running group or find a running buddy.   If you want to grow your business,   find a mentor or friend with who has successfully taken this path. There are many business development groups to help you set goals and keep you accountable.

4.  Support- Get around others who will accept you and can speak truth into your life.  When I am feeling discouraged, I call supportive people in my growth group to remind me of  my capabilities, gifts and when I am thinking thoughts that are not true.  They help to lift me up and cheer me on when I feel like giving up.

5.  Have a growth mindset.  Be willing to step out of your comfort zone and make mistakes.  In order to grow you need to be willing to fail and keep on going.  The only way to grow is to be willing to get in the game and play!

Join me on the journey,

Sheryl


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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.