Maybe It’s Your Confidence

Maybe It’s Your Confidence

When I was a teenager I started to bake. Not a whole lot and not anything too fancy. Mostly cookies; chocolate chip and peanut butter. My mom was awesome at baking pies and cooking as well. She made the best sweet potatoe pie I have ever had to date. Now this baking that I used to do came from my mom and a friend that she had. My mom’s friend had a daughter that was around the same age as me. Every now and again the mother and daughter would come over for a visit but the mother came over more by herself just to hang out with my mom. Every time my mom’s friend was going to come over my mom would ask me to make cookies. Peanut butter to be exact because my mom loved peanut butter cookies. I thought she was just asking me to make them because she loved them but I later found out that wasn’t all there was to it.

One day my mom and her friend were in the kitchen talking. I had already baked the cookies and was coming into the kitchen for something when I heard my mom tell her friend that I made the cookies from scratch. It took all I had not to burst out laughing because I most certainly did not (although the cookies were good)! I was not overly crazy about baking or cooking but I knew the basics and was fine helping my mom in the kitchen if need be. I most certainly was not a professional in the baking or cooking area. I later learned from my mom after her friend left that there was some motherly competition between the two moms and their two girls (we obvioulsy were oblivious to this). They were often bragging about us to each other and it kind of became a fun pass time between them.

When my mom became ill with cancer, it’s what she taught me that allowed me to cook when she was too sick to do so. But because at such a young age I kind of had to grow up to take on more responsibilities like cooking, cleaning, taking care of my little brother etc., I didn’t think that I would ever enjoy baking or cooking. Even when I got married (the first time) I would cook things and sometimes my husband would look at me, after he had eaten the entire meal, (bless his heart) and say “Yeah don’t make that one again.” Usually this happened with meals that I was trying for the first time, ya know, trying to step out of my comfort zone. So I would trash the recipe and continue on to cooking what I knew. It wasn’t that I couldn’t cook it was more so whatever it was that I was attempting to cook I wasn’t sure or confident that it would turn out well. I wasn’t certain that I knew what I was doing (and sometimes I didn’t) or confident that the meal would turn out well. I wasn’t certain that I could do this new recipe justice. I would try to make it my own and that would sometiumes backfire which made me lack even more confidence.

This lack of confidence in my cooking ability even translated over to group meals with friends. Some of my oldest friends will tell you when we were having a big meal together to avoid having to bring a dish and it not quite meet the standard I had set for myself, I brought the same things each time we gathered: corn on the cobb, hawaiian sweet rolls, drinks and I would make a cake or two. Sometimes I even threw in paper products LOL. That’s all they were getting folks. These friends were really great cooks and I was intimidated by that so I stuck to what was easiest and couldn’t really be criticized. But over the years after divorcing, being a single parent, and learning how to try new things, all of this gradually began to change. There are two things that will thrust you into stepping out of your comfort zone: being a military spouse and single parenthood. I started cooking more and even picked up some new recipes from other friends. The more that I started cooking things out of my comfort zone the more my confidence began to grow.

My confidence really bloomed more when I met my spiritual mother who is an amazing baker and cook. Over the years of getting to know her I learned more about different spices to use as well as trying different recipes in the baking area. As I practiced and started bringing new dishes to parties or group functions, I realized that not only did I like to cook and bake but I was also pretty good at it! My husband now is currently reaping a lot of the benefits from that. He thinks I can bake and cook anything! And truthfully there isn’t any recipe that I see now that intimidates me. I pull up new recipes all of the time and bake or cook them on a whim. Not just that, I will try a recipe for the first time and take it to a party or group function and not stress about it because I’ve become more confident in my ability to do so ( I also taste stuff before I bring it…..I mean I want to ensure it does taste good! LOL). I even cook without measuring now! And, sure, sometimes I burn things or it doesn’t turn out right but that doesn’t stop me or change my confidence.

The point to this story is somtimes we think we don’t like something or aren’t too good at doing something to include trying new things and in some cases this may be true. But sometimes it’s our confidence or lack thereof that is standing in the way. We allow the times that we have made mistakes or didn’t do as well discourage us from trying again. I know we’ve all heard the saying at some point in our lives “If at first you don’t succeed try and try again.”  The more we work at something the better we become and the better we become the more our confidence is built up. Don’t get discouraged and resort back to staying in your comfort zone.

Keep in mind that as you branch out and try new things; as you push the boundaries of your confidence people may come out of no where and say or do things that may be discouraging. They may not mean it to come off as discouraging but people don’t always see the back side of things. They don’t always know the work or effort that you’ve put into something before they respond in criticism. Sometimes they think they are helping you. Either way remind yourself that you won’t always have everything perfect but that’s not going to change the path that you are on. Keep going because soon enough you will see the results of all of your efforts and well, confidence in yourself and your abilities is always a great result.

Now I do bake cookies and cakes from scratch and I imagine that my mom is in heaven smiling down at me because I rose to the potential she knew I had. I bet she wishes she could call her friend and really get her brag on now! But what really warms my heart is knowing that she bragged on me anyway-before I came into my potential and confidence. You may not have someone bragging on you right now but brag on yourself! Consider it the beginning of your confidence building journey.

What Do You See?

What Do You See?

I often have conversations with people about different things happening in their lives whether it be work, personal or family related. It’s always interesting to see how different people’s perspectives can be on each subject. I think a lot of the time our perspectives are dictated by what we feel about the subject at the time. Sometimes we can have an overall positive perspective or a really negative one and honestly I think it depends on where we are is in our journey in life.

For example, when I was a single parent there were times where I was extremely overwhelmed. In those moments I had the tendency to look at my situation as hopeless or impossible. For me, one of the hardest parts about being a single parent were the amount of day to day decisions that rested solely with me. Sometimes I didn’t want to have to figure out how to get the kids from point A to point B or what I should do about certain issues they were struggling with. I also didn’t want to have to worry about childcare all of the time! I wanted the freedom to make plans with friends and have another parent available that I could trust to leave the kids with. But that just was not the cards I was dealt initially. Because I felt alone and frustated I would often see my situation as unfair. In some ways it might have been but it’s also about how I looked at the situation overall.

Another example of what we see or how we  perceive things might be in the work place. I have worked several jobs before where there were times where things were overwhelming or hard to push through. We spend more of our time at work during the week than we do with our family. If you do not enjoy your career or if you are going through a hard phase at work it can be very discouraging.  We want to enjoy what we do and it is very hard to go to a place day in and day out when you don’t like the environment or don’t want to be there. Have you ever had a moment where you’re just really irritated and you vent to someone who then comes back with “Well at least you have a job”? Sometimes in these moments I think people say these types of things to get us to look at the overall picture and to change how we see things in that moment. At times, it may work and help us take a step back to look at things with new lenses or it could make us more irritated because in that moment that’s not the point. We’re grateful for the job but we want to stay in that space of irritation so that someone can validate us.

Lastly, something our perspective can be skewed on is life in general. There are a lot of people that I know who have not had the best hand dealt to them in life. When I look at my life and the circumstances that I have been through I used to think about how unfair it was or how painful it was-and still is for some parts of my life at times. I’ve been divorced, a single parent, my mom died when I was 9 months pregnant with my first child (who was diagnosed with Aspergers-a high functioning form of autism at age 8), my dad died 4 years later when my second child was only 6 months, my mother in law at the time had just passed 6 months before my dad, each and every time I have had a child my spouse has been deployed and I have had to spend the first part of the child’s life handling things on my own (sleep deprivation is the worst!), not to mention I have birthed two of my children without their father present, and in one of the births I lost a lot of blood. I had to be readmitted to the hospital after being discharged a few days later for a total of 5 days. I had to spend time away from my new baby during that time because I had a uterus infection and preeclampsia. Whew! That’s a lot and that does not include the boughts of depression I experienced and overcame with God’s help.

If I take a look at all of these different experiences through the negative lense it’s easy to feel discouraged, frustated, let down, hurt, depressed. If I consistenly stayed in the thought process of how things didn’t go my way and I had to spend years of being a single parent, sacrifcing a lot of personal time (which still happens as a parent whether you have help or not) and shedding a lot of tears, I’d miss out on all of the good that came from that time frame in my life. I wouldn’t have been able to see and appreciate how God kept me. My bills were paid, my kids had all of their needs and wants met, God brought people into my life that helped encourage me, people who supported me, people who helped me with my kids and cared for my kids as if they were their own (I had an amazing support system with friends and church). If I choose to focus on the loneliness I felt for a large portion of that time I wouldn’t have been able to learn about God’s love and allow Him to fill that void in my life.

From the work perspective if I solely focused on the jobs I had where I felt like I couldn’t take another day, I’d miss out on the lessons God was trying to teach me in that business and how He was using me to bless and encourage others. I once worked at a storage business where people came in to store their personal household goods or even their cars. Towards the end of my time there I often felt like I was on the brink of losing my mind. The work environment was intense. It felt like if you were not constantly on your p’s and q’s you were minutes away from being fired (and people were getting fired!). I did not want to go and sometimes cried before going! But while I was there I didn’t allow myself to focus on the fact that I was miserable. I focused on doing the best job that I could. I put my attention towards making sure I was helping the business to run as effectively as possible. I provided excellent customer service and because we dealt with people often not being able to pay their storage bill for whatever reason, God used me to help bless people by negotiating with them to work out payment plans. I can’t tell you how good it felt when you have someone on the phone who went through a terrible divorce, didn’t have a job or a place to live and those personal belongings were all they had, to be able to work with them to ensure they didn’t lose everything! But if I was a disgruntled worker I would have missed out on countless moments to be present and allow God to use me to be a blessing.

In my life the things that I have been through, especially losing my parents, have been some major hurdles. I could let the loss of my parents at a young age be used as an excuse or a crutch to make poor decsions. I could have allowed the divorce I went through to make me and keep me bitter (because I was bitter at some point. Going through a divorce feels like processing a death of a loved one. It’s brutal!) but I instead focused my attention on being a better person, a better parent, and someone that my parents would be proud of should they have been around to see me go through these different stages in life. It really is about what we are seeing and how we let the experiences we go through in life determine how we handle things moving forward. Something that has stuck with me that my husband has said to me (when he is wise I have to roll my eyes because it’s true but I want to be all in my feelings LOL) was “So what your tire is flat, that’s going to happen. Don’t get so upset that it ruins your mood. A flat tire can be fixed easily. Just be grateful it wasn’t something much worse”. It’s a great reminder to not sweat the small things. Sometimes when I find myself in moments where I want to look at the things that aren’t working out in my favor God brings that memory to mind and I am able to regroup.

In the end we have to choose how we see things. We get to choose whether we are going to spend our time (which is already limited because we have so many things to do between work, family, etc.) focusing on the one thing that didn’t go right or the several situations in life that knocked us down or didn’t go our way. We get to choose whether we take a moment and see the beauty in the situation or to constantly let our mind and feelings determine that it’s all bad and no one understands. One of the most powerful and exciting reminders I got while reading my Bible the other day was 1 Peter 5: 8-9 which says “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for somene to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are.” The last part of this scripiture screamed out to me “You’re not the only one going through tough times!” It was a reminder that I am surrounded by people daily who are going through things I know nothing about and some of them choose every day to put a smile on their face and look at the beauty in life even though they’re dealing with cancer. Some of them lost a spouse and choose to show up smiling and honoring their spouse by celebrating the time that they did have together to love each other.

What do you see when you look at life? What do you see when you are going through tough times or when you’re surrounded by people who are dealing with difficult situations? Are you the person that always have something negative to say and can’t ever see the good or are you the person that chooses to speak life? If you find yourself always sad, angry, depressed or frustated I challenge you to look at things from a different perspective. Literally start to ask yourself “What do I see?” and if you start off with negative things start challenging yourself to see something else. Even if it’s one good thing….that’s what you need to focus on. It really can and will change your life for the better and not only that it will start to affect those around you in a positive way. It’s all about perspective. Start looking at situations as  learning experiences because that’s what life is. We are all on the journey of living and learning.

 

Let It Go

Let It Go

I tend to hang on to feelings a lot longer than I should. A part of me wants to redeem myself or make people see how their rationale for treating me a certain way does not make since and isn’t right. You can feel like you’re a really good person. You can know that about yourself. You know that you’re kind and caring and giving. These are all things I know to be true about who I am. I know that my goal is to be helpful and to bless people. I know these things to be true because I tend to treat people and do things for people based off of how I would want to be treated. I aim to love people and show them that love through my actions.

But what do you do when you feel like you have been there for someone and they have not consistently been there for you? What do you do when you feel hurt or let down in life or relationships? First of all, be grateful and secondly, learn to move forward in forgiveness. Be grateful that your eyes have been opened. If you’re anything like me you constantly want to see the good in people. I have stayed connected to people that I should have walked away from because I believe in the good in them. And truthfully I hate letting people down. I don’t want to be the person that is not there for someone I care about (even though I can say there were times that I’ve failed to be in some way). But walking away from a relationship does not always mean that the person is not a good person and that you’re a bad one. It does not mean that you don’t care about them as a person. It means that you care about yourself more. We have to stop thinking that caring about ourselves and what’s best for us makes us selfish. We cannot pour from an empty vessel.

I recently watched a sermon online and  the pastor was preaching on releasing things. Sometimes that can be ill feelings towards someone that we are harboring. It could be resentment. The release could also be a person but we have to let go because these things or people are literally holding us captive emotionally and mentally. Especially if we are in a particular space in life where we are looking for God to do something big. We are sometimes wanting God to do something major and we sit around wondering why we are still in the same place a year later (we have baggage).

I have come to a point where I no longer chase relationships. The people that value me and are meant to be in my life are already here and if they aren’t God will send them. If they aren’t meant to be I pray that God gives me the strength to let go and move forward. I used to chase relationships. If there was a disagreement or I felt like I did something wrong I would frequently be the one to initate repairing the broken pieces. It’s not that initiating or attempting to resolve conflict is bad but watch out for relationships that make it seem like it’s always YOU that’s the problem. I have apologized for issues that weren’t necessarily my fault just to move the relationship forward. This isn’t good if the other person takes no ownership in the situation. Everything isn’t always your fault and everything isn’t always the other person’s fault either. You both should evalute the situation and determine the role you played.

I stopped chasing relationships not because I didn’t value the relationship or the person but because I valued me! If it is easy or necessary for that person to walk away without attempting to resolve the situation or to communicate with you any further then you need to let them walk away. Let them walk away and don’t harbor any hard feelings. Understand that they are doing what’s best for them just as you are doing what is best for you. In that moment you are being released from a situation or relationship that wasn’t meant to go with you on your next journey for whatever reason. Trust God on that release. Personally I don’t want a relationship with someone who doesn’t want to talk about or confront issues. It’s how we learn and how we grow. And I don’t want to be in relationships where I give more than I get.

However, there are circumstances where you have to determine what discussing certain things resolves. What does it change? I had a moment one time where someone said somethng to me and in that moment I thought “Well that’s interesting. So you’re going to totally discredit everything that I’ve contributed to the relationship because I’m not who I once was?” That’s kind of painful and frustrating and I thought about taking the time to have a private meeting with them and then I thought no or maybe it was the holy spirit. The comment revealed more about the person than it did about me. And,well, why should I have this conversation when what they said made it clear what their expectations were. I don’t meet those expectations and wasn’t going to try. So if I wasn’t willing to make those changes then it wasn’t necessary for me to address it. And guess what? GOD KNOWS. God knows the things that I have done in the relationship. He has seen the good things (and the bad things!!!!) that I have done out of my heart. He has seen the sacrifices I have made and He is who my reward (and conviction for the bad things) will come from. I know without a shadow of a doubt that His reward will be bigger and better than any person could ever give.

So when you find yourself wrestling with resentment, hurt or frustration; when you find yourself hung up on the same issues remind yourself to let it (and sometimes the relationship) go! Especially if you’ve addressed or decided against addressing the issue and to move forward. You know who you are. It’s not necessary to try to constantly convince someone of that. Easier said than done I know. If you’re anything like me I have a replay button in my head and that sucker stays on a constant loop-reminding me of how I could have handled something better or how I feel misunderstood. But I am learning to press stop. I am learning that what has happened-well, has happened. I cannot change it. I care about my well being and peace more than I care about being right. (Trying and wanting to be right all of the time will mess you up! You’re not always right.) I don’t care to prove to someone that I am right or justified in my actions. I care to show my heart but you can’t make everyone see your heart or recieve you. I aim to let my character speak for itself and to focus on being a better me. I am content knowing that God has searched my heart and He knows what’s in it. He’s making it easier for me to release old habits, old ways of thinking, past feelings, past frustations and pain. He’s making it easier for me to let go of anything and anyone that is holding me back from where He’s taking me. Allow Him to do the same for you!