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.

 

Find Your Why

Find Your Why

Lately, well a little more than lately- I’ve been working on this side project. The more I dive into it, the more I am learning things about myself that should have been obvious but only just became clear through this process. I have been reading a book called Business Boutique that’s directly related to my project. What I like most about this book, aside from the knowledge Christy Wright supplies, is how it really opens me up for self reflection. It has helped me focus more on my strengths and less on my weaknesses. It has helped me clearly put together a plan based off of my strengths and values as a person. The more I read, the more exciting aspects of my life that I am looking forward to exploring are revealed. Through reading this book it has helped me identify what brings me genuine happiness in what I do.

A question she frequently poses is what’s your why? Why do you do the things that you do or want to do? I’m naturally encouraging. I like encouraging people. I enjoy letting people know that they are not alone and there is someone who will listen; someone who will understand or not judge them. I mostly thought that this was my why. Upon further reflection and prompting from the questions asked in this book, I started really thinking through things throughout my life. The book references so many times people saying “I’ve always enjoyed knitting.” or I’ve always enjoyed creating or painting” but for several chapters I couldn’t really find my “I’ve always enjoyed…” until recently. See, I knew I always enjoyed encouraging people but what I really enjoy is how God opens doors for me to encourage people in simple, but powerful ways.

I’ve always enjoyed blessing people in ways that makes whatever gift is given personalized. Because words are my love language and because I value gifts that I know specifically speak to me as a person, I thoroughly enjoy giving items, gifts or words of encouragement to people where it personally speaks to them. Over the last year or so I have started making gift baskets as presents for people. Whether it be for birthday, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Christmas etc. I deeply, deeply enjoy making these baskets and the shopping that goes along with making the baskets. Now anyone that knows me knows I strongly dislike shopping! But it’s something about going out and picking specific items that I know a person would enjoy that just brings me so much joy. I’m always excited to give these baskets because I hope that through the items I picked just for them the person can see my heart and intent behind it. Life is so short. The people you care about need to know without a shadow of a doubt that they’re important to you and that you care. Knowing how encouraging or happy these baskets (sometimes I use a box) make people feel is apart of my why.

Another part attached to my why are personalized, hand written cards I mail out to people. My goal is to mail 2 per week. These cards are meant to encourage and uplift people; to remind them that even if they’re struggling or hurt or overwhelmed that they still matter. They’re important and amazing and loved. The feedback I receive blesses me more than anything else. When people tell me they tack it to a board in their home and when they have a bad day they read it and it encourages them or that they carry it around with them as a reminder or that it’s exactly what they needed to hear on that day in that moment it seriously warms my heart and touches me to tears. I’m grateful that God allows me to bless people that way. There is so much harshness in this world. People are often struggling in ways we cannot comprehend and in ways they may never say. It costs nothing to be kind. It costs nothing to encourage someone but saying nothing when you had the chance could cost someone everything.

So with all of that being said, my why is simple. Because I have had experiences in my life where I’ve felt alone and because I know how it made me feel to have someone see my pain and say something encouraging I make it a goal to pay it forward. I’ve had moments when I was falling apart and didn’t want to deal with another second of the day and someone would give me a small gift or a card and it would change my whole mood. It would give me hope and well, who doesn’t need hope? So whatever you do- at work, at home, with friends, at church, in your community, find your reasoning for connecting with others and it will change your perspective. It really can help you be more passionate about your purpose, find joy in what you do, and help you be a conduit to changing someone’s life.

Misplaced Frustration

Misplaced Frustration

Part of a prayer book I’m reading says to write a letter that confesses your fears and joys of parenting. Experiences, I suppose,of what you’re feeling in the moment. Some days I feel like I’m present and that I’m at least doing the basics but here lately I’d say at least over the last 6 months if I’m not yelling then I’m extremely frustrated. Micah may not remember this stage-thank God- as he’s a baby but Ari probably thinks I don’t like her or that everything she does is wrong or that I’m mad at her all of the time. It’s a mixture of so many different emotions.

I feel like there are so many different stages of the reality of parenting and when you hit that you stage you spend a certain period of time wondering how long you’re going to be in that stage. (i.e. how long am I going to have to keep telling them to clean up after themselves? Like this has been going on since they were 2? They’re 11 & 14). I have very smart, funny, loving kids. There are some days and some moments in very hard days where they really make me laugh with something they say or do. While Sam doesn’t live with me during the school year, it’s nice to get to face time her and get to hear about her day or listen to funny stories that she tells. Her sense of humor is really quirky. Ari is over the top melodramatic. All of the time. But she’s also really sweet, helpful, and way more self sufficient than even I realize at times. She can cook, clean, do her hair, do her laundry, and get herself off to school. Pretty good for a middle schooler. Micah is still a little person and requires a lot of attention, but he, too, is making his way towards independence. My number one thing I’ll be glad for him to learn how to do is use the toilet!

But in all of those things that I can see right now in my head as I am writing, they aren’t what’s seen in day to day life. It’s the frustrations of repeating the same things over and over again. Asking the same questions that you asked a few moments ago because you’ve given directions but nobody has done what you’ve asked. Repeating the same rules. If anyone lives in their house with a master negotiator like Ari then you get it. It’s exhausting to have to constantly repeat no because she will creatively ask the same question in a different format. So I find myself yelling a lot more than I used to and she feels that. She even says “please don’t yell” before asking a question sometimes and that kind of makes me wince. Which then puts me in a head space of man I suck!

Honestly sometimes our response to our kids is not about them or something they’ve done. Sometimes it’s more about us and the stressors we are carrying around. Being an adult is difficult. There are mounds of bills to pay on a monthly basis-watch out for the unexpected ones. We are balancing work and the high demands of the job, friendships, along with marriage or significant others.Volunteering in ministry or giving our time elsewhere. Then we have to make time for ourselves- How? Where’s that extra time coming from? Along with trying to care for and manage these little people who come with their own set of problems, illnesses, friendships, extracurricular activities, jobs, feelings, and needs. It’s a lot for all parties involved. And sometimes we are already on the brink of losing it then something our kid says or does sends us over the edge. Doesn’t make it right but it happens. I can tell you in most situations that what’s been happening with my yelling episodes.

As I’ve come to recognize that, I’ve gotten better at taking the time to take a deep breath and go- Ok don’t do this or fix this or change that- in a much calmer tone. I am better able to communicate with my kids because I am recognizing where the source of my frustration is coming from. That’s not to say that sometimes they aren’t the source! Hello! All parents know that at times they are the main source. I have had to send myself to my own room for a time out on behalf of my kids LOL. But this is just a reminder that sometimes we miss the beauty in our kids and in parenting because we are letting outside things affect our mood and set the atmosphere in our home. What could potentially be a great teaching moment turns into us being angry and the child being sad or frustrated because of misplaced feelings. We’ve all done it. We’re all learning, no matter what stage of parenting we are in.

Just be grateful for God’s grace because kids are resilient and forgiving beings. They continue to love us even when we are less than favorable towards them or unfair at times. I thank God for that! At the end of the day if you’re like me, you’re just praying to God that the little people He has blessed you with will continue to grow into the amazing people you’ve been praying and trying to shape them into.

Even When You’re Unsure

Even When You’re Unsure

So I took a break from writing my blog just for a little bit just to regroup and reflect. Sometimes in doing things we find ourselves getting burned out or the outcome isn’t quite what we expected so then our confidence wavers.

I’ve had moments when I’ve thought “What’s my purpose with writing this blog today? What’s my goal?” I don’t want to just be writing my thoughts just to be writing. Part of my goal is yes, to get my experiences out there, but the other part of the goal is to touch someone or to motivate someone or more than anything help someone know they aren’t alone.

I’ve walked through so many stages of life where even though I was surrounded by people I felt like not a single person understood the depths of the pain I felt. I still have moments like that right now. So I write to connect with others in hope that they’ll know that they aren’t isolated in what they’re experiencing.

I recently told someone that I was taking a break from my blog because I didn’t know what God wanted me to say. And that’s true. But also confidence in who I was at that time was wavering a little (still is wiggling a little bit but who’s isn’t?). I was balancing a lot. I had been through a scary experience. I was exhausted in ways I hadn’t been in years. Mentally I could hardly get through the day sometimes without crying. And honestly I didn’t think anyone wanted to hear what I had to say anyway.

But it’s in those moments, when you’re unsure….when you don’t know exactly how you feel or what you bring to the table, when you’re in the rawest form of yourself that you should share with others. That’s when you should write and be around people. That’s when people relate to and connect with you the most because it’s the rawness of your life that’s touching the rawness of their soul and telling them that they can make it through another day. Don’t let your uncertainty convince you that there’s still not power inside of you. I’m still reminding myself that people want the transparent version of me not the cookie cutter, put together version. You should remind yourself of that too.

Even when you’re unsure share where you’re at. How else will you move past uncertainty to being absolutely certain? You won’t know until you start actually doing the very thing that you’re afraid of or that’s holding you back. The definition of certain is “known for sure; established beyond doubt”. Some synonyms to accompany that definition are unquestionable, sure, and definite. So we can’t build our confidence, Faith, or certainty in anything without letting go and taking a chance and then once that chance is taken we are standing on something that is unquestionable, sure, established beyond doubt and well that’s my goal: to move from uncertainty in myself to being visibly certain of who God says I am.

Choose You

Choose You

I’m sitting here today writing this after coming back from an amazing experience in Nashville, TN. I was there for a conference called Business Boutique and I got so much more out of it than what was expected in my reasoning for going. I went alone, which was kind of scary and then kind of liberating. I didn’t have to engage in unwanted or awkward conversations. I could read my book without many interruptions. I walked around and took my time doing things I wanted to do. I didn’t have to worry about anyone else’s thoughts, desires or opinions but my own. I spent a lot of time just being quiet and taking in everything around me.

As I stated in my previous post, I am going to be speaking on and addressing issues of co-dependency I know that I struggle with. One of them being people pleasing. People pleasing is described as follows: “It’s fine to want to please someone you care about, but codependents usually don’t think they have a choice. Saying no causes them anxiety. They go out of their way and sacrifice their own needs to accommodate other people.” I struggle with this a lot. I’m not sure if I have all of my life or if this is something that manifested in me and I never really recognized how much feeling like this clouded my decisions about me. I convince myself that by sometimes just saying “No, I can’t do that.” or “No I can’t be there.” that I will disappoint people and then they will walk away or no longer want a relationship. In my most recent relationships that are newly formed I don’t have this problem as much. I am comfortable saying no but I often find myself feeling bad about that too!

But honestly, disappointing people is a reality. People are not always going to be happy with your response or with you not being able to do the things that they feel they need from you. While it’s important to show up for those you care about and love, your well being and priorities are important too. Sometimes what needs to get done or who needs help may not be on your priority list that day and guess what? That’s ok. It doesn’t make you a bad person. It makes you a responsible one.

The problem I created for myself (especially in friendships) is that once I made myself available to those around me, because I genuinely want to help or be there, it became harder for me to step back and say no. Instead of setting up priorities for me I made everyone, and I mean everyone, a priority over any and everything I needed. Which then lead to doing things out of fear or obligation. Which then lead to being overwhelmed and frustrated and then further lead to other feelings and emotions that I didn’t understand or couldn’t process.

Going to this conference was a big deal because I, for the first time in so many years, walked against my own thoughts and fears. Instead of really focusing on doing something else that I could have been doing for someone else I focused on something that I needed to do for me. I tried to get out of it several times but thank God for a husband that won’t let me quit on me, who won’t let me take the easy way out because it’s comfortable for me.

I know we have all at some point heard that making someone happy is not your job. Making yourself happy is. Everyone is responsible for their own happiness. As many times as I’ve heard this, it was not until this decision on whether to go to this conference was presented that I actually truly understood it. I even said it to my husband when he said “Babe, I just want to make you happy.” and I responded “That’s not your job. It’s mine.” And I love him too much to let the burden of my happiness rest solely on him. It’s for me to figure out and it’s unfair to have him jumping through hoops to try to achieve something that only I can achieve within myself and within my heart.

So every time you think about making a decision that solely rests on making someone happy over doing what is best for you, your life, your family, your priorities remind yourself that if this person’s happiness rests solely on you (which if they love you I’m sure it doesn’t! They want what’s best for you) then your need to re evaluate that relationship and establish different boundaries. It’s ok to choose yourself.

Living Freely

Living Freely

I want to be free. Truly free. I don’t want to be caught up constantly in my own thoughts and feelings. I no longer want to carry around the same feelings, frustrations, and pain that I have carried with me for years. I am sure that there are so many of us who want the same thing. At times, we can feel like we are in a cage-emotionally and mentally bound and no matter how hard we try we just can’t break through. I can see freedom but I don’t feel like I can obtain it. But I do know that this is not how God intended for me to live.

I recently started going to therapy and on my second session my therapist said “I’m going to say this and you may say no but I want you to look it up and think about it-Codependency.” And I said “Yes, that’s me.” See at my church we have a group called Celebrate Recovery. So many times people have shared their testimony and how being apart of this group of people all trying to break free of something has really helped them. I didn’t really think too much of it until one Sunday morning, some of the people from Celebrate Recovery shared their testimony on how God had healed them from certain things. As I listened one testimony stood out to me, and it was from someone talking about how God had delivered them from codependency. From that moment on that phrase just stuck with me. I had so many moments when I thought I should have been attending Celebrate Recovery but I talked myself out of it!

But now being in therapy I am ready to face it because I am tired of living this way. I yearn to walk into what God has prepared for me. I know that until I start addressing some of the things that I am dealing with and allowing to hold me back that I will continue to live in the same vicious cycle. For the next few blogs I want to talk about what co-dependency is in hopes that some of the symptoms and how they affect me will help someone recognize these symptoms in themselves and search for freedom. I know that God can heal us and free us of anything but we have to be willing and open to address these issues and the pain we are harboring in order to reach freedom. We can’t want to be free and then not do anything to, well, get free!

The symptoms of codependency are shame and low self-esteem, people pleasing, poor boundaries, reactivity, care taking, control, dysfunctional communication, obsessions, dependency, denial, problems with intimacy and lead to painful emotions. I want to touch on shame and low self esteem which is summarized as “Not feeling that you’re good enough or comparing yourself to others is a sign of low self esteem. The tricky thing about self esteem is that some people think highly of themselves, but it’s only camouflage for feeling unlovable and inadequate. Underneath, usually hidden from consciousness, are feelings of shame. Some of the things that go along with low self esteem are guilt feelings and perfectionism. If everything is perfect, you don’t feel bad about yourself” (whatiscodependency.com).

What stood out most to me in this summary was people thinking highly of themselves but it’s camouflage for feeling unlovable and inadequate- and the statement about perfectionism. I think that I am a great person. I think that I am intelligent, funny, caring, and understanding. I don’t think I’m perfect but often times find myself feeling like I don’t meet the standards of those around me. I feel inadequate. Often times these standards are things I’ve made up! Let’s be real-have you ever found yourself forgetting to do something or making a mistake and then convinced yourself that your husband or coworker or friend is upset with you but they haven’t said anything to you at all? They haven’t even given off the indication that they’re upset?! I convince myself frequently that my husband will be upset with me about something and he’s like “Nope. I think you’re doing great!” I think this goes along with perfectionism. I want to do everything right. Although I know I’m not perfect, I want to do everything perfectly to my or someone else’s expectations. Of course, realistically, I can’t always do things perfectly.

So……listen. I am going to put this as simply as it has come to me…..You can make a mistake, you can disappoint someone, you can unintentionally hurt people, you can do things but not do them perfectly and you are still a great person. You are still intelligent, funny, caring, and understanding. Your mistakes don’t take away from who you are. You can’t make a mistake and then God goes ok subtract the smart or caring characteristic from this person. There is no one sitting around subtracting from your greatness because you aren’t operating in perfect order. If you are struggling with your self esteem I challenge you (and I am going to do this too!) to start leaving notes for yourself. Write down confirmations like I am smart, I am loved, I am successful, etc. And together we can witness to and encourage each other on the growth and change we will see from speaking life over ourselves. Let’s get healed together. Let’s be free!

Keep Asking

I’m the type of person that if I ask for something a few times and I don’t get what I’ve asked for or a resolution to the issue I’m asking for assistance on I’ll stop asking. I’ll conclude that it won’t change or I’m not going to get an answer and I’ll attempt to just deal with it or work around it.

I was talking to someone the other day and I was saying “I don’t want people to be like me. If you need help keep asking until you get it. Keep asking until your questions are answered.” And even then it didn’t sink in to me what I was saying.

If you have kids or you’ve been around kids long enough you know they are some persistent little beings! When they really want something they will hunt you down, bug you, harass you to no end! They will not stop until they get an answer. They will not give up until you’ve given them what they want or need or give them resolution to their solution. Wow! We should be more like that.

The Bible says in Luke 11: 9-13 to ask and keep asking and it will be given to you! If there is something you are needing from God- if there is something you need answers, clarity or knowledge on keep asking. Don’t stop. This applies to life in general! If you need help with a project or help with your kids-help at home, help at work keep asking. Don’t settle for no replies and silence. Don’t set your self up to keep carrying things and then they get heavier and heavier until you can’t deal.

Listen, (and I’m talking to myself here) people cannot help you with what you don’t tell them you need help with. We have to stop seeing the need to ask for help as a weakness. My husband has said to me many times that asking for help is a sign of strength. You can’t do everything on your own. We want to because we want people to think that we got it handled and we are all put together like a present with a nice red bow on it.

People are hurting inside and falling apart because they won’t say “I need help with this.” “I can’t handle all of this”. Don’t be that person. If you are asking for help and not getting it keep asking! Don’t stop making your needs or requests known. So much stress is carried that’s not necessary because we won’t ask and then keep asking. God hears you and sees where you’re at. Ask Him for help and I promise He will send it!