The glove of indirectness

POD #21: The glove of indirectness

I sometimes make assumptions, probably more than I should.  If I don’t understand something I don’t have a problem directly asking questions until I do understand.  However, if something is said that could just be misinterpreted, I might not ask for clarification.  Not because I can’t, but because I assume I might not like the answer,  I might not want the true interpretation because it might hurt more than what I heard.

I could make an assumption that they meant to hurt me, which creates a distance in our relationship.  If I am hurt, I might withdraw and then they might not try to see what is wrong.  So the distance grows.  One punch in our relationship might not cause me to fall.  However, with enough misunderstandings that are never cleared, I’m down for the count and then the relationship might end prematurely – all because of what could be a misunderstanding.

Instead, I have another Jackie-ism that I use when I have interpreted something someone close to me or important to me says that I receive with hurt feelings.  I ask myself “What is their heart towards me?”

See people who are not important to me, they don’t have a heart towards me, I can shrug off what they say with “If it had been anyone else.”  However, if they are important to me, I know that their words have power.  So instead, I look at what they would mean to impart into my life so I can see what they are saying in light of constructive criticism instead of hurtful banter.  I can again decide if it is something that I need to work on in myself, allow God to work in through me, or if they are speaking out of their own situation at that moment.

box-1331470_1920If I know their heart towards me is good, I will eventually discuss with them what was said.  I generally wait because if I’m hurt, my lion personality will come out and I will directly cause more pain in our relationship than they ever meant to.  Plus that gives me time to do the soul-searching on the truth behind what was said.  Then I can come back to them with “Man that hurt me when you said…” or “Man, what you said the other day really gave me pause.  Thank you for caring enough about me to bring that to me.  I realized I really needed to work in that area, nd here is what I was thinking….”

What I am not good at directly communicating, is my needs.  First and foremost, it is hard to me ask because I generally don’t know what I need.  My life is content.  But, on the occasions when I do find myself in need, I really do have to work up courage to ask.  Usually I remind myself “You have not, because you ask not.” and “The worst thing that can happen is they say no – and you’ll be no different from now.  But they could say yes.”

Sometimes I assume others know what I want.  I especially do that with those close to me.  I think that they should know me well enough to know I want presence over presents.  I prefer service over material things.  I want quality time together over quantity of time.  These are things I believe that people close to me should know. When they fail to live up to my expectations, then I remind myself I am not a mind reader, and others probably are not either.  If I get upset enough by those needs getting met, then I will ask for time or share how I feel.  However, even then I wait a bit because again, when I’m hurt that lion personality comes out and every negative trait about it surfaces.

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It ain’t about you

POD #20: It ain’t about you

If your words have power is the first of my Jackie-isms, the second would be “If it was anyone else it would bother me.”

I remember the first time that this thought came to me.  I was sitting in a meeting at work.  We were, as a group, planning to participate in Relay for Life in honor of our county manager who passed away from cancer.  I was a new kids on the block in our office, but I loved our manager.  He was just an all around great guy.

We were brainstorming ideas.  I threw out an idea, and one of the “old-timers” who had been at the office for decades shut me shot me down.  It wasn’t just a polite “no, that probably wouldn’t work.”; he really belittled the idea.  Many of the people in the room looked at me in pity for how he had treated me – publicly.   I was in shock, and hopefully showed little response.  However, inside I was crushed.  I had never felt more humiliated and small in my entire life.

When the meeting was over, I made my way over to my cubicle and sat down in defeat.  One of my coworkers came over and made a comment about the treatment of the “old-timer” towards me.  That’s when the word’s escaped my mouth, without pause I said “Yea, and if anyone else had done that to me it would bother me.” And I meant it.  The “old-timer” eventually because a respected colleague and friend, who stayed in touch even after I left the agency.

However, at that moment in time, I had come on board and been handed many of his families that he worked with.  Then I completely changed all that he had been working on with the families.  I was a new social worker and had every intention on changing the world.  He was a seasoned worker, who knew the families, and their parents, and grandparents – he knew the history.  I knew that my approach was different from his, and he didn’t like my “new way.”

Although the comments he made were personal.  I didn’t take them as that longer than a moment, because I knew his response wasn’t to me personally, but to the perceived threat I brought to his was of doing things.  So I knew that if someone else had made those comments, it might have been personal.  However, this time I could discount what he said because his anger was about something else.  And I kept the mantra “IF it was anybody else it would bother me.” since.

There are times that I get caught up thinking that comments are geared towards me, or actions are because of me.  Typically, they come when I feel excluded from things.    When it is comments, I apply my mantra “If it was anyone else, it would bother me.”  Comments I can generally let go of pretty quick.  Actions, take a little more work.  Eventually I work it out, realizing it  has more to do with my framing than the intentional actions of others.

fall-163496_1280Who I am is not dependent upon the opinions, or actions of others.  Just as currency gets its value from the treasury where it is created, my value comes from my creator.  If I take a $100.00 bill and tell you it is worth more or less, it will not change that it really is a $100.00 – no more, no less. It doesn’t matter what others say about me, it does not change my worth or value.   If I spend that $100.00 on doing something good, or spend doing something bad – it doesn’t change its value.  It is still worth $100.00.  It doesn’t matter if the things I have spent my life on are good or downright evil, it  doesn’t change my worth or value.   If I take that $100 bill and use it to snort cocaine or even tear it up so that it is barely able to be pieced back together with tape – it is still worth $100.00.  My worth and value doesn’t change just because someone slights me, or because of the terrible things that have happened to me throughout my life.  My worth my value can only be changed by my Creator.

With that truth engrained in my life,  I need only refocus back to the truth when I start feeling swayed by the opinions of others.  Other’s opinions about me, I can take it and see if there is truth to what they are saying.  I can take it to my Creator and say “Is this something I need to work on.”  A lot of times the answer is yes, but it is His opinion, not that of someone else that will bring about the change I need in my life.  There are also times that I take that opinion, and say “Sorry, that is who I am.”

There are also times that I have to stop and look at who is saying or doing the thing that I am taking personally.  Where are they at in the moment?  Are they speaking out of love?  Are they speaking out of anger?  Are they tired?  Are they hurt?  I know that I sometimes speak things I would prefer to take back when I am angry, tired and hurt.  I have to afford others the same grace that I want extended to me.  I have to realize that everything said ain’t about me.  I have to know that people’s behaviors also aren’t always about me.

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The Power of Your Word

POD #19: The Power of Your Word

One of the quotes that those close to me would say is a Jackie-ism is “Your words have power.”    I grew up hearing the scripture that “the power of life and death are in the tongue. ” But I don’t know when it really clicked for me that what we say truly is creative in our life.

The power of spoken word is something that I am a firm believer in, and a guiding principle for most things I say.  I am not perfect by any means with this, but if I catch myself, I correct it.  When others speak negative things, I immediately point out their words have power too.  I drive my co-workers crazy with it, but I can not help the firmness of my belief.  I can’t stop what thoughts come time my mind, but I can control what I allow to come out of it.

I do my best not to speak out things that can have a negative impact on my life.  If I claim I have a headache – it is generally after I have spoken it out of existence for a while and it continues with intensity.  I do not speak illness into my life, and I am a healthy person (Still working on being fit, but I am healthy.).  Not that I am good about speaking blessing over myself, but I do not speak the negative very much.

In the power of my word in others’ lives, I think the first time it really understood this principle was around 2003.  I was a very negative person; not that I couldn’t see people’s strengths and point them out, that was my job and I was great at it.  Yet, I really focused on the negative with my husband, my children, and those closest to me.  My marriage was really struggling at the time, and a good friend asked me rather frankly “Jackie, why are you married to your husband?”  After the initial shock of her question wore off my face, she went on to say “You never say anything nice about him – ever.”

That statement cut me to the core.  So I set about to change.  Initially, I would have to catch myself mid-sentence.  Then I started being very selective to who I might complain to about my husband.  Eventually, I would only complain to God or share with a friend one time what my husband was doing that was driving me nuts.  It really was a life changing statement my friend made.  My marriage quickly took on new life as I stopped speaking negative about my husband and it has only improved since that time.

wordpowerI realized I had the same pattern with my children.  I admit this is an area I still struggle with, there are weeks I feel like the only conversation I am having with my youngest daughter is how she doesn’t pick up after herself and I am tired of doing it – most every parent’s battle.  However, I now usually try to balance out correction with positives.  There really are so many positives about my now grown children.  I didn’t do a great job of it when they were younger.  They were probably in their early teens when I started asking myself (And admittedly they would also sometimes ask me) “If this is the worse thing my kids ever do, would the world still go on.”  The answer was always a resounding “yes.”  Looking back, I am so thankful for God’s grace covering them from a lot of my negativity and anger.

I know my negative pattern came from my mother when I was growing up and some from my siblings towards my parents and each other.  The environment I grew up in was not at all nurturing.  Our physical needs were always met – we always had food, shelter, clothing.  My parents took care of birthdays, Christmas, and start of school.  They were very good at meeting our spiritual needs  – taking us to church, reading the Bible and showing us that with problems – even big ones God could be the answer.  They even met our educational needs – making sure we attended school and did our homework.   But our emotional needs were completely ignored.

There were times that nothing we did could please my mother, she was such an angry person.  She could always find the negative things we had done and harp on them for hours, days or weeks.  I think I was blessed as the youngest child, because she was wore out.   She began working full-time from the time I started school and so my exposure was limited to weekends, holidays, and summer when we would be home when she was awake.  I also had the benefit of have older siblings, aunts, a grandmother, and many other adults who spoke life into me.

When I get focused on something that someone has said about me, something that is draining my life – I remind myself that my worth and value do not come from what I have done, what others have done to me, or what others say about me.  My value comes from my Creator.  Then I work to refocus my thoughts about what He says about me.  I won’t say I am always successful, but that is the strategy I use when I find myself slowly dying from words spoken over me or to me.

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My bucket

POD #18: My bucket

Right now, I feel like my bucket is empty.  Waiting for some type of inspiration, passion or creativity to magically begin to flow. There are a few that come regularly to drink from my bucket, but I am not feeling the fresh connections and creativity that comes as new people come to drink from that bucket.  Lately, I have felt like my bucket is dry – and I don’t want to drink from it, let alone share it with others.  There are brief spurts where I feel that energy and desire for connection but right now, today, I would say the bucket is dry.  I am hoping that a refreshing weekend will bring new life to my bucket because I am exhausted.

My bucket is usually filled with helping people. I love creating connection, throwing ideas out there for others to feed off of and draw others in to my world.  I know that my empty bucket is because my schedule is full.  My days and weeks are filled with the routine of life that I created, which usually bring me joy.  However, I typically have some wiggle room to play, find fresh creativity, and make new connections.

Writing has been my only release lately, and at times it has felt forced as well.  I question, is anybody listening? Does anyone care what I have to say?  Yet, for the release I let my fingers hit the keys and the thoughts flow.

I love digging in to God’s Word and sharing the tidbits, morsels, and meals that He provides to me during our time together.  He is still speaking, but I have found it of a more personal nature.  “This is for you my daughter.” I hear Him say.  I share the scripture, but the message is for me.  I know that this would be a year of personal growth for me, but sharing His Word has always been a part of my bucket.

bucketNormally in my bucket, he has given me the camera lens that snaps the picture of the soul of the person before me.  They draw from the bucket one of the pieces that He gave to me the week prior.  It takes the most beautiful picture as I see Him bring that truth to life for them.  It is a timing that I don’t create; a divine moment that He created through what He deposited in me.  There is a power and refreshing that comes through those moments.  It is the most beautiful thing I have ever experienced.

I am not a preacher, it is not usually a group well that multiple people partake from at once.  It is not even a fountain where it flows for one person, then stops and then another.  Generally it is a single bucket, that beckons a soul to come and drink.  After they have had their fill, sometimes there is more left for others to partake.  Most times, it requires I go back to His fountain of life and allow Him to refill the bucket for the next passer-by.

It is the ability to take His Word and apply that Truth to life.  I am a strong believer, that it does not take a follower of Christ to see God’s Word come to pass.  His Word can be applied to any life.  In meeting them where they are, even a non-believer will have an encounter with the One who can truly transform their life.

I saw this at work very early in my career as I worked in the restrictions of a governmental job.  I couldn’t openly point people to God, but I could share His truths as an option and see Him transform their situation.  I saw families restored that had no hope or reconciliations.  I saw people freed from addictions.  I saw people take responsibility for actions, ownership of the consequences, and healing for victims.  That is the power of God, and the bucket of my life that I love to set out for others to partake from.

I never knew that this was a special bucket, until a friend commented on it.  I was not trained in Christian counseling, I was trained in social work.  I do not have a theological background, I have a background of being raised in a broken family that tried to turn to God in difficult times.  I don’t have a lot of certifications or  specialized training, I have what God has done in my life and through my life as a sounding board for others.  I love being able to share this bucket with the world.

 P.S.  I wrote this, and literally four hours later, God showed me that my bucket isn’t really empty.  My focus is just off.  He placed in my path the souls who have been drinking of my bucket.  It was truly a beautiful  picture that not only set someone else on a different trajectory but refreshed me.

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Good Judgement or Judging

POD #17: Spiritual Pepper Spray (Good Judgement or Judging)

When I think about judging others, and if I’m honest I do it more than I should, I am comparing how I do something or see something with how someone else responds.  Generally, when I am judging someone, I myself as better than someone in a particular area.  Or possibly, I judge them to be better than me in an area.  I can judge and maintain a relationship with someone, as generally judging is a comparison.  I compare how bad I think someone else is to how good I think I am in that area, or vise versa.

Exercising good judgement on the other hand, I am going to set a clear boundary for the protection of myself or my family.  It t as much about what the person is doing, but more about what I am willing or not willing to allow in my life.  I may or may not maintain a relationship, but there will definitely be a line drawn of how much the other person has access to me or to my family.

Good Judgement or JudgingWhen I think about exercising good judgement, I think about my marriage.  When I filed for a divorce, twenty-two years ago, the life that my husband had gotten in to was not one that I wanted my children involved.  It wasn’t me judging him, it was me using good judgement.  I offered two options – stop or leave.  Divorce was the route I had to take.  There was no judgement on my part of him, although I admit I was disappointed.  I just could not allow what he was doing at the time around our children, regardless of how much I loved him.  It was not an easy call to make, but it was the right one at the time.

That good judgement set clear boundaries for him, and gave him the courage to make the changes that he needed, on his own to regain his family.  It is an amazing and powerful testimony of what God can do.

I look back on our twenty-six years together – dating, marriage, divorce, and then our  remarriage and the last eighteen years.  I think about all the trials and pain we have cause each other, and how many times I really thought of calling it quits (As I am sure he did too.) and I see not only the change in both of us and our relationship, I see the growth that happened in my life that would not have taken place without the trials.

I tell people now, as much as I wanted God to reach down and just change my husband, if He had, I would not be where I am today.  God has done a big work in my husband’s life, but I learned that the biggest change happened in me.  My dependence on God grew stronger and he worked out things in me as He worked through me in my marriage.

One the contrast, hen I think about judgement, I immediately think of Christmas.  Having worked with foster children, I saw the limited resources allowed for children’s Christmas.  Literally, I had $15 per child to buy for their Christmas.  Some of these children were in families that would buy them presents to supplement what was provided, but a vast majority of the children I worked with were in a residential setting, and had no one in their life who would bring them anything.  It was an eye-opening experience when I brought the things home for my 25 children, and my own children wanted to know who the gifts were for.  The large pile of gifts paled in comparison to the gifts that the three of them would see on Christmas morning.  The children I worked with were so grateful for what I was able to get on their list for the $15.

Fast-forward about eight years and I was working in a nonprofit situation with parents and their children.  The blessings were abundant in our community towards these families.  I was overwhelmed at the generosity.  They were given wish-lists and nothing was really off-limits for the asking.  If only one group had provided, it would have been as much as I was used to buying for my children, but three or four groups did this for each family and then a few groups would buy specific things.  It was extravagant, and lasted the two weeks before Christmas almost daily.

One night, the first year I worked there I stayed for one of the events.  I was in awe of the outpouring from the community to these families. Until one of the children made a comment that just got all over me.  The child was upset not about what was in the package he opened, but by the color of a rather expensive gift.  I was enraged by the entitlement and lack of gratitude that the child showed, and then in-kind the parent had.

I was very judgmental about the entire event.  I wasn’t comparing them to me – but what I experienced at the nonprofit compared to what I had experienced from child welfare system.  The sad part was, the children weren’t much different from each other – only the phone call that got them removed from the home versus getting a little help in advance.   I said something to the parent and the child the following day, but I was definitely not thinking nicely of how they handled the situation.

The only thing I learned from that situation, was to stay away from those events at Christmas time.  I could not stop the response of the children or parents in regards to their entitlement.  I could not make them grateful for the community outreach.  I did implement a few things, and the next years stressed giving thanks and giving back through their time to help them understand the value of the gift that was really being extended to them outside the material item they held in their hands.

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Beyond ‘the provisional life’

POD #16: Beyond ‘the provisional life’

As I look at the list of “organizations” I’m involved with I do think there are times that I am just “doing duty.”  It is never a constant feeling in any place, just a passing moment as my expectations are left unmet in a given moment.  I usually find fulfillment in the relationships and activities that I am involved with regularly.

I am a pretty open person who says what I think, and if I feel misunderstood will advocate to be understood, except when I’m not.  I recently engaged in counseling for a short time as I came upon the anniversary of my mother’s death.  As I shared with my counselor, he asked the question “But who takes care of you?  Who do you unload things on?”  My response was honest and simple, “That’s why I’m here in counseling.  I just needed to unload.”  I realized in that moment, that despite the fact that I have many people in my life I can go to, I don’t.  However, I know it is my choice.

I often feel like the fullness of my whole self, would be overwhelming to most.  I am pretty vocal, but I have learned through the years that sometimes what I say and what I mean are misconstrued and people get hurt by my bluntness.  I remember a certain coworker telling me that I needed to take “tact classes.”  I laughed, but I also realize there was some truth to that statement.  So I stopped bringing the fullness of me.  I temper myself, and play up other characteristics of my personality when I am with most people. Still me, just more reserved.

cocoon-591555_1920I do not relate openly to others – I believe it is me, not the others I am in relationship with – and it is something I am working to change.  I often feel like I am in this alternate world where no one gets me.  Part of it is the wonderful world of confidentiality.  Most people talk about their jobs – I have not been able to talk about what I do for over fifteen years.  It is my choice of career, my calling and I love it – but it is an off-limits topic for the most part.  Some people talk about their families – living in a small town, I learned not to do that in my line of work. Everyone knew everyone, and that circle was pretty small in our community.  I don’t even have to say my kids names, and people know they are mine and connect the dots.  Living in a small town, I also didn’t want to invite the people I met to my church – I had zero problem connecting them with a church – I just didn’t want there to be no separation because some people really have trouble with boundaries.  I didn’t grow up in the community, so I was an outsider.  When I moved back home, enough time had passed these were engrained habits and I was no longer connected to the long timers in the community as I had been before.

I do feel like I am currently walking in my true calling.  It doesn’t look like I thought it would, and I’m sure that it is not completely fulfilled, but I am walking in that path.  I see the dream that has been inside of me since 1999, and each year I see new pieces of it coming together.  I had never looked at what I was doing in light of my calling  until about a year ago when my pastor said something, and I thought “you’re right, I am walking in it.  It just hasn’t taken the form yet of what I think it should be like.”

I am a natural leader, but I don’t lead as I want to because I let a failure in my past leadership hold me back.  That personality thing, I am a Choleric – and I wasn’t remotely tempered at the time.  I have looked back on that time, and yes there are changes that I could have made, should have done differently – but it doesn’t change that most of what was said was completely untrue and that personality types played a large factor in what was said.  But I find myself skittish to step back out and put myself in authority – real or perceived – over others.  I don’t want to, and at the same time I love leading.

I think if I was to walk in the fullness of who God made me to be, with all the personality characteristics freely, yet appropriately expressed that I would be a better person.  I think it would take some time for people to get use to, but I don’t think there is a single system that would reject that person.  I think it would take more vulnerability on my part, it is just something that I have to “get over” and do.  I have to step out of the comfortable to step into truly living.

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Nobody’s perfect (Maybe)

POD #15: Nobody’s perfect. (Maybe)

Jesus Christ is perfect – completely free from flaw or defect.  Christ was perfect from conception and continued being perfect through the cross, death and resurrection.  This fact makes the belief that “Nobody’s perfect” false.  Christ is certainly not a nobody.

Furthermore, I am perfect in God’s sight from the moment I accept the precious sacrifice of my Savior and allow His blood to cover me and cleanse me white as snow.  When God looks at me, He sees what Christ is – perfect.   He takes the fact of my imperfection and covers them with His truth – Christ’s perfection.  Although I am not perfect, God’s sees me as perfect, right this moment.  He sees every follower of Christ through that lens.

pebbles-2020100_1920As I tried to consider a broader definition of perfect, I started thinking about sports.  There are people who believe that “practice makes perfect.”  The reality is that I can practice all day long, but if I am doing it wrong, it will never lead to perfection.  My pastor said “perfect practice makes perfect.”  I thought about Tiger Woods, although I ‘m not sure why.  Even in his best game, he is still not a perfect golfer.  Even if He scores a perfect game, it does not make him a perfect golfer.  Even with his best game there is still flaw or defect in his swing, or his stance, or his thought pattern.

I think the more accurate phrase would be “We are imperfectly perfect.”  Christ takes my imperfections and He covers then.  In my weakness His strength shows.  He covers my flaws and defects with His grace.  It is in the reflection of my imperfections, that people are drawn to the perfection of Christ.  I am made perfect in Him.

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Childhood, part deux

POD #14: Childhood, part deux

This morning someone shared on Facebook about being childlike rather than childish.  It resonated because yesterday, I was definitely being childish.   I won’t defend that it was less childish than I have been in the past, it doesn’t matter – I was childish.  So this is a thought-provoking prompt.

My husband and I work different schedules so I look forward to weekends with him, however his sleep schedule is still different.  I really wanted to go on a long motorcycle ride with him as it was a gorgeous day.  He told me he would be up around noon, but then it was four p.m. before the really got up.  I was very disappointed, as the grandchildren were coming at five.  So instead I pouted and sulked, all night long, displaying childish behavior for my daughter and grandchildren.  And we have a no whining rule at my house – I failed.  I don’t know that whining got me anywhere as a child either.

Yesterday, when I realized my husband wasn’t getting up I could have went to the film festival and experienced the culture of our small community mixed with Hollywood stars.  I could have went for a walk on the trails and enjoyed the beautiful weather and scenery.  I could have called up a friend and asked them to join me.  Instead, I childishly pouted.

play-1779773_1920Being childlike, I have to step outside my comfort box. There are times that I can be childlike, but my normal self is usually more serious, reserved, and lacking spontaneity.  I rationalize a lot of things away that I would really enjoy if I let myself.  Spending money on frivolously things is hard to me, and most everything I can place in the frivolous category with enough time to think about it.

I had a fairly good childhood despite all the dysfunction in my family.  Being the youngest of five children, I was pretty sheltered from what was really going on – which created a lot of distorted viewpoints that I have had to work through.  However, my childhood was cut short when I started smoking, drinking, and doing drugs in my early teens.   Then I became a teenage mother.  My world changed overnight once I got the positive pregnancy test.  I missed out on all the firsts that come in the teenage years.  I grew up pretty quick.

So, if I was to decide to have a childhood, starting now, I would be a little more adventurous.  I have a weight loss goal that when I reach, sky diving is my reward.  We have a fundraiser in the community that does this benefiting an agency that helps abused children.  It has been on my to-do list for over four years now.  Skydiving, bungee jumping, free-falling – these are things I would love to do – even if I have to do it alone and even though I am afraid of heights.  I want to travel and see things I have never experienced.

I would walk and be around water a lot more.  As a child I walked every where and I loved it.  There was freedom in just being able to go anywhere.  We would walk to the lake and then walk down trails and across bluffs that were only big enough for one person to cross at a time.  I loved the water.  I could spend the day swimming, or just sitting at the shore line with friends working on my tan.  At night we would light a fire and just sit around and talk.

I would spend more time with people doing things.  I like large groups, my husband doesn’t – he will tolerate family gatherings, but he is content with just us or us, the kids and grandkids.  Me, I thrive in complete solitude or large groups.  If we can be doing something fun or serving, all the better.  I don’t remember too much alone time as a child, if I wasn’t with my family, I was with my friends and their families, or with a large group of friends.  I miss those days.

I would do more crafting activities, more adventure rooms, more movies, more pedicures and massages.  These were not things that I did as a child, but things that immolate childhood activities.  Arts and Crafts at school, scary stories at slumber parties, movies with my friends, painting toes and nails at slumber parties – all activities that brought life to childhood..

I am not who I once was, but there are parts of childhood that I miss.  Things I set aside as a mother and as a wife.  Those activities can be a part of my adulthood, even if they look different from what they did back then.

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The Power of Your Identity

POD #13: The Power of Your Identity

What a timely prompt, because I was really thinking about this today as I did my water jogging class.  Like, Tara might have been in my brain when she wrote it out, because even her example is spot on.  I love the quote from Tony Robbins “The #1 way to change your behavior is actually to change your identity.”

A year ago I decided that I was going to lose weight.  I am morbidly obese.   I am healthy, so I have justified that despite my weight, I really have no reason to change.  Until last year.  I purposed in my heart that it was time for me to eat healthier and be more active.  I had played around with dieting for decades.  Read the book.  I knew the tools. I analyzed the why behind my weight.  I even knew what I should be doing.  Yet, I didn’t consistently do it.

Last year, January 4th, I joined Weight Watchers.  I was committed to the program, and it helped that each day and then each week I go to start over.  I am task oriented, so really it helped.  I was very diligent to use my points to the fullest, and although I could have something, I quickly learned that I didn’t like to waste points for certain things.  I lost thirty-three lbs. before I took the next step and started exercising.

In April after my mother passed away, I joined the gym.  I reasoned that I could take the time I had spent with her, and at least use 30 minutes to an hour to step up my weight loss.  By September, I had lost fifty-three pounds.  I was in the pool at the gym  regularly – two deep water running classes and swimming other days.  I was walking a lot more and taking the stairs at work.  One month I didn’t take the elevator at all.  My husband and I would go for walks around the community walking trails.  I was enjoying things.

fitness-1677212_1920But I never changed my identity about it.  And so for the past eight months, I have been loosing the same ten pounds over and over.  The gym cancelled one of my classes, and my schedule got busy so Saturday morning is the only time I exercise.  I walk a lot at work, but I do good to get 8,000 steps and my goal is 10,000.  And food, well I tell myself the point amount, but there are weeks I don’t track and days I binge my whole weeks points.  Then I tell myself, I will start back over tomorrow.

That is what I was thinking about this morning as I did my water jogging.  I was questioning why I got of track and why my behavior is not lining up with what I say I really want.  But the truth is I do not identify myself as a fit person.  Yes, healthy but not fit.

As I think about the identity aspect of change, I am reminded of an assignment I had in college to attend an AA meeting.  As I sat there at an open meeting, the lady sharing shared my story.  I mean her experiences mirrored mine, as if we had done it together – yet the difference between us – I had never identified as an alcoholic.  It never crossed my mind, until that moment.  I realized in that moment the power of how we see ourselves.

My identity is wrapped up in roles – a mother, a wife, a Social Worker, a volunteer, a Christian.  My life activities are wrapped around those identities.  Only recently have I even begun to explore what I like outside of those things, but even those are tied to activities – writing, reading, relaxing.

Right now the shift in my identity that I want most is to be fit. I don’t just want to be healthy, I want to thrive.  I want to be active and enjoy activities that are physical more than I enjoy sitting in front of a television with a bag of popcorn.  I want to run a 5K instead of just barely finishing it because I had the keys to the car and couldn’t call the people waiting for me at the finish line to come get me.  I want to wake up early and start the day with exercise in addition to my time with God.  I want to be in tune with my body.  I want to increase my endurance, my strength and my flexibility.

I want to enjoy healthy food.  I made a lot of changes when I joined Weight Watchers, changes that have stayed.  I want to like vegetables more and be more adventurous with my food instead of eating the same things every week.  I want to practice portion control and eat slower instead of filling my plate and racing to be the first one done.

I want to stop talking about it, and do it.  I want to do it with consistency and with discipline.  I want to make being fit a priority instead of an option.  I want “fit” to be part of my identity instead of something I am striving for.

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POD #12: Adaptogens

Without thinking, I can say that God and my faith in Him is what helps me to withstand the stresses and strains that life places on my system.  Almost daily, someone will comment on how they don’t know how I handle the things that are thrown at me daily.   Being a social worker, I see the best and absolute worst of humanity.  I see the sadness and heartache and the physical and emotional barriers that people face on a daily basis.  Generally my response is, this is the ministry that God placed within me, I am trained for it.  I also let people know, it is different when it is not personally mine to handle.  I am able to help with outside the box thinking, but  at the end of the day, I still get to walk away from it – whether my help solved the problem or not.

Except when it is.  The reality is all the training in the world, all the knowledge of resources and processes don’t help when it is mine to handle.  When my mom was first diagnosed with congestive heart failure, that was a new learning curve. The dementia was another, no book or story can prepare you for watching someone who has always been your rock slip away like that.  To see someone who always had the answer struggle for even a simple answer, cuts to the core of my soul.

Making the move from having her in our home to assisted living was an adjustment, but one that was easier to make for me as I knew she would get good care and be safe since I was rarely at home and hadn’t realized how bad things really were.  When the doctor mentioned hospice, I was taken aback – I thought she was doing much better.  He was just preparing me as we moved towards palliative instead of curative care. In the midst of her illness, I lost my job and really spend some time re-assessing life and drawing closer to God.

Then it came time to make the nursing home move, it really hit hard because I had made a promise to my dying father (along with my siblings) that I would take care of her.  That was a promise I had taken to heart.  She had always told me “I don’t want to go to your damn nursing home” since the time I started working in the medical field helping other families make that transition for rehab or long-term care.  I found a lot of blame towards the doctor when we made that move.  I also felt the need to check on her a few times a week, even if it was just a few moments.  I felt bitter towards my siblings for not being there for her and leaving everything to me.

Then the day come that hospice really was the option.  I had such a peace throughout the whole process.  Not that I didn’t grieve, but God carried me through that with a peace and strength that still amazes me, over a year later.  He alone sustained me, as I spent every day working full-time, then going to sit at her bedside until she kicked me out – daily for three months straight.  I missed two days with her, as I had a wonderful friend that said “Let me take the shift – you go.”

When my mother passed, I waited for the peace to go.  I waited for my world to crumble down around me, as it had twenty years prior when my father passed.  It didn’t.  Instead a weight lifted, and I stepped into the next stage of life with a renewed passion and purpose.  My help to families took on a new depth, as I ministered from where I had been and where God had not only led me through but strengthened me though.

I know that there is nothing that He will not carry me through if I give Him my cares.  I can withstand the stresses because He is the one whose strength I rely on.

Through the process of life, the past twenty years, and really all my life, I have seen God sustain me.  He has given me creative outlets that help emotionally and mentally – writing has been an outlet since at least sixth grade.  While I might not share emotionally, give me a pen and paper or even a computer and I can open up my soul and process things that I can’t get out otherwise.

floral-medicine-1738214_1920Relationships, my family has always been my lifeline.  I have the most amazing husband – he has been there through everything.  Even when we were dating, and broke up He was there providing care for my husband, my daughter, and our children when I was an emotional wreck.  My children have saved my life more than once, my life was so altered by them.  They bring such perspective, balance, and joy to my life.  My parents, my siblings, my aunts, my cousins – my family has always been there to ground me, spoil me, love me, and call me on my stuff!

Yet, the people who really serve as a breath of fresh air, joy and clarity for me – are my grandchildren.   There is something about their precious little faces, the excitement they great me with, melts everything away.  Their unconditional love, although sometimes they tell me “You mean mimi.” makes the world brighter, if only til they start whining.

When I am at my breaking point and ready to give up, someone always crosses my path with the message “Your blessings are closer than you think.”  Since 2001, I that single message has been spoken in various forms from someone in to my life when I have reached the giving up stage of life.  The idea that what happens if I give up right now, and my breakthrough was going to come tomorrow.    Yes, there are other things I have read and quotes that I love that give me hope, but that one message has carried me through my darkest times.

Music is something that speaks depths to my soul.  The truth is it depends on what mood I am in what I need to hear.  Most of my comfort comes from contemporary Christian music.  Currently a few songs that speak loudest to me are 7eventh Time Down – Hopes and Dreams, Ashes Remain – Here for a Reason,  Danny Gokey – Tell Your Heart to Beat Again and Ryan Stevenson – Eye of the Storm.  Of course that changes daily, but these are ones that have consistently spoke to me over the past year.  Of course there are days that I need to hear Taylor Swift, Shania Twain, Garth Brooks, or a little Aerosmith, Poison, Guns N Roses or Def Leppard.  It depends where I want my mind to take me at the moment.

Life throws many things my way, stressors that could weigh me down or stop me in my tracks.  It’s important to have many sources to draw from to protect myself from the elements that come against me.  Ultimately, regardless of the mix – God is always the biggest part of my safeguard.

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