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Did you ever wonder why it is hard for you to maintain new habits once you have started them?  Be it an exercise routine, an eating plan or a cleaning plan, it can be hard to maintain new and we wind up cycling back to old.  I have a very bad habit of not putting away my clothing when I change out of clothing, and quickly amass large piles of assorted clean clothing.  It’s a habit I am capable of changing; however, the problem is my belief system.  I believe I am messy with my clothing and, while organized in most other areas of my life, this one belief has been hard to change.  How about you?  What are the beliefs that cause you to resume old habits because the belief systems are what keeps us stuck?  If we want to change our circumstances, we are going to have to change our beliefs.  Maybe we were verbally abused by our parents so our belief may be that people can say disrespectful things to us and we just have to allow it.  Perhaps people in your developmental years were constantly living in lies, and you were taught not to question your gut experience of things. Or maybe you were sexually abused as a child and learned to treat your body with shame by mistreating it in some way.  Our worldview is formed by age 12, and many of still allow the child inside of us decide how we will behave and how we will allow others to treat us.  It’s time for the adult to start deciding what they believe about themselves and acting out of that truth instead of allowing the child to drive your life.  In my life, my spiritual beliefs of how God views me have caused me to change my beliefs about myself and how things can change in my life.  However, there are many people who were taught God is a punishing and vindictive God, and they still live out of that belief system which keeps them stuck in a cycle of perfectionism or shame with God.  There is no easy math equation regarding beliefs in life when trauma and loss enter into our lives. However, it is possible to begin to understand what your beliefs are that keep you stuck and begin to change the way you think.  Unhealthy beliefs will result in unhealthy choices and circumstances.  Healthy beliefs will result in healthy choices and circumstances.  Choose today whom you will let drive the car of your life; the child or the adult will drive the car.  The adult in my life has a clean closet more days than not because I force myself to own the belief that I am capable of putting away my clothes.  Each time I do this simple habit change, I think to myself, “You are an adult who likes a clean and environment and this habit brings you peace and joy.  You can put away your clothing each day.”  While, you, the reader may be irritated with my analogy of cleaning up clothing, it’s a simple analogy to underscore that even small habit changes can bring life to areas that once held shame.

 

Romans 12:2 (MSG)

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

Have You Ever Walked Through A Desert?

Have You Ever Walked Through A Desert?

Have you ever walked through a desert? I have, and it is not a fun experience unless you happen to be riding downhill on a sled. Whether the desert is in the natural or things feel like a desert in your emotional or spiritual walk, it is an exhausting endeavor to continue walking forward. Walking in desert sand is hard and tedious because each step is not on firm footing, and going uphill takes much longer than one perceives because your foot sinks each time you put your foot down. I remember climbing a very tall dune in the past and thinking to myself, “this is so hard to keep climbing the hill; what’s the point?!” Recently, while looking a picture of a desert, I thought to myself, “thank God that deserts end when we keep walking forward because they do not go on forever, although, at times, it feels like they do.” If you are walking through a desert time in a relationship, your job, your emotions or any other hard experience, here are some helpful tools to carry you through the walk through the desert.

1. You need a hat and sunglasses to keep the heat off your head and to protect your eyesight.

In other words, you need a “covering” of safe of people who will support you and protect you as you walk through difficult times. We need others to help keep us focused on our end goals and protect us from the elements that will “burn” us. One of my primary goals for empowering people walking through difficult times is to help them build a safe and supportive support system because we all need a hand to hold onto whether we are walking through trials or not.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 ESV Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

2. You need to drink a lot of water.

In other words, you need to be drinking in more life because it is easier to dehydrate while walking through the desert. As a therapist, I am always encouraging people to figure out what brings them life and to pursue this more. People start struggling with the walk through the desert times when they stop taking in the life they need to sustain them. Be it time listening to music, reading, creating, being with friends or anything else, you need to take in more life water when the walking through the desert because it is a draining journey.

Proverbs 25:25 (MSG) Like a cool drink of water when you’re worn out and weary is a letter from a long-lost friend.

3. You need to rest a lot on a desert journey.

When you are going through hard times, it is physically hard on your body, and you will find you need to rest a lot. Walking on sifting sand uses muscles you do not commonly use, and it will tire you out quickly. As a counselor I watch people walk through emotionally difficult times, and yet people fail to understand how much emotions can physically drain them. People perceive that they must keep moving at all times, but I encourage them that rest will enable them to continue walking.

Ecclesiastes 4:6 (MSG) One handful of peaceful repose, is better than two fistfuls of worried work—More spitting into the wind.

4. A compass

What are the standards and values of which you are going to move through the desert you are walking through in life? How do you evaluate you are making the correct directional choices that will not cause you to be off course later down the line. I frequently help people evaluate what their values are so that we can accurately gauge whether they are on target now and later in their journey.

Psalm 119:105-106 (MSG) By your words I can see where I’m going; they throw a beam of light on my dark path. I’ve committed myself, and I’ll never turn back from living by your righteous order.

The good news is that the desert will eventually end as long as you keep moving through it. Walking through the desert is hard on us emotionally, physically and spiritually and our challenge is not to give up! Deserts end and will not go on forever as long as you use your desert tools.

Choose Joy!

Some days we just need to choose joy because, let’s face it, many times we do not wake up with the bluebird of happiness on our shoulder; in fact, we could have a load of bird poop. Alas, life is tough, and we can easily get sucked into carrying the weight of the world if we do not make a conscious choice to focus on the good. I tend to be an optimist now that I am an adult but that was not the case when I was a child. Most of the people in my life were pessimists; therefore, I was trained to be a pessimist. However, I loved to read books all throughout my childhood, and the more I read about the rest of the world, the more I came to understand that my story could have many different endings. I discovered I could write a lot of my story on a day-to-day basis by making daily choices to look for joy. I did not have to live out my life the way I was taught as if I were a victim stuck in a storybook in which there was no way to exit. So, how does one look for joy on a daily basis? One way is a simple habit that involves choosing to look for things that make me smile and embracing them as gifts from God that I hold onto when I move through my day. By the end of the day, I know exactly what I am thankful for because I choose to hold onto each moment and meditate on those moments as the joy that carries me through my day. On one particular day, it might be sunflowers that made me smile, and I buy them because they make me smile. Or on another day it could be a text from a friend that says affirming words, a beautiful bird perched outside my window, or today it was a stop at a Goodwill store on my way to work to look for Legos (my never ending preoccupation). There were no Legos at the Goodwill store, but there was the Fisher Price farm set from my childhood; the old red and white barn that makes the sound of a cow mooing as you open the barn door. I opened the barn doors, and there were most of the contents of the farm; the little white fencing, the tractor, the tractor cart, the cow, and the horse. It was lovely to find and discover, and it made me smile, and I didn’t need to buy it to find joy. I only needed to delight myself in the discovery and savor my memories of playing with all my Fisher Price little people toys with my brother. And then I say to myself, “God, You show Your love to me in the strangest places, including Goodwill and I love You all the more for choosing to take the obscure and make me feel loved.” The Bible says that God is love, and wherever you feel healthy love, there He is there with you. When you focus on whatever is good you create a different ending to your day.

Philippians 4:8-9New International Version (NIV)
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Daily Challenge

Are you able to find the beauty in a bad day or are you an “all good or all bad day” type of thinker?  Rarely do we have an entire day in which everything is terrible, but it can certainly feel like we have that kind of day when all we look for is the negative after something bad happens.  The challenge for any given day is to look for the good when a day goes wrong, but that choice is a very intentional choice that sometimes requires a lot of emotional energy.  So how does one look for good when an awful thing happens?  It is hard to sometimes do that on our own, and many times this type of challenge requires the help of safe friends to help us break out of this pattern of thinking.  However, most people going through great loss do not want to hear easy answers, platitudes or “christianeze” ( the language spoken by people who are followers of Christ who sometimes give religious answers instead of compassionate answers).  Most of the time you have no idea how to verbalize a need when you are in shock and loss, and we rely on others to figure out what we need.  Alas, giving all our power to another to give us good care can sometimes feel a bit vulnerable and scary.  For most people it boils down to one innate need:  to feel loved and comforted.  What does a crying baby need when they are upset and have no words to express what is going on it their head?  To be held, to be loved, and to be reassured that no matter what, it’s going to be ok.  Quite frankly, sometimes humans stink at this, but there is a God we can turn to who promises to reassure us and love us when man does not; however, we have to invite Him into that process of loving on us because we will miss it if we don’t look for it.  Just like we will not be able to see good if we choose to look for bad, sometimes we miss God loving on us because we are not looking for it.  Choose to look for love today.  Choose to look for the good.  God will send you comfort via your dog, the cashier at a store, a neighbor or objects that bring you comfort.  He is very present, but sometimes we do not know how to recognize the form He has taken.  I vividly remember a day where God showed up in the midst of a bad day and I recognized him because I had been looking for him.  I was in the midst of a stressful season of life juggling the many hats that a mom or dad can  can juggle and I was complaining to God about how hard my life was at that time.  I just needed joy and life and I remember seeing white daisies along the road and saying to him, “ I just miss the old Sharon who had time to do creative things that bring me joy like cut daisies on the side of the road.”  Three counseling sessions later in my day and in walked a client with white daisies and I knew that I knew that God had brought me those flowers via a human and my joy from the event exceeded my pain level.  I knew that I was loved and that God wanted to comfort me, but I am pretty sure I would have missed the significance of the flowers if I had not been looking for God in the midst of a bad day.

Isaiah 66:13New International Version (NIV)

13 As a mother comforts her child,

   so will I comfort you;

   and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.”