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You Cannot be Knocked Over Easily When Your Water Bottle is Full

You Cannot be Knocked Over Easily When Your Water Bottle is Full

 

I am not sure if anyone ever told you that you were a water bottle, but you are.   When your water bottle is full, it cannot be tipped over easily; however, when your water bottle is empty, you will be more readily knocked down physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  When you are born your body is about 78% water, and by the time you are an adult, men need their body to have a water hydration level of 50-60% and women need their water hydration levels to be 45-60%.  Water runs all of the systems of our physical body including our brain, and we need to take in water to keep our systems running in a healthy manner. This is a good correlation to keeping yourself hydrated spiritually and emotionally; if you’re not hydrating yourself in these way, then when troubles come, you will be knocked to the ground easily.  When you are hydrating yourself emotionally and spiritually, you will make better choices in the care of self and others, but when you are not…well, the consequences are apparent. I believe that from the moment you are born, you have needs and longings that are hardwired into you from your very creation. From the moment a baby is born they are crying to have their physical and emotional longings fulfilled, but somewhere along the way, we learn to suppress those longings and we use addictions and control of various things as a means of suppressing those longings.  However, no person can fulfill all the longings of another, and thus we have a puzzle of how to let in our spiritual creator and other safe humans to take care of these longings. Proverbs 13:19 states that a longing fulfilled is sweet to the soul, but most people who have no idea what they have natural longings for because they have been suppressing those longings for so long. When your needs and longings have received the emotional and spiritual water they need to to be healthy, you will make better emotional and spiritual choices and will be less likely to medicate or control things in life.  What do you need today to fill your water bottle? Here is my general list of emotional and spiritual elements people needs. What would you add to the list?

 

⚪Healthy Touch like a safe hug, a comforting hold, holding hands, snuggling

⚪To be heard- talking with someone who listens so I feel valued and heard

⚪Affirmation – need to hear something good about myself

⚪Joy – a good laugh, doing something I love, being with people who are joyful, having a spiritual experience, singing

⚪A need to create – art, music, dance, write, decorate, cleaning, organizing, building,  fixing.

⚪Peace – quiet, alone time, a nap, a bath, etc.

⚪Beauty – Outdoors time, beautiful things, color

⚪Passion – something to get excited about, vision, new experience, new knowledge

⚪To feel useful- to feel like I am making a positive impact on my world

⚪Other ______________________________________________

 

You can be sure that God will take care of everything you need, his generosity exceeding even yours in the glory that pours from Jesus. Our God and Father abound in glory that just pours out into eternity. Phil. 4:20 (MSG)

January Happened

January Happened

January happened and is still happening. It’s been a month of snow and ice and sickness in my house, which always makes things a little more unpredictable. However, I find that I clean out more drawers and closets in January than any other month of the year because I tend to be inside and have more available downtime. And that is exactly what I am encouraging you to do during this winter season. It’s time to do what winter in the natural was designed to do: allow the season to expose the things that are choking out life. Here in the Northeast, we have had an excessively cold winter and we need to celebrate what that will do for the forthcoming growing seasons on farms. The cold kills the hibernating insects and bacteria that will affect the summer harvests if not killed off. And for many fruit growers, they know that the excessive cold will benefit fruit production because it will cause the trees to rest and reserve their energy for spring and a more bountiful production. We come to see that what happens in the physical world is representative of what happens in the emotional and spiritual world in the winter if we allow it to happen. Just because you are more aware of negative thoughts, weak spots or just feeling like you are going backward does not mean that you are what you are currently experiencing. It may be that these things are exposed so that you can purposefully move toward the removal of them to increase your productivity in the future. It’s been a rough month for many, but it is necessary for one to recognize the issues of the heart that are being exposed to the “cold”. The issues of the heart are always exposed to a cold harsh reality for the intention of removal, not for harm. God desires you to prosper and abound in much good fruit, but that often means that the issues of the heart will be exposed so that you can understand the faulty beliefs that keep you unproductive.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 (ISV)
3 There is a season for everything,
and a time for every event under heaven:
2 a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to uproot what was planted;

Are You Embracing Winter?

Are You Embracing Winter?

Here in the Northeast, we start dreaming about tropical climates and Island getaways by the beginning of January. By the end of February, we are pretty sure we will buy a beach home, and by the end of March, well, we won’t go there.
For most of us, it is hard for us to embrace winter, both in the natural and in the emotional and spiritual. Spring and summer are easy to embrace because everything is new. New growth, fresh fruit, and new beauty. We need winter in the physical and in the emotional and spiritual because in winter the pests die. It is in the winter that we are forced to deal with the conditions on the inside. So, for all those who are in a “winter” season in their lives, be reminded that winter is only a season. Thank God it doesn’t last forever!
Ecclesiastes 3:1-3 (NIV) There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build.

What Happens in The Quiet

What Happens in The Quiet

This morning, I got up early and walked the dog as I always do before I came to work. I savored my alone time on the walk, and then on my drive into work as it was the first quiet, non-stimulating alone time in five days. The holidays are exciting because we spend time with people, and have special foods, specials concerts, and stimulation of all shapes, sizes, and textures. However, my walk this morning told me I desired the structure of my alone time more than I realized. This year I have valued my solo pre-dawn walks of the dog so much that I went out of my way to ask for a Christmas gift of a unique, heavy-duty coat for walking in the extreme cold. It’s long, heavy, and it has this fantastic, all-encompassing hood that kind of makes me look like the grim reaper; however, it gives me the coverage to continue below zero walks of the dog. When I take the time to be in the quiet, I organize my thoughts, perceptions, needs, and desires in a manner that makes me feel empowered in my life. When I fail to take the time to be in the quiet, I am more disorganized, forgetful, less spiritually focused and I put aside the things that I need without taking the time to recognize what I need to pursue. I am a more focused and happier version of myself when I include daily periods of silence.
In my line of work, I hear all the reasons why people cannot have the alone time they need, but not all the ways they are working to make it happen. Many people desire the quiet at the same time they fear it. We need calm. We were designed to value quiet so that we would pursue that which impacts our body, soul, and spirit. However, many people fear the quiet and the alone because their tormenting thoughts invade the space of the quiet. Tormenting thoughts are the signal you need to process your thoughts on paper with God or with someone like a trusted friend, pastor or counselor. If you ignore the feelings that come in the silence, they will grow louder and will begin to be heard by you in your interactions with people, your work, and your family relationships. The holidays are winding down; I look joyfully to the reboot of peace and structure of the new year. How about you? Are you dreading the silence of January? Do you have tormenting thoughts to be processed so that you can embrace peace? Isaiah 30:15 b says this about quiet, “In return and rest you will be saved; quietness and trust will be your strength, but you refused.” It’s important to understand that many of the individuals that achieved much take the time to retreat into the quiet to build their strength instead of running harder to get to their goals. If you are training to be stronger spiritually and emotionally, it’s essential that you begin to incorporate quiet into your day. Make the decision to face down the elements that prevent you from entering the quiet and equipping yourself with the necessary tools and boundaries that make quiet possible.
Start asking yourself and God why you prevent yourself from being in the quiet and make a plan to move toward it.

The Problems of Pain

I’ve been thinking a lot of the allegory of physical pain and emotional pain, and how you treat both as I go through extensive physical therapy for my physical pain.  My physical pain requires me to focus on stretching out my muscles multiple times a day so that I am in less pain each day.  It’s a challenge to choose to do painful exercises that take away time from other portions of my day, but my physical pain increases when I decide not to do the stretching exercises.  Likewise, it is this way in the therapy process.  Clients ask me, “How long will this take?  How many months or how many sessions will this take to get better?”  My response is always the same:  to whatever level you put into practice the things that I tell you to do outside of the sessions is to what degree you will recover faster.  Last time I was going through physical therapy, I had a severe achilles injury that required doing daily stretches.  The problem was that I was in the midst of a move to another house and forcing myself to stop packing up my house and do the necessary stretching was very difficult.  I wound up requesting that my doctor sign off on doing more physical therapy so that the therapist would force me to do the work I needed to do to get my leg back.  The process of physical therapy took longer because I was putting many other things ahead of my recovery.  Moving towards emotional pain and the work we need to do to recover ourselves to psychological health is a painful process.  We are forced to stare down the things that we avoid dealing with in life, and we are forced to deal with the feelings that we would medicate by keeping our minds occupied.  However, I have noticed that the higher my physical pain levels are, the more I self-medicate and the less I reach out to others.  My mind is so preoccupied with my pain that I am unable to focus on giving proper care to those close to me.  I realize that I must force myself to do the exercises that cost me time and pain in order to get better for both myself and others.  My life is happier when I am pain free.  I am not hindered in my daily life and the activities that I can choose to do when I my pain is lessened.  The same is true for my loved ones.  I give them better care when I am not focused on my pain.  I am much more pleasant and amiable when my pain levels are down.  How about you?  How are you dealing with the emotionally painful things in your life?  Are you facing them down daily or are you avoiding them at all cost?  Each decision has its own payoff.  Avoidance of the pain feels as if it lessens the pain in the short term, but  the less we deal with it, the more the pain grows, the slower the process of recovery, and the less I give those whom I love the quality of care they need.

Are you Emotionally Ambidextrous?

Are you Emotionally Ambidextrous?

I’m currently in the midst of recovering from a severe shoulder injury.    My injury creates an inability to move my arm above my head,  to carry weight with the arm, and to do anything that would require the twisting of my arm.   It’s been a hassle and frustration to deal with the loss of ability.  However, I’m slowly learning to be more ambidextrous.  I realize the number of times I can use the other arm to do the same thing that I’m used to doing with my primary arm.   It’s fantastic to understand that I am capable of doing the same task with a different limb, and I’ve never done it that way before this point in time.  The same can be true when we’ve had a significant loss in our life.  Be it the death of a family member, a loss of a spouse, or change in a relationship, we think we know what we are capable of doing but many times we are capable of doing much more than we perceive because we’ve never done it that way before.   Emotional ambidexterity (which is my made-up word)  is my way of explaining that you are capable of doing something different and ,with practice, you will become skilled at doing it differently.  At the moment I am talk typing because typing with my right arm is virtually impossible, and typing with my left arm is slowly progressing.    How about you?   Do you stop trying when what you’re used to doing things one way and that can no longer be done?   Or do you try to learn new ways of doing what you used to do?   It’s very empowering to think that we can do things differently when we force ourselves to learn new ways of doing things.   The first time I did something with my left arm I felt a little proud of myself because I was learning how to develop a whole other part of my being that has been virtually unused.   I have to remind myself always to use my left hand because the old way keeps kicking in and taking over and then the pain comes from doing it the old way.   How about you?  Are you learning how to use different emotional muscles than you used before this point in time?  Even as I type with my left hand, I feel more powerful to be using a skill I never developed before today.   You may be used to doing things one way, but the reality is you hold unlimited capability within you that has yet to be tapped from the inside!   Keep reminding yourself to do it the new way, and soon you will find yourself skilled in areas you never knew you were skilled.

 

Isaiah 43:18-19 “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

Five Years from Now

The other day I found myself walking the dog before the sun had risen and I reflected on the fact that I now enjoy the solitude and peace of our early morning walks together unlike seasons past.  There was a time that walking the dog before sunrise would have been repulsive to me; however, as my season of life has shifted and what I value in this period is different than the last.  One of the keys of embracing the season you are in is not focusing on the season to come or the season from the past but concentrate on embracing the good in your current season.  People tell me things they don’t like or don’t want for their future, but we change just like the seasons and what is of value to us in the seasons to come may not be of value to us to us now.   When I look back on my life in the last five years, I can see that I was changing through those years to the point that I am now a morning person and a person who likes walking the dog before dawn.  Who knew I would enjoy that habit of pre-dawn walks, or be a morning person for that matter?!  If you look to your future to be filled with the same elements of today, you will be disappointed because life, people, circumstances, and everything else changes.  Five years from now you will be a different version of yourself.  Have hope, friends. Life will not be as it is today.  In fact, life will be a better version if we continue to push toward the disciplines our heart is calling to us right now.  

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11

Addicted to Abuse?

Addicted to Abuse?

People ask me all the time how they keep winding up in relationships where there is abuse.  They hate the concept of abuse and feel frustrated to find themselves again in this situation and yet, they feel drawn to it.  In the world of counseling, we call this hard to explain “addiction” trauma bonding.  Trauma bonding comes from people walking through typical stages of bonding with people, but if their bonding in their childhood was bonding mixed with abuse, abuse is normalized in a relationship.  So how does one change a cycle established in their childhood when bonding was combined with abuse?  We need to change our belief systems.  Let me share my own story as an example of how you change your belief system about abuse in relationships.  As a child, my mother would leave my brother and me with my mentally ill grandmother as a form of childcare.  I think her belief was that as long as my grandfather was present nothing bad was going to happen.  However, there was frequent abuse that occurred inside the house while my grandfather was outside working on projects.  My grandmother had very high perfectionistic beliefs, and those perfectionistic standards were impossible for a child under the age of 8 to maintain.  Hence I would be beaten for making mistakes –  mistakes such as not cuffing my socks correctly or standing too close to the door of a room I was not allowed to would result in a beating.  I was forced to make perfectionism my standard and shame had to become my means of punishment for myself.  If someone shamed me for not being perfect, I learned to completely embrace their shame as a means of striving for greater perfection.  The shame would push me to higher standards of behavior and higher standards of interaction with people and tasks.  It was an exhausting and anxiety-provoking endeavor that would end each time perfection was achieved, or shame was given by myself or others.  It was when I began targeting the belief system that held this behavior in the place that I was able to change how I interacted with others and what I allowed from others.  Somewhere along the line I had learned I deserved to be punished and humiliated when I made mistakes and understanding the beliefs that kept that behavior in place, I was able to renew my mind.  So what is your addiction?  What are the beliefs that hold your addiction in place?  What are you doing to change that in your own life?   For me, it was a combination of surrounding myself with truth via people, a personal therapist, reading articles on topics related to my beliefs, and spiritually trying to come to understand how God perceived me.  Today, I am able to stop disrespectful or shaming conversations by telling the person speaking to me they need to stop or I will end the conversation.  I am able to feel the physical feeling of shame or disrespect and I ask people to change how they are communicating or the conversation is over.   It took a concerted effort on my part to not use perfectionism as an addiction, but I’m happy to say today that there are times I wish I were a little more anal than I currently am because mistakes are common and now acceptable in my world.  I extend love and forgiveness to myself when I make mistakes because I’ve changed the way I think about myself and what is accurate and godly in judging how other people interact with me.   I am now able to state I no longer am addicted to shame, and I’m proud of it!

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.”

Creating Community can Lead to Untold Treasures

The other night I had a dream about something that I frequently try to share with people in my counseling office.  The concept that we talk about is the power of sharing community with others.  In the dream, I went shopping with a group of friends that I pray with on a daily basis via a group texting application on my phone.   In my dream, we went treasure hunting to a store, and each of us found and bought a treasure that would be personally meaningful to us.  I woke up thinking to myself that the dream was such a great analogy about life.  We are more likely to find treasures, and be able to hold onto treasures, when we lean into the strength of those we walk with in life who are mutually giving.  I can only hold so much weight in my hands if I’m just using my hands but if I have other people coming alongside me, the weight of what I can carry is significantly larger.   Finding a community that you can lean into can many times be a complicated process and it is important to find people who are mutually giving and caring.  It’s so important that you examine how the persons you bring into your life interact with others so you can understand if they are selfless or selfish.  Despite the difficulty in finding community, I see the difference in the lives of individuals who can lean on a community when they’re going through a hard time or when they’re understanding and moving into grasping a hold of their vision.   Treasures are waiting to be released to people who choose to walk with others.

 

Hebrews 10:24-25

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.