Skip to main content

Look for Beauty in Seasons of Death

Look for Beauty in Seasons of Death

We are in the dead of winter here in the Northeast. It’s cold, and the skies are gray most days, and there is not much joy in being outside UNLESS you look closely. When you search for beauty in the barren landscape, you can usually find it, but it doesn’t necessarily catch your attention as it does in the spring or summer when the colors are eye-catching.In spring and summer, beauty is natural to find with the vibrant colors tied to those seasons. On a recent winter walk on a wetlands trail, I saw myself prompted by God to look for beauty instead of looking at everything that was dead. When I forced myself to look for beauty in the winter landscape, I found it in the shapes of intricate weeds, winter berries, rocks, streams and a myriad of tree shapes. This is a perfect analogy of what is happening during dark seasons of your life. You can choose to look at the death of the season and/or you can also choose to look for beauty. I am not suggesting that we operate in fantasy regarding our reality ( which is another blog); however, I am suggesting that when you look for beauty, you tend to have a greater awareness of the creator. All of us have the need to have a greater knowledge of the creator’s presence when we go through dark phases of life otherwise we will feel more hopeless and powerless. Our challenge as we move through the dark season is to look for beauty. We need to look for points of light because even when a room is entirely dark a single flame of a candle can change your perspective of the darkness and give you the vision to move through the night. It’s cold and dark out there. Choose to look for beauty and light.

 

Coping with The Holiday Blues – Part Two

Coping with The Holiday Blues – Part Two

In the last months, I have been impressed with God’s sunset shows.  I am not sure if it was that I was driving that direction at the time of the sunset or if it was because we had such a deary summer with lots of rain and clouds that I was aware of the sunsets, but none the less, I was mindful of the beauty.  The artist in me wanted to chase the photography shot, but with each turn to try and capture the beauty, I found myself losing the vision as the sun was setting. I was chasing sunsets only to discover that they could not be caught. I felt like God said to me, “ Stop chasing sunsets.  They are a gift for the moment, not for you to capture.” That started me thinking how sometimes in our effort to chase happiness, we miss the gifts of the day that are right under our noses. Are you aware of the sunset on your drive and are you grateful for the beauty? To maintain a positive outlook through whatever hard season you are going through, you are going to need to choose to recognize the beautiful moments in each day.  I encourage people to look for the beautiful moments in each day by journaling what they are grateful for, and yet I understand the pain of being heartsick when month after month, year after year nothing changed in my health or another situation. Those heartsick moments are the moments when we start to lose hope hence our power. Each of us has troubles, and God says to stay in the moment of each day as opposed to worrying about the next day.  

The Message translation of the Bible says it well;  Matthew 6:34 “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”  Pay attention to the sunset, the baby smiling at you, the gift sitting on your desk from a friend, the tree outside of your window or whatever catches your eye, because it’s catching your eye because God is pointing it out to you for you to focus on to enable you to stay present at the moment.  My drives home from work in the dark of night are much more enjoyable this time of year because people are putting up Christmas lights that bring beauty to my night drives. The holidays are a stressful time of the year and many times we need to look for beauty to stay present in our day instead of worrying about the things that are yet to be done.  Let beauty drive your holidays, not stress and worry. In our new podcast, Sharon and Cait discuss emotional and spiritual strategies for Coping with The Holiday Blues in part two of our two-part series.

The Seven Cardinal Sins of Manipulative Parenting

The Seven Cardinal Sins of Manipulative Parenting

How do you feel after someone has manipulated, guilted or shamed you into doing something for them?   You do not feel good about yourself. You feel shameful and have poor self-esteem after the matter. To compound matters, how do you feel when you have no choice in a matter, and you are not allowed to share your feelings or say no?  You probably feel powerless and violated in addition to feeling guilty, shameful, condemned, and perhaps lacking trust in the other person. Unfortunately, parents in their own feelings of powerlessness sometimes resort to manipulative techniques to get their children to comply with their requests.  We have all been there and done that type of behavior in the parenting journey, however, if we grew up with emotionally or verbally abusive behavior, we may not realize when we are being manipulative in our parenting. We desire to empower our children to move toward the design their creator has made them, but we take away some of the fuel they need to achieve their plan when we inadvertently steal some of their emotional strength via manipulative parenting techniques.  In the attached podcast, Licensed professional counselor, Sharon Wegman, and counselor Cait Beiler discuss the seven cardinal sins parents can inadvertently do that harm their children. Ephesians 6:4 cautions parents, and our podcast focuses on these provoking behaviors:

  1. Too much talking, lecturing, and nagging.
  2. Parental tirades and temper tantrums.
  3. Parental tears and guilt trips.
  4. Parental threats of harm to the child.
  5. Inconsistency in the parenting.
  6. Disagreement in front of the children.
  7. Lack of giving to the children.

Who Are You Listening To?

Who Are You Listening To?

Doing new things can be scary. In fact, most people sit across from me saying that they don’t like change and I tell them, “You are pretty normal. Most people don’t like change.” In fact, most people would venture to say that while they want to change their lives, the changes necessary for change are daunting and overwhelming. It feels more comfortable to do things as we have always done things; however, when we examine the emotional, spiritual, physical, and relational costs of not making changes, the price is much higher than if one never made adjustments.

There is a story in the Bible about what happened to the children of Israel when they arrived at their promised land after being released from slavery and abuses of all kinds. They had lived as victims for generations, and while they saw God’s hand repeatedly rescuing them as they exited their abusive captivity, it was hard for them to visualize being able to take the necessary steps to receive the promised land. Twelve were sent into the area to see what God wanted to give them and, of the twelve, only two were confident that the same God who had rescued them from slavery would enable them to be strong enough to make the changes necessary to access the promised land. You can read about this story in the book of Exodus.

It’s hard to think differently than we have been taught. We are taught how to live by our parents, our grandparents, our teachers in school, friends, our culture, etc., etc.. Sometimes it’s hard to imagine that we are making decisions based on things that someone told us repeatedly that weren’t true. The children of Israel had been told lies about their worth in captivity, and so when they were brought to the crossing over point, they could not do it because of their old beliefs about who they were won over what God had been telling them and showing them. God literally had to keep them in a holding pattern for 40 years until all of the old ways of thinking had died and the next generation who had not lived as slaves knew their worth. They saw God as their daily provider and were able to make a choice to make changes.

What about you? Are you looking at crossing over into the promised land and your old thinking is keeping you from making the necessary changes? Where did those thoughts come from? Where did you collect them from in life? Do they match what God says about you? In my own personal experience, each time I come to the threshold of new, I have to invite God into my listening process, or I could easily listen to the old recordings from my past. Rarely do I see how each thing will play out as I make decisions, but as the Bible states, “ the steps of the righteous are ordered by the Lord.” Each new step I take into a new promised land more is revealed and released that I would never have seen until I crossed over. Like Joshua and Caleb (the two of the twelve that knew they could cross over), I need to surround myself with friends who believe the same things so that their thoughts and words can spur me on to new.

Change is hard. Whose beliefs are you listening to today? God is bigger than anything you have to change.

Manipulation in Relationships

Manipulation in Relationships

Manipulation in relationships is pervasive in all relationships in life.  Be it our relationships with our significant other, our child or with a friend, most people resort to some form of manipulation in the course of their life to get what they want without having to be vulnerable and state exact needs.  We fear vulnerability because of the fear of rejection and abandonment; denial of our needs feels much more hurtful than that of getting our needs met through manipulation. When one person wants another person to do something, our human nature can readily resort to some type of manipulative words or behaviors to get what we desire in the situation.  Transversely, when someone is trying to get us to do something that we do not want to do, our human nature can quickly resort to passive manipulation as our way of maintaining power and saying no without being rejected. Think of the child who is told no to a request for a piece of candy. The child does not yet have control of their impulses, and so they may start whining for the candy or throw a fit of rage to try to manipulate the adult to give them what they request.  If the child is given the candy as a result of their manipulation, they are likely to quickly learn at an early age that they can manipulate people to get what they what they want. We learn manipulative tactics at an early age from observing the ways of our parents, and we slowly start incorporating manipulative ways into how we live. Some of the manipulation tactics are very visible, and some are more covert in their expression, but none of the tactics builds safety in relationships. Children will not feel safe and secure with parents who manipulate them, our significant relationships will not grow where manipulation is present, and our friendships will be stunted in growth under the absence of vulnerability and the presence of manipulation.  Manipulation twists relationships into something that cannot thrive because of the poisons of hurtful words of behaviors can stunt the growth of a relationship, cause abnormalities to develop and in some cases cause the relationship to die. If we want our relationships to thrive, we are going to need to work hard at not only eliminating manipulative behaviors and words and become more vulnerable in our expression of our needs and feelings. In the attached podcast, Sharon Wegman and Cait Beiler discuss the continuum of manipulative words and actions including; Isolating, withholding, minimizing, accusation, deceit, coercion, demeaning, criticism, rage, and threatening amongst other behaviors.

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.

Thank You

I admit it. I am about to sound like a cranky old lady, who rants about the younger generation, but I am not that person. I have a problem that people do not require their children to learn the art of writing thank you notes and showing gratitude to people. I see these attitudes invading marriages and families, and it disturbs me that the art of gratitude is being lost amidst the growing entitlement I see in marriages and families. Here is the rule by which I try to live: I will not use the money or item someone has given me until I first write a note of thanks honoring the sacrifice and gift that was given to me. That same rule applies for my children. One of my children follows the rule very easily and the other needs to have some motivation applied to make sure it occurs. I have a personal mission in life that they will not be entitled children who become entitled adults because it will cut off the flow of favor they will receive as adults; people honor people who honor them. I am seeing a whole new generation of people who expect behaviors from people with whom they are in a relationship because “that is what they are supposed to do.” I have men who tell me that their wife needs to give them sex because that’s what they need, but they fail to give the nurture their wives needs to be cherished. I have wives with husbands who fail to engage them as they are supposed to because they are constantly criticizing their husband. I have children telling me what their parents should be doing but failing to honor it when they do it for them because it is the expected behavior they have of their parents. I have employees telling me what they deserve, yet fail to put into the job what they expect out of a job. Do you want your children to be less entitled? Do you want to be less entitled and more gracious? Start writing thank you notes. When someone does you favor, gives to you, or does something for you out of the ordinary, write a thank you note to honor what they have given. In the grand scheme of life, people who honor will receive more and people who do not honor might or might not be honored in return. Thank you for listening to my old person rant. I appreciate and honor your support of me and my desire to blog.

Pushing Beyond the Waves

Have you ever tried to navigate a boat from the bay to the open ocean? It is not an easy process depending upon how large the waves that are coming in are sized. Fighting against the waves is a complicated process, and many choose not to push through the waves to the freedom of the open sea. Instead, they stay in the calm waters of the bay. The same goes for choices in life. Many make decisions based on the amount of resistance the decision will incur, not on the freedom on the other side of the wave line. The waves can be like so many things that resist you moving to freedom and, let’s make this clear, waves only move in one direction. They do not change course; you have to wade through them to get to the other side of the wave line:

1. Your psyche that has been doing things the same way for years on end.
2. Your family or friends who like what you do for them and resist your making changes.
3. Your psyche that feels guilt and shame when changes are made, and people are upset.
4. Finances that seem stuck in holding patterns.
5. Jobs that do not create opportunities for advancement.

The list could go on forever, but the theme is the same. There will never a time when the waves of life are not preventing you from moving forward, be it emotionally, socially, behaviorally, financially, etc. So how do we have hope to go through the wave line to the freedom of the open seas that will take us to new destinations? The answer is hope. Hope is like the lifeline of a life preserver – that when I cling to it, I do not go under the water but stay on top. What you put your hope in becomes the larger question. Is your hope in your attitude, your hard work, your plan, your family, your friends? Your government?

I put my hope in God, and God becomes my flotation device as I face the waves that come my way. There will always be waves, but there will always be a true God and I put my hope in Him.

A psalm of David when he fled from his son, Absalom.
1 LORD, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! 2 Many are saying of me, “God will not deliver him.” 3 But you, LORD, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. 4 I call out to the LORD, and he answers me from his holy mountain. 5 I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me. 6 I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side

Ultimate Fail Days

There are days when you navigate life with tremendous skills and days when you have Ultimate Fail days. Sometimes I have days that I unintentionally let people down and the one who feels the worst about it is usually me. Today was one of those Ultimate Fail days. I forgot to call someone, I missed an appointment, and I forgot to email someone something – all within the course of few short hours. I had a choice as to how I was going to navigate those failures. My past was littered with pity parties and self-hate sessions that would last a whole day; however, I am trying to look at failures differently these days because I am learning that there are benefits to failing. Most successes are usually built upon previous failures and failure usually comes before success. Failures show me where I need improvement and failures are packed full of lessons on how to do life differently, but there is a catch; how do I do different if I do not know how to do something different? This is the question that can be addressed with others through therapy, your job, church, school, friends and sometimes your family. It seems we all know what we need to do, but we don’t necessary know how to achieve it because we need someone to teach us how to do that new way of living. Many times how we learned to navigate life is through the patterns our parents and grandparents taught us to deal with life. Alas, many of us enter adulthood lacking the essential skills necessary to be successful in multiple areas: having friends, pursuing education, pursuing purpose, making financial decisions, intimately relating to those close to us in our lives, etc, etc, etc.. Where are you lacking skills? Who do you see who is successful in those areas you are lacking? These are the people we need to learn from because we are never going to be able to teach ourselves something that was never modeled to us unless, of course, the person who is teaching us happens to be named God.

Sometimes good can be the enemy of best. We can fill our lives easily with things that are good to do and ignore doing the things that are best for us. Be it spending time listening to our spouse, playing with our children, doing self-care or spending time with God, we can often choose good over best. If you are a people pleaser choosing to not do good in the effort to do what is best is particularly hard because you may disappoint others. What is Best for the rest of your day? Go do Best! – SW
Ephesians 5:15-16 So, then, be careful how you live. Do not be unwise but wise, making the best use of your time because the times are evil.