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I Am Woman! Hear me…Meow?

I remember a commercial from my childhood vividly in which the woman proudly declared she could bring home the bacon, take care of the home, and extend value to her relationships because she was a woman! It was an empowering message for women in the 1980’s who were breaking out of the constraints that had been placed on them by society, but it was a myth that grew in strength and has created a loss in many when they were not able to be everything to everybody. Every choice has positives elements that bring peace or life, and every choice has losses that are tied to that choice. For example, as a working woman, I may decide that I do not have the strength to make a homemade dinner and might opt for takeout. The choice is positive for me in that I have extended self-care to myself by the choice takeout has brought me, but the loss is in finances and maybe health quotient. So how do you make decisions when each decision brings loss? This is where I, as a woman, have to include my spirit. This is where I consult the higher power of the Holy Spirit because the Bible says the Spirit of God knows what we need when we do not. I will be honest: there are times I want with all my heart to make a choice for self-care and ignore the losses, but only caring for self can sometimes numb the loss. On a recent afternoon, I arrived home exhausted and laid down in my dark bedroom and watched “Christmas in Connecticut” thinking there was no way I could make dinner. However, as I gave myself care for that half hour things evolved and when I asked the Holy Spirit about making dinner, I felt encouraged to make dinner and did it with an ease that had not existed the previous hour. Where did that strength come from? God. It says in the Bible that Jesus is before the throne of God interceding for us and supplying our needs, but what we need changes daily and we have a God who knows us better than we know ourselves and He knows the power inside of us when we do not. Next time you are questioning what you should choose, ask God to show you. He knows what you do not and can direct you to deal with things you did not know you could deal with today.

John 16:13
“But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.

1980’s commercial I referred to in my post
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Q0P94wyBYk

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

Fall is Here so New Can Come

 

I love the season of fall to take walks and hike because there is something richly exhilarating about the crisp air that has not yet become frigid, the sky which seems to be vividly blue due to a lack of humidity in the atmosphere, and the lovely colors emerging in the leaves that were once green. I find myself pondering transitions in life as the leaves slowly change color and drop to the ground, and today I was pondering the idea that nature sows its seeds for the next season as the pods of plants drop to the ground in fall. Most people perceive spring to be when new life emerges and yet spring is the product of fall and new is the product of nature releasing old. In order for us to embrace new in our lives, we have to release the old. So what does that mean for you and me when we look at the transitions happening in our lives? We may need to look at some of the things falling away in our lives as the transition to allow new into our lives in the next season. Be it children heading off to to college or to pursue their dreams, deaths, changes in jobs or even relationship changes, while the seasons change, they do not stay the same and new comes again. Are you grieving losses right now? Though the season change there is God whose love remains the same.

Ecclesiastes 3 1:15 New International Version (NIV)
A Time for Everything
3 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
9 What do workers gain from their toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet[a] no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. 13 That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.

15 Whatever is has already been,
and what will be has been before;
and God will call the past to account.

Recently, my brother returned from Papua New Guinea where he and my parents have been working with local leaders to build a Bible School that is focused on creating leaders that will positively impact their community and culture. One of the founders’ beliefs is that if you want to change a culture, you have to train people in things they have never been trained. Papua New Guinea is one of the poorest nations in the world and they have not been educated in so many areas that they do not know what they do not know. The people of the country literally would not think to do things differently because they have never lived any other way.

In their first graduating class (pictured here), a woman by the name of Mazo graduated and had an amazing testimony of pushing through obstacles for she had never attended school a day in her life; she arrived at Bible college with neither the ability to read nor write nor speak in English, the language in which classes were taught. In western culture we would not permit her to stay in the Bible school because she had not met the prerequisites of education, but her classmates rallied around her and taught her to read and write and speak English and she was able to complete her first year of Bible College. The female student had no belief that learning how to read or write or speak a new language would be hard, so in the course of one year, she learned all three.

There is no such thing as impossible in the ways of God. God has empowered us to win. We limit ourselves with our beliefs and understanding of things that we have been taught by our western culture and our family of origin. What does society tell you that you are capable of doing? What did your family tell you about yourself by how they treated you or how did they model how you were to do things by how they behaved? When I was a teen I had a belief that I was not good at math. It was a belief that had been handed down to my by my mother and my grandmother and it caused me to have poor grades in math because I literally believed I was not able to understand the concept. In my second year of college I was forced to take Statistics class as part of my required curriculum and by that point in time my belief system regarding what I was capable of doing had changed and I did relatively well in the class because I believed I was capable of learning and understanding the material. Our belief system limits us in ways we do not understand and many times we do not even realize what we do not know about ourselves. Trust me. I have been doing this counseling thing 20 years and I have never met a person who fully understands their belief system or how their belief system is impacting them. It’s time to allow our fellow classmates teach us what we need to know so we can graduate to the next level.

”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.”

Did you ever purchase something new for your home and find that as you added the new element to the room, the things that were older in the room became glaringly apparent? Be it freshly painted walls, new carpeting or a new sofa, suddenly old became very distinct; however, rarely can everything be changed at once. Usually, it takes time and resources to change all of the other “old”.

Sometimes we get frustrated when we gain a new truth in our lives and the old way of doing things or seeing things becomes glaringly apparent. We get upset because all the changes are not happening at once and we become frustrated. Just like the natural order of changing how a room looks takes time and resources, so the same is true with making internal changes. Give yourself a break today! Truth takes time to change all of the old.

2 Corinthians 3:18 (TLB)
18 But we Christians have no veil over our faces; we can be mirrors that brightly reflect the glory of the Lord. And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him

Five Ways to be Focused Throughout Your Day

I have started using timers for everything. I already used the timers for cooking and laundry, but as of late, I have been using timers as a means to stay on task. I become frustrated with myself or with situations when I find myself distracted from what I wish to focus my energy. In the short 10 minutes since I sat down to write, my dog has visited me, the dog began to bark at children playing, I looked up two definitions of words on the internet, a toilet overflowed, and two children asked me questions.

Distraction is one of the plagues of western culture. No longer are people trying to figure out time management because the ability to focus is more of a problem. The largest problem with lack of focus is that our relationships are suffering the strain of our lack of attention and many are feeling devalued. Here are five ways to be more focused in your day so you can do what you want to do with your time and the people in your life instead of directing your energy to all the other things that are vying for your time.

1. Do not go on electronics during the first hour of your day and the last hour of your day. Your brain needs to focus so that you can plan out your day and remember what you need to remember. When you choose to not use electronics at the end of your day you are better able to relax, pray and plan for tomorrow so that you enter a more restful sleep.

2. Take notes throughout your day of things you wish to come back to later, but not at that moment. By taking notes you will stay on your current task instead of getting sidetracked.

3. Take breaks. Every hour of task focus requires a ten minute break so that your brain can rest and refocus. You will be able to complete a task faster if you take a break. Most people assume if they just stay on task they can finish faster but science has proven that breaks make task completion easier and more efficient. When at work, change up your task for 10 minutes each hour so as to reset your concentration.

4. When having a conversation with an individual, focus on their face. If you are having trouble staying focused when they are talking you can use several tricks to keep you attentive. You will find conversation more stimulating and relaxing when you focus.
A. Focus on all the aspects of their head: their eyes, eyelashes, skin, creases in their faces, etc.
B. Repeat to yourself (inside of your head) what the person is stating every couple of minutes. What are they feeling? What are they saying? If you are thinking about what your reply will be, you are not focused on listening. Keep your attention on what the person is stating.

5. Set timers for yourself so that you stay focused on something you have traditionally allowed to steal your time. For example, if you find yourself staying on Facebook longer than you wish, set a timer before you go onto the site. Set a timer for 10-20 minutes and then get off the site when your timer goes off. You will come to see how much time you waste on things that you do not wish to focus upon.

Today I used a timer to keep myself on the task or writing. I knew I had one hour to write and by using a timer I stayed focused on the task. My challenge was to write as well as I could in one hour and edit what I needed to change during another time slot. When we focus our attention on things that we value as important instead of those that are not, we tend to find ourselves much more energized at the end of the day.