Archive | August 2016

Affirming Our Imperfect Selves

I recently attended a lovely dinner for a group of women in the home of a sweet friend. It was a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere. Everyone chose what she wanted from an assortment of fillings—beans, tomatoes, lettuce, olives, cheese, chicken, and onions—to fill a choice of tasty wraps. Chips, salsa, and wonderful desserts completed the meal. Afterward, Heidi invited us to do the following activity–focused on self-affirmIMG_3848ation.

She instructed us to write the letters of our name on a sheet of paper, in the form of an acrostic, and after each letter to write down an affirmation about ourselves. Along with surprised laughter and a few groans, there were some humorous questions, such as, “Can I change my name?”

Feeling a bit anxious about giving myself affirmations, I hesitated for a few minutes but managed to come up with four words and phrases that began with the letters of my name–JANE.

For the letter J, I wrote down the word Joyful. Then, remembering that I am often joyful—but not always, I modified my affirmation by adding the phrase “joyfully connected to Jesus”. He’s my primary source of joy.

For the letter A, I wrote down the word Adventuresome. Remembering that I’m sometimes fearful, I paused a few minutes, and considered erasing my affirmation. Yet, after reflecting on some of my life experiences and choices, I said, “Yes, I am adventuresome.”

For the letter N, I wrote down the word Non-judgmental. Hmm . . . maybe some people don’t think so, I worried. How can I revise that? This is what I came up with: When I’m aware of God’s grace in my life and his acceptance of me, I’m able to pass that on to others—I’m non-judgmental.

For the letter E, I wrote down this phrase: Eager-to-learn, to grow, and to share. As I reflected on that phrase, I felt confident that it was accurate—not needing to be tweaked.  I’ve always enjoyed learning; I love to share what I’ve learned and to hear about how others are learning and growing.

After we finished the activity, Heidi asked us to share what we had written; then, she encouraged us to take our lists home, post them where we would see them, and read them–every day. As I listened to my friends read their affirmations, I felt awed by the unique, beauty of each woman.

Being the thoughtful person that I am, I wondered why I was so hesitant to define myself as joyful, adventuresome, and non-judgmental. Why did I have to qualify my answers? What I recognized was my wanting-to-be-perfect tendency.

Is it okay for us to embrace our positive attributes even if we do not always live up to them? Of course! Only God is perfect—always good, always just, always faithful, always wise—totally consistent.As we grow in our relationship with him, our positive qualities show up more consistently in our lives. So, we need to accept and affirm them as true.

Every day, whether we are aware of it or not, we give ourselves hundreds of “I am” messages. These messages are based on either truths or lies—reality or fantasy. Either way, our brains are designed so that we fulfill the definition that we choose for ourselves.

In her book, Switch on Your Brain, Dr. Caroline Leaf says, “Thoughts are real, physical things that occupy mental real estate. Moment by moment, every day, you are changing the structure of your brain through your thinking.”

By giving ourselves positive and true affirmations, we increase our ability to live up to them, and this increases our confidence and our faith in what God can do in us and through us.

If you would like to affirm your imperfect self, take a few minutes and do the activity that I earlier described.

  • Using colored pencils or crayons that you like and an attractive sheet of paper, write down each letter of your name. (You don’t have to limit this to your first name.)
  • After each letter of your name, write down an affirmation that you truthfully believe describes who you are–most of the time. If you need help with this, ask a friend to tell you what she or he likes about you.
  • Read your affirmations out loud
  • Share them with someone.
  • Post them some place where you will see them.
  • Read them out loud every day for the next week.
  • Notice any changes in your feelings and behavior.
This entry was posted on August 25, 2016. 14 Comments

What Does Your Favorite Ice Cream Say About You?

Today’s post is written by my friend, Stephanie Miller, who is a Life Coach and a writer. She is a compassionate and caring person–transparent and genuine, eager and able to lead others toward personal and spiritual maturity.


image1

There is just something about ice cream that seems to make everything better. Many of my most cherished memories center around ice cream.

 ice cream after a swim meet with my teammates…

 ice cream on the way to visit my great grandparents…

 ice cream on a hot day or ice cream with birthday cake at birthday parties…

 What are your favorite childhood memories about ice cream?

What is your favorite flavor?

Not only do we have memories about eating ice cream, many of us have our favorite ice cream flavor and, when given the choice, choose that flavor more than any other. What if I told you that not only can we see if you are a chocolate fan or rocky-road nut, but, according to Dr. Hirsch, by knowing your favorite ice cream flavor, we can also peak into part of your personality.

Vanilla lovers tend to be impulsive, idealistic, and risk takers. They tend to rely more on intuition than logic.

Strawberry fans show themselves to be more introverted, devoted, and thoughtful.

Chocoholics have a flirty side and are known to be charming, lively, and seductive.

Mint Chocolate Chip lovers may be more argumentative, but they also tend to be highly ambitious, and confident.

Rainbow Sherbet fans enjoy the irony of liking fun colored ice cream, but can be slightly pessimistic. They also are analytical thinkers and more decisive from their algorithm approach.

Rocky Road nuts can be more aggressive, but are more engaging and great listeners.

Coffee lovers are dramatic and prefer to “live in the moment” rather than focus on the future.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough fans are generous, competent, and can be real “go- getters”. (not to be confused with stubborn)

Butter Pecan lovers tend to be conscientious, devoted, and respectful. The hold high esteem to right vs. wrong and are often afraid of hurting others feelings.

 

Which is your favorite flavor now? Let me ask you this, after reading what your favorite flavor says abut you, do you want to switch your go-to scoop?

 Would like to be considered more flirty and less argumentative? Switch your standby from mint chocolate chip to chocolate?

 
Can we choose to be more flirty instead of argumentative? Can we choose our emotional responses like we choose our ice cream?

Yes, we can!

In her book, Emotional Freedom: The Choices We Must Make, Jane discusses this very thing. The anger we express, the bitterness we allow to fester inside of us, are all from the choices we make to handle (or not handle) our emotions. We choose healthier emotional responses by choosing grace–His unconditional grace–instead of indulging in our fiery emotions. We are given grace and we must accept grace.

God empowers us to choose the healthier ways to express our emotions. Whether you tend to over express your emotions or hold everything in, learning healthy emotional expression is the key to a stronger and deeper walk with God.

I invite you to join my 14 week study, digging more into this book, and above that, cultivating community with other women who know what you’re going through. If you are interested in learning more and joining the Emotional Freedom Growth Group, please click HERE.

The Moving-Away Part of Bonding

I woke up early this morning because I wanted to say goodbye to my daughter, son-in-law and four grandchildren. Saying “Goodbye” last night would have been okay, but I wanted to give them another hug before they drove away in their minivan.

Seeing them drive off reminded me of the following poem, which I wrote fourteen years ago, when my oldest grandchild was a baby.


His little bug hugs and little bug kisses
Went away, this morning, in a big red car.
All that’s left is “baby smell” on the sheets of his
Crib and hundreds of silent pictures.

Part of bonding is moving close to someone
And part of bonding is moving away, so the experts say.
I prefer little bug kisses to theories,
Yet, in my grandmotherly way, I will adjust.

My goodness, what did I say?
My “grandmotherly way”?
Why, that little bug hasn’t gone away at all.
He’s crawled right into my heart.
He’s changed my identity!


At first I could not see any advantage in having my grandson live so far away from me. I was afraid that if he did not see me very often, that he would not remember his grandmother. (But which is more important–that he remembers me or that I remember him?)

Fourteen years later, I know that that was a groundless fear. Although he now stands above me, my grandson is just as generous with his hugs as when he was a toddler. The twinkle in his eye when he sees me is just as bright. Being separated physically has not separated us emotionally.

Moving away—placing some physical distance—in a relationship is necessary for emotional growth, and actually makes bonds grow stronger.  Why?  It’s an opportunity for building trust and self-confidence. Although, I might, as a parent or grandparent, resist the moving away part of bonding, I know that it’s important.  Letting my children  go involves believing that what I’ve given them is enough and trusting them to make wise choices—not always perfect ones; ,but then, do I always make the perfect choice.?

For me, letting my children (and grandchildren) go, also means trusting  God, believing that he loves and cares for them, even more than I do. I pray for them and trust that he will be with them at all times.

My children have a sense of self-confidence that they would not have if I had insisted that they “stay close to home.”  I miss them, but I’m happy and proud of the way they meet challenges in life. When they come back, I feel overjoyed, and  I am working on being more joyful when they leave.

How do I intend to do this?  In my heart and mind (and sometimes on paper), I will remember and record the conversations, the smiles, the hugs, the games we played, and the meals that we ate together. I will look at all of the pictures that I took. I will keep the memories of all our “togetherness” times tucked away in my heart. And when I feel lonesome, I will look review those memories and be thankful.

My children and grandchildren will always remain in my heart. How could they not? They are part of my identity!

This entry was posted on August 19, 2016. 8 Comments

The Place of Rest

I wrote the following poem quite a few years ago. I need to read it often, because it’s so easy for me to fall back into my workaholic mode of operation.

The Place of Rest

When my work becomes so serious
I lose sight of who I serve;
My flesh becomes so weary
I’ve no strength to do my job.

 

God’s gentle yoke feels heavy
When I carry it alone;
I’m consumed with fear and worry;
My confidence is gone.

 

But when I spend my day with Jesus,
When I focus on His face,
His yoke is not a burden;
He gives abundant Grace.

 

My heart is filled with joy,
And I do not fear defeat.
I know my God will triumph,
And I worship at His feet.

 

It’s only in the presence
Of my Lord that I can find
Strength and peace, love and mercy,
Wisdom—truth of any kind.

 

It’s only in His presence
That my heart can find true rest;
It’s only when I stay there
That I truly find success.

 

This entry was posted on August 12, 2016. 5 Comments

What is Growing in the Garden of Your Heart?

A few weeks ago while I was observing the phlox that surround my deck, I noticed some tall plants among them that had not yet blossomed. I suspected that they were weeds and wanted to pull them up. My husband said, “Oh, don’t pull them up, they might be flowers.”

“No, they are not flowers,” I said. “I’m sure that they are weeds, but if you don’t think so, I will leave them alone.”

A few weeks later, these “flowers” started blossoming. At the same time, my husband started experiencing allergy symptoms. I told him that the plant he called a flower was goldenrod. “It’s the same thing as ragweed which is a common allergen,” I said.

“You can pull them up,” said my husband.

To make sure that my “goldenrod is the same thing as ragweed” statement was correct, I decided I better check it out. Much to my surprise, I found out that I was wrong! Goldenrod is not usually an allergen; it actually has medicinal benefits.


ragweed and phlox


In the garden of our hearts, many thoughts have been planted. Some of them are “flowers” and some of them “weeds”. It’s important that we correctly identify them. The flowers will produce lovely perfumes—feelings and attitudes that make our lives healthy and attractive to others. Feelings such as peace, joy, and hopefulness—and attitudes such as patience, gentleness, and gratitude grow from flowers.

The weeds will produce allergens—feelings and attitudes that make our lives miserable and unattractive to others. Feelings such as anxiety, discouragement, and anger—and attitudes such as discontentment, resentment, and contempt grow from weeds.

Unfortunately, we are not very accurate when it comes to discerning between the weeds and flowers in the garden of our heart. We might wrongly call a flower a weed, or a weed a flower. Sometimes, when we suspect that a thought might be a weed, we feel embarrassed about it and pretend that it’s not there. Why can’t we tell the difference between a flower and a weed? And why are we not honest about which is which?

According to God’s prophet Jeremiah, our “heart [garden] is hopelessly dark and deceitful,a puzzle that no one can figure out” (Jeremiah 17:9 MSG).

Therefore, without some outside help, it’s impossible for us to accurately identify the thoughts planted in our hearts. But help is available! God, the expert Gardner, can easily tell the difference between flowers and weeds. He is always aware of what we are thinking; even when we are far away from him, he knows our thoughts. (Psalm 139:4)

Without our permission, he will not enter our garden; but if we invite him to come in, he will gladly show us where the weeds are and where the flowers are. Yet, he so deeply respects us that he does not take over our garden and pull up our weeds. He gives us the strength we need to do it, ourselves. He also assigns us the responsibility.

We must guard our hearts from weeds, for what is in it determines our destiny. In neglected gardens, weeds flourish and flowers die. I hope that, along with me, you will not let that happen.

This entry was posted on August 5, 2016. 4 Comments