“Honey, did you lock the doors? “

​Before bed tonight, I checked to be sure our doors were locked. My husband and I do this every night. Does this make us intolerant or cold-hearted? Why, if we love people, do we feel the need to prohibit entrance into our home?

What if someone in need of our assistance were to show up at our door at 3am, disheveled, bloodied and obviously fleeing some unknown evil? Would we open the door to help them?

Yes. Of course, we would.

What if instead someone came reeking of alcohol, days-old body odor and cigarette smoke, with a gun drawn or bomb displayed? Would we open our door then?

Obviously not.

But… what if the person at our door had a hidden gun or a bomb? What if they held evil intentions that we were unaware of and presented themselves as a friend or neighbor in need in order to gain access to do us harm later?

What would we do then? What standards do we have for vetting people who want inside our doors? We simply can’t always determine with 100% certainty the intentions of a man’s heart, but does that relieve us of our responsibility of protection?

                           ********

Anyone wishing to cross any threshold must expect to be required to prove qualification. I would never enter a friend’s home without their permission. I would not cross a commencement stage expecting to be handed  a diploma without proving I have met the qualifications. I would not anticipate entry into any country without their proper documentation which they believe to be a safe protocol for their citizens. And just like I would not want to go to bed at night with my doors unlocked, I don’t want to reside in a nation that does not uphold safe standards for all who seek admission.

Our great nation has suffered enough at the hands of people who came pretending to just want a better life but whose true intent was in fact evil. And that does nothing to take away from those who have sought exile here who are now productive members of our society. In fact, most of them agree with requiring proper documentation. They too want to be safe in their new homeland. They know, maybe better than any of us, what kind of evil may try to come in.

Locking my doors at night does NOT mean I turn away everyone. It DOES mean I will be diligent to evaluate the intentions of all visitors before I allow access.

I’m thankful to live in a country with a leader who (however flawed he may be otherwise) recognizes his elected responsibility to protect our nation from those who’ve left no doubt they hate and wish us evil. I’m grateful my security is taken seriously enough for swift and firm action even in the face of those who oppose it without realizing they do the very same thing when they lock their door each night.

Emotional Freedom is a Choice

Whether it be a home, a workplace, a friendship, family or church, a culture that is empowered looks far different than the norm. And self-empowerment is the key for us.
Stephen Covey quote about deciding how others will affect us

Enduring freedom is a choice.

We cannot allow the weaknesses of others to become our focus. We are right to be aware of things that could trip us up, but let’s not be like so many around us, getting tripped up and sidetracked by focusing on the faults and failures of others. This robs us of personal power, and it gives more power and freedom for them to mess up our life.
Instead of allowing our emotional life to be the result of how others treat us, let’s define ourselves by our own morality and integrity. As many have said, how others treat me defines them. How I treat others defines who I am. We can live free and independent of human treatment. We have the innate power within us to be both courageous and empathic at the same time, choosing to boldly assert our wants, needs and ways while equally and boldly loving and caring about others’ wants, needs and ways.
Live empowered to be who you really are no matter what is going on around you. ~Barb
(Inspired by thoughts from Stephen Covey.)

There’s a whole great big world out there and we are missing it.

Time-famine and burnout.

Time famine is a fancy term for a condition we’ve all been finding ourselves in since we began “adulting,” and I bet I don’t have to tell you what burnout is. Both of these conditions are prevalent in our society and our homes since technology has invaded and is “in our face” (or our face in it) every day.

Thrive, by Arianna Huffington, talks about time-famine and burnout as she invites us to redefine the word success outside of the traditional box of money and power, and instead to define success by a third metric that has everything to do with carving out unplugged time to explore what is in our present moments.

We can’t escape the reality that every hour we spend online: on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, watching television or Netflix, playing video games, or smart-phoning games and apps is one hour less we have to spend doing any of the many wonderful things one can do offline: time with loved ones, work toward advancing career goals, relaxing, accomplishing important household tasks, maintaining friendships and relationships, learning or studying to advance education goals, enjoying nature or time with God. This lack of purposeful intentional offline time directly drives the famine of time and the burnout it causes.

There will always only be 24 hours in a day. We have to prioritize each hour to maximize them in a way that promotes true satisfaction and contentment. If we can find ways to avoid time famine largely caused by the very technology we thought was going to give us more time, we will experience less burnout. When offline, we focus more on living in the present, setting plans, goals and dreams for the future that truly brings the satisfaction we crave. The things that fall squarely in the category of the third metric Huffington explores.

And besides, there is a great big world out there that we are missing when we are online.

get-offline.jpg.jpg

We can’t easily rid our lives of technology, but we can manage this exhausting time famine and burnout by setting aside unplugged time every day and each week.

  • Turn off the TV, phone and tablet an hour before bedtime.
  • Station electronics somewhere besides the bedroom.
  • Sanctify a day of rest each week to resist the urge to be online, doing and completing and achieving whatever it is we do, complete and achieve online all week long.

We must pause to recognize the effect technology is having on us and counter it a little each day, each week, and even longer times of vacations (or staycations) where we truly unplug for days on end. The world will not tilt off its axis. Remind me of this too, will ya?

Let’s live intentionally and commit to daily, weekly and periodically longer unplugged moments to tune in to all that the world has to offer when we tune out offline.

Will you join me out there in that great big beautiful world?

How will you resist time famine and burnout?

 

Trading Shame for Serenity

“Lay down your burden, lay down your shame. All who are broken lift up your face. Oh wanderer, come home. You’re not too far, so lay down your hurt, lay down your heart, come as you are.” David Crowder Band

                                       ********

Last we met here, we began an exploration into awareness of our shame. 

I mentioned a few of the defenses we have against shame, and encouraged the search to discover our sources of shame. It’s a process that takes a long time, oh-so-much patience and effort. I hope you are staying on the road to seek out how shame is affecting you. Whether we know it or not, it most likely is. 

How can I be so sure?

Because shame is a part of the human condition. It’s inescapable. It is a reality for each and every one of us. How much power it holds in our lives has much to do with our willingness to accept its place in us so we can begin to change it.

Today as I write to you on the topic of changing our shame, that is where I will start: acceptance. It seems counterintuitive to say that if you want to change something, you have to accept it for what it is, but hasn’t this always been true about change? How can we ever grow or learn if we don’t come to an acute awareness of exactly where we are?

Shame is powerful. It’s not something we can just wish or even will away. We cannot simply decide one day to toughen up and ban shame from having any power over us. Instead we must acknowledge that shame is a part of who we are rather than something to be hated or feared. The most effective, maybe only effective, way to change our shame is to make friends with it.

Talk about counter-intuitive! Who wants a friend named Shame?

Remember in grade school when that one kid started mistreating you? For the sake of example, I am going to assume that each and every one of us had a bully at some point in our lives. (If you were one of the lucky few, you surely knew of someone.) Maybe they stole your lunch money, or made a game of ridiculing you in front of everyone they could, or maybe they just quietly tormented you with hurtful words whenever the teacher wasn’t looking. What one thing do you think every bully has in common? You guessed it. Shame. They were mired in shame. Why do you think they had to treat you so badly? They were desperate to feel better or more powerful within themselves!

If you had any success dealing with your bully, I’d bet my lunch money that it had something to do with you trying to make peace by making a decision to respect that bully in some way. It was unlikely by giving in to his demands, but more likely, recognizing that you and him weren’t all that different. Respecting him as a part of the same human race as you, so that you could try to discover a way to love him, or at least to recognize that love was the biggest need in him, whether or not you could give it to him.

Like the bullies of our childhoods, shame is a bully. We can’t wish it away or will it away. We can’t treat it with hate or fear if we ever hope to gain any mastery over it. We have to make peace with its’ being a part of who we are and loving ourselves enough to give it its rightful place… and nothing more.

What is shame’s place in our lives?

Shame is a messenger. It’s trying to tell us that something is wrong. If we are feeling shame, it is because there is something wrong in our life that we need to change.

Richard Pfeiffer, M. Div, LMFT offers a five-step process to work toward changing our shame from painful to positive. These steps aren’t how-to’s of shame elimination. They are goals that aid us in creating positive change to counter shame’s effect on us.

1. Get help.

2. Challenge the shame.

3. Set positive goals based on our humanity, humility, autonomy and competence.

4. Take mental and physical action to move toward those goals.

5. Review progress regularly.

Get help.  Just as isolating ourselves is a common response to feeling shame that only perpetuates the shame cycle, choosing to reach out and stop trying to do life alone stops the shame cycle in its tracks.

The more you’ve felt shame, the more you’ve kept inside and to yourself. The more you open up and invite trustworthy people into your shame, the less power it will have over you. Choose wisely, not everyone can handle your shame responsibly.

Challenge the shame.  Using some of the steps we talked about in the last post to recognize the shame in our lives, we can take that new awareness and turn it in its head. When you recognize that you are believing one of shame’s lies (like you are not good enough) because of a past or current situation is trying to define you, stop and say, aloud if need be, that is not true and I will no longer believe it or live according to it. I will define who I am and treat myself with respect.

Set positive goals based on 4 core principles: humanity, humility, autonomy and competence.  This sounds lofty, but it’s really not. This is simply making a decision to view life through a different lens. Humanity—we are all in this thing called life together. Humility—we are all created equal and God sees us all the same because we are truly all the same at the core. Autonomy—you and I have power and responsibility to live our life as we choose. Competence—you are good enough and you can contribute to the world in whatever way you decide to do so.

Set some new relationship goals based on these core principles. Write them down and refer to them often. Watch how your life begins to change, and how shame loses its grip on you.

Take mental and physical action to move toward those goals.  Pfeiffer recommends actually taking a piece of paper for each of the four core principles. Write the principle at the top, such as Humanity. On one side list the things that cause you to struggle with this principle (not to shame yourself, but to make yourself aware), and then for each struggle, name a solution or two. Next, select one or two of these at a time to work on. Don’t try to change everything all at once.

Review progress regularly.  Refer back to these journals and see how you are progressing. Remember, practice makes progress, not perfection. No one ever attains perfection in anything on this earth. That’s what heaven is for. Until then, we take life one day at a time and take our next best step toward progress.


Making it Personal  Will you invest the time to take these steps for changing your shame? If so, you can ever so slowly-but-surely start watching your life change and shame dissipate.

You will need help along the way. That help is available through a prayerful connection to God. Here’s a powerful prayer. You have no doubt heard at least part of this prayer. Ironically, the parts you likely have not heard may contain the fuel you need to make the familiar refrains possible.

Will you join me in praying this prayer daily? And journaling to start taking power back from the shame that we’ve explored, so we can start changing our lives?

I wish you the very best. I hope you make the time to share here about how you are training shame for serenity in your life. Visit back here after you’be had some time to make this trade, and let us know about your victories.

~Barb

Exploring Shame

Shame is not easy to face. It is not quickly or easily diminished. It often takes years to even come to the awareness that what dwells beneath our constant frustration is the sense that we are not good enough, often because someone’s words or actions have been working to assure us of that our entire lives.

To  conquer our shame, we must first improve our awareness of it. This takes courage. We will have to be willing to examine our thoughts, not hide them as our natural impulses have always led us.

How can we improve our awareness of shame?

1. Notice the messages our bodies gives us. Shame clues include:

  • Blushing
  • Looking down or away (avoiding eye contact)
  • Sudden loss of energy

2. Listen carefully to our thoughts, especially automatic insults we give ourselves. (Negative self-talk.)

3. Pay attention to whether we isolate ourselves from others, or withdraw verbally or emotionally.

4. Observe whether perhaps we feel paralyzed (unable to approach or retreat from a situation because of overwhelming self-consciousness), perfectionistic, or especially critical of people around us.

5. Explore our spiritual connectedness or disconnectedness. How are we finding meaning in our lives? Do we have a strong sense of purpose and are we pursuing it?

Shame can be big or small. To be fully aware, we will need to notice both. The reversal of this habit must be challenged consistently.

To recognize when shame needs challenged, look for these common defenses against shame:

  • Denial – if something causes us shame, we might refuse to acknowledge it exists.
  • Rage- we might drive others away so they cannot see our deficits, especially if we believe they are out to get us.
  • Perfectionism – we might stave off shame by striving for perfection in everything.
  • Arrogance – we might see ourselves as better or others as worse (by being overly critical verbally or internally) to keep shame at bay.
  • Exhibitionism – we might act, dress or speak with flamboyance of that which we’d rather hide to try to convince ourselves and others that it doesn’t bother us.

Making it Personal:

How do you protect yourself from shame? 

  • Start to observe your tendencies. Not because you will ever stop them completely, but because they help you understand what is triggering your shame.

The goal is not to fight off shame. The goal is to explore it. If we can come to accept and understand that shame is a part of the human condition, we need not fear it, hate it or fight it. Then, we can change it.

My next post will be about how we can change our shame. Until then, explore your awareness of and defenses against shame to start understanding how it affects you.

~Barb

Where is God in all this?

​​When you look around our world today so seemingly filled with chaos and evil and hate, and you’re tempted to ask where is God in all this? Remember… we told God we didn’t need him. We expelled him from our schools. We removed him from our courthouses. We’ve denied the sanctity of the gift of life He gives with the degradation of the human fetus to a blob of tissue. We’ve chosen this world we must now live.

But remember this too. Surrounding the pockets of darkness so sensationalized albeit all too real, there are blankets of goodness and love.

There are infinitely more of us who still invite God into our lives, commune with him in prayer wherever we go, and love every human soul he creates. While we must mourn the losses that are dealt to us from within the darkness, we must never lose sight of the glorious light of hope and infinite blessings that still surround our hearts, our homes, and our communities. All the more when we actually welcome Jesus into our everyday.

Don’t get lost in the fight. Be the light. Be the change you wish to see in the world. That’s where hope lives. ❤

My Life… God’s Story.

image

If I put everything I’ve learned in all my forty-plus years on this earth into one statement, it would be this… life is not simple.

No matter how much I work to improve myself educationally, relationally, personally, I still find that anything I want to see change— in myself, my loved ones, or the world—takes a lot of prayer and more time than I’d like. More than most of us want to invest. Why is that? 

In my experience, this happens because prayer works a lot like a crockpot, not a microwave. But we live in a microwave society. The speed of our current lifestyles is what most of us have come to prefer.

But which method produces a higher-quality meal… a crockpot or a microwave?

The generations that preceded us knew that good things aren’t always instantaneous. They even came up with a saying… “good things come to those who wait.” But then they didn’t have 75 mile-per-hour interstates, microwave ovens, and Google fiber®. Have these modern day conveniences affected the way we deal with the non-material issues in our lives too? So much so that we’ve become unwilling to wait for the better meal that God has planned for us, sacrificing quality for immediacy?

As we think about our grandparents and their parents, we see that they didn’t expect everything in warp speed. They were okay with that. They also didn’t throw away things that weren’t working—mechanically or relationally. They fixed what was broken. By work, prayer, mistakes, frustration, grace, breakthroughs, more work, setbacks, more prayer… they repaired what needed mended.

Marriage and family struggles are a common topic in circles of young to middle-aged women and men. I encourage those I speak with to reflect on the positives in those relationships, even as they wrestle through the negatives. I ask people to think honestly about what they could be doing to contribute to the disrupted connection in their relationships. It’s easy to point out how others are hurting us, but are we willing to acknowledge that we may be responding in ways that are equally hurtful to those about whom we complain? Are we either unintentionally contributing to their mistreatment by not meeting their needs, or in callous response to their not meeting ours? Couldn’t we instead be willing to focus solely on what we have the power to change—ourselves. Couldn’t we seek to understand and meet the needs of our spouses, children, parents, and siblings expecting nothing in return and see what God will do? I implore you to pray long while you also love deeply through difficult times when society will tell you to walk away from what doesn’t serve you. While co-workers, family members, and friends will commiserate and add fuel to the fires of pain that you share, I will speak this truth into your life. I won’t tell you what you want to hear. I won’t say, “Oh, he’s such a jerk!” or “I can’t believe what she did.” No matter the issue, marital or familial, I won’t contribute to the breakdown on connection that we all face in our closest relationships by focusing on the other person. I will love you. I will care about your hurt. I will let you complain, but I will not fail to help you see that we each own a circle of responsibility. Like a hula hoop lying on the ground encircling our feet, we are responsible only for what we do ourselves. How we choose to look at life. What we believe about God, and ourselves, and those in our lives. How we choose to act and react to what happens in and around us. We can choose to be a part of the problem, playing tit for tat. Or we can be a part of the solution. If we will choose that, we can watch as God writes our story, growing us and making us into happier, healthier people no matter the outcome of the problems that brought us to Him. Doesn’t that sound more appealing than a pre-packaged nuked response to the world? What if we instead waited to see how God writes our story? What if we chose to keep praying and loving no matter what, and see what God is going to do in and through us?

A 2002 study by the Institute for American Values Center for Marriage and Families revealed that those who stick it out through difficulty find themselves happier five years later than those who give up and end relationships. Divorce has not been shown to bring the happiness it promises, but on the contrary sticking it out does. A full two-thirds of couples who initially reported unhappiness but stayed together (although many admitted doing little or nothing different) reported a higher level of happiness five years later than those who chose to leave the difficult relationship. I believe that if this holds true for the closest of all relationships—marriage, it also illuminates a very powerful truth about any and all human relationships: endurance changes us. Quitting doesn’t.

Working through difficult issues in a relationship isn’t a microwave task, and we’re kidding ourselves if we believe ending a relationship solves anything for either party either. Honestly, personal experience tells most of us that when we’re willing to persevere through difficulty, matters usually improve with time. (Of course, we are not talking about enduring abuse. That is and always will be an exception.) In safe relationships, we all face differences, sometimes long seasons of trial after trial. There are times when it’s difficult to believe the struggles will ever end. And yet, we have probably all felt that moment of relief when we see God provide an unexpected solution or resolution in a difficult situation. If you haven’t, you either haven’t been alive long enough, or your eyes simply have never been tuned to look for Him. We can see little snippets of growth. We can see change happening, sometimes ever so slowly. Growth rarely occurs without our being humbled. Are we willing to wait it out in order to see the dramatic differences God can make in our lives when we learn to pray and wait in the context of a story that He is writing? One paragraph at a time… we must wait… and move according to His pen to see how each new chapter will unfold.

This kind of life requires permanently and repeatedly giving ourselves back over to the process of living in His story, not trying to force our own. And believing always that He really does know better.

To many of us, this can feel like surrendering to constant disappointment and frustration, but we only have to keep our eyes on our Storyteller (not the story) to see that He never stops writing.

Above all, when the story takes a turn we weren’t expecting, we have to disrupt our natural tendency to try to take back control and fix things. Instead, ask, “Lord, what are you doing on this page of my life and how can I stay in Your story?” We are unwise to attempt to write the next scene in our heads and try to force His pen to transcribe what we would have composed. As for me, I choose each and every day to trust that as my Creator, He is also the best Author of my story.

What might God be writing in your life’s story today? Are you willing to trust Him with the pen? Share some of the latest excerpts that God’s written in your life lately, and how you are responding to the story.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” Romans 8:28

 

Take heart!

image

I’m learning to live above my circumstances. This requires me to spend focused time with the Lord.

There are troubles and stress in all of our lives because we live in a broken world, but Jesus reminded us in John 16:33 that he overcame all this and he encouraged us to take heart! Or in other words… be courageous! Only the Life of the One who overcame this world can give me the courage I need to face the neverending flow of life’s problems with good cheer.

How?

As I sit quietly with the Lord every morning, He floods my troubled heart and mind with His peace in a way that cannot be explained or understood… only experienced.

Then, ever so indeterminately, I am released to rise above my circumstances. I start to see my life differently… through His eyes. This new vision allows me to discern what I need to focus on ~ the GOOD and what I can change ~ and what I need to forget as I leave it with Him ~ the BAD and what I cannot change.

Then, I rest… as I breathe out all that I carried to Him today, and breathe in His joyful, peaceful Presence that no one and nothing can take from me.

3 Ways You Can Rise Above Today

What difficult situation are you facing today?

Are you wondering how to handle it?

God has already promised us that we will always have problems in this life, but He also frequently reminds us that we must not let the problems of life be our main focus. When we focus on our troubles, we begin to sink as if in some kind of malignant quicksand. But like Peter, who was invited to walk on the water with Jesus, all we have to do is call out to Him and turn back our focus to Him and we can rise above whatever we face.

Micah 6:8 gives us three powerful answers to what to do in the difficult situations we face in life… three places to direct our focus today:

1) act JUSTLY

2) love MERCY, and

3) walk HUMBLY with God.

Do what’s right, show everyone mercy and stay humble. If you were wondering how to handle that situation that causes you so much stress, now you know from the pages of God’s personal Word to us. 📖

May your Monday be blessed.

image

Today!

Today is the day you have made, Lord! I will rejoice and be glad in it. I begin this day with my heart and my hands open to You, ready to accept anything and everything that you will pour into this day–this brief portion of my life.

image

I will intentionally not complain about anything, even the weather, because I know my life is not my own. You are the one writing my story, and that includes every circumstance of my life. The best way to deal with things I wish weren’t happening is to just look for your hand in them and thank you for always working through it all. This allows me to be free of any resentment and allows You to do the good work in me that you desire to do in Your own way.

To find joy in the present moment, I cannot drag yesterday or pull tomorrow into the boundaries of today! You said Your mercies are new every morning because You understand human frailty, and you know that we would need them that often! We cannot bear the weight of any more than one day at a time. Let us not REHEARSE tomorrow, or REGRET yesterday. There is abundant life in the REALITY of Your Presence right here in this moment today. Thank you, Lord Jesus!