Growing Wise: My Child, My Teacher, My Friend…

This is a special tribute to my three amazing daughters on the birthday of my middle daughter, AnnaLynne!

Dear Angel, AnnaLynne & Rachel

From the moment I first saw your face, you gazing with eyes not yet focused, me gazing with eyes filled with wonder…until the moment when I watched you fly from the next to meet your appointments with life, I am certain that being your mom has been the most rewarding, fearful and joyful experience I could ever hope to have. I am convinced that it is you who has been the teacher, and I have been the student.

You begin making sentences, with “Why, Mama?” Later in your teen years, you said “Why not, Mom?” Your stream of endless questions kept your thirst for life as a continual quest. You never tired of learning and growing and exploring and dreaming and creating. All I had to do was comment that I wasn’t sure how or if a particular thing could work to set you in motion. You put your heart into the things you are passionate about. This is one of many big lessons I have learned from you. Be passionate about what and who you love!

Even before you could speak, your eyes asked questions and your tiny hands reached to touch, learn, taste and see. I would stop to teach you numbers, letters, animals, colors, textures, foods, shapes, trees, flowers, stars, and clouds. We read books and you became the much-loved characters. Your imagination was infinite. You would lead, and I would follow. I grew so much more aware of the world around me through the wonder in your eyes.

You taught me trust, delight, and hope. You gave my life meaning and purpose. You held a mirror before each of my attitudes and you role-played all my reactions. You became the reason for me to make better choices, to mean what I said, to live what I believe, and to internalize all that is good in my life. It is you, who connected the dots for me. In a sense, I grew up right along with you. I wanted to be more like you. I still do!

I understood why God said that to get into heaven, I would need to become as a little child. I learned that your spontaneous way of doing life was so much more freeing than the legalistic and controlled way I had attempted to live it. You wiped away the dust from my daily routine and colored the common things with fresh ideas and showered me with delight to hear your giggles and laughter. You made things new and gave me a reason to be myself again, to live authentically.

You gave me eyes to appreciate and see the value in people, whether they were aged or from different cultures. You saw the beauty in the plain and creativity in those timid or challenged.

And in this season of our lives, I can simply be there for you….  because you have grown into the most beautiful young woman, not so much my children, but now, my friends.

You taught me that love is my commitment to the welfare of another. You are the reason that it all makes sense for me now. I love you!

Your Forever Fan, Mommy =)

Sheri 

Being in Control ~ Real or Illusion

Letting go of the need for control is one of the (many) things I have to consistently work on to achieve positive results.

My default setting is that I want to feel in control of how things will turn out — control of a trip that I’m on, of a project I’m handling, how a conversation will go or even getting my dogs to “go” in a timely manner..

Often, it becomes more frustrating than the way I had imagined it could be ~ IF I were truly in control.

For starters, I don’t think we can ever really control how things will turn out. We might think we do, but how often do things actually turn out exactly the way we’ve planned?

I know my life has been a series of unexpected outcomes, despite my best intentions to get to certain goals. Even the goals that I reach turn out to be much different once I achieve them than I had originally planned.

Through my personal life journey, I’ve found that when I want to control the outcome of things, I become more anxious and tense. I’m less happy with how other people do things, less happy with myself, and less relaxed in the moments that I ordinarily would be able to enjoy. My relationships and responsibilities suffer because I am preoccupied with how I “think” things ought to be or how they turn out.

So how do I deal with this reoccurring struggle? What I am discovering is that I am unable to stop myself from wanting to control things. I can’t even stop the urge to control outcomes from coming up in me. So I have to just notice the desire to control things, and let the urge happen. I have learned that I don’t have to act on urges (emotions) that rise up in me, especially if they are truly not the best for me or others.

I’ve found this to be easier said, than done. My goal is to remind myself to see the urge, not as a command that I am required to follow, but simply a suggestion from the child within me. I can then be aware to look for the good things that can come from the situation, even if it’s uncontrolled. I don’t need to control things to enjoy them, I can just let them happen.

That said, I still take action. There are things I can control that have a positive effect on me and hopefully, on those important to me. I can look up information regarding a trip I’ll be taking simply because I’m curious and can then be aware of what opportunities may be available to me on a new adventure. I can be free to let conversations flow naturally. And my furry friends can take their leisure in enjoying being outside without me pressuring them to “hurry up”. These are all simply stress-management exercises from which I can greatly benefit.

I can experience the freedom of letting go when I realize I have a choice: I can choose to try to control the outcome, or I can trust in the moment.

I choose to trust as often as possible…..

Sheri 

A Season for Renewal

I’ve been in a season of rest – something I needed but it didn’t happen until I was required to have an emergency surgery.  This has been a time of renewal for me, something I would never have considered.

It is easy to become discouraged in the times when things do not go as I plan or hope they will, because I need this time to unplug. Discouragement is a normal experience, but the key is to accept all of the seasons God allows in my life.

A preoccupation with gratifying my desire for comfort, convenience or everything to work out on my time schedule  can cause my reactions to life issues to be disappointing and frustrating.  Pursuing these paths may throw me into chaos and rob me of peace and joy.

My focus, by contrast, can be to value the things God values: self-control, waiting on Him, trusting Him with things I don’t know, can’t see or blindside me.

Developing a heart of trusting God and believing He works all things together for my good, allows me to use my seasons of waiting as times of growth and refreshment. Sometimes, I find I need to hit the ‘reset’ button. And, I am finding that these things usually work out for the best, IF, I am willing to make the best of the way they are working out.

In this season and time of renewal, I have come to believe that I do not need to worry about what I “need” to be doing or what I might be “missing”. I simply need to avail myself today and each day to God, who has a path that I am to walk. His plans for me are not “cut and dried”, they are fresh and new every day.

Each day can host it’s own adventures, if I allow it to. If I relinquish any fear and / or control over how my day will play out, I am then free to operate according to God’s agenda, seek to do what honors Him and give it my best. And have the simple joy of knowing He accepts me.

I want to keep learning this pace of life and remain in a season of rest and renewal.

Do you need a season to come unplugged? Come on in, the water’s great!

Sheri 

Life: A Balancing Act?

Sometimes it seems that life balance means simply juggling plates and successfully keeping them all up in the air. Consider what balance means in other processes. In accounting, things must add up. In physics, what goes up, must come down. In life, we can’t live like a gazelle being chased by a cheetah all the time — we’d be a code red, high adrenaline, super stress, possible heart attack or stroke waiting for a place to happen.

Balance is more about a calm and stable mindset that allows us to make decisions based on personal values helping us learn to be intentional in the moment. Life balance may best be defined as the calmness and security of being able to manage the things we treasure, i.e. feelings, thoughts, talents, attitudes, behavior, personal well-being, etc. so in effect, we are able to assertively confront issues in life without an ongoing feeling of being overwhelmed.

A consistent balance allows our lives to continually improve, not necessarily with more money or more stuff, but by simply having an awareness that every day holds challenges and successes, and that truly what we look for is what we will find, be it good or bad.

As for me, I choose to live with the mantra, that indeed, Life is Good and, I’ve got the tee shirt to prove it! 

What does your t-shirt for the way you do / have done life read?

Sheri 

Begin with the End in Mind

How often do we neglect developing new habits because we think a positive outcome will take too much effort? Or maybe we start to improve our lifestyle only to give up prematurely because we don’t get what we want fast enough. It’s easy to allow today’s challenges to become tomorrow’s excuses.

Have you wondered how you became  a member of the Start-Big-Finish-Small-if-at-All-Club? Perhaps, you’ve set targets that are difficult to reach. Often, the pain of disappointment may leave you feeling burned out with little desire to follow through. Remember, you do have options. The breakthrough you’ve needed could be to practice thinking small to help you transform your life.

Often, we may be full of ideas and eager to establish a new plan. We may soon realize it’s easy to bite off more than we can chew. We want rapid success and no hitches. The size of the task and the time it takes to get there may make it tempting to throw in the towel. By focusing on the here and now, it is easier to find a steady pace.  Besides, slow and steady worked for the tortoise!

Whatever you hope to gain in your endeavors, you need to decide precisely what it is you want, and be specific as you define what exactly it is you hope to achieve. Reflect in why you desire this outcome. Goals are often more “real” if they are written. Decide what is a reasonable length of time to realize your desire and be realistic. Make it measurable so you will have a target at which to aim. Once you have a clearly defined idea of the what, why and how long to reach your goal, you can break down the entire process.

Here are a few tips for breaking it down into bite-size pieces:

1. Brainstorm all of your options and determine what can be divided into smaller, detailed steps. Each task is a stepping stone towards achieving your end result.

2. Simplify the action plan. Think of the steps as actions. When you understand what actions are needed to achieve your desired result, you can pull these together into a plan.

3. Establish daily and weekly tasks. When you create your action plan, work out a series of targets that you believe are possible to reach on the way to your goal. Keep it simple with many small victories to keep the momentum.

4. Keep on track. The small-scale approach is flexible and allows for instant changes.  Continue tweaking and completing the simple tasks so the end result will be well within your grasp.

5. Focus on your daily actions plans and not so much on the end date. Like the tortoise, concentrate on one small step and repeat consistently.

6. Master the art of delaying gratification. Though you may be tempted, avoid trying to rush things and bite off more than you can chew. Refer to the reasons why you want the desired goal. Concentrate on where you are in the journey, and not on what’s next. Reflect on how far you’ve come and what a waste it would be to throw in the towel.

In order for us to grow, we will need to allow ourselves to be stretched at times. In most endeavors, if we don’t grow, our plans and goals won’t either. Long-lasting lifestyle change requires an investment of your time and effort, as well as some patience. The road to achieving great things is much less intimidating when you break down the end result into smaller steps.

And absolutely nothing can compare to how you will feel when you finally make it to the place you wanted to be.

If this encourages you, share it with a Friend!

Sheri 

Simplicity: How Less Becomes More

One of the greatest freedoms I’ve come to experience is trading off the complicated for the simplistic. I’ve read that to the one who is given much, there will be much required. Living a life of simplicity became a pursuit for me to embrace that “less is more”.

My reasoning on this is that I can adopt the philosophy of Chickfila Restaurants. They do one thing, chicken, and they do it well! Sure they’ve added condiments and two ways to cook it and great lemonade and tea, and don’t forget the brownies. But they have focused on one task and have mastered it. It’s simple and delicious!

I’ve realized through this and other models that the times in my life when I get away or take a walk or escape in a great book, I am enjoying the beauty of simplicity.

By simplicity, I am not implying that everyone should downsize to a two room cabin and live off the land, although some of you would probably find that to be a cool idea.

For me, simplicity is managing my life. There is lots of freedom in: Letting people handle their business. Inviting and including family and friends and not holding the proverbial gun to their head if their plans aren’t an extension of mine.It’s packing light, in luggage and baggage. It’s having enough fluff in my schedule to be spontaneous if I choose to be. It’s having less for me to dust and more time to enjoy the things I love.

In my life personally as well as others, I have found a common link between having cluttered lives, disordered hearts and higher maintenance lives to be the enemy of creativity and motivation. I have also observed that it is a primary instigator in creating more stress.

I value time for fireside chats, walks, catching sunsets, reading, and a host of other activities that require no carry on bags, except maybe a cup of tea or coffee. While every moment and every day cannot be filled with leisure, simple and often pleasures keep me balanced and having the ability to manage my routine.

Simple living has afforded me the extravagant pleasure of being intentional in the moment with the people I choose to invest my life in. I feel that I can afford the time to really listen and learn. I can sincerely rejoice or weep in the moments that are defining in the lives of others.

I have learned through my experience that the best time I spend each day is praying that God directs each decision and encounter I will face today. I feel better equipped to show up and get into the game. I am alerted to little moments of cool happenings that I may have otherwise overlooked.

What are the little whispers you hear as you allow quiet times to refresh you?

Sheri

6 Steps to Finding Contentment

 Contentment is the fundamental pursuit in each area of life. We want to get the house painted or our certification completed or the kids grown or something that we are convinced will enable us to finally be content. However, it is really a condition of our inner person. Sort of an at-peace-with-me feeling. It is also a foundation to enjoying life and being intentional in the moment. Can it be done? If so, how?

1 – Practice delaying gratification. Yes, you can do it. When you consider making a purchase, use patience and consider postponing the ones that are simply for convenience. If you end up purchasing the item later, it will be well thought out. If not, you’ll be happier to have saved the time and money. To the one whom much is given, much is required.

2 – Make a focused effort to remain inspired and to be inspiring. Spend 10+ minutes each day reading something from the Bible, an inspirational author, or area of interest. Spend some time several times each week journaling learning experiences you glean from what you read, personal encounters, a movie you watch or just what comes to mind while you are in the shower. You will be amazed at how you can gain such positive perspective from your quiet times. Invest in others by offering an encouraging word in the way of a note, text or call to them when they are working on a particular event or endeavor or are facing a personal trial.

3 – Unplug from the technology of life and plug in to the simpler paths. Change gears for half an hour each day by taking a walk or a bubble bath. Find a neat little hobby such as painting or woodworking that you can enjoy and de-stress from the working hours in your day. Write a blog — oh, I resemble that! — on something that you have learned in an effort to enlighten others.

4 – Get a mentor – be a mentor. Spend time with people you admire and learn about their lives and interests. They can be living instructional aids to learning how to do things in a different, possibly more efficient way. Find ways that you can share things or teach a class around what you have learned with others who will benefit from your time. Show appreciation for what you learn and for the opportunity to share. I especially enjoy spending time with young children and mature adults. The wealth of information and the creativity amuse and inspire me.

5 – Reach out and get to know a neighbor at home or work. Don’t worry, if you’re the new-bee you can still take the initiative. Every friend we have was once a stranger. Be observant in watching for common interests. Maybe you both have kids the same age, have dogs to walk, or at work, someone who goes to lunch at the same time as you.

6 – Finally, and this is not an exhaustive list, practice learning to be a great listener. By doing so, you will learn the true art of emotional intelligence and the high quality of “likeability”. When you work to listen to others at deeper levels, you communicate to them that you place high value on them and the time they spend with you. You will also learn how to take the focus off of your own issues and personal challenges and be an encourager to others. This goes a long way in developing strong friendships. And, when you build relational capital by listening, you may very well find that you have a great friend and listening ear in place when you are in need of sharing your heart.

Practice these steps on a regular basis for 30 days and judge for yourself if you don’t have a life that can be defined as being more content. And the good news is that if you are around people who are discontent, you may be the one to influence them to a more positive stance.

The one you encourage today, may be YOU!

Sheri 

How to Win Over Disappointments

Reflect on all the expectations you have for yourself, your life, your spouse, your kids, your coworkers, your job, the world. Embrace them and, then, toss them. Let them go.  Think about the little song we sang as children, “Row, row, row, your boat gently down the stream, merrily, merrily, merrily life is but a dream”.  In order to have life to be as we might hope or dream, we need to relinquish things we cannot control – other people, their choices and their circumstances.

We are then, better able to navigate life more peacefully and merrily.  When we allow our life to include only minimal expectations, we are able to accept reality as it is, without trying to force people into the boxes we think they would best fit in. We allow ourselves to see things as they are. Amazingly, life seems to work out best for those who make the best out of the way things work out.

We are able to have more of a positive influence if we avoid having expectations of how others will or should respond to our choices.  It is sort of like dancing as though no one is watching. When we live and do and be based on what we think others will think or say or approve of, we gradually move ourselves into a place of expecting our significance to come from other people. They can’t provide that for us.

Significance comes from recognizing that we can live a life of meaning and purpose by reaching beyond ourselves to be a part of something bigger without expecting praise or appreciation. Simply doing and accomplishing something that is worthwhile is the highest level of growing our feelings of self-worth. If we become dependent on others’ approval, we may miss the enjoyment of the task we accomplished, because we subject ourselves to view ourselves through the eyes of someone else and what they think. And, what if that person is having a bad day? I’m just saying …

Release the expectations of reward and praise. Find fulfillment in the doing the things that you value. Do good because you love doing good, and expect nothing beyond that. Pay attention to the thoughts you entertain. Your thoughts will rule your life and you will enjoy or limit yourself accordingly.

Don’t beat yourself up if you have expectations.  Pay attention if you start to wish things weren’t the way they are or that someone else would do something the way you would recommend.  Accept things as they are, if there’s anything you can impact in a positive way, go for it! And then, move on. In time, everything eventually works out.

Learn to travel light (free of expectations that are dependent on the actions of another) in a world that is already wonderful without us painting it they way we think it should be.

The life you impact most, may be your own 🙂

Sheri 

Who’s Cheering for YOU?

Several years ago, I walked in the Atlanta Peachtree Road Race held annually on July 4. For me, it’s more about hanging out with friends and family who walk along together.

I’m not a runner. Not even a sprint walker — but I am a finisher. Mama taught me that the difference between winners and losers is that winners don’t quit. They may have to find 1001 ways to keep trying but the simply DO NOT quit!  I finished the race and it’s a cool feeling. I had some side effects from the heat and needed some extra R and R, but it’s all good.

What was incredible to me was how much benefit I received from people who showed up to sit on the sidelines and simply cheer us on.  The longer I walked toward my 6.1 mile goal, the more I felt the momentum to not only finish but enjoy it.  These people had come to sit outside in 90+ degree temps to cheer their friends / family and some complete strangers on toward their goal. Totally cool folks!

We had a group of 15 and some had race numbers and some did not. Some ran, some sprint walked, and some like me, strolled for the fun of hanging together. We were practically the last group going in. They were rolling up the wire fencing behind us at the starting line.

All along the way, as our group, The Tortoise Team 🙂 was strolling along, and most people from the sidelines had left to join their family and friends at the finish line or headed home, I was amazed that many had stayed behind to cheer for us. We were bringing up the rear and I didn’t know them, people on chairs and in wheelchairs, policeman, fireman, moms and dads with little ones in strollers, EMS teams, people singing, folks handing out water.

As I trudged along, I thought how much I appreciated these people for staying there to clap for me and whistle and say, “You can do this! Good job!” “Don’t give up, don’t give in, keep the faith!” The more I heard it, the more magical it seemed. These people just seemed to enjoy encouraging people to continue toward their goal, the finish line and the opportunity to rest and high five their peeps. I thought what great parents and coaches these people must be, if they cheer their kids on in such a positive way.

I thought how good it must make them feel to show up and support people they don’t know and watch them change from putting one foot in front of the other to dance with enthusiasm at the sound of someone cheering them to their own personal victory.

More importantly, I thought, this is the kind of person I want to be in the lives of others. I want to be the one who is known to cheer my hubby, kids, grandkids, family and friends, to their own personal victories. I want them to know that I believe in them.

How about you? Who are you standing or sitting on the sidelines to support and cheer on toward their goal? If no one has noticed, let me be the first to say, thanks for standing for your team! They couldn’t do it without you! We appreciate you. We need you. We don’t give up because of you!

Hang in there! Happy Trails … wherever they lead!

Sheri 

What Happens to Us is Rarely Personal

It can take a lifetime to factor this simple truth into reality in our lives.  Behavior arises from people’s personal experiences and perception – their experience and view of the world. When we experience a person or situation, our mind immediately makes a judgment, to keep us safe. It is part of a self-defense mechanism and how the ‘fear, fight or flight’ process works. The brain makes a rapid assessment and comes up with a conclusion: this is safe, or not.

If something is similar enough to something that hurt us in the past, an emotional response can be triggered and we can unconsciously react to the current situation as though the incidents were one and the same.

Even if you are in a situation with a difficult person, it isn’t actually about you. It never was. If not you, it would be somebody else with similar qualities that triggers a reaction and creates the sandpaper quality in this person. The important thing is to recognize that the flaw is a part of them, not you.

It is important that you learn:
• how to manage and resolve conflict,
• how to relate in a neutral manner
• how to respond rather than react,
• how to not take it personally.

Developing compassion for those who are armed with rough edges in our lives is a slow process that also involves close examination of our own perceptions. With patience and persistence, it is possible to learn to remain calm and to recognize that the problem isn’t necessarily something we have done. We can set a priority to learn to manage our own well-being and remember not to take the actions of another personally.

Sheri