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 

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 

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

How can I build trust in a relationship?

In a Word (or two)… Be Consistent

My mom gave me one piece of advice concerning parenting when my older daughter, was born. “Be consistent. Say what you mean and deliver what you promise.”

Consistency builds confidence in relationships. Trust comes when we establish a history of saying what we mean and meaning what we say.  It is not an easy task, but one we often look for in others.

Observe a young child at play and watch how they routinely do things.  If they drop their cup and it’s picked up, they learn the game really quick. It’s fun to have someone’s undivided attention. Consistently in life equates to a secure feeling. It’s  just plain comfortable. Consistency makes us feel safe.

People learn to trust when they experience people who do what they say.

Sheri 

Where Is This Drive Taking You?

Often, we get caught up in the drive to do more, make more, have more. We are resistant to relax and enjoy what we have, feeling somehow, like a Vegas high roller, that if we just focus all our time, effort and poker chips in forward motion we will one day hit the jackpot of having it all.

What is “all”? And does having it make life better? Consider that from the one who has much, much will be required.. When you get the promotion at work, they don’t just give you more money because you smile so bright. They add responsibility to your plate as well.

If you have a job that puts your name in lights or on the door, what happens when you are searching to find the dimmer switch to set your life back on “normal”? Sort of hard to turn it down, right?

What about travel? Those beautiful brochures do not highlight airport delays and lost luggage, but if you fly much at all, you will probably experience the frustration and stress of the not-so-pleasant side of travel.

My point in all of this, is that we often perceive many opportunities to be flawless and perfect and we enter into them thinking we’ve finally arrived at the place we want to be. We buy the big house and the cabinets in the kitchen are high enough that we need a step ladder to actually reach them. The reality is that our dream house, the one we chose or designed, still has areas that frustrate us.

The biggest stress can be that we are just resistant to change the way we look at things. We keep on doing the same things and continue to receive the same results. It’s pretty disappointing. So, why are we so opposed to making a few changes in the way we think? We want to date the issue but not marry it. We want the euphoria of life being a beach party that we won’t have to wake up from and go back to our real lives.

The good news is, we have options! We can change our minds and our focus. A little reminder to help us get motivated is that our life, relationships, health, business, finances etc. will not change until we do. That’s pretty cool, if you already have the ideal life. However, if you are like most, you are mentally doing your weekly routine, but living for the weekend.

So how much will you put up with? What will it take? Consider where all of what you are driving at or striving to be or do will take you? And what will you have or be able to attain once you get there? One last point to ponder, is it worth what it will cost you?

When I’m striving for more than God has designed for me, I get nowhere. I only end up feeling frustrated, angry, and depressed. A little reminder, “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10) The Lord doesn’t want us to be driven; He wants us to be led–by His Spirit. (Romans 8:14) If we will let God be God in our lives, and yield to His divine plans for us, we will experience the abundant, victorious life that Jesus died for us to have.

Whenever I face disappointment or difficulty of any kind, one of the first things I want to remember is God’s promise that says, “The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me.” (Psalm 138:8) Regardless of obstacles that come my way, God is in control, and He will move heaven and earth to perfect His plans for me. When it is God’s timing, nothing will be able to stop His blessings and rewards from reaching us. We don’t have to threaten, scheme, or give in to greed.

We can rest in Him, knowing that He has a bright and beautiful future for us that far exceeds our wildest dreams!

Sheri 

What Shape is Your Miracle?

Have you ever expected a miracle to happen? I’m talking about when something that you may have thought could happen and then it became apparent that is wasn’t going to and you, more or less, as a last ditch effort say, “Lord, I need a miracle!” And then to anyone else who may have been listening you muttered, “Like that’s going to happen.”

I have experienced miracles of different shapes and sizes. The cool thing about miracles is that they are always so timely and when you receive them size or shape really doesn’t matter.

But more frequently, when we think of miracles, we think about needing one, not recognizing or receiving one.

It kind of reminds me of going to the airport. If you arrive to wait for a flight departure or even to pick up someone, you will hear and hear often, something to the effect of “high alert status, if you see a suspicious bag left unattended, do not pick it up…” I think it would be really cool, if each day, my phone or watch or car radio or microwave could broadcast a message every hour or so saying, “be on high alert status, God is everywhere working everyday miracles that you might miss if you are not paying attention.”

I’m convinced that we think of miracles at Christmas when the bonus comes or we hear about someone’s cancer being in remission or about a car accident that someone walked away from.

But what about a day when you wake up feeling refreshed and peaceful, enjoy a good breakfast, have a great day interacting at work, school or wherever you go, the project you’re working on just falls in place like a well-greased gear, you receive the call you’ve been waiting or praying for, dinner is a great wind down for the day, you catch an amazing  sunset and you have a comfy bed to fall into?

Have you considered that to be a day of miracles? Or did you notice how the whole day went like Christmas or the way you think your birthdays should go, but you rarely would notice on any other of the 364 days of the year?

I believe miracles are all around. And we don’t have to look too far. Your puppy gets the going out thing. Your mom adjusts to a living change as she is aging. Your neighbor shares homegrown tomatoes from his garden. Your adult children communicate their love for you and their understanding in the way you tried to do your best in bringing them up. Someone arrives safely home. The car repair is 95% less than what you expected. The meeting you presented was insightful to the group. Someone commented on your blog post.

All of these little actions require that someone, for a moment in time, graced you with considering you in some way, as important, special, valuable, an asset or just plain family. They spent “time” on you, for you, with you. They gave of themselves in a way that touched you in a unique and special way.

These are glimpses of miracles. Especially when you consider that we are moving at the speed of wifi as often as possible to achieve all we can in as little time as necessary and wishing we all had 6 more hours in the day and 8 days in each week.

More often than not, just like at the airport, we become desensitized at the miracle messages that are moving all around us. We pause briefly when we hear that someone is sick, or has passed, or lost a job, or a had a baby and give the appropriate response and jump right back in.

How can we make more sense of the miracles all around? I believe to spot a miracle requires being thankful for what you have and accepting it as the blessing it really is. The people in your life. And even some that are no longer in it. The ability to think for yourself, find and do work that you love, to encourage someone, read a book, watch a movie, take a vacation or just wake up refreshed.

If you superimpose a grid over what a miracle is to look like believing they only come in one shape — outrageously large — you can miss out on the simple joys of how faithful God is to work out all of the details in our lives as opposed to never letting them come to closure.

What were you frantic about last year on this date? What about 5 years ago? It is wonderful when we don’t remember the struggle and can only remember that it is over and all worked out. Yet, when we faced it, it was beyond huge. Things don’t always work out the way we would like but they usually work out for the best, if we will choose to make the best of the way they actually do work out.

A miracle that changed my life forever was when I came to the understanding that I do not have to know how every day, project, event, trip, person, meal etc., is going to be, work out or what it will look like in the final outcome. I entered into the zone! That zone is the joy of not knowing how it all will be and accepting that this is okay.

It is actually like being a child again heading for their first visit to an amusement park. They do not know what to expect but based on the observations they’ve made of others accounting their experiences, they’ve decided that whatever happens, it will be really cool!

So, at least for today, will you set your heart on watching and waiting for a miracle that you need in your life and determine the many ways and shapes that God may bring them and remember to thank Him.

It might just be really cool!

Sheri 

How can we handle people we are close to who have very different opinions?

Being easily offended or defensive when someone has a different opinion that does not support our views is a negative response that hinders emotional maturity.

Allowing respectful diverse view points into our thinking helps us grow and gain insight from different perspectives. Limiting ourselves to ideas only from people who agree with us can inhibit or destroy significant relationships.

Assuming that we are being rejected if others do not perform as we desire or show support in our endeavors results in unhealthy thought processes.

If we work to communicate with one another with kindness, patience, and understanding, we can cultivate ways to operate in love and empathy, opening opportunities for growth and strong relationships that impact us personally, spiritually and professionally.

Might it be possible that God intended diversity to mature and teach us how to love in a way that transforms us as well as others?

I believe it is worth pondering… 

Sheri