Category Archives: Christian

Choose Happy (#6 Wisdom Along the Way)

ONLY YOU CAN MAKE YOU HAPPY copy

 

Only YOU can make YOU HAPPY. For a long time I did not believe this.

My wonderful husband and I used to have a recurring fight.

It went something like this:

Me: You never…. or… You always… or…. If only You would…

Wonderful Husband: I can’t do anything to make you happy…

Do these words sound familiar to you? Maybe they aren’t in a marriage. Maybe they are in a parent-child, sibling, work, school or friend relationship. Maybe it’s an ongoing internal conversation with yourself.

Through a very long process I discovered an amazing truth: I am the only one who can make me Happy.

I was 35.

I didn’t say I was a quick learner.

I am not an expert on how this sad state of affairs came to be, or maybe I am. However, I am becoming an expert on how my happiness truly is up to me.

You see, for the longest time (35 years) I believed that other’s actions or circumstances dictated my happiness. Have you ever been there?

If only…then I could be happy…

When … blah blah blah …then I will be happy…

They should … so I can be happy…

I get it.

I used to live there.

I am here to tell you there is a better way.

Because really? Do you have control over another human’s actions, decisions, thought processes? Do you have control over circumstances outside of You?

Really, what can we control? Really? Truly? Honestly?

For me, I have decided I have enough of a job controlling me. Who I am and who I want to be IS totally up to me.

And just being honest here, I am not an easy job.

I can be: bratty, bitchy, controlling, judgmental, jealous, over emotional, angry, critical, whiney, needy, cranky  – all AT THE DROP OF A HAT!

I have a full time job managing me.

Do I really want to give you my power of happiness? Do I want to give a promotion, a salary, a number on a scale, a degree, a position, a relationship THE CONTROL of my happiness?

Unequivocally, my answer is NO! 

This was a decision I guess I didn’t even realize I could make, until I did.

What if I could be happy because I chose to? Despite my circumstances?

This was novel thinking for me.

Frankly it seemed counterintuitive.

Until I started practicing it!

I have met, listened to, seen and read of people in horrible circumstances who walk in personal contentment and happiness. They do not let circumstances or people steal their joy.

As difficult and as simple as their solution is  – here it is:

They choose happiness.

In spite of circumstances, people, externals  – they choose this high road of happiness.

When I first heard of this crazy practice I spoofed it. Sure, those folks with everything going right in their world can be happy. But they should try my life!

Then I looked deeper. Happiness was showing up in the most unlikely humans. These were parents that had lost children. Parents who had been dealt the hand of Downs Syndrome or Autism or childhood Leukemia in their lives. These were spouses that had suffered betrayal, affairs, divorce or the death of a spouse. These were people who had lost everything financially through bankruptcy, natural disaster, embezzlement or economic downturn. These were people who were suffering terminal illness or were losing loved ones from disease and sickness. These were survivors of abuse, addiction, neglect, war, famine and terrorism. Happiness was seeming to bloom in some of the most unlikely places.

Of course, I have seen the opposite also. Those dealt an unbearable hand in life that chose bitterness, martyrdom, victimhood  or hatred.

So, as true to myself, I set some parameters.

Here are some questions I ask myself:

  1. Is this something I have control over?
  2. Am I the boss of this situation?
  3. Is there any realistic action I can take to change this circumstance?
  4. Am I allowing someone else’s actions to dictate how I feel?
  5. Can I set a better boundary here – between this situation and me?

These are tough and real questions. I visit them often. I do not want to get sucked into someone else’s strife, issue or problem. I would rather be part of the solution. I know and have known tough circumstances. I can get stuck in the quagmire of despair or I can choose some happiness and levity along the way. Guess which one is more healthy and achieves better results?

And I still can choose my own happiness NO MATTER what is going on.

I am not saying that there is not a time for sadness, grief or anger. But I choose not to live there. I have agreed with myself that I can find happiness, even amongst grief and sorrow and mourning.

My, ‘how do you actually do this?’ goes like this:

I have to stay in a Soul Filled place of wellness. I have to take care of myself; my spiritual and physical needs. I need to be okay with me. And, I need to make the willful choice of happiness.

The Serenity Prayer comes to my mind:

God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can, and
Wisdom to know the difference.

Seriously, WHY NOT CHOOSE HAPPY NOW?

 

Photo Credit: Danielle-cohen.com

 

What Fills Your Soul? (#5 Wisdom Along the Way)

 

What Fills Your Soul?

Have you considered this question lately? Ever?

It could also be asked, what makes your heart sing?

Why is this even important?

Because, Dear One, You and Your Soul matter!

Sometimes I have needed permission to be good to myself. It has been easy for me to keep a hectic pace, do ‘good’ things for everyone and just be busy.

And some of this ‘serving others’ does fill my soul.

However, only when my soul is already in a filled up, healthy place, to begin with.

I am not saying you shouldn’t serve others if you are not filled up first. If you are human, you probably serve others in some way.

If you are female, you do serve others, usually a lot.

I am saying to sustain serving others requires that you recharge. And even if you don’t think you are in a ‘serving others’ place, we are all required to serve ourselves with good self care.

The best way I know how to do this is a Soul Filling Session!

What is a Soul Filling Session? I actually just made that up… but let’s delve a little deeper.

We all recharge in our own unique ways. When I am talking about Soul Filling, I am not only talking about physically rested, well nourished and healthy. I am talking something spiritual, sacred and soulful.

Whatever your belief system, most of us believe in a higher power, God, Jesus, Source etc…

I belong to a group of believers that agree our souls arrived here in this lifetime pure, perfect and unhindered. I also know that the journey of life has added struggle, lies and light dampening experience to every soul I have ever encountered.

The process of Soul Filling, for me, means to check out of my daily ‘to do’ list and check in to my sacred inner and outer space of being.

I am most Soul Present in:

Nature

Solitude

Beauty and

Quiet

This can look like being anywhere in nature, going for a walk outside, journaling in a peaceful setting, reading the Bible or a soul filling book, doing art in a room with a view, being anywhere in a natural setting  or even being home in a quiet, lovely space I have created for prayer or meditation. These places are where I check in with my soul.

These places may look very different for you. And that is perfectly incredible and awesome that you have found your own Soul Filling experience!

Questions I may ask myself:

  1. How am I?
  2. Am I operating from love? Or am I operating from duty, fear, people pleasing, need for approval, obligation or guilt?
  3. Am I believing a lie (or lies)? What is the truth?
  4. How does my body feel? Healthy, energized, rested and well? Or am I tense, sick, in pain, tired or stressed?
  5. Is my life currently aligned mostly with love, joy, peace or not? What about my relationships? My work? My home?

The answers to these questions give me clues. Even if I am in good places, but depleted, I know I need some Soul Filling.

My personal criteria for Soul Filling time/activities are:

  1. I end up feeling more love, more joy and more peace.
  2. I feel very connected to Jesus or my Source.
  3. My shoulders relax and my breathing becomes deep and unhindered.
  4. Hope increases.
  5. Strife leaves.

I urge you to spend some time thinking about what a personal Soul Filling Session might look like for you? Maybe even consider a few different scenarios. What if you only had 15 minutes? Or an hour? Maybe you can carve a weekend or a week to delve deep into filling your very precious Soul with what it most needs and desires.

What do you hear, see, feel when you ask, “What does a Soul Filling Session look like for me? What does my Soul most need?”

Sometimes my Soul desires solitude and nature. Other times my Soul needs to feel heard and understood by me or even someone near and dear to me. Frequently my Soul wants to check out of the daily routine and create, adventure or explore.

There is no right or wrong path to Soul Filling. The only wrong way would be to not do it at all.

This week for my Soul Filling I was able to intentionally carve out a number of time slots and various experiences. They ranged from five minutes to five hours. Here they are:

  1. I walked and prayed down a beautiful country road, lined with trees turning colors of Autumn with golden sunshine dripping through the canopy cover.
  2. I pondered the leaves gently falling from their Mother Tree to the Forest Floor.
  3. I lit a candle – earthy and herbal, turned on some quiet Jazz music and read Richard Rohr’s daily email meditation.
  4. I opened up my journal, did a free flowing – no judgement – cleanse of my thoughts, feelings, or observations – writing session. (I may have been bratty, bitchy, even ugly here – but I got it out from the inside of me).
  5. I practiced daily gratitude journaling.
  6. I lost myself in the creative practice of making art.
  7. I played with my dogs – outside, pondered the beauty of crisp fall days and smelled the flowers (literally).
  8. I escaped into a beautiful story wrapped in the pages of a book.
  9. I spent relational connection time with my wonderful husband.
  10. I chatted, at length, with some God girlfriends who fill my Soul.

I encourage YOU, Dear Heart, to discover and regularly visit Your Own Soul Filling Sessions.

And I would love to hear what they are!

YOU ARE A FREAKING MIRACLE! (#2 Wisdom Along the Way)

Dear Precious YOU,

Sometimes we forget who really are.

Or, maybe we never really knew.

Too much has happened.

We don’t have what it takes.

We’ve done too much harm.

We aren’t good enough.

We will never measure up.

We haven’t done enough.

In our mind we are broken, bad or beat down by the circumstances or choices of our lives.

I am here to tell you it doesn’t have to be that way.

It is never too late to search for and accept a hand up, to dust off your knees, wipe the tears from your cheeks and discover the incredible creation that is YOU.

I am not talking false platitudes here.

You are a living, breathing, supernatural phenomenon!

Look at what YOU have been through.

Look at what YOU have survived!

You are still here.

That is NO accident.

Cloaking the hurt or shame with silence, anger, sarcasm or numbing may feel like the only safe option.

That is simply not true.

There is not a soul walking this planet who doesn’t have a tragedy in their story that would crack our hearts wide open. If we listened.

No one gets a free pass. No one has this thing called life all figured out. It may look that way from the outside, but trust me, beneath the surface we are all more alike than different.

This life walk were are on;

YOU can do it.

This knee buckling, heart breaking catastrophe;

YOU will get through it.

This dead end – brick wall – glass ceiling – mountain in front of you,

there is a WAY around or through it.

This thing called LIFE, we were never meant to do it alone.

Take this journey to YOU. Don’t stop. Get help. Don’t stop. Find a friend, a group, a church, a counselor. RELENTLESSLY search for those who lift you up, NOT those who commiserate with You.

The WORLD only gets ONE YOU.

I see the spark still burning in your eye, in your heart. Fan that flame!

I know it’s scary. Because I did it and I do it.

The BRAVEST thing I ever did was find a good counselor (it was my third attempt by the way), share my truth, share the shame and the hurts and the story that had been my life. This was not a one week or a one month process. This took YEARS of work and tears and digging to resurrect HOPE in my life. AND every single day of the painful journey, I would do again, to get to this Peace-full, Hope-full and Joy-full place I now live.

The WISEST thing I ever did was ask Jesus to help me. I still do this everyday.

These steps began a 16 year healing journey, that I am still on.

Do whatever it takes!

YOU are worth WHATEVER IT TAKES! You are worth the sacrifice, pushing through the fear, taking the time, showing up, spending the money and making the effort!

YOU are More than OKAY!

YOU are More than ENOUGH!

YOU ARE A FREAKING MIRACLE!

I PROMISE!

 

 RESOURCES:

  • Celebrate Recovery (for hurts, habits and hang-ups/ not only addiction)
  • 12 Step Programs
  • New Life Ministries  newlife.com (counselor network and intensives)
  • Your Local Church
  • Your School’s Counseling Office
  • braveliving.com Soul Restoration
  • Your friend with the kind eyes and a big heart
  • Falling Upward, by Richard Rohr
  • The Gifts of Imperfection, by Brene Brown
  • You are a Badass, by Jen Sincero
  • Captivating or Wild at Heart, by Stasi and John Eldredge

Photo Credit: danielle-cohen.com

Finding Faith (#1 Wisdom along the Way)

 

Faith, like a flower, starts with a seed.

A simple whisper at the beginning of time blossoms into surety and confidence in that which we know for sure.

It is not a stationary or stagnant arrival, but an unfurling along the pathways of our life.

Faith, as intangible as it may seem, becomes the sinew that holds us together on our journey.

This mystical, magical, supernatural gift of a soul to unwavering knowing, believing and being, seems to happen in a myriad of ways. For me, it’s been a journey.

Often we grow up listening to our parent’s or elder’s beliefs, faith or religion. Frequently these same things we subconsciously adopt or reject. But have we took them off the shelf of our mind and moved them into the personal realm of our heart and soul, as our own?

My Faith Journey has been gloriously messy.

In my late teens and early twenties I was very positive of my faith. I would have told you I was a Christian. I would have told you a hundred things I would never do. I would have told you a set of hard and fast rules I lived by. I had faith in myself and really, nothing else.

Then my first child was born. I took one look at that miraculous little human and truly knew for the first time in my life that God was absolutely real. With that realization a chain reaction began in my life. This new thing I now knew: that without a doubt there was God. What else did I truly, gut wrenchingly know?

I found out I didn’t know, as in really have Faith, regarding that many things or people or principles in my life.

I could parrot a lot of what I had been taught. But I didn’t own, at a soul level, many of my ‘for sures.’ Like, ‘for sure,’ I would never: divorce, lie, cheat, have an affair, declare bankruptcy, drink too much, over eat, let someone see me cry, hit my child, be depressed, scream in public, go out without make up on, go to the grocery store in pajamas, be homeless, not pay my bills, become overweight…Then there were my ‘rules’ such as: Perception is everything…We work hard and play hard…etc… Were these my faith?

I now know that those are not ‘things’ for me to have faith in. Plus I failed at most of them! My behaviors and personal rules have very little to do with my faith and everything to do with the outcome of what my faith is. But they are not my faith.

Faith is so much deeper than something I said about myself or something I did or did not do.

So I went on a Faith exploration mission.

Faith, for me, had to do with God. At least that was where I was grabbed. I had this deep seated, organic, earthy, ethereal, wondrous nagging to know more. Faith might grab your attention at a sunrise, or a tragedy or a symphony. Really, there is no telling where you may first hear the whisper of Faith, calling you.

I do believe that Faith does keep whispering until we hear. And when we do hear, Faith sings a siren’s song pulling us deeply into the quest for more.

Because my Faith quest had to do with God, I began reading the Bible (or at least trying to). It didn’t make a lot of sense to me, so I found a church that taught the Bible. Both were good. But they weren’t this Faith thing calling me. I visited other churches. I went on spiritual retreats all over the country. I began to hear the voice of God through the teachers and pastors and books and wind and rushing water and waves and silent misty mornings. I began to see God on mission trips, in the faces of homeless people and the faces of CEOs, in the beautiful deeds of selfless people and in the ravages of war torn countries, and in the rebirth of the land every Spring and every morning in the sunrise.

I met Jesus of Nazareth. Not only in doctrine and theology. Not only in church and the Bible. Not only in other people. Not only in the beauty of creation. Not only in my own family. But also in the quiet still small voice that whispered through my soul. In my dark places. In my pain and in my grief. In my wonder and in my joy. In the mystery of not being able to clearly define, describe or logically explain this divine presence that had overtook my life.

I had found Faith. My Faith lies in Jesus. I have Faith that Love is the answer.

My call to you is not a call to Jesus. That is not my job.

Instead, I encourage you to listen to the whispers calling you. Seek that which draws your soul into a larger story. Unearth the delight, comfort and joy of Faith on your journey.

Who Am I to Talk About Wisdom?

 

For the longest time I have had the desire to share, in writing, life’s lessons gained on this journey. I call those lessons: Wisdom. I have thought about it, talked about it and even made some notes about it.

Then this:

Does this ever happen to you? Those pesky questions, like:

Who do I think I am to: write, teach, do art, run a business, start a business, lead a project, run a race, try out for that, sing, apply to that school, dance, speak, make a difference, etc…? I am sure you can fill in the blank for yourself.

Or maybe even a deeper self statement comes up. One that goes to the core of who we are. Something like: I have nothing of value to say. I am not: good enough, wise enough, pretty enough, smart enough, capable enough, tough enough, savvy enough, lovable enough, thin enough, strong enough to _________ (fill in the blank). Or, I am too loud, too much, too naive, too slow, too under-qualified, too old, too young to _________ (fill in the blank).

Wisdom is one of those topics that can bring these questions and thoughts knocking on my door.

There are even some quotes that come to my mind when I think of writing anything about wisdom:

Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in the this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. -The Bible, 1 Corinthians 3:18.

A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool. – William Shakespeare.

I remember these quotes.

And I feel shame enter the room at the thought of daring to write about such a topic.

Then I take a deep breath.

I expose my deeper fears to the light.

With courage, I move forward.

I remember that courage can’t even be present if I am perfectly comfortable with something. Heck, so much of what we do that moves us forward is outside our comfort zone, involves change and/or risk and sometimes even terrifies us. Courage involves acknowledging those voices and trudging forward.

Which brings me back to my original question.

Who am I to write about wisdom?

I can answer this with both who I am AND who I am not.

I am not someone who has All the Answers or Everything figured out.

I am a student of life. I have been on this planet for over half a century. I am a mother, a grandmother, a daughter, a wife, a friend, a creative, an artist, a business owner, a writer, a lover of beauty, a lover of nature, a hearer, a listener and I am a seeker. I have walked through some deep valleys and rested on a mountaintop or two. I have done the dance of two steps forward and one step back, and sometimes ten steps back. AND I am still doing all these things!

I used to think I would arrive at this destination called: Grown Up and Life Figured Out. What I am learning is that there may not be such a place. It’s actually a huge relief!

This, for me, is the wisdom I would like to share; simply the lessons I have walked in and through on my journey. My lessons may or may not resonate with you. That is okay with me. In fact I welcome a conversation!

I want to write about what I’ve learned as a legacy to my children and their children. I have a beautiful grand baby. He is one of my favorite people. I have such outrageous love for him. I am so proud of and in love with my husband, sons and daughters-in-love. I want them to know how their lives and wisdom have affected me and my journey. I want them to know the lessons I’ve learned, the mistakes I’ve made and maybe, just maybe, help them on their journey. If I were to die tomorrow I don’t long to leave a legacy of things – I would rather leave a wisdom legacy of love.

I had a deep desire as a younger person for a mentor, a teacher, a cheerleader to come along side my life. I knew there was a more excellent way to walk through this life.  I read every book I could find. I went to seminars and conferences. I took classes. I spent years in counseling. I journaled. I prayed. I sought Jesus. I cultivated wise friendships. I still do everyone of these things. I always will.

My hope, is in writing about wisdom,  a conversation will develop. I am hoping encouragement will happen. I am writing to not only future generations, but to a younger me. 

I am not claiming to be All Wise.

I only desire to share some Wisdom I have Learned along the Way.

 

Photo Credit: Danielle-Cohen.com

What is Wisdom?

Some say the elephant is wise, others say the owl. To some wisdom is an animal, to others a person, a parent or a mentor. To others wisdom is a philosophy, a religion or God.

According to Merriam Webster:

Definition of wisdom
1. a : accumulated philosophic or scientific learning : knowledge
b : ability to discern inner qualities and relationships : insight
c : good sense : judgment
d : generally accepted belief
2. a wise attitude, belief, or course of action
3. the teachings of the ancient wise men

According to the Christian Bible Reference Site: In the Biblical sense, wisdom is the “ability to judge correctly and to follow the best course of action, based on knowledge and understanding.” (Lockyer p. 1103)

For me: Wisdom is a journey. It is a chosen path based on experience, failure, success and perseverance. I have often learned more and become more wise by my failure than through my success. There is just something more true about the ability to fall down, shake it off and get back up again to try again. The sheer resilience, the hope found in overcoming – just doesn’t happen in the easy ‘win.’

And you know what else? The wisest women and men I have met will not claim to have ‘it’ all together. Instead they tell the story of their life, the wisdom journey that accumulated over years, and tears and sweat. Yet when I listen to the details of their life experience, I hear the interwoven choice of joy. This joy seems to show up by sheer will in the face of incredible opposition. I am always humbled and honored to sit at the feet of those who care to share their life lessons with me.

Wisdom is portrayed as a woman in the Bible. I kind of really like that, probably because I am a woman… Proverbs 4:5-9 says:

Get wisdom, get understanding;
    do not forget my words or turn away from them.
 Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you;
    love her, and she will watch over you.
The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom.
    Though it cost all you have, get understanding. 

Cherish her, and she will exalt you;
    embrace her, and she will honor you.
 She will give you a garland to grace your head
    and present you with a glorious crown.

 There are wisdom traditions throughout our world and history. Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Vedanta, Daoism; all manner of religion or philosophy call upon the people to grow in this practice or knowledge. Wisdom seems to be a large part of the path to maturity and completely transformative to our nature. Think hot headed person vs. wise person and you probably just formed a complete mental picture of each.

So how do we find this Wisdom Path? Must we fail so frequently as to become discouraged, depressed or even victimized before we get wise? Maybe. Are there books and teachings to follow to avoid the shortcomings of not yet being wise? Probably. Are there people that are alive and breathing that are more wise than ourselves to glean from? Absolutely!

What if we stepped out and began seeking wisdom? What if we shared the wisdom we have learned, stumbled upon or been hit over the head with? What if we had discussions concerning wisdom?

I don’t know about you, but I personally missed wise counsel – probably by no ones fault but my own. I am sure pride got in my way. Not just pride of knowing ‘it’ all but also pride that created a barrier for me to ask for someone else’s wisdom. I had no wisdom practice. I looked for no teacher.

Society today no longer lives in a familial network of generational wisdom in the same house, sometimes not even in the same community. We don’t honor Wise elders. In fact we don’t even like the word ‘old’ or ‘elder.’ Outside of certain Universities or religions, we don’t even consider wisdom.

One of the things that I so would have appreciated as a younger person was someone to come along side me and share what they had learned with me. Not in a judgemental, ‘You Should…’ sort of way, but in a, ‘Here is what happened and what I found/learned…’ sort of way. I knew I wanted a different way than the way I grew up – I desired something kinder, more loving and wiser. Now I can be that person to my younger self. In NO way, shape or form do I proclaim to have this thing called ‘life’ figured out. But I have learned a lot, I have come a long way. I bet you have too! At age 50, I am deciding to share the lessons I have learned and the wisdom I have gained a long the way.

In the next days, weeks, months I am choosing to write the lessons I wish I knew when I was in my twenties (and 30’s and 40’s – I didn’t say I was a fast learner). I hope you will jump in and enjoy the Wisdom discussion with me! I would love to hear what wisdom means to you!


Showing Up and Sharing

I recently have had the honor of being asked to participate in a  project sharing stories of ‘FamilyPreneurs.’ I know it’s not a real word…YET! I want to share here. Following is our short BIO for the project:

Nicholson-79

Our story is a Faith story. Jeff and I will celebrate 27 years of marriage this year, by the grace of God. Our family includes three wonderful sons, two daughters-in-love and a very precious grand baby. We also own and partner in four companies that employ approximately 400 people.

Entrepreneurship has afforded our family more benefits than a simple biography could encapsulate. But I’ll try: Income, outrageous ability to be generous, time and education flexibility, travel, homes, cars, etc… It has also cost us: time, flexibility, relationships, travel, homes, cars etc… And it almost cost us our marriage.

Jeff and I were not raised in homes that followed Jesus, so we truly didn’t know there was a better way to do life, relationships and business. We were honest, hardworking, struggling, hard people. We were trying to do everything ‘right’ and the way we were ‘taught.’ You know – work our asses off, educate our children in a traditional setting with emphasis on performance and grades, make everything on the outside ‘look perfect.’ On the inside we were dying. Our marriage was in shambles. I was clinically depressed while on depression medication. Our children had diagnosis of ADHD, dyslexia and ADD. We survived embezzlement – just barely – and had deep mistrust issues with everyone. What a ride!

Discovering and surrendering to a relationship with our Creator changed everything. I started contemplating and seeking Jesus during a two year stint of therapy. Don’t get me wrong, it was (and still is) a process! Jesus made us realize we are never alone, we always have a helper and we might want to step out of some of our old ways of thinking.

Just some of the benefits: no more depression or depression meds, the best marriage in the world – we have led countless marriage groups, the options of homeschool and alternative education opportunities, financial investment in our children’s businesses as opposed to college education, a family that isn’t perfect but IS for each other, businesses that grew during the economic downturn of 2008+, new opportunities daily, and for me the courage to pursue my love of art and writing. Truly we are blessed beyond measure and live a life of unspeakable joy. The hardships no longer take us out, they make us stronger.