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Taking Care of YOU (#11 Wisdom along the Way)

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Ethics in Biomedical Medicine was one of my favorite elective classes when I was a university student. I was a business major and needed a few electives. This class fit perfectly into my schedule. Almost 30 years later, it remains one of the classes that made the biggest impact on my life and my health. The premise of the class was that, ultimately, I knew my body best and was responsible for my own wellness.

Thus started my journey of becoming healthy and taking responsibility for myself. By the way, I am still on that journey.

I am a questioner, a seeker and an experimenter when it comes to my health.

I think I have tried every diet under the sun, included this supplement, excluded this food group, lifted weights, aerobic exercised, endurance – HIIT – yoga trained, walked, jogged, ran and fasted. Yet, sadly, was not satisfied with my body. Or my health.

In my late twenties I inexplicably started putting on weight and suffered two miscarriages while trying to get pregnant with our third child. The miscarriages were devastating; the weight gain and low energy disheartening. I went to an overweight female PA who told me it wasn’t like I was obese, and to get used to weight gain and lower energy as I got older. Remember, I wasn’t even 30!

That horrible medical appointment sent me on a quest.

I knew my body wasn’t behaving normally for me. I researched, tried different doctors and finally landed on some possible solutions. I was diagnosed as hypothyroid. The month I started medication was the month I became pregnant with our third son. After our last child was born, I was diagnosed with clinical depression and later with adrenal fatigue. It seemed one thing after another was hitting me. And it probably didn’t help that I was practicing bulimic.

I had lived a lifetime of being the chubby girl, love doled out as food, not getting dessert when other kids did because of my weight, weigh-ins in our family kitchen and abuse of diet pills beginning in my very early teens. I lived knowing life would be so much better if I could just lose ‘X’ amount of pounds.

On this journey to wellness I began to realize some key ingredients to health.

  • There is Not a One Size fits all Diet or Exercise Plan.
  • There is Not  a Magic Pill that will make you: thin, beautiful, popular, accepted, successful or loved.

I don’t have to tell you how many billions of dollars are spent annually on diet, health, fitness, prescription medicine, sick days, etc… the numbers are staggering.

I will tell you that Spiritual health is what ultimately guided me toward true physical health. I needed to feel like I was worthy of taking care of and lovable no matter what my size or physical appearance. For me, only a relationship with God could do that. Realizing the the Creator of the Universe loved Me and called Me, ‘Child’ changed everything! That same Creator loves YOU and thinks YOU are over the top incredible, wonderful, worthy and amazing!

What if we moved our amazing bodies? Whether this starts as a walk around the neighborhood you live in or it is training for a 5K – Our bodies were made for MOVEMENT. Doing this out of joy instead of punishment, out of ‘could’ instead of ‘should’ changed exercise for me. Adding physical play outdoors or indoors is something we have available to us (hopscotch, tag, jump rope, disc golf, bag toss, hiking, kayaking, bowling, biking, racquetball, tennis, skiing, swimming – really the list is endless)

What if we looked in the mirror each day and picked one feature or ability of ourself that we were grateful for? At the same time we quit negative self talk…Example: Barb – Your skin looks glowing today! Look at the muscles on your upper arms – way to go Sunshine! Wink, thumbs up and air kiss… Instead of: Barb, your butt and thighs are too big, look at that extra fat and skin around your belly… Do you see the POWER in this?

What if we enjoyed food and were thankful for it? Take a cooking class. Buy a new cookbook – a gorgeous book full of photos. Purchase wholesome locally sourced food. Discover new ways to prepare life giving vegetables and fruits. Quit eating when we are full. Ask ourselves if we are truly hungry before stuffing a feeling along with salty, crunchy or sweet. Could we stop using food for numbing? If we are anxious, sad, lonely, hurt, angry, fearful, uncomfortable how about taking a walk or journaling to consider our feelings. Our feelings matter and we deserve to delve deep into them, instead of eating them. Our enjoyment of food matters also.  We need it for fuel AND it can also be a fulfilling part of being loving to ourselves and joyful each day.

What if we reinstated sitting at a beautifully set table (with friends, family or even alone) as a ritual of nourishment? We don’t have to be Martha Stewart here, but there is so much Soul Food that happens when we care about our surroundings! Light a candle, buy flowers for your table, use real plates and silverware, pour your water into a glass with ice and a slice of lemon, use a placemat. These rituals fill us up as much if not more than the wonderful food we serve. Be present and mind-FULL during eating.

What if we shed the negativity around our bodies, food, movement and lives? Can we suspend harsh judgements on ourselves? There are gazillions of dollars spent each year in marketing to make us feel ‘less than’… turn off your television, put an add blocker on your computer, listen to ad-free music, go on a media fast. Take a break from the nay-sayers and sabotaging people in your life. Send your self-critic on vacation. Acknowledge a negative feeling – but don’t partner with it or let it drive your actions. Be the boss of you. Dear guilt (fear, anxiety,etc..), you may not boss me anymore.

What if were relentless about our healthcare? Seriously, us looking out for us, is the best possible scenario. Find a health practitioner that partners with us, listens to us, hears us. I know healthcare is a hot topic these days. But even here – implementing the above five steps is such a huge movement toward wellness that this will seem easier. We can talk to our legislators. We can have an impact on health care. We can start at home, with ourselves, becoming more well and health conscious.

The simple act of believing we can make a difference in our wellness may be the biggest factor in our personal health.

I challenge us to one week of self kindness to ourselves! Let me know how it goes!

Choose Happy (#6 Wisdom Along the Way)

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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

 

The True You ( #4 Wisdom Along the Way)

 

You have just come across the most enchanting child.

This child is innocent, playful, curious and filled with joy. You are invited to join this child for a wondrous journey of exploration.

You clasp hands, feeling honored that this pure and bright little person trusts you and wants your companionship.

As you walk through a tall and misty forest you notice sounds and smells that you have forgotten to appreciate. The breeze is gently rustling through branches, birds are cavorting overhead and the earth smells fresh and musky at the same time. You breathe deeply. You are completely present and in the moment. Calm washes over you.

The child bends down and grabs a fallen feather, bright blue, glossy black and white. A small hand pulls you down to share this new found treasure. Your eyes meet.

Your gaze locks with this precious little one and you see your own eyes staring back at you.

This. Can’t. Be. You.

But it is.

Hot tears gather in your eyes. Your throat gets tight making it hard to swallow past the lump. Your chest painfully constricts. A tear escapes.

When did everything change? When did this innocence leave? When did you decide to put on masks to fit in? When did you squelch your dreams to meet other’s expectations? When did you adopt hard coping mechanisms to self protect?

When did you lose the Joyous Freedom of being the True You?

Do you know?

Somewhere along the path of life it seems we decide that there is a better way to be ourselves. Or circumstances dictate we retreat. We decide the True Me needs to hide, be protected, change, disappear, be quiet/louder/better… etc. But what if this is a Lie?

What if it is the True You that is the answer you have been longing for?

God only made one You.

One in 7.5 billion people.

This expression of YOU is unique and glorious because it is YOU!

So much of what we are called to do in our life time comes out of knowing our True self. Everyone seems to want to know their purpose. Everyone deeply wants to know they are okay.

“When you get your, ‘Who am I?’, question right, all of your, ‘What should I do?’ questions tend to take care of themselves.” -Richard Rohr, Falling Upward

When you ask the question, “Who am I?”, what is your answer?

Do you hear the voices of others, describing what you do in their lives? Do you hear tapes from your past, labeling you? Does your inner critic trump the loving voice of your spirit or of God?

Do you know what you truly like? Do you know what your love languages are? Do you know what you are good at? Do you know what your life’s purpose is? Do you know why your relationships work or don’t work? Do you know how others perceive you? Are you comfortable with yourself? Do you know what your strengths are? Do you know what your personality types are? Do you know if you are introverted or extroverted? Do you know your coping mechanisms? Do you know your conflict resolution style? Do you know how incredibly amazing YOU are?

If no one has ever encouraged you to go on this adventure, let me!

That cherished child we visited has gifts and talents and desires that are crying out to be set free and shared.

What if we take this on as an assignment?

There are SO many places to start. Taking the time for self exploration may be one of the most important things we ever do, whether alone; reading, praying, journaling or in in groups; intensives, retreats, counseling.

There are a load of free on line assessments to get you started. Some of my favorites are:

  • StrengthsFinder
  • DISC
  • Myers-Briggs
  • Enneagram
  • Love Languages
  • The 4 Tendencies

Look at the results. Buy the books. Sit with them. Journal about them. Do the assessments with a trusted friend. Pray about them. Ask your safe loved ones how they experience you. Be open to the answers you hear and the answers y0u discover.

Some clues for me that something is important for my soul include: physical responses like deeper breathing, shoulders relaxing or heart beating faster, sweaty palms. Sometimes, colors or words or smells stand out in a unique way. Other times a theme will start recurring in my life (I will see it everywhere!), like a certain phrase or Bible verse. 

Pay attention Dear Heart, God is always talking to us – through our bodies, through nature, through our experiences and through others.

This getting to the True You is a lifetime process. There are seasons and situations that cause us to dig deeper and others where we are more reflective or engaged in different areas of our life. They are both to be expected and embraced.

Just don’t ever quit becoming the TRUE YOU.

 

Photo Credit: danielle-cohen.com

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Live Better Stories

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Okay, this advice came on the packing paper for a new pair of shoes. And I couldn’t resist adding it to my current art project!

This year I am choosing to live a better story!

After all, one of the best parts of being human is our ability to choose. A better story for me might be stepping more into the abundant life that is always available.

My friend, Jesus, might say, “Life to the full.”

Yes. That’s part of my better story!

Who Do You Say I Am?

Morning Glory

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the son of the living God. And Jesus answered him, Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:15-18)

Who do you say I am?

What  a big and loaded question!

For many years I assumed that the whole point of these couple verses was that Peter proclaimed Jesus as The Christ, the Messiah, whom the people had been waiting for.

And that is a major point.

Who I think and say Jesus is, defines me. I grow daily in knowing, loving and following HIM.

What if there is more?

Way more?

One thing I am learning is that: I don’t know what I don’t know.

Another thing I am learning is that in Walking with Jesus, there is always MORE.

As I was reading the above verses from the book of Matthew a number of things jumped off the page at me.

First, Jesus said some amazing things. Blessed are you Simon Bar-Jonah.” Not because Peter had the right answer. Not because Peter knew that Jesus was the savior of the whole planet. But Jesus said that Peter was blessed ‘for flesh and blood(man) has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.’ 

Peter was blessed because The Father in heaven revealed who Christ is? Or Peter was blessed because a person didn’t reveal Christ to him, but God did? Or Peter was blessed because he was in the presence of the living God and walking with HIM and realized it? Or Peter had a direct connection to the Father and acted from that?

I don’t know about you, but I am pretty sure I first confessed Christ because someone – a person – told me about HIM. Of course I also believe that the Spirit of God was at work in that choice.

How many times have I just listened to someone else’s interpretation of God’s Word? I AM NOT saying that it is wrong to listen to teaching. Instead I am suggesting that teaching should be my invitation to seek HIM out for myself.

What if I had known to listen to the voice of my Father in heaven and hear from HIM? I am not even sure I thought that was possible. I mean really? HE would talk to me? Really? The God of the universe would take time out of HIS mega-importance to talk to me?

Yes! HE did, HE does and HE will.

I am not saying that I hear an audible voice booming from the heavens. Even in the Bible, God doesn’t always speak that way. Sometimes HE used burning bushes, angels, prophets, wind,  a donkey. HIS voice whispers through creation to all of us. HE speaks in dreams. HE gave us Holy Spirit to constantly converse with us. HE is always speaking.

I have not always been listening.

Jesus says that Peter is blessed for hearing from God. Listening to God instead of man. Choosing to repeat what God said, instead of what man said.

A knowing that comes from hearing the voice of God, as Peter did, is foundational to walking with Jesus.

The verses only get better! Next Jesus says, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church.”

I really like that Jesus will build His church. Not, ‘Peter now you will build my church.’ Do you think we hear it that way sometimes?

How often do we assume that we are to do God’s part instead of our part? In these verses our part is to hear from our Father in Heaven and His part is to build the church. A little backwards from how we sometimes attack executing our faith?

We also have to look at the word ‘church.’ This word in Greek is ekklesia AND IT IS NOT A BUILDING. It is a group of people, specifically ‘the called out ones.’ It was not a religious or spiritual term. The purpose of an ekklesia was to ‘call people out’ or ‘summon them’ to assemble or to congregate in a public place primarily to deal with civil, political or military matters – not religious matters!* Not how I used to think of the ‘church.’ (Maybe we really can change the world!)

This ekklesia, Jesus said, He will build. And the foundation – the rock – was Peter, a person that heard from heaven.

And the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.This is the comfort and protection and peace that I walk in daily. These are Jesus’s words. The word.

The gates of hell cannot prevail against a people, called out by Jesus, that hear from the Father in heaven.

A Prayer to hear God’s Voice:

Father God, I long to hear your voice. Please speak to me. Teach me your ways. Reveal to me who YOU are.

Now, listen. God longs for you!

*ReOrient, Kevin Weaver, pp187

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Faith, Hope and Love

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.(1 Corinthians 13:13)

LOVE. LOVE. LOVE.

Love one another. Love covers a multitude of sins. God is love. Love God and Love People.

Love is a verb. Love is an action. LOVE IS A CHOICE not a feeling (but it can feel great)!

Love. Keep your LOVE ON!

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(Mixed Media – plaster on gesso board. Acrylic, gesso, coffee, stabilo pencil and antique hymnal collage element)