Monday, December 23, 2019

The Power of Prayer

Image result for golden light of hopeDo you believe in prayer? Do you believe there is a power waiting and listening and wanting to help us?
When I was younger I was often told I had a strong faith. While I struggled some during the college years (which for me was late 20s to early 30s-I chose to do the mom thing first), ultimately, even in times of darkness, I held on to the belief that there was something-Someone listening.

I have watched my husband struggle with this idea of a Powerful being, a God, because he sees the pain the world, the pain children go through, and it doesn't make sense to him. Maybe I am simpler. Maybe I wrapped up in my own life, I am not sure. I hate the idea that someone is suffering. I can't handle stories of abuse or the thought of children starving, or people are being locked up and used. It is sickening. But that doesn't make me feel hopeless or disbelieving.

And I guess I am different there. I don't really want to go too deep into my own religious beliefs here, but I have been thinking of the power of prayer today.

I think about answered and unanswered prayers. The truth is, we pray and things either turn out the way we want or another way. The real question is, is there something-is there energy or access to a higher power that actually occurs when we pray? Or is the change happening within us? Are we triggering actions which lead to the events which lead to the prayer being met or not.

Are met prayers just confirming our bias? Do we just kindly overlook the unanswered prayers? As a romantic, obsessive infp (I think-let's be honest, we are all a little fluid in personality), like Garth, I truly do sometimes thank God for unanswered prayers. Can you imagine the following of devoted, idealized men I would have if every prayer and wish upon a star came true. Good Lord!

But if there are not guarantees, what is the point of prayer? In the Christian film, War Room, which was only okay as far as movies go,  this idea of writing prayers down so you can see as they are answered is interesting. I always wrote my prayers in a journal form as a teen. Eventually, several years ago, I threw most of them away, (and the crushes and pleas for whichever boy I silently loved, the pleas for help controlling my temper and being kinder to my mom, even when she was unfair, and patience for watching my little brother are now lost to the world), but the idea of asking for help is still there.

But...I have had enough prayers answered to believe in prayer. There have been areas of growth I knew I needed, but was afraid to ask for help, because my gut knew it would be painful. Until I got to the point of grief and despair as I was sitting on a floor, crying, and asking for help (you know when your grief and despair drive you to the floor, it has gotten real) . And the help came.

And considering that I do believe in the power of prayer, I find it a great curiosity to think of the things I DON'T pray for. If my gut tells me prayer works, why is it a last resort? Curiouser and curiouser.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

The Gift of Time ~~ Edited

I woke up contemplating two whole weeks, if not to myself, at least with those who love me best. As a reader I started looking for some reading material which help solidify and validify the half-formed thoughts in the back of my head.
I stumbled across this sweet little post about giving the gift of time to your little ones.

If you missed that it was:

This spoke to me, because like so many other parents, it is hard to get lost in the moment. It is hard for me to ever get lost in a moment. I am only lost in emotion usually when I am just completely and utterly angry. The rest of time, I find my mind is working, looking at other perspectives, noting irony, and thinking about other things. But what a precious gift we can give our children by being completely present at least part of the day. We can play their games without rushing, but actually enjoy the moment as we are in it. While it sounds easy, to me it is not! I am always contemplating, thinking, wondering, dreaming, wishing, daydreaming, hoping, waiting-my mind is always somewhere else. But our children know. They know when they are jobs to be fulfilled and not valued as people we delight in. So I want to spend time enjoying them for the people they are. Not going through the motions and hoping they don't notice my disengagement, but being fully present for greater periods of the day with them.

And that is what I want to do. It will be hard. I like my creature comforts as much as I know I should go out in the back yard and watch the kids play even when it is below 60 degrees. I feel a little lost if I can't "research" a topic immediately that comes to mind. As Alec is slowly napping less and less, I find the day quite long without that break in the middle.
But I want to accept this challenge!

I think it is important to be present and involved with your little ones, and I want my actions to match my words!

How can this be accomplished?

First, I plan to leave my phone in my room. Maybe even hide it from the kids. I will only get on it when the house is quiet enough for me to sneak away upstairs.

I will only be on the computer when Alec is sleeping. Honestly, I don't know if I can accomplish this today. A lady has been asking for pictures of my in-stock items,which I promised to her today, and while I wonder if perhaps she is just lonely, I feel I should oblige. That will require the phone, for sure, and perhaps the computer.

Third, I am committing to take the kids somewhere each day and playing a board game with them each day. Since many of our pieces have been lost, I may have to go out and purchase some cheap games (again!). The somewhere doesn't have to be anything spectacular, it can be out for an ice cream cone. But what I need to commit to is actually getting out of the car, and making it an experience.

Check Progress
Now I have three solid goals which will be easy to mark, yes or no. We will see how I stack up! I will check in every other day with an update!

Okay! Day one, let's check my progress. I know I said every other day, but rules are made to be broken, baby!

1. My phone didn't stay totally in my room. But I was off it most of the day. I was on it enough to post a few things on social media, makes plans with my sweet customer to meet her so she could look at some clothing, and put up a new fun outfit I thought looked happy enough to be one of ours.

2. I wasn't on the computer much either. Yay me!

3. We didn't really go anywhere, except to the Walmart pickup, and after a rough and grumpy start (on my part-I have a cold and am cranky), the kids had some fun and got lots of outdoor time. My 9-year-old scuffled with a neighbor kid, and I am happy with how I handled it. He even broke down in tears over his own angry impulsiveness and we talked about that a bit. I was a hot-head as a child, which I have tempered tremendously as the years have gone on (with occasional, anxiety-induced outbursts), so I totally get it. And I get the guilt and self-disappointment when one acts in haste and anger.  So it was nice to get him to open up a bit.

Tonight, my husband I are going out to see Star Wars and then! tomorrow! Another great day full of plans!

Friday, December 20, 2019

Winter Vacation and it is TIME

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Every winter I reread Anne's House of Dreams  during the winter break. This was the book ever-present in my mind when I first moved to Massachusetts in the deep of winter, just prior to the New Year in December 1992. To me, this book is all the romance of a life-desired and I will never forget how Anne-ish I felt standing on the windblown New Hampshire Hampton Beach in the bitter cold as the wind raced around me. If you are an Anne fan, do me a favor Read the book and let me know what you think!
I always read it as an ebook since my paper copy has long-since disintegrated. Typically it feels more like a New Yearsy book, but I am starting early this year!

Sunday, December 15, 2019

The ABCs of reacting to stressors

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Early morning read with my two-year-old. I love the cozy depictions of domestic tranquility in these lovely illustrations. Our version looks like this, but it is out of print:
Image result for The night before Christmas

Sunday is the most bittersweet of all days. While technically a free day, the pull of the real world is hanging there, putting his knobby little knuckled fingers around the edges of your world, pulling it towards them. Or maybe that is just an introvert's lamentation.

An old coworker, on Facebook, posted dozens of pictures of her daughter's birthday party, and while admiring her cute home, I found myself wondering if she'd just go ahead and adopt me now. Probably not. I resisted the urge to actually ask, because you know that is weird. Really though, the difference in lives people living just miles apart can have is astounding. Well. That's the great mystery isn't it? Why some people seem to have manna from the sky falling at their feet each day, others trudge exhaustedly to maintain a decent standard, and others just crawl along, exhausted and lost. The world is unfair and unequal, and somehow I just have to accept that. This isn't to knock other people's lives. This particular coworker must have amazing energy for the amount of work she appears to put into living, it's just... you know. We all have to hold onto the belief that our lives have a purpose. Our place has a purpose, whatever that might be.

I love waking up to a quiet house. I slept in today, until six a.m., then quietly awakened and did my normal things. Coffee, inspirational talk, meditating for a few, then starting breakfast. My typical weekday breakfast consists of an overeasy egg, a slice of whole wheat bread, and lots of black coffee. We are out of bread, so I made a sweet potato to go with the egg. I cannot digest eggs alone very well, so hopefully the sweet potato is starchy enough to help the egg go down well.I LOVE fried eggs, by the way. I am talking love-about an egg. I had two big, farm fresh eggs (my inlaws bring them from their neighbor a couple times a month), and even added some sweetened dessert creamer to one of my cups of coffee. It was nice, but black coffee is really my jam.

My inspirational talk today consisted of the speaker discussing the ABCs: Action, behavior, consequence. Something like that. It is very similar to the ABC of behavior we discuss in my day job. Essentially, something happens, we react in a certain way, and that mindset we take with us, can determine the consequences. For me, my struggle is interaction with others. I am always wary of being hurt, left out, stepped on. So when an action happens that sends off a warning light, my brain goes, Alert! Watch out! Protect yourself. Danger! The problem exists that when we are in self-protective mode, we aren't in loving mode. We aren't able to live out our best version of ourselves when we are waiting for Mr. Jones to stab us in the back. And that affects the outcome. Appearing paranoid makes one marginalized (I totally got this from an interaction between Andy and Dwight on the Office last night), and that doesn't lead to a great outcome. What to do? People can be mean. There really are backstabbers and people who have no issue hurting others. How do you protect yourself without going crazy?

And I think the answer is again, vulnerability. We don't have to share everything. We don't have to trust everyone. However, we have to be brave enough to show up with authenticity and kindness and also with the understanding that sometimes, we will get hurt. Operating with the assumption that we have the tools necessary to repair ourselves from potential hurt, we have to remain open to the world. We can't allow ourselves to be marginalized. It's no easy feat to accomplish. I work on this nearly every DAY of my working life. I am blindingly naive at times and have been spanked by it more than once. I also need attention and will happily take negative attention if that is all I can get. However, I also have some fantastic big girl panties and two strong hands to pull them up and keep going. We have to give others the benefit of the doubt, at least until they have made it clear they don't deserve it. And that is  hard, especially if, like me, you worry that your earnest sincerity is a wondrous source of amusement for others. However, I do feel, in spite of concerns and potential embarrassment, it is a necessary part of living one's fullest life.

Friday, December 13, 2019

On Pain

Several weeks ago I wrote about my struggle with the book I was reading, The Universe has Your Back, and the idea that pain was unnecessary. It just didn't seem to jive with the whole of human experience. However, while I cannot say that pain is never going to happen, I think I am beginning to understand a bit of what the author was referring to when she made this statement.

Disappointment Looms

In the past couple of weeks I have felt the underpinnings of yet another huge disappointment looming. I have been struggling with how to handle this. It makes me sad, and when I cannot figure a way out, I start to feel hopeless and angry. All the past disappointments come rushing back and the world just seems so unfair. And when one rages at the unfairness, others simply shrug it off and say, "Yep. It is."

What?! My problem-solving nature can't HANDLE this. It has to be fixed and made better, damn it!

Anyway, as I found myself spiraling down that painful path of realizing this goal seems ever-elusive to me, and I started to tailspin into the shame of "What is so wrong with me?" I realized that I have a choice. I can wallow in the pain and shame of not being good enough, or I can shrug it off and say, "All right. What can I learn here?" And the lesson cannot be that I am not good enough, smart enough, able enough, because I know myself, and I am all those things. The lesson is something else. So I choose to back away from the pain. To distance myself and try to look with fresh eyes. I don't have to feel pain. I may have to move on to something else. I may have to accept and focus somewhere else. But maybe there is a purpose at play here, perhaps one I cannot see yet, and I have to have faith in that. The purpose isn't to hurt me. It is to make me better and use my talents better. That is the promise I hold onto as I face the day.

Renewed Hope

I think this is what the author was referring to when she said we didn't have to feel pain. Hope and choice always exist. The opportunity to step back and grow is always present. It isn't easy. But it is there.

And  now two little boys are talking to me! Oh, the life of a mother.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Focus on Your Values

Today in my audio series on Simple Habit, the narrator talked about finding your own personal values and basing your life on those values. After contemplating what my values might be, I found myself disappointed in the knowledge that I wasn't necessarily living out what I valued in life.
It requires insight, clarity, and honesty to truly understand what you value.  I think often I jump on the bandwagon of other people's values because they are doing so well at being themselves and make it all look so good.
But when I sat, crosslegged and tired on the sofa, I tried to really get into who I was, and what I wanted to focus on, without the outside noise. Where do I want to spend my energy when all the other people, all the other influences are stripped away?

I tried to come up with three core values. Here are mine:

1. Family. I am family-oriented. I mean, I deliberately chose to have six kids. I love the idea of homey, family life, and I dream of winning the lottery so I can spend time exploring the world with my WHOLE family.
How am I doing?
I asked myself if the way I was living my life truly expressed this number one value in my life. And with a bit of shame, I have to answer no. Fatigue and  phone addiction continue to be the daily battle I have after work which keep me from truly focusing on this area. I think of the slapped together, eat-where-you-want dinners; the frustration over bedtime, and the messy house. I want my family to have a neat and tidy home because I believe that leads to neat and tidy thoughts.

How can I fix this?
A cup of coffee after school. I really need this step right now. Put the phone down. Nothing is happening there which can't wait until the kids are in bed. I will STAY out of bed. No matter how much I want to go introvert alone, I will remain downstairs and actively involved. I will also get my husband on board with getting the kids to bed by 8:30. He works until seven and after that I am just a basketcase. I cannot do it alone. He cannot read my mind. I have to step up and say what I need.

2. Self-Expression. I think I am doing okay in this area. I have my little blog where I can write about things. Learning to filter everything even more than I was is sometimes challenging, but it really relies less on a filter and  more on focusing. Focusing on the right areas. To me, self-expression is being true to myself and putting myself out there and thinking my thoughts and sharing them with the world. I am a slow thinker, and so writing agrees with me more, and this blog is where it happens. I also have a journal where it REALLY happens, but even that is filtered. Someone, someday is going to read it.
How am I doing?
I am doing okay. I could really step up my production of writing if I hope to accomplish anything with mywords.
How can I fix this?
Again, I am pretty happy with it. I could dedicate a specific time to writing, if desired.

3. Knowledge. I struggled with this last one. I wanted to say something impressive like leadership or innovation. Or maybe something feminine and sweet like kindness. However I have found that knowledge (along with honesty) is very important to me and the way I live my life.
I have always loved learning in school. I could never understand those kids who said a certain subject was boring. Now there are some subjects that are more dry than others, particularly at the lower levels. For example, I wasn't very fond of teaching basic government class at the high school level. However, I did love the political science courses I took in college. Beyond regular American government I also took public administration and politics of the environment. Both were very interesting, at that level. I didn't particularly care for the difficult level of problem solving in my general physics classes, however the concepts themselves were interesting. My year of general Chemistry was fascinating. I liked biology and LOVED all aspects of geography, even economic geography. I loved languages and writing courses, though the professional writing major left me feeling a little out. They weren't quite my people. History! Plains Indian history and History of the Middle East. So cool! Analyzing an author's intent in literature classes didn't tickle my toes, but learning about the author and quietly contemplating the meaning of the literature on my own was fascinating. And all the juicy social science courses with their people and their statistics and the applications to the world. So very yummy. I love to learn.
How am I doing?
I am not learning at the same rate I was 10 or 20 years ago. With a fulltime job, I am so busy.
What can I do?
I need to pick a focus and work on that. Occasionally I will become infatuated with an author and read everything I can about that person. I need to keep that curiosity alive whether it is about a person or a concept or a moment in time. This can be easily done.

I don't know if this list will remain static or not. Time moves us, like a  plant in the water, whooshing and swaying with the current. Values change, hearts change. I think keeping open to the possibility of change, while focusing on truly living out the life we want to be remembered for living is key.

Do you know your values? Are you living a life which showcases your values? How can you get back to what you truly value?  Sometimes we all need to stop and think about how we are living our lives and whether we are living the life we think we want to live.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Focusing on Strengths

This affiliate link, which helps pay for the costs associated with blogging, leads to a great little handbook of ideas to prepare for the holidays.

If you are looking for fun ideas to get ready and organized for Christmas, I always love Alison May's series of kindle books on Amazon.

Today my daily motivational lesson from Simple Habit focused on Strengths. Knowing them and working with them and focusing on using them, instead of always operating from a deficit-based outlooked. This was nice for me, because I am very much a person who has focused on the deficit-based outlook. I totally blame this on a book I read, by some man, in my late 20s when I was going back to college. It specifically said to focus on your weak areas, so that you could become more well-rounded all around. So that is what I did.

I realize now, looking at the other people, and the amount of time and money they saved just finding what they liked and were good at and going for it, perhaps I shouldn't have taken his words so to heart. 270 credit hours later, I am still over here like, "Uh...what was the point again?"
Seriously though, I was never a math whiz (only a sad, sorry 27 on my math ACT), so of course, I had to get a minor in math. And I struggled. Calculus 2 and those damned series and sequences about did me in. Way too abstract for my brain. Oh, but rebel Jill stands up and say, "Hey, if you would have just sat down for several hours and really focused on getting it, you would have." Maybe. But I never wanted to. And maybe that is what I should have heeded. That part of me that said, "No, don't care." I loved history. I was good at history. I have at least 50+ hours of social sciences included 18 hours of history, with six of those graduate level. But I read, early in my career, history was considered an easy major, easy to get A's in, and I knew, that couldn't be the path.
I did end up with a psychology degree, when I ran out of money and had to just graduate already. And it was interesting, and at the graduate level would have been A-okay. But it was time to work. And so education it was. But education is what it almost always was growing up. I dont know if that was a calling (aside from wanting to write), or if it was that working class thing, where teachers were the first college educated people i really knew, and so it seemed most accessible. Or if that is what I was called to do. Old readers know I have been over all this before. Life runs in cycles, and so does the brain processes, it seems.
I am off track. My point was I should have focused on my strengths: Memory, writing. Languages (which I have forgotten from nonuse). Knowing what I know now, I should have double-majored in geology and antiquities, the science which really feels grounded to me and the a humanities-social science based degree which calls to my soul. But alas. Single mom with kids. I had real and practical decisions to make. And so, whoosh! Self-understanding and loving kindness wash away all the should haves and pride in how far I have made it take over. Perhaps it already is what it should be.

My strengths transfer to what I am doing. Who am I to say this wasn't the path all along? I just took the long and winding route.

So my The Universe has Your Back book, got weird on me. One day I am meditating for peace of mind the next, the lady is trying to send me on a guided meditation with my spirit guides. Not to knock anyone else's religion, but that was too far for me. If there ARE spirit guides (and that is very Embraced by the Light, Bettie Eadie-feeling), they are on the other side of the veil and not to be interacted with. Our feet are on the ground because they are meant to be on the ground. How does one distinguish between enlightenment and mental illness at the point? Not the path for me. I am still meditating. Sitting quietly, attempting to clear my thoughts, saying nice things to myself. I am just not verbally inviting the unseen to travel along with me. If they are there, they are there. If not, well, okay.

I am feeling a bit apprehensive. I want a day to stay in bed. I have a meeting today, so I am going to get up and get it done, but I don't feel ready for the world today. It will be okay. It is just winter's hermit mode setting in, most likely.

Have a beautiful day. Maybe purchase the ebook and get a few ideas.