Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Reading Choose Love by Stormie Omartian and other books

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

I am down to the bottom of my book stack, although I have multiple ebooks awaiting me. I am currently reading Choose Love, by Stormie Omartian.
Note: This blog post contains affiliate links.

Choose Love

I feel like this book is for someone with little to no understanding of God, self, and their place in this world. It begins with helping the reader to see their value in God's eyes and the how loved we are by God. Then it goes through the whole conversion spiel, followed by what  it looks like to love God. Most importantly, it stresses the importance of reading scripture and tucking it away in our heart.

It's not a bad book. It just isn't quite what I am looking for at this time. It is an old story, and I dream of a new story. However, in no way is it a bad story. The book is fairly well written and I enjoyed the bits of bible text-though I was raised on King James Version and this new clear language doesn't feel very spiritual to me. What frustrated me is the gushing language. I am not a huge fan of gushing and her language was gushy. I feel like she would have held the book Redeeming Love close to her heart, tears in her eyes, and told her friends what a great book it was (it wasn't).

What I am struggling with

I realize I feel a bit antagonistic towards this book, especially since it wasn't the weakest book I have read in the past month by far. If you are looking for a traditional Christian book about living, this book will fit the bill. I think what is bothering me, is how she starts off the book with feeling unloved and feeling guilt. I just don't feel those very much anymore. Maybe in my 20s and early 30s, but for the most part, it is very clear I have been fortunate and loved. I can't relate to the need to be broken in order to become more with God. That doesn't mean I HAVEN'T been there. It means I am not there now. I want something deeper. This is a book for new Christian recruits, I felt.

So the funniest thing just happened. I was typing the previous paragraph, and the floor lamp beside me, flickered and went off for about 3-4 seconds, then came back on, as I was trying to decide what to do. Nope. Not creepy at all.


Signs, signs, everywhere signs. Except not. The book I read a few weeks ago  E cubed

suggested you could play with the Universe (aka, God) to get signs to let you know you are not alone. The Universe would be happy to oblige. The audiobook I was listening to, Signs,  suggested more of the same.

Except that it didn't work. So I have a few theories on why all these people are gushing over signs, and the boys woke me up at four a.m., so I might as well share. First, maybe it is just a big load of bull, and hopeful people are seeing what they want to see. Or maybe, the "signs" aren't really God or a loved one, but something more sinister (you can take girl out of church, but you can't take early church teaching out of the girl). Or on the same vein, maybe God is protecting me from seeing "signs", because it is unnecessary, perhaps sinister, and not how I should be using my time.

I don't know. All I know is I didn't get my signs. Well, lemons, but lemons are a thing lately, so not too meaningful.

I am rambling a lot. I got less than 4 hours of sleep and of course, it is the busiest day of my week coming up.

Monday, May 11, 2020

How Using a Mantra Helps Me

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Why a mantra?

Do you have a mantra? I have been using them pretty often this year to direct my thoughts and calm my spirit.
When I first heard the term "mantra" years ago, it seemed like this weird, new-agey thing, that you just had to be Californian, named Chloe or Zoe, and sit around in long flowy dresses, or yoga pants being zen. Not me, for sure. But I still used them over the years, from time to time, and since last fall have been using them much more frequently.

What is a mantra?
  1. 1.
    (originally in Hinduism and Buddhism) a word or sound repeated to aid concentration in meditation.
  2. 2.
    a statement or slogan repeated frequently.
    "the environmental mantra that energy has for too long been too cheap"
~From Oxford

Now, to me, of course the first one would be used in meditation. I have been known to use those occasionally, because the mind loves to wander. But in this case, I am talking about the second. I use mantras to calm my spirit when I feel it bubbling over (in a not-so-positive way). For example, "All is Well," is very helpful when I feel anxiety starting to build. "God is in control," is another simple phrase which helps me regulate anxiety. 

I have a headful of dreams I want to accomplish and often feel I am spinning my wheels and never getting there. Since I put hours and hours of work into my business and blog, I find it frustrating to not be getting where I want to be. Most of my reading suggests I need to just lay off a bit with the stress and worry. "Ask and ye shall receive." "Let the Universe know what you want, and then sit back and listen." These are the ideas floating around which I hear often. 

Now, there are conflicted opinions on what this means. Some people say to be very specific  about what you want, then sit back and watch and wait. Others say, "Well, God didn't just make this whole Universe so he can hand you a fancy mansion." Okay, they probably do, I made up that particular awkward sentence. So I think the truth lies somewhere in between. You need to be communicating with God in order to get the guidance to go where you need to go. Once you have talked to God, poured your heart out, let you wishes be known, then you can sit back and watch the events unfold. The thing is, they don't always unfold exactly the way you want them to. Perhaps you are praying for a fancy sports car. You may find yourself placed in a situation where that does indeed happen for you. Alternately, you may find your own self and heart being changed by a chain of events which makes that sports car no longer so very desirable. It's okay to want and expect things, but one needs to be open to growth and possibilities which were never imagained. 

What this leads me to, when I am feeling so frustrated with my lack of worldly success (although, goodness knows I have plenty and more! I have been very blessed), when I feel I am losing focus, and wonder why I keep spinning my wheels and sharing these thoughts, which are so embarrassing to share, I find the simple morning mantra, "Show me the way," to be helpful and calming.

"Show me the way," acknowledges there is a plan, there is a path, which leads to greater things and fulfilling destinies. It acknowledges I want guidance from God to get to get there. These simple words acknowledge my strong desire to do and create more in a powerful way. And they help me to feel peace and trust that help is coming.

For me, choosing a daily mantra, is like choosing an ongoing prayer in a sentence which I want to communicate it with God. Sometimes it is a simple affirmation to soothe my nerves, but often is a prayer, asking for guidance. When I feel confusion or anxiety or concern rising, I can simple take to prayer with my simple phrase, "Show me the way."

And once I let go out of the desire for a specific outcome, and realize this help may lead me down paths I never imagined, I can go forth with peace and joy that God will guide my heart towards the highest path of growth.

Finding your Mantra

If you are interesting in find your own mantra, a simple web search should lead you to a variety of sites with advice.

This one on Oprah.com explains how to choose  a mantra which is personally meaningful to you. 

What is Your Personal Mantra is a site which has a fun quiz. Although the pictures are no longer the working, the quiz still does-you will just have to read the explanation below where the picture should have been to read the "advice."

If you are trying to choose a mantra to supplement your yoga practice here are some ideas:

Saturday, May 9, 2020

3 Steps to Managing Your Expectations of Others

Photo by Timur Romanov on Unsplash
I believe the spiritual path of self-improvement is the most important reason for this life on earth, I often find myself exasperated by others. Especially in our current worldwide situation, all the fear and uncertainty is leading to some nasty accusations and name calling all sides of the political spectrum. Part of me gets so frustrated, because I want to say, "Come on, guy! We are the good side. We are the loving side. Get with the program!"

Obviously this would fall on mostly deaf ears, because human nature does a couple a things: 1) we tend to think our way is the right way. That makes sense. Otherwise why would we even be following it, right? And 2) We don't notice our own flaws well. Knowing that I am guilty of this, too, makes it very difficult for me to take an authoritative tone on issues and concerns. We all come with different perspectives and experiences and levels of growth, and if I am expecting the world to see things my way and my way only, then I am sort of missing the point of spiritual self-improvement.

I tend to be fairly lenient and easy with kids and teenagers. I see the pain and the confusion and I can empathize with their difficult backgrounds. When someone hits 18, though, I sort of expect them to be sound, moral, and self-led citizens. That's really not fair. The more I think about it, the more I realize just as we all start at a different level professionally or economically, we also start at a different level spiritually. We are not just empty vessels responding to the environment around us (sorry Aristotle). We each start off with our own unique personality and ability to give and receive. There is no judgement here. I was the second child. I was demanding and expected as much as my brother got, if not more. This led to multiple power struggles and probably a pretty hard hit on my self-esteem. I used to pity myself greatly over this, but then I realized that I was sent to the world with a particular set of skills to hone, and maybe learning to tame my ego was one of them. 

It seems to be a trend lately to raise bratty girls and then say they are just destined to be Lady Boss's. I think we need to be very careful with this. While I don't believe you need to tame your child's spirit, an unchecked ego can make an unpleasant person, both inside and out. But maybe they were destined to be Lady Boss's. Maybe that is their particular set of skills. What I think we forget, is all the ways the world measures the worth of a person means very little to the eternities of existence. A person's bratty heavy-handedness might make them an asset  here, but in the afterlife who are they really going to be?

Things are shifting in the spiritual world around us, and I am not sure what it means. I feel old alliances-those spirtual connections to people-changing and it is still strange to me. People whose spirits I feel comforted by, even if I rarely see them, seem to be pulling away. It isn't painful-just different. Now you could argue that perhaps it is I who is pulling away and I am just projecting it onto them. Maybe. Or maybe we are all connected by invisible silken cords and these are weakening. Who is to say? Perhaps the mission we served together is winding down. I eagerly await my next group of spiritual sisters. I get the weirdness when the words are spoken on an Earthly level. 

We have these expectations of people to meet our standards. To be on our level, to be with us, you must think, feel, and act, this way, this way, and that way. I know a lady who when we speak of religion says, All paths lead to God, but she has evolved beyond Christianity. On the one hand, I sort of understand where she is coming from. However, on the other, is one level really higher or beyond another? Maybe each person has a path which has been tailor-made for them to follow. Maybe Christianity is a higher path for some, particularly if they need to develop certain spiritual aspects of themselves. So while I completely understand and at times agree with her, at the same time, when I start thinking this, I think I am being very self-centered and self-important. Some people are very uncomfortable with the idea that all paths lead to God. They believe there is one way, and you are in grave danger if you don't agree. When confronted with this viewpoint is is important to remember often people are most concerned about the souls of people they care about. You have to live your own path, but try to be understanding of the bigger picture.
Comparisons don't work. Let me say that another way. Spiritual comparisons between souls do not work. 

That said, we still live in this physical world and have expectations of others. I have thought a lot about what I can expect from others and it comes down to the idea of boundaries.

1: Inner circle. The inner circle is those closest family members (and maybe a friend or two), who get to be near you almost daily. Our expecations for them are different because we have a deeper intimacy and level of sharing. My expectations for those within my inner circle are honesty, valuing my need for privacy, and meeting worldly expectations (helping with bills and the household). I expect to be accepted for all my crackpot ideas and beliefs, but also expect honest and constructive feedback and criticism. There is no room in the inner circle for jealousy or one upmanship. That is not to say it doesn't occur. We often use our inner circle for dumping of negative emotions, however, if this happens too often, it can destroy the bond. 

2. The Second Circle. Second circle people are those family and friends who do not live with us and who do not need to know all our daily information. They may be the coworkers we have contact with regularly, the neighbor we meet frequently for playgroup, the relative who lives a few miles away, the church friend, or the coffee buddy. I expect honestly and acceptance from this group. Loyalty is a common factor to remain in this group. This group provides comaraderie and support beyond that of the family. We can be tempted to dump on them, but it is usually a bad idea. If they were safe for dumping, they would be in the Inner Circle. 

3. The Outer Circle. The third circle are those others you interact with on a regular basis, but who don't really play a huge role in your life. Perhaps the coworker you chat with by the coffee maker, the cousin on facebook, or an acquaintance at church. I expect politeness and professional competency from this group. This means, I still don't need my cousin on Facebook to tell me I am going to Hell because I believe differently (rude), but I expect a greeting and how are you when we meet. If I really like someone I might share more honest information, hoping to move them into the second circle, but that has to be reciprocated. If they are unwilling to take the step as well, they are making their own boundaries pretty clear. 

Then of course, there are the outsiders. We are polite to those fellow humans.

These circles help me to keep the correct distance I need between myself and others. When I am not aware of my interactions, I tend lump everyone into two groups: The Second Circle and outsiders. Thus I tend to push close members out and pull outer circle people in too close for their own comfort. I am still working very hard on this area of my life.

So now that we have this idea of being on different paths of spiritual growth, and the understanding that different people fulfill different roles in our lives (and we in theirs--and isn't it the worst when you both have different expectations for which circle you each fit in?), it is time to figure out how to manage our expectations of others.

1. Are they acting within the boundaries and expecations of their circle? For example, I expect my kids to be honest with me. However, I also try to respect their privacy. On rough days, my husband and I bitch at each other. This cannot happen every day, and name calling and screaming absolutely violates expecations. 
So let's say my husband comes home and starts complaining about the house and the kids and the President of the United States. If this happens all the time, that is unfair  and something's gotta give. If it is a one-off then perhaps, I need to be understanding and see if HE needs a little down time or an ear to listen to his troubles.

2. Are they just making personal choices I don't agree with? For example, I can be judgemental at times. I think routine circumcision of male infants is wrong. However, if I try to put that expecatation on others, who prefer to remove the foreskin off their newborn son's penis, I am going to ruffle a lot of feathers. We all come to the field with a different understanding of how the game is played. For example, with circumcision, Janie's mom had her brother circumcised: the doctor said it was healthier back then, the baby book Janie picked up said it wasn't a big deal and there were pros which really convinced her, and her doctor really stressed the pros. Janie is going to want to circumcize her baby. Whereas, Katie read a lot of books which stressed the pros of remaining intact, noted the circumcision rate is other developed countries was rather low, and her pediatrician didn't mention it as it was hospital policy not to push elective surgeries. Well, she is going to come to a different decision. Both dearly love their little boys and want what is best for them. so when I find people making decisions and choices which I might not agree with, but don't really affect me, I have to chill a bit.

3. Is this person doing the best they can? Yes, I like cheerful servers when I go out to eat. But if her boyfriend just dumped her, her boss just yelled at her, and her socks are wet, maybe just getting out to the table and filling your coffee is the best she can manage right now. Maybe Chris dates a string of flaky girls he finds in dance clubs then complains he can't find the one, but maybe that is all Chris knows to do. We don't punish a two year old for impatience, because it is developmentally appropriate for them not to have patience. We use short easy words to guide them and work on managing our own patience to get through the moment while modeling the same behavior we want them to show. When we find others are not meeting our expectations, it is vitally important we step back and consider if what we are asking is within their realm of abilities at this time. If the answer is maybe not, then we need to scaffold with our help to get them to where we want them to be or, particularly with strangers and those outside the Inner Circle, change our expectations.

Setting up my own understanding of what role a person has in my life and stepping back to consider where they personally might stand in their own personal development has greatly helped me maintain appropriate expectations as well as boundaries.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Personality Style at Work, Book Review

This book was near the bottom of my library stack, and thank goodness, the libraries are going to start opening for pickups in a few days!
When I grabbed it from the shelf, I thought it had a lot of promise. I love personality style and I liked the way the author, Kate Ward, used examples of people and personality rather than a checklist (though a quiz might have been nice). Reading it I could see where I might fall in, and I could see how it would be helpful to understand the type of person you are working with in order to improve communication and head off misunderstandings. The book also gave examples of what to do if you found yourself embroiled in a problem or even attacked (not physically, of course) by one of the types.

Again, while this book is a helpful guide-it isn't a holy grail. Who presents just one type? I don't know about you, but with paperwork, I am very systematic-quiet and serious about getting it done. However, if I enjoy someone's company, I will happily put the paperwork aside for a good discussion. Also systematic people supposedly are extremely detail oriented and slow. That isn't really me. I don't want to make mistakes, but I am not overly worried about perfection. There is more to my job than paperwork. My desk area, with its quotes and family pictures, would suggest I was more the considerate type-but I am not. I don't want to quietly listen (once I am comfortable with my group). If it is an area of interest I want to ask direct questions, get to the point, and get to work. So I found myself straddling the area between systematic and direct. Spirited is another area I dip my feet in, but it is usually an anomaly-something has grabbed my interested and tickled my toes, or I am under an unusual amount of stress. Or faking it, because women are expected to be outwardly emotional. Except for crying. I  cry easily, much to my chagrin. However, I generally prefer to keep my emotions calm if I can.

In spite of that, I think it is likely this book would be helpful for someone struggling to understand that difficult coworker and what motivates them. It is probably for the younger reader, as I can't imagine making it to middle age without figuring people types out yet.

Things I have learned so far

I don't know much. Let's just start off there. I was resting in the sun on the back deck, skin cancer be damned, drinking in the perfect spring day. The sky has been alternating between bright blue with slight clouds and a cloudy haze with a hint of sun shining through. It is warm enough to feel the burn on my spring-skinned arms. I could hear the man next door with his power tools. He is always working, building something. Right now he is working on a deck for the pool. He just completed a two story play house with electricity and siding and windows. Last year, he made wooden steps for the pool and a wheelchair ramp all the way to the street. The ramp is gone now, just a wooden front porch remains. He is always busy though. I thought how nice it would be to make something with my hands. I can't even accurately patch a hole in the wall, let alone build a backyard extravaganza.

There was a rainbow around the sun. My ten-year-old pointed it out to me during one of the hazy phases of the day. I guess it is called a solar halo. It was lovely and I liked to pretend things are more than they are, so I looked it up. Apparently some people see them as a bad omen and others feel they are good. Some people have been known to see the Virgin Mary or even Jesus himself in the glow. I saw a pretty rainbow around a hazy sun, and thought perhaps rain is coming (which doesn't take a genius considering it is early May). I remember an author in a book I read recently, one of those famous newagey ones whose name escapes me, saying we are coming back into the age of aquarius. Things should begin to shift to a more spiritual level. We will focus more on that aspect rather than on material goods. What I actually believe and what I like to think about don't always go hand in hand, but it is a nice thought, isn't it?

I thought about how I like to occasionally think about things to remind myself I am smart, and then I think of people who are so much smarter. I remember the people who thought the things I struggled with were child's play in college, and those people were at Missouri State University. Which means there are people who are even so much smarter. Then I wonder if that isn't true-maybe all these fancy colleges have more to do with you are and who you know and what, besides a good test score, you bring to the table. Perhaps these people were just as smart, just in different situations. Then I laugh at myself and think of the guy who left Missouri University where he'd been studying Chemistry (another premed failure) to study chemistry at Missouri State, and talked about how much easier Missouri State chemistry classes were. And I thought of the overseas foreign students who just seemed so much brighter and they weren't even working in their first language. And how professors would come in and have to be told to make the work easier because we Missouri kids couldn't do physics at the level they did in college. And I was really bad at it! So I console myself with the people who struggled to get C's in psychology, who studied and studied and C's were all they could get. And I feel a little better about myself.

But then I think about how very little that stuff actually matters. And I wonder how such things got so hyper-inflated in my head. Why do I care about the things I care about?