Discipline With Intention

Because I actually finished my Bible study topic well before my Monday evening deadline, I thought I’d share…

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While the topic of child discipline is extremely broad, I kept this as succinct as possible.  My main focus with our discipline regimen is to create lessons while making it clear that not following the rules results in unpleasant consequences.  Not an easy task.

I think every parent strives to do things “better” or more constructively than their own parents did.  Not that they were necessarily wrong with their punishments, but who of us didn’t say at some point, “I’m never going to treat MY kids that way!”.

I know I did.  I swore I’d never spank my children.  That was my parents’ punishment of choice and I thought they were horrible for doing it.  However, whether you agree with spanking or not, we were always mindful of what our punishment would be if we misbehaved and acted accordingly.  Not that we never did anything wrong, but we ALWAYS considered the consequences of our actions.

Spanking is frowned upon, and considered abuse much of the time.  While I agree that it can, and does, get out of control ( I was spanked out of anger rather than discipline far too often), at the same time I think we’ve become far too lenient with bad behavior.

I’ve spanked my children only a handful of times and it was when they were too young to understand anything else.  Never out of anger, but often out of fear.  I spanked my daughter when she ran out into a store parking lot without paying attention to what she was doing.  I spanked my son when he was trying to put pennies into an electrical outlet. I don’t apologize for those punishments.  Although I felt horrible, I knew it was necessary.

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However, as children grow old enough to understand right from wrong, I feel as though corporal punishment only manages to instill fear without really teaching the lesson that we intend it to.

Should our children be fearful of us?  Every counselor or child psychologist will tell you “no”. They will tell you to get down on the child’s level and speak to them reasonably.  Keep in mind that they all change their “methods” as often as we change our clothes.  Every new child rearing fad is what they are taught to teach parents.  In my experience and with my beliefs, I think our children SHOULD fear us to a certain degree.  Or at least fear the punishments we dole out.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched parents try to reason with their 8 year old kids to no avail.  I’m sorry, but when you’re 8 years old you don’t have the capacity to reason.  How many of you can remember your parents asking you why you did something?  And how many times was your answer, “I don’t know”?

I remember doing that ALL THE TIME.  I didn’t give the answer to try to evade punishment, I truly did not know why I did it! I remember thinking afterward…why did you do that? You KNEW you were going to get in trouble.  But I did it anyway.

Remember that a person’s brain is not developed fully until the age of 25! We can’t expect that our children will always make cognizant decisions. It’s up to us to constantly remind them what is right and wrong.

That being said, how do we punish our children, while teaching them, and without making them want to run away from home?

Hell if I know ūüôā

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My method works for my children very well, though.

  • I try to never punish out of anger.  Oh yeah, it happens now and then.  I’m human, but I always try to take a few minutes to cool down before I give punishments.
  • With every punishment I try to incorporate a learning experience. Even if the lesson doesn’t coincide with the offense, I find that it’s an amazing opportunity for learning.
  • Many of the consequences I have for misbehaving end up teaching a lesson.  The last time my daughter was mean to her brother, part of her punishment was to write a list of the things she loved about him and read it to him.  That not only inconvenienced her but it made her think about why she didn’t want to be mean to someone she loved.
  • I’m always firm.  I have seen SO MANY parents ask their kids to (for example) be quiet, only to hear them yell a few minutes later.  Why? Because they weren’t firm in their demand.  Yes, demand.  It should never be a request.  “Can you please be quiet?” leaves them the choice not to.
  • While I consider myself a strict parent, I don’t believe in children being seen and not heard.  I always allow my children to ask why I am giving them a punishment and give them a legitimate answer.  “Because I’m the Mom”, while true, just leaves room for argument.
  • I NEVER allow being disrespected.  I AM the mom and that, in and of itself, deserves being respected by our children.  Once you allow your babies to speak to you like your friends do, you’ll have to expect them to treat you like your friends do.  They won’t listen to you, they’ll turn what you say into a joke, and they’ll never take your demands seriously.
  • Make the consequences stick.  If you flip-flop with the rules, kids lose sight of them.  If talking back got a “hey you little stinker, stop that” one day and a “don’t talk to me like that ever again” another day, how will they ever know what’s expected of them?
  • Punish within reason and always with love.  My ex husband once made our kids sit in their room for an entire day for leaving a cereal box out. In another instance, he made our 4-year old copy an entire entry from an encyclopedia.  What did those punishments accomplish aside from exasperation? Nothing.  If throwing a ball in the house means getting grounded for the day but hitting a sibling requires just an apology, little is learned…aside from nothing making sense. Make sure the punishment fits the crime.
  • Always remind your child that even when you’re angry, they are still loved.  I always dole out hugs and kisses when punishments are fulfilled.  I always make sure to instill in my kids that they are loved without limits.
  • Along with being a firm disciplinarian, be a parent of praise.  Don’t just get bogged down with trying to set your kids straight.  Remember to praise them when they do well with ANYTHING.  Not all parents agree with this, but I thank my kids when they do their chores, when they behave without being asked and when they do what I ask without argument.  Just because it’s something they SHOULD do doesn’t mean that a “thank you” is unnecessary.  It gives them a feeling of accomplishment and pride.
  • Spread the love.   I am SO proud when strangers walk up to me and tell me how well-behaved my children are, especially when I haven’t had to remind them.  I’ve had people go out of their way to tell me how much they appreciated that my kids weren’t running around or yelling in stores or restaurants.  “Let kids be kids” is good advice, but not when in a public venue where it’s disrespectful to others.  When I get a compliment about my kids, I let them know.  THEY did the work, they deserve the praise.
  • Don’t be your child’s friend.  Save that status for when they’re all grown up.  Usually the desire to befriend your child stems from your own loneliness.  DON’T PUT YOUR INSECURITIES ON YOUR CHILDREN. Don’t depend on your son to be the man of the house when there isn’t one.  Don’t make your daughter your confidant just because you don’t have one.  Those are grown up roles that make them feel responsible for your happiness.  Don’t make your child fill those empty spaces.
  • Above all, learn to forgive yourself.  It’s a cold-hearted person who doesn’t feel a pang of sadness or regret after punishing their child.  Yes, it’s for their own good but it’s never easy to see your child sad or hurt.  As hard as it can be, forgive yourself for being the big, bad authoritarian.

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Love your babies enough to let them not always think they feel love for you.  The “I hate you”s will be temporary, the “thank you”s will be forever.

Choose to choose happiness.

One Parent: Two Roles

I’ve recently discovered that there’s an online “war” over what the term “single parent” means.

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I have to admit that I’ve been a little out of sorts about it myself.  Not because I need a badge of honor but simply because I’m a stickler for grammar and wording, at times, which includes using the correct terms in the correct form.  I had no idea that it had become a fight for which type of parent gets to use the moniker.

To me, the term “single parent” always meant that you were raising your children on your own…one parent raising children.   It bugged me that people used it to declare their relationship status.  In researching the definition, I was right-ish (yayy me), but does it really matter?

Being a parent, no matter what the circumstances, is a hell of a job.  Each one of those circumstances has its ups and downs.

I’ve been married with an absent father, I’ve been divorced with an absent father and I’ve been divorced with a father who attempts to be a father from time to time.  Doesn’t really matter what any of it is called. None of it is easy.

I’ve never felt sorry for myself, or “put upon” because I’ve had to raise my children on my own.  I have, however, held a lot of resentment toward my ex husband for not contributing to the growth of our children.  I’ve felt guilt, I’ve felt loneliness. I’ve felt incapable of being two parents at once. THAT is, by far, what I think separates one single parent from another…having to be both mother and father.

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For the longest time, and undoubtedly the most difficult time, in my life I didn’t ask for help from anyone.  I had a full plate.  School, work, head of the household and the responsibility of both mother and father.  I struggled financially, emotionally and even physically but I refused to ask for help because I would have felt like a failure.

It’s only been in the most recent years that I realized that asking for help wasn’t a sign of weakness but a gift to my children.  They had the gift of a much less stressed and easily at-the-end-of-her-rope parent.

I don’t care what you call yourself, being a parent is a struggle.  Even in the happiest of marriages, unbroken homes and fulfilled lives…parenting takes work.  However, being both parents at once is a never-ending cycle of guilt.  You ask yourself, daily…am I teaching my son to be the man he needs to be?  Am I doing enough of the “manly” things?  Teaching him how to be strong yet feel free to express his emotions?  Am I teaching my daughter how a man should treat her?  How to be independent in her own right? Am I concentrating too much on gender roles? Or not enough? Am I making the right decisions day to day, not having another parent to bounce ideas off of or even argue with over what is right? Am I becoming too much of a helicopter parent because I feel the guilt of them not having a father around? Am I giving them enough independence?  Too much? When their father chooses to be in their lives for what has always been just as short stint, do I allow it or does it do more harm than good?

 

How many stories do you hear about children who cross over to the “bad” side that were raised by a mother alone?  They become gang members, strippers, high school drop-outs…Right?  Having worked with children from the age of 16 on, I have seen some awful outcomes of families raised by single parents…but I’ve also been privileged to be part of some amazing stories.

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There’s no one right answer for anyone.

As I have always said, outside of medically diagnosed problems that require professional help, I feel the key to ANY parenting is LISTENING to and TALKING to our kids as well as being their teachers.  Too many of us “give in” because of guilt.  I’ve seen one divorced/widowed parent after another give in to either the guilt of their children not having two parents or trying to win the “favorite parent” award and become friend rather than guide.  That is, quite possibly, the worst choice you can make.

I admit that I succumbed to that guilt early on and I ended up with two very spoiled, very uncooperative children.  I realized, very quickly, that kids thrive with structure and routine.  Giving in just creates confusion.  Rules that are made but not adhered to give our kids the idea that THEY are in control.  **If I cry or run away, if I say something that makes the other parent look bad, if I throw a fit when I don’t get what I want…I get what I want.  If I make my dad feel guilty, if I tell him my mom makes me feel bad, if I tell him my mom makes me cry…they’ll argue and I’ll get my way.**  This doesn’t mean our kids are bad, it means that they’ve learned how the system works and how we allow it to work. Kids aren’t as conscious as we are about right and wrong, they learn these things from us.

Here is what I’ve learned from being a single mom:

  1.  I can’t be their father, no matter how hard I try.  All I can do is be the best mother I can be.  I have to remind my children often that they aren’t at a disadvantage because their father isn’t around.  I have to let them know that my love is boundless…and more than enough for them.
  2. I have to show my children both my strengths and weaknesses.  While I keep 99 percent of my problems far from their reach, I am sure to let them know that I’m not perfect and nor are they or do they have to be.  I teach them that God is my strength and is theirs as well. I teach them that God accepts my weaknesses and forgives them theirs.
  3. I’ve learned not to be a helicopter parent and hover over their every move.  I let them fall asleep on their own.  I let them choose from choices I give them.  I make rules and stick to them.
  4. I’m still in the process of learning, but have come a long way, in accepting help from others when it’s offered.  There is absolutely NO shame in allowing others to babysit or fill in for you from time to time.
  5. I’ve realized that I am THE only parent, and quite possibly will always be. I have accepted that.  Rather than being stressed out constantly about their father not doing his part…I just do mine as well as I possibly can. “Put on your big girl panties and do the thing”.
  6. I’ve worked my behind off to make our lives financially stable and have felt so much guilt for the times that weren’t easy, but I always defer to my own childhood.  (Long story short…my father had a heart attack when I was 16, he couldn’t work for months.  My mother had to quit her job to take care of him and we had to rely on welfare and food stamps to get by for about a year and a half.  Coming from a fairly privileged childhood to buying candy bars to get change from the food stamps to buy toilet paper was quite the shock…but aside from a little embarrassment, it taught me a good lesson in frugality and humility).  Every struggle we endure can be a life lesson.
  7. I’ve learned that there are some benefits that my children get from their situation. There is no “good cop, bad cop”…they don’t have the opportunity to play one parent against the other.  There is emotional stability in that they don’t have two parents to follow the example of (yes, that’s more responsibility on me, but it gives them more structure). My son gets the opportunity to see how strong a woman can be and how he doesn’t have to feel threatened by that.  My daughter gets to see that she can be both strong and loving.

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I realize that most “single” parents are mothers, but being a single parent is equally taxing no matter your sex.  My suggestion is to use every opportunity to your advantage and to make the moments of disadvantage times of learning for both you and your children.

No matter your moniker, no matter your struggles, raising independent, loving, confident children is all based on one principle…”and now these three remain, faith hope and love…but the greatest of these is love” (1Corinthians 13:13).

Choose to choose happiness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Find Your Happy Place

Yeah, it sounds cheesy. ¬†We all have a lot of “happy places”, right?

We all have places we go that give us a certain amount of joy. ¬†No matter the state of our finances or the hardships we’ve endured, there’s usually a place that makes us happy. ¬†For some of us it’s the drive-thru at Starbucks…for others it’s a warm bed to sleep in.

The happy place I’m referring to isn’t necessarily tangible, but it’s real. ¬†Sometimes it’s just a state of being that gives us that break from reality that we all need from time to time.

For me, it’s the ocean. ¬†I think it’s a serene and happy place for a lot of us. ¬†You can’t beat the cool breeze, the beautiful sunsets that are mirrored on the glass-like water and the vastness of it all. ¬†Sometimes feeling very small can give us perspective. ¬†Perhaps those all-encompassing problems we face aren’t that big afterall.

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Those aren’t my reasons for being happy there.

As a child, living in San Jose, my parents took us on weekend drives all the time. ¬†For a good deal of those trips, our destination was the beach. ¬†The nearest one being about an hour away, you’d think we’d have had these wonderful day-long outings, but quite the opposite was true. ¬†We could never go to just any beach. ¬†I’m still not sure why, but my parents were determined to find isolated beaches…the ones that had very few, if any, people on them. ¬†As you can imagine, those beaches were nearly impossible to find, but we always drove until we found one.

During these long, arduous drives I always became very car sick. Every single time we drove longer than an hour or two, I felt sick to my stomach. ¬†I hated those trips. ¬†The car sickness, my parents getting agitated, my dad complaining about whoever was “kicking” his seat as we drove…awful.

Yet, every single time we found that beach where we could finally get out and stretch our legs, I felt AMAZING. For me, the ocean and the beach became a magical place. ¬†I felt better as soon as I stepped foot on the sand. From that point on, I was convinced that the sea was God’s place.

I realized, as a teenager, that my stomach just felt better because we were out of the car and my parents weren’t arguing about where to go any longer. ¬†Ahhhh….a child’s innocence. However, I never lost that feeling of grandeur the ocean gave me. ¬†It still manages to cure all my ills and bring me peace.

There’s a place, very near my home now, that the tourists don’t go and where you can still find seashells that haven’t been picked through. ¬†There’s a big rock that I sit on where dried up seaweed has gathered and driftwood remains. ¬†Sometimes I go there late at night, after I’ve drained all my strength at the gym, and just sit. ¬†The smells and the sounds are like a blanket that covers me and I always feel at home.

This is my place, my happy place. ¬†This is where I find God. ¬†This is where it’s just Him and me and I know that he hears all my questions. ¬†This is where I get the answers I seek. ¬†I feel so small as I look out to the end of the ocean. ¬†I wonder what’s beyond that water that my eyes let me see.

At the same time, I feel so powerful.  I get my strength here.  I watch the huge waves crash and know that God is my fortitude.

This is where I wonder about the rest of the world. Are the people beyond those waves happy?  Are they suffering?  Are they just like me?

This is where I realize that no matter what I’m going through, I’m not alone. ¬†My God is always with me.

This is where I understand why hardships make me appreciate what I have.

This is where I can cry for no reason, but He knows why.

This is where my peace lies.

Find your happy place. ¬†Even if it’s just in your imagination.

Find the place that makes you feel God’s presence and comfort.

He is with us, always…but sometimes we need to get to a place that we feel it to truly understand.

Whether it’s in your journal or in your backyard…whether it’s in the darkness alone in your bedroom…find Him. ¬†Find you. ¬†Find your peace. ¬†Find your happy place.

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CHOOSE HAPPINESS

How Do I Love Thee…You Tell ME.

Love languages, Venus and Mars, love challenges, relationship experts, how to love, who to love, when to love….UGH!

Relationships are tough, no question about that, but how often we forget that…going in. We’re overwhelmed by feelings and emotions that make us feel like we’re walking on air, then reality sets in. That doesn’t mean that the relationship is doomed or that it’s not meant to be. It simply means that we have to start putting in effort to keep those feelings alive. Just as with anything in life, there are no quick fixes that will make everything suddenly fall into place. Love isn’t all butterflies and magnetism, it’s paying attention and putting in the work. Everywhere we turn there are “solutions” to make love easier, but which solution is right for you?
If you take anything away from this post, take this: RELATIONSHIPS TAKE WORK!

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Again, just as with anything in life, there is no instruction manual for love. While books and seminars can certainly boost our hope factor and provide a jumping off point, there is no ONE thing that covers the vast diversity of dynamics, personalities and baggage that comes with every individual. Or is there?? I fear getting redundant in my posts, but I can’t stress enough how, for any struggle we face in life, God’s Word holds the answers.
No matter which love language you speak, or battles you’ve previously faced, no better answers can be had than from the very definition and creator of love Himself.

In EVERY relationship, that feeling of euphoria eventually wanes. Life’s burdens are no longer outweighed by the wonderful feeling in the pit of your stomach or the look in his eyes when he smiles. At some point, the same old jokes become boring, all the stories have been told, and the “you’re so beautiful”s are met with “what did you do wrong?”s. By no means are those signals that the realtionship has run its course. What that signifies is that the work needs to begin!
In fact, the work should have started from the get-go, but all is not lost. Far from it!
No need to go pick up the latest book or follow the most popular love guru, the Bible tells us how to not only regain that blissful feeling but KEEP it!

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Some examples:
*Proverbs 1:8- Listen without interrupting. Communication is a key factor in ANY relationship. However, nobody can communicate if they’re not being heard. Before you jump in to defend yourself…LISTEN. You may hear something that changes everything. Even if you don’t like what you’re hearing, keep in mind that you are not perfect and even if the words aren’t spoken delicately, they may very well be just what you needed to hear.
*Proverbs 17:1- Answer without arguing. Listening is essential, but responding is important as well. Don’t immediately assume you’re being punished or accused. Try to accept the words you’re given as constructive. Often, hurt comes out as anger or judgement when it’s actually just crying out for understanding.
*Proverbs 13:12- Promise without forgetting. Life is hectic, we get busy. Some days we don’t know up from down and we lose sight of the most important people and things in our lives. Remember not to forget! Even just an “I love you” text or a sticky note on the fridge can make a day better. If you promise to try harder, DO IT! Those alarms on your phone aren’t just for birthdays and dentist appointments!
*Collosians 3:13- Forgive without punishing. Sometimes, in tender moments, we forgive each other’s mistakes, but then bring them up again in retaliation. Forgiveness is one of the most important things we need to incorporate in our lives. Not only for our partners, but for ourselves. Yes, there are definitely things we can’t live with, we all have our limits, but if you choose to forgive… make it stick. Forgiveness doesn’t have to mean putting up with things that aren’t acceptable, but it does mean letting it go. In my experience this means getting any answers you need first. If you have questions that need answers, get them, otherwise you’ll dwell on the problem and your complete forgiveness won’t be possible.
*And of course:1 Corinthians 13:4-8 – 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.
In my Bible study last week, I spoke about marriage vows. Specifically, where we promise to “forsake all others” and what this means. For most, I assume this refers to adultery. For me, it refers to everything and every person that does, or may, come between you and your partner both before and during marriage. Forsaking, by definition, means giving up something valued. For me, it means giving up the VALUE of something valued. Friends, family, money, online interaction, things that take up a great deal of your time…those things don’t need to be lost or forgotten, but they DO have to come second to your relationship, by far. For me, this is paramount. Nothing can be more important than the person that you love and making that person feel your love, always.
We need to, very deliberately, CHOOSE our partner every day. That takes work, but if you are determined to love and stay in love, it’s so worth it. As cliche as it sounds, the little things DO matter. Not every act of love has to be a grand gesture. I can’t stress enough how much listening, and paying attention to, your significant other can change your relationship for the better.

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Be open to change without feeling you’re being changed as a person. We all have very different experiences with love and being loved. Don’t automatically assume your partner has had those same experiences. Listen to the things they are telling you they need and be willing to provide those things.
Be unafraid to ask for what you need. Never is assuming your partner should know how you feel a positive thing. Just because he can’t read your mind, doesn’t mean he’s not willing to meet those needs.
Above all, if you’re not ready to put in the work, you’re not ready for a serious and longstanding relationship. If you’re calling daddy every time you have a problem, rather than going to your partner, you’re not ready. If you’re talking to your friends about your relationship woes rather than your girlfriend, you’re not ready. If posting pictures on Facebook and seeing how many likes and comments they get comes before talking to your partner, you’re not ready. If a round of golf is more fun than spending time with your man (yes, girls play golf too ūüôā ) then you are NOT READY!
Make this Valentine’s Day a landmark day.  Not particularly just to be romantic,  but make it the day you start to listen and ask to be listened to.
COMMUNICATION is the key. And it can’t be a one-way street.
All my love, and as always…
CHOOSE HAPPINESS!

Make 2017 A Year of Purpose

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The past couple of years have been, for me, years of lessons. I want this year to be a year of putting those lessons to work, a year of purpose.
After going through a painful divorce, strugging to raise two children on my own while attending school and going to work, years of family health issues, the suicide of my brother and grappling with several other of life’s dilemmas…I thought I had my stuff together. It was tough, but I came out on top of things. I was proud of myself, confident and ready to take on the world.
However, somewhere along the way I lost the reason I got to that peaceful place.
I felt like I could conquer anything life threw at me until I faced an entirely new set of struggles. My naivety to the dark side of social media, my realization of how the dating game was often played and the discovery that I hadn’t completely processed a lot of emotions from my past threw me for a loop.
When I sat back and took a look at it all, the thing that was throwing me off my game…was my lack of faith.

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I was still going to church every week. I was still praying. The thing I was missing, though, was putting my faith in God. I was feeling so capable that I thought I could handle things all on my own. My past struggles provided me strength through God. But when new, different, struggles arose I was unable to deal with them properly. Why? i was missing that same faith I sought out when the struggles were obvious.
I learned the hard way, as we humans seem to like to do, that I needed to maintain my strength of faith regardless of how “good” things seem to be. Keeping your faith alive and well means that when faced with ANY struggle we don’t have to dig as deep or fight as hard.
Just as you need to continue working out to keep your physical strength in check, you need to keep working on your spiritual strength as well.
How do we accomplish this?
Through an exercise in planning.
Those of us with children know that we need to plan. We plan making memories. We plan teaching. We plan conversations. We plan discipline.
As children of God, we need to plan those same moments for ourselves. Those “teachable moments” are abundant and necessary. While we’re busy living our lives of have more, be more and want more, we need to learn to show up for the moments we’re given. We need to learn that God speaks to us through these moments and that every one of them is an opportunity to change your story.
These days we spend an inordinant amount of time looking at the picture stories of others’ lives and wishing they were our own. We wish those smiles were our own. We wish those loving moments came to us as easily. We wish that excitement was ours to grasp. We forget so easily that those people are just as lost as we are and lose our sense of selves.
We need to remember that we’re all in the same boat. We all have struggles and hardships. We all have heartbreaks and we are all provided the same teachable moments.
The difference between living a fullfilled life or one lacking direction is your decision whether or not to use those moments as lessons. Good and bad, every moment of our lives can be used to strengthen our resolve.
In times of despair ask yourself:
Do I feel sorry for myself?
Do I post pictures hoping for sympathy?
Do I seek out attention from others when I’m sad?
Am I unsettled because nobody seems to care how I’m feeling?
If the answer to any of these questions is “yes” then you are seeking answers where you will find none.
These are some of those “teachable moments” I’m speaking of.
We need to PLAN to use them to learn the lessons God is trying to teach us rather than looking in all the wrong places for our happiness.
PLAN YOUR TEACHABLE MOMENTS.
When life seems unbearable, rather than seek out sympathy or feel sorry for yourself…ask what you can learn from it.
Test your limits. Create an instance of learning rather than linger in the sadness. SHOW UP. CHANGE YOUR STORY. BE PURPOSEFUL IN YOUR ACTIONS.
Happiness is an option. It’s not a “jump for joy” moment in time, it’s an all-emotion encompassing feeling of freedom that can only be achieved when you stop making it about your heartache and start making it about learning how to live a contented life.
Let yourself cry and reflect on your feelings but then learn to be secure in your vulnerablity and give it to God.
Even in your times of strength, let Him lead the way.
Let the lessons you’ve learned through your struggles become the reasons you lead your life. Make those lessons your purpose.

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No resolutions. No “new year, new me”. Just allow this mark of the new year to be the start of all those life lessons being put into action. Let this be your year of purpose.
Be stronger for all the hardships you’ve faced.
Be better for all the heartache you’ve experienced.
Live bolder for those that no longer can.
2017…Our year of purpose.
CHOOSE HAPPINESS.

How I Maintain My Faith

I don’t set out to transform lives or win a pulitzer prize by writing these blogs. I’m not a literary genius or a revered expert in anything, really.  I’ve used this space as an outlet, more than anything because putting words and thoughts, however disorganized, to paper (or computer screen) calms me, helps me find my peace again.

That being said, if what I share touches someone, I’m more than happy to expound. I’ve been getting the question…”how do you keep your faith?” a lot recently.   One particular email asked…”How do you maintain your faith with the false information overloaded world we live in and when your personal life is flooded with it?” Well, like the rest of us… those days, and they are many,  when everything goes wrong and the people I look up to let me down, my faith is hanging by a very weak and frayed thread. The internet often only adds to that let down if I allow it to.

In addressing the internet and social media, I’ll say this: Through a lot of trial and tribulation I’ve decided to be very intentional with it all.  I no longer scroll randomly.  I no longer post hoping to get seen.  I think, without always realizing it, we tend to post things to get attention so my posts are intentional now as well.   My faith tells me that being vain is wrong, it’s a challenge now, but it’s doable.  I came to the realization that my selfies that promoted happiness were very sincere, except that I could have just as easily snapped a pic of a sunrise and said the same thing.  All the hashtags that I included in my posts were not to convey information, but to attract followers, which led to distraction from my goals, my value and my faith. As for the information overload, because it’s there doesn’t mean I have to take it in. Being purposeful with what I view and allow my children to view has also had to become very important. 

I will help lead a Bible study next week on this very subject: Keeping Your Faith Alive.  As I wrote the words I plan to speak and looked for scripture to coincide, I realized how little I find God in my everyday life. Personally, I try to live as a Christian every day, as we all do.  I give my time and my help to my church. I pray every day, attend Bible studies (however sporadically), surround myself with good people and raise my children to do the same. Still, is it enough? 

If I do all those things and still find my faith slipping away at times, what is the answer? With all the horrible things we see and hear every day, how do we find strength? When, at every turn, someone is spewing “wisdom” about being a good, kind and caring human being but never speaking about doing it through Christ, how do we stay strong in our beliefs? 

One of my favorite quotes (paraphrased) has always been “Stand up for what you believe in, even if that means standing alone”.  The truth is, though, that we’re never alone and a very personal relationship with God is the answer to never feeling we are. It’s also MY answer to how I remain faithful.

Building a relationship with Him that’s beyond church services is so important to our strength of faith.  Being “good” or going to a Sunday service, while helpful, doesn’t create a relationship.  Just as cursory actions don’t create a love relationship, neither do they create a Godly one.  Jesus tells us  ‚ÄúSo I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seek finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.‚ÄĚ

Talking to God, asking Him for instruction and guidance, giving Him your struggles and trusting Him to reveal His plan, THOSE things will build a permanent relationship. Fearing His wrath is what we’re taught and is often what prevents so many people from opening up to Him.  God is LOVE.  God is forgiving.  God is asking us to give all of our sin, all of our struggle and all of our hardship to Him.

I’ve found people often feel they don’t have the right to ask forgiveness or guidance.  Let me tell you, at my very worst and most sinful, I have asked for His love and He’s never failed me. Religious rules often scare people away, but God knows YOUR heart and all you have to do is offer it to Him. 

My struggles are no better or worse than others. There are times I’m strong and others where I feel like I can’t go on, but never has God failed me when I’ve asked for the strength to deal with it all. Somehow, some way He either sends me comfort or a wake up call when I need one. 

Here are the ways I regain my faith, keep my faith, and remember my faith.  I hope you find comfort in some of them.

1.  I attend church services.  It never fails that I feel renewed by the gathering together of people who love the Lord.

2.  I give my time.  It seems almost selfish but inevitably I get renewed faith by helping others.

3.  I teach my children to be faithful.  Not just saying nightly prayers, but teaching them to know God.

4.  Sharing my faith with others.  I’m never afraid to declare my Christianity.  Without provocation or judgment, I don’t keep my faith a secret and I share it whenever I can. 

5.  Meditation.  I’m not much on new wave adoption of certain aspects of religion.  People tend to follow “trends”: where religion is concerned.  I follow what works for me.  I have my places of serenity. My “happy place” is the ocean.  Once all the surfers and tourists have gone and it’s just me and the beauty that my God has created, I can regain faith in a heartbeat.  Any peaceful, quiet place to close my eyes to the world and be alone with God will do.

6. Prayer. All I ever really need is the desire.  The place and time don’t always matter.  Desire to feel Him and you will. Don’t put Him in the back of your mind  until you need guidance. 

Be blessed and ALWAYS CHOOSE HAPPINESS

Am I Truly Broken?

 

broken4

I am broken. Everyone I know is broken. My parents, my children, my friends…all broken. Or so the world would have us believe.
Everywhere I turn lately, I feel overloaded and bombarded with people telling me how “broken” they are, insinuating how “broken” I am or with methods to fix my own “brokenness”.
On every social media outlet there are life coaches, relationship experts, writers, reality TV stars and product promoters telling me I’m in desperate need of fixing. These same people advise that if I attend their conferences, purchase their books, buy or sell their products, or become one of their followers I will be better. I’ll be fixed, I’ll be smarter, better at relationships, happier in life and not broken any longer.
What did we all do before we were flooded with fixes? Granted, the world has always made money and gained fame by preying on human weakness. And that is the term I prefer…weakness, not brokenness.
I don’t believe most of us are actually broken.
Human, by the understaing that I have through my faith and through my life experience, means imperfect, not broken. Broken evokes thoughts of failure. It brings to light every part of us that isn’t perfect and makes us feel inadequate and useless. Broken, by definition, means having given up all hope, or not in working order. Most of us are neither or those things and when we are, only our Lord can make us whole again. Every motivation and inspiration on Earth that doesn’t lead us to Him is temporary. Band Aids on broken bones.
If I never read the words “subscribe to”, “narrative”, “resonate”, “brokenness” or “start a conversation about…” again in life, I’ll be happy. Not that those words don’t have their place, but because they are used, ad nauseum, by all these people with an agenda, they become meaningless. Words that get attention because they’re popular or make people sound as if they’re more educated than they are just turn me away immediately. Verbosity doesn’t always mean educated, educated doesn’t always mean knowledgeable, and knowledge of human weakness doesn’t indicate the power to “fix”.
What if we all “subrscirbed” to the “narrative” that we are all different and that’s ok? What if we “start a conversation” about how because we are overly emotional or hurt or shy or don’t have the greatest social skills in the world that there are people just like us out there who understand or who are the yin to our yang? Let all of that “resonate” for a bit…
Why is being different not an option?
Why is being different…different?
None of this is to say we can’t improve ourselves. When certain aspects of our personalites are failing us, when we’ve been hurt and feel lost, when we feel we aren’t living up to our potential, or when we feel less than satisfied in life…yes, definitely, seek counsel. Find solace where you can. Find your path. Find your bliss.
YOURS. Not somebody else’s. Always keep in mind that improvement doesn’t mean following the crowd. When we’re lost, or lacking direction, we are weak. The glimmer of hope brought about by a crowd who appears to be “taking action” infects our thoughts and we become moths to a flame. What? All these people are making big money? All of these people have become happy beyond belief? All of these people are in satisfied, fulfilling relationships? SIGN ME UP! But where is God in all of it? Where is our sense of self?
Hold on to who you are! Make sure those so-called broken parts aren’t just you being you!
We all need to improve and improvement can only make us happier, but don’t let others tell you how to improve or what to improve.
As a “for instance”… I am a rather needy person. Sure, that probably derived from something I didn’t get at some point. Childhood and life experience molds us.
As hard as society tries to make better parents, they’ve created spoiled children. As hard as society has tried to convince us we are broken, they’ve created people that never feel good enough. Well I’m breaking away from what society is teaching. 
I am needy. I thrive off of attention from my significant other. I don’t need attention from anyone else. I don’t seek it outside of my relationship. I crave it, though. I don’t feel satisifed with my partner if I’m not on his mind. Not constantly, not every second of every day. But I want to know that I’m important. I want to hear it, I want to feel it. And I am very determined to make that my priority for him. I want him to know that every time I go shopping I see things I think he’d like. Every time I’m away from him, I’m thinking how nice it would be if he were with me. Whenever I hear a song, read a poem, write a journal entry…he is on my mind. Well…some people would call that a problem, or an insecurity. Granted, it’s not always optimal. I don’t always get the attention I desire and the attention I give isn’t always appreciated. BUT…I’ve had relationships where it worked. Yin and Yang. Could I be less needy? Of course. Is there a reason I am the way that I am? Definitely. But why does that make me broken?
It makes me, me.
I KNOW that not every person can deal with that. Partners will always have traits that aren’t perfect, that call for compromise and understanding and that’s ok! We find the person whose imperfections fit with our own and who can walk beside us, be strong for us, help us as we find our paths to betterment.  
That doesn’t make us broken. It makes us human.  Beautifully human. 
No relationship guru can tell me how wrong I am for being needy because I know that all his, or her, words don’t reflect reality. They reflect page views, sales, attendance, money and maybe even hope for their own relationships.
God tells me that he loves me no matter what. God tells me that I’m ok just the way that way I am.
When I feel that I need change, I’ll seek His guidance, His inspiration and His motivation.
Right now, I’m seeking solace from many things. I want peace in my life. I want to step away from social media often. I want to be a servant. I want to devote myself to my children and my Lord. I want to live the moments I have instead of recording them. I want to be the daughter God wants me to be. In making these changes, I want to be me. The ME I’m meant to be, faults and all. I want to appreciate myself as I am so I can desire to become a better version of that every single day, without resentment or believing that I’m worthless until I reach my journey’s end.     

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

But he said to me, ‚ÄúMy grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.‚ÄĚ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

CHOOSE HAPPINESS