Entries in perspective (11)
My life has gotten a bit more complicated the last two months… maybe challenging would be a better word. In November I was asked to take on the preaching responsibilities for my church for the next six months and I accepted. I agreed knowing that I would be pressed in with a packed schedule and many more responsibilities. Stress would increase… I determined as I went into this season that I needed to have some more rigid boundaries to help me navigate my responsibilities. With the help of my wife, here’s what I came up with:
- I need to lessen my professional schedule appropriately. This has never been easy for me to do, but it is mandated by the need for speaking preparation.
- Maintain a healthy exercise regimen. It’s necessary for me to continue to take time to work out and allow my stress to be dealt with naturally.
- Accountability to an objective mentor that will ask hard questions and give me a 30,000 foot perspective.
- Implement a tweaking process that will allow adjustments to help me adjust to factors not accounted for.
- A Sabbath rest that is non-negotiable. This consists of a day where I do no work and enjoy my family and commune with God.
These boundaries might appear simplistic, but they have helped so far and I would commend them to you as a template that might aid you in your own challenging schedule. Here’s to becoming healthier in 2013!
In and out of history and cultures, we human beings have acknowledged that our mental and emotional state is somehow related to our physical state. But for some reason, it is easier to say “I have a headache” than “I am overwhelmed with my job and my head is letting me know that.” As human beings have industrialized, increased the rate of speed, number of relationships, and daily mental output, we have grown less aware of what is happening inside.
Many times clients will sit on the couch across from my chair, and I will see where they are keeping their pain, sadness, anger, or anxiety. Some carry stress in their shoulders (a personal go-to place for me). Some have a constant stomachache with no explanation. Others feel restless in their hands or legs. The list goes on.
Our bodies are amazing in so many ways, but perhaps you have never thought that your body could actually be speaking to you! Ruth Haley Barton writes that our bodies serve as a prophet. Your body is speaking to you now!
Let me take you through a quick exercise.
- Sit comfortably upright.
- Close your eyes and breathe slowly.
- Place all of the distractions that come up for you and mentally place them on the table.
- Become aware of your body. Go from the top of your head to the tips of your toes.
- Where do you feel off balance? Where are you storing those unwanted emotions? Do they feel like a ball, or pin pricks in your fingers, or a nagging ache, or tightness and restriction?
- Talk it through with a counselor or good friend.
I have heard it said that our heart and our mind may betray us, but our bodies speak the truth!
In the mall earlier this week I saw a young boy with someone I assume was his father. The boy was carrying a white envelope with the words “Christmas Money” carefully written across the front. He had a sparkle in his eye and was chatting easily with his father, as I followed behind him I heard him say, “I know I have enough money, but do you think mom will like it or LOVE it.” He earnestly sought his dad’s face for the answer. This boy has been on my mind all week long. What a great example of a young child learning the joy of giving. St. Francis of Assai said “For it is in giving that we receive.”, and as we head into this Christmas season it is important not only that we celebrate Christ and His birth, but that we foster in our children the joy that comes from giving. Use these tips to help show your children just how fun giving can be.
1. Start Young: Don’t wait for your children to make their own money to buy their own presents, start now! Help them save money all year long from allowances or birthdays to buy token gifts for their family or close friends. Even better, get creative as a family and make ornaments or other gifts and talk about who you will gift them to. Make it fun and something your kids will remember.
2. Change your Focus: Too often we can get caught up in the list making and “getting” of Christmas. This year intentionally set out to make it a year of giving instead of getting. This doesn’t mean you can’t buy your children gifts; just remember that our children are inundated at this time of year with commercials and magazine ads all with the newest toys or games that they want. It is tempting to spend time talking with your kids about all of it, instead shift the focus of the conversation to what they are giving. Talk regularly about who they want to give to and what they want to give. Get excited about it and they will too.
2. Model Thoughtful Giving: Are you hurrying out to buy gifts when the kids are asleep or ordering online? Of course there is nothing wrong with that, don’t forget your children are watching you. Try to involve them children in some of the process of your brainstorming, purchasing, wrapping etc. Show them how excited you are to come up with a gift you think someone will enjoy, talk about it frequently.
3. Give All Year: You do not have to stop giving just because Christmas is over, make it a point in your family to give all year, talk about the details over dinner or game night, let your children help in the decision making process. The more involved your children are in the giving process the more they will take ownership of it and feel the importance of giving.
4. Teach Them How To Receive: When opening gifts on Christmas teach your children how to say thank you, and not just the words. Talk over Christmas dinner about the people who chose their gifts, the thoughtfulness behind them and how it makes them feel to have received such a nice gift. Help them write thank you notes. In learning how to receive gifts in a thoughtful way, children develop a greater understanding for the process of giving creating a more giving spirit.
It is a difficult and lonely place to be, to work on a marriage (or any relationship) when the other has no interest in counseling, marriage seminars, relationship books, or even conversations about one’s marriage. Working on a relationship with another who is resistant to the process of growth is not a journey for the faint of heart.
At some point, the focus must turn from “How can I make our marriage better?” to “How can I be a loving, committed, healthy wife/husband/father/mother/sister regardless of the fact that I am doing this alone?” It is possible to be a loving mother to a child who will not reciprocate that love. A difficult marriage should not be a shameful fact for the husband who gives 100% for his wife. An ethic of love asks that we give even when we do not receive, that we sacrifice even when the hands of that sacrifice are stepped upon, and that we continue hoping for change when there are no indications of transformation.
This ethic of love is a journey of a disciplined mind, deliberate movements, and a well of strength.
1. Disciplined Mind
My friend Alicia Britt Chole says (I quote her a lot because she is the wisest person I have ever met), “Intellectual strength is not merely the ability to think…it is the ability to choose what and when to think.” Wow! If we could train our minds like an Olympian trains their body, can you imagine the freedom that would accompany such obedience? Racing minds, hateful dialogue in one’s head, rehearsing past and future conversations, plans of revenge, hurtful wishes toward others, self- sabotaging “why me’s?”… these are all indications of an undisciplined mind.
Questions for change:
~ What am I thinking about right now that is causing me to feel so terrible?
~ What could I think about that will help me to be a more loving spouse in this moment?
~ How can I take care of myself emotionally, spiritually, physically, so that I can have the energy to continue loving?
~ Am I in a good place to communicate in a healthy way?
~ Where should I spend my mental energy right now?
2. Deliberate Movements
One-sided relationships (or relationships which suck-the-very-life-right-out-of-you) deserve thoughtful actions after healthy thinking.
Steps for Change:
~ I suggest the book “Bold Love” by Dan Allender and “Boundaries in Marriage “by Cloud and Townsend.
~ It is important to seek counseling and friendships that will help you walk the very difficult journey of sacrificial love!
3. Well of Strength
Some call it a “Higher Power,” some cry to God, some rely on friends and family... You need not be alone.
~ Calling a friend who will support you.
~ Cultivating disciplines including silence, solitude, and contemplative prayer. There are many resources for this. I suggest any book by Henri Nouwen. “The Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices that Transform Us” by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun is also an excellent resource.
There is a freedom found at a point on the journey as you walk in obedience in the ethic of love. You no longer love the other in order to receive love back. The grip of trying to control loosens and you are free. Free to love.
It is with many emotions that I sit down to write this blog. Ironically, none of them negative. I view life as a journey. A journey that when listened too, can lead us to new beginnings. That time for a new beginning has arrived for me. I grew up in the southwest and western part of the country, and many westerners believe that once you've lived in the west, it's in your blood. Whether that is true for everyone, or just for me, it is true. I have journeyed through the muck of my past and come to know myself through understanding the muck, somewhere along the line, in paying attention to self, I realized I become more alive in the mountains and beauty of the west than anywhere else. For many years I thought I was "stuck" in Orlando because I had just spent so many years working incredibly hard to build a private practice. In journeying to understand myself more fully I had to heed my own advice which is "you are only as stuck as you choose to be". I also began to give myself the freedom to ask myself, What do I want? and, Where do I want to live? Inevitably the answer came back to living in the west. With that, I began to see if it could become a reality. It could. It has.
I came across 2 quotes recently that help sum up the thoughts:
"Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive." -Howard Thurman
"To love is to risk not being loved in return. To hope is to risk pain. To try is to risk failure, but risk must be taken because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing." –Anonymous
With a much deeper and greater understanding of myself and my soul, with a knowledge of what helps make me come alive, and with being at a place in my life that my fear of not risking is more crippling than the risk itself, and after being at Charis Counseling Center for 10 years (or something like that), I have decided to move my practice to the beautiful mountains of Colorado.
I take with me many great memories. Stories that will always be remembered and treasured. Tears shed from the soul that have been offered up to the Sacred Place. What an amazing privilege it has been! I also take a small little white poodle, the great keeper of secrets and stories. She will always remember....(especially when she is mad at me about moving her from the sunshine state of Florida to the snow capped mountains of Colorado).
Thank you to so many of you who have trusted me with your lives and your stories and will continue to do so. Thank you for letting me into those deeper places of your souls that were so hard to get too, and still you went. You have taught me so many things through the years, things I will take with me into the next phase of my journey that I expect to be more alive, real, authentic and deep because I can't imagine it any other way.
And thank you to the Charis Team!! I will leave it there for now, some words are meant to be private.
Thank you! Journey on! Travel well! Travel light!