Tis’ the season to be grateful. Thanksgiving commemorates the sacrifices made long ago. It’s another day where we celebrate the cost paid for freedom. We commemorate the lessons and the journey of change and adaptation. Thanksgiving brings family, friends, and frenemies together in order to agree that bigger problems exist than those we see in our daily American lives.
It is a time we nurture thankful thoughts. It is more than breaking bread and stuffing ourselves with delectables. I hope it’ll become a time that we can take to celebrate others and celebrate ourselves for efforts made both big and small. In our household, we are forming a family tradition of eating a huge dinner on that Wednesday before Thanksgiving and conclude the evening with attending a Thanksgiving service at our home church.
I start out with preparation. It is a process that begins a month or two in advance. I take a few days to think about the meals we want to have the following month. I use a scrap piece of paper to brainstorm. During the prep stage, I look through the freezer and pantry to do an inventory of everything we have. I check to make sure I have freezer bags and other freezer safe containers. During this phase, I begin cleaning out the refrigerator, dumping old food, and wiping things down. I want to make sure that I have nothing to do but cook and store on the days I am cooking.
My children are small and impressionable, so we are relaxed and joyous as we attempt to create memories. Stress can steal the focus and imprint the wrong depiction. The relaxed dinner the day before is not just for them, but for me too. Weeks before Thanksgiving, I start becoming more conscious of all that I hold dear. I begin counting my blessings and take that into the new year. We do all of this to teach them how to celebrate the blessings that are so easily taken for granted.
How do you adjust from distractions and cultivate a heart of Thanksgiving?
Some years ago, I walked into a department store looking for that fountain of youth that would help to solve all of my beauty needs. My baby was only a few months old and the oldest was almost 3. You can imagine how the long nights and early days left me feeling sleep deprived and emotionally exhausted. After my second child, physical challenges almost overwhelmed me. My hopes were to recapture the beauty of my younger days and gain the strength I needed to fight.
When I found that throughout the entire store, there was not one concealer that matched my sensitive skin, I broke down in tears. I felt that I lost something important and the raccoon eyes I now sported was a badge of my new reality. This “Gone With The Wind” moment may have startled the lady helping me. After that, I think she hid every time she saw me coming.
On that day, when no answers were found for a personal need, a shift did take place. It was my wake up moment and I was learning an important lesson about myself. The cliches and slogans only gave me false hopes. I honestly thought that if I changed my outlook and my outcomes, then a prosperity shift would take place in my life. I really thought you could fake it until you make it, but I now realize that faking confidence is a loosing battle. In the face of fear, you can choose to be courageous but you can not fake confidence and win.
That bokeneness did something for me. It actually gave me freedom to look inside to see the real me. I received freedom from believing all of those erroneous thoughts and I began a journey of self acceptance. My eyes were opened to how unhappy I was with myself and the small amount of grace that I gave myself in tough situations. My confidence didn’t just begin to waiver with the new baby, but I struggled with low self esteem before the challenges arose. I didn’t see it because I covered it up with foundation and mascara. Some people cover it with drugs, alcohol or pornography. Either way, the pain I experienced on that day helped me to realize just how broken I was.
It is amazing how God can use ugly situations to bring such freedom. Before I could begin experiencing healing, I had to first recognize I had a problem. My relationships now experience the benefits from the pain felt on that day. I hope you got some insight on why I say, “embrace the challenge.”
Have you ever experienced a painful situation? Please feel free to share how a painful situation opened your eyes and started you on the road to really living in freedom.
Before my oldest daughter left for school this morning, she handed me a sheet of paper entitled “Stress”. In all of her innocence, she says, “Mom, you can keep it and paste it in your journal.” This child is FUNNY! I can’t even get mad with her for sharing this good information. Was she trying to say that her mom was acting stressed out? No, she was not, but it was still a timely talk.
Stress can be healthy or unhealthy. Healthy stress can be great for the body. Exercise is a form of healthy stress. It gives us energy, helps us to sleep, and it is a great way to beat off the weight of daily challenges.
Unhealthy stress comes in the form of worry and fears. We beat ourselves up trying to conquer different challenges. Matters are only compounded as we try to control the narrative of our lives. Instead of seeing the good that may even exist in a tough situation, we try to “make” things happen. Don’t get me wrong, that was once me. I use to walk around saying, “if it is to be, it is up to me.” It was an unhealthy statement that I now use to explain how I was missing the simple blessings right in front of me. I was so focused on the “to be” and “me” that I was missing the now.
The best tip I can give to fight stress, is to enjoy the now. Here are some additional tips I shared last week:
Sleep is so important in fighting stress.
Turn off the phone 1 hour before going to bed. The blue light keeps you awake.
Ivan Hernandez said something powerful. He makes 2 hours for self care every day. That is self care without guilt or apology.
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I once had a job that I dreaded because it was so boring. I prayed to be delivered from that job. I got my answer and it was not what I expected. I read in the Bible that I was to do my work like I was working for the Lord. I knew God was speaking to my heart.
It was a nice place to work and I was glad to have a job. The problem was that I felt a mental restraint. My boss had me filing what they called white stuff. It was a massive pile of papers with very little information written on them and these one liners all had to be filed. Later, they decided that it was unnecessary and threw most of it in the trash. The other employees had the job of filing the serious documents and I was able to join them after the white stuff was eradicated. They really had a bond and whenever the boss was away they would sit around and swap stories. I remember how they laughed and divulged secrets. I rarely joined them because I realized that being accepted by them was not more important than being faithful to my real boss. When our supervisor would return, the group would disperse and look fully committed to the work. I continued filing at the same pace and tried to block out the feeling of nervousness I felt by her presence. I still thought of her as a tough boss.
I was only a freshman in college when I started that job. By my sophomore year, it was apparent that I was different. My faith had grown and my innocence seemed to be preserved. My supervisor seemed to dislike my obscurities and decided to make things more awkward when she gave me lewd lingerie for my birthday. A few chuckles by my colleagues only confused the matter further. I could only conclude that my stand on sexual purity was the talk of the office.
Not much longer, she approached me like she didn’t believe I worked hard enough. I did not try to defend myself, but I honored God by choosing to show nothing but respect. She did not see that I was commitment when she was away. I made sure that I had a consistent pace whether she was around or absent. Integrity is so important and I wasn’t consistent just to make her happy but to make God happy. One morning she decided she was going to push me harder and harder. She pushed until my fingers were bleeding. She looked proud of the accomplishments, but a few days later I was fired.
At the moment she fired me, I was very upset. I was going to confront her, so I got dressed and headed out, but I stopped myself at the bottom of the steps. My original thoughts were to bust into that office and challenge them…crazy right. But I stopped myself at the bottom of the steps. I sat on the steps at my dorm and began to melt. I spoke to God saying “I did what you said and I honored you in my work. How could this happen?”
That broken state I was in only lasted a moment because at that very moment something miraculous happened. My dorm director walked up to me and said, “I need help around here, could you work for me?” I had not spoken with anyone about the conversation I just had with my supervisor. I knew it was my real boss that sent her. Immediately, I accepted her offer. God was faithful and I was glad that I trusted Him while working in a tough position. He turned things around. That new job was gift the best because it was one of the best jobs that I ever had.
Have your plans ever clashed with an employer’s? How do you work through difficult situation?
The previous topics, finding your why and asking questions, are not only important for planning but also for problem solving. We must make decisions everyday of our lives. A perfect example of how my “why” helped me to press forward. At the end if my freshman year of college, I made two “C”s. I felt so sad and I walked around looking pitiful. My friends did everything but laugh at me as I sat in despair thinking I was doomed. They did not understand the damage two “C”s had on a GPA. I had an academic scholarship that was dependent on me maintaining a 3.0 at all times. I felt lost and did not know what to do.
I gave myself a few weeks to recover, but once I refocused, I was able to make additional plans. Let me be honest with you, it was hard to stop myself from fearing the worse. I actually had to spend long hours in bible readings and prayer before I could realize new plans that would compensate for the loss of revenue. It was going to be hard work but I was finally ready. The summer before my college sophomore year, I worked and saved most of the money for the purpose of registering for the new school year. Unfortunately, I did not have anyone to help me with paying for college. All of the financial and emotional pressures were on my shoulders to carry alone, but in the planning process, I realized this would be one of the challenges. I was already committed to persevering. Quitting was not an option.
First semester was the focus and I was going to tackle second semester after I had jumped that hurdle of first semester. I asked financial aid questions and their answers helped me toThe registrar accepted what I had as a deposit and I signed a written agreement regarding the monthly payments. Work study earnings were all saved and it paid the remaining semester balance. I finished the semester debt free and regained my scholarship for the second semester when my GPA hit above the 3.0 requirements. It was a year full of excitement, heartache, and a beautiful victory. Doing the homework during the planning process helps us to consider options that are available. Remember, you always have choices. I asked financial aid questions and asked for arrangements. This process of problem solving has helped me to push through many tough situations.
We have reached our finale for why do we plan. This third and final part will conclude the questions we need to ask ourselves when making realistic and accomplishable tasks. Planning is a very personable thing. It can be frustrating at times or even overwhelming, but it also can be a most helpful tool. Since my family growing up used planners on a limited basis, I never viewed planning as a chore. I did not HAVE to do it, but I chose to. Today, I still see it as a choice and an opportunity for self reflection.
The last questions will challenge us to think of our goals as being important. A challenge to see them as bigger than a thing to accomplish by ourselves. Accomplishing our goals will require support. We must remember that true success is best achieved with helping hands. This support can come from simple words of encouragement to someone actually working beside you to help you win in this game of life. Let’s take a look at our last few questions.
Where do I go to get help in achieving this goal?
(This all depends on the goal. There are associations and groups for just about every interest. There are also Conferences of various types that bring ideas and products together to help with one general type of need. For further direction, you can test your knowledge on topics you need to know. Then, think about who can answer those questions. If it is a fitness goal, the “where” for you may be the gym to speak with personal trainers.)
When do I want to complete this goal?
(This is your timeline. Does this goal have a deadline? Is this a long term goal?)
How will I accomplish this goal?
(Review all of the questions and your answers from the “Why” series. All of the previous questions will help to make this part easier. When you pull all the answers together, you get an idea of how. The how serves as the outline for your plans.)
I think we all would like the satisfaction of feeling complete peace and celebratory praise after accomplishing a goal. The best way to WIN is to make sure your goals and plans are a honest reflection of you. You are unique and complex and so are your goals and plans. Don’t let fear of failing or success snatch your dream. Please be patient with the process of reaching goals because surprises can still manage to pop up here and there. It is your “why” that will help you to maintain focus and keep moving forward.
Our last post helped us to understand our why in setting goals and making plans. There is more to it and we dive into a few more questions that will help you understand the planning process. This is part 2 of a 3 part series. Let’s jump right into it…
What will hinder you in achieving this goal?
(This is the time to be honest with yourself. Do you self sabotage by procrastinating or allowing distractions? Is there someone in authority who will pull you in a separate direction? Are there demands on your time or schedule that you can not compromise or change?)
What will change or need to change?
(Will you have to move? Will your schedule have to change? Most things require time and energy and it is very important to be very realistic about where all of this will fit with your lifestyle. It is this part that people overlook, but must not when making realistic goals.)
Some people may ask “where do I began?”
(Take time to gather information about the topic. Make sure to note if there are various steps indicated in obtaining your goal. Also note if those steps also have timelines. Are experts in that area available to answer questions? Can you find a mentor in that area to help you understand all of the expectations?)
The next post will conclude our “Why” series. What other questions do you ask yourself when setting goals and making plans? Share them with us in the comment section below. We would like to hear from you.