Monday, July 18, 2016

Finding Joy in Being Still

My dog, Lucy loves to lay in the sun. 

Sometimes, when I'm home on the weekends, I'll grab a cup of coffee early in the morning and follow her out. I'll sit at the table, pondering life, listening to the birds, and enjoying the feel of the warm sun on my face. I try to clear my mind to hear God, but too often, things like my to-do list creep in, and I get up as soon as I'm finished with my coffee.

This past Saturday I sat and watched Lucy. There was nothing to watch really. She lay in the grass, breathing quietly and steadily. She didn't move for the longest time. It seemed as if she had waited all morning for this moment--this time to just bask in the sun. It gave her such joy, that it was almost as if she were to move, it would ruin the moment.

I never realized that joy could be contained--savored in quiet moments. To me, joy is explosive and expressive. But watching Lucy made me realize that I'm missing a lot by not being still.

Her simple joy of simply being still and basking in the warmth of the sun made me want the same. It is my desire to become so focused on running to the Son to bask in the warmth of His Presence that I can think of nothing else. Why oh why must I always have an agenda--even on a weekend? Why can't I find the joy of just being? The joy of savoring the stillness? Oh to be still and know that He is God! Sometimes the simplest things are the most difficult to attain and achieve.

This is my prayer for you and for me. In a time where the world is in turmoil, where fear lurks and threatens to overtake us, where mistrust and hatred run rampant---that we can stand by the door, anxiously awaiting for it to open, where we run into the heat of the Son and allow the rays of His love to shine on us and melt away the fear and anxiety. Only then will we experience joy unspeakable that is savored only in being still and knowing that He is God.

Blessings Along the Path,

Sharing this blog with some of these lovelies 

Have you read the July issue of Ruby for Women? You can read it here (Be sure to check out my column, Be-a-YOU-tifully YOU-nique where I talk about the freedom to be uniquely YOU!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Stop Shoulding on Me!

There's a word that people use all the time that makes me cringe when I hear it. It starts with "S-h." No, it's not what you's not the four-letter word that rhymes with spit.

It's the word, "Should."

I hate that word.

You should go to this restaurant.
You should read this book.
You should try Spin/Yoga/Pilates.

I understand that a person might be excited about that restaurant, book, or exercise class and wants others to experience them as well. But to me, should expresses more than a suggestion--it implies an obligation. 

The word should is an auxilliary verb. That means that it is used to form the tense, mood, or voice of another verb. Should eat, should go, should do. The real action is in the eating, going, or doing. But that little auxilliary word often packs a lot more power than the verb it's forming. Sometimes, it's all we hear.

Should, in this form, is used to express obligation, propriety, or expediency. Used correctly, it might imply what is probable or expected...I should be there by noon. But too often, we should on ourselves and should on others. You should do this, I should do that. The obligation part of should.

I should implies guilt at having failed to live up to a certain standard (often self-imposed or unrealistic). 
I shouldn't offers a false sense of guilt.
I should have instills guilt through regret and remorse.

In my opinion, the word should has the implication of guilt hanging on to it.

It's a word that shouldn't be used.

When we understand our words and the impact those words have, we learn to use them differently.

We can remove the guilt that we place on others and on ourselves by simply choosing other words.

Instead of saying, "You should read this book," try saying this (notice I did not say that you should instead say this):

"Have you read this book? No? I did, and I really liked it. Do you like books about____? Yes? I'd be happy to lend it to you if you'd like."

Telling someone that they should try an exercise program simply because you love it might turn someone off to exercise altogether. How about this?

"If you like to cycle, you might like Spin (briefly explain the benefits--key word: briefly). If it's not for you, there are so many other ways to get fit. You could try different classes to see if you prefer one method over another."

Could is a less offensive word than should

Have you been shoulding on people? 
Are you shoulding on yourself?

You should stop.

Choose words that won't foster guilt in yourself or in others. Changing the way you say things causes you to think about the words you choose, and choosing your words before you speak causes you to change your thinking. 

I've eliminated the word should from my vocabulary. Are you with me?

Blessings Along the Path,

The topic of this post is so dear to my heart that I wrote a book about it. Ralph Gouda and the Brothers Oulda (very loosely titled) is about a man (Ralph) who has a set of triplets living in his head. Shoulda, Woulda, and Coulda create havoc with Ralph's thoughts until one day Ralph declares that he's had enough. When he takes action, his whole life changes.

This short book (about 85 pages) is allegorical in nature, with a discussion guide at the end. Perfect for small groups, bible studies, or book clubs. I will be self-publishing sometime in the fall, so if you're not following my blog, sign up now to be sure not to miss the updates!

References: Merriam Webster Dictionary

Monday, July 4, 2016

Embrace the Freedom to Be You

When I was nineteen, my boyfriend invited me to a party. I didn’t know anyone, and I worried about what to wear. After all, this was California, and the protocol could be different from that of New Jersey. And I desperately wanted to be liked. He told me to wear whatever I felt comfortable in—which was shorts and probably a tee shirt.

Never trust a man to fill in the details, especially when it comes to clothes. 

Every single girl there was wearing a cute sundress (along with a perfect tan), sported cute sandals and had glistening hair. And they were all drinking wine way before it was trendy. I wasn’t even old enough to drink! I wanted to leave as soon as I got there.

The day didn’t get any easier. It was an established group, and I wasn’t one of them—especially in my flip flops and cut off shorts. I tried to fit in, but I felt like I just didn’t belong. And I didn’t. Worse, I felt like they knew how uncomfortable I was and didn’t care to attempt to alleviate my discomfort by including me. It wasn’t so much that they excluded me. It was more that they ignored me. I wasn’t sure which was worse. 

Part of me wanted to be embraced by them, and part of me hated them all. I carried that feeling of inadequacy with me for years.

We long for acceptance, especially as young women tying to find our way. I think it’s human nature to desire to be liked and wanted and validated and approved of. We want to fit in. We don’t really want to be different, but when we discover that we are, we erect walls of safety to protect ourselves from the ridicule and rejection we feel sure will follow.  We suppress our uniqueness and try too hard to be like everyone else. The problem with that is that it’s often evident when we’re faking it. We can’t be what we can’t be.

Perhaps you’re struggling with the desire to fit in, but you feel like it’s just too hard to continue the charade. Or maybe you feel empty, now that you’ve been accepted into that group that you longed to be approved by. Do you try to hide your quirks or deny your uniqueness? 

Did it ever occur to you that the very thing you’re trying to cover up may be the best part of you?

Every year on July 4, we celebrate our freedom from the British Empire. That day commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, when Congress declared that the thirteen colonies were now a “new nation,” independent of Britain—a cause for celebration, indeed.

What would happen if you declared independence from conforming to who you think you should be?

If you decided to become a “new nation,” and allowed yourself to “wear whatever you’re comfortable in,” how would that change your perspective? Imagine if what you were most comfortable in happened to be your own skin and personality, your unique talents, and even…your quirks.

 What if you simply decided—this July 4—to break free from comparing yourself to everyone else? 

Besides, how do you know those people aren’t doing the same thing? Maybe…just maybe…there is someone who wishes they were you!

            It may not be easy at first—this freedom to be you—but if you call on the name of the Lord like the psalmist, He will not ignore your plea.

            In my anguish, I cried to the Lord, and He answered by setting me free. Psalm 118:5

Try it. I dare you. 

Not only to be different, but to embrace it. Don’t wait on the periphery for someone else to welcome you into the fold or to accept you. Accept yourself, because God accepts you exactly as you are. After all, He’s the one who designed you to be exactly you.

So embrace yourself, your different-ness, your uniqueness. I think you might like it. I even think you just might find that you like…you.

Now that is cause for celebration!

Blessings Along the Path,

Reprinted from Ruby for Women, July 2016