Simplicity: How Less Becomes More

One of the greatest freedoms I’ve come to experience is trading off the complicated for the simplistic. I’ve read that to the one who is given much, there will be much required. Living a life of simplicity became a pursuit for me to embrace that “less is more”.

My reasoning on this is that I can adopt the philosophy of Chickfila Restaurants. They do one thing, chicken, and they do it well! Sure they’ve added condiments and two ways to cook it and great lemonade and tea, and don’t forget the brownies. But they have focused on one task and have mastered it. It’s simple and delicious!

I’ve realized through this and other models that the times in my life when I get away or take a walk or escape in a great book, I am enjoying the beauty of simplicity.

By simplicity, I am not implying that everyone should downsize to a two room cabin and live off the land, although some of you would probably find that to be a cool idea.

For me, simplicity is managing my life. There is lots of freedom in: Letting people handle their business. Inviting and including family and friends and not holding the proverbial gun to their head if their plans aren’t an extension of mine.It’s packing light, in luggage and baggage. It’s having enough fluff in my schedule to be spontaneous if I choose to be. It’s having less for me to dust and more time to enjoy the things I love.

In my life personally as well as others, I have found a common link between having cluttered lives, disordered hearts and higher maintenance lives to be the enemy of creativity and motivation. I have also observed that it is a primary instigator in creating more stress.

I value time for fireside chats, walks, catching sunsets, reading, and a host of other activities that require no carry on bags, except maybe a cup of tea or coffee. While every moment and every day cannot be filled with leisure, simple and often pleasures keep me balanced and having the ability to manage my routine.

Simple living has afforded me the extravagant pleasure of being intentional in the moment with the people I choose to invest my life in. I feel that I can afford the time to really listen and learn. I can sincerely rejoice or weep in the moments that are defining in the lives of others.

I have learned through my experience that the best time I spend each day is praying that God directs each decision and encounter I will face today. I feel better equipped to show up and get into the game. I am alerted to little moments of cool happenings that I may have otherwise overlooked.

What are the little whispers you hear as you allow quiet times to refresh you?

Sheri

6 Steps to Finding Contentment

 Contentment is the fundamental pursuit in each area of life. We want to get the house painted or our certification completed or the kids grown or something that we are convinced will enable us to finally be content. However, it is really a condition of our inner person. Sort of an at-peace-with-me feeling. It is also a foundation to enjoying life and being intentional in the moment. Can it be done? If so, how?

1 – Practice delaying gratification. Yes, you can do it. When you consider making a purchase, use patience and consider postponing the ones that are simply for convenience. If you end up purchasing the item later, it will be well thought out. If not, you’ll be happier to have saved the time and money. To the one whom much is given, much is required.

2 – Make a focused effort to remain inspired and to be inspiring. Spend 10+ minutes each day reading something from the Bible, an inspirational author, or area of interest. Spend some time several times each week journaling learning experiences you glean from what you read, personal encounters, a movie you watch or just what comes to mind while you are in the shower. You will be amazed at how you can gain such positive perspective from your quiet times. Invest in others by offering an encouraging word in the way of a note, text or call to them when they are working on a particular event or endeavor or are facing a personal trial.

3 – Unplug from the technology of life and plug in to the simpler paths. Change gears for half an hour each day by taking a walk or a bubble bath. Find a neat little hobby such as painting or woodworking that you can enjoy and de-stress from the working hours in your day. Write a blog — oh, I resemble that! — on something that you have learned in an effort to enlighten others.

4 – Get a mentor – be a mentor. Spend time with people you admire and learn about their lives and interests. They can be living instructional aids to learning how to do things in a different, possibly more efficient way. Find ways that you can share things or teach a class around what you have learned with others who will benefit from your time. Show appreciation for what you learn and for the opportunity to share. I especially enjoy spending time with young children and mature adults. The wealth of information and the creativity amuse and inspire me.

5 – Reach out and get to know a neighbor at home or work. Don’t worry, if you’re the new-bee you can still take the initiative. Every friend we have was once a stranger. Be observant in watching for common interests. Maybe you both have kids the same age, have dogs to walk, or at work, someone who goes to lunch at the same time as you.

6 – Finally, and this is not an exhaustive list, practice learning to be a great listener. By doing so, you will learn the true art of emotional intelligence and the high quality of “likeability”. When you work to listen to others at deeper levels, you communicate to them that you place high value on them and the time they spend with you. You will also learn how to take the focus off of your own issues and personal challenges and be an encourager to others. This goes a long way in developing strong friendships. And, when you build relational capital by listening, you may very well find that you have a great friend and listening ear in place when you are in need of sharing your heart.

Practice these steps on a regular basis for 30 days and judge for yourself if you don’t have a life that can be defined as being more content. And the good news is that if you are around people who are discontent, you may be the one to influence them to a more positive stance.

The one you encourage today, may be YOU!

Sheri 

How to Win Over Disappointments

Reflect on all the expectations you have for yourself, your life, your spouse, your kids, your coworkers, your job, the world. Embrace them and, then, toss them. Let them go.  Think about the little song we sang as children, “Row, row, row, your boat gently down the stream, merrily, merrily, merrily life is but a dream”.  In order to have life to be as we might hope or dream, we need to relinquish things we cannot control – other people, their choices and their circumstances.

We are then, better able to navigate life more peacefully and merrily.  When we allow our life to include only minimal expectations, we are able to accept reality as it is, without trying to force people into the boxes we think they would best fit in. We allow ourselves to see things as they are. Amazingly, life seems to work out best for those who make the best out of the way things work out.

We are able to have more of a positive influence if we avoid having expectations of how others will or should respond to our choices.  It is sort of like dancing as though no one is watching. When we live and do and be based on what we think others will think or say or approve of, we gradually move ourselves into a place of expecting our significance to come from other people. They can’t provide that for us.

Significance comes from recognizing that we can live a life of meaning and purpose by reaching beyond ourselves to be a part of something bigger without expecting praise or appreciation. Simply doing and accomplishing something that is worthwhile is the highest level of growing our feelings of self-worth. If we become dependent on others’ approval, we may miss the enjoyment of the task we accomplished, because we subject ourselves to view ourselves through the eyes of someone else and what they think. And, what if that person is having a bad day? I’m just saying …

Release the expectations of reward and praise. Find fulfillment in the doing the things that you value. Do good because you love doing good, and expect nothing beyond that. Pay attention to the thoughts you entertain. Your thoughts will rule your life and you will enjoy or limit yourself accordingly.

Don’t beat yourself up if you have expectations.  Pay attention if you start to wish things weren’t the way they are or that someone else would do something the way you would recommend.  Accept things as they are, if there’s anything you can impact in a positive way, go for it! And then, move on. In time, everything eventually works out.

Learn to travel light (free of expectations that are dependent on the actions of another) in a world that is already wonderful without us painting it they way we think it should be.

The life you impact most, may be your own 🙂

Sheri 

Who’s Cheering for YOU?

Several years ago, I walked in the Atlanta Peachtree Road Race held annually on July 4. For me, it’s more about hanging out with friends and family who walk along together.

I’m not a runner. Not even a sprint walker — but I am a finisher. Mama taught me that the difference between winners and losers is that winners don’t quit. They may have to find 1001 ways to keep trying but the simply DO NOT quit!  I finished the race and it’s a cool feeling. I had some side effects from the heat and needed some extra R and R, but it’s all good.

What was incredible to me was how much benefit I received from people who showed up to sit on the sidelines and simply cheer us on.  The longer I walked toward my 6.1 mile goal, the more I felt the momentum to not only finish but enjoy it.  These people had come to sit outside in 90+ degree temps to cheer their friends / family and some complete strangers on toward their goal. Totally cool folks!

We had a group of 15 and some had race numbers and some did not. Some ran, some sprint walked, and some like me, strolled for the fun of hanging together. We were practically the last group going in. They were rolling up the wire fencing behind us at the starting line.

All along the way, as our group, The Tortoise Team 🙂 was strolling along, and most people from the sidelines had left to join their family and friends at the finish line or headed home, I was amazed that many had stayed behind to cheer for us. We were bringing up the rear and I didn’t know them, people on chairs and in wheelchairs, policeman, fireman, moms and dads with little ones in strollers, EMS teams, people singing, folks handing out water.

As I trudged along, I thought how much I appreciated these people for staying there to clap for me and whistle and say, “You can do this! Good job!” “Don’t give up, don’t give in, keep the faith!” The more I heard it, the more magical it seemed. These people just seemed to enjoy encouraging people to continue toward their goal, the finish line and the opportunity to rest and high five their peeps. I thought what great parents and coaches these people must be, if they cheer their kids on in such a positive way.

I thought how good it must make them feel to show up and support people they don’t know and watch them change from putting one foot in front of the other to dance with enthusiasm at the sound of someone cheering them to their own personal victory.

More importantly, I thought, this is the kind of person I want to be in the lives of others. I want to be the one who is known to cheer my hubby, kids, grandkids, family and friends, to their own personal victories. I want them to know that I believe in them.

How about you? Who are you standing or sitting on the sidelines to support and cheer on toward their goal? If no one has noticed, let me be the first to say, thanks for standing for your team! They couldn’t do it without you! We appreciate you. We need you. We don’t give up because of you!

Hang in there! Happy Trails … wherever they lead!

Sheri 

What Happens to Us is Rarely Personal

It can take a lifetime to factor this simple truth into reality in our lives.  Behavior arises from people’s personal experiences and perception – their experience and view of the world. When we experience a person or situation, our mind immediately makes a judgment, to keep us safe. It is part of a self-defense mechanism and how the ‘fear, fight or flight’ process works. The brain makes a rapid assessment and comes up with a conclusion: this is safe, or not.

If something is similar enough to something that hurt us in the past, an emotional response can be triggered and we can unconsciously react to the current situation as though the incidents were one and the same.

Even if you are in a situation with a difficult person, it isn’t actually about you. It never was. If not you, it would be somebody else with similar qualities that triggers a reaction and creates the sandpaper quality in this person. The important thing is to recognize that the flaw is a part of them, not you.

It is important that you learn:
• how to manage and resolve conflict,
• how to relate in a neutral manner
• how to respond rather than react,
• how to not take it personally.

Developing compassion for those who are armed with rough edges in our lives is a slow process that also involves close examination of our own perceptions. With patience and persistence, it is possible to learn to remain calm and to recognize that the problem isn’t necessarily something we have done. We can set a priority to learn to manage our own well-being and remember not to take the actions of another personally.

Sheri

How can I build trust in a relationship?

In a Word (or two)… Be Consistent

My mom gave me one piece of advice concerning parenting when my older daughter, was born. “Be consistent. Say what you mean and deliver what you promise.”

Consistency builds confidence in relationships. Trust comes when we establish a history of saying what we mean and meaning what we say.  It is not an easy task, but one we often look for in others.

Observe a young child at play and watch how they routinely do things.  If they drop their cup and it’s picked up, they learn the game really quick. It’s fun to have someone’s undivided attention. Consistently in life equates to a secure feeling. It’s  just plain comfortable. Consistency makes us feel safe.

People learn to trust when they experience people who do what they say.

Sheri 

A Tribute to My Father

This weekend we celebrate a wonderful day to honor our dads. I love Father’s Day and that may sound strange from someone who grew up without a dad.

My dad, who was career military was overseas quite a bit of my young life. He came home in May of 1970 for what was to be a long season stateside.

Five short months later, just 2 weeks after my 9th birthday, Daddy lost his life in an auto-train accident. It wasn’t so strange at first because I was accustomed to him being away most of the time.

But as I grew up and witnessed other kids interacting with their dads, I began to sense the true weight of the loss of my dad. It would take some 30 years before I would come to realize that I hadn’t grown up without a Father.

I had merely overlooked the fact that although I grew up knowing and loving God, I had not fully realized that He was the Father who had observed every tear that I had cried, any time disappointments left me with a broken heart and dashed dreams. He had been there all the time to remind me that I was loved and supported. He had given me hope and courage when my strength would fail.

So although I don’t have lots of memories of an earthly father, I loved my daddy deeply and know that I will see him again…. the Father who loves me more than life … the one who dries my tears, watches me dance when no one else is watching, and understands when life doesn’t work out to be fair, is my Father God.

So Happy Father’s Day, to my Eternal Father, God, and King! And thank You, Lord, for a lifetime of love and hope that I will be able to share with You for all eternity! I could not ask for more….

If you are missing a special “Dad” this weekend, remember, God is with you!

Sheri 

Where Is This Drive Taking You?

Often, we get caught up in the drive to do more, make more, have more. We are resistant to relax and enjoy what we have, feeling somehow, like a Vegas high roller, that if we just focus all our time, effort and poker chips in forward motion we will one day hit the jackpot of having it all.

What is “all”? And does having it make life better? Consider that from the one who has much, much will be required.. When you get the promotion at work, they don’t just give you more money because you smile so bright. They add responsibility to your plate as well.

If you have a job that puts your name in lights or on the door, what happens when you are searching to find the dimmer switch to set your life back on “normal”? Sort of hard to turn it down, right?

What about travel? Those beautiful brochures do not highlight airport delays and lost luggage, but if you fly much at all, you will probably experience the frustration and stress of the not-so-pleasant side of travel.

My point in all of this, is that we often perceive many opportunities to be flawless and perfect and we enter into them thinking we’ve finally arrived at the place we want to be. We buy the big house and the cabinets in the kitchen are high enough that we need a step ladder to actually reach them. The reality is that our dream house, the one we chose or designed, still has areas that frustrate us.

The biggest stress can be that we are just resistant to change the way we look at things. We keep on doing the same things and continue to receive the same results. It’s pretty disappointing. So, why are we so opposed to making a few changes in the way we think? We want to date the issue but not marry it. We want the euphoria of life being a beach party that we won’t have to wake up from and go back to our real lives.

The good news is, we have options! We can change our minds and our focus. A little reminder to help us get motivated is that our life, relationships, health, business, finances etc. will not change until we do. That’s pretty cool, if you already have the ideal life. However, if you are like most, you are mentally doing your weekly routine, but living for the weekend.

So how much will you put up with? What will it take? Consider where all of what you are driving at or striving to be or do will take you? And what will you have or be able to attain once you get there? One last point to ponder, is it worth what it will cost you?

When I’m striving for more than God has designed for me, I get nowhere. I only end up feeling frustrated, angry, and depressed. A little reminder, “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10) The Lord doesn’t want us to be driven; He wants us to be led–by His Spirit. (Romans 8:14) If we will let God be God in our lives, and yield to His divine plans for us, we will experience the abundant, victorious life that Jesus died for us to have.

Whenever I face disappointment or difficulty of any kind, one of the first things I want to remember is God’s promise that says, “The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me.” (Psalm 138:8) Regardless of obstacles that come my way, God is in control, and He will move heaven and earth to perfect His plans for me. When it is God’s timing, nothing will be able to stop His blessings and rewards from reaching us. We don’t have to threaten, scheme, or give in to greed.

We can rest in Him, knowing that He has a bright and beautiful future for us that far exceeds our wildest dreams!

Sheri 

Simplicity is the Key to Establishing Better Habits

Getting started on a new plan, venture, habit, exercise program, reading plan etc is not always the biggest obstacle. It’s the sticking-to-it that’s difficult.

The acronym K.I.S.S. can be a good fit here, reminding us to “keep it simple”.  Many times we are fearful to start something because we are afraid we won’t finish it. And we are right; if we don’t start it, we will NOT finish it. So the process to begin should be easy.

Do you have a treadmill or maybe a plan to walk every day? Have you been toying with it in your mind but so far no action has been taken? Consider giving up the approach of 30 minutes a day and make the earnest effort to do 5 minutes. You may be surprised how easily you can form the new habit if it isn’t overwhelming. Also, ask yourself, how likely am I to start big (walk for 30 minutes) and stay the course? What if I start small (treadmill for 5 minutes) and build from there, or simply incorporate the freedom that some days I will have 5 minutes to spend on it and other days I will have the flexibility to go for 30 minutes.

Often if we start with the 30 minute plan and the day comes when it doesn’t work out, we are tempted to quit altogether because we feel like a failure. Think about the fact that even 5 minutes on a walk each day is better than sitting home and beating yourself up for not doing 30 minutes. It is all in how you look at it.

It’s the same with saving money. You may not have $1000 to commit to a savings plan, but what about $100 or $10. The hardest part of any journey or new habit is the very first step.
 
And whether it is exercising or starting a savings plan, if you start simple, you will like it, love it, and then want more of it. It becomes a bit of an addiction ~ a healthy one, I will add!

Your tendency, as mine, may be that you want to do much more, because you’re excited. I still will encourage you to start as simply as possible. Staying with the program is much easier if you are changing or adding only a simple task to your regular routine.

So make it so incredibly simple that you cannot fail. After you have established that wonderful adrenaline rush from doing your new habit, you can build it to whatever level you desire.

Life is good ~ work, saving, exercising, living and loving doesn’t have to be difficult – set yourself up for success. Don’t allow failure to be an option!

My mom always tells me that “Winners are the ones who won’t quit”!  

Go on, get out there, you can do it! 

Sheri

Who is My “Favorite” Child?

Every mom has a favorite child. She didn’t plan it this way. It’s the human nature of a mom. I have my favorite too.
She’s the one with whom I feel a special closeness. The one I reach out to in a rare moment to share a love that no one else could understand.

My favorite child is the one who smiled with her lips closed because she was embarrassed about her teeth. The one who had such gratitude for the opportunity to have them straightened and followed her orthodontist’s guidelines to the letter.

My favorite child is the one who worked very hard to complete her school work so she could bounce into the world and into the career focus she had her heart set on. The one who is rarely swayed to waste time or money and is willing to delay gratification for the things she values in life.

My favorite child is the one who had to hear the news that she has to say goodbye to a much loved pet. She’s the one who will hold a little tighter to the special people and pets in her life for fear of loss.

My favorite child is the one who saves her money to give a gift to a friend or family because she understands that receiving a gift helps others to feel special.

My favorite child is the one who has chicken pox when it’s hot and sticky and to keep her from itching, her mom bathes her in oatmeal and puts honey on her “spots” to kill the itch. Even though she doesn’t like it, she makes the best of it. She doesn’t laugh two weeks later when both of her sisters are going through the same torture.

My favorite child is the one who plans a tea party for her friends and includes her sisters and their friends too. She later discovers a special knack for entertaining and decorating and becomes the family consultant on such matters.

My favorite child is the one who plays by the rules to try to be fair to everyone, and if there is ever one item short of something, she steps up to be the one who doesn’t receive it so that another will not be left out.

My favorite child is the one who has an amazing offer to do something really cool and when her mom doesn’t “feel right” about it, she chooses to honor her mom. She later finds it turned out to be a bum deal.

My favorite child is the one who works tirelessly at her job or on her project to help another, even after she clocks out or at the expense of her own time to relax.

My favorite child is the one who calls her mom to tell her she’s concerned about her sister because she’s not eating, she’s seeing a loser, she’s not sleeping, or a host of other out-of-character traits that she is observing. She reminds mom that the sister might listen to mom when she won’t hear it from anyone else.

My favorite child is the one who has to part with special items to pay her bills or to insure that she can buy something special for a sister’s birthday.

My favorite child is the one who goes shopping with her sisters and foots the bill, because she can and she loves to see how excited they are.

My favorite child is the one who plans the events that keep the family connected.

My favorite child is the one who is alone, away from home and family for the holidays, and calls to say hi knowing it will break her heart when she hangs up the phone.

My favorite child is the one who when using a questionable word, apologizes to her mom to preserve the purity of their relationship.

My favorite child is the one who sees her mom’s tears and cries with her and for her.

My favorite child is the one who calls from across the country or the world and says, “Mom, I can’t do this anymore!” And knows, that mom is on it. She learns quickly that she may need to come home or just have the encouragement of venting her feelings and know that her heart is heard.

My favorite child is the one who has to tell her mom some hard things about when she was growing up and has to muster up incredible courage only to learn that the bond between her and her mom only grows stronger as each one opens her heart.

My favorite child is the one who chooses to give back to her community, her country, and her world. She sees the value in growing up without everything because it helped her to develop empathy and compassion for others with whom she can relate to on a deeper level.

My favorite child is the one who cries alone in a faraway city when her heart is breaking with disappointment, having put great effort into making a job, a relationship, or another important event a success and things didn’t work out as planned.

I cheered as you learned to crawl, toddle, walk, run, swim, dance, ride a bike, drive a car. I watched you grow tall, walk alone, run from evil, dance for joy, endure the difficult times and press on when you felt like giving up. I have waited while you crossed the road, and prayed while you crossed the oceans. You were God’s best instruments for teaching me unconditional love, hope, trust, delight, how to pray, how to forgive, how to laugh, how to let go so you could soar, and how to view life as a series of miracles every day.

And, you will always be my baby! 😉

Mom (Sheri)