The Gift of Being Present

In God’s creation, we (humans) are the most unique. For the most part, most every other living thing, animals or plants, (squirrels do like to store up nuts), live entirely in the moment. They don’t consider tomorrow’s weather; or worry about who they’re going to meet with this week; they are certainly not concerned whether they will be respected by others; or whether they’ll be successful in their lives. They simply live.

This unique ability may actually be one of our biggest challenges, often creating a fundamental source of unhappiness when allowed to roam. Could it be that the ability to ponder the future creates both worry and discontentment for many? How often does God admonish us in His Word to be still and wait on Him? If we focus too much on our regrets from the past or our fears for the future, we miss out on living in the moment… a huge piece of calm and contentment.

What if we were to reflect for a minute, on what it might be like to live as other beings of God’s creation…. the birds and the bees, the flowers and the trees?

  • They live in the moment – observing their surroundings and God’s gift of nature. They don’t think about much of anything or anyone until it intersects their daily path.
  • They don’t worry – at all; although they may have to react to a predator occasionally. Yet, they do not waste today worrying about the future.
  • They don’t spend time thinking about what others think of them. They live content in who they are because that’s exactly how God designed them to live.
  • They know how to rest. Just observe your fur baby who lives peacefully with no guilt, no troubles and no fear, worry or doubt. We, on the other hand, tend to view “busyness” as the mark of worth or value.
  • They are free and unencumbered to focus their time and energy doing what it is that God designed them to do – being a beautiful flower for the benefit of nature or a family pet providing love and affection to their humans.

We may all benefit from cultivating the art of rest and contentment, thereby, experiencing the freedom of not frantically pursuing the next shiny object that often leaves us empty and unfulfilled. Being mindful of this, may help us to enjoy life by design, which translates to mean being present in the moment and enjoy the times of our lives!

The memories we create by being fully present are the moments we’ll remember all our lives!

Being in Control ~ Real or Illusion

Letting go of the need for control is one of the (many) things I have to consistently work on to achieve positive results.

My default setting is that I want to feel in control of how things will turn out — control of a trip that I’m on, of a project I’m handling, how a conversation will go or even getting my dogs to “go” in a timely manner..

Often, it becomes more frustrating than the way I had imagined it could be ~ IF I were truly in control.

For starters, I don’t think we can ever really control how things will turn out. We might think we do, but how often do things actually turn out exactly the way we’ve planned?

I know my life has been a series of unexpected outcomes, despite my best intentions to get to certain goals. Even the goals that I reach turn out to be much different once I achieve them than I had originally planned.

Through my personal life journey, I’ve found that when I want to control the outcome of things, I become more anxious and tense. I’m less happy with how other people do things, less happy with myself, and less relaxed in the moments that I ordinarily would be able to enjoy. My relationships and responsibilities suffer because I am preoccupied with how I “think” things ought to be or how they turn out.

So how do I deal with this reoccurring struggle? What I am discovering is that I am unable to stop myself from wanting to control things. I can’t even stop the urge to control outcomes from coming up in me. So I have to just notice the desire to control things, and let the urge happen. I have learned that I don’t have to act on urges (emotions) that rise up in me, especially if they are truly not the best for me or others.

I’ve found this to be easier said, than done. My goal is to remind myself to see the urge, not as a command that I am required to follow, but simply a suggestion from the child within me. I can then be aware to look for the good things that can come from the situation, even if it’s uncontrolled. I don’t need to control things to enjoy them, I can just let them happen.

That said, I still take action. There are things I can control that have a positive effect on me and hopefully, on those important to me. I can look up information regarding a trip I’ll be taking simply because I’m curious and can then be aware of what opportunities may be available to me on a new adventure. I can be free to let conversations flow naturally. And my furry friends can take their leisure in enjoying being outside without me pressuring them to “hurry up”. These are all simply stress-management exercises from which I can greatly benefit.

I can experience the freedom of letting go when I realize I have a choice: I can choose to try to control the outcome, or I can trust in the moment.

I choose to trust as often as possible…..

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 

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 

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 

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 

What is the Value of Living Simply?

I don’t know exactly when I fully realized that what I really enjoy is a small, slow, simple life!

It’s here where I recognize that truly special days can be a rainy afternoon and a good book, or a lingering lunch with a friend or loved one where we reminisce about the goodness of God or share the ups and downs of life.

Enjoying simple things allows me to manage my stress and reserve my energy for the unplanned and unexpected times and be prepared to respond in a manner that will not bring regret.

If I allow it, life can be a noisy place with loud voices pushing or driving for me to hustle, to improve, build, strive, yearn, acquire, compete, and grasp for more. All the striving can leave me drained of joy and wondering if I am simply not enough.

When I stop spinning, I can listen for God’s still, small voice whispering for me to know that He is in control.

What if I never really achieve accolades beyond the people who are my primary circle of impact? What if life as I have chosen it is good, even amazing, in light of the fact that my heart is fully engaged?

Since leaving the frantic pace of life and learning to not keep up, I have found that I truly enjoy solitude and calm, an abundance of rest, and swaths of unscheduled time in order to be healthy.

I have found great delight in sharing my deeply rooted faith, doubts and insecurities, in quiet ways and through genuine relationship with some very special women in my life who have invested in me.

We haven’t had a fairy tale romance and I follow hard after God to be the wife that will always be for Jeff’s best. This keeps me humble and I need it!

I am a mom who delights in her girls and in knowing they are free to choose their appointments with life. I consider it a special privilege to affirm and support them in their passions!

I seek the Lord often to learn to embrace my limitations and stop railing against them. I am at peace with who I am and what I need and believe it to be an amazing gift of God to walk in this knowledge.

I enjoy a simplified life. A beautiful, quiet, gentle life. And for me, it is enough!

Sheri

How Can I Live a Life of Passion?

How Would You Describe the Speed in which YOU Do Life?  Life balance isn’t about having it all or how many plates you can juggle, but more about relinquishing what doesn’t work for you so that you can be rightly aligned and fully intentional with what does.

Resisting the Hindrance of Resistance…Growth requires becoming an expert at navigating inevitable life change by learning to accept what you cannot change and eliminating excuses for not changing the things you can. Reflecting on where you and how you are impacted by things outside of your control is an excellent exercise for some super new habits!

You Are What’s Eating You… How much sleep are you losing, or how many ways are you indulging yourself over unresolved issues, relationships or projects? The more baggage we carry, the sooner we show signs of aging. So travel light to find the fountain of youth.

Live Free… Give of your resources generously. The level of your ability to freely give is directly proportionate to how ‘free’ you truly are. We can’t do everything, but we can do something. Avoid the temptation to clutter your life or schedule with unnecessary weight. To the one who has much, much will be required.

Live Out Your Passion… Find ways to do what you love and share it with others. Express love as often as you are able. Do all that you do as if God were your employer.

Be intentional… All work and no play dulls our senses to the beauty all around us in the people love and the things we enjoy. Learn to adjust your speed of life to take time to smell the roses, experience the beauty of a sunset or the warm hug of a dear friend. The day may come, that you will be very glad that you made the effort!

Sheri

In Simplifying My Life, How Can I Learn 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. 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.

2 – Evaluate the important areas of your life: spirituality, mate, family, work, friends, finances, health, personal development, rest / recreation, etc., and determine what defines your values in each of these categories. Such as, “for R & R, I need to be out in the fresh air and sunshine and I need unstructured blocks of time…”. This will enable you to establish a thought pattern around the way you make decisions in the important issues of life. The process for making better choices is made simpler because your values are defined and explain why you do things the way you do them.

3 – Make a focused effort to remain inspired and to be inspiring. Spend 10+ minutes each day reading something that inspires you. Journal what 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 endeavor or are facing a personal trial.

4 – 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.

5 – Get a mentor – be a mentor. Spend time with people you admire and learn about their lives and interests. They can offer guidance in 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.

6 – 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 or at work it may be someone who goes to lunch at the same time as you.

7 – 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 personal challenges and you may very well find that you have a great friend and listening ear in place when you are in need of encouragement.

By putting these steps into routine practice for 30 days, you will be able to determine if your life can be defined as being more content. And, in turn, you can inspire others to do the same!

Sheri

What Would A Vacation-Mindset Look Like as a Lifestyle?

Consider the mindset that you enjoy on vacation. You are free to set your own schedule, not worrying about what you have to do today, not worrying about the time — just being — minus the anxiety. Now imagine the mindset of being busy at work: doing one task while being anxious about many others, worrying that you may not be doing the right task, interrupted by others, distracted and stressed.

These are two different mindsets, and yet, what if we could enjoy the vacation mind while working? Well, we would need to forego the lazing around, but the mindset could be the same. This has the potential to result in a more sane lifestyle, not just living for the weekend or the little vacation time we have, but the ability to navigate life so that we are truly happier every day.

How can this be done? We would need to practice and develop a few small habits that will make more sense as we go along.

What would the vacation mind look like at work?

Often just thinking about work tasks can alter our mindset from relaxation to anxiety: worry for what we need to do, deadlines, dealing with difficult people, information overload, being on the right task, even concerns as to whether we may be missing out on something important. (A life, perhaps :)!)

A vacation mindset lets that anxiety go and is simply present in the current moment. Time is less important, enjoying yourself is the priority. You let go of the anxiety. You aren’t worried about getting it all done, or doing the right thing right now, or all the things you have to do later. You are immersed in enjoying whatever you’ve chosen to do at the present moment.

So how would this look? You choose to work on a particular task, perhaps writing something. You, obviously, have quite a list of things to do but this is the thing you decide to work on at the moment. Could there be other things you should be doing instead? Of course, there always are and will continue to be. As for the best thing to do right now, the moment of perfect certainty never comes, so just pick something and do it.

Practice being able to enjoy the task at hand. Let other tasks take their rightful place, the time to do them will come. Immerse yourself in the current task. Focus on enjoying yourself as you do it. At times, you may mentally step back, come up for air and take a look at the bigger picture, and then return back to the project. This is what I like to call “laser-focus”.

And you can do this when you talk with a co-worker or client. You can do this with an important email, or processing paperwork/small tasks, designing something, programming, creating art, helping a patient or student. This is a learned strategy / discipline and it is doable.

We can’t just flip a switch and be good at these things today … they take practice, like any other skill. I can say that they’re worth practicing, even if you never master them, because they can transform your relationship with work.

Here are the practices that you can consider working on a little every day:

  1. Pick something, get immersed in the act of being creative. Focus on the enjoyment of creating something that is uniquely your idea. Being able to work from this relaxing mindset affords you the time to think with a higher level of energy. This will play out in everything you endeavor to do.
  2. Let go of anxieties. This takes practice. Learn to recognize when you begin to feel anxious and notice the source of the anxiety. This is typically focusing on an outcome you want to happen, such as, looking good in front of others, being highly productive, controlling a situation, etc. Realize the desired outcome is merely a fantasy, and other outcomes can work out just as well. Realize that holding on to this fantasy of how it should turn out causes stress. Let go and restore your creative energy mindset.
  3. Come up for air and see the big picture. Diving in is great, but it is also helpful to step back at times, and assess what is going on around you. Notice people who are nearby and if anyone needs your attention, how you’re sitting (and whether you’re sitting too long), etc. Is there an appointment you should get to? See the big picture, then go back into immersion.
  4. Be less worried about time. Time is important but we can be mindful of it while not being “lorded over” by it. It matters that we show up on time for appointments we have, paying attention to completion deadlines, billing clients etc. There are times when we can waste time worrying about the time we need to do or not be doing something. Practice a balance of being aware of when time matters and when there can be some leeway.

You may be considering if this is truly doable. The answer depends on you. You’ll be surprised what you can do — if you have the “want to”. 

Choose to Enjoy Each Day…….. Sheri