“Discover a Better Life” By a Farmer’s Daughter

As I was replenishing the rabbits’ food supply the smell of hay brought me back to the days with my sisters being in that barn every day.

Growing up on a farm I learned dedication at an early age. The animals had to be fed and watered every day regardless of how of cold it was outside. In the winter my sisters and I would pile on the overalls, winter hats, gloves, boots, and make our way to the barn. If the animals’ water had turned to ice we had to break it up and provide new water. It required carrying two ten gallon buckets across the long graveled barnyard which was quite heavy for a little girl. Filled with horses, rabbits, a couple of dogs and often a new litter of kittens, rabbit poop and hay, that barn seemed impossible to keep clean. When you opened the barn doors there was always work to be done.

In order to free ourselves from the daily feedings and massive poop clean up, one Spring day my sisters and I had taken all our rabbits in the middle of the alfalfa field to run free (in our minds).  While I have fond memories growing up on a farm and am thankful for the values it taught me like hard work and dependability, I did NOT miss the chores.  After shedding many tears due to pets “going missing”, I also learned not to grow too close to the animals on the farm.

I had thought that Spring day was the last time I would ever be cleaning up after rabbits. Now years later, my daughter’s desire convinced me to agree to be part of the Bunny Brigade at the Human Society. Typically it was my daughter that handled the rabbits. I typically just went through the cleanup motions as an obligation to my daughter. Yet this morning was different.

When I started the task of removing the first bunny from its cage I could still hear my daughter’s response to my unhealthy comment the night before.

“Why do you feel I owe you for helping out animals?” She had wisely replied.

Her come-back had left me in silence and in thought. Even though it was not her fault she had another obligation, I had been irritated that it was her idea. I was once again stuck.  It wasn’t right to reschedule as they had counted on us showing up.

Over the course of the morning, smelling that hay brought back memories. After petting and holding that rabbit I started to realize my core issues.  My daughter was innocent. The truth is I had built up a blockade to not feel anything for those rabbits. I had left myself cry too hard too many times when I lost them and quit seeing them as something to love and enjoy.  By resisting vulnerability I killed my own joy.  The experience became an unwanted task because I resorted to just going through the motions.

Can you relate? Are you currently stuck and find something you used to enjoy has now turned into something you dread? Have you let yourself become bitter for feeling out of control of something in your life? Or have you even become detached to someone or something to prevent yourself from being vulnerable?

When you experience yourself feeling irritable, examine the root of it? Dig deep and ask yourself, “why do you feel that way?” Randy Creamer the lead teaching counselor at Southbrook Church then says to ask, “How are you going to find your joy if nothing changes?”

What is holding you back from experiencing joy? What is it you have control over? What can you change to become unstuck?  What are you going to do about it?

Until we dig deep about what it is that is really leaving us annoyed about our life, we will keep living each day as a daily ritual and soon our life will have passed us by. We can choose to live with a dark cloud over us or we can choose to live in the light. It is our choice.

For me, after working through the answers to those questions I began to see again. I was able to see those rabbits as God’s creations who needed care. The bitterness was replaced with delight. I also could see the positive…at least those rabbits were not in my old barn, it was not the dead of winter, and no ice needed to be broken. It was only me who needed to warm up inside.

What can you do right now to enjoy this very moment? Examine the beauty around you right now!  It is there, you just need to look for it.  Begin truly seeing again like you are experiencing whatever it is in front of you for the first time. Let your appreciation be known. Focus on the blue sky rather than the work required. It is amazing what doors will begin to open!  Doors to a more enjoyable life!

Positive Messages

Workshops and Resources

 

Barn Photograph was taken near Terre Haute, IN in 2019

Show Your Enthusiasm for Other Humans

Dog owners know the sheer joy of being greeted by their incredibly excited dog when they come home. Their shaking bodies and wagging tales leave no question they love to see their human friend.  That’s why there are so many dog lovers!

The friends who welcome you with open arms, excited voices and smiling faces are the friends we are always excited to see.  They can turn around a bad mood in an instant.

However, have you ever went up to someone you had not seen in years and were so excited to see them based on an amazing memory with them that your energy was bubbling over until they greeted you back? Once you said “Hi!” and you quickly realized they were less than enthusiastic to see YOU or didn’t even remember your name, how did that make you react? If you’ve ever experienced this you know how deflating it can be. Doesn’t it make you want to dial back your excitement next time?

However, why DO we dial back next time? Maybe it was just that person’s problem, not ours! Why do we let the fact that they don’t remember us deflate us or put up a shield? It can be so hard to concentrate on the simple fact of how we may have made that person feel super special even though we just let them make us feel like crap.

Many years ago at a work event while alongside one of my inspiring mentors, I excitedly went up to someone who I was looking forward to introducing to him. Upon saying hello, my mentor witnessed my response to how her enthusiasm was not shared. I must have shown the disappointment in my body language because my mentor later advised me to not let that stop me from greeting every other person I was excited to see with that same enthusiasm!

Yet, as much as I still tell myself to listen to my mentors’ words of wisdom, when rejection happens it is hard to not revert back to dialing back. The fear of being disappointed if the reaction is not reciprocated makes me modify the true feeling I have for the person. I sure hope I have not been that person who may have deflated someone else. For inside I was thinking:

  • “I am surprised you remember me!”
  • “I wish I could remember your name! It is just my brain isn’t working!”
  • “Oh, I called that wrong…you ARE a hugger, I am too!”
  • “Are they being real?”

Why is it we sometimes guard ourselves so much from being hurt that we forget to live? Who knows, they may have wished they could have remembered our name and feel bad for their not so great memory! When we can authentically share our love for another human being and we find they feel the same we find the most joy!  How are we to discover that if we hold back?

Be authentically excited to see other humans who you adore! Risk yourself to let others know they are special and held dear! Don’t hold back. Be excited to say “hi” to people even if they may not remember you. Remind them of your great memories with them! The more you show you admire others the more you will be remembered whether they reciprocate the enthusiasm or not! Becoming more vulnerable leads to connecting more and becoming fulfilled!

How to Get Someone to Listen

How many times have you caught yourself reacting to someone’s problem with giving advice and found the person quickly shut down on you? It has likely happened to all of us. Often times the more we force our fix on people the more they push away. Also the more we feel the regret in our own lives, the more we want to push someone else not to make the same mistake.

Recently while talking with a young 30 something about to have her first baby girl, I asked her how long she was going to take off work.

She replied, “I am not. I have set up a crib here at work and since it is a family business my Mom is going to come in and help watch her here.”

I wanted to reach over the table and grab her and say, “What are you thinking!! Listen to me! You need that bonding time with that little baby. You need to just hold her and do nothing else. You won’t be able to get that time back!!” It saddened me to think of her missing out on that time.

While I did refrain from reaching over the table to grab her, I did not stop my outburst. With a caring yet forceful voice I said, “from hard-working career mom to hard-working career women I urge you to take that time. You will not get it back!”

As you can imagine, it was not well received. She replied with her reasons for not being able to afford to take time off given she did not have those benefits.

“Your world is about to be rocked!” I remarked. Obviously, I let my internal regrets go too far.

Instantly her body language shut down and signaled to me my comments were unwanted. I quickly realized I had forgotten how I had perceived similar advice of people trying to get me to take twelve weeks instead of six when I had my daughters. I had reflected on how I had worked from home, packed for the newly built house we were moving into, then returned to work upon her being six weeks old. I had returned to work the Monday after the move an emotional wreck.  The stress of all of that had lead to eye twitches, exhaustion, and depression. While I did have some time to bond it had not been enough between all the packing and distractions.  All I had wanted to do was hold my baby girl. She is now 18 and about to leave for college this year. My own internal ugliness and regret was pushed onto her.

While all of that was so real to me I forgot to view how advice from a stranger likely sounded like I thought she was naive. As much as I already knew how important it is to not shove my own mistakes and experience onto someone else, I didn’t approach her as I had been trained.

Sharing wisdom can be a difficult balance. If we don’t share it we feel we aren’t helping. If we do share it before the person is ready we get a reaction from their pride saying to us that they aren’t as naive as we must think they are. We can then take offense when people do not listen to us. So what are we to do with the knowledge we have gained from our own experiences? What can we do to prevent others from hurting by making similar mistakes?

In this instance, after realizing I had reacted versus responded I apologized and asked her to please forgive me. I shared how I remember being in her shoes and hearing all kinds of advice and how it had annoyed me at the time. I went on to say I had just spoken out of my own regrets of not listening to people trying to get me to take twelve weeks instead of six. I didn’t mean to force my opinion the way I did. I explained my story of working from home and moved and how I had wished I had taken that time. When my approach was through a story of my own experience rather than an aggressive instruction, she replied, “It sounds like we do have things in common because I am trying to move into a new house too.”

Her nonverbal cues showed she understood I was speaking out of sincerity and my experience was better received. I then had to let go and know she would choose her own path.

Oftentimes we assume by us telling someone what to do that person will change their outcome. We may think there is something wrong with us that they don’t want to listen to our advice. However, in reality, they are just sitting from a different viewpoint. They may even need time to process what we have shared.

All we can really do is listen ourselves, ask thought-provoking questions, rephrase what we hear them feeling about their situation and how we understand.  We need to discover if they have already searched for answers to their own problems. Once we show we care enough to understand them, only then can we ask if they are open to suggestions. After sharing our experience we then have to let go of what they choose to do with that wisdom. We can not let ourselves get affected by the outcome given that is out of our control.

On the reverse end, when someone gives us advice, we need to remember that it is being served based on that person’s own regrets and experience. It is also typically being shared out of their sincerity and concern so remember to keep our pride in check.

Consider thanking them for their insight and say, “I hear what you are saying and will give some thought to your advice.” We may even want to consider asking them what it is about their experience that makes them feel so passionate as we could learn something from another’s life story.  Ask internally, “is their advice something I should consider?”

In either situation when we actively listen we end up being more connected to other people which gives deeper meaning to life. We also end as healthier versions of ourselves!

Photograph on way to Lake Tahoe from Reno, Nevada

How to Improve Your Relationships

In “Winning with People,” John Maxwell says the best way to be interesting is to be interested.

When is the last time you had someone really listen to you? Who is it that makes you feel heard and interesting? Who gives you their full attention and makes you feel understood?

The person who takes an interest in you makes you feel incredible, don’t they?  You feel heard and seen, finally understood and important! Yet people who have a genuine interest in hearing your life story, digging into the layers of who you are, and work to understand you beyond the surface are hard to find. When you do find them, don’t they make you want to be around them all the time based on how they make you feel?

In counseling, active listening is the key element in what makes people feel better. Just being able to talk with someone who will really listen, not judge and help them feel understood can be a huge step toward healing them. It is very rewarding to see the effects an interested person has on them.

When you first met your spouse, remember how it felt when they wanted to get to know you and you looked directly into each other’s eyes when talking rather than dealing with all the distractions such as a TV, kids interrupting and work demands taking your full attention away from them?  Remember how interested you were in their stories for the first time and how you made the other feel?

As a parent, when you give your kids their full attention and don’t start immediate lecturing and stop to listen fully to them, it is amazing the difference you see in your child.

At work, when a manager listens to an employee’s problems and finds out if they need support or direction many times the employee has solutions to their own problems or may just have needed a sounding board.

When salespeople get a client talking about their business they can go on and on about their passions. Salespeople who show a genuine interest in their client’s business and their life story make the prospect want to see that salesperson again.

On the contrary, lack of listening is one of the key reason’s for marital disputes, children not feeling important to their parents, leadership mistakes and why some salespeople fail. Don’t you hate it when someone does not look into your eyes when you are trying to talk with them? Also, the natural tendency is for people to wait for their turn to talk. We have all been guilty of bad listening and yet hate when someone else doesn’t listen to us.

Active listening is when you are truly engaged in someone else’s story and you seek to understand them. Rather than replying with your own story, instead respond with “it sounds like you (then share what you hear them feeling) are really passionate about x.” You may hear that person say, yes!  That’s right!  I do feel…  If you got their feeling wrong, then you can then have them clarify rather than make the wrong assumption.  The next time someone tells you something, look at what they are telling you like a flower where there is more to discover underneath the petals. When you show you are hearing how that person is feeling watch how it ignites them as they realize you get them. That, in turn, solidifies a connection. Who doesn’t love feeling connected to other people?

You may be asking, but how do I teach other people to listen to me?  Wisdom from many books and therapists say the best way to influence others is when we lead by example. I know it can be frustrating.  Yet isn’t it worth it to improve our relationships?

While active listening can be very hard, it can be learned. It requires being intentional and also takes practice. When we make the concentrated effort to practice this way of listening genuinely and not for manipulation purposes, we will find more fulfilling conversations. We will also see a response in people that will help us enjoy other people’s stories and develop deeper more connected relationships.

Would you like to learn and practice your active listening skills? Join me in becoming a better active listener and please share if you would be interested in participating in a workshop.  Please note in the comments the best times and hours that would work for you.

 

Shine Bright

Have you ever met someone who has such a spirit about them that it is like they are shining from deep within? It is as if they have never done something wrong and love everyone around them. They have such inner peace and love that they seem to feel weightless and you can’t stop admiring them.

It is like a child at Christmas time where the light and joy is expressed in their eyes and beams to all of those people around them. You see it in their smile and feel it in your heart.  They make you feel like the most important person in the world when you see them.  When you are feeling heavy they make you want to lift your burdens and grab on to their joy to feel inner peace.

Has your light gone out?  Have the burdens of the demanding life you have created taken over making it hard for you to feel happy? Sometimes I can feel alone in the darkness and think it is just me.  However, I know by the massive amount of people drawn to Oprah Winfrey, Rachel Hollis, Brene Brown, Christianity, and grateful children at Christmas that many of us are also drawn to people who “shine brightly.”  All the addictions people are facing also show much resort to unhealthy ways to find their happy.

It seems we have common core culprits for our darkness. For me it is usually one of the following:

-when I have no goal

-have given up on my dreams

-have let my mistakes make me feel like I was not worthy of joy

-let the financial burdens weigh me down

-feel physical pain and let myself feel sorry for me

-felt I had to focus so much on the never-ending pursuit to find the happiness that I became blind to all the beauty around me

-stopped exercising

-forgot to be grateful

Pause for a moment to recognize what it is that makes you feel heavy. If you are having trouble recognizing it, start a journal. Write what is on your mind daily.

If you have watched the movie  “Seven” you may think of the 7 deadly sins: greed, lust, gluttony, sloth/laziness, wrath, envy, pride. It graphically pronounces the seven deadly sins. It also portrays them in the most severe states that aren’t relatable to most people and also makes you feel worse if you have been guilty of any of them.

Rather than expand on them, let’s focus on what we can do about finding grace, hope, and joy.

First, think of a time in your life when you felt that love for life, hope, optimism.  Luckily for me, the most joyful time in my life was captured in a Christmas picture of my sister and me by the Christmas tree when I was about four years old and my little sister was around age two.  If you have a time in your life when you can grab a hold of a vision where you felt like you were shining from the inside out and beaming on to others, hold onto to that image and let’s focus on getting that back!

Second, recognize that you weren’t born as a dark cloud with a load weighing you down. Every one of us was meant to be a gift to the world. Every one of us has a purpose.  Every one of us has a choice to let our sins bring us to darkness or to overcome the battles and still choose to bring light. Every one of us has a choice to stop the negative chain.  Stop letting those deadly sins ruin your life.  The mistakes you have made don’t need to define you. Change can happen if you are willing to change. Start making positive statements to yourself and then do things based on who you want to become. Randy Creamer at Southbrook says, “Bring to the world what you are drawn to in others.”   It makes perfect sense!

The tough part is working on yourself. Which leads me to the third step. Think about what it is that is destroying that peaceful feeling for you.  Is it hurt? Anger? Anxiety? Fear? What have you done so far to heal?

At Southbrook Counseling I have learned about core interventions used spiritually and through professional psychology through Randy Creamer’s lessons that dig deep into working on you.  There are ways to work on each of the following areas of struggle.

  1. Unforgiveness: feelings of hurt and pain, resentment and bitternessHow to Turn Anger into Inner Peace
  2. Low Self Esteem: poor body image, self-rejection, no purpose or value click here: https://everythingforthesoulcom.files.wordpress.com/2019/02/c1d2d-trueprofiletemplate.pdf
  3. Communication Problems
  4. Critical: defensive, withdraws, difficult relationships
  5. Emotions and behavior out of control: confusion about why and how they behave
  6. High levels of stress: blames things on stress
  7. Can’t say no: overwhelmed, tired, anxious
  8. Conflicts (download app: Conflict Guide for Couples)
  9. High levels of anxiety, panic attacks
  10. Relationships are controlling and hurtful Find Freedom from Controlling Behaviors

If you are in the Dayton-Cincinnati area, email counseling@southbrook.org to schedule an appointment with someone who can help you through the interventions above at no charge.

If you don’t live in the area, find some spiritual guidance or call a professional counselor in your area.

 

Photograph Taken in Omena, Michigan

 

You do that too?

How many times in your life have you had an aha moment when listening to someone confess something they think or do?  Aren’t you are elated that you are not alone.  You blurt out “You do that too? So do I!”  Don’t you instantly like that person because you can relate to them?  Why is it so hard to let ourselves be vulnerable?  Our relationships with our friends and family, in the end, is what really matters? Aren’t they who have stayed by you due to those vulnerabilities you have shared?   What about those you love?  Didn’t you fall in love with them because they chose to trust you with their most real thoughts? Also, aren’t the people we most admire those people who are the most comfortable in their own skin?

It is self-doubt that gets in our way.  Spiraling negative self-talk creates unnecessary anxiety.  As we age, why is that so many of us let triggers take us back to the most insecure time of our life? We go back to that painful time in our life that could have been more than 30 years ago.  Just when you think you are past all of your insecure days, there are times in your life that circle back around to it.  That makes us feel we are going to fall flat on our face and erase how far we have come.  Wow!  That is hard to admit.

Admitting it is the first step to recovery though, isn’t it?  The key to stopping those bad habits is awareness.  When we can get to the point in our life where we can recognize the problem is when we can heal. More importantly, when we dig deep and discover the root cause of it, is when we start our own intervention when we see it pop up.  The faster we: draw our attention to the trigger, identify the beliefs and values behind it, recognize the emotions it causes, the outward and inner thoughts, the sooner we can start reversing that negative self-talk into positive self-coaching.

How you ask? It isn’t easy.  It can’t be done in a day.  It is never-ending.  Don’t give up hope. You can transform and it does get easier.  You will go forward and then backward. Stay consistent. Persevere.  It always comes down to discipline, doesn’t it?

I confess I haven’t gotten it down 100%.  Just as I am thinking I am getting better, moving away from my weaknesses in my past, I have a day like yesterday that takes me on a two-day spiral.  It sure helps to have a coach to keep you in practice. Who wouldn’t love a personal trainer?  Especially a free one that can relate to your struggles, empathize and encourage you to keep at it.  As you get a few techniques understood, you can then start teaching someone you love.  The more you teach someone else, the faster it helps you bounce back.

Are you ready?  I have learned that you can’t provide help to someone who doesn’t want it.  Have you heard the phrase, when the student is ready the teacher will appear?  Are you ready to do the work on you?

First, all credit for this practice goes to the teachings of Randy Creamer and his workshops through Southbrook Counseling. He has his own website Timetoheal.solutions where he will be sharing his workbooks and teachings.  He teaches how to recognize what someone is struggling with and provides resources to work through the majority of people’s problems which boils down to Unforgiveness, Low Self-Esteem, Communication problems, Emotions, and Behavior out of control, High levels of stress, Can’t say no-overwhelmed, unresolved conflict, High levels of anxiety, and controlling relationships.

I encourage you to visit Randy’s website.  Read other stories there and share your own.  Check out the once a month workshops he will be organizing on Monday nights at Southbrook Church. http://www.southbrookchurch.org to find out more details on times and topics.  Also, you can email counseling@southbrook.org at Southbrook Counseling and make an appointment with one of the Pastoral Counselors if you find you need someone to listen to understand, care, and help move you forward.

You can also choose to follow my blog as I share more on what I have learned.  Whatever you do, don’t use Facebook as your way to share your life’s problems.  Way too often you see not all Facebook “Friends” are friendly supporters.

 

Photograph taken on the Lake of Killarney in Ireland