Her Hair

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Collage created in the Enlight app using images from Pixabay

She has my forehead and talks like my sister. Her hair is the blue of my mom’s eyes. She’s creative, brilliant, fun to talk to and knows how to manage her energy.

I have a recording app on my phone, which I’ve used when interviewing people for this blog. Did I think to use it, during my very first conversation with my daughter? Nope. I was busy pacing a circle in the carpet and periodically squealing. She does that, too. I would love to replay our conversation a hundred times, but instead I raced to write as many notes as I could after we hung up.

She’s real. She exists, she doesn’t hold it against me that I gave her away. Did I mention that she’s really fun to talk to? She is. Her dad thinks so, too.

I don’t even know what to say. God never ceases to impress me with His timing and behind-the-scenes prep. This past month has not been my standard blog material, but I appreciate you being here for this process.

You Talk Like Me!

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Those are the first words my daughter has ever said to me.

28 years.

This is gonna be short because I can’t sit still. I either keep dancing or start to cry.

Wow.

Thank you, adoptive parents, for taking care of my little girl. She sounds like a fabulous woman now. Oh my goodness. Seems so impossible.

So, you know what I say about God’s timing? It’s always perfect.

She put herself on the registry of adoptees a few weeks before my friend prayed, which was a few days before her father found me, which was only a month or so ago. Thank, You, God. Thank you, Jennifer for listening to Him. Thank you, daughter of mine for forgiving me and understanding.

OMIGOODNESS! OMIGOODNESS! I can’t wait to meet her!!!!

You guys might want to buy ear plugs. There’s gonna be lots of squealing, I’m sure🙂

 

Who’s Tough?

I have a double standard. I believe I can survive anything and that I should have a ribbon for making it this far in the obstacle course of my life. Not having a ribbon doesn’t phase me, because I am that tough. Ruff!

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Totally not me. Thanks, Pixabay!

 

But…

At times, I’ve gotten perturbed at God, even less than polite.

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I know, SHOCKING! Pixabay again

 

Not for myself. For those I care about.

Getting everything we want prevents us from becoming who we want to be. I know that. I know God protects us from some trials and carries us through others. I love being stronger, wiser, more determined and more understanding when I step out of a dark tunnel into the light. But that’s me. Watching other people suffer just kills me.

The other night, I visited a friend. He’ll be singing at a coffeehouse in a couple of weeks and asked me to sing harmony. He’s picked out some beautiful worship songs. After one particular song, he told me a story. Several years ago, he had a wife and family. Then came the day when instead of a house full of joy and love, he had child support and court dates and a small apartment for one. That January, his one-bedroom apartment had no heat or lights.

One night, he was bundled up in this place he was forced to call home. In his coat and gloves and boots he began to sing this worship song, the same one we were practicing. He let himself go, his voice breaking the darkness, his spirit a candle, flickering and then growing brighter. Every square inch of space was filled with an awareness of God’s love—permanent and unconditional.

I need to be reminded that spiritual truth works for everybody, not just me. I don’t have to bully God into pampering people. He’s better than that.

The Happiness Project and other scientific studies have uncovered the spiritual law of gratitude. Just as the natural law of gravity is true whether you’re in a basement or jumping out of a plane, the spiritual law of gratitude applies regardless of your position. These studies have shown that happiness is not the result of our circumstances—it’s a way to transcend and even change them. Gratitude is the key. People who make a habit of expressing gratitude are happy people.

You absolutely must watch this video. It’s the best one you’ll see all week. In a happiness test, subjects wrote a letter describing someone who made a positive impact on their lives. Afterwards, their happiness scores increased 2-4%. Other subjects wrote a letter describing that someone, but then picked up the phone and called those special people to thank them. These subjects saw a happiness increase of up to 19%. The person who experienced the highest increase had been the least happiest person at the beginning of the test.

This is what my friend had known, that icy January night: we don’t wait until the situation turns around. We give thanks and voilá! Our hearts lift.

We don’t have to make stuff up or be fake. In this life, we get a lot of really special blessings. None of them are permanent, not even the body we inhabit. Our spirits and our relationship with God last. So let’s compare our relationship with God to marriage, the other relationship we all hope will be long-term. If a spouse focuses only on a disappointment or on something they want the other spouse to do, intimacy dissolves. When at last that partner reaches out, the bruised heart is tender and distrustful. Happy couples whose marriages last a lifetime don’t have some unusual history of perfection. Instead, they decide repeatedly that their relationship is important enough to preserve, above anything that might try to divide them. They hold hands, express their love and find ways to laugh together.

In our relationship with God, worship gives us that intimacy. It takes us past our list of wants and into a place of handholding and companionship. In times when we feel as though our hearts have been ripped out completely, worship causes the raw connections to bud and bloom.  When our thoughts circle nervously around our struggles, worship puts God back into the center of our focus and we feel steady again. And when everything is great? Well, worship should be automatic! Find 10 minutes today, maybe during your commute, to worship. Tell God how awesome He is, sing along with a worship song or just make up your own. Notice the scenery, take stock of how far you’ve come, and just enjoy the embrace of the eternal.

Here are a few worship songs that make my day:

Upbeat: Mandisa Shackles and Dave Barnes Carry Me Through and Phil Wickham This is Amazing Grace

Return to Intimacy: Hillsong Draw Me Close and Kim Hill You are Still Holy

Reflection on Jesus: Hillsong Lead me to the Cross and Charlie Hall Center

 

Johnny Cash’s Cadillac

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Yesterday, before I left Connecticut, I had to turn in the shiny red Mustang convertible I’d been driving. I think this past week may have been the first time I’d truly felt what people mean when they say a car “hugs” the road. I wanted to hug the car, but the shuttle driver loaded my bags and was ready to go before I could even pat the rump of my valiant steed. I get my love of cars from my dad and my grandpa, who worked every evening in Grandpa’s detached garage as I was growing up. Dad liked anything with an engine, if he could make it go fast, and when I felt those tires gripping the Connecticut curves, I thought, “Hey Dad, look at me go!” Grandpa had a special appreciation for Mustangs. When I passed the garage with the people painted on it, I turned around to get a picture, happy as I thought of Grandpa. He sat outside, double garage doors wide open, every day for nearly 60 years. There was always a bicycle, car or lawnmower for sale—almost as much for attracting conversation as cash.

Back on Father’s Day, I asked you to complete a survey about being a dad. I appreciate those of you who took the time. I know guys aren’t always big on surveys and quizzes, but you gave something of yourself and that means something to me. The survey included a list of 10 possible priorities for a father, and a few consistently came out at the top of your lists. You believe it’s your job to protect your family, be a spiritual leader and demonstrate a healthy romantic relationship with the other parent in the house. Helping your kids make good decisions and build skills came next.

Protecting family was most important for those with little ones in the house. When asked how you make your children feel loved and respected, you answered, “Being there,” and “Listening.” One father of teenagers said, “I teach them what being respected and loved is.” This is important. Gangs and pop artists are perfectly willing to teach your precious ones that respect must be demanded or earned with violence. Neither method earns anything worthwhile. Dating relationships and magazines will teach them that to be loved, they must lose their self-respect. As a father, you have an inexplicable power to instill lessons about love and respect simply by existing. It’s up to you to be intentional with that power and choose what lessons you’re teaching. It’s worth it to listen to fathers who’ve gone before you, because we don’t always know what adjustments we need to make until it’s too late.

On the survey, dads with grown children looked back and noted the importance of being there for important moments. Yesterday, I flew with an interesting gentleman, who has opportunities to travel all over the world for his job. I’d take those London and Mexico City trips in a heartbeat, but he has decided to sign up as a soccer coach for his little girls’ team. He knows these years fly by, and he’s not going to miss them. That’s impressive. While it’s important for Dad not to give us unrealistic expectations of how a man should treat us, we women make crummy relationship decisions when our fathers are absent or cold. It can be a challenge to be there, if your kids do things that simply don’t interest you. As a father, you’re working on your own career and interests, and by the time your children are teenagers, they’re finding their own wings and they’re interested in music and activities that may feel like a waste of time to you. When asked what throws you off your game as a dad, one of you said only one word: “Teenagers.” I laughed out loud. My dad didn’t know what hit him when suddenly his teenage daughter moved in, and he was not even remotely interested in spending work nights at school plays. It’s easy to drift away—or be shoved away—from your teens. But show up; be there for those important moments. Down the road, they won’t remember the friends who were there, even though they act embarrassed of you and want some cash to go off with the posse afterwards. They will always remember that you were there. They will know you care about what’s important to them.

When your kids are in their 20s and 30s, and you’re somewhere in your fifties or so, things slow down and regret catches up. I’ve known a few good men who weren’t perfect dads. They made mistakes, because they were growing up themselves. Around this period, their kids let them know about everything they did wrong. They started looking back and got mired in regret. God made this crazy choice to give us a frame and let us help build our own lives. Sometimes when we’re young and think we know it all, we grab the tools and close him out of the garage completely. Without a clue, we saw and weld and screw on parts. At some point, if we choose to let Him in, He fixes the things we’ve really botched, but other things He leaves alone. Eventually, we drive out of the garage in Johnny Cash’s ’49, ’50, ’51, ’52, ’53, ’54, ’55, ’56, ’57, ’58’ 59′ automobile. This is not the slick Cadillac we set out to build. We can’t start over. It’s disheartening.

Why does God let us raise others while we’re still learning? Shouldn’t there be a certification exam and a license? Both younger and older parents have things they wish they’d done differently or things their kids hold against them. Parents can do everything right and raise spoiled kids or do everything wrong and raise world-changers, and there are a million variations of these scenarios.

If you’re living in regret, you’re giving the keys to the only one who wants to keep you from going anywhere. The devil is known as the Accuser—don’t let him steal your ride. God doesn’t care what your car looks like. He knew it would be wonky when He gave you your first toolkit. Your children are actually God’s children, and their Father knows that like you, they have lessons to learn. He’s right there, ready to teach them. He’s not done with you, either. When asked, “If the next generation heard only one thing you said, what would you like to say?” The father with the most years of experience gave the best advice: “Make closeness to God a top priority all day, every day.”

The best parents encourage and empower their kids. They raise adults who know when to ask questions, what kinds of questions to ask and where to get answers. My seatmate on yesterday’s flight said that is exactly how his own father made the biggest impact in his life. His dad didn’t force rigid religious habits on him, but every day, he observed his dad reading the Bible and spending time in prayer. The humble honesty of this example taught him to go to God for answers and strength. If your Bible is a dust magnet, start by joining me Monday through Friday for 1MinuteWiser on Facebook or YouTube. I post at 6pm CST, but you can watch the 1-2 minute videos any time.

Maybe you’re not a dad. I bet you had one though, and present or absent, he made an impact. Parents are people, too. I pray today that you’ll make better choices than those who’ve gone before you, and that you will choose to forgive your parents for any way that you feel hurt by them. Let God help.

I know I’ve mentioned this blog before, but I really appreciate the perspective on The Fatherhood Connection. Check it out.

Valentine

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She wore my baby dress when Grandpa Burl dedicated her on our last day at the hospital.
There’s something I stopped telling people a couple of years ago, not because it’s a secret but because the words carry responsibility. I wasn’t ready to be responsible. One birthday passed, then another, then another.

When I was growing up, we regularly visited the most romantic couple in the universe. They loved each other, they embraced our family. They treated me like a person and not like a little kid. They played Scrabble with me and let me borrow grown-up books like The Hobbit. They would have made great parents, but they couldn’t have children. I was a high school surprise to my own parents, so I knew that pregnancy isn’t always planned. I was ten or twelve when I decided that if I ever became a teenage mom, I would let some wonderful would-be parents raise my baby. Of course, I told my previously teenage mom that I’d never be that stupid. Ah, the tactless innocence of childhood. Moms take so much crap.

I knew it the moment it happened. I was fifteen. I had planned to be a virgin when I got married, but at some point I chose the Cosmo girl for my role model and decided virginity was an embarrassment. After a wild year, I met a boy who actually  treated me like a lady, even if I didn’t act like one. He wanted forever with me and made me feel so grown up, it seemed possible. He put my name on the windshield of his truck. I made him French toast, because that’s what I knew how to cook. We saw each other nonstop for three months, and then my dad broke us up. Well, he tried to.

“Mike,” my grandpa said, “Do you think this is gonna work any better than it did when we broke you and her mama up?”

“I know it will. She’s my daughter.” Ah, so that’s where I got my tact.

A couple of months later, before he crawled out my window one night, my boyfriend said, “I hope I didn’t get you pregnant.” I gave a convincing smile but knew it was too late. I cried for two months, until I decided I didn’t want my baby to be sad. I was sent across the country to live with my other grandparents, which turned out to be a blessing I’ll share some other time. A week after I finished 11th grade, I gave birth to this gigantic, precious little girl. In the hospital, they called her Valentine, because she was a gift of love to a family who had only one child and couldn’t have any more. They were ready to raise her and give her a life I could not.

It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, giving up my little buddy after nine months of talking and singing to her. At seven months, I went to a Chuck Mangione concert, and my shirt fluttered with the force of her strong legs dancing. Apparently, we both like Latin rhythms. At eight months, she took over the show in our drama class—everyone stopped to watch her kick. The law gave me 90 days to change my mind and keep her, but I couldn’t do that to this couple who were so close to finally having a child. Many of those 90 mornings, I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror, deflated and alone, hoping I was doing the right thing.

I thought I’d have another baby some day, but I had bands instead. My oldest stepdaughter is four months older, and my stepson is eleven months younger than my Valentine. Every year since I met them, I’ve watched them grow and wondered about her.

She’s 28 now. Somehow, I lost seven years. I hoped she’d find me when she was eighteen, and then I was sure I’d find her when she was 21 and I was allowed to initiate a search. When she was 21, I hadn’t made anything of myself yet. I was ashamed of who I was. The year she turned 22, the first rocks fell in a landslide of loss for me. I spent three years watching people I love pass away.

When my heart healed a bit, I made a feeble attempt to search, but life got busy. I knew when I found her, I wanted to have time, to be there for her. I didn’t want to wave and run off. She’s 28 now. For the past year, I’ve had this image in my mind of her sitting on a curb, waiting for a ride after school. 5:00. 6:00. Night sets in. Where’s Mom?

Honestly, if she’s anything like me, she’s not sitting anywhere—she’s wrapped up in living every moment. But when you’re adopted and you have low times, sad times, you don’t realize everyone gets those. You think you’re different, the devil tells you you’re unwanted. It’s not true at all, Valentine.

I talked about it with my friend, Jennifer. She could not believe I’d kept this a secret. I didn’t think I had, but we met around the time I stopped telling people. Jennifer prayed for me. She didn’t say, “Lord, please light a fire under Kristi’s slow tushy,” but in her gentle prayer for God to do things in His time, I heard a heavenly Zippo go chhhk!

Three days later, the boy with the truck found me on Facebook. I called my mom, and she said, “Oh good! The ladies and I were praying for you to start the search!” I could almost hear God tapping his foot, so at midnight I emailed the adoption agency. They think they know where she is, so I’m hoping she responds when they reach out to her. I don’t have the right to expect anything, but I’m kind of excited.

Today, I am sharing this intimate story with friends and strangers. It’s a little awkward. I almost kept it to myself, but we learn about God and ourselves by watching others live. I’m determined to live visibly, in case I might help anyone else find hope, connection or forgiveness.

I’m also asking for a little inspiration. If you were adopted and got your first letter from your birth mother, what would you like it to say? What answers would you want? What questions would you want to answer?

Comment below if you’d like to give me tips for my first letter to Valentine.
Also, I don’t say it often enough, but there are children living with their own parents who don’t have food, shoes, education or hope. Please visit Compassion International and sponsor a child today.

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The letter I received from Valentine’s parents when they took her home

I AM ENOUGH BECAUSE I AM AWARE.

Pursuing Me: Seeking The Blessedness in Being...

I decided to write a new series. I was in a  Celebrate Recovery group and  talking about feeling “helpless”. It was a process for me to discuss in group, because as soon as I  spoke about why I tend to feel worried and  procrastinate on some things, I realized that  This vulnerable space I often feel between  not worrying and trusting God  causes me to  feel way too vulnerable.

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I Am Enough Because I Am Aware. 

Aware of what? You may ask. I am aware of my surroundings, the people I love and even the people I am not all that crazy about. I am aware of where I am going, and often where I am I am aware of the mistakes I have made, and the ones that  I almost made. I am  aware.
Awareness is about being tuned in. I am tuned in when I listen, I hear what my soul is saying: My mind will and emotions, and I am  listening to what is right for…

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Buzzwords & Beliefs Part 4

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Jennifer Owens, self-care coach

 

Four weeks ago, we began creating an intentional life. Intentionality is when we live in alignment with our core values. This alignment might help us reach goals, but only because it unsticks our gears so we can enjoy the ride. Life becomes more than goals and tasks. It becomes an expression of what we hold dear.

First, we explored our values to identify the ones that, when lived, make us feel true to ourselves. If you’re like me, you’ve refined your original value statements somewhat. Individually, we’ll continue to refine and even switch them out as we grow and our priorities shift.

Next, we challenged the beliefs that limit us or hold us back. We used our own power to determine why we behaved contrary to our values. We questioned the assumptions that were grabbing the wheel. We challenged the logic of our limiting beliefs and replaced them with ones that were more accurate and effective.

Today, values in one hand and power in the other, let’s live with intention. How does that work?

The goal is to incorporate our core values in such a way that our actions and reactions reflect them. Your primary values may differ from mine, but intentional living will require the same things of us:

Maintain space in your life. If every waking minute is filled with activity, media or people, we’re swept away in the tide. Life becomes a ride on the waves of an unpredictable ocean, and we lose our ability to steer or even stay afloat. Make time to spiritually prepare for each day—I grab coffee and my Bible app as soon as I awake. I ask God to show me what He wants me to see from that day’s chapter, and I prepare my heart to use what He’s telling me, during the day. Make time to reflect periodically, at least by bedtime. What made you feel really grateful to be YOU? Did you encounter a conflict between your actions/reactions and values? Question unproductive beliefs and replace them with effective ones before you close your eyes. Say them out loud, because you’re in charge.

Choose your activities, and manage your time. Choose where your energy goes. If you find your energy continuously drained by something that is not at the top of your value chart, then challenge the belief that says you must do this. Could you delegate? Could you reduce your time and require more reasonable expectations from yourself or others? Could you say no? If you set limits, what is the worst that could happen? Is it likely? If the worst happens, would you cease to exist? Who defines your worth?Alternately, if you find yourself continuously procrastinating or not doing things that are on your value list, ask some questions. Is this a should that was put there by someone else? Is this a real value that is being blocked by limiting beliefs? Is there a tactic you could employ, to help you over the hump? There are times of year and times of month when I am completely unmotivated. Knowing this, I schedule things into my life that will get me out of the house and around people who inspire me.

Live your values but accept that others may not. It’s human nature to seek the middle ground when dealing with others. If we morph to fit a situation or someone’s expectations, we often regret it later. The world needs people who live with integrity, people who are who they say they are and live the way they feel is important. At the same time, when we live in line with our values, we might be tempted to believe others must live them as well. This is likely to cause serious frustration and land us in a place where our inaccurate expectations cause a wreck. You and your values are still worthwhile, even if others don’t live the same way.

Be present. Notice the smells, sounds, feel and taste of where you are. Notice the faces, the eyes and mouths of the people around you. Notice when their body language says they’re insecure, excited or content. Listen to what people are saying right here in front of you and not just on your electronic device. Find something in each scene of your life that makes you grateful and appreciative, even if you’re just happy that blue is a color and blues is a musical style. Be present.Living with intention, we make space for awareness, choose how to spend our energy, own our values and experience the present.Just saying that makes me look forward to today!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this series. I highly recommend Jennifer Owens’ audio course, Truly Me. With a Masters in Social Work and years of experience, that girl knows how to walk you through change so smoothly you don’t even know it’s happening.

If you’d like to help someone else build values, overcome limiting beliefs and live a life that is pleasant to be present for, please sponsor a child today through Compassion International.

God bless you! Enjoy your week!

Buzzwords & Beliefs Part 3

 

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Artwork by my friend Chris’s talented daughter http://past3ldr0nez.deviantart.com/

 

Lizzie Skurnick has some words that fit today’s blog.

Worigins: Source of a mysterious anxiety

Paralassist: Freezing up when help is required.

Lizzie made me grin, explaining that Marta overcame paralassist when “She found that having a large umbrella gave her a big mouth.”

That Should Be a Word is increasing my mental plasticity by the day J I even invented my own new word.

In-tension: While intending to live in accordance with one’s higher values, a glitch is encountered. “Rosie believed the Proverb that a soft word turns away wrath, but she found herself shrieking at her student’s obnoxious mother during the parent-teacher meeting.”

How do you feel about the list you made last week? Did some values feel a mile off, and others make you wanna high-five yourself? You might find that some things on your list are shoulds but not actually your core values. You might end up tossing those out or connecting with them down the road. Don’t cross them off your list yet. First, let’s look at limiting beliefs. Sometimes, a good solid value is blocked by a Limiting Belief.

A limiting belief keeps us from doing what we mean to do, from being who we intend to be. It’s something that feels true but freezes us up or drives us to act in ways that aren’t good for us. Limiting beliefs have power, because they’re based on a survival program that’s built into our brains. We were created with the ability to interpret events and draw conclusions. If Bob is a caveman and a bear tries to eat him, Bob decides bears are dangerous and stays alive. However, if Megan leaves one abusive relationship for another, Megan might decide love is not for her. She might have lessons to learn about being and choosing the right mate, but her conclusion prevents her from trying.

It feels like weakness to admit we have limiting beliefs. It feels like an insult to our intelligence to question things we’re sure about. Would it help to know that the strongest beliefs holding you back were formed between the ages of 0 and 20? Were you always right in those days? Growing up is about climbing and falling, pushing boundaries and getting shoved back. It’s about trying new things when you have no prior experience with them and sometimes doing them poorly, repeatedly. It’s about dealing with other people, experimenting with ways to get attention and hoping the attention will be positive.

It’s life—from birth to 1 year, we’re adored by family and strangers. After that, we play ping pong between praise and punishment, and we internalize some limiting beliefs about ourselves and others.

Last week, we recorded action statements that depict us living in ways that make us feel great. I asked you to review those statements each day and make notes about when you lived out those values, and when you didn’t. We feel happiest when our values and actions align, and we feel conflicted, tense or disappointed when they don’t. Don’t get down on yourself; grab your list.

Locate one episode in your week when your actions or reactions contradicted one of the values on your list.

For example, Mark holds a value of working with excellence. A week into his new job, he was called upon to present an idea to the team. Unable to focus, he procrastinated and finally called in sick. He spent the day miserable, submitting resumes online.

What belief might his actions reflect? If Mark believed he lacked the knowledge to prepare an adequate presentation, he could have asked for help. Perhaps he believes something like, “I can’t speak in front of people,” or “I’ll never be accepted by my coworkers.”

I’ll share my own conflict experience.

“Value – I feel fearlessly: I am not afraid to feel emotion, and I have the power to examine my feelings without letting them rule my actions.”

The other day, I wrestled with myself all morning. I was having a tough time writing about something I really wanted to say, something which flowed from my value of reconciling human understanding with God’s perspective. I was up and down for hours. I munched randomly, did pushups to avoid munching, checked Facebook compulsively, and finally took a nap. Feelings of failure overpowered me, and I recognized a belief that nobody wants to hear what I have to say anyway. Accusingly, the critic in my head said, “How can you be a writer if it takes you all day to write 500 words nobody wants to read, ya poser?”

Well, okay, the voice in my head didn’t sound Canadian and call me a poser. That would have made me laugh, and laughing at irrational accusations is a step toward power.

When a limiting belief grabs the wheel, it is our right to question it. Is writing something I enjoy doing? Yes. Would I do it, even if I were writing for only myself and God? Absolutely—check out my huge stack of journals. Are other people allowed to have their own interests? Is it possible that they might be interested in only one thing I say, or in nothing I say? Yep and yep. Will that stop me from writing? Nah, I enjoy it too much. Is there a possibility that I might never support myself through writing? Yep. Is that something I can control? Only partially. I can control my actions, but not the interests of other people. If writing is not a career, will I stop writing? Unlikely.

I took a nap to reboot. Then I got back up and back to it. I’ll say it again:

We have the power and the right to question the belief behind the wheel.

It helps if we hone our questioning skills and have a healthy tactic for regaining control. Take a walk, a nap, call a sensible friend, then take charge.

What beliefs do you have, which override your values? Your conflicts and questions may be different than mine, but you can use the same method I use. Just say ABCD. Don’t skip the steps—your brain might jump from “bad” to “good,” but your heart moves more slowly. Walking through the questions will build your sense of power and your awareness of the error in that limiting belief.

Articulate—Describe the difficult situation or event. What happened? What did you want to do? What did you do? What were your feelings?

Belief – Ask questions until you get down to the beliefs which caused your response. People and situations outside of us do not cause our responses. They may trigger something that is already inside of us, based on a presumption we have already made. Corner that presumption.

Challenge those beliefs—Question the conclusions you’ve drawn and pose alternates. In today’s example, Mark might recognize that prejudging his coworkers and quitting his job will block his success more than fumbling a presentation.

Determine new driving beliefs—In Matthew 12:43-45, Jesus gives us a lesson in how our spirits and minds work. He describes us as a house, and explains that when an impure spirit is cast out but the house remains empty, the spirit will come back and bring friends. Today, I used the example of a car. If we challenge and remove a limiting belief, we must put a good one behind the wheel. Otherwise, that old belief will just keep climbing into the empty seat.

I’ll use my writing crisis as an example. The answers to all my challenge questions came down to this: I control my actions but not the response of others. Neither response nor lack thereof will keep me from writing, because I enjoy the process. Therefore, a more effective belief is that I am a writer who encounters challenges, takes breaks and continues to write. In addition, I am motivated to publish my writing by the belief that keeping it to myself prevents any possibility of my dream career.

I’ll see you next week for the final step in this process. Meanwhile, if you’re brave, post a belief you kicked out and its new, more effective replacement.

Buzzwords & Beliefs Part 2

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Last week, we looked at situations that stir us. Lizzie Skurnick has a word that might describe your feelings regarding question 4.

Doubtrage: uncertainty about whether one should be mad

Perhaps your anger was triggered by one of the following.

Dramaneering: maintaining control by seeming to be in crisis

Deprescient: imagining the worst will happen

I can’t help it, I’m a word nerd J

This month, we’re sorting through our values and beliefs (positive and negative), so we can truly live with intention. You already have some ideals that inspire you, but we’re going deeper. We’re taking our time to use a process that will help you feel more vibrantly YOU. Together, we’ll discover and gain power over the beliefs that hold us back from fully living in line with our values. Today, let’s make our good list, the list that describes us at our best. Remember, this is not goal-setting. Living with intention may make goals easier to attain, but it’s about more than that. Intentional living is when your values and behavior are lived in sync, when your head, heart and hands pulse together with the unity of thought and passion and action. It’s a lovely place to be in any circumstance.

Let’s roll some words across our tongues. For this, I’ve borrowed part of a list from a terrific short course entitled “Truly Me,” by social worker and self-care coach Jennifer Owens. Which of the following words inspire longing or a sense of identity in you?

wisdom, mastery, vigilance, strength, grace,

clarity, success, enthusiasm, authority, independence,

warmth, courage, joy, home, belonging, community,

meaning, renewal, faith, acceptance, recovery

Did you pick anything from this list, or did the list make you think of words you like even better? In last week’s situations and today’s words, what common elements make you hum? In the people who most inspire you, or the life you daydream about, what consistent qualities do you see?

Now it’s time to make your own list. Pick a few words that resonate with you. Mine are:

Faith, Love, Acceptance, Wisdom, Giving, Balance

Based on the words you chose, think of a few values you’d like your life to reflect. You may not use all your words, or some of them may be woven throughout your value statements. You might even do this exercise backwards, as I did. I’m a bird’s-eye thinker—I start with the big picture and then close in on the details. I wrote my values first, then it was easy to identify words that fit.

Describe yourself living your chosen values, in present tense. Write them down, make a video or use the voice memo on your phone. Whatever you do, don’t let them simply flit across your mind as you move on to other tasks. You’ll want to revisit this list. It’s going to become your favorite picture of you.

Phrasing things in active, present-tense may feel like boasting or even lying, but your list is for you. Nobody else needs to see it, and it helps if we envision ourselves living up to our values. YOU are YOU—so your list may be different than mine, but I’ll put my list here to get you started. Some of these are pretty challenging for me, but I’m on top of the world when my actions reflect them.

Faith – God is my center: Life has the most meaning and trust is the most possible when my eyes are on God’s face and not His hands, and when I see life and others through His eyes. He carries me through eternity.

Love & Acceptance – I love unconditionally: I love and accept others no matter what they do, pre-forgiving because humans are flawed and God is my source.

Wisdom – I feel fearlessly: I am not afraid to feel emotion, and I have the power to examine my feelings without letting them rule my actions.

Wisdom & Acceptance – I analyze without judging: Pinpointing actions that could be done differently for better results, I also look for the reasons people do what they do and accept people as they are.

Faith & Wisdom – I reconcile human understanding with God’s behavior: Unable to deny the presence and involvement of a creative, loving God, and faced with the limits of the human lifespan and perspective, I attempt to expand my insight to make room for a very large God.

Love & Giving – I act in ways that improve the lives of others: Not content to live in the high realms of theo-philosophical contemplation, I help those in extreme circumstances, as well as those who are simply in need of a friend.

Wisdom & Balance – I maintain balance: My biggest challenge but still a core value, I work to accomplish personal goals, reach out to others, enjoy marriage and give myself the space to be healthy emotionally and physically. Helping others may be my primary motivator, but I recognize that I am unable to help anyone if I am out of balance.

Whew. I have to say, it’s uncomfortable to put them all out there in public, but I wanted to demonstrate the process. These are the things that, when I catch myself doing them, make me feel like my truest, best ME.

Now, make your list while it’s fresh in your mind. Carry your list with you this week. Look at it each morning and each evening. Without judging or abusing yourself, make note of the times your values really shone through and the times you went rogue and did not live up to one or more of them.

Next week, we’ll take it a step further.

Would you please post a comment below, sharing one of the values on your list?

If you’d like to do something that will make you feel like a superstar, sponsor a child through Compassion International. Pass your values on to a child who might otherwise live in hopelessness and failure.