‘Tis the season to be JOLLY, or is it?

There are a lot of festivities that come along with this time of year. We have office work parties, kid’s school parties, Christmas eve parties, Christmas day parties, New Year’s eve parties, and sometimes New Year’s day parties.

Not to mention all those invitations we may receive in between from friends who want to get together as well.

You would think that with all these celebrations, one would be happy and jumping up and down with joy all the time.

Unfortunately, this time of year brings about seasonal affective disorder (SAD) for some of us. SAD, which causes anxiety and/or depression, is usually triggered in the fall and winter months due to shorter days that get darker sooner.

The more north you live; the higher probability you have to acquire SAD.

I live in Illinois and it gets pretty gloomy this time of year with many consecutive days that are grey. We also get a lot of snow at times which leaves us home bound.

There are times where I feel like a caged animal because I am stuck at home during a dreary and bitter cold day. However, after almost 16 years of living here, I have had to learn ways to make the most of my situation so I’m not left miserable all winter long.

The following “therapies” are ones I implement on a daily basis to keep me from getting paralyzed from winter depression:

  1. God therapy: First thing in the morning, before anyone else gets up, I spend some time alone reading my Bible and journaling my prayers. This helps me take the focus off of my feelings and unto God so He can direct my path for the day instead of allowing my emotions to govern my steps.

    I also think and write down what I am currently grateful for so I can concentrate on what is good in my life instead of what I feel is bad.

     
  2. Light therapy: While I am having my quiet time, I use a light box in order to soak its light. Clinical studies have proven that light therapy can by very effective for those of us with SAD.

    I use mine for about 30 minutes but if you are considering getting one, please check with your doctor first to make sure what would be best for you.

     
  3. Hug therapy: My youngest daughter coined this term the first day she saw me using my light box. She asked me what the light was for and why I was using it. Now that she is 10, I was able to explain to her some of what I go through during this time of year. She then quickly gave me a big hug and said it was “hug therapy”.

    So now I make sure I hug my girls first thing in the morning especially on days where my depression wants to shut everyone out.

     
  4. Physical therapy: I’m sure you’ve heard that exercise and eating healthy is important to your wellbeing. Well, it is even more important when you are feeling bummed.

    It does take extra effort for me to get moving when all I want to do is crawl underneath my blankets and sleep but I make sure to remember how much better I feel after doing some sort of continuous physical movement.

    If I’m feeling particularly down, I give myself permission to just do 5 minutes and usually once the 5 minutes are done I’m feeling up for more.
     

If you are someone who suffers from SAD, please take some time to discover what “therapies” work for you so you too can make the most of the winter time and prevent or at least minimize the winter blues. 

Jesus is The Reason!

I did not grow up believing in Santa Claus. We never had Santa figurines around the house or anything that resembled him. It was never something we really talked about either.

In fact we usually opened presents at midnight on Christmas Eve, so the presents were already under the tree and none “magically” appeared on Christmas morning. The only reason I knew for celebrating Christmas was the birth of the Savior Jesus Christ.

However, over the years it became easier to take the primary reason for the season of Christmas for granted. With all that comes with trying to buy presents for all on your list, Jesus gets buried underneath the “to-do” list.

There is stress that builds from having to figure out the best gifts to give and making sure there is enough funds to cover them all. Some of us even spend what we don’t have in order to not leave anyone out from receiving a gift that we believe they should get.

But God knew from the beginning of time what gift we needed and how much it would cost Him.

Therefore, this year I wanted to make sure that I made a conscious effort of reminding myself and my children that the real reason for celebrating Christmas is the amazing gift that God the Father gave to us over 2000 years ago.

God gave us His Son as a gift to express His love for us. This gift was giving to us with the purpose of saving us from a fate worse than death. This was a gift we did not deserve, yet through God’s grace we have an opportunity to live with Him for eternity through this gift of His Son.

God chose to be separated from His Son for a time by giving Him to us so that we can receive salvation. What an amazing sacrifice!

So how can we make sure we do not forget Jesus during this holiday season?

  1. Pray: thank God for the gift of His Son on a daily basis.  
     
  2. Sing: make joyful sounds with your voice in celebration of the coming Savior’s birth.
     
  3. Read: take some time out to read the Christmas story as found in Matthew 1:18-25; Matthew 2:1-12; Luke 1:26-38; Luke 2:1-20.
     
  4. Give: invest yourself in other’s lives this Christmas not just by giving a material possession but by giving love to those that may not deserve it.
     
  5. Remember: “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:16-17 (NLT)

So, let us not forget that Jesus is the reason for the season and He should have His rightful place in our hearts as we celebrate the day of His birth this Christmas!

Possibility Thinking

I have not always had a positive outlook on life. In fact, a lot of my life was comprised of a cynical outlook which caused me to have a closed mind. This closedmindedness limited me to see possibilities for my situations and created a lot of unnecessary obstacles.

As soon as I started to realize that I was not a victim of circumstance and prayed that God would show me opportunities, my eyes started to see possibilities I hadn’t realized were there before.

Sir Roger Bannister was a physician in the 1950’s. He was also a distance runner. During the time he was running, no one in the world had approached the possibility of actually breaking a 4 minute mile. The overarching thought was that it was an impossibility.

One day, Sir Roger Bannister ended up running a mile in 4 minutes 3 seconds and 6/10 of a second. After that happened he started to believe that he actually had a chance at breaking the 4 minute mile because all he had to do was shave off 3 seconds to his time, and that seemed possible to him.

So on May 6, 1954, he broke the 4 minute mile and broke the record by running a mile in 3 minutes 59 seconds and 4/10 of a second. After he accomplished what he thought was impossible, he realized that the barrier was all in people’s minds all along.

By coming to that realization and achieving that great feat, he unleased possibility thinking to the world and his record only stood for 46 days. He was promoting an “anything is possible” mindset.

So how can you foster possibility thinking for yourself?

The following are steps that I use to take me from a closed state of mind to one with great possibilities:

  1. Identify any hidden mindsets, beliefs, or habitual ways of thinking that keep you stuck. For example “I am never going to lose weight” or “I am too old to get a job”.
     
  2. Challenge the thoughts that keep you stuck by rephrasing them. For example, instead of thinking “I am never going to lose weight” think “I can hire a trainer that will teach me the proper way to lose weight” or instead of thinking “I am too old to get a job” think “I have great experience that can truly add value to my new employer”.
     
  3. Ask yourself “what if” questions. For example: “what if I lose the weight I want, then what?” or “what if I’m exactly the right candidate they are looking for?”
     
  4. Allow yourself to imagine what the future would look like for the possibilities. For example: ask yourself the miracle question which asks “if you were to go to sleep tonight and a miracle happened and your situation changed to the ideal scenario what would that look like?”
     
  5. Notice what is happening to you emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually as you paint that mental picture of the possibilities for yourself. 

Every time you start to feel stuck, like there is no way out and you only see road blocks instead of possibilities, pray that God will show you what possibilities He has for you and then go through the 5 steps.

Ultimately, we can get far better results in anything we do when we see and believe there are possibilities. 

The more you practice this, the better you will get at seeing things that were hidden from your periphery and your outlook on seemingly dead end situations will become bright and hope filled.

Please share how you promote possibility thinking in your life by commenting below. However, if you find yourself in a situation that you don’t see a way out of, please contact me and I would love to come alongside you to help you draw out possibilities that can move you forward in the right direction. 

6 steps to help you gain discernment

Tom Patterson defines discernment as “the insight given from a God-given inner sense of what is the truth and what is to come from that truth." In other words, discernment is receiving a revelation from God and then knowing what to do about that revelation.

True discernment should result in a desire to change because once you know the truth of where God wants you to go, it becomes very difficult to look back and stay stuck.

I am not saying that discernment comes easily. And there has to be a relationship with Christ in order to know what He wants from us.

I believe there is a process that we can follow in order to gain discernment.

The following are 6 steps that I learned when I did my very own “Find Your Beautiful” life plan that I think are important for this process:

1)     Invite God into your life: God will never force Himself upon us because He is a perfect gentleman. Welcoming Him into our hearts will open the door so He can go to work in our lives. 

2)    Bravely seek the Truth: Only when we can look at our lives in honesty can we truly develop a life plan based on godly discernment. 

3)    Search His word: God wrote a manual for living called The Bible and all we need to thrive is found in it. Searching His word will open our eyes to His truth and guidance.  

4)    Be still and listen: Not only is it important to schedule time for Bible study and prayer, but being still is critical for listening to what God is saying and revealing to you. 

5)    Surrender: This may be the toughest step of all. It is difficult to yield to anyone but ourselves. However, surrendering is a crucial part of discernment because if we don’t let go of things that are not good for us, we can’t make room for what is.  

6)    Practice Patience: This process is not something that automatically fosters a discerning spirit in us. In fact, this process may be a slow one because God doesn’t operate within our timetable. Therefore, patience will allow us to wait for what is best instead of settling for the good.  

You’re probably asking yourself what to do once you have an inclination of what God wants from you. Well…that’s when you start putting one foot in front of another in the direction God is leading you in, remembering that imperfect progress is still progress.

The next time you have to make a decision or need direction in your life, I encourage you to follow these steps to discernment so you can gain the clarity and peace to make the right choice and lift the fog of confusion.

Practicing patience is the most difficult step for me in this process and I’m still learning how to be patient well.

Please share which step or steps do you find most difficult to follow when trying to gain discernment.

 

Goal Setting God's Way - Part 7

Today is the final post on goal setting God's Way. Thank you for staying with me during this series!

Step 9: Take Action

Now that you have set the foundation, are clear of what God is calling you to do, and have written your goals down, the next step is to take action.

This doesn’t mean you just start doing stuff. You must have direction and a plan on how to take proper action.

Take some time to brainstorm all you are going to need in order to accomplish your goal.

When I set the goal of running a marathon in 2014, I made a list of what I needed to make it happen. I identified that I needed the right running shoes, running clothes, GPS watch or a mileage tracker of some sort. I also researched the right nutrition and hydration program for a long distance runner. Then I found a training plan that was realistic for me to do within my time constraints. Finally, I enlisted in a running group for support on those long grueling training runs to keep me accountable. Essentially, I counted the cost of what my goal would entail.

Luke 14:28 says “suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?”.

Therefore, counting the cost and making a plan for each of your goals is wise. All that is left to do is to JUST DO IT.

You’ve done the preparations so get to work just like Proverbs 24:27 says “Put your outdoor in order and get your fields ready; after that, build your house”.

In other words, get your ducks in a row, but don’t just stay there, get to work.

Step 10: Next Right Step

An additional step I like to add to staying on course is to ask yourself “what is the next right step to take that will move me closer to reaching my goal”.

Give yourself daily action steps to do in order to stay on course. This will allow you to be proactive and live intentionally instead of reacting to whatever comes your way that may be a distraction from what you need to be doing.

I say all this loosely, because sometimes God asks us to do something just to see if we will be obedient and surrender our wills to him.

We must always hold our goals with open hands knowing that God is ultimately in control and the author of our story. By our obedience to one thing He can lead us in a totally different direction altogether.

Proverbs 19:21 says “many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails." Ultimately, we are called to be diligent and good stewards all the while surrendering our plans to the Almighty.

The Challenge

My challenge to you is to make set time to spend in prayer with God and invite Him to search your heart.

Ask Him to give you wisdom, clarity, direction and discernment to know His will for your life.

Take time to visualize what God is calling you to do and write it down.

If it’s a goal He is wanting you to accomplish, write it out clearly using the AACTION method. Then brainstorm how you need to count the cost of your plan, prioritize, then get to work in the name of Jesus. 

It's been a pleasure walking you through this goal setting series. I would love to hear your thoughts and questions about anything that I've covered along the way.

Please stop by my Facebook Community and let me know how I can help you!

Goal Setting God's Way - Part 6

Step 8: Put it on Paper

Now that you are clear about where God is leading you and you know what He wants you to accomplish. You must write it down.

It doesn’t work if you just dream and think about a goal, because thoughts are fleeting and can be easily dismissed. According to a study done by Dr. Gail Matthews of Dominican University, people who wrote down their goals were 42% more likely to achieve them.

Have you ever been to a gym at the beginning of the year when the new year’s resolutioners have started their new fitness routine? …. and then you come back mid-February and the gym is empty?

Habakkuk 2:2 says “Then the Lord replied: ‘Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that whoever reads it may run with it”. I hope you can see the importance of writing your goals down which will give you a greater chance of following through.

A good way of writing out goals is using the AACTION method, which I learned from online mentor Michael Hyatt.

  • A stands for actionable so begin the sentence with a verb.
  • A stands for aligned. Is the goal aligned with the season of life you are in, your values, and the other goals you are setting?
  • C stands for challenging. Make sure to set goals that challenge you enough to demand your best effort.
  • T is for time-bound. In other words, assign completion dates for each goal.
  • I is for inspiring. Pick goals that make you want to get up in the morning.
  • N is for narrow. Be specific, not broad or general.  For example, a badly written goal is something like “make more money”. A better way of stating that using the AACTION method is by saying “make $25,000 more by December 31, 2016”.

If you would like help with getting more clear on your goals, I would love to help you with that. Click HERE to contact me.

Goal Setting God's Way - Part 5

Wow! I am so glad that you are staying with me for this series!

Today we are talking about MOTIVATION & VISION.

Step 7: Motivation

Getting motivation and staying motivated can be hard, but if you are clear about why you want to achieve this goal to begin with and your values are aligned with your goals then you can most likely sustain the motivation or at least get back the motivation you need to see your goals through to the end.

Before you set a goal you must be clear and specific about your "why" so that when you get tired or discouraged along the way, which will happen, you can remind yourself of why you started in the first place.

Step 8: Vision

God spoke to many people in the Bible through visions and although He may not do it as dramatically as He did back then through dreams and such, He still gives us a visual in our minds of what He wants you to accomplish for His glory.

I love how The Message writes Proverbs 29:18. It states “If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; But when they attend to what He reveals, they are most blessed”. In other words, He will reveal to you what He wants you to do, you just need to be willing to spend time visualizing your goals as they are already achieved.

Allow yourself to identify the feeling of what it would be like to actually achieve what God has set out for you to achieve. This also will give you motivation to keep going when tough times come to derail you from your goals.

JOIN ME NEXT WEEK FOR PART 6: Put it on Paper

Goal Setting God's Way - Part 4

Thank you for staying with me for this series on Goal Setting God's Way!

Today's post is Step 6: Godly Thinking

Part of setting goals is getting our minds set on godly thinking. We cannot set goals and then be thinking negatively about whether or not we will achieve them. God wants us to think on whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy. He also wants us to not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of our minds so we can test and approve what His will is which is good, pleasing and perfect.

The only way we have a chance to keep our mindset right and not allow fear to take control of us, especially if our goal is a God sized goal, is by staying in His word.

Going along with having a godly mindset is also identifying any limiting beliefs we have that may be hindering us from moving forward towards a goal. A limiting belief is anything you might tell yourself that causes you not to act upon something you know you should do. These sayings can come from anywhere. Perhaps you were told something as a child by a parent, a teacher, a friend that you have internalized to be true of you but it really isn’t. As a result you find it hard to get past that to get to bigger and better things.

For example, a limiting belief can be that you don’t think you have what it takes to run a successful business for whatever reason. This is a weight that entangles you from the freedom to run a business without fear. Take some time to discover what those limiting beliefs are for you and then give them to the Lord. Then remind yourself of your true identity in Christ and that you are more than a conqueror and can do all things through Him.

JOIN ME NEXT WEEK FOR PART 5: Motivation & Vision

Goal Setting God's Way - Part 3

Over the past two weeks, I have been posting about “Goal Setting God’s Way” ... today I bring you part 3 of the series "Self-Assessment" & "God's Assessment."

Step 4: Self-Assessment

Once the foundation is set, we can move on to taking a closer look at our lives to get an idea of what areas we really should be setting goals in. We are whole beings comprised of several areas, and sometimes we start to feel out of balance because one of the areas of our life is off.

For example, let’s think about an old fashion wheel. The wheel has several spokes on it, and if a spoke is bent, broken or even missing, that wheel will not be able to progress forward efficiently. Therefore, we should take the time to address those areas that might be slowing down our progress.

Take a good look at your spiritual life:

  • Are your values and beliefs aligned with what God’s Word says is true?
  • Emotionally, are you thinking positively?
  • Are you living within your means financially?
  • Are you putting yourself in an environment that is enhancing well-being or creating more stress for yourself?
  • Are you surrounding yourself with people who support you and lift you up?
  • Are you taking care of yourself physically?
  • Are you adding value to your employer or clients?
  • Are you accepting challenges to continue learning new things?

Take your time as you consider these questions to assess yourself. This exercise will help you learn what area you may be lacking in so you can focus on growing in that area.

Step 5: God’s Assessment

Once you have done this preliminary self-assessment of the areas of your life that may need your attention, take them to God in prayer and invite the Holy Spirit to confirm for you where He may want to mold you.

Maybe he wants you to surrender a particular area of your life. Perhaps He wants to prepare you to serve Him from a specific area of your life.

Whatever it might be, invite Him to show you. Tell God the desires of your heart for each area, and He is faithful and will show you if your desires are aligned with His desires for you or if they are not.

Even King David asked God to search his heart. He says in Psalm 139:23 “Search me, O God, and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting”.

 

This leads to true authenticity with God which ultimately leads to a closer relationship with Him. This also allows you to set goals for the areas you believe God is leading you to.

JOIN ME NEXT WEEK FOR PART 4: Godly Thinking

Goal Setting God's Way - Part 2

Today, I bring you part 2 - “Goal Setting God’s Way” a series of posts over the next few weeks. Please check out Part 1 if you missed it. 

Step 2: Trust God
While seeking God we must trust in Him. We can’t only seek Him and then be trying to conjure up our own ideas in the back of our minds.

Proverbs 3:5,6 says “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will direct your path”.

Trusting is a form of submission, and it is not easy to do. The definition of submitting is to give over or yield to the power or authority of another.

In our Western culture, we are taught from early on to strive for independence, and to be strong to survive. However, true discipleship calls us to yield and to practice self-denial.

We cannot choose our own way and faithfully follow God. This is contradictory to what the world wants us to do so resistance is sure to come as a result to our yielding. Situations will occur where the temptation will come to want to take over the reigns from God when things are not going well or if we are not getting our way. But we must resist this temptation and submit to His leading. That’s where faith comes into play.

According to Hebrews 11:1 - "faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see."

Step 3: Approach Boldly
So now that we are seeking and trusting God we must not do it in a timid way, but in a bold way.

He is so gracious to allow us to come to Him because of the sacrifice that was made by His Son Jesus. We no longer have to go through anyone else but go straight to Him with confidence.

Hebrews 4:16 says “let us approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need”.

When we need guidance, we can rest assured that not only does He allow us to go to Him with confidence, but if we do, He hears us.

Just like 1 John 5:14-15 says “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us-whatever we ask-we know that we have what we asked of Him.”

I don’t know about you, but this gets me excited and gives me joy that the Almighty King cares for me and not only for big things, but also for all the little intricate details of our lives. He wants to be part of our lives and ultimately live with us forever in eternity.

Okay, so now you’re probably wondering.... when I am going to get to the practical stuff and get to what hits closer to home. I am convinced that without these first steps you cannot build a strong foundation on which to build your goals upon.

There have been many times I have set goals and failed, because I didn’t take the time to seek, trust and approach God and my goals ultimately failed. Even God Himself had set the foundation of the earth before He began adding to it, so we too must take the same approach in setting goals. 

JOIN ME NEXT WEEK FOR PART 3SELF ASSESSMENT & GOD'S ASSESSMENT

Goal Setting God’s Way -Part 1

I am delighted to share a topic that I’m SO passionate about - “Goal Setting God’s Way.” This will be a series of posts over the next few weeks. I invite you to stay with me through the end.

I first started goal setting when I was seven years old {even though at the time I didn’t know that that’s what I was doing}. I was getting into trouble at school for talking too much. As an incentive to change my behavior, my mother said that she would buy me a Care Bears figurine at the end of every week I didn’t have a bad note sent home from my teacher. This excited me. I then counted how many Care Bear figurines were in the collection and then figured how many weeks I needed to be quiet and set the goal to get the full collection.

By the time I completed my goal I had become used to being quieter in school and eventually stopped getting in trouble for talking. From that point on, I continued setting goals to achieve many other things.

However, the older I got I would learn other strategies to goal setting that were not sitting well with me. One of which is the law of attraction. I started hearing more and more goal setting experts talking about what they believed to be one way of achieving your goals which is to set your intention, focus on it so you can attract it and then “the universe” will send it to you.

I thought to myself "what does the universe have to do with anything?" As a Christian, I believe that God created the universe and all good things come from God. That’s when I started to look into what God had to say in His word about goal setting vs. the world’s way of goal setting. He showed me through His word that there are certain steps that the world neglects to take when setting goals, because it is self-centered instead of God focused. Here is the first step.

Step 1: Seek God First
The first step I believe we need to take is to seek God first above all.

Matthew 6:33 says “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well”.

This means that we must first seek His face in all things before seeking our own way.

When we were children, we had to first seek our parent’s approval for things we wanted to do. The final decision was based on their wisdom on whether or not it was good for us. The same goes for our Heavenly Father. He has a divine purpose for us and has good plans for us with our best interest in mind.

As followers of Christ we must do just that, follow Christ and leave behind our agendas and seek Him above all things. We must then surrender our lives fully to Him in order for Him to work in us without us getting in His way.

So I want you to think of a time where you didn’t seek God for guidance and then of a time when you did. How did things turn out for you in each of the scenarios?

Join me next week for Part 2Trusting God & Approaching Boldly

 

Loving Yourself Better

You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you.
~ Song of Solomon 4:7 ESV

When you struggle with loving yourself, it can affect the joy, happiness, confidence, and success in life. I am not referring to the worldly version of loving yourself, but a way of loving yourself with a grateful and humble attitude.

You are precious in God’s eyes.

When you love yourself with God’s kind of love, you see yourself as valued. You no longer seek approval from others, and you make decisions that impart love. 

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. ~ Psalm 139:13-15 ESV

Here are some ideas on how to love yourself better:

  • Practice replacing negative thinking

Do you find yourself in a pit of self-rejection, and always beating yourself up?

If you find yourself thinking about how useless you are, or how stupid you are, it takes a toll on your self-esteem, confidence, and happiness.  This is not what God desires for you.  

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. ~Philippians 4:8-9 NIV

You are in control of your own thoughts… it just takes practice to replace negative thoughts with life-giving thoughts. You can choose to let your thoughts imprison you or you can make the choice to move past them and live in freedom.

This practice begins by memorizing and meditating on Scripture. This will help to change the way we are thinking and helps us to focus on what God says rather than our negative thoughts or what others say.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. ~Romans 12:2 NIV 

  • Quit comparing yourself to others –

    You never win when you compare yourself to others. It is a sure way to create self-doubt and insecurities. Consider the following story the next time you find that you are comparing yourself to others:

    You never know what someone else is experiencing in his/her life.  You may drive down the wealthiest street in your city, but you do not realize that that couple you see with the huge house, boat, and camper sitting on their driveway, would give it all away if they could have their son back.  You see, he was killed when he got hit by a drunk driver. 

    God desires for us only to look to Him…

    For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. ~Galatians 1:10 ESV
     
  • Spend time alone with God every day –

    “We can be tired, weary and emotionally distraught, but after spending time alone with God, we find that He injects into our bodies energy, power and strength.”  - Charles Stanley

    I know taking time every day to read the Bible and spend time in prayer can be challenging and even seem impossible at times, but this is the BEST self-love practice of all.

    You might be asking how spending time alone with God translates into loving yourself. Well the answer is simple, when you connect with God daily and seek Him, He will show you His will. And because His plan for you is in your best interest you are essentially putting yourself in the best hands possible and therefore loving yourself in the process.

    Don’t try to make it “perfect” – this is a daily “practice” … it is a journey with God to be enjoyed. It is more about being consistent regardless if it is 5 minutes or 5 hours.

    Decide what time of day is best for you and start small at first. It is all about creating a habit of being in the presence of God through prayer and spending time in His Word.

    But if you will seek God earnestly and plead with the Almighty, if you are pure and upright, even now He will rouse himself on your behalf and restore you to your prosperous state. ~Job 8:5-6 NIV

Ultimately, loving yourself comes when you truly identify who you are through God’s eyes because He created you. And the only way of knowing what God says is true of you is by reading His word.

You are precious and valuable to Him.

So the next time you feel down on yourself, put your hope in the Creator of the Universe for He delights in you!

The Lord delights in those who fear Him, who put their hope in His unfailing love. ~Psalm 147:11

 

 

5 Ways to Improve Your Confidence with Making Decisions

Do you find it hard to make decisions and stick to them? This can cause frustration for yourself and those around you.  

The inability to make simple decisions often stems from a lack of self-confidence.   

There can be countless reasons why you lack the confidence in making decisions in your life.  For example, you may have grown up where your parents made all the decisions for you, and you were told not to question them.  Or it may be that you do not like the pressure it puts on you, as you question whether you are making the right decision and are fearful how your decision will affect others.  You may feel very anxious at the thought of having to make a decision.   

How to recognize if you are lacking confidence in making decisions: 

  • You prefer for others to make the decision for you - If you typically pass the decision making to someone else, because you do not trust that you will make the right decision, then this demonstrates that you do not have confidence in your ability.
     
  • You never make a decision - Other people may be relying on you for a decision, but you let weeks or months slide without ever making a decision.  If you avoid making a decision, simply because you do not know what to decide, then this can be an indicator that your confidence level in your abilities is poor.
     
  • When you do make a decision, you second-guess yourself - If you constantly worry that you have not made the right decision, you are again demonstrating lack of confidence in your abilities.

    No matter what has led up to the inability to trust yourself when making decisions, it is something that you can become better at if you work at it. 
     

 5 Ways to Improve Your Confidence with Making Decisions 

1. Pray - I believe the first step to making confident decisions is to pray. God is wise and is gracious enough to bless us with the necessary wisdom to make good decisions if we ask Him. “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you”. ~James 1:5 (NIV) 

Praying for wisdom is important because it shifts our focus to God instead of obsessing over your decision.  This allows for peace to enter your heart knowing that God is in control and will help you make the best decision possible.  

2. Make an “unofficial” decision - In other words, this is a decision that is not yet “set in stone.”  Try making a decision, and live with that decision for a day. 

For example, you have decided to upgrade to a bigger house, and you have the money saved up.  You find a house that you really like that fits all the criteria you want in a bigger house.  It has a big yard, a deck, and an attached garage. 
 

However, if you have trouble making decisions, you may find yourself trying to talk yourself out of it, as you begin to worry how you will afford it, the increased heating and cooling costs, and so forth.  This is where it can help to make an “unofficial' decision.   

You have to decide that you will or will not move.  Pick one, and live with that decision for a day.  Make your mind believes that the decision is a real one that you have made.  Then see how your decision makes you feel.  This can be a good way to test out decisions before making them official.  Knowing that you can still change your mind, if it does not feel right, can be comforting. 

3. Recognize decisions that are reversible - For example: if you are having a difficult time determining what color to paint your house, start by getting a number of color swatches.  Then make a decision, rather than continuing to fret over what is the perfect color.  Realize that if you start painting and do not like the color, that this is a decision that can easily be fixed by choosing another color. 

Knowing that you can reverse a decision gives you peace of mind and increases the confidence you need to just make a decision.

4. Ask yourself what is the worst that can happen - Similar to the previous point above, you need to recognize that not all decisions are life altering.  If you can begin by making small decisions such as what movie to go to, you can grow your confidence to make bigger decisions as time goes on.   

Also recognizing that even when “the worst case scenario” has happened in your life, you have obviously survived it. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be reading this blog post.  

Therefore, knowing that all things eventually work out is a confidence booster. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purposes” ~Romans 8:28 (NIV)

5. Write down pros and cons of each decision you are considering - Sometimes it can help if you write down and see your ideas for and against a decision written down on paper in front of you.  When you see (rather than just think of) the options, it can make it easier to come to a decision.   

After you list your pros and cons give them a number that measures how much they are worth. Just because it’s a pro doesn’t mean that it measures out to more than one of the cons.  

Let me explain.  

Let’s say you are deciding on whether or not to accept an offer for a new position within your company. One of the pros you come up with is that it will pay you more money. However, one of the cons is that you will have to work longer hours. Does the fact that you will be making more money outweigh the added hours of work to your week and time away from your family?  

Therefore, knowing how to weigh your pros and cons is critical to making confident decisions.

Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?” ~Luke 14:28 (NIV) 

Now that you’ve learned some ways to help you make decisions with more confidence, take some time to analyze what area of your life you are stalling in making a decision you know you should make. Then, take the necessary steps with God’s wisdom and make a decision knowing that taking action is the best way to grow your confidence. 

Bipolar disorder is more that just being moody.

The term “bipolar” is a term that is thrown around some times when describing a moody person. But bipolar disorder is so much more than just being moody.

 

Bipolar is generally described as a specific type of mood disorder where individuals have severe mood swings that cycle from major depressive episodes to manic episodes.

A manic episode can be characterized with having racing thoughts, being unable to sleep, talking a lot, extreme irritability, periods of euphoria, and behaving in ways that show poor judgement.

Mood shifts can be a normal part of life caused by reactions to positive or negative events or experiences. They even can result from medical problems such as physical illness, diabetes, injuries, or hormone fluctuations.

Mood swings can be a combination of all those factors. These fluctuations can be considered normal unless they persist for a long time, are combined with other mental symptoms, interfere with the ability to function, or cause a great deal of distress.

Most people do not even know they have a bipolar disorder and can go misdiagnosed for years. Sometimes bipolar disorder gets confused with major depression and/or anxiety.

There are different types of bipolar disorders which the general population isn’t aware of. The following fall within the spectrum:

Bipolar I Disorder is one of the most severe mental illnesses and may require hospitalization. This disorder affects about 1% of Americans. It is a lifelong illness once it begins and can develop in late adolescence or early adulthood.

People who have Bipolar I can experience severe depression lasting for months at a time followed by periods of manic episodes that can also last for several weeks or months.

Bipolar II Disorder is a not as intense and involves milder episodes of hypomania that alternate with periods of severe depression.

Cyclothymic Disorder is characterized by periods of hypomania that alternates with depression and are not as extensive or long-lasting as the previous two types.

Some individuals have rapid cycles between mania and depression within a week or even within a single day. Women appear to experience rapid cycling more than men do.

However, the only way a person can get diagnosed is if they go to a doctor for an assessment. The assessment will ask questions regarding the persons reasoning, memory, ability to express themselves, and their ability to maintain relationships.

If you are currently experiencing any symptoms that may cause you to believe you may have a bipolar disorder, please do not wait to see if it will go away on its own as it may inevitably get worse.

Before going to a doctor to determine whether or not you have a disorder, take notice of your current moods, your sleep schedule, your recent behavior, your speech, your energy and motivation levels, and your thinking patterns.

Treatment is available for those with bipolar disorders and may include the following:

Medication such as mood stabilizers, anti-depression medicine, or anxiety medications.

Psychotherapy/Counseling which includes talk therapy that uses cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT teaches people to change their thought patterns to replace negative thinking with a more constructive thought process.

Lifestyle Changes that keeps a regular schedule, promotes healthy eating and exercise, incorporates relaxation techniques, gets plenty of rest and sleep, minimizes stressful situations, and avoids drugs and alcohol.

There is hope for those with bipolar disorders. By following a combination of the above-mentioned treatments, a person with a bipolar disorder can keep their symptoms under control and live productive and effective lives.  

 

Why I started napping...

In 2005, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis which is an autoimmune disease. It’s a disorder in which the body turn’s against its own tissues, namely the thyroid.

This process usually leads to developing hypothyroidism, which is when the thyroid doesn’t make enough hormones for the body’s needs.

I had just had a baby 5 months prior to the diagnosis and thought that my symptoms were just a result of caring for an infant.

I felt like I was in a never-ending fog and thought I didn’t have what it took to be a mother to two children at the time because I always felt exhausted.

When the doctor finally found out the issue and we identified the root of my problem, there was a real sense of relief for me.

I received medical care and had to go on thyroid hormone replacement medication to get better.

It took over a year before I felt back to “normal” so to speak, but I will always feel some symptom or other from the condition for the rest of my life.

The reason why I am sharing this is because during the time I was really sick, I began to make napping a regular practice in efforts to heal my body. Napping ended up proving to be very beneficial for me.

Although, I don’t get to nap every single day, I make it a priority to get at least 20 minutes several times a week.

I have found that the benefits of napping outweigh the time it takes away from doing other things.

I do realize that some individuals find it difficult to fall asleep during the day. But if you are able to nap, I highly recommend it.

Here are just 3 benefits to napping:

1.       It helps increase our emotional state.

2.      It boosts our immune system.

3.      It improves our bodies’ metabolism.

If you know anything about having a low production of thyroid hormones (which I won’t get into in this blog in order not to put you to sleep), you would realize that the above benefits really help alleviate the symptoms that come with having the disease.

If you want to start incorporating napping into your day, here are some strategies that could help you make that happen:

1.       Schedule 10-30 minutes for your nap.

2.      Find a place where you will be least likely to be interrupted.

3.      Close blinds to minimize light that will disturb your sleep.

Of course just because you nap doesn’t mean you can neglect your nighttime sleep habits.

In fact, napping should just be a supplement to your nightly sleep and should be an enhancer to your rest.

If you are having difficulty sleeping at night, here are some things that I’ve incorporated myself that might help you get more quality sleep:

1.       Exercise in the morning or no later than 4 hours before bedtime.

2.      Turn off all devices (computers, phones, and yes even tablets such as kindles) at least one hour before bedtime.

3.      If you must leave your phone on, put it somewhere that notifications that come through during the night won’t wake you up.

Sleep deprivation can not only lead to illness but it minimizes productivity and makes us less effective in our day to day lives.

So if you really want to ramp up your ability to be more mentally, emotionally and physically healthy, take it from me and increase the amount of sleep you get.

Comment below and share any strategies you have that help you get more rest.

 

 

 

Having the courage to say NO!

I don’t know about you, but I have a tendency to say YES to a lot of things. Because of that I end up with a full plate.

When I get spread too thin, I try to bulldoze my way through life and then cause myself to get burned out.

All this just because I have a fear of saying NO.

Recently, I realized that I was experiencing chronic stress because I had taken on too much.

I had to do some soul searching and found out that my fear of saying NO had brought me to a place of overwhelm and I had to figure a way out.

Red palm of extended hand with the word NO! Learning to overcome overwhelm

Therefore, I identified that going through the following exercise gave me the ability to say NO:

 

1.      RECOGNIZE your values:

If you don’t know what your values are then you can’t base your decisions on what truly matters most to you.

My top five values are: Health, Purpose, Family, Faith, and Growth.

Because I am now clear on what my values are, if something is not aligned with my values, I can say NO more easily to it.

 

2.      PRIORITIZE your values:

Once you know what your top five values are then you should prioritize them.

My values in order of importance are: Faith, Family, Purpose, Health, and Growth.

When you have your values prioritized, you are able to choose how to spend your time more wisely based on your values. Thus, saying NO to all else that wastes your time becomes second nature.

 

3.     CREATE a vision:

This is a time where you can dream with specific detail of what you want your life to look like and what you want to accomplish.

When you create a vision for your life, you are able to go through the emotions as if you’ve actually realized it in reality. This creates more ownership of it for you.

A vision will allow you to say NO to those things that go against your vision for your life.

 

4.     MAKE a plan:

Now that you know your vision and you have it all laid out for yourself, you should then make a concrete, step-by-step plan on how you are going to realize your vision.

When you have a plan that moves you towards achieving your goals, you’re more apt to say NO to whatever tries to move you away from accomplishing your mission.

 

5.     PRACTICE saying NO:

I’m sure you’ve heard that you need to practice something in order to become better at it.

The same is true to saying NO. The more you say it, the easier it gets and ultimately the more empowered you become.

This exercise helped me come out of being overwhelmed because I was able to eliminate and delegate certain things that I was not saying NO to.

 

I would highly encourage you to go through this exercise if you find yourself in a similar situation as I was in.

Doing so will enable you to have the courage to say NO the next time someone or something calls for your time, attention, and/or resources that do not align with either your values, vision, or plan.

Please share how this exercise has helped you.

 

How to Stop Wasting Time.

There aren’t many people that like to waste time. In fact most of us understand that time is our greatest commodity and because of that we must be careful and wise on how we spend our time.

The following four steps are tips I learned from Copywriter Ray Edwards and felt they were great tips to help us learn how to stop wasting time.

Letting Go of Perfectionism.

The definition of perfectionism is: a personal standard, attitude, or philosophy that demands perfection and rejects anything less.

Ever since I was a little girl I felt like I had to be perfect so others would accept me and not reject me. I believed I needed to perform in such a way that aroused others interest in me.

So, I started striving for things that I now believe are society’s standards of what success looks like. Which is not necessarily what actual success is.

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing bad about working on yourself. It is good to grow and become better at things. There is such a thing as healthy growth and self-development. In fact, I believe that God has given us a responsibility to be good stewards of our lives which involves taking care of and improving ourselves.

The problem lies when it consumes us to the point that if we don’t reach a certain standard, we shame ourselves as a result. It becomes a problem when we start to believe we are a failure if we don’t live perfect, look perfect, or act perfect.

A good friend of mine gave me a book for Christmas by Brene Brown. The book is called The Gifts of Imperfection. That book brought to light a lot of what I have struggled with all my life which includes shame and perfectionism.

The book made me realize that my search for love and acceptance was really at the core of my perfectionistic drive.

So I took this revelation to God and surrendered my perfectionism to Him. I asked God to give me the courage to let it go.

By requesting that of God I found that He was willing to take this burden I have been carrying around with me and in exchange wanted to instill in me a new found love and appreciation for myself.

In the weeks after finishing the book, I searched the Bible to find scripture that would back up the truth that I was enough just as I am and that I am loved and accepted by the Almighty God Himself.

A scripture that really hit home for me was Psalm 139:14 which says that God’s works are wonderful and because He created me that makes me wonderful. He also says in His word that He loves me so much that He sent His Son Jesus to die for me so I could live with Him (John 3:16).

Understanding these truths enables me to realize that there is really nothing I can do to make God love me any more than what He already does. That means I don’t have to strive for perfection anymore.

There is a freedom that comes with letting go of perfectionism because it allows me to be a more authentic person not only with myself but with others as well. Therefore, the more authentic I become, the less fear I have of embracing my imperfections.

“It is in the process of embracing our imperfections that we find our truest gifts: courage, compassion, and connection.” –Brene Brown

So the next time you want to reach perfection, tell yourself that perfect or not you are loved, accepted, and are enough.

Why I Procrastinate...

Have you ever had something to do but you kept putting it off? Well that’s the definition of procrastination.

Piece of burning paper with the word time written on it signifying procrastination

I practice procrastination for things that I especially do not want to do. However, those things do not magically disappear but continue to loom over me. The more I procrastinate, the more anxious I become because I know I must do something important that I’m choosing not to do it.

The longer I wait, the greater the despair of having to do it becomes. It then develops into a vicious cycle for me.

So why do I do it? Good question. The answer lies within the certain “something” that has to get done. There are 3 reasons why I procrastinate:

1) Fear of Failure

Sometimes I choose not to do something out of fear that I won’t be good at it or will fail in some way. I make the situation into a catastrophe and jump to the conclusion that the worst possible scenario will be the end result.

This is when I must take a step back and talk myself into the reality that even though I’m feeling strong emotions about a possible outcome, it is most likely not accurate or rational. Then, I consider more positive scenarios to what would happen if I indeed completed the task. I still may feel the fear of failure but I move forward anyway.

2) Fear of Success

This might seem weird but it has been so prevalent for me. For some reason, as a little girl, I got it into my head that I didn’t deserve anything good happening to me. Therefore, a lot of times while I was growing up I would procrastinate out of fear that something good would come out of it and I wouldn’t know what to do with those emotions. I had become so used to staying in the status quo that thinking I could actually succeed at something was disturbing to me.

That is not to say that I have never succeeding at anything because I have. However, I just wouldn’t celebrate it like I should. After many years of challenging those thoughts, I’ve pretty much changed the way I view success but I still have to reframe my self-talk to say that I do deserve to be successful and it is okay to celebrate all my achievements no matter whether they are big or small.

3) Fear of Hard Work

My father has to be the hardest working man I know. It takes a lot of dedication and resolve to keep up the pace that he has maintained throughout his life out of commitment to providing for his family. I believe that I’ve inherited those hard working traits from him for the most part.

However, there are still many times when I just want to be lazy. So I procrastinate from doing things that I know are going to take a lot of hard work. Let’s face it, hard work takes sacrifice and determination, focus and stamina. And, sometimes I just don’t want to dig deep within myself to give it my all out of fear of exhaustion.

Be that as it may, I’ve learned by just gritting it out and completing the task, no matter how hard it is, the end reward of having accomplished something I didn’t think I could do is empowering and exhilarating. This creates more resilience for me to combat the fear of hard work.

Can you identify with any of these fears? Leave a comment of what task you are procrastinating on and what you are going to do to move forward into action.

Questions to ask when losing motivation on your goals.

At the beginning of 2014 I wrote out my goals for the year like I usually do. One of the goals on the list was to run a marathon which is 26.2 grueling miles long. I mustered all the courage to tell my family and friends of my decision to take on such a big challenge. The most I had ever run was a half marathon and that was many years before when I was fitter and weighed a lot less. So I researched marathons in my area and decided on one in September that was going to be held only 40 minutes away from my house. Then, I looked for different training plans that would give me plenty of time to train. I bought myself some new running shoes, clothes, and a watch to be properly prepared for the long months ahead. After I had a race date, a running plan, and the right gear in place, I knew I needed to recruit others for support and accountability. You see, I had attempted to train for a marathon in 2013 but without the proper training shoes or training plan, I ended up injuring myself after my 10 mile training run. So I joined a running club to help me especially through the long runs.

At the beginning of May I took off on my first training run. I was excited to start the process of growing my physical endurance and mental strength. I was also very motivated to see it through to the end. What I didn’t realize was that my motivation would start to dwindle down to almost a complete nothing. The adrenaline rush that I was getting after each run turned into exhaustion and irritation instead. I wanted to quit and was secretly hoping something would happen that would give me a good excuse to do just that. That’s when I had to dig deep inside myself to summon some much needed gumption to keep going. In order to do so I had to ask myself the following:

Why did I set this goal in the first place?

What was significant to me about running 26.2 miles, instead of 5, 10, or 15?

What was at stake if I didn’t accomplish the goal?

What would I lose if I quit?

What would I gain if I didn’t quit?

How would I feel if I gave up?

How would I feel after crossing the finish line?

Once I had distinctly answered those questions and was crystal clear on my why, I was able to gain the necessary momentum to see it all through to the last step. And to tell you the truth, the feeling of accomplishment when I crossed the finish line with both arms raised in celebration was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. I was on cloud 9 for weeks after the race.

Now that we are closing in on the end of January you might be tempted to quit on some of the goals you set for yourself at the beginning of the year. Perhaps you’re getting tired, fearful, discouraged, or even frustrated. If that’s where you find yourself right now, take some time to ask yourself the same questions I had to (geared towards your own goals of course). By doing so you too can become clear on your reasons why you set those particular goals in the first place. I guarantee it will get you over the hump and reignite your motivation to see your goals through to their completion.

Leave a comment and share where you are getting stuck in your goals, and what’s one thing you learned when searching within yourself for more motivation.