Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Getting Unstuck

I'm not gonna lie, I feel a bit beat up lately by life.  It just seems to be one thing after the next and its made my threshold for challenges pretty low.  Monday of last week, I was met with two smaller issues that simply sent me over the edge.

Reality is hard.  It was never meant to be a Thursday night sitcom, where something dumb happens and we figure it out in 30 minutes.  We are going to always have challenges to face.  Some are harder than others.

Emotions like fear, anxiety and anger can become dominating forces that seem to wreak havoc in our daily lives.  

Dr. Caroline Leaf shares in her book, "Think, Learn, Succeed," that fear isn't a innate emotion but a learned state.  We are born into love and fear is a reaction learned from life.  She shares this from a scientific place as a neurologist, but I've seen this unfold in my life and understood its truth as I look at my journey.

I wasn't scared of what would happen to my daughter, until the day one month ago yesterday when I was riding in an ambulance to the ER. (Heck, this morning I saw an ambulance pass by with sirens howling and I started to cry just remembering that day).  In the weeks since that sudden seizure, I have been met with many fearful thoughts.  When she falls or hits her head.  When she starts coughing (what she did before the seizure).  When she looks like something just isn't right.  All of those now bring on an initial fear response.  This has illuminated the truth of Dr. Leaf's research. 

We don't think in "what if" terms until we are met with the reality of worse case scenario.  Fear is an awful beast.  It can be a blessing when it signals danger and we are able to use it to fuel wisdom and get out of a bad situation.  But fear is often misused to control us in ways that keep us emotionally and sometimes even physically paralyzed from living life.  Fear is often a disguised emotion. 

In my years in counseling, one of the biggest light bulb moments was when I realized my anger problem, really wasn't an anger problem but a fear and anxiety problem.  Anger was the beast emerging from me but it was really a signal of internal panic or even stress.  Insecurities, self-imposed pressure or anxiety of the things out of my control unleashed emotions that weren't equal with the weight of the current situation.  

I've seen how important our words are but those words first start as thoughts.  We have to be detectives in discovering who we are and why we are.  This work is important if we ever want to move forward.  I recently heard a talk by Mel Robbins, where she asks, "What is the next chapter of your life?" Introspection is the key to moving forward.  So many things in the physical world, translate well into our spirit/soul world.  Take organizing for example. I don't care who you watch or who your organization Yoda is because they all start at the same place: 

Take it all out.  

If you are going to organize your closet, you first have to get all the clothes and stuff out, then you can determine what you need to keep and get rid of, and then based on what is left decide the right way to organize it.  

The same is true for our thoughts and feelings.  You have to bring them out of cobb webbs and hiding and find out what is there.  Then and only then can you look at what needs to be there and what needs to be replaced.  

Dr. Caroline Leaf says thoughts can be redesigned.  I love that concept.  As long as we keep going in a mindless state, passively allowing life to happen, we will be victims to the mental blocks and bad thoughts that we've allowed to grow.  

Being aware of this new fear response, helps me to redesign the thoughts and move forward with confidence.  As a Christian I believe in a God who has a plan.  It may not always make sense to me, but my God has all the power, but also is a loving God.  Love and power together are a safe zone.  It doesn't mean that everything will turn out perfect, but it does mean that I can trust him, even when it doesn't.  Keeping that fact before me each time I'm faced with my new fear, will be an immense help in finding freedom from the fear. 

Replacing thoughts is not some one and done experience.  You can't read this blog post, think - great point, and just go on in life.  No, there is work that goes into it, that work is daily and takes a while to reach the finish line.  Dr. Caroline Leaf says 63 days is the key for those dendrites to rewire and recreate a new conscious mental pathway. (Check her out - just google search and discover the many ways you can learn about all of this from her).  

Now its your turn, you have a choice. If you don't do the work and develop new habits, nothing will change. What thoughts do have running amok in your head?  Is today the day your evaluate and redesign your thought life? Just know I'm over here with you; a woman in process!

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

God Knows

Surrender is a crazy decision, at least it feels that way, but often its the most amazing step in life we can make.  Obviously, the key to surrender is who you are surrendering too.

I made the decision in two parts to follow Jesus.

Once as a four-year-old enrolled in a Christian preschool.  The teacher told us about Jesus and I still remember that day, thirty-six years later.  The letter of the day was I - for Itchy Ivy.  I also remember going home and telling my mom about making the decision to accept Jesus in my heart.

The second part of that decision was my freshman year of college, when I decided to surrender completely.

The years in between were filled with both learning about Christianity both from a "know your religion" perspective and testing the validity of the historical claims.  It was also filled with relational encounters with God and a lot of bumps in life's road.  The bumps led to some distrust in the God who controlled my life.

It wasn't until a basement experience of crying and journaling that I understood the whole story.   I had misinformation about God in the midst of rough road and my earlier conclusion of distrust was unfounded, though understandable.

I'm pretty sure I just condensed an hour conversation into two paragraphs so if you want to know more about what I mean, feel free to ask.

The thing is, that distrust nature lingers often when I get overwhelmed, stressed or fearful and I can try once again to do it on my own.  This week things didn't go as planned in a few ways and as what I planned changed, I once again saw, God knows.  When I make the plans then turn them into him, and let him do, I find things usually work out when its all said and done.  I'm not talking fairy tale here, we all know life is hard, but what I mean is that God sees the curve balls I don't so often when things change from what I thought I could handle, its because God was preparing me for a curve ball he knew was headed my way.

The friend that cancelled plans, left room for me to process or take care of a need that landed in my lap.  The event I was going too that now couldn't work, would have been too much with life that just happened.  That weekly sports team I felt I shouldn't sign my kid up for this season, proved wisdom in God's leading when random life unraveled and I needed down time to recover.  Or sometimes it works in the positive, as in that conference that my friends had a last-minute open spot to, was just the encouragement I needed.

God knows.

He has the proper perspective: he is both with us and above us.  God is everywhere at all times.  He is not bound my time or distance.  He is with us in the moments and that gives us his protection as well as the shared experience of deeper connection.  He can also see the past, present and future, so looking to him gives us the best shot at moving forward and making choices in life.

Its also freeing.  Its great to sit back and just take it as it comes then to feel frantic in the midst of every turn in life.  This week, I realized, its once again time to surrender.  I have been taking the reigns of life and trying to control what I have no control over. The stress of that unresolved conflict has taken its toll and its time.  Time to let go.

What about you?  Where are you in all of this?  Is it time to trust?  Is it time to surrender?  Maybe you aren't sure about Jesus as more than just some story you've heard about, much less a leader you can trust in life.  If that is you, reach out, I'd love to help you tackle those questions and point you to the resources that have answered my skepticism over the years.  Today is a new day and maybe its time for some new ways in your life.  Happy Wednesday!

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

When You Are Not Enough

Note to Reader:  This is an interactive post.  I have questions that I want you to answer, so if you can't take some time now, be sure to schedule time in the next week to answer the questions below. Yay!!!

Have you ever felt like you run out and life still needs more?  Have you ever felt inadequate to live the life you lead?  If you do, I have some good are not alone.  Feeling that way may seem like you are the exception not the rule, but reality says its the other way around.

Walk into a nearby Target or scroll through your IG feed and chances are you will find someone who seems to have what you don't have.  Someone who looks like they are killing it in life.  The problem with that idea is that its drawing a conclusion with only a small percentage of the story.  We see all of us and only part of others.

Craig Groeschel says social media is people sharing their best 5%.  That means you are missing 95% of the story.  If you were solving murders with only 5% of the facts, you'd be a horrible detective! 

We need to stop comparing our whole lives with a snapshot of others lives.  But lets take comparison off the table for a minute and lets talk about you.

I have some questions.  So do me a favor, get some paper and a pen and settle in for a moment of reflection.  Don't have time to answer now? Jot these down and answer them later! 

1. What is the standard you are using to measure success (and failure)?  

2. Where did that standard come from?  Is it a healthy source or is it rooted in dysfunction? 

3. Do you need to adjust the standard? 
4. What are you doing out of obligation and not because it flows with the life you want to be living? 

5. What are you over-committing to? Is this a time management issue or a self-worth issue?  

6. What do your best friends see in you that you don't see?  (Don't know - ask them!) 

You guys, I love renovation shows.  I have a handful I watch, and I love when there is a dump of a house, or so you think, but it just seems that way, because us viewers don't see what is actually there. Sometimes we are like these old houses.  We let ourselves just live in a reaction state to life instead of a place of leadership and ownership.  We let hardship and haters define us and wear the junk we pick up along the way because we feel we are supposed to instead of fighting to be who we were made to be. 

Throw some grace on yourself.  You are the only one doing you.  Celebrate that!  Sure, we have areas we need to grow and change, and we want to do us in a way that honors who God created us to be, but can you see what you are doing well?  Is that life glass half empty or half full?  If you are only seeing the mistakes and the inadequacy, then you are missing the beauty of you.  

Let's regroup, shall we?! Here are some steps: 

1. Gather your friends and ask them to fill your love bank.  Ask them to share what they love about you and take notes!!! If you are really struggling write it up pretty and put it on the walls so you are see it every day.

2.  Speak new truth into your life.  I've talked about my I AM Journal, and you need to do your version of that.  Write out in faith what you are or what you are becoming so that you can make a path for a new you.  Lead the way.  

3.  Read up.  Books by women like Dr. Caroline Leaf or BrenĂ© Brown will help you to understand the hurdles you have to leap.  Seeing how the brain works and what you need to do to overcome the mental blocks, will help you to go in a new direction.  

4. Write out a realistic day.  What areas of life are priorities and what time do those things take?  I know I can often write out a week's worth of to-do's in one day and that is just silly and setting myself up for failure.  Taking mental note of this and costing out the time helps reveal the things you need to cut.  

5. Take you into account.  Sure women can do it all, but it doesn't mean we should.  What I add to my family is different than what my husband does. I am emotional and I have to build in time for the relational duties that don't often get noticed and take more time, but they are important.  I could be my husband, but what good is that, he has that covered, I need to be me.  Who I am and how I do life affects what I accomplish and how I accomplish it (this is why comparison is pure junk)! 

So there you go.  There is a lot here.  Digest it and process this.  Let me know what you think.  Did I miss a point in all of this?  Tell me.  I love hearing from those of you who read this blog of mine.  You are the reason I write it after all, what you think matters to me! Happy Wednesday! 

Wednesday, April 3, 2019


This month we will look at processing hard emotions.  If you know me at all on social media, you know this last week my life got turned upside down.  My 4 year old daughter, out of no where, started seizing.  She went into a comatose state until the EMT's arrived, then started seizing again.  When she got to the ER, she experienced respiratory failure.  She was transported to the Valley Children's PICU and we were then transferred to the Discovery Wing when she got out of PICU.  She is now home and we start the process of meeting with a neurologist because we don't have answers yet, but that isn't the point of this post.  The point of this post is triggers. 

Do you know what a trigger is?  

Its that thing that brings up a memory or past experience, often ones that were difficult.    

Not only was this past week challenging for us emotionally, physically and financially, but it was also a source of triggers.  

1. My husband's oldest had some issues as a baby to include some epilepsy and is special needs.  He went through a lot with her, medically speaking, in the beginning of her life.  His second daughter was discovered to be diabetic in her pre-teen years while she was on a trip with us and the youth group of our church.  She was careflighted to Valley Children's and was in the PICU for some time.  So to be in the ER with a 3rd child was filled with all kinds of triggers.  Triggers can often bring back fears and memories as if they just happened, even if it were years ago.

2. My friends showed up at the ER to support me and drove with me up to Valley Children's.  The one that sat with me in the car, lost her almost two-year old several years ago.  As we talked I knew this was triggering all kinds of past memories for her.  She lovingly told me it was okay, but I know her support for me took courage.

3.  As we were being transferred from PICU to Discovery, I was taken back to over ten years ago when we walked these same halls with my stepdaughter - triggered.

4.  Another friend messaged me, full of emotion with what we were facing because she had been in this same hospital with her son, fighting against some physical issues they face. Triggered.

5. I've talked with several mamas who have faced similar issues with their kids and some of them shared emotions with me that revealed they too were triggered.

Triggers happen all the time.  We never know when one will hit.  A women walks through a crowd and smells a cologne, the same cologne as her grandpa, that passed away or the same cologne of her attacker in college.  That smell might instantly take her back to a memory, a place or a moment.

Someone talks to you in a way that an adult talked to you as a child and whether or not they mean the same disrespect can trigger defensiveness or pain.  All of us have our own triggers.  They may just be different from others. Some we learn to anticipate and protect ourselves, others take us off guard and can put us in a vulnerable state.

So what can you do? 

1. Identify you are being triggered - Being self-aware is a great gift and if you aren't great at it, start practicing.  Ask yourself what are you feeling at any given time and what is triggering it.  When we practice self-awareness, we get better at it.  Then we can know what triggers us and when its happening.  Understanding ourselves, our past, and how we engage with triggers and the world around us, helps us to be prepared in life. 

2. Take a moment to process - Okay, so if you are in front of a classroom or boardroom and something happens that triggers you, you might not be able to take a break, but if you can, do it! Excuse yourself to the restroom or take walk.  Do something to allow yourself the space to feel what is happening and get control before moving on.  

3.  Reframe - The brain is an interesting muscle in our body.  Like a filing system, our brain will file like experiences and emotions together.  If a situation feels similar to a bad past experience, the brain may group it together and it could trigger past pain.  That doesn't mean it needs to stay grouped together.  Taking a minute to evaluate if the situation is actually the same will help you to refile.  If they are similar than it may be time to draw some new boundary lines in the relationship.  

4. Create Rules - Set yourself up for success next time that trigger comes along.  Decide what to avoid and what to be ready to reframe. We can't live a trigger free life, but we can know, that as a mom who's lost a baby, being on social media or out in public on Mother's Day may not be a good idea.  If we have been through trauma, then going to see a real-life dramatic movie about those particular circumstances, may also not be a good idea. We can learn to protect ourselves.  

As a note in closing, being triggered is not a sign that an issue is unresolved.  Even though I live without daily grief or guilt from my past abortion, there will always be events that will trigger a grief response to the loss of my child and the regret surrounding that experience.  Resolving past pain happens when we are able to do our day-to-day lives without that pain affecting us, but if that is a camp you live in, maybe its time to see a counselor or process a part of your past with a friend.  What are your triggers? Share them with me, I'd love to hear them.