Tuesday, December 20, 2016

I'm Dreaming of a Stress Free Christmas

Instead of a white Christmas, are you dreaming of a stress free Christmas?  Christmas always seems to bring out the worse for people instead of the happiness and joy that it is intended to bring. Last week, I had to watch a friend of mine have a crying meltdown over this very thing.  There was nothing I could do but hug her and tell her what I am about to tell you.

By the grace of God and many years of studying the Bible and through lots of trial and error, I have finally succeeded in living a 95% stress free life including at Christmas.  I can't share everything I've learned in this one blog post, but I can share a few that were very freeing for me and I hope will be for you too.  Know this - it doesn't matter what your personality is, if you were "born" a certain way, or if this is the way it has always been, you can change.  Don't worry about changing others - that will never happen, but you can change how you do and how you react and in doing so you will end up having a stress free Christmas and a stress free life.  This leads to my first tip:

  1. Quit worrying what everyone else thinks - Your number one goal needs to always be to do what is best for you.  This is not selfish - this is all about knowing what works for you because we are all unique.  What works for someone else may not work for you and that is ok.  My grandma used to always say "There is more than one way to skin a cat."  You can get to the same place many different ways and you need to pick the best way for you.  An example during this time of year is presents.  Christmas should not be about what you give or what you receive.  Christmas is a time for families to come together in whatever form that brings and celebrate each other.  This doesn't mean you shouldn't buy for others, but it means that you need to do what works for you.  If all you can do is a card this year, that's ok.  If you can do nothing, that is ok.  And if you want to buy a special gift for someone and you can afford it, by all means do so.  A lot of the Christmas stress comes simply from the gift buying process.  And by the way, just because someone buys for you doesn't mean you need to match or one up them.  Maybe all you can do is a thank you card and that is enough.  Here is what I have learned - people are going to think what they are going to think no matter what.  In many cases, no matter what you do, something negative will be thought or said.  This is not your problem - it is theirs.  Always be respectful, but always do what works for you and no one else - no exceptions, no excuses.
  2. Pace yourself - After reading the first tip, you may have already decided to eliminate several items from your to do list that you were simply doing because it was expected of you.  So let's talk about what is left.  With anything that you do, you need to try to pace yourself.  What I mean is look at the big thing and break it into small things.  The best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.  Let me share my example from this past weekend in order to give you some ideas. This past Saturday, we had a party for a few friends at our house.  I made it an all h'ordeurves party because this was easier to shop for, easier to fix and better for socializing which was the point of the party.  I wrote out my menu with nice, simple easy items such as shrimp cocktail, caprese on a stick, pasta salad, filet bites, and dip.  One day during the week I went to Aldi and bought everything.  Yes, everything at a discount grocery store.  On Saturday, I paced myself between freshening up the downstairs where everyone would be, putting together the food items and at times, I was able to sit down in between and enjoy myself.  I enlisted the help of my wonderful husband when needed and together we had everything ready by 4 o'clock when everyone arrived.  I had out a cheese and cracker assortment to start with and this allowed me to enjoy everyone instead of slaving in the kitchen.  It took me about 10 minutes to assemble the table when it was time to eat and everyone gathered in the living room and had a blast together enjoying each other.  I say all of this to prove that you can have a nice get together without killing yourself and stressing over the cost or the preparing.  When it was over, I scraped the plates, put them in a neat pile and went back to play with my little buddy who was at the party.  Nothing says Christmas like hanging with a two year old.  After they left, I put away what needed to be done and by noon the next day, all of the dishes were done and put away.  By the way, this is not the way a party would have looked in my house several years ago.  But I have learned to let certain things go, focus on what is important, and pace myself with the rest.
  3. It is what it is - Life is going to happen - or to be more blunt, crap is going to happen.  You can't help it.  All you can control is how you react to what happens.  What if I had put myself on a strict time line for our party?  The second something wouldn't have gone accordingly, I would have stressed.  But why?  It is what it is.  I can't change it.  You cannot put the milk back in the cow.  All you can do is decide what to do with the milk.  This is actually my life mantra and I quote it until people get sick of hearing it.  But if more of us would use it, life would be much less stressful.  Everyday in my life, something goes wrong and by wrong I mean not the way I expected.  First, I pray. Then I look at my options - what I can control and make a decision if need be.  80% of the time my decision is simply to let it go.  Don't hold on to something that is not going as expected or going your way.  You may have a script but no one else has a copy of it including God.  He has his own script and His way is always better.  The next time something happens like this, say out loud "It is what it is.  God it is in your hands."  And let it go!
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."  Philippians 4:6

When you are stressed or anxious, simply do as God instructs.  First, don't be stressed or anxious - let it go!  Then pray!  But not only pray, pray and ask with thanksgiving.  We forget this part.  Be thankful always.  There is a treasure in every trial.  Even in the worst trials.  Cancer is a horrible thing.  No one ever wants to hear that word spoken in conjunction with anyone.  But even in this trial there are treasures.  Sometimes it is that they found it early, sometimes it is that they found it at all giving you extra time with your loved ones. 

We are all going to feel times of stress.  But when you feel stressed, turn to the verse above and then use some of these tips to get you through the moment.  God never leaves us and what He thinks is all that matters.  Remember that this holiday season and most of all remember the true meaning of Christmas.  It is a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus who's sole purpose of being born was to save each and every one of us so that we wouldn't have to be stressed. 

I love each and every one of you and pray that you have a stress free holiday season and a stress free 2017!  From my family to yours - Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Day Before

I am so excited for this week!  My daughter is coming home from college and every moment spent with her is a blessing.  I consider myself one blessed lady.  Blessings that would take up hundreds of pages if I listed every one.  But I made a habit years ago of celebrating those blessings everyday of the year, not just the 4th Thursday of November.  This is one of the reasons I have no issue with listening to Christmas music now and singing at the top of my lungs.  Because I have made everyday Thanksgiving Day. 

Thanksgiving for many is about Black Friday shopping and all of the deals you find - I do love a good deal and usually that is what my blog post is about this week.  For many it is about seeing family that you haven't seen in a really long time.  And for some it means deer season is just a few days away.  All of those are great and all of those are fun, but I wanted to focus this week on helping you see the many blessings you may not know you have.  When asked "What are you most thankful for?", most answers are the same - family, specific people, animals, and food. 

But I want to take a journey with you to another part of your town, city, state where people actually have less than you.  Many of us talk about all the things we don't have and all the things we can't afford.  Many of us are stressing over finances right now because we have bought things without having the cash to back it up.  But I want you to please read the list below of just a few of the things I am thankful for everyday because I know that there are people on my street, in my town, and in my area who don't have what I am blessed to have.
  • Food - there are children everyday whose only meal is at school.
  • Clothes - there are women with just one pair of shoes and they have holes in them.
  • Water - there are people who do not have running water right here in the U.S.
  • Toilet - there are people who have to use outhouses and buckets even in 2016
  • Heat - I remember when my grandmother would heat the living room only and when we went to bed, we used an electric blanket.  The whole house was never heated.  My husband deals with clients everyday who choose to use their ovens for heat because they do not have any.
  • Jackets - many kids go to school with just the shirt on their back, many times a t-shirt in the middle of winter.
  • Transportation - a pet peeve of mine is when people say they need a car to justify a huge car payment they can't make.  There are many people who would love just an old used car to get somewhere without having to walk.
  • Bible - I have many Bibles all around my house including on my iPad and phone.  There are people who would love to have just one.
  • Electronics - we all say that we "need" computers, internet, phones, TV's, tablets, etc.  These are actually the last things we need. 
  • Washer/dryer - I am washing clothes right now in my heated house - doing 4 loads.  Do you remember the scene in "The Blind Side" where Mike would go to a laundromat at night, hand wash his "other" shirt, slip it into someone else's dryer and then spend the night there?  That is not fiction.
  • Income - you may not like your job (and I hope you will pursue your passion), but be grateful you have some source of income.  Many people, more than we realize, are one check or emergency away from having nothing.
The biggest thing I realized years ago was that even at my bottom - in debt with 5 zeros and making $10,000/year, I still had way more than other people.  I want to ask you today - don't ever say you are broke.  Don't ever say you aren't blessed.  Don't just be thankful for family and people.  Take a look around, focus on things you never saw as blessings, and start being thankful for everything.  There are treasures in every trial.  There is something to be thankful for in every situation.  2 1/2 years ago, my dad had a massive heart attack and basically left us - until God stepped in and saved his life.  Not for one moment did I focus on the heart attack and what could have happened.  Until this day, I focus on every blessing that came out of that and make sure I tell God and my daddy everyday that I love them to the moon and back.  I don't know why daddy had to go through that, but I know that for me, only good will come from it. 

You are blessed.  You have someone who loves you - God and me.  You are an awesome person!  I hope you have a blessed Thanksgiving and from my family to yours - thanks for everything!  We love you!!!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Past is the Past

Have you ever wondered why this year isn't any different than last year?  Or the year before?  You may believe it has to do with your circumstances or your job or the people in your life.  But the odds are you are living in the past each and everyday. 

God tells us in Isaiah 65:16 "For the past troubles will be forgotten and hidden from my eyes."  So if God can forget the past, why can't we?  The reason it is so hard can be many - we believe that we were just born this way, other people keep us there by their judgements and expectations, maybe we believe this is "just who we are."  But we can't move forward into the great life that God wants us to have if we continue to live in the past.

In my 20's, I can't think of hardly anything that I did that was good.  Oh, I was a good person, but I was making mistake after mistake after mistake.  I was trying so hard to be what everyone else wanted me to be that I lost myself.  At the age of 30, I found myself a single mom, making $10,000 a year and $200,000 in debt.  That was about as low as I was willing to go.  I had a major aha moment.  I realized I could keep making mistakes and keep living for other people or I could forget the past and become the person that God put me here to become.  And that is what I did!  I started over at the age of 30.  And everyday of my journey, I have had to remind myself of Isaiah 65:16.  I've had to remind myself that God has forgiven and forgotten my past.  I will learn from my past, but it will never define me.

I know where you have been.  Odds are I have been there too (or something similar).  And I am here to tell you that the past is the past.  You are not your past and do not ever let a decision you made in your past define the awesome future God has for you.  Whether you are struggling with an addiction, are a single parent, are up to your eyeballs in debt, or simply haven't been the kind, Christian person you know God wants you to be - no matter what your past is, leave it.  Learn from it what needs to be learned and leave it at the feet of God.  The past is the past.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Never Forget; Always Forgive

Today is a day that will remain in our hearts forever - whether you were alive in 2001 or not; whether you lived in NYC, Washington, D.C, Shanksville, PA, or not.  It was a day where evil prevailed.  "Evil is real, but so is courage."  I heard George W. Bush speak those words just today.  Unfortunately, there is no where in the Bible that says that there will be no evil in the world.  There was a brief moment in the Garden of Eden, but after Adam and Eve fell into temptation, the world changed.  There is evil in the world, make no mistake.  The devil is alive and well.  However, it is how we react to evil that God is concerned with.

So many people have let the events of 9/11 harden their hearts.  Many have let their grief overtake them for the last 15 years.  But this is not how God wants us to react to the evil that is found in the world today.  God is very clear - "If you do not forgive others their sins, your father will not forgive you of your sins."  Matthew 6:15 (NIV).  Jesus also states "Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you". Matthew 5:43 (NIV).  I know every one prayed on that day, even people who didn't have a lot of faith.  But did you pray for the people who caused the destruction.  And in the 15 years since, have you forgiven them?  You see, the natural human side of us is to be angry and to stay angry.  And out of that anger comes judgement, hatefulness and harden hearts.  But God is very clear about how he expects us to react.  This may seem impossible; however, God never asks us to do something that he doesn't give us the strength to do.

When you remember this day, don't remember the evil.  Remember the lives that were lost and celebrate them.  Forgive the evil of that day.  Forgiving doesn't make it okay.  This by no means is accepting it as okay.  This is simply letting go and giving it to God.  God asks us to forgive not for others, but for ourselves.  If you have been living with anger, judgement and prejudice since 9/11/2001, let it go today.  Not for the evil ones - but for yourself.

Prayer:  God, I pray today that you will give me the strength to obey your word and forgive my enemies.  Also God, I want to pray for the evil in the world today.  Work in their lives God that they may see you, in me, in our country and in the world.  Thank you God for showing me how to be happy and loving even when other people are not.