Jennifer was a goal setter – she attended college, returned home for a visit, met and married her first husband.
But then her world began to fall apart and like all of us whose ideals, expectations and normal assumptions for life begin to crumble, she found herself struggling to save her marriage – eventually realizing it was beyond saving.
She went from a healthy, vibrant individual to sinking into a troubling depression and wondering what life was all about.
As she struggled with the enormous changes that had occurred and the overwhelming challenges she faced, she found a bracelet that had been lost. Unable to find the owner, she looked more closely at the words that encircled the band:
What do you say to yourself when faced with handicaps or obstacles that seem overwhelming?
Do you say, I can do that, or do you look at all the reasons why you can’t do it.
That internal way of thinking will influence everything you do. When under pressure to complete work within a limited time frame, or when things go wrong in your marriage or you don’t know how to talk with your teens, and your life seems like it is spinning out of control, what you say to yourself is critical.
Our thoughts and typical approach to life will either compound and add to the stress we are experiencing or we will find new ways to accomplish what we want.
As children we hear lots of negative messages that tell us we are “not good enough.” They come from many sources: bullying, teasing, comparisons, and a lack of words of praise.
Over time these accumulated messages from our past can form tapes that are constantly being activated that program us to behave in certain ways and do things only one way.
These tapes have been rehearsed and repeated so long they become a habit that form an “internal critic” who constantly reminds us of how useless and unsuccessful we are.
Our focus remains on what we haven’t done right instead of all the things we have done right and can do.
Instead of analyzing problems, look at pros and cons, learning from mistakes and applying that learning in a positive way, we are instead sabotaged by this critic that says we aren’t capable of doing anything right.
An internal critic can only repeat what it has learned from the past. It will be triggered whenever we face problems today. It pronounces a judgment and predicts future outcomes. It affects all our thinking and becomes an automatic response to whatever is happening.
Throughout our lives we are learning. When we were little, we learned by doing and experimenting: falling down, getting hurt and gradually discovering what not to do.
We learn from our parents what we should and shouldn’t do. But the learning that had the most influence is what we learned by observing. It’s not so much what is said – but what is lived.
Kids in school and teachers have a huge impact on our lives. There is a lot of social learning as well as book learning that happens during those school years. How am I treated by other kids? Am I accepted or rejected? Is it easy for me to make friends or am I excluded? And what do I have to do to be in that inner circle?
Later, learning takes us into more formal academic settings where we get our degrees before entering the rough and tumble life of the real world where jobs dictate what and how things should be done.
Throughout the years we will continue to gather information, taking classes that enhance our lives in some way.
My husband and I were sailboat cruisers. We moved to the beautiful northern Washington area so we could take advantage of the wonderful cruising opportunities available in the San Juan Islands.
When you do any serious sailing or cruising it is important to learn the rules of the road, know where the shipping lanes are, what the different buoys mean, know how to chart a course and take into consideration prevailing winds, tides and currents. Without these basics you can easily get into trouble.
So it is in life. We need to learn what it means to be comfortable at the helm, where the rip tides are, how to avoid submerged but dangerous rocks and where the safe passages are located.
Preparation not only includes knowledge of the areas where we are sailing, but also preparation of the boat and ourselves.
There were times when we had charted a course, set the boat on its path and then were able to activate the automatic pilot – a self-steering apparatus which enabled you to take your hand off the wheel and allow the automatic pilot to take over. But you never left the area – you continued to monitor where you were going so in a moment’s notice you could resume control of the helm.
We came together to pray and plan and encourage and find out where we were on our career paths.
Author, counselor, coach, teacher – we all congregated at my home for our annual retreat from life as usual to catch up and listen and ask for and receive clarification of our goals.
Sometimes our talking went on so long we failed to realize we were hungry when it was time to eat.
Friends: they support us and are willing to give us the valuable information we need from a trusted friend.
Our friendship circle was formed so we could support each other and encourage one another in our life’s work. Setting aside our wants and wishes, we reached out to help each other visualize and test their goal ideas. We shared information from the educational and training backgrounds we had along with articles we have read and books we recommended reading. At times it was like a think tank – exploring what we could accomplish if we set our hearts and prayers to it.
Every day, we have the opportunity to observe and be blessed by the wonders of our world. These wonders and blessings come as a gentle falling rain after a hot dry summer or silently tumbling snowflakes that shimmer like diamonds in the winter sun.
Who hasn’t felt refreshed by a cooling summer’s rain or been touched by the quiet serenity of an earth blanketed in mounds and mounds of downy snow?
At such times, nature is silenced and time suspended.
And who hasn’t experienced the deep, enduring and gentle peace that comes from looking over a countryside bathed in the light of a full moon. And what person hasn’t marveled at stars so dazzling and vivid it seems we could reach up and touch them.
And yet, the snow is only frozen water, and the sun, moon and stars are nothing more than hardened, desolate, uninhabitable rocks and dangerous gasses.
What transforms these unattractive objects into things of beauty? And what happens to change the mundane of everyday events into things of beauty, miracles and blessings?
August has flown by – Minutes filled with work, accomplishing projects and conversations.
But the best moments were those spent with good friends – talking, sharing and just being together.
Relationships are an important part of any steps we take through life. Knowing we are not alone allows us to step more confidently.
“This is the day which the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24.
We only have that moment in time. If we waste it, we are wasting a part of who we are. In that moment in time we have the ability to reflect, connect with loved ones, do some meaningful work, try new things, and look for opportunities.
I don’t. But we’ve all had them. While we may not remember our first attempts at walking, we remember snippets of running and jumping and falling down with scraped knees and scaring our parents half to death as we climbed and explored places where danger was adventuresome.
As we march through life, we take steps full of confidence and those filled with timidity and hesitation.
There were those hesitant steps as we entered kindergarten, and then bounded through grade school and high school, entering college with a false sense of self and doubt but soon striding with self confidence. Soon we were light footing it into romance and love and then that solemn walk down the aisle. Steps in tandem soon slowed down as we tried to match the baby steps of our first toddler.
As the years marched on, we became more sure-footed, learning not to make the same mistakes twice.
But then just as we had found a comfortable gait, life throws us some unexpected hard balls and we learn we don’t have as much control as we thought we had.
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