5 Steps to Better Forgiving Others

Last week, I spoke in a church meeting on the topic of forgiveness.  The feedback I received immediately afterwards was so overwhelming, it made me wonder if maybe more people need to hear this message.  I spoke about forgiveness from a different angle than I usually hear it.  Customarily, I hear the importance of why we should have a forgiving heart.  The two largest reasons being – first, so that the Lord will also be forgiving towards us (Matt 6: 14-16); and second, studies show that an unforgiving heart can be unhealthy for our physical and emotional well-being.  Regardless of your spiritual stance, the latter reason makes it imperative for all of us to be forgiving.  My talk wasn’t about why, I wanted to know more about how we go about forgiving.  After reading a few articles, I settled on five ways to help become a more forgiving person.  Because I am Christian, some of these steps will be faith-based.

5 Steps to Better Forgiving Others

1. Sincere Prayer

I read a fascinating speech given in 1997 by James M. Harper, a marriage and family therapist.  Harper stated, “Our attitude in prayer will help transform our grieving, angry hearts into forgiving hearts.”  His statement is the perfect way to show that forgiveness begins with the softening or changing of our own hearts.  I’ve found that when I pray sincerely, it is not that I need to forgive, but rather that I need to ASK for forgiveness from someone.  That is the beauty of honest prayer, it helps us to become humble.

2.  Accept that forgiving the offender, does not mean you excuse their behavior

Quoting Harper again, he said, “I have seen survivors of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse struggle with the doctrine of forgiveness. They often feel that if they were to forgive, it would let the offender off the hook or would minimize the hurt and damage. Yet they fail to realize that transforming their heart to a forgiving heart is a gift they give themselves. It will do far more for them than it will ever do for their offender.”  Having experiences of being hurt by someone, I know in some instances, I wanted the offender to hurt, as I hurt.  Karma, if you will.  I’m not saying this is right, but that is what my instinct wants to do.  Forgiving them feels like I’m freeing them from consequences.  How bold of me to think that I am somehow their judge, when there is only one judge they have to face and my decision to forgive has nothing to do with their salvation, but merely mine.  In the book Beyond Ordinary by Justin and Trisha Davis, it reads, “Forgiveness doesn’t excuse their behavior; forgiveness prevents their behavior from destroying your heart.”

3.  Avoid storytelling about an offense

This one piggybacks the last item for me and is my biggest weakness in failing to forgive.  When I’ve been hurt, my impulse is to discuss the matter with my husband and my friends.  First, I like to check in and see if I’m out of line for feeling the way I feel.  Then, honestly, it’s to round-up my support group that I hope will have my back.  The support group’s role is to make me feel justified in my feelings and to come to my aid when necessary.  Again, not right, but that is my tendency.  Upon learning more about forgiveness, I’m realizing how detrimental and counter-productive this is to forgiving others.  I justify my storytelling as okay, because I’m merely looking for support, but I am perpetuating the offense and adding fuel to the fire.  Harper states, “In retelling a story about how we have been offended, we can tell it in such a way that we either push pain, anger, and grief deeper into the cells of our heart or we free ourselves…Don’t let the negative storytelling consume your relationships with others…Don’t put energy into unforgiveness; rather put it into transforming your heart.”

4.  Avoid dwelling on the offense

I have met people who struggle with this step, and I admit that I have faltered here a time or two.  I have spoken of and recounted offenses in my mind that I have claimed to have already forgiven.  Sadly, I have even held disdain towards certain offenders, even though there were no recent events that would give me any reason to do so.  In being around other people who, like me, have perhaps not completely let go of hurtful events, I see the pain and strain that it causes in other relationships in their, and my own, life.  As we dwell on our offenses and rehash them in our own minds and with others, we prevent ourselves from healing.  I recently saw a quote that drove this message home, “To heal a wound, you need to stop touching it.”

5 Steps to Better Forgiving

We often hear this message in a similar phrase, “Forgive & Forget.”  I read a study, known as the White Bear Experiment, by Social Psychologist, Dr. Wegner, that speaks about forgetting or suppressing a thought.  The study concluded that if you try to focus on NOT thinking about something (or forgetting a sin or offense in this case), you actually end up thinking about it more. So, while you may have good intentions of “forgetting” the offense by trying NOT to think of it, you’re likely bringing it to the forefront of your mind even more so.  A solution would be to try to replace the thought with something more positive.

I have been hurt by “repeat offenders” before and I find that I am most at peace when I focus on the good that the individual brings into my life.  None of us are perfect, and I find that replacing my negative feelings or frustrations with positive experiences not only improves the relationship with the offender, but it also frees me from dwelling on the offenses.  Plus, this shift keeps me from retelling the offense, when I’m naturally focused on it less.

5.  Do kind acts for the offender

I have to admit, this is one concept I had not even thought to do. It wasn’t until I read an article in a children’s magazine called “Janie’s Seventy Times Seven,” that it even occurred to me.  To summarize, Janie is frustrated with her little brother, Jimmy, constantly breaking her crayons, bugging her, making mistakes, and so on. She goes to discuss the matter with her Mom and says, “I forgave Jimmy for getting into my stuff and told him to keep out of my room forever. He didn’t Mom. He’s wrecking all my stuff.” Janie’s Mom asks Janie to read a scripture about forgiveness, then Janie replies “It says to forgive seventy times seven. That’s way too many times. It isn’t fair at all.” Janie’s mom replies, “Wouldn’t you want the Savior to forgive you more than once? Think about it. Maybe you could try teaching Jimmy how to take care of things. Jesus Christ said to do good to those who offend you—even your enemies.” Janie then takes a notebook and starts tallying all the times she has to forgive her brother, since she’s convinced that she doesn’t have to forgive him anymore once she reaches 70 times 7 (or 490 times).  But with each mistake her little brother makes, Janie does as her mom suggests and either teaches him the right way or does a kind deed for him.  After a few days, her tally gets to 12 out of 490 and she throws the paper away.  She later tells her Mom that she didn’t need to keep track of the times she had to forgive him because, “Jimmy doesn’t seem as annoying as he used to.”

My take away from the story was that Jimmy didn’t stop making mistakes, none of us do, it was Janie that worked to have a change of heart.  It’s her change of heart that brings us full circle to step 1 – sincere prayer. Sincere prayer is the first step to forgiveness, as it teaches us to heal or transform our own hearts, so that we have the strength to forgive, even when it may not be easy, or even when someone might not even ask for forgiveness.

I don’t know where I fall on the forgiveness spectrum.  I’d like to think I’m a forgiving person.  However, studying more about forgiving others, I’ve learned I have room for improvement.  Storytelling of my offenses or dwelling on them is something I struggle with, while doing kind deeds had not even been considered before.  There have been times where I had practiced the replacement of negative thoughts with positive ones, and there were times where I learned to hold my tongue regarding offenses.  In reflecting back on those moments, I realize that I was more at peace with myself.  That is the place I want to be in my life, and studying this topic reminded me of that.

Hopefully, reflecting on these 5 steps to better forgiving others will help you, as it did me.  May you find the calming peace that a forgiving heart brings.

Never Give Up

I was helping my second grader with her reading homework the other day.  I was assisting more with her understanding the meaning of a verb, rather than intervening.  It’s important for a child to do their own work and come to their own conclusions.    Of course, it’s tough for me not to swoop in and direct her to the right answer, but that doesn’t allow her to learn and grow.  Plus, it gives me no indication of where she is academically, if I’m doing it for her.  And, I’m so glad that I got to listen to her thought process as it pertained to the open-ended questions.  Her assignment was based on Aesop’s Fable The Tortoise and the Hare.  A common one for sure, with a moral that “slow and steady wins the race.”  However, that was not how my daughter saw it.

After she found her verbs and circled her adjectives, she came to the open-ended questions.  The first question was, “What did you learn from this fable?”  She was quick to answer with, “Never give up.”  I thought about trying to have her think more about the story, but then I realized the question wasn’t, “What do you think Aesop meant for the moral of the story to be?”  It was, “What did you learn from this fable?”  And she learned a powerful message.

Never Give Up

It got me thinking how both the tortoise and the hare finished the race.  They had different approaches and there was only one “winner,” but they both finished.  The Hare didn’t wake up and say, “Screw it.  I already lost.”  Neither of them gave up.

Now let me add, before we focus too much on the word never, that I know it’s not right to speak in absolutes, such as always and never.  There are things in life that may seem to be giving up (such as divorce), but may instead be one or both of the people deciding to not give up on themselves.  Not that I am pro-divorce.  I am simply stating that I recognize that there are instances when “giving up” is a healthier solution.  It’s these instances that I am not speaking about today.

Today I am speaking about never giving up on yourself.  Having experienced multiple times when giving up on life sounded like the optimal solution (a post for another day), and seeing what blessings have transpired after those dark and dreadful moments, I feel confident on this matter.  I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter if I’m the Tortoise or the Hare, as long as I finish the race by crossing the proper finish line versus creating my finish line.

On a much less depressing note, I am learning to never give up on other matters in my life that could use a little extra focus, love, and appreciation.  This blog is one example of that.  I have wanted to throw in the towel in regards to this blog more times than I can count.  While there may come a time when that is what is best for myself and our family, today is not that day.  So, stay tuned, and never give up!

8 Fun Ways for Kids to Serve!

As Labor Day Weekend has come and gone, it seems so has our Summer.  School starts this week for us and, as a result, we have been busily finishing up our 50 Fabulous Summer Bucket List Items.  We recently completed our “Day of Service” item.  Since I had put a bit of time researching just the right opportunities for my kids (ages 1 through 9) to spread kindness, and it turned out so well, I thought I would share my 8 fun ways for kids to serve!  We didn’t have a chance to do all eight of these ideas, but the ones we did do had some surprising results.

Take cards to the assisted living home.

We have done this a few times now and my kids are getting more comfortable at going up to the residents and delivering their handmade cards.  Sometimes it is difficult for young kids to feel comfortable walking up to strangers, let alone strangers who may have disabilities or ailments that may make children uncomfortable from their lack of understanding.  I admit, when I was a teenager and served in our school Community Service Club, visiting the local retirement home gave me anxiety.  I digress, as this post is not about me and my insecurities.

We usually invite other families to join us so that we can have a card making party and be armed with more cards to give out when we arrive at the assisted living home.  I’ve learned that the best time to arrive is around lunch or dinner time, to deliver cards while they are all gathered for meals.  On times when we have arrived outside of these hours, we have merely placed the cards on the tables for the residents to see when they arrive.  Our cards usually include little notes wishing them a nice day with a drawing and some stickers.  I think it’s fun to include the ages of the kids who are creating the cards, to personalize the experience a little more for the recipient.

Fun ways to serve

Leave “lucky pennies” for children to find.

When I was a little girl, my Mom used to say, “Heads up, pick it up.  Give it away, have luck all day.”  I’ve heard variations on that, but the common thread is that a penny with its head facing up is considered good luck.  But, let’s be honest, a kid doesn’t care what way a penny is facing.  A penny, in their minds, is as good as gold.  My friend and I sent our kids out, with pennies in hand, to go place “lucky pennies” along the pathway where we were eating our lunch picnic during this year’s Day of Service.  As soon as the kids were done eating their lunches, they all ran off to check the status of the pennies they had placed.  Such a fun and simple way to spread joy!

Deliver baked goods to your local fire station.

This one is ALWAYS the highlight of my kids’ Day of Service.  It’s probably because the fire fighters in our town are all too willing to give them a tour of their vehicles, particularly their engine.  What child doesn’t love getting up in a fire engine?  I feel like we’re on the recipient side of this act of service, as they seem to stop everything to teach our children and let them explore.  The best part is, as an adult, I actually learn new stuff about their role in our community every time we go.

 Attach a bag of coins to a vending machine.

After our assisted living home stop, lunch break, and fire station exploration, we headed over to our local hospital to do two more acts of service.  Before heading out for our Day of Service, we had placed a dollar worth of coins into six separate baggies with a note that read, “Spreading random acts of kindness.  Enjoy a treat on us!”  Upon arriving to the hospital, we sought out the vending machines and taped the baggies to the machines with packing tape.  Since we had six bags and there were only two vending machines, we ended up taping four and delivering two to patients waiting in the Emergency Department.

Place coloring books and crayons in hospital waiting areas.

This was our second act of service within the hospital, and the most surprising one to me.  Being that we were two women with eight kids between us, I don’t imagine we appeared dangerous, yet some adults and kids were quick to refuse our offer of crayons and coloring sheets.  I was shocked by a mom who sharply declined our act of kindness and kids who seemed confused by our offer.  In fact, nobody would take any from us.  We ended up placing the items on tables near the waiting families and informing them that they were theirs for the taking, should they change their mind.  Some kids quickly went for the coloring pages once they were laying out.  I suppose many of us have come accustomed to believing that there is always some sort of catch to something being “free.”

The three remaining items for 8 fun ways for kids to serve were not done during our Day of Service, but I had intentions of doing these as well.  Unfortunately, we did not get a chance to do them for one reason or another.

Leave positive messages with sidewalk chalk along walkways.

I really wanted to do this one, but I forgot to buy the sidewalk chalk.  My hope was to have the kids leave smiley faces along sidewalks or perhaps little messages that just said, “Have a good day,” or “You’re beautiful.”  Sidewalk chalk messages and drawings seem to easily catch the attention of others.  How fun would it be to know that others might be lifted up by such a simple message for days to follow?

Return shopping carts to their stalls.

This was another way that I thought my kids would have fun serving.  However, after further thought, I realized that my kids are a bit too young to be gathering shopping carts and pushing them through busy parking lots.  Plus, my kids kept worrying that if we did this task, then we would end up putting the workers who normally do this undertaking out of a job.    I imagine once they’re a little older, they’ll understand that the “shopping cart retrievers” have other responsibilities to ensure job security.  Perhaps then we can give this act of service a go?

Leave a small present or a note of appreciation in your mailbox for your mail carrier.

My Mom used to give the garbage man, the mail carrier, our dry cleaners’ owners, and our gardeners a box of See’s Candies for Christmas, as a sign of our appreciation.  I always thought it such a nice gesture.  While I don’t have the ability to give such generous tokens, I thought it might be nice to drop a note of gratitude or perhaps grab a candy bar and leave it in our mailbox for our mail carrier.

::COMMERCIAL BREAK::  You may notice that I am being very PC in referring to our mail carrier.  This is because I once addressed a card to my BFF that said, “Dear Mailman, Please deliver this card to the best friend in the whole wide world.”  When the card arrived, the mail carrier had left a note on the front of the card, slashing out the word “man” portion of Mailman and putting “woman” instead.  Since then, I’ve tried to be more considerate about the gender of a mail carrier.  Normally, I’m not very PC, but if I’m going to show my appreciation, I certainly want to be sensitive to their feelings.  ::NOW BACK TO YOUR REGULAR PROGRAMMING::

All of these 8 fun ways for kids to serve almost seem too easy.  By the time we had done five of these eight acts of kindness, it seemed like we had hardly done anything at all.  But who is to say how far these acts may go?  They weren’t big at all in the grand scheme of things, but if they changed the outlook of even one person’s day, then I think we’ve had a success.  Heck, I even got a little happy when my daughter delivered a card to an elderly gentleman playing the piano at the assisted living home, and he noticed her name on the card and said that it was also his sister’s name.  Perhaps just triggering the memory of a loved one brought joy to him?  I know remembering my mom can be bittersweet, but each memory is a reminder that she lives on in me.

As parents, we have the responsibility to teach our children so many things; at times it feels overwhelming.  However, teaching my children to look beyond themselves is towards the top of my list.  As a Christian woman, my focus is to teach my children of Jesus Christ.  What better way to teach of Him, than to teach them how to be charitable, which is the pure love of Christ?   I hope they remember these days that we set aside every so often to serve, and seek out their own ways to lift others through their daily activities.

Most Important Work

I’ve felt a bit blue recently.  I am not sure what to attribute it to in my life.  Things are all going well in our world, so it’s definitely something that is coming from within.  I could chalk it up to the mental illness I battle, but that doesn’t make it any easier to face it.  In trying to figure out what positive insight I could share this week, I decided I needed my own inspiration and hit my Worth Remembering board on Pinterest.  The quote that hit the spot was the one that reads, “Children are not a distraction from more important work.  They are the most important work.”  You may have noticed that I did not credit anyone as having said that.  That’s because, there is debate on who was quoted as saying this line.  You’ll see credit given to C.S. Lewis and John Trainer, M.D..  C.S. Lewis fans say that he was never quoted as saying this, so I guess that leaves it to John Trainer, M.D.  Regardless of its origin, it was what I needed to read.  The one thing I have been trying my best to do this past week is make the most of the last days of my children’s Summer.  While I feel like I’m failing in many ways, I have focused on the most important work, which is my children.  I need to remember this, because usually I feel like a failure in the department of parenting as well.  I’m not claiming to feel superior as a parent, but I’m feeling more confident than usual as I place my focus more fully on them.

Most Important Work

 

With that being said, I’m keeping this short and sweet.  My week has been filled with loads of fun memories being made with my kids.  As a result, many other things got pushed to the back burner, and that’s okay.  This time in our lives will end all too soon.  Now is the time for my children to be my most important work and, may I add, my most important play.  So, work and play we shall do!

A Quitter’s Giveaway

All that talk about me being a quitter in last week’s post reminded me of a quote I found once on Pinterest.  It was a quote from Sonja Foust, an author, that read, “If you don’t like what you’re doing, stop. Sometimes you get it in your head that you want to be a writer or a painter or a weight-lifter or whatever and then when you start doing it, you don’t actually like it that much, but you keep trying because it was your dream, dammit! Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s your dream and you can kill it if you want to.”  Now, on the heels of my emphasis on determination, I thought I would clarify that it is okay to change your mind and stop doing something.  I’m doing a quitter’s giveaway to clarify my point.

Your Dream

So, here’s the deal.  When I started diving into The Power of a Bucket List at age 19, I had a much different list forming.  It had a couple of items that I THOUGHT I dreamed of doing; for instance, sewing.  Making my own clothes sounded fabulous.  I had purchased a sewing machine with high hopes, but they flitted away as a friend of mine taught me how to make pajama bottoms.  It was fun at first, but it slowly became a frustrating task and I found that I was often handing over my pajama bottoms to my friend for her help.  The project made me realize that I do not like sewing.  Using the machine had its perks and I enjoyed the results when things turned out properly, but overall it’s a very meticulous activity that I have little patience for doing.  Plus, it’s not as affordable as I thought it might be, so I couldn’t even justify sewing as being worth my time and money.  I learned that what I really wanted was the ability to sew on a button and fix a hem, when the need arose.  All the really cool creations are best left in the hands of my Step-mom, who is an excellent seamstress, and my daughter, who can get lost in the activity for hours on end.

That being said, I would like to give away my copy of Sew What! Skirts: 16 Simple Styles You Can Make with Fabulous Fabrics.  It was given to me in the days when I longed to sew my own clothes.  I’d like this book to go to someone who finds peace in sewing versus frustration.

I joke that this is a quitter’s giveaway, but I truly don’t consider myself a quitter on this matter.  I think it’s perfectly okay to try something out and realize that it’s not for you.  Isn’t that what all those years of dating were all about?  We can learn new things about ourselves as we grow older.  Many times our experiences lead us to re-prioritize what matters most to us.  Sewing is certainly a great skill to have, but it’s not the type of skill that I want to further develop.  I’d rather put forth the time to become healthier physically, which is saying a lot about how I feel about sewing.

Have you tried something that you thought you would love only to find out that it’s not really your thing?  Or, did you think you wanted to try something but realize that it was more the idea of such an activity than the reality?  I know at one point I contemplated sky-diving, just because it seemed cool.  However, after giving it real consideration, I don’t have the desire at all.  Also, as I mentioned in last week’s post, I thought I wanted to run a full marathon and then admitted to myself that the idea of running that long sounds horrifying.  A half marathon will do nicely.  To enter this quitter’s giveaway, share with me your changed opinion about an activity in the comments below.

Remember, it’s your dream.  You don’t really need to be quite as violent as Sonja’s quote above and “kill it,” but there is truth in her words.  It’s perfectly okay for YOUR DREAM to change to fit the real you, who you’ve come to know, versus a forced idea of what you once thought you wanted to be in life.

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Find a Way, Not an Excuse

It’s no secret, I’m a slave to the Summer Bucket List every year (2013, 2014, 2015).  I don’t know what it is with me, but a bucket list motivates me to make things happen, particularly a Summer Bucket List.  This Summer is no different.  Despite moving across town and still trying to grasp the fact that I have four children, I have stayed on track to complete this year’s list before school starts.  I hadn’t given much thought to my success with the bucket list until I came across this quote I saw by Jim Rohn, “If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way.  If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.”  What it comes down to, is that I really want to complete the bucket lists.  So I set out with more determination than usual and I find a way, not an excuse.

Find a way, not an excuse

I genuinely have never considered myself a determined person, perhaps because I so often was teased about being a quitter.  Of course the teasing came from solid examples.  As a child, I took up soccer and quit after the second practice because the coach reprimanded me for something and I took it personal and told my mom that I was done.  Not too long after, I started singing lessons.  I went to two lessons before I quit that as well.  My reason for quitting?  The teacher told me that as a singer I would need to cough in a more delicate manner than I was used to doing.  It seemed absurd to live a life with throat clearing versus a solid cough.  I’m laughing as I type this, but it really is true.  That is why I stopped.  I chalked it up to my love for singing being recreational and, decidedly, not professional.  Then, between Jr High and High School, I took up volleyball.  I was not a natural, as I had never done sports before.  In fact, I remember the coach being surprised when I did a successful play.  Then came hell week, and it was, well, hell.  So, I quit.  So you see, I didn’t have the best reputation for seeing things through to the end.  So, it should come as no surprise that I thought very little of my ability to see anything through or “to find away.”  I was always so good at finding an excuse.

Then a remark was made about me while sitting with my siblings, their spouses, and my dad and step-mom over dinner.  My dad was talking about how he plans to have his ashes scattered at the top of Mt Whitney (the highest summit in the contiguous United States).  He wants them scattered there, as he has climbed it 30+ times successfully.  He mentioned that he intended to have some friends of his take the ashes to the top and scatter them.  I was quite hurt that I would not be scattering them myself, even more hurt that my Dad didn’t think I could pull it off.  I get it, I do.  I’m not athletically inclined nor am I even deemed healthy, but still I should be the one scattering my father’s ashes.  Shocked by the news, I remember speaking up and saying, “Hey, wait a minute!”  Then there was some laughter, because well, it’s me.  I really am in no way prepared to undergo such a feat.  Then, my sister-in-law spoke up on my behalf.  She said, “Sara could totally do it.  She can do anything she puts her mind to.”  I was shocked at my back-up.  Frankly, I wasn’t sure she was even right.  It made more sense to think that I couldn’t climb Mt Whitney than that I could.  But here she was defending me and, in that moment, I remember feeling a little more confident that I could succeed at anything if I really wanted to give it a go.

Then, flash forward to the summer of 2012.  I was visiting my BFF up in Los Angeles and we were sitting on a bench in Griffith Park while my older kids played on the playground.  I still lived in Southern California at the time.  I brought up to her that Aaron and I were thinking about moving to Central Oregon.  I explained to her all the reasons why we thought it was best for our family.  Finances being one of those reasons.  She responded, “Well, how long until you guys get your finances okay and move back?”  I informed her that we had no intention of moving our family back to Southern California.  This would be a permanent move.  I wasn’t ready for the disappointment on her face.  Truly, the mood in our day changed and I felt so sad in that very moment.  As though I could somehow ease her pain, and my own, I told her, “It might not happen though.  Aaron still hasn’t gotten a job.”  She sadly said, “It’s going to happen, Sara.  Anytime you’ve set out to do something, it always works out.”  Such a flattering thing to say, but I could not for the life of me figure out where she was getting this impression.  I still don’t really know.

It wasn’t until the second Summer up here in Central Oregon that I started to believe that maybe I do have a bit of determination in me.  It was when I started the Summer 7 months pregnant, had our baby mid-Summer, and then had the Stroke of Luck the following week.  I had already prepared my 70 item bucket list (only 50 items are posted publicly, as 20 items are location specific) before the Summer began and somehow I was determined to complete it regardless of the curve balls that kept seeming to be thrown my way.  This was the Summer that my BFF gave me words of encouragement from over the phone, “Where there’s a will, there’s Sara.”  For the first time, I actually felt like I had some actions to back up her words.  I was determined (to the point of annoyance to some, I’m sure).  Even if it meant being inconvenienced, I was going to find a way, not an excuse.  And, I did.  All 70 items were completed before the first day of school.

Sitting here writing this makes me want to ask my sister-in-law and BFF what gave them the impression in the first place that I could achieve anything I put my mind to, as it seems I gave so little reasons in my life for that to be the case.  But, yet, they saw it in me.  Regardless, how do I implement this determination into other aspects of my life?  Like, exercise perhaps.  No, seriously, how do I?  I don’t know.

Is it as simple as printing my Life Bucket List out and placing it on the fridge the way our seasonal bucket lists are on display?  Making it a constant reminder for me to make things happen?  Because, you see, I already know that the bucket lists are good motivators.  So, while I want to work on being healthier, it doesn’t seem to work to say, “I’m going to exercise so many days a week.”  I will come up with an excuse.  I know I will.  However, if I want to accomplish #22, Run a Half Marathon (side note, the original list I made said that I wanted to run a marathon, until I realized that I really have no desire to run a full marathon.  It actually sounds pretty miserable.), then I’ll begin to work in that direction and a healthier body will follow naturally.  Then, a healthier body will leave me better suited to carry out #7, Climb Mt Whitney, because my sister-in-law believed that I could, and I want to prove her right.

I get that bucket lists don’t work for all.  I’ve even read a post about 7 Reasons Not to Make a Bucket List.  Honestly, I don’t understand how I get so fired up about them.  But, if a bucket list is what makes me find a way, not an excuse, then a bucket list it will be.  I feel like the stated reasons why not to make a bucket list are more based on bucket lists that are too lofty.  Sure, I have some places that I want to travel, but few, if any, are so specific that I risk not attaining my goal due to a jellyfish migration issue.  Many of my bucket list items depend on personal achievements, not trying to one-up somebody else’s passport stamps.

Life Bucket List #39 - Have a Large Family.  Check.
Life Bucket List #39 – Have a Large Family. Check.

What I’m getting at here, is that we should all look at what motivates us in our lives to find a way, not an excuse.  I speak from experience, that it really is a rewarding feeling to know that I am out making stuff happen versus watching the world around me go by.  I like the way I feel when I find a way, not an excuse.  I feel at odds with myself when I find an excuse.  So, here’s to bucket lists, determination, people believing in you when you might not even believe in yourself, and seizing the day!  Go find a way, not an excuse!

Serve, Love, and Uplift!

As previously mentioned, our family is in the process of moving.  I spent three hours last night trying to pack and clean my kitchen.  I felt like I should have had more boxes to show for it, after all the work I put into it.  Speaking of work, I experienced firsthand the blessings of working to combat worry, as mentioned in It’s Time for Work.  I learned that my mind couldn’t even contemplate complex ideas, as it was already preoccupied with playing high-stakes Tetris, where each box had an ultimate goal of being perfectly packed.  I’ve resolved that the lack of boxes was due to my expert level Tetris skills.  I digress.  Can you even digress when you’ve only begun?  I wanted to talk about packing kitchens, but not as it pertains to Tetris.  Let’s move on, shall we?

I guess you can have some additional thoughts, beyond the task at hand, when you’re working.  Because I started to get nostalgic over the menial task of packing a kitchen.  I realized that packing a kitchen has sentimental value to me.  I began to recall all the kitchens I had packed and unpacked in my adult life.  The kitchen was my most dreaded packing task and, I confess, I left it for last.  I left it for last because I knew my mom would come in and handle it.  Because that’s what mom’s do, right?  At least, that’s what my mom did.  I have never been good in the kitchen even when it’s in working order.  So, it makes sense that I’m not much of a kitchen person when it comes to packing either.  My mom, however, was a kitchen packer, and a darn good one at that.

My Mom was the official dishwasher at my Nana's Christmas parties.
My Mom was the official dishwasher at my Nana’s Christmas parties.

But then my kitchen packer, and best friend, passed away.  Even more tough is that she passed away in the home where we lived together, along with my husband and daughter.  So, while she was there for the unpacking and placement of our kitchen, she was not there when it was time to move on.  She may have been there in Spirit, but she certainly wasn’t pulling her weight in the matter of kitchen packing.  Wasn’t she aware that I still needed her?  I’m making light of it here, but the thought that struck me last night was that we take for granted the simple things that make a difference in someone’s life.  I wonder if I ever properly thanked my mom for packing the kitchen that was inevitably left for her to handle?

I can’t say that I remember who helped me pack that first move without my mom.  I admit that I have very little recollection of the first six months after her passing.  My only guess is that I was placed on some sort of auto-pilot setting for my protection.  Unless there is a picture or video of an event to show for the Spring of 2008-Winter of 2008, it’s lost in the database that is my brain.  It’s difficult to think of that, as that also happens to be the first 6 months, or so, of my daughter’s life.  But, that’s all for another post on another day.

Continuing on with the exciting topic of kitchen packing, I take you now to the second move without my mom around.  It was December of 2009 and we were moving into our very own condo.  The only problem is that I had recently had my tonsils removed, then during the recovery of the tonsillectomy, I threw out my back so badly that I had to be taken by ambulance to the ER.  Again, a fascinating story for another day.  So, with this move, I had to rely virtually 100% on the help of others.  I think I had 5 women from church come and pack up my kitchen.  I remember feeling both helpless and grateful for their kindness and service.

On this particular move, the unpacking had as much meaning to me as the packing did.  As my Nana, my maternal grandmother, helped me unpack my kitchen, while my grandfather and Aunt painted my girls’ bedroom.  It was particularly special to me, as my grandparents weren’t customarily hands on when it came to my personal life.  They were always loving and supportive, but my relationship was largely based on my family visiting them.  So, this service from my Nana has always been dear to my heart.  It is the only time I recall working side by side with my grandmother.  It made me feel closer to her, and, strangely, my late mother as well.

About three years later, it was time to pack up that same kitchen.  I had lots of help from friends and family this time, but I mostly remember my sister-in-law’s presence.  She was astonished at the lack of packing I had done thus far for my upcoming out-of-state-move.  Oops.  She gave me a firm, but loving, reprimand of, “EVERYTHING goes in a box.”  I can’t be certain how many times I heard that line that evening, but I will never forget it.  As simple as it sounds, that really is the best packing advice I have ever been given.  It makes for the easiest loading and unloading process you can imagine.

Now, we’ve come back full circle to this move.  Here I am, again, packing up a kitchen.  I haven’t left it for last, because my mom will not show up and handle it, as she always did.  Though, if it worked that way, I would gladly halt all of my packing efforts this very instant.  No, this time the packing has alternated between my husband and I, as the other often has the task of keeping the kiddos occupied.  And, as I spent those three hours packing alone last night, I couldn’t help but be filled with sadness over the loss of my mom and gratitude for all the people who have given service in her place over the many years now.

It’s not just about the packing and unpacking of the kitchen, it’s about the gratitude I have for being a recipient of countless acts of service.  I feel like sometimes we shortchange ourselves on the impact that we make in another person’s life by serving them.  I’m certain that the women who have helped me pack or unpack my kitchen are completely unaware of the significance that their act of service had on my life.  I’ve heard it said that you can never replace your mother.  I know it to be true.  But, what I’ve also learned is that it’s something pretty beautiful when multiple people step in and help where a mother might have before.  I’m talking about the women in my life, old and young, who have been a sounding board, who have helped with my kids, who have offered a compliment when I felt like I was utterly defeated in my role as a mother, the list goes on and on.  I suppose I should not be gender specific, as I have also had many men, my father included, serve our family in numerous ways.  It just happens that I tend to be surrounded by more women in my role as an at-home mom, and have been lovingly served by those same women.

I realize this post is probably self-serving, which is ironic based on the message I’m trying to convey, but I just felt like sending out a general “thank you” into the universe.  Thank you for all of the service that my family has received through the years.  And thank you, whoever is reading, for every little act of kindness you have done in your own life.  I thank you, on behalf of every recipient of your kind deeds, and tell you that your service has made an impact for good, even if it did not seem appreciated.  Sadly, some people are not mindful of the blessings they’ve received through the hands of another.  May I never fall into that category.  May people always know of my gratitude, from something as simple as a text offering packing supplies to something as wonderful as Tupperware being returned with a $20 gift card inside to your kids favorite fast food, which I might add both happened today.  Even cooler, I didn’t need to get the packing supplies offered from one person, because I had already been given more than enough packing materials from another kind friend.  These good deeds do not go unnoticed in my world.

May you be blessed with the ability to see all the acts of kindness that have been done on your behalf.  And, when possible, take the time to share your gratitude.  When you’re done doing that, go out and be the good you want to see in the world!  Serve, love, and uplift!  That’s what this whole scatter-brained post is about!  It’s about the overwhelming gratitude I have for the people who have served, loved, and uplifted me; and the motivation it gives me to go out and do the same!

Serve, Love, Uplift

It’s Time for Work!

I strive to be as open and honest about my bouts with depression and anxiety, in hopes that my candidness may help someone else who feels they are suffering alone.  Even though the rational side of me is well aware that others suffer similarly, there are times when I feel isolated in my struggle with mental illness.  Fortunately, I am not enduring a drastic low right now.  However, my anxiety has been a constant battle as of late.  The most common anxiety indicator for me is chest pain.  It’s hard to describe the physical feeling, as the chest pain manifests differently depending on what type of stress I’m trying to cope with.  For instance, the chest pain that comes from a large grocery bill when I know money is tight, is different from the pain that comes from feeling overwhelmed emotionally with personal matters.  With an upcoming move, it seems I’m having to endure both types.  Moves are expensive and emotionally draining, am I right?  This is why I need to rely on this quote I found by the late Prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Gordon B. Hinckley, which reads, “The best antidote for worry is work. The best medicine for despair is service. The best cure for weariness is to help someone even more tired.”  Reading this made me think, “it’s time for work!”

Best Antidote for Worry

I realize that I’ve discussed anxiety and not worry, but many feel they go hand in hand.  I look at worry as anxiety’s intern.  Worry is more controlled than anxiety.  Worry feels like something I can reason with and overcome.  Anxiety feels like this beast that takes over me.  While worry seems more manageable than anxiety, my guess is that they can both be eradicated with work.  So, that’s what I’m going to do: work.  Thankfully, I have plenty of opportunities to work, as boxes don’t pack themselves.

While, I don’t feel like I’m struggling with despair, I have still witnessed the great blessings that come from forgetting myself and serving others.  I’ve also noticed, being the wife of an ER Nurse, that my burdens seem to pale in comparison when I hear what others are enduring at the hospital.  There is always someone who is in greater need of comfort and service.  My desire is to increase my efforts to work and serve, and realize that those efforts will only bring about good.

And in those moments, when the days work is done but my mind does not seem to agree, I will try a little trick I discovered the last time I struggled greatly with anxiety.  Instead of thinking of all the “what ifs,” I will focus my mind on positive memories.  At these times, I like to recall memories of my mom.  I look at the memories as real and solid.  The future is made up of unknowns and the memories are fact.  Sometimes, the best way to stop fretting, is to remind yourself of all the goodness that has been your reality thus far in life.

With that being said, it’s time for work!

Feeling Uniquely Wonderful

As it states in my About Me section, “I receive daily opportunities to debunk my irrational thoughts and live to the measure of my full potential.”  This past Sunday was one of those days, when I noticed a trait in a friend that I wanted to work on in my life.  She is a woman I know through church.  Joy is written in her countenance and it’s amplified through her energetic smile and engaging eyes.  When speaking with her, it’s clear I have her full attention.  Not only do I have her full attention, but she appears genuinely interested in what I have to say.  Even more than that, she showers me in compliments when it seems there is nothing compliment-able about me.  In short, she makes me feel like I’m the coolest person in the world every single time I talk to her.  I admit, it’s pretty good on the ego.  Here’s the catch though, if I were to ask someone else if this friend left them feeling uniquely wonderful as well, they would all answer yes.  So, does this mean that she is not sincere?  The sincerity of such a friend, has always left me in question.  If someone makes everyone feel like they’re the coolest person ever, who really is the coolest person ever?  I think I finally found the answer to my internal debate this past Sunday, when I came home from church feeling uniquely wonderful.

Before I share my answer, I think it’s important to give some background information so that you know that I truly have struggled with this for years.  It all started with my Grandpa.  Every time that I arrived in my grandparents’ home, I would give both my Nana and Grandpa a hug.  And every time I hugged my Grandpa, I would ask him how he was.  And every time I asked him, he would always respond, “I’m better now.”  Every time.  I immediately felt like I had made my Grandpa’s day.  He was better because I was there.  It took years before I realized that he said that to everyone that went up and hugged him and asked how he was.  Everybody made him better.

But, how could that be?  Wasn’t I the best?  That’s probably the real issue in this debate, is that I somehow need to know where I land in the ranks of someone’s love and devotion.  Somewhere along the way, I came to believe that if I was not the best, then I wasn’t really enough at all.  Woah.  There’s a personal realization that I wasn’t expecting to stumble across while writing this post.  I digress.

So, my Grandpa was the first person I noticed that has this ability, and my church friend is the most recent.  But there are others that I have crossed paths with that have this knack.  I’m sure you can think of such a person in your own life.  They’re the type of person that makes everyone they come across feel perfectly okay being exactly who they are.  They celebrate you every time they are around you so that you walk away feeling uniquely wonderful.

Perfectly Okay

As I’ve come in contact with more of these people, I’ve decided that they are completely sincere.  My Grandpa really does feel better with each embrace he receives from a loved one.  My friend genuinely enjoys when I teach a class at church.  Other friends with this gift, really do find me enjoyable to be around.  They don’t say these things just to say them.  They see the positive in people.  They recognize the joy that others feel when they know they’re loved and appreciated.  They, in turn, feel joy knowing they have brightened another’s day by expressing their uplifting remarks.

As often is the case, I have discovered something about myself through the exercise of writing a post.  Where I was originally planning to share how I would like to become better at uplifting others, as these type of people do, I now want to remove this subconscious thought process of ranking myself in other’s eyes.  For instance, let’s say that someone tells me that I’m a good cook (keep your laughter to a minimum, please) and I hear that same person tell another person that they’re a good cook.  Can we not both be good cooks?  What is it about me that needs to know what level of “good cook” I am versus the other person?  Oy vey.  I’m flashing back to my post Stop Comparing and Reclaim Joy where I referenced Theodore Roosevelt’s quote, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”  This need to compare and rank truly is the thief of joy.  It’s caused me to take the kind remarks from a friend and question their sincerity and my worth.  How sad is that?

Well, it seems as though I’ve got a bit of debunking to do, if I want to rid myself of this ridiculous need to rank my level of awesomeness in the eyes of each person I meet.  If I do slip up and get this insatiable urge to rank myself, perhaps I’ll have enough wisdom to recognize that I am #1 to one spectacular husband and four incredible children!  It really is no wonder I struggle with insecurity when I’m subconsciously filing myself in a particular category for each person that I know.  Oh man.  Why do I feel like I’ve opened a can of worms with this realization?

#1 in their eyes!
#1 in their eyes!

Before I freak out anymore, let me answer the question I originally posed, “If someone makes everyone feel like they’re the coolest person ever, who really is the coolest person ever?”  My answer: All of us.  All of us have the right to be around people who leave us feeling uniquely wonderful.  And my heart’s desire is to make sure I am better about leaving people feeling just that way.  I’m certain that the more I accept the compliments given to me as being sincere and the more I strive to show my love and appreciation for others, the better suited I will be to live to the measure of my full potential.

Envisioning the Potential

A few weeks back, I had the opportunity to hangout with some friends at a local park while our kiddos played.  I got to chatting with one friend who enjoys refinishing furniture.  At the time, she was in the middle of working on a family heirloom hutch.  I was sharing with her how impressed I was that she was able to undertake such a task.  I explained how terrible I am at envisioning an object being transformed into something better.  She responded saying, “That surprises me based on the nature of your blog.”  Her comment led me to ask myself, “Why can I envision improving myself, but not envision furniture becoming something better?”  The answer came quickly, “I’m not good at envisioning the potential when the gap between the ‘beginning’ and the ‘end’ is too wide.”

I did my best to explain myself to her.  I told her about 2004 Sara, Present Sara, and Future Sara.  If you had told 2004 Sara that she would have four children, be happily married, have endured severe depression along with the loss of her mom, and would be living in Oregon, she would have scoffed.  Just as, if you were to tell Present Sara that Future Sara will be physically fit and traveling the world, it would fall on deaf ears.  You see, envisioning the potential, when huge strides are involved, is not my forte.  I hope to be physically healthy, but I don’t really see it happening.  Isn’t that terrible?  If I’m honest with myself, it just seems like this unattainable goal.  I can swallow the idea of taking baby steps to being marginally healthier (Hence, the one burger a week goal mentioned in Who Do I Want to Be?), but the idea of being my ideal weight just seems far-fetched at this point.  Perhaps my lack of ability to envision such a Future Sara is what keeps me from becoming her?  I certainly know that my lack of envisioning the promising potential of junky old furniture has prevented me from purchasing such a piece.  This is why my friend’s remark has really left me contemplating my belief in a person being transformed.  I know it’s possible, as I’ve seen it in certain aspects of my life, but that’s only when I look at things in hindsight.  Apparently, I have greater difficulty envisioning the potential of Future Sara.  This brings me to another discussion I had with my husband.

My friend's refinished family heirloom hutch completed.
My friend’s refinished family heirloom hutch.

My husband and I were discussing the opportunities we have to fulfill a greater purpose in our lives than we are now.  Let’s use my lofty Life Bucket List as an example.  There are items on there that require money, a physically fit Future Sara, and some untapped adventure, among other things.  And, if you recall, I have a longer Life Bucket List that has an additional 20 items that I did not make public.  This master list has items that are more spiritual in nature.  So, in discussing this matter with my husband, I brought up my conversation with said friend at the park.  I likened myself to an old junky piece of furniture and a refinished piece of furniture.  I explained to him that I just can’t see how junky-old Present Sara can turn into refinished Future Sara.  He responded wisely, as he often does.

::COMMERCIAL BREAK::  We have an upcoming move that leaves us in need of multiple furniture items.  Seeing as how we know a few people who are savvy at refinishing furniture, we thought we would call upon their talents.  The plan was that we would find a cheap piece, tell said talented friends what we want, and pay them for their services.  Are you proud of me for attempting such a task, as it contradicts everything I have typed thus far?  One of the friends, who plans to help us, mentioned that when searching for a dresser, we need to make sure the drawers slide appropriately.  Apparently, having to fix drawers makes the project more costly and complicated.  It’s not impossible, just more difficult. ::NOW BACK TO YOUR REGULAR PROGRAMMING::

So, my husband explains to me how I have it all wrong.  He informs me that when likening myself to the refinished furniture analogy, I’ve put myself in the equation incorrectly.  I was looking at it as though I had to refinish Present Sara and turn her into refinished Future Sara.  It turns out, I’m not the refinisher AND the junky old furniture piece.  I’m just the furniture piece and our Heavenly Father and Savior are the ones helping to refinish me, according to my husband.  Then he says (and this is why I gave you the COMMERCIAL BREAK above), “All you have to do is slide your drawers, Sara.”  My part in the analogy is to be sturdy and keep those drawers sliding smoothly.  And I believe that wholeheartedly.  His explanation, along with that first conversation in the park, has helped me realize that I can be a refinished Future Sara and I don’t have to go at it alone.

You’ll notice in the COMMERCIAL BREAK that neither my husband nor I are planning to refinish the furniture ourselves.  We recognize that there are others in our midst that have a passion for this hobby.  We’re just going to find the furniture that is sturdy and fits our needs.  In short, we’re getting help, just as we do in our own lives.  We don’t get to a better version of ourselves entirely on our own.  We become someone greater through experiences that strengthen us, people who encourage us, testimonies that build us, opportunities that surprise us, and a loving Heavenly Father who guides us.  Don’t misunderstand me, we have our part as well.  I don’t intend to sit here ideally and wait to be transformed into something grand.  I’m just learning that I don’t have to know exactly how I’ll get from Present Sara to Future Sara, but I do have to believe that it’s possible.

My original purpose for this blog was to share insights I’ve had that have helped me become a better person.  I continue to receive these little pieces of enlightenment in my life that I hope might inspire someone else to believe in themselves more.  Clearly, I have much to learn in the way of envisioning the potential I have to truly be what I hope to become.  I need to have as much faith in myself as my Father in Heaven and Savior do.  Even having as much faith in myself as my husband has in me would be a significant increase from where I’m at now.  This is not easy for me.  The Unlikely Perfectionist speaks to this weakness of mine.  I get overwhelmed by this idea of refinished Future Sara and I panic.  Turning into her is just too hard, so it seems easier to stay as junky-old Present Sara.  I’m still sturdy and sliding my drawers, but I’ve yet to allow the refinishing process make me something even more beautiful.  It’s time to begin.  Having this analogy in my arsenal has already given me greater hope.  I don’t have to do it alone.

Whether you are a person of faith, or not, this analogy applies to us all.  We all can be refinished.  We all have this great potential that is waiting to shine through.  Some of our drawers may be broken and might need more TLC?  Perhaps we’re not as sturdy as we’d like to be?  The refinishing process, whether it be a Higher Being or a higher purpose that helps transform you, can include repairs.  I know I’ve already had quite a few repair jobs done.  I feel emotionally healthy enough to say that I’m sturdy and I’m doing my best to “slide [my] drawers.”  I’m ready to get to the sanding and staining portion?  Is that what you do to refinish furniture?  I don’t even know.  And, thankfully, I don’t have to know.

What I do have to know is that I have great potential and that potential is attainable.  I have to believe that with the help of loved ones, experiences, my faith, and a greater understanding of my worth, I can be refinished.  So, here’s to envisioning the potential I have to be refined.

And, here's to a loving husband who always believes in me.
And, here’s to a loving husband who always believes in me.