Prayers for Sherri

Today my sister Sherri is going to get some tests and have a consultation with a surgeon. She has a tumor in her mouth, that same mouth that went through dozens of surgeries due to the effects of Bells Palsy.

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She hates people working on her mouth as she went through so much trauma with it throughout her life. She will have to have surgery to remove the tumor, which is made of bone. This trip today to Minneapolis will be a trial for her. She has so much strength and love of God that I know she is praying and counting on Him for the best results.

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First, she will have a test to look at her Creatine levels, then she will be strapped with an IV that will push contrast through her system for one more CAT scan. The doctor has all her records from way back to the Mayo Clinic where most of her surgeries were done as a young girl.

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Lastly, she will meet with the surgeon who will explain what needs to be done.

Will you pray for Sherri today? Pray that she remains strong throughout the consultations. Pray that the outcome will be better than ever.
Thank you.

Emotion Myths

Here are some emotion myths from DBT:
1. Letting others know I’m feeling bad is a weakness. Challenge: Letting others know I’m feeling bad is a healthy form of communication.
2. Negative feelings are bad and destructive. Challenge: Negative feelings are natural responses. They help me to create a better understanding of the situation.
3. Some emotions are stupid. Challenge: Every emotion indicates how I am feeling in a situation. All emotions are useful to help me better understand what I am experiencing.
4. Extreme emotions get you a lot farther than regulating emotions. Challenge: Extreme emotions can often cause trouble for me and for other people. If an emotion is not effective, emotion regulation is a good idea.
5. It is inauthentic to try to change my emotions. Challenge: Change is itself authentic. It’s part of life.
6. My emotions are who I am. Challenge: Emotions are partly but not completely who I am.

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I like these challenges to the myths. I think they illustrate how to look at an emotion and determine if it is working for or against you.

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When we are stuck in emotion it’s good to analyze what the emotion is doing for (to) us. An emotion may create urges such as withdrawing from people when we’re grieving or arguing with someone when we’re feeling irritated. When an emotion causes us to take action that makes the situation worse is the best time to analyze and understand the emotion.

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It is through doing this that I was able to see my grief as a normal passage in life. A person has to grieve and although grief takes different forms in different people, it is still the path that I am on. I used to judge my grief, but like the myths above I found that I needed to challenge that thought.

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Others didn’t think less of me for grieving, but I felt like they wanted me to be done with it earlier than I was ready. That got me to start judging myself in the same manner. What was my sadness doing to me? It was making me withdraw from others, embarrassed that I was still so sad after the loss of my child. What was my sadness doing for me? Healing me. Grief is a natural progression and as long as I was progressing, it seemed that I could get a grip on my own timetable and continue healing.

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Do you tend to judge yourself because of how you are feeling? Or act out without positive intention making things worse? The DBT process of figuring out your emotions is a little like self-analysis. What is this emotion and what is it motivating me to do? In my case withdrawing from people.

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What is my emotion communicating to others? That I don’t care about them or that I need tender loving care. Since these two things are opposite, I may need to clarify what I am communicating with my emotion. “I care about you, but I don’t want to be around people right now.” Or “Yes, I’ll come over because I need to be with people but just please have patience with me.”

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What was my emotion saying to me? I am so sad. I am alone. No one understands. But when I check the facts, and when I reached out, I found that people do care, they just sometimes don’t know how to act around me.

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These questions can be valuable when trying to change or regulate your emotions. Good communication is key if you want or expect something from others. We all just want to be understood. When we’re able to observe and describe our emotions we can better determine what we want to communicate to others. We can also see better how acting on impulse may not be the best idea.

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When we are emotional our face and bodies show others something. Is it what you want them to know, or is your body saying something different? You can make that determination and express in words and action what you wish to convey.

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Think about the myths and understand that emotions are not bad. They provide a function to alert us to what’s happening. The more we increase our communication, identify our feelings and choose to act or not act effectively, the more level we will feel.

Reactivating my Life

Ever since I can remember I have been anxious. I remember being a little girl and making my sisters walk up flights of stairs at my dad’s office because I didn’t want to get in the elevator. I was fearful. In schools I would become frightened about a subject and have my mother come and pick me up.

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These days my anxiety manifests itself in a different way. I am fidgety, constantly moving my feet and hands. I’m anxious about those blocks of time when I am nothing to do, worrying that the depression will sink in. Almost every day I have little interest in life and this has gone on for weeks. That’s depression.

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It’s trying to fend off the depression that causes the most anxiety, I’ve lost a lot of weight (not so sad about that!) and I feel worthless. I know that my major depressive disorder began with the loss of my son, but as I stated earlier, I’ve always had some form of it especially the anxiety. The grief just compounded, and I began to feel overwhelmed with no ability to ease it. I began to withdraw from being with others. “They don’t understand my grief anyway,” I told myself.

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So I am working on “reactivating my life” through a self-help workbook and the help of my doctors.

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I read that depressed people suffer from anhedonia, which means that activities that used to be fun are no longer fun. In this instance practice at doing fun things can bring back enjoyment of them, so part of my self-care therapy is to write down activities that I like to do and find ways to increase them in my life. I have made a list: Organizing things in the house, writing, baking. According to theSCDPAntidepressantSkills I’m doing, this will remind me of things that are of interest to me as well as provide rewards as my depression starts to lift.

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I have made an agreement with myself about self-care: showering, shampooing my hair, putting on make-up, getting enough sleep, and taking my medication. Helping others by volunteering and taking the dogs for walks (they enjoy it more than I do!) This is meant to remind myself that I am competent, and it directly enhances my sense of physical well-being.

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Because depressed people have the tendency to procrastinate more than others, I have started to engage more in activities that help out the household: Doing laundry more often, sweeping and mopping more often, running errands. By doing this I increase my sense of control and reduce tension with others.

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Involvement with family and friends will give me a sense of connection, a chance to provide support to others and it will take me away from being alone with my depressive thoughts. So, I will start answering my phone and go to meetings with my husband. My self -imposed isolation is affecting my mood.

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This is a lot to do in one fail swoop, so I will choose a couple activities to focus on and complete them. And when I get the urge to do one of these activities I will take the opportunity to do it and not deliberate over it, anguish over it.

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It’s a process, to deal with depression. I wish I could follow others’ advice and just get over it. (That is usually said by people who don’t understand depression.) It’s a process I choose to follow with God by my side. God knows me. I can look to Him and thank Him for the transformation He is making in me. Even the small victories are shared with God. The fact that I am writing is a victory. Each small step is to be celebrated with God.

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“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26

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Little by little I’m cleaning out those stones in my heart as I reactivate my life

Childlike

I changed the birdseed and now I’m not sure the birds like it as much as the usual type. This new seed has bigger pieces of fruit and nuts and not so many small seeds. I thought they would go bananas for it! But they didn’t. I don’t have the big flock of little birds I used to have. Are the pieces too big?

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And the bigger birds have trouble grasping onto the little ledge that surrounds the feeder so even though they would probably like the bigger pieces, they can’t stand on the ledge and pick at the seed like the smaller birds can.

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These birds have been a big part of my Mindfulness practice as I sit on the swing and watch them fighting each other to get the seed. But now, I just worry. I’ve made a mistake with the seed and they don’t want to come to my bird restaurant anymore.
Mindfulness is being in the Now. It is accepting what Is. I spread some of the new food on the ground, so the bigger birds could enjoy. Now I see a cacophony of birds-all enjoying their new food.

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DBT has three types of Mindfulness: Observe, Describe and Participate. These three things are done separately. You choose which you want to be mindful of during your session.

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When we are mindful we observe without judgement. We let go of distractions as they arise and come back to the moment. It’s like being a guard at the gate of your mind, being aware of the feelings and thought that come into the gate, but not assessing them. Acknowledge and then go back to observing what you are seeing, feeling and doing. Letting the worries slide off like your mind is made of Teflon.

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When we are mindful we describe what is happening as if we are a narrator. Without getting sidetracked by the feeling or worry. You might notice the worry by describing the feeling such as, “My teeth are grinding.” Then let it go. I find the describing part to be the most difficult because I start thinking about the worry and try to solve it instead of just describing it. I have to constantly move my thoughts back to describing. This is a work in progress.

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When we are mindful we participate in what is happening. Just throw yourself into the activity completely forgetting yourself, your worries. You respond with spontaneity, whether you are talking with someone or dancing, just be in the moment. This can be called being “one-mindful” because you only focus on what you’re doing in that moment.

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The purpose of Mindfulness is to enjoy life as it is. Every moment is brand new- it’s never happened before. You are like a child having fun in all you do. I often hear the children in my neighborhood playing in the early evenings. It’s so wonderful! Their voices are always raised and there is excitement in all they are doing. What a great way to live!

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As a child of God, He wants us to have that type of excitement in what He has created for us. Cast your worries aside and give them to Him to carry and play out your life like a child, always expectant of the next fun thing God throws your way.

Depression

As a Hospice volunteer I visit a little old lady in a nursing home. One day I visited she was fast asleep. I took her hand because I didn’t want her to miss my visit, but she didn’t wake up. She was so peaceful there, lying with her little mouth wide open.

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We had agreed during my last visit that I would read the Bible to her, so I prayed and then just softly began to read Matthew for 45 minutes, all the while she lay sound asleep. I don’t know if she heard me or not, but the words calmed my soul in the process.

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It’s hard for me to make these visits, but I know it’s what God wants me to do. He wants me to bring joy into someone else’s life while I can sometimes find no joy in my own. The depression keeps me home, bored out of my mind, but it’s so hard to get up and go somewhere. I have to pray every day that God gets me out of the house, and with Hospice, I know they depend on me and that makes it easier to go.

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As I was talking with the staff after my visit, another little lady told me how pretty I was. That was so sweet it melted my heart.

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My own mother benefitted from Hospice and I feel like this is my way of giving back, just a little, for the good works they did with her and for my family after she passed. Giving back can also increase positive experiences in my life. DBT tells us to look at the short term by doing things we enjoy. We are to increase positive experiences by making changes in our lives so that positive experiences can occur more often.

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You’d think having a life of positive experiences would be a dream come true, but when you have depression, everything, even positive things, can be an effort. Some people might think that since I don’t work, my life must be filled with the things I want to do instead of things I have to do.

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What I read about depression is that it leads to inactivity and inactivity makes depression worse. This is why I make myself do things. If I don’t make myself, then I won’t get better, It’s a vicious cycle. Depression breeds inactivity and inactivity feeds depression. I am told not to wait until I feel motivated to do things, action is the key. By being active I will begin to feel motivated.

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Believe it or not, even watching TV can take effort. But I make myself get into a new series, so I will be motivated to watch more. And I know that by volunteering I am helping someone else too. I know I have to shower so I make myself do it. Isn’t is scary how depression could make it seem impossible to even take a shower- let alone put on makeup and do your hair?

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It’s a daily battle for me. I have to plan something to do and then I have to do it. Sometimes I have to just put one foot in front of the other. Even going to church is planned and sometimes I go-sometimes I don’t. My therapist tells me to schedule things. So I schedule that I’ll make pork chops tonight. I tell my husband I will and then I’m committed. So I do it.

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It seems so simple- but its hard. I pray every night that I will do something of meaning the next day. God answers me with something. Sometimes its just writing this book. Sometimes it’s going out to see my little lady. Jesus is with me on this path.

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I downloaded a workbook: SCDPAntidepressantSkills and I am working on the chapter called “Reactivating your Life.” It’s a self-care depression program that I hope will give me more skills in my toolbox. Right now, I am working on small steps toward the goal of reactivating my life. I know I just need to take that first step every day.

Consult Wise Mind (God)

God is Wise Mind. Wise Mind is what DBT (Dialectic Behavior Therapy) calls being balanced between Emotion Mind and Reasonable Mind. We need to have this balance to make good decisions, and this is where Jesus comes in.

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The world throws things at us all the time and we get shaken. We worry, we despair and that puts us in Emotion Mind. Jesus can restore the balance if we trust and collaborate with Him.

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Reasonable Mind in its extreme may cause us to question things that we know to be true. Such as the Glory of God that we cannot see, taste or hear. DBT describes it as being task focused, rational, cool while Emotion Mind is described as mood-dependent and emotion focused. Looking at it like this you may think that Reasonable Mind is a smart place to stay, but it doesn’t lead us to be loving and empathetic, as Jesus commands us to be.

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“However as it is written, ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9

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It takes trust and faith. To me having faith in Jesus is Wise Mind. If I can just consult Him when I am broken or when I don’t feel compassion for others, He will give me strength and knowledge to do the right thing.

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There is a time and place for both Reasonable and Emotion Minds. It’s when either of these get us to be thinking ineffectively that we need to consult Wise Mind which is described as Intuitive, The Middle Path, and I describe as God.

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Praying or Mindfulness in God is how I consult my Wise Mind. I just ask Him to lead me and I put my entire faith in Him and not people or things. Circumstances are unknowable. But God knows them. God knows where our lives will lead. You never know when you might be in an accident and hit your head on a rock, or be diagnosed with Leukemia or some other disease, but God knows what’s in store for you. That’s why consulting with Him is the wise path.

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It’s faith that God does all things for our good. I didn’t know I had Leukemia when my son died, and I’m glad I didn’t. God hid that from me until I was strong enough to deal with it. I bet you have these miracles in your life too. Things you can look back on and say, “That was God.” Don’t forget about those things but call them up when your faith needs to be renewed. Call them up in circumstances that you feel helpless.

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DBT states that Wise Mind is almost “always quiet, like a ‘still point’ within. It has a certain peace. It is the part of you that knows and experiences truth.” I feel that way when I pray, when I collaborate with God.

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When we look at things from God’s perspective, we can get a tiny glimpse of the future, a future in which God loves us and comforts us. A future of being in Heaven with Him that will make all of these trials here on Earth seem trivial.

Sorrow

Jesus knows how I feel. Psalm 62:8 tells me to pour out my heart to God, He is my refuge. There are some bad days- and there are some good days. But if I learn to pour my heart out to Him regardless of it being a bad day or a good day, He gets to see me. The Real Me. The Me I don’t want anyone else to see, and the Me who bestows thankfulness to Him for the good days.

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“Everything happens for a reason,” is something I say to myself as a buffer, but even now, I do not know the reason that my son died so young. I feel like even to say that “everything happens for a reason” puts a callous tone to my grief. It’s like saying, “Oh well, it was meant to be!” My Wise Mind who, I often personify as Jesus, tells me it was meant to be. Do any of us know the exact moment that God will call us home to him?

Won’t there always be things left to finish since we might be caught off guard by death?
I judge myself for looking at what happened to me when he died, rather than looking at what happened to him when he died. Tyler is in Heaven because God wanted him to be, at the exact time that he went. But I am stuck in a place where I am looking at the effects of his death, the depression, the sorrow and the general falling apart of my life. And the chance to speak to him one more time is gone.

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This is my “Me, Me, Me” mode and it is selfish. I want to trust God. I want to get all of my emotions out through prayer with Him. I know He shares my pain and I do feel this burden getting lighter as I continue to trust in Him.

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I cannot possibly know why my son died- I will never know the reason, but I think it has more to do with him and his time to go home to the Lord, than it has to do with me and my suffering. I should be happy for him, because he is with Jesus.

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I am going to focus on acceptance and trust in God. I am going to stop being willful by focusing on why Tyler died and start being willing to accept this great gift I have received of a closeness to God that was a result of it.

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“Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.” Psalm 62:8

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I collaborate with Jesus in my radical acceptance of my son’s death. He tells me truths through His word. I believe Him. In my collaboration, we walk this path together. I am not alone. He feels my sorrow and He knows my innermost thoughts.

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I know that if I collaborate with Jesus during my worries and sadness, He will not only give me respite, but He will also give me strength. And instead of worrying, I will begin to feel the excitement of what God has in store for me today and every day.

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“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you may also be where I am.” John 14:3

Soulmates

I married my soulmate, Terry, in 1998 when I was thirty-eight years old. My Mom babysat while we ran off to Las Vegas a few days after Valentine’s Day. We had an “Elvis” wedding at the Graceland Wedding Chapel and videotaped the whole thing, including a mini concert from our middle-aged “Elvis.”

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We had a choice for our Elvis: we could have the thin young one or the old fat one. We chose the old fat one because he would be more like the Elvis that would be living then. He looked remarkably like him and he sang in perfect Elvis manner!

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We were picked up from our hotel by a seventies style limousine with crushed velvet interior. The limo was long and sleek- burgundy in color. When we arrived at the little white chapel, me in my long black dress and Terry in a perfectly cut blue suit, we had decisions to make. Did we want flowers? Rings? YES! We bought everything at the chapel, a silk red rose flower bouquet, and thirty-five-dollar rings. We kept those rings for many years until they finally tarnished, and we decided to get “real” rings for our fifteenth anniversary.

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Elvis walked me down the aisle singing “Love Me Tender” and stroking his guitar. The minister was great, and Elvis sat in the second row while the ceremony took place. Then just for me and Terry he got up and sang a few songs at our request. It was wonderful though it would have been perfect if we had our big brood of family with us.

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Hillary was six, Kendall was four, and Tyler was fifteen. Terry had four kids from previous marriages, Kelly, Stacy, Chad and Krista, and all together that made seven! We called us the Bundy Bunch after that seventies show the Brady Bunch.  We never all lived together at the same time, what with Kelly and Stacy being older and on their own, moving in and out with us as events occurred as they always do. Chad lived with his mother and Krista with hers. Krista was right in the middle of Hillary and Kendall in age and spent summers and holidays with us. Tyler lived with us until we moved to Ohio in 1999.

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Summers in Ohio were filled with three little girls laughing and arguing and basically getting reacquainted every year. Christmases never brought all of us together at the same time- there was always one kid, or another, missing. We never had a family portrait taken with all the kids, but we were determined that they were all “our” kids and never have used the term “step.”

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Terry is a great father to my kids, though he and Tyler didn’t get along. Tyler was at the age where he was jealous and angry with me for marrying someone other than his father. And he was a difficult kid, getting into all kinds of trouble and hanging with the wrong crowd, sneaking out of his bedroom window at night when the train would come by, so we couldn’t hear him. He told us about this later when he was older.
It took awhile for all this to settle in as blended families are. Eventually everyone came around and I think they all know that Terry and I are meant to be together.   God put Terry in my path at work and we had a great friendship before we started dating.

When I think about my gratitude’s, all of the kids and my soulmate are at the top of the list. I have never had such a love as I have with Terry and all of the kids.

God did that!

 

Do What Works

Part of being Mindful is to focus on what works for you. Do what needs to be done in each situation and don’t judge yourself. For instance, when you get angry with someone ask yourself, “Is this effective?” When you want to climb into bed and forget the world ask yourself that same question.

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It may be a horrible day, things aren’t going my way, I feel anxious and disturbed. I have found that one of the most effective ways to be mindful is giving thanks. Being grateful. How many times can I thank God for what He’s given me today? It changes my perspective.

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It can be especially difficult to be thankful when you’re having a bad day. But mindfulness to me is seeing what is in the emotion and what is outside of it. If I am angry, it may be an opportunity to set something straight. I can be mindful of my feelings and explore what it is that is making me angry and then I can consult Wise Mind (God) on how to deal with it effectively.

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Being mindful is not acting out on those anger urges but exploring them in our minds. Being thankful and being angry cannot exist together at the same time. If I explore what I am thankful for while angry I can usually come up with a way to talk to the person I am angry with in a loving way. If I am angry about a situation I can usually change my mind to the things for which I am grateful in spite of the situation.

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“Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

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I read in Jesus Calling July 24 the following:
“Thankfulness opens the door to my Presence. I have gone to great measures to preserve your freedom of choice. I have placed a door between you and me and I have empowered you to open or close that door. There are many ways to open it but a grateful attitude is one of the most effective.”

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DBT (Dialectic Behavior Therapy) says to let go of vengeance, useless anger, and righteousness that hurts you and simply doesn’t work. I understand that can be easier said than done when you are in the heat of the moment, but mindfully looking outside of these emotions and focusing on gratefulness may be the answer for you as it is for me.
How many things can you be thankful for today? Really thankful? Focus on those things mindfully and you will see your perspective change.

Doing Nothing?

Some people might think of Mindfulness as sitting around doing nothing. The fact is that Mindfulness is observing and participating in whatever is happening in the moment. You don’t even need to be sitting around to participate in Mindfulness, you can practice it at any time doing anything.
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You‘re having an ordinary conversation say, being mindful simply means paying attention. Paying attention to the other person. Paying attention to their words, their body language, to how you feel during the conversation. Selecting the right words to respond back and paying attention to your own body language is being mindful.
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There are so many Bible verses in which God tells us to enjoy being in His presence. He tells us to let the problems fall by the wayside and have a real conversation with Him. While we can’t see His body language, we can be in tune to how we feel when we speak to Him. And there are plenty of verses that describe God’s being to us that we can imagine a loving God focused on us.
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Being mindful in our relationship with God puts our focus on Him. That’s what He wants. For us to trust in Him, to focus on Him.
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“In quietness and trust you will find strength.” Isaiah 30:15
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Being Mindful isn’t doing nothing. It’s asking Wise Mind (God) to replenish our spirits and calm our minds. It’s glorifying this exact moment, this one moment in time. It’s loving the person you’re talking to. It’s loving yourself by finding joy in the Now.
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And it can be especially important to seek God when you are overwrought with emotions. Plenty of times God has calmed me when I have been worried and overwrought. I seek His face and am mindful of His Glory and Power through Mindfulness.
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“Despite all of my emotions I will believe and praise the One who saves me and is my life.” Psalm 42:5
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You don’t have to meditate to be Mindful. You can though, and it can prove to be very calming especially when you our mindful in prayer. But just relaxing in the Spirit and being aware of your surroundings can be done without sitting cross-legged on the floor and meditating.
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I am Mindful now as I write. Feeling my cozy chair, noticing my fingers on the keys of my laptop. Seeing the room I decorated as my office. Knowing that God is here. Seeking His face as I plug away at the keys. Reading His Word as I look for inspiration.
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While I like meditating on God as it brings me closer to Him, I find some of the most beneficial mindfulness exercises can occur while I’m doing something. One of my Mindfulness exercises was written after driving and being mindful as I drove to a meeting. Being Mindful calmed me as I drove, and I was ready to participate when I got to my meeting.
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My husband and I like to sit on our deck swing and look at our backyard, watching birds and squirrels. Sometimes we talk, my husband loves to talk! And sometimes we just sit and watch. That’s Mindfulness. Sitting on the porch listening to my husband is Mindfulness. We grow in our relationship whether we’re just watching or talking.
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So the next time you think you have to get in a yoga position and meditate to practice mindfulness, just be where you are and pay attention.