Bettering Ourselves

still life, bottles

Much of my life has been spent in the endeavor of bettering myself.

I have read and implemented, however temporary and incomplete, innumerable self-help books on many topics. I have made lists, and plans, throwing myself into everything from those elementary school years of memorizing encyclopedia facts, reading the dictionary and giving myself a “word for the day” to following organizational methods and pop psychology solutions.

Let’s add to that the diet and health, relationship and spiritual improvements made mandatory by the appearance of defects that can no longer be denied or swept aside.

A recent meeting with old friends brought another way we better ourselves. It is perhaps a more organic way, but certainly it is one that has quicker ignition and spurs us to put that inspiration to work.

The influence of better individuals on our lives.

Some of those qualities are those who are kinder, those more accomplished, those with sharp intellects, or depth of thinking. Some qualities are those of practiced and gracious service to others, characteristics of perseverance or diligence, dependability and loyalty, mental and emotional flexibility. The list is a myriad as human beings themselves.

As we rub shoulders with individuals or groups of people with these characteristics, the skills and motivations rub off on us… or at the very least, the desire and vision to rise to a higher bar.

We are spurred and sparked. We become better.

 


 

This isn’t to say that there are “classes of people”,  although I think we often have the perversity of mind to think so. It is the appreciation of what other individuals have to offer us in light of their unique qualities, and a reflection on what we contribute to those around us.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”

My level of thinking is raised by conversations, reading, hearing whatsoever is of value. It reminds me of the focus of this blog:
Philippians 4:8

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true,

whatsoever things are honest,

whatsoever things are just,

whatsoever things are pure,

whatsoever things are lovely,

whatsoever things are of good report;

if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

 

One place I believe we find these things is in the friendship and relationship to those around us that exhibit the better qualities we wish to have.

Connection is that most basic of human needs, but we have a wide variety of ways and people to whom we connect.

I believe, now, that there are two ways to connect in ways that we can better each other. One is in finding those individuals that bring out the best in us, and that tends towards an exclusiveness in our relationships. The other is in finding the best in each person we encounter. That inclusive factor is not the more superior way, but it will certainly be the more common of our experience.

I do think there are times we need to steep ourselves in positive relationships and atmospheres. Times when we creatively brainstorm with those who engage with us creatively. Times when a peaceful and supportive atmosphere is necessary.

But whatever the need of the moment may be, it is my thought that we should most highly prize those whom we have found to be an inspiration and encouragement  to us to better our lives, our selves.

Cherish those in your life, appreciate their contributions … especially when they have helped you to become a better person.

Whom have you found, and why do you think knowing them makes you a better person for it?

 

Struggling With Rejection

Unlocked

I appear to be a confident person. On the whole, I am, but I have worked all my life to build the aura of confidence. More importantly I have struggled to overcome fear of rejection. I sought to be liked, to be accepted and confident in myself as a response to the pain of rejection, and my own fear of it.

Fears often handicap us. Most of the time fear is not a healthy part of our life because it has grown outside the intended area of protecting us from danger. It grows into areas of perceived danger and settles there, long after the distinction between real and perceived has been made.

I think that is why we can retain worries about what people think of us, and some personalities are far more prone to that than others. Without stepping outside my bounds on this (I am no psychoanalyst), this whole area of life is one that motivated me to write down helpful strategies and information that I think will keep rejection from crushing you.Don’t Let Rejection Crush You

Rejection

It really comes from a very logical place. As people we need to be discerning in many decisions every day. We have to choose.

We also have a lifelong learning process of what we like or don’t, want – or don’t, ad infinitum until we die. We are choosing and rejecting all the time.

But when others do this, and particularly when that rejecting involves our not being chosen, that is when it starts to feel like personal, emotional hurt.

A problem that arose for me, and I am sure is common, is that I took that rejection personally. I interpreted it as saying that something was wrong with me, and none of us likes to face that idea.

Throughout life there are messages that things are wrong with us, and some of those are true and some are not. But the hurt involved in looking at these ideas is going to stand in the way of making progress in life and relationships.

At  a certain point I decided to have more control over this inside my own mind. To not let it take on a life of its own (which often led to damaging consequences).

Don’t fear rejection, instead if you have to fear something let it be a lack of personal growth.

Rejection can be our friend, and I just love the way one man explored that idea.

The Holy Spirit Declutters Me

My prayer life is still a pathetic and small thing, but I find when ever I open the door to the Lord, even the smallest bit, He is ready with revelation.

…If only I will hear it.

With a mouthful of sandwich already, I remembered to say grace. Thanks for God’s great provision for me daily.

That small reminder to communicate thanks began to grow into a larger prayer…as forgotten prayer life is wont to do, and soon I began to realize something.

The Holy Spirit is seeking to declutter my disorganized and overburdened mind. He sorted through a number of vague guilt trips and forgotten good intentions, and it was so like the actions I had repeatedly followed all through the past year.

bookcases
In my house…

As I opened doors to rooms that I had ashamedly kept closed, hauled out boxes of mishmashed contents, and removed cobwebs and cleaned before installing in their rightful place. Or simply bagged up and hauled away (much to my husbands delight).

In my heart…

As the Holy Spirit acts as a guide, it must be me that opens the doors and assembles the thinking. I must decide whether I am willing to throw something out or put it in the place where I can access it when needed.

Decluttering My Home and Garden
The How-to Of Decluttering

 

In my physical life, it was something that I had experienced breakthrough within. Lifelong piles of  accumulated stuff, much of it useless and undesirable, had finally been cleared. New and accessible fittings were begun to hold what was kept. And now I could see that this is the way God wishes me to live in the inner rooms of my soul.

There are so many dusty places of old thinking, values, and ideas that never had anything to do with God’s thoughts. Bits of broken dreams, the broken cisterns of past teachings that were incongruent with the love of God, the life of the Spirit.

Those, along with layers of living only for myself, making my own plans without consulting either God or the people impacted by those plans. It all needed to be swept away or sorted through, pulling the valuable from the surrounding debris.

What’s Gone?

  •  False guilt and the judgments of others
  • Insecurity about my failings- we all fail, and I had to get over that fact.
  • Fear of success. Change is a good thing, and success is one type of change I want to embrace.
  • The need to control. I have little of it, and that is okay.

What Stays?

  • Releasing control to God, allowing others their choices.
  • An attitude of gratefulness
  • Courage to step forward
  • General plans of improvement, one step at a time.
  • Taking control of myself and my decisions.

Instead of lots of “must-do” lists, I find that insight into the work of the comforting Helper creates a desire to try out more of the connection of prayer during my day. Try to live what I believe instead trying to make it work. Like the flow of lifegiving sap, from my roots in the Lord; not the forcefed infusion of outer stimulation.

Instead of worrying concerns and tormented thoughts, there is a feeling of strength and peace.

I like this clear and open space much better than trying to gather control and harbor resentments.

I needed to jot down these thoughts so that I would have them to meditate on and be more open to a greater understanding of what God has been wanting to do in my life from the beginning.

I do wonder at myself… that I can go so long and be so very unaware. I am thankful for the insights of today. May they multiply!

 

The Word for 2015, And Spiritual Direction

In Review

Last year I had no significant focus word, even though I sought one. Instead there were practical directions, some from many years in the past that molded the decisions and directions.

I decluttered to organize and simplify my life, (and get rid of the guilt and insecurity that a cluttered and dirty environment produces).

My entire year geared towards the plans of my family to rendezvous for Christmas at home in Ohio.

There were some large detours along the way, and the timetables took several rewinds and delays. Still, as I write this at the end of 2014, the progress and accomplishment was quite amazing (considering we are twelve very independent minded people with equally independent minded spouses and busy lives). It turns out I did not need guiding words or specific resolutions.

I look at this past year, and it was full of answered prayers of the past.

Unsought, But Welcome Word

I have a faithful prayer partner, who I have met with every month for the past five to six years. During December, while praying, the word “Alignment” came alive and stood out as the keynote of what God would be doing with us this coming year.

So often we pray for God to come into our plans, hear our desires, and cooperate with our hopes.

But the idea contained in the giving of this living word of direction was an inner desire (that almost seemed to be born at that moment, although it wasn’t new):

to become aligned with what God wanted, be in on His plans and cooperate more fully with Him.

I wasn’t seeking direction, it was premature in the expected timing of a New Year’s set of resolutions- I was still in the midst of working on the present!

But almost as a gift, the word of Alignment took form

It has the feeling for me of adjusting and fine tuning, although I am aware that large portions of my habits and actions should make drastic change.

Some things which come to mind are:

  • Returning to remembering grateful prayer, from grace said before meals to “giving thanks in all things”. I’ve gotten very sloppy, neglectful, unmindful.
  • Being more regular in church. I miss having this in my life, and the feeling of obligation has practically disappeared. I just want to connect more in corporate worship and service.
  • Returning to a regular daily prayer time. Time when I can meet with God, not just flyby prayers as I hurry on my work schedule.

Those are a few things this word is inspiring for me at the moment.

I want to explore what it means for my blogging, my goals in gardening and the home, the trips I travel, my steps to better physical health.

How may I align with God’s revelation to me, with His purposes?

Identity and Security

Unlocked

Photo by:  Florian KlauerI just recently had my bankcard re-issued. It was causing all sorts of problems since getting flagged in one of the Target/Home Depot/ Michaels, et al, hacking snafus. Those out-of- town trips I took this year brought the issues alive and they wouldn’t go away.

Security and keeping our identity in an increasingly electronic and criminal world is becoming a critical matter.

My blogging had been harried for years with my sites getting hacked. The amount of work to cleanse them and get them secured took away huge amounts of energy and effort that should have gone into writing. I was not alone and very smart people have been working hard to make it easier for the rest of us. Plugins, regularly updated themes, new versions of WordPress…. all go towards making the hackers less successful. Yet, as seen by the leakage of such activities into the business world, when they they are successful they pack a wallop of damage.

There are so many scams, and many come in the form of an email, or with other everyday activities like simply using your debit card in a normal manner. We have to be vigilant, and sometimes mistrust situations that are unknown to us (isn’t that a large part of life?)

It doesn’t seem fair, but in a way it is an extension of the wide open spaces and license of modern life. The old rule of ‘no rules leads to totality of restriction’ is thriving and we don’t even seem to really notice. Not really. The frog voice might say, “it seems to be getting a bit warmer”, but it becomes stifled.

We should protect our identity, not just on credit cards or social security numbers, but in our personal selves. We should secure our personal boundaries.

I have watched a loved one give away her personal identity to a predatory personality who has robbed her of her creativity, her personal joy, and enslaved her to constant “needs”. It makes me so sad, but we have to be willing to take responsibility for our own security and identity. Just like I had to work at making sure someone din’t take over my websites, or damage my ability to access my bank account.

Sometimes it meant a time consuming re-installation of a clean slate, new files, or issuing a new card. Sometimes that is what we must do in our private lives in relationships. We have to close off the avenues that hackers take to intrude and wreak havoc. we have to face that sometimes they just do it for personal entertainment, but sometimes with the purpose to rob us of all we have.

We must face the facts, not someone else.

We must make the boundaries.

We must do the work.

To vouchsafe who we are and what is important to us is worth it.