Category Archive: Change

HABITS – OUT WITH THE BAD, IN WITH THE GOOD

Did you know that 60% of people who make New Year’s resolutions fail at keeping them? Yet people continue to make resolutions year after year, hoping this time “it” – whether it’s weight loss, exercising more, eating more healthily, drinking less, spending more time with the family, or something else – will work.

BUT … how about habits? We know it’s easier to develop habits than it is to stop them. Pastor Rene’s research revealed that the habits we develop – positive or negative – change neurological pathways in our brains. So how do we develop life-giving habits? Part of the answer is superseding negative patterns with positive ones that create new neuro routes in us.

One of my negative behaviors used to involve an addiction to Diet Coke. I felt regular cravings – for the flavor, and the bubbles … ahhh, the sweet bubbles. My husband periodically told me he would like me to stop drinking D.C., knowing the chemicals in the soda could be damaging. I’d stop – for a month, eight weeks – then I’d grab a Diet Coke again and go right back into the cycle of drinking one, or several, of these a day.

Sometime last year I determined to STOP. And with God’s help, I did! I’m now D.C.-free. And it feels good. But to change a habit, I couldn’t just focus on what I should NOT do. I needed to replace that old pathway with a new one. I have learned to love good, cold water!

Rene talked about the cue – in this case, thirst; the routine – drink a soda; and the reward – the sensation of bubbles cooling my throat.  I had to replace my routine by drinking, and growing to appreciate, refreshing water. My reward is a greater sense of well-being, along with quenched thirst. But I had to trust in God’s power to help me make this change for good. “For it is God who is at work within you, giving you the will and the power to achieve his purpose.” (Philippians 2:12-b13)

While changing that habit may be a very small piece of God’s purpose in my life, by trusting Him with my this issue, I acknowledge my need for His power in every area of my life.

So what’s the next habit I want to change? Hmmm … you first.

 

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After the Death of your Spouse

When you lose a partner, best friend, and lover, depression creeps in like a fog. You may lose social connections you shared as a couple and will need to make some new friends. Your husband may have taken care of the bills, house repairs, and yard. Planning and meal preparation, laundry, and carpools may have been part of your role. Now you have to do it all. Adjusting to single life is not easy, especially if you have children. Here are a few additional tips to help you wade through deep waters to your new normal.

Whatever your grief responses, they are NORMAL.  Grief comes in waves. Sometimes I jumped the wave, occasionally even crested it, then another capsized me and I didn’t think I could go on. You’ll experience the continuum of grief, which typically includes between five and seven stages depending on how you identify them.

Five Stages of Grief

                         Five Stages of Grief

  • Denial (This isn’t happening to me!)
  • Anger (Why is this happening to me?)
  • Bargaining (I promise I’ll be a better person if…)
  • Depression (I don’t care anymore.)
  • Acceptance (I’m ready for whatever comes.) 
    • from John H. Sklare, Ed.D, LifeScript Personal Coach

Confusion, loss of focus, and profound fatigue are typical and will pass in time. Accept your current scattered mind and, if possible, laugh at yourself. When my father was dying, a kind nurse told Mom, “When you put the ice cream in the dishwasher, don’t worry. You’re not losing your mind; you’re grieving.”

Seven Grief Stages

Seven Grief Stages

The chart below identifies grief in seven stages.

Because you will feel vulnerable and deal with all the painful emotions that accompany your enormous loss, it is wise to take some extra safety precautions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do not meet strangers at your home alone; provide only necessary information; avoid telling relative strangers that you’re widowed. When I sold our second car, I met potential buyers at a location away from my house. No one knew my address until I sold the car and gave the pink slip to the buyer. I also asked either my brother or a male friend to meet strangers together with me for additional protection/safety.

Culprits prey on the vulnerable, lonely, and elderly. Carpet, roofing and painting contractors, repair-persons, and especially solicitors, have no need to know you are alone. I wore my wedding ring and kept “the Nicolet residence” and “we” on my answering machine for a long time after becoming a widow.

Consider joining a support group. After a few months, you may want to participate in a grief recovery group through your church or a community organization. Talking with others facing a similar loss can provide a safe place to express your emotions, share information, and learn ways to deal with your grief. To find Christian resources and/or a support group in your area, contact www.griefshare.org.

Take care of little needs.  Despite my down comforter, I faced many winter nights when, chilled from the inside, I couldn’t get warm. One night, shivering, I called a close friend. She told me to “go to Long’s right now and buy a heating pad.”  With a coat over my pajamas, I did just that, and slept better with the added warmth. I also purchased a body pillow so I had something to hold onto. Your body experiences tremendous shock with the death of a loved one, so sleep when you need to, and can.

Recognize your limitations. For some time after Jerry’s death I continued to mentally rehearse different scenarios. What if we tried another treatment alternative? hadn’t had the transplant? What if we’d had the transplant done somewhere else? But Jerry and I made the best decisions we could at the time, in prayer and with the information we had. So did you. Forgive yourself if necessary.

Finally, take heart. There is hope. Relying on Jesus a day at a time to meet your needs, comfort you, and change your dreams is an ongoing process, and will not occur easily or quickly. I learned to count on God’s promise: “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11, NLT).  Choose life, one day at a time.

 

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WHAT’S MY FOCUS? Circumstances … or Jesus?

By the end of the day Thursday, Don didn’t know whether to pull me into his arms and comfort me … or run.  It seemed that everything that could go wrong throughout the day, did.porcupine 2

We had driven to San Jose to pick up our laptops, in for repairs. “Ready to go,” was the verdict. However, two more issues showed up when I tested mine. Eddie fixed both and sent us on our way. We enjoyed a late breakfast at that wonderful French eatery, Jacque n le Boq, and enjoyed our visit en route home in a welcome rain. Fighting a sore throat, I was quieter than usual.

My sweet husband suggested we make my bank and grocery stops before going home so I didn’t have to do those errands later. Parking was full, so Don dropped me off in front of the ATM. Walking toward the machine, I realized I had the wrong card in my hand. (Why are all my new credit cards lookalike red?) I turned to go switch cards … and couldn’t see Don’s car anywhere! Frustration mounted. When he finally drove up, Don thought I was finished. Not done, but simmering! I traded cards and made the deposit, and once again couldn’t find the car. Don was actually parked nearby but he was in a place where neither of us could see the other.

On to groceries … that went quite smoothly, and we returned home.

My computer logged onto the network immediately. Don’s didn’t. I spent the next three hours on the phone … Clickaway. Comcast. Nothing worked. Since I was on the phone I also asked why I couldn’t get Netflix on TV, and was directed to LG TV. It didn’t take the gal long to tell us we don’t have a smart TV, so we can’t get Netflix on it. Three hours on the phone and all I learned was that we have a “dumb” (but beautiful) TV!

computer frustrationTired.

Frustrated.

Irritable.

Problems I couldn’t fix.

Feeling ill, light-headed.

NOT a good day. And this stuff is all minor in light of the real crises in our world – bombings in Paris, shootings in San Bernardino, and a gang-related shooting in Wichita in which a friend of a friend lost her sister-in-law. Add to that illness, holiday loneliness, and a higher rate of suicide during holidays.

Last weekend Pastor Rene spoke about “Change of Plans.” Often our plans change due to circumstances beyond our control. How will we react? Will we keep our eyes focused on Jesus or be swallowed by the frustration of the moment?

When I climbed into bed beside Don last night, we talked through the day. Thankfully, we were both able to laugh together about the confluence of frustrations.  “OK Rene, you warned us …”

I looked at my hubby, his arms enfolding me, and said “Today I failed. I did nothing like Jesus.”

But this morning is the start of a new day. I still can’t get Don’s laptop online, despite much effort. But I’m trying to keep my focus on Jesus rather than on the laptop connection. This will eventually be resolved and, more important than the resolution of the problem, will be how I respond.free-christian-clip-art-.014-1

What’s your challenge today?

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.   James 1:2-3 MSG

Patience … in short supply?

As I drove down the curved, tree-lined road, tears welled up in my eyes. I was running on empty in the patience department. Multiple priorities and an overfull schedule meant I was running from one thing to another with little if any margin. Flashes of my impatience, my attitude of entitlement blitzed through my mind …

  • My husband needed a couple of minutes’ help but I needed to leave for an appointment. My impatience surfaced in my tone of voice.
  • I waited impatiently for a clerk who was chatting with an old friend while I needed to make my purchase and get back on the road.
  • I felt irritated because someone wasn’t working fast enough.
  • I felt entitled to receive service before others because I was in pain.

My time was “obviously” more important than theirs.

Conviction set in. Father, I’m sorry. Patience is a fruit of your Holy Spirit but it’s just not being evidenced in me AT ALL right now. Please, change me.

PATIENCE

And my Lord is so faithful. I immediately felt a load lifted and, while I’ll probably never be the epitome of patience, I changed. In Galatians 5:22-23a, the apostle Paul tells us “But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control …” (TLB)

Yes, I have choices. Will I respond with impatience or will I ask for His grace to calm my heart and see others as more important than myself? But … and it’s a big one … I can’t produce patience on my own. I can choose my behavior, my responses to challenging situations; but I cannot make myself patient. Instead, patience is a result of knowing Jesus and allowing His Spirit to make me more like Him. That’s both freeing and challenging; I can’t do it on my own. But I trust in my God, “…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” I will fail – often. But He is there to forgive, correct, and continue His work in me until the end. Wonderful promise!

Patience under construction

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”

Colossians 3:12 NIV

Where are you finding victory in living out the fruit of the Spirit? Challenges?

 

A Mighty Redwood has Fallen – and Risen!

Bola, glorifying God through her musicMy tears flow. Don and I hold hands, praying. Our friend Bola Taylor passed into the arms of Jesus at 3:46 Sunday morning, Tokyo time. I wrote about Bola as one of the mighty redwoods in my life in an earlier blogpost at http://carolshope.com/2015/09/becoming-a-spiritual-redwood/

Once, when Bola and Ken stayed in our guest house, my mother was visiting. I didn’t know Bola well yet. But as Mom and I walked on the driveway, Bola stepped out onto the deck, waving.

I looked up. “Bola, this is my mother, Helen.”

“Hi Mom,” was Bola’s immediate response. And “Mom” it was from then on.

Bola brought gifts. I have several beautiful pieces of Japanese cloth mounted and framed. Before she and Ken came, it was always “I love shopping for other people. What are your favorite colors? Do you like cloth? Paper? …” And somehow, she thought Don looked like a “Simba,” which became her nickname for him. We loved visiting with Bola and Ken, just having them around, enjoying their passion for Jesus and for the people of Japan to whom they ministered.

Colorful, vibrant, crazy in love with Jesus, funny. According to Ken, Bola “prepared us well when she mentioned not to worry because she was only taking an earlier flight (first class) to heaven and will be reserving a seat for us!”

We will miss you, Bola. But the grave is not the end. While this beautiful, loving redwood has taken flight, she has been lifted up to the heavenlies, where I’m sure she is praising her Lord with every fiber of her being.

The Apostle Paul assured us when he said, “And regarding the question, friends, that has come up about what happens to those already dead and buried, we don’t want you in the dark any longer. First off, you must not carry on over them like people who have nothing to look forward to, as if the grave were the last word. Since Jesus died and broke loose from the grave, God will most certainly bring back to life those who died in Jesus.” I Thess 4:13-14, The Message.

See you soon, dear friend.