Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Making Covenants

I sat down and put my arm around her, then waited for her as she regained her composure. Once she stopped crying, I held her hand until she was ready to speak. The words tumbled out in a wild mixture of anger, hatred, and bitterness.

She related the horrific tale of being rejected by the very people who should have been supporting and strengthening her. My heart ached. Gingerly, I asked the forbidden question, “Are you thinking about suicide.”

All was quiet as she looked at the floor. I waited, knowing that she needed to have courage to answer truthfully. This was the first time we had met. She might not trust me enough to answer. She slowly raised her head and nodded in the affirmative.

I embraced her with tears rolling down my cheeks. Now the work could begin. Taking both of her hands in mine, I looked her in the eyes and told her of the covenant I had made with God years before. “Promise me,” I implored, “No matter what happens, that you will not take your own life.”

I waited as she considered carefully what I was saying. With head still bowed, she glanced up for just a second, and then quietly nodded. I gave her my phone number and told her to call if she wanted to talk.

At that moment, the youth leaders found us and took over for me, assuring her that her needs would be met, and that all would be well. I walked away, knowing that God had put me in the right place at the right time once again, and a life was spared. I uttered a prayer of gratitude.

Covenants are promises we make with God or another person. They commit us to certain actions in exchange for blessings or privileges. When we make a covenant, we make a conscious choice that prevents us from having to make a decision the next time the situation comes around again.

Covenants keep us safe. They put boundaries around our emotional health, making it strong enough to protect us when the storms of opposition threaten to tear us down and wash us away. Covenants give us a foundation on which to stand that is solid and unmovable.

The covenant I made with God has stayed with me all of my life. Every time I even think that maybe the world would be better off without me, I remember my promise, and I put the knives away.

©2014 by Denise W. Anderson, all rights reserved. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Unconditional Love

We are all children. We have moments when we think that we are on top of the world, that all around us is sunshine, happiness, and joy; and a few moments later, we feel the darkness of shadows overpower us, and suddenly, we are under the control of another that determines our future fate.

The uncertainty of life leaves us wondering when and where to turn for the love and acceptance we crave. When we were young, we readily received it from our parents. They would gather us in their arms at the beginning of the day and assuage our hungering spirits. As we ventured out, we would carry it with us, giving bits and pieces to our friends and facing our foes courageously. Until finally, exhausted, we would fall into our parent’s arms at the end of the day once again for rejuvenation.

Now that we are adults, we still hunger and thirst for that same feeling of belonging and acceptance. We want to know that we are valued, cared for, and important to someone other than ourselves. We yearn to be held tightly with arms wrapped around us, holding us close and whispering sweet nothings into our ears.  Our yearnings lead us on an endless journey, searching for that one companion that will answer our hearts’ desires.

Some are able to find romantic love and for a time, it suffices the craving. Others find it momentarily through the companionship of friends and extended family. Yet, no matter where we look amongst the droves of our fellow human beings, there is ultimately a hollow feeling that these types of love are somehow fleeting.

There is only one source to which we can go for the living water that satisfies our parched souls. That is our Savior, Jesus Christ. He is the True Vine, the Bread of Life, the meat that satisfies and keeps on giving long after the flavor is gone. His love is the unconditional love that never ends, that does not depend upon our actions, our circumstances, and our worthiness.

Each day, we have the opportunity to connect to that love. We come before the throne of grace, and lay down our burdens, our cares, and our concerns, and receive that which only God can give. Through His mercy, we access the gift that money cannot buy: the fruit of the Tree of Life, that which is most precious above all.

Then, and only then, can we walk with our heads held high. Our hearts knit with His and know, in spite of our weaknesses, our frailties, and our imperfections, He has given all for us, individually, that we might live.

©2014 by Denise W. Anderson, all right reserved. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Walking the Emotional Tight Rope

Emotions are funny things. One minute they are for us, and the next they are against us. They swirl around us like fog in the early morning, and by late afternoon are floating like fluffy puffs of cotton before a spring rain. We never know when our emotional weather will change, or what the next round of precipitation will be.

It could be a blizzard, with its icy sheets of rejection, anger, and bitterness, pelting our aching hearts until they become cold as granite and hard as flint. We are left with no hope of relief as darkness sets in before we have a chance to even look for enough kindling to light a fire and warm ourselves.

Perhaps it will be a spring shower of acceptance, just enough to renew our parched feelings of self-worth and sprout some fresh blooms of happiness. We relish these moments of freshness with fondness, knowing that spring will not last forever.

Maybe it will be a searing afternoon of expectations, with the temperature high enough to boil our blood and leave us with second degree burns that blister and peel for days.  Even a soothing layer of aloe will not bring relief fast enough to chase away the self-doubt brewing underneath the surface.

Life is a balancing act, at best. Our emotional tight rope is nothing more than a mere line of thought that sways with every wind of circumstance that blows around us. Unless we have a safety net in place, we can fall hard, and be seriously hurt.

This safety net is our beliefs, our convictions, and our moral standards. The thoughts we think must be measured against, straightened by, and reinforced with them in such a way that we do not get blown away by the whirlwinds and storms that come our way.

Each time we feel ourselves being tossed to and fro by the waves, we have an anchor to hold fast to that brings stability and strength. We are able to stand our ground, keep our balance, and finish our course in spite of abrupt changes in the weather around us.

Surrounding ourselves with those who care for us and love us holds our safety net in place, supporting us in our weakness. We depend on them to provide the emotional first aid needed when we lose our footing or sway too far one direction or another. In turn, we do the same for them. 

Each time we step forward to help someone reinforce their safety net, we are weaving additional fabric into our own.   

©2014 by Denise W. Anderson, all right reserved.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Difficulty with Transition

Life has many transitions. We move from being a child to an adult, single to married, and parent to grandparent. All of these have their challenges, but one thing that they all have in common is our ability to see what is on the other end of the transition. We are able to plan and prepare in such a way that the change happens smoothly.

There are some transitions, however, where we cannot see what is on the other end. We walk gingerly out onto a skimpy rope bridge over a deep chasm filled with churning rapids, and the fog settles in. We cannot see what lies ahead, and we have gone far enough that we lose track of what we left behind.

This type of transition is terrifying! It is easy to get frozen in our tracks; unable to move for fear that we will not make it to the other side. At the same time, we cannot go back to where we have been, as it no longer exists in our realm of vision!

Fear of the unknown puts its icy fingers around our hearts, and our determination, courage, and tenacity lose their strength. We feel inadequate, weak, and insignificant. Our measly skills are not sufficient to bring about a successful resolution to the seeming impossible task before us. 

When this happens, it is vital that we muster our faith; faith that God will provide a course of action if we simply continue to move forward; faith that the bridge will hold up and we will not be plunged to our deaths in the churning rapids; and faith in ourselves that we have the strength to move one foot in front of the other!

Our best defense is to assure ourselves that the transition will not last forever, that God has been both merciful and faithful in the past, and that we do know that others have trodden this path before us. Our ability to use positive self-talk allows the scared child within us to be reassured by our competent adult self that everything will work out in the end.

We begin to see glimmers of hope as small rays of sunshine break through the fog. We look ahead eagerly and see a faint outline of our destination in the distance. Gradually, the picture begins to form in our minds and hearts. We take courage and our stride increases as we begin to understand what lies on the other side of the chasm.

With sweat pouring off our brow, we step forward as we put our feet on solid ground again, heaving a sigh of relief that the transition has come to an end. We look behind us, surprised to see that others have followed our path, in spite of our faltering example.  

We turn to embrace them, giving encouragement and hope that they will make it! Together, we reinforce the bridge, knowing that there will be others to come who are experiencing the difficulty of a similar transition.

©2014 by Denise W. Anderson, all rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Paradox of Perfectionism

It is easy to fall into the “should have,” “could have,” and “would have” trap. The very ideals that inspired and motivated us to become better people are what we use to beat ourselves with when we do not measure up to them. That is the paradox of perfectionism. Like lightening, it strikes at the very core of our feelings of self- worth and tells us that surely, we are not worthy to be called God’s children!

Life becomes a series of storms from which we constantly seek shelter rather than a joyful journey with our loved ones. We cannot seem to muster the strength needed to go forward with our lives because we surely are not good enough, strong enough, or smart enough!

If we recognize perfectionism for what it is, a distorted thinking pattern that keeps us trapped, forever thinking that we are destined to look at a cracked windshield for the rest of our lives, we realize how absurd it sounds! It is time to replace that windshield with one that is clean and clear.

Our knowledge that we are able, needed, and loved, does not come from what we do in this world. It comes who we are, and that is children of God. When we claim the gift of God’s love, we realize that it is not what we have done that makes Him love us, but who we are!

When our own children make mistakes, we take the time to teach and correct them, but we still love them! We share our unconditional love through our affection, kindness, and providing for their needs.  God takes the time to correct and teach us. He shares His unconditional love through the gift of nature, and its boundless beauty in the world.

We feel God’s love when we experience kindness from others, the innocent love of little children, beautiful music, and the receipt of gifts from loved ones. The gift of His Son atoned for our sins and weaknesses and paves the way for us to return back to Him. He is ready and waiting each day to shower that love upon us as we connect to Him in our daily prayers and devotions.

Just as electricity does not illuminate our lives until we turn on the switch to the light fixture, God’s love does not show itself forth until we take the time to connect our lifeline to Him. Only then, can we know of His infinite love for each one of us.

God appreciates each step we make in His direction. He does not stop loving us when we make mistakes or do things against His will. We punish ourselves far more than He ever will! We are His children and He longs to gather us in His arms and bring us back to live with Him again!

©2014 by Denise W. Anderson, all right reserved.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Under Construction

Not again! Another sign, another detour, another road closed. Can’t we get through without road construction? Everywhere we turn, there are signs telling us that we have to change the way we are going because something needs to be fixed!

Even the buildings we frequent have sections blocked off for remodeling, cleaning, and repairing. Extra time is required as we walk around to another door, plan a different route, stop for the flagman, slow down for the bumpy road, or leave our well-worn path to make room for others needing to use it.

Every day, our routines are interrupted with what we consider to be yet another inconvenience and waste of time. We grumble and complain, and yet, in the end, we rejoice when the final outcome gives us greater ease of travel, more beauty to enjoy, and a smoother road on which to drive.

Life is full of road construction. Sometimes, it comes by way of a crisis. A storm washes out the bridge, or an earthquake leaves the pavement in shambles. Other times, the road gets full of pot holes with the frost heaves the ground to the point that we can’t travel without major damage to our vehicles. Just plain wear and tear over time makes cracks, groves, dips, and bumps in the road. Repair work is needed to return it to good working condition.

Each time we encounter construction, we have to vary our normal routine. If the construction takes a long time to complete, we form new habits and change our way of doing things.  We make adjustments in our attitudes, behavior, and even our identity. We may find that in the long run, things actually change for the better.

If the construction lasts only a short while, we are less apt to make major changes in our lives. We see the situation as a minor inconvenience. We put off self-evaluation, thinking that there is no need. Why change if we don’t have to? Unfortunately, the problem comes around again and again, continuing to recur until a major crisis brings about the needed change.

To keep these crises at a minimum, we can be proactive, choosing to evaluate and make changes before life demands them. Having a prevention plan whereby we assess how we are doing is much more cost-effective than responding to a crisis. First days give us this opportunity on a regular basis. The first day of the week, the first day of the month, the first day of the year; each offers a new beginning.

The habits we form now will give us the power to keep our emotional health intact when those road construction signs go up unexpectedly, as they assuredly will!

©2014, Denise W. Anderson, all rights reserved.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Anticipating Grief

I can’t believe this is happening! Our hearts are still numb with the pain! One day we were laughing and joking together and now, we are ready to tear each other apart! How the choices of one can affect so many!

If only he would see what he is doing to the rest of us! How it hurts, to think of him being gone as well! Can we go on living, knowing that those we have loved and cared for are no longer here to share life’s most precious moments?

Can life be so cruel as to snatch another out from under us? Where is the fairness of a just God that would allow such an act! How can He be merciful and kind, when all around is pain, separation, and loss? Where is the promised balm of healing?

Surely there is a way, something we can do to prevent this. There must be, we just have to seek until we find it. Death cannot be the only way. We have to ask. Dear God, what can we do to keep him here just a little bit longer? We want to see him, to feel his love, to have his warmth and tenderness bless our lives.

What? Selfish? How can desiring love and acceptance be selfish? Oh, to have him stay in his condition would be selfish. It would meet our needs, but not his. Oh. He has finished his work here on this earth, and now it is time for him to return to Thee. How could I forget, it is not my will, but Thine, that is done.

Please forgive our shortsightedness! Please help us help him to be comfortable, to feel loved, and to be prepared to meet Thee. He is Thy child, waiting and ready to see Thee again. He is our friend, our mentor, our loved one. Oh, how we shall miss him!

Take him, Father, if it is Thy will that he go, take him. Don’t let him suffer needlessly. Take him and comfort him and be with him. We don’t want to see him suffer. What? We must? It is necessary for us to experience pain and suffering? How can that be just?!

I don’t understand. I am confused and frustrated. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry, to scream or shout. I just know that my heart is being wrenched and torn! I want these feelings to go away! They are so difficult to experience! Please speak peace to my mind and heart!

Rest. Yes, that is what I need. I am weary. The work is not done, I know. I will try again tomorrow. It will be a new day. Perhaps, then, my mind will know what to think, and my heart will know how to feel.

©2014 by Denise W. Anderson, all right reserved.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Magic of Gratitude

Graphics courtesy of

The minutes turned into hours as I rolled over one more time and glared at the empty space in the bed beside me. Surely, he would be back by now. But then, again, perhaps something happened. I threw on some clothes, fired up the engine, and ventured forth into the darkness.

Which way would he have gone? If I go one way and he comes home another, I won’t find him. But then, again, perhaps I will find him, somewhere in a gutter, unconscious and bleeding. I just need to go, and pray that I will find him before it is too late!

The road seemed haunted as I started with every movement, every insignificant sign that there might be life somewhere in the darkness. The wind blew. The mice skittered across the road from one field to another. The night wore on, but there was still no sign of his vehicle anywhere.

Its three a.m. and I am back home, wondering, waiting, and worrying. Should I call the police? They will ask me if I tried to call. It’s been hours, but I will try again. Surely someone will hear my pleas and answer! “Hello? Thank goodness, a voice! Is he there? You mean he left hours ago? Where? I’ll give it a try!”

“Is that you? I’ve been so worried! What is happening?! Why haven’t you come home?! You thought I would be sleeping?! Who can sleep waiting and wondering?! At least you are safe! Thank God for that!”

Finally, blessed slumber claimed my fatigue. My soul was satisfied that I would see him once again in this life! The darkness of the night gradually faded away, replaced by the light of dawn.

How many times have we prayed for the safety and health of friends and loved ones? If you are like me, it is too many to count. The nights spent pacing the floor wondering, hoping, and praying that they would return again to our arms. We go through the stages of grief as we think of all the things that could happen.

Finally, as we enter the realm of acceptance that this might be the end, the door opens, and we embrace them with all the fervor of a long lost soul. What changed? Only moments earlier, we were angry that they were so insensitive and uncaring as to not call and let us know what was happening! We were ready to dole out punishment that would last a lifetime.

The magic of gratitude changes our hearts the instant we grab hold of the realization that there is good in the situation. They are alive! They have returned to us in the moment that we thought was forever lost. Gratitude allows the daylight to penetrate even the darkest nights of our lives.

©2014 by Denise W. Anderson, all rights reserved.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Fear is the Foundation of Faith

Hospital waiting rooms are sacred places. Life hovers there between this world and the next, and we gather with our loved ones, waiting, hoping, and praying, that we will be spared heartache and sorrow, at least for a brief moment of time.

We examine our lives in an effort to find some morsel of goodness that we can use to bargain with God. We tell Him that we are willing and able to be a better spouse, parent, and friend, knowing deep in our hearts that no matter what we do, His will trumps ours.

We humble ourselves before the Almighty, realizing that we are less than the dust of the earth, that He knows all, sees all, and has all power to bring miracles to pass. We have seen them in the lives of others, and hope beyond all earthly reasoning, that we might experience one for ourselves.

The minutes turn into hours, and the hours into eternities as we wait for some good word from the operating physician that our loved one is all right, that we can have hope of a full recovery. Only then, do we relax our vigil of fear and ceaseless petitioning in their behalf.

It is in our most difficult moments, when we are brought to our knees, that we realize there must be a power beyond our own that is able to save us from the unfortunate circumstances in which we find ourselves. Even the most devout atheist, when faced with his or her own death or that of a close loved one, is brought to admit that there must be something beyond this life.

Fear makes us question our mortality, our limitations, and our simple human ability. We realize that there must be a power beyond our own. If there is, what is it? Is it a nebulous “force” with no human attributes or compassion? We have to find out. We humble ourselves to the dust, admitting that we are powerless, and plead that we might know for ourselves.

The answer comes. We see things we did not see before. We feel things we did not feel before. We find within ourselves a spark of light that begins to grow and fill our souls. We find that we are loved in ways we have never known before. We feel concern for the welfare of others and realize that we were made for something more.

No matter what happens, fear has formed the foundation of a faith that lasts a lifetime. We know and understand who we are, why we are here, and where we go after we leave here. In our extremity, we turned to God, and realized that within ourselves, our fear has become acquainted with our faith!

©2014 by Denise W. Anderson, all rights reserved.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Seek Understanding

Life doesn't always make sense. Sometimes we just don’t know what to do. We are faced with difficulties that try our patience and everything we thought we knew about life. It is at times like these, that we simply have to admit that we don’t know everything.

Since we don’t know everything, we have to learn. Learning takes humility. It means admitting that we don’t know what to do. Pride says “I know it all” and humility says, “Teach me.” Since pride is the default mechanism protecting our ego, we are often compelled to be humble before we will learn.

It is no fun to be compelled to do anything, and we fight until we know we can’t win. Finally, on bended knee, we admit out weakness and realize that there is something more that we need to do. This is when we are ready to learn.

As children, we memorized to show what we learned, the math facts, letters of the alphabet, spelling of words, and formulas for scientific experiments. As adults, learning is different. Rather than rote memorization, we concentrate our efforts on seeking understanding.

The world is a complex place. It is impossible for us to know everything in the short amount of time that we are here. The presenting of problem situations channels our learning and gives purpose to our quest for knowledge. The popular adage “…with all thy getting, get understanding” found in Proverbs 4:7 of the Old Testament tells us that understanding is key to any success we experience in life.

We have to understand ourselves first, our strengths and weaknesses, the things we desire, and the things we despise. As we grow in our understanding of ourselves, we are more kind to others when they require understanding.

Next, we seek to understand our loved ones, those with whom we spend the first and last moments of the day. As we grow in our understanding of them, we share the unconditional love that we are in need of to fill our own cups. We also prepare ourselves to understand those who are less important in our lives.

Understanding those with whom we work is a monumental task; however, it is facilitated as we grow in our understanding of people in general. People are like gardens. There are weeds, and there are flowers. Our actions plant seeds of harmony or discord, depending upon what we do and say. The harvest comes in the treatment we receive in return.

We also grow in understanding when we realize that not all of our positive action is met with positive in return. There will be storms and whirlwinds no matter who we are and what we have done. These are vital for our growth and development. Choosing to learn enables us to find peace and happiness, no matter what happens in life.

©2014 by Denise W. Anderson, all rights reserved.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Developing Endurance

“I don’t think I am going to make it.”

“I can’t do this anymore, I’m sorry.”

When we hear these words, we try to give encouragement to the person saying them. We want them to hold on as long as possible, to keep going until the very end, not giving up or giving in. We want them to develop the endurance needed to stick it out.

What is endurance? How do we develop it? Why is it so important?

We often associate endurance with the athlete that runs long distances. It requires muscle strength, lung capacity, high quality running shoes, and a great deal of determination. Distance runners know that there is a cycle they go through and they pace themselves to save their final burst of energy for the last seconds of the race.

Outside of the athletic world, we speak of endurance when we speak of loved ones who are getting close to the end of their lives. We want them to live as long as possible, and we encourage them to “hang on” until they have accomplished their life’s work and are called home.

Endurance is not just for runners and the elderly. We all want and need this quality to help us in our lives. We need endurance when we are having a tough day, when the money runs out before the end of the month, and when we experience setbacks in our education, employment, and most importantly, in our families.

Family life can be fraught with difficulty. We frequently must set aside our own agendas and work for the good of others that are depending on us for their sustenance. As we do so, we choose a higher purpose and develop our endurance. We exercise patience, determination, and dedication as we work together.

Choosing to endure to the end is choosing to make the most of our lives, no matter how long it may appear that we have left to live. It is staying with our loved ones even when they may not be making the choices that bring us peace and happiness. It is keeping the lights on when the night is at its darkest.

Endurance is the ability to keep on doing what we know is right, even when it appears that we are not receiving any benefits from doing so. It is giving our best effort in the face of opposition, and keeping a positive attitude when others are looking for reasons to complain.

Endurance is realizing that the race does not necessarily go to the swift and the strong, but to the person who keeps on going until the final whistle blows. It is the ability to keep on going, no matter what happens. Enduring is choosing the good over and over again, until the good chooses us!

©2014 by Denise W. Anderson, all rights reserved.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Bright Light of Hope

Hope sounds a lot like home. Perhaps that is because when we think of hope, we think of peace and safety, and these are the attributes that make a house a home. We think of our loved ones, how much they mean to us, and how we enjoy being with them.

Hope has a similar connotation. It is the essence of looking forward with anticipation to a better world. We often use the word when we want something better to happen in our current circumstance. We feel that we are exerting our faith in a higher power by expressing our desire that things will get better.

Setting aside religion, what role does hope play in our emotional health? Hope is the ability to look above and beyond our current circumstance, realizing that it is only temporary. Things change. They always do. No matter where we find ourselves at the current moment, whether in happiness or misery, that state is not permanent. It will change. The only constant in this world is change.

Once we realize that life changes regularly, we give ourselves permission to see past what is happening in the moment. This flexibility gives our emotions a chance to evolve with the change around us. If we adopt a rigid viewpoint, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment, heartache, and even despair.

Despair is the opposite of hope. It sees only the pain and frustration of the moment, and leads to discouragement, disillusionment, and depression. These “d” words leave us feeling at the mercy of the dragons of the deep, deprived of peace and happiness. Hope is the ability to look up, to find something positive in the situation, and to focus on that small morsel of goodness long enough that a better future opens to our point of view.

Whether we are dealing with long-term illness, the pain of separation from our loved ones, or difficulty in our employment, hope gives us the opportunity to set these things aside momentarily, just long enough to taste what it feels like to be home, surrounded by our family and friends, feeling the arms of love embrace us.

Hope, then, is the ability to see a light at the end of the tunnel, to grasp the path that leads to that light, and then, to bask in its warmth once we arrive there. Indeed, hope is the flame that lights our way back home!

©2014 by Denise W. Anderson, all right reserved.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Power of Listening

We often think of listening as a passive activity. We tell our children, “I’m listening,” just to get them off our backs, when in reality; we continue doing other things while they talk. We don’t really hear what they are saying; we are just trying to get something done, while giving them what we think that they want and need.

Children quickly learn that if they want our undivided attention, they have to do something more than talking to get it, and that usually means misbehavior!  When we truly listen, we don’t just hear words, we feel what the other person is feeling. Listening requires focused effort on the face of the other person, their, lips, eyes, and mouth. It requires seeing things from their point of view and understanding what is happening in their life. When we do so, we understand on a deeper level, and communicate soul to soul.

There are a number of things that get in the way of listening. Sometimes, we are so preoccupied with our lives, that when someone speaks to us, we do not hear what they are actually saying. Our hearing mechanisms are not tuned into their wavelength, and we may nod or smile, but not really hear.

Perhaps we devalue the person that is speaking, thinking that they are really not worth our time, or they don’t have anything important to say. When this happens, we say something that is demeaning or damaging to the relationship. Unfortunately, they may see us as uncaring, conceited, or even cruel.

Sometimes, we think ahead in the conversation, and rather than listening to what is being said, we think of what we are going to say when the other person stops speaking. This “one up” mentality only serves to make the other person feel insignificant, even put down.

Distraction is another issue when listening. We allow things that are going on around us to take our mind off of the person standing in front of us. We glance at the clock, look at our computer screen, or notice a bird flying around outside the window. We may even allow thoughts of what we are doing later in the day to creep in and take over our level of consciousness.

A lack of interest in the subject matter being discussed can also be a hindrance in our ability to listen. If we don’t think that what is being said is true, or has meaning and purpose, we may discount it. As we do so, we are telling the other person that they are really not important to us.

The power of listening comes in our ability to set aside our own agenda, the distractions and preoccupations of the moment, and really focus on the other person. As we do so, we are sending the message that the person is worthwhile, and what they have to say is important. Our eye contact gives them unconditional love. Each word we say validates their feelings. Our re-phrasing of what is happening lets them know that they have been understood.

Indeed, the power of listening is the ability to uplift another’s soul. When we do so, we lift up our own.

©2014, Denise W. Anderson, all rights reserved.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Fear of Rejection

widget within

"I don't like you! I never want to see you again!"

"Get our of here, you don't belong here!"

"We are sorry, but you weren't selected to be on the team."

We have all experienced rejection throughout our lives. Why do we fear it? What makes it so difficult and what can we do about it?

Where does fear of rejection come from?

As young children, we learn quickly that a smiling face means that our parents are pleased with us and a frowning one means that we have done something wrong. We equate smiles with acceptance and love, and frowns with rejection, anger, fear, and hate. When our parents smile at us, we know that they love us, and that our needs will be met. When they frown, we know that they are not happy with us, they may even be angry, and that our needs most likely will not be met.

As we get older, we realize that these same principles apply in our relationships. When other people are pleased and happy with us, we feel love and acceptance. When we do something that they do not like, we are usually met with anger and frustration. When this happens we often assume that others do not like us anymore, and tell ourselves that we should look elsewhere for friendship.

Since we live with this reality throughout our lives, it only stands to reason that we want to avoid rejection if at all possible. In fact, we fear it and want to stay far away from it. Rejection is an unpleasant experience, and when others do things that we do not like, we tend to reject them as a form of punishment.

Why does rejection affect us so deeply? 

When we are rejected, we think that we have done something wrong. We analyze our actions critically in an effort to rectify the situation. If we find nothing worthy of the rejection, we automatically make the assumption that we were rejected because we are not good enough to be loved and accepted. 

In fact, we go one step further; we assume that we are no longer lovable and since we are no longer lovable, we must be worthless. Feelings of worthlessness lead to hopelessness and helplessness, the stuff of which suicide is made.

It is no wonder that people commit suicide when they are fired from their job, experience the death of a close loved one, or suffer from a broken relationship. They feel rejected by those who are most important to them; therefore, they assume that they are no longer worthy to live. There is no point in going on.

Even if the rejection we experience has nothing to do with a relationship, we still equate it with feelings of worthlessness. Whether a bad grade on our report card, a “thanks for applying but we don’t need you” letter following a job interview, or a “sorry you don’t qualify for the loan” phone call, we still have feelings of not being good enough.

In other words, we don't have what it takes. We have put forth our best effort, but we didn't make it. We weren't smart enough, tough enough, or in the groove enough. We just feel short. The rejection hole we fall into gets pretty deep and the feelings of discouragement, despair, and despondency bury us alive!

What can we do about it? 

In order to stop the fear of rejection from burying us, we have to stop the assumptions:
  1. Rejection does not mean that we are not loved. As members of the human family, we are all loved unconditionally by our Maker. This beautiful earth is evidence of God's love for everyone. The sun shines on all. The trees, grass, flowers, and bushes are made specifically for our happiness. When we tap into God's love, it does not matter how other people treat us. We are loved and lovable.
  2. Rejection does not mean that we have done something wrong. Frowns do not equal anger, and anger does not equal hate. Rejection may mean that the time is not right, that it is not a good fit, or that we are not compatible. Rejection is simply the process by which we gain information and learn from it. Avoid taking rejection personally by looking at it as simply another piece of information in the puzzle we call life. We work very hard putting all the pieces in the right places, only to find that when we do, the picture has changed. Rejection is simply the initiation of change.
  3. Rejection does not mean that we are not good enough. It simply means that it is time to do something different. Thankfully, we can change; it is possible. Rejection simply means that we go back to the drawing board and come up with another plan. We go forward with faith. 
Fear of rejection may seem like a monster at first glance, but when we look at it with a change in our perspective, we are able to use it to our advantage. Remember, we are good enough. We have another chance; we have another choice.

©2014 by Denise W. Anderson, all rights reserved.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

What is Emotional Health?

It all started the day my brother didn't come home.

Our eyes were on the driveway, watching and waiting. He and a friend had ridden their motorcycles to the local gravel pit for a swim before assuming duties on the farm during our family's absence. The camper was packed and the sun getting low in the sky. If we didn't leave soon, we wouldn't make the campground before dark.

We didn't go.

When the pickup entered the driveway, we knew something was wrong. My dad met the driver on the porch and they slowly walked out to the pickup. Words were exchanged, and then the pickup drove away. Dad walked to the house with his head bowed. 

The next few days were a blur.

Seeing my brother's body lying there in the funeral home was surreal. I kept waiting for him to come waltzing in to tell us that it was all a joke. He was 16 years old, strong, athletic, and tan with the sun. I was only 15. He was my brother. He was my friend.  

Life was never the same again.

Our emotional health is determined by the way we respond to life's challenges

At the time, I didn't understand what was happening to our family. I only knew the numbness I felt. Things were not going well at home. Other unfortunate events used what little resources we had. I left home for college, and my father eventually sold the farm.

In order to cope, I started studying families.

I wanted to know what made families work, why some were successful and others were not. I made some decisions as to how I wanted my own family to be. It kept me from falling into the potholes of despair and discouragement that kept coming my way.

Life got better.

I started my own family, rejoiced in the newness of life, and the opportunity to be a part of the wonder of creation. Each new spirit that joined ours brought additional closeness and an outpouring of love.

Emotional health is like a rotating wheel

Our thoughts, feelings, desires, and actions, revolve around our belief system. How we complete the sentence "I am...." is the basis of our self worth. It determines how we think, and feelings that result from our thoughts, the things we desire, and finally, our actions.

It does not stop there. The results of our actions either affirm our beliefs, or change them. In turn, our thoughts, feelings, desires, and actions evolve and change as well.

Link within
I Am Circle by Denise W. Anderson

As we grow in our understanding of emotional health, we can change what happens in our lives. After my brother's death, my family was hurting. I didn't understand and could not help them heal from the tragic event that occurred.

It was not until years later, as I grieved for another close member of the family, that I realized that I had to work through my grief, and make some type of remembrance of him. As I did so, and gave it to my family, I helped some of them with their feeling. At the same time, I resolved my own.

We can change our emotional health

Emotional health is the glue that holds our lives together. It affects all aspects of our lives. Just like the hub of a wheel, it holds the spokes in place as they turn the axle of the wagon. When the center hub is broken, the wheel ceases to turn.

Our emotional health is the basis of our physical, mental, spiritual, and intellectual health. Without emotional health, there is no health. We suffer excruciating pain and heartache. With our emotional health, we can handle anything that life has to offer, and are able to give unconditional love to others.

Join me in the journey, for your emotional health!

©2014 by Denise W. Anderson, all rights reserved.