As we continue discussing accountability this month, receiving tough love is a critical aspect to help us grow and change.
Challenge: Receiving Tough Love
REALity: Let’s be honest – receiving tough love can be hard. We don’t want to hear about our flaws and weaknesses from others, but it can be very helpful in making positive changes in our life. With receiving tough love, we have to be willing to hear the truth about ourselves and not become bitter against the person speaking the truth.
Inspiration: Last week, I received some tough love that I was not expecting. It came from my workout trainer about my attitude with training sessions. In February, I officially began training for the summer triathlon season. I’ll be participating in 5 sprint triathlons from May to September then a half-marathon in November. In order to be race-ready and build endurance, a consistent training routine is a must. However, physical training is just as important as mental training. What the mind says, the body will follow.
Since starting workouts, my trainer had been noticing that my mental focus was ‘off’. I was taking my training too serious and not enjoying the journey like I had in the past. Also, my expectations were too high and I was super critical of myself and my performance. I had become hyper focused on quick results and not the journey itself.
Even other people at the gym had noticed the changes in me and inquired if everything was alright. Normally at the gym, I like to speak with people, laugh with them, encourage them and spread joy. I had stopped doing that and people noticed. I was still friendly with people but my focus was only on me and not others.
When we become too self-involved, it can lead to much negativity and isolation. Thankfully, I received much needed tough love from my trainer who told me that I needed to reevaluate why I’m training in the first place. He asked me where my joy was. He reminded me that if I don’t enjoy the process of training then I’ll never appreciate the results. He helped me remember that I enjoy spreading joy at the gym and encouraging others. He firmly told me that I had become way too serious and needed to adjust my expectations.
God will certainly give us tough love when needed. He may speak directly to us or use other people to speak His truth. The important thing is how we receive it. Do we accept the tough love with grace and humility or bitterness and denial? Tough love / Tough truth is not meant to hurt us but help us.
"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."
Is there an area of your life that you have ignored receiving tough love? We all need tough love at certain times in our life. By embracing it, we are open to make great improvements in our life. The goal is always to be better not bitter.
For help on finding the right accountability partner, download the free resource:
Accountability Partnership Checklist
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In December, I saw a book titled, The 40-Day Sugar Fast: Where Physical Detox Meets Spiritual Transformation, by Wendy Speake.
I knew that I wanted to make some dietary changes in January, so I got the book and signed up for the challenge. The author was very clear for each person to decide what kind of sugar fast she would do.
At the same time, my gym also started a wellness challenge where participants focused on nutrition, hydration, exercise, rest, and reflection.
So on January 4, I committed to 6 weeks of no desserts as well as drinking a green smoothie every day. I knew that a full-out sugar fast would be too difficult for me since sugar is in almost everything. With a dessert fast, I chose to abstain from dessert items like cake, brownies, ice cream, cookies, candy, etc.
Here’s what I learned:
1. Desserts should not be a daily habit. Once I deleted all desserts from my diet, I had the startling realization just how much I had been eating them. Dark chocolate had been one of my closest friends for a long time. It was difficult to break-up and say good-bye. I loved having chocolate after lunch, as an afternoon snack and then some more after dinner. Even if it was just a small piece of chocolate candy, I was having it way too much.
2. Avoid conflict during the first 7 days of any fast. Thankfully, my husband and kids gave me grace during my first fasting week because I was a train wreck. A chocolate detox isn’t for the weak. I didn’t realize it at the time but eliminating desserts from your diet will cause a very short fuse. Unfortunately, I had to ask forgiveness more than once for my actions during the first week of detox.
3. Justification is a slippery slope. During my weaker moments, I was trying to justify all kinds of reasons to have chocolate. “Chocolate covered almonds aren’t really a dessert; they are healthy.” “If I normally wouldn’t have this food for dessert, then it doesn’t qualify for the dessert fast.” Honestly, we can justify anything. It’s easy to twist the truth in our minds to help ease the struggle, however staying strong to our commitment will greatly improve our mindset for overall success.
4. Find a dessert substitute. After the first week of fasting, the days got much better and I no longer struggled with weak moments. However, it was greatly beneficial to my journey to have some options for ‘treats’. I discovered ‘dessert’ smoothies that were delicious and healthy as well as almond/oat bars and pumpkin muffins. It certainly helped to have something special when the rest of the family was enjoying ice cream!
5. Be ready for challenges and changes. This fast really taught me that I CAN handle no desserts and my body agreed. I had more energy (a green smoothie everyday helped with this too), less cravings, and a huge sense of accomplishment. Doing hard things will bring positive changes.
6. Build in accountability. I’ve worked hard to build in strong layers of accountability in my life and was very thankful for support during the dessert fast. My main accountability was the wellness challenge at my gym. All participants had to submit their weekly points and then our points were posted on the leaderboard. It was very motivating to have a score posted each week.
So what were my final results, you ask? Well, I only cheated one time on my dessert fast. My husband took me out for a date night and I told the waiter that I didn’t want dessert but he still brought a plate of small chocolate truffles to the table. Really??!!! My husband said it was a special night and to enjoy them – which I did. However, that was the only time I gave in to weakness.
For the wellness challenge at the gym, I finished in 2nd place. I lost some points on the chocolate truffles and there were some days that I didn’t exercise and lost points for that. Overall I’m really proud of my journey.
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CHALLENGE: How do we wait with intention?
There are not many things that are constant in life but waiting is one of them. We will always be waiting in some form whether in line at the grocery store, in traffic, at the doctor’s office, or at a restaurant. Waiting is a natural part of our everyday life.
So how can we live with intention during a life season of waiting? A season of waiting is much different from everyday lifestyle waiting. A season of waiting applies to those times when big decisions are involved. A new job, a promotion, a child’s college application acceptance, a weight loss plan, medical diagnosis, buying a house, marital difficulties or financial burdens.
We have learned this month with our monthly theme of Living with Intention that there is a big difference between living intentionally and living functionally.
One analogy is that living functionally is like playing pinball. The ball is all over the place. You try your best to keep the ball rolling without it getting past the flipper. It is extremely difficult to maintain control of the ball especially when the ball is rolling so fast.
The analogy for living with intention is like playing pool. After the initial break, you are only focused on one ball and use skill and strategy to get the ball where you want it to go. The game is played at a much slower pace than pinball. Pool is won with intentional focus.
While in a season of waiting, we must be focused, patient, and strategic.
Waiting brings strength. Waiting builds character. Waiting creates endurance.
For all 3 of my pregnancies, my husband and I decided not to find out the gender of each child. We wanted that amazing surprise moment of finding out at the birth.
Our decision confused a lot of people. They couldn’t understand why we would choose to wait when we could easily find out ahead of time. Everyone said we could plan and prepare so much better if we knew the gender before the birth.
Never being one to follow the crowd, I happily waited for 9 months to get the best surprise of my life. Those precious moments of finding out the gender after giving birth are memories I will always treasure. It was worth the wait every single time.
Waiting will be what we make it. We can make it miserable or we can make it beneficial. Waiting with intention means a new mindset. It means a commitment to allowing God to work on your behalf while you prepare for the outcome.
All through the Bible, God has required waiting. This isn’t to make our lives miserable but to increase our trust in Him. He wants us to trust His plan and His timing completely. Even more, He doesn’t wants us to bring deliberate sin into our lives by creating shortcuts and making our own way.
Psalm 27:14, "Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord."
Waiting is HARD especially when we feel like our life is in turmoil. We often want God to move faster on our behalf. How does your view of waiting compare to God’s view of waiting?
What we view as the last second, God views as His perfect timing. God is never in a hurry like we are. Remember, He knows the future and sees all the other factors that are involved in our time of waiting. We have to trust His plan.
ACTION PLAN FOR WAITING WITH INTENTION:
Download our Personalized Prayers for Positive Change.
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CHALLENGE: Learning to live intentionally instead of functionally
In his book, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, Peter Scazzero says "very few people have a conscious plan for developing their spiritual lives. Most Christians are not intentional, but rather functional. Our crammed schedules, endless to-do lists, demanding jobs and families, constant noise, information bombardment, and anxieties keep us speeding up, not slowing down. Eventually we find ourselves unfocused, distracted, and adrift spiritually."
As women, we tend to juggle many plates and live constantly with multi-tasking. Our lives can easily become on auto-pilot as we just try to function and get through each day. A functional day has no plan or forethought and involves putting out 'fires' all day long. An intentional day involves a plan of action, commitment and persistence. An intentional life is a focused effort of mindful living with what is most important in your life.
INSPIRATION: Keep Your Eyes Down
This past summer, my husband rented a cabin in the mountains for our family to stay and go white water rafting. The cabin was really high on the mountain. Over the weekend, my husband wanted to go for a hike. This was quite an adventure because the road was so steep and hilly. Going down the mountain wasn't a problem, however turning back and hiking up the steep hills was quite the challenge. It seemed that the hills were never ending. I quickly realized that focusing on the hills was making the hike harder and not easier. By constantly looking at the hill, it seemed that I was making no progress.
I then started looking down at my feet instead of looking up at the hill. By looking at my feet, I was focused on one small step after another. Although small steps, I was able to see progress being made. When I was looking up, the hill I was climbing seemed daunting - like I would never get to the top. Once I switched my attention to my feet, I could see the progress being made, one step at a time.
This is the same principle for changing your focus from functional to intentional. If we make the effort to change our focus onto the small steps, then we will reach the top of the hill faster than expected. So instead of living functionally and only focusing on the far off goal, start keeping your eyes down on the small steps that show steady progression.
Living with Intention does not have to be difficult. Honestly, making the change from functional living to intentional living is easier than people realize. The key is small, consistent steps including:
Plan - schedule time in your phone/calendar for when you will be implementing your small steps
Prep - figure out what has to be done before you actually take action on your small steps
Persist - take action and follow through for the area you want to change
Repeat - change happens over time; so keep repeating this process
GOD'S TRUTH: Give unto us this day our daily bread
God is faithful to give us enough strength for each day. He doesn't give us lots of strength to distribute throughout the week. He gives us enough strength for ONE day. This is because He wants us to rely on Him every day not just when we need the strength. The Lord's prayer says "give unto us THIS day, our DAILY bread." His strength is readily available for us to use each day. Remember to keep your eyes on your feet (small steps) and not on the big hill.
Would you describe your days as functional or intentional? Living with intention is a choice that has to be implemented. The most important aspect is that you don't rely on your own strength to make changes. God's strength is readily available, so use His strength!!
1. Choose one area of your life that you want to live with more intention. Be sure to pick an area that will have the most impact on your life right now.
2. Make a PLAN and schedule the time for implementation
3. PREPARE all the necessary items needed to succeed
4. PERSIST with your goal of intention by following through on what you have scheduled
5. REPEAT the Process
To Have More Intentional Prayers, get our free Personalized Prayers for Positive Change.
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CHALLENGE: How can we use self-compassion to connect with ourselves?
Do you often choose multi-tasking over mindfulness? I am so guilty of multitasking around my husband and kids. They will try to talk to me, but I listen while also doing other things. What does that communicate to them? I am sending the message that they are not important enough to have my full attention. Yikes! What a difference mindfulness can make when we stop everything, look into his/her eyes, and really focus on what he/she is telling us. Not only will the relationship strengthen but the person sees the practice of mindfulness at work.
Negative self-talk affects us all. There is no escaping it. I am no stranger to falling victim to my negative thoughts. They can start like a trickle and quickly turn into a flood. The vicious cycle of shaming ourselves, judging ourselves, nagging ourselves and berating ourselves can become our normal routine if we are not careful to combat it. Friends, the negative self-talk can easily damage our lives and the lives of those we love.
We can change!!! It is never too late to incorporate positive change into our life. Dr. Shauna Shapiro, clinical psychologist, author, and mindfulness expert says that wherever you are right now is the entry point for positive change. She tells us that a mindfulness mindset starts by seeing things clearly and being fully present in the moment. It is a way of being, a way of living, and a way of growing. Whatever we practice grows stronger.
Dr. Shapiro continues to say that once we start practicing mindfulness, we are laying down the pathways for positive change. Every time we make a choice to choose differently, we are building the foundation for a new path of self-compassion. Dr. Shapiro gives a 3-step process for practicing self-compassion:
Mindfulness and Self-Compassion help us to embrace each moment and not live on autopilot all day long.
THE WORD OF TRUTH:
No wonder Jesus emphasized the importance of taking every thought captive. He knew the intense battle of the mind. Jesus knows our weaknesses and battles with negative self-talk. He offers us His strength, wisdom, and courage to make positive changes. Jesus Christ himself is LOVE, TRUTH, and DISCIPLINE. He is all that we need to create new pathways for mindfulness and self-compassion.
Colossians 3:12, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Many of us may think this verse is only targeted to our relationships with others, but it is also targeted to ourselves. Do we talk to ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience? Jesus desires us to treat others AND ourselves with these characteristics.
I Corinthians 10:4-5, “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
Friends, this verse is life-changing and life-giving for us. As we pursue positive changes, Jesus gives us the weapons and tools we need to put an end to the vicious cycle of shame and judgment of ourselves. We simply surrender to His power and work with Him to love ourselves the way that He loves us.
Books for Dr. Shauna Shapiro:
The Power of Mindfulness: What You Practice Grows Stronger
Podcast Interview with Dr. Shauna Shapiro:
“The Fresh Start Family Show” Episode #49: Using Self-Compassion to Transform Your Family
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CHALLENGE: How can you use scripture for self-connection and transformation?
Ideally, all of us would have filling and productive days to live our best lives. The reality, however, is that most days are difficult and draining. Too many of us rely on our own strength to get through the day. We put on “band aids” to try to fix reoccurring problems and stresses. Eventually, we get so overwhelmed that we do not even know how to stop the vicious cycle.
The Bible is very clear that we are to take care of our bodies. The great benefit to being a Christ-follower is that He freely gives us what we need to take care of ourselves. We only have to seek Him and ask! Jesus is our healer, comforter, encourager, motivator, helper, and advocate. He wants to pour His strength into us, so we aren’t trying to do everything in our strength. He knows our weaknesses and is ready to equip us to overcome!
So, what area do you most need Jesus’ strength? Is it exercise, rest, healthy eating, stress relief, or positive mindset? Let’s look at verses that will enable us to utilize Jesus’ mighty power to restore us.
THE WORD OF TRUTH:
Proverbs 4:12, “When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble.”
Proverbs 18:10, “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.”
Isiah 40:31, “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint.”
Hebrews 12:1, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”
Proverbs 19:23, “The fear of the Lord leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble.”
Psalm 119:76, “May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant.”
Exodus 31:15a, “For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord.”
Exodus 33:14, “The Lord replied, ‘My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’”
Exodus 14:14, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
Psalm 62:5, “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him.”
For Healthy Eating:
1 Corinthians 10:23, “Everything is permissible – but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible – but not everything is constructive.”
1 Corinthians 10: 31, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
Genesis 1:30b, “I give every green plant for food.”
Proverbs 21:20, “In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has.”
I Corinthians 3:16, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.”
For Stress Relief:
Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Galatians 5:1, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
Psalm 68:19, “Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.”
Proverbs 17: 22, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”
Proverbs 16:24, “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”
Colossians 2:6-8, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.”
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CHALLENGE: Why is real connection so important to your life?
Have you ever been jealous of the connections that other people have? I remember our first year at a new school that 2 of my children were attending. Even though we weren’t the only new family that year, it felt like everyone knew each other so well. Most of the families lived in another part of town than us, so they all had a connection to each other besides the school. There was no public transportation, so all the moms formed a line in the school pick up line. However, moms didn’t stay in their vehicles; they got out and mingled with each other until dismissal. I remember being so jealous of their connections.
I would watch them talking to each other, laughing, and enjoying each other’s company. Every afternoon my feelings of disconnection grew, and I also sulked in my car having a pity party. Why didn’t anyone come to talk to me; was I not likable enough; why didn’t any other mom want to connect with me? It was like being the new girl sitting alone in the school cafeteria because no one wants to sit with you.
Yes, in a perfect world all ‘new kids’ would be welcomed with open arms and made to feel like part of the group. Over the years, I have realized that a lot of people are either oblivious to the feelings of others and/or they don’t have the skills to know how to include others. It is up to you to take the first step - no matter how scary and intimidating it is!
After months of pity parties, I finally realized that if I wanted to get to know the moms better and make some connections then I had to be the one to start connecting. So, one day, I said a prayer for courage, and I got out of my car. I walked over to other moms and joined in. That one simple act of courage changed the trajectory of the rest of our time at that school.
Real Connection can add so much value to our lives if we open ourselves up to it. When we find those people who we really connect with, a new relationship starts to blossom like a spring flower. A seed is planted, grows slowly and consistently and then is nourished to become a beautiful addition to our lives. Flowers don’t flourish in one day and neither do connections. That is what makes them both so wonderful.
The real connection takes time to be planted in order to grow and flourish, but when it blossoms the beauty added to our lives is substantial.
By getting out of my car in the dismissal line, I created a real connection to another mom that remains to this day. The connection grew slowly but I made the time to nurture it with small baby steps. The connection to this other mom has grown into such a meaningful relationship that I cherish. Her realness and honesty always inspire me to be the same.
THE WORD OF TRUTH:
The reason real connection is so important is that God created His daughters to be relational and connected. He wants us to fellowship with each other, encourage each other, help each other and hold each other accountable. He wants us to live life together and not separate. No matter your personality type, connection matters and is beneficial.
In the book of Ruth, we learn about two women brought together by hard circumstances. Ruth was married to Naomi’s son. First Naomi’s husband dies then several years later both of her sons die. After the deaths, Naomi urged both of her daughters-in-law to return to their mothers and original home. One daughter-in-law left but Ruth resolved to remain with Naomi.
Ruth knew that staying connected with her mother-in-law was her purpose. Ruth tells Naomi, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go, I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.” (Ruth 1:16)
Through Ruth’s faithfulness and connection to Naomi, she would later find romantic love again and become a mother in the line of Jesus’ heritage. God used both Ruth and Naomi to strengthen each other in difficult times as well as celebrate each other in times of God’s tremendous blessings. A beautiful story to see how much God encourages his daughters to be relational.
For more connection, download our Free Resource: Roadmap to Real Connection
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