What provides us strength with grace and what takes it away?  We’ve started to explore one theme that takes away strength with grace and that’s “worrying.”  Another theme I would like to explore soon is inferiority that can manifest itself in insecurity, pride and anger.  Some things that bolster us and give us strength with grace are: gratitude, forgiveness and faith.

Here’s another thought provoking quote from the book, “God Calling” by A.J. Russell

…When climbing a steep hill, a man is more often conscious of the weakness of his stumbling feet than of the view, the grandeur, or even of his upward progress.  Persevere, persevere.  Love and laugh.  Rejoice.

I found this message on a beautiful piece of art at a local arts festival a few years ago.  It’s attributed to Mother Teresa…

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.  Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.  Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.  Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.  Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.  Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.  Be happy anyway.

The good you do today will often be forgotten.  Do good anyway.

Give the best you have and it will never be enough.  Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God.

It was never between you and them anyway.

I couldn’t let this day go by without saying something about my Mom.  If you read my “About SWOG Blog” you realize her name was Grace and I lost her 3 years ago.  Actually 3 years ago today–today is the anniversary of her death.  And while she wasn’t always good about practicing what she preached, she used to say to her hyperactive daughter who never met an issue she couldn’t worry about, “You musn’t let those little things bother you.”  I used to hate it when she said that.  But, as moms often speak wisdom from their years of experience–there was a lot of truth in that phrase.  Joan & Pam’s comments about worrying help to reinforce Mom’s words.

A few folks have asked me to be more specific–to give an example of what I mean by reframing your thoughts.  Here’s a relatively recent one for me:  As I mentioned, I had to sell my house last year as a part of my divorce settlement.  With the current housing market I thought it may take a long time to sell, but it sold quickly–within a month.  When it happened, I had no place to move to (I had not identified a new residence).  I quickly called a Realtor and looked at a couple townhomes that were in my monthly price range for rent.  They were awful.  I really started to fret; I was tremendously depressed about leaving my beautiful house—I just kept lamenting my situation and how could my now ex-husband do this to me.  Finally, I stopped myself and realized this line of thinking wasn’t moving me to where I needed to be.  My circular thoughts were not getting me any closer to a nice place to live and they weren’t answering any questions about the divorce.  When I finally interrupted that train of thinking, I started focusing on what I would ideally like in a place to live.  I created in my mind the vision of what I would enjoy, what I would feel comfortable in—I thought about wood floors and a fireplace; I thought about painted walls; I thought about a nice soaking bathtub, and so on.  I found myself getting excited–I could create my own space.  I could decorate it the way I wanted.  Positive energy started to flow from me and I went out on the Internet to Craig’s List.  And then, at about 11:30 that night after only looking for about an hour, I clicked on a listing and there it was–a 2 year old home that the owners couldn’t sell so they decided to rent it.  It had hardwood floors, a gas fireplace, a beautiful kitchen–everything I wanted.  I emailed the Realtor immediately and she answered at 6:30 the next morning saying she was showing it to 3 people that day.  Undaunted, I asked if I could be the fourth and she agreed.  I secured the place that day and it gave me a comfortable place to “land” after having to sell the home I had designed, built and lived in with my family for 17 years.  But most importantly, it has provided me a haven over this last year, and I am so grateful.

I’m convinced that reframing those negative thoughts into a positive vision for a successful outcome led me to a comfortable home.  Even now, when I find myself thinking about what I lost in the last few years, I stop myself (because I recognize I’m starting to feel anxious or melancholy) and I remember all the wonderful things I’ve gained–the new friends I’ve met, the deepening of friendships I had but never seemed to have much time for before, the wisdom gained about chasing material things versus chasing peace and joy through faith, a vacation adventure I would have never experienced, and so on.

You’re right, Mom.  We mustn’t let those little things bother us.

My dear friends–thank you for your kind and thought provoking comments!  I’m so appreciative of your words of encouragement and your thoughts.  Betsy–great question about “worrying!”  I had another friend email me this excerpt in response to my “No Worries” post:  “I found the discussion on fear and trepidation quite interesting. I am so predictable: Sunday I worry, Monday thru Thursday I do my best to ‘act,’ and Friday/Saturday I celebrate. The question is, is the ‘acting’ the best I can possibly offer, or a reaction to the worry. Bruce Springsteen, who I elect to view as a poet and philosopher who happens to entertain, really helped me in a recent Rolling Stone article. He uses the metaphor of getting into a car (life) and moving forward (time). This particular car you can’t get out of, but more and more people (situations/challenges) get in to influence your views/actions/engagement. The key is to keep the car moving forward, there is really no reason to park it (retire/disengage). Bruce says the E Street Band will not have a farewell tour, they’ll just keep going till it stops.”

Leave it to Bruce to guide us!   Thanks for sharing Bruce’s words of wisdom, my friend!

Given everything I’ve read and listened to so far, I think one of the keys to your question, Betsy, is to recognize when you are feeling “bad” feelings (anxious, discomfort, etc.).  Then trace the thoughts that are causing the anxiety.  Reframe the thoughts.  Thoughts lead to feelings which lead to behaviors which become habits and habits form character (or so Sam Maitz says).  The Secret also explores this in depth and has been a source of inspiration for me.  Much more on this to come. 


OK, if we stay with the same theme that these two phenomenons previously described cause so many of our woes or lead to our triumphs–that is, Phenomenon #1:  Thoughts lead to feelings which lead to our behaviors which lead to others reactions, and Phenomenon #2:  Between stimulus and response there is a space; in that space lies the power to choose our response–then let’s look at something that we as women do incessantly (although men can be good at this, too).  We worry.  We worry about everything.  We worry about how we look.  We worry about how others perceive us.  We worry about how we’re going to do our jobs.  We worry about whether the holiday meal is going to come off okay.  We worry about our children.  We worry about our parents.  We worry about the new business ventures we’ve started.  We worry about money.  Oh, those thoughts–there they are again.  Those worries almost always (by the nature of the word “worry”) have a negative slant.  So those worries lead to negative feelings which lead us to do things (behaviors) that may not always be in the best interest of whatever it is or whomever it is we’re worrying about.  Track your conscious thoughts during the day.  How many of them have a negative, worrying type of characterization to them?  And what do you do with those thoughts?  What behaviors do they lead you to?

I just traveled to Australia in December and a favorite saying of theirs is, “No Worries.”   If you bump into them and say, “Excuse me,” they say, “No worries” often accompanied by, “Love.”  If you apologize to them for some perceived harm you’ve caused them, they more often than not say, “No worries.”  What a great saying!  If you have a spiritual side, most religions teach the ills of worrying.  “Who of you by worring can add a single hour to his life?  Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?” –Luke 12:25-26. 

I have historically been one of those who worried about everything.  And, unfortunately, I can site examples of how worrying led to non-productive behaviors.  Please, I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t be conscientious and put our best foot forward.  I’m also not saying we shouldn’t be cognizant of others feelings, but let’s do that from a place of positive thinking versus worrying.  The latter feels more outwardly focused versus worrying which seems more inwardly focused.  This is all about strength with grace.  Anyone out there who can elaborate on this more articulately than me?

Stephen Covey writes in his book, First Things First, “Between stimulus and response there is a space.  In that space lies the power to choose our response.  In that response lies our freedom and growth.”  I sincerely believe understanding how our thoughts lead to our behaviors and understanding Covey’s principle  can lead to living a much happier more grace-filled life.  Let me work on  explaining this more fully over the next few days/weeks.

Our thoughts lead to feelings which lead to behaviors (choices–see below) which lead to reactions from others.  Ever read or watch “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne?  So often we let our thoughts lead to negative feelings, which lead us to behaviors/choices that get us in trouble.  If we can change our thoughts–we can make different choices which lead to better outcomes.  Who has an example?  I have a ton of them–particularly the ones where I wish I thought something different before acting on the feeling.  More tomorrow!