Grace Michaelson

Humility & Self-Esteem

May
19

As a Christian I am familiar with a few Christian buzz words that we all learn to either adore or abhore.  Two of those words are “humility” (to adore) and self-esteem (to abhore).  They are complete opposites in the Christian faith and they are both treated as appositional to each other.  A true Christian, it is believed, can’t be humble without being self-deprecating.  Self-esteem preaches the idea that you aren’t self-deprecating, right?  That you actually choose to accept and love yourself for who you are created to be and who you are.  Humility, it is believed, comes from the verses such as:

Luke 9:23. “Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me”

James 4:10, “So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

Humility is honored, Self-esteem is put down and made fun of.  I have spent years being confused and disturbed by the teachings of humility that I have gotten in my past.  If humility is truly self-deprecation, then why does God put such emphasis in Scripture about giving people gifts of the Spirit and having us use such gifts?  He obviously wants to use us in His Kingdom and use our strengths.  I doubt he wants us to worry about how we word what we say or how we say things, such as:

“I am gifted to write, by the grace of God…”

Just because we say “by the grace of God”, doesn’t change the fact that we said what we are gifted in or make us less or more humble.  I think it’s OK that I can acknowledge my gift of writing.  I also don’t think God needs me to play the game of adding a “humble add-on” like “by the grace of God” because it’s already a given that everything comes from God and everything can be taken away in a moment’s notice.  I could have a freak accident where I lose my arms and then my writing is gone, right?

Humility is knowing and understanding that our gifts are there to be used by God, but that they can be removed at a moments notice and being OK with that that truth.  Can you be OK with that truth?  Can I?  The trick is holding everything with hands palms up and fingers flat.

It’s OK to accept yourself, to even know that you’re “good enough”.  After all, God felt you were worth it enough to come down as Jesus to die on the cross for your sins in order to establish a relationship with you.  Self-esteem, with the latter thought in mind, is not so bad, is it?  Self-esteem with the thought that everything and everyone should look at you and keep you in mind as the next best thing to the Prince of Peace is not OK, of course.  Balance is the key.  Keeping in mind why we are good enough is a good idea. Knowing that we don’t have to play mind games or word games is also OK.  Christian Lingo needs to go and we need to just be ourselves.  The “ourselves” that God was OK with coming down to Earth to save because He loves us dearly.

James 4:10 is about being humble when we are confessing our sins, if we look at the whole passage.  It’s so easy to look at one verse and take a concept and twist it.  We must look at the whole passage to find the truth of the scripture.

Luke 9:23 is talking about sacrifice in the midst of service for the kingdom.  It has to do with the “open hands” concept that I spoke of earlier.  Although it does speak of humility, I believe, it’s not speaking of self-deprecation.  Self-deprecation is never spoken of in scripture.  That is a worldly concept that is a replacement the devil brought in to confuse and deceive Christians in order to side-line us and make us not useful for the Kingdom of God.

So the next time you feel tempted to be self-deprecating in the place of humility.  Remember who you are in Christ.  Remember your gifts God has given you and try a little honoring of those gifts God gave you– not with word games– just with honest honor to the gift God gave you.  Yes, it’s OK.

Moderation, Stress, and Busyness!

Apr
11

What are the first three most important rules of staying healthy when you struggle with a chronic illness? 1. Moderate, 2. Moderate, 3. Moderate.  Stress and Busyness are killer symptom-activators for chronic illness.  If you want to stay healthy, you have got to moderate.  Do I sound like I’m preaching a sermon?  Well, I’m not preaching at you, I’m preaching to myself.  That’s right, I’m the worst when it comes to moderating.

Stress is my middle name.  No, actually, it’s Réne, but it seems like it’s “Stress” because every time I turn around I have something stressful knocking on my front door.  Recently it has been mold growing in my oldest son’s room.  We had to get a Mold Remediating Company to come to our house… blah, blah, blah! Yeah, it was a headache of stressful proportions.  I have lived my life surviving one thing after the other with the mentality of closing my eyes and stating to myself “This too shall pass… this too shall pass… this too shall pass…”  It definitely passed, but it was always replaced by that next stressful thing.

Obviously I have had it wrong this whole time because my symptoms have been totally out of control.  Sticking my head in the sand like an ostrich definitely isn’t the answer, is it?  So what’s the answer, if life is full of stressful and unhealthy busyness that we can’t control?  What can we do to not just survive life, but actually learn to master our life and even enjoy life despite our stress and busyness?  The answer is moderate.

So what is moderation?  The definition of moderation is:  the avoidance of excess or extreme’s in one’s behavior.  The action of making something less extreme.  The Thesaurus says: self-restraint, restraint, self-control, self-command, self-discipline, temperance, leniency, and fairness.

Basically, what we’re looking to do in our lives is to avoid excess.  If we can control the busyness instead of the busyness controlling us.  When things get stressful, as they will inevitably become, it’s important to take that step back and ask ourselves what we have stopped doing in our disciplines that we need to get back to.  Are we going to bed at a descent time? Avoid extreme bedtimes.  Are we drinking a moderate amount of water?  Not too much, not too little.  Are we exercising moderately based on our physical ability?  Again, avoiding extremes.

Sometimes even our disciplines feel like too much when life stresses us out.  So sometimes we need to take a further step back and ask ourselves what we need to do.  Last week I was at the point where I was so stressed out I was at my max.  So I canceled everything.  I needed a week for a checkpoint to figure out what had gone wrong.  I called my doctor.  I spent some time rejuvenating spiritually, emotionally, physically.  It was a mini self-imposed vacation.

Sometimes you’ve got to do that for yourself when things have gone too far.  You just can’t force yourself through forever.  Nobody has a “get up an go button” that works forever.  Invariably it breaks and it should break.  Instead of forcing yourself through the stress, you need to find a different way to handle life’s stress.  I have found that that different way is the first three rules of staying healthy… moderation.  See if it works for you.

Stick-with-it-ness! (How to hang in there in a new lifestyle change)

Jan
09

First off, let me point out how much easier it is to make a bad habit than it is to make a good habit.  Our brains are hardwired to do the easier thing.  Some call it “sin nature” (that’s me and my faith), some call it laziness, whatever your choice for calling it, it’s just plain easier to make a bad habit.  To make a good habit is much, much harder.  My blog is about trying to empower you to make the choice to make those good choices to get you on a better path, whether you struggle with Depression, Anxiety, and Fibromyalgia like I do, or you just want to start fresh this New Year.

Today I want to give you some information about making a new habit.  First off, I just want to teach you a little about your brain.  Your brain, to dumb it down a whole lot, is kind of like a ball of play dough.  As you give it thought processes, it’s like you are drawing lines in the play dough.  The more you think about one thing, the deeper you draw the line.  Let’s take Chronic pain for instance.  If you go to the doctor you are drawing a line in your brain’s “dough”.  If you talk about your pain with your friends, deeper goes that line.  If you get up in the morning and take a moment to scan your body for pain spots, deeper goes that line.  Do you see how it goes?  But what is the best thing about play dough?  If you mess up what can you do?  Squeeze it together and start over.  Well, obviously we can squeeze our brain together and start over, but there is something our brain is and that is called Neuroplastic.  The Neuroplasticity of the brain allows it to “heal” the neurons we form that have “taught” it that it will “never get better” and teach it a good habit, such as “I can have a good life despite my pain.” Please understand that I am not saying that someone who has chronic pain is not in pain.  Pain is very real and is not “all in your head” like many doctor’s will tell you.  What I’m saying is, that if you allow yourself to form good mental, physical, and spiritual habits, your brain will heal to the point that you can have a happy life despite your chronic pain. Please watch this video below.  It’s a simplified explanation that explains fully what Neuroplasticity is.  Again, this doesn’t solve your chronic disease, what it does is give you a chance to live a good life despite it.

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/tJ93qXXYRpU” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

OK, so now that we’ve gotten through the intellectual portion of why we want to form a good habit, let’s talk about why it’s so hard to keep a good habit and some things we can try to keep our good habits going.  First of all, you need to know that it takes 21 days to form and stick to a good habit.  So, if you give up on day 19, you’re selling yourself short.  A good way to try to keep a habit forming is to have a calendar in your possession, and I’m not talking about a iThingy.  I’m talking about something you can touch, feel, and use a pen or pencil on to scratch off the days.  Choose the good habit your wanting to perform and check off the days.  You will find that after you reach the hump on the 21 days it will slowly get easier and easier to be consistent on doing that which you are trying to do.

So, I just gave you the first key:  Use a calendar to mark off the days on your habit.  That way you can see the success you’re making and not stress on the failure.

Here’s your second tip:  Don’t give yourself 20 habits to form in one 21 day span.  Choose 1.  The one I’m working on this 21 period is organizing my house.  Not just organizing my house, but keeping it organized.  I have people harping on me to exercise, and do my relaxation, and all this other stuff.  I am doing those things, but my primary concentration is on my house, and if the other things fall away, I’m not beating myself up.  One. habit. at. a. time.  This is called moderation.  It’s OK to acknowledge you have 20 things to change, but don’t ruminate over them.  You get to list them once, then put them away in a deep dark place where you don’t get to pick them up again until after you feel you are comfortably handling the habit you have just formed.  Twenty-one days is the minimum needed for a habit to form, for you it may be two months.  Be kind to yourself.  Take it easy.  Simplify yourself and don’t stress.

So the second key for today is:  Moderation

Finally, Be kind to yourself on a Difficult Day, or a Plan B day.  We all have Plan B days.  Those are the days when your illness, or your work, or whatever your “issue” that brought you to my website is driving you the most crazy.  I recommend to everyone to make themselves a Difficult Day Box.  I got this idea from Mayo Clinic when I was there for treatment.  They have their patients make a Difficult Day Box because inside it you put things to encourage you.  Like your favorite quotes, a letter from your favorite person that encouraged you, a $5 gift card to your favorite coffee shop, or whatever you can think of that will help you get through that day.  On that day, do half of what you do on a regular day.  The point is, do something.  Don’t give up.  Don’t stop.  If you give up and give yourself the right to sit on the couch or lay in bed all day, you’ll feel like crap and you’ll give up on your habit.  A give-up day like I just described is a start-over for the entire habit, but a “Plan B” day is just a step back, not a failed habit.  Remember, kindness to yourself is the best attitude.

Final key:  Handle your Plan B days by still doing half of what you normally do.

Now, after you’ve mastered your new habit, and you feel you’re stable and good to go, go ahead and add a habit, but remember the same rules apply.  Don’t be surprised if the first habit take a hit.  Just remember, you did it the first time!  You already have one success under your belt.  You can do it again with two habits.  Simplify, Moderate, and be kind to yourself on “Plan B” days.  You can do this thing!

Here are some good habits I recommend for people dealing with chronic illnesses:

  1. Grow Spiritually
  2. Relaxation Techniques/Diaphragmatic Breathing
  3. Exercise, starting from 5 minutes a day working up to the recommendation your doctor has given you.  Only exercise if your doctor has given you a go ahead.
  4. Good Hygiene
  5. Good Sleep Hygiene
  6. Drinking 1/2 your weight in water.  If you want to drink something else, fine, but don’t include it in your water intake.
  7. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Counseling
  8. Talk to your doctor about medication interactions
  9. Avoid refined sugar
  10. Avoid Caffeine/Alcohol/Nicotine
  11. Find yourself a “Quiet Room” to retreat to on a “Plan B” day
  12. Make a “Difficult Day Box”

Buggy, No Bug Backs!

Jan
06

Do your kids play the Buggy Game?  This is where they see a Volkswagen Bug they slug you in the arm and say “Buggy!”?  Yes, well, I thought I would be smart and start slugging them back when they did this.  Well, guess what?  Now there’s “No Bug Backs”, apparently.  What really gets me is that I never see the Bug they slug me for until well after the slug.  Sometimes I never see the Bug.  Yet, my kids alway notice these damn Bugs all over town!  How do they do this?  I don’t know.

The point  is that I am obviously not mindful enough to notice the Bugs that tootle around town.  I’m so busy rushing to this appointment, or that dinner, or off to go visit that friend.  My mind is rushing through my day, or busy reflecting on that conversation.  I may be ruminating over the finger I got from the freak in the car I passed four cars back who was going so slow there was no way he had anywhere important he had to go.  Right?  Then bam! “Buggy, No Bug Backs!”

My friend and I were visiting this afternoon and I got two calls in like twenty minute from a gal from a doctor’s office because my son and I were having back-to-back eye doctor appointments at the same office.  She hadn’t noticed that we were in the same family and it was the same phone number she was dialing and the same name she was going to talk to.  Again, that mindfulness thing.  My friend and I had a good laugh over the matter, but I began to think about how much our culture doesn’t practice mindfulness.

We are a listen-to-respond, rush-to-get-there, work-a-holic, technology-hungry, socially-crippled society.  I honestly don’t think any of us could handle more than 24 hours without our phones or iThingy.  We cling to them more than we cling to human touch.  Mindfulness is a forgotten art.  To sit and actually listen to someone without already formulating your response while someone is still talking is a forgotten art.  Sitting and inspecting a raison – just because you want to – an art for the grandparent who has Alzheimer’s.  Maybe it’s time to learn from those who have Alzheimer’s.  There was an article on CNN that just sunk into my brain because it showed people posed with their phones around tables or in their beds, but the photographer had taken away their phones.  It shows how disconnected and unmindful we as a society have become.  You can find CNN’s article here.

I’m not an anti-technology person.  I personally own a iPhone, iPad, and an iMac. Each of my kids have their own iPhones because I want to be able to track them with “Find my iPhone” if they break curfew. lol.  Technology has it’s place and is a wonderful asset.  What I am saying, though, is that mindfulness is also a great and wonderful long-lost asset and should be taken seriously.  People who can see the Bug tootling down the street instead of fuming because the stupid kid gave them the finger for getting around them have it made.  People who can notice the family groups and save themselves an extra phone call are ahead of the game.  People who are polite enough to listen all the way through your thought before starting to formulate their response are awesome.

One way to start becoming more mindful is to become a little more old fashioned.  Instead of using your visa/debit card for everything, start using cash.  You’ll notice you’ll have a better handle of your budget.  There is just something about the touch and feel of cash leaving your wallet that makes you spend less.  My friend just told me another way I can be mindful.  I’m always forgetting appointments or being late because I forgot I was supposed to be someplace because I didn’t put it into my iThingy’s.  So he suggested that I go old fashioned.  He told me to buy myself a Day-Timer.  He said there is something about carrying a calendar around and writing it down by hand that helps you to keep your appointments.  I think I’ll try it.  Something about feeling and touching that helps take ownership.  Mindfulness.  Bringing things into the plain of the senses.