The three pillars of my Whole-Hearted Woman coaching program are to love ourselves, love God and love others. Learning to love any of these people takes determination and focus, but I think it’s harder to love ourselves on a consistent basis than it is to love God or others. I am always vulnerable to my own harsh judgments. One of the ways that I have learned to love myself is by committing to a morning devotional time that strengthens my spirit, my body and my emotional & mental health. As part of this practice that strengthens my spirit and my love for self, I spend some time doing what I call “Revelation & Prayer Journaling”. Each morning that I take the time to do this, I leave feeling spiritually uplifted and renewed. Because I am so thankful for all of you who read my emails, especially when you reach out and let me know they are helping you, I want to share my Revelation & Prayer Journaling page template and instructions with you. Enjoy!
A few weeks ago, I heard the phrase “Low Candor and High Courtesy” applied to many of us at church. In this phrase, “low candor” means we don’t exactly share the full truth, and “high courtesy” means we do this because we want to be kind to others. When my husband was a young manager at Boeing, he was sent to a course that included a 1984 movie titled “The Abilene Paradox”. During the first six minutes, the movie showed two couples sitting on the porch on a lazy Sunday afternoon. One man in the group casually suggested to the others that they could drive to Abilene, Texas for supper. One by one, each of the other people agreed to go on this 53-mile drive on a hot summer’s day. By the time they got home, tired, hot (no air conditioners), sweaty and grumpy, each of them shared that they never really wanted to go in the first place. The man that offered the idea also said “I didn’t want to go to Abilene to begin with, I was just making conversation!” “Low Candor and High Courtesy”. So, the lesson from the Abilene Paradox is that when everyone agrees to do something that nobody really wants to do – to be kind to others, EVERYONE will likely be disappointed with the outcome. “Are we on the road to Abilene?” became a favorite family question when we were attempting to make decisions as a family. Recently we discovered a copy of this old video on YouTube, and my husband and I watched it again. (End at about 4:35 seconds into the video.) Yup, even after all these years, we still occasionally find ourselves going 90 MPH on the Road to Abilene! One thing we’ve realized that we especially need in our mixed-faith-marriage is clear communication. Even when it takes a little extra time and patience to hammer out what we are each thinking and meaning, it is worth it. After watching the movie together, we discussed the story and who we thought was to blame for everyone going to Abilene. I thought the person who made the suggestion to go when he didn’t really want to go was dishonest. He was probably suggesting an activity that he hoped no one would take him up on. My husband thought it was fine to make a suggestion, but the dishonest people were the rest of the group who said “yes”, just to be polite. Each of you will need to decide who you think was to blame for yourselves. Here is an example of NOT being on the Road to Abilene:Recently, my husband asked me to go with him to an RV show a few miles away. I quickly thought about his offer, knowing it was Sunday, it was hot, there was a lot of walking and really, if you’ve seen 100 RV’s, you’ve probably seen them all… So what do you think I decided? I concluded that being with him on a Sunday afternoon doing something he really wanted to do was more important to me than the rest of my arguments. We were NOT on the road to Abilene. We went and actually had a great time together, and as I predicted, no RV’s followed us home. Here is an example of BEING on the Road to Abilene:On another occasion, my husband invited me to go out to dinner at a place he thought I might like. I said yes because I thought it was someplace he wanted to go. (But I really didn’t like that place.) When we got home, neither of us had enjoyed our meal, and I was really grumpy when I found out he didn’t like the restaurant either – he was just being kind and thoughtful because he thought I liked it. I decided to go because I thought he wanted to go. In my way, I too was also trying to be kind and thoughtful. It turns out neither of us are being kind and thoughtful when we are not honest about what we want. Actually, this can be a recipe for resentment. This is where our improving communication skills come in handy. When you are in a mixed-faith marriage, opportunities abound for trips to Abilene. The solution? Although we may be in a “low candor, high courtesy” culture, being honest about what we want is more important than trying to go along with others that are simply trying to make us happy. I know you’ve all been there! I would love to hear your version of being on “The Road to Abilene” – just leave a comment.
When I visited the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City a while ago, I was fascinated by the barbed wire exhibit. There were 1,000’s of different varieties of barbed wire! Likewise, I was fascinated to find a much smaller barbed wire exhibit at the Museum of Idaho last week. The exhibit displayed barbed wire styles that were unique to each rancher. When you saw a certain style of barbed wire you knew who’s property you were on. This made me curious to know if my family had their own style of barbed wire, a question that there is probably no one left to answer… It turns out that barbed wire forever changed the way that ranchers kept beef cattle in the American West. Previous to barbed wire, there was no cost-effective way to confine cattle, so they mostly roamed free on the open range. Once barbed wire was invented, cattle were fenced in and ranchers could increase their herds without the fear of losing cattle to cliffs, to bad grazing plants and mixing with other herds. I loved looking at all the types of barbed wire. But, it made me think about the function played by the barbed wire. It set boundaries, to keep cattle in and predators and rustlers out. We each have our own variety of figurative “barbed wire” for our personal boundaries. Healthy boundaries are a way to define who we are as individuals and what we will and will not hold ourselves responsible for. Learning to create healthy boundaries is an important part of our self-care. But, just as barbed wire keeps cattle in, it also keeps unwanted critters or people out. It’s this aspect that I wanted to talk about today. As mothers of adult children, it’s so easy to think of our children as an extension of us. Sometimes we forget the plan is for training them to manage their own lives, separate from us. As they grow in abilities, our children need to develop healthy boundaries to be able to live their own lives without interference from their parents. This can be frightening for us parents, since we love our children and want to stay close and protect them. We may not recognize our children’s “barbed wire boundary” and attempt to break through it, by offering helpful observations or advice. Or in the case of mixed-faith families, helpful reminders of the religious teachings that you taught them to make their life “better”. Our rationale is that we only want what’s best for our child, and that we have more life experience, and we are only trying to be helpful. I saw a related rule of thumb on Twitter the other day: “Unsolicited advice is criticism, always”. I agree with this, although I don’t always practice what I preach. I do have a habit of doling out unsolicited advice to my adult kids and then having to apologize when/if I recognize I’ve overstepped their boundaries. If you feel like you have been caught in barbed wire in your relationship with your adult child, you might ask yourself if you are trying to break down a boundary they have established to create independence from you? Is there a better way for you to have a relationship with your adult child? If you need help answering these questions, coaching might be a great fit for you. One of the things we learn about is creating boundaries for ourselves, but also recognizing the boundaries our kids and others have set for us. If you would like to discuss your situation, select a convenient time and we can Just Talk.
Lately I’ve become obsessed with Venn diagrams! Ya, I know, weird… You know those overlapping circles we learned about in elementary school that helped us determine what two separate things had in common? I can’t stop looking at the interrelationships. One Venn diagram that I have been looking at a lot lately is one of myself and my husband, Lee. I started paying attention to it to see if we had the Goldilocks principle down – were we overlapping too much, not enough or just right? What I ended up discovering is our “before” and “after” snapshot of when Lee left the church. You know how you create before and after images in your mind of a “better” time as compared to now? Sometimes I think about sitting in church, holding hands with Lee and I really long for that. What I learned when I looked at our Venn diagram was that I have a romantic (but incorrect) view of those days. Lee was really miserable participating at church for several years before he decided to stop attending. He did not have a life outside of the church and his career. We did church things together and separately, but we didn’t both enjoy them. In the years since Lee left the LDS faith, we have grown as a couple and as individuals. Our venn diagrams reflect that. He retired this year and that has helped him to explore who he is and what he likes. We have mindfully and intentionally developed the parts of the diagram where we overlap and we have mindfully and intentionally developed ourselves individually, and we are both better for it. Our overlapping areas are designed to bring us closer together. For example, Lee and I have decided that generosity is a value we share. We have a budget category earmarked for generosity. Pretty regularly we look at each at about the same time and decide to “make someone’s day”. It might be a server at a restaurant or someone who helps us in the airport, or even someone just minding their own business. We find a way to give them a surprisingly significant sum of money. We usually don’t know how our generous moments turn out, but it is something fun we do together that ends up making our day and draws us closer together. You might consider drawing a few Venn diagrams yourself (they can provide all kinds of data) to help you evaluate your relationship with your family members who have left the church. You can see and decide how much and what kind of overlap the two of you need and want, and then be intentional about developing the parts of you together that you share. I would be curious about what you observe from your Venn diagram experiment.
A couple of days ago, I got a phone call from a loved one with discouraging news. I was shocked and I couldn’t gather my thoughts together and make sense of what happened or how to respond. I finally had to end our call so I could process the news. I thought about the conversation with my loved ones, and why I couldn’t respond. After thinking about it a bit, I realized that my first thoughts were about me and not them. In other words, I was making their news all about my feelings, thoughts and concerns. I wasn’t thinking about how this would affect them except by way of how it was affecting me. One of the hard parts about being willing to do the work of making ourselves better is discovering really embarrassing things about ourselves. This was one of those embarrassing moments for me… 😳 It’s NOT About YOU! This is the lesson I (re) learned this week. When you make it about you, you can’t respond to those who are hurting. You can’t mourn with those who mourn and comfort those who stand in need of comfort. You can’t lift the hands that hang down or strengthen the feeble knees. You can only worry about how it will affect you. Thinking about ourselves first is a very common reaction from those of us who have loved ones who have left the church. We get wrapped up in how this news affects us. How we are going to look at church, how we are going to respond when our loved one wants to bring home their girl or boyfriend to stay overnight with us, how much we are hurting. We do need space to process these things, but if we want to maintain a strong connection with our loved ones, we really need to have the eyes and the heart to see how this information is affecting them. What do they think about what others are thinking and talking about them? Are they afraid that we will reject their girl or boyfriend? Where are their pains? I called my loved ones back that afternoon and apologized for my reaction and told them that I wanted to be supportive of them, but I wasn’t very good at it yet, and asked for their understanding and patience. When I hung up, my brain was able to start thinking of ways that I could support them, because I was making it about them (the people with the problem) and NOT about how it would affect me. For a few minutes after our phone conversation, I was able to bask in the glow of being someone who was learning to walk the talk of all the things I am learning for myself and teaching others. This is what it feels like to be a follower of Christ. It’s taken a long time working on myself and practicing to start catching on to myself sooner than I used to. I am still a work in progress…
Recently, I went to BYU Education Week and attended several classes that apply to mixed-faith families. I learned and re-learned so much that I wanted to share some of my impressions with you. Dr. Scott Braithwaite, a professor at BYU and a psychologist, taught a class titled “Help Thou Mine Unbelief – Supporting those we love through a faith crisis”. I thought the title fit me perfectly. As my husband and children were questioning their beliefs, I had to re-examine my own beliefs. Things that had seemed so simple at one time, suddenly seemed more complex. Through my spouse’s eyes, I could see some flaws, inconsistencies, oversimplification and just plain unanswered questions with the way I had previously believed. For a while I felt anxious, like I had lost my footing. Dr. Braithwaite addressed this common story by describing a model of faith and belief developed by James Fowler, called the “Stages of Faith”. The 6 stages of faith explain how so many people can see faith in different ways. Faith stages 3-5 are usually the stages involved in a faith crisis and resolution. Stage 3 level of faith; your faith community provides answers to your faith questions. Faith is simple and usually conforms to your community. Stage 4 comes when things all of the sudden don’t seem that simple, there may be a personal or global event, crisis, or disaster that throws our beliefs into question. Stage 5 is acknowledgement and acceptance that we don’t have all the answers and may never have the answers, while making peace with uncertainty. When people move through these stages of faith, some find peace by rediscovering their faith, while others may find peace by leaving their faith or continuing their search elsewhere. One of my favorite activities in Hawaii is playing in the surf. It wasn’t always a favorite activity because, initially, I would wade out where I felt comfortable, with the sand underneath my feet. The problem was that the larger waves would knock me over and push me up onto the beach, where I would gulp ocean water and get covered in sand. I hated that! Eventually, I learned if I waded out just a little further, where I was just past being able to touch the bottom, I could let myself relax and simply bob up and down with the waves. I let the waves gently push me back and forth. I gave up control and enjoyed the surf. That weightless feeling of gently drifting with the waves. This reminds me of finding my faith, even when others around me were losing theirs. It seemed like I eventually surrendered control and handed it over to God. I also watched how other faithful followers were navigating the same thing, and ultimately came around to an even firmer faith, one that relies less on myself and more on the Grace of God. I was able to simply feel the waves and enjoy my faith. Dr. Braithwaite suggested that this is where we can help our loved ones through their faith crises. Not by providing them with answers to their questions, but by loving, listening, supporting and accepting them while they learn to accept that life isn’t simple, and we may never have all the answers. This is a hard concept for spouses and parents to accept. We want to believe that there is a formula we can follow that will “fix” our doubting loved ones – and there just isn’t. This is where I can help. As a life coach who works with women who have loved ones leaving the church, I can help you find the faithful answers to questions you didn’t even have before members of your family started questioning their faith. I can help you find your footing and the peace that can bring into your life. Let’s talk.