We Are Learning As We Go 

  

Yeah, the good old days for me are what they are. But at this stage in my life, I am happy to leave them in the past. All the good, the bad and the ugly. All the triumphs and mistakes alike.

Mistakes.

I’ve made my share. Haven’t you?

I think it’s understandable because none of us have done this before. It’s all new. 

All brand new. 

Each day, each step.

And because we are experiencing a lifetime of firsts, we are in a constant state of learning.

Like students, life students.

And students are not masters. They make mistakes. 

But we’re all doing our best because that’s what good students do.

We might have to do a few re-do’s or retake a test or two.

Give yourself a break. Relax. Be kind to YOU. 

You’re doing your best.

Keep learning.

It’s all useful on your life journey.

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It’s a Step By Step Process

deeclarknz.comLife and change and success and reaching your destiny is a step by step process.

And if you don’t go through the process to get it, you won’t have what it takes to keep it.

Epochal Moments

So, do you want to do an experiment with me?

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Let’s measure your frustration level on a scale of 1 to 10.

How did you do? (Just keep that number in mind, we’ll come back to it.)

I experienced an epiphany the other day and it has to do with epochal moments.

The word epochal means a point marking the start of a new period in time. Examples in history are the founding of Rome, the birth of Christ, the freeing of slaves in America, the splitting of the atom, signed treaties and more recently, the terrorist attacks on the twin towers in New York City. All of these events marked a significant, monumental change.

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More personal examples would be the coming of age for a young man or woman, traumatic injuries, marriage, having children and death of a spouse or child.

These are moments that change everything in your life.

The times when nothing of your former life is recognisable.

The idea is like that of a renovation. In our society today, renovations are quite popular; the “makeover”, “redo” or “update”.

I love makeovers. Taking something that is well past it’s use-by date and freshening it up, giving it a new modern look.

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(Before)

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(After)

The makeover I did a few years back (pictured above), was only a cosmetic makeover. We sold our beautiful home in order to concentrate on and be close to our business. So, we decided that we would turn a 20 year old ablution block in an abandoned building into a little apartment. Let me tell you, about some of the frustrations I encountered. 1. There was no running hot water. Picture it, bathing was done out of a bucket with water boiled in the jug (a NZ term for an electric kettle). 2. There were only about 3 electrical plugs that worked properly. So, I lived dangerously plugging everything I owned into electrical strips. I often wondered if I was going to burn the place down. 3. My make-shift closet leaked. 4. The bathroom sink was knee operated instead of hand operated.

The apartment was functional to a degree but not a proper home. The change was no epochal.

In order for the apartment to function as a proper home, the renovations needed to be much more in depth than they were. We needed to rip everything out to the bare bones and replace the wiring, install proper plumbing, replace and restructure the walls. But we didn’t. In our minds, we only planned to stay there short-term. We ended up living there for 3 years. By the time we moved, we were completely over those living conditions. There is no way we ever want to live like that again. I can not describe how frustrating it was at times – even though we calculated the cost of the decision, attempted to keep a good attitude and were learning a lot about ourselves at the time.

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Let’s get back to that measure of our frustration level.

The epiphany that I had the other day is this: I am most relaxed, less frustrated, when I have approached the epochal decisions I have made in my life in the right way. I am most frustrated when I try to live between two moments (events) in time that have nothing to do with each other or that conflict with each other.

The idea of epochal change is that the old has to be completely done away with (ended) and completely renovated.

This is why New Year’s resolutions or diets don’t always work. We try to make changes that are not truly fitting with our lifestyle or value systems. When I have dieted unsuccessfully, I changed my eating behaviours for a short time but then went back to my old eating patterns. For the weight to stay off, I need to change more than just what I put in my mouth.

Not every decision I make is epochal. I change my hair all of the time! Long then short and back to long then back to short. I even dyed my dark brown hair blonde one year–big mistake. My frustration level on these types of decisions is almost nothing because I don’t mind back and forth result.

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Having children was an epochal decision in my life. Do you know how different life becomes once you have children? Everything changes. I had to reconstruct or renovate everything about my life from what I said to how I did everything.

My children repeated a lot of my conversations at the most inappropriate times. It was embarrassing and frustrating. I learned quickly that if I wanted to prevent the embarrassment and lower my frustration (with them and myself) I needed to change what I discussed in front of them and many times I had to change the way I thought about and talked about everything.

I had to change my sleep patterns, my schedule, and my alone time because my time was not my own anymore.

Attempting to hold onto my “no-children” life was not going to work. Living as if children were not going to change my life only heightened my frustration level because that life did not exist any longer. Dee life was going to be totally different post children otherwise, both lifestyles suffered greatly.

Do you see what I am getting at here?

A married man must reconstruct his single lifestyle because single-man and married-man do not mix very well AT ALL. In fact, the two will rip each other apart.

A young person stepping into adulthood requires a completely new approach. Depending on his/her parents to rescue him/her from his adult decisions doesn’t work.

A vibrant, healthy person whose life is drastically changed by trauma must relearn to function in life with the disabilities that resulted. There are some truly inspiring examples of people who have overcome the limitations of disabilities.

Life after loss, spiritual conversions, offering forgiveness…all of these are epochal moments/events and the before and after are diametrically opposed. Once the decision is made or the event occurs, trying to go back to the old way of thinking or doing things limits the potential for happiness and success.

“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; otherwise the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear results. 22″No one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost and the skins as well; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.” ~Mark

This explains a wise approach to epochal decisions. Unless you want to destroy both the new and the old, new wine must be placed into new wine skins (or bottles) and life has to be renovated to accommodate those epochal moments.

When we do renovate, we decrease our level of frustration.

So, are you trying to live your old life after an epochal moment?

Do you want less frustration?

Can you make necessary changes in your life?

Is it time for “old things to pass away and all things become new”?

It takes time but I believe you and I can make the renovations in our lives that will produce a better way of living.

D

This Is Your Journey To Walk Your Way

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My son is in college and beginning the process of making huge life decisions. He has dreams in his heart for how he wants to travel his journey. His journey looks completely different than mine. And I’m fine with that. He worried that his family would be ashamed of him or disappointed in him. I want him to know that there is wisdom to follow along the way but he must be free to walk this journey in a way that will bring him happiness and fulfilment.

No one can walk our journey for us.

We must walk the path of our purpose without fear that it won’t meet the desire others have for us.

My hope for my children is that they walk in a safe and healthy way.

My hope is that they reach for wise counsel and guidance.

My hope is that they find what makes them happy.

My hope is that their journey is traveled in a meaningful way.

And my hope is that they walk confidently, unafraid and boldly.

A friend of mine recently preformed his daughter’s wedding. He told her that as her parents, he and her mother wanted to give her two things in life: roots and wings; a place to belong and wings to fly.

Allowing my children to spread their wings and fly is not always easy but it is one of the most rewarding parts of my journey.

And for you, it’s the same: This is your journey to walk your way.

Journey on, dear readers.
D

I would like to welcome a new contributing photographer. My cousin’s son, Jarek Bagley, took the photo featured in this blog today. I just l love the brilliant colors. Well done. Welcome, Jarek! Thank you for sharing your beautiful photo with me and my readers! You rock!

10 Principles for Strong Relationships Found in the 10 Commandments (even if you are not religious)

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Have you ever experienced the pain of a failed relationship? Walking through each day numb, until a tidal wave of hope or rage or fear hits and sends you to bed, shivering, crying, and staring into space in terror. It feels like your heart has been ripped from your chest and put through a meat grinder.

If you have experienced a failed or failing relationship of any kind (marriage, dating, parent/child, friendship, job loss, neighbours at war, church splits or issues in a community), I have great news for you today. There is a framework for successful relationships. Although relationships can be difficult, they do not need to be doomed to failure. We can do the work of love that makes them enriching and abundant sources of joy and delight.

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Not like a Disney movie where everything ends in happily-ever-after. We dream of fairy tale endings but they aren’t real. Real life relationships and a life worth living requires work and decisions and heart changes. It produces joy and real joy has nothing to do with the butterfly feelings we call love. Joy is the settled assurance, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice of gratitude in every situation.

I have made a mucky mess of most of my relationships: love found and lost; friends who disappeared for no apparent reason; family holidays that ended in disastrous feuding; jobs that ended long before reaching a successful tenure, and an ugly divorce. All leaving me with the burning question, “What is it about me that they could not like or love?”

In still, quiet moments truths emerged that were hard to face. Yet, changes were necessary if I were to gain any hope of finding lasting relationships. Changes that needed to be made from the inside out.

I want to share 10 elements I found within the 10 Commandments that can change, heal or mend struggling relationships even if you are not a religious person.

Have you heard the story of the 10 Commandments? I remember watching Charlton Heston as Moses in the movie produced in the 50’s? (You can actually watch it on YouTube if you are interested. Just click on the link.). 

This may seem like a strange place to look for relationship advice. Instead of looking at the 10 commandments as a list of rules, I’ll ask you to give me a few minutes where you consider the principles behind the list.

My hope is that you will find some practical ways to enhance your quality of life starting immediately.

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Let’s have a look, shall we?

The 10 commandments state:

1. You shall have no other gods before me.
The first element of long lasting relationships is the decision and commitment. Commitment is the glue that binds long term relationships together. Therefore, before committing to a relationship careful consideration should be given. Commitment is not contractual. Contracts provide escape when things do not go as planned, do not go our way or when they become uncomfortable. Commitment actively works to find solutions, makes necessary changes to one’s behaviours and does not quit when things become difficult. Contracts encourage an attitude that “nothing lasts forever”. Commitment demands an attitude that never gives up. You will have to burn some bridges: your will might have to die, you can’t have your way all of the time, you will have to forgive, and you have to let past things go. You must be committed to your commitment more than you are to selfish behaviours. And sometimes that can feel like you’re dying. 😜

2. Do not make for yourselves any graven images.
The second element of long lasting relationships is to not do relationships by substitution. There can be a tendency to substitute giving things instead giving ourselves especially when things are hard or difficult. You can not work long hours and provide a house, car, or vacation as a substitute for coming home and working through the big issues of life. Strong relationships require that you show up and be present. Do life face to face and in person.

3. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
Did you know that when you love someone, the way you say their name is different? Just saying. The third element of long lasting relationships is communication. You can build a strong relationship with the words that come out of your mouth. You can also destroy a relationship with the words that come out of your mouth. Counsellors will tell you that one of the top reasons that relationships fail is due to poor communication. All of us are vulnerable. We want to be loved, accepted and valued. There is a dangerous pathway that you can travel when it comes to communication. The first step is criticism. You can read more about the criticism pathway by clicking the link. It is so important to speak kind words that allow hearts to grow close together.

4. Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.
The fourth element in long lasting relationships is time. In a busy world we often refer to quantity and quality time. In order for quality time to emerge, there must be an adequate amount of time provided. You can’t just make memorable moments happen. In the process of time spent together, the special moments appear. Invest time in your relationship and watch it flourish. Schedule time that is non-negotiable. Commit to show up and be fully present without distractions.

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5. Honor your father and mother that your days may be long in the land.
The fifth element of lasting relationships is honour. There is an element of humility and respect involved in honour. When I think of honouring my country, I realise that I did not gain the freedoms I enjoy by my efforts alone. The same is true in relationship. Honour in relationship is a statement that you can not do this alone and respects the other person’s contribution as well as your own. The best way to cultivate honour is with gratitude and forgiving. Acknowledge the good and forgive what didn’t work out so well -striving to improve along the way.

6. You shall not murder.
Murder definitely would have a detrimental effect on your relationship. The sixth element of lasting relationships has to do with how you handle anger. You have to create an environment of peace. Yelling and throwing fits do not accomplish closeness. Learn to speak like a human-being with kindness and grace. And…learn to listen to the response. Do not hold on to your anger…in fact, before the day is finished work to deal with angry emotions so that they do not fester into infectious behaviours. Create a peaceful atmosphere and you will build a lasting relationship.

7. You shall not commit adultery.
Adultery is another relationship killer. Seriously. However, the seventh element of lasting relationships is self-control. The issue here is lust. Oddly enough, lust does not only relate to sex. Excessive indulgences feed lust and often are displayed in addictive behaviours. Lust drives you for more and more and more -it is insatiable. Lust will cause you to become discontent and dissatisfied with what you have. Self-control is an essential element to behaving appropriately in relationships.

8. You shall not steal.
The eighth element of lasting relationships is trust. You can not build a strong relationship with someone that you can not trust. Period. Trust lost is very difficult to restore. It is imperative to be trustworthy.

9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour (lying)
The ninth element of lasting relationships is honesty. Respect people’s reputation especially those that you desire to build a permanent relationship with. Guard their reputation as your own. Always be honest and truthful.

10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s “stuff” (paraphrasing there a little.)
The final element of lasting relationships is contentment. You know the old saying that “the grass is greener on the other side of the fence?” the truth is “the grass is greener where you water it”. I’m not sure where that originated but it is wisdom. There will always be something or someone sunnier, shinier, prettier, or offering more benefits on the surface. Finding contentment requires that you take good care of what you have been given and cherish it with all of your heart. Work through the difficult times and build together something what can unfold into something great.

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These 10 elements can be applied to any level of relationship that you desire to remain permanent; marriage, family, friendship, business, career/job, community, church and yes, even a relationship with God. Make a careful decision and commit to it with every fibre of your being. Show up and deal with the big issues of life face to face. Communicate gently and effectively. Invest time so that special moments emerge. Cultivate an attitude of honour with gratitude and forgiving often. Deal with you anger in a healthy way and don’t hold onto things. Exercise self-control over the drive for more and more. Be trustworthy. Be honest. And finally take good care of what you have been given so that you have the opportunity to enjoy your relationship for a lifetime.

I would like to add one caution: we all know that no one person can make a relationship work on his/her own. Not even God could do that in His desire for a relationship with us. You can hear the pain in His voice through Jeremiah in Jeremiah chapter 2. It takes two committed people or a group of committed people (in families, business, churches, and communities) working through the big issues with honest effort to see great relationships as a result. In cases where abusive behaviours have emerged, always, always seek safety and help from a trained professional.

Many times (excluding abusive relationships) making changes to your behaviours, as I have mentioned in this article, can provide the first steps to getting your relationship back on track, keep it healthy or restore broken relationship. It can also help remove the charged atmosphere that ignites tension and stress.

Do you think these would work in your relationships?

Happy journeying!

D

Do Your Best, Work From The Heart

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Do your best.

That is excellence.

Excellence is working from the heart.

Passion fuels the effort.

The result is a job well done. Quality.

The reward is satisfaction.

It is not perfection.

For perfection drives the soul.

Criticizes and shames the heart.

The result is unrecognised quality.

The reward is often dissatisfaction -being left believing you still missed the mark.

Doing your best with who you are and the skill you have at the moment is all you can expect of yourself. Applying a standard of excellence to what you do provides you the opportunity to keep learning, gaining and obtaining more skill.

Expecting only perfection is stressful, discouraging and pressure. You may be tempted to not even try unless you are convinced you won’t make a mess of things.

Take the pressure off of yourself.

Do your best.

And you can’t lose.

D

How To Help Teens Learn Decision Making Skills

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Where’s that parenting manual when you need it most?

Whether you have one child or 19, like my husband’s grand grand mother did, it doesn’t take long to realize that parenting is the toughest and most rewarding endeavor you will ever take on in life.

I was in circle of mothers today discussing how to help teens make responsible decisions and not freak out. It’s tough to hand over a task that you have been solely responsible for in your child’s life. However, as teens grow up and begin to take control of their life, it is important to remember:

1. You have been preparing them for this event each day of their life. They are excited to have the opportunity to put what they have learned into practice.

2. They may still need your guidance but they also need your support and belief that the can handle what you have trained them to do. They want your trust more than they want to disappoint you.

3. They are going to make mistakes. Goodness, few adults get it right every single time. They are also going to make some choices that you wish they wouldn’t make. This is disappointing…in fact, the first time they do, it’s down right disappointing -even heart breaking. Most adults are wiser than they were in their teen years so the odds are they will become healthy, well adjusted adults like you did. (Are you rolling your eyes as you think of some of the possibilities?)

Keeping the above mentioned in mind, how can we help our teens make good choices? Wise decisions? Fewer mistakes?

Decision making is an important life skill. Without that parenting manual, we struggle answering the above questions in a way that leaves peace in our hearts. I took the “because I said so” attitude. Realising that approach wasn’t as effective as I had pictured in my mind quite frankly freaked me out.

Helping teens learn to make decisions will impact their life for years to come. Let’s look at 6 of the most important decisions teens will make and 6 habits they can develop to help them navigate this new skill.

Sean Covey in his book, The 6 Most Important Decisions You Will Ever Make, discusses decisions that are most familiar to teens. (This is not a sponsored post, I think this is a great resource). These include:

1. School – what are you going to do about your education?
2. Friends – what kind of friends will you choose and what kind of friend will you be?
3. Parents – what kind of relationship will you have with your parents?
4. Dating & Sex- who will you date and what will you do about sex?
5. Addictions – what will you do about smoking, drinking, drugs, and other addictive stuff?
6. Self-Worth – will you choose to like yourself?

My husband and I have 5 children between us. The teens years were maddening at times. We discovered early on in their teen years that each child had his or her own philosophy and approach to life. Many times, they made different choices than we would have made. Thus far, they have all survived each choice and learned from them. Actually, we are very proud of the people they have become but with each of the above areas, each child developed their own way of deciding how to answer those questions. We have rejoiced with them in good decisions and cried with them in not so good decisions.

In order to make effective decisions teens need to prepare and understand key habits they will need in their life-skill tool box.

1. Become proactive. This skill/habit is about being prepared, thinking rather than reacting and developing a plan for how to approach choices when they are presented. Choices need to be based on things the teen can control, not things he/she can not control. They need to learn the value of self-control. What I mean by this is that they don’t want to hand control of their life to someone or something else. Some choices in life can remove their decision making power. Deciding to drink and drive puts control of their life in the hands of the courts. They loose control.

2. What are the principles I will live my life by? Principles are the standards we use in our human interactions- things like honesty, trust, patience, humor, service, love, compassion, charity, freedom, wisdom, fairness, and justice. It takes courage to live by principles. Principles are the key to doing well in all areas of life. Building a solid foundation of principles serves as a compass when making difficult decisions. If your teen understands the principles they want to live by, conflicting decisions are easier to disregard.

3. Understanding what is most important to you and learning to do those things first. Successful living is dependant on making important things happen, in order of priority and putting off/delaying less important tasks. Is your education a higher priority than wasting time playing video games? Practicing this skill helps teens to begin to self regulate their time based on the principles they have set for themselves above.

4. Find the win-win. In business, my husband likes to look for what he calls the win-win for each party involved. He says this means not everyone gets everything they wanted but no one loses out completely either. The concept is that we work together with the best outcome for each person in mind. Listening skills, healthy compromising/negotiating skills and mutual respect are imperative and effective.

5. Celebrate differences. There are times when sharing strengths with others to make something better than we can do alone proves very beneficial. In sports, the differing skills to play each position makes a team unbeatable. Learning to value differences in others to aid us in areas of life that we are weak in provides us with resources, wisdom, and support. This skill/habit will help teens deal with the “I know it all” attitudes. Respecting what others have to contribute can help teens see dangers ahead, develop better skills and improve abilities to reach desired goals.

Teens long for the opportunity to begin making some life decisions for themselves. They need your affirmation as they take the responsibility seriously and thoughtfully. Keep talking with them. Communication is about listening as well as instructing/teaching/talking but should not include criticism. Discuss the issue and leave personal attacks concerning ability to make the decision the-way-you-would out of the picture. Share why you have the principles you have. Share examples of how sticking with your principles has proven a good thing and abandoning them went badly. For teens who still live at home, you may have non-negotiable house rules but find other ways to allow some independence. Finally, love them. Make sure they always know that home is a safe-haven and refuge even when accountability is not comfortable.

I always told my children that making adult decisions came with adult rewards and consequences. Deciding to take the responsibility is a big decision in itself. When they make those decisions they must be prepared to accept the responsibility without reverting back to childish expectations like expecting the parent to handle it for them if it goes wrong. This can be heart breaking for both parent and teen. They must understand what their decision will mean for their over all life goals.

Do you have any additional advice you could offer? Let’s synergize! Let’s hear what worked for you – just use the comments below.

I can’t wait to hear your suggestions!
D

Rock Bottom

“Rock bottom became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” -J. K. Rawlings

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Kaikora, New Zealand

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Cozy Nook

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Riverton Beach, New Zealand

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We have learned to start over since childhood. Piles of paper crumpled on the floor as we started rewriting an assignment. Rebuilding a sandcastle destroyed by a playful sibling. Or maybe redoing kindergarten to ensure foundational knowledge was gained.

I once tried to cut my own hair. Talk about an epic fail. The stylist told me it looked like it had been cut with a knife and spoon. Thank God for Google because I didn’t give up doing it myself. I needed to start over and gain some skill.

I’ve had to rebuild several times in my lifetime; financially, in love, in career, and physical and emotional health.

I imagine in the darkest hours of one’s life, “begin again” would seem useless or uncaring advice. But it is indeed the answer.

All life challenges bring about an ending–and the chance for a beginning. Starting over produces fear, anxiety and sadness but with the right, solid foundation a new start can bring unimaginable benefits.

For me, faith has been the most solid place to begin to rebuild. From this foundation, I have applied truths of forgiveness, gained courage and reassurance, and applied wisdom for making better decisions than I had previously.

Have you ever had to start over or rebuild in your life? What was the foundation you found most beneficial?

A rock is a symbol of stability, dependability and strength.

When beginning again or rebuilding make sure to check that you are building on a solid foundation.

D

Cee’s Black and White Challenge: Rocks