How To Be Grateful In A Season Of Hate

Companion Blog Post For

“January: A Month of Gratitude”

Weeks 1-4 in the Journal:

Write Your Life With Grace, Fruit of the Spirit Guided Journal (October, 2016)

 

Concept: Gratitude is a Choice That Changes the Focus and Direction of Any Situation

 

The common thread among all human beings is the need for validation and acceptance. We want someone to understand our pain, lend a hand, hold our grief, or agree with our decisions. When a friend shares our burdens by saying, I get it, or, Me, too, or acknowledges us with a look of, I see you, you are not alone in this, we feel comforted. But if someone disagrees or doesn’t acknowledge us, fear sets in. We immediately question our words, behavior, wardrobe, self-worth, beliefs, or the picture just posted. Maybe we didn’t use the right filter?

 

What we do not wish to acknowledge is that all human beings are equal. Look to your right and left. The guy on the street corner begging for money, the woman in the sequined dress accepting an award, the single parent, the pastor, the stripper, the CEO, the coach, the family, the tiny girl or boy growing inside the womb… We are all equally equal. Every ethnicity, every race, every gender, is uniquely different but exactly equal in our humanness.

 

We might say we agree with this but the minute someone with a different belief system or political affiliation or occupation confronts us, we no longer see them as equals but as less than. We resort to name calling and shaming. We only help those we deem worthy. We post negative comment after negative comment on our social media, bashing this person or that, pointing out the flaws in people, and at the same time liking the quotes about kindness and wishing there was more of it.

 

Gratitude changes the focus and direction of any situation.

Gratitude replaces fear and condemnation with peace and appreciation.

 

The dictionary definition: “Gratitude is a feeling of thankfulness and appreciation.”

A better definition: Gratitude is the choice to acknowledge the bigger life story in any situation regardless of how I might feel. Choosing gratitude pivots my heart towards feelings of peace, thankfulness and appreciation.

bloggraphicgratitudeweek1-41-27-17

Therefore, gratitude is a character trait instead of a feeling. If we wait to be thankful until we feel it, not only do we miss the benefits of wisdom and maturity but we miss the opportunity to flip the situation from negative to positive. We stay stuck in fear, frustration, and resentment.

 

Gratitude is not a feeling reserved for the good times; gratitude is a change agent that brings warm feelings to the painful times.bloggraphic2gratitudeweek-1-41-27-17

 

So, if the common thread among all human beings is the need for love (acceptance and validation), and yet the current season of hate is full of shame and judgement, how does choosing to acknowledge the bigger life story flip this around?

 

I’m grateful the lie was discovered. Now we have a chance to heal.

I’m grateful I heard that snide remark. It gives me a chance to give grace.

I’m grateful the current pain can be used and not wasted; lessons learned help me mature.

I’m grateful I have a voice and can say No.

I’m grateful I get to set and maintain personal boundaries, which brings freedom and safety.

I’m grateful that every person or situation can be redeemed.

I’m grateful for failure, because it brings me one step closer to success.

I’m grateful for this difficult person; he is exposing my insecurities which helps me grow.

I’m grateful for the daily reminders to release fear, shame, control, and perfectionism.

I’m grateful for the opportunities to serve, love, volunteer, and make a difference.

I’m grateful I was born; I get the chance to be who God created me to be.

I’m grateful for God’s saving grace, regardless of my past.

 

I can choose to be grateful in a situation I am not thankful for “…knowing that tribulation produces perseverance which produces character which produces hope.” –Romans 5:3-4 (NKJV)

 

***To apply the twelve character traits to your personal situation, order the journal and follow the weekly concepts and daily applications. Order a signed copy of “Write Your Life With Grace, Fruit of the Spirit Guided Journal” HERE

 

–Tara Schiro is the author of the newly released, Write Your Life With Grace, Fruit of the Spirit Guided Journal , and No Arms, No Legs, No Problem, the memoir of bronze-medal Paralympian (Quad Rugby), Bob Lujano. Both books are available on Amazon.com, Ingram, and Barnes & Noble. TaraSchiro.com

What is the Truth in Your Heart, Peacekeeper or Peacemaker?

Companion Blog Post

for

Write Your Life With Grace, Fruit of the Spirit Guided Journal

December: A Month of Humility

Concept Week 4

 

Concept: Humility uses wisdom and gentleness to bring people together.

 

“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate (peacemaker) instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.” Matthew 5:9 (MSG)

 

The situation I’m in is far from peaceful. My mind is clouded with the argument from yesterday. She and I did not see eye-to-eye. We each think we are right about an event that took place that left both of us reeling. The irony was not lost on me that this was about character and I just wrote a book on character. That’s God’s gentle reminder to evaluate my heart.

 

A breakdown of the above concept looks like this: Humility is not shame (weakness). Humility (strength) puts others first out of love. Wisdom is knowing how to rightly apply knowledge in any given situation, for the benefit of all parties involved. Gentleness gets the point across without bashing, degrading, or condemning.

 

In the argument, did I put her first out of love? Did I rightly apply knowledge for both of our benefits? Did I give my side of the story in a gentle way? This is tricky. Because the argument was over an event. We both agree the event was wrong and upsetting. We disagree on the cause. We argued over the cause. We hashed the facts surrounding the cause.

 

The thing about the fruit of the Spirit, the reason they are character traits, is because they can blossom in the mess. These disciplines—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—are not just some foo-foo concepts for a kumbaya moment around the campfire. They require that I am humble, grateful, and forgiving. Once I choose these pre-requisites, my soul is available to freely grow the fruit of the Spirit.

 

How would the argument have looked different if in the moment, I looked for something, anything, to be grateful for? What if I would have asked her for forgiveness? What if I would have immediately forgiven her, even though she didn’t ask for it? What if instead of trying to prove my point, I gently listened to understand her pain? How would the days following this altercation look different after applying these principles? More peaceful, maybe?

 

In the above verse, Jesus is not suggesting that we be peacekeepers. A peacekeeper gives up their voice or opinion just to “keep the peace.” Another word for that is codependent. A peacemaker can bring people together (or set healthy boundaries) and show them how to cooperate in wisdom and humility, even if they have different convictions or opinions.

 

Me and her? We might need to set some healthy boundaries. And I need to engage the struggle in my heart.

 

“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.” –Matthew 5:8 (MSG)

 

Will you be a peacekeeper or a peacemaker at the Christmas gathering? How did it go? Come back and share in the comments!

 

–Tara Schiro is the author of the newly released, Write Your Life With Grace, Fruit of the Spirit Guided Journal (October, 2016, Xulon Press), and No Arms, No Legs, No Problem, the memoir of bronze-medal Paralympian (Quad Rugby), Bob Lujano. Both books are available on Amazon.com, Ingram, and Barnes & Noble. TaraSchiro.com

How to be Gentle with People Suffering in Pain

Companion Blog Post For

Write Your Life With Grace, Fruit of the Spirit Guided Journal (October, 2016)

October: A Month of Gentleness

Concept Week 3

 

Concept Week 3: Gentleness moves toward a person in pain but doesn’t take control.

It is difficult to watch a loved-one or close friend live in physical or emotional pain. The knee-jerk reaction is to try and fix it. But when it comes to pain, there is not a one-size-fits-all. With physical pain, it might be appropriate to offer medication, pillows, food, drink, or help moving around. With emotional pain, it might be appropriate to be quiet.

Both types of pain are an indication that something is wrong. Both types of pain can be healed. Both types require assistance. But what is it about emotional pain that makes it so different than physical pain that the remedies are sometimes binary?

Consider a broken leg or diagnosis of disease. We like our bodies to remain intact. We have doctors, surgeons, medications, and people who offer to donate blood, tissue, or organs. In large part, the body is fixable. No one would say, “Yeah, my leg is broken, I’m just gonna leave it. I’m not worthy of a healed leg.” Although it’s painful to go through surgery and rehab, we know that in most cases if we follow the doctor’s orders, the leg will be healthy and useable again. We voluntarily go through the physical healing because the steps are ordered and we can predict the outcome.

Emotional pain is a whole other story because it taps into our soul. It is deep rooted and tangled around belief systems and subsequent behaviors. It can question our identity, our purpose, our destiny, and can shake our foundation to the core. The surface remedies may look similar—an offer of shelter, food, drink, or help with chores—but the actual healing must originate from within.

Consider a job layoff or a partner who carries bitterness or a child who is bullied; any of these can bring tremendous stress and anxiety to the individual and inevitably to those near. The person experiencing the trial must decide how to interpret the downward turn of events: “Do I believe poorly about myself, ‘It’s my fault, I’m not good enough, of course this would happen to me,’” or, “Can I see this situation for what it is, ‘I’m not the only one being laid off, I can choose to look for the good and be grateful, I don’t deserve to be treated this way, I’m not going to allow other people to dictate my identity; I’m secure in who I am.’”

Some people do not want to be well. Not everyone wants emotional healing because it requires a change of mindset. Misery can sometimes feel familiar and therefore comfortable. Change for these people won’t take place until the pain of misery becomes greater than the pain of change.

But many people do want to be rid of the emotional turmoil. We must allow them the space to work it out without taking it personal or taking control.

Gentleness, as a character trait, sits with a friend or family member in need without the desire to blame, complain, preach, judge, or rationalize the event. Sometimes there are no words and it’s best to be quiet. Sitting with open arms, a bowl of soup, a card of encouragement, a silent walk or car ride together—we must love openly and greatly but with respect that they themselves must perform the surgery on their own soul to get rid of the fear and shame and false beliefs holding them back. No one can do it for them. We must be compassionate towards their journey of healing, realizing that it’s not about us. We must pray with gentleness for their return to health.

*For a longer conversation about developing the twelve core character traits, follow along in the year-long journal for deep questions, inspiring quotes and insightful observations.

–Tara Schiro is the author of the newly released, Write Your Life With Grace, Fruit of the Spirit Guided Journal (October, 2016, Xulon Press), and No Arms, No Legs, No Problem, the memoir of bronze-medal Paralympian (Quad Rugby), Bob Lujano. Both books are available on Amazon.com, Ingram, and Barnes & Noble. TaraSchiro.com

How To Love People Without Losing Your Soul

Companion Blog Post

October: A Month of Gentleness

Concept Week 2

Write Your Life With Grace, Fruit of the Spirit Guided Journal (October, 2016)

 

Character Concept: Gentleness loves people just as they are.

One of the most powerful yet underrated character traits is the ability to validate. Tolerance is a tossed-about word, used as a flag to position one’s self as having arrived at a higher level of being. It looks good on our soul resume, but do we engage and love gently the people we live with, the people who are different than us, or the people who annoy us? Do we withhold saying “Namaste’” to people we don’t agree with politically, socially, or religiously?

The dancer at a strip club; are we gentle enough to love them as a human being without shaming and judging them for their chosen paycheck? The homeless person on the street; can we love them through their chaos without shaking our head and assuming they want to be there? The business man or woman who is arrogant; can we love them by looking over their insecurities? The family member who is ill; can we love them without complaining of the extra load we must carry? The person who grumpily walks into the kitchen, their black-cloud in-tow; can we be gentle in return?

Gentleness requires that we love people before they clean up their life, before they believe like us or look like us or behave like us. Before, anything.

What kind of character asks a person to change to shiny, clean, and acceptable before it can gently extend love? A hurting one that is carrying around baggage of its own.

What we don’t understand is that the soul operates like a magnet; the polar ends repel each other. Opposite systems cannot inhabit the same space at the same time. Fear and trust are opposites. Judgement and compassion are opposites. Bitterness and peace are opposites.  Arrogance and humility are opposites. Selfishness and generosity are opposites. Our souls attract one and repel the other; we treat people out of what we attract.

The soul is deep and we alone hold the key. Emotions and belief systems don’t arrive uninvited; we fill it with what we choose daily.

Love is a choice and a pre-requisite for gentleness. It requires that we put ourselves aside. Love is not about us. It requires that we stay above the situation and not crumble when we encounter different or difficult. We are all equal. No-one is any better than anyone else, regardless of finances, social position, occupation, or ethnicity. We are all equal.

The way to love without losing your own soul is to clean up your own soul. Get rid of un-forgiveness. Get rid of insecurities. Grieve the pain and the losses in life. Get rid of the need to impress or measure up. A pure heart loves purely; it doesn’t take effort, it happens organically.

Every human being is just passing through earth on his or her way to eternity. Gentleness is a character trait because it requires us to get over ourselves and validate a human soul that is wrapped in a different story than our own. It requires us to put aside the quick assessments we make when meeting each other. Gentleness is a hand-shake, an offer of help, a quiet tongue, an erased agenda, a change in the schedule with a peaceful heart. Love is a choice.

 “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears Him and does what is right.” –Acts 10:34-35

–Tara Schiro is the author of the newly released, Write Your Life With Grace, Fruit of the Spirit Guided Journal (October, 2016, Xulon Press), and No Arms, No Legs, No Problem, the memoir of bronze-medal Paralympian (Quad Rugby), Bob Lujano. Both books are available on Amazon.com, Ingram, and Barnes & Noble. TaraSchiro.com

For The First Time, Gentleness is Appropriate in a Campaign Year

Companion Blog Post

October: A Month of Gentleness

Concept Week 1

Write Your Life With Grace, Fruit of the Spirit Guided Journal (October, 2016)

 

Concept: Gentleness, as a character trait, is an overflow of a heart full of love.

“Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from trouble.” –Proverbs 21:23 (NKJV)

At no time does this Proverb seem to be more true than in this 2016 political season. The degrading banter, the hateful dialogue, and the angry exchanges about who should NOT be President of the United States is frightening and causing all sorts of chaos. One analyst spoke with wisdom: “November 8 will not be the end of it; it will be the beginning.” Lord, help us.

Gentleness seems an impossible mandate, ludicrous, even, with so much at stake. After all, the word itself conjures visions of white fluffy clouds and trees swaying in the breeze. Gentleness is a nice lesson for toddlers when they’re clobbering their sibling but it doesn’t seem to be a legit concept for adults embroiled in battles or debates or voting for the lesser-of-two-evils in the election. Right?

Since I love definitions, let’s start with one.

The Dictionary! App says that gentle, as an adjective, is, “having little impact; quiet and soothing; soft and mild; easily handled or managed.”

Who wants to go through life with little impact? Nobody! Who wants to be easily handled or managed? Nobody! I’m sure there is one, but at the moment I can’t think of a definition that does more disservice to a word than this one. The above definition could also be used when discussing a door-mat or a people-pleaser or a weak-minded person. Someone with little or no boundaries, no sense of self or identity or convictions.

A fuller definition for gentleness would be to look at the word meek. Meek is, “strength under control.” In this case, gentleness signifies restraint. Which means there is something that needs to be bridled. Anger, maybe? Impatience? Fear? Shame? Arrogance? Selfishness? It takes a great deal of strength and self-awareness to put these negative traits under the control of wisdom, to restrain from lashing out, to bridle these temperaments from hurting and abusing. Gentleness is the ability to excel without destroying something in the process.

For example: A person being insulted, and taking the high road, is strength under control. Gandhi was strength under control. Remember John Coffey in the Green Mile, the gentle giant with all kinds of super-human strength, both physical and mental? And of course, Jesus was the ultimate example of strength under control.

It takes a great deal of strength to be gentle. Gentleness is an overflow of a heart full of love. Love is not romance; love is not an emotion or a feeling; love is a choice to do right by the person you are with. It is a sacrifice to consider the other person first. Gentleness is a character trait.

In regards to the political season, we would all benefit from the components of gentleness: respect, wisdom, conviction, passion, firmness, and love. It’s not about giving up your voice or your convictions; it’s using your voice to make the world better instead of worse.

–Tara Schiro is the author of the newly released, Write Your Life With Grace, Fruit of the Spirit Guided Journal (October, 2016, Xulon Press), and No Arms, No Legs, No Problem, the memoir of bronze-medal Paralympian (Quad Rugby), Bob Lujano. Both books are available on Amazon.com, Ingram, and Barnes & Noble. TaraSchiro.com

How Does Faith in a God-Given Dream Change the World?

Companion Blog Post for:

Write Your Life With Grace, Fruit of the Spirit Guided Journal (October, 2016)

September: A Month of Faithfulness

Concept Week 4

“Faith turns God-given dreams into reality for the benefit of others.”

What I love about the reality shows American Idol, America’s Got Talent, and The Voice, is the raw talent that seemingly comes out of nowhere. How many times has there been a contestant who lived in a town of 300 or 3,000, had never been on an airplane, and when they open their mouth to sing it brings the audience to a frenzy of jaw-dropping tears and thunderous applause. The waiter or single-mom barely scraping by is suddenly thrust to the world-stage belting octaves only an angel can touch.

Every fiber of our being is electrified when we witness a person using their gift.

What makes me crazy is the number of people who waste what they’ve been given, falsely believing they are not talented enough, smart enough, or good enough. We all lose when a gift is not opened.

What holds you back from stepping into YOU and all that you were created to be?

We’ve been talking this month about faith (trusting in God’s character). How does faith work in regards to our dreams? If we replace the word faith with its definition, it might look something like this:

(Trusting in God’s character) empowers a God-given dream to change or impact someone’s life.

That’s a nice way to look at it. It takes some of the weight off of my plate and moves it to God’s plate. But it still needs fleshing out because there is more to the equation.

God’s character: trustworthy, wise, infinite resources, all knowing—past, present, future, creator of all things, provider, lover of all people including you and me, giver of life, joyful, humorous, and good.

God-given dreams: God is the Dream-Giver; He places dreams in ALL of our hearts along with the necessary passions, skill-sets, talents, and unique gifts to make them reality. Why? To benefit the rest of us. To fill the world with color, inspiration, love, charity, wisdom, healing, order, and provision. Your dream has a purpose.

God did not put resources in your soul to benefit you. God put resources in your soul to benefit us.

If God puts a dream in your heart, doesn’t it stand to reason He would want you to accomplish it? Would He give you a dream and say, “Good luck!” No. Would He give you a dream and say, “You’re not good enough or talented enough to pull this off”? No, because He has people waiting to receive your gift!

Your dream and the resources in your soul are not about you. God’s character is to empower you to be a blessing. His character is to use His resources in conjunction with the resources He put in your heart so that together you can be a game-changer to benefit the world. But you have to trust Him. Don’t waste that faith opportunity.

–Tara Schiro is the author of the newly released, Write Your Life With Grace, Fruit of the Spirit Guided Journal (October, 2016, Xulon Press), and No Arms, No Legs, No Problem, the memoir of bronze-medal Paralympian (Quad Rugby), Bob Lujano. Both books are available on Amazon.com, Ingram, and Barnes & Noble. TaraSchiro.com

How Much Faith Do I Need to Cure an Illness?

Companion Blog Post for the Journal

September: A Month of Faithfulness

Concept Week 3

Write Your Life With Grace, Fruit of the Spirit Guided Journal (October, 2016)

“Faith opens the door for miracles to happen.”

At 2:00 a.m. this morning I awoke with familiar pain. My immediate response? “Please, God, not again. I’m begging you. Not. Again. Please. Take it away.”

I’m at the tail-end of a three-week-and-counting stint of my third round of pneumonia (my lungs are seriously out to get me) and here comes bladder infection #432. I’ve been getting them since I was four years old. In fact, I spent a week in the hospital at the age of four so they could look for my second kidney. After many traumatic explorations (this was 1971), they found it hiding out in the front. Weird anatomy should be my sub-heading. Begging for healing has become my default.

In the two hours of lost sleep, aside from looking for my stock of pain pills and making six trips to the bathroom and telling the dog ‘we’re not getting up yet, go back to sleep’ and marveling that my husband snored through the whole disturbance, I wrestled with God.

“You can heal me. You created me. I have faith in you. I believe you can heal me.” Uh-huh. And then I started laying out the situation to Him. As if He wasn’t already aware. “Look. I have barely been off the couch in three weeks. And now this? My mom and my husband are already freaked out enough. Why worry them even more? I will need more antibiotics. Don’t you know how bad it is for the human body to take all that crap?” And then I began reciting one of my favorite passages from John 15. The summary that I repeated over and over is this: “’If you remain in Me and I remain in you, ask for anything in My name and I will give it to you’…So, what I want, Lord, is for you to remove the infection immediately. I can’t work when I’m sick. I can’t do anything when I’m sick. I can’t be taking more antibiotics. Make me healthy.’”

What do I expect God to do in my life? Does He say that He is a genie in the sky?

This is where I have to tell myself to get a grip. And this is where I have to talk myself off the slide of despair. If what God says is true, that He is more interested in our character than our comfort, that we will have troubles in this world but He will overcome them all, that the point isn’t to get rid of problems or pain but to allow Him to mature us through them, then I have a choice to make.

Either, I must choose to believe Him (faith in His character) and put the pain to good use, look at it as a tool to grow my character and bless others, or, choose to be a victim, depressed, frustrated, and cranky.

Can I be honest? I really don’t want to keep going through this. It’s easier, and sometimes more fun, to complain and be angry. But if the goal is to leave a healthy emotional legacy, to develop a character that I will be proud to take with me when I meet my Maker, then I have no choice but to choose faith in God’s character as I trudge, yet again, through the doors of the doctor’s office. And I will try really hard not to cry as I look for my miracle.

*****UPDATE 32 hours later: Normally I am in a tremendous amount of pain for several days with these infections. The pain pill I took at 2:00 a.m. was the only one I needed. I’m on more antibiotics, but have zero pain. Faith opened the door for this miracle! God. Is. So. Good. I’m so grateful to Him for my health!

–Tara Schiro is the author of the upcoming release, Write Your Life With Grace, Fruit of the Spirit Guided Journal (October, 2016), and No Arms, No Legs, No Problem, the memoir of bronze-medal Paralympian (Quad Rugby), Bob Lujano. Amazon.com TaraSchiro.com